5 things to know for May 15: China, pandemic, childhood illness, Richard Burr, stimulus


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1. China 

The US is upping military pressure on China over tensions raised by the pandemic. Earlier this week, the Pentagon accused China of exploiting the crisis to gain military and economic advantages by expanding where it operates. President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have also continued to blame China for the outbreak. Trump this week reiterated his claim that Beijing could have stopped the spread of the virus. But there’s more at play here than just the coronavirus. Experts say these tensions also tie in to standoffs over the South China Sea, a crucial strategic region that crosses major shipping routes and is rich in natural resource deposits. Over the past few weeks, US Navy ships and Air Force B-1 bombers have undertaken missions aimed at sending a very public message that the US military intends to maintain a presence in the region and reassure allies.

2. Coronavirus 

More than 300,000 people have now died worldwide as a result of the coronavirus, and the number of global cases is closing in on 4.5 million. The bleak milestone was punctuated by an even bleaker proposition from the executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, who said the virus may never go away. That mirrors sentiments from a Baltimore ER doctor, who said during a CNN coronavirus town hall that strategies among doctors have shifted from eliminating the virus entirely to reducing risk. Around the world, countries are seeing mixed results from initial reopening measures. Some European countries, like Spain and Italy, are seeing much lower case numbers as they cautiously come out of lockdown. But China is reintroducing restrictions after two cities reported new cases of the virus. And in the US, the easing of lockdown measures has prompted a leading coronavirus model to up the predicted nationwide death toll to 147,000 by August. 

3. Childhood inflammatory disease

The CDC has issued a health advisory over the mysterious childhood disease doctors think could be linked to the coronavirus. The syndrome, which is being called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, has been seen in kids across Europe and in at least 18 US states. It causes the immune system to overreact, leading to inflammation throughout the body. It’s rarely fatal, and most children recover. Now, the CDC is asking hospitals to report all possible cases to public health authorities so they can learn more about it. Researchers in Italy are the latest to publish research that makes the link between the syndrome and Covid-19. In one Italian region, they say, the pandemic brought a 30-fold rise in the number of cases of the syndrome.

4. Sen. Richard Burr 

Sen. Richard Burr is stepping aside as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The North Carolina Republican is under investigation for stock trades he made ahead of the market downturn sparked by the pandemic. The FBI this week served Burr’s lawyer with a search warrant, and as a result, Burr surrendered his Senate-issued cell phone. This is a big development because the fact that investigators were able to obtain a warrant suggests they have reason to believe Burr’s actions are worth a closer look. Burr says he’s fully cooperating with investigators but is resigning as intel chairman because the situation is “a distraction to the hard work of the committee.” He’ll still be on the panel, says he has no plans to resign from the Senate and says he doesn’t believe he exercised poor judgment with his stock trades. 

5. Stimulus package

The House will vote on the new $3 trillion Covid-19 package today, but some moderate Democrats are having trouble accepting it. They’re worried about what will happen if they push through such a massive bill without bipartisan support. Progressives, meanwhile, think the package doesn’t go far enough to provide aid to vulnerable Americans. As this plays out, the Department of Labor’s latest numbers show another 3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. The Federal Reserve Bank also issued a report yesterday that revealed nearly 40% of low-income workers lost their jobs in March, which shows just how unequally the economic downturn is affecting American workers. 

BREAKFAST BROWSE

The Las Vegas airport is providing personal protective equipment vending machines for passengers

PPE slot machines would have been too on-the-nose.

The best way to cut your bangs

Go ahead, try to master the quintessential crisis haircut.

The pandemic has people interested in buying private islands

Diners at one Virginia restaurant will share the space with decked-out social distancing mannequins 

200514001148 02 restaurant coronavirus mannequins inn little washington small 169

Georgia officials are asking the public to help track 4-foot-long, invasive lizards

You know what, Georgia officials, we think you’re gonna have to go it alone on this one.

TODAY’S NUMBER

$72.9 billion

That’s how much countries spent on nuclear weapons last year. The US accounted for half of that spending — to the tune of $35.4 billion.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“Forgive me for being angry; I’m angry because I’ve done this for so, so long. And I’ve been ignored for so long.”

Mike Bowen, the vice president of the Texas-based medical supply company Prestige Ameritech, who said during emotional Congressional testimony that he’s been trying for years to get the CDC interested in contracts that would supply government entities with enough medical masks to weather a crisis like the one we’re in now. 

TODAY’S WEATHER

Severe storms are headed for the Northeast 

Thunderstorms and damaging winds could batter places from Ohio to New Hampshire this afternoon and evening. The bad weather could also bring a risk of tornadoes

AND FINALLY

Ahhhhh …… It’s Friday

Enjoy a relaxing, pretty tune in a relaxing, pretty place, played on the kalimba, an instrument based on the mbira, a traditional African finger harp. (Click here to view.)



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