4.21.2020

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Need to Know
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Oil Futures Turn Negative
A futures contract for US crude oil went negative yesterday, a historic first for the financial instrument used to buy and sell oil. The price of the benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil for May delivery fell to negative $37.63 per barrel, implying that sellers may have to pay buyers to take oil off their hands. The unprecedented scenario is driven by a precipitous drop in demand caused by the coronavirus-induced economic standstill, which has left storage facilities full with little extra capacity for new oil. Still, traders caution the figures don't reflect the true price, with June and July contracts trading around $20 and $25 per barrel, respectively - though the prices are still near historic lows.

Meanwhile, a preliminary test of Los Angeles County residents suggests infections are vastly underreported. The study estimated anywhere from 221,000 to 442,000 adults have had the virus at some point, a whopping 28 to 55 times higher than the 8,000 cases currently reported. The findings indicate the virus may be more widespread and the fatality rate lower than previously thought. 

Yesterday evening, President Trump said he would issue an executive order temporarily suspending immigration into the US, though details on timing, scope, and scale of the order were not provided.

Overseas, the virus is accelerating in Russia, where confirmed cases jumped 10% yesterday to 47,000. India saw its biggest single-day spike in cases despite a restrictive nationwide lockdown, bringing its total to 17,000. Meanwhile, New Zealand, which took one of the most aggressive postures toward the virus, said it would begin easing restrictions next week.

The US has reported more than 783,000 cases, with just under 42,000 deaths, as of this morning. You can see daily stats here.

We've posted the latest updates on vaccines to our resource page, along with a review of what we know about COVID-19 immunity and antibodies, and more. If you haven't checked out the archive, it's curated by PhD experts - check it out here.
Israel Averts Disaster (For Now)
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and chief rival Benny Gantz have agreed to form an emergency unity government, breaking paralyzing political gridlock and avoiding a fourth national election in the past year. Under the deal, Netanyahu will remain prime minister for the next 18 months with Gantz as his deputy; the two are scheduled to switch roles in October 2021. The agreement is based on the 1984 power-sharing deal of Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir.

The news is a victory for Netanyahu, who is the longest-serving prime minister but has failed to build a unity coalition since last April. Gantz, a former Army chief who walked back a vow to never serve with Netanyahu, failed in his own attempt to build a governing bloc made from minority parties following March elections. Both framed the agreement as necessary in the face of an expanding coronavirus outbreak. 

Netanyahu still faces bribery and corruption charges, with the trial slated to begin May 25.
Nonunanimous Verdicts Banned
The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that nonunanimous verdicts in state criminal trials are unconstitutional, overturning a 50-year precedent allowing state prosecutors to sidestep the Sixth Amendment in limited instances. The 6-3 decision was handed down in Ramos v. Louisiana, in which the defendant was sentenced to life in prison after a jury returned a 10-2 guilty verdict in 2016. Louisiana voters banned the practice in 2019, leaving Oregon as the only state allowing for nonunanimous verdicts (and only for non-murder charges).

The court has previously held unanimous verdicts were required by the Sixth Amendment's impartial jury clause; however, this right was only applied at the federal level. Yesterday's decision holds that the incorporation doctrine - which, and to what degree, states must abide by the Bill of Rights (see 101) - extends to this right under the Sixth Amendment.

Read about the discriminatory roots of nonunanimous verdicts here.
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In the Know
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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> Venice Film Festival (Sept. 2-12) going forward as planned despite coronavirus fears (More) | “The Batman” film delayed until October 2021 as production stalls in London (More)
> Meghan Markle and Prince Harry pen scathing letter to four major British tabloids, saying they’ll no longer cooperate on stories (More)
> An estimated 6.1 million viewers tuned in to Michael Jordan documentary “The Last Dance,” the most-watched ever original program on ESPN (More)
Science & Technology
> Facebook and Carnegie Mellon University roll out coronavirus map, giving county-level data on reported COVID-19 symptoms (More) | Read op-ed from CEO Mark Zuckerberg on how data can help fight the pandemic (More)
> Researchers find a new precursor to the human brain's language pathway that developed around 25 million years ago; find pushes back the early evolution of language development by 20 million years (More)
Low-power protein nanowire devices shown to operate at voltage levels similar to the brain, overcoming a key barrier in scaling neuromorphic computing (More) | What is that? (More)
Business & Markets
> US stock markets down (S&P 500 -1.8%, Dow -2.4%, Nasdaq -1.0%) as oil prices continue to plunge (More)
> United Airlines announces it expects to lose $2.1B in Q1, as pandemic reduces daily revenues by $100M on average (More)
> Shake Shack returns $10M payroll protection loan after coming under fire (More) | Cheesecake Factory receives $200M investment from private equity firm Roark Capital (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Breaking: US intelligence monitoring rumors that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is in critical care following a scheduled surgery (More) | South Korea says reports can't be confirmed (More)
> Senate leaders schedule Tuesday session to lay the groundwork to pass updated coronavirus relief package; final bill is expected to refresh the depleted small business loan program (More)
> Death toll in Nova Scotia shooting rises to at least 19, including the gunman, in the worst mass shooting in Canada's history; police have not publicly identified a motive for the rampage (More)
In-Depth
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Our Pandemic Summer
Atlantic | Ed Yong. With a lockdown helping to blunt the coronavirus but economically unsustainable, the US is heading into a summer of uncertainty. The only known is that we'll need more test kits, medical supplies, and properly trained staff. But will we have enough? (Read)
 Podcast 
Mark Cuban: Capitalism Must Get Kinder
Recode Decode | Kara Swisher, Mark Cuban. A ranging interview with the Dallas Mavericks owner and "Shark Tank" investor on what innovation and entrepreneurship look like in the post-coronavirus world. (Listen)

Editor's note: Read this call to action from venture capitalist Marc Andreessen to build something meaningful
 
 
Etcetera
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Visualizing the scale of US job losses in one infographic.
Take a virtual tour of one of the quietest places on Earth.
America's priciest restaurant is selling $800 to-go boxes.

From our partners: This company shows you the best car insurance rates in seconds. On average, users saved $368 a year. Learn more here. #Ad
What did the Hubble Telescope see on your birthday? Find out now
This seemingly impossible street art pops off the wall.
IKEA shares its world-renowned meatball recipe.
A collage of quarantine roof culture.
Violent South African gangs call a pandemic truce
Clickbait: Zoom marriages are now legal in New York.
Historybook: RIP American author Mark Twain (1910); HBD Queen Elizabeth II (1926); 100,000 students begin protests at Tiananmen Square (1989); RIP singer-songwriter Nina Simone (2003); RIP legendary musician Prince (2016).
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"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear."
- Mark Twain
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