10 things you need to know today: June 17, 2020

Trump signs an executive order pushing police training, researchers say a new COVID-19 treatment will "save lives," and more

A box of Dexamethasone
(Image credit: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

1. Trump executive order pushes police training in use of force

President Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order proposing police reform measures, including banning chokeholds except when an officer's life is in danger. The order does not mention systemic racism or police brutality against African Americans, which have been the focus of nationwide protests since the killing of George Floyd, who was black, by a white police officer in Minneapolis. Trump's order includes "guiding principles" but stops short of demanding immediate action by police departments, saying the government will "prioritize" federal grants to departments meeting "the highest training standards regarding the use of force." Trump scoffed at "radical and dangerous" calls to "defund" police, calling police misconduct rare. Democrats said Trump's order fell far short of the extensive reforms needed.

The New York Times The Washington Post

2. Researchers say new COVID-19 treatment will 'save lives'

Researchers in the U.K. released test results on Tuesday showing that a cheap, widely available steroid called dexamethasone can be used to effectively treat COVID-19 patients. The trial results indicated that the steroid treatment cut the risk of death by a third for COVID-19 patients on ventilators, and by a fifth for patients receiving oxygen. There was no benefit to patients needing no respiratory support. "It will save lives, and it will do so at a remarkably low cost," said Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor co-leading the trial. Dexamethasone is already used to treat arthritis and asthma, among other conditions. Research suggests it could be used for patients in intensive care, while another drug, remdesivir, could be used to reduce recovery time in less severe cases.

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3. Beijing closes schools as new coronavirus cluster grows

Beijing authorities on Tuesday ordered the Chinese capital's schools closed as a new outbreak of the novel coronavirus continued to spread. Public health officials confirmed another 27 cases on Tuesday and 31 on Wednesday, bringing the total in the new outbreak to 137. Officials closed a food market where the infections were believed to have originated. Traces of the new strain were found on a salmon chopping board, although there was no evidence that salmon was the host. Authorities imposed lockdown measures in nearby residential areas where there was a high risk of the outbreak spreading further. The new outbreak marked the first time in two months China has detected local transmission of the virus, raising the possibility of broader restrictions to fight a second wave of infections.

CNN The New York Times

4. Retail sales make biggest monthly jump on record

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that retail sales jumped by 17.7 percent in May, the biggest monthly jump on record. The news fueled hopes that the economy was rebounding as states eased coronavirus lockdowns and let businesses reopen. The May gains followed two months of record declines for retailers, with drops of 8.3 percent in March and 14.7 percent in April. Many of the stores and restaurants that have reopened have done so with fewer employees, signaling more economic pain to come. "I would caution not to be fooled by this large gain," said Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist at S&P Global. "We still have a long way to go in repairing the economy."

The New York Times The Associated Press

5. 20 Indian soldiers killed in border clash with China

Indian authorities on Tuesday said 20 soldiers were killed when its army clashed with Chinese troops overnight at a disputed border site in the Himalayas, escalating tensions that have been building for weeks. The Indian army initially reported three soldiers were killed, but later said that 17 others died of injuries sustained in the confrontation. An Indian government source told Reuters the two sides fought with iron rods and stones, and that no shots were fired, though details remained scarce. Both sides have blamed the other for initiating the violence. Chinese forces reportedly suffered an unspecified number of casualties, as well. The two nuclear-armed neighbors have clashed several times at the border since a brief war in 1962, but the latest incident was the first deadly one in decades.

The Associated Press Reuters

6. Albuquerque officials remove conquistador's statue after shooting

Albuquerque authorities on Tuesday took down a bronze statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Onate, known for his brutal treatment of Native Americans. The move came after a failed city council candidate, Steven Ray Baca, was charged with shooting a protester at a Monday demonstration calling for the sculpture to be removed from a park in front of the Albuquerque Museum. Before the shooting, Baca was seen talking to armed members of a right-wing militia who showed up to protect the statue. Bystander video showed Baca throwing a protester to the ground, then backing away as members of the crowd follow him, shouting. Police say protester Scott Williams chased Baca, and was shot several times in the torso. He was hospitalized in critical but stable condition.

Albuquerque Journal

7. Alleged alt-right extremist charged in federal officer's killing during protest

Federal authorities on Tuesday charged Air Force Sgt. Steven Carrillo, a suspected follower of the extremist anti-government "boogaloo" movement, with killing a federal security officer near a George Floyd protest in Oakland, California, last month. Another man, Robert Justus Jr., was accused of driving Carrillo as they looked for law enforcement members to attack, using the protest as cover. Federal officer Dave Patrick Underwood, 53, was killed and his partner injured as they guarded a federal building during the protest. Carrillo also is accused of killing a Santa Cruz County deputy in an ambush. The alt-right "boogaloo" movement reportedly aims to start a civil war. The FBI recently arrested three of the movement's followers in Nevada on charges of using Molotov cocktails to incite violence at protests.

Los Angeles Times NBC News

8. PG&E pleads guilty to manslaughter in California fire deaths

Pacific Gas & Electric pleaded guilty Tuesday to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter related to deadly California wildfires. PG&E, the country's largest utility, has conceded that its neglected equipment ignited the 2018 Camp Fire, which destroyed much of the Northern California town of Paradise and killed 85 people. Judge Michael Deems recited the 84 counts one by one as the victims' photos were displayed. Prosecutors were not sure they could prove the utility was to blame for the death of the remaining victim. PG&E is nearing the end of bankruptcy proceedings it used to reach $25.5 billion in settlements for damages from the Camp Fire, plus other blazes that killed dozens in 2017.

USA Today

9. Northam pushes recognizing Juneteenth as state holiday

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced Tuesday that he planned to propose making Juneteenth, the day celebrating the end of slavery in the United States, an official state holiday. Juneteenth, also called Emancipation Day and Freedom Day, commemorates the day − June 19, 1865 − when Union Army General Gordon Granger read President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in Texas, two years after Lincoln issued the proclamation freeing slaves in the Confederate states. "It's time we elevate this," Northam said. State House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert said Juneteenth "is deserving" of special observance. "July 4th is the birthday of our nation," Gilbert said, "but Juneteenth is the day where it truly began to fulfill its promise of freedom for all."

The Associated Press

10. DOJ sues to block release of Bolton's book

The Trump administration on Tuesday filed a lawsuit seeking to block former National Security Adviser John Bolton from releasing his memoir about his time working in the White House. The Justice Department accused him of failing to adequately participate in a required review to avoid revealing classified information. A lawyer for Bolton has said he complied in good faith, but that the White House abused the process by trying to force the removal of material that was simply embarrassing to President Trump. Publisher Simon & Schuster said the lawsuit was the latest of several administration attempts to squelch a book "it deems unflattering to the president." The memoir, The Room Where It Happened, is due for release June 23.

The New York Times

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.