America colleges

2021 Best Colleges in America: Harvard Leads the University Rankings – The Wall Street Journal

The more things change, the more they stay the same—at least at some of the oldest, most prestigious universities in the U.S.

That’s one of the takeaways from this year’s Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings, which award Harvard University the top spot for the fourth straight year, followed by its next-door neighbor, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in second place, and Yale University in third.


Read More

America Sorry

Sorry America, But The Second Stimulus Check May Not Happen After All – Forbes

I hope you haven’t made plans to spend the proposed second round of stimulus payments. As each week passes in this long summer, the likelihood of receiving those payments becomes increasingly questionable.

medical mask and hand disinfectant and stressed woman


As a frequent writer on this particular topic, I must admit to being as confused as anyone else on this issue. Back on July 10, I wrote in this space that Congress had no choice but to pass a second stimulus bill. The Cares Act – which included the $600 per week federal unemployment subsidy, as well as the original round of $1,200 individual stimulus payments – was set to expire on July 31. Meanwhile, Election Day (November 3) was no longer a distant, over-the-horizon event.

With the Democratic House-passed HEROES Act already sitting in the Senate for nearly two months, passage of a new – if stripped down – version of that bill looked certain by month-end. It seemed like political suicide to do otherwise.

But I was wrong – or at least I have been so far. July 31 came and went, and no new act has been forthcoming from Congress, relating to either a second round of stimulus payments or an extension of federal unemployment benefits.

That missed call is squarely on me, as well as on other writers, political analysts and assorted fortune tellers, who likewise saw passage of a second bill as inevitable. But where Stimulus Round Two goes from here is entirely on Congress.

At this point at least, that outcome now seems so uncertain that it’s time to contemplate the possibility it may not happen at all.

Follow me here…

The Reasons for Passing a Second Stimulus Bill are as Strong as Ever

This is where the plot gets thicker. None of the conditions that drove the first stimulus package or generated talk of a second round have disappeared.

Examples include:


Despite steady improvement in the number of new claims for unemployment since the peak in April, the job market began cooling in July. In the most recent statistics released for the week ending August 15, the number of new claims for unemployment unexpectedly spiked to 1.1 million, up from 963,000 the previous week. Clearly the unemployment situation remains in crisis.

The current level of new claims is more than four times the 250,000 per week average before the pandemic shutdown. And the number of people dependent on government benefits related to unemployment continues to be staggeringly high.

“28 million,” reports Forbes Staff Writer Sarah Hansen. “That’s how many people are receiving some form of government unemployment benefit, according to the Labor Department. That number is unchanged from two weeks ago.”

Despite the statistical evidence of an improvement in the unemployment situation since the peak of the pandemic, it’s obvious we are not out of the woods yet – or even close.


With the still lingering effects of the Covid-19 economic fallout, many millions of American households are facing the threat of foreclosure or eviction.

While it’s true that millions of American homeowners have their mortgages placed in forbearance, that’s not necessarily a get-out-of-jail free card. Payments not made during forbearance are added to the principal balance of a mortgage. That means the homeowner will owe more on the mortgage after forbearance than before. That not only puts off the day of reckoning, but it also works to reduce home equity.

Many households have been in forbearance since the crisis began back in March. And with Covid-19 cases continuing to rise in many Sunbelt states, the situation is rapidly compounding. Forbearance hasn’t fixed the Covid-19 housing crisis, but mostly deferred it to a future date.

But the situation is even more pronounced for renters.

“Even though White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow has hinted on an extension, the provision’s expiration has allowed landlords to file eviction notices, though they won’t be able to push people out of their homes for at least another 30 days,” wrote Forbes Contributor Niall McCarthy, at the end of July. “Combined with the cut in unemployment payments, it is likely to create the perfect storm for U.S. renters. An analysis from global advisory firm Stout Risius Ross estimates that more than 40% of renter households in the U.S. are going to experience rental shortfall during the Covid-19 crisis with just under 12 million facing eviction over the next four months alone. Around 17 million are likely to be impacted throughout the pandemic.”

The crisis among renters can trigger a domino effect. Even if the White House succeeds in extending restrictions against filing eviction notices against tenants, small landlords will be at increasing risk of losing those properties to foreclosure or simply due to ongoing financial losses.

Covid-19 Cases Continue to Spread Rapidly in Some States

Since Covid-19 is the source of the current economic crisis, it’s continued spread holds obvious concern for the economic recovery.

Thus far, the virus has proven both unpredictable and inconsistent. Overall numbers of new infections have moderated in recent weeks, but the pattern is uneven at best. According to data from the CDC, large Sunbelt states, particularly California, Texas and Florida, are continuing to see large numbers of new infections. Meanwhile, other states, where the virus seemed to be contained, are now seeing at least moderate increases in new cases. This includes New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, the former epicenters of Covid-19 in the US.

It’s reasonable to conclude that until Covid-19 is in full retreat, the US economy remains vulnerable. Congress may not be able to make the virus go away but extending unemployment benefits and issuing new stimulus payments will at least minimize the economic impact.

The Half Measures in the President’s Executive Order

To its credit, the Trump White House stepped up when the Senate failed to act on extending the provisions of the Cares Act. The President signed an executive order on August 8 extending federal unemployment benefits by up to $400 per week. But on closer analysis, the benefit isn’t quite as generous as promised.

“Last week, after weeks of failing to secure a stimulus deal, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that would have provided $400 a week in supplemental unemployment benefits,” reported Forbes Contributor Zack Friedman. “However, the $400 benefit was contingent upon states funding 25%, or $100. Later, the U.S. Labor Department said that states could apply their current state unemployment benefits toward the 25% share, which effectively reduced the weekly unemployment benefit to $300 instead of $400. To date, no state government has agreed to fund the supplemental $100.”

Translation: the federal unemployment extension is just $300, and doesn’t begin to go into effect until August 29. That means not only did previous benefit recipients see their weekly checks cut in half, but they’re also going several weeks with no federal benefit at all.

And the much promised $1,200 stimulus payments? They’re not a part of the President’s Executive Order. No Senate approval of such a stimulus payment plan, no stimulus checks!

Is it Time to Give Up Hope of a Second Round of Stimulus Payments?

The most immediate concern is that the US Senate has adjourned for August recess. They’re not scheduled to return until September 8, the day after Labor Day. That means not only will July 31 have come and gone without a new stimulus act being passed, but apparently so will August 31.

Despite the economic pressures being faced by millions of Americans – in combination with the oncoming November elections – there seems to be little incentive in the Senate to act on a new stimulus package, or at least to do it quickly.

One theory is that members of the Senate will come back with more motivation after recess than they had before. But it’s equally possible we’ll see an impasse over the same issues that tied up the new bill in that chamber since May.

It’s now possible that weeks could turn into months, relegating a new stimulus package to be passed with checks released just before election day.

Or not. After all, the Senate has surprised many by failing to act up to this point.

Final Thoughts

None of this is to categorically declare that a second round of stimulus payments or an extension of federal unemployment benefits won’t happen. But it is to highlight that the indecision has dragged on much longer than most would’ve expected back in July, as the end of the Cares Act came and went.

The point is, it’s premature to make plans for receipt of a second stimulus check.

At this point, there will be no stimulus checks issued in August. There’s a slight chance they’ll go out in September. More likely, a bill will be passed sometime in September, with checks to be issued in October. Whether the timing – just before the election – will be intentional or accidental, will be the subject of future debate.

One fact does seem reasonably certain however: if a second stimulus package isn’t passed and checks issued in October, the next best hope will be 2021.

But don’t hold your breath if that happens.

Read More

America start

America is about to start online learning, Round 2. For millions of students, it won’t be any better. – The Washington Post

That includes 700,000 students in California alone. Come fall, these children won’t log on for school because they don’t have computers.

“I remember people speaking of the Fourth of July as if everything would be fine by the Fourth of July, and life would be back to normal,” said Casey Allen, superintendent of Ballard County Schools in Kentucky, which is offering parents a choice between in-person and online school.

Now, he said, “We will be building the plane while we fly it, on virtual learning.”

Complicating matters further was the politicization of school openings. President Trump insisted in all-caps tweets that schools must fully reopen in the fall so the economy could as well, even as coronavirus cases and deaths piled up throughout the country.

The leaders of the country’s more than 13,000 school districts found themselves caught between the warnings of health officials that nothing should reopen without proper safety measures, and demands from Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that schools start back up as normal. Education leaders warned politicians they would need billions of federal dollars in aid to reopen safely, but that money has yet to be approved by Congress. Pressure from teachers unions built as well, with some unions demanding an all-virtual program and threatening to strike if forced to step back inside the classroom.

“Unfortunately, we lost a lot of time in playing those political games,” said Bob Farrace, spokesman for the nonprofit National Association of Secondary School Principals. “There hasn’t been nearly enough conversation about what learning is really going to look like.”

Nonetheless, many school officials say they are still planning to grade students as they did before the pandemic, ditching the pass-fail system many adopted during school closures. Despite the device and Internet gaps, they plan to require attendance in classes. Federally mandated standardized testing is also still slated to take place near the end of the school year — unlike this past spring, when DeVos gave permission for all states to skip it.

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan said he feels good about the fall, despite everything. But he admitted that view has little basis in fact.

“I say that because I am by nature an optimistic person,” he said. “I don’t look for the negatives.”

‘Teachers are creative’

When the last school year ended, many people thought the worst for schools was over. It wasn’t.

As the coronavirus crisis worsened in many parts of the country, district leaders found themselves over the summer not focusing on improving instruction but instead playing logistical Jenga.

Required by state officials to provide learning options for parents, superintendents and their planning teams devised complicated, in-depth scenarios for three different modes of learning — all-virtual, 100 percent in-person and a hybrid method that combined both.

By late July, as spiking coronavirus rates led district after district to abandon plans to reopen schools for the start of the 2020-2021 academic year, school leaders said they had not found time to give much if any thought to the mechanics of online learning — even though they were giving parents the option of keeping their children home.

Politics, especially Trump’s interventions, made things worse.

In Wisconsin, Deputy State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Thompson said that many school officials had to spend precious time dealing with politically charged parent unrest. Almost any decision taken by school officials, he said — down to whether administrators recommended wearing masks in classrooms — was interpreted as siding with one political party or another.

That left educators less able to focus on more important matters, Thompson said, such as ensuring student and staff safety and developing strategies for fall learning.

“The politics making its way into this situation has made it harder for school districts . . . and divided communities,” he said. “And it was a difficult enough situation already.”

The extensive debate over in-person vs. online learning also limited some teachers’ ability to plot what their virtual schoolrooms could and should look like in September.

In Fairfax County, Va. — whose 189,000 students make it one of the largest school systems in the nation — Superintendent Scott Brabrand at first debuted a plan that asked parents and educators to choose between in-person and online education. Teachers spent weeks agonizing over the decision to return to classrooms. Then, a few days after staffers formally submitted their preferences, Brabrand reversed himself and announced the school system would start the fall fully online.

Now, thousands of Fairfax teachers are scrambling to get ready for the start of school, which was recently pushed back a week to Sept. 8.

In Philadelphia, things went even closer to the wire. The school board announced in late July that it was pivoting to an all-virtual model, after weeks of protest from parents and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, who saw in-person instruction as unsafe. The teachers union there had been so consumed with advocating for teacher and student health, said Jordan, that many members had no time to ponder the details of online teaching.

“That is exactly our next focus,” he said, noting that he plans to meet with administrators to call for increased online training for staffers. “Although I can bet you money some teachers were already beginning to prepare on their own. . . . Teachers are creative.”

In Florida’s Duval County, where the Republican National Convention was set to take place in August until Trump canceled it, a top public schools official was planning to ask the Florida Department of Education for permission to begin the school year entirely online. Then he realized that was an impossible request: Of the district’s 130,000 students, more than 40,000 don’t have devices at home to do their work. So schools will have to open there for some students.

In his small, conservative slice of Kentucky, Ballard County’s Allen is also hoping teachers are making their own preparations for fall — especially if they will be teaching online, as some of the staff will do depending on demand. The district is offering families a choice between in-person and distance learning, and at least a quarter of the county’s 1,100 students have already picked the virtual option, more than Allen was expecting.

School staff are slated to return to campus in August, the superintendent said, and he plans to take stock of what teachers have accomplished then.

“I fully expect some people will have done a better job than we ever imagined,” he said. “But then I know there are going to be others we need to bring along.”

Allen, who describes himself as “technologically limited,” has tried to communicate his expectations to Ballard County teachers via YouTube videos throughout the summer. He knows how to film those but asks an assistant to post them on social media.

In the videos, the superintendent lists his one real requirement: That teachers do the best they can with what they have. Whatever that looks like.

“For instance I haven’t said, don’t post your lessons on Facebook,” Allen said. “If it’s a format that is working for students and teachers, I am going to leave it.”

‘Caught up by Christmas’

There are some bright spots in the education landscape — which now looks as though it will include some online learning in most places, to give parents options. The districts that say they are ready followed the same recipe: Early and lengthy preparations for online learning, coupled with an intense focus on teacher training.

That was the case in Atlanta, where the public school system will offer all-virtual school starting Aug. 24. On that day, 52,000 students will begin receiving 2½ to 5 hours of video instruction each day, as well as social and emotional learning to help them process pandemic-induced trauma. Teachers are attending optional professional training sessions on subjects ranging from Zoom to how to virtually reach students with disabilities, and all Atlanta educators will be required to take two-week seminars on similar topics in late August.

Atlanta waited until mid-July to announce formal plans to remain online-only for at least the first nine weeks of this academic year. But, said Superintendent Lisa Herring, the school division began girding for the likelihood of an all-virtual fall back in May.

“Unfortunately, we have . . . employees and students and families who’ve had loss and trauma and illness as a result of covid-19,” Herring said, referring to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. “That reality brought it to the forefront that our level of preparedness had to be executed sooner rather than later.”

A handful of other districts have made extensive preparations. In Florida’s Broward County Public Schools, which began building its online learning capabilities years ago, Superintendent Robert Runcie said teachers have been working for months to beef up their online academic lessons and train on the online Canvas platform that helps simulate in-class learning. To make it easier for parents of young children, there will be morning and afternoon/evening learning sessions for elementary school students.

The 147,000-student Charlottesville-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina spent the summer transferring its in-person courses onto a virtual platform in new ways that teachers hope will better capture students’ attention. In San Diego, officials unveiled a digital program July 30 that mimics a six-hour school day, with daily live interaction between students and teachers. In Wyoming, schools Superintendent Jillian Balow asked a virtual state school to give teachers tips on how to do their jobs online.

But levels of preparation vary drastically. In Seattle, for example, teachers had not started training for online education as of early August. And across the country, student engagement remains a challenge.

In Los Angeles, just 60 percent of students participated daily in online learning during the spring, according to Los Angeles Unified Schools Superintendent Austin Beutner. To boost attendance this fall, the state is requiring teachers to report absences and to develop outreach programs to locate students who lag in attendance.

Los Angeles mother Sharnell Blevins said she hopes the mandatory attendance, coupled with more live-video classes, will help. She recalled the spring as a disaster.

“My kids weren’t setting their alarm clocks to get up for class,” she said. “They would tell me, ‘Half the class isn’t there, Mom, I don’t have to go.’ ” And she also often watched students in her children’s high school classes teach their teachers how to use Zoom.

As for the federal funding that district leaders say they need to reopen school buildings when health conditions allow, Congress doesn’t appear close to a compromise. In March it provided $13.5 billion for K-12 education — but that isn’t anywhere near the more than $200 billion that school leaders say they need.

In late July, just weeks before the start of the school year, the U.S. Department of Education disbursed $180 million to 11 states to help them prepare for virtual learning. Recipients were chosen through an application process that asked states to propose “new, innovative ways to access education” online.

Texas was one of the winners. The state’s deputy commissioner of school programs, Lily Laux, said the money, totaling nearly $20 million, will go toward developing training for more than 300,000 teachers, as well as building out new virtual courses covering “core subjects” for prekindergarten through 12th grade, with a special focus on reading and math for English language learners.

Unfortunately, it came a little too late.

“We have shared with our superintendent [that the courses] are not going to be fully ready for this fall,” Laux said. “But we do hope to be caught up by Christmas.”

Read More

America Captain

Captain America is now in Fortnite – The Verge

A Captain America skin is now available in Fortnite, Epic Games announced today. He’s the latest comic-themed skin to be added to the popular free-to-play battle royale game.

Captain America costs 2,000 V-bucks (about $20) from the Fortnite in-game store. If you buy the skin, you’ll also get Captain America’s iconic shield, which isn’t just cosmetic — you’ll be able to wear it on your back and use it as a pickaxe in-game. Captain America’s shield has actually already appeared in the game before — you could wield it last year as a special item in a limited time Avengers-themed mode, but you weren’t able to buy it to wear whenever you wanted.

There’s also a new Captain America-themed fireworks emote for sale, which could be fun to deploy if you choose to celebrate Independence Day on the Fortnite island this weekend. The emote costs 300 V-bucks.

Fortnite has a long history of offering skins based on popular comic book characters. Deadpool was available as part of last season’s battle pass, and Aquaman will eventually be playable as part of this season’s battle pass. Epic Games also sold Marvel’s Black Widow and Star-Lord as part of last year’s Avengers crossover and X-Force skins last season. Epic has offered DC skins, too, including Harley Quinn, Batman, and Catwoman.

Read More

America Coronavirus

Coronavirus: Elon Musk says it’s time to ‘free America now’ from lockdowns – The Mercury News

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk is no stranger when it comes to getting on Twitter to express his feelings about a subject he cares about. And the latest subject to get the Musk Twitter treatment is the ongoing coronavirus-related societal lockdowns across California and the country.

“FREE AMERICA NOW” tweeted Musk late Tuesday in what was the most-recent of a series of tweets he sent out this week to show his thoughts on the stay-at-home orders that have been put in place as part of the ongoing effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. Earlier this week, the counties around the San Francisco Bay Area extended shelter-in-place rules that were scheduled to end on May 3 until the end of May.

Those orders have closed many non-essential businesses, including Tesla’s vehicle manufacturing plant in Fremont, since March. Tesla had been planning on bringing employees in some production areas back to work on Wednesday, but then reversed course and canceled that plan.


— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 29, 2020

Musk sounded even more emphatic when he tweeted out a link to a Wall Street Journal opinion article authored by former Cypress Semiconductor CEO T.J. Rodgers that questioned whether lockdowns related to coronavirus actually end up saving people’s lives.

“Give people their freedom back!” tweeted Musk, along with a link to Rodgers’ Journal article that included a photo of an Iowa movie theater closed due to coronavirus.

Give people their freedom back!

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 29, 2020

Musk also took at shot at his home turf of Silicon Valley, with a new potential name for the famously liberal region of tech innovation.

“Silicon Valley has become Sanctimonious Valley,” tweeted Musk, who then said the area was “Too much the moral arbiter of the world.”

Too much the moral arbiter of the world

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 27, 2020

This isn’t the first time Musk has gone on a tweetstorm about coronavirus. Back in March, Musk tweeted that the coronavirus panic was “dumb” and that he thought there would be almost no new coronavirus cases in the United States by the end of April. As of Wednesday, the U.S. has more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 58,000 deaths from the disease.

Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment about Musk’s latest coronovirus-related tweets. The company is scheduled to report its first-quarter results after the close of stock market trading on Wednesday.

Read More

America Trump

Trump’s plan to open America, China’s new Wuhan death toll: Friday’s coronavirus news –

The United States has now reported more than 672,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 30,000 deaths. The global total is at nearly 2.2 million cases and nearly 150,000 dead.

Yet President Donald Trump has just put forward new guidelines for how US states can begin to ease some of the lockdown restrictions that have been in place for the past several weeks.

On Thursday, the president revealed his administration’s step-by-step plan to “Open Up America Again,” though he said that, ultimately, the decision to begin easing shutdowns would be left to the discretion of state governors. Some states are already considering plans to loosen measures in the coming weeks; others have extended their lockdowns.

The steps themselves laid out in the plan make sense; they offer a gradual, phased-in approach to bringing people back to work and reopening businesses. But the US still lacks large-scale testing or surveillance infrastructure, which means that even this kind of careful, gradual reopening risks once again sparking outbreaks.

China on Friday revised the official death toll in Wuhan — where the virus first originated — raising it by nearly 50 percent, from 2,579 to 3,869. Officials denied a coverup, but the massive revision is likely to raise even more questions about Beijing’s handling of the pandemic.

And in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro fired his health minister, who was both popular and widely praised for trying to stanch the outbreak in the Latin America country, even as Bolsonaro tried to downplay it.

Here’s what you need to know today.

A plan to reopen the US?

On Thursday, Trump released his proposal for reopening the American economy, after weeks of shutdowns across the country because of the coronavirus. The lockdown measures appear to be slowing the public health crisis, but they have pushed the US economy to the brink of collapse, with approximately 22 million Americans filing for unemployment in just about one month.

“Now that we have passed the peak in new cases, we are starting our life again. We are starting rejuvenation of our economy again, in a safe and structured and a very responsible fashion,” Trump said at a press conference Thursday. “We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time.”

Trump said that governors would “call the shots,” and said some states that have not been badly hit by the virus could start reopening soon, while others might take longer.

Broadly, the plan lays out three phases. Phase One asks vulnerable individuals to stay at home and encourages everyone else to maintain social distancing measures like avoiding socializing in groups of 10 or more people and keeping nonessential travel to a minimum. It also says large venues, like movie theaters, can reopen if distancing measures are in place, but bars should stay closed.

Phase Two loosens restrictions further, allowing for nonessential travel and gradually reopening schools and bars, the latter with reduced capacity. Vulnerable people should continue to shelter in place; everyone else is asked to avoid gatherings of 50 or more.

Phase Three says vulnerable people can resume normal activities, while advising them to still be cautious, and places can open for business, though some must adopt some social distancing limits and/or increased sanitary practices.

The plan also includes specific criteria states or regions must meet before beginning each phase. You can read the full proposal here.

The phase-in proposal is similar to what other countries, like Germany, have put forward in a gradual attempt to reopen businesses and schools.

But — and it’s a very big “but” — it’s unclear whether the United States actually has the infrastructure in place yet — things like massive, widespread testing and contact tracing — for this kind of phased-in reopening plan to work.

Social distancing measures aren’t a cure-all to coronavirus; they’re meant to put society on pause to slow the rate of infection so the health care system is not overwhelmed. But they’re not meant to replace other measures like testing, contact tracing, surveillance, and isolation of the sick.

In fact, testing has actually slowed in the United States, driven in part by shortages of equipment, reagents, test kits, and machines to run the tests, and in part because in many places, the criteria for being tested is still heavily tilted toward health care workers and people who are sick enough to require medical treatment.

As Vox’s German Lopez explains:

This is one reason the plans to end social distancing are so grim: Not only do they suggest that some level of social distancing will be needed for the next year or so (until a vaccine or a similarly effective treatment is widely available) — which we don’t know if the country can sustain — but they call for a level of surveillance and testing the US simply hasn’t shown the ability and willingness to build and manage yet.

This may change, especially as business leaders themselves begin to put pressure on the administration to widely ramp up testing capabilities.

But Friday, the president — who just said Thursday that he would let governors call the shots — is already using Twitter to do the opposite, calling for specific states (particularly ones that have seen protests against stay-at-home orders recently) to be “liberated.”

LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020


— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020

Trump’s mixed messages may be a political ploy to portray himself as the “good guy” who wants to get everyone back to work.

But Trump said governors would have discretion on when to reopen, and undermining those governors who feel stay-at-home orders are still necessary to protect the people of their state could have devastating consequences. A premature loosening of rules will only deepen both the public health crisis and the economic pain.

China dramatically revises its coronavirus death toll

The coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan, China, and the Chinese government has faced mounting criticism for hiding information about the severity of the virus in the early days of the pandemic, which experts say helped create the global catastrophe the world is seeing now.

And given the scale of the crisis, China’s own statistics about the coronavirus have been called into question throughout the course of the pandemic. The country imposed a months-long, unprecedented lockdown to control the virus, but the US intelligence community and others say China has underreported both the total number of cases and the death toll in the country.

Now, China has revised the official death toll in Wuhan by more than 1,200, an increase of about 50 percent. The number of coronavirus deaths jumped from 2,579 to 3,869. Officials also slightly revised up the number of infections in the city by more than 300, for a new total of more than 50,000.

Officials said the revision was because of incorrect and delayed reporting, not from some attempt to cover up information, according to the Guardian.

“Medical workers at some facilities might have been preoccupied with saving lives and there existed delayed reporting, underreporting or misreporting, but there has never been any cover-up and we do not allow cover-ups,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a news briefing.

(Zhao Lijian is the same Chinese official who, in order to shift blame away from China for its mishandling of the outbreak, promoted the conspiracy theory that the US military may have brought the coronavirus to Wuhan.)

All countries, not just China, have faced legitimate difficulties in reporting statistics as hospitals and officials deal with a fast-moving health emergency and a novel virus. New York City also revised up its death toll by thousands this week, including people who died at home without a coronavirus test but likely succumbed to the disease. Italy, too, has said it might be undercounting deaths.

But when it comes to China, these new figures will only fuel suspicions that China has tried to hide information, especially given its lack of forthrightness in the early stages of the pandemic.

Jair Bolsonaro fires Brazil’s Dr. Fauci

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has consistently downplayed the coronavirus threat in his country. He hosted a huge rally in March. He has tried to undermine states that have imposed social distancing restrictions to protect their citizens by telling everyone to just go back to work.

“We have to face this virus, but face it like a man, dammit, not a boy,” Bolsonaro said in early April. “We have to face it with reality. That’s life. We’re all going to die someday.”’

Through it all, coronavirus infections have continued to rise in Brazil, with the country now registering more than 30,000 cases and nearly 2,000 deaths — although Bolsonaro has questioned those statistics, accusing governors of manipulating the data for political ends.

All of this put Bolsonaro’s health minister, Henrique Mandetta, in a truly awkward position.

Mandetta is a doctor who’s become popular in the country for trying to communicate the real risks of the coronavirus to Brazilians. He’s encouraged social distancing measures and backed up the states in discouraging gatherings and curtailing business. And he’s tried to convey all of this information while navigating his boss’s misinformed talking points.

Which, uh, may sound familiar to anyone who has been following the trials and tribulations of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the US’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key member of the White House’s coronavirus task force. And sure enough, as Bolsonaro is often compared to Trump, Mandetta has been compared to Dr. Fauci.

In an interview on Sunday, Mandetta basically called out his boss, saying that he “hoped we can speak with a single, unified message, because otherwise Brazilians end up doubting.”

“They don’t know whether to listen to the health minister [or] the president. Who should they listen to?” he added.

It seems Bolsonaro finally had enough of Mandetta contradicting him, and on Thursday Bolsonaro fired him.

And many Brazilians are angry. People had already been protesting daily against Bolsonaro’s handling of the crisis, but after Mandetta’s axing, they erupted, with people banging pots and shouting “Bolsonaro murderer” from their windows, according to the Financial Times. Brazil’s leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva accused Bolsonaro of leading the country “to the slaughterhouse.”

Mandetta will be replaced by Nelson Teich, an oncologist who had been working as partner in a medical service consulting firm, according to the Guardian.

And some good news

If you’re a nun in Spain, sports are not canceled.

Nuns playing basketball at a monastery in Sevilla, Spain while sheltered in place for the coronavirus. Hoops makes the world go

— Michael Dolan (@mikedolanny) April 16, 2020

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.

Read More