Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 28, 2021

U.S. military leaders join allies in condemning junta-sponsored violence in Myanmar, Birx says she believes majority of U.S. COVID-19 deaths were preventable, and more


U.S. military leaders join allies in condemning junta-sponsored violence in Myanmar

Military leaders from 12 countries, including the United States, issued a rare joint statement Saturday night condemning the use of force by Myanmar's security forces following the deadliest day of anti-coup protests since the movement began. Security forces reportedly killed 114 people, including children, as the ruling military junta, which seized power from the civilian government on Feb. 1, celebrated Armed Forces Day. The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff joined their counterparts from Australia, Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United Kingdom in signing the brief statement, which urged Myanmar's military to "cease violence and work to continue to restore respect and credibility with the people of Myanmar that it has lost through its actions." On Sunday, security forces again opened fire, this time at a crowd that had gathered for a funeral for one of Saturday's victims. There have been no reports of casualties.


Birx says she believes majority of U.S. COVID-19 deaths were preventable

Former White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said she believes most of the COVID-19 deaths in the United States could have been prevented if mitigation efforts, including extended shutdowns and mask guidance, were implemented earlier under the Trump administration. "I look at this way: The first time, we have an excuse," Birx told CNN's chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta in the network's upcoming documentary COVID War: The Pandemic Doctors Speak Out that will air Sunday at 9 p.m. ET. "There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially." As things stand, the United States is approaching 550,000 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began.


Salvage teams hope high tide will help refloat grounded Ever Given

There is still no clear timeline for when the container ship wedged in the Suez Canal may be free, but there is hope that a "higher-than-usual spring tide" will help salvage teams refloat the vessel, The Wall Street Journal reports. Two additional tugboats were headed to the canal on Sunday to assist with the efforts, The Associated Press reports. Sunday is considered "very critical" and workers reportedly plan to make two attempts, coinciding with high tide, at freeing the Japanese-owned Ever Given, which is blocking access to a crucial global trade route. If those attempts fail, "partial offloading" of the ship, a scenario authorities hope to avoid, will likely begin. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi has already ordered the canal authority to start preparing to take containers off the Ever Given.


Maine GOP votes against censuring Collins

The Maine Republican Party on Sunday overwhelmingly rejected a resolution to censure Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) over her vote to convict former President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial earlier this year. In the end, the party, by a count of 41-19, backed Collins. Collins said the decision was "a testament to the Republican Party's 'big tent' philosophy that respects different views but unites around core principles." Collins was one of seven GOP senators to vote to convict Trump following the trial, and her colleagues have faced varying degrees of backlash from their state parties. Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) were hit with statewide censures.


China places retaliatory sanctions on U.S., Canadian citizens

China on Saturday placed retaliatory sanctions on U.S. and Canadian citizens, including Gayle Manchin, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. She is married to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.). The decision follows coordinated action by the U.S., European Union, United Kingdom, and Canada to sanction four Chinese officials for their role in the detention of at least 1 million Muslim Uighurs and people from other ethnic groups in China's Xinjiang region. Beijing responded with similar sanctions on EU and U.K. officials earlier in the week, as well. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday called the measures "baseless" and said they will "only contribute to the growing international scrutiny of the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang."


New York lawmakers introduce bill that would legalize recreational marijuana

Leaders of New York's state Senate and Assembly on Saturday night introduced a bill that would legalize and tax recreational cannabis in the Empire State. The bill reportedly stipulates that people over 21 can purchase laboratory-tested marijuana, which will come with a 9 percent sales tax, a 4 percent locality tax, and an additional tax based on THC content. State Sen. Liz Krueger (D) said in a statement the proposed legislation, which could be taken up as early as next week, aims to "repair the heavily discriminatory impact that enforcement of prohibition has had on communities of color in" New York. Provisions, per NBC News, include dedicating 40 percent of revenue for communities disproportionately affected by the drug war, automatic expungement of records for people with previous convictions, and the elimination of penalties for possession of less than three ounces of cannabis.


At least 14 wounded in suicide bombing outside Indonesian church

At least 14 people were wounded in Makassar, Indonesia, on Sunday after two suicide bombers detonated explosives outside a Catholic church where a Palm Sunday Mass was being held. The bombing suspects were reportedly the only two fatalities. Police have not publicly said who may have been behind the attack and there have been no immediate claims of responsibility. Two of the people injured were reportedly church security guards who stopped the suspected attackers from entering the cathedral grounds. Indonesian President Joko Widodo condemned "this act of terrorism" and "ordered the police chief to thoroughly investigate the perpetrators' networks and tear down the networks to their roots."


Insurgent group seizes town in northern Mozambique

An insurgent group allegedly linked to the Islamic State has seized control of the town of Palma in northern Mozambique following a three-day siege. Several people have been killed and hundreds of others remain unaccounted for. The militants reportedly attacked a convoy of civilians attempting to flee Palma on Friday afternoon, resulting in multiple casualties. By Saturday evening, the insurgents had surrounded four hotels housing foreigners who work with international gas companies in the area, The New York Times reports. While it's been difficult to reach people in Palma during the siege, private security contractors reportedly fear many more people were killed. The attack is the latest development in a multi-year conflict in northern Mozambique, which has left at least 2,000 civilians dead and 670,000 displaced.


Biden's new trade rep says U.S. won't lift Chinese import tariffs anytime soon

In her first interview since her Senate confirmation, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai told The Wall Street Journal that the Biden administration is not ready to lift tariffs on Chinese imports in the near future. However, Washington may be open to negotiations with Beijing, she said. While Tai said she's aware there are calls to remove the tariffs, she explained that "yanking" them could be harmful to the U.S. economy unless the change is "communicated in a way so that the actors in the economy can make adjustments." She also acknowledged the tariffs serve as leverage for future dealings with Beijing. "No negotiator walks away from leverage, right?" she said.


Men's and women's NCAA tournament fields narrow

The Elite 8 is rounding into shape for both the men's and women's Division I basketball tournaments. On the men's side Saturday, Oregon State, Baylor, Houston, and Arkansas, who staved off a fierce Sweet 16 challenge from the tournament's Cinderella, No. 15 Oral Roberts, all secured spots in the regional finals. On the women's side, UConn, Baylor, Arizona, and Indiana, who knocked off top-seeded North Carolina State, all advanced. Sweet 16 action will continue Sunday. The women's top overall seed Stanford will look to advance against Missouri State, while fellow No. 1 South Carolina takes on Georgia Tech. Two No. 2 seeds, Maryland and Louisville, will then match up with a pair of No. 6 seeds, Texas and Oregon, respectively. For the men, No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga will look to keep its undefeated season going against Creighton, Oregon and USC will meet in an all-Pac-12 showdown, UCLA will clash with Alabama, and Michigan will square off with Florida State.


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