In a curious turn of phrase, Kim Jo Yong — the influential sister of North Korea’s leader — has warned the new U.S. administration that “if it wants to sleep in peace for the coming four years” it should “refrain from causing a stink.” Her comments came as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits America’s Asian allies and the White House reports Pyongyang has rebuffed attempts at dialogue. The North Korean leader had an unusual bromance with former President Donald Trump, who raved about his “love letters.”
2. Biden Under Fire Over Spike in Border Crossings
President Joe Biden is under increasing political pressure from both sides over the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, with Republicans calling for tighter security and Democrats raising concerns over conditions for migrants. Biden abandoned some Trump-era policies, halting deportations and stopping construction of the border wall, but illegal crossings have spiked since he took office, with detentions up 28 percent in February, and March expected to see an even bigger surge. Among those that arrived at the border last month were more than 9,400 minors, and migrant advocates report “dramatically overcrowded” facilities.
Pope Francis has confirmed that priests can’t bless same-sex unions, dealing a blow to LGBTQ Catholics who had placed their hopes on the reformist pontiff. Francis has previously met with gay rights advocates at the Vatican and has spoken warmly about members of the community, calling them “children of God.” However, the Vatican said Monday it won’t allow priests to bless gay marriages because God “cannot bless sin.” The comments drew quick reaction on social media, with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s husband Chasten tweeting a photo of their wedding, saying, “Love is love.”
Beijing has asked Chinese tech giant Alibaba to get rid of its media assets over concerns about its influence. The company owns Hong Kong’s leading English newspaper, The South China Morning Post, as well as stakes in Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, and video platform Bilibili. Alibaba founder Jack Ma has been the target of the Communist Party in recent months after he publicly criticized the financial regulatory system. After the remarks, the IPO for his other venture, Ant Group, was halted and Beijing began an antitrust investigation into Alibaba.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has labeled the penal colony where he’s serving a 2.5-year prison sentence “a concentration camp,” comparing the measures in place to George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The U.S. Senate has confirmed Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, making her the first Native American to lead a Cabinet department. And U.S. military personnel will be sent to Mozambique to train soldiers fighting a jihadist insurgency in the country’s north.
Coronavirus Update: WHO experts are meeting today to discuss the AstraZeneca vaccine as an increasing number of countries suspend its use over blood clot fears. Germany, Italy and France are the latest countries to stop using the vaccine, despite health experts and vaccine manufacturers insisting it is safe.
In anticipation of March Madness, OZY is putting The Carlos Watson Show guests up against each other for our own March Matchups.
Today: You need a fashion makeover — stat! Are you going to Queer Eye fashion guruTan France or Baby Phat founderKimora Lee Simmons? Watch them both on The Carlos Watson Show, and share your vote here.
Ever had an amazing idea but couldn’t put it into action? Lacked the mentorship and cash to get it off the ground? Now’s your chance with OZY’s Genius Awards, in partnership with Chevrolet. We’ll give ten U.S. college students up to $10,000 for innovative projects in disciplines including tech, the arts and government. Remember poetry phenom Amanda Gorman from Inauguration Day? We recognized her nascent talent with an OZY Genius Award way back in 2017. So don’t sit on your laurels, or you’ll never be a laureate! Apply today — or nominate someone you believe could change the world!
2. Leaving on a Jet Plane, US Airlines See Vaccine Rebound
Sunscreen? Check. Swimsuit? Check. Vaccination card? With more Americans getting their COVID-19 shots, people are starting to think about vacations again and airlines say they’re seeing a “large uptick” in flight reservations. Numbers for domestic travel are getting close to pre-pandemic levels, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said Monday, noting that the past three weeks were the best since the pandemic hit. Revenue is still down due to reduced overseas and business travel, but there’s already been a boost for spring break, and U.S. airline stocks have hit their highest level since February 2020.
The International Space Station has ejected its heaviest ever load of space trash. The pallet of old batteries weighing 2.9 tons will remain in orbit for up to four years before “burning up harmlessly in the atmosphere,” according to NASA. Last month astronauts completed a four-year project to replace the station’s nickel-hydrogen batteries with lithium-ion ones. NASA says it’ll track the orbital trash, moving at 4.8 miles per second, though it poses no risks. Around 34,000 objects larger than 3.9 inches are currently floating around Earth, according to the European Space Agency.
After years of being slammed with the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, this year’s Academy Award nominees are more diverse, with nine actors of color and two female directors among the contenders for top awards. There are several firsts: Minari star Steven Yeun is the first Asian American to get a best actor nod and Nomadland director Chloé Zhao is the first woman of color to be nominated for best director. It’s also the first time two female directors have been nominated in that category, with the other being Emerald Fennell for rape revenge film Promising Young Woman.
5. Sting Like a Bee? Fury and Joshua Sign Two-Fight Deal
British boxers Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua have signed a two-fight deal to unify all four world heavyweight titles and are now looking to set the time and place for the match. Joshua currently holds the IBF, WBO and WBA titles, while Fury will defend his WBC belt. “This is the biggest fight in boxing and one of the biggest sporting events in the world,” said Eddie Hearn, Joshua's promoter. “It will be a major, major win for a country that wants to showcase itself.” Fury, 32, hasn’t fought since his knockout win against American Deontay Wilder in February 2020.
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