Category: Commentary

The End of Meat Is Here

Is any panic more primitive than the one prompted by the thought of empty grocery store shelves? Is any relief more primitive than the one provided by comfort food?

Most everyone has been doing more cooking these days, more documenting of the cooking, and more thinking about food in general. The combination of meat shortages and President Trump’s decision to order slaughterhouses open despite the protestations of endangered workers has inspired many Americans to consider just how essential meat is.

Is it more essential than the lives of the working poor who labor to produce it? It seems so. An astonishing six out of 10 counties that the White House itself identified as coronavirus hot spots are home to the very slaughterhouses the president ordered open.

In Sioux Falls, S.D., the Smithfield pork plant, which produces some 5 percent of the country’s pork, is one of the largest hot spots in the nation. A Tyson plant in Perry, Iowa, had 730 cases of the coronavirus — nearly 60 percent of its employees. At another Tyson plant, in Waterloo, Iowa, there were 1,031 reported cases among about 2,800 workers.

Sick workers mean plant shutdowns, which has led to a backlog of animals. Some farmers are injecting pregnant sows to cause abortions. Others are forced to euthanize their animals, often by gassing or shooting them. It’s gotten bad enough that Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, has asked the Trump administration to provide mental health resources to hog farmers.

Despite this grisly reality — and the widely reported effects of the factory-farm industry on America’s lands, communities, animals and human health long before this pandemic hit — only around half of Americans say they are trying to reduce their meat consumption. Meat is embedded in our culture and personal histories in ways that matter too much, from the Thanksgiving turkey to the ballpark hot dog. Meat comes with uniquely wonderful smells and tastes, with satisfactions that can almost feel like home itself. And what, if not the feeling of home, is essential?

And yet, an increasing number of people sense the inevitability of impending change.

Animal agriculture is now recognized as a leading cause of global warming. According to The Economist, a quarter of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 say they are vegetarians or vegans, which is perhaps one reason sales of plant-based “meats” have skyrocketed, with Impossible and Beyond Burgers available everywhere from Whole Foods to White Castle.

Our hand has been reaching for the doorknob for the last few years. Covid-19 has kicked open the door.

At the very least it has forced us to look. When it comes to a subject as inconvenient as meat, it is tempting to pretend unambiguous science is advocacy, to find solace in exceptions that could never be scaled and to speak about our world as if it were theoretical.

Some of the most thoughtful people I know find ways not to give the problems of animal agriculture any thought, just as I find ways to avoid thinking about climate change and income inequality, not to mention the paradoxes in my own eating life. One of the unexpected side effects of these months of sheltering in place is that it’s hard not to think about the things that are essential to who we are.

We cannot protect our environment while continuing to eat meat regularly. This is not a refutable perspective, but a banal truism. Whether they become Whoppers or boutique grass-fed steaks, cows produce an enormous amount of greenhouse gas. If cows were a country, they would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.

According to the research director of Project Drawdown — a nonprofit organization dedicated to modeling solutions to address climate change — eating a plant-based diet is “the most important contribution every individual can make to reversing global warming.”

Americans overwhelmingly accept the science of climate change. A majority of both Republicans and Democrats say that the United States should have remained in the Paris climate accord. We don’t need new information, and we don’t need new values. We only need to walk through the open door.

We cannot claim to care about the humane treatment of animals while continuing to eat meat regularly. The farming system we rely on is woven through with misery. Modern chickens have been so genetically modified that their very bodies have become prisons of pain even if we open their cages. Turkeys are bred to be so obese that they are incapable of reproducing without artificial insemination. Mother cows have their calves ripped from them before weaning, resulting in acute distress we can hear in their wails and empirically measure through the cortisol in their bodies.

No label or certification can avoid these kinds of cruelty. We don’t need any animal rights activist waving a finger at us. We don’t need to be convinced of anything we don’t already know. We need to listen to ourselves. We cannot protect against pandemics while continuing to eat meat regularly. Much attention has been paid to wet markets, but factory farms, specifically poultry farms, are a more important breeding ground for pandemics. Further, the C.D.C. reports that three out of four new or emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic — the result of our broken relationship with animals.

It goes without saying that we want to be safe. We know how to make ourselves safer. But wanting and knowing are not enough.

These are not my or anyone’s opinions, despite a tendency to publish this information in opinion sections. And the answers to the most common responses raised by any serious questioning of animal agriculture aren’t opinions.

Don’t we need animal protein? No.

We can live longer, healthier lives without it. Most American adults eat roughly twice the recommended intake of protein — including vegetarians, who consume 70 percent more than they need. People who eat diets high in animal protein are more likely to die of heart disease, diabetes and kidney failure. Of course, meat, like cake, can be part of a healthy diet. But no sound nutritionist would recommend eating cake too often.

If we let the factory-farm system collapse, won’t farmers suffer? No.

The corporations that speak in their name while exploiting them will. There are fewer American farmers today than there were during the Civil War, despite America’s population being nearly 11 times greater. This is not an accident, but a business model. The ultimate dream of the animal-agriculture industrial complex is for “farms” to be fully automated. Transitioning toward plant-based foods and sustainable farming practices would create many more jobs than it would end.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask a farmer if he or she would be happy to see the end of factory farming.

Isn’t a movement away from meat elitist? No.

A 2015 study found that a vegetarian diet is $750 a year cheaper than a meat-based diet. People of color disproportionately self-identify as vegetarian and disproportionately are victims of factory farming’s brutality. The slaughterhouse employees currently being put at risk to satisfy our taste for meat are overwhelmingly brown and black. Suggesting that a cheaper, healthier, less exploitative way of farming is elitist is in fact a piece of industry propaganda.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/21/opinion/coronavirus-meat-vegetarianism.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

We need to keep people from losing their homes. Here’s how we do it. Cancel rent and mortgage payments in California to prevent a wave of evictions

There’s no way around it: Sheltering in place is the only way to slow the spread of COVID-19. But social distancing demands a rare suite of opportunities and resources. Right now, millions of Californians living paycheck to paycheck, without the ability to work remotely, face impossible choices: stay home and risk losing everything, or make an income and risk spreading the virus? Pay for housing, or pay for food? When we finally “return to normal” and temporary relief efforts lift, responsible Californians stand to lose the very homes in which they sheltered. Unless we take action, the oncoming tsunami of evictions and foreclosures will eclipse even the darkest days of the Great Recession.

The solution is clear: we must cancel rent and mortgage payments in California. Here’s how we get that done.

First, we must acknowledge that fewer than one in three Americans can make an income working from home, and disparities break along racial and socioeconomic lines. Just under 20% of Black people and a mere 16% of Latinos have the privilege of working from home. For those without a college degree, that number is just 4%. While Unemployment Insurance claims have spiked to a record-high, surpassing the peak of California’s unemployment during the Great Recession, millions more have lost income with little or no recourse. Many will lose their jobs permanently.

Second, we must be clear that current policy in California provides no meaningful protection in the long-term. There is a temporary forbearance on mortgage payments for some — but not all — property owners. Those who cannot pay now must pay later. For renters, Governor Gavin Newsom’s “eviction moratorium” merely delays the inevitable. Anyone who can’t make rent during the shelter-in-place order will remain liable for back-rent, or face eviction after protections are lifted. Different counties across the state provide different grace periods before tenants will be subject to eviction. Mapping the legal patchwork the Governor has left to his 18 million renting constituents is disorienting, especially considering many lack the resources to secure legal representation.

Third, the current federal stimulus package won’t meet the needs of Californians. For Bay Area residents, a one-time payment of $1,200 will barely cover rent for a single bedroom.

Here’s what Newsom and the California Legislature need to do: Immediately issue an emergency declaration cancelling rent and mortgage payments for tenants and homeowners who have been hit by COVID-19 and/or its economic impacts for as long as the state of emergency is in place. And, if mortgage relief cannot be renegotiated with lenders, allow small landlords to deduct lost rent from their mortgage payments. This can be done using a simple, equitable formula: Total suspended rent payments, divided by total payments typically owed through the suspension period, multiplied by mortgage payments through the suspension period.

Under this formula, a landlord with a $5,000/month mortgage will have $15,000 of their mortgage forgiven over a three month suspension period if their tenants can’t pay any amount of rent. A landlord with the same mortgage and rent rate will be forgiven $7,500 over the same period if their tenants can only pay 50% of the rent.

While the California State Legislature has been out of session since March 16th, New York lawmakers remain hard at work virtually debating a bill to cancel rent and the above formula for mortgages. Here in San Francisco — where the Board of Supervisors has canceled its recess to continue legislating — Supervisors Matt Haney and Hillary Ronen recently held a joint press conference with other local elected officials from major cities to call for a federal and statewide rent and mortgage moratorium.

Even a month ago, the scope of this project might have sounded impossible, but the challenges of a global pandemic have unleashed our imaginations, and inspired dramatic solutions. Millions of Californians have retreated into their homes indefinitely. All but essential businesses have shuttered. Once bustling streets sit desolate. This time last year, the enormity of our action would have been unimaginable — the stuff of science fiction — but extraordinary threats demand extraordinary solutions. Now is the time to be bold.

Bending the curve is a collective project of unprecedented scale and urgency. San Francisco and California have led the nation in our public health response by taking early, ambitious action. Now we must again emerge as national leaders in our response to the coming eviction and foreclosure crisis. After years of local factionalism over housing, this common-sense policy should unite everyone. We need to keep people in their homes today, and ensure they don’t lose them tomorrow. Cancel rent and mortgages now.

Coronavirus Impact: How a Crisis Is Changing the U.S. Image

The coronavirus is changing how we live our daily lives. Taking a look at how the global pandemic has affected various aspects of life in the United States reveals the unique nature of this crisis.

Workers in the tourism industry are worrying about their livelihoods as governments across the world close borders, prohibit large gatherings and implement strict quarantines on entire regions and countries.

We spoke with several travel and hospitality workers. Each had their own story, but echoed similar concerns about the uncertainty about their future. In looking at an unprecedented worldwide coronavirus outbreak, they turned to the past: how their tourism industry had survived devastating hurricanes and destructive civil wars. They will survive this, too, they said.

A selection of their remarks is below. These interviews, conducted by telephone and email, have been edited and condensed for clarity.

TRANSPORTATION

Carlos Tamarit, 62, has worked as a driver for EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services in New Jersey for more than five years. He was laid off on Sunday.

With your family’s health concerns, are you worried about being exposed to the coronavirus?

As drivers we’re putting ourselves at risk. If coronavirus is coming from other countries, it’s coming from the airports, and who’s going to the airports? We do. Everyone who gets into the car is potentially a carrier. But in our position it’s either work and eat, or don’t work and don’t eat.

TOUR GUIDES

Jacob Knapp, 39, a tour guide working for Bespoke Lifestyle Management and living in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, has been out of work since Monday. On Sunday, the territory issued one of the most restrictive lockdowns in the United States.

You’ve not been able to give a tour since Sunday. How does it feel to be out of work?

I have a lot of worries. I have two boys — 2 and 4 years old, and one is diabetic and I have to be sure there’s always money for insulin — so I always have to provide. I just can’t not provide.

Something I learned with Hurricane Maria is you have to have a Plan B in life, and it has to be a complete opposite of your Plan A. After the disaster, the whole infrastructure was down and the only people who worked were those who worked with their hands — so I got certified as an electrician. I’m worried right now but, down the line, I have many doors open.

AIRLINES

A Chicago-based flight attendant for United Airlines, Maria Alpogianis, 51, has worked in the field for 25 years.

What is the physical and psychological toll?

I don’t feel I have a sense of job security. I really don’t. I’m flying with several very junior flight attendants who are terrified of losing their jobs and their insurance. I’ve been flying for 25 years and I, too, am afraid that I’m going to be furloughed.

When I leave somewhere I become concerned about not being able to get home because of the border closures. When we land we cringe because we don’t know what’s changed during the time we’ve been in flight.

Staying home due to the coronavirus? Here’s what to stock in your fridge and pantry

It’s important to stock up on foods that pack a nutritional punch. Here’s what to add to your shopping list.

The latest CDC recommendations call for people at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) to take action, including stocking up on groceries and any medications they may need. If you’re preparing to stay home more than usual, it’s important to have healthful foods on hand. That means selecting foods that pack a  nutritional punch in order to ensure you’re getting the fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other health- and immune-supporting compounds you need. It also means shopping for food that will last for an extended period of time — about two weeks’ worth for those who are quarantined. We hope you won’t be holed up for too long, but just in case, here’s a list of foods to buy.

See our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Fruits and vegetables

It’s a good idea to keep both your freezer and pantry loaded up with fruits and veggies. These foods supply the same nutrients as fresh produce but last a lot longer. Pick up unsweetened fruits, and unseasoned or low- or no-added-sodium veggies. You’ll also want to load up on some hardier perishables, which you can eat before going for your longer-lasting stash. Here are some fruits and veggies to add to your shopping list.

  • Long-lasting fruits: Think bananas, apples, grapefruit, oranges and clementines. Unripe bananas will ripen over the course of several days, so you can enjoy them as you go. You can also slice and freeze them for snacking or to toss in smoothies down the line. Citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C, which is crucial for keeping your immune system strong.
  • Frozen fruit: Load up on frozen berries, pineapple, mangoes and peaches which are perfect for making smoothies or topping yogurt and oatmeal. In addition to fiber, these gems contain phytonutrients, which play a key role in gut and immune health.
  • Freeze dried fruit: Crispy, freeze dried fruit supplies vitamins and minerals and is perfect for snacking and adding to trail mixes. You can find freeze dried blueberries, mangoes, and others at Trader Joe’s as well as all the mainstream markets.
  • Dried fruit: Shop for dried raisins, mango (which is a year-round nutritionist favorite), dates, figs, apricots, prunes, and whichever dried fruits you fancy. Just watch for dried fruits coated in added sugars (such as cranberries).
  • Canned and jarred fruits: No-added-sugar canned and jarred fruit are good, shelf-stable options. Shop for applesauce, pineapple, pears and peaches that are canned in 100 percent juice.
  • Long-lasting veggies: Start your at-home stay with hardy veggies, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peppers and cauliflower, which, when unwashed and uncut, stay fresh for several days. Carrots (in the refrigerator) and potatoes (on the counter) last even longer.
  • Frozen veggies: Pick from any you like! Try frozen spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, riced cauliflower, butternut squash and green beans. Stock up on these since they should form the foundation of the majority of your meals.
  • Dried veggies: For more variety and fun, try dried veggies, like, beets, carrots and kale. It’s another way to get ample nutrition.
  • Canned veggies: Dietitians keep these canned foods on hand for everyday eats. Canned pumpkin, canned tomatoes and canned olives are some top picks.

Protein

You want to make sure you’re getting sufficient protein throughout the day since your immune system cells rely on it. Without enough, you may start to feel weak and tired. In addition to chicken, shrimp and fish (which all freeze well for long-term use), Here are some solid sources:

  • Canned beans: Look for no-added-salt varieties, but if you can’t find them, rinse your beans under running water. It removes a good portion of the sodium. Stock up on chickpeas, lentils, black beans and others, and don’t overlook other bean-based canned foods, like canned, lower-sodium lentil and split pea soup, such as those from Amy’s Kitchen. These foods supply protein and fiber, along with health-supporting minerals, like magnesium and potassium. Research suggests that people who consistently eat these foods tend to outlive those who don’t.
  • Canned fish: Tuna, salmon and sardines are all great options. Our dietary guidelines call for two servings of seafood each week and canned fish is a convenient way to meet the mark. Try canned fish on top of salads or crackers, mixed with pasta, or get cooking and make fish cakes.
  • Chickpea and lentil pasta: These shelf-stable foods pack way more protein and fiber than ordinary noodles. Look for brands that feature one ingredient, such as Barilla Red Lentil Pasta.
  • Seeds: Seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds, supply some protein as well as fiber. Add them to your breakfast cereal (hot or cold) or use them to top salads, sautéed veggies or avocado toast.
  • Nuts: Pick up a variety of nuts, such as pistachios, pecans, walnuts, peanuts and almonds. You can use them to boost the nutrition and tastiness of a range of meals and snacks.
  • Dried, roasted beans: Along with plant-based protein, these foods supply fiber, vitamins and minerals. Look for dry roasted chickpeas, broad beans and edamame. If you like flavored versions, make sure to read labels and consider limiting those with added sugars, artificial sweeteners and excess sodium.
  • Cheese: Some hard cheeses, like Cheddar, can last more than two weeks as long as you make sure to store them properly. Shredded cheese can last even longer when frozen. You can also grab some dried cheese crisps (like Whisps and Just the Cheese). Cheese crisps stand in well for crackers and croutons, whether over salads or in a bowl of soup.
  • Eggs: Store eggs in their carton on a fridge shelf (rather than the door), where they’ll last for about three weeks. Boiled eggs will stay good in their shell for a week. They’re a convenient way to get a protein fix and they pair well with fresh or frozen veggies.
  • Milk: A cup of dairy milk provides 8 grams of protein — more than an egg. Unflavored, shelf-stable varieties sold in aseptic packaging are a great choice for emergency situations. You might want to load up on milk made for lunch boxes, like Horizon Organic low-fat milk, to get through your at-home stay. If you’re choosing plant-based options, only pea- and soy-based versions come close or match the protein content in dairy milk. Choose no-added-sugar versions of these dairy alternatives.

Grains and grain alternatives

Grains and grain alternatives, like bean-based pastas, provide fiber and other nutrients to keep you healthy during your at-home stay. Plus, they’re great as stand-alone side dishes or mixed in with other on-hand ingredients. You’ll definitely want to shop for these items.

  • Single ingredient grains: Shop for whole grains, such as steel cut oats, quinoa and brown rice. These make tasty and nutritious side dishes, and they’ll keep in your pantry the entire time you’re holed up — and beyond.
  • Pasta: Though whole grain options don’t contain the fiber and protein that chickpea and lentil versions supply, they’re still a worthwhile side dish and can serve as a good delivery vehicle for veggies and protein (such as sautéed shrimp or canned tuna).
  • Flours: Stock up on an assortment of flours, such as chickpea flour, almond flour and whole-grain flour. You might as well bake if you’re staying home! These flours provide more nutrition than processed, white flour.
  • Breads: It won’t stay fresh on the counter, but sliced, frozen bread will last for months. Make sure to buy 100 percent whole grain varieties or gluten free versions if needed.
  • Crackers: Whole grain (like Triscuits), seed (try Mary’s Gone Crackers) or nut-based (such as those from Simple Mills) varieties are delicious on snack plates. Serve them with cheese and fruit for a satiating and fun way to refuel. Swap the cheese for nuts if you want to keep it dairy free.
  • Cereal: Whole grain, low-added sugar and fiber-full cereals cover off on a lot of nutrients when fortified. Shop for varieties with at least three grams of fiber and less than 6 grams of added sugar (though no added sugar is ideal). Add fruit, nuts or seeds, and milk and breakfast is served.
  • Popcorn: You might be surprised to learn that this whole grain is loaded with antioxidants and fiber. You’ll appreciate having some of this on hand since you’ll no doubt have some extra time to watch Netflix. You can buy the kernels and pop them on your stove, or opt for a microwavable option, such as Quinn Snacks Microwave Popcorn

Extras

Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you want to cook everything from scratch. Make sure to buy some healthier convenience options, like veggie burgers, frozen entrees and even some dark chocolate. After all, it will be a long two weeks if you don’t have a treat handy.

The Student Loan Appeal Process the Government Doesn’t Tell You About

The Education Department has a powerful complaint resolution path that is kept largely out of sight.

In the deluge of complaints about a troubled program that pays off student loans for people who work in public service, one stands out for its frequency: Thousands of people say they were misled by loan servicers working on the U.S. government’s behalf.

It is among the most vexing problems with a program that has become a notorious quagmire, with a rejection rate of nearly 99 percent. Lawmakers, consumer advocates and desperate public servants say the Education Department should create a formal process to appeal denials, especially rejections that borrowers say were affected by mistakes made by servicers.

But it turns out the Education Department already has a system for investigating complaints and making fixes — it just keeps it very quiet.

At a training conference for financial aid professionals in December, a program specialist at the Education Department said during a presentation that if the agency finds out that it or the servicers it hires “did something wrong,” it will “hold the borrower harmless as a result.”

Those who think they have been harmed by a servicer’s error should file a complaint explaining what happened through the Federal Student Aid office’s feedback system on the StudentAid.gov website, the specialist, Ian Foss, said during his presentation. That routes complaints to the agency’s Ombudsman Group, and the department will then investigate and try to confirm the borrower’s account.

That startled many in the room.

“I was legitimately surprised,” said Ryann Liebenthal, a journalist who is writing a book on student debt and asked the question that prompted Mr. Foss’s answer. She had never before heard of the department’s dispute system.

But the agency has investigated hundreds of borrowers’ claims and found that they were given inaccurate advice or otherwise victimized by a servicer’s error, according to agency records and interviews with current and former government officials. After verifying their claims — using any records it could get, including the call recordings that most servicers keep — the department adjusted those borrowers’ accounts using what is known internally as an “override” credit.

Yet few borrowers know about the appeals process — and even government auditors think that’s a problem.

In a report last year, the Government Accountability Office found that “there is no formal process for borrowers who are dissatisfied” to challenge decisions and that the Education Department does not fully inform borrowers about their appeal options, including the Ombudsman Group.

The obscurity is intentional: The Education Department does not prominently advertise the feedback system because the manual investigations are time-consuming, according to three people familiar with the matter.

That frustrates advocates for borrowers. READ MORE:

Trump Impeachment: Making a Case Against a President, and Against Tuning Out

They played video. They brought graphics. They cited Alexander Hamilton so many times, they may owe royalties to Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The Democratic House impeachment managers, unfolding their case against President Donald J. Trump, were conducting a TV trial without many of the staples of legal drama, particularly witnesses on the stand. Instead, they relied on multimedia, impassioned speeches and repetition, repetition, repetition — all in a presentation of 24 hours over three days.

If the O.J. Simpson trial was a long-running daytime soap, this was democracy in binge mode.

The trial of Mr. Trump, as the TV pundits reminded us before, during and after, was an unusual one, in that much of the jury was assumed to already have a verdict in mind. This meant a different dynamic from the usual televised trial, in which the prosecution is speaking to the jury first and the viewing audience second, if at all.

Instead, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California and his team were effectively speaking to the court of public opinion — home viewers who might bring pressure to bear on certain swing senators, or turn against them at the ballot box — though they had to do so by at least arguing as if the outcome were not a foregone conclusion.

So there was the case, and then there was the case about the case. If the Republican majority was going to acquit the president, and if it was going to voting against calling witnesses and subpoenaing documents that might weaken his defense, the Democrats would make sure that the viewing audience knew it.

Their arguments often focused on what the audience wasn’t seeing and hearing, because the White House refused it. Wednesday night, Mr. Schiff made a refrain of referencing evidence — a diplomatic cable, a statement attributed to the former national security adviser, John R. Bolton — and turning it into a question to the Senate. Wouldn’t you like to read them? Wouldn’t you like to hear them? “They’re yours for the asking,” he said.

What the three days asked of viewers, largely, was patience. The constitutional stakes were as high as they come. But the dynamics were staid, thanks to Senate rules that limited TV coverage to two cemented-in-place camera vantages that gave the broadcast all the visual verve of a security-camera tape.

The managers’ most effective tool, both to break out of the visual monotony and substitute for live witnesses, was file video, which they used to string together the words of Mr. Trump and his staff into a kind of cinéma-vérité documentary of the often right-out-in-the-open scandal.

There was Mr. Trump at a news conference with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki, dismissing his own intelligence agencies’ findings on Russian hacking. There was his personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, regaling Fox News hosts about his Ukraine exploits. There was Senator John McCain, a frequent critic of Mr. Trump, summoned Friday as a posthumous witness.

Certain greatest hits went into heavy rotation. The acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, seemed to say “get over it” onscreen as often as his boss said “You’re fired” on “The Apprentice.”

The senators were a captive audience, though some ducked out, unseen by the stationary cameras. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina vanished before managers played a video of him, prosecuting the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999, in which he contradicted arguments he’s made to defend President Trump. (Mr. Graham did make himself available to cameras between sessions, as did the Democratic presidential candidates kept off the trail in Iowa by Senate duty.)

If any senators weren’t keen on their duty, a good chunk of their constituents were willing to volunteer. Eleven million viewers watched the trial’s first day — hardly Super Bowl numbers but more than watched the Clinton trial, though the numbers declined the next day. And the three major broadcast networks aired more of the trial during the daytime than in 1999, though they left the evening portion to cable news.

In a way, the Democrats programmed their presentation the way a cable news channel does. They recycled through their arguments and video clips during the daytime, for a home audience watching snippets here and there.

Then in prime time, they brought out their centerpiece programming, delivered by Mr. Schiff. (This was around where Fox News usually cut away, preferring its own prime-time hosts.) At the end of Friday’s session, he stepped back from the specifics of the abuse-and-obstruction cases to argue “moral courage” and putting country over party.

“Give America a fair trial,” he concluded. “She deserves it.”

The tone wasn’t entirely solemn. On Thursday evening, Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York told a story about a friend who’d just asked him if he’d heard about “the latest outrage.” Mr. Jeffries assumed this referred to Mr. Trump. Actually, his friend said, “Someone voted against Derek Jeter on his Hall of Fame ballot.”

Mr. Jeffries moved on to connect the American pastime of baseball with the American tradition of the Constitution. But his anecdote made another point. The House managers were not just vying with an opposition party and a truculent defender. They were pitted against every other distraction in the mediasphere, every other shiny enticement and new outrage offering a reason to tune out. READ MORE:https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/24/arts/television/trump-impeachment.html

Pompeo Denounces News Media, Undermining U.S. Message on Press Freedom

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo escalated his clash with a respected NPR journalist on Saturday, lashing out at her and what he called the “unhinged” news media in an extraordinary statement. A day earlier, he abruptly ended an interview with her and delivered what the news outlet described as a profanity-laced rant.

The statement, which used the fiery language to attack the news media that has become a trademark of President Trump’s, ignited outrage online among foreign policy experts, scholars of diplomacy and press freedom advocates.

Mr. Pompeo violated the goals and nonpartisan nature of his office, whose core mission is to promote American values worldwide, including freedom of the press, they said.

The interview between Mr. Pompeo and the reporter, Mary Louise Kelly, circulated widely after it was published on Friday night. Describing a tense exchange after a taped part of the interview, Ms. Kelly said that Mr. Pompeo shouted at her repeatedly using the “f-word” and challenged her to find Ukraine on an unlabeled map that his aides pulled out, which she did.

In his statement, released on Saturday morning by the State Department, Mr. Pompeo said: “It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency. This is another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this administration.”

He added, “It is no wonder that the American people distrust many in the media when they so consistently demonstrate their agenda and their absence of integrity.”

Mr. Pompeo also said Ms. Kelly, a veteran reporter who is a host of “All Things Considered,” had lied in “setting up our interview” and in agreeing to have the “post-interview conversation” off the record.

On the program, Ms. Kelly said Katie Martin, an aide to Mr. Pompeo who has worked in press relations, never asked for that conversation to be kept off the record, nor would she have agreed to do that.

Mr. Pompeo’s statement did not deny Ms. Kelly’s account of obscenities and shouting. NPR said Saturday that Ms. Kelly “has always conducted herself with the utmost integrity, and we stand behind this report.” On Sunday, The New York Times obtained emails between Ms. Kelly and Ms. Martin that showed Ms. Kelly explicitly said the day before the interview that she would start with Iran and then ask about Ukraine. “I never agree to take anything off the table,” she wrote.

Mr. Pompeo has occasionally issued statements calling on authoritarian governments to respect press freedoms. But he has insulted journalists and has even cursed at diplomatic reporters in private meetings.

His Saturday statement was notable for the public — and broad — denunciation of the news media.

The fact that it was released by his office, at the head of a department known for its decorum, made it even more galling to many observers.

Five Democratic senators sent a letter on Saturday to Mr. Pompeo denouncing his “irresponsible” comments and the “corrosive effects of your behavior on American values and standing in the world.”

“The unavoidable reality is Pompeo never would have been in contention for a senior-level appointment in a normal GOP administration,” Thomas Wright, the director of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution, said on Twitter. “He was promoted beyond his abilities because so many people were ruled out. The delta between what’s required & what he has is now on full display.”

Mr. Pompeo, a hawkish evangelical Christian who is a former Republican congressman from Kansas, tries hard to display loyalty to Mr. Trump and reiterate the president’s positions on issues. Mr. Pompeo has aspirations to run for president in 2024, his associates say, and he ties his political future to Mr. Trump’s support. READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/25/us/politics/pompeo-mary-louise-kelly.html

Can the Grammys Be Trusted?

When Deborah Dugan took her post as the chief executive of the Recording Academy, which oversees the Grammy Awards, in August, she inherited an organization in meltdown and was tasked with getting it back on track.

The problems were myriad. The Grammys, which have long skewed old, white and male, feel only tangentially in touch with contemporary pop music. Big-name stars have been distancing themselves from the event. Its record on diversity, both behind the scenes and at the winners podium, has been dismal. When faced with questions about the Grammys’ gender imbalance, Dugan’s predecessor, Neil Portnow, said that women needed to “step up.”

Drake gave a speech about not needing awards while picking up his most recent Grammy in 2019. He is not expected to attend the ceremony on Sunday.Credit…Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

In just a few months on the job, Dugan spotted trouble: voting irregularities in the nominating process; improbably hefty payments to lawyers; conflicts of interest among board members; a scheduled board vote to approve a sizable bonus for Portnow, despite the fact that he had been accused of rape by a musician, and the allegation had not been disclosed to all board members. (In a statement, Portnow said “the allegations of rape are ludicrous, and untrue.”) Behind the scenes of what is described as “music’s biggest night,” Dugan found malfeasance and rot. The catch: The Recording Academy didn’t want to change. On Jan. 16, 10 days before this year’s Grammy Awards, Dugan was placed on leave after being accused of bullying by an administrative assistant, and removed from the academy’s Los Angeles offices. Perhaps not coincidentally, Dugan had filed a memo last month detailing her concerns that “something was seriously amiss at the Academy.” After her ouster, she doubled down in a discrimination complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Now, on the eve of the 62nd annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, the legitimacy of the organization that hands out the trophies is in full-fledged crisis. Given Dugan’s allegations of behind-the-scenes misbehavior, it has to be asked: Can the Grammys be trusted?

Or perhaps: Have they ever been trustworthy? The question long predates the current scandal, and what Dugan unearthed seems only to confirm longstanding critiques of the awards show. The Grammys’ claim to authority has been brittle for some time, in large part because it has failed to keep up with the ways pop is evolving. During the 2010s, an era in which hip-hop and its influence have been not just ascendant but dominant, only one nonwhite artist, Bruno Mars, won the Grammy for album of the year; the results in the song and record of the year categories are only slightly better. The academy’s resistance feels willful and hopelessly prejudiced.

Superstars of this generation are taking notice, and taking umbrage. In 2016, Frank Ocean declined to submit his album “Blonde” for Grammy consideration, telling The New York Times that the Grammy process “doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down.” Last year, Drake diminished the importance of winning awards during his acceptance speech for best rap song, and in 2017, expressed bafflement at winning that same prize for “Hotline Bling,” which was, he pointed out, “not a rap song.” Kanye West — who has won 21 Grammys, but never in a major category — has long made the Grammys a target of his ire.

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The issues with the Grammys extend to the televised show as well. In 2018, Lorde was the only woman nominated for album of the year, and was not offered a solo performance slot. Last year, Ariana Grande publicly clashed with Ken Ehrlich, the show’s longtime executive producer, about why she chose not to perform. (This year will be Ehrlich’s last at the helm after a 40-year run; Grande is scheduled to perform.)

So: several of the most inventive, meaningful and popular musicians of the decade, all expressing dismay with the Grammys. These aren’t mere celebrity quibbles; this is a flaming cross-generational blind spot. Broadly speaking, nonwhite artists, female artists, and artists who come from the worlds of hip-hop and R&B are consistently marginalized, honored in genre categories but shut out in the four major categories (album, song and record of the year, and best new artist). Add it all up, and you get impending irrelevance.

This is bolstered by the peculiar Grammy microphenomenon in which little-heralded artists get nominated in the biggest categories, but typically for music that harks back to the past rather than blazes a path to tomorrow. It can feel that the only way for a newish artist to truly break through is to look backward. (The nominations this year point to a kind of progress: Lizzo, Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X lead the way in the major categories.)

And yet the Grammys remain the most meaningful and respected of the music-industry awards shows, though admittedly there is not much competition. The American Music Awards are based on fan votes, the Billboard Music Awards are doled out based on sales, and the MTV Video Music Awards celebrate artists who still believe MTV is a relevant music medium. (Around 20 million people watch the Grammys ceremony on television, though the last two have had the lowest viewership ever in the coveted 18-49 demographic.)

From the outside looking in, the Grammys are understood to be a meritocracy, the night on which the industry honors its leading lights and passes the torch to deserving newcomers. But the truth has always been more complicated, and more unseemly.

Grammy nominations are shaped by a number of committees — for the major categories, and some genre-specific ones — whose composition remains secret. They effectively have override power, and can cherry-pick nominees. It is, in essence, a cabal, Dugan alleges — a system that can be scammed by people with the right connections. (The Grammys deny this.)

The Recording Academy only recently made an aggressive push to invite younger artists to become Grammy voters. That was part of a broader initiative undertaken in the wake of the Portnow “step up” kerfuffle, when the organization hired Tina Tchen of Time’s Up to lead a diversity and inclusion task force. Its final report, released last month, was harsh in its assessment of the academy’s historical lack of commitment to diversity.

Grammy voters skew older, male and white, unlike the musicians pushing pop into the future. Honoring the music of the now via the judgment of the creators of yesteryear is a disaster in waiting, an almost certain guarantee of misrepresentation. Several years of this have built up a climate of mistrust that it’s unclear the enterprise can recover from.

Dugan’s appointment was supposed to disinfect the Grammys, but her removal only reveals how ambitious that task remains. Yet since the statements in her complaint were made public on Tuesday, there has been curiously little outcry from musicians, either because of a lack of genuine interest or concern, or something less obvious. Behind the scenes, artists share labels, publicists, lawyers. Everyone knows someone who benefits from the system as it currently operates, and perhaps believes that if they just keep quiet, they too may someday be on the right side of the swindle.

Or perhaps it is already accepted that the Grammys are more interested in protecting the interests and reputations of its elder members than promoting the innovations of younger generations. The current revelations merely confirm what has long been suspected, or implicitly understood.

Besides, corruption in the music business doesn’t begin and end with the Grammys. The #MeToo movement that swept Hollywood has gained little momentum in pop music. Everything is a little bit fishy — some artists release merchandise bundles with their music to juice sales numbers; others beg fans to stream their music to get good chart placements. Younger artists arrive into a system that’s already rigged against them. And those in power don’t know how to cede it.

If the Grammys don’t rapidly absorb change, its claim to be the standard-bearer music awards platform will be rendered null. Forward-looking musicians will seek out new platforms that are more in touch, leaving the Grammys with scraps, eroding their authority and their allure. Before long, perhaps no one will crave a Grammy at all. SOURCE OF THIS STORY: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/25/arts/music/grammys-controversy.html

Trap Kitchen Uses Food to Rewrite Compton’s Narrative | The Spirit of Conviction

Matthew McConaughey narrates the story of Trap Kitchen founders Spank and News, rival gang members who used a mutual passion for food to create a successful business in Compton. The episode highlights how the entrepreneurs are rewriting their narrative and what happens when people put their differences aside and come together for the greater good of the community.
“The Spirit of Conviction” is a weekly docu-series narrated by Academy Award-winner Matthew McConaughey that dives into the lives of complex individuals who are constantly creating, disrupting, and challenging norms while remaining authentic to who they are.