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The Biden administration will not sanction Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the assassination of Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, despite Friday’s declassified intelligence report reaffirming the crown prince directly approved the killing. The U.S. instead announced travel restrictions on dozens of other Saudi officials. Biden is set to publicly address U.S.-Saudi relations today, though the White House says no new policy will be announced. This is Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “The relationship with Saudi Arabia is an important one. We have significant, ongoing interests. We remain committed to the defense of the kingdom. … So, what we’ve done by the actions that we’ve taken is really not to rupture the relationship, but to recalibrate it.”
The U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings said the U.S. should directly sanction bin Salman and “take the lead in ensuring accountability.” Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz is also calling for the crown prince to be “punished without delay.” Meanwhile, CNN is reporting the names of three men were removed from the Khashoggi report shortly after it was first released.
Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is starting to roll out across the U.S. after it received the approval of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unlike the two other approved vaccines in the U.S. by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson’s requires just one shot and does not need to be stored in a freezer. This comes as health experts warn that the recent decline in cases is slowing down as more states move to relax restrictions. This is CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky: “We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us. We cannot get comfortable or give in to a false sense of security that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, not now, not when mass vaccination is so very close.”
In Texas, people are reporting workers at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley vaccination clinic turned them away because they were undocumented, a move that is against state policy.
In news from Washington, D.C., the House passed the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill early Saturday, which now heads to the Senate. In response to the Senate parliamentarian declaring last week that including a $15-an-hour minimum wage increase goes against the rules of budget reconciliation, Senators Bernie Sanders and Ron Wyden say they will push for an amendment to penalize large companies that pay workers less than $15 an hour.
President Biden is meeting virtually with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador today, where López Obrador is expected to ask the U.S. to share some of its coronavirus vaccine supply with Mexico.
In Burma, mass protests continued today after at least 18 people were killed in anti-coup demonstrations Sunday, the deadliest day since the February 1 military coup which deposed and detained de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Police fired live ammunition into crowds as Burmese forces steadily escalate their crackdown. One local group says 1,000 people were arrested Sunday, including journalists and medical professionals. Sunday’s bloodshed followed the firing of Burma’s ambassador to the United Nations after he denounced the military coup. This is Kyaw Moe Tun.
Kyaw Moe Tun: “We need further strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup, to stop oppressing the innocent people, to return the state power to the people and to restore the democracy.”
In Hong Kong, Hong Kong authorities have charged 47 activists with “conspiracy to commit subversion” under the national security law. They were among more than 50 people arrested in January for organizing a primary vote to choose candidates for a legislative election, in the hopes of forming a majority bloc of lawmakers opposed to one-party rule. If convicted, the activists face up to life in prison.
In Iraq, at least four people were killed and 120 injured Friday after security forces in the southern city of Nasiriyah opened fire on people protesting the deterioration of public services. Residents are demanding clean drinking water and regular electricity, in a city where most residents face polluted water and just a few hours of power each day.
In Nigeria, 42 people — including over two dozen students — who were abducted by an armed group last month from a school in the north-central state of Niger have been released. This comes as local authorities continue to search for over 300 schoolgirls taken by armed men last week in a raid at their boarding school in the northwestern state of Zamfara.
At least 15 refugees drowned off the coast of Libya after their boat capsized Sunday. This is the second refugee shipwreck in the Mediterranean in less than two weeks. The rubber boat was carrying over 100 people, including children, trying to reach European soil. According to the U.N., more than 20,000 refugees have died in the Mediterranean since 2014.
Back in the U.S., Donald Trump made his first public speech since leaving the White House, receiving a standing ovation as he delivered the keynote address to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference — or CPAC — in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday. Trump renewed his attacks on immigrants and repeated the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him. He said he would not form a third party and hinted he might run again in 2024’s Republican presidential primary.
In immigration news, all asylum-seeking families who had been detained at the Berks County ICE jail in Pennsylvania have been released. The facility had been accused of abusing prisoners. In 2016, an ICE employee was convicted of sexually assaulting an asylum seeker while she was detained at Berks. Immigrant justice advocates have been fighting to abolish family ICE jails for years — a practice that was expanded under the Obama administration. This comes as two other controversial ICE jails for asylum-seeking families — Dilley and Karnes in Texas — will reportedly now be used as “reception centers,” while families receive a COVID-19 health screening and shelter arrangements are made.
Members of the Asian American community, allies and elected officials rallied in New York City Saturday to call for more action in the face of increasing anti-Asian hate crimes. This is New York Congressmember Grace Meng.
Rep. Grace Meng: “We’ve been taught our entire life to just fit in, just be quiet, don’t speak up, be invisible. If you are invisible enough, you will be seen as American. But we are here to say that we will be invisible no more. We will speak up.”
The rally came after at least two more attacks against Asian Americans were reported in New York. Last week, a 36-year-old Asian man was stabbed while walking down the street. And 61-year-old Filipino American Noel Quintana, who spoke at Saturday’s action, was slashed across the face while on the subway last month.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been forced to apologize for what he claims were “misinterpreted” comments after a second former aide came forward over the weekend to share her story of being sexually harassed by the governor. Charlotte Bennett revealed to The New York Times that Cuomo told her he was open to relationships with younger women and complained about being lonely and being unable to hug anyone because of the pandemic. Bennett said, “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared.” Last week, former aide Lindsey Boylan said Cuomo kissed her on the lips without her consent, among other things. New York Attorney General Letitia James has been charged with selecting an independent investigator to look into the allegations.
In Mississippi, residents of Jackson have spent nearly two weeks under “boil water” orders, after a February cold snap burst pipes and left thousands of people without reliable access to running water. The crisis has cast a new light on Jackson’s crumbling infrastructure, with Mayor Chokwe Lumumba warning it could cost over $1 billion to fix the city’s aging water system.
In Philadelphia, supporters of renowned political prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal gathered Saturday across from City Hall demanding the medically vulnerable 66-year-old be released from prison, after he started experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. This is Mumia Abu-Jamal’s grandson.
Mumia Abu-Jamal’s grandson: “They want to bury my grandfather’s name and the fight for Black liberation. They want to bury that. We ain’t gonna let them bury that.”