July 8, 2020

Amy Kennedy, a former school teacher, won New Jersey's hard-fought 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary Tuesday, setting up a contest against Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.), a first-term congressman who left the Democratic Party after the House impeached President Trump, offering Trump his "undying support." The state's primary election, held almost entirely by mail, had originally been scheduled for June 3.

"My message to Jeff Van Drew tonight is we have had enough and we demand better," Kennedy said. "We have had enough division and hate and selfishness. We have had enough of being abandoned and mistreated and forgotten. We have had enough of you and Donald Trump."

Kennedy, the wife of former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and daughter-in-law of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), defeated Brigid Callahan Harrison, a college professor and political commentator backed by South New Jersey Democratic party boss George Norcross, state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D), Sens. Cory Booker (D) and Bob Menendez (D), and six of the district's eight counties. Gov. Phil Murphy (D), progressive groups, and the district's Atlantic City Democrats supported Kennedy.

"State officials had said they could not recall Norcross' operatives losing a primary in this part of New Jersey," The Washington Post reports. "Candidates backed by Norcross and Sweeney don't typically suffer losses on their South Jersey turf," Politico confirms. Harrison and Norcross both quickly offered their support for Kennedy against Van Drew, a former Norcross protégé.

The race is expected to be highly competitive. Before the 2018 elections, New Jersey's congressional delegation was split evenly between six Democrats and six Republicans; after the election, only one Republican was left standing, until Van Drew switched parties. Peter Weber

1:03 p.m.

Four former Minneapolis police officers, including Derek Chauvin, have been indicted on civil rights charges over the death of George Floyd.

The Justice Department said Friday a grand jury indictment charged Chauvin, who was convicted on murder charges after kneeling on Floyd's neck for over nine minutes during an arrest, with depriving Floyd of his constitutional right "to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer."

Former Minneapolis officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane were also charged for their roles in Floyd's death. Prosecutors said Thao and Kueng were charged with having "willfully failed to intervene to stop Chauvin's use of unreasonable force," and the indictment said all four defendants "willfully failed to aid" Floyd despite seeing him in need of medical attention, thereby depriving him of "his constitutional right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law."

Separately, Chauvin was also indicted on civil rights charges stemming from a 2017 incident, in which prosecutors said he held a Minneapolis teenager "by the throat and struck the teenager multiple times in the head with a flashlight."

These new charges, The New York Times noted, are separate both from state charges Thao, Kueng, and Lane previously faced, as well as separate from a civil investigation the Department of Justice has opened into the Minneapolis Police Department. Attorney General Merrick Garland last month said this probe would examine whether the department "engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing." Brendan Morrow

11:37 a.m.

Chinese officials promise a rocket that's falling toward Earth probably won't cause any harm.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Friday officials are "closely observing" the Long March 5B rocket booster that's expected to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere this weekend, The Washington Post reports. Part of the Chinese rocket is "tumbling out of control in orbit" following a launch, The New York Times writes, but researchers are still not completely sure where the debris will land.

"This is standard international practice," Wang said Friday, per the Post. "The probability of causing harm to aviation activities and the ground is extremely low."

Wang also said that most of the rocket's components will burn up during re-entry. The U.S. Air Force Space Track Project on Friday projected debris will crash in a desert outside of Mary, Turkmenistan — but researchers also warned that "the projected site could be wildly off-base," the Post writes. "Its exact entry point into the Earth's atmosphere cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its re-entry which is expected around May 8," U.S. Space Command says.

NPR reports that scientists agree it's "unlikely" the booster "will actually hit someone," while adding that this still "doesn't mean there's no risk for humans." The Times may have put it best by writing, "You are almost certainly not going to be hit by a 10-story, 23-ton piece of a rocket hurtling back to Earth. That said, the chances are not zero."

Previously, debris from a Long March 5B rocket landed in Africa in 2020, leading NASA to criticize China.

"It was seemingly a successful launch, until we started getting information about a re-entry of a rocket body, a re-entry that was really dangerous," then-NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said. "It flew over population centers and it re-entered Earth's atmosphere. It could have been extremely dangerous. We're really fortunate in the sense that it doesn't appear to have hurt anybody." Brendan Morrow

Opinion
10:20 a.m.

The April jobs report is out, and the results were a deep disappointment. Just 266,000 jobs were created last month, far below expectations of at least a million, and the unemployment rate edged up to 6.1 percent. March's report was also revised downward, from 916,000 to 770,000.

This was a strange result for many reasons. America is still about 8.2 million jobs in the hole relative to February 2020, and the stimulus from the American Rescue Plan should be boosting jobs and output far more than this. Many analysts and businesses have argued that the boost to unemployment benefits (which expires in September) is motivating workers to stay home, but restaurant owners have been the loudest complainers about this, and their sector of leisure and hospitality saw the biggest gains at 331,000 new jobs (counterbalanced by losses elsewhere). Nor did the report show the broad-based wage gains that would indicate a labor shortage.

Ultimately, the central factor here must be that the pandemic is not remotely over yet. Despite many cities returning to something like normal, the U.S. is still seeing about 45,000 new cases of COVID-19 every day, and about 700 deaths — and that is because only about a third of the population is fully vaccinated so far. Even many vaccinated people are understandably hesitant about going back to normal, given the carnage of the last year, while many parents are still caring for kids at home for fear of infection or lack of access to day care.

Meanwhile, the pandemic created all manner of shortages and snarls in global supply chains — which were already in a poor state thanks to weak demand after the Great Recession. Jobs in auto manufacturing, for instance, were down 27,000, thanks to an ongoing shortage of computer chips. Those problems are simply going to take time to be sorted out.

It would therefore be highly premature to base any sweeping policy conclusions on this report. It will take months for real trends to show up, and indeed this report might be revised later. As Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari argues, it is wise to keep pushing for economic recovery until we have better data on what is really happening.

Ryan Cooper

9:38 a.m.

The latest U.S. jobs report has come in way under expectations.

The Labor Department said Friday the U.S. economy added 266,000 jobs in April, whereas economists had been expecting around 1 million jobs would be added, CNBC reports. The Labor Department had previously said that 916,000 jobs were added in March, though this number was revised down to 770,000 on Friday. The unemployment rate also increased slightly from six percent to 6.1 percent.

The report was so significantly below expectations that Politico reporter Megan Cassella wrote that when she saw the 266,000 number, "I thought this was a glitch on my computer." In fact, it was "the biggest miss, relative to expectations, in the history of the payrolls report," Axios reports.

Economist Justin Wolfers wrote that 266,000 jobs being added "would be fabulous in normal times, but is utterly disappointing" compared to the forecasts, adding, "This is a big miss that changes how we think about the recovery."

The miss comes as some businesses, The Washington Post writes, have told lawmakers they've been "having a hard time recruiting workers, particularly for low-wage, hourly jobs." Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao said the result was surprising "given the increasing distribution of vaccines and continuing economic reopening," adding it will likely be "interpreted as being caused by labor shortages, raising the temperature on the political debate surrounding extended unemployment benefits." Brendan Morrow

9:24 a.m.

Florida on Thursday joined Georgia in enacting a sweeping Republican election law that constricts voting rights in the state, and Texas, which already had some of the most stringent voting laws in the country, is on the cusp of joining them. Democrats were not able to stop the new voting laws in the country's biggest red states, but House Democrats passed their own countervailing national voting rights legislation, the "For the People Act" or HR1, in March, and Senate Democrats are working on their own version, S1.

When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that "100 percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration," these voting reform bills might have been what he had in mind. McConnell has publicly and privately conveyed his fervent opposition to the legislation. But "what's different, conservatives say, is his personal level of commitment behind-the-scenes to educate activists on just how damaging the legislation would be to the future electoral prospects of Republicans," McClatchy D.C. reports.

"So many times the conservative movement only works with McConnell when it's a Supreme Court nomination, or a Supreme Court fight," Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action, tells McClatchy. "And so we've been trying to change that with HR 1 and S1 and really make this fight similar and more akin to a Supreme Court fight, where it's like an all-hands-on-deck effort."

As the Senate prepares to mark up the legislation in the Rules & Administration Committee next week, "some progressives have warned that McConnell is taking the legislation more seriously than even Democrats are," McClatchy reports. "At the moment, McConnell looks to hold the advantage," with moderate Democrats "fretting about the sheer size of the bill" and Republicans confident Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will side with them in the 50-50 Senate. Peter Weber

8:37 a.m.

The COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech could become the first in the United States to receive full FDA approval.

The companies announced Friday they have initiated an application seeking full approval of the vaccine for people 16 and over from the Food and Drug Administration, CNN reports. The vaccine is now being administered under an emergency use authorization, a "mechanism to facilitate the availability and use of" vaccines "during public health emergencies," per the FDA.

Receiving full FDA approval requires six months of safety and efficacy data, as opposed the two months required for the emergency use authorization, according to NBC News. CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta stressed Friday this isn't to suggest that data didn't already show the vaccine to be safe and effective or that the process to get the emergency authorization wasn't rigorous, but the "bar of data that you now have to show" to get full approval is even higher, he said on New Day.

With that in mind, experts have said full FDA approval could help reduce vaccine hesitancy and further demonstrate that the vaccines are safe. Former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams wrote in The Washington Post that "many people who are lower risk" have expressed uncertainty over whether the "benefits justify taking a medication that has not received the full and traditional FDA stamp of approval." So full approval might provide a "boost of confidence to people who were on the fence about getting vaccinated," Brown University School of Public Health dean Ashish Jha said.

If the vaccine is fully approved, Pfizer can also start marketing and distributing it. Another key difference, CNN writes, is that full approval could "have an impact on vaccine mandates," as "some organizations say they expect to require the vaccine, but have opted not to while it's authorized and not yet fully approved." ABC News reports it's likely to take "several months" for the FDA to make a decision. Brendan Morrow

6:57 a.m.

India set another global COVID-19 record Friday, reporting 414,188 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours plus 3,915 new deaths. Both numbers are believed to be significant undercounts. With daily deaths remaining above 3,800 for the past 10 days and hospitals running out of beds, oxygen, and other critical supplies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing increasing pressure to put the country back under lockdown for 2-4 weeks or launch some other coordinated central response to the pandemic.

An earlier strict lockdown is credited with India's success, until March, in containing the coronavirus outbreaks, but it took a terrible economic toll on India and especially its poorest citizens. Modi so far has left it up to India's 28 states to set their own mitigation measures, and fewer than a dozen have instituted some lesser restrictions.

India isn't alone in battling new variant-driven waves of COVID-19, and Egypt, Turkey, and other countries are "trying to ensure they aren't hit by an India-style disaster," The Associated Press reports. "They face many of the same risks, including large populations that have shirked restrictions and fragile health systems shaken under the strain." In wealthier nations, aggressive vaccination campaigns have sent cases and deaths on downward trajectories.

Worldwide, however, there have been more COVID-19 cases reported over the past two weeks than in the first six months of the pandemic, World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom said. India and Brazil account for a large share of those numbers, "but there are many other countries all over the world that face a very fragile situation," he added. "What is happening in India and Brazil could happen elsewhere unless we all take these public health precautions." Peter Weber

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