It’s gold for lead. Mexico yesterday sued 11 firearms makers, including Smith & Wesson, Colt and Glock, accusing them of “actively facilitating the unlawful trafficking of their guns” to Mexico’s drug cartels and other violent criminals. The industry’s National Shooting Sports Foundation called the claims “baseless,” blaming the Mexican government’s “rampant crime and corruption” for the trafficked weapons toll, which Mexico City estimates at 17,000 homicides in 2019. The suit seeks $10 billion in compensation, following some 30 U.S. cities that have made similar claims, only to be thwarted by industry immunity granted by Congress, which might not apply to Mexico’s claim. (Sources: CNN, AP)
Is it just a statistic? As the delta variant spreads faster than now ubiquitous wildfires, global infection tallies have surpassed 200 million cases, with 4.2 million deaths. As vaccinations are readily available and even being avoided in rich nations, the World Health Organization yesterday asked well-supplied countries to forgo giving third shots as boosters and instead send those doses to needier nations. And to add to contagion concerns, epidemiologists in the U.S., U.K., India and South Korea are starting to detect cases of a “delta plus” variant, which some experts believe will spread even faster than the original. (Sources: NYT, NBC, Fox News)
3. Lightning Kills 17 in Bangladesh
Tragically, it’s not that rare. A lightning strike killed 17 people from a wedding party Wednesday in northwestern Bangladesh. The incident in Shibganj near the Indian border also injured the groom and 13 others as the party stepped off a boat on the Padma River. Lightning kills hundreds of people in the low-lying nation every year, mainly farmers working fields in the spring and summer, and is blamed on deforestation of trees that could draw the deadly bolts away from people. To combat this, Bangladesh is planting hundreds of thousands of palm trees to act as organic lightning rods. (Sources: BBC, Reuters, AFP)
4. Cuomo Flails Against Damning Harassment Report
He’s not giving up. But the New York State attorney general’s report finding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women has backed the once-popular Democratic politician into a corner. Allies including current and former presidents have abandoned him after the report detailed incidents that included unwanted touching of a state trooper. The fallout has reached the leaders of anti-harassment group Time’s Up, who the AG’s report says provided advice to Cuomo on how to respond to the allegations. As impeachment talk builds, Cuomo has drawn fire for using a family member’s sexual assault to help explain his actions. Prosecutors say they’ll launch a probe into Cuomo’s behavior. (Sources: Politico, Washington Post, NBC New York)
Olympic Update: Yet another teenager, 14-year-old Quan Hongchan of China, has won gold for scoring three perfect 10s in the 10-meter platform-diving final. And New Zealand’s Lisa Carrington is being called “GOAT in the boat” after earning her third Tokyo gold by winning the kayak single 500 meters, making her the nation’s best-ever Olympian.
Listen Up: A Podcast for the Moment:Into America is a podcast about being Black in America. These stories explore what it means to hold truth to power and this country to its promises, and they are told by people who have the most at stake. In episode 118, “Black Joy in the Summertime,” Trymaine Lee explores the traditions and legacy of Black summer communities. Places like Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, Idlewild in Michigan, Bruce’s Beach in California, and Sag Harbor Hills on Long Island. He looks at how these escapes became a refuge of freedom and joy and talks to a family that has spent more than 100 years in Sag Harbor Hills about where the community stands today.
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Next on Law and Order, Special Virus Unit: A career in law enforcement awaits you on the Balearic Islands. Known to the glitterati for its nightlife, Ibiza is being blamed for the Mediterranean archipelago’s eye-popping 916 cases per 100,000 islanders. Clubs are shuttered, but shadowy entrepreneurs are charging $120 admission to illegal house parties, which can’t be raided without a judge’s order. That’s where the party detectives come in. Recruited by an agency commissioned by the town of Eivissa, they’re expected to get themselves invited to the soirées so police can chase away offenders and fine organizers up to $710,000. (Sources: Reuters, AP)
What do you think? Would you report illegal gatherings to curb COVID-19? Take this PDB poll here or on Twitter.
2. Remember Phone Fires? Battery Fires Get Bigger
Think of it as a speed bump on the road to sustainability — a potentially deadly one. Big batteries used to power cars and even utilities have produced some worrisome fires recently. The Washington Post reported two garaged Teslas igniting and burning down a house in the San Francisco Bay Area Dec. 30. It’s not the only such fire, with automakers from Detroit to Bavaria recalling electric models over fire hazards. And in Australia, a test of a massive Tesla “Megapack” battery, designed for communities to store renewable energy, sparked a fire that burned from Friday to Monday. Officials in Victoria are investigating. (Sources: Washington Post, Hawaii Public Radio, The Register)
3. Arkansas Governor Regrets Anti-Masking Bill
He might want to cover his face. “In hindsight I wish that had not become law,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson admitted this week about a law prohibiting localities from requiring masks to guard against contagion. When he signed the bill in April, COVID-19 cases were low and the legislature would have overridden his veto, he explained. Now he’s asking lawmakers to reverse the bill as the state nears record coronavirus hospitalizations. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis isn’t backing down from a similar law, which some school districts are defying to protect students and teachers from a surge that’s hospitalized a record 11,500 Floridians. (Sources: Yahoo, Politico)
4. Offspring Drummer ‘Out’ Over Not Vaxxing
They had to keep him separated. Pete Parada, one of the longest-lasting drummers for punkish 1990s act The Offspring, says he’s been booted over refusing a coronavirus vaccination. Parada says he suffers from Guillain-Barré Syndrome, and for him, “the risks outweigh the benefits” of vaccination. Meanwhile the “Come Out and Play” group’s sold-out L.A. gig Sunday mandates vaccinations for all participants. While the Johnson & Johnson vaccine carries a warning for those with the syndrome, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech shots don’t. Another rock drummer, Charlie Watts, 80, is recovering from an unspecified medical procedure and will be sitting out The Rolling Stones’ “No Filter” tour. (Sources: LA Times, Deadline)
5. USA Ballers Rally vs. Aussies to Make Olympic Final
It looked grim for the Yanks. Notorious for slow Olympic starts, Team USA fell 15 points behind Australia in Tokyo today in the second quarter. Then the game seemingly began, with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker leading a 48-14 run, during which Booker himself outscored the continental nation in the third quarter. Winning 97-78, the Americans will face either France or Slovenia in the gold-medal game. Meanwhile, Ukrainians Marta Fiedina and Anastasiya Savchuk suffered the indignity of being announced as representing Russia (the ROC), with whom their nation has fought a seven-year conflict, while being called up for their bronze medals in the artistic swimming duet competition. (Sources: ESPN, SB Nation, AP)
For The Carlos Watson Show's Olympic Week, gold medalist Apolo Ohno joins Carlos to discuss how the pandemic forced the speed skater to slow down and find his “true north,” the lessons he learned from his immigrant father and his relationship with his own identity. Now working on his new book Hard Pivot, Ohno reflects on the mental health of Olympians outside of the international spotlight.