Today's edition of quick hits:
* A staggering total: "The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 500,000 on Sunday, according to an NBC News tally — a milestone that underscores the grave threat the virus still poses even as more people are vaccinated."
* In related news: "As the U.S. rapidly nears 500,000 lives lost to COVID-19, President Joe Biden will order flags on federal property to be lowered at half staff for five days to mark the solemn milestone, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a Monday briefing."
* I think his confirmation is very likely: "Judge Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden's nominee for attorney general, pledged Monday to make the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol his top priority if confirmed by the Senate."
* The power is back on in Texas, but all is not yet well: Hospitals across the South grappled with water shortages Sunday in the wake of a devastating winter storm as the region carried on with recovery efforts.... A rural hospital in Anahuac, Texas, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Houston, lost both water and power."
* An ajar door is better than a closed door: "Iran appears to have partly lifted its threat to sharply limit international inspections of its nuclear facilities starting on Tuesday, giving Western nations three months to see if the beginnings of a new diplomatic initiative with the United States and Europe will restore the 2015 nuclear deal."
* Keep an eye on this one: "Federal authorities investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot are looking into whether high-profile allies of former President Donald Trump, including Roger Stone and Alex Jones, played any role in organizing the violence, a law enforcement source with knowledge of the inquiry said Saturday."
* Speaking of Jones: "In April 2019, Facebook was preparing to ban one of the internet's most notorious spreaders of misinformation and hate, Infowars founder Alex Jones. Then CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally intervened."
* Navalny: "A Russian court cleared the way on Saturday for the possible transfer of the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny to the country's penal colony system, the latest step by the authorities to silence the man who has become the country's most vocal critic of President Vladimir V. Putin."
* Following up on a story we discussed last week: "A federal judge temporarily blocked South Carolina's new 'fetal heartbeat' abortion ban Friday, a day after Gov. Henry McMaster (R) signed the state's restrictive new abortion bill into law in front of a crowd of enthusiastic supporters at the State House."
* I'd forgotten this case was still pending: "The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from porn star Stormy Daniels, who sought to revive a defamation lawsuit she filed against former President Donald Trump."
* Far-right conspiracy theories regarding Jan. 6 and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed foolish before, and now they're unraveling further.
* Additional evidence of an unhealthy political environment: "Half the time someone is unhappy with a judge's ruling. The normal recourse is an appeal. But in the caustic atmosphere of today's politics, there's a real chance the disgruntled party will threaten the judge. In the last five years, threats of federal judges have jumped 400%."
See you tomorrow.