Apr 4, 2021

Axios AM

🕊️ 🐰 Happy Easter! This is a post-brunch edition because I'm on Pacific Time — in Oregon for my first family trip since shutdown, celebrating a combo of Mom's birthday, Easter and nephew Gus' football senior night (capped by a Wildcats win).

  • Smart Brevity™ count: 971 words ... 4 minutes.
1 big thing: After 400 years, a change for Shakespeare

Photo: Erick Davila/The Public Theater

Shakespeare productions, from The Globe in London to community farmworker theaters in rural America, are embracing diverse casting to retell the Bard's dramas and comedies while confronting issues around race, Axios race and justice reporter Russell Contreras writes.

  • Why it matters: Shakespeare's plays, with contradictory messages on race and ethnicity, sometimes featured Black and Latino roles. Now, classical theater companies are experimenting with more diverse actors, amid the reckoning following the death of George Floyd.

In the photo above, the Public Theater and WNYC Studios recently debuted a Spanish/English audio adaptation of "Romeo y Julieta," starring Mexican-born Lupita Nyong'o and Colombian-born Juan Castano.

Arizona State English professor Ayanna Thompson, the first Black president of the Shakespeare Association of America, said the bard long influenced Black writers like James Baldwin.

  • She said formerly enslaved people and free African Americans also performed Shakespeare in the early 1800s.

Nelson Mandela kept a smuggled copy of the "Complete Works of Shakespeare" while a political prisoner at South Africa's Robben Island.

  • He wrote his name above a passage in Julius Caesar. The passage: “Cowards die many times before their deaths; / The valiant only taste of death but once.”

Between the lines: Scholars say there is more evidence that audiences during Shakespeare's time were more diverse than originally thought, and the playwright would have been exposed to travelers from around the world, including Africa and the Americas.

  • Often overlooked is Aaron the Moor in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, who refuses to kill his biracial baby and gives what is believed to be one of the first Black Power speeches in literature.
  • Aaron exclaims: "Coal-black is better than another hue, In that it scorns to bear another hue; For all the water in the ocean Can never turn the swan's black legs to white, Although she lave them hourly in the flood."

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2. FBI vacuums up huge trove on rioters

Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

In legal documents for the more than 300 suspects who been charged in the Capitol melee, the FBI reveals a sprawling array of tools and techniques, the WashPost's Drew Harwell and Craig Timberg write:

  • "license plate readers that captured suspects’ cars on the way to Washington; cell-tower location records that chronicled their movements through the Capitol complex; facial recognition searches that matched images to suspects’ driver’s licenses or social media."

1 phone, 12,000 pages of evidence: "In one case," The Post reports, "prosecutors said they gathered more than 12,000 pages of data from a suspect’s phone using Cellebrite, a tool popular with law enforcement for its ability to penetrate locked phones and copy their contents."

3. How schools will spend the stimulus

Freshman Hugo Bautista eats lunch Wednesday, separated from classmates by plastic dividers at Wyandotte County High School in Kansas City, Kan., on the first day of in-person learning. Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP

With a massive infusion of federal aid coming their way, schools across the U.S. are weighing how to use the windfall to tackle problems that existed long before the coronavirus, AP's Collin Binkley writes.

  • The $123 billion — offering some districts several times the amount of federal aid they receive in a single year — will help schools reopen and expand summer programs to help students catch up.
  • It also offers a chance to pursue programs that have long been seen as too expensive, such as intensive tutoring, mental health services and major curriculum upgrades.
Tami Lewis teaches pre-K at West Orange Elementary in Orange, Calif. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP

The catch: If important needs are overlooked — or if the money doesn't bring tangible improvements — schools could face blowback from their communities and from politicians who influence their funding.

  • To keep future costs in check, few schools are adding heavy personnel costs. Instead, they're adding teachers under short-term agreements, or hiring contractors for mental-health services.
4. Easter parade
Photo: Reed Werner

Outdoor service at National Presbyterian Church, on Nebraska Avenue NW in Washington, with live music over loudspeakers.

Photo: Marco Bertorello/ AFP via Getty Images

A nurse gives a patient a traditional Colomba Easter cake (dove bread) today in the COVID ward of the Maria Pia Hospital in Turin, Italy.

Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Pope Francis, 84, leaves Easter Mass at St. Peter's Basilica, The Vatican.

5. Trump auto-donate spurs flood of fraud claims
Via Twitter

In September, the Trump campaign began to default online donors into recurring automatic donations every week until the election. Givers had to wade through fine print and manually uncheck a box to opt out, the N.Y. Times' Shane Goldmacher reports (subscription).

  • Trump refunded $122 million in online donations, to $21 million for Joe Biden.

Flood of fraud claims: The Trump operation refunded 10.7% of money raised by WinRed, the company that processed online donations, The Times reports. The Biden operation's refund rate on ActBlue, the parallel Democratic online donation-processing platform, was 2.2%.

  • "Several bank representatives who fielded fraud claims directly from consumers estimated that WinRed cases, at their peak, represented as much as 1 to 3 percent of their workload. An executive for one of the nation’s larger credit-card issuers confirmed that WinRed at its height accounted for a similar percentage of its formal disputes."
6. Portrait of power
Via Twitter

The Biden-Harris cabinet, posted Thursday.

7. Why Facebook stock could rise 20%
Courtesy Barron's

Amid regulatory pressure and activist campaigns, Facebook "revenue and earnings have accelerated at impressive rates. Ultimately, Facebook’s two most important constituents— consumers and advertisers — just can’t quit the social network," Barron's writes (subscription).

  • The big picture: "Facebook’s population is closing in on three billion people. Along the way, the company has been forced to act more like a country than a tech giant. Facebook has developed its own version of a supreme court; it operates a satellite."
8. 🏀 Freshman shoots into Madness history
The shot. Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The buzzer-beating, overtime, game-winning three-pointer instantly etched in college lore:

  • With three seconds left in OT against UCLA, score 90-90, and a trip to the March Madness Final Two in the balance, Gonzaga freshman Jalen Suggs calmly took three dribbles ... past the half-court line ... a little stutter-step — and straight into history, AP's Eddie Pells writes.
  • Suggs, 19, banked in the 40-foot shot at the buzzer from near the Final Four logo for the 93-90 win over UCLA, vaulting the Zags to within one win of an undefeated season and the national title.
Photo: Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Gonzaga faces Baylor in the championship tomorrow in Indy (9:20 p.m. ET, CBS).

🎥 Watch: Axios' Eli Bovarnick puts The Shot to "The Titanic."

🏀 What's next ... Women's championship is tonight ... No. 1 Stanford v. No. 3 Arizona in all-Pac-12 showdown in San Antonio (6 p.m. ET, ESPN).

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