Tribune News Service

News Budget for papers of Sunday, May 24, 2020


Updated at 4:30 a.m. EDT (0830 UTC).


These stories are recommended for weekend release, except where embargoes are noted. Please make sure you are adhering to embargoes on our stories in both your print and online operations.

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^California's prisons and jails have emptied thousands into a world changed by coronavirus<

CORONAVIRUS-RELEASED-INMATES:LA — In short order, the coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a sweeping and historic emptying of California's overcrowded prisons and jails, as officials have dramatically lowered the number of people held in custody to avert deadly outbreaks.

State data show California's prisons have released about 3,500 inmates while the daily jail population across 58 counties is down by 20,000 from late February.

The exodus is having a profound and still-evolving effect: Those leaving custody enter a vastly different world in which a collapsed economy, scant job opportunities and the closure of many government offices have compounded the challenges of getting lives back on track.

2400 by Matt Hamilton, James Queally and Alene Tchekmedyian in Los Angeles. MOVED



^Trump's push to reopen from virus repels some Republican supporters<

CORONAVIRUS-REOPENINGS-REPUBLICANS:BLO — Donald Trump has acknowledged his push to reopen the U.S. economy before the coronavirus outbreak abates may cost more American lives. It may also cost him votes.

Shawna Wilson, a school librarian in Fort Worth, Texas, said she's always been a reliable voter for Republican presidential candidates, including Trump in 2016. No longer.

"I am not voting for him," Wilson, 47, said in an interview. "This disaster with our response and lack of clear guidance on reopening was the final straw."

Wilson's change of allegiance shows the political challenge for Trump as he pushes to restart the economy even as the death toll from the pandemic continues to mount. For every Republican voter who tells pollsters they fear keeping the country closed too long, there's another like Wilson who raises alarm about going back too soon.

1450 by Mario Parker and Vincent Del Giudice. MOVED



^Free money: Amid the coronavirus, a monthly paycheck from the feds doesn't seem crazy<

UNIVERSAL-BASIC-INCOME:LA — The notion of the federal government handing out free money used to be a liberal dream and a conservative nightmare. No more.

The coronavirus outbreak, which plunged the nation into an economic free fall, has created an opening for governments and nonprofits to experiment with giving money directly to Americans, with no strings attached.

1200 by Seema Mehta in Los Angeles. MOVED


^How a company misappropriated Native American culture to sell health insurance<

^INSURANCE-SCHEME:KHN—<Jill Goodridge was shopping for affordable health insurance when a friend told her about O'NA HealthCare, a low-cost alternative to commercial insurance.

The self-described "health care cooperative" promised a shield against catastrophic claims. Its name suggested an affiliation with a Native American tribe.

The company promises 24/7 telemedicine and holistic dental care on its website. It says it provides more nontraditional options than "any other health care plan."

It struck Goodridge as innovative. She signed up for a high-deductible plan, paying more than $9,000 in premiums and fees over 13 months, she said. Yet she could not get O'NA to cover her family's medical bills.

A yearlong investigation by the state insurance agency prompted by her complaint concluded she was right, uncovering a business scheme operating in the gray areas of insurance regulation and tribal law to appeal to patients looking to save money on health care.

1900 by Fred Schulte. MOVED


^'Last responders' seek to expand postmortem COVID-19 testing in unexplained deaths<

DISEASE-DETECTIVES:KHN — Examining dead bodies and probing for a cause of death is rarely seen as a heroic or glamorous job. Rather, as the coronavirus pandemic has unfolded, all eyes have been on the medical workers and public health disease detectives fighting on the front lines — and sometimes giving their lives — to bring the novel coronavirus under control.

But as the crusade to test for the coronavirus and trace cases continues, medical examiners and coroners play a vital — if often unsung — role. These "last responders" are typically called on to investigate and determine the cause of deaths that are unexpected or unnatural, including deaths that occur at home.

1050 by Michelle Andrews. MOVED




These stories moved earlier in the week and are suitable for weekend publication.


^He gets no sleep collecting the bodies of coronavirus victims: 'It's not a job for everyone'<

CORONAVIRUS-BODY-COLLECTOR:PH — Preston Griffin never sleeps. Not really. Even when he sneaks a nap, his iPhone, set at maximum volume, is angled on the pillow, brushing his earlobe. He can't miss the customized ringtone. The first note blares, and Griffin hops up. A funeral home director is on the line.

He listens to the scant details. Someone just died in a nursing home. A hospital. A home. The funeral director tells him if the coronavirus was to blame. Sometimes, it's a mystery.

It could be 6 p.m. or 3 a.m. No matter. Griffin's drill begins. He reaches toward the long, organized row of dark colored suits, shirts and pre-tied ties hanging on a rack nearby. He gets dressed at Army-pace speed. Within minutes, he's out the door.

Time to collect one more body. One more life gone.

2250 (with trims) by Barbara Laker in Philadelphia. MOVED


^Chasing the elusive dream of a COVID-19 cure<

^CORONAVIRUS-CURE:KHN—<Although scientists and stock markets have celebrated the approval for emergency use of remdesivir to treat COVID-19, a cure for the disease that has killed more than 312,000 people remains a long way off — and might never arrive.

Hundreds of drugs are being studied around the world, but "I don't see a lot of home runs right now," said Dr. Carlos del Rio, a professor of infectious diseases at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. "I see a lot of strikeouts."

Researchers have launched more than 1,250 studies of COVID-19. Pharmaceutical companies are investing billions to develop effective drugs and vaccines to help end the pandemic.

But the new coronavirus is an elusive enemy.

1700 by Liz Szabo. MOVED


^'Everything we did was to predict the next outbreak.' Yet scientists weren't prepared for COVID-19. Why?<

CORONAVIRUS-SCIENTISTS:TB — More than a decade ago, a center was founded at Northwestern University as a rapid-response operation against infectious disease.

But its work was sporadic — a boom when epidemics like MERS hit, a bust when they were under control. Some promising drugs never made it out of the laboratory as funding waned.

Now, researchers with the Center for Structural Genomics of Infectious Diseases are rushing to find an effective treatment for COVID-19, making up for lost time against a disease that has already killed more than 315,000 people around the world, including about 90,000 in the United States.

And they hope they'll be ready for whatever comes next.

1600 (with trims) by Grace Wong in Chicago. MOVED


^Before the coronavirus, Joe Biden offered stability. Now he's talking bold change<

^CAMPAIGN-BIDEN-POLICIES:LA—<With the world turned upside down by the novel coronavirus, Joe Biden has refashioned his presidential campaign to shift from an emphasis on steadiness and stability to the promise of big, bold change.

While the fundamentals of Biden's White House bid remain the same — with a call for such Democratic standbys as expanded health care and greater equality — he talks less about restoring things as they were before President Donald Trump's disruptive time in office and more about where the country heads from this unsettling place.

The more transformative vision is a response to the greatest economic and health crises most Americans have ever faced and the way the toll of COVID-19 has changed public attitudes and opened the door to new political possibilities.

1200 by Melanie Mason and Mark Z. Barabak. MOVED


^Bowl of oranges for a bunch of basil: Strapped for cash, Angelenos turn to bartering and sharing<

LA-BARTERING:LA — On a hilly street in L.A.'s Highland Park neighborhood, Alexandra Kacha's front garden bursts with kale and broccoli, eggplant and artichoke, zucchini and celery and a host of fragrant herbs. Out back, there's a mulberry tree.

Kacha never thought too much about it all. Gardening was just a hobby that happened to put food on the table.

But as Los Angeles shut down and the world became smaller, as people lost their jobs and the economy faltered, neighbors started stopping by to ask for tips. One brought over a big bowl of oranges from her own backyard, ready to trade for basil.

In California and across the country, an ancient ethos of community co-dependence is quietly being revived, as people return to a world where the marketplace is the neighborhood and where bartering and borrowing — or just giving things away — is always preferable to paying.

1250 by Kevin Rector in Los Angeles. MOVED


^Fewer traffic collisions during shutdown means longer waits for organ donations<

MED-ORGAN-DONATIONS:KHN — On Day Two of the San Francisco Bay Area's stay-at-home orders in March, Nohemi Jimenez got into her car in San Pablo, Calif., waved goodbye to her 3-year-old son and drove to her regular Wednesday dialysis appointment.

The roads were deserted. No traffic. Jimenez, 30, said it is hard to admit what she thought next: No traffic meant no car accidents. And that meant she'd be on the waiting list for a kidney transplant even longer.

"I don't want to be mean, but I was like, 'Oh, my God. Nobody's going to die,'" she said. "I'm not going to get my transplant."

Deaths from accidents are the biggest source of organs for transplant, accounting for 33% of donations, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, UNOS, which manages the nation's organ transplant system.

But since the coronavirus forced Californians indoors, accidents have declined.

1150 by April Dembosky in

^She sought freedom from prison. Nothing but the coronavirus could get her out<

CORONAVIRUS-NC-PRISONER:RA — Faye Brown was a quiet, stoic woman who rose each morning in a Raleigh prison, pulled on a pair of dress slacks and walked out the gates to catch a city bus — her routine for years.

At age 67, she had earned enough trust to work each day as a teacher and hair stylist at Sherill's school of cosmetology, carrying a pair of scissors though she was serving a life sentence for murder and bank robbery.

At the end of each day, she caught the bus back to prison, where the younger inmates considered her a grandmother — an older, wiser prisoner who loved peppermint candy and held a vain hope she would be free one day.

She came close in 2009, but was stopped by the North Carolina Supreme Court the next year. On May 8, however, Brown kept her promise, technically. She died in a Raleigh hospital from COVID-19 complications.

1300 by Josh Shaffer in Raleigh, N.C. MOVED


^Coronavirus threatens China's Belt and Road. What happens when it wants half a trillion dollars back?<

CORONAVIRUS-CHINA-INITIATIVE:LA — When Chinese engineers flew home in January for the Lunar New Year, few in Africa would have imagined that a coronavirus outbreak was about to ground planes, upend supply lines and freeze work on dozens of Chinese-built roads, railways, ports and power stations.

Many of the engineers haven't returned. Construction sites fell silent. And now the COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a global recession that threatens the colossal international loan program that is a symbol of China's growing prestige and a centerpiece of President Xi Jinping's reign.

The Belt and Road Initiative — China's effort to finance nearly half a trillion dollars in new infrastructure across Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America — took flight during a period of global expansion and easy travel that has now slammed into a sober reckoning.

Beijing faces mounting calls to reschedule loans for shipping hubs, electrical plants and transport links that look unsustainable as economies struggle and globalization slows.

1600 by Shashank Bengali and Neha Wadekar in Nairobi, Kenya. MOVED




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