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5 things to know for February 2: Covid-19, stimulus, White House, GameStop, Myanmar

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Happy Groundhog Day! Will we get more winter? Will we get an early spring? Will we ever spell “Punxsutawney Phil” correctly on the first try?

Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

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1. Coronavirus

Vaccine distribution in the US will “get better very quickly,” Dr. Anthony Fauci says. With the Biden administration’s recent purchase of 200 million additional doses, the President says there will now be enough doses to fully vaccinate 300 million people by the end of the summer — almost the entire US population. Though vaccine efforts are improving, officials are still in a race against those coronavirus variants. Fauci says people who have had Covid-19, and thus have some measure of immunity, may get reinfected if variants become dominant. Meanwhile, Japan is planning to extend its state of emergency as case numbers rise. Despite worsening conditions, the country’s 2020 Olympics president says the games, postponed from last year and set for this summer, will go on no matter what.

2. Stimulus

Senate Democrats are laying the groundwork for passing parts of President Biden’s coronavirus relief plan without any Republican votes using a procedural shortcut known as budget reconciliation. This could take up to a month, which would allow for further bipartisan negotiations while leaving the door open for a unilateral deal. Biden spoke with some Republicans yesterday about their counterproposal to his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, but it’s clear Democrats don’t think the GOP alternative is viable. Among the differences, the GOP plan would mean about 29 million fewer Americans would get a stimulus payment. Here’s a breakdown of where each plan stands on items like school openings and state and small business aid.

3. White House 

The Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to postpone oral arguments in significant cases regarding former President Trump’s border wall plans. One of Biden’s first actions in office was to halt border wall construction while the government reviews how the wall’s construction was funded. Biden’s team is also moving to pause lawsuits launched under Trump that were intended to acquire private land for wall construction. In another unraveling of Trump-era policy, Biden has frozen two controversial health care regulations. Though aimed at reducing drug costs, both have been found by critics to increase costs or make distribution harder.

4. GameStop

GameStop stock madness is still going on, now with rogue online investors apparently turning their interest to silver. Silver prices yesterday jumped 13% to an eight-year high after some online investors suggested dumping money into silver would hurt big banks they believe are artificially suppressing prices. However, others believe the new push is being co-opted by hedge funds to move pressure off the GameStop rally. The CEO of Robinhood, the trading app used by some of these investors to buy stocks, says the company’s clearinghouse asked it to pony up $3 billion in capital following last week’s surge — a sign of the intense financial pressure facing the startup.

5. Myanmar

What happens next in Myanmar? That’s the question facing an anxious populace the day after Myanmar’s military detained de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected leaders and seized control of the country. There are now fears that those actions could be a prelude to a wider clampdown, recalling 50 brutal years the country spent under military rule until 2011. During that time, critics, activists, journalists, academics and artists were routinely jailed and tortured. The crisis has created foreign policy challenges as well. Biden has indicated that sanctions could be on the table in response to the power grab.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

This candy company will pay you $30 an hour to taste test its sweets

Sounds like fun, as long as it doesn’t end “I Love Lucy”-style.

Disney is working on a Wakanda-set TV series 

More Wakanda is always a good idea.

The ‘Sex and the City’ revival will address the Covid-19 pandemic

What a way to set the mood.

Human-made noise may confuse crickets trying to mate, study says

Uh, yeah. WE’RE definitely the loud ones. We’ll try to keep it down … in the name of romance.

PROFILES IN PERSEVERANCE

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

Dorothy Height, activist, 1912-2010

Height spent her life fighting racism and sexism. She was the president of the National Council of Negro Women for more than 40 years. She was also one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s key advisers. Historians say that as an organizer of the March on Washington, she was the only woman activist on the speakers’ platform during King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

IN MEMORIAM

Dustin Diamond, who played the role of Screech on the popular 1990s high school comedy “Saved by the Bell,” has died at 44.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country.”

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, in a tacit rebuke of controversial Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. House Democrats are working to strip Greene of her committee assignments following various conspiracy-driven comments she has made.

TODAY’S WEATHER

That fierce winter storm is dumping snow on the Northeast 

If the pandemic isn’t enough to keep you inside, the sudden several inches of snow will probably do it.

Check your local forecast here>>>

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AND FINALLY

Zoom!

I can’t stop watching this time-lapse video of ships departing, arriving and maneuvering around at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii. (Click here to view.)

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