News Headlines 3/25/21

BOULDER MASS SHOOTING SUSPECT ALISSA TO MAKE FIRST COURT APPEARANCE TODAY: The 21-year-old suspect in Monday’s mass shooting at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket that left 10 people dead will make his first court appearance today (March 25th). Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa has been jailed on 10 counts of murder since Tuesday, following his release from the hospital the day after the shooting after being treated for a leg wound. Meanwhile, more than 500 people gathered last night at a candlelight vigil in downtown Boulder in memory of the victims. Earlier in the day, hundreds paid their respects during a police procession taking the body of 51-year-old Officer Eric Talley to a funeral home. The father of seven was killed after being the first officer to respond to the supermarket.

NORTH KOREA TEST-FIRES BALLISTIC MISSILES FOR FIRST TIME IN BIDEN PRESIDENCY: North Korea test-fired ballistic missiles on Thursday morning (March 25) for the first time since President Biden took office. South Korea’s foreign minister expressed “deep concern” about the launches, while Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said they threaten “peace and safety in Japan and the region.” The launches came one day after North Korea fired short-range weapons that were believed to be cruise missiles into the sea. They also come after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin traveled to South Korea and Japan last week. While there, Blinken criticized North Korea’s nuclear program and human rights record.

BIDEN PUTS HARRIS IN CHARGE OF EFFORT TO RESPOND TO MIGRANT SURGE AT THE BORDER: President Biden announced Wednesday (March 24th) that he’d put Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of leading the effort to respond to the surge of migrants at the border with Mexico, including many unaccompanied minors who’ve been arriving in recent weeks. Part of that will involve working with Central American nations where the migrants are coming from to try to address the problems that are driving them to leave, and to push those nations to strengthen enforcement of their own borders. Harris said yesterday, “Needless to say, the work will not be easy. But it is important work.” The administration has moved to open more than 10,000 new beds in facilities including convention centers and former oilfield camps, as well as in new facilities, to house the minors crossing the border.

ASTRAZENECA SAYS COVID VACCINE GIVES 76 PERCENT PROTECTION AFTER DISPUTE WITH U.S. OFFICIALS: AstraZeneca said yesterday (March 24th) that its Covid-19 vaccine gives 76 percent protection, three percentage points lower than the 79 percent it had said earlier in the week. The change came after it counted additional illness in a recalculation, after the earlier results had led to a dispute with U.S. officials. On Tuesday, an independent panel that oversees the study had accused AstraZeneca of cherry-picking data in presenting the 79 percent figure, saying it had left out some Covid cases. In response, the National Institutes of Health took the unusual step of publicly calling on AstraZeneca to fix the issue. AstraZeneca has been hoping the study findings would boost confidence in the vaccine. Although it’s being widely used in Europe and other countries, earlier studies had shown inconsistent data about its effectiveness, and some countries paused using it last week after there was concern about blood clots. AstraZeneca plans to seek FDA clearance of the vaccine for use in the U.S. within a few weeks.

CARGO SHIP STUCK IN SUEZ CANAL AFFECTING GLOBAL SHIPPING: Efforts are continuing today (March 25th) to try to free a huge cargo ship that’s stuck across Egypt’s Suez Canal, affecting global shipping as other vessels aren’t able to pass through the canal in either direction. At least 150 other ships were waiting for the  Japanese-owned ship Ever Given to be freed so that they could proceed. The Ever Given, among the largest cargo ships in the world with a length of nearly a quarter mile, got stuck on Tuesday in the canal between continental Africa and the Sinai Peninsula.

VIRGINIA OUTLAWS DEATH PENALTY: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation yesterday (March 24th) abolishing the death penalty, become the 23rd state to do so. The legislation signed by Northam, who’s a Democrat, came after the new Democratic majority in the state’s legislature passed the measure, having argued the death penalty is disproportionately given to people of color, the poor and the mentally ill. It’s a major turnaround for Virginia, which had the second-highest number of executions in the U.S. Only two men are still on Virginia’s death row, and their sentences will be converted to life in prison without parole.