Ken Burns: The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Not History Repeating Itself

Ken Burns: The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Not History Repeating Itself

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As the outbreak of the novel coronavirus shutters small businesses across the country, the number of jobless claims has skyrocketed from 70,000 last week to 281,000 Friday, and could spike as high as 2.25 million by next Thursday, according to analysts at Goldman Sachs. The sudden economic downturn has sent legislators on all sides of the aisle scrambling for stimulus packages to offset the damage. The GOP offered a $1,200 tax rebate; Chuck Schumer discussed expansions to unemployment insurance, sick leave, and low-interest loans; Bernie Sanders proposed sending $2,000 to every American household for the duration of the crisis. One economist told CNN Business that job loss in April could surpass the worst month of the Great Recession, when 800,000 jobs disappeared in March of 2009, comparing it to a repeat of the Great Depression.

On Monday, PBS will air a new documentary titled East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story, from filmmakers Sarah Burns and David McMahon and executive producer Ken Burns. The film tells the story of East Lake Meadows, a housing complex located on the outskirts of Atlanta which fell into “criminally negligent” disrepair after the local and federal government neglected its low-income and overwhelmingly black residents—and the complicated legacy of trying to redress that damage. But it also tells a larger story about the history of public housing in the United States—a system which began as a way to help the white working poor ascend to the middle class as the country struggled against the kind of economic slump the country may find itself in again.

In advance of the release, Ken Burns, the documentarian behind The Civil War, Jazz, The Vietnam War, and Country Music, spoke to The Daily Beast about the parallels between that moment and now, and what we might take from East Lake Meadows in a moment when housing assistance may become more critical than ever.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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White House Pushes U.S. Officials to Criticize China For Coronavirus ‘Cover-Up’

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As the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow at a rapid pace in the U.S., the White House is launching a communications plan across multiple federal agencies that focuses on accusing Beijing of orchestrating a “cover-up” and creating a global pandemic, according to two U.S. officials and a government cable obtained by The Daily Beast.

The cable, sent to State Department officials Friday, lays out in detail the circumstances on the ground in China, including data on coronavirus cases and deaths, the local business environment and transportation restrictions. But it also issues guidelines for how U.S. officials should answer questions on, or speak about, the coronavirus and the White House’s response in relation to China.

The talking points appear to have originated in the National Security Council. One section of the cable reads “NSC Top Lines: [People’s Republic of China] Propaganda and Disinformation on the Wuhan Virus Pandemic.” 

Read more at The Daily Beast.

G/O Media’s Dire Email to Staff: Coronavirus Will ‘Not Be Pretty’

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The head of the company that owns the former Gizmodo Media Group sites sent a dire email to staff on Saturday telling employees that the company will “experience some pain” due to the coronavirus-related economic downturn. 

G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller, who oversees digital media websites including The Root, Jezebel, Gizmodo, and Jalopnik among others, sent an email to staff on Saturday titled “Brace For Impact.”

Although he cautioned that it was slightly too early to tell what the direct financial consequences of the economic slowdown would be, he repeatedly suggested that employees should “expect that picture to not be pretty.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Make Your Bed as Comfy as Possible With These Best-Selling Body Pillows

The last time I had a body pillow on my bed was college, but these days it feels like I may need one again. There’s a lot to be said about having a giant, squishy pillow that you can hug or punch or scream into, depending on your mood. Body pillows can help reinforce the gap between your mattress and your headboard so your actual pillows don’t fall. They can act as a barrier between you and your spouse. There are so many options! We’ve rounded up some of the best to keep on hand, no matter the situation.



Read more at The Daily Beast.

President Trump Says Has Not Compelled Companies to Make Coronavirus Gear Despite Nationwide Shortages

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President Trump has not yet forced any companies to produce equipment to fight the novel coronavirus despite healthcare workers reporting nationwide shortages, he said at a Saturday briefing by the administration’s coronavirus task force.

The president invoked the Defense Production Act on Thursday, a law that gives the government authority in emergencies to harness industrial production to help in a time of need.

However, Trump said there had been no need to force companies to produce equipment yet because “we have so many companies making so many products” voluntarily.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Richard Burr Doesn’t Belong in the Senate. He Might Belong in Prison.

Sen. Richard Burr, who was privy to secret briefings about the coronavirus when he cashed out a large portion of his net worth in stock, may also have engaged in securities fraud. 

As ProPublica reported, Burr’s statutorily mandated trading reports disclose that he dumped between $628,000 and $1.7 million of stock on February 13, in 33 separate transactions. The stocks Burr cashed out of, two weeks before the markets began to plunge, quite possibly made up the bulk of his net worth, which Roll Call estimated totaled $1.7 million in 2018. In January, Burr publicly declared that the nation was “better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus.” But Burr had been receiving regular, secret briefings about the imminent coronavirus threat, and secretly warned political insiders the nation faced an imminent catastrophe on par with the worst influenza pandemic in modern history. 

It’s as yet unclear whether Burr’s stock dump constituted securities fraud, but it is plain that he reprehensibly violated the public trust, and therefore should not remain in office.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

How Joe Biden Will Counteract Trump’s Virus Media Circus

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After days of relative quiet, former Vice President Joe Biden announced that he plans to hold daily press briefings, starting as early as Monday from a remote location, as part of a broader digital and communications push as he closes in on the Democratic nomination.

“We’ve hired a professional team to do that now,” Biden said in a tele-conference with the press on Friday afternoon, in reference to a question about establishing a foil for Trump’s daily press briefings. “We’re in the process of setting up the mechanisms by which to do that.”

The announcement answers growing questions about whether Biden’s campaign would set up some type of shadow effort to counter President Donald Trump in the age of Covid-19. Those questions, and more specifically, whether they had a plan at all to match Trump’s increasingly erratic press conferences where he routinely contradicts experts, misstates facts, and paints a far rosier picture of a crisis that has upended American life, had gone largely unanswered until Friday. 

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Lou Dobbs Said Media Hyped Coronavirus. Now He’s in Quarantine.

Friday night’s edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight opened with a message from fill-in host David Asman. 

“Lou is in self-quarantine tonight,” Asman told viewers. “We just learned that one of his team members has tested positive for COVID-19.” After wishing that Fox employee a “speedy recovery,” he added, “Lou feels well, he has no symptoms, but out of an abundance of caution, he and his team are taking the necessary precautions.”

Dobbs appears to be taking the coronavirus threat to his own health seriously after weeks of following the Fox News line that appeared to claim the virus was an overblown “hoax” perpetrated by the media. He only changed his tune to start praising President Trump’s response to the crisis earlier this week when it was no longer possible to ignore the reality on the ground. 

Read more at The Daily Beast.

In Dr. Fauci We Trust

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photo Getty

As he guides the nation through the coronavirus crisis, Dr. Anthony Fauci has been in regular communication with an unlikely comrade from our last big war against a virus.

“I usually correspond with him after he appears on television,” the 84-year-old AIDS activist and playwright Larry Kramer told The Daily Beast. “He just says, ‘Hunker down.’ I tell him, ‘You’re looking tired.’”

When Fauci first rose to his present position as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 1984, Kramer viewed him as the personification of the government’s failure to address the epidemic that was devastating the gay community. Kramer called Fauci a “murderer” and published a “An Open Letter to Anthony Fauci, an Incompetent Idiot.’”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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