5 things to know for March 17: Ukraine, Inflation, Coronavirus, Japan, Disney

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

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1. Ukraine

Ukraine has come under increased attack by Russian forces, and despite signs of progress in ongoing negotiations, the situation on the ground is becoming more desperate by the day. A theater where hundreds of people are said to have taken shelter in the besieged city of Mariupol was mostly reduced to rubble yesterday, according to an image shared by its city council. Some people are emerging alive from the theater this morning but it is not yet clear if all those inside the building have survived, a Ukrainian official said. Russian President Vladimir Putin is maintaining aggressive rhetoric amid the destruction and is condemning Russians who show a pro-Western mindset. Putin also is retaliating by seizing hundreds of commercial jets owned by US and European leasing companies, making it harder for foreign companies to reclaim their planes without Russian government approval. President Biden called Putin a “war criminal” yesterday — the harshest criticism of Putin’s actions by any US official since the war in Ukraine began three weeks ago.
Want to help? Learn how you can support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. CNN’s audience has contributed more than $5.7 million to the humanitarian relief work according to Public Good, the online donation platform partnering with CNN.

2. Inflation

The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates for the first time since 2018, the central bank announced yesterday. This comes as the pandemic and the supply-chain crisis have pushed the cost of virtually everything higher. Food and cars are more expensive, as are transport and labor costs, making inflation a concern for many Americans. The Fed needed to boost interest rates because things that could bring down inflation — such as improvement in supply-chain gridlock and rising labor-force participation — have not happened, Fed Chair Pro Tempore Jerome Powell said. The central bankers also revised up their inflation predictions to a median of 4.3% by the year’s end, compared with 2.6% projected in December.

3. Coronavirus

A new version of the Omicron variant known as BA.2 is picking up steam in the US and overseas. BA.2 is blamed for a recent surge of coronavirus cases in Hong Kong, the UK and other places. And in the States, as many as 28 million seniors remain at risk of becoming severely ill from Covid-19, according to a CNN analysis of federal data. This is because they are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, or because it’s been more than five months since their second or third dose of a vaccine. Recent studies show that vaccine protection wanes over time. Vaccines against the Omicron variant are only 10% effective six months after a second dose, according to data collected by the UK’s Health Security Agency. While boosters help restore that protection, experts are questioning their long-term benefits since they are only about 40% to 50% effective at preventing Omicron infections among all adults, data shows.

4. Japan

A deadly 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Japan yesterday, centered off the coast of its Fukushima region, north of Tokyo. Four people were killed and at least 160 others were injured, Japanese authorities said today. Video footage from the country shows street lights and apartment buildings vigorously shaking. For many, the incident brought back painful memories of 2011, when an earthquake triggered a tsunami that caused a disastrous nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant and killed thousands of people. Wednesday’s earthquake struck about 55 miles from the location of the devastating 2011 quake, but hasn’t prompted a national emergency this time. The quake also derailed a bullet train, leaving 78 people trapped on board for hours until they were able to escape through an emergency exit. 

5. Disney

Disney employees are staging walkouts over the company’s response to Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Organizers of the protests have encouraged employees to walk out during their work breaks in 15-minute daily sessions. They are also planning to stage a full-day walkout next Tuesday, but it is currently unclear how many employees will take part. The controversial bill bans educators from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity with children from kindergarten to third grade. Organizers of the walkout penned an open letter that claims Disney’s leadership “does not truly understand the impact this legislation is having not only on cast members in the state of Florida, but on all members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the company and beyond.” The CEO of Disney, which employs 75,000 people at its resorts in Florida, has issued an apology for his silence on the bill. 


This might be the end of sharing Netflix passwords

Netflix is working to prevent account sharing for people who don’t live in the same household. Say farewell to leeching off your friend’s account (and if you’re still on your ex’s or parent’s account… it’s probably time anyway.)

Tesla’s cheapest Model 3 now costs $46,990

How about a cheesy joke: What do you call Tesla’s expensive new car smell? An Elon Musk

The Eiffel Tower is now 20 feet taller

France’s iconic landmark has grown with the addition of a new antenna. 

Here’s who is presenting at the Oscars so far

We’re ready for all the red carpet action! Lady Gaga was recently added to the list of A-list celebrities presenting at the March 27 ceremony.

Saharan dust turns skies orange over Europe

A ski resort looks like a desert after being transformed by a thick plume of dust. Check out these stunning images.



That’s how many days Jussie Smollett spent in jail for making false reports to police that he was the victim of a hate crime in January 2019. The former “Empire” actor was released yesterday — ending his 150-day sentence behind bars early — after an Illinois appeals court ordered a stay on his jail term and granted him bond. The appeals court ordered Smollett’s release after concluding it would likely not decide on his appeal before he finished serving his short, 150-day jail sentence.


“More than 20 years ago, the Webb team set out to build the most powerful telescope that anyone has ever put in space… Today we can say that design is going to deliver.”

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA, on the world’s premier space observatory successfully completing a number of steps crucial for unlocking the mysteries of the universe. Specifically, the James Webb Space Telescope has aligned its 18 gold mirror segments, meaning it will be able to peer inside the atmospheres of exoplanets and observe some of the first galaxies created after the universe began.



Polar bear cub surprised by seal

Oh hey! Didn’t see you there! Enjoy this cute interaction to start your morning. (Click here to view

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