Record deaths two days this week. Daily COVID-19 infections numbering more than 350,000, setting global records. India’s tragic second wave of COVID-19 is horrifying even to a world otherwise numbed by the pandemic. As a result, U.S. authorities banned travel from the subcontinent while joining Britain, Russia and other nations in providing medical aid. It’s being blamed on a super contagious variant of the coronavirus with multiple mutations, aggravated by public gatherings for a religious festival and elections. Now the country is opening vaccinations to all adults, but with immunization centers short of doses, funeral pyres will continue to darken the sky.
It’s been a decade since one of America’s most audacious raids into the territory of a supposed ally. Many Americans remember the announcement, “We got him!” after the fatal shooting of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden 162 miles inside Pakistan by the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team 6. It’s among the few victories of the 20-year Afghan war, now winding down with this week’s start of final troop withdrawals. But bin Laden’s al-Qaida still exists, vowing to fight the U.S. “on all fronts,” while a car bomb of unknown origin killed 21 people yesterday, barely 40 miles from Afghanistan’s capital.
3. With 40% Immunized, US Tries to Convince Skeptics
More than 100 million Americans representing 40 percent of the population are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, federal health officials said Friday. While that’s doubled since a month ago, authorities are concerned about people who are putting off or avoiding vaccination altogether. Republicans are especially wary, prompting a group of GOP doctor-legislators to put out a video touting inoculation as a way to escape “the government’s restrictions on our freedoms.” Meanwhile, some 280,000 vaccine appointments in France are going unclaimed, a tracking site says, while some vaccination centers are offering shots to people who don’t meet eligibility requirements.
They’re facing the music. The European Commission on Friday charged Apple with antitrust violations, alleging that it squelched rival music streaming services by forcing their apps to to use the iPhone maker’s payment system, which collects a 30 percent commission. Apple “distorted competition” by prohibiting apps from informing users of cheaper ways to purchase content, the EU charge says. The tech giant responded that “no store in the world” allows product makers such freedom. The action adds to a growing movement by content providers such as Epic Games’ Fortnite, which meets Apple in U.S. federal court next week, to handle their own charges.
Should governments force iPhones to allow Apple rivals like Spotify more latitude? Answer our PDB poll.
5. Also Important …
Israel is mourning 45 people crushed to death early Friday during celebrations of the Jewish holiday Lag BaOmer — a tragedy experts had warned could happen at the Mount Meron holy site. Florida is poised to enact a law that would fine social media sites for “deplatforming” politicians, as they did to former President Donald Trump. And Game of Thrones actress Esmé Bianco has sued shock rocker Marilyn Manson for alleged sexual assault, adding to multiple sexual misconduct accusations under investigation in California.
In the Week Ahead: The 147th Kentucky Derby will be run today before a limited, socially distanced crowd of spectators. The Blossoms will headline Sunday in a Liverpool concert before 5,000 unmasked and undistanced fans, tested for COVID-19, in one of a series of experimental events monitored by scientists to gather data on restarting public gatherings. And on Wednesday, aka Cinco de Mayo, America will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its first spaceflight, a suborbital hop by Alan Shepard, while Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin plans to announce ticket sales for its “New Shepard” trips to space.
OZY Fest is back! The one-of-a-kind festival of great entertainment, interactive experiences and the biggest conversations is coming to a screen near you. Where else could you hang out with Dr. Fauci, Sevyn Streeter, Tig Notaro, Condoleezza Rice, Mark Cuban, Malcolm Gladwell and more? Join us for a virtual celebration of bold change and big ideas, May 15-16. Register now.
Forget digging for coupon codes that don’t work and searching endlessly for deals without results. The free Capital One Shopping browser add-on instantly searches for available coupons and automatically applies them to your cart across thousands of sites. It’s genius.
For writer Mitchell Johnson, it began when his mother took to the road. Like Fern in the Oscar-winning Nomadland, she found camaraderie among (almost exclusively white) fellow travelers and lived a life that shares similarities with 19th-century pioneers traveling the expanses of the West. Like Fern’s economic displacement, many are escaping financial crises; Johnson’s mother saw her retirement savings shrink and her home’s value go underwater during the 2008 economic crisis. Unlike the pioneers, they’re not settlers, although Johson’s mom eventually decided to re-root herself — if only she could afford today’s inflated housing prices.
It was the Rodney Dangerfield of infrastructure, but not on President Biden’s watch: A regular rail commuter from his Wilmington, Delaware, home base to Washington, D.C., Biden was known as “Amtrak Joe” when he was a senator. While Republicans have derided the system as costly and inefficient, its fortunes looked up Friday when the president traveled to Philadelphia (the city after Wilmington) to mark the federally supported system's 50th anniversary. His $2.3 trillion infrastructure package includes $80 billion for the U.S. rail system, which “opens up enormous opportunities,” Biden said, such as “good-paying union jobs” and better links to underserved communities.
There are still 7,000 people living and working at the melted-down power plant. That’s because the world’s worst nuclear disaster never ended. Among them are scientists studying its biological impacts, some of whom live in the “exclusion zone” permanently and happily. National Geographic journalists visited the zone, which includes shops where workers grind radioactive surfaces from steel girders to prep them for sale as scrap metal. But some throw caution to the literal wind, eating local mushrooms that sponge radiation and burning wood to create fresh, mini fallout. It’s better now, but with some waste radiating for millennia, it’s a problem they’ll all outlive.
Her passion is the piano. And because it’s her career and she’s not a man, that makes Abeer Balubaid the first professional woman pianist in Saudi Arabia, OZY reports. Just as timing is critical in music, her debut was in tune with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s lurch toward gender equality, if not other human rights. Balubaid, 30, has vaulted from being “miserable” studying architecture and feeling “a hole inside me” with no hope of performing to appearing onstage. Now she’s joining opera singers and jazz groups in performances, hair flowing and “living the change.”
The Pack’s backs are against the wall. On the eve of the NFL draft, a year after the Green Bay Packers picked a quarterback in the first round, word emerged that their reigning MVP QB, Aaron Rodgers, wants out. Why? Maybe watching his coach — at January’s NFC championship — hand the ball to Tom Brady, whose adopted Buccaneers fielded unparalleled teammates for him, argues sportswriter Danny Heifetz in The Ringer. Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst says Rodgers will stay. Considering he’s notched the highest touchdown and lowest interception rates, they’d be wise to give him what he wants.
Today on The Carlos Watson Show, meet Rachel Luba, the woman shaking up the world of baseball. Get the best negotiation tips from the agent to Trevor Bauer and other MLB greats, and hear why her revolutionary approach to managing is making her some enemies. What’s the misogynistic threat that made her determined for a career in the MLB? Watch now.