April 30, 2020

Putin a Man of Action Takes a Page From Trump By Letting Others Deal with a Pandemic

 BCredit...Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

With his plans for a big military parade and a referendum extending his rule derailed by the pandemic, the Russian leader has struggled to find his stride.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia led a meeting with members of the country’s Security Council via a video link from his country residence outside Moscow this month.
MOSCOW — This was supposed to be a moment of triumph for President Vladimir V. Putin, a celebration of his grand successes in restoring the Russian state to a place of pride in the world and consolidating his grip on power, all topped off by a glorious military parade in Red Square on May 9, the 75th anniversary of the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany.
But the coronavirus has changed all that.

Now, having bowed to the inevitable and canceled the parade, Mr. Putin seems less a can-do executive than a bored monarch cooped up in a palace, checking his watch during televised video conferences with his underlings about the pandemic as his popularity ratings dip.

For 20 years, Mr. Putin has made his mark as a man of action, a hyperactive leader ever ready to face down the Kremlin’s foes at home and abroad, and even wild tigers in remote Russian forests. Confronted with the coronavirus, however, a leader who was re-elected in 2018 with nearly 80 percent of the vote and who faces no serious threats to his power has been oddly passive.

“He is afraid — afraid for his ratings and for the system he has spent 20 years creating,” said Gleb O. Pavlovsky, a disenchanted former Kremlin adviser. Faced with a viral enemy that he cannot easily vanquish, “Putin understands that the best thing to do is stand to the side,” Mr. Pavlovsky added. 

Adding to Mr. Putin’s troubles, the collapse of oil prices removes a major stream of revenues for social programs, while Russia’s oil- and gas-dependent economy is expected to shrink by 6 percent this year.

But turmoil in the global oil market, unlike the health crisis, at least plays to Mr. Putin’s strong suits of geopolitics and high-stakes diplomacy. His joint efforts with President Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia have done little to lift the market, but they have showcased Mr. Putin doing what he likes most: demonstrating Russia’s indispensable voice in global affairs.

ImageA rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow in 2019. The military parade on May 9 was canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

A rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow in 2019. The military parade on May 9 was canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.Credit...Pool photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko
He loves military parades just like Trump. Like they bought the armaments themselves. Trump goes as far to call it "His army
" Adam

By contrast, the pandemic has only highlighted what has always been Mr. Putin’s biggest vulnerability: a pronounced lack of interest or success in tackling intractable domestic problems like dilapidated hospitals, pockets of entrenched poverty and years of falling real incomes.
Adding to the gloom, an April 22 referendum on constitutional amendments had to be canceled because of the virus. The amendments, already approved by Russia’s legislature, allow Mr. Putin to crash through term limits and stay in power until 2036. 

After lying low when the coronavirus first surfaced in Russia in late February and early March, Mr. Putin has this month appeared almost daily on television, holding teleconferences from his country residence outside Moscow. But his heart does not seem to be in it.
Latest Updates: Global Coronavirus Outbreak

“He gives an impression of being tired, even bored,” said Yekaterina Schulmann, a former member of the Kremlin’s advisory council for civil society and human rights.

Dressed in a black suit and dark tie, a somber Mr. Putin on Tuesday again appeared on television, this time to announce that a “nonworking period” first declared in March would be extended until May 11. “We cannot relax. The situation is still very difficult,” with the peak of the outbreak still ahead, he said.
Seeking to salvage something from the wreckage of his May 9 Victory Day extravaganza, Mr. Putin said that a military parade would still be held at some point and that, on the day itself, “modern warplanes and helicopters will take to the Russian skies to fly in formation in honor of our heroes.”

Yet, having staked so much of his popularity on the revival of Russia as a great power, Mr. Putin has fallen out of step with a public “that is fast losing interest in foreign policy” and that has stopped viewing the machinations of the West “as an excuse for everything that has gone wrong at home,” Ms. Schulmann said.

Mr. Putin’s approval rating, which stood at 69 percent in February, slipped to 63 percent in March, according to the Levada Center, a Moscow-based independent polling organization. Most leaders in Europe have seen their ratings soar during coronavirus lockdowns.

Russia’s “public mood is very volatile. People are scared of the virus and also for the economy,” Ms. Schulmann said. Mr. Putin “cannot find a tone that resonates” with the public, she added.
Also scrambled by the coronavirus, however, are the calculations of Mr. Putin’s opponents, including Aleksei A. Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, who has veered from denouncing the Kremlin for building a corrupt police state to demanding a state of emergency, something only Mr. Putin can declare.

Such a move would strengthen already intrusive security services, but would also force the government to pay compensation to businesses hit by lockdowns and free them from having to pay rent to landlords and interest to banks. Mr. Putin has so far offered only piecemeal assistance.

The last time Russia had a full state of emergency was in 1993 under President Boris N. Yeltsin. Mr. Putin has so far shown no interest in reviving that traumatic precedent. It would not only cost the state a lot of money but would puncture one of his proudest boasts — that Russia, thanks to his firm hand, has escaped the turmoil of the 1990s.

Cushioned by bulging financial reserves estimated at around $600 billion, Russia has more room  to maneuver than many countries. It also has reported relatively few coronavirus cases so far — a total of nearly 100,000 as of Wednesday, compared with about a million in the United States, and a low death toll of 972, compared with the American figure of more than 58,000. 

Unable to organize street protests because of stay-at-home orders, desperate businesspeople, workers who have lost their incomes and political activists habitually opposed to the Kremlin have fumed online and resorted to staging digital demonstrations, using navigation apps to “gather” outside government buildings.

There have also been a few scattered attempts at real protests, but these have all been quickly broken up by the riot police. The biggest of these was an anti-lockdown march on April 20 in Vladikavkaz, a city on the edge of the Caucasus Mountains.

For Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert and author of a book about Mr. Putin, the biggest virus-induced threat to the Kremlin is not popular unrest — “people are not going to rise up in revolt,” he said — but a “decay of legitimacy.”
Mr. Putin, in yellow, visiting a Moscow hospital in March.Credit...Pool photo by Alexei Druzhinin
Mr. Putin, he said, had created a “hyperpresidential system” in which all important decisions were ultimately taken in the Kremlin. But he “has himself become less and less presidential,” Mr. Galeotti noted, leaving others to announce restrictions on movement and other painful measures aimed at combating the virus.

By placing more and more responsibility on local officials without surrendering any of his own powers, Mr. Galeotti added, Mr. Putin has “violated a fundamental contract with governors and bureaucrats — the state’s middle management — who actually keep the system running.”
Faced in 2014 with a similarly grave threat to Russian interests created by the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin president, Mr. Putin seized the moment by grabbing Crimea. When, two years later, it looked as if Russia’s closest ally in the Middle East, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, might also fall, Mr. Putin jumped in to reverse the tide of Syria’s civil war by sending Russian warplanes and soldiers.

The coronavirus, however, has often left him looking flat-footed. In March, he tried to replay the action man stunts that have shaped his image in the past, like flying in a fighter jet, pursuing tigers in the Russian Far East and descending into the Baltic Sea in a bathysphere. 

But his display of machismo before the advancing pandemic did not work out quite as planned: He visited infected patients at a new Moscow hospital dressed in a canary yellow hazmat suit, only to find out a few days later that the head doctor who showed him around and gave him a long fleshy handshake had tested positive for the virus.

Since then, Mr. Putin has been sheltering at his country villa. It was from there, warmed by gentle flames from a fireplace in a cozy-looking living room, that he on April 19 delivered a what-me-worry Orthodox Easter message to the nation.
“The situation,” he said, “is under total control.” (These two men read from the same book)

Edited by Adam Gonzalez

A Teacher For 17 Years But Never Learned How To Read and Write

John Corcoran in 2008 ALAMY
Image copyright
John Corcoran grew up in New Mexico in the US during the 1940s and 50s. One of six siblings, he graduated from high school, went on to university, and became a teacher in the 1960s - a job he held for 17 years. But, as he explains here, he hid an extraordinary secret. 
When I was a child I was told by my parents that I was a winner, and for the first six years of my life I believed what my parents had told me.
I was late in talking, but I went off to school with high hopes of learning to read like my sisters, and for the first year things were fine because there weren't many demands on us other than standing in the right line, sitting down, keeping our mouths shut and going to the bathroom on time. 
And then in the second grade we were supposed to learn to read. But for me it was like opening a Chinese newspaper and looking at it - I didn't understand what those lines were, and as a child of six, seven, eight years old I didn't know how to articulate the problem.
I remember praying at night and saying, "Please Lord, let me know how to read tomorrow when I get up" and sometimes I'd even turn on the light and get a book and look at it and see if I got a miracle. But I didn't get that miracle.
At school I ended up in the dumb row with a bunch of other kids who were having a hard time learning to read. I didn't know how I got there, I didn't know how to get out and I certainly didn't know what question to ask.
John Corcoran as a boy
The teacher didn't call it the "dumb row" - there wasn't any cruelty or anything - but the kids called it the dumb row, and when you're in that dumb row you start thinking you're dumb. 
At teacher conferences my teacher told my parents, "He's a smart boy, he'll get it," and they moved me on to the third grade. 
"He's a smart boy, he'll get it," and they moved me on to the fourth grade. 
"He's a smart boy, he'll get it," and they moved me on to the fifth grade.  
But I wasn't getting it.  
By the time I got to the fifth grade I'd basically given up on myself in terms of reading. I got up every day, got dressed, went to school and I was going to war. I hated the classroom. It was a hostile environment and I had to find a way to survive.
By the seventh grade I was sitting in the principal's office most of the day. I was in fights, I was defiant, I was a clown, I was a disruptor, I got expelled from school. 
But that behaviour wasn't who I felt inside - it wasn't who I wanted to be. I wanted to be somebody else, I had a desire to succeed, I wanted to be a good student, but I just couldn't do it.
By the time I got to the eighth grade I got tired of embarrassing myself and my family. I decided I was going to behave myself now - if you behave in high school you can find your way through the system. So I was going to be a teacher's pet and do everything necessary to pass that system.
I wanted to be an athlete - I had athletic skills, and I had maths skills - I could count money and make change before I even went to school and I learned the times tables.
I had social skills too - I ran around with college kids, I dated the valedictorian - the student with the highest grades who gives a speech at the graduation ceremony, I was the homecoming king, I had people - mostly girls - do my homework for me.
I could write my name and there were some words that I could remember, but I couldn't write a sentence - I was in high school and reading at the second or third grade level. And I never told anybody that I couldn't read.
When I was taking a test I would look at someone else's paper, or I'd pass my paper over to somebody else and they'd answer the questions for me - it was fairly easy, amateur cheating. But when I went off to college on a full athletic scholarship it was a different story. 
I thought, "Oh my gosh, this is way over my head, how am I going to be able to get through this?" 
John Corcoran as a young athlete
I belonged to a social fraternity who had copies of old exam papers. That was one way to cheat. I tried to take classes with a partner, somebody who would help me through. There were professors who used the same test year after year. But I also had to resort to more creative and desperate things.   
In one exam the professor put four questions on the board. I was sitting at the back of the room, near the window, behind the older students.
I had my blue book and I painstakingly copied the four questions off the board. I didn't know what those questions said.
I had arranged for a friend of mine to be outside the window. He was probably the smartest kid in school, but he was also shy and he'd asked me to fix him up with a girl by the name of Mary who he wanted to go to the spring formal dance with.
I passed my blue book out the window to him and he answered the questions for me.
I had another blue exam book underneath my shirt and I took it out and pretended I was writing in it.
I was praying that my friend was going to be able to get my book back to me and that he was going to get the right answers. 
I was so desperate. I needed to pass courses. I was at risk. 
There was another exam that I couldn't figure out how I was going to pass.
One night I went by the professor's office about midnight, he wasn't there. I opened the window with a knife and I went in like a cat burglar. I'd crossed the line now - I wasn't just a student that was cheating, I was a criminal.  
I went inside and I looked around for the exam. It had to be in his office but I couldn't find it. There was a file cabinet that was locked - it had to be in the file cabinet. 
I did the same thing two or three nights in a row looking for that exam but I still couldn't find it. So one night, about one o'clock in the morning, I brought three of my friends with me and we went to the office. We carried out a four-drawer file cabinet, put it in a vehicle, and took it off campus to a college apartment.
I had arranged for a locksmith to come. I put my suit and tie on - I was pretending to be a young businessman who was leaving for Los Angeles the next day and the locksmith was saving my job by opening it. 
He opened it, gave me a key, and sure enough, to my great relief there were more than 40 copies of the exam - a multiple choice paper - in the top drawer of the file cabinet. I took one copy back to my dormitory, where a "smart" classmate made a cheat sheet with all the correct answers. 
We carried the file cabinet back and at five o'clock in the morning I was walking up to my room and thinking, "Mission impossible accomplished!" - and I was feeling pretty good that I was so clever.
But then I walked up the stairs, lay down in my bed and started weeping like a baby. 
Why didn't I ask for help? Because I didn't believe there was anybody out there who could teach me to read. This was my secret and I guarded that secret. 
My teachers and my parents told me that people with college degrees get better jobs, they have better lives, and so that's what I believed. My motivation was to just get that piece of paper. Maybe by osmosis, maybe by prayer, maybe by a miracle I would one day learn to read.
So I graduated from college, and when I graduated there was a teacher shortage and I was offered a job. It was the most illogical thing you can imagine - I got out of the lion's cage and then I got back in to taunt the lion again.
Why did I go into teaching? Looking back it was crazy that I would do that. But I'd been through high school and college without getting caught - so being a teacher seemed a good place to hide. Nobody suspects a teacher of not knowing how to read. 
I taught a lot of different things. I was an athletics coach. I taught social studies. I taught typing - I could copy-type at 65 words a minute but I didn't know what I was typing. I never wrote on a blackboard and there was no printed word in my classroom. We watched a lot of films and had a lot of discussions. 
I remember how fearful I was. I couldn't even take the roll - I had to ask the students to pronounce their names so I could hear their names. And I always had two or three students who I identified early - the ones who could read and write best in the classroom - to help me. They were my teaching aides. They didn't suspect at all - you don't suspect the teacher. 
John Corcoran
One of my biggest fears was faculty meetings. We had them once a week and if the teachers were brainstorming the principal would call on somebody to get those ideas on to the board. I lived in fear that he would call on me, every week I was terrified, but I had a backup plan. 
If he had called on me I was going to get out of my chair and take two steps, grab my chest, drop to the floor and hope they called 911. Whatever it took not to get caught, and I never got caught. 
Sometimes I felt like a good teacher - because I worked hard at it and I really cared about what I was doing - but I wasn't. It was wrong. I didn't belong in the classroom, I was trespassing. I wasn't supposed to be there and sometimes what I was doing made me physically sick, but I was trapped, I couldn't tell anybody.
I got married while I was a teacher. Getting married is a sacrament, it's a commitment to be truthful with another person and this was the first time I thought, "OK, I'm going to trust this person, I'm going to tell her." 
I practised in front of the mirror: "Cathy, I can't read. Cathy, I can't read."
And one evening we were sitting on the couch and I said, "Cathy, I can't read."
But she didn't really understand what I was saying. She thought I was saying that I didn't read much.
You know, love is blind and deaf.  
So we got married and we had a child and years later it really came home to her.
I was reading to our three-year-old daughter. We read to her routinely, but I wasn't really reading, I was making the stories up - stories that I knew, like Goldilocks and The Three Bears, I just added drama to them. 
But this was a new book, Rumpelstiltskin, and my daughter said, "You're not reading it like mama."
My wife heard me trying to read from a child's book and that was the first time that it dawned on her. I had been asking her to do all this writing for me, helping me write things for school, and then she finally realised, how deep and severe this was.
But nothing was said, there was no confrontation, she just carried on helping me get by. 
John Corcoran and his granddaughter
Image captionJohn Corcoran and his granddaughter, Kayla Mertes: It was when "reading" to his daughter that John's secret was revealed
It didn't relieve anything because in my gut I felt dumb and I felt like a fake. I was deceitful. I was teaching my students to be seekers of truth and I was the biggest liar in the room. The relief only came when I finally learned to read.
I taught high school from 1961 to 1978. Eight years after I quit my teaching job, something finally changed. 
I was 47 going on 48 when I saw Barbara Bush - then Second Lady of the US - talking about adult literacy on TV. It was her special cause. I'd never heard anybody talking about adult literacy before, I thought I was the only person in the world that was in the situation I was in.
I was at this desperate spot in my life. I wanted to tell somebody and I wanted to get help and one day in the grocery store I was standing in line and there were two women in front of me talking about their adult brother who was going to the library. He was learning to read and they were just full of joy and I couldn't believe it. 
So one Friday afternoon in my pinstriped suit I walked into the library and asked to see the director of the literacy programme and I sat down with her and I told her I couldn't read.
That was the second person in my adult life that I had ever told.
John Corcoran and his wife with Barbara and George Bush
Image captionBarbara Bush inspired John Corcoran to ask for help and finally learn to read
I had a volunteer tutor - she was 65 years old. She wasn't a teacher, she was just somebody who loved to read and didn't think anybody should go through life without knowing how to 
One of the things that she had me do in the early stages was to try to write because I had all these thoughts in my mind and I'd never written a sentence. The first thing that I wrote was a poem about my feelings. One of the things about poetry is that you don't have to know what a complete sentence is, and you don't have to write in complete sentences.
She got me to about sixth-grade-level reading - I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. But it took me about seven years to feel like I was a literate person. I cried, I cried, and I cried after I started learning to read - there was a lot of pain and a lot of frustration - but it filled a big hole in my soul. Adults who can't read are suspended in their childhoods, emotionally, psychologically, academically, spiritually. We haven't grown up yet.
I was encouraged to tell my story by my tutor to motivate others and promote literacy, but I said, "No way. I've lived in this community for 17 years, my children are here, my wife is here - she's a professional, my parents are here, I'm not going to tell this story." 
But eventually I decided I would. It was an embarrassing secret and it was a shame-based secret, so it was a big decision.
It wasn't easy but once I'd made up my mind I was going to tell the story I told it all across America, I spoke to anybody that would listen. I guarded this secret for decades and then I blasted it to the world. 
I was on Larry King, I was on the ABC News magazine show 20/20, I was on Oprah. 
It was uncomfortable for people to hear the story of the teacher who couldn't read. Some people said it was impossible and that I was making the whole story up. 
But I want people to know there is hope, there is a solution. We are not "dumb", we can learn to read, it's never too late.
Unfortunately we are still pushing children and teens through school without teaching them basic reading and writing skills. But we can break this cycle of failure if instead of blaming teachers we make sure they are properly trained. 
For 48 years I was in the dark. But I finally got the monkey off my back, I finally buried the ghost of my past. 
Written by Sarah McDermott. Photographs courtesy of John Corcoran. Corcoran grew up in New Mexico in the US during the 1940s and 50s. One of six siblings, he graduated from high school, went on to university, and became a teacher in the 1960s - a job he held for 17 years. But, as he explains here, he hid an extraordinary secret. 

It was Not Just ShakeShack to Get Money They Did Not Need But 94 Publicly Held Companies Went For It


Companies with thousands of employees, past penalties from government investigations and risks of financial failure even before the coronavirus walloped the economy were among those receiving millions of dollars from a relief fund that Congress created to help small businesses through the crisis, an Associated Press investigation found.
The Paycheck Protection Program was supposed to infuse small businesses, which typically have less access to quick cash and credit, with $349 billion in emergency loans that could help keep workers on the job and bills paid on time.  
But at least 94 companies that disclosed receiving aid since the program opened April 3 were publicly traded, the AP found, some with market values well over $100 million. And about 25% of the companies had warned investors months ago — while the economy was humming along — that their ability to remain viable was in question. 
By combing through thousands of regulatory filings submitted through Monday, the AP identified the 94 companies, or their subsidiaries, as recipients of a combined $365 million in low-interest, taxpayer-backed loans. 
Nine of the loans were for the maximum $10 million possible, including one to a California software company that settled a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation late last year into accounting errors that overstated its revenue. 
The firms getting maximum loans are likely just a tip of the iceberg: Statistics released last week by the U.S. Small Business Administration showed that 4,400 of the approved loans exceeded $5 million. Overall, the size of the typical loan nationally was $206,000, according to the statistics. The SBA will forgive the loans if companies meet certain benchmarks, such as keeping employees on payroll for eight weeks. 
The list of recipients identified by the AP is a fraction of the 1.6 million loans that lenders approved before the program was depleted last week, but it is the most complete public accounting to date. Neither the Trump administration nor the lending industry has disclosed a list of Paycheck Protection Program beneficiaries.
On Tuesday, the White House referred questions to the SBA and Treasury Department.
The SBA did not respond directly to AP’s findings. Instead, the agency emailed a list of bullet points including that “loans cited by recent media reports going to large companies comprise less than 10% of the loans made.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin addressed the issue at Tuesday evening’s White House briefing, saying, “The intent of this money was not for big public companies that had access to capital.”
The department has said in written materials that that 74% of the loans were for less than $150,000, demonstrating “the accessibility of this program to even the smallest of small businesses.” 
The AP analysis comes as lawmakers reached an additional relief package that would replenish the Paycheck Protection Program with more than $300 billion. The Senate approved the deal Tuesday and the House was scheduled to vote Thursday.
In the wrangling ahead of Tuesday’s vote, several lawmakers expressed urgent need to get more money to Main Street.
“I am troubled by reports of publicly traded companies with access to capital & bank relationships receiving money quickly while many ma & pa shops can’t even get a call back or $1,” Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., tweeted. “The next round of funds must be focused on small businesses, with better oversight & transparency.”
Democratic House members implored that the new package “equitably prioritize small, minority, veteran, and women-owned businesses” in the future.
“If we let the applications for the largest entities consume those one and two person operations, we have failed our constituents and paved the way for national economic decline,” the leaders of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said in a written statement. 
In its review, AP also found examples of companies that had foreign owners and that were delisted from U.S. stock exchanges, or threatened with removal, because of their poor stock performance before the coronavirus hit. Other companies have had annual losses for years. 
Wave Life Sciences USA Inc., a Boston-area biotechnology company that develops new pharmaceuticals, received a $7.2 million loan. Weeks earlier, Wave Life Sciences, whose parent company is based in Singapore, disclosed in its annual report net losses of $102 million, $147 million and $194 million during the last three fiscal years. 
“We currently have no products on the market and expect that it may be many years, if ever, before we have a product candidate ready for commercialization,” it wrote.
In an emailed statement, the company said: “The livelihood of our U.S. employees and their families would be severely disrupted if they were to lose their jobs or be furloughed. We are doing everything we can to support them.”
Michael Minnis, who has studied the SBA program as an accounting professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, said he understood the frustrations of smaller businesses that have not received funding when publicly listed companies have. But he said it would be hard to go into the program and change the parameters now.
“There’s a fundamental trade-off here between speed and targeting this in the absolute best way,” said Minnis, who estimates the program might need to dispense $720 billion to meet demand. 
Since launching, the relief package has faced criticism about slow loan processing, unclear rules and limited funding that left many mom-and-pop businesses without help.
News that the $1.6 billion Shake Shack burger empire had received a maximum $10 million loan ignited public anger. Company executives said late Sunday they would return the money after finding other sources of capital. 
By design, the Paycheck Protection Program was meant to get money out quickly to as many small businesses as possible, using a formula based in part on workforce and payroll size. Some of the eligibility criteria was expanded, making it possible for some businesses with more than 500 employees to qualify if, for example, they met certain size standards for their industries or other conditions.
The owners behind large restaurant chains like Potbelly, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Taco Cabana were able to get the maximum $10 million in loans despite employing thousands of workers.
Some other big companies that received loans appeared to have enough cash on hand to survive the economic downturn. New York City-based Lindblad Expeditions Holdings, for example, a cruise ship and travel company with 650 workers and a branding deal with National Geographic, got a $6.6 million loan. At the end of March, the business reported having about $137 million in cash on its balance sheet.
“When this crisis hit, we had two business planning cases: 1) substantial layoffs and furloughs or 2) receiving these funds and not impacting our employees,” spokeswoman Audrey Chang wrote in an email. “Lindblad is the very rare travel company that has not imposed any layoffs, furloughs or salary reductions to date.”
Five of the companies that the AP identified were previously under investigation by financial and other regulators, including firms that paid penalties to resolve allegations, records show.
Quantum Corp., a data storage company based in San Jose, California, that has a workforce of 800, paid a $1 million penalty last December over allegations that accounting errors resulted in overstated revenues. Quantum received a $10 million loan.
Without that loan, “we would most certainly be forced to reduce headcount. We owe it to our employees — who’ve stuck with us through a long and difficult turnaround — to do everything we can to save their jobs during this crisis,” company spokesman Bob Wientzen wrote in an email.
Marrone Bio Innovations, a biopesticide company in Davis, California, that has about 50 workers, agreed to pay $1.8 million in 2016 after the SEC alleged its chief operating officer had inflated financial results to hit projections that it would double revenues during its first year as a public company. Marrone received a loan worth $1.7 million.
Pam Marrone, the chief executive, said the company “shouldn’t be punished” for what happened with the SEC because it has had clean audits for years now. She described the investigation as a “body blow” that cost it investors and drove its stock price under $1. She said it has had to take on $40 million in debt and is still digging itself out of the financial hole.
“People don’t realize how tough it is to be a small public company like us that’s not yet profitable,” she said. “We can’t just go to investors and say, ‘OK, open up your wallets.’ “
The AP analysis found that 23 of the 94 companies had warned investors months ago that they or their auditors had significant doubts about their ability to remain viable and meet their financial obligations despite the booming economy at the time. 
One was Helius Medical Technologies, a company located near Philadelphia that develops technology to help injured brains heal themselves.
The company has 19 employees and received a $323,000 loan amid a tough stretch. Its most recent annual report warned, “We may be unable to continue to operate without the threat of liquidation for the foreseeable future” and did not expect to have enough cash to go beyond May.
In an interview, president and chief executive Phil Deschamps said the company was able to raise enough capital earlier this year that, when paired with the loan, it can survive to early summer — when it expects to have filed for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for its device. Without the federal money, he said, the company would have lost scientists and attorneys who help prepare regulatory submissions. 
Deschamps said his company followed the same rules and applied like any other, and that its device could help thousands of people in the future. But he also understands why some people might question giving money to publicly traded firms.
“If we didn’t qualify for whatever reason, we would have walked away and figured out another way to do it,” he said.
Another company that was facing financial issues before the virus was Enservco Corp., a Denver-based oil and gas firm. In its annual report filed last month, the company noted: “We do not generate adequate revenue to fund our current operations, and we incurred significant net operating losses during the years ended December 31, 2019, and 2018, which raise substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.”
Chief executive Ian Dickinson said he welcomed the $1.9 million loan because he would’ve had to let go more employees than he has without it. Enservco currently has 95 employees, he said.
Dickinson said he did not believe concerns about how long the company could survive were raised in the application process with its bank.
“At the end of the day, our employees are really no different than the employees of a nonpublic company,” Dickinson said. “These are funds being used to keep folks on payroll and keep food on their tables.”
That companies listed on stock markets, some with questionable records, received precious aid during the chaotic last few weeks frustrates Zachary Davis, a Santa Cruz, California, businessman who runs two artisanal ice cream shops, a beachside café and a taco bar with partner Kendra Baker.
Before a shelter-in-place order in mid-March, the two were expecting their best year and were on track to pay off in May the $250,000 loan from the federal government that 10 years ago helped open their original shop.
“We were feeling pretty good about where we were in the world. Now it’s just all turned upside down,” said Davis, who had to lay off 70 workers. 
Davis says they were recently able to obtain a different $10,000 disaster loan from the federal government to pay off vendors, but he says that it “evaporated within seconds.” Davis and Baker submitted a Paycheck Protection Program application with supporting documents on April 2 — but are still waiting.
Associated Press writers Michael Liedtke in Berkeley, California; Darlene Superville, Lisa Mascaro, Zeke Miller and Jeannie Ohm in Washington; and researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.
Contact AP’s global investigative team at Investigative@ap.org.

April 29, 2020

Chasten Buttigieg Talks About Being 17, Gay and Homeless

 Chasten, husband of Pete Buttigieg Ex Presidential candidate

Chasten Buttigieg, former high school teacher and husband of presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, has spoken about the hopelessness he felt during a period of homelessness after he came out as gay.
Buttigieg appeared alongside his husband in an interview with Billy Eichner for GLAAD’s fundraising event “Together in Pride: You Are Not Alone” last week.
Last year, Buttigieg spoke about experiencing homelessness after he came out to his family and received a negative reaction from one of his brothers.
He told the Washington Post that he moved out of the family home, stayed on friends’ couches, and even slept in his car in the parking lot of his community college.
Speaking at the GLAAD event, Buttigieg again spoke about his homelessness while discussing LGBTQ youth and his experiences while out on the campaign trail.
“I think young people across the board in this country are so fed up with power and Washington and politics that has continually failed them,” he said. “I remember when I came out growing up in northern Michigan I ran away from home and I absolutely felt like nobody understood me.”
He added: “I remember being 17, sleeping in the back of my car feeling like nobody believed in me and that there was never going to be a future for me. And there are still over 40% of homeless youth in this country are LGBTQ.” 

GOP Are Looking At Trump As The Titanic Taking The Senate Down with Him

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s erratic handling of the coronavirus outbreak, the worsening economy and a cascade of ominous public and private polling have Republicans increasingly nervous that they are at risk of losing the presidency and the Senate if Mr. Trump does not put the nation on a radically improved course.

The scale of the G.O.P.’s challenge has crystallized in the last week. With 26 million Americans now having filed for unemployment benefits, Mr. Trump’s standing in states that he carried in 2016 looks increasingly wobbly: New surveys show him trailing significantly in battleground states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, and he is even narrowly behind in must-win Florida.

Democrats raised substantially more money than Republicans did in the first quarter in the most pivotal congressional races, according to recent campaign finance reports. And while Mr. Trump is well ahead in money compared with the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democratic donors are only beginning to focus on the general election, and several super PACs plan to spend heavily on behalf of him and the party.

Perhaps most significantly, Mr. Trump’s single best advantage as an incumbent — his access to the bully pulpit — has effectively become a platform for self-sabotage. 

His daily news briefings on the coronavirus outbreak are inflicting grave damage on his political standing, Republicans believe, and his recent remarks about combating the virus with sunlight and disinfectant were a breaking point for a number of senior party officials.

On Friday evening, Mr. Trump conducted only a short briefing and took no questions, a format that a senior administration official said was being discussed as the best option for the president going forward.

Glen Bolger, a longtime Republican pollster, said the landscape for his party had become far grimmer compared with the pre-virus plan to run almost singularly around the country’s prosperity.
“With the economy in free-fall, Republicans face a very challenging environment and it’s a total shift from where we were a few months ago,” Mr. Bolger said. “Democrats are angry, and now we have the foundation of the campaign yanked out from underneath us.”

Mr. Trump’s advisers and allies have often blamed external events for his most self-destructive acts, such as his repeated outbursts during the two-year investigation into his campaign’s dealings with Russia. Now, there is no such explanation — and, so far, there have been exceedingly few successful interventions regarding Mr. Trump’s behavior at the podium.
Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, said the president had to change his tone and offer more than a campaign of grievance.

“You got to have some hope to sell people,” Mr. Cole said. “But Trump usually sells anger, division and ‘we’re the victim.’”
Latest Updates: Coronavirus Outbreak in the U.S.

Trump unveils a plan to help states expand testing. Experts say it is not enough.
Mnuchin says that companies could face “criminal liability” for improperly taking relief funds.
The C.D.C. expands the list of symptoms, and the W.H.O. warns of a long road ahead.

There are still more than six months until the election, and many Republicans are hoping that the dynamics of the race will shift once Mr. Biden is thrust back into the campaign spotlight. At that point, they believe, the race will not simply be the up-or-down referendum on the president it is now, and Mr. Trump will be able to more effectively sell himself as the person to rebuild the economy.
[Read about Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s cloistered mode of campaigning during the coronavirus lockdown.]

(There have been no successful interventions regarding Mr. Trump’s behavior at the podium during his daily coronavirus briefings.Credit...Al Drago for The New York Times)

“We built the greatest economy in the world; I’ll do it a second time,” Mr. Trump said earlier this month, road-testing a theme he will deploy in the coming weeks.
Still, a recent wave of polling has fueled Republican anxieties, as Mr. Biden leads in virtually every competitive state.

The surveys also showed Republican senators in Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and Maine trailing or locked in a dead heat with potential Democratic rivals — in part because their fate is linked to Mr. Trump’s job performance. If incumbents in those states lose, and Republicans pick up only the Senate seat in Alabama, Democrats would take control of the chamber should Mr. Biden win the presidency. 

“He’s got to run very close for us to keep the Senate,” Charles R. Black Jr., a veteran Republican consultant, said of Mr. Trump. “I’ve always thought we were favored to, but I can’t say that now with all these cards up in the air.”

Republicans were taken aback this past week by the results of a 17-state survey commissioned by the Republican National Committee. It found the president struggling in the Electoral College battlegrounds and likely to lose without signs of an economic rebound this fall, according to a party strategist outside the R.N.C. who is familiar with the poll’s results.

The Trump campaign’s own surveys have also shown an erosion of support, according to four people familiar with the data, as the coronavirus remains the No. 1 issue worrying voters.
Polling this early is, of course, not determinative: In 2016 Hillary Clinton also enjoyed a wide advantage in many states well before November.

Yet Mr. Trump’s best hope to win a state he lost in 2016, Minnesota, also seems increasingly challenging. A Democratic survey taken by Senator Tina Smith showed the president trailing by 10 percentage points there, according to a Democratic strategist who viewed the poll.
Sign up to receive an email when we publish a new story about the coronavirus outbreak. 

The private data of the two parties is largely mirrored by public surveys. Just last week, three Pennsylvania polls and two Michigan surveys were released showing Mr. Trump losing outside the margin of error. And a pair of Florida polls were released that showed Mr. Biden enjoying a slim advantage in a state that is all but essential for Republicans to retain the presidency.
To some in the party, this feels all too similar to the last time they held the White House.

In 2006, anger at President George W. Bush and unease with the Iraq war propelled Democrats to reclaim Congress; two years later they captured the presidency thanks to the same anti-incumbent themes and an unexpected crisis that accelerated their advantage, the economic collapse of 2008. The two elections were effectively a single continuous rejection of Republican rule, as some in the G.O.P. fear 2018 and 2020 could become in a worst-case scenario. 

“It already feels very similar to the 2008 cycle,” said Billy Piper, a Republican lobbyist and former chief of staff to Senator Mitch McConnell.

Significant questions remain that could tilt the outcome of this election: whether Americans experience a second wave of the virus in the fall, the condition of the economy and how well Mr. Biden performs after he emerges from his Wilmington, Del., basement, which many in his party are privately happy to keep him in so long as Mr. Trump is fumbling as he governs amid a crisis.

Defeating Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has become a cause for national liberal activists.

(Defeating Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has become a cause for national liberal activists.Credit...Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)

But if Republicans are comforted by the uncertainties that remain, they are alarmed by one element of this election that is already abundantly clear: The small-dollar fund-raising energy Democrats enjoyed in the midterms has not abated.

Most of the incumbent House Democrats facing competitive races enjoy a vast financial advantage over Republican challengers, who are struggling to garner attention as the virus overwhelms news coverage.

Still, few officials in either party believed the House was in play this year. There was also similar skepticism about the Senate. Then the virus struck and fund-raising reports covering the first three months of this year were released in mid-April.

Republican senators facing difficult races were not only all outraised by Democrats, they were also overwhelmed. 

In Maine, for example, Senator Susan Collins brought in $2.4 million while her little-known rival, the House speaker Sara Gideon, raised more than $7 million. Even more concerning to Republicans is the lesser-known Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Republican officials are especially irritated at Mr. Tillis because he has little small-dollar support and raised only $2.1 million, which was more than doubled by his Democratic opponent.

“These Senate first-quarter fund-raising numbers are a serious wake-up call for the G.O.P.,” said Scott Reed, the top political strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The Republican Senate woes come as anger toward Mr. Trump is rising from some of the party’s most influential figures on Capitol Hill.

After working closely with Senate Republicans at the start of the year, some of the party’s top congressional strategists say the handful of political advisers Mr. Trump retains have communicated little with them since the health crisis began.

In a campaign steered by Mr. Trump, whose rallies drove fund-raising and data harvesting, the center of gravity has of late shifted to the White House. His campaign headquarters will remain closed for another few weeks, and West Wing officials say the president’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, hasn’t been to the White House since last month, though he is in touch by phone.
Then there is the president’s conduct.

In just the last week, he has undercut the efforts of his campaign and his allies to attack Mr. Biden on China; suddenly proposed a halt on immigration; and said governors should not move too soon to reopen their economies — a week after calling on protesters to “liberate” their states. And that was all before his digression into the potential healing powers of disinfectants.

Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, has little small-dollar support and raised only $2.1 million in the first quarter. Credit...Pete Marovich for The New York Times
Republican lawmakers have gone from watching his lengthy daily briefings with a tight-lipped grimace to looking upon them with horror.

“Any of us can be onstage too much,” said the longtime Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, noting that “there’s a burnout factor no matter who you are, you’ve got to think about that.”
Privately, other party leaders are less restrained about the political damage they believe Mr. Trump is doing to himself and Republican candidates. One prominent G.O.P. senator said the nightly sessions were so painful he could not bear watching any longer.

“I would urge the president to focus on the positive, all that has been done and how we are preparing for a possible renewal of the pandemic in the fall,” said Representative Peter King, Republican of New York.

Asked about concerns over Mr. Trump’s briefings, the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said, “Millions and millions of Americans tune in each day to hear directly from President Trump and appreciate his leadership, unprecedented coronavirus response, and confident outlook for America’s future.”

Mr. Trump’s thrashing about partly reflects his frustration with the virus and his inability to slow Mr. Biden’s rise in the polls. It’s also an illustration of his broader inability to shift the public conversation to another topic, something he has almost always been able to do when confronted with negative story lines ranging from impeachment proceedings to payouts to adult film stars.

Mr. Trump is also restless. Administration officials said they were looking to resume his travel in as soon as a week, although campaign rallies remain distant for now.
As they look for ways to regain the advantage, some Republicans believe the party must mount an immediate ad campaign blitzing Mr. Biden, identifying him to their advantage and framing the election as a clear choice.

“If Trump is the issue, he probably loses,” said Mr. Black, the consultant. “If he makes it about Biden and the economy is getting better, he has a chance.”

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