10 things you need to know today: May 7, 2021
Biden pitches his infrastructure plan in heavily Republican Louisiana, DeSantis signs Florida's voting restrictions, and more
Biden pitches infrastructure plan in GOP stronghold
President Biden made a public pitch for support of his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan in strongly Republican Louisiana on Thursday, using a 70-year-old bridge in the city of Lake Charles as a backdrop. Biden has proposed paying for his plan by raising taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations, rejecting the conservative argument that lowering their taxes boosts economic growth. Biden has invited Republicans to discuss his plan and their $568 billion counterproposal. "I'm willing to hear ideas from both sides," Biden said. "I'm ready to compromise. What I'm not ready to do is, I'm not ready to do nothing." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Republicans would rather pay for infrastructure with user fees, and that "100 percent" of his focus is on stopping Biden's agenda.
DeSantis signs Florida voting restrictions, Texas close behind
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Thursday signed into law new voting restrictions approved by the state's Republican-controlled legislature. The signing event reportedly was broadcast exclusively by Fox News. Local journalists arrived expecting to cover the signing of the bill, which imposes new restrictions on drop boxes for early ballots and requires voters to sign up more frequently for mail-in ballots, among other changes. Other journalists weren't allowed inside and the signing was broadcast as a Fox & Friends exclusive, prompting condemnation from other news outlets and journalism groups. "Actions like this openly defy against a free press," tweeted Emily Bloch, president of the Society of Professional Journalists' Florida chapter. The Texas House early Friday passed a bill on new voting restrictions, sending it to the state Senate.
Moderna: Early data shows vaccine is 96 percent effective in adolescents
Early data indicates Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective in adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17, the company said Thursday. An initial analysis of a study of its COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents "showed a vaccine efficacy rate of 96 percent," the company said. The vaccine was "generally well tolerated," and the "majority of adverse events were mild or moderate in severity." Moderna plans to apply for full FDA approval of the vaccine this month. The Food and Drug Administration is reportedly on the verge of authorizing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children between 12 and 15 years old. In March, Pfizer said a trial showed its vaccine was 100 percent effective in that age group. Pfizer has also said it expects to seek authorization of its vaccine for kids between 2 and 11 this September, and Moderna says a phase 2 study of its vaccine in children 6 months to 11 years old is ongoing.
Twitter suspends Trump blog account for evading ban
Twitter said Thursday that it had suspended an account relaying posts from former President Donald Trump's new blog, on the grounds that it violated the company's rules against sidestepping its bans. Twitter and other social media organizations, including Facebook, blocked Trump's accounts in January over his alleged incitement of the deadly attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters seeking to overturn his election loss to President Biden. Facebook is still mulling whether to some day lift its ban, but Twitter made Trump's suspension permanent in the days after the Capitol riot. The new Trump account was @DJTDesk, short for his new "From the Desk of Donald J. Trump" web page.
India reports another one-day record COVID-19 surge
India on Friday reported 414,188 new coronavirus cases in the past day, the latest in a series of global records set during the country's devastating coronavirus surge. India now has recorded more than 21.4 million infections and 234,000 deaths. Nations around the world are sending aid as India's health-care system buckles under the strain, with hospitals running out of oxygen and other crucial supplies. Rahul Gandhi, India's opposition leader, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday demanding that the government step up vaccination efforts. Gandhi also accused Modi of "declaring premature victory as the virus was exponentially spreading." Modi has been widely criticized for responding too slowly to the country's second wave and allowing crowded religious and political gatherings that turned out to be "super spreader" events.
Nearly 1 million have enrolled for ObamaCare coverage in special window
About 940,000 Americans enrolled in Affordable Care Act health-insurance coverage during the first 10 weeks of the Biden administration's special open enrollment period that started on Feb. 15, according to data released Thursday by Health and Human Services. Nearly half of those people signed up for ObamaCare coverage in April after Congress approved the latest coronavirus relief package, which added billions of dollars to boost health-insurance subsidies. The extra money reduced the average monthly premium for people signing up for coverage through Healthcare.gov to $86 for those signing up in April, down from $117 in February and March. Four million uninsured Americans now could qualify for plans that wouldn't require them to pay a premium, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Police raid in Rio de Janeiro favela leaves 25 dead
Brazilian police raided a sprawling favela in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, sparking gunfights that killed at least 25 people, including one police officer, in one of the city's deadliest clashes ever between law enforcement officers and suspected gang members. Police stormed in before dawn with heavily armed officers on the ground and bulletproof helicopters overhead, targeting a stronghold of a criminal gang, the Red Command, suspected of recruiting children. "Really grim moment in Brazil," said Robert Muggah, co-founder of the Rio-based Igarapé Institute think tank, which tracks violence in the South American nation. "These shootings are obviously routine in Rio de Janeiro, but this is unprecedented." Amnesty international said the operation amounted to "entirely unjustifiable" summary executions.
Teacher disarms 6th-grade girl accused of shooting, wounding 3
A sixth-grade girl allegedly shot and wounded two students and a custodian at an Idaho middle school on Thursday before she was disarmed by a female teacher. "We were doing work — and then all of a sudden, here was a loud noise. ... Then there was screaming," 12-year-old Yandel Rodriguez said. "Our teacher went to check it out, and he found blood." The three victims reportedly were hit in their arms and legs, and were expected to survive. Jefferson County Sheriff Steve Anderson says the girl, whom authorities didn't identify, pulled a pistol out of her backpack and fired numerous times inside and outside Rigby Middle School about 95 miles southwest of Yellowstone National Park. The teacher who disarmed the girl held her until police could take her into custody.
Researchers say global COVID-19 death toll double official tally
Researchers estimate in a study released Thursday that the U.S. COVID-19 death toll might exceed 900,000. That would be 57 percent higher than the current official tally of 580,000 U.S. coronavirus deaths. They estimate global deaths at about 7 million, double the official toll. The analysis by researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation considered excess mortality from March 2020 to May 3, 2021. The team emphasized that its figure was merely an estimate. "I think we bring to light just how much greater the impact of COVID has been already and may be in the future," said Dr. Christopher Murray, who heads the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Deadlocked FEC declines to investigate Trump over Stormy Daniels hush payment
The Federal Election Commission announced Thursday that it had dropped a case looking at possible campaign finance violations by former President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign related to a $130,000 hush payment made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen paid Daniels right before the election to keep her from disclosing an alleged extramarital affair with Trump. The payment was not reported in campaign filings. Cohen, who said Trump ordered payments to Daniels and another woman, was jailed in 2018 for violating campaign finance laws and other charges. The FEC deadlocked on whether to investigate. Two Republican commissioners voted to drop the issue at a closed-door meeting in February. Two Democratic commissioners voted to pursue it. Another Republican recused himself. An independent was absent.