5 things to know for March 3: Covid-19, stimulus, White House, Russia, Afghanistan

5 things to know for March 3: Covid-19, stimulus, White House, Russia, Afghanistan

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, or at least that’s what they say. Wait, why do they say that?

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

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1. Coronavirus 

Experts say we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the long pandemic tunnel, but that could be thwarted if state leaders keep pushing to reopen too soon. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott rescinded a state mask mandate and will let businesses operate at 100% capacity starting in a week. Mississippi, Ohio and Louisiana are among other states set to lift safety precautions soon, too. President Biden reminded state leaders and residents to stay vigilant. Biden also bolstered the vaccine push under the Defense Production Act, announcing there would be enough doses for all US adults by the end of May. In Europe, the EU’s coordinated vaccine strategy is splintering as participating countries look outside the bloc to China, Israel and Russia for vaccine help amid a rollout plagued with supply issues and contract squabbles.

2. Stimulus 

Republicans are gearing up for a messy fight as the stimulus bill faces a vote in the Senate. Their plan is to divide Democratic ranks over the more specific and controversial provisions in the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says two such provisions, related to rail and bridge projects, will be stripped from the bill. Then, there’s the looming $15 minimum wage addition, which the Senate parliamentarian said shouldn’t be included. Some progressive senators are mulling withholding a vote on the bill unless it is in. Biden urged Democratic senators against accepting so-called poison pill provisions that would gut the basic tenets of the bill and keep it from being effective. Whatever happens, the next few days in the Senate will be long and laborious as Dems try to get it all done by that March 14 unemployment benefit deadline.

3. White House

The White House has pulled Neera Tanden’s nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget after Tanden requested her name be withdrawn from consideration. This ends weeks of uncertainty and controversy surrounding her nomination. The former Hillary Clinton campaign aide and president of the Center for American Progress faced scrutiny during the confirmation process for past critical comments of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Her confirmation was already unlikely after key senators, including Democrat Joe Manchin, said they’d oppose it. Two other positions that have been confirmed: Cecilia Rouse, dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, will chair the Council of Economic Advisers. And Gina Raimondo, the first woman governor of Rhode Island, will serve as Biden’s secretary of commerce.

4. Russia

The Biden administration has unleashed sanctions on Russian officials and entities in response to the poisoning and imprisonment of opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Among others, the sanctions target the head of Russia’s security services, the FSB. The State Department also sanctioned the FSB as an entity, which according to department spokesperson “speaks to where we believe culpability lies.” The US intelligence community has determined “with high confidence” that the FSB poisoned Navalny in August with the nerve agent Novichok. Navalny has now been detained in Russia since mid-January. The US’ punitive actions were coordinated with the European Union, which also unveiled sanctions, and represent the first significant move against Moscow since Biden became President.

5. Afghanistan

Three women media workers were shot dead in Afghanistan yesterday. They’re the latest victims in a wave of killings spreading fear among professionals in urban centers. Shootings and small bombs attached to vehicles have targeted journalists, civil society workers and mid-level government employees in Afghanistan in recent months as the government and Taliban negotiators try to broker a peace deal and the US withdraws some troops. The Afghan government and some foreign powers have blamed the attacks on the Taliban, which denies involvement. The US embassy condemned the latest slayings, saying the attacks are meant to intimidate and stifle freedom of speech.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

Qantas launches ‘Mystery Flights’ to increase interest in travel

Maybe it’s just us, but we like to know exactly where we’re going when we get on a plane.

‘Wonder Woman’ star Gal Gadot is pregnant with her third child

A new superhero is on the way! 

Instagram accidentally hid likes for some users

If someone posts something on Instagram and it doesn’t get likes, was it ever really posted at all?

Amazon quietly changed its app icon after some unfavorable comparisons

Yeah … one typically wants to avoid comparisons to Hitler.

Target saw more sales growth in 2020 than the last 11 years combined

Is it because we all roam the wide, fluorescent aisles and pretend, just for a little bit, that everything is normal again?

TODAY’S NUMBER

10,000

That’s how many minors and vulnerable people may have been abused by French Catholic clergy since 1950, according to an independent investigation set up by the church in France. In 2019, Pope Francis issued global rules for reporting sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, mandating for the first time that all dioceses set up systems for reporting abuse and cover-ups.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been accused by three women of unwanted advances. Cuomo drew criticism for his apology, in which he said he has “teased people” and “never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable.”

TODAY’S WEATHER

Check your local forecast here>>>

AND FINALLY

Inside a royal doll house

If the tiny bound books don’t enchant you, the tiny gardens will. (Click here to view.)