10 things you need to know today: May 6, 2021
Facebook Oversight Board upholds Trump ban but demands review, the CDC says COVID-19 toll could drop sharply by July, and more
Board upholds Facebook's Trump ban but demands review
Facebook's Oversight Board on Wednesday upheld the social media giant's suspension of former President Donald Trump, saying when it was imposed there was "a clear, immediate risk of harm" by Trump posts legitimizing the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol. The board said, however, that it "was not appropriate" for Facebook to indefinitely suspend Trump because it's "not permissible for Facebook to keep a user off the platform for an undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored." The board calls for Facebook to "re-examine the arbitrary penalty it imposed" on Trump and decide on an "appropriate penalty" within six months. Trump was indefinitely suspended from Facebook in January due to his actions surrounding the Capitol riot. Trump and other Republicans expressed outrage that the board didn't lift the ban.
CDC report says COVID-19 toll could fall sharply by late July
Health experts said in a report released by the government on Wednesday that the U.S. toll from COVID-19 will fall sharply by the end of July, although there could be a "substantial increase" if unvaccinated people don't continue taking basic precautions like wearing masks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paper said that even if slowing vaccination rates reach disappointing levels, new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths should drop significantly through July, and keep falling after that. "We are not out of the woods yet, but we could be very close," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, although she acknowledged that new, highly infectious variants were a "wild card." The pandemic's toll has dropped since a winter surge, with COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations, and infections returning to October levels.
Biden administration supports waiving COVID-19 vaccine patent protections
The Biden administration supports a waiver of intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccine patents, and will advocate lifting them in discussions with the World Trade Organization, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced Wednesday. Tai said the Biden administration "strongly believes" in the protections, but considers the waiver necessary so that other countries, especially those experiencing a surge in infections like India, can ramp up their vaccination programs. The White House has faced pressure to support the waiver, but critics argue it's too risky and won't actually increase global vaccine distribution. Pfizer and Moderna shares plunged after the announcement.
Trump endorses Stefanik to replace embattled Cheney
Former President Donald Trump issued a statement Wednesday giving his "COMPLETE and TOTAL Endorsement" to Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to replace Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as the No. 3 House Republican. Cheney has been under fire from Trump loyalists for voting to impeach Trump on charges that he incited the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters seeking to block the certification of his election loss to President Biden. Cheney survived one bid to oust her, but pressure against her intensified recently after she doubled down on her criticism of Trump's false claim that the election was stolen from him through vote fraud. In a Washington Post op-ed, Cheney urged Republicans to "stand for genuinely conservative principles and steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality."
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid gets chance to form government
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday asked centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid to try to form a governing coalition after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to put together a government before a Tuesday deadline. Lapid has 28 days to cobble together a coalition with a majority in the 12-seat Parliament. If he fails, too, Israel could be headed this summer for its fifth general election in just over two years. In the meantime, Netanyahu will remain as caretaker prime minister. Lapid moved to center stage in the country's stalemate after running on a promise to strengthen checks and balances in the country's government, and to prevent Netanyahu from retaining power. "After two years of political paralysis, Israeli society is hurting," he said. "A unity government isn't a compromise or a last resort — it's a goal, it's what we need."
Judge vacates federal eviction moratorium
A federal judge on Wednesday struck down the nationwide eviction freeze federal authorities imposed to help renters avoid losing their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. "The question for the Court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not," said U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, in the ruling. The CARES Act, passed in March 2020 as the pandemic hit the U.S., established a 120-day eviction moratorium, and Trump extended it with an executive order in August, citing the danger that evictions could force people into shelters or other crowded places where the virus could spread.
Anti-government protests intensify in Colombia
Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Colombia's capital, Bogota, on Wednesday as angry anti-government demonstrations that began more than a week ago continued despite the threat of police violence. At least 23 protesters and one police officer have died since the protests began with a general strike against tax reform. The protests have spread, fueled by anger over poverty, the pandemic, human rights abuses, and the government's response to the demonstrations. María José López, a student, told The Guardian she participated in Wednesday's march because "my country is sick, it is completely unwell." Seeking cover from a volley of tear gas as riot police passed, she added: "The government doesn't know how to listen, only to send in the troops."
Moderna COVID-19 booster shot shows promise against variants
Moderna announced Wednesday that early data from an ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial indicated that its COVID-19 vaccine booster shot proved effective against the B.1.351 and P.1 variants first identified in South Africa and Brazil. A 50-microgram dose administered to previously vaccinated trial participants increased the immune response against the original virus as well as the variants, the company said. Moderna said that a version of the booster tweaked to specifically target the South Africa variant provided the best protection against that variant. Moderna said the side effects from the booster appeared similar to those people reported after the second dose of the vaccine, including arm, muscle, and joint pain, and fatigue.
DOJ sends letter detailing concerns over Arizona election audit
The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division sent a letter to Arizona Senate President Karen Fann (R) on Wednesday detailing concerns about private contractors auditing the November presidential election in Maricopa County. Last month, the GOP-controlled Senate used subpoenas to get the 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County during the election, as well as voting machines and private and public voter information. In the letter, a DOJ Civil Rights Division official said the department is concerned about reports that the ballots, voting machines, and voting information are not secure and could be "lost, stolen, altered, compromised, or destroyed," and that an audit firm's plan to contact voters by phone to ask whether they cast a ballot could be seen as voter intimidation.
SpaceX successfully lands Starship spacecraft
SpaceX safely landed its 160-foot Starship rocket prototype for the first time on Wednesday after a six-minute test flight. Four previous flights of the rocket, which Tesla CEO Elon Musk plans to use to send astronauts to the moon and eventually carry people to Mars, ended in fiery explosions before, during, or immediately after landing. On Wednesday, a fire broke out at the base of the stainless steel, bullet-shaped rocket, but it was quickly extinguished. All of the Starship prototypes tested so far have had three engines, making them far less powerful than the planned final version, which is expected to have more than 30. SpaceX has not yet conducted a public test of the Super Heavy rocket booster needed to send a Starship into orbit.