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10 things you need to know today: March 27, 2021

1.

President Biden on Friday criticized a newly enacted bill in Georgia that restricts access to voting, calling it “Jim Crow in the 21st century.” “It must end,” he said, “We have a moral and constitutional obligation to act.” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Thursday night signed a new Republican-sponsored bill, passed hours earlier, that restricts voting by mail and reforms elections in several ways in response to the 2020 elections. The bill will require a photo ID to vote absentee by mail, cut the time period voters have to request an absentee ballot, and limit where ballot drop boxes can be placed and when they can be accessed. Voting rights groups have said the bill will disenfranchise voters of color. Biden called it “outrageous” and “an atrocity.” [ The Associated Press, The Washington Post]

2.

Myanmar’s security forces shot and killed at least 64 people across the country during Saturday protests, Reuters reports, while The Associated Press notes an independent researcher in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, said the death toll reached 74. Either way, it marks one of the deadliest days since demonstrations against the Feb. 1 military coup began more than a month ago. A boy as young as five was reportedly among at least 13 people killed in Myanmar’s second most populous city, Mandalay. As the protests and killings took place, the military celebrated Armed Forces Day, and the junta’s leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said “the army seeks to join hands with the entire nation to safeguard democracy,” but “violent acts that affect stability and security in order to make demands are inappropriate.” Dr. Sasa, a spokesman for the anti-coup group CRPH said it was “a day of shame for the armed forces.” [Reuters, Al Jazeera]

3.

The White House has announced that Johnson & Johnson is on track to meet its goal of delivering 20 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in the United States by the end of the month, something officials were reportedly unsure would be achieved. White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said Friday that Johnson & Johnson will deliver at least 11 million doses of its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine to the government next week. Johnson & Johnson had planned to deliver 20 million doses of its vaccine by the end of March, but CNN recently reported that officials were “not confident” this goal would be met after the company “struggled to ramp up production.” The announcement came one day after President Biden announced a new goal of getting 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered during his first 100 days in office. [NBC News, Politico]

4.

President Biden has invited 40 world leaders to take part in a virtual summit on the climate crisis, the White House said in a Friday statement. Among those who received invitations were Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, though it’s unclear if they’ll attend. Biden said he hasn’t spoken with either about the event yet, but “they know they’re invited.” Aside from Putin and Xi, the U.S. invited the leaders of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which The Guardian notes includes the 17 countries responsible for about 80 percent of global emissions and GDP, as well as heads of state from countries especially vulnerable to climate change and others who are “demonstrating strong climate leadership.” The summit will start on April 22, coinciding with Earth Day. [The Guardian, Fox News]

5.

North Korea announced Saturday it will continue to expand its nuclear weapons program after President Biden criticized Pyongyang’s most recent missile test this week. In a statement, Ri Pyong Chol, a senior military adviser to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Biden’s remarks were “thoughtless” and the administration “took its first wrong step.” Ultimately, though, the likelihood that North Korea will continue to conduct more weapons tests has “little to do with what Biden said,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, told The Wall Street Journal. Rather, “Pyongyang is implementing a premeditated strategy of advancing military capabilities,” while justifying the moves by putting the blame on the United States. [The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal]

6.

Two people were killed and at least eight others wounded in multiple shootings in Virginia Beach, Virginia, late Friday night, city officials said. Police reportedly arrived at the “original crime scene” shortly after 11 p.m., finding eight gunshot victims. They were investigating when more shots were fired a block away, and an officer shot and killed an individual, who was considered a suspect, in what Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate said was a “police intervention shooting.” A second person was killed in a separate nearby shooting, though law enforcement does not believe that incident was related to the others. No arrests had been made by the time Neudigate held a press briefing. “What you can see is we have a very chaotic incident, a very chaotic night in the beach,” Neudigate said. [CNN, The Washington Post]

7.

After Egyptian authorities’ operation to refloat the 1,300-foot ship wedged in the Suez Canal made significant process Friday, there is reportedly hope the vessel could soon be completely free, though there are no guarantees, The Wall Street Journal reports. The Japanese-owned and Taiwanese-operated Ever Given got stuck in the canal on Tuesday, creating a major traffic jam that has affected a significant proportion of global trade. Around 13 percent of maritime trade and 10 percent of seaborne oil shipments pass through the canal. The rescue effort could take two to three more days, those involved said. Once it’s out, the ship should be able to operate, Yukito Higaki, the president of Shoei Kisen, the company that owns the Ever Given, said Friday. It will likely be towed to port for inspection, however, the Journal notes. [The Wall Street Journal, BBC]

8.

Dominion Voting Systems on Friday filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News. The voting company alleged Fox “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion” by amplifying false claims that its machines changed votes from former President Donald Trump to President Biden in the 2020 election. Dominion has previously sued individuals who pushed this baseless conspiracy theory, including Trump allies Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell. An attorney for Dominion alleged Fox made a “conscious, knowing business decision to endorse and repeat and broadcast these lies in order to keep its viewership.” This comes after Fox was previously sued by the voting technology company Smartmatic for $2.7 billion over election fraud claims. [The Associated Press]

9.

Award-winning novelist and screenwriter Larry McMurtry has died at 84, a spokesperson for his family confirmed Friday. McMurtry was a prolific author who wrote Lonesome Dove, the 1985 novel that won him the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment, both of which spawned acclaimed movie adaptations. He also wrote over 30 screenplays including for Brokeback Mountain, winning an Academy Award with his co-writer Diana Ossana in 2006. Former President Barack Obama awarded McMurtry a National Humanities Medal in 2015. Stephen King on Friday remembered McMurtry as a “great storyteller,” while Terms of Endearment director James L. Brooks praised him as “among the best writers ever.” [The New York Times]

10.

Beverly Cleary, the beloved and award-winning author of dozens of children’s books, died Thursday in Carmel, California, her publisher HarperCollins announced Friday. Cleary was 104. No cause of death was given. While Cleary became a prolific author, she didn’t actually starting writing books until her 30s. The Portland, Oregon, native’s stories revolved around, in her own words, “just ordinary kids playing in the neighborhood.” Subsequently, The Oregonian notes, Cleary “didn’t shy away from subjects that were once considered too touchy for children’s books,” and her writing dealt with issues like parental job loss, divorce, and loneliness. Her best-known characters were perhaps sisters Ramona and Beezus Quimby and their neighbor, Henry Huggins, all of whom appeared in multiple books. [The Oregonian, The Associated Press]

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