First Thing: Biden announces sweeping gun reform orders – The Guardian

First Thing

The White House has announced several executive actions on gun violence after recent mass shootings. Plus, more than 3,600 US healthcare workers died in the first year of the Covid pandemic

Good morning.

The White House announced several executive actions against gun violence yesterday, after mass shootings in the US in recent weeks.

It also said it would nominate David Chipman, a former federal agent and gun control advocate, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Key orders from the announcement include:

  • Rules on unregistered “ghost guns”: The justice department must come up with regulations on unregistered firearms, assembled from parts, in the next month.

  • Tighter controls on pistols: The department must make sure pistols that are fitted with stabilising braces, essentially turning them into rifles, are regulated under the National Firearms Act. The suspect in the recent shooting in Boulder used an adapted pistol, which are easier to get hold of than rifles.

  • Resources for prevention measures: Joe Biden will tell agencies to pump more resources into community violence prevention measures, and the justice department to suggest “red flag” laws that give family members steps to take firearms away from those they deem a threat.

  • Political support: Officials said they would also be encouraging congressional Democrats to pass more regulations on gun control.

Derek Chauvin used unnecessary ‘pain compliance’ on George Floyd, an expert said

Force used on George Floyd was ‘excessive’, police expert says at Chauvin trial – video

An expert police witness said Derek Chauvin used a technique designed to inflict pain for an extended period of time on George Floyd, as he testified at the former officer’s murder trial yesterday.

Sgt Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles police specialist on the use of force, said video footage showed Chauvin using “pain compliance” by pulling Floyd’s wrists into handcuffs and clicking them tighter. The technique is used to inflict pain to encourage compliance, but with Floyd not resisting and lying on the ground, Stiger said the only point was to cause him pain. Earlier, Stiger questioned the use of any force, given the low level of offence Floyd was accused of – using a counterfeit $20 bill in a store.

  • A small group of protesters have shown up each day outside the courthouse to demand justice for Floyd during the trial. Meet the determined group of seven here.

  • Meanwhile, Tishaura Jones was elected the first black female mayor of St Louis, and praised the landmark as proof that “we have begun breaking down the historic racial barriers and the racial divides that exist, and have existed for generations, in our city”.

More than 3,600 US healthcare workers died in the first year of the Covid pandemic

A nurse tends to a Covid patient in ICU at Providence St Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California. Photograph: Ariana Drehsler/AFP/Getty Images

More than 3,600 US healthcare workers died in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Lost on the Frontline, a 12-month investigation by the Guardian and Kaiser Health News that ends today.

  • Two-thirds of those who died identified as people of colour, suggesting deep inequality around race and economic status amongst US healthcare workers – lower-paid employees who worked in day-to-day patient care, such as nurses and support staff, were far more likely to die than physicians.

  • More than half of those who died were under 60, despite the average age of death from coronavirus in the general population standing at 78.

  • Twice as many workers died in nursing homes as hospitals, with 30% of deaths among hospital workers.

You can read the full findings of the investigation, including concerns about workplace safety and PPE, with graphics and expert opinion here. This interactive piece tells you more about the lives lost, and asks did they have to die?

  • Dr Anthony Fauci admitted PPE shortages increased the death toll, in an exclusive interview with the Guardian. The US is the world’s largest importer of personal protective equipment, making it vulnerable especially to changes in demand and export restrictions.

The Environmental Protection Agency is going to do more to combat climate inequality

Michael Regan issued a memo calling on the EPA to crack down on pollution. Photograph: Caroline Brehman/AP

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency has instructed the body to crack down on pollution that disproportionately affects people of colour. Michael Regan instructed EPA staff on Wednesday to “infuse equity and environmental justice principles and priorities into all EPA practices, policies, and programs”.

The directive calls for better consultation with affected communities, and indicates the EPA will be tougher on firms which violate water and air pollution mandates.

  • Michael Regan: in this interview, the new EPA chief talks about taking over the agency after the chaos of the Trump era, his upbringing in a polluted area of North Carolina, and how he plans to turn the EPA around.

In other news …

The former national security adviser Michael Flynn was warned against taking foreign money as far back as 2014. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

  • Michael Flynn ignored repeated government warnings that taking money from foreign interests and governments could be illegal, before accepting hundreds and thousands of dollars, the defense department inspector general has found.

  • The Biden administration will restore more than $200m in aid to Palestinians after huge funding cuts under Donald Trump left humanitarian groups scrambling. The money will go towards food and clean water in the West Bank and Gaza, and to the UN supporting refugees.

  • Mike Pence has signed a seven-figure deal for his memoirs, one of the first members of Donald Trump’s circle to bag a lucrative book deal. His autobiography is due to be published in 2023, and CNN reported that the publishers Simon & Schuster would pay between $3m and $4m for two books.

Stat of the day: CO2 concentration in the air is 50% higher than pre-industrial levels

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has hit record highs, according to scientists taking measurements from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. The figures show global CO2 levels are 50% higher than the mid-1700s.

Don’t miss this: West Virginia is trying to criminalise the removal of Confederate statues

Lawmakers in West Virginia are considering a bill that would criminalise the removal of Confederate monuments, causing fierce debate. Last year 168 Confederate symbols were removed across the US, mostly after the death of George Floyd. Zack Harold learns more about the battle over the statues in West Virginia.

Last thing: meditating monk who was trapped in a flooded cave for days is freed

Thai monk rescued from flooded cave after four days – video

Rescuers have freed a meditating Buddhist monk who was trapped inside a flooded cave in Thailand for four days. Phra Ajarn Manas, 46, was on a pilgrimage and had gone into the cave to meditate on Saturday, but a rainstorm hit and flooded some of it. Seventeen divers helped to find and free the monk.

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