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Adds: PENCE-ELECTORAL VOTES; REPUBLICAN MEETING; UNITED STATES-IRAN; VIRUS OUTBREAK-VACCINES; FLINT WATER; MISSOURI GOVERNOR-RELIGION; WHOOPI-GOLDBERG-CANCEL-OR-COUNSEL?; SPACEX-PARACHUTES; ENDANGERED-WILDFLOWER-LITHIUM-MINE; IRS-TAX-HELP
VIRUS-OUTBREAK-US — Propelled in part by the wildly contagious omicron variant, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 hit 900,000, less than two months after eclipsing 800,000. The milestone comes more than 13 months into a vaccination drive that has been beset by misinformation and political and legal strife, though the shots have proved safe and highly effective at preventing serious illness and death. By Mark Kennedy and Ken Sweet. SENT: 930 words, photos.
OLY--BEIJING WINTER OLYMPICS —China, which used its first Olympics to amplify its international aspirations, invited the world back— sort of — for the pandemic era’s second Games, this time as an emboldened and more powerful nation whose government’s authoritarian turn provoked some countries’ leaders into staying home. Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the Games open during a ceremony heavy on ice-blue tones and winter imagery, held in the same lattice-encased Bird’s Nest stadium that hosted the inaugural event of the 2008 Summer Olympics. By Sarah DiLorenzo. SENT: 1,280 words, photos. WITH: OLY-BEIJING-OLYMPICS-THE-LATEST.
ECONOMY-JOBS REPORT — In a surprising burst of hiring, American’s employers added 467,000 jobs in January in a sign of the economy’s resilience even in the face of a wave of omicron infections last month. The government’s report also drastically revised up its estimate of job gains for November and December by a combined 709,000. It also said the unemployment rate ticked up from 3.9% to a still-low 4%, mainly because more people began looking for work and not all of them found jobs right away. By AP Economics Writer Christopher Rugaber. SENT: 1,015 words, photos. WITH: BIDEN-ECONOMY — President Biden had been bracing for a bleak jobs report, but the numbers proved to be a pleasant surprise. SENT: 680 words, photos.
UNITED STATES-SYRIA-THE RAID — When helicopters carrying some 50 U.S. commandos thumped onto the ground in Syria an hour after midnight, the raiders confronted a house of extremists and children. Baby toys were inside, as was the paraphernalia of violence — including the bomb that the Islamic State’s leader is said by U.S. officials to have used to blow up himself and his family. By Ghaith Alsayed, Zeke Miller, Lolita C. Baldor and Calvin Woodward. SENT: 1,220 words, photos. WITH: SYRIA RAID-CIVILIAN CASUALTIES — The U.S. says it tried to avert civilian deaths, but women and children were nonetheless killed. SENT: 960 words, photos.
POLICE-SHOOTING-MINNEAPOLIS — The parents of Amir Locke and their attorneys said that the 22-year-old Black man was “executed” by a Minneapolis SWAT team that woke him from a deep sleep, and that he reached in confusion for a legal firearm to protect himself. Locke’s parents, Andre Locke and Karen Wells, described him as respectful, including to police, and said some of their relatives work in law enforcement. Wells said the couple coached their son on how to act and do “what they needed to do whenever they encountered police officers” because of the danger to “unarmed Black males.” By Steve Karnowski and Amy Forliti. SENT: 1,060 words, photos.
PENCE-ELECTORAL VOTES — Former Vice President Mike Pence directly rebuts Donald Trump’s false claims that Pence somehow could have overturned the results of the 2020 election, saying the former president was simply “wrong.” By Jill Colvin. SENT: 970 words, photos.
REPUBLICAN MEETING — The Republican National Committee censures two GOP lawmakers for participating on the committee investigating the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. And it accuses the panel of persecuting people who had engaged in what the party calls “legitimate political discourse.” SENT: 610 words, photos.
MORE ON THE OLYMPICS
OLY-CHINA-THE-OLYMPIC-DIASPORA — At the Beijing Olympic Games, it’s a homecoming of sorts for one of the world’s most sprawling diasporas. Often sweet and sometimes more complicated, for Olympians of Chinese descent, it’s always a reflection of who they are, where they come from and the global Olympic spirit itself. Athletes here at the Beijing Games represent the many variations of the diaspora: some are one, two or many generations removed, others are biracial and multicultural. And even similar backgrounds diverge on the Olympic stage. SENT: 1,090 words, photos.
OLY-BEIJING-WATCHING-FROM-HOME — Many Chinese are filled with pride as the Beijing Olympics begin. It doesn’t matter that the city just held the Summer Games 14 years ago, or that the country had to artificially construct snow, or that the U.S. and several other Western countries were staging a diplomatic boycott over Beijing’s internment of a large part of its minority Uyghur population. Even though the Olympics are being held with strict COVID-19 prevention measures, there is still a festive air in the capital city. SENT: 440 words, photos.
OLY-WHAT-TO-WATCH — The first day of medals at the Beijing Olympics could be the start of another Norwegian gold rush. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde is among the favorites in the men’s downhill, which is one of the marquee events of NBC’s prime-time coverage Saturday. SENT: 580 words, photos.
OLY-CHINA-RUSSIA — The leaders of Russia and China have declared their joint opposition to any expansion of NATO and affirmed that the island of Taiwan is a part of China. The joint communique followed a meeting between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping hours before the Winter Olympics kicked off in Beijing. SENT: 1,040 words, photos.
OLY-SPD-PAUL-NEWBERRY-THE-OCALA-GANG — When one looks down the roster of the U.S. speedskating team at the Beijing Olympics, three names jump out. Brittany Bowe. Erin Jackson. Joey Mantia. They’re all among the world’s best skaters and leading medal contenders at these Winter Games. But that’s not what draws your attention. It’s the hometown beside each of their names. The same city for all three. Ocala, Florida, of all places. SENT: 1,015 words, photos.
OLY-OLYMPIC-INTRIGUE — For all the talk of a diplomatic boycott, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has managed to attract a globe-spanning roster of presidents, royals and other dignitaries to the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. The fact that most of them represent countries that are unlikely to win any medals, if they’re even competing at all, doesn’t seem to matter. SENT: 1,140 words, photos.
OLY--FRE-EILEEN’S CHOICE — American-born daredevil Eileen Gu will be trying to win gold medals for China at the Beijing Games. Gu’s mother is from the host country and the 18-year-old freestyle skier made the difficult and much-debated decision to compete for China instead of the United States. SENT: 1,144 words, photos.
OLY-BIA-HOW-BIATHLON-WORKS-EXPLAINER — One analogy often used to describe how it feels to compete in a biathlon race goes like this: “Run up 20 flights of stairs as fast as you can and then try to thread a needle.” U.S. biathlete Jake Brown says biathlon is the marriage of “two totally unrelated things.” One is physical and the other is mostly mental. Dealing with mental demands while under physical duress is the challenge of the sport. SENT: 1,070 words, photos.
OLY-COOLING-ICE-RINKS — The ice rinks that play host to figure skating and speedskating competitions at the Beijing Olympics will also be putting a major environmental problem on the world stage – the potent greenhouse gases often lurking in refrigerators, air conditioners and other cooling systems. SENT: 670 words, photos.
NETHERLANDS-BRIDGE-SPAT — A plan to temporarily dismantle a recently restored historic bridge in the heart of Dutch port city Rotterdam so that a huge yacht, reportedly being built for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, can get to the North Sea is unlikely to be plain sailing. SENT: 455 words, photos.
MICHAEL-AVENATTI-STORMY-DANIELS — Michael Avenatti was convicted of charges he cheated the porn actor Stormy Daniels out of nearly $300,000 she was supposed to get for writing a book about an alleged tryst with former President Donald Trump By Tom Hays and Larry Neumeister. SENT: 830 words, photos.
MOROCCO-BOY-TRAPPED — Rescuers are inching closer to reaching a 5-year-old boy trapped for three days in a well in Morocco, in an operation hampered by concerns about ground stability. SENT: 295 words, photos.
PEOPLE-FRANK-SERPICO — The New York Police Department has recognized Frank Serpico’s service and injury in the line of duty more than 50 years later with an official certificate and inscribed medal of honor. SENT: 375 words, photos.
VIRUS-OUTBREAK-VENTILATOR-THEFT — Two Miami men have been sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for stealing 192 ventilators bound for a COVID-19 intensive care center in El Salvador as part of a U.S. aid program. SENT: 180 words.
SUPER-BOWL-FAN-BEATEN — Authorities say a suspect was arrested in an altercation that badly injured a San Francisco 49ers fan in a parking lot outside SoFi Stadium during last weekend’s NFC championship game between the 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams. SENT: 375 words, photo.
NOT REAL NEWS — Social media users shared a range of false claims this week. SENT: 2,655 words, photos.
IRS-TAX-HELP — The IRS will begin offering limited Saturday walk-in help for taxpayers this tax season at 35 tax assistance centers around the country beginning Feb. 12. SENT: 250 words, photos.
MORE ON THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
VIRUS-OUTBREAK-CANADA-PROTESTS — Police in Canada’s capital said about 150 extra police officers will be deployed to central areas of Ottawa paralyzed by the protest against COVID-19 mandates that has been going on for days. SENT: 490 words, photos.
VIRUS-OUTBREAK — A law requiring most adults in Austria to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is ready to take effect, but the sense of urgency that accompanied its announcement in November has largely evaporated. Few other countries look likely to go as far as Austria as attention turns to loosening restrictions. SENT: 1,030 words, photos.
VIRUS-OUTBREAK-TONGA — For more than two years, the isolation of the Pacific archipelago nation of Tonga helped keep COVID-19 at bay. But after last month’s volcanic eruption and tsunami brought outside deliveries of desperately needed fresh water and medicine, it also brought the virus. Tonga is one of several Pacific island countries to experience their first outbreaks over the past month. SENT: 1,100 words, photos.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-INDONESIA — Direct international flights to Bali have resumed for the first time in two years as Indonesia opens the resort island to foreign travelers from all countries, but mandatory quarantine remains in place for all visitors. SENT: 440 words, photos.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-SPAIN — Spain will end a mandate to wear masks outdoors next week, reversing a late December order against an unprecedented surge of coronavirus infections fueled by a highly contagious mutation, Health Minister Carolina Darias says. SENT: 230 words, photo.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-VACCINES — A federal advisory panel voted unanimously to continue to endorse Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for adults, now that U.S. regulators have given the shots their full approval. SENT: 200 words, photo.
UNITED STATES-IRAN — The Biden administration restores some sanctions relief to Iran’s atomic program as talks aimed at salvaging the languishing 2015 nuclear deal enter a critical phase. SENT: 610 words, photo.
CONGRESS-COMPUTER CHIPS — Democrats muscle legislation through the House that they say positions the U.S. to better compete with China economically by strengthening the domestic semiconductor industry and shoring up strained supply chains. SENT: 1,020 words, photos.
UNITED STATES-AFGHANISTAN-AIRPORT BOMBING — A Pentagon investigation into the deadly suicide attack on at the Kabul airport during the Afghanistan evacuation concludes that the Islamic State suicide bomber acted alone and the deaths of more than 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members were not preventable. SENT: 850 words, photo, video.
BIDEN-SOLAR TARIFFS — President Biden extends tariffs on most solar panels imported from China and other countries, but loosens restrictions on some panels used in large-scale utility projects. SENT: 410 words, photos.
TREASURY-FINE ART — Fine art isn’t just nice to look at, it’s also attractive to criminals trying to launder money, finance terrorism and trade illegal drugs and arms. The Treasury Department is looking to do something about that. SENT: 560 words, photo.
SCHOOL LUNCHES — The Biden administration issues new standards for school lunches that are meant to get cafeterias back on a healthier course after pandemic disruptions. SENT: 600 words, photos. With VEGAN SCHOOL LUNCHES — Forget mystery meat or cheese pizza. Instead, chickpea wraps and veggie tacos will be on the menu for New York City public school students as the nation’s largest school district shifts to “Vegan Fridays” in school cafeterias. SENT: 490 words, photos.
ELECTION-2020-PENNSYLVANIA-REVIEW — A Republican inquiry into Pennsylvania’s 2020 presidential election spurred on by former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud has spawned several court cases as it expands into multiple courses of inquiry, grows in cost and shows signs it will drag well into 2022. SENT: 890 words, photos.
PLANES-LASER STRIKES — Pointing lasers at airplanes and helicopters is becoming a bigger problem. The Federal Aviation Administration said that pilots reported a record 9,723 laser strikes last year. That’s a a 41% increase over the year before. SENT: 180 words.
WINTER WEATHER — A major winter storm spread misery from the Deep South where a tornado claimed a life and tree limbs snapped under the weight of heavy ice all the way to the nation’s northeastern trip where snow and ice caused havoc for travelers. Hundreds of thousands were without electricity. SENT: 870 words, photos, video.
DREW-PETERSON — Former suburban Chicago police Sgt. Drew Peterson is getting another chance to ask a judge to vacate his 2012 conviction in the murder of his third wife. A hearing Monday will be before the same judge who sentenced Peterson to 38 years in prison for the 2004 slaying of Kathleen Savio. Such efforts are rarely successful, but Will County Judge Edward Burmila wrote that he found a “gist of a constitutional” claim in Peterson’s hand-printed petition and he wants to hear more. SENT: 700 words, photos.
AHMAUD ARBERY-HATE CRIMES — The man convicted of murder for shooting Ahmaud Arbery withdrew his guilty plea on a federal hate crime charge, electing to stand trial for a second time in the 2020 killing of a Black man that became part of a larger national reckoning over racial injustice. SENT: 530 words, photos.
MEDICAL-MARIJUANA-NEW-YORK — New York’s much-anticipated legal pot shops could be a year away from opening. But the state is making medical marijuana much more available now. SENT: 830 words, photos.
FLINT-WATER — A judge awarded about $40 million to the lead attorneys in a $626 million settlement for Flint residents and property owners whose water was contaminated with lead, but millions in additional legal fees will also be carved out as claimants get paid. SENT: 400 words, photos.
MISSOURI GOVERNOR-RELIGION — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has no “litmus test for appointments,” his spokeswoman said, despite a statement earlier in the week indicating he would only nominate a state health director who shared his “Christian values.” SENT: 570 words, photos.
ENDANGERED-WILDFLOWER-LITHIUM-MINE — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed designating critical habitat for a Nevada wildflower it plans to list as endangered amid a conflict over a mine to produce lithium batteries for electric vehicles critical to the Biden administration’s plans to combat climate change. SENT: 810 words, photos.
SYRIA-FIGHTING-IS — The battle with Islamic State group militants over a prison in Syria is finished, but the impact continues to reverberate. Commanders of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces say the IS attack shows what they have long been warning: They need more help in preventing a revival of the militant group in Syria. SENT: 1,230 words, photos.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE-WHAT NEXT — When the U.S. and NATO rejected the Kremlin’s security demands over Ukraine last week, fears of an imminent Russian attack soared. But President Vladimir Putin has signaled an apparent readiness for more talks with Washington and NATO. And that offers a glimmer of hope. By Vladimir Isachenkov and Matthew Lee. SENT: 1,060 words, photos. WITH: UKRAINE-TENSIONS — The French president and the German chancellor will head to Moscow and Kyiv in the coming weeks. SENT: 830 words, photos. WITH: UKRAINE-TENSIONS-THINGS-TO-KNOW — SENT: 925 words, photos.
For full coverage of Ukraine.
BRITAIN-QUEEN-PLATINUM-JUBILEE — Queen Elizabeth II will mark 70 years on the throne Sunday, an unprecedented reign that has made her a symbol of stability as the United Kingdom navigated an age of uncertainty. SENT: 1,140 words, photos.
LEBANON-TURNING-TO-MILITANTS — Dozens of young men from Lebanon’s impoverished north have disappeared in recent months, often re-emerging with the Islamic State group in Iraq. The flow has raised fears that Lebanon’s economic collapse is fueling a new wave of radical recruitment. SENT: 1,180 words, photos.
EMIRATES-ATTACK VICTIMS — Indian and Pakistani workers who are part of a vast foreign workforce powering the United Arab Emirates’ economy were caught in the crossfire of a wider regional war last month. An attack claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels struck an industrial area of Abu Dhabi, killing three people and wounding six in the rebels’ first-known assault on Emirati soil. SENT: 910 words, photos.
PERU-STRUGGLING PRESIDENT — Turmoil in Peru’s government boiled this week as President Pedro Castillo overhauled his Cabinet for a third time in six months and then it quickly emerged his new prime minister has faced domestic violence claims, highlighting doubts about the political neophyte’s ability to lead a nation. SENT: 980 words, photos.
SOUTH SUDAN-LEGACY OF LAND MINES — As South Sudan struggles for peace, it’s still cleaning up the deadly threat posed by thousands of land mines from previous conflict decades ago. Cattle herders. Charcoal collectors. Children. All have been victims of long-forgotten mines that continue to make South Sudan one of the world’s most dangerous countries for unexploded ordnance. SENT: 640 words, photos.
MYANMAR-SUU-KYI — Police in Myanmar have filed an 11th corruption charge against Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s elected leader who was ousted from power by a military takeover a year ago, state-controlled media reports. SENT: 600 words, photo.
AMAZON-ELECTION-TACTICS — Amazon workers and organizers in Bessemer, Alabama, are making door-to-door house calls, sporting pro-union T-shirts and challenging anti-union messaging by Amazon-hired consultants as they try to convince their peers for the second time to unionize their warehouse in an election that starts Friday by secret ballot. SENT: 995 words, photos.
SPACEX-PARACHUTES — SpaceX and NASA are investigating sluggish parachute openings that occurred on the last two capsule flights. In both cases, the sluggish parachute eventually opened and the capsules splashed down safely of the coast of Florida. SENT: 320 words, photo.
WHOOPI-GOLDBERG-CANCEL-OR-COUNSEL? — ABC’s decision to suspend Whoopi Goldberg from “The View” for two weeks for her remarks about the Holocaust has opened the network up to criticism that its response derailed a teachable moment for the nation about a sensitive topic often misunderstood and seldom discussed on air. SENT: 1,200 words, photos.
FILM-JACKASS FOREVER-STEVE-O — Steve-O will forever be known for his exhibitionist antics on “Jackass,” but with 12 years of sobriety, a rising stand-up career and a new book on the way, the 47-year-old is still evolving. SENT: 950 words, photos.
BBO-LABOR — Locked out players were expected to reject Major League Baseball’s request to have a federal mediator enter collective bargaining negotiations. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos, by 7 p.m.
COMMANDERS-INVESTIGATION — Members of Congress say an investigation into sexual harassment of women employed by Washington’s NFL franchise was not as independent as the team and the league claimed. SENT: 530 words, photos.
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