Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 2, 2021

India reports record COVID-19 deaths, Astronauts return to Earth safely aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon, and more


India reports record COVID-19 deaths

India recorded 3,689 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, marking the country's deadliest day since the coronavirus pandemic began. Sunday was the fourth straight day during which more than 3,000 people died of the disease. The number of new infections dropped slightly from the day before, when the tally crossed 400,000 in a 24-hour period for the first time, to 392,488. Hospitals remain overwhelmed and face oxygen shortages. Amid the surge, Indian election officials started counting votes in four states and one union territory. The race is seen as a test of whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi's handling of the pandemic will affect support for him and his Bharatiya Janata Party.


Astronauts return to Earth safely aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon

SpaceX's Crew Dragon Resilience, carrying four astronauts back to Earth from the International Space Station, splashed down safely just before 3 a.m. ET on Sunday morning off the coast of Panama City, Florida. It was the first nighttime splashdown for NASA astronauts since the return of Apollo 8 in 1968. NASA's Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi of Japan's JAXA are reportedly "in great shape and great spirits" after spending 168 days orbiting Earth. With their landing the crew successfully completed the first round-trip operational mission for NASA led by a private company. "I'd just like to say quite frankly, you all are changing the world," Hopkins said as SpaceX personnel prepared to open the side hatch of the capsule. SpaceX and NASA now have regularly scheduled human shuttles to and from space, The Wall Street Journal notes.


3 people, including suspect, killed in Wisconsin casino shooting

A gunman shot and killed two people and seriously injured another at the Oneida Casino near Green Bay, Wisconsin, on Saturday night before the suspect was killed by police. Investigators believe the suspect was targeting an employee at a restaurant inside the hotel attached to the casino with whom he had a "personal relationship," but the employee was not there so he instead shot the person's "co-workers or friends," Lt. Kevin Pawlak of the Brown County Sheriff's Office said during a press conference. The police also said that the suspect appears to have ties to the casino from an employment status.


GOP's Susan Wright advances to House runoff in Texas special election

Republican Susan Wright on Saturday night advanced to a runoff in a Texas special congressional election to fill the House seat of her late husband, former Rep. Ron Wright (R-Tex.), who was battling lung cancer and was diagnosed with COVID-19 before he died in February. It's still not clear who Wright will face in the runoff, with fellow Republican Jake Ellzey narrowly leading Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez with nearly all the votes in Texas' 6th Congressional District counted. Wright went into the race as the favorite and has the backing of former President Donald Trump, so it's no surprise she led the way with 19 percent of the vote. Even though support for Trump dropped in the district in the 2020 election, only one Republican in the crowded field, Michael Wood, campaigned on an anti-Trump message. He received just 3 percent of the vote.


North Korea warns U.S. faces 'grave situation' after Biden calls country a threat

The North Korean Foreign Ministry on Sunday responded to remarks President Biden made last week in his first address to Congress by saying the United States will face "a very grave situation." Biden referred to North Korea's nuclear program as a "serious" threat, which Pyongyang called a "big blunder." "His statement clearly reflects his intent to keep enforcing the hostile policy toward [North Korea] as it had been done by the U.S. for over half a century," Kwon Jong Gun, a senior North Korean Foreign Ministry official said in a statement. Now that the U.S.'s North Korea policy "has become clear," Kwon said, "we will be compelled to press for corresponding measures." He did not specify what steps Pyongyang plans on taking. The White House announced on Friday that it has completed its review of North Korea policy and will seek a middle ground between the strategies of the Obama and Trump administrations.


Utah GOP votes against censuring Romney

A motion to censure Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) failed after a 798 to 711 vote by delegates to Utah's GOP convention, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. Romney, the lone GOP senator to vote to convict former President Trump in both his impeachment trials, has faced criticism within the party for the votes. Several other lawmakers who joined Romney the second time around earlier this year were also either subject to censures or narrowly evaded them. Although Romney avoided the formal expression of disapproval, he was reportedly booed and called a "traitor" and a "communist" when he stood on stage before the convention crowd on Saturday.


U.S. responds to Taliban rocket attack on day formal withdrawal began

The Taliban on Saturday launched a rocket attack near Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, where a small contingent of American and NATO troops remain. Col. Sonny Leggett, a U.S. military spokesman, said the base received "ineffective firing" and there were no injuries or damage. The U.S. then responded immediately with an airstrike on a Taliban position. The exchange took place on the same day as the final phase of the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan, which President Biden has said will be completed by or before Sept. 11, 2021. The Taliban has accused the U.S. of violating a previous agreement that marked May 1 as the final departure deadline.


Israel observes national day of mourning after fatal stampede

Israel marked a national day of mourning on Sunday in the wake of a stampede at a religious festival on Friday that killed 45 people, including children, and injured more than 150 others. Flags were lowered to half-staff at the Knesset and President Reuven Rivlin's official residence, a cabinet meeting scheduled for Sunday was canceled, and concerts and sporting events were postponed. On Saturday, dozens of protesters held a "silent fury" vigil outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence. The demonstrators blamed the incident on government corruption and called for an investigation into the officials who ran the Lag B'Omer celebrations at the Mount Meron tomb of second-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.


Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis dies at 89

Olympia Dukakis, the Academy Award-winning actress, died Saturday at her home in New York City, her representative Allison Levy confirmed. Dukakis was 89. Levy did not specify the cause of death, though her brother, Apollo Dukakis, wrote on Facebook that his sister passed away "after many months of failing health." Dukakis won her Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1988 for her performance in 1987's Moonstruck alongside Cher, who played her onscreen daughter (Cher also won an Oscar for her role). That same year, her cousin, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, was the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. Before Moonstruck, Dukakis had already had a decades-long stage career, and she later earned three Emmy nominations for her television work.


Medina Spirit wins Kentucky Derby

Medina Spirit won the 147th Kentucky Derby in Louisville on Saturday, edging out Mandaloun in the final stretch of the year's first Triple Crown race. The win was an historic one for Medina Spirit's trainer Bob Baffert, who now is the sole record-holder with seven career Kentucky Derby victories, surpassing Ben Jones who won six between 1938 and 1952. Baffert trained the 2020 winner, Authentic, as well. Meanwhile, jockey John Velazaquez, who rode Authentic last year, captured his fourth Derby win. Medina Spirit had the sixth highest odds in the field at 12/1. The favorite, Essential Quality, finished fourth, behind Medina Spirit, Mandaloun, and Hot Rod Charlie.


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