July 28, 2020

Amid all the fights over wearing masks, keeping a safe distance apart, and opening businesses and schools, Americans presumably agree on at least one thing: COVID-19 has been terrible — socially, economically, in thousands of little ways, dozens of big ones. That's the starting point for a new Lincoln Project ad released Tuesday, capitalizing on President Trump's dismal approval ratings on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and making that personal.

The ad starts with some "memories COVID took from us," things like birthday parties for children, weddings, first kisses, communal prayer, high school football, being with elderly parents as they die. "COVID has robbed America of so much," the narrator says. "None of this had to happen. We have suffered needlessly because Trump is a fool, a liar, and a failure. Most countries stopped it. Trump refused. It's Trump's virus now."

The ad ends with what the anti-Trump Republicans behind the PAC see as the stakes in November: "It truly is a choice: America or Trump." Peter Weber

1:06 p.m.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is still breaking barriers even after her death.

Ginsburg died Friday at age 87, after a lifelong career fighting for gender equality. Later this week, she'll be the first woman to lie in repose at the Supreme Court, and the first woman to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced.

It's a tradition for Supreme Court justices to lie at the court after their death. Ginsburg was the second woman ever nominated to the court, but the first, Sandra Day O'Connor, is still alive. Ginsburg's casket will arrive at the court Wednesday morning and remain there until Thursday evening, the court announced Monday.

On Friday, Ginsburg's casket will make its way to the U.S. Capitol building. While 33 people have lain in state at the Capitol before, Ginsburg will be the first woman to do so. Rosa Parks lied in honor at the Capitol in 2005, a designation typically given to people who were not members of the government. President Trump has promised to announce his nominee to replace Ginsburg on the court on Friday or Saturday. The Week Staff

12:43 p.m.

Microsoft is acquiring the video game publisher known for franchises like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls — and it's plunking down a significant amount of cash to do so.

Microsoft on Monday announced it's acquiring ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, for $7.5 billion. Bethesda has released games in wildly-popular franchises including Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, and Doom. This, Bloomberg reports, is Microsoft's "biggest video game purchase ever." It surpasses the $2.5 billion that the company paid in 2014 for Mojang, the creator of Minecraft, Variety notes. In fact, it's one of Microsoft's biggest-ever acquisitions in general, coming in not far behind its purchase of Skype.

Microsoft is preparing to debut its new Xbox line this November and is looking to bring more customers into its Xbox Game Pass subscription service, in which users pay a monthly fee to access a catalog of games. Microsoft on Monday said it will be "adding Bethesda's iconic franchises to Xbox Game Pass" and intends to bring "Bethesda's future games," such as the upcoming Starfield, "into Xbox Game Pass the same day they launch on Xbox or PC."

Sony is also preparing to debut its new Playstation 5 in November, and Axios writes that for Sony, Microsoft scooping up Bethesda "presents an enormous industry challenge." Brendan Morrow

12:10 p.m.

Rep. Ilhan Omar's (D-Minn.), one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, has faced constant threats of violence since her election in 2018. They include public threats from Republicans set to join her in the House in January — and absolutely no condemnation from congressmembers on the other side of the aisle, she tells the The New York Times Magazine.

In an interview with the Times, Omar discussed "hateful" attacks against her from Fox News' Tucker Carlson, as well as the rise of Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican House candidate in a far-right Georgia district who held a gun next to a photo of Omar's "Squad" in a campaign video. Greene's video is just one of many "dangerous" people spouting "bizarre, ill-informed conspiracies" about Omar and other Democrats and "terrorizing so many of us," Omar said.

But despite receiving "a few death threats that have been very publicized where people have been arrested and are incarcerated for it," Omar said she has received no support or condemnation from Republicans. "I can't remember a public statement or private comment of support," she continued.

Despite being "discouraged" by this lack of unity "sometimes," Omar said she "have hope" that "the lived reality of what exists in American cities and towns" isn't the same as what's online. Read more at The New York Times Magazine. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:05 p.m.

New data obtained by The Guardian provides a more specific look at how the changes implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy affected the U.S. Postal Service's on-time first-class mail delivery rate after he took over the role in June.

In what North Carolina A&T history professor and former postal worker Philip Rubio described as a "remarkable graphic illustration," The Guardian shows that rates plummeted not long after DeJoy stepped in. The USPS was delivering first-class mail on time about 93 percent of the time during most of the first half of 2020, just shy of its 95 percent goal, and was averaging nearly 91 percent at the moment of leadership transition. But by August the national rate had dipped to about 81.5 percent, and was even lower in some postal districts, reaching as far south as 63.6 percent in northern Ohio and just over 61 percent in Detroit, although it's worth pointing out that Detroit had also fallen well below the national average for multiple weeks earlier in 2020, jumping back up shortly before DeJoy arrived. As The Guardian notes, those districts are both in key swing states, which will likely raise some eyebrows, given that DeJoy has already had critics accuse him of trying to slow deliveries with an increase in mail-in ballots expected for the general election because of the coronavirus pandemic.

DeJoy denied those allegations during congressional testimony and explained that any slowdowns that occurred were the result of a bumpy transition. DeJoy went on to pause the reforms he put in place until after the election, but The Guardian's analysis shows that delivery speed is still lagging in several districts. View the trends of delivery rates in postal districts across the country at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

10:42 a.m.

Jared Kushner's coronavirus task force volunteers in charge of procuring personal protective equipment, such as masks, for virus hot spots were instructed were instructed to prioritize requests from President Trump's friends and supporters, Max Kennedy Jr., one of the volunteers, told The New Yorker.

Kennedy, the 26-year-old grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, said the group had to pay special attention to Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, who he said was "particularly aggressive" in demanding masks be shipped to a hospital she favored.

Per The New Yorker, Kennedy — who in April sent an anonymous complaint to Congress detailing what he described as an incompetent White House response to the pandemic — also said the volunteers were told to direct millions of dollars worth of supplies to five pre-selected distributors, and he alleges he was instructed by one of the political appointees who directed the task force to create a model altering the projected number of COVID-19 fatalities because experts' models were "too severe." Kennedy, who has experience working at investment and consulting firms and was planning to take the LSATs, said he declined the assignment, explaining he knew nothing about disease modeling.

But beyond the specific complaints, Kennedy was concerned by the administration's over-reliance on volunteers like himself, which he believed was an attempt by the White House to sidestep government experts. "It was such a mismatch of personnel," he said. Read more at The New Yorker. Tim O'Donnell

10:23 a.m.

Ellen DeGeneres is pledging to begin a "new chapter" at her show.

DeGeneres on Monday returned with the first episode of her talk show's new season, getting started by addressing the allegations that have emerged of a toxic work environment there. A BuzzFeed News report described "racism, fear, and intimidation" employees have allegedly experienced at The Ellen DeGeneres Show, while a second BuzzFeed report said that "sexual harassment and misconduct by top executive producers runs rampant" at the show.

"I learned that things happened here that never should have happened," DeGeneres said on Monday. "I take that very seriously, and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected."

DeGeneres went on to say "I take responsibility for what happens at my show," and she promised that after having "a lot of conversations" about her workplace over the past few weeks, "We have made the necessary changes, and today, we are starting a new chapter." An investigation into the workplace environment at the show was opened in July, and in August, three top producers were ousted.

DeGeneres also addressed claims that "I am not who I appear to be on TV," namely the idea that, off the air, she is not "the kind lady" she is on her show.

"The truth is, I am that person that you see on TV," DeGeneres said. "I am also a lot of other things. Sometimes I get sad. I get mad. I get anxious. I get frustrated. I get impatient. And I am working on all of that. I am a work in progress." Brendan Morrow

10:18 a.m.

President Trump is seemingly just making things up about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dying wish.

Ginsburg died Friday after a long career fighting for gender equality, capped off with decades as the most prominent member of the Supreme Court's liberal wing. The timing of her death leaves room for Trump to appoint a conservative justice to replace her — something Ginsburg was acutely aware of even as she was dying.

In the days before her death, Ginsburg told her granddaughter that "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed." But in his now-weekly appearance on Fox & Friends on Monday, Trump suggested, with no evidence, that Ginsburg's wish wasn't real. "I don't know that she said that," Trump said, asking if it was written by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) or Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Trump's comments received criticism from Never Trump conservative Bill Kristol, who tweeted that "It's one thing to say you're not going to honor Justice Ginsburg's dying wish. It's another thing, as Trump does here, to accuse RBG's granddaughter, Clara Spera, of lying about her grandmother."

Trump also told Fox & Friends he would announce his nominee to replace Ginsburg on Friday or Saturday, a week after Ginsburg's death. Kathryn Krawczyk

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