$130 Billion Left on the Table | Israel Keeps Pushing Buttons
July 1, 2020
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“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” ― Thomas Jefferson
People Lie, Numbers Don’t
(Pool via Getty Images)
One day after the White House insisted the COVID-19 outbreak was reduced to “embers,” America’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared before a Senate committee to extend a warning. He stated that the US is “going in the wrong direction” in its handling of the crisis, and that the death toll “is going to be very disturbing.”
Last week, America reported 40,000 new cases in one day. When asked about the increase and whether the pandemic was under control, Fauci said: “The numbers speak for themselves…. Clearly we’re not in total control.” He added that without a more robust response, we could see 100,000 new cases daily. It’s notable that the US accounts for just four percent of the world’s population, but has 25 percent of all COVID-19cases (over 2.5 million) and deaths (over 123,000).
On Monday, the CDC’s principal deputy director told the JAMA network there was “a lot of wishful thinking around the country” that the pandemic would be over by the summer. “We are not even beginning to be over this,” she declared.
Several states that began reopening weeks ago are seeing a record rise in infections, and ordering new shutdowns. Arizona’s governor shuttered bars, movie theaters, gyms, and water parks again for another month. Texas, Florida, and California have rolled back reopening efforts, and Oregon and Kansas have ordered people to wear masks in public.
Senate Committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) acknowledged that mask-wearing had become politicized — meaning ‘liberals’ wear masks, Trump supporters don’t. Then he gingerly added: “That’s why I’ve suggested that the president occasionally wear a mask. The president has plenty of admirers, they would follow his lead and it would help in this political debate; the stakes are too high for this to continue.”
Israel Crosses the Line
(Abir Sultan via Getty Images)
- Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rush to begin annexing parts of the occupied Palestinian territories as early as Wednesday is receiving pushback from alternate prime minister Benny Gantz. Gantz said the July 1 timeline wasn’t “sacred” or urgent and should be delayed while the country deals with the COVID-19 crisis.
- Netanyahu told members of his own Likud party in a private meeting that the issue “was not up to” Gantz’s Blue and White party, and that “discreet” contacts with the US were continuing. However, there are reports that some in the Trump administration are cooling to the idea of imminent annexation. International opposition is mounting, with both Jordan and the Palestinian leadership, backed by key EU countries and Gulf states, making clear they regard any move towards unilateral annexation as illegal no matter how limited.
- The UN’s top human rights official said Monday that “Annexation is illegal. Period. I am deeply concerned that even the most minimalist form of annexation would lead to increased violence and loss of life, as walls are erected, security forces deployed and the two populations brought into closer proximity.”
- The UN Secretary General, the EU, and key Arab countries have all warned that annexation would violate international law and all but destroy any remaining hopes of establishing a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel. (Guardian)
China Tightens Its Grip
- On Tuesday, Chinese president Xi Jinping signed into law sweeping new security legislation that sets obedience to Beijing above what used to be Hong Kong’s civil freedoms. The law, conceived in secrecy and passed with lightning speed, grants Xi’s government extraordinary powers to quash any political activity and speech that would challenge Beijing’s authority.
- Included are new crimes for subverting the government, seeking to “split” Hong Kong from China, or “colluding” with foreign governments or “external forces” to spy on or harm China. The punishment for the most serious crimes is life imprisonment.
- By imposing such expansive and drastic legislation, Communist Party leaders in Beijing have faced down the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, ignored opposition from the Trump administration and other governments, and demonstrated the extent to which Xi is bound to remake the territory on his authoritarian terms.
- To make sure the message being delivered by the new rules can’t possibly be missed, the territory’s main Chinese government office issued a statement that read: “Nobody should underestimate the determination of the central authorities to defend national security in Hong Kong.” (NYT)
Additional World News
- The land down under looks to arm up: Australia Spending Nearly $1 Billion on Cyberdefense as China Tensions Rise (NYT, $) & Australia to acquire long-range missiles as PM warns of dangerous post-Covid-19 world (Guardian)
- Putin appeals to Russians to vote to allow him to stay in office until 2036 (Guardian). But it looks like Russia’s internet culture, at least, is turning its back on him: ‘You Know Your Audience’: Russia’s Internet Stars Turn Away From Putin (NYT, $)
- Scale of torture and deaths in Yemen’s unofficial prisons revealed (Guardian)
- Tehran clinic hit by deadly explosion (BBC)
- South Korea Holds Onto Patient Data From Prior Coronavirus, Worrying Privacy Groups (NPR)
- German Special Forces unit to be dissolved, source says, after reported far-right links (CNN)
- China cuts Uighur births with IUDs, abortion, sterilization (AP News)
- Is the hydrogen tech ‘revolution’ hope or hype? (BBC)
- How did coronavirus start and where did it come from? Was it really Wuhan’s animal market? (Guardian)
- US buys up world stock of key Covid-19 drug remdesivir (Guardian)
- What Activities Are Safe as the Coronavirus Continues to Spread? (New Yorker, $)
- No Spitting: MLB Unveils Some New Rules Due To The Coronavirus (NPR)
- The Coronavirus Pandemic’s Wider Health-Care Crisis (New Yorker, $)
- US Coronavirus Testing Could Fail Again (Atlantic, $)
Lots Left in the Bank
- The deadline to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program, the stimulus endeavor launched in April to help small-business owners, ended at midnight Tuesday with more than $130 billion left unused.
- The program has been a source both of aid and aggravation. Business owners and advocacy groups had complained that the PPP ‘s money was not fully put to work because the program created obstacles that stopped countless small businesses from applying.
- For those that did seek loans, the ever-changing application process proved to be an exercise in futility. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) led a group considering how best to use the remaining funds to help small businesses as they reopen, and at Tuesday’s hearing of the House Financial Services Committee Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Trump administration would support legislation to re-purpose the billions of dollars left in the small-business fund.
- However, the issue is not expected to be resolved until the Senate gets to work in late July on what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) has said will be the final major COVID-19 relief bill. (WaPo, AP)
- Mnuchin and Powell to Offer Mixed Views of Economic Recovery (NYT, $)
The Next Big Trump Book Stays Shelved
- Publication of Mary Trump’s explosive new tell-all book about her uncle, the president, was put on hold Tuesday by a New York judge until arguments can be heard in the book’s court case.
- The request for an injunction was brought by Trump’s younger brother Robert, who claims Mary, 55, the daughter of Trump’s deceased older brother Fred Trump Jr., is violating a nondisclosure agreement related to the settlement of the estate of Fred Trump Sr., the father of Donald and Robert and Mary’s grandfather.
- Mary’s book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” was scheduled for publication on July 28. Robert said he was “deeply disappointed” in his niece’s decision to “sensationalize and mischaracterize our family’s relationship … for her own financial gain….”
- But a lawyer for Mary said the president and his family were trying “to suppress a book that will discuss matters of utmost public importance,” and that the family was pursuing this “unlawful prior restraint” because “they do not want the public to know the truth.” He called the attempt to suppress the book a “brazen violation of the First Amendment.” (WaPo)
Additional USA News
- Supreme Court says states that subsidize private education must include religious schools (WaPo, $)
- ‘It makes it very difficult to fire them’: police union contracts protect bad officers, critics warn (Guardian)
- Coronavirus: Joe Biden will not hold campaign rallies (BBC)
- Jacksonville Mandates Face Masks, As It Prepares To Host Trump At GOP Convention (NPR)
- White House says Trump reads amid questions about his handling of intelligence briefing (CNN)
- Much of today’s intelligentsia cannot think (WaPo, $)
- Now Is a Time to Learn From Hispanic Americans (NYT, $)
- Voters Don’t Know Much About Joe Biden (Atlantic, $)
- A Cheap, Race-Neutral Way to Close the Racial Wealth Gap: It’s time to try baby bonds. (Atlantic, $)
- US visitors set to remain banned from entering EU (Guardian), UN Security Council Rebuffs Pompeo on Iran Arms Ban (NYT, $) & Coronavirus Brings American Decline Out in the Open (Bloomberg). Is the US really on its way out? Doubtful, but as the nation flails domestically and internationally, the future sure doesn’t look too bright.
Short Shows, Shortcomings
- On April 6, two billionaires deeply entrenched in the Hollywood and Silicon Valley establishment launched their $1.75 billion content experiment known as Quibi, a service that promised to refashion streaming into “snackable” bites featuring celebrity-fronted shows of 10 minutes or less.
- Shows included a Joe Jonas talk show, a documentary on LeBron James’s “I Promise” school, a movie with Game of Thrones’s Sophie Turner surviving a plane crash — all streamed straight to your phone. The idea was the brainchild of DreamWorks Animation co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman.
- According to one media analyst, the short-form content platform would either be “a huge home run or a massive swing and a miss.” Quibi’s rollout was followed by an almost apocalyptic string of bad news. The app stumbled early, falling out of the top 50 most downloaded apps within a week of its launch, only attracting about 1.5 million active users by the end of May, a drop in the bucket compared to over 50 million subscribers drawn to Disney+ and Netflix’s 183 million global users. Most of those users were on the service’s 90-day free trial.
- The company anticipates landing just 2 million paying customers by the end of the year, less than 30 percent of its first-year target of 7.4 million subscribers. That smaller-than-anticipated subscriber base left the billion-dollar experiment cash-strapped and needing millions more to stay afloat. Add in heavy-weight advertisers wanting to renegotiate their contracts, internal strife, patent lawsuits, a pandemic — and it looks as though “Quibi” could become shorthand for one massively expensive mistake. (Guardian)
- The World Destroyer in Your Shampoo (Nautilus)
- Women’s pain, it seems, is hysterical until proven otherwise (Aeon)
- Flying Snakes Can Travel Remarkable Distances, Now Scientists Know How (NPR)
- The Anthropause: How the Pandemic Gives Scientists a New Way to Study Wildlife (Wired, $)
- It could happen here: A Serbian journalist has a warning about American authoritarianism (Vox)
- Fatness and Thinness in the Middle Ages (Medievalists)
- Home Hair Styling for Men (New Yorker, $) For us the first phase of COVID hair styling was to grow it long, and now it’s reversed course and let’s trim it down and make it easy to manage. Parents are learning to not just become better cooks during COVID-19 but also better at cutting hair. One mom’s recent comments after cutting the hair of their boys: “I too would like to have short hair, it’s so much easier to manage.”
- Booyakasha! Why Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest prank nearly went horribly wrong (Guardian) This comedian also has one of the most thoughtful and eloquent takedowns-denunciations of Facebook. Here’s a clip when the comedian in the guise of Ali G met Donald Trump and briefly interviewed him. Fast forward a few years and the glove idea is actually not that bad of one: Russians Eat Burgers in Gloves. Should Everyone? (NYT, $)