At least 12 passengers in China’s Henan province died in flooded subway cars yesterday, with others terrified and trapped neck-deep in water — some posting messages on social media begging for help. The tragedy occurred in the city of Zhengzhou on the banks of the Yellow River, where 7.8 inches of rain fell in just one hour. As devastating floods overwhelm the region, 200,000 people have been evacuated and thousands of firefighters and police have been deployed, with President Xi Jinping calling the situation “very severe.” There are now concerns that dams, already reported damaged, could burst. (Sources: CNN, Al Jazeera)
2. Not Horsing Around: Pegasus Project Reveals Leaders on List
French President Emmanuel Macron, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa are among 14 world leaders whose phone numbers appeared on a leaked Pegasus database. While that does not mean their phones were successfully hacked by the Pegasus spyware from Israeli company NSO, those on the list are believed to be people of interest to NSO’s governmental clients. The company has denied Macron and others were ever targeted. However, CEO Shalev Hulio said, “We understand that in some circumstances our customers might misuse the system.” Hulio has vowed to investigate “every allegation.” (Sources: The Guardian, Washington Post, Forbes)
3. GOP Still Divided on Vaccines Amid Delta Surge
With the delta variant on the rise across America, more top Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, are urging people to get vaccinated. “The way to avoid getting back into the hospital is to get vaccinated,” McConnell said. But the GOP is still not united, with other legislators refusing to condemn vaccine skepticism. Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri recently described President Joe Biden’s vaccine outreach policy as “KGB-style.” New coronavirus cases across the U.S. have risen almost 200% over the past two weeks, and conservative parts of the country are being hit the hardest. (Sources: NYT, Washington Post)
Read more about vaccine rollouts around the world on OZY.
4. An Icy Dispute: Furious Israel Slams Ben & Jerry’s
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has threatened Unilever, which owns ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s, after the company halted sales in the occupied West Bank and parts of East Jerusalem. Bennett said Unilever’s decision amounted to “a clearly anti-Israel step” and would have “severe consequences.” It’s not the first time the ice cream makers have been involved in social justice issues, having previously promoted a variety of causes including Black Lives Matter and women’s rights. Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. said he’s petitioned the governors of 35 states that have laws against boycotting Israel to sanction Ben & Jerry’s. (Sources: WSJ (sub), The Jerusalem Post, Foreign Policy (sub))
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5. Also Important …
The chair of former President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, Thomas Barrack, has been charged with undisclosed lobbying for the United Arab Emirates. A New York court has ordered the leader of the Nxivm sex cult, known for branding female followers, to pay $3.4 million in damages to victims. And the head of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee has refused to rule out canceling the Olympics, which are due to begin on Friday.
Coronavirus Update: Australia has ordered about half of its population back into lockdown, with only 11% of citizens fully vaccinated. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday that 83% of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. are of the delta variant.
Today on The Carlos Watson Show: Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Lawrence Wright joins Carlos to talk about The Plague Year, his new book on the impact of COVID-19 on America — released just over a year after his early-2020 novel about a deadly global pandemic predicted the real-world one with amazing accuracy. Their conversation crosses race, feminism, Wright’s conscientious objection to the Vietnam War, and his fascination with religion. Watch now.
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1. Life Expectancy Fell in 2020, People of Color Worst Hit
Life expectancy in the U.S. saw its greatest drop since World War II during the pandemic, new CDC data show, declining on average by 1.5 years, to 77.3 years old. Black and Hispanic Americans were almost doubly affected, with average life expectancies dropping 74.7 years to 71.8, and 81.8 to 78.8 in those groups respectively. The CDC primarily blamed COVID-19, as well as increased drug overdose deaths for the changes. Scientists are now concerned what effect the rise of the delta variant and vaccine-hesitant people will have on life expectancy figures in future. (Sources: NPR, Washington Post)
“We need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry and move it into space.” That was the realization billionaire-turned-astronaut Jeff Bezos had yesterday after his foray to the edge of space, wearing a cowboy hat. Netizens, many of whom signed a petition asking that the Amazon founder actually stay in space, were quick to joke about his Blue Origin rocket looking like a penis. Others noted Amazon’s poor track record on working conditions, with journalist Molly Jong-Fast tweeting, “You know what’s cooler than going to space? Paying your employees a living wage.” (Sources: Gizmodo, Slate, Twitter)
3. Norwegian Women’s Handball Team Defies Bikini Brief
Not itsy-bitsy or teeny-weeny. The female athletes were fined $176 each after refusing to play in mandatory high-cut bikini bottoms, instead wearing shorts in defiance. “This is completely ridiculous! How many attitude changes are needed in the old-fashioned international patriarchy of sports?” tweeted Norway’s minister of culture after hearing the team had been fined. While male beach handball players wear tank tops and shorts, women have to wear midriff-baring tops and skimpy bottoms. Norway says it will push for a change to the rules at an International Handball Federation meeting in November. (Sources: NBC, CNN)
4. Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend: Gem Heist Suspect in Court
Well, what is a diamond if not a rock? In an amazing heist at upscale London jewelry store Boodles, a woman managed to swap pebbles for $5.7 million worth of diamonds. Prosecutors say Lulu Lakatos posed as a gemologist to examine a bag of diamonds — but after she’d left, staff realized they’d been robbed. Lakatos reportedly fled London after the 2016 heist, but was arrested in France. “The diamonds had been stolen by the defendant by sleight of hand,” said prosecutor Philip Stott. Two heist conspirators have already been convicted, while the case against Lakatos continues. (Sources: The Guardian, Complex)
5. A Whale of a Tale: New Zealand Gripped by Baby Orca Drama
A rescued orca calf named Toa — Maori for “brave” — is making waves because he needs round-the-clock care from volunteers and New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. But some animal rights activists say he should be euthanized rather than remaining in captivity, where he could become too reliant on humans. Orca Research Trust founder Dr. Ingrid Visser, who’s been coordinating Toa’s care, insisted, “We don't euthanize healthy animals. That's not on our agenda with whale rescue.” She hopes to reunite the calf with his family, but others worry Toa will die if he’s set free. (Sources: The New Zealand Herald, The Guardian)
6. Milwaukee Wins NBA Championship for First Time in 50 Years
They bucked all expectations. Despite a knee injury, Giannis Antetokounmpo carried Milwaukee to victory over the Phoenix Suns 105-98 last night. The 26-year-old “Greek Freak” was named Finals MVP after delivering a career-topping game, scoring 50 points with 14 rebounds. Antetokounmpo joins Michael Jordan as the only players in a half century to score 33 in a single Finals half. Milwaukee’s last title was in 1971 with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and this was their first time in the finals since 1974. Bucks players Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are now headed to the Olympics to represent Team USA. (Sources: ESPN, Washington Post, CNN, Sporting News)
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