5 things to know for January 18: Covid, Texas synagogue, voting rights, Ukraine, 5G

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Originally Published: 18 JAN 22 06:32 ET
Updated: 18 JAN 22 06:58 ET

(CNN) — Millions of people are digging out from a massive winter storm that caused widespread power outages, road closures, and thousands of flight cancellations yesterday — and we could see more of the same later this week.

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

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1. Coronavirus

Covid-19 cases are on the rise in the US due to the Omicron variant, but experts say it is still too early to determine if we’re approaching the endemic phase of the virus. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, 1 in 5 Americans have been infected with Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, with just over 680,000 daily cases reported yesterday. Soaring infection rates are leading some people to seek a fourth dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine to increase their antibodies, but early studies show it still might not be enough to protect against breakthrough infections caused by the Omicron variant. Separately, China says tickets for the Winter Olympics in Beijing will not be sold to general public due to Covid-19.

2. Texas synagogue

Top officials with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security warned in a letter yesterday that faith-based communities will likely remain targets for violence, urging state and local partners to evaluate their security measures for mass gathering events and at houses of worship. Online forums linked to domestic violent extremists have referenced Jewish targets tied to conspiracy theories about Covid-19, the outcome of the 2020 election and “even the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and resettlement of Afghans to the United States,” according to the letter obtained by CNN. The warning comes just days after the Colleyville, Texas, hostage standoff at Congregation Beth Israel, which the FBI is investigating as a terrorist incident.

3. Voting rights

The US Senate is expected to take up voting rights legislation today, one day after the family of Martin Luther King Jr. sought to position the federal holiday as a springboard for important voting rights discussions. Democratic leaders are being pushed to come together to honor King’s legacy with the passage of the legislation, but Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have made it clear they are against changing Senate rules to clear the way for voting legislation to pass with a simple majority. President Joe Biden has had conversations with both Democrats, and assured the public that he is actively fighting on voting rights, but he’s said previously that he doesn’t know if his party will be able to unify in time.

4. Ukraine

A group of seven US senators met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday in the capital of Kyiv to reaffirm the US’ commitment to the country as the threat of a potential Russian invasion intensifies. The visit follows a series of diplomatic meetings last week that the US and its NATO allies hoped would lead Russia to pull back from Ukraine. But the talks failed to achieve any breakthroughs, as Russia would not commit to deescalating and American and NATO officials said Moscow’s core demands — including that NATO never admit Ukraine into the alliance — were non-starters.

5. 5G

Executives from the nation’s largest airlines are asking the Biden administration for “immediate intervention” in the planned rollout of 5G technology near major airports. The rollout, which is scheduled for tomorrow, would present several transportation and economic consequences, the airlines said in a joint letter sent to the White House. The carriers are concerned that 5G signals will interfere with aviation technology, including the radar altimeter onboard planes. The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement late yesterday that it “will continue to ensure that the traveling public is safe as wireless companies deploy 5G.”

BREAKFAST BROWSE

NFL’s Wild Card playoffs were very wild indeed

The past few days have been an emotional roller coaster for NFL teams and their fans vying to make it to the Super Bowl, culminating in last night’s win for the Los Angeles Rams.

Mars rover’s latest discovery

Aliens! Well, maybe. A new analysis of the rover’s samples from the planet point to the possible existence of ancient life.

Fashion designer sues Lego over leather jacket worn by toy figurine

An artist says a tiny black plastic jacket worn in a “Queer Eye” Lego set is a “blatant copy” of his fashion design. I’ll let you be the judge of this one.

The owner of Ben & Jerry’s wants to buy Aquafresh and Advil

The company says it’s ditching low-performing food and drink products and instead, sweetening their bids for personal health items.

Stunning new Maldives resorts to visit in 2022

Treat yourself! Here are some options for the warm island vacation you’re likely dreaming about.

TODAY’S NUMBER

8

That’s the number of ‘John Doe’ names Ghislaine Maxwell will no longer fight to keep secret, her attorney told a New York federal judge in a letter last week. That means the court will decide whether to reveal the identities of eight high-profile men connected to a 2015 defamation case brought by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claimed financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused her while she was a minor and that Maxwell aided in the abuse. Maxwell faces up to 65 years in prison after she was found guilty last month on five federal charges for her role in Epstein’s sexual abuse of minor girls between 1994 and 2004.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“This is a very unique type of crisis that we’re facing because of the lack of communication… the biggest challenge at this point is obtaining detailed information from officials and Tonga.”

Save the Children Fiji CEO, Shairana Ali said as the first images of Tonga are beginning to emerge. The images show widespread devastation and entire communities covered in a layer of thick ash following what experts believe to be the world’s biggest volcanic eruption in more than 30 years.

TODAY’S WEATHER

Check your local forecast here>>>

AND FINALLY

Don’t look down…

Check out this incredible view from the summit of Mount Everest. Warning… not for those scared of heights. (click here to view)

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