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The one debate question we wished the VP candidates were pressed on

October 8, 2020, 11:16 PM UTC

Hey folks, Aric here. I covered the vice presidential debate last night for Fortune. I found it to be at once relatively uneventful—save for the fly!—and hugely satisfying to see Kamala Harris, the first Black and Asian running mate on a major party ticket, on the stage. She delivered an inspiring biography at one point, reflecting on the sacrifice her mother made to emigrate to the United States.

Unfortunately, that endearing story came at the cost of a proper answer to one of the more important questions of the evening. From my story last night:

[M]oderator Susan Page asked a question on the mind of many Americans following President Trump’s hospitalization for COVID-19: “Have you had a conversation, or reached an agreement with [Trump or Biden] about safeguards or procedures when it comes to presidential disability?”

In other words: Are they prepared to succeed as President?

Both vice presidential candidates dodged the question entirely.

Harris responded with an admittedly elegant transition to her family background; Pence backtracked to previous discussion about the Trump Administration’s plans for a COVID-19 vaccine. As disappointing as it was to see the question go unanswered, it was a predictable response, I suppose. Neither VP candidate wants to touch on how their party’s presidential nominee will be 78 (Biden) and 74 (Trump) by January’s inauguration. Or how that age range makes them particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus, as Trump knows well by now.

Still, as uncomfortable of a question it is to raise, it’s certainly one worth asking—and answering. We can only hope there is some sort of plan, just in case.

For more debate coverage, check out my colleague Nicole Goodkind’s piece on Pence’s struggles to answer coronavirus-related questions, and Rey Mashayekhi on the winners and losers.

Aric Jenkins

On point

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Detroit News

White House may have exposed Gold Star families to coronavirus The White House quietly informed a veterans group that they may have been exposed to coronavirus during a September 27 event honoring fallen veterans. It is the earliest known confirmation of a coronavirus problem within the White House confines. The event came the day after the White House event to celebrate Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Sigh.
The Daily Beast

Come to find out, Queen Victoria had an African goddaughter She was likely born with the name Aina, but by the time she was introduced to 19th century English society, she became known as Sarah Forbes Bonetta. She had been born into a West African royal family; in the aftermath of a local war, she was enslaved as a child in what is present day Benin. She was given to a British naval captain named Forbes as a “diplomatic gift.” The Queen, who became fond of her, paid for her education in both Sierra Leone and Kent, England. Click through for her story, told in photos and painting. As the historian David Olusoga explains,“she became biographic shorthand for the perceived accomplishments of Britain’s civilising mission.”
The Guardian

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Living Corporate

On Background

Staying safe outdoors while Black  Latria Graham is a beautiful writer; the journalist and fifth-generation farmer focuses an extraordinary array of topics, from race, gender and class, to guns, food, and football. In this essay, she follows up on a 2018 piece she wrote about the racist obstacles facing Black people from fully enjoying the outdoors. It inspired an outpouring of interest, and a question she had no answer for. “They ask what they can do to protect themselves in case they wind up in a hostile environment,” she says. Now, she knows what to say.

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A Japanese town that is filled with life-sized dolls The scarecrow looked so much like her father, recently passed, that neighbors spoke to it with reverence. It was then that Japanese artist Tsukimi Ayano began to see an opportunity to replace the dwindling population of her rural village with life-sized human tributes of friends and neighbors. Now, Nagoro has more dolls than human inhabitants, working in fields, waiting for the bus, teaching in a now abandoned school. “When I make dolls of dead people I think about them when they were alive and healthy. The dolls are like my children.”  The effect is both haunting and beautiful, as this six-minute documentary shows. Enjoy.
National Geographic

Today's mood board

"A supporting device for stringed musical instruments, for example, guitars, banjos, mandolins and the like, is disclosed. The supporting device is constructed and arranged for supporting the musical instrument on the player to permit total freedom of the player's hands to play the instrument in a completely new way, thus allowing the player to create new techniques and sounds previously unknown to any player. The device, when in its operational position, has a plate which rests upon the player's leg leaving both hands free to explore the musical instrument as never before. Because the musical instrument is arranged perpendicular to the player's body, the player has maximum visibility of the instrument's entire playing surface."

— Patent number US4656917A. Inventor, Edward L. Van Halen