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5 things to know for Feb. 20: Ukraine, Gaza, Record rainfall, Virus season, Space junk

By Alexandra Banner, CNN

(CNN) — All US states and territories will receive a new round of funding to help clean up the nation’s drinking water, the Biden administration announced today. The bipartisan effort aims to fix America’s vast underground water system and replace miles of corroded pipes that are creating health risks.

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

1. Ukraine

Ukraine’s army is under pressure as Russian forces are making advances ahead of the two-year anniversary of the invasion this week. This comes as Moscow is facing global criticism over the death of opposition figure Alexey Navalny, with thousands inside Russia taking to the streets to protest and honor his memory. Meanwhile, international pressure is growing on the US to act on more funding as Kyiv’s supplies are running low. President Joe Biden said House Republicans are “making a big mistake” by not responding to Russian aggression with more funding for Ukraine. Sweden, meanwhile, announced a record $683 million in aid for Ukraine today and pledged “continuing support” to the war-torn country.

2. Gaza

The US has proposed a “temporary ceasefire” in Gaza in a draft UN resolution and has warned against an Israeli ground incursion into Rafah, where many displaced Palestinians have fled during the conflict. The US draft comes after it had vowed to veto an Algerian draft proposal calling for an immediate ceasefire. The UN Security Council will vote on the Algerian draft today. The US, which has traditionally protected its ally Israel from UN actions, has repeatedly resisted calls for a “ceasefire,” emphasizing what it claims is Israel’s right to defend itself following Hamas’ terror attack on October 7. It has also voted against at least two Council resolutions on the war. The US draft, which also calls for the release of Israeli hostages, will be privately discussed today.

3. Record rainfall

Nearly the entire population of California is under flood alerts for a second consecutive day as more rainfall soaks the state. In Los Angeles, which faces significant flood threats, part of the city could see its wettest February ever recorded if it picks up 3 inches of rain this week. The Santa Barbara Airport has been shut down due to the dangerous conditions as water floods the tarmac and neighboring roads, the state’s transportation department said. Forecasts show the heaviest downpours are focused on Southern California today, while many flood watches across Northern California will expire in the coming hours. The bulk of the state’s flood alerts will last through Wednesday.

4. Virus season

Key measures of respiratory virus activity in the US have been trending down for weeks, and the CDC says the worst of the season may be over. During the week ending on February 10, flu hospitalization rates were about half of what they were at this season’s peak at the end of December, and Covid-19 hospitalization rates were about a third lower, CDC data shows. However, virus levels remain elevated across the US — especially in the South, where Covid-19 levels are twice as high as in the rest of the country. As for vaccines, around half of the US population has gotten a flu shot this season, while 22% of adults and 12% of children have gotten the latest Covid-19 shot.

5. Space junk

A 5,000-pound satellite is expected to fall to Earth on Wednesday morning but will likely burn up in the atmosphere as it makes its reentry. Some fragments of the European Space Agency satellite, known as ERS-2, could reach the planet’s surface, but they won’t contain any harmful substances and will most likely fall into the ocean. The exact time of the satellite’s reentry remains unclear due to the unpredictability of solar activity, which can change the density of Earth’s atmosphere and how the atmosphere tugs on the satellite. The ERS-2 was launched in April 1995, and it was the most sophisticated satellite of its kind at the time to be developed and launched by Europe. In 2011, the agency decided to end the satellite’s operations and deorbit it rather than adding to the swirl of space junk orbiting the planet.


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Check your local forecast here>>>


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