Search results for: "gates"

NBC News assigned two investigative reporters to cover the Hunter Biden laptop story. What they discovered was worthy of a James Bond movie (farewell to Sean Connery, the best of the Bonds).

NBC investigators Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny pursued the origins of a document that was widely circulated on rightwing media.

One month before a purported leak of files from Hunter Biden’s laptop, a fake “intelligence” document about him went viral on the right-wing internet, asserting an elaborate conspiracy theory involving former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and business in China.

The document, a 64-page composition that was later disseminated by close associates of President Donald Trump, appears to be the work of a fake “intelligence firm” called Typhoon Investigations, according to researchers and public documents.

The author of the document, a self-identified Swiss security analyst named Martin Aspen, is a fabricated identity, according to analysis by disinformation researchers, who also concluded that Aspen’s profile picture was created with an artificial intelligence face generator. The intelligence firm that Aspen lists as his previous employer said that no one by that name had ever worked for the company and that no one by that name lives in Switzerland, according to public records and social media searches.

One of the original posters of the document, a blogger and professor named Christopher Balding, took credit for writing parts of it when asked about it and said Aspen does not exist.

Despite the document’s questionable authorship and anonymous sourcing, its claims that Hunter Biden has a problematic connection to the Communist Party of China have been used by people who oppose the Chinese government, as well as by far-right influencers, to baselessly accuse candidate Joe Biden of being beholden to the Chinese government.

The document and its spread have become part of a wider effort to smear Hunter Biden and weaken Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, which moved from the fringes of the internet to more mainstream conservative news outlets.

An unverified leak of documents — including salacious pictures from what President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and a Delaware Apple repair store owner claimed to be Hunter Biden’s hard drive — were published in the New York Post on Oct. 14. Associates close to Trump, including Giuliani and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, have promised more blockbuster leaks and secrets, which have yet to materialize.

The fake intelligence document, however, preceded the leak by months, and it helped lay the groundwork among right-wing media for what would become a failed October surprise: a viral pile-on of conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden.

The story about Hunter Biden’s laptop first appeared in Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post in mid-October. The gist of the story is that Hunter Biden allegedly dropped off computers at a repair shop in Delaware in 2019, telling the shop owner that they had suffered water damage and needed to be fixed. He never returned to pick them up.

The shop owner decided to examine the contents of the hard drive and discovered emails that showed that Hunter had introduced his father to officials in Ukraine, that he had persuaded his father to get involved in a business deal in China in 2017 (when Joe Biden was a private citizen), and salacious videos of Hunter Biden. The shop owner says he turned over the hard drive to Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, and to the FBI. Giuliani then distributed the contents of the hard drive to the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.

The story was supposed to be the Trump campaign’s October surprise, an expose that would destroy Biden. But the mainstream media was wary and treated the story skeptically. The reporter for the New York Post who wrote it refused to put his name on it. Some wondered why Hunter Biden, who lives in Los Angeles, would fly to Philadelphia and take a train to Wilmington to have his computer repaired, then forget to retrieve it.

As soon as the New York Post published the expose about Hunter’s emails, Devin Coldewey of TechCrunch wrote that the provenance of the laptop was extremely fishy. Some suspected that Russian disinformation was involved. Coldewey wrote, “But even supposing no global influence effort existed, the provenance of this so-called leak would be difficult to swallow. So much so that major news organizations have held off coverage, and Facebook and Twitter have both limited the distribution of the NY Post article.” As a techie, he finds the whole story not credible. He gives several reasons why it defies common sense. He writes:

It is beyond the worst operational security in the world to give an unencrypted device with confidential data on it to a third party. It is, however, very much a valid way for someone to make a device appear to be from a person or organization without providing any verification that it is so...

The repair shop supposedly could not identify Hunter Biden, who lives in Los Angeles, as the customer. But the invoice (for $85 — remarkably cheap for diagnosis, recovery, and backup of three damaged Macs) has “Hunter Biden” written right on it, with a phone number and one of the email addresses he reportedly used. It seems unlikely that Hunter Biden’s personal laptop — again, loaded with personal and confidential information, and possibly communications with the VP — would be given to a small repair shop (rather than an Apple Store or vetted dealer) and that shop would be given his personal details for contact...

The idea that Biden or his assistant or whoever would not return to pick up the laptop or pay for the services is extremely suspicious. Again, these are supposedly the personal devices of someone who communicated regularly with the VP, and whose work had come under intense scrutiny long before they were dropped off. They would not be treated lightly or forgotten. On the other hand, someone who wanted this data to be inspected would do exactly this…

That the laptops themselves were open and unencrypted is ridiculous. The serial number of the laptop suggests it was a 2017 MacBook Pro, probably running Mojave. Every Mac running Lion or later has easily enabled built-in encryption. It would be unusual for anyone to provide a laptop for repair that had no password or protection whatsoever on its files, let alone a person like Hunter Biden — again, years into efforts to uncover personal data relating to his work in Ukraine. ..

That this information would be inspected by the repair shop at all is very suspect indeed. Recovery of an ostensibly damaged Mac would likely take the form of cloning the drive and checking its integrity against the original. There is no reason the files or apps themselves would need to be looked at in the course of the work in the first place. Some shops have software that checks file hashes, if they can see them, against a database of known child sex abuse material. And there have been notable breaches of trust where repair staff illicitly accessed the contents of a laptop to get personal data. But there’s really no legitimate reason for this business to inspect the contents of the devices they are working on, let alone share that information with anyone, let alone a partisan operative. The owner, an avid Trump supporter, gave an interview this morning giving inconsistent information on what had happened and suggested he investigated the laptops of his own volition and retained copies for personal protection.

The data itself is not convincing. The Post has published screenshots of emails instead of the full text with metadata — something you would want to do if you wanted to show they were authentic. For stories with potential political implications, it’s wise to verify.

Since Trump can’t explain his inability or unwillingness to control the pandemic, since he refuses to admit that his administration is trying to have the Affordable Care Act thrown out by the Supreme Court, since he can’t produce the health insurance plan that he claims will be better than the Affordable Care Act, since he has no policies that he can defend, all he has left is throwing mud at Joe Biden. Let’s hope the American people are not fooled.


Peter Goodman, former teacher and frequent blogger about education in New York City and New York State, reviews Bill Gates’ next big idea to reform education: Redesign Algebra 1.

He begins:

From Small High Schools to Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) to Value-Added Measurements (VAM) to the Common Core State Standards, the Gates Foundation has been searching for the magic bullet, a vaccine for curing education, and the “cures” have proven fruitless (See links above)

The next magic bullet is a cure for Algebra 1, the course viewed as standing in the way of graduation and success in the post graduate world.

The Gates Foundation released an application for a new initiative: “Balance the Equation.”

Goodman warns that Gates is wandering into another mess:

Why is the Gates funding another algebra initiative? Why not expand the Moses Algebra Project?

Bill is tip-toeing into another education morass.

If so, at least his record is consistent.

Journalist Tim Schwab has been keeping a close watch on Bill Gates and his efforts to buy favorable media coverage. Now, he examines Gates’ very successful moves to enrich himself during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Bill and Melinda continue to receive laudatory treatment by the media that they underwrite, as if they are experts on everything from the pandemic to education. No mainstream journal has given any coverage–to my knowledge–of Gates’ serial failures to improve education, in which he uses teachers and students as guinea pigs for his theories.

Schwab writes in The Nation (which Gates does not subsidize):


In the early days of the pandemic, President Trump made headlineswhen he reportedly tried to secure rights to a vaccine from German developer CureVac on behalf of the US government—a move that stirred questions about equity and justice. Should the United States get priority access to the Covid vaccine just because we are the world’s wealthiest nation? Shouldn’t the most vulnerable—no matter their nationality or salary—get vaccinated first?

Capitalism has its limits,” one German lawmaker noted in a widely reported tweet.

Had Trump succeeded, the deal might also have sent another stark message about economic inequality—delivering a financial windfall to one of the most moneyed players in the pandemic response: the Gates Foundation.

The foundation recently reported a $40 million stake in CureVac—one of dozens of investments the foundation reports having in companies working on Covid vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics or manufacturing, according to The Nation’s analysis of the foundation’s most recent tax return, web site, and various SEC filings. The foundation has also announced that it will “leverage a portion of its $2.5 billion Strategic Investment Fund” to advance its work on Covid.

These investments, amounting to more than $250 million, show that the world’s most visible charity, and one of the world’s most influential voices in the pandemic response, is in a position to potentially reap considerable financial gains from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nancy Bailey has discerned a pattern in the education grant making of the Bill& Melinda Gates Foundation: the deprofessionalizing of education. We are familiar, of course, with Teach for America, which peddles the wacky idea that any college graduate can be a successful teacher with only five weeks of training.

Gates has pushed that line of unreasoning into an attack on school counselors. The more training they have, the more ineffective they seem to be, goes Gates-thought. Why not try completely non-professional counselors.

Bailey sees this animus as a recurrent them in Gates’ philanthropy. Why pay a professional when a bright person with no professional training can do the job?

My response: Next time you need surgery, ask for a college graduate with a scalpel, not a surgeon.

Leonie Haimson writes here about Bill Gates and his successful efforts to buy positive media coverage for himself and the projects he funds.

She read the excellent investigative research on Gates’ strategic funding of influential media outlets by Tim Schwab.

She writes:

Reporter Tim Schwab just had a must-read piece in the Columbia Journalism Review about how the Gates Foundation provides grants to news outlets such as NPR, BBC, NBC, Al Jazeera, ProPublica, National Journal, The Guardian, Univision, Medium, the Financial Times, The Atlantic, the Texas Tribune, Gannett, Washington Monthly, Le Monde, the Seattle Times, and many others. These outlets frequently provide favorable coverage of the Foundation and its grantees, and potential conflicts of interest are too rarely admitted by these outlets.

Haimson goes on to describe in detail her own efforts to persuade the New York Times to acknowledge that one of its regular columns, called “Fixes,” is written by two journalists who are funded by Gates. “Fixes” has repeatedly praised Gates’ programs without identifying their conflict of interest.

She writes:

One of the media organizations Schwab discusses, Solutions Journalism, has received $7.6 million from the Gates Foundation since 2014 to write articles suggesting practical solutions to social problems and train other reporters to do so as well. Since then, as Schwab points out, SJ has repeatedly produced stories praising projects and companies that are Foundation grantees and/or have received personal investments from Bill Gates himself.

Solutions Journalism was founded by David Bornstein and Tina Rosenberg in 2013 and they continue to run the organization and receive six figure salaries as CEO and VP for Innovation respectively…

Bornstein and Rosenberg also have a regular column in the NY Times called “Fixes”, which according to Schwab has run at least 15 favorable stories promoting the work of the Gates Foundation by name, without any mention that the columnists are funded by the Foundation as well.

Haimson goes on to document the praise that these columnists have lavished in Gates-funded projects, and their failure to mention criticism. In effect, they operate as a PR team for Bill Gates and his pet projects.

She cites the ethical standards of the Times as well as the organization Solutions Journalism and points out that they don’t meet their own professed standards.

What are Bill Gates’ ethical standards?

It’s rare indeed to read a critical article about how Bill & Melinda Gates use their vast wealth to burnish their image as the greatest benefactors of all time. This article by freelance journalist Tim Schwab, published in the Columbia Journalism Review, documents how the Gates have purchased a larger-than-life portrayal of themselves by strategic investments in the media.

With rare exceptions, the Gates’s have subsidized publications likely to write about them and guaranteed that they would be portrayed favorably. By doing so, they have undermined freedom of the press while assuring favorable treatment for themselves.

Schwab writes:

LAST AUGUST, NPR PROFILED A HARVARD-LED EXPERIMENT to help low-income families find housing in wealthier neighborhoods, giving their children access to better schools and an opportunity to “break the cycle of poverty.” According to researchers cited in the article, these children could see $183,000 greater earnings over their lifetimes—a striking forecast for a housing program still in its experimental stage.

If you squint as you read the story, you’ll notice that every quoted expert is connected to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which helps fund the project. And if you’re really paying attention, you’ll also see the editor’s note at the end of the story, which reveals that NPR itself receives funding from Gates.

NPR’s funding from Gates “was not a factor in why or how we did the story,” reporter Pam Fessler says, adding that her reporting went beyond the voices quoted in her article. The story, nevertheless, is one of hundreds NPR has reported about the Gates Foundation or the work it funds, including myriad favorable pieces written from the perspective of Gates or its grantees.

And that speaks to a larger trend—and ethical issue—with billionaire philanthropists’ bankrolling the news. The Broad Foundation, whose philanthropic agenda includes promoting charter schools, at one point funded part of the LA Times’ reporting on education. Charles Koch has made charitable donations to journalistic institutions such as the Poynter Institute, as well as to news outlets such as the Daily Caller, that support his conservative politics. And the Rockefeller Foundation funds Vox’s Future Perfect, a reporting project that examines the world “through the lens of effective altruism”—often looking at philanthropy.

As philanthropists increasingly fill in the funding gaps at news organizations—a role that is almost certain to expand in the media downturn following the coronavirus pandemic—an underexamined worry is how this will affect the ways newsrooms report on their benefactors. Nowhere does this concern loom larger than with the Gates Foundation, a leading donor to newsrooms and a frequent subject of favorable news coverage.

In Gates-funded articles, the rule seems to be: write whatever you want so long as you don’t criticize Bill or Melinda. Presenting them as saviors of society is good.

Strategic media investments pay off for Bill Gates.

Gates’s generosity appears to have helped foster an increasingly friendly media environment for the world’s most visible charity. Twenty years ago, journalists scrutinized Bill Gates’s initial foray into philanthropy as a vehicle to enrich his software company, or a PR exercise to salvage his battered reputation following Microsoft’s bruising antitrust battle with the Department of Justice. Today, the foundation is most often the subject of soft profiles and glowing editorials describing its good works.

During the pandemic, news outlets have widely looked to Bill Gates as a public health expert on covid—even though Gates has no medical training and is not a public official. PolitiFact and USA Today (run by the Poynter Institute and Gannett, respectively—both of which have received funds from the Gates Foundation) have even used their fact-checking platforms to defend Gates from “false conspiracy theories” and “misinformation,” like the idea that the foundation has financial investments in companies developing covid vaccines and therapies. In fact, the foundation’s website and most recent tax forms clearly show investments in such companies, including Gilead and CureVax.

In the same way that the news media has given Gates an outsize voice in the pandemic, the foundation has long used its charitable giving to shape the public discourse on everything from global health to education to agriculture—a level of influence that has landed Bill Gates on Forbes’s list of the most powerful people in the world. The Gates Foundation can point to important charitable accomplishments over the past two decades—like helping drive down polio and putting new funds into fighting malaria—but even these efforts have drawn expert detractors who say that Gates may actually be introducing harm, or distracting us from more important, lifesaving public health projects.

The PBS Newshour has received millions from Gates and reliably gushes over Bill and Melinda and their munificence.

In 2011, the Seattle Times published an article critical of the Gates Foundation, then two years later received a generous grant to pay for education coverage, and criticism stopped.

NPR receives Gates largesse, and regularly cites Gates as an authority on everything. The most delicious irony is NPR treating Gates—one of the richest men in the world—as an authority on income inequality and poverty. That’s a good one.

Those of us who concentrate on education are aware that everything Gates has funded in a large way has been an abject failure—from his absurd claim that he had knew how to produce and measure good teachers to his huge investment in the Common Core. We won’t hear about those failures in the Gates-funded media.

What I find most puzzling about the Bill and Melinda is their vanity. Their need to be recognized and praised is boundless. I guess no one ever told them that the highest form of philanthropy is to be completely anonymous: to give without knowing who will receive your gift and to give with no expectation of gratitude. The lowest form of giving is the gift where one expects recognition. Sadly, they use their philanthropy to exercise power, to win praise, and to stoke their needy egos.

The rightwing Thomas B. Fordham Institute has rejected Florida’s effort to replace the Common Core standards, which were wholly funded by the Gates Foundation. When the Common Core was released a decade ago, Gates paid millions to Fordham to evaluate them.

Politico Morning Education reports:

GATES FOUNDATION-BACKED INSTITUTE CALLS FLORIDA’S NEW K-12 STANDARDS ‘WEAK’: The Fordham Institute said the state’s Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking standards, which came from a push from Gov. Ron DeSantis to replace Common Core and to set a national example, are in need of “significant and immediate revisions.” The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a supporter of Common Core, backs the institute.

— “As for other states, they should indeed look for model standards, but they won’t find them in Florida,” wrote Fordham Institute President Michael Petrilli and Amber Northern, senior vice president of research. The study also says Florida leaders are unlikely to reexamine the new standards “anytime soon.”

This is a fascinating interview of Bill Gates in 2014 by Washington Post reporter Lyndsey Layton.

Layton wrote a comprehensive account of how the Common Core was funded single-handed by Gates. Gates engineered a “swift revolution,” a near coup, by subsidizing and promulgating the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), with cheerleading by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

CCSS may have been the biggest policy disaster in the history of U.S. education. States and districts spent billions of dollars to implement new standards, new tests, new teacher training, new software, new textbooks, new professional development, all in pursuit of illusory standardization.

The U.S. Department of Education paid $360 million for two consortia to develop tests (PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Consortium). The consortia started life with almost every state but most have now dropped out. Gates paid for everything else. By some estimates, he invested as much as $2 billion subsidizing the writing, development, evaluation, and promotion of CCSS.

The Common Core was adopted by almost every state because states had to adopt common standards if they wanted to be eligible to compete for a portion of nearly $5 billion in Race to the Top funding. Arne Duncan worked closely with the Gates Foundation, and several former Gates officials worked for Duncan. States, still staggering from the 2008 recession, needed the money. Race to the Top and CCSS were a package deal meant to standardize American education.

If the goal was to raise test scores (it was) and to close or narrow achievement gaps (it was), both Race to the Top and Common Core failed. Neither happened. Read my book SLAYING GOLIATH, which contains the data.

People have many times asked me if I had some good ideas for the billionaires who have been foisting terrible ideas on our public schools. What could they do instead of screwing up the nation’s public schools?

Like they have nothing better to do than to make students and teachers miserable with endless testing, pricey consultants, and mounds of paperwork. Like their best idea is to eliminate elected school boards and let clueless entrepreneurs play with other people’s lives. Like their best/worst idea is to give hundreds of millions of dollars to a bunch of guys—who have already failed at “school reform”—so they can do some more “reforming” without any accountability for the disruption they cause.

Friends, the billionaires need a new idea!

I found it!

Here is a problem they can solve just by spending money. If they do this, they won’t break anything. They won’t hurt any children or break up any communities.

Please, Bill. Mark. Jeff. You can do this!

John Arnold! Laurene Powell Jobs! You too!

Be a hero, not a villain!

Pay attention! Make someone happy.

Robin Wright wrote this story for the New Yorker.


In late March, an elegant four-year-old tiger named Nadia, at the Bronx Zoo, developed a dry cough and lost her appetite. The zoo had been closed for eleven days because of the coronavirus pandemic, and no employee had symptoms of the new coronavirus sweeping across New York. Out of an abundance of caution, the veterinary staff tested Nadia in April, as her problems persisted. It was not a simple swab. The zoo had to anesthetize the two-hundred-pound cat and take samples from her nose, throat, and respiratory tract, then ship them off to veterinary labs at Cornell University and the University of Illinois. Nadia is also no ordinary tiger. Malayan tigers are among the world’s most endangered animals; with fewer than two hundred and fifty left in the wild, they are threatened with extinction because of human poaching and loss of habitat. Nadia was born at the Bronx Zoo, as part of its Malayan-tiger breeding program. Her covid-19 test came back positive. By the end of April, seven other big cats—four more tigers, in addition to three lions who live in a separate exhibit—also tested positive, through samples of their feces. The zoo concluded that they had all been exposed to a human, probably a zoo employee, who was asymptomatic. The news about Nadia stunned staff at more than two hundred accredited U.S. zoos (not including animal “exhibitors,” like Joe Exotic, of “Tiger King” fame) and more than ten thousand zoos around the world. Within twenty-four hours, many introduced stricter handling protocols, more protective gear, and social distancing between humans and zoo animals—not just tigers but also other animals now believed to be vulnerable to covid-19, from great apes to ferrets and even skunks.

But Nadia’s test result six weeks ago was only the beginning of an unprecedented series of crises—some existential—faced by zoological parks dedicated to the study and survival of thousands of the Earth’s other animal species. Unlike entertainment centers, movie theatres, or sports stadiums, zoos can’t simply shut their doors or tell staff to work from home. Zoos still have to feed and care for animals—nearly a million, from six thousand species (a thousand of them endangered or threatened) in the United States alone—at a time in which revenues have plummeted to nothing, Dan Ashe, the president of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, told me. In the United States, at least eighty per cent of zoos and aquariums accredited by the A.Z.A. are closed, which means no ticket sales, no merchandise bought for the kids, no stroller rentals, and no food sales, all of which contribute to both zoo programs and long-term conservation worldwide.

“The amount of losses through the whole zoological community is staggering,” Steven Monfort, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, in Washington, D.C., told me. “Most of us are trying to figure out how to get to the spring of 2021 and hope that there’s a vaccine or something so that visitation by then will be more normal.” With new social-distancing rules, most zoos expect to reopen eventually, but, at least initially, at roughly a quarter capacity—producing only a quarter of income, at best. “All of us have plans, but we don’t know how well those plans will work,” Monfort added.

Most U.S. zoos have laid off or furloughed up to half of their staffs, according to several zoos. In Portland, the Oregon Zoo has laid off a quarter of its staff, in addition to two hundred part-time employees. Sixty per cent of its revenue comes from ticket sales, but zoos generally operate on a seasonal basis, so, for nine months of the year, costs have long exceeded revenues. “If we can’t open, we will just run out of money by the end of September,” Sheri Horiszny, the Oregon Zoo’s deputy director, told me. “We won’t be able to operate as we have—possibly ever, and certainly for the immediate future.” The problem is global, she said. “Ninety per cent of the zoos on the planet were closed. Virtually all are now strapped—some are devastated.”

In northern Germany, the shuttered Neumünster Zoo has a wrenching contingency plan for its seven hundred animals if funding or the food-supply chain fail to help the facility survive. “If—and this is really the worst, worst case of all—if I no longer have any money to buy feed, or if it should happen that my feed supplier is no longer able to supply due to new restrictions, then I would slaughter animals to feed other animals,” Verena Kaspari told the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur last month. The zoo made a list of which animals it would euthanize first, she said. The zoo is noted for its panda twins, penguins, and seals. The last to go, Kaspari said, would be Vitus, a snowy polar bear that stands twelve feet tall.

In Canada, two playful pandas at the Calgary Zoo—Da Mao and Er Shun—are being sent back to China. The zoo’s star attractions, they are the victims of another aspect of the pandemic: the disruption of food supplies. The zoo was able to stockpile and freeze fish for the penguins, horse meat for the large cats, and protein biscuits for the primates. But each panda eats eighty-eight pounds of fresh bamboo every day. Calgary used to get its fresh bamboo flown in from China, but then flights from China to Calgary stopped. The only remaining route was a weekly flight from China to Toronto, but the bamboo wasn’t fresh by the time it reached Calgary. The zoo started importing bamboo from California, but then flights stopped from there, as well. The zoo then tried trucking bamboo from the West Coast of the U.S. to Calgary, in central Canada, but the trucks stopped in Vancouver first, and, by the time they arrived in Calgary, the bamboo was spoiled. The zoo then hired a courier company to pick up the bamboo from Vancouver. But access to the airport took three days—and more shipments of the bamboo spoiled. Finally, the zoo began trucking in bamboo from Victoria, a region near Vancouver, but bamboo is not an indigenous plant, so the region couldn’t supply the quantity needed.

“Every ten days, there was a curveball,” Clément Lanthier, the C.E.O. and president of the Calgary Zoo, told me. “These are very precious animals. I can’t take the risk of having to tell my staff that the pandas could starve because bamboo won’t get here until tomorrow or next week. So it’s time for the pandas to go back home.” The pair arrived in Calgary only two years ago—after six years of planning and a twenty-one-million-dollar investment.

The food challenge is staggering for zoos everywhere. “People’s perceptions of zoos is that we just pick up poop,” Horiszny, from the Oregon Zoo, told me. The Portland zoo made changes early on when it realized food was an issue for the entire planet. “But imagine if you have a dinner party with six to ten guests, and one is lactose intolerant, another has a gluten allergy, and a third is philosophically vegetarian,” she said. “We have two thousand ‘guests’ from two hundred and twenty species with different dietary needs. So every day we have a challenge meeting those needs.”

The cost of animal care can also be staggering. In 2018, the San Diego Zoo and its sister Safari Park spent more than two hundred million dollars on operations to feed and care for its animals. The Oregon Zoo budgets more than a quarter million dollars just to care for Chendra, its Asian elephant, for six months. The zoo has an innovative program to save the Oregon silverspot butterfly from extinction. But it costs a hundred and twenty-six thousand dollars for nine months—for a horticulturist to tend to the thousands of violet plants in a greenhouse that provide food for twelve hundred silverspot caterpillars. A human also needs to keep the caterpillars clean, watered, and fed until they become adults and can be released, the zoo’s director, Don Moore, told me. “Yes, it’s very expensive to feed animals!” he e-mailed. Zoos also have heavy medical costs, from artificial insemination of endangered pandas to providing medication and surgery for ill or aging animals. Ashe, the A.Z.A. president, noted that veterinarians provide twenty-four-hour care to the animals at zoo facilities. “They get better health care than you or I do,” he said.

The National Zoo, in Washington, D.C., is losing more than a million dollars a month that it has no chance of recouping. Like other zoos, it launched a covid-19 emergency-response campaign for donations. “But there’s no way, no philanthropic answer, that will fill the bucket of needs,” Monfort told me. “The question is what happens in the longer run.” The Washington zoo also manages long-term research programs in twenty-five countries, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In 2018, American zoos, in total, contributed more than two hundred and thirty million dollars for field conservation worldwide—funds generated largely off ticket sales. “Without revenue coming in, it is challenging our members to find ways to keep up that commitment to conservation. We fear the bottom will fall out of that in 2020,” Ashe told me. “This dormant period is going to have a real impact on conservation in the field for animals,” ranging from elephants and giraffes to rhinos, manatees, orangutans, gorillas, and condors.

Zoos that qualify as small businesses—with fewer than five hundred employees—have applied for federal aid through the Payroll Protection Program. At least sixty per cent of the members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums have won aid, Ashe told me. The current program covers payroll and other expenditures, but not animal care—and only for two months, through mid-June. Larger zoos—in San Diego, St. Louis, and the Audubon Zoo, in New Orleans—do not qualify. Others, in Cleveland and Little Rock, and the National Zoo, don’t qualify because of their ties to the government. Horiszny, of the Oregon Zoo, predicted that some zoos will never recover. “Virtually all are now strapped, some are devastated,” she said. “In natural disasters, some of those animals were sent to other zoos. Now there is nowhere to send an animal. Everyone’s in trouble.”

The pandemic has affected the behavior of animals, as well. Many species have demonstrated the same kinds of loneliness that people have. “It’s fair to say animals miss people as much as people miss animals,” Ashe, the A.Z.A. president, said. In zoos, humans offer a form of sensory stimulus to other species. Without them, the penguins, pandas, elephants, chimpanzees, and even camels and meerkats seem a little bored. “The variety of smells that come through the zoo every day are enrichment for them. Their day is less interesting or varied without us.” Some species—particularly elephants and great apes—notice the absence of humans. “They have strong bonds and enjoy interacting with guests and showing off,” Monfort, from the National Zoo, said. “When guests are not there, some tend to act a little needy.”

In Calgary, the normally nonchalant camels have been wandering up to the moat to interact with the few people still on site, while the gorillas come to the window when anyone passes by. “I walked by the meerkats in the Savannah building yesterday, and they ran right up to me,” Lanthier said. Chloe, the chimp matron at the Oregon Zoo, was so famous for kissing visitors (through a window) that the park hosted a kissing-booth party for her last year, when she turned fifty. She has been so lonely during the pandemic that keepers for other animals have been urged to call on her. “She was really craving attention,” Horiszny said. “The chimps, like us, are not experiencing life as usual.”

Last week, the Kansas City Zoo arranged for its three penguins to take a field trip to the local Nelson-Atkins Art Museum for a “morning of fine art and culture.” “We’re always looking for ways to enrich their lives and stimulate their days,” Randy Wisthoff, the zoo director, said, in a video posted on the museum’s Web site and the zoo’s Facebook page. “The penguins absolutely loved it.” The museum’s executive director, Julián Zugazagoitia, noted that the three Humboldt penguins “seemed to react much better to Caravaggio than to Monet.”

In Chicago, a Rockhopper penguin named Wellington has become an Internet sensation after the Shedd Aquarium posted videos of him hopping around other exhibits at the zoo. He now has his own hashtag, #whereswellington. He had a particularly winsome encounter, through a window, with a white beluga whale. They seemed fascinated with each other. The Chicago aquarium also let the sea lions roam around its administration offices. Zoos in Denver and Portland have let their pink flamingos wander along pathways where people once strolled. The Toronto Zoo took llamas and a donkey on an excursion to visit the polar bears.

In Hong Kong, Ying Ying and Le Le, the two pandas at the Ocean Park Zoo, have become more productive—literally—during the pandemic. After a decade together, they used the serenity of the shuttered zoo to finally mate for the first time, in March. Female pandas are fertile only once a year, and only for three days, a major reason for the species decline. The pandas having sex was such a breakthrough for conservation—and for the quarantined public—that the park put out a press release. A panda cub would be a rare bit of good news well beyond Hong Kong during this otherwise deadly global pandemic.

Peter Greene taught high school students in Pennsylvania for 39 years. Now he blogs and writes about education for Forbes, where people in the business world get schooled about education realities.

In this article, he makes clear that a Bill Gates has a horrible record in education policy and should butt out of New York.

Greene points out:

Nobody has expended more money and influence on US education, and yet even by his own standards for success—raising reading and math test scores—Gates has no clear successes. Nor are there signs that he is learning anything from his failures. Reading through years of the annual Bill and Melinda letter, and you find acknowledgement that their latest idea didn’t quite pan out, but the problems are never located within the programs themselves. Teachers didn’t have the right resources or training. The Foundation’s PR work didn’t properly anticipate resistance. After years of failed initiatives, the latest Gates newsletter concludes not that they should examine some of their own assumptions, change their approach, or invite a different set of eyeballs to look over their programs—instead, they should just do what they’re doing, but do it harder. “Swing for the fences.”

Currently the Foundation is focused on factors like curriculum and in particular computer-delivered education. This may seem like just the ticket for a governor who also questioned why his state is still bothering with brick-and-mortar school buildings. But regardless of what you think of the policies and programs that Gates is pushing, it’s important to remember that while he may be great at disruption, he has yet to build anything in the education world that is either lasting or which works the way it was meant to. And he can always walk away, having barely dented his fortune.

It is perfectly obvious that Cuomo’s invited Gates to “reimagine” education in New York because Cuomo’s wants to make distance learning permanent. Parents hate the idea. Students long to be back in school with their friends and teachers. Teachers want to see their students really, not virtually.

Cuomo should back off. He hasn’t talked to parents, students, or teachers, only to Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt of Google.

It’s also important to remember that the Constitution of the State of New York gives the governor zero authority over education. That power belongs to the Board of Regents.

Cuomo should take care of reimagining the economy, getting people back to work, and leave education to the appropriate state and local officials.