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Amid escalating tensions with Western powers, Russia has cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria after they refused to pay in rubles, rather than dollars or euros. The European Commission described the decision to halt gas supplies as attempted “blackmail” and said it was coordinating a response among EU member states. Russian state energy giant Gazprom told Bulgaria that it would shut off gas supplies starting today, Bulgaria’s energy ministry said in a statement. The announcement sent US natural gas futures up about 3% yesterday. European gas prices also jumped nearly 20% this morning, according to Reuters. As of now, officials say Poland and Bulgaria were preparing for this possible move and are not experiencing shortages yet. Separately, scores of people are fleeing areas around the city of Kherson, Ukraine — a region that has been terrorized in the past week by Moscow’s offensive — as fears mount about a possible referendum Russia plans to hold today.
Pfizer and BioNTech said yesterday that they have requested FDA authorization of a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine for children 5 through 11. The companies have said that a third vaccine dose raised Omicron-fighting antibodies by 36 times in this age group. Recent studies found that the effectiveness of Pfizer’s vaccine for children ages 5 to 12 dropped substantially during the Omicron surge, falling from 68% to about 12% against Covid-19 infection. However, two doses continued to provide protection against more severe illness resulting in urgent care or hospitalizations. Currently, boosters are available for kids 12 and older with certain kinds of immunocompromised conditions, as well as adults. Second boosters are authorized for anyone 50 and older.
A major recession is coming, Deutsche Bank economists warned in a report yesterday. This comes after Deutsche Bank raised eyebrows earlier this month by becoming the first major bank to forecast a US recession, albeit a “mild” one. The problem, according to the bank, is that while inflation may be peaking, it will take a “long time” before it gets back down to the Federal Reserve’s goal of 2%. That suggests the central bank will raise interest rates so aggressively that it hurts the economy. The good news is that Deutsche Bank predicts the economy will eventually rebound by mid-2024 as the Fed reverses course in its inflation fight.
Bitcoin may be a new investment option in your 401(k) plan by the middle of this year. Fidelity Investments — the largest 401(k) plan provider in the US with more than 20 million participants — will become the first major 401(k) provider to offer cryptocurrency as an investment for retirement savers. But if you’re interested, you’ll have to check with your employer first, because the bitcoin option will only be offered to participants whose employers have elected to include it in their plans. Fidelity did not specify how many employers have already signed on, but it confirmed a number of clients have committed and others are undergoing the evaluation process. The Department of Labor, on the other hand, has publicly indicated it is very concerned about the prospect of 401(k) participants being exposed to the extreme volatility of crypto trading.
5. LGBTQ rights
Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt yesterday signed a law banning nonbinary gender markers on birth certificates. The legislation, which cleared the Oklahoma state legislature in recent weeks, states: “The biological sex designation on a certificate of birth issued under this section shall be either male or female and shall not be nonbinary or any symbol representing a nonbinary designation including but not limited to the letter ‘X’.” The law takes effect immediately because it was passed with an emergency designation. Oklahoma’s measure is part of a broader effort by conservatives to make it more difficult for transgender and nonbinary Americans to receive gender-affirming health care, play sports or change their birth certificates and other identification documents to match their gender identity.
The world’s oldest person is a nun who enjoys chocolate and wine
Meet the 118-year-old French nun living in a nursing home who was recently named the world’s oldest living person.
Harry Styles graces the cover of Better Homes & Gardens, obviously
His new album is titled “Harry’s House” so it makes perfect sense. Plus, who doesn’t love that contagious smile!
Brooklyn Public Library offers teens free library cards and access to banned books
Book bans are sweeping the nation, but some libraries are telling teens and young adults to read on.
SpaceX to launch another historic astronaut mission today
On board will be four professional astronauts, including the first Black woman to join the International Space Station crew.
Kevin Hart is launching a new media company called HARTBEAT
The company has a clever name, a funny boss, and just received a $100 million private equity investment. Sounds like a great start, Hart.
That’s how much Harvard University is dedicating to create a fund to research and redress its “extensive entanglements with slavery,” university President Lawrence Bacow announced yesterday. This comes after a new university report detailed how slavery and racism played a significant part in Harvard’s institutional history. For nearly 150 years — from the founding of the university in 1636 until Massachusetts abolished slavery in 1783 — Harvard presidents and others enslaved more than 70 people, the report says.
“I think in many situations in this country, where if people have good access to health care and they are taking care of other risk factors, aspirin now makes a lot less sense.”
— Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, president of the American Heart Association, on scientists seeing little benefit of taking daily aspirin for most healthy people to prevent heart attack and stroke. The US Preventive Service Task Force finalized its latest recommendations on low-dose aspirin regimens and now says people over 60 should not start taking a daily aspirin for primary prevention of heart problems, in most cases, because it may contribute to a risk of bleeding in the stomach or brain.
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Who put the hole in the donut?
Mornings are always better with warm donuts paired with freshly brewed coffee. Check out this video to learn where the donut got its signature shape. (Click here to view)