Indian newspapers are calling it the “world’s worst outbreak.” By reported daily cases, it certainly is: Nearly 315,000 new infections in 24 hours. The country also counted its worst daily death toll of 2,104, and its 16 million total cases is second only to the United States. It’s feared that this wave, blamed on a “double mutant” variety of the virus and recent gatherings celebrating the Hindu Kumbh festival, could be especially deadly, with an oxygen shortage and reports of patients dying while waiting for the lifesaving gas. And experts predict it will get worse, peaking in mid-May.
The top cop is back. After four years of the Trump administration’s winking at police violence, Attorney General Merrick Garland signaled a return to federal oversight. Following up on a Minneapolis jury’s Tuesday conviction of former policeman Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, Garland announced Wednesday that the Justice Department would probe the city’s police department for evidence of abuses, especially against people of color. Meanwhile, Minneapolis teenager Darnella Frazier is being hailed for changing the world with her smartphone, having filmed Chauvin’s deadly restraint of Floyd in May and inspiring others to hold authorities everywhere to account.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that the West faces a “quick and tough” response if it “dares to cross the red line” by “threatening our core security interests.” The threat came as thousands defied a national demonstration ban to protest the government’s treatment of hunger-striking dissident Alexei Navalny. As many as 1,700 people were reportedly detained. Putin’s warning comes amid concerns over Russia’s massive military buildup on its frontier with Ukraine, which has fought Moscow-backed separatists for seven years. Putin also said Russia doesn’t want to burn bridges, but is prepared for adversaries who would “blow up those bridges.”
Just as new trial data shows its one-dose inoculation to be effective against variants of the coronavirus, Johnson & Johnson faces fresh concerns about how its vaccine is produced. A new U.S. Food and Drug Administration report says there is “no assurance” that Emergent BioSolutions didn’t produce contaminated vaccines, in addition to the batch amounting to some 15 million doses discovered and discarded last month. With 11 percent fewer Americans showing up to get vaccinated over the last seven days, the timing of Johnson & Johnson’s bad news can’t help the country’s otherwise successful immunization effort.
Read On! Learn about the absentee hospital worker who collected a paycheck for 15 years in the PDB’s Intriguing section below.
5. Also Important …
Columbus, Ohio, police have released new body cam footage showing a Black teenager charging a young woman with a knife before a white police officer fatally shot her Tuesday — minutes before the Chauvin verdict was read in Minneapolis. An explosion that killed four people in a hotel in Quetta, Pakistan, is believed to have targeted the country’s ambassador representing China, who was a guest but not present during the blast. And an official commission has determined that “pervasive racism” resulted in as many as 350,000 nonwhite soldiers who died fighting for Britain being denied proper military burial or recognition.
The Planet Is Changing Rapidly. But you can help make a difference. Our friends at Cheddar Climate are celebrating Earth Day and discussing clean energy solutions, ocean conservation and so much more. Tune into Cheddar News today at 1-3 p.m. ET to learn how you can help make an impact.
Whiskey in Your Clubhouse!Join OZY editors and writers today at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET for a deep dive into what's next for America after the Derek Chauvin conviction, your favorite sections of Whiskey in Your Coffee and more. Write to OZY reporter Joshua Eferighe below so we can pull you into the room, and follow him @Eferighe
Today on The Carlos Watson Show: Meet the next Rihanna. Rising music superstar Saweetie reveals to Carlos her dream to build a billion-dollar multi-industry global brand. The woman behind “Icy Grl,” “My Type” and “Tap In” shares the story behind her love affair with fellow rapper Quavo, how her relationship with her grandmother continues to shape her career — and her politics — and why sports, not music, is her true first love.
Want more cash back? We thought so! That’s why Discover offers automatic cash back match. With Discover, you get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. You could turn $100 cash back into $200. It’s that easy and there’s no limit to how much we’ll match. No catch, just cash back! Click “Apply Now” for more details.
As President Joe Biden prepares to host a virtual climate summit today, the planet has a momentous year to reflect upon. Human activity appears to have made the Amazon region a net contributor of greenhouse gases, while huge numbers of animals are dying off. Even ocean currents governing regional weather are shifting. But there are rays of hope: The pandemic has shown the possibilities of curtailed human activity, Indigenous peoples are demonstrating sustainable land management and, as OZY’s Sunday Magazine shows, even humpback whales are making a full recovery from near-extinction. Yes, we can wish you a qualified “happy Earth Day.”
Do you feel optimism or pessimism about the planet these days? Tell us here.
2. Hospital Employee Ducked Work for 15 Years
It’s one thing to take a mental health day. But Italian police said Wednesday that a hospital employee in Catanzaro on the toe of Italy’s boot skipped work in 2005 and never returned. What’s remarkable is that he’s been paid ever since. Authorities are investigating allegations that he intimidated a supervisor into keeping quiet, and after she left the absence went unnoticed. Discovered as part of a wider fraud probe, it’s alleged that the now-66-year-old collected some $647,000 in unearned paychecks over 15 years. Investigators are also looking into the activities of six hospital managers.
Efficacy: zero percent. Fake COVID-19 vaccines found in beer coolers in Mexico were sold to 80 people for $1,000 apiece, which, along with vials confiscated in Poland laced with a suspected wrinkle treatment, are the first known examples of counterfeit Pfizer/BioNTech inoculations, The Wall Street Journal reports. “Many are desperate for it,” says the pharma giant’s top security exec, so it’s “a perfect opportunity for criminals.” Meanwhile, Chinese and South African authorities have raided fake vaccine makers. It’s got authorities trolling the dark web, looking to get the drop on the next perp.
Who is the best Enterprise engineer ever? The Star Trek: The Next Generation star has been selected to guest host the popular game show Jeopardy, seen as a test for stepping into late host Alex Trebek’s shoes. More than 246,000 fans signed a petition to get the former Reading Rainbow host to verify contestants’ “questions.” Choosing a Black host comes at a pivotal time for Tinseltown, where the Hollywood Foreign Press Association this week announced the ousting of Phil Berk, a former president blasted for emailing members an article calling Black Lives Matter a “racist hate group.”
5. North Dakota Governor Vetoes Anti-Trans Athlete Bill
It’s a win for Team Trans. GOP Gov. Doug Burgum yesterday vetoed a North Dakota bill that would prohibit transgender students from participating in school sports for girls. “We have every confidence,” Burgum said, that the state’s 27,000 students involved in sports will continue to have “a level playing field.” Anticipating pushback, Montana lawmakers altered similar legislation so that it would be nullified if it jeopardizes the state’s federal funding. Meanwhile, Missouri’s House passed a trans sports ban Wednesday, which may have trouble in the state Senate. Even a Republican legislator lamented that a ban “would make us look backwards.”
What if we told you we found a pair of jeans so good, you’d never need another pair for the rest of your life? What if we told you that question wasn’t hypothetical? Outerknown’s S.E.A. JEANS are unbelievably comfy and made with unmatched quality. These versatile jeans are designed for everything and anything: from lounging around in quarantine to seizing new adventures. Best of all, the S.E.A. JEANS have a life-long guarantee so you’ll never need new jeans again (though you’ll definitely want to come back for another pair!). OZY readers get to use code OKOZY for 20 percent off — check out Outerknown now!