Vaccinations ramp up

President Biden said the U.S. will have enough COVID-19 vaccines for “every adult in America by the end of May.” He also called on states to prioritize inoculating teachers and child-care workers.

He also announced he would direct states to prioritize teachers in their vaccination plans, reemphasizing a commitment to returning students to classrooms amid a confusing administration stance on when and how classrooms can reopen.

The new date does not mean all Americans would receive shots by May 31; issues with distribution and personnel mean it could take much longer for all doses to be administered. CNN POLITICS

Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine as rivals team up to help Biden accelerate shots
President Biden announced Tuesday that pharmaceutical giant Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine — an unusual pact between fierce rivals that is among several steps intended to boost supply as Biden pushes toward having enough shots for every adult by the end of May.

“Two of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world who are usually competitors are working together on the vaccine,” he said in remarks delivered at the White House. “This is the type of collaboration between companies we saw in World War II.”

Biden’s vow to produce enough vaccine for all U.S. adults by the end of May is two months faster than his previous goal of the end of July. But the Merck deal on its own is not expected to ramp up fast enough to impact vaccine supplies significantly in the next three months. THE WASHINGTON POST

Gov. Tate Reeves ditches mask mandates, COVID-related business restrictions
Texas and Mississippi said they will drop their mask mandates and reopen businesses, despite CDC warnings that states should not relax restrictions while new, more contagious coronavirus variants are spreading.

“The governor’s office is getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do,” Reeves said at a press conference.

The executive order, which will go into effect on March 3, replaces mask mandates and business restrictions with nonbinding recommendations that they continue to follow CDC guidelines. Reeves encouraged Mississippians to continue listening to the advice of public health officials like State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, who continues to recommend people wear masks in public and avoid social gatherings. MISSISSIPPI TODAY

FBI Director Says Jan. 6 Capitol Riot Was Inspiration for More Extremism
The FBI Director told senators the January 6 Capitol attack was an act of “domestic terrorism” that has inspired extremists at home and abroad. “The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now, and it’s not going away anytime soon,” Mr. Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee at a Tuesday hearing, adding that the ideologies motivating a variety of extremists were proving difficult to pinpoint.

“In some cases, it seems like people are coming up with their own sort of customized belief systems—a little bit of this, a little bit of that—and they put it together maybe combined with some personal grievance or something that’s happened in their lives,” he said. “Trying to get your arms around that is a real challenge.” THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Supreme Court leans toward approving Arizona GOP voting rules challenged by Democrats
The Supreme Court appeared ready to uphold two Arizona laws that limit where votes can be cast and who can collect absentee ballots. One rule calls for throwing out ballots cast by voters who arrive at the wrong precinct on election day but want to vote there anyway. The other forbids “ballot harvesting,” making it a state crime for anyone — other than family members, caregivers or postal workers — to collect and return mail ballots.

In their comments and questions, most of the justices said they were in search of a middle-ground position, blocking new restrictions that could have a significant impact on Black, Latino or Native Americans, rather than automatically invalidating any rule that has different impacts based on race. LOS ANGELES TIMES

Rockets fired at Iraqi airbase hosting U.S.-led coalition troops
Rockets were fired at an Iraqi military base hosting American troops. It comes a week after a U.S. airstrike in Syria killed one member of an Iranian-backed militia group.

Ten rockets were fired at an Iraqi military base hosting U.S.-led coalition troops Wednesday, the latest in a series of rocket attacks in Iraq with this one just days before the Pope is due to visit the country.

The rockets targeted Ain Al-Asad airbase, northwest of Baghdad, at 7:20 a.m. local time Wednesday (11:20 p.m. Tuesday ET). The attack was confirmed in a tweet from Col. Wayne Marotto, the military spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the 83-member coalition to defeat ISIS. NBC NEWS

U.S., EU impose sanctions on Russia for Navalny poisoning, jailing
The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions to punish Russia for what it described as Moscow’s attempt to poison opposition leader Alexei Navalny with a nerve agent last year, in President Joe Biden’s most direct challenge yet to the Kremlin.

The sanctions against seven senior Russian officials, among them the head of its FSB security service, and on 14 entities marked a sharp departure from former President Donald Trump’s reluctance to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin. Biden stopped short, however, of putting sanctions on Putin himself.

Navalny, 44, fell ill on a flight in Siberia in August and was airlifted to Germany, where doctors concluded he had been poisoned with a nerve agent. The Kremlin has denied any role in his illness and said it had seen no proof he was poisoned. REUTERS

Dr. Seuss Enterprises Will Shelve 6 Books, Citing ‘Hurtful’ Portrayals

Dr. Seuss Enterprises will cease publishing six of the author’s books — including And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and If I Ran the Zoo — saying they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” The books have been criticized for how they depict Asian and Black people.

The decision to stop publishing and licensing the books follows a review by a panel of educators and other experts, according to Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the company that controls the author’s books and characters. The other four titles that will be permanently shelved are McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat’s Quizzer.

The company says the decision was made last year, in an effort to support “all children and families with messages of hope, inspiration, inclusion, and friendship.” NPR

15 New Winter Shows Ranked by Premiere Viewers, From ‘Debris’ to ‘The Equalizer’ (Photos)
Is it cold in here, or is it just the “Cherries Wild” TV ratings? TheWrap has ranked the Big 4 broadcast networks’ (CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC) new series by the viewership for their winter 2020-21 debut episodes.

With the arrival of 2021 has come the premieres of many new and returning broadcast TV shows that normally would have been part of networks’ fall slates if it weren’t for the pandemic. The new year’s start also means we’ll begin to see more announcements about which series will be renewed, canceled and ordered for the 2021-2022 broadcast season.

But with production delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, broadcasters are faced with some unprecedented problems while making these annual decisions over the coming months. THE WRAP
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