President Biden said Monday that a Russian-built pipeline to carry natural gas to Germany will be abandoned if Russia invades Ukraine. Biden made the remark during a joint news conference at the White House with Germany’s new chancellor, Olaf Scholz. Scholz did not explicitly state that Germany would suspend the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, though he said the U.S. and Germany were aligned in their positions. In Brussels, European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU was exploring other options for its energy supplies — which would include fracked gas from the United States.
Ursula von der Leyen: “We are building a partnership for energy security with the United States, which is primarily about more liquefied natural gas supplies. We are talking to other gas suppliers — for example, Norway — about increasing their supplies to Europe.”
Also on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin. Putin said Russia was still working to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Ukraine, but warned of a wider, nuclear-armed confrontation if Ukraine is to join the NATO military alliance.
The Washington National Cathedral rang its bell 900 times on Monday in a somber tribute to 900,000 U.S. residents who’ve died of COVID-19. At the Capitol, members of Congress held a moment of silence and candlelight vigil to mark the occasion. The U.S. has a far higher per capita death rate from COVID-19 than other wealthy nations — even though vaccines have been widely available to most U.S. residents for months.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of Democratic governors have announced plans to roll back public health measures. California, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon said they would end statewide mask mandates — but would allow municipal governments and school boards to require masking. This is New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
Gov. Phil Murphy: “We’re not going to manage COVID to zero. We have to learn how to live with COVID as we move from a pandemic to the endemic phase of this virus.”
The Homeland Security Department has confirmed it is testing robot dogs on patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border. The agency said the four-legged drones, produced by the Philadelphia-based company Ghost Robotics, would help boost the presence of Border Patrol in the region. Officials also admitted the harsh terrain in the southern border can be life-threatening and that robots would reduce agents’ exposure to the hazards. Last year at least 650 migrants died while attempting to cross into the U.S. as the Biden administration continued to block most asylum seekers from safely coming into the country through ports of entry. In October, Ghost Robotics showed off an autonomous weapons system combining a quadruped robot with a sniper rifle.
Costa Rica’s crowded presidential election is likely headed to a runoff as preliminary results show no candidate got the required 40% of votes needed to declare victory. Businessman and former President José María Figueres has taken an early lead in Sunday’s election, with former finance minister and World Bank official Rodrigo Chaves polling in second place. The election comes as Costa Ricans are denouncing growing unemployment, increasing living costs and corruption. Sunday’s presidential election had 25 candidates. The runoff is scheduled for April.
The Biden administration has confirmed it quietly banned former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández from entering the United States and placed him on a list that tracks corrupt Central American officials last year. The State Department said Monday it added Hernández on its Corrupt and Undemocratic Actors list in July, citing multiple credible media reports and sworn witness testimony accusing Hernández of aiding in drug trafficking and using drug money to finance his campaign. Hernández’s right-wing regime for years was backed by the U.S. government despite numerous reports of human rights violations. Hernández’s brother was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the U.S. in 2019.
In Brazil, thousands of people took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and more than a dozen other cities across the country over the weekend, demanding justice for Moïse Kabagambe, a 24-year-old Congolese refugee who was beaten to death last month. Kabagambe was attacked on January 24 after he demanded back pay from two days of work at a Rio de Janeiro beach kiosk where he served beverages. Security footage shows three men repeatedly beating Kabagambe with a club and a baseball bat over the course of 13 minutes. This is one of the protesters.
Oswaldo Sergio Mendes: “The Brazilian state is racist. It is a Nazi state. It is a homophobic and xenophobic state. And it has to stop. We are here at this huge protest in solidarity with all the families who suffered these barbaric crimes.”
Kabagambe’s family left Congo and fled to Brazil in 2011, when he was a child.
Back in the United States, the Supreme Court has restored Alabama’s congressional voting map, reversing a federal court ruling that found Alabama Republicans unlawfully gerrymandered the districts to deny representation to Black voters. The maps give Alabama just one congressional district out of seven that’s favorable to a Black candidate. Monday’s 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court will allow Alabama to keep the gerrymandered maps through November’s midterm elections while justices consider a case that could further undermine what’s left of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
First lady Jill Biden says President Biden will no longer promote two years of tuition-free community college as part of his Build Back Better agenda. Dr. Biden spoke Monday at the Community College National Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C.
Jill Biden: “Joe has also had to make compromises. Congress hasn’t passed the Build Back Better legislation yet. And free community college is no longer part of that package.”
The White House is no longer actively negotiating with Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who’ve refused to support the Build Back Better bill. Democrats currently have just 49 senators available to vote in the 100-seat chamber, after New Mexico Senator Ben Ray Luján suffered a stroke and is not expected to return for weeks.
In media news, calls are growing on Spotify to remove Joe Rogan from its platform, after the popular podcast host promoted misinformation about COVID-19 on his show and as video resurfaced showing Rogan making repeated racist comments. On Friday, Grammy-winning singer India Arie joined other artists who’ve pulled their music from Spotify, as she shared a viral video showing Rogan using the N-word on his show two dozen times. This is an excerpt.
Joe Rogan: “Like, you know, the [bleep] thing. … Yes, saying the word [bleep]. … You’ve already said [bleep]. … It’s just like [bleep]. … Saying [bleep]. … She’s called you a [bleep], like this. … Boy, that he’s a [bleep]. … But starts calling him [bleep].”
Other resurfaced videos show Joe Rogan saying Black people have “different brains” and comparing a neighborhood with “no white people” to the “Planet of the Apes.” In response, Spotify has quietly deleted scores of past episodes of Joe Rogan’s podcast. But CEO Daniel Ek has refused to cancel Rogan’s exclusive contract with Spotify — reportedly valued at over $100 million. In a memo to Spotify workers, Ek wrote, “Canceling voices is a slippery slope.” In response, musician Neil Young urged Spotify workers to quit, writing, “Get out of that place before it eats up your soul.”
Board members from some of the most powerful Big Oil corporations are on Capitol Hill today to face questioning by the House Subcommittee on the Environment. This comes as the oil and gas industry is facing mounting backlash over its contribution to the climate crisis, including a massive campaign of disinformation that spread lies about the catastrophic dangers of fossil fuels — despite Big Oil’s own research warning carbon emissions from its products were triggering a climate emergency. Ahead of today’s hearings, committee chair Ro Khanna released a video promising to hold Big Oil accountable.
Rep. Ro Khanna: “So, we are going to have the Big Oil company executives in for the first time ever in Congress to testify about misinformation. It will be like the Big Tobacco hearings.”
Rep. Henry Waxman: “This hearing marks the beginning of a new relationship between Congress and the tobacco companies.
Rep. Ro Khanna: “We are going to be going after Chevron, BP, Shell, a number of these companies, to see what their practice is.”
Todd Gitlin, one of the founding members of Students for a Democratic Society, has died at the age of 79. Gitlin helped organize protests against racial segregation in the Jim Crow South and apartheid South Africa. He was also a leading opponent of the Vietnam War. Gitlin went on to become a professor of culture, journalism and sociology at NYU and Columbia Universities.