Majority of Colleges and Universities Planning for Remote Learning!


Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education has been keeping track of the reopening plans of colleges and universities for Fall 2020.  Up until this past Monday, the majority of the plans indicated that the students would be taking classes primarily in-person.  That has changed and as of Monday (July 27th), most of the colleges will now reopen with remote learning or some form of blended/hybrid courses. Above are pie charts showing how the percentage of plans shifted from May 8th to July 27th.

This makes good safe sense.  As I have said in earlier posts on this topic, colleges that re-open in person are only one keg-party from a health disaster.


Anthony Fauci Gets His Own Baseball Card While Trump Lies About Being Invited to Throw First Pitch!

Dr. Anthony Fauci isn't the Nationals' new ace, but he's cemented his place in baseball lore with his own best-selling card.

Dear Commons Community,

Donald Trump’s dark, envious side was apparent when he mentioned that he was invited to toss out the first pitch for a Yankee game on August 15th.  Like many notable events of his presidency, last week’s bizarre back-and-forth between Trump and the New York Yankees reportedly began from a place of personal hostility.

On Thursday, hours before noted Washington Nationals fan Dr. Anthony Fauci threw out the opening pitch to inaugurate Major League Baseball’s pandemic season, President Trump stood at the podium of the White House briefing room and informed the press that he would have his own on-field ceremony next month in the Bronx. “Randy Levine is a great friend on mine from the Yankees,” Trump said, of the team’s president. “And he asked me to throw out the first pitch, and I think I’m doing that on August 15 at Yankee Stadium.”

According to the New York Times, Trump broke the news because he was frustrated by Fauci’s time in the stadium lights — perhaps the pettiest moment yet in the president’s tiff with the public-health official he sees as competition for the nation’s attention. But when he made the announcement, no actual date had been set. Though White House officials had called the Yankees to make good on a standing offer from the team’s president, neither party had confirmed that Trump would throw out the first pitch that Saturday night in August. The announcement reportedly alarmed both the Yankees and White House staffers — resulting in aides scrambling “to let the team know that he was actually booked on Aug. 15, although they have not said what he plans to do.”

Then on Sunday, the president declined the RSVP for his self-invite, citing his “strong focus” on dealing with the pandemic.

Trump must of really really went berserk when he saw that Anthony Fauci had a Topps baseball card (above) of him throwing out the first pitch to start the baseball season last Thursday.  According to CNN, the Topps baseball card with a masked Fauci mid-pitch just became the bestselling card in the history of ToppsNow, the company’s collection of limited-edition cards. 

Poor Donald, he can’t stand a person like Fauci who is so honest and straight-forward with the American people.


Good News: Experimental COVID-19 Vaccine Begins Testing!

Fireman Wade Bardo of Erin , New York, Receives Coronavirus Vaccine Shot

Dear Commons Community,

A little good news on the coronavirus pandemic yesterday as final-stage testing of a vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., began with 30,000 Americans. 

Final-stage testing of the vaccine  began with volunteers at numerous sites around the U.S. given either a real dose or a dummy (placebo)  without being told which.  As reported by the Associated Press.

“I’m excited to be part of something like this. This is huge,” said Melissa Harting, a 36-year-old nurse who received an injection in Binghamton, New York. Especially with family members in front-line jobs that could expose them to the virus, she added, “doing our part to eradicate it is very important to me.”

Another company, Pfizer Inc., announced late Monday that it had started its own study of its vaccine candidate in the U.S. and elsewhere. That study also aimed to recruit 30,000 people.

It will be months before results trickle in, and there is no guarantee the vaccines will ultimately work against the scourge that has killed over 650,000 people around the world, including almost 150,000 in the U.S.

“We’ve been sitting on the sidelines passively attempting to wear our masks and social distance and not go out when it’s not necessary. This is the first step of becoming active against this,” said Dr. Frank Eder of Meridian Clinical Research, the company that runs the Binghamton trial site.

“There’s really no other way to get past this.”

Scientists set speed records getting vaccines into massive testing just months after the coronavirus emerged. But they stressed that the public shouldn’t fear that anyone is cutting corners.

“This is a significant milestone,” NIH Director Francis Collins said after the first test injection of Moderna’s vaccine was given, at 6:45 a.m. in Savannah, Georgia. “Yes, we’re going fast, but no, we are not going to compromise” on proving whether the vaccine is safe and effective.

“We are focusing on speed because every day matters,” added Stephane Bancel, CEO of Massachusetts-based Moderna.

After volunteers get two doses a month apart, scientists will closely track which group experiences more infections as they go about their daily routines, especially in areas where the virus is spreading unchecked.

The answer probably won’t come until November or December, cautioned Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIH’s infectious-diseases chief.

Among many questions the study may answer: How much protection does just one dose offer compared with the two scientists think are needed? If it works, will it protect against severe disease or block infection entirely?

Don’t expect a vaccine as strong as the measles vaccine, which prevents about 97% of measles infections, Fauci said, adding he would be happy with a COVID-19 vaccine that’s 60% effective.

Several other vaccines made by China and by Britain’s Oxford University began smaller final-stage tests in Brazil and other hard-hit countries earlier this month. But the U.S. requires its own tests of any vaccine that might be used in the country.

Every month through the fall, the government-funded COVID-19 Prevention Network will roll out a new study of a leading candidate, each with 30,000 volunteers.

The final U.S. study of the Oxford shot is set to begin in August, followed by a candidate from Johnson & Johnson in September and one from Novavax in October.

That’s a stunning number of people needed to roll up their sleeves for science. In recent weeks, more than 150,000 Americans filled out an online registry signaling interest, Collins said. But many more are needed.

NIH is working to make sure that the study isn’t just filled with healthy, younger volunteers but includes populations hit hardest by COVID-19, including older adults, those in poor health and African-Americans and Latinos.

“We really are going to depend upon that sense of volunteerism for individuals from every different corner of society if we’re going to really find out how this vaccine, and its potential to end this terrible pandemic, is go to work in each of those groups,” Collins said.

This is good news.  The United States and the rest of the world can only get back to “normal” with a vaccine for the coronavirus.”



Randi Weingarten on Mitch McConnell’s Proposed Coronavirus Relief Bill!

Randi Weingarten

Randi Weingarten

Dear Commons Community,

Today starts the AFT convention (virtual) and President Randi Weingarten has sent a letter to the membership urging them to write their senators to put pressure on Republicans to act responsibly and to face the reality of what the cornonavirus has wrought on our country.

Her letter is below.




Mitch McConnell finally released his bill today. I’m sure you’re not surprised, but the bill is bad. Simply put, it doesn’t match the scale of the crisis. I’m getting ready for the AFT convention, which starts tomorrow, but I wanted to make sure you heard about McConnell’s bill tonight.

What McConnell is proposing for education is woefully inadequate given the expenses schools will face to reopen safely. It also falls dramatically short by ignoring what schools actually need to reopen safely and, instead, prioritizes the president’s political agenda, tying the funding to in-person instruction and pushing for private school vouchers. And there is no money for states and no protections for healthcare workers.

Can you believe it? The GOP is actually using the pandemic to try to pass vouchers, because they couldn’t get them passed before. To rub salt in the wound, while this proposal includes no protections for workers on the frontlines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, it does include a nice bailout for corporations and other employers to limit their liability if employees get sick on the job.

The Senate needs to hear from you right now. Send a letter to your senators and tell them that McConnell’s bill is bad.

While we’re going to be focused on our convention for the next few days, we still need to keep up the pressure on coronavirus relief legislation.

For those who are interested in our convention, it’s going to be exciting. We’ll have Joe Biden, Lin-Manuel Miranda, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a panel on Black Lives Matter, Diane Ravitch, Anand Giridharadas , and more. You’ll be able to watch the programming on our website. And tomorrow night, I’ll be doing a Facebook live town hall with Dr. Anthony Fauci at 6:45 p.m. EDT.

I know we’re all busy, but I just want to thank you for consistently taking action. We’ve driven tens of thousands of emails and phone calls to the Senate. Let’s keep it going and stop McConnell’s bad bill.

In unity,

Randi Weingarten

AFT President

Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas Describes Slavery as a “Necessary Evil”

Defund Teaching About Slavery? Sen. Tom Cotton Proposes ...

Tom Cotton

Dear Commons Community,

Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas describes slavery as a “necessary evil” in an attack on a New York Times project exploring the legacy of slavery in the US. 

Cotton in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette defended a bill he intends to introduce to Congress, which proposes cutting federal funding to schools which adopt The Times’s 1619 Project as part of their history curricula.

The project was launched in a special edition of the Times magazine last August, marking the 400th anniversary of the start of slavery in the US.

It seeks to place “the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”

Cotton said he disputed what he claimed to be the premise of the project “that America is at root, a systemically racist country to the core and irredeemable.”

He said: “We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country.

“As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction,” he said.

“America is a great and noble country founded on the proposition that all mankind is created equal. We have always struggled to live up to that promise, but no country has ever done more to achieve it,” he said. 

The 1619 Project has generated political controversy amid America’s ongoing struggle with its history of racism. California Senator Kamala Harris praised it as “a powerful and necessary reckoning of our history.”

But it’s attracted criticism from Republicans who claim it is ideologically driven. Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker and ally of President Donald Trump said in a 2019 tweet: “the NY Times 1619 Project should make its slogan ‘All the Propaganda we want to brainwash you with.'”

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who came up with the idea for the project and won a Pulitzer for her introductory essay on it, hit back at Cotton’s claims in a tweet on Sunday. 

“If chattel slavery — heritable, generational, permanent, race-based slavery where it was legal to rape, torture, and sell human beings for profit — were a “necessary evil” as @TomCottonAR says, it’s hard to imagine what cannot be justified if it is a means to an end,” she wrote. 

Some historians have questioned whether any of the Founding Fathers said that slavery was a “necessary evil.”

Cotton subsequently claimed he had been describing “the views of the Founders,” rather than citing them with direct quotation.

But Hannah-Jones challenged him to repudiate the view he ascribed to the founders, that slavery was a “necessary evil.”

“Were the Founders right or wrong … when they called slavery a ‘necessary evil upon which the Union was built”? Because either you agree with their assessment of slavery as necessary or you admit they were lying and it was just an evil and dishonorable choice. Which?” she wrote.

Cotton’s statements are evil and dishonorable.



Video: John Oliver Slams Sean Hannity and Fox News’ Dishonesty Over Portland Protests!

Dear Commons Community,

John Oliver, the “Last Week Tonight” host, ripped Sean Hannity and others at Fox News for the network’s portrayal of the Portland protests after President Donald Trump sent federal law enforcement agents to the city.  (See video above – Oliver’s comments start at the 00.01 second mark and continue to the 1.27 mark).

Portland is among a number of cities where protesters have been demonstrating against police violence on Black people since the May 25 killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. 

Yesterday, Oliver said “things weren’t actually especially dire in Portland” and were de-escalating until the feds arrived. In some cases, those federal agents were seen wearing little to no identification, seizing people off the streets and dragging them into unmarked vehicles

Oliver called such actions the opposite of a de-escalation. 

“Masked individuals throwing people into an unmarked van is never a good idea if you want to de-escalate a situation,” he said. “It’s not even a good idea for a surprise bachelorette party.” 

But it was the Fox News coverage of the situation that really got Oliver fired up. Viewers of the network might think “it’s the end of America as we know it,” Oliver said as he shared clips of Fox hosts playing up violence.

One clip showed Hannity speaking as a scrolling list of alleged crimes in Portland rolled past him. The list was mostly graffiti. 

“In fact, graffiti is listed 12 times in a row there under the headline ‘Violence in Portland,’ which is a huge overstatement,” Oliver said. “And at that point, it would have been just as accurate if that heading had said ‘cannibalism in Portland’ or ‘Texas-chainsaw massacres in Portland’ or ‘9/11s in Portland.’”

Hannity told viewers about an alleged “firebombing” incident, which Oliver said was a significantly less dramatic situation involving either a firework or a small fire. Hannity also described the situation in Portland as “insane,” and Oliver agreed, just for a different reason altogether. 

“Yeah, it is insane,” said Oliver. “Because that tone does not honestly reflect the conditions on the ground.”

Oliver said Trump was using Portland as a staging ground “to put on an authoritarian show of force” and warned it “could end very badly.” Then, he offered a basic cognitive test for those who support Trump’s crackdown.

“How many fingers am I holding up?” he asked.


Ronald Reagan Foundation Asks Trump to Stop Using Name and Likeness in Fundraising Appeals!

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute has demanded that President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee stop using the 40th president’s image and name for fundraising.

The complaint involved a fundraising email that offered commemorative coins featuring the late president and Donald Trump, implying an important link between the men.

“We own the likeness of President Reagan and they used his image for a coin without our consent,” Melissa Giller, chief marketing officer for the foundation, told The Hill. “We called the RNC and asked them to cease and desist the use of President Reagan on the coin, and they agreed.”

Foundation officials were moved to action after a Trump fundraising email went out last week with the subject line, “Ronald Reagan and Yours Truly.” 

In exchange for a $45 donation, contributors were promised a “limited edition” set of coins, one with an image of Reagan and another of Trump. They were mounted with a 1987 photograph of Reagan and Trump shaking hands in a standard White House receiving line, according to the Washington Post.

The coins symbolize an “important time in our Nation,” the email said. “This year, in addition to being re-elected as YOUR President, it also marks the 40th anniversary of our Nation’s 40th President, Ronald Reagan.”

Proceeds were to go to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising operation of the Trump campaign and the RNC.

Foundation officials are attempting to determine how many coins may already have been distributed, and are still considering how to address the suggested association between the presidents.

The Reagan Foundation, which runs the Reagan Presidential Library near Los Angeles, has the sole rights to Nancy and Ronald Reagan’s names, likenesses and images. Officials claim they have the power to block the use of images in the public domain from being used for commercial gain and political endorsements.

RNC Communications Director Michael Ahrens told the Post that the foundation’s objections “came as a surprise.”

Ahrens said the committee believes the use of Reagan’s image was “appropriate” but added, “We will stop emailing this fundraising solicitation as a courtesy.”

Trump responded by directing his ire at Fred Ryan, who works as the Washington Post’s publisher and serves as chairman of the board of trustees for the California-based Reagan Foundation.
“So the Washington Post is running the Reagan Foundation,” Trump tweeted Sunday, promising supporters, “We will win anyway” despite “phony” polls.


Video: ‘Wall Of Vets’ Forms To Protect Portland Protesters Amid Federal Crackdown!

Dear Commons Community,

A group of military veterans showed up (see video above) at protests outside the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, on Friday night, saying they were there to support demonstrators.

“Our veterans are here specifically to support the rights of the protesters to protest,” Marine Corps veteran Duston Obermeyer told The New York Times.

Footage from The Oregonian showed most of the “Wall of Vets” members lined up ahead of the protests.

Most held their hands behind their backs, though two in the video can be seen holding signs, one reading “Black Lives Matter” and one reading “Disabled Veterans 4 BLM.” The veterans remained until tear gas dispersed most of the crowd of protesters, according to the Times.

The group’s name is an apparent nod to the “Wall of Moms,” a group of several dozen women who were seen in viral footage last week linking arms, surrounding protesters and chanting slogans such as, “Feds stay clear, the moms are here.” Other groups at the demonstrations in recent days have included a “Wall of Dads” and a “Wall of Grandparents.”

The protective human “walls” have gained traction as President Donald Trump deployed federal officers to Portland amid the ongoing protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Federal forces have been seen grabbing at least one person off the street and dragging him into an unmarked van, and federal officers fractured the skull of one man they hit in the head with a so-called “less lethal” weapon.

Trump has defended deploying federal agents, characterizing protesters as violent extremists and arguing that Portland has “lost control of the anarchists and agitators.” But state and local officials in Oregon have widely condemned the feds’ presence, and Gov. Kate Brown said they’re “adding gasoline to a fire.”

The Wall of Vets appeared about a week after Navy veteran Chris David was seen on video approaching federal officers in Portland only to be repeatedly hit with a baton and pepper-sprayed in the face.

Friday was the first night that many of the veterans participated in the Portland protests, Jonathan Fisher, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, told local news station KATU.

“We believe in something; it’s time to stand,” he said.

God bless those supporting peaceful protesters!


Barron Trump’s School Won’t Fully Open For In-Person Instruction This Fall!

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a call to reopen schools in a statement listing numerous benefits of being in school and downplaying the potential health risks (see video clip above commenting on the CDC guidelines – courtesy of MSNBC).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published the statement, along with new “resources and tools,”  two weeks after Mr. Trump criticized its earlier recommendations on school reopenings as “very tough and expensive.” His words ratcheted up what was already an anguished national debate over how soon students and teachers should return to classrooms.

“Reopening schools creates opportunity to invest in the education, well-being, and future of one of America’s greatest assets — our children — while taking every precaution to protect students, teachers, staff and all their families,” the agency’s new statement said.

Mr. Trump, pummeled with criticism over his handling of the pandemic, sees reopening the nation’s schools this fall as crucial to reinvigorating the economy and to his re-election. While many public health experts and pediatricians agree that returning children to classrooms is critically important, they warn that it has to be done cautiously, with a plan based on scientific evidence. They, along with teachers’ unions, have accused the president of putting children and the adults who supervise them at school at risk by politicizing the subject. 

At the same time,  the school attended by President Donald Trump’s youngest son, Barron, will not fully open for in-person instruction when classes resume, officials announced in a letter to parents.  As reported by the Huffington Post.

“St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, a private kindergarten-through-12th-grade  school in Potomac, Maryland, a Washington suburb, will provide either online-only “distance learning” or a hybrid model of students “learning both on and off campus,” according to the letter Thursday from Head of School Robert Kosasky. A final decision will be announced the week of Aug. 10. 

When asked earlier this month if the president and first lady would send their 14-year-old son back to the classroom this fall, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway responded that it was a “personal decision.“ He has attended St. Andrew’s for the last three years.

In both teaching scenarios being considered at St. Andrew’s, “our top priority is to support the safety and well-being of our entire community of students, faculty and staff, and families,” Kosasky stated in the letter to parents. “We are continuing to pay close attention to current guidance from state and county health officials, as well as the CDC, as the health status of our region evolves.”

The school has continued to improve its online instruction, Kosasky added, but he also noted: “We are hopeful that public health conditions will support our implementation of the hybrid model in the fall.”

It appears that each student would still have a choice to opt for remote learning only. “The hybrid model permits students to learn either on campus with rigorous social distancing standards, or remotely,” Kosasky said. The hybrid model would “allow students, families, and faculty and staff with medical concerns to be able to learn, teach, and work remotely throughout the pandemic, while facilitating safe, in-person learning for everyone else.”

Trump has repeatedly said that children must return to their classrooms in the fall.

Florida’s education commissioner earlier this month ordered schools to reopen for in-person instruction in August, even as coronavirus cases jam hospitals in the state.

The Florida Education Association, a teachers union representing about 140,000 school employees, filed a lawsuit Monday against several state officials to block schools from reopening for in-person instruction. The rush to open is failing to provide a safe and secure environment as required in the state constitution, the suit argues. 

Randi Weingarten, president of the national American Federation of Teachers, told The New York Times after the St. Andrew’s news that she hopes now the president will have a “scintilla of empathy and consideration for what Americans are going through now that he is experiencing it himself.”

Why anyone would listen to Trump on anything to do with the coronavirus at this time borders on the absurd after he pushed governors to reopen in places like Florida, Texas, and Arizona.  Opening schools without safeguards will plunge the country further into the pandemic abyss.