5 things to know for February 22: Jussie Smollett, NC election, Vatican, Venezuela

Posted at 4:04 AM, Feb 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-22 06:04:52-05

Looking for a new way to beat the traffic? If you live in Mumbai, you can use Uber to summon … a speedboat. Here’s what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and Out the Door. (You can also get “5 Things You Need to Know Today” delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)

1. Jussie Smollett

Actor Jussie Smollett was on the set of his Fox show “Empire” last night, hours after he was arrested and accused of filing a false report in the January 29 incident in which he said he was the victim of a hate crime. The 36-year-old actor called a meeting of the cast and crew and apologized for any embarrassment they might have felt during his alleged hate crime attack saga. But a person who was there was shocked and dismayed when Smollett stuck to his story of innocence and blamed the media and the legal system for his troubles, the source said.

Police say Smollett paid two brothers $3,500 to stage the attack in a bid to advance his career. In a news briefing, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson tore into Smollett, saying the actor “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” adding: “Bogus police reports cause real harm.”

2. North Carolina disputed election

Looks like voters in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District will be heading back to the polls. The state Board of Elections voted in favor of holding a new election in the district after an investigation into possible absentee ballot fraud. The man who was leading by 905 votes, Republican Mark Harris, stunned everyone when he advocated for a new election. That’s a dramatic turnaround from his insistence that the election board certify the results so he could be seated in Congress while the whole thing played out. Harris said neither he nor his campaign’s leaders knew anything about the “improper activities” that witnesses testified about during the four-day hearing. He also said a new election is warranted since the public’s confidence had been undermined.

3. Vatican summit

Pope Francis made it clear: He expects more than talk from the historic summit he’s called to deal with the Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse crisis. He wants “concrete and effective” results. Francis started things off by floating some proposals, including creating a kind of handbook church leaders could use when abuse accusations are made. The Pope also proposed dioceses and Catholic groups not publish lists of clergy accused of abuse before a preliminary investigation and “definitive” condemnation have occurred. That’s controversial with abuse survivors, who say the public deserves to know when an accusation is made. After Francis spoke, he and church leaders watched emotional video from clergy abuse victims.

4. Venezuela

It’s as if Venezuela is trying to close itself off from the world. President Nicolas Maduro said he will close Venezuela’s border with Brazil in a bid to stop foreign aid deliveries. He’s also thinking about closing the border with Colombia. That would seal off most of his country’s inland territory. And Venezuela has already closed maritime borders and blocked flights to and from nearby Caribbean islands. Venezuela’s opposition party has called for foreign aid to deal with a long-term economic crisis that’s left people scrambling to find enough food and medicine and forced 3 million residents to flee the country.

5. Florida red tide

Is the plague of Florida’s red tide over? State officials think so. The Sunshine State’s waters don’t show any sign of the organism that causes it, tests by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission show. Florida had dealt with red tide blooms since November 2017. Red tide — fast-moving colonies of algae that can stain water a shade of crimson — kills marine life, irritates people’s skin and causes respiratory problems. It usually occurs in the fall and winter, but this outbreak lasted more than a year. And Florida businesses are thankful for the timing of it all, since the state’s peak tourist season is just about to begin.


RIP, Peter

Peter Tork pulled double duty, of sorts, during his time with The Monkees. He was the band’s bassist and chief jokester on its 1960s TV show. He’s died at age 77.

Tumbling down

Duke’s Zion Williamson went down in a game against rival North Carolina after his foot tore through his sneaker. Then, Nike’s stock took a dive, too.

Big buzzing

No one had seen the world’s largest bee — as big as human thumb! — since 1981, so everybody thought it was extinct. Guess what researchers found in Indonesia?

Snow show

The hottest show in Vegas right now isn’t Lady Gaga’s. It’s all the snow that’s been falling this month in Sin City.


Quiz time 

(Yes, the quiz is back. Everybody do your happy dance!) Here’s your sample:

• A city plans to vote on whether this lake has the same rights as a person next week.

a. Lake Tahoe

b. Lake Erie

c. Lake Superior

d. Lake Huron

Play “Total Recall,” CNN’s weekly news quiz, to see if your answer is right.



Tricked out

It’s been a minute since we’ve run a trick-shot video. So, check out this one, featuring a couple of guys who obviously have a lot of time on their hands. (Click to view.)