Thursday, February 18, 2021

Wake-Up Call: Millions Still Without Power, Heat

: Millions of Americans had to get through another chillingly cold day yesterday without electricity or heat as the result of a winter storm earlier this week, and with another storm poised to hit, partly in areas of the South not used to dealing with frigid temperatures, snow and ice. Texas has been the worst hit by far, with three million homes and businesses still without power as of midday yesterday. Making things even worse, Texas officials ordered seven million people, amounting to one-quarter of the state's population, to boil their tap water before drinking it. Water pressure has fallen across Texas because of frozen lines and many people leaving faucets dripping to try to prevent pipes from freezing. More than 30 people have been killed, among them people who suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from doing things to try to stay warm, like running their car in their garage. The president of the Texas power grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said he hoped many customers would have at least partial service restored by today.

➤REPORTS: PFIZER, MODERNA VACCINES PROTECT AGAINST VARIANTS, INCLUDING SOUTH AFRICAN ONE: There were encouraging reports yesterday that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are the ones being distributed in the U.S., protect against coronavirus variants that have emerged, including the most worrisome one first seen in South Africa. A report from researchers at Pfizer and the University of Texas found that the Pfizer vaccine produced less neutralizing antibody activity against the South African variant, but it was still enough to neutralize the virus. Researchers at Moderna and the National Institutes of Health also found a reduction in the antibody response from the Moderna vaccine against the South African variant, but again in this case, it wasn't enough to make the vaccine less effective. There was also no reduction in being effective against the U.K. variant.

NY Post 02/18/21
➤U.S. ATTORNEY, FBI PROBING CUOMO'S HANDLING OF COVID NURSING HOME DEATH DATA: The U.S. attorney in Brooklyn and the FBI have begun a preliminary investigation into how New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration handled data about nursing home deaths from Covid-19, the Albany Times-Union reported yesterday. Cuomo's administration revealed in recent weeks that some 15,000 nursing home residents had died from Covid, significantly higher than the 8,500 that had previously been reported. Further, top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa said last week they didn't release a fuller death count in August because of worries that then President Donald Trump would use the information against Cuomo. The governor said Monday that, quote, "things should have been done differently." A senior adviser to Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, said last night, "As we publicly said, DOJ has been looking into this for months. We have been cooperating with them and we will continue to."

➤FEELING WORK-FROM-HOME FATIGUE? A FAKE COMMUTE MIGHT HELP: The world changed drastically for many in 2020, including the shift to working-from-home for many office workers. As a result, some people have taken to doing a fake commute in the morning, whether by bike or on foot, to switch things up and keep them interesting. Wellness coach Maureen Carlomagno says, “When you don’t have a commute, your work and home life blend. You can wake up and get in front of the computer and spend that extra hour [from not commuting] working on top of the already eight-hour day.” She notes that walking is accessible for most people, and that being able to get outside in the fresh air and sunshine is good for both mental and physical health. She adds that if it’s too cold where you live and you aren’t motivated to leave your home, try doing an indoor workout at home before starting work each day.

➤TRUMP REPEATS FALSE CLAIM HE WON THE ELECTION IN FIRST INTERVIEWS SINCE LEAVING OFFICE: Former President Donald Trump gave his first interviews Wednesday since leaving office just under one month ago, calling into Fox News, Newsmax and OANN to speak about the death yesterday of iconic conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh. But in those calls, Trump again repeated the false claim that he won the presidential election. In one of those claims, he told Fox, "Well, Rush thought we won. And so do I, by the way. I think we won substantially."

➤FACEBOOD BLOCKS NEWS STORIES FROM AUSTRALIANS: People in Australia can no longer post or view news stories on Facebook, and posts from Australian news publishers can't be seen anywhere in the world, after the social media mega-giant yesterday (February 17th) blocked them in a showdown over a new Australian law requiring tech companies to pay news publishers when their stories show up on social media or in search results. Google is also subject to the new law, but instead of doing what Facebook did, it made deals with the country's major publishing companies to pay for some of their news content that shows up in search. That was a retreat from an earlier threat from them to essentially pull Google search from Australia. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison reacted to Facebook's action, saying, "These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behavior of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them." The country's communications minister, Paul Fletcher, said, "Facebook needs to think very carefully about what this means for its reputation and standing. They’re effectively saying 'on our platform there will not be any information from organizations that employ paid journalists.'

🎾SERENA WILLIAMS LOSES TO OSAKA IN AUSTRALIAN OPEN SEMIFINALS: Tenth-seeded Serena Williams lost to Number 3 Naomi Osaka of Japan in their semifinal yesterday 6-3, 6-4, falling short again in her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title. Williams had twice as many unforced errors in the match as winners, and when the 39-year-old was asked about those mistakes by reporters after the match, she teared up and said, "I'm done," and walked out of the room. Osaka will play for the championship against 22nd-seeded American Jennifer Brady, who defeated Number 25 Karolina Muchova in their semifinal match yesterday. On the men's side, second-seeded Rafael Nadal was upset in the quarterfinals by Number 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, blowing a two-set lead.

⚾MLB'S SPRING TRAINING OPENS: Major League Baseball's spring training get underway yesterday, with pitchers and catchers reporting to prepare for what will be a full season this year, after they played only an abbreviated 60-game season last year due to the pandemic. There will be ever tougher Covid protocols this year, including players, staffers and team personnel being required to wear electronic tracing wristbands.

⚾TATIS AGREES TO 14-YEAR, $340 MILLION CONTRACT EXTENSION WITH PADRES: Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. agreed to a 14-year, $340 million contract extension with the San Diego Padres on Wednesday, ESPN reported, the third-biggest deal in MLB history. The 22-year-old Tatis is in his third year, after starting his first MLB season with the Padres in 2019.

⚾TEBOW RETIRING FROM BASEBALL: Tim Tebow announced yesterday that he's retiring from baseball after five years as a minor league player with the New York Mets. The Heisman Trophy-winning former NFL quarterback returned to baseball in 2016, after having played in high school, and reached the Triple-A level. The 33-year-old said in a statement yesterday, "I loved every minute of the journey, but at this time I feel called in other directions." Tebow played in 35 NFL games between 2010 and 2012 before being released by the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2015 preseason, the last time he was on an NFL roster.

🏈TOM BRADY TAKES AIM AT CRITICS: Tom Brady had some snarky fun at his critics' expense yesterday, tweeting a video with commentators and other players talking over the just-ended season about his supposed decline. All that before, of course, he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl championship.

⚾CLEVELAND SAVES LEADER CODY ALLEN RETIRES: The Cleveland Indians announced yesterday that closer Cody Allen, the franchise's career saves leader, had retired at age 32. Allen spent seven seasons with Cleveland, getting 149 saves in 456 games, and having more than 30 saves three times.

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