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Good evening. Here’s the latest.
1. President Biden is pushing ahead on his $1.9 trillion economic aid package — and not waiting for Republicans to get on board.
“If I have to choose between getting help right now to Americans who are hurting so badly and getting bogged down in a lengthy negotiation or compromising on a bill that’s up to the crisis, that’s an easy choice,” Mr. Biden said. “What Republicans have proposed is either to do nothing or not enough.”
Mr. Biden’s comments came as the House and the Senate, voting on party lines, advanced a blueprint for much of the president’s stimulus package — though an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour was ruled out. Democrats will begin drafting the wording of the aid package next week and aim to speed it through the House by the end of the month.
2. New documents show how mixed intelligence hampered the Capitol riot response.
Two days before the attack, the intelligence division of the U.S. Capitol Police gave low odds that any of the pro-Trump groups would break laws or incite violence. But it never addressed the odds that the groups might join together in a combustible mix, leading to an explosion of violence.
And just a day earlier the same office had presented a more ominous picture, warning of desperation about “the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election” and the potential for significant danger to law enforcement and the public.
The muddled intelligence raises questions about whether agencies are putting the same weight behind threats from the homegrown far right as they are about the potential for Islamic terrorism.
3. A hint of cautious optimism: The worst of the current wave of coronavirus infections seems to be behind us.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases is trending down in almost every part of the country. Nationally, that average peaked on Jan. 8 at nearly 260,000 new cases; the figure for Feb. 3, 136,442, amounts to a 47 percent drop from that peak. The catch: That number is still 104 percent higher than the summer peak on July 25, when cases totaled 66,784.
More good news: The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine was found to be protective against the coronavirus variant first seen in Britain, Oxford researchers said.
Still, confronted with the scary possibility of coronavirus variants that may evade current vaccines, American regulators are readying a plan for action.
4. The scramble for vaccines is getting intense, as “vaccine hunters” create an ethical dilemma for health officials across the country.
With overwhelming demand in the early months of the vaccine rollout and a patchwork of rules devised by local officials, thousands of Americans are crossing state lines in quest of a shot. One public health expert described the situation as a “Hunger Games” scenario.
The report card for vaccination in long-term-care facilities shows a mixed performance. Residents and workers at the facilities are high-priority candidates for the Covid-19 vaccine, but many are still waiting.
5. It started with a primal scream hotline.
The Times set up a phone line for mothers to talk about the pandemic. Hundreds responded with shouts, cries, guttural yells and a lot — a lot — of expletives. “I don’t know how to feel sane again,” said Elise Kelner, 30, an Arizona mother of two.
America’s mothers are in a mental health crisis. Almost one million mothers have left the work force, with Black mothers, Hispanic mothers and single mothers among the hardest hit.
The Times began following three mothers in September. What has emerged is a story of chaos and resilience, resentment and persistence, and of course, hope. In other words: motherhood. Here is how some women have stayed afloat and what government, employers and the rest of us can do to help.
6. Christopher Plummer, whose performance as Captain von Trapp in “The Sound of Music” fueled a prolific acting career, has died at 91.
Mr. Plummer was a pre-eminent Shakespearean actor, but it was his performance as the Austrian naval officer Georg von Trapp opposite Julie Andrews in the beloved musical that propelled a steady half-century parade of television and film roles. With equal parts charm and arrogance, he later called his most famous role an “empty carcass.”
“I’ve made over 100 motion pictures, and some of them were even good,” he told The Times in 2018. “It’s nice to be reborn every few decades, because then you can have another career.”
7. The career of one of music’s biggest superstars — and, in some ways, her life — is at a standstill.
Britney Spears has spent more than a decade in a conservatorship, a complex legal arrangement usually reserved for people who are old or sick, which severely limits her personal and financial decision-making powers. Now the 39-year-old singer is seeking substantial changes to the arrangement, with her fans on her side.
The dispute is at the center of a new Times documentary, which airs tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern on FX. Or stream it on Hulu.
9. A rule-bound art form meets unruly creativity.
Casual, confessional and playful, TikTok offers a release for ballet dancers, particularly younger students, who spend their days chasing impossible perfection. As more stuck-at-home dancers join TikTok, it has also become a place to dissect some of the problems and clichés that dog the art form.
“Rather than your technique going viral, you could have your ideas about ballet go viral,” the dancer and writer Minnie Lane said.
Other ballet dancers have taken their routine outdoors: Across New York City, amateur and professional dancers are donning sneakers, masks and lots of layers to carry on with a familiar ritual.
10. And finally, all together now (maybe).
How creatures in the animal kingdom come to a decision together is a subject of perennial interest to scientists. African wild dogs, for example, sneeze before the group moves, and will set off only when enough individuals have had their say.
But a new study has determined that Namibian goats don’t vote. Data from collars with GPS and other sensors showed that one goat typically starts moving, then its nearest neighbors turn to follow it, and so on.
More research could indicate that mimicking neighbors may improve survival in a herd — but it’s not exactly democracy in action.
Have a singular weekend.
Claire Moses contributed to this briefing.
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