The Presidential Daily Brief

Important

  1. Senate Breaks Logjam, Passes Relief Bill

    The vote was unanimous. With one member ill with COVID-19 and three others self-isolating, the U.S. Senate passed history's biggest stimulus package 96-0 Wednesday. The House is expected to approve the $2.2 trillion bill Friday before sending it to President Donald Trump, who tweeted "Congratulations AMERICA." The package aids businesses, boosts unemployment benefits and provides a $1,200 payment for every adult earning up to $75,000.

    How are markets reacting? Word of the bill sparked a record 11 percent Dow surge Tuesday, but today's jubilation may be tempered by this morning's coronavirus-racked unemployment stats.

    OZY's Donald Dossier anticipates "Trump checks."

  2. New Zealand Mosque Shooter Pleads Guilty

    Brenton Tarrant, the Australian white supremacist suspected of murdering 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, has changed his plea to guilty, sparing a wounded nation from reliving the March 2019 events during his trial. Appearing via video today, he admitted to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism in New Zealand's deadliest massacre. A spokesperson for one of the mosques said the unexpected move brought some "peace to the chaos."

    What happens next? He'll remain in detention until his May 1 sentencing, where victims are hoping to read impact statements.

  3. Spanish Death Toll Tops China's

    COVID-19 deaths in Spain hit 3,434, passing China, after 738 patients died in 24 hours. It joins a grim list of nations the contagion has overwhelmed in spite of lockdowns, with new infections slowing in Italy, where deaths nonetheless rose to 7,500 today. "If we are not already at the peak, we are very close," said Fernando Simón, who heads Spain's health crisis agency.

    Who might be next? Iran stopped intercity travel as its death toll reached 2,077, while U.S. deaths tripled in four days to almost 1,000. Germany, fourth globally with 36,500 cases, has only seen about 200 deaths so far.

    Keep up with coverage at OZY's Coronavirus Central.

  4. US Officials: Agent Died in Iranian Custody

    American intelligence has concluded that retired FBI agent Robert Levinson has died while being held by Iran. Levinson, who would have been 72 this month, vanished after entering the Islamic Republic in 2007 on an unsanctioned CIA mission that sparked controversy in the agency. In recent weeks, family members were brought to the White House, where national security officials informed them of their conclusions.

    How do they believe he died? That's not clear, but a 2010 proof-of-life video featured Pashtun music, indicating he may have been held in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

  5. Also Important...

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has delayed an April 22 constitutional referendum that could keep him in power until 2036. Australia's Great Barrier Reef has been hit by its third mass-bleaching, caused by warmer water, in five years. And Kosovo's government has collapsed after Prime Minister Albin Kurti lost a no-confidence vote amid disputes over how to handle the pandemic.

    We heard you! Last week, we asked about your favorite lockdown pastime: OZY reader Greg H. says: "I like to set up my telescopes and star gaze. If it's really clear, I'll try my hand at photographing some deep sky objects."

    Coronavirus update: With India having locked down its 1.3 billion citizens, one-third of the Earth's population is now living under restrictions to slow the virus's spread.

Intriguing

  1. Milan Soccer Game Called 'Biological Bomb'

    Italy's Lombardy region doesn't know where to put its coffins these days, and the world is anxious to know why. Fabiano di Marco, chief pneumologist in epicenter Bergamo's overwhelmed hospital, has told an Italian newspaper his top theory goes back to Feb. 19, when 40,000 locals went to a Milan stadium to see their Atalanta soccer team play big-league Valencia "in buses, cars, trains. A biological bomb."

    What happened then? Two days later, the first coronavirus case was reported in Lombardy, where someone now dies of COVID-19 every three minutes and 35 seconds — and few complain about sports cancellations.

    OZY reports on Scandinavia's pandemic lessons.

  2. India's Digital Adoptees Are Being Returned

    It's a gut-wrenching choice. But it's what one 40-year-old Indian woman was compelled to do when her adopted son's status was thrown into doubt by a criminal case involving his biological mother. Not knowing if he could ever be truly hers, she had to give him up. That experience has become more common, OZY reports, under India's newly digitized adoption system that's resulted in 5 percent of kids being returned — a number experts say far exceeds previous rates.

    What would help? Advocates say the new system "lacks human connection" by asking parents to accept matched children without even meeting them.

  3. Quokkas Captivate the Quarantined

    We could all use a little quokka time. Cruise passengers may have been apprehensive upon learning they'd be quarantined on Rottnest Island off Australia's western coast. But 800 Australian nationals from the Vasco de Gama, which hasn't reported any illness, were in for a cuddly welcome: The island is home to the endangered quokka, a marsupial that doesn't mind posing for selfies with humans.

    And the not-so-cute news? Non-Australians on the same ship must remain afloat, along with those on other vessels anchored nearby that were already rejected elsewhere.

    OZY's Weekender has more cuteness to perk up your lockdown.

  4. Series Pulls Flu Epidemic Episode

    Too soon, and too late. NBC's medical drama New Amsterdam filmed "Pandemic," an episode about deadly influenza overwhelming New York City. But it won't air as scheduled April 7, because its mirror on reality "is too horrifying to look at," said showrunner David Schulner. Now recurring guest star Daniel Dae Kim has tested positive for coronavirus, while a writer and three crew members are sick.

    Is there a bright side? The show joined others in its genre in donating masks and other protective garb to actual front-line medical staff.

    OZY recommends three series to watch while stuck at home.

  5. german wind turbines shutterstock 1387797554

    Wind Power Reports Big Annual Jump

    News from another crisis: Wind power surged last year, adding another 60 gigawatts around the world, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. That brings the sector's cumulative generating capacity to 651 gigawatts, its second-biggest annual increase — 70 percent of which came from China, the U.S., India, the U.K. and Spain.

    Will this chill global warming? For there to be "any chance" of meeting the Paris climate agreement goals, the council warned, yearly increases of 100-200 gigawatts will be needed.

    Check out this OZY examination of Europe's coal dilemma.