US Approaches 4.9 Million Coronavirus Cases

The number of COVID-19 cases around the world continues its steady climb with more than 19.1 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University.  The U.S. continues to have more cases than any place else with nearly 4.9 million, followed by Brazil with 2.9 million and India with two million.Vaccine prospects
The top U.S. infectious disease expert says the world will never be able to eradicate the coronavirus, but he is hopeful hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine could be available by the end of this year. “There will be, I think, enough vaccine if everything turns out to be successful,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told VOA contributor Greta Van Susteren. “To get vaccine not only to the countries that are the classical rich countries but those who are low and middle income that would not be able to readily have access to a vaccine. That’s what we’re hoping to do.” But Fauci has said in the past that there’s no guarantee a vaccine will give long-term protection against COVID-19 since it is a new coronavirus and scientists are still learning about it. In a separate interview with Reuters, Fauci said the reason the virus will never go away is because of its “highly transmissible” nature. But he said with “the combination of a good vaccine and attention to public health measures … then I think we can get behind this.” According to Johns Hopkins University, there were more than 2,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States over the past 24 hours as of Thursday night – the highest one-day number since early May.Student suspended for posting mask-less gathering online
At least one student was suspended at a high school in the southern U.S. state of Georgia for posting a photograph online of a crowded hallway, showing most of the students not wearing masks. Dr. Harry Heiman, a clinical associate professor at Georgia State University’s School of Public Health told the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper after seeing the photograph that ”It’s not a question of if that’s going to cause spread of the pandemic. It’s only a question of how quickly and to how many people.”Superintendent Brian Otott said the school staff had worked hard to create a safe return for the students.  He said most of the school’s hallways were one way, but the one in the photograph had students moving in both directions to cut down on student travel time between classes.  Students and staff are not required to wear masks at the school, a proven way to curb the spreading of the virus. FILE – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine speaks during an interview at the Governor’s Residence in Columbus, Ohio, Dec. 13, 2019.Ohio governor tests positive, then negative
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, canceled plans to meet with President Donald Trump in Cleveland on Thursday when he got word that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and immediately went into quarantine.  In a second more sensitive COVID-19 test administered later Thursday in Columbus, DeWine tested negative for the coronavirus, according to the governor’s office.International travel restrictions liftedThe U.S. State Department and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted the recommendation to Americans to avoid all global travel and replaced it with a number of high-level warnings against heading to individual nations. “With health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice,” the State Department said. Thirty countries are on the Level Four “Do Not Travel” list, including India, Russia, Egypt, Libya, Honduras and Kazakhstan.Vietnam, Liberia, Armenia, the Philippines and the entire European Union are in the Level 3: Reconsider Travel category, even though the E.U. is currently closed to Americans. Travel Safely Ambassador Carlos Hernandez hands out face masks to an airline passenger at LAX airport, as the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Los Angeles, California.Discussions about European travel
The U.S. and E.U. are in talks to allow Americans to once again visit Europe.  In Europe, Britain has added Andorra, the Bahamas and Belgium to the list of countries whose visitors must enter a 14-day quarantine when arriving in the U.K.And Norwegian Prime Minister Ern Solberg said the country is canceling plans to ease coronavirus restrictions because of a slight rise in the number of cases.“We need to slow down now to avoid a full stop down the road,” Solberg told reporters Thursday.Among the measures that are now suspended was a plan to allow some travel from several non-European countries, which has been banned since March.  

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Trump Orders Bans on 2 Chinese Apps, Citing Security Concerns

U.S. President Donald Trump Thursday ordered sweeping bans on two Chinese consumer apps.He ordered the bans prohibiting U.S. companies from doing business with ByteDance, the owner of the video-sharing app TikTok, and Tencent, the owner of the messenger app WeChat. The executive orders targeting the Chinese companies go into effect in 45 days.Whether Trump has the legal authority for such actions is not immediately clear, analysts said.The move comes amid data collection and privacy concerns the Trump administration and U.S. lawmakers have expressed about the apps. However, no evidence has been cited to support the claims.Both companies have said they do not share their data with the Chinese government.“I am the first to yell from the rooftops when there is a glaring privacy issue somewhere,” mobile security expert Will Strafach told The Associated Press last month. ”But we just have not found anything we could call a smoking gun in TikTok.”Analysts said they expect China to retaliate.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the U.S. would not allow U.S. stores to sell Chinese apps because of security concerns.Millions of people around the world use the two apps.

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Thai Protesters Demand Drastic Changes in Political System

Protesters in Thailand are pressing on with their demands for the dissolution of parliament, new elections and changing the constitution.Leaders said Friday they would step up pressure on the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha if it failed to act on changes.”(Our demands) are clear enough for the government to hear and follow,” said protest leader Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree. “To set up a committee to have hearings is like an act. It’s like a show with no meaning. Is it to buy time? They think that we will disappear. They believe that we will fade away. So, they set up this committee to buy time. But the fact is we want real change. We want to send our demands to those with powers to make decisions, not to some rubber stamp committee.”Meeting in front of Bangkok’s iconic Democracy Monument, eight leaders of the Free People Movement, formerly known as Free Youth, announced plans for a big rally on August 16.Protesters held signs reading: “Constitution needed to be amended. Democracy must come from the people” and “We don’t hate our nation. We hate dictatorship. No coup.”Prayuth said early this week he will consider protester’s demands, but protest leader Tattep suggested the premier’s statement was just a delaying tactic, as the prime minister is unlikely to agree to dissolve parliament or call new elections.After more than five years of relative calm since a military coup in 2014, anti-government protests have erupted again, mostly on school and university campuses in the capital Bangkok and other Thai cities.Protesters, majority of them young people, are highly dissatisfied with the current administration.A former army chief, Prayuth first took power in 2014, then held a tight grip on it through the 2019 elections, widely seen as manipulated in his favor. 

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Mexico Megachurch Leader Remains Jailed

Bail for the leader of a Mexican megachurch nearly doubled to $90 million after prosecutors expanded charges against him, including child rape, and possession of child pornography.The new bail ruling by a Los Angeles judge ensures Naason Joaquin Garcia, of the Guadalajara-based La Luz del Mundo church (Light of the World church) will remain in custody until his trial.Garcia, who says he has a million followers worldwide, was initially jailed on sex crimes charges last year with a $50 million bail.The attorney general’s office of California filed dozens of new felony charges, including rape, against Garcia and two co-defendants last week 

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Once Again, Lebanon Picks Up the Pieces

Lebanon’s Chernobyl.  That is how some are describing the mammoth blast that shook the capital city Beirut  and left thousands injured. At least 300,000 people lost their homes and a number of hospitals also bore the brunt.  Among the signs of international support was a visit by French President Emmanual Macron, who got a firsthand look at the worst-affected neighborhood. Anchal Vohra reports from Beirut.

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Trump Orders US Ban on WeChat, TikTok in 45 Days

U.S. President Donald Trump issued executive orders on Thursday banning any U.S. transactions with ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns video-sharing app TikTok, and Tencent, owner of the WeChat app, starting in 45 days.The orders come as the Trump administration said this week it was stepping up efforts to purge “untrusted” Chinese apps from U.S. digital networks and called the Chinese-owned short-video app TikTok and messenger app WeChat “significant threats.”The TikTok app may be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party, and the United States “must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security,” Trump said in one order.In the other, Trump said WeChat “automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users. This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.”The order would effectively ban WeChat in the United States in 45 days by barring “to the extent permitted under applicable law, any transaction that is related to WeChat by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with Tencent Holdings Ltd.”Trump said this week he would support the sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations to Microsoft Corp if the U.S. government got a “substantial portion” of the sales price but warned he will ban the service in the United States on September 15.Tencent and ByteDance declined to comment.    

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Tensions Mount over China’s Industrial Espionage in US

Tensions between the U.S. and China are escalating at a dizzying pace, with July 24 marking the lowest point of bilateral relations in decades. On that day, the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, was closed and taken over by U.S. officials.FILE – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, July 15, 2020.“We announced the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston because it was a hub of spying and intellectual property theft,” said Secretary of State FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies during an oversight hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, on Capitol Hill, Feb. 5, 2020 in Washington.The FBI created a special economic espionage unit in 2010, and currently has over 2,000 active cases related to Chinese counterintelligence operations in the U.S. FBI director Christopher Wray recently said the bureau is opening a new China-related counterintelligence case about every 10 minutes.Economic espionage is certainly nothing new. When the U.S. passed the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, the focus was on Israel and France, and China wasn’t really in the picture.Hvistendahl said the shift of focus started in the mid-2000s, when the business community decided to join the intelligence community to address the issue. These U.S. companies had previously hoped that if they kept their mouths shut, they could eventually break into the Chinese market and begin to see significant market growth.“By the mid-2000s, it became clear to many companies that it was just not going to happen, they were going to get shut out of the market eventually,” Hvistendahl told VOA. “So many CEOs started to be more vocal about some of the problems that they have received with China.”The impact on the U.S. economy through loss of intellectual property (IP) is one of the main concerns among U.S. policy makers. According to a 2017 report by the Intellectual Property Commission, the cost of IP theft for the United States is somewhere between $225 billion and $600 billion. And China is responsible for 71% to 87% of that figure. (The percentage varies annually.) Apart from economic loss, there is also loss of domestic production capabilities, loss of industries, and loss of jobs along the way.Eric Zhang, former chief representative of the Oklahoma Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Office in China, told VOA that America is also realizing the potential security threat posed by these China-related industrial espionage activities.“Espionage activities in other countries are mainly for economic gain, but China is different. Since Xi Jinping came to power, China has started to deem the United States as a competitor, especially in terms of military,” said Zhang. “In this sense, the purpose of Chinese industrial espionage is different from that of other countries. This is why the U.S. is very concerned now.”Full-scale effortUnder the Trump administration, federal authorities have launched full-scale efforts to ferret out economic espionage.In some high-profile cases, the FBI has recently arrested four Chinese research scientists in the U.S. who concealed their relations with Chinese military during their visa applications. Apart from the FBI, the Justice Department has also launched the China Initiative in 2018, with the goal of identifying and prosecuting those engaged in economic espionage, trade secret theft, hacking and other related crimes. Yet Zhang said that although there has been ample pushback, China has not slowed down its pace of stealing innovative technologies and trade secrets from developed countries.“Innovative technology is key to China’s economic growth, which is [a primary means] to legitimize CCP (Chinese Communist Party) rule. So if they can’t get anything from the U.S., I think Beijing will strengthen its economic espionage efforts in other developed countries,” Zhang said.Hvistendahl warns that when addressing the issue of industrial espionage and IP theft, the U.S. needs to be careful and avoid discrimination.“You have to keep in mind that much of the research force in the U.S. is ethnic Chinese. So you have to deal with the issue in a way that it’s fair, that doesn’t give way to allegations of racial profiling, ethnic bias,” she said.She added that it’s to America’s own benefit to keep the U.S. as an innovative place to which researchers from all over the world would want to come and study. 

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US Forecasters: Atlantic Hurricane Season to Get Stronger

The already record-breaking 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is going to get worse, and forecasters could run out of names for storms, government meteorologists say.The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration updated its forecast Thursday and is now predicting up to 25 named storms with as many as 11 becoming hurricanes and possibly six building into major hurricanes with winds of 178 kilometers per hour or stronger.An average number of Atlantic storms is 12.”First and foremost, oceanic and atmospheric conditions are now even more hospitable for hurricane formation and intensification,” lead hurricane forecaster Gerry Bell said. “These conditions are predicted to continue for the next several months. Also, weather and climate models are all now indicating an even higher potential for an extremely active season.”NOAA says if the updated forecast pans out, it will run out of names for storms. If that happens, names would be taken from the Greek alphabet.Hurricane Isaias, which hit the Eastern Seaboard this week, was the earliest storm to start with the letter “I” since storms started getting names in 1950.The U.S. Atlantic hurricane season traditionally runs from June 1 until November 30. Weather experts say the most powerful storms usually come in September.

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New York State Sues NRA, Accuses It of Corruption, Seeks to Dissolve Group

The New York State attorney general sued the National Rifle Association on Thursday, seeking to dissolve the powerful gun rights advocacy organization and charging its leadership with illegally diverting funds for their own gain.Attorney General Letitia James said the NRA’s leaders used members’ contributions and donations as “their own piggy bank” and misspent $64 million over three years for their personal use. She also said they awarded contracts to the financial gain of close associates and family and appeared to dole out lucrative “no-show” contracts to former employees to buy their silence and continued loyalty.She cited a shift in the organization’s finances, from a nearly $28 million surplus in 2015 to a $36 million deficit in 2018.New York state Attorney General Letitia James takes a question after announcing that the state is suing the National Rifle Association, during a press conference, Aug. 6, 2020, in New York.In response, the NRA sued James, saying she had violated the group’s right to free speech. Its lawsuit also seeks to block her investigation.James contended in the lawsuit that four defendants — Wayne LaPierre, the NRA executive vice president and CEO; Wilson “Woody” Phillips, former treasurer and chief financial officer; Joshua Powell, former chief of staff and director of operations; and John Frazier, general counsel — “instituted a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement and negligent oversight at the NRA that was illegal, oppressive and fraudulent.”“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” said James, a Democrat. The organization, she said, “is fraught with fraud and abuse,” which is why her office is seeking to dissolve it, “because no organization is above the law.”NRA President Carolyn Meadows labeled James a “political opportunist” who was pursuing a “rank vendetta” with an attack on its members’ Second Amendment rights.“Our members won’t be intimidated or bullied in their defense of political and constitutional freedom,” the NRA president tweeted.(1/3) NRA PRESIDENT RESPONDS TO NY AG:
This was a baseless, premeditated attack on our organization and the Second Amendment freedoms it fights to defend. You could have set your watch by it: the investigation was going to reach its crescendo as…
— NRA (@NRA) FILE – In this April 26, 2019, photo, President Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.Speaking to reporters as he left the White House on Thursday, Trump called the lawsuit a “very terrible thing” and suggested that the NRA move to Texas to “lead a very good and beautiful life.”Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, Trump’s sons, are NRA members.Though its headquarters are in Virginia, the NRA was chartered as a nonprofit in New York in 1871 and continues to be incorporated in the state.Meanwhile, the Washington, D.C., attorney general has simultaneously sued the NRA Foundation, a charitable arm of the organization designed to provide programs for firearm safety, marksmanship and hunting safety, accusing it of diverting funds to the NRA to help pay for lavish spending by top executives.

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US Firm Secures Oil Deal with US-Backed Forces in Syria

A U.S. company has reportedly reached a deal with Kurdish-led authorities in northeast Syria to develop and export crude oil in areas under their control in the war-torn country.A senior official at the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration in Northeast Syria said the deal was approved by the U.S. government.“As per the deal, a refinery will be built in northeast Syria with a cost of $150 million,” the Kurdish official told VOA on the condition of anonymity.“The company will explore [for] oil in three locations in northeast Syria, including Rumeilan, Tel Hamees and Tel Brak,” the official added.Delta Crescent Energy LLC is reportedly involved in the deal. VOA could not reach the company for comment.‘Modernizing’ oil fieldsDetails about the agreement first emerged last week from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a congressional hearing.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Aug. 5, 2020.Pompeo, who was questioned about it by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, said the U.S. government backs the deal, noting that it will modernize the oil fields in northeast Syria.“The deal took a little longer … than we had hoped, and now we’re in implementation,” Pompeo said.Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a major U.S. partner in the fight against Islamic State, controls much of the oil-rich region.Following a partial U.S. troop withdrawal from northeast Syria in October 2019, President Donald Trump said he was keeping some forces there “to secure the oil.”The U.S. has imposed several sanctions targeting companies that deliver or finance fuel shipments of Syrian oil for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.But the American company involved in the northeast Syria deal has reportedly received an exemption from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to operate in Syria.Risky for the KurdsJoshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said “it is good to see the U.S. actually invest in improving the region if, in fact, this is what the contract means.”Landis, however, believes the deal has “no legal underpinning and no regional support, not from Turkey, Damascus, Iraq or Russia.”He added, “The Kurds are too weak to sustain their control without U.S. military support, which will not be offered indefinitely. When the U.S. pulls out of Syria, as I suspect it will do in the coming years, it will abandon the collaborative elite that it is now assembling in Northeast Syria,” Landis told VOA. “This will come at a tremendous cost to those being asked to trust and depend on the United States today,” he said.US soldiers stand at an oil field in the countryside of al-Qahtaniyah town in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh province near the Turkish border, on Aug. 4, 2020.ObjectionsThe Syrian government, which does not recognize the SDF-led entity in the northeast, condemned the deal, describing it as stealing Syria’s oil.“Syria considers this agreement null and void and has no legal effect. And it warns again that such despicable acts express the approach of those client militias which have accepted to be a cheap puppet in the hands of the U.S. occupation,” Syria’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday.Turkey, which views Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists, also criticized the deal.“We deeply regret the U.S. support to this step, disregarding international law, violating territorial integrity, unity and sovereignty of Syria, as well as being considered within the scope of financing terrorism,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday.Iran, a staunch supporter of the Syrian government, described the deal as “a violation of Syrian sovereignty.”“This is yet another step by [the US] to plunder Syria’s natural resources,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a statement Tuesday.Stabilization effortsAhed al-Hendi, a Syrian affairs analyst based in Washington, said the oil deal will improve the lives of Syrians living in the northeast and that the U.S. decision to invest in Syria’s oil is part of its post-IS stabilization efforts.“Syria’s heavy crude oil is expensive to produce, and it’s not much to begin with,” he told VOA, “so apparently the U.S. is not after the oil revenue in northeast Syria.”Most oil fields in Syria have been largely nonoperational since 2011 because of the ongoing war. Before the conflict, Syria produced around 380,000 barrels of crude oil per day.A US armoured vehicle drives past an oil field in the countryside of al-Qahtaniyah town in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh province near the Turkish border, on Aug. 4, 2020.In the SDF-held region, about 30,000 barrels are now being produced per day, according to local sources. The oil is mostly refined in primitive ways that cause environmental pollution and health concerns for the local population.“Having American companies involved in the oil sector will certainly help in building modern refineries that are suitable for the Syrian oil,” Hendi said, noting that “much-needed oil derivatives will then be available at acceptable prices.”Hendi added that improving the oil sector in Syria would be “a major factor for stability before a political transition takes place in the country.”VOA’s Zana Omer contributed to this story from Qamishli, Syria. 

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RFE/RL Journalists Assaulted at Ruling Party Rally in Bulgaria

Two RFE/RL journalists were assaulted at a rally for Bulgaria’s ruling GERB party in Sofia, where Prime Minister Boyko Borisov was speaking. RFE/RL has called for an investigation and for Bulgarian authorities to condemn the incident.

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Twitter Announces Labels for State-Controlled Media

Twitter announced its decision Thursday to label the accounts of state-controlled media outlets.  
 
The new label will apply exclusively to “outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution,” according to a Twitter blog post.  
 
So far, the labels are confirmed to apply to accounts for China Daily, Russia Today, and Sputnik, as well as several other media outlets. According to the company’s post, they “are starting with a limited and clearly-defined group of countries before expanding to a wider range of countries in the future.”  
 
Twitter also has plans to label the accounts of some government leaders, including ambassadors and foreign ministers.  
 
These decisions arrive partially as a response to public criticism for the way social media outlets have dealt with foreign interference and disinformation. Much of this criticism stems from the Russian disinformation campaign prior to the 2016 U.S. election, much of which took place on Twitter.  
 
These announcements could face potential backlash, possibly from U.S. President Donald Trump, who tweets daily on the site.  
 
The company has had issues with the Trump campaign in the past. Twitter locked the president’s campaign account Wednesday for breaking its COVID-19 disinformation rules after the account tweeted a video of the president saying children are “almost immune” to COVID-19.  
 
Some Republicans also have maintained that Twitter and other social media outlets specifically censor conservative views in an effort to suppress their positions on various issues. 
 

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Trump Executive Order Requires Government to Buy ‘Essential’ Drugs From US Firms 

U.S. President Donald Trump is planning to sign an order Thursday requiring the government to buy “essential” drugs from American companies rather than from overseas producers, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro announced. 
 
“If we’ve learned anything from the China virus pandemic,” Navarro told reporters Thursday, “it is that we are dangerously over-dependent on foreign nations for our essential medicines, for medical supplies like masks, gloves, goggles and medical equipment like ventilators.” 
 
He said Trump would sign the order on a visit to a manufacturing plant in Ohio, a key midwestern state in the president’s bid for a second term in the Nov. 3 national election against former Vice President Joe Biden. 
 
Trump won Ohio by 8 percentage points in his 2016 upset victory but polls show a tight race with Biden. 
 
Navarro said the order would require the U.S. government to develop a list of essential medicines and buy them from U.S. companies instead of from such foreign countries as China. 
 
He said Americans “must have access to life-saving medications, particularly as we fight this battle against the invisible enemy from China.” Early in the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned American consumers there could be disruptions to the medical supplies, including shortages of prescription drugs. 
 
Navarro said the order “establishes buy American rules for our government agencies, strips away regulatory barriers to domestic pharmaceutical manufacturing,” and it also could boost manufacturing technologies needed to keep drug prices low. 
 
Trump last month announced a $765 million deal with Kodak to produce ingredients needed to manufacture generic drugs, which now are often bought from overseas companies. 

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Protests Swell in Russia’s Far East 

Over the past month, protests have roiled Russia’s Far East, where locals have come out against the arrest of a popular local governor. As Charles Maynes reports from Moscow, public anger is increasingly directed at President Vladimir Putin.VIDEOGRAPHER: Ricardo Marquina
PRODUCER: Barry Unger

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‘See You in Court’: ACLU Files Nearly 400 Cases Versus Trump

The day after Donald Trump’s election in November 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union posted a message to him on its website: “See you in court.”
As president, Trump hasn’t personally squared off against the ACLU from the witness stand, but the broader warning has been borne out. As of this week, the ACLU has filed nearly 400 lawsuits and other legal actions against the Trump administration, some meeting with setbacks but many resulting in important victories.
Among other successes for the ACLU, it prevailed in a U.S. Supreme Court case blocking the administration from placing a citizenship question on the 2020 census. It also spearheaded legal efforts that curtailed the policy of separating many migrant children from their parents.
“The assault on civil liberties and civil rights is greater under this administration than any other in modern history,” said the ACLU’s president, Anthony Romero. “It’s meant we’ve been living with a three-alarm fire in every part of our house.”
Since the day Trump took office, the ACLU — according to a breakdown it provided to The Associated Press — has filed 237 lawsuits against the administration and about 160 other legal actions, including Freedom of Information Act requests, ethics complaints and administrative complaints.
Of the lawsuits, 174 have dealt with immigrant rights, targeting the family separation policy, detention and deportation practices and the administration’s repeated attempts to make it harder to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The other lawsuits address an array of issues high on the ACLU’s agenda: voting rights, LGBT rights, racial justice and others. In one long-running case, the ACLU succeeded in blocking the administration’s policy of barring young immigrant women in government custody from getting abortions.
“Donald Trump has provided a full employment program for ACLU lawyers on all of our issues,” Romero said.
By comparison, the ACLU says it filed 13 lawsuits and other legal actions against President George W. Bush’s administration in his first term, mostly alleging encroachments on civil liberties related to counter-terrorism policies.
Many of the ACLU’s recent lawsuits remain unresolved. Of those that have been decided, Romero said, the ACLU has won far more often than it has lost, though a precise breakdown was unavailable.
Among the setbacks, ACLU national legal director David Cole said, one of the most disappointing involved Trump’s efforts to ban foreign nationals from several predominantly Muslim countries. Lawsuits by the ACLU and its allies successfully blocked implementation of the first two versions of the ban, but the Supreme Court allowed a third version to go into effect in 2018.
By a similar 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court also allowed the implementation of the Trump administration policy barring transgender people from enlisting in the military. Lower courts had supported efforts by the ACLU and other groups to scrap the ban.
Another LGBT rights case recently ended in a major victory for the ACLU and its allies when the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in June that gays, lesbians and transgender people were protected from employment discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. One of the ACLU’s clients, Aimee Stephens, was fired from her job at a Michigan funeral home because she was transgender; she died just a few weeks before the high court ruled in her favor.
There’s no question the ACLU has caught the attention of Trump and his administration.
The Republican president, at an “Evangelicals for Trump” rally in January, derided the ACLU as a “group of beauties” who had filed a lawsuit accusing public schools in Smith County, Tennessee, of improperly promoting Christian religious beliefs.
“We will not allow faithful Americans to be bullied by the hard left,” Trump said.
In a May 2018 speech, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions assailed the ACLU for a lawsuit that led to a drop in stop-and-frisk arrests by Chicago police.
“If you want crime to go up, let the ACLU run the police department,” Sessions said.
Recently, the ACLU has drawn criticism from a longtime supporter, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. He worries that the organization is aligning too closely with the Democratic Party and is now less willing than in the past to support unpopular causes, such as the free-speech rights of far-right activists.
In an email, Turley questioned the wisdom of the “torrent of lawsuits” against the Trump administration.
“The result was less of a sniper strategy and more of a saturated bombing strategy,” he wrote.
Even as it spars with the administration, the ACLU notes that Trump’s presidency has been beneficial in some respects — fueling huge increases in donations and membership.
Romero says the ACLU national office and its state affiliates received about $175 million in donations in the three months after Trump’s election. It says it has increased its headquarters staff from 386 to 605 and now has 122 attorneys, up from 84 in November 2016.
Membership has soared from about 400,000 to more than 1.8 million. Romero says many of the newcomers have been asking how they can help as volunteers in bolstering voting rights, immigrants’ rights and other causes.
Demonstrating its increased interest in electoral politics, the ACLU had directed $28 million of its national funds to its affiliates in battleground states such as Florida, Arizona and Texas. Since 2016, Romero said, the ACLU of Texas has been able to double its budget to $8.5 million and its staff to 65 employees.

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Is It Safe to Reopen Schools During Pandemic?

It depends on how widespread COVID-19 infections are in the community and the safety measures the school takes. In areas where the virus is poorly controlled, public health experts say in-person education would be too risky.
In areas where the virus appears to be under control, experts say schools still need to make adjustments to minimize risk when reopening. A sustained decline in cases and a positive case rate of less than 2% are among the signs the virus is under control, some experts say.
But given the many lingering unknowns about the virus, school districts are approaching the school year in a variety of ways.
Evidence suggests young children don’t spread the disease very easily, while kids aged 10 and up may transmit as easily as adults. But experts say more conclusive proof is needed.
And even though children appear less likely to get infected than adults, and less likely to become seriously ill when they do, severe cases and deaths have occurred.
Children and teens often have only mild illness or no symptoms when infected. That means they could unknowingly pose a risk to other students — who may pass the virus on to their parents and grandparents — or to teachers and other adults who might be vulnerable to severe illness if infected.
To reduce risk, experts say schools should make adjustments when resuming in-person classes.
Recommended safety measures include wearing face coverings in schools and limiting movement so kids stay in the same classroom all day. Placing desks several feet apart is also advised.
Canceling assemblies, cafeteria meals and other gatherings also helps, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some Scandinavian countries with far fewer cases than in the United States reopened schools with adjustments, and have had no outbreaks tied to schools. But in Israel, schools that reopened when virus activity was low ended up shutting down a few weeks later when cases spiked in the community, including among students and teachers.
In the U.S., some school districts are planning a mix of in-person classes and online learning to help maintain social distancing. Other districts, such as those in Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles, are starting classes online only.

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