February 16, 2021

The winter storm system bringing freezing temperatures, snow, and ice to 15 different states has killed at least 15 people, CBS News reports.

In parts of Oklahoma and Texas, it hasn't been this cold in at least a century, and pipes are freezing and exploding. There are 3.5 million businesses and homes in Texas without power, and people are struggling to keep warm amid the frigid conditions.

Police in Houston say a woman and child died of carbon monoxide poisoning after they sat in a car running in their garage, and authorities in Sugar Land said a grandmother and three children trying to heat their home died in a fire. A homeless man in Houston also died due to exposure, and medical examiners in Galveston have reported several weather-related deaths.

A 10-year-old boy died near Millington, Tennessee, after he fell through ice, and late Monday night, a tornado spawned by the storm hit Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, leaving three dead and 10 injured. Resident Sharon Benson told CBS News she was shocked by the tornado, because forecasters "said it was going to rain. Not severe weather at all. No forewarning." Catherine Garcia

1:46 a.m.

In war-torn Yemen, humanitarian agencies believe that 400,000 children under five are at risk of dying from malnutrition.

In Shabwa province, the number of serious cases of malnutrition increased 10 percent in 2020, and in the town of Abs, serious cases rose 41 percent, The Guardian's Middle East correspondent Bethan McKernan reports. It is estimated that 16 million people, half of Yemen's entire population, are going hungry.

Civil war broke out in Yemen six years ago, with Houthi rebels fighting the Yemeni government. Now, it's also a proxy war between Iran, which backs the Houthis, and Saudi Arabia, which leads a coalition that supports the government. Tens of thousands of Yemenis have been killed or injured in the fighting, and with malnutrition, cholera, coronavirus, and dengue fever running rampant, the United Nations says Yemen is experiencing the world's worst humanitarian crisis. One doctor that McKernan spoke to said he fears Yemen is losing an entire generation to war, especially as boys as young as 11 are being recruited to fight and girls under 14 are being married off.

The UN is having a hard time raising enough money for 2021 humanitarian efforts, as several countries aren't donating as much as in years past. The United Kingdom, which supports the Saudi-led coalition, is cutting its aid in half, and this is essentially a "death sentence" for people in Yemen, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement. Read more about the crisis in Yemen at The Guardian. Catherine Garcia

12:49 a.m.

Investigators with the Manhattan District Attorney's office are taking a closer look at Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, as they continue a probe into former President Donald Trump and his family business, people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times.

They are investigating potential financial fraud, and whether Trump and the Trump Organization manipulated property values in order to receive loans and reduce property taxes, the Times reports. Weisselberg, 73, has worked for the Trump Organization for decades, starting at the company when it was helmed by Fred Trump, the former president's father.

Two people familiar with the matter said prosecutors have been asking witnesses about Weisselberg, and spoke with one person about Weisselberg's sons — Barry, the property manager of Trump Wollman Rink in Central Park, and Jack, who works at Ladder Capital, one of Trump's lenders. None of the Weisselbergs have been accused of wrongdoing, and there is no indication Barry and Jack are a focus of the probe, the Times says.

The investigation began more than two years ago, with the district attorney looking into hush money payments made to two women who said they had affairs with Trump. Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer, arranged the payments, and pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance charges. He testified before Congress that Weisselberg came up with a strategy to hide the fact that the Trump Organization was reimbursing Cohen for making payments to one of the women, pornographic actress Stormy Daniels. Trump has called the investigation "a witch hunt." Catherine Garcia

March 1, 2021

In Alabama, thousands of Amazon workers are voting on whether to unionize — and President Biden wants to make sure they know this "vitally important choice" must be made without any employer "intimidation," "coercion," or "threats."

On Sunday night, Biden released a video about the unionization efforts taking place at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. More than 5,800 workers are voting on whether they should join the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. They have until March 29 to vote, and if they decide to unionize, Bessemer will be the first Amazon facility in the United States to do so.

Biden didn't explicitly name Amazon during his remarks, but said that workers in Alabama and across the U.S. "should have a free and fair choice to join a union." America "wasn't built by Wall Street," he continued, it was "built by the middle class, and unions built the middle class. I made it clear when I was running that my administration's policy would be to support union organizing and the right to collectively bargain. I'm keeping that promise."

This is a bold statement, labor historian Erik Loomis told The Washington Post, and one that is "almost unprecedented in American history. We have the sense that previous presidents in the mid-20th Century were overtly pro-union, but that wasn't really the case. Even FDR never really came and told workers directly to support a union."

The Post reports that Amazon is working overtime to try to discourage Bessemer employees from supporting the union — the company is holding mandatory meetings to criticize the union, sending out text messages asking workers to vote no, and putting up anti-union fliers in bathroom stalls.

Biden speaking out during such a tense campaign is a big deal, The New Republic columnist Timothy Noah writes, and should be seen as "a signal that the federal government is shifting away from its decades-old tradition of treating unions with neutrality shading into hostility." Noah believes conservatives will "surely condemn this change," while liberals will likely "praise it and demand more," like the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.Catherine Garcia

March 1, 2021

A third woman has come forward to accuse New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) of harassment.

In an interview with The New York Times on Monday, Anna Ruch, 33, said that she met Cuomo at a wedding reception in September 2019. She approached Cuomo to let him know she enjoyed the toast he made to the newlyweds, and Ruch said as they spoke, he placed his hand on her bare lower back. Ruch told the Times she removed his hand, and he responded by saying she seemed "aggressive." He then placed his hands on her cheeks, Ruch said, and loudly asked if he could kiss her.

Ruch told the Times she pulled away, "confused and shocked and embarrassed. I turned my head away and didn't have words in that moment." Ruch said a friend witnessed the incident, and she shared with the Times a photo showing Cuomo's hands on her face. "It's the act of impunity that strikes me," Ruch said. "I didn't have a choice in the matter. I didn't have a choice in his physical dominance over me at that moment. And that's what infuriates me. And even with what I could do, removing his hand from my lower back, even doing that was not clear enough."

Last week, two former Cuomo aides — Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett — accused him of sexual harassment. On Sunday night, Cuomo said in a statement that some of his remarks may have "been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that." An investigation into his behavior is in the early stages, with New York Attorney General Letitia James now working on selecting an outside investigator. Catherine Garcia

March 1, 2021

With a vote of 97-72, the Georgia state House on Monday passed a bill supported by Republicans that would roll back voting access.

House Bill 531 requires a photo ID for absentee voting, limits weekend early voting days, restricts ballot drop box locations, and sets an earlier deadline to request an absentee ballot. The measure now heads to the state Senate for more debate. State Rep. Barry Fleming (R), the bill's chief sponsor, said it is "designed to begin to bring back the confidence of our voters back into our election system."

Democrats and civil rights organizations disagree, arguing that it would make it much harder for people to vote, especially voters of color. State Rep. Renitta Shannon (D) said it is "pathetically obvious" that the bill is in response to Georgia voters turning out in record numbers for November's presidential election, making the state blue for the first time in decades. Voters also showed up in January for the Senate runoffs, when Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock defeated the Republican incumbents, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

This gave Republicans the message "that they were in a political death spiral," Shannon said. "And now they are doing anything they can to silence the voices of Black and brown voters specifically, because they largely powered these wins."

Demonstrators marched outside the Capitol on Monday to protest the bill, which the Rev. James Woodall, president of the Georgia NAACP, called one of the "most egregious, dangerous, and most expensive voter suppression acts in this entire nation, rolling back years of hardball progress and renewing our own reputation for discrimination." Catherine Garcia

March 1, 2021

The Senate on Monday confirmed Miguel Cardona, Connecticut's commissioner of education, as education secretary.

Cardona, 45, has also worked as a teacher, principal, and administrator, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said he is 
"exactly the leader" needed at the Department of Education during "this moment of crisis." Cardona has "the experience, principles, and perspective that we need in this critical role," she added.

As education secretary, two of the biggest issues Cardona will face is how to best guide schools as they make plans to reopen and managing the government's $1.5 trillion student loan portfolio. During his confirmation hearing, Cardona said he will also focus on inequities in the country's education system, because unless they are "tackled head on," they will "prevent the potential of this great country." Catherine Garcia

March 1, 2021

In one of the earliest showcases for what a post-Trump GOP statewide primary might look like over the next couple of years, Ohio Senate candidates Jane Timken and Josh Mandel are already squabbling over who's more loyal to former President Donald Trump.

Timken kicked things off Monday when she called on Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), one of the ten House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump in January, to resign, arguing "President Trump is the leader of our party and we must have conservative leaders committed to the team."

Mandel, who has claimed to be Trump's "number one ally" in Ohio, followed that up with scathing criticism, accusing Timken of "flip-flopping" on Gonzalez. He cited Trump's speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday which claimed "there is no room in the party for 'spineless establishment Republicans.'" Timken, Mandel said, "has proven herself just that," while he has consistently opposed Gonzalez's vote.

Mandel's comments may be one last desperate shot at getting Trump's approval, however — The Washington Post reported Sunday that Trump has already told Timken he'll endorse her, though her camp has not confirmed the news. Either way, the back-and-forth seems to line up with an earlier prediction from The Bulwark's Tim Miller that GOP primaries won't represent a battle between pro- and anti-Trump candidates. Instead, it's a battle for the right to own the "Trump lane," plain and simple. Tim O'Donnell

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