Here are the headlines you Need2Know for Thursday, March 18, 2021:


Police charged Robert Aaron Long, 21, with eight counts of murder in connection with a string of Atlanta-area shootings that left eight people dead, including seven women, six of whom were of Asian descent. Long told police that he had a “sexual addiction” and denied that he was driven by bigotry, though investigators have not ruled out hate as a motive. Long’s parents helped police track his car and he told police when he was captured that he was on his way to Florida to carry out an attack on “some type of porn industry.” The handgun he used was bought legally in Georgia the day of the shootings. AJC


Massachusetts is the latest state to announce a plan to open up vaccine eligibility. All state residents 16 and up will be able to get their shots on April 19. It cannot come soon enough: while the overall national trendlines are still going in the right direction, the Northeast is showing worrisome signs. New cases per capita are double the national average in NY and NJ. Cases in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut are either plateauing or ticking up. Roughly half the new cases in NYC are caused by two of the new more contagious variants, and the city’s positivity rate hasn’t fallen below 6 percent in months. NY TIMES


An ongoing threat of severe weather is pushing into the Southeast today. Eastern Georgia into the central Carolinas have the highest threat of severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail and damaging winds. Nearly two dozen twisters were confirmed in Mississippi and Alabama from this system, though no widespread damage or fatalities have been reported. Meteorologists are concerned about this spring’s tornado season because of a La Niña weather pattern that is almost identical to the one we saw in 2011, when the U.S. had one of its deadliest tornado outbreaks ever. CNN


Russia has recalled its U.S. ambassador after President Biden said that Vladimir Putin would “pay a price” for trying to interfere in the 2020 election. A newly declassified U.S. intelligence report released this week found that Moscow again directed an influence campaign meant to help the Trump campaign. REUTERS


Check your bank account. The IRS just deposited 90 million stimulus checks, worth about $240 billion, via direct deposit to eligible Americans. If your bank info isn’t on file with the IRS, be on the lookout for a check or debit card coming in the mail. And don’t assume that the payment will arrive in the same form of the last one. This year’s tax filing deadline is also being pushed back a month, to May 17. Here’s the IRS tool to check the status of your stimulus payment: USE IT


Disney is planning to reopen its two California theme parks, Disneyland and California Adventure, on April 30 with COVID restrictions in place. Most of Disney’s other parks have been operating in some capacity, but the two big California attractions have been closed for a year. Among the new protocols: efforts to reduce screaming on roller coasters. LAIST


The “First Four” round of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament starts today. Up first: Texas Southern vs. Mount St. Mary’s, tipoff at 5:10 p.m. ET. The games are airing on CBS, TBS and TruTV or streaming on If you haven’t filled out a bracket, this is your last chance: PRINT IT


Four years after director Zack Snyder had to leave the helm of the D.C. Cinematic Universe to tend to a family tragedy, his original vision is being made public. The famed “Snyder Cut” of Justice League drops on HBO Max today -- all 4 hours and 2 minutes of it. If you’re ready for that, be forewarned: the movie was shot with an IMAX presentation in mind, so the aspect ratio is going to look a little screwy on a typical flatscreen, with big black bars on both sides of the frame. Snyder says it’s meant to be viewed this way. CNET


…Billie Eilish, debuting a new blonde bob. The singer ditched her famous black-and-green style for a platinum shaggy look: SEE IT

...Aaron Fischer, the first gay Captain America, in drawings released by Marvel. Fischer, described as the “Captain of the Railways,” will anchor a new comic series to be released in time for Pride Month in June: SEE PICS

...Justin Long -- the actor who played the “Mac” in those Mac vs. PC Apple commercials from the 2000s -- now shilling for Intel in a new ad promoting the virtues of PCs: WATCH


President Biden’s dog Major will be returning to the White House after that “biting incident” that left a staffer with a minor hand injury. The president said in an interview that aired on Good Morning America that his 3-year-old rescue dog is undergoing training in Delaware and had not been permanently banished. Biden added: “85 percent of the people there love him.” PEOPLE

Listen to the N2K Podcast! Looking for more context and analysis on the big stories of the day? Check out our podcast! Hosts Jill and Carlo break down the headlines, every weekday morning Listen on Apple or Spotify, or watch on YouTube, and send us your feedback!

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