👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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1/ Johnson and Johnson’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine was 66% effective overall at preventing moderate to severe illness in a global study. In the U.S., the vaccine was 72% effective, but the efficacy rate dropped to 57% in South Africa, where a highly contagious variant is driving new cases. The vaccine was particularly effective at stopping severe disease in all regions, preventing 85% of severe infections and 100% of hospitalizations and deaths. Johnson and Johnson said it planned to apply for emergency authorization of its vaccine from the FDA, putting it on track to receive clearance later in February. (Washington Post / Bloomberg / Politico / New York Times / The Guardian / NBC News)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~101,880,000; deaths: ~2,202,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~25,875,000; deaths: ~436,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
Dr. Anthony Fauci called the new coronavirus variants a “wake-up call” to move faster on vaccinating the population. The highly transmissible variant, known as B.1351, has been identified in more than two dozen countries and has played a role in prompting Canada, Britain and Germany to introduce new travel bans. (Washington Post)
The Pentagon could send active-duty troops to assist with vaccines at roughly 100 vaccine sites nationwide. (New York Times)
2/ The Trump administration spent $200 million to send more than 8,700 ventilators to countries around the world last year with no way to keep track of where they ended up. In only 12 of 43 countries did the federal government have a good idea where the ventilators are. And, a Government Accountability Office report said it was unable to identify the Trump administration’s “criteria used for what ventilators went to what countries.” (Washington Post)
3/ There are currently 106 pending Republican-backed bills across 28 states that would restrict access to voting despite the 2020 election being “the most secure in American history.” Nearly a year ago, there were 35 restrictive bills pending across 15 states. (The Guardian / Brennan Center for Justice / The Hill)
- A Republican Arizona lawmaker introduced a bill that would give the state Legislature the ability to revoke the secretary of state’s election certification at any time before the presidential inauguration. The bill rewrites parts of the state’s election law, such as sections on election observers and securing and auditing ballots, but also grants the Legislature, which is currently under GOP control, the ability to revoke the secretary of state’s certification “by majority vote at any time before the presidential inauguration.” (NBC News)
4/ The FBI said two pipe bombs discovered on Jan. 6 near the Democratic and Republican party headquarters were planted the night before the insurrection at the Capitol. The reward for information leading to the location, arrest, and conviction of the person or people responsible for placing the bomb is now $100,000. (Washington Post / CNN)
Some House lawmakers are privately refusing to work with each other, as Democratic leaders are putting pressure on the Republican leadership to denounce Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who endorsed violence against members of Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, warned that “the enemy is within,” after two-thirds of the House Republicans voted to overturn the election hours after lawmakers were attacked by a mob on Jan. 6 demanding that very action. (Politico / Washington Post / The Hill / New York Times)
The acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police called for permanent fencing around the Capitol building. Capitol Police will also be stationed at airports in Washington, D.C., and at the railroad terminal at Union Station to provide security on days with increased lawmaker travel. (ABC News / NBC News / New York Times)
5/ The Pentagon suspended the processing of a number of Trump’s last-minute appointees to defense advisory boards. The move effectively prevents a number of Trump allies, including Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, from serving on the panels for the time being. The Biden team, meanwhile, is looking into whether it can replace dozens of Trump’s last-minute appointments to boards and commissions across the government. (Politico)
6/ Putin agreed to extend the New START nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and the United States for five years – a week before the pact was due to expire. The treaty limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. Russia had long proposed prolonging the pact, but the Trump administration waited until last year to start talks. (Politico)
7/ The former FBI lawyer who admitted to doctoring an email that officials used to justify secret surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser was sentenced to 12 months of probation. Kevin Clinesmith admitted last August that he had altered an internal FBI email in the course of seeking a court’s permission to continue government surveillance of Carter Page, changing an e-mail about Page so that it said he was “not a source” for the CIA when he had been one. Prosecutors had asked that Clinesmith spend several months in prison for his crime. (Politico / NBC News / Washington Post)
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