May 26, 2020

Brazil now has the world's second-largest outbreak of COVID-19, with 375,000 confirmed cases, putting it a distant No. 2 to the U.S. and its 1.66 million cases. "President Jair Bolsonaro is deflecting all responsibility for the coronavirus crisis, casting blame on mayors, governors, an outgoing health minister, and the media," The Associated Press reports. With one notable exception, he "has avoided acknowledging the potential effects of his actions, particularly in undermining local leaders' stay-at-home recommendations."

The exception was in mid-April. "Reopening commerce is a risk I run because, if it (the virus) gets worse, then it lands in my lap," Bolsonaro said while introducing his third health minister of the pandemic, a general with no previous health experience. Less than two weeks later, as Brazil's death toll shot up, AP notes, Bolsonaro told reporters: "You're not going to put on my lap this count that isn't mine." Brazil now has nearly 23,500 COVID-19 deaths, though that number is almost certainly a significant undercount, thanks to insufficient testing and skepticism that the coronavirus is a real threat, especially among Bolsonaro supporters, as AP records in this video.

Brazil is "completely incapable of dealing with and responding to this crisis as this crisis should be responded to — with complete leadership, clear messages, political stability, and unity," says Miguel Lago, executive director of Brazil's Institute for Health Policy Studies. "That's not the case here. Basically, what we're seeing is a complete lack of seriousness and competence." For all his public attacks on local coronavirus mitigation measures, however, Bolsonaro often — though not always — wears a face mask in public.

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President Trump, who barred most travel from Brazil to the U.S. on Sunday, won't let photographers capture him wearing a mask, in the rare instances he puts one on. On Monday, in fact, Trump retweeted a post by Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume mocking how former Vice President Joe Biden looked wearing a mask Monday. Peter Weber

3:57 p.m.

FedEx is threatening to remove its signage from the Washington Redskins' stadium unless the team's name is changed, The Washington Post reports.

The shipping company, which owns the naming rights to the Washington Redskins' stadium under a more than $200 million deal signed in 1999, recently announced it was asking the team to change its controversial name, and the Post is now reporting that FedEx informed the Redskins in a private letter that unless it does so, "it will remove its signage from the stadium after the NFL's 2020 season, six years before the deal's expiration."

This was reportedly communicated in a letter from FedEx's general counsel sent on July 2, the same day the statement saying that FedEx was requesting a name change was released. The company privately described how the Redskins' name, which has long been criticized as racist, "poses the risk of harming FedEx's brand reputation and is inconsistent with its commitment to a more inclusive society," the Post writes.

Following FedEx's initial statement that it was requesting the name be changed, the Redskins announced it would begin a "thorough review." In the days since, Redskins merchandise has been pulled from Amazon, as well as Walmart, Target, and Dick's Sporting Goods. Brendan Morrow

2:39 p.m.

Ghislaine Maxwell is making the same request Jeffrey Epstein did exactly a year ago.

Maxwell, a close friend of Epstein's accused of grooming young girls for his sex trafficking ring, requested through her lawyers Friday that she be allowed to wait out her day in court outside of jail. Maxwell's lawyers offered a $5 million bond secured by six co-signers, as well as property in the U.K. worth $3.5 million, to secure her release, NBC News reports.

Maxwell was arrested at her New Hampshire estate last week on charges of transporting and enticing minors. She initially appeared in court remotely, and was then transferred to a Brooklyn detention center.

COVID-19 is both spreading through jails and putting limitations on who can visit them, leading to Maxwell's request for bond. "COVID-19-related restrictions on attorney communications with pre-trial detainees significantly impair a defendant's ability to prepare her defense," her lawyers said in their proposed bail agreement. Prosecutors meanwhile argued Maxwell is an "extreme" flight risk due to her "three passports, large sums of money, [and] extensive international connections."

Epstein's lawyers tried to request he wait for his trial in his Manhattan mansion a year ago this week, albeit on a $77 million bond package. The judge in the case determined Epstein was a danger to the community and denied that request. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:37 p.m.

Amazon told all its employees to delete the TikTok app off their phones on Friday or lose mobile access to their work emails.

Amazon sent an email to its employees requesting they delete the Chinese-owned video sharing app from any devices they use to "access Amazon email" over unspecified "security risks," The New York Times reports. They'll still be allowed to watch TikTok videos on their laptop browser, the email said. It's unclear how this move will affect Amazon's own use of TikTok, as it promotes its Prime streaming platform and other company segments on the app.

TikTok, the app popular among teenagers, has been the subject of security concerns over its access to American data and ownership by the Chinese company Bytedance. China's Communist party has a notoriously heavy entanglement with tech companies operated out of the country. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this week the U.S. was looking into banning the app in the U.S. altogether.

TikTok has said it does not provide data to the Chinese government or comply with the country's censorship requests. This week, the company pulled out of Hong Kong's market pending review of China's new security law that threatens the former British colony's autonomy. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:07 p.m.

President Trump's Saturday rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire will be postponed for one to two weeks due to storms slated to hit the area, his campaign announced Friday.

Tropical Storm Fay is set to approach the New Jersey coast late Friday and bring severe rain, wind, and potential flooding to the Northeast. The storm isn't expected to hit New Hampshire, but would make it hard for Trump to fly there from Miami, where he is spending the day meeting with Venezuelan residents and migrants.

The Portsmouth event was set to be the second of Trump's campaign rallies since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Trump's Tulsa rally in late June was later linked to an increase in coronavirus infections in the area. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:41 p.m.

Disney World is about to reopen amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in Florida, but an epidemiologist is warning that "basically everybody" shouldn't go.

Disney is moving ahead with its previously announced plan to reopen its Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom theme parks in Orlando, Florida, on July 11, doing so with precautions like temperature checks and a mask requirement. But since Disney originally announced this July reopening date, Florida has been breaking records for number of new COVID-19 cases. On Friday it reported more than 11,000 new infections.

With this in mind, Dr. Anne Rimoin, epidemiology professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, on Friday spoke to Variety and said that it's a "terrible idea to be opening right now" given the state's coronavirus numbers.

"Moving forward with reopening, I think, is inviting disaster," Rimoin said.

Rimoin added that she'd recommend anyone in a vulnerable group or who is around anyone in a vulnerable group to "stay home" from theme parks— which, she noted, is "basically everybody."

"It just seems like a very irresponsible thing to do," Rimoin said, warning Disney World may end up being "the happiest place on Earth ... for the coronavirus."

Some Disney employees defended the steps the company has taken to reopen to Variety. Krysta White, an attractions host, said that although she has "mixed feelings" about going back to work, "I can't think of anything that Disney could have possibly done to make this a safer situation for the cast members." Other workers called for the opening date to be delayed via a petition reading, "people are more important than making a profit." It drew thousands of signatures.

Although the reopening of Disney World was not delayed, plans to reopen Disneyland in California were postponed last month as that state also experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases. No new date has been announced. Brendan Morrow

12:38 p.m.

President Trump is capping off a week of attacks on American schools and universities.

On Monday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement decided to block visas from international students whose schools taught exclusively online this fall, putting schools' funding and the students' futures in jeopardy. On Wednesday, Trump threatened to cut federal funding from schools if they don't reopen this fall. And on Friday, Trump topped it all off with another tweeted threat against colleges and school systems he perceives as "about radical left indoctrination, not education."

With his tweet, Trump channeled a common conservative argument that universities and colleges warp students into liberals — it's all a part of the "broader culture war conversation he's been stoking in recent days and weeks," The New York Times' Peter Baker explained. Matthew Gertz of the left-leaning news site Media Matters suggested Trump won't be able to actually rescind colleges' tax-exempt status "without a lot of trouble," but it could be a sign he'll deny them emergency funds they need to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic and restructure learning in the fall. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:15 a.m.

President Trump recently suggested that Roger Stone's "prayer may be answered," and a new report suggests that's looking increasingly likely.

Stone, the longtime adviser to Trump who last year was convicted on seven felony counts including lying to Congress, is scheduled to report to prison next week. But CNN reports that the president is "widely expected to pardon or commute Stone's sentence."

This is despite the fact that, CNN also reports, some Trump advisers have "voiced concern in recent months about the possible political repercussions" of the move, and Trump has sometimes "seemed reluctant" to do so, even "fuming and bad-mouthing" Stone in private. Trump, however, "sees his former confidant through the lens of himself, several people close to him say, viewing an attack on Stone as an attack on him," CNN writes. Politico similarly reports that even though White House and campaign aides reportedly feel that Trump has "nothing to gain by helping" Stone, the president is expected to "at least split the difference by commuting" his sentence.

Stone has been trying to delay the start of his prison sentence, but on Thursday, the Justice Department backed a judge's decision to deny him a postponement until September. In an interview on Thursday, Trump said that Stone's "prayer" for a pardon "may be answered," and asked on Friday about the possibility of a pardon, Trump told reporters he'll "be looking at it," adding that Stone was "very unfairly treated." Brendan Morrow

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