It’s inescapable. Another Northern California town, Greenville, and its Gold Rush-era structures were lost this week to a wildfire as millions choked on spreading smoke. Thousands have fled similar fires a world away in Turkey and Greece, where a firefighter died near Athens yesterday. Meanwhile, the U.N.’s main climate science panel is preparing its first assessment since 2013, including the grim realities one author says are “staring us in the face.” In vulnerable Accra, Ghana, the mayor says he hopes the “stark reality” will spur “urgent emission reductions and the necessary amount of climate finance” when nations convene for the U.N. climate change conference in November. (Sources: DW, AP, CBS Sacramento, BBC)
If this is back to normal, it will need a new definition. People have returned to school and work around the world, but in many places, the pandemic is worse than ever. Now California is ordering health care workers to vaccinate rather than rely on regular testing, making its mandate the America’s toughest even as some of the worst-hit states, like Florida, won’t permit school districts to require masks in classrooms. And that’s in a lucky nation with plentiful vaccine supplies in a world that’s only 28 percent vaccinated. The pandemic’s end, some experts lament, may simply be when we accept COVID-19’s impacts as part of life. (Sources: The Atlantic, NPR, Fox 13 Tampa Bay, National Geographic)
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3. Taliban Capture Afghan Provincial Capital
Taliban fighters on Friday captured Zaranj, the capital of Afghanistan’s southwestern province of Nimroz, in another setback for the government as Western allies have largely withdrawn from the country. National police blamed a lack of reinforcements for the loss near Iran’s border. In Kabul, the head of the government’s press operations was assassinated while in his car during Friday prayers. Fighting continued in southern Helmand province, where Taliban fighters are weathering Afghan and American airstrikes on their way to a Pakistan border crossing, while a special envoy urged the U.N. Security Council to call for a cessation of violence and “a meaningful peace process.” (Sources: Al-Jazeera, AP)
4. Italy Rolls Out COVID-Free Passes
You want to go out? Show your “green pass.” As of Friday, the digital certificate allows people into gyms and restaurants and other public gathering places. And while a similar program has sparked protests in neighboring France and would rile many Americans, Italians have generally supported the effort, the New York Times reports. A poll showed 66 percent of Italians favor the system, and even once-skeptical populists have embraced the measure in the first country to suffer runaway pandemic fatalities. “You do it for yourself, and you do it for others,” said a Sicilian woman who showed her pass to enter a Roman museum yesterday. “It’s very sensible.” (Sources: BBC, NYT)
5. Also Important …
New York City authorities have arrested two Burmese citizens in an alleged plot to kill Myanmar’s U.N. ambassador, who continues to advocate for the country’s deposed government. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to grant emergency approval to third vaccine doses as boosters for immunocompromised Americans as protection against COVID-19’s delta variant. And one of the women in a state report implicating New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in multiple sexual harassment incidents has filed a criminal complaint charging Cuomo grabbed her breast while posing for a selfie.
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.
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Team USA captured its fourth straight men’s basketball gold in Tokyo Friday by beating France, 87-82, with 29 points from NBA superstar Kevin Durant. And after waiting out a tropical storm delay, American Nelly Korda did her golfing family proud, winning gold on the links. Those helped the U.S. gain on China’s gold haul, which was buoyed by Cao Yuan winning his third diving gold off the 10 meter platform today. But the USA will probably settle for most medals overall as the final events in the pandemic- and climate-troubled Olympics play out. Tomorrow, the U.S. women’s basketball team will play Japan in the gold medal game not long before the XXXII Olympiad’s closing ceremonies. (Sources: CBS, ESPN, Olympics.com, Newsweek, Washington Post)
2. Will Crypto Miners Face an Eco-Tax?
It’s all about infrastructure. Or cryptocurrency. Or both. As U.S. lawmakers agonize over a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, they’ll have to reconcile — or toss — competing amendments that would tax the cryptocurrency industry. One, hoping to raise $28 billion, would tax crypto brokers and exempt energy-gobbling miners, while an alternative introduced on Wednesday would focus on crypto exchanges, and another supported by President Biden would hit just energy-intensive currencies like Bitcoin and Dogecoin and exempt others using a different validation system. Critics, however, warn that penalizing miners might simply drive them abroad, where power supplies may be even dirtier. (Sources: Vice, The Hill)
3. Google Breaks Physics With Time Crystals
Solid? Liquid? Gas? Google researchers say they’ve discovered none of the above but something new: a time crystal, a completely different phase of matter. While their findings aren’t yet peer-reviewed, they could be historic: These crystals constantly change without using energy, it appears, which defies Newtonian physics. The 100-plus scientists working with Google Quantum AI, in a paper published last week, say they harnessed the time crystal in a quantum computer. It could potentially revolutionize such computing by trading unstable quantum bits for the stable time crystals. If independent scientists weigh in and affirm the research, textbooks will be rewritten, and computing, if not our lives, promises to be drastically altered. (Sources: TechRadar, Popular Mechanics)
4. Louisianans, Facing Pandemic’s Worst, Rush for Vaccines
You can do something about it. That’s the lesson being learned by Louisianans, especially younger people afraid of COVID-19’s delta variant and lately the lambda strain that’s ravaged Peru. The New York Times reports that vaccinations have quadrupled since the state’s hospitals began to overflow with virus victims. But it’s also a hot spot for pandemic politics that oppose prevention measures and exaggerate the risks of vaccination. With America’s highest infection rate, it’s “a miserable place to be,” admits Gov. John Bel Edwards, who’s revived indoor masking requirements and implied that his constituents’ heavily “pro-life” sentiment, which he shares, should include lives threatened by the coronavirus. (Sources: NYT, WBRZ)
5. Trafficking Victim’s Instagram a Beacon of Hope
It was her cell window. Megan Lundstrom’s Instagram account helped her see beyond the abuse of her prostitution in Denver and Las Vegas, and her pimp even used it to recruit more victims. But today, with 2,200 followers, the window’s flipped, providing hope and counsel to others like Lundsrom, 36, who’s become a researcher. She learns from them, and they learn from her: She found out the hard way that the paid “dates” touted by “sugaring” websites and suitors’ “love bombing” can lead to human trafficking — even bullets. But it’s a small community compared to pimps’ online presence, continuing to reel in those who don’t see Lundstrom’s advice. (Source: Elle)
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