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In our news wrap Friday, the U.S. Justice department rescinded a Trump-era curb on consent decrees, making it easier to investigate police departments and press for major changes in use of force. An Indiana man has become the first person to plead guilty to federal charges in the January assault on the U.S. Capitol. Russia responded to new U.S. sanctions today with penalties of its own.
In the day's other news, the U.S. Justice Department is getting back into the business of policing local police. Attorney General Merrick Garland today rescinded a Trump era curb on consent decrees. That will make it easier for to investigate police departments and press for major changes in use of force and other policies.
An Indiana man has become the first person to plead guilty to federal charges in January assault on the U.S. Capitol. Jon Ryan Schaffer is a heavy metal guitarist and a member of the far-right Oath Keepers militia. He pled to charges that stemmed from storming the Capitol and using bear spray on police.
On the pandemic, the World Health Organization chief reports COVID-19 infections are nearing the highest rate yet. India recorded another 217,000 cases in just 24 hours, and the number of deaths worldwide closed in on three million.
In Washington, public health leaders warned again of surges nationwide.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky:
Some of these increases are as a result of relaxed prevention efforts in states across the country, such as relaxed mask mandates or loosened restrictions on indoor restaurant seating.
Another reason for these increases is the continued spread of highly transmissible variants, more than 50 percent to 70 percent more transmissible.
The Biden administration also announced that it is providing $1.7 billion to help track and identify variants of the virus.
Russia responded to new U.S. sanctions today with penalties of its own. On Thursday, Washington ousted 10 Russian diplomats and imposed other measures, citing interference in the U.S. election and hacking of federal agencies.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov answered in Moscow.
Sergei Lavrov (through translator):
You said 10 diplomats were included in the list. We will respond reciprocally to this measure. We will propose 10 diplomats of the United States to the Russian Federation to leave our country.
In addition, eight current and former U.S. officials are banned from entering Russia, including the FBI director and the attorney general.
Iran has begun enriching small amounts of uranium to 60 percent, its highest level yet. Today's announcement is still well short of the 90 percent level that's needed for weapons-grade uranium.
In Washington, President Biden criticized the move at a White House news conference, after meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Suga.
Pres. Joe Biden:
We do not support and do not think it's at all helpful that Iran is saying it's going to move to enrich to 60 percent. It is contrary to the agreement.
Iran's announcement came as us and Iranian negotiators are holding indirect talks in Vienna on resurrecting the 2015 nuclear deal.
A court in Hong Kong sentenced nine pro-democracy leaders today over a mass anti-government march in 2019. It was mainland China's effort to suppress the protest movement. Media tycoon Jimmy Lai was ordered to serve up to 18 months in prison; 82-year-old former lawmaker Martin Lee had his sentence suspended.
In Cuba, Raul Castro made it official today. He is stepping down after 10 years as leader of that country's ruling Communist Party. He made the announcement at a party congress. It marks a transition to a younger generation of communist officials. Raul Castro is 89. He had succeeded his brother Fidel who led the 1959 revolution and died five years ago.
Back in this country, a watchdog report finds former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeatedly violated ethics rules. The State Department's inspector general says that Pompeo and his wife asked aides to carry out personal tasks more than 100 times. They ranged from handling pet care to mailing Christmas cards.
And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 164 points to close at another record, 34200. The Nasdaq rose 13 points, and the S&P 500 added 15, also reaching a new record.
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