Job opening on the Supreme Court

·5 min read

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer plans to retire, giving President Joe Biden a chance to make his mark. And bundle up, y'all. A big snowstorm is headed to the Northeast.

👋 Heyo! Laura here, with Wednesday's biggest news.

But first, no more stuck pup! 🙌 A dog wandering with a bucket on its head launched a rescue effort. Here's how he finally got home.

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Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to step down

Breyer is planning to step down by the end of this term after nearly three decades on the high court, a source with knowledge of his plans said Wednesday, handing Biden his first opportunity to nominate a jurist whose influence could be felt for decades. Breyer's announcement, which several outlets citing unnamed sources said would occur at the end of the court's term in the summer, will kick off a frenzied process of naming and confirming a successor, typically a monthslong ordeal that in this case is expected to end with a groundbreaking nominee: Biden had promised during his presidential campaign to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court for the first time in American history.

Judge Stephen Breyer, currently chief judge of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, arrives at the White House June 11, 1993 in Washington, DC.
Judge Stephen Breyer, currently chief judge of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, arrives at the White House June 11, 1993 in Washington, DC.

Body found, situation 'dire' for 38 missing off Florida coast

A body was found and the search was continuing Wednesday across a swath of the Atlantic Ocean the size of New Jersey for 38 people missing from a boat that capsized off the Florida coast. The search began early Tuesday after a man clinging to a capsized boat was found by sailors on a passing ship, Coast Guard Cap. Jo-Ann Burdian said Wednesday. The man, who was being treated for dehydration and sun exposure, told authorities the 25-foot boat encountered severe weather after sailing Saturday night from Bimini in the Bahamas, bound for Florida. Burdian said human smuggling was suspected and that no one aboard had a life jacket.

The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for survivors of a capsized vessel approximately 45 miles east of Fort Pierce Inlet, Fla., in what it said was a "suspected human smuggling venture" that began in Bimini on Saturday.
The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for survivors of a capsized vessel approximately 45 miles east of Fort Pierce Inlet, Fla., in what it said was a "suspected human smuggling venture" that began in Bimini on Saturday.

What everyone's talking about

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Pumping the brakes on inflation

In a bid to fight a historic surge in inflation, the Federal Reserve held its key interest rate near zero Wednesday but said it will “soon be appropriate” to raise it, hinting that a rate hike in March is all but certain. The increase would be the first in more than three years and kick off what’s likely to be a flurry of three or more quarter-point increases this year aimed at reining in sharply rising consumer prices. The Fed's short-term rate has been locked near zero since the pandemic began in 2020, which has fueled borrowing and spending by consumers and businesses – but also inflation, now rising at the fastest pace in nearly four decades. The Fed now faces a delicate balancing act as it aims to curtail inflation without stalling the recovery.

The US Federal Reserve on Dec. 12, 2021 in Washington DC.
The US Federal Reserve on Dec. 12, 2021 in Washington DC.

Omicron's weird cousin is here

Yes, a cousin of omicron is spreading in at least four continents, and it has reached at least four states – California, Texas, Washington and New Mexico. But no, it shouldn't be a cause for panic, scientists say. Omicron BA.2, which could be a new variant or a sublineage of the troublesome omicron variant – now also known as BA.1 – is expected to remain relatively mild. While coronavirus cases have begun to decline in places like Massachusetts, where omicron hit hard late last year, cases of BA.2 – sometimes referred to as "stealth omicron'' – are on the rise in the Philippines, India, Denmark and South Africa. It's not clear yet whether BA.2 is pushing out BA.1, which replaced delta as the dominant strain in the U.S. Dr. Jeremy Luban, a professor of molecular medicine, biochemistry and molecular pharmacology at University of Massachusetts Medical School, said scientists still know very little about the transmissibility of BA.2 compared to BA.1.

Nurse Elisa Gilbert checks on a patient in the acute care COVID-19 unit at the Harborview Medical Center on Friday in Seattle. The highly transmissible omicron variant is putting a significant strain on health systems nationally resulting in staffing shortages and changes in capacity strategies.
Nurse Elisa Gilbert checks on a patient in the acute care COVID-19 unit at the Harborview Medical Center on Friday in Seattle. The highly transmissible omicron variant is putting a significant strain on health systems nationally resulting in staffing shortages and changes in capacity strategies.

Real quick

A weekend nor'easter? ❄️

Brrrrr. Looks like it. Bust out the electric blankets! A storm with the potential to grow into a powerful nor'easter is forecast to strike the Northeast this weekend, bringing with it the possibility of heavy snow, strong winds and coastal flooding. The storm is forecast to develop off the coast of the Carolinas, but not for another few days, leaving its exact path and potential impact subject to change. Coastal areas in the Northeast are most likely to experience heavy snow, with Portland, Maine, and Boston forecast for a 70%-90% chance of at least 3 inches on Saturday into Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service.

A cat plays in the snow during a huge winter storm in Mississauga, Ontario, on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.
A cat plays in the snow during a huge winter storm in Mississauga, Ontario, on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.

A break from the news

🥇 Olympics countdown: 9 days to opening ceremonies, and today I've got something really exciting for you! Meet Alex Ptachick. Alex is a USA TODAY editor and overall Olympics genius who is headed to Beijing for the Games. She'll be keeping us in the loop via text on everything happening at the Winter Olympics! 👉 Wanna sign up for texts? (It's free!) Go here to subscribe.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Federal Reserve, omicron, nor'easter forecast. It's Wednesday's news.