May 15th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Retail tails off, Weekend Whats, and Feel Good Friday.

During quarantine, I don’t really miss going out or spending time with other people, but man I miss researching and buying products I don’t need and probably won’t ever use. Apparently, I’m not the only one abstaining. “Retail spending in the United States nosedived again last month, dropping a record 16.4% as people avoided restaurants, bars, stores and malls during the coronavirus pandemic.” Clothing stores were the hardest hit taking a nearly 80% hit (it doesn’t help that since business moved to Zoom, none of us needs to wear anything below the waist). If you’re wondering why retailers haven’t been hit even harder, considering most of them have been closed, it’s because of the strength of online sales (and not just those related to NextDraft shirts and sweatshirts flying off the virtual shelves).

+ As we see some large, well-known retailers go bust, it’s worth noting that the pandemic often isn’t the the only cause of death. NYT: The Pandemic Helped Topple Two Retailers. So Did Private Equity. “Like many other retailers, J. Crew and Neiman over the past decade paid hundreds of millions of dollars in interest and fees to their new owners, when they needed to spend money to adapt to a shifting retail environment. And when the pandemic wiped out much of their sales, neither had anywhere to go for relief except court.” (Maybe private equity should buy out Covid19. It would probably die off too…)


You Don’t Want This

Mara Gay in the NYT: “I am one of the lucky ones. I never needed a ventilator. I survived. But 27 days later, I still have lingering pneumonia. I use two inhalers, twice a day. I can’t walk more than a few blocks without stopping. I want Americans to understand that this virus is making otherwise young, healthy people very, very sick. I want them to know, this is no flu. Even healthy New Yorkers in their 20s have been hospitalized….Maybe you don’t live in a big city. Maybe you don’t know anybody who is sick. Maybe you think we are crazy for living in New York. That’s fine. You don’t have to live like us or vote like us. But please learn from us. Please take this virus seriously.”


Weekend Whats

What to Doc: “Join the doctors on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 as they strategize to stop the spread, and meet the researchers racing to develop treatments and vaccines.” Nova’s Decoding COVID-19 provides insight into the science behind the pandemic, and more interestingly, a look inside the labs of those racing to find a vaccine that could change the course of history.

+ What to Book: “Most confrontations, viewed from the wide angle of history, are minor disputes, sparks that quickly die out. But every now and then, someone strikes a match that lights up the whole planet.” The always excellent Steven Johnson: Enemy of All Mankind: A True Story of Piracy, Power, and History’s First Global Manhunt. (Want to think about something other than quarantine? Think about pirates.)

+ What to Read: “I didn’t know it at the time, but the cop who kicked me was named Daniel T. Hersl. His boot in my ribs would mark the beginning of a 17-year relationship between two guys who had more in common than anyone would have imagined, especially us.” D. Watkins: An All-American Story Of Two Boys From The East Side Of Baltimore.


Hug Dealers

In Mexico, Cartels Distribute Coronavirus Aid to Win Support. “During the pandemic, the organized crime groups have handed out food in recent weeks in 11 states, and they have used threats and violence to enforce their own quarantines in two states.” (See, you can be the head of a large, international criminal organization and still believe in science.)


Mumbai Any Means Necessary

“Tensions are increasing between the rich and the poor. As the contagion tightens its grip on Mumbai’s slums, many wealthier residents are determined to stay away from slum dwellers. Housing associations in the fancier parts of town have barred maids, watchmen and casual laborers — many of whom live in the slums — from coming to work.” A familiar story at an unfamiliar scale. A photo-essay from the NYT: India’s ‘Maximum City’ Engulfed by Coronavirus.


Vos Def

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “has used $180 million of those dollars to encourage states to create ‘microgrants’ that parents of elementary and secondary school students can use to pay for educational services, including private school tuition. She has directed school districts to share millions of dollars designated for low-income students with wealthy private schools. And she has nearly depleted the 2.5 percent of higher education funding, about $350 million, set aside for struggling colleges to bolster small colleges — many of them private, religious or on the margins of higher education — regardless of need. The Wright Graduate University for the Realization of Human Potential, a private college in Wisconsin that has a website debunking claims that it is a cult, received about $495,000.” (Sometimes, I need to wear a mask just to read the news…)


No Gov Lost

How’s this for a lede in a story that has become so normalized that it’s barely cracking national news. Bloomberg: “Michigan closed down its capitol in Lansing on Thursday and canceled its legislative session rather than face the possibility of an armed protest and death threats against Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.”


Coal Train Slowing

NYT: In a First, Renewable Energy Is Poised to Eclipse Coal in US. (This is good news for the environment, but tough news for coal industry workers taking a financial hit along with a pandemic. They need to be made part of the solution. They’ve sacrificed a ton to power the first couple centuries of American growth.)


Feel Good Friday

Ed Jackson, a quadriplegic former rugby player, wanted another challenge to conquer, so he attempted to climb Mount Everest on his stairs.

+ “Right away we wanted to make a meaningful contribution to the escalating pandemic, but we took a cautious approach. The first rule of an emergency is to stay out of the way of professionals. We did a lot of research to make sure we were adding value before jumping in. We wanted to maximize our impact with the tools we had in front of us. We landed on two projects — two different avenues of mask production.” How Patagonia Transformed Its Advanced R&D Center Into a Face Mask Factory, Almost Overnight.

+ “The vaccine appeared to protect the animals against developing pneumonia.” Coronavirus vaccine: Macaque monkey trial offers hope.

+ NYT: A 92-Year-Old Piano Teacher Won’t Let Students Miss Bach in the Pandemic.

+ Hug glove lets family members safely embrace grandma.


That’s Not What Commence Meant

“Soliman’s friends don’t want a studio-produced graduation, he said. They want a real ceremony. Soliman started a petition, which has more than 600 signatures so far, asking for an in-person ceremony — with masks and social distancing.” USA Today: People are furious over 2020 graduation ceremonies, the latest coronavirus battleground. (My wife and I are much more concerned about doing something … anything … for our son’s eighth grade graduation than he is. He doesn’t think getting together is worth the risk and wants to spend the day playing Call of Duty Black Ops 4. (If anyone is doing anything creative for graduation this year, please let me know. Not that videogames don’t sound fun…)

+ Reminder: The NextDraft Store is open and awesome.

+ Damon Lindelof’s Something Something Something Murder story’s final chapters will be here at the end of the month. In the meantime, the first 15 chapters are here.

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