Former President Donald Trump once dubbed Kim Jong Un “Little Rocket Man,” but today the White House isn’t laughing after North Korea conducted two suspected ballistic missile tests into the sea near Japan. If confirmed, the launches would be the first in almost a year and another sign of growing tension between Pyongyang and Washington. Earlier this month, Kim’s powerful sister warned the new U.S. administration not to “cause a stink” in the region. The apparent launches, which were strongly condemned by Japan, come as Tokyo begins its Olympic torch relay ahead of the July games.
2. Biden, Facing Multiple Challenges, to Give First Press Conference
Immigration, gun violence, racism, coronavirus, heightened tensions with China and Russia: President Joe Biden will have plenty to speak about in his first solo press conference today. In the wake of recent mass shootings, Biden will likely be pressed on his press secretary’s hints that he’s considering executive orders on gun control. He’s also expected to highlight his successes: delivering 100 million vaccines in well under 100 days and passing the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue bill. Meanwhile, Biden has handed Vice President Kamala Harris the possibly poisoned chalice of stemming migration at the U.S.- Mexico border.
Lawyers for Russian dissident Alexei Navalny say they’ve been blocked from seeing him and suspect he may be hospitalized in the notorious penal colony where he’s serving his sentence. The opposition politician was jailed for two and a half years after narrowly surviving a poisoning he blamed on President Vladimir Putin. Now his health is deteriorating, aides said Wednesday, adding he can no longer walk. “We don't know where Alexei Navalny is and why they are hiding him from his lawyers,” said Leonid Volkov. Russian authorities responded that his health is “satisfactory,” but supporters are planning more protests.
4. Nike and H&M Under Fire in China Over Xinjiang Cotton
Chinese citizens are calling for a boycott of Nike and H&M over their statements that they don’t use cotton from Xinjiang province due to concerns over the forced labor of Uyghurs. While the U.S. and Swedish companies made the remarks last year, they have recently resurfaced and drawn the ire of the Communist Youth League and state media. The hashtag “I support Xinjiang cotton” is now the top trending topic on Weibo, and at least three Chinese e-commerce platforms — Pinduoduo, JD.com and Tmall — have stopped selling clothes from H&M.
Things just got worse for embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo after reports that his family got special access to virus testing last year. Virginia, which had America’s second-highest number of executions, has become the first Southern state to end the death penalty. And New Zealand has passed a bill that allows three days of bereavement leave after a miscarriage or stillbirth.
Coronavirus Update: A new COVID-19 variant described as a “double mutant” has been found in India, though scientists say there’s no evidence yet that it’s easier to catch or more lethal. And as vaccination rollouts lag in Africa, a new study has shown the continent was hit much harder during the second wave, while scientists warn of a coming third wave.
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Not since Boaty McBoatface has a ship inspired such global glee. Social media schadenfreude unleashed a flood of memes after a 1,312-foot-long vessel got wedged in the narrow Suez Canal. Pictures showed a small bulldozer sent to move the Ever Given, which for over a day blocked one of the world’s major waterways connecting the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Many referenced a scene from Austin Powers where the spy attempts to turn a cart in a narrow passageway, while others related to the ship’s predicament. One tweeted: “glad i decided to take the panama canal instead of the suez today.”
2. Hitchhiker’s Guide: Incredible Photo Shows Polarized Black Hole
Soundgarden sang it, now you can see it. Astronomers have released a mind-blowing new image of a black hole enhanced with polarized light, calling it a “major milestone.” The Event Horizon Telescope collaboration, which released the first-ever picture of a black hole in 2019, spent two years studying the polarization of the radio waves around it. Scientists say the image reveals the vortex-like shape of its magnetic fields, which is crucial to understanding how black holes grow and expel massive jets of energy. The black hole in question lies about 55 million light-years away and is 6.5 billion times as massive as the sun.
3. Headmaster Who Made Black Student Kneel Resigns
Apologize “the African way.” That’s what a white headmaster at a Catholic school in Long Island, New York, told a Black student, ordering him to kneel while he did it. The principal has now resigned, the school said in a Wednesday statement. Trisha Paul, the 11-year-old’s mother, learned what had happened when her son seemed sad one day after school and she asked him what was wrong. When she spoke to the headmaster and told him he’d “humiliated and degraded” her son, she said he didn’t seem to get it. Her son now attends class remotely.
4. Efforts to #FreeBritney Continue as Pop Star Petitions Court
It’s toxic. That’s how Britney Spears feels about her father being in control of her life. She’s filed a petition asking a Los Angeles court to remove Jamie Spears as “conservator of her person.” The 39-year-old was first placed under her father’s conservatorship in 2008 after a public meltdown, but he began sharing the role in 2019 for health reasons. While fans continue their social media campaign under the hashtag #FreeBritney, Spears now asks that temporary conservator Jodi Montgomery permanently replace her father to oversee her medical decisions, control her visitors and appoint caretakers and security.
5. Rapinoe Slams Gender Pay Gap at White House Event
“I've been devalued, I've been disrespected and dismissed because I am a woman,” U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe said at an “Equal Pay Day” event at the White House Wednesday. The two-time World Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist met with President Biden, who is pushing legislation to curb gender pay disparities. Rapinoe also addressed the House Oversight Committee on the issue, describing how the women’s national team is paid significantly less than their male counterparts and commenting on the recent controversy over the disparities between the NCAA women’s and men’s March Madness tournaments.