Daily briefing

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

Two men charged with assaulting Capitol officer who died, Deb Haaland confirmed as 1st Native American interior secretary, and more


2 arrested for assaulting Capitol Police officer who died

Federal authorities have charged Julian Elie Khater of Pennsylvania and George Pierre Tanios of West Virginia with assaulting Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick with bear spray during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, the Justice Department announced Monday. Sicknick later died. No homicide charges have been filed because authorities have not yet determined whether the toxic spray killed him. Khater, 32, was recorded in a video saying to Tanios, 39, "Give me that bear sh--." Khater later is seen discharging the spray into Sicknick's face, according to court papers. He also sprays two other officers. The suspects face nine charges, including assaulting three officers with a deadly weapon, civil disorder, and obstructing a congressional proceeding. If convicted they could face up to 20 years in prison.


Deb Haaland confirmed as 1st Native American interior secretary

The Senate on Monday confirmed Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) as President Biden's interior secretary in a 51-40 vote. Haaland, an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo, will be the first Native American to serve in the post, or as a Cabinet secretary. In 2018, Haaland and Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) became the first Native American women elected to Congress. "Rep. Haaland's confirmation represents a gigantic step forward in creating a government that represents the full richness and diversity of this country," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said before the vote. Most Republicans voted against Haaland due to Biden's climate change agenda and Haaland's past statements calling for ending natural-gas fracking and pipeline construction. She also tweeted in October that "Republicans don't believe in science."


Biden joining tour to tout coronavirus relief package benefits

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday launched a tour to promote the newly approved $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, the administration's first major legislative achievement. Harris visited a COVID-19 vaccination site and a culinary academy in Las Vegas. She said at the academy that the tour was more "education campaign" than sales pitch, helping make people aware of their benefits. Biden stayed in Washington on Monday but travels starting Tuesday. "Shots in arms and money in pockets," Biden said at the White House. "That's important. The American Rescue Plan is already doing what it was designed to do: make a difference in people's everyday lives." The administration also is launching a $1.5 billion ad blitz to persuade reluctant people to get vaccinated.


Germany, Italy, France, Spain suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccine

Germany, Italy, France, and Spain on Monday became the latest European countries to suspend the use of AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine over concerns that it could be tied to recent deaths from blood clots. Denmark last week became the first country in the region to halt the shots. It was followed by Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, and Iceland. The governments announcing the precautions said they were awaiting a determination by Europe's drug regulator on whether the blood-clotting problems were connected to the vaccine. The pauses marked the latest setback for Europe's vaccination campaign, which has had a slow rollout. AstraZeneca said the handful of severe clotting issues among the 17 million people inoculated with its COVID-19 vaccine was lower than would be expected in the general population.


Vatican says Catholic priests can't bless same-sex marriages

The Vatican issued a statement Monday saying that Catholic priests can't bless same-sex unions because God "cannot bless sin." The two-page statement was released by the Vatican's orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and approved by Pope Francis. "There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family," the statement said. Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the LGBTQ-centered Catholic group New Ways Ministry, said the statement failed to recognize what the Catholic faithful do — that the love between committed same-sex couples is "divinely inspired and divinely supported and thus meets the standard to be blessed." Pope Francis has endorsed same-sex civil unions but condemned same-sex marriage.


Chauvin attorney asks for trial delay over news of settlement with Floyd family

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's attorney on Monday requested a delay in his high-profile murder trial due to news that George Floyd's family will receive $27 million from the city to settle a wrongful death lawsuit. Defense attorney Eric Nelson argued the news "has incredible potential to taint the jury pool." He also asked that the trial be moved. Judge Peter Cahill said he agreed the settlement could potentially impact the case and said he will consider a delay, and reportedly said he would re-interview the eight jurors who were seated when the trial began last week. Floyd died after Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges.


Report: Dallas convention center will be used to house migrant teens

The Biden administration plans to house up to 3,000 immigrant teenagers at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas to help confront a surge of migrant children at the border, according to a memo sent to the Dallas City Council on Monday and obtained by The Associated Press. A February surge of people crossing the southern border without legal status has overwhelmed facilities run by the Health and Human Services Department to house immigrant children. That has left many children to be housed for extended periods in tent facilities run by the Border Patrol, which typically isn't supposed to hold children for more than three days. The convention center will be used for up to 90 days to house boys ages 15 to 17, starting as early as this week.


S&P 500, Dow hit record highs

The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average continued their record-setting surge on Monday, both gaining to close at all-time highs. The S&P 500 rose by nearly 0.7 percent. The Dow gained 0.5 percent to post its sixth straight record high. The tech-heavy Nasdaq, which has seen big swings lately, rose by nearly 1.1 percent. The market has been boosted in recent days from the increasing pace of COVID-19 vaccinations and the approval of the new $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill. "With the vaccine positive news and the stimulus, we think there will continue to be a fair amount of rotation out of the stay-at-home stocks," said Greg Bassuk, CEO of AXS Investments. "We are bullish on financial services and energy coming out of the pandemic."


Stanford takes top seed in women's NCAA tournament

Stanford, UConn, North Carolina State, and South Carolina took the No. 1 seeds in the women's NCAA basketball tournament bracket announced Monday. Stanford took the top overall seed after a season that forced the Cardinal to play on the road for nine weeks after Santa Clara County officials barred all contact sports due to the coronavirus in late November. UConn will start play without head coach Geno Auriemma on the sideline after he tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. He faces 10 days of isolation before he can rejoin the team on March 24, but will miss the Huskies' opener against tournament newcomer High Point and a possible second-roundup game against Syracuse or South Dakota State. Longtime associate head coach Chris Dailey will stand in while he's out.


Mank leads 2021 Oscar nominations

This year's Oscar nominees were announced Monday, and David Fincher's Mank, a period drama about Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, led the pack with 10 nominations. The Trial of the Chicago 7, Sound of Metal, Nomadland, Minari, Judas and the Black Messiah, and The Father got six each. Two female directors were nominated in one year for the first time — Chloé Zhao for Nomadland and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman. The Best Actor nominees were Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom), Anthony Hopkins (The Father), Gary Oldman (Mank), and Steven Yeun (Minari). Viola Davis (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom), Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), Frances McDormand (Nomadland), and Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman) were nominated for Best Actress.


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