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Morning Update: Scientists Have A Plan To Blow Up Asteroids With A Nuke

Your BuzzFeed News newsletter, March 8.

Posted on March 8, 2018, at 7:20 a.m. ET

British police say a former Russian spy and his daughter were targeted with a nerve agent at a shopping mall

The pair were found collapsed on a bench in Salisbury, southwest England. Sergei Skripal, an ex-spy for Russia, and his daughter Yulia are now critically ill in the hospital. The first police officer on the scene is also seriously ill.

Authorities say the incident is being treated as “attempted murder by nerve agent.” British police say the substance used has been identified, but will not release its name to the public.

The attack is being treated as a major incident, and hundreds of counterterrorism officers have been deployed from across the country to work on the investigation.

The story has been compared to the 2006 murder by polonium of Alexander Litvinenko. In the last year, BuzzFeed News has exposed 14 suspected Russian killings in Britain — all of which police have declared non-suspicious. This includes a financier’s death where US spies told the UK he was likely assassinated on Kremlin orders.


The FBI says it mishandled tips about the suspect in the Florida school shooting and failed to contact local authorities

In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting that left 17 dead, the FBI now admits that it failed to properly investigate multiple warnings about Nikolas Cruz.

This is the first time the bureau has acknowledged that it mishandled tips about Cruz, including fumbling and failing to follow up on two reports detailing his disturbing behavior on social media.

Stoneman Douglas students had strong words for Betsy DeVos when she came to visit

Since the deadly shooting, these students have been pushing for gun control and organizing a march for later this month. They say they were frustrated by a visit from the secretary of education, who they say did not engage with their concerns.

In tweets and texts, students accused DeVos of using the visit for publicity. One student wrote, “Betsy Devos came to my school, talked to three people, and pet a dog. This is incase the press tries to say something else later.” Read the rest of their words.

Imagine being the face of a national movement when you’re a senior in high school

That’s the situation Emma González finds herself in. In just a few short weeks, she has become the leading voice in a nationwide effort to end gun violence. At 17, she’s trying to decide if going to college is the right thing to do when she’s got a movement to lead.

González wonders if she has “the right” to leave for college. Other members of the movement, now known as “Never Again,” are putting their college plans aside to work on the cause.

Read Remy Smidt’s excellent profile of González.


Sri Lanka is blocking Facebook for three days in response to violence against minorities

The temporary ban comes in response to posts calling for attacks on Muslims, and at a time when social media platforms are being criticized for not doing enough to curb hate.

Along with the ban, Sri Lanka also imposed a state of emergency after violence broke out between the country's majority Sinhalese Buddhists and the Muslim minority, in and around the central city of Kandy.

Mobs have rioted and set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and mosques in recent days. One government official said the ban on Facebook — which includes its popular messaging app WhatsApp — was enacted because social media platforms “have been used to destroy families, lives, and private property.”

This is Sri Lanka’s first state of emergency since its decades-long civil war ended in 2009.


Cape Town was on the brink of running out of water. Now that may not happen this year.

Crisis averted. Sort of. South African authorities that once feared it would be the first major city in the world to run out of water now say this will likely not happen this year.

The ominous “Day Zero,” the day the taps run dry, was originally projected to be in April. After a period of strict water consumption regulations, that estimate was pushed back to August.

Authorities say that since the new Day Zero falls “deep within the normal rainfall period,” it’s no longer appropriate to give a projection without taking rainfall into account.

Scientists have said that Cape Town’s scare is the result of a three-year drought that nearly dried up the city’s dams. The rainfall that did come wasn’t enough to refill them — an event they connect to climate change.


Quick catch-up

Amazon: The company said it knows that Amazon Echo devices with its voice-enabled assistant Alexa are randomly laughing, and it’s “working to fix it.” In a statement, the company said, “In rare circumstances, Alexa can mistakenly hear the phrase ‘Alexa, laugh.’” The solution? They’re disabling the command and changing it to “Alexa, can you laugh?”

Blowing up asteroids: Okay, don’t panic, but there’s a teeny-tiny chance that a giant asteroid might blast Earth in 2135. Luckily, scientists have a plan: They’ve designed a spacecraft to hit any large oncoming asteroids with a nuclear explosion. Yes, I’m serious.

Terry Crews: The high-powered Hollywood agent who allegedly groped Crews will not face charges. The actor says the incident happened at a party. A spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney’s office said Crews' case was declined because the incident, which allegedly occurred on Feb. 4, 2016, fell beyond the statute of limitations.

US Forest Service: Tony Tooke, the man in charge of the agency, has resigned after sexual misconduct allegations against him surfaced, and dozens of current and former employees spoke out about workplace hostility toward women.


Facebook played a pivotal role in the West Virginia teachers’ strike

How would a modern labour movement organize something as expansive and coordinated as a state-wide strike? Especially if people have not been active in their local unions? Well, it turns out the answer is Facebook.

Over 24,000 teachers and public employees joined a private Facebook group that became the headquarters, forum, and meme factory for the massive teachers’ strike in West Virginia. That strike shuttered every public school in the state for nine days, until the teachers’ demands were met.

One organizer straight-up told us the strike wouldn’t have happened without the organization through the private Facebook group. Read how the group became the political engine for a movement.


Michael B. Jordan promised to add an inclusion rider to any movie he produces

Further cementing why the “B.” stands for “Bae,” Jordan said that any movie produced through his production company, Outlier Society, will be adding an inclusion rider to its contracts.

The inclusion rider initiative, proposed by Stacy Smith at the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at University of Southern California, calls for the 30 minor speaking roles in an average film to be cast as reflective of the demography where the story takes place.

Frances McDormand gave inclusion riders a shout-out in her Oscars speech after she won for Best Actress last week. Other celebrities, including Brie Larson, have also committed to the rider.

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