Ukraine, Closing Ceremonies, and the Secrets of Stonehenge Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Monday, Feb. 21, and we're covering the conflict in Ukraine, the end of the Winter Olympics, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].



Ukraine on Edge

US officials over the weekend said Russia is likely proceeding with plans to invade Ukraine, according to reports. The warnings come despite Russian claims of de-escalation and a pullback of troops from the Russia-Ukraine border last week. Western intelligence suggests Russian commanders have received orders to proceed with an invasion; Russia has thus far dismissed such allegations.


Reports suggest Russia extended military drills over the weekend in Belarus, which neighbors Ukraine to the north. At least 30,000 Russian troops are stationed in the country, leading analysts to believe it may be an entry point for troop movement.


The rising tensions coincided with increased shelling between government and separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. At least two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and four others injured.


Last night, President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin tentatively agreed to a last-minute meeting in the hopes of a diplomatic solution.

Closing Ceremonies

The closing ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics was held yesterday, wrapping the second pandemic-era games. Norway finished atop the medal count, with 16 golds and 37 total medals. The US finished fourth, with eight golds and 25 total medals. 


In some of the final events, Finland beat Russia (competing as the Russian Olympic Committee due to a lingering doping punishment) in men's hockey, capturing the country's first gold medal in the sport. 


The event brought an end to an Olympics that had been criticized on a number of fronts, including heavy COVID-19-related restrictions on athletes, a scandal over doping of Russian skaters, and what some said was political posturing on behalf of the International Olympic Committee. 


Next up—the Summer Olympic Games in Paris in 2024. See video highlights of yesterday's ceremony here.

California Goes Endemic 

California became the first state to officially move to an endemic phase of its approach to COVID-19, an announcement marking a shift from a mandate- and restrictions-based approach to one that emphasizes prevention and testing. The state, which has implemented some of the strictest pandemic-era procedures, has seen its case rate drop below that of last year's delta variant surge. 


The decision is somewhat arbitrary—pandemic refers to a virus whose spread has reached wide-scale, while endemic signals that a disease is expected to continue circulating among a population at low levels for the foreseeable future. Chickenpox and malaria are examples of endemic diseases. 


In related news, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has tested positive for the disease. The 95-year-old monarch is said to be experiencing mild symptoms. 


Separately, the US is averaging just over 100,000 new COVID-19 cases per day (see data), down roughly 85% since mid-January. Daily reported deaths have fallen to 2,170, a drop of about 15% over the same time period. 

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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> Australia opens borders to international tourists today for first time in nearly two years due to COVID-19 (More)


> Jean-Luc Brunel, modeling agent and associate of Jeffrey Epstein, found dead in French jail (More) | Oscar-winning film editor David Brenner dies at 59 (More)


> NASCAR rookie Austin Cindric, 23, holds off Bubba Wallace to win Daytona 500 (More) | Team LeBron beats Team Durant 163-160 in NBA All-Star Game (More) | New York Knicks' Obi Toppin wins Slam Dunk contest (More)

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Science & Technology

> Hubble Telescope detects what appears to be the merger of three separate galaxies; event is located roughly 680 million light-years away in the constellation of Cancer (More)


> Researchers demonstrate universal donor blood type to facilitate organ transplants; roughly 100,000 patients in the US are awaiting transplants, while many have mismatched blood types preventing the surgery (More)


> Study suggests dendrites, branch-like structures surrounding neurons, may play a key role in brain's ability to process complex calculations (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets drop Friday (S&P 500 -0.7%, Dow -0.7%, Nasdaq -1.2%) on continued fears of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine (More)


> Federal Reserve adopts new rules to limit trading of certain securities by senior Fed officials (More)


> US existing home sales increase 6.7% in January despite supply at record low; median sale price of $350K up 15% over last January (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> Ottawa police arrest at least 170 remaining protesters involved in trucker-led demonstrations against COVID-19 restrictions; officials say downtown roads have been cleared (More)


> Truth Social, the social media platform backed by former President Donald Trump, reportedly to debut today (More)


> Kim Potter, the former police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright during a Minneapolis traffic stop in April, sentenced to two years in prison (More)



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The British Museum reveals the secrets of Stonehenge.


Livestreaming of planes trying to land amid Storm Eunice goes viral.


The trendiest baby names since 1930.


"Friends" becomes the latest victim of Chinese censorship.


... and visualizing the US companies that have failed in China.


Seal helps save boater who fell overboard in Italy


The Doomsday Vault is accepting new seeds.


Hank the Tank is not afraid of people.


Clickbait: Feline Dion.


Historybook: "The Communist Manifesto" is published by Karl Marx (1848);  Musician Nina Simone born (1933); NASCAR founded (1948); Malcolm X assassinated (1965); RIP Billy Graham (2018).


"I'll tell you what freedom is to me—no fear."

- Nina Simone

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