By Friday night, deaths had surpassed 125 and 1,300 people were missing after Thursday’s deluge across northwestern Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The devastation hit hardest in Germany, where some 850 federal troops were deployed to help with rescue and recovery after flooding that a meteorologist said may have been the worst in a millennium. And while there’s a political truce as officials coordinate relief, many expect that the disaster will reverberate in September’s national elections. Although charges of academic plagiarism have weakened the environmentally focused Green Party’s chancellor candidate, the floods may spur all parties to move climate action to the top of their agendas. (Sources: DW, NYT, Der Spiegel)
What do you think? Will climate change policies determine your voting? Answer our PDB poll, then see how others are responding.
2. Biden: Social Media Disinformation Is ‘Killing People’
They have blood on their hands. That’s the message the White House has been pushing this week about social media and its failure to control disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. “They’re killing people,” said President Joe Biden Friday, answering a question about social media’s effect on inoculation attitudes, adding, “the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated.” Facebook said his remarks were “not supported by the facts” and that millions of Americans use the platform to find vaccination centers. Critics went further, accusing Biden of trying to convince platforms to delete posts and boot individual users he disagrees with. (Sources: The Hill, Politico, NY Post)
3. Story of the Week: South Africa Erupts
It was “planned and coordinated.” That was South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s assessment of the violence that exploded in his nation this week, which claimed more than 200 lives. The unrest began after the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma for refusing to appear before a corruption inquiry. Amid widespread looting and 2,500 arrests, there were also attacks on a water treatment facility and media offices, OZY reports, as well as hampered pandemic recovery efforts by ransacking vaccination clinics. “These acts have sought to provoke a popular insurrection,” Ramaphosa said, vowing that those responsible “will be brought to justice.” (Sources: AP, BBC, Al-Jazeera)
4. Police Charge Two in Democratic Office Bomb Plot
A San Francisco grand jury yesterday indicted two men in an alleged conspiracy to bomb a Democratic Party office building in Sacramento. Authorities report confiscating machine guns and bombs among 49 weapons linked to the two Northern California residents charged with conspiracy to destroy a building, weapons possession and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors claimed the two supporters of former President Donald Trump hoped the bombing would start a “movement,” and one said that “after the 20th” of January, when Trump left office, “we go to war.” If convicted, the two men would face maximum sentences of 20 years in prison. (Sources: Sacramento Bee, NBC)
Now on The Carlos Watson Show, we’re joined by Hollywood megastar Scarlett Johansson. The multi-Oscar nominee takes us behind the scenes of Black Widow and reveals how she physically prepares for the intense action. As one of Hollywood’s busiest actors, she shares how she overcomes burnout and whom she’d love to invite for dinner. Don’t miss this special episode with the one and only ScarJo!
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It was time to carpe diem. Yesterday Pope Francis made it harder for priests to conduct the Latin Mass, which dates back to the Middle Ages and was discouraged by reforms of the 1960s Second Vatican Council. Now-retired Pope Benedict XVI unshackled the mass, unintelligible to most laymen and conducted by a priest with his back to them. The current pope indicated that those promoting the mass, as opposed to that in parishioners’ local language, sowed divisions in the church. Now clerics wanting to conduct the Latin Mass will need, among other things, approval from their bishop before proceeding. (Sources: Washington Post, National Catholic Reporter)
2. Is the Paid Space Race too Other-Worldly?
Richard Branson’s first space-adjacent hop last Sunday was a giant leap for space tourism, and on Tuesday, the world’s richest Earthling will take the next step. Jeff Bezos is scheduled to bring the world’s oldest (82) and youngest (18) passengers on his New Shepard spacecraft to the atmosphere’s edge on its (gulp!) first crewed flight. But can these billionaires’ “tourism” ventures succeed? First, it “makes no sense,” according to marketing prof Scott Galloway, who notes in the Pivot podcast that some of Branson’s major investors — himself included — have minimized their stakes, not to mention that the 600 people on his waiting list couldn’t fill half of Galloway’s lecture hall. (Sources: The Atlantic, Intelligencer)
He’d become a “Jew lover.” That declaration in a 10,000-word screed on Israeli-Palestinan relations by Amr Awadallah, Google Cloud’s vice president of developer relations, apparently precipitated his Thursday departure. The Egyptian American admitted on LinkedIn that he’d “hated all Jews,” but had changed his views and wanted to promote peace and understanding. Google employees met this week to express their discomfort working with him. The delay in his departure is likely to raise questions about how Google handles such issues, especially as low-level employees complain of severe consequences for far more innocuous posts. (Sources: The Verge, CNBC)
4. Why Facebook Won’t Steal Many YouTube Stars
The vault is creaking open. Facebook has pledged $1 billion toward attracting independent content makers for its 2.9 billion users. It’s a huge step in a medium built on users’ free shares. But Recode reports that it’s not enough. That’s because Mark Zuckerberg’s social network separates creators’ ads from its far more lucrative ad revenues, while Alphabet’s YouTube pays talent 55% on the bulk of ads seen with their clips. So in three years, the video platform says, it’s paid $30 billion. But Facebook’s smart to start paying, as an increasing number of governments around the world are demanding it.
It’s got skin in the game. Albert Spalding made the very first basketball for the sport’s inventor, James Naismith, in 1894, and when the Phoenix Suns host the Milwaukee Bucks tonight in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, they’ll use a leather-covered Spalding “rock” to decide who’s ahead in the series that’s now tied 2-2. But when the trophy is awarded, the league, having failed to agree on a new ball contract, will begin using Wilson-made balls. That means rap songs that evoke the historic brand will seem slightly nostalgic, like relics of a bygone era. (Sources: The Undefeated, CBS)
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If you missed them the last time around, the sneakers we can’t get enough of are back — the perfect transitional sneaker as summer rolls around! These all-season low-tops are OZY’s favorite look for dressing up or down. But don’t wait around — these comfy kicks fly off the shelves and won’t be here for long.