April 13, 2021

Sunday's cyberattack on Iran's underground Natanz uranium enrichment facility, widely believed to be the work of Israel, has added another layer of uncertainty over the already delicate indirect talks between Iran and the U.S. on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday threatened retaliation against Israel and "any power with knowledge" of the sabotage, but he said Iran will take part in scheduled Wednesday negotiations in Vienna, conducted through European and other parties to the nuclear accord.

Israel, whose government strongly opposed the 2015 deal and has criticized President Biden's efforts to resurrect it, has neither publicly denied or claimed responsibility for the cyberattack, which temporarily set back Iran's ability to enrich uranium at the facility. But Israeli media has heavily suggested the country is behind the sabotage, and U.S. and Israeli officials confirmed to The New York Times that Israel at least played a role.

The Biden administration has neither condemned nor celebrated the Natanz attack. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday "the U.S. was not involved in any manner" and has "nothing to add on speculation about the causes or the impacts," adding, "Our focus is on the diplomatic path forward."

It isn't clear if the U.S. was warned about the sabotage beforehand or whether Israel timed the attack to coincide with a visit to Israel by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Austin did not mention Iran at a news conference Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The talks to restart the agreement, which former President Donald Trump pulled out from in 2018, are at an early stage, and the U.S. and Iran don't agree about which U.S. sanctions would be lifted and under what conditions; Iran wants them lifted before it returns to compliance with the nuclear deal while the U.S. sees Iran's compliance as a precondition. At this point, both sides are committed to the negotiations.

Israel wants "to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions," Zarif said. "We will not fall into their trap. ... We will not allow this act of sabotage to affect the nuclear talks." Peter Weber

10:49 p.m.

SpaceX's Starship rocket prototype had its first successful test flight on Wednesday, touching down safely in south Texas after flying more than six miles over the Gulf of Mexico.

The 160-foot rocket is made of stainless steel and bullet shaped. Four earlier test flights of Starship prototypes all ended with explosions taking place either before, during, or immediately after landing, The Associated Press reports. SpaceX aims to use Starship to transport astronauts to the moon and people to Mars. Catherine Garcia

9:54 p.m.

With highly-transmissible variants spreading across the state and more kids taking part in face-to-face activities, children now make up 26.4 percent of all active COVID-19 cases in Colorado.

Children between 0 to 19 make up 16.57 percent of overall infections in Colorado since the start of the pandemic, ABC News reports; 847 kids have been hospitalized with COVID-19 and 13 have died. Dr. Sean O'Leary of the University of Colorado School of Medicine told the network that since children under 16 aren't eligible for any COVID-19 vaccines, "that's a group that is completely prone to getting infected at this point."

Last week, there were 210 active outbreaks at schools in Colorado, the highest number since early December, when there were 211 outbreaks, the Denver Post reports. There are four variants in Colorado, and 49 percent of all cases in the state are of the highly-contagious B.1.1.7 variant that was first identified in the United Kingdom.

Nationwide, more than 3.78 million children have tested positive for COVID-19, about 13.8 percent of all reported cases. Catherine Garcia

8:37 p.m.

Two college students from California were found guilty on Wednesday of killing an Italian policeman in 2019 and sentenced to life in prison.

Finnegan Lee Elder, 21, and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 20, were accused of stabbing to death 35-year-old Vice Brig. Mario Cerciello Rega while they were vacationing in Rome. On the night of July 25, the men — friends from high school — had been ripped off by a drug dealer, and they stole the backpack of a middleman who gave them an over-the-counter pain medicine instead of cocaine. Elder and Natale-Hjorth set up a meeting to give the man his backpack in exchange for their money, but instead encountered Cerciello Rega and his partner, Andrea Varriale.

Elder said he thought Cerciello Rega was a drug dealer who was trying to "strangle or choke me," but Varriale testified that both officers showed Elder and Natale-Hjorth their badges. Cerciello Rega was stabbed 11 times, and Varriale said that blood was pouring out of his body like "a fountain."

In a statement, Elder apologized to Cerciello Rega's family and friends, adding that if he could "go back and change things, I would do it now, but I can't." Elder's attorney, Renato Borzone, has promised to appeal, saying it is "unheard of" to give two young men life sentences. "Italy's justice is strong with the weak, and weak with the strong," Borzone added. Catherine Garcia

7:17 p.m.

The Republican Party is at a turning point, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) writes in an opinion article published in The Washington Post on Wednesday evening, and members must "decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution."

Cheney is receiving backlash from the GOP for voting to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, as well as pushing back against his false claims of election fraud. Trump, she writes, is "seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that makes democracy work — confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this."

Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, called herself a "conservative Republican," and said the "most conservative of conservative values is reverence for the rule of law." The Electoral College "has spoken," she added, and "more than 60 state and federal courts have rejected the former president's arguments, and refused to overturn election results. That is the rule of law; that is our constitutional system for resolving claims of election fraud."

Republicans now have to decide whether to join "Trump's crusade to delegitimize and undo the legal outcome of the 2020 election, with all the consequences that might have," Cheney said. He has "never expressed remorse or regret for the attack of Jan. 6 and now suggests that our elections, and our legal and constitutional system, cannot be trusted to do the will of the people," she continued. "This is immensely harmful, especially as we now compete on the world stage against Communist China and its claims that democracy is a failed system."

The path forward is clear, Cheney said. Republicans need to back the Justice Department's criminal investigations of the Jan. 6 attack, support a bipartisan review by a commission with subpoena power, and "stand for genuinely conservative principles, and steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality." Trump is trying to "undermine the foundation of our democracy," Cheney said, and with history and our children watching, "we must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process." Read more at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

4:48 p.m.

The United States will advocate for waiving COVID-19 vaccine patent protections in discussions with the World Trade Organization, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced Wednesday.

The Biden administration "believes strongly in intellectual property protections," Tai said in a statement, but the White House will back the waiver given the "extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic." The administration has faced pressure to support the measure, which is aimed at increasing vaccinations around the world — especially in countries experiencing a surge in infections, like India — without having to rely solely on exports.

Proponents were pleased with the news, but shortly after Tai's announcement, stocks of pharmaceutical companies that have produced vaccines, including Moderna and Pfizer, plummeted.

It remains unclear if the protections will actually be waived since all 164 members of the WTO will need to agree on the matter, but backing from the U.S. should certainly move the needle. Tim O'Donnell

4:32 p.m.

Your favorite pandemic hate watch is back for season two.

The first time around, Netflix's Emily in Paris was met with disdain for the titular character, confusion around the title itself, and a real-life scandal involving the Golden Globes and an alleged trip to Paris for Hollywood Foreign Press Association members. The show's creator, Darren Star, claims season one was not a faux pas, but the first step in character development. In season two, "Emily will embrace the city a little bit more," Star told Variety. "I think she will be more assimilated, in terms of living in Paris and stepping up to the challenges of learning the language," he said.

Whether viewers are ready or not, Emily in Paris is back — filming began Monday in France. À bientôt! Taylor Watson

4:31 p.m.

This is a case for the FBI: The government wants Kim Kardashian to forfeit an ancient Roman sculpture that was smuggled out of Italy, but she claims innocence.

Fragment of Myron's Samian Athena, a limestone statue from the 1st or 2nd century, was purchased in Kardashian's name and detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2016, and is still in their custody, reports ArtNet. In 2018, Italy's Ministry of Cultural Heritage determined the statue was "looted, smuggled, and illegally exported from Italy."

A civil forfeiture complaint was filed Friday, but a Kardashian rep told Page Six she did not purchase the sculpture and this is the first time she's heard of it (though it definitely matches her decor). It might be time for Kim to put her law school skills to the test.

Read more at Page Six and ArtNet. Taylor Watson

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