Wildfires have burned 4.5 million acres in the western U.S., with a death toll climbing to 20 as Oregon officials fear “mass casualty incidents.” Compounding the fire danger is some potential victims’ refusal to evacuate after hearing false reports of Antifa arsonists and looters spread among QAnon conspiracy posts. “I’m protecting my city,” said one Oregon resident near Portland, ignoring FBI reports to the contrary. In California, which has six of its largest-ever fires burning, Gov. Gavin Newsom enacted legislation allowing some prison inmates helping battle the flames a chance to work as professional firefighters after their release.
Are the dominoes falling? Saying the move would increase “stability, security and prosperity,” Bahrain and Israel opened up diplomatic and presumably economic ties Friday, with the Persian Gulf island emirate following on the heels of last month’s historic United Arab Emirates opening with the Jewish state. The reactions were predictable: Palestinians and Iranians condemned it, the U.S. president hailed it, while the Arab World’s dominant power, Saudi Arabia, remained silent — a sign to observers that it approved Bahrain’s warming, and may be ready for its own thaw.
Nov. 3 may be two months off, but North Carolina began distributing mail-in presidential ballots a week ago, and several other states, including Pennsylvania, start next week. Democrats in both of those states outnumber Republicans 3-1 in ballot requests, and they also lead in Florida. That might help explain projections by OZY and tech firm 0ptimus that show Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with an 81 percent chance of wresting the Oval Office from President Donald Trump. But Republicans, following Trump’s admonitions, could still get the last word when they show up in person to vote, pandemic be damned.
4. Are India and China Really Burying the Hatchet?
It all looked very cozy on Friday when India and China agreed to back off from the brink of warfare. The two sides accused each other of firing weapons Monday for the first time since 1975 on their long-disputed Himalayan frontier. But few observers believe tensions have subsided much, and India’s top general told a parliamentary committee his forces were “ready for anything.” New Delhi’s defense and foreign ministers joined their U.S. counterparts Friday to discuss China’s “destabilizing actions” — a show of solidarity with a party that doesn’t seem anxious to smooth things over with Beijing.
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It’s a stone’s throw from the “most magical place on earth.” The Star Motel in Kissimmee, Florida, was where penny-pinching tourists would stay for trips to Disney World. But they stopped coming with the pandemic. The motel’s poor and desperate long-term residents find themselves abandoned by the Star’s owner, Washington Post journalists have discovered. Residents must endure power outages, vermin and even gunfire that authorities seem uninterested in. Is it just a bad place at a bad time, or a harbinger of a grim future?
His crime was speaking English. In mostly Francophone Cameroon, English speakers can get in trouble with the government, which often levies accusations against them of terrorist activities. So the refugee known as Samuel began a journey that landed him in a U.S. immigration prison in Mississippi. He was one of the lucky ones whose family found a local lawyer who defied the odds and won Samuel a green card. But dissecting his case, it becomes clear that the same videoconferencing technology that’s protecting people against the pandemic is fast-tracking numerous others toward deportation — regardless of the dangers that await them back home.
3. Don’t Wait for a ‘Silver Bullet’ for the Pandemic
It took “a lot of little things” to manage HIV/AIDS. That’s probably what will be needed to get back to normal after today’s health menace, the virus called SARS-CoV-2, writes Dr. Dhruv Khullar, who treated COVID-19 patients during New York City’s deadly spring surge. That’s because of the likelihood a vaccine might have only limited effectiveness, so controlling the virus’ spread will also require effective treatments. Like the ones that manage HIV, these treatments promise to be combinations of drugs and perhaps even convalescent antibodies that are still inadequately studied — adding up to many more months of pandemic.
Their voices “shine inspiration and hope.” In the turmoil faced by Algeria’s youth, such encouragement is welcome. But who provides this liberating energy for restive North African youth? Opposition legislators? Firebrand philosophers? No, they’re members of boy band BTS, OZY reports, inspiring a fanatic K-pop “army” on the streets of Algiers that provided a soundtrack for the movement that ushered longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power last year. While their bubbly genre may seem out of sync with political upheaval, consider that the band donated $1 million to the Black Lives Matter movement and campaigned against police abuses in Chile.
It was “unfortunate” in one way. Houston Texan defensive end J.J. Watt lamented the few boos he heard when his team locked arms with Kansas City Chiefs players for Thursday's “moment of unity” that launched the NFL's season. That demonstration for racial justice, accompanied by scoreboard announcements and much more that would have been rejected by the league a year ago, is progress, notes sports writer Conor Orr. But, he worries, the league’s come-to-Jesus moment could be short-lived, once the winds of public opinion — and election-year politics — blow hard enough in the other direction.