Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 30, 2021

India's coronavirus infections hit another global record, U.S. economic growth picks up, and more


India's coronavirus outbreak hits another global record

India's health ministry on Thursday reported 379,257 new coronavirus infections, the latest in a series of global single-day records set during the country's devastating second wave of COVID-19. India also confirmed another 3,645 COVID-19 deaths, the most it has seen in a single day since the pandemic started. Hospitals have filled up in Delhi and started turning away patients and their family members. Gravediggers and crematorium employees are working around the clock to keep up as the toll rises. "I'm not scared of COVID," Mumbai gravedigger Sayyed Munir Kamruddin, 52, said. "I've worked with courage." The Biden administration late Wednesday outlined a plan to send India $100 million in aid, including oxygen cylinders, N95 masks, raw materials India needs to produce more than 20 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, and more.


U.S. economic growth picks up

U.S. economic growth accelerated in the first quarter of 2021 to an annualized rate of 6.4 percent, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The jump from a 4.3 percent rate the previous quarter brought the nation's GDP nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. Economists predict next quarter's growth could reach a 10 percent annual pace, a soaring rate bolstered by increased interest in shopping, traveling, and dining out as pandemic restrictions slowly taper off. Economists expected the growth rate for 2021 as a whole to be around 7 percent, the fastest pace in a calendar year since 1984, according to Politico. Big federal spending, including President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, provided a boost, helping GDP rebound from the plunge at the start of the pandemic faster than it did after the Great Recession.


Biden visits Carter on trip marking 100 days in office

President Biden traveled to Plains, Georgia, on Thursday, his 100th day in office, to meet with former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter in their hometown. Biden touted the accomplishments of his first 100 days on Wednesday in his first address to a joint session of Congress, and his visit with Carter was part of an effort to rally support for the latest initiatives in Biden's effort to reshape the U.S. economy with trillions in new spending. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden was meeting with Carter, 96, because of their "longstanding friendship." After leaving Plains, Biden hosted a drive-in rally near Atlanta where he called attention to his administration's work fighting the coronavirus crisis, and talked about the potential economic benefits of his American Families Plan.


At least 44 die in stampede at packed Israel religious festival

At least 44 people died early Friday in a stampede at a religious festival in Israel. The victims were asphyxiated or trampled in a tight passageway as celebrants poured out of festivities in the annual Lag B'Omer commemorations at the Mount Meron tomb of second-century sage Rabbi Shim Bar Yochai. The event drew tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews despite warnings from the authorities about the risk of spreading COVID-19. The national ambulance service said it treated 150 injured people. "A terrible disaster," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. An injured man said those caught in the crush piled on top of each other. "I was in the second row," he said. "The people in the first row — I saw people die in front of my eyes."


Florida lawmakers pass new voting restrictions

Florida's Republican-led legislature on Thursday became the latest to pass new rules on voting that Black lawmakers said would make it harder for millions of voters, especially people of color, to cast ballots. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who has called voting security a top priority, told Fox News he would sign the bill, "of course." The Florida measure, like similar bills in other states, adds rules for voting by mail, and bars actions that could influence people standing in line to vote, which critics said could discourage nonpartisan groups from providing food and water to people waiting in the sun. State Rep. Angela Nixon (D) said the policies would be "detrimental to our communities." DeSantis said they would help "make sure that these elections are run well."


A gaunt Navalny makes appearance as Moscow judge upholds conviction

A Moscow judge on Thursday upheld the defamation conviction against opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who participated via video link in his first public appearance since he went on a hunger strike. Navalny, who was visibly gaunt, used the occasion to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he was as foolish as the "naked king" in The Emperor's New Clothes, the children's tale. Navalny, an outspoken Kremlin critic, was jailed in February in a separate case on charges related to failure to report to parole officers when he was sent to Germany for treatment after his poisoning with the Soviet-era military nerve agent Novichok, which he blamed on the Kremlin. Navalny started a hunger strike on March 31 but ended it last week when he was allowed to see civilian doctors.


Supreme Court sides with undocumented immigrant in deportation challenge

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of an undocumented Guatemalan immigrant challenging his deportation by U.S. immigration authorities. The 6-3 decision, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, was backed by a rare combination of conservative and liberal justices that included Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, and Amy Coney Barrett on the right, and Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan on the left. Gorsuch wrote that the Justice Department violated federal law by failing to provide immigrants facing deportation a clear "notice to appear" detailing the charges and court date in their case. "If men must turn square corners when they deal with the government," Gorsuch wrote, "it cannot be too much to expect the government to turn square corners when it deals with them."


U.S. reportedly investigating potential energy attack near the White House

Federal officials are investigating two incidents in the United States that appeared similar to mysterious apparent attacks that have left American diplomats and other employees with "debilitating" symptoms in Cuba, Russia, and China in recent years, CNN reported Thursday, citing multiple sources. In one case, a National Security Council official reportedly was sickened near the south side of the White House in November 2020; in another, a White House official reported a similar apparent attack while walking in a Virginia suburb in 2019. They federal employees reported symptoms like those experienced by CIA and State Department personnel affected overseas, prompting investigations into whether the incidents could have been "Havana syndrome" attacks, a reference to the first mysterious headaches, nausea, vertigo, and other symptoms reported in 2016 by U.S. personnel in Cuba.


De Blasio: NYC to 'fully reopen' on July 1

New York City is planning to "fully reopen," lifting all pandemic restrictions, on July 1, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced Thursday. "We are ready for stores to open, for businesses to open, offices, theaters, full strength," he said. New York City was the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak early on in the pandemic last year, but de Blasio said "people have gotten vaccinated in extraordinary numbers," and "we're just seeing a better situation every day." The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in the city has dropped by 56 percent in the past month. De Blasio acknowledged "we do have work to do" before full reopening can be achieved, but said "I'm quite confident we'll be ready for full strength by July 1."


5 arrested over shooting of Lady Gaga's dog-walker in dognapping

The Los Angeles Police Department said Thursday five people were arrested after Lady Gaga's dog-walker was shot and her two French bulldogs stolen in February. The dogs were later returned, and the dog-walker was expected to make a full recovery. Three suspects were charged with attempted murder, and two were charged as accessories to the crime. One of the alleged accessories was Jennifer McBride, who told police she found the dogs, brought them to the LAPD, and responded to an email address offering a $500,000 reward. Authorities told Gaga not to pay the reward. Police said the four other suspects were allegedly "all documented gang members," and McBride had a relationship with the father of one of them. Detectives don't believe Gaga's dog-walker was targeted because she was the owner, but because of the value of the breed.


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