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Need2Know: Ukraine Tensions Rising, Bernie on BBB & Ice Pancakes

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Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., responds to questions from reporters before a meeting with Democrats at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, File)
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Here are the headlines you Need2Know for Monday, January 24, 2022:

U.S. OFFICIALS TO LEAVE UKRAINE

As tensions over a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine continue to simmer, the State Department on Sunday announced that it would be reducing staff levels at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv. The order will be voluntary for employees and mandatory for eligible family members. Over the weekend, the British government also accused Russia of planning to install a pro-Russian leader. U.S. officials are backing the claims, as the White House considers deploying thousands of troops, warships and aircraft to NATO allies in the Baltics and Eastern Europe. CNN

OMICRON PEAKING

The omicron wave is showing signs of cresting as a growing number of states passed peak infection rates in recent days. Data show the country averaging about 720,000 new cases a day as of Friday, which is down from 807,000 last week — though states are still identifying significantly more cases than in previous waves. Where cases are declining, however, the fall has so far been swift and steep. Over the weekend Dr. Fauci said he expects omicron to crest nationally in mid-February. The hopeful news comes as free at-home COVID tests begin arriving in mailboxes, after the federal government started accepting orders last Tuesday. (If you haven't ordered yours yet, you can get four tests per home at covidtests.gov.NY TIMES

We peaked in high school

NYPD OFFICER SLAIN

A New York police officer died on Friday while investigating a domestic disturbance incident in Harlem. The suspect fired on officers Jason Rivera, who was killed, and Wilbert Mora, who is still in critical condition. The shootings were the third and fourth of NYPD officers in the last week, and the first lethal shooting of an officer since 2019. Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer who ran on a platform of public safety, called on the city to unite against violence. NY TIMES

BERNIE ON BUILD BACK BETTER

Sen. Bernie Sanders had a few words for his colleagues on CNN's "Face the Nation" on Sunday. It's time to end the "so-called negotiating" over President Joe Biden's Build Back Better spending bill and start forcing votes on portions of the agenda, which he noted is popular with broad sections of the electorate. Sander's talking-to follows a speech from Biden last week where he said the package could be passed in chunks, as well as comments from Sen. Joe Manchin that he was willing to revive negotiations. Sen. Ron Wyden also said Democrats were working to address Manchin's concerns about inflation by focusing the legislation on a handful of key areas such as climate change, clean energy funding, universal pre-K, expanded Affordable Care Act funding, and bringing down prescription drug prices.  BLOOMBERG

TECH SLUMP

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq finished their worst weeks since the start of the pandemic on Friday with a brutal sell-off in tech stocks such as Netflix and Peloton fueling the slump. What's causing the downturn? One answer is rising bond yields. As the Federal Reserve signals that rate hikes are coming in 2022, the cost of borrowing is shooting up, putting a damper on the easy money policies that have propped up tech giants and obscure cryptocurrencies alike. Investors are spooked, but this week's Fed meeting could provide some clarity. WSJ

Support the economy: watch Netflix while riding a Peloton.

TAX SEASON: DAY ONE

Tax season officially kicks off today, as the IRS begins accepting 2021 tax returns. But the agency might not be ready for the tidal wave of paperwork. Due to worker shortages, a lack of funding, and a heavy workload brought on by pandemic-related programs, many taxpayers still haven't gotten their returns from last year. What it means for this year's filing season is unclear, though some experts predict more delays in 2022. For those dreading the filing process, however, it's probably best to assume the IRS still wants your return on time. AP

It’s also Day One of us saying, “We really need to do our taxes.”

THE GREAT L.A. TRAIN ROBBERY PROBLEM

It's the Wild West in Los Angeles' rail yards. Freight rail company Union Pacific has reported a 160 percent jump in theft in the city since December 2020, with sharp spikes in the months leading up to Christmas, as train cars loaded to bursting with goods left the city's overwhelmed ports. The world got a look at the impact of the crime wave this month as local news footage of freight rail tracks littered with torn-up packages went viral. California Governor Gavin Newsom said the images looked like a "Third World country." LA TIMES
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'SILICON HEARTLAND'

As demand for semiconductors continues to outstrip supply, the largest chipmaker in the U.S. is making a play to expand capacity in the heart of the midwest. On Friday, Intel announced that it plans to invest $20 billion in the construction of two new semiconductor plants just outside Columbus, Ohio. While the facility isn't set to open until late 2025, the project is drawing praise from President Biden and lawmakers for promising to on-shore such a strategically important component. Intel also highlighted plans to invest an additional $100 billion in making Ohio a major tech hub. In the meantime, the White House is pushing Congress to move ahead with the CHIPS Act, a plan to invest billions in domestic semiconductor production.  THE VERGE

All this chip talk has us in the mood for some Doritos

SUPER BOWL DANCERS SPEAK UP

Dancing for the Super Bowl halftime show might seem like a sweet gig, but it turns out many of those busting a move on live TV aren't getting paid. A series of text messages obtained by Page Six appear to show recruiters reaching out to professional dancers to volunteer for free.  While it's fairly common for live event organizers to bring in volunteers to fill out the crowd, it's unusual for them to solicit trained dancers for free work — some of whom are now calling the practice exploitative and an example of unfair labor practices in the industry. PAGE SIX

Now that’s he’s available, maybe Tom Brady can dance

LEFTOVERS: ICE PANCAKES

As frigid winter weather hits much of the country, an unusual ice formation washed up on Chicago's shoreline over the weekend. Called ice pancakes, the flat, round chunks are common in the Arctic, but only show up in the U.S. after several days of freezing temperatures. The oddly shaped pieces are formed from slabs of ice knocking against each other. CNN

AKA Frozen Flapjacks
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!
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