April 04, 2020

🏀 This was supposed to be Final Four weekend.

🎙🗞️ Today is National Hug a Newsperson day. I started my career in local news — covering rural sheriffs and school boards for The (Fredericksburg, Va.) Free-Lance Star, then an evening paper.

  • When Susan Tremblay — the reporter for Stafford County, the biggest county in our circulation area — was off and I got to cover the planning commission, I was all excited and dressed up in coat and tie. I went and got the packet early so I'd be on top of all the easement and signage requests.
  • Then it was night cops — and weather and real estate, and parades and graduations — for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. And Alexandria City Council and Arlington Board of Supervisors for The Washington Post.
  • In so many vibrant and classic communities in America, no one is covering those beats now, because of financial pressures that are crushing once-great newsrooms.

So please subscribe to your community paper online, and give to a local NPR station.

  • Why it matters: It helps keep our leaders honest, and brings your neighbors alive even in these times of hunkering down.

1 big thing: Virus reshapes American families

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

It used to be scarce and hard-earned, but suddenly family time is abundant in the era of shelter-in-place, Erica Pandey writes.

  • Why it matters: For the first time since the early 19th century, many parents and kids — and even grandchildren — are all under the same roof round-the-clock. And if past periods of emergency are any guide, this enforced togetherness could deepen relationships for years to come.

The long view: While cooped-up families may now be powerfully sick of day-to-day whining and bickering, sociologists say that — historically speaking — enduring hardship together can build stronger connections.

  • The U.S. divorce rate plummeted during the Great Depression and the 2008 financial crash.

We'll see. The N.Y. Post finds a different reality in the city:

  • "Cooped-up New Yorkers are flooding lawyer phone lines with divorce inquiries — with an avalanche of filings expected once the courts re-open."

But several families tell us they're growing closer as they're forced to ride out the pandemic as a clan.

  • "The strangest thing I’ve noticed is a sense of bonding," says Steven Singleterry, who works in finance and lives in Brandon, Miss. "We spend much less time on electronics and more time together."

The challenge: Forcing multiple generations to live in the same space can test our patience. Some families have devised creative solutions:

  • Christopher Mims, a Wall Street Journal columnist who lives in Baltimore, tells Axios his young kids have built an entire Lego-based trade economy that keeps them occupied for most of the day.
  • "They interrupt me constantly," Mims said. "But each day it gets easier. They get wrapped up in deep imaginative play and I can ignore them for long periods."

Please remember: While millions of Americans are enjoying a family renaissance, others are living through the worst of times.

  • The Brookings Institution estimates that around 60 million essential workers are still going to their jobs on the front lines.
  • Those who are still going to work in critical industries are frequently putting in longer hours than usual — not only spending less time with kids, but also often dealing with child care crises.
  • Many families are dealing with the loss of loved ones or jobs.
  • And experts say we're staring down a domestic violence crisis, as Axios' Ina Fried wrote yesterday.

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2. Trump's new purge

Michael Atkinson, arrives in October for closed-door questioning about the whistleblower complaint. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

In a letter to the Hill revealed at 10 p.m. last night, President Trump said he's firing Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community's inspector general, who alerted Congress to the complaint that triggered impeachment.

Behind the scenes: Sources close to President Trump expect him to fire more inspectors general across his government, Jonathan Swan reports.

  • Conservative allies of the president have told him that these IGs are members of the “deep state” trying to undermine him. Trump appears to have embraced that view.
  • A conservative ally of the president said inspectors general are part of the U.S. government's "regulatory and compliance systems/organs" that protect the establishment.
  • The subject of “deep state” IGs has been discussed within the Groundswell network, the influential circle of conservative activists helmed by Ginni Thomas.

Between the lines: The move, to take effect in 30 days, comes amid a broader initiative to purge the administration of officials seen as disloyal to the president, Alayna Treene notes.

  • The timing of the disclosure, as the nation struggles to manage the virus crisis, means it may go unnoticed by many Americans.
  • Read the letter.

P.S. Trump yesterday nominated Brian Miller, senior White House associate counsel, as special inspector general for pandemic recovery at the Treasury Department.

  • Why it matters, from The Wall Street Journal: "The new position, the subject of a disagreement between Democrats and the president, is intended to watch over how $500 billion earmarked for loans to business is spent."

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3. Kissinger: "Failure could set the world on fire"

The 106-year-old Iowa Theater, on North John Wayne Drive in Winterset, Iowa. Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP

"The U.S. must protect its citizens from disease while starting the urgent work of planning for a new epoch," Henry Kissinger, 96, writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed:

Nations cohere and flourish on the belief that their institutions can foresee calamity, arrest its impact and restore stability. When the Covid-19 pandemic is over, many countries’ institutions will be perceived as having failed. ...
The U.S. administration has done a solid job in avoiding immediate catastrophe. The ultimate test will be whether the virus’s spread can be arrested and then reversed in a manner and at a scale that maintains public confidence in Americans’ ability to govern themselves.

"The crisis effort, however vast and necessary, must not crowd out the urgent task of launching a parallel enterprise for the transition to the post-coronavirus order," Kissinger continues:

Leaders are dealing with the crisis on a largely national basis, but the virus’s society-dissolving effects do not recognize borders. While the assault on human health will — hopefully — be temporary, the political and economic upheaval it has unleashed could last for generations.
A global retreat ... will cause the social contract to disintegrate both domestically and internationally. ...
We went on from the Battle of the Bulge [1944-45] into a world of growing prosperity and enhanced human dignity. Now, we live an epochal period. The historic challenge for leaders is to manage the crisis while building the future. Failure could set the world on fire.

4. Non-virus pic: What the deer sees

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

A fallow deer at Dagnam Park in East London peers around a tree at a passersby as it stands in a patch of woodland outside homes on a housing estate.

  • The backstory: Getty says semi-urban deer are a regular sight in the area around the park. But as the roads have become quieter due to the nationwide lockdown, the deer have staked a claim on new territories in the vicinity.

5. Non-virus news: A demographic trend worthy of your attention

Last July 4, Vice President Pence and Karen Pence posed with new Americans after a naturalization ceremony at the National Archives. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Almost half of the foreign-born who moved to the U.S. in the past decade were college-educated, a level of education greatly exceeding immigrants from previous decades, AP reports.

  • Why it matters: The arrival of highly skilled workers supplanted workers in fields like construction that shrunk after the Great Recession.

By the numbers: Figures released by the Census Bureau this week show that 47% of the foreign-born population that arrived in the U.S. from 2010 to 2019 had a bachelor's degree or higher.

We've reported this before, but reminding you: Immigration from Latin America has been declining for more than a decade.

  • Until 2008, Mexico was the greatest source of new immigrants in the U.S. Now, China and India are the largest "source countries."

In fact, in the past several years, more Mexicans living in the U.S. went back than came north across the border.

  • Why it's happening: Plummeting fertility rates in Mexico starting two decades ago shrunk the number of young job-seekers who would have headed north to the U.S.

6. U.S. latest

Data: Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

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7. World latest

Data: Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC. Map: Axios Visuals
Data: Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC. Map: Axios Visuals

Buyer beware: "The C.I.A. has been warning the White House since at least early February that China has vastly understated its coronavirus infections and that its count could not be relied upon as the United States compiles predictive models." N.Y. Times

8. 1 smile to go: A global Corona Community Chorus

Photo: Jessie Wardarski/AP

Around the world, linked by video, more than 100 people sing "Come, Come Whoever You Are. Then, laughing together, "Kookaburra," the Australian nursery rhyme. And then, in Hebrew, "Hinei Matov."

  • This is the Corona Community Chorus. Each Sunday, it meets on Zoom to unite voices in isolation, AP reports.

The chorus is hosted from the Brooklyn home of Casper ter Kuile, a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School and the author of the upcoming book, "The Power of Ritual."

  • Using instruments like the traditional Indian accordion known as the shruti box, he leads the group through a multilingual repertoire.

A tweet launched the chorus: "If I hosted a Zoom singing circle tomorrow at 1pm ET, teaching a few simple songs/rounds, who would be into that?" he asked. "Reply if you're game!"

  • To kick off the chorus, ter Kuile lights a candle in front of his computer.

📬 Thank you for the honor of your time this week. Please spread the word about Axios AM/PM.