The FDA is looking to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars within the next year to “significantly reduce disease and death.”
Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.
(You can also get “5 Things You Need to Know Today” delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)
There have now been more than 150 million reported coronavirus cases worldwide, less than 13 months after the pandemic began. Across the United States, more cities are reopening — New York City, for instance, is primed to lift all restrictions by July 1. Still, experts say more people need to get vaccinated in order to maintain safety. That could be a problem, since a CNN poll reveals about a quarter of American adults say they won’t try to get a vaccine. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has been consulting “nonstop” with the Indian government about aid priorities as the country grapples with a catastrophic surge. The first shipment of supplies from the US, including PPE, oxygen, test kits and masks, should be arriving in India soon. On Thursday, India reported 3,645 deaths, the highest number the country has ever claimed in a single day.
2. Police reform
The Justice Department is reportedly moving forward with plans to charge Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers with federal civil rights violations in connection with the death of George Floyd last May. The reports of the possible federal indictments come a week after Chauvin was found guilty on three charges of murder related to Floyd’s death. The three other officers involved will face trial in August. Yesterday, lawmakers on Capitol Hill and advocates who want to overhaul the nation’s policing laws held a series of meetings to identify legislation that can pass both chambers of Congress. The families of several victims of police violence also met with prominent Republican lawmakers to request meaningful change on the issue.
3. Security hacks
At least five federal civilian agencies appear to have been breached in a hack affecting Pulse Secure VPN, a widely used remote connectivity tool. Hackers with suspected ties to China took advantage of vulnerabilities in the system to gain access to government agencies, defense companies and financial institutions in the US and Europe, according to a report released earlier this month. Now, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is trying to determine the full scope of the hack. In a separate incident, hackers stole personnel files of some Washington Metropolitan Police Department officers in a ransomware attack earlier this month. The attackers posted a ransom note claiming they had stolen more than 250 GB of data, and threatened to publish the material if they were not paid. The FBI and the police department are investigating the incident.
The US has begun the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, but al Qaeda is still vowing a “war on all fronts.” Al Qaeda’s influence has been greatly reduced in the ten years since the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, but the group is far from dead. And now, it says it’s planning a comeback after US forces leave Afghanistan by partnering once again with the Taliban. During an interview with CNN conducted through intermediaries, two al Qaeda operatives said the group’s war against the US “will be continuing on all other fronts unless they are expelled from the rest of the Islamic world.” The troop drawdown was made possible when the US cut a deal with the Afghan Taliban to sever ties with al Qaeda. The latter group’s willingness to talk now, which is unusual, could raise concern about the Taliban’s honesty regarding the deal.
At least 44 people have died and more than 100 are injured after a crush during a religious celebration at Israel’s Mount Meron. An estimated 50,000-100,000 people had crowded onto the mountain to celebrate the Lag B’Omer holiday, despite warnings from the government to avoid the gathering due to Covid-19 concerns. Witnesses said singing and dancing devolved into chaos as a huge wave of people trapped others beneath them. Israel’s emergency service chief said the crush is “one of the most difficult civil disasters Israel has ever known.” An investigation into the tragedy is already underway.
World’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge opens in Portugal
You can now buy a seat on a Bezos-backed Blue Origin rocket
Wanna get away? Like, really really away?
“Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” stages reunion with possibly more familiar faces to come
Kamala Harris to be first vice president with wax figure at Madame Tussauds
Meeting your own hyper-realistic wax figure must be quite a trip.
Tiny cabins become hot property for pandemic getaways
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately … and ignore my constant work emails.”
That’s how many people could be living in poverty in Myanmar by 2022 — about 48% of the country’s population — if the security and economic situation doesn’t improve, according to the United Nations Development Program. Myanmar has been hit with a double crisis: The pandemic, and the fallout from a military coup.
“I’m not a doctor. I’m not a respected source of information, even for me.”
Podcast star Joe Rogan, who walked back comments he made on his show suggesting healthy young people should not get the Covid-19 vaccine.
Rise and shine!
It’s Friday, sleepy heads! Time to wriggle out of your cozy sleeping sock and seize the day, like this little chick has. (Click here to view.)