10 things you need to know today: May 1, 2021
Biden administration to restrict travel from India amid COVID-19 surge, White House: 100 million Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and more
Biden administration to restrict travel from India amid COVID-19 surge
The United States will restrict travel from India beginning on May 4 "in light of extraordinarily high COVID-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating" there, the White House confirmed Friday. The policy won't apply to American citizens, lawful permanent residents, or others with exemptions, nor will it apply to humanitarian workers. The White House said the administration was taking this step based on advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. India on Saturday reported more than 400,00 new COVID-19 cases, another single-day record and the 10th consecutive day that the country has confirmed more than 300,000 cases. President Biden previously said the U.S will provide India with "a range of emergency assistance, including oxygen-related supplies, vaccine materials, and therapeutics."
White House: 100 million Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said Friday that 100 million Americans have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, "nearly double" the 55 million Americans who had been fully vaccinated as of the end of March. He later clarified this is the number of Americans who have received both doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine. A person is fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving this dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preevention. "That's 100 million Americans with a sense of relief and peace of mind, knowing that after a long and hard year, they're protected from the virus," Zients said.
Final phase of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan begins
Security forces remained on high alert in Afghanistan as the final phase of the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from the country began on Saturday. President Biden has said all forces will have departed by or before Sept. 11, 2021. The Trump administration, however, had struck a deal with the Taliban that set May 1 as the withdrawal deadline, and the Taliban views Biden's alteration as a violation of the agreement. A Taliban spokesman said Saturday that the group is no longer bound by the pact, opening the way for militants to "take every counteraction it deems appropriate against the occupying forces." Amid the exit plans, violence has continued in Afghanistan — on Friday, a truck bomb exploded in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 21 people, including high school students. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Biden cancels Trump's planned military-funded border wall projects
The Biden administration on Friday canceled border wall projects initiated by former President Donald Trump. The canceled plans would have used funds diverted from Department of Defense accounts. "Trump diverted about $10 billion from military construction accounts and counternarcotics programs to pay for hundreds of miles of steel barriers along the Mexico border, an effort that Biden has denounced as wasteful and ineffective," writes The Washington Post. The Biden administration's announcement didn't specify how much money the canceled projects will save, but one estimate said halting the construction plans could save $2.6 billion after the government pays demobilization costs to contractors. A Department of Homeland Security statement said some money would go toward previously deferred military construction projects.
Biden administration completes review of North Korea policy
The Biden administration has completed its review of North Korea policy, the White House announced Friday. Going forward, the administration will seek a middle ground between the Obama administration's "strategic patience" nuclear negotiation strategy and the Trump administration's "grand bargain" blueprint. However, the overarching goal remains "the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula." To get there, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. will deploy "a calibrated, practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy" with Pyongyang, which suggests Biden could end up meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as former President Donald Trump did. But Biden has emphasized that won't happen until negotiators hammer out some form of a deal.
Household income soared a record 21 percent in March
Household income in the United States soared in March, the Commerce Department said on Friday, setting a new record. Personal income increased by 21.1 percent last month, according to a Bureau of Economic Analysis report, the largest monthly increase since recording began in 1959. Disposable personal income also rose by 23.6 percent. President Biden in March signed Congress' $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which included direct payments to Americans, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis noted the "increase in personal income in March largely reflected an increase in government social benefits." "The strong consumer showing at the end of the first quarter sets the tone for a summer boom,” Oxford Economics chief economist Gregory Daco said. "As health conditions improve and the economy reopens, generous fiscal stimulus, rebounding employment, and rising optimism will help unleash pent-up demand."
TSA extends mask requirement until September
The Transportation Security Administration on Friday extended orders requiring travelers over the age of 2 to wear face masks on buses, trains, commercial flights, and at airports and other transit hubs through Sept. 13 amid the coronavirus pandemic. The requirement, which was set to expire May 11, applies to fully vaccinated people, as well. Darby LaJoye, a senior TSA official, said the agency "will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to evaluate the need for these directives." The CDC recently updated its mask guidance for fully vaccinated people when outdoors, but it has not yet recommended that it's safe to do so in indoor public settings.
SpaceX's lunar lander contract suspended after rivals challenge NASA's decision
NASA has informed Elon Musk's SpaceX to pause its development of a lunar spacecraft after recently winning a $2.9 billion contract, the agency said Friday. Two of the companies in the running for the contract, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics, protested NASA's decision to the Government Accountability Office, which means SpaceX can't work on anything related to the moon program contract until a final ruling, which is expected by Aug. 4 at the latest. Blue Origin has argued that NASA gave SpaceX a chance to revise its bid without extending the same offer to Blue Origin and that the NASA's choice gives SpaceX "monopolistic control" of space exploration.
Marilyn Manson sued by actress Esmé Bianco for alleged sexual assault, human trafficking
Esmé Bianco on Friday filed a lawsuit against Marilyn Manson, accusing him of rape and sexual battery, Rolling Stone reports. The actress, who played Ros on Game of Thrones, also alleges that Manson violated human trafficking laws when he brought her to Los Angeles from London to star in projects that were never made or released. Bianco first leveled her allegations against Manson earlier this year, accusing him of physically and sexually abusing her during their relationship. The lawsuit alleges Manson, whose real name is Brian Warner, "used drugs, force, and threats of force to coerce sexual acts from Ms. Bianco on multiple occasions" and accuses him of raping her, groping her in public, and "spanking, biting, cutting, and whipping Ms. Bianco's buttocks, breasts, and genitals" without consent.
Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad dies at 87
Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist who backed many of Los Angeles' cultural institutions, died on Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 87. A spokeswoman for the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation confirmed his death, saying it came after a long illness, though no specific cause was given. A New York native who grew up in Michigan and later moved to California, Broad made his fortune, which is estimated by Forbes at $6.9 billion, in the home-building and insurance businesses, and he went on to pour that wealth into turning downtown Los Angeles into a "cultural and civic hub," The New York Times writes. Among a wide variety of philanthropic endeavors in the region, Broad played a role in creating the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Broad Museum, and he also led the fundraising campaign to finish the Walt Disney Concert Hall.