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Obama urges George Floyd protesters to push for change, ‘make people in power uncomfortable’

Former President Barack Obama, in a virtual town hall hosted by his foundation Wednesday, called on demonstrators to channel their anger over George Floyd’s death into an opportunity to make leaders “uncomfortable” and pressure them into making real policy changes.

The town hall was hosted by the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, which supports young men of color. During the event, Obama said he rejected a debate that emerged in “a little bit of chatter on the internet” about “voting versus protests, politics and participation versus civil disobedience and direct action.”

“This is not an either-or. This is a both,” he said. “And to bring about real change, we both have to highlight a problem and make people in power uncomfortable, but we also have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that could be implemented and monitored and make sure we’re following up on.”


Former President Barack Obama speaks June 3, 2020, during virtual town hall event with young people to discuss policing and the civil unrest that has followed the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. (My Brother's Keeper Alliance and The Obama Foundation via AP)

Former President Barack Obama speaks June 3, 2020, during virtual town hall event with young people to discuss policing and the civil unrest that has followed the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. (My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and The Obama Foundation via AP)

Obama also urged “every mayor in the country to review your use of force policies” with their communities and “commit to report on planned reforms” before prioritizing their implementation. During a virtual roundtable discussion, he compared current protests to the unrest of the 1960s and said polls show a majority of Americans support the current demonstrations taking place nationwide, despite some “having been marred by the actions of a tiny minority that engaged in violence.”


Last week, Obama said the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died in Minneapolis police custody May 25 after a white officer kneeled on his neck for more than 8 minutes, “shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America.” He laid out plans for change in a post on Medium and countered the argument made by some protesters that demonstrations will facilitate more societal change than voting.

“I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time,” he wrote. “I couldn’t disagree more.”

While the former president said that the current protests stem from a “legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices,” he condemned the vandalism, looting and violence that has, in part, overshadowed the more peaceful aspects of the protests in many cities.

Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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In Northern Virginia, A Grassroots Push To Help Latinos Combat Coronavirus : NPR

A bucket used to collect samples after people have been tested for COVID-19 is seen at a drive through testing site in Arlington, Va., on March 20. One group in northern Virginia is paying special attention to the coronavirus’s impact on Latinos.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

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Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

A bucket used to collect samples after people have been tested for COVID-19 is seen at a drive through testing site in Arlington, Va., on March 20. One group in northern Virginia is paying special attention to the coronavirus’s impact on Latinos.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

As Latino households across the country are pummeled by the virus outbreak, staff from Neighborhood Health, a chain of medical clinics in northern Virginia, have stepped up testing efforts in areas where that community is hardest-hit.

Of the health center’s 30,000 patients, 50% are Latino immigrants hailing from Central America. They are predominantly low-income and uninsured. And though they make up half of the patient population, Latinos represent nearly 90% of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 at the group’s clinics.

On one day earlier this month, the medical team’s endeavors took them to a small parking lot near Four Mile Run park in the city of Alexandria. A large blue tent set up at the entrance of the lot marks one of five makeshift coronavirus testing sites.

“The next walk-up patient can come up,” says Jessica Alvarenga, a medical assistant administering tests at the booth, over a walkie-talkie.

Meanwhile, mask-clad people on foot form two lines while carloads of patients pull in for their respective drive-through appointments.

“The testing rates in some minority communities across the country is much lower,” says Dr. Basim Khan, primary care physician and executive director of Neighborhood Health. “So, not only are they getting more disproportionately impacted, but you’re also seeing that the response is not as robust as it needs to be.”

Latinos make up about 18% of the U.S. population. But when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently analyzed provisional COVID-19 deaths and racial and ethnic data in areas where more than 100 people had died, it found Latinos made up about 27% of coronavirus deaths.

Khan hopes to change that narrative for his patients whose homes line the border of Arlington County and Alexandria, an area called Arlandria. An influx of Salvadoran immigrants in the 1980s earned it the nickname “Chirilagua,” after the city on the Pacific coast of El Salvador.

Neighborhood Health has tested more than 800 patients for COVID-19 so far. Khan says members of the Latino community struggle to isolate themselves even after they’ve tested positive. They often work low-paying jobs deemed “essential” — sometimes with no protective gear. 

And language barriers and questions over immigration status can make it harder for Latinos to access the health care systems or unemployment benefits that could provide relief.

“Because they have this illness, they’re obviously not able to work and they’re struggling to keep food on the table,” Khan says. “It’s been a really stressful and challenging situation for a lot of our patients who have tested positive.”

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the state will begin “phase one” of reopening on May 15.

But, for some, it’s not so easy to move forward.

Silsa Ortiz de Catalan, 47, is among the Neighborhood Health patients who live in crowded conditions at home. Catalan contracted coronavirus in late March and spread the disease to her entire family of four. Catalan, her husband and two adult sons share a one-bedroom apartment.

“I was working without gloves and without a mask,” she says in Spanish, her words interpreted by a Neighborhood Health worker.

“I started to feel like I had a fever and I started shaking, but I didn’t pay too much attention, so I kept working,” Catalan says. Her bones and throat were aching, but she worked through the pain for several days at a well-known craft store.

The Guatemala native says her latest COVID-19 test came back negative, indicating she’s recovered, but she has another problem: After being out of work for five weeks, how is she going to pay the past-due rent for May?

According to a recent Washington Post-Ipsos survey, 20% of Latinos say they’ve been laid off or furloughed since the outbreak began — compared to 11% of whites and 12% of workers of other races. African Americans and Latinos are also dying of COVID-19 at the highest rates.

When a patient’s positive test result comes in from the lab, medical staff at Neighborhood Health reach out to the patient to discuss symptoms and determine the level of monitoring needed. For those with more acute symptoms, the doctor will recommend the delivery of a pulse oximeter to the patient to check oxygen levels on their own.

Meanwhile, another group of workers at the clinic conducts contact tracing with patients that test positive. They also provide the families with food.

As businesses across the country reopen, Khan is urging government officials to focus on the communities most impacted with more aggressive testing.

“First of all, it’s just the right thing to do. But second is it reduces the likelihood of broader spread,” he says. “We’re as good as our weakest link.”

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Trump in Florida for ‘homecoming’ rally amid mounting impeachment push

Following a string of impeachment inquiry hearings last week, President Donald Trump is back on the campaign trail Tuesday night with a rally in Florida for the first time since announcing he’d changed his residency from New York to the Sunshine State.

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And while the campaign is positioning Tuesday’s event as a “homecoming” for the new Floridan, impeachment continued to be on the president’s mind, even spilling into Tuesday’s annual Thanksgiving turkey pardoning at the White House, with Trump taking a pointed jab at Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Trump joked that this year’s turkeys were “specially raised to remain calm under any conditions, which will be very important because they’ve already received subpoenas to appear in Adam Schiff’s basement on Thursday.”

Next week, the House Judiciary Committee will hold its first impeachment hearing, following two weeks of high-profile impeachment inquiry hearings by the House Intelligence Committee.

Rallying in Florida Tuesday night, Trump returns to the comfort of his often raucous and loyal supporters.

Before the president took the stage on Tuesday night, his reelection team has been on the ground in Florida working to lock up the state that was crucial to Trump’s win in 2016.

“Florida was key in 2016 and will be again in 2020,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told ABC News ahead of the Florida rally. “President Trump is going to win Florida again and not even the Democrats doubt that.”

And the campaign’s already invested big in the Sunshine State with a string of events ahead of the rally including a voter registration get together in Tavares, Florida, along with a “Latinos for Trump” event in Miami with campaign advisers Mercedes Schlapp and John Pence.

Tuesday night’s campaign event in Sunrise, Florida will mark the president’s first rally in the state since officially kicking off his campaign back in July in Orlando.

ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps contributed to this report.

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Cenovus joins Big Oil’s push into Big Data with Amazon and IBM deals

CALGARY — Big Oil is continuing its push into Big Data as Cenovus Energy Inc. has struck deals with tech giants Amazon Web Services and International Business Machines Corp. in an attempt to harness the power of cloud computing and lower its costs.

I don’t want this to be our grandfather’s industry

Ian Enright, Cenovus vice-president and chief information officer

“I don’t want to run our grandfather’s IT shop. I don’t want this to be our grandfather’s industry,” Ian Enright, Cenovus vice-president and chief information officer, said of the Calgary-based company’s plans to move its data out of two local data centres and into Amazon Web Services’ cloud following a deal struck over the summer.

The oil and gas producer is also planning to use Amazon’s cloud computing power to process and analyze its data and run other software programs in a move the company says will lower costs and allow it to better understand the “millions of data points” produced by its steam-based oilsands plants.

“Running machine learning and analytics against these things, as other industries have found, we really feel we’ll be able to enhance our operations and our efficiency,” Enright said.

“Right now, we’re just scratching the surface of the value of that,” he said.

Cenovus did not announce the deal with Amazon when it was struck, but described a broader push at the company to adopt new digital technologies and cut costs. In an interview Enright said the company ran a “bake-off” between cloud computing providers in late 2018 and picked Amazon this year for its big move to cloud computing.

In fact, a series of recent announcements indicate that more Calgary-based oil and gas companies are turning to cloud computing and big data in an attempt to modernize their businesses as the energy industry is trying to shed its reputation of being laggards when it comes to adopting digital technologies.

This month, oilsands rival Suncor Energy Inc. announced a similar partnership with Microsoft Corp. to migrate its data, computing power and processes to the Redmond, Wash.-based company’s cloud services and overhaul many aspects of its business.

While oil and gas companies have been pilloried for being digital laggards, large Calgary-based oil and gas companies have been quietly integrating new digital technologies in a bid to cut costs as they’ve been pressured by low oil prices, a lack of export pipelines.

In 2017, Calgary-based pipeline giant TC Energy Corp. began migrating its data and computer processing onto Amazon’s cloud services and that move to cloud computing is now 90 per cent complete, said Eric Gales, Amazon Web Services country manager for Canada.

TC Energy did not respond to a request for comment.

As we enter the next chapter of digital reinvention, the oil and gas industry is primed for transformation

Ross Manning, IBM’s vice-president, Canadian energy industry

Gales said he’s seen a major change in large companies’ attitudes towards digital technologies in the past four years and said the pace of adoption has increased dramatically.

“Four years ago, I was still having conversations with customers about ‘why?’ Now, it’s about ‘Where do I start?’” Gales said.

Now he said, many of the major companies in the Canadian oilpatch have a “cloud strategy” because “the case for the cloud has been made.”

At Cenovus, Enright said he believes the move to Amazon’s cloud computing service will allow it to run multiple data analyses concurrently — something it wasn’t able to do previously — and also cut down the amount of time it takes to analyze that data.

“When you go to the cloud to look at reservoir simulations or modelling our greenhouse gas improvements, things like that, we can model many things simultaneously,” Enright said.

For example, when Cenovus struck its $17.7-billion deal to buy ConocoPhillips Co.’s Canadian assets in 2017, it took the company nearly four months to acquire the computer servers it needed to process the data for the deal.

As the company integrates more of its processes into Amazon’s cloud, Enright said he’s confident the company could process the same volume and complexity of data in under three weeks.

On Monday, Cenovus also announced a deal with IBM in which the Armonk, New York-based tech giant will implement a suite of new software programs at the oilsands producer.

Enright said the technology will run in the cloud and is part of the broader push to cloud computing and faster decision making aided by digital technologies.

“As we enter the next chapter of digital reinvention, the oil and gas industry is primed for transformation, with companies turning to new platforms that will maximize the value of their assets, lower operating costs and continue to improve on their sustainable operations,” IBM’s vice-president, Canadian energy industry Ross Manning said in a release.

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