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Michigan Supreme Court sides with barber who reopened in defiance of Whitmer’s coronavirus lockdown



The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday unanimously sided with a barber who reopened his shop last month in defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus lockdown order.

The high court ruled that the state appeals court made mistakes in its decision to shut down 77-year-old barber Karl Manke. The appeals decision was not unanimous and did not afford Manke oral arguments to defend himself, the court said.


“It is incumbent on the courts to ensure decisions are made according to the rule of law, not hysteria.” Justice David F. Viviano wrote in his opinion. “One hopes that this great principle — essential to any free society, including ours — will not itself become yet another casualty of COVID-19.”

Manke reopened his shop May 4 after money became tight. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)

Manke reopened his shop May 4 after money became tight. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)

Manke, who has operated his shop in Owosso for 60 years, became a national symbol of resistance after he continued to cut hair despite being cited at least twice and having his license suspended by the state.

He even gave free haircuts outside the state Capital with other barbers and hairdressers in protest of Whitmer’s “stay-at-home” order, which was meant to slow the spread of the virus.


Manke told “Fox & Friends First” last month that he hoped “that there’s a certain amount of sanity that will prevail” in the courts.

“I’m 77 years old. I mean, what are they going to give me? Life?” he asked. “I’ve got one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. I [couldn’t] care less.”

Manke gave free haircuts outside the Capital in Lansing as part of "Operation Haircut" on May 20. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Manke gave free haircuts outside the Capital in Lansing as part of “Operation Haircut” on May 20. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The state’s attorney general last week filed a motion to find Manke in contempt if he continued to cut hair following the appeals court decision, the Flint Journal reported. The motion asked for thousands of dollars in fines each day against Manke if he kept cutting hair.

But with the Supreme Court on his side, Manke said he hopes to get back to business.

“I needed to work and figured it was time to move forward,” Manke said Friday in a statement obtained by the Washington Times. “But I feel like I have been ruled over with a heavy hand, not governed, and my constitutional rights have been trampled underfoot. It is high time for all of Michigan to stand up, open up for business and for people in our community to show up in support.”

The attorney general’s office said it’s prepared to return to court to argue the health risks of keeping Manke’s shop open.


Meanwhile, Whitmer on Friday said that barbershops and salons can reopen June 15.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Supreme Court Justices Rule States Can Bind Presidential Electors’ Votes




WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that states can require presidential electors to back their states’ popular vote winner in the Electoral College.

The ruling, just under four months before the 2020 election, leaves in place laws in 32 states and the District of Columbia that bind electors to vote for the popular-vote winner, and electors almost always do so anyway.

So-called faithless electors have not been critical to the outcome of a presidential election, but that could change in a race decided by just a few electoral votes. It takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court that a state may instruct “electors that they have no ground for reversing the vote of millions of its citizens. That direction accords with the Constitution — as well as with the trust of a Nation that here, We the People rule.”

The justices had scheduled arguments for the spring so they could resolve the issue before the election, rather than amid a potential political crisis after the country votes.

When the court heard arguments by telephone in May because of the coronavirus outbreak, justices invoked fears of bribery and chaos if electors could cast their ballots regardless of the popular vote outcome in their states.

The issue arose in lawsuits filed by three Hillary Clinton electors in Washington state and one in Colorado who refused to vote for her despite her popular vote win in both states. In so doing, they hoped to persuade enough electors in states won by Donald Trump to choose someone else and deny Trump the presidency.

The federal appeals court in Denver ruled that electors can vote as they please, rejecting arguments that they must choose the popular-vote winner. In Washington, the state Supreme Court upheld a $1,000 fine against the three electors and rejected their claims.

In all, there were 10 faithless electors in 2016, including a fourth in Washington, a Democratic elector in Hawaii and two Republican electors in Texas. In addition, Democratic electors who said they would not vote for Clinton were replaced in Maine and Minnesota.

The closest Electoral College margin in recent years was in 2000, when Republican George W. Bush received 271 votes to 266 for Democrat Al Gore. One elector from Washington, D.C., left her ballot blank.

The Supreme Court played a decisive role in that election, ending a recount in Florida, where Bush held a 537-vote margin out of 6 million ballots cast.

The justices scheduled separate arguments in the Washington and Colorado cases after Justice Sonia Sotomayor belatedly removed herself from the Colorado case because she knows one of the plaintiffs.

In asking the Supreme Court to rule that states can require electors to vote for the state winner, Colorado had urged the justices not to wait until “the heat of a close presidential election.”

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As the Virus Surged, Florida Partied. Tracking the Revelers Has Been Tough.




“We failed to act,” she said.

The socializing that followed Florida’s rapid economic reopening has left the state reeling from the virus. The Department of Health reported more than 11,400 infections on Saturday, a record. Florida cases made up 20 percent of all U.S. cases on Thursday. Patients with Covid-19 have begun to fill up Florida hospital wards, forcing some hospitals to scrap elective surgeries, as they did early on in the pandemic. More than 3,600 people have died, including an 11-year-old boy.

Desperate local officials have adopted local mask requirements and closed the beaches over the long holiday weekend. Some communities were deploying teams to go door-to-door in the hardest hit neighborhoods, distributing masks, hand sanitizers and fliers with information on coronavirus symptoms and testing.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, insisted there would be no new shutdown, but a piecemeal rollback is still underway: The state banned drinking at bars. Miami-Dade County ordered entertainment venues to close again and imposed a curfew

“If everyone is enjoying life but doing it responsibly, we’re going to be fine,” Mr. DeSantis said on Thursday in Tampa after a visit from Vice President Mike Pence.

The Florida Department of Health has about 1,600 students, epidemiologists and other staff doing contact tracing, and it has hired a contractor to bring on 600 more people, for a total of 2,200. That is about a third of the roughly 6,400 tracers that will be needed to meet the target of 30 tracers per 100,000 people recommended by the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

With so much community spread, trying to trace the contacts of every positive case becomes unrealistic, several public health officials said.

“We may have to change the priorities on tracing as the numbers continue to increase, because at some point it is like drinking out of a fire hose,” said Dr. Raul Pino, the health department officer in Orlando.

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As Trump gaslights America about coronavirus, Republicans face a critical choice




With many Americans flouting public health guidelines during the holiday weekend, Trump’s conduct is creating an inflection point for the GOP at a time when his poll numbers have tumbled. With American lives on the line, the question now is whether members of the Republican Party will continue to stand by in silence as the President peddles fiction about a deadly virus, and if so, will they pay a price at the ballot box in November.

While Republicans deserted Trump on the issue of facial coverings — with many urging Americans to wear masks over the past week — they have been mostly silent about Trump’s effort to deceive the public about the risks the virus poses.

“I think the President is stepping forward,” GOP Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, who faces a competitive reelection in November, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” on Sunday when asked whether she thought Trump had exhibited “failed leadership” on coronavirus, as she criticized former President Barack Obama on Ebola in 2014.

The President’s falling poll numbers, particularly in swing states in his matchup against former Vice President Joe Biden, are now an area of intense concern for Republicans, and many longtime GOP strategists are puzzled by his dual strategy of ignoring the virus while trying to incite race wars.

A majority of Americans do not approve of Trump’s handling of the pandemic (or his response to the nation’s racial reckoning), which has stirred consternation even in his own campaign as the President banks on an economic revival and good news about a vaccine to restore his political fortunes.

But Trump waded even deeper this weekend into his controversial campaign strategy of trying to distract from the virus with race-baiting rhetoric. At Mount Rushmore on Friday, Trump described protesters as a left-wing fascist mob that is trying to “end America” by erasing the nation’s history and indoctrinating its children. On Saturday night at the White House, he compared his attempt to defeat “the radical left” to the efforts by the United States to eradicate the Nazis.
GOP aghast as Trump's polls sink amid divisive racial rhetoric: 'It's been a bad couple weeks'

While Friday’s and Saturday’s speeches marked new heights in terms of inflammatory language from the President, many Republicans have long been uncomfortable with Trump’s penchant for falling back on culture war tropes and racially incendiary language that he thinks stirs fealty to him within his base.

Late last month, as Trump’s poll numbers continued to sink over his handling of the protests, Senate Majority Whip John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, told CNN Trump was “good with his base,” noting that the people who will “decide in November are the people in the middle.”

Afraid to contradict the President on coronavirus

The President’s view that the US has turned the corner on Covid-19 has also increasingly isolated him from key Republican leaders, like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who are pleading with the public to wear masks and stay home. Yet the President’s punitive nature — and the long list of people he has fired or tweeted about negatively after they contradicted him — still makes GOP elected officials and his own public health experts loathe to criticize or correct him.

An example of that dynamic came Sunday when Bash repeatedly pressed US Food and Drug Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn to explain the President’s false statement that 99% of coronavirus cases are “totally harmless.”

“I’m not going to get into who is right and who is wrong,” Hahn, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told Bash during CNN’s “State of the Union” when she asked him to explain why the President made the claim when his public health experts have said exactly the opposite.

“What I’ll say is that we have data in the White House task force. Those data show us that this is a serious problem. People need to take it seriously,” the FDA chief said.

Fact-checking Trump's Fourth of July speech

One exception was the Republican mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez, who contradicted the President Sunday as he finds his county in an difficult predicament: “The virus is not harmless. No, absolutely not,” Gimenez said Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” Noting the positivity rate is around 20% in his area, he said that more Floridians need critical care.

“When you have more (cases), you obviously will have more hospitalizations, more ICUs, more respirators, and unfortunately, you’ll have more fatalities,” Gimenez said.

Meanwhile, Trump’s former Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert tweeted the ominous message Sunday: “We are in trouble…. Once a state is over 1% prevalence, it becomes much harder to extinguish the flare up,” Bossert tweeted. “It will take a huge effort to put out these outbreak fires. More than masks alone. We could top 500k US deaths this year if this trend continues.”

More Trump rallies amid alarming signs of coronavirus spread

Though US coronavirus fatalities are down, there are few signs that the virus is going to disappear. The spike in patients overwhelmed some Texas hospitals as concerns grow about shrinking capacity in intensive care units. Florida set an all-time record for the most cases in a single day Saturday, surpassing the previous record set in New York in mid-April. Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb warned Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that there’s “no clear line of sight on how we’re going to get this under control.”

The political polarization of the virus, driven in no small part by conflicting messages from Trump and his public health experts, was in the spotlight over the holiday weekend.

Though coronavirus cases rose in 34 states over the previous week — and 12 states recorded an increase in cases of more than 50%, according to John Hopkins University data — beaches in some parts of the country were packed with people, while others were empty.

Weekend images emerged of partygoers dancing and shouting with no distancing at an event in Diamond Lake, Michigan, and closely packed crowds at a Wisconsin waterpark.

Cases are declining in three states — Kentucky, Vermont and the swing state of New Hampshire, where the Trump campaign announced that the President will hold a campaign rally Saturday at Portsmouth International Airport. The crowd will be in a hangar, with the overflow crowd outside. The campaign said that there will be ample access to hand sanitizer and all attendees will be provided a face mask “that they are strongly encouraged to wear.”

But the concern is that the President’s descriptions of an innocuous virus will lead his supporters to let their guard down. In direct contradiction to Trump’s “totally harmless” assertion, the US case fatality rate from coronavirus stood at 4.6% this weekend, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The World Health Organization has said that 20% of all people who are diagnosed with coronavirus are sick enough to need oxygen or hospital care. And while the CDC estimates that a third of coronavirus cases are asymptomatic, that does not make the disease any less dangerous since people with mild or no symptoms can pass the virus on to others. As of Sunday, the death toll in America had surpassed 129,000 American lives.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, a Democrat, told CNN’s Boris Sanchez Sunday that the situation in Miami is “going to get much worse,” and he said the disconnect between the reality on the ground and the President’s message is making it much harder to force Floridians to heed the guidance of health experts.

“We’re telling people to make sacrifices, to put on masks, to socially distance themselves from people they love, to make sacrifices for others,” Gelber said. “Friday night, the President is hosting this huge event where none of those countermeasures were being followed. So how do we tell people to swallow very difficult medicine when the President, by his action and his words, is telling them they don’t have to?”

A growing number of Americans also do not trust the President’s information about the virus. Only 26% of registered voters trusted Trump to give accurate information about the coronavirus, according to last month’s New York Times/Siena College poll, while about 77% of registered voters trusted the CDC.

It is not yet clear what damage that may inflict on Trump’s fellow Republicans with the President on the top of the ticket in November — and whether they will continue to stand with him as his message becomes more dangerous.

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