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Biden calls on Congress to pass assault weapons ban after Boulder shooting – live

biden-calls-on-congress-to-pass-assault-weapons-ban-after-boulder-shooting-– live

Getting vaccinated and following public health guidelines are patriotic duties, Biden said.

“We need all Americans to keep washing their hands, stay socially distanced, wearing their masks,” he said. “Get vaccinated, when it’s your turn. It’s a patriotic responsibility.

“After a long dark year, we can show once again, that we are the United States of America, that there’s nothing we have cannot do if we do it together,” he said.

Updated

Joe Biden promotes his American Rescue Plan in Ohio, on ACA anniversary

The president is promoting his administration’s coronavirus rescue plan at a hospital in Columbus, on the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) being signed into law.

The administration also announced today that Americans can now sign up for insurance through the ACA until 15 August. The Biden admin had already extended the enrollment period until 15 May, so that the millions of Americans who’d lost employer-provided health insurance coverage could still get coverage. The coronavirus relief package that Biden signed into law this month also expanded insurance subsidies for people who earn between 100 and 400% of the poverty level.

“Millions of families will be able to sleep a little more soundly at night, because they don’t have to worry about losing everything if they get sick,” Biden said in Ohio. “A few clicks, and a short conversation that’s all it takes to start seeing these benefits, increased coverage and lower premiums.”

All Georgia residents, 16 and older, will be eligible for Covid-19 vaccines starting this Thursday.

The state’s governor Brian Kemp announced the news just two weeks after the state expanded vaccine eligibility to cover everyone aged 55 and older. Georgia will join only a handful of states, including Texas, Alaska and Mississippi, that have expanded vaccine access to the general adult population.

About 11% of Georgia’s population has been fully vaccinated, and more than 19% have received at least one dose.

In Colorado, where residents remember a long history of mass shootings, the Boulder shooting has been traumatizing, said Colorado attorney general Phil Weiser.

“Columbine is still feeling the effects,” said Weiser on CNN, referring to the 1999 high school massacre that killed 15. Supervisors and family of the shooting have been “retraumatized based on what happened yesterday – because that’s how trauma works,” he added. “Colorado is suffering.”

As historian Kathleen Belew noted, the suspect in the Boulder shootings was born days before Columbine. “That’s how long we’ve failed to take action,” Belew said.

Kathleen Belew
(@kathleen_belew)

The Boulder suspect was born three days before the Columbine shooting. That’s how long we’ve failed to take action.

March 23, 2021

Updated

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • The Boulder police identified the 10 victims of yesterday’s mass shooting at a grocery store. The victims were Denny Strong, Neven Stanisic, Rikki Olds, Tralona Bartkowiak, Teri Leiker, Officer Eric Talley, Suzanne Fountain, Kevin Mahoney, Lynn Murray and Jody Waters. Their ages ranged from 20 to 65.
  • The shooting suspect has been charged with ten counts of first-degree murder, the Boulder police chief said. Law enforcement officials identified the suspect as 21-year-old Ahmad Alissa. Court documents showed Alissa purchased an assault rifle less than a week before the shooting.
  • Joe Biden called for a new assaults weapons ban in response to the Boulder shooting. The president also called on the Senate to immediately pass the two background checks bill that the House approved earlier this month. “I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common-sense steps that will save lives in the future,” Biden said. “This is not and should not be a partisan issue. It is an American issue.”
  • But it remains unlikely that gun regulations can pass the evenly divided Senate. Asked this afternoon whether he believes he has the political capital to get gun restrictions passed by Congress, Biden said, “I don’t know. I haven’t done any counting yet.”
  • The Senate confirmed Shalanda Young as the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. Young will immediately step in as acting director of the agency, and many Democrats have called on Biden to nominate the longtime Hill staffer as the full-time OMB director, after Neera Tanden was forced to withdraw her nomination over controversial tweets.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Joe Biden plans to release his initial 2022 spending requests next week, with a plan to release a full budget proposal in the coming months, according to Bloomberg News.

Bloomberg reports:


The document will include Biden’s discretionary funding priorities, broken down by agency with some additional details within them, the Office of Management and Budget said. …

Biden will separately propose additional spending on infrastructure, clean energy and other domestic policy issues. Those measures could cost roughly $3 trillion.

‘Our priority is to provide Congress with early information about the president’s discretionary funding priorities, which is what they need to begin the appropriations process,’ OMB spokesman Rob Friedlander said.

Biden’s initial request will not include plans for raising revenues, which is why, an agency official said, the Biden administration is shying away from calling the document a ‘skinny budget’ or ‘budget blueprint,’ the terms typically used to describe a new president’s initial funding requests.

Biden’s full budget will be released ‘later this spring,’ Friedlander said, and will ‘show how his full agenda of investments and tax reforms fits together in a fiscally and economically responsible plan to address the overlapping crises we face.’

Biden’s proposal is meant to help guide congressional negotiations over the budget, but his plan is likely to face intense opposition from Republicans in Congress, who have already raised complaints that the president’s infrastructure plan is too expansive.

A daughter of one of the victims of the Boulder shooting reflected on her loss in a moving Twitter tribute to him.

Erika Mahoney, the daughter of 61-year-old Kevin Mahoney, said she was “heartbroken” to learn that her father was one of the 10 victims in the shooting.

Erika Mahoney
(@MahoneyEb)

I am heartbroken to announce that my Dad, my hero, Kevin Mahoney, was killed in the King Soopers shooting in my hometown of Boulder, CO. My dad represents all things Love. I’m so thankful he could walk me down the aisle last summer. pic.twitter.com/SLS2bdm5Hc

March 23, 2021

“I am heartbroken to announce that my Dad, my hero, Kevin Mahoney, was killed in the King Soopers shooting in my hometown of Boulder, CO,” Mahoney said in her Twitter post. “My dad represents all things love. I’m so thankful he could walk me down the aisle last summer.”

Mahoney expressed appreciation to the Boulder police department for “being so kind through this painful tragedy”.

“I am now pregnant. I know he wants me to be strong for his granddaughter,” Mahoney said. “I love you forever Dad. You are always with me.”

Former congressman Beto O’Rourke, who has repeatedly called for stricter gun regulations since a 2019 shooting in his hometown of El Paso claimed 23 lives, offered his condolences to Mahoney.

Beto O’Rourke
(@BetoORourke)

I am sorry for your loss Erika. Sending love to you and your family from El Paso.

March 23, 2021

Updated

After arriving in Columbus this afternoon, Joe Biden answered a question from a reporter who asked whether he believed he has the political capital to get gun restrictions passed through Congress.

“I hope so,” the president replied, according to a pool report. “I don’t know. I haven’t done any counting yet.”

It seems unlikely that the Senate can pass the two background checks bills that the House approved earlier this month, given that the upper chamber is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

Some Republicans have said they are open to narrow legislation on gun regulations, but the House-approved bills appear to be a non-starter for the Senate minority.

Senator Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat of Illinois, told CNN that she will be voting against Joe Biden’s nominees until the president commits to appointing more Asian-American officials to key positions.

Manu Raju
(@mkraju)

Tammy Duckworth just told me she’s voting NO on Biden nominees until President makes commitment/ appoints AAPI picks to key executive branch positions. She said found it “insulting” that a senior WH aide last night pointed to Harris’ South Asian roots when asked about AAPI picks

March 23, 2021

Axios reported earlier today that Duckworth and one of her Senate colleagues, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, confronted a senior administration official yesterday about the lack of Asian-American nominees.

Axios wrote:


[Duckworth and Hirono] leveled the complaint to deputy chief of staff Jen O’Malley Dillon during a Zoom call between the White House and the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Hours earlier, Biden finalized the permanent secretaries of the 15 executive departments when the Senate confirmed former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as Labor secretary.

Duckworth noted that the Cabinet lacks a single AAPI member, according to four Senate Democratic aides briefed on the call. Hirono backed her up.

The senators’ complaints come as the nation has witnessed a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. Six of the eight victims in last week’s Atlanta shooting were also Asian women, raising concerns of a potential hate crime.

Duckworth’s threat could have serious implications for Biden’s ability to get his nominees confirmed, given that the Senate is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

Tom McCarthy

A key member of the legal team that sought to steal the 2020 election for Donald Trump is defending herself against a billion-dollar defamation lawsuit by arguing that “no reasonable person” could have mistaken her wild claims about election fraud last November as statements of fact.

In a motion to dismiss a complaint by the large US-based voting machine company Dominion, lawyers for Sidney Powell argued that elaborate conspiracies she laid out on television and radio last November while simultaneously suing to overturn election results in four states constituted legally protected first amendment speech.

“No reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact,” argued lawyers for Powell, a former federal prosecutor from Texas who caught Trump’s attention through her involvement in the defense of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on 6 January in an effort to stop the certification of an election they considered invalid, killing a police officer in violent clashes in which four others died.

But lawyers for Powell argued her false statements about election fraud in the months preceding the Capitol insurrection were unmistakably not presented as true facts.

“It was clear to reasonable persons that Powell’s claims were her opinions and legal theories on a matter of utmost public concern,” her legal motion says.

The filing brought expressions of disbelief from Trump critics.

“This is her defense. Wow,” tweeted the Republican representative Adam Kinzinger.

“Bad argument!” tweeted Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen. “[Powell] should have gone with an insanity defense due to #TrumpDerangementSyndrome.”

Senate confirms Shalanda Young as deputy OMB director

Shalanda Young has been confirmed as the next deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget by a 63-37 Senate vote.

Shalanda Young has been confirmed as the next deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget by a 63-37 Senate vote. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

The Senate has confirmed Shalanda Young as the next deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, in a vote of 63-37.

Young, a longtime Hill staffer, had attracted the praise of lawmakers of both parties, and 13 Senate Republicans, along with every Democratic senator, supported her nomination.

Senate Cloakroom
(@SenateCloakroom)

Confirmed, 63-37: Executive Calendar #32 Shalanda D. Young to be Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget @OMBPress

March 23, 2021

Young has been named as a potential nominee to lead the OMB, after Neera Tanden was forced to withdraw her nomination due to bipartisan opposition over her past tweets.

Young will serve as the acting OMB director for now, and Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters today that there was no update on who Joe Biden will nominate to lead the agency.

If Young were nominated and confirmed to lead OMB, she would be the first Black woman to serve as the agency’s director.

Updated

Joanna Walters

A powerful and political message from former first lady Michelle Obama.

She has tweeted a pointed post aimed at Republican legislators who are busy trying to pass voting restrictions based on spurious claims about system abuse, which usually disproportionately affect minority voters, while shunning gun safety measures.

Obama tweeted: “I’m heartbroken by these recent tragedies of gun violence, and I just keep thinking about all the leaders who won’t take a stand to save lives and yet line up to pass bills that make it harder for us to vote.”

Michelle Obama
(@MichelleObama)

I’m heartbroken by these recent tragedies of gun violence, and I just keep thinking about all the leaders who won’t take a stand to save lives and yet line up to pass bills that make it harder for us to vote.

March 23, 2021

White House press secretary Jen Psaki spoke with reporters on Air Force One as Joe Biden traveled to Columbus, Ohio, this afternoon.

Psaki said she did not yet have any update to provide on whether the president would travel to Boulder, Colorado, after a mass shooting there claimed 10 lives yesterday.

Asked whether Biden was considering executive action to address gun violence, the press secretary said the president is considering a number of options right now.

“There’s an ongoing process, and I think we feel we have to work on multiple channels at the same time,” Psaki said.

Updated

Boulder shooting suspect bought assault rifle just days ago

Joanna Walters

Police have identified a 21-year-old man as the suspect who opened fire inside a crowded Colorado supermarket yesterday, and court documents showed that he purchased an assault rifle less than a week before the attack that killed 10 people, including a police officer.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, is seen in an undated handout photo released by Boulder Police after a Monday shooting at a King Soopers grocery store killed 10 people, including a police officer, in Boulder, Colorado.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, is seen in an undated handout photo released by Boulder Police after a Monday shooting at a King Soopers grocery store killed 10 people, including a police officer, in Boulder, Colorado. Photograph: Boulder Police Department/UPI/REX/Shutterstock

Supermarket employees told investigators that Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa shot an elderly man multiple times outside the Boulder grocery store before going inside, according to the documents, according to The Associated Press. Another person was found shot in a vehicle next to a car registered to suspect’s brother.

The news agency further reports:


The documents did not say where the gun was purchased. Authorities said Alissa was from the Denver suburb of Arvada and that he engaged in a shootout with police Monday afternoon inside the store.

The suspect was being treated at a hospital and was expected to be booked into the county jail later in the day on murder charges.

Investigators have not established a motive, but authorities believe he was the only shooter, Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said.

A law enforcement official briefed on the shooting told The Associated Press that the gunman used an AR-15 rifle, a lightweight semiautomatic rifle.

Officials were trying to trace the weapon. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

The suspect’s family told investigators they believed Alissa was suffering some type of mental illness, including delusions.

Joanna Walters

One of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, has not been slow to point out that he doesn’t support a bill that’s already successfully passed in the House and expands background checks to almost all gun sales.

Joe Manchin (left) and John Cornyn on Capitol Hill.

Joe Manchin (left) and John Cornyn on Capitol Hill. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Representatives voted to approve two bills earlier in March. One extends the window for background checks before a gun is sold and the other extends background checks to all sales and transfers, with exceptions for family members, an immediate threat or a temporary hunting agreement.

The Hill reports:


“What the House passed? Not at all,” Manchin said, when asked if he supports the legislation.

Manchin suggested he wanted a bill that provided a bigger carve-out for private sales between individuals who know each other.

“I come from a gun culture. I’m a law-abiding gun owner,” Manchin said, adding that he supports “basically saying that commercial transactions should be background checked. You don’t know a person.”

“If I know a person, no,” Manchin said.

Manchin and Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) previously offered legislation to expand background checks to all commercial sales, including those at gun shows or on the internet. Of the GOP senators who supported the bill in 2013, only two are still in the Senate: Toomey and Senator Susan Collins (Maine).

Collins still supports the proposal. Majority leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to put the House bill on the floor for a vote. However, it’s unlikely Democrats would be able to get 60 votes, since that requires the support of 10 Republicans.

Toomey said he didn’t think “the House has passed anything that can pass the Senate.”

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Politics

National Archives won’t be allowed to restore Trump’s tweets on the platform

national-archives-won’t-be-allowed-to-restore-trump’s-tweets-on-the-platform

The National Archives will not be allowed to resurrect Donald Trump’s tweets on the social network, Twitter said on Wednesday, even in its official capacity as a record-keeping organization. However the archive is working to create a separate record of the former president’s tweets on his official library website.

The former president has been permanently banned from Twitter since January, when the company became the first major social media platform to eject Trump after his behavior during the Capitol insurrection.

The confirmation that Trump’s tweets cannot be revived for archival purposes, first reported by Politico, highlights the ongoing debate on what should become of Trump’s digital legacy. In the weeks and months after, many free speech advocates have argued there should be a public record of what the president has said – even if it is no longer allowed on the platforms where he frequently posted controversial and hateful rhetoric.

In the past the National Archives, an independent agency charged with preserving government and historical records, has maintained living records of other significant Twitter accounts by linking back to the accounts themselves from its presidential websites. That means users can interact with them, including retweeting and favoriting them.

For example, National Archives maintains the Twitter account of the former first lady Melania Trump, @flotus45, as well as the former Trump administration account @whitehouse45.

This will not be the case with Trump, according to the Politico report, though the National Archives is in the process of preserving tweets from the @realDonaldTrump “as is standard with any administration transition”, said Twitter spokesperson Trenton Kennedy, according to Politico.

“Given that we permanently suspended @realDonaldTrump, the content from the account will not appear on Twitter as it did previously or as archived administration accounts do currently, regardless of how Nara decides to display the data it has preserved,” Kennedy said. “Administration accounts that are archived on the service are accounts that were not in violation of the Twitter Rules.”

The National Archives will still be making Trump’s tweets visible, including those that Twitter has taken action against. It is working out the best way to do so, said the Nara spokesperson James Pritchett. It is possible the tweets could be saved by screenshot rather than by linking to a live account.

“Twitter is solely responsible for the decision of what content is available on their platform,” Pritchett said. “Nara works closely with Twitter and other social media platforms to maintain archived social accounts from each presidential administration, but ultimately the platform owners can decline to host these accounts. Nara preserves platform independent copies of social media records and is working to make that content available to the public.”

Facebook and YouTube also banned Trump after the Capitol attack. YouTube has said it would reinstate Trump after the “risk of violence has passed” and Facebook’s third-party review board is debating whether and when the former president can return.

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Politics

Biden condemns US gun violence as an ‘international embarrassment’ as he announces new actions – live

biden-condemns-us-gun-violence-as-an-‘international-embarrassment’-as-he-announces-new-actions-–-live

Summary

  • Joe Biden formally announced a series of executive orders aimed at ending gun violence in America. The president has called on the justice department to crack down on “ghost guns,” unregistered firearms assembled from kits, and gun accessories that can functionally transform pistols into rifles. Biden said in the Rose Garden today, “Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it’s an international embarrassment.”
  • George Floyd died from a “low level of oxygen” caused by “shallow breathing,” an expert testified at Derek Chauvin’s murder trial. The expert’s analysis could undermine arguments from Chauvin’s defense team that Floyd died because of drug use and preexisting health conditions.
  • Joe Manchin said there was “no circumstance” where he would support ending the filibuster. In a Washington Post op-ed published last night, the Democratic senator wrote, “The time has come to end these political games, and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation.” Manchin’s stance could hinder much of Biden’s legislative agenda, given the filibuster allows the Republican minority to block bills unless they have the support of 60 senators.
  • An associate of Matt Gaetz may cooperate with federal prosecutors, a potentially ominous sign for the Republican congressman as he faces allegations of sex-trafficking. According to the Washington Post, prosecutors have indicated the case against Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector for Seminole County, may end in a plea deal. That could mean Greenberg has agreed to cooperate with federal officials in exchange for a lesser sentence.
  • Dr Anthony Fauci acknowledged shortages of personal protective equipment likely contributed to coronavirus deaths among health workers in the US. “During the critical times when there were shortages was when people had to use whatever was available to them,” the president’s chief medical adviser said in an interview with the Guardian. “I’m sure that increased the risk of getting infected among healthcare providers.” According to the Guardian and Kaiser Health News’ Lost on the Frontline database, more than 3,600 US health workers have died of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
  • One person has died, and four are in critical condition after a shooting in Bryan, Texas. The shooting occurred at around 3.50pm, according to local police – who say they are pursuing a suspect.
  • California leaders have announced a $536m plan to address the growing threat of wildfires across the state, as a drought threatens to bring on yet another destructive, deadly fire season. The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, along with the state’s senate and assembly leaders announced the new plan at a news conference Thursday near Shaver Lake – a small town at the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains that was devastated by the Creek fire last fall.

– Joan E Greve and Maanvi Singh

Can an assault weapons ban reduce killings if firearms last 100 years?

Mona Chalabi

Six days before a man shot and killed 10 people, he legally purchased the military-style firearm he used for the crime. The incident – one of three recent mass shootings – yet again renewed a public debate about banning assault weapons in the US and seems like a potential example of a shooting in which an assault weapon ban might have been effective in reducing the death toll of the attack. But would it?

When firearms are recovered by law enforcement because of their use or suspected use in a crime, the weapons are recorded in a database along with the date of their first retail sale. The amount of time between those two events is known as the “time to crime” and is published by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). While the suspect involved in the Boulder shooting waited just six days, the national average time to crime is 8.3 years, according to 2019 statistics from the ATF.

This dataset is much broader, since it includes a wide variety of crimes and suspected crimes, but the number still poses a significant problem for policymakers that are attempting to prevent future mass shootings. Even if a nationwide ban on sales were effectively implemented tomorrow, there would still be somewhere between 15m and 20m assault rifles in circulation out of the estimated 393m guns held in the US.

Averages can be misleading, though: the range here is pretty vast – guns can be recovered days or decades after purchase. But it is relevant to note that in only 7% of cases were the guns recovered less than three months since the purchase date. State differences are also huge. In Arizona, 12% of recovered firearms were purchased less than three months ago, while in Connecticut and Arkansas, it’s just 4%.

The fact that those weapons could continue to be used for years to come isn’t just a hypothetical given the lifespan of assault weapons. Firearms remain operational for a century or more, further complicating any path to reform in a country with the highest gun ownership rate per capita in the world.

Read more:

The shooting occurred not long after Joe Biden announced new executive actions to address gun violence.

Hours before the shooting, Abbott, a Republican, came out vehemently against the president’s gun control policies. “Biden is threatening our 2nd Amendment rights. He just announced a new liberal power grab to take away our guns. We will NOT allow this in TX,” he tweeted. “It’s time to get legislation making TX a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary State passed and to my desk for signing.’

Texas has seen 14 mass shootings so far this year.

One person has died and four in critical condition after Texas shooting

One person has died, and four are in critical condition after a shooting in Bryan, Texas.

The shooting occurred at around 3.50pm, according to local police – who say they are pursuing a suspect.

“The state will assist in any way needed to help prosecute the suspect,” said the Texas governor, Greg Abbott. “Cecilia [Abbott’s wife] and I are praying for the victims and their families and for the law enforcement officer injured while apprehending the suspect.”

Updated

New EPA chief Michael Regan relishes ‘clean slate’ after chaos of Trump era

Oliver Milman

Michael Regan has perhaps the most fiendishly challenging job within Joe Biden’s administration. As the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Regan not only has to grapple with the unfolding cataclysm of the climate crisis, he must do so at the helm of a traumatized, shrunken institution still reeling from the chaos of the Donald Trump era.

“I was deeply concerned as I watched the previous administration,” Regan told the Guardian. “We all witnessed a mass exodus of scientists and qualified people the agency needs. I was really concerned coming into the job as to how morale would be and how much of a setback it would be to tackle the challenges before us.”

Trump vowed to reduce the EPA to “little bits”, and although his plans to wildly slash the agency’s budget were largely rejected by Congress, the environmental regulator is now left with its fewest employees since the mid-1980s, during which time the US population has grown by nearly a third.

Scientists were routinely sidelined, with an average of three a week fleeing the agency during Trump’s term. “It was a sort of painful hell,” said one career official, who weighed up leaving but decided to stay.

There were plenty of sources for angst.

Trump’s EPA laid siege to dozens of environmental regulations – from limits on pollution from cars and trucks to rules designed to stop coal plants dumping toxins into rivers to a ban on a pesticide linked with brain damage in children – often contrary to scientific advice and sometimes shortly after meetings with industry lobbyists. Mentions of climate change were not only scrubbed from the EPA website, the Trump administration mulled holding a televised debate as to whether it existed at all.

Scientific panels were purged of various experts and replaced with industry representatives who appeared to hold sway. Andrew Wheeler, Regan’s predecessor, is a former coal lobbyist who said acting on climate change was merely “virtue signaling to foreign capitals”. Scott Pruitt, Trump’s first EPA chief, was embroiled in an extravaganza of scandals, including living in an apartment paid for by a lobbyist, using his position to get his wife a job at Chick-fil-A, spending agency funds on foreign trips and even deploying staff to obtain a cut-price mattress from Trump’s Washington hotel.

“It was incredibly frustrating,” is how Regan sums up watching the agency unravel. “I was incredibly frustrated.”

Regan, the first black man to lead the EPA in its half-century of existence, previously worked at the agency during Bill Clinton and George W Bush’s administrations. “I worked here for a decade and I knew the staff were not being utilized properly,” he said. “I know the people, I know the quality of work they can do.”

Read more:

California leaders unveil $536m plan to address growing fire threat

California leaders have announced a $536m plan to address the growing threat of wildfires across the state, as a drought threatens to bring on yet another destructive, deadly fire season.

The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, along with the state’s senate and assembly leaders announced the new plan at a news conference Thursday near Shaver Lake – a small town at the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains that was devastated by the Creek fire last fall.

Global heating is triggering hotter, drier conditions in California – and propelling bigger, more destructive blazes. “If you don’t believe in climate change; if you don’t believe in science, then believe in your own damn eyes,” the governor said.

The new plan will include more than $350m in funds to improve forest management efforts and thin out fire-fueling vegetation. Another $25m will fund grants to help homeowners make their properties more fire-resistant.

Newsom also referenced the importance of embracing prescribed burning techniques, which were practiced by California tribes for centuries before European settlers banned and eschewed the practice. Fire is a natural and necessary part of the state’s natural landscape – but for years, rather than embracing beneficial fires, California suppressed it. A build-up of overgrowth and vegetation has held fueled extreme mega-blazes. The Karuk Tribe, wildfire researchers, and environmental groups have been pushing the governor and state leaders to fund and elevate historic forest management practices.

“I can’t make up for 50 years,” Newsom said, but committed to changing course going forward.

Last year, the state saw one of the worst fire seasons on record; four of the five largest fires in state history scorched the state, even as it was reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. Some 4m acres burned, 31 people were killed and more than 10,000 buildings were destroyed or damaged.

Updated

White House expresses concern over Northern Ireland violence

Lisa O’Carroll, Rory Carroll and Rajeev Syal report:

The White House has expressed concern over a week of riots in Northern Ireland, with Joe Biden joining Boris Johnson and the Irish prime minister in calling for calm after what police described as the worst violence in Belfast for years.

It came as police used water cannon against nationalist youths in west Belfast, as unrest stirred again on the streets on Thursday evening.

In a statement, the US president’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, said: “We are concerned by the violence in Northern Ireland” and that Biden remained “steadfast” in his support for a “secure and prosperous Northern Ireland in which all communities have a voice and enjoy the gains of the hard-won peace”.

She spoke as the Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, called on political leaders across the spectrum to tone down their language to ease tensions.

Biden, who has Irish roots, has repeatedly expressed support for the peace process and last year waded into a row over UK plans to override parts of the Brexit deal, warning Boris Johnson that any trade deal was “contingent upon respect for the [peace] agreement and preventing the return of a hard border”.

Police said as many as 600 people had been involved in disturbances in Belfast on Wednesday, when a bus was petrol-bombed, rubber bullets were fired and missiles were hurled over a “peace wall”.

Read more:

Amazon challenges hundreds of ballots in Alabama workers’ union drive

Amazon has challenged hundreds of ballots in a vote to form a union at one of its warehouses in Alabama in a unionization drive seen as one of the most important labor fights in recent American history.

Some 3,215 votes were cast in the election out of more than 5,800 eligible employees. The election will determine if workers in Bessemer will form the first labor union at an Amazon warehouse in the US.

According to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, hundreds of ballots were challenged, mostly by Amazon. In the early vote the number of votes against forming a union moved into a lead of 439 versus 200 for shortly before 5pm EST. on Thursday. But many observers expect the huge amount of challenged ballots to lead to a delay in any formal announcement of a result.

“There remain hundreds of challenged ballots mostly by the employer that will need to be addressed after the public count. As the ballot envelopes are opened and the ballots are counted there’s a possibility that more issues could impact the final results,” the RWDSU said.

The unionization drive has sparked huge political interest and a roster of leftwing politicians – and even some Republicans – have spoken out in support of it or visited the state. The US labor movement sees it as a bellwether case for hopes of expanding its power, especially in areas of the economy – such as online retail – that are increasingly dominant.

Ballots in the vote can be challenged based on several factors, such as the eligibility of the voter in regards to job classification or dates of employment. The NLRB will probably hold a later hearing on the validity of the challenged ballots, after unchallenged ballots are tallied, if the number of challenged ballots could affect the outcome of the election.

Read more:

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Joe Biden formally announced a series of executive orders aimed at ending gun violence in America. The president has called on the justice department to crack down on “ghost guns,” unregistered firearms assembled from kits, and gun accessories that can functionally transform pistols into rifles. Biden said in the Rose Garden today, “Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it’s an international embarrassment.”
  • George Floyd died from a “low level of oxygen” caused by “shallow breathing,” an expert testified at Derek Chauvin’s murder trial. The expert’s analysis could undermine arguments from Chauvin’s defense team that Floyd died because of drug use and preexisting health conditions.
  • Joe Manchin said there was “no circumstance” where he would support ending the filibuster. In a Washington Post op-ed published last night, the Democratic senator wrote, “The time has come to end these political games, and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation.” Manchin’s stance could hinder much of Biden’s legislative agenda, given the filibuster allows the Republican minority to block bills unless they have the support of 60 senators.
  • An associate of Matt Gaetz may cooperate with federal prosecutors, a potentially ominous sign for the Republican congressman as he faces allegations of sex-trafficking. According to the Washington Post, prosecutors have indicated the case against Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector for Seminole County, may end in a plea deal. That could mean Greenberg has agreed to cooperate with federal officials in exchange for a lesser sentence.
  • Dr Anthony Fauci acknowledged shortages of personal protective equipment likely contributed to coronavirus deaths among health workers in the US. “During the critical times when there were shortages was when people had to use whatever was available to them,” the president’s chief medical adviser said in an interview with the Guardian. “I’m sure that increased the risk of getting infected among healthcare providers.” According to the Guardian and Kaiser Health News’ Lost on the Frontline database, more than 3,600 US health workers have died of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Amudalat Ajasa reports for the Guardian from Minneapolis:

Behind the Hennepin county courthouse in downtown Minneapolis, which is heavily fortified for the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, a small but determined core of seven protesters gathers every day.

Sometimes there are many more protesters, sometimes not so many. But always this group, there hoping to witness justice for George Floyd, who died under the knee of Chauvin in south Minneapolis last May.

Outside, the core group hold signs, amplify chants with a bullhorn and circle the courthouse with the aim of encouraging peaceful protest.

“I get up at 5am and I’m usually out here a little after 7am every day,” John Stewart Jr, 57, said, as his Black Lives Matter flag fluttered in the wind.

Stewart, an ordained pastor in the city, and the “core of seven” generally stay put in their chosen spot behind the courthouse for the entire length of an average work day: 9-5, or longer.

Donald Trump has endorsed two sitting Republican senators, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rand Paul of Kentucky, in new statements today.

“Rand Paul has done a fantastic job for our Country, and for the incredible people of Kentucky,” the former president said in a statement released by his political action committee, the Save America Pac. “He has my Complete and Total Endorsement for another term in the U.S. Senate. The Commonwealth of Kentucky has a true champion in Rand Paul.”

Trump praised Johnson as “brave” and “bold” and offered him his “complete and total endorsement” — even though the Wisconsin senator has not yet announced whether he will run again.

Johnson and Paul are both up for reelection next year, when Republicans hope to flip the Senate after Democrats took control with two wins in Georgia earlier this year.

David Smith

Joe Biden, under pressure to act after a slew of mass shootings, has announced his first steps to curb the “epidemic” and “international embarrassment” of gun violence in America.

The president has prioritised the coronavirus pandemic and economic recovery during the first two and half months of his presidency. But a series of recent shooting tragedies in Georgia, Colorado and California led to renewed calls for urgent action on guns.


Biden condemns US gun violence as ‘international embarrassment’ – video

About 316 people are shot every day in America and 106 of them die, he noted, “hitting Black and brown communities the hardest”. Gun violence is estimated to cost the nation $280bn a year, according to the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. “This is an epidemic, for God’s sake, and it has to stop,” an emotional Biden said.

The White House event included parents family members who have lost loved ones to the scourge. “They know what it’s like to bury a piece of their soul deep in the earth,” remarked Biden, who has endured his own measure of loss. “They understand that.”

Seeking to break a Washington paralysis that confounded former president Barack Obama, even after horrific mass shootings, Biden said he was announcing immediate concrete actions that he can take now without Congress. Republicans have long resisted fundamental reform, citing the second amendment to the constitution that protects the right to bear arms.

“Nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the second amendment,” Biden insisted. “They’re phony arguments, suggesting that these are second amendment rights at stake, what we’re talking about. But no amendment to the constitution is absolute. You can’t shout ‘Fire!’ in a crowded movie theatre and call it freedom of speech.”

Congresswoman Lucy McBath reflected on the loss of her son Jordan, who died in a 2012 shooting, as she celebrated Joe Biden’s new actions to address gun violence.

McBath, who was at the Rose Garden for Biden’s formal announcement of the executive orders earlier today, said on Twitter, “To my Jordan, This day. At the White House. In the Rose Garden. The President announced actions that will help keep families safe. Actions that will protect children across America. Children like you. My dear Jordan, this day is your day.”

Rep. Lucy McBath
(@RepLucyMcBath)

To my Jordan,

This day.

At the White House. In the Rose Garden.

The President announced actions that will help keep families safe. Actions that will protect children across America.

Children like you.

My dear Jordan, this day is your day. pic.twitter.com/6tmYmsciX8

April 8, 2021

In 2012, Jordan Davis was shot and killed by a man who confronted the 17-year-old about his music being too loud. The shooter tried to use Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law to defend his actions, but he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

After Davis’ death, McBath became a prominent advocate for gun control laws, eventually running for Congress in 2018 and flipping a Republican seat in Georgia.

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Politics

Biden announces US has administered 150m Covid vaccine doses – as it happened

biden-announces-us-has-administered-150m-covid-vaccine-doses-–-as-it-happened

Summary

  • Joe Biden announced the US has administered 150m vaccine doses since he took office in January. The president also announced all American adults will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine by 19 April, pushing up his earlier deadline of 1 May by about two weeks.
  • A shooting occurred at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, this morning. The US navy confirmed the shooter, who is now dead, was a naval hospital corpsman. The two victims of the shooting are in critical condition and were airlifted to a Baltimore hospital, Frederick police told reporters.

  • Derek Chauvin’s trial resumed in Minneapolis, where the former police officer is facing murder charges over the killing of George Floyd. A police trainer who instructed Chauvin in the use of force told the jury that placing a knee on a suspect’s neck when they are already subdued, as Chauvin did with Floyd, “is not authorized”.
  • The Democratic congressman Alcee Hastings died at 84. Hastings, who had pancreatic cancer for more than two years, was the longest-serving member of Florida’s House delegation.
  • US Capitol police officer William “Billy” Evans will lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda next week, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer. announced. Evans was killed in the car attack at the Capitol last week. In a statement released by USCP today, Evans’ family described him as “the best father, son, brother, and friend anyone could ever hope for”.

  • Arkansas lawmakers overrode their governor’s veto to enact the country’s first ban on gender-affirming treatment for transgender youth.The law, which has been opposed by medical groups and child welfare groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, would punish healthcare providers who offer treatments like hormone therapy and puberty blockers to trans children.
  • Caitlyn Jenner, the former reality star, is reportedly considering a run for California governor. According to an Axios report, Jenner is working with GOP fundraiser Caroline Wren, to explore running against California governor Gavin Newsom in an impending recall election.

  • Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, signed an order to “mitigate the impact of new voting restrictions imposed” by Georgia’s restrictive new voting laws. Civil rights groups and businesses have spoken out against Georgia Republicans’ sweeping voter restrictions, which will disproportionately affect Black voters’ ability to cast their ballots.

– Joan E Greve and Maanvi Singh

Updated

Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican congressman who is being investigated over child sex trafficking charges, and who reportedly shared nude pictures of women with colleagues, is speaking at former president Donald Trump’s resort in Doral, at a rally for a pro-Trump women’s group.

Politico reports:


Women for America First announced late Tuesday that Gaetz would be a speaker at the three-day “Save America Summit.” This is the same group that helped organize the “March for Trump” rally in Washington that took place just hours before the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead.

The organization praised Gaetz as one of the “few members of Congress” willing to “stand up & fight on behalf of President Trump & his America First agenda.” Women For America First says on its website that “We won’t be pushed around by bullies who tell us who we are ‘supposed’ to like. And we’re not going to keep quiet just because the Washington, D.C. power elites and mainstream media want us to!”

Gaetz on Twitter thanked the group for “the invitation to share my vision for our great nation.”

Read more:

Updated

Kamala Harris issued a statement on the death of Alcee Hastings:


Congressman Alcee Hastings welcomed me to the Congressional Black Caucus when I was still new to the Senate. He exuded the kind of warmth and good humor that not only put me at ease, but encouraged me to speak my mind. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with the Congressman on a number of issues, and learning from his collaborative and candid style of leadership.

Born in the Jim Crow South, Congressman Hastings understood our obligation to speak truth better than most. He began his career as a civil rights lawyer in the 1960s, channeling his passion for justice into the work of desegregating the public spaces of south Florida. As we mourn his death, I am comforted that his commitment to public service will serve as an example for generations to come.

The Democratic congressman of Florida was 84.

Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, signed an order to “mitigate the impact of new voting restrictions imposed” by Georgia’s restrictive new voting laws.

Civil rights groups and businesses have spoken out against Georgia Republicans’ sweeping voter restrictions, which will disproportionately affect Black voters’ ability to cast their ballots.

“The voting restrictions of SB 202 will disproportionately impact Atlanta residents – particularly in communities of color and other minority groups,” Bottoms said in a statement. “This Administrative Order is designed to do what those in the majority of the state legislature did not – expand access to our right to vote.”

My colleague Sam Levine wrote about the new voting law in Georgia:


It requires voters to submit ID information with both an absentee ballot request and the ballot itself. It limits the use of absentee ballot drop boxes, allows for unlimited challenges to a voter’s qualifications, cuts the runoff election period from nine to four weeks, and significantly shortens the amount of time voters have to request an absentee ballot.

The legislation also empowers the state legislature, currently dominated by Republicans, to appoint a majority of members on the five-person state election board. That provision would strip Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who stood up to Trump after the election, from his current role as chairman of the board. The bill creates a mechanism for the board to strip local election boards of their power.

Major League Baseball announced today it was moving its 2021 All-Star Game to Colorado over Georgia’s passage of the law.

Updated

How the far-right group ‘Oath Enforcers’ plans to harass political enemies

Jason Wilson

Revealed: online chats indicate some members are threatening to unleash harassment tactics on officials and government workers

A national online network of thousands of rightwing, self-described “Oath Enforcers” is threatening to unleash harassment tactics on elected officials and government workers around the country, the Guardian can reveal.

While the network’s founder insists that the group is neither violent nor a militia, internal chats indicate that some members are planning for confrontations with law enforcement and their perceived political enemies.

The chats also indicate that white supremacists and others connected with the militia movement are aiming to leverage the group’s success in recruiting disillusioned supporters of Donald Trump and the “QAnon” conspiracy movement, who are being exposed to a wide range of conspiracy theories, white nationalist material and rightwing legal theories inside the groups.

The group’s founder, who makes videos and organizes under the name Vince Edwards, lives off-grid in a remote corner of Costilla county, in Colorado’s high desert region. Arrest records from 2016 indicate that he has also used the name Christian Picolo, and other public records associate him with the name Vincent Edward Deluca.

Experts say that Edwards’ personal history reflects the potential danger in the spread of “sovereign citizen” ideology – along with voluminous online propaganda, that history includes an armed standoff with Costilla county sheriff’s deputies in 2016

Read more:

Arkansas lawmakers overrode their governor’s veto to enact the country’s first ban on gender-affirming treatment for transgender youth.

The law, which has been opposed by medical groups and child welfare groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, would punish healthcare providers who offer treatments like hormone therapy and puberty blockers to trans children. The treatments are part of a gradual process that can vastly improve mental health in young people, and can be life-saving, experts say.

Arkansas’ Republican-controlled legislature overrode Republican governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto of the measure. Hutchinson held that the law went too far in interfering with parents’ decisions, and would cut off care for young people already receiving treatment.

Earlier, my colleague Sam Levin spoke to healthcare providers, families, and trans children affected by legislation banning affirming healthcare. Efforts to end gender-affirming care have cropped up not just in Arkansas, but across the country.


Corey Hyman, a 15-year-old boy from St Charles, Missouri, waited years to access the medical treatments that he said saved his life.

Corey said he had long known that he was a boy and came out to his mother as trans at age 12. She researched clinics that supported children like him, and after dozens of sessions with therapists and doctors over two years, Corey was approved to start taking testosterone hormones.

“I was being my true self and actually presenting as a male, and it just made me feel so much better,” said Corey, who previously struggled with severe psychological distress, including self-harm and suicidal thoughts. “Everyone told me that they could see me getting happier.”

The number of kids receiving gender-affirming care in the US is limited. Jules Gill-Peterson, professor of gender, sexuality and women’s studies at the University of Pittsburgh, said that access to the treatment is extremely restricted, given that there are few clinics that do this work and that families often need significant time and money to advocate for and get treatment.

“We’re facing the proposition of banning forms of healthcare that almost no trans kids even have access to,” she said. She noted that at a clinic in Pittsburgh, some families drive from five hours away to get care. “We’re talking about healthcare that at the moment is generally accessible only to upper-middle-class families.”

Read more:

Updated

Caitlyn Jenner, the former reality star, is reportedly considering a run for California governor.

According to an Axios report, Jenner is working with GOP fundraiser Caroline Wren, to explore running against California governor Gavin Newsom in an impending recall election.

The recall campaign against Newsom, a Democrat, is spearheaded by Republicans who opposed the governor’s pandemic-era business shutdowns, as well as his immigration and tax policies. Amid the previous coronavirus surge, and with the aid of funds from big business donors and a few Silicon Valley venture capitalists, the recall campaign amassed more than 2m signatures, its leaders say. If election officials are able to validate at least 1.5m signatures by the end of this month, the state will hold a recall election this year. Voters will choose first whether they want to recall Newsom and then who they would like to replace him.

The Republicans currently running against Newsom include San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer; conservative activist Mike Cernovich; and John Cox, who lost to Newsom in 2018 by 23 points. Strategists say that none of these candidates have an easy path to victory in a state that leans heavily Democratic. However, a big-name Republican like Jenner could change the dynamics of the race. In the 2003 recall of former California governor Gray Davis, it was actor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to run against Davis that helped energize the effort. Schwarzenegger ultimately replaced Davis.

Jenner, a former Olympic medalist who starred in Keeping Up with the Kardashians, has been critical of Donald Trump’s views on trans rights, but she has ultimately aligned with the Republican party on many major issues. Wren, who worked for Trump’s 2020 campaign fundraising committee and helped organize the rally that preceded the 6 January Capitol attack, connected with Jenner through a GOP nonprofit focused on LGBT issues, according to Axios.

Democrats in California and in DC have aligned themselves with Newsom. Progressive Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has thrown his support behind Newsom, and Kamala Harris – a longtime friend of the California governor – appeared alongside him Monday during her visit to the state and praised him as “a real champion in California and outside of California”.

The governor’s approval rating dropped from an early-pandemic peak, but it remains relatively strong in recent polls. A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found 56% of likely voters would oppose a recall.

Updated

California to lift most coronavirus-related restrictions June 15

Joan E Greve

California will lift most of its coronavirus-related restrictions starting June 15, Governor Gavin Newsom announced today.

The Democratic governor emphasized the statewide mask mandate will remain in effect, and restrictions will only be lifted if vaccinations continue to steadily increase and coronavirus hospitalizations stay low over the coming weeks.

Gavin Newsom
(@GavinNewsom)

BREAKING: CA has administered 20+ million vaccinations. We have the lowest positivity rate in the US. Stable hospitalizations.

Now, we’re looking forward.

We’re setting our eyes on fully reopening by June 15th — with commonsense measures like masking.

Mask up & get vaxed, CA.

April 6, 2021

“With more than 20 million vaccines administered across the state, it is time to turn the page on our tier system and begin looking to fully reopen California’s economy,” Newsom said in a statement.

The announcement is hugely consequential, considering California was the first state to approve a statewide stay-at-home order last spring and Newsom has been generally hesitant to relax restrictions on businesses, due to concerns about a potential surge in cases.

But the governor is now moving forward with easing restrictions, as more than a third of Californians have received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose.

“We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic, Newsom said. “We will need to remain vigilant, and continue the practices that got us here – wearing masks and getting vaccinated – but the light at the end of this tunnel has never been brighter.”

Updated

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague Maanvi Singh will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Joe Biden announced the US has administered 150 million vaccine doses since he took office in January. The president also announced all American adults will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine by April 19, pushing up his earlier deadline of May 1 by about two weeks.
  • A shooting occurred at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, this morning. The US navy confirmed the shooter, who is now dead, was a naval hospital corpsman. The two victims of the shooting are in critical condition and were airlifted to a Baltimore hospital, Frederick police told reporters.

  • Derek Chauvin’s trial resumed in Minneapolis, where the former police officer is facing murder charges over the killing of George Floyd. A police trainer who instructed Chauvin in the use of force told the jury that placing a knee on a suspect’s neck when they are already subdued, as Chauvin did with Floyd, “is not authorized”.
  • Democratic congressman Alcee Hastings died at 84. Hastings, who had had pancreatic cancer for more than two years, was the longest-serving member of Florida’s House delegation.
  • US Capitol police officer William “Billy” Evans will lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda next week, House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer announced. Evans was killed in the car attack at the Capitol last week. In a statement released by USCP today, Evans’ family described him as “the best father, son, brother, and friend anyone could ever hope for”.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated

Joe Biden took a few questions from reporters after concluding his prepared remarks on his administration’s efforts to distribute coronavirus vaccines across the country.

One journalist asked whether the president believed the PGA should move the Masters golf tournament from Georgia due to the outcry over the state’s new law restricting voting access.

This Week
(@ThisWeekABC)

Pres. Biden says it’s “reassuring” to see corporations opposing Georgia’s sweeping voting law, but cautions businesses leaving the state could hurt workers.

“The best way to deal with this is for Georgia and other states to smarten up. Stop it. Stop it.” https://t.co/04o558mesk pic.twitter.com/lLh2pydIbX

April 6, 2021

“I think that’s up the Masters,” Biden said. “It’s reassuring to see that for-profit operations and businesses are speaking up about how these new Jim Crow laws are just antithetical to who we are.”

But the president acknowledged such decisions can be incredibly challenging because the ramifications of them often hurt “the people who need the help the most, people who are making hourly wages”.

“I think it’s a very tough decision for a corporation to make,” Biden said. “The best way to deal with it is for Georgia and other states to smarten up. Stop it. Stop it. It’s about getting people to vote.”

Biden’s comments come days after the Major League Baseball All-Star game was moved from Atlanta because of the Georgia voting law.

Updated

Joe Biden concluded his prepared remarks by once again encouraging Americans to continue taking precautions to limit the spread of coronavirus.

“This progress we’ve worked so hard to achieve can be reversed,” Biden said. “Now’s not the time to let down. Now’s not the time to celebrate.”

The president reiterated his hope that the country will be able to return to a sense of normality by July 4, when America celebrates Independence Day.

Biden said, “I want to have an Independence Day, an independence from the Covid.”

Biden urges seniors: ‘Get vaccinated now,’ before all adults become eligible on April 19

Joe Biden announced all American adults will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine by April 19, pushing up his earlier deadline of May 1 by about two weeks.

Every US state except for Hawaii had already announced it would make the vaccine available to all adult residents by that date, so Biden’s announcement is not necessarily shocking.

The president also made a point to urge older Americans to get their shots before vaccine eligibility expands and lines get longer.

“Seniors, it’s time for you to get vaccinated now,” Biden said.

The president noted his administration is ramping up transportation assistance to vaccination sites in order to help older Americans get their shots.

Updated

Biden celebrates 150 million shots administered but tells Americans to stay vigilant

Joe Biden is now speaking at the White House to deliver an update on his administration’s efforts to distribute coronavirus vaccines across the country.

The president noted he visited a vaccination site in Alexandria, Virginia, earlier today, and he described it as an “example of America at its finest”.

As expected, Biden announced the US has administered more than 150 million vaccine doses since he took office in January.

“Yesterday, we crossed 150 million shots in 75 days, the first 75 days of my administration,” Biden said.

President Biden
(@POTUS)

I’m proud to share that yesterday, we crossed 150 million shots in just 75 days of my Administration — on our way to hitting our goal of 200 million shots by my 100th day in office.

April 6, 2021

The president noted more than 4 million shots were administered on Saturday alone, and more than 75% of people over 65 have been vaccinated, an important milestone given that seniors account for 80% of all coronavirus deaths.

But Biden warned that, even as vaccinations increase, coronavirus variants are also spreading quickly. The president urged Americans to remain vigilant about wearing masks and practicing social-distancing to limit the spread of the virus.

“Let me be perfectly earnest with you: we aren’t at the finish line,” Biden said.

Updated

Joe Biden mourned the passing of Democratic congressman Alcee Hastings, who has died at the age of 84 after struggling with pancreatic cancer for over two years.

“I had the privilege of getting to know Alcee Hastings during the years when he served in the House of Representatives and I served in the United States Senate and later as Vice President. I greatly admired him for his singular sense of humor, and for always speaking the truth bluntly and without reservation,” the president said in a new statement.

Hastings was elected to Congress 15 times, and he was the longest-serving member of Florida’s House delegation when he died.

“Across his long career of public service, Alcee always stood up to fight for equality, and always showed up for the working people he represented. And even in his final battle with cancer, he simply never gave up,” Biden said.

“Jill and I are saddened to learn of his passing. May God bless Alcee Hastings and his family.”

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