Tuesday, May 26th, 2020


Is It Safe?

The 1976 thriller Marathon Man, Laurence Olivier repeatedly asks Dustin Hoffman a simple question while unveiling the dental tools he will soon use as torture devices (not much of a stretch): Is it safe? Hoffman feigns ignorance of the topic. Olivier responds: Is it safe? Hoffman tries telling him what he wants to hear: "Yes, it's safe. It's very safe. It's so safe you wouldn't believe it." Olivier: Is it safe? Hoffman: "No, it's not safe. It's very dangerous. Be careful." That cinematic exchange was echoing through my mind as crowds gathered to mark America's holiday weekend. On one hand, there's something undeniably joyful about taking steps back towards normalcy. On the other hand, I can't help but worry that we'll spend next Memorial Day mourning what millions of Americans did this Memorial Day. Is it safe? It depends where you are. Is it safe? It depends on who you ask. Is it safe? It could be if you practice social distancing and wear a mask. Is it safe? Look, just start drilling into my teeth, but please wear gloves and a face shield. Is it safe? I don't know! (Sadly, those three words are not allowed in politics, social media, or torture scenes in Hollywood thrillers.) Here's what we do know...

+ A lot of people observed Memorial Day exactly how they would have any other year. That story is best told in pictures.

+ While the number of new American cases declined slightly, the story is very different in 20 states where cases are on the rise. "South Carolina had the biggest weekly increase at 42%. Alabama's new cases rose 28% from the previous week, Missouri's rose 27% and North Carolina's rose 26%, according to the analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak. New cases in Georgia, one of the first states to reopen, rose 21% after two weeks of declines."

+ "Many people heading into their third month of quarantine have been trying to decide whether they should visit their favorite summer destinations this year. My answer is an unsatisfying 'maybe.'" The Atlantic: I'm a Chef in a Seaside Town. I'm Not an Epidemiologist.


Purple People Eaters

"Democrats are far more likely to live in counties where the virus has ravaged the community, while Republicans are more likely to live in counties that have been relatively unscathed by the illness, though they are paying an economic price." NYT: Beyond perception and ideology, there are starkly different realities for red and blue America right now. (Unfortunately, it looks like the pain could soon spread more evenly. But either way, the divide, even in these times, is shocking.)


Back Packing and Tracking

Tyson "has set up on-site medical clinics, screened employees for fevers at the beginning of their shifts, required the use of face coverings, installed plastic dividers between stations and taken a host of other steps to slow the spread.
Despite those efforts, the number of Tyson employees with the coronavirus has exploded from less than 1,600 a month ago to more than 7,000 today." WaPo:
The meat industry is trying to get back to normal. But workers are still getting sick.


Here We Go Afghan

"Last year was particularly devastating, with Afghan officials claiming they were killing Taliban at unprecedented rates: more than a 1,000 a month, perhaps a quarter of their estimated forces by year's end. In addition to airstrikes by Afghan forces, the U.S. dropped about 7,400 bombs, perhaps the most in a decade. Even at the peak of the long American military presence and the coordinating effort to help the Afghan government win hearts and minds in the countryside, the Taliban were able to keep recruiting enough young men to keep fighting. Families keep answering the Taliban's call, and booming profits help hold it all together." For Americans, this story will sound familiar compared to Vietnam. For Afghans, this story will just sound familiar. NYT: How the Taliban Outlasted a Superpower: Tenacity and Carnage. (And a lot of help from Pakistan...)


Core Value

"Instead of following in the footsteps of Apple, MedMen has gone the way of its 5th Avenue neighbor. It has become the WeWork of weed, an overhyped startup whose sky-high valuation has come crashing back down to Earth." Lavish Parties, Greedy Pols and Panic Rooms: How the ‘Apple of Pot' Collapsed. (The whole premise of this company was crazy. Everyone knows that the Apple of Pot is an apple.)


Covid’s Got No Beef With Mongolia

"Like I've said, success is ZERO, and Mongolia is as zero as you can get.
Just look for yourself. See the actions they took, when they took them, and how effective it was. I think you'll be as mind-blown as I was. Mongolia's response was intense, and somehow involved 30,000 sheep." Indi Samarajiva on the best COVID-19 response in the world.


The Human Stain

"President Trump on Tuesday tweeted to his nearly 80 million followers alluding to the repeatedly debunked falsehood that my wife was murdered by her boss, former U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough. The son of the president followed and more directly attacked my wife by tweeting to his followers as the means of spreading this vicious lie. I'm asking you to intervene in this instance because the president of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him — the memory of my dead wife — and perverted it for perceived political gain." I've never been one to call for removing the president from Twitter. But what about the individual tweets that break the rules, and are beyond disgusting? Kara Swisher in the NYT: Twitter Must Cleanse the Trump Stain. (So should America.) In fairness to Twitter, they're following the same model as the rest of the media: Treating Trump like a normal president and not like the endlessly destructive, mentally ill monster he is.


Solving for N95

"She saw endless potential in Shapeen and assembled an audience of 3M executives to present a number of ideas she had for products—more than 100 in all. The gathering was brought on by Turnbull's fascination with a molded material that held its shape. At the presentation, which she titled 'Why,' she impressed 3M with the scope of potential for the material. The company quickly enlisted her to work on a design for a molded bra cup." Sara Little Turnbull, Who Designed the N95 Mask Using a Bra Cup. That really turns me on (intellectually).


Feel Good Tuesday

Burger King debuts 'social-distance crowns' in Germany as restaurants test quirky ways to keep customers apart. (Finally, a safety device Trump will wear...)

+ Pirate radio station helps older adults deal with loneliness.

+ Between HBO, HBO Go, HBO Now, and the upcoming HBO Max, I'm only one HBO away from a straight flush. How to choose the right HBO? Take the one that has all the Studio Ghibli films.

+ 10 Chance Meetings That Changed the World.

+ J.K. Rowling to release new children's book, The Ickabog, for free online.


All Your Base Are Belong to Us

"Guests are welcome to hit from home plate, play catch in the outfield, run the bases, enjoy a picnic in the outfield, or find other creative uses for the field!" Stadium shuttered? No problem. Rent your Field of Dreams on Airbnb.

+ Reminder: The NextDraft Shirt Store is Open. And now there are remarkably cool masks as well.