5.15.2020

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Need to Know
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36.5 Million Unemployed
Editor's note: We typically run three top stories, but have focused Fridays on the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Below is our summary of the key events.

Just under 3 million Americans made initial unemployment claims last week, bringing the total number of newly unemployed workers to more than 36 million since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The figure exceeded analyst expectations of 2.7 million claims, though it is the sixth week of declining job losses following a peak near 6.9 million at the end of March.

The news follows an April unemployment rate of 14.7%, which lies in between the peaks of the 2008-09 recession (10%) and the Great Depression (25%), but squeezed into two months. An estimated 40% of people in households making under $40K have lost their jobs, reflecting the toll of the economic crisis on low-income families. 

Many states across the country continue to plan gradual reopenings, each with their own approach. Trade groups for five major industries - restaurant, retail, travel, franchise, and manufacturing - released guidelines to provide a consistent set of best practices as companies open their doors again. Many foresee a transition period, regardless of when reopenings occur, for consumers to become comfortable visiting physical establishments. Others seem eager to get out; patrons headed to bars in Wisconsin after a loosened stay-at-home order was struck down by the state's Supreme Court. 

In Washington, DC, the former director of the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency testified before a House committee yesterday. Dr. Rick Bright, who filed a whistleblower complaint saying his early warnings about the pandemic were ignored and that he was fired for pushing back against the use of hydroxychloroquine, warned that the window of opportunity was closing to develop a coordinated response to the virus (read testimony).

The House is expected to vote on a proposed $3T in new stimulus funding today. The package includes state support, a second round of direct payments, and more. Senate Republicans have dismissed additional support at the moment, saying much of the $2.8T in already-passed aid hasn't been spent. 

In the race for treatments, a nationwide study showed convalescent plasma therapy, where antibody-rich blood serum from recovered patients is transferred to patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms, shows no adverse effects. Whether it is effective or not is yet to be determined. 

Finally, Jennifer Santos, the Pentagon's point person on the Defense Production Act, was fired this week. Federal agencies have struggled to use the act to meet surging demand for tests and medical supplies.

The US has reported almost 1.42 million total cases, with 85,906 deaths, as of this morning (real-time map). The number of deaths increased by 2% since yesterday morning.  

Is herd immunity our best bet to beat the virus, or a dangerous misconception? We posted separate looks at each side on our coronavirus resource page
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In the Know
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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> Disney’s “Frozen” becomes first Broadway musical to close permanently over the coronavirus (More) | Disney makes deal with workers union on safety measures for reopening Walt Disney World parks (More)
> Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer, ex-Green Beret medic who was awarded the Medal of Honor for aiding wounded troops during firefight in Afghanistan in 2008, dies of cancer at 41 (More) | Malaysia drops money laundering charges for “Wolf of Wall Street” producer Riza Aziz in exchange for the return of $107M in assets (More)
> Peacock, NBC’s new streaming service, announces its full lineup of original content for its July 15 nationwide launch (More)
Science & Technology
> Dogs infected with the coronavirus likely caught it from their owners, genetic analysis suggests, but there is no evidence dogs can transmit the virus back to humans (More)
> Hundreds of ancient footprints found preserved in prehistoric volcanic ash in Tanzania; the largest group of footprint fossils found in Africa, study yields insight into group foraging behaviors (More)
> Tesla reportedly set to unveil new low-cost, long-lasting battery that will make its electric vehicles cost-competitive with gas vehicles at market price (More)
Business & Markets
> US stock markets up (S&P 500 +1.2%, Dow +1.6%, Nasdaq +0.9%) despite weekly jobless claims of nearly 3 million (More)
> Apple buys virtual reality startup NextVR, signaling potential move into new product category (More)
> New York Stock Exchange to reopen trading floor after Memorial Day with restrictions, including traders cannot use public transit (More)

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Politics & World Affairs
> Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) steps down from Intelligence Committee amid probe into whether he dumped stock based on information gathered via his position; decision follows the seizure of his cellphone by the FBI (More)
> US appeals court allows emoluments case against President Trump to proceed; case centers on whether his ownership of a hotel near the White House violates the Constitution (More) | What is the emoluments clause? (More)
> Senate approves renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act after bolstering privacy protections for certain groups; bill goes back to the House for consideration (More)
Weekend Reads
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How to Lift a Lockdown
The Walrus | Danielle Groen. Successfully recovering from the global crisis will require an unprecedented blend of science, logistics, and ethics. (Read)
A Biblical Mystery at Oxford
The Atlantic | Ariel Sabar. Theologians had long heard rumors of a first-century papyrus containing the Gospel of Mark, but its emergence sparked accusation of antiquities theft, fraud, and deceit. (Read, $$)
 Podcast 
How COVID-19 Will Disrupt College
Recode Decode | Kara Swisher. New York University professor Scott Galloway on how the coronavirus will accelerate the dismantling of the higher education system (and why tenure must end). (Listen on Google, Apple)
Trip of a Lifetime
Narratively | Michael Stahl. From Ancient Egypt to Revolution-era America, meet the people who believe they've traveled to past lives. (Read)
 
 
Etcetera
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People are stealing identities and filing false unemployment claims amid the surge in joblessness
Berkeley, California closes its streets to make a giant outdoor dining room.
Think your lockdown is bad? Try quarantining with ghosts. ($$, NYT)

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Florida's ultrarare blue bee rediscovered
SpaceX's simulator lets you practice docking at the space station.
This new inflatable e-bike fits in your backpack.
Elmo is officially on Instagram.
Three-decade-old postcard received after coronavirus deep clean at the local post office.
Clickbait: The US releases more info on recent UFO encounters
Historybook: Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton found National Woman Suffrage Association (1869); RIP poet Emily Dickinson (1886); Mickey Mouse makes first cartoon appearance (1928); HBD former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (1937); Soviet Union begins withdrawl of 115,000 troops from Afghanistan (1988).
You made it. Have a great weekend.
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"Independence is happiness."
- Susan B. Anthony
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