Daily Pnut

AUGUST 25, 2020


The Good News

How an Indigenous community in Brazil used tech to contain the coronavirus. (Slate). A mobile app steps in when the government wouldn’t.


“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.”

― Robertson Davies

“One thing is certain: That is that the power of belief, the power of thought, will move reality in the direction of what we believe and conceive of it.”

— Daisaku Ikeda


The Base That Won’t Budge

(Mario Tama via Getty Images)

The US is in the midst of a COVID-19 recession, with double-digit unemployment, economic slowdown, vanishing wages and savings, record business closures, lengthy food bank lines, and rising homelessness, yet President Trump continues to get higher approval ratings on economic issues than his predecessors did when they stood for reelection. A political analyst explains: “For so many of these voters, opinions of Trump are basically baked in. And what the actual economic situation is in November is less important to them than it would be in a different time with different candidates.”

Undeniably, the president is a great marketer. He’s built an enduring brand with a lot of conservative voters who continue to see him as a successful businessman and tough negotiator. They praised his economic stewardship before the pandemic hit, and now they don’t blame him for the damage it has caused. A Trump supporter in Wisconsin who owns parts of a brewery, a vehicle paint shop, and also sells insurance said: “He’s had failures — so have I — in business. But I think the biggest thing is that … he’s treating this like a business, and he’s running it like a business.”

Polling suggests that members of Trump’s voter base are less likely to have lost a job or income than Democratic or independent voters. An analysis of census survey data reveals that small business owners in less populated, more rural states that backed Trump in 2016 report less economic damage from the pandemic than those in larger blue states. Even Republicans hit hard by the crisis continue giving the president and his economy high marks. 80 percent of Republicans who lost a job and haven’t returned to work approve of Trump’s handling of the pandemic. Almost 70 percent of out-of-work Republicans say they are better off economically than they were a year ago, and less than 20 percent of conservative Republicans worry about losing a job going forward. Conversely, barely 10 percent of Democrats who have kept their jobs throughout the crisis say they are better off financially than in 2019. “Trump is a master at convincing people of his alternative reality,” said one economist.


Want a Vaccine? UK Tells the US to Wait in Line

AstraZeneca — maker of the Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine — says clinical trials are ongoing in the UK and other global markets, but insists it isn’t in talks with the Trump administration about fast-tracking its vaccine for emergency use in the United States ahead of November’s presidential elections.
Downing Street said Monday that the UK would be first in line for the Oxford vaccine if it proves to be effective. A spokesman said while AstraZeneca has entered into a number of agreements with other countries, the UK will have first access and will receive 100 million doses once the drug is proven effective.
Both Russia and China are moving ahead with inoculations involving experimental vaccines that have yet to pass final efficacy and safety trials.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has become increasingly frustrated with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which the president has tried to suggest is slowing approval of a vaccine for “political reasons.” US government licensing rules usually require studies on up to 30,000 people — three times the scale of the UK testing already underway.
A report in Financial Times said top administration officials told Democrats in July an option under consideration was awarding “emergency use authorization” for the vaccine in October, based on the relatively small UK study. However, the director of the FDA’s division responsible for assessing the vaccines publicly warned he would resign if pressured to approve a vaccine before testing is complete.

China is the first nation to have begun public use of an under-studied COVID-19 vaccine. On Saturday, Beijing health officials said they began dosing some medical workers and state-owned enterprise employees with an experimental vaccine in late July, under “urgent use” protocols.
At the pandemic’s onset, many governments announced they would not cut corners in developing a vaccine. But as the crisis continues to take lives and wreck economies, some governments have eased up on those idealistic declarations.
Three weeks after China began using its experimental vaccine, Russia rolled out one of its own. Neither vaccine passed standard clinical trials, which gives governments ample reason to be nervous. Last week, Papua New Guinea said it turned away a group of Chinese miners who had received an experimental coronavirus vaccine.
President Trump accused the FDA or the “deep state” of delaying progress for a US coronavirus vaccine in order to hurt his reelection chances. The political pressure may have gotten to the FDA, which announced over the weekend it was giving “emergency authorization” for the use of convalescent plasma as a treatment for COVID-19. On Sunday, Trump touted the decision as a “breakthrough” in treatment, but scientists are skeptical. (Guardian, WaPo)
Additional Vaccine Reads

As Trump pushes Covid vaccine, FDA soothes fears (Politico)
Fauci says rushing out a vaccine could jeopardize testing of others (Reuters)
Are We Looking for the Wrong Coronavirus Vaccines? (NYT, $)
The unequal scramble for coronavirus vaccines — by the numbers (Nature)
How a pandemic revealed the plight of poor children: The Coronavirus Generation (NYT)
The Corner That State Universities Have Backed Themselves Into (Atlantic, $)
What the Hong Kong Covid-19 reinfection case tells us about coronavirus immunity (Vox).
An industry in peril: Outdoor Dining Is a Hit, but Restaurants Face ‘Apocalyptic’ Times (NYT)
Study finds racial and ethnic disparities in Covid-19 hospitalizations (CNN)
Racial Disproportionality in Covid Clinical Trials (NEJM)
Additional World News

Earth has lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice in less than 30 years (Guardian)
No gas, all brakes: A $91 Billion Asset Manager Dumps Exxon, Chevron on Climate (Yahoo)
In China, Where the Pandemic Began, Life Is Starting to Look … Normal (NYT, $). From a pandemic to pool parties.
China’s Communist Party is a threat to the world, says former elite insider (CNN).
Threatened by Facebook Disinformation, a Monk Flees Cambodia (NYT, $)
If you felt cooped up in lockdown, think of refugees confined indefinitely in camps (Guardian)
Murky waters in the Mediterranean: Greece plans Mediterranean navy exercises; Turkey objects (AP)
Can Belarus protesters topple Lukashenko? (WaPo,$)
Europe’s Geopolitical Awakening (Foreign Affairs)


The Latest Entry in a Tragic Anthology

(Scott Olson via Getty Images)

Violent protests erupted Sunday after police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin shot a black man in the back as he leaned over into his SUV. 29-year-old Jacob Blake was hospitalized in serious condition after being gunned down in front of his three children, who were in the vehicle.
The shooting occurred around 5 pm and was captured from across the street on cellphone video that was then posted online. Seven shots can be heard, and a Black woman can be seen screaming and jumping up and down in the street. The officers were apparently trying to serve an arrest warrant on Blake, who had been charged on July 6 with third-degree sexual assault, trespassing, and disorderly conduct in connection with domestic abuse.
The officers were placed on administrative leave while the state’s justice department investigates. Wisconsin’s Democratic Governor Tony Evers promptly condemned the shooting and indicated he intends to take further action.
“I have said all along that although we must offer our empathy, equally important is our action,” the governor said. “In the coming days, we will demand just that of elected officials in our state who have failed to recognize the racism in our state and our country for far too long.” Pete Deates, president of the Kenosha police union, called Evers’ statement “wholly irresponsible.”
In a statement, Deates said: “As always, the video currently circulating does not capture all the intricacies of a highly dynamic incident. We ask that you withhold from passing judgment until all the facts are known and released.” Kenosha is a former auto manufacturing center of 100,000 people, midway between Milwaukee and Chicago. (Politico)
Additional Reads

Wisconsin Deploys National Guard After Shooting Of Black Man Sparks Protests (NPR)
The Shooting of Jacob Blake Is a Wake-Up Call (Atlantic, $)
Trayford Pellerin: Police clash with protesters in Lafayette, Louisiana fatal shooting (CNN)
Antifa Conspiracies and a Racial Reckoning (SI)
Kellyanne On Her Way

Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway is leaving the Trump administration at the end of the month to “devote more time to family matters.” Conway is one of the president’s longest-serving aides and known for her tenacious televised defenses of the president, his administration, and his policies in frequent cable news appearances.
Her most memorable appearance may have been on “Meet the Press,” two days after Trump’s 2017 inauguration. Trump made the hyperbolic statement that his inauguration crowd was the largest in history, a resoundingly untrue claim.
The following Saturday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer appeared publicly for the first time at a press briefing, where he vigorously doubled down on the president’s claim by contending “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.”
In a tense exchange the next day, Conway was repeatedly pressed by Meet the Press host Chuck Todd to explain why the White House had sent Spicer to the briefing podium to make a factually false statement. Conway pivoted several times, then said Spicer was just presenting “alternative facts.”
Todd responded: “Alternative facts are not facts, they’re falsehoods.” During her tenure, Conway was frequently placed in an awkward position by her husband, conservative lawyer George T. Conway III, who had become a relentless critic of the president.
On Sunday, he tweeted: “So I’m withdrawing from @ProjectLincoln to devote more time to family matters. And I’ll be taking a Twitter hiatus.” The Lincoln Project is a group of Republicans devoted to defeating Trump in November that George Conway helped found.
As the embattled Republican couple steps away from public life, their dramatic supporting roles in Trump’s political theater will not soon be forgotten. (NPR, NBC News)
Additional USA News

Business partner of Falwells says he had affair with the power couple (Reuters)
$600-a-Week Pandemic Unemployment Benefits Were Working (Atlantic, $)
Wall Street, Trump Administration Unite to Loot American Retirement (Rolling Stone)
Kushner and the Kremlin: Jared Kushner’s Private Channel With Putin’s Money Man (Daily Beast)
State Dept. memos warn employees against attending political party conventions (Axios)
Sparring in the streets: Portland police allow Proud Boys and antifascists to spar with guns in the crowd (WaPo, $)
A Detailed Look at the Downside of California’s Ban on Affirmative Action (NYT, $)
California’s Disasters Are a Warning—Climate Change Is Here (Atlantic, $)


KFC Icon Kicks the Bucket

The first “Kentucky Fried Chicken” franchise opened in 1952. Four years later came the birth of its most popular advertising slogan: “It’s Finger Lickin’ Good.” In 1990, the Commonwealth of Kentucky trademarked its name to alleviate debt and capitalize on the various products using their name, including the fast-food fried chicken chain.
Anyone using “Kentucky” for their business would first need the state’s permission, and would also be required to pay licensing fees. Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded itself instead, to KFC. There were lots of other reasons floated for the name change, but through it all, the slogan didn’t change.
In November 2016, KFC and the State of Kentucky settled over the use of the trademarked word “Kentucky,” and the chain announced they would resume their old name.
Still, the slogan remained. Enter the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, with all its hand-washing and “don’t touch your face or anything else without washing your hands” admonitions. Finally, it was just too much. The restaurant chain said Monday that after 64 years, it will suspend the use of “It’s Finger Lickin’ Good” in its advertising.
KFC’s global chief marketing officer said in a statement that in an unprecedented year during which the COVID-19 pandemic has upended businesses and lives around the globe, the use of its iconic slogan just “doesn’t feel quite right.” (Mashed, USA Today)
Additional Reads

A Rocket Scientist’s Love Algorithm Adds Up During Covid-19 (Wired)
A lesson in intellectual honesty: Latif Nasser, Harvard Ph.D., on the Rewards of Being Dumb (NYT, $)
The Mystery of Ellen DeGeneres (Atlantic, $)
Prosopagnosia: The artist in search of her face (BBC)
Declutter your device: How to Rid Your Phone of Those Default Apps You Never Use (Wired)
Socially Responsible Investing: Is It Also More Profitable? (Mr. Money Mustache)
The Glory (and the Taboo) of ‘WAP’ (NYT, $), Praise Be to Cardi B.
The South’s Fight for White Supremacy (NYT, $)
‘John Henryism’: The hidden health impact of race inequality (BBC)
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