Friday morning news — March 26, 2021

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Biden holds first press conference as president »

BIDEN: Good afternoon. Before I take questions….

President Biden held his first solo press conference since taking office on Thursday.

And he quickly cleared up rumors that, at age 78, he may be planning to be a one-term president.

BIDEN: My plan is to run for reelection. That’s my expectation.

Biden touted progress on the coronavirus vaccine rollout. And he said he’ll announce his next big policy push in Pittsburgh today. He wants a new multi-trillion dollar spending package for infrastructure and other domestic programs.

The president also fielded plenty of questions about the surge at the southern border. He said most people who arrive at the border are sent back.

BIDEN: Tens of thousands of people who are over 18 years of age and single people, one at a time coming, have been sent back. 

He again said former President Trump is to blame for many of the problems at the border. And he added that his administration is working to build up capacity to care for the thousands of unaccompanied minors arriving each week.

CNN reports that border officials are now detaining more than 600 unaccompanied minors per day. That’s almost twice the number of minors that showed up at the border at the peak of the 2019 surge.

North Korea test-fires ballistic missiles » President Biden also spoke out about a new ballistic missile launch in North Korea just hours early.

The missiles launched Thursday from the country’s eastern coast. The two short-range missiles flew about 280 miles before plunging into the sea.

BIDEN: UN resolution 1718 was violated by those particular missiles that were tested, number one. We are consulting with our allies and partners. And there will be responses if they choose to escalate. 

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the firing threatens the “peace and safety” of Japan after the missiles landed outside its exclusive economic zone.

It was North Korea’s first ballistic missile test since President Biden took office.

Pyongyang has a record of challenging and provoking new U.S. administrations to push for favorable negotiations. North Korea has said it would only enter talks with the United States if it abandons its—quote—“hostile” policies.

Jobless claims fall to lowest level since start of pandemic » The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level since the pandemic began. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has more.

ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: Thursday’s Labor Department report showed jobless claims fell to 684,000 last week. That was a drop of nearly 100,000 claims from the week before.It’s the first time that weekly applications have fallen below 700,000 since March of last year.

The number of people seeking benefits under a federal program for self-employed and contract workers also fell to 241,000. That’s a drop of more than 40,000.

And there are more signs that the pandemic is slowly losing its grip on the economy. Hiring increased in February, with nearly 380,000 jobs added — more than double January’s total.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.

Alleged gunman in Boulder shooting appears in court » The accused gunman in Monday’s Boulder supermarket shooting made his first appearance in court Thursday. The suspect, 21-year-old Ahmad Alissa entered court in a wheelchair. He sustained a gunshot wound to the leg during the shooting.

During the brief hearing Alissa did not speak other than to answer “yes” to a question from the judge.

He faces 10 charges of first-degree murder, Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said,

DOGHERTY: I will say the crime scene has not yet been completed…the processing. We will be filing additional charges in the next couple of weeks. 

Alissa did not enter a plea on Thursday. That will come later.

His attorney, Kathryn Herold asked the court for an assessment of his mental health.

HEROLD: Our position is that we cannot do anything until we are able to fully assess Mr. Alissa’s mental illness.  

Alissa’s next hearing will not be scheduled for two to three months to allow the defense team to evaluate his mental health and evidence collected by investigators.

In the meantime, authorities will hold him without bail.

AstraZeneca confirms strong vaccine protection after US rift » AstraZeneca says it has analyzed more data … and that it still shows its coronavirus vaccine to be safe and effective. That after U.S. officials questioned the numbers the company touted earlier in the week. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin reports.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: On Monday, AstraZeneca announced that the Phase 3 U.S. trial of its vaccine showed it to be safe and 79 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19.

But the next morning, U.S. health officials publicly called out the company for cherry picking its data. The Data and Safety Monitoring Board said AstraZeneca relied partly on “outdated information.”

And in a rare rebuke, the panel went on to say—quote—“Decisions like this are what erode public trust in the scientific process.”

But AstraZeneca now says after analyzing more data, the needle moved only slightly. It now concludes its vaccine is 76 percent effective instead of the 79 percent it reported on Monday.

But the real test will likely come next month when the FDA begins scrutinizing the data to determine whether to green light the vaccine for emergency use.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.

President Joe Biden leaves after speaking at a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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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