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Here are the headlines you Need2Know for Thursday, March 31, 2022:

COVID.GOV LAUNCHES

President Joe Biden announced the launch of a new website with everything you Need2Know about the virus (sorry, we couldn't resist). The site contains a simple interface with quick links to resources for masks, treatments, vaccines and testing. Covid.gov also has a locator tool for people to quickly find tests in their area. It was an eventful Covid-related day for Biden, who also received his second booster shot, just one day after the FDA approved it for people over the age of 50. The president is urging Congress to pass new funding, warning that without it there won’t be enough vaccines for all Americans to receive their fourth shot. COVID.GOV

UKRAINE UPDATE

The U.N. has opened a war crimes investigation into Russia's conduct in Ukraine as fighting continues. There are reports of confusion in Putin’s inner circle as U.S. intel reports that his advisers misinformed him about Russian military struggles in Ukraine. Some officials say Putin may be getting incomplete and overly optimistic intel about the progress of Russian forces, and that he is unaware of the humanitarian crisis within his own army. NY TIMES

SPACE TOURISM RETURNS

Blue Origin is conducting its first launch of 2022 today, sending six passengers – not including Pete Davidson – on a 10-minute trip to space. The flight was originally scheduled for March 23, but was delayed twice. This is the fourth trip to space for Jeff Bezos’ New Shephard program. The spacecraft will reach three times the speed of sound and passengers will get the complete space experience which will let them unbuckle and float around in a zero-gravity atmosphere to feel weightlessness. Taking off from West Texas, the launch is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. ET. SPACE.COM

As soon as we can buy tickets on Expedia, we’re in.

Note: You can watch the launch live on Cheddar!

META GOES ANTI-TIKTOK

Facebook’s parent company Meta reportedly paid Targeted Victory, a GOP-connected consulting firm, to put on a smear campaign against TikTok. The campaign included op-eds in local newspapers and negative coverage about the app on local television. For instance, Targeted Victory spread word of a “Slap a Teacher TikTok challenge” and started rumors on local broadcasts that the challenge had taken off in Hawaii, though no evidence of the challenge can be found. From a PR perspective as well as a financial perspective, Meta has hit a rough patch in the past few months. A recent earnings report said that Facebook’s active users dropped by nearly half a million at the end of 2021. WASH POST

Our grandparents told us that when they went to school it felt like teachers were doing a slap-a-student challenge. 

MAJOR BLOCKCHAIN HACK

In one of the largest heists in cryptocurrency history, thieves targeted blockchain game Axie Infinity to steal an absurd $625 million worth of Ethereum and USDC cryptocurrencies. Axie is a “play-to-earn” game in which users create and collect virtual pets. The creatures are traded as NFT’s using various cryptos as currency. So how did this happen? The hack occurred on a blockchain “bridge” network called Ronin, which is used for transferring cryptos between the Ethereum network and Axie. Attackers reportedly compromised private keys used to validate transactions on the Ronin network, and these keys allowed the hackers to forge fake withdrawals. The first sign something was wrong happened when a user was unable to withdraw funds, though the system has since pledged to its users that no one will lose funds due to the cyberattack. ARS TECHNICA

SHOWBIZ NEWS

WILLIS STEPS AWAY: 67-year-old film legend Bruce Willis is stepping away from acting after receiving a diagnosis of aphasia, which is affecting his cognitive abilities. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, aphasia is a language disorder that results from damage in the area of the brain that controls language expression and comprehension. Willis’ daughter Rumer shared the news on Instagram, encouraging fans to “live it up,” like Bruce always says. INSTAGRAM

CHURCH DITCHES SHOW FOR FINAL FOUR: Country music star Eric Church is getting blowback from fans after canceling a sold-out Texas concert on Saturday so he can watch the Duke-North Carolina matchup in the Final Four. A lifelong Tar Heel fan, Church admitted the move was selfish, but likened the passionate anger his fans are feeling to the passion he feels about North Carolina basketball. ESPN

He’s a heel on several levels.

GAME OF THRONES SPINOFF: HBO’s mega-hit drama is getting a prequel. House of Dragons will be a ten-episode series that takes place a few hundred years before the story of Game of Thrones begins. The show will reportedly depict how the Dance of the Dragons came to be. The new show drops August 21. VARIETY

Enough talk. Bring on the dragons.

FARTHEST STAR

The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered the farthest-away star ever observed. The blue star formed roughly 13 billion years ago and is so massive it likely exploded just a few million years after its emergence. “We’re seeing the star as it was about 12.8 billion years ago, which puts it about 900 million years after the Big Bang,” said astronomer Brian Welch. Icarus, the previous record-holder, formed about 9.4 billion years ago. Nicknamed Earendel, an Old English name which means morning star or rising light, the record-old star may reportedly be one of the first stars born after the Big Bang. CHEDDAR

Sure. Next thing you know they’ll be telling us Pluto isn’t a planet anymore.

CRUISES CLEARED

After two years the CDC has dropped its travel advisory which warned Americans against boarding cruise ships. The health agency still acknowledges the possibility of transmission on ships, but is now encouraging travelers to assess the risk themselves before hopping on board. The cruise ship industry has been hit hard economically by the pandemic, losing billions of dollars in revenue. Like many cruise lines, Carnival’s stock has taken a major hit since 2020, down almost 50%, but the announcement may help these companies get back afloat. USA TODAY

Now you only have to worry about icebergs.

DRIVERLESS RIDES HIT THE ROAD

Waymo, Google’s self-driving car subsidiary, is launching driverless cars into the streets of San Francisco this week. Employees will be the first to get rides, starting with the engineer who pulled up to work safely in an all-electric Jaguar. Waymo already offers fully-autonomous rides in Phoenix and has expanded testing to New York City as well. 9TOFIVEGOOGLE

Now who do we give the finger to when it cuts us off?

LEFTOVERS: BOURBON BUNNIES

Alcohol and chocolate, two of the world’s finest indulgences, are joining forces to make Disney visitors even happier at the happiest place on Earth this Easter. The Ganachery at Disney Springs, the theme park-adjacent shopping district will offer your standard hollow chocolate rabbit, filled with a bourbon-spiked chocolate drink. Sounds delicious, but messy, right? The folks at the Ganachery are way ahead of you; the boozy bunny comes in a box and is served with a straw, so it won’t feel like you just washed your hands with fondue. PUREWOW

INSIDE LOOK

Looking Back at the Trailblazers and Newsmakers of Women's History Month 2022: As Women’s History Month comes to an end, Cheddar’s Lawrence Banton highlights the themes surrounding the accomplishments and progress made by women, including gender parity, pay gaps and self-acceptance. CHEDDAR
Need2Know Podcast Note: The Need2Know podcast is taking a break for now. We're looking forward to bringing you more context and analysis on the big stories of the day in a few weeks. In the meantime, check out our archive on Apple or Spotify, or watch on YouTube, and send us your feedback!