Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 16, 2021

Pelosi says commission will investigate Capitol riot, extreme cold leaves millions without power in Texas, and more


Pelosi: '9/11-type commission' will investigate Capitol attack

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday that Congress would establish an independent commission to investigate the "facts and causes" of the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a "terrorist mob" of former President Donald Trump's supporters. Pelosi said in a letter to lawmakers that the commission would be like the one that looked into the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on Washington and New York. Senators from both parties called for a bipartisan, 9/11-style commission following the Senate's Saturday acquittal of Trump on the charge that he incited the insurrection by falsely claiming that fraud cost him the November election and urging supporters to go to the Capitol to fight to overturn the result. Pelosi said that after Trump's impeachment trial and a review of Capitol security, it is clear "we must get to the truth of how this happened."


WHO approves emergency use of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine

The World Health Organization on Monday announced that it had approved emergency use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University coronavirus vaccine, a move that will help expand the use of the shot in the developing world. AstraZeneca's vaccine is cheaper and easier to distribute than some rivals, including the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, which the WHO approved for emergency use in December. "We now have all the pieces in place for the rapid distribution of vaccines. But we still need to scale up production," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "We continue to call for COVID-19 vaccine developers to submit their dossiers to WHO for review at the same time as they submit them to regulators in high-income countries."


Extreme cold weather cuts power to millions of Texans

Extreme cold weather hit the central and southern United States with dangerously low temperatures on Monday. About 150 million people were under winter weather advisories as the storm hit or threatened 25 states. Texas took some of the worst of the brutal cold, with the entire state placed under a winter storm warning on Sunday for the first time in history. About 3.8 million lost electricity as the state was hammered with snow and ice, and energy demand soared with everyone needing heat at once. Driving conditions were treacherous, resulting in hundreds of wrecks. Texas authorities urged people not to travel. Houston's Bush International and Hobby airports were closed. Over the next day snow and ice are expected from Oklahoma to New Hampshire.


Perdue files to run against Warnock in 2022

Former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), who lost his bid for re-election in a runoff against Democrat Sen. Jon Ossoff, filed paperwork to run against the state's other newly elected senator, Raphael Warnock (D), in 2022. Perdue, a former businessman, first ran as an outsider, and later became a close ally of former President Donald Trump. His establishment of a "Perdue for Senate" campaign committee marked the beginning of Republicans' push to regain control of the Senate. Warnock and Ossoff swept Georgia's two runoffs on Jan. 5 to give Democrats 50 seats in the Senate, seizing control of an evenly split chamber with Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote. Ossoff beat Perdue, who was seeking a second term, 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent. Warnock, who is completing a term vacated by Republican former Sen. Johnny Isakson, beat Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, 51 percent to 49 percent.


Contractor killed, U.S. service member injured in Iraq rocket attack

Rocket fire hit a base used by the U.S.-led coalition in the northern Iraq city of Irbil on Monday, killing a civilian contractor and injuring a U.S. service member and five other contractors. Two U.S. officials said the contractor who died was not American. A little-known group that some Iraqi officials linked to Iran claimed responsibility for the attack, potentially raising tensions as the Biden administration considers rejoining the Iran nuclear deal. U.S. officials described the strike as "indirect fire." Local media reported that rockets hit several places in the city, causing an undetermined number of injuries. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed outrage over "these ruthless acts of violence," and said in a written statement that the U.S. government would work with Iraqi authorities to hold those responsible accountable.


Cuomo acknowledges lack of transparency on coronavirus deaths in nursing homes

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) conceded on Monday that his administration failed to provide full disclosure of coronavirus-related deaths at the state's nursing homes. This was Cuomo's first attempt to address the subject since one of his top aides, Melissa DeRosa, acknowledged last week that the state had withheld data from state lawmakers, hoping to avoid a federal investigation into its handling of outbreaks in nursing homes. Cuomo said his administration held back the information because it had its hands full providing data to the federal government. "There was a delay," he said, adding that the state's failure to answer questions fueled "skepticism, cynicism, and conspiracy theories which furthered confusion."


Parler relaunches a month after battle with Amazon

Social media site Parler said it had relaunched on Monday after a monthlong service disruption. The platform, which became popular with conservatives who accused Facebook and Twitter of censorship, was yanked from app stores by Apple and Google, and dropped by Amazon's web hosting services because the tech giants said it failed to police posts that incited violence, in violation of their rules. The clash came after some supporters of then-President Donald Trump used Parler to plan their role in the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, aiming to overturn Trump's election loss to President Biden. Parler's former CEO, John Matze, said he was fired after the site was forced offline, and he accused the company of trying to censor him. Interim Parler CEO Mark Meckler said the site "is here to stay" as a "platform dedicated to free speech, privacy, and civil dialogue."


Fauci receives Israeli prize for 'defending science'

Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, won a $1 million Israeli prize for "defending science in the face of uninformed opposition during the challenging COVID crisis," the Tel-Aviv-University-based Dan David Foundation announced on Monday. "As the COVID-19 pandemic unraveled, (Fauci) leveraged his considerable communication skills to address people gripped by fear and anxiety and worked relentlessly to inform individuals in the United States and elsewhere about the public health measures essential for containing the pandemic's spread," the foundation's awards committee said. Fauci clashed several times with then-President Donald Trump over the importance of masks and other issues, and admitted Monday that he was concerned he'd get COVID-19 in the Trump White House. He stayed on to continue serving as an adviser under President Biden.


3 sailors test positive in 2nd coronavirus outbreak on USS Theodore Roosevelt

Three sailors have tested positive for coronavirus aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, Navy officials announced Monday. It was the second outbreak within a year aboard the ship while at sea. The sailors reportedly were not suffering symptoms and were isolated, along with people who had close contact with them. "The ship is following an aggressive mitigation strategy in accordance with Navy and CDC guidelines to include mandatory mask wearing, social distancing, and proper hygiene and sanitation practices," the Navy statement said. The ship remained underway and fully operational. Last year, it was devastated by hundreds of cases, prompting its commanding officer to plead with superiors to let him evacuate most of the vessel's 4,800 sailors in Guam. One in four tested positive. One sailor died.


Lincoln Project hires law firm for internal review after harassment allegations

The Lincoln Project announced Monday that it had hired the law firm Paul Hastings to review allegations that one of the group's co-founders, John Weaver, had harassed 21 men. The anti-Trump organization, founded in 2019 by current and former Republicans, said the review of Weaver's involvement was "part of a comprehensive review of our operations and culture." The group, which ran hundreds of ads opposing then-President Donald Trump during the 2020 electoral campaign, said it had released staffers from confidentiality agreements. "We are committed to creating a positive, diverse, and inclusive workplace environment at The Lincoln Project and inappropriate behavior by anyone associated with the organization will not be tolerated under any circumstances," The Lincoln Project said in a statement.


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