Saturday, April 17, 2021
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1. Story of the Week: 3 Million Pandemic Deaths

The accounting is varied and crude, but today the respected tally kept by Johns Hopkins University exceeded 3 million worldwide COVID-19 deaths. And the news gets grimmer: In two months, reported infections have nearly doubled, as pandemic restrictions are being relaxed even where contagion is surging. Since Feb. 21, the global death toll has risen by 1 million, led by the U.S., Brazil and Mexico. Few places are being spared, with even Canada seeing medical facilities maxing out as its per capita case rate eclipses that of its southern neighbor, which has recorded more that 560,000 deaths.

Sources: AP, Washington Post, NYT, BBC

2. FedEx Shooter’s Mom Warned Police

He sought a “suicide by cop.” That’s the grim message the mother of 19-year-old Brandon Scott Hole had for authorities a year before he entered his former FedEx workplace in Indianapolis and gunned down eight people, reportedly including four Sikh Americans, and killed himself late Thursday. The warning prompted FBI agents to interview Hole and confiscate a shotgun from him last April, but they released him for lack of evidence of a crime. Victims’ loved ones endured agonizing waits for news yesterday, while lawmakers from city halls to the Capitol again called for stricter gun control.

Sources: NYT, Reuters, Washington Post, IndyStar

3. Coming Up: A Farewell to Arms

It will get worse before it gets better. That’s what some in the military are saying about President Joe Biden’s decision to get all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11. This week’s announcement may even require more troops in the country to help remove equipment, not to mention guard against a violent Taliban send-off. Afghans are also preparing, many to seek asylum elsewhere as the threat of increased violence looms. And Pakistan, long a Taliban supporter, is likely to celebrate the withdrawal as a victory — but without the U.S. support it’s so long relied upon.

Sources: Military Times, CNN

4. Cuba’s Castro Era Comes to a Close

Raúl Castro, who with his late brother, Fidel, waged a Communist revolution in 1959 and led Cuba for six decades, is retiring. Yesterday, the 89-year-old told the Caribbean nation’s Communist Party Congress that he was stepping down as party leader to make way for a new generation “full of passion and the anti-imperialist spirit.” While it’s a historic transition, little is likely to change under his expected successor, President Miguel Díaz-Canel, 60. But with the pandemic ravaging livelihoods, pressure for a faster shift from a state-controlled economy is bound to increase. 

Sources: BBC, AP

5. Also Important …

After an outcry from fellow Democrats over plans to maintain Trump-era limits on admitting migrants, the Biden administration has said it will raise that 15,000-person annual cap in its “final” formulation May 15. NASA has chosen Elon Musk’s SpaceX to produce a lander that will return astronauts to the moon. And on Friday a member of the Oath Keepers who’s agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors became the first person to enter a guilty plea in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

In the Week Ahead: This afternoon in Britain, a pandemic-constrained funeral involving just 30 mourners will mark the passing of Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s consort of 73 years. Tuesday is 4/20, or National Weed Day in America. And Wednesday is Earth Day, when President Biden will host a virtual global climate summit.

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Today on The Carlos Watson Show, Black-ish star Marcus Scribner sits down with Carlos for some hot takes on the power of Gen Z and his plans to build a production company and become a superhero movie star. Discover the heartwarming story of how this 21-year-old first acknowledged his newfound fame when he took a bus home from work that had his face on the side of it. Don’t miss this forward-thinking star on today’s latest episode.

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1. Amid the Joy, a Deadly Reality

In India, millions of Hindu pilgrims massed along the Ganges River to mark Kumbh Mela this week. In Nepal, thousands of revelers covered each other in brightly colored powder for Bisket Jatra, marking the onset of spring. But not far away, doctors struggled to keep up with a surging pandemic. Among 50,000 celebrants tested at one Indian location, about 1,000 people were positive for the coronavirus and authorities fear the potential for spreading. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged devotees to keep the celebration “symbolic” to reduce infections, and leading seers have echoed that call, but it’s unclear if the faithful will comply.

Sources: France 24, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Hindustan Times

Should cultural events still be curtailed? Tell us here.

2. Welcome to Neo-Nazi Silicon Valley

He’s just trying to make a living. That’s the ethos of 23-year-old Nick Lim, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, which credits his technical prowess with rescuing two of the internet’s most hateful corners. From a Vancouver, Washington, house he inherited from grandparents, he provides network infrastructure that other companies denied the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer and 8kun, the successor to 8chan, notorious for hosting the New Zealand mosque massacre gunman’s manifesto. Lim, who professes being apolitical but a free speech advocate, is being pursued by those seeking to shut off the bigot spigots, but so far, he’s staying one step ahead of them.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

3. The Migrant Who Fell Into London

He was among the 10,134 migrants who’ve perished trying to find a new life in Europe since 2014. But the young man who arrived in one of London’s poshest neighborhoods in the summer of 2019 made headlines by dropping from a wheel well of a Kenya Airways Dreamliner approaching Heathrow airport. Investigations were launched in London and Nairobi, but the shattered body remains unnamed and unclaimed, leading The Guardian to explore questions including how airport security allows this to happen, what makes someone take such an overwhelmingly fatal risk and the biggest of all: How can it be stopped?

Source: The Guardian

4. Did a Podcast Solve the Kristin Smart Case?

Every morning at 4:20 a.m., an alarm from an unseen watch would sound. That odd detail related by a tenant in the house where Kristin Smart’s alleged killer lived was one of several unearthed on musician Chris Lambert’s podcast, Your Own Backyard. This week authorities credited Lambert’s work in helping police gather enough evidence to make arrests in Smart’s 25-year-old disappearance from California Polytechnic State University’s campus in San Luis Obispo. The program has been downloaded 7.5 million times, not least because of revelations like the alarm — set when Smart would have awakened to go to work.

Sources: AP

5. After 128 Years, the Pitcher’s Mound Is Moving

If Major League Baseball has its way, batting will become less of an all-or-nothing affair. This season the independent Atlantic League, aka the MLB’s testing ground, will move the pitcher’s mound back 1 foot from 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate, where it’s remained since 1893. That should allow more hits — the ordinary one- or two-base kind — and save the game from its current boring binary of strikeouts or home runs. And DH haters rejoice: Atlantic League designated hitters will only play as long as the starting pitcher survives, meaning real baseball from then on.

Sources: SI, Bleacher Nation, ESPN

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