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Honor one life among 500,000

PHILADELPHIA – As Mildred Perry’s casket was lowered into the snowy ground of Greenmount Cemetery on Tuesday, her family sang “I’ll Fly,” a traditional selection to close a funeral service.

Ms Perry, 94, believed she had beaten the coronavirus after contracting it last spring. But eight months later, his lungs had not recovered. She died on February 15 at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, of prolonged medical complications from Covid-19, as the country neared another painful stage in the pandemic.

Ms Perry grew up in Emanuel County, Georgia, then moved to Philadelphia shortly after her first marriage. She worked in a factory that made covers for seven years before leaving to raise her family. She loved gospel music, Sam Cooke, and welcoming families from out of town.

“Our sofa was always open,” said Sam Perry-Cross, 61, her youngest son, who described her as “the ultimate supplier”.

“She was right there for everyone.

Ms. Perry had nine children and 16 grandchildren, as well as numerous great and great-great-grandchildren.

About 25 family members were in attendance for the visit to the Alfonso Cannon funeral chapels in North Philadelphia on Tuesday. More family and friends wanted to pay their respects, but the chapel had to limit the size of the gathering due to the pandemic restrictions.

Family members had to pre-register on a guest list at the chapel. All visitors were greeted with a hand sanitizer pump when they entered the chapel for the visit.

“If Covid wasn’t there, we would have had it in a big church with a few hundred people,” Mr Perry-Cross said. “So today has been a very smooth and reduced day compared to what we are used to.”

The event was broadcast live for loved ones who were unable to attend in person. Ms Perry’s granddaughter, Aisha Jones, has connected with her family through FaceTime and Facebook Live. Family members have come from Delaware, Georgia, Washington, DC, and other areas of Philadelphia.

According to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, as of February 23, there were 117,022 coronavirus cases and 3,085 deaths in the city. Data released by the city showed black Philadelphians made up the city’s largest cluster of coronavirus cases, at 32%; the second largest cohort was classified as “unknown”. White Philadelphians made up 22%. Black residents also had the highest overall cases when broken down by age group.

Ms Perry died a week before the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus exceeded 500,000 cases.

Ms. Perry’s other son, Larry Perry, had fabric shirts and masks made that proclaimed in bold print “The Best Mom Ever.”

The pandemic has dramatically reduced in-person interactions with family and friends. Ms Perry’s return home services provided an opportunity for the family to come together – some members have met for the first time, according to Mr Perry-Cross.

“It’s a shame it’s only for one day,” said Perry-Cross. “But it’s great to come home.”

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Video: Biden and Harris honor 500,000 Americans lost in pandemic

new video loaded: Biden and Harris honor 500,000 Americans lost in pandemic



Biden and Harris honor 500,000 Americans lost in pandemic

As the nation passed a “truly dark and heartbreaking milestone on Monday,” President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris observed a moment of silence during a ceremony at the White House.

Today we mark a truly dark and heartbreaking milestone: 500,071 dead. More Americans have died in a year in this pandemic than in WWI, WWII and the Vietnam War combined. This is more lives lost to this virus than any other nation on Earth. We often hear people described as “ordinary Americans”. There is nothing like it. There is nothing ordinary about them. The people we lost were amazing. They have crossed generations. Born in America, immigrated to America. But just like that, many of them took their last breaths on their own in America. As a nation, we cannot accept such a cruel fate. Although we have been fighting this pandemic for so long, we must resist becoming numb with pain. We must resist seeing every life as a statistic or a blur or on the news. We must do this to honor the dead, but just as importantly, take care of the living, those they have left behind.

Recent episodes of Coronavirus pandemic: latest updates


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Video: Watch Live: Brian Sicknick Lies in Honor on Capitol Hill

TimesVideoWatch Live: Brian Sicknick Lies in Honor at the U.S. Capitol On Wednesday, Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Hill police officer who died of his injuries in the January 6 riot, will lie in honor at the Capitol Rotunda.

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Kennedy Center to honor Dick Van Dyke and others at scaled-down events

After Dick Van Dyke got the call informing him that he had been chosen as the Kennedy Center Fellow, he did exactly what he was told not to do: he called his family to tell them about the good news.

And why not? He is a 95-year-old show business statesman whose eponymous television show is believed to have helped shape American sitcoms for decades.

“My wife took the call and the instructions were, ‘Congratulations, but don’t tell anyone,’” Van Dyke said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “You can not do this! I immediately called all my relatives. I couldn’t hold it back.

Van Dyke is now adding one of the country’s highest artistic accolades to his curriculum vitae. Other recipients, announced Wednesday by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, include singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez; country music star Garth Brooks; actress, choreographer and producer Debbie Allen; and violinist Midori.

Last year, the pandemic blurred the Kennedy Center Honors’ schedule. Typically held in December, the performances and ceremonies associated with the show have been postponed to May, with airing scheduled for June 6 on CBS.

Another major change is the shifting political winds: While President Trump did not attend honors during his tenure or host the traditional White House reception for the laureates, President-elect Biden is expected to rekindle the relationship.

In a typical year, the program features an opera house filled with celebrities, dignitaries and plush donors to celebrate the winners. This year, the performances will be filmed on the Kennedy Center campus – some, perhaps, with a small audience – or the film crew will visit the artists if they can’t make it to Washington.

The center hopes to have its typical reception at the White House and a ceremony at the State Department, where the ribbons are distributed.

But some traditions are out of the question.

“A dinner with 2,000 people in the lobby will not take place,” said Deborah Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center. “We are only going to do this in the safest and most respectful way.”

The winners – selected on the recommendation of an advisory committee made up of representatives from the Kennedy Center and past award recipients – represent folk, country and classical music, as well as theater and television.

Baez’s career as a singer-songwriter has long been linked to her political activism, which began with the civil rights movement and then the anti-war protests. Baez, 80, says she now sees painting as her main artistic outlet. As for her legacy, she would rather be remembered for “good issues,” she said, citing Rep. John Lewis, rather than for awards.

“I don’t want to be too respectable,” she said in an interview and laughed. “But I accept and I guess the ‘good stuff’ I’ve been in my life in is part of why I’m getting this award.”

While these laureates have long passed the “struggling artists” stage of their careers, they are not lost in the fact that they are receiving this award during times of crisis in their industries, due to closures due to a pandemic. .

Brooks – who is the No. 1 best-selling solo artist in US history, according to the Recording Industry Association of America – said he feared for musicians who occupy the position he held there is 30 years old, playing in bars and clubs. with the hope that this leads to a recording contract.

“The carpet was pulled out from under them,” said Brooks, 58. “How this will affect the music industry in the future is a big question.”

Over the past 10 months, these five artists have been looking for safe ways to share their art and interact with their audiences. Baez has exhibited his paintings virtually, for example; Allen gave live dance lessons to a virtual audience of over 35,000 people; and Van Dyke said he was delighted to learn from fan mail that some kids back from school found out about “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. (“I have a whole new fan club!” He said.)

For Midori, 49, a Japanese-born violinist who rose to prominence in the United States after performing with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 11, the pandemic has brought greater appreciation for playing. in front of an audience, in flesh and blood. She gave virtual workshops and master classes during the pandemic.

“It made me realize how precious the moments of being able to do things live are,” she says.

At a time when the country is somewhat of a wasteland for the performing arts, there is a desire that this spring honors program usher in some kind of rebirth.

Allen, 70, has a long history of promoting the arts as a core national interest. After establishing herself as a Broadway performer, being recognized for her roles in “West Side Story” and “Sweet Charity,” then for her choreography “Fame,” Allen was a sort of cultural diplomat under President George W. Bush, traveling abroad to teach and talk about dance.

Allen said that in times of national crisis, she sees the arts as a balm – as well as a space to discuss the pressing issues of the day. (In “Grey’s Anatomy,” in which Allen produces, directs, and stars, Covid-19 is the central plot.)

“As a country, we are all looking for the light because such a storm takes over,” Allen said. “And the arts are always an answer.”

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Who else has refused a presidential honor?

But few people refused the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Very few have done so, whether out of modesty or for special circumstances,” said E. Fletcher McClellan, professor of political science at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania who has written on the history of the medal.

Mr. Belichick’s refusal to accept the award “is by far the most public and important rejection,” said Professor McClellan.

Here are the others who refused presidential honors.

In 1946, President Harry S. Truman awarded the medal, then known simply as the Medal of Freedom, to Moe Berg, a former Major League Baseball catcher who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Reds. Boston Sox and fluent in at least half of a dozen languages, including German and Japanese.

His gift for languages ​​and quick wit made him an ideal spy during WWII, when he was tasked with finding out whether the Nazis were making an atomic bomb.

The mission was so risky that Berg was given a cyanide tablet he could swallow in case he was caught, according to “The Catcher Was a Spy” by Nicholas Dawidoff.

When Berg learned that he had received the Medal of Freedom, he refused to accept it.

In a note to a colonel, he said the story of his “humble contribution” could not be disclosed.

“The medal embarrasses me,” he added, according to Mr. Dawidoff’s book.

“I think it’s almost normal that Moe didn’t take it,” said Aviva Kempner, a filmmaker who made a documentary about Berg. “It matches his secret character.”

She added: “He did not spy and risk his life every day for his country for a medal. He did it so that Nazism could be defeated.

Berg’s sister later accepted the medal on his behalf and donated it to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

President John F. Kennedy created the Presidential Medal of Freedom as it is known today.

When Truman created the Medal of Freedom during his administration, it was intended to honor individuals who had demonstrated outstanding service during the war.

In February 1963, Kennedy reintroduced it as the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an honor that would be bestowed at the discretion of the President for various types of service and achievement.

He and Jacqueline Kennedy, the first lady, designed the new medal together, said Kyle Kopko, an assistant professor at Elizabethtown College who has helped maintain a database of recipients.

President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, before the new medal was unveiled.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson presented him with the medal posthumously, he sought to include Mrs. Kennedy in that honor.

She refused to accept it, however, probably because she wanted to make her husband “the focal point of honor,” Professor Kopko said.

Since 1963, more than 600 medals have been awarded, said Professor McClellan.

He said he found it hard to think of others who had rejected the award.

“If there was a phone call to a character who was told, ‘You get the medal,’ and that number said, ‘No thanks’, we have no record of that,” said the Professor McClellan.

President Truman said he would rather get the Medal of Honor, a military honor, rather than being president.

But in 1971, he blocked an attempt by the House of Representatives to present him with the medal.

In a letter to Congress he wrote: “I do not consider that I have done anything that should be the reason for an award, Congress or otherwise.”

The Medal of Honor, the country’s highest honor for military valor in action, is traditionally awarded by the incumbent president.

Truman served as an artillery officer in World War I, but his memo to Congress suggested that he believed accepting an award intended for “bravery in combat” would undermine honor, according to a May 1971 article. in the New York Times.

“That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate what you and the others have done, because I appreciate the nice things that have been said and the offer to give me the prize,” Truman wrote. “Therefore, I end by saying thank you, but I will not accept a Congressional Medal of Honor.”

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Electoral college voter: long an honor and now also a headache

In Michigan, Democratic voters have been promised police escorts from their cars to the State Capitol, where they will officially vote for Joseph R. Biden Jr.

In Arizona, state officials are holding the vote at an undisclosed location for security reasons, away from what is expected to be a heated hearing on electoral integrity issues Republicans will conduct in the Statehouse.

Even in Delaware, the tiny, deeply Democratic home state of the president-elect, officials moved their ceremony to a college gymnasium, a site believed to offer better public health and safety checks.

For decades, Electoral College voters have been the would-be bureaucrats of American democracy, operating well below the political radar in providing pro forma certification of a new president. Despite its procedural nature, the role has long been viewed as an honor, bestowed as a means of recognizing political stature or civic service.

This year, the Electoral College is yet another piece of routine electoral mechanics thrown into the reticule of President Trump’s sustained assault on voting integrity. After five weeks of lawsuits, recounts and Republican investigations into unsubstantiated fraud allegations, Americans will look to the 538 Electoral College members to give a measure of finality to Mr Biden’s decisive victory.

And as voters in small towns face harassment and larger figures adjust to heightened security measures, a duty long regarded as a privilege has also become a headache. Even as voters prepared to vote on Monday, Mr. Trump on Twitter on Sunday denounced the “THE MOST CORRUPTED ELECTION IN UNITED STATES HISTORY” and suggested that swing states could not certify “Without committing a severely punishable crime” – raising more concerns about the personal safety of voters.

“Trump supporters didn’t get the same kind of vitriol in 2016,” said Khary Penebaker, a Democratic voter from Wisconsin who will vote for Mr. Biden at the State Capitol in Madison. “That’s scary stuff, man, and that’s not what America is supposed to be.”

Aside from security and pandemic concerns, which led to the state capitals of Michigan and Wisconsin being closed to the public, the process has become an unlikely media event. From protests outside polling stations to live broadcasts of activities inside the halls, voters, state officials and party leaders are bracing for an extraordinary attack.

The new focus on voters comes as the Electoral College system receives weak support from the American public, especially Democrats who say it does not represent the will of the people, after the last two presidents Republicans George W. Bush and President Trump took the White House while losing the popular vote.

Monday’s certifications will take place against a backdrop of tense partisan acrimony. The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the desperate 11th hour effort by Trump allies to change the election result, the latest in a string of stinging legal defeats. A broader effort to persuade legislatures in Republican-controlled states to swap Democratic voters for a list loyal to Mr. Trump has also failed.

Despite the legal losses, much of the party rallied around the president’s desire to overthrow the will of millions of voters, resulting in a wave of outrage and threats from supporters who now believe in the theories of the president’s plot.

On Saturday, thousands of Mr. Trump’s supporters demonstrated in Washington DC and several state capitals, many carrying Trump signs and chanting “four more years.” Clashes with counter-demonstrators produced several incidents of violence.

The anger of the president’s supporters – and their seemingly unwavering adherence to his false narrative of stolen elections – can prove difficult to quench.

“I don’t think we’re at a point where Joe Biden can legitimately be called president-elect,” said Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio secretary of state who will vote for Mr. Trump in Columbus. “It’s almost laughable that anyone who thinks President Trump should give in prematurely.”

Even some Republicans who are more willing to acknowledge electoral reality seem unable to give up hope entirely.

“I imagine Monday can close the door,” said Michael Burke, who just won his reelection as President of the Republican Party in Pinal County, Arizona. “Most people are realistic that the way is narrowing so that we can change anything. But, you know, miracles happen.

For Democrats, the Electoral College vote will be the latest assertion of the defeat of a president who they say has undermined the foundations of the country’s political system.

“Our courts and our institutions have stood,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania, who will serve as a voter for the third time on Monday, voting for Mr. Biden. “No politician – no matter his ego and however reckless his lies – will compromise the will of the people.

Embedded in the Constitution, voters are called upon to act weeks after the end of elections. A majority is required by law or by the promise to vote for the winner of the popular vote in his state. Although the Constitution allows them to change their votes (unless state laws prohibit it), becoming what are known as “unfaithful voters,” they never changed the outcome of an election.

Their votes are usually a matter of sleep, a final ceremonial step in moving the country forward towards inauguration day.

Not this year.

The 16 who will vote for Mr Biden in Michigan are expected to walk through a gauntlet of protesters, some armed, from a group who believe the election was stolen from Mr Trump.

“It’s terrible when these things are used to intimidate people,” said Bobbie Walton, 84, a longtime political activist from Davison, Mich., And first-time voter. “Maybe I should wear one of my favorite t-shirts: ‘Don’t push, I’m old’.

In Wisconsin, voters were given new security protocols on Friday, with instructions to enter the Capitol District through an unmarked side door away from expected protesters.

“You watch the Batman movie and you see how he jumps through the waterfall to get to the Batcave,” Mr. Penebaker, the Democratic voter for Waukesha County who is also a gun control activist. “It’s like that.”

Mr Penebaker and the other nine Wisconsin voters have received a wave of pleas on social media and email from Trump supporters in recent weeks urging them to renounce their loyalty to Mr Biden. Some posted comments on a photo Mr. Penebaker shared on Instagram of his teenage son’s new haircut, urging him to ditch Mr. Biden.

An email from a woman in eastern Wisconsin pleaded with Democratic voters in Wisconsin in apocalyptic terms. “For goodness sake, don’t destroy America as we have known it,” the woman wrote in the email, which was viewed by The New York Times.

Much of the security concern centers on five states that only affected Mr. Biden: Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona and Pennsylvania. The states won by Mr. Trump don’t expect much heckling in their votes. Frank LaRose, Secretary of State for Ohio, said he had not requested additional security measures.

The growing coronavirus pandemic adds to the general feeling of anxiety. Public health restrictions have prompted several states to limit the public to their events and enforce strict masking and social distancing guidelines.

As a result, more than half of the states plan to broadcast their events live, provide transparency, and anticipate some of the conspiratorial thoughts that many officials plan to follow their events.

Once voters have voted, the votes are counted and voters sign certificates showing the results. These are matched with certificates from the governor’s office showing the state’s total votes. Typically, the whole process takes less than an hour.

Van R. Johnson, the mayor of Savannah, Georgia, said his security service had been beefed up due to his role as a voter. He described the decision as a “precautionary measure” that did not stem from specific threats but, he said, reflected the climate in which voters were working.

“It’s a crazy time,” he added, “and we don’t know what these people are going to do.”

Yet none of it, he said, has eclipsed how “exhilarating and humiliating” it is to be one of 16 Democratic voters, the first in Georgia in nearly three decades, the last time a Democrat won the state.

A voter from Wisconsin, State Representative Shelia Stubbs of Madison, said she cried with joy after being named a voter this year.

“Being an African American and a woman, and being able to be a voter to see Senator Kamala Harris become our vice president – that’s an ‘aah!’ moment, ”she said. “I’m so excited.” She said she had been urged to “do the right thing” but had not received any threatening messages.

Although the process for selecting voters varies, they are generally chosen by States Parties. Each state has the same number of voters as senators and congressional representatives, plus three voters from the District of Columbia, which has no congressional representation.

There is no real qualification to become a voter beyond a deep connection with a political party, whether as an activist, donor, politician or super-volunteer. Those invited to serve range from former President Bill Clinton to Mary Arnold, a retired social worker who is president of the local Democratic Party in Columbia County, Wisconsin – a swinging area just north of Madison that has picked Mr. Trump by just 517 – the voting margin.

Ms. Arnold says that most of her neighbors in Columbus, the small town of about 5,000 where she grew up and has now retired, have supported and excited her.

“If people want to push me away, let them,” she said. “I certainly won’t let anyone try to push me – I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.

In Delaware, John D. Daniello prides himself on helping kickstart Mr. Biden’s political career, saying he drafted the president-elect to replace him on New Castle County Council in 1970.

The 88-year-old former state party chairman is disappointed that his daughter, the current party chair, cannot accompany him to the college gymnasium where he will vote. And he’s not sure if he will attend Mr. Biden’s inauguration, given his age and the pandemic.

But Mr Daniello does not intend to miss his chance to vote in his state’s election for his old friend.

“We are known as the first state to sign the constitution, so I consider my vote the first vote for him,” he said. “Hell or believe, I’ll show myself up there.”

Kathleen Gray, Kay Nolan and Hank Stephenson contributed reporting.