The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. All of California Is Locked Inside

    There's no place like home. Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued an order for all of the Golden State's 40 million residents to hunker down, asking them to only leave home when it's absolutely necessary. He's estimated that more than half of Californians will become infected. Meanwhile, with 3,405 fatalities, Italy reached the grim milestone of recording more deaths than China, despite its population being 20 times smaller.

    What challenges are American leaders facing? Some, like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have complained that they don't have enough ventilators — leading them to shop for the devices in China.

    Follow OZY's continuing coverage of the COVID-19 crisis.

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    Republicans Float Their Rescue Bill

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled a GOP plan yesterday to dole out up to $1,200 to each American taxpayer — a proposal that's already been panned by some party members. The package would also extend around $500 billion in loans to businesses, including $50 billion for cash-strapped airlines. Democrats are expected to sit down with their Republican counterparts, as well as White House officials, to hash out a final agreement today.

    What's the current economic picture? Fresh figures from the Labor Department show a 30 percent spike in unemployment claims last week, revealing the tough times businesses are already facing.

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    India Executes 4 Men for Bus Rape, Murder

    "Justice has prevailed." That's what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted today after authorities hanged four men convicted of raping and murdering a 23-year-old student, later dubbed Nirbhaya, on a bus in 2012. The case captured global headlines and cast critical attention on India's struggle with sexual violence. Friday's execution was the country's first since 2015.

    What's India doing to fight the problem? Not enough, critics say: Rapes are common and women are fearful of reporting them — while the government's $130 million Nirbhaya fund for women's safety initiatives remains virtually untouched.

    OZY asks: Are India's Muslim women being driven out of politics?

  4. Iran Marks New Year Under COVID-19's Grip

    With more than 1,200 coronavirus deaths, the Islamic Republic is celebrating Nowruz — one of the busiest days on the calendar — a bit differently this year. In a televised address, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei commended Iranians on their "dazzling" sacrifices, and pledged his country's population would "overcome all hardships with unity." But COVID-19 has exacerbated an already painful economic situation for many.

    How are Iranians celebrating? Tweaking the tradition of jumping over bonfires, some set up candles in their homes instead, while others displayed banners to greet their neighbors rather than visiting in person.

  5. Also Important...

    President Donald Trump has reportedly canceled a meeting of G-7 leaders at Camp David set for June. A top Spanish official has predicted that 80 percent of the capital Madrid will be infected by COVID-19. And China has exonerated the deceased doctor who fell afoul of authorities after warning about the outbreak.

    Try This: Feeling presidential after a week of briefings? Prove it with the PDB Quiz.

    Coronavirus Update: The global death toll has now broken 10,000 — though more than 86,000 have recovered.


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    Reports: Senators Dumped Stocks Before Crisis

    Several lawmakers are attracting criticism for reportedly selling off hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock between late January and mid-February — shortly after being briefed on the coronavirus outbreak. Republican Sen. Richard Burr, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is also said to have warned a gaggle of supporters that dark days were coming, while Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her husband sold millions in biotech stock.

    Is that illegal? Using inside information for profit is against the law for members of Congress, though one former federal prosecutor suggested the case could be more complicated than that.

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    Netflix, YouTube Cut Europe's Bitrate

    Watch this. In a bid to reduce congestion by around 25 percent, Netflix said it would bust down its streaming quality for European users over the next 30 days, while YouTube said it's making standard definition the default. That's after EU officials reminded the continent's providers of their "joint responsibility" to keep the internet running smoothly in these quarantined times. Netflix reassured users that its compression algorithm means most won't see a huge drop in quality.

    What's traffic looking like? Top European provider Vodafone clocked a 50 percent jump as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg similarly reported that his platform has seen a major spike in visitors.

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    Don't Open That Plastic Bottle

    Refuse and recycle. A new study published in Scientific Reports has found that simply cracking open that Poland Spring or tearing open a snack package sends microplastics into the air. Despite measuring between merely 0.001 and 5 millimeters in size, they're still a serious threat to the food chain. "Microplastics are literally everywhere," said one expert.

    Just how much material is released? The study found that every foot of plastic torn produces up to 7,500 bits of microplastic — suggesting manufacturers across industries might need to rethink their packaging entirely.

    Don't miss this OZY story about Europe's sea of plastics.

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    Are Drive-Ins Hollywood's Last Hope?

    As the vast majority of America's 5,500 movie theaters go dark, the industry is suffering badly. Box offices made a historically paltry $300,000 Wednesday, down from nearly $11 million on the same day a year ago. Yet drive-ins appear to be doing just fine, with theaters in California and Texas bringing in over $1,000 each. "It has been a welcome relief for families," said a drive-in owner whose revenue has more than doubled.

    Are they insulated from the crisis? America's 305 surviving drive-ins are seemingly perfect for social distancing, though they'll soon run out of new productions to show.

  5. COVID-19 Spreads Through Sports World

    It's no game. Yesterday New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton became the NFL's first confirmed case of coronavirus. But he's far from the only high-profile sports figure to have been infected: Two Los Angeles Lakers and one Boston Celtic also turned up with coronavirus yesterday, the latest in a string of cases that have hit five teams in the NBA. All three players were asymptomatic.

    What did Payton say? He urged people to heed authorities' calls for social distancing — especially amid the bustle of Mardi Gras season in the New Orleans area.