News Headlines 3/1/21

FIRST DOSES OF JOHNSON & JOHNSON COVID VACCINE SHIPPED LAST NIGHT: The first doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were shipped last night (February 28th) and will begin to be delivered to states on Tuesday, after it was approved for use by federal regulators this weekend. Nearly four million doses were shipped of the vaccine, which unlike the other two that have been approved and are being used from Pfizer and Moderna is one shot instead of two. Johnson and Johnson plans to deliver about 16 million more doses by the end of March and 100 million total by the end of June.

Despite the good news about another vaccine and the big decline in Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths since the peak of the latest surge in January, health experts are warning against easing up on safety precautions too soon. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, warned on CNN yesterday that previous dips during the pandemic that have led to loosening restrictions have led to rebounds with new surges. Additionally, the situation is made more complicated now because of the coronavirus variants that are increasingly spreading. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a similar warning yesterday, saying that data shows the declines may be stalling, stating, “That is why it is so critical that we remain vigilant and consistently take all of the mitigation steps we know work to stop the spread of Covid-19 while we work our way toward mass vaccination.”

WHITE HOUSE DEFENDS AGAINST NOT SANCTIONING BIN SALMAN FOR KHASHOGGI’S KILLING: The White House has been taking criticism for not directly sanctioning Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after releasing a declassified intelligence report Friday that said he directly approved the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the decision yesterday, saying on CNN, “We believe there is more effective ways to make sure this doesn’t happen again and to also be able to leave room to work with the Saudis on areas where there is mutual agreement — where there is national interests for the United States.” White House communications director Kate Bedingfield also defended the White House’s stance, saying on MSNBC that, quote, “historically, the United States has not placed sanctions on leadership of countries that we have diplomatic relations with.” Visa restrictions were imposed on 76 Saudis involved in harassing activists and journalists. Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who worked for the Washington Post, was killed in a Saudi consulate in Turkey in October 2018. Turkish officials allege he was killed and dismembered with a bone saw inside the consulate.

CUOMO APOLOGIZES FOR ‘MISINTERPRETED’ COMMENTS AFTER SECOND ACCUSATION OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo apologized yesterday (February 28th) for comments that he said were “misinterpreted” after a second woman who had worked for him accused him of sexual harassment, and said he’d cooperate with an investigation led by the state’s attorney general. Cuomo said that while he’d never inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone, he’d teased people about their personal lives in what he said was an attempt to be “playful.” He said, “I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.” The latest developments came after Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old woman who’d worked as a low-level aide in Cuomo’s administration until November, told the New York Times Saturday that the governor had asked her questions about her sex life, including whether she’d ever had sex with older men, and other questions that she believed were suggesting a possible affair. Days earlier, another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, charged Cuomo had kissed her on the lips without consent at the end of a meeting and, in her words, “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs.” Cuomo has denied Boylan’s allegations.

TRUMP SPEAKS AT CONSERVATIVE CONFERENCE IN FIRST POST-PRESIDENCY APPEARANCE: Former President Donald Trump spoke at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday (February 28th) in his first public appearance since leaving office in January. Greeted by cheers from the crowd in Orlando, Trump made clear his intention to remain central to the Republican Party, saying, “I stand before you today to declare that the incredible journey we begun together . . . is far from being over,” and while not saying he’ll run again in 2024, he repeatedly teased the idea. Trump called for unity in the party, but also slammed Republicans who have been critical of him, reading the names of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him and the seven Republican senators who voted to convict him over the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Breaking from the usual conduct of former presidents, particularly soon after they leave office, Trump slammed his successor, charging that President Biden‘s first month had been, quote, “disastrous,” taking particular aim at him over immigration and the border. Trump also continued his false claims that he won the presidential election, calling it “rigged” and saying of Biden, “they just lost the White House.”

Says journey far from over: [“I stand before you today to declare that the incredible journey we begun together– we went through a journey like nobody else. There’s never been a journey like it. There’s never been a journey so successful. We began it together four years ago, and it is far from being over.”] SOUNDCUE (:20 OC . . . from being over.)

Repeats false claim he won and suggests may run again: [“They just lost the White House, but it’s one of those things. But, who knows, who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time.”] SOUNDCUE (:12 OC . . . a third time.)