First Thing: Joe Biden calls for US to confront its past in Tulsa

·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Brandon Bell/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Good morning.

In an emotional speech in Tulsa yesterday, Joe Biden called on the US to be honest with its history, beginning with the acknowledgment of one of the country’s most grotesque acts of white supremacist terrorism.

On 31 May and 1 June 1921, hordes of white Tulsans burned and destroyed a prosperous area known as “Black Wall Street”, murdering up to 300 Black men, women and children. On Tuesday, the US president pleaded with the country to connect the white supremacy that prompted the massacre 100 years ago to the more recent displays of white supremacy including in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January.

  • Biden also connected this hatred to the Republican assault on the voting rights of people of color, with almost 400 bills introduced at state level since the last presidential election, restricting voter access.

  • Kamala Harris will lead the White House effort to resist the assault on voting rights, Biden said. “This is the work of democracy,” Harris said in a statement.

  • Biden is the first sitting president to visit the site of the Tulsa race massacre. His predecessor, Donald Trump, spent the 99th anniversary last year posing with a Bible outside a historic church after security forces teargassed demonstrators protesting for racial justice over George Floyd’s murder.

  • Biden’s historic visit comes as California considers reparations for Black Americans. A first-in-the-country taskforce met yesterday to study and recommend ways to address the harms of slavery and systemic racism.

Naomi Osaka: athletes and sponsors, from Japan and beyond, voice support

Messages of support have flooded in for the tennis player Naomi Osaka and her decision to withdraw from the French Open. Osaka had been fined and threatened with expulsion for refusing to attend press conferences, saying she needed to protect her mental wellbeing. “The first thing to be considered is Ms Osaka’s health,” wrote Toshihisa Tsuchihashi, the executive director of the Japan Tennis Association.

Sloane Stephens, the American former US Open champion, said: “Having to take a step back and say: ‘Hey, I need to do this for me,’ we should support her and applaud her, because a lot of people wouldn’t do that.”

Biden suspends Trump-era oil drilling in Alaska

Polar bears on the Beaufort Sea coast
Polar bears on the Beaufort Sea coast. Photograph: Reuters

The Biden administration has suspended oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic national wildlife refuge, a remote 19.6m-acre area that is home to polar bears, caribou, snowy owls and migrating birds from six continents.

In 2017, the Trump administration approved a drilling program in the oil-rich refuge, which is considered sacred by the indigenous Gwich’in communities, but the interior department “identified defects in the underlying record of decision supporting the leases”.

US secretary of state makes veiled swipe at China’s growing economic influence

In a speech to the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders, Antony Blinken warned leaders of Pacific countries about “threats to the rules-based international order” and “economic coercion”. “It’s very thinly veiled who he is talking about when he’s talking about economic coercion,” said Jonathan Pryke, the director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Program in Australia – and that’s China.

In other news …

  • The World Health Organization has approved the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine, the second Chinese vaccine to receive the go-ahead.

  • Israeli opposition politicians have until midnight today to build a coalition government that would end Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year run as prime minister. If they cannot, Netanyahu could be re-elected in a snap election.

  • Rural northern California is experiencing an uptick in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, as residents and businesses continue their pushback against safety measures and vaccinations.

  • China confirms its first human case of the H10N3 strain of bird flu, but it is a relatively less severe strain and the risk of it spreading on a large scale is very low, according to China’s national health commission.

Stat of the day: more than a third of all US healthcare workers who died from Covid-19 were immigrants

The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act is looking to provide permanent residency to 40,000 foreign medical professionals, the value of which is made especially stark with the current travel ban to India.

Don’t miss this: former Citizen employees describe traumatic working conditions

“The job is akin to most internet moderation, but in some ways it is worse because you are looking at videos directly from the scene of a bloody crash, often near where you live,” one employee said about working for the crime app Citizen. “You are listening to the most insane shit.”

Last Thing: California teen shoves bear to protect family dogs

In a truly extraordinary video, 17-year-old Hailey Morinico is seen sprinting outside and shoving a mother bear that is swatting at Morinico’s family dogs from the top of a wall in the family’s southern California back yard.

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