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Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the agency was sending supplies to Texas including power generators, diesel fuel, water and blankets.

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President Joe Biden signed a major disaster declaration for Texas, the White House announced Saturday, after a winter storm left much of the state facing power and water shortages, in a move Gov. Greg Abbott characterized as only a “partial” approval of his request for federal assistance.

Abbot requested the disaster declaration Thursday, seeking individual and public assistance for all 254 counties in Texas. Though Biden approved public assistance for all those counties, his declaration provides individual assistance for 77 of them, according to a press release from Abbot’s office.
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Individual assistance is given directly to residents who “sustained losses due to disasters,” while public assistance can be used to repair or replace public facilities or infrastructure damaged or destroyed by a disaster, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
fixed rate if prices were too extreme.

Customers in Texas have options in how they are billed for their electricity, according to the Public Utility Commission of Texas’ (PUCT) website. If you go with a fixed plan, your price for electricity is fixed and doesn’t fluctuate with the market. However, there are also market rate plans that are tied directly to the price utility companies pay for electricity.

Griddy, a power company in Texas, operates exclusively on the latter. Their website touts that customers “pay exactly the price we buy electricity at” and that their model “beats the [Texas] average 96% of the time.”

When the winter storm wreaked havoc on Texas’ power grid, power prices shot up and so did bills for customers on market rate plans.

Griddy urged “members switch to another provider with a fixed rate,” according to a statement from the company.

“While we value our members, we want what is best for their wallet and family even more, even if that means helping them switch away to our competitors,” the company added.

Now, PUCT is taking action. According to a statement released today, the utility regulator says they have “launched an investigation into the factors that combined with the devastating winter weather to disrupt the flow of power to millions of Texas homes.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbot also announced that he has convened an emergency meeting to look into the matter.

“It is unacceptable for Texans who suffered through days in the freezing cold without electricity or heat to now be hit with skyrocketing energy costs,” Abbott wrote in a statement. “To protect families, I am actively working with the Lieutenant Governor, the Speaker of the House and members of the Legislature to develop solutions to ensure that Texans are not on the hook for unreasonable spikes in their energy bills,” he added.
PUCT also took steps to make it easier for customers to go with a temporary “Provider of Last Resort” and lifted the typically higher rate associated with going with that option. However, according to PUCT’s website, this program is designed for customers whose usual electric company is “unable to continue service” not customers voluntarily leaving their provider in an effort to save money, as Griddy suggested.

CNN has reached out to PUCT for clarification but did not immediately hear back.

For its part, Griddy is laying the blame for the situation squarely at PUCT.

“Here is what we do know: the market is supposed to set the prices, not political appointees,” the company wrote in a Thursday statement about the high prices.

Griddy added that it was also seeking relief from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT as it is commonly known, and the PUCT for its customers who were exposed to the high prices.

“Griddy is continuing these efforts and is committed to crediting customers for any relief, dollar-for-dollar,” according to a statement.

The company also said it also wants to “continue offering innovative products and services in the retail energy market in Texas.”

4 hr 41 min ago
Here’s an update on the water situation in Austin
From CNN’s Omar Jiminez

Marie Maybou melts snow on the kitchen stove on February 19 in Austin, Texas.
Marie Maybou melts snow on the kitchen stove on February 19 in Austin, Texas. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Austin is more than halfway to restoring the minimum water pressure needed to push water through their system, according to the city’s water utility.

The system needs 100 million gallons minimum in storage to maintain a healthy system, and as of Saturday morning, “We are at 50.43 million gallons and climbing.”

In an update this morning, Austin’s water utility also gave insight to how exactly they lost water by describing how their system works.

“Our system is a series of pressure zones that are supplied from large storage tanks called reservoirs. When we lost storage in all reservoirs across the city, it triggered a city-wide boil water notice.”
Remember: Austin Water lost 325 million gallons of water total as thousands of private customers’ pipes burst amid sustained freezing temperatures this week. Officials in Austin are optimistic they could have water restored by the end of the weekend.

“I thank President Biden for his assistance as we respond to impacts of winter weather across our state. While this partial approval is an important first step, Texas will continue to work with our federal partners to ensure all eligible Texans have access to the relief they need,” Abbott said in the release. “The funds provided under the Major Disaster Declaration may provide crucial assistance to Texans as they begin to repair their homes and address property damage.”

‘Climate change is real’:Biden administration says Texas power crisis shows U.S. unprepared for extreme weather

More:Death toll rising days after winter storm set thousands of cold temperature records

The federal disaster assistance approved by the disaster declaration includes grants for temporary housing, home repairs, loans to repair property damage caused by the storm and additional programs for individuals and business owners affected by the weather, according to a White House press release.

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The White House release says the federal aid is available to individuals in 77 Texas counties, including Dallas, as well as local governments and some nonprofit organizations for “emergency protective measures and hazard mitigation measures statewide.”

Biden had said Friday that he planned to declare the situation in Texas a “major disaster.” The president also said he plans to visit the state next week, but he left the date open saying he would go when his presence would not create an additional “burden.”

“When the president lands in a city in America it has a long tail,” Biden explained.

The federal aid ordered by Biden’s disaster declaration is in addition to the supplies the Federal Emergency Management Agency previously sent to Texas after the state experienced widespread power outages due to the storm. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the agency was sending supplies to Texas including power generators, diesel fuel, water and blankets.

The president said Friday that he directed several federal agencies including Health and Human Services and the departments of Defense and House and Urban Development to “identity other resources that can provide and address the growing needs of the folk in Texas.”

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“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times

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Cuomo said in a statement Saturday that Bennett was a “hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID” and that “she has every right to speak out.”

He said he had intended to be a mentor for Bennett, who is 25.

“I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate,” Cuomo’s statement said. “The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported.”

A second former aide has come forward with sexual harassment allegations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who responded with a statement Saturday saying he never made advances toward her and never intended to be inappropriate.

Charlotte Bennett, a health policy adviser in the Democratic governor’s administration until November, told The New York Times that Cuomo asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she had ever had sex with older men.

Another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, recently accused Cuomo of subjecting her to an unwanted kiss and inappropriate comments. Cuomo denied the allegations.

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Cuomo, however, said he had authorized an outside review of Bennett’s allegations.

The governor’s special counsel, Beth Garvey, said that review would be conducted by a former federal judge, Barbara Jones.

Sen. Rick Scott on Sunday declined to call the GOP the party of former President Donald Trump and acknowledged President Joe Biden was “absolutely” the legitimate winner of the 2020 White House race.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Scott (R-Fla.) — the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee — reiterated his message that “the Republican civil war is canceled.”

But Scott’s remarks to host Chris Wallace also underscored the tense intraparty disputes he is navigating as he leads the GOP effort to retake the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections.

Asked by Wallace whether the Republican Party is “still Donald Trump’s party,” Scott replied that the GOP is “the voters’ party” and “always has been.”

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The clashes — with tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and live rounds — turned Yangon and other cities across the country into battlegrounds as the military moved to crush resistance to its deeply resented seizure of power.

The United Nations’ human rights office said at least 18 people died and 30 others were wounded in several cities across the country, including Yangon, Dawei, Mandalay and Bago. Deaths, the office said, occurred “as a result of live ammunition fired into crowds.”

“Use of lethal force against non-violent demonstrators is never justifiable under international human rights norms,” the office said.

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A protester in Yangon, Myanmar, on Sunday uses a fire extinguisher as security forces crack down on demonstrations against the military coup. (Sai Aung Main/AFP/Getty Images)
A protester who was in the Yangon neighborhood of Hledan when police opened fire said they gave only one short whistle blast as a warning and immediately began shooting.

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“First they shot with real bullets, then tear gas. Later they used rubber bullets,” the protester said, identifying himself by part of his name, Yan, out of fear of retaliation from security forces.

In Myanmar coup, grievance and ambition drove military chief’s power grab

He said he saw a man shot in the head who he believed had died, along with six others suffering from gunshot wounds.

“Now people are regrouping and protesting again,” Yan said about 1 p.m. local time, saying the violence has made protesters “angrier” rather than scared.

Mass protests began soon after the military’s seizure of power and arrest of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won reelection in a landslide in November. The military refused to recognize the election results, alleging voter fraud.

Sunday’s violence marks a significant escalation, particularly in Yangon, which had largely avoided a severe crackdown, even as protesters were killed in other parts of the country. One man was shot dead by police in Yangon’s Shwe Pyi Thar township on Feb. 21 during a civilian neighborhood watch patrol, but this is the first time people died during protests.

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Myanmar riot police move forward during a demonstration against the military coup in Mandalay on Sunday. (AP)
Confrontations with police in downtown Yangon began with a crowd forming around a prison truck transporting a group of students who had been arrested. The protesters advanced toward the police line, which then charged, sending people scurrying down different side streets.

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Police then began firing stun grenades as protesters took shelter in homes and shops. At one point, a middle-aged protester walked back into the street, facing the police alone. “Shoot me, don’t shoot the young people!” he shouted.

Facebook bans Myanmar’s military, citing threat of new violence after Feb. 1 coup

Later, a group of teachers and lawyers assembled outside the Kyauktada police station, where the students were being held. “There are 16 students in the station and in the car maybe more than 17,” said a foreign-language teacher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “Almost all of our students have been arrested.”

The teacher explained that lawyers were trying to negotiate with the police not to send the students straight to Insein Prison, an increasingly common practice as arrests mount.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said, since the coup, over 850 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced.

Meanwhile, the city’s Myaynigone neighborhood, a hip enclave of bars and cafes, has been transformed into a battleground with barriers erected on major roads to slow down police, along with spikes and slicks of diesel.

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Protesters in Yangon take cover behind homemade shields on Sunday. (Sai Aung Main/AFP/Getty Images)
As reporters entered the area, lookouts called down from balconies to warn them about the obstacles.

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One of the barricades was manned by a group of software engineers, including one who identified himself as Thiha. He asked that his full name not be used out of concern for authorities and said that police had fired tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades at them earlier in the day.

“I was crying a little bit, but [the gas] didn’t affect me too badly because I was far away,” he said, adding that he and his friends were protesting “for freedom” and for the future of his career.

“Everything we worked for is blocked without a VPN,” he said, referring to the junta’s strict Internet restrictions.

Deeper in the neighborhood, protesters in hard hats, some armed with bats and steel rods, milled around, singing and chanting. Some handed out boxes of food, with phrases like “the revolution must succeed” scrawled on the plastic foam.

Scott’s interview came after he appeared Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida, where he said in a speech that he would not “mediate” debates among Republicans over Trump’s role in the party.

Trump is scheduled to speak at the conference on Sunday, delivering his first major address since leaving office amid the fallout of last month’s insurrection at the Capitol.

“I ask all New Yorkers to await the findings of the review so that they know the facts before making any judgements,” Cuomo said. “I will have no further comment until the review has concluded.”

Bennett told the Times that her most disturbing interaction with Cuomo happened last June 5 when she was alone with him in his Albany office. She said Cuomo started asking her about her personal life, her thoughts on romantic relationships, including whether age was a factor, and said he was open to relationships with women in their 20s.

Bennett said she also dodged a question from Cuomo about hugging by saying she missed hugging her parents. She said Cuomo never touched her.

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”

Bennett said she informed Cuomo’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, about the interaction less than a week later. She said she was transferred to another job on the opposite side of the Capitol. At the end of June, she said she also gave a statement to a special counsel for Cuomo.

Garvey acknowledged that the complaint had been made and that Bennett had been transferred as a result to a position in which she had already been interested.

Bennett told the newspaper she eventually decided not to push for any further action by the administration. She said she liked her new job and “wanted to move on.”

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Super Bowl Bound: Bucs Head Home To Make History

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TAMPA, FL — After defeating the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in the 2020 NFC Championship Game, the Buccaneers will meet the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in their own home stadium, Raymond James Stadium.

The Bucs defeated the Packers, 31-26, Sunday afternoon.

Tampa Bay will be the first team ever to battle for the Lombardi Trophy on their own home field, according to Buccaneers senior editor Scott Smith.

The Buccaneers won the NFC Championship for the second time in franchise history, joining the 2002 team that went on to beat the Oakland Raiders, 48-21, in Super Bowl XXXVII. This marks the second time in a row that Tampa Bay has won the conference title game on the road; the 2002 team defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10, in the final game played at Veteran’s Stadium.

The Buccaneers also made it to the NFC Championship Game in 1979 and 1999, losing to the Rams on both occasions.

With Sunday’s victory in Green Bay, the Bucs won the championship game after three road games against Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay.

Only three other teams have done that in the Super Bowl era: the 1985 New England Patriots, the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 2007 New York Giants. Three of those four teams, excluding the Patriots, went on to win the Super Bowl.

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady will be playing in his NFL-record 10th Super Bowl. He will also have a chance to extend his own record with a seventh Super Bowl championship ring.

If he and the Buccaneers capture that ring, Brady would join Peyton Manning as the only two quarterbacks in league history to win Super Bowls with two different teams.
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A Family Slowly Bounces Back From COVID-19

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RESTON, VA — A lot has changed for Reston resident Joshua “Josh” Funk and his family since last year, when he, his wife and their children were diagnosed with COVID-19.

“I went back to work in July,” Funk said. “I finally was able to get approval to go back to work, even though the agency where I worked was first denying my entry back to work and denying my release form for me to get workers’ compensation.”

Although Funk was no longer contagious and had one clear COVID-19 test, the agency wouldn’t allow him to return to the job until he’d gotten a second cleared test.

At that point, Funk had already been out of work for several months. His family had burned through its meager savings and were unable to pay the rent.

Fortunately, a group of friends from the Four Winds community where Funk worked launched a GoFundMe page that raised more than $6,000 to help out the family.

“I was in shock when they made the GoFundMe,” Funk told Patch back in July. “And when I opened it, there was already $500 in there. When I showed that to my wife, she burst into tears and couldn’t believe it.”

With the money from the GoFundMe, Funk was able to pay off what he owed on his car and buy food for his family for several months.

“I actually got one test that said it was negative, and one was a false positive at the end,” he said. “My agency came back and said they would not allow me to come back after they had already approved me to go back to work.”

Fortunately, Funk’s doctor recommended they go back and look at the blood results, which showed he was immune to the disease and that it was safe for him to start working again.

While Funk had officially recovered from COVID-19, the virus had weakened his body considerably and taken a heavy toll on his ability to breathe. His doctor told him that it was as if a grenade had gone off inside his lungs. He had to get used to heat and humidity again.

“In the morning, walking towards the car, it was 70 degrees,” he said. “By the time I got to work and then started working, all of a sudden, the heat started rising and as soon as it hit 80, I couldn’t breathe. Readjusting to my environment was hell for two months. It was worse than having asthma. Just trying to readjust to everything was scary. Knowing that my family needed to eat, all their needs just pushed and forced me to go forward.”

Funk also experienced frequent headaches and felt exhausted all of the time. Every night, he would go home and collapse into his bed.

“I had to sleep between eight and nine hours,” he said. “I couldn’t move until my body decided to actually let me start moving. It was something that I couldn’t overpower.”

While all of this was going on, Funk’s wife, Evelin, and one of their children who had also recovered from COVID-19 were also worn out, because they couldn’t fall asleep on most nights.

As the weather became cooler, conditions for the Funk family improved. They began to eat healthier and take vitamins, which help with their recovery. Funk has also applied for rental assistance to pay what he still owes on his rent.

“I was able to pretty much jump-start myself,” he said. “My landlord’s amazing. She’s waiting and trying to help me with a lot of the payments I’m still behind without complaint, without trying to get me out of there.”

 

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