5 things to know for April 8: Covid-19, guns, immigration, Iraq, Northern Ireland
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The coronavirus variant first identified in the UK is now the most common strain of coronavirus in the US, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says. Case numbers in the US have risen over most of the last four weeks in part because of its spread, and that of other dangerous variants. Starting today, the province of Ontario, which is home to 14 million people, will go under a four-week stay-at-home order as a third wave begins to overwhelm Canadian hospitals. Some countries are enacting new travel bans, like in New Zealand, which just restricted entry for travelers from India, or the UK, which issued a travel ban for Kenya. The East African nation hit back at the ban, warning of the consequences of vaccine inequity between countries.
2. Gun control
President Joe Biden will announce a series of executive actions on gun control today in response to major mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado last month. The orders will tighten restrictions on so-called ghost guns and pistol stabilizing braces that allow weapons to be used more accurately. They will also direct resources toward community violence prevention. While these executive orders address the calls for gun control action that followed last month’s violence, senior administration officials say they’re just the beginning of Biden’s gun control mission. However, to accomplish his more ambitious goals, like universal background checks or an assault weapons ban, he’ll need a lot of support from an evenly split Senate.
More than 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children are now in US custody as the Biden administration tries to alleviate overcrowding in Border Protection facilities. The administration is working on building up bed capacities and decreasing the time it takes to release unaccompanied migrant children to sponsors living in the US. They’ve seen a little improvement, but record numbers of children are still crossing the border — 747 on Tuesday alone. Meanwhile, the parents of 445 migrant children separated from their families due to Trump administration policies between 2017 and 2018 have still not been located, according to a new Justice Department filing.
The Biden administration is considering a withdrawal of troops from Iraq as the threat from ISIS wanes. About 2,500 US troops are currently in the country as part of the global Operation Inherent Resolve, which was created to defeat the ISIS caliphate that controlled parts of Iraq and Syria. The campaign against ISIS is ongoing, but Iraq’s security forces have become stronger, shifting the duties of US troops to training and advisory roles. The timing of the exit will be determined in future “technical talks” between US and Iraqi officials. Along with the upcoming withdrawal in Afghanistan, the Biden administration has now set plans to remove troops from two of America’s longest wars.
5. Northern Ireland
Parts of Northern Ireland have seen six straight days of violence as unionists and nationalists clashed with police and each other. Brexit-related tensions have been simmering for months, and last week, a decision by police not to prosecute leaders of the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein for allegedly breaking coronavirus restrictions brought the whole thing to a boil. Now, rioters have clashed along the so-called “peace line” dividing predominantly unionist and nationalist communities. They’ve thrown petrol bombs and set a bus on fire. The arrival of Brexit created the potential of a border between the British-ruled north and the Republic of Ireland in the south, which remains in the European Union. That has been seen as a major breach of trust with Northern Ireland, since the lack of a border had been a key element of the post-1998 peace that followed three decades of violence.
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That’s how many counterfeit masks have been seized by US Customs and Border Protection since the beginning of the year. Officials say they’ve been a problem throughout the pandemic, but the last few months have seen an “exponential increase” in such counterfeits.
“There is nothing more dangerous than a reckless a**hole who thinks he is smarter than everyone else.”
Former House Speaker John Boehner, who made his feelings on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz perfectly clear in his new book, “On the House: A Washington Memoir.”
Your eyes deceive you
This isn’t a neon sign — it’s spray paint, wielded by a very talented artist.
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