10 things you need to know today: April 1, 2021

Biden calls his infrastructure plan "a once in a generation investment," witness expresses guilt over George Floyd's death, and more

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(Image credit: Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

1. Biden calls infrastructure plan 'a once in a generation investment'

President Biden on Wednesday unveiled a $2 trillion infrastructure, jobs, and green energy plan that is intended to be the first phase of his "Build Back Batter" economic agenda. In a speech in Pittsburgh, Biden called the proposal "a once-in-a-generation investment in America." It includes billions for rebuilding the country's infrastructure, including roads, bridges, rail lines, and utilities. The plan also aims to ensure every American has access to high-speed broadband Internet. Biden is proposing tax hikes on businesses to pay for the plan, something Republicans oppose. "It's like a Trojan horse," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, that Democrats want to use to sneak in "more borrowing and massive tax increases on all the productive parts of our economy."

The New York Times The Washington Post

2. Store clerk expresses 'disbelief and guilt' over Floyd's death

Testimony continued Wednesday in the third day of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial for the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man. Jurors saw video footage from inside the Cup Foods convenience store where employees called police after suspecting Floyd of paying for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Christopher Martin, 19, was working as a cashier that day last May, and he testified the bill had a "blue pigment" that made him suspicious. He told prosecutor Steve Schleicher that he felt "disbelief and guilt" watching the arrest attempt that left Floyd dead after Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nine minutes. "If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided," Martin said.

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Star Tribune The Hill

3. COVID-19 fueled 15.9 percent jump in U.S. death rate

COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020 behind heart disease and cancer, accounting for about 1 in 10 deaths in the country, according to data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The coronavirus pandemic fatalities fueled a 15.9 percent increase in the death rate in 2020 compared to the year before, with the rate reaching 828.7 deaths per 100,000 people. COVID-19 was either the underlying cause or a contributing cause of 377,883 of the 3.36 million U.S. deaths in 2020, the CDC said. Other top causes of death included unintentional injury, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes. A final report is expected to be released later in the year.

CNBC The Hill

4. Pfizer trial data shows vaccine 100 percent effective in adolescents

Pfizer and BioNTech announced Wednesday that its COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated 100 percent efficacy among adolescents aged 12 to 15 in a phase 3 study. The vaccine also demonstrated "robust antibody responses, exceeding those recorded earlier in vaccinated participants aged 16 to 25 years old, and was well tolerated." The trial consisted of 2,260 adolescents between 12 and 15, and there were 18 cases of COVID-19 in the placebo group but none in the group that was vaccinated. BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said the initial results suggest "children are particularly well protected by vaccination," which he called "very encouraging" news, and the companies plan to submit this data to the FDA with "the hope of starting to vaccinate this age group before the start of the next school year."

The New York Times Pfizer

5. McCarthy calls Gaetz allegations 'serious'

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Wednesday the sex-trafficking investigation against Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has "serious implications," but it's too early to remove him from committees because "we don't have any information." Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) said Gaetz should be prosecuted if the allegations are true, but he should be removed immediately from the House Judiciary Committee, because it has oversight of the Justice Department, which is investigating him. The New York Times first reported on Tuesday that DOJ was looking into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a girl who was 17 — making her above the age of consent in some states and below it in others — and paid for her to travel with him across state lines. Gaetz has denied the allegations.

USA Today

6. Iowa Democrat drops challenge in contested House election

Iowa Democrat Rita Hart announced Wednesday that she was dropping her challenge of the results of her 2020 race in Iowa's 2nd Congressional District, where Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) was declared the winner by six votes. Hart had filed a challenge with the House Administration Committee, arguing that 22 ballots that should have been counted were left out, costing her the election. Hart maintained on Wednesday that the challenge was justified but said she was withdrawing it based on conversations with people close to her. "I am saddened that some Iowans' votes will not count through no fault of their own," Hart said. Republicans had criticized Hart for appealing to a Democrat-controlled committee that reviews such complaints, instead of the courts.

The Hill

7. Supreme Court justices question NCAA on player compensation limits

Several Supreme Court justices on Wednesday expressed concerns about NCAA restrictions on compensation for student athletes. During oral arguments of an appeal of a lower court's ruling that the limits violate antitrust law, some justices also showed sympathy for arguments by the NCAA and major-conference co-defendants that removing the limits on education-related benefits athletes can receive could destroy the current college sports system. The NCAA's lawyer, Seth Waxman, said under legal precedents the NCAA should be able to set compensation limits because the public benefits from having a choice between professional and amateur sports. But Justice Brett Kavanaugh said "the antitrust laws should not be a cover for exploitation of the student-athletes," with competitors conspiring to pay no salaries.

USA Today

8. NYPD arrest suspect in attack on Asian American woman

New York City police on Wednesday arrested a man on charges that he beat and stomped a 65-year-old Asian American woman in Manhattan. The suspect, 38-year-old Brandon Elliot, was previously convicted for killing his mother and served time for that conviction before being released in 2019 on lifetime parole. He reportedly was staying in a hotel used as a homeless shelter near the attack scene. Elliot faces two counts of felony assault as a hate crime, attempted assault as a hate crime, and other charges. If convicted he faces up to 25 years in prison. The attack was one of two recent acts of violence against Asian Americans in the city, which has seen a recent rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. In both cases, bystanders saw the attacks but did nothing to help the victims.

CBS News

9. Pentagon reverses Trump's de facto ban on transgender troops

The Defense Department on Wednesday reversed former President Donald Trump's policy that essentially banned transgender troops from serving openly in the U.S. military. The new Pentagon guidelines, which take effect April 30, increase access to medical care for people transitioning while in the military, and largely reinstates the policies of former President Barack Obama. President Biden signed an executive order in January protecting transgender troops at risk of being expelled from the military under the Trump-era policies. There are about 15,000 transgender service members in the U.S. military, advocates say, and some 2,200 of them have been diagnosed and are seeking care for gender dysphoria.

The Washington Post

10. California shooting leaves 4 dead, including child

A gunman opened fire Wednesday at a California office complex and killed four people, including a child. A fifth victim was injured. Police officers shot at the suspect. He was taken to a hospital with a gunshot wound and listed in critical condition, although it was not immediately clear whether he shot himself or was hit by police. The gunman started shooting inside a suite at the complex, which includes an insurance office, a marriage therapist, a phone repair shop, and several other businesses. The attacker then moved into a courtyard. The shooting in Orange, California, was the third U.S. mass shooting in three weeks, following attacks on three Atlanta spas that killed eight people, including six Asian women, and at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket, where 10 people died.

Los Angeles Times

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.