South Korea Reports No New Domestic Coronavirus Cases – Scott Neuman April 30, 20206:10 AM ET


A worshiper burns incense during a Birthday of Buddha service to pray for overcoming the coronavirus pandemic at Jogyesa Temple in Seoul on Thursday.
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

South Korea, which waged an early battle against COVID-19 after the disease emerged from China, said on Thursday that it had no new domestic cases for the first time since a surge nearly ten weeks ago.

The country experienced its first case on Jan. 20, but didn’t see infections ramp up until mid-February. They peaked on Feb. 29 with 909 daily cases and have been trending down ever since.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported just four new coronavirus infections on Thursday, all of them cases that came from outside the country. That brings the total number in the country to 10,765, with 247 deaths.

Thursday’s milestone is seen as a victory for South Korea, which has received international praise for its handling of the pandemic, with its heavy reliance on widespread testing, isolation and contact tracing to control COVID-19.

Even with the slowdown, local health authorities remain on alert over a series of holidays that begin on Thursday with Buddha’s Birthday, followed by May Day on Friday and Children’s Day next week, Yonhap news agency reports.

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/30/848181755/south-korea-reports-no-new-domestic-coronavirus-cases?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=nprblogscoronavirusliveupdates

The novel frugality – By Meredith Haggerty@manymanywords Apr 30, 2020, 7:00am EDT


Eating the ends of a loaf of bread isn’t an innovation, but some people are discovering frugality in quarantine. Sarah Lawrence for Vox

After decades of materialism, some Americans are experimenting with thriftiness for the first time.

“Damn u eatin bread butt,” our friend Fritz texted, after Kelly told the group chat she was planning to eat the heels of a loaf.

“maybe i’ll make croutons w/ them,” she replied, unfazed by his characterization, “a bread butt sammy.”

Nothing is being invented here — eating the ends of your bread is as old as bread — and certainly nothing about it is weird or gross, but getting the absolute most out of the things you buy seems to have some fresh converts. Other recently developed behaviors being reported: saving glass jars, regrowing scallions, washing and reusing Ziploc bags. (I’ve only just picked up that last one myself, turning gallon bags inside out and lining them up on my drying rack.)

Frugality is a trait and a value as old as time, spiking in certain cultures and generations, living situations and individuals, out of both necessity and outlook. Behaving economically with money or resources has become both a rare virtue — on aspirational blogs like The Frugality or self-help tomes like Your Money or Your Life — and a cultural punchline — good for a joke about hoarders or one’s immigrant family, grandparents who lived through the Great Depression or good old-fashioned tightwads.

What’s newer, in fact, is the last 70-ish years of American materialism, which birthed the idea that some items are immediately and obviously disposable, or that eating food that you bought and paid for, food made of food, is inherently strange. As a widespread attitude, it’s historically unusual and it may be, at least for now, fading.

Since quarantine started, following the spread of Covid-19, there has been a move away from this culture of waste. This new strain of frugality — call it the novel frugality — is defined by its attachment to this moment and its participants’ motivations. While it might mirror long-held practices (like not throwing away aluminum foil or consciously saving scraps of leftovers to make new meals), its impetus is slightly different.

As Kelly says, when I GChat her later to ask about bread butt free of judgment, the impulse is “one part war effort/ration, one part guilt, one part stay the fuck inside.”

American materialism and pre-pandemic frugality

Ronald E. Goldsmith is a consumer psychologist and a professor at Florida State University who has researched and written about frugality, but he tells me that its inverse — materialism — has been studied a lot more.

Goldsmith defines materialism as “the acquisition of goods for their own sake,” and it’d be hard to argue it hasn’t become something of an entrenched American value. In 2019, personal consumer spending was two-thirds of the gross domestic product. According to a survey from digital marketing firm Episerver, more than a quarter of Americans shopped online once a week. But we don’t hold onto this stuff; we’re also the most wasteful country in the world. To keep up our cycle of accumulation, we’ve created a culture of disposability.

“Deliberate obsolescence in all its forms — technological, psychological, or planned — is a uniquely American invention,” writes Giles Slade in Made to Break, his 2006 book about North America’s problem with waste. “Not only did we invent disposable products, ranging from diapers to cameras to contact lenses, but we invented the very concept of disposability itself.”

In many ways, this disposability — like the archetypal grandparent frugality — grew out of a response to the Great Depression. Following World War II, expendability was not only “a physical fact of many products,” as Nigel Whiteley writes in “Toward a Throw-Away Culture: Consumerism, ‘Style Obsolescence’ and Cultural Theory in the 1950s and 1960s,” but a “symbol of belief in the modern age.” America was flush, and we didn’t have to hold tight to the old anymore. (This time period also coincided with the birth of consumer psychology, Goldsmith tells me, which may account for the lack of academic texts studying the psychology of frugality following the Great Depression — the discipline simply didn’t exist at the time.)

A migrant family during the Great Depression.
Three Lions/Getty Images

For generations now, limited-use products — from paper plates and plastic cutlery and K-cups to burner phones and even disposable computers — have become part of our collective fabric. This throw-away attitude extends even to perfectly usable items — for an extreme (hilarious) example, think Jacqueline from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt tossing out an unopened bottle of water because it had been removed from the fridge. That’s how the average American ends up throwing out 2,555 pounds of trash every year, the equivalent weight of two grizzly bears.

In this environment, the remaining holdouts have often been laughed at, ignored, and little studied, but they haven’t disappeared.

Over the phone, Goldsmith explains to me that his work separated frugality into two types: intrinsic and extrinsic. It can be a natural or externally created trait; some people might be wealthy and still parsimonious, others might come to their thriftiness because of their living situation.

In the 2015 paper “The etiology of frugal spending,” written along with Professor Leisa R. Flynn, Goldsmith hypothesizes that intrinsically frugal people show greater cultural independence and self-discipline, that they “must practice self-control in order to save rather than spend.” On the other hand, extrinsically frugal consumers traditionally “have little choice but to limit their spending.”

As Goldsmith told Vox, the externally compelled people he studied had their habits “imposed upon them by the circumstances they find themselves in. They simply don’t have the resources to spend. It’s not that they don’t want to, they just don’t have it.”

That’s where pandemic-related frugality distinguishes itself. Its situational rise implies new practitioners might not be intrinsically frugal (sorry to Kelly, you’re still better with money than I am) — but it is not necessarily true that consumers in this moment don’t have the money to spend.

What makes the novel frugality novel

While there are undoubtedly financial pressures thanks to a cratering and existentially uncertain economy, there’s reason to believe that money concerns aren’t the full explanation for recent behavioral changes. According to a McKinsey study about the effect of the coronavirus on consumers, while American respondents are generally planning to spend less money overall, they expect to spend more in the categories that overlap with these new habits (up 15 percent to 30 percent for groceries, and up to 15 percent for household goods). Anecdotally, many of the burgeoning thrifty report alternative motivations.

Tom Namako, news director at BuzzFeed, tweeted that he found himself “diligently washing then saving every single used glass vessel, and I don’t know why.” On a phone call, Namako reports that at its peak his collection included “like 20 bottles” with no clear plan for their use. He’s considering using the bottles for scallion regrowth or pickling, and he’s also started washing Ziplocs and aluminum foil. His motivation, he’s realizing, is largely safety.

“I was always pretty conscious about wasting things, but when it comes to plastic bags now, it was like, ‘no, why would I ditch this?’” Namako says, “You can kind of see the chain reaction it has if you do ditch it, where people are out more, and that’s not what needs to happen right now.” Every plastic bag you throw away means you’re buying a new pack sooner, sending yourself or someone else out into the world to get it. He posits that he and others who have embraced reusability are trying to keep both themselves and essential workers from unnecessary movement.

Allison Van Evera, social media manager for @CarefullyApp, says she has long saved bread crusts, typically sticking them “in the freezer with high hopes of using them up at a later date,” but life often got in the way (her kids aren’t fans). Now, her family can no longer pop over to Costco whenever they want — or at least they’re choosing not to. “We decided to avoid the stores as much as possible to limit exposure,” she tells me via email. They’re shopping infrequently, and studiously avoiding Costco or the grocery store on busy weekends. “We needed to be more efficient with our food,” she writes.

When Teri, who lives in Arkansas with her husband, found herself rinsing out Ziploc bags she tweeted, “I’m turning into my grandmother!” Teri, whom I reached via DM and who requested to go by her first name, wasn’t entirely new to frugal behavior either: She already made a point to wash reusable rubber bags and found herself doing the same with plastic, but this was just one change among many.

Teri is also rationing to avoid the supermarket, being more conscious of not wasting food, and making more from scratch — including bread. She says that she first knew things were going to be “strange for a while” when she saw empty shelves at her local store. “Knowing that people were struggling with the unknown” meant that supplies would be hard to find, so Teri wanted to hold onto the stuff she already had.

That unknown is a looming question for everyone at the moment, essential workers as well as those able to quarantine at home, and perhaps as much as the fear of economic collapse, there’s also a fear of scarcity. With runs on toilet paper, flour, hand sanitizer, and more, regular people have rarely found themselves so concerned with the supply chain. There have also been worrying outbreaks at some factories, including meatpacking plants, that may lead to future shortages. We’re not in any current danger of an aluminum foil shortage, but the fear remains.

Even pre-pandemic, frugality wasn’t monolithic

So what is healthy frugality, and when does it slip into something more problematic?

Elaine Birchall, author of the book Conquer the Clutter and current host of a Zoom podcast for those struggling with stuff, has been a social worker specializing in mental health and intervention for hoarders for 19 years. When I meet Birchall on Zoom to discuss what this new behavior does and does not have in common with her area of expertise, she tells me that the fear of scarcity that caused panic-buying is the same one that hoarders experience — a fear of being “alone and deprived.”

Panic-buying comes from the same place as hoarding, says social worker and author Elaine Birchall.
Getty Images

As Birchall explains, hoarding is a nuanced affliction with multiple, sometimes overlapping paths that lead to the same crowded conclusion, but some people are set off simply by what she calls “a friendly relationship to clutter” and an overwhelming event or series of events. The issues she sees across clients are depression, anxiety, and most pressingly: isolation.

She helps clients, before and now, work through how to persevere, to trust that there will be enough. Birchall’s own household found itself down to one roll of toilet paper (“because I do not hoard”) but, just as she tells her clients, the universe provided and she was able to buy more before it became a problem. She says that an important guideline is that everything in your home be able to have a permanent place — i.e. if there’s no place for your collection of 20 glass bottles, you cannot have 20 glass bottles.

Of course, plenty of people have a balanced relationship with frugality, often passed down, culturally ingrained despite the dominance of materialism in North America. The thriftiness reported in many immigrant families may track back to experience with financial uncertainty, but also with a community-mindedness that stands in stark contrast to American individualism.

Karen K. Ho, a global finance and economics reporter for Quartz, has always been cautious with money, so when she first saw people tweeting about buying rice in bulk, she was struck at the idea that this was new behavior. Ho immigrated from Canada to the US in 2018; her parents immigrated from Hong Kong before she was born.

“My mom immigrated to Canada with $100. Her entire life in Canada was predisposed on economic precarity,” Ho tells me in a phone call. Growing up, she says she didn’t know that they were working class, but her parents’ habits became second nature to her and her sister. “You always pack lunch, as an immigrant family,” she says, in contrast to high school classmates who would buy theirs. She’s long kept a pantry and saved plastic tubs from margarine and other groceries. Friends with a casual relationship to grocery shopping, who treated it as a leisure activity performed multiple times a week, felt bizarre to Ho; “your time is valuable,” she says.

Ho tells me that this awareness about value comes back to knowing that you’re unlikely to be compensated the same as white counterparts (“who gets laid off first, whose benefits get cut,” Ho describes) and that by extension getting a good deal can be a way of beating an unfair system.

But she also explains that continuing to save and be thrifty comes from a concern for the people you love. Immigrants and refugees, she says, have a sense of “geopolitical awareness,” and often a desire to help family living overseas. “You’re saving money because it has to go around to more places,” she says, describing how it’s always been understood that she would be working in part to support her family, because they helped her get where she is.

Frugality for the greater good

While the isolation of quarantine could lead to troubling behavior, there’s some reason to believe that it’s also causing just a bit of that community feeling in new groups. It might also finally be forcing many to reckon with what they do have. Trapped in our homes, we have no choice but to face our stuff.

For years, environmental and inequality activists have encouraged consumer consciousness, through popular but ultimately small movements like zero waste and “no-buy.” Consumers have largely pinned their ecological hopes on recycling, ignoring “reduce” and “reuse” when it comes to the three Rs. Now reusing is having a small moment. As Namako says, we’re “thinking more about using everything we have at our disposal.”

Regrowing scallions is just one of the frugal behaviors that have recently become popular online.
Getty Images/EyeEm

For those I spoke to, a greater awareness of resources in quarantine resulted in a bit of regret: “I feel like we should have been doing all of these things before — meal planning, using up leftovers, cooking meals at home, and being creative with what’s in our pantry, fridge, and freezer,” Van Evera says. For his part, Namako admits to being “sort of embarrassed” that plastic bag and aluminum foil reuse is a new habit.

Still, Van Evera tells me, “nothing like a pandemic to force you into action.”

This is all early days. As an expert in pre-pandemic frugality, Goldsmith says, “I think that when all the researchers start studying this they’re probably going to find that there was an element of anxiety associated with it, hence the hoarding.”

If hoarding is the most perverse outcome of frugality meeting materialism, one based in fear and isolation, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a healthier intersection possible, and even reflected in the statements of the fairly fortunate people I spoke to. While it seems unlikely that our acquisitive culture will up and stop (even if that would be a spiritual and environmental good), before the pandemic, experts hadn’t highlighted the community-minded aspects of frugality or encountered a materialism that was commonly aware of the supply chain.

“Certainly, people will probably pull back, not just because they have to,” Goldsmith says. But he points to, say, an unwillingness to book cruises, not necessarily a fundamental change in values.

Grandchildren in 2056 might be more likely to notice Nana’s obsessive hand washing than her bread butt sammies. Frugality that’s based in safety and scarcity might not outlast the dangers of Covid-19, and if environmentalism is any indication, people will likely struggle to hold onto the idea that we should consider reuse for a greater good. It might be easy to forget all this, but for now it’s definitely novel.

https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2020/4/30/21241218/frugality-coronavirus-scallions-aluminum-foil-reuse

Datablog: Trump’s courts takeover is male and white – by Mona Chalabi Thu 30 Apr 2020 06.00 EDT


Under Trump 15% of federal judges confirmed were minorities. Illustration: Mona Chalabi

US courts have never looked like the populations they represent. But the overrepresentation of white men on federal benches had started to improve up until recently. According to the American Constitution Society (ACS), “under the Trump administration, this progress has stalled”.

The ACS compared judges confirmed under the Trump administration to those confirmed under the Obama administration. More specifically, they focused on Article III judges – those are the senior judges that make up the US supreme court, circuit courts, district courts and the US Court of International Trade.

During the Obama administration, 329 Article III judges were confirmed, 58% of whom were men.

During the Obama administration, 329 Article III judges were confirmed, 58% of whom were men.

So far, under the Trump administration, 192 Article III judges were confirmed, 76% of whom are men.

When it comes to race, the judicial appointments made under Obama tracked quite closely with the population as a whole – 64% of confirmed judges were white compared to 60% of the country as a whole.

Under Trump though, things look very different – 164 of the active federal judges he confirmed were white (85%).

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/datablog/2020/apr/30/datablog-trumps-courts-takeover-is-male-and-white

Stories inside the virtual 2020 NFL draft: 10 GMs on what they learned – Apr 29, 2020 Jeremy Fowler ESPN Staff Writer


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Mel Kiper Jr. has no problem with the Packers taking Jordan Love, but he doesn’t understand why Green Bay didn’t draft a wide receiver. (0:45)

After the hype suggesting that this would be a wild 2020 NFL draft because of the coronavirus-enforced information gap between organizations, the weekend actually went mostly by the book. Teams generally stayed put and chose the prospects or attacked the positions we would have expected. Most of the trades were mild. Last year, we had two shockers across the first six picks with edge rusher Clelin Ferrell going to the Raiders and the Giants drafting quarterback Daniel Jones. There was no similarly stunning pick in the first half of the first round this time around.

Of course, by the time we got to Saturday night, there were a few puzzling moves. We saw the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles unexpectedly draft quarterbacks and infuriate a portion of their fan bases in the process. In a draft that didn’t contain much controversy, those two quarterback situations stand out as the most controversial decisions.

Let’s run through them and try to see what each organization might have been thinking. From my perspective, while we don’t know anything about which quarterback prospects are likely to pan out, these teams can justify their decisions pretty easily.

Jump to a team:
Packers | Eagles

What were the Packers thinking?

How on earth could the Packers draft a quarterback in the first round when Aaron Rodgers desperately needs receiving help? While we won’t know whether the decision to trade up four spots to No. 26 to draft Utah State’s Jordan Love was the right one for several years, the arguments I’ve seen surrounding their decision don’t hold up under much scrutiny. At the very least, they’re slightly off. Let me start with the most obvious one:

Green Bay is not one receiver away from winning a Super Bowl.

I know it’s tempting for Packers fans to look at what happened in 2019 and think they’re a break or two away from a title. The Packers went 13-3 in coach Matt LaFleur’s first season with the team and made it to the NFC Championship Game. They have every right to expect to be in the mix again this season, given that they’ll return just about every key player from last year’s team. We all know that Rodgers is capable of just about anything if the Packers get into the playoffs.

All of those facts about 2019 are true, but upon closer inspection, it’s tough to expect Green Bay to win with the same formula in 2020. I write about this every year over the summer when I look at the teams that are most likely to improve or decline, and I’ll get to that as we get closer to the NFL season, but this team is arguably the league’s most likely to decline next season.

Start with that 13-3 record. The Packers outscored their opponents by a total of 63 points. We can use their Pythagorean expectation to estimate that a team with that sort of point differential typically wins about 9.7 games, and we can use history to find that the vast majority of teams with that sort of difference between their actual win total and expected win total almost always decline. By that measure alone, we would expect the Packers to drop off to about 10-6 in 2020.

By DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), the Packers were the 10th-best team in football, alongside the Eagles and Rams and behind the Cowboys. They outperformed their point differential and DVOA because they went 6-1 in games decided by seven points or fewer and had two additional wins by eight points.

Rodgers was 34-34-1 in starts decided by seven points or fewer before the 2019 season began. Anything is possible, but the vast majority of teams that have such a lopsided record in one-score games don’t keep that up the following season. Teams that won five more one-score games than they lost in a given year since 1989 were 92-114 the following season, including last season’s Rams, who went from 6-1 in one-score games in 2018 to 3-3 last season.

The Packers also benefited from having a healthy Rodgers for all 16 games, and that can never be guaranteed. (Adding Love is quietly an advantage in the short term if Rodgers gets injured again, although they didn’t need to use a first-round pick to find a viable backup quarterback.) Opposing offenses were able to start their Week 1 quarterbacks 11 times against Green Bay last season, with the Packers also facing a pair of rookies and three injury replacements. Most notably, they went up against Matt Moore as opposed to Patrick Mahomes in their 31-24 win over the Chiefs. Narrow victories over the Chiefs, Lions and Panthers might have gone differently if those teams had been able to use their typical starting quarterback.

Green Bay was also incredibly healthy on defense after being forced to play defensive backs off the street because of injuries in 2018. While possible starting linebacker Oren Burks tore a pectoral muscle in the preseason, its 11 starters on defense heading into the season missed a total of four games all campaign. Darnell Savage missed two games, Kevin King was out for one and B.J. Goodson missed one after stepping in for Burks.

The Packers dominated the NFC North in a way that’s also unlikely to keep happening. They went 6-0 in the division for the first time since 2011. There have been 21 prior cases of a team going 6-0 inside its division since the league went to its current structure in 2002, and just one of those teams — the 2013 Colts — repeated the feat the following season. The other 21 teams won an average of 3.3 divisional games the following season.

When Caesars Sportsbook posted its over/under totals for the 2020 season before the draft, it seemed shocking to some that the Packers were posted at just 8.5 wins, 4.5 wins below their 2020 record. I suspect the factors above might have contributed to what seemed like a pessimistic expectation. Anything can happen, but the most realistic expectation for this team would be to take a step backward and finish somewhere in the 9-7 range.

Of course, if we’re working off the idea that the 2020 Packers aren’t likely to be as good as they were in 2019, you could make an even stronger argument that they needed to draft somebody who was more likely to impact the team in 2020 than a quarterback prospect. My response there is to say …

The Packers needed another defensive piece more than they needed a weapon for Rodgers.

Offense was not the problem for the Packers last season. While they looked better on defense by raw totals, they finished the season eighth in offensive DVOA and 15th in defensive DVOA. Mike Pettine’s defense most notably finished 23rd in run defense DVOA, a weakness that was exploited to no end when the 49ers ran for 285 yards and four touchdowns in the NFC title game. (Another argument against the “we’re one game away” idea is the fact that the Packers were never in either of their games against the 49ers.)

Green Bay was able to succeed on defense because it forced the league’s third-highest interception rate and was the fourth-best defense at holding teams to field goals in the red zone. Neither of those elements of the game are particularly stable from year to year. To keep things close to home, the 2018-19 Bears are a good example of a defense that thrived in those categories, but they fell from first to 26th in interception rate and fifth to 13th in red zone touchdown rate last season.

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1:50

Is this the beginning of the end for Rodgers in Green Bay?

Dan Orlovsky and Marcus Spears explain what the Packers’ drafting Jordan Love means for Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, and Spears even suggests that Rodgers might ask for a trade.

As I mentioned earlier, this defense is also all but guaranteed to face more injuries in 2020. This offseason, they lost linebackers Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell while adding only oft-injured former Browns starter Christian Kirkseyto replace them. I understand there are Packers fans who might see moving on from Martinez as addition by subtraction, and this defense has four first-rounders on the books from their prior four drafts, but defense is still the problem dragging down the team. Drafting linebacker Patrick Queen could have made the most significant impact if the Packers wanted to improve their 2020 team.

I agree with the general sentiment that the Packers haven’t done enough to surround Rodgers with talent over the course of his career. The stat floating around noting how he has thrown just one touchdown pass to a first-round pick over the course of his career is mind-blowing.

After former second-round pick Davante Adams, it’s impossible to argue that Rodgers has much in the way of highly touted receivers with whom to work. His top two wideouts after Adams were undrafted free agent Allen Lazard and former fifth-round pick Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The Packers used a third-round pick last year on tight end Jace Sternberger, but receiver has not been a position of priority in Green Bay going on a decade now. Their last significant selection before Adams was Randall Cobb, who was taken with the last pick of the second round in 2011.

That’s indisputable, but what I also would say is …

While Love is a risky prospect, so are wide receivers in that range of the draft.

If the comparison was between Love and a wideout who was absolutely, positively guaranteed to make an immediate impact over the next two seasons, the choice would be easy. Pick the wide receiver. As you can probably guess, though, it’s not that simple. Take a look at the list of receivers who were drafted between the 21st and 31st selections between 2009 and 2018. I’ll include the receiving yards they racked up over their first two pro seasons:

It’s a huge swath of talent with totally different careers, many of which are still in progress. The average production from these wideouts over their first two seasons, when they would be expected to have an immediate impact for the Packers, is 1,151 yards, or slightly more than what Valdes-Scantling (1,033 receiving yards) has racked up over his first two campaigns. A rookie wideout with Rodgers could expect to be in better shape than, say, Demaryius Thomas was with Tim Tebow, but you get the idea here: Adding a wide receiver at the bottom of the first round isn’t a guarantee that the Packers would have upgraded on Valdes-Scantling or Lazard.

Doing something that seems like it’s going to help Rodgers doesn’t guarantee it’ll actually move the needle. How many Packers fans were in favor two years ago when general manager Brian Gutekunst added a weapon for Rodgers by signing Jimmy Graham to a three-year, $30 million contract? It was easy to envision Rodgers and Graham working in lockstep for red zone touchdowns, but the tight end scored just five times and averaged just under 34 receiving yards per game during his time in Green Bay.

When you consider the relative positional scarcity of quarterbacks and wide receivers, the Packers had a far better chance of finding a useful receiver outside of the first round than they did of finding their quarterback of the future, especially given the depth in this draft. And while we know a little more now than we did then, it’s also important to make the case that …

The first-round pick wasn’t the Packers’ only chance at improving at receiver.

The Packers’ decision to draft running back AJ Dillon with their second-round pick (No. 62) was far more curious to me than taking Love in the first round. If you evaluate Love and think he’s a franchise quarterback, the value in drafting a quarterback is clear. There are only so many of those guys available, and if you have a chance to take one and can see a future where you don’t have one, you take him.

A running back, though? I get that the Packers might not want to sign Aaron Jones to an extension, but running back is the position you can fill with a midround pick. Jones himself was a fifth-round selection. Dillon’s a powerful back, but he carried the ball 845 times at Boston College and caught a total of just 21 passes. In the modern NFL, there’s a near-endless supply of backs who are useful zone runners but don’t offer much as a receiver. Love offers the possibility of enormous upside; Dillon can’t really do that as a second-round running back given his skill set.

The Packers already have added one veteran wide receiver to the mix. I understand fans aren’t necessarily excited about Devin Funchess, who missed the final 15 games of 2019 with a collarbone injury, but he averaged 558 receiving yards per season during his time with Carolina, which is right in line with what those first-round picks averaged during their opening two seasons. It’s not out of the question that Funchess outproduces rookies Tee Higgins or Michael Pittman Jr., who were the first wideouts off the board after the Packers chose Love.

While I would question the Packers not selecting a single wideout during the entire draft, it’s not out of the question that they’ll be able to add a veteran receiver over the next few months. Those receivers get cut every year over the summer and through training camp, and some of them make an impact in their new places. James Jones’ 2015 season with the Packers comes to mind.

I mentioned him in my piece on wideouts likely to be cut or traded in the coming months, but Kenny Stills is an obvious candidate for the Packers. He is due $8 million in 2020, which wouldn’t typically be tenable for a fourth wideout in Houston. It’s also not difficult to imagine scenarios in which veterans like A.J. Green, Tyrell Williams, Curtis Samuel and Dante Pettis come available via trade, and the Packers should pursue them if they do. If they take advantage of one of those opportunities — or if someone else totally unexpected comes available — the decision to pass on a wideout in Round 1 won’t be as damaging to their short-term chances.

One more reason Green Bay fans are upset about passing on a wide receiver is that they’re not confident about Love. I have to admit that I’m also skeptical of Love, given that he wasn’t particularly good in the Mountain West Conference, where he nearly threw as many touchdowns (20) as interceptions (17) in 2019. What I will say is …

This situation isn’t all that different from when the Packers drafted Rodgers in 2005.

I could do a whole other article on this, so let me be brief. With hindsight, we can look back and say that it was easy for the Packers to draft Rodgers and that there was a dramatic difference between him and Love as prospects. That’s not realistic. There were plenty of reasons NFL teams were skeptical of Rodgers at the time, most notably the idea that he was another product of Jeff Tedford, who had sent first-rounders such as Akili Smith, Joey Harrington and Kyle Boller to the pros, only for them to fail.

The idea that Rodgers was in the mix for the first overall pick and then wasn’t really an option for other teams before the Packers snapped him at No. 24 is also revisionist history. The Dolphins drafted Ronnie Brown at No. 2 and started a 34-year-old Gus Frerotte at quarterback. The Browns added Braylon Edwards as opposed to upsetting their mix of Trent Dilfer and Charlie Frye. Teams starting Chris Simms, Mark Brunell, Drew Bledsoe, Jake Delhomme, Trent Green, Kyle Boller and Kerry Collins all passed on drafting Rodgers before the Packers took him. Most of the league passed on Rodgers until he fell to a roughly similar spot as Love.

Likewise, when the Packers drafted Rodgers, they were coming off a winning season. Green Bay went 10-6 and won the NFC North before losing at home in the playoffs to the Vikings. Those Packers didn’t need a wide receiver, as both Donald Driver and Javon Walker topped 1,200 receiving yards in 2004. On defense, though, they finished 29th in DVOA and allowed the league’s second-highest passer rating (99.1). They desperately needed defensive help and chose to draft Rodgers in lieu of helping a 35-year-old Favre. The Packers didn’t make the playoffs over the next couple of years, but they made it to the NFC Championship Game in 2007, Favre’s final season with the team, before Rodgers took over.

Things weren’t exactly the same. Rookies weren’t bargains back then, so Rodgers’ five-year deal was for a total of $7.7 million, which would amount to $17.8 million after adjusting for cap inflation. Love’s four-year pact will come in around $12.4 million; he could top Rodgers’ mark with his fifth-year option, but Green Bay won’t have to decide on that for several years.

As an aside, don’t buy the arguments that Rodgers is about to leave or get traded. It’s not financially feasible. The Packers would owe $51.1 million in dead money if they moved on from him this year and $31.6 million if they did so in 2021. They could spread that across two years if they make Rodgers a post-June 1 release after this season, but that would take an Antonio Brown-sized blowup with the organization. The most likely time frame would be 2022, when cutting or trading him would cost $17.2 million in dead money. With the cap possibly hitting $250 million that year, the Packers could move on from him without feeling too much of a pinch.

And one final question: Are we sure adding Love is going to be a negative thing for Rodgers? All I’ve seen and heard is the perception that drafting Love is going to make Rodgers angry. Isn’t there a chance it lights a fire under Rodgers, too? I have no doubt that he wants badly to win and didn’t need another quarterback to convince him as much, but this is the first time in a decade that the Packers have exhibited any doubt in his ability to be their quarterback for years to come. Rodgers was motivated by skepticism when he entered the league; he might also be motivated by skepticism as he approaches the end of his career, too.

What were the Eagles thinking?

While the Eagles didn’t draft Jalen Hurts in the middle of the second round to replace Carson Wentz, Philly fans hoping to add more talent around their star quarterback were angered by the move. We’re only a little over two years removed from the Eagles winning a Super Bowl with backup quarterback Nick Foles, but they have struggled to build on that title run. The wide receiver and cornerback positions have been consistent sources of frustration. They have won one playoff game over the ensuing two years, and even that took a Double Doink.

While general manager Howie Roseman successfully added speedy weapons for Wentz by drafting Jalen Reagor (Round 1) and John Hightower (Round 5) and trading for veteran Marquise Goodwin, the decision to use the No. 53 overall pick on Hurts attracted a mixed reaction. It fits Philadelphia’s philosophy and offers both short- and long-term value. Here’s why:

The Eagles can’t count on Wentz staying healthy.

While the former No. 2 overall pick has missed a relatively modest eight regular-season games across four seasons, Wentz has played just one playoff quarter out of 24. He tore an ACL in 2017, suffered a season-ending back injury in 2018 and then was knocked out of the game by a borderline-dirty hit from Jadeveon Clowney during the wild-card game against the Seahawks last season. Wentz has done enough to get the Eagles to the playoffs, but he hasn’t been able to finish a season since he was a rookie in 2016.

Nobody doubts his toughness, but as was the case with Andrew Luck, there are questions about whether Wentz can protect himself and stay out of situations when he’s liable to get injured. The 2017 and 2019 injuries both came on plays in which Wentz left the pocket under modest pressure, improvised and was hit as a scrambler. Injuries aren’t predictive — Matthew Stafford missed time in each of his first two seasons and then didn’t miss a game across the subsequent eight years — but the Eagles can’t afford to count on Wentz playing all 16 games and throughout the entirety of the playoffs. It would be naive. It would also go against something we know about the Eagles …

This organization has always prioritized having a second viable quarterback.

This is a habit going back to Andy Reid, who might be the NFL’s best coach when it comes to developing young passers. This organization drafted A.J. Feeley and Kevin Kolb before trading them both for second-round picks. Reid also drafted Nick Foles before the Chip Kelly regime packaged Foles with a second-round pick in a deal for Sam Bradford. On the veteran side, the Eagles brought in Jeff Garcia and Michael Vick as backups to Donovan McNabb before eventually using each of them as starters on playoff runs.

Unsurprisingly, Roseman has been similarly aggressive toward backup quarterbacks. After regaining power from Kelly in 2016, Roseman handed Chase Daniel a three-year, $21 million deal to be Bradford’s No. 2 before immediately drafting Wentz. Roseman then cut Daniel in 2017 and signed Foles to a two-year, $11 million deal. With Philly adding voidable years to deals to create short-term cap room and moving on from players such as Malcolm Jenkins and Nigel Bradham for cap purposes this offseason, it doesn’t appear like it was a serious player for veteran backups like Foles or Marcus Mariota in March.

While the Eagles have professed their affection for undrafted free agent Nate Sudfeld, who has spent the past three years with the organization, Hurts has a higher floor and a higher ceiling. Sudfeld is on a one-year, $2 million deal, while the entirety of Hurts’ four-year rookie contract should cost somewhere around $6 million. He’s a low-cost option to fill the backup role behind Wentz. With coach Doug Pederson in the same league as Reid when it comes to quarterback development, Hurts should have some meaningful trade value by the time 2023 rolls around.

The former Chiefs coordinator’s work with Foles and Wentz suggests Pederson should be able to do just fine with Hurts in the long term. In the short term, Hurts also can make a difference …

Hurts can handle a Taysom Hill-sized workload for the Eagles, even if he doesn’t play like Hill.

Let’s be clear here. Hurts’ game is nothing like Hill’s, regardless of how much the Saints just committed to their quasi-quarterback. Hill has played 423 offensive snaps over the past two seasons and thrown a total of 13 passes. He has caught 22 passes over that same time frame. Hurts is not that kind of threat, though I suspect the Eagles will try to integrate at least one package in which they use Hurts and Wentz on the field at the same time to try to confuse opposing defenses.

Hurts is not a receiver. He’s not a running back. He’s a true quarterback who also can serve as an effective runner. The Eagles can make use of those skills, even while Wentz is healthy. To start, the Eagles (or Wentz himself) have been aggressive about sneaking their starter. Wentz carried the ball 14 times on third or fourth down with 2 yards or less to go last season, which was as frequently as Ravens QB Lamar Jackson carried the ball in the same situations. Only the Bills’ Josh Allen ran the ball more frequently in short-yardage last season.

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Tebow: Opposing defenses will prep harder for Hurts

Tim Tebow expects that Jalen Hurts will force opposing defenses to prepare for hours before they play the Eagles.

It’s easy to imagine a scenario in which the Eagles sub in Hurts in those situations. He carried the ball 12 times in short-yardage situations over the past two seasons, converting 11 for first downs or touchdowns. (He lost 11 yards on the other try.) Bringing Hurts into the game into those spots allows the Eagles to run high-efficiency sneaks without exposing their starting quarterback to extra hits. I’d also fully expect the Eagles to “borrow” some of the run-pass options Hurts ran at Alabama and Oklahoma to make the quarterback’s life easier as he adjusts to the speed of the NFL. Of course, Hurts also has the passing ability to threaten teams as a pocket passer and could be absolutely devastating off play-action.

Hurts doesn’t have a realistic chance of usurping Wentz as the full-time starter, but he doesn’t need to do so to return value for the Eagles. It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario in which he contributes on a handful of offensive plays per game, starts a game or two per year when Wentz gets injured, and either nets a compensatory pick or gets traded for a draft pick at the end of his deal. In a league in which effective backups cost somewhere in the range of $6 million to $7 million per season, Hurts could turn out to be a worthwhile use of a second-round pick for Philadelphia.

https://www.espn.com/nfl/draft2020/story/_/id/29110271/stories-virtual-2020-nfl-draft-10-gms-learned

‘PROTECT AMAZON WORKERS’: Activists painted a giant mural outside Jeff Bezos’ $23 million Washington, DC, home Isobel Asher Hamilton April 2020


  • Activists protesting Amazon’s treatment of warehouse workers during the coronavirus pandemic painted a giant mural outside CEO Jeff Bezos’ home in Washington, DC.
  • “We’re calling him and Amazon out for leaving their workers out here without the proper personal protective equipment,” one of the activists told The Washington Post.
  • Amazon has faced criticisms that it is neglecting worker safety during the coronavirus pandemic amid spiking demand.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Activists gathered outside Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ $23 million mansion in Washington, DC, to paint a huge street mural to protest his firm’s treatment of warehouse workers.

The activists were from the climate-change charity Shut Down DC, and their mural said “PROTECT AMAZON WORKERS.”

A Washington Post reporter, Marissa Lang, was on the scene and said no movement was seen inside the house.

Lang added that the police were present to ensure the activists remained socially distanced during their work. She said they wore masks but did occasionally move closer than 6 feet apart. The mural took about an hour to complete.

“We’re calling him and Amazon out for leaving their workers out here without the proper personal protective equipment,” Laura Beth Pelner, the activist who designed the mural, told The Post.

“We’re calling all these essential workers heroes — grocery-store workers and delivery drivers and everyone working at these Amazon warehouses filling people’s orders — but corporations aren’t doing enough to protect them. Essential workers are not expendable.”

Lang reports that two hours after the mural was completed, a worker wearing a mask hosed it away.

As demand for Amazon deliveries has surged with people staying inside, warehouse and delivery workers have found themselves on the front lines of the pandemic. Amazon has had to counterbalance spiking demand with the health and safety of its workers. The company has announced new policies around sick pay and time off, and it introduced measures like temperature checks, mask handouts, and increased cleaning.

Workers, however, including ones who have spoken with Business Insider, have said the company’s safety measures are missing, inadequate, or unenforceable.

In France, Amazon has shut down all its warehouses after a court ruled its worker protections were lacking.

Bezos’ personal net wealth has swollen thanks to the unprecedented demand for Amazon’s services. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Bezos’ net worth is $143 billion, more than double the wealth of Warren Buffett or Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

https://www.businessinsider.com/activists-paint-giant-mural-outside-jeff-bezos-washington-dc-home-2020-4

THEY WERE WARNED NOT TO TAKE SICK DAYS — THEN SIX WORKERS AT THEIR WAREHOUSE DIED OF CORONAVIRUS – Gabriel Thompson April 30 2020, 4:00 a.m.


Employees work at the Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc. facility in Brentwood, N.Y., on June 4, 2018. Johnny Milano/Bloomberg/Getty Images

At least six people who worked in a Long Island, New York, warehouse leased by Broadridge Financial Solutions have died of Covid-19, according to their family members and news reports.

Earlier this month, The Intercept and Type Investigations reported that employees of TMG Mail Solutions, a Broadridge contractor that prints and mails financial documents, had been pressured to work during the Covid-19 pandemic even as some of their co-workers tested positive for the virus. The workers also expressed concerns that delays in the provision of personal protective equipment like masks and gloves made an outbreak inevitable.

Broadridge Financial Solutions is a global financial services company that made nearly $4.4 billion in revenue last year. The production floor of the warehouse is staffed by Broadridge employees and TMG employees, along with employees of Randstad, a multinational staffing firm that has an office inside the building.

https://theintercept.com/2020/04/30/coronavirus-warehouse-deaths-broadridge/

“No one” in Puerto Rico has received stimulus checks, says San Juan mayor – IGOR DERYSH APRIL 30, 2020 9:00AM (UTC)


Carmen Yulin Cruz, Mayor of San Juan Puerto Rico and US President Donald Trump (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AP Photo/Alex Brandon/Salon)

The Treasury Department has sent out more than 88 million payments. Not one of them went to Puerto Rico

Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, alleged that the federal government has yet to provide a single resident on the island with a coronavirus stimulus check, weeks after payments began to go out.

Cruz, who feuded with President Donald Trump over his administration’s lagging response to the damage wreaked by Hurricane Maria in 2017, called out the administration for neglecting the island’s residents once again in its distribution of the stimulus funds.

Cruz told MSNBC that the island has also struggled to distribute $500 payments that were promised by Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced and unemployment benefits to more than 130,000 residents who have applied since the outbreak began.

“No one in Puerto Rico has received their $1,200 coronavirus stimulus checks from the federal government,” she told the network. “We’re having problems with a local $500 check that the governor said was going to be distributed.”

Acyn Torabi@Acyn

The Mayor of San Juan says no one in Puerto Rico has received their $1200 stimulus money

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Cruz said that she and other mayors have had to rely on religious and community leaders to distribute food to those in need because of the delays.

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“Money is not getting into people’s hands because of the current local government of Puerto Rico, and perhaps guidelines that have not been distributed,” she added. “But the problem is not getting the support that we need. The problem is that the support goes to the higher levels of government, and doesn’t reach the people that it’s supposed to reach.”

Cruz’s comments came after the Treasury Department, which has already sent out more than 88 million payments across the country, vowed to start sending payments to Puerto Ricans in the coming “weeks.”

“As we complete the agreements with the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Treasury on the distribution of the Economic Impact Payment, we have already identified some 486,000 taxpayers who would receive approximately $800.1 million, in all likelihood, in the upcoming weeks,” Francisco Parés, secretary at the Puerto Rico Treasury Department, told the Puerto Rican business news outlet News Is My Business.

He insisted that the Treasury’s distribution plan is “very close” and said he received assurances from the IRS that it would send a distribution plan to the Treasury “later this month.”

Puerto Rico has long dealt with severe health challenges. The Health Resources and Services Administration reported that 72 of its 78 municipalities faced “unmet health care needs” before the outbreak. The island, a U.S. commonwealth, also filed for bankruptcy in 2017 after determining its government could not pay $120 billion owed in bond and pension obligations.

A group of 11 U.S. House members, many of Hispanic descent, called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to “guarantee that Puerto Rico is treated equally to the states in any of the upcoming coronavirus stimulus packages.”

“Even before COVID-19, Puerto Rico was suffering immensely from earthquakes earlier this year, longstanding economic and physical damage from Hurricane Maria and decades of economic neglect,” Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., told NBC News.

The letter, which was first obtained by the outlet, called for future stimulus packages to include “robust funding for nutritional assistance” and “debt forgiveness of community disaster loans.”

“As Congress begins the next phase of legislation with help for states and localities,” Velázquez said, “I’ll be working hand-in-glove with Speaker Pelosi on solutions that address the unique challenges facing Puerto Rico and the 3.5 million U.S. citizens who live there.”

https://www.salon.com/2020/04/30/no-one-in-puerto-rico-has-received-stimulus-checks-says-san-juan-mayor/

Mars Needs Money: White House Budget Could Prompt Retreat from Red Planet – Leonard David April 30, 2020


Proposed cuts could end decades of U.S. leadership in exploring that world

Mars Needs Money: White House Budget Could Prompt Retreat from Red Planet
This illustration of NASA’s Perseverance mission, set for launch as early as July 2020, shows the rover collecting tubes of samples cached by earlier missions on the Martian surface. Credit: NASA and JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Mars Exploration Program is in calamitous straits. Cuts to the program in President Donald Trump’s budget proposal for the 2021 fiscal year (FY) could pull the plug on the space agency’s ensemble of orbiters, as well as its only active Mars rover, Curiosity, which has been prowling the Red Planet since 2012.

If unchanged, the budget numbers would, in this calendar year, shutter an aged but functional communications relay and science orbiter, Mars Odyssey, which has operated at the planet since 2001. They would also curtail Curiosity just as it reaches new heights in its ongoing science investigations on Mount Sharp in Gale Crater. The funding shortfall would close out the rover’s work late next year, before it can explore a major transition in the ancient climate of Mars that is thought to be recorded in rocks higher on the mountain.

Furthermore, the FY 2021 budget reduces the science sleuthing of NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) by 20 percent. It cuts the number of targeted observations MRO can execute in half, purging most of the special data products associated with them. Like Mars Odyssey, MRO is a dual-purpose orbiter, serving as a crucial data relay while also providing high-resolution imagery of potential future landing sites.

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The diminished budget would also impact the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft, scaling back that mission’s science operations to minimal levels. Orbiting Mars since 2014, MAVEN allows researchers to track the ongoing deterioration of the planet’s atmosphere—a process that, billions of years ago, transformed Mars from a warm, wet world to its current cold, arid state.

Interplanetary Pain

More than 100 Mars-focused scientists discussed this grim outlook throughout a mid-April meeting of the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG), chartered by NASA to assist in planning the scientific scouting of that far-off world. All the attendees of the meeting took part remotely, of course, because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic—another potential source of pain, financial and otherwise, for the planning and operation of spacecraft on Mars, as well as for the federal government at large. With Washington, D.C., now spending trillions of dollars to shore up the U.S. economy, the impact on funding for NASA and other federal agencies remains uncertain but could be significant.

Jim Watzin, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, told the MEPAG gathering that COVID-19 “has had an impact on the program and what we do.” He estimated that about three quarters or more of those directly working on the Mars program has transitioned to a virtual workplace and that it was “still too early to accurately forecast the impacts.”

Scientists planning future explorations of the Red Planet face yet another predicament, too—although one that has little to do with Mars or pandemics. Work is now underway on crafting the Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023–2032, the latest of a once-every-10-years effort, led by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, that sets research priorities (and notional missions to fulfill them) for at least the next decade. Spurred by a flood of science findings from the outer solar system, many researchers are now looking past Mars to other destinations—chiefly ocean-bearing icy moons such as Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Titan and Enceladus. After a decades-long glut of Mars-focused missions, the community’s hunger to explore elsewhere is becoming voracious. Could this new Decadal Survey mark the moment when planetary scientists turn away from Mars?

An artist’s rendition of a rocket lifting off from Mars and carrying material bound for Earth as part of NASA’s long-planned “Mars sample return” mission. Credit: NASA and JPL-Caltech

A Balancing Act

Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, explains that each year the program must balance goals and objectives within constraints on the available budget. “Last year required many difficult decisions: invest in the future, continue what we’ve been doing or find some balance in between. All strong organizations do this. Mars exploration is no different,” she says.

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The belt-tightening results of that balancing act have been bittersweet, Glaze says. “We share the community’s disappointments, as well as look optimistically toward our new missions, knowing we did our best within the constraints we had,” she adds. “That being said, we will continue to look for opportunities to minimize or offset the reductions as we move forward. Each year we revisit the budget and its constraints and work to improve the posture and potential of the program.”

NASA’s next Mars mission—the Perseverance rover—is now being readied for a liftoff this July or August. Meant to be the linchpin for an ambitious international plan to haul samples of Martian material back to Earth, the rover is targeted for a 2021 landing in Jezero Crater, a locale where the ancient environment is thought to have been favorable for microbial life. There the wheeled robot will collect and cache samples of astrobiological interest, which will await retrieval by an as yet unbuilt future mission.

The process of building and launching Perseverance has an estimated price tag of roughly $2.4 billion, Glaze says. That is some $300 million more than the mission’s original estimate. And an additional $300 million or so will likely be required to operate the rover on Mars during its prime mission, which comprises one Martian year (about 687 Earth days).

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Shortsighted Punishment

The proposed cuts to NASA’s Mars plans originated in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. And they are meant to punish the space agency for Perseverance’s cost overruns, says John Logsdon, a space history and policy expert at George Washington University.

“It would be really shortsighted if that penalty undercut the growing momentum toward finally moving forward on a Mars-sample-return effort,” Logsdon says. Getting Mars samples back to Earth for analysis, he observes, has been a holy grail for generations of planetary scientists and was a top priority of previous Decadal Surveys.

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“There has to be a better way of enforcing cost control on NASA’s science efforts without jeopardizing their reason for existence,” Logsdon says. “As the country deals with the costs of the pandemic, we need to preserve some of our high-priority future research efforts. Mars exploration should be among them.”

The Mars Exploration Program’s budget is not quite big enough to support a multibillion-dollar sample-return effort while also operating Mars Odyssey, MRO, MAVEN and Curiosity to their full potential, says Richard Zurek, chief Mars scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and an MRO project member.

If it was approved by Congress as is, the president’s FY 2021 budget would have major impacts on every U.S. asset now at Mars, Zurek points out. The value of the data these missions continue to return is enormous, he says, and the cost of replacing all that infrastructure at the planet would be huge. In particular, Zurek says, the Curiosity rover merits sustained support, because its nuclear power source could allow it to continue its explorations for many years to come. Once a mission is ended on another world, any resurrection is difficult, if not impossible. And near-term replacements of those shuttered capabilities appear unlikely.

“There is still so much to do at Mars,” Zurek says. “This is a dynamic planet whose surface and atmosphere change on many timescales: hours to decades.” If the U.S. pares back its operations there, he says, “we will not know what we have lost for a very long time.”

Uncertainty Ahead

“I am worried that the budget threat is real,” says Philip Christensen, a Mars Odyssey team member at Arizona State University. He is principal investigator of the spacecraft’s Thermal Emission Imaging System. Much of that threat, Christensen says, comes from the still unknown extent of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on NASA and its projects. “I would argue that, given the uncertainty of the next few years, NASA would do well to maintain the working assets they have at Mars and keep them active until the next missions arrive,” he adds.

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A key enabler of NASA’s ongoing success at the Red Planet is the agency’s continuous orbital imaging presence there since 1997. That lofty perspective allows weather monitoring, remote studies of the conditions surrounding ongoing surface missions and better assessments for the viability of future landing sites.

“If Odyssey [was] turned off, and something happened to MRO, then that continuous U.S. orbital imaging record and presence would be lost,” Christensen says. There are European Space Agency orbiters that collect images, he adds, but NASA does not control them. Furthermore, Christensen notes, the United Arab Emirates, India and China are all planning to launch Mars orbiter missions in the near future. “They are working extremely hard to just get to Mars and go into orbit,” Christensen says. “It seems a bit arrogant to think that the U.S. is so good at getting to Mars that we can turn off a perfectly good, working spacecraft when other countries are doing everything they can just to get there.”

Were NASA to switch off Mars Odyssey, it could lose more than just imagery. “I am very concerned about the possible loss of Odyssey as a relay asset for my mission,” says W. Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator of NASA’s InSight Mars lander, which has been studying the planet’s seismic activity since touching down there in late 2018. “There are other avenues for communicating with InSight, and we would still be able to operate and perform our science if Odyssey were to go away. But we have not yet found any scenario without Odyssey that does not significantly affect our science.”

There may be reason for optimism in spite of the ongoing pandemic and foreboding budgetary forecasts, however. “A large fraction of the country is out of work, and people are sick and dying, so it’s hard for the country to focus on other activities right now,” says Bruce Jakosky, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder and leader and principal investigator of the MAVEN mission. “That said, the science and exploration activities within NASA have been seen as having high value for decades, and I don’t see that changing. They were worth doing before the pandemic, and I expect them to be worth doing after the pandemic, too.”

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mars-needs-money-white-house-budget-could-prompt-retreat-from-red-planet/