First Thing: California fire crews make progress against ferocious Oak fire

<span>Photograph: Noah Berger/AP</span>
Photograph: Noah Berger/AP

Good morning.

Firefighters made progress against a ferocious wildfire in the Sierra Nevada foothills that forced thousands of residents from their homes in the gateway to Yosemite national park.

The Oak fire started on Friday near the town of Midpines, California, and exploded in size over the weekend.

Burning through dense and dry vegetation on the region’s steep and rugged hillsides, the blaze was fanned by gusty winds and temperatures that hovered around 90F (32C). The extreme nature of the fire meant it turned tall trees into matchsticks and sent billowing black smoke curling over the quaint historic downtown of Mariposa.

But weather conditions improved on Sunday night, and by yesterday morning, a heavily resourced firefighting effort achieved 10% containment.

  • How big is the fire? Since Friday, the blaze has consumed more than 16,700 acres. More than 3,000 people were under evacuation orders. More than 2,000 first responders were battling the blaze.

  • Why is Yosemite’s Oak fire burning with such ferocity? Experts say dry air, strong winds, parched trees and grass, and soaring temperatures caused the Oak fire to expand rapidly through the rugged foothills in recent days. The area has experienced nearly two weeks of triple digit temperatures and low humidity. Vegetation is at almost record levels of dryness.

Spate of encounters with sharks leaves New York beachgoers wary

There were thousands of people on Robert Moses beach on New York’s Long Island on Saturday, but in this heatwave few were venturing into the Atlantic water beyond their ankles or knees, writes Edward Helmore.

Mothers kept their children close. An array of boats, helicopters and drones moved up and down beyond the surf. And teams of lifeguards aloft in their posts were poised with whistles to order people out of the water.

“Even if we have a sighting of a shark we have to take everyone out of the water,” said Orlando Diaz, a lifeguard with 30 years’ experience who estimated that just on this stretch of beach the guards had already done so 10 times this year. “We see whales, we see dolphins, sometimes stingrays, but it kind of stinks when we have a shark sighting because it ruins the day for the beachgoers.”

But, Diaz said, “they belong in the ocean. We don’t.”

Sightings and non-fatal incidents have proliferated on Long Island this year but experts say they are actually evidence of a conservation success story.

  • How many shark attacks have there been? There have been at least six shark-human encounters along this stretch of coast, none fatal, but some requiring medical attention.

  • Why has there been a rise in sightings? The rise in encounters is not complicated to explain: warmer sea temperatures mean more food and more reason for sharks to come around.

Trump returns to Washington for first time since leaving office

Donald Trump
Donald Trump at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on 20 January 2021, the day of Joe Biden’s inauguration. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Mr Trump is going (back) to Washington. The former president will return to the nation’s capital this morning, marking his first visit to the city since leaving office last year.

Trump will deliver the keynote address at a summit held by the America First Policy Institute (AFPI), a thinktank formed by some of his former White House advisers.

AFPI’s leaders have said the America First Agenda Summit will focus on the Republican party’s plans to combat inflation and improve the US immigration system, but that agenda is unlikely to stop Trump from recirculating his lies about the 2020 election.

The summit comes less than a week after the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection held its second primetime hearing, which focused on Trump’s inaction during the deadly Capitol attack. The committee outlined how Trump refused for hours to intervene and instead watched television coverage of the violence, even as some of his closest advisers pleaded with him to take action.

  • What will he say in his speech? Trump is expected to confront the committee’s accusations in his speech today, as he has remained determined to criticize those who did not support his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

In other news …

Paul Sorvino
Paul Sorvino in 2013. Photograph: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
  • Paul Sorvino, the Tony-nominated actor who played the mobster Paulie Cicero in Goodfellas, has died at age 83. Sorvino, the father of the actor Mira Sorvino, died of natural causes yesterday. The Brooklyn native’s career spanned over a half century, with memorable roles as secretary of state Henry Kissinger in Oliver Stone’s Nixon and Claire Danes’s father in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.

  • A US official has urged China to do more to rein in Myanmar’s military after its execution of four people, saying that “it cannot be business as usual with the junta”. The state department says military government in Yangon has not faced enough economic and diplomatic pressure, amid global outrage at killings.

  • The battle to become the UK’s next prime minister descended into fierce clashes as Rishi Sunak launched repeated attacks on the economic policies of the favourite Liz Truss in their first head-to-head TV debate. The two Conservative leadership hopefuls traded blows over tax cuts, China and inflation.

  • Tunisian president Kais Saied celebrated the almost certain victory of the “yes” vote in a referendum on a new constitution that strengthens the powers of the head of state and risks the return of authoritarian rule in the birthplace of the Arab spring. An overwhelming 92-93% of those who voted supported the new constitution, according to an exit poll.

Stat of the day: Disney VIP world tour will produce 6.2 tonnes of carbon for each guest

Cast members dressed as cartoon characters play a traditional Chinese drum at Shanghai Disneyland ahead of the Chinese New Year.
Shanghai Disneyland. The trip will visit 12 Disney resorts in six countries. Photograph: China News Service/Getty Images

Disney is marketing a $110,000-a-ticket elite package tour that comes with a carbon price tag of 6.2 tonnes of emissions for each guest – 20 times more than a person in a low-income country accounts for in an entire year. The 24-day “bucket list adventure”, which is limited to 75 guests, takes in 12 Disney resorts in six countries on three continents travelling on a “VIP-configured” Boeing 757. Jet fuel burned to power the aircraft for the total 19,600-mile (31,500km) journey would emit a total of 462 tonnes of carbon dioxide, analysis found.

Don’t miss this: They used her eggs to have a baby. Now they’re one big family

It is rare for families to meet the stranger donating eggs to them. In the US, egg and sperm donation is usually a closed process: the family hears about the donor through an agency, receiving only basic, non-identifying features about them – such as their university or their eye color – but never learning a name or hearing their voice. Anonymity is meant to protect donors, but taking another path can afford a different sort of security – and new ways to think about how to raise a kid.

Climate check: Six staffers arrested after climate sit-in at Chuck Schumer’s office

Chuck Schumer
Seventeen people sat in the Senate majority leader’s office to demand he reopen climate negotiations. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

Six staffers were reportedly arrested in Congress yesterday afternoon for staging a sit-in at Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer’s office and protesting about a lack of legislative action on the environment. The congressional staffers and activists had started the demonstration earlier yesterday, with 17 staffers sitting in Schumer’s office to demand that he reopen climate negotiations. Schumer, Senate majority leader, had been under pressure to negotiate a climate deal, especially after the supreme court struck down a key protection of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Last Thing: Freya the walrus sinks boats and captures hearts in Norway

Freya the walrus climbs into a boat in Frognerkilen bay, in Oslo, Norway
The enchanting but unwittingly destructive 600kg marine mammal, named after a Norse goddess, has taken up residence in Oslo fjord.
Photograph: NTB/Reuters

For a week, a young female walrus nicknamed Freya has enchanted Norwegians by basking in the sun of the Oslo fjord, making a splash in the media and bending a few boats. The 600kg (1,300lb) marine mammal has been named after the Norse goddess of love and beauty. The presence of the mammal, which normally lives in the more northerly latitudes of the Arctic, has sparked curiosity among locals and made headlines in the press. The newspaper Verdens Gang has put up a livestream showing the walrus’s every move on its website.

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