The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Deaths in Brazil, Sweden Raise Alarms

    Brazil's daily death toll from COVID-19 hit a new record of 1,179 yesterday as President Jair Bolsonaro promised new guidelines recommending the use of unproven malaria drug hydroxychloroquine. It's also a favorite of President Donald Trump, who is taking the drug himself and called a study questioning its efficacy "a Trump enemy statement." Elsewhere, Sweden's unorthodox anti-lockdown approach has raised eyebrows, especially since it has the highest per capita death toll of any country at its stage of the epidemic. Other Nordic countries looking to establish a local travel bubble may wind up excluding Sweden, fearing contagion.

  2. Firms Chop Hazard Pay for Essential Workers

    So much for "heroes." Companies like Amazon, Kroger and Rite Aid extended small pay raises to workers continuing to clock in during the pandemic in recognition of the increased risk they face — but now they're rescinding those raises. While COVID-19 is still raging, the firms have incurred new costs, like disinfecting and safety gear, and skyrocketing unemployment means there's more competition even for dangerous jobs. Amazon, owned by world's richest man Jeff Bezos, will cease the $2 hourly increase in June, with a spokeswoman explaining that it was an incentive rather than "hazard pay."

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    Super Cyclone Could Displace 1.4 Million

    Cyclone Amphan is the first super cyclone to hit the Bay of Bengal since 1999, when 9,000 people were killed. Now authorities say evacuations are being slowed by people who fear they'll catch COVID-19 in shelters, which can hold fewer evacuees than usual due to social distancing rules. The storm's 115-mph winds are comparable to a Category 5 hurricane, forecasters say, and aid agencies warn the devastation could displace 1.4 million people in India and Bangladesh as Amphan smashes into land today, causing heavy rainfall and potential tidal waves.

    Find out how storms are changing as the climate does.

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    Johnson & Johnson Drops Talc Baby Powder

    Facing close to 20,000 lawsuits over claims the product causes cancer — and a 60 percent drop in sales — the world's largest health care company says it'll no longer sell its talc-based baby powder in the U.S. and Canada. That leaves the international market, which the company says makes up about 80 percent of sales. Testing has shown traces of asbestos in talc products going back to the 1970s. Johnson & Johnson is one of many companies dropping products in the face of COVID-19 to prioritize those with the highest demand and allow new factory floor policies like social distancing.

  5. Also Important...

    A judge in Singapore sentenced a man to death via Zoom. About 10,000 people in Michigan have been evacuated after two dams collapsed. And New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says a four-day work week could boost the country's tourism industry amid restrictions on international travel.

    Coronavirus update: Due to the potential for contagion on campus, classes at Cambridge University will be fully online until at least the summer of 2021.

    Connect the dots! Michael Jordan's baseball career might have been very different if not for a fateful strike (and not of the "three and you're out" variety). Discover the details in episode three of OZY's brand-new history podcast, Flashbacknow the No. 3 history show on the Apple podcast charts! Listen and subscribe to Flashback — and then leave us a review — by clicking here


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    Roe v. Wade Plaintiff: I Was Paid to Go Pro-Life

    Norma McCorvey — the Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade — became the face of the pro-life movement years after the historic case confirmed abortion rights for American women. But in a new FX documentary, AKA Jane Roe, McCorvey, interviewed shortly before her 2017 death, says she was paid to switch sides. "I took their money and they’d put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say," she said. "It was all an act." Filmmakers also reached out to minister Rob Schenck, the former leader of an anti-abortion group, who admitted to paying her. The documentary premieres Friday.

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    Days Before Launch, NASA Official Exits

    Houston, is this a problem? NASA's head of human spaceflight Douglas Loverro has resigned via a cryptic letter that referred to him taking "a risk" and making a mistake. Some sources indicated the mistake came in the procurement process to pick companies' lunar lander designs for the 2024 Artemis mission to put astronauts back on the moon. NASA is auditing the process and lawmakers are pushing for answers, especially since the agency is just a week away from another major milestone: the first U.S.-launched human mission since 2011.

    OZY has the scoop on America's new space hot spot.

  3. Pandemic Deepens Racial Divides in India

    Much as Asian Americans have been subject to numerous racist incidents following the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, the population of India's northeast — who often have noticeably East Asian facial features — is seeing a ramp-up of hate during the pandemic, OZY reports. This horrible trend could also pose a political problem for Hindu nationalist politicians like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose policies have played well in the region — but may not anymore once northeasterners decide he's not keeping them safe.

  4. Arkansas Hosts First Pandemic-Era Live Concert

    If you're gonna face the music, you'll have to wear a mask. On Monday, Fort Smith, Arkansas, venue TempleLive staged the first concert since most states went into lockdown, despite threats from the state health department and a three-day postponement. Blues rock singer Travis McCready played for an audience of 229 masked fans socially distanced from each other in "fan pods." Some had argued that if churches could reopen, live music should as well, though venue officials admitted concerts aren't financially sustainable with these restrictions.

    Read OZY on at-home concert technology in the age of COVID-19.

  5. High Schools Get Guidance on Resuming Sports

    Clear eyes, six feet apart, can't lose? The National Federation of State High School Associations has released recommendations for safely reopening athletics, identifying high-risk activities (like football and wrestling) and recommending masks for everyone except swimmers and distance runners. In the first of three phases, locker rooms should be closed, students should work out in small groups and nobody over 65 should supervise. Schools are also advised against excessive travel — and the distancing recommendations might mean schools playing away games need more buses. Still, limited in-person conditioning could resume as early as June 8.