Posted on

GOP-led panel moves to remove Confederate names on military assets amid Trump’s opposition

“There is always a history that we don’t want to forget,” Sen. Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said when asked about the plan, which he supports. “With regard to that I agree with the President that we don’t want to forget our history. … But at the same time that doesn’t mean that we should continue with those bases with the names of individuals who fought against our country.”

The amendment put GOP leaders in an awkward spot — stuck between their efforts to court black voters in a high-stakes election year and a President who demanded that Republicans tow the line and fight back on the amendment.

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to say whether he would support the plan, telling CNN: “That’ll be up to the committee to decide.”

The amendment was added to the annual defense authorization bill, and it could still be stripped out as it makes its way through the legislative process. If Trump were to veto such a bill, it would be a big risk given the popular defense measure sets policy for the Pentagon.

Asked if taking out the Confederate amendment would be politically problematic from a PR-standpoint, Senate Majority Whip John Thune acknowledged Thursday that it would be difficult.

“Well I mean if it’s in the base bill coming out of the committee then, yeah,” the South Dakota Republican told reporters. “It’s obviously a heavy lift if we take anything out of the bill … so, we’ll see where that discussion goes. Like I said, I’ve seen what the President had said. I was not aware of that in there.”

What adds more complication for Republicans is the fact that the defense authorization bill has been approved by Congress each year for the past 59 years — so it will undoubtedly put pressure on lawmakers to resolve the sticking point in order to pass the sweeping policy bill for the 60th straight year.

Trump over the past two days has expressed his opposition to any such effort, citing America’s heritage, while adding on Twitter on Thursday: “Hopefully, our great Republican Senators won’t fall for this.”

But Republican senators up for reelection themselves were divided on the plan, with Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst backing the measure, while North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis opposed it. And others, including Georgia Sen. David Perdue, didn’t respond to a request for comment through a spokesperson.

“Sen. Tillis opposed Sen. Warren’s amendment and he opposes renaming Fort Bragg,” said Tillis spokesman Daniel Keylin, who accused “liberal Democrats” of seeking to “overshadow” the defense bill “with political theater.”

Some Republican senators were in line with Trump, including Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who opposed the Warren plan.

“I just don’t think that Congress mandating that these be renamed and attempting to erase that part of our history is a way you deal with that history,” Hawley said. “I don’t think turning your back on it’s how you deal with it, confront it, and then move on.”

Hawley added: “I’ve heard from a lot of soldiers who’ve come through those bases and they’ve said that those bases mean something to me I have my own history with those, please don’t rename those.”

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton also opposed the amendment, with an aide saying the GOP senator unsuccessfully sought a change to the plan to carve out an exception for memorials in military cemeteries for Confederate soldiers.

But it was clear the amendment had put some Republicans in an uncomfortable spot.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who also sits on the Armed Services Committee, wouldn’t say if she backed the amendment in committee. “It’s an issue that we’re reviewing,” she said.

Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska wouldn’t discuss her view on the matter, while Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi said: “I think the commission idea has merit.”

Wicker did not answer if he had voted for it in committee, but the amendment would create an independent commission to review and develop a detailed plan for removing the names.

Some made clear they supported the amendment, including Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan.

Other Republican senators didn’t want to weigh in publicly on the issue. GOP Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, whose home state has military installations with Confederate names, responded to questions about the amendment with, “I don’t have anything for you on that.”

And the lone black Senate Republican, Tim Scott, told CNN that he hasn’t “given it much thought,” when asked if he supports removal of Confederate leader names from military bases. Scott added that he’s been “focusing on police reform.”

Pressed further if he’s open to keeping the Confederate names, Scott said he needs to “spend time thinking about the issue first.”

Army installations named after Confederate leaders include Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas and Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia. Army bases across the country have continued to bear the names of Confederate military commanders even amid intense external pressure to rename them.

CNN reported earlier this week that US Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper are said to be open to holding a “bipartisan conversation” about renaming nearly a dozen major bases and installations that bear the names of Confederate military commanders, according to an Army official.

Peaceful protests calling for justice and a reckoning with racial inequality have dominated the US in the wake of Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, prompting many to reconsider the status quo, including the widespread use of Confederate military leader names and symbols.

Yet some top Republicans expressed resistance to any changes.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, told reporters on a conference call Thursday that he had differences with the Democrats on the issue and that he wanted “local communities, cities, the towns, the states, to participate in whether or not they want to do this,” and that the inclusion of the amendment was “the first step.”

“We’ve got a long ways to go on that issue,” Inhofe said.

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who was on the same conference call as Inhofe, agreed that the amendment was a “first step.”

“I think what we saw yesterday was a very thoughtful process and a bipartisan process of taking a very complicated and difficult issue and putting in place a commission that will have a three year period of operation,” Reed said. “That will carefully look at all the aspects of this issue, and will also be able to engage local communities who have an interest in the names of these facilities and conclude after that process a way to rename these facilities in a such a fashion that we do our best to maintain, I think, our fidelity to the Constitution and to the principles that govern the country.”

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

CNN’s Nikki Carvajal, Ali Zaslav and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

Posted on

Afghan conflict: US sanctions ‘kangaroo court’ over war crimes probe

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) said the US would not be “threatened by a kangaroo court”

President Donald Trump has imposed sanctions on court officials who are investigating whether US forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

The executive order allows the US to block the assets of International Criminal Court (ICC) employees and stop them from entering the country.

The ICC investigation began after a preliminary report found reason to believe war crimes had been committed.

Mr Trump has repeatedly criticised the court and questioned its independence.

The US is not a signatory of the Hague-based ICC and does not recognise its authority over American citizens.

On Thursday, shortly after the executive order was signed, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would not be “threatened by a kangaroo court”.

He added that the latest sanctions could also apply to family members of ICC officials to prevent them from visiting the US.

His criticism of the court was compounded by Attorney General William Barr, who alleged without evidence that “foreign powers like Russia are… manipulating the ICC in pursuit of their own agenda”.

The ICC has not responded to the latest allegations, but rights groups were quick to criticise the move.

“This assault on the ICC is an effort to block victims of serious crimes whether in Afghanistan, Israel or Palestine from seeing justice,” Andrea Prasow, the Washington director of Humans Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“Countries that support international justice should publicly oppose this blatant attempt at obstruction,” she added.

The EU’s diplomatic chief also expressed “serious concern” at the move.

“The court has been playing a key role in providing international justice and addressing the gravest international crimes,” foreign affairs high representative Josep Borrell told reporters.

What’s the background?

The investigation into alleged war crimes by the US and others in the Afghan conflict was given the green light by the ICC earlier this year.

Mr Pompeo vowed to protect Americans from it. “This is a truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable, political institution masquerading as a legal body,” he said at the time.

The actions of the Taliban, the Afghan government and US troops since May 2003 are expected to be examined in the probe.

Afghanistan is a member of the court, but officials there have also expressed opposition to the inquiry.

In April 2019, a pre-trial chamber at the ICC ruled that the investigation should not go ahead because it would not “serve the interests of justice”.

President Trump has previously pardoned troops prosecuted in the US for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

Last year, his administration imposed travel restrictions and other sanctions on ICC officials.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the BBC in 2017 she was “looking at allegations from all parties”

What are the allegations?

A preliminary investigation lasting more than a decade examined crimes including intentional attacks against civilians, imprisonment and extra-judicial executions.

A 2016 report from the ICC said there was a reasonable basis to believe the US military had committed torture at secret detention sites operated by the CIA.

The report also said it was reasonable to believe the Afghan government had tortured prisoners and the Taliban had committed war crimes such as the mass killing of civilians.

The ICC has been part of the global justice system since 2002, and it is designed to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

But the court’s operation is seen as weakened without US involvement.

Posted on

Joe Biden releases plan to reopen US economy amid coronavirus

By ALEXANDRA JAFFE and WILL WEISSERT

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joe Biden on Thursday released a plan that he says can jump-start an economy in free fall from the coronavirus pandemic and said he is better positioned than President Donald Trump to safeguard businesses and their employees and create jobs without taking unnecessary health risks.

Trump’s Democratic challenger is promising to guarantee testing for the virus and protective equipment for people called back to work, use federal money to ensure paid leave for anyone who becomes sick and oversee thousands of new hires to help track the spread of illness.

“Trump has basically had a one-point plan: open businesses,” Biden said at an event in Philadelphia with business owners and Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Pa. “It does nothing to keep workers safe, to keep businesses able to stay open, and secondly it does very little to increase consumer confidence.”

After remaining home for months during a campaign frozen by the virus, Biden has begun holding public events within driving distance of his house in Delaware. Unlike Trump, he has yet to schedule rallies. His campaign says it plans to do so when public health officials say it’s safe.

Biden’s plan would seek to protect from discrimination older people, those with disabilities and others at high risk of infection from the coronavirus. He envisions a “safer shoppers” program intended to make consumers feel more secure. It would provide state and local officials with money to certify when businesses are complying with testing rules and conducting “spot checks as necessary” to prevent the spread of the coronavrius.

He also wants to make more money available for small businesses and provide dollars for schools and child care centers reopening.

Biden announced the plan a day after saying that his chief worry is that Trump will attempt to “steal” the November election, and the Democratic challenger says he’s even considered the possibility that the Republican incumbent would refuse to leave the White House should he lose.

“My single greatest concern: This president’s going to try and steal this election,” Biden said on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” which aired Wednesday night. “This is a guy who said all mail-in ballots are fraudulent, voting by mail, while he sits behind the desk in the Oval Office and writes his mail-in ballot to vote in the primary.”

Biden was asked whether he’s considered what would happen if Trump refused to vacate the presidency in the event he wasn’t reelected. “I have,” Biden said, before suggesting that the military could step in to ensure a peaceful transition of power.

“I am absolutely convinced they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch,” the former vice president said.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany responded that Biden was taking “a ridiculous proposition.”

“This president’s looking forward to November,” McEnany told Fox News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom.” “This president’s hard at work for the American people. And leave it to Democrats to go out there and grandstand and level these conspiracy theories.”

Biden’s comments come as Trump has intensified his claim that absentee voting, which many states are expanding to avoid large crowds at polling places during the coronavirus pandemic, increases the possibility of fraud. There is little evidence to support that assertion; Trump himself has voted by mail in the past.

A chaotic Tuesday primary in Georgia, where there were problems with voting machines and long lines, may foreshadow a messy November election.

Trump on Thursday planned to resume in-person fundraising events after a three-month hiatus as his campaign tries to maintain a steep cash advantage over Biden. The president has scheduled a campaign rally in Oklahoma next week.

Biden has previously suggested that Trump’s opposition to mail-in ballots could upend the presidential election. “This president, mark my words, I think he’s going to try to kick back the election somehow, come up with a rationale why it can’t be held,” he said during an April fundraiser.

“He’s already trying to undermine the election with false claims of voter fraud and threatening to block essential COVID assistance if any extra funds go to the U.S. Postal Service,” Biden said at the time. “What in God’s name was that about other than trying to let the word out that he’s going to do all that he can to make it very hard for people to vote.”

During the “Daily Show” interview, Biden also said that more than 20 states had passed 80-plus pieces of legislation “making it harder for people vote.” He said his campaign was assembling a team of lawyers to observe balloting in “every district in the country.”

Posted on

Milley says he was wrong to accompany Trump on church walk

WASHINGTON (AP) — Army Gen. Mark Milley, the nation’s top military officer, said Thursday he was wrong to accompany President…

WASHINGTON (AP) — Army Gen. Mark Milley, the nation’s top military officer, said Thursday he was wrong to accompany President Donald Trump on a walk through Lafayette Square that ended in a photo op at a church. He said his presence in uniform amid protests over racial injustice “created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

“I should not have been there,” the Joint Chiefs chairman said in remarks to a National Defense University commencement ceremony.

Milley’s statement risked the wrath of a president sensitive to anything hinting of criticism of events he has staged. Pentagon leaders’ relations with the White House already were extraordinarily tense after a disagreement last week over Trump’s threat to use federal troops to quell civil unrest triggered by George Floyd’s death in police custody.

Trump’s June 1 walk through the park to pose with a Bible at a church came after authorities used pepper spray and flash bangs to clear the park and streets of largely peaceful protesters demonstrating in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. Milley’s comments Thursday were his first public statements about the walk with Trump, which the White House has hailed as a presidential “leadership moment” akin to Winston Churchill inspecting damage from German bombs in London during World War II.

Milley said his presence and the photographs compromised his commitment to a military divorced from politics.

“My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics,” Milley said. “As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it.”

After protesters were cleared from the Lafayette Square area, Trump led an entourage that included Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper to St. John’s Episcopal Church, where he held up a Bible for photographers and then returned to the White House.

Esper has not said publicly that he erred by being with Trump at that moment. However, he told a news conference last week that when they left the White House he thought they were going to inspect damage in the Square and at the church and to mingle with National Guard troops in the area.

The public uproar following Floyd’s death has created multiple layers of tension between Trump and senior Pentagon officials. When Esper said last week that he had opposed Trump bringing active-duty troops onto the streets of the nation’s capital to confront protesters and potential looters, Trump castigated him in a face-to-face meeting.

Just this week, Esper and Milley let it be known through their spokesmen that they were open to a “bipartisan discussion” of whether the 10 Army bases named for Confederate Army officers should be renamed as a gesture aimed at dissociating the military from the racist legacy of the Civil War.

On Wednesday, Trump said he would never allow the names to be changed, catching some in the Pentagon by surprise.

The Marine Corps last week moved ahead with a ban on public displays of the Confederate Army battle flag on its bases, and the Navy this week said it plans a similar ban for its bases, ships and planes. Trump has not commented publicly on those moves, which do not require White House or congressional approval.

Milley used his commencement address, which was prerecorded and presented as a video message in line with social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic, to raise the matter of his presence with Trump in Lafayette Square. He introduced the subject to his audience of military officers and civilian officials in the context of advice from an Army officer and combat veteran who has spent 40 years in uniform.

He said all senior military leaders must be aware that their words and actions will be closely watched.

“And I am not immune,” he said, noting the photograph of him at Lafayette Square. “That sparked a national debate about the role of the military in civil society.” He expressed regret at having been there and said the lesson to be taken is that all in uniform are not just soldiers but also citizens.

“We must hold dear the principle of an apolitical military that is so deeply rooted in the very essence of our republic,” he said. “It takes time and work and effort, but it may be the most important thing each and every one of us does every single day.”

Milley also expressed his outrage at the Floyd killing and urged military officers to recognize it as a reflection of centuries of injustice toward African Americans.

“What we are seeing is the long shadow of our original sin in Jamestown 401 years ago,” he said, referring to the year in which the first enslaved Africans arrived on the shores of colonial Virginia.

Milley said the military has made important progress on race issues but has much yet to do, including creating the conditions for a larger proportion of African American officers to rise to the military’s senior ranks. He noted that his service, the Army, has just one African American four-star general, and mentioned that the Air Force is about to swear in the first-ever African American service chief.

One of Trump’s Republican supporters, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said he agreed with Milley’s comments – “in both substance and spirit.”

Graham, a former Air Force lawyer, wrote on Twitter that Milley is “a tremendous military leader who understands the long tradition of maintaining an apolitical nonpartisan military.”

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

Posted on

Something Is Stirring in the Labor Movement

If you have to work during this pandemic, it’s best if you have a union. Research from the Columbia University Labor Lab found that essential workers who belong to unions were more likely to receive testing for COVID-19, be provided protective personal equipment on the job, practice good social distancing at work, and be guaranteed paid sick leave in the event that they contracted the virus despite all precautions.

Unfortunately, the US unionization rate is at a historic nadir. And with lives on the line and time of the essence, workers facing danger on the job can’t simply snap their fingers and get unionized to protect themselves, their families, and the broader public from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, non-unionized essential workers need to improvise.

Enter the Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee, founded to provide logistical support to workers who want to organize for better pandemic-related working conditions, but don’t have a union to rely on. EWOC was started and is run by a group of independent members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and organizers for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). 

Colette Perold, EWOC’s National Coordinator and a member of DSA, says many of the initial EWOC organizers had gotten to know each other on Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign. That’s also where many of them became familiar with the “distributed organizing” model that they’re using to help workers across the country mount pressure campaigns and win demands on the fly.

“The people volunteering to do EWOC include a lot of former Bernie staffers and volunteers and a lot of members of DSA,” two groups with significant overlap, says Perold. “Many of these people have no labor organizing experience, but we’ve created a structure to train them and equip them with the organizing tools to help run a project like this at scale.”

When people sign up to volunteer for EWOC, they’re asked to give information about their organizing background “so we can place you where you’ll be of the most use and gain the most out of EWOC,” says Perold. “For those without organizing experience, you’re doing initial intake calls with workers, meaning you’re getting an initial assessment of the situation. But we don’t want to put any workers at risk by having someone without experience work on their campaign. So if you’re inexperienced, you’re not escalating anything with them.”

Not at first, anyway. EWOC also has a comprehensive training program, an organizing curriculum complete with assignments and assessments. Then there’s a shadowing and mentorship program to prepare trained volunteers for organizing in the field. For socialists and other committed pro-worker activists who want to learn how to coordinate workplace-based campaigns, EWOC functions as a sort of ad hoc school of labor organizing.

Essential workers reap the benefits. After filling out a form requesting EWOC’s assistance and describing their situation to an intake volunteer, workers are assigned trained organizers who can help them figure out what demands to prioritize and the right strategy to win them. In the two months since the project was launched, EWOC has received over 500 volunteers and heard from over 1,500 workers looking to organize their workplaces in thirty states.

Perold says the goal of EWOC is twofold: to foster a new generation of shop-floor leaders by taking advantage of the spontaneous militancy of this unprecedented moment, and to teach a new generation of dedicated activists the nuts and bolts of labor organizing. 

“This crisis has produced so much devastation, but it has also produced new opportunities for building working-class power,” says Perold. “If we can actually channel the enthusiasm of good organizers to tap into the needs and desires of militant workers in this moment, we have no idea where the labor movement could go.”

“I have to go home to my sister every day and risk and contaminating her,” says John Alger, nineteen, of Millcreek, Utah. Alger is a delivery driver for a Salt Lake City branch of the fast-food sandwich company Jimmy John’s. “She and I are both immunocompromised. The virus is potentially fatal for us. So that’s one of the main reasons why I organized with my coworkers.” 

“My coworkers and I were afraid for our lives,” says Alger. “Customers were coming into the lobby without masks on. We had barriers up but they weren’t effective — most of us could look over the top of them. And we had markers on the ground,” to keep customers separated in line, “but they were only four and a half feet apart.”

Alger and a few other coworkers started talking to each other about their concerns and created a group chat to make plans to do something about it. Their original plan was to stage a small walkout to protest the lobby being open to the public. Around the same time, one of Alger’s coworkers came across the EWOC form online and filled it out. They heard back quickly, and with EWOC’s assistance they got down to business.

EWOC organizers helped Jimmy John’s workers in Salt Lake City identify four demands on management: higher plexiglass barriers, proper spacing of the markers, closing the lobby until it was safe to reopen, and paid time off for workers who get sick. They drafted these demands into a petition, and then Alger and other workplace leaders began talking to their coworkers. Most were on board, but some required extra convincing because they were afraid they would lose their jobs in retaliation for organizing. “We told them, ‘Hey, we’re within our rights to do this. We’re protected,” says Alger. They had role-played these conversations with EWOC organizers ahead of time.

Once they got a majority of their coworkers to sign the petition, Alger and the other workplace leaders delivered it to management. They were asked to attend a meeting a few days later, and in the meantime they promoted their petition on social media, with the assistance of EWOC organizers who arranged for DSA to share supportive content on all its channels. Throughout the entire process, Alger says, “EWOC helped us keep on track and stay organized.”

At the meeting the workers stood up, read their petition aloud, and shared their personal stories. They even grilled their boss about how much PTO he can take if he gets sick. Their forceful action took their boss by surprise. After their meeting, they increased the pressure by talking to the press — interviews that were arranged by EWOC’s media team, and for which EWOC helped them prepare.

As a result of their efforts, management met three out of four of Alger’s and his coworkers’ demands: installing new plexiglass, setting the markers the proper distance apart, and keeping the lobby closed to the public — though not for as long as the workers wanted. Alger says he and his coworkers plan to continue organizing for the rest of their demands: keeping the lobby closed for longer, and securing PTO for workers who get sick.

This was Alger’s first experience organizing his workplace. In his view, other essential workers should do the same if they have concerns about safety or compensation during the pandemic. In particular, Alger says, “EWOC has helped us tremendously. I would highly recommend that workers who are out there going through something similar reach out to them.”

Thirty-year-old Jon Foster works at a Taco Bell in Romeo, Michigan, north of Detroit. When the pandemic hit, he says, management declined to take additional measures to keep workers safe. For example, they barred workers from bringing their own personal protective equipment (PPE) from home, while also failing to provide enough on site. “I also reached out to my regional manager about hazard pay and paid sick leave, and their response was, ‘No, we can’t do that. That’s not an option.’ That’s really what caused me to organize,” says Foster.

Foster is himself a member of DSA, and came across the EWOC petition online when the national organization tweeted out the link. He filled out the form, he says, “because I wanted to win better working conditions for myself and my coworkers, and I knew I couldn’t do it on my own.”

With EWOC’s help, the Taco Bell workers came up with a strategy that was similar to that of the Jimmy John’s campaign. “We decided to make a petition, send it to the bosses, but also make a public petition because that adds pressure to the boss as well,” Foster says. 

After being trained by EWOC, Foster and other workplace leaders set about gathering signatures. There were difficulties. “In fast food in general, especially where I’m at, it’s a lot of high schoolers,” says Foster. “This is their first job. They don’t have any experience with bosses or companies, good or bad. So I would say something to them and at first it would be not registering at all. That was a challenge, but it was a fun challenge. I enjoyed being able to educate my younger coworkers.”

Foster adds that his coworkers of all ages were generally unfamiliar with unions, workplace organizing, workers’ rights, or the labor movement. “Sometimes they would offer pushback because they were afraid. I would say ‘Actually did you know that if we come together we have federally protected rights under the National Labor Relations Act?’ And they didn’t know that.”

Despite the difficulties, Alger and the other lead workplace organizers got nearly 90 percent of their shop to sign onto the petition demanding safer workplace conditions, $3 hazard pay increase plus back pay, and four weeks of paid sick leave. Within hours of receiving the petition, the area manager threatened two of them with retaliation, and sent a passive-aggressive text message to everyone warning them against a walkout. However, the text message also conceded on a few smaller demands, including being able to wear their own PPE.

In response to the threat of retaliation, EWOC’s Tristan Bock-Hughes, a DSA member and former regional field director for Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign, led a workplace rights training. He also role-played organizing conversations with the workplace leaders, training them in how to organize groups of workers on their own and prepare everyone for the big push.

Meanwhile, the EWOC media team arranged interviews for the following day. In these interviews, Taco Bell workers stressed that their demands were not only about their own safety, but about that of the whole community — a pandemic-specific iteration of what’s called in the labor movement “bargaining for the common good,” or relating demands to the needs of the broader public.

“On that same day that we contacted the press,” says Foster, “we had thermometers in store to begin doing health check screenings, which we hadn’t had for like a month. Once they saw that we were serious and we were willing to do whatever it takes to win, our boss reached out to us and we ended up getting a hazard pay.” The victories weren’t restricted to their shop, either — seven Taco Bell locations and a Sonic location were affected by the demands.

“It was $2 an hour with back pay instead of $3, but that’s still huge,” says Foster. “And we got two weeks of paid sick leave instead of four, which again is more than some places are getting.” Like Alger and his coworkers at Jimmy John’s, Foster says he and his Taco Bell coworkers will continue organizing for the rest of their demands.

“I’m diabetic,” says Foster, “so my complications from COVID-19 are potentially higher if I catch this.” He says that his stress about the virus itself has not gone away; the baseline fear of getting sick or losing loved ones to the illness won’t go away until we have a vaccine. “But it’s a huge relief for me to win these demands.” He feels more protected at work, and better compensated for the risks he’s taking. “Plus, we have elderly customers coming through the drive-through,” says Foster, “and it makes me feel better to know we’re protecting them too.”

Foster says that he thinks EWOC is meeting workers’ needs during this moment of crisis, but that it’s also contributing in a bigger way. He says, “Building the labor movement is the natural evolution of protecting your coworkers.”

Posted on

Trump Greenlights Sanctions Against International Criminal Court Investigators : NPR

A trio of judges oversees a trial in 2017 at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

Evert Elzinga/AFP via Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Evert Elzinga/AFP via Getty Images

A trio of judges oversees a trial in 2017 at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

Evert Elzinga/AFP via Getty Images

Updated at 12:53 p.m. ET

Two months after the International Criminal Court greenlighted an investigation into potential war crimes by U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the Trump administration is pushing back.

President Trump has imposed economic sanctions against court officials “directly engaged with any effort to investigate or prosecute United States personnel without the consent of the United States.”

The executive order released Thursday also expands visa restrictions against court officials and their families.

Trump said the ICC investigation threatens to subvert U.S. sovereignty and subject U.S. officials and their allies “to harassment, abuse, and possible arrest” — and “thereby threaten the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

Washington has long been at loggerheads with the ICC, which was established in 2002 without the membership of the U.S. The George W. Bush administration withdrew from the treaty that established the court just weeks before it took effect, explaining the decision in similar terms to those used in Trump’s order Thursday: U.S. officials were concerned at the prospect of a body outside the country’s borders having any form of jurisdiction over its citizens.

The court boasts the membership of 123 countries, including staunch U.S. allies the United Kingdom, France and Canada.

Yet even for this fractious relationship, an ICC decision earlier this year represented “a kind of crossing of the Rubicon,” Indiana University associate professor David Bosco told NPR at the time.

That’s because the investigation authorized by the ICC, the world’s only standing war crimes tribunal, may result in indictments against U.S. troops.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who pushed for the probe, has said the investigation will focus on alleged crimes by not only the Taliban and other armed groups, but also Afghan forces, U.S. forces and the CIA.

At a joint news conference Thursday with several senior Cabinet officials, including Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the court is “ineffective, unaccountable and is a politically motivated bureaucracy.”

Speaking about the Afghanistan probe, he said, “To make matters worse … we have every reason to believe our adversaries are manipulating the ICC by encouraging these allegations. These tactics represent a blatant attempt to subvert justice and the mission of the ICC.”

Barr, without presenting evidence, also accused Russia and other unnamed foreign powers of “manipulating the ICC in pursuit of their own agenda.”

The move Thursday is consistent with an administration that has repeatedly opposed U.S. participation in a number of international pacts and organizations. Administration officials have withdrawn from the United Nations’ Human Rights Council and the Paris climate accord, and more recently they announced intentions of “terminating” their relationship with the World Health Organization.

The ICC did not immediately respond publicly. Answering NPR’s request for comment, a spokesperson for the court said its officials are “aware” of the order and “will issue a reaction after examination of its content.”

Human rights groups, though, have decried the decision.

“The US assault on the ICC is an effort to block victims whether in Afghanistan, Israel or Palestine from seeing justice,” said Andrea Prasow, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch. “Countries that support international justice should oppose this attempt at obstruction.”

NPR’s Michele Kelemen contributed to this report.

Posted on

Chuck Schumer warns that delays to stimulus will disproportionately hurt black Americans 

If statements from Senate Republicans are any indication, the timeline for the next stimulus package just keeps on slipping.

While lawmakers had previously argued that it could get done before the Senate leaves for a July Fourth recess, several have since said that’s no longer likely. “End of July … is frankly my sense of when I think we’ll have all the information we need to put the next bill together,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) told Politico this week.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a letter provided exclusively to Vox, is urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump to move more quickly on the stimulus package — and highlighting how these delays could disproportionately hurt black Americans.

Specifically, Schumer emphasizes the lag in considering the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion bill the House passed in mid-May that would provide additional funds to states and cities facing huge deficits, and guarantee hazard pay for essential workers, among other provisions.

These delays will disproportionately hurt black Americans, Schumer writes: Data on both the coronavirus and economy has found that communities of color have been hit harder by Covid-19 fatalities and business closures in recent months. (Black Americans have died from the coronavirus at nearly three times the rate of white people, the Guardian reports, in part, because of systemic disparities in the health care system, and the fact that they’re far more likely to have “essential” jobs.)

It may seem like a stretch to connect the HEROES Act to the recent protests against police brutality, but congressional inaction on the economy is also about to coincide with the asks of the Black Lives Matter protests in a very real way all too soon. Without federal support, state and local governments are set to face massive spending cuts, as they face increasing pressure to cut police budgets rather than slash social services.

Republican arguments for the stimulus delays include concerns that some of the funds in previous bills have yet to be distributed and a stronger than expected recent jobs report. (Despite gains documented in the report, the unemployment rate is still at 13.3 percent, a high that hasn’t been reached since the Great Depression, and millions are still filing for new claims.)

Timing for the stimulus package matters, because programs that were included in earlier bills — like the boost in pandemic unemployment — are due to sunset at the end of July. As a result, the pressure to get something done is only growing as many workers and businesses continue to struggle with the economic fallout of the pandemic.

“Without immediate and comprehensive action by Republicans on additional COVID-19 legislation, communities of color and millions of working Americans are going to needlessly suffer and our efforts to rebuild and foster an equitable recovery of the American economy will also fall woefully short,” Schumer writes.

Schumer calls out key provisions of the HEROES Act

In the letter, Schumer outlines a couple of different areas where additional stimulus could help address racial disparities in coronavirus testing and contact tracing, as well as economic support.

The HEROES Act would provide hazard pay of up to $10,000 for essential workers, 41 percent of whom are people of color. Additionally, it would allocate $1 billion to Community Development Financial Institutions, which have a track record of lending to black business owners, many of whom have been shut out of the earlier stimulus offered via the Paycheck Protection Program.

It would also provide $75 billion for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, aimed specifically at addressing existing racial inequities around access to such resources.

Lack of stimulus for states and cities will likely force budget cuts

The delay on the stimulus also coincides with a key aim protesters have been pushing in their demonstrations against the police killing of George Floyd.

Because Congress hasn’t greenlit additional support for state and local governments — more than $900 billion of which is included in the HEROES Act — these localities will have to consider budget cuts to key services. While local leaders have targeted areas like K-12 education in the past, the pressure from protesters and the momentum they’ve generated could mean that cuts to police will be on the table.

As Peter Beinart writes for the Atlantic, cities might be forced to consider defunding the police as they weigh how to respond to revenue shortfalls.

At this point, the Senate is poised to leave for two weeks at the start of July — and it’s looking like more action on stimulus won’t happen until they return.


Support Vox’s explanatory journalism

Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.

Posted on

Seattle authorities must regain control of the “autonomous zone”

Part of me wants the cops and National Guard to go in there today and start rounding up hippies.

But another part of me wants to sit back and let this nascent retelling of “Animal Farm” play out a bit longer. Some lessons need to be learned the hard way.

It shouldn’t take long. At the rate we’re going they’ll be at the “some animals are more equal than others” stage by this weekend, with purges to begin shortly thereafter.

I’m doubling down on what I said in yesterday’s post: It remains difficult to tell whether the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” is essentially an elaborate drum circle or the beginning of a large-scale hostage situation. It’s equally unclear if the city and state think they’ll have difficulty clearing out the area or if they’re just holding off for the time being to avoid the optics of cops advancing on young wokesters because they won’t leave when asked.

There *are* sinister elements developing. Last night John posted this clip of the CHAZ’s new warlord, Raz Simone, enforcing law and order. Long live Secretary-General Raz:

Seattle cops admitted at a press conference that they’ve heard reports of extortion inside the area (I reproduced one such report myself yesterday):

She said police are receiving reports of armed people manning the check points intimidating people trying to enter.

“While Washington is an open carry state, there is no legal right for those arms to be used intimidate community members,” Nolette said.

Nolette said operating a citizen checkpoint on a public street is illegal.

“We have heard anecdotally of citizens and businesses being asked to pay a fee to operate within this area; this is crime of extortion,” Nolette said.

The city’s fire chief was on the scene yesterday in hopes of closing two large metal gates to the now-abandoned police precinct’s garage. The “occupiers” helped him do it. “[W]e got a team, we are working through this and there is some trust built and I don’t want to compromise the trust,” said the chief when asked afterward about the … unusual arrangement. The NYT’s read on it, while astonishing, is correct: “The protest zone has increasingly functioned with the tacit blessing of the city.”

They’ve even got their own street signs, for cripes sake:

On the other hand:

That’s from our Townhall cousin, Julio Rosas, who’s on the scene. The Times also noticed the block-party atmosphere, calling the CHAZ “part street festival, part commune. Hundreds have gathered to hear speeches, poetry and music. On Tuesday night, dozens of people sat in the middle of an intersection to watch ’13th,’ the Ava DuVernay film about the criminal justice system’s impact on African-Americans. On Wednesday, children made chalk drawings in the middle of the street.” It sounds like the equivalent of a campus sit-in, except possibly a bit more chill.

But it can’t go on forever. Real life isn’t campus (except inside the New York Times newsroom), no matter how much the left wishes it was. Christopher Rufo of City Journal asked one Seattle cop what the plan is here. Answer: No plan right now.

According to one Seattle police officer with knowledge of internal deliberations, the city’s “leadership is in chaos” and “the mayor has made the decision to let a mob of 1,000 people dictate public safety policy for a city of 750,000.” The officer said that Chief Best had dispatched high-ranking police officials to the autonomous zone to establish a line of communication, but the officials were immediately sent away by armed paramilitaries at the barricades. “The tide of public opinion is on the side of the activists and they’re pushing the envelope as far as they can,” said the officer. “It’s not hyperbolic to say the endgame is anarchy.”

Amazingly, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee hadn’t even heard that Seattle had lost control of part of its Capitol Hill district to protesters until yesterday afternoon, 48 hours after the CHAZ was born. “That’s news to me,” he said at a news conference when asked about it.

The president, still smarting over his recent lost opportunity to look tough by deploying troops to American streets, sees a new one:

It’s the Insurrection Act debate all over again. Rather than wait for evidence that local cops and the National Guard can’t deal with the problem themselves, he’s trying to bigfoot local officials by inserting the military into the situation. He really wants a presidential show of force against Americans to underline his “law and order” message.

It says a lot about the country in 2020 that both the governor and the mayor thought there’d be more political benefit from goofing on him and his demands than from siding with him against an armed occupation of several city blocks:

Click to view Durkan’s full tweet and you’ll see that it contains some raised-fist emojis — at a moment that part of her own city has been declared off limits to police by “armed paramilitaries.” What?

Trump should skip the tough-guy chatter and instead calmly emphasize that a Democratic-run city can’t be trusted to protect its own citizens from woke thugs. Turn up the heat politically on Inslee and Durkan by focusing on their complicity in the takeover, minus any threats. Let voters draw their own conclusions about whether to empower Democrats at the national level this fall.

Posted on

Live Coronavirus Updates: Schools Face Hurdles

Amusement parks, salons, real estate agents and gyms around the country have begun requiring customers and workers to sign liability waivers pledging not to sue if they become infected with the coronavirus. And states like Alabama, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Utah have put in place new rules to protect companies from lawsuits if their workers or customers contract the virus at their businesses.

Whether companies would be liable for virus transmissions has become a key question as businesses seek to reopen around the country. Companies, universities and the groups that represent them are pushing Congress for temporary legal protections that they say will help get the economy running again.

But that idea has engendered stiff opposition among congressional Democrats and labor unions, who say that such a liability shield would encourage reckless behavior.

The debate is coming to a head in Washington, as Congress considers its next round of coronavirus legislation. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has singled out liability protection as the top Republican priority, with White House officials echoing that sentiment. Lawmakers expect some version of virus relief to pass through both chambers before the end of the summer.

But trial lawyers — as well as some legal experts — say the risk of such lawsuits is overstated and that legal protections may backfire.

“Immunity signals to workers and consumers that they go back to work or they go to the grocery store at their peril,” said David C. Vladeck, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Smaller classes, masks, slashed budgets: Educators look toward an altered landscape.

Across the United States, school leaders are beginning to roll out plans to welcome more than 50 million students back in the fall, including procuring millions of masks; flooding schools with nurses, aides and counselors; and staggering schedules to minimize class size.

But the expensive demands to meet public health guidelines and increasing pressure to make up for setbacks that have disproportionately affected low-income students, students of color and those with disabilities could cripple some schools’ budgets.

On Wednesday, educators told a Senate panel that without a large federal investment in public schools, districts hit hard by the virus will struggle to meet the needs of their pupils this fall as they try to reopen.

Around the world, schools are trying to manage the risks and rewards of having students back in classrooms. This week, Britain abandoned plans to have primary school pupils return before the summer holidays because of the difficulty of social distancing and the reluctance of parents to send their children back. Unlike many schools in the United States, schools in Britain had remained open during its lockdown for vulnerable students and those whose parents are essential workers.

In other places, though, students have returned. In the Netherlands, all elementary schools opened on Monday. Social distancing is not required for children in day care and elementary schools — and they are not required to wear masks — but they must wash their hands often. Outdoor play is done with a consistent group of children, and after school everyone has to leave the premises immediately. Parents are not allowed to gather inside the school or on the school’s playground. At Dutch high schools, which opened last week, social distancing is required.

Some schools in Spain, which was among the hardest-hit countries in Europe, opened late last month, but the return to class is patchwork as public schools are controlled by 17 regional governments.

Schools in Hong Kong began to reopen on May 27 for half-day classes after being closed since February. Students, teachers and visitors are required to wear masks, sanitize their hands and have their temperature checked upon arrival.

It is impossible to know what the time away from school will mean for children, but some studies paint a bleak picture. As our reporter Dana Goldstein wrote last week, new research suggests that by September, most students in the United States will have fallen behind where they would have been if they had stayed in classrooms, with some losing the equivalent of a full school year’s worth of academic gains.

And to do any of what needs to be done to reopen, schools need money. At the Senate hearing on Wednesday, Susana Cordova, the superintendent of Denver Public Schools, told senators, “At a time when our kids and our communities need us most, we are having to make massive cuts.” Additional funding would be essential, she said: “We must double down for those who have been most impacted by the Covid crisis if we are to deliver on the promise of education to create a more equitable society.”

An additional 1.5 million new state unemployment claims were filed last week across the United States, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

That is the lowest number since the crisis began and continues the decline from the more than six million claims filed in a single week in March, but it is still an unusually high number.

More than 40 million state claims have been filed since the pandemic caused a widespread shutdown of businesses. In addition, some of the people ineligible for state benefits, like the self-employed, are getting aid under an emergency federal program.

“We’re slowly seeing the labor market recovery begin to take form,” said Robert Rosener, an economist at Morgan Stanley, but “there’s still an enormous amount of layoffs going on.”

The government reported last week that jobs rebounded in May and that the unemployment rate fell unexpectedly to 13.3 percent. Correcting for a classification error, the rate was closer to 16.4 percent — still lower than in April, but higher than at any other point since the Great Depression.

Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, warned on Wednesday that the economic pain could last for years and there would be “a significant chunk” — millions of workers — “who don’t get to go back to their old job, and there may not be a job in that industry for them for some time.”

Wall Street on Thursday was facing its third straight day of declines. U.S. stock futures tumbled more than 2 percent, amid a fresh round of negative forecasts about the economic recovery and signs that coronavirus cases continue to climb around the world.

The drugmaker Regeneron said on Thursday that it was beginning a clinical trial of an antibody cocktail that it has developed to prevent and treat Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Regeneron, which is based in Tarrytown, N.Y., is one of a handful of companies trying to develop treatments that work similarly to the antibodies that people develop naturally when they contract the virus. If the treatments work, they might provide a bridge to a vaccine, and possibly a temporary protection to people like health care workers who are at high risk of becoming infected.

The company said it would begin testing its product in four groups: patients who are hospitalized with Covid-19; those who are infected and have symptoms but are not hospitalized; groups that are at high risk of being infected, like health care workers; and people who have been exposed to someone with Covid-19.

Regeneron developed the antibody treatment using specially designed mice that have human immune systems, as well as by isolating antibodies from people who have recovered from Covid-19. The researchers selected two of the most potent antibodies and then scaled them up for testing. A similar approach was used by Regeneron in an antibody treatment that was shown to work with Ebola patients.

“We hope to see similar success with this program and help improve outcomes against this terrible disease,” Christos Kyratsous, a vice president at Regeneron, said in a statement.

Drug trials are highly unpredictable, even if they have shown early promise in the lab. Still, the company has said that if the cocktail is successful, it could be ready to produce thousands of doses for preventive use by the end of the summer, before vaccines are available.

Other companies working on antibody treatments include Eli Lilly, which recently began early-stage trials of its treatment, and Vir Biotechnology, which is working in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline.

The elections held around the United States during the pandemic have revealed a mixed picture as different states experienced huge increases in voting by mail.

The good news: The rapid expansion of voting by mail over the past few months allowed millions of people to vote without risking their health. During the pandemic, turnout in the 15 states that have held elections, and Washington, D.C., was high, and in some cases at near-record levels, even after former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had all but secured the Democratic presidential nomination.

The bad news: A host of infrastructure and logistical issues might have cost thousands of Americans their opportunity to vote. There have been complaints of ballots lost in the mail; printed on the wrong paper, with the wrong date or the wrong language; or that arrived late or not at all.

Absent from any reported issues in the states, however, were indications of widespread fraud. President Trump has repeatedly made false arguments that voting by mail is riddled with fraud.

But the most definitive lesson for the election in November may be the strong possibility that many states, including battlegrounds, will not finish counting ballots on election night.

A young woman whose lungs were destroyed by the coronavirus received a double lung transplant last week at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, the hospital reported on Thursday, the first known lung transplant in the United States for Covid-19.

The 10-hour surgery was more difficult and took several hours longer than most lung transplants because inflammation from the disease had left the woman’s lungs “completely plastered to tissue around them, the heart, the chest wall and diaphragm,” said Dr. Ankit Bharat, the chief of thoracic surgery and surgical director of the lung transplant program at Northwestern Medicine, which includes Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in an interview.

He said the patient, a woman in her 20s who had no serious underlying medical conditions, was recovering well: “She’s awake, she’s smiling, she FaceTimed with her family.”

But she has a long way to go. She is still on a ventilator because even though the transplanted lungs are healthy, her long illness has left her chest muscles too weak for breathing, and it will take time for her strength to return.

The transplant was her only chance for survival, Dr. Bharat said. His team wanted other transplant centers to know that the operation could save some desperately ill Covid-19 patients.

He said that other medical centers had been calling to find out about the operation and that some wanted to send Covid-19 patients to Northwestern for lung transplants.

“I want to emphasize that this is not for every Covid patient,” Dr. Bharat said. “We are talking about patients who are relatively young, very functional, with minimal to no comorbid conditions, with permanent lung damage who can’t get off the ventilator.”

For such patients, he said, the news of a successful transplant “absolutely could start something.”

It’s moppish. It’s unruly. It’s mesmerizing.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s hair has long been a subject of fascination, ridicule and adulation in Canada. But three months into the coronavirus pandemic, as he has appeared day after day at televised briefings to answer questions — and sweep the bangs off his face — commentary on Mr. Trudeau’s mane has become a national sport.

Letters to the editor have been written and newspaper columns crafted. Videos of his hair flip — and the beard he started to grow before the virus struck — have been set to various styles of music and uploaded to YouTube. One has garnered more than 265,000 views.

Mr. Trudeau might be the country’s prime minister, but he is following the rules and not getting a haircut like much of his unkempt nation, with residents of Ontario, the most populous province, and Montreal barred from visiting barber shops and salons since March.

Still, Mr. Trudeau is a master of image branding, and most people believe there is a political point.

“One thing he understands very well is the importance of symbolism in a leader, ” said Peter Donolo, the director of communications for a former Liberal prime minister, Jean Chrétien, and now the vice chairman of a public relations and lobbying firm.

“Also, it helps that he looks like a million dollars with his hair long,” he added.

Xie Yiyi, who is American-educated, lost her job last Friday, making the 22-year-old Beijing resident one of millions of young people in China left unmoored and shaken by the coronavirus. So that same day, heeding the advice of one of China’s top leaders, she decided to open a barbecue stall.

Street vendors are seen by many Chinese people as embarrassing eyesores from the country’s past, when it was still emerging from extreme poverty. In many Chinese cities, uniformed neighborhood rule enforcers called chengguan regularly evict and assault sidewalk sellers of fake jewelry, cheap clothes and spicy snacks.

But Li Keqiang, China’s premier, has publicly called for the country’s jobless to ignite a “stall economy” to get the country’s derailed economy back on track. In the process, he laid bare China’s diverging narratives after the coronavirus epidemic. Is China an increasingly middle-class country, represented by the skyscrapers and tech campuses in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen? Or is much of it still poor and backward, a country of roadside stalls in back alleys?

Here are some other developments from around the world.

  • Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous country, is experiencing a sustained spike in coronavirus cases, roughly three weeks after millions of people began crisscrossing the country at the end of Ramadan. This week, Indonesia has recorded three consecutive days with about 1,000 new infections each day, with a total of 35,295 cases and 2,000 deaths as of Thursday afternoon.

  • Concerned about the economic impact on tourism and universities, the European Union is recommending that all member countries in the bloc open their borders to one another by Monday. The European Commission, the executive branch of the bloc, is recommending a gradual opening to outsiders starting in July. The E.U. had advised countries to close borders to external visitors in March, but the advice is not binding.

  • Professional soccer resumed in Spain on Wednesday with one of the strangest games on record, as two teams, Rayo Vallecano and Albacete, completed a match that had been called off in December. The original game was abandoned halfway through because of the threatening behavior and offensive chanting of the Rayo fans, who were targeting an Albacete player. Soccer and other sports competitions were then halted in mid-March, when Spain declared a state of emergency to help contain the coronavirus. On Wednesday, Rayo beat Albacete 1-0.

A reporter and a photojournalist for The New York Times recently spent two weeks documenting Europe’s emergence from a monthslong lockdown. They drove through six countries, trying to capture a world that teetered on the lip of normality and often toppled into the surreal.

At a parking lot in Prague, a group of actors prepared a stage set — but then performed to an audience of cars.

In Schüttorf, a small German town near the Dutch border, a nightclub hosted guests. But the clubbers had to stay in their cars. They were allowed outside only to use the bathroom.

In an industrial wasteland in northern Copenhagen, a family of churchgoers said their prayers from the comfort of their car, as their pastor preached to them in a parking lot.

But the longer the pair traveled, the faster Europe seemed to accelerate toward normalcy. Cars were back jamming the streets. Chatter was returning to the classrooms. Families were beginning to meet again.

Across the continent, Europeans were gradually adapting to the new reality. The normal felt almost normal again.

A number of public health agencies have offered tips for dating and sex during the pandemic, but the New York City health department has recently updated its Safer Sex and Covid-19 fact sheet with more-detailed and descriptive advice. The new guidelines still say “you are your safest sex partner,” and that the “next safest partner” is someone in your household.

However, the guidance also acknowledges that not everyone has access to an exclusive sex partner at home. People who are dating or “hooking up” should still try to minimize close contact. Safer sex during Covid-19 also means wearing a mask and avoiding kissing. “Heavy breathing and panting can spread the virus further,” it says.

The guidelines discourage group sex, but give advice for those who do “decide to find a crowd.” “Pick larger, more open, ventilated spaces,” it states, among other things.

Individuals can try to find creative alternatives to traditional sex, such as sex toys, masturbating together and sexy Zoom parties, or they could try to “make it a little kinky,” the guidelines state, suggesting, among other things, that people can avoid close contact by having sex through holes in walls or other barriers. “Be creative with sexual positions and physical barriers, like walls, that allow sexual contact while preventing close face-to-face contact,” the guidelines state.

If the language seems surprisingly direct, it’s supposed to be, said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“Our health department has a really strong record of being very sex positive,” Dr. Daskalakis said. “Abstinence for the duration of the pandemic is not going to work. We tend not to shy away from giving people realistic recommendations. There’s no reason for Covid-19 to be different.”

Reporting was contributed by Hannah Beech, Nick Corasaniti, Dana Goldstein, Denise Grady, Erica L. Green, Tiffany Hsu, Patrick Kingsley, Raphael Minder, Claire Moses, Monika Pronczuk, Alan Rappeport, Kaly Soto, Ana Swanson, Katie Thomas, Laetitia Vancon, Daniel Victor, Michael Wines and Li Yuan.