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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats expressed concern after Michael Pack, the new Trump-appointed CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, dismissed the heads of at least three news outlets he oversees and disbanded boards to install allies Wednesday, per AP.

Driving the news: Pack fired Bay Fang, head of Radio Free Asia, Jamie Fly, who headed Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, and Alberto Fernandez, who was the head of the Middle East Broadcasting Network, Alberto Fernandez, according to AP.

Why it matters: There are fears Pack, a conservative filmmaker with ties to Steve Bannon, may turn Voice of America and other outlets he oversees "into Trump administration propaganda machines," AP notes. (VOA journalists have rejected such claims.)

  • After Senate Republicans voted last Friday to confirm him to the position, Voice of America director Amanda Bennett and deputy director Sandy Sugawara both resigned from their posts at the state-sponsored international news agency.
  • Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement on Wednesday that Pack's actions were an "egregious breach" and confirm he's "on a political mission to destroy the USAGM’s independence."

What they're saying: The Trump administration did not respond to a request for comment.

  • Pack vowed earlier on Wednesday to uphold the mandated role of Voice of America in "providing independent worldwide journalism even though it is a U.S. government-funded agency," according to VOA — which later carried AP's report of the reshuffle on its website.

Of note: The White House accused VOA in April of promoting Chinese propaganda during its coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

The big picture: Broader concerns about VOA's independence arose after an Obama-era legal provision changed governance over the agency from a board of non-partisan directors to a CEO selected by the president, Axios' Sara Fisher notes.

Go deeper: VOA journalists fight claims that it is Trump propaganda

Go deeper

Scoop: Open Technology Fund asks Inspector General to investigate

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Open Technology Fund is requesting that the U.S. Office of the Inspector General investigate its parent, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), for breaching a firewall provision that is supposed to protect government-funded media agencies from political interference.

The big picture: The move is the latest in a very messy fight between the USAGM and one of the organizations it oversees. Earlier on Monday, journalists at another USAGM agency, Voice of America, wrote a letter to their interim CEO alleging that the new head of USAGM was endangering the agency's reporters.

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
5 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

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