Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 11, 2021

House impeachment managers release previously unseen video of Capitol siege, Biden approves Myanmar sanctions, and more


House impeachment managers show previously unseen video of Capitol riot

House Democrats prosecuting former President Donald Trump on Wednesday introduced previously unseen video footage of Trump supporters storming the Capitol last month, after Trump riled them up with his bogus election fraud claims and urged them to fight to overturn President Biden's election victory. "Donald Trump surrendered his role as commander in chief and became the inciter in chief of a dangerous insurrection," said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead House impeachment manager. The video footage showed Trump supporters, including members of the right-wing extremist Proud Boys group, rampaging through the complex attacking police and shouting "Hang Mike Pence!" and searching for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The footage shows Pence, who angered Trump and his supporters by refusing to attempt to reverse the result, being rushed away from the mob by Secret Service officers.


Biden approves sanctions against Myanmar coup leaders

President Biden announced Wednesday that the U.S. will impose new sanctions against Myanmar's military leaders in response to their coup last week against the country's civilian government and detention of political leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi. The administration's actions include preventing the junta's leaders from accessing the $1 billion in Myanmar's government funds held in the United States, implementing "strong export controls," and freezing U.S. assets that benefit Myanmar's government. Humanitarian aid the U.S. directs to Myanmar's people, including funds designated for health care and civil society, will remain intact. Biden again called on the military to "relinquish power they've seized" and release the arrested officials. Protesters have defied violent crackdown and a ban on demonstrations to denounce the coup.


CDC research recommends double or tighter masks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday released new research indicating that tight-fitting masks are most effective at preventing coronavirus infection. The CDC said wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask, or tying knots in the ear loops of surgical masks, were recommended ways to increase protection, potentially reducing exposure by more than 95 percent compared to wearing no mask at all. "In the study, wearing any type of mask performed significantly better than not wearing a mask," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. "And well-fitting masks provided the greatest performance at both blocking emitted aerosols and exposure of aerosols to the receiver." However, the CDC recommends not layering anything over KN95 masks or layering two disposable masks.


Biden and China's Xi discuss Beijing's 'coercive and unfair economic practices'

President Biden on Wednesday placed his first call to Chinese President Xi Jinping since taking office. The White House said Biden raised "fundamental concerns" about the Beijing's "coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan." The leaders also discussed how to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the White House said, and Biden let Xi know that he wants the two to work together to fight climate change and prevent nuclear weapons proliferation. Former President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on China, and a senior Biden administration official told NBC News there were no immediate plans to lift them, although there "will be changes to the trade policy toward China."


Georgia prosecutor opens criminal investigation of Trump election pressure

Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis on Wednesday opened a criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump's effort to reverse President Biden's narrow victory in the state, including his Jan. 2 phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger urging him to "find" enough votes to overturn the outcome. Trump also urged Gov. Brian Kemp to call a special legislative session to review the vote. Willis, a Democrat beginning her second month in office, said in a letter to Raffensperger, Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, and Attorney General Chris Carr that she was best suited to look into "attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election," because her office is the only state investigative agency that "is not a witness to the conduct that is the subject of the investigation."


Saudi Arabia releases women's rights activist

Saudi authorities on Wednesday released women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul after 1,001 days in jail. Hathloul, 31, was known internationally for her challenge against Saudi Arabia's ban against women driving before the law was changed in 2017. Hathloul was detained in May 2018, prompting calls by human rights groups for her release. She was sentenced in December to more than five years in prison on charges that she pushed a foreign agenda and used the internet to harm public order. A judge in Riyadh on Wednesday granted her probation but barred her from discussing claims she was tortured and sexually assaulted during interrogations. Her release came as the Saudi government, which had good relations with the Trump administration, reaches out to President Biden, who criticized the kingdom during his campaign.


Chicago teachers approve deal to reopen schools

Chicago Teachers Union members on Wednesday accepted the terms of a deal to reopen schools in the district, ending a months-long standoff over whether it was safe to resume in-person classes with COVID-19 still spreading. The agreement calls for giving Chicago Public Schools teachers priority to receive vaccines, creates health and safety standards, provides a virus-testing plan, and postpones the return of most students until March, as the teachers' union had demanded. "The vast majority of CPS families have been separated from their schools for nearly a year, and the ratification of our agreement ensures families have options to choose in-person learning and make a plan that is best for them," Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS chief Janice Jackson said in a joint statement.


Powell says Fed will keep rates low until low-income workers recover

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned on Wednesday that published unemployment figures "have dramatically understated the deterioration in the labor market." America's unemployment rate during the coronavirus pandemic fell from a 14.8 percent peak in April to 6.3 percent in January. But Powell said that "the pandemic has led to the largest 12-month decline in labor force participation since at least 1948." Powell explained that numbers should factor in all the people who have been prevented from looking for work due to pandemic-related factors. Powell said the central bank would keep interest rates near zero and continue its asset purchases to stimulate the recovery until low- and moderate-income workers displaced during the COVID-19 pandemic recover, too.


Biden administration pauses Trump's pressure against TikTok

The Biden administration on Wednesday halted a push started by then-President Donald Trump to ban TikTok and force the sale of the Chinese-owned video-sharing app. Trump had tried to force TikTok's owner, Beijing-based ByteDance, to sell the app's U.S. operations to an American company, citing national security concerns. Software company Oracle teamed up with Walmart to work on a deal to acquire TikTok's U.S. business, but did not reach a final acquisition agreement. Chinese state media in September called Trump's push for a TikTok takeover "daylight robbery." Justice Department lawyer Casen Ross filed a motion in a federal appeals case indicating that the Biden administration might drop Trump's TikTok cases in federal court, saying the Justice Department was conducting "a review of the prohibitions at issue."


Hustler publisher Larry Flynt dies at 78

Hustler publisher Larry Flynt died Wednesday at his Los Angeles home. He was 78. Flynt, a ninth-grade dropout, started out with a string of bars featuring nude dancers. In 1974, he turned a newsletter he used to publicize his businesses into the sexually explicit Hustler magazine, which became the flagship of a nationwide porn empire. Hustler offered more hardcore fare than Playboy and Penthouse, including depictions of violence against women. Flynt stoked controversy after controversy, facing a series of lawsuits and becoming an unlikely free-speech champion. In 1978, he was shot and paralyzed outside a courthouse in Gwinnett County, Georgia, where he was facing an obscenity charge.


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