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Morning rundown: COVID origins report; tornadoes in central US

Feb 27

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The U.S. Department of Energy has assessed that the COVID-19 pandemic most likely came from a laboratory leak in China; several tornadoes stretched across the central U.S. overnight; the Supreme Court is taking up Biden’s student loan program this week; and a lawsuit has been filed over the streaming rights of South Park. These stories and more highlight the daily rundown for Monday morning, Feb. 27, 2023. 

Report: COVID-19 originated in China lab

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Department of Energy assessed in its intelligence report that it had “low confidence” the COVID-19 virus accidentally escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.

A “low confidence” assessment generally means the information gathered isn’t reliable enough or there’s not enough information for a more definitive judgment.

A senior U.S. intelligence official told the Journal that the update to the intelligence assessment was conducted in light of new intelligence, including a further study of academic literature, and consultation with experts outside the government.

The findings of the report have rattled the political, scientific and intelligence communities in the ongoing debate of where COVID-19 originated.

China responded to the intelligence report Monday by pushing back against its findings. It said the U.S. needs to stop smearing China and politicizing the issue of the virus origin.

Overnight tornadoes in the central U.S.

Severe storms stretched across the central U.S. overnight. At least seven tornadoes and 12 injuries were reported in Oklahoma, and another two confirmed tornadoes touched down in Kansas.

Hurricane-force winds and hail threatened parts of Texas, with some gusts reaching 114 miles per hour. That is the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane.

The storm is moving north. Cities including Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Columbus, Ohio, are at risk of severe weather Monday. The risk also includes the potential of tornadoes and strong winds.

The Great Lakes are also projected to get another round of ice and snow. Michigan is still struggling to get power restored to tens of thousands of homes since last week’s storm system swept through.

Turkey hit with deadly aftershock

Aftershocks in Turkey continue to pose a dangerous threat to people who survived the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck three weeks ago. Monday, the region was rattled by a 5.6 magnitude earthquake. It was strong enough to topple another two dozen buildings.

69 people were injured and one person killed in the new tremor. More than 48,000 people have died in Turkey and Syria following this month’s string of earthquakes and aftershocks. 173,000 buildings have been seriously damaged.

Officials say there have been more than 10,000 aftershocks in three weeks. They warn the aftershocks are likely to continue.

Supreme Court takes up loan forgiveness

Millions of student loan borrowers are anxiously waiting for the Supreme Court to make a decision on Biden’s debt forgiveness program. Tuesday, the Supreme Court is taking up the case. It will hear arguments on whether the government should cancel up to $20,000 of debt for eligible students.

The justices aren’t taking up just one, but two legal challenges Biden’s loan forgiveness program faces. How and when the justices rule will also determine when payments on federal student loans will resume after a pandemic-related pause that has been in place for nearly three years.

The Biden administration has said that payments will resume 60 days after litigation is resolved or at the end of August — whichever comes first.

“South Park” streaming rights lawsuit

Warner Bros. Discovery has filed a lawsuit against Paramount. It claims the rival media company breached its half-billion-dollar exclusivity contract with HBO Max by airing “South Park” episodes on its own streaming platform Paramount Plus.

In 2019, Paramount and “South Park” creators auctioned off streaming rights to the show’s first 23 seasons. According to the lawsuit, it also gave three new 10 episode seasons to HBO Max for nearly $1.7 million per “South Park” episode. But the company says it has only received 14 of the 30 new episodes. The company is alleging Paramount is purposefully breaking their contract to benefit its own streaming platform. Paramount has responded to the suit by saying the claims are without merit.

Paramount says they continue to deliver new “South Park” episodes to HBO Max, despite its parent company failing to pay license fees that it owes to Paramount.

Mexico’s president posts mystical elf

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador posted an image on Twitter. It appears to be a mythological woodland spirit similar to an elf, called an “Aluxe.” It is a mischievous spirit in Mayan folklore that lives in the forest.

The president tweeted, “everything is mystical.”

According to traditional Mayan belief, “Aluxes” are small, mischievous creatures that are prone to playing tricks on people, like hiding belongings. Some people leave small offerings to appease them, so the forest elves will leave them and their loved ones alone.

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KARAH RUCKER: TOP STORIES ON THIS MONDAY – SEVERAL TORNADOES STRETCHED ACROSS THE CENTRAL U.S. OVERNIGHT – THE SUPREME COURT IS TAKING UP BIDEN’S STUDENT LOAN PROGRAM THIS WEEK. AND A LAWSUIT OVER THE STREAMING RIGHTS OF SOUTH PARK.

BUT FIRST – IN A NEWLY UPDATED CLASSIFIED INTELLIGENCE REPORT —

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY HAS ASSESSES THAT THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC MOST LIKELY CAME FROM A LABORATORY-LEAK IN CHINA.

THIS IS STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS. UNBIASED. STRAIGHT FACTS.

REPORT: COVID-19 ORIGINATED IN CHINA LAB

ACCORDING TO THE WALL STREET JOURNAL – THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY ASSESSED IN ITS INTELLIGENCE REPORT THAT IT HAD “LOW CONFIDENCE” THE COVID-19 VIRUS ACCIDENTALLY ESCAPED FROM A LAB IN WUHAN, CHINA.

A “LOW CONFIDENCE” ASSESSMENT GENERALLY MEANS THE INFORMATION GATHERED ISN’T RELIABLE ENOUGH OR THERE’S NOT ENOUGH INFORMATION FOR A MORE DEFINITIVE JUDGMENT.

A SENIOR U.S. INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL TOLD THE JOURNAL THAT THE UPDATE TO THE INTELLIGENCE ASSESSMENT WAS CONDUCTED IN LIGHT OF NEW INTELLIGENCE, FURTHER STUDY OF ACADEMIC LITERATURE AND IN CONSULTATION WITH EXPERTS OUTSIDE THE GOVERNMENT.

THE FINDINGS OF THE REPORT HAVE RATTLED THE POLITICAL, SCIENTIFIC, AND INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITIES ONCE AGAIN – IN THE ONGOING DEBATE OF WHERE COVID-19 ORIGINATED.

CHINA RESPONDED TO THE U.S. INTELLIGENCE REPORT TODAY – PUSHING BACK AGAINST ITS FINDINGS – SAYING THE U.S. NEEDS TO STOP SMEARING CHINA AND POLITICIZING THE ISSUE OF THE VIRUS ORIGIN.

OVERNIGHT TORNADOES IN CENTRAL U.S.

SEVERE STORMS STRETCHED ACROSS THE CENTRAL-U.S. OVERNIGHT. AT LEAST SEVEN TORNADOES AND 12 INJURIES WERE REPORTED IN OKLAHOMA – AND ANOTHER TWO CONFIRMED-TORNADOES TOUCHED DOWN IN KANSAS.

HURRICANE-FORCE WINDS AND HAIL THREATENED PARTS OF TEXAS — WITH SOME GUSTS REACHING 114 MILES PER HOUR — THE EQUIVALENT OF A CATEGORY THREE HURRICANE.

THE STORM IS MOVING NORTHWARD – CITIES INCLUDING INDIANAPOLIS, CINCINNATI, AND COLUMBUS OHIO ARE AT RISK OF SEVERE WEATHER TODAY — POTENTIALLY INCLUDING TORNADOES AND STRONG WINDS.

THE GREAT LAKES IS ALSO PROJECTED TO GET ANOTHER ROUND OF ICE AND SNOW. MICHIGAN STILL STRUGGLING TO GET POWER RESTORED TO TENS OF THOUSANDS OF HOMES SINCE LAST WEEK’S STORM SYSTEM SWEPT THROUGH.

TURKEY HIT WITH DEADLY AFTERSHOCK

AFTERSHOCKS IN TURKEY CONTINUE TO POSE A DANGEROUS THREAT TO PEOPLE WHO SURVIVED THE 7.8 MAGNITUDE EARTHQUAKE THAT STRUCK THREE WEEKS AGO.

AND AGAIN — JUST TODAY — THE REGION WAS RATTLED BY A 5.6 MAGNITUDE EARTHQUAKE – STRONG ENOUGH TO TOPPLE ANOTHER TWO DOZEN BUILDINGS.

69 PEOPLE WERE INJURED AND ONE PERSON KILLED IN THE NEW TREMOR. MORE THAN 48 THOUSAND PEOPLE HAVE DIED IN TURKEY AND SYRIA FOLLOWING THIS MONTH’S STRING OF EARTHQUAKES AND AFTERSHOCKS.

173 THOUSAND BUILDINGS HAVE BEEN SERIOUSLY DAMAGED. OFFICIALS SAY THERE HAVE BEEN MORE THAN 10 THOUSAND AFTERSHOCKS IN THREE WEEKS. AND THEY WARN THEY ARE LIKELY TO CONTINUE.

SCOTUS TAKES UP LOAN FORGIVENESS

MILLIONS OF STUDENT LOAN BORROWERS ARE ANXIOUSLY WAITING FOR THE SUPREME COURT TO MAKE A DECISION ON BIDEN’S DEBT FORGIVENESS PROGRAM.

AND TOMORROW — THE SUPREME COURT IS TAKING UP THE CASE – HEARING ARGUMENTS ON WHETHER THE THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD CANCEL UP TO 20 THOUSAND DOLLARS OF DEBT FOR ELIGIBLE STUDENTS.

THE JUSTICES AREN’T TAKING UP JUST ONE — BUT TWO — LEGAL CHALLENGES BIDEN’S LOAN FORGIVENESS PROGRAM FACES.

HOW AND WHEN THE JUSTICES RULE WILL ALSO DETERMINE WHEN PAYMENTS ON FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS WILL RESUME AFTER A PANDEMIC-RELATED PAUSE THAT HAS BEEN IN PLACE FOR NEARLY THREE YEARS.

THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION HAS SAID THAT PAYMENTS WILL RESUME 60 DAYS AFTER LITIGATION IS RESOLVED OR AT THE END OF AUGUST, WHICHEVER COMES FIRST.

‘SOUTH PARK’ STREAMING RIGHTS LAWSUIT

“WARNER BROTHERS DISCOVERY” HAS FILED A LAWSUIT AGAINST PARAMOUNT – CLAIMING THE RIVAL MEDIA COMPANY BREACHED ITS HALF-BILLION-DOLLAR “EXCLUSIVITY CONTRACT” WITH HBO MAX BY AIRING “SOUTH PARK” EPISODES ON ITS OWN STREAMING PLATFORM — PARAMOUNT PLUS.

IN 2019, PARAMOUNT AND “SOUTH PARK’S” CREATORS TOGETHER AUCTIONED OFF STREAMING RIGHTS TO THE SHOW’S FIRST 23 SEASONS PLUS THREE NEW 10-EPISODE SEASONS TO HBO MAX – FOR NEARLY 1.7 MILLION DOLLARS PER SOUTH PARK EPISODE ACCORDING TO THE LAWSUIT.

BUT THE COMPANY SAYS OF THE PROMISED 30 NEW EPISODES — THEY’VE ONLY RECEIVED 14.

THE COMPANY IS ALLEGING PARAMOUNT IS PURPOSEFULLY BREAKING THEIR CONTRACT TO BENEFIT IT’S OWN STREAMING PLATFORM.

PARAMOUNT HAS RESPONDED TO THE SUIT – SAYING THE CLAIMS ARE WITHOUT MERIT.

PARAMOUNT SAYS THEY CONTINUE TO DELIVER NEW SOUTH PARK EPISODES TO HBO MAX DESPITE ITS PARENT COMPANY FAILING TO PAY LICENSE-FEES THAT IT OWES TO PARAMOUNT.

MEXICO’S PRESIDENT POSTS MYSTICAL ELF

PRESIDENT ANDRES MANUAL LOPEZ POSTED AN IMAGE ON TWITTER. IT APPEARS TO BE A MYTHOLOGICAL WOODLAND SPIRIT SIMILAR TO AN ELF, CALLED AN “ALUXE” WHICH IS A MISCHIEVOUS SPIRIT IN MAYAN FOLKLORE THAT LIVES IN THE FOREST.

THE PRESIDENT TWEETING “EVERYTHING IS MYSTICAL.”

ACCORDING TO TRADITIONAL MAYAN BELIEF, “ALUXES” ARE SMALL, MISCHIEVOUS CREATURES THAT ARE PRONE TO PLAYING TRICKS ON PEOPLE, LIKE HIDING BELONGINGS. SOME PEOPLE LEAVE SMALL OFFERINGS TO APPEASE THEM…SO THE FOREST ELVES WILL LEAVE THEM AND THEIR LOVED ONES ALONE.


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