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5 things to know for Feb. 15: Presidential bids, Aliens, Cyclone, FAA review, Ukraine

By Alexandra Meeks, CNN

Tech companies have poured billions of dollars into self-driving cars for more than a decade. Still, experts say various obstacles need to be cleared before vehicles without human drivers become mainstream. Amazon’s driverless transportation company appears to be moving in the right direction though, as it started testing its robotaxi on public roads this week — with employees on board, for now.

Here’s what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

(You can get “5 Things You Need to Know Today” delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)

1. Presidential bids

Former South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley announced Tuesday that she will run for president in 2024, becoming the first major rival to challenge former President Donald Trump for the GOP nomination. Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, served as US ambassador to the United Nations under Trump. Haley will likely face stiff competition from other potential GOP candidates such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who are all said to be weighing 2024 runs. Some strategists say a big Republican primary field would be advantageous to Trump, who still enjoys significant support among the party base, and could splinter the vote — allowing him to walk away with the nomination.

2. Alien speculation

After the US military shot down three mysterious objects over North America last weekend, many people have questioned whether the objects could have originated from a hostile state or even from outer space. In an effort to tamp down on fears, the White House made it clear this week that no, this is not an alien invasion. “I know there have been questions and concerns about this, but there is no — again no — indication of aliens (or) extraterrestrial activity,” Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, said in a briefing Monday. A top White House official also suggested on Tuesday that the objects were likely harmless, and likely just balloons being flown for benign purposes. Officials say there is also no indication that the objects were connected to China’s spy balloon program, which has commanded attention after the US shot down a Chinese spy balloon earlier this month.

3. New Zealand cyclone

New Zealand declared a National State of Emergency on Tuesday for the third time in its history as Cyclone Gabrielle pounded the North Island. Heavy rain and strong winds have knocked out power to tens of thousands of homes, and killed at least four people, officials said. An additional 1,400 others were unreachable as of Wednesday night due to disrupted communication lines and power outages, according to police. The cyclone is the second significant weather event to hit Auckland and the upper North Island in just a few weeks. Last month, Auckland and surrounding areas were hit by record rainfall that sparked floods and killed four people.

4. FAA review

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration has ordered a sweeping review of the agency following a series of recent aviation safety incidents. “We are experiencing the safest period in aviation history, but we cannot take this for granted,” Billy Nolen, the acting FAA administrator, wrote in a memo. “Recent events remind us that we must not become complacent.” His memo comes after a technological breakdown led to the first nationwide airplane departure grounding since the 9/11 attacks, and two significant events where planes nearly collided on the runways of major US airports. One focus of the safety review team will be determining “whether there are other incidents that resemble ones we have seen in recent weeks.” Nolen is set to appear before Congress today to address the computer outage that halted flight departures nationwide last month.

5. Ukraine

A new report says the Russian government is operating a network of camps where it has held thousands of Ukrainian children since the start of the war. The report contains disturbing new details about the extent of Moscow’s efforts to relocate, re-educate, and sometimes militarily train or forcibly adopt out Ukrainian children — actions that constitute war crimes and could provide evidence that Russia’s actions amount to genocide. The report, completed by the US State Department-backed Conflict Observatory, found that more than 6,000 children — ranging in age from mere months old to 17 — have been in Russian custody at some point during the course of the nearly year-long war. Russia’s embassy in Washington dismissed the report as “absurd.”

BREAKFAST BROWSE

Sole winner of $2 billion Powerball jackpot is announced

Most people would prefer to remain anonymous after winning such a large sum of money… However, the California lottery is subject to public disclosure laws, which means the winner’s full name was made public. Here’s who he is.

Pepsi’s Peeps-flavored soda is back

The candy-flavored soda is back by popular demand after it sold for hundreds of dollars on the resale market in 2021.

‘Ted Lasso’ Season 3 gets return date

The critically acclaimed series is returning in March. A teaser for the new season also dropped on Tuesday to drum up excitement among fans.

‘Ant-Man’ returns to the big screen this week

Marvel’s next phase will kick off Friday with the US premiere of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” Read a review ahead of its release.

Pharrell Williams will be Louis Vuitton’s next men’s creative director

The announcement comes a little over a year after Virgil Abloh’s death in November 2021, following a private battle with cancer.

TODAY’S NUMBER

70%

That’s how much egg prices rose over the past year, according to inflation data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Tuesday. A deadly avian flu has wreaked havoc in the egg market, constraining the national egg supply. That, plus higher feed and transportation costs for producers, has raised prices. Some producers also are increasing their own profits amid the turmoil, causing some to demand a federal investigation into possible price gouging.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“If this is not a wake-up call to do something, I don’t know what is.”

—¬†Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin, issuing a statement Tuesday after a mass shooting at Michigan State University left three students dead and five others in critical condition. Michigan is still grappling with the November 2021 mass shooting at Oxford High School located about 80 miles from Michigan State that left four students dead. There have been 12 school shootings so far this year, according to a CNN tally.

TODAY’S WEATHER

Check your local forecast here>>>

AND FINALLY

The world’s most remote teahouse

Visitors climb more than 6,500 feet along steep terrain to try this cup of tea. (Click here to view)

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