May 21st – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Flour People, Advice for Reopening Safely, and Germ Zapping Robots are a thing.

Historians will note that during the first two decades of the twenty-first century, no biomolecule consisting of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms was more relentlessly mailgned than the once mighty carbohydrate. But then, faced with a pandemic we could barely process, humans returned to their pantries in search of processed grains. Almost overnight, America’s carb footprint expanded dramatically, and nowhere was that rise more evident than on the lightly dusted customer service phone at King Arthur Flour, where employees sifted through calls by the thousands. This gluten went to eleven. To be sure, there was dough to be made, but this aerate drill was about something more: a national knead. “Partly it was an increase in the sheer number of calls, a jump that seemed more sudden and pronounced than the normal mild pre-Easter build-up. But even stranger was how many of the callers seemed, well, clueless. How do you tell if bread is done? Do I really need yeast? And strangest of all: What can I use instead of flour?” Marker takes you to the proofing grounds: Inside the Flour Company Supplying America’s Sudden Baking Obsession. “During a crisis there are a lot of problems to solve, and you won’t be able to solve them all. We decided the one we had to solve was how to get more all-purpose flour to consumers.” Indeed, it was the yeast they could do.


Open With Caution

“We want a good economy and public safety, but we are afraid if we open too quickly, or don’t have plans to adjust if spread recurs, we will have neither.” As states begin to reopen, twenty leading experts advise on how do it right. We stuck together to StayHome, now we can start together to OpenSafely.

+ Opening right means opening with accurate data. The Atlantic: The government’s disease-fighting agency is conflating viral and antibody tests, compromising a few crucial metrics that governors depend on to reopen their economies. “You’ve got to be kidding me. How could the CDC make that mistake? This is a mess.” (You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me is the working title of 2020’s memoir…)

+ In addition to data challenges, there’s the complexity of having different regions experiencing different phases. “Cities that thought the worst had passed may be hit anew. States that had lucky escapes may find themselves less lucky. The future is uncertain, but Americans should expect neither a swift return to normalcy nor a unified national experience. The excellent Ed Yong in The Atlantic: America’s Patchwork Pandemic Is Fraying Even Further.

+ And the reopening road will be as bumpy as a Bronco ride. Bloomberg: Ford’s Three Shutdowns in Two Days Signal Bumpy Factory Restart.


Closing Time

How important is data and timing when it comes to reopening? For an answer, we should look back at how important they were (or should have been) for shutting down. Lockdown Delays Cost at Least 36,000 Lives, Data Show.

+ And aside from focal points like meat packing plants, nursing homes, and jails, where has the risk been greatest? Superspreader Events Offer a Clue on Curbing Coronavirus.


Graphical User Interface

“When Trump first tapped Ratcliffe for the post last June, Democrats and Republicans alike were cool to the choice. Ratcliffe had never worked in the intelligence community. And his connections to national security more broadly proved both tenuous — a few years as a federal prosecutor — and exaggerated.” That being said: The Senate confirmed John Ratcliffe as next director of national intelligence in sharply divided vote.

+ Ratcliffe’s first job might be to learn how to make nice, attention-grabbing pictures to describe threats to the nation. Words won’t do the trick. NYT: “Mr. Trump rarely absorbs information that he disagrees with or that runs counter to his worldview, the officials said. Briefing him has been so great a challenge compared with his predecessors that the intelligence agencies have hired outside consultants to study how better to present information to him.” (If this doesn’t seem like a big deal, see story 3 above…)

+ US pulls out of Open Skies treaty, Trump’s latest treaty withdrawal.


King of Kong?

“Chinese media said the move defended national security, but opponents said it could be the ‘end of Hong Kong.'” BBC: China proposes controversial Hong Kong security law.


Orange You Glad You Saw This?

“The European Southern Observatory released a picture Wednesday of what astronomers believe shows the process of cosmic matter at a gravitational tipping point, collapsing into a new world around a nearby star. Astronomers said the dramatic scene offers a rare glimpse into the formation of a baby planet.” In an orange swirl, astronomers say humanity has its first look at the birth of a planet. (It had to be orange? Really?)


Who’s Loughlin Now?

Remember the stories some obsessed over before the pandemic? Here’s a reminder. Lori Loughlin to Plead Guilty in College Admissions Case, Serve 2 Months in Prison. (I’ve served the last two months in home confinement and I didn’t even do anything…) Loughlin’s husband Mossimo Giannulli will serve five months.

+ Speaking of husband and wife crime teams… “Embattled Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s husband made his largest-ever federal political contribution last month with a seven-figure donation to a super PAC supporting President Donald Trump’s re-election.” (Weird timing, eh?)


Burn Before Reading

Forward’s Talya Zax: Philip Roth doesn’t live here anymore: A writer, a stonemason, an American friendship. “Murdock still worked for Roth, but more and more, the work was rooted in affection and trust. While Roth was still writing — he stopped in 2010 — he would sometimes give Murdock piles of pages to burn, which Murdock did, in big bonfires in his backyard. He said he never even snuck a peek at what Roth brought him.” (Most days I feel like burning my writing too, I just can’t afford all the new laptops.)


Feel Good Thursday

“With plans for safely revving up production underway in Hollywood, the industry is looking at creative ways to make sure sets are sanitary in the age of COVID-19. One newly emerging strategy might have people wondering whether the pandemic is turning Hollywood into one of the sci-fi films it churns out: ‘germ-zapping robots.'”

+ NYC seniors find lighter side of pandemic in comedy class. (Seems like White House correspondents have adopted the same strategy…)

+ These photos show creative ways people are celebrating graduation during the coronavirus pandemic. (My son wants to spend his graduation day alone in his room playing on his computer. Genes are an amazing thing…)

+ Graduate Student Solves Decades-Old Conway Knot Problem.

+ Mount Everest is Visible from Kathmandu, for first time in living memory.

+ Designer turns into Bane with a robotic face mask that auto-closes when it senses people.

+ Mayor lies in a coffin and pretends to be a coronavirus victim to avoid arrest after breaking curfew rules to go drinking. (It could’ve been worse. He could have taken hydroxychloroquine…)


The Cars Concert

“So just when you thought you’d mastered every wrinkle about concert ticketing and fees that there was to learn, get ready to hear a lot about a phrase previously limited to habitués of the 300 or so drive-ins left around the U.S.: ‘carload pricing.'” Live Nation Looks to Take Drive-In Shows Bigger This Summer. (The next startup unicorn will make car air fresheners…)

+ 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.

Copied to Clipboard