Two steps forward, one vaccine back

Two men were charged with assaulting Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died after the riot Jan. 6. Four former U.S. presidents appeared in an ad touting COVID-19 vaccines. And the Oscars announced its most diverse slate of nominees.

It’s Alex, let’s get to the news.

But first, beware the Ides of March! The middle of this month is synonymous with bad omens and disaster, including Julius Caesar’s assassination.

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Vaccine rollback in Europe (for now)

Germany, France, Spain and Italy on Monday suspended use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine over reports of blood clots. AstraZeneca said there is no cause for concern — there were fewer reported cases of clotting in those who received the shot than in the general population. And a U.S. official said the vaccine could win U.S. authorization next month. Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told Reuters that data from a 30,000-person vaccine trial was being reviewed by independent U.S. monitors to determine whether the shot is safe and effective. Collins said European regulators indicated the clotting problems most likely were by chance and not related to the vaccine. And the World Health Organization has urged countries to continue using the vaccine, saying there’s no evidence of a connection to blood clots. 

A nurse prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the Edouard Herriot hospital on Feb. 6 in Lyon, central France. France delivered its first batch of AstraZenica vaccine to 117 facilities. (Photo: Olivier Chassignole, AP)

Catholic Church: God ‘cannot bless sin’

The Catholic Church and its priests cannot bless same-sex unions because God “cannot bless sin,” the Vatican said Monday – less than six months after revelations of Pope Francis’ stunning endorsement of same-sex civil unions were made public. The Vatican’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said it was responding to questions about gay unions. The two-page statement was approved by Pope Francis. The church and priests can bless people who are gay who live in “fidelity,” according to the statement. Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, an LGBTQ-centered Catholic ministry, said the news was disappointing but not surprising. Catholics, he said, will find creative ways to bless the couples they love and support.

  • Pope Francis endorsed same-sex civil unions.What does this mean for LGBTQ rights in the USA?

Pope Francis celebrates Mass on March 14 at the Vatican in a commemoration of 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines. (Photo: Tiziana Fabi, AP)

Real quick

  • Two men were chargedwith assaulting Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died after the riot Jan. 6. They were not charged with killing him.
  • The suspect in the Christmas Day bombing in Nashville acted alone and was driven by “paranoia,” the FBI said.
  • Storm that dumped 4 feet of snow in the Rockies heads to the Midwest; thunderstorms forecast in the South.
  • Florida spring breakers “have forgotten that there’s a pandemic,” Miami Beach’s mayor says after 163 arrests were made over the past seven days.

Presidential roll call

Former U.S. presidents appeared in an ad touting COVID-19 vaccines. Well, most of them. “Roll up your sleeve, and do your part,” former President George W. Bush said in the public service announcement. The ad also features fellow former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and includes photos of all four – along with their wives – getting vaccinated. “Four presidents. Two political parties. One clear message: Get vaccinated when it’s available to you,” the White House tweeted when promoting the ad Monday. Missing from the announcement is former President Donald Trump, who did not receive his vaccination in public. Sunday, Anthony Fauci said it “would make all the difference in the world” if Trump would participate in a vaccination campaign aimed at his followers. 

Will a $27M settlement affect the Chauvin trial?

Week two in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin opened with arguments on whether Friday’s news of a $27 million settlement in George Floyd’s death affects the impartiality of the selected jury pool. Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill said he would consider delaying the proceedings and ordered the seven jurors selected last week to be brought back and questioned about their exposure to the news. Cahill said he was “disturbed” by the timing of the city’s announcement, but he does “not believe there was any evil intent” by the state to coordinate with city leaders. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder – a charge added last week – and manslaughter.

  • Minneapolis reaches $27M settlement with George Floyd’s family in wrongful death lawsuit.

What everyone’s talking about

  • Where is my third stimulus check?IRS updates “Get My Payment” tool with information on COVID-19 payments.
  • “The Talk” goes on hiatus as CBS reviews Sharon Osbourne’s heated Piers Morgan defense.
  • Corporations vowed to fight racism after George Floyd, but many don’t have a single Black board member.
  • Trying to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment?Facebook is launching a vaccine finder tool.

OK, Oscars, we see you 

The Oscar nominations have arrived, and they were huge for inclusion – to a point, David Oliver writes. The Academy showed progress in Monday’s announcement, particularly in the acting and directing categories, though the best picture race leans heavily white. Good news first: Among performers, it’s the most diverse slate of nominees. But disparity showed in the best picture race. Eight films were nominated for best picture, including the powerful Black Panther drama “Judas and the Black Messiah” – but other predominantly Black-led films were not included. This is the first year more than one woman has been nominated for best director.

  • Oscar nominations 2021: “Mank” leads with 10 honors, Viola Davis makes history.
  • Oscar nomination snubs: Jodie Foster, Jared Leto, Tom Hanks, Spike Lee and “Da 5 Bloods.”

We didn’t forget about you, Grammys

  • Brutally honest reviews of every Grammys 2021 performance, including “WAP” and “Dynamite.”
  • Opinion: What the Grammys got right and wrong about diversity, from Beyoncé to BTS.
  • Bill Burr criticized for mispronouncing singer Natalia Lafourcade’s name at the Grammys premiere ceremony.

A break from the news, but not the bracket 🏀

  • Need help with your NCAA Tournament bracket picks?Here’s our experts’ take on March Madness.
  • These five teams have been ranked all year, but don’t count on them when making NCAA Tournament picks.
  • Get the bracket help you need. Sign up for our daily newsletter here, and we’ll deliver!

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