Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 2, 2021

U.S. pandemic death toll surpasses 700,000, Biden urges patience on legislative agenda, and more


U.S. pandemic death toll surpasses 700,000

The United States' death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 700,000 on Friday as the Delta variant continues to spread across the country. As The Associated Press notes, the last 100,000 deaths came during a time period when vaccines were available to all Americans over the age of 12, a reality that has left many doctors and public health officials because many of the fatalities were likely preventable. The positive news is that the latest nationwide wave of infections appears to be burning out, and hospitalizations and deaths are forecast to fall for the first time in months. Meanwhile, a Reuters tally found that the global death toll from COVID-19 is now greater than 5 million, though the fatality rate has been slowing in recent weeks.


Biden urges patience on legislative agenda

President Biden on Friday reportedly told congressional Democrats during a closed-door meeting for the first time that it's "just reality" that the Senate's bipartisan infrastructure bill and the larger, more sweeping reconciliation bill must remain tied together. He urged patience, saying that they'll "get this done," whether it takes a matter of days or weeks. Biden's remarks are viewed as a blow to the more moderate wing of the party, who wanted to pass the infrastructure bill last week. But progressive Democrats didn't budge from their warning that they'd block a vote on the bill if the reconciliation negotiations remained unfinished, forcing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to postpone the tally. At the same time, it's becoming clearer that the $3.5 trillion price tag for the reconciliation package will have to drop somewhat to reach a deal with the centrist wing.


California to require students to get vaccinated against COVID-19

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has announced plans to require eligible students to get vaccinated against COVID-19, making his state the first in the U.S. to unveil such a mandate. Newsom said Friday that eligible students who are participating in in-person instruction will be required to get their shots after the Food and Drug Administration gives full approval to the vaccine for their age group, the Los Angeles Times reports. COVID-19 vaccines are currently available for children 12 and older under an emergency authorization, but they have only been fully approved for those 16 and over. There will be exemptions for medical reasons and for personal and religious beliefs. "State officials expect the mandate to begin taking effect next fall," the Los Angeles Times writes


Protesters across U.S. set to march against Texas abortion law

Protesters will gather in Washington, D.C., on Saturday for the Rally for Abortion Justice, a demonstration organized by the Women's March in response to a Texas law that bans most abortions after six weeks and allows private citizens to sue anyone they believe has helped facilitate an abortion in the state. Critics of the law and other efforts like it at the state level believe Roe v. Wade faces its biggest threat in decades. The protesters will march to the Supreme Court two days before the justices reconvene for a session during which they'll consider the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. In addition to the rally in the nation's capital, more than 600 other marches are planned across the United States. 


China launches largest incursion into Taiwan's air defense zone

Taiwan reported Friday that 38 Chinese military jets flew into its air defense zone — an area outside of national airspace, but one where aircraft are still monitored for national security purposes, BBC notes. It marks the largest incursion by Beijing to date. Taiwan scrambled its own jets and began tracking the Chinese plans using air defense systems. Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang said China "wantonly engaged in military aggression, damaging regional peace." Beijing, which considers Taiwan its territory, has not publicly commented on the matter. On Saturday, 20 more Chinese military aircraft entered the air defense zone, Taipei said.


Trump requests federal judge to force Twitter to reinstate his account

Former President Donald Trump filed a request for a preliminary injunction against Twitter on Friday, meaning he's asked a federal judge in Florida to force the social media company to reinstate his account. Trump, a formerly prolific Twitter user, was barred from the platform in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot and weeks of using his account to promote false claims of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election. In the filing, Trump's lawyers argued that Twitter "exercises a degree of power and control over political discourse in this country that is immeasurable, historically unprecedented, and profoundly dangerous to open democratic debate."


Duterte says he'll retire from Philippines politics

Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, announced Saturday that he intends to retire from politics when his six-year term ends in June. The Filipino constitution prevents him from seeking re-election, but Duterte — who is known for his authoritarian style of governance, perhaps best exemplified by the violent war on drugs he launched — had accepted his party's nomination for the vice presidency. Critics viewed that has an attempt to remain in power and swoop in if his successor resigned or died. But on Saturday he acknowledged "the overwhelming sentiment" of the Filipino people is that he is "not qualified" to pursue the post and that his plan would violate the country's laws. Still, there are skeptics who note that Duterte has frequently gone back on his word in the past.


Report: South Pole experiences exceptionally cold winter

Antarctica experienced an exceptionally cold winter this year even as the Northern Hemisphere grappled with record-breaking heat at the same time, The Washington Post reports, citing multiple experts, including Richard Cullather, a research scientist at NASA's Global Modeling and Assimilation Office. Per the Post, the average temperature at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole station between April and September was minus-78 degrees Fahrenheit, the coldest on record dating back to 1957. It was also 4.5 degrees lower than the most recent 30-year average. Scientists say a very strong seasonal polar vortex surrounding the continent is the reason behind the freeze. Antarctica is still warming over the long-term, prompting its ice to melt and sea levels to rise.


European-Japanese mission conducts first Mercury flyby

The BepiColombo mission, a joint European-Japanese operation, made the first of its six planned flybys of Mercury on Friday night, providing a glimpse of the solar system's innermost planet. The European Space Agency said a low resolution black-and-white photo taken by the spacecraft captured the planet's Northern Hemisphere and its many craters. BepiColombo, named for the Italian scientist Giuseppe 'Bepi' Colombo, will fly past Mercury five more times in the next few years before its able to slow down and release two probes into orbit. They'll study Mercury's core and processes on its surface. Not much is known about the small planet because its proximity to the sun makes it difficult to study.


NWSL commissioner resigns amid turmoil

National Women's Soccer League commissioner Lisa Baird has stepped down from the role, the league confirmed Friday. Baird's decision comes after a report that detailed allegations of sexual coercion and abuse by former North Carolina Courage manager Paul Riley, who was fired earlier this week. Multiple other managers in the league have been dismissed recently, as well, because of concerns that they had created toxic or abusive environments. In Riley's case, ESPN notes that NWSL leadership failed to act on his alleged actions. FIFA and the U.S. Soccer Federation are now preparing to launch their own separate investigations into the matter.


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