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Israel and COVID-19: The politics of health, security, and government formation – Israel – ReliefWeb

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Martins, Bruno Oliveira & Mathias Hatleskog Tjønn (2020) Israel and COVID-19: The politics of health, security, and government formation, MidEast Policy Brief, 6. Oslo: PRIO.

​Israel has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, though not as seriously as other countries in the region. As of 10 June 2020, coronavirus casualties in the country stood at 299, but a June uptick in infections has generated uncertainty. Israel has also put to use highly contested means, setting aside personal rights and protections to a larger degree than other democracies, allowing the repurposing of anti-terror surveillance tools to track infection cases, and giving its intelligence service leeway in helping procure medical equipment. The Israeli situation – with hundreds of thousands of its citizens living in occupied territory – is complex, and the management of the pandemic has exposed pre-existing inequalities both within Israel itself, and between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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Week In Politics: Coronavirus Cases Surge, Dominate Political Atmosphere – NPR

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The virus continues to dominate headlines despite the best efforts of both presidential campaigns. And, President Trump announced late Friday he would commute Roger Stone’s sentence.

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Trump chooses distraction politics over leadership – CNN

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By the time he returned to the White House that night, Trump had commuted the sentence of his longtime friend Roger Stone, who’d been pleading for relief, arguing the coronavirus would be a death sentence if he had to report to prison (as he was scheduled to next week).
In thumbing his nose at justice — intervening on behalf of a former political adviser who was convicted of crimes that included lying to Congress in part, prosecutors said, to protect the President — Trump continued turning a blind eye to the Americans for whom coronavirus has actually been a death sentence.
At a time when his poll numbers are sinking, the President has refused to take on a greater leadership role to beat back the virus. Instead, he seems caught in a cycle of anger and self-pity about ancillary issues that he believes are more important to his political fortunes.
The gulf between reality and the President’s delusion was in sharp relief during his visit to Florida, where cases are up 1,237% since the state’s reopening in early May. After touching down in a county where the rate of positive cases hit 28% on Friday, Trump focused on issues that are far from the pressing concerns of most Americans, underscoring once again that he has no strategy for confronting the virus that has infected more than 3 million Americans.
The President visited Southern Command to discuss drug trafficking prevention efforts and held a roundtable with dissidents who decried communist and socialist regimes in Latin America, which at times sounded like a campaign spectacle meant to praise the President and attack former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democrats.
The day’s political pettiness — which included more false tweets about mail-in ballots being tied to fraud — was capped off with Stone being spared from serving prison time.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany described Stone’s prosecution, arrest and trial as “unfair” in a statement Friday night and said Stone was “a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency.”
“Roger Stone has already suffered greatly. He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case,” McEnany said. “Roger Stone is now a free man!”
Jeffrey Toobin, a former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, called the President’s move “the most corrupt and cronyistic act in perhaps all of recent history.”
“Richard Nixon, at the height of Watergate, never pardoned or commuted the sentences of any of the people involved in Watergate. He thought he could never get away with it,” Toobin said Friday night on “Anderson Cooper 360.”
“But our standards have sunk so low that the President could reach out to someone who was convicted of a crime that — everyone who was convicted of that crime goes to prison,” Toobin said, adding that while Stone was sentenced to 40 months, “he will do no time for the only reason that he is the President’s friend.”
Biden cited the commutation of Stone’s sentence as evidence that the President has “abused his power,” alleging that Trump made the announcement on a Friday night “to avoid scrutiny as he lays waste to the norms and the values that make our country a shining beacon to the rest of the world.”
“He will not be shamed,” Biden said in a statement Friday night. “He will only be stopped when Americans make their voice heard at the ballot box this fall.”

Trump’s distraction politics

But three years into a presidency where Trump has used many Friday nights to fire his perceived enemies or make moves that he believes will help him politically, the commutation of Stone’s sentence came as little surprise.
For months now as the pandemic has raged on in America, Trump has been consumed with grievance politics, using Twitter and his campaign events to lash out at his opponents, while complaining to allies and friends about how poorly he is being treated by the press.
Now in a critical danger zone four months before the election as he trails Biden in critical swing states, the President shows no signs of correcting course — instead blithely continuing to distract from the devastating effects of the virus, which has now killed more than 133,000 Americans, while distorting the facts about the grave situation that the country is facing as it confronts Covid-19.
On Friday, the number of new coronavirus cases in the US rose to 63,900, a new single-day record according to John Hopkins University data.
A new ABC News/Ipsos poll released on Friday showed that two-thirds of Americans (67%) now disapprove of Trump’s handling of the response to the coronavirus. That number had increased even among Republicans — 78% of GOP voters approve of his handling of coronavirus compared to 90% in June. And in the midst of a national reckoning on race following the death of George Floyd, 67% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of race relations, a finding that held across all racial groups.
While many Americans are scared of soaring coronavirus cases and worried about the risks of sending their children back to school, Trump threatened this week to withhold federal money from schools if officials do not reopen them in the fall and doubled down on his insistence that the states need to get their economies reopened as quickly as possible.
But a clear majority of Americans do not share that view. In the ABC/Ipsos poll, 59% of Americans said they believe the economy is reopening too quickly.
Trump doesn’t seem to be listening. Instead, while the red states that elected him are seeing staggering case numbers, he’s railing against his perceived political enemies.
The chief example of that this week was Trump’s angry reaction to the Supreme Court rulings on efforts to obtain his financial records — even though the immediate outcome was essentially a win for him politically.
The Supreme Court ruled that House Democrats could not access Trump’s financial records but ruled that the President is not immune from a subpoena for his financial documents from a New York prosecutor. The cases were sent back to lower courts for further review, giving him a reprieve by making it unlikely that he would have to hand over those records before the November election.
Still, Trump tweeted: “The Supreme Court sends case back to Lower Court, arguments to continue. This is all a political prosecution. I won the Mueller Witch Hunt, and others, and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!” (His attorney, Jay Sekulow, by contrast, hailed the decisions as a win).
Trump won’t have the opportunity to channel those grievances in front of a friendly rally crowd this weekend. His campaign postponed a Saturday campaign event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, citing weather.
Ahead of the campaign rally, which would have been his first since the one in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where crowds didn’t meet expectations, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared to downplay crowd expectations, suggesting that supporters might stay at home during the pandemic because they already support Trump — an implicit admission that even Trump supporters are concerned about their health.
Trump has repeatedly made light of the virus’ danger — perhaps no more glaringly than last week when he falsely said that 99% of case are harmless. But this weekend, in a surprising reversal, and after weeks of pressure, Trump may do something publicly that his own public health advisers say is essential to curtailing the spread: wear a mask.
Trump has said he’ll wear one when he visits wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on Saturday. It’s a decision that came only after repeated pleading by aides who urged the President to set an example for his supporters, according to aides familiar with the deliberations.
“You’re in a hospital setting, I think it’s a very appropriate thing,” the President told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday. “I have no problem with a mask.”
“If I’m with soldiers, people that — you know, I don’t want to spread anything,” Trump said.
“Hopefully I’ll look good in a mask,” he told Telemundo on Friday.
If he follows through, it will be a rare example of the President putting the common good before his own needs and his vanity — a simple move that could help him change his current trajectory, which appears headed toward defeat in November.

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A Biden win could shake up Bay State politics – Boston Herald

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Look for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren to join the Joe Biden administration should the former vice president beat President Trump in November.

That means that Republican Gov. Charlie Baker would appoint someone — perhaps himself — to fill out the remainder of Democrat Warren’s Senate term, which runs to 2024.

While Warren may still be in the running as a potential vice-presidential running mate — since Biden has promised to select a woman — it appears that Biden is leaning more toward choosing a woman of color.

Also, Warren does not appear to do much for a Biden ticket. While she appeals to progressives and left-wing, capitalist-hating activists, she failed to win a single Democratic presidential primary, including her home state of Massachusetts.

While Warren may be out of the running for vice president, there is a strong possibility that she could be appointed to a Biden cabinet, possibly as secretary of the Treasury, should Biden be elected.

If Wall Street thinks that it caught a break when Warren folded as a presidential candidate, they had better think again.

But Biden will first have to meet Trump in debates and beat him, if he ever decides to come out of his basement and hit the campaign trail. But, at the rate the polls are trending in his favor, he may decide to stay down there and remain a stealth candidate.

As it is, the Biden-loving establishment media, giddy over the polling, hate Trump so much that they dream of carrying a stumbling, fumbling Biden into the White House on their shoulders should he — and they — defeat Trump.

But remember, these are the same polls and pollsters who had Hillary Clinton soundly beating Trump in 2016.

At any rate, news last week that Biden might consider appointing Warren to the Treasury had Wall Street abuzz. Warren, who not only took credit for starting the Occupy Wall Street movement several years ago, now wants to break up the big banks.

“We believe Warren would be an especially powerful Treasury secretary with Biden likely delegating to her primary responsibility for financial and economic policy,” said Jaret Seiber, policy analyst at Cowen Washington Research Group, in a message to financial clients.

“If it is Elizabeth Warren at Treasury, the tone will be quite harsh for banks,” another top financial analyst said.

Warren is not only in favor breaking up the big banks, she would also restore a myriad of banking and business regulations that have been negated by the Trump administration.

She also would limit the compensation paid to Wall Street executives, stop banks from paying dividends, and halt debt-collecting entities from filing lawsuits and wage garnishment practices during the pandemic.

While it appears far-fetched that this could happen, it is no more far-fetched than Trump defeating Clinton in 2016.

If a Warren Senate vacancy occurs, Baker has the authority to appoint a successor until a special election is held within 145 to 160 days of the vacancy.

If he were interested in the job, Baker could step down as governor and have Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito become acting governor and appoint him as the interim senator. Being a homebody, that appears unlikely. However, if he wanted to name a fellow Republican, he could appoint Polito.

Baker would have to move fast. In the past the Democratic-controlled Legislature has blocked a Republican governor from making such an appointment by going straight to a special election.

The Legislature did this in 2004 when Republican Mitt Romney was governor and it appeared that Democrat Sen. John Kerry’s seat might become vacant should he be elected president. He wasn’t.

The Democrats later restored the appointing power to the governor when Democrat Deval Patrick was governor, paving the way for him to appoint Paul Kirk, a former Sen. Ted Kennedy aide, to complete Kennedy’s term following his death in 2009, and to name Mo Cowan, a former chief of staff, to complete John Kerry’s term when Kerry became secretary of state in 2013.

It all could happen again. But don’t hold your breath.

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