5 things to know for March 16: Covid, immigration, North Korea, Capitol riot, Vatican

Here's what you need to know to get up to speed and on with your day
5 Things You Need To Know

1. Coronavirus

A growing number of European countries are temporarily halting the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of a handful of cases of blood clots in people who have received the shot. The suspensions go against the advice of international medical agencies, which say there’s no evidence the vaccine is linked to clotting and that rollouts should continue while the reports are investigated. These concerns come at a pretty bad time for Europe, as a third wave of infections threatens to grip the continent. Meanwhile, in the US, experts say a concerning variant is about to become dominant. And the American Red Cross reports about 1 in 5 blood donations from unvaccinated people have Covid-19 antibodies, meaning those donors had likely been infected with the coronavirus at some point.

2. Immigration

President Biden is facing growing political tension over his administration’s strategy on the US-Mexico border. Republicans are calling the situation a failure of Biden’s leadership, while some Democrats are suggesting that detaining families and children in temporary facilities is no better than how Trump handled migrant children while in office. More than 4,000 children have been stuck in Border Patrol-run facilities, which are akin to jail-like conditions, for extended periods because there is not enough shelter space to adequately care for them. There are a few factors behind the spike: devastation from two hurricanes last year, the toll of the pandemic and the perception that enforcement is now more relaxed. Still, CNN’s Stephen Collinson writes, the issue is fast becoming a political emergency for the new President.

3. North Korea

The Biden administration recently said it had started reaching out to North Korea, but Pyongyang was unresponsive. Now, the sister of North Korea’s leader is warning the US against “causing a stink at its first step.” That warning comes as the US and South Korea conduct scaled-down, simulated military exercises. But even before that message, experts had said North Korea was likely to reject diplomatic efforts for the time-being for a number of reasons, including the coronavirus pandemic, the Biden team’s ongoing North Korea policy review, meetings in the region and the administration’s rhetoric.

4. Capitol riot

Two men have been arrested and charged with assaulting US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after responding to hundreds of rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6. Federal authorities said they were pursuing a murder investigation in the weeks after Sicknick’s death. But they struggled to build a federal murder case as they pored over videos and images trying to determine the moment in which he suffered his fatal injuries. Neither of the alleged rioters ended up being charged with murder. In a separate case, a 16-year-old testified against her father in court about his resolve to take part in the Capitol insurrection. It’s one of the most searing examples of how close family and friends have aided authorities in investigating the riot.

5. Vatican

The Vatican says it will not bless same-sex unions, writing in a statement approved by Pope Francis that God “does not and cannot bless sin.” The decision is a major disappointment for LGBTQ Catholics, one that threatens to widen the rift between LGBTQ people and the church. It’s also likely to alarm Catholics who had hoped to see a more open and progressive Catholic leadership under Pope Francis. The Pope last year in an interview seemed to advocate for civil union laws for same-sex couples. But the Vatican quickly tried to clarify the remarks, saying they had been taken out of context and did not indicate a change in doctrine.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

And the Academy Award nominations go to … 

A record number of women.

A substitute teacher living in his car got a birthday surprise of $27,000 from a former student

Who’s cutting onions in here?

Research suggests we don’t need to get a full 10,000 steps a day to reap the health benefits

That’s a relief, because we haven’t been getting anywhere close to that lately.

The world’s first ‘polar bear hotel’ is open for business

And it’s attracting both guests and criticism.

A mom and daughter are accused of rigging a high school homecoming court election

This is the kind of voter fraud we need to be worried about.

TODAY’S NUMBER

84

The percentage of countries that saw improvements in air quality because of coronavirus lockdowns, according to a new report.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“It’s difficult to not feel obligated to protect this land, and I feel that every Indigenous person in this country understands that.”

Deb Haaland, who was confirmed as President Biden’s Interior secretary. She makes history as the first Native American Cabinet secretary.

TODAY’S WEATHER

Check your local forecast here>>>

AND FINALLY

A moment of serenity

Enjoy a kalimba cover of a Beatles classic, along with a cheerful pup named Maple. Instant stress relief. (Click here to view.)