February 25, 2021

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Congress takes up COVID-19 relief, Merrick Garland Senate hearing: 5 things you need to know Monday – USA TODAY

2 min read

Merrick Garland to battle against extremism ‘central’ at hearing 

Attorney general nominee Merrick Garland is vowing to defend the Justice Department’s independence from the White House and make the battle against extremism “central” to the department’s mission, according to remarks prepared for delivery Monday at his Senate confirmation hearing. Acknowledging the public outrage that defined last summer’s social justice protests, Garland, a former top Justice official, highlighted the mission of the department’s Civil Rights Division to protect the rights of the “most vulnerable members of our society.” His selection has been cast by President Joe Biden as an attempt to reset a Justice Department roiled by politics and efforts by former President Donald Trump to use the institution to advance his political interests. 

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Congress takes up COVID-19 relief, but it faces key hurdles

After an attack at the U.S. Capitol and a historic impeachment trial, Congress is back to legislating. Lawmakers’ primary focus this week will be President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package and Congress is up against a clear deadline. In a few weeks, aid for millions of people still struggling through the pandemic will run dry. The bill likely will face some hurdles, and Democrats will put their slim majorities in both chambers to the test for the first time. If the bill passes the House, it will would then go over to the Senate, where it would face a more complicated process. The chamber could amend the bill, which would send it back to the House for another vote. Democrats aim to pass the whole package by mid-March.  

More Mars photos, possible descent video, anticipated from Perseverance

A full Martian photo shoot and video footage from NASA’s Perseverance is anticipated on Monday after the rover landed safely on the Red Planet last week. “We’re gonna do a panorama of the rover and we’re also going to do a full panorama of our landscape around us,” said Pauline Hwang, assistant strategic mission manager. Additionally, NASA is hopeful that it captured video footage of the spacecraft during entry, landing and descent. If successful, it will be the first video footage of a spacecraft landing on another planet. On Friday, NASA released a photo of the rover in mid-descent as it was suspended under the sky crane moments before it touched down on the Martian surface. 

Texas recovers after wintry storm devastates power grid, water facilities

Texas is in recovery mode after a winter storm left more than 4 million people without electricity and more than 14 million under boil-water advisories. Over 70 deaths have been linked to the intense cold and damaging storms that traversed the United States last week, with about half the deaths reported so far occurred in Texas. Many power plants and water facilities were ill-equipped to handle the wintry onslaught and more than 33,000 Texas homes and businesses remained without power Sunday. In West Virginia, more than 27,000 homes and businesses and another 25,000 in Kentucky were without power Sunday. That number was about 20,000 in Mississippi. 

UK to unwind stringent COVID-19 lockdown measures

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will reveal his plan for unwinding one of the world’s strictest COVID-19 lockdowns on Monday after a more contagious variant tore through Britain in January. American health officials will be watching what Johnson says closely as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes that by as early as the end of next month the more transmissible variant known as B.1.1.7. is likely to be the dominant one circulating within U.S. borders. Johnson is expected to announce a phased return for some schools starting March 8. It’s not clear if other rules around gatherings, non-essential retail and hospitality will be relaxed. He recently clamped down on international travel, adding mandatory hotel quarantine for travelers arriving from some countries to an existing requirement for a negative COVID-19 test. 

Contributing: The Associated Press

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