Mar 13, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🔮 It's Friday the 13th. What could go wrong?

  • Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,169 words ... 4½ minutes.

🎬 Sunday on "Axios on HBO" (6 p.m. ET/PT): House Majority Whip James Clyburn, credited with igniting Joe Biden’s surge, tells Axios co-founder Jim VandeHei that the U.S. "could very well go the way of Germany in the 1930s."

1 big thing ... A grand experiment: Remote everything

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Every shutdown by an office, school, restaurant or store is stress-testing our ability to live life without leaving home.

  • Why it matters: Coronavirus is triggering a grand experiment. Remote work and remote learning have long been buzzwords. But the sudden switch to telecommuting en masse has the potential to accelerate shifts in how work is conducted and the way we think about it, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.

The coronavirus could be the catalyst that gets firms to adopt remote work policies in far greater numbers than we see now, even after the pandemic ends. But it's not as simple as just closing offices and classrooms. Most companies and universities aren't built for the virtual world.

  • They're filled with managers and professors who value face-to-face interaction.
  • Workplaces exist precisely because sharing physical space fosters teamwork and sparks creativity.

Some tech companies are already entirely remote, and have set up virtual water coolers — calls where employees can join to chat about topics outside of work — to recreate the social experience of an office.

  • But the vast majority of organizations aren't built this way. And the abrupt switch to telecommuting brings a host of logistical problems.

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2. What the U.S. needs to learn from Italy

Albina Pascucci, 89, in central Rome. Photo: Alessandra Tarantino/AP

The coronavirus outbreak in Italy has gotten so bad so quickly that some doctors are now forced to practice "catastrophe medicine" — determining which severely ill patients should, and should not, get care based on the resources available, Axios health care business reporter Bob Herman writes.

  • Between the lines: The U.S. is not at that point. But a week ago, neither was Italy.
  • The rapid deterioration there underlines the importance of taking preventive measures seriously, and the need for political and health leaders to start thinking about hard ethical questions.

Where it stands: The rapid spread has forced Italian leaders to quarantine the entire country and close all shops except for pharmacies and grocery stores.

  • The Italian health care system, which many experts hold in high regard, is overworked.

Experts say the biggest lesson for Americans is that trying to limit the virus' spread — mainly by limiting contact with potentially infected people — really is important.

The U.S. has no national plan for how to ration care if intensive care units and ventilators are all in use.

  • State leaders and hospitals would need to write down actual policies now to avoid making those decisions on the fly, like Italian officials have had to.
  • "You cannot have that conversation in the midst of the crisis," said Alan Regenberg, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins.

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3. Women's woeful C-suite representation
Data: Forbes, author's calculations. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Less than 3% of CEOs of the world's largest companies are women. That's according to Fortune, whose annual Fortune Global 500 list featured just 14 female CEOs last year, Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon writes.

By the numbers: The average tenure of a global CEO is now five years. So in a typical year, about 100 of the CEO slots at Fortune Global 500 companies will be filled with someone new.

  • If 50 of those 100 slots went to women, you would expect the number of female CEOs to more than quadruple to 61 in 2020, then continue to rise to 201 in 2026 and 230 in 2030.

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4. Pics du jour
Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

Above: Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bump elbows yesterday as they attend a lunch with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Capitol Hill.

  • Below: During an Oval Office meeting, President Trump and the prime minister joke about not shaking hands.
Photo: Evan Vucci/AP
5. Dow's worst day since 1987
Data: FactSet. Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

"In a week that brought the wildest market swings since the financial crisis, [yesterday] hammered investors with something crazier — a 10% drop in the Dow, the end of the longest bull market on record and the biggest sell-off since 1987’s Black Monday," Bloomberg reports.

  • "[T]he S&P 500 smoldered 27% below records set barely three weeks ago and wiped out all its gains since the end of 2018."

Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at The Leuthold Group, tells Axios' Dion Rabouin: "There is no explanation for why the market is falling 5-10% a day."

  • "We're not trading on any kind of reason or sanity, it’s just emotion and panic at the moment."
6. Trump needs a cape

The Fed has clearly gotten the message from financial markets — "OMFG!!!" — and has acted accordingly, Axios Markets editor Dion Rabouin writes.

  • Why it matters: A recession is starting to shift from possible to overwhelmingly likely, with the only question being how bad things will get.

Danielle DiMartino Booth, CEO of Quill Intelligence and a former adviser to the Dallas Fed, said yesterday's selloff shows just how limited the central bank is

  • "The Fed loaded and fired a bazooka and it was not a big enough shock to staunch the bloodletting in the stock and, more importantly, credit markets."
7. New threat to tech: Unintentional misinformation

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Tech platforms have gotten smarter about deliberate disinformation from bad actors, but the coronavirus' spread presents a different misinformation threat.

  • False information is being spread by people who are well-intentioned, but fearful and naive, Axios chief tech correspondent Ina Fried reports from S.F. as part of our "What Matters 2020" series.
  • The threat was vividly illustrated yesterday when actress and activist Alyssa Milano tweeted an image (later deleted) listing incorrect recommendations for how to avoid contracting the virus.

The big picture: In the coming days, the problem may get worse as the disease — and rumors — spread.

  • The major platforms all say they are prepared and are already taking action. However, many of their statements point to actions and policies devised to combat deliberately-spread disinformation.

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8. 🗞️ How it's playing
9. Opening Day delayed at least 2 weeks
Nationals center fielder Emilio Bonifacio (left) and second baseman Starlin Castro tap arms yesterday before a spring training game in West Palm Beach. Photo: Julio Cortez/AP

⚾ Major League Baseball's opening day had been scheduled for March 26.

  • The decision announced by Commissioner Rob Manfred left open whether each team would still play 162 games. Go deeper.

🏀 March Madness, one of the biggest events in American sports, a marathon of buzzer-beaters, upsets and thrills involving 68 teams from schools big and small, was cancelled.

  • The three-week tournament generates almost a billion dollars in revenue each year for the NCAA and its hundreds of member schools, most from a TV contract with CBS and Turner.
  • NCAA President Mark Emmert told AP that the NCAA had insurance to cover a business stoppage but gave no details. Go deeper.

🏀 The NBA said its virus hiatus will likely last "at least" a month. Go deeper.

🇯🇵 Japan's Olympics minister today brushed off President Trump's suggestion the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to begin July 24, be postponed.

  • Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto told a news conference that the International Olympic Committee and Japanese organizers are "not considering cancellation or a postponement, absolutely not at all." Go deeper.

Source: AP

10. 1 tune thing
Photos: Arielle Bobb-Willis for The New York Times

The New York Times Magazine's annual Music Issue, has three cover stars for a "25 Songs That Matter Now" list:

  • Megan Thee Stallion ("Hot Girl Summer") ... Billie Eilish ("Everything I
    Wanted") ... and Lil Nas X ("Old Town Road").

In an opening essay, story editor Nitsuh Abebe writes:

After a long stretch during which the top tier of pop music was dominated by big stars and their earnest, millennial-friendly anthems, the last few years have seen success for some stranger, more singular, sometimes darker and very much postmillennial personalities. (Billie Eilish, who is 18, released her debut single four years ago.)

Tune in.

Mike Allen

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