👋 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/ The coronavirus pandemic cut life expectancy in the U.S. by an entire year in the first half of 2020 – the largest drop since World War II. Overall, Americans can now expect to live 77.8 years – similar to what it was in 2006. Life expectancy of the Black population, however, declined by 2.7 years to 72 years. The CDC noted that the data only reflects deaths that occurred during the first six months of 2020 and does not show the full impact of Covid-19. (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / Associated Press / CNN)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~110,181,000; deaths: ~2,438,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~27,882,000; deaths: ~493,000; vaccinated: ~12.7% of total population
2/ Another 861,000 people filed for unemployment last week – up 13,000 from the prior week – and another 516,000 claims were filed last week for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a program for gig and self employed workers. The total number of people claiming benefits in all unemployment programs was 18.34 million. According to the Labor Department, since the beginning of the pandemic some 2.5 million women have left the American work force, compared with 1.8 million men. (Bloomberg / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNBC / New York Times)
- More than 100 million workers in the world’s largest economies may need to switch occupation by 2030 as the Covid-19 pandemic accelerates changes to the labor force. (Bloomberg)
3/ The White House pledged $4 billion dollars to an international effort to get coronavirus vaccines to low- and middle-income countries. Despite more than 190 countries participating in the Covax program, the Trump administration opted out, partly because of Trump’s feud with the WHO. The U.S. will contribute an initial $2 billion in the coming days and the remaining $2 billion over the next two years. (Washington Post / NBC News)
4/ The U.S. attorney in Brooklyn and the FBI are investigating how New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo handled the Covid-19 pandemic in the state’s nursing homes. Cuomo’s administration recently revealed that more than 15,000 people have died from the coronavirus in New York’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities – up from the 8,500 previously disclosed – and his top aide admitted in a call with state lawmakers that the state had withheld data because it feared that the Trump administration would use the information to begin a federal civil rights investigation. Democrats in the New York State Senate, meanwhile, accused Cuomo of a “cover-up” and are moving to strip him of the emergency powers granted during the pandemic. Cuomo also allegedly threatened to “destroy” a New York State Assemblyman’s political career if he didn’t help cover up the nursing home-related deaths. (NBC News / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / CNN)
5/ Ted Cruz and his family flew to Cancun as 3 million Texans were left without power, safe drinking water, or heat amid freezing weather. After photos surfaced of his family boarding a flight from Houston, Cruz claimed he flew to Mexico for the night because his “girls asked to take a trip with friends” and he wanted to be a “good dad.” The CDC, however, has advised that Americans “avoid all travel to Mexico” due to the coronavirus pandemic and that “[a]ll air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test” before boarding a U.S.-bound flight. Cruz, meanwhile, booked his return ticket from Cancun to Texas at 6 a.m. today. (Washington Post / New York Times / Associated Press / CNN / Axios / Dallas Morning News)
6/ Biden approved emergency declarations for Oklahoma and Texas as the region battles the effects of severe winter weather. The declaration authorizes FEMA to coordinate disaster relief, including sending generators, blankets, and other supplies. (The Hill / Washington Post)
7/ Congressional Democrats introduced a Biden-backed bill to remake the U.S. immigration system and provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented Americans. The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, while unlikely to win Republican support, would provide an eight-year pathway to citizenship for 11 million people living in the country without legal status, remove restrictions on family-based immigration, and expand worker visas. “We have an economic and moral imperative to pass big, bold and inclusive immigration reform,” Sen. Bob Menendez said, adding: “We’re here today because last November 80 million Americans voted against Donald Trump and against everything he stood for. They voted to restore common sense, compassion, and competence in our government. And part of that mandate is fixing our immigration system, which is a cornerstone of Trump’s hateful horror show.” (NBC News / New York Times / CNN / Associated Press / Axios)
8/ The White House and congressional Democrats are divided over efforts to force Trump’s former White House counsel to testify about Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Russia inquiry. Under Trump, the Justice Department had been representing Donald McGahn in fighting a subpoena from House Judiciary Committee to testify at an oversight hearing. In a court filing, however, the Biden administration asked “whether an accommodation might be available with respect to the Committee’s request” to force McGahn to testify at an oversight hearing. House Democrats urged the court to move forward in the “interests of judicial efficiency or fairness to the parties.” Biden’s White House lawyers are reportedly worried about establishing a precedent that could someday force them to testify about internal matters. (New York Times)
9/ The Supreme Court has refused – for nearly four months – to act on emergency filings related to a Manhattan grand jury’s subpoena of Trump tax returns. The grand jury is seeking Trump personal and business records back to 2011, including information about the hush-money payments Michael Cohen made to cover up alleged affairs. The justices have not explained the delay.(CNN)
10/ Nearly 5,000 National Guard troops will remain in Washington through mid-March amid concerns that QAnon followers believe Trump will return to office March 4. During a hearing with defense officials, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee said “Some of these people have figured out that apparently 75 years ago, the president used to be inaugurated on March 4. OK, now why that’s relevant, God knows, at any rate, now they are thinking maybe we should gather again and storm the Capitol on March 4. … That is circulating online.” (CNN / The Hill)
11/ South Carolina banned most abortions. After South Carolina lawmakers passed a restrictive “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban bill and S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster signed it into law – five weeks into the legislative session – legislators and members of the public began singing the words “Praise God” to the tune of “Amazing Grace.” (Associated Press / The State)
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