It’s called COVID-19 for a reason. While China may not have reported the deadly virus to the world until the very end of 2019, there are indications it was infecting people in Wuhan much earlier. That’s what World Health Organization investigators probing the pandemic’s origins reportedly believe after discovering that more than a dozen strains were already in the city in December 2019. They want to examine hundreds of thousands of blood samples to test their suspicions, but China won’t provide them. Meanwhile, WHO officials say Beijing pressured them to say the virus originated outside of China.
Winter storms are leaving millions in the dark. At least 150 million people in the Southern and Central U.S. are facing deep freezes that have left highways slick and caused massive power outages. Brutal ice storms hit Alabama, a tornado struck North Carolina and it was colder in Austin, Texas, than in Anchorage, Alaska. One meteorologist, noting that it was snowing in Houston but raining in Pennsylvania, marveled, “When does that ever happen?” In Mexico, 4.8 million people lost power when natural gas pipelines from Texas froze, and Greece was hit with its heaviest snowfall in 12 years.
It’s the most vaccinated nation in the world: Nearly half of its population has received at least one dose. Now Israel is considering reopening the economy, from hotels and museums to soccer games — but only for those who’ve already been jabbed. Other nations will be watching for a glimpse of a post-COVID future, especially after Israeli experts showed Pfizer’s vaccine has been 94 percent effective. They’ll also be watching to see if that good fortune extends to Palestine, which has accused Israel of not providing vaccines to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
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4. Next for the Capitol Riot: A 9/11-Style Commission
This isn’t settled. In the wake of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment acquittal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that Congress will establish a bipartisan commission, modeled after the one that studied the 9/11 attacks, to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol assault. She’s tapped former Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré to examine congressional security, and has sought his advice on further investigations. The commission, which would also look into efforts to thwart the peaceful transfer of power, will likely require legislation, and Republicans are already pushing back, suggesting Pelosi might exert influence over the panel’s findings.
Coronavirus Update: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his office mistakenly withheld data on nursing home deaths, but did not apologize and refused to answer questions yesterday. After examining outcomes for 60,000 people vaccinated in Israel, Pfizer says its shot has proven to be 94 percent effective — the same results as its clinical trials. And the WHO has approved the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine for emergency use.
As the U.S. recently passed the milestone of administering 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, we're looking back to the powerful interview that Dr. Anthony Fauci gave on The Carlos Watson Show last month. If you missed it the first time around, catch up today for fascinating insights into why the vaccines should be trusted, how working on the HIV epidemic prepared him for COVID and what the next pandemic might look like. Watch now.
Archaeologists have found a 5,000-year-old high-production brewery at a burial site in the ancient Egyptian city of Abydos. The Egyptian-American team discovered eight large groupings of 40 earthenware pots that would have been used for heating grains and water. And it was no local brewpub, either, producing nearly 6,000 gallons of suds at a time. The site is thought to date from the time of King Narmer, who unified Egypt during the First Dynastic Period. Researchers believe the beer was for funeral rituals — but it’s entirely possible some was siphoned off for the living.
They stopped the steal. The right-wing social media site announced its return Monday on a new platform built on “sustainable, independent technology.” After Parler saw a surge of new users following President Trump’s election loss and his banishment from Twitter, it virtually disappeared in January when Amazon pulled its web hosting over the Capitol riot. The revived platform proudly declared that it’s no longer “reliant on so-called 'Big Tech'” — though it remains banned from most app stores, and many existing users complained they still can’t access their Parler accounts. Where? On Twitter, of course.
Some 25 percent of India’s land is becoming arid, which may seem odd to outsiders for a country known for its monsoons. But local initiatives are fighting back, OZY reports. In Rajasthan, villagers organized to build and restore ponds to store fresh water, irrigate fields and recharge groundwater. Planting trees further stabilizes the system, and experts say this proactive approach can actually reverse the land’s degradation. Now Rajasthan is one of only four Indian states shown to be reducing desertification, setting an example for others places around the world facing the same plight.
It’s a slimmed-down Fat Tuesday. New Orleans will mark the hedonistic holiday today with masks, distancing and scarce booze if authorities have anything to say about it. Last year, as the pandemic seemed far away, over 1 million Mardi Gras revelers showed up, leaving overcrowded hospitals and COVID-19 deaths in their wake. This year the city won’t allow liquor sales, and bars have put up white flags, protesting that they were given less than two weeks' notice. But all is not lost: Residents have launched “Yardi Gras” — festooning their houses like floats, including a “Kraken House” bristling with tentacles.
5. LeBron James Says He Got Dallas, Seattle NFL Invites
He coulda been a contender. While it’s no secret the basketball superstar played football in high school and talked about playing for the NFL, he’s now told The Athletic just how close he came — and not fresh out of high school, but during the 2011 NBA lockout. Like Michael Jordan, his rival for NBA GOAT status, James got offers, with the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks inviting him to try out. Having passed up that shot at glory, King James will have to settle for tracking to become the NBA’s oldest MVP this year. Hear that, Mike?
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