10 things you need to know today: April 23, 2021
Civil rights leaders at Daunte Wright funeral call for fighting injustice, Senate approves bill against anti-Asian hate crimes, and more
Daunte Wright funeral fuels calls to fight racial injustice
Family members, civil rights leaders, and others gathered in Minneapolis on Thursday for the funeral of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man killed by police during a traffic stop on April 11. Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton delivered a eulogy, referring to Wright as a "prince" and calling for fighting injustice and racism in his name. Wright's mother, Katie Wright, talked about how much her son loved his child, Daunte Jr. "My son had a smile that was worth a million dollars," she said. Numerous political leaders attended the service, as did relatives of George Floyd and other African Americans killed by police. Former police officer Kim Potter faces a manslaughter charge for fatally shooting Wright. Her boss said she meant to fire her Taser.
Senate approves bill addressing hate crimes against Asian Americans
The Senate on Thursday passed a bill aiming to address hate crimes against Asian Americans, which have surged during the coronavirus pandemic. The measure passed by a 94-1 vote, with only Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) voting against it. The one-sided vote demonstrated rare bipartisan agreement on the need to address rising violence against Asian Americans, which Democrats have accused Republicans of fueling by repeating former President Donald Trump's racist references to COVID-19, including calling it "Kung Flu." Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), the bill's lead sponsor, said its approval sent a "solid message of solidarity that the Senate will not be a bystander as anti-Asian violence surges in our country." The bill now goes to the House, where leaders promised a vote soon.
Indian hospitals run out of oxygen as COVID-19 cases hit new high
India on Friday reported 332,730 new COVID-19 cases from the past 24 hours, beating the grim record it set Thursday, and oxygen supplies in the country were so low that several hospitals Delhi said they had nearly or completely exhausted their supplies. As hospital put out emergency calls for oxygen on social media, the government is scrambling to ship in reserves from retooled industrial oxygen plants. Meanwhile, patients are dying while their families search for open hospital beds, and crematoriums cannot keep up with demand. India reported 2,263 new deaths over the past 24 hours, for a total pandemic fatality count of 186,920, but based on the number of cremations, that's reportedly a huge undercount.
World leaders pledge cooperation on fighting climate change
World leaders met in a livestreamed summit hosted by President Biden on Thursday, and pledged to cooperate on fighting climate change by slashing coal and petroleum emissions. "The signs are unmistakable," Biden said on the first day of the two-day summit. "The science is undeniable. The cost of inaction keeps mounting." Biden this week made a new commitment to cutting U.S. fossil fuel emissions by as much as 52 percent by 2030, and his administration is launching a push to encourage production of electric cars and other green-energy products. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has criticized Biden's plans as ineffective and too expensive. "This is quite the one-two punch," McConnell said in a Senate speech Thursday. "Toothless requests of our foreign adversaries ... and maximum pain for American citizens."
House passes D.C. statehood bill
The House voted 216-208 along party lines on Thursday to pass a bill seeking to make Washington, D.C., a state. A similar bill passed last year but died in the Senate, which was then controlled by Republicans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the new bill has "momentum" that could lead to a "significant step to enfranchise the people of D.C. and empower them to participate fully in our democracy." Howard University political scientist Ravi Perry also said there's "been a major sea change" as "people have started to see D.C. statehood as the racial justice issue that it is." Senate Republicans could still block the bill with a filibuster. But Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who introduced the bill, believes "D.C. statehood is within reach for the first time in history."
U.S. could lift pause on J&J coronavirus vaccine within days
Federal health authorities are "leaning toward" lifting the pause on the use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine as soon as this weekend, The Washington Post reported Thursday. An influential advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is meeting Friday to discuss putting the vaccine back into use. The FDA and CDC called for pausing the shots on April 13 "out of an abundance of caution" due to "six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot" out of the millions of doses administered. Officials might recommend a warning like the one approved by the European Medicines Agency, which said that "unusual blood clots" should be listed as extremely rare potential side effects, but that the vaccine's benefits outweigh its risks.
Report: Biden plan would nearly double capital gains tax for wealthy
President Biden plans to nearly double the capital gains tax rate for the wealthy, along with other tax hikes, to help pay for about $1 trillion for child care, universal pre-kindergarten education, and paid leave for workers, Reuters reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources. The three main U.S. stock indexes fell by about 0.9 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by 321.4 points to 33,815.9. Some doubted the proposal could pass in Congress, due to Republican opposition. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the proposal was still being finalized and would be released soon. If opponents to Biden's plans want to "fix our infrastructure" but don't like how Biden wants to pay for it, Psaki said, "we're happy to look at their proposals."
Supreme Court conservatives reject limiting life sentences without parole for minors
The Supreme Court's newly expanded conservative majority on Thursday declined to tighten limits on life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles. The court, in a 6-3 ruling, rejected arguments by Brett Jones of Mississippi that his sentence for killing his grandfather at age 15 violated the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution ban against cruel and unusual punishment. The "argument that the sentencer must make a finding of permanent incorrigibility is inconsistent with the court's precedents," Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, wrote for the majority. Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the decision "guts" precedents limiting such harsh sentences for minors.
Republican senators unveil $568 billion infrastructure counterproposal
A group of Republican senators on Thursday released a $568 billion, five-year infrastructure proposal to counter President Biden's $2.3 trillion, eight-year plan. The lawmakers called their offer "very, very generous." "This is the largest infrastructure investment that Republicans have come forward with," Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said. "This is a robust package." Biden has discussed plans for spending on public works projects with Republicans, and says he welcomes their ideas. His fellow Democrats in Congress have promised to pass a major infrastructure package with or without GOP votes, suggesting they could use the same budget reconciliation process they used earlier this year to pass the latest COVID-19 relief package without GOP support.
Digital Underground frontman Shock G dies at 57
Shock G, the frontman of hip hop group Digital Underground and a producer for Tupac Shakur, Prince, and Dr. Dre, died on Thursday. He was 57. His father, Edward Racker, told TMZ the rapper, whose real name was Gregory Jacobs, was found dead in his Tampa hotel room. Racker said the cause of death was not immediately known. Shock G also performed as his alter ego Humpty Hump, donning a fake nose and glasses. He formed Digital Underground in Oakland, California, in the late 1980s, joining forces with Jimi "Chopmaster J" Dright and Kenneth "Kenny-K" Waters. Their hits "Doowhutchyalike" and "The Humpty Dance" put Digital Underground on the map, and after Shakur appeared on their 1991 single "Same Song," Shock G helped the rapper launch his solo career.