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Good afternoon, Portland! Hope you're enjoying this lovely sunny weather. Spring is right around the corner—and, fancy that, so is this afternoon's NEWS

IN LOCAL NEWS:

• State health officials reported today that hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses have "declined dramatically" since the end December, and voiced optimism that the surge in illnesses that overwhelmed some hospitals in the state at the end of last year is over. Here's more from the Oregon Health Authority briefing.  

• The Oregon Supreme Court today upheld a lower court order blocking the implementation of Measure 114—meaning that the new gun laws voters passed in November won't go into effect until the lower court decides whether the laws are constitutional or not. Meanwhile, those opposed to the voter-approved laws have so much respect for the constitution that they've decided to refuse to enforce Measure 114 whatever is decided!

• Good news: Multnomah County's universal preschool program is flush thanks in large part to the taxes paid by just a hundred of our richest fellow residents. The county took in $187 million from the universal preschool tax during the last fiscal year, 20 percent of which came from just 100 tax returns. 

• Thought the Blazers would make a concerted push to improve their chances of making the playoffs during today's trade deadline? WRONG! Instead, Blazers chose to ship out Josh Hart and Gary Payton II for a few young players and a bunch of draft picks. 🤷‍♂️

• Cinema 21 is celebrating romantic comedies this month, and that means celebrating Audrey Hepburn. Rose Wong has more on the genre and the actor who helped define it. 

IN NATIONAL/WORLD NEWS:

• The death toll from the earthquake that rocked parts of Turkey and Syria earlier this week has risen to more than 21,000 people as relief and rescue efforts continued on Thursday. The earthquake is Turkey's deadliest since 1939. 

• You're not going to hear about this one in the LAMESTREAM MEDIA, but legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh posted an article to his Substack this morning claiming that the United States sabotaged the Nord Stream pipelines built to transport natural gas from Russia to Europe. The White House called the story "complete fiction," the CIA denied Hersh's claims as well. 

• Fightin' Joe Biden gave the old State of the Union address and then hit the road with his receipts—telling folks around the country exactly how ghoulish Sen. Rick Scott of Florida wants to cut Social Security and Medicare. Word is Joe's moving ever closer to announcing his re-election bid, whether you like it or not. 

• Oh lord, another George Santos story—this time he weaseled his way out of theft charges in Pennsylvania's Amish Country by falsely claiming... somebody stole his checkbook? Read on if you dare. 

• Nicaragua has freed more than 200 political prisoners it took into custody over the last two years and delivered them to the United States. Secretary of State Antony Blinken hailed the release of the group of Nicaraguans opposed to President Daniel Ortega's regime as “a constructive step towards addressing human rights abuses” in the Central American country. 

• Finally...