👋 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 U.S. death rate in 2020 was the highest above normal ever recorded. In 2020, 3.4 million people died in the U.S., representing a 16% increase from the previous year in what epidemiologists call “excess deaths,” or deaths above normal. The 1918 flu pandemic caused a 12% jump in excess deaths. The CDC has said about 10% of the deaths last year can be directly attributed to Covid-19. (New York Times)
- The State Department issued more than 115 “Do Not Travel” advisories, citing “ongoing risks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” As of last week, 33 countries were on the U.S. Do Not Travel list. (NPR)
2/ Sen. Ron Johnson questioned the “big push” to get everyone vaccinated against the coronavirus, saying he sees “no reason to be pushing vaccines on people,” asking “quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?” The Wisconsin Republican added that he was “highly suspicious” of the vaccine distribution effort, saying that it should be “limited” to the most vulnerable because – he claims – it’s “not a fully approved vaccine.” At the same time, Johnson acknowledged that the coronavirus “vaccines are 95% effective.” (Forbes / CNN)
- Covid-19 hospitalizations among Americans 65 and older have fallen more than 70% since the start of the year. Covid-19 deaths among Americans 65 and older have declined more than 50% since their peak in January. (Associated Press)
3/ A federal vaccine advisory panel recommended that the U.S. resume the use of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, saying the benefits outweighed the risk of a rare blood clot disorder. The vaccine would carry a warning label about a potential increase in the risk of rare but severe blood clots and low platelet counts. CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is expected to decide whether to formally accept the recommendation shortly. Out of nearly 8 million people who have received the J&J shot, health officials discovered 15 cases of a rare kind of blood clot, three of them fatal. (Associated Press / NBC News / Politico / Axios / New York Times / Washington Post)
4/ The Department of Housing and Urban Development withdrew a Trump-era proposal that would’ve allowed single-sex homeless shelters to discriminate against transgender people. The Trump administration rule allowed federally funded homeless shelters to base admissions on a person’s “biological sex” instead of their gender identity. “We are taking a critical step in affirming HUD’s commitment that no person be denied access to housing or other critical services because of their gender identity,” Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge said. “HUD is open for business for all.” (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News)
5/ The Justice Department expects to charge more than 500 people in connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. “Over 400 individuals have been charged in connection with the Capitol attack,” federal prosecutors said in court documents. “The investigation continues and the government expects that at least one hundred additional individuals will charged.” (NBC News)
poll/ 59% of 18-to-29-year-old Americans approve of Biden’s job performance, 65% approve of his handling of the coronavirus and 57% race relations. (Harvard Youth Poll)
poll/ 60% of Americans say the U.S. should do more to hold police accountable for the mistreatment of Black people, while 33% say the country is doing too much to interfere in how police officers do their job. (Washington Post)
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