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Here are the headlines you Need2Know for Thursday, February 17, 2022:


U.S.: The Biden Administration is reportedly going to ask for an extra $30 billion for COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, testing, health care coverage for uninsured people, and preparations for any future variants. The federal government has so far spent $5.8 trillion on battling the pandemic, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Also, the CDC on Wednesday said it is reconsidering its mask guidance as an increasing number of states around the country end their mandates. AP

INTERNATIONAL: Parts of Asia, meanwhile, are seeing record case numbers. South Korea is beginning to give out free rapid tests as the country reports its highest daily jump ever, while a fast-spreading outbreak in Hong Kong is putting China's zero-COVID policy to the test. WASH POST


Not even a fresh surge in COVID cases and the highest inflation in decades was enough to curb Americans' appetite for spending. Retail sales rose 3.8% in January, which is the strongest gain since last March. Holding to the pandemic-era trend, consumers continued to shell out more for goods than services, with online orders contributing the biggest share. While the numbers were impressive, it's worth noting that part of the increase could have come from higher prices, as retail data isn't adjusted for inflation. WSJ


In the last few days, the world has gotten a series of pretty dire climate predictions, from record megadroughts in the U.S. West to rising sea levels on coastal shorelines. Now scientists are predicting that Arctic sea lanes might completely thaw out during the summertime as early as 2035. This might sound like a dream come true for shipping companies — as a Northern Sea Route would spare them from having to navigate the Suez Canal —  but it doesn't bode well for native communities and wildlife that use the ice for crossing. It also points to a broader warming trend due to climate change that could prove devastating for the planet in the long-run. CNBC


Oil prices have been on a wild ride these past two years, effectively dropping to below zero at the beginning of the pandemic to hitting nearly $100 per barrel this week. Now the crisis in Ukraine is driving up prices further, and shuffling up the global market in the process. Given that oil holds a special place at the center of the world economy, the possibility of higher prices could mean additional supply constraints and inflationary pressures. This is putting pressure on countries to resolve the conflict in Ukraine peacefully — though that is proving a challenge. BLOOMBERG

You know what else has been on a wild ride the past two years? Our sanity.


BioNTech, Pfizer's partner in developing a COVID-19 vaccine, is planning to build modular vaccine factories in Africa using shipping containers to quickly kickstart manufacturing. The company's goal is to churn out 50 million doses in the next 12 months, with the first facilities set to be shipped out to either Senegal or Rwanda in the second half of this year. While BioNTech touted the effort as a way to improve access to vaccines on the continent, it still refuses to suspend its vaccine patents, which arguably would also expand access. CHEDDAR


Two union elections will take place next month at Amazon warehouses. Workers in Staten Island, N.Y. and Bessemer, Ala. have come to an agreement with the company to hold votes in late March that would unionize their respective workforces. This is the second attempt at a union drive for Bessemer workers. The first one failed, but the National Labor Review Board ordered a rerun after determining that Amazon had interfered in the process. If successful, the unions would be the first in the U.S. for Amazon. THE VERGE


Google plans to restrict the tracking of personal data on Android apps. This follows a similar move from Apple last year that is already cutting into the bottom lines of companies that rely on digital ads, like Meta. Yet Google has no intention of killing the advertising industry and is instead working on more privacy-focused replacements to the current system that could still, in some cases, allow developers to track user activity. CNN


While the Canadian government has managed to clear the blockade of truckers at the Ambassador Bridge, protestors and their big rigs remain hunkered down in the heart of Ottawa. Tensions escalated on Wednesday as police warned truckers to leave now or risk arrest. For the moment, authorities have avoided violent confrontations, and have stuck with ticketing vehicles and handing out leaflets informing protestors they could be prosecuted. AP

Nothing scatters protesters like leaflets informing them they could be prosecuted.


ViacomCBS has officially rebranded as Paramount Global in a play to place more emphasis on the company's streaming service. Paramount+ entered a crowded marketplace when it launched a year ago but has since propelled itself into the big leagues. The service has 32.8 million subscribers and is aiming to hit 100 million by 2024. Now the name of the game for Paramount Global is content, content, content, placing it in the running with other companies, such as Disney and WarnerMedia, that are increasingly relying on streaming. CHEDDAR


About one year from today, Wii U and Nintendo 3DS will no longer have access to Nintendo's digital game store — and gamers aren't happy about it. As the company pointed out in the announcement, this is just part of the "natural life cycle" of products as they become less used. But video game preservationists argue that the shutdown will make thousands of digital-only games essentially impossible to find. To combat this, some are calling for the use of "emulators," which have been used for years to resurrect old games, to preserve Nintendo's catalog. AXIOS

Now they know what it feels like to run out of quarters.
Need2Know Podcast Note: The Need2Know podcast is taking a break for now. We're looking forward to bringing you more context and analysis on the big stories of the day in a few weeks. In the meantime, check out our archive on Apple or Spotify, or watch on YouTube, and send us your feedback!