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In photos: Congress holds moment of silence for coronavirus victims

Congress held a candlelight vigil on the steps on the U.S. Capitol Tuesday evening in honor of the Americans who have died from the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The U.S. death toll from the virus passed 500,000 on Monday, just one year after the country's first COVID-19 death was confirmed.


In photos:

Candles outside the Capitol on Feb. 23. Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) outside the Capitol holding a candle on Feb. 23. Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) outside the Capitol on Feb. 23. Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) holding a candle outside of the Capitol on Feb. 23. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) holding a candle outside of the Capitol on Feb. 23.

Virginia lawmakers vote to legalize marijuana in 2024

Lawmakers in Virginia on Saturday approved compromise legislation that would legalize marijuana in 2024, putting the state a step closer to becoming the first in the South to end prohibition on the drug, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Why it matters: The legislation will make Virginia the 16th state to legalize marijuana, per Politico. It would add to a slate of laws that have seen Virginia move in a more progressive direction during the tenure of Gov. Ralph Northam.

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Scammers seize on COVID confusion

Data: FTC; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Scamming has skyrocketed in the past year, and much of the increase is attributed to COVID-related scams, more recently around vaccines.

Why it matters: The pandemic has created a prime opportunity for scammers to target people who are already confused about the chaotic rollouts of things like stimulus payments, loans, contact tracing and vaccines. Data shows that older people who aren't digitally literate are the most vulnerable.

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Biden explains justification for Syria strike in letter to congressional leadership

President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities tied to Iranian-backed militia groups in Syria was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.

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FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

The Food and Drugs Administration on Saturdayissued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.

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Italy tightens COVID restrictions for 5 regions amid warnings of a growing prevalence of variants

Italy on Saturday announced it was tightening restrictions in five of the country's 20 regions in an effort curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Driving the news: The announcement comes as health experts and scientists warn of the more transmissible coronavirus variants, per Reuters.

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Palestinian Authority announces new COVID restrictions as cases surge

The Palestinian Authority on Saturday announced fresh coronavirus restrictions, including a partial lockdown, for the occupied West Bank as COVID-19 cases surge.

The big picture: The new measures come as Israel, which leads the world in vaccinations, faces increased pressure to ensure Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have equal access to vaccines.

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