Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 30, 2021

Prosecutors say Chauvin 'betrayed his badge,' shipping resumes in Suez Canal after massive ship refloated, and more

1

Prosecutor says Chauvin 'betrayed his badge'

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin "betrayed his badge" and his oath to avoid "unnecessary force" when he pressed his knee into George Floyd's neck for nine minutes last year, the prosecution said Monday in the first day of Chauvin's murder trial. Special Assistant Attorney General Jerry Blackwell said Chauvin was told twice that Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in custody, did not have a pulse, but the officer didn't "let up." Defense attorneys said in their opening argument that the former officer did what he had been taught in training. The prosecution's first witness, 911 dispatcher Jena Scurry, said she watched surveillance video and noticed that Chauvin kept Floyd pinned to the street for so long she thought her video feed was frozen, and knew "something was not right."

2

Shipping resumes in Suez Canal after grounded ship refloated

Shipping traffic resumed in Egypt's Suez Canal on Monday after tugboats managed to refloat the massive container ship Ever Given, which had been wedged across the waterway, blocking it for nearly a week. The successful dislodging of the vessel triggered relief as the threat of a prolonged shipping slowdown eased. "We pulled it off!" Boskalis, a salvage company that participated in the operation, said in a statement. Suez Canal Authority chair Osama Rabie said it probably would take more than three days to clear a backlog of 422 ships waiting to pass through the canal, with 113 ships expected to pass in both directions by early Tuesday. Evergreen Line, which leases the 430-foot Ever Given, said the ship would be inspected for seaworthiness in a holding lake in the middle of the canal.

3

CDC director says rising infections stoking feeling of 'impending doom'

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said during her Monday press briefing that she has a recurring feeling of "impending doom" with new coronavirus cases rising recently after a sharp decline. She urged people to continue avoiding unnecessary travel. "I so badly want to be done, I know you all so badly want to be done, we're just almost there, but not quite yet," she said. Walensky pointed to Germany, France, and Italy, where cases have spiked over the last few weeks, noting the U.S. trajectory "looks similar." Still, Walensky suggested there's plenty of room for optimism, noting vaccines are being rolled out "so very fast." President Biden followed Walensky's remarks with a plea for states to reimpose mask requirements.

4

Moderna, Pfizer vaccines prove highly effective at preventing infections

The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccines have been highly effective at preventing infections in real-world conditions, federal scientists reported Monday. By two weeks after the second dose, the vaccines prevented 90 percent of symptomatic and asymptomatic infections. By two weeks after the first dose, they prevented 80 percent of infections. The report was consistent with data from clinical trials. The new study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that transmission was rare among vaccinated people, something scientists have long debated. The research did not confirm fears that highly contagious coronavirus variants could render vaccines less effective, because the variants were circulating during the study but the vaccines still provided protection.

5

Biden says 90 percent of U.S. adults soon will be eligible for vaccines

President Biden said on Monday that 90 percent of U.S. adults aged 16 and up will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine within the next three weeks. "For the vast, vast majority of adults, you won't have to wait until May 1. You'll be eligible for your shot on April 19," Biden said. He previously said he was directing states to open eligibility to all adults by May 1. Additionally, Biden said the number of pharmacies distributing vaccines will be increased from 17,000 locations to 40,000. Also on Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that New Yorkers age 30 and older will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine starting on March 30, while all adults in the state will be eligible starting on April 6. New York joins other states like California and Texas in opening eligibility.

6

Biden administration announces plan to boost offshore wind power

The Biden administration on Monday said plans to designate an area between New Jersey and New York a priority offshore wind zone, part of a plan to accelerate wind projects in the Atlantic under President Biden's push to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The administration said it was taking the first steps toward signing off on a massive wind farm off the New Jersey coast as part of a push to produce enough electricity to power more than 10 million homes by 2030. Meeting the goal would avoid 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. It also would create 44,000 jobs, and indirectly lead to the addition of another 33,000, the White House said. The plan also promises $3 billion in federal loan guarantees for offshore wind projects.

7

Arkansas lawmakers pass bill to ban some care for transgender youth

Arkansas lawmakers on Monday approved a bill seeking to bar doctors from providing minors with gender-affirming care, including cross-sex hormones and surgery. The bill now heads to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican. If he signs it, Arkansas will become the first state in the nation with such a ban, although 16 other states are considering similar bills. Supporters of such bans say they protect children from irreversible procedures they might regret some day. Transgender rights advocates say they plan to sue to challenge the proposals, calling them unconstitutional attempts to stir up right-wing outrage that could have devastating consequences. On Friday, Hutchinson signed a bill banning transgender women and girls from competing in women's sports.

8

Prosecutors file sex trafficking charges against Ghislaine Maxwell

Federal prosecutors on Monday filed sex trafficking charges against Ghislaine Maxwell for allegedly recruiting a 14-year-old girl for sexual assault by the late wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide in jail. Prosecutors say Maxwell got the underage girl to come to Epstein's Palm Beach, Florida, home to perform massages that led to molestation from 2001 to 2004. The indictment alleges that Maxwell, Epstein's longtime associated, interacted with the girl several times, and knew she was under 18. The indictment also says Maxwell encouraged the girl to recruit others to perform "sexualized massages." Maxwell has been jailed since July pending trial on previous charges, including conspiracy and enticing minors to travel for illegal sex acts. She has pleaded not guilty to the earlier charges, which she denies.

9

Elderly Asian American woman attacked in Manhattan as hate crimes rise

A man attacked an elderly Asian American woman in Midtown Manhattan on Monday, seriously injuring her as a man shown on security video watched from inside a building but did nothing. The 65-year-old woman was hospitalized. The New York City Police Department launched a search for the man after the attack. The video showed him repeatedly stomping on the woman's face. He made several anti-Asian statements, then casually walked away after the attack. The video footage shows one man inside the building watching the assault, and two others wearing blazers later walk into the frame, and one closes the door while the woman is lying on the ground outside. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn recently doubled the number of attorneys handling civil rights cases to four after a rise in hate crimes against Asians.

10

UConn beats Baylor to advance to 13th straight Final Four

The UConn Huskies edged out Baylor on Monday to advance to their 13th straight Final Four in the NCAA women's basketball tournament. No. 1 seeded UConn came back from a 10-point deficit with a 19-0 run before a close and controversial finish. Baylor, a No. 2 seed, was trailing 68-67 with 5 seconds left when Baylor guard DiJonai Carrington went up for what could have been a game-winning shot, and appeared to be fouled by UConn's Aaliyah Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa, but no foul was called. UConn got the ball back and Christyn Williams was fouled. She made one free throw with less than a second left. Baylor's long inbound pass was caught by the Huskies' freshman sensation Paige Bueckers, ending the game. Bueckers led her team with 28 points.

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