April 20th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Shake Shack Floats Shares, Oil plummets, and the Knead for Speed.

The Paycheck Protection Program was one of the most promising pandemic economic policies. Small businesses could get loans that would ultimately become grants if they kept their employees employed. The program was understandably popular and it ran out of money quickly. Part of that was demand. Part of it was that too much of the money went to businesses that weren’t small, and more importantly, had access to other cash infusions. Shake Shack, a publicly traded company with a $1.7 billion valuation, was one of the recipients of Paycheck Protection money – to the tune of $10 million. After raising money the old fashioned way (selling $150 million of shares on the public market), Shake Shack gave the loan back. “Our people would benefit from a $10 million PPP loan, but we’re fortunate to now have access to capital that others do not. Until every restaurant that needs it has had the same opportunity to receive assistance, we’re returning ours.” While Shake Shack had access to other capital and was in part responding to a public outcry, they deserve credit for giving the credit back; a move that these days, has to be viewed as a bit of a whopper. Lawmakers are working on a deal to make a lot more Paycheck Protection money available. But like many things at this uncertain, and unprecedented, moment, timing is everything. Small businesses need to still have employees to keep them.


We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

“A key American oil benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, fell by more than 80% on Monday as global oil markets continue to grapple with a pandemic-driven collapse in demand.” Like with many marketplace disasters, there are two sides to this story. Very little demand. And a ton of supply. (And just your luck, filling up your tank is cheap just when you’re not allowed to go anywhere.) It’s not unthinkable that it will cost more to store oil than companies can make selling it. The Guardian: Giant oil tankers are being used to hold record amounts of crude at sea due to a global oversupply that threatens to overwhelm the world’s storage facilities. It’s already leading to negative futures for the first time. (I put my money into oil when I should have invested in sourdough starter…)


Our Winning Weighs

“When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.” Great lede by The Atlantic’s George Packer for his piece: We Are Living in a Failed State. (Even if his sub-headline writing editor paid a bit too much homage to my recent essay, America is sick. Yes, this is a petty aside, but if we give up our petty asides, the virus wins.)

+ “This week’s public displays of defiance — a march for the freedom to be infected — are the logical conclusion of the modern far-right’s donor-funded, shock jock-led liberty movement. It was always headed here.” Charlie Warzel on one the State’s biggest failures: (Which I’ll shorthand as self-serving donors and insane media personalities prompting imbecilic faux patriots to take to the streets for a cause that could kill them.) Protesting for the Freedom to Catch the Coronavirus. Here’s this story coming to life and captured on video. And yet another photo that defines an era.


Reality Check, Stat

“Short-order cooks, doormen, cleaners, deli workers—that is the patient population here. Other people were at home, but my patients were still working. A few weeks ago, when they were told to socially isolate, they still had to go back to an apartment with ten other people. Now they are in our cardiac room dying … After my shift, I went for a run in Central Park, and I see these two women out in, like, full hazmat suits, basically, and gloves, screaming at people to keep six feet away while they’re power walking. And I’m thinking, You know what, you’re not the ones who are at risk.” The New Yorker: A New Doctor Faces the Coronavirus in Queens.

+ “Some doctors worry that illness and mortality from unaddressed health issues may rival the carnage produced by the virus in regions less affected by covid-19. And some expect they will soon see patients who have dangerously delayed seeking care as ongoing symptoms force them to overcome their fear.” One thing missing from hospitals these days. Patients. (People who don’t have Covid-19 are scared to be around those who do.)


Yes Way, José

60 Minutes: Addressing the strain the coronavirus has put on America’s food supply chain with José Andrés. “Part of emergencies is to adapt and to adapt by the day. When you talk about food and water people don’t want a solution one week from now, one month from now. The solution has to be now. The urgency of now is yesterday.” (Would it be possible to put José Andrés in charge of, well, everything?)


The Knead For Speed

“Most of the grains that are used in foods like breakfast cereals, corn chips and crackers are milled by high-speed steel rollers. Then they are further pulverized through a variety of high-pressure techniques. One of these is extrusion cooking, a thermal and mechanical process that dramatically alters the chemical structures of grains, breaking down their long chains of glucose into smaller starch molecules that can be rapidly digested.” The NYT on How ‘Fast Carbs’ May Undermine Your Health. (Last week, I made my own matzah. It took so long to pass through my system, I’m pretty sure I invented slow carbs.)


Nova Scotia Tragedy

“Canadians on Monday mourned the shocking rampage that left at least 18 dead in rural communities across Nova Scotia, after a gunman disguised as a police officer opened fire on people hunkered down in their homes, setting houses ablaze in the deadliest mass shooting in the country’s history.”


Full Beard

“Even by the dashing standards of wildlife photography, his résumé was the stuff of high drama, full of daring, danger, romance and tall tales, many of them actually true. Had Mr. Beard not already existed, he might well have been the result of a collaborative brain wave by Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Paul Bowles. He was matinee-idol handsome and, as an heir to a fortune, wealthy long before his photographs began selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece.” (It’s rare that the word swashbuckling is appropriately attributed to someone —even rarer when it’s attributed to one’s private life.) The NYT: Peter Beard, Wildlife Photographer on the Wild Side, Dies at 82.


Feel Good Monday

“More than 40 workers unanimously deciding to leave their families, agreeing to eat, sleep, and live at the facility where they make equipment for health care workers. The team worked 12-hour shifts. TV and the occasional drive-by from family members were only outside contact they’ve had.” Workers head home after 28 days of making COVID-19 protective gear.

+ We don’t have live sports, so we’ll have to resort to reliving them with documentary’s like ESPN’s The Last Dance, a doc on Jordan and the Bulls. The highlight of week one: Barack Obama was credited only as: Former Chicago Resident.

+ Wisconsin business provides free milk using a kindness cooler.

+ Stepping up: Mets PA announcer offers kind voice amid virus.

+ Violent rival gangs in South Africa call truce to help people during pandemic.

+ Today’s Jersey4Jersey is as star-studded as the weekend’s global concert. (I buried the lede: Bruuuuuuuuce.)


Something Something Something Murder

The most excellent Damon Lindelof has kindly offered to share a serialized story with NextDraft readers to help us, and him, through the quarantine. The first 13 chapters are here.

+ We’ll have a new chapter tomorrow. In the meantime, let’s ignore Tiger King and focus on Tiger Man. “I was a reporter on The New York Times metro desk when the story was playing out, a time when the city seemed a bit wilder. Nevertheless, even seasoned editors and reporters were flabbergasted that a man had kept a tiger in his public housing apartment in such a dense urban setting.” Nothing is really new. NYT: A 425-Pound Tiger Living in a Harlem Apartment? Yes, It Happened. (And Tiger Man thinks Tiger King is an idiot…)

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