NATION & WORLD NEWS IN BRIEF: Biden picks Garland for AG nominee | News

Biden picks Garland as attorney general nominee



Merrick Garland


WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden has selected Merrick Garland, a federal appeals court judge who in 2016 was snubbed by Republicans for a seat on the Supreme Court, as his attorney general, two people familiar with the selection process said Wednesday.

In picking Garland, Biden is turning to an experienced judge who held senior positions at the Justice Department decades ago, including as a supervisor of the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The pick will force Senate Republicans to contend with the nomination of someone they spurned in 2016 — refusing even to hold hearings when a Supreme Court vacancy arose — but Biden may be banking on Garland’s credentials and reputation for moderation to ensure confirmation.

Biden is expected to announce Garland’s appointment on Thursday, along with other senior leaders of the department, including former homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general. He will also name an assistant attorney general for civil rights, Kristen Clarke, the president of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an advocacy group.

Garland was selected over other finalists including Alabama Sen. Doug Jones and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. The people familiar with the process spoke on condition of anonymity. One said Biden regards Garland as an attorney general who can restore integrity to the Justice Department and as someone who, having served in the Justice Department under presidents of both political parties, will be respected by nonpartisan career staff.

Sudan to normalize relations with Israel

CAIRO — Sudan Wednesday said it had signed an agreement with the United States that paves the way for the cash-strapped African nation to normalize relations with Israel and help clear some of its massive debt to the World Bank.d

Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari signed the deal with visiting U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to the prime minister’s office.

Abdulbari said Sudan welcomed “the rapprochement” with Israel and other countries as well as the beginning of diplomatic relations. He said Khartoum would work “to strengthen and expand them in the interest of Sudan and in the interest of other countries in the region.”

Also during Mnuchin’s visit, the U.S. and Sudan signed a “memorandum of understanding” to facilitate the payment of the African country’s debt to the World Bank, the Finance Ministry said, a move widely seen as a key step toward its economic recovery.

The ministry said the settlement would enable Sudan to receive more than $1 billion annually from the World Bank for the first time in nearly three decades, when the country was designated a pariah state.

Sudan has more than $60 billion in foreign debt.

On Oct. 23, President Donald Trump announced Sudan would become the third Arab state to normalize ties with Israel as part of a U.S.-brokered deal known as the “Abraham Accords” after the biblical patriarch revered by Muslims and Jews.

That followed Sudan agreeing to put $335 million in an escrow account to compensate U.S. victims of terrorist attacks. Those include the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by the al-Qaida network while its leader, Osama bin Laden, was living in Sudan. The country also was believed to have served as a pipeline for Iran to supply weapons to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

In exchange, Trump notified Congress of his intent to remove Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, a key incentive for the deal.

Amazon to boost housing for workers

SEATTLE — Amazon has announced $2 billion in loans and grants to secure affordable housing in three U.S. cities where it has major operations, including a Seattle suburb where the online retail giant employs at least 5,000 workers.

Amazon said it would give $185.5 million to the King County Housing Authority to help buy affordable apartments in the region and keep the rents low, The Seattle Times reported Wednesday.

The agency is expected to pair bond funding with the $161.5 million in loans and $24 million in grants from Amazon to fund its recent purchase of three apartment buildings, including 470 units in Bellevue, about 10 miles west of Seattle.

Other tech companies have invested large sums recently to boost affordable housing, following years of complaints that they have worsened inequality in cities by pushing housing prices higher.

Two years ago, Microsoft launched its own initiative and is spending $750 million to help provide market-rate or below-market-rate loans to developers who want to build affordable housing in the Seattle area.

In the latest effort by Amazon, money also was directed to Arlington, Virginia, and Nashville, Tennessee, where it has hubs. Company officials projected the $2 billion would preserve or create 20,000 affordable housing units over the next five years.

Grammy Awards moved to March

NEW YORK — The 2021 Grammy Awards will no longer take place this month in Los Angeles and will broadcast in March due to a recent surge in coronavirus cases and deaths.

The annual show would shift from its original Jan. 31 broadcast to March 14, according to a joint statement released Tuesday from the Recording Academy and CBS, which broadcasts the ceremony. The statement said the decision was reached “after thoughtful conversations with health experts, our host and artists scheduled to appear.”

“The deteriorating COVID situation in Los Angeles, with hospital services being overwhelmed, ICUs having reached capacity, and new guidance from state and local governments have all led us to conclude that postponing our show was the right thing to do. Nothing is more important than the health and safety of those in our music community and the hundreds of people who work tirelessly on producing the show,” read the statement from Recording Academy interim CEO Harvey Mason Jr., CBS executive Jack Sussman and Grammys executive producer Ben Winston.

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