Pandemic Toll, Colombia's Most Wanted, and Hole-In-One Economics Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Friday, May 6, and we're covering a ranging estimate of the toll of the pandemic, the extradition of a notorious drug lord, and more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].



Pandemic Death Toll 

Almost 15 million deaths have been directly or indirectly caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new estimate from the World Health Organization yesterday. The report measures a metric known as excess deaths—the number of deaths above what would be statistically expected under normal circumstances during a given year. 


Officials say the analysis paints a more holistic portrait of the virus's impact, including increased overdose deaths, deaths by suicide, and more. Also accounted for is underreporting by numerous governments. For context, the current reported death toll directly attributed to the coronavirus is around 6.25 million according to Johns Hopkins University (see data), or less than half the estimated excess death total.


In the US, new cases have doubled in the past month to just over 60,000 per day, though the figure remains the lowest since last summer (see data). Daily deaths have jumped to over 550 per day, after remaining under 400 per day for the past two weeks.  


In related news, US health officials limited the use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after rare, but statistically significant, blood clotting issues that led to roughly one death for every 2 million doses administered. 

Twist in Pig-to-Human Transplant

A modified pig heart used in a groundbreaking—but ultimately unsuccessful—surgery in January was found to have been infected with an animal virus, researchers revealed yesterday.


Dave Bennett, 57, was near death when he underwent the xenotransplantation, or cross-species operation. The donor heart came from a 1-year-old pig that had been genetically modified to remove a sugar molecule common to most mammals known as alpha-gal (listen to overview), which typically causes organ rejection. Bennett swiftly recovered from the surgery, but his health deteriorated after about six weeks and he passed away after two months. 


The findings suggest Bennett's death may not have been linked to the procedure itself. The operation marked the culmination of decades of research, potentially opening a new source for organ transplants. More than 100,000 Americans are on transplant lists, and 6,000 patients die each year while waiting.

Colombia's (Ex-) Most Wanted

Colombia has extradited Dairo Antonio "Otoniel" Úsuga David, the country's most wanted drug dealer, to the US. Úsuga led the powerful Gulf Clan cartel—believed to have about 1,800 members who control much of the country's northern cocaine smuggling routes—and will face indictments in three US jurisdictions: Brooklyn, New York's Southern District, and Miami. Officials say Úsuga was responsible for orchestrating more than 40 cocaine shipments larger than 1 ton. He pleaded not guilty in his arraignment hearing yesterday.


His October capture ended a yearslong search for Úsuga, who was known for bribing federal officials while taking refuge in Colombia's thick jungles to avoid capture. A Colombian court granted the extradition last month. The drug lord had a $5M bounty placed on his head by US officials, having first been indicted in a Manhattan court in 2009 for narcotics trafficking.


Úsuga has 128 outstanding proceedings against him in Colombia, including drug trafficking, homicide, and more.

In partnership with Wren



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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Zandon is the favorite at 2022 Kentucky Derby (coverage begins 2:30 pm, post time at 6:57 pm ET, NBC) from Churchill Downs; see full preview and predictions (More)


> Queen Elizabeth II to miss this year's royal garden parties amid health concerns (More) | Los Angeles district attorney declines to bring felony charges against alleged Dave Chappelle attacker (More)


> The 2022 WNBA season tips off tonight with the Chicago Sky looking to defend their 2021 title; see preview and top storylines (More)

Science & Technology

In partnership with Future

> Neuroscientists identify the group of brain cells responsible for monitoring success and failure; brain circuitry is viewed as key to learning new tasks (More)


> Fecal transplants shown to reverse characteristics of aging in the gut, eyes, and brain in mice studies; the study, which modifies the subject's microbiome, worked in reverse, with older-to-younger transplants inducing inflammation (More)


> Analysis suggests that reducing beef consumption by 20% over three decades could cut the rate of global deforestation in half (More) | Dig into deforestation data here (More)

From our partners: One-on-one fitness coaching. Future is the new workout experience that pairs you with your own expert coach, who provides daily support and custom training plans for anyone at any fitness level. Your Future coach knows how to balance consistency and motivation to make sure you are hitting your goals and seeing real results. Get in the best shape of your life and find your coach today.

Business & Markets

> US stock markets fall (S&P 500 -3.6%, Dow -3.1%, Nasdaq -5.0%); Nasdaq and Dow see worst daily losses since 2020 (More)


> Boeing to move corporate headquarters from Chicago to Arlington, Virginia; move expected to bring hundreds of executive-level jobs to northern Virginia region (More)


> Elon Musk secures $7B in funding for his $44B proposed Twitter acquisition from investors including Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison, VC firm Sequoia Capital, and others (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> Russia presses assault on massive steel mill in Mariupol, believed to be the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the strategic port city; analysts say Russia seeks symbolic victory ahead of May 9 Victory Day celebration (More) | See updates on the war here (More)


> Senate Democrats to force vote on abortion protections next week; move is not expected to clear the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster (More) | Weekend protests anticipated following leak of Supreme Court draft opinion reversing Roe v. Wade (More)


> Karine Jean-Pierre to replace Jen Psaki as White House press secretary; Jean-Pierre becomes the first openly gay and first Black woman to hold the post (More)



Back to School

Freakonomics | Stephen Dubner. (Podcast) An interview with Chris Paxson, economist and president of Brown University, on positioning America's universities in a post-pandemic world. (Listen)

The Strange Economics of a Hole-in-One

The Hustle | Zachary Crockett. When golf tournaments offer big prizes for a hole-in-one, niche insurers step in to cover the downside. (Read)

The Crypto Exec Who Wasn't

NYT | Ron Lieber. Dan Hannum was regarded as a savvy Wall Street-turned-cryptocurrency investor—until his backstory fell apart. (Read)

Wings, Sweat, and Tears

Eater | Jaya Saxena. How consuming exceptionally hot chicken wings on camera has become a route to relatability for many superstars. (Read)



In partnership with Wren


Our favorite project hosted on Wren this month is a new one: "Biochar in California." With the funding of Wren members, a California-based team is able to remove dead and flammable trees from the old-growth forests. They then use a cutting-edge process to turn the tree biomass into biochar, sequestering CO2 in the process.


This project keeps forests greener and stores carbon, and can also help prevent wildfires (thus saving both lives and livelihoods). Interested in backing "Biochar in California" or any of Wren's other exciting initiatives? Just sign up through our links today and they'll plant an additional 10 trees in your name.

Please support our sponsors!



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"From error to error, one discovers the entire truth."

- Sigmund Freud

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