You get a mask! And YOU get a mask!

·5 min read

400 million free N95 masks are headed to a distribution point near you. And a new study says the Earth is cooler faster than previously expected. Is it becoming "inactive"?

👋 Hey! Laura here. It's Wednesday. I'm feeling a little "inactive," myself. Here's the news you need to know.

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Making it rain masks

Your taxpayer dollars are at work today combating the pandemic. The Biden administration is shipping 400 million N95 face masks out for free distribution to the populace while also unveiling a website to order free at-home coronavirus tests. The intensified effort to halt the most recent, omicron-fueled surge comes as hospitals struggle with spiking caseloads. And the seven-day rolling average for daily new COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. has been trending upward since mid-November, reaching nearly 1,700 this week. Those much-anticipated free coronavirus tests are now available on a new federal government website, COVIDTests.gov, where users can order four free at-home tests per address. As for the masks, the White House said you'll be able to pick up free N95 masks at one of "tens of thousands" of pharmacies, community centers and other locations across the country beginning next week.

Masked spectators watch first round matches on Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Hamish Blair)
Masked spectators watch first round matches on Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

Questions and answers with President Biden

President Joe Biden kicked off a press conference Wednesday by acknowledging challenges on the eve of his one-year anniversary in the White House. It's a year that has seen inflation soar; COVID-19 dip, then surge with the delta variant, then surge again with omicron; the passage of landmark infrastructure investment legislation and the stalling or failure of other legislative priorities. In opening remarks, Biden touted progress on the economy, lowering unemployment and fighting COVID-19, but conceding that challenges remain. He said the pandemic will improve: “Some people may call what's happening now the new normal. I call it a job not yet finished. It will get better."

👉 Putin, closing schools, Build Back Better: A rundown of what Biden discussed at the news conference.

President Joe Biden calls on a reporter for a question during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022.
President Joe Biden calls on a reporter for a question during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022.

What everyone's talking about

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University of Michigan reaches $490M settlement in sexual abuse case

The University of Michigan has reached a $490 million settlement with former athletes and other UM students who sued the school, saying they had been sexually assaulted by a former football team doctor. There are 1,050 former athletes and other UM students suing the university in federal court. Many of the suits, including the first filed, were filed anonymously and claim the university failed to act when it knew the late Dr. Robert Anderson, who worked at UM from 1968-2003 and died in 2008, was sexually assaulting students. The settlement will be split between those who have sued the school, and a portion of it will be set aside for future claims.

Jon Vaughn, a former Michigan football player who played for Bo Schembechler and in the NFL, talks to the media during a news conference near Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Vaughn was one of three of the alleged victims of sexual abuse by Dr. Robert Anderson in the 1980s.
Jon Vaughn, a former Michigan football player who played for Bo Schembechler and in the NFL, talks to the media during a news conference near Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Vaughn was one of three of the alleged victims of sexual abuse by Dr. Robert Anderson in the 1980s.

Cardi B's generosity is showing

Cardi B is making that money move in a seriously generous way. The Grammy-winning rapper has offered to pay the burial costs for all 17 people killed in a fire that ripped through a New York City high-rise. New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced Wednesday that Cardi B had offered the financial relief for victims of the fire in the Bronx, where she grew up. Many of the victims had ties to Gambia, and families of several of the victims planned to bury them in their West African homeland. Cardi B has committed to paying the repatriation expenses for the victims who will be buried in Gambia, the mayor’s office said. The fire, which was New York City’s deadliest in three decades, was sparked by a faulty space heater, according to authorities.

People hug after viewing a memorial for the victims of an apartment building fire near the site of the fire in the Bronx borough of New York, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022.  Many of the victims of New York City’s deadliest fire in years are still awaiting burial after funerals began with services for two children killed by Sunday’s blaze in a Bronx apartment building.
People hug after viewing a memorial for the victims of an apartment building fire near the site of the fire in the Bronx borough of New York, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Many of the victims of New York City’s deadliest fire in years are still awaiting burial after funerals began with services for two children killed by Sunday’s blaze in a Bronx apartment building.

Real quick

Earth's interior cooling faster than expected

After almost two years in a pandemic, I know I might be considered "inactive," but is the Earth becoming "inactive," too? According to a recent study, Earth's interior is cooling faster than we previously estimated, prompting questions about thermal evolution and how long people can live on the planet. There's no exact timetable on the cooling process, which could eventually turn Earth solid, similar to Mars. But results from a new study, published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, suggest that Earth, like other rocky planets Mercury and Mars, is cooling and becoming inactive much faster than expected, according to ETH Zurich professor Motohiko Murakami, the lead author of the study. And while the process is moving along pretty quickly, it's a timeline that "should be hundreds of millions or even billions of years," Murakami told USA TODAY.

Researchers from the Australian National University have confirmed the existence of the Earth's "innermost inner core."
Researchers from the Australian National University have confirmed the existence of the Earth's "innermost inner core."

A break from the news

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Free N95 masks, Cardi B helping Bronx fire victims, University of Michigan sex abuse settlement. It's Wednesday's news.

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