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Family and supporters of Breonna Taylor said Wednesday that a Kentucky grand jury’s lack of homicide charges against the police offers who fatally shot Taylor is “outrageous and offensive to Breonna’s memory.”Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family, signaled that he expected harsher charges against the Louisville officers who fired shots into the young medical worker’s apartment, on March 13.

Instead, amid mounting pressure for a decision in the case, a Kentucky grand jury indicted former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree, but neither he nor the other two officers involved in the fatal encounter were charged in Taylor’s death.
“Today’s news falls far short of what constitutes justice. But by no means does it define this movement or this moment in our history,” Crump said in a statement following the announcement. “The Grand Jury may have denied Breonna justice, but this decision cannot take away her legacy as a loving, vibrant young Black woman who served on the front lines in the midst of a devastating pandemic.”
The civil rights attorney called the decision another example of how white officers aren’t held accountable for what he referred to as “the genocide of persons of color.”

Police stand guard as people react after a decision in the criminal case against police officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor, Sept. 23, 2020, who was shot dead by police in her apartment, in Louisville, Ky.

Police stand guard as people react after a decision in the criminal case against police officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor, Sept. 23, 2020, who was shot dead by police in her apartment, in Louisville, Ky.

“Her killing was criminal on so many levels: An illegal warrant obtained by perjury. Breaking into a home without announcing, despite instructions to execute a warrant that required it. More than 30 gunshots fired, many of which were aimed at Breonna while she was on the ground,” the attorney said. “Many others fired blindly into every room of her home. A documented and clear cover-up, and the death of an unarmed Black woman who posed no threat and who was living her best life. Yet here we are, without justice for Breonna, her family and the Black community.”
Louisville police officers, executing no-knock search warrant, used a battering ram to forcefully enter the 26-year-old’s apartment.

The charges against Hankison, who fired 10 shots into Taylor’s apartment, stem from the errant bullets that penetrated a wall of the residence and entered a neighboring apartment occupied by a child, a man and a pregnant woman, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said at a news conference following the grand jury’s announcement.

As a result, Crump said, “The rallying cries that have been echoing throughout the nation have been once again ignored by a justice system that claims to serve the people. But when a justice system only acts in the best interest of the most privileged and whitest among us, it has failed.”

Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, speaks during a protest on Sept. 18, 2020, at the Jefferson County offices of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron as the community awaits the findings of the grand jury in the case of Breonna Taylor, shot dead in her apartment by police, in Louisville, Ky.

Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, speaks during a protest on Sept. 18, 2020, at the Jefferson County offices of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron as the community awaits the findings of the grand jury in the case of Breonna Taylor, shot dead in her apartment by police, in Louisville, Ky.

“For the sake of Breonna Taylor, for the sake of justice, and for the sake of all Americans, law enforcement agencies and their representatives throughout the country need to take a long, hard look in the mirror,” he added. “Is this who you are? Is this the example you want to set for the rest of the world and for future generations?”
The attorney said he hoped that, through the FBI’s ongoing investigation, “we will finally finally get the justice for Breonna that the Grand Jury refused her today.”

From left, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Det. Myles Cosgrove and Det. Brett Hankison are seen here.

From left, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Det. Myles Cosgrove and Det. Brett Hankison are seen here.

Louisville Metro Police Department officers Myles Cosgrove, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Hankison executed a no-knock entry warrant on March 13 based on allegations that Taylor had been accepting USPS packages for an ex-boyfriend whom police were investigating as an alleged drug trafficker, according to the warrant.
Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were awoken around midnight when they heard a commotion at their front door. Walker fired his licensed handgun in self-defense, saying he thought his home was being broken into, according to police.

The plainclothes officers returned gunfire, firing several shots and fatally hitting Taylor, police said.
“Our investigation found that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in their use of force after having been fired upon by Kenneth Walker,” Cameron said. “This justification bars us from pursuing charges in Ms. Breonna Taylor’s death.”

“The decision before my office as the special prosecutor in this case was not to decide if the loss of Ms. Taylor’s life was a tragedy. The answer to that question is unequivocally yes,” the attorney general added. “There’s no doubt that this is a gut-wrenching emotional case and the pain that many people are feeling is understandable.”

Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers after they allegedly executed a search warrant of the wrong home.

Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers after they allegedly executed a search warrant of the wrong home.

“We was failed as a family today,” Taylor’s sister, Ju’Niyah Palmer, wrote in an Instagram post after the announcement. “My sister, you were failed today by a system you worked hard for and I am so sorry. I love you so so so so so much.”
She also shared images and videos from family celebrations showing her slain sister smiling and laughing.

Taylor’s family members have become outspoken protesters against police brutality, and Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, said the long and intense fight for justice had hindered the grieving process.
“I haven’t had time to sit and grieve,” she told ABC News in June. “I’m still trying to figure out why my daughter was killed. I’m still trying to figure out, why did it have to come to her being murdered. Why did Breonna have to die?”

He defended the events, which packed in supporters mostly not wearing masks.

By

Justin Gomez
and

Linsey Davis

September 23, 2020, 10:13 PM
• 6 min read

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Vice President Mike Pence defended President Donald Trump’s return to holding large rallies, typically with thousands of supporters seen standing shoulder-to-shoulder and not wearing masks, even after 200,000 Americans have died from the novel coronavirus.
“Well, we’re in an election year,” Pence told ABC News Live Anchor Linsey Davis on Wednesday. “President Trump and I trust the American people. We truly do believe in this freedom-loving nation that the American people know how to look after themselves, look after their families, and look after their neighbors and look out for the future of this country.”

Trump tweeted a photo from his Tuesday night rally in Philadelphia showing just how packed the event was.

Davis showed Pence, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the president’s photo and asked him how he can justify such a scene given the conflicting advice of health experts seeking to mitigate virus spread.
“We’ve trusted governors in our states, and most importantly we’ve trusted the American people,” Pence said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has limited outdoor events and gatherings to 250 people, a figure clearly violated by the Trump Campaign. But it’s not just social distancing recommendations that are being ignored at the president’s rallies — very few people are wearing masks.

Vice President Mike Pence signs a hat for a supporter at a Republican campaign rally in Belgrade, Mont., on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020.

Vice President Mike Pence signs a hat for a supporter at a Republican campaign rally in Belgrade, Mont., on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020.

On Sept. 16, Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield testified before the Senate that he believes “face masks are the single most important public health tool we have,” but Trump mocked his Democratic Presidential opponent, Joe Biden, for embracing them.

Asked if he’s concerned about the optics of putting political aspirations above American lives, Pence reiterated to Davis that Americans know enough to take care of themselves.
“The American people, really throughout the course of the last eight months, have demonstrated the ability to put the health of their family and their neighbors first,” he said.

As the nation mourns the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the vice president said he remembers her as a “tenacious advocate for her judicial philosophy,” and told Davis that Trump soon will nominate “a woman who will bring a judicial philosophy in the tradition of Justice Antonin Scalia.”
“It’ll be his focus entirely on choosing a woman who brings the background, the intellect and the judicial philosophy that is — that is consistent with justices the president has appointed and the more than 200 federal judges we have appointed to the courts,” Pence added.

U.S. Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a former law professor at the University of Notre Dame.

U.S. Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a former law professor at the University of Notre Dame.

Trump has said he would announce his nominee from the White House on Saturday.
A leading contender for the vacancy is Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a former Notre Dame law professor who clerked for Scalia. She’s a devout Catholic and a favorite pick for religious conservatives who see an opportunity to overturn Roe vs. Wade, though Barrett has not ruled on any abortion-related cases.
“Judge Barrett is an extraordinary jurist,” Pence said. “And she’s among a number of women that are currently under consideration.”
Linsey Davis’ interview with Vice President Mike Pence airs tonight on “ABC News Live Prime” at 7 ET.

A report released Wednesday by Senate Republicans found that the role of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma was “awkward” and at times “problematic” for U.S. officials dealing with the country, but provides no new evidence and found no instance of policy being altered as a result of his role.”The extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board affected U.S. policy toward Ukraine is not clear,” the report finds.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who led the investigation as chair of the Homeland Security Committee, had openly said he hoped the election-year probe would hurt the Democratic nominee and help President Donald Trump while Democrats had decried the effort as purely political.

Sen. Ron Johnson speaks at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee oversight hearing on Capitol Hill, June 25, 2020.

Sen. Ron Johnson speaks at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee oversight hearing on Capitol Hill, June 25, 2020.

Johnson’s investigation, carried out in conjunction with GOP Sen. Charles Grassley, who heads the Senate Finance committees, purportedly sought to determine whether Hunter Biden’s role on the board of Burisma was an improper conflict of interest with U.S. anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine while Joe Biden served as vice president.
“The Obama administration knew that Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board was problematic and did interfere in the efficient execution of policy with respect to Ukraine,” the GOP report found, without drawing a conclusion on the extent of the impact of Hunter Biden’s role.
Johnson said he had pursued the probe based in part on accusations from Trump and others that Biden ousted a Ukrainian prosecutor who had been looking into Burisma to benefit his son, despite multiple reports and testimony from Obama administration officials who have said ousting the corrupt prosecutor was in line with U.S. policy. Much of that testimony came during the Trump impeachment hearings earlier this year in which he was accused of pressuring Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden by threatening to withhold military aid and an Oval Office meeting.
The GOP report, based largely on news accounts, broke no new ground on that point.
“The extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board affected U.S. policy toward Ukraine is not clear,” the report finds.

Sen. Gary Peters delivers remarks before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee in Washington, Sept. 23, 2020.

Sen. Gary Peters delivers remarks before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee in Washington, Sept. 23, 2020.

In their response to Johnson’s and Grassley’s report, the ranking Democrats on the committees, Sens. Ron Wyden and Gary Peters, issued a separate report stating that Republicans found “no evidence” of wrongdoing by Vice President Biden and “no evidence” of alterations to U.S.-Ukraine policy to assist Hunter Biden.
“The Chairmen have uncovered absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing by Vice President Biden,” the minority response reads. “Instead, this effort has been a partisan and unnecessary distraction from important business before both Committees as the country faces a once in a century pandemic.”

The Republicans issued the report with the election just six weeks away, and Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates, in a statement released in advance, called it a distraction from other issues like the COVID-19 crisis.
“Why? To subsidize a foreign attack against the sovereignty of our elections with taxpayer dollars — an attack founded on a long-disproven, hardcore rightwing conspiracy theory,” Bates said.
The Republican report relies on the testimony of several U.S officials, including then top State Department official in Ukraine, George Kent, who testified in the House impeachment inquiry.
According to the GOP report, records from Kent show that he and other State Department officials “regularly considered how Hunter Biden’s connection to Burisma might affect the execution of U.S. policy.”
Johnson and Grassley pointed to several emails in which Kent, during 2015 and 2016, raised concerns to others in the State Department about the role that Biden’s position on the board might muddy the U.S. anti-corruption message in Ukraine, an effort which at the time was being led by Biden as vice president.
But senior Democratic aides said that in interviews with at least ten individuals as part of the probe, no witnesses testified to Hunter Biden’s position on the board of Burisma as having any direct impact on U.S. policy in Ukraine.

Democrats have charged that the entire effort to investigate Burisma and the Bidens is predicated on Russian disinformation peddled, at least in part, by Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian Ukrainian national whom the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned earlier this month after linking him to the disinformation effort.
Treasury Department investigators found Derkach to be a “Russian agent” and designated him for his efforts to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Democrats have alleged that Derkach is targeting Biden. He has previously released unverified tapes of phone calls allegedly between Joe Biden and former Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko.
Wyden and Peters called the Republican report “one outcome of Mr. Derkach’s election interference efforts.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a news conference in front of the U.S. Capitol Sept. 22, 2020.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a news conference in front of the U.S. Capitol Sept. 22, 2020.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, said the report “reads as if Putin wrote it not United States senators.”
Johnson and Grassley have repeatedly denied receiving information from or communicating with Derkach.
“This is a good-government oversight investigation that relies on documents and testimony from U.S. agencies and officials, not a Russian disinformation campaign, as our Democratic colleagues have falsely stated,” the Republican report reads.

“This virus doesn’t follow religious or political lines.”

By

Aaron Katersky

September 23, 2020, 8:30 PM
• 4 min read

After largely controlling the coronavirus through the summer, New York City health officials warned Wednesday of troubling spikes in cases in six neighborhoods across Brooklyn and Queens that they said “are cause for significant concern.”
The neighborhoods include Kew Gardens and Far Rockaway in Queens, Williamsburg in Brooklyn and a separate section of Brooklyn including Midwood, Borough Park and Bensonhurst that health officials are calling the “Ocean Parkway Cluster.”

The six neighborhoods make up 20% of all COVID-19 cases citywide as of Sept. 19 and the health department fears the increases could potentially evolve into more widespread transmission.
“I’m so distressed by the large increase in COVID in these four neighborhoods, including the Ocean Parkway area, which is where I grew up, went to synagogue, where my brother currently lives,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, the CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals.
Katz said the city was moving to immediately address the increase with leaders of Orthodox Jewish communities in each neighborhood, including automated calls in Yiddish and English, trucks driving through the neighborhoods blaring messages and distribution of masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

“This virus doesn’t follow religious or political lines,” said Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and an ABC News medical contributor. “Whenever you bring people together for events that don’t involve masks and social distancing you will have cases. We have seen these situations occur in many different sub-populations that are not following the science.”

In this May 20, 2020, file photo, people walk on the road in the Far Rockaway section of Queens, NY.

In this May 20, 2020, file photo, people walk on the road in the Far Rockaway section of Queens, NY.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who earlier in the pandemic faced accusations by Hasidic Jews that he was unfairly singling them out, said the aim is not to point fingers but to teach an important lesson for the public as the nation moves toward a season when outdoor activities and social distancing become more difficult.
“What we know works is a lot of communications, making it easy for people to wear masks by distributing for free, leaders of the community setting a good example, and many leaders are doing that,” de Blasio said. “If some people don’t want to be helpful to their neighbors then we will take stronger action.”

Dr. Katz, who said his father-in-law died of coronavirus in Israel earlier this week, made a personal appeal to Orthodox Jews.
“In the absence of doing the right thing, we will have to be in a lockdown situation like they have in Israel,” Katz said. “We don’t want that. We want people to wear masks. We want them to stay apart, to not have large gatherings.”
He added, “There are easier ways for us to go on with our lives.”

The lawsuit alleges Facebook failed to remove pages that incite violence.

By

Catherine Thorbecke

September 23, 2020, 8:12 PM
• 5 min read

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Four individuals, including the partner of one of the victims of the deadly Kenosha, Wisconsin, shootings, have filed a lawsuit against Facebook, the suspected gunman Kyle Rittenhouse and two leaders of online groups.
Violent protests rocked the Midwest city after the police shooting of Jacob Black on Aug. 23. Blake was paralyzed in the shooting.

The suit, filed in the federal court of the Eastern District of Wisconsin on Tuesday, alleges Facebook failed to delete two pages on its platform that the lawsuit says encouraged violence against protesters. It claims this may have ultimately led 17-year-old Rittenhouse to allegedly kill two people and injure a third.

The complaint argues the “militia” groups the Kenosha Guard and the Boogaloo Bois broadcast a “call to arms” using Facebook, urging counter-protesters to fight those protesting the Blake shooting. Rittenhouse “answered the Call to Arms by driving across state lines from Antioch, Illinois with an assault rifle,” the complaint states.
The plaintiffs said they were “terrorized, assaulted, harassed, and placed in so much fear when facing the business end of military grade assault rifles that they determined it was too dangerous to continue to protest,” according to the complaint.

Kyle Rittenhouse, center, with cap on backwards, walks along Sheridan Road in Kenosha, Wis., Aug. 25, 2020, with another armed civilian. On Aug. 27, prosecutors charged Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois, in the fatal shooting of two protesters and the wounding of a third in Kenosha.

Kyle Rittenhouse, center, with cap on backwards, walks along Sheridan Road in Kenosha, Wis., Aug. 25, 2020, with another armed civilian. On Aug. 27, prosecutors charged Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois, in the fatal shooting of two protesters and the wounding of a third in Kenosha.

The lawsuit also argues that the deaths could have been prevented had Facebook taken action, saying the social media giant “received more than 400 warnings that what did happen was going to occur.”
Facebook allegedly received hundreds of complaints and flags concerning the Kenosha Guard page, the complaint claims, “with reporters expressing that they were deeply concerned the Kenosha Guard was going out that night looking to intimidate and injure people protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake.”
According to the complaint, it wasn’t until days after the violence occurred that Facebook removed the Kenosha Guard page.

The lawsuit claims Facebook is enabling these so-called militia groups to recruit and conspire and that Facebook “continues to profit from their activities, and those who fight for social justice continue to die.”
Rittenhouse is currently held in Illinois but faces charges in Wisconsin including homicide. His lawyers have previously argued via a produced video that he acted in self-defense, and the next court date for his extradition hearing to Wisconsin is set for Sept. 25.
“As to Kyle Rittenhouse, this lawsuit is errant nonsense but may provide a golden opportunity for obtaining documents and sworn testimony from Facebook to bolster Kyle’s future defamation case against Facebook for falsely accusing him of mass murder,” Lin Wood, an attorney for Rittenhouse, told ABC News in a statement. “Thus, I view the lawsuit as a blessing in disguise.”
A Facebook spokesperson told ABC News in a statement that the company “took action against organizations and content related to Kenosha.”
“We have found no evidence that suggests the shooter followed the Kenosha Guard Page or that he was invited to the Event Page they organized,” the statement added.
In an Aug. 28 video posted to Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company has made an “operational mistake” in not removing the Kenosha Guard page earlier.
Zuckerberg added that Facebook has designated the shooting as a mass murder and removed Rittenhouse’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.
The other named defendants in the lawsuit include Kevin Mathewson, the operator of the Kenosha Guard Facebook page, and Ryan Balch, an alleged member of the Boogaloo Bois. Mathewson did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment. Balch could not immediately be reached for comment and phone numbers linked to him had been disconnected.

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Expect more online savings and thousands of new job opportunities.

By

Jacqueline Laurean Yates

via

September 23, 2020, 7:09 PM
• 5 min read

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Walmart is gearing up for the busy holiday shopping season with a new experience.
Shopping will look different for many stores amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the retail giant announced Wednesday how it will change based on evolving customer needs.

Three key areas of Walmart’s updated experience include earlier holiday shopping deals, increased online sales, thousands of new staff hires and in-store safety guidelines.

As shopping interests have shifted toward “new normal” essentials, such as athleisure, sleepwear, exercise equipment and outdoor needs, Walmart is also making sure to increase inventory on these unexpected gifts.
There will also be more pet supplies, toys and items for home, including over 1,300 new toys introduced, more than 3 million pet beds and an increased availability on kitchen appliances.
With Walmart anticipating people getting started on Black Friday shopping earlier this year, the retailer will start rolling out seasonal sales earlier. An exact date hasn’t been announced, but the company has advised that more details will be shared soon.
“We’ve heard from our customers that many plan on starting their holiday shopping well before Black Friday and that they’re looking for gifts that fit their current lifestyle,” said Walmart U.S. Executive Vice President and Chief Merchandising Officer Scott McCall in a statement.
“So, we’ve adjusted our strategy to adapt to these new shopping preferences — we’re offering more of what they want now, earlier than ever, and all at the best prices,” he continued.

Like many other retailers, Walmart has taken steps to ensure customer safety amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
There are reduced store hours, required face coverings, sneeze guard plastic barriers at pharmacies and checkout counters, traffic management and social distancing floor decals.
Additionally, shoppers can opt for contactless pickup or delivery services or contactless payments in store with Walmart Pay or Walmart app.

With the uptick in online sales post-pandemic, Walmart is planning to hire more than 20,000 seasonal employees to fulfill increased demand for the holidays.
Hires will be immediate with shifts scheduled as soon as 48 hours after applying and will continue through Jan. 1, 2021. There also will be opportunities to convert to full-time employment.

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“The holidays are always a special time, and this year, we think the season will mean even more to our customers,” said Walmart U.S. Executive Vice President Greg Smith in a statement. “As more of them turn to online shopping, we want to ensure we’re staffed and ready to help deliver that special gift to their loved ones while continuing to fulfill our customer’s everyday needs.”
He continued, “We’re also proud to be able to continue to provide employment opportunities across the country when it’s needed most.”
The news of Walmart’s holiday plans comes shortly after the megastore announced Walmart+, which is a membership program that offers customers unlimited free delivery from stores on more than 160,000 products along with a host of other in-store benefits.

Yolanda Ames knows how to make food stretch: A little bread added to the ground beef, or a little extra water in the macaroni, will help keep her three boys’ stomachs full longer. That’s not the problem; it’s whether she can afford electricity this month, so the fridge will stay on and keep her groceries from spoiling. In her bank account, there is roughly $0. In her hand, there’s an envelope: the latest bill she is not certain how to pay.There’s one thing Ames knows: She’ll have hard choices to make this month.

Before the coronavirus’ global grip, it already wasn’t easy. Now, Americans enduring the most threadbare fiscal safety nets find themselves on the fault lines exacerbated by the health crisis — with the ground rapidly giving way beneath them.
New polling reveals that those with the smallest financial buffer have sustained a heavy blow. The survey, released Wednesday from NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and conducted between July 1 and Aug. 3, finds that the COVID-19 crisis has sent families reeling from the economic fallout.

“It all starts to snowball,” Dr. Robert Blendon, professor of Public Health and Political Analysis at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told ABC News. “You’re draining your resources — whatever resources you had. You lose your work, but you’ve still got a landlord, a mortgage, utilities, you’ve still got to eat, suddenly you’re in real trouble.”
“It’s a fight every day,” Ames agreed. She’s out of work, living on food stamps, supporting her two teenage sons and 6-year-old grandson. “All this has put me so far back now that I’m in a hole. A major, major hole.”
Pre-pandemic, Ames, 43, made ends meet with odd jobs like styling hair or babysitting in her East Charlotte, North Carolina, neighborhood. Now she’s recovering from breast cancer, and the pandemic has rendered both high-contact gigs too risky.

Pedestrians walk by retail spaces for lease on September 03, 2020, in San Francisco, Calif.

Pedestrians walk by retail spaces for lease on September 03, 2020, in San Francisco, Calif.

“These people are very vulnerable on the most basic things, barely hanging on and needing some financial toehold,” Blendon said. “So what does it mean for the future? A lot of these households are going to fall apart unless there’s some sort of cushion.”

More than four in 10 households across the country report facing serious financial problems due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the survey reveals. More than four in 10 also report having lost employment, been furloughed, or had wages and hours cut. Among those with job or wage losses during the outbreak, two in three homes report severe financial issues.
And those with the slimmest margin for error, the most vulnerable to the virus, have been hit the hardest; as the income bracket shrinks, so grows the economic impact.
“If you make over $100,000, it’s like an economic vaccine,” Blendon said. “For so many others of more modest means, there’s no life preserver for you. And suddenly you’re forced to make difficult decisions between the basic things that keep your home together.”

In this May 15, 2020, file photo, people wait on a long line to receive a food bank donation at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.

In this May 15, 2020, file photo, people wait on a long line to receive a food bank donation at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.

About a third of households with reported income under $30,000 said they had serious problems affording food, and had missed or delayed paying major bills to ensure enough to eat for everyone.
Broken down by race, that burden disproportionately weighs on Black and brown Americans. Thirty-one percent of Black households and 26% of Latino households say they face serious financial problems, contrasted with 12% of white households. Communities of color, already suffering a disproportionate impact from the virus, are now more financially strapped.
It comes as the nation pushes past a sobering milestone in the pandemic — 200,000 COVID-19 deaths — with the loss ravaging communities of color.
“On a day when we’re reflecting on 200,000 deaths, we can’t ignore the economic impact on those who are living through it,” Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told ABC News. “Death is only one marker for the impact of this pandemic, and it’s affecting society in major ways. And the burden of that is not evenly felt. What you see is the same groups that have suffered the most in terms of infection, also suffering the greatest economic burden.”

One in five households nationwide report facing serious problems paying their mortgage or rent; there too, Black, Latino and low-income households take the greatest share of suffering.
Serious issues with heating and cooling, problems with pests, water and environmental problems, and severely cramped living conditions are also shouldered disproportionately by Black, Latino and low-income households, the survey found.
“I know what these numbers mean in people’s lives,” Blendon said. “It’s a bit of the American Dream — that we’re going to make it, we’re going to do better. And suddenly it’s falling apart because you don’t know how you’re going to make it through the month.”
Experts say the hardships reported in the poll are likely even bleaker since government relief programs expired at the end of July, and negotiations on another round of long-term aid have run up against a partisan divide.

In this June 28, 2020, file photo, people line up outside Kentucky Career Center prior to its opening to find assistance with their unemployment claims in Frankfort, Ky.

In this June 28, 2020, file photo, people line up outside Kentucky Career Center prior to its opening to find assistance with their unemployment claims in Frankfort, Ky.

“It has to be worse, because checks that these people surveyed would be receiving, that would have helped some, are no longer there,” Blendon said.
“I have no choice but to keep on going no matter what,” Ames said of her situation. “Don’t know where this is going to end. I’ve been waiting for better for a long time; I’m not even sure I’d know what better looks like.”
In dire straits, the idea of bartering food stamps for extra cash might be appealing for families in the red, even if they sell for only half their worth. But Ames knows that would be illegal, and says she’s stuck to survival by strategic saving.
“It’s a choice of — are you going to pay for your meds? Or are you going to pay your light bill this month? Or can you buy your sons the socks they need? Toilet paper? Soap?” Ames said. “I was already down before this and now I don’t know what I’m going to do to come back up to par. I can’t afford to live like this — and I can’t afford to die.”
“I think that at this moment, this milestone of 200,000 deaths, it’s a time to reflect back on what’s taking place, but more so, it’s a time to look forward and say, ‘What do we want the next few months to look like?'” Besser said. “Do we want it to be more of the same? Or do you want to say, ‘This was the time when we decided to come together as a nation’?”
ABC News’ Eric Strauss and Sony Salzman contributed to this report.

Ohio’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit attempting to block the state’s nuclear plants from collecting fees on electricity bills that were authorized in a new law

By

FARNOUSH AMIRI Report for America/Associated Press

September 23, 2020, 6:55 PM
• 4 min read

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s attorney general sued Wednesday in an attempt to block the state’s nuclear plants from collecting fees on electricity bills that were authorized in a new law at the center of a $60 million federal bribery probe involving the former speaker of the Ohio House.
Attorney General Dave Yost filed the lawsuit in Franklin County Court in Columbus against Energy Harbor, asking the judge to block payments to the company’s two nuclear plants near Cleveland and Toledo that were bailed out through the now-tainted legislation.

The bailout is funded by a fee that will be added to every electricity bill in the state starting Jan. 1 — directing over $150 million a year, through 2026, to the two nuclear plants. This fee is still set to go into effect at the start of the new year if the Legislature does not repeal the law by then.
Energy Harbor is the former FirstEnergy Solutions, a onetime subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. The subsidiary filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2018 amid a mounting load brought on by the rise of competition from natural gas power in the East and Midwest.
The lawsuit came hours after a House committee looking at repealing the law heard varying proponent testimony from energy lobbying groups and state office representing consumers.
Yost had previously promised he would take the legal remedies necessary if the General Assembly could not do so in time.
The lawsuit also seeks to freeze the assets of former House Speaker Larry Householder’s $1 million campaign fund and dissolve the dark money groups involved in the bribery scheme, Yost said.
“Corruption like this doesn’t happen without cash, lots of cash,” he said.
Federal prosecutors in July accused Householder and four others of shepherding energy company money for personal and political use as part of an effort to pass the legislation, then kill any attempt to repeal it at the polls. All five men have pleaded not guilty.
While FirstEnergy Corp. and its executives have denied wrongdoing and have not been criminally charged, federal investigators say the company secretly funneled millions to secure the $1 billion legislative bailout for the two nuclear plants then operated by FirstEnergy Solutions.

The House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight, created by the new Speaker Bob Cupp, has been the scene of rising tensions between Democratic and Republican lawmakers on how best to approach the fate of the legislation.
Some testimony Wednesday called for the straight repeal of the fee law while others warned throwing “the good out with the bad,” will have widespread ramifications on Ohio electricity customers.
Witnesses from organizations like Industrial Energy Users, the Ohio Manufacturers Association and the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel gave testimony aligned with varying interests.
Jeff Jacobson, who testified on behalf of Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, said the legislation left the burden of the two unprofitable nuclear plants near Cleveland and Toledo on average Ohioans.
While Kevin Murray, executive director of the Industrial Energy Users of Ohio, who had originally testified as a proponent of the bill last year, told the committee that repealing the bill without replacing it with similar subsidies will increase the cost for the state’s electricity customers.
The bailout bill removed customer charges for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, but opponents have said energy efficiency programs that helped customers reduce their electric use more than pay for themselves.
Despite not being able to agree on whether the bill saves or costs ratepayers money, nearly every witness concurred the bailout of the nuclear plants is uneconomic and possibly unwarranted.
Cupp and many of his Republican colleagues believe the legislation needs to be carefully untangled in order to anticipate and respond to the unintended consequences of the repeal.
But Democrats want a speedy repeal and say Republicans have been unnecessarily delaying the process.
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Associated Press writer John Seewer in Toledo contributed to this report. Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

The wife of Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has tested positive for the coronavirus after experiencing mild symptoms

By

JIM SALTER Associated Press

September 23, 2020, 7:03 PM
• 2 min read

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O’FALLON, Mo. — The wife of Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson tested positive for the coronavirus after experiencing mild symptoms, a spokeswoman for the governor told media outlets Wednesday.
Teresa Parson had been showing symptoms that included a cough and nasal congestion, spokeswoman Kelli Jones told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She took a rapid test that came back positive and was awaiting results of a nasal swab test to confirm the finding.

The governor also was tested and was awaiting results, Jones told the newspaper. She did not immediately respond to phone and email messages from The Associated Press.
Gov. Parson postponed several events this week, Jones told WDAF-TV in Kansas City. Teresa Parson has been traveling with her husband this week for several events, including a ceremonial bill signing in Cape Girardeau where a photo posted Tuesday on the governor’s Facebook page shows both of them wearing masks.
Parson, 65, is facing Democratic State Auditor Nicole Galloway in the November election.
Parson has repeatedly urged residents to wear masks and maintain social distancing, but he has been an outspoken opponent of mask mandates, often appearing at functions without one. In July, speaking without a mask at a Missouri Cattlemen’s Association steak fry in Sedalia, he reiterated his stance.
“You don’t need government to tell you to wear a dang mask,” he said. “If you want to wear a dang mask, wear a mask.”
Parson’s opposition to masks has held strong even as the White House Coronavirus Task Force has recommended a face covering requirement in Missouri given the state’s escalating number of confirmed cases. When Parson allowed the state to reopen for business in mid-June, about 16,000 cases had been confirmed. That number has now grown by nearly 100,000.