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The return of “lock her up”: Trump won’t stop attacking Gretchen Whitmer

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has called on President Donald Trump to stop “inspiring and incentivizing and inciting” domestic terrorism against her, in a plea that came just 10 days after the FBI revealed a right-wing plot to abduct her.

Her statement, made Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, comes after Trump told supporters at a Saturday rally in Muskegon, Michigan, to “be careful of” the governor and their state’s attorney general, and after he criticized Whitmer’s attempts to stem the rising number of Covid-19 cases in Michigan. Each time the president attacked the governor, his supporters took up a “lock her up” chant.

It’s not a new theme for Trump: He’s long made a point of going after Whitmer, both before and after the FBI arrested six men for planning to kidnap and potentially murder her.

In March, he told Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House coronavirus task force, not to call “the woman in Michigan” because Whitmer criticized his response to the pandemic.

Immediately after the kidnapping plot was revealed in early October, Trump sent three tweets, briefly noting that he condemns “ANY extreme violence,” while also accusing Whitmer of doing “a terrible job” as governor and criticizing her for not thanking him personally for the FBI’s role in stopping a domestic terrorism scheme.

Trump has also attacked Whitmer using nearly the same rhetoric as the members of the far-right militia — who called themselves the Wolverine Watchmen — who were arrested.

“[Whitmer] wants to be a dictator in Michigan,” Trump told a Fox Business host Friday, “and they can’t stand her.”

According to affidavit by FBI agent Richard Trask, the Michigan conspirators repeatedly referred to Whitmer as a “tyrant” and said she had “no checks and balances at all.”

Whitmer isn’t the only elected official who has become the target of would-be right-wing violence over Covid-19 restrictions — which are well-supported by science. In Wichita, Kansas on Friday, a man was arrested for plotting to kidnap and kill Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple because of a mask mandate, according to a report by the Wichita Eagle.

And the same group that planned violence against Whitmer had also contemplated kidnapping Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

Northam and Whitmer both run states Trump tweeted his supporters should “LIBERATE” — along with Minnesota — in April.

And as as Vox’s Fabiola Cineas has documented, Trump’s rhetoric against Whitmer — and his “LIBERATE” tweets — are not one-off events. He has a long history of “encouraging hate groups and political violence.”

Trump has seemed especially quick to attack female opponents

Trump, needless to say, isn’t selective about who he attacks. At the slightest criticism, he’s just as likely to turn his fire on a member of his own party — like Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse — as he is to go after anyone else.

And Whitmer has criticized him: In March, she said that “we, as a nation, were not as prepared as we should have been” for the coronavirus pandemic, and Sunday on Meet the Press that “Trump virus response is the worst in the globe.”

But while Whitmer isn’t alone in pointing out the shortcomings of the federal Covid-19 response — even Gov. Larry Hogan, the Republican leader of Maryland, has also done so, for instance — she has become the unique target of a sustained campaign of vitriol by the president.

There’s a straightforward explanation for that. As Vox’s Anna North explains,

Whitmer isn’t just a Democrat or a governor telling people what to do — she’s also a woman telling people what to do. That’s never been particularly popular with a certain subset of Americans, and it’s especially unpopular now that Trump and others have introduced a gendered element into the politics of Covid-19 response, peddling the idea that it’s manly to ignore the risk of the virus.

Indeed, it’s no accident that Whitmer is being called a tyrant and a bitch. The attacks on her feed into age-old stereotypes about women in power — stereotypes that are especially dangerous now as they undermine some of the very leaders who are trying to stop the spread of Covid-19 and keep Americans safe.

Ultimately, Trump’s attacks on Whitmer are just part of a history of misogyny on the part of the president. In 2016, Hillary Clinton was also the target of “lock her up” chants. Just this month, Trump attacked Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris as a “monster.” And while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is characterized as “cryin’” in Trump’s tweets, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is almost invariably labeled “Crazy Nancy” when Trump tweets about her.

According to Barbara Res, a former Trump Organization executive who oversaw the construction of Trump Tower, Trump’s sexism is by no means new. But, she reportedly writes in an upcoming book, “his regard for himself had increased exponentially” over time, “as had his contempt for women.” And Trump’s treatment of Whitmer would appear to be a clear example of that.


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‘Got ’em’: US authorities destroy ‘murder hornet’ nest

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The nest of Asian giant hornets, an invasive species, was the first ever found in the United States.

The first Asian giant hornet nest found in the United States has been dismantled, authorities in Washington State said on Saturday, a day after the nest was discovered.

“Got ’em,” the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) said in a statement posted to Facebook, alongside a video that showed dozens of the insects trapped inside a clear, one-metre cylinder.

The hornets’ removal came a day after authorities announced the discovery of the nest in a tree cavity in the town of Blaine, near the US border with Canada.

The two-inch insects, dubbed “murder hornets” because their sting can be fatal to some humans, especially following multiple stings, had been sighted several times throughout the state, but a nest had not been found until this week.

“Today’s Asian giant hornet nest removal appears to have been successful,” the agency said in its Facebook post, adding that pest control workers “vacuumed numerous specimens” out of the nest.

The agency said further details would be announced at a news conference on Monday.

Hunt for the nest

In September, the WSDA said it hoped to find and eradicate the hornets’ nest by mid-month before new queens emerged and mated, which would help it “prevent the spread” of the invasive species.

The hornets are predatory to honey bees and other important insects.

The department said it had captured four live hornets in two separate traps on October 21 and October 22 and entomologists were able to attach radio trackers to three of those hornets. One of them led them to the nest.

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Asian giant hornets, which have also been sighted in the Canadian province of British Columbia, just north of the Washington state border, can sting through most beekeeper suits, The Associated Press news agency reported.

They deliver nearly seven times the amount of venom as a honey bee and can sting multiple times, AP news agency said.

The department of agriculture in Washington state has cautioned that while the hornets are not generally aggressive towards humans, they can pose a health threat.

“Their string is more dangerous than that of local bees and wasps and can cause severe pain, swelling, necrosis, and, in rare cases, even death,” it says on its website.

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Erdogan says Macron ‘needs treatment’ over attitude to Muslims

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France is recalling its envoy to Turkey after Erdogan said his French counterpart needed ‘mental checks’.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched a fresh attack on his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, saying he needed treatment and “mental checks” over his attitude towards Muslims and Islam.

Earlier this month, Macron pledged to fight “Islamist separatism”, which he said was threatening to take control in some Muslim communities around France, drawing a sharp rebuke from Erdogan.

France has since been shaken by the beheading of a history teacher earlier this month. The assailant had wanted to avenge the teacher’s use of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression.

“What is the problem of this person called Macron with Muslims and Islam? Macron needs treatment on a mental level,” Erdogan said in a speech at a provincial congress of his AK Party in the central Turkish city of Kayseri on Saturday.

“What else can be said to a head of state who does not understand freedom of belief and who behaves in this way to millions of people living in his country who are members of a different faith?” Erdogan said. “First of all, have mental checks.”

France said it was recalling its envoy to Turkey for consultations after “unacceptable” comments by Erdogan questioning Macron’s mental health.

“President Erdogan’s comments are unacceptable. Excess and rudeness are not a method. We demand that Erdogan change the course of his policy because it is dangerous in every respect,” a French presidential official told the AFP news agency.

The Elysee official, who asked not to be named, also said France had noted “the absence of messages of condolence and support” from the Turkish president after the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty outside Paris.

Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party first came to power in 2002. He has sought to shift Islam into the mainstream of politics in Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim but secular country.

The Turkish president said on October 6 after Macron’s initial comments on “Islamist separatism”, that the remarks were “a clear provocation” and showed the French leader’s “impertinence”.

Macron this month also described Islam as a religion “in crisis” worldwide and said the government would present a bill in December to strengthen a 1905 law that officially separated church and state in France.

France and its NATO ally are at loggerheads over a range of issues including maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean, Libya, Syria and most recently the escalating conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Erdogan and Macron discussed their disagreements in a phone call last month and agreed to improve ties and keep communication channels open.

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The US just broke its record for the highest number of new coronavirus cases in a day

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The United States broke its record for the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases reported in a single day on Friday, an alarming sign that what some epidemiologists are calling a “third wave” of infections is spreading at breakneck speed as winter approaches.

According to the New York Times, by the end of the day on Friday at least 85,085 cases were reported in states across the country — about 10,000 cases more than the previous same-day high on July 16.

Public health experts had long warned that uneven compliance with social distancing guidelines, inadequate contact tracing programs, and premature reopenings of indoor venues were creating conditions for a resurgence of virus transmission after its summer peak, and that is what appears to be happening now.

A bar graph showing the US case totals for each day, going back to March 3. A red trend line goes across the top of the bars, peaking first in early April at around 35,000 cases, falling to just over 20,000 in early June, spiking to around 70,000 in July, falling to around 40,000 in September, and rising again to about 60,000 in October. The Covid Tracking Project

The new case numbers also show that the geographic spread is wider than during past spikes. According to an internal report produced on Thursday for officials at the Department of Health and Human Services obtained by the Washington Post, more than 170 counties across 36 states have been designated rapidly rising hotspots. And 24 states have broken single-day records of new cases in the past two weeks, the Post reports.

Also concerning is that in the past month there has been a 40 percent rise in the number of people hospitalized for Covid-19 infections. Deaths have not surged so far, but epidemiologists have pointed out that there can be a significant time lag between a surge in cases and deaths tied to that surge.

“Today’s cases represent infections that probably happened a week or two ago,” Boston University epidemiologist Eleanor Murray told Vox’s Dylan Scott in July. “Today’s deaths represent cases that were diagnosed possibly up to a month ago, so infections that were up to six weeks ago or more.”

Saturday, President Donald Trump downplayed the record in new reported cases on Twitter, and incorrectly claimed that cases were up only because testing ability is up.

But public health experts have pointed to state-level policies on distancing and contact-tracing as a key driver of the current uptick. Moreover, the high rates at which coronavirus tests are coming back positive in many states — a key data point for estimating the true spread of the virus — and the surge in hospitalizations are signs that the new wave is not just a function of testing capacity. As Vox’s German Lopez has explained, a high positivity rate actually suggests that not enough tests are being done to track and contain spread in a given area.

Murray, the epidemiologist at Boston University, told the Washington Post that the wide geographic range of the new wave will make it difficult to move health care workers to hot spots. Previous spikes were concentrated in certain communities, allowing medical professionals from less affected areas to be moved to deal with outbreaks. But the breadth of the current outbreak could tax US health care capacity in a manner that has not been seen before.

And Murray also pointed out that this wave is more dangerous that the two that preceded it because it started from a higher point of infections.

“We are starting this wave much higher than either of the previous waves,” she told the Post. “And it will simply keep going up until people and officials decide to do something about it.”

Experts have warned about a third wave for a while

Medical professionals, epidemiologists and many public health officials have long pointed out the risk of a third wave.

As Vox’s German Lopez wrote in early October, experts warned that a third wave looked likely in light of the fact that the virus was never really suppressed nationally, and that premature reopening, encouraged most aggressively by Trump and Republican governors, would simply accelerate its spread:

Consider Florida. Last month, the state reopened bars and, more recently, restaurants, despite the high risk of these indoor spaces. After Florida previously opened bars, in June, experts said the establishments were largely to blame for the state’s massive Covid-19 outbreak in the summer. As Florida reopens now, it has roughly two to three times the number of Covid-19 cases that it had in early June, and its high test positivity rate suggests it’s still likely missing a lot of cases. The state is fanning its flames while its most recent fire is nowhere near extinguished.

This is, in effect, what much of the country is doing now as it rushes to reopens schools, particularly colleges and universities, and risky indoor spaces. Coupled with recent Labor Day celebrations, experts worry that’s already leading to a new increase in Covid-19 cases.

Experts have pointed out that Trump’s persistent agenda to downplay the dangers of the virus — and his suggestions that the news of a third wave is a media conspiracy designed to throw the election in Democrats’ favor — could intensify the problem as the virus is made into an increasingly partisan issue. The president has repeatedly failed to take responsibly for the US’ troubled pandemic response, including at the second presidential debate. He has instead blamed China and Democrats for the country’s problems, while leaving it to individual states to create plans for lower the rate of infection.

Some states have had more success in reducing infection than others, but none has managed to eliminate spread altogether. And more worrying still is the fact that cold weather and flu season have yet to fully settle in many states as winter approaches.

The good news is that we know how to counteract further spread.

“None of the ideas to prevent all of this are shocking or new,” Lopez recently wrote. “They’re all things people have heard before: More testing and contact tracing to isolate people who are infected, get their close contacts to quarantine, and deploy broader restrictions as necessary. More masking, including mandates in the 17 states that don’t have one. More careful, phased reopenings. More social distancing.”

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