3.24.2020

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Need to Know
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Stimulus Stalls Again
Tempers flared in the US Senate yesterday as a massive stimulus package to combat economic disruption from the coronavirus pandemic stalled again, failing procedural vote for the second time in two days. The sticking point continues to be Democratic objections to the details of a $500B corporate loan fund, as well as a request for increased funds to hospitals and state governments. As negotiations dragged on, the House introduced its own version of a stimulus package. 

The Federal Reserve made a surprise announcement of new programs, including unlimited asset purchases and its first-ever purchase of corporate bonds. Markets slumped despite the news, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 582 points (-3%), followed by the S&P 500 (-2.9%) and Nasdaq (-0.3%).  

Six more states joined in placing restrictions on residents and businesses yesterday in an effort to blunt the virus's spread. What you can and can't do under such orders, and which businesses stay open, can be confusing and varies by state; here's a breakdown.

Nearly 1.5 billion people around the globe are under some form of lockdown, including the United Kingdom, which announced a stay-at-home order yesterday. In Israel, the country's first victim was an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics look likely to be delayed until 2021 after Canada and Australia said they wouldn't send athletes if the games are held this year.

The US has 46,450 confirmed cases with 593 deaths as of this morning (real-time map).

In positive news, scientists have identified 69 drugs, many used for other diseases, that may be effective in treating COVID-19; two dozen are already being investigated. In China's Hubei province, where the virus first emerged, officials are beginning to lift a lockdown as life slowly returns to normal after the outbreak. 
PG&E Pleads Guilty
Utility provider Pacific Gas and Electric Company agreed yesterday to plead guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter as part of a plea deal admitting its culpability in the 2018 Camp Fire. The blaze was the deadliest in California history, killing 85 people and causing more than $16B in damage, while effectively gutting the town of Paradise (see photos). A federal investigation previously found the company delayed key safety upgrades of a high-voltage transmission line thought to have sparked the initial flames. The company entered bankruptcy early last year to resolve more than $50B in claims from a number of separate wildfires arising from its outdated power grid. The agreement follows news last week that Gov. Gavin Newsom had approved a restructuring plan that would allow the company to exit bankruptcy by June 30. 
US Slashes Afghanistan Aid
A surprise trip to Afghanistan by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ended yesterday with the US cutting its aid to the country by $1B after its leaders failed to come to a power-sharing agreement, threatening to derail an ambitious new peace deal. Last month's US-brokered deal, negotiated bilaterally with the Taliban, established a path for the withdrawal of the remaining 13,000 American troops after nearly two decades in the country, but hinged on cooperation between Afghan and Taliban leaders. An already challenging proposition became more difficult after both incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah held competing inaugurations two weeks ago; Ghani's victory in 2019 elections, one that saw extremely low turnout, has been disputed by opposition groups since last fall. US officials worry without a unified government, the nascent peace deal will fall apart.  
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Answer: Zero. Nada. Goose egg.
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In the Know
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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> Amazon to make 40 children’s shows free for streaming worldwide amid coronavirus outbreak (More) | Execs at United Talent Agency, one of Hollywood’s largest talent agencies, to forgo salaries for 2020 (More)
> Woody Allen’s memoir released under new publisher; original publisher dropped the book following widespread backlash (More)
> Will Wilson hired as CEO of US Soccer Federation two weeks after president Carlos Cordeiro resigned over criticism of Cordeiro’s handling of pay dispute with US Women’s National Team (More)
Science & Technology
> Preliminary reports say the loss of smell and taste may be one of the strongest early indicators of COVID-19, even in patients who otherwise show no symptoms (More)
> Microsoft says hackers are exploiting a critical vulnerability recently found in all current versions of Windows, with no patch currently available (More) | What is a zero-day exploit? (More)
> Geologists uncover fossil of the oldest known bilaterian, or an animal that has a front and back, with holes at either end connected by a gut; the 555-million-year-old worm is one of the forebearers of most modern animals (More)
Business & Markets
> Japanese tech giant SoftBank to sell $40B in assets, to buy back more than $15B in shares; stock surges 19% (More)
> On-demand grocery delivery giant Instacart seeks to hire 300,000 shoppers in North America over next three months (More)
> Twitter pulls first quarter guidance as the coronavirus causes advertising slowdown despite surge in user activity (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Shareholder sues Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), accusing him dumping stock based on confidential information about the coronavirus obtained in his position as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee (More)
> Appeals court declines to review decision barring President Trump from blocking followers on Twitter; decision found Trump uses his account as an official communication channel of the US government (More)
> Former staffers file suit against the Michael Bloomberg campaign, saying the former presidential candidate promised to provide pay and benefits through the general election (More)
In-Depth
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The Hammer and the Dance
Medium | Tomas Pueyo. A comprehensive (but nonalarmist) look at how a few weeks of strong measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus could make the difference between a manageable health crisis and millions of deaths. (Read)

Editor's note: We're also reading this look at what hampered the US rollout of test kits, released yesterday by The Associated Press. 
'The Office' Turns 15
Mashable | Nicole Gallucci. Seven years after ending, "The Office" is still the most popular licensed show on Netflix. Spend a minute with actresses Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey as they look back on their time at Northeastern Pennsylvania's favorite midsize paper company. (Read)
 
 
Fool on.
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Many of us on the 1440 team are loyal Motley Fool subscribers. Recently, we (and all other members) received a letter with the following about recent market volatility. We think they say it best:

"We have faced difficulty before. In 2008 news came late one evening that Lehman Brothers — 'too big to fail' — was declaring bankruptcy, an event which threw markets around the globe into chaos. We never get to know either the path or the outcome while things are happening. It’s easy now to look back at 2008 (and on into 2009) and say 'yeah, that was obvious,' but at the time it was far from obvious, and it was SCARY. Some of our members demanded answers from us that we did not have. It didn’t prevent us from doing our absolute best to keep people focused on the long-term. We crushed it then. We will crush it now, too. I’m sure of it.

FOOL ON."

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Etcetera
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Almost one-third of Americans think the coronavirus was made in a lab. (via Pew Research)
The best work-from-home Instagram account.
Neil Diamond rewrites "Sweet Caroline."
A food vendor's tip leads archaeologists to a long-lost Mayan capital
We feel you: Twin toddlers discuss being quarantined
People are looping videos to fake paying attention during video conferences.
A little 3D printing gives an injured goose a prosthetic bill.
Need a smile? Here are the internet's top 10 GIFs of the week.
Clickbait: French man runs a quarantined marathon on a seven-meter balcony.
Historybook: World famous magician Harry Houdini born (1874); RIP author Jules Verne (1905); Dorothy Height, civil and women’s rights activist, born (1912); Exxon Valdez oil tanker runs aground eventually spills 11 million gallons of oil (1989); Germanwings fight crashes, killing all 150 on board (2015).
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"Greatness is not measured by what a man or woman accomplishes, but by the opposition he or she has overcome to reach his goals."
- Dorothy Height
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