Monday Sunrise Briefing: Iran facility sabotaged. Are we safer?

Good morning! Welcome to your Monday, April 12, 2021, sunrise briefing.

Here are three news events - a blackout in Iran, GOP disunity, and British film awards - this past weekend (while you may have been planting arborvitae trees, grilling shrimp, and enjoying an offline life). Also, what to look for in the news this week.

Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, File
At 2019 photo of centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran. The facility lost power Sunday, April 11, 2021, just hours after starting up new advanced centrifuges capable of enriching uranium faster.

To reduce the risk of nuclear conflict, the U.S., the E.U., and other countries may want a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, but Israel does not. On Sunday, Iran said a blackout at its Natanz atomic facility was an act of “nuclear terrorism.” The outage comes less than a week after talks began to revive the nuclear pact abandoned by President Donald Trump, and just a day after Iran had launched new centrifuges they say will enrich uranium 50 times faster than Iran’s first-generation centrifuges. Israel typically doesn't confirm such operations but Israeli media quoted government sources claiming responsibility. “It’s hard for me to believe it’s a coincidence,” Israeli analyst Yoel Guzansky told the Associated Press.“If it’s not a coincidence, and that’s a big if, someone is trying to send a message that ‘we can limit Iran’s advance and we have red lines.’”

2. A big fundraiser, but a GOP unifier? Former President Trump’s relationship with the Republican party continues to run hot and cold. A gathering of top GOP donors ended in a Saturday speech with Mr. Trump insulting the party’s Senate leader, mocking his former transportation secretary, and criticizing his former vice president. The Republican National Committee signaled its commitment to Mr. Trump by hosting the donor summit near his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. But Mr. Trump’s commitment to the GOP - especially Republicans who have criticized his election fraud claims - is far from certain. Mr. Trump’s team said that his remarks were intended to reinforce his continued party leadership role.

3. More accolades for Chloe Zhao. The director of “Nomadland” continued her string of awards this weekend. Filmmaker Chloe Zhao became only the second woman to win the British Academy Film Awards for best director. The film’s star, Frances McDormand, was named best actress. On Saturday night, Ms. Zhao also took top honors at the Directors Guild Association Awards for her film that follows a middle-aged woman who travels the American West while living out of her van. Like its American counterpart, the British awards event has in recent years been labeled #BAFTAsSoWhite but this year saw a diverse group of artists awarded, including Black British stars Daniel Kaluuya, Bukky Bakray, and veteran Korean actress Yuh-Jung Youn.

REUTERS/Mike Segar
Historic win. Hideki Matsuyama won the 2021 Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 11, 2021. He’s the first Japanese victor at Augusta National, pro-golf’s biggest, most storied, and most elegant stage.

Look Ahead

MONDAY, April 12

A bridge to bridges? U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with bipartisan members of Congress as he tries to win support for his more than $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

Justice watch. The defense is expected to start calling witnesses in week three of the murder and manslaughter trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Democracy watch. Preliminary results of the Peruvian presidential election are expected to be announced. Six candidates are nearly tied in the polls. 

Frontiers in space. Russia marks the 60th anniversary of the first human flight in outer space by the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

TUESDAY, April 13

Holy month. The first day of fasting for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is determined by the sighting of the new moon, is likely to begin today.


Cosmic first. NASA engineers decided to delay the Ingenuity helicopter’s debut flight on Mars to at least today after running into a minor computer glitch during a rotor spin test Friday night.

FRIDAY, April 16

Biden's first summit. President Biden is scheduled to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in Washington, D.C. Expected topics: trade, climate change, China, and recent North Korean missile tests.

SATURDAY, April 17

Low-key service. A traditional, but private, royal funeral service for Prince Philip is planned at Windsor Castle due to England’s pandemic restrictions on the size of gatherings.

Generosity Watch

Kenneth Smith was homeless for four years. Then, a woman gave him a $100 gift card to an Outback Steakhouse in Fort Worth, Texas. That act of generosity started a chain of events that led to a job and a roof over his head.

He took the gift card and got a meal at the steakhouse. Afterward, Laura Hodges, the restaurant’s managing partner, gave Mr. Smith her business card and told him anytime he needed a meal, he was welcome. 

Over the next few months, Mr. Smith took her up on the offer more than once. But Ms. Hodges wasn’t done helping him. Eventually, he asked for a job. He’s now bussing tables and cleaning up at the restaurant. But there’s more.

Ms. Hodges asked folks on the Fort Worth Foodies Facebook page for help finding Mr. Smith affordable housing. The outpouring was overwhelming. Mr. Smith was given six weeks at a nearby extended stay hotel, more than $2,200, a bike, clothing, kitchen items, and groceries. "This is a whole new beginning that God has blessed me with, so I’m trying to get on this right, good track that He wants me to stay on," Smith told WFAA-TV in Dallas. "God is good," he added. "If He can do it for me, He can do it for anybody else."

Hidden Gem

Noah Robertson/The Christian Science Monitor
Master falconer Rodney Stotts, founder of Rodney’s Raptors, holds Petunia, a Harris' hawk at the Earth Conservation Corps campus.

Start your week with a recent story that inspired Monitor readers:

Black master falconer helps birds and at-risk youth take flight

Sneak preview

In tonight’s Daily Edition, watch for our review of five new TV food shows.

Finally, check out the Monitor’s selected stories from Friday's subscription-only Daily Edition:

  1. As Myanmar protests continue, a glimmer of greater unity
  2. Are vaccine passports legal in the US? Five questions.
  3. ‘An enormous waste’: How stimulus checks play in red-state America
  4. When is a grocery store not a grocery store? When it’s a palace.
  5. Is it art? NFTs and the surge of digital ownership.

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