Apr 16, 2020

Axios AM

Good Thursday morning. Smart Brevity™ count: 1,405 words ... 5½ minutes.

  • Situational awareness: "The Navy is looking into whether it can reinstate Capt. Brett E. Crozier, who was removed from command of the carrier Theodore Roosevelt after he pleaded for more help fighting ... coronavirus ... aboard his ship," N.Y. Times
1 big thing: Coronavirus chain reaction

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The coronavirus and lockdowns have brought us tons of "who'd have thought?" developments:

  • The easing of air pollution ... the shift to telemedicine ... the resurgence of phone calls ... and crazes for jigsaw puzzles and bread baking, Axios managing editor Jennifer Kingson writes.
  • Why it matters: Society has become a lab experiment for what happens when commerce and socializing are all but banned.

In business:

  • The plastics industry is trying to get plastic bag bans overturned, arguing that other reusable bags are breeding grounds for COVID-19. (The mayor of Boston has bought the argument and suspended the city's bag ban.)
  • Companies are holding annual meetings online for the first time — which is dampening corporate proxy season, when activist shareholders try to push their agendas.

In society: Violent crime is down — but domestic violence is seen as rising.

  • "The ground is being laid for terrible psychological disorders and stressed families," Amy Zalman, CEO of Prescient, a future-oriented consultancy, and professor at Georgetown, tells Axios.

Jennifer's thought bubble: Who would have thought that New Yorkers — ornery as we are — would stand in polite lines on the sidewalk for entry into stores?

  • Or pause each evening at 7:00 to cheer from our balconies and windows for the brave people who supply us, serve us, care for us and cure us?

Share this story.

2. 🔮 What Trump will tell governors

Protest at the Michigan State Capitol. Photo: Paul Sancya/AP

Based on what President Trump has said publicly, he is expected to make clear to governors when they talk by video teleconference at 3 p.m. ET today that he won’t hold them back if they want to reopen their states for business.

  • Why it matters: Trump has signaled that he will provide guidelines, but that he is anxious to get the country reopened and is unwilling to wait until May 1, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.

Protests by people who want to get back to work have broken out in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia, per USA Today.

  • "Demonstrators drove thousands of vehicles — many draped with protest signs — to Michigan's state Capitol, ... loudly protesting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order," the Detroit Free Press reports from Lansing.
  • The state of play: If Trump starts urging parts of the country to get back to work, his supporters in those states will want to follow his lead.

What's next: Multiply what's happening now by several times, and we could see major clashes across the country between cautious governors and angry, impatient constituents.

  • This will likely be exacerbated as red states, including Texas, start coming back online.

Share this story.

Trump supporters protest in Michigan. Photo: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images
3. New: Axios app is here

Graphic: Axios

You asked for it! We're unveiling an Axios mobile app — an efficient, delightful experience that I’m anxious for you to try.

Why it matters to you:

  • The app’s design is elegant simplicity, allowing you to intuitively consume news in Smart Brevity™.
  • The app captures our thinking on the future of news and newsletters — a watch-listen-read experience.
  • You can sign up for push notifications for breaking news, and get exclusive updates from me.

What's next: Please download the Axios app on your iPhone or Android device.

  • We'd love your thoughts: Please reply to this email, or drop me a line at mike@axios.com.
4. Economic freeze

Retail sales — which include purchases in stores and online, and spending at bars and restaurants — plunged 8.7% in March from the previous month, by far the largest drop since the Commerce Department started tracking the data 28 years ago, the N.Y. Times reports.

  • Why it matters: "Previously, the largest one-month drop in retail sales came in the fall of 2008, when the financial crisis led spending to plunge nearly 4 percent for two straight months."
  • "But as bad as that downturn was, sales never ground to a halt the way they have in recent weeks, said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation."
5. How the virus scrambled tech's ecology

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The coronavirus crisis has reset the tech industry's ecology with the speed and force of a meteor hitting a planet, Axios managing editor Scott Rosenberg writes from the Bay Area in a special takeover edition of Login, our daily tech newsletter.

Here's Silicon Valley's new food chain:

  • Big Tech's giant apex predators will strengthen their dominance while facing new threats. Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook have fat war chests, hoards of data, and armies of engineers.
  • In the middle ranks of the industry, freshly-IPOed newcomers on the way up pass middle-aged firms on their way down.
  • Tech's teeming underbrush of small startups will grow less crowded and more diverse. Those who can will pivot to some new plan. Those who can't will shut down.

What to watch: Investors who've experienced previous downturns will place longer-term bets on new technologies.

  • Nimble newcomers will exploit freshly revealed market niches, drawing on a large population of newly available talent and sipping from the surplus of loose cash that's looking for higher returns.

The bottom line: The scale and reach of tech's giants now look less like a danger and more like a public good.

  • Amazon has become a delivery lifeline.
  • Apple and Google devices and Facebook's social networks keep us in touch.
  • Entertainment from Netflix, Google's YouTube, Amazon and other streaming players keeps us from going nuts.

Sign up for Login to get the full report a few hours from now.

6. 🎓 Students could take SAT at home

A digital, at-home version of the SAT is being prepared in case schools remain closed into the fall, the College Board said as it announced the cancellation of June testing.

  • The home version would rely on "remote proctoring," which could include using the computer's camera and microphone to monitor movement or talking, AP reports.
  • The rival ACT will launch an at-home option in late fall or early winter.

School closures forced the cancellation of spring testing for about 1 million first-time SAT test-takers, the majority of them high school juniors.

  • California's public universities and several other institutions around the country have made the tests optional only for 2021 applicants.
7. Sweep of history: How COVID-19 era will change national security
Cover courtesy TIME

Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the UN from 2013 to 2017, writes for TIME that "the shared enemy of a future pandemic must bring about a redefinition of national security":

The 9/11 attacks gave those wanting to justify American engagement abroad a sense of purpose: preventing future terrorist attacks. But for the U.S., the "post-9/11 world" became defined by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that cost more than 7,000 service members their lives and drained vast resources.
Those wars also diverted high-level governmental attention that should have been focused on China’s rising power and Russia’s military and digital aggression. ... [T]he national-security establishment concentrated on terrorism, dedicating paltry resources to battling climate change or preventing pandemics, the deadliest threats of all. ...
[W]e need to unite behind ending our decades-long over-reliance on the military, and building national and international mechanisms to protect people not merely from the last threat, but from the coming ones.

Keep reading.

8. Exclusive: Biggest Trump super PAC test drives #BeijingBiden

Screenshots: America First Action

America First Action, the top pro-Trump super PAC, is testing a new ad campaign to paint Joe Biden as soft on China, and to redirect criticism of President Trump’s coronavirus response, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.

  • Beginning tomorrow, it will spend $10 million in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to try to brand the presumptive Democratic nominee as "Beijing Biden."

Why it matters: The ads come as Trump campaign officials lay plans to try to focus the general election campaign on Biden's past approaches to China.

  • Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, told Axios: "Joe Biden called on Donald Trump to lead. He publicly urged him not to believe China's spin about the worst public health crisis in over 100 years, and to insist that our CDC experts be given access there."

The ads are slightly different for each state.

  • Each ad shows a clip of Biden speaking at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, in 2011: "I believed in 1979 ... and I believe now that a rising China is a positive development."
  • The group is simultaneously unveiling a website, "BeijingBiden.com."

Share this story.

9. Chris Cuomo says he gave virus to his wife

Chris Cuomo, 49, interviews his older brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, 62, last night. Screenshot via CNN

Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor who vividly describes his terrifying battle with COVID-19 in nightly shows from his basement in the Hamptons, said last night that his wife, Cristina, has been diagnosed with the virus two weeks after he announced he was infected, and that he believes he gave it to her:

  • "[I]t just breaks my heart. It's the one thing I was hoping wouldn't happen. And now it has."

Cuomo tweeted: "Kids are still healthy but this shook us at our literal core. All are stepping up. Can't wait to shake this fever so I can help her as she helped me. Sucks."

10. 1 smile to go: Nurse couple fights virus
Nurses Mindy Brock and Ben Cayer, at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Fla. Photo: Chief Nurse Anesthetist Nicole Hubbard via AP

Between surgeries one stressful morning, Ben Cayer and Mindy Brock — husband and wife, and fellow nurse anesthetists in Florida — peered through layers of protective gear, and locked eyes, AP's Carla Johnson reports.

  • Now the image, snapped by a coworker, is inspiring people around the globe.
  • Cayer, 46, said: "[W]e're all going through the same thing right now and it's a symbol of hope and love."
  • Brock, 38, adds: "What's important is that we stick together, we work together, and we always support each other. And not just Ben and I, but the human race right now."

They met in nurse anesthesia school in 2007. In classes, they sat in alphabetical order. Brock next to Cayer, she says, "and it just took off from there."

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