Millions in Texas woke up to a glimpse of life in the developing world this week. Freakish cold temperatures paralyzed power and water systems to the point where, even with temperatures edging back up tomorrow, privations continue. Austin lacks running water, while residents of Houston, America’s fourth-largest city, are under a boil advisory. President Joe Biden says he’ll sign a disaster declaration to provide federal aid after dozens died this week. And Texas Republicans and the state’s utility networks face a backlash and lawsuits — while ordinary Texans must cope with electricity bills as high as $10,000.
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2. Australian Government in Facebook Talks
As #DeleteFacebook trends on other platforms, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the social network has “tentatively friended us again,” and is negotiating with Australia over its groundbreaking new media law. Facebook on Thursday banned all news posts in or from the country in response to the bill, which has passed the lower house of Parliament and is expected to clear the Senate next week. It would force online platforms to pay publishers for their content, which Facebook says ignores the benefit of wide social media exposure. The stakes are high: Officials in Canada, the U.S. and the EU are shaping digital rules, and watching Australia closely.
Americans know that police need warrants to enter homes. If they enter without one, they need a good reason. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of a California man who says his rights were violated by an officer who entered his garage over a DUI case. If the 6-3 conservative majority decides in favor of warrantless searches over suspected misdemeanor crimes, legal experts say it further empowers police when many Americans want the opposite. And next month justices will entertain arguments pitting the search issue against another conservative lightning rod: confiscating guns.
How’s this for disruption? Britain’s Supreme Court has ruled that Uber must treat its drivers as employees, not self-employed contractors. That means that thousands of drivers will be entitled to minimum wage and paid time off for holidays — something that would cut into the company’s bottom line and likely force it to raise its rates. It could also require the ride-hailing behemoth to compensate drivers for lost wages and time off. Uber said the ruling only applied to the small group of drivers who sued, but the decision is expected to reverberate across the gig economy, which relies heavily on contract workers.
Ethnic minorities have joined other protesters in the streets of Myanmar to protest the military regime’s Feb. 1 coup. Ex-Blackwater head and supporter of former President Donald Trump Erik Prince violated an arms embargo by sending weapons to an anti-government militia in Libya, a U.N. report alleges. And the NCAA has decided to allow socially distanced fans at 25 percent capacity during its annual basketball tournament next month.
Undersized and lightly recruited out of high school, CJ McCollum played his college hoops at Lehigh — far from the big time. But he captured the world’s attention with a stunning NCAA Tournament victory against Duke and now is a leading contender to make the NBA All-Star team. He reveals what it took to get here, why the NBA can be surprisingly “boring” and his entrepreneurial goals. Watch now.
And match. Naomi Osaka nabbed her fourth Grand Slam title today, beating 22nd-seeded American Jennifer Brady in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, at the Australian Open in Melbourne. Now ranked world No. 3, Osaka made similarly short work of the legendary Serena Williams in the semifinals (their second such meeting), but will only rise to No. 2 thanks to some pandemic peculiarities. The daughter of Japanese and Haitian parents who grew up in New York also became the first woman in 30 years to win her first four Grand Slam finals. In characteristic fashion, the unassuming phenomenon congratulated Brady, saying she’d known she’d be “a problem.”
They need it now. It’s called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, and it oxygenates blood to give COVID-19-afflicted lungs a break while they try to heal. But in Southern California, which has one of the most infected populations, multiplying eight times from November to New Year’s, some hospitals lack the equipment or the experts able to operate it. That meant patients dying on waitlists, ProPublica reports, in a system with poor communication and little transparency. Said one Orange County hospital administrator, “You know if you don’t have a bed for somebody, they are going to die.”
They are code flaws that cyberwarriors can exploit to get into systems. “Zero-day” bugs can be used for good, notifying system owners to counteract them. And there’s a market for that information, writes journalist Nicole Perlroth in her new book, This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends. And as in any market, the highest bidder doesn’t always wear a white hat. The bug for sale might be in one government’s systems, purchased by another government, able to employ zero-day vulnerability to not just hack in but also to remain unnoticed. Even better? A way to detect other cyberspies lurking in the code.
Many might not think of South America as a bastion of progressive thought on social issues. But Argentina inspired the world with its 2012 law allowing people to select their own gender on official forms without the need for transition surgery. And it didn’t end there, OZY reports. The country also boosted access to hormone treatments and gender reassignment surgery, and Buenos Aires opened the world’s first high school for transgender students. But while trans people from celebrities to politicians are becoming more public, they still face violence and discrimination, with 59 trans people murdered in 2018.
It’s too soon. That’s how the “I Will Always Love You” singer sees a bipartisan effort by Tennessee legislators to immortalize her with a statue on the state Capitol grounds in Nashville. “I don’t think putting me on a pedestal is appropriate at this time,” Parton, 75, said in a statement posted on social media. The idea came up during a debate over taking down a bust inside the Capitol of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, an early Ku Klux Klan leader. Parton said maybe “somewhere down the road, or perhaps after I’m gone” if the state is still interested, “I’m certain I will stand proud.”
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