WBZ-TV's Jacob Wycoff reports.
- Associated Press
The U.N. refugee agency said the Indian coast guard had answered its plea to look for a boat carrying Rohingya refugees believed to be adrift in the Andaman Sea without food and water for several days. The boat was believed to have left Bangladesh two weeks ago and then broken down at sea, with the U.N. and rights groups reporting many of the about 90 refugees on board now suffering acute dehydration. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Wednesday it does not know the boat’s exact current location.
Italy on Thursday held a state funeral on Thursday for its ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo and his bodyguard killed in an ambush that a cardinal said should prompt everyone to "hear the cry" of a people devastated by violence. Luca Attanasio, 43, and Vittorio Iacovacci, 30, were shot dead after being kidnapped while travelling in a United Nations' World Food Programme convoy to visit a school feeding project on Monday. WFP driver Mustapha Milambo was also killed.
AstraZeneca will deliver 180 million COVID-19 vaccines to Europe in the second quarter, including 20 million to Italy, the head of its Italian unit was quoted as saying on Thursday, but EU officials remained wary about supply. Reuters reported on Tuesday, citing an EU official directly involved in talks with the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, that AstraZeneca expected to deliver less than half the COVID-19 vaccines it was contracted to supply the European Union in the second quarter. Lorenzo Wittum, CEO and chairman of AstraZeneca in Italy, told daily Il Corriere della Sera that Italy would receive more than 5 million shots by the end of March, fewer than the 8 million previously agreed, leading to a total of 25 million doses by June.
- The Daily Beast
REUTERSBill Burns, the career diplomat tapped by President Joe Biden to run the CIA, told a Senate panel Wednesday that his utmost priority as director will be to combat the technological and economic might of China.In a remarkably amicable exchange with the Senate intelligence committee, where controversies over intelligence failures and abuses have characterized nomination hearings for aspirant CIA directors since 9/11, Burns said the CIA would have to “relentlessly sharpen” its arsenal of digital weapons and its understanding of Beijing’s own.That and other aspects of Burns’ testimony received enthusiastic support from intelligence-committee senators of both parties, which seem to have reached a consensus that China seeks, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the vice chair of the panel, put it, to “replace the United States as the world’s most powerful and influential nation.” Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) mused that during the Cold War, the U.S. had “an organizing principle” that the current geopolitical competition with China provides.But Burns, a former deputy secretary of state and ambassador to Russia, also said U.S. rivalry with China was dissimilar to “the competition with the Soviet Union in the Cold War.” Burns defined U.S.-China competition as less of a “security and ideological” clash than one over economic and technological primacy. He spoke less of prospective covert measures against China than he did of providing “the best possible intelligence on the nature of Chinese intelligence and capabilities.”Whether the U.S. can avoid a cold war with a rising global power is a central question facing U.S. foreign policy at the dawn of the Biden administration. Biden’s stated approach thus far has been to pursue “great power competition” without the trade war of the Trump administration and with the prospect of cooperation on climate change. Yet there is also an appetite in Washington for a far more aggressive confrontation. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) urged Burns not “take the pressure off” China in order to reach a deal on climate.Sasse, Bennet, and other lawmakers also focused on China as a way to imply the diminution in priority of the CIA’s ongoing lethal counterterrorism operations, something Biden has placed under review. There was practically no discussion of CIA counterterrorism during the two-hour hearing. Two senators who have been relentlessly critical of CIA counterterrorism abuses, Democrats Ron Wyden and Martin Heinrich, usually the panel’s dissenters on agency nominees, both cheered Burns. Wyden noted Burns’ hearing was becoming a “full-fledged bouquet tossing contest.”‘Financial Batman’ in the Lead to Run Biden’s CIAUnlike his predecessor, Gina Haspel, Burns has no ties to the CIA’s post-9/11 human-rights abuses. “I believe the CIA’s former enhanced interrogation program included torture,” Burns affirmed in a questionnaire for the committee.Notably, however, Burns did not turn a page on CIA counterterrorism, saying only that he would need to balance emergent challenges with “the continuing threat posed by terrorist groups, 20 years after 9/11.” He said those still at the agency who took part in the torture program would face no professional consequence. In the questionnaire, he stopped short of committing to providing the classified Senate torture review to Guantanamo defense attorneys representing people the CIA tortured. Wyden lambasted U.S. intelligence agencies’ purchase of commercially available data on Americans as an end-run around the Fourth Amendment. Burns pledged “transparency” over the purchases–but did not pledge to end them.Burns also emphasized restoring respect for the “courage [and] expertise” of intelligence officials after the Trump administration persecuted whistleblowers, purged officials it considered disloyal, and sought generally to suborn the intelligence apparatus to its agenda. He was not Biden’s first choice for the job–former national security adviser Tom Donilon declined it–but said Biden told him to “deliver intelligence to him straight.” He also acknowledged that he will not be Biden’s closest intelligence adviser; that will be Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, whom he called “my longtime friend and colleague.”As a foreign-policy traditionalist over his three decades in diplomatic life, one who held senior appointments under both parties, Burns was embraced as a signal of a restored status quo ante during a volatile period in American politics. His testimony followed encomia for him from two foreign-policy greybeards, George H.W. Bush Secretary of State James Baker and Obama CIA Director Leon Panetta. Baker called Burns’ nomination “a bipartisan no-brainer.”While Burns has been a consumer of intelligence rather than a producer during his government career, he wrote one of the most prescient pieces of analysis of the past generation. As the Bush administration was preparing to invade Iraq, Burns, as assistant secretary of state for the Mideast, wrote what has become known as the “Perfect Storm” memo. Burns accurately predicted in July 2002 that “a horrible wave of bloodletting and private vengeance” would result from a U.S. occupation. It was a warning to Secretary of State Colin Powell at a time when the White House disdained such concerns as disloyalty or defeatism and discouraged the CIA from producing similar analysis. Still, Burns did not resign when Bush invaded.“He is not going to try to impose any particular formula with regard to reform. He knows how to work with a professional workforce, having had a whole career in the foreign service. He’ll be open to suggestions and initiatives from below,” said Paul Pillar, who was the CIA’s senior Middle East analyst when Burns was assistant secretary of state. “Ambassador Burns is, in my judgment, an excellent nominee for director of the CIA. He brings to the job utmost experience in what U.S. foreign policy most needs from the intelligence community: as a senior consumer at the State Department, he has an excellent feel for what the sorts of questions are that need to be addressed by the community.”During the hearing, Burns alluded to his 2002 memo with modesty. “It was imperfect. We got it about half-right and half-wrong,” he said. “But it was an honest effort to express our concerns… without that, policy choices suffer.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
The lungs tested negative for COVID-19 before the transplant, but three days after the procedure the woman developed a fever and tested positive.
- Associated Press
The Senate on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to confirm Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary, his second run at the Cabinet post. The former Iowa governor spent eight years leading the same Department of Agriculture for former President Barack Obama's entire administration. “We’re going to be a USDA that represents and serves all Americans,” Vilsack said after the vote.
- Business Insider
Texas Lt. Gov. says that people getting huge energy bills 'gambled on a very, very low rate' - but suggests they won't have to pay the full amount
Texans on variable-rate energy deals were faced with enormous bills as the wholesale price of electricity spiked 10,000% during the storms.
- Business Insider
GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger called out Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for hanging a sign declaring binary gender across the hall from a lawmaker with a trans daughter
Greene and Rep. Marie Newman were sparring over the Equality Act, which would ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
A Chinese couple paid $155,000 in fees to have 7 children in violation of the country's 2-child policy
China ended its one-child policy in 2015, but it's still struggling with declining birth rates and an aging population.
- The Independent
The anchor was called out “fatphobic” on social media
- Business Insider
An ex-girlfriend tipped off the FBI about an alleged US Capitol rioter after he called her a 'moron'
Richard Michetti was arraigned Tuesday in Philadelphia over his alleged participation in the January 6 insurrection.
Christopher Cantwell, known as 'The Crying Nazi,' sentenced to 41 months in prison on extortion charges
Cantwell went viral after he posted a YouTube video of himself crying and pleading with police not to hurt him.
- Business Insider
Vaccine makers are testing the safety and efficacy of third doses in anticipation of new coronavirus variants.
- LA Times
Tiger Woods' catastrophic crash in Los Angeles has cast a spotlight on the low-budget documentary series that featured golf's biggest star.
- The Independent
The Democratic operative criticised the Senator’s daughter for receiving a pay increase as a CEO
- The Guardian
Let’s be clear: whatever he may say, Biden absolutely has the power to unilaterally cancel all federal student debt Students activists at Washington University in St Louis pull a mock ball and chain representing student debt. Photograph: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images At his recent town hall, Joe Biden made a series of convoluted and condescending comments about American student debt. His remarks cast doubt on his ability, or willingness, to confront this country’s ballooning student loan crisis. Within hours, #cancelstudentdebt was trending on Twitter. Biden’s rambling justification of the status quo was peppered with straw men, invocations of false scarcity and non-solutions. He pitted working-class Americans against each other, implying that people who attend private schools aren’t worthy of relief, as though poor students don’t also attend such schools. He said that money would be better spent on early childhood education instead of debt cancellation, as if educators aren’t themselves drowning in student debt, and as if we can’t address both concerns at once. He suggested relying on parents or selling a home at a profit to settle your debt, a luxury those without intergenerational wealth or property cannot afford. And he touted various programs, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), that have totally failed borrowers: over 95% of PSLF applicants have been denied. In contrast to Biden’s smug comments, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley recently revealed that she defaulted on her student loans. Similarly, at a recent Debt Collective event, congressional hopeful Nina Turner said that she and her son owe a combined $100,000. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has, of course, proudly confessed to being in debt, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said that becoming a congressperson was easier than paying off her debt. Philadelphia councilmember Kendra Brooks (who is planning to introduce a city resolution calling on the Biden administration to cancel all student debt) has also spoken out about her own struggles as a borrower. Their experience and candor – and commitment to real solutions including cancellation – demonstrate why we need debtors, not millionaires, in our public offices. Let’s be clear about another thing. Biden absolutely has the legal authority to use executive power to cancel all federal student debt. Congress granted this authority decades ago as part of the Higher Education Act. It’s even been put to the test: in response to the Covid pandemic, Donald Trump and his former education secretary, Betsy DeVos, used that authority three times to suspend payments and student loan interest. As he rambled on, Biden gave the distinct impression that he preferred not to have the power to do so. That way he could blame Congress should his campaign promises go unkept. (The day after the town hall, Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, attempted to clarify her boss’s remarks about whether he will use executive authority to cancel student debt. She stated that the administration was still considering the possibility.) Adding to the confusion, Biden seemed unable to keep his own campaign pledges straight, muddling his student debt cancellation proposals. For the record, he campaigned on two distinct planks. One: “immediate” cancellation of $10,000 for every borrower as a form of Covid relief. Two: the cancellation of all undergraduate student loans for debt-holders who attended public universities and HBCUs and who earn up to $125,000 a year. Keeping these two promises is the absolute minimum the Biden administration needs to do to keep the public’s trust. But the Biden administration should, and can, do much more. Biden should cancel all student debt using executive authority. It is the simplest way the new administration can help tens of millions of people who are being crushed by the double whammy of unpayable loans and an economy-destroying pandemic. Yet, to date, all the Biden administration has done for this country’s 45 million student debtors is extend Trump and DeVos’s federal student loan payment suspension. Continuing a flawed Republican policy is hardly a progressive victory – especially not for the 8 million FFEL borrowers who are unconscionably left out of the moratorium. Biden owes this country debt relief not only because he campaigned on it, but because he helped cause the problem. A former senator from Delaware, the credit card capital of the world, he spent decades carrying water for financial interests and expanding access to student loans while limiting borrower protections. Biden’s brand is empath-in-chief, but on student debt he is alarmingly out of touch Biden’s record shows that he won’t address the problem without being pushed. Indeed, the fact that the president has embraced debt cancellation at all (however inadequate his proposals) is testament to ongoing grassroots efforts. The Debt Collective, a group I organize with, has been pushing for student debt abolition and free public college for nearly a decade. On 21 January, we launched the Biden Jubilee 100 – 100 borrowers on debt strike demanding full cancellation within the administration’s first hundred days. A growing list of senators and congresspeople have signed on to resolutions calling on Biden to cancel $50,000 a borrower using executive authority. (It’s worth noting that the $50,000 figure is based on outdated research. After three years of rapidly rising debt loads, the scholars behind it now recommend $75,000 of cancellation.) A growing chorus of voices from across the country and a range of backgrounds are shouting in unison: cancel student debt. Biden’s brand is empath-in-chief, but on student debt he is alarmingly out of touch. The president has shared that his own children borrowed for college and noted that he was the “poorest man in Congress” – meaning the poorest man in a body of millionaires. He didn’t question the ease with which his well-connected kids got well-compensated jobs enabling them to repay their loans, nor mention that people his age were able to go to college without being burdened by a mountain of debt. All people want today is the same opportunity that Biden and his peers had. Instead of acknowledging this generational disparity, Biden reiterated a common criticism of more generous forms of student debt cancellation – that it would help the privileged, specifically the minuscule subset of debt-holders who attended the Ivy League. But as Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in response: “Very wealthy people already have a student loan forgiveness program. It’s called their parents.” As things stand, poor and working people typically pay more for the same degrees than their affluent counterparts due to years or decades of monthly payments and accumulating interest. Our debt-financed higher education system is a tax on poor people who dare pursue a better life. Imagine if, instead of defending the status quo, Biden used his platform to articulate the social benefits of cancelling student debt. He could have said that cancelling student debt will support 45 million Americans and provide an estimated trillion-dollar economic boost over the next decade and create millions of desperately needed jobs. He could have spoken about canceling student debt as a way to help close the racial wealth gap, acknowledging that Black borrowers are the most burdened, or talked about how education should be free and accessible to all if we want to expand opportunity and deepen democracy. He could have acknowledged that cancellation will help struggling seniors, especially those having their social security checks garnished because of student loan defaults. He could have mentioned that debt cancellation is popular, even among many Republicans, and that eliminating it will help his party stay in power. He didn’t say any of that, and so we have to say it. Debtors have to get organized, connecting online and protesting in the streets. We live in a period of intersecting crises. Some of them are very difficult to solve. But cancelling student debt is easy. By refusing to act, the president and his administration are choosing to perpetuate a system that causes profound, pointless, and preventable harm. Astra Taylor is the author of Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone, and an organizer with the Debt Collective
- The Independent
New York congresswoman hits out at controversial Republican over Equality Act
Jill Biden assures Kelly Clarkson things will get better after her divorce: 'If I hadn't gotten divorced, I never would have met Joe'
In a new interview on "The Kelly Clarkson Show," first lady Jill Biden offered the singer advice about healing after divorce and finding love again.
- The Independent
Who is Heidi Cruz? The high-powered Goldman Sachs executive and wife to ‘disgraced’ Texas senator Ted Cruz
Heidi Cruz’s ‘high powered’ role on her husband’s campaign trail prompts comparisons with Hillary Clinton
- Business Insider
A preliminary study from Israel suggests people vaccinated against COVID-19 have lower viral loads, which are linked to less spread of the virus.