Time, as many people living in Covid-19 lockdown are beginning to realize, is losing all meaning. This seems especially true on weeks like this past one, during which none of the major news stories felt all that new. The coronavirus continues to spread; unemployment is still rising; and US attorney general Bill Barr is making headlines again. Doesn’t this all feel like it’s been going on for a while now? At least there is one thing back in the news that’s a welcome sight: Mad Max: Fury Road. But this piece is meant to tell you about the things you might have missed, not what you’ve seen already. So, with that, we bring you all of this.
The Senate Coronavirus Response Hearings
What Happened: In a time like this, it’s good to hear experts give a serious, considered analysis of what the US is doing (and failing to do) in response to the coronavirus. Just don’t expect good news, especially if you’re a supporter of President Trump.
What Really Happened: If there’s one thing the current pandemic really needed, it’s a series of Senate hearings to get to the bottom of things. Thankfully, that’s exactly what’s happening—in part because the White House blocked experts from testifying before the House of Representatives earlier this month, leaving the Senate as the only alternative. So, at the start of last week, those experts began appearing before members of the Senate.
Of course, given that both experts and senators were appearing via video because of self-quarantine, it was perhaps a sign that things weren’t going quite as well as President Trump—who last week spoke of the US “prevailing” over the outbreak—seemed to be saying. So, who was on tap for the big show, anyway?
That’s quite the all-star line-up there—a fact that didn’t escape the senators hosting the hearing, apparently.
For those hoping that there would be more moments of levity like that, the majority of the hearing was likely to have been a let-down, with Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, leading the way on delivering some bleak truths about where America is and where the country is headed.
With Fauci so bluntly pushing back against the Trump administration’s talking points and unrealistically triumphant outlook, it was only a matter of time before he faced a counterattack on behalf of the president’s supporters. Sure enough, almost immediately it arrived, and it was impressively anti-science and pro-economy.
As President Trump criticized Fauci for being cautious, it seemed as though battle lines were being dawn for which approach the US should take moving forward: reopen and risk an outbreak, or keep things closed and (hopefully) prevent one.
The Takeaway: Remember that thing we said about levity? Well, there was this.
The Supreme Court and President Trump’s Tax Returns
What Happened: Last week, the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on a few cases pertaining to the release of President Trump’s tax returns.
What Really Happened: Fauci’s Senate testimony wasn’t the only big show on Tuesday, as it turned out. Also experiencing the joys of telecommuting on that day was the US Supreme Court, which was starting to deal with the question of President Trump’s tax returns. At the heart of Tuesday’s hearings was the question of whether or not Trump, just by virtue of being President of the United States, could block subpoenas sent to accountants and bankers seeking those documents, but there was a lot more going on—not least of all because that one question spanned two different cases being heard.
With two such low-key, unimportant questions at stake, it’s not too surprising that there was, to use a euphemism, some heightened logic at play during the arguments presented to the court.
There was one argument in particular that, well, didn’t exactly add up.
After the arguments, there was endless analysis and tea leaf reading from experts in the media. On social media, meanwhile, many were just outright predicting the eventual outcome of the cases—not that it helped in any practical way whatsoever.
The Takeaway: Realistically, this one could go on for a while before the court issues a decision. Buckle up.
Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, Welcome Back to the News Cycle
What Happened: Oh hey, lookit! Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort are back in the news!
What Really Happened: Elsewhere in the crossover between subjects both legal and presidential, two former Trump associates who got in trouble with the law found themselves back in the public eye. A little over a week ago, the Department of Justice dropped its charges against Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security advisor, despite his having pled guilty to lying to the FBI, in a decision that could easily be described as unusual.
The impact of that controversial decision continued to be felt as last week started, with attorney general Bill Barr receiving the kind of public job review no one hopes for.
Still, at least he didn’t distort the truth in building his argument to drop the case.
With this kind of attention being paid to a decision that seems, at best, a little suspect, you would have thought that the legal powers-that-be would make an effort to shy away from any other unusual decisions when it comes to former Trump associates. But you’d be wrong.
For those thinking that, perhaps, this was just a routine thing—it’s not.
By early Wednesday, it was certainly looking as if everything is working out well for folks once worked for Trump …
In other words, this one might be going on for a while.
The Takeaway: Hard to tell. Maybe this?
Women for Trump
What Happened: Last week “Women for Trump” started trending. It was a whole ordeal.
What Really Happened: First off, let’s start with this tweet from the president, which seems to have brought the organization Women for Trump to a lot of people’s attention.
Despite the fact that Trump’s post got a lot of notice, it wasn’t actually the first time the group’s name had been floated on Twitter that day. They’d actually been pushed by the Trump campaign a couple of hours earlier, which might suggest a concerted effort to reach out to female voters in light of the sexual assault allegation presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is currently facing—especially when it offers things with names like the “Empower Hour.”
It wasn’t the attempt to support women that helped it trend, however; instead, it was the inherently oxymoronic quality of the phrase, which social media simply couldn’t ignore. To wit:
And then, there were the comparisons…
The Takeaway: We know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Who’s even behind Women for Trump anyway?” The answer, reader, may lie at the end of this tweet.
Wait, Bryan Adams Did What?
What Happened: Before last week, Bryan Adams’ legacy was some middle-of-the-road Canadian rock. Now, it’s his skill at saying the wrong thing on Instagram. But hey, at least now folks remember who Bryan Adams is.
What Really Happened: Let’s just be blunt: It’s been a while since most people gave much thought to Bryan Adams, the man behind such mostly forgotten hits as “Everything I Do, I Do It For You” and “Summer of ’69.” That’s not to say he doesn’t still have a career—you don’t have the record for the longest consecutive stay at No. 1 on the UK charts without building a fanbase that sticks with you later in life—but it’s not as if anyone’s really been talking about him. Until last week.
The Instagram post made it onto Twitter via automation, although that’s since been removed. The damage was done, though.
Unsurprisingly, the media noticed the post, with almost every report describing it as a “rant”—not necessarily the best look for an aging soft rocker trying to maintain his brand. So, Addams attempted to apologize. Kinda.
Perhaps the only winners in this whole debacle were those who’ve never enjoyed Adams’ work, who at least had the opportunity to get in a couple of good digs.
The Takeaway: What were we saying about a good dig? Take this one home, @bornmiserable!
More Great WIRED Stories
- The info war over chloroquine has slowed Covid-19 science
- The rise of a Hindu vigilante in the age of WhatsApp and Modi
- Newly unemployed, and labeling photos for pennies
- Sci-Fi has a somber lesson for this crisis
- The pandemic could be an opportunity to remake cities
- ? AI uncovers a potential Covid-19 treatment. Plus: Get the latest AI news
- ? Torn between the latest phones? Never fear—check out our iPhone buying guide and favorite Android phones