March 8, 2017

On International Women's Day on Wednesday, Iceland announced a new law that will require public and private companies to pay employees equally "regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, or nationality," The Associated Press reported. AP noted Iceland seems to be the first country to ever mandate equal pay for even private firms, though it pointed out other countries and U.S. states have "equal-salary certificate policies."

To ensure companies are obeying the mandate, the Icelandic government will require companies with 25 or more employees on staff to get certification proving compliance. The legislation is expected to gain approval from lawmakers, despite some criticism that it's "a burden to put on companies." The Icelandic government is aiming to enact the law by 2020.

Icelandic Equality and Social Affairs Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson said Wednesday that "the time is right to do something radical about this issue." "Equal rights are human rights. We need to make sure that men and women enjoy equal opportunity in the workplace," Viglundsson said.

Already, Iceland ranks first in the world for gender equality, per the World Economic Forum's measurement, but the new policy is intended to help the Nordic country reach its goal of putting an end to the pay gap by 2022. Becca Stanek

4:01 p.m.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is "improving" while still in intensive care with COVID-19, according to a U.K. government official.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on Wednesday provided an update on Johnson's condition, saying the "latest from the hospital is the prime minister remains in intensive care where his condition is improving," per The Associated Press. Johnson has "been sitting up in bed and engaging positively with the clinical team," Sunak added.

Downing Street in a statement on Wednesday also said that Johnson "continues to make steady progress," per BBC News, and a spokesperson said he is "responding to treatment."

Johnson was hospitalized on Sunday 10 days after he tested positive for COVID-19. The British prime minister said he went for "some routine tests as I'm still experiencing coronavirus symptoms." He had described his initial symptoms as mild. By Monday, he was moved to intensive care, where he remains two days later. Johnson has deputized British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Brendan Morrow

3:57 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had made a few phone calls to the last administration before making his big dropout decision.

Sanders suspended his 2020 run on Wednesday, saying his "path toward victory is virtually impossible" but pledging to stay on primary ballots through the Democratic National Convention to gain influence in the party. And shortly after making that announcement, Sanders reportedly made a call to Joe Biden, who he left as the presumptive Democratic nominee, CBS News reports.

Sanders also consulted former President Barack Obama "several times" before making his decision, NBC News reports. Obama reportedly still isn't ready to hop into the 2020 fray just yet, but Sanders' suspension surely makes it easier for him to do so.

Hillary Clinton, 2016's Democratic nominee, meanwhile had no comment on Sanders' exit. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:45 p.m.

With the federal stockpile for personal protective equipment dwindling during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration reportedly sent shipments to states in a third and "final push" before the private sector takes on the bulk of the effort.

But new details from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency released by the House Oversight Committee show that the government did not appear to meet states' specific requests upon delivery. The first two rounds of shipments were based on census data from 2010, while the third round apparently wasn't adjusted for population at all.

Vermont and Texas, for example, which aren't remotely comparable in size, both received 120,900 N95 respirator masks. That's good news for Vermont, but not so much for Texas. To put in perspective, Vermont received 193 respirators for every 1,000 residents while Texas got five per 1,000. While equal distribution sounds nice in theory, it doesn't seem to make much sense in this case. Tim O'Donnell

3:01 p.m.

Ever wonder what the Full House opening credits might have looked like if the show had taken place during a pandemic? Me neither, but John Stamos and the rest of the Full House and Fuller House cast hilariously gave us a demonstration on TikTok on Wednesday afternoon.

The parody video for "Full Quarantine" opens with the classic shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, and includes footage of Uncle Jesse (Stamos) primping his hair, Danny (Bob Saget) sanitizing a mop, and Uncle Joey (David Coulier) "fishing" for pizza. There are a few notable absences, too, including twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen — plus some mostly understandable Aunt Becky (Lori Loughlin) erasure.

"Stay Safe and Stay Home," the video concludes. "Unlike #FullHouse, this will all go away." Watch it here. Jeva Lange

2:34 p.m.

New York's social distancing measures are working, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday, but the state is still far from being "out of the woods."

Cuomo opened his daily briefing on Wednesday with "good news," saying that "what we have done, and what we are doing, is actually working and it's making a difference," citing the fact that the state's number of new hospitalizations is down.

"We are flattening the curve by what we are doing," Cuomo said.

At the same time, the governor stressed that this flattening can only continue if New York, the hardest hit U.S. state amid the coronavirus pandemic, keeps its social distancing up.

"If we continue doing what we're doing, then we believe the curve will continue to flatten," Cuomo said. "But it's not a time to get complacent. It's not a time to do anything different than we've been doing. ... We have to remain diligent."

But then there was the "terrible" news, Cuomo said: New York has again reported its deadliest day yet with an increase in 779 fatalities in 24 hours. The governor warned the death toll will keep rising.

Later, Cuomo again stressed, "We still have more to do. We are by no means out of the woods. And do not misread what you're seeing in that data and on those charts. That is a pure product of our actions and behavior. If we behave differently, you will see those numbers change. ... If anything, we have to get more diligent, not less diligent."

Cuomo's remarks come after a similar message from Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, who said Wednesday Americans should not take some "early signs of hope" as a signal to stop social distancing.

"If people start going out again, and socially interacting, we could see a very acute second wave very early," she warned. Brendan Morrow

2:31 p.m.

On Thursday, three astronauts will launch from Kazakhstan to make their way to the International Space Station, and the team has been "super vigilant" so as not to bring the novel coronavirus with them.

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian astronauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will orbit Earth four times, reaching their destination six hours later, per NASA.

Having to quarantine is nothing new to astronauts. Even when there isn't an ongoing global pandemic, they are required to isolate for two weeks before launching to ensure they don't bring an illness with them, The Verge reports. But this time, when they entered quarantine, so did the rest of the world, Cassidy said.

In a normal quarantine, the astronauts could have gone to restaurants as long as they were "smart" about where they went, Cassidy told the press, but this time they were isolated to their cottages and only allowed to go get essential food.

Cassidy thought he'd be able to say goodbye to his wife on the day of the launch, but due to the pandemic, she headed back home. The crowds cheering on the astronauts and the media coverage will be noticeably absent on launch day, too. "It'll be completely quiet. There won't be anybody there," Cassidy said, per The Verge. "We'll just kind of walk out. Maybe we'll still play the music and fire the three of us up ourselves. But who knows?"

But even in space, Cassidy can't escape the reality of what is happening on Earth. "I certainly am not going to be disengaged from it thinking it's not my problem," he said. "My family is living it and my friends and my co-workers are living it in real time."

Read more at The Verge. Taylor Watson

2:31 p.m.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) called out her political opponents and the media for their "baseless" claims against in her an op-ed published by The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

Loeffler recently came under fire after it was revealed she and other lawmakers sold significant stock holdings after a closed-door briefing about the COVID-19 coronavirus in January. Later, a financial disclosure showed that in February and March she invested in DuPont, a company that makes personal protective equipment used by first responders in the fight against the pandemic.

The senator has consistently denied any ethics violations or that she bought and sold stocks after receiving privileged information, and she doubled down in Wednesday's op-ed. Loeffler explained her investments are managed by third-party advisers who buy and sell stocks on her family's behalf and that those trades are disclosed routinely and in compliance with transparency laws.

Still, though, she said she's had enough of the "distraction" the accusations have caused, and even though they're not required to, both she and her husband are "liquidating our holdings in managed accounts and moving into exchange-traded funds and mutual funds."

Loeffler is facing a challenge from Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who polls show is surging despite Loeffler's previous standing as the GOP's clear preference, leaving some to suggest that her latest denial and divestment may have been sparked by concerns over losing her seat as much as anything. Tim O'Donnell

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