5 things to know for February 5: Covid-19, Congress, Smartmatic, Yemen, Hong Kong

Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.
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1. Coronavirus

The UK coronavirus variant experts are fretting over may become dominant in the US because it’s more easily spread, Dr. Anthony Fauci says. Unfortunately, this could mean another surge in cases as the country tries to speed up vaccine rollouts. A federal distribution program aims to help pharmacies administer about 100 million vaccine doses a month at thousands of locations, with delivery of about 1 million doses starting next Thursday to Publix, Walgreens, Walmart and CVS stores. Meanwhile, the FDA will meet February 26 to discuss Johnson & Johnson’s request for emergency use authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine. It’s all a race against time as a new forecast from an influential model predicts more than 630,000 US Covid-19 deaths by June 1.

2. Congress

The House voted yesterday to strip GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments, but the partisan infighting about her isn’t over. Eleven Republicans broke ranks to vote to back her committee removals, and some representatives still think Greene should be expelled from the House altogether. It appears Republicans who have stayed loyal to former President Trump in the aftermath of his presidency — like Greene and Sen. Josh Hawley — are also being rewarded by the GOP base with media appearances and fundraising efforts. Meanwhile, we’re closing in on Trump’s impeachment trial. House impeachment managers requested that Trump testify in the proceedings, but his legal team quickly rejected the invitation.

3. Smartmatic

A voting technology company swept up in baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election has filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News, some of its prominent hosts and Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell. The lawsuit claims the parties involved worked together to wage a “disinformation campaign” that has threatened the company’s survival. After Trump’s election loss, his allies pushed false theories that voting systems were rigged against him. Smartmatic says the lies have cost the company hundreds of millions in projected profits and damaged business relations around the world. Similar lawsuits were recently lodged against Giuliani and Powell by Dominion Voting Systems, another firm caught up in the false fraud allegations. 
The leader of al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, Khalid Batarfi, has been under arrest for months, and his second-in-command was killed in October. The arrest was disclosed in a wide-ranging report to the United Nations Security Council by UN monitors tracking the global jihadi terrorist threat. Though the report revealed nothing else about the arrest, it still holds precious information for counterterrorism agencies working against al Qaeda’s global network. The report also cautions that terrorist threats may rise as Covid-19 restrictions are eased. Meantime, President Biden announced the US will end all support for Saudi Arabia’s offensive operations in Yemen, one of several changes he unveiled in his first major foreign-policy speech since taking office.

5. Hong Kong 

Hong Kong has introduced a broad set of new national security rules for how schools operate, renewing fears among parents and students in the semi-autonomous city of a shift toward China-style “patriotic education.” The new policies detail how national security issues should be taught across a range of subjects, from biology to music, and how to discipline students who don’t respect the rules. Educators are encouraged to censure teachers and students who don’t cooperate, even possibly involving the police. The policies support the controversial national security laws introduced in Hong Kong last year and have sent a wave of dread through a city.

THIS JUST IN …

US Senate unlocks a Covid-19 relief path
The Senate just passed a budget resolution unlocking Democrats’ ability to write a Covid-19 relief bill and pass it with a simple majority. This is the first step in that two-step process. The measure passed 51-50 along party lines after Vice President Kamala Harris arrived at the Capitol to break the tie. The budget resolution vote came after 15 straight hours of amendment votes.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

Here’s the full list of SAG Award nominees
Don’t worry “Bridgerton” fans, they made it. 
Scientists have figured out how to give a zebrafish limb-like appendages
Hmm, the idea of a fish with arms is more upsetting than expected
A Utah theme park is suing Taylor Swift over ‘Evermore’ album title
T.J. Osborne of the country duo Brothers Osborne publicly shares he is gay
Super Bowl LV will be a bonanza for gambling companies this weekend
Chiefs or Bucs, who ya got? 

PROFILES IN PERSEVERANCE

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

Amelia Boynton Robinson, civil rights icon, 1911-2015
Robinson was known as the “the matriarch of the voting rights movement.” A shocking photo of her being beaten by White police officers during the Bloody Sunday march in 1965 in Selma, Alabama, horrified the nation and led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. It also showed Robinson’s true grit. As far back as the 1930s, she was registering Black voters in Alabama, an act that could have cost her her life. In 1964, she became the first African American woman to run for Congress in Alabama.

TODAY’S NUMBER

$7 billion
That’s how much the metal and mining company Vale has agreed to pay in compensation after a dam collapsed two years ago at one of its mines in Brazil, killing 270 people and causing huge environmental damage.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“Politics isn’t about the weird worship of one dude.”
Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, responding to leaders of his state’s Republican Party after they advanced a censure resolution against him for criticizing efforts to overturn the presidential election results and then-President Trump’s involvement in the US Capitol riot

TODAY’S WEATHER

AND FINALLY

Sticking around 
Did you know Jeremy Bentham (yes, the philosopher) arranged to have himself preserved after his death so he could be carted out at parties? You can still visit him, albeit with a wax noggin, at University College London! (Warning: This video contains a quick shot of his very old original head, so keep that in mind.) (Click here to view.)