Wednesday News: Hit those high notes


CUNNINGHAM PUSHES HARD FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION: Cunningham and Democratic interest groups have begun attacking Tillis' record as a state lawmaker and speaker of the North Carolina House, where he and other Republicans have, for years, blocked all efforts to expand Medicaid to tens of thousands of low-income adults. In the middle of a public health crisis and an economy in which millions have lost their jobs – and employer-provided health coverage – Medicaid should be available as an option for more people, Cunningham said. "There are a lot people who are sick and hurt and financially in dire straits right now," he said. "We need to make sure all of our people have quality, affordable health care in the midst of this pandemic." Cunningham also is pressing for a more coherent national strategy to battle coronavirus, including more investment in testing and contact tracing, saying he hears "very deep anxieties" from families and business owners "who just don't know what tomorrow may bring."

CHERIE BERRY IGNORED COMPLAINTS FROM MEATPACKING PLANTS DURING PANDEMIC: Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, state and federal regulators have received dozens of calls and emails from workers in meat-packing plants across North Carolina who were concerned that these facilities were putting workers at risk. The N.C. Department of Labor, the agency charged with investigating most workplace health and safety complaints, has found no safety violations at any of the plants and issued no citations or penalties. That’s despite repeated complaints raising the same issues – lack of social distancing, insufficient personal protective equipment and workers being forced to work even when they’re sick. The department has received 75 complaints and referrals related to COVID-19 and the meat packing industry through July 15. None have prompted a site visit, according to Scott Mabry, assistant deputy commissioner at the N.C. DOL. “This inaction is remarkable given that COVID represents the largest occupational safety and health crisis of (at least) the last century,” Johnson said in an email.

GOVERNOR COOPER BARS ALCOHOL SALES AFTER 11 PM STATEWIDE: To limit the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that he's implementing a statewide restriction ending all alcohol sales for on-site consumption at 11 p.m. nightly, starting Friday. Cooper said evidence from a number of states has shown bars to be sites of viral outbreaks – bars have been closed in North Carolina since March – and that some restaurants in North Carolina "essentially turn into bars late at night." "People are less socially distant and less sitting at tables and more milling around and more up around the bar," he said. "This is one of the ways that we believe will be effective in driving those [statewide virus] numbers down if we want to discourage that bar-type scene in a restaurant." Cooper said the restriction on late-night alcohol sales is especially important as universities reopen across the state in the next few weeks, bringing tens of thousands of students to North Carolina from across the country and from foreign lands.

CONGRESSIONAL DEMS ROAST AG BARR OVER PROTEST RESPONSE AND TRUMP LEGAL FAVORS: Many of the angriest exchanges focused on the federal government’s response to protests over police misconduct and brutality, with Nadler accusing the attorney general of deploying more manpower to spark ugly confrontations with protesters because, the lawmaker argued, Trump believes such confrontations will scare Americans into voting for him. “You are projecting fear and violence nationwide in pursuit of obvious political objectives. Shame on you, Mr. Barr,” Nadler said. Barr was equally defensive of his interventions of high-profile criminal cases involving allies of the president — most notably Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Democrats accused the attorney general of using the Justice Department to shield Trump and his friends while prosecuting his enemies. “The message these actions send is clear: In this Justice Department, the President’s enemies will be punished and his friends will be protected, no matter the cost, no matter the cost to liberty, no matter the cost to justice,” Nadler said. Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his conversations with a Russian diplomat during the presidential transition, though he later hired a new legal team and fought the case. As Flynn awaited sentencing, Barr tapped the U.S. attorney in St. Louis to review how the case was handled and ultimately had the Justice Department move to throw it out. The matter is now tied up in an appeals court, after a federal judge balked at the Justice Department’s request.

BIG TECH CEOS WILL TESTIFY (REMOTELY) TO CONGRESS ABOUT THEIR AGGRESSIVE BUSINESS TACTICS: Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sundar Pichai of Google are set to testify before Congress on Wednesday to make their case about why their companies actually are not that powerful. The four will answer questions from House lawmakers who have been investigating their companies’ business practices for more than a year to examine if they stifle competition and harm consumers. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the chief executives will be testifying remotely via videoconference, starting at noon Eastern time. Companies and app developers have accused Apple of abusing its control over its iPhone App Store to set burdensome rules on their apps and charge some of them up to 30 percent of their revenues. Companies accuse Google of using the dominance of its search engine to direct people to its own products and to force companies to advertise to remain visible in search results. Lawmakers are investigating whether Amazon abuses its role as both a large retailer and a platform for third-party sellers who offer products on its marketplace. Because of these dual hats, Amazon might be able to use data it gathers from sellers to develop its own competing brands of products, like generic batteries and diapers. Facebook faces scrutiny for its dominance in social media and its history of acquiring smaller companies like WhatsApp and Instagram that have helped it gain power while neutralizing the competition.