Israel took a large step toward normalcy yesterday, lifting COVID-19 restrictions on a wide range of businesses. The reopening comes with a catch: Only those with a "green passport"—a certificate showing a person has been vaccinated or has recovered from infection—will be allowed entry to gyms, theaters, hotels, concerts, and most synagogues.
The certificate itself, which relies on a QR code, has been criticized for being easy to forge. Israel has administered at least one vaccine dose to almost half of its population.
In related news, two studies of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Israel showed the treatment reduced transmission of the virus by about 90%, with the majority of the protection coming two weeks after the first shot. Additionally, data released by Pfizer revealed the drug can be stored at normal freezer temperatures, as opposed to the currently required ultracold storage. If approved, the new storage guidelines would dramatically simplify the logistics of vaccine distribution.
Elsewhere, the United Kingdom revealed it is on track to have all adults receive their first vaccine dose by July 31, one month ahead of schedule. The country has opted to extend the time period between doses to 12 weeks rather than the recommended three to four weeks. Some experts worry the strategy will spur dangerous mutations in people with partial immunity.
In the US, about 70,000 new COVID-19 cases are being reported per day (see data), down from roughly 250,000 in mid-January. The country has reported 498,897 deaths in total, while almost 44 million people have received at least one vaccine dose.
'I Thought We Were Going Down'
Debris was scattered across a Colorado town Saturday after a United Airlines plane from Denver to Honolulu suffered a complete failure of its right engine. The event occurred shortly after takeoff, creating a debris field nearly 1 mile wide over the city of Broomfield.
All 241 people aboard the flight were unharmed, with the plane safely returning to Denver International Airport. Reports as of this morning suggest no deaths or injuries occurred from debris falling from the
plane. However, the incident made for harrowing footage, which quickly spread across social media. One motorist captured the moment of explosion from his vehicle's dashcam, while passengers onboard shared video of the engine on fire with its outer casing gone. On the ground, a rather large piece of the casing appeared to come within 10 feet of crashing through a house (see
The aircraft was a Boeing 777 equipped with a Pratt & Whitney engine—US regulators ordered an emergency review of similar planes.
Winter Death Toll Mounts
The reported death toll from a series of expansive winter storms that swept across the county last week has approached 70, with at least a dozen deaths attributed to hypothermia. Back-to-back storms left the southern Plains and parts of the Deep South under multiple inches of snow, with temperatures only returning to average by Sunday. The receding temperatures allowed rescue crews to assess the extent of the storms' impact. While temperatures returned to normal, many households lacked access to clean water, with frozen pipes leading to a boil-water advisory for more than 14 million people.
Editor's note: In Friday's newsletter we referred to the Ark of the Covenant as Christian—we meant to say Judeo-Christian. Thanks to our readers for flagging the error!
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WHERE DOES THE TIME GO?
It's hard to believe we're already nearing the end of February 2021 ... and with that comes one of February's most common side effects. Because it's the shortest month, our February to-do list always feels extra long.
>Kim Kardashian files for divorce from Kanye West after nearly seven years of marriage and four children together; the couple had been separated since early January (More)
>Japan’s Naomi Osaka cruises to victory over American Jennifer Brady, winning her second Australian Open and fourth major title(More) | Novak Djokovic tops Daniil Medvedev to win his ninth Australian Open and 18th major title of his career(More)
> Buckingham Palace announces Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will not return as working members of the royal family; Prince Harry to give up honorary military titles (More) | Read Queen Elizabeth’s full statement (More)
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Science & Technology
>Margaret Mitchell, the co-lead of Google's Ethical AI team, fired two months after the controversial firing of her colleague Timnit Gebru; reports suggest Mitchell was fired for violating company policy while investigating the ouster of Gebru (More)
>Researchers link the color of coral reefs to their ability to
withstand thermal stress and bleaching from higher water temperatures (More)
>Physicists move an atom between two locations without altering its state in the shortest possible time; achievement has implications for quantum communications (More)
Business & Markets
>UK Supreme Court upholds ruling that Uber’s drivers should be classified as employees rather than contractors; decision may have ripple effects through the gig economy (More)
>US existing home sales up 0.6% in January, a 24% increase over last year; median home price of $303K is up 14% over last year (More)
>Bitcoin continues surge as total value passes $1T, sees high of more than $58K (More)
Politics & World Affairs
>Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to oppose Neera Tanden's nomination to lead the Office of Budget and Management, making her confirmation unlikely in an evenly divided Senate (More)
>Three dead and two injured after gunman opens fire in a Louisiana gun shop; reports say armed bystanders intervened and killed shooter (More) | One dead, four injured in shooting at an American Legion club in southeast Missouri (More)
>Nationwide strike shuts down businesses in Myanmar; strikes part of larger protests against Feb. 1 military coup in the country (More)
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Historybook: President George Washington born (1732); Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin born (1962); HBD Drew Barrymore (1975); "Miracle on Ice" as US defeats Soviet Union in hockey at Winter Olympics (1980); RIP artist Andy Warhol (1987).
"They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself."
- Andy Warhol
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