Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 23, 2021

Ten people die in Colorado supermarket shooting, CDC director warns of possible "avoidable" COVID surge, and more


10 killed in Boulder, Colorado, supermarket shooting

A gunman killed 10 people at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket on Monday. The gunfire sent shoppers and employees running for cover, with some escaping through a rear loading dock and others finding shelter in nearby shops. The attacker reportedly killed a police officer, Eric Talley, who responded to reports of the shooting. "These were people going about their day, doing their shopping," Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty said, describing the attack as "a tragedy and a nightmare." It was the second U.S. mass shooting in a week, coming just days after a gunman killed eight people at three spas in the Atlanta area. A lone suspect was taken into custody after the Boulder shooting. Police said it was too early in the investigation to determine a motive.


CDC director warns of potential 'avoidable' COVID-19 surge

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned on Monday that if Americans stop wearing masks, social distancing, and taking other coronavirus precautions, the country could suffer "another avoidable surge" of COVID-19 infections. "As I've stated before, the continued relaxation of prevention measures while cases are still high and while concerning variants are spreading rapidly throughout the United States is a serious threat to the progress we have made as a nation," Walensky said at a White House briefing. As the week started, the seven-day average of new infections had risen by 5 percent or more in 27 states, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.


Biden sends 3 top officials to Mexico, Guatemala to discuss migrant surge

President Biden on Monday sent three top U.S. border officials to Mexico and Guatemala to discuss ways to address a wave of people heading north to try to enter the United States. The number of undocumented migrants attempting to cross the southern U.S. border increased dramatically last month, and 75 percent of the families and unaccompanied minors in the surge came from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, many of them fleeing violence and seeking asylum. Roberta Jacobson, top National Security Council official on border issues, went to Mexico aiming to jointly "develop an effective and humane plan of action to manage migration," NSC spokeswoman Emily Horne said. Juan Gonzalez, the White House's senior director for the Western Hemisphere, headed to Guatemala to talk to leaders there about the "root causes of migration in the region," Horne said.


U.S. imposes sanctions on 2 Chinese officials over abuses against Uyghurs

The Biden administration announced Monday that it was imposing sanctions against two Chinese officials for "serious human rights abuses" against members of China's Uyghur Muslim minority. The measures were coordinated with allies, including the European Union, Canada, and the United Kingdom, the Treasury Department said. The announcement was part of a joint effort to show unity that included condemnation of Beijing's treatment of numerous ethnic minorities in Xinjiang province. "The evidence, including from the Chinese Government's own documents, satellite imagery, and eyewitness testimony is overwhelming," the joint statement said. "China's extensive program of repression includes severe restrictions on religious freedoms, the use of forced labor, mass detention in internment camps, forced sterilizations, and the concerted destruction of Uyghur heritage."


Biden advisers preparing $3 trillion spending plan

President Biden's economic advisers are working on a $3 trillion proposal to boost the economy, support manufacturers, and address financial inequality, The New York Times reported on Monday, citing documents, and people familiar with the plans. The plans, expected to reach Biden this week, include measures to reduce carbon emissions. The first major initiative would be an infrastructure push that would be paid for in part by tax hikes on the rich. The $3 trillion in spending does not include the cost of temporary tax cuts under consideration to fight poverty. That could add hundreds of billions of dollars to the overall cost of Biden's agenda. Administration officials noted that the details of the plan are still changing.


Sidney Powell calls for dismissing Dominion suit

Sidney Powell, a right-wing lawyer who once served on former President Donald Trump's legal team, asked a federal court on Monday to dismiss Dominion Voting Systems' $1.3 billion defamation suit against her. Powell's lawyers argued that "no reasonable person" would mistake her baseless accusations of an elaborate multinational, communist election-rigging scheme as "truly statements of fact." Powell's lawyers said that her claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen using rigged voting software were merely her opinions, and therefore amounted to constitutionally protected "political speech." Dominion said it wants to go to trial to force Powell to defend her claims in court. "Dominion Voting Systems is eager for the case to move forward and intends to hold Powell accountable," Dominion attorney Tom Clare said in an emailed statement.


Senate confirms Marty Walsh as labor secretary, completing Biden's Cabinet

The Senate on Monday voted 68 to 29 to confirm Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as labor secretary, making him the first person from a union background to lead the Labor Department in nearly 50 years. With Walsh's confirmation, President Biden now has all 15 Cabinet secretaries in place at the top of major executive departments, making him the first president since Ronald Regan to have all of his original picks confirmed, with none withdrawn or voted down. And despite a late start to the confirmation process, partisan polarization in Congress, and an impeachment trial, Biden won confirmation for all his major Cabinet secretaries faster than either of his two predecessors, Donald Trump and Barack Obama.


Agency: AstraZeneca might have reported incomplete vaccine-trial data

AstraZeneca might have used outdated or incomplete data from the U.S. trial of its coronavirus vaccine when it reported results on Monday, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases said Tuesday. The miscues might have resulted in "an incomplete view of the efficacy data," the agency said. Britain's AstraZeneca, which developed its vaccine with Oxford University, reported that its vaccine was 79 percent effective against symptomatic COVID-19 in the trial, and 100 percent effective against severe illness. The federal agency urged the company to work with federal regulators to release updated data "as quickly as possible." There have been 29.8 million coronavirus cases and more than 543,00 deaths in the U.S.


NCAA, facing criticism, considers 'March Madness' brand for women's tournament

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, under pressure to address the lack of resources devoted to women's sports compared to men's, said Monday that it would work with staff, schools, and media partners to boost women's basketball, including allowing the "March Madness" logo to promote the annual women's basketball tournament. The announcement came after the NCAA came under fire for reserving the "March Madness" brand for the men's tournament exclusively. "The value of the women's tournament would go up pretty dramatically if they were able to have the halo of the March Madness branding as well," said branding consultant Jeff Hunt of Legend Labs. The NCAA has faced outrage recently since a social media post contrasting the weight-training facilities and food at the men's and women's tournaments went viral.


NBA legend Elgin Baylor dies at 86

Elgin Baylor, the NBA legend who starred for 14 seasons for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers, died Monday, the Lakers announced. He was 86. The Lakers said Baylor died of natural causes at his home, with his wife and daughter at his side. Baylor has been credited with helping make professional basketball faster paced. He's considered one of the greatest players of all time. The 11-time All Star led the Lakers to eight finals appearances. They lost six NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics, and one to the New York Knicks, finally winning in 1971-72, but Baylor retired early in the season. He scored 71 points in a game in 1960, a league record Wilt Chamberlain broke two years later with a 100-point game.


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