Start your day smarter with a dossier on the most important world news, rounded off with a shot of intriguing and offbeat stories. Like the president, you deserve no less.
Dec 31, 2021
A New York jury ruled pharmaceutical company Teva is responsible for its role in the opioid epidemic raging in the United States. A new citizen's initiative in Michigan has redrawn district maps to accurately reflect the state’s voting public after decades of partisan gerrymandering. Aerial photos show that Myanmar’s military is using brutal tactics against the country’s opposition and civilians. And the head of the World Health Organization warned that the omicron and delta variants could cause a “tsunami” of cases that will swamp healthcare providers worldwide. All this and more in today’s Presidential Daily Brief.
1 - Opioid Justice
Jury finds opioid-maker Teva guilty of contributing to the crisis
A jury in New York yesterday found pharmaceutical company Teva responsible for its role in misleading Americans about the dangers of opioids. The opioid epidemic, now spanning two decades, has claimed more than 500,000 lives in the United States. The Teva ruling follows on the heels of a massive $4 billion settlement by OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and the billionaire Sackler family that bankrupted the company but, in a bitter twist for victims and their families, gave the Sacklers immunity from liability in any further lawsuits. Thousands of cases in the U.S. are still pending. (Sources: NPR, AP)
2 - A Fair Way Forward
Michigan legislators foiled as citizen’s initiative redraws district lines — fairly
A new commission established through a citizen ballot initiative has replaced heavily partisan voting maps in the state of Michigan after decades of Republican gerrymandering. The nonpartisan commission, made up of Democrats, Republicans and independents, started as a single Facebook post and quickly evolved into a 5,000-member volunteer organization called Voters Not Politicians that won wide support for their initiative. Republican efforts to block the initiative were denied by the state Supreme Court, opening the way for voters to reclaim their power. Other states hope to follow suit, though Republican-led legislatures are battling to quash the efforts. (Source: NYT)
3 - Reign of Terror
The Myanmar military using brutal tactics against opposition and civilians
Recently released aerial photos offer proof that Myanmar's vicious military, called the Tatmadaw, may be embarking on its most brutal crackdown on the opposition yet. The latest massacre in the military’s bloody 10-month rampage shocked even those familiar with their tactics. On Dec. 7, about 50 soldiers stormed Done Taw, razing the village and burning inhabitants alive in a giant pit clearly visible in the photos. The tactics, long used against Myanmar's ethnic minorities, including the Muslim Rohingya, are now being turned against civilians. The military is notorious for abducting young men and boys, torturing prisoners and murdering health care workers. (Source: NPR)
4 - Not a Wave, A Tsunami
COVID-19 infections reach record highs worldwide as omicron surges
The head of the WHO warned on Thursday that the omicron and delta variants could cause a “tsunami” of cases that will swamp healthcare providers worldwide. At an average of 300,886 new cases daily in the U.S., 200,000 a day in France and nearly 185,000 in England, the rapidly spreading omicron variant is heralding the worst COVID surge yet. Daily cases worldwide reached one million for the first time since the start of the pandemic two years ago. And while it’s too early to know if omicron will match delta’s deadliness, a marked increase in hospital admissions has already begun. (Sources:Aljazeera,CNN)
5 - Briefly
Here are some things you should know about today:
Latest Biden-Putin phone call goes nowhere. President VladimirPutin reiterated threats of a full “rupture” if NATO applies sanctions over Russian escalation at Ukraine’s border, while President Joe Biden “made clear” U.S. and allies will respond “decisively” should Russia invade.(Source: ABC) Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s lying in state extended two days to accommodate large crowds. Mourners filed past the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s modest pine coffin, a detail he insisted on, to pay their respects. The official funeral is on New Year’s Day. (Source: BBC) Endangered tiger at Florida zoo shot and killed after biting the arm of a cleaner. The cleaner, from an external company, was bitten after either “petting or feeding” the rare tiger. The shooting has prompted outrage from many quarters. (Source: Guardian)
Watch Deepak Chopra
As He Meditates On America's Health
1 - Rescue Rap
A hit rap song has likely saved hundreds of lives
A new study suggests that a hit song by American hip-hop artist Logic titled “1-800-273-8255,” the number for the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, has likely helped save hundreds of lives. Researchers say the findings demonstrate the “Papageno effect,” the positive influence mass media can have on suicide prevention and crisis management. Logic wrote his song after a difficult time in his life with the hope that it might help his fans feel less alone. His lyrics, which repeat “I want you to be alive,” seem to have worked. Calls to Lifeline increased by 50% following Logic’s performance on MTV’s Video Music Awards. (Source: PsychCentral)
2 - Tattoo Trouble
Tattoo artists rush to finish jobs before EU mandate goes into effect
As if the pandemic weren't enough, tattoo artists Europe-wide are bracing for a new EU ban on 4,000 previously unregulated hazardous chemicals that goes into effect on Jan. 4 and includes several key ingredients in popular tattoo inks. Because manufacturers have yet to come up with plan B for the banned inks, tattooists began warning customers months ago to plan ahead, since it’s uncertain if their colors will be available after the New Year. Though research on the link between tattoo inks and cancer is inconclusive, an EU-wide petition says individuals should be allowed to choose for themselves. (Source: Politico)
3 - Mummy Mum No More
Egyptian scientists unlock the secrets of a 3,500-year-old mummy
Who knew Amenhotep I would resemble his father Ahmose I? That’s what scientists at Cairo University discovered after 3D computed tomography (CT) uncovered the secrets of the fully wrapped mummy. The warrior pharaoh — whose remains, including his heart and brain, are remarkably well preserved — was about 35 years old, circumcised and had “good teeth,” said researchers. His lavish jewelry included 30 amulets and a unique golden girdle. The mummy was never unwrapped so as not to disturb the perfection of his linen wrappings and the beauty of his painted burial mask. The cause of his death, however, remains elusive. (Sources: Artnews,Guardian)
4 - Luck of the Drawing
Small drawing bought at estate sale could snag way more than $10 million
Experts at London's British Museum have confirmed that a drawing of the Virgin Mary and Child bought for $30 at a Concord, Massachusetts, estate sale is a rare, undiscovered Renaissance work by master artist Albrecht Dürer. The lucky buyer, who remains anonymous, owned the drawing for two years before showing it to an art dealer friend who recognized the telltale A.D. at the bottom of the drawing. After two more years and a flurry of international conservationists, art dealers, museums and other experts, the drawing — on a watermarked paper used only by Dürer — has been authenticated. Its worth? In the tens of millions of dollars. (Source: NYT)
5 - ‘Bless Our Team’
Italian town becomes official home of the patron saint of basketball
Need some divine intervention with those three-pointers? Just head to Porretta Terme. In May, this small town in central Italy became the official home of the patron saint of basketball when the Italian Bishops Conference conferred its approval after villagers’ passionate ten-year campaign. The Madonna of the Bridge, credited with miracles from as early as the 17th century, now doubles as the Madonna of the hoops in a town where inhabitants are ardent about the game since Italian prisoners of war learned it from American soldiers during WWII. Now Italian teams regularly come here to pray before big games — and often win. (Source: NYT)
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