5 things to know for March 26: Voting law, Covid, White House, foreign policy, China

Get up to speed and on with your day
Originally Published: 26 MAR 21 06:27 ET

(CNN) — At least five people have died as a wave of tornadoes ripped through the southern US yesterday.

Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

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1. Voting rights

Republicans in Georgia have passed a sweeping elections bill that voting rights advocates say is a bald-faced attempt at voter suppression. The new law imposes new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, empowers state officials to take over local elections boards, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water. The law is seen as a win for former President Trump and his allies, who falsely claimed widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election. Trump himself pressured Georgia leaders to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state. President Biden has called bills like this “sick” and “un-American.” Other Republican-led states are considering similar voter suppression laws, sparking calls for federal legislation to set a national baseline for voting rules.

2. Coronavirus

The US has now surpassed 30 million total infections in the pandemic. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky again warned that, despite reopenings and a growing desire to get back to normal, the US is still seeing about 1,000 deaths a day and facing the growing threat of coronavirus variants. She also said vaccination efforts are helping the situation. The Biden administration says it will dedicate another $10 billion to expand Covid-19 vaccine access and boost vaccine confidence. The Senate voted to extend the application deadline for the Paycheck Protection Program, the key federal relief effort for small businesses, to May 31. Oh, and good news for new moms: New research shows the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are effective in pregnant and lactating women, who can pass protective antibodies to newborns.

3. White House

Biden held his first official White House news conference yesterday. During the highly-anticipated talk, he took a strong stance on his goal of reforming the Senate filibuster. The filibuster generally refers to any time senators demand a supermajority to cut off debate and move to an actual vote. Ending it would mean legislation would pass by simple majority — a critical thing to consider in a closely divided Senate. When discussing immigration, Biden downplayed the growing crisis at the southern border and said the policies of his predecessor have made it harder to house and properly process the record number of migrant children in custody. On the international front, Biden said one of his main priorities is repairing global relationships. He also identified the top foreign policy issue he’s facing right now: North Korea.

4. Foreign policy

The Biden administration faces other foreign policy challenges too. During his news conference, Biden expressed uncertainty at meeting the May 1 deadline for a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. A six-month extension is being considered, and Biden said he “can’t picture” US troops still being in Afghanistan next year. Meanwhile, the US will resume diplomatic ties with Palestinians that were cut under the prior administration. Trump cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, bringing diplomatic contact to a virtual halt. US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Biden team will work toward a negotiated two-state solution that ensures Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state while upholding Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for a state of their own.

5. China

China has launched more retaliatory measures in response to international sanctions over Xinjiang. The Chinese government announced sanctions against UK lawmakers, academics and entities, barring them from entering China and freezing their assets there. The UK’s ambassador to China has also been summoned by Beijing. H&M, Nike and other big Western apparel brands have expressed concern in recent months over the alleged use of forced labor to produce cotton in Xinjiang, one of the types of human rights violations China is accused of in the region. Now, those retailers are facing heavy criticism, including threats of boycott and terminated contracts with some Chinese celebrities.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

Jessica Walter, known for her roles in “Arrested Development” and “Archer,” has died

Walter, 80, was a force on stage as well as on screen and starred in several Broadway productions.

GameStop, AMC and other meme stocks are spiking again

This time, it was fueled by actual hopes for a GameStop renaissance.

People are fascinated by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s clock device

What, you don’t have a gadget displaying blockchain data in your luxurious but sparse billionaire kitchen?

A bottle of wine was blasted into space. Here’s what it tastes like now

Space wine! Space wine!

An erupting volcano in Iceland is being called ‘cute’

Volcanologists are, understandably, puzzled by our desire to anthropomorphize a deadly force of nature.

Pepsi’s newest flavor has Peeps in it

We’re not gonna say it. Nope, not gonna ………… Peepsi.

TODAY’S NUMBER

706,000

That’s how many cubic feet of sand Suez Canal authorities say may need to be removed to free the Ever Given, that giant tanker blocking the critical waterway in Egypt.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“His brutal murder must not be forgotten, and there has to be justice.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly, who’s backing federal legislation that seeks to punish Saudi Arabia for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi Dissidents Protection Act would go further than the Biden administration has in holding the country’s crown prince accountable for Khashoggi’s death.

TODAY’S WEATHER

Check your local forecast here>>>

AND FINALLY

Mmm, fried maple leaves

A new, exciting, ultra-regional delicacy to crave, this time from Japan! Hooray! (Click here to view.)

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