Aug 2, 2020

Axios AM

Breaking: Wilford Brimley, who worked up from movie stunt rider to indelible character actor in "Cocoon," "The Natural" and "The Firm," has died at 85. AP

🥞 Good Sunday morning. Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,122 words ... 4½ minutes.

1 big thing: School day in a pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Plans for in-person K-12 classes are full of holes: The virus will make even the simplest routines tough or impossible, Erica Pandey and Bob Herman write.

  • Larry Ferlazzo, a high school teacher in Sacramento, Calif., told us: "I can't walk around and kneel next to a student to see how they're doing. That's where the teaching and learning magic happens, but now it's all going to be antiseptic."

What principals are worrying about:

Instruction: Social distancing at school means less group work, more lectures, and no contact between students and teachers — all in classrooms that were not designed to keep 20-plus kids anywhere close to six feet apart.

  • Jori Krulder, a high school teacher in Paradise, Calif., said: "They were kind of thinking ... in terms of, 'We'll just make the classes smaller.' The problem with that is that they don't have the teachers for that or the classrooms for that."

Meals: "Our cafeteria was already crammed to capacity before the pandemic," said Aaron Phillips, a third-grade teacher in Amarillo, Texas.

Health care: Temperature checks may be frequent. But a majority of schools no longer have a full-time nurse on site, which makes monitoring student and staff health impossible for some areas.

The bottom line: Schools are opening back up the same way they closed down in the spring — in a frenzy.

2. Scoop: TikTok endgame

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump, who said Friday night that he'll ban TikTok, may allow Microsoft to buy the app's U.S. operations if there's "complete separation" from the original, Beijing-based company, Republican sources tell me.

My conversations with Republicans over the weekend suggest this possible blueprint for making the proposed Microsoft deal palatable to the White House:

  • Microsoft promises a complete break from the Chinese parent company, ByteDance — not just data and servers, but also software.
  • What’s essential is there can be no lingering connection of any kind to ByteDance or non-U.S. TikTok.

Trump "has a deal on his desk" whereby Microsoft would lead an acquisition of 100% of the U.S. operations of TikTok, Axios' Dan Primack reported yesterday.

  • Microsoft seems to believe total separation from ByteDance is attainable.
  • Microsoft has the technical knowhow/capabilities, money and global government relationships to pull this off.

The context: Presidents normally can't just order a ban on individual companies. But TikTok's foreign ownership gives the Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) broad authority over it.

The bottom line: Look for the above formula to be the minimum.

  • People who have discussed the issue with Trump think he'd be fine with a simple ban.

Primack's thought bubble ... Trump likely has a binary choice on TikTok: Shut it down, thus risking the ire of 100 million U.S. users just months from an election — or let Microsoft buy it.

3. GOP floats "closed press" convention

President Trump golfs yesterday at Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Va. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The Republican National Convention says President Trump may be renominated in private at a "closed press" convention in Charlotte, N.C.

  • A GOP official told me a livestream is being considered.

A convention spokeswoman said in a statement to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and later AP:

  • "Given the health restrictions and limitations in place within the state of North Carolina, we are planning for the Charlotte activities to be closed press Friday, August 21 – Monday, August 24."
  • "We are happy to let you know if this changes, but we are working within the parameters set before us by state and local guidelines regarding the number of people who can attend events."

The big party planned for Jacksonville has been scrapped. But 336 delegates, cut from 2,500, are still supposed to gather in Charlotte for a roll call.

  • Some GOP delegations have raised logistical issues with traveling to Charlotte, per AP, citing the increasing number of states imposing quarantine orders on travelers returning from states with virus surges.

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4. Pic du jour
Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Ahead of tomorrow's one-year anniversary of the fatal shooting spree targeting Hispanics at a Walmart in El Paso, a memorial called the Grand Candela shines at dusk in the parking lot.

  • The 30-foot candle is surrounded by 22 perforated aluminum arcs  — one for each person who died, per the El Paso Times.
5. Testing czar: "Move on" from hydroxy

Courtesy NBC News

Admiral Brett Giroir, the assistant HHS secretary who coordinates coronavirus testing, told Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet the Press" that there's "no evidence" the drug promoted by President Trump works on COVID-19:

  • "Right now, hydroxychloroquine, I can't recommend that."
  • "I think we need to move on from that and talk about what is effective."


6. November fear: Ransomware

Federal authorities say one of the gravest threats to the November election is a well-timed ransomware attack that could paralyze voting operations and kill confidence in the tabulation, AP reports.

  • Why it matters: The threat isn't just from foreign governments, but any fortune-seeking criminal.

How it works: Plant malware on multiple networks that affect voter registration databases and activate it just before an election.

  • Or target vote-reporting and tabulation systems.

P.S. On Friday, the George W. Bush Presidential Center, in Dallas, disclosed that its cloud-services provider had paid a ransom to get cyberattackers to destroy "a copy of some of the Bush Center’s data regarding donors and other contacts."

7. Another summer crisis
Courtesy N.Y. Post

Above, New York's soaring crime stats.

In Chicago yesterday, police released figures showing homicides and shootings have surged this year (via AP):

  • From Jan. 1 through the end of July, 440 people were killed and 2,240 people shot (including most of those killed) in the Windy City.
  • In the first seven months of 2019, Chicago had 290 homicides and 1,480 shootings, including people who were killed.

July was especially violent: Chicago recorded 105 homicides and 584 shootings.

8. Both parties agree on something!
Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer leave yesterday's negotiations with the White House. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Unfortunately, it's that they're stuck on a coronavirus relief bill to help schools and restore the $600-a-week unemployment supplement that expired Friday.

Stopping for reporters at the Capitol after a Saturday negotiating session (avails carried live on Fox News) ...

  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: "We're not close yet."
  • White House chief of staff Mark Meadows: "We're still a long ways apart. And I don't want to suggest that a deal is imminent, because it is not."
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows arrive at Speaker Pelosi's office yesterday. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
9. Mask protests spread to Europe
Protest near the Brandenburg Gate. Photo: Fabrizio Bensch/AP

17,000 people marched in Berlin yesterday to protest German measures to stem the pandemic, saying they violated people’s rights and freedoms, Reuters reports:

  • The gathering included libertarians, constitutional loyalists and anti-vaccination activists. There was also a small far-right presence.
  • Protesters danced and sang "We are free people!" to the tune of Queen’s "We Will Rock You."

A placard said: "Do think! Don’t wear a mask!"

10. 1 smile to go: NHL returns
Photo: Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP

The Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers circle for national anthems in Alberta yesterday, as part of the NHL's daylong return to play.

The NHL tweeted: "#WeSkateForBlackLives." The narrator said on a new NHL video:

When an issue is bigger than the game, we must speak out, starting with three words we need to get comfortable saying: Black Lives Matter. ...
We must be clear about what we skate for: We skate for black lives. And even in an empty arena, we never skate alone. Together, we must be part of the movement to end racism. ...
And that's why we skate for something more.

Watch the 90-second video.

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