Here are the headlines you Need2Know for Thursday, May 20, 2021:

HAVE VAX, WILL TRAVEL

If you’ve been jonesing for a European vacation, you can finally pull the trigger. The EU has approved a plan to reopen borders to fully vaccinated travelers and anyone coming from “COVID safe” countries. The plan is expected to be formalized and implemented by all 27 member states officially next week, just in time for summer. Children who are too young to be eligible for vaccination can travel, but they will have to show a negative PCR test. Anyone coming back into the U.S. will still need to show a negative test, regardless of vaccination status. Meanwhile the White House is said to be considering easing the strict restrictions that bar a lot of the world from coming into the country. NBC NEWS

GAZA CONFLICT

There are some early signs that the fighting between Israel and Hamas may be easing amid international calls for a ceasefire. Both sides have halted fire for several hours, though it’s unclear if the lull was part of an agreement. Israeli media is reporting that the military believes it has achieved most of its goals. Earlier, the White House said President Biden told Benjamin Netanyahu that he “expected a significant de-escalation,” while Germany and France also added to the calls for a ceasefire. GUARDIAN

TEXAS ABORTION LAW

Texas now has some of the most severe abortion restrictions in the country after Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that prohibits abortions as early as six weeks -- two weeks after a missed period and before many women know they are pregnant -- with no exceptions for rape or incest. Private citizens can also sue abortion providers for “aiding and abetting” any woman who violates the ban. Abortion advocates have vowed to fight the “heartbeat bill” in the courts. TEXAS TRIB

DROUGHT WATCH

The American West is staring down the barrel of a very worrisome summer. The entire western half of the U.S. is in some state of drought. Lake Mead is so low that Arizona and New Mexico are considering unprecedented moves to ration water so it doesn’t impact electricity production at the Hoover Dam. There have already been significant fires in California, New Mexico, and Arizona -- very unusual for this early in the year. Officials say this year’s fire season, which is turning into less of a “season” and more of a constant state of being, could eclipse last year’s record of 10 million acres burned. NY TIMES

CRYPTO CRASH

Cryptocurrencies crashed back to Earth during a frenzied sell-off that hit all corners of the market. Bitcoin fell as much as 30 percent, touching $30,000 before making up much of its losses; Ether fell as much as 40 percent; Doge was down as much as 20 percent. The drop came after China banned financial institutions from participating in any crypto-related business -- a move that was widely expected but still jolted traders and even spread to the stock market. CHEDDAR

PIPELINE RANSOM

The CEO of Colonial Pipeline has acknowledged for the first time that he paid the ransom to hackers holding its fuel pipeline hostage. Joseph Blount told the Wall Street Journal that he made the decision to pay the $4.4 million bounty on the same day the pipeline was hit with a ransomware attack, saying the debilitating impact of a multi-day shutdown of East Coast energy infrastructure gave him no other option. The FBI has long advised companies not to pay hackers, but many conclude that they don’t have a choice. WSJ

LEBRON V. CURRY 

The defending champion Lakers punched their ticket to the playoffs on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from LeBron James. The Lakers outplayed Steph Curry and the Warriors, who now face an elimination game tomorrow night against Memphis. L.A. will face Phoenix in Round 1. ESPN

FESTIVALPALOOZA

The summer festival season is coming back with a vengeance. Lollapalooza released its lineup, featuring Megan Thee Stallion and Foo Fighters headlining the three-day event in Chicago’s Grant Park in late July. Lolla will be held at full capacity provided attendees show proof of vaccination or negative COVID test. Across the pond, organizers got approval to put on a one-day festival at the Glastonbury site in September that they’re calling Equinox. Pitchfork, Summerfest, Bonnaroo, Firefly, Electric Zoo and Gov Ball are among the other big festivals planning to open the gates after a year’s pause. CHICAGO TRIB

SPOTTED...

…the first photos sent back from China’s Mars rover, Zhurong, after it successfully landed last weekend. Between Zhurong and NASA’s Perseverance both trawling the planet, Mars is more crowded than it’s ever been -- at least that we know of: SEE IT
...Billy Porter, speaking out publicly for the first time about living with HIV in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter: READ IT
...the cast of Friends, on the cover of People magazine to promote the upcoming reunion special on HBO MAX. A new trailer dropped, too: WATCH

LEFTOVERS: 'PRECIOUS CARGO'

A school bus driver in South Carolina is crediting his “precious cargo” of 18 elementary schoolers for foiling a hijacking without anyone getting hurt. A man with a rifle boarded Kenneth Corbin’s bus, looking for a ride to the next town 20 miles away, but only made it six minutes until he gave up in frustration when the kindergarteners on board wouldn’t stop asking him questions. Corbin said the hijacker became so exasperated he pulled over and let everyone off. Corbin -- and the kids -- are being hailed as heroes. GMA
Listen to the N2K Podcast! Looking for more context and analysis on the big stories of the day? Check out our podcast! Hosts Jill and Carlo break down the headlines, every weekday morning Listen on Apple or Spotify, or watch on YouTube, and send us your feedback!