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News 05.08.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 05.08.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 05.08.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 05.08.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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Outside of Boston, a marketing company is struggling to figure out how to cover its bills. In Indiana, a dance studio is waiting on three emergency-loan applications. In Baltimore, a deli is closed and desperate for help.

The government is engaged in an unprecedented effort to save such companies as pandemic-related shutdowns stretch into the spring. But Washington’s policies are too complicated, too small, and too slow for many firms: Across the United States, millions of small businesses are struggling, and millions are failing. The great small-business die-off is here, and it will change the landscape of American commerce, auguring slower growth and less innovation in the future.

Small businesses went into this recession more fragile than their larger cousins: Before the crisis hit, half of them had less than two weeks’ worth of cash on hand, making it impossible to cover rent, insurance, utilities, and payroll through any kind of sustained downturn. And the coronavirus downturn has indeed been shocking and sustained: Data from credit-card processors suggest that roughly 30 percent of small businesses have shut down during the pandemic. Transaction volumes, a decent-enough proxy for sales, show even bigger dips: Travel agencies are down 98 percent, photography studios 88 percent, day-care centers 75 percent, and advertising agencies 60 percent.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 05.08.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 05.08.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

AT THIS MOMENT, a savage microbe is holding the human world hostage, forcing nearly 4 billion of our industrious, gallivanting kind into a society of shut-ins. Confined to our homes—if we’re lucky enough to have them—we’re banding apart, hoping to slow the spread and deprive a greedy pathogen of any more human hosts. COVID-19 already has plenty.

Indoors indefinitely, we watch the outside world through our screens. We see New York’s wrapped bodies stacked and refrigerated, army trucks carrying off Italy’s dead, rising curves, health care workers weeping, politicians clinging to poise, and we wonder: Should I buy more canned goods? Is my family safe? Can I still smell stuff? Did our lockdown come too late? Will there be jobs when it’s over? When will it be over? Is it okay to walk the dog?

Humans are not well designed for this slow-burn brand of threat. We’re better equipped for one-off attacks than abstract menaces. Give us muggers, hurricanes, sabre-toothed tigers, hazards that compel us to battle or run for our lives—not the protracted uncertainty of a contagion that has killed tens of thousands and counting.

So just how is the human brain responding to all this?

“It’s screaming,” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “I know, it’s a very technical term,” she jokes. “But, in our brains, there’s a lot of screaming going on right now.”

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered the brain’s ancient alarm system, Whitbourne explains. It’s sounding full blast, and who knows when it will quiet?

As with everything else COVID-19 has exposed—bare-bones health care systems, threadbare social safety nets, fragile economies—it has also unmasked the flaws of our neurobiology, glitches in the way we assess risk and in the fight-or-flight way we react to it. These neural kinks from another time have shaped everything from how we responded to this virus from the get-go (or, rather, how we didn’t respond) straight through to the mental burden we carry now.

Read the rest of this article at: The Walrus

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In recent weeks, as the coronavirus has tightened restrictions on public and private life, Americans have been hoarding toilet paper, their shopping carts piled high, as supplies were quickly depleted: the shelves, and sometimes whole aisles, bare.

What we buy in times of crisis says a lot about who we are. “The pasta shelves are empty!” cried an older man stepping out of an Italian grocery store in a video from February. It makes sense that one of the first things to fly off the shelves in Italy’s version of coronavirus panic shopping was pasta — not just because Italians love pasta, but because food is so tethered to the way of life there, it’s almost synonymous with living. (They weren’t as concerned about toilet paper; many Italians use bidets.)

When the virus hit Iran, middle-class families bought rotting fruit at a discounted price from vendors who put out their bruised and unsaleable produce each evening, according to one Los Angeles Times report, reflecting the strain that U.S. sanctions, and now the pandemic, have placed on the country’s economy and its people.

The food made sense to me. But as the new coronavirus has radically altered many of our needs and habits, I have found it hard to wrap my head around all the toilet paper.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

News 05.08.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 05.08.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On Sunday, April 5, Dr. Annie Bukacek, wearing a white doctor’s coat and a pink stethoscope draped around her neck, stood behind a makeshift pulpit against the plain backdrop of a Hilton Garden Inn conference room in Kalispell, Montana. She was there to deliver a sermon of sorts to members of the Liberty Fellowship, an anti-government, anti-globalism church led by a pastor named Chuck Baldwin that serves as a beacon for the extreme political right — a mix of constitutionalists, militia members, and separatists — in Montana’s Flathead Valley. Based on responses from a Facebook post and her own experience as a doctor, Bukacek made her case to the congregation: that the “alleged death rate” due to COVID-19 has been significantly inflated in order to justify otherwise unjust stay-at-home orders.

Doctors, Bukacek argued, rely on “assumptions and educated guesses that go unquestioned,” which has resulted in an overreporting of deaths. “Based on inaccurate, incomplete data,” she said, “people are being terrorized by fearmongers into relinquishing cherished freedoms.” (The most recent CDC data suggests that coronavirus deaths have actually been dramatically underreported.) Like many others who’ve propagated falsehoods about COVID, Bukacek argues that because many who’ve succumbed to the disease also had other health concerns, they thus died with COVID-19, not of COVID-19. (People with “comorbidities” like hypertension, diabetes, or immune deficiencies are indeed more likely to die from COVID-19, but the infection itself is the trigger for the respiratory or organ failures that actually cause death.)

The video has since been picked up by talk radio, Infowars, QAnon accounts, and other media beacons of the far right. But it’s also made its way to less conspiracy-minded audiences, with over a million views on Facebook and various YouTube channels. For months, figures on the far right have been questioning the severity of government reaction to COVID-19. But Bukacek, who did not respond to multiple requests for an interview, is an unusual messenger for these unfounded claims.

As Baldwin was careful to note when he introduced her on camera, Bukacek received her medical degree from the University of Illinois and completed her residency at the Oregon Health and Science University. She is a member of the American College of Physicians, Montana Chapter. She was voted the Best Family Physician in the area in both 2012 and 2019. And, most importantly, she is currently serving as a member of the Flathead County Board of Health.

The story of how a doctor now peddling potentially dangerous COVID-19 misinformation found her way onto a board entrusted with preserving communitywide health is, as one might expect, filled with local political grudges and maneuvering. Bukacek’s appointment was controversial when it happened and remains so; there are currently competing petitions to keep her on and remove her from the board. But the story also serves as a microcosm of the national conflict and confusion around the pandemic, as conspiracy theories and anti-government outrage have filled the vacuum created by the general lack of information about a new virus and constantly evolving — and confusing, and sometimes contradictory — public health messaging.

When Bukacek took the stage in early April, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock had already issued a stay-at-home order, closing all nonessential businesses and preventing gatherings over ten people unless appropriate social distancing could be maintained. Most churches across the state had moved to online services. But Liberty Fellowship — which already tapes and broadcasts their services every week — decided to meet in person anyway. They asked at-risk individuals to stay home, directed attendees to spread out in the room, and had ample supplies of hand sanitizer. At least that’s what they reportedly did: No one outside of the congregation was inside the conference room, and the livestream was focused on the pulpit.

Read the rest of this article at: BuzzFeed

News 05.08.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On the same day that Elon Musk, the famously eccentric CEO of the electric-car company Tesla, saw his net worth hit $36.6 billion, Maricela Betancourt, one of the many people who work in his factories, was agonizing over her family’s bills. Betancourt, 58, had been a janitor at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., factory until April 7, when the company told her and 129 fellow janitors to go home and not come back until social-distancing measures were lifted. She got her last paycheck on April 8 and has no idea when the next one’s coming. She owes $1,325 for an emergency–room visit in March, and is struggling to pay for rent, Internet and food. Her husband, a construction worker, also lost his job during the COVID-19 economic collapse. So did their son Daniel, 20, who is the first in their family to go to college and was helping to pay his way with a job at an arcade. The family put their stimulus funds toward Daniel’s tuition and prays something will come through before June rent is due.

Betancourt’s boss, meanwhile, might as well live in another stratosphere. While she relied on a food bank to supplement family dinner and Daniel turned to gig work for extra -income, Musk publicly mused that he’s considering selling all of his possessions because they “just weigh you down.” Tesla’s stock price rose so steeply this year (28%) that on May 1, Musk tweeted that it was too high, sending the share price tumbling 10%. It’s still more than triple what it was a year ago.

“It’s obviously a millionaire company that has enough resources to thrive,” Betancourt told me from her home in San Jose, Calif. “But as workers, we live paycheck to paycheck, and now we don’t even have that paycheck, so we don’t know what we’re going to do.” (Tesla did not reply to a request for comment.)

The growing gap between America’s rich and everyone else is hardly new. But the extra-ordinarily rapid economic collapse catalyzed by COVID-19 has made the chasm deeper and wider, with edges that keep crumbling under the feet of those crowded on the edge. Since mid-March, more than 30 million people have filed for -unemployment—more than three times as many as lost their jobs during the two-year-long Great Recession. Meanwhile, after a steep but brief dip in March, the stock market rallied. The richest and most well–connected are seeing their wealth reaccumulate, as if by magic, while middle- and working–class families drown in debt that deepens with every passing week.

The contrast isn’t just between low-wage workers and billionaire bosses. Bills are mounting for small restaurants and retailers as their applications for the federal Paycheck Protection Program go unanswered. But firms like Hallador Energy, an Indiana coal company that hired former Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt as a lobbyist, raked in millions from the program. While the median home price rose 8% in March, families across the country began -receiving eviction notices, even in states with eviction moratoriums. Small retailers closed to comply with social–distancing orders while e-commerce sales, especially from the biggest online platforms, have spiked. –Amazon reported a 26% jump in revenue in the first quarter.

Assistance is most readily available to those with lawyers and lobbyists on the payroll. Companies like Carnival and Boeing borrowed billions thanks to intervention from the Federal Reserve. In mid-April, Carnival’s CEO told CNBC the company could survive the rest of 2020 without any revenue. Meanwhile, Cindy Kimbler, a -cashier in Columbus, Ohio, filed for bankruptcy after a collection agency began garnishing her wages over a payday loan she’d taken out to fix the car she needed to get to work.

Read the rest of this article at: Time

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