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Here’s what we’re talking about:
With Phil Rosen.
1. A NEW TONE: President Joe Biden has had enough. Gone are the days of a president-elect and his top advisors downplaying any talk of mandates. Faced with spiking COVID-19 hospitalizations mostly among unvaccinated people as the Delta coronavirus variant spreads, the White House has embraced a hardball approach like never before.
- Key quote: “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” Biden said in his national address Thursday evening, speaking for vaccinated Americans to the estimated 25% of US adults who have yet to receive a COVID-19 shot. “And your refusal has cost all of us. So, please, do the right thing.”
Here are the major features of Biden’s six-point plan:
As many as 100 million Americans will be subject to new rules: Roughly 80 million Americans would fall under a new requirement that workers at businesses with more than 100 employees be either vaccinated or tested weekly, the Associated Press reports. About 17 million workers at healthcare facilities that receive federal funding would also have to make sure their workers are fully vaccinated. More on what this means for businesses.
- Large companies that fail to comply could be fined $14,000 per violation: Companies would also be required to provide time off so workers can get vaccinated and recover from any side effects.
The White House is also over people harassing flight attendants: Under the new rules, passengers who don’t comply with the federal transportation mask mandate will face a minimum fine of $500 and a maximum fine of $3,000, both doubled from their previous amounts.
Efforts to boost testing: Retailers like Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger plan to sell at-home rapid tests at cost for the next three months. Free testing is being expanded to 10,000 more pharmacies.
Republican governors and lawmakers are already digging in: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the new vaccine rules for private businesses were “flat-out un-American.” Rep. Chip Roy of Texas urged businesses to rebel against the mandate. More on the discontent.
2. Department of Justice sues Texas over abortion law: Attorney General Merrick Garland said Texas’ law banning most abortions was “clearly unconstitutional under long-standing Supreme Court precedent.” The Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 decision to let the law go into effect but did not rule on its constitutionality. Former DOJ officials and legal scholars say the Biden administration is limited in the ways it can challenge the abortion law.
3. Nation’s second-largest school district imposes vaccine mandate for kids: The school board of the Los Angeles Unified School District has approved a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students 12 and over, making it the first major school district in the US to implement such a policy. The district’s interim superintendent estimates that the district includes 225,000 students and that 80,000 students are unvaccinated, CNN reports.
4. The Taliban are letting 200 Americans leave Afghanistan. In the first airlift since the US troop withdrawal, the Americans as well as other foreign nationals have been given the go-ahead to depart for Qatar, according to The Wall Street Journal. A Qatari official said flights would leave Afghanistan daily moving forward. Get the full details.
5. Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping talk for a second time: The White House said Biden initiated the conversation between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies amid rising tensions on human rights, trade, the coronavirus pandemic, and other issues, The Washington Post reports. There were no announcements from the call, including whether the pair would meet for an in-person summit. Here’s where US-China relations stand.
6. House Dems release some details of their $3.5 trillion spending plan: Under the bill, starting in July 2023 all US workers would get 12 weeks of paid parental and sick leave. Medicare would also be able to pay for dental and vision care as well as hearing aids. The federal government would also negotiate drug prices of at least 50 of the most used and highest-priced prescription drugs, including insulin. Here’s what else is in the Democrats’ plan and how the legislation will be fleshed out in the days ahead.
7. Andrew Yang expected to announce a third party: Yang, the former Democratic presidential hopeful and New York City mayoral candidate, is set to make the announcement next month, Politico reports. His rollout will coincide will the publication of his new book, “Forward: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy.” More on the news.
8. FDA punts on Juul decision: The Food and Drug Administration is delaying a determination on which Juul products can remain on the market, freezing nearly 40% of the electronic-cigarette industry that the company dominates, NPR reports. The agency said it has ruled on whether other products could continue to be sold and had denied nearly 950,000 marketing applications for flavored e-cigarette products. Federal action has dramatically reshaped the e-cigarette market.
9. Federal judge blocks Florida’s “anti-riot” law: District Judge Mark Walker said in the ruling that Florida’s definition of a riot could cause innocent people to be prosecuted. Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed for the law, which led to a handful of lawsuits from civil-rights groups arguing that it infringed on First Amendment rights and targeted Black people. More on the ruling.
10. A photographer looks back on 9/11: Twenty years later, the photographer Alan Chin recalls covering the first moments after planes struck the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. “When we emerged, the entire world had changed.” A look at Chin’s photos and the stories behind them.
Other stories to read ahead of the 20th anniversary tomorrow:
Today’s trivia question: Biden gave his pandemic speech in the state dining room. An excerpt from a letter is carved into the ornate mantle in the room. Which president wrote those words? Email your guess and a suggested question to me at [email protected].
That’s all for now. God bless our first responders, their families, and the memories of the nearly 3,000 people who were killed 20 years ago tomorrow.
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