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Zuckerberg and tech CEOs challenged over misinformation: ‘You do it because you make money’ – live

zuckerberg-and-tech-ceos-challenged-over-misinformation:-‘you-do-it-because-you-make-money’-–-live

And with that, we are done (for now)

That wraps up the last statements of the Congressional hearing called Disinformation nation: social media’s role in promoting extremism and misinformation. In some ways it felt a lot of ground was covered during the six-hour questioning marathon of the three most powerful men in tech, but in others it is not clear what concrete action will be seen from the latest in a long line of panels on misinformation and hate speech.

As has happened in past hearings on the matter, Republicans repeatedly claimed conservative viewpoints are maligned on social platforms while Democrats argued that something must be done about misinformation and hate speech. Special attention was paid to how hate speech impacts minority communities including the LGBTQ+ community, the Black community, Asian Americans, and Spanish-speakers.

Zuckerberg frequently spoke in favor of reforming Section 230, a law that exempts platforms from legal responsibility for what is posted by users. Meanwhile, Dorsey put forward his plan of allowing for an open protocol shared by tech platforms to make for more transparency surrounding how content is moderated. He also expressed that Twitter would like to open its moderation operations up to outside researchers for review.

In the six hours of interrogation, Dorsey was the only one of the three executives who accepted any form of responsibility for the insurrection on 6 January.

No follow-up hearings on this particular subject were mentioned today, but the House financial services committee previously this year said in an antitrust hearing that there would be more to come – so we can expect to see these executives back on the Hill soon.

Updated

Congress member Kim Schrier, who is a medical doctor, talked about the concerns surrounding vaccine hesitancy caused by medical misinformation on social media.

She said a lot of doctors spend their days vaccinating on the front lines of the pandemic, only to come home to combat misinformation on social media in their free time.

Schrier also read out harassment and hate speech she received as a result of promoting the vaccine on social media, which she said was “particularly unsettling after the events of January 6”.

Some of the comments said they were going to make her “disappear” and that she should “expect riots”. One person wrote “we have weapons and will fight off forced vaccinations”.

In light of the violent misinformation surrounding medicine, Schrier suggested more people involved in regulating health misinformation should have a medical background.

Zuckerberg said the people who set policies are experts or get consulting from experts and that Facebook breaks those policies down into “simple protocols” that moderators and AI can follow “without requiring all those people to be medical experts”.

Updated

Democratic representative Marc Veasey of Texas took on misinformation, in particular that which targets Black Americans, in his questioning.

He said he would like to establish an independent organization of researchers and computer scientists “who could help identify and warn about misinformation trends before they become viral” and asked each executive if he would support it.

Zuckerberg and Pichai said they would in some form. Dorsey said he may but that he does not think the idea being put forward would be very effective.

“The more important thing is to get much more open standards and protocols that everyone can have access to and review,” Dorsey said.

To underscore the urgency if misinformation reform, Veasey cited the example of his local poison control having to make an announcement that ingesting bleach would not cure Covid-19 after bad actors – including Donald Trump – spread the idea that it could.

“We need to act quickly, he said. “We’re running out of time and that we need these companies to take affirmative action on addressing some of these issues.”

Jack Dorsey appears to be tweeting (and perhaps subtweeting) during the the hearings on Thursday. At around 11:26 am PST he tweeted a question mark with a poll where users could vote “yes” or “no”.

jack
(@jack)

?

March 25, 2021

That was the point during the hearing during which he was being questioned about whether Twitter or other social media firms should be the final say in what content is allowed online. All of the executives said no, and Dorsey said he would defer to Congress on that.

He also tweeted “agreed” with a tweet that said more Congress members should ask Dorsey about his “protocols” idea, which he mentioned in his opening statements.

jack
(@jack)

Agreed https://t.co/XGF8Y5SQiy

March 25, 2021

This would be an open-sourced tool that allows all social media platforms to cross-reference and share information on how they are moderating different content. It has barely been addressed since he mentioned it at the beginning of the hearing *checks clock* four hours ago.

Kathleen Rice in her questioning asked Dorsey about his tweets.

“What’s winning, yes or no?” she asked.

“Yes,” Dorsey smirked.

Updated

Republican Jeff Duncan of South Carolina just spewed a lot of racist misinformation at the executives, taking care to assert falsely that there was no racial motivation in the shootings of multiple Asian women in Atlanta last week at primarily Asian-American-owned businesses. He said calling it a hate crime is “misinformation”.

His line of questioning underscored a common issue with Republican questioning in these hearings, which often focuses on individual cases of content moderation decisions – like in this case the example of a tweet sent to Republican figurehead Candace Owens – rather than substantiative issues.

Updated

Congressman Tony Cárdenas of California has asked Mark Zuckerberg how the company addresses misinformation targeting Latino users, noting studies that show Facebook catches less false content in Spanish than in English.

Zuckerberg responded that Facebook has an international fact checking program with workers in more than 80 countries speaking “a bunch of languages” including Spanish. He also said Facebook translates accurate information about Covid-19 vaccines and other issues from English into a number of languages.

Cárdenas noted the example of his Spanish-speaking mother-in-law saying she did not want to get a vaccine because she heard on social media it would place a microchip in her arm.

“For God’s sake, that to me is unbelievable, that she got that information on social media platforms,” he said. “Clearly Spanish language misinformation is an issue.”

Cárdenas was part of a coalition that signed a letter in March alleging that Facebook is not doing enough to combat “rampant Spanish-language disinformation” circulating on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram that is putting Latino communities at risk.

It was signed along with the Facebook Oversight Board, an advocacy group, and groups including Free Press Action, the Center for American Progress and the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

The letter included specific requests including that Facebook appoint an executive to oversee Spanish-language content moderation and enforcement, increase transparency regarding content translation and algorithms, and hire more Spanish-language content moderators based in the United States.

Zuckerberg said that Facebook does have an executive in charge of content decisions but not for Spanish specifically.

Updated

Congresswoman asks executives to address anti-Asian hate speech

After a number of hate crimes against Asian Americans in recent weeks, Democratic representative Doris Matsui of California has directly asked Dorsey and Zuckerberg what they are doing to address anti-Asian hate on platforms. She also asked why they took so long to remove racist hashtags that promoted blame for the coronavirus pandemic on Asian Americans, citing the recent attack on Asian women in Atlanta as a consequence of these policies.

“The issues we are discussing here are not abstract,” she said. “They have real world consequences and implications that are too often measured in human lives.”

She also cited a study that showed a substantial rise in hate speech the week after Donald Trump first used the term China flu in a tweet. Matsui suggested revisiting Section 230 protections.

Dorsey said he will not ban the racist hashtags outright because “a lot of these hashtags contain counter speech”, or posts refuting the racism the hashtags initiated. Zuckerberg similarly said that hate speech policies at Facebook are “nuanced” and that they have an obligation to protect free speech.

A woman attends a candlelight vigil in California against Asian American Pacific Islander hate and violence.

A woman attends a candlelight vigil in California against Asian American Pacific Islander hate and violence. Photograph: Ringo Chiu/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

Pichai and Dorsey said in response to questioning on Thursday that they are open to some of the Section 230 changes proposed by Facebook.

Section 230 is a communications law that shields platforms from legal liability for what is posted by their users. It has repeatedly been targeted in debates surrounding misinformation as allowing misinformation to flourish without accountability.

Pichai said Zuckerberg had some “good proposals” and that the company would “certainly welcome legislative approaches in that area”. Dorsey in favor, but slightly less enthusiastically, said “we think the ideas around transparency are good”. He said, however that small platforms should not be held to the same standards.

Updated

As Zuckerberg repeatedly dodges responsibility for Facebook’s role in the Stop the Steal movement and subsequent Capitol riot, some have noted Facebook is still allowing political ads using the phrase “stop the steal” and spreading misinformation.

(((ben)))
(@btdecker)

WHOEVER NEEDS TO SEE THIS. fb ads literally still using ‘stop the steal’ pic.twitter.com/xaMz80pvgB

March 25, 2021

Zuckerberg has repeatedly dodged questioning and evaded accepting responsibility for Facebook’s role in the 6 January insurrection.

Frank Pallone, Democratic representative from New Jersey, admonished the executives and Zuckerberg in particular for this. Dorsey unlike the other two did accept some acceptability for Twitter’s role in 6 January riots.

Will Oremus
(@WillOremus)

Rep. Mike Doyle, D-PA, asks Zuckerberg, Pichai, and Dorsey point-blank whether they accept any amount of responsibility for what happened on Jan. 6. Refuses to accept any answer except “yes” or “no.”

Zuckerberg and Pichai refuse to give a straight answer. Dorsey says yes. pic.twitter.com/EcpoFlsVkG

March 25, 2021

Addressing Pichai and Zuckerberg in particular, Pallone said “you definitely give the impression that you don’t think that you’re actively in any way promoting this misinformation and extremism,” he said.

“You’re not passive bystanders – you are not nonprofits or religious organizations that are trying to do a good job for humanity – you’re making money,” he said. “The point we’re trying to make today is that when you spread misinformation, when extremists are actively promoted and amplified, you do it because you make more money.”

Updated

The most clear takeaway from the opening statements of both Congress members and the three executives in attendance is that we are seeing what we always see at tech hearings: Republicans shouting about “cancel culture” and perceived (and unproven) bias against conservatives on social media while Democrats attempt to address the erosion of democracy caused by misinformation and hate speech on social platforms.

Alex Kantrowitz
(@Kantrowitz)

Misinformation hearing so far:

Democrats: You did the 1/6 riot

Republicans: Free Dr. Seuss

March 25, 2021

Many have noted that this dichotomy has made it difficult to get anything done in the realm of tech regulation. While Republicans and Democrats both agree that tech has too much power and needs to be reined in, they have completely different perceptions of the reality of the situation and what to do about it.

Updated

See this thread from Daphne Keller, the platform regulation director at Stanford Cyber Policy Center, on why it is so interesting Zuckerberg is lobbying for Section 230 reform and more regulation, when in the past Facebook had been very against such legislation.

Daphne Keller
(@daphnehk)

This part of Zuckerberg’s testimony is a feat of geopolitical dexterity. 18 months ago, Facebook lost a major case about global content filtering in the EU. So now it’s telling Congress that *every* platform should be held to the standard imposed on FB by European courts. 1/ https://t.co/MT5GFnFab3

March 25, 2021

In other words, Facebook would like to help the very rules that moderate it. This may give it an advantage over other platforms, particularly smaller ones that may not have the resources to enforce the same extent of regulation that Facebook does.

Daphne Keller
(@daphnehk)

Anyhow… fast-forward 3 years, and Facebook is turning its jurisprudential lemons into lemonade. If Facebook has to build costly, flawed, and potentially human-rights-violating filters, then the U.S. Congress should make everyone else do it too. 12/

March 25, 2021

Updated

Twitter’s Jack Dorsey makes opening statement

Jack Dorsey of Twitter gave his opening statements after Pichai, seeming to be videoing in from a sleek kitchen somewhere. His opening statements were live tweeted from his account on Twitter. You can read them in full below.

jack
(@jack)

Thank you Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee and its Subcommittees, for the opportunity to speak with the American people about how Twitter may be used to spread disinformation, and our solutions. My remarks will be brief so we can move to your questions and discussion.

March 25, 2021

Updated

Google’s Sundar Pichai makes opening statement

Sundar Pichai of Google gave his opening statements next. He highlighted Google’s role in connecting users with vaccine information and other Covid-19 resources.

rat king
(@MikeIsaac)

sundar has some nice pottery. im thinking heath pic.twitter.com/2nYRbbAJqL

March 25, 2021

“We are energized by the opportunity to help people at scale and humbled by the responsibility that comes with it,” he said.

Updated

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg makes opening statement

Now it’s time for opening statements from tech executives. First we have Mark Zuckerberg. He returns to his usual argument, which is that tech companies should not be making the decisions around what is allowed online.

Brandy Zadrozny
(@BrandyZadrozny)

Oooooh what’s that plant? pic.twitter.com/JPYqjAAhqu

March 25, 2021

As many have noted, this makes it easier for Facebook to shape policy that other companies may struggle to keep up with. He also stressed Facebook’s efforts to combat misinformation and its spread of vaccine information and called for Section 230 reform.

Updated

Protests outside the Capitol as tech hearing begins

Outside of the Capitol on Thursday protesters portrayed the tech executives testifying in front of Congress as violent insurrectionists whose images went viral in the days following the 6 January riots.

SumOfUs
(@SumOfUs)

HAPPENING RIGHT NOW: SumOfUs portraying the Big Tech CEOs as key insurrectionists after they allowed their platforms to be flooded with election disinformation and conspiracy theories. It’s time for Congress to hold these companies to account.

Credit: Eric Kayne – AP pic.twitter.com/9J2zQqz1zj

March 25, 2021

The protest was organized by SumOfUs, an 18 million member human rights advocacy organization. Executive director Emma Ruby-Sachs said Facebook’s inability to rein in ‘Stop the Steal’ content after the 2020 elections directly led to the riot.

“The platforms’ inability to deal with the violence, hate and disinformation they promote on their platforms shows that these companies are failing to regulate themselves,” she said. “After the past five years of manipulation, data harvesting, and surveillance, the time has come to rein in Big Tech.”

She added that Facebook’s micro-targeting and algorithms enabled groups that ultimately planned the insurrection. The report from SumOfUs also highlighted how ad tech platforms like Google and Amazon are funding and profiting off of disinformation websites. It said Google earned an estimated $19 million from Covid disinformation, and nearly 200 sites spreading electoral disinformation make over $1 million in ad revenue each month. Google accounts for 71% of all advertising dollars placed on the 200 disinformation sites.

Lawmakers and the media tend to focus on Facebook and Twitter, while Google gets away with being a massive contributor to the disinformation machine. These websites have huge reach on Facebook, but are able to sustain themselves thanks to Google ads. Until Google changes its policies on the monetization of disinformation, the company is equally responsible for the violence on January 6,” said Ruby-Sachs.

A protest installation protest by the organization SumOfUs near the US Capitol on Thursday.

A protest installation protest by the organization SumOfUs near the US Capitol on Thursday. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Updated

Jan Schakowsky, a Democratic representative from Illinois, said in her opening statements announced she would be introducing a bill to address misinformation on social media called the Online Consumer Protection Act.

She cited the removal of Donald Trump from Twitter, which she said, citing a study, decreased misinformation 73% across social platforms. Indeed studies show a small number of individual social media “super spreaders are responsible for the vast majority of misinformation. She did not give many details of the bill, but presumably it would address this.

“The witnesses here today have demonstrated time and time again, that self regulation has not worked,” she said. “They must be held accountable for allowing disinformation and misinformation to spread.”

Updated

My colleague David Smith wrote yesterday on why Mark Zuckerberg could be in for a rough ride before Congress today. The hearing will mark the first the Facebook CEO has appeared in front of lawmakers to address the platform’s role in fuelling the Capitol attack.

He writes:


The testimony will come after signs that the new administration of Joe Biden is preparing to take a tougher line on the tech industry’s power, especially when it comes to the social media platforms and their role in spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories.

The question every politician should be asking is, what does Mark Zuckerberg want with us?

Zuckerberg will be joined by Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey, the chief executives of Google and Twitter respectively, at a hearing pointedly entitled “Disinformation nation: social media’s role in promoting extremism and misinformation” by the House of Representatives’ energy and commerce committee.

The scrutiny comes after a report found that Facebook allowed groups linked to the QAnon, boogaloo and militia movements to glorify violence during the 2020 election and weeks leading up to the deadly mob violence at the US Capitol.

Rioters storm the Capitol in January.

Rioters storm the Capitol in January. Photograph: John Minchillo/AP


Avaaz, a non-profit advocacy group, says it identified 267 pages and groups on Facebook that spread “violence-glorifying content” in the heat of the 2020 election to a combined following of 32 million users. More than two-thirds of the groups and pages had names aligned with several domestic extremist movements.

The top 100 most popular false or misleading stories on Facebook related to the elections received an estimated 162m views, the report found. Avaaz called on the White House and Congress to open an investigation into Facebook’s failures and urgently pass legislation to protect American democracy.

Read the full story below …

Hi, Kari Paul here – the Guardian’s west coast technology reporter – and I am going to be live blogging the next many hours of testimony from tech’s biggest CEOs: Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Jack Dorsey of Twitter.

All three executives will be answering for the major missteps and controversies of their platforms in recent years, with a focus on misinformation and the use of social media leading up to the 6 January riots at the US Capitol that resulted in several deaths.

The hearing is titled Disinformation nation: social media’s role in promoting extremism and misinformation by the House of Representatives’ energy and commerce committee.

It is the latest in a record number of hearings for the tech space in the past year, as executives have repeatedly been called to the Hill to testify on antitrust issues, misinformation, and hate speech.

Stay tuned for updates.

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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.

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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.”

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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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