"Leave behind the old ways of thinking that divide us." That's what former U.S. President Barack Obama urged 2020 graduates last night in a nationwide commencement program aimed at students whose schools' ceremonies were cancelled by the pandemic. Appearing along with fellow Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai and NBA superstar LeBron James, the 44th president took what many are interpreting as a swipe at his successor, saying that many leaders "aren't even pretending to be in charge." Put on by the XQ Institute, James' charity and the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Graduate Together also featured soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who exhorted graduates to vote in November.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Both bases are covered. President Donald Trump said Friday that "Operation Warp Speed" would create a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year — something experts seriously doubt. He also said the country is coming back, "vaccine or no vaccine," and suggested Americans would "fight through" the pandemic as most states ease safety restrictions. Meanwhile, the House passed a new $3 trillion relief bill, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it a "parade of absurdities" and suggested senators would draft another bill that included a provision to shield businesses from pandemic-related lawsuits.
Follow OZY's COVID-19 coverage.
President Donald Trump threatened last week to “cut off the whole relationship” with China, which he publicly blames for the “plague” that has ravaged America like no other nation — though he initially praised Beijing. He’s threatened to renege on the recent China-United States trade deal, and even suggested defaulting on debt held by China. Critics suspect Trump’s stance, closely linked to his animosity toward the World Health Organization, is a ploy to distract from failed efforts to stop the pandemic from killing nearly 90,000 Americans. So far, Beijing doesn't seem too worried about the threats, which could have disastrous economic consequences.
Not all European countries are affected equally. Some, like Italy and Spain, desperately need tourism to restart their economies while the U.K. has suffered more than most. The European Union has a two-pronged solution: First, countries with similar public health statuses will reopen travel — likely excluding big-spending British tourists — before expanding to all theoretically open-border Schengen Zone nations. Baltic states have led the charge, creating a ‘bubble’ permitting movement between them, but a Europe of free movement remains a long way off.
OZY reports on Sweden's pandemic response.
On Monday, workers are set to return to the Motor City's Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler plants in test of how other industries might come back to life. The process required the approval of embattled Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who locked down the state in March, and auto workers' unions. Their success will depend on Mexico, where factories supply Detroit's auto parts and are permitted to restart June 1, but where infections are surging. The American plants will begin at a quarter of their capacity, doing temperature checks of entering workers, who must wear masks and remain distant from coworkers.
House Democrats are launching investigation into President Trump's removal the State Department's inspector general, which the White House said was ordered by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The archbishop in charge of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland as asked the Vatican to investigate the alleged cover-up of sexual abuse by a priest, highlighted by a recent YouTube documentary. And China's ambassador to Israel has been found dead in his residence near Tel Aviv.
In the week ahead: Monday is the 40th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State, which killed 57 people. On Tuesday, a 1992 demo cassette of an unpublished song by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, "Angel in Disguise," will be auctioned off for charity. And despite the danger of spreading the coronavirus, Burundi plans to hold in-person elections Wednesday.
Coronavirus update: Counting nearly 86,000 cases, India has now exceeded the number of infections reported by China.
Faith is a powerful force. For the owners of Hobby Lobby in Oklahoma, though, a desire for ancient New Testament texts — demonstrating the unalterable truth of the Gospels — made them perfect marks for fraud. To be fair, they had reason to trust the person in charge of Oxford University’s priceless papyrus trove, Dirk Obbink. But his patrons are now claiming he hoodwinked them on both the documents’ age (not first century) and provenance, namely, Oxford's archives. Police are investigating the renowned classicist to see which commandments he may have violated.
OZY explores an abandoned Bible park.
He’s the point of the spear. Neal Browning knew that any single vaccine attempt is 94 percent likely to fail when he became a human guinea pig as America’s pandemic began near his Seattle-area home. And yet he felt more hope than hesitation, even if the experimental inoculation could actually make COVID-19 worse upon infection. What Browning couldn’t fathom was how a vaccine materialized so quickly, unaware that the process had already begun with earlier coronaviruses, to get the body to produce vaccines of its own. When the new virus emerged in Wuhan, China, researchers pounced, initiating the new effort on Jan. 10 and keeping up an unheard-of pace.
You’d think “essential workers,” like Los Angeles restaurant staffer Sara Selevitch, would get hazard pay and great tips for working through the pandemic. But that idea is a laughable one, she writes. At a time when people are quarantined at home and ordering takeout, workers like Selevitch are struggling to make ends meet. While people around the world may be on their balconies applauding those who serve during the pandemic, Selevitch says a greater show of support via gratuities, worker benefits and cheaper delivery app fees would go a lot further in showing solidarity.
Read OZY’s dossier on shrinking food supplies.
Germany’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been exemplary — so much so that it has decided to reopen its professional soccer league. The Bundesliga's games inside closed stadiums without fans could show the sports world how to manage physical safety amid the pandemic’s deadly risks. Sports leaders in other nations, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the directors of the English Premier League, are watching. “It comes with great risk,” warns journalist Brian Phillips, citing the example of the second-tier Dynamo Dresden club, whose players are quarantined after two teammates tested positive.
OZY’s crystal ball predicts a dreary future for sports.