February 25, 2021

President Biden on Thursday ordered airstrikes against facilities in eastern Syria used by Iranian-backed militant groups, the Pentagon said. This is the Biden administration's first military action.

The strikes were in response to several rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq, including one earlier this month in Irbil, the capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region. This attack killed one non-American civilian contractor and injured a U.S. service member and several American contractors.

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the strikes destroyed several facilities at a "border control point" used by the Kata'ib Hezbollah and Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada militant groups. "President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel," Kirby stated. "At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq."

A U.S. official told Reuters by having airstrikes that were limited in scope, Biden sent a message to the Iranian-backed militias without sparking a bigger conflict. Kata'ib Hezbollah is the primary Iranian-backed militia in Iraq, and earlier this week the group said it wasn't behind any of the recent rocket attacks. Catherine Garcia

11:00 p.m.

The United States is prepared to sanction dozens of Russian individuals and entities and expel as many as 10 Russian officials and diplomats in response to election interference and hacks, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News.

The sanctions, which could be announced as soon as Thursday, would target about 12 individuals, including government and intelligence officials, and 20 entities, with several linked to the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm that meddled in the 2016 election, or the SolarWinds hack, Bloomberg News reports.

Shortly after President Biden was inaugurated, he ordered a review of reports that Russia placed bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan; Russian interference in U.S. elections; the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny; and the SolarWinds hack, which is believed to have been orchestrated by Russia.

On Tuesday, Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone, and the White House said Biden "made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to Russia's actions, such as cyber intrusions and election interference." Russia has denied meddling in U.S. elections and the bounty report. Read more at Bloomberg News. Catherine Garcia

9:56 p.m.

On Thursday, four Democratic lawmakers will stand on the steps of the Supreme Court to introduce legislation expanding the country's highest court from nine to 13 justices.

The bill is being proposed by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), The Washington Post reports. The Constitution does not state how many judges should sit on the Supreme Court, and it could be expanded by an act of Congress. There have been nine justices since 1869; now, there are six nominated by a Republican president and three by Democrats.

Those in favor of expanding the Supreme Court say having more justices would help prevent major decisions coming down to one "swing" justice, while also serving as a stronger check to the presidency. Last week, President Biden signed an executive order creating an independent commission to examine the structure of the Supreme Court. Catherine Garcia

8:58 p.m.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Wednesday said if "something really formal" happens with the Justice Department's investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Republican leadership will "of course react and take action."

The Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz, 38, had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel out of state with him, allegations that Gaetz denies. Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican leader, told reporters that he hasn't talked to Gaetz about the investigation, but will likely meet with him later this week.

"It's serious things alleged," Scalise told reporters. "Obviously we want to get the facts." Gaetz is a member of the House Armed Services and Judiciary committees, and Scalise said GOP lawmakers who find themselves facing serious charges are removed from their committees.

Last week, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) became the first Republican member of Congress to call on Gaetz to resign, and on Sunday, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 House GOP leader, said the allegations against Gaetz are "sickening." Catherine Garcia

7:06 p.m.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel decided during an emergency meeting on Wednesday that members need more data before voting on whether to resume use of Johnson & Johnson's one-dose COVID-19 vaccine.

On Tuesday, the CDC and Federal Drug Administration recommended a pause in using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six women who received it developed rare brain blood clots. The panel is seeking more information on the clots, including the risk factors and frequency, and will reconvene in the next seven to 10 days.

Dr. Lynn Batha, an epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health, is a member of the CDC advisory panel, and said she supported extending the pause because "by having more robust information, I think we can be more confident about how we talk about the safety of this vaccine."

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is one of three authorized for use in the United States, and because only one shot is needed and doses can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures, it is considered the best option for people who are vulnerable, like those who are incarcerated or homeless. Catherine Garcia

5:33 p.m.

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin's attorneys continued their defense on Wednesday, arguing Chauvin's knee on the neck of George Floyd was not what ultimately killed him, reports The Washington Post.

Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died in May 2020 after Chauvin placed him under arrest, restraining him with his knee for more than nine minutes. Experts who testified for the prosecution previously said it was the pressure of Chauvin's knee that killed Floyd via a lack of oxygen, but David Fowler, a former Maryland chief medical examiner, testified Wednesday that none of Floyd's injuries were in areas that Chauvin's knee pressed on.

"The amount of force that was applied to Mr. Floyd was less than enough to bruise him," said Fowler, testifying that "all of Floyd's injuries were in areas that Chauvin's knee did not press on." Fowler concluded that Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia due to heart disease, with contributing factors, but criticized the fact that Floyd did not receive immediate medical attention to reverse his cardiac arrest.

Chauvin's lawyers have argued Floyd died as a result of drug use and underlying health issues. Chauvin is facing murder and manslaughter charges.

Read more at The Washington Post. The Week Staff

4:56 p.m.

Mick Jagger and Dave Grohl are trying to rock us out of this pandemic.

The pair released "Eazy Sleazy," a song written and performed by Jagger, with Grohl lending his talents on drums, bass, and guitar. In just shy of four minutes, the song touches on topics like studying pandemic charts, fake applause at football games, TikTok, Zoom, Bill Gates, climate change, aliens, and hope for the future, among others. The chorus chirps the pandemic will soon "be a memory you're trying to remember to forget." But of course, that requires "shooting the vaccine, Bill Gates is in my bloodstream."

Grohl said the collaboration is "beyond a dream come true," and declared it the "song of the summer." Listen below. Taylor Watson

4:56 p.m.

Buddy Valastro gave an update on his hand injury in an appearance on Rachael Ray.

The Cake Boss star is recovering from his fifth hand surgery following a bowling accident last September. Valastro said in the past month his hand has regained mobility and now has about 75 percent of its strength back. "I'm still in physical therapy, and you know, just doing really well," he said. Part of his healing journey was documented on TLC's Buddy Valastro: Road to Recovery.

After the accident, Valastro was worried about his cake decorating career since he severely injured his dominant hand. "I might not ever be able to pipe again, you know? I don't know," he told Entertainment Tonight. But now he's proved to Ray he's still got piping skills — he demonstrated how to decorate a floral cake, just in time for Mother's Day.

While this is great news for Valastro, major fan Gigi Hadid is also no doubt thrilled. After the Cake Boss made her a bagel cake and Zayn Malik a soccer cake, she might already be discussing plans with the baker for little Khai's first birthday. Taylor Watson

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