Daily briefing

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

Beyoncé and Taylor Swift set records at women-dominated Grammys, Biden declines to urge Cuomo resignation pending investigation, and more

1

Beyoncé, Taylor Swift set records at women-dominated Grammy Awards

Women performers dominated the 63rd annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, with four solo women taking the top four awards for the first time in Grammy history. Billie Eilish won record of the year for "Everything I Wanted," then tried to give the Grammy to Megan Thee Stallion, who had already won best new artist and best rap performance (with Beyoncé) for "Savage." Taylor Swift made history with her third album of the year Grammy, for Folklore. H.E.R. won song of the year for "I Can't Breathe." Beyoncé won her 28th Grammy for best R&B performance, for "Black Parade," becoming the most decorated performer and woman in Grammy history. Only conductor George Solti has more, with 31. Trevor Noah hosted the ceremony at a socially distant outdoor stage.

2

Biden calls for awaiting outcome of Cuomo investigation

President Biden on Sunday declined to back calls for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign in the face of sexual misconduct allegations, saying it was important to await the conclusion of the investigation, which is already underway. "We should see what it brings us," Biden said. At least seven women, several of them former aides, have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment or other misconduct. One former aide says Cuomo groped her. Cuomo has denied the allegations but said he was sorry if he made any of the women feel uncomfortable. He has said he will not resign. Numerous Democratic state lawmakers and the state's two Democratic U.S. senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, have urged Cuomo to step down.

3

Record-breaking winter storm halts travel in Colorado, Wyoming

A record-breaking blizzard hammered Colorado, Wyoming, and western Nebraska with high winds and heavy snow, bringing travel in the region to a halt. The National Weather Service issued an emergency alert calling for people to avoid driving because road conditions were extremely dangerous. Parts of northern Colorado got 24 inches of snow. Nearly 20 inches fell in Denver over just two hours. About 35 inches fell in Wyoming west of Cheyenne. The Weather Service warned of "difficult to impossible travel conditions" caused by "deep, snow-packed roadways and whiteout conditions" in Cheyenne, which got nearly 26 inches of snow, and throughout southeastern Wyoming. Tens of thousands of customers lost power in northern Colorado, and airlines canceled about 1,900 flights at Denver International Airport on Saturday and Sunday.

4

Pelosi vows swift push for infrastructure, jobs bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday promised that lawmakers would quickly work to pass a "fiscally sound" job and infrastructure package. The push follows the approval of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, the first major legislative victory of the year for President Biden and his fellow Democrats. But that package passed without Republican support, and it remained unclear whether the infrastructure package would win over any GOP lawmakers. "Building roads and bridges and water supply systems and the rest has always been bipartisan … except when they oppose it with a Democratic president," Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, said he hopes Congress can pass bipartisan infrastructure legislation, but that House Democrats undermined a bipartisan Senate proposal in the last Congress.

5

39 die as Myanmar protests continue

At least 39 protesters died in clashes with Myanmar security forces on Sunday as demonstrations against a February military coup continued for a sixth week. The latest fatalities bring the death toll from the protests to 126. Most of Sunday's deaths occurred in Hlaingthaya, an industrial suburb of Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, though at least 16 people were killed elsewhere. Martial law was imposed in Hlaingthaya and another district of Yangon, state media announced. An army-run television station said security forces acted after four garment factories and a fertilizer plant were set on fire. The Chinese embassy in Myanmar said several Chinese staffers were injured and trapped in the apparent arson attacks.

6

Report: N.Y. vaccine czar called officials to assess Cuomo loyalty

Larry Schwartz, a longtime adviser to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), and the state's COVID-19 vaccine czar, made calls to New York county officials last week that led at least a few of them to worry about their jurisdiction's vaccine supply, The Washington Post reported Sunday. Schwartz acknowledged calling the officials to gauge their reactions to Cuomo's precarious political situation. He claims he did so in a role that was distinct from his vaccine duties. One county executive filed notice of an impending ethics complaint with the public integrity unit of the state attorney general's office. "At best, it was inappropriate," the executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Post. "At worst, it was clearly over the ethical line."

7

Fauci: Trump should urge supporters to get vaccine

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that former President Donald Trump should encourage his followers to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Fauci, the federal government's top infectious disease expert, said on Fox News Sunday that polling indicates Trump supporters are more likely than other Americans to refuse the coronavirus vaccines, so it would be a "game changer" if Trump would use his "incredible influence" among Republicans to reduce their resistance. Fauci said politics should not be allowed to interfere with "commonsense, no-brainer" public-health measures being used to fight the spread of the coronavirus, including vaccines and masks. Trump did not appear in a public-service campaign launched last week in which the other ex-presidents urged people to get vaccinated.

8

AstraZeneca says its vaccine is not linked to blood clots

AstraZeneca said late Sunday that no scientific evidence existed to tie its coronavirus vaccine to recent deaths in Europe from blood clots. AstraZeneca said 17 million people have been inoculated with its vaccine, and only 15 cases of deep vein thrombosis and 22 pulmonary embolisms have been reported. "This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed COVID-19 vaccines," the drug maker said. The statement came on the same day that the Dutch government announced it was suspending use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for two weeks pending a safety investigation. Ireland, and Italy's northern Piedmont region, also halted its use, joining Norway, Denmark, and several other countries that took similar action last week following reports about blood clots.

9

Saints QB Drew Brees announces retirement

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Sunday announced his retirement after a record-setting pro football career. Brees let his four children do the honors, posting a video on Instagram in which they said: "After 15 years with the Saints and 20 years in the NFL, our dad is finally gonna retire. So he can spend more time with us! Yeah!!" Brees, 42, is the NFL's all-time leader in career passing yards (80,358), and second in touchdown passes (571). He is credited with helping to revive the Saints and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Brees and coach Sean Payton arrived together in 2006 and led the Saints to the NFC Championship Game in their first year, and won the franchise's only Super Bowl three years later. Brees was the game's MVP.

10

Gonzaga, Baylor, Illinois, Michigan earn NCAA tournament top seeds

The NCAA unveiled the lineup of the 2021 men's college basketball tournament on Sunday. As expected, unbeaten Gonzaga took the top seed, playing as the favorite in the West region. Baylor, Illinois, and Michigan took the other No. 1 seeds. Hartford and Grand Canyon earned their first March Madness berths. Georgetown and Oregon State got in after starting in last place in the Big East and Pac-12 to become conference champions. Longtime powerhouses Duke and Kentucky both will be absent for the first time in 45 years after dropping out of their conference tournaments last week due to coronavirus infections. The pandemic forced the cancellation of last year's tournament. This time, teams will be tested daily and required to forfeit if they don't have at least five players available.

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