Jul 20, 2020

Axios AM

Bulletin: In New Jersey, a gunman posing as a FedEx courier shot and killed the 20-year-old son of a federal judge at the family's front door, and wounded the judge's husband, AP reports.

  • The judge was in the basement and was unhurt, officials said.
1 big thing: We blew it

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America spent the spring building a bridge to August, spending trillions and shutting down major parts of society, Axios' Dan Primack and Nicholas Johnston write.

  • The bridge was to be a bent coronavirus curve. On the other side was some semblance of normal, where kids go to school and their parents go to work.

Why it matters: We blew it. We built a pier, instead.

We blew it on testing. President Trump regularly brags and complains about the number of COVID-19 tests conducted in the U.S. But America hasn't built the infrastructure necessary to process and trace the results.

  • Quest Diagnostics says its average turnaround time for a COVID-19 rest has lengthened to "seven or more days" — decreasing the chance that asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic carriers will self-quarantine.

We blew it on schools. Congress allocated $150 billion for state and local governments as part of the CARES Act. But that was aimed at maintaining status quo services in the face of plummeting tax revenue.

  • There was no money earmarked for schools to buy new safety equipment, or to hire additional teachers for smaller classes.
  • The administration insists that schools should reopen this fall because kids are less likely to get very sick from the virus. But it hasn't offered detailed plans to protect older teachers or pupils' family members.

We blew it on economics. The CARES Act was bold and bipartisan, a massive stimulus to meet the moment.

  • But it's running out, without an extension plan in place.
  • Expanded unemployment benefits expire in days.

The bottom line: It didn't have to be this way.

2. Severe hospitalization surge
Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, Harvard Global Health Institute. Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Coronavirus hospitalizations are skyrocketing, even beyond the hotspots of Arizona, Florida and Texas, Axios' Bob Herman and Andrew Witherspoon report.

  • Why it matters: The virus is spreading rapidly through almost every region.

Where things stand: Arizona remains in the worst shape. 24.4% of hospital beds in the state were occupied by COVID patients as of July 18, according to an analysis combining data from the COVID Tracking Project and the Harvard Global Health Institute.

  • Texas is second at 19.1%.

It gets worse: Many other states are showing significant upticks in virus hospitalizations during the first half of July, including Alabama, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Between the lines: Intensive-care unit beds, reserved for the sickest patients, are completely full in parts of Arizona, Florida, Mississippi and Texas.

3. Scoop ... Zuckerberg: No deal with Trump

Photo via Facebook Live

Mark Zuckerberg, under fire for allowing President Trump to post inflammatory statements on Facebook, tells me there's no truth to whispers that the two have a secret understanding.

  • "I've heard this speculation, too, so let me be clear: There's no deal of any kind," the CEO said, calling the idea "pretty ridiculous."

Why it matters: Zuckerberg, facing a growing ad boycott from brands that say Facebook hasn't done enough to curtail hate speech, has become increasingly public in criticizing Trump.

  • The CEO panned the administration's coronavirus response during a live interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci last week.

The context: Facebook has removed Trump ads and posts at least five times going back to 2018, for reasons that include "targeting personal attributes" and copyright violation.

  • Zuckerberg pointed out that "under this administration, we've faced record fines of $5 billion, are under antitrust investigation by multiple agencies, and have been targeted by an executive order to strip protections in Section 230," which shields tech companies from liability for content on their platforms.

I asked Zuckerberg about Trump after the CEO told a companywide Q&A on Thursday, in remarks obtained by Axios:

  • "One specific critique that I've seen is that there are a lot of people who've said that maybe we're too sympathetic or too close in some way to the Trump administration."
  • "I just want to push back on that a bit," Zuckerberg told employees. "[W]e need to separate out the fact of giving people some space for discourse, from the positions that we have individually."
  • Zuckerberg went on to cite many disagreements with Trump, including immigration, climate change and "his divisive and inflammatory rhetoric."

A White House official told me Trump "has always respected Zuckerberg’s strong pro-First Amendment position."

  • "He’s entitled to his position, as are the tens of millions of Trump supporters on Facebook."

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4. Pic du jour

Photo: MHI via AP

The United Arab Emirates' Hope spacecraft launched from Japan on a journey to Mars — the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission, Axios' Miriam Kramer reports.

  • Why it matters: This is the first of three missions to the Red Planet this summer, with China and the U.S. following in coming weeks.

Hope will now fly through space until it reaches its orbit around Mars in about seven months.

  • The UAE sees this home-grown mission as a way of fostering scientific and technical expertise in the Middle East as a whole.
5. Economic activism of the civil rights movement
Tweet by Bernie King, Martin Luther King's daughter, showing C.T. Vivian, Joseph E. Lowery, John Lewis and Andrew Young

The world has lost three vanguard leaders who conceived and led a revolutionary movement that changed the U.S. forever, Dion Rabouin writes in his daily newsletter, Axios Markets.

  • Presidential Medal of Freedom honorees John Lewis and Cordy Tindell "CT" Vivian died Friday, following the death of honoree Joseph E. Lowery in March.

Why it matters: As fewer of these men remain to tell the story of how they engineered the civil rights movement, it's important to remember the economic and strategic vision that fueled it.

What happened: The civil rights movement was a coordinated and multifaceted effort that took aim at the economic engine of businesses upholding the era's racist policies.

  • The bus boycotts, Freedom Rides, sit-ins, buyers' strikes and sidewalk demonstrations were all leveraged to pit a business' interest in making money against its interest in upholding racial segregation.

"It was the strategy," Vivian told Rabouin when he was a reporter at the Atlanta Daily World.

  • "That strategy of nonviolent direct action — that's what won. That's what made the difference."

Sign up for Axios Markets, and get Dion's full story shortly.

6. Hawley to squeeze corporate America on forced labor

Sen. Josh Hawley during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting in June. Photo: Erin Schaff/The New York Times/Pool via Reuters

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) tells me he'll introduce legislation this week requiring companies with business overseas to certify that their supply chains are free of forced labor — and he's especially concerned about China.

  • "If these reports from anti-trafficking advocates, anti-slavery advocates are wrong, then the companies will have a chance to set the record straight," Hawley said in an interview. "But they will be held accountable."
  • Hawley also plans to challenge celebrities who endorse the products: "I would hope that anybody who is profiting on that would want to push companies to certify that they're not benefiting from slave labor."

Hawley said multinational corporations "shift our jobs overseas, or they move their supply chains overseas, then they sell them to American consumers and they get celebrities to hawk them on TV."

  • "Just because you are publicly donating money to this or that nonprofit doesn't mean that it's OK to profit off slave labor," the senator added.

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7. Biden climate plan brings in unions

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden's latest climate plan mentions the word "union" more than it does the climate itself, Axios' Amy Harder writes in her "Harder Line" column.

  • Why it matters: Wind and solar energy have grown immensely across America over the last decade, but associated union jobs have not.
  • Biden is trying to change that.

Biden's expanded plan calls for sweeping changes to labor laws, alongside aggressive goals to transition off fossil fuels.

  • Workers building clean-energy infrastructure "must have the choice to join a union and collectively bargain," the plan states.
  • The plan supports legislation that makes it easier for workers to collectively bargain. Biden's plan would go further and hold executives "personally liable" if they interfere.

Keep reading.

8. Feds roil Portland

Friday night in Portland. Photo: Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP

The Democratic chairs of the House Oversight, Judiciary and Homeland Security committees yesterday called on the inspectors general of the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security to open an investigation into the Trump administration's use of federal agents against protesters in Portland, Oregon, Axios' Rashaan Ayesh reports.

  • Why it matters: They say the agencies "appear to have increasingly abused emergency authorities to justify the use of force against Americans exercising their right to peaceful assembly," pointing to reports of unidentified federal agents arbitrarily detaining protesters in unmarked vans.

Last night marked the 52nd night of protests in the city — and featured more action against peaceful protesters, local TV station KOIN reports.

  • "Around 11:50 p.m., federal officers rushed out of the [federal courthouse] and used a heavy amount of tear gas, in addition to other crowd-control munitions, against protesters, many of whom had their hands up."
9. Time capsule: What baseball was like
Photo: Adam Hunger/AP

With cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands at Citi Field, the Yankees' Clint Frazier hits a homer during an exhibition game against the Mets on Saturday.

10. Trump and the elephant

Screenshot via "Fox News Sunday"

When the topic of soundness of mind came up during the epic Chris Wallace interview on "Fox News Sunday," President Trump told the anchor: "I'll tell you what. Let's take a [cognitive] test. Let's take a test right now. ... Joe [Biden] and I will take a test. Let him take the same test that I took."

  • Wallace: "Incidentally, I took the test, too, when I heard that you passed it."
  • Trump: "Yeah, how did you do?"
  • Wallace: "Well, it's not the hardest test. They have a picture and it says, 'What’s that?' And it’s an elephant."

Trump: "No, no, no. You see, that's all misrepresentation."

  • Wallace: "Well, that's what it was on the web."
  • Trump: "It's all misrepresentation. Because, yes, the first few questions are easy. But I'll bet you couldn't even answer the last five questions. I'll bet you couldn't. They get very hard, the last five questions."


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