Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 15, 2021

Biden urges Congress to pass gun-law reform, senators call for a commission to investigate Capitol riot, and more

1

Biden calls for reforming gun laws on anniversary of Parkland shooting

President Biden on Sunday marked the third anniversary of the deadly Parkland, Florida, school shooting by urging Congress to pass "commonsense gun law reforms" to help curb an "epidemic of gun violence." Biden called for requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers responsible for making "weapons of war" widely available. "This administration will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call," Biden said in a statement. "We will take action to end our epidemic of gun violence and make our schools and communities safer." The Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 people dead. Many of the survivors have since spoke out against gun violence.

2

Senators call for commission to investigate Capitol riot

Republican and Democratic senators said on Sunday political talk shows that a bipartisan 9/11-style commission should investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters. The Senate on Saturday acquitted Trump on the charge of inciting the insurrection, falling 10 votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to convict him. "There's still more evidence that the American people need and deserve to hear," Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said, adding that it was important to "lay bare the record of just how responsible and how abjectly violating of his constitutional oath President Trump really was." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who voted to acquit Trump, said a commission is necessary "to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again."

3

House impeachment managers defend decision not to call witnesses

Democratic House impeachment managers on Sunday defended their decision not to call witnesses in former President Trump's impeachment trial, which would have extended proceedings both parties wanted to wrap up quickly. After Trump's acquittal on Saturday, critics accused the managers of caving to Republicans. Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) told CNN's Jake Tapper that she understands the frustration. But, she said, gathering testimony from people who were near Trump on Jan. 6 during the Capitol riot would have required a lengthy subpoena process, and many of them would have been "hostile witnesses." Plaskett argued the impeachment managers had already provided "sufficient evidence" to prove Trump incited an insurrection. "We didn't need more witnesses," she said. "We needed more senators with spines."

4

CDC: Coronavirus cases fall but U.S. not 'out of the woods'

The average daily increase in coronavirus cases fell below 100,000 in recent days for the first time in months, but experts warned Sunday that it was too early to ease efforts to prevent infections. The seven-day rolling average of daily new infections was around 200,000 in December and reached 250,000 in January before the winter surge subsided. But experts noted that the numbers remained dangerously high, with cases of new coronavirus cases surging. "We still have 100,000 cases a day. We still have somewhere between 1,500 and 3,500 deaths per day," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during an interview on CBS's Face the Nation. "And yet we see some communities relaxing some of their mitigation strategies. We are nowhere out of the woods."

5

Myanmar protests continue for 10th day

Protests against Myanmar's military coup continued for a 10th day on Monday, despite an intensifying crackdown by security forces. The military sent armored vehicles into the streets in major cities on Sunday and conducted nighttime raids targeting leading critics of the ruling junta that seized power and detained democratically elected leaders on Feb. 1. Security forces reportedly fired on protesters at a power plant where a crowd had gathered in response to reports that the military planned to cut off electricity. The junta imposed an internet blackout following the coup to silence dissent. The coup came after the military, claiming fraud, refused to recognize the results of November elections dominated by the National League for Democracy, the party of Aung San Suu Kyi.

6

Death toll in Himalayan flood rises to 50

Search crews recovered nine more bodies Sunday from the scene of a flash flood in a Himalayan region in northern India last week, bringing the death toll to 50. The disaster occurred when a glacier collapsed, sending an avalanche of ice, water, and debris rushing down a river valley. The crashing wave destroyed dams and bridges. Rescuers have been using heavy machinery in an effort to free dozens of construction workers trapped in a tunnel at a hydroelectric project. An estimated 154 people were still missing late Sunday, authorities said. "We have not lost all hope yet. We hope to find more survivors," said Swati Bhadoriya, the top government official in the region.

7

Michael McDowell avoids last-lap crash to win Daytona 500

Michael McDowell won the 2021 Daytona 500 on Sunday, taking his first victory in top-level car racing in his 358th career start. McDowell was in third, and made the move for the upset victory after escaping a last-lap crash triggered when Brad Keselowski, who was in second place, tapped his Penske teammate Joey Logano, who was in the lead. "I just can't believe it," McDowell, a 100-to-1 underdog, told FOX Sports. "I've just got to thank God. So many years just grinding it out and hoping for an opportunity like this." Early in the race, a 16-car crash took out several contenders, including Daytona 500 pole winner Alex Bowman, after just 15 laps.

8

Bitcoin price retreats after nearly hitting $50,000

The price of Bitcoin jumped to an all-time high on Sunday, nearly reaching $50,000 before retreating to below the previous record set on Feb. 11. The leading cryptocurrency's price is up by more than 60 percent so far this year. The rise has been fueled by its increasing acceptance as a mainstream form of payment. PayPal recently said customers could buy and sell coins from their accounts. Bitcoin prices rose sharply on Feb. 8 after Tesla disclosed that it had invested $1.5 billion in it. Bitcoin, now priced around $49,000, traded at about $7,000 at the start of 2020.

9

Ex-Argentina President Carlos Menem dies at 90

Former Argentine President Carlos Menem died Sunday at a Buenos Aires clinic. He was 90. The flamboyant former leader, who was still serving as a national senator, had been ill for months. The cause of death reportedly was a urinary tract infection. Menem took office in 1989 as the country faced a dire economic crisis, and served for a decade. He turned away from his party's pro-labor policies and embraced deregulation. He was credited with orchestrating a stunning recovery, then blamed for a financial collapse after he left office. "There are Argentines who will never forget what Menem did for this country," Argentine journalist and author Horacio Verbitsky once told The Washington Post. "And there are Argentines who will never forgive what Menem did to this country."

10

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry expecting second child

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced Sunday that they are expecting their second child. Their first son, Archie, will turn 2 in May. "We can confirm that Archie is going to be a big brother. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are overjoyed to be expecting their second child," a spokesperson for the couple told People. Meghan and Harry stepped down as senior members of the royal family last year. One of the reasons reportedly was that they wanted to live as a normal family. Meghan Markle, 39, revealed she had suffered a miscarriage in July. "Losing a child means carrying an almost unbearable grief, experienced by many but talked about by few," she wrote in a New York Times essay in November.

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