culture

Need2Know: Gaza Fighting, Media Mega-Merger & Dismal Box Office

Here are the headlines you Need2Know for Monday, May 17, 2021:

GAZA CONFLICT

The Israeli military says it destroyed nine miles of tunnels used by Hamas inside Gaza in the heaviest airstrikes seen since the latest conflict began a week ago. Militants in Gaza continued to fire barrages of rockets into Israel over the weekend as the fighting showed no signs of dying down amid new efforts of diplomacy by the U.S. and UN. Early Saturday, Israel leveled a building in Gaza City that housed international media organizations including the Associated Press. Israel said that building was also being used by Hamas. Occupants were given an hour to evacuate before the building was taken down. Of the nearly 200 Palestinians who have been killed in airstrikes in the last week, nearly half were women and children, according to the New York Times, citing Gaza officials. Ten people in Israel have been killed, including two children and a soldier, according to the AP. NY TIMES

COVID-19: LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

Six months since the first COVID vaccine dose was given in the U.S., about 60 percent of the adult population has received at least one shot. The CDC director faced questions about the confusion from the agency’s surprising decision to lift its mask recommendation, saying over the weekend that vaccinated people “are not at risk of severe disease and hospitalization” and can therefore go maskless. “If you are not vaccinated, you are not safe,” she said. Trader Joe’s and Walmart are the first big retailers to drop their mask policies in response to the CDC guidance. NBC NEWS

DO YOU BELIEVE?

60 Minutes aired a story last night about UFOs in which a retired Navy pilot said he used to see “unidentified aerial phenomena” -- or UAP -- almost daily for two years. Lt. Ryan Graves told the newsmagazine that he thought the UAP could be U.S. secret technology still in development, spycraft from another country, or “something otherworldly.” Another former pilot explained an encounter with a UAP in 2004 near California that appeared to operate outside the bounds of physics. The Pentagon has a June 1 deadline to deliver a report to Congress about what it knows of UAP: WATCH THE REPORT

GATES DIVORCE

Bill Gates has acknowledged that he had an extramarital affair with a Microsoft employee two decades ago, which led Microsoft’s board to launch an investigation last year, just before Gates resigned from that board. More reporting is coming out in the aftermath of Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce, including allegations that Gates had developed a reputation for questionable workplace behavior at both Microsoft and his foundation, and that he consulted convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein for advice on how to end his marriage. Gates’ spokesperson says that’s false. DAILY BEAST

TAX DAY

You have until the end of today to get your federal taxes postmarked and in the mail, or filed electronically. Every state with an income tax except Iowa, Maryland, Oklahoma and Hawaii also have their deadlines today. If you forgot to prep your taxes this year because of *gestures broadly at everything*, all you have to do is e-file the IRS form 4868 and request an automatic extension until Oct. 15: GET IT

MEDIA MEGA-DEAL

AT&T is expected to announce as soon as today that it will spin off WarnerMedia and combine it with Discovery. The new media company would be publicly traded and co-owned by AT&T and Discovery shareholders, according to reports. Discovery owns reality-heavy assets like HGTV, TLC, and Food Network. The spinoff would be unusual given that AT&T paid $85 billion to acquire HBO, CNN, Warner Bros., Cartoon Network, TBS, and TNT and put them under one roof less than three years ago. BLOOMBERG

NO TRIPLE CROWN

Medina Spirit couldn’t quite pull it off, coming in third at the Preakness Stakes under the cloud of a positive drug test. Rombauer, a long-shot, won the second leg of the Triple Crown at Pimlico in Baltimore. Rombauer went into the race at 11-1 odds, so a $2 bet on him paid out to $25.60. ESPN

BOX OFFICE STATUS CHECK

For the first time in seemingly ages, two new releases aimed at adult audiences opened wide at the box office, a big test of whether older audiences are ready to flock back to movie theaters as things reopen. The results were pretty dismal. Those Who Wish Me Dead, an Angelina Jolie-starring action thriller, bombed with just $2.8 million (the flick premiered simultaneously on HBO Max, which probably didn’t help.) Spiral, the Saw installment starring Chris Rock, did a little bit better with $8.7 million. About two-thirds of North American cinemas are now open. VARIETY

SPOTTED...

...Vanessa Bryant, in “Laker purple” delivering a moving speech about Kobe Bryant as he was posthumously inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame: WATCH
...India, the 9-month-old Bengali tiger that was taken on the run last week by a man suspected of murder, found safe and sound in Houston: SEE IT
…Olivia Rodrigo, performing her smash hit drivers license, in her SNL debut: WATCH

LEFTOVERS: STARBIES BREAK

Ask any Starbucks barista what their biggest complaint is these days, and you’re likely to get the same answer: the explosion in complicated custom drink orders. Starbucks employees have been taking to social media to show some of the more ridiculous orders they get, with the customization list often going into the double digits. Two trends are colliding: the huge rise in mobile ordering brought on by the pandemic, where customizations are encouraged and customers might feel less embarrassed about asking a barista to do so much extra work, as well as TikTok, where “Starbies” influencers are now a genre unto themselves. BUZZFEED
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!
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