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In Odd Clip, Biden Compares Trump Suggested Inject Bleach Prescription

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In Odd Clip, Biden Compares Trump Suggested Inject Bleach Prescription

We’ve been told, over and over again, how irresponsible President Trump is for touting hydroxychloroquine as a potential agent to aid in COVID-19 recovery. That hyperventilating began anew this week when the president announced he was taking the controversial drug to prevent infection by the novel coronavirus.

Last month, the FDA pointed out the potential side effects of the drug.

“Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can cause abnormal heart rhythms such as QT interval prolongation and a dangerously rapid heart rate called ventricular tachycardia,” a notice from the agency read.

“We will continue to investigate risks associated with the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for COVID-19 and communicate publicly when we have more information.” In a news briefing Monday,

Trump said he asked his White House doctor about taking the drug, and the two discussed the potential risks and benefits of doing so. “I asked him, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘Well, if you’d like it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like it. I’d like to take it,’” he said. “After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine,

we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relevant risks,” Trump’s physician, Sean Conley, confirmed in a statement. So of course, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden popped his head out of his Wilmington,

Delaware, basement this week for a town hall to talk about, among other things, the president’s use of hydroxychloroquine. As is his wont, however, he took a softball question involving something that apparently made the president look bad and somehow made himself look worse. Could hydroxychloroquine be a promising treatment for coronavirus?

When asked about his thoughts on the president modeling what some doctors believe to be “risky medical behavior in front of the American people” by taking hydroxychloroquine, Biden responded, “It’s like saying maybe if you injected Clorox into your blood, it may cure you.” “Come on, man,” he continued.

“What is he doing? What in God’s name is he doing? Though somewhat unclear (no surprise there), it seemed as though Biden was trying to reference an obviously sarcastic remark the president made some time ago about injecting disinfectant into one’s veins to kill the coronavirus. Late night has certainly done enough on this one and those are actually trained comedians — as opposed to Biden, who tells jokes and watches them fall like wounded birds.

The rest of the discussion on the topic seemed to involve Biden talking down the drug as if it were completely untested, with Biden appearing to ignore the fact that Trump obtained a prescription from a doctor to begin doing so. “The words of a president matter,” Biden said. 

“You heard the vice president today or yesterday say ‘I’m not using it. I’m not using it.’ The vice president of the United States. Look, this is absolutely irresponsible. There’s no serious medical person out there saying to use that drug. It’s counterproductive. It’s not going to help,

but the president, he decided that’s an answer.” This is interesting on a number of levels, only one of which I’ll go into here: namely, that hydroxychloroquine is the 132nd most prescribed medicine in the United States as of 2018, according to a study published in Pharmacy: Journal of Pharmacy Education and Practice. Now, does it mean there are potential side effects? Of course, particularly its potentiality to cause a dangerous arrhythmia known as QT interval prolongation which can cause sudden death. It’s also not the only drug that does this.

That said, the risks can be managed — as evinced by the fact it remains the 132nd-most prescribed drug in America. But, according to Biden, it’s absolutely unsafe: “Look at the studies that have been done. It does much more harm than good. This is totally irresponsible,” he said.

As most of the rest of this clip was, this wasn’t necessarily true. Studies have been contradictory and, if hydroxychloroquine is to be effective, it’s unclear when it needs to be given.

But then again, Biden’s a doctor, right? He’s the voice of reason in the room. As opposed to the other guy, the one who’s not comparing a prescription of hydroxychloroquine to suggesting people inject Clorox.

As Biden says, “[t]he words of a president matter” and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is making precisely the opposite point he wants to be making — and yet, he needn’t worry about this.

After all, did you hear about this one? Will anyone else? This clip doesn’t sound too hot, so it was basically memory-holed once Tuesday was over. In fact, it’ll get far less play in the media than the fact the president decided to take hydroxychloroquine for prophylactic reasons. If that doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what will.

Rajesh is a freelancer with a background in e-commerce marketing. Having spent her career in startups, He specializes in strategizing and executing marketing campaigns.

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Apple’s Blockbuster Sci-Fi Series ‘Foundation’ Is a Beautiful Mess

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Apple’s Blockbuster Sci-Fi Series ‘Foundation’ Is a Beautiful Mess
Apple TV+’s Foundation. Apple TV+

“It takes more power to build than burn,” one character intones in the premiere episode of Apple’s new expensive-looking science-fiction series, Foundation, based on Isaac Asimov’s novel series of the same name. If true, than Foundation, created by David S. Goyer (Terminator: Dark Fate, The Dark Knight) and Josh Friedman (TNT’s Snowpiercer), is only running at half power.

The big budget series is a complex saga of humanity scattered across the galaxy living under the rule of the Galactic Empire, headed by a succession of three identical clones at different stages of their life: childhood, adulthood (played by Lee Pace), and old age. In the waning generations of this futuristic feudal state, mathematician Harry Seldon (Jared Harris) develops his theory of psychohistory, a mathematical sociology that uses statistical laws of mass action to predict the future of large populations. His data foresees the collapse of the Empire and a Dark Age lasting 30,000 years. His loyal followers attempt to preserve their culture as the Galactic Empire clings desperately to power and control. What ensues is “a 1,000-year chess game between Hari Seldon and the Empire, and all the characters in between are the pawns, but some of the pawns over the course of this saga end up becoming kings and queens,” according to Goyer.

Conceptually, this is exactly the sort of high-minded blockbuster genre proselytization that Apple should be aiming for. Each major streaming service is anchored by a similar broad appeal tentpole hit rooted in sci-fi (Netflix’s Stranger Things, Disney+’s The Mandalorian, Amazon’s The Boys, etc.). But Foundation forces the viewer to endure an elongated build up to finally arrive at its central conceit: saving the galaxy. At that point, you may begin to wonder if this galaxy is worth the trouble.

The show doesn’t immediately drown you in world building as it launches into its prime directive preamble (the sea of sci-fi lingo and canonical mumbo jumbo comes later). Yet the premiere, “The Emperor’s Peace,” is downloading a lot of information to the viewer in a bloated 68-minute debut. Over the eight episodes provided to critics it unfurls a millennia worth of story. But unfortunately, that story is dropped on us like an overstuffed trash bag down a garbage chute.

Foundation, with its galactic empire, fantastical worlds, and lightyear-spanning politics, is meant to be thought-provoking, awe-inspiring, and inspirational. A divide in class, generation, and distance at a scale heretofore unknown; a revolution against inter-planetary tyranny. Various cultures and societies clashing, collaborating, and continuing cyclical patterns for eons. Yet the show’s starry-eyed ambitions are dulled by its execution. Its scattered focus stalls momentum by introducing and discarding characters like a wad of receipts found in your back pocket after a night on the town.

Multiple time jumps rip us from the characters and situations we begin to invest in early on only to reassert us in unfamiliar and far less engaging new time periods. One such shift would be jarring enough as viewers attempt to track such an expansive ensemble narrative. But Foundation barrels forward with flash backs and flash forwards to the point where you feel just as marooned among the stars as some of its interstellar refugees.

The goal of such tactics is to provide key context, but it succeeds only in muddling an already overwhelming puzzle. It leaves the audience without an emotional anchor in what can already be a coldly detached series. There’s value in simply starting a story where it begins, and doing away with these temporally jumbled shenanigans that divide our affection and allegiance and overcomplicate an already dense narrative. It didn’t work for The Witcher and it doesn’t work for Foundation.

Apple Foundation Review
Apple TV+’s Foundation Apple TV+

Foundation is so in love with its own expansive scope that it forgets about individuality. Leah Harvey’s Salvor Hardin, a non-believer leader of Seldon’s exiled followers, and Laura Birn’s Demerzel, the enigmatic aide to the Emperor of the Galaxy, manage to shine through as intriguing characters and not just world-building fodder. But they are exceptions. We’re meant to believe Harry Seldon’s followers and his theory of psychohistory represent the moral redemption of the universe, but why? Because Harris’ character took the time to shake a worker’s hand and make a rousing speech? The show simply positions him as the only counterpoint to the evil Empire while painting a questionable portrait of a man who steadfastly believes the ends justify the means. Those who sacrificed along the way may not agree. Seldon’s predictive psychohistory raises the question of fate versus free will, yet it’s a topic handled more elegantly in FX on Hulu’s Devs.

Foundation revels in its grandeur and grand it its—production designer Rory Cheyne deserves credit for such visual splendor. But we forget that the beauty of a prism is still transparent. And that’s a shame because there are isolated moments of grace and curiosity yearning to break free of the story’s confusing gimmickry.

As mentioned, the Galactic Empire is spearheaded by three perfect genetic clones of the Empire’s first ruler, known as Cleon The First. In-world detractors accuse them of lacking souls and their very existence raises questions of individuated sentience. Can one maneuver themselves to a different path when they are genetically engineered for a single purpose and indoctrinated into that effort from birth? If so, what form does that take? And does a divergence from conformity truly equate to individuality? Where does a sense of self belong in a galactic coalition of trillions? One might even argue that a sense of self is counterproductive when so much chaos must be regulated in some way to avoid cataclysms on a scale unfathomable to our solitary planetary existence.

Apple TV+ Foundation Spoilers
Apple TV+’s Foundation Apple TV+

Foundation is at its best when it orbits these thematic gravitational centers. It is then that we find our characters hopelessly lost in loops, much like the heroes and villains of HBO’s Westworld. The question then becomes whether or not those trapped within a loop will break free and, if so, what will that require of them? Sadly, the potential from these narratives are overshadowed by the tangentially related false-start world-hopping that attempts to form a cohesive through line.

“Are my choices my own, or is my destiny governed by an unseen hand?,” it’s asked in Episode 4, “Barbarians at the Gate.” Foundation wants to grapple with legacy, splitting the difference between heritage and birthright. But by committing to its own version of structured narrative chaos, it’s unwittingly locked itself into its own loop in which each of the story’s new iterations washes away the foundation of its predecessor, leaving little to build upon and less to endure.

Foundation is indeed a grand and sweeping epic, but so too is a tidal wave that leaves nothing but incomprehension in its wake.


Observer Reviews are regular assessments of new and noteworthy cinema.

Apple’s Blockbuster Sci-Fi Series ‘Foundation’ Is a Beautiful Mess

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The Tonys Are Back After More Than a Year of Chaos. Here’s How to Watch and Who Might Win

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The Tonys Are Back After More Than a Year of Chaos. Here’s How to Watch and Who Might Win
Annie McNamara and Sullivan Jones in Slave Play. Matthew Murphy

It’s been, literally, years since we’ve heard anything resembling “Tony buzz.” The theater season currently under consideration began April 25, 2019, and ended prematurely with pandemic bluntness March 12, 2020, sparing Anne Boleyn her official Broadway beheading in Six

Nominations were optimistically posted Oct. 15, 2020, and The Powers That Be had five months to deliberate before voting. Variant after variant pushed the 74th annual Tony Awards ceremony up to this Sunday, Sept. 26, when a critical assessment on the past 30 months of theater will be announced in a real live legit house, the Winter Garden. 

But by the time we masked mortals were allowed to gather again in the light, there was not a single nominated drama left standing. The half-dozen up for Best Play—Bess Wohl’s Grand Horizons, Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance, Simon Stephens’ Sea Wall and Nick Payne’s A Life, Jeremy O. Harris’ Slave Play and Adam Rapp’s The Sound Inside—have left their respective buildings without a Tony, or the profits it brings. The same goes for the Best Revival nominees: Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, Terrence McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune and Charles Fuller’s A Soldier’s Play.

And because nothing can be simple in 2021, the entirety of the awards will stream live on Paramount+, beginning at 7:00 PM, live ET/4:00 PM, live PT, but for the masses who don’t want four hours of all that the Tonys have to offer, the evening will be capped by a two-hour telecast on CBS with performances from the Best Musical contenders, “Jagged Little Pill,” “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” and “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” and the presentation of the awards for Best Play, Best Revival of a Play and Best Musical.

Traditionally, Broadway saves the best for last, so prize-seeking plays will be fresh in the minds of prospective voters. Thus a spring awakening was just starting when the pandemic took hold. Hangmen, Martin McDonagh’s powerhouse black comedy about the UK’s second-best executioner, drew stunning reviews when it opened Off-Broadway at the Atlantic in 2018 and was about to bow on Broadway on a special (and expensive) two-tiered set at the Golden when it was struck down in previews. It never returned. Nor did a starry revival of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which might have given Laurie Metcalf, a Tony-winning two-timer, a shot at a third.

Few Musicals, Many Nominees

Original musicals during the allotted period were so extinct that incidental music for dramas has instead been nominated for Best Original Score. Only one original musical made it to the Main Stem—The Lightning Thief, a cheesy, ill-advised transfer from Off-Broadway—but it didn’t strike twice with the Tony nominators. Instead, their candidates for Best Musical were all jukebox musicals: Jagged Little Pill, Moulin Rouge! and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical

The original musicals that were around in 2019 and were flagged down before they could debut have since found homes in the current 2021-2022 season and are about to re-premiere: Flying Over Sunset at the Vivian Beaumont, Diana at the Longacre, Mrs. Doubtfire at the Stephen Sondheim, Sing Street at the Lyceum and the aforementioned Six at the Brooks Atkinson.

The three jukebox musicals are duking it out in eight other musical categories: book, director, choreography, orchestrations and the four design categories (scenic, costume, lighting and sound). When you factor in actors up for musicals, they’re the year’s most nominated shows.

Missing in action is Conor McPherson’s Girl of the North Country, which stocked its jukebox with 19 Bob Dylan songs and eked out a full week at the Belasco before the Covid curtain fell on Broadway. The Tony reasoning was that it should be eliminated because not enough voters got to see it. Also dropped from the roll is West Side Story, along with the whole Best Musical Revival category. Here the eligibility cutoff date was Feb. 19, and West Side Story opened one day after that.

Both of these shows—and The Lightning Thief, for that matter—would have come in handy to keep Aaron Tveit of Moulin Rouge! The Musical company in the Best Actor in a Musical category. He’s the lone nominee. If there’s a more obvious slam-dunk winner than Tveit, it’s Danny Burstein in the Best Featured Actor in a Musical category, for his bravado work as the Moulin Rouge’s imperious ringmaster, Harold Zidler.

Adrienne Warren’s terrific title performance of Tina Turner is such an obvious win for Best Actress in a Musical that she has already booked a victory walk for Oct. 8-31 at the Lunt-Fontanne before her understudy assumes the role. And the standout among the Best Featured Actresses in a Musical is Lauren Patten, who has the showstopping “You Oughta Know” number in Jagged Little Pill.

Moulin Rouge! The Musical is such a flashy, splashy stage reincarnation of Baz Luhrmann’s eccentric film musical that it will likely make good on most of its nominations (particularly the four design awards). Any upsets would arrive courtesy of the director, writer and choreographer of Jagged Little Pill—namely, Diane Paulus, Diablo Cody and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

Slave Play is the favorite for Best Play

Jeremy O. Harris’ Slave Play, a combustible combination of race, sex, power, trauma and interracial relationships, has the most nominations of the 2019-2021 plays (12 in all, breaking the record set by the 2018 revival of Angels in America). Harris wrote it while a freshman at Yale School of Drama and got it produced Off-Broadway at New York Theater Workshop in 2018, where it created enough noise to land on Broadway at the Golden in 2019. Five of its actors and director Robert O’Hara are in Tony contention. It’s the odds-on favorite.

A worthy rival, however, is a finely wrought Adam Rapp play called The Sound Inside, with a superb Mary-Louise Parker performance that should win her a second Tony Award. She plays a creative-writing teacher coping with a stage 2 cancer diagnosis and a misfit Yalie she mentors.

Her closest competition would be Laura Linney in My Name is Lucy Barton. Linney’s particular hat-trick is presenting two different characters at once—without ever leaving the stage.

The most moving theater experience I had during this period—it’s with me still—came midway through Matthew Lopez’s two-part, seven-hour, early AIDS-era epic The Inheritance. Directed beautifully by Stephen Daldry, it debuted in London and won the Best Play Olivier. Lopez’s gimmick is to attempt to retell E.M. Forster’s novel, Howards End, in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. 

His play is populated with young gay men (one of whom—Andrew Burnap, playing a trouble maker—will likely take home the Tony), but it’s the older nominated actors who are the emotional movers of the piece: John Benjamin Hickey as a wealthy Republican real estate developer and Paul Hilton as his partner. The latter, the one recruit from the London cast to come to Broadway, from time to time puts on glasses and a fragile façade and turns into Forster himself. He’s the heart and soul of the play and, as such, rates a supporting Tony, as does Lois Smith who shows up in the sixth act to run an AIDS hospice out of Hickey’s home in Upstate New York. At age 90, with a career that goes back to James Dean in “East of Eden” and beyond, Smith would be winning her first Tony.

Basically, this 74th edition of the Tonys is one for the record books—though some of those records may carry an asterisk

The Tonys Are Back After More Than a Year of Chaos. Here’s How to Watch and Who Might Win

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What to Watch on Streaming This Week: Sept 24 – 30

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What to Watch on Streaming This Week: Sept 24 – 30
Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman Focus Features

Between horror classics, new shows, and a recent Oscar winner, the coming week has all sorts of things to keep you occupied and entertained across streaming services. As September winds down, we’re here to let you know what movies and shows you’ll miss out on if you don’t catch them before they leave at the end of the month—because who knows where some of these things will end up?

What to watch on Netflix:

Midnight Mass

Netflix’s resident horror-pro Mike Flanagan is back with a brand new bone-chilling series after his hugely successful The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor. Midnight Mass centers on a small Northeastern island community with a failing local economy, a dwindling population, and a fervent faith in the Catholic church. When a new priest enters the mix, miracles begin to happen, but not without the threat of terrible misfortune. Midnight Mass premieres Friday, September 24.

What to watch on Hulu:

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

For another spooktacular entry into this week’s streaming guide, Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a sumptuous piece of gothic horror. Starring Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, and Keanu Reeves, this 90s treat is known for having some of the best costumes and production design of all time. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is gorgeous to look at, scary to watch, and leaving Hulu at the end of this month, so why not make time to watch it this week?

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Another film that’s glorious to look at is Long Day’s Journey Into Night, considered China’s biggest arthouse movie ever. This updated noir finds a man returning to his hometown after many years, as he continues to be haunted by the ghosts he fled from. It made headlines at its Cannes Film Festival premiere back in 2018 for its dazzling long take, where the film uses only one continuous shot for the entirety of its final hour. Long Day’s Journey Into Night (and all of its fantastic filmmaking) leaves Hulu at the end of the month.

What to watch on Amazon Prime:

Jennifer’s Body

In this, the age of the Megan Fox Renaissance (the Meganaissance?), a movie like Jennifer’s Body begs to be watched. Though butchered by marketing and derided by critics upon its release, the film boasts a large cult following ten years later. This campy high school horror flick stars Fox as the titular Jennifer, who falls victim to the occult of mid-2000s pop punk to become a demon who sucks the life out of boys, forcing her childhood best friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried) to go to bloody lengths stop her. Jennifer’s Body leaves Amazon Prime at the end of the month, so be sure to catch it for some early Halloween fun.

An Education

An Education offers a chance to see the movie that put recent Oscar-nominee Carey Mulligan on the map as a great actress. Here, she stars as a precocious London teen in the 1960s, one who gets swept up and away by an older man and his romantic lifestyle. It’s a quaint but cutting film, offering a hard look at the trials and tribulations of young adulthood that still rings true today. An Education leaves Amazon Prime at the end of the month.

What to watch on HBO Max:

Promising Young Woman

The stars are aligning to tell you that this is the week to stream Carey Mulligan’s filmography. Writer-director Emerald Fennell’s irreverent and vicious film about revenge and rape culture deserves as many watches and rewatches as possible, so be grateful that it’s finally coming to a streaming service near you. Mulligan’s performance as the guarded and wickedly clever Cassie helps to cement Promising Young Woman as an instant classic, along with incredibly complicated turns by comedic favorites Bo Burnham and Alison Brie. You can—and should—only read so much about this movie before you see it, but know that it’s a must-watch full of twists, turns, laughs, and shocks. Promising Young Woman will be available to stream on September 25.

Scream, Scream 2, Scream 3

A horror movie marathon staple, the Scream film series will only be available for a short time. The Wes Craven-helmed franchise is beloved not only for its ability to poke fun at typical scary movie tropes, but for its genuine scares and creative kills. The first three films of the series are all currently available, along with The Craft, another Neve Campbell vehicle. Scream and its several sequels will be leaving HBO Max at the end of the month, making the movies another perfect pre-Halloween watch as we get closer to October (and the legacy sequel due out in 2022).

What to watch on Apple TV+:

The Problem with Jon Stewart

One of television’s most reliable late-night hosts is returning to the gig he retired from, albeit in a less regular format. Jon Stewart’s new show promises to tackle current events, with each hour-long episode tackling an individual issue (think John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight but way more info). The comedian and host helped to revolutionize political comedy in the early 2000s, so viewers can expect his sharp wit, eloquence, and empathy to return in his new program. The Problem with Jon Stewart premieres September 30, with new episodes arriving every other week.


Keeping Watch is a regular endorsement of TV and movies worth your time.

What to Watch on Streaming This Week: Sept 24 – 30

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Patriots-Saints inactives: Trent Brown, Josh Uche out against New Orleans

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Patriots OT Trent Brown out against Jets, K Nick Folk, LB Tashawn Bower promoted from practice squad

FOXBORO — The Patriots took a hit in the trenches before playing a single snap Sunday.

Offensive tackle Trent Brown and second-year linebacker Josh Uche are officially out against the Saints, both listed among the team’s inactives. Rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson, tight end Devin Asiasi, cornerback Shaun Wade and linebacker Ronnie Perkins are healthy scratches for the second straight week.

Practice-squad linebacker Jahlani Tavai was elevated on Saturday to provide depth in Uche’s absence. Uche has been the Patriots’ most effective pass rusher on a per-snap basis.

For the Saints, cornerback Desmond Trufant and wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey are out.

Both teams’ complete inactives lists are below.

PATRIOTS

OT Trent Brown

LB Josh Uche

RB Rhamondre Stevenson

TE Devin Asiasi

CB Shaun Wade

LB Ronnie Perkins

SAINTS

C Erik McCoy

DT Albert Huggins

WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey

CB Desmond Trufant

QB Ian Book

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What’s the price of Biden’s plan? Democrats drive for zero

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What’s the price of Biden’s plan? Democrats drive for zero

By JOSH BOAK

WASHINGTON (AP) — What will it cost to enact President Joe Biden’s massive expansion of social programs?

Congress has authorized spending up to $3.5 trillion over a decade, but Biden is prodding Democrats to fully cover the cost of the legislation — by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy, negotiating the price of prescription drugs and dialing up other sources of federal revenue such as increased IRS funding.

The idea is that entire package should pay for itself.

Defending a bill not yet fully drafted, Democrats are determined to avoid a deficit financed spending spree. They are growing frustrated by the focus on the proposed $3.5 trillion spending total, arguing far too little attention is being paid to the work they are doing to balance the books. Biden on Friday said he would prefer the price tag described as “zero.”

“We pay for everything we spend,” Biden said at the White House. “It’s going to be zero. Zero.”

But the revenue side of the equation is vexing, and it’s emerged as a core challenge for Democratic bargainers as they labor to construct one of the largest legislative efforts in a generation. Their success or failure could help determine whether the bulk of Biden’s agenda becomes law and can withstand the political attacks to come.

Republicans, lockstep in opposition, aren’t waiting for the details. They’ve trained their focus on the $3.5 trillion spending ceiling set by Democrats, pillorying that sum as fiscally reckless, misguided, big government at its worst.

“The radical left is pushing in all their chips — they want to use this terrible but temporary pandemic as a Trojan horse for permanent socialism,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Thursday. “Trillions upon trillions more in government spending when families are already facing inflation.”

Part of the problem for Democratic leaders is the lack of a consensus about which programs to fund and for how long. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., acknowledge the price will likely come down and say they have a “menu” of revenue raisers to pay for it. But without certainty on what initiatives will be included, no final decisions can be made.

“This is not about price tag,” Pelosi said Thursday. “This is about what’s in the bill.”

Biden and administration officials stress the plan is as much about fairness as dollars and cents. By taxing the wealthy and corporations, they hope to fund paid family leave and child tax credits that help those reaching for the middle class, all while adopting environmental and economic policies that help the U.S. compete with China. But the haggling over a final spending target is overshadowing the policy goals they are trying achieve.

Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a lead negotiator for House progressives, said Friday that reporters should not depict the measure as costing trillions of dollars when the accompanying proposed tax increases would cover the cost.

“I just believe that this is going to be a zero-dollar-bill — that’s the No. 1 priority,” she said.

Sharron Parrott, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank based in Washington, warned Democrats that emphasizing the $3.5 trillion figure could detract from what they are trying to achieve.

“The debate so far has been overly focused on a single number: the $3.5 trillion in gross new investments over the next ten years — including both spending increases and tax cuts — that may be included in the package,” Parrott wrote in an August blog post. “True fiscal stewardship requires a focus on the net cost of the package and, even more fundamentally, a focus on the merits of the investment and offset proposals themselves.”

What Biden is really pushing are two goals that can easily come into conflict. He wants to restore the middle class to the epicenter of economic growth, but do so without worsening the national debt or raising taxes on people earning less than $400,000 a year.

Further complicating things is that many of his spending policies are actually tax cuts for the poor and middle class, which means he is raising taxes for one group in order to cut them for another.

Democrats also have to contend with how the measures are assessed by the Congressional Budget Office, the final arbiter of how the legislation will affect the federal balance sheet.

The Democrats’ expanded child credit and dependent care credits, enacted earlier this year, are counted as costs in a CBO score. Biden wants to extend these programs as part of the budget, which he is now arguing amounts to one of the largest middle-class tax cuts in U.S. history.

“It’s reducing taxes, not increasing taxes,” Biden said Friday.

It’s not entirely clear whether Biden’s claim of “zero” cost is feasible under the 10-year outlook used by the CBO to assess the economic impacts of legislation. Biden’s own budget officials earlier this year estimated that his agenda would increase the national debt by nearly $1.4 trillion over the decade.

Biden on Friday described the multi-tiered talks with legislators as at a “stalemate.” More meetings are expected in coming days.

In the evenly split Senate, key Democratic senators such as West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema have qualms about the total spending. Democratic moderates are jockeying for advantage against their liberal counterparts. With time running short, Biden is asking for more patience to get the numbers right so that the votes will follow.

“This is a process,” he said. “But it’s just gonna take some time.”

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US has enough COVID-19 vaccines for boosters, kids’ shots

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US has enough COVID-19 vaccines for boosters, kids’ shots

By TODD RICHMOND and KATHLEEN FOODY

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — With more than 40 million doses of coronavirus vaccines available, U.S. health authorities said they’re confident there will be enough for both qualified older Americans seeking booster shots and the young children for whom initial vaccines are expected to be approved in the not-too-distant future.

The spike in demand — expected following last week’s federal recommendation on booster shots — would be the first significant jump in months. More than 70 million Americans remain unvaccinated despite the enticement of lottery prizes, free food or gifts and pleas from exhausted health care workers as the average number of deaths per day climbed to more than 1,900 in recent weeks.

Federal and state health authorities said current supply and steady production of more doses can easily accommodate those seeking boosters or initial vaccination, avoiding a repeat of the frustratingly slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines across the country early this year.

“I hope that we have the level of interest in the booster … that we need more vaccines,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday. “That’s simply not where we are today. We have plenty of vaccines.”

Robust supply in the U.S enabled President Joe Biden this week to promise an additional 500 million of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots to share with the world, doubling the United States’ global contribution. Aid groups and health organizations have pushed the U.S. and other countries to improve vaccine access in countries where even the most vulnerable people haven’t had a shot.

Among the challenges states face is not ordering too many doses and letting them go to waste. Several states with low vaccination rates, including Idaho and Kansas, have reported throwing away thousands of expired doses or are struggling to use vaccines nearing expiration this fall.

While most vaccines can stay on the shelf unopened for months, once a vial is opened the clock starts ticking. Vaccines are only usable for six to 12 hours, depending on the manufacturer, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Moderna vaccines come in vials containing 11 to 15 doses. Pfizer vials contain up to six doses and Johnson & Johnson vials five doses.

“We are going to see more doses that go unused over time,” said Wisconsin’s health secretary, Karen Timberlake. “They come in multidose files. They don’t come in nice, tidy individual single-serving packages.”

State health officials said they have tried to request only what health care providers and pharmacies expect to need from the federal supply. Those numbers have dwindled since the vaccines became widely available in early spring.

But U.S. officials — holding out hope that some of the unvaccinated will change their minds — are trying to keep enough vaccines in stock so all Americans can get them.

That balancing act is tricky and can lead to consternation around the globe as the U.S. sits on unused vaccines while many countries in places such as Africa can’t get enough vaccines.

“Somebody sitting in a country with few resources to access vaccines, seeing people in the U.S. able to walk into a pharmacy and get that vaccine and choosing not to, I’m sure that’s causing heartache,” said Jen Kates, senior vice president and director of global health and HIV policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, which represents the public health agencies of all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, said officials anticipate that on-hand doses of COVID-19 vaccines and manufacturers’ ability to supply more will meet needs across the country.

“I think states have tried to plan as if everybody’s going to be offered a booster,” he said, suggesting they will be overprepared for the more narrow recommendations issued by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

California, for example, estimated earlier this month that it would need to administer an extra 63 million doses by the end of 2022 — if initial shots for children under 12 were approved and boosters were open to everyone.

U.S. health officials late Thursday endorsed booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine for all Americans 65 and older — along with tens of millions of younger people who are at higher risk from the coronavirus because of health conditions or their jobs.

California, with nearly 40 million residents, has the lowest transmission rate of any state and nearly 70% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated. That leaves nearly 12 million people not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health secretary, said the state will rely largely on pharmacies and primary care providers to give boosters to seniors while some large counties and health care groups will use mass vaccination sites.

In Pennsylvania, more than 67% of residents older than 18 are fully vaccinated. Alison Beam, acting secretary of health, said health authorities now have “two missions”: Continuing to persuade people to get vaccinated and serving those eager to receive a booster or initial shots.

“Pennsylvania is going to be prepared,” Beam said. “And we’re going to have the right level of vaccine and vaccinators to be able to meet that demand.”

___

Foody reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin; and Patty Nieberg in Denver contributed.

___

Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 3: Last-minute moves

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The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 3: Dalvin Cook iffy, Christian McCaffrey less so

UPDATE: 10:09 a.m. Sunday
What has already been a bad weekend for Minnesota stands to get a lot worse today with ESPN’s report that Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is unlikely to play today against Seattle.

Cook missed several days of practice this week because of a sprained ankle. So he will be watching along with you today as Alexander Mattison gets a shot at being the Vikings’ No. 1 running back.

Joining Cook on NFL sidelines today are Rams running back Darrell Henderson (making Sony Michel the starter) and Bengals wideout Tee Higgins (elevating the roles for Ja’Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd. And the Giants’ Kenny Golladay is reported to have a limitation on his work today, so you should probably count on someone else.

Getting cleared to play today are Arizona WR DeAndre Hopkins, Indy QB Carson Wentz and Giants tight end Evan Engram.

We’ll be back when the early inactives lists come out.

UPDATE: 1:02 p.m. Saturday
They were the consensus top two picks in fantasy drafts this summer, but the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook and Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey are not looking that well lately.

McCaffrey pulled a hamstring in Thursday night’s victory over Houston, and the No. 1 running back in the NFL will be out a “few” weeks, according to the team. That means Chuba Hubbard will move up for the Panthers, with Royce Freeman seeing some action. Only the former is worth rostering for now.

As for Cook, the Vikings haven’t updated his status since yesterday, when he missed another day of practice. So he is still listed as questionable with a sprained ankle.

Since the Vikings are playing at 3:25 tomorrow, you will NOT get to see their inactive list when you set your lineup in the morning. So you’ll have to keep an eye on the Twitter. If you’re counting on Cook, it might behoove you to have a backup plan ready with someone playing late Sunday or Monday. Or to have Alexander Mattison, which goes without saying …

In other Saturday headlines: it’s looking as though rookie Trey Sermon may finally get his first big workload with the 49ers. Elijah Mitchell is considered doubtful, so it will likely be Sermon on Sunday night in their big game against the Packers.

A few notables have been cleared to start. Dallas WR Amari Cooper and Cleveland wideout Odell Beckham Jr. are said to be good to go, as is Indy QB Carson Wentz, he of the double sprained ankles. You can certainly ignore the latter.

Ruled out for Week 3 are Tampa Bay WR Antonio Brown and Pittsburgh WR Diontae Johnson, and Bengals wideout Tee Higgins is doubtful.

Arizona star DeAndre Hopkins is listed as a game-time decision, as is another wideout, the Jets’ Jamison Crowder.

ORIGINAL POST: 9:30 a.m. Wednesday

From the moment the 2021 season began, it was only a matter of time. Just how long would it be before rookie Justin Fields replaced Andy Dalton as the starting quarterback for the oft-quarterback challenged Chicago Bears.

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) passes the ball to running back David Montgomery (32) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

The answer proved to be about 76 minutes of game play. That’s when Dalton left last Sunday with a knee injury, and the Ohio State phenom headed into the game amid rousing cheers at Soldier Field.

How did he do? Not that well.

Sure, Fields made a nice run to help clinch the game in the fourth quarter. But that was about it for his heroics. He completed only 6 of 13 passes for 60 yards. Fulfilling the fantasy dreams of nobody.

But Dalton is said to be “week to week,” so Fields is in line to get his first NFL start Sunday against Cleveland. Not a great matchup. The Bears have to start the former Buckeye, but wise fantasy mavens should probably wait before taking that plunge.

Other quarterbacks and teams are feeling the Bears’ pain:

Carson Wentz (Colts) — Indy’s QB pulled off the rare double by spraining BOTH of his ankles. There’s no way either you nor the Colts should count on starting him this week in Tennessee. And if Jacob Eason has to replace him, you can forget about starting any Colts except, maybe, for Jonathan Taylor.

1632322874 850 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 3 Fields of dreams
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz (2) is sacked by Los Angeles Rams’ Sebastian Joseph-Day during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins) — The Deshaun Watson trade buzz heated up again immediately after No. 1 went down with injured ribs in the shutout loss to Buffalo. Tagovailoa has been ruled out this week, and the Dolphins might be better off with Jacoby Brissett at the helm.

1632322874 804 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 3 Fields of dreams
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) is sacked by Buffalo Bills strong safety Micah Hyde (23) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Tyrod Taylor (Texans) — Houston’s QB had been surprisingly sensational in the first game and a half, and now he’s on injured reserve with a bad hammy. The Texans will likely be starting rookie Davis Mills the next three weeks. So expect our preseason pick to be the NFL’s worst team to start playing like it. Immediately.

1632322874 805 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 3 Fields of dreams
Houston Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) rushes for a 15-yard touchdown against Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)

Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) — Pittsburgh’s QB has had an assortment of issues through the years, and now he has a “pectoral issue.” While he’s certainly not a top 10 quarterback anymore, Big Ben could have been a decent streaming option for this week against the Bengals’ defense. But you can scratch that thought.

1632322874 228 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 3 Fields of dreams
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) plays against the Las Vegas Raiders in an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Derek Carr (Raiders) — The early candidate for Comeback Player of the Year, Carr is questionable this week because of an ankle injury. But with 817 yards and four TD passes so far this season, Carr might still be worth grabbing off waivers and starting against a reeling Miami team.

1632322874 524 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 3 Fields of dreams
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) plays against the Pittsburgh Steelers in an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

SITTING STARS
Despite winning Monday night, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers was in a testy mood. That will be true Sunday night when they play the rugged 49ers defense. … Tom Brady is a must start, but the Buccaneers’ QB will cool off a bit against the Rams in what could be an NFC championship preview. … New England RB Damien Harris will find the going tougher against New Orleans than he did last week against the J-E-T-S … Two other running backs who will have a tough day: Washington’s Antonio Gibson vs. the Bills and the fumble-prone Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. the Chargers

1632322874 858 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 3 Fields of dreams
Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (25) runs the ball as Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White (27) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

MATCHUP GAME
Denver is a surprising 2-0, and QB Teddy Bridgewater and RB Javonte Williams will look almost unbeatable against the lowly Jets. … Same goes for Sam Darnold, the QB for 2-0 Carolina, against the Texans. … Philly QB Jalen Hurts has been up and down, but he’ll be very, very up vs. Dallas. … The Vikings’ meager pass defense will help Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf keep up with receiving partner Tyler Lockett. … Running backs we particularly like this week are Pittsburgh’s Najee Harris vs. Cincinnati, the Chargers’ Austin Ekeler vs. Kansas City’s poor run defense, and Arizona’s Chase Edmonds vs. Jacksonville.

1632322874 39 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 3 Fields of dreams
Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) throws a pass during an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

INJURY WATCH
The ranks of running backs have taken a hit in the past week. Las Vegas’ Josh Jacobs (toe/ankle) is “very questionable” this week, according to Raiders coach Jon Gruden. So Kenyan Drake and Peyton Barber will see more duty. … San Francisco’s Elijah Mitchell has an ailing shoulder, but he might still be the 49ers’ healthiest runner. … The Rams’ Darrell Henderson has injured ribs, and his status will be up in the air until the weekend. So Sony Michel is getting warmed up. … Two prominent receivers are already out this week: Cleveland’s Jarvis Landry (knee) is on injured reserve and will miss at least three weeks, and Houston’s Danny Amendola (hamstring) will sit out Thursday night’s game against Carolina. … Players listed as questionable include Dallas WR Amari Cooper, Pittsburgh wideout Diontae Johnson, Cleveland WR Odell Beckham Jr., Jacksonville WR Laviska Shenault, Philly TE Zach Ertz and Giants tight end Evan Engram.

1632322874 746 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 3 Fields of dreams
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (28) during an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

THE DEEPEST SLEEPER
This isn’t the deepest dive we’ve ever taken, but it’s obvious that former Viking Cordarrelle Patterson is becoming a solid dual threat for the Atlanta Falcons. The receiver turned running back had two touchdowns last Sunday against Tampa Bay, one rushing and one receiving, and he ran for 54 yards in the season opener against Philadelphia. And this week’s opponent, the New York Giants, has an average-at-best defense. The Falcons’ No. 1 back, Mike Davis, has been especially ordinary with 87 rushing yards over two games. So we’re guessing we’ll see more of No. 84 looking out of place in the Atlanta backfield.

1632322874 102 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 3 Fields of dreams
Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson (84) runs 10-yard for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

THE THURSDAY PICK
Panthers at Texans (+7½):
Pick: Panthers by 14

1632322874 132 The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 3 Fields of dreams
Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold, left, hands off to running back Christian McCaffrey against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

BREAKING NEWS
We’ll be updating our column, based on the latest injuries and innuendo, right up until Sunday’s kickoff. Go to TwinCities.com/theloop.

You can hear Kevin Cusick on Wednesdays on Bob Sansevere’s “BS Show” podcast on iTunes. You can follow Kevin on Twitter — @theloopnow. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Frida Kahlo’s Final Self Portrait Will Go Up for Auction This Fall

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Frida Kahlo’s Final Self Portrait Will Go Up for Auction This Fall
Frida Kahlo’s ‘Diego y yo’ will go on sale at Sotheby’s. Sotheby’s

Frida Kahlo’s indelible image has permeated the cultural membrane so thoroughly, it stands to reason her artworks tend to do incredibly well at auction, and an upcoming auction at Sotheby’s seems destined to continue this trend: scheduled for this November, the planned sale of Kahlo’s gorgeous Diego y yo (Diego and I) is predicted to net upwards of $30 million. The painting is reportedly the last bust portrait the artist completed before her death in 1954, and depicts how Kahlo conceived of the overlapping intellects shared between herself and her prolific husband, the monumental muralist Diego Rivera.

Towards the end of her life, Kahlo was bedridden after having her leg amputated; nevertheless, she continued to work and to pay homage to her husband, who was her constant companion. Rivera championed his wife’s work regularly. “I recommend her to you, not as a husband but as an enthusiastic admirer of her work,” Rivera once told Picasso. “Acid and tender, hard as steel and delicate and fine as a butterfly’s wing, lovable as a beautiful smile, and profound and cruel as the bitterness of life.”

Diego y yo is a profound example of their connection: Kahlo painted the visage of her husband at the center of her forehead, directly where her third eye would be in a more spiritual portrait. However, she also chose to render Rivera’s face with a third eye, creating a doubling effect that speaks to the artist’s deep wells of insight and foresight.

“A painting by Kahlo of this quality and excellence is a rarity at auction,” Julian Dawes, the Co-Head of Impressionist & Modern Art at Sotheby’s New York, said in a statement. “When I look at this painting, the phrase ‘abre los ojos,’ Spanish for ‘open your eyes,’ immediately comes to mind. In the literal sense, it refers to the penetrating stare of Kahlo as the sitter of the portrait (and the double portrait of Rivera), but I think it also symbolizes the incredible moment this painting will surely usher in for Kahlo, as the market opens its eyes to Kahlo in a new way and secures her place in the auction echelon she belongs.”

New on the Block is a series that looks at the most notable or unusual items to go up for auction each week. 

Frida Kahlo’s Final Self Portrait Will Go Up for Auction This Fall

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Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis Are Determined to Sell Their $12.25 Million Beverly Hills Mansion

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Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis Are Determined to Sell Their $12.25 Million Beverly Hills Mansion
Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis are looking for a buyer for their spare Beverly Hills mansion.

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis are determined to find a buyer for their Beverly Hills mansion. The couple initially listed the home for nearly $14 million last May, but subsequently discounted the asking price before taking it off the market altogether six months later, in November 2020.

Now, they’re giving it another go, and have relisted the East Coast traditional-style estate for $12.25 million. It’s not quite the haul they were originally hoping for, but it’s still a profit from the $10.22 million they paid for the home in April 2014, shortly after announcing their engagement, as first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

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The five-bedroom, six-bathroom estate is located within the celeb-adored, guard-gated Hidden Valley enclave. There are oak floors, handcrafted mouldings and French doors throughout the 7,351-square-foot abode. The kitchen, which is open to a family room, is fitted with white cabinetry, a big center island and a wood-topped breakfast bar with counter seating, as well as an adjacent breakfast nook with two built-in banquets.

There’s also a formal dining room, a living room with a marble-framed fireplace and a mahogany-paneled office with another fireplace. The primary suite contains a fireplace, bay windows and two walk-in closets, as well as a marble-bedecked bathroom with a freestanding tub and a picture window, per the listing shared by Hilton & Hyland brokers Justin Paul Huchel and Drew Fenton.

The lower level is comprised of a temperature-controlled wine room, a sauna, a gym and a guest suite with a private bathroom. Outside in the backyard, there’s a covered lounging and al fresco dining area, as well as various entertaining spaces, a pool and a spa.

Kutcher and Kunis, who have two children together, spent five years designing a custom farmhouse-style home elsewhere in Beverly Hills; they recently completed the project, and were finally able to move into the sustainably-minded property. They showed off their new six-acre estate, which they’ve dubbed Kuku Farms, in an Architectural Digest spread. Kutcher and Kunis also maintain a 3,100-square-foot beach retreat in Carpinteria, a small city in Santa Barbara, for which they paid $10.1 million in 2017.

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis Are Determined to Sell Their $12.25 Million Beverly Hills Mansion

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Here’s How We’d Run a New Streaming Service

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Here’s How We’d Run a New Streaming Service
Here’s how we’d run Hollywood’s hottest new streaming service. Pixabay

Let us take a stroll through time to the simpler days of 2019. Masks were for Halloween, we took human interaction for granted, and almost no one had heard of a telehealth and video conferencing platform called Zoom. Yes, 2019 feels uncomplicated in retrospect, particularly for the entertainment industry. Back then, theatrical movies still ruled Hollywood’s roost as the global box office set an industry record with $42.5 billion in ticket sales. Amid the record-breaking year, I picked apart Hollywood strategies with a story about how I’d run a new hypothetical film studio.

But these days, who wants to put on pants to go out? Both the pandemic and the launch of major new streaming services (hello, Disney+) have expedited Hollywood’s transition to couch-based entertainment. Every major entertainment company restructured in the pandemic to prioritize streaming and estimates project that streaming video on demand (SVOD) subscriptions could grow to 1.25 billion by 2024, or roughly 16% of the human population. With the entertainment industry’s hierarchy changing, so too must my hypotheticals. My old faux film studio needs to be reborn as a faux SVOD competitor.

So without further ado, here’s how I’d navigate the minefield of the modern streaming wars.

Amazon Apple Netflix Disney Hulu
How Observer will differentiate its streamer from the competition. Chesnot/Getty Images

Customer Focus

Before we jump into our content strategy, let’s think about which segment of consumers our new streamer will be targeting. Primary players such as Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ are largely competing for first generation streaming viewers—meaning both younger cord cutters and older, higher-income viewers. The cutters receive most of the attention, but the olds are a valuable and sizable demographic.

“I’d focus my efforts on the folks who haven’t cut the cord, for whatever reason,” former entertainment executive, digital media professional and current industry analyst Entertainment Strategy Guy told Observer. “What are they watching? Why does broadcast still fit their needs? And how can I serve those?”

The streaming industry is more robust and diverse than ever. Domestic subscriptions are up 26% year-over-year, according to transactional data firm Antenna. The pie is growing. But with so many premium SVOD platforms—Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+, Starz, Showtime, Discovery+, Peacock, and Apple TV+—a saturation point is inevitable. Targeting an undervalued customer base with growth potential, and reaching them in creative ways, will be a necessity.

“While it’s a little easier to raise awareness among existing subscribers (masthead banners, in-app trailers, etc), the bigger issue is connecting with new audiences and turning them into subscribers, a challenge all streamers will continue to face, and one that’s becoming more competitive,” Anjali Midha, co-founder and CEO of predictive content analytics platform Diesel Labs, told Observer. “As the broadest media channels (like traditional TV) continue to fragment, targeted campaigns become critical, as well as driving enough audience engagement on social and video channels to help augment awareness efforts.”

Netflix Ratings Most Watched Animated Series
Animation is hugely popular, but also readily available across all forms of entertainment already. Netflix

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Much like when you’re day drinking, when launching a new product in a maturing field it’s always helpful to ask “What not to do?” For our new streaming service, we want to avoid existing market overlap so that we’re not just offering a carbon copy of what’s already available. That means we’re not going out of our way to produce expensive prestige TV and movies on the off-chance we can sneak into the Emmys and Oscars. Accolades and attention are nice, but no substitute for cold hard viewership for an embryonic streamer, but there’s a way to claw your way to the top organically without over-spending upfront.

“In my data, most Oscar-winning films do little to bring in new customers and deliver viewership,” Entertainment Strategy Guy said. “So I’d focus very little on trying to win awards, but let that happen as a by-product of making great shows that can drive lots of viewership.”

This also means bypassing high-upside genres that work for other streamers. Horror films are abundant across the entertainment landscape, with Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and Shudder all investing heavily in that blood-soaked bailiwick. Animation is a major battleground of the streaming wars, but so saturated across the main combatants (plus CrunchyRoll) that it doesn’t make much sense for us to chase that rainbow. YouTube looms large as the king of kids content (particularly in AVOD), Disney remains the prestige kids brand, Universal commands the eyeballs of young and old with DreamWorks Animation and Illumination, and Netflix has spent more money than most millennials will earn in several lifetimes to become a go-to destination in animation. The harsh reality is that we’re too behind the ball to compete at this point (a struggle Peacock and Paramount+ are facing) and are better served directing our resources elsewhere.

Lastly, it’s become en vogue for streaming services to guard ratings and viewership data like it was the Chamber of Secrets. It’s true that this walled garden approach offers the advantage of keeping the media and the competition in the dark while enabling a streamer to control the narrative. But it also infuriates creative partners as well as interested audiences. We want to foster an environment of trust. So in the spirit of transparency, we’re offering a techno-utopian approach where we’ll share the viewer data we collect with creators. This should help attract talented writers, directors, producers, and stars while greasing the wheels for future overall deals.

Content Focus

So how do we go about building out our library? That’s the multi-billion dollar question.

“On the topic of catalog composition, we also see Netflix and Disney+ on opposite sides of the spectrum here as well, with Netflix favoring drama and comedy (together 47% of this years originals) and Disney+ favoring comedy and action/adventure (together 43% of this years originals),” Midha said.

Netflix, Amazon, Disney+ Shows
Catalog composition: Genre breakdown for Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+ originals year-to-date. Diesel Labs

We want to zig while other streaming services are zagging rather than run the same exact rat race. But there’s a way to do this while still attacking the high-upside genres—such as comedy, drama, action and adventure, and sci-fi—that have proven to be the streaming industry’s bread and butter. We already have a handful of unmade sci-fi and fantasy intellectual property that is ripe for adaptation.

“Frankly, I’d see what was working on broadcast TV for the last few decades and copy that much more seriously,” ESG said. “Meaning sitcoms and procedural dramas. Meaning cops, doctors and lawyers. If I were a major streamer, every quarter, I’d have a drama featuring a police officer solving a crime, lawyers putting a case together and/or a medical team solving emergencies. And I’d put them on twice a year, rotating to always have episodes.”

Not the most creatively ambitious small screen strategy — but if we learned anything from Quibi (RIP) or even Yahoo Screen (RIP x 2), it’s there’s a limited window to reach safe cruising altitude as a young SVOD service. Once we build a baseline subscriber foundation, we’ll have the freedom to unearth the next Sopranos or Breaking Bad. Until then, we’re going to focus on what works. And procedurals work.

According to Nielsen data provided to Observer, shows like NCIS, Criminal Minds and Grey’s Anatomy have all ranked among the top-10 most-watched programs across U.S. SVOD services for four straight weeks. These are Netflix’s most valuable library series following the departures of Friends and The Office. Entertainment Strategy Guy also points out that two of Prime Video’s longest running series are Bosch, a cop show and Goliath, a lawyer show.

Netflix vs Disney+
2021 original content releases for Netflix and Disney+ Diesel Labs

Speaking of valuable library additions, we’d make aggressive attempts to partner with Sony, Hollywood’s premiere arms dealer, in a licensing deal. While Sony Pictures Television hits such as Seinfeld, Breaking Bad, Community, and Mad Men are all currently tied up in existing streaming deals, we’d put ourselves in pole position to be next in line the moment they expire. We also recognize the value of reality television, which is inexpensive and highly addictive to audiences. With Discovery joining forces with WarnerMedia, we’d try to turn to A&E, which is half-owned by Disney, for some juicy true crime documentaries which have proven to be highly effective for HBO, Netflix, etc.

Tying it all together, we’d look for fresh talent with potential to keep initial costs down and form productive relationships with the next generation of storytellers.

“Also, I’d aggressively hire new showrunners,” ESG said. “That feels like the market inefficiency. Everyone focuses on writers who have already run a show, because it’s safer. But since they’ve worked before, their rates tend to be higher.”

Release Strategy

“Building a streaming platform requires a very different approach to catalog curation than most traditional media companies are used to,” Midha said. “It’s no longer about needing a new drama to fill a slot on 9 PM on Tuesday—the challenge has shifted to architecting a catalog that continually builds audience subscribership and mitigates churn.”

Netflix and Disney+, the two dominant streamers at the moment, approach this issue from opposing starting points. Netflix floods the market with original content (with about $1 billion worth of content in active development alone), while Disney is more selective, opting to lean on its famed vault of content — stocked for a near century — with the mega-franchises it’s acquired from Marvel, Pixar and Lucasflim providing new titles. It’s clear that no matter where you are on the catalog composition spectrum, having a healthy mixture is critical to success. But we need to generate buzz in order to entice prospective audiences, which means raising awareness among viewers.

Netflix’s endless sea of content is great for reducing churn, but Disney’s content succeeds more in generating conversation and engagement. A black diamond mountain of television doesn’t do much good if everyone consistently opts for the bunny slopes instead.

Disney vs Netflix
Share of voice analysis: media company content releases* vs. engagement. Diesel Labs

As part of this effort, we’re not going to lock in a reductive uniform release strategy. There’s no binge versus weekly debate. We’ll tackle shows on a case-by-case basis, similar to how HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu all experiment with rotating release strategies. For example, HBO dropped the final five unaired episodes of finance drama Industry on HBO Max on Nov. 27 even as they continued to air weekly on the premium cable channel. Streaming offers the freedom to get creative.

We’ve seen shows from both binge and weekly releases transform from little-hyped upcoming originals with muted pre-release buzz to full-fledged phenomenons after gaining steam. We’re trying to generate similar post-release breakout hits as well.

Netflix, HBO Max, Disney
2021 post-premiere breakout hits, proportion of total engagement after launch. Diesel Labs

The Bottom Line

Okay. So we’ve laid out a techno-utopian approach to data sharing, the better to attract the young showrunners who’ll keep our costs down as we amass a rotating slate of new procedurals, existing true-crime docs, reality TV and eventually Sony Pictures Television properties. Is this a guaranteed strategy for success? Far from it, otherwise every we — and every single studio executive — would be sipping grande lattes atop golden jet-skis. But by examining the common mistakes to avoid, honing in on proven genres, carefully constructing talent relations, and staying open to creative innovation, we believe we can launch a hot new streaming service. Just don’t expect a “+” at the end of our name.


Movie Math is an armchair analysis of Hollywood’s strategies for big new releases.

Here’s How We’d Run a New Streaming Service

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