At least 100 people were killed and more than 4,000 injured following a massive explosion that rocked the port area of the Lebanese capital of Beirut. The cause of the original fire was not immediately known; however, multiple video angles (warning: may be disturbing) showed an enormous mushroom-cloud blast that flattened a number of surrounding buildings. Officials said the government had stockpiled at least
2,700 tons of confiscated ammonium nitrate—an explosive comparable to TNT—at a nearby depot. See photos of the aftermath here.
The explosion comes as the country finds itself amid a spiraling economic and political crisis (see background), driven by widespread corruption and fiscal mismanagement. Public protests—sparked by a tax on the popular messaging service WhatsApp—drove out former Prime
Minister Saad Hariri in recent months.
Separately, a verdict is expected Friday in a trial implicating the militant Islamist group Hezbollah—which has a strong hand in Lebanese politics—in the 2005 death of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.
NYC Health Chief Resigns
New York City's health commissioner resigned yesterday, citing disagreement with Mayor Bill de Blasio's handling of the coronavirus in the city. Dr. Oxiris Barbot said she felt the health department's expertise had not been used to the fullest degree possible, including a decision to house a contact tracing program within the city's public hospital system instead of the department. New York City had once been the pandemic's global
epicenter, registering more than 6,000 cases and hundreds of daily deaths at its peak, but is now reporting about 100 new cases per day (see data).
Elsewhere, in the race for a treatment, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly announced it would begin a Phase 3 trial of an antibody treatment to blunt the spread of the virus in nursing homes. Long-term care facilities account for 8% of known US cases, but more
than 40% of deaths (data here). On the vaccine front, Novavax revealed preliminary data showing their drug regimen produced an immune response in a small group of volunteers. Though other groups are farther along, the results are notable as the company is pursuing a protein-based vaccine, which uses virus-like particles (see differences).
The US has reported 4.77 million total cases of the coronavirus as of this morning, with 156,830 deaths. See the three-day moving average here.
Finally, check out this ranging look at where the US has fallen short so far in the battle against the virus, and watch President Trump's full sit-down interview with Axios, where he discusses federal government efforts to combat the pandemic (among other topics).
King Juan Carlos Disappears
Former Spanish King Juan Carlos I has reportedly left the country over probes into his financial dealings, the royal family announced. His location is undisclosed, though rumors suggest he is headed to the Dominican Republic. Separate Swiss and Spanish probes have investigated kickbacks received by the king from construction projects in Saudi Arabia, including a $100M payment in 2008. That sum is said to have been funneled to Juan Carlos' mistress for real estate purchases.
The former monarch, 82, is credited with peacefully restoring democracy in Spain after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975. However, he abdicated the throne in 2014 under criticism caused by an elephant-hunting trip to Botswana during the country’s financial crisis
in 2012. Juan Carlos’ son, King Felipe VI, recently ended the annual public stipend paid to him and renounced any personal inheritance.
Juan Carlos has not yet been formally charged and has signaled he is willing to cooperate with investigators.
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ONE STOCK FOR ENTERTAINMENT?
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>Actor Reni Santoni, best known for “Seinfeld” and
“Dirty Harry,” dies at 81 (More)
Science & Technology
>Scientists make first-ever diagnosis of malignant cancer in a dinosaur fossil; the advanced tumor is believed to be bone cancer in the fibula of a centrosaurus specimen (More)
>New study says geologic structures on the surface of Mars were caused by water moving under ice sheets, not free-flowing rivers as previously
>Microsoft paid $13.7M to security researchers who identified software vulnerabilities over the past 12 months through bug bounty programs, up more than 300% from the previous year (More)
Business & Markets
>UK-based Virgin Atlantic airlines files for US bankruptcy protection amid pandemic travel slowdown (More)
>European Commission opens antitrust investigation into Google’s $2.1B acquisition of Fitbit on concerns data would be used to further target ads (More)
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>Six deaths reported as Tropical Storm Isaias moves quickly up the East Coast; estimated 2.5 million lose power in New York region (More)
>President Trump signs wide-ranging conservation bill; Great American Outdoors Act mandates $3B annually to maintain and improve national parks and other public lands (More) | Separately, $35M in grants designated for victims of human trafficking (More) | US Census to halt operations one month ahead of schedule (More)
>Rep. Roger Marshall (R, KS-1) beats conservative hardliner Kris Kobach in Kansas Senate primary race; Rep. Lacy Clay (D, MO-1) loses to progressive challenger (More) | Mail-in voting delays results in some Michigan precincts (More)
Raging rivers, hungry bears, avalanches, roaring seas—would you be prepared? In The Wild is the podcast covering harrowing tales from the depths of nature. Listen to it today on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. #Ad
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Historybook: Space pioneer Neil Armstrong born (1930); RIP Marilyn Monroe (1962); US, UK, and Soviet Union sign Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963); RIP Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison (2019).
"Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand."
- Neil Armstrong
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