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Colorado Makes Huge Change in Number of COVID Deaths, Raises Questions About Mortality Rate

Colorado has implemented a critical change to the way it counts COVID-19 deaths, lowering the state’s coronavirus death toll from more than 1,000 to 878 as of May 9.

The state’s Department of Public Health and Environment altered the data amid criticism that it had inflated COVID death numbers, KDVR-TV in Denver reported Friday.

“We have been reporting at the state, deaths among people who had COVID-19 at the time of death and the cause of that death may or may not have been COVID-19,” Dr. Eric France, the health department’s chief medical officer, told the station.

There had been an uproar of concern over inconsistent COVID death counts coming from Colorado citizens across the state.

“We started to hear stories about, ‘Are these correct or are these incorrect?’” France said.

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It raises a question: If people were not so adamant in questioning the CDPHE numbers, would the false information have continued to be pushed?

Medical professionals also raised doubts about Colorado’s mortality count.

The Montezuma County Coroner’s Office questioned the state’s claims about certain deaths. In one instance, coroner George Deavers determined a man had died May 4 from acute alcohol poisoning — his blood-alcohol level was almost twice the minimum lethal level at 0.55.

To Deavers’ surprise, before he signed the death certificate, the CDPHE had already added the man’s death to Colorado’s COVID-19 death toll.

Should other states start to question COVID-19 death numbers?

“They should have to be recording the same way I do. They have to go off the truth and facts and list it as such,” Deavers told KCNC-TV in Denver.

He is just one of many medical professionals who have spoken out against what they said was false medical reporting.

“The state is reporting that death as a COVID death, but our health department wanted to let people know that even though the person did have the virus, they did not die from it,” Montezuma County public information officer Vicki Shaffer told The Durango Herald.

“Having these two systems in place has potentially created some confusion, and we apologize for that,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Colorado state epidemiologist, only after the disturbing facts were brought to light.

The state also claimed that ” it does not unilaterally change information on death certificates and does not question or try to change a physician’s diagnosis or causes-of-death determination.”

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Well, Deavers’ and the state’s claims are awfully conflicting.

There has been widespread criticism of Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ handling of the virus, but some were glad to see his somewhat pointed response to his health leadership.

“What the people of Colorado want to know is not who died with COVID-19, but who died of COVID-19,” Polis said during a news conference on May 15.

“The numbers are very close, of course,” he said. “There’s only a few cases that we’re aware of where there is some gray area. But where there is a gray area, we should always use — for reporting — the numbers that come from the physician or the coroner that actually addressed the patient or inspected the body.”

Other state politicians, including Republican Rep. Mark Baisley, want an investigation into whether the CDPHE reported false deaths at a Centennial senior living center as coronavirus deaths, along with the mislabeled alcohol poisoning death.

“Falsely inflating the number of deaths due to COVID-19 adversely impacts the professional reputation of nursing homes, hospitals and healthcare workers while creating undue fear for families,” Baisley wrote in a letter to 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler.

His accused Jill Ryan, executive director of the CDPHE, of possibly “falsely altering death certificates.”

Polis said the effort to hold the CDPHE accountable was “completely inappropriate.”

However, when a government agency is found to be deceptive over and over again, whether accidental or otherwise, I find it not only extremely appropriate but also prudent to get to the truth.

If life-altering policies are being created based on these numbers, then having accurate numbers reported is beyond critical. Whether the figures are being inflated or undercounted, the repercussions could be serious.

Colorado is not alone in lowering COVID-19 death counts. Other states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, also have had to remove deaths from their tallies.

The data should be straightforward, but they have been shown not to be in a growing number of cases. And why is this? That is the multitrillion-dollar question at this point.

What do inflated COVID deaths give politicians and top organizations? Power to control the narratives, societal procedures and ultimately almost every aspect of people’s lives.

The establishment media has been filled with leftists claiming the virus would potentially kill us all. Now that this hype is being tampered down by instances of states lowering numbers, their fear-mongering narrative isn’t quite as effective.

This is positive news with our country opening back up.

Colorado’s lowered coronavirus tally shows us that if more states follow suit, national mortality rates could be significantly reduced as well.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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The Top 10 women Joe Biden might pick as vice president, ranked

The Democratic National Convention is set to open in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on August 17 — whether virtually or in person. And presumably, Biden needs to have picked his vice presidential nominee by then. While Biden and his allies have made some feints at picking his No. 2 far earlier, history suggests that the pick won’t come until sometime later this summer.

As Nathaniel Rakich documented in this terrific FiveThirtyEight post, only two Democratic VP nominees have been announced more than 20 days before the start of the party convention in the last five decades: Thomas Eagleton (by George McGovern) in 1972 and John Edwards (by John Kerry) in 2004. Eagleton was later replaced on the ticket by Sargent Shriver. Not for nothing: Neither of those tickets went on to win.

Rakich adds that the mean announcement date of the VP pick — for both parties — is four days before the opening of the convention, which would put us in the second week of August.

So in short, don’t expect an announcement anytime soon. Biden knows how big a decision this is — and he is going to likely take all the time he can to get it right.

Which, of course, leaves us more time to make (educated) guesses about who he might pick! Below is my list of the 10 women most likely to wind up as Biden’s VP pick. (My rankings from last week are here.) And special shoutout to CNN’s Allison Gordon for all her help on research for this week’s list!

10. Stacey Abrams: If the VP pick came down to which candidate had the most pieces written about her, the former Georgia state House minority leader would win in a romp. But being an object of fascination among prominent liberals is not necessarily the best recommender for being Biden’s choice. (Previous ranking: 10)

Susan Rice
9. Susan Rice: As I noted earlier this week, the former Obama administration national security adviser’s email on Michael Flynn is sort of an anti-smoking gun when it comes to President Donald Trump’s claims of some sort of conspiracy against him led by President Obama. Except that, if you are Biden and you want to make sure that your VP pick, at worst, does no harm, then all the attention Rice is drawing among conservatives likely is a strike against her. (Previous ranking: 6)
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham
8. Michelle Lujan Grisham: In the first few VP rankings I released earlier this year, I had the New Mexico governor on the list. I dropped her because of concerns that she was simply not in the mix. Except, according to Lujan Grisham, she is in the mix; Politico reported this week that Lujan Grisham has told her allies that Biden’s team is now vetting her for the job.

As not only the first female Hispanic governor in the country but also from a rapidly growing area of the country, Lujan Grisham makes a lot of sense. (Previous ranking: Unranked)

Florida Rep. Val Demings
7. Val Demings: Politico’s Marc Caputo — one of the best Florida-based journalists in the country — reported over the weekend that the Orlando House member is drawing increasing buzz among donors and Democratic members of Congress as the best pick for Biden. Demings’ resume, which includes being the Orlando police chief, is decidedly unique. (Previous ranking: 8)
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
6. Gretchen Whitmer: Whitmer publicly acknowledged this week that she has had a “opening conversation” with Biden’s campaign about the possibility of being VP. And she continues to play the part of foil to Trump — on everything from coronavirus to Michigan’s efforts on mail-in ballots. Which is a huge boon for her. (Previous ranking: 7)
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
5. Keisha Lance Bottoms: The Atlanta mayor is the least well-known name in the Top 5 but is also the one that has been the most loyal to Biden for the longest time. She continues to be a go-to surrogate for the Biden campaign and a regular fixture on cable TV — talking about everything from Georgia’s decision to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic to Ahmaud Arbery’s shooting. (Previous ranking: 5)
Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto
4. Catherine Cortez Masto: Politico reported this week that Biden is coming under increasing pressure to pick a Latina running mate, which is terrific news for the Nevada senator.
The possibility of Cortez Masto being the pick is getting attention in her home state — and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) continues to push hard on her behalf. (Previous ranking: 4)
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
3. Elizabeth Warren: Earlier this week, at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, Warren made clear she is in the VP race to win it. “I think right now people want to see improvements in our health care system, and that means strengthening the Affordable Care Act,” she said — a marked change from her open embrace of “Medicare for All” during her own presidential bid earlier this year. Biden has made clear that he would be disinclined to pick someone who doesn’t share his views on major policies; he is opposed to “Medicare for All,” preferring changes in the ACA. (Previous ranking: 3)
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar
2. Amy Klobuchar: Klobuchar’s strongest selling point — aside from her Midwestern roots — is that she is a practical politician who knows how to get stuff done. To that end, Klobuchar’s successful (so far) efforts to push for more mail-in balloting to deal with the coronavirus pandemic is proof-of-concept stuff.
And don’t forget that Klobuchar’s husband contracted Covid-19 and was hospitalized before recovering — a deeply personal story she’ll be able to talk to voters about. (Previous ranking: 2)
California Sen. Kamala Harris
1. Kamala Harris: The California senator has been ranked No. 1 in every single Biden VP list I’ve done — and is generally seen as the front-runner to be the pick. But she certainly isn’t taking that top spot for granted. She hit Trump for his attacks on Michigan’s mail-in ballot efforts in an interview with MSNBC, praised Biden’s judgment in a speech to American Asian Pacific Islander Victory Fund summit and appeared in a live-stream with Everytown for Gun Safety Action and Moms Demand Action. She also got a nice boost from WaPo’s Jonathan Capehart, who declared her Biden’s best VP choice. (Previous ranking: 1)

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correctly identify Thomas Eagleton as George McGovern’s original vice presidential pick in 1972. Eagleton was later replaced on the ticket by Sargent Shriver.

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The Game of Truth

When newly minted White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany took the stage last week for the first time—the first time a Trump press secretary has issued a formal conference in over six months—she encountered a ravenously bloodthirsty media gaggle. It was ready to pounce.

Would they be able to totally eviscerate her as they had a slew of her predecessors? Well, no. She turned the tables on them all. Predators, it seems, had become prey.

While the task of how to feed and water the Washington press corps is no secret to those in the press secretary business, what’s more impressive is when a White House press secretary can feed them the food of their own making. And so it happened. They served it up warm.

It came about 25 minutes into the press conference. Jeff Mason, Reuters’ White House correspondent, asked:

Kayleigh, in a previous life, before you were press secretary, you worked for the campaign. And you made a comment, I believe on Fox, in which you said President Trump will not allow the coronavirus to come to this country. Given what has happened since then, obviously, would you like to take that back?

Of course not. Would you like to take the media’s entire record back, McEnany replied.

Does Vox want to take back that they proclaim that the coronavirus would not be a deadly pandemic? Does The Washington Post want to take back that they told Americans to ‘get a grip, the flu is bigger than the coronavirus’? Does The Washington Post, likewise, want to take back that, ‘Our brains are causing us to exaggerate the threat of the coronavirus’? Does The New York Times want to take back that, ‘Fear of the virus may be spreading faster than the virus itself’? Does NPR want to take back that the flu was a much bigger threat than the coronavirus? And finally, once again, The Washington Post. Would they like to take back that the government should not respond aggressively to the virus?

From her perch atop the bully pulpit, McEnany did not wait around for replies. It was a “drop the mic” moment. But the point still stands.

The mainstream media have printed various misinformed or later-to-be-corrected statements about the impact of COVID-19, mainly because they (like most of America) were still learning about the spread of the virus and its potential public health implications.

The president was learning, too, in real time. The difference is that he is blamed by the media for every statement he makes. If it’s true, then it’s insensitive, and if it turns out to be inaccurate, then it was a blatant lie.

At this point, it seems that the mainstream media exists solely to refute and oppose anything the president says.

Of course, President Donald Trump is not perfect. He exaggerates. He makes blanket statements without caveat. And he is known to protect himself to the point of stretching reality.

Those who have come to know him and work with him on a daily basis understand his foibles. But they also understand that the president is merely human.

He breathes the same air and eats the same food we all do. He has hopes and dreams for his own life and for America that echo our own. Despite his many faults, he was duly elected to lead the country; he has our best interests at heart.

But the media’s raison d’etre exists, not in the truth, but solely in opposition. When the president goes left, whether right or wrong, the media go right. It is as if they have abdicated their roles as fact-finders and investigators and turned into repudiators.

This is laziness at its worst. It lacks credibility and betrays an emotional bias that goes to the heart of truth and falsehood. If the media is so readily able to embrace falsehoods merely to combat the president, are they not just as guilty of the betrayal of truth they accuse the president of committing?

Perhaps the most cynical media iconoclasm centers around the seeming glee some pundits take in the tanking economy. It is almost as if they embrace forced closings and their devastating economic effects as the welcome price of ridding the country of Trump.

Forget about the folks who are suffering. Forget about working mothers with children out of school and nowhere to go. All these pundits have to do is show up at their laptops and type away from the cushy surroundings of their high-end condos. But they aren’t forced to make the hard choices of laying off workers or letting crops rot in the field. For them, reopening the economy is synonymous with losing the political battle.

We all want a free press that is able to question the official line. As a media pundit and commentator, I often question the president’s approach. But it bears asking whether a press is truly “free” when it is bound by its preconceived notions of truth and falsehood.

Perhaps ideological constraints on fairness and objectivity devalue their roles as the investigators and revealers the Founders imagined when they enshrined the First Amendment.


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City That Voted for Obama Twice Just Voted 3 Democrats Out of Office

Polls being touted by the establishment media are telling us the presidential race is all but over, and that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is destined to sit in the Oval Office.

According to a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday, President Donald Trump had better be ready to pack it up and head to Mar-a-Lago for an extended vacation.

The poll indicates Biden holds an 11-point advantage over Trump nationally. Biden leads the president 50 percent to Trump’s 39 percent, with fewer than six months until the November election.

Sound familiar? It should.

An ABC News tracking poll from October 2016 showed Hillary Clinton with a 12-point lead over Trump just weeks before the election.

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Clinton led in the poll 50 percent to Trump’s 38 percent.

We all know how that turned out, and yet here we find ourselves, four years later, with polls purporting to show a blue wave on the horizon.

But, what is happening on the ground is telling a very different story than polling, and it could also be a preview of the coming 2020 election.

Republicans, despite the disastrous polling, are winning races across the country.

Do you think President Trump will win re-election in 2020?

Mike Garcia, a Republican endorsed by Trump, flipped California’s 25th Congressional District last week, several months after Democratic Rep. Katie Hill resigned in disgrace.

Tom Tiffany, another Trump-backed candidate, won Wisconsin’s Seventh Congressional District, fighting back Democrats hoping to take the seat following the resignation of former GOP Rep. Sean Duffy.

And now we turn to Northern Virginia, where voters in two communities took to the polls this week and sent incumbent Democrats packing in an apparent referendum on far-left Gov. Ralph Northam and other state and local Democrats.

Republicans showed up in large numbers, and now three Democratic incumbents on the city council are out of a job in the city of Staunton, according to the Daily Caller.

The community, which twice voted for former President Barack Obama, ousted Democrats Erik Curren, Ophie Kier and James Harrington.

RELATED: GOP House Candidate Notches Commanding Victory in Key California Election

Republicans Mark Robertson, Amy Darby and Steve Claffey will replace the Democrats on the council, according to WHSV, while incumbent Republican Andrea Oakes won re-election — allowing conservative candidates to sweep the city council electoral contests and giving Republicans a majority on the council.

Voters in the neighboring city of Waynesboro also elected two Republicans, Lana Williams and Bruce Allen, which gives that city council a Republican majority as well.

Chris Graham, writing for the area outlet the Augusta Free Press, noted the shocking election results in Staunton, where the three incumbent Democrats nearly doubled their overall vote total from 2016, yet still all managed to lose.

According to Graham, Democrats turned out in unusually large numbers, but Republicans brought on a tidal wave.

“Staunton City Council incumbents Ophie Kier, James Harrington and Erik Curren all outperformed their 2016 vote totals in their 2020 re-election runs,” he wrote.

“Democrats got their voters out better than they have in a May cycle in years,” Graham wrote. “Republicans got turnout more akin to, not quite a presidential year, but approaching gubernatorial.”

“A city that voted for Barack Obama, twice, voted for Hillary Clinton, voted for Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam, even gave a solid majority to Jennifer Lewis in her 2018 congressional run against Ben Cline, is now controlled by Republicans,” Graham added,

“I’m rarely shocked by something that happens in politics, but I have to admit, I didn’t see this one happening.”

As lawmakers in Virginia have threatened civil liberties, first with gun-grabbing proposals and now with prolonged draconian lockdowns amid the coronavirus, voters in a Democratic stronghold sent a strong message.

“The conservative slates in both cities ran as a unit and highlighted the Second Amendment as a key issue in their campaigns,” Graham wrote.

“Bottom line is that the strategies worked, flipping both from D to R, but the change in Staunton is stunning almost beyond words.”

Those in Virginia join Californians and Wisconsinites in sending a similar message to Democrats, and all in the same month.

Voters have stood up for their rights during a time when Democrats have shown us just how vulnerable those rights can be.

National polls tell us it’s time to start writing a eulogy for the Republican Party.

The reality seems to be that Republicans are energized from coast to coast, and they are ready to stand against Democrats and the tyrannical big government overreach that liberals support.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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Biden Vetting Klobuchar For VP: What About The ‘Binder, the comb and Staff members,’ Oh My

White House presidential hopeful Vice President Joe Biden has asked Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar to go through the rigorous process of being vetted for Vice President and as that process takes place, it may be former staffers with a grudge against her who put a wrench in her aspirations, according to numerous reports.

The Minnesota lawmaker was a favorite by Democratic analysts over the past month, but, according to a multitude of previous stories (now long forgotten by most), her past actions with employees wouldn’t win her boss of the month.

Let’s just take a look at just one story from The New York Times in 2019. 

Senator Amy Klobuchar was hungry, forkless and losing patience.

An aide, joining her on a trip to South Carolina in 2008, had procured a salad for his boss while hauling their bags through an airport terminal. But once onboard, he delivered the grim news: He had fumbled the plastic eating utensils before reaching the gate, and the crew did not have any forks on such a short flight.

What happened next was typical: Ms. Klobuchar berated her aide instantly for the slip-up. What happened after that was not: She pulled a comb from her bag and began eating the salad with it, according to four people familiar with the episode.

According to reports, Klobuchar who failed her bid for the Democratic nomination for president, was approached by Biden’s camp, but those sources told CBS News’ Bo Erickson it’s “unclear when they reached out or if anyone else is being groomed.”

There are also stories about throwing a binder at her staff, screaming at them and becoming so irate that she made some of her staffers cry. Yikes! Can you imagine her as Vice President? Or maybe, she’s gone through some anger management. I’m always open to change.

Other Democratic female hopefuls who could be selected as a running mate are “Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also reportedly in talks with his campaign,” according to CBS.

Hopefully, those Democratic VEEP hopefuls won’t have the same issues with staffers and other employees that Klobuchar has been privileged to boss around.

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Chinese State-Controlled Media Outlet Responds To US Criticism By Making Cartoon Mocking Pompeo

China responded to criticism from the United States about its botched handling of the coronavirus pandemic by creating a propaganda cartoon that mocks Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The cartoon, titled “Pompeo’s Credibility Test,” was created by Chinese state-backed media outlet CGTN and was first featured online Wednesday, according to Fox News. The cartoon is designed to look like a video game and depicts Pompeo getting beaten up by human-sized coronavirus germs while his health bar, or “credibility bar,” lowers over time.


The cartoon also features World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who defends China and appears to debunk claims made by Pompeo and the US government. One such claim is that the virus was man-made. While a majority of US intelligence agencies believe that the virus leaked from a Wuhan lab, the agencies have also explicitly rejected the claim that it was man-made.

Pompeo has been the target of a Chinese propaganda campaign since the coronavirus outbreak began. Chinese state media has previously called Pompeo “a degenerate” and “evil,” and referred to his criticism of China as “spitting poison.” (RELATED: Communist Party Of China Sends Out Official Missive On American Coronavirus ‘Lies’)

The cartoon released by CGTN is only the latest round of Chinese propaganda against the US government. After the cartoon version of Pompeo loses his remaining health, or credibility, he collapses and states, “When I was CIA director, we lied, we cheated, we stole.”

The game concludes with the line: “You must be honest in this cooperation game.”

However, China has been accused of covering up evidence and concealing information about the virus, and German intelligence further concluded that China asked the WHO to delay the release of information about the outbreak.

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Loughlin, Giannulli to serve prison time for college scam – The Denver Post

“Full House” actress Lori Loughlin has agreed to serve two months behind bars and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, has agreed to serve five months as part of a deal to plead guilty to cheating the college admissions process, according to court papers filed Thursday.

Loughlin, 55, and Giannulli, 56, are scheduled to plead guilty Friday via video conference before a federal judge in Boston, who must approve the deal.

It’s a stunning reversal for the famous couple who insisted for the last year they were innocent and that investigators had fabricated evidence against them. Their decision comes about two weeks after the judge rejected their bid to dismiss the case over allegations of misconduct by federal authorities.

“I think they made a calculated assessment that the risks were just too great” to bring the case to trial, said former federal prosecutor Bradley Simon.

They were scheduled to go to trial in October on charges that they paid $500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as crew team recruits, even though neither of them played the sport. They helped create fake athletic profiles for their daughters by sending the admitted ringleader of the scheme, admissions consultant Rick Singer, photos of the teens posing on rowing machines, authorities said.

Lawyers for Loughlin and Giannulli had argued that the couple believed the payments were “legitimate donations” that would go directly to USC as a fundraising gift or support Singer’s charity. They also accused prosecutors of hiding crucial evidence that could prove the couple’s innocence because it would undermine their case.

They agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in a plea agreement filed in Boston’s federal court. Giannulli will also plead guilty to a charge of honest services wire and mail fraud, prosecutors said. Prosecutors have agreed to dismiss charges of money laundering and federal programs bribery that were added after the case was filed.

Under Loughlin’s plea deal, she will also pay a $150,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service. Giannulli has agreed to pay a $250,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service.

Simon said the couple’s lawyers may think that Loughlin and Giannulli have a chance of avoiding prison altogether and serving their punishments at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Attorney General William Barr has ordered the Bureau of Prisons to increase the use of home confinement and expedite the release of eligible high-risk inmates because of the virus crisis. The pandemic has already delayed the prison sentences of some parents who have pleaded guilty in the college admissions case and allowed others to go home early.

“It may have been a very clever move by the lawyers,” said Simon, now with the firm Windels Marx in New York.

Prosecutors were also facing the risk of embarrassment if they lost the high-profile case, and the couple’s attorneys had raised some viable lines of defense for trial, said former assistant U.S. attorney Jeff Cramer.

“For both sides, from the prosecutors’ side and the defense side, I think this is a fair outcome,” said Cramer, now managing director of Berkeley Research Group consulting firm.

An attorney for the couple declined to comment.

Loughlin and Giannulli were among 50 people arrested last year in the case dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues” that rocked the word of higher education. They are the 23rd and 24th parents to plead guilty in the case.

The case uncovered a scheme in which wealthy parents paid huge sums to secure students’ admission at elite schools as fake athletic recruits or have someone cheat on their entrance exams, authorities said.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said his office will “continue to pursue accountability for undermining the integrity of college admissions.”

“Under the plea agreements filed today, these defendants will serve prison terms reflecting their respective roles in a conspiracy to corrupt the college admissions process and which are consistent with prior sentences in this case,” he said in an emailed statement.

Others parents who’ve been sent to prison for participating in the scam include “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman. She served nearly two weeks behind bars late last year after she admitted to paying $15,000 to have someone correct her daughter’s entrance exam answers.

California winemaker Agustin Huneeus Jr., who also pleaded guilty, was released from his five-month prison term two weeks early in March because of the public health crisis.

The judge has allowed other parents, including the heiress to the Hot Pockets fortune, to put off their prison sentences because of the virus outbreak.

Michelle Janavs, whose family invented Hot Pockets, and Douglas Hodge, the ex-CEO of Pacific Investment Management Co., are allowed to remain free until at least June 30, the judge ruled. The judge said he would consider further delays if the virus crisis hasn’t lessened by then.

Janavs was sentenced to five months and Hodge was sentenced to nine months.

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Wanted During a Pandemic: Presidential Leadership

President Trump speaks to the press after meeting with Republican Senators in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, May 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

One of the few advantages of the coronavirus crisis has been the opportunity to engage our moral nature. As our normal lives and routines are disrupted, it’s laid bare where we place our value and hope. Some of us have been shocked by the loss of a loved one. Most of us have realized how much we rely on relationships that are now physically distanced. As the oft-cited theologian Paul Tillich wrote, those who endure suffering are taken beneath the routine busyness of life, where they find they are not who they believed themselves to be.

But the simple crucible of isolation and suffering is insufficient—because suffering without hope leads to disillusion. And from disillusion we turn inward, unable to rise to the challenges and sacrifices that exceptional circumstances require. In the aftermath of World War I, a deep sense of despair fell over Europe. Historian Joseph Loconte recounts how in the wake of the Great War, “The concepts of decline and collapse, of sickness and death, infected nearly every cultural endeavor: intellectual, artistic, literary, scientific, philosophical, and religious.” Unlike the Second World War, the First was characterized by an acute meaningless, viewed as a pointless ordeal of human slaughter.

The coronavirus does not pose nearly the crisis of confidence. However, the present suffering does suggest some of the meaninglessness of The Great War, having left people without an explanation and led them to sink into cynicism and despair. The pandemic is a war that lacks the clarity of a war.

One solution to all of this is good leaders. Leadership at its best can help give to suffering an arc of meaning, a sense of common cause outside ourselves that we can identify with. Leaders remind us of the struggles we have overcome in the past and equip us to deal with the trials of the present.

Our leaders can also unite our diverse population and rouse the elements of our moral nature we all share. They can recall us to our shared values when circumstances drive us to forget them, asking of us compassion, sacrifice, and love of neighbor and countrymen.

In the United Kingdom, the prime minister (also the Crown) often supplies that leadership. And no one before or since has done so with such vigor and effect as Winston Churchill. In the months leading up to his premiership, Churchill gave a number of broadcast speeches that sketched the outline of the coming war. Historian Geoffrey Best writes that “these broadcasts before he became Prime Minister…[were] fulfilling an immensely important function. No other public figure had come forward with a convincing explanation of why the war was being fought.”

Eighty years ago, Churchill assumed the post of prime minister as Neville Chamberlain lost the confidence of Parliament and Lord Halifax balked at the open position. The morning after Churchill’s appointment, Germany began its Blitzkrieg attack, sweeping across the Low Countries of Europe in a matter of days. Within the course of a week, the fall of France was imminent.

On May 19, Churchill gave his first address to the nation as prime minister, laying out the grim threat of a German invasion. Erik Larson writes in the Splendid and the Vile, “The speech set a pattern that would follow throughout the war, offering a sober appraisal of facts tempered with reason for optimism.”

Churchill emphasized the significance of the challenge while clarifying its meaning: “It would be foolish, however, to disguise the gravity of the hour. It would be still more foolish to lose heart and courage.” He continued: “After this battle in France abates its force, there will come the battle for our Island — for all that Britain is, and all the Britain means. That will be the struggle.” Churchill steeled the British public for the worst while reminding them of their strength and ability to meet the challenge. As Larson explains, “Churchill demonstrated a striking trait: his knack for making people feel loftier, stronger, and above all, more courageous. John Martin, one of his private secretaries, believed that he ‘gave forth a confidence and invincible will that called out everything that was brave and strong.’”

In America, the presidency has historically been the platform for that loftier call. From Washington to Lincoln to FDR, history’s example has shown that alongside the presidency’s political power rests an equally if not more important rhetorical power. The president can not only unite the country but mold the public imagination.

Today we lack leadership and unity. Our national narrative around the coronavirus is viciously polarized, cynical, and base. That narrative is split between re-opening and staying closed, between saving our economic life and saving human life. We’re ping-ponging between charts that show collapse and recovery. We’re bickering over death counts to score political points. Some of us have even declared masks the latest battleground in the political correctness culture war.

What’s gotten lost in this mix is not only clarity but foresight. No one is preparing America for what is to come and the true scope of the consequences. This confusion may become even more pronounced as the virus runs its course at different speeds across the country.

President Trump is not the cause of most of this. Our national politics have been polarized for years and both parties have proven unable to manage long-term threats. But the presidency is one of the few, perhaps the only, platform that can provide an antidote to the present delirium. And one of the most enduring legacies of this administration will be the vacuum of leadership that Trump has demonstrated. The president may have had moments at a press conference or speeches that rose rhetorically to the challenge, but they’ve been drowned out by the Twitter tirades, tribalism, and dishonesty. Churchill’s speeches helped embody and define his character to the public. President Trump’s character and credibility are anchored to his Twitter feed.

As we enter the third month of lockdown, there’s a palpable hunger for the unflinching calm and hope of great leadership. We can see glimpses of it in local and regional leaders whom many have rallied around. People from across the country have tuned in to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s live-streamed coronavirus briefings, and major cable news networks have broadcast them live.

A couple of weeks ago, thousands watched a video of a speech by President Bush, displaying all the hallmarks of leadership. He recognized the medical as well as moral threats that the disease presents: “The larger challenge we share is to confront an outbreak of fear and loneliness,” he said. And in the face of such a challenge, he recalled our fortitude in past trials: “We have faced times of testing before. Following 9/11, I saw a great nation rise as one to honor the brave, to grieve with the grieving and to embrace unavoidable new duties, and I have no doubt, none at all, that this spirit of service and sacrifice is alive and well in America.”

These displays of leadership are much needed but insufficient to the scope of the crisis. The presidency is the platform for times like these. Cuomo’s briefings are specific to the New York region. Bush’s speech was streamed during the Call To Unite virtual event, sandwiched among pop culture celebrities, religious leaders, and other past presidents (Bill Clinton spoke as well).

In reality, the pandemic is not a war. Where the one asks many of us to go fight an enemy in battle, the other asks many of us to simply stay home. In many ways, the metaphor of war is insufficient to capture the meaning of this pandemic and can be abused. But this only makes the clarity of leadership even more important than in wartime.

Churchill was honest and direct with the British people. He prepared them for the worst while also giving them something to strive for. We need similar calls to service and sacrifice, reminders that love of neighbor can mean social distancing, and an honest forecast of what’s to come, whatever the political consequences. While most of our attention is right now focused on the immediate policy failures and successes of the pandemic, it’s important to also recognize the absence of moral leadership. We can’t measure this void like we can the effects of shutdowns and aid packages, but the lack of common meaning and solidarity will be felt all the same.

Grayson Logue is a writer living in New York and a contributor to Providence Magazine.

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Another Stimulus Is ‘Inevitable’ but Not Until Summer, Republicans Say

In a retreat from their prior reluctance, Republican senators are increasingly receptive to the idea of another coronavirus relief package—in fact, it is a question of when and not if.

“I think there’s a general consensus that something more will happen,” said Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of leadership. “We just haven’t been able to define what that will be.”

Some GOP leaders and rank-and-file Republicans alike concede that while they may not yet know how expansive the bill would be or what proposals they wish to include, an economy emerging from the long pandemic slumber will require some sort of boost from the federal government.

Republican senators are eyeing the end of June for a package, a timeline that would mean jumping into negotiations when the Senate returns from its Memorial Day recess June 1 and then passing it before leaving town for the July Fourth break.

“I think it’s inevitable before the Fourth of July,” Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said. “I just think it’ll be needed with the economy.”

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) predicted that Congress will “have to do” something in June. “This place has no choice,” he said.

Gardner threatened Thursday to prevent the chamber from going on recess, in a push for immediate recovery legislation to be worked on next week. But the clash was avoided thanks to a promise from leadership for future action.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), also a leadership member, said he expects a bill in the second half of June, at the earliest. “We just had a lot of our colleagues lecture us about the fact that tens of billions of dollars aren’t even out yet,” he said. “We need to know what the need is.”

GOP Senators John Thune and Roy Blunt, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, leave a Senate Republican policy luncheon on May 5.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty

The summer date for more legislation gives lawmakers time to determine what exactly they want. Republicans have pushed for a “pause” to examine how existing economic aid is working—and how it is not.

The growing acceptance among Republicans to deliver more help represents a growing divide within the party over whether they should further contribute to the sky-high debt the government has amassed through relief legislation, not to mention the nation’s prior debt. In all, Congress has appropriated roughly $3 trillion in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The possibility of another package was not mentioned during Thursday’s GOP lunch, according to Blunt. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remains mum on whether his stance has changed.

President Donald Trump and McConnell met Thursday to discuss potential legislation. “We’re working on a package of very positive things,” the president said, declining to elaborate.

Asked by Newsweek whether his stance has evolved, the Kentucky Republican responded, “We’ll keep in touch.” On Tuesday, McConnell said after a lunch that GOP senators had with Trump that they will “discuss the way forward in the next couple of weeks.”

The signaling toward more relief comes amid another gloomy weak for the job market. Another 2.4 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total to nearly 39 million since the health crisis began.

But Republicans on Capitol Hill are not the only government officials changing their tune. The Trump administration is as well.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday a “strong likelihood” exists that the country “will need another bill.” And Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has been increasingly more vocal about the long-lasting economic harm that could result if the government chooses not to act further.

House Democrats last week approved a mammoth $3 trillion bill that includes a second wave of $1,200 checks, among many other things. But Republicans have made it clear the legislation is going nowhere with the GOP-controlled Senate and White House.

Republicans eye summer another stimulus
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a press conference to mark the anniversary of the House passage of the 19th Amendment and women’s right to vote, on Capitol Hill May 21 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty

Instead, Republicans are advocating for a more modest proposal. It could include an extension to the weekly boost to state unemployment benefits that the federal government is currently providing. However, Republicans want to decrease the amount from the current $600 federal subsidy because of concerns that some people are making more money without a job.

Other potential items could include infrastructure funding and more state aid, which local leaders continue to say is needed as state governments face furloughs and cuts thanks to significant budget shortfalls. Bipartisan groups have formed in both chambers to push for more immediate relief to states.

But some Republicans say that even with the shift in public sentiment among their colleagues, McConnell and the Senate as a whole are no closer toward working on a new bill.

“I don’t think it’s moved with any noticeable speed this week. I think it’s still in the category of pause, see how what we’ve done so far has worked, get back from recess and see what we’re hearing in the trenches,” said Senator Mike Braun (R-Ind.).

“I don’t think you’re going to have much measurable change for at least a couple of weeks,” he added.

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State auditor finds ‘black hole’ in North Carolina Department of Transportation’s finances

State Auditor Beth Wood told North Carolina lawmakers Wednesday that she has some unanswered questions after completing a financial audit of the North Carolina Department of Transportation earlier this month.

Wood said she found gaps in reporting on $4.8 billion in NCDOT projects that are eligible for federal reimbursements – referred to as advanced construction.

Out of the $4.8 billion in advanced construction projects, NCDOT has spent $1.3 billion.

While there is a breakdown of where the $1.3 billion originated from – state funds and bonds – there is no report on how the money was spent, Wood said. There also is a “black hole” when it comes to the remaining $3.5 billion for advanced construction, she told members of the Senate Transportation Committee.

“You’ve gotten some contracts. What’s committed that the state’s going to have to build eventually?” Wood asked, referring to the missing information. “Because you can’t build half a bridge. You have to complete the project.”

Wood said she could not get the information in time to meet the deadline for the report.

The audit also found NCDOT went $742 million over its $5.9 billion spending limit for fiscal year 2019. Most of the overspending was on repairs, operations and maintenance. Wood recommended the department create a more structured budget and add another layer of oversight.

Wood asked the committee Wednesday to request the missing details on the advance construction projects. NCDOT officials will be able to respond to the request when the committee meets next week.

Sen. Michael Garrett, D-Guilford, pointed out NCDOT has been using advanced construction practices for more than 25 years, and costs started increasing recently.

“I think if it hasn’t created an issue in the past, anything that brings more federal dollars to the state to build infrastructure for our people and our businesses is a good thing,” Garrett said.

Garret said NCDOT was not fully at fault for the over expenditures on maintenance.

“The department has requested more from this General Assembly than has been awarded. I think almost twice as much as we’ve allocated to the department,” he said. “So there’s enough blame to go around.”

The General Assembly has had to route financial aid to NCDOT at least three times in the past year.

Most recently, on May 4, $300 million was earmarked for NCDOT in the state’s coronavirus relief package. The funds will be allocated only if Congress allows federal funds to be used to replace lost revenue.

In the meantime, the department has started instituting furloughs with its 9,000 employees.

“As long as I’ve been here in Raleigh, it’s something every year,” said Sen. Carl Ford, R-Rowan. “There’s always an excuse of why we’ve got to have more money. It’s because they don’t manage the money they have, and we’ve seen it time and time again.”