Good morning. The CDC has encouraged the practice of ‘social distancing’ as a response to the coronavirus outbreak. Those of us cooped up at home and looking for positive social interaction can take inspiration from a personal trainer in Spain, who led an impromptu mass workout session from a rooftop for local residents under quarantine.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
This Week at a Glance
Monday: EU officials discuss economic response to coronavirus
Tuesday: St. Patrick’s Day – Four states hold Democratic primaries
On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill to amend the Russian Constitution. The amendment, which would allow Putin to potentially remain in power for the next 16 years, passed both houses of parliament with just a single vote against (this is separate from previous constitutional changes proposed in January).
A deeper dive… We’ve previously covered Putin’s past two decades in power – you can check it out here. But to briefly recap:
Putin has been Russia’s dominant politician since he was first elected in 2000.
He has been forced to alternate between the titles of President and Prime Minister since the Russian Constitution prohibits more than two consecutive terms as president.
Under the new law, Putin’s presidential term count would effectively be reset, allowing him to run for two more six-year terms (ending in 2036).
What’s next? Russia’s Constitutional Court – which has never defied the Kremlin under Putin – will decide the legality of the measure within the next seven days. If approved, the amendment will be put to a nationwide vote (scheduled for April 22) before it becomes law.
A rocket attack wounded three American troops and several Iraqi personnel on Saturday at a military base north of Baghdad. The attacks came two days after U.S. airstrikes on several suspected Kataib Hezbollah sites injured five KH members, but also killed six Iraqi servicemen.
More: The U.S. airstrikes were in response to a rocket attack Wednesday that killed two U.S. servicemen (plus one British soldier) and injured 14 others.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates announced Friday that he is stepping down from the boards of Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway to focus on his charitable foundation. Gates will continue to serve as a technical advisor to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
The Coronavirus Effect
In an emergency move Sunday, the Federal Reserve dropped the benchmark interest rate to zero and launched a $700 billion quantitative easing program.
Also on Sunday, the CDC recommended canceling all in-person events with 50 or more people in attendance for the next eight weeks.
Apple said it will close all retail stores outside of mainland China until March 27 (Axios has a full list of major retail closings).
Texas grocery chain H-E-B and Wegmans have placed purchasing limits on popular food items, while Kroger announced expanded hiring programs.
The ABCs of the CBA
The NFL Players’ Association on Sunday approved a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the NFL owners. Under the new 10-year CBA – which passed in a 1,019 to 959 vote – the regular season will be expanded from 16 to 17 games beginning in 2021. That same year, the league will expand from 12 to 14 playoff teams.
Be Our Guest
The coronavirus outbreak caused Disney to preemptively shut down its parks on Friday, leaving the locations with thousands of excess meals and no guests to feed.
A spokesperson for Disneyland on Friday confirmed that the company’s two California parks would be donating all excess food to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County.
Related: We’ve previously covered how an Ohio festival, canceled due to coronavirus, donated their excess food to the first responders of the Tennessee tornadoes.
‘Kind’ of a Big Deal
In Texas alone, more than 1,200 foster children aged out of the system last year – many ending up on the streets with nowhere else to go.
Francois Reihani, the owner of La La Land Kind Cafe, is in the “business of kindness”. His Dallas-based coffee shop hires foster kids who have aged out of the system, giving them a support system and a stable paycheck.
When North Carolina native Becky Hoeffler’s grandfather mentioned on the phone that he needed to go out grocery shopping, she realized other seniors were in the same situation as her grandpa, and at heightened risk due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In lieu of helping her grandpa – who lives in New Jersey – Becky decided to help out by making grocery runs for her elderly neighbors, even posting a sign at the local senior center offering her services to anyone in need.
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⏰ Lyme Time… scientists have discovered a breakthrough drug – called azlocillin – which kills off the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
🧼 Clean Up Your Act… a Tennessee man, who took a 1,300-mile road trip to stock up on supplies to resell, has been forced to donate 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer after Amazon and eBay forbid the sale of such items.
🗞️ Read All About It… Reporters Without Borders has collaborated with three other organizations to create an uncensored virtual library in the popular video game Minecraft that contains journalism banned in several countries.
👨💻 Tech Check… drones spraying disinfectant, heat-vision goggles that can detect fevers – learn how technology is being utilized to fight the coronavirus.
What is the only king in a deck of cards without a moustache?