May 26, 2020

The meat industry is in for a rough road to recovery.

It's been nearly a month since President Trump encouraged meat plants to either remain open or reopen, even as many of them became hotspots for coronavirus spread across the U.S. Outbreaks are continuing to mar the plants' reopening plans, leading to industry-wide dilemmas that could create meat shortages for months to come, The Washington Post reports.

While it's difficult to put a number on just how many meat plant workers have contracted coronavirus nationwide, North Carolina has provided a good sample. Of the 2,200 workers tested for coronavirus at Tyson Foods' chicken processing plant in Wilkes Country, 570 tested positive last week, Tyson told NPR. Parts of the facility have closed for cleaning, cutting how much meat the plant can turn out. And so, for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic, North Carolina farmers have had to start euthanizing at least 1.5 million chickens, a state agriculture official told the News & Observer, calling the measure a "last resort."

Most meat plants in North Carolina and nationwide won't disclose just how may of their employees have contracted coronavirus, but the close-packed working conditions have turned the facilities into disease hotspots since the early days of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated at least 5,000 workers were infected by the end of April, though advocates have suggested there could be more than 17,000. And with plants already slow to respond to outbreaks and some still partially closed, it's likely that shortages may only get worse. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:42 p.m.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, The Kansas City Star reports.

Earlier in the day, Parson's office announced his wife, Teresa Parson, tested positive after developing mild symptoms, including a runny nose and cough, prompting the governor to seek testing as well. So far, Parsons said he feels well and has "no symptoms of any kind," but will quarantine. The Star notes the 65-year-old had heart surgery four years ago, so he is in a demographic that's at greater risk.

Parson is now the second governor to test positive after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), who contracted the coronavirus in July. (Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) received a false positive result in August.)

The test result comes in the middle of a campaign for Parson, who is seeking his first full gubernatorial term after his predecessor resigned in 2018. He was scheduled to debate his Democratic opponent, Nicole Galloway, on Friday, but it's been called off.

Per the Star, Missouri has reported nearly 117,000 coronavirus cases and about 1,950 deaths. The state had the fifth highest rate of cases per capita in the U.S. last week. Read more at The Kansas City Star. Tim O'Donnell

5:11 p.m.

CIA Director Gina Haspel is reportedly keeping a tight lock on Russian intelligence.

Nine current and former officials tell Politico that Haspel "has become extremely cautious about which, if any, Russia-related intelligence products make their way to President Donald Trump's desk." She has also reportedly been cracking down on the agency's "Russia House," which produces intelligence on the country — but exactly why she's doing so is up for debate.

Last year, Haspel started having the CIA's general counsel review "virtually every product that comes out of Russia House" before it heads to Trump — an "unprecedented" workflow, Politico reports. Haspel's "scrutiny" has led to some "recent dust-ups" with Russia House analysts, including the firing of the house's head this year, four current and former officials tell Politico. Another Russia House analyst reportedly quit after Haspel said he had lied about intelligence. "She calls analysts liars all the time,” said one former CIA official.

But another official said it's not a matter of Haspel trying to censor the agency from Trump, who is "extraordinarily sensitive around the subject of Russian meddling," Politico reports. It's more about "quality over quantity," the official said. "Scrutinizing intelligence product and process is exactly what is expected of Director Haspel," said CIA Press Secretary Timothy Barrett, adding she "ensures intelligence is corroborated, double-checked, and then run through the wringer once more." Read more at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:47 p.m.

Leaked audio from internal Facebook meetings revealed by The Verge on Wednesday touches upon serious subjects like civil rights, the 2020 election, and whether the social media giant should present itself as politically neutral, but reporter Casey Newton said he sought to present a holistic view of the company through the recordings. And, subsequently, there were some more light-hearted elements, as well.

In one question and answer session, Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg seemed flummoxed by a question about how free office snacks were no longer available to employees now that most folks are working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic. Whoever submitted the question noted that the free food was "a major sell" to job applicants, and now "we've lost a huge financial part of our package." Zuckerberg, Newton writes, responded with "polite disbelief" by noting he hadn't see any data suggesting the snacks are "anywhere near the list of primary reasons that people come to work at this company."

Zuckerberg also has a self-deprecating side, Newton reports. At one point, he addressed a viral photo of him surfing wearing an inordinate amount of sunscreen. Zuckerberg joked that he's never "under the illusion that I look particularly cool at any point with what I'm doing" and that he was wearing "quite a bit more sunscreen" than he realized. But, ultimately, safety comes first. "I'm not going to apologize for wearing too much sunscreen," he said. "I think that sunscreen is good, and I stand behind that."

Dermatologists will be happy to hear that. Read more at The Verge. Tim O'Donnell

4:36 p.m.

Eric Trump's excuses weren't enough to keep him from addressing a fraud investigation into his family's real estate business.

Trump's lawyers said he was willing to meet with investigators regarding a probe into the Trump Organization, but that he was too busy to do so until after the election. New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron shot that request down on Wednesday, giving Trump a deadline of Oct. 7 to testify, The New York Times reports.

New York Attorney General Letitia James had subpoenaed Trump, a top executive at the Trump Organization, in an investigation into whether President Trump inflated his assets' values to get loans and tax benefits, CNBC notes. Eric Trump was set to meet with James' team in July, but he canceled, leading James to seek a court order to enforce her subpoena for his testimony and documents "withheld by the Trump administration."

Engoron's Wednesday order will give James access to those documents as well as force Trump to testify. James' team had argued that Trump "can't delay compliance for another two months," and Engoron agreed, saying Wednesday he found Trump's excuse "unpersuasive."

James' investigation stems from Michael Cohen's testimony before Congress last year. Cohen, President Trump's former fixer, testified that the president had "inflated" his assets to get loans and insurance coverage. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:45 p.m.

A grand jury decided not to charge the police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor with any counts directly related to her death, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced Wednesday.

The decision to only charge one officer with endangering people in a neighboring apartment to Taylor's immediately sparked protests in Louisville. MSNBC host Joy Reid, meanwhile, appeared on the network to condemn the indictment. "There's nothing in this charge that accounts for [Taylor's] life or the value of it," Reid said, following up in a tweet to say the lack of charges implies "no one killed Breonna Taylor."

Activist April Reign had a similar take on the situation, tweeting that "the grand jury didn't just decide that Breonna didn't matter; they decided that she didn't exist."

CNN's Omar Jimenez meanwhile noted Cameron's comments make it seem likely the officers will never be charged over Taylor's death.

Taylor, a Black woman, was shot and killed when officers served a narcotics investigation warrant unrelated to her. Taylor's boyfriend Kenneth Walker fired at the officers, as he claimed he thought someone was breaking in. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:43 p.m.

California Gov. Newsom (D) on Wednesday signed an executive order that requires all cars sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2035.

Newsom described the move as the biggest step yet in California's fight against climate change, which he has emphasized as the driving force behind the state's destructive wildfires. The transportation sector, Newsom said, is responsible for more than half of carbon pollution in the Golden State. "Our cars shouldn't make wildfires worse — and create more days filled with smoky air," he said. "Cars shouldn't melt glaciers or raise sea levels, threatening our cherished beaches and coastline."

The order is focused on new car sales, so people who own or want to sell their gas-powered cars will still be able to do so after 2035.

It's a lofty goal, but it's unclear how it will play out in reality, seeing as electric vehicles made up less than 8 percent of new car sales in 2019. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

3:39 p.m.

Dr. Deborah Birx is reportedly "distressed" over the White House coronavirus task force's direction and is unsure whether she can stay in her job.

Birx, the White House coronavirus task force's response coordinator, has "told people around her that she is 'distressed' with the direction of the task force" and is "so unhappy with what she sees as her diminished role" on it that "she is not certain how much longer she can serve in her position," CNN reported on Wednesday. She has reportedly spent less time with the president in recent weeks.

This report comes after the White House added a new member to the task force, Dr. Scott Atlas, who has no background in infectious diseases and reportedly touted a controversial herd immunity strategy. Birx, according to CNN, views Atlas as an "unhealthy influence" on President Trump and believes that he is providing the president with "misleading information" about the efficacy of face masks in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Birx has also described "the situation inside the nation's response to the coronavirus as nightmarish," CNN writes.

A White House spokesperson told CNN that Trump "relies on the advice and counsel of all of his top health officials every day and any suggestion that their role is being diminished is just false." Birx herself didn't comment for the story, but one source cast doubt on the idea that she might leave the task force, saying, "She is a good soldier. I don't think she's going anywhere." Brendan Morrow

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