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Need2Know: Vaccine Timeline, Texas Opens Up & Plowy McPlowface

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Bartender Alyssa Dooley talks with customers at Mo's Irish Pub, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Houston. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he is lifting business capacity limits and the state's mask mandate starting next week. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Here are the headlines you Need2Know for Wednesday, March 3, 2021:

COVID-19: LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

Texas and Mississippi will drop their mask mandates and allow nearly all businesses to reopen without restrictions, despite the CDC director warning governors not to relax restrictions just yet as cases and deaths appear to be plateauing at a high level. President Biden says there will now be enough vaccines for all American adults by the end of May, two months earlier than the previous timetable. That’s partially thanks to a wartime-like deal between rivals Merck and Johnson & Johnson, brokered by the White House, in which Merck will help make the J&J shot. AP

SCOTUS ON VOTING RIGHTS

Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in a case about voting restrictions in Arizona, one of the first major tests of how the new 6-3 conservative majority on the Court will rule on issues related to voting rights. Judging by the questions asked, the justices seemed inclined to uphold two restrictions: the requirement that Election Day ballots cast at the wrong precinct get tossed, and a law that makes it a crime to collect and drop off absentee ballots on someone else’s behalf unless they are a family member or caregiver. REUTERS

TANDEN PULLED

President Biden’s nominee for budget chief is being withdrawn, becoming the first casualty of his presidency. Neera Tanden will not go forward as the nominee for director of the OMB after it became clear that the Senate didn’t have the votes to confirm her, though Biden says he plans to give Tanden another job in his administration. Tanden, a former Clinton adviser and prolific tweeter, was criticized by Republicans and some Democrats for a history of combative posts that criticized both parties. POLITICO

HORRIFIC BORDER CRASH

A big rig crashed into an SUV that was carrying at least 25 people in southern California near the Mexican border, killing 13 and leaving others injured. Police do not know the cause of the crash and have not revealed the identities of those killed or injured, but the Mexican consulate is said to be involved with identifying the dead. It's thought to be the worst accident in the border region in decades. SD UNION-TRIB

PRICE AT THE PUMP

As expected, gas prices are rising just about everywhere, two weeks after the freak weather in Texas knocked out significant domestic oil capacity. The national average rose for the eighth week in a row and is now $2.72, according to Gas Buddy, with prices as high as $4 per gallon spotted in Orange County, Calif. OPEC meets tomorrow to decide whether to increase supply to the global market as demand creeps up. CNN

ELECTRIC VOLVO

Volvo is the latest automaker to commit to ditching the internal combustion engine entirely. The Swedish car giant will move to a fully electrified lineup by 2030 with all models either electric or hybridized by 2025. Volvo’s U.S. chief told Cheddar that it wants to be faster off the line and more ambitious than its competitors when it comes to going electric, and will take a page out of Tesla’s book by selling EVs directly to consumers online, rather than through dealerships: WATCH

STREAMING WARS

SoundCloud is drastically changing how it compensates artists in the face of industry criticism that the current music-licensing system is grossly inequitable in the streaming age. SoundCloud will now direct royalty fees only to the artists that subscribers listen to. Spotify, Apple and other platforms use a “pro rata” system in which royalty payments are put into a big pot and dished out every month based on streams, leading to big windfalls for stars like Taylor Swift and Drake but next to nothing for less popular musicians. MBW

SEUSS BOOKS

The business that runs Dr. Seuss’ estate will stop publishing six of the famed children author’s books because of racially insensitive imagery. The books are: And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, The Cat’s Quizzer and Scrambled Eggs Super! Dr. Seuss books currently take up eight of the top 10 best-seller spots on Amazon. AP

SPOTTED...

...a shirtless Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, receiving his COVID vaccination. Zelensky joins a growing list of male European politicians who can’t seem to resist taking their shirts either partially or entirely off as they get inoculated in front of cameras: SEE MORE
...Dolly Parton, singing “Vaccine, Vacciiiiiine” to the tune Jolene, as she received her jab. Parton literally got a “taste of her own medicine” in the form of the Moderna vaccine, which she helped fund: WATCH

LEFTOVERS: HERE COMES PLOWY!

Minneapolis will be home to a snow plow with the official name Plowy McPlowface, the result of a statewide online naming contest for eight snow plows that went completely off the rails. The other seven winners: Ope, Just Gonna Plow Right Past Ya, Duck Duck Orange Truck, Plow Bunyan, Snowbi Wan Kenobi, F. Salt Fitzgerald, Darth Blader and the Truck Formally Known as Plow. KARE
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