Monday Sunrise Briefing: Cyberextortion shuts down US pipeline

Good morning! Welcome to your Monday, May 10, 2021, sunrise briefing.

Here are three news events - cyberattack on a U.S. pipeline, Scottish independence, and a Kabul bombing - from this past weekend (while you may have been celebrating Mother's Day, making pasta, and enjoying an offline life). Also, what to look for in the news this week.

Colonial Pipeline/Handout via REUTERS
Holding tanks are seen at Colonial Pipeline's Linden Junction Tank Farm in Woodbridge, New Jersey. The company was forced to shut down operations after a ransomware attack.

Cybercrooks are holding hostage Colonial Pipeline, a company that supplies 45 percent of the fuel used on the East Coast. The attack highlights a rise in this type of cybercrime - targeting companies, local and state governments, schools, and hospitals. In 2020, ransomware attacks grew by more than 150%, reports HelpNetSecurity. The Biden administration officials said Sunday an “all-hands-on-deck” effort is underway to restore operations. But analyst Debnil Chowdhury told the Associated Press: “I wouldn’t be surprised ... if we see 15- to 20-cent rise in gas prices over the next week or two.” The average downtime in ransomware attacks is 21 days, according to Coveware, a company which helps victims respond.

Independence push. Pro-independence parties won a majority in Scotland’s parliament on Saturday, fueled by voters who want to separate from the United Kingdom and rejoin the European Union. Could Scotland break away from the U.K. after 314 years? Not if British Prime Minister Boris Johnson can prevent it. An independence referendum in 2014 failed. But since then, the U.K. has exited from the E.U., causing financial hardship for Scotland’s exporters, especially fisheries. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she plans to push for a second independence referendum after the pandemic.

Assault on girls’ education and religion. Afghans criticized their government for failing to protect them after the bombing of a Kabul girls' school on Saturday left more than 65 dead, and more than 160 wounded, Reuters reported. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but previous attacks in the mostly Shiite Muslim neighborhood have been carried out by Islamic State militants, not the Taliban. In the Afghan capital rattled by relentless bombings, Saturday's attack was among the worst. Criticism has mounted over lack of security and fear of more violence as the U.S. and NATO complete their military withdrawal from Afghanistan by September.

Hendrik Schmidt/dpa-Zentralbild via Reuters
A mother holds the hand of her daughter on Sunday May 9, 2021, Mother's Day, in Leipzig, Germany.

Look Ahead

MONDAY, May 10

Democracy summit. The fourth Copenhagen Democracy Summit is scheduled to discuss rule of law, authoritarianism, and freedom of expression. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law, Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya, Slovakia President Zuzana Caputova, and U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D) of California are among participants.


Compassion for the hungry. The 2021 recipient of the $250,000 World Food Prize is expected to be announced. The World Food Prize is the most prominent global award recognizing an individual who has confronted global hunger through improving the quality, quantity, or availability of food. 

Justice watch. Three men indicted on federal hate crime charges for chasing and shooting Ahmaud Arbery after spotting him running in their Georgia neighborhood are scheduled to make their first appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge. A state trial on the charge of murder is scheduled for October.

A soulful celebration. The Brit Awards (the British equivalent of the Grammys) is scheduled to celebrate the best in British and international music. It'll be streamed live on YouTube at 3 p.m. ET. 


Leadership on legislation. President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with Democratic and Republican leaders of the U.S. House and Senate to discuss a path forward on his legislative proposals.

Loyalty vote. Republicans are expected to vote to remove Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming from her position as chair of the House Republican Conference, the third-highest position in the U.S. House Republican leadership. She has criticized former President Donald Trump for failing to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution.

Celebrating Ramadan. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan ends with the sighting of the new moon (likely today). It will mark the end of fasting, and start a three-day celebration, called Eid al-Fitr.

Generosity Watch

It doesn’t take much to create a tsunami of generosity, according to Alcide Dominique of Opelousas, Louisiana. 

When he arrived at his car dealership one morning last month, and found Jaime Brown asleep on his porch, Mr. Dominique decided to get him breakfast and a motel room. But that was just the beginning. One of Mr. Dominique’s employees posted a TikTok video of that act of kindness, and the donations came pouring in.

“It took me $45 to buy this man a breakfast sandwich and to put him up in a budget hotel. Anybody can do this. All it takes is one act of kindness to change somebody’s life. It just took off because I think it really struck the hearts of so many people,” Mr. Dominique told KATC-TV in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Mr. Brown has been living on the street for about three years, he says,  after his grandparents, who raised him, passed away. Thanks to Mr. Dominique’s generosity, Mr. Brown has over $31,000 now and a job interview lined up. "It would be a tragedy for him to end up being on the streets again a year from now," Mr. Dominique told Fox News. "So our goal is to work with him and take the time that we need to find him some rent-reduced apartments, perhaps a part-time job, transportation [like] a bicycle or a car. [We’re taking it] one step at a time," he said.

The Respect Project 

Courtesy of Marquis Fulghum
Marquis Fulghum at the Arizona State University campus in April 2021. An ASU student, he says notions of tolerance and civility have created classrooms in which students simply mask their deeper selves. “Schools impede students’ abilities to have those conversations when we make everything this super, super nice environment,” Mr. Fulghum says. “That’s an overcorrection.”

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

Respect: Is it the glue a polarized nation needs?

Sneak preview

In tonight’s Daily Edition, watch for our story about a Canadian TV show that hosts political blind dates.

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

  1. For Biden, vaccine patent waiver is a test of US leadership
  2. When a lawmaker’s conscience clashes with the party line
  3. Restaurants are hiring, but where are the workers?
  4. ‘Blank check’ for El Salvador’s Bukele? Court dismissals spark concern.
  5. ‘This is a great story’: Whooping cranes make a comeback

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