Top government vaccine specialist Dr. Rick Bright filed a whistleblower complaint Tuesday with the Office of Special Counsel, saying he was forced from his job after he resisted the Trump administration’s promotion of untested treatments for COVID-19. Dr. Rick Bright directed the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, until he was abruptly removed from his post last month and reassigned to the National Institutes of Health. In his scathing 89-page complaint, Dr. Bright says he was pressured to sign off on untested treatments for COVID-19 — like the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which was aggressively promoted by President Trump as a panacea for the disease despite no evidence of its efficacy and serious, sometimes life-threatening side effects. Dr. Bright spoke to reporters in a teleconference Tuesday.
Rick Bright: “Time after time, I was pressured to ignore or dismiss expert and scientific recommendations, and instead to award lucrative contracts based on political connections. In other words, I was pressured to let politics and cronyism drive decisions, over the opinions of the best scientists we have in government.”
Dr. Bright also says he repeatedly and urgently demanded action in January to address the looming pandemic — including a critical shortage of personal protective equipment for doctors, like N95 face masks — but was ignored.
President Trump is lashing out against a new advertisement by a Republican-led group called the Lincoln Project calling out his mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. The one-minute ad is titled “Mourning in America,” a spin on President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 campaign slogan.
Lincoln Project ad: “There’s mourning in America. And under the leadership of Donald Trump, our country is weaker and sicker and poorer. And now Americans are asking, 'If we have another four years like this, will there even be an America?'”
In a series of angry tweets posted just after midnight Tuesday morning, Trump attacked the makers of the ad, singling out George Conway, longtime Trump critic and husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. Trump tweeted, “I don’t know what Kellyanne did to her deranged loser of a husband, Moonface, but it must have been really bad.”
Here in New York, an employee at a massive Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island has died of COVID-19. It’s the same warehouse where employee Chris Smalls was fired in late March after he led a wildcat strike of Amazon workers demanding safety and sanitation measures.
In Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case seeking to end limits on public gatherings and business activities during the pandemic. The Wisconsin court’s conservative majority appeared to agree with Republican state lawmakers who argue Wisconsin’s health secretary exceeded her authority by issuing remain-at-home orders.
In Flint, Michigan, prosecutors have charged three people in the shooting death of a security guard who reportedly told a customer to wear a face mask, as required by law. Forty-three-year-old Calvin Munerlyn was shot in the head Friday after a verbal altercation in which he demanded shoppers at a Family Dollar store cover their faces to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
In Colorado, the FBI says it arrested a 53-year-old anti-lockdown protester after finding four pipe bombs in his home. Before his arrest, Bradley Bunn was spotted carrying firearms at the Colorado state Capitol in Denver as he ignored social distancing guidelines to join protests against remain-at-home orders.
In Missouri, 422 workers at a Triumph Foods pork plant have tested positive for the coronavirus — but all of them were asymptomatic, according to state health officials. Meanwhile, the Smithfield Foods South Dakota pork plant partially resumed operations Monday without testing all of its returning workers. The Sioux Falls plant was forced to shut down last month after at least 1,000 workers tested positive for the coronavirus and at least two people died.
On Tuesday, Wendy’s said it was running out of meat for hamburgers at hundreds of its restaurants around the U.S. And grocers, including Costco and Kroger, have begun limiting the amount of meat customers can buy amid mounting shortages.
In Washington, D.C., senators have returned to work despite concerns of an outbreak on Capitol Hill that has prompted the House of Representatives to extend its recess. Over the weekend, the Capitol’s attending physician warned there aren’t enough COVID-19 tests available to screen all 100 U.S. senators — let alone a small army of workers and support staff accompanying their return to the Capitol.
The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee appears set to support Texas Congressmember John Ratcliffe to be the next director of national intelligence. Ratcliffe, who is a close ally of President Trump, was first considered for the job last year but withdrew from consideration due to bipartisan concerns over his lack of qualifications. Senate Democrats blasted Ratcliffe’s nomination. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said, “He has little experience in intelligence, and already had to withdraw his nomination once after lying about his résumé. The pandemic has shown how putting unqualified loyalists in critical jobs leads to disaster.”
In El Salvador, hundreds of people detained in government facilities, allegedly aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, held a protest Monday demanding to be freed and be given the results of their COVID-19 tests. At least 300 people have been held in two centers in the capital San Salvador for over a month as the Salvadoran government has been apprehending residents accused of violating the country’s strict coronavirus lockdown.
In the Philippines, the country’s largest television network has been forced off air after congressional allies of President Rodrigo Duterte refused to renew its 25-year contract. ABS-CBN has done groundbreaking reporting on Duterte’s brutal “war on drugs” — that’s killed thousands of people in the Philippines — and is the first major broadcaster to shut down as part of Duterte’s ongoing attacks on news outlets that are critical of his government. This is longtime news anchor Noli de Castro, signing off for the last time Tuesday night.
Noli de Castro: “Fellowmen and family, we have been together for many decades. We owe you a debt of gratitude for accepting us into your homes every night. We have become a big part of your lives. We were there with you in times of calamities and hardship. It is an honor for us to have served as the bearers of stories and your watchdog of those in power. It is also an honor to have served you, our fellow countrymen. Although our franchise was not renewed and we were ordered to stop broadcasting, we promise you that we will not keep silent in the face of this attack on our democracy and on freedom of the press.”
In climate news, a new study warns that by 2070, up to 3 billion people could be experiencing “nearly unlivable” levels of heat, unless global greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly reined in. The findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as new data showed last month tied for the warmest April on record worldwide. In another record, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels topped 418 parts per million this week.
In Georgia, disturbing video has emerged showing two white men shooting dead an unarmed 25-year-old African American man named Ahmaud Arbery in February while he was jogging. The video shows Arbery running down a narrow road in Brunswick, Georgia, when he was confronted by the armed men — a former police officer, Gregory McMichael, and his son Travis. Travis was waiting for him in the road with a shotgun while his father stood in the back of the pickup truck with a revolver. After a brief confrontation, Arbery was shot at three times.
The video appeared to have been taken by a third person who was following Arbery. Brunswick police have reportedly had a copy of the shocking video since February, but no charges have been filed against the McMichaels, who claimed they chased Arbery because he looked like a burglary suspect. On Tuesday, a local prosecutor announced he would bring the case to a grand jury.
The Arbery family’s attorney, Lee Merritt, said Tuesday, “The series of events captured in this video confirm what all the evidence indicated prior to its release — Ahmaud Arbery was pursued by three white men that targeted him solely because of his race and murdered him without justification. This is murder.”
In election news, a federal judge has ordered the New York State Board of Elections to restore the Democratic presidential primary, which had been canceled. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. The Board of Elections says it plans to appeal the ruling.
The Supreme Court heard arguments over the telephone Tuesday in a case to determine the constitutionality of a 2003 law that forces overseas affiliates of U.S.-based nonprofit groups to denounce prostitution in order to be eligible for federal funding to fight the AIDS epidemic. Aid groups have long said the law hampers the ability of their overseas affiliates from providing advice to sex workers about the risks of HIV infection.
In other Supreme Court news, 87-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was back in the hospital on Tuesday for nonsurgical treatment for a gallbladder condition. She is still planning to take part in today’s telephone oral arguments in a case about the Affordable Care Act and birth control.
Indigenous activists and allies on Tuesday commemorated the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls from home, as the pandemic put a hold on their emblematic public rallies and vigils. The annual event is aimed at protesting the high levels of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in the U.S., Canada and around the globe, and honoring the thousands of lives lost. The day of awareness and action comes as domestic violence shelters in the Navajo Nation say pandemic lockdowns have led to an increase in domestic violence calls.