5 things to know for October 21: Covid-19, Congress, supply chain, Taliban, Brexit

Here is what you need to know

By AJ Willingham

A pharmacist prepares to give a Pfizer Covid-19 booster shot in San Rafael, California.

1
Coronavirus

The FDA has authorized booster doses of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines and officially given the go for “mix and match” boosters among all three authorized vaccines. Now the CDC will weigh in. If it signs off, new boosters could be available within days. In the UK, British and international authorities are watching with concern as a new subtype of the Delta variant is causing more infections. The subtype accounted for about 6% of new cases in the last week of September. Experts have suggested the AY.4.2 descendant could be slightly more transmissible than the original Delta variant, but it is not yet considered a “variant of concern.”

2
Congress

As President Biden works with legislators to wrap up negotiations on his domestic spending priorities, he’s made it clear some sort of climate deal needs to be done before he arrives in Scotland next week for the United Nations’ COP26 climate summit. Biden says entering the summit without something to show for his pledge to dramatically reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions would damage America’s credibility. Ideally, those climate measures would be part of the Democrats’ budget package, but in case that isn’t set by then, White House officials say executive orders or other environmental regulations would still be options. Biden aims to ramp up his public sales pitch for his sweeping domestic agenda tonight in a CNN town hall event. Here’s how to watch.

3
Supply chain

California’s governor has issued an executive order to address the shortage of truck drivers and container storage to try to move critical cargo out of the state’s ports and alleviate congestion. The order directs agencies to find state, federal and private land for short-term container storage while identifying freight routes for trucks so officials can temporarily exempt weight limits on the road. It also addresses educational programs and training for port workers and others in the supply chain. Supply chain backups and shortages are causing all kinds of consumer woes, including low or missing stock. Out-of-stock items jumped 172% in August compared to pre-pandemic levels.

4
Taliban

Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers want to convene a United Nations donor conference to help the country stave off economic collapse and a humanitarian catastrophe. At recent talks in Moscow, the leaders won backing for the idea from 10 regional powers, including Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Iran and five formerly Soviet Central Asian states. Now, the group is calling for the UN to organize such a conference as soon as possible. Governments around the world, including Russia, have declined to give official recognition to the Taliban government after it regained power in August. However, Russia sees an opening for influence here and is keenly aware that any unrest in the country could threaten regional stability.

5
Brexit

The UK and New Zealand have struck a free trade agreement, the latest in a flurry of trade deals Britain has had to broker after its exit from the European Union. The deal with New Zealand is not expected to increase UK GDP, but it will mean reduced tariffs on things like bulldozers, wine, buses and clothing. This deal and another with Australia have encountered opposition from UK farmers, who are worried the agreements could allow cheap imports. The European Union accounted for 42% of UK exports of goods and services and 50% of imports in 2020, and Britain is rushing to compensate for losing the economic benefits of bloc membership.