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On Politics: Trump Backs Off a Promise – The New York Times

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Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.

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  • President Trump’s hopes that the economy would be “opened up” by Easter have come to an end. He announced on Sunday that the federal government would extend social-distancing guidelines until at least the end of April in its fight against the coronavirus. Trump also walked back his threat to institute a quarantine in the New York tristate area, the most heavily infected part of the country; instead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a 14-day travel advisory telling residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to “refrain from nonessential domestic travel.”

  • Though it is an election year, Trump’s main Democratic counterpart in the news media hasn’t been a presidential candidate. It’s been the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, whose measured, pathos-laden (and, significantly, largely factual) daily news conferences are typically accompanied by slide shows with information graphics. Even as he joins forces with the federal government to confront the crisis, Cuomo has made hard-to-miss digs at Trump — while presenting himself as a leader ready to take charge. “We have been behind on this virus from Day 1,” he said on Sunday. The governor said that rather than being “reactive,” he was seeking to “be proactive, get ahead of it.”

  • Meanwhile, Joe Biden is struggling to find a comfortable register in this virus-driven news cycle — or, for that matter, to tie the loop on the Democratic nomination in a virus-halted election. No candidate has ever lost the nomination after leading by as much as he is now. But amid all this upheaval, his arguments for electability aren’t looking ironclad. A newly released poll from ABC News and The Washington Post shows Biden neck-and-neck with Trump in a general election matchup. And Biden lags badly in terms of voter passion. Just 24 percent of his supporters say they’re “very enthusiastic” about supporting him, compared with a majority of Trump voters, according to the poll.

  • This year’s elections could become the first virtual campaign in history. And here’s another first: More than three million people filed for unemployment in just one week, quadrupling the previous record. How politicians respond to the needs of millions who now find themselves unable to pay rent or buy groceries will help define their legacies. “This is the question that is going to dominate the election: How did you perform in the great crisis?” Tom Cole, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma, told our reporters Jonathan Martin, Reid J. Epstein and Maggie Haberman. As they point out in a new article, this year’s campaign could end up being radically shortened: It could be hard for national politicians — let alone down-ballot candidates — to rise above the noise of coronavirus anxieties until at least the start of autumn.


President Trump and Defense Secretary Mark Esper watched the Comfort, a Navy hospital ship, depart Norfolk, Va., for New York City on Saturday to support the city’s response to the coronavirus.


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The past several weeks have been trying for everyone. And Asian-Americans in particular have had to worry about not only their health, but also their safety.

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Hundreds of Asian-Americans have reported facing verbal, physical or other race-based attacks at the hands of bigots who blame them for the coronavirus outbreak. The stories have been harrowing and sad.

As an Asian-American myself, I have been getting texts from friends whose parents are terrified to go out in public wearing masks or who have come home shaken after being demeaned at work. So I started calling leaders of the Asian-American community to see how they were feeling and what they were hearing from their friends, families and constituents.

As it turned out, they were also unnerved. Federal lawmakers, a former presidential candidate and leaders of nonprofit groups said that they were hearing from their scared parents, just as my friends had been, and that they themselves were feeling uneasy in public.

The sad lesson I heard again and again went something like this: It doesn’t matter if you immigrated here 30 years ago, if you were born here or even if you were elected to Congress. The hateful episodes over the past several weeks have reminded even the nation’s most prominent Asian-Americans that some people in this country will always view them as outsiders.

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Unmasking the racial politics of the coronavirus pandemic – The Conversation CA

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Recently, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that along with physical distancing, wearing protective masks slows the spread of COVID-19. Canada has made a similar announcement.

Over 50 countries now mandate wearing masks in public.

While primarily a protective measure, the COVID-19 mask has also become a cultural icon. In western nations it has become a marker of social responsibility and good citizenship. It represents the wearer’s compliance with public safety and communal well being through exercising care for one’s self and others.

During the 2003 SARS crisis, “mask culture” was seen as fostering a sense of mutual obligation and civic duty. Similarly in our current pandemic, wearing a protective mask signifies a commitment to the social and collective good of society.

But how does that perception change when a face mask is worn by someone who is Asian? Or a Black man? Why do some jurisdictions outlaw the face veil or niqab worn by some Muslim women while mandating protective masks?

Whiteness and unearned privilege

Through European colonialism whiteness became the standard against which all other bodies are marked, judged and codified. American anti-racism educator Peggy MacIntosh argues that whiteness provides an “invisible knapsack” of unearned privileges that white people can often take for granted.

Masks can be seen as a sign of good civic duty.
(Bára Buri/Unsplash)

These are basic things like: going shopping and not be followed or harassed; never being asked to speak for all white people; and not having to educate one’s children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.

The concept of white privilege can be related to how COVID-19 mask-wearing is seen differently when worn on racialized bodies.

Yellow Peril

For more than 100 years, Asians in North America have been represented as diseased foreigners and more recently blamed as “pandemic starters.”

Rather than exemplifying a commitment to the public good, an abundance of pictures of Asian individuals wearing masks may have accelerated the circulation of derogatory stereotypes. Research has shown Canadian press photos related to the 2003 SARS crisis used Asians wearing masks as a dominant image. With COVID 19, the trend of using masked Asian faces as the emblem of the crisis continues the trajectory of these racist depictions.

Research shows the Canadian Press over-represented Asians in masks during SARS.
(Jeremy Stenuit/Unsplash)

Instead of representing a good citizen helping to stop the spread of a possible contagion, a protective mask transforms Asian bodies into the source of contagion. Trump’s insistence in referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” dangerously reinforced the racializing of this disease.




Read more:
Anti-Asian racism during coronavirus: How the language of disease produces hate and violence


Anti-Asian hate crimes including physical and verbal assaults and vandalism have escalated along with the pandemic.

A recent report told a story of a woman in British Columbia who was accosted by two white men who yelled at her and her mother: “Look at you with your masks, you’re what’s wrong with society.”

The risk of such attacks and harassment confronts Asian diasporas with a difficult choice: wear a mask and risk being subjected to violence or do not and bear the risk of contracting the virus.

Mask-wearing while Black

A Black physician in Boston wrote about his internal struggle with wearing a mask in public because of the racist fears it evokes. He said: “I wonder whether someone would call the police on me, a ‘suspicious’ Black man in a face mask. I negotiate with myself whether risking my life is worth a $300 fine.”

He has reason to worry. A Black doctor in Miami wearing a surgical mask was handcuffed outside his home by police.

A Black doctor in Miami wearing a surgical mask was handcuffed outside his home.
(Unsplash)

The killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd in the United States are tragic events that reveal the very real dangers Black people face on a daily basis. And yet in early May, heavily armed, white protesters stormed the Michigan State capitol without incident.

A campaign spearheaded by a Black clergy in Illinois in co-operation with local police, called “Tipping the Mask,” asked people to show shopkeepers their faces when entering stores to mitigate against potential racial fears and violence.

A Black pastor recommended that his son put on his mask once he is already in the store for “fear of what others might think when they see a Black man in a mask.”

The concept of “mask tipping” calls upon racialized bodies to reveal themselves as “safe” and in return avoid biases and endangerment.

Islamophobia and government hypocrisy

Québec Premier François Legault after removing his mask.
Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

In Québec, Bill 21, which outlaws religious symbols in public, leaves Muslim women who wear a niqab in breach of the law and denied access to social services, despite government requests for public face coverings due to the pandemic.

France also mandates wearing masks but has not lifted its ban on the niqab. Fatima Khemilat, a researcher in France exposes the irony.

“If you are Muslim and you hide your face for religious reasons, you are liable to a fine and a citizenship course where you will be taught what it is to be a good citizen …. But if you are a non-Muslim citizen in the pandemic, you are encouraged and forced as a ‘good citizen’ to adopt ‘barrier gestures’ to protect the national community.”

Muslim women who wear a niqab are not considered good liberal citizens because their covered faces are deemed culturally irreconcilable with western society. They face being penalized for violating the law while those wearing COVID-19 masks are seen as good citizens upholding the public good.

The COVID-19 mask is a barrier to transmission of the virus while the niqab is a barrier to social inclusion.

Not having to think about how one’s body is read by others when wearing a mask is a privilege of whiteness that eludes racialized groups. White mask privilege includes: not having to bear the racial stigma of being seen as a foreign disease carrier, being safe whether or not you “tip your mask,” having the ability to cover your face in public and not be denied social services.

Rather than serving as a levelling device the cultural politics behind wearing masks exposes the racial fault lines of the pandemic.

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Biden Is the Politician America Needs Right Now – The Atlantic

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Getty / The Atlantic

When Joe Biden entered this presidential race, he was flayed as an ally of segregation. Kamala Harris chided him for his defense of busing. His opponents roundly portrayed him as an architect of mass incarceration and an apologist for Strom Thurmond—as a clubbable senator not particularly bothered about the moral character of the backs he slapped.

These attacks were leveled not to suggest that Biden was a racial revanchist, but to reinforce a widely shared criticism of the man: He is not a visionary, but a malleable politician, with a barometrically attuned sense of the good.

But in Philadelphia yesterday, Biden delivered perhaps the most thorough-going and hard-hitting critique of American racial inequities ever uttered by a major presidential nominee. Certainly, no nominee has ever proposed such a robust agenda for curbing the abusiveness of police, and with such little rhetorical hedging.

In the face of upheaval, he’s given reason to hope that the traits that were his supposed weaknesses could prove to be his great strengths. If one of the ultimate purposes of protest is to push politicians, he’s shown himself a politician willing to be pushed. His tendency to channel the zeitgeist has supplied him with the potential to meet a very difficult moment.

One of the alleged truisms about older people is that they are cemented into ideological place. Their minds are said to have limited ability to switch political lanes. But in the past few months, Biden has altered his worldview. At the beginning of his candidacy, he announced himself as the tribune of normalcy. Donald Trump was a pathogen that had attacked the American host—and Biden would provide the cleansing presence that would permit a reversion to a pre-Charlottesville status quo.

What was so striking about his speech in Philadelphia was that it acknowledged that he had gotten it wrong. The country couldn’t return to a prelapsarian state of tolerance, because one didn’t exist. “I wish I could say that hate began with Donald Trump and will end with him. It didn’t and it won’t. American history isn’t a fairy tale with a guaranteed happy ending.” Faith in progress is the nostrum of liberal politics, yet Biden broke with that faith in Philadelphia, and by so doing, he seemed to concede his own failure to appreciate the depths of American racism.

Since the beginning of quarantine, Biden has been chided for disappearing from view—and he receives strangely little media attention when he does rear his head. Over the past few days, for example, he’s treated the protests with deference, something cable news has largely ignored. When he met with activists who berated the Obama administration’s record on race, he didn’t react defensively. Instead, he studiously took notes. The relatively few images that circulate show him engaged in the empathetic poses that so often seem overwrought, but that also project openness and respect. In a church in Wilmington, Delaware, he dropped to his knee, a position obviously reminiscent of Colin Kaepernick but also a stance of self-abasement in the face of awe-inspiring anger.

So much American history has transpired since early February, it’s easy to forget that Biden’s candidacy was salvaged in the South Carolina primary. In the aftermath of that victory, he spoke about the debt he owed to black voters. There’s a chance that this was, to borrow a phrase, malarky. But in the former vice president’s antiquated style, where one’s word is supposed to be stronger than oak, this debt has already guided him to stake his candidacy on a clear statement of solidarity with the protests.

More than other figures in the Democratic Party, Biden can speak warmly about the protesters without risking political backlash. With his gaffes, which sometimes veer toward the politically incorrect, he’s hardly an easily caricatured avatar of wokeness. His penchant for cringeworthy remarks, and his old-time mannerisms, help cushion whatever anxiety some white voters might have about his tough criticisms of police and blunt condemnations of systemic racism.

On Monday, George Floyd’s brother spontaneously addressed a crowd at the site of his brother’s killing, clutching a bullhorn. Through his mourning, he tried to guide the shape of the protest movement that had risen in his brother’s name. He pleaded, “Educate yourself and know who you vote for. That’s how you’re going to get it. It’s a lot of us. Do this peacefully.”

It was as if he were distilling a body of political-science research that has shown why so many protest movements around the globe have fizzled out these past decades. Social media permit the quick gathering of crowds, but without the organizational infrastructure or robust agenda that can sustain a true movement. Terrence Floyd was urging something different: He wanted the crowds in the streets to think politically.

The challenge for the Biden candidacy is to bridge an alliance with a resurgent left. Biden, a creature of the Senate, has to convince young people rushing to the barricades that he’s worth a trip to the polls. And the challenge for the left is to accept that Biden is its greatest chance of achieving its long-held dreams. What he’s demonstrated over the past week is a willingness to play the role of tribune, to let the moment carry him to a new place.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Franklin Foer is a staff writer at The Atlantic. He is the author of World Without Mind and How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization.

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US Floyd killing also rocks British politics – Anadolu Agency

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LONDON

UK politicians on Wednesday condemned the killing of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of US police sparked protests across the country and the world, but the government was also grilled on taking a firm stand against police brutality.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, a weekly British parliamentary tradition where the prime minister takes questions from the leader of the opposition and MPs as a whole, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer opened his line of questioning with the situation in America.

Starmer said that he was “shocked” by the death of George Floyd. In response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he condemned what happened to George Floyd, but that people should protest peacefully.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner tweeted: “Absolutely correct that @Keir_Starmer opens up #PMQs about the death of #GeorgeFloyd asking the PM what his position was on that horrendous event and the subsequent demonstrations #BlackLivesMattter”.

Ian Blackford, the leader at Westminster of the Scottish National Party (SNP), asked Johnson what he told President Donald Trump about the killing. He also asked Johnson if he could say “black lives matter.”

Johnson said: “Of course black lives matter”, but added that protests must be peaceful.

Blackford noted that Johnson did not disclose what he told Trump, and then pressed the prime minister on whether the UK will review the export of riot gear to the US.

Johnson said he was happy to look into the matter but that British exports are covered by the most scrupulous guidance in the world.

On Wednesday, Emily Thornberry, the shadow international trade secretary, called on the UK to suspend the sale of riot equipment to the US, and review whether British-made riot gear was being used against protesters in America.

The Labour MP wrote a letter to International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, which said: “If this were any other leader, in any other country in the world, the suspension of any such exports is the least we could expect from the British government in response to their actions, and our historic alliance with the US is no reason to shirk that responsibility now.”

“The British public deserve to know how arms exported by this country are being used across the world and the American public deserve the right to protest peacefully without the threat of violent repression,” she added.

Last Sunday, British Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrators filled Trafalgar Square in protests at the killing of George Floyd.

BLM protesters have called for further demonstrations in London: Hyde Park on June 3, Parliament Square on June 6, and the US Embassy on June 7.

The US has seen protests since last week when a video went viral showing Floyd being pinned down by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as he was being arrested.

Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Shortly after, Floyd appeared to lose consciousness, but Chauvin maintained his position on the victim.

He died shortly after being taken to a hospital.

His last words were “I can’t breathe,” which became the slogan of the nationwide protests.

Floyd was killed by “asphyxiation from sustained pressure,” an independent autopsy found Monday.



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