The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. NY Struggles Under Weight of COVID-19

    "Please come help us." That's how Gov. Andrew Cuomo appealed to out-of-state medical workers yesterday as New York surpassed 66,000 infections and 1,200 deaths. Standing along the Hudson River, locals greeted the arrival of a 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship to ease the burden on the Big Apple's facilities. Meanwhile, Ford and General Electric announced they'll produce 50,000 ventilators over the next three months.

    What's in store for the future? Statistics from the White House estimate that 82,000 Americans could die from COVID-19 by August — even if social distancing guidelines remain in place through May.

    Follow OZY's continuing coverage of the crisis.

  2. Could Coronavirus Infect Democracy?

    As authorities enact a raft of restrictions around the world to stem the spread of COVID-19, some are wondering whether those strict measures could end up stifling democracy. From Chile to Israel to Hungary, governments are deploying tools like military troops, mass surveillance and rule-by-decree to enforce order in these dark times. The U.N. rights chief says "a parallel epidemic" of abusive rule could be underway.

    Why does it matter? As OZY previously reported, how governments handle the crisis could alter the longer-term dynamics between people and power.

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    Chinese Factory Output Fuels Hope

    Government data shows the country's manufacturing index rebounded this month after hitting a record low in February. The reading of 52 — two points above what's considered an expansion — was slightly higher than most estimates, and suggests Chinese factories have been able to recover quickly from the coronavirus crisis. Service and construction activity bounced back up too.

    Is it all good news? Experts warn it's more of an improvement from dismal circumstances than a return to normal, while other indicators expected in the coming week could paint a gloomier picture.

    Read OZY's Special Briefing about how coronavirus is boosting creativity.

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    North Korea Is Still Making Trouble

    The Hermit Kingdom appears desperate to remind a distracted global community that it's still a major player, vowing to "repay the U.S. with actual horror and unrest" a day after testing "super-large" rocket launchers. Those developments came after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked world leaders last week to maintain pressure on Pyongyang over its failure to play ball on denuclearization. "We will walk our way," its state news agency said.

    How's North Korea dealing with COVID-19? With regional manufacturing all but stalled, some suggest factories in the country — which hasn't reported any infections — could secretly step in to fill the vacuum.

  5. Also Important...

    The European Parliament's largest faction has urged the U.K. to extend its Brexit transition beyond the end of the year due to coronavirus. Chinese telecom giant Huawei said its sales were up 19 percent last year despite U.S. sanctions. And a new study has found that Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Unilever and Nestlé dump more than half a million tons of plastic each year in six countries.

    Coronavirus Update: Israel and Brazil have a similar number of reported infections — 4,831 and 4,661, respectively — despite the fact that Brazil's population is around 23 times larger.

    We heard you! Yesterday, we asked what's been the most difficult part of social distancing. For OZY reader Michele C., it's the inability to be with her son, a new doctor who recently moved to New York state: "All I can do is send supplies to his hospital. My heart aches for him."


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    Why Coronavirus Might Change Online Dating

    Searching for a good connection? With the pandemic keeping most of the world locked indoors, a growing number of virtual dating services are emerging to keep lonely users safe while still giving them a shot at love. Whether offering video chats or premium global services for free, they're laying a foundation for the online dating experiences of the future, OZY reports. Virtual dating could also help fight scams, which cost Americans alone $200 million over the past year.

    Will it really take off? Experts say video chatting, for one, is a logical first step anyway because it reveals telling details like body language and expressions.

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    Whole Foods Workers Will Walk Out Next

    Following yesterday's walkout by Amazon workers over its failure to close a New York warehouse where one tested positive for COVID-19, today employees of Whole Foods will increase the pressure. They're calling in sick to demand the Amazon subsidiary give paid sick leave to all who self-isolate, extra hazard pay to those who show up — and free coronavirus testing for anyone who needs it. The grocery chain has already boosted its hourly pay by $2, but employees say it's not enough.

    Did yesterday's protest work? Amazon fired the walkout leader, claiming he violated orders to quarantine after coming in close contact with an infected worker.

  3. Cancer research

    Catch-All Cancer Test Shows Promise

    A team of American researchers has developed a blood test capable of identifying 50 different types of cancer. Using machine learning to identify DNA changes associated with the disease, the algorithm analyzed samples from around 4,000 subjects, half of them with a variety of cancers. It was largely successful, pinpointing the location of tumors with 93 percent accuracy, and it proved most effective for the dozen deadliest forms of the disease.

    What's next? The test was best at identifying more advanced cases, so researchers are working toward improving detection of early-stage cancers.

    Check out this OZY True Story about a breast cancer survivor's experience.

  4. Van Gogh Work Snatched From Closed Museum

    They mastered the art of the steal. The director of the Netherlands' Singer Laren museum said he's "extremely pissed off" that thieves stole the 1884 painting The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring early Monday. They smashed through the building's glass door and made off with the artwork — which was on loan from another Dutch museum — before the police arrived. Monday was also Vincent van Gogh's birthday.

    Are his paintings popular among thieves? Nearly two dozen pieces were stolen in two separate heists in 1991 and 2002 from Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum.

    Read OZY's dispatch about the Singapore art museum fighting censorship.

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    NCAA Gives Spring Athletes Another Year

    They're being good sports about it. Since coronavirus has ruined their season, the organization has granted Division I student-athletes competing in baseball, lacrosse, tennis and other spring sports an extra year of eligibility. The extension will apply to all classes, not just outgoing seniors, though each school must decide on its own how to disburse scholarship funds to those who choose to return.

    Is this a smart solution? Some say the NCAA is putting coaches in the awkward spot of having to potentially pull scholarships from returning players in favor of new recruits.