The Presidential Daily Brief

Important

  1. India, Russia and Pakistan See Record Case Spikes

    After downplaying the threat, Russia faces a snowballing coronavirus threat, confirming its biggest one-day increase Saturday with 10,633 new cases to reach 134,687 known cases, of which 1,280 have reportedly died. This comes on the heels of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announcing that he's infected. India also had a record surge, with 2,644 daily cases raising its total past 39,000 cases, while neighboring Pakistan, which also poses the challenge of poorly equipped medical facilities, reported a record 1,297 new cases to reach 18,114 total. In the United States, a Washington Post analysis found 13,500 more excess deaths — defined as above normal levels — in March and early April, suggesting a far higher COVID-19 toll than reported.

  2. FDA Allows Use of COVID-19 Treatment

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved emergency use of remdesivir for treating COVID-19 patients. The antiviral medication, originally developed to treat Ebola, was shown in a large federal study to reduce average hospitalizations from 15 days to 11 — making it the first drug to demonstrate a significant benefit. Working to disrupt the coronavirus's ability to replicate its genetic material, remdesivir isn't a "magic bullet," experts warn, providing only a moderate benefit. California-based Gilead Sciences says it will donate 1.5 million doses to hospitals, but hasn't said what it will charge for the drug after that.

    Follow OZY's comprehensive pandemic coverage.

  3. Biden: Sexual Assault 'Never, Never Happened.'

    "No, it's not true." Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden finally went public Friday, denying a claim that he sexually assaulted a U.S. Senate employee in 1993. The former vice president told MSNBC that all such claims should be taken seriously, "but in the end ... the truth is what matters." Biden urged the National Archives to release a complaint that the alleged victim, Tara Reade, claims she filed back then but has no copy of. Meanwhile, polls show Biden leading President Donald Trump in key swing states such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

    #MeToo activist Rose McGowan gives OZY her take on Biden.

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    The Supreme Court’s Solomonic Moment

    After the U.S. Supreme Court begins its first video hearings this week, it may profoundly change Washington’s balance of power. It’s set to consider litigation to stop the Trump Organization’s accounting firm, Mazars, and its biggest lender, Deutsche Bank, from disclosing financial information to House or New York City investigators. Last Monday, anonymous justices asked whether it’s even appropriate for them to intervene. To journalist Matt Ford that suggests the majority might punt, scoring a Pyrrhic victory for Congress. Sure, it’ll probably get the presidential goods from these private entities, but when legislators subpoena federal agencies, the high court won’t back it up.

  5. Is Deflation the New Inflation?

    With the Fed pumping $1 million into the financial system every second, fears of inflation are rampant. But they’re also misguided, argues economic inequality expert Trevor Jackson. Deflation is more likely, creating a feedback loop of consumers delaying big-ticket purchases as prices drop, businesses fold and jobs disappear. The world has seen this before — during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The economy never fully recovered from 2008, leaving an unsteady foundation and policymakers so worried about inflation that they’re afraid to spend what it takes to get Americans working again.

    OZY’s Butterfly Effect suggests stimulating the economy during lockdown.

  6. Also Important...

    A day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared alive and well on state media, his troops have exchanged gunfire with their South Korean counterparts. In the wake of its worst mass shooting, Canada is banning 1,500 models of assault-style firearms. And in a reversal, the Ashford hotel group has said it will return some $70 million in federal loans intended to aid small businesses.

    In the week ahead: American Senators plan to return to work Monday, but the Capitol physician reportedly lacks coronavirus tests for all of them. On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether employers can refuse medical coverage for contraceptives on religious grounds. And pandemic-subdued ceremonies Friday will mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

    Coronavirus update: There are more than 3.3 million reported infections — a third in the U.S. — and 239,000 known deaths worldwide.

Intriguing

  1. The Last Mardi Gras

    Among Fat Tuesday’s more exuberant celebrants, members of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club didn’t fear Feb. 25. From New Orleans City Hall to the White House, elected officials were reassuring. But then Zulu members, most of whom are Black, began falling ill, with eight dying, laying bare racial disparities in everything from health care access to air pollution impacts. Those factors help ensure that 70 percent of Louisianans who die of COVID-19 are Black, despite representing a third of the population. And while this has provided a rallying cry to serve Black communities better, for some it’s another reason to ignore efforts to curb the contagion.

  2. Meet the Coronavirus ‘Bat Woman’

    When biologist Shi Zhengli learned that contagion, possibly among coronaviruses she studies, was ravaging her Wuhan home base, she wondered, "could they have come from our lab?" Shi had built a reputation exploring bat caves in the subtropical south, where her team tracked down SARS, but a central China outbreak seemed unlikely. After worldwide SARS-CoV-2 research, scientists reject that scenario in what a New York colleague called "a world-class lab of the highest standards." Yet as her team works to develop broad-spectrum vaccines against future outbreaks, they'll continue to fend off suspicion.

    OZY looks at how the pandemic may impact the anti-vax movement.

  3. Social Distancing Is Tearing Us Apart

    Disagreements about social distancing are rending friendships everywhere — thanks to approbation from one side and hostility from the other. Clinical psychologist and relationship expert Miriam Kirmayer believes that however far apart we are, we need friendships more than ever during this time of global distress. So how do we get back on the same page, if not the same elevator? Instead of telling a friend how they’re endangering lives by making light of the pandemic, ask them how they’re coping and offer to make life easier by scheduling time to chat and dropping off groceries if needed.

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    Why We’re Not Streaming Music as Much

    At the start of 2020, the music industry was soaring — mostly from streaming revenue. But pandemic lockdowns have counterintuitively muffled the industry, unlike booming video streamers, OZY reports. Top platforms such as Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music saw top-200 titles being streamed 8 percent less as major U.S. lockdowns kicked in around mid-March. Experts blame our habits: streaming while driving or working out, or at the office — another place where you can’t watch videos or be distracted by children. Plus, stay-at-home streamers seem to want comfort — choosing old, familiar tunes rather than current pop hits.

  5. handshake shutterstock 428998843

    No One Is Paying for Malaysia’s Epic Graft

    They’re proving the golden rule. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was voted out office in 2018 amid transnational investigations of what may be history’s largest graft scheme. And yet few 1MDB scandal figures have been punished, reports Harper’s Magazine. Plotters may have indirectly enriched Western institutions like Goldman Sachs and two American presidential campaigns. Officials in Kuala Lumpur are trying to claw back their lost bond proceeds, but a top suspect has already convinced U.S. prosecutors to let him keep some of the looted funds. Meanwhile, Malaysian taxpayers will continue to service billions in fraudulent debt.

    OZY profiles Peru's corruption buster.