10 things you need to know today: March 12, 2021
Biden signs the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, New York state lawmakers authorize Cuomo impeachment investigation, and more
Biden signs $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill
President Biden on Thursday signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package into law, setting into motion the distribution of checks of up to $1,400 to most Americans and billions of dollars in aid to schools, businesses, and state, local, and tribal governments to help them contend with the pandemic. The bill also extends extra unemployment benefits and provides more funding for vaccine distribution. "I believe this … historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people of this nation — working people, middle class folks, people that built the country — a fighting chance," Biden said, before signing the bill from the Oval Office with Vice President Kamala Harris. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Americans could start receiving the direct payments as early as this weekend.
New York State Assembly authorizes impeachment inquiry into Cuomo
The New York State Assembly has authorized a committee to start an impeachment investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), Speaker Carl Heastie (D) said Thursday. Dozens of Democratic state lawmakers called for Cuomo to resign following the latest allegation by a former female aide who said Cuomo groped her. The Albany Police Department said it had been notified by Cuomo's office and the New York State Police about the groping allegation. A police spokesman said the unidentified accuser, who was a Cuomo aide, had not filed a formal complaint, but that the department had reached out to her lawyer. Beth Garvey, the governor's acting counsel, confirmed to The New York Times that she had reported the allegations to the Albany police. Cuomo has denied he ever "touched anyone inappropriately."
Biden tells states to make vaccines available to all by May 1
President Biden on Thursday called for states to open coronavirus vaccinations to all U.S. adults by May 1, saying in a prime-time address that he would "not relent until we beat this virus." Biden urged Americans to get vaccinated and said that would be key to making small-group celebrations possible for the Fourth of July. "America is coming back," Biden said. Biden, who has promised enough vaccine doses for all adults by the end of May, said his administration would aim to double the number of pharmacies administering vaccinations, and more than double federal mass vaccination centers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will issue new guidance on safe travel and group activities before the Fourth of July holiday.
House passes 2 gun-control bills
The House on Thursday passed two gun-control bills, one seeking to close a loophole by expanding background checks to online and gun-show sales, and the other providing 10 business days for federal background checks before gun sales can be licensed. Eight Republicans voted for the first bill; only two backed the second. The limited GOP support signaled a tough time for the measures in the Senate, which is split 50-50 with Democrats holding a narrow majority thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote. President Biden supports expanded gun-control laws. Most Republicans forcefully oppose gun restrictions, while most Democrats argue they are necessary to curb gun violence, including a series of deadly school shootings over the last decade.
Minnesota court adds 3rd-degree murder charge against Chauvin
Hennepin County, Minnesota, Judge Peter Cahill on Thursday reinstated a third-degree murder charge against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is on trial for the killing of George Floyd. Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd's neck for about nine minutes before he died, was already facing charges of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. As the trial got underway this week, prosecutors pressed for an answer to their request to add the third charge, which had previously been dismissed. But an appeals court recently ordered the judge to reconsider this decision. On Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected Chauvin's appeal looking to prevent the third-degree murder charge from being added. Jury selection started on Tuesday, and five jurors have been seated. Opening statements are likely to start on March 29.
Trump defense secretary says it's 'pretty much definitive' he caused Capitol riot
Former acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, who was in office on the day of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, said in an interview with Vice published Thursday that without former President Donald Trump, it's "pretty much definitive" that the attack wouldn't have occurred. When asked if Trump is responsible, Miller pointed to the speech Trump delivered near the White House prior to the riot. "The question is, would anybody have marched on the Capitol and overrun the Capitol without the president's speech?" Miller asked. "I think it's pretty much definitive that wouldn't have happened." Miller added, however, that he isn't sure whether Trump knew that he was "enraging the crowd" to riot at the Capitol.
Dozens abducted from Nigeria forestry college
Gunmen kidnapped 30 students from a forestry college in northwest Nigeria overnight, three students said Friday. The attack at the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, which sits near a military academy in a region plagued by roaming armed gangs, was the fourth mass school abduction in the country since December. Sani Danjuma, a student at the college, said all of those kidnapped were women, although authorities did not immediately confirm any details. Some students said some abductees escaped the kidnappers. The jihadist group Boko Haram started the trend of abductions from boarding schools in 2014, when militants seized 270 schoolgirls from a school in Chibok. About 100 remain missing. Since then, armed gangs have started kidnapping students for ransom.
Several countries suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccine
Thailand on Friday became the first Asian country to join a growing number of nations that have suspended use of the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford due to reports of blood clots in some people who had been vaccinated. Thailand's decision came shortly after Denmark imposed a two-week pause to its nationwide effort after news of blood clots and one death. Norway, Iceland, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia also halted use of the vaccine, setting back Europe's struggling vaccination campaign. Many other countries defended their decision to continue using the AstraZeneca shot. Europe's drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency, said Thursday there was no evidence the vaccine caused the clots, and said its benefits "continue to outweigh its risks."
S&P 500 closes at record high as tech stocks rebound
U.S. stock index futures rose overnight after the S&P 500 rose by 1 percent to close at a record high on Thursday, fueled by a rebound in tech shares. The tech-heavy Nasdaq spiked by 2.5 percent, led by surging tech giants, including Netflix and Facebook. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 0.6 percent to close at a record high for the 12th time this year. Demand for stocks has bounced back this week as bond yields stabilized after a recent surge. "Some calm has come back into the bond market," said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at LPL Financial. "And that's brought some more calm and confidence from equity investors." U.S. stock futures dropped early Friday, led by tech shares.
Biden says hate crimes against Asian-Americans 'must stop'
President Biden condemned "vicious" hate crimes against Asian-Americans that have surged during the coronavirus pandemic, saying they "must stop." Biden called the hate crimes "un-American." "They're forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America," Biden said. Researchers and activists have recorded thousands of racist incidents targeting Asian-Americans in the past year. New York police said hate crimes against Asian-Americans rose to 28 in 2020, up from three in 2019. Activists and some politicians say the attacks were fueled by former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly blamed China for the coronavirus pandemic and frequently referred to the coronavirus as the "Chinese virus" because the first outbreak occurred in Wuhan, China.