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Today’s Headlines: Biden thinks globally on COVID-19

Gloved hands inject a shot into a person's upper arm
A health worker in Morocco gets a COVID-19 vaccine shot last month.
(Abdeljalil Bounhar / Associated Press)

Breaking with his predecessor’s approach, President Biden wants the U.S. to take a lead role in the worldwide vaccine effort.

TOP STORIES

Biden Thinks Globally on COVID-19

President Biden will announce today his plan for the United States to contribute $4 billion to the global fight against COVID-19, stepping into an international leadership role that his predecessor had abandoned during the pandemic.

Senior administration officials said that half of the money, which was approved by Congress in December over then-President Trump’s objections, will be provided this month to COVAX, an international partnership for acquiring and distributing vaccines to low-income countries. The remaining $2 billion would be doled out over the next two years contingent on other wealthy nations increasing their contributions, in hopes of pooling at least $15 billion total.

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The announcement is a step toward the U.S., the world’s richest and most powerful country, resuming its traditional leadership role during a global crisis.

Moreover, if the coronavirus is allowed to spread uncontrolled anywhere on the planet, it has a higher chance of mutating into new strains that can evade existing vaccines. Variants have already emerged in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.

Did the Surge Cause Unnecessary Deaths?

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During the worst moments of the autumn-and-winter coronavirus surge in Southern California, doctors and nurses trying to save patients at overcrowded hospitals described the horrors they were seeing.

Now, as coronavirus cases fall and hospitals are finally seeing some relief, it remains an open question as to whether the surge in COVID-19 patients led to a widespread increase in the risk of dying.

Clearly, more people died of COVID-19 during the surge because the virus became far more widespread — since Nov. 1, more than 12,000 COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County have been reported, a majority of the cumulative 19,000 deaths that have been reported so far. It remains unclear, however, whether a person who entered the hospital was more likely to die.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

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— Thousands of COVID-19 vaccine appointments scheduled today at sites run by the city of L.A. will have to be postponed after shipments of doses were delayed by severe winter weather across the country. The vaccination site at Disneyland is facing the same fate.

— California’s effort to vaccinate people in residential care homes appears to have failed to reach many small facilities that are encountering problems making appointments for their residents.

— A year after COVID-19 began its devastating march across Europe, reversals of fortune and political quarrels, plus new variants and vaccine delays, are complicating efforts to contain a deadly third wave of contagion.

More Than One Kind of Storm

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The winter storms sweeping the country have caused more than three dozen deaths and many more hospitalizations as people struggle to find heat, food and clean water. The freeze triggered massive power outages and a slowdown in oil and gas production that experts warned could affect the rest of the country.

In Texas, the hardest-hit state, power outages persisted Thursday for fewer than 500,000 — down from more than 3 million the day before — according to PowerOutage.us, but officials warned that depending on demand, rotating outages could soon resume. Compounding the disaster, nearly 12 million people had water service disrupted.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent generators to support the state’s water treatment plants, hospitals and nursing homes, along with thousands of blankets and ready-to-eat meals, officials said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz is facing a political firestorm, saying that his family vacation to Mexico was “obviously a mistake” as he returned stateside. The trip to Cancun, taken as his fellow Texans grappled with the deadly winter storm, drew criticism from leaders in both parties.

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More Politics

— The Biden administration has told Immigration and Customs Enforcement to prioritize “significant threats,” as the president’s order for a 100-day pause on most deportations remains hampered by court rulings out of Texas.

— Vice President Kamala Harris plans to return to her Brentwood home today for her first extended visit in about a year — and her first as vice president — taking a three-day personal weekend to handle chores, including packing belongings.

— Deep within the Biden administration’s immigration overhaul package is a directive to replace a single word in the U.S. code: “alien.” Instead, it would use the term “noncitizen.”

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The Plain Language Police

A team of federal specialists deputized a decade ago by Congress has one mission: to keep the government language clear and simple.

But, of course, that’s not such an easy task. During the Trump administration, the Department of Energy once had this headline on its website: “NNSA’s MSIPP manager traveled to KCNS and NETL to see the benefit of the program on its participants.”

So, who are these language police that strive for clarity in communication and debate whether the term “microbaggie” should be hyphenated and one word or two? Meet the deep state of Plain Language.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

In 1980, Redondo Beach was home to a floating restaurant known as the Lady Alexandra. The vessel was built in 1924 and originally served as a steamship in British Columbia. By the 1960s, it had been converted into a dining space.

But harsh weather ultimately shuttered the restaurant. Stormy seas in February 1980 forced the Lady Alexandra to close temporarily. Then, on Feb. 19, it “developed a 45-degree list and was in danger of capsizing,” The Times reported. It was declared a total loss and entered its final stage of life: as a fishing reef, sunk 50 miles offshore.

a large boat leans strongly to one side in the water
Feb. 19, 1980: The 225-foot Lady Alexandra, a restaurant and disco at Redondo Beach, after it was damaged by rain and high waves.
(Boris Yaro / Los Angeles Times)

YOUR WEEKEND

— If you listen, Griffith Park Observatory can be alive with sound. Composer and sound artist Ellen Reid has scored these trails carefully, geocoding original music to a map of exact locations that visitors can access via an app.

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— A modern dance take on “Romeo and Juliet,” a virtual conversation with the artist and activist Ai Weiwei and more are in The Times’ culture picks for your weekend.

— A drive-in movie series at Exposition Park will feature a female-, BIPOC- and LGBTQ-centric lineup, including the 1997 adaptation of “Cinderella” and “Paris Is Burning.”

— It’s time to head to the SGV for Taiwanese breakfast, as restaurant critic Bill Addison writes in our Tasting Notes newsletter. (Subscribe to the newsletter here.)

CALIFORNIA

— California’s ambitious COVID-19 relief package, which will be expedited for legislative approval next week, includes $600 checks for low-income people, $2.1 billion in grants for small businesses and more. Here are the details, and who’s eligible.

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Rep. David Valadao will face an attempt to censure him at the California GOP convention this weekend for his vote to impeach Trump. He is the latest Republican elected official to draw criticism from a state party over disloyalty to the former president.

— Before fatally shooting a Black man in San Clemente last year, two Orange County sheriff’s deputies argued over whether he had illegally crossed the street and whether it was necessary to stop him, a newly released recording reveals.

— A San Gabriel Valley businessman who was one of the country’s top fundraisers for Democrats and Republicans was sentenced to 12 years in prison for schemes to funnel foreign money into U.S. political campaigns and skim millions of dollars for himself.

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NATION-WORLD

NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on the surface of Mars. It marks several milestones in space exploration, including the first machine sent to directly search for signs of past extraterrestrial life.

South Carolina’s governor has signed a law banning most abortions, one of his priorities since he took office more than four years ago. Planned Parenthood immediately sued, effectively preventing the measure from taking effect.

— In a surprise retaliatory move, Facebook blocked Australians from sharing news stories, escalating a fight with the government over whether powerful tech companies should have to pay news organizations for content.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— For years, observers have wondered what would seal the fate of disgraced filmmaker Woody Allen. HBO’s powerful four-part docuseries “Allen v. Farrow” could be it, TV critic Lorraine Ali writes.

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— If the New York salsa scene were its own galaxy filled with artists from across the Caribbean and the U.S., the late Johnny Pacheco was the gravitational pull that held them together.

Dolly Parton appreciates the thought but really would rather Tennessee lawmakers not put up a statue of her at the state Capitol in Nashville.

Fox News is still trying to keep Trump fans satisfied, but at what cost?

BUSINESS

— A Facebook employee warned that the company reported revenues it “should have never made” by overstating how many users advertisers could reach, according to internal emails revealed in a newly unsealed court filing.

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— California’s wine industry lacks diversity. A group of wine lovers hatched a plan to change their field, one bottle at a time.

SPORTS

— You may already know that Naomi Osaka, who beat her childhood idol Serena Williams to advance to the Australian Open final, has yet to lose a Grand Slam match from the quarterfinals on. But here are eight other things to know about her.

— The San Diego Padres’ record 14-year, $340-million contract with shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is just the icing on the cake for their best-in-league rivalry with the Dodgers.

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OPINION

Home-delivering COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and people with disabilities is a good idea, writes columnist George Skelton. The state needs to follow through.

— Americans need a clear answer — based on science, not politics — on what to do about reopening schools, The Times’ editorial board writes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— What is Facebook’s Oversight Board and how did it come about? It will decide whether to allow Trump back on the platform. (The New Yorker)

— To get giraffes off a shrinking island in Kenya, it took patience and a custom-built steel barge. (Atlas Obscura)

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ONLY IN L.A.

In 1978, 15-year-old James Serven didn’t think twice when a friend with a pilot’s license invited him for a ride. Tragedy struck on the way home: The plane crashed near Cajon Pass. Serven’s friends were killed, and he wondered for years why he’d been the only survivor. Then he met his wife.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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