A group of 344 students who were kidnapped in an attack claimed by Boko Haram last week have been returned to Nigeria’s government. It’s still not clear if all the boys taken in last Friday’s raid on a rural Kankara school are now safe. After medical examinations today, they’ll meet President Muhammadu Buhari and be reunited with their families. Despite some doubt about Boko Haram’s involvement, the militant group released a hostage video of the schoolboys after the kidnapping. As in the high-profile kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls, some suspect the Nigerian government of paying ransom — but, as in the Chibok case, officials have categorically denied it.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will be vaccinated on live TV Friday morning, but some are puzzled by President Donald Trump’s absence from the rollout of COVID-19 inoculations. With approximately 3,000 Americans dying of the virus every day, Trump — focused on his unsuccessful attempts to overturn his loss in last month’s election — has spoken little about the vaccine and made no moves to take it himself. Meanwhile, a Food and Drug Administration panel endorsed Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, virtually ensuring its emergency authorization for use in the coming days.
3. Haaland Makes History as Interior Secretary Pick
President-elect Joe Biden has selected Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico to be his secretary of the Interior, making her the first Native American to hold the position (or in fact any U.S. Cabinet position). Meanwhile, challenges mounted for the president-elect ahead of his January inauguration as federal officials warned that an enormous government hack by suspected Russian operatives — which included infiltration of the agency controlling the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile — has put the U.S. at “grave risk.” Biden promised retaliation for the hack, while President Trump has remained silent.
4. Sacklers Deny Responsibility for Opioid Epidemic
Members of the billionaire Sackler clan that owns OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma appeared before Congress yesterday to testify that they accept no blame for the opioid epidemic, which has taken about 450,000 American lives. David and Kathe Sackler, who both sat on the board of Purdue until 2018, both admitted they felt bad about the public health crisis, but Kathe Sackler said “There’s nothing that I can find that I would have done differently.” Purdue agreed to an $8 billion settlement with the U.S. government last month, while the Sacklers agreed to pay $225 million, or about 2 percent of their net worth.
New video of Ahmaud Arbery’s killing shows that police didn’t immediately help him as he lay dying. Sony has pulled its new blockbuster game Cyberpunk 2077 from stores over myriad bugs and potential health risks to users. And the U.S. Supreme Court has denied a religious school an exemption to COVID-19 shutdowns.
Try This: Feeling presidential after a week of briefings? Prove it with the OZY news quiz!
You Got It: Yesterday, we asked where a new chicken-sized dinosaur species was found. L. Snyder, Gregory R., Kevin P., Chuck V. and Michelle J. got it right: Brazil!
Today on The Carlos Watson Show: Jordin Sparks sings to Carlos! The American Idol superstar tells all about her path to stardom. She also shares her love story and how her son feels about her singing (hint: there’s shushing involved). Don’t miss the final episode of 2020 and hear Jordin Sparks spread some Christmas cheer on OZY’s YouTube channel.
General Motors and OZY are helping to drive change, and we’re inviting others to join us on the journey. GM has ranked among the top 50 U.S. companies for diversity for five years running according to DiversityInc. It is also a proud member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable, a group of 28 companies that spend $1 billion annually in support of minority and women-owned businesses. The innovative auto and tech giant is teaming up with OZY to #ResetAmerica by advocating for social and economic justice and tackling the tough challenges and persistent inequities that Black entrepreneurs face across the U.S.
1. Japan Traffic Jam Strands 1,000 People Overnight
Snow laughing matter! Heavy snow yesterday caused a car to get stuck on the highway between Tokyo and Niigata prefecture, backing up traffic 9 miles in a line of more than 1,000 cars. Some drivers were reportedly stuck there for over 40 hours as highway officials closed on-ramps to keep more cars from joining the gridlock. Highway workers distributed food, water and portable toilets to the stranded drivers, and Japan has convened a task force to deal with the aftermath of the snow, which also knocked out power to 10,000 households.
2. Google Faces Second Antitrust Lawsuit in Two Days
Breaking up is hard to do. But 30 states are trying to do it with Google by filing an antitrust lawsuit in Washington, D.C., Thursday, on the heels of a similar 10-state suit filed in Texas Wednesday. Just Idaho and Utah joined both complaints. Meanwhile, a National Labor Relations Board inquest found that Amazon’s recent firing of a worker who’d made steps toward a workers union was illegal, meaning the e-commerce giant must either come to a settlement with the ex-employee or face a federal complaint.
Until this morning, Danish law defined rape by its use of violence. But Parliament has now passed a law specifying that rape is sex without explicit consent. “I know that sounds obvious,” said a spokesperson for the justice department. Lawmakers are following in the footsteps of several other European nations, including Sweden — which has seen rape convictions jump 75 percent since 2018 after passing similar legislation. The law will take effect Jan. 1.
4. Nigeria’s Censorship Board Doesn’t Like Its Oscar Contender
Last year, Nigeria made its first submission to the Oscars’ foreign language film category — and was disqualified due to the film being predominantly in English. Now it’s trying again with thriller The Milkmaid — but the nation’s film censorship committee has mandated about 24 minutes of cuts that remove references to religion and extremism, OZY reports. While the original version has been sent to the Oscars, only the censored version can be shown inside Nigeria. Now director Desmond Ovbiagele is hoping a streaming platform will enable him to distribute the full-length film around the world.
They managed to move the needle. In 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency handed Russia a four-year ban from world championship sporting events over an institutionalized doping scheme. But now that suspension has been reduced to two years by Switzerland’s Court of Arbitration for Sport — it’ll end Dec. 16, 2022 — meaning Russia won’t be allowed to compete under its own flag in the next two Olympics in Tokyo and Beijing, or the World Cup in Qatar. Russian athletes can still take part in the Olympics, but as “Olympic athletes from Russia,” not as a national team.