👋 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 announced a “trailblazing” set of 11 judicial nominees who “reflect the full diversity of the American people — both in background and in professional experience.” Biden’s list of nominees include nine women, and nine people of color. Among the group, Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals seat vacated by Merrick Garland when he became U.S. attorney general. Jackson is considered a potential Supreme Court contender. Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, pledged to quickly confirm Biden’s first batch of nominees in order to “significantly mitigate the influence of Donald Trump’s unqualified, right-wing judges.” (New York Times / NBC News / Politico / NPR / The Guardian / Washington Post)
2/ Biden signed a two-month extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, which was set to expire on March 31. The extension also gives the Small Business Administration an additional 30 days to process loans submitted before the new May 31 deadline. (New York Times / Washington Post)
3/ A group of 21 Senate Democrats urged Biden to include recurring direct payments and an extension of jobless benefits in his infrastructure and economic recovery plan. “This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads,” the senators wrote. “Families should not be at the mercy of constantly-shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions.” Biden is scheduled to unveil his $3 to $4 trillion recovery package on Wednesday, which is expected to be split into two pieces of legislation. (CNBC / CNN / The Hill)
4/ WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the joint mission to study the origins of the coronavirus in China didn’t adequately analyze the possibility of a lab leak before deciding the virus most likely spread from bats to humans via another animal. “Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation,” Tedros said in a statement. The U.S. and 13 other countries, meanwhile, voiced frustration with the level of access China provided in a joint statement, saying the mission’s report “lacked access to complete, original data and samples.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki also criticized China’s lack of cooperation, saying “they have not been transparent. They have not provided underlying data. That certainly doesn’t qualify as cooperation.” (Bloomberg / Washington Post)
😷 Dept. of “We’re gonna get through this.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~127,988,000; deaths: ~2,798,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~30,379,000; deaths: ~551,000; fully vaccinated: ~15.1%; partially vaccinated: ~28.9%
5/ Several civil rights groups have filed at least three legal challenges to Georgia’s new voting limitations, arguing that curtailing voting access represents “intentional discrimination” against the state’s Black voters. One lawsuit, filed by the Georgia NAACP and other groups, said the law “is the culmination of a concerted effort to suppress the participation of Black voters and other voters of color by the Republican State Senate, State House, and governor.” Black residents in Georgia are 88% more likely to be below poverty level and therefore less likely to have the required forms of photo ID. (New York Times / NBC News)
6/ Attorney General Merrick Garland directed Justice Department employees to examine “the disturbing trend” of violence against Asian Americans, and to give priority to investigating and prosecuting hate crimes and incidents. The Biden administration also reinstated and expanded the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to include coordination across federal agencies in responding to anti-Asian bias and violence. (Bloomberg / CBS News / The Hill)
7/ A New York appeals court allowed for a defamation lawsuit against Trump to move forward. Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” sued Trump for defamation after he denied her allegations that he sexually assaulted her in 2007. The case had been delayed until Trump was out of office because, as a sitting president, he was immune from a lawsuit brought in state court. (CNN)
poll/ 68% of Americans are satisfied with the Covid-19 vaccine process – up 34 percentage points since January. 74% of Americans say they are willing to receive a Covid-19 vaccine – up from 50% in September. (Gallup)
poll/ 52% of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president. 65% approve of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, 51% approve of his handling of the economy, and 34% approve of his handling of immigration. (NPR)
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