The Presidential Daily Brief

Important

  1. Trump Backtracks on Scrapping Task Force

    After saying he'd disband the White House coronavirus task force on Tuesday, President Donald Trump yesterday tweeted that it would continue "indefinitely," but its members could change as it shifts to focus on reopening the nation. That's something the World Health Organization warns shouldn't be done too quickly: As global cases surpass 3.7 million, the WHO says countries rushing to reopen risk new outbreaks — and more lockdowns. Trump also continued blaming China for more than 73,000 American deaths, calling the pandemic "worse than Pearl Harbor" and the 9/11 attacks.

    Follow all OZY's pandemic coverage here.

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    Deadly Kenyan Floods Kill Nearly 200

    Weeks of heavy rains have fed floods in Kenya that have killed 194 people, left 100,000 homeless and washed away 8,000 acres of cropland. "We have lost 30 people in a matter of 24 hours," said Cabinet member Eugene Wamalwa of the most recent victims. The unusually heavy rainy season has also inundated neighboring Uganda, where rivers have burst their banks and filled Lake Victoria to record levels. It's yet another devastating natural disaster for the region, which is still struggling with coronavirus and has been swarmed by the worst locust invasion in 70 years.

    This OZY op-ed reevaluates disaster relief.

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    India Gas Leak Claims Nine Lives

    At least nine people have died and several hundred have been hospitalized after an overnight chemical leak from storage tanks left unattended during India's lockdown. Stirring memories of the 1984 Bophal chemical disaster, two large tanks of styrene, used in making polystyrene plastics, leaked toxic fumes at the Korean-owned LG Polymers plant in Visakhapatnam, a coastal city in southeastern Andhra Pradesh state. More than 1,500 residents have been evacuated, but local authorities fear many more could still be lying unconscious in their homes.

  4. Online Retailers Seek USPS Rescue

    They're praying for deliverance. These are difficult times for the United States Postal Service, derided as a "joke" by President Trump, who's appointed a major campaign donor as the new postmaster general. Now some of America's biggest businesses are singing the post office's praises via a $2 million advertising campaign, noting that its competitive rates keep the economy running by delivering goods at a time when many customers can't visit stores. While Trump has goaded the USPS to quadruple its rates, the ads are targeting Fox News viewers with a message that a "massive package tax" is very un-Republican.

  5. Also Important...

    A new study finds nearly 1 in 5 U.S. children aren't getting enough to eat because of the pandemic. Iraq's Parliament has named Mustafa al-Kadhimi, a U.S.-friendly former intelligence leader, as its new prime minister. And President Trump has vetoed a resolution requiring congressional approval for U.S. military strikes on Iran.

    Coronavirus update: The Pentagon has barred recruits who've recovered from the virus from enlisting.

    Listen to this: How's Henry Ford connected to the Oklahoma City bombing? That's the question answered by OZY's own Sean Braswell in episode one of Flashback, a brand-new podcast featuring stories of history's craziest unintended consequences the textbooks never mentioned. Be sure to listen, rate and review. Subscribe now to Flashback wherever you listen to podcasts.

Intriguing

  1. Can Llamas Save Us From Coronavirus?

    Not since Monty Python have they gotten such credit. But amid a deadly pandemic, scientists think the world of Winter, a 4-year-old llama corralled in Belgium. An international team of researchers published findings this week showing that her antibodies, studied pre-pandemic for attacking SARS and MERS viruses, can also vanquish SARS-CoV-2. Llamas produce nanobodies, antibodies a quarter the size of human ones, that can block coronavirus's spikes from binding with cells — and are small enough to be nebulized into a spray. Researchers plan to test the treatment on primates before a human trial later this year.

    Let OZY introduce you to a crusading scientist searching for a vaccine.

  2. Will 2020 Be the Call Center Campaign?

    Operators are standing by. Because Americans — and public health authorities — aren't ready for door-to-door campaigning, candidates are forced to be creative. While that's meant jamming on all kinds of tech, like robo-texting and social networking, OZY reports, it's also leading to a retooling of old-school customer service, call centers included. Candidates like South Carolina Republican congressional hopeful Nancy Mace are going online to serve prospective constituents, connecting the ailing and out-of-work with those who can provide help. And sometimes, finding a responsive voice in the pandemic wilderness is half the battle.

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    Virus Researcher's Murder Sparks Speculation

    Police couldn't be clearer: There's "zero evidence" the violent death of a University of Pittsburgh assistant professor was related to his work on the coronavirus. Pennsylvania authorities believe Chinese-born Bing Liu, 37, was fatally shot Saturday as a result of a "lengthy dispute regarding an intimate partner." Hao Gu, a software architect whose body was found in a nearby car, is suspected in the murder-suicide. But with fellow scientists saying Liu was "just starting to obtain interesting results" — combined with presidential speculation regarding the pandemic's origin — conspiracy theories and misinformation are rampant online.

    OZY examines the Lenin/Earth Day conspiracy theory.

  4. Banksy Pays Tribute to UK Medical Workers

    Spider-Man and Batman have been dumped. The disused dolls feature in Banksy's new game changer, a painting of a child playing with a caped superhero toy with a red cross emblazoned on her chest. It was left Wednesday at a British hospital with a note thanking health workers. The artist — who teased new lockdown art last month with an Instagram shot of graffiti rats trashing his bathroom — said he hopes it "brightens the place up a bit, even if it's only black and white." It's expected to fetch millions when it's auctioned later this year to benefit the National Health Service.

  5. German Soccer to Resume Without Fans

    Are they winning? While it's ranked sixth globally for confirmed COVID-19 cases, Germany's declaring a victory of sorts, with declining infections and comparatively low death rates. So while calling the "first phase of the pandemic" over, Chancellor Angela Merkel has OKed the resumption of pro soccer next week. Bundesliga games will return May 15 — but without fans and under strict medical guidelines. Meanwhile, in England, where the pandemic has been four times as deadly, plans to restart the Premier League in June have been muddled by concerns over venues and team doctors' liability.

    OZY wonders if sports will ever be worth as much again.