May 22, 2020

The Washington, D.C., metro area has the highest coronavirus positivity rate in the country, Dr. Deborah Birx said at the White House press briefing on Friday. The region, which includes northern Virginia and several counties in Maryland, is of course the home to many who commute to work in the nation's capital.

Birx said that D.C. is followed in positivity rate by Baltimore, Chicago, and Minneapolis. "These are the places where we have seen really a stalling, or an increase of cases as in Minneapolis," she explained.

The D.C. metro area specifically has a rate of infection three times higher than the areas directly surrounding it. Governors in Maryland and Virginia actually began easing restrictions in their states last Friday, The Washington Post reports, while protestors gathered in Baltimore County on Friday to push for a faster reopening.

For now, the District is holding its stay-at-home orders due to the alarming number of cases. Jeva Lange

2:22 a.m.

In the 72 hours since the Trump administration used tear gas and other nonlethal force to violently clear Lafayette Square of peaceful protesters before President Trump's walk to St. John's Church, "the White House has been transformed into a veritable fortress," The Washington Post reports, with tall security fencing and concrete barriers erected to keep protesters from an expanded secure zone. "Armed guards and sharpshooters and combat troops are omnipresent." According to Google Maps, the new fencing stretches about 1.7 miles around the White House.

"The White House is now so heavily fortified that it resembles the monarchical palaces or authoritarian compounds of regimes in faraway lands — strikingly incongruous with the historic role of the executive mansion," known as "the People's House," the Post adds. "The resulting picture is both jarring and distinctly political — a Rorschach test for one's view of Trump's presidency. His supporters see a projection of absolute strength, a leader controlling the streets to protect his people. His critics see a wannabe dictator and a president hiding from his own citizenry."

"I think the need to fortify your house — and it's not his house; it's our house — shows weakness," said Deborah Berke, dean of the Yale School of Architecture. "The president of the United States should not feel threatened by his or her own citizens."

White House officials tell the Post that Trump wasn't involved in the decisions to ramp up security and put up the new fencing, and they noted he has left the White House twice this week, including the brief St. John's spectacle. "The president has been sensitive to the perception fanned by his critics that he is cowering in a bunker and fearful for his own safety," and he's "livid that the media found out" about him being rushed to the bunker last Friday, the Post reports. This probably won't help dispel that perception. Peter Weber

1:59 a.m.

The last person to receive a pension from the Civil War has died.

Irene Triplett, whose father Mose Triplett served in the Confederate Army before defecting and joining the Union, died Sunday at age 90, following complications from a broken hip. The North Carolina resident was able to receive her dad's Civil War pension — $73.13 every month — because she had cognitive impairments and qualified as a helpless adult child of a veteran.

Military records show that after two years as a Confederate soldier, Mose Triplett "deserted" in 1863, just one week before his old regiment was nearly wiped out during the Battle of Gettysburg. He applied for his pension in 1885, and Irene Triplett was born in 1930, when her father was 83 years old. Her mother, 27 at the time, was his second wife. Mose Triplett died in 1938 at age 92.

One of Irene Triplett's relatives told The Wall Street Journal she had a rough childhood, with kids saying her father was a "traitor." Later in life, she found friendship with other residents at Accordius Health, a nursing home in Wilkesboro. Jamie Phillips, the activities director, told The Washington Post Triplett like playing Bingo, listening to gospel music, and telling her friends about what she heard on the news. "I never saw her angry," she said. "Everything was funny."

Editor's note: The dates in this story have been amended to reflect the correct order of events leading up to Mose Triplett's defection to the Union. We regret the error. Catherine Garcia

1:05 a.m.

Brazil's coronavirus death toll hit 34,021 on Thursday, with the country surpassing Italy to become third in the world when it comes to COVID-19 fatalities.

Only the United States and United Kingdom have higher death tolls. Brazil's health ministry also announced on Thursday night that there were 1,473 coronavirus deaths in the country over the last 24 hours, a daily record. Brazil now has 615,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with more than 70 percent of cities affected.

Despite the numbers skyrocketing, Brazil's far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, complained on Thursday about lockdown efforts by state governors and mayors who want to slow the spread of COVID-19. "We can't go on like this," he said. "Nobody can take it anymore. The collateral impact will be far greater than those people who unfortunately lost their lives because of these last three months here."

Miguel Lago, director of Brazil's Institute for Health Policy Studies, told The Guardian he is "very worried" about the number of cases in the country, adding, "we are going to witness hospitals collapsing in almost every state. I think the worst is still to come." Lago believes Bolsonaro is rushing to reopen the economy in order to help him get re-elected in 2022, telling The Guardian, "He doesn't care about the lives of the Brazilians who will die because of his absolutely irresponsible behavior." Catherine Garcia

12:26 a.m.

The Maryland-National Capital Park Police are looking for a cyclist in sunglass and an orange helmet who was caught on camera earlier this week accosting a young girl, grabbing a flyer out of her hand, and ramming the man filming it all with his bike.

The group was putting up flyers in Bethesda, a D.C. suburb, supporting the protests inspired by George Floyd, a black man killed by police in Minneapolis. The flyer read "Killer Cops Will Not Go Free," a message the cyclist evidently found objectionable. The incident took place June 1, but news and social media took note on Thursday.

Maryland-National Capital Park Police have apparently not yet identified the man, but the video's virality seems to have increased the number of tips. "We want to thank the community for their support," the department tweeted Thursday night. "Please remember all people are innocent until proven otherwise. Keep the tips coming and we will follow up. Please contact Park Police at 301-929-2774 with any information." Peter Weber

12:02 a.m.

Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) criticized Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday and his attempt to add an amendment to anti-lynching legislation.

The Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act, named after a 14-year-old black teenager who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955, would make lynching a federal crime. The House passed it in February, but Paul wants to add an amendment that would "simply add a serious bodily injury standard," he said in a statement. On Wednesday, Paul told reporters he is afraid that "bruises could be considered lynching. That's a problem, to put someone in jail for 10 years for some kind of altercation."

Paul attempted to make changes to the measure on Thursday, at the same time a memorial service was being held in Minneapolis for George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died last week after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Paul said by defining the meaning of lynching so broadly, the bill would "cheapen" it, a remark Harris called "ridiculous" and an insult to black members of the Senate.

Paul's changes would "weaken" the bill, Harris said, and put a "greater burden on victims of lynching than is currently required under federal hate crime laws." There was no reason for Paul to propose the amendment, she added, beyond "cruel and deliberate obstruction on a day of mourning."

Booker said Paul was "standing in the way of the law of the land changing because of a difference of interpretation," and Paul pushed back, saying: "You think I'm getting any good publicity out of this? No. I will be excoriated by simple-minded people on the internet who think somehow I don't like Emmett Till or appreciate the history and the memory of Emmett Till." The amendment failed, and the measure is now in limbo. For it to pass quickly, the Senate would have to agree unanimously and not add any amendments. Catherine Garcia

June 4, 2020

Police out to enforce curfew in Buffalo, New York, shoved an older man Thursday evening, causing him to fall backward, hit his head on the pavement, Buffalo NPR affiliate WBFO reports. Blood ran from the man's head as he lay unmoving, and the police who pushed him glanced down and walked on. The unidentified man, treated by two medics, was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and he is in stable condition, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted Thursday night.

A spokesman for the Buffalo Police Department issued a statement Thursday night saying that during a "skirmish invoking protesters, one person was injured when he tripped and fell." It isn't clear if the spokesman had seen the video, but Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood later said the two officers involved have been suspended without pay, and a full Internal Affairs investigation has been launched.

"This is happening in multiple cities across the country," New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted over another viral video involving the Los Angeles Police Department. "Police striking protesters with batons without an apparent provocation, or in the case of the man in Buffalo, shoving them."

"Imagine where we would be if they didn't put cameras on cell phones?" wrote veteran news anchor Dan Rather. "And now imagine all that we aren't seeing. And didn't see. And will not see." Peter Weber

June 4, 2020

The American Civil Liberties Union and protesters from Maryland and Washington, D.C., filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the Trump administration over the use of force to push peaceful demonstrators out of Lafayette Square on Monday.

President Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and other federal officials are named as defendants in the lawsuit. Security personnel used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, which was protesting the death of George Floyd. This happened shortly before Trump walked over to take photos in front of St. John's Church.

The lawsuit states federal forces had "no legitimate basis to destroy the peaceful gathering," and this case is about Trump and Barr "ordering the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators who were speaking out against discriminatory police brutality targeted at black people."

Barr, who has been leading the federal response to the protests, on Thursday defended the use of force, saying protesters were becoming "unruly." Several military leaders have in turn denounced it, with former Defense Secretary James Mattis, a retired Marine general, calling the show of force an "abuse of executive authority," adding that "we must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution." Catherine Garcia

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