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Caracas breaks out in protest; Elon Musk's SpaceX rocket explodes; preferential college admissions for slave descendants.
Massive opposition protests in Venezuela
- At least a million Venezuelans poured out onto the capital city streets of Caracas in one of the largest mass protests against Venezuela’s socialist government and President Nicolás Maduro. [Reuters / Diego Oré and Brian Ellsworth]
- Protesters, organized through an opposition coalition called MUD, are calling for a recall referendum — which must take place this year to prompt new elections — to shorten socialist President Maduro's term in office. [Guardian / Sibylla Brodzinsky]
- Venezuela has been in a state of economic crisis for some time now, with skyrocketing inflation and $125 billion in debt — which economists expect it will default on — and has put its people in dire situations with extreme rationing. A drought has stalled the country's hydroelectric grid, and food supply has been short. [The Atlantic / Gillian B. White and Bourree Lam]
- Opposition party MUD found extraordinary success in the most recent parliamentary elections last December; however, hopes for change — including free-market reforms and the release of imprisoned political leaders — were squashed by Maduro's leading party. [The New York Times / Nicholas Casey and Patricia Torres]
- Now we are watching what was supposed to be Venezuela's socialist dream society collapse, crippling under a series of poor macroeconomic and microeconomic policy decisions. [Vox / Francisco Toro]
- What was once a wealthy nation with the world's largest known energy reserves has become a humanitarian disaster with record levels of violence and extreme political polarization. The situation is a bad look for Latin America, prompting some to call for regional intervention. But given neighboring Brazil's own political turmoil, that might be too tall a call. [American Quarterly / Oliver Stuenkel]
SpaceX goes boom. Facebook screeches to a halt.
- A rocket from private space company SpaceX — owned by Tesla’s Elon Musk — exploded on Cape Canaveral’s launch pad Thursday during a test fire prior to its launch, rattling buildings miles away. No one was hurt in the explosion. [BBC / David Shukman]
- The Falcon 9 rocket was carrying the first satellite engineered for Facebook’s Internet.org project, whose plan is to provide internet access to people in sub-Saharan Africa. [Wall Street Journal / Andy Pasztor]
- “I’m deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent,” Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg posted while on a trip in Africa — the timing of his trip was meant to coincide with the satellite's planned weekend launch. [Facebook / Mark Zuckerberg]
- Zuckerberg launched Internet.org two years ago, announcing an ambitious plan to connect the entire world to the World Wide Web; about two-thirds of the world population is currently not connected to the Internet. [Wired / Jessi Hempel]
- Internet.org hasn't always been met with open arms, however. Last year, Internet.org's launch in India proved controversial after India's telecom regulatory body ceased its service due to a net neutrality debate. [Guardian / Rahul Bhatia]
- Ultimately, the SpaceX rocket explosion could be a major setback for Internet.org, putting on hold a deal — valued at $95 million — with satellite firm Eutelsat to share the satellite's bandwitdh for five years. [The Verge / Russell Brandom]
Penance at Georgetown
- Georgetown University is atoning for participating in the slave trade. The university announced Thursday that it will give (slightly) preferential treatment in admissions to the descendants of the 272 slaves it sold nearly two centuries ago. [Reuters / Ian Simpson]
- This is just one part of Georgetown’s attempts to reconcile with its sins. The university’s president will also issue a formal apology for its participation in the slave trade, start a new program for studying slavery, and create a public memorial for the slaves who helped build Georgetown. [New York Times / Rachel L. Swarns]
- Georgetown President John J. DeGioia’s mea culpa comes in response to a 100-page report from a school’s panel, the “Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation,” which detailed the university’s participation in the slave trade. [Washington Post / Nick Anderson and Susan Svrluga]
- You can read the panel’s full report here.
- In 1838, the two Jesuit priests leading Georgetown executed the sale of the slaves for $115,000. That helped the school pay down its debts. [Washington Post / Terrence McCoy]
- Georgetown’s preferential treatment for the 272 slave descendants will mean that they get a “second look” in admissions, just as the children of Georgetown faculty do. But couldn’t the university have also offered financial reparations? [The Atlantic / Adrienne Green]
- American officials aren’t saying that Julian Assange has direct ties with Russian intelligence — he probably doesn’t. They’re just saying that Russia often benefits from WikiLeaks release of highly classified American government communications. [New York Times / Jo Becker, Steven Erlanger and Eric Schmitt]
- Mark Ruffalo has a message to the trans community: "I hear you," he said amid outrage around his casting of Matt Bomer — yet another cis actor cast as a transgender character. "It’s wrenching to you see you in this pain. I am glad we are having this conversation. It's time,” Ruffalo said. [Vanity Fair / Julie Miller]
- San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has come under a lot of criticism for refusing to stand during the national anthem as a protest against racial injustice. While this might be a reflection of the polarization in American race relations, the negative response also highlights the real price of becoming an African-American elite. [The Atlantic / Adam Serwer]
- The Pew Research Center has released its 2016 study on American reading habits. The findings: Print isn’t dying, quite yet. [Pew Research Center / Andrew Perrin]
- “Rather than flying into Mexico City in his usual private plane — Trump Force One, as it has come to be known — he was borne south of the border in a jetliner with an all-white livery that was not emblazoned with his surname. It was a rare display of airborne humility.” [BBC / Nick Bryant]
- “Tinder sociologist Dr. Jess Carbino had some advise for under-performers at LSU and elsewhere. ‘Most important is your smile — people smiling are considered to be more kind and approachable,’ she said. ‘So, if you’re a football player, be sure to take your helmet off for your Tinder photos — but leave your jersey on. We’ve found that making sure you’re not covering up your face and avoiding neutral colors lead to more right swipes.’” [BuzzFeed / Alex Kantrowitz]
- “This investigation, which is based on records obtained from the General Services Administration through the Freedom of Information Act, does not reveal anything illegal.” [Politico / Kenneth P. Vogel]
- “‘I have eaten one of my batteries and I’m still fine — I’d be fine eating my battery every single day of my life!’ he says.” [KQED / Mark H. Kim]
- “Since Tuesday afternoon, Juan Rojo, an assistant professor of Spanish at the eastern Pennsylvania school, has drunk only water and Gatorade. The extreme step, he said, comes after Lafayette College’s president vetoed his bid for tenure, even though Rojo received positive recommendations from two separate faculty committees.” [Washington Post / Amy B Wang]