Tapping your foot along to some simple background music is where it begins and ends for most. But for the magic of really good music we check in with a few star producers. It’ll help as we ruminate on COVID-19 injustices and look back at forgotten, and sometimes fallen, empires. All before a perfectly cinematic finish: horror films that are so bad they’re funny. Read to the end for the answer to last Friday’s “muscle test.”

Eugene S. Robinson, Editor-at-Large

1. Lifeline Deadline

President Joe Biden Thursday directed states to ensure all American adults are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines by May 1, hours after signing a $1.9 trillion pandemic stimulus bill. But concerns over blot clots in some recipients of AstraZeneca’s shots are spreading, with Denmark, Iceland and Norway the latest European nations to temporarily suspend the vaccine’s use. And research shows Maryland-based Novavax’s vaccine is less effective against a South African strain. (Sources: USA Today, Reuters, CNN, WaPo)

2. Cover-nor

Aides of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo allegedly tried to press former staffers to discredit women who have accused him of sexual harassment. But Cuomo, who is also facing scrutiny over nursing home deaths, faces an impeachment inquiry led by Democrats in the New York Assembly. Will Cuomo have to go? Vote here or on Twitter. (Sources: WSJ, Politico)

3. ‘Machines of War’

Bomb your enemies. Kill kids. Then call your victims “machines of war.” That’s how Colombia’s defense minister spoke of children believed to have been killed in a government aerial bombing against rebels. The minister’s comments have sparked outrage over their insensitivity. (Source: Guardian)

4. Grab It

Singapore-based ride-sharing app Grab is mulling an IPO using a special-purpose acquisition company merger that could bring in $40 billion, the most money ever drawn through such a mechanism. (Sources: Bloomberg, WSJ)

A 26-year-old woman from New York discovered a hidden apartment behind her bathroom mirror after she felt a draft of air seemingly coming from nowhere. And since this is 2021, she then explored the hidden space live on TikTok.

Star Music Producers

Before you get hooked onto the Grammys on Sunday, meet the women and men behind the music that make the whole world sing.

1. Sky Rompiendo

His parents called him Alejandro Ramírez. But if you’re breaking (rompiendo in Spanish) big across genres, you get to give yourself a more bombastic name. The 28-year-old Colombian wunderkind is a six-time Latin Grammy-winning producer of everything from reggaeton to rock, and the man behind the success of global stars like fellow Colombian J Balvin. Now he’s stepping out of the shadows, preparing to launch his own album next year. The sky’s the limit.

COVID (In)Justice

The pandemic has forced a long-overdue reassessment of overcrowded prisons. But it has also spawned new crimes and challenges for the justice systems of the world.  

1. Kafka in Kashmir

Even before COVID-19, Kashmiris had to battle what has often been an opaque criminal justice system. But the pandemic dealt a brutal blow to their frail hopes for justice. Since August 2019, India has restricted internet access in Kashmir. So while COVID-19 moves courts online in other parts of the world, virtual access to them has been impossible for Kashmiris. And it’s led to a dramatic backlog in cases: 90 percent of prisoners in Kashmir’s jails have yet to see the start of a trial. Read more on OZY.

3. And Then There Is Brazil

It’s one thing for the medical profession to battle thieves and criminal gangs. But what if you believe your own head of state is the one most responsible for making your job harder? A million Brazilian medical professionals have accused President Jair Bolsonaro — who has consistently downplayed the threat of the virus — of a gross dereliction of duty before the International Criminal Court.

This week on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’

We’re highlighting pioneers who are blazing their own path and changing their industries. Today music superstar Jason Derulo describes his viral success, and how the COVID-19 lockdown and the rise of TikTok — plus walking away from his former record label — helped reignite his career in 2020, as he embarks on new ventures in TV, film and entrepreneurship. Watch now

Forgotten Empires

When you’re at the peak of your rule, it’s easy to think you’re invincible. It’s also a mistake.

1. The Curse of Akkad

For 200 years, the city-state of Akkad ruled vast swaths of territory spanning parts of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. Now? It’s nowhere. On account of — depending on who you listen to — a drought and a resulting famine or an insult to a temple of the weather gods. Read more on OZY.

2. Remembering Yugoslavia

Squeezed between the Soviet bloc and the West, socialist Yugoslavia survived as a rare nonaligned power through the Cold War. Its leader Josip Broz Tito rebuffed Joseph Stalin’s threats and lived to tell the tale — with a badass car to boot. But ultimately, the multiethnic union collapsed in the slipstream of the demise of the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact nations, its fall triggering some of the most brutal wars of the 1990s. Read more on OZY.

3. Byzantine’s Back

Or is it? The Byzantine Empire is suddenly an object of obsession for QAnon and white supremacists who mistakenly believe that Byzantium preserved white European civilization after the fall of the Roman Empire. Of course, in reality the region was ethnically and culturally diverse but when have facts mattered to conspiracy theorists?

Unscary Laughs

If the intent is to frighten, these movies are failures. But if the intent is to amuse? Bingo!

1. ‘Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche’

The title of this 1982 Spanish horror-mystery film translates literally in English to “the night has 1,000 screams.” It might have been more appropriate to call it The Night Has 1,000 Laughs.The only mystery is how the film, which ran with the name Pieces in English, got funding to start with. And the laughs begin with the tagline: “It’s exactly what you think it is!”

2. ‘Zinda Laash’

This absolute howler of a 1967 vampire movie follows the tortured tale of a Pakistani doctor who is trying to conquer death, dies himself and, after being buried, comes back as a vampire — who can drive. The first movie in Pakistan to be X-rated also went to film festivals in Switzerland and Spain.

3. ‘Uninvited’

The villain? A fat tabby that’s genetically mutated into a killer — and you’re trapped with it on a luxury cruise. “Mindless crapola for low IQ-ed animal lovers,” is how author Steven Puchalski described this 1987 film. And it’s got real stars in it, like George Kennedy, who must have needed the money very badly to do it.

What’s the weirdest horror film you’ve ever seen?

Last Friday, we asked you which creature is strong enough to lift up to 5,000 times its body weight? The answer: An ant.

Check here to see who all got it right! Congratulations!

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