☕ Cover: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Demo Mission
Good Morning. Here’s what you need to know to start the day, along with perspective from both sides for calmer coffee conversations with your family, friends, colleagues, and co-workers. Plus, a bit of good news: Burger King debuted ‘social-distance crowns’ in Germany as a way to keep customers apart
📰 TOP STORY
You’ve Got (Vote By) Mail: As the 2020 general election inches closer, serious consideration is being given to what voting will look like on Tuesday, November 3—especially if there is a second wave of coronavirus infections. Calls have increased to broaden voter access by expanding vote-by-mail or absentee ballots. Unsurprisingly, the issue is pretty clear-cut in terms of party line divisions and ideology. For a quick example of how this is playing out, look no further than the Golden State. On May 8, the Democratic Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, signed an executive order that mandated every California voter be sent a mail-in-ballot. The Republican National Committee (RNC), National Republican Congressional Committee, and California Republican Party have subsequently sued to block the order from being carried out. Here’s how the debate is playing out across the country:
On the Left: Democrats and left-leaning outlets are vocally advocating to allow voters to submit their ballots by mail this fall. Many believe President Trump and the Republican Party are attempting to suppress voter access because they think it will benefit their reelection chances. Fred Wertheimer, the founder and president of Democracy 21, challenges the Republican assertion that mail-in-votes would lead to widespread double-dealing. He states that both red and blues states have carried out the practice before with no statistically significant cases of voter fraud. Wertheimer also points out that preventing mail-in-votes would require voters to choose between their civic duty and their lives (again, if there is a second wave.) Chris Cillizza of CNN adds that “Trump himself had voted absentee—by mail!—in the Florida primary last month [and that] Trump also voted absentee in New York in the 2018 election.” In summary, Democrats view the President’s actions as hypocritical and part of a larger plan to suppress voter turnout for political gain.
On the Right: Conservatives’ primary argument against vote-by-mail is that the method inherently lends itself to large-scale fraud, and it will unjustly favor the Democratic Party. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has explicitly stated that these are political maneuvers by Democrats seeking to manipulate the electoral process. She says, “Democrats continue to use this pandemic as a ploy to implement their partisan election agenda.” On multiple occasions and in different ways, Trump has also argued that these measures would ensure a Republican could never be elected again. The Editorial Board at the Wall Street Journal adds that broadening mail-in-voting would be a procedural nightmare, especially in the case of a close election. They explain that absentee ballots are often thrown out because of missing or mismatched signatures, which creates serious questions about “ballot security and democratic legitimacy.” It bears noting that some conservative figures do not appear to accept the claims of “fraud.” Christopher Wallace, at Fox News, maintains “there really is no record of massive fraud or even serious fraud from mail-in voting. It’s being carried out in Republican [and] Democratic states, there’s no indication that [it] favors one party over another.”
Flag This: One argument against mail-in voting maintains that, “In federal elections, there should not be 50 different standards. There should be one. If it is good enough for New York it should be good enough for Florida and vice versa.” It’s interesting to note that this logic is reversed for reopening certain segments of the national economy. Meaning Florida should be allowed to reopen before New York if coronavirus infection rates are lower. Are the two topics connected? Not directly, but we probably wouldn’t have seen the second one play out had there not been a global pandemic. Therefore, is the vote-by-mail debate only resurfacing because of the Covid-19 outbreak? And is it a way for Democrats to stage a power-grab as Republicans claim? Or has the passionate push back by the RNC intensified because they feel like the President’s chance for reelection has dwindled in light of his response to the virus, as Democrats allege. Zooming out, this is another topic that has been thrown into the brewing cauldron of culture wars. As always, we try to lay out thoughts from both sides, but any real progress and understanding will be made through genuine talks between you and someone you disagree with. If you do happen to entertain one of these uncomfortable conversations rather than listen to Sean Hannity or Don Lemon, let us know how it goes.
🦅 US NEWS
Americans Return to Space
Today, astronauts will be launched into space from US soil for the first time in almost a decade. The blastoff is historic for a number of reasons. It marks the first time a private company, SpaceX, has sent people into orbit. The launch is also happening in the midst of a global pandemic, giving people a welcomed bit of good news. The launch is scheduled to take place at 4:33 EST.
- Flag This: Because this launch is happening during such a tumultuous time in history, some are comparing today’s SpaceX mission to the launch of Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve, 1968, which provided inspiration to Americans reeling from the recent assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Similarly, today’s launch is providing a respite from what has been a difficult 2020 for many.
The Race for a Vaccine: Merck and Novavax
Merck announced two separate deals on Tuesday that would help it develop a coronavirus vaccine and antiviral drug. For the first, the US drug maker said it is acquiring a privately held Austrian company, Themis Bioscience to increase production for clinical trials. For the second, Merk is partnering with IAVI, a non-profit scientific research organization to develop both a vaccine and an antiviral drug. Speaking of the race for a vaccine, Novavax began human trials on Tuesday with 131 people in Australia. The US biotechnology said that initial testing in animals suggested its vaccine is effective in low doses. If successful in humans, Novavax could produce at least 100 million doses this year.
- Flag This: As a result, US stocks surged on Tuesday. From a technical standpoint, the S&P 500 broke above the 3,000 barrier for the first time since March 5. The broad-based index has now risen nearly 40% since it’s March lows and is roughly 11% below its February record high.
🌎 WORLD NEWS
Chinese scientists in recent days said they had ruled out both a laboratory and an animal market in the city of Wuhan as possible origins of the coronavirus pandemic, in their most detailed pushback to date against allegations from U.S. officials and others over what might have sparked it, James T. Areddy writes for the Wall Street Journal.
- Flag This: “The Chinese officials didn’t address fundamental issues, such as widespread evidence that China initially covered up the extent of the outbreak. In their calls for more global scientific collaboration to track the source of the virus, they also stopped short of endorsing widespread scientific belief that the coronavirus originated in China. 84% of Americans said they distrust information from China’s government about the outbreak, with 49% indicating zero trust in that information.”
U.S. Accuses Russia of Sending Warplanes to Libya
The United States military accused Russia of covertly deploying at least 14 fighter jets to Libya last week in support of Russian mercenaries fighting alongside a beleaguered commander in his campaign to oust the government from Tripoli, the capital, Declan Walsh and Eric Schmitt write for the NYT.
- Flag This: “The deployment of the fighter jets appeared to confirm the Kremlin’s deepening role in the sprawling proxy war, where its Libyan ally, the commander Khalifa Hifter, suffered a series of major losses last week that dealt a heavy blow to his campaign. The maneuvers by Russia and Turkey, and the unusual assertion by the Pentagon, reflect more than ever that the conflict in oil-rich Libya has become a proxy war driven by foreign sponsors battling for resources, access to oil or an edge in a broader geostrategic competition.”
🗞️ BIZ, SPORTS, & TECH
Tackling Food Waste: The Newest Unicorn
Apeel Sciences, a Santa Barbara company that adds a layer of plant-derived protection to the surface of fresh produce so that it doesn’t rot, raised $250 million in new funding. Worldwide, roughly 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted globally every year. It’s an especially acute issue in the United States where the USDA estimates that roughly 30-40% of the food supply goes to waste. This problem has become even more topical during the pandemic. That said, Apeel is slated to save 20 million pieces of fruit from being wasted this year. Keep reading.
Match II drew record-breaking TV ratings as golf’s return inches closer
With an average of 5.8 million viewers across four channels, The Match: Champions for Charity was the most-watched golf event in cable television history, according to Turner Sports. The event, which raised $20 million for Covid-19 relief efforts, was also the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter for the day. More viewers tuned in than did for the finale of ESPN’s buzzy Michael Jordan documentary, The Last Dance. Keep reading.
HBO Max is full of potential, but its biggest hurdle remains AT&T’s messy execution
HBO Max, which is set to launch today, is AT&T and WarnerMedia’s new crown jewel in the streaming space — a general entertainment platform that will compete with big dogs like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. Here’s the thing, people are asking questions: how is this different from HBO Now? From HBO Go? From AT&T TV Now? Do I have to pay extra for this, or is it wrapped into my HBO package? Keep reading.
📢 PRESENTED BY VINCERO
🗳️ FLAG POLLS
Results From Last Week’s Flag Poll
Should undocumented immigrants receive coronavirus relief funding? 97% said No, 3% said Yes. Full results and comments.
This Week’s Flag Poll
Last week, President Trump said he would overrule any governor who disagreed with him that places of worship should be allowed to reopen in accordance with new CDC guidelines. Do you think congregations should be allowed to reopen? Click here to vote.
On This Day in 1937, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, a stunning technological and artistic achievement, opened to the public after five years of construction.
Why Don’t People Return Their Shopping Carts? (Scientific American)
This Lifehack Will Change Your Life—If You Can Stand It (Quartz)
Some 83,000 Members of the U.S. Military Are Missing. This Group Tries to Bring Them Home. (Popular Science)
Fascinating Read: How the US government seized all citizens’ gold in the 1930s. Answer here…