April 28, 2020

You've probably noticed that graphs and charts are having a moment during the coronavirus pandemic. Governments are using them to make informed decisions about when to re-open economies, and they pop up daily to present people around the world with a look at how the pandemic is trending. But some would argue people are putting a little too much stock in models without accounting for their potential pitfalls.

Carl Bergstrom, an expert on both emerging infectious diseases and networked misinformation from the University of Washington, told The Guardian in an interview he doesn't think people have done a good job of "thinking about what the purpose of models are, how the purposes of different models vary, and then what the scope of their value is." That's led people to over-rely on them and "treat them too seriously," and when reality eventually differs from the projections, models tend to get criticized "for not being perfect at everything."

Bergstrom's point is that science, especially in fast moving scenarios like the pandemic, is "provisional" and "can be corrected." He believes researchers can improve at communicating that point by "deliberately stressing the possible weaknesses of our interpretations." A really good paper, he said, will lay out all the reasons why it could be wrong. Read more at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

10:37 p.m.

The Aurora Police Department in Colorado is apologizing after a video was posted online showing officers with their guns drawn as five members of a Black family, including a 6-year-old girl, lie face down in a parking lot.

The department says the officers mistakenly thought the family was in a stolen car. The incident took place on Sunday, with Brittany Gilliam telling CBS Denver she was sitting in the car with her 6-year-old daughter, 12-year-old sister, 14-year-old niece, and 17-year-old niece when a police officer approached. "He proceeded to handcuff me and I saw him handcuff the kids, so I started getting angry, why are you handcuffing kids," she said. Video shows Gilliam, her sister, and her 17-year-old niece in handcuffs, with the entire family face down on the asphalt and one of the children screaming, "I want my mother!"

The police department said Gilliam's car had the same license plate number as a suspected stolen motorcycle they were looking for — except Gilliam's plate wasn't from the right state. This was considered a "high-risk stop," Interim Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson said in a statement, and protocol calls for officers "drawing their weapons and ordering all occupants to exit the car and lie prone on the ground."

Wilson said the department will now look into enacting new practices and training for high-risk stops, and while Gilliam, who plans on filing a federal lawsuit against the department for excessive force, wants to see "better protocol," she is mostly worried about her daughter, sister, and nieces. "Those kids are not okay," she said. "They're never going to be okay. That was a traumatic experience. Would your kids be okay after that? Having a gun pulled on them and laid on the ground. Especially a 6-year-old."

The Aurora Police Department is already under scrutiny following last year's officer-involved death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old unarmed Black man who was detained as he walked home from the store. He died after being placed in a chokehold and injected with ketamine. Catherine Garcia

8:51 p.m.

Lebanese officials believe Tuesday's enormous explosion in Beirut's port was likely caused by 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse, and Prime Minister Hassan Diab vowed that those "responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price."

The blast killed at least 78 people and injured nearly 4,000, Lebanon's health ministry said, with many people still missing. The explosion leveled buildings, flipped cars, and blew out windows, and was so strong that it registered as a 3.3 magnitude earthquake.

Beirut's hospitals, already under stress due to the coronavirus pandemic, are now overwhelmed by patients, and medical facilities are asking for blood donations and generators. The city's governor, Marwan Abboud, told reporters he has "never in my life seen damage this enormous ... this is a national catastrophe. This is a disaster for Lebanon."

Lebanon is experiencing high unemployment and poverty rates, and Diab has asked for international assistance. Several countries, including Egypt, Jordan, and the United Kingdom, have pledged to help, and so has Israel, a country with which Lebanon is still technically at war; the country said it offered the Lebanese government "via international intermediaries medical and humanitarian aid, as well as immediate emergency assistance." Catherine Garcia

7:46 p.m.

It cost nearly $5 billion for Disney to close Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris, and its other theme parks from mid-March to June, the Walt Disney Company revealed on Tuesday.

During an earnings webcast, the company said it posted a loss of nearly $5 billion for the third quarter, which included a $2 billion loss in its parks, products, and experiences segment, USA Today reports. This segment's revenue dropped 85 percent to $1 billion compared to the same quarter in 2019.

While Shanghai Disneyland reopened in May, followed by Disney World and Disneyland Paris in July, Disneyland in Southern California remains closed. Hong Kong Disneyland reopened in June, but after a surge in coronavirus cases, shut its doors again last month.

Florida has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the United States, and executives said Disney World is seeing more cancelations and lower attendance than expected. "This is obviously a very uncertain time," CEO Bob Chapek said. "We should be in good shape once consumer confidence returns." Catherine Garcia

7:00 p.m.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) on Tuesday ordered a statewide mask mandate, requiring all residents to don a face covering while shopping or attending a public gathering during the next two weeks.

Mississippi is seeing a surge in new coronavirus cases and deaths, with more than 1 in 5 COVID-19 tests conducted in the state coming back positive, the Clarion Ledger reports. Previously, Reeves issued three separate executive orders requiring mask mandates in 37 of the state's 82 counties, but balked at issuing a statewide order because he said it was too hard to enforce and he trusted Mississippians to wear face coverings on their own.

On Tuesday, Reeves said he ordered the statewide mandate "because I believe that a large number of Mississippians are actually participating in slowing down the spread of the virus. They are doing exactly what they've asked them to do, and I'm proud of that."

Earlier in the day, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi's top health officer, announced a statewide order that anyone who has been infected with COVID-19 and is not hospitalized must stay in self-isolation for 14 days from the onset of their illness. Failure to comply with this order could result in a misdemeanor fine of $500 and/or up to six months in jail. Catherine Garcia

5:37 p.m.

Disney is getting down to business and releasing Mulan — at home.

The company on Tuesday announced that the live-action remake of Mulan, which was set to come to theaters in March but had its release postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, will debut on Disney+ next month. The film will be made available to stream on Sept. 4 and will cost $29.99 to watch, although it will also come to some theaters in countries that don't have Disney+, The Verge reports.

This was yet another blow to the movie theater industry, as alongside Tenet, Mulan had been expected to be one of the first major blockbusters back in U.S. theaters when they reopen. Some films that were originally intended to play in theaters have been released on premium video on demand in recent months, including Trolls World Tour. But Mulan is by far the biggest film to take this step.

Disney previously made a similar move with Hamilton, the filmed version of the Broadway musical, bringing it to Disney+ in July instead of debuting it in theaters in October 2021 as planned. It was evidently a huge hit, and Disney+ as of Tuesday has reached 60 million subscribers after Disney forecasted it would have between 60 million and 90 million subscribers by 2024.

Though it still isn't entirely clear when theaters will widely resume operations in the United States, AMC Theatres is aiming to reopen its locations this month, and Warner Bros. is planning to give Tenet a limited release in theaters that are able to play it on Sept. 3. Brendan Morrow

Opinion
5:32 p.m.

There are 43 muscles in the human face and Jonathan Swan flexed all of them during his recent interview with the president of the United States, which aired Monday night on HBO. Throughout the 40-minute conversation, Swan's brow furrowed, his eyes squinted and bulged, his nose wrinkled. Sometimes his jaw would actually hang open, a cartoonish epitome of "incredulous."

Such open expressions of disbelief when speaking with President Trump could arguably be considered rude (as if Trump hasn't rolled his eyes and mocked interviewers himself). But Swan's face served a greater journalistic role during the interview than fueling great memes: it fact-checked a leader who is not accustomed to pushback.

Trump has long escaped close scrutiny in his interviews, dating back to when he was still a candidate. Today, "Trump gets his share of pointed questions, but in terms of standards, Trump's treatment in most interviews is not so different from that of his predecessors — some softballs, some tough questions, a handful of real-time fact-checks," The New Republic recently wrote. "The problem, however, is that unlike his presidential forebears, Trump lies constantly."

It is the "overabundance of available material" to fact-check that has made it difficult for veteran journalists like Bill Hemmer, Bret Baier, David Muir, and Chuck Todd to know what, precisely, to call out, CNN notes. That's where Swan's face comes in handy. While he still verbally pushes back on Trump's falsehoods, his expressions do the heavy-lifting of continuously doubting the president's parade of absurd claims, like that "manuals" and "books" say you shouldn't conduct too many COVID-19 tests. Swan's expression is also what telegraphs to viewers that Trump's rambling during an exchange about charts is, indeed, utterly incoherent — wearing a polite listening face instead would have been misleading. Sometimes Swan simply looks helpless, serving to remind us of the torrent of falsehoods we're hearing.

Swan's expressions haven't always been applauded. In 2018, the reporter was described as a "bootlicker" for his banter and look of apparent delight when walking the president into acknowledging that he intended to end birthright citizenship ("Never trust a reporter who bounces in his chair with glee," The Intercept blasted). As Swan, a print journalist, later wrote to his colleagues in apology: "I'm not used to having my facial expression recorded … but what you saw was authentic surprise."

Turns out it's a good thing for us all that he's an open book. Jeva Lange

5:29 p.m.

If you thought the 2020 Major League Baseball season couldn't get any weirder, just check out Tuesday's game between the Minnesota Twins and Pittsburgh Pirates.

MLB fans are probably already used to games getting postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the Pirates-Twins contest was upended briefly, not by the virus, but a drone, which was seen hovering over the fan-less Target Field in Minneapolis in the top of the 5th inning. That prompted the umpires to pull players off the field as a safety precaution.

The players, at least, had some fun with it, and tried to knock the object out of the sky with baseballs, which is very much what one would expect a baseball player to do in this situation. Tim O'Donnell

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