World in Brief

Health: Biden Administration Announces Plans to End Public Health Emergency Declaration

The Biden Administration recently announced plans to end the Public Health Emergency for Covid-19. The decision carries serious consequences for Americans who benefit from free Covid-19-related services and is symbolic of the decreased relevance of the pandemic. According to “The New York Times,” many House Republicans are calling for the Biden Administration to end the public health emergency immediately, claiming that it wasted money in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic. After the change, Covid-19 service coverage will rely on Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance companies. Covid-19 tests and vaccinations could cost upwards of 100 dollars if left uncovered by private insurance companies. Additional funding allotted to hospitals would be revoked, rendering many hospitals unprepared for possible future waves of Covid-19, reported “USA Today.”

United States of America/China Conflict: Chinese Spy Balloon Shot Down By U.S. Military

The U.S. Military dispatched two fighter jets to shoot a Chinese surveillance balloon out of the sky above the coast of South Carolina last Saturday, ending its weeklong journey across the U.S. The balloon was first detected on January 28 when it entered U.S. airspace near Alaska before traveling southwards through Canada and into Idaho, reported “The U.S. Department of Defense.” Chinese officials confirmed the object’s origin, claiming that the object was a weather balloon originating from China. However, this was proven false after experts examined photos of the balloon and discovered it housed a control panel and a parachute system, as well as equipment that could be used to collect radio and phone data, reported “The New York Times.” The intrusion of the balloon into U.S. airspace has only served to escalate the rising tension between the U.S. and China, with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken postponing his trip to Beijing and the White House Press Secretary describing the balloon as a “violation of our sovereignty,” according to “The New York Times.”

Climate: National Windchill Record Broken as Artic Air Sweeps Across New England

A runaway Arctic air mass caused all-time low temperatures and wind chills across the New England region on February 4, with windchill temperatures plummeting to -109 degrees Fahrenheit in some parts of New Hampshire, reported “The Washington Post.” The cold caused power outages and was accompanied by wind speeds above 35 mph. To protect the estimated 15 million affected by the cold, government leaders urged people to stay in their homes and avoid spending long periods of time outside. New York City issued a “Code Blue,” opening its homeless shelter system to citizens and asking people to report anyone on the streets to a hotline. Warming centers also opened in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Vermont, reported “CNN.

Justice/Police Brutality: Tyre Nichols’ Funeral Prompts Calls for Police Reform

Hundreds of mourners gathered in Memphis, Tennessee on February 1 to remember the life of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who was fatally beaten by several police officers at a traffic stop on January 7. Almost an hour of released footage showed officers kicking and pepper-spraying Nichols, prompting many Americans to demand reform in the police system. The Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and International Association of Police Chiefs launched an investigation into the tragedy. All five officers involved have since been fired and charged with murder, along with two EMTs whose licenses were revoked after they neglected to provide medical treatment after arriving on scene. The funeral, while being emblematic of a call to action, was also an occasion to remember the person behind the symbol, Nichols himself. Family members reminisced about his love for photography and skateboarding, cementing his legacy as that of a kindhearted and caring person, reported “The New York Times.”

Science: NASA Mars Rover Completes Rock Deposit

NASA’s Mars Rover, named Perseverance or Percy for short, has recently finished depositing a series of rock samples in the 45-kilometer wide “Jezero Crater.” The titanium tubes contain various rock and sedimentary samples from a piece of terrain called the “Three Forks” and will act as a contingency for a possible rover breakdown in the future, when NASA aims to retrieve the samples. According to NASA, Perseverance will now drive to the top of the delta to study possible flood activity, then to the edge of the crater to collect carbonate-type sedimentary rocks. Landing on the Martian surface in February of 2021, the goal of the Perseverance mission is to locate traces of ancient Martian life in the crater, which was once filled with a lake. NASA and the European Space Agency hope to have the collected samples returned to Earth by 2033 for more careful examination and analysis, reported “BBC.