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.
Today is Easter. With so much of our personal, social and professional routines disrupted, this is an Easter unlike any other. We hope you take some time to pause, connect with people you care about and reflect on what truly matters.
📰 The week in brief
For the first time ever the US government applied the label of “terrorist organization” to a white supremacist group. The group, known as the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), provides paramilitary training to white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Europe.
Forbes released the World’s Billionaires List this week. Spoiler alert: with a net worth of $113 billion, Jeff Bezos is still the world’s wealthiest person. Bezos owns 11% of Amazon, a trillion dollar empire spanning technology, ecommerce, apparel, energy, food, media and entertainment, and logistics.
General Motors announced it will produce 30,000 ventilators and deliver them to the Federal Government by the end of August. The Detroit automaking powerhouse indicated that it’s partnership with Ventec Life Systems would enable them to build the critical-care devices; each ventilator will cost approximately $16,000.
Bernie Sanders has ended his presidential campaign, clearing the path for Joe Biden to be the Democratic nominee for president.
✝️ Death may give life to black churches
The Black church is one of the strongest institutions on the planet. Yet, even with that strength, the current health crisis is pruning the institution of the church, and ministry in general looks different. Despite many worship centers having to close their doors, the death of what church used to be will make room for the growth of a new generation.
Uncertainty is nothing new to the history of Christianity—nor the story of black people. Easter takes our social distancing, confusion, and angst and reminds us of resurrection. We are reminded that the other side of death is life. We can no longer look in old places where people used to gather, but must dare to imagine new spaces, and new methods, built upon the foundations of old.
Some things that you can do today—or any day—to ensure that you are spiritually centered are:
engage in prayer or meditation
sing worship songs or playing reflective music
read scriptures or other encouraging texts
conduct religious rituals at home
COVID has reminded us that although the methods of worshipping, giving, and connecting have changed, the traditions surrounding faith itself will remain the same.
We are socially distant right now, but we await with hope and a blessed assurance of what is to come.
Contributed by subscriber Rev. Cameron Robinson, a priest in the Anglican Church in North America. He is a full-time educator, a writer, and a proud South Carolinian. You can find more of his work at ArthurCameronBlog.com.
🗳 What really happened, Wisconsin?
In our current global health crisis, leaders claim staying healthy at all costs is paramount. Wisconsin’s Health Services Secretary explicitly said in-person voting would accelerate the transmission of COVID-19 and increase the number of cases in Wisconsin, thereby resulting in more deaths.
Despite this warning, Wisconsin’s Democratic electorate was essentially forced to go to the polls—when 17 other states (and Puerto Rico) successfully postponed their primaries with not so much as a whisper.
Let’s take a look at the political landscape in America’s dairyland. First, Wisconsin’s Democratic governor proposed to delay the April primary to early June through an executive order. Wisconsin’s state legislature, which is largely republican, overrode it. That disagreement went up to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Those justices ordered the election to take place despite, just days earlier, suspending in-person court proceedings. until Memorial Day.
The shenanigans don’t stop there. Wisconsin voters requested approximately 1.3 million absentee ballots due to the pandemic. A ridiculous number of absentee ballots that had been mailed via USPS out were mysteriously returned and never reached their final destinations. The fight over the fate of absentee voting went first to a federal judge who decided to extend the due date for Wisconsin absentee ballots due to staggering demand amidst concerns about coronavirus. But, hours before the election, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that decision of the lower federal court. So, basically, if Wisconsin voters wanted their voices to be heard, all absentee ballots had to be postmarked by the original day of the election. Any citizens lost in the shuffle of the thousands of unanswered absentee ballot requests had to choose between (1) not voting at all or (2) waiting in lines at the polls, exposing themselves to COVID-19.
Was any of this necessary?
Well, just beyond the smoke and mirrors of the presidential primary in the badger state lies a State Supreme Court race. Evidently a sitting conservative judge was up against a progressive rival. and republicans wanted to help him keep his seat by suppressing the vote in liberal leaning communities. The Republicans in Wisconsin want conservative justices on the court to push their conservative agenda. The citizens of Democratic counties like Milwaukee faced ridiculously long lines because the number of polling places had been cut from approximately 180 down to barely a handful. Allegedly, staffing shortages were to blame, but in other, more suburban parts of the Badger state, the process ran much more smoothly.
The absentee votes of approximately 10,000 people weren’t counted because poll workers simply didn’t have the manpower to deal with them.
We know that things like low turn out in elections and inadequate absentee voting accommodations in Democratic strongholds only benefit the GOP. Donald Trump himself even said that if it were easier to vote, Republicans would stop getting elected!
What happened in Wisconsin may be a foreshadowing of what could befall the entire country in November.
What you can bank on is that manipulating the way citizens choose government leaders in America—on every level—is a game that can easily be played and easily won by those who exploit the vulnerabilities of voters in a crisis.
Internet dating has been around since the invention of the world wide web. Many people would rather meet their mate the “traditional” way but nowadays many people meet on the internet. In fact, these conventional ways of meeting have fallen in popularity according to a 2019 Stanford study.
With a majority of the nation under shelter in place orders and with this growing norm of social distancing, many singles find themselves trying to navigate a new dating landscape.
Although dating apps sales are projected to decrease, the apps’ goal of maintaining their audiences seems to be working. Dating apps like Match Group and Bumble reported an increase in communication and a growing interest in video calls. In March, Bumble experienced a 93% increase in video chats and voice calls. Other companies like Match Group, Inc. have used this time to pivot by expanding its video capabilities on Plenty of Fish and Twoo despite past skepticism.
A large benefit of dating during this time is that virtual dates cost nothing. Dates now look like video chatting over coffee or watching a movie together in separate locations in sweats and socks. There is no anxiety over who pays the bill or where to go. There is no reason to spend hours putting on makeup or getting dressed to go out with someone that you don’t connect with. Quarantine online dating allows people to have more meaningful conversations. It also gives people more time to get to know each other before meeting in person. It’s also much easier to end a bad virtual date than an in person one.
With Dr. Fauci predicting a future of compulsive hand washing and no hand shakes, one can also imagine that the social norms of dating will also change.
👀 “If I can be provocative”
The most effective way to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic is to develop a vaccine—a process of developing a vaccine may take a year or more. In the meantime, the best way to fight COVID-19 is to treat the symptoms.
To speed up the process of developing a treatment for COVID-19, the World Health Organization organized a set of protocols by which any hospital in the world can participate in an experiment on a global scale. The effort is called the Solidarity clinical trial:
Multiple small trials with different methodologies may not give us the clear, strong evidence we need about which treatments help to save lives. WHO and its partners are therefore organizing a study in many countries in which some of these untested treatments are compared with each other. This large, international study is designed to generate the robust data we need, to show which treatments are the most effective.
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (March 18, 2020)
The Solidarity trial tests four existing medicines for their effectiveness against the novel coronavirus: remdesivir, an antiviral; lopinavir/ritonavir, a treatment for HIV; interferon beta-1a, an anti-inflammatory currently used to treat multiple sclerosis; and chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, which are used to treat malaria and inflammatory diseases such as lupus.
This global scale of collaboration is unprecedented, seemingly uniting the whole of humanity against a common threat.
But white supremacy persists.
In a television interview earlier this month, French physician Jean Paul Mira posed a question to Camille Locht, who leads the French government’s efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine:
Experimentation on black bodies isn’t new: well known examples include J. Marion Sims’ experimental surgeries on enslaved black women in the 1800s and the Tuskegee syphilis experiment on black men from 1932-1972.
Neither is it passé: in 2011 Pfizer settled a case brought by Nigerian families who alleged the pharmaceutical giant tested experimental drugs on their children without the parents’ knowledge or consent.
The French doctor’s suggestion for testing a COVID-19 vaccine in Africa elicited an international backlash.
The Director General of the World Health Organization condemned the suggestion, describing it as a “hangover from a colonial mentality.”
These white supremacist narratives and colonial mindsets undoubtedly undermine the efforts of recruiting more African countries to participate in the Solidarity clinical trials. Currently South Africa is the only country on the continent to participate. Nigeria is running its own chloroquine trials to treat COVID-19 patients; Kenya and Egypt have begun work to develop a vaccine.
The French doctors have since issued their respective apologies, which mostly imply their statements were taken out of context. However, any question about what Dr. Mira actually meant can be found in how he prefaced his statement:
“If I can be provocative…”
📺 Insecure watch party ...at your house!
You may not be able to enjoy Easter ham and homemade potato salad with your extended family or friends this year, but what you can enjoy is the Season 4 premiere of Insecure that airs tonight on HBO. New episodes of the witty, hilarious, for-the-culture, series could not be more timely. Issa, we just want to thank you in advance for lifting our spirits this spring.
Here’s what we can look forward to:
Like what you see? Suggestions? Criticisms? Anything we missed? We’d love to hear from you!
Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org.