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5 things to know for February 9: Earthquake, Covid, Ukraine, Spy balloon, Southwest


CNN

By Alexandra Meeks, CNN

The safest seat on an airplane is also the one nobody wants: in the middle and at the back. Although data shows middle rear seats will protect you the most in an emergency, aviation experts say your seat selection really doesn’t matter because air travel is the safest mode of transport and accidents are exceedingly rare.

Here’s what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

(You can get “5 Things You Need to Know Today” delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)

1. Earthquake

The death toll from the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on Monday is now more than 17,000 and tens of thousands have been injured, according to authorities. Crews are still sifting through the rubble as thousands of workers, volunteers and companies attempt to deliver much-needed aid to the region. Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted to his government’s “shortcomings” amid growing anger over the state’s preparedness and course of action. But Erdogan also angrily pushed back against “some dishonest people” for “falsely slandering” his government’s quake response, saying the moment called for unity. Amid the discontent, access to Twitter was briefly restricted in Turkey on Wednesday.

2. Covid-19

The Biden administration will soon release a roadmap to transition the US out of the Covid-19 public health emergency, sources say. The goal of the expected roadmap, one source said, is to try to lay out for the public in a clear way what the end of the declaration “does and does not mean,” as well as possibly provide guidance on masking and testing. In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Joe Biden said the US has “broken Covid’s grip” on the nation. “While the virus is not gone, thanks to the resilience of the American people, we have broken Covid’s grip on us,” he said, adding Covid deaths are down nearly 90%. As the administration aims to turn the page on the pandemic, officials are investigating how at least $191 billion in pandemic unemployment benefits may have been improperly paid.

3. Ukraine

Russia has potentially lost up to half of its operational tank fleet since the start of the Ukraine war — or about 1,500 tanks — according to information collected by Oryx, a monitoring group that has been collecting visual evidence of military equipment losses in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began. Tanks have been a major focus of the conflict and are seen as key for either country to take territory on the battlefield. The total figure for Russia’s equipment losses — including tanks and other fighting vehicles — is almost 9,100, Oryx says, while Ukraine’s total equipment losses stand at about 2,900. While Kyiv has received pledges of modern tanks from Germany, the US, Britain and other Western partners, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky today reiterated his plea to the West for more weapons.

4. Spy balloon

A day before the suspected Chinese spy balloon entered US airspace over Alaska, the Defense Intelligence Agency quietly sent an internal report that a foreign object was headed towards US territory, officials told CNN. The report was shared through classified channels accessible across the US government. But it wasn’t flagged as an urgent warning and top defense and intelligence officials who saw it weren’t immediately alarmed by it, according to sources. Instead of treating it as an immediate threat, the US moved to investigate the object, seeing it as an opportunity to observe and collect intelligence. It wasn’t until the balloon entered Alaskan airspace and then took a sharp turn south that officials came to believe its mission might be to spy on the US mainland, according to a new timeline of events.

5. Southwest Airlines

Congress is set to receive new evidence about the internal chaos at Southwest Airlines over the Christmas holiday meltdown. At a hearing today, the pilots’ union is prepared to characterize the operation as held together by “duct tape,” while Southwest’s chief operating officer is expected to apologize for the disruptions. At the time, more than 16,700 flights were canceled and 2 million passengers were stranded, scuttling holiday plans and leaving mountains of unclaimed baggage nationwide. Since then, Southwest says it has been testing a scheduling software update, launched a new team in its command center, improved telephone systems, and is investing in better preparedness for cold weather. The Department of Transportation is still investigating the causes of the meltdown, including whether the airline scheduled more flights than it could handle.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

Dog abandoned in desert found living with coyote pack

This dog was living in the open desert of Nevada for months after a pack of coyotes took him in as their own. Watch the video here.

Phoenix Suns acquire Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets, per reports

This is the second drastic move the Nets have made over the past week with the team’s two biggest stars.

Damar Hamlin ‘will play professional football again,’ NFL players union doctor says

The Buffalo Bills safety, who suffered a mid-game cardiac arrest last month, has received an optimistic prognosis on his playing future.

Firefall at Yosemite

You’ll need a reservation if you want to see this fiery spectacle at California’s Yosemite National Park.

Woodpeckers stash 700 pounds of acorns inside walls of home

See the massive trove of acorns discovered by a pest control technician on a routine call.

TODAY’S NUMBER

7,000

That’s how many jobs Disney said it will cut, representing about 3% of its global workforce. The cuts were announced Wednesday by CEO Bob Iger after the company released better than expected financial results for the fourth quarter of 2022. Disney revenue in the quarter rose 8% to $23.5 billion, despite a drop in Disney+ subscribers. While Disney employees are feeling pain from the announcement, Iger also took steps on Wednesday to reward shareholders by planning to reinstate the company’s stock dividend payments.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“The Justice Department will not tolerate hate-fueled violence that endangers the safety of our communities.”

— Attorney General Merrick Garland, issuing a statement Wednesday after the suspect in the Texas Walmart massacre that left 23 dead in El Paso pleaded guilty to 90 federal charges. The 24-year-old suspect will face 90 consecutive life sentences, according to a plea agreement that was reached after federal prosecutors stated last month they would not seek the death penalty. The 2019 mass shooting was one of the deadliest attacks on Latinos in modern US history.

TODAY’S WEATHER

Check your local forecast here>>>

AND FINALLY

She’s traveled where most people will never go

Dr. Kathy Sullivan has walked in space and touched the deepest point in the ocean. Watch this short video to hear how both of these life-changing experiences shaped her perspective on the world. (Click here to view)

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