2.28.2022

Ukraine Resists, MLB Deadline, and How to Write Better Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Monday, Feb. 28, and we're covering a weekend of resistance in Ukraine, a deadline for Major League Baseball, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

NEED TO KNOW

 

Ukraine Holds Kyiv

Russia's invasion of Ukraine continued over the weekend, with Ukrainian forces repelling Russian troops from the capital of Kyiv and the second largest city of Kharkiv yesterday. Reports suggest Ukrainian resistance was greater than anticipated by Russian officials.

 

As of this morning, Ukraine and Russian delegations are set to hold talks at the Belarusian border. See updates here, along with current maps of the conflict.

 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declined evacuation offers from the West, rallying troops by joining forces on the ground in Kyiv. Zelensky, a former actor and comedian elected in 2019, issued video updates rebuffing rumors he had fled.

 

Separately, the US approved $350M in emergency funding for the country, along with military hardware, including anti-tank Javelin missiles. Germany reportedly intends to send 1,500 anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. In a major policy shift, Germany said it would raise defense spending to 2% of gross domestic product going forward.

 

Western allies agreed yesterday to cut off a number of Russian banks from an international financial transaction system known as SWIFT (see 101). Russia relies on the platform for, among other things, managing its oil and gas exports. 

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the sanctions by putting the country's nuclear deterrent forces on alert. The move is somewhat symbolic; see background on the decision here.

 

Among global anti-war protests, more than 100,000 demonstrators marched in Berlin yesterday protesting the invasion. 

COVID-19 Fall Continues

The rolling seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in the US has fallen to 68,000 per day, the lowest since late July. The figure is down more than 90% from a mid-January peak fueled by the omicron variant.

 

Hospitalizations have dropped by 70% over the same time frame, while just under 1,800 COVID-19 deaths are being reported per day in the US. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from January suggest roughly 85% of deaths are in unvaccinated patients (see data), while fully vaccinated patients who received booster shots account for less than 3% of deaths.

 

In related news, officials said a subvariant of the omicron strain, BA.2, is more transmissible than the original variant but is unlikely to result in another wave of infections.

 

Separately, a trio of studies separately suggests the coronavirus likely jumped from animals to humans at a Wuhan wet market, based on genetic analysis of patients dating back to December 2019. The papers have not yet been peer-reviewed. 

Baseball's Looming Deadline

The upcoming Major League Baseball season may be shortened if an updated collective bargaining agreement can't be reached by midnight tonight, according to reports. League owners have threatened to begin dropping games from the schedule—likely meaning reduced salaries for players—absent an agreement. Players' union representatives were skeptical of the hard deadline. 

 

The league entered its first lockout in more than a quarter-century at the beginning of December upon the expiration of a 2016 bargaining agreement. Contested issues include pay structure, restrictions around reaching free agency, and more. The lockout ends a decadeslong period of calm between both sides; the 1994-95 lockout lasted more than seven months and resulted in the cancellation of the 1994 postseason.

 

Opening day for the 2022 season is slated for March 31.

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IN THE KNOW

 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> "CODA" wins top prize of outstanding film cast at Screen Actors Guild Awards; Jessica Chastain and Will Smith win top individual film awards (More) | See full list of winners (More)

 

> Chris Licht tapped to lead CNN after former president Jeff Zucker resigned earlier this month (More) | Meghan Markle and Prince Harry receive President's Award at NAACP Image Awards (More)

 

> Poland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic refuse to play Russia in World Cup qualifying; FIFA announces Russia can't use flag, anthem (More) | International Judo Federation suspends Vladimir Putin as its honorary president (More)

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Science & Technology

> Google, Twitter, and Meta (Facebook) block Russian-backed media outlets from advertising and monetizing content on their platforms amid invasion (More)

 

> Michigan, Delaware become latest states to report cases of highly contagious bird flu in animals; risk to the public is low, but strain threatens poultry industry, and zoo and wild avian populations (More)

 

> Archaeologists uncover 5,300-year-old skull with evidence of what would be the earliest known ear surgery (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets rise Friday (S&P 500 +2.2%, Dow +2.5%, Nasdaq +1.6%); Dow sees highest daily gain since November 2020 as investors assess Ukraine situation (More) | Warren Buffett releases famed annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letter (More) | See Buffett's archive of shareholder letters, a treasure trove of business counsel (More

 

> Energy giant BP will exit its 19.75% stake in Russian oil business Rosneft; divestiture could result in a charge of approximately $20B (More)

 

> Key inflation metric increased 5.2% in January to the highest level since 1983; US consumer spending up a higher-than-expected 2.1% (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> US Capitol Police reestablish perimeter fence around Capitol ahead of Tuesday's State of the Union address; no specific threat cited (More) | National Guard activated to help manage potential trucker-led protest (More)

 

> First jury trial stemming from the Jan. 6 storming of US Capitol begins today; Guy Reffitt faces five felony charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding (More)

 

> Former President Donald Trump wins straw poll at CPAC, the largest annual conservative political gathering; 59% back Trump as the 2024 nominee, compared to 28% for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (More)

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ETCETERA

 

How to make your writing easier to read.

 

How your brain responds to singing.

 

Liquor stores protest by ditching Russian vodka.

 

America's national parks set attendance records last year.

 

"The Godfather" gets updated for its 50th anniversary.

 

Remains of an 1800s shipwreck may have washed up in North Carolina.

 

New Zealand bull survives a trip over a waterfall.

 

DNA analysis says there are three Hank the Tanks.

 

Clickbait: Ottawa, Canada, residents are suffering from phantom honking.

 

Historybook: Coaching legend Dean Smith born (1931); Record 106 million people watch series finale of "M*A*S*H" (1983); Gulf War ends (1991); HBD basketball star Luka Dončić (1999); RIP actress Jane Russell (2011).

 

"If you treat every situation as a life and death matter, you'll die a lot of times."

- Dean Smith

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