Wednesday morning news – February 24, 2021

Senate holds first Capitol riot hearing » Law enforcement officers testified on Capitol Hill on Tuesday about the deadly breach of the U.S. Capitol last month.

Steven Sund is the former chief of the Capitol Police. He said some of the intruders clearly plotted the siege. 

SUND: These criminals came prepared for war. They came with their own radio system to coordinate the attack. To defeat the Capitol’s security features. I am sickened by what I saw that day. 

Sund told a Senate panel that no entity, including the FBI provided any intelligence warning about that kind of attack. 

SUND: We properly planned for a mass demonstration with possible violence. What we got was a military-style coordinated assault on my officers and a violent take-over of the Capitol building.

The FBI did send a warning about online posts promising violence, but Sund said he didn’t see it.

Former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving also blamed a lack of intel. 

IRVING: Based on the intelligence, we all believed that the plan met the threat and that we were prepared. We now know that we had the wrong plan. 

Irving and Sund disagreed about why the agencies didn’t request help from the National Guard. Sund said Irving was worried about the optics of a large military presence at the Capitol. But Irving insisted the intelligence simply did not support such a strong response.

U.S. Capitol Police Captain Carneysha Mendoza said she didn’t think having more officers on the line would have mattered.

MENDOZA: Of the multitude of events I’ve worked in my nearly 19-year-career in the department, this was by far the worst of the worst. We could have had 10 times the amount of people working with us, and I still believe the battle would have been just as devastating.

The January 6th riot left five people dead and dozens injured.

Congress will hold another hearing on the Capitol breach next week. 

It will focus on the response of the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI.

Becerra, Haaland confirmation hearings » Senators grilled President Biden’s nominee for health secretary on Tuesday.

Xavier Becerra told lawmakers he’s ready to help the president tackle COVID-19.

BECERRA: I understand the enormous challenges before us in our solemn responsibility to faithfully steward this agency that touches almost every aspect of our lives.

But Republican concerns about his nomination have little to do with the pandemic. Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana spelled out those concerns…

BRAUN: For many of us, your record has been very extreme on abortion issues. Also some issues with religious liberty where you took to court the Little Sisters of the Poor. 

That refers to a case involving Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate.

As Calif. Attorney general Becerra also prosecuted undercover journalist David Deleiden for secretly recording Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of body parts from aborted babies. 

Republicans also raised concerns about his lack of medical experience. 

Becerra still serves as the state’s attorney general. Before that, he spent 24 years in the U.S. House. 

Senators also held a confirmation hearing on Tuesday for President Biden’s pick for Interior secretary. If confirmed, Congresswoman Deb Haaland of New Mexico would be the first Native American to head the department that has broad oversight over tribal affairs.

FDA to consider approval of third coronavirus vaccine » The Food and Drug Administration may soon give the green light to a third coronavirus vaccine. WORLD’S Sarah Schweinsberg has more. 

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: FDA advisers will meet Friday to discuss whether to recommend Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine. 

If approved, it would be the first single-dose vaccine. Both Moderna’s and Pfizers’ require two shots for full immunization. 

Also different from Pfizer and Moderna, the vaccine does not use new messenger RNA technology. Instead it uses a harmless common virus to carry COVID-19’s genetic code to cells. 

Company studies showed a single dose protected two-thirds of participants from moderate infections and 85 percent from severe symptoms. 

No one with the vaccine was hospitalized or died. 

Johnson and Johnson says it’s prepared to ship 20 million doses by the end of March. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg. 

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on interest rates and inflation » Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told senators on Tuesday he’s not buying into rosie forecasts for the U.S. economy. 

POWELL: The economic recovery remains uneven and far from complete, and the path ahead is highly uncertain

Testifying remotely to the Senate Banking Committee, Powell highlighted the toll that the pandemic is taking on small businesses and the job market.

But some lawmakers suggested Powell was shortchanging the recovery. GOP Sen. Pat Toomey noted that in 18 states, unemployment is below 5 percent and that wages, stock, and home prices have recovered.  

TOOMEY: We are well past the point where our economy is collapsing. In fact our economy is growing powerfully. 

But Powell said those gains are fueled by optimism rather than true economic growth. 

Republican lawmakers and some economists worry long-term low interest rates coupled with big spending in another stimulus package could lead to inflation. 

First sound recorded from Mars » AUDIO: [Buzzing, wind blowing]

That is the sound of wind. But it’s not just any breeze. That is the sound of Martian wind! That is the very first sound ever recorded from Mars. 

NASA released the audio on Monday along with footage of the Perseverance rover touching down on the red planet last week.

Dave Gruel is a lead engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

GRUEL: So that gentle whir that happens in the background, that is a noise made by the rover, but yes, what you did hear ten seconds in was an actual wind gust on the surface of Mars picked up by the microphone and sent back to us here on Earth.

Perseverance is not the first rover to land on Mars, but it’s the first with a microphone. Scientists hope to capture the sound of the rover’s laser turning martian rocks into plasma. That will give clues about the rocks’ properties, including their density.

NASA engineers will also use the sound to keep tabs on the rover’s condition. Some sounds could alert them to mechanical problems.

(Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP) Xavier Becerra speaks during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of Health and Human Services before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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