By AJ Willingham, CNN
Several key Covid relief projects are ending soon, which could leave millions with renewed financial risks including housing issues, unemployment, student loan payments and more. Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.
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A bipartisan group of senators have reached an agreement on key points related to a massive infrastructure package. The Senate also voted to open debate on the plan, with 17 Republicans joining Democrats in voting to do so. The measure includes money for roads, bridges and public transportation, and while it falls far short of President Joe Biden’s initial $2.25 trillion proposal, Biden is still touting it. This bill falls more around the $1 trillion mark, with about $550 billion in new federal investments in America’s infrastructure. The bipartisan breakthroughs yesterday may move the plan forward, but only by a matter of inches. Many Republicans, and progressive Democrats who want more from the bill, could still bog down any significant movement.
Mask mandates. Postponed events. Full emergency rooms. Signs of the difficult early days of the pandemic are reemerging, and some experts say stricter vaccination compulsions may be the best way to prevent a full downward spiral. The US House is reinstating its mask mandate, prompting some conservatives to push back. White House officials are also preparing to enact Biden’s decision to require federal employees to get vaccinated. The CDC estimates only 49.3% of the US population is fully vaccinated — a far cry from the 70% to 85% that experts have estimated would be needed to slow or stop the spread of the virus. In all, 49 states are seeing a surge in cases.
3. Capitol riot
Responses to the January 6 insurrection are shifting into a new gear after Tuesday’s emotional hearing featuring police officers who were on duty the day of the attack. That same day, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee announced a deal on a roughly $2 billion spending bill to enhance Capitol security. Investigators on the House’s January 6 select committee have vowed a deep dive into the attack, and are preparing for a battle over subpoena requests and other legal snarls. This week, the Biden Justice Department formally declined to assert executive privilege over testimony related to the incident, which means DOJ employees can provide “unrestricted testimony.”
Chinese officials met with senior leaders of the Taliban in China yesterday, reinforcing a growing relationship between Beijing and the resurgent Islamist group. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described the Taliban as an important military and political force in Afghanistan, and said China expects the group to play a big role in the country’s “peace, reconciliation and reconstruction process.” The Taliban’s influence has rapidly expanded as the US nears the end of its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, stoking fears of more instability and violence to come. China, however, has specific interests at play here. Beijing has invested heavily in infrastructure in Central Asia in recent years, and has discussed the possibility of extending the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) into Afghanistan.
Cubans involved in the historic protests that gripped the country a few weeks ago are now facing mass trials, raising concerns about due process and the validity of some arrests. One man who was sentenced to a year in prison says he was arrested simply for trying to take photos of the demonstrations. Families of others who were arrested say they were detained just for being in the street. Cuban officials have refused to say how many people were arrested following the island-wide protests, which were the most significant the country has seen since Fidel Castro’s revolution. Cubalex, a human rights organization, estimates about 700 Cubans were detained. Cuban officials justified the crackdown on protesters by saying the demonstrations had been fomented by Cuba’s Cold War nemesis, the United States.
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“The outpouring love and support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.”
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Bear tested. Bear approved.
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