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Israeli stampede tragedy, 'blind' spots in vaccine data and an unusual Las Vegas discovery

Progressives who were originally skeptical of Joe Biden as a candidate are falling in love with him as president.
Image: Ultra Orthodox Jews look at stairs with waste on it in Mount Meron, northern Israel, where fatalities were reported among the thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered at the tomb of a 2nd-century sage for annual commemorations that include all-nig
Ultra Orthodox Jews look at stairs with waste on it in Mount Meron, northern Israel, where a stampede broke out early Friday at a religious festival, killing over 40 people. Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

Good morning, NBC News readers.

We start this morning looking at a tragic stampede in Israel, how a lack of racial data is impacting the Covid vaccine rollout, and an unusual backyard discovery in Las Vegas.

Here's what we're watching this Friday morning.

'A heavy disaster': More than 40 people killed in stampede at a religious festival in Israel

Image: Rescue teams in the aftermath of a stampede at the scene of a religious gathering in Meron in northern Israel near the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century Talmudic sage, where mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews flock to mark the Lag B
Jack Guez / AFP - Getty Images

A stampede at a religious festival in northern Israel killed at least 44 people and injured about 150, medical officials said on Friday.

The stampede, one of the deadliest civilian disasters in Israeli history, occurred during the celebrations of Lag BaOmer at Mount Meron.

Each year tens of thousands of people, mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews, gather to celebrate Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and traditionally light bonfires as part of the celebrations.

"People came to celebrate Lag BaOmer and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and unfortunately were literally crushed to death," said one member of an Israeli volunteer emergency medical services organization that was on the scene.

Friday's top stories

Illustration shows a Black woman receiving a vaccine with glitchy, pixelated parts of her arm and body missing.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

Covid has hit minority groups hard. But where’s the data?

Four months into the vaccine rollout, the U.S. has made little progress in collecting Covid-19 vaccination data by race and ethnicity. Experts say that makes it harder to target underserved communities and combat vaccine hesitancy — leaving officials "blind" to problems they might otherwise be able to swiftly address. By Elliott Ramos and Suzanne Gamboa | Read more

Joe Biden is proving progressives wrong. And they're loving it.

Biden's first 100 days have mostly been praised by a movement that was skeptical to outright antagonistic about his candidacy, according to more than 20 progressive lawmakers, strategists and activists who spoke to NBC News. "I don't think they would have been better if Bernie Sanders was the president," said one former union leader. By Sahil Kapur and Alex Seitz-Wald | Read more

No breaks: Huge auto lender didn't give borrowers deferrals during Covid

Many auto loan firms offered deferments to borrowers during the pandemic. Credit Acceptance, the nation's largest lender specializing in sub-prime loans, did not. By Gretchen Morgenson and Adiel Kaplan | Read more

OPINION: Hollywood tells its young actors to be vulnerable. Then it preys on them.

Producer Scott Rudin is out. But Hollywood and Broadway can't stop there. The entertainment industry must stop grooming young actors for abuse. By Kelly Hartog | Read more

As loved ones languish in Iranian jails, families accuse European countries of weakness

Amid efforts to revive the tattered 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, relatives of Europeans held in Iran say their governments are kowtowing to Tehran. "I don't know why they don't want to call out Iran," said the wife of one prisoner. "Why not call this hostage-taking?" By Saphora Smith and Dan De Luce | Read more

BETTER: Want to learn how to dance?

This digital fitness platform brings the dance studio to your living room. By Danielle Page | Read more

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One fun thing

Image: Las Vegas fossils
Facebook/City of Las Vegas Government

One Las Vegas couple will have to put a pause on building the pool of their dreams after construction crews made an unusual discovery: A set of bones dating back to Earth’s most recent ice age.

That's right. Nevada Science Center Research Director Joshua Bonde said the bones are between 6,000 and 14,000 years old and are those of a horse or similar large mammal.

Read the full story here.

Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

Hope you have a great weekend. Tune into NBC News' "Inspiring America: The 2021 Inspiration List" on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC and Telemundo. After the challenging year we've all had, the primetime special will honor Alex Trebek & Jean Trebek, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bubba Wallace, Becky Hammon, José Andrés, Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, the Inspiration4 Crew and America’s Teachers.

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Thanks, Petra