The president said it could be an unnecessary risk to provide Trump briefings due to his "erratic behavior."
- The Telegraph
Amnesty accused of 'siding with tyrants' for revoking Alexei Navalny’s 'prisoner of conscience' status
Amnesty International has been accused of “siding with tyrants” and buckling to a Kremlin-backed disinformation campaign after it revoked Russian opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny’s status as a prisoner of conscience. The global human rights organisation said Mr Navalny, who was jailed last week after surviving an assassination attempt apparently orchestrated by the Russian security services, did not deserve the designation because comments he made 15 years ago about immigration. In a move that drew immediate condemnation from fellow human rights activists and appeared to catch the organisation’s own Russian office by surprise, the group said it had taken an "internal decision to stop referring to Aleksei Navalny as a prisoner of conscience in relation to comments he made in the past". “Some of these comments, which Navalny has not publicly denounced, reach the threshold of advocacy of hatred, and this is at odds with Amnesty's definition of a prisoner of conscience,” Denis Krivosheev, the deputy director of Amnesty's Europe and Central Asia office, said in a statement. Mr Krivosheev appeared to be referring to two videos Mr Navalny produced in 2007 when he was entering national politics. One is an argument for gun rights in which he advocated carrying a pistol for self defence against Islamist terrorists, who he compared to “cockroaches”. In the second he posed as a dentist to argue that only by deporting immigrants could Russia prevent inter-ethnic conflict and the rise of the far-Right. He has never retracted the statements. Mr Navalny has also been criticised for attending the Russian March, an annual nationalist rally that drew large crowds in Moscow in the 2000s. Mr Krivosheev did not explain how the group had been previously unaware of the videos, which are well-known among followers of Russian human rights and current affairs.
- USA TODAY
Gov. Ron DeSantis last week said he would direct flags to fly at half staff once Limbaugh's body is laid to rest. Some officials find this outrageous.
The mother of an 11-year-old boy who died after they lost electricity and heat in their Texas mobile home during last week's freeze has filed a $100 million lawsuit against two power companies for gross negligence. Maria Pineda said the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and Entergy Corp are responsible for the death of her son Cristian, who was found unresponsive on the morning of Feb. 16 at home, where he shared a bed with his 3-year-old brother. More than 4 million people in Texas lost power and at least two dozen people died after a snowstorm blanketed the state last week and sent temperatures plunging well below freezing.
- The Telegraph
The US on Monday crossed the staggering milestone of 500,000 Covid-19 deaths, as President Joe Biden led a moment’s silence and lit candles for those lost. In a solemn address to the nation, Mr Biden, who has made tackling the virus a priority for his administration, called the toll “heartbreaking” and said his heart “ached” for the dead. "On this solemn occasion, we reflect on their loss and on their loved ones left behind," Mr Biden said in the proclamation from the White House, where he was joined by wife Jill and Kamala Harris, Vice President. "We, as a nation, must remember them so we can begin to heal, to unite, and find purpose as one nation to defeat this pandemic." “I promise you, the day will come that their memory will bring a smile to your lips before a tear to your eye,” he continued in an emotional speech. Bells tolled at the National Cathedral in Washington to honour the lives lost and the American flag will be flown at half-staff on public buildings for five days.
Since the couple recently announced they wouldn't be returning to royal duties, they will have more freedom this time around.
- USA TODAY
Today's best Amazon deals to shop include one of our favorite cast-iron pans, an exercise bike and more—shop our top picks here.
Celebrity dermatologist Dr. Pimple Popper used her fingers to squeeze and loosen the "cute" and slimy lipoma on a woman's shoulder.
- Architectural Digest
If you've ever wanted to live in an IKEA, now you can (sort of)
- Business Insider
Biden's changes to the PPP help businesses with less than 20 workers (or none at all) and those with student debt or unrelated felonies, among others.
- The New York Times
Even by Washington standards, this has been a particularly shameless week. With millions of Texans freezing in their homes, Sen. Ted Cruz fled to a Mexican beach, offering his constituents little more than the political cliché of wanting to be a “good dad.” (Apparently, flying your daughters to Cancún is just like carpooling — if your minivan were the Ritz-Carlton resort.) Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas blamed the complete meltdown of state infrastructure not on a lack of preparation from leaders in the state but the Green New Deal — a liberal policy proposal that is not even close to becoming law. His predecessor, former Gov. Rick Perry, suggested that Texans would willingly endure days of blackouts to keep the “federal government out of their business.” It seems hard to believe that any Texan — or really any human — would choose to have to melt snow for water. The outrageous behavior extended beyond the Lone Star State. In New York, a state lawmaker said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had vowed to “destroy” him for criticizing Cuomo’s handling of the deaths of nursing home residents in the past year — an issue that is under investigation by the Justice Department. And Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin senator, said the armed attack on the Capitol did not seem all that well armed. Apparently, he missed the many, many videos of attackers carrying guns, bats and other weapons. And yet, beneath all this noise was the sound of something even more unusual: silence. For much of the past six years, former President Donald Trump has dominated the political conversation, prompting days of outrage, finger-pointing and general news cycle havoc with nearly every tweet. The audacious behavior of other politicians was often lost amid Trump’s obsessive desire to dominate the coverage. Well, the former president has now gone nearly silent, leaving a Trump-size void in our national conversation that President Joe Biden has little desire to fill. That has been a rude awakening for some other politicians, who find themselves suddenly enmeshed in controversy that is not quickly subsumed in a deluge of Trump news. It is unclear whether any will pay a significant political price for their actions. The last administration delivered a constant stream of chaos that may have fundamentally reshaped the kind of fact-based rhetoric and norm-abiding behavior we expect from our political leaders. Already, some politicians have adopted Trump’s playbook for surviving controversy: Blame liberals, double down and never admit any mistake. Biden, at least, seems determined to set a different tone. T.J. Ducklo, a deputy press secretary who reportedly used abusive and sexist language with a female reporter, resigned last Saturday — reflecting Biden’s Inauguration Day promise that he would fire anyone he heard being disrespectful. And in his first presidential town hall Tuesday, Biden repeatedly used two words that many in Washington have not heard in a while: “I’m sorry.” Democrats in Disarray. Kind Of? After a few weeks of party unity, Democrats are showing some fresh signs of division. Over the past week, Biden indicated that he was not fully sold on two proposals backed by his progressive base: forgiving $50,000 of student debt for each borrower and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Both plans have some high-profile champions. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have called on Biden to use his executive authority to cancel about 80% of the student loan debt run up by about 36 million borrowers. And the party is fairly united over a $15 minimum wage, with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont committed to including it in the COVID-19 relief package currently making its way through Congress. The issue for Democrats is how quickly to move. Biden favors a more gradual phase-in of the $15 minimum wage, in part to assuage concerns from business owners. And on student debt, Biden is not convinced that he can erase so much with a stroke of his executive pen. He has also signaled that the proposals should include income caps. “My daughter went to Tulane University and then got a master’s at Penn; she graduated $103,000 in debt,” he said at a CNN town hall Tuesday. “I don’t think anybody should have to pay for that, but I do think you should be able to work it off.” Biden may simply be looking at some political realities. Polls indicate that both proposals are popular, though support for a $15 wage drops when voters are told of potential economic effects — like a Congressional Budget Office forecast that it could cost more than 1 million jobs. As for student debt, majorities back the $50,000 in relief, but support rises when the plan is targeted at lower-income families. By the Number: 16 That was the number of crossover districts — congressional districts where the two parties split results between the presidency and Congress — in 2020, according to a new analysis by Daily Kos. That is the lowest number in a century. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
- The Telegraph
Picnics and other outdoor meet-ups between two people will be allowed from March 8, Boris Johnson has announced, as restrictions on seeing family and friends are gradually released. Current rules only permit two people from different households to meet outdoors for exercise, but the rule change will allow them to sit on a park bench, have a picnic or meet for a coffee. The meeting must take place in a public outdoor space, such as a park or high street. From March 29, the number of people who can meet will increase, as the "rule of six" is reintroduced for outdoor meetings. Six people from up to six households will be allowed to meet outside, or an unlimited number of people from two households – allowing two families to spend time together or a small group of friends to meet. At this stage, the requirement to meet in public will be abandoned, allowing six people or two households to get together in a private garden. The guidance for the public to stay in their local area will also be lifted, allowing people to travel across the country to meet friends, but not to stay overnight or meet indoors.
- Miami Herald
Starting Tuesday, anyone 55 to 64 with one of 13 medical conditions can schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment through Jackson Health System, Miami-Dade County’s public hospital network.
- The New York Times
SAN ANTONIO — As millions of Texans shivered in dark, cold homes over the past week while a winter storm devastated the state’s power grid and froze natural gas production, those who could still summon lights with the flick of a switch felt lucky. Now, many of them are paying a severe price for it. “My savings is gone,” said Scott Willoughby, a 63-year-old Army veteran who lives on Social Security payments in a Dallas suburb. He said he had nearly emptied his savings account so that he would be able to pay the $16,752 electric bill charged to his credit card — 70 times what he usually pays for all of his utilities combined. “There’s nothing I can do about it, but it’s broken me.” Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Willoughby is among scores of Texans who have reported skyrocketing electric bills as the price of keeping lights on and refrigerators humming shot upward. For customers whose electricity prices are not fixed and are instead tied to the fluctuating wholesale price, the spikes have been astronomical. The outcry elicited angry calls for action from lawmakers from both parties and prompted Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, to hold an emergency meeting with legislators Saturday to discuss the enormous bills. “We have a responsibility to protect Texans from spikes in their energy bills that are a result of the severe winter weather and power outages,” Abbott, who has been reeling after the state’s infrastructure failure, said in a statement after the meeting. He added that Democrats and Republicans would work together to make sure people “do not get stuck with skyrocketing energy bills.” The electric bills are coming due at the end of a week in which Texans have faced a combination of crises caused by the frigid weather, beginning on Monday, when power grid failures and surging demand led to millions being left without electricity. Natural gas producers were not prepared for the freeze either, and many people’s homes were cut off from heat. Now, millions of people are discovering that they have no safe water because of burst pipes, frozen wells or water treatment plants that have been knocked offline. Power has returned in recent days for all but about 60,000 Texans as the storm moved east, where it has also caused power outages in Mississippi, Louisiana, West Virginia and Ohio. The steep electric bills in Texas are in part a result of the state’s uniquely unregulated energy market, which allows customers to pick their electricity providers among about 220 retailers in an entirely market-driven system. Under some of the plans, when demand increases, prices rise. The goal, architects of the system say, is to balance the market by encouraging consumers to reduce their usage and power suppliers to create more electricity. But when last week’s crisis hit and power systems faltered, the state’s Public Utilities Commission ordered that the price cap be raised to its maximum limit of $9 per kilowatt-hour, easily pushing many customers’ daily electric costs above $100. And in some cases, like Willoughby’s, bills rose by more than 50 times the normal cost. Many of the people who have reported extremely high charges, including Willoughby, are customers of Griddy, a small company in Houston that provides electricity at wholesale prices, which can quickly change based on supply and demand. The company passes the wholesale price directly to customers, charging an additional $9.99 monthly fee. Much of the time, the rate is considered affordable. But the model can be risky: Last week, foreseeing a huge jump in wholesale prices, the company encouraged all of its customers — about 29,000 people — to switch to another provider when the storm arrived. But many were unable to do so. Katrina Tanner, a Griddy customer who lives in Nevada, Texas, said she had been charged $6,200 already this month, more than five times what she paid in all of 2020. She began using Griddy at a friend’s suggestion a couple of years ago and was pleased at the time with how simple it was to sign up. As the storm rolled through during the past week, however, she kept opening the company’s app on her phone and seeing her bill “just rising, rising, rising,” Tanner said. Griddy was able to take the money she owed directly from her bank account, and she now has just $200 left. She suspects that she was only able to keep that much because her bank stopped Griddy from taking more. Some lawmakers and consumer advocates said the price spikes had made it clear that customers did not understand the complicated terms of the company’s model. “To the Texas Utilities Commission: What are you thinking, allowing the average type of household to sign up for this kind of program?” Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, said of Griddy. “The risk-reward is so out of whack that it never should have been permitted in the first place.” Phil King, a Republican state lawmaker who represents an area west of Fort Worth, said some of his constituents who were on variable-rate contracts were complaining about bills in the thousands. “When something like this happens, you’re in real trouble” with such contracts, King said. “There have got to be some emergency financial waivers and other actions taken until we can work through this and get to the bottom of it.” Responding to its outraged customers, Griddy, too, appeared to try to shift anger to the Public Utilities Commission in a statement. “We intend to fight this for, and alongside, our customers for equity and accountability — to reveal why such price increases were allowed to happen as millions of Texans went without power,” the statement said. William W. Hogan, considered the architect of the Texas energy market design, said in an interview this past week that the high prices reflected the market performing as it was designed. The rapid losses of power — more than a third of the state’s available electricity production was offline at one point — increased the risk that the entire system would collapse, causing prices to rise, said Hogan, a professor of global energy policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. “As you get closer and closer to the bare minimum, these prices get higher and higher, which is what you want,” Hogan said. Robert McCullough, an energy consultant in Portland, Oregon, and a critic of Hogan’s, said that allowing the market to drive energy policy with few protections for consumers was “idiotic” and that similar actions had devastated retailers and consumers following the California energy crisis of 2000 and 2001. “The similar situation caused a wave of bankruptcies as retailers and customers discovered that they were on the hook for bills 30 times their normal levels,” McCullough said. “We are going to see this again.” DeAndré Upshaw said his power had been on and off in his Dallas apartment throughout the storm. A lot of his neighbors had it worse, so he felt fortunate to have electricity and heat, inviting some neighbors over to warm up. Then Upshaw, 33, saw that his utility bill from Griddy had risen to more than $6,700. He usually pays about $80 a month this time of year. He had been trying to conserve power as the storm raged on, but it didn’t seem to matter. He also signed up to switch to another utility company, but he is still being charged until the change goes into effect Monday. “It’s a utility — it’s something that you need to live,” Upshaw said. “I don’t feel like I’ve used $6,700 of electricity in the last decade. That’s not a cost that any reasonable person would have to pay for five days of intermittent electric service being used at the bare minimum.” As Texas slowly thaws out, Tanner is allowing herself a small luxury after days of keeping the thermostat at 60 degrees. “I finally decided the other day, if we were going to pay these high prices, we weren’t going to freeze,” she said. “So I cranked it up to 65.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
Indian and Chinese troops have completed a pullout from a lake area on their disputed border in the western Himalayas, setting the scene for disengagement at other friction points, the two countries said on Sunday. Thousands of soldiers have been facing off since April on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), or the de facto border, including at the glacial Pangong Tso lake. On Saturday, the two commanders met to review the pullout.
- LA Times
Tiger Woods remains optimistic he'll be able to play at the Masters in April as he continues to recover from back surgery.
The U.S. Treasury is due to run down a $1.6 trillion bank account at the Federal Reserve as government spending ramps up in the months ahead - a move some analysts warn may crush short-term money rates further and flood financial markets with cash. The Treasury said recently it would halve its extraordinarily large balance at the so-called Treasury General Account (TGA) by April and cut it to $500 billion by the end of June. The U.S. government runs most of its day-to-day business through the TGA - managed by the New York Fed and into which flow tax receipts and proceeds from the sale of Treasury debt.
- Associated Press
Israel closed all its Mediterranean beaches until further notice on Sunday, days after an offshore oil spill deposited tons of tar across more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) of coastline in what officials are calling one of the country's worst ecological disasters. Activists began reporting globs of black tar on Israel's coast last week after a heavy storm. The deposits have wreaked havoc on local wildlife, and the Israeli Agriculture Ministry determined Sunday that a dead young fin whale that washed up on a beach in southern Israel died from ingesting the viscous black liquid, according to Kan, Israel's public broadcaster.
- USA TODAY
Language and cultural barriers have made it difficult for many immigrant communities to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
- The State
Police say a car crossed the center line on Celanese Road and crashed into an oncoming vehicle.
"I was in a state of just being numb. And as the days have passed, the numbness has left, and I'm really - it's very painful," Cooper-Jones said.