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5 things to know for Jan. 20: Biden, Voting rights, Capitol riot, Covid, Immigration

By Alexandra Meeks, CNN

The FBI says cybercriminals are trying to steal financial information from Americans by creating fraudulent QR codes that look like the ones many restaurants and other businesses are using due to the coronavirus pandemic. These fake codes direct people to malicious websites in order to steal their data or hijack their payments.

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1. President Biden

President Joe Biden held a news conference yesterday marking his first year in office. In his address, he touted major strides in Covid-19 vaccination efforts, but also the challenges that lie ahead as many priorities in his agenda remain stalled in Congress, including the Build Back Better Act and voting rights legislation. On the topic of Ukraine, where tens of thousands of Russian troops have amassed along the border, Biden predicted Russia “will move in” to Ukraine, citing concerns by the country’s president, Vladimir Putin, even as he acknowledged disunity within NATO over how to respond to a “minor incursion.” Shortly after those remarks, the White House issue a clarification stating that a potential Russian invasion “will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our Allies.”

2. Voting rights

Senate Democrats suffered a major defeat yesterday in their efforts to pass voting rights legislation — a key issue for the party, which is under pressure to take action ahead of the midterm elections. An attempt by Democrats to change filibuster rules in order to pass a voting bill failed amid opposition from moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. After the vote, Sinema released a statement saying she opposed the change because it would “deepen our divisions” and “risk repeated radical reversals in federal policy.” The proposed rules change — to allow for a “talking filibuster” on the legislation — would have forced lawmakers to come to the Senate floor and speak in opposition. Once those speeches end, the Senate would be able to hold a simple majority vote for final passage.

3. Capitol riot

The Supreme Court cleared the way yesterday for the release of presidential records from the Trump White House to a congressional committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol. The high court’s order means that more than 700 documents will be transferred to Congress that could shed light on the events leading up to the insurrection. The select committee is seeking those documents as it explores Trump’s role in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election. That includes his appearance at a January 6 rally in which he directed followers to go to the Capitol where lawmakers were set to certify the election results and “fight” for their county. The documents include activity logs, schedules, speech notes and three pages of handwritten notes from then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — paperwork that could reveal goings-on inside the West Wing on the day of the riot.

4. Coronavirus

With more than 18 million global coronavirus cases reported last week alone, the head of the World Health Organization says there is still no clear end in sight as health care systems remained overburdened by the influx of patients. “This pandemic is nowhere near over,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, adding the next few weeks will be critical for strained health care workers. In the US, about 63% of the total population is fully vaccinated and boosted against Covid-19, according to data published yesterday from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC experts also say a Covid-19 vaccine for children under the age of 5 could be available within a month.

5. Immigration

The Biden administration defended the use of a controversial Trump-era border policy that allows authorities to swiftly remove migrants encountered at the US southern border during a court hearing yesterday. A Justice Department spokesman cited Covid-19 concerns as the main rationale for invoking the policy, known as Title 42. The use of the authority has drawn fierce criticism from immigrant advocates, attorneys and health experts, who argue the policy has no health basis and puts migrants in harm’s way. The United Nations refugee agency has also pushed back on the restrictions.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

How are you doing at your New Year’s resolutions?

Can you believe it’s almost February? If you feel like you’re failing, scientists say you should do less in order to achieve more.

Enormous coral reef discovered off the coast of Tahiti

Did you know that only about 20% of the ocean floor has been mapped? There’s still so much left to sea.

A new species of tarantula discovered by Thai YouTube star

Apparently, they live in the holes of bamboo plants. (It’s a no for me.)

M&M’s beloved characters are getting a new look

Don’t worry, your favorite M&M characters aren’t going anywhere. The company is hoping a few subtle changes will boost their brand alignment.

Japan’s best castles to visit at least once

A quiet stroll under blooming cherry blossoms, gazing at Japanese castles. I’ve officially found my next vacation idea.

TODAY’S NUMBER

$530,000

That’s the amount of money raised so far by a fundraising campaign set up by Tonga’s popular Olympic flagbearer Pita Taufatofua after a tsunami devastated the island nation following a massive volcanic eruption last week. The disaster also created a plume of ash that covered all of the country’s roughly 170 islands and impacted Tonga’s entire population of more than 100,000 people.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“This is one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible issue subjects … I’ve seen in my aviation career.”

Emirates president Tim Clark, on the rollout of 5G technology near some airports in the US. Many in the aviation industry are concerned that 5G signals will interfere with the radar altimeter onboard planes. As a result, Emirates airlines canceled flights to nine US destinations yesterday.

TODAY’S WEATHER

Check your local forecast here>>>

AND FINALLY

The chemistry of caffeine

Are you enjoying coffee this morning? I sure am! If you’ve ever wondered how caffeine works in your body, here’s a brief explainer. (Click here to view)

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