EU Sanctions Belarus, Floyd Family To Meet Biden, Life In Gaza: The News You Need To Start Your Day

Published May 25, 2021 at 8:25 AM EDT
The family of Daunte Wright march for the one year anniversary of George Floyd's death on Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Minneapolis, Minn. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
Christian Monterrosa
The family of Daunte Wright during a march Saturday in Minneapolis, Minn., marking the one year anniversary of George Floyd's murder.

Good morning, hope you're have an excellent start to your Tuesday. Rachel Treisman, Emily Alfin Johnson, Nell Clark and William Jones are here to guide you through the news:

  • Belarus is facing sanctions from the European Union after the country grounded a plane yesterday to arrest a dissident journalist.
  • George Floyd's murder one year ago today ignited nationwide calls for justice and change. President Biden had hoped to mark the day with the passage of a federal police reform bill, but it's stalled in the Senate.
  • As U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the Middle East, we take lookat what life’s been like on the ground since the cease-fire.
  • President Biden will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva
  • 🎧 Listen to today’s Up First, our podcast of the top news to start your day.

Before We Let You Go

How To Watch The 'Super Flower Blood Moon' Lunar Eclipse

Posted May 25, 2021 at 10:38 AM EDT

The chances are that if you're a Morning Edition listener, you're probably an early riser.

If that's the case, you're in for a treat tomorrow just before sunrise, as long as the sky is clear. You'll get a glimpse of what's being dubbed a Super Flower Blood Moon.

This map shows the visibility of the total lunar eclipse in the contiguous U.S. at 7:11 a.m. Eastern time this Wednesday.
This map shows the visibility of the total lunar eclipse in the contiguous U.S. at 7:11 a.m. Eastern time this Wednesday.

The lengthy name is the result of a few astronomical phenomena coming together at once.

There's a great write-up on this story, where you can find out more about what a Super Flower Blood Moon is and what time you'll need to be up tomorrow morning.

Race And Policing

Where Police Reform Stands One Year After George Floyd's Murder

Posted May 25, 2021 at 10:29 AM EDT
Six people hold a large banner that shows an illustration of George Floyd's face next to the words "Justice For George" as they lead a group of demonstrators over a sidewalk sprinkled with pink and red rose petals.
KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images
People hold a banner calling for justice for George Floyd during a march in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 23. His killing by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin exactly one year ago sparked a nationwide reckoning over racial injustice and police brutality.

Vigils are being held across the country for George Floyd today, exactly one year after he was murdered by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Members of Floyd's family will also travel to the White House for a private meeting with President Biden, who has spoken with them several times — most recently after Chauvin was found guilty last month — and promised action.

Biden had hoped to mark the anniversary with the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, federal legislation that includes a slew of police reforms. But that's not happening.

The act passed the House in March but is still the subject of bipartisan negotiations in the politically-divided Senate. One sticking point is over modifications to qualified immunity, which protects officers from civil repercussions.

Still, lawmakers sound optimistic about reaching a compromise, even if beyond deadline.

The year since Floyd's death has seen a national reckoning over race and policing, sparking sustained protests and a patchwork of local reforms. It's also changed America's relationship with empathy. (For more on racial trauma and how to address it, check out NPR's Life Kit.)


After A Viral Public Library Performance, The Linda Lindas Have A Record Deal

Posted May 25, 2021 at 10:25 AM EDT
All four members of the band the Linda Lindas stand in front of bookshelves and play instruments. The members are all young girls between 10 and 16. Three play guitars and one plays the drums.
LA Public Library/YouTube

It's been a wild month for Bela, Eloise, Lucia and Mila, the four members of the teen punk band, The Linda Lindas.

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Public Library was filled with screams of "Poser! Blockhead! Riff raff! Jerk face!" as the punk band performed their song "Racist, Sexist Boy" to a socially distanced, masked crowd. A clip from the show went viral earlier this week when the library shared it to their nearly 40,000 followers on Twitter.

And if that wasn't enough excitement, the group has now been signed to longstanding L.A. punk label Epitaph Records.

All between the ages of 10 and 16, The Linda Lindas are "two sisters, a cousin and their close friend," according to the group's Bandcamp page. The group counts music legends likeParamore's Hayley Williamsand Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello among their rapidly growing fan base.

The Cypress Park branch of the L.A. Public Library brought in the Asian and Latinx band for a performance and interview to kick off the Library's "Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month" series.

They played a 40-minute set of original songs, plus covers of Bikini Kill's "Rebel Girl" and The Muffs' "Big Mouth." According to the band's website, their music takes influence from "the spirit of original punk, power pop and new wave."

Listen to The Linda Lindas' song "Racist, Sexist Boy" below.

More on The Linda Lindas and their new record deal, here.


Samoa Planned To Swear In Its First Female Leader Yesterday But The Incumbent Won't Budge

Posted May 25, 2021 at 10:09 AM EDT
Samoa's Prime Minister-elect Fiame Naomi Mata'afa speaks to reporters.
Anetone Sagaga/AP
Samoa Observer
Samoa was plunged into a constitutional crisis Monday when Prime Minister-elect Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, who won an election last month, was locked out of Parliament and the previous leader claimed he remained in charge.

Samoa is experiencing a constitutional crisis, with two opposing leaders claiming to be prime minister and no clear path forward.

The Pacific island nation held a general election in April to form a new government. Monday was supposed to mark the first transfer of power to a different ruling party in some four decades, and the swearing-in of the first female prime minister.

But when Prime Minister-elect Fiame Naomi Mata'afa and her party showed up at parliament, the doors were locked. They ended up having a ceremony outdoors, and the incumbent prime minister — who has been in power for more than 20 years — accused them of staging a coup.

It's an unprecedented situation. So what happens next? Damon Salesa, a professor of Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, says there's no easy solution.

"Were going to have to rely on a more ad-hoc way to produce a settlement, and probably that's going to require either a concession or through some sort of social, traditional settlement," he tells NPR.

The Biden Administration

President Biden To Meet With Putin In Geneva

Posted May 25, 2021 at 10:02 AM EDT

President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are set to meet in Geneva on June 16 for their first summit.

Biden will attend the summit after first gathering with G7 leaders in the United Kingdom and then NATO allies in Brussels.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends the online Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by US President Joe Biden.
Alexei Druzhinin/Alexei Druzhinin/TASS
Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends the online Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by US President Joe Biden.

Biden has said he wants to have a “stable, predictable relationship” with Moscow even as tensions grow over Russia’s election interference and cyberattacks, among other issues.

Biden hopes to discuss those points of contention as well as Russia’s infringements of Ukrainian sovereignty and the emergency landing of a Ryanair flight in Belarus, which has a close relationship with Moscow.

The Kremlin said the two leaders would discuss bilateral ties, strategic nuclear stability, and cooperation in the fight against COVID-19.

The New Normal

Feeling Anxious About Things Reopening? Here's What Psychologists Recommend

Posted May 25, 2021 at 9:34 AM EDT

As more and more Americans get vaccinated, folks are shedding their masks and resuming activities that the pandemic put on hold for a year. It's a big step closer to normalcy for many people.

But the pandemic isn't over. Only about 40% of the U.S. is fully vaccinated. We're still dealing with the loss of life, the economic impacts, vaccine hesitancy and possible new variants of COVID-19.

All this can leave you feeling a slew of conflicting emotions, including anxiety. So we checked in with a few psychologists about how to navigate this moment of transition.

Here's what they recommend:

  1. Be kind to yourself
  2. Hold on to the hobbies and coping mechanisms you found during the pandemic
  3. Make your boundaries clear to those around you
  4. Acknowledge the grief and loss of the past year
  5. Make room for joy

For more, check out the full story, here.

NPR Reportable

Moderna Says Its COVID-19 Vaccine Is Effective In Children 12 And Up

Posted May 25, 2021 at 9:20 AM EDT

And now for some good, but widely expected, news: Moderna said today that its COVID-19 vaccine works as well in adolescents as it does in adults.

A new study finds that the vaccine's overall efficacy was 93% in teens who didn't have preexisting antibodies to the virus, and that no cases of COVID-19 were identified in teens who got two doses. It notes no safety concerns.

The data supports expansion of the use of Moderna's vaccine in children ages 12 to 17. Moderna has not yet filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to expand its emergency use authorization for this age group, but said it plans to in early June.

That means FDA authorization would come sometime in July. The two doses of Moderna's vaccine are given 28 days apart, and full protection kicks in 14 days after the second dose — so it would be a tight squeeze to use it for kids returning to school in August or early September.

See how your state's vaccination campaign is going here.

Photo Essay

A Look At Life On The Ground In Gaza Since The Cease-Fire

Posted May 25, 2021 at 9:02 AM EDT

It's been five days since a cease-fire went into effect in Gaza. The 11-day war left 250 people dead, mostly Palestinians, and a number of buildings in the area destroyed.

Friday, the first day of the cease-fire, NPR's Daniel Estrin shared a snapshot of life in Gaza:

Cleanup in the areas where building were destroyed is underway as some, including fisherman in Gaza City, are able to resume work.

Earlier today, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Jerusalem, promising to rally international support to rebuild in Gaza but said they'd work to avoid that aid supporting Hamas.

Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is headed to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The cease-fire that came into effect has held but it did not address any of the underlying issues in the conflict.

NPR Enterprise

Disinformation About Black Lives Matter Is Spreading Online

Posted May 25, 2021 at 8:43 AM EDT
A woman holds a Black Lives Matter flag during the funeral service of Daunte Wright in Minneapolis, April 22, 2021.
KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images
A woman holds a Black Lives Matter flag during the funeral service of Daunte Wright in Minneapolis, April 22, 2021.

Black Lives Matter activists are seeing a rise in the number of disparaging posts about the movement online that are riddled with disinformation. Jordan Geiger is an organizer with Black Lives Matter in Indiana and he sees them as a way of causing distrust.

"Like reports circulating that BLM is going to vandalize businesses in downtown areas, that we are targeting specific white communities," he says. "It makes our supporters say, okay, I don't want to get involved in that. So when those kinds of lies and the the disinformaton just goes unchecked, folks will believe it."

There are also false claims online that that the U.S. government has identified Black Lives Matter as a terrorist group. And another widely circulated post that was debunked claimed that activists had badly beaten a group of elderly white people.

Ashley Bryant is the co-leader of WinBlack/Palante. That's a non-partisan group that monitors disinformation aimed at people of color. She's been tracking automated bots that send out scripted disinformation and spread conspiracy theories.

"That went from George Floyd not being dead to George Soros funding protests and the the full out attacks on BLM where there’s foreign actors, there’s fake accounts pretending to be Antifa, all to actually just build this violent narrative around BLM."
Ashley Bryant, Co-leader of WinBlack/Palante

While a large majority of Black Americans continue to back the movement, overall support has dropped from the record level that occurred after George Floyd’s death. How much of that loss is due to disinformation is difficult to measure but what's certain is the battle over controlling what people believe about Black Lives Matter is ongoing.


Trump Speaks To The GOP — And Pushes Election Lies — By Blog

Posted May 25, 2021 at 8:38 AM EDT

Kicked off Twitter and Facebook, former President Donald Trump has taken to releasing statements on his website to weigh in on current events — and repeat false claims about his election loss.

In fact, more than a third of the nearly 90 posts published since late March mention the 2020 election. Others focus on candidate endorsements, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney and policy criticisms of President Biden.


Trump is no longer in office. So why do these statements matter?

For one, he's considered a frontrunner to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2024. But he also has tremendous influence over the party now.

A lot of Republican elected officials appear to be following his lead: GOP leaders oppose a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riots, Cheney was purged from House leadership and his baseless claims of election fraud have spurred Republican-led states to enact new voting restrictions.

Meanwhile, in Arizona's Maricopa County, some 2.1 million ballots from the general election — the results of which have been long certified — are being recounted under another GOP-led audit.

It's being conducted by a controversial firm, and is facing increasingly harsh criticism from a number of county officials. It's also attracted national attention from the U.S. Justice Department and, of course, Trump. More here:


The EU Is Punishing Belarus After It Grounded A Plane And Arrested A Journalist

Posted May 25, 2021 at 8:26 AM EDT
MINSK, BELARUS - MAY 25: Journalist, wanted for his involvement in alleged âterrorist incidents" and opposition figure Roman Protasevich, who was detained on the plane that landed in Minsk Airport on the grounds of a bomb alert in Belarus, is seen during his first statement to the security forces in Minsk, Belarus on May 25, 2021. (Photo by telegram@zheltyeslivy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Belarusian opposition figure Roman Protasevich is seen for the first time after being detained on a plane that landed in Minsk Airport.

The government in Belarus is facing international outrage and economic consequences from the European Union after it forced a commercial flight to land in order to catch an opposition journalist.

The journalist is Roman Protasevich and he was headed to Lithuania where he was living.

Here's what you need to know about this story:

What action is the EU taking? The European Union is calling on all EU-based airlines to avoid flying over Belarus. It's also asking the European Council – which is the decision-making body of the EU – to ban Belarusian airlines from flying over EU airspace. That effectively blocks the country’s air connections to Western Europe. And on top of that, the EU is also considering a new round of sanctions on the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.

European leaders speak at a EU leaders summit in Brussels, where they discussed the response to Belarus grounding a plane and arresting an opposition journalist.
Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images
European leaders gather at a EU summit in Brussels, where they discussed the response to Belarus.

Remind us, who exactly is Roman Protasevich?
He's the editor of a news channel on the messaging app, Telegram, which has shed light on government corruption and fueled months of protests in Belarus over what many believe was a fraudulent election last August. He left Belarus in 2019, and now resides in Lithuania.

And what were the circumstances surrounding his arrest? On Sunday afternoon, Belarus deployed a fighter jet to force a Ryanair flight, flying from Greece to Lithuania, to land in the Belarusian capital Minsk so that authorities could arrest Protasevich.

Do we know where Protasevich is now? He's still detained. On Monday, a video was posted to pro-government social media showing him confessing to organizing protests. Protasevich says in the video he has no health issues and is being treated well, but has visible bruises on his face and looks disheveled.

NPR's Rob Schmitz is covering this story from Berlin and you can hear him on today's Morning Edition.