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May 6, 2020

DEVELOPING: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospitalized

This Day in History | 2004

An estimated 5.1 million people tune in for the final episode of Friends on NBC.

Good morning Middle Americans, 

We are sending our thoughts and prayers to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg this morning. She’s in the hospital with an infection not related to the novel coronavirus. Regardless of your politics, you have to admire the 87 year old justice. She’s a cult favorite among progressives. But can you imagine the debate over a supreme court nomination in this political environment? A deadly pandemic, murder hornets, a presidential election – sounds more like a Sharknado-style made for TV movie, than the news stories we have on our radar for this late spring and summer. 

It looks like all hell is about to break loose at the White House. The man who was incharge of the federal government’s vaccine program says he was ousted for raising red flags about the drug chloroquine. He’s spilling his guts to the New York times. Meanwhile, the White House suddenly announced that they are winding down their coronavirus task force.  But don’t be mistaken, of course the White House is still going to be actively leading a response to the pandemic, but they are trying to lower the profile of some of the people involved because of all the information that’s about to come spilling out.  President Trump is about to have a two front war on his hands. Front one-  the pandemic. Front two – the 2020 presidential election. Under normal circumstances, front two and Joe Biden wouldn’t be a real challenge. But these are anything but normal circumstances. 

Finally today – we have a troubling report about the decline of press freedoms across the world. Not only is the United States falling, now down to 45th, we are also seeing some incredibly egregious press restrictions, persecutions, and even members of the press being arrested and murdered, for simply trying to tell the truth. Hera are a  few of the things authoritarian regimes can never inoculate themselves from; God-given rights like freedom of speech, expression, and access to information. In some ways we live in the golden age of media. You have access to more information, instantly (thanks to the internet) than anyone could have imagined 100 years ago. But massive media corporations have failed to rise to the challenge of new competition. They’ve focused too much on their profits, or the lack thereof, than their product.  That’s why we’re’ here. To help you find the most important information out there. Sift through it, clarify it, and keep you informed. It’s our distinct honor. 

Read all about it. 

-Fraser Dixon

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospitalized with Infection

(AP) – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized Tuesday with an infection caused by a gallstone, but plans to take part in the court’s arguments by telephone Wednesday, the Supreme Court said.

The 87-year-old justice underwent non-surgical treatment for what the court described as acute cholecystitis, a benign gallbladder condition, at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

She is resting comfortably and expects to be in the hospital for a day or two, the court said.

Ginsburg took part in the court’s telephone arguments Monday and Tuesday. She initially sought medical care Monday, when the gallstone was first diagnosed.

Find out more here

Virus Whistle-Blower Says Trump Administration Steered Contracts to Cronies

(NY Times) – Rick Bright, the ousted chief of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency, said he was pressured to steer millions of dollars to the clients of a well-connected consultant.

Questionable contracts have gone to “companies with political connections to the administration,” the complaint said, including a drug company tied to a friend of Jared Kushner’s, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. It said Dr. Bright was retaliated against by his superiors, who pushed him out because of “his efforts to prioritize science and safety over political expediency.”

The 89-page complaint, filed with the Office of Special Counsel, which protects federal whistle-blowers, also said Dr. Bright “encountered opposition” from department superiors — including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II — when he pushed as early as January for the necessary resources to develop drugs and vaccines to counter the emerging coronavirus pandemic.

Learn more here

White House Hopes to Wind Down COVID-19 Task Force as Trump Visits Arizona Mask Factory

(Time) – Making himself Exhibit A for reopening the country, President Donald Trump visited an Arizona face mask factory Tuesday, using the trip to demonstrate his determination to see an easing of stay-at-home orders even as the coronavirus remains a dire threat. Trump did not wear a mask despite guidelines saying they should be worn inside the factory at all times.

“The people of our country should think of themselves as warriors. We have to open,” Trump declared as he left Washington on a trip that was more about the journey than the destination.

In Arizona, Trump acknowledged the human cost of returning to normalcy.

“I’m not saying anything is perfect, and yes, will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon,” he said.

Find out more here

Texas Governor Abbott Caught on Recording Saying Reopening Will Escalate Coronavirus the Same Day Businesses Open

(Newsweek) – Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been caught on an audio recording saying that reopening the state’s businesses will “actually will lead to an increase in spread” of coronavirus, adding, “The goal never has been to get COVID-19 transmission down to zero.”

The audio, released by the group Progress Texas, is reportedly from a May 1 call Abbott held with state legislators to discuss reopening businesses shuttered by the coronavirus epidemic. A Progress Texas spokeswoman told The San Antonio Current that the recording was provided by a legislator’s chief of staff to the Texas Democratic Party.

“How do we know reopening businesses won’t result in faster spread of COVID-19? Listen, the fact of the matter is, pretty much every scientific and medical report shows that whenever you have a reopening… that it actually will lead to an increase in spread,” Abbott says in the recording. “It’s almost ipso facto… The goal never has been to get COVID-19 transmission down to zero.” Read more here

U.S. Drops to 45 in Ranking of Countries Based on Freedom of the Press

(Marketwatch) – So much for that First Amendment right to freedom of the press. The U.S. has dropped to spot 45 in this year’s ranking of countries based on press freedom, conducted by NGO Reporters Without Borders.

The survey ranked 180 countries based on factors such as pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information. The index is compiled via a questionnaire distributed to experts based on both quantitative data and qualitative analysis.

The U.S. dropped two spots on this year’s list. The report specifically calls out new leadership under President Donald Trump as the driver behind the U.S.’s fall.See the full report here

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