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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“When I heard President Trump say we only had 15 cases and by the end of the week that it would be zero, I knew that it was time to act.” — Reverend Derrick DeWitt, director of the Maryland Baptist Aged Home in Baltimore, on what prompted him to take action to protect the nursing home’s residents from the coronavirus.
Huge day at the Supreme Court: In a peculiar decision, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four liberal justices in striking down the Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges in local hospitals, a law that would virtually have ended abortion in the state. The liberal justices say the law is an undue burden on abortion. Roberts himself believes the law is constitutional, and voted to uphold an identical Texas law in 2016, but he voted against it this time in order to maintain Supreme Court precedent.
SCOTUS also gave the president the right to fire the head of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau for any reason. The decision from the court’s conservative justices significantly strengthens executive power and reduces the independence of agencies.
Russian bounties did result in the death of “several” US troops in Afghanistan. According to the Washington Post, intelligence assessments based on interviews with captured Taliban fighters concluded that Russian bounties to the Taliban did lead to American deaths.
Facebook struggles with an advertiser revolt, falling share price. Coca-Cola became the latest company to pause advertising on the platform. Inspired by the George Floyd protests, activists have petitioned advertisers to quit platforms that don’t crack down on hateful speech. Meanwhile, CEO Mark Zuckerberg continues to be raked for warping Facebook guidelines to protect President Trump.
VIEWS OF THE DAY
Did President Trump ignore the Russia-Taliban bounty reports?
It takes a lot to shock during the Trump era, but everything about the Russia-Taliban bounty story is horrifying. These bounties may have cost the lives of several Americans, but that only begins the shame. US intelligence learned about the bounties months ago, but the administration seemingly has done nothing in response to the Russian murder-for-hire program. No trade sanctions. No active measures. Not even an unkind holiday card for the Russian ambassador.
News reports say that the bounty program was briefed at the highest levels of the White House, but these matters are secret, so it’s hard to know for certain. From what’s been reported so far, there are four likely scenarios. All but one of them should forfeit the right of Donald Trump to serve as president.
- The only excuse that’s not shameful for Trump — which is also the one the President is currently invoking — is that US intelligence decided that the information either wasn’t true or wasn’t well sourced enough to be shared, and so kept it from him. Let’s hope this is what happened!
- The President was briefed about the bounty program — at least one report alleges it was included in a daily briefing — and but he chose to do nothing because he didn’t want to offend Putin. If that’s true, he has abandoned his paramount responsibility to defend American interests, and his moral obligation to protect the lives of Americans he has sent into combat.
- The bounty was included in a presidential daily briefing, but the president didn’t pay attention, as he is notorious for doing. If that’s true, he would be scandalously negligent.
- Top White House officials were briefed about the bounty but decided not to tell the president, because they know Russia news triggers him. If that’s true — and it’s the theory I’d pick if you forced me to choose one — we have a president who’s so thin-skinned he can’t do the job, and cares more for cosseting his ego than safeguarding the national interest.
Congress must vigorously investigate what the president was or wasn’t told, and why. — DP
COVID deaths are starting to tick up again in the hardest-hit states
The last, best hope for coronavirus skeptics has been that the recent surge in new cases in many US states — as well as the stark divergence between the US and Europe — is a benign reflection of increased testing and not a harbinger of doom.
To support this view, the skeptics point to the shifting demographics of new cases, which skew much younger than they did back in the spring. They also point to “death” statistics, which, nationally, have continued to decline.
There remains a hope that this new wave of cases will not be as deadly as the first one. Earlier detection, younger patients, better treatments, and, perhaps, a virus evolving to become less lethal may, in fact, lead to a much lower death rate than the country saw in the spring.
But it’s too early to celebrate.
For two reasons, death statistics lag new infection statistics by an estimated 3-4 weeks. First, it usually takes people a couple of weeks post-diagnosis to die, And, second, the reporting of deaths often lags the date of death. So the “picture” we are seeing from “deaths” charts reflects the epidemic of a few weeks or a month ago rather than the situation today.
And, ominously, in the hardest-hit states, deaths are beginning to follow the case trajectory upwards.
In Arizona, for example, new cases began to skyrocket at the beginning of June. Three weeks later, the “death” count has also begun to accelerate.
Here Arizona daily cases, via Johns Hopkins University’s tracker:
Arizona daily deaths:
The same pattern, less pronounced, is visible in Texas. Texas daily cases:
Texas daily deaths:
Because of the factors above — younger patients, earlier detection, better treatments — this new surge of infections may well end up being less deadly than the one that hit the Northeast in the spring. Let’s hope so. But the early “deaths data” suggests it won’t be benign. — HB
Cuomo and DeSantis are using quarantines to cover their own failures
In the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic when it was clear that New York was an epicenter, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine for New Yorkers entering the Sunshine State, much to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s irritation.
DeSantis credited his quarantine order on New Yorkers as one of the reasons Florida wasn’t hit as hard by the virus, and in May began reopening beaches and businesses in his state, brushing off concerns that it was too fast and too soon. When immediate returns didn’t show a spike in cases, conservative commentators asked: “Where does Ron DeSantis go to get his apology?”
Three months later, New York has flattened the curve while the rest of the country — and Florida, in particular — has seen a new spike in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
Cuomo, widely praised for holding coronavirus press briefings that weren’t as useless as Trump’s, has seen his star dimmed of late as more scrutiny is paid to his poor decisions that exacerbated the death toll. That’s why it might not be a coincidence that he’s making it personal with DeSantis.
“You played politics with this virus, and you lost,” Cuomo said to DeSantis.
Cuomo’s decision to force nursing homes to admit Covid-afflicted patients almost certainly led to thousands of avoidable deaths. DeSantis’ mixed messages — including downplaying the risks to young people, and now blaming young people for the spread of the virus — have also contributed to the spike in Florida.
This tit-for-tat between large state governors —neither of whom has done his job very well — is a helpful reminder that we still know extraordinarily little about the virus, and any elected official telling you they’ve got it all under control is just playing politics. — Anthony Fisher
Beware the urge to indiscriminately cancel people
In times of great cultural reckoning, bad actors are severely punished — cancelled, if you will.
But as I wrote in a Business Insider column over the weekend, the current massive sweep of racist or abusive bosses, bad cops, and tone-deaf institutions has also led to some cancellations that didn’t move the needle an inch toward a less racist and more just society.
When a non-public figure loses their livelihood over a tasteless Halloween costume from years past that they immediately regretted and apologized for, has the public interest been served? When a philanthropic Palestinian immigrant’s self-made family business is imperiled by the resurfacing of his daughter’s awful racist tweets as a 14-year-old, does it root out institutional racism? When a liberal data analyst loses his job because he tweeted a Black professor’s study showing riots help Republicans win elections, did it help increase police accountability?
The urge to name and shame and pile-on every ephemeral internet-driven outrage is in conflict with one of the tenets of criminal justice reform — the idea that we need to police and punish less harshly on a societal level.
There are plenty of people in positions of power who need to be called to account, and there are plenty of behaviors that should never be excused. But if we treat all transgressions — or even political disagreements — as unforgivable, career-cancelling crimes, we won’t get any closer to a more just and equitable country. — AF
IDEA OF THE DAY
It’s all Newt Gingrich’s fault. According to Julian Zelizer’s new book Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of a New Republican Party, Newt introduced or worsened most of the pathologies that have infected American policies, including, as the New York Times’ Jennifer Senior summarizes: “The normalization of personal destruction. The contempt for custom. The media-baiting, the annihilation of bipartisan comity, the delegitimizing of institutions.” —DP
BUSINESS & ECONOMY
Three stimulus plans under consideration by Congress. They’ll debate a fourth huge relief bill in July, and the top three ideas are: another batch of stimulus checks; an extension of expanded unemployment benefits, perhaps till year’s end; and a $1,200 back-to-work bonus check for rehired people.
The best family photos taken by Kate Middleton. She’s a good photographer, and it helps that her family is so photogenic.
St. Louis couple filmed outside their mansion pointing guns at BLM marchers. The couple are both personal-injury lawyers, and even represent a Black client suing the St. Louis police.
THE BIG 3*
“I was born into a huge situation of privilege”: Bill Gates’ daughter Jennifer, now a medical student, talks about the advantages of growing up with unfathomable wealth.
Popular Egyptian belly-dancer sentenced to prison for “inciting debauchery” on Tik-Tok. Sama El-Masry got three years in prison because her content was too sexually suggestive. She says her phone was stolen and the videos at issue were private and released without her consent.
Flying United and Southwest during the pandemic: What’s the difference? Insider’s Thomas Pallini tried both. They’re inconsistent about masking and boarding and seating arrangements.
*The most popular stories on Insider today.