The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. No, Coronavirus Isn't Easing Up

    Yesterday's news that new infections appeared to be falling was followed by a shock today: Chinese authorities clocked 15,152 new cases and recorded another 254 deaths on the outbreak's deadliest day yet. That striking reversal is likely a result of health officials expanding their criteria for diagnosis — theoretically getting more people into medical care, but also raising questions about the capacity to treat them all.

    How serious are global concerns about coronavirus? High-profile events like Barcelona's Mobile World Congress and the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai have been called off or postponed.

  2. Fears Mount Over Trump's Influence

    "The fire’s been burning for months." That's how two former U.S. attorneys described what they claim is a steady erosion of the Justice Department's independence from the White House. Just one week after President Donald Trump's acquittal in the Senate's impeachment trial, critics worry he's roaring back with a vengeance, allegedly pressuring officials to ease up on longtime friend Roger Stone and suggesting they take aim at his perceived foes.

    What are Trump's allies saying? Former members of his legal team claim he "has the right to react" — especially if he believes the DOJ's original punishment for Stone was too severe.

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    Are Harvard, Yale Hiding Foreign Cash?

    Show 'em the money. The U.S. Department of Education announced yesterday that it's looking into whether the two Ivy League schools failed to report hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign financing. "This is about transparency," said Secretary Betsy DeVos. While the agency didn't specify how much Harvard might have failed to report, it suggested Yale let $375 million slip under the radar over the past four years. Colleges are required to report any foreign gifts and contracts topping $250,000.

    What's the bigger picture? The probe's part of a larger clash between federal authorities and educational institutions over countries like China and Saudi Arabia allegedly looking to steal research and spread propaganda.

  4. Barclays CEO Probed Over Epstein Ties

    The British lender confirmed Thursday that two U.K. watchdogs are investigating the long relationship between CEO Jes Staley and deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Barclays said Staley — who visited Epstein's private island in 2015, but claimed he'd cut ties after becoming CEO later that year — had been "sufficiently transparent" during its own review.

    Could Barclays take a hit? Shares dropped 2.4 percent in morning trading, though the bank also posted a gross annual profit increase of 9 percent.

    Don't miss OZY's Special Briefing on Prince Andrew's ties to Epstein.

  5. Also Important...

    U.S. Democratic hopefuls are now turning their focus to the Nevada and South Carolina primaries. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has begun shaking up his Cabinet for the first time since his Conservative Party's victory in elections late last year. And Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has reportedly paid the most ever for a Los Angeles-area house after buying the nine-acre Warner Estate from David Geffen for $165 million.

    #OZYfact: India's northeastern states are home to the country's largest concentration of ethnic tribes. Read more on OZY.

    We heard you! Yesterday we asked: How concerned are you about the coronavirus outbreak? OZY reader Meg Dunn, of Fort Collins, Colorado, answered: "Disease happens. The fact that it’s come in a new form doesn’t make that much of a difference to me. You take precautions, hope for the best, and make the most of your life."


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    Human History Just Got More Complicated

    We just took a DNA test; turns out we're ... hmm. While we've known that early Homo sapiens bred with Neanderthals and Denisovans after migrating from Africa, we didn't know much about the sex lives of those who stayed behind. Until now: UCLA researchers studied the genomes of 405 modern West Africans and found up to 19 percent of their genetic ancestry comes from "ghost" DNA that doesn't have "a clear identity." Scientists think their ancestors interbred with a mystery hominin around 50,000 years ago, potentially altering early human lineage.

    What's next? Experts hope the findings will prompt others to delve further into exploring ancient DNA, though it'll be easier to study physical evidence preserved in colder climates.

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    UN Blasts Israeli Settlement-Linked Firms

    The U.N. Human Rights Council drew jeers from Israel yesterday after publishing a list of 112 companies it says are operating in the West Bank's Israeli settlements, which most of the international community deems illegal. While the vast majority are Israeli business, the list also includes global giants like Airbnb, Expedia and Motorola. Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz called the U.N. body a "tool of the boycott movement," referring to the Palestinian-led campaign against Israel.

    Why does it matter? While the report won't have any immediate financial effect on the companies, it could put pressure on governments and investors to stop supporting them.

  3. Has Central Europe Cracked Petty Crime?

    If you're worried about pickpockets spoiling your vacation to Brussels, Paris or Barcelona, try heading farther east for your European jaunt. That's because you're statistically 15 times less likely to be robbed in EU border countries like Slovenia or Slovakia, OZY reports. There, law enforcement has embraced community policing strategies and other proactive measures to cut petty crime and boost public confidence.

    Is there a catch? Some experts say the numbers tell a different story: that increased police efficiency in more affluent countries like France leads to a higher number of robberies being reported.

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    UK Showbiz Suffers Mental Health 'Crisis'

    A new study by the Film and TV Charity has found that 87 percent of those working in the British entertainment industry have battled a mental health problem — compared to 65 percent of the general population. The group also found that industry workers are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety and three times as likely to engage in self-harm. Eight in 10, meanwhile, reported bullying or harassment.

    What's to be done? The organization's spearheading a $3.9 million action plan with industry leaders and mental health experts to increase support and improve working conditions.

    Don't miss this OZY feature about Hollywood's surprising new profit model.

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    Too Many Interceptions? Try Eye Surgery

    Will he have a better field of vision? The first NFL quarterback to post 30 touchdowns and just as many interceptions in one season, Jameis Winston decided to do something about it: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers star underwent LASIK eye surgery to finally tackle the nearsightedness that's plagued his career. Winston's spokesperson said he "doesn't want to miss out on any opportunity that presents itself."

    Will it help? That's unclear, but the stakes are high: The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner is one of many QBs who could potentially hit the open market this offseason.