5 things to know for March 9: Covid-19, voting rights, Congress, Asia-Pacific, China
Here's what you need to know to get up to speed and on with your day
The CDC has released highly anticipated new guidelines for people fully vaccinated against Covid-19, saying it is safe for them to gather together without masks indoors and to visit with unvaccinated people in certain circumstances. The new guidance was met with joy and renewed hope that a return to normalcy is around the corner. However, ex-CDC chief Dr. Tom Frieden cautioned that we shouldn’t give up on safety measures yet, saying, “You don’t declare victory in the third quarter.” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gave a similar worldwide warning, saying, “There are no shortcuts” to recovery. After all, one coronavirus variant is now spreading exponentially through the US, experts say. Meanwhile, it looks like the House will now vote tomorrow on the massive coronavirus relief package.
2. Voting rights
The battle over voting rights continues as states move forward with controversial bills. In Georgia, the state Senate passed an election bill, backed by Republicans, that would repeal no-excuse absentee voting and make other sweeping changes in the critical swing state. Voting rights groups say such measures target Black voters and recall tactics used in the Jim Crow era, like limiting registration days and ballot drop boxes. In Iowa, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a bill that limits early voting days and Election Day voting and makes it harder for voters to return absentee ballots. However, over the weekend President Biden signed an executive order expanding voting access and requiring federal agencies to promote voter registration. Congressional Democrats are also pushing a large ethics and election bill.
Five Republican senators have announced they will not run for reelection next November, deepening the ideological divide between traditional GOP lawmakers and those unfailingly loyal to former President Trump (all the outgoing senators are seen as in the former camp). The latest is Roy Blunt. Chuck Grassley, who has been in the Senate for more than four decades, is also mulling his future. Meanwhile, liberal Democrats are continuing their yearslong push to overhaul the Senate’s hallowed filibuster. Their plan includes changing the 60-vote requirement to break the legislative stalling tactic. But to get anything changed, they’d need unanimity in their ranks, which will take some convincing. For the record, Biden (a former senator) has said he’s not in favor of ending the filibuster.
4. Asia-Pacific summit
Leaders of the United States, Japan, India and Australia will meet in a virtual summit this week, marking the first time talks have been held among the heads of state of the four-member Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (or simply, Quad). While not a formal military alliance like NATO, the Quad is seen by some as a potential counterweight to growing Chinese influence and alleged aggression in the Asia-Pacific region. Beijing, on the other hand, sees it as an anti-China bloc. All the participating countries have had strained relations with China, either over trade or disputed regions. On the military side of things, cooperation among the Quad has been increasing over the past year through bilateral agreements and joint military drills.
The Chinese government’s alleged actions in Xinjiang have violated every single provision in the United Nations’ Genocide Convention, according to an independent report by more than 50 global experts in human rights, war crimes and international law. This is the first independent report into genocide allegations in the region, where up to 2 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are believed to have been placed in a sprawling network of detention centers. The report alleges evidence of China’s “intent to destroy” the Uyghur people. Nations, including the US under the Trump administration, have named China’s actions as genocide, elevating international dialogue about the situation. China has denied human rights abuse allegations, saying the centers are necessary to prevent religious extremism and terrorism.
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“Each of these women have led careers demonstrating incomparable skill, integrity and duty to country. And at every step, they’ve also helped push open the doors of opportunity to women in our military, blazing the trail, a little wider, a little brighter, for all proud women following their path and looking to their example.”
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Hey everybody, look at these cool mushrooms!
Australian naturalist and fungi photographer Stephen Axford shows off some of the wildest, most colorful (and sometimes kind of scary?) mushrooms he’s ever seen. (Click here to view.)
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