5 things to know for November 19: Congress, Covid, social media, Arbery, Peng Shuai
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House Democrats are on the verge of passing President Biden’s sweeping social spending and climate change bill after months of feuding. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had hoped to vote on the measure late yesterday, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stalled floor action with a marathon speech that stretched into the early hours of this morning. The $1.9 trillion economic legislation stands as a key pillar of Biden’s domestic agenda, and Democrats are still confident they have the votes to pass it later today. The measure would deliver on long-standing Democratic priorities by dramatically expanding social services for Americans, working to mitigate the climate crisis, increasing access to health care and delivering aid to families and children. Whether it can survive in the Senate remains an open question.
A new look at the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic points straight back to a seafood market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, says a scientist who’s been studying the pandemic since the beginning. That was the original suspected source of the pandemic, but as more entities investigated and the Chinese government sought to deflect blame, the picture has become muddied. His research also reveals the possible first documented case of Covid-19: a seafood vendor who worked at the market and got sick on December 11, 2019. Nearly two years later, the world is still struggling with how to handle the virus. Austria is due to go into a national lockdown Monday, and in the US, more than a million people are estimated to still be missing their sense of smell after a Covid-19 infection.
3. Social media
A bipartisan group of 10 state attorneys general has launched an investigation into Meta — formerly known as Facebook — focused on the potential harms of its Instagram platform on children and teens. The announcement follows extensive reporting on a trove of internal documents leaked by a former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower. Some of the documents show that the company’s own researchers have found that Instagram can damage young users’ mental health and body image and can exacerbate dangerous behaviors such as eating disorders. The attorneys general say they will look into whether, by continuing to provide and promote Instagram despite knowing of the potential harms, Meta violated consumer protection laws and “put the public at risk.”
4. Ahmaud Arbery
Attorneys are due to begin closing arguments Monday in the trial of three White men involved in the killing of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery after more than 20 witnesses and investigators took the stand over 10 days. Arbery was shot in a Georgia neighborhood in February 2020 after being pursued by the defendants in their vehicles. Travis McMichael, who shot and killed Arbery; his father Gregory McMichael; and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. are charged with malice and felony murder. They have also been indicted on federal hate crime and attempted kidnapping charges. Defense attorneys argued their clients were trying to conduct a lawful citizen’s arrest of Arbery, whom they suspected of burglary. Prosecutors have noted, by the men’s own account, Arbery did not appear armed, threatening or interested in confrontation. One Black and 11 White jurors will decide their fate.
5. Peng Shuai
International concern is growing over the whereabouts of Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis star who made explosive allegations of sexual assault against a former top Communist Party leader. Peng has not been seen in public since she posted the allegations to social media this month. The post triggered swift and widespread censorship, with even the barest reference of her scrubbed from online conversations. China has even blocked CNN’s broadcast signal to prevent further reporting about Peng. In response, the tennis world has come together in a broad outcry. The head of the Women’s Tennis Association says he’s willing to pull business out of China altogether if reliable information about her whereabouts isn’t provided. The German Olympic Sport Federation is the latest body to call for clarity around the situation.
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THIS JUST IN …
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today that he would repeal three contentious agricultural laws that sparked more than a year of protests. In India, farming is a central political issue, and Modi’s decision comes ahead of pivotal state elections.
The White House tapped Mitch Landrieu to lead the implementation of the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Where did Landrieu formerly serve as mayor?
A. Los Angeles, California
B. Houston, Texas
C. Miami, Florida
D. New Orleans, Louisiana
You can click here to take the quiz and see if you’re right!
That’s how many stores CVS will close over the next three years in response to changing “consumer buying patterns.” The closures — amounting to nearly 10% of the drug store chain’s footprint — are part of broader realignment of its retail strategy of its roughly 10,000 locations.
“He’s the President. We know that.”
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who said she recognizes Biden as the 46th president of the United States, even as she claimed there were “lots of problems” with the 2020 election that Republican candidates should address.
What a relief!
This elk went two years with a tire around its neck until wildlife officers were able to safely remove it. The poor thing must have felt so free! (Click here to view.)
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