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10 things you need to know today: February 7, 2021

1.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across Myanmar for the second consecutive day to protest last week’s military coup and show support for the country’s elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest. The military junta had tried to curb the demonstrations with an internet blockade Saturday, but it proved unsuccessful and access was restored by Sunday afternoon. Per BBC, Sunday’s protests in Yangon, the country’s largest city, were the largest since 2007’s so-called Saffron Revolution, when thousands of Myanmar’s monks rose up against the military regime. The current protests, unlike some crackdowns in the past, have mostly been peaceful, though Reuters reports shots were heard in one southeastern town. Pictures reportedly indicate some protesters suffered injuries from rubber bullets. In Yangon, riot police set up barricades, but reportedly did not try to stop the rally. [Reuters, BBC]

2.

Super Bowl LV will kickoff Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS. The defending champion Kansas City Chiefs will take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they look to capture their second straight title. Tampa Bay reached the Super Bowl by winning three straight road games against the Washington Football Team, New Orleans Saints, and Green Bay Backers, but they’ll coincidentally be playing in their home stadium Sunday, as Tampa Bay was selected as the host back in 2017. The NFL is allowing 22,000 fans, including 7,500 vaccinated health care workers, to attend the game in-person amid the coronavirus pandemic. On the field, the spotlight will be on the quarterbacks, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, who at age 43 is making his tenth Super Bowl appearance, but his first not in a New England Patriots uniform. [ESPN, CNN]

3.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday said the Biden administration has notified El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that the United States has suspended, with immediate effect, the Asylum Cooperative Agreements and will begin the process of terminating them. Under the pacts, which were struck by the Trump administration in 2019, the U.S. could send people seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border to the three Central American countries to “share the distribution of asylum claims.” Critics argued the policy put asylum-seekers at risk, since the three countries could not credibly provide refuge. Blinken said while the move does not mean the U.S. border is “open,” the “Biden administration believes there are more suitable ways to work with our partner governments to manage migration across the region.” Transfers under the agreements were already on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic. [NPR, ABC News]

4.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) remained in her House leadership position this week after an overwhelming vote of support from her GOP colleagues in the lower chamber. On Saturday, however, the Wyoming State Republican Party voted to formally censure Cheney, the state’s lone representative, and called for her to resign “immediately” because she voted to impeach former President Donald Trump last month. The party also said it intends to “withhold any future political funding” from her and requested she repay donations to her 2020 campaign from the state GOP and any county Republican Parties. In response to the censure, Cheney again defended her vote, which she said was compelled by her oath to the Constitution. The other nine Republicans in the House who voted to impeach Trump have faced their own varying levels of criticism. Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) was similarly censured by the South Carolina Republican Party last week. [CNN]

5.

If the United States wants Iran to return to the commitments it made under the 2015 nuclear deal, “it will must lift all sanctions in practice,” Iranian state television quoted Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying Sunday. Khamenei added that Tehran will then verify whether the U.S. was following through. “This is the definitive and irreversible policy of the Islamic Republic, and all of the country’s officials are unanimous on this, and no one will deviate from it,” he said. Khamenei has final say on all matters of state in Iran, The Associated Press notes. Former President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear pact, and Iran has recently begun enriching its uranium, raising concerns it could soon reach weapons-grade levels. President Biden has said he wants to revive the 2015 agreement, but has insisted Tehran reverse course first. [The Associated Press]

6.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will revise state coronavirus guidelines for indoor worship services after the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, ruled a full ban was unconstitutional, his office said Saturday. The court did allow the state to limit capacity and singing and chanting inside, and Newsom’s press secretary Daniel Lopez indicated those restrictions will continue to be enforced. Some churches in the state were prepared to open for indoor services as soon as this weekend, including the two that challenged California’s ban in separate lawsuits. California is still averaging thousands of new COVID-19 infections every day, but much like the rest of the United States, cases are trending downward. [The Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times]

7.

As many as 150 people are feared dead after a Himalayan glacier in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand broke apart before crashing into a dam Sunday morning, causing floods that forced the evacuation of villages in the area. The final casaulty number has not been confirmed, but locals are reportedly worried people working at a nearby hydropower project were swept away. Witnesses reported seeing a wall of dust, rock, and water racing down “very fast,” leaving “no time to alert anyone.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was closely monitoring the situation, and India’s air force was preparing to help with rescue operations [Reuters, BBC]

8.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has signed a memo ordering military commanding officers and supervisors to hold a one-day “stand-down” in the next 60 days to discuss extremism in the armed forces. The memo is the latest example of the Pentagon’s efforts to combat white supremacy and other forms of extremism following the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which multiple current service members and veterans participated in, leading to their arrests. “We will not tolerate actions that go against the fundamental principles of the oath we share, including actions associated with extremist or dissident ideologies,” Austin wrote. In a meeting last week, Austin reportedly acknowledged the number of service members who adhere to the ideologies described is small, but “not as small as anyone would like.” [NPR, Axios]

9.

Two separate snow storms are under way in the United States — one that is working its way eastward across the Midwest and another that is intensifying along the East Coast, per AccuWeather. The snowfall won’t be insignificant (likely between three to six inches in many places), but forecasts suggest the two storms won’t merge, sparing parts of the U.S. from a massive storm similar to the one from earlier in February. The storm itself is “fast-moving,” AccuWeather’s chief on-air meteorologist Bernie Rayno said, which means it will “keep some snow accumulations down.” The shorter duration should also make it more manageable for road crews to keep up with the snowfall. [AccuWeather]

10.

Leon Spinks, the former world heavyweight champion who was best known for defeating Muhammad Ali in 1978, died Friday evening with his wife and a few close friends and family by his side, his publicist announced Saturday. He was 67. Spinks had been battling prostate cancer and other cancers over the last five years. Before his showdown with Ali, Spinks won a gold medal as a light heavyweight in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. When he met the legendary boxer more than a year later, Spinks had only appeared in seven professional bouts, and his victory was, and still is, considered one of the greatest upsets in boxing history. The two met seven months later, and Ali reclaimed the heavyweight title. Spinks fought for the crown once more in his career, losing to Larry Holmes in 1981. He retired in 1995 with a 26-17-3 record. [CNN]

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