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Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.
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1. Hurricane Ian
Daily US Covid-19 case and death totals are now about one-fifth of what they were during their winter peaks, and many experts attribute some of the slowdown to climbing vaccine numbers. Nearly 83% of Americans 65 and older have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, and nearly 70% are fully vaccinated. Now, health and state leaders want younger people to take the plunge. To that end, the FDA is poised to authorize Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine in children ages 12 to 15 by early next week. Is someone you know still stymied by popular vaccine myths? Here are some useful rebuttals, including more on whether vaccines harm fertility (they don’t). Meanwhile, in Brazil, Covid-19 has caused 1 out of every 3 deaths this year, and less than 10% of the Brazilian population has been vaccinated so far.
Medical experts are warning of another deadly pandemic winter as Covid-19 numbers tick up and flu season threatens. The US is back at a point where more than 2,000 people are dying of Covid-19 every day on average, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Additionally, about 12,000 to 50,000 Americans lose their lives to flu every year. The best way to avoid another devastating season, doctors say, is to get vaccinated for both. Meanwhile, parts of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, are coming out of long lockdowns and abandoning their “zero Covid” strategies. Leaders want to revive their countries’ economies, especially their tourism sectors, but experts are worried that low vaccination rates in the region could spell disaster.
President Biden will raise the refugee cap to 62,500 people this fiscal year after backlash following an earlier decision to maintain a Trump-era cap of 15,000. The elevated limit gets the administration back on track to its February promise of admitting more refugees. The vow was temporarily sidelined when a surge of migrants at the southern border moved Biden to reevaluate his policies. Nearly 6,000 undocumented immigrations were apprehended there daily in April, preliminary government data show. That means the continued influx is still higher than normal but appears to have plateaued. The Biden administration says it’s still focusing on moving families and children out of US Border Patrol custody as fast as possible to alleviate overcrowding and long stays.
The climate crisis was front and center at the UN General Assembly yesterday. Chinese President Xi Jinping recorded a rare address to the UN body promising to halt coal projects, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will present the Paris climate agreement to its parliament next month, and US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson stressed further climate action during an Oval Office meeting. An array of international points of conflict were also addressed by the dozens of world leaders present, including nuclear arms in Iran, free and fair elections in Venezuela, and competition between the US and China. The Taliban have also requested representation at this week’s meeting, a move that is expected to kick off a diplomatic battle with the preexisting Afghan envoy.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, the top US general, has dropped his opposition to major policy changes on how the military handles sexual assault and is open to removing the chain of command from involvement in investigations. An Independent Review Commission, created by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, is carrying out an urgent 90-day review of Pentagon policies and procedures on sexual assault. Milley until now had said sexual assault is a leadership issue and must be handled within the chain of command. But he dropped his opposition after seeing attempts to effectively reduce or end sexual assault within the ranks fail. A Defense Department survey estimated more than 20,000 sexual assaults in the military in 2018.
Progressive Democrats have announced they will not vote for the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill without passing the $3.5 trillion package that is aimed at enacting President Joe Biden’s economic agenda. That vote is scheduled for next week, and as it stands, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can afford to lose only a handful of votes to get anything passed. President Biden will increase his engagement with Congressional Democrats today, including a meeting with Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, to try and get all the Democratic factions in line. Yesterday, the House also passed a bill to avoid a government shutdown and suspend the US debt limit. The bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, so the country is still approaching a possible shutdown and financial precipice in the coming weeks.
4. Energy bills
A landmark trial in the US opioid crisis is now underway in West Virginia. Cabell County and its county seat, Huntington, have accused three major prescription opioid distributors of creating a public nuisance by failing to monitor, divert and report suspicious orders under the Controlled Substances Act. The complaint alleges the companies distributed a combined total of over 57 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone to the community of about 100,000 people between 2006 and 2014. Overall, West Virginia also had one of the highest opioid-involved overdose death rates in the country in 2018. This is the first federal case to go forward among thousands of opioid lawsuits and could set the tone for future litigation related to the crisis.
Many Americans are bracing for the cold reality that they will have to shell out more money this year to keep their homes warm during the winter. Families are expected to pay an average of 17.2% more for home heat this coming season, compared to last winter, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association. This brings the two-year hike to more than 35%. Those who heat their homes with natural gas are facing the largest spike, with their costs expected to soar 34.3% to $952 for the season, the association said. Heating oil is expected to jump 12.8% to $2,115. And those whose heat runs on electricity can expect to see a nearly 7% increase to $1,328. Some people may not realize that energy bills will be costlier this winter, especially since gasoline prices had been falling for months.
“Get the f**k out.” That’s what Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin told the Chinese government in a tweet demanding China’s vessels leave disputed waters. The Philippines has been protesting what it calls the “illegal” presence of hundreds of Chinese boats inside the country’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone in the South China Sea. China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which about $3 trillion of shipborne trade passes each year. The Philippines has filed dozens of diplomatic protests to China since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, but Duterte himself has taken a more gentle tone toward the country’s maritime rival in exchange for Beijing’s promises of billions of dollars in investment, aid and loans.
There are about 8,600 Haitian migrants remaining under the Del Rio International bridge in Texas, waiting to be processed by immigration officials and possibly removed from the country. That’s down from a high of about 14,000 earlier in the week, but there are still tens of thousands of other Haitian refugees further south, still waiting for a chance to enter the US. There are up to 30,000 Haitians in Colombia who may be seeking to travel north, and Panama expects 80,000 migrants to cross its borders by the end of this year. South and Central American leaders have expressed concern at the unprecedented flow of migrants. More than 97% of Haitians migrating to the US do not come directly from Haiti, but rather were residents of other countries first. Many Haitians trying to enter the US are believed to have been living elsewhere since the devastating Haiti earthquake in 2010.
THIS JUST IN …
Tragedy in Mexico City
An overpass carrying a subway train collapsed late last night in Mexico City, killing at least 23 people, local government officials said. At least 65 people have been hospitalized.
‘Dancing with the Stars’ Season 30 premieres
After months of lockdown, you definitely want to avoid a face-melting “Raiders of the Lost Ark” moment.
Mysterious new tarantula-like spider identified in the Florida Everglades
Respectfully, we don’t need any more mysterious new tarantula-like spiders.
Tiffany & Co. launches engagement rings for men
Every engaged person should feel a little glam if they want to!
Used car sales are soaring
If you were looking to offload your old reliable ride, now is the time.
Hubble telescope spies rare giant star battling against self-destruction
Aren’t we all rare giant stars, battling against self-destruction?
That’s how much Verizon is getting in a deal to sell Yahoo and AOL to private equity firm Apollo Global Management. The deal, due to close in the second half of 2021, signals Verizon’s exit from the media business.
“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage.”
Bill and Melinda Gates, who announced in a statement they are ending their 27-year marriage. The couple said they will keep working together at their philanthropy, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“I started telling myself that it was okay. I was coming to terms with dying.”
Restoring an icon
Get into the true Star Wars Day spirit by watching the GOAT himself, John Williams, conduct the soaring opening theme from the beautiful Musikverein in Vienna. (Click here to view.)