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Brutal winter weather continuing across the country

An unrelenting winter weather pattern – one of the most merciless in years – showed no signs of letting up Wednesday as it left a trail of destruction, power outages and subzero temperatures across dozens of states. And more foul weather is on the way. Another winter storm with snow and ice was forecast to pummel portions of the South and Midwest on Wednesday. In all, 115 million Americans were in the path of the next storm, all the way from Texas to Massachusetts as of late Tuesday. At least 20 people have died as a result of the storms, including three killed in a tornado that tore through a North Carolina town. In Texas, nearly 3 million customers remained without power as of 5 a.m., according to poweroutage.us. Oregon reported 165,000 without power and  Kentucky just under 100,000. 

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Cities have permanently lost 400K jobs since COVID-19. Will they come back?

The pandemic has wiped out about 400,000 jobs in large urban areas, according to estimates provided exclusively to USA TODAY by payroll processor Gusto published Wednesday. Gusto’s data, an analysis of the 100,000 or so small businesses it serves, found that 175,000 jobs have shifted to the suburbs — through companies moving or stepping up hiring in those areas. The change has disproportionately hurt Black and Latino workers, who are more likely to live in urban areas, says the study, which recommends that Congress channel more federal aid to small businesses in larger cities. “Where cities were the center of gravity for the economy for as long as we can remember — we’ve lost that over the last year,” says economist Adam Kamins of Moody’s Analytics, who studies regional economies.

Trump era in Atlantic City ends with a blast

The long-vacant shell of the Trump Plaza hotel tower imploded Wednesday, erasing Atlantic City’s last remaining link to the Donald Trump era. The casino-hotel, built in 1984 at a cost of $214 million, was the flamboyant developer’s first venture in the city. Several other Trump buildings followed, and the Trump name glowed all over the skyline. But the glittering gaming halls, which were burdened by high debt, struggled and eventually failed as legal gambling spread to nearby states. Trump finally cut ties with his casino firm just days before its 2009 bankruptcy. “You can’t take away the fact that he invested his money and got a lot of jobs for people,” said Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. “But he stiffed a lot of people and was selfish.”

Affected by pandemic, churches adapt for Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is affected by the coronavirus for the first time in 2021, as the world approaches the one-year anniversary of the pandemic. In response to the deadly virus, the Vatican enacted new guidance for Ash Wednesday back in January, asking priests to forego the usual methods of individual blessings and a smudge of ash on the forehead of each congregant. The ash symbolizes death and repentance for Christians who observe Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the Lenten period leading up to Easter, when Christians believe Jesus was resurrected. Because of the pandemic, church leaders have come up with a variety of Ash Wednesday alternatives: Offering virtual or drive-through services; handing out DIY ash kits and to-go baggies of ash you can bring home – along with instructions and a prayer to bless them – or opting to have a smudge of ash placed on the back of the hand or sprinkled on top of the head.

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You may be wondering why people are walking around with soot on their faces. Here are four interesting facts about Ash Wednesday.

Baseball’s spring training begins

Major League Baseball’s spring training camps open Wednesday, 11 months after the league was the forced to shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Pitchers and catchers report to sites in Arizona and Florida against the backdrop of a still-dangerous pandemic in the first step toward a full 2021 season. Gone is the universal designated hitter, but the seven-inning doubleheaders and runners on second base to start extra innings are back this year. USA TODAY Sports’ Gabe Lacques breaks down four storylines to follow as MLB enters Pandemic Season II. How will your favorite team fare this coming season? Our six-person panel of experts has aggregate win-loss projections for every team.

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USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale breaks down the MLB’s new health and safety protocols. USA TODAY

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