AP Fact Check: Trump Team’s False Comfort on Schools, Virus 

President Donald Trump’s aides are misrepresenting the record on kids and the coronavirus as they push for schools to reopen. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday inaccurately characterized what the chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said on the matter. A day earlier, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also was wrong in stating that the research shows there is no danger “in any way” if kids are in school. No such conclusion has been reached. Their comments came as Trump continued to spread falsehoods about a pandemic that is taking a disproportionate hit on the U.S. and is not under control. A look at recent claims and reality:Schools  McEnanty: “Just last week you heard Dr. Redfield say that children are not spreading this.” — Monday on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends”  The facts: No, Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC director, did not say that. He said officials don’t have evidence that children are “driving” infections at this point. But they have not ruled out that children spread the virus to adults. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, said last week the government doesn’t have enough data to show whether and to what degree kids can infect others. The bulk of data has been collected from adults and particularly from those who were sick, leaving questions about children still unanswered, Birx said. She said children under 10 are the least tested age group. The officials did not reach a conclusion that “children are not spreading this.” Nor does the evidence prove that they are. The government has counted tens of thousands of children who have been infected with the virus and in some cases hospitalized. Overall, public health officials believe the virus is less dangerous to children than adults. ——Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Education building, July 8, 2020, in Washington.Devos: “There’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous.” — Sunday on “Fox News Sunday.” The facts: Not so. Like McEnany, DeVos is suggesting certainty where none exists as she urged schools to provide full-time, in-person learning in the fall even with community transmission of COVID-19 rising in many parts of the U.S. It’s premature to claim that there are no risks “in any way” seen in data. How significant a risk has not been established. The CDC in April studied the pandemic’s effect on different ages in the U.S. and reviewed preliminary research in China, where the coronavirus started. It said social distancing is important for children, too, for their own safety and that of others. “Whereas most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe, serious COVID-19 illness resulting in hospitalization still occurs in this age group,” the CDC study says.  In May, the CDC also warned doctors to be on the lookout for a rare but life-threatening inflammatory reaction in some children who’ve had the coronavirus. The condition had been reported in more than 100 children in New York and in some kids in several other states and in Europe, with some deaths.  The agency’s current guidance for communities on the reopening of K-12 schools says the goal is to “help protect students, teachers, administrators, and staff and slow the spread of COVID-19.” The guidance says “full sized, in person classes” present the “highest risk” of spreading the virus and advises face masks, spreading out of desks, staggered schedules, eating meals in classrooms instead of the cafeteria and “staying home when appropriate” to help avert spikes in virus cases.   ——Virus Trump: “Deaths in the U.S. are way down.” — tweet on July 6, one of at least a half dozen heralding a drop in daily deaths from the virus. The facts: It’s true that deaths dipped as infections spiked in many parts of the country. But deaths lag sickness. And now, the widely expected upturn in U.S. deaths has begun, driven by fatalities in states in the South and West, according to data analyzed by The Associated Press. “It’s a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday. He advised Americans: “Don’t get yourself into false complacency.” The new AP analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University shows the seven-day rolling average for daily reported deaths in the U.S. increased to 664 on Friday from 578 two weeks ago, as deaths rose in more than half the states. That’s still well below the lethal numbers of April. “It’s consistently picking up,” said William Hanage, a Harvard University infectious diseases researcher. “And it’s picking up at the time you’d expect it to.” ——Trump: “For the 1/100th time, the reason we show so many Cases, compared to other countries that haven’t done nearly as well as we have, is that our TESTING is much bigger and better. We have tested 40,000,000 people. If we did 20,000,000 instead, Cases would be half, etc. NOT REPORTED!” — tweet Thursday. The facts: His notion that infections are high only because the U.S. diagnostic testing has increased is false. His own top public health officials have shot down this line of thinking. Infections are rising because people are infecting each other more than they were when most everyone was hunkered down. It’s true that increased testing also contributes to the higher numbers. When you look harder, you’re going to see more. But the testing has uncovered a worrisome trend: The percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is on the rise across nearly the entire country.  That’s a clear demonstration that sickness is spreading and that the U.S. testing system is falling short. “A high rate of positive tests indicates a government is only testing the sickest patients who seek out medical attention and is not casting a wide enough net,” says the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, a primary source of updated information on the pandemic. Americans are being confronted with long lines at testing sites, often disqualified if they are not showing symptoms and, if tested, forced to wait many days for results.  —— Trump on the coronavirus: “We have the lowest Mortality Rate in the World.” – tweet Tuesday. The facts:  This statement is wholly unsupported. An accurate death rate is impossible to know. Every country tests and counts people differently, and some are unreliable in reporting cases. Without knowing the true number of people who become infected, it cannot be determined what portion of them die. Using a count kept by Johns Hopkins University, you can compare the number of recorded deaths with the number of reported cases. That count shows the U.S. experiencing more deaths as a percentage of cases than most other countries now being hit hard with the pandemic. The statistics look better for the U.S. when the list is expanded to include European countries that were slammed early on by the virus but now appear to have it under control. Even then, the U.S. is not shown to be among the best in avoiding death. Such calculations, though, do not provide a reliable measurement of actual death rates, because of the variations in testing and reporting, and the Johns Hopkins tally is not meant to be such a measure. The only way to tell how many cases have gone uncounted, and therefore what percentage of infected people have died from the disease, is to do another kind of test comprehensively, of people’s blood, to find how many people bear immune system antibodies to the virus. Globally, that is only being done in select places. ——Economy Trump: “Job growth is biggest in history.” — tweet Wednesday. The facts: Yes, but only because it is following the greatest job losses in history, by far.  The U.S. economy shed more than 22 million jobs in March and April, wiping out nearly a decade of job growth in just two months, as the viral outbreak intensified and nearly all states shut down nonessential businesses. Since then, 7.5 million, or about one-third, of those jobs have been recovered as businesses reopened. Even after those gains, the unemployment rate is 11.1%, down from April and May but otherwise higher than at any point since the Depression.  ——Trump: “Economy and Jobs are growing MUCH faster than anyone (except me!) expected.” — tweet Wednesday. The facts: Not really. It’s true that May’s gain of 2.7 million jobs was unexpected. Economists had forecast another month of job losses. But most economists projected hiring would sharply rebound by June or at the latest July, once businesses began to reopen. The gains kicked in a month earlier than forecast. Now, though, coronavirus cases are rising in most states, imperiling the climb back. In six states representing one-third of the economy — Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, and Texas — governors are reversing their reopening plans, and the restart is on pause in 15 other states. Such reversals are keeping layoffs elevated and threatening to weaken hiring.  —— Trump team on BidenTrump campaign ad, playing out a scenario where a person needing help calls the police in a Biden presidency and gets a voice recording: “You have reached the 911 police emergency line. Due to defunding of the police department, we’re sorry but no one is here to take your call.” The ad closes with the message: “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” The facts: Biden has not joined the call of protesters who demanded “defund the police” after Floyd’s killing. He’s proposed more money for police, conditioned to improvements in their practices. “I don’t support defunding the police,” Biden said last month in a CBS interview. But he said he would support tying federal aid to police based on whether “they meet certain basic standards of decency, honorableness and, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community, everybody in the community.” Biden’s criminal justice agenda, released long before he became the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, proposes more federal money for “training that is needed to avert tragic, unjustifiable deaths” and hiring more officers to ensure that departments are racially and ethnically reflective of the populations they serve. Specifically, he calls for a $300 million infusion into existing federal community policing grant programs. That adds up to more money for police, not defunding law enforcement. Biden also wants the federal government to spend more on education, social services and struggling areas of cities and rural America, to address root causes of crime. Democrats, meanwhile, have pointed to Trump’s repeated proposals in the administration’s budget to cut community policing and mediation programs at the Justice Department. Congressional Republicans say the program can be effectively merged with other divisions, but Democrats have repeatedly blocked the effort. The program has been used to help provide federal oversight of local police departments. Despite proposed cuts, Attorney General William Barr last month said that the department would use the COPS program funding to hire over 2,700 police officers at nearly 600 departments across the country. ——Vice President Mike Pence: Biden “said that he would, quote, absolutely cut funding for law enforcement.” — remarks Thursday in Philadelphia. Republican National Committee email: “In the wake of rioting, looting, and tragic murders ripping apart communities across the country, Joe Biden said ‘Yes, absolutely’ he wants to defund the police.” — email Wednesday from Steve Guest, RNC’s rapid response director. The facts: That’s misleading, a selective use of Biden’s words on the subject. The RNC email links to an excerpted video clip of Biden’s conversation with liberal activist Ady Barkan, who endorsed Biden on Wednesday after supporting Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries. A full recording of that conversation, provided by the Biden campaign to The Associated Press, shows he again declined to support defunding police. Barkan raises the issue of police reform and asks whether Biden would funnel money into social services, mental health counseling and affordable housing to help reduce civilian interactions with police. Biden responds that he is calling for increased funding for mental health providers but “that’s not the same as getting rid of or defunding all the police” and that both approaches are needed, including more money for community police. Asked again by Barkan, “so we agree that we can redirect some of the funding,” Biden then answers “absolutely yes.” Biden then gives the caveat that he means “not just redirect” federal money potentially but “condition” it on police improvements. “If they don’t eliminate choke holds, they don’t get (federal) grants, if they don’t do the following, they don’t get any help,” Biden replied.  “The vast majority of all police departments are funded by the locality, funded by the municipality, funded by the state,” he added. “It’s only the federal government comes in on top of that, and so it says you want help, you have to do the following reforms.” ——Biden on TrumpBiden: “President Trump claimed to the American people that he was a wartime leader, but instead of taking responsibility, Trump has waved a white flag, revealing that he ordered the slowing of testing and having his administration tell Americans that they simply need to ‘live with it.” – statement Wednesday marking the rise in U.S. coronavirus infections to more than 3 million. The facts: To be clear, the government did not slow testing on the orders of the president.  Trump at first denied he was joking when he told a Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally on June 20 that he said “to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please'” because “they test and they test.” Days later he said he didn’t really mean it. In any event, a succession of his public-health officials testified to Congress that the president never asked them to slow testing and that they were doing all they could to increase it. But testing remains markedly insufficient.  

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Court Refuses to Order Houston to Host Texas GOP Gathering

The Texas Supreme Court on Monday upheld Houston’s refusal to allow the state Republican convention to hold in-person events in the city due to the coronavirus pandemic.  The court dismissed an appeal of a state district judge’s denial of a temporary restraining order sought by the state Republican Party. Shortly after the ruling, GOP leaders said they would call a meeting of the party’s executive committee to “finalize our path forward.” A separate court hearing was ongoing Monday in Harris County, where Houston is located, in which a different judge was hearing the party’s arguments to allow the convention to go forward.  The state GOP convention had been scheduled to begin Thursday at Houston’s downtown convention center and was expected to draw thousands of participants. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, said last week that he had directed city lawyers to terminate the contract because he believed the event could not be held safely. He denied that the convention was cancelled due to political differences and cited the potential risk to service workers and first responders if the virus spread through the convention. The state party sued a day later, alleging the city illegally breached the contract and accusing Turner of shedding “crocodile tears.” “The Party argues it has constitutional rights to hold a convention and engage in electoral activities, and that is unquestionably true,” the Supreme Court wrote in its opinion. “But those rights do not allow it to simply commandeer use of the Center.” State District Judge Larry Weiman last week sided with Turner, citing Houston statistics that show major hospitals exceeding their base intensive-care capacity due to an influx of COVID-19 patients.  Texas has set daily records in recent days for the number of COVID-19 deaths and confirmed cases. Top officials in Houston have called for the city to lock back down as area hospitals strain to accommodate an onslaught of patients. The Texas Medical Association withdrew its sponsorship of the state GOP convention and asked organizers to cancel in-person gatherings. As the virus has surged throughout the state in June and July, Gov. Greg Abbott, the state’s top Republican, has reversed some business reopenings and broadly required the use of face masks.  State GOP chair James Dickey had insisted that organizers can hold the event safely. Prior to Turner’s move to cancel the convention, Dickey said the party had planned to institute daily temperature scans, provide masks, and install hand sanitizer stations.  

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Ghana’s Organic Farming Growing in Popularity During Pandemic

In Ghana and West Africa, organic food is growing in popularity as people try to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. But organic produce is not easily regulated, and some consumers are paying extra for unverified claims. Farmers across the region are creating their own system, with support from international bodies, to certify organic produce. Stacey Knott reports from Accra.Camera: Stacey Knott  Produced by: Stacey Knott 
 

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UN: COVID-19 Worsening World Hunger   

The United Nations said Monday that 690 million people across the planet were undernourished last year, and an additional 83- to 132 million are at risk this year due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.  “World hunger is still increasing — up by 10 million people in one year and 60 million in five years,” said Maximo Torero Cullen, chief economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which is one of five U.N. agencies that compiled the report on world hunger.  “Over 2 billion people do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food,” he added. Of that figure, about 746 million are severely food insecure and 1.25 billion are moderately food insecure.  With nearly 13 million confirmed cases worldwide of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, infections are rising as food stocks in some parts of the world are already low.  David Beasley, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) executive director, speaks during a press conference in Seoul on May 15, 2018 after his recent visit to North Korea.“This is a critical time,” said David Beasley, the head of the World Food Program. “Nations must step up and reach deep in their pockets or we are going to have mass starvation and other significant issues.”  The U.N. says the number of undernourished people rose by 10 million between 2018 and 2019.  The report found that conflict, climate-related shocks and economic slowdowns are largely responsible for the deterioration in food production and accessibility.  In Africa, some 250 million people are undernourished — the highest rate in the world at 19.1% — more than double the world average of 8.9%.  While more than half the undernourished people in the world live in Asia — some 381 million — the percentage of the population is below the world average at 8.3%. The U.N. says that Asia has shown progress in reducing the number of hungry people, down by 8 million since 2015.   Latin America and the Caribbean have seen a rise in hunger in the past few years, with the number of undernourished people increasing by 9 million between 2015 and 2019. While their rate of undernourishment is below the world average at 7.4%, there are still nearly 48 million people who are undernourished in the region. The report found that there has been some progress in tackling child stunting and low birth weight, but more needs to be done. If current trends continue, the U.N. says the world will not meet the goal of zero hunger by 2030, and could see the number of undernourished people surpass 840 million in the next decade.  “The world is not on track to defeat malnutrition,” Torero Cullen said. “While there is some progress in child stunting and breastfeeding, children who are overweight is not improving and adult obesity is rising.”  The report also found that 3 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet — which costs five times as much on average as a basic diet. “We must make healthy diets affordable and accessible for everyone,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.   Guterres said he plans to convene a Food Systems Summit next year.  The U.N. says urgent action is needed to support a shift that makes healthy diets affordable to all and that is also sustainable for the planet. 
 

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US Judge Wants Clarity on Roger Stone Prison Commutation 

A U.S. judge in Washington on Monday ordered the government to explain the scope of President Donald Trump’s commutation of the 40-month prison sentence she had imposed on his friend Roger Stone for political corruption.Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered the parties in the case to produce Trump’s executive order by Tuesday which he signed late last week to keep the 67-year-old Stone from being required to report to prison on Tuesday.Berman said she wants to see whether the commutation also covered a provision requiring Stone to report for two years of supervised probation after what would have been his term in prison.White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told reporters she did not “have the exact details” of Trump’s commutation of Stone’s sentence.But she called it “a very important moment for justice in this country” and served to correct what she called the “wrongdoing” of law enforcement officials who pursued prosecution of Stone.President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with Hispanic leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House, July 9, 2020, in Washington.The commutation Trump granted Stone, a longtime political adviser, freed him from the prison term but did not wipe out his underlying convictions on seven charges, including witness tampering and lying to federal authorities linked to the lengthy investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election won by Trump. Trump, who long has dismissed allegations that Russia helped him win as “fake news,” said he commuted Stone’s sentence because Stone had been “treated very unfairly.” The president blamed the jury forewoman and Jackson, saying Stone “should have had another trial.” Prominent U.S. political figures have condemned Trump’s commutation of Stone’s prison sentence, saying it was a perversion of American justice. House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, who oversaw impeachment proceedings against Trump late last year, said Trump’s decision “is basically saying through this commutation, ‘If you lie for me, if you cover up for me, if you have my back, then I will make sure that you get a get-out-of-jail-free card.’” “Other Americans? Different standard,” Schiff said. “Friends of the president, accomplices of the president, they get off scot-free.” FILE – Republican Senator Mitt Romney speaks with members of the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 16, 2020.Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, who lost the 2012 presidential election to former President Barack Obama, called Trump’s commutation of Stone’s sentence “unprecedented, historic corruption. An American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.” The clemency for Stone was only the 36th Trump has granted, with 180 denied. Many of those granted by Trump have been to his political supporters or suggested by people he knows, rather than being processed through normal pardon procedures overseen by the U.S. Justice Department.  At the same points in their presidencies, 3½ years after taking office, Trump’s six predecessors acted on hundreds or thousands of petitions for clemency.  

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Google Plans to Invest $10 Billion in India

Google announced it will invest $10 billion in India in an effort to make the internet more “affordable and useful” to the more than one billion people living there. “This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy,” CEO Sundar Pichai said in a statement Monday. The money, to be spent through a new Google for India Digitization Fund over the next five to seven years, will invest in India’s technology sector.  FILE – Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a visit to El Centro College in Dallas, Oct. 3, 2019.”We’ll do this through a mix of equity investments, partnerships, and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments,” said Pichai. This new investment represents Google’s biggest commitment to India yet. These investments focus on increasing access to the internet throughout India, as well as aiding businesses with the transition to online operations.  Much of this will be accomplished through a focus on using apps and new software platforms. Google aims to use this move to enlarge internet access beyond English and into more local languages throughout India. Google also hopes to use its investments for the public good, working to improve areas as broad as education, agriculture and health. “As we make these investments we look forward to working alongside Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and the Indian government, as well as Indian businesses of all sizes to realize a shared vision for a Digital India,” Pichai said. “Our goal is to ensure that India not only benefits from the next wave of innovation but leads it.” 
 

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