News of The Day.

  • Robert Massimi.
  • Vote counting begins today at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, after nearly 6,000 workers cast ballots on whether to form a union. The effort is the biggest unionization push in the company’s 25-year history and is viewed as a bellwether for the broader labor movement in the US.
  • Amazon is the country’s second-largest employer, with roughly 950,000 workers in the US — 400,000 of which have been hired within the past year as online shopping boomed amid the pandemic. Labor advocates say a vote to unionize could set off a chain reaction across the company’s other sites. Amazon officials say the average pay at the Bessemer location is $15.30 per hour, more than twice the minimum wage, and workers receive health and dental benefits. Organizers also view the Bessemer facility, where 85% of workers are Black, as a foothold in the South, where union membership is half the national average.
  • The result is expected this week.
  • WHO Report Inconclusive
  • A joint report from the World Health Organization and China on the origins of the coronavirus failed to answer key questions such as when, where, and how the virus first started spreading. The results followed a four-week on-site probe carried out more than a year after the first cases were reported in China; critics accused Beijing of delaying and obstructing the investigation. The report concluded the virus likely jumped from bats to animals via an intermediate host and called the prospect of a lab leak “extremely unlikely.” The report, which hasn’t yet been made public, was subject to approval by the Chinese government.
  • Separately, President Joe Biden said 90% of US adults will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine by April 19. The objective is bolstered by a plan to have 40,000 pharmacies across the country available as local vaccination sites. The comments followed warnings from health officials that cases have begun rising again, up almost 15% over the past week.
  • Elsewhere, reports suggest Canadian health officials will recommend temporarily suspending the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in people under 55. The reasons were not specified, though it becomes the latest challenge in the company’s vaccine rollout.
  • In the US, almost 95 million people have received at least one vaccination dose (37% of the adult population). The total reported death toll stands at 550,036, with the rolling average of daily deaths just under 1,000 (see data).
  • Ever Given Freed
  • A massive container ship that blocked Egypt’s Suez Canal for almost six days was freed yesterday, allowing a backlog of hundreds of ships to begin traversing the maritime shortcut once again. The 1,300-foot-long, 220,000-ton vessel was dislodged after 10 tugboats pulled for days — aided by a high tide — while sand and mud were dredged from under the ship’s bow.
  • The canal connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas — and ultimately the Atlantic and Indian Oceans — shaving off thousands of miles and almost four weeks from the alternative route around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. An estimated $9B in trade (see breakdown) came to a standstill each day the canal was blocked. Meanwhile, Russia has taken the opportunity to advocate for increased use of the Northern Sea Route, which cuts directly across the Arctic Circle.
  • See photos of the ordeal and check out a detailed visualization of the world’s shipping lanes here.
  • Editor’s note: The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd began in earnest yesterday. See yesterday’s overview of the proceedings here.
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  • > №1 Baylor, №2 Houston notch Elite Eight victories, advance to NCAA men’s Final Four (More) | №1 UConn, №3 Arizona advance to NCAA women’s Final Four (More)
  • > Academy Awards backtracks on previous decision to only allow nominees to accept awards if they attend ceremony in person (More) | New York City’s 2021 Tribeca Film Festival (June 9–20) announces it will be held in-person and outdoors (More)
  • > Ghislaine Maxwell faces two new charges including sex trafficking of a minor (More) | Nike sues company who made rapper Lil Nas X’s $1,000 “Satan Shoes” which contain a drop of human blood in the soles (More)
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  • Science & Technology
  • > Biden administration announces goal of installing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, 50% more than current projections; would provide enough power for 10 million homes (More)
  • > Robot-maker Boston Dynamics unveils Stretch, a mobile warehouse robot capable of moving up to 800 boxes per hour, comparable to a human (More)
  • > Researchers turn discarded tires into graphene — two-dimensional sheets of carbon — for use in reinforcing concrete; modified concrete is up to 30% stronger than normal (More)
  • Business & Markets
  • > US stock markets mixed (S&P 500 -0.1%, Dow +0.3%, Nasdaq -0.6%); bank stocks fall on news that hedge fund Archegos Capital is unwinding $30B worth of shares after investing on margin (More)
  • > Southwest Airlines to buy 100 Boeing 737 MAX model jets; Boeing shares up 2% (More) | Czech billionaire Petr Kellner one of five killed in Alaska helicopter crash (More)
  • > Visa to allow the first use of cryptocurrency for payment settlements; Bitcoin and crypto markets surge on the news (More)
  • Politics & World Affairs
  • > Opening statements made in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, with first two witnesses called; defense argues George Floyd’s death was primarily caused by heart problems and drug use, not Chauvin’s restraint (More) | Livestream the trial here (More)
  • > Wildfires burn through almost 1,000 acres in South Dakota, causing hundreds to evacuate their homes and forcing the closure of Mount Rushmore (More)
  • > New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) faces ninth accusation of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment; Sherry Vill accuses Cuomo of forcibly kissing her in front of family members while the governor was in her town surveying flood damage in 2017 (More)
  • Wired UK | James Temperton. By the time she was just 3 years old, Mila Makovec had begun showing signs of a rare neurodegenerative condition known as Batten disease. Her mother’s quest to find a treatment for the inevitably fatal disease led to a gene therapy breakthrough. (Read)
  • Drake’s Plate
  • SF Gate | Katie Dowd. Believed to be a priceless treasure, a brass plate describing Sir Francis Drake’s supposed 1579 exploration of the Pacific coast, rewrote California’s history. Decades after its discovery, it was found to be an elaborate hoax. (Read)
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  • Please support our sponsors!
  • US church attendance dips below half.
  • Try your hand at steering through the Suez Canal (don’t get stuck …).
  • The entire Louvre collection is now freely available online.
  • From our partners: This single tool has everything you need to build, host, and market your website or online store. Get started for free! #Ad
  • Heavy rains bring waterfalls to Australia’s most famous rock.
  • New theory pushes the origin of the Black Death back by a century.
  • Top Los Angeles lifeguards make more than $300K per year.
  • Fluid art mimics Earth’s diverse landscapes. (w/video)
  • Clickbait: What makes some rabbits do handstands?
  • Historybook: Vincent van Gogh born (1853); Treaty of Paris ends Crimean War (1856); HBD Celine Dion (1968); President Ronald Reagan survives shooting by John Hinckley Jr. (1981); RIP American musician Bill Withers (2020).
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