May 10, 2020

Axios AM

🌷 Happy Mother's Day, Barbara Jean Powers Allen!

Spoil someone today: If you have the gift of talking to your mom, give her a laugh by telling her: "I'm glad you're a mother!"

  • If you don't, it's a perfect time to thank someone else who helped shape your life.
  • Here's how to narrow it down. Think of someone who'd love to be thanked. Then thank them. Then think of someone who's never thanked. You know what to do ...

Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,057 words, 4½ minutes.

1 big thing: Pence fully embraces Flynn return

Photo: “Axios on HBO”

Vice President Mike Pence told "Axios on HBO" that he welcomes the idea of bringing Michael Flynn back into government, after the Justice Department moved last week to drop its criminal case against President Trump's former national security adviser.

  • "I think General Michael Flynn is an American patriot," Pence told me during the interview in Iowa on Friday. "And for my part, I'd be happy to see Michael Flynn again."

🎬 See a clip.

  • This episode of “Axios on HBO” debuts Monday at 11 p.m. ET/PT, on all the global platforms of HBO.

Why it matters: Trump said April 30 that he would "certainly consider" bringing Flynn back into the administration.

  • Since Flynn had been accused of lying to the vice president, Pence's blessing clears an obstacle to him returning to Trump’s inner circle.

The big picture: Trump lavished praise on the decision by his Justice Department to go to court to drop charges against Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

  • On Twitter, the president called the Justice Department's abandonment of the case "a BIG day for Justice in the USA. Congratulations to General Flynn, and many others. I do believe there is MUCH more to come!"
  • Trump insiders say they wouldn't be surprised to see Flynn back on campaign trail, where he was a warmup act for Trump in 2016.

See the clip.

2. The quarantine diet

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Now that we're all sheltering in place, convenient childhood food favorites — like hot dogs, soup and macaroni and cheese — are trumping the healthy options that prevailed pre-coronavirus, managing editor Jennifer Kingson writes.

  • Why it matters: A lot of food trends from the beginning of the year — the popularity of plant-based meat substitutes, low-alcohol/no-alcohol drinks, and products billed as organic or sustainable — have been tossed out the window.

Frozen foods (vegetables, pizzas, entrees) have seen historic sales increases, while canned goods and processed foods (soups, beans, tomato sauce) have been flying off supermarket shelves.

  • Among people who can afford it, meal kits are enjoying a renaissance (reviving the fortunes of companies like Blue Apron).
  • Restaurant chains like Shake Shack and Chick-fil-A are even introducing meal kits for home use.
  • Denny's "Complete Breakfast Meal Kit" serves "four to six and contains bacon strips, eggs, milk, biscuits or English muffins, grapes, strawberries, assorted jelly packets, and Signature Diner Blend Coffee," per Progressive Grocer.

On the beverage side, consumers who made "Dry January" such a big thing this year have been drowned out by the bored and anxious, who are driving up booze sales, quaffing "quarantinis" and hoisting Corona beer during Zoom happy hours.

  • The rise in drinking — beer, wine and cocktails included — stems from the same instincts as the ones driving us to childhood favorites like cookies, French fries and pancakes.
  • Dairy — once villainized — is making a comeback. "It's a complete protein, and it's calming to the senses," Suzy Badaracco, CEO of the food industry consultancy Culinary Tides, tells Axios. "Whether it's ice cream or cheese or butter — it's comfort food."

What to watch: Faux meats — plant-based foods that are eaten primarily by non-vegetarians — have lost steam during the pandemic, and that trend will continue, Badaracco says.

  • Even with a national meat shortage, she thinks people will seek out alternative sources of protein, like legumes, rather than imitation burgers.
  • Badaracco says "sustainability sales," which include organic foods, will continue to decelerate "due to cost, not desire."

Dig in.

3. Three members of White House task force are in quarantine
An artifact of the nation's "Fauci fever." Photo: Wild Heaven Beer via AP

Three members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force — Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn — placed themselves in quarantine after contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, AP's Kevin Freking reports.

  • Why it matters: It's another stark reminder that not even one of the world's most secure buildings is immune from the virus.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has tested negative and will continue to be tested regularly, the institute said.

  • He's at "relatively low risk" based on the degree of his exposure, and will be "taking appropriate precautions" to mitigate the risk to personal contacts while still carrying out his duties.
  • Fauci will stay at home and telework, but will go to the White House if called and take every precaution, the institute said.

Redfield will be "teleworking for the next two weeks" after it was determined he had a "low risk exposure" to a person at the White House, the CDC said.

  • The statement said he felt fine and has no symptoms.

Hahn, who tested negative, is in self-quarantine for the next two weeks.

What's next: All three are scheduled to testify on the Hill on Tuesday.

  • Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander said the White House will allow Redfield and Hahn to testify by videoconference.
  • The statement was issued before Fauci's quarantine was announced.
4. Pic du jour: The city weeps
Photo: Marvin Orellana/The New Yorker. By kind permission of The New Yorker

This is Astoria, Queens, at 1:11 a.m. on April 15, 2020 — the day New York was projected to see the peak of the pandemic.

  • Marvin Orellana, a senior photo editor, captured this image as part of a test-of-time project by The New Yorker, "A Coronavirus Chronicle: Twenty-four hours at the epicenter of the pandemic."
  • This was perhaps the biggest collaboration in the magazine's history, involving 30 writers, 17 photographers and scores of other editorial staff.

Why it matters ... As Michael Luo, editor of, told me: "It’s a poem to the city, capturing its pain and grief but also its resilience and resolve, as well as its beauty."

5. Data dive: Saddest jobs report ever
Graphic: Reuters
Graphic: Reuters
6. 1 smile to go: Getting creative for Mother's Day
Photo: Shelly Solomon via AP

Steve Turner and his sisters, Carla Paull and Lisa Fishman, hold up a Mother’s Day banner emblazoned with images of their mom, Beverly Turner, in front of her assisted living facility in Ladue, Missouri. (A practice session for today!)

Treats made and delivered by neighbors. Fresh garden plantings dug from a safe six feet away. Trips around the world set up room-to-room at home.

  • Mother's Day this year is a mix of love and extra imagination as families do without their usual brunches and huggy meet-ups, AP's Leanne Italie writes.

Some medical facilities are pitching in by collecting voice and video recordings from locked-out relatives.

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