10 things you need to know today: May 25, 2021

EU bars Belarus flights after forced landing, activists to mark anniversary of George Floyd's death, and more

Belarusians supporting Roman Protasevich
(Image credit: WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

1. EU bars Belarus flights, vows sanctions over forced landing

The European Union on Monday barred European airlines from flying over Belarus and initiated the process of banning Belarusian planes from European airspace. The EU, echoed by President Biden, also demanded that Belarus release dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, who was detained after Belarus forced down the Ryanair flight he was taking from Greece to Lithuania. EU leaders referred to the incident as a state "hijacking," and expressed outrage. "It's madness!" said Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel as the trading bloc's leaders met for a summit in Brussels. "It's like something out of a very bad movie." Even before the incident, the EU had imposed sanctions on Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and some of his associates. EU leaders vowed to expand the sanctions by adding "additional listings of persons and entities as soon as possible."

The New York Times

2. George Floyd's family, activists mark anniversary of his death

Activists and the family of George Floyd plan to honor him with marches and celebrations of his life on Tuesday, a year after the unarmed Black man died after being forcibly restrained by Minneapolis police officers, one of whom has been convicted of murder. Floyd's sister Bridgett Floyd, his daughter Gianna Floyd, and Gianna's mother, Roxie Washington, will fly to Washington, D.C., to meet with President Biden at the White House. Biden "has a genuine relationship with them," and "he's eager to listen to their perspectives and hear what they have to say," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. Events are planned in Dallas, Washington, Minneapolis, and other cities in memory of Floyd, who became a symbol in the fight for racial equality and police reform after his death sparked protests.

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3. Biden 'eager' for GOP infrastructure counterproposal

The White House on Monday said President Biden was "eager" to see Senate Republicans' counteroffer to his cutting of his proposed infrastructure package to $1.7 trillion, down from his initial $2.3 trillion plan. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said there was "a ways more to go" to find a compromise. Before Biden made his reduced offer, Republicans had raised their initial $568 billion proposal by $50 billion. "The ball is in the Republicans' court," Psaki said Monday. The White House and Republicans remain far apart ahead of a Memorial Day deadline for a deal. Republicans risk a backlash due to the popularity of some of the spending, but have called Biden's plan excessive and wasteful. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) on Friday rejected Biden's lower offer, suggesting the two sides were farther from a deal than before.

The Associated Press

4. National Guard troops leaving Capitol after 5 months

National Guard personnel have started to leave the U.S. Capitol grounds and will be fully withdrawn this week, military and congressional officials said Monday. At the start of the week, about 1,700 troops from nine states and Washington, D.C., were still in the District pending departures scheduled through Wednesday. They were dispatched to the nation's capital on Jan. 6 to help police working on restoring order after the deadly attack on the Capitol by a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters. About 10,000 people surrounded the Capitol complex, and about 800 broke inside. "These airmen and soldiers protected not only the grounds, but the lawmakers working on those grounds, ensuring the people's business could continue unabated," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement. "They lived out in very tangible ways the oath they took to support and defend the Constitution."

The Washington Post

5. Florida law fines social media companies that ban politicians

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday signed a law that fines social media companies that permanently ban political candidates in the state. The law, a direct response to Facebook and Twitter suspensions of former President Donald Trump from their platforms, also makes it easier for Floridians to sue the businesses. This is the first state law that regulates how tech companies moderate speech. A legal challenge is expected. DeSantis, a Trump supporter, said in a statement that with this new law, "if Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable." The law makes it illegal for a social media company to ban any candidate for state office for more than 14 days. It imposes a $250,000 daily fine for violations, and requires companies to clearly state why they decide to remove or leave up content.

The New York Times

6. DOJ releases partial document key to decision not to charge Trump

The Justice Department on Monday released part of a memo written in 2019 to justify not charging then-President Donald Trump with obstructing justice in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's election meddling and contacts with Trump's 2016 campaign. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson earlier this month issued an opinion harshly criticizing former Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department, saying she had read the document and found that Barr had been disingenuous when he cited the memo as critical in his determination that Trump had broken no laws. Jackson ordered the document's release. Justice Department lawyers, asking the judge to keep the rest of the document secret pending an appeal of her ruling, acknowledged that "its briefs could have been clearer," and said DOJ "deeply regrets the confusion that caused."

The Washington Post

7. Peru massacre leaves 14 dead

A massacre in a remote coca-growing region of Peru left 14 men, women, and children dead, the South American nation's defense ministry said Monday. The killings, among the worst Peru has seen in decades, rekindled memories of the country's brutal left-wing insurgency during the 1970s and '80s. They come ahead of June presidential elections that have divided voters along ideological lines. Authorities blamed the murders, which occurred in the town of San Miguel del Ene, on a dissident faction of the Shining Path, the ruthless Maoist rebel group that was put down by the authoritarian President Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s. The group's pamphlets were found with the victims' bodies, local media reported. "We are returning to something that we thought we had overcome," said Pedro Yaranga, a Peruvian security consultant. "Most in Peru have thought the Shining Path no longer existed. This tragedy shows that this is not the case."

The Guardian The New York Times

8. De Blasio: NYC schools won't offer remote option in fall

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday that the city's schools would not offer remote schooling as an option in the fall. The news marked a big step toward a full reopening and return to something close to operations as they were before the coronavirus pandemic in the nation's largest school system. "This is going to be crucial for families," de Blasio said at a news conference. "So many parents are relieved, I know." About 600,000 of the city's one million students took classes online this school year. When schools reopen on Sept. 13, all students will attend in-person full-time, and all staff will be present in schools. New York is among the first big school districts to confirm that it won't offer a remote option in the fall.

NPR The New York Times

9. Biden doubles spending on preparing for extreme weather

President Biden announced Monday that he was doubling government spending to help communities prepare for storms and other extreme weather events. Biden said NASA would launch an effort to gather more sophisticated climate data. White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy said Biden is demonstrating to Americans that the federal government is committed to responding to ways in which the climate has changed. "That's really going to make this climate issue real and relevant to people," McCarthy said. "We just have to prepare for this, and the president is a realist. This is the world we're living in." Biden's announcement of the $1 billion in additional spending came days before the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season.

The Washington Post

10. Samoa swears in 1st woman PM after attempt to block ceremony

Samoa's first female prime minister took the oath of office in a tent Monday after her opponent locked her out of parliament, refusing to step down. Fiame Naomi Mata'afa was sworn in during a ceremony in the gardens of the Pacific island nation's parliament. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who served as prime minister for 22 years, is ignoring a court order to step aside. "Democracy must prevail, always," Mata'afa's Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (Fast) party said in a statement. "There can be no exceptions from this fundamental principle. Those who claim otherwise and act accordingly play with fire." Malielegaoi denied the validity of the improvised swearing-in ceremony, calling it "illegal and unlawful."

BBC News

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