2.7.2022

Olaf Scholz, Omicron, and Rising Rents Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Monday, Feb. 7, and we're covering a big visit from Germany, a continuing drop in COVID-19 cases, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

NEED TO KNOW

 

Willkommen Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is scheduled to meet with President Joe Biden today, during his first visit to Washington, DC, since succeeding longtime head Angela Merkel in December. The sit-down comes amid the looming possibility of a Russian-led invasion of Ukraine. 

 

Germany, a key member of the NATO alliance in Europe, has received criticism for remaining relatively muted as Russian troops amassed on Ukraine's eastern border. While Ukraine is not a NATO member—a possibility Russia has strongly resisted—some analysts have pointed to Germany's energy reliance on Russia as influencing decision-making. Germany gets between one-third and one-half of its natural gas supply from Russia. 

 

US intelligence has said Russia is at 70% of the military buildup needed along the border to mount a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Scholz is scheduled to meet with Putin next Tuesday.

Omicron Downswing

The average number of new COVID-19 cases in the US has fallen to around 300,000 per day, down more than 60% since the peak of omicron infections in mid-January. The total remains higher than that seen last January, though hospitalizations have dropped to around 110,000 total COVID-19 patients, down roughly about 15% compared to January 2021. 

 

Deaths, which lag both case and hospitalization rates, appear to have plateaued at just under 2,500 per day (see data). While less than the daily death rate seen in January 2021, the omicron wave has contributed to a total US death toll from the disease that surpassed more than 900,000 victims over the weekend. More than 75% of deaths have come in those aged 65 years and above.

 

As the presence of the omicron variant subsides, many officials are considering how to treat COVID-19 as endemic—here's what that means and why endemic diseases may still represent a significant public health threat.

Jobs Upswing

The US economy added 467,000 nonfarm jobs in January, significantly exceeding predictions of 150,000, according to government data released Friday. The unemployment rate rose slightly to 4%, up from 3.9% in December.

 

Officials had foreshadowed a potentially weak report, largely due to a surge in COVID-19 cases that left many businesses and job seekers in limbo. Analysts said the report signals the job market may bounce back quicker than expected as the omicron variant fades.

 

Most of the jobs were added in leisure and hospitality (151,000), professional and business services (86,000), retail (61,000), and transportation and warehousing (54,000), the data showed.

 

The report also revised the job growth for December, which was originally reported at 199,000 jobs added and is now recorded at 510,000. Analysts say the data illustrate economic recovery has been better than expected.

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IN THE KNOW

 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Three-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White, 35, announces this will be his last snowboarding competition (More) | Snowboarder Julia Marino, 24, wins silver, USA's first medal of this Olympics (More) | See latest medal count (More)

 

> Queen Elizabeth II wants Prince Charles' wife Camilla to get title of Queen Consort once Charles becomes king (More) | Iconic Bollywood singer Lata Mangeshkar dies at 92 of COVID-19 (More)

 

> Senegal tops Egypt in penalty kicks to win its first-ever Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title (More) | AFC tops NFC 41-35 in 2022 NFL Pro Bowl (More)

Science & Technology

> Astronomers make first observation of a free-floating black hole; the object has been long theorized but never confirmed directly (More)

 

> Archaeologists uncover the oldest hominin fossil ever found; the 1.5 million old vertebrae suggests human ancestors expanded out of Africa in waves (More)

 

> Researchers discover a highly transmissible and virulent strain of HIV circulating in Europe; officials say current drugs remain effective against the variant (More)

Business & Markets

In partnership with The Ascent

> Technology stocks lead Nasdaq higher Friday (S&P 500 +0.5%, Dow -0.1%, Nasdaq +1.6%); Amazon surges 13%, posts the largest one-day market value gain ($191B) in US history (More)

 

> US gas prices increase to highest level in more than seven years as US oil prices top $90 per barrel, last seen in 2014 (More)

 

> Shares of Peloton surge near 30% in after-hours trading after reports Nike, Amazon, and others are exploring a potential acquisition of the connected fitness business (More)

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Politics & World Affairs

At least 10 people killed after cyclone passes over Madagascar; an estimated 50,000 people remain displaced, with reports of entire villages swept away by high waters (More)

 

> Crowdfunding website GoFundMe to return an estimated $8M in contributions made to Canadian antivaccine mandate protest (More) | Four injured during a hit-and-run in Winnipeg; officials suggest incident not motivated by protest (More)

 

> Five-year-old Moroccan boy passes away after being pulled from a 100-foot well; rescue effort included four days of excavation, capturing global attention (More)

BALANCE & BLISS

 

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With noted benefits like decreased sugar cravings, improved gut health, and faster metabolism, the Sakara Metabolism Super Powder is the plant-based, gluten-free, delicious chocolatey powder you didn't know you needed. Start a new morning ritual to bring balance and bliss to your body—use code SAKARA1440 for 20% off.

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ETCETERA

 

Rents are still skyrocketing.

 

Natural disasters since the year 1900.

 

Wanderlust: Ranking the world's best island beaches.

 

Footage from the nation's capital in the 1940s, colorized and remastered.

 

National Park photographer captures a massive moose.

 

What's the deal with Central Park's mysterious gold cube?

 

Chinese bartenders are serving drinks in hazmat suits.

 

Kleptomaniac parrot steals family's GoPro. (w/video)

 

Clickbait: Competitive eater defeats giant rabbit.

 

Historybook: Charles Dickens born (1812); US bans all Cuban imports and exports (1962); HBD Garth Brooks (1962); "Beatlemania" arrives in America (1964); RIP author and pilot Anne Morrow Lindbergh (2001).

 

"A day wasted on others is not wasted on one's self."

- Charles Dickens, "A Tale of Two Cities"

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