👋 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/ Biden said the U.S. expects to have a large enough supply of coronavirus vaccines to vaccinate every adult in the nation by the end of May – two months earlier than anticipated. The White House said it was increasing supply of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to states next week to 15.2 million doses per week – up from 14.5 million. States will also receive 2.8 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine this week, with the supply climbing to 4-6 million by the end of March and 5-6 million by the end of April. White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said states should prepare to administer 17-18 million total weekly doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by early April. (Associated Press / CNBC)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~114,698,000; deaths: ~2,545,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~28,705,000; deaths: ~516,000; fully vaccinated: ~7.9%; partially vaccinated: ~15.6%
Merck will help manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine to boost the supply of the newly authorized vaccine. Under the unusual arrangement, Merck will dedicate two facilities in the U.S. to Johnson & Johnson’s shots. The White House said it was utilizing the Defense Production Act to help Merck secure equipment needed to upgrade its facilities for vaccine production, including the purchase of machinery, bags, tubing, and filtration systems. Biden has promised enough vaccine doses for 300 million Americans by the end of July. (Washington Post / CNN)
Trump’s homelessness czar resigned. During his last month in his post, Robert Marbut Jr. traveled the country and showed up uninvited at shelters for tours despite restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among one of the highest-risk populations. Marbut also received one of about 70 available coronavirus vaccines at one facility. (Bloomberg)
2/ The World Health Organization warned that the global number of new coronavirus cases rose for the first time in nearly two months. Over the past week, cases jumped in every region except for Africa and the Western Pacific. The WHO blamed the surge on new variants and premature efforts to lift public health restrictions. (Washington Post)
3/ Texas’s governor ended his statewide mask mandate, saying “it is now time to open Texas 100 percent.” All businesses in the state will be able to reopen next week with no capacity limits. Meanwhile, more than 6,000 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 in Texas today, with more than 1,700 of those patients in intensive care units. Nevertheless, Greg Abbott said the “state mandates are no longer needed.” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves also lifted his state’s mask mandate, saying that hospitalizations in the state have “plummeted” and that cases have declined dramatically. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, meanwhile, said she was “really worried” about rolling back restrictions in some states, cautioning that with “stalling” cases and new variants spreading, “we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained.” (New York Times / Politico / NBC News / Washington Post)
4/ FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Jan. 6 insurrection was “an inspiration to a number of terrorist extremists” and that he considers the attack “domestic terrorism.” Wray defended the FBI’s handling of intelligence in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6, saying the FBI tracked “a large amount of information” about the potential for violence, but he didn’t explain what the FBI did with the information. Wray also told lawmakers that there’s no evidence indicating that the rioters were “fake Trump protesters” – a baseless claim that Republican Sen. Ron Johnson has advanced in recent weeks in an effort to downplay the violence committed by the pro-Trump mob. Wray said that there are 2,000 domestic terrorism investigations – up from almost 1,000 when he first started in 2017. “The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now,” Wray added, “and it’s not going away anytime soon.” (Politico / NBC News / Washington Post / CNN / New York Times / NPR / Bloomberg / ABC News / Wall Street Journal)
5/ The Supreme Court is hearing arguments over two Arizona voting restrictions – one requiring election officials to discard ballots cast at the wrong precinct and the other making it a crime to collect ballots for delivery to polling places. Democrats sued, arguing that Republicans are increasingly trying to suppress the vote and that the rules discriminate against minorities and that they violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The justices reportedly seemed poised to uphold both Arizona laws. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News)
6/ The U.S. needs 20,000 beds to shelter unaccompanied migrant children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. While Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has claimed yesterday that the current influx is not a crisis, Biden was briefed today that the number of migrant children is on pace to exceed the all-time record by 45%. The Department of Health and Human Services, meanwhile, plans to loosen its coronavirus protocols to make room for an additional 2,000 kids and teens. Biden has asked Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, for help in keeping Central American migrants from immediately surging north toward the United States through Mexico. (Axios / New York Times)
7/ The Senate confirmed Miguel Cardona as education secretary. Cardona will be tasked with helping to reopen schools, addressing inequity in the nation’s education system, and managing the $1.5 trillion federal student loan program. (Washington Post)
8/ The Biden administration sanctioned seven senior Russian government figures over the poisoning and imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The sanctions block access to financial or other assets in the United States. The European Union also issued its own sanctions against four top Russian officials. (ABC News / NBC News / Washington Post)
9/ The Manhattan district attorney’s office has increased its focus on the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer as part of its financial fraud investigation. District Attorney Cyrus Vance has been asking witnesses about Allen Weisselberg and his sons, Barry and Jack Weisselberg, related to whether Trump and the Trump Organization manipulated property values to obtain loans and tax benefits. In 2018, Weisselberg was granted immunity by federal prosecutors in New York as part of their criminal investigation into hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal during the 2016 presidential campaign. (New York Times)
10/ Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany will join Fox News as an on-air commentator. McEnany – who told reporters “I will never lie to you” when she took on the role of White House press secretary – routinely defended and promoted Trump’s misleading statements during press conference. (NBC News)
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