One of the first mass religious gatherings since the pandemic ended in tragedy when more than 40 people were killed in a stampede at a Jewish festival in northern Israel. As many as 100,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered for the annual celebration of Lag BaOmer at Mt. Meron, far more than the site is equipped to hold. Video from the scene shows the packed crowd losing control in a tight alleyway as people fell over each other. The stampede is one of the worst civilian disasters in Israeli history. REUTERS


Brazil has surpassed 400,000 coronavirus deaths, second only to the U.S., and officials are warning the daily toll — about 2,400 — could plateau there for months as the country’s vaccination drive is in disarray. Less than 7 percent of Brazilians are fully vaccinated and now there’s a shortage of supply. President Bolsonaro has been actively attacking any COVID restrictions and cheering on those who resist them. Latin America is in bad shape all around, with outbreaks surging in Colombia, Venezuela and even Uruguay, which had been keeping things under control until recently. NPR


Tomorrow is the deadline for high school seniors across the country to declare their final choice for college. Because of the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, top colleges and universities are reporting record numbers of applications and longer waitlists than usual. Schools are taking extra steps to make sure there’s some semblance of normalcy when students show up in the fall, including mandatory COVID vaccinations. More than 100 colleges are requiring that students show proof of vaccination if they want to be on campus, including some public institutions, like Maryland. Others, like California, say they will mandate vaccines once the FDA grants them full approval. CNN


The FDA announced its expected decision to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. Public health officials are framing the move as a racial-justice issue, given that roughly 85 percent of Black smokers in the U.S. use menthol and minorities are disproportionately affected by lung disease. The ban, which will probably take at least a year to implement, will not address possession or smoking of menthols, just the sale. CBS NEWS


The U.S. economy is almost back to its pre-COVID level. GDP rose an annualized 6.4 percent in the first quarter, putting it just 1 percent shy of 2019 levels. The rebound is being driven by an extraordinary repositioning of the consumer-driven economy: sales of durable goods — i.e., the stuff you buy to last a while, like furniture, cars, toys and appliances — are off the charts, up 41 percent in the first three months of 2021. Just as the recession wasn’t equally distributed, the recovery isn’t, either. Spending on services like travel and restaurants are rising at a far slower pace. The big question is whether those sectors can ever make up the steep losses they suffered during the last year. NY TIMES


Amazon knocked the ball out of the park on its quarterly earnings yet again. The company has now made more money in the last year — $27 billion — than it did in the previous three years combined, which were its most profitable in history until the pandemic hit. Amazon also said it would do its annual Prime Day sales event on a TBD date in June after postponing it until October last year. MARKETWATCH


Quarterbacks were taken with the first three picks in the NFL Draft, the first time that’s happened in more than 20 years. Trevor Lawrence went to the Jags, as expected, then the Jets took Zach Wilson of BYU and the 49ers drafted Trey Lance of North Dakota State. The proceedings were overshadowed by the reports that Aaron Rodgers told the Packers he is so unhappy that he doesn’t want to return to Green Bay — the only team he’s ever known. Rodgers has said his dream is instead to host Jeopardy! full time. ESPN


If you’ve been waiting two years for T-Pain to DM you back, well, now you at least know his excuse. The rapper posted an instantly viral TikTok showing his unread Instagram message box, including DMs from celebs like Fergie, Diplo and Viola Davis, and apologized for “accidentally straight up ignoring” them: WATCH


...Alexei Navalny, looking gaunt and thin at a virtual court hearing, as he comes off a three-week hunger strike. Navalny addressed the court, calling Putin a “naked king” and prosecutors “traitors” to Russia: SEE PIC…Nicole Kidman, looking just like Lucille Ball on the set of Being the Ricardos, the biopic of the I Love Lucy star: SEE PIC


America is facing an impending chicken shortage. Fast food and quick serve chains from KFC to Bojangles to Wingstop are reporting sky-high demand for fried chicken sandwiches, tenders, nuggets and wings, and the poultry industry is having trouble keeping up. Like the other shortages out there, the supply constraints are partially related to the various disruptions from the pandemic, but it has more to do with the fact that fried chicken has just been really, really popular since Popeye’s introduced its sandwich in 2019. Seeing an opportunity, Beyond Meat is launching a plant-based chicken product this summer. BLOOMBERG


One thing we love: Caller ID. Is it true there was a time when people picked up the phone not knowing who was on the other end? 

One thing we hate: THE SPAM CALLS ARE OUT. OF. CONTROL. We don’t want, have never wanted, and will never want the extended warranty, if that’s what they’re actually even selling. Americans now answer less than half the calls they get on their cells, and frankly we’re surprised it’s that many.  President Biden: if you want to unite the country, fix this one thing!  

One thing we ate: Ice cream from A La Mode. Partly Cloudy is the preferred flavor in our house. They basically put the toppings IN the ice cream itself. Plus, it’s allergy friendly — no egg, nuts, or sesame.  

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