Monday Sunrise Briefing: Will Fed confidence-building steps work?

Why We Wrote This

Good morning! Welcome to your Monday, March 16, 2020, sunrise briefing. 

Here are three news events from this past weekend (while you may have been Netflix binging on Love is Blind, spelunking, and enjoying an offline life). Also, what to look for in the news this week.

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
A couple walks past the Fearless Girl statue outside the New York Stock Exchange, Saturday, March 14, 2020, in New York. The Federal Reserve took steps to assure investors Sunday.

The U.S. Federal Reserve took the dramatic step Sunday of cutting benchmark interest rates to near zero. The message to investors: We understand that the economy is slowing sharply. We’re on it. There was no mention of the “R” word, but similarly aggressive steps were taken during the 2008-2009 recession. The Fed also says it will buy $700 billion in Treasury and mortgage bonds, effectively adding a large squirt of WD-40 to the gears of the financial system. “We have to hope that the Fed getting out in front of events, not to mention other central banks, pushes the economy in the right direction,’’ Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics told the Associated Press. But markets in Asia and Europe tumbled Monday.

2. Global mitigation Sunday: In Europe, the U.S., and parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, travel restrictions grew while schools, bars, restaurants, cinemas were closed - and houses of worship went online. Increasingly, mitigation strategies are being adopted - and the public is adjusting to a digital workplace and schoolroom. On Monday, Germany closed its borders with five of 9 countries. In Ireland, pubs and bars were ordered closed, even for St. Patrick’s Day on Tuesday. Morocco suspended all international flights. With new infections dwindling in Asia, Europe is emerging as the latest front line of the fight against COVID-19. About 100 million Europeans were confined to their homes as national lockdowns spread. 

In the U.S., the governors of California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Ohio this weekend told bars to close and restaurants to serve only takeout. Nike and Apple are closing their U.S. stores, while other retailers, such as Walmart, are reducing hours. New York City will shutter the nation's largest public school system Tuesday, sending over 1.1 million children home. Travelers returning to the U.S. faced hours-long waits for medical screenings. Drive-through testing in the US is expected to expand this week, a lesson learned from South Korea. 

3. Democrats debate: The two leading Democratic candidates shared the stage alone for the first time Sunday night, and offered dramatically different visions of leadership to a nation focused on the health and safety of their loved ones. Many voters are looking for reassurance and decisive action. Former Vice President Biden pledged to deploy the U.S. military to help with mitigation efforts and warned that a federal financial bailout may be necessary. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called for a tax on the wealthy and argued that a government-run health insurance system would respond faster to a health crisis. Mr. Biden made news by committing to select a woman as his running mate. Mr. Sanders said he would “in all likelihood” do the same. Most analysts gave the night to Mr. Biden, who’s centrist approach seems made for a country seeking a steadying hand.  

Peter Read Miller via AP
It will take one more game to get here. NFL players approved a new labor agreement Sunday with a 17-game season, higher salaries, increased roster sizes and larger pensions. Above, Kansas City Chiefs Derrick Nnadi celebrates after Super Bowl 54 Feb. 2, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Look Ahead

Monday, March 16

Justice revisited: The first Catholic church official convicted in the U.S. over covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests is set to face another trial Monday, in Philadelphia. In the 2012 case, Msgr. William J. Lynn was sent to prison for three years. 

And in France, a court is expected to issue a verdict in the case of  a former priest accused of abusing scores of boy scouts over decades, even though the church hierarchy was aware of complaints.

Tuesday, March 17

Joe Biden again? Four more states (Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Arizona) hold presidential primaries. Polls favor the former vice president in each state. Sen. Bernie Sanders needs an upset win or two to rebound in the delegate race.

Thursday, March 19

Spring arrives. In the northern hemisphere, the vernal equinox marks a turning point in the year, when days finally grow longer. It starts earlier (by a few minutes) than it has in the past 124 years, according the Farmer’s Almanac. 

Generosity Watch

Chris Barnes via Facebook
Officer Michael Rivers of the Goldsboro, North Carolina police department buys a homeless woman lunch on March 11, 2020 and joins her.

We’ve all done it: Driven past a panhandler, someone with a sign or a cup. 

Officer Michael Rivers of the Goldsboro Police Department in North Carolina drove past a lady with this message on her t-shirt: "Homeless. The fastest way of becoming a nobody." But his conscience tugged at him. And he went back.

“God put it on my heart to get her lunch," the 29-year-old officer told CNN. "So I turned around and I asked her, 'Hey, did you eat today?' And she said, 'No.'" A passerby, Cassie Lea Parker, snapped a photo of the two sharing a pizza by the side of the road and her boyfriend posted it on Facebook. The photo has been shared 5,000 times. 

Perhaps more impressive that giving her a free meal was Officer Rivers gift of time and human connection. He stayed and talked, and got to know the woman, who identified herself as Michelle. To Officer Rivers, she was somebody. His example was praised by hundreds on Facebook. “When you are in the midst of chaos, small yet kind gestures like these assures you humanity exists,” wrote Abhay Kulkarni.

Hidden gem

Start your week with a recent story that inspired Monitor readers:

‘Something human’: Mideast fight against virus elicits rare unity

Sneak preview

In tonight’s Daily Edition, watch for our story about Harry Potter's Quidditch as a path to equality for Ugandan women. 

Finally, check out the Monitor’s selected stories from Friday's subscription-only Daily Edition:

  1. Learning curve: How schools worldwide are tackling coronavirus challenge
  2. Why context matters on coronavirus crisis
  3. Why coronavirus chaos may keep Putin in office until 2036
  4. 2,000 miles and a tough choice: Asylum in Guatemala, or go home?
  5. Paradise lost? Developer sizes up S.C. island for ecotourism    

This is a beta test - an experiment with an early Monday morning news update. Please give us your feedback via the link below and let us know what you think. Thank you!

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