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Portland braces for another far-right rally, antifa counterprotest

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland police are mobilizing to prevent clashes between out-of-state far-right groups planning a rally here and the homegrown anti-fascists who oppose them as America’s culture wars seep into this progressive haven. Saturday’s rally — and the violence it may bring — are a relatively new reality here, as an informal coalition of...
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Just a Small Shift in Remote Work Could Change Everything
In March, tens of millions of American workers—mostly in white-collar industries such as tech, finance, and media—were thrust into a sudden, chaotic experiment in working from home. Four months later, the experiment isn’t close to ending. For many, the test run is looking more like the long run.Google announced in July that its roughly 200,000 employees will continue to work from home until at least next summer. Mark Zuckerberg has said he expects half of Facebook’s workforce to be remote within the decade. Twitter has told staff they can stay home permanently.With corporate giants welcoming far-flung workforces, real-estate markets in the superstar cities that combine high-paid work and high-cost housing are in turmoil. In the San Francisco Bay Area, rents are tumbling. In New York City, offices are still empty; so many well-heeled families with second homes have abandoned Manhattan that it’s causing headaches for the census.[Read: Work from home is here to stay]You live where you work is a truism as ancient as grain farming; which means it’s as ancient as the city itself. But the internet specializes in disentangling the bundles of previous centuries, whether it’s cable TV, the local newspaper, or the department store. Now, with the pandemic shuttering the face-to-face economy, it seems poised to weaken the spatial relationship between work and home.When the pandemic is over, one in six workers is projected to continue working from home or co-working at least two days a week, according to a recent survey by economists at Harvard Business School. Another survey of hiring managers by the global freelancing platform Upwork found that one-fifth of the workforce could be entirely remote after the pandemic.If white-collar workers are told the downtown office is forever optional, some will take their superstar-city jobs out of superstar cities. That much is obvious. But these shifts, even if they are initially moderate, could lead to more surprising and significant changes to America’s cultural, economic, and political future.What follows are three second-order predictions—for our economy, our workforce, and our politics. Because predicting the future is, like dart throwing, easily done and often misdirected, each prediction ends with the best argument I can think of for why it won’t actually come true.1. The “Telepresence” Revolution Will Reshape the U.S. WorkforceSince 2000, as spending on travel, food, and entertainment has surged, employment in leisure and hospitality—a large category that covers restaurants, hotels, and amusement parks—has increased three times faster than the rest of the labor force.But the boom times for this super-sector may be over, according to the economist David Autor, a co-chair of the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future. In a new paper co-authored with MIT’s Elisabeth Reynolds, he forecasts that the rise of remote work—or what they call “telepresence”—will lead to a more homebound life that creates less work for others.[Juliette Kayyem: Never go back to the office]If business travel falls off by 10 or 20 percent, it could mean fewer jobs across airlines, hotels, and restaurants. “Business travel drives a lot of leisure and hospitality spending,” Autor told me. “Business travelers pay full freight at luxury hotels on weeknights. Their companies pay for business-class seats on airplanes. They use corporate credit cards for limos and lavish meals.”Businesses aimed at locals could suffer too. “Most of us occupy two spaces, a home and a workplace, that we travel back and forth between throughout the workweek,” Autor said. As more people switch to working from home, that will leave a hole in the metro labor force. Emptier offices mean fewer weekday lunches at restaurants, fewer happy hours, and fewer window shoppers—not to mention less work for office buildings’ cleaning, security, and maintenance services.A useful historical analogy might be retail. In the second half of the 20th century, retail jobs exploded. But Amazon and its kin moved work out of brick-and-mortar shops. What the e-commerce revolution did for physical stores, the telepresence revolution could do for office-adjacent employment: put downward pressure on the laborers who serve white-collar workers when they leave the house. And there are a lot of those: Roughly 30 million Americans work in restaurants, transportation, and buildings and grounds maintenance.[Read: The pandemic will change American retail forever]Or, you know, maybe not. Perhaps the best argument against the telepresence revolution is not only that people are creatures of habit but also that pandemics have historically done little to arrest the growth of cities and leisure. “The 80-year trend is that the richer society gets, the more it spends on leisure and hospitality,” says Adam Ozimek, the chief economist at Upwork. If more families decamp from San Francisco and New York to smaller cities, they could stimulate the growth of new restaurants and shops in less affluent parts of the country, he adds. Face-to-face meetings might feel even more valuable in a post-pandemic world, restoring business travel with surprising speed.Despite these caveats, I’m convinced by Autor’s most basic point: Telepresence will almost certainly increase in the aftermath of this crisis, and the history of retail suggests that the transition of huge swaths of commercial activity to the internet has huge economic implications—even if they’re hard to predict beforehand.2. Remote Work Will Increase Free-Agent EntrepreneurshipWork does not necessarily make for the ideal community. But in the past few decades, the office has served, for many people, as a last community standing. In an age where various associative institutions are in retreat—such as religious congregations, bowling leagues, and unions—there is one place where the majority of adults ages 25 to 55 have kept showing up, almost every day, of almost every week. At work.Now many companies, thrown headfirst into the remote-work experiment, have had to hurriedly retrofit their office practices for a new world.[Derek Thompson: The coronavirus is creating a huge, stressful experiment in working from home]Depending on where you look, managers say this experiment is going either surprisingly well or quite dreadfully. If those same managers interrogated their white-collar workforce with a truth serum, I suspect many would discover that their employees feel overworked and under-productive, emotionally depleted, and existentially exhausted. Although some of that is COVID-19 fallout, it’s also the case that people feel more alone in part because, literally, they are.What’s more, for many workers, their emotional relationships with colleagues have changed because their spatial relationships with those colleagues have changed. Many white-collar companies have become virtual group chats punctuated by Zooms. This is not business as usual. Online communications can be a minefield for mutual understanding, as Bill Duane, a former Google engineer and a corporate consultant, told me. Silly office interactions, Duane says, can be “carrier waves” for productive office work. Without them, our lovable yet complicated colleagues can be reduced to annoying abstractions.Working from home, our connection to the office weakens, and our connection to the world outside the office expands. At the kitchen counter, hunched over your computer, you are as close to the people and communities on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram as you are from the Slack messages and chats of your bosses and colleagues. By degrees, the remote experiment can weaken the bonds between workers within companies and strengthen the connections between some workers and professional networks outside the company.[Read: The pandemic is changing work friendships]As people realize that their connection to the office is virtual, more Americans may take on side gigs and even start their own companies. The very tools that co-workers use to stay connected—such as cultivating online a polished version of yourself to a group of people you don’t see particularly often—can be repurposed to go solo. Ambitious engineers, media makers, marketers, PR people, and others may be more inclined to strike out on their own, in part because they will, at some point, look around at their living room and realize: I am alone, and I might as well monetize the fact of my independence. A new era of entrepreneurship may be born in America, supercharged by a dash of social-existential angst.Or, you know, maybe not. If companies find that remote work is a mess, they might decide to prematurely scrap the experiment, like IBM and Yahoo famously did. It is certainly curious that the most prestigious tech companies now proclaiming the future of working from home were, just seven months ago, outfitting their offices with the finest sushi bars, yoga rooms, and massage rooms. If many companies find that remote work attenuates the cultural bonds of the workforce, offices could stage a furious comeback. It might already be happening: This week, not three months after its work-from-home announcement, Facebook leased a massive 730,000-square-foot office in Midtown Manhattan.The “death of distance” hypothesis has been wrong before. But the sight of New Yorkers flocking to the Connecticut suburbs is a sign that the path toward a more distributed work culture is already being blazed. For the first time ever, the world’s largest companies are telling hundreds of thousands of workers to stay away from the office for a full year, or longer. If, in five years, these edicts have no lingering effects on office culture, that would be awfully strange.3. A Superstar-City Exodus Will Reshape American PoliticsToday’s Democratic Party is inefficiently distributed across the country. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won Manhattan and Brooklyn by about 1 million votes—more than Donald Trump’s margins of victory in the states of Florida, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania combined. In election after election, liberals dominate in cities, running up huge margins in downtown areas while narrowly losing in sparser places.As I’ve said, if Democrats abandoned liberal enclaves and spread into Red America, they could more easily win elections. And that’s happening now.[Read: How the pandemic defeated America]Even before the crisis, America’s three biggest metro areas—New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago—were already shrinking. Downtown areas were already losing population. And a constellation of metros across the Sun Belt and the Northwest were adding thousands of new Millennial movers.The pandemic could accelerate these trends. Given the okay to go remote, workers in expensive cities may use their freedom to move to cheaper metros where they can afford more space, inside and outside. In political terms, this would reallocate the Democratic bloc. The 15 most expensive metros are all in blue states. Of the top 10 counties for population growth in 2018, seven were in states that voted for Trump in 2016, led by Phoenix, Houston, and Dallas. Meanwhile, the movers—young and middle-aged, college-educated, white-collar workers from urban areas—are in the demographic sweet spot for liberal voting behavior.This demographic shift could reshape American politics. A more evenly distributed liberal base could empower Democrats in the Sun Belt; accelerate the Rust Belt’s conservative shift; strengthen the moderate wing of the party by forcing Democrats to compete on more conservative turf; and force the GOP to adapt its own national strategy to win more elections.[Read: The coronavirus is never going away]Or, you know, maybe not. If a vaccine arrives by early 2021, we could quickly revert to a status quo ante coronavirus. The superstar-city exodus might be completely overrated. Those who do leave might just want bigger houses with outdoor space within commuting distance to the same downtown areas. This would suggest a migration to nearby suburbs rather than long-distance moves. But, remember, population declines in big liberal cities and migration to red-state suburbs were both already happening in 2019.Nothing is certain, and every new trend incurs a backlash. Telepresence could crush some downtown businesses; but cheaper downtown real estate could also lead to a resurgence in interesting new restaurants. Working from home could lead to more free-agent entrepreneurship; but if companies notice that they’re bleeding talent, they’ll haul their workforces back to headquarters.Still, even a moderate increase in remote work could lead to fundamental changes in our labor force, economy, and politics. Remote workers will spend more money and time inside their houses; they will spend more time with online communities than with colleagues; and many will distribute themselves across the country, rather than feel it necessary to cluster near semi-optional headquarters. E-commerce, digital entrepreneurship, and red-state migration are all pieces of the pre-pandemic world. The plague is not an inventor. It is a time machine, pulling us forward into a future that was, perhaps, already on its way.
theatlantic.com
Is Tiger Woods about to make a putter change?
The new putter, a game-time decision for PGA Championship, is a Scotty Cameron prototype that Woods first begun dabbling with last summer.       
usatoday.com
Luke Bryan sings for the small town on new album 'Born Here Live Here Die Here'
In a new interview, Luke Bryan discusses releasing music during the COVID-19 pandemic and which song was almost "too emotional" to cut.        
usatoday.com
I’ve Witnessed the Decline of the Republican Party
I have been immersed in national politics in Washington for five decades. Over my time here, as an academic, a congressional staffer, a think tanker, and a commentator and public figure, I have gotten to know and worked with a wide range of key actors in politics and policy. I have seen up close the changes in our politics and culture. Nothing has been more striking or significant than the transformation of the Republican Party, from a moderately conservative party to a very conservative party to something else entirely.One sign of this change? A five-term Republican congressman from Colorado, elected in the Tea Party wave in 2010 and now a Trump loyalist, was recently defeated in a primary by a candidate who runs Shooters Grill, where servers are encouraged to carry firearms, and who has indulged the QAnon conspiracy theories and who is now endorsed, not repudiated, by the National Republican Congressional Committee. Another? The current buzz surrounding Tucker Carlson as the party’s hope in 2024—even as he takes sudden leave from his show to go fishing, after one of his writers was tied to racist and misogynistic posts on an internet message board.Few of the dozens of Republicans in high office I have known and admired over five decades—in a party not my own and holding views that, in many cases, I did not share—would be represented in the Republican Party of today. While some of my friends and mentors were and are moderates, others were proud conservatives, who genuinely believed in fiscal discipline but also valued government, albeit in a limited form. But the radical and unconservative idea that all government should be disdained, that tax cuts that blow up the debt are just fine, would be anathema to them.[Read: The pandemic is damaging the GOP brand everywhere]And the idea that the Republican Party would be a force for ethnic and anti-immigrant animus and racial division would appall them—including my late friend Jack Kemp. The Republicans I knew best and worked most closely with were almost uniformly for civil rights—they represented the party of Everett Dirksen and William McCullough, who were instrumental in passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965.The individuals I knew, admired, and worked with were not the entirety of the Republican Party, even then. Plenty of lawmakers and others were quite content to exploit racism. They sought out the votes of segregationist former Southern Democrats, such as Strom Thurmond, to refill their party’s diminishing moderate ranks in the Northeast and the Midwest, and on the West Coast. Beginning with Barry Goldwater’s 1964 candidacy and Richard Nixon’s 1968 “law and order” campaign, some Republican politicians ran for office using rhetoric that, at best, cynically inflamed racial divisions.But even as I opposed many of the initiatives and campaign tactics of that Republican Party, I appreciated its efforts to solve problems and work within the governing institutions. The party of Nixon, with all its pathologies, created the Environmental Protection Agency, proposed a health-care-reform plan as sweeping as the later Affordable Care Act, and considered offering Americans a guaranteed annual income on a par with Andrew Yang’s universal basic income. The party of Reagan, which tried to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and which slashed taxes in 1981, precipitating ballooning deficits, also cut deals with Democratic Representative Henry Waxman to bolster Medicare and Medicaid; championed bipartisan Social Security reform in 1983; and supported tax increases in 1982, 1983, 1985, and 1986 to offset the earlier cuts and reduce the deficits. The party responsible for Iran-Contra is also the party that championed democracy and moved in concert with Democrats to create the National Endowment for Democracy, the United States Institute of Peace, the National Democratic Institute, and the International Republican Institute.[Read: Larry Hogan isn’t coming to save the Republican Party]In 1976, I worked on a project to reorganize the Senate’s committee system. The effort was led by Democratic Senator Adlai Stevenson III, but involved Republicans, including Bill Brock, Bob Packwood, and Pete Domenici. After a long day during which Domenici had worked nonstop on our committee, I asked the freshman senator why, with so many other assignments, he was giving so much to a panel whose rewards were limited. Any changes we made in committee numbers, assignments, and jurisdictions were sure to infuriate his colleagues. “Serving in the Senate is the greatest honor I can imagine,” he told me. “I am determined to leave it a better place than it was when I came in.”Domenici, like many other Republicans of his generation, had a great amount of what scholars call “institutional patriotism”: a concern for the operation and integrity of Congress as an institution, and its relationship to the other branches. They cared about integrity in governance and personal rectitude. They believed in the independence of Congress and its need to provide a check and balance against corruption and maladministration in the executive branch, whether the president was from their own or the opposite party. Unfortunately, they were unable to transfer those values to succeeding generations, or to overcome the regional shift in American party politics, the rise of manipulative leaders, and the growing influence of extremist tribal media.The Republican Party’s slide away from those values preceded Donald Trump, providing the conditions for his rise. In recent years, the GOP has thrown away its guiding values and embraced its darkest instincts. It has blown up long-standing norms in the Senate, creating divisions that outstrip anything I have seen before; done nothing about rank corruption in the White House and the Cabinet; accepted the politicization of the Justice Department and lies from the attorney general; avoided any meaningful oversight of misconduct; and failed to curb attacks on the independence of inspectors general.[Read: Why Republicans still can’t quit Trump]The GOP now distinguishes itself by inaction. It has stood and watched as this administration separated children from their parents at the border, mistreated asylum seekers, botched its response to a hurricane in Puerto Rico, attacked science, opened new avenues for toxic materials in our air and water. It said and did nothing about Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and is actively blocking efforts to combat a recurrence in 2020. It has refused to pass a new Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder eviscerated the legislation, which, reflecting the GOP of the past, had passed the House unanimously. It has refused to deal in any fashion with urgent problems such as climate change, immigration, global competition, hunger, and poverty. It confirmed nominees who lied to the Senate, who inflated résumés, and who failed to meet minimum qualifications for the job. It confirmed judges who were unanimously rated unqualified by the American Bar Association.The party jammed through a tax cut at a time of low unemployment and low economic growth, making a mockery of modern economics and leaving little flexibility to deal with the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. It slashed the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, delivering an 80 percent cut to global-health programs designed to fight pandemics, and leaving the agency without the resources necessary to battle COVID-19. It has said almost nothing about the pitiful and reckless responses of the president to the pandemic, which has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths that should never have occurred. And now it is silent as we learn that Russia offered bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers, while the president said and did nothing.I grew up in a family of Democrats. My maternal grandfather, who had emigrated from Russia to escape czarist pogroms, moved to Minneapolis and became a labor leader, a member of the small “kitchen cabinet” that convinced Hubert Humphrey to enter politics and run for mayor of the city. My idols, growing up were giants of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, including Humphrey, Orville Freeman, Walter Mondale, Art Naftalin, and Donald Fraser.[Read: How to lose a swing state]I was a young student at the University of Minnesota before I talked to a Republican at length. That’s where I met Doug Head, the state attorney general. He was a thoughtful intellectual and, like the core of the Minnesota Republican Party, a moderate conservative, far more center than right. His emphasis on public service made a lasting impression, helping me understand that I could share a common commitment with people who disagreed with me on policy.I came to Washington in 1969 on a congressional fellowship. Although I was working for Don Fraser, William Steiger, a young Republican representative from Wisconsin, soon became another mentor. Steiger loved the House and the congressional-fellowship program, and opened his door to me regularly to come and talk about politics, governance, and careers. He seemed destined for a major leadership role, before he died of a heart ailment at 40.When I moved to the Senate for the second half of my fellowship in 1970, I was assigned to George McGovern. He had put together an informal committee to push for a vote to end the Vietnam War. I worked closely with Republicans, including Mark Hatfield, Charles Goodell, and Jacob Javits. The task was not easy for them—after all, they were directly challenging President Nixon. The work was sometimes intense. I saw, up close, a bitter confrontation over Vietnam between McGovern and Bob Dole. But later, I would watch them develop a working relationship to combat hunger, and then forge a close friendship that lasted four decades, until McGovern’s death.[William J. Burns: Polarized politics has infected American diplomacy]Plenty of the Republicans I dealt with in the past were fierce partisans, including Dole and John Rhodes. But when pushed, they put country first—that was the basis on which they could forge bonds across the aisle. I had strong relationships in years past with a number of Republicans currently in the Senate. But none of them have, in recent years, behaved in a fashion that would meet the values of the party of Domenici, Steiger, or Dole.The country obviously needs a major change in its politics, a purging of the status quo. It faces challenges both societal and structural that go beyond Trump and the two parties. The United States must recover from the pandemic and rebuild its economy, while confronting head-on the issue of racism. But we cannot long operate as a democracy without two problem-solving parties that aim to compete for genuine majorities in the country.The Democratic Party is far from a paragon of virtue here; in politics, there are no angels. It faces its own deep challenges ahead. But America’s crisis of governance has been driven by a party that my colleague Tom Mann and I, long before Trump, described as an insurgent outlier in American politics. “It is ideologically extreme,” we wrote in 2012; “scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”[Read: The Republicans telling their voters to ignore Trump]I was reminded of that description recently by the comments of the Republican pollster Alex Castellanos. “Mask-wearing has become a totem, a secular religious symbol,” Castellanos told The Washington Post. “Christians wear crosses, Muslims wear a hijab, and members of the Church of Secular Science bow to the Gods of Data by wearing a mask as their symbol, demonstrating that they are the elite; smarter, more rational, and morally superior to everyone else.”A reshaped GOP would be very conservative, but not radical. It would believe in limited government, but a government run by professionals, respecting data and science, and operating efficiently and fairly. It would believe in genuine fiscal discipline. It would try to apply free-market approaches to solving difficult problems, such as climate change. It would believe in the integrity of institutions and insist that those in office adhere to high ethical standards. It would respect the sanctity of alliances and the fundamental values of decency and equal treatment. It would work to broaden its base across racial and ethnic lines, not use division and voter suppression to cling to power.Sadly, even if Donald Trump is defeated in November, there is no sign that such a party will return anytime soon. But restoring the Republican Party to its traditional values is absolutely essential to preserve the core of our system of governance.
theatlantic.com
Beirut blasts stoke coronavirus fears as hospitals are overwhelmed
"There is no doubt that our immunity in the country is less than before the explosion and this will affect us medium- to long-term. We desperately need aid," doctor says.
cbsnews.com
Timeline: The WNBA has been on forefront of racial justice movement for years
The WNBA, under the leadership of players such as Maya Moore, has long fought for racial justice. They have another adversary in Sen. Kelly Loeffler.       
usatoday.com
5 things to know for August 6: Coronavirus, Beirut, White House, stimulus, Turkey
Here's what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.
edition.cnn.com
Tennessee GOP Senate primary goes down to the wire
Last year, President Donald Trump publicly endorsed Bill Hagerty, his former ambassador to Japan, to be the next Senator from Tennessee before he even announced his campaign. That should've been enough in a conservative state where Republicans overwhelmingly approve of the President.
edition.cnn.com
Jobless Claims Expected to Exceed 1 Million for 20th Week
New figures released today will show that around 1.4 million state unemployment claims were filed last week in the U.S. Here’s the latest.
nytimes.com
10 photos that capture the intensity of 2020's campaign trail
When there's news from the campaign trial, the reporter covering the story often appears on screen perfectly composed and coiffed as they deliver urgent updates with ease.
edition.cnn.com
Norwegian cruise ship sees coronavirus cases rise to 53, officials say
At least 53 people who recently traveled on a Norwegian Cruise Line cruise ship have tested positive for the coronavirus, health officials said Wednesday.
foxnews.com
Trump singles out Texas and Florida for help with coronavirus response
President Donald Trump agreed to continue paying for the full cost of National Guard troops deployed to help with the coronavirus response in just two states -- Texas and Florida -- after their Republican governors appealed directly to him.
edition.cnn.com
NBA bubble breakdown: Gregg Popovich says Nikola Jokic is 'like a reincarnation of Larry Bird'
Everything you need to know about Wednesday's action in the NBA bubble, and what's on tap for Thursday.        
usatoday.com
In search of his lost love, 90-year-old man comes out as gay: 'I've never felt so free'
The 90-year-old Navy veteran came out nearly 60 years after his brief relationship with the love of his life met its end.        
usatoday.com
Scientists Are Learning to Read—and Change—Your Nightmares
Dark images from the screening room of your brain
time.com
Sean Hannity: How Deep State works hand-in-hand with Democrats to attack Trump
The "whistleblower" is a classic example of the Deep State at work, another instance of the intel world getting back at Trump “six ways from Sunday.”
foxnews.com
Letters to the Editor: Heads up, Joe Biden — Kamala Harris has always been campaigning for her next job
Kamala Harris is the junior senator from California, so what has she done for our state?
latimes.com
Nick Goldberg: The nuclear threat the U.S. unleashed on the world 75 years ago is still terrifying
The atomic bomb transformed the nature of war, raised the specter of Armageddon and launched an ever-escalating arms race with the Soviet Union. Yet somehow, we survived
latimes.com
Letters to the Editor: Sugary foods are addictive and deadly. Ban them along with flavored tobacco
A physician warns that the addiction potential in society is unusually high, making us more prone to indulge in food and substances that can harm us.
latimes.com
Editorial: Partying our way to more coronavirus death and destruction?
This week we had some good news about COVID-19 hospitalizations declining. But it's no reason to celebrate yet — and certainly not by throwing a large house party that can undo all the sacrifices made in the last months.
latimes.com
Letters to the Editor: Hey, elephant hunters, you can appreciate wildlife without killing it
A California big-game hunter believes he's communing with nature. He should try shooting animals with a camera, not a gun.
latimes.com
Letters to the Editor: I don't like Trump, but I support him. His record before COVID-19 was stellar
President Trump did a lot of what he said he was going to do, including cutting red tape. He deserves to be re-elected despite COVID-19.
latimes.com
Op-Ed: How to improve distance learning for our youngest students
Forcing distance learning to look like 'normal' school will hurt our youngest students. Here are strategies were effective when COVID shut down traditional classrooms.
latimes.com
Companies That Stand in Solidarity Are Licensing Themselves to Discriminate
Change is afoot in corporate America. For the past two months, everyone from Chevron to Comcast and Hershey's to Harvard Business School has put out statements containing the phrase “We stand in solidarity with the Black community,” or some very close variant. The sudden outpourings of corporate sentiment were widely dismissed as meaningless, hypocritical, opportunistic, or all three. But there’s reason to believe that such vocal calls for change from corporations could actually be worse than meaningless—and in fact damage the chances that corporations will follow through on meaningful change in the months and years ahead.Why? Less than a year ago, nearly 200 CEOs signed a solemn pledge, issued by the Business Roundtable, to stop caring primarily about their shareholders and to serve the needs of their workers, communities, and country too. The Wharton management professor Tyler Wry has been compiling data on the signatories’ behavior since. “We were interested in whether these statements were worth the paper they were printed on, or just symbolic,” he told me recently. “When COVID hit, it was a natural experiment and a chance to see if companies were living up to their word.”[Read: Brands have nothing real to say about racism]The results have startled him. As COVID-19 spread in March and April, did signers give less of their capital to shareholders (via dividends and stock buybacks)? No. On average, signers actually paid out 20 percent more of their capital than similar companies that did not sign the statement. Then, as the coronavirus swept the country, did they lay off fewer workers? On the contrary, in the first four weeks of the crisis, Wry found, signers were almost 20 percent more prone to announce layoffs or furloughs. Signers were less likely to donate to relief efforts, less likely to offer customer discounts, and less likely to shift production to pandemic-related goods. “Signing this statement had zero positive effect,” said Wry. Why, though, would it produce a negative effect?Wry told me he has yet to nail down a causal explanation. (His first theory—that signing the statement drew counterpressure from institutional investors—found no supporting evidence.) But he said his findings are not inconsistent with psychological explanations. Behavioral psychologists have observed an effect they call “moral self-licensing”: If people are allowed to make a token gesture of moral behavior—or simply imagine they’ve done something good—they then feel freer to do something morally dubious, because they’ve reassured themselves that they’re on the side of the angels.[Read: How capitalism drives cancel culture]One of the starker examples happens to involve police and racial prejudice. In a 2001 study, the Princeton and Stanford psychologists Benoît Monin and Dale Miller asked subjects to imagine themselves as the police chief of a small town that has historically been exclusively white. Police officers in the department harbor racist attitudes and—a few years earlier—an African American officer had quit, citing the hostile environment. Now they need to hire a new officer. Should ethnicity be a factor? Is the job better suited for a Black candidate? Or a white one?It didn’t matter, participants said.But a second group was allowed to rubber-stamp the hiring of a Black candidate for an unrelated consulting job prior to being presented with this scenario. It was the most perfunctory of decisions—the three white consulting candidates were less qualified—but apparently enough to establish the participants’ moral bona fides such that they could then comfortably veer into prejudice. This second group was measurably more likely than the first to say that the policing job was better suited for a white person.Was this all about avoiding the appearance of racism? Interestingly, no. The effect persisted in a similar experiment, even when no one else could see the subjects’ choices. So they weren’t protecting solely their reputation. It was also, at least partially, about their self-image. Maintaining a consistently good view of one’s self is very important to people—and very easily accomplished. In a 2008 version of the police-chief study, merely indicating that they would vote for Barack Obama in the upcoming election licensed participants to favor a white applicant for the position. In another setup in the 2001 study, the chance to disagree with brazenly sexist statements enabled people to favor male candidates over identically qualified women.[Read: The risky business of branding Black pain]And therein lies the danger of tokenistic statements. They carry little risk of fooling the public—and a lot of risk of fooling the people who issue them. Which may partly explain why a decade of corporate commitments to “expanding diversity” has yielded so little palpable progress. In 2002, there were four Black CEOs atop Fortune 500 companies. Today there are … four. As Wes Moore, the CEO of the antipoverty nonprofit Robin Hood told The New York Times, “We’ve been satisfied by putting John Rogers on every board,” referencing the Black investor who has served as a director at Exelon, McDonald’s, Nike, and the New York Times Company.A few companies may have begun to grasp this. “Because we’re in brand building, our initial instinct is to say something, to post something,” the Procter & Gamble marketing chief, Marc Pritchard, said at a June business summit. But, he continued, “the days of ‘My thoughts and prayers are with you’ are over.”Companies raise their odds of getting it right by asking questions instead of making statements. “Is this who we are?” “Are we getting this right?” And they realize that the real audience they’re trying to reach is themselves. This might require throwing the PR people out of the room. Ideally, too, firms will implement concrete changes while saying little about “change” in the abstract. Research is firm on this point: If you view initial steps as evidence of real progress toward a goal, you’re much more likely to drift away from it.
theatlantic.com
The Pandemic Is Getting Worse in the Developing World
Editor’s Note: The Atlantic is making vital coverage of the coronavirus available to all readers. Find the collection here. While much of Europe and Asia has relaxed lockdown measures after overcoming the pandemic’s first wave, the United States has moved firmly into its second surge. With more than 4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and upwards of 150,000 deaths, the country that was supposed to be the most prepared to handle a public-health crisis is proving itself to be among the worst at it.To focus solely on the U.S., however, would be to miss the even more alarming situation occurring in much of the developing world. Brazil, second only to the U.S. in confirmed cases and deaths, has recorded more than 2 million infections. India, the world’s second-most populous country with the third-highest number of cases, is approaching the same grim milestone. Similar increases are occurring in South Africa, Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Colombia. Taken collectively, these countries account for more than a third of the world’s confirmed infections. And such figures only reflect the cases we know about.While the U.S. can look to the experience of its fellow rich nations to help guide it out of this pandemic, and has relatively more resources to do so, many low-to-middle-income countries do not. The remedies that have proved effective in wealthy nations haven’t necessarily been possible in poorer ones—particularly those with inadequate testing capacity, strained health-care systems, and limited social safety nets.[Read: How the pandemic defeated America]Perhaps the most worrisome picture is currently in Latin America, which despite being home to less than 10 percent of the global population, claims more than a quarter of known worldwide cases and nearly half of all recently recorded coronavirus deaths. The region’s failure to contain the spread hasn’t been for a lack of trying: While some Latin American leaders, including Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador, opted to downplay the severity of the coronavirus, Peru’s and Argentina’s presidents were lauded for their early efforts to contain it. But the lockdowns and social-distancing measures that worked to curb cases across East Asia and Western Europe haven’t succeeded in the region. In Latin America, “social-distancing measures were effective to reduce the transmission, but they were not effective to bend the curve,” Jarbas Barbosa, the assistant director of the Pan American Health Organization, a regional office of the World Health Organization in Washington, D.C., told me. To put it more visually: Rather than seeing its rate of infection fall, as have other regions whose countries imposed lockdowns, Barbosa said Latin America saw its line “plateau.”Of course, no country’s context is exactly the same—each nation’s response was affected by a number of underlying factors, including the strength of its health-care system, the age and relative health of its population, and the resilience of its economy. Just as individuals with preexisting conditions are more vulnerable to the virus, so too, it would seem, are countries with underlying instabilities.Experts I spoke with highlighted two main reasons tried-and-true coronavirus responses that worked in richer nations have failed poorer ones. The first has to do with the fact that lockdowns are more difficult to enforce in developing countries—particularly those with largely informal economies. Nearly 90 percent of India’s workforce is employed informally (in roles as disparate as street vendors, domestic workers, and construction laborers). Informal workers also make up as much as 86 percent of the employed population in sub-Saharan Africa and half of the employed population in Latin America (though the percentage varies from country to country). These jobs are low-paid, and many lack benefits such as sick leave or redundancy pay. Telecommuting isn’t an option: A day’s wage is almost always contingent on leaving one’s house. Enforced lockdowns of the kind declared in India and Peru left most workers jobless and, in the former country, stranded.Though larger economies such as Britain and the U.S. were able to cushion the financial blow of their shutdowns with hefty stimulus packages, low-and-middle-income countries have been able to offer only relatively modest support. As a result, informal laborers are often faced with the impossible choice of abiding by lockdown rules or feeding their families. “When you ask them to stay home, in many cases you’re asking them to starve,” Benjamin Gedan, the deputy director of the Wilson Center’s Latin American Program and a former South America director on the White House National Security Council, told me.[Annie Lowrey: The pandemic proved that cash payments work]The second factor has to do with the fact that many of the worst-affected countries in the developing world are also some of the most densely populated. In cities such as São Paulo and Delhi, where swathes of the population reside in multigenerational households within crowded and often unsanitary informal neighborhoods, social distancing is virtually impossible. For some, access to clean water and other basics isn’t a given. Even with the rollout of mass testing and contact tracing seen in some countries, Gedan noted, “if you cannot physically distance, then you cannot contain the spread of this virus.”Shoppers visit the Saara commercial center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on June 27, 2020. (Andre Coelho / Getty)If there has been one silver lining, Barbosa said, it’s that the late arrival of the coronavirus to regions such as Latin America meant that many countries had time to shore up their health sectors. With some exceptions, he said, “we didn’t have in Latin America the situation that we saw in the north of Italy or in New York, where the services were totally overrun.” But a head start hasn’t made up for the fact that many health-care systems in the region lack sufficient resources, including life-saving medical equipment—a global issue that is perhaps most acute in Africa, where some countries have only a handful of ICU beds and ventilators. Some have none at all.These issues weren’t a surprise to Matthew Richmond, a Brazil-based research fellow at the London School of Economics’ Latin America and Caribbean Centre. In mid-April, when Brazil had about 20,000 cases and just over 1,300 deaths, he warned that social and economic inequalities there would only exacerbate the situation. Speaking months later from his home in the southeast of the country, he told me his predictions have largely held up: Efforts to lock down have lapsed, and Brazil regularly records more than 1,000 deaths each day. Meanwhile, the government is pushing to reopen the country even as some of its most senior leaders, including Bolsonaro, have contracted the virus.In countries and cities around the world, the pandemic has had an outsize impact on people of minority backgrounds and those from poorer communities elsewhere, and Richmond has observed the same dynamic play out in São Paulo. “Even though the cases were quite high in the wealthier areas, the deaths were much lower than in the poor areas,” he said. “And that’s not even taking into account the very high level of undercounting of cases and deaths.”“There is certainly no sign that the situation is improving,” Richmond told me. “We get so used to seeing these terrible numbers and stories that [we’ve] become a bit desensitized to it.”
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