COVID-19 relief talks stall, NASA heads to Mars and Stonehenge mystery solved?

As COVID-19 hammers Texas, Hispanic residents are dying at the highest rate.
NASA successfully launched a new rover to look for ancient life on Mars on Thursday morning.
NASA successfully launched a new rover to look for ancient life on Mars on Thursday morning.Joel Kowsky / AP

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By Petra Cahill

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Talks on the next coronavirus relief package seem to have hit a wall just a day before emergency unemployment benefits expire. Civil rights icon John Lewis will be laid to rest after being honored by a former president, NASA heads to Mars and could scientists have solved one of the enduring mysteries of Stonehenge?

Here's what we're watching this morning.


Trump push on short-term coronavirus aid draws frosty GOP reception

Facing bleak prospects for a coronavirus aid deal, President Donald Trump began pushing for a short-term patch Wednesday to protect renters and extend unemployment insurance.

Problem is, members of his own party aren't going for it.

"There’s no consensus on anything," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said after a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. "Just a lot of expression on views."

A federal moratorium on evictions lapsed last week and the unemployment bonus of $600 per week expires on Friday. As of early Thursday, the prospects of a deal in Congress before the emergency unemployment benefits run out is close to nonexistent.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said the problem with the larger package was that the White House was insisting on unrelated spending provisions, such nearly $2 billion for a new FBI building Trump wants.

"I asked the powers that be to take the spending porn out of the bills," he said.


'It cost me everything': Hispanic residents bear brunt of COVID-19 in Texas

As COVID-19 hammers Texas, Hispanic residents are dying at the highest rate.

In Texas' largest county, a disproportionate share of new COVID-19 hospital patients — as high as 65 percent some weeks — have been Hispanic.

"Pretty much everyone who I know has had coronavirus or has a family member who's been sick or is in the hospital," said Valery Martinez, who by early this week could list 45 Hispanic friends, family members and acquaintances who've been sick with the virus in the Houston area — including four who had died.

Meantime, COVID-19 symptoms that can linger for weeks and months after a diagnosis may be wide-ranging — and include everything from joint pain and fevers, to hair loss and double vision.

In fact, those patients, self-nicknamed the long-haulers, reported experiencing 98 different symptoms in a survey released Wednesday.

"They're not quite sick enough to be hospitalized, but they are suffering from very severe symptoms, sometimes for a very long time at home," Natalie Lambert, an associate professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, said.

Here are other coronavirus developments:


Tech industry 'emperors' hold too much power, lawmakers allege during heated hearing

Google came under fire for limiting other websites' traffic, Facebook faced questions about its purchase of Instagram and Amazon was accused of raising diaper prices as lawmakers held a rare congressional hearing Wednesday into whether tech executives have harmed the economy by operating monopolies.

Congress grilled the four major tech CEOs during the antitrust hearing, pressing for answers to allegations of anti-competitive behavior.

At one point, subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline, D-R.I., said the CEOs had become "emperors" on the internet.

While the high-profile hearing was an occasion for lawmakers to air a laundry list of pet peeves, what video call would be complete without a few glitches, snacks and theatrics?

Here are 10 highlights from the hearing you may have missed.


'I brought you here to work': Farmworkers from Mexico lured to U.S. for no-pay jobs

Alberto Reyes was lured to America with the promise of a good job to support his family back home in Mexico.

Instead, he and 18 other workers in rural Georgia found themselves trapped in a nightmare: no pay, no food and forced labor.

The workers had come to the United States under a fast-growing visa program known as H-2A, which Trump has promoted heavily amid his crackdown on undocumented immigration.

But government oversight has not kept pace with the program's growth, and some workers have faced horrific abuse.


NASA launches new rover to look for ancient life on Mars

NASA is heading back to the Red Planet.

The agency successfully launched a new rover, a car-size robotic explorer named Perseverance, to Mars on an ambitious mission to scour the planet for evidence of ancient life.

The rover is designed to study the geology and climate of Mars.

The six-wheel rover will carry a small helicopter, dubbed Ingenuity, to perform experimental test flights in Mars' thin atmosphere, which, if successful, would mark a milestone in powered flight.

"For the first time ever, we're going to fly a helicopter on another planet," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a news briefing earlier this week.


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Plus


THINK about it

Trump's horrendous "suburban" tweet is a blatant appeal to his base with its mix of racism and class issues. It also helps Democrats, cultural critic Noah Berlatsky writes in an opinion piece.


Shopping

Check out Athleta's new breathable exercise face mask.


Mystery solved?

For thousands of years, Britain's Stonehenge has held tight to many of its secrets.

Now, scientists say in a study published Wednesday they have uncovered one: The origin of many of the stone that make up the mysterious prehistoric stone circle thought to date from 2,500 BC.

Researchers believe the large stones — known as sarsens — that make up the main circle and inner horseshoe of the monument, originated 15 miles to the north of the prehistoric circle.

"Archaeologists and geologists have been debating where the sarsen stones used to build Stonehenge came from for more than four centuries," lead researcher David Nash, a professor of physical geography at the University of Brighton, said.

"This significant new data will help explain more of how the monument was constructed and, perhaps, offer insights into the routes by which the 20- to 30-ton stones were transported," he added.

Scientists have been trying to unlock the mysteries of Stonehenge since the Middle Ages. Matt Cardy / Getty Images file

Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

If you have any comments — likes, dislikes — send me an email at: petra@nbcuni.com

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Thanks, Petra