Issue #3

COVID-19, DNA, Bessie Coleman, Jay Electronica

This is The Dossier.

Each Sunday we deliver the latest developments in world affairs, political economy and culture straight to your inbox, served with a generous side of soul.

We spend the week scouring the internets for essential information and meaningful content to keep you informed, inspired and mildly entertained.

On this day in 1933, the NAACP launched a segregation suit against the University of North Carolina system on behalf of a student denied admission to pharmacy school. Hocutt v. Wilson failed, but it served as a forerunner for Brown v. Board in 1954.

Today historically black colleges and medical schools continue to play an outsized role in producing black doctors.

🦠 COVID-19 🦠

The World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

The N.B.A., N.H.L., M.L.S. and M.L.B. suspended games. The N.C.A.A. canceled all of its championships.

Hospitals are running out of beds in Northern Italy.

Iran is digging mass graves.

State and local governments have closed schools and cancelled public events.

President Trump restricted travel from Europe and declared a national emergency.

You can’t find hand sanitizer.

For some reason toilet paper is scarce. 

Nike and Apple are closing their stores and grocery stores are trimming their hours.

The House passed a coronavirus relief bill that includes free testing for everyone, including the uninsured, job protections through FMLA, two weeks paid sick leave, enhanced unemployment benefits, additional food aid and federal funds for Medicaid. It'll head to the Senate this week and then be signed by the President.

And just today the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to zero for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis.

The New York Times is providing free access to all articles about the coronavirus outbreak to help you understand the pandemic and its impact.  

A lot has transpired in a matter of days. The question remains: how did we get here?

Vox explores how China’s wet markets are linked to pandemics like SARS (and most recently COVID-19), why they were permitted by the Chinese government and why they aren’t banned yet. (SPOILER ALERT: blame the rich.)

As the coronavirus pandemic spurs both a health crisis and an economic crisis, The Root just posted a sign of what’s to come:

Now. Guys. 😂 Oh New York.
March 15, 2020

🧬 No royalties inside your DNA

Pharmaceutical companies, health start-ups, and laboratories have caught on to the fact that there is hidden treasure in your DNA. Privacy—when it comes to genetic material specifically—is a huge issue, and it has been for quite some time. 

Do you know the story of Henrietta Lacks? In 1951, Mrs. Lacks was treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital for cervical cancer. A sample of her cancer cells were removed from her body without her permission or knowledge as they were found to reproduce rapidly. These “HeLa cells” are ever growing cellular building blocks ‘ideal’ for medical research and have since been used to study everything from viruses to vitriolic substances. While we applaud the advancements of modern science, we must not forget that Lacks never consented to being the mother of cancer research and her family will never (ever!) truly be compensated for what she contributed to the world of medicine. 

On a related note, you might be aware that taking at-home DNA tests like AncestryDNA and 23andMe gives these companies the rights to your genetic material indefinitely. These corporations sell DNA to pharmaceutical companies for research.

If you take a note from Henrietta’s experience, you may want to pause before you swab and send. You are basically giving these companies your genetic makeup for free, so they can develop prescription drugs to sell back to you at a break-neck price. Finding out that you are 20% Ghanaian may or may not be worth it to you, but just know you won’t be seeing any of those coins.

⛽️ From Russia with love

In Russia, Vladimir Putin is all powerful. Having ascended to the presidency in 2000, Putin has dominated Russian national life for the last 20 years and he’s shown no signs of stopping. This week, Putin’s political allies introduced a proposal that would effectively allow him to serve as president through 2036.

Putin’s power extends beyond Russia’s borders -- and that’s not only because he’s invading countries. In the United States, Putin is at least as responsible for the result of the 2016 election as, say, Pennsylvania and Ohio

And with the spread of the coronavirus sapping global demand for oil, Russia pushed Saudi Arabia into an oil price war that sent shockwaves throughout the global economy.

The drop in oil prices was the largest ever since the first US invasion of Iraq in 1991. While lower oil prices benefit consumers at the pump, they put intense pressure on Nigeria and other petrostates who depend on oil revenues.

That’s right, not only did Putin pick your president, he practically predetermined the price you’re paying at the pump. (Now say that three times really fast while googling “US energy independence.”)

🧮 2020 Census

The 2020 Census is underway. The practice of taking the census was actually written into the constitution and the data from the once-a-decade tradition determines representation in Congress, as well as funding for schools, public services and infrastructure, among other things.

States and localities redraw electoral districts as populations increase or decrease. Underreporting will most definitely lead to underrepresentation. While the Supreme Court was able to stop the Trump administration from actually putting a citizenship question on the census, the attention that those efforts garnered may still intimidate undocumented residents. Lawmakers are also worried about the technical integrity of census data as folks will be able to fill it out online. Census workers encourage participation from low income residents in person by going door to door, but these efforts will certainly be hindered by the coronavirus pandemic.

🗞 Essence CEO steps down

On March 31, 2020, Michelle Ebanks, CEO of Essence Communications, Inc. will step down from the role that she’s held since 2018. Michelle was instrumental in restoring Essence to being black owned in 2018.  Michelle will be joining the board of parent company Essence Ventures. As Essence Communications seeks its new CEO, Essence Ventures founder & chairman Richelieu Dennis will oversee the company.

Roland Martin has the story:

👑 Queen Bess

Like many Americans, the only woman pilot I had ever heard of was Amelia Earhart. I certainly never imagined that a woman of color was able to obtain a pilot’s license in the 1920s, let alone take the country by storm as an aviator.

Charlotte Mangin producer and director of American Masters — Unladylike2020

In 1921, Bessie Coleman became the first black woman to earn a pilot's license, the first black woman to fly an airplane, and the first American with an international pilot's license. Today, only 7 percent of all pilots in the U.S. are women; less than 1 percent are black women. 

🗳 2 candidates, 6 feet apart

As we write this, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders debate each other in Washington, DC.

There is no live audience.

And the candidates are standing six feet apart, per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.

The 11th — and perhaps final — Democratic presidential debate will be one of contrasts. Expect Sanders to focus on substance, pushing the former Vice President from the left. Biden, meanwhile, will give his best charades performance of the word “presidential.”

You can catch the debate on CNN.

📀 A Written Testimony

Jay Electronica just dropped his debut album, A Written Testimony. Music critic Marcus J. Moore calls it “a righteous step forward,” giving the album a B+.

Check it out here:

Like what you see? Suggestions? Criticisms? Anything we missed? We’d love to hear from you!

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