5 things to know for February 26: Covid, stimulus, Syria, Saudi Arabia, gymnastics

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1. Coronavirus 

President Biden marked 50 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the US since he took office last month, a halfway point in his promise to get 100 million vaccine doses into arms in his first 100 days. The US has now given a total of 66.5 million vaccine doses, and a third vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, could be in play as soon as next week if the FDA authorizes its emergency use. A new survey found 55% of adults have either gotten a shot or want to as soon as possible, up from 47% in mid-January and 34% in early December. However, as always, experts are still cautious. That sharp decline in cases has now flattened to a plateau, and a fourth deadly surge is still possible as coronavirus variants spread and restrictions relax.

2. Stimulus

The Senate parliamentarian ruled against including the proposed minimum wage increase in the coronavirus stimulus bill, saying it would infringe upon the budgetary process known as reconciliation that Democrats are using to move the measure forward. That’s a blow for progressives, but it does mean there is less division over the bill now, and it could be easier to pass in the Senate. The House is expected to pass the $1.9 trillion bill today. Everyone interested in actually getting this thing over the finish line wants it to happen before March 14, when federal unemployment benefits are set to expire.

3. Syria

The US military carried out air strikes on a site in Syria used by two Iranian-backed militia groups. The strikes mark the US military’s first known action under Biden and were in response to rocket attacks on American forces in the region in the past two weeks. A February 15 rocket attack on coalition forces near the Erbil International Airport in Iraqi Kurdistan killed a civilian contractor and injured nine others; Iran denied involvement in the attack. The US strikes come as Washington and Tehran position themselves for negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program, potentially complicating an already fragile process.

4. Saudi Arabia

Any time now, the Biden administration will release a long-awaited US intelligence report on the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The report is expected to further implicate Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Washington Post columnist’s death. Biden spoke with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud on the phone yesterday, implying the report’s imminent release. Both sides said the call, which did not mention Khashoggi by name, went well. Democratic lawmakers are expected to introduce legislation today to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for Khashoggi’s death, but for the White House, it’s a delicate balance. Saudi Arabia is a US ally, one with close ties to former President Trump, and Biden is interested in revisiting expectations in the two countries’ relationship.

5. US Gymnastics

John Geddert, who coached the 2012 US Olympic women’s gymnastics team, killed himself yesterday after being charged with 24 felonies in connection with the abuse of young gymnasts. The 63-year-old was facing charges that included human trafficking and criminal sexual conduct, and had been expected to turn himself in yesterday afternoon. Geddert was the former owner of Michigan’s famed Twistars Gymnastics Club, one of the places Larry Nassar, the disgraced former gymnastics physician, had admitted to sexually abusing young female athletes. Geddert was also a supporter of Nassar, who in 2018 was sentenced to up to 175 years for his decades of abuse. Sarah Klein, who has identified herself as the first to be abused by Nassar, said Geddert’s suicide is an “escape from justice.”

BREAKFAST BROWSE

Twitter is considering letting users pay to subscribe to accounts they like

It’s hard to imagine liking anyone that much on Twitter, but OK.

The Golden Globes are this weekend 

Break out your fancy TV-watchin’ slippers for the start of awards season.

Mr. Potato Head is dropping the ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ in favor of gender neutrality

We are, all of us, Potato Heads.

PepsiCo knows everyone is drinking cocktails at home. So, it’s launching a booze mixer

Anything is a mixer if you commit to it.

Hungry teenage dinosaurs’ eating habits could tell us a lot about dino diversity 

“Moooom, we’re out of hadrosaurs again!”

PROFILES IN PERSEVERANCE

February is Black History Month, and every day we’re highlighting Black pioneers in American history. Learn more here.

Bayard Rustin, activist, 1912-1987

An openly gay Black man during the Jim Crow era, Rustin faced prejudice even from within the civil rights movement. Still, he was the one to convince Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to adopt nonviolence as a protest tactic. Rustin’s crowning achievement was organizing the March on Washington, which brought more than 200,000 peaceful protesters of different races and religions to the nation’s capital in 1963. Rustin also became more outspoken about his sexuality later in life and has been hailed as an LGBTQ hero.

TODAY’S NUMBER

82,000

That’s how many electric cars Hyundai is recalling to replace their batteries after 15 reports of fires involving the vehicles. Though the number of cars involved is relatively small, the recall is still one of the most expensive in history.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“If they won’t take the kids and the kids keep coming, what are we supposed to do?”

A Homeland Security official, who told CNN concern is growing as an increasing number of unaccompanied children arrive at the southern US border. Shelter capacities are capped because of coronavirus restrictions, leaving the feds to scramble to find space to house them.

TODAY’S WEATHER

Check your local forecast here>>>

AND FINALLY

How 3D puzzles are made 

All right folks, it’s the weekend. Time to PARTY! And by party, we mean settle down with a puzzle and a cup of tea or something. (Click here to view.)

Blogs

Free Movie Mondays!

It’s Free Movie Mondays!  Be listening!  You could win movie tickets for 2, 2 small popcorns, 2 small drinks and 2 candy bars at the beautiful Capital Cinema 1 & 2 in Erwin!