The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. China: A Beacon of COVID-19 Hope?

    For the first time since the coronavirus outbreak began, the former epicenter of Wuhan, China, reported no new local infections yesterday. "We have seen the dawn," remarked one health official. But while it's an encouraging sign that drastic measures might help stem the spread, it also highlights how the crisis has now shifted to Europe: On Wednesday Italy recorded 475 deaths, its highest single-day toll yet.

    Who is the virus affecting? Experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that while the elderly remain most at risk, 38 percent of Americans hospitalized have been between 20 and 54 years old.

    Follow OZY's continuing coverage of the coronavirus crisis.

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    Leaders Scramble to Shore Up Economies

    "Extraordinary times require extraordinary action." That's what European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said overnight, shortly after the institution announced it would buy more than $800 billion in bonds this year to help fight the coronavirus-fueled economic crisis. Back across the pond, the U.S. Senate was considering a $1 trillion aid package, while the Federal Reserve said it would offer emergency loans to mutual funds to keep money flowing to cash-strapped businesses.

    What could the U.S. stimulus plan look like? It reportedly involves two rounds of direct payments to Americans — one in April, followed by another in May — of at least $1,000 each.

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    Bernie Sanders Could Finally Bow Out

    He's feeling Berned. Reeling from a string of primary defeats by Democratic rival Joe Biden, the Vermont senator's campaign said he's reassessing his bid for president. His team has suspended its Facebook ads and stopped soliciting donations, while some top Democrats say "it's over" for Sanders — who cursed out a CNN reporter yesterday after he asked about his potential withdrawal. Both the Biden and Sanders camps say they've been in contact over policy responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

    What's next? If he quits, Democrats could find themselves in the familiar situation of scrambling to keep former Sanders supporters onside after Biden secures the nomination.

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    Iran Will Pardon 10,000 Prisoners

    Political detainees are expected to be among the thousands of prisoners freed Friday in a goodwill gesture by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to mark the Iranian New Year. Half of those released will be "security-related prisoners" who'd been serving sentences of less than five years, a government spokesman said. It follows the country's temporary release of 85,000 prisoners amid the local coronavirus outbreak.

    Will any high-profile names be pardoned? It's still unclear whether it'll include British and Australian citizens detained on what critics say are trumped-up charges, while an Iranian-American businessman is still behind bars.

    Don't miss OZY's feature on Iran's stockpile — of potatoes.

  5. Also Important...

    Celebrities and professional athletes are facing a growing backlash over their allegedly unfair access to coronavirus testing kits. Germany has banned a far-right group called United German Peoples and Tribes while police raided senior members' homes. And the New York Stock Exchange will operate entirely electronically after closing its trading floor.

    Coronavirus Update: More than 84,100 people around the world have recovered from COVID-19.

    Speak up! If you're working from home amid the outbreak, has your productivity suffered, or improved? Let us know by replying to this email — and we’ll feature the most interesting answers right here later in the week.


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    Could Social Distancing Boost Hate?

    In its latest annual report, the Southern Poverty Law Center clocked a 55 percent increase in U.S. white nationalist groups since 2017. Much of that growth has been driven by mass violence-promoting "accelerationists," researchers say, who organize informally online. That's why anti-extremism advocates fear self-isolation and sheltering in place could provide those groups with a greater audience than ever before.

    How could that hate develop? They'll particularly seek to fuel anti-Asian sentiments — bolstered, critics claim, by President Donald Trump's references to the "Chinese virus."

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    Detroit Carmakers Close Shop — But Not Tesla

    They're pumping the brakes. Ford, Detroit and Fiat Chrysler all caved to demands by United Auto Workers to power down their North American plants for the rest of the month. Honda and BMW are doing the same in the U.S. and Europe, while other automakers have closed some locations. But electric carmaker Tesla is keeping its California factory open — and has reportedly told employees to show up, despite a local shelter-in-place order, if they're working directly with cars.

    Is that legal? The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office says the plant is allowed to operate with one-quarter of its 10,000 staff, just enough to "maintain minimum basic operations."

  3. Nigeria Faces a COVID-19 Refugee Crisis

    As countries around the world impose travel restrictions and lockdowns to slow the spread of coronavirus, Africa's most populous country is working to head off a calamity in the making. Already the poverty capital of the world, Nigeria is home to millions of displaced people thanks to the decadelong Boko Haram insurgency, as well as pastoralist and separatist conflicts. "There is literally nothing anyone can do once this hits," one former official told OZY.

    Is it too soon to panic? Nigeria is managing the crisis so far, and it has experience to fight on: The country scored a massive win with its 2014 containment of Ebola.

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    Scientists Dig Up Ancient 'Wonderchicken'

    Now we know which came first. British researchers say they've uncovered the oldest known fossil of a modern bird, Asteriornis maastrichtensi, in Belgium. Dubbed the "wonderchicken," the seagull-size creature is believed to be around 66.7 million years old and shares physical features of chickens, ducks and turkeys. One expert called the fossil "an incredibly informative specimen."

    What's so wonderful about the wonderchicken? It provides clues about what life on Earth was like shortly before the mass extinction event that killed the dinosaurs.

    Read OZY's True Story about the mysterious Cardiff Giant.

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    NBA Chief Hopes to Salvage Season

    He's full of hoop dreams. After suspending the NBA season following multiple players testing positive for coronavirus, Commissioner Adam Silver said he hasn't lost hope that it could still continue under certain circumstances. "I'm optimistic by nature," he told ESPN yesterday. Silver also defended his decision to test players amid a shortage of testing kits, citing medical directives.

    What's his plan? Pushing innovative thinking, Silver said some options might be hosting charity games or smaller, audience-free tournaments that could be televised to boost fans' spirits.