Apr 30, 2020

Axios AM

💻 Great conversation today at 12:30 p.m. ET: Axios will host a live virtual event on the impact of the virus on modern work life.

  • Erica Pandey and Jim VandeHei talk with Slack CEO and co-founder Stewart Butterfield, and Verizon chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg. Register here.
1 big thing: Our lost summer

Even as some states take steps to open up their economies, huge parts of our lives will stay shuttered well through August and possibly beyond, Axios' Kim Hart writes.

  • Summer rituals like trips to the pool and ballpark, BBQs and vacations may have a missing year. 
  • Why it matters: That will have an enormous impact on families, education and businesses — not to mention our mental health, which needs a summer break more than ever. 

Education: The lost summer could turn into a lost year academically. What used to be a three-month summer learning loss could turn into five or six months, said Khan Academy CEO Sal Khan during an Axios virtual event.

  • "Based on the historical data, it looks like kids will not only not learn for those six months, but they’ll be forgetting for those six months — so they’ll probably lose an entire year," Khan said.
  • The data he cites comes from researchers with the Northwest Evaluation Association who predict that, for students who received limited or no instruction during the school closures from March through August, they may only retain about 70% of their reading progress compared to a normal year.
  • Some school districts are launching virtual summer programs to reduce summer slide. Others are considering mandatory remedial programs.

Businesses: Summer is a make-or-break period for many small businesses in tourist-reliant areas. Summer vacations are as vital to the hospitality industry as Black Friday is to retail.

Families: The strain on families on all levels will have a cumulative effect. Summer months are often times to take a breather, slow down and get out of town. That won’t happen this year for most.

Work routines: Virtual work fatigue is setting in. By September, our patience, routines and willpower will be frayed and weak. 

What to watch: Summer also brings some level of complacency risk when it comes to coronavirus.

  • If the virus has high seasonality, meaning it subsides with warmer weather, we may be lulled into a false sense of security.
  • Public health officials fear that could set us up for a second wave to roar back come fall, possibly leading to the loss of yet another season — or two.

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2. Trump's virus slump

President Trump's name appears on stimulus checks. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump's handling of the virus crisis has produced a political emergency for the White House, with a raft of signs suddenly pointing to possible big trouble when he faces re-election six months from now:

  • His favorability rating, mostly stable throughout his presidency, has ticked down in Gallup to 43%, from 49% on March 22.
  • A furious Trump blew up at his campaign team last week and snapped at campaign manager Brad Parscale, saying at one point, "I am not f---ing losing to Joe Biden," AP reported.
  • The backdrop was a series of swing-state polls showing real trouble for Trump, and a string of polls showing older voters — a bedrock group for the president — drifting to Biden.
  • Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), a Trump loyalist who's up for re-election, said during an off-the-record conference call this week, according to CNN: "The state of Georgia is in play" — a jarring read on a traditionally red state where Trump beat Hillary Clinton by five points.
  • Trump led in Florida polls in March but is now modestly behind Biden, per the Tampa Times.

A senior White House official, reflecting the view of many in Trump's orbit, told Axios: "I think you can take a snapshot of the first of May, and it’ll be incredibly different than the first of November."

  • "The likelihood you’ll have several months of job growth and a better economy in November is a real thing."

Behind the scenes: Trump administration officials privately tell Axios' Alayna Treene and Margaret Talev that the virus has made them more worried about the election than they’ve ever been.

  • Trump had been riding a strong economy his entire time in office. Now, the Nov. 3 outcome could well depend on whether he's able to conjure signs of recovery out of this calamity, with 26.5 million jobs lost in five weeks.

Between the lines: All this comes amid yet more West Wing turnover, with aides divided about how to respond.

  • And the Trump playbook — punch back, blame someone else — has been off-key in this moment.

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3. Jackpot for liability lawyers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump’s executive order reopening meat processing plants — even though they're virus hot spots — raises a tangle of liability issues that could keep courts and trial lawyers busy for years, Axios managing editor Jennifer Kingson writes.

  • Why it matters: The scrap over meat plants previews what other businesses will face once commerce opens up more broadly.

What's happening: Meat processing workers, many of them low-income immigrants and minorities, are being recalled to plants where thousands have been sickened.

  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to President Trump on Tuesday pushing him to curb the amount of liability businesses could face.
  • The letter warned against a scenario where "government bureaucrats enforcing a rule book of regulations" could "issue fines when they find a sneeze guard out of place."
  • The letter was delivered to a receptive audience: Trump and his economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, are said to be in favor of a "liability shield" that would "prevent businesses from being sued by customers who contract the coronavirus," the Washington Post reports.

Lawyers say the meat producers being forced to reopen plants — like Tyson Foods, Conagra, Smithfield Foods, JBS and Cargill — could face a range of legal challenges if their workers get sick.

  • "The overwhelming majority of the workforce could have worker's comp claims," David Domina, a trial practice lawyer in Omaha, tells Axios.

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4. Time capsule
L.A. Times
5. CDC suggests students eat in classrooms, not cafeteria
Cover courtesy of TIME

Businesses should close break rooms. Restaurants should consider disposable menus and plates. Schools should have students eat lunch in their classrooms instead of the cafeteria.

Those are some of the recommendations in draft CDC guidance, AP reports:

  • In the initial reopening phases, schools should space desks six feet apart and nix any field trips and school assemblies.
  • Churches should use a stationary collection box, and schedule extra services if necessary to make sure church pews aren't packed.
  • Restaurants should consider throwaway menus, single-service condiments, and disposable forks, knives, spoons, and dishes. They should install sneeze guards at cash registers and avoid buffets, salad bars and drink stations.


6. 📦 Amazon calls Trump blacklisting a "personal vendetta"

Amazon blasted an unusual accusation in an annual report by President Trump's trade office as a "purely political act" that's part of a "personal vendetta."

  • U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer's office put five of Amazon’s overseas domains (Canada, France, Germany, India and the U.K.) on a list of "notorious markets” where pirated goods are sold, AP reports.
  • Why it matters: Trump has clashed repeatedly with Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post.

Amazon's Jodi Seth said in a statement: "This purely political act is another example of the administration using the U.S. government to advance a personal vendetta against Amazon."

  • "Amazon makes significant investments in proactive technologies and processes to detect and stop bad actors and potentially counterfeit products from being sold in our stores."
  • "We are an active, engaged stakeholder in the fight against counterfeit."

Lighthizer's office didn't respond to a request for comment on Amazon's blast.

7. Biden announces V.P. search committee
Photo: "PBS NewsHour" via Getty Images

Joe Biden is one step closer to naming a running mate, announcing four co-chairs and a committee to vet candidates for a job he has committed to filling with a woman, Axios' Alexi McCammond reports.

  • The selection committee will be headed by Biden's longtime friend, former Sen. Chris Dodd; Cynthia Hogan, a longtime aide and adviser who was Biden's vice presidential counsel in the Obama White House; and two national campaign co-chairs, Delaware Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Keep reading.

8. Flynn lawyers: Docs point to FBI set-up
Screenshot of Flynn court filing

A federal judge last evening "unsealed new documents in former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s criminal case that his lawyers say are evidence the government tried to set him up in a 2017 interview," per the Wall Street Journal.

  • One passage reads: "What is our goal? Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?"

Why it matters: The documents can only help Flynn's hope for a pardon from President Trump.

🚨 This was the lead story on Sean Hannity's Fox News show last night, with the graphic: "DEEP STATE RECKONING."

9. Andreessen Horowitz raises $515 million for second crypto fund

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz has raised $515 million for its second fund dedicated to cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies, Axios' Dan Primack reports.

  • Strategy: Like its $300 million predecessor, the fund will primarily back crypto-related startups, but also will buy and hold some crypto assets.
  • Zoom in: "We're a crypto venture fund, not a crypto hedge fund," said partner Katie Haun. "We invest in them after evaluating the technologies and don't trade them."

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10. 1 smile to go

Photos: Philippe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images

These shots, which for some reason popped up from 2018, reminded me of outdoor freedom:

  • Johan Tonnoir practices parkour — urban acrobatics described as skateboarding without a skateboard — in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

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