AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
Dog walkers pause near the ancient Acropolis hill with the Parthenon temple, in Athens, Friday, May 15, 2020. Greece has managed to contain its outbreak are gradually lifting lock down measures.

Monday Sunrise Briefing: A gradual reopening of tourist spots

What can we learn from Greece, Bali, Portugal, Florida, and Hawaii? The gradual reopening of tourist destinations for locals is underway. Greece, which has been under lockdown for two months and has seen few cases of COVID-19, reopened more than 500 beaches Saturday with strict social distancing rules, including police drones overhead. The Acropolis reopens today. Tourism is central to many island and coastal economies and Greece hopes to reopen to international visitors by July. "We invite them ... as long as they follow the rules," one Greek mayor told Reuters. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence plans to visit Florida, where today marks the start of next phase of the state’s reopening with restaurants and museum capacity rising from 25 to 50 percent, and theme parks may submit plans for reopening.

2. Iran’s gasoline lifeline to Venezuela. Five tankers carrying Iranian gasoline worth about $45 million are bound for Venezuela, a provocative move apparently aimed at getting Washington’s attention. “We haven't seen anything like this before,” one oil analyst told the Associated Press. Both nations are struggling under tough U.S. sanctions. Venezuela, an oil producer, is in desperate need of gasoline and other refined fuel products to keep the country functioning amid an economic collapse under socialist President Nicolas Maduro. Iran may be inviting a U.S. confrontation - which could boost global oil prices. "If the United States, just like pirates, intends to create insecurity on international waterways, it would be taking a dangerous risk and that will certainly not go without repercussion," Iran's Nour news agency said Saturday. 

3. Disloyalty purge? Democrats and a few Republicans are upset over President Donald Trump’s firing of another inspector general, this time at the U.S. State Department. There are more than 75 federal inspector generals, who are charged with the detection and prevention of fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. In this case, Mr. Trump announced late Friday that he was firing Steve Linick, an Obama administration appointee who had reportedly begun an investigation into whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used an aide to do personal errands, such as walking his dog. Mr. Trump said Mr. Linick no longer had his “full confidence.” Democrats called it “an illegal act of retaliation” that undermined the accountability and integrity of the government. In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has removed three other federal watchdogs.

Why We Wrote This

Good morning! Welcome to your Monday, May 18, 2020, sunrise briefing.

Here are three news events from this past weekend (while you may have been attending a drive-in movie, bird watching, and enjoying an offline life). Also, what to look for in the news this week.


AP Photo/Kathy Willens
New social circles: People relax in marked circles for proper social distancing at Domino Park in Brooklyn, Sunday, May 17, 2020, in New York.

Look Ahead

Monday, May 18

Helping homeless youth. A pantheon of Broadway stars, as well as Dolly Parton, Jon Bon Jovi,and Meryl Streep, are participating in performances to raise funds for Covenant House, a nonprofit that provides shelter and food for homeless and runaway youth in the U.S. The show is at 8 p.m. ET on Amazon Prime Video, iHeartRadio Broadway, Facebook and YouTube, among other sites.

Tuesday, May 19

Another 2020 primary election. Oregon voters have until 8 p.m. to drop off ballots with election clerks in the presidential primary election. The predominantly Democratic state has had mail-only ballots for two decades, but as of Friday just under 25 percent of the electorate had voted. 

How’s the rescue going? Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell are scheduled to testify to a Senate committee about the multi-trillion-dollar federal rescue packages for individuals and businesses.

Thursday, May 21

Helping kids living in poverty. Blake Shelton, Ed Sheeran, Kelly Clarkson, Meghan Trainor, James Taylor and Adrienne Warren are among the performers scheduled to participate in the annual “Red Nose Day Special" to raise money for American children who live in poverty. At 9 p.m. on NBC.

Friday, May 22

Window on Chinese power. After being postponed by the coronavirus in March, the National People's Congress is due to start today. It’s a signal that China is ready to return to normality. The body is mostly a rubber stamp on Communist Party leadership decisions, but the gathering of nearly 3,000 lawmakers can offer insights about economic and military policy shifts, as well as leadership changes.

Saturday, May 23

Democratic deadline. Hawaii canceled its in-person April primary and set a Saturday deadline for mail-in ballots. The state requires anyone arriving from out of state to quarantine for 14 days and recently arrested a New Yorker for violating the ban.

Innovation Watch

Carly Marinaro via Facebook
Finally, a hug! Rose Gagnon embraces her great-grandchildren through a plastic sheet in Rockford, Illinois.

One of the difficult sacrifices in this era of social distancing is a warm embrace. 

But in Rockford, Illinois, Carly Marinaro and her five kids decided they’d gone long enough without a squeeze from great grandma. Mrs. Marinaro built a “Hug Time” device - essentially, a thin-plastic wall made with a PVC frame, a window insulation kit, and large-animal veterinary gloves. 

“We could have put a plastic bag over you or over them  ...”  Mrs. Marinaro explained to her grandmother, Rose Gagnon, as she approached the front yard to peels of “Nana! Nana! Nana! And cries of, “It’s hug time!”  

Nana stepped up and put her arms into the contraption. “Ooooh I love you, I love you,” Ms. Gagnon said, embracing her great grandson while an impatience great-granddaughter hopped up and down saying “my turn, my turn!”

The video of that first embrace has been viewed on Facebook more than 9.7 million times. “I wanted to cry because I couldn’t believe that this was happening. It just means a lot,” Ms. Gagnon later told WIFR-TV in Rockford, Illinois. 

Innovation triumphs over COVID-19 fears. And nothing can stop a Nana’s love from being expressed. 

Hidden gem

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

‘In each other’s shadows’: Behind Irish outpouring of relief for Navajo

Sneak preview

In tonight’s Daily Edition, watch for our roundup of the best children's picture books for Spring. 

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

  1. From pandemic to famine: Can world meet food crisis fast enough?
  2. Why maternity hospital attack is pushing Afghans toward ‘tipping point’
  3. ‘In each other’s shadows’: Behind Irish outpouring of relief for Navajo
  4. Virtual Sunday school: Where faith endures under lockdown
  5. Tired of Netflix? Museums and theaters bring the arts home.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

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


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