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tv   BBC News  BBC News  March 7, 2021 4:00am-4:30am GMT

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this is bbc news. welcome, if you're watching here in the uk or around the globe. i'mjames i'm james reynolds. our top stories: the yeas are 50. the nays are 49. the bill as amended is passed. applause by a single vote the us senate passes president biden�*s $1.9 trillion covid relief plan. pope francis holds an unprecedented meeting with iraq's top shia religious leader before going onto celebrate mass at a cathedral in baghdad. allegations of police brutality as security forces in myanmar use stun grenades and tear gas against anti—coup protesters. dozens are reported dead in yemen as fighting takes place for control of
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the oil—rich city of marib. and parts of iceland are shaken by a series of mini earthquakes, causing fears that a dormant volcano may be about to erupt. hello and welcome. president biden has described the senate's approval of his coronavirus relief bill as "one more giant step forward" in helping americans to deal with the impact of the pandemic. the package, which is worth nearly $2 trillion, will provide one—off payments to millions of americans. republican senators were united in opposing the bill. our washington correspondent, lebo diseko, reports. the yeas are 50. the nays are 49. the bill as amended is passed.
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a vote on party lines gave joe biden the victory he needed in the senate, after a marathon session lasting more than 2a hours. this is his first major piece of legislation as president — a package, he says, is necessary to turn the toll of the pandemic around. this plan puts us on a path to beating the virus. this plan gives those families who are struggling the most the help and the breathing room they need to get through this moment. this plan gives small businesses in this country a fighting chance to survive. and one more thing — this plan is historic. the bill will help fund payments for the unemployed. last month's job gains are still too slow, says the president, with the country still down 9.5 million since this time last year. money, too, to speed up production and distribution of vaccines — the hope being that that will help significantly increase the 10% of americans who've been fully immunised. but republicans say the cost is too high, and they were united in their opposition with not one voting in favour
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of the bill. democrats' response is to ram through what they call, quote, "the most progressive domestic legislation in both houses. there was criticism, too, from within the democrats' own ranks which almost derailed the bill — all of this an indication of how difficult it will be for president biden to fulfil his agenda. the bill has been substantially changed since it passed in the house of representatives, so it will go back there for a vote on tuesday. democrats are racing to get it signed by the president by m march, when key unemployment benefits expire. lebo diseko, bbc news, washington.
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a short time ago, i spoke to amanda fischer. she's policy director at the washington center for equitable growth and has worked for more than a decade on capitol hill. she told me the package is good news for americans. you know, i think that this bill is a really significant and large downpayment on addressing the worst of the economic suffering that is happening here in the united states. i think it is really significant that, since i've worked in congress ten years ago, policymakers really seem to have learned their lesson that the risk is doing too little, not too much, and this bill really makes investments in the programmes that are going to help the people that are suffering the most right now, which are low—income workers in the united states, people who are on the frontlines, disproportionately people of colour and women and this bill makes investments that they need, so it broadens unemployment insurance to help the jobless, it makes investments in childcare so that workers
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can stay in the workforce, it provides rental assistance and direct payment cheques to families and it also invests in state and local aid, which is critically needed right now, as our state and local governments can't run budget deficits but the federal government can. let's imagine a case study. a family, no savings, parents have lostjobs, kids are of school age, how would this bill affect their lives? so, the unemployment insurance is incredibly significant, here in the united states we have an unemployment insurance system where benefits expire very quickly, and there's really not a helping hand out there, if you can't find a job very quickly, so this not only boosts the amount of unemployment insurance but it extends the duration of that. it provides more funding for child care services so that women who may have dropped out of the workforce, parents that may have dropped out of the workforce
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for caregiving responsibilities might have access to more affordable childcare. it provides $1,400 direct payments to individuals in the middle class here in the united states and it helps prevent an eviction crisis by providing billions of dollars in rental relief. amanda fischer there. pope francis has met the influential shia muslim cleric grand ayatollah ali al—sistani during the first—ever papal visit to iraq. later, francis celebrated a public mass at st joseph's cathedral in baghdad. our rome correspondent mark lowen is travelling with the pope. peace in iraq will take time to flourish, but this visitor is determined to see it. along the narrow alleyways of najaf, and into a historic meeting of two faiths, catholic and shia islam. grand ayatollah ali al—sistani face—to—face with pope francis. at 90 and 84, it's taken long lives and generations to get here. the two religious leaders spoke of friendship to overcome oppression, rare unity after iraq's sectarian conflict. that theme of dialogue then spread further to the remains
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of ur, biblical birthplace of abraham. and in the shadow of its ancient citadel, pope francis met followers of other faiths. gestures of respect to those often sidelined, and victims of iraq's wars now brought together in a plea for peace. translation: hostility, - extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart. they are betrayals of religion. we believers cannot be silent when terrorism abuses religion. from these windswept plains, the pope is using the symbolism of the ancient prophet, evoking the figure of abraham, revered by christians, muslims and jews, to try to spur reconciliation between religions today. and then it was on to mass, pope francis hoping to persuade
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a dwindling christian community to remain. iraq's patchwork of people came together today. but as this country knows too well, the spirit of coexistence can quickly fade. mark lowen, bbc news, in ur, iraq. to myanmar now, where an increasingly brutal crackdown by police and the military has not stopped protests against the military coup. security forces have continued firing tear gas on protesters gathered in yangon. the un's special envoy on myanmar has told the security council that there is "urgency for collective action". danny howard has this report. this is a scene that's become all too familiar in cities right across myanmar, from the northern mountain region to the major cities
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of yangon and naypyidaw in the south, young protesters have been standing up to police, banging on home—made shields, and marching for democracy. on saturday, security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades against activists in yangon to clear the streets. and there have been further allegations of police brutality. it's been over a month now since the protests erupted against the military coup on february 1st that overthrew aung san suu kyi's elected government. in that time, the people of myanmar have faced internet blackouts, night—time raids, unlawful arrests and death. 38 people were killed on wednesday alone, the deadliest day since the start of the coup. hundreds gathered in mandalay on thursday for the funeral of one of the victims. kyal sin, who was known as �*angel�*, wasjust i9 when she was shot in the head during anti—coup protests a day earlier. she was wearing a t—shirt
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with the phrase "everything will be ok" when she died. the pressure is being felt globally. on friday, the un special envoy to myanmar, christine schraner burgener, urged the security council to hear myanmar�*s desperate pleas, and called for swift international action to end the violence. everyone has a role to play. there are no bystanders here, whether it's the secretary—general, whether it's the security council as a whole, or whether it individual member states, those who have an influence on the situation in myanmar, whether it's the regional powers, the asean countries, everyone has a role to play. but china and russia and unlikely to impose sanctions, and so far, the biggest international reaction has come from corporations, not governments. facebook, instagram and now youtube have all banned accounts belonging to militaryjunta. the army have threatened civil servants who continue to strike that they will be fired. but the protests show little sign of waning. every day, people continue to raise three fingers in protest in what has become a symbol of resistance and solidarity for democracy movements across south—east
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asia. danai howard, bbc news. so, while the protests continue in myanmar, is there anything more the international community should be doing to exert any pressure on the junta? that's a question i put to tom andrews. he's the un's special rapporteur on human rights in the country. they have said forever that they are — they can go on their own, they're impervious to international pressure, but what we've found from history is that's not true. that in fact, the reforms, the democratic reforms that we've seen overturned by this junta by february one were reforms that were created precisely because tough economic sanctions were applied on thejunta. they, and then generations following — the older generations of generals, they want to make money, they want to be part of the international economy. so there was pressure building from within the military
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to engage with the world so that they could be able to prosper. so, they conceded they had some reforms, modest reforms, but they were reforms. the point is, they reacted, they responded to economic pressure, i believe that they can and they will again now. let's look at international action. if china blocks or slows down action inside the un, would you suggest individual states to carry out their own measures? no question, no question. there are 41 countries, for example, that have some form of arms embargo, i think we have to increase that number. and also, sanctions, tough, clear economic sanctions. there with 35 countries with some form of economic sanctions already in place. but they're a hodgepodge, they're a wide variety, we need to focus those sanctions. we have to make sure they are clear, tough and coordinated, they work together, so that the collective weight of these countries that are imposing these sanctions will have the strongest possible punch. now, ideally, it's the security council that will be doing this, and they could also make reference to the international criminal court, that could investigate, prosecute, that could put those who are responsible for these atrocities behind bars. but until we can get a unified response by the security council, there are a number of things
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that individual countries can do, and the best thing they can do is work together. 30 to a0 countries out of, what, 200, taking steps is nowhere close to a global arms embargo? that's exactly right. and we have a lot of work to do. but if you look at what is going on, on the streets of myanmar right now, you see exactly why it is so compelling for countries to take action. the aggressiveness of this and the brutality of these troops continues to escalate. there is video right now that we've been getting from different parts of the country, in which soldiers are marauding around neighbourhoods and literally firing into homes. and you can see them walking down the street in yangon, firing up through the windows as people look in horror down in the streets. these are gangs. this is criminal activity. they're terrorising
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these neighbourhoods. so, there is a compelling reason for the world to act and for the world to act now. and you are right, we have a long way to go, but it's worth it. because we simply can't afford in any sense of the word to sit back and turn our backs on the people of myanmar. let's look at the biden administration and the us approach. from what we can tell in the first few weeks, the foreign policy of the biden administration stresses realism and caution. there is an overt promise not to engage in over—ambitious foreign interventions. does this mean we are unlikely to see the us take any kind of extraordinary steps with myanmar? well, they have taken some very important steps. the biden administration right out of the gate applied some — a new round of sanctions, the president was very clear that this was the first of many steps he was prepared to take to build pressure on the regime. they had an asset freeze, the money that is in us financial institutions and froze them, over $1 billion
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worth, that takes an immediate bite. so the fact the biden administration has acted quickly, they stepped quickly out of the gate, i think is a very positive step. now we need to see other nations follow. tom andrews there. you are watching bbc news — the headlines: the us senate passes joe biden�*s $1.9 trillion covid relief plan by a single vote. the president says the package will beat the virus and cut poverty. pope francis holds an unprecedented meeting with iraq's top shia religious leader, before going onto celebrate mass at a cathedral in baghdad. reports from yemen say dozens of people have died in 2a hours of fighting between government forces and houthi rebels, who are battling for control of the northern city of marib. the rebels, who are supported by iran, want to drive out the saudi—backed government in marib. mark lobel reports. explosion. gunfire. these scenes, shot last month, show pro—government forces have been defending the area around marib from houthi rebels for some time.
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explosions. now it appears to be under heavy attack again. military sources report a frenetic 2a hours with around 30 deaths on the government side and nearly 60 rebels killed in air strikes. marib is strategically important after heavy investment from the yemeni government. it is also a rich gateway to oil and gas production. it would be a massive blow to the yemeni government if they lost control of the city. they'd already had to effectively cede control of yemen's second city, in aden, to the southern separatists and this really means that marib is the last major city in yemen that they really control. the timing of this latest onslaught may be highly political. since taking office, the biden administration has called for an end to the war in yemen, with an immediate
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ceasefire to restore peace talks between the saudi—backed government and the houthi rebels, supported by iran. these houthi military commanders, in public, have stated that they plan to fully push on the city, that they are not going to hold back, that they are going to push to marib and beyond. but it remains to be seen if they will do that or if they will push right to the outskirts of the city, before then realising that this is the best position for them, to then go into any kind of peace talks or political talks with the saudi—led coalition and the yemeni government. the fighting also threatens hundreds of thousands of displaced yemenis, living on precarious floodplains and with limited access to fresh water, now in danger of displacement yet again. all potentially worsening the world's worst humanitarian disaster, now into its seventh year of devastating conflict. mark lowen, bbc news.
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let's get some of the day's other news. protesters have rallied in tokyo to express their opposition to japan's hosting of the olympic games, which are due to begin injuly. they think it's irresponsible to hold the event before the coronavirus pandemic is brought under control. japanese olympic organisers have insisted the games will go ahead, but they've hinted that overseas fans might not be allowed into the country to watch. a range of opinions polls across japan show a majority of people want the games postponed or cancelled. lebanon's caretaker prime minister has warned that the country is on �*the brink of an explosion�*, as its dire economic plight worsens. in a television address, he referred to an incident in which supermarket shoppers in beirut fought over powdered milk supplies. lebanon has been hit by a severe financial crisis and political deadlock, following the beirut port explosion last year which devastated much of the capital. in the uk, the government has denied accusations that it's breaking previous promises
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on pay rises for nhs staff in england. it's planning to give some workers an increase of one percent. but doctors' and nurses�* unions say the offer is insulting, and have warned that it could lead to more healthcare workers leaving the profession. egypt's president sisi has met civilian and military leaders in sudan during his first visit there since the overthrow of the former president, omar al—bashir. close ties have developed recently due to the construction of ethiopia's dam on the river nile which both countries fear could affect their water supply. in the united states, the city of minneapolis is preparing for the trial of derek chauvin, the former police officer who's charged with the murder of george floyd. jury selection in the case is due to start on monday. the unarmed back man died while in police custody last may. at a news conference, members of mr floyd's family have spoken in support for a police reform package that bans choke holds and racial profiling. our north america correspondent, peter bowes reports.
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almost ten months after the death of george floyd, his family's grief is still raw. i want to say i love you, in this world, and i say again that i love you stop by george fly died after being arrested by police after being arrested outside a shop in minneapolis. footage showed that the white officer derek chauvin was kneeling on mr floyd was magnetic while he was pinned to the ground. my brother said i can't breathe multiple times but the officer sat on his neck with a smirk on his face. i can't stop thinking about that stop by the events of that day led to nationwide unrest and protests calling for police reform. last week the us house of representatives passed a sweeping legislation that will ban chokehold and create national standards for policing to bolster the accountability of officers. to bolster the accountability of officers-_
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to bolster the accountability of officers. . , , ., of officers. the measure is now headin: of officers. the measure is now heading to _ of officers. the measure is now heading to the _ of officers. the measure is now heading to the senate. - heading to the senate. we will have change- _ heading to the senate. we will have change. we _ have change. we just need to be the change and force it and make the change. if you can change laws to protect the earth, you can make federal laws to protect people of colour. ._ laws to protect people of colour. ., . ., colour. on saturday a crowd gathered — colour. on saturday a crowd gathered outside _ colour. on saturday a crowd gathered outside the - gathered outside the minnesota's governors mansion to call forjustice in the trial of derek chauvin. another protest took place in the city of baltimore, maryland, with jury of baltimore, maryland, with jury selection about to get under way, and tensions are running high. under way, and tensions are running high-— under way, and tensions are running high. we're going to call george _ running high. we're going to call george everything - running high. we're going to call george everything but . running high. we're going to call george everything but a| call george everything but a child of god, and try to make you forget what you see on that video, but you heard what george floyd was, so we're getting ready whatever and whatever may come. we will be ready. whatever may come. we will be read . ~ ready. the killing of george floyd led to a _ ready. the killing of george floyd led to a momentous i floyd led to a momentous outpouring of anger and grief around the united states. the
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trial will rekindle the memories of those dark days. in paraguay protests against the government's handling of the pandemic are continuing for a second night. protesters are demanding the resignation of president mario abdo. he asked his entire cabinet to resign, saying he had listened to the people. health workers complain that hospitals have run out of medicines and equipment to treat covid—i9 patients. demonstrators accuse the government of stealing money that could have been used to deal with the health crisis. bidding in an online auction for the first—ever tweet has climbed to $2.5 million. it was written by the platform's founder, jack dorsey, 15 years ago. mr dorsey simply wrote: "just setting up my twitter". this inaugural tweet is being sold as a unique digital certificate through an online marketplace. buyers predict that digital content can be financial investments like an autograph or piece of memorabilia. but the post will remain publicly available on the social media platform
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even after it has been sold. there is growing concern among scientists in iceland that a volcano which has lay dormant for 800 years is set to erupt — after the country was hit by an intense series of earthquakes. more than 20,000 have been recorded in the past 10 days. isabella allen reports part of iceland is being shaken by an intense series of earthquakes. 32 kilometres south of the icelandic capital lies the last major eruption here happened eight centuries ago, but that period of rest may be coming to an end after days of intense seismic activity. normally, there are around 1000 small earthquakes a year but there have been more than 20,000 in the past ten days, including 3000 on friday alone, leading scientists to believe an eruption is imminent. the magma is fracturing and it is so close to the surface — two or three kilometres away from the surface — that we have to take it seriously the possibility that a new eruption can occur.
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the close vicinity is uninhabited and there is no immediate danger to the public, but roads have been closed and people are being told not to travel to the area. the small fishing port of grindavik is only a few miles away. well, the feeling is never enjoyable, i can tell you that for sure. of course, when mother nature is, like, shaking underneath your feet, you feel a lot power — you feel powerless. but i have been living in grindavik since i was born so this has been happening time to time, but this is the first time we are having such powerful earthquakes so frequently. earthquakes are common in iceland because it straddles two of the earth's tectonic plates. in 2010, the explosive eruption of a more southerly volcano caused huge disruption in international air travel, affecting as many as 10 million travellers.
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but if any eruption occurs this time, it's thought lava will emerge more slowly from a crack in the surface, so it's unlikely to cause the same chaos. in case of an eruption, we are expecting a small one, yes. but lava is flowing — we are not expecting a large explosive eruption — with minimal impact on atmosphere, flights, and living conditions for people. as the ground awakens after 800 years, people await the outcome of this seismic storm. isabella allen, bbc news. sydney's famous mardi gras celebrations have gone ahead despite the pandemic. but the event was scaled back for the first time in four decades. instead of a dazzling parade through packed streets, about 36,000 people gathered inside sydney's cricket ground. there was still a sea of rainbow flags, plenty of pyrotechnics and a showcase performance by the singer rita ora. mardi gras house parties have been limited to 50 people.
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australian police had warned ofjail or heavy fines for rule—breakers. you can reach me on twitter — i'm @james bbc news. hello there. saturday was a disappointingly cold and cloudy day for many of us, and disappointing temperatures for early march. we did have a bit of sunshine, though, across western areas, but it's looking like sunday is going to be a bit of a repeat performance. it is going to stay chilly with limited sunny breaks and quite a bit of cloud around. now, the settled conditions are because of this area of high pressure which will continue to bring settled weather through sunday, but it's slowly going to lose its grip on our weather as we head on to the start of next week. so, early for sunday, it's going to be cold and under clear skies. we will see some frost and mist and fog about, but there will be some patchy rain for northern and western scotland, a little bit of snow over the higher ground, too, but where we have the cloud, 4—6 degrees
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here versus sub—zero further south, so a cold start to sunday. there will be some early sunshine around, mind you, with the frost and a bit of mist and fog, but then it looks like the clouds will tend to build up again into the afternoon, so turning grey and cold for many. we'll have further rain for the north and west of scotland. i think temperatures here a degree or so up, 9 or 10 degrees, but elsewhere, 7 or 8 celsius. and then for sunday night, it will turn cold again for central and southern areas under clear skies, some further frost here but less cold further north — that's because we will have more cloud. some showery bursts of rain, which will also affect parts of the north into monday. so for northern ireland, parts of scotland, northern england, a bit of sunshine around too. after a cold start further south, there should be a bit of brightness around, but also cloud here and there. i think temperatures a degree or so up across the board — nine or ten degrees will be the high. now into tuesday, the first of the weather fronts start to move in. this one's a weak feature, though, and it brings no more than a band of cloud with just a little bit of light rain on it. so it'll bring cloudier skies to northern and western areas initially. sunnier skies central, southern and eastern areas after a cool start.
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and the winds will start to pick up from the south—west. so temperatures again 9, 10, maybe 11 degrees. but cast your eyes out west. this massive rain tied in with a deep area of low pressure — something that we haven't seen in a while — that's going to sweep through tuesday night into wednesday and we could see another even deeper area of low pressure potentially move in wednesday into thursday. now, these areas of low pressure will also bring up some milder airfrom the south—west, certainly for england and wales, but it's certainly looking pretty stormy from mid—week onwards with some heavy rain, the potential of severe gales, and slightly less cold airfor some of us.
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this is bbc news, the headlines: president biden has welcomed a senate vote to approve his covid recovery plan. the bill, worth nearly $2 trillion, will return to the house of representatives for approval within days. republican senators were united in opposing the legislation, dismissing the bill as an unaffordable wish—list. the visit of pope francis to iraq has continued with a public mass at a cathedral in baghdad. he praised the resilience of iraq's remaining christians, whose numbers have plummeted in the past two decades. earlier the pontiff held an unprecedented meeting with iraq's senior shia religious leader. in myanmar, there have been further allegations of police brutality after security forces used stun grenades and tear gas against anti—coup protesters, who have again


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