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A Hot Southern Summer Of Covid-19 Begins

MOBILE, AL -- Though Gov. Kay Ivey has mostly reopened the state -- restaurants, hair and nail salons and gyms included -- cases of COVID-19 are increasing here, not declining. And Mobile County, home to a sleepy Gulf Coast port city, has led the state in confirmed cases for weeks now, though it has a smaller population than Jefferson County, which includes Birmingham.

Unfortunately, the case count -- and the death count -- will likely worsen after the bustling Memorial Day weekend, when throngs will flock to beaches, ignoring guidelines about social distancing. We have not reached our peak. The worst is not over here.

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Trump Unable To Explain His Bogus Hurricane Map

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

As with many stories about President Donald Trump, this one may toss you into a familiar cycle: first you laugh, then you cry, and then you fantasize about November 2020.

The president’s latest round of nonsense began on Sunday when he announced on Twitter that, among other southern states, Alabama “will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated” by Hurricane Dorian, which was making its way toward the East Coast.

Just shortly after that tweet, the National Weather Service branch in Birmingham, Alabama, refuted the president:

When Trump was speaking with reporters Sunday after the tweet, he reiterated that Alabama was in the storm’s path, even though, as CNN reported, a spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed this was false.

But Trump doubled down, again and again, saying that Alabama was likely to get hit and lashing out at the media for reporting on his discrepancies. Then on Wednesday, the White House posted a video on Twitter showing the president referring to an outdated weather forecast, which, nevertheless didn’t show Dorian hitting Alabama. But there appeared to be an additional line, possibly drawn in sharpie, that falsely extended the projection of the storm’s path into Alabama.

Later on Wednesday, when pressed about this bizarre map, Trump flailed in response. He said he didn’t know where the falsified map came from.

“Actually, we have a better map than that which is going to be presented, where we had many lines going directly — many models, each line being a model — and they were going directly through, in all cases, Alabama was hit,” he said.

Asked specifically about the sharpie line, he just said: “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know…”

As CNN reported:

CNN Weather meteorologists say one forecast on Friday afternoon showed one-tenth of one county in extreme southwest Alabama was included in one model. But that map bears little resemblance to the one Trump showed on Wednesday. And the official track from the National Hurricane Center never showed Dorian’s track entering the Gulf of Mexico, as Trump also claimed.

One available map, shared on Monday by the National Hurricane Center, showed a projection of Dorian’s path that did somewhat overlap with the state of Alabama. But the section covering the state only represented a 5 percent chance of receiving 39 mph winds in a narrow region; it did not suggest at all that Alabama would likely be “hit (much) harder than anticipated.”

If Trump wants to defend his false claims, he would have been wiser to use this map, rather than one with a clumsily drawn line.

But he shouldn’t just be worried about defending himself. He should be worried about trying to get things right, because his decisions and credibility actually matter. But as always, Trump finds it impossible to admit he was ever wrong.

Missouri Joins Alabama In Criminalizing Abortion Providers

Missouri is about to become the latest GOP-led state to try to make doctors criminals for providing women the basic health care service of safely ending an unwanted pregnancy.

Missouri’s Republican-held legislature passed a bill on Friday that bans abortion after eight weeks gestation, and subjects doctors who perform the procedure after that point to five to 15 years in prison.

The bill is likely to be signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike Parson. If and when that happens, Missouri will become the sixth state just this year, and the eighth state overall, to pass a law criminalizing most abortions starting in the first trimester of pregnancy — often before women even know they are pregnant.

The other states passing extreme abortion bans this year have been Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi; similar laws passed in 2018 in Iowa and in 2013 in North Dakota. Alabama’s law bans abortion regardless of when a woman finds out she’s pregnant, and the others ban abortion at six weeks — which is just two weeks after a missed period.

Missouri is also the second state legislature this week that has voted to ban abortions even in the case of rape or incest, an especially draconian move that re-traumatizes victims.

Alabama’s near-total abortion ban that was signed this week also has no exceptions for rape or incest, and only makes exceptions for when a woman’s health is at “serious” risk — making it the most restrictive anti-abortion bill in the country. It also subjects doctors who perform the procedure to up to 99 years in prison.

All of these extreme bills either have been, or likely soon will be, blocked from going into effect by federal courts. That’s because they blatantly violate Supreme Court precedent under Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision guaranteeing women the right to an abortion.

But these GOP-controlled states are passing the bans anyway, in the hope that the legal challenges to their anti-woman laws will make their way to the Supreme Court — where they believe the two Trump-appointed conservative justices will help overturn Roe.

Republicans have painted their crusade as “pro-life.” However, abortion bans like those in Missouri and Alabama put women’s lives in danger.

This is also the same political party that’s seeking to take away health care protections from Americans, refusing to accept refugees who face violence in their home countries, and traumatizing children by jailing and separating them from their parents at the border.

The GOP is not a “pro-life” party. It’s an anti-woman one.

Published with permission of The American Independent. 

IMAGE: An anti-abortion protester demonstrates outside the U.S. Supreme Court building. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst 

Welcome To The Dystopia Of Alabama

Let’s start with a few facts about the children currently living in Alabama.

Twenty-six percent of them — more than 285,280 — lived in poverty in 2018, which is the most recent year for available data. About 30 percent of Alabama’s children living in poverty are younger than 5.

This data comes from Kids Count, an annual project by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that tracks children’s well-being in every state.

Poverty has its consequences, particularly for young children. Research has long shown that growing up poor harms brain development. How much?

A 2015 pediatric study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association answers that question with devastating clarity.

Poverty cripples a child’s ability to learn, and not just for a little while. As Scientific American reported, the study showed that “up to 20 percent of the achievement gap between high- and low-income children may be explained by differences in brain development.”

How bad are those differences?

“The researchers found that children who grew up in families below the federal poverty line had gray matter volumes 8 to 10 percent below normal development.”

To be clear, by “gray matter,” they mean the brain.

So, that’s one measure of how much Alabama values the life of a child.

Here’s another: Alabama has the highest infant mortality rate in the country. When it comes to keeping children alive after they’re born, Alabama is rock-bottom last.

So, what is Alabama doing to help these children?

Well, we have news.

In the competition for which state is the closest replica of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian Republic of Gilead, Alabama is the hands-down winner. It is now the most dangerous state in the country, and the most hostile one, for women of reproductive age.

This week, the Alabama state legislature passed the harshest anti-abortion bill in the U.S., with no exceptions for rape or incest. Say that out loud, and then try to come up with a scenario where that sounds OK.

In Alabama, we already know how that scenario plays out. A bunch of Republican legislators had the chance to imagine what it would be like to be a 14-year-old girl raped by her father and then forced to deliver a child that will remind her of that trauma every day of her life. They were just fine with that.

I am reminded, not in a good way, of the afternoon I spent sitting in an Ohio statehouse committee room a few years back. This was an earlier round of the so-called heartbeat bill, which just passed again in Ohio, and also in Georgia. A right-to-life zealot with a law degree stood before the Republican majority and argued that a pregnancy conceived during a rape is a gift from God. As he spoke, rape survivors in the audience quietly sobbed with outrage and grief.

In Alabama, Rep. Terri Collins, who sponsored the new anti-abortion bill, said that its purpose is to “force the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade,” the landmark 1973 decision that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion.

Yet another Republican who thinks women’s bodies are their playground. I’m sure they’d never put it that way, because any reference to play in the context of reproductive rights would suggest that some women have sex for fun. There will be none of that in the Heart of Dixie.

As usual, there is no statutory punishment for all those men and boys inseminating women and girls who weren’t planning to get pregnant. The last thing Republican legislators want to do is mess up junior’s life.

For many years, “We Dare Defend Our Rights” has been Alabama’s state motto. Now that they’ve made clear who does and does not have them, it’s time for a new motto, don’t you think? Maybe “Take a Whirl, Blame the Girl.”

Until further notice, all you women and girls of reproductive age in Alabama can pick up bonnets and red dresses at one of the 144 Walmart stores in Alabama, where the average hourly wage, as reported in January 2019, is $13.89.

Work 40 hours and you, too, can make just barely enough money to keep you above the poverty line for a family of four.

Who needs a growing brain?

 

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.