March 9, 2021

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Winter storm, Biden to tour Pfizer vaccine plant, mission to Mars: 5 things you need to know Friday

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Slow-moving winter storm leaves Texas, heads northeast

The slow-moving winter disaster that pummeled Texas with snow and ice will keep creeping over the northeast through Friday, with snow forecast to fall along a 2,000-mile-long swath from northwestern and north-central Texas to northern Maine, AccuWeather said. Freezing rain, sleet and ice accumulations will make travel conditions extremely dangerous, and residents should expect power outages and the possibility of tree damage, according to forecasters. The extreme weather was blamed for the deaths of at least 56 people, with a growing toll of those who perished trying to keep warm. In Texas, 7 million people are under a boil water notice, while about 325,000 homes and businesses remained without power Thursday, though utility officials said limited rolling blackouts were still possible. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is deploying 700,000 liters of bottled water, more than 60,000 blankets and industrial-sized generators to help power hospitals and other critical structures. But the immediate lack of supplies has made a tough situation tougher: Stores that have managed to stay open are lined with empty shelves because delivery trucks are dealing with icy roads.

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Joe Biden to tour Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine plant in Michigan

President Joe Biden will visit Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing facility in Michigan on Friday, where he’ll continue to make the case for his nearly $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package as Democrats prepare to push it through Congress. The trip will highlight Pfizer’s central hub where millions of the nation’s first doses of the vaccine rolled off the production line in December. The president also will meet with workers who produce the shot. The trip was originally planned for Thursday but was postponed. White House COVID-19 response team officials said Wednesday the U.S. was on track to have enough vaccine supply available for 300 million Americans “by the end of July.”  

U.S. formally rejoins Paris Climate Agreement

The United States formally rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement Friday – just 107 days after it left – after former President Donald Trump exited in 2017. The agreement aims to reduce global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. While Friday’s return is heavily symbolic, world leaders say they expect the U.S. to prove its seriousness after four years of being pretty much absent. They are especially anticipating an announcement from the U.S. in coming months on its goal for cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases by 2030. The move to rejoin the Paris climate accord came along with a slew of executive orders Biden signed on his first day in office to address what his administration calls “four overlapping and compounding crises” – the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic damage, climate change and lagging racial equity. 

President Joe Biden pledges $4 billion to global vaccine efforts

President Joe Biden on Friday will announce a $4 billion U.S. commitment to the global vaccine alliance known as COVAX, according to a senior administration official, aimed at helping poor countries inoculate their populations. Biden will outline the pledge during Friday’s virtual meeting with G7 members. Half of that money will be immediately made available to countries, while the other half will be used to leverage wealthy countries’ contributions. The money will come from funds already earmarked by Congress for international vaccination efforts and will not impact the Biden administration’s campaign to inoculate Americans. 

One giant leap closer to sending humans to Mars

Countless Americans watched with awe on Thursday as NASA’s latest robotic explorer, the Perseverance rover, landed safely on the surface of Mars. As the most Earth-like planet, and the closest place we can visit in our solar system, exploration of the Red Planet has been a target for NASA’s plan to put humans back on the moon by 2024. Throughout its 10-year mission, the rover will search for past signs of extraterrestrial life by collecting and caching Martian rock samples and sending data, video, audio and images back to Earth. And Perseverance isn’t alone in Jezero Crater. A tiny 4-pound helicopter called Ingenuity hitched a ride on the rover’s belly. Ingenuity’s mission is simple: Conduct the first-ever flight on another world. Aside from learning how to launch off another planet, NASA also needs to figure out how to sustain human life on Mars so the space agency can eventually send astronauts to the Martian surface.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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