Ukraine nuclear plant, Oath Keepers hearing, Beijing Winter Paralympics: 5 things to know Friday

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Russia attacks Ukraine nuclear plant, sparking fears of disaster

Fears of an unprecedented nuclear disaster in Ukraine spread rapidly Friday when part of Europe’s largest nuclear plant caught on fire as Russian forces shelled the area. Ukrainian authorities later said the fire had been extinguished. Amid a stream of confusing, alarming and at times conflicting information about the incident, the International Atomic Energy Agency soon said the “serious situation” had not affected essential equipment at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and that there had been no change in radiation levels. That didn’t stop Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy from giving an emotional plea in a video address. “If there is an explosion – that’s the end for everyone. The end for Europe. The evacuation of Europe,” he said. The fire renewed fears of another emergency like the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the world’s worst nuclear disaster, which happened about 110 kilometers north of Kyiv.

Oath Keepers court hearing scheduled after first guilty plea

Another court hearing in the criminal case involving Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes is scheduled to take place on Friday. The hearing comes days after Joshua James, a co-defendant, plead guilty to charges of seditious conspiracy and obstruction related to the U.S. Capitol riot. It marks the first person involved in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol to be convicted of the rarely used charge. A guilty plea is potentially problematic for the 10 other co-defendants in the high-profile criminal case, who are accused of acting by force to prevent, hinder or delay laws related to the transfer of presidential power. As part of his plea, the 34-year-old James agreed to cooperate with law enforcement and prosecutors, including testifying before a grand jury and sitting for interviews. 

Beijing Winter Paralympics kicks off 

The 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympics will officially commence on Friday with the opening ceremony at the National Stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest. More than 40 U.S. athletes and two guides are expected to participate in the fanfare of the opening ceremony, which includes the Parade of Nations, where athletes and officials from participating countries march into the Bird’s Nest with their country’s flag. Coverage starts Friday at 6:30 a.m. ET on USA Network and Peacock TV. The Paralympic Games are set to begin amidst Russia’s deadly invasion of Ukraine. The International Paralympic Committee announced the expulsion of Russian and Belarusian athletes on Thursday to “protect the Games from war,” walking back a previous ruling that allowed Russian and Belarusians to compete as neutral athletes.

A Chinese booster will crash into far side of moon

A Chinese rocket that’s been in space for seven years – not an American SpaceX Falcon 9 stage as previously reported – is expected to smash itself to pieces when it hits the far side of the moon on Friday. The leftover rocket has been tumbling haphazardly through space, experts believe, since China launched it nearly a decade ago. But Chinese officials are dubious it’s theirs. No matter whose it is, scientists expect it to crash at 5,800 mph, delivering a punch that will carve out a crater that could fit several semitractor-trailers. As far as the moon is concerned, there’s really nothing to worry about. The booster won’t hit any Lunar Heritage Sites where American spacecrafts have landed and it won’t endanger orbiting satellites photographing the surface, the Chinese rover rolling through craters, or Laser Ranging Retroreflectors left by Apollo astronauts.

The NFL Scouting Combine continues 🏈

The second day of on-field drills at the NFL scouting combine begins Friday, with running backs, offensive linemen and special teams players showing off their skills in Indianapolis. NFL Network will televise six hours of live coverage beginning at 4 p.m. EST. Thursday brought the normal fare for the combine: Explosive performances, breakout players, and discussion of a quarterback’s hand size (it happens every year, it seems).

Contributing: Associated Press

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