In our news wrap Thursday, President Biden says the U.S. is ahead of schedule on COVID vaccinations with more than 45 million people receiving at least one shot, the number of Americans filing new unemployment claims fell, supporters of Myanmar's military attacked protesters in Yangon, and Texas lawmakers began grilling CEOs from energy companies after statewide blackouts.
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President Biden marked a hopeful milestone in the pandemic today, the country's 50 millionth COVID vaccination.
At a White House event, he said the U.S. is ahead of schedule on vaccinating 100 million people in his first 100 days in office. But he cautioned against relaxing.
Pres. Joe Biden:
This is not a victory lap. Everything is not fixed. We have a long way to go. And that day, when everything gets back to normal, depends on all of us.
More than 45 million people in the U.S. have received at least one shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Johnson & Johnson's vaccine could receive emergency approval tomorrow.
The number of Americans filing new unemployment claims fell sharply last week to 730,000. The drop suggested layoffs caused by the pandemic may be easing. but the overall figure is still historically high.
The president's nominee for surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, vowed today his overriding priority will be the harm that COVID is causing American families. He spoke at his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing, and added a personal note.
Dr. Vivek Murthy:
There are issues that have been worsened by COVID, mental health, and substance use disorders. And those are my accompanying priorities as well, but we have got to turn this pandemic around first and foremost.
Sir, to me this is very personal. I have lost seven family members to COVID.
Also today, the full Senate confirmed former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to be secretary of energy.
The sexual abuse scandal that has engulfed U.S. women's gymnastics took a shocking new turn today. Former Olympics coach John Geddert took his own life after being charged with abusing the girls he trained. He also had ties to sports doctor Larry Nassar, who went to prison for assaulting female athletes.
We will return to this later in the program.
The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to ban discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender identity. The Equality Act adds those protections to existing civil rights law. Democrats said that it's long overdue.
Most Republicans said that it violates religious freedoms. Its prospects in the Senate are unclear.
The acting U.S. Capitol Police chief warned today that extremists might again target the Capitol when President Biden addresses a joint session of Congress. Yogananda Pittman appeared at a U.S. House hearing and said there are continuing threats.
She also said that her agency never expected a large pro-Trump mob might storm the site on January 6. She acknowledged there was internal intelligence and from the FBI as well.
That FBI document also stated this is an information report, not finely evaluated intelligence. It was being shared for informational purposes, but has not been fully evaluated, integrated with other information, interpreted or analyzed. Receiving agencies are requested not to take action based on this raw reporting.
Pittman said that about 800 protesters actually breached the Capitol out of more than 10,000 who massed outside.
In Myanmar, supporters of the military junta attacked protesters in Yangon. The violence sent protesters running, but some were cut off and beaten by groups of attackers. Police stood by and did not intervene.
Back in this country, Texas lawmakers grilled the state power grid operator over last week's winter storm blackouts. But the head of ERCOT insisted that the forced blackouts prevented even worse outages. Governor Greg Abbott said the legislature will stay in session until it adopts reforms.
On Wall Street, a rout of tech stocks dragged the market down today, as rising interest rates on bonds siphoned off investors. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 559 points to close at 31402. The Nasdaq fell 478 points — that's 3.5 percent — and the S&P 500 dropped 96 points.
And Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are going gender-neutral. Hasbro says that it will now market the classic toys as simply Potato Head. It's the latest in a series of adjustments to classic toys. Barbie now comes in multiple skin tones. And the Thomas the Tank Engine lineup has added female characters.