The Slate Plus Digest for March 13
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Feels almost too appropriate that this week ends on a Friday the 13th, right? Here’s what we’ve been writing and reading from our respectful distances.


In a first-of-its-kind survey, we asked 8,000 prisoners in America who they would vote for and what matters to them. They told us what they think is the biggest problem in America, how prison changes a person’s politics, and about Trump’s surprising popularity among the incarcerated.

Follow our collaboration with the Marshall Project (as part of our Who Counts? initiative), and learn more about how the survey came together.

But to the coronavirus: This is the time to act—not panic. Remember that social distancing and working from home means being at home (and here’s how to do it securely). The coronavirus will test whether the U.S. government can handle a true public health crisis—seeing how the country simply isn’t prepared—and it shows that Trump can’t tweet through everything. Meanwhile, Fox News is covering coronavirus exactly as expected. On a good pandemic novel that may help soothe your anxieties. Here are the best items for keeping your kids entertained while school is out. How Instacart workers and Amazon delivery drivers are our new first responders. No, the Federal Reserve did not just give $1.5 trillion to stock traders, and no, donating blood won’t get you a coronavirus test. How Taiwan and Singapore were able to contain the virus. How we might protect the 2020 election. And Slate editor Susan Matthews steps in as Dear Prudence to answer your coronavirus questions.

In our latest Coronavirus Diaries, we hear from a Trader Joe’s employee, a priest wondering about giving communion, a professional runner training for the Olympics, a Lyft driver, and a bookstore owner. We also hear about trying to find a test, what it’s like in Italy, being stuck in Italy, and the experience of hearing your child was bullied for being Asian-American.

We still don’t know how everything will turn out, but the coronavirus will undoubtedly change how we live our lives in the future.

As for politics: The establishment Democrats didn’t destroy Bernie—he did it himself. At this point, likely the final phase of his campaign, it seems Bernie’s just opening a set of negotiations. If Democrats really are obsessed with finding a savior president, Joe Biden proves they cannot. But this is the moment for Biden to step up on health care and reach out to Sanders’ supporters at the same time.

And elsewhere: Why the financial markets are melting into goo. The GOP doesn’t appreciate the scale of what we’re facing. Why everyone fantasizes about rage-quitting their job. A federal judge finally condemned the “Roberts court’s assault on democracy.’’ The right’s new strategy to fight abortion takes aim at doctors. Wells Fargo is the crooked bank that will never quit. And what you can do with your sports passion while sports is on hold.

On the culture pages: Contagion’s screenwriter on watching his movie go viral. What The Late Show With Stephen Colbert was like without a live audience. Laura Miller reviews Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light and James McBride’s Deacon King Kong. On her new album, singer-songwriter Brandy Clark finally gets personal about herself. The story of how the ’90s rap collaboration “Rumble in the Jungle” helped build Muhammad Ali’s legend. And Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares is the competence porn we need right now.


• Twenty-three years ago, the Notorious B.I.G. left a belt behind at Source magazine. What happened to it?
• What it’s like to live in Greensboro, W.V., where there’s no cell service and no wi-fi.
• The coronavirus shows how America is broken.
• What happened to controversial rightwing professor Jordan Peterson?
The problems with the programs that help low-income students get into selective private schools.
• Chelsea Manning’s recent suicide attempt shows why she should be freed from prison.
• The fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls at the Museum of the Bible have been confirmed as forgeries.
• How coronavirus has sharply disrupted the regular narrative of college campus life.


While Slate has bureau offices in Brooklyn and D.C., we have a great number of Slatesters who live and work from all over the U.S. This week, as many office workers across the country practice social distancing and begin working from home, we turned to #slate_elsewhere to hear about their best tips for getting work done remotely and how to manage work-life balances.

Evan Urquhart (working from CA): It’s easy to keep your laptop on your bedside table and just turn it on and start working from bed, delaying getting up for an hour or so. You should definitely do this! It’s great, you deserve it. Get dressed an hour later and enjoy half-sleeping in every morning, you know you want to.

Chris Schieffer (MA): Don’t beat yourself up if you take a break to throw in laundry or whatever—it’s the same as if you chatted with a co-worker for 10 minutes in the kitchen. If you’re having trouble focusing, make a list of the stuff you want to accomplish within some set amount of time, then get up when you’re done (i.e., set mini goals).

Travis Morrison (NC): Play music, not on headphones but on speakers. You can play it loud, as it is your goddamn house. Good old radio is really nice for this actually, because it’s something someone else is programming. I love our local jazz station.

Rebecca Onion (OH): I would argue for periodically taking the time to clean your workspace: take the desktop off the desk, remove books and printers and coffee cups and all the other bullshit, and use a spray bottle and wipes; vacuum underneath the desk, wipe down the chair, etc. Whenever I do this, I feel much better.

Derreck Johnson (CA): Get a houseplant. It’s good company and nice in the peripheral vision.

Holly Allen (CO): I force myself to turn on the video for conference calls and make sure to actively participate in Slack discussions so I don’t feel isolated. I schedule 1:1s or small groups on Zoom to talk about projects, but also just to talk as people—like you would at the water cooler.

Travis: If food is important to you, make lunch a minor cooking event. Do the grilled cheese with harissa.

Rebecca: I like to also cook along throughout the day, something that requires periodic attention like black bean soup or bread. You take 10 minutes every two hours to stir or knead something, a good little break and you feel “productive.”

Evan: I really suggest exercising several times a week, if not daily. I found it really improved my mood and my energy. I tend to exercise right after work, which has a bonus of creating better boundaries around my workday, preventing it from feeling endless.

Susan Matthews (VA): Make sure to take a moment every day to ask yourself: Have I gone outside? If you haven’t, go outside, even for a 10-minute walk.

Mike Joachim (PA): If you can, work outside if it’s nice (or if you’re weird and like the cold); it’s very refreshing.

Sam Adams (PA): If you have a laptop, try working from different places during the day. Even if you can’t go outside, you can have a change of scenery.

Derek John (IL): Work next to a window. I also make sure to actually take a lunch break by not eating at my desk and taking the dog for a good walk.

Holly: I talk to my dog out loud. She’s good company and a good listener!

Travis: Do work away from the screen. Print things to read, write things in a notebook, and generally try to practice mindful engagement with computers. It can start to seem like the thing that the world is in. That is a very modern issue, but it gets bad for remote workers.

Evan: A constant hazard is feeling guilty about Slacking, not working enough, being slovenly, not following all the rules for conscientiously working from home. If you start to feel guilty, set one simple, concrete goal to address whatever you feel the issue is, and move on. Don’t wallow, or try to change everything you’re supposedly doing wrong at once—just set a goal to improve and focus on that to get back to where you feel you should be.

Travis: My spin on Evan’s idea is: Don’t feel guilty about or hide the awesome parts of working from home. “Oh god, what if they know I’m making a grilled cheese with harissa while listening to Bill Withers At Carnegie Hall on a beautiful sunny day!?!?!”

So, enjoy the comforts of home, and stay safe (in there).


And if you’ve got some time while at home—consider pitching us your best Slate stories in this year’s Slate Plus pitch slam! Slate editors want to hear from you about the stories you want to write. Check out this page for more information and to start pitching away in the comments.

Thanks for your membership, the joy of watching our favorite dog-show competitor Kratu (seriously take some time out of your day to enjoy these videos, you deserve it).

—Chau and all of us at Slate

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