Monday, July 13th, 2020


Playing Chicken

The pandemic is a magnifying mirror placed directly across from America's inequalities, and some of the ugliest reflections we've seen come from a place we rarely look: Meat plants, where the government and big business are playing chicken with human lives. "The United States Department of Agriculture granted fifteen waivers to poultry plants, including a Mountaire facility in North Carolina, authorizing them to increase the number of birds per minute—or B.P.M.—that workers must process. The waivers enabled companies to accelerate the pace from a hundred and forty B.P.M. to a hundred and seventy-five ... Even though the C.D.C. has emphasized that social distancing is necessary to maintain safety, faster production lines require more workers, who must then squeeze closer together ... Debbie Berkowitz, a program director at the National Employment Law Project, a pro-labor group, who previously headed the health-and-safety division of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, told me that, thanks to the pandemic, 'the Chamber of Commerce is getting everything they always wanted.' An analysis of public records by her group found that, of the fifteen poultry plants granted waivers to increase line speeds in April, eight had covid-19 outbreaks at the time. 'If you're a worker in a plant bursting with covid-19, it's a shitshow for you,' Berkowitz said. 'The industry is getting away with murdering people.'" The New Yorker's excellent Jane Mayer on How Trump Is Helping Tycoons Exploit the Pandemic.


Never Say Never

"A new name must still be selected for one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone." After a "thorough review" (and since it took several decades, one can hardly question its thoroughness) the Redskins will be renamed. Washington's NFL team drops ‘Redskins' name after 87 years. (Trump probably wants to rename the team, The Orangeskins.)

+ "The name has drawn significant public criticism for nearly 50 years, yet Snyder consistently said it would 'NEVER' change. ('You can use caps,' he told an interviewer.)" It turns out nothing can change an uppercase 'NEVER' to a lowercase 'well, ok' quite like money (or in this case, Skins graft.) WaPo: Corporate money, Black Lives Matter protests and elites' opinion drove Redskins name change.

+ How old is this controversy? It's been seven years since The Onion published the best joke on the matter: Washington Redskins Change Their Name To The D.C. Redskins.

+ Speaking of sports, yesterday, with much regret, I explained why this is no time for games.


Enemy Minefield

"'The knowledge that the United States and other Western democracies are going to be on your case often deters authoritarian leaders from taking these kinds of actions,' said Representative Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, who was assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor in the Obama administration. Not any more. Now, he said, 'the official policy of the president of the United States is that free and independent media are the enemy of the people.'" Ben Smith in the NYT: While America Looks Away, Autocrats Crack Down on Digital News Sites. (Americans are justifiably looking inward to assess the damage of this era. But the damage beyond our borders may take even longer to correct.)

+ Speaking of the damage being done out there, following a wildly inappropriate White House visit just days before an election, Polish President Andrzej Duda (Donald Trump ally, homophobic hate monger, anti-media nationalist, and raving antisemite) just won re-election by the slimmest of margins.


Johnson Exposed

"British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged U.K. residents Monday to wear face coverings in shops and other tight indoor spaces — but stopped short of making it compulsory." The US has no monopoly on poor pandemic policy making. AP: Time to make masks mandatory? It's not just a US debate.

+ Sometimes I exaggerate and make it seem like the White House is doing nothing about the pandemic, and that's admittedly unfair. For example, over the past week or two, they've been actively discrediting Anthony Fauci.


One Word: Plasma

"Scientists have devised a way to use the antibody-rich blood plasma of COVID-19 survivors for an upper-arm injection that they say could inoculate people against the virus for months. Using technology that's been proven effective in preventing other diseases such as hepatitis A, the injections would be administered to high-risk healthcare workers, nursing home patients, or even at public drive-through sites — potentially protecting millions of lives, the doctors and other experts say." LA Times: A plasma shot could prevent coronavirus. But feds and makers won't act, scientists say.


In Plane View

When we think about the risks associated with air travel, we usually think about the time on the plane. But the time in airport can be dangerous too. WaPo: More than 1,000 TSA employees have tested positive for coronavirus.


Flattened Curves, Spiking Sales

"Maybe tech isn't all that dependent on growth in the U.S. Compared to the rest of the world, and for the first time in ages, many wealthy industrialized countries are doing better -- and in some cases, much better -- than the U.S. Nations such as Japan, South Korea and Germany not only have managed to contain the pandemic, but their economies are well ahead of the U.S.'s into their re-openings." How is big tech doing so well during the pandemic? As Barry Ritholtz explains, the key may be selling into markets where the virus is being better controlled. (That, and the fact that you'll pry our devices from our cold, dead hands...)


Alternative Fax

"The machine at the Harris County Public Health department in Houston recently became overwhelmed when one laboratory sent a large batch of test results, spraying hundreds of pages all over the floor." NYT Upshot: Bottleneck for U.S. Coronavirus Response: The Fax Machine.


Humor Us

"In introducing America to the ice cream truck and its mobile refrigeration unit, Harry Burt Sr. helped launch a revolution that we are still enjoying. Indeed, our mobile food options have never been more plentiful than they are today." How the Ice Cream Truck Made Summer Cool. (These should be brought back immediately. Everywhere.)


Bottom of the News

"Imagine this: An airline loses your checked bag. After an extensive search, customer support comes up empty-handed. They compensate you and life goes on." For you. And for your stuff. Meet the company that sells your lost airplane luggage.

+ Cops raid Melbourne party during lockdown after guests put in a 20-meal order with KFC at 1:30AM. (Something similar happened to me, but once the cops smelled the Sativa, they realized I was dining alone.)