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Some columns write themselves. In an age of public confusion over what’s real and what’s not, just by following hard news over a recent 48-hour period in early July, I can relay here the following astonishing chunks of information:

The New York Times reported that Russia paid $100,000 to the Taliban in Afghanistan for every U.S. soldier killed there. President Donald J. Trump called news reports about Russia offering bounties for dead GI’s “a hoax.”

Nonetheless, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., called for Senate hearings on the intelligence behind the reports.

The mother of a U.S. soldier killed this spring in Afghanistan asked on a cable TV news program, “What has been done by the White House about these reports? And what will be done?” From the White House the only response was silence.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was made eligible to run for two consecutive eight-year terms and, if he won, would head his country’s government till 2036.

Putin and Trump, according to White House logs, have spoken six times on the phone since January. From none of those conversations has there been any report of Trump even questioning, much less rebuking, Putin on the issue of Russian money being paid to Afghan forces.

In the same 48-hour period, epidemiological monitoring centers reported that the United States was experiencing 50,000 new cases of coronavirus every day. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration’s leading infectious disease specialist, warned that if tighter measures were not put in place, the daily case surges could rise to 100,000 a day.

Dr. Irwin Redlener, another pandemic expert, of Columbia University, said Trump’s plan for the Republicans to hold their August nominating convention in Jacksonville, Florida, with no social distancing for a crowd of 10,000 or more was “incredibly irresponsible.”

Having people coming from a variety of locations packed together elbow to elbow, not wearing masks but also chanting and cheering is diametrically opposed to the White House’s own guidelines.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry mandated mask wearing for everyone in his jurisdiction entering any public space.

One more stunning happening in our 48-hour period: City workers painted BLACK LIVES MATTER in giant letters on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, facing Trump Tower. The order came directly from New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio.

The lettering matched a similar painting on a Washington, D.C., street in front of the White House, ordered by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Trump’s speech at Mount Rushmore dismissed protesters there and in many U.S. cities seeking full rights for minorities including Native Americans as “left wing mobs.” He has also defended monuments to Confederate generals and other secessionist figures against escalating calls for their removal.

Caroline Randall Williams, a writer in residence at Vanderbilt University, suggested to Trump in a New York Times op-ed that if he wanted monuments, “My body is a monument. I am the descendant of black women and the white men who owned them … men who raped their help.”

John Patrick Grace formerly worked for The Associated Press as a reporter (Chicago), editor (New York) and foreign correspondent (Rome). He lives in Huntington, edits books and teaches The Life Writing Class.

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