Friday, April 10, 2020

Your Friday Briefing

Friday, April 10, 2020 | View in browser
Good morning.
We’re covering signs that the government’s stimulus program isn’t working, the spread of the coronavirus to workers in U.S. food processing plants, and, for a change of pace, Weird Al Yankovic. And it’s Friday, so there’s a new news quiz.
By Chris Stanford
A storefront in Miami. An analysis of small businesses that employ hourly workers suggests more than 40 percent have closed since the coronavirus crisis began.  Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

‘Sudden black hole’ for the economy

More than 16 million Americans lost their jobs in the past three weeks, and there is a growing consensus among economists that the government’s efforts were too small and came too late to prevent businesses from abandoning workers.
The Federal Reserve said on Thursday that it could pump $2.3 trillion into the economy, using measures that go far beyond anything the central bank attempted during the 2008 financial crisis.
It’s as if “the economy as a whole has fallen into some sudden black hole,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics.
From Opinion: The U.S. economy has almost doubled in size over the past four decades, but broad measures of economic health conceal an unequal distribution of gains. These charts show areas in which the country is likely to struggle.
Related: A federal loan program that promises emergency relief to small businesses has run low on funding. The program is supposed to offer up to $2 million, but recent applicants said they were told that loans would be capped at $15,000 per borrower.
Another angle: OPEC and other countries, including Russia, reached a tentative agreement to temporarily cut oil production. Here are the latest financial updates. (Markets in the U.S. and much of Europe are closed today for Good Friday.)

The risks to America’s food workers

As the pandemic reaches meat processing plants, some companies have offered financial incentives to keep workers on the job. But the spread of illness is forcing plants to close.
“My mom said the guy at the plant said they had to work to feed America. But my mom was sick,” said the son of a woman who worked at a poultry plant in Georgia. She died on Thursday.
There is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted through food, but health experts have advised wiping down packaging because the virus could survive on those surfaces for days.
Here are the latest updates from the U.S. and from abroad, as well as maps of the pandemic.
We’re also tracking the virus’s growth rate in hundreds of U.S. metro areas.
In other developments:
■ The number of new patients hospitalized with the virus in New York State is shrinking, but the daily death toll on Thursday was near 800 for a second day, bringing total fatalities to more than 7,000.
■ Allies of President Trump told The Times that they wanted him to limit his appearances at daily coronavirus briefings. The briefings have had high TV ratings, but Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said the president “sometimes drowns out his own message.”
■ Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain was moved out of intensive care. Dominic Raab, the country’s caretaker leader, offered no timetable for when Mr. Johnson might return to work and signaled that lockdown measures would extend beyond next week.
■ The number of performers — and viewers — of sexually explicit live broadcasts has increased during the U.S. shutdown. We spoke to webcam models about their work.
■ The granddaughter of Rube Goldberg, the cartoonist known for designing absurdly elaborate contraptions to accomplish simple tasks, has invited people to build devices that drop a bar of soap into someone’s hand.
“The Daily”: Today’s episode is about Asian-Americans who say they have been attacked and blamed for the pandemic.
The details: We’ve compiled expert guidance on several subjects, including health, money and travel.
The Times is providing free access to much of our coronavirus coverage, and our Coronavirus Briefing newsletter — like all of our newsletters — is free. Please consider supporting our journalism with a subscription.

A new front for nationalism

Since World War II, the idea that global trade enhances security and prosperity has driven most major economies. When people exchange goods across borders, the logic goes, they gain better and cheaper products and become less likely to take up arms.
Now, with the entire world simultaneously in need of the same lifesaving tools, national interests are winning out. At least 69 countries have banned or restricted the export of protective equipment, medical devices or medicines, according to one estimate.
“The contest is over far more than which countries will make iPads or even advanced jets,” our reporters write. “This is a battle for supremacy over products that may determine who lives and who dies.”
Another angle: Migrant workers have been not only victims of the virus, but spreaders, too, creating new risks for a vulnerable population.

If you have some time, this is worth it

The enduring appeal of Weird Al Yankovic

Art Streiber for The New York Times
The singer who in the 1980s built a career out of song parodies has, somehow, never gone away.
A writer for The Times Magazine explains: “After 40 years, Yankovic is now no longer a novelty, but an institution — a garish bright patch in the middle of America’s pop-cultural wallpaper, a completely ridiculous national treasure, an absurd living legend.”
Above, Weird Al with 232 fans at a photo shoot in January, before the world got a lot weirder.
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Here’s what else is happening

Shift for Joe Biden: The former vice president announced proposals to lower the eligibility age for Medicare to 60 and to expand student debt forgiveness programs, part of an effort to appeal to progressives.
Wisconsin’s election mess: In the state’s scramble to expand voting by mail, thousands of absentee ballots went undelivered or were nullified.
Flood protection rules ignored: Local governments around the U.S. have flouted Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements for new and rebuilt homes, but almost none have been penalized for doing so.
Andrew Testa for The New York Times
Snapshot: Above, the Wells Tavern in London, which shut down last month during the coronavirus pandemic. Through two world wars, Britain’s pubs stayed open, but they have now been forced to close. (That includes the one favored by your briefing team and the rest of The Times’s London newsroom, a.k.a. “the Crown we go to.”)
News quiz: Did you follow the headlines this week? Test yourself.
Modern Love: In this week’s column, a woman who lost her husband of 56 years on the eve of the pandemic braced for despair, but felt resilient.
Late-night comedy: “Easter doesn’t feel at all exciting this year, probably because I’ve spent the last three weeks driving around looking for eggs already,” Jimmy Kimmel said.
What we’re reading: This recent Q. and A. in the Harvard Business Review with David Kessler, the co-author of “On Grief and Grieving.” James Robinson, our director of global analytics, said it “gave a name to something I think a lot of us are feeling: anticipatory grief.”

Now, a break from the news

Melissa Clark
Cook: Matzo brei is the traditional Passover breakfast, which some prefer sweet and others savory. Our food writer Melissa Clark goes for savory, topped with fried onions.
Cope: Here’s how to have a family meeting when everyone’s at odds. Amanda Hess praises daily quarantine clapping. And here is how one family built a church for Easter, in their backyard.
Read: Holland Cotter looks to Henry David Thoreau for lessons on how to be constructive while alone. The economist Joseph Stiglitz has a pile of books on his nightstand that may inspire you to dig into Dickens. And N.K. Jemisin’s new novel, which celebrates New York City, is among nine books we recommend.
We have more ideas about what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

And now for the Back Story on …

Before The Onion, there was Not The New York Times

When a parody of The New York Times appeared on newsstands during an 88-day strike of newspaper employees in 1978, celebrated writers like Nora Ephron and George Plimpton were credited with the coup.
It turns out, Times journalists had joined them: “Not The New York Times” was also an inside job.
Andrew Sondern/The New York Times
The parody featured three sections, 24 joke advertisements, 73 spoof articles and 155 fake news briefs, all meticulously edited to mimic The Times’s style. Even the typefaces used on the front page and the spacing of the headlines replicated those of the real paper.
The writer of one column praised Genghis Khan for his ability to “get things done,” and an in-depth investigation by a team of 35 Not The Times reporters found that cocaine “appears popular.”
“We all had a lot of time on our hands,” the designer Richard Yeend said.
After the strike ended, the Times journalists went back to work and kept quiet about their satirical moonlighting.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
— Chris
Thank you
Weird Al provided this morning’s soundtrack. Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the break from the news. The Back Story was based on reporting by Alex Traub. You can reach the team at
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about reports of attacks on Asian-Americans.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Hurricanes have strong ones (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The Times’s climate journalists will discuss some of the unexpected consequences of the coronavirus pandemic in a group call with readers today at 11:30 a.m. Eastern. R.S.V.P. here.
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