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10 things you need to know today: March 21, 2021

1.

Crowds gathered at the Georgia state capitol and elsewhere in the United States on Saturday in the wake of a mass shooting episode, in which a lone suspect is accused of killing eight people, including women of Asian descent, at two Atlanta spas and a massage parlor north of the city. The motive behind the attacks is still being determined, but the even has sparked an outpouring of support for the Asian American community in the U.S., which has experienced an upswing in violence in the last year. Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and John Ossoff (D-Ga.) addressed hundreds of people gathered in Atlanta. “I just wanted to drop by to say to my Asian sisters and brothers, we see you, and, more importantly, we are going to stand with you,” Warnock said. Similar rallies were held in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and New York City. [The Associated Press]

2.

Republican Julia Letlow won a special election Saturday in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District, capturing more than 50 percent of the vote, which allowed her to avoid a runoff. The seat Letlow was vying for was won by her late husband, Luke Letlow, last year, shortly before he died of complications from COVID-19 in December. Elsewhere in Louisiana, Democratic State Senators Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson qualified for a runoff vote on April 24 that will determine who replaces former Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) in the state’s 2nd Congressional District. Richmond is now a senior adviser to President Biden. Carter, who has Richmond’s endorsement, won 36 percent of the vote and Petersen picked up 23 percent. [The New York Times, NBC News]

3.

Miami Beach, Florida, Mayor Dan Gelber on Saturday declared a state of emergency, set an 8 p.m. curfew, and closed roads in the entertainment district as large crowds arrived in the city, sparking fears of another coronavirus surge. “Too many people are coming, really, without the intention of following the rules, and the result has been a level of chaos and disorder that is just something more than we can endure,” Gelber told CNN, adding that at night the city “feels like a rock concert, wall-to-wall people over blocks and blocks.” Police said early Sunday that they arrested “at least a dozen” people after the curfew started. The curfew and road closures will be in affect for 72 hours. [CNN, The New York Times]

4.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Kabul on Sunday, state-owned Radio and Television Afghanistan reported, per The Associated Press. The Pentagon chief is expected to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The visit comes a few weeks ahead of a May 1 deadline, set by an agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban, to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan. Concerns about whether the Taliban will meet peace conditions have the Biden administration contemplating extending the deadline. President Biden previously said it will be “tough” to pull troops out by the scheduled date, but added that he doesn’t believe they would remain much longer. Austin, AP notes, hasn’t said much on the record about the situation in Afghanistan, though he did say U.S. military presence there is “conditions based.” [Bloomberg, The Associated Press]

5.

COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in India, and the country recorded its highest number of new infections in nearly four months on Sunday, Reuters reports. That has health officials concerned about large gatherings associated with the weeks-long Mahakumbh, a Hindu festival that began this month and will peak in April in the Himalayan holy town of Haridwar, which is next to the Ganges. Organizers have said they expect more than 150 million visitors. Authorities in Uttarakhand, where Haridwar is located, said devotees will be required to wear masks and millions will be distributed for free. Separately, COVID-19 tests will be mandatory in crowded places in Mumbai starting March 22 in the hopes of slowing the spread. The local government said rapid tests will be conducted randomly at train stations and shopping centers, and a refusal to comply will “amount to an offense.” [Reuters, BBC]

6.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) on Saturday again attempted to downplay the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. At a local political event in Wisconsin, Johnson said he was being criticized for saying he didn’t feel threatened by the rioters. “I didn’t,” he said. “There was much more violence on the House side. There was no violence on the Senate side, in terms of the chamber.” However, security footage shows members of the mob breaking windows on the Senate side of the Capitol before storming through the Senate halls. Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman was also seen confronting a crowd just outside the Senate chamber and leading them and intentionally leading them away from the area. Johnson’s latest comments came after he said he would have been more concerned for his safety if Black Lives Matter protesters or antifa had breached the building instead of former President Donald Trump’s supporters. [CNN]

7.

Demonstrators continued to resist the ruling military junta in Myanmar on Sunday as the death toll associated with the weeks-long, nationwide anti-coup protests reportedly rose again. One man was reportedly killed and several others wounded by security forces who opened fire on a group in the central town of Monywa. Overall, at least 248 have protesters have died since the movement began. The military has said two police officers have been killed. Other countries have called for a stop to the violence, including some regional governments like Indonesia and Malaysia. Per Reuters, many Asian states have generally tried to avoid criticizing one another in recent years. [Reuters]

8.

Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian oil giant, reported a 44 percent drop in full-year earnings in 2020 on Sunday. The company reported a net income of $49 billion last year, which was down from $88.19 billion in 2019. The decline was largely due to the toll the coronavirus pandemic took on the global economy. Still, Aramco maintained its $75 billion dividend payout and remains the world’s most profitable company, CNBC reports. CEO Amin Nasser described the last 12 months as one of the “most challenging years in recent history,” but said “we remain confident that we will emerge on the other side of this pandemic in a position of strength.” [CNBC]

9.

The NCAA Division 1 women’s basketball tournament will get underway Sunday. Like the men’s tournament, all the games will be played in the same area in the hopes of mitigating the risks of the coronavirus. The women’s side will be played in central Texas, with games in Austin, San Antonio, and San Marcos. Stanford enters the tournament as the field’s no. 1 overall seed after a 25-2 regular season. They’ll play at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN against no. 16 Utah Valley. The other no. 1 seeds — North Carolina State, Connecticut, and South Carolina — will all be in action throughout the day, as well. The NCAA received criticism after images surfaced showing the disparity between the weight rooms available to players at the women’s and men’s tournaments. Officials apologized Friday and a new, improved facility was set up at the women’s site. [ESPN, ABC News]

10.

The NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament’s round of 32 will tip off Sunday at 12:10 p.m. ET when the Midwest region’s no. 8 seed Loyola Chicago takes on no. 1 seed Illinois in an intra-state matchup in Indianapolis on CBS. Later in the day, the South region’s no. 15 seed Oral Roberts and no. 13 seed North Texas will look to continue their Cinderella runs against no. 7 seed Florida and no. 5 seed Villanova, respectively. The round of 64 wrapped up on Saturday night. The second full day of games looked a little more conventional than Friday’s upset-heavy slate, but by the end of the night, 13th-seeded Ohio had knocked out 4th-seeded Virginia, who were still technically defending national champions, and 14th-seeded Abilene Christian shocked 3rd-seeded Texas, who fresh off a Big 12 tournament championship. The tournament’s no. 1 overall seed, Gonzaga, cruised to a 98-55 victory over Norfolk State to begin its run. [ESPN, CBS Sports]

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