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Meat Plant Closures Continue Despite Trump’s Executive Order

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  • Last week, President Trump ordered meatpacking and processing facilities to stay open despite large outbreaks forcing several to close.
  • While many large meat companies cheered the move, they have been slow to reopen plants.
  • On Monday, Tyson, which pushed heavily for a federal effort to keep these facilities open, said it would close even more plants this year.
  • Experts say consumers can expect to start seeing shortages in some stores, less variety, and higher prices.

Meat Plants Stay Closed

Dozens of meatpacking and processing facilities that temporarily stopped operations due to coronavirus outbreaks have remained shuttered despite an executive order signed by President Donald Trump last week compelling them to stay open.

Through the order, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to classify the plants as critical infrastructure which must remain open. 

Almost a week after the president signed the executive order, barely any of the companies that own closed plants have said they are going to reopen. 

JBS USA announced it would partially reopen one of its pork production plants in Minnesota, but only to euthanize pigs that cannot be processed because the plant is closed.

On Monday, Tyson said it expects more of its plants to close this year and added that it will be producing less meat than normal.

“We have and expect to continue to face slowdowns and temporary idling of production facilities from team member shortages or choices we make to ensure operational safety,” the meat industry giant, which was among the companies leading the charge to reopen, said in a statement.

Meat Facility Cases Continue to Grow

The slow reopening comes as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases at meat facilities continues to grow. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that at least 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have died and more than 4,900 have tested positive.

Like all other cases in the U.S., due to lack of testing, that number is likely lower than the actual amount.

That is especially true for the meat industry because many major plants are in rural communities where testing and access to healthcare is extremely limited.

The number of confirmed cases and deaths are also expected to be a lot lower due to a high amount of asymptomatic cases.

On Monday, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said in a press release that more than 370 workers at a plant in the state tested positive for the virus, and all of them were asymptomatic.

Major meat industry leaders said that they are implementing more safety measures to protect workers, like providing protective equipment, taking workers temperatures, disinfecting facilities, and more.

But it remains unclear how widespread those efforts are, or if they are even going to be enough.

Possible Shortages and Other Issues

As the situation continues, experts have warned that meat shortage, or at least shortages in some stores, are still imminent despite Trump’s efforts.

According to data released last week by the Department of Agriculture, 10 to 15% of cattle slaughter capacity has been halted, while 25 to 30% of hog slaughter was shutdown. At the same time, industry analysts have estimated that retail sales are up about 30 to 40%.

That is already beginning to have an impact on the meat options people have in markets. On Friday, Kroger, the country’s biggest traditional supermarket chain, said it was limiting how much ground beef and fresh pork customers could purchase “at select stores.”

In general, wholesale prices for both types of meat have spiked significantly, meaning it is more expensive for consumers to buy them too.

Experts now say consumers can expect to see higher prices for certain meat that is high in demand, a smaller variety of meat, and fewer products overall at markets in the coming weeks and months. 

However, at the same time, other stores like Walmart, which is the nation’s largest retailer period, say they are not concerned.

“As we would normally do during periods of high demand, we are working through our supply chain to continually replenish items as quickly as possible to help us meet the needs of our customers,” the company said in a statement.

Long-Term Impacts

However, many experts have said that even as more plants open up, it does not mean production will be higher.

“While President Trump’s executive order is aimed at motivating meat processing plants to stay in operation, whether or not that’s actually possible will come down to workers, not management,” TIME explained in a report last week. 

“If workers fall ill or are concerned enough for their own safety that they choose not to return, it won’t matter if plants re-open or not.”

With the pandemic continuing and meat shortages likely, state data and hunting groups show that more and more Americans are turning to hunting for food.

“Game and fish agencies from Minnesota to New Mexico have reported an increase in either hunting license sales, permit applications, or both this spring,” Reuters reported Sunday. “Indiana saw a 28% jump in turkey license sales during the first week of the season as hunters likely had more time to get out into the woods.”

Meanwhile, states like Washington and Illinois that closed state lands during the pandemic have been lobbied by the National Rifle Association to keep those lands open so people can hunt for food.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (TIME) (Reuters)

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Mississippi Asks Supreme Court To Overturn Roe v. Wade

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The Supreme Court’s decision to consider Mississippi’s restrictive abortion ban already has sweeping implications for the precedents set under the landmark reproductive rights ruling, but now the state is asking the high court to go even further.


Mississippi’s Abortion Case

Mississippi filed a brief Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade when it hears the state’s 15-week abortion ban this fall.

After months of deliberation, the high court agreed in May to hear what will be the first abortion case the 6-to-3 conservative majority will decide.

Both a district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit had ruled that Mississippi could not enforce the 2018 law that banned nearly all abortions at 15 weeks with exceptions for only “severe fetal abnormality,” but not rape and incest.

If the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law, it would undo decades of precedent set under Roe in 1973 and upheld under Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, where the court respectively ruled and reaffirmed that states could not ban abortion before the fetus is “viable” and can live outside the womb, which is generally around 24 to 28 weeks.

When the justices decided to hear the case, they said they would specifically examine the question of whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”

Depending on the scope of their decision on the Mississippi law, the court’s ruling could allow other states to pass much more restrictive abortion bans without the risk of lower courts striking down those laws.

As a result, legal experts have said the case will represent the most significant ruling on reproductive rights since Casey nearly three decades ago, and the Thursday brief raises the stakes even more.

When Mississippi asked the justices to take up its case last June, the state’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch (R), explicitly stated that the petition’s questions “do not require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey.”

But that was before the court’s conservatives solidified their supermajority with the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett — who personally opposes abortion — following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

New Filing Takes Aim at Roe

With the new filing, it appears that Fitch views the high court’s altered makeup as an opportunity to undermine the constitutional framework that has been in place for the better part of the last century.

“The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion,” Fitch wrote in the brief, arguing that American society has changed so much that the previous rulings need to be reheard.

“Today, adoption is accessible and on a wide scale women attain both professional success and a rich family life, contraceptives are more available and effective, and scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability,” she added, claiming the power should be left to state lawmakers. 

“Roe and Casey shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date,” she continued. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this Court returns abortion policy to the states.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Mississippi’s sole abortion provider in the suit against the state’s law, painted Fitch’s effort as one that will have a chilling effect on abortion rights nationwide.

“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the group said in a statement Thursday. “Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country.”

The Supreme Court has not yet said exactly when during its fall term it will hear oral arguments on the Mississippi case, but a decision is expected to come down by next June or July, as is standard.

An anticipated ruling just months before the 2022 midterms will almost certainly position abortion as a top issue at the ballot box.

See what others are saying:  (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Politico)

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Republicans Boycott Jan. 6 Committee After Pelosi Rejects Two of McCarthy’s Picks

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The House Minority Leader said that unless House Speaker Pelosi reinstated the two members, Republicans will launch their own investigation into the insurrection.


Pelosi Vetoes Republicans

Republicans are boycotting the select committee to investigate the insurrection after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) rejected two of the five GOP members Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) picked to serve on the panel Wednesday.

In a statement, Pelosi cited the “statements and actions” of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) and Jim Banks (R-In.), whose nominations she said she was opposing “with respect for the integrity of the investigation.”

Jordan and Banks — both staunch allies of former President Donald Trump — have helped propagate the previous leader’s false election claims, opposed efforts to investigate the insurrection, and voted not to certify the election for President Joe Biden. 

A senior Democratic aide also specifically told The Washington Post that Democrats did not want Jordan on the panel because he reportedly helped Trump strategized how to overturn the election and due to the fact he spoke to the then-president on Jan. 6, meaning there is a possibility he could be called to testify before the very same committee.

The aide also said that Democrats opposed Banks’ selection because of a statement he issued after McCarthy chose him.

In the statement, the representative compared the insurrection to the racial justice protests last summer, implied that the rioters were just normal American’s expressing their political views, and claimed the committee was a political ploy “to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”

Notably, Pelosi did say she would accept McCarthy’s three other nominees — including Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Wi.), who also voted against certifying Biden’s win.

McCarthy Threatens Separate Investigation

McCarthy, however, refused to select new members, and instead opted to remove all his appointees from the would-be bipartisan committee.

In a statement condemning the move, the minority leader said that Pelosi’s action “represents an egregious abuse of power.” 

“Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility and shows the Speaker is more interested in playing politics than seeking the truth,” he said.

“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”

Pelosi defended her decision during a press conference Thursday, where she said that Banks and Jordan were “ridiculous” choices for the panel. 

“When statements are ridiculous and fall into the realm of, ‘You must be kidding,’ there’s no way that they’re going to be on the committee,” she added.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)

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More Republican Are Pushing COVID Vaccinations, But the Party Remains Divided on Its Messaging

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The renewed effort to encourage vaccination comes as the surge in COVID cases caused by the delta variant continues to disproportionately impact Republican-led states with low vaccination rates.


GOP Leaders Ramps Up Vaccination Push

In recent days, more Republican leaders and prominent conservatives have ramped up efforts to encourage members of their party to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the U.S. continues to see massive surges from the delta variant.

Some, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), have been pushing Americans to get vaccinated for months — a call he reiterated again on Tuesday. Many others, however, have been reticent to do the same until recently.

Most notable on that list is Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), the no. 2 Republican in House leadership, who just got his first dose over the weekend after resisting vaccination, claiming he had antibodies from previously contracting COVID. Scalise explained he changed his mind because of delta and encouraged others to do the same.

“There shouldn’t be any hesitancy over whether or not it’s safe and effective,” he said.

The top leader is set to continue pushing that advice. Earlier this week, the GOP Doctors Caucus announced that it would hold a news conference Thursday alongside Scalise and the third-ranking House Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), to encourage vaccination.

Rank and File Republicans Continue To Cast Doubt, Spread Misinformation

There are still plenty of Republicans working to undermine the renewed push to get their party vaccinated.

While many have painted vaccination as a matter of freedom of choice, others have sought to downplay the virus. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose state currently accounts for 40% of all new COVID cases, dismissed the spikes as the result of a “seasonal virus” on Monday.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk — who has had COVID twice — echoed that in a statement to reporters on Tuesday, where he argued that COVID is just something everyone has to live with.

“This is something we deal with in our lives on a daily basis; ever since I’ve been born, there’s sicknesses, there’s flu, there’s different diseases,” he said.

Some members of the GOP have used their positions of power to actively fight against vaccination. That includes Sen. Ron Johnson (Wi.), who has openly said he is not vaccinated. He has also been widely condemned for promoting unproven treatments and false information about vaccines during interviews and congressional hearings.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), who has repeatedly refused to share her vaccination status, has also drawn ire for sharing misinformation and continually comparing COVID prevention efforts to the Holocaust.

Greene was temporarily suspended from Twitter earlier this week for sharing false information on Monday, but she continued to utilize her spotlight to spread misinformation about vaccine-related deaths and side effects during a press conference the following day.

Uphill Battle

While those who downplay the coronavirus and spread false information about vaccinations are certainly not representative of the entire Republican Party, they are some of the most visible.

Greene and many of her counterparts who push anti-vaccine narratives have frequently been accused of acting in inflammatory ways to get more press — a strategy that more often than not tends to work in their favor. 

As a result, Republicans who want to encourage people to get the jabs will have their work cut out for them. Even many of those who have not openly expressed skepticism themselves have still let it flourish in the party for so long by not publicly pushing back against claims from members who sow disinformation.

The GOP’s broader failure to unify around a singular message on vaccines shows clearly among the party’s base.

According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News, poll 86% of Democrats have received at least one shot, but just 45% of Republicans have done the same. While just 6% of Democrats say they are not likely to get the vaccine, 47% of Republicans said they probably will not, and 38% said they definitely will not. 

Meanwhile, Republican-led states with low vaccination rates are suffering the most from the new spike in cases and the rapid spread of the delta variant. 

Arkansas, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country at just 35%, is currently reporting the highest per-capita cases in the U.S. Hospitalizations have gone up 85% in the state in the last two weeks, placing some hospital systems on the brink of collapse — a problem also faced by parts of Missouri, which has the third-highest COVID cases nationwide.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Hill)

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