Senate unanimously passes Relief Act
- The Independent
Emotional Merrick Garland says he wants to pay US back for taking in his grandparents when they fled persecution
‘This is the highest, best use of my own set of skills to pay back,’ says Judge Garland in testimony before Senate Judiciary Committee
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.
- WCVB - Boston
Officials said they recovered the body of a man Monday who disappeared while swimming in an icy Wareham pond.
- The Telegraph
The family of an 11-year-old boy who died during a cold weather snap in Texas have filed a $100m lawsuit against power companies who were “wholly unprepared to deal with the crisis at hand.” Cristian Pineda went to sleep in the mobile home where he lived with his mother, stepfather and two young brothers on February 15, but did not wake up the next day. The thin-walled, poorly insulated home in Conroe, just north of Houston, lost power in the freezing temperatures and the lawsuit accuses utility firms of putting "profits over the welfare of people" by failing to prepare properly. It was -12 degrees on the night that Christian died, the family says. "Despite having knowledge of the dire weather forecast for at least a week in advance, and the knowledge that the system was not prepared for more than a decade, Ercot and Entergy failed to take any peremptory action that could have averted the crisis and were wholly unprepared to deal with the crisis at hand," the lawsuit alleges.
Since the couple recently announced they wouldn't be returning to royal duties, they will have more freedom this time around.
Over the past year Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has engineered the largest economic rescue in U.S. history, thrown a controversial lifeline to companies hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and steered a sweeping labor-friendly revamp of monetary policy that any presidential administration would welcome. Is it enough to earn the 68-year-old former investment banker four more years as the head of the U.S. central bank?That question will get increased attention during this, the final year of Powell's term, and the conversation may start as early as this week when the Fed chief delivers his semi-annual update on the economy in two hearings before Congress. The testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday and House of Representatives Financial Services Committee on Wednesday will be Powell's first since President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats took control of the White House and Capitol Hill.
Luca Attanasio and two other people die after his UN convoy is attacked near Goma.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday he was "sickened" by allegations of sexual assault in Parliament House, adding that there was a "culture" problem at the government building. Brittany Higgins said on Friday, in a statement reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC), that the man had raped her two years ago in parliament. Morrison apologised to Higgins on Tuesday for the way her complaint was handled at that time, ordering a probe into the government's workplace culture.
- ABC News Videos
ABC News’ Trevor Ault traveled to South Dakota where a tribal nurse travels dozens of miles to vaccinate her community.
- WCVB - Boston
The COVID-19 journey for a local husband and wife who recently shared the story about their experience has taken a positive turn.
- Associated Press
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is looking to another stretch of solitary confinement after this year's postseason. “I usually don’t talk to too many people for a couple weeks after the season is over with,” Judge said after Tuesday. New York lost to Houston in the 2017 and 2019 AL Championship Series, to Boston in the 2018 AL Division Series and to Tampa Bay in the 2020 AL Division Series.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday that white supremacy and neo-Nazi movements are becoming a "transnational threat" and have exploited the coronavirus pandemic to boost their support. Addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council, Guterres said the danger of hate-driven groups was growing daily. Without naming states, Guterres added: "Today, these extremist movements represent the number one internal security threat in several countries."
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Any person that would risk their life to save his pets is a small glimpse of what an incredible person this was,” one woman said.
The United States said on Monday it was outraged by rocket attacks on coalition forces and others in Iraq but stressed it would not "lash out" and would respond at a time and place of its choosing. "We have seen the reports of the rocket fire today ... as you heard us say in the aftermath of the tragic attack in Erbil, we are outraged by the recent attacks," U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. Most attacks cause no casualties but the latest rocket attack, on Monday, was the third in Iraq in just over a week to target Green Zone areas that host U.S. troops, diplomats or contractors.
- 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 New York Times
President Joe Biden used his first public encounter with America’s European allies to describe a new struggle between the West and the forces of autocracy, declaring that “America is back” while acknowledging that the past four years had taken a toll on its power and influence. His message stressing the importance of reinvigorating alliances and recommitting to defending Europe was predictably well received at a session of the Munich Security Conference that Biden addressed from the White House. But there was also pushback, notably from the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who in his address made an impassioned defense of his concept of “strategic autonomy” from the United States, making the case that Europe can no longer be overly dependent on the United States as it focuses more of its attention on Asia, especially China. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times And even Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who is leaving office within the year, tempered her praise for Biden’s decision to cancel plans for a withdrawal of 12,000 U.S. troops from the country with a warning that “our interests will not always converge.” It appeared to be a reference to Germany’s ambivalence about confronting China — a major market for its automobiles and other high-end German products — and to the continuing battle with the United States over the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Russia. But all three leaders seemed to recognize that their first virtual encounter was a moment to celebrate the end of the era of “America First,” and for Macron and Merkel to welcome back Biden, a politician whom they knew well from his years as a senator and vice president. And Biden used the moment to warn about the need for a common strategy in pushing back at an Internet-fueled narrative, promoted by both Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China, that the chaos surrounding the American election was another sign of democratic weakness and decline. “We must demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people in this changed world,” Biden said, adding, “We have to prove that our model isn’t a relic of history.” For the president, a regular visitor to the conference even as a private citizen after serving as vice president, the address was something of a homecoming. The session was crunched down to a video meeting by Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, this year’s host, and the European leaders decided to do the same for a brief, closed meeting of the Group of 7 allies that Biden also participated in. The next in-person summit meeting is still planned for Britain this summer, pandemic permitting. Biden never named his predecessor, Donald Trump, in his remarks, but framed them around wiping out the traces of Trumpism in the United States’ approach to the world. He celebrated its return to the Paris climate agreement, which took effect just before the meeting, and a new initiative, announced Thursday night, to join Britain, France and Germany in engaging Iran diplomatically in an effort to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement that Trump exited. But rather than detail an agenda, Biden tried to recall the first principles that led to the Atlantic alliance and the creation of NATO in 1949, near the beginning of the Cold War. “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident,” the president said. “We have to defend it. Strengthen it. Renew it.” In a deliberate contrast to Trump, who talked about withdrawing from NATO and famously declined on several occasions to acknowledge the United States’ responsibilities under Article V of the alliance’s charter to come to the aid of members under attack, Biden cast the United States as ready to assume its responsibilities as the linchpin of the alliance. “We will keep the faith” with the obligation, he said, adding that “an attack on one is an attack on all.” But he also pressed Europe to think about challenges in a new way — different from the Cold War, even if the two biggest geostrategic adversaries seem familiar. “We must prepare together for long-term strategic competition with China,” he said, naming “cyberspace, artificial intelligence and biotechnology” as the new territory for competition. And he argued for pushing back against Russia — he called Putin by his last name, with no title attached — mentioning in particular the need to respond to the SolarWinds attack that was aimed at federal and corporate computer networks. “Addressing Russian recklessness and hacking into computer networks in the United States and across Europe and the world has become critical to protect collective security,” Biden said. The president avoided delving in to the difficult question of how to make Russia pay a price without escalating the confrontation. A senior White House cyberofficial told reporters this week that the scope and depth of the Russian intrusion was still under study, and officials are clearly struggling to come up with options to fulfill Biden’s commitment to make Putin pay a price for the attack. But it was the dynamic with Macron, who has made a habit of criticizing the NATO alliance as nearing “brain death” and no longer “pertinent” since the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact, that captured attention. Macron wants NATO to act as more of a political body, a place where European members have equivalent status to the United States and are less subject to the American tendency to dominate decision-making. A Europe better able to defend itself, and more autonomous, would make NATO “even stronger than before,” Macron insisted. He said Europe should be “much more in charge of its own security,” increasing its commitments to spending on defense to “rebalance” the trans-Atlantic relationship. That is not a widely shared view among the many European states that do not want to spend the money required, and the nations of Central and Eastern Europe are unwilling to trust their security to anyone but the United States. Macron also urged that the renovation of NATO’s security abilities should involve “a dialogue with Russia.” NATO has always claimed that it is open to better relations with Moscow, but that Russia is not interested, especially as long as international sanctions remain after its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine about seven years ago. But Macron, speaking in English to answer a question, also argued that Europe could not count on the United States as much as it had in past decades. “We must take more of the burden of our own protection,” he said. In practice, it will take many years for Europe to build up a defense arm that would make it more self-reliant. But Macron is determined to start now, just as he is determined to increase the European Union’s technological capacities so that it can become less dependent on American and Chinese supply chains. Biden, in contrast, wants to deepen those supply chains — of both hardware and software — among like-minded Western allies in an effort to lessen Chinese influence. He is preparing to propose a new joint project for European and American technology companies in areas like semiconductors and the kinds of software that Russia exploited in the SolarWinds hacking. It was Merkel who dwelled on the complexities of dealing with China, given its dual role as competitor and necessary partner for the West. “In recent years, China has gained global clout, and as trans-Atlantic partners and democracies, we must do something to counter this,” Merkel said. “Russia continually entangles European Union members in hybrid conflicts,” she said. “Consequently, it is important that we come up with a trans-Atlantic agenda toward Russia that makes cooperative offers on the one hand, but on the other very clearly names the differences.” While Biden announced he would make good on an American promise to donate $4 billion to the campaign to expedite the manufacturing and distribution of coronavirus vaccines around the world — a move approved last year by a Democratic-led House and a Republican led-Senate — there were clear differences in approach during the meeting. Underscoring the importance that the European Union accords to Africa, Macron called on Western nations to supply 13 million vaccine doses to African governments “as soon as possible” to protect health workers. He warned that if the alliance failed to do this, “our African friends will be pressured by their populations, and rightly so, to buy doses from the Chinese, the Russians or directly from laboratories.” Vaccine donations would reflect “a common will to advance and share the same values,” Macron said. Otherwise, “the power of the West, of Europeans and Americans, will be only a concept, and not a reality.” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, on Friday also urged countries and drugmakers to help speed up the manufacturing and distribution of vaccines across the globe, warning that the world could be “back at Square 1” if some countries went ahead with their vaccination campaigns and left others behind. “Vaccine equity is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smartest to do,” Tedros said to the Munich conference. He argued that the longer it would take to vaccinate populations in every country, the longer the pandemic would remain out of control. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
- USA TODAY
The ACLU has been in talks with the Biden White House about the change, which would allow nonbinary and intersex people to get passports that reflect who they are.
- 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.