Monday, April 27, 2020

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 4/24/2020

"Shields and Brooks on Trump’s briefings, coronavirus aidPBS NewsHour 4/24/2020


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including President Trump’s controversial medical commentary, the respective roles of federal and state governments in the crisis, American public opinion on pandemic restrictions, congressional pandemic relief and how they’re handling social distancing.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  And now we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

So, all three of us are at our homes.  It's great to see both you, Mark, and you, David, staying safe.

Let's start with President Trump's decision to turn over to the governors the decision about whether and when to open up.

Mark, we have seen the state of Georgia, other states moving quickly to reverse the stay-at-home orders.  There are questions being raised about whether it's too early.  The President himself at point — backing down on his support for this.

How do you read all this?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  It's — you have to watch it closely, Judy.

I mean, last — just last weekend, the President was in bold type tweeting out, liberate Minnesota, liberate Michigan, liberate Virginia, to put pressure on Democratic governors there to lift the bans and lift the quarantine.

So Kemp, the governor of Georgia, who was the last in the country to impose stay-at-home rules, wants to be the first to lift them, and thought he had a green light from the President, I guess.

But the President doesn't forget the fact that, while he is a loyal supporter of Mr. Kemp's, it's an off-and-on thing, because Kemp, if you will recall, just at a petty political point, instead of appointing to Johnny Isakson's vacancy in the United States Senate Doug Collins, the congressman from Georgia who had been so close to the President, he appointed Kelly Loeffler.

And, all of a sudden, Donald Trump, the President, was told, according to reports from CNN, by — both by Anthony Fauci, Dr. Anthony Fauci, that he could not support and wouldn't defend the lifting of the quarantine in Georgia, so he backed off.

And it appears to be a cynical political ploy, with the following formula: For anything that improves the economy, the President gets credit.  For any increase in the pandemic, in incidents of disease and death, that has been the decision of the governor.

Judy Woodruff:  And so, David, I mean, the President, by doing this, is passing on responsibility to the governors, for better or worse.

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes, and I'm happy about it.  I don't want life-or-death decisions made by a guy who thinks this can be solved by drinking disinfectant.  So, if you can get it out of the White House, we're getting it into safer and better hands.

There's like division of powers here.  The federal government is there to dole out money and to organize some of the testing and things like that.  And so far, it's doing a reasonably good job of doling out a lot of money.

But the states are there to make the decisions about their own states.  If you had people in Wyoming deciding — thinking that Washington was going to determine their life or death, they'd rebel against Washington.  If you had a lot of progressive areas thinking that Donald Trump was going to determine life-or-death decisions, they would rebel against Donald Trump.

So, I think it's just much better to be doing this on the local level.

The one final thing I will say, we tend to gin up conflict.  But, in this, I think we're overstating how much conflict there is in America.  Americans, considered how polarized, we're amazingly united right now; 98 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans support the social distancing; 90 percent of Americans, complete bipartisan consensus, believe that, if we loosened too much, there'd be a second wave; 76 percent of Americans say, even if their governor did loosen, they wouldn't go out.

And so, to me, the big story here is that we're sort of hanging together through this.

Judy Woodruff:  Evidently so, if you believe those polls.

But, Mark, going back to what David mentioned a moment ago, and that is the President's statement yesterday about injecting ultraviolet light or disinfectant into ourselves, I mean, today, the White House was saying that was just a joke, they didn't mean it.

But there have been other statements that he's made about endorsing this anti-malaria drug that the experts are saying cannot be relied on.

What are the American people to make of all this?

Mark Shields:  Well, Judy, I think maybe the most unreported story of the week was Piers Morgan, the British television journalist, who is a friend of the President, one of the 47 people on Twitter the President has access to — he has given three interviews to British television all his presidency, all three to Piers Morgan.

And Piers Morgan went public and said what an awful lot of Trump supporters and critics have been saying.  And that is, Mr. President, you're really hurting yourself in these television talk — daily conferences, that you're coming across as self-aggrandizing, as self-interested, as really not a leader, concerned more, basically, about your own reelection than you are about the health and well-being of the people who elected you.

And I really think that crystallized the criticism.  A number of Republicans have followed.  And I think you will see the President backing off.

Yesterday's performance was the worst.  I mean, to say Lysol is a possibility for inhalation sarcastically, he's not Will Rogers.  He's not Jerry Seinfeld.  He's not a man known for his sense of humor.

It wasn't sarcasm.  It was just Donald Trump being absolutely reckless and irresponsible.  And I think the quick — they have seen his numbers drop, and I think the daily press conference has been the principal contributing factor to it.

Judy Woodruff:  And, David, just in the last hour, the White House has let it be known that they are now going to be cutting short these daily briefings, some of which have gone on for two hours and longer.

So I mean, how much, in the end, does it matter what the President is saying at a time like this?  Are the American people — how much do they need to hear from their political leader, and how much do they need to hear from medical experts?

David Brooks:  They need medical experts.

It's a morale destroyer.  It's tough on morale.  It's a drain on all of us.  And even the Trump supporters feel drained by his foolery.

But I don't think it's really damaged the way people act.  A funny thing has happened, I noticed, in my local grocery store.  Like a month ago, maybe 5 percent of the people were wearing masks.  Then it was 30 percent.  And then it suddenly flipped, and it was 70 percent.

And starting two weeks ago, if you weren't wearing a mask, even before the law came down, people spoke to you and said, you need to get a mask.

And so what that shows to me is a community setting new norms, setting new moral standards, having new expectations of how we should protect one another.

And when I see a community acting as one, like in the grocery store, and we all see it, then you see a community that's basically healthy, that — where people are — understand the obligations they have to each other.  And that was not automatic going into this.

Most plagues, that's not how people behave.  So, I think it hurts our morale, what Trump does.  But I wouldn't say it's destroyed it.

Judy Woodruff:  Interesting, what you say about, you see people at the grocery store.  We're seeing much this the same thing.

David — I mean, Mark, I want to quickly come to what Congress was able to do this week.  And that is in passing legislation to provide more support for small businesses, some of it for hospitals and others.

How much difference is this aid going to make?  How much more is going to be needed?  We're already seeing worry about the size of the deficit, of the debt the country is going to owe when all this is over.

Where does the argument land there?

Mark Shields:  I don't know how much difference it's going to make.

I will say this, Judy.  The immortal Dante, as FDR referred to him, weighs the sins of the cold-hearted and the sins of the warm-hearted on a different scale.  In other words, this is reaching out to people who had not — who had been left out of the first aid to minorities, to women, to small — really small businesses, not publicly traded companies, which hundreds of millions of dollars of small business aid went to, to hospitals, the people who are on the front line and dealing with this terrible tragedy every day.

And, you know, to me, it showed an awareness and an understanding.  I don't think anybody understands the gravity economically.  It's going to be — it is enormous.  It will be enormous.

But, right now, what we have seen is sort of a bait and switch on the part of Republicans, who said, oh, you can do the aid to local cities and states in the next one, said Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House leader.

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

Mark Shields:  And now Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, says there will be no next one.

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

So, David, just in a few words, how much is the worry about the debt, the deficit, going to be part of this going forward, as people are hurting?

David Brooks:  Yes, I don't think it should be.

In wartime, even fiscal conservatives believe in spending.  They have done a good thing.  This paycheck protection act for small businesses, it's impressive how much money they have gotten out the door.

There's somebody in the Small Business Administration who is probably working 18-hour days.  A lot of people are probably working days to get that much money.

I have sort of been impressed by how much they have gotten out the door, the money for testing.  They're bickering, but they did something good this week.  They spent hundreds of billions of dollars.  And they passed a very complicated piece of legislation on a bipartisan basis.

It's funny to me that the members of Congress, even when they do something good, they can't take a victory lap.  They're so used to just bickering and bickering and bickering.

Judy Woodruff:  In just about 45 seconds we have left, I want to ask each of you how you're doing, staying at home all the time, or almost all the time.

Mark, how is it going?

Mark Shields:  Well, Judy, I'm rereading Tolstoy for the third time.

And — no, I'm not.


Mark Shields:  I have rearranged my sock drawer.

And I'm doing fine.  I have got a wonderful roommate.  And I have had the same one for half-a-century.  And I'm just finding new and wonderful things about her every day.

Judy Woodruff:  Pretty great roommate.  We know Anne Shields.

David, what about you?  How are you holding up?  How are you doing?

David Brooks:  Yes, I'm blessed.

I have got a good, fine group of people here in my little forged family.  And I'm playing my son in ping-pong ferociously, and I'm hoping to develop a backhand by the end of this.

So there are little blessings amid the great worry that we're all going through.  But there are little blessings, even in these days, with family.

Judy Woodruff:  I feel the same way.  So much more to be grateful for than the other way around.

Well, we're grateful to the two of you.

David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you, and please stay safe.

Mark Shields:  Thank you, Judy.

TRUMP PAYBACK - Pushing Out Another Non-Worshiping Health Expert

"Why was a top federal vaccine expert forced out of his job?PBS NewsHour 4/22/2020

Because he didn't kiss the Orange King's ...k.


SUMMARY:  Wednesday’s daily briefing of the Coronavirus Task Force came amid new information about a key administration firing.  Until Tuesday, Dr. Rick Bright served as a top federal expert [BARDA] on vaccines, heavily involved in the response to COVID-19.  Now, Bright says he was forced out of his job because he refused to tout unproven treatments for the disease.  Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

COVID-19 - Ripple Effects

"Why getting the U.S. back to normal in the next couple months is a ‘fantasy’PBS NewsHour 4/20/2020


SUMMARY:  As the novel coronavirus pandemic wears on, debate is brewing over how long the associated shutdowns should last.  The New York Times’ Donald McNeil has covered epidemics for close to two decades and reported recently on why American society could continue to be disrupted by COVID-19 for the next two years.  He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the epidemiological and medical realities of COVID-19.

"A sanitation worker’s fears about collecting trash during the pandemicPBS NewsHour 4/20/2020


SUMMARY:  During the COVID-19 pandemic, the phrase “essential workers” tends to bring to mind first responders and hospital staff.  But a key function of American society is collecting garbage to keep our communities clean.  PBS station WTTW in Chicago is producing a series of conversations about individuals’ pandemic experiences, and they share the story of sanitation worker Sammy Dattulo.

"Why doctors are worried about severe kidney damage in some COVID-19 patientsPBS NewsHour 4/21/2020


SUMMARY:  Although the novel coronavirus is known for causing respiratory symptoms, there are new questions about its impact on other parts of the body.  COVID-19 may be linked in some patients with increases in inflammation of the heart as well as injury to other organs and tissues.  William Brangham talks to Yale University's Dr. Alan Kliger about one of the concerning trends: serious kidney damage.

"How Uganda’s history of epidemics has prepared it for COVID-19PBS NewsHour 4/21/2020


SUMMARY:  Poor health care infrastructure in some African countries is making them particularly susceptible to the novel coronavirus.  But the nation of Uganda has only 58 confirmed cases so far, and experts say its experience with previous viral outbreaks, such as Ebola, meant it was already prepared for this pandemic.  Special correspondent Michael Baleke reports from the capital city of Kampala.

"We need a vaccine to vanquish COVID-19.  Here’s how scientists are trying to find itPBS NewsHour 4/21/2020


SUMMARY:  Science correspondent Miles O’Brien has spent the past few weeks in Seattle, reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and producing a film for FRONTLINE about how things unfolded in the city where the disease made its U.S. debut.  He joins William Brangham to discuss the global push to find an effective vaccine and therapeutic treatments, plus shares a preview of the FRONTLINE special on the pandemic.

"Contact tracing may be ‘old-fashioned public health,’ but it worksPBS NewsHour 4/22/2020


SUMMARY:  Officials in Northern California’s Santa Clara County now say two residents there died of COVID-19 in early and mid-February -- weeks before what were believed to be the first U.S. fatalities.  Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and now CEO of health initiative Resolve to Save Lives, joins John Yang to discuss how we can contain the virus’ spread.

"Pandemic could mean 260 million people worldwide ‘marching toward starvation’PBS NewsHour 4/22/2020


SUMMARY:  The United Nations World Food Program warned this week that as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the number of people facing food crisis could double -- to 260 million worldwide.  David Beasley, the organization’s executive director, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss how the developing world, already suffering due to climate change and conflict, is faring amid this new disaster of COVID-19.

"Why New York’s health care system is still ‘in a state of shock’PBS NewsHour 4/22/2020


SUMMARY:  New York state is seeing signs of improvement in its COVID-19 outbreak, including a reduced hospitalization rate.  But in New York City alone, an estimated 35,000 people are hospitalized with the virus -- meaning front-line health care staff still face an enormous challenge.  William Brangham talks to Susan Mangicaro of International Medical Corps, a group assisting city hospitals during the crisis.

"The U.S.-China battle to control COVID-19 narrative — and blamePBS NewsHour 4/22/2020


SUMMARY:  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused China of a cover-up during the early days of COVID-19, the latest in the U.S. rhetorical pressure campaign.  China has pushed back, launching an information war that included conspiracy theories and highly publicized sales of medical equipment to other countries -- including the U.S.  Nick Schifrin reports on the roiling confrontation.

"What’s in the latest congressional pandemic relief package — and what’s notPBS NewsHour 4/23/2020


SUMMARY:  More help is on the way for American small businesses.  The House approved a $484 billion measure aimed specifically at aiding smaller employers and hospitals Thursday.  It comes as another 4.4 million Americans filed for unemployment.  Meanwhile, a New York study finds much greater levels of COVID-19 than lab tests have confirmed.  John Yang reports and Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

"Why the pandemic is making U.S. economic inequality even worsePBS NewsHour 4/23/2020


SUMMARY:  A new survey by the Pew Research Center finds 43 percent of U.S. adults say they or someone in their household has suffered a job loss or pay cut due to COVID-19.  With such widespread impact, it will likely take years for the economy to rebound.  But what will recovery even look like, as the pandemic exacerbates existing inequalities and vulnerabilities in American society?  Paul Solman reports.

"EU ambassador says bloc overcoming slow COVID-19 response with solidarityPBS NewsHour 4/23/2020


SUMMARY:  In Europe, leaders are discussing the same tough questions confronting the United States.  When should pandemic restrictions be lifted?  How hard will the road to recovery be?  The European Union has agreed to create a massive recovery fund to try to rebuild devastated economies.  Nick Schifrin reports and talks to the EU’s Ambassador to the U.S., Stavros Lambrinidis, about the group's "solidarity."

"An infectious disease expert on the dangers of Trump’s ‘non-scientific’ claimsPBS NewsHour 4/24/2020


SUMMARY:  The White House spent part of Friday addressing concerns about President Trump’s apparent conflict with his medical advisors at Thursday's Coronavirus Task Force briefing.  Yamiche Alcindor reports, and Amna Nawaz talks to Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy about Trump’s tendency to make claims on a “non-scientific basis.”

"An ICU nurse on wavering between confidence and fearPBS NewsHour 4/24/2020


SUMMARY:  After a particularly brutal week caring for COVID-19 patients in New York City, ICU nurse K.P. Mendoza considered one final task: writing a will.  He's only 24, but working in the heart of a global pandemic, it felt as if death was stalking him.  William Brangham talks with Mendoza about the psychological impact of seeing so much death and health care workers' struggle to help patients survive.

"Navajo Nation, hit hard by COVID-19, comes together to protect its most vulnerablePBS NewsHour 4/24/2020


SUMMARY:  COVID-19 is ripping through the Navajo Nation, infecting and killing people at rates that are above U.S. averages.  Located across three states, the Navajo population is already vulnerable, with a high prevalence of underlying disease, a lack of infrastructure and limited access to care and supplies.  Stephanie Sy reports on how the Navajo community has taken on the challenge of caring for its own.

PANDEMIC - Unsafe Protests Pushed by Trump

"Crowds gather to protest restrictions, but health experts issue grim warning?" PBS NewsHour 4/20/2020


SUMMARY:  There are forecasts tonight that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is still ahead, even after the current wave passes.

The warnings come as deaths in the United States have nearly doubled from a week ago.  But, also, at the same time, momentum is building here and abroad to lift restrictions.

"The politics behind protests of stay-at-home orders"PBS NewsHour 4/23/2020


SUMMARY:  Officials at all levels of U.S. government are engaged in discussions about how and when to resume commerce and other activities.  Polling data shows the majority of Americans support restrictions to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus, but there have been some pockets of resistance against these measures.  Yamiche Alcindor reports on the beliefs and the organizations driving the dissent.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

COVID19 - Lockdown Music

Family Lockdown Boogie
by Jack Buchanan
Choreography by Anna Robinson

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

WORLD - China vs America?

"Does the future still belong to the U.S. and China?" by John Pomfret, Washington Post 4/7/2020

For decades, theorists in the United States and China imagined two futures.  In one, the future belonged to both countries.  This scenario envisioned a world in which Beijing and Washington together managed climate change, economic issues, nuclear proliferation, terrorism and even pandemics.  China would be a “responsible stakeholder,” while the U.S. government would make room for it at the top.  This was the world of engagement, the “Group of Two” and “Chimerica,” of win-win and strategic partnerships.

The second prognosis conjured a future in which one power overcame the other and then helped set the trajectory for the rest of humanity.  In this scenario, competition between Washington and Beijing beat out cooperation.  This was the world of Cold War thinking, decoupling, zero sum and, to use the Chinese phrase, “you die, and I live.”

To be fair, a few scholars questioned this binary perspective.  But, generally speaking, no one really wrestled with the ramifications of a world with neither country on top.

The woeful response of both nations to the coronavirus and the petulant game of gotcha being played in Washington and Beijing provides an opportunity to reconsider these theories and ask the question: Is it possible that neither the United States nor China is capable of world leadership?  And if so, which nation can step into the breach?

Despite an onslaught of mind-bending “fake news” from Beijing, China’s slow response to the coronavirus clearly created the conditions for the global pandemic.  China’s failure to share information with the World Health Organization and the WHO’s apparent pandering to China’s interests made the crisis worse.

China’s unwillingness to provide accurate statistics continues to be an issue.  For one, it has been clear that China has been lowballing its death count.  The Post and others reported that people dying in their homes and outside hospitals awaiting medical attention were not counted in the official tally.  It’s also quite possible that China underreported its total number of COVID-19 cases due to political pressure from the Chinese Communist Party to declare the epidemic under control.

These faulty statistics matter because what happened in Wuhan is now unfolding tragically in other places, such as northern Italy and New York City.  China’s refusal to be transparent about fatalities and infections has made it even more difficult for the rest of the world to prepare for the onslaught.

In reacting to the crisis, China’s government, led by Communist Party boss Xi Jinping, has punished whistleblowers, muzzled citizen journalists and arrested dissidents.  It has tried to play a blame game with the United States, deputizing its spokesmen to spread confusion about the source of the virus.  China also sought to leverage the aid it is giving other countries and to frame every misstep by the United States as something that will benefit Beijing.  In WeChat postings, prominent Chinese have reacted with glee to the news that the disease is spreading rapidly in the United States.  “It’s your turn!” exalted a leading anchor on Chinese state-run television.

China’s economy, which was already slowing, faces even greater headwinds with COVID-19.  Huge problems loom on the horizon involving massive government debt, demographics and a widening drought in northern China.  The virus could only bring these issues forward, forcing an even more abrupt reckoning for Beijing.

Of course, the United States has not acquitted itself with glory either.  The U.S. response has been led by a feckless President who did not recognize the seriousness of the problem.  His underlings have also been less than stellar.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s botched manufacturing of test kits set the country back weeks, if not months, in its response to and understanding of the outbreak.

And members of President Trump’s national security team have often seemed more intent on scoring points against China than in confronting what is now a global menace.  Just consider Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s performance during a meeting of his counterparts at the Group of Seven in late March, during which Pompeo wasted valuable minutes failing to persuade his colleagues in Europe to name the disease “the Wuhan virus” to ensure that China got its fair share of the blame.  The United States is even getting into a bidding war with its Western allies over the purchase of medical supplies.

The United States, too, has punished whistleblowers.  Witness the execrable treatment of Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, who was removed from the command of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier after his appeal to evacuate his crew of 4,000 following a COVID-19 shipboard outbreak was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle.

To be sure, there are differences between the failures in China and the United States.  The United States remains a free country, and the debate over how to deal with the disease is being held publicly and without the censorship that colors China’s regime.  But neither country can argue that its approach to the virus is worthy of imitation.

Other countries have done a far better job.  In Asia, South Korea and Taiwan stand out as models.  And in the West, Germany, and Canada are faring better, in how they are protecting both their people’s health and their economies.

These differences matter.  How these nations emerge from this once-in-a-generation crisis is going to remake the world order.  Americans and Chinese who believed they were going to remain at the top of the world, either decoupled or engaged, will be in for a rude shock when they discover that the future no longer belongs to them.

Monday, April 06, 2020

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 4/3/2020

"Shields and Brooks on political lessons from COVID-19" PBS NewsHour 4/3/2020


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest news, including how the coronavirus pandemic has taken hold in the U.S., American leadership amid the crisis, whether the $2.2 trillion stimulus package will help those besieged by the pandemic and whether there is a chance for bipartisan political action.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  And now we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Hello to both of you.

We are keeping our distance from one another, as we know we absolutely have to do.

When we were together the last time, the three of us, it was two weeks ago, and, at that point, there were 15,000 coronavirus cases in this country, 200 deaths had been reported.  Two weeks later, it's 270,000 deaths and 7,000 — or 270,000 cases, 7,000 deaths.

How are we doing as a country, David, in getting our arms around this?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes, and in two weeks, we could be seeing another higher shoot-up in that — in those lines.

You know, I don't think we can say things are competently being handled.  The — what's happening to the Comfort, the Naval medical ship in New York state, is something of a regulatory travesty.

The fact that tests are a third — some of them are failing by a third positives, negatives — positive — or false positives, false negatives, some of the uniforms and supplies are still not getting to New York state.

So, it doesn't look like we have mobilized the way you would think a country with a first-class Defense Department or a first-class set of bureaucracies would mobilize.

And so it's worrisome.  Take it aside from all the politics.  It just doesn't seem like competence.

Judy Woodruff:  Mark, what does it look like to you?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Well, I don't disagree, but I would add that at least there's a consensus now, if not unanimity, that this is a serious, grave national calamity.

The President is moving on it, I think, made a difference.  And he's brought with him the folks at FOX News, who bring with them a very large chunk of — there's no longer anybody in the country that argues that this is some sort of a Democratic hoax to jeopardize the President's reelection.

But there has not been that assumption of national leadership, at least of a constant and consistent manner.  The — and that, I think, remains a problem.

And just last night, Judy, Ms. Blackthorn, I think her name was, Blackthorn, who — in New York, who had been laid off, and had [made] 300 calls to the Labor Department, unemployment, to qualify for unemployment insurance.

And that's just unforgivable.  And this is a time when all hands have to be on deck, that everybody — this is not a question of bailing out industries.  It's a question of saving families and individuals.

Judy Woodruff:  David, and the approach from the White House has been, this is something that, state by state — we need the states to make decisions, for example, about whether people should be asked or urged to stay at home.

Today, the announcement about wearing masks, the President said, that's up to individuals, I don't plan to do it.

Is this — is the President right to be leaving these decisions up to individuals and up to states?

David Brooks:  I do agree with what Tony Fauci said about that.

I do think the idea of ordering people to do things in sort of some dictatorial fashion will set off a reaction that will be a counter-reaction.  I think the right thing for the President to do is to say, here's what's right, project a tone of, here's what we're going to do, wise governors follow along.

And that is slowly happening, with 80 percent of the country under social distancing.  And so I'm a little hesitant to think that you can just order by diktat all sorts of personal things.

I think telling people what's smart — and, so far, the American people, I have to say, are taking this seriously.  Most are social distancing.  Most are rallying around each other to an astonishing degree.  I think morale is astonishingly high, given what's happening.

So, I think just ordering people — ordering Americans around is not always the right strategy.

Judy Woodruff:  Mark, what about the — that approach of saying, this is something that individuals and, frankly, state and local leaders need to make for themselves?

Mark Shields:  Well, this is the perfect example of a President, national leader leading by example.  And the President is leading by his example, which is not to subscribe to the edict or the suggestion or the recommendation.

And I just think, having watched Tony Fauci, I will say this, that he is a remarkable public servant.  He speaks truth to power.  He did the same thing with President Ronald Reagan some 35 years ago at the HIV threat, and said that this is a serious threat to the nation and to its national health, is consistently — Presidents do not like to be corrected or contradicted, this President less than any.

And he [Fauci] has done so in an effective way, whether it's putting the correction on that there is no vaccine right around the corner, that we're going to be back to normal.

And I just think he deserves enormous credit.  And Donald Trump surprises me, because he doesn't tolerate correction or contradiction.  And the fact that Tony Fauci is still there is an indication, I think, to his indispensability.

Judy Woodruff:  And, David, when it comes to the economy, when it comes to people's livelihoods, I mean, you have — we now have, what, 10 million Americans and rising who are seeking unemployment benefits.

Businesses are going out of business by the hundreds and by the thousands.  What about the administration's approach to keeping the economy afloat?

David Brooks:  Well, here, there's a lot of blame to go along.

I would say that, when we look at the bill that was passed by Congress a couple weeks ago, this stimulus bill, we will regard it as one of the worst economic packages maybe in American history, certainly in a time of crisis.

What they're doing in Europe is, they're preserving the businesses.  They're keeping people employed.  They're just paying businesses to say, we're going to give you some money, and — but you're going to keep your payroll.  So people don't have the threat of unemployment, they don't have the insecurity of unemployment, they don't have the possibility that they will never get a job again or they won't get a job for a long time.

They [Europe] just sort of freeze the economy.  And we didn't do that.  We took a more individualistic approach, we will just give you $1,200.  We had a backstop measure, which is $350 billion for businesses.  We should increase that to $600 billion, $700 billion, so businesses can keep their payroll.

And there's a lot of blame to go around.  The Democrats took this option because they didn't want to be seen to be bailing out business.  The Republicans, I'm not sure they had a coherent thought in their heads.

And so this is, I think, a catastrophic error, which we should just be fixing very quickly.

Judy Woodruff:  And, Mark, how do you size up the economic — the approach to the economy, the approach to saving Americans who are seeing in some cases everything they have disappearing?

Mark Shields:  No, I think, Judy — and I disagree here.

I think the immediate object of help and assistance has to be people, individuals, and that they are the ones, the families to be fed, just to be held together.  And putting money into their pockets, through unemployment insurance, through the federal grant, I think, is urgent and compelling.

But, as I come back to, this is a time when government has to respond and provide particularly unemployment insurance.  People, probably three or four days to even get registered, it's just unacceptable and unforgivable.

Judy Woodruff:  And…


Judy Woodruff:  Go ahead, David.

David Brooks:  No, I was just going to say, it's better to have the not unemployed.

I mean, there are going to be some people who are unemployed.  And for them, certainly, the unemployment insurance is there.  But if you could sit at home knowing that you had a job, and knowing that you were getting paid for that job, even though you were sitting at home, and that you were probably going to go back to that job, that seems to me the right way to do this.

And I — I understand, culturally, why we didn't do it.  I understand, politically, why bailing out business seem to be a bad thing.  But it's fixable.  And when Chuck Schumer said earlier in the program that he wants something else, I would hope this would be the something else we would do before the end of April.

Judy Woodruff:  And, Mark, we're told they're going to come back at some point in the coming weeks with a bigger aid package.

Mark Shields:  No question.  I think that is coming.

And I have to say that the President showed an absence of leadership at the signing of that rescue bill, the aid bill to save the American families who are besieged by this terrible calamity.  Not to invite a single Democrat to the signing, at a time when he's saying this is not a time for politics, wasn't the kind of example that we need.

We are going to have — we're going to have another bill, a major bill.  And this is a — it's a time of the greatest urgency.

BOOK - "The Splendid and the Vile"

"In latest book, author Erik Larson looks back at another time of crisis: London’s Blitz" PBS NewsHour 4/3/2020


SUMMARY:  In previous books like "The Devil in the White City" and "Isaac's Storm," bestselling author Erik Larson has used everyday people to chronicle historical events.  But his latest offering, "The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance during the Blitz," explores Winston Churchill's turbulent first year as Britain's wartime prime minister.  Larson joins John Yang to discuss.

BOOK - “Front Row at the Trump Show”

"Reporter Jonathan Karl on Trump’s relationship with the media" PBS NewsHour 4/2/2020

By "unfairly" Trump means they didn't parse the Orange King.


SUMMARY:  President Trump has long had a complicated relationship with the news media.  He tends to seek out reporters he deems friendly, while butting heads with those he accuses of treating him unfairly.  As ABC News’ chief White House correspondent, Jonathan Karl has a close-up view of these dynamics, which he describes in his new book, “Front Row at the Trump Show.”  Karl joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

CANVAS - American College of the Building Arts

"This unusual Charleston college produces educated artisans" PBS NewsHour 4/1/2020


SUMMARY:  An unusual college in Charleston, South Carolina, offers a four-year liberal arts education while students also earn certification in one of eight artisan trades.  The blended approach enhances students' capabilities -- and helps replenish the domestic pipeline of craftspeople.  Jeffrey Brown visited the school's campus for Canvas, our arts and culture series, before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

TRUMP ANTI-REGULATION - Rolling Back Fuel Efficiency Standards

"Why Trump wants to relax automotive fuel efficiency standards now" PBS NewsHour 3/30/2020

Answer:  1) He has always been anti-regulation.  2) He is worried about 2020 and needs more money form Big-Auto and Big-Oil to buy election.


SUMMARY:  The Trump administration wants to roll back another federal regulation intended to reduce global warming.  Obama-era automobile fuel efficiency rules require U.S. vehicles to increase mileage standards by an average of 5 percent per year from 2021 through 2026.  Tuesday’s move would reduce the improvement threshold to 1.5 percent.  The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin joins John Yang to discuss.


"Why the U.S. is still ‘severely constrained’ in ability to test for COVID-19" PBS NewsHour 3/30/2020


SUMMARY:  Despite recent signs of advancement, many health experts say the U.S. capacity to test for the novel coronavirus remains too limited and progress too slow.  President Trump has previously claimed anyone could be tested -- but that isn't what we’re hearing from people who have tried.  Jennifer Nuzzo, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

"‘Everyone is afraid’ as Illinois virus cases spike" PBS NewsHour 3/30/2020


SUMMARY:  Illinois has become another national hot spot for coronavirus, with a surging number of confirmed cases.  Most are in Cook County, the region that is home to Chicago.  William Brangham talks to Dr. Claudia Fegan, chief medical officer for Cook County Health, about how her employees are holding up amid the stress and why they continue to worry about a shortage of critical medical supplies.

"As more people order delivery, workers fear virus exposure" PBS NewsHour 3/30/2020


SUMMARY:  More than 250 million Americans in 30 states have been asked or ordered to stay at home.  Although some still buy essentials in person at stores, many are ordering online instead.  As a result, warehouse and delivery workers and professional shoppers have become central to the current economy -- and a growing number are concerned about the risks they face by doing their jobs.  Paul Solman reports.

Editor's Note:  Amazon disputes the claim that dozens of workers walked out in protest on Monday.  According to Amazon, “15 people participated in the demonstration of which only 9 were Amazon associates—the rest were community organizers.”  According to protest leaders, “Organizers on the ground counted 62 workers who walked off their jobs.”

"Why scientists need to learn more about how COVID-19 behaves within a human body" PBS NewsHour 3/31/2020


SUMMARY:  How much do we know about COVID-19, the virus spreading misery across the globe?  Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee joins Jeffrey Brown to discuss understanding the dynamics of the virus within people it has infected, why some experience much more severe forms of illness than others, how we can limit asymptomatic transmission and the need to buy medical researchers time to develop treatments.

"As New York’s death toll approaches 2,000, Cuomo warns other states of what’s to come" PBS NewsHour 4/1/2020


SUMMARY:  New York’s death toll from COVID-19 is nearing 2,000, and experts warn it will continue to rise.  But many other areas of the country are also seeing cases climb and taking steps to try to limit them.  President Trump sounded a grave warning during a Tuesday Coronavirus Task Force briefing, saying the virus is projected to kill at least 100,000 Americans in the months to come.  John Yang reports.

"Strategies from hospitals on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight" PBS NewsHour 4/1/2020


SUMMARY:  COVID-19 is a huge challenge for many U.S. hospitals, from large cities to rural areas.  The next few weeks are expected to be especially difficult, as critical supplies dwindle and health care workers are stressed.  William Brangham talks to Dr. Phillip Coule, chief medical officer for Georgia’s Augusta University Health System, and Michael Dowling, president and CEO of New York's Northwell Health.

"U.S. facing 2-front war amid medical crisis and economic collapse" PBS NewsHour 4/2/2020


SUMMARY:  The coronavirus pandemic has infected at least 1 million people and killed over 50,000 worldwide.  In the U.S., President Trump is taking new action to bolster medical supplies, and unemployment is surging.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy relieved the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt amid conflict over his response to COVID-19.  John Yang reports, and Nick Schifrin joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

"Stories from Americans suffering the pandemic’s financial fallout" PBS NewsHour 4/2/2020


SUMMARY:  The loss of jobs caused by the coronavirus pandemic and its fallout is unprecedented in the U.S.  Over 10 million Americans became unemployed in the past two weeks alone -- and economists say there are many more who have not yet been counted.  The NewsHour continues to share the stories of some of those who have been laid off or furloughed, in their own words.

"Will these shuttered restaurants be able to reopen after pandemic?" PBS NewsHour 4/2/2020


SUMMARY:  A sector of the economy that is being hit especially hard amid the coronavirus pandemic is the restaurant industry.  In normal times, Americans were spending roughly as much money on dining out as they were at grocery stores.  With restaurants now closed, more than 3 millions jobs have been lost nationwide.  Paul Solman reports on the impact on establishments in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

"COVID-19 may not discriminate based on race — but U.S. health care does" PBS NewsHour 4/2/2020


SUMMARY:  Health officials have stressed that novel coronavirus doesn’t discriminate based on race or ethnicity.  But disparities long present in the U.S. medical system are now driving what some call a crisis within a crisis: black and brown communities across the country are being hit harder, and with fewer resources to save them.  Amna Nawaz talks to Dr. Uché Blackstock of Advancing Health Equity.

"What Dr. Fauci wants you to know about face masks and staying home as virus spreads" PBS NewsHour 4/3/2020


SUMMARY:  Message:

Americans should wear face masks as a way to help stifle the spread of COVID-19, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s top doctors leading the public health fight against the coronavirus pandemic — a departure from previous government guidance to only wear a mask if you were caring for someone with the illness or had it yourself.

“If everybody does that, we’re each protecting each other,” Fauci said in an interview with PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff.  His comments came shortly before President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force shared national recommendations for people to wear non-medical face masks.  The task force did not recommend the use of surgical or medical grade face masks, which are in short supply for hospitals and front line health care workers.

For months, federal health officials discouraged the use of surgical face masks.  In recent weeks, some health experts began to question that decision, suggesting that the use of face coverings could have helped slow the spread of the virus sooner.  But on Friday, the task force said it was now recommending face coverings “in light of recent studies.” Trump added that this recommendation does not eliminate the need for social distancing.

This guidance comes as more states this week told residents to stay at home to prevent further spread of the virus that causes the disease, COVID-19.  But more states and communities should join in tightening those measures, Fauci said.

He warned that the U.S. is currently “in a very difficult period.  It will get worse before it gets better.”

So far, testing has confirmed roughly 240,000 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., where nearly 5,900 people have died after they were infected by the virus, according to the latest data from The COVID Tracking Project.  Public health experts have said those numbers are likely an undercount because testing remains inadequate, despite being the only way to measure how far the pandemic has spread within the country.

As of Thursday, the pandemic crossed another milestone, now infecting more than 1 million people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers who have been tracking the virus’ global spread.  Fauci said he was confident Americans “will get out of this.”

"For some doctors, pandemic means accelerated career launch — or truncated retirement" PBS NewsHour 4/3/2020


SUMMARY:  As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the U.S., officials are warning that there are not enough medical professionals available to meet the growing needs of patients.  The shortage has led to the easing of some regulations, enabling medical students to graduate early and retired doctors to return to practice.  Lisa Desjardins shares some of their stories from this all-hands-on-deck moment.

"As the world stays home, will the environment improve?" PBS NewsHour 4/4/2020


SUMMARY:  As more and more people stay at home during the pandemic, millions of vehicles are no longer on the roads and the skies are comparatively free of airplanes.  Many other human activities that cause air pollution also have been scaled back.  But will this lull in activity make a difference in the air we breathe or the future of climate change?  NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker reports.

"What Florida’s stay-at-home order means for residents" PBS NewsHour 4/4/2020


SUMMARY:  Amid heavy criticism, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday issued a state-wide stay-at-home order for the state in response to the coronavirus.  This came after some local counties and cities had already put similar orders in place ahead of the governor’s mandate.  Stephen Mort of PBS station WUCF joins Hari Sreenivasan from Orlando to discuss what's happening in the state related to the outbreak.

Friday, April 03, 2020

OPINION - Brooks and Marcus 3/27/2020

"Brooks and Marcus on U.S. government’s pandemic preparation failures" PBS NewsHour 3/27/2020


SUMMARY:  New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including whether Americans are ready for the mounting coronavirus crisis, why the U.S. government wasn’t better prepared for the pandemic, the significance of the $2.2 trillion economic relief package and the status of the 2020 Democratic Presidential primary.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  As the days now become weeks, to help make sense of where we are, the analysis of Brooks and Marcus.

That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus.  Mark Shields is away.

Hello to both of you.

We are keeping you distant for your safety.

David, to you first.

The U.S. is now leading the world.  We have surpassed every other country in COVID-19 cases.  The experts say it's just going to get worse because of early missed opportunities.  Do you think Americans are ready for what's coming?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Well, they have been ready so far.  I think the reaction, people are taking it seriously.  They are doing the distancing.  I have been on Zoom calls with thousands of people this week, it seems.

And people are volunteering to help each other out in ways that are safe.  And so I have been really impressed by the American public's reaction.

The government, more of a mixed bag.  Obviously, President Trump pooh-poohed it for too long, and that cost us vital weeks.  But he wasn't alone.  The CDC messed up the tests.  The FDA regulations were — got in the way.

Political scientists have been talking for years about the decay of our governing institutions, too much politics, too much regulation, not enough room to maneuver for the managers.  And that seems to all be coming true.

And so we have sort of seen an institutional failure from the White House on down.

Judy Woodruff:  Ruth, what about that?  What about the American people and the institutions?

Ruth Marcus, Washington Post:  Well, the American people are one thing, and the institutions are quite another, as David suggests.

The fact of the matter is, is that, if the American people aren't prepared, it's because their leaders, and primarily President Trump, has failed to prepare them for what is coming.

And he's failed to prepare them on a number — he's [Trump] failed to prepare the country in terms of the material and the readiness that we need to have, and he's failed to prepare them with a clear and consistent message about how we are going to defeat what he calls this invisible virus and this invisible killer.

While we were just on — while the show was on, he was on television in his nightly self-congratulatory moment, and he said — was complaining about the governor of Michigan, as she was on your air, and complaining about the governor of Washington, and saying he had told Mike Pence, if they're not nice to you, don't call them.  If they don't treat you good, don't call them.

That is not Presidential.  That is petty and beneath what the country deserves and needs at this point.

Judy Woodruff:  David, what about President Trump's leadership now?

David Brooks:  Yes, I think the word I would lead is inconstant, most of all.

We're used to his self-focus.  We're used to the narcissism.  We're used to this, I want people to love me all the time.

But it's extremely unnerving in a time like this, when the President says we don't need ventilators one hour, and says we desperately need them the next hour.  That is just a nerve-jangling problem.

The irony is that, if somebody like Steve Bannon had been in the White House, he saw this problem early.  It sort of filtered into his ideological priors.  The intelligence community saw this problem early.

It was the President doing what he thought would serve him best for his reelection that caused him to talk this down for so long.  And when he gets a bad press, like about General Motors, a story that suggests he's dragging his feet, then he reacts to that.

So he's reacting to the latest bit of bad press, which just leads to this — this pattern of inconstancy.

Judy Woodruff:  So, Ruth, we do have Congress passing, agreeing — and the President's now signed it — this $2.2 trillion, historic amount of money, supposed to go directly to aid Americans who are hurt by the response to this — to this pandemic.

How much help do you think it's going to make?

Ruth Marcus:  It's going to make a lot of help.

This is a — in a bad time, this was a good moment.  There were problems along the way.  There were disagreements along the way.  But the fact that Congress could pass this quickly a package of this amazing magnitude, $2.2 trillion — we have now spent almost $3 trillion — to get agreement, these guys can't even rename a post office.

And they managed to do this.  That's really important.

There's two things that are critical, though.  One is to make sure that this money that's been allocated, particularly the money to small businesses, and even more than that, the money to individuals to get them through, that has to — in order to be effective, that has to get out the door as quickly as humanly possible.

And that's going to be a phenomenon of oversight and execution that is up to the executive branch.  And we will see if they're up to that task.  I really hope they are.

The second thing is that, while this is an enormous sum of money, it actually may not be sufficient.  It's enough to get people through the next several — next couple months.  But we may need to dig into the national pockets and the national — scrounge for the change in the national couch cushions, and come up with more, because the President likes to pretend that this is going to be all over by Easter or at least in some counties over by Easter.

That's just not reality-based.

Judy Woodruff:  Yes, we are starting to hear a lot more money's going to be needed.

But, David, in terms of this first tranche, or whatever you want to call it, how much difference do you think it's going to make?

David Brooks:  Oh, it'll make a difference.  It's a lot of money.  We have a $14 trillion economy or so, and so $2 trillion is a lot of money.

I — personally, I applaud them for getting it done.  I think, just as Ruth said, to see Congress do anything is impressive.  I think they took the wrong strategy.  The United Kingdom and Denmark and some other countries decided what's most important is to keep people employed.

And so they gave money to employers to keep people on the payroll.  And that does a lot of things.  It keeps the firms intact.  It keeps people feeling like, I have a job, even if they have to stay home.

We went the unemployment insurance route, which was to get people out of their workplace.  Then we will subsidize them.  The problem is, once you're off — out of the labor market, for some people, it's hard to get back in.

And I worry about the organizations, the institutions of these small businesses.  If suddenly they sort of go away for a time, how many of them are going to come back?  How many of the nonprofits are going to come back?  And so I'm glad we're doing it.  I wish we had tried a different strategy.

Judy Woodruff:  How much do you worry about that, Ruth?

Ruth Marcus:  Well, I worry that, if we were going to do that, we would have needed to do it earlier, because so many of these places have already laid people off, and the imperative is to get money to them quickly.

But I don't disagree that might have been a better strategy.

The thing that I worry about more in the immediate term is also making sure — just want to go back to this supply chain question and the move that the President made today to invoke the Defense Production Act, because these are things that also are imperative to have done months ago.

We should have been understanding that there was going to need to be a need for ventilators, that we should have started — whether you invoke the Defense Production Act, or you do it another way, to start making sure that those masks and those ventilators are in the chain and ready to go and ready to be supplied.

And we need — David talked about the inconstancy of the message.  We need a constant and rational message from the President, but we also need one person in charge of making sure that all of these — as we are sending out these very needed checks to businesses and millions of people, we also need to be deploying these supplies to the hospitals and the health care workers, because, if we don't get this under control, we're just going to keep hemorrhaging money while this virus just devastates us.

Judy Woodruff:  And you do, David, hear the criticism that, because this wasn't done, organized earlier, people are going to die.

David Brooks:  Yes, that seems absolutely true.

And it's simple.  Overreact.  There has not been a moment where somebody has overreacted.  Everything that seems like an overreaction is the right reaction.  There was a University of Pennsylvania study that said, even if we cut the infection rate by 95 percent from — by social distancing, we're still going to need 960,000 people going into an intensive care ward.

That's a lot of ventilators.  That's a lot of masks.  That's a lot of equipment.

And so erring on the side of too much is probably still too little.  And so that should — everybody's instinct should be that way.

Judy Woodruff:  And, Ruth, back to what David was saying about, the President keeps talking about getting — at least getting some people back to work by Easter, hoping that some parts of the country can go back to business as usual.

Every expert you hear, however, says that would be crazy, it would — it's dangerous.  You can't do that.  I heard Bill Gates last night on CNN saying it can't be a county-by-county approach.

What happens if this is lifted too soon?

Ruth Marcus:  Well, I thought that the President's statement that he wanted to see the church pews packed on Easter, because he said it was a beautiful day, was possibly the single most irresponsible statement ever made by an American President in history.

That is an outrage.  It is dangerous that.

And the problem with the — even if we were packing church pews in individual counties, you can't — this is America.  We don't build walls around counties.  We don't — we have known unknowns, as Donald Rumsfeld used to say.  The known unknown here is, where is the virus?

If we had the tests, and we could test — do widespread testing, we would know where the virus is, and we might be able to know where it's easier to lift restrictions.

But because we haven't — didn't prepare for the tests, we don't know where the virus is.  And so lifting it in this county or that county because it doesn't seem to have a lot of illness right now is just a very, very dangerous move.

And, by the way, even when we lift restrictions, when we think it's safe to lift restrictions, we can't just open up the floodgates and tell everybody to go start shaking hands, and…

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

Ruth Marcus:  … getting smashed together in church pews again.

We have to do it intelligently and slowly, or we're going to find ourselves in this Groundhog Day of pandemic.

Judy Woodruff:  David, how much — how concerned are you about that?

David Brooks:  I don't think — one of the nice things is, (A) Donald Trump doesn't control a lot of this.  [B] This is done on the state level.  And we're going to see the virtues and the vices of our federal system.

And I think he is surrounded — I don't take him always that literally.  I think some of the statements are — cause extreme harm, but he doesn't actually run a lot of the things, because people are just going to take control around him.

And we know how this ends up.  We have seen successful countries, in Asia particularly.  And it ends up, as Ruth said, when we have the tests, and when we use sophisticated high technology to trace the actual individuals who have the infection, we trace their networks, we trace their movements.

It's possible to do this with the right level of execution.  We did not have the advantage of having the SARS system, so we don't yet have the — sort of the infrastructure to do that.  But, eventually, presumably, we're going to get it.