| USA TODAY
Texas’ power grid is essentially – and unfortunately – an “electrical island.” North Korean operatives are charged in a $1.2 billion hacking campaign. And President Joe Biden is a hard no on alleviating $50,000 in student debt.
It’s Alex, filling in for Ashley as she endures Texas’ electric blackout.
But first, somebody call a dentist: The world’s oldest DNA has been discovered in mammoth teeth dating back 1.2 million years.
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Are you there, spring? It’s me, cold
It’s not over. Another snowstorm is roaring across the nation, including in areas where millions remain without electricity in record-breaking cold. More than 100 million Americans are in its path as the storm tracks from the southern Plains to the East Coast over the next couple of days. From Minnesota to Texas, utility companies implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on power grids straining to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity. Coast to coast, at least two dozen people have died. In the Houston area, one family succumbed to carbon monoxide from car exhaust in their garage; another perished after flames spread from their fireplace.
Why are millions of people in Texas still without power?
Nearly 3 million homes and businesses remained without power Wednesday. Extreme energy demand and overloaded frozen utility plants are among the factors to blame, experts said. “No matter which way you cut it, this is a massive failure for a grid and a state that holds up energy and electricity as a shining example,” said Varun Rai, director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas-Austin.
Rush Limbaugh dies of lung cancer at age 70
Rush Limbaugh, the talk titan who made right-wing radio financially viable in American media, died Wednesday after revealing in 2020 that his lung cancer was terminal. He was 70. Limbaugh’s death was confirmed by his wife, Kathryn. A Republican conservative and unwavering supporter of former President Donald Trump, Limbaugh was among the most important enablers of Trump’s failed effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election on baseless claims of voting fraud. His show was the most listened-to talk radio broadcast in the USA, attracting a cumulative weekly audience of about 15.5 million listeners at his peak, according to Talkers’ tracking.
What everyone’s talking about
COVID-19 could be here to stay
Even as cases decline and more Americans receive their vaccines, health officials say the coronavirus isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. “We need to plan that this is something we may need to maintain control over chronically,” Anthony Fauci said in a November webinar. “It may be something that becomes endemic.”
What is an endemic disease, and how would COVID-19 become one?
An endemic disease spreads at a baseline level every year without causing major disruption to people’s lives, said Donald Burke, a professor of epidemiology. An endemic disease does not necessarily mean it will exist forever. On the bright side: Some endemic diseases have been eliminated in the USA after herd immunity was achieved through vaccines and natural infection.
North Korean operatives charged in hacking campaign
Federal authorities charged three North Korean intelligence operatives for their alleged roles in a global hacking campaign targeting more than $1.2 billion in cash and crypto-currencies, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday. The U.S. case represents a broad expansion of an investigation made public more than two years ago, involving the cyberattack in 2014 against Sony Pictures and AMC Theaters in retaliation for the movie “The Interview,” which depicted a fictional assassination of the North Korean leader. Each of the suspects is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse and one count of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud. It is unlikely that they will ever face the charges in the USA.
‘I will not make that happen’
President Joe Biden had a clear response when asked Tuesday by a CNN town hall attendee how he would enact a $50,000 student debt forgiveness plan. “I will not make that happen,” Biden answered. Some congressional Democrats have endorsed a student debt forgiveness program that would cancel up to $50,000 in debt for Americans. “My point is: I understand the impact of debt, and it can be debilitating,” Biden assured. “I am prepared to write off the $10,000 debt but not $50 [thousand], because I don’t think I have the authority to do it.” Biden has resisted such calls, arguing Tuesday that debt forgiveness should ideally depend “on whether or not you go to a private university or a public university.”
A break from the news but not food
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