Axios AM

An analog clock with only two symbols instead of twelve: the symbols read 'AM' and 'PM'.

July 03, 2022

🐟 Happy Sunday, and holiday weekend, from Lake Gaston, N.C.

  • Smart Brevityβ„’ count: 1,182 words ... 4Β½ mins. Edited by Jennifer Koons.

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ Breaking: Russia claims it now controls Ukraine's eastern Luhansk province β€” key to seizing all of the Donbas region. Ukraine disputes there's been a complete takeover. Go deeper.

1 big thing: Celebrity trials shape free-speech law

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

High-profile lawsuits have ignited a cultural and political debate over free speech, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

  • Why it matters: Conservatives complain of censorship. Progressives clamor for tighter restrictions on misinformation. But the courts are where the real-world rules of the road get written.

Kevin Goldberg β€” a First Amendment specialist at Freedom Forum, a free-speech nonprofit β€” said more people β€œwith money and an ax to grind ... are realizing they can score public and political points by bringing these lawsuits."

πŸ”‘ Key cases:

  • Johnny Depp's defamation suit against Amber Heard β€” which he ultimately won β€” became a polarizing cultural flashpoint, especially on TikTok.
  • Kyle Rittenhouse β€” who gained infamy after shooting three people, killing two, in Kenosha, Wis. β€” said Depp's victory has inspired him to file a defamation suit of his own.
  • Sarah Palin lost her defamation suit against The New York Times, after a court said she had failed to prove that the paper acted with "actual malice" toward her β€” the high bar that defamation claims have to clear.
  • Former President Trump has forced the courts to grapple with new First Amendment questions. A federal appeals court ruled in 2020 that Trump couldn't block people on Twitter.

Context: Democrats are twice as likely to say they feel their free speech rights are protected, compared to Republicans and Independents, according to a poll out in January from the Knight Foundation and Ipsos.

πŸ‘€ What we're watching: Two Supreme Court justices β€” Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch β€” have said the court should consider overturning the landmark New York Times v. Sullivan libel standard.

  • Thomas dissented this past week as the court turned away a fresh challenge to the First Amendment precedent. "New York Times and its progeny have allowed media organizations and interest groups to cast false aspersions on public figures with near impunity," he wrote.

Share this story.

2. Mapped: States with higher maternal mortality

Data: CDC. (Some data unavailable due to reliability and confidentiality restrictions.) Map: Jacque Schrag/Axios
Data: CDC. (Some data unavailable due to reliability and confidentiality restrictions.) Map: Jacque Schrag/Axios

This map shows that several of the states imposing abortion bans are ones with historically higher rates of maternal mortality.

  • The CDC defines maternal mortality as "the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy ... from any cause related to ... pregnancy."

⚑ The latest: Across Texas yesterday, clinics shut down abortion services after the state Supreme Court blocked a Houston judge's order that briefly allowed the procedure to resume in some cases. Go deeper.

3. Court asks help protecting justices

Demonstrators outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in Chevy Chase, Md., in May. Photo: Bonnie Cash/Getty Images

As part of a standoff among county, state and federal officials, the Supreme Court is asking the Maryland and Virginia governors to step up enforcement against abortion-rights picketers outside justices' homes.

  • "For weeks on end, large groups of protesters chanting slogans, using bullhorns, and banging drums have picketed Justices' homes," Marshal Gail Curley wrote Friday in letters to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, both Republicans.
Law-enforcement officers stand guard as protesters march past Justice Kavanaugh's home in June. Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Context: In May, the two governors sent a joint letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking for federal law enforcement resources to keep the justices safe, and enforce a federal law they said prohibits picketing with the intent to influence a judge, AP reports.

  • The plea to governors came three weeks after a California man with a gun was found near the Maryland home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The man told police he was planning to kill the justice.

Youngkin in May pushed for a security perimeter around the homes of justices in Fairfax County. Board of Supervisors Chair Jeffrey McKay said that would infringe on First Amendment protest rights.

  • McKay said yesterday that the county's position is "unchanged."

4. πŸ“· 1,000 words

Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

Matthew Mottola carries his dog, Luca, at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Friday.

5. Vanishing moderate Dems

Photo Illustrations: Justin Metz for The New York Times. Used by permission

Jason Zengerle writes in the N.Y. Times Magazine cover story that normal midterm agita is becoming "closer to an existential crisis among moderate Democrats," who "readily acknowledge that voters perceive the party as having drifted out of the mainstream."

  • "And they are convinced that this is threatening their political survival."

Zengerle says some of these progressive shifts β€” especially on economic issues, including raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and increasing the federal minimum wage β€” track with public opinion.

  • "But on social, cultural and religious issues, particularly those related to criminal justice, race, abortion and gender identity, the Democrats have taken up ideological stances that many of the college-educated voters who now make up a sizable portion of the party’s base cheer but the rest of the electorate does not."

Keep reading (subscription).

6. 🐦 Moguls tweeting

Via Reuters

Elon Musk, who went nine days without tweeting, broke his fast yesterday with tweets that included a photo of himself and four of his children with Pope Francis: "Honored to meet @Pontifex."

Via Twitter

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who has mixed it up with President Biden on Twitter before, yesterday criticized White House efforts to blame oil companies for rising gas prices.

  • Axios explains: The central problem is too much demand for fuel and too little supply.

7. The power of simplicity

Left: Blank Archives/Getty Images. Right: eBay

The New York Times' obituary of Arnold Skolnick, who designed the iconic Woodstock poster in just a few days in 1969, salutes the design as "a model of simplicity."

  • It "both conveyed information about the festival β€” when and where it was, who was performing β€” and caught the sensibility of the moment," becoming one of the most familiar pop-culture images of its time, The Times' Neil Genzlinger writes (subscription).

Skolnick died at 85 last month in Amherst, Mass.

πŸ‹ The Times notes the clarity he brought in 1971 to the cover design for a Ralph Nader book about defective cars β€” lemons.

  • "I looked, and I said, 'Just put a lemon on wheels,'" Skolnick said in a 2019 interview with The Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, Mass. "And nobody moved. They said, 'Get Ralph Nader on the phone!’"

"I got a lemon, I got a Tonka toy truck," Skolnick said. "I put it on my kitchen table and I shot it."

8. Hamptons frenzy slows

This two-acre compound in Sagaponack (Southampton), featuring a farmhouse originally built in the 1920s, is yours for $12 million. Photo: Douglas Elliman. Used by permission

The Hamptons'Β COVID-era buying frenzy is a thing of the past:

  • There's still lots of activity in the posh Long Island enclave. But people aren't as desperate as they were a few months ago, Bloomberg's James Tarmy writes.

May's sales in the Hamptons were lackluster, according to a report by the high-end Douglas Elliman Real Estate:

  • New signed contracts for single-family homes were down 38% from last May β€” even asΒ 14% more listings came onto the market.

A twist: Many Hamptons buyers can pay cash rather than worry about mortgage rates. Yet even the richest buyers have tended to take out loans, Bloomberg found.

  • "You have to feel very good about the world and your economic situation to go out and buy a second home, which very often can be more expensive than your first," said Corcoran broker Gary DePersia.

πŸ“¬ Invite your friends to sign up here for their daily essentials β€” Axios AM, PM and Finish Line.