It’s good news for polar bears. President Joe Biden has suspended all oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the country’s largest areas of untouched wilderness, undoing a drilling program approved by his predecessor, President Donald Trump. Republicans and the oil industry have been trying to open up the area, which is home to an abundance of wildlife and considered sacred by the Indigenous Gwich’in people, but Biden has opposed drilling in the region. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has paused the leases granted by Trump until an environmental impact assessment is done.
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2. In Tulsa, Biden Takes Aim at GOP Voting Laws
“Fight like heck.” That’s what President Biden promised at an event marking the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa massacre yesterday, saying Vice President Kamala Harris will lead efforts against Republican voting restrictions, which have been slammed for targeting people of color. Biden, the first president to visit Tulsa to commemorate the 300 Black residents murdered by a white mob in 1921, gave an emotional speech, saying, “I come here to help fill the silence, because in silence wounds deepen.” Meanwhile, Texas Democrats blocked one controversial voting law over the weekend by staging a walkout, but Republicans have vowed to keep fighting.
In an act of desperation, Stsiapan Latypov stabbed himself in the throat with a pen in a Minsk court yesterday, saying the authorities had threatened his family if he didn’t plead guilty to organizing anti-government protests. The activist, who was detained in September amid protests over the disputed reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko, was taken for surgery and is recovering in the hospital. Latypov, 41, is one of many Belrusian dissidents facing jail, including journalist Roman Protasevich, whose arrest after the grounding of a Ryanair plane prompted international condemnation last week.
4. Ransomware Attack Hits World’s Biggest Meat Company
Hackers obviously have a beef with Brazilian meat supplier JBS. The company, which is also a leading meat processor in the U.S., told Washington it was hit by a ransomware attack yesterday, most likely from a Russia-based organization. The FBI is now investigating and the White House is assessing supply impacts from the cyberattack. JBS confirmed last night that most of its plants would be operational today as systems start coming back online. President Biden has called for an upgrade of U.S. cybersecurity after another ransomware attack on the Colonial oil pipeline last month.
Malaysia scrambled fighter jets on Monday after 16 Chinese military aircraft flew into its Exclusive Economic Zone in the disputed South China Sea. There are fears of an oil spill emergency off the coast of Sri Lanka as a container ship that caught fire two weeks ago has started to sink. And female Afghan MP and Vice President of the National Assembly Fawzia Koofi told OZY about her hopes and fears ahead of the U.S. withdrawal.
Coronavirus Update: U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci described the public fascination with him as “totally nuts” in newly released emails that show him working around the clock to stem the spread of coronavirus at the start of the pandemic last year. The U.K. yesterday reported no COVID-19 deaths for the first time in 10 months.
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She wasn’t going to just bear with it. When a bear trespassed into a California backyard and took a swipe at one of her beloved dogs, 17-year-old Hailey Morinico didn’t hesitate: She gave the intruder a firm shove. The incident, which was caught on the house’s security cameras and has gone viral on TikTok, happened when the bear and its two cubs climbed onto the yard’s brick wall, causing the family’s dogs to go berserk. Morinico and her dogs escaped unharmed, but she later had second thoughts about her actions, warning others, “Do not push bears.”
2. Airlines Ban Booze After Antisocial Passenger Behavior
With travel restrictions lifting, eager tourists can finally get back in the skies. But some have forgotten their manners during lockdown. Since January, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has received 2,500 reports of unruly behavior. Now two airlines, Southwest and American, have banned booze on flights after cases of misbehaving passengers. On a Southwest flight from Sacramento to San Diego last weekend, a passenger punched a flight attendant, causing her to lose two teeth. Southwest hadn’t even returned to serving alcohol since the pandemic, but has now scrapped plans to resume in-flight drinks this month.
3. Arizona Prepares to Use Holocaust Gas for Executions
It’s so gruesome you couldn’t make it up. Arizona is preparing to use hydrogen cyanide — also known as Zyklon B when it was used by the Nazis in the gas chambers of Auschwitz — to execute death row inmates. Officials have restored a gas chamber not used in 22 years and obtained the ingredients for the compound, which is known to result in botched executions that take much longer than other methods. Arizona, one of 27 states to use capital punishment, has 115 inmates on death row. President Biden supports ending the federal death penalty through legislation.
4. The Battle for Reading Jail: Preserving LGBT History
Oscar Wilde’s “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” written when he was imprisoned there for homosexuality in the 19th century, may be one of the most tragic poems in English literature. Now the prison itself is under threat and activists want it preserved as an important part of LGBT and literary history. A recent $3.7 million bid to transform the U.K. government-owned prison into a museum was rejected, and local officials are now considering raising cash through crowdfunding. LGBT campaigners and Reading-born actress Kate Winslet back that plan, rather than another that would see the building become a boutique hotel.
5. Athletes Praise Osaka for Mental Health Revelation
Naomi Osaka, four-time Grand Slam champion and the world’s highest-paid female athlete, is being widely praised for shining a light on athletes’ mental health. After pulling out of the French Open this week citing anxiety and depression, the 23-year-old tennis superstar has been lauded for her candidness on a once-taboo topic. “So damn impressive taking the high road when the powers that be don’t protect their own,” tweeted NBA star Steph Curry. Women's tennis trailblazer Billie Jean King called the move “incredibly brave,” while gymnast Laurie Hernandez said, “Your mental health matters and should always come first.”
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