On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: Ukraine downplays invasion fears
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has declared tomorrow a “day of national unity.” Plus, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau uses emergency powers against COVID mandate protesters, travel reporter Bailey Schulz talks about CDC travel warnings, we have an Olympics update full of figure skating drama and money and tech reporter Michelle Shen explains Tinder’s new Blind Date feature.
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Good morning, I’m Taylor Wilson. And this is 5 Things You Need to Know Tuesday, the 15th of February 2022. Today, Ukraine downplays Russian invasion fears, plus Tinder’s Blind Date feature, and more.
Here are some of the top headlines:
- A plane carrying eight people has crashed off the coast of North Carolina. Officials said they don’t expect any survivors.
- The dry spell that’s hit the American West the past 22 years is the region’s worst megadrought in 1200 years. That’s according to a study in the British journal, Nature Climate Change, which also said over 40% of the current drought can be blamed on human cause climate change.
- And we’ll soon officially know who’s hosting this year’s Oscars. Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes are expected to be announced as hosts later this morning on Good Morning America.
Russia began this week with a made for television meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last night. They signaled that they were ready to keep talking about the country’s security concerns. Russia has pushed for a pledge that NATO will not allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join as members. It also wants the Alliance to stop weapon deployments to Ukraine. With those demands, Russia is sitting more than 130,000 troops around Ukraine’s border. And Western leaders are warning of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine as soon as tomorrow. During their conversation, Putin said the West may try and draw Russia in to what he called endless talks before the foreign minister said he would not allow the US and its allies to obstruct Russia’s main requests. Meanwhile, stateside, the US says the path for diplomacy with Russia remains open. White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
We are actively working to reach a diplomatic solution to de-escalate the crisis. Over the weekend, as you all know, the president spoke with President Putin and we remain engaged with the Russian government in full coordination with our allies and partners. The path for diplomacy remains available if Russia chooses to engage constructively. However, we are clear-eyed about the prospects of that given the steps Russia is taking on the ground in plain sight. We’re seeing new Russian forces have been arriving at the Ukrainian border every day. As we have said before, we’re in the window when an invasion could begin at any time. We will not comment on any details of our intelligence information, except to say that it could begin this week despite a lot of speculation that it would happen after the Olympics. Again, something that Jake Sullivan said right here on Friday. It remains unclear which path Russia will choose to take. The US is ready for any situation.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will leave today for meetings with government and military leaders in Belgium, Poland, and Lithuania. For their part, Ukrainian leaders are downplaying the threat of invasion. Security and Defense Council Chief Oleksiy Danilov told reporters, “Today, we do not see that a large scale offensive by the Russian Federation can take place either on February 16th or the 17th. We are aware of the risks that exist in the territory of our country, but the situation is absolutely under control.” President Volodymyr Zelensky said that tomorrow the day some Western nations have pointed to as when Russia might invade will actually be a day of national Ukrainian unity.
On this day, we will hang our national flags, wear blue and yellow ribbons and show our unity to the whole world.
For more on what could be a busy rest of the week in Eastern Europe, stay with USATODAY.com.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau yesterday used emergency powers to try and put a stop to demonstrations that have blocked major border entry points in recent weeks in protests of COVID-19 restrictions.
We’re entering the third week of illegal blockades that have been disrupting the lives of too many Canadians. Here in our capital city, families and small businesses have been enduring illegal obstruction of their neighborhoods. Occupying streets, harassing people, breaking the law: this is not a peaceful protest. The federal government has invoked the Emergencies Act to supplement provincial and territorial capacity to address the blockades and occupations.
Trudeau added that many restrictions will continue in the coming months, but will be ever changing depending on the course of coronavirus. And in Ontario, proof of vaccination requirements will be lifted in two weeks. Protesters last week blocked the Ambassador Bridge, one of the connection points between Ontario and Michigan and a major route to move auto parts between the two countries. A major protest in the capital of Ottawa is also now into its third week. Protestors say rules have encroached on their freedoms and in some cases their work. Some truckers in particular have targeted a mandate requiring drivers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated or face testing and quarantine requirements.
Federal health officials are upping their travel warnings for US travelers to a number of countries due to COVID-19 case surges. Consumer travel reporter Bailey Schulz tells us what exactly that means.
The CDC issues COVID related travel health notices for all these different destinations. And this list is usually updated every week. So as of Monday, the latest update from the CDC, there are more than 135 destinations included in its level four category. So this is the highest COVID risk level in a country can be assigned by the CDC. And with all the countries under this level four category, the CDC is basically telling Americans like: Hey, you should probably avoid these destinations regardless of vaccination status, just because COVID levels are pretty high. So as of Monday, more than half the destinations that the CDC lists are in this level four. So at this point, it’s easier to list the countries that are not considered on this to be a very high risk of COVID-19 than aren’t. So I would say a majority of popular destinations, you do find on this list. So places like Mexico, Canada, Spain, Italy, Australia, The Bahamas, et cetera. There are many popular destinations that are found on this list.
So with level four, basically CDC is saying avoid travel to these destinations. They’re just saying all travelers avoid. If you must travel, make sure you’re vaccinated. For the level three countries, CDC says, just make sure you’re fully vaccinated before you travel to these destinations. They’ll also say unvaccinated travelers should avoid non-essential travel to level three. And then down in level two, which currently only has four countries on it. CDC says, make sure you’re fully vaccinated before you go here. Unvaccinated travelers are at an increased risk for COVID-19 and should avoid non-essential travel. And then level one, which is the lowest level, CDC just says, make sure you’re vaccinated before you travel.
All of these different levels are based on COVID-19 risk. And so for level four, if you’re looking at a larger country and looking at the calculations the CDC does, larger countries are considered to have this very high COVID risk if they report more than 500 cases of new COVID per 100,000 people over the past 28 days. And so if a country wants to get off level four, basically what they have to do is just get their COVID-19 levels down.
Check out Bailey’s full story in today’s episode description.
Well, drama is back in figure skating. The most anticipated figure skating short program since the 1994 Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan scandal begins this morning. 15 year old gold medal favorite Kamila Valieva will take the ice after a positive drug test for a banned heart medication rocked the games, but she was cleared to compete after a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. As for the medal count this morning, Norway leads in overall medals with 24, while the US is tied for third with 17. Norway also leads in gold medals with 11, while Team USA has seven. You can find all the latest with our live Olympics updates page on USATODAY.com and you can watch live on NBC Networks and Peacock.
Tinder is trying to bring more authenticity to online dating. To try and do that, the app has rolled out a new feature called Blind Date, pairing swipers up for a chat before they’re able to view each other’s profiles. Money and tech reporter Michelle Shen has more.
Basically instead of matching with someone based on their profile and swiping, you actually fill out a short questionnaire where you answer some fun icebreaker questions like: What do you put ketchup on? Or like: It’s okay to wear a shirt X number of times before washing it. Just like these kind of like basic questions. Then you get matched with someone and all you know is their response to those questions. And you have this brief conversation with them. And then afterwards, you guys can decide to match or not. And basically if people both swipe right, then there’s a match formed, and then you view their profile. So the entire match is just based on your conversation with them and the results of a questionnaire, as opposed to looking at photos or other parts of the person’s profile.
It’s an additional feature. I think the core of the app is still going to be centered around people swiping on profiles. But at the same time, I think people are experiencing a lot of fatigue around that experience. So in general, the industry is moving a bit more towards building those deeper connections, as opposed to just having some quick swipe experience. And I think a lot of young people in general are maybe kind of disillusioned with online dating and they want some sort of novelty. And I think this introduces it.
I think there’s the concept that there’s so many people out there and there’s so many options, but in actuality, you really only click with a few people, right? And having apps that help you identify who you might click with might just help people form better matches and be happier. And I’m sure that the timing around Valentine’s Day was purposeful. Maybe people are looking for some things that are more serious and this gives them the option. Or even if they’re not looking for something serious, just finding someone that they click with beyond just pure attraction.
Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us right here, wherever you’re listening right now, seven mornings a week. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his great work on the show, and I’m back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism