First Thing: Biden pledges 600m vaccine doses available by late July – The Guardian

Good morning.

Joe Biden laid out further plans for tackling the coronavirus pandemic yesterday, including a promise to make 600m doses of vaccines available by the end of July, enough to vaccinate every American, according to the president. Biden also said teachers should be “moved up the hierarchy” of the vaccine rollout, as he predicted that the majority of elementary schools would reopen within his first 100 days in office.

Addressing a small and social distanced crowd in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at a town hall event, Biden was asked when life would get back to normal, to which he replied: “By next Christmas we’ll be in a very different circumstance, God willing, than we are today.”

  • Latino and Black Americans are being vaccinated at much lower rates despite being at disproportionately high risk of suffering serious symptoms of coronavirus. Only 3% of Latinos and 4.5% of Black Americans have so far received a vaccine shot, compared with 9.1% of white Americans.

  • Fema has opened up its first Covid-19 mass vaccination sites as part of the government’s efforts to ramp up the pace of inoculations and reach communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The Federal Emergency Management Agency set up its first site in Los Angeles, aiming to vaccinate up to 6,000 people a day.

At least 21 people have died due to the ferocious winter weather

Sam Patel (L) and Mike Bollin (R) clear snow from the front of the SureStay Plus Hotel which is completely full with guests that have no power at home, in Benbrook, Texas, 16 February 2021.
Sam Patel (L) and Mike Bollin (R) clear snow from the front of the SureStay Plus Hotel, which is completely full with guests who have no power at home, in Benbrook, Texas, 16 February 2021. Photograph: Ralph Lauer/EPA

Extreme winter weather tearing across the central and southern US has killed at least 21 people and left millions without power. Parts of the US have seen record-breaking cold temperatures, while Texas has seen the worst power outages, with more than 4m homes and businesses left without power on Tuesday as temperatures remained below freezing. In the Houston area, four family members died in a house fire after using the fireplace to stay warm.

Conservative commentators have sought to blame renewable energy for the electricity outages, with the Texas agriculture minister saying “we should never build another wind turbine” in the state. In reality, failures in gas, coal and nuclear energy were responsible for nearly twice as many outages as renewables, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said on Tuesday. But the outages might have a wider cause: some scientists have argued that the freezing weather is linked to the climate crisis. According to experts, the rapid heating of the Arctic can help push frigid air from the north pole much further south, possibly as far as the US-Mexico border. One scientist said:

The current conditions in Texas are historical, certainly generational. But this can’t be hand-waved away as if it’s entirely natural. This is happening not in spite of climate change, it’s in part due to climate change.

  • Oil companies should disclose their carbon emissions, BlackRock, the world’s biggest investor, has said. All companies the firm invests in will be expected to do so, a letter said, in a sign of a reassessment of climate risks.

  • Climate change probably delayed the migration of plant-eating dinosaurs, a study has found, concluding that the dinosaurs probably arrived in the northern hemisphere years after their meat-eating relatives. The study has far-reaching implications for our understanding of the creatures.

Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani are getting sued over the Capitol attack

Rudy Giuliani
Rudy Giuliani speaks to Trump supporters contesting the results of the presidential election on 6 January, ahead of the Capitol riot. The speech has been accused of being incendiary. Photograph: Jim Bourg/Reuters

Donald Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani are being taken to court by a Democratic congressman and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People over their alleged role in the deadly Capitol attack. The lawsuit, brought under a historic law known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, accuses the pair of conspiring to incite the violent insurrection at the Capitol with the aim of stopping Joe Biden’s election being certified.

It comes three days after Trump was acquitted during a Senate trial for inciting the violence. The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, pointed out that presidents were “not immune” to criminal or civil litigation.

  • Steve Bannon believed Trump had early-stage dementia and campaigned covertly to remove him from office via the 25th amendment, a TV producer has claimed. The former White House strategist reportedly thought he could replace Trump as president.

  • The majority of Republican voters want Trump to play a prominent role in the GOP, according to a new poll, at 59%. This is an increase of 18 points from the last poll, taken after the Capitol riot.

Fast-food workers are on strike across the US

Demonstrators participate in a protest outside of McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Chicago, Illinois
Demonstrators participate in a protest outside of McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. The protest was part of a nationwide effort calling for minimum wage to be raised to $15 per hour. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Fast-food staff and care workers in 15 cities across the US went on strike yesterday, demanding the minimum wage be increased to $15 per hour. Staff at McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s stood with home care and nursing workers in the action. It comes as Biden attempts to push through an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25, which hasn’t been increased since 2009.

The battle over the minimum wage is a “moral issue masquerading as an economic one”, writes Hamilton Nolan, arguing that it is an outrage that the pay has not increased for more than 10 years despite the economic hardship America has endured in that time.

In other news…

 Princess Latifa: daughter of ruler of Dubai says she is a hostage in secret message – video
Princess Latifa: daughter of ruler of Dubai says she is a hostage in secret message – video
  • The daughter of the ruler of Dubai has claimed she is a hostage in a locked villa guarded by police, in a series of video messages taken over the last two years on a smuggled phone. Princess Latifa al-Maktoum tried to flee the emirate in 2018 but was forcibly returned. The messages have since stopped and campaigners are calling for international intervention.

  • Thousands of people have taken to the streets in Myanmar to protest against the military coup, after a new charge was announced against the detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She has not been seen in public since the coup. The military has also been using internet shutdowns to crush dissent, but what are they and will they work?

  • Harry and Meghan don’t want to ruin their relationship with the Queen during a “wide-ranging” interview with Oprah Winfrey, with the royal couple wishing not to embarrass her by taking part. News of the interview led to reports it was the final straw for Buckingham Palace, who would strip them of their royal patronages.

Stat of the day: the number of new global Covid cases fell 16% last week

Some good news: the number of coronavirus cases reported around the world dropped by 16% last week to 2.7 million, the World Health Organization has said. The number of new deaths also fell by 10%, to 81,000. Five of the six WHO world regions reported a double-digit percentage decline in new cases, with only the eastern Mediterranean showing an increase, of 7%.

Don’t miss this: How did Biden handle the Iran rocket attack?

After a barrage of rockets in northern Iran hit a US military base, Biden faced up against his first real test of his policy on Iran. Gone was the fiery rhetoric of Trump, replaced with a firm condemnation and commitment to finding the culprits, Martin Chulov writes in his analysis.

Last Thing: The family of an anti-Trump Republican called him a ‘disappointment to us and God’

Adam Kinzinger
Adam Kinzinger speaking to the media. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

While most of us have encountered heated family debates over politics, relatives of the centrist Republican Adam Kinzinger have taken things a step further, publishing a searing open letter describing him as “disappointment to us and God”. Kinzinger called for Trump to be removed from office after the mob attack on the Capitol, leading his family to say he had gone “against your Christian principles and join the ‘devil’s army’ (Democrats and the fake news media).” They underlined the word “disappointment” three times for emphasis.

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First Thing: Biden pledges 600m vaccine doses available by late July – The Guardian

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