Strongest cyclone to ever hit Mozambique makes landfall

Cyclone Kenneth, the strongest storm to ever hit Mozambique, made landfall Thursday in the northern part of the country, with wind speeds of up to 140 mph.

The cyclone formed off the coast of Madagascar earlier this week, and comes just five weeks after Cyclone Idai caused widespread destruction; Idai left more than 1,000 people in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe dead and thousands more homeless. “It’s really an anomaly in the history of cyclones in this region,” meteorologist Eric Holthaus told The Guardian. “There’s never been two storms this strong hit in the same year, let alone within five weeks of each other in Mozambique.”

The storm is expected to stay stalled north of the port town Pemba, dumping at least three feet of rain over the next several days. Holthaus said a “blocking pattern” in the upper atmosphere is likely behind the stall, adding that there is evidence climate change is making blocking patterns stronger.

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Anita Hill says Joe Biden still hasn’t given her a genuine apology

Anita Hill feels that former Vice President Joe Biden still owes her a true apology for the way he handled Justice Clarence Thomas’ Senate confirmation hearings, and until she receives one, Hill won’t be able to support his 2020 presidential bid.

“I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I’m sorry for what happened to you,” she told The New York Times during an interview published Thursday. “I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose.”

Biden’s campaign announced on Thursday that he called Hill earlier this month, to share “his regret for what she endured and his admiration for everything she has done to change the culture around sexual harassment in this country.” Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, when Hill accused Thomas, then a Supreme Court nominee, of sexual harassment. Biden has been criticized for allowing Republicans to attack Hill, and not calling more witnesses to support her.

Hill told the Times that this is about more than just expressing regret, and that Biden “needs to give an apology to the other women and to the American public because we know now how deeply disappointed Americans around the country were about what they saw. And not just women. There are women and men now who have just really lost confidence in our government to respond to the problem of gender violence.”

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Anita Hill says Biden still hasn’t given her a genuine apology

Anita Hill feels that former Vice President Joe Biden still owes her a true apology for the way he handled Justice Clarence Thomas’ Senate confirmation hearings, and until she receives one, Hill won’t be able to support his 2020 presidential bid.

“I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I’m sorry for what happened to you,” she told The New York Times during an interview published Thursday. “I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose.”

Biden’s campaign announced on Thursday that he called Hill earlier this month, to shared “his regret for what she endured and his admiration for everything she has done to change the culture around sexual harassment in this country.” Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, when Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment. Biden has been criticized for allowing Republicans to attack Hill, and not calling more witnesses to support her.

Hill told the Times that this is about more than just expressing regret to her, and that Biden “needs to give an apology to the other women and to the American public because we know now how deeply disappointed Americans around the country were about what they saw. And not just women. There are women and men now who have just really lost confidence in our government to respond to the problem of gender violence.”

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The CIA officially joins Instagram

Watch out influencers, the CIA is officially on their Instagram game.

As promised, the agency launched their newest social media account on Thursday — and who would have thought intelligence agents would be such good content-curators? For its first post, the agency shared a staged photo of CIA Director Gina Haspel’s desk space in the form of a clever “I spy” game with Easter eggs hidden all over the scene.

With quite the Pinterest aesthetic, Haspel’s desk is filled with books, plants, stationery, illustrations and other adorable objects that also seem fit for a college student’s dorm room — travel-themed coin bank included. Getting playful, the picture also features a Top Secret Pulp bag, maps of Russia and Iran spread on the desk, a notebook with the words “We share what we can and protect what we must” and even Haspel’s first-ever CIA badge.

CIA spokesperson Chelsea Robinson told The Verge that the account’s main goal is to spark curiosity on the CIA’s mission and that “joining Instagram is another way we’re sharing stories and recruiting talented Americans to serve.” Robinson guaranteed the account “will give a peek into Agency life, but can’t promise any selfies from secret locations.”

For their official bio, the agency kept it traditional with their mission statement: “We are the Nation’s first line of defense. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go.” The account only has about 2,000 followers right now, but if they keep up with the quality content, the CIA could score some lucrative deals with detox tea brands or teeth whitening companies.

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Death toll in Sri Lanka attacks lowered to 253

Sri Lankan officials on Thursday lowered the death toll from Sunday’s attacks from 359 to 253, CNN reports.

Coordinated suicide bombings targeted several churches and hotels on Sunday, and the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, though the bombers were reportedly a part of a lesser-known militant group.

The death toll was initially estimated above 300, but the Sri Lankan Health Ministry revised the estimate after further investigation. “Some of the bodies get severely damaged in these kinds of explosions and it’s possible for some bodies to get completely destroyed or break into parts, making the identification of full bodies difficult,” said the ministry statement. “Hence, counting an exact death toll is challenging.” Read more at CNN.

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Twitter can reportedly filter out white supremacy — but it would probably sweep up GOP politicians too

Twitter seems to have a not-so-public answer to why white supremacist content is permeating its site.

Over the past few years, Twitter has found success in algorithmically banning content and accounts linked to ISIS and other terrorist groups. It sometimes leads to “innocent accounts” such as Arabic language broadcasters being caught up in anti-ISIS sweeps, Vice NewsMotherboard reports a Twitter executive saying at a recent all-staff meeting. But “society, in general, accepts” that sacrifice, the executive reportedly continued.

That apparently isn’t the case when it comes to white supremacist content, though. “In separate discussions” beyond the meeting, one Twitter employee says the site “hasn’t taken the same aggressive approach to white supremacist content because the collateral accounts that are impacted can, in some instances, be Republican politicians,” Vice News writes. Vice News then explained further:

The employee argued that, on a technical level, content from Republican politicians could get swept up by algorithms aggressively removing white supremacist material. Banning politicians wouldn’t be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging all of the white supremacist propaganda, he argued.

A Twitter spokesperson said that this “is not [an] accurate characterization of our policies or enforcement — on any level.” Still, it raises questions about why Twitter doesn’t have a public explanation for why white supremacist posts persist, and how “societal norms” could be stopping Twitter from banning that content altogether, Vice News writes. Read more from Vice News here.

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What’s next for the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Avengers: Endgame?

Avengers: Endgame may offer an ending for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But it’s certainly not the ending. So what will the franchise’s next chapter look like?

Marvel has only officially set a release date for one post-Endgame film: Spider-Man: Far From Home, which hits theaters in July. But a number of other projects are in the works, one being a Black Widow solo movie, in which Scarlett Johansson’s co-stars will reportedly include Rachel Weisz and David Harbour. A 2020 release is rumored.

Also in the works is The Eternals, which revolves around a race of super-powered beings and will reportedly star Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjiani. It could land in 2020 as well.

Another new franchise is Shang-Chi, which is based on the Kung Fu master hero and will be Marvel’s first film centering around an Asian lead. That might make its way in 2021, a year that could also bring Black Panther 2 and Doctor Strange 2.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is also on the way; it’s set to close out the trilogy and be the last film featuring the current version of the Guardians. It was originally expected for 2020 but was delayed after the firing — and re-hiring — of director James Gunn. Now, don’t expect it until 2022.

A third Spider-Man is also happening, and a Captain Marvel follow-up is all but confirmed. Plus, a third Ant-Man seems likely, and there have reportedly been discussions of a fourth Thor. And yes, eventually, there will be another Avengers film.

Marvel’s future will also rely heavily on Disney+, the streaming service where shows based on Loki, Scarlet Witch and Vision, Falcon and Winter Soldier, and Hawkeye are all on the way, and they’ll tie directly into the film universe.

Marvel likely has even more surprises up its sleeve, especially after obtaining Fox’s characters like the Fantastic Four. But one thing is certain: beyond Endgame, the Avengers will return — in some form, at least.

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Joe Biden just poached one of Bernie Sanders’ star 2016 staffers

Biden 2020 is taking on some very Bernie 2016 vibes.

Just hours after Joe Biden announced his 2020 candidacy on Thursday, his campaign also revealed it had hired Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) 2016 national press secretary. Symone Sanders will serve as Biden’s senior adviser, a surprising addition seeing as Sanders criticized the former vice president just a few weeks ago, The Daily Beast reports.

Sanders built a prominent name for herself as part of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 run, notably bringing the Black Lives Matter cause to a campaign criticized for its lack of diversity. She previously said she was waiting to make a 2020 move because there were “a lot of good candidates this time.”

When Biden faced accusations of inappropriately touching women last month, though, Sanders “chastised” him for joking about it, The Daily Beast writes. Yet she did it in a way that almost seemed like she was preparing for a Biden hire, suggesting that Biden say “I’m sorry” so those words would appear in “all the chyrons and headlines.”

Sanders’ move to Biden’s side comes not long after Bernie Sanders lost several of his top 2016 staffers just a month into his 2020 campaign. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 staff was also marred by sexual harassment allegations that apparently went unacknowledged, though he’s since built a leadership team featuring a 70-percent woman staff. About a month ago, Sanders’ staffers also took the unprecedented step of unionizing, and Sanders heralded his presidential campaign as the first to do so.

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The ocean is full of viruses

If you’re already planning your summer vacation at the shore, maybe it’s time to reconsider.

Scientists have traveled all around the world, taking more than 100 samples from the ocean along the way, and discovered nearly 200,000 new species — of viruses. Separated into five different subgroups, these 195,728 viral populations expand our knowledge of marine viruses by a factor of 12.

While the sheer number of invisible viruses in the oceans might make you cringe, it’s actually valuable information, Gizmodo explained. This giant catalog of viruses is essential to understanding how marine ecosystems function, especially with regards to microbes, which are tiny cellular organisms that make up over half of the life in the ocean, pound by pound.

The exciting new find was published on Thursday in the journal Cell, by a team of researchers led by Ann Gregory, a postdoctoral researcher at VIB, a life science research institute in Belgium. The new research “expands our knowledge of what the biological entities on our planet are,” Gregory told Gizmodo.

Despite the huge set of data provided, this is still far from a complete list of every virus in the oceans, the study authors noted. But it will certainly prove useful to all sorts of scientific inquiry, from examining marine life to discovering new antibiotics. Learn more at Gizmodo.

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Joe Biden’s promise to make America great again

Whatever you think of the boatload of Democrats already running for president, or the bold and sometimes politically daft policies they aim to enact after defeating Donald Trump, at least most of these candidates recognize that something significant and transformative happened in American politics back in 2016.

If the video with which Joe Biden launched his own campaign is any indication, this is not the case for the early frontrunner. And that points to a potentially important divide in the Democratic Party — and perhaps in the country at large as well.

Did Trump’s victory in the Republican primaries and general election (together with Bernie Sanders’ remarkably potent Democratic primary challenge to Hillary Clinton) mark a pivot point in American politics, with the country entering a new, angrier, anti-establishment era of tabloid-driven nastiness that requires an equal and opposite populist response from the Democrats? Or have the last three years been an anomaly — a terrifying hallucination that’s discontinuous with American history and recent social, cultural, and economic trends; and from which the country can and should strive to awaken, with the status quo of the past several decades fully restored?

For most of the launch video’s three-and-a-half minutes, the white-haired, 76-year-old Biden stares straight into the camera as stately piano plays and cinematic strings swell behind his weathered voice, retelling the story of the neo-Nazi march and deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia during the summer of 2017, and of how President Trump responded to it by claiming there were “very fine people” on both sides.

This, Biden tells us, is when he knew that the country faced an unprecedented “threat” and pledged to wage a “battle for the soul of this nation” that has now become a campaign for the presidency. Trump’s first term has been an “aberrant moment in time.” But if he manages to win four more years in office, it will alter who we are as a people. “Everything that has made America America is at stake.” That’s because the country is “an idea” that includes the promise that we give “hate no safe harbor.” Biden’s campaign will take a stand against it by helping us to “remember who we are” — and above all that “This is America.” Cue the Biden campaign logo.

It’s a powerful spot. But it’s also a striking expression of complacency — a promise that a Biden presidency would be devoted above all else to returning the country to precisely where it was four years ago, as if little of great consequence had transpired in 2016 and since. The four years of the Trump administration would be bracketed, cordoned off, quarantined, treated as an inexplicable fluke of fate, a toxic detour from America’s wholly admirable moral mission and destiny in the world — to serve as a beacon of freedom and democracy, a light to the nations, a force for peace, prosperity, and goodness for all men and women of good will. The Trump era is a fever dream, and Joe Biden is just the medicine we need to heal and rouse us from the night sweats of our national nightmare.

This is a message tailor-made to appeal to the likes of James Comey, Bill Kristol, Max Boot, Jennifer Rubin, Robert Kagan, Donna Brazile, Bret Stephens, Neera Tanden, Tom Friedman, David Frum, Anne Applebaum, David Brooks, Fred Hiatt, Madeleine Albright, and a few dozen other center-right and center-left pundits, journalists, and policy intellectuals. It’s the distilled essence of the Washington establishment’s high-minded view of the country, its history, and itself.

America, this establishment believes, is fundamentally righteous in its aims and an indisputable force for good around the globe. Its economy is the greatest engine of human prosperity, progress, innovation, and empowerment the world has ever known. Our foreign and domestic policy may need to be tweaked, but not in any significant way. We’ve stumbled from time to time, but we’ve always righted ourselves in the end. As long as men and women of decency and gravity — like those deposed by Trump on the right and threatened by the Sanders insurgency on the left — are returned to their rightful place at the helm, all will be well and what Alexis de Tocqueville memorably described as our national penchant to applaud ourselves can resume as if nothing much had happened.

The question is whether this self-satisfied and contented view of the country and its leadership over much of the past several decades will have enough mainstream appeal among rank-and-file Democrats and within the electorate as a whole to prevail over the anti-establishment alternatives. Biden certainly isn’t the only candidate to think it will — at least to judge from the (thus far) platitude-heavy campaigns of Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg.

Yet because each of those candidates is several decades younger than Biden and also far less deeply entrenched in that establishment, they are able to combine their own relatively complacent approach to retail politics with selective gestures toward more sweeping change. The Biden campaign, by contrast, shows every indication of intending to use the candidate’s name recognition and good will among older voters, built up over decades in public life, to bypass the potentially risky policy bidding war among the other candidates, each one of whom is desperate to pick up support from the party’s multitude of left-leaning interest and activist groups. That could enable Biden to sail right over the policy scrum, leaving his campaign well poised to cultivate a broader appeal — namely, to Americans whose only strong political conviction is that Donald Trump is morally distasteful.

To which the former vice president will respond by channeling the all-American wisdom of Mad Men’s Don Draper: “Vote for me. It will shock you how much Trump (and Bernie) never happened.”

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