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From bats to people to tigers? Viruses that can jump species
Jonathan Epstein, an expert on animals and disease, says we have much more to learn about how animals such as bats can transmit viruses to humans and about how they can be spread from there to other animals
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edition.cnn.com
Maundy Thursday -- explained
Today is Maundy Thursday. In the Bible, this is the day when the Last Supper takes place, and it marks the moment that Jesus established the sacrament of the Eucharist, which is now part of every mass.
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edition.cnn.com
The Italian Doctor Flattening the Curve by Treating COVID-19 Patients in Their Homes
Over the last month Giovanni Sartori has lost his sense of time. He doesn’t remember exactly when his younger brother, a strong and healthy 53-year-old with whom he lived, began to have a high fever and breathing problems. But he knows that after about a week in that condition, taking the paracetamol prescribed by his…
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time.com
Charming, chaotic scenes of family life in small-town America blend reality with fiction
In Julie Blackmon's photographs, her quiet neighborhood in Springfield, Missouri, is transformed into a theatrical stage where children reign.
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edition.cnn.com
Charming, chaotic scenes of family life in small-town America
In Julie Blackmon's photographs, her quiet neighborhood in Springfield, Missouri, is transformed into a theatrical stage where children reign. They gather poolside in the balmy summer; direct talent shows in the garage; and prepare to take flight off of kitchen chairs, leaving toys and household ephemera strewn about. Adults, when they do appear, are often cropped out of frame, obscured like the unintelligible grownups of Charlie Brown's world.
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edition.cnn.com
5 things to know for April 9: Election 2020, coronavirus, WHO, Syria
Here's what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.
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edition.cnn.com
Lakers' Rob Pelinka 'heartbroken' Kobe Bryant can't receive Hall of Fame honor in person
The death of Kobe Bryant weighs on Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, who wishes his friend was still around to celebrate his induction into the Hall of Fame.       
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usatoday.com
Bulls poised to hire Arturas Karnisovas to lead front office
Karnisovas will leave the Denver Nuggets to oversee a rebuilding effort in Chicago.
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washingtonpost.com
Australian police raid cruise ship linked to 600 coronavirus cases, 15 deaths
Police wearing protective gear boarded a cruise ship to seize evidence and question crew members of the vessel linked to hundreds of coronavirus infections and 15 deaths across Australia.
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foxnews.com
Easter Sunday streaming guide: Kanye West with Joel Osteen, Andrea Bocelli, and more
Celebrate Easter from quarantine with these livestreamed events, including Andrea Bocelli's Milan concert and Joel Osteen's star-studded service.       
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usatoday.com
Premier League stars launch initiative to help NHS amid coronavirus crisis
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edition.cnn.com
Premier League stars launch initiative to help NHS amid coronavirus crisis
English Premier League soccer players have launched a collective initiative to generate and distribute funds to the British National Health Service during the coronavirus pandemic.
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edition.cnn.com
Australia's Health Authority Warns Against Use of Hydroxychloroquine To Treat COVID-19
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee said experimental use of medications such as hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus prevention and treatment was not recommended.
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newsweek.com
CERN Creating 'Stripped-down' Ventilator for COVID-19 Patients That Can Run on Batteries and Could Be Tested in Weeks
"We want to deploy our resources and competences to contribute to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic," CERN Director-General Fabiola Gianotti said.
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newsweek.com
Democrats seek hazard pay for health workers amid pandemic
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said a so-called Heroes Fund could compensate nurses, EMTs and other workers for unanticipated risks.
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politico.com
Op-Ed: As a doctor and a family man, I'm bracing for the possibility my worlds will collide during the pandemic
A doctor leaves the calm of home to work in the charged atmosphere of the hospital where sober conversations abound about the possibility of being overrun with COVID-19 cases.
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latimes.com
Why stores could start taking customers' temperatures
Stores are scrambling to protect their workers from coronavirus.
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edition.cnn.com
Drake’s mansion could be what destroys us
Drake’s Toronto mansion looks like a casino and cruise had a baby together but Ian really likes it. Tom Brady reveals that Gisele Bündchen ‘wasn’t satisfied’ with the couple’s marriage. And Naomi Watts’ quarantine freakout has us thinking about what else could go wrong. Here’s a closer look at today’s stories: Inside Drake’s extravagant modern...
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nypost.com
Pope says coronavirus could be ‘nature’s response’ to climate change
Pope Francis likened the coronavirus pandemic to recent fires and floods as one of “nature’s responses” to the world’s ambivalence to climate change.
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foxnews.com
John Prine's surprise gift
Writer Michael R. Branch pays tribute to John Prine's music, which brought Branch's family closer together, and Prine's kindness -- along with that of his wife, Fiona -- which gave Branch's young daughter a moment she'll always remember.
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edition.cnn.com
Op-Ed: Trump's coronavirus failures? Thank Ronald Reagan
Conservative skepticism toward both science and government intervention has shifted from an ideology to a pathology.
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latimes.com
Democrats tread carefully in attacking Trump on coronavirus
For weeks, President Donald Trump has dominated television coverage with daily White House briefings on the coronavirus pandemic, declaring himself a "wartime president" and touting his administration's response.
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reuters.com
'This is brutal': Lawmakers in hard-hit areas try to deliver during pandemic
On April 4, Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York heard that the Suffolk County stockpile of masks, gowns, face shields and body bags was empty.
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edition.cnn.com
Amid rush for ventilators, doctors warn of shortage of crucial drugs
"Without having these drugs, it's like having a bunch of cars with no gas," said Dan Kistner, group senior vice president of pharmacy solutions for Vizient.
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cbsnews.com
Senate to attempt to approve funding boost for small business aid program
Senate Republicans on Thursday will try to approve an increase in funding for a small business loan program set up to deliver relief amid the coronavirus crisis, but Democrats are likely to object if their demands for additional funding for hospitals and state and local governments are not met.
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edition.cnn.com
Texas Man Arrested by FBI After Claiming He Paid Someone to Spread Coronavirus at Grocery Stores
Christopher Charles Perez, of San Antonio, was detained by the FBI this week and charged with one count of false information and hoaxes related to weapons of mass destruction.
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newsweek.com
Democratic senators urge Trump administration to halt environmental rollbacks during pandemic
Senate Democrats are urging the Trump administration to pause non-critical work like overhauling environmental policies during the coronavirus pandemic.
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edition.cnn.com
MSNBC host tweets ‘cynical’ Trump ‘victory lap’ coronavirus theory he can’t ‘accept’
MSNBC host Chris Hayes shared what he described as a “cynical interpretation” of a comment President Trump made regarding the coronavirus outbreak.
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foxnews.com
A nation changed by coronavirus
Photojournalists document our changed country as people adapt to a new normal in this time of COVID-19.        
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usatoday.com
As ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ returns, let’s remember one of the most iconic scenes in game show history
First-ever "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire" winner John Carpenter says that even 20 years later, he's still not sure how he came up with his epic line.
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washingtonpost.com
Brazil's president called COVID-19 'a little flu.' Now his supporters are rebelling
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has dismissed COVID-19 as "a little flu," is losing support from longtime allies.
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latimes.com
David Bossie: Coronavirus vs. voting laws – Democrats exploit crisis for election power grab
Nancy Pelosi announced she will try to insert national vote-by-mail legislation into the next stimulus package.
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foxnews.com
She lost her job because of coronavirus. Now she and her son sell masks on a street corner
After losing her job at a restaurant, Brenda Mendez, whose family escaped violence in Guatemala, felt she had no other choice but to try street vending. Her son didn't want her to be alone.
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latimes.com
Letters to the Editor: Want to help prevent the next pandemic? Go vegan
If human exploitation of animals for food is causing viruses to spill over into our species, we need to stop eating meat and other animal products.
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latimes.com
Letters to the Editor: Capt. Crozier is a hero. The administration that fired and insulted him, not so much
The greatest reward for people who serve in the armd forces is the respect and friendship of their colleagues. Capt. Brett Crozier has that.
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latimes.com
Letters to the Editor: How paying rent right now is like being stuck in a rigged game of Monopoly
Renters are losing their income but are still being told to pay their lease, credit card interest and other bills. This cannot continue.
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latimes.com
What's Maundy Thursday And Why Is No One Wearing Their Shoes?
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another"
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newsweek.com
Assad’s torturers should save their own lives and free their prisoners
The Syrian president must shut down his machinery of death.
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washingtonpost.com
The Three Equations for a Happy Life
It seems strange to launch a column on happiness during a pandemic. The timing is, well, awkward, isn’t it?Maybe not. We’re stuck at home; our lives on COVID time have slowed to a near halt. This creates all sorts of obvious inconveniences, of course. But in the involuntary quiet, many of us also sense an opportunity to think a little more deeply about life. In our go-go-go world, we rarely get the chance to stop and consider the big drivers of our happiness and our sense of purpose.On second thought, maybe this is the perfect time to launch a column on happiness.I teach a class at the Harvard Business School on happiness. It surprises some people when I tell them this—that a subject like happiness is taught alongside accounting, finance, and other, more traditional MBA fare. Nathaniel Hawthorne once famously said, “Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” This is not exactly the stuff of business administration.But if you imagine my students sitting outside in a circle (or in a virtual circle on videochat, these days) hoping to have a butterfly land on us, you’re wrong. Here are a few of our topics: “Affect and the Limbic System,” “The Neurobiology of Body Language,” “Homeostasis and the Persistence of Subjective Well-Being,” “Oxytocin and Love,” “Acquisition Centrality and Negative Affect,” and “The Hedonic Treadmill.”The scientific study of happiness has exploded over the past three decades. The Nobel Prize winners Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton (both at Princeton University) publish extensively on the subject. The University of Pennsylvania has a whole graduate-degree program in positive psychology, led by Martin Seligman, one of the most distinguished social psychologists in the world. A peer-reviewed academic journal called the Journal of Happiness Studies has been in operation since the year 2000 and enjoys high prestige in scholarly circles.Religion, philosophy, and the arts have long considered happiness a subject suitable for study. The sciences have only recently caught up. This column, which we’re calling “How to Build a Life,” will draw on all these sources of wisdom in the hope of helping you identify the building blocks of happiness—family, career, friendships, faith, and so on—and giving you the tools to use them to construct a life that is balanced and full of meaning, and that serves your values.This column has been in the works for some time, but my hope is that launching it during the pandemic will help you leverage a contemplative mind-set while you have the time to think about what matters most to you. I hope this column will enrich your life, and equip you to enrich the lives of the people you love and lead.To start us off, I want to give you three equations for well-being—equations that, in my opinion, you need to know to start managing your own happiness more proactively.Equation 1: Subjective Well-being = Genes + Circumstances + HabitsSubjective well-being is a term of art usually used by social scientists. Why not happiness? Many scientists consider happiness as a term to be too vague and too subjective, and to contain too many competing ideas. In everyday language, happiness is used to denote everything from a passing good mood to a deeper sense of meaning in life. The term subjective well-being, on the other hand, refers to an answer to this kind of question: “Taken all together, how would you say things are these days—would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?” (That is the actual wording from one of the most prominent surveys that address the subject, the General Social Survey.)Equation 1 summarizes a vast amount of literature on subjective well-being, starting with the question of the heritability of happiness. Personally, I dislike the idea that happiness is genetic; I dislike the idea that anything about my character or personality is genetic, because I want to be fully in charge of building my life. But the research is clear that there is a huge genetic component in determining your “set point” for subjective well-being, the baseline you always seem to return to after events sway your mood. In an article in the journal Psychological Science reporting on an analysis of twins—including identical twins reared apart and then tested for subjective well-being as adults—the psychologists David Lykken and Auke Tellegen estimate that the genetic component of a person’s well-being is between 44 percent and 52 percent, that is, about half.The other two components are your circumstances and your habits. Research is all over the map on what percentage each part represents. Circumstances—the good and the bad that enter all of our lives—could make up as little as 10 percent or as much as 40 percent of your subjective well-being. Even if circumstances play a big role, however, most scholars think it doesn’t matter very much, because the effects of circumstance never last very long.We may think that getting a big promotion will make us permanently happier or that a bad breakup will leave us permanently brokenhearted, but it isn’t true, as a casual look back on your own life would surely attest. Indeed, one of the survival traits of human beings is psychological homeostasis, or the tendency to get used to circumstances quickly, both good and bad. This is the main reason money doesn’t buy happiness: We get used to what it buys very rapidly and then go back to our happiness set point. And for those of us lucky enough to avoid illness, even the unhappiness from the COVID-19 crisis will be in the rearview mirror before very long.Genes and circumstances aren’t a productive focus in your quest for happiness. But don’t worry, there’s one variable left that affects long-term well-being and is under our control: habits. To understand habits, we need Equation 2.Equation 2: Habits = Faith + Family + Friends + WorkThis is my summary of thousands of academic studies, and to be fair, many scholars would dispute it as too crude. But I am convinced that it is accurate. Enduring happiness comes from human relationships, productive work, and the transcendental elements of life.A little bit of clarification is in order here. First, faith doesn’t mean any faith in particular. I practice the Catholic faith and am happy to recommend it to anyone, but the research is clear that many different faiths and secular life philosophies can provide this happiness edge. The key is to find a structure through which you can ponder life’s deeper questions and transcend a focus on your narrow self-interests to serve others.Similarly, there is no magic formula for what shape your family and friendships should take. The key is to cultivate and maintain loving, faithful relationships with other people. One extraordinary 75-year study followed Harvard graduates from 1939 to 1944, into their 90s, looking at all aspects of their health and well-being. The principal investigator, the psychologist George Vaillant, summarized the findings as follows: “Happiness is love. Full stop.” People with loving relationships with family and friends thrive; those who don’t, don’t.Finally, there’s work. Maybe it shocks you that work is part of this equation; it shouldn’t. One of the most robust findings in the happiness literature is the centrality of productive human endeavor in creating a sense of purpose in life. Of course, there are better jobs and worse jobs, but most researchers don’t think unemployment brings anything but misery.What kind of work? White collar or blue collar? Stay-at-home parenting? Work requiring college? A super-high-paying job? My own research as a social scientist has focused on this subject, and I can tell you that these are the wrong questions. What makes work meaningful is not the kind of work it is, but the sense it gives you that you are earning your success and serving others.Equation 2 is especially worth considering during our pandemic isolation. Ask yourself: Is my happiness portfolio balanced across these four accounts? Do I need to move some things around? Are there habits I can change during this pause?I asserted above the old claim “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” It’s not quite that simple, of course. I should say, “Money doesn’t buy satisfaction.” Homeostasis sees to that, in the form of what psychologists call the hedonic treadmill: People never feel they have enough money, because they get used to their circumstances very quickly and need more money to make them happy again. Don’t believe it? Think back to your last significant pay increase. When did you get the greatest satisfaction—on the day your boss told you that you were getting a raise? The day it starting hitting your bank account? And how much satisfaction was it giving you six months later?You might be tempted to conclude that satisfaction is out of reach. But that’s not quite right. Equation 3 provides a better way of thinking about satisfaction.Equation 3: Satisfaction = What you have ÷ What you wantMany great spiritual leaders have made this point, of course. In his book The Art of Happiness (written with the psychiatrist Howard Cutler), the Dalai Lama stated, “We need to learn how to want what we have, not to have what we want in order to get steady and stable happiness.” The Spanish Catholic saint Josemaría Escrivá made the same point in a slightly different way: “Don’t forget it: he has most who needs least. Don’t create needs for yourself.”This is not just a gauzy spiritual nostrum, however—it is an intensely practical formula for living. Many of us go about our lives desperately trying to increase the numerator of Equation 3; we try to achieve higher levels of satisfaction by increasing what we have—by working, spending, working, spending, and on and on. But the hedonic treadmill makes this pure futility. Satisfaction will always escape our grasp.The secret to satisfaction is to focus on the denominator of Equation 3. Don’t obsess about your haves; manage your wants, instead. Don’t count your possessions (or your money, power, prestige, romantic partners, or fame) and try to figure out how to increase them; make an inventory of your worldly desires and try to decrease them. Make a bucket list—but not of exotic vacations and expensive stuff. Make a list of the attachments in your life you need to discard. Then, make a plan to do just that. The fewer wants there are screaming inside your brain and dividing your attention, the more peace and satisfaction will be left for what you already have.Perhaps decreasing the denominator of Equation 3 is a little easier for you than normal during your isolation, because your expectations have diminished along with your physical ability to meet them. Can you find a way to continue this after the material world begins to beckon again in a few weeks or months?Think of these three equations as the first class in the mechanics of building a life. But there is much, much more where all that comes from. Hence, this new column. In the coming months, I will pull back the curtain on the art and science of happiness to show how the brightest ideas can illuminate new solutions to our ordinary challenges.Stay tuned. In the meantime, while you are still stuck at home, go study your equations.
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theatlantic.com
Shazad Latif and Manny Montana make network TV a hotter place—they deserve more credit.
Star Trek: Discovery star Shazad Latif and Good Girls’ Manny Montana bring the talent—and the smolder—to the small screen.
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slate.com
Help! My White Girlfriend Told My Black Mom That Eating Vegan Is Like the Civil Rights Movement.
My mom refuses to talk to my girlfriend until she apologizes.
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slate.com
Bernie’s Real Achievement
Bernie Sanders has transformed American politics. In his message yesterday to supporters, in which he announced the suspension of his 2020 Democratic presidential campaign, he argued that a “new vision for America is what our campaign has been about and what, in fact, we have accomplished.” The senator explained that: “Few would deny that over the course of the past five years, our movement has won the ideological struggle. In so-called red states and blue states and purple states, a majority of the American people now understand that we must raise the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, that we must guarantee health care as a right to all of our people, that we must transform our energy system away from fossil fuel, and that higher education must be available to all, regardless of income.”[Read: What do progressives do now?]Many ideological battles have already been won—and others are likely to be won in the months and years to come, as policy makers wrestle with the reality that ideas once considered radical are now necessary responses to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic chaos it has spawned. But the greatest accomplishment of the Sanders campaign has less to do with moving good ideas out of the “radical” category and into the mainstream and more to do with inspiring the people who will carry those ideas forward. I am not alone in this faith. Just last week, when we spoke at length about the campaign he was then “assessing,” Sanders told me that “the future of this country does not rest with people who are 75 or 80 years of age. It rests with the young people. In terms of ideology, we are winning young people overwhelmingly. Overwhelmingly. I’m not just talking about my campaign. I’m talking about where the young people of this country are coming from. They are coming from a very, very different place, a very deep, different place than is the Democratic establishment.”Inspiring the next generation of radical campaigners—whether they identify as democratic socialists, as Sanders does, or simply as advocates for transformative change, matters now. And it will matter for decades to come.The most valuable political movements are about ideas, not personalities. But candidates help us to recognize the power of ideas in a political context; they spark our imagination. Even when they do not win, they suggest a possibility that change will come. Conservatives, inspired by Barry Goldwater’s 1964 bid, elected Ronald Reagan in 1980. Progressives, inspired by Jesse Jackson’s 1988 “Rainbow Coalition” campaign, and Howard Dean’s run in 2004, dared to dream that Barack Obama could go all the way in 2008.I’ve covered politics for a long time. Whenever I meet a new candidate, a new elected official, I ask them where they got started politically. Years ago, for Democrats, the standard reference point was John F. Kennedy’s “A Time for Greatness” presidential campaign of 1960. Then it was the “Get Clean for Gene” McCarthy campaign of 1968, and Bobby Kennedy’s run of the same year, and George McGovern’s of 1972. Eventually, it was Gary Hart’s 1984 campaign and Jackson’s run in 1988.More recently, when my colleague Sophia Steinert-Evoy and I produced a podcast, Next Left, for The Nation, we focused on the rising stars of American politics—newly elected city-council members in Chicago and Austin, legislators in Pennsylvania and North Dakota, judges and prosecutors in Houston and San Francisco. We were struck by how frequently the officials we spoke with referenced the 2016 Sanders campaign as a personal and political touchstone. When I asked Chicago City Council member Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez about running and winning in 2019 as a democratic socialist, she immediately credited Sanders for popularizing the ideology that had for so long been dismissed by political and media elites. “I think that Bernie was successful in putting that out there, and then that opened the path for many of us to be able to run for office.” So many of the people we talked with said similar things that Sophia and I decided to finish the series with Sanders himself.That interview took place in November of last year. The senator and I began by discussing the enthusiastic endorsements he had just received from a trio of Democratic U.S. representatives who had all been elected in 2018: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. Then I mentioned that like those members of Congress, the young elected officials we had talked with spoke of the inspiration they took from his first presidential bid.[Read: How a blue wave could crash far beyond Washington]“During 2016,” he responded, “I think there was not a speech that I gave which did not say to the young people, to the people who were there, to working people who were there: Get involved in the political process, run for office, whether it is school board, legislature, city council, Congress, whatever it may be.”Sanders, who ran plenty of losing campaigns before he finally was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in 1981, and who ran a few more losing campaigns before he was elected to Congress in 1990, explained: We have to break down this psychological barrier where people think, I don’t have a PhD in economics or in health care. I just don’t know everything. We have got to break that down and make people understand that if you have a heart full of compassion, if you understand what’s going on in the world, if you believe in justice, you can run, you should run, and you can win. And if you don’t know everything about everything, well, join the club. Nobody does. But it is terribly important to break down that barrier where people think, Oh, the only people who could run for office are people who are politically connected, people whose daddy or mommy was a big political fundraiser or politician. We got to break that down and I think, as you’ve indicated, we are making real progress. I get all over the country and I get tremendous satisfaction out of going to some rally and somebody comes up and says, “Bernie, I ran for school board and I won.” “I’m on the city council and I won.” That is fantastic. That is part of the political revolution, absolutely. That is the political revolution, absolutely.I always remind people that if Ocasio-Cortez waits 40 years to run for president, she will still be younger than Sanders is today—or Joe Biden. And, if and when she runs, and wins, I have no doubt that she will be one of the many leaders of the future who give a nod to the senator from Vermont who showed us all that another politics is possible.
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theatlantic.com
Just Send the Checks
To err is human; wanting to punish those who err is, unfortunately, also human. And at the moment, the U.S. economy is threatened not just by the coronavirus, but also by the American obsession with making sure that people don’t end up with more than they deserve. The CARES Act—the $2 trillion relief bill that Congress recently passed—promises onetime payments of up to $1,200 to most American adults. It also includes higher benefits for millions of people who suddenly find themselves unemployed. Yet aid to individuals makes up only about a quarter of the relief package, which goes out of its way to make sure that supposedly unworthy people don’t benefit—and channels money to Americans in byzantine ways, through preexisting systems that exclude a lot of people.The simplest way to help Americans is to send out checks quickly. But under the CARES Act, poor families who did not file tax returns will not be getting stimulus money. Anyone working in the adult-entertainment industry or whose work is of a “prurient sexual nature” does not qualify for aid. Small-business owners who have been convicted of a felony are not eligible for a $350 billion loan program meant to protect their employees’ jobs. That entire program, which is to be administered by private banks, was thrown into disarray right from the start, as some banks refused to participate and others prioritized their own existing customers. The inequities in the CARES Act could have been worse; the initial Republican version of the law gave poor families half the amount that middle-class families would receive. But the $2 trillion bill could have also been a lot better; it omits a host of other programs that would have helped vulnerable people: student-loan cancellation, expanded health-care coverage, a monthly universal income, rent assistance.Even when our policies offer aid to the poor, they often require bureaucratic hoop-jumping, work requirements, or some condition that demonstrates the recipients’ need and moral uprightness. This sanctimony is partly a function of human nature. In the famous “ultimatum game,” in which one player is given a small sum of money and the discretion about how to divide it with another participant—whether 50–50 or 80–20—the second player will frequently refuse to take any money if the first proposes an unfair split. In other words, we would rather go without ourselves than see others take more than they deserve. Our desire to punish bad actors may have given humans evolutionary advantages, but it has led to punitive economic policies that harm us all. Policies built to punish supposed freeloaders above all else end up punishing society as a whole. Shutting out the unworthy may feel good—but not for long, if doing so pushes our economy into an ice age.[Dan Meegan: Conservatives have a different definition of “fair”]American welfare policies have long been rooted in the belief that poverty is a personal failure rather than a systemic one. The civil-rights movement won some early successes in promoting a measure of economic justice for the victims of racism and segregation. Then came the backlash. With encouragement from Richard Nixon and conservative think tanks, economists, and media commentators, many Americans believed that what ailed the poor—a category often treated as synonymous with African Americans—was only their bad choices, “broken families,” and lack of work ethic. From Ronald Reagan’s tales of welfare cheats to Bill Clinton’s attacks on a “culture of dependency,” blaming poverty on its victims has been a winning political strategy and has resulted in large-scale suffering and increased inequality.Moral arguments are more easily weaponized against people than against complex banks and other large corporations. While this is partly an ideological matter, it is also a reflection of the limits of human understanding. We can easily reach the judgment—as many Americans did during the subprime-loan crisis a dozen years ago—that our neighbors spent too much on their house and took out a dishonest mortgage. But the far more costly misdeeds of massive corporations are often too large and too distant to factor into our moral code. This was exactly the logic guiding the 2008 bailout. Though a few people urged policy makers to bail out homeowners instead of banks, that became politically unsavory. The CNBC commentator Rick Santelli helped launch the Tea Party movement with a rant: “The government is promoting bad behavior! … How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?”The culpability of individuals facing financial ruin was paramount. You knew what you were getting into, many commentators said. Helping you would create a moral hazard, they said. Let people bear personal responsibility for their own decisions, they said. So America did. And thus, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. Inequality reached crisis levels, wages stagnated, the racial wealth gap grew, and jobs became less secure—which consequently explains how, in 2020, 10 million Americans could lose their jobs in two weeks’ time.Unlike poor people, corporations are not punished for failing to save their money. In the CARES Act, Boeing is eligible for up to $17 billion in assistance—even though the company, which was accused of mismanagement and malfeasance after the grounding of its 737 Max planes, spent billions of dollars on share buybacks rather than using that money as a financial cushion. The larger and more complicated the corporation, the harder it is for policy makers to enforce justice and fairness. Yet America’s experience with bailing out banks in 2008 offers a useful lesson about how to bail out millions of people in 2020: An economic crisis is not a time to be punitive.[Annie Lowrey: This is not a recession. It’s an ice age.]The theory of bailing out banks is that they are essential to the nation’s economic well-being, even when their policies and practices have not been broadly beneficial to the community. The Fed’s 2008 and 2020 policy was to “lend freely in a panic” to all banks. Walter Bagehot, the intellectual founder of central banking, understood two centuries ago that the best thing to do in a crisis is to give to all in need. As Bagehot explained in his account of one financial crisis: They must lend to merchants, to minor bankers, to “this man and that man,” whenever the security is good. In wild periods of alarm, one failure makes many, and the best way to prevent the derivative failures is to arrest the primary failure which causes them. The best policy is to generously flood the market with funds to stop the panic and restore calm. A panic is not the time to withhold funds or try to distinguish between the worthy and the unworthy. Bank panics are often compared to a contagion. Perhaps the same lesson applies to an actual contagion. Most Americans seem to understand the imperative of social distancing for the collective good. Perhaps this is because we cast no moral aspersions on those who are exposed to the disease, and because we realize that we are all connected. But we are all connected economically too. And the more we look for moral excuses to withhold help from the most vulnerable, the more we all suffer together.
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theatlantic.com
A Return to the Original Purpose of Music
It was getting late on Sunday night. The cheers that wash over New York City at 7 p.m. every day for hospital workers had happened hours before. Inside, I was mainlining an HBO drama about doom and dissolution, as one does during a pandemic. Yet deep in my consciousness, a warm and familiar tune played. Sometimes in our lives / We all have pain … Of course: “Lean on Me” by the recently departed Bill Withers. It got louder. And louder. Turns out it wasn’t coming from my brain. A car outside, with its speakers turned up surely past any legal limit, rolled by with the slowness of an ice-cream truck.Who was driving? No idea. It’s not the first time a one-ride parade has bombarded a New York block with some song. But in this instance, it shook up my night, mood-wise. I looked out, I hummed, and I felt fellowship—with whoever was in that car, with the planet’s worth of people mourning Withers, and with the other neighbors on my street no doubt hearing the same thing. It was as close to a concert or club as I’ve come in almost a month. That’s not because of the music’s loudness; it’s because the music felt shared.Here is the kind of crowd culture we can, when we’re lucky, enjoy during isolation. Everywhere, the coronavirus has turned empty streets into acoustically rich amphitheaters. In locked-down Italy, the media took note as arias drifted from balconies. In the U.K., five BBC stations synched up for a national sing-along. In Seattle, in Chicago, in Dallas, apartment complexes and cul-de-sac driveways now regularly host socially-distanced renditions of Bon Jovi, of Queen, and—of course—of Withers. Nuns have gone caroling; gospel choirs have video-harmonized. Though often grassroots and impromptu, the open-air approach has caught the attention of slick entertainers too. Disney has scheduled sing-alongs, as has the cast of Hamilton.[Read: We’re finding out how small our lives really are]At the same time, the typical ways of experiencing music seem to have taken a backseat. Streaming services like Spotify have seen modest declines in usage, even though theoretically its adherents have more time for listening. Mega-famous musicians have postponed album releases. Even some music critics (ahem) have admitted to prizing silence over songs lately. The model of listening that revolves around headphones, singular geniuses, aesthetic subcultures, and record-industry behemoths is, in other words, not what’s generating heat right now.Instead, participation and inclusion are in. There are the sing-alongs, obviously. Terrestrial radio—everyone tuning in to the same frequency, with a chatty host—has seen a spike. Live-streamed concerts in which performers take requests have healthy viewership. So do live-streamed DJ sets in which viewers can see other people dancing at home. Many of the musicians who have continued to launch new work into this crisis have focused on interactivity. The alt-pop sensation Grimes put out a music video with a green-screen background on which fans were supposed to doodle. The hardcore band The Armed released audio stems of a song they wanted others to finish. Drake covered his face and attempted to introduce a viral dance.With the concert halls and churches where people typically get their mass-music kicks shuttered, it’s unsurprising that isolation-friendly approximations of the same have popped up. But what’s happening is not a simple transposition of pre-isolation life into the weird new now. Even if temporary, the turn towards communal listening has the air of something deep and primal. Popular music in the 21st century has been defined by personality cults, hyper-individualized use, and the concept of entertainment. Different motives than those have driven music consumption for most of human history—and, it appears, in the historical moment that’s unfolding.In 1996, the National Association for Music Education declared a national emergency. The introduction of its then-released songbook Let’s Get America Singing… Again! went like this: Rachel Carson’s landmark book, Silent Spring, raised the specter of a spring where birds, killed off by pesticides, did not sing anymore. Well, today many of us are starting to worry whether people are singing anymore. We meet increasing numbers of adults who call themselves ‘non-singers,’ children who enter kindergarten without having experienced family singing, and teenagers who would rather slap on earphones than sing. What is at stake here is not just singing, but the very spirit of community in our towns, our cities, and our nation. The book, and the education campaign it was launched with, tried to evangelize a more singing-centric society. What actually ensued, of course, was the 21st-century explosion of headphone culture. A 2012 Atlantic piece by Karen Loew, headlined “How Communal Singing Disappeared From American Life,” noted that sports and organized religion were, for many people, the last bastions of a habit once integral to informal gatherings and even workplaces.[Read: Pop music’s version of life doesn’t exist anymore]“Clearly we need the outlet of singing—witness the karaoke-bar boom—but as civic engagement declined, our store of true folk songs evaporated,” Loew wrote. “You can blame all the usual causes for withering ‘social capital,’ from dependence on electronic entertainment, to lengthening work days that reduce free time, to an ever more diverse society, in which your songs are not mine. The elevation of the American Idol model and the demotion of the casual crooner is a real discouragement to amateurs as well.”The reasons to want more communal singing are not aesthetic or nostalgic. They’re sociological and even biological. Great bodies of research show that singing with other people releases pleasure hormones such as seratonin, as well as oxytocin, the bonding hormone. It can also forge bonds between participants and reduce feelings of loneliness. It’s possible these features are not bonus effects but the reason humans sing at all. Psyche Loui, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Northeastern University, told me that the pandemic is bolstering her view that, in evolutionary terms, music’s role is for social connection and cohesion.“If you look at music around the world, every culture has music, and every culture makes music for each other,” Loui told me. “What we’re seeing right now in a time of uncertainty and social isolation, people are really seeking out music as a way to still make that signal that we still care about each other. We still want to move together and sing together.”It might seem like a no-brainer that togetherness is a primary benefit of music. But think about that idea in relation to the ways of listening enabled by 20th and 21st-century technology. When you tune your earbuds to a playlist on a crowded subway, or blast your favorite album alone in your car, what are you doing? You’re regulating your own mood. You’re occupying your mind. You’re enjoying an art form that captures the ineffable. These are great things. But if you’re plugging into a greater human whole, it’s only in a notional way: a feeling of closeness with the singer, perhaps, and with their far-flung fan scene, maybe. To unlock music’s pleasures, past generations had little choice but to do it in a more directly social way. And by “past,” I mean very past.It’s approaching cliché to note that there is a whiff of the ancient in this global moment of people hunkering in their personal caves and worrying anew about survival. But oddly, whatever reversion is unfolding also accelerates ultra-futuristic 21st-century trends. Before this pandemic even began, I would scroll through TikTok, the video-sharing platform on which music seems to lubricate an ever-rolling house party, and wonder if it represented—to use meme terminology—a radical cultural reset.This thinking had been informed by reading Ted Gioia’s 2019 book Music: A Subversive History, which took a sprawling and feisty look at songs’ role across all of human existence. What Gioia makes clear upfront is that music in our distant past was a survival tool. To say it helped coherestone-age humans into communities is an understatement; music may have actually been a precursor to language. It also may have helped people scare predators away, or herd them so as to hunt them. Music’s physiologically entrancing properties were put to use both in warfare and in medicine.[Read: Celebrities have never been less entertaining]What’s most difficult for a modern reader to comprehend is that early songs may have existed without some concepts we think of as integral. The notion that music express a singer’s inner life had to be invented, Gioia argues. So did the idea that songs even had defined, nameable authors. “Note that I haven’t used the word audience yet,” Gioia writes in an early chapter on prehistoric times. “Certainly there were participants—there always are in rituals, where even those who remain silent are integrated into the proceedings … In contrast, the concept of an ‘audience’ for a musical performance is foreign to many traditional cultures. The hierarchies of modern-day entertainment, which radically separate performer from spectator, rarely apply to these situations, in which everyone is invited to contribute, to some degree, in the musical life of the community.”He goes on, “For the same reason, music is frequently connected to dance in traditional societies—so much so that any attempt to isolate a ‘song’ and assess it in the same way a musicologist studies a movement of a Beethoven symphony is often an exercise in futility and self-deception.”Right now, the No. 1 song in the country is “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd. In some ways, though, The Weeknd—the pop star himself—feels incidental to the song’s popularity. As I wrote last week, the tune has inspired a quarantine-appropriate dance craze on TikTok; in the videos, you just hear the song’s intro and only a second or two of singing. The point is the music’s pulse, its pep, and more than anything, the way it has been consumed: by unfamous people doing goofy routines. This is typical of the phenomenon of the TikTok hit. No visual that the now-ubiquitous rapper Roddy Ricch has put out is as memorable as the clips of people finding uses for the squeaky beat of his No. 1 hit “The Box” are. Lil Nas X may be a magnetic young celeb—but “Old Town Road” conquered less because of his official videos than because of the dress-up routines the song inspired on social media.TikTok users, whose numbers are skyrocketing due to social isolation, are not hunting big game or warding off evil spirits. But they are engaged in acts of participation meant to inspire more participation, which en masse create cultural connections that don’t hinge on singular star leadership. Sonically, the music popular on the platform trends mechanical, maniacal, and distorted—yet it’s used in ways that are reminiscent of folk traditions. Take the phenomenon of storytelling set to an auto-tuned melody. When watching a girl complaining about her Olive Garden job in a lilting, electronic pitch, my mind—to my own shock—went to the Jewish rites of sing-speaking the Torah.It’s been clear for a while now that TikTok’s interactivity is a real threat to blockbuster-based pop ecosystem of the 21st century. Viral hits by relative newcomershave blocked a number of singles by celebrity singers—Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift—from hitting No. 1 on the Hot 100. The pandemic, which is generating music memes and dance fads at a dizzying pace, will accelerate this dynamic. Already, it’s been widely written that A-listers seem especially impotent and inessential in this crisis. It’s a moment in which hierarchy seems especially officious and the iPhone lens has turned out to have leveling properties. It’s also obvious that pop singers and movie actors rarely set out to forge social ties with their work. They really set out for their own fame.The clearest example of how cultural winds have reversed remains the disastrous Instagram video of celebrities performing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” It was ostensibly a sing-along—but few viewers took it as anything but a shoddy bit of promotional content by people pre-assured of their own importance. Loui, the music neuroscientist, says she thinks the backlash to the “Imagine” video shows the way in which humans are primed to use music as a social tool. “People are really good at picking out what the genuine intent in music making is,” she told me. “Because we are sensitive to that, a performance that is made for purposes other than to communicate or encourage social bonds with other people gets laughed at.” That’s the case in any era, but now that everyone seems to be set equally apart, it’s time for performances that make people feel shoulder-to-shoulder.
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