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Here are the headlines you Need2Know for Wednesday, January 19, 2022:


BETTER MASKS: The Biden Administration is expected to introduce a new plan today to provide 400 million free N95 masks to the public through pharmacies and community sites beginning next week. The high-quality masks will be sourced through the government’s Strategic National Stockpile. The move comes as the administration faces mounting pressure to discourage cloth masks in favor of more protective mask varieties at a time when N95 masks are hard to track down. POLITICO

This would mark the first time in the history of free stuff that “high-quality” was involved. 

TESTS: The feds quietly launched the website to order free COVID-19 tests yesterday, but it didn't stay secret for long. Every household in the U.S. is eligible to get four test kits delivered right to their doors. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki explained the site was operating at limited capacity to address troubleshooting ahead of its scheduled rollout by mid-morning today. CHECK IT OUT

Let’s just hope they didn’t hire whoever built the Obamacare site. 

WORSE MASKS: The New York State Health Department recalled 250,000 masks that were recently distributed to schools, libraries and other public facilities after people complained about the quality. New York had recently distributed 5 million KN95 masks, but after facing the complaints, deemed up to 5% of the masks “questionable.” The state plans to replace the masks. GOTHAMIST


New York Attorney General Letitia James wants testimony from former President Trump and his kids Ivanka and Don Jr. to determine whether they knew of “misleading statements and omissions” in tax submissions and financial statements used to take out loans. The news comes a day after the select House Committee investigating the Capitol riot subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani and three others for promoting unsupported claims about the 2020 election and attempting to disrupt or delay the certification of election results. CNN


Russia has deployed troops to Belarus, signaling a tense development in the growing fight for Ukraine’s future as U.S. and European allies advocate for diplomacy. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with the Ukraine president today in a last-minute visit and will meet with the Russian foreign minister later this week. New German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says he’ll consider halting the Russian-Germany energy pipeline if the country invades Ukraine. POLITICO

If we needed a distraction from COVID, World War III should do it. 


A Bronx home exploded yesterday, killing a 77-year-old woman and injuring at least eight others. While the cause of the leak is under investigation, the FDNY said there were reports of a gas odor yesterday morning. The incident comes a week after a fire at a Bronx high-rise killed at least 17 people. NY POST


Eyes are on Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick after Microsoft announced a nearly $70 billion blockbuster acquisition of the video game giant. Will embattled Kotick stay or will he go after the deal closes? While a press release by Microsoft says Kotick will stay on as chief executive, Activision Blizzard businesses will report to Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer. Kotick has faced harassment allegations, as well as claims that he failed to report sexual misconduct within the company. The acquisition will make Microsoft the third-largest gaming company when the deal closes in 2023. FORBES

Something tells u$ he’s going to be just fine. 


Puerto Rico was the first U.S. territory to claim bankruptcy, but now it's digging its way out. The territory received approval on a restructuring plan that would reduce its largest debt by about 80% while saving the government over $50 billion in debt payments. Five years ago, Puerto Rico announced it couldn't repay creditors and the financial situation had only gotten worse since then with hurricanes, earthquakes and the coronavirus pandemic pummeling the island. While Puerto Rican officials have praised the new plan, some critics fear it still won’t have enough to pay even their reduced debt. NY TIMES

If only Trump had tossed out money instead of rolls of paper towels. 


Banks are bumping up pay, even if it means scoring a smaller profit. Goldman Sachs paid out an extra $4.4 billion to its workers in 2021, bringing down the bank to its only quarterly profit decline of the year. JPMorgan Chase spent an added $3.6 billion on its workers and Citigroup handed an extra $2.9 billion, also while closing out on a fourth quarter slump. The lower profit margins come at a point when bank workers are demanding more pay from their employers and companies try to hold onto employees amid the Great Resignation. WSJ

Oh, the poor banks. 


For the first time a driver is facing felony charges for deaths caused while a car was on Autopilot. The driver's Tesla ran a red light while Autopilot was engaged, slammed into another car, and killed two people in 2019. Autopilot continues to be used on roads throughout the country, with an estimated 765,000 Tesla vehicles equipped with the technology in the U.S. AP

Maybe Elon should put the spaceships on hold and work on this. 


A Rome villa made headlines for its extravagant murals and selling price, but when time came to auction the lot, not one person bid on it. The six-story villa, with a starting bid of over $500 million, features the only surviving mural by Baroque artist Caravaggio. The villa is at the heart of a family feud between Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, who was born in Texas, and her stepsons. Art-lovers are petitioning for the Italian government to purchase the villa, but considering its astronomical price, they may not be able to afford it, even with the 20% price cut expected when it heads back up for auction in April. BBC

Just throw it on Airbnb already. 


Elton John's final tour is launching tonight in New Orleans after a two year delay due to the pandemic. The British legend, who has been regaling fans with hits for more than 50 years, will play more than 100 concerts globally before calling it quits on the touring life. However, he has left open the possibility that he still may do one-off shows. TOUR DATES

Need2Know Podcast Note: The Need2Know podcast is taking a break for now. We're looking forward to bringing you more context and analysis on the big stories of the day in a few weeks. In the meantime, check out our archive on Apple or Spotify, or watch on YouTube, and send us your feedback!

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