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How to lose friends and (unsuccessfully) influence elections

  | USA TODAY

Don’t cash your stimulus payment (yet). Europe’s decision to pull a vaccine may threaten global COVID-19 recovery efforts. And spoiler alert: Russia supported former president Donald Trump’s reelection.

It’s Alex. Let’s get to the news.

But first, how did early life on Earth start? It could have been lightning.

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Intel report: Russia was pro-Trump, and Iran was for anyone but

Russia and Iran engaged in multifaceted, covert influence campaigns aimed at swaying the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, according to a declassified assessment released Tuesday from the Director of National Intelligence. Here’s the short version: Russia supported Trump’s reelection and tried to tarnish President Joe Biden’s candidacy. Iran, on the other hand, carried out a “multi-pronged covert influence campaign intended to undercut Trump’s reelection prospects — though without directly promoting his rivals.” Iran also tried to undermine Americans’ public confidence in the electoral process and in U.S. institutions. On the bright side: The officials found no evidence that the foreign actors tried to alter “technical” aspects of the voting process, such as voter registration files or vote counting.

What if you had your choice of COVID-19 vaccine?

Right now, the best vaccine is the one about to go into your arm. But as the supply grows, Americans eventually might find someone asking, “Which vaccine do you want?” The answer for most people will still be “whatever is available.” While doctors are unanimous that all three authorized vaccines work extremely well to protect against disease, hospitalization and death from COVID-19, here are some considerations:

  • If getting the vaccine is difficult for you for whatever reason, the one-and-done Johnson & Johnson vaccine might be preferable.
  • If you want belt-and-suspenders maximum protection, then Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna might be your choice.

One final thing: Whichever you get, there are probably more COVID-19 vaccines in your future. Many scientists think it’s likely booster shots will eventually be required.

Real quick

Seriously, where are the checks?

Here’s to hoping your bank account will be green for St. Patrick’s Day! Over the weekend, there was some confusion as to when people will have access to the latest stimulus checks via direct deposit after seeing “pending” action. But according to the trade group that handles the processing of direct deposits, eligible consumers will have access to their stimulus payments by 9 a.m. local time Wednesday. So you might want to hold off pulling out your debit card for another few days if you’ve got immediate plans for how quickly you’d like to spend that stimulus money. Don’t see your money yet? No worries. More direct deposit payments will be made in the days ahead, too. People can check the Get My Payment tool on IRS.gov to see the payment status of the third stimulus payment.

What everyone’s talking about

Europe is pausing the AstraZeneca vaccine. What does that mean?

Countries across Europe are pausing the use of AstraZeneca-Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine, but U.S. scientists say it’s an irresponsible move that threatens the global vaccination effort. “While it’s easy to scare people, it’s very hard to unscare them,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center. One woman in Denmark died after developing a blood clot soon after being inoculated with the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, and 30 others across Europe reportedly developed blood clots within several weeks of vaccination. Whether the clots were caused by the vaccine or occurred coincidentally around the same time remains unclear. In a statement, AstraZeneca said its vaccine was not causing an unusual number of clots. The British drug regulatory agency also said evidence “does not suggest” the shot causes clots. And the World Health Organization says there is no reason to stop using it.

A (paws) from the news

This is a compilation of stories from across the USA TODAY Network. Want this news roundup in your inbox every night? Sign up for The Short List newsletter here.

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