5 things to know for February 25: Covid, stimulus, immigration, Australia, CIA probe

GameStop traders are at it again. Company shares surged more than 100% yesterday and were halted twice for volatility before the closing bell.

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1. Coronavirus 

The FDA says Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine meets the requirements for emergency use authorization, potentially setting up a much-needed third vaccine option in the US. A committee will meet Friday to discuss next steps in making the vaccine available to the public. As more people get vaccinated, a new analysis shows a lack of equity among priority groups is leaving those most vulnerable to Covid-19, like people with specific health issues or in disadvantaged areas, without protection. In New York City, two separate teams of researchers have found yet another worrying coronavirus variation that carries mutations that help it evade the body’s natural immune response and the effects of monoclonal antibody treatments.

2. Stimulus

The stimulus bill is headed to a House floor vote as early as tomorrow, and Republicans are still set to mount an opposition despite findings from a recent poll that 7 of 10 Americans support it. They’d be arguing against legislation intended to help speed the delivery of vaccines; send direct payments of up to $1,400; extend key pandemic unemployment programs; provide aid to struggling small business owners; and dedicate nearly $130 billion for K-12 schools to reopen. Right now, all eyes are on Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, who is set to decide whether the bill can include the provision of a $15 minimum wage. The parliamentarian, by the way, is a legal adviser to the Senate who interprets the body’s rules and procedures.

3. Immigration 

Lawyers are slowly making progress in locating and reuniting children and families separated at the southern US border as part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. A month ago, the parents of 611 children had yet to be located. Now, that number is down to 506. President Biden this month signed an executive order establishing a new task force designed to identify and reunify these separated families. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has lifted an order that temporarily banned certain immigrant visas during the pandemic and will begin admitting some of the hundreds of migrants held in deplorable conditions in tent camps as part of a policy requiring them to stay in Mexico until their US court dates. Both these decisions are reversals of controversial Trump-era policies.

4. Australia

Australia has passed a new law that will force tech companies to pay publishers for news content. You may remember Facebook recently balked at the idea and even temporarily took down news content on its platform in the country. After the parties haggled over details, the law went forward. Now, the stage is set for other countries to adopt similar measures. Under the law, tech giants like Google and Facebook must compensate news outlets for content featured in spaces like Google News Showcase and Facebook News. Tech companies generally hate the rule, saying it could threaten business models. Supporters say it keeps tech companies from siphoning cash away from traditional news organizations by using their content for free.

5. Invisible attacks probe

The CIA has set up its first-ever task force to focus on suspected microwave attacks on US intelligence officers in the last few years, CNN has learned. About 40 US government officials across multiple agencies have been victims of debilitating invisible attacks in Russia, Cuba, China and other places around the globe. The mysterious nature of these attacks, thought to be caused by directed microwave radiation, have left victims with traumatic brain injuries and other lasting side effects while providing little in the way of evidence to hold those behind the attacks accountable. This new momentum comes after recently declassified reports that suggest the initial investigation into the attacks may have been mismanaged.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

Everything to know about Paramount+, ViacomCBS’ new streaming service

Something new to add to your already-infinite streaming options.

Lockdown has made London a boomtown for rats

The true rulers of the city have risen.

E-scooters embrace AI to cut down on pedestrian collisions

Have you ever been on one? Those things are SCARY. 

Dunkin’ is now selling avocado toast

Breakfast is about to get more bougie. 

Among the TSA’s top 10 catches of 2020: A dead shark

Remember to travel light, folks! Just the essentials: clothes, toiletries and a trusty preserved shark specimen for good luck.

JUST IN …

Brisbane 2032?

The International Olympic Committee announced that the Australian city of Brisbane is the “preferred host” for the 2032 Summer Olympics, a move the IOC says is designed to bring “stability” to the Games following the delay of the 2020 Tokyo edition.

PROFILES IN PERSEVERANCE

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

Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, attorney and economist, 1898-1989

Alexander was the first Black person in the nation to earn a Ph.D. in economics, in 1921. She also earned a law degree and became the first Black woman to pass the Pennsylvania bar. US Presidents took notice. In 1947, Harry Truman named her to his Committee on Civil Rights, whose report became a blueprint for the civil rights movement. Some 30 years later, Jimmy Carter appointed her chair of the White House Conference on Aging.

TODAY’S NUMBER

168

That’s how many Confederate symbols were renamed or removed from US public spaces in 2020 in the midst of a national reckoning with racism. The number, tallied by the Southern Poverty Law Center, includes statues, flags and monuments, as well as city seals, official state holidays and names of schools, streets and other public areas.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“While I’m here, while for some reason there’s a TV camera on me, I might as well use it to the best of my ability.”

Naomi Osaka, tennis star and nominee for the 2020 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award, given to outstanding activists and advocates in sport. Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam champion at 23, has been vocal about using her platform to fight racial injustice.

TODAY’S WEATHER

Check your local forecast here>>>

AND FINALLY

It’s so … beautiful

As I’m of Polish heritage, my husband showed me this video yesterday, and now I’m furious I can’t have this gorgeous, delicious-looking cheese in front of me right now. (Click here to view.)