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5 things to know for April 15: Covid, White House, voter suppression, Russia, China

It’s Tax Day in the US, but don’t freak out! You still have a month to file your 2020 return. There are other changes to this tax season you should know about, too.

Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

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1. Coronavirus 

Vaccine advisers to the CDC put off making any decision about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when they met yesterday, saying they need more information about a rare type of blood clot reported by half a dozen recipients. This means, as Dr. Anthony Fauci stressed, that the recommended pause on the J&J vaccine is just that: a pause, not a cancellation. The federal government is helping those scheduled for a J&J vaccine get set up with an alternative. As other vaccinations continue, the US could have 300 million excess vaccine doses by July, according to researchers. Currently, 10 nations that are home to less than half the world’s population have used three-quarters of Covid-19 vaccine doses, but many poorer countries still don’t have a supply at all.

2. White House 

President Biden’s push to get bipartisan support for his high-dollar infrastructure plans are falling flat. The White House has invited key Republicans to the Oval Office this week, but members are skeptical of the scope and cost of his roughly $2 trillion plan. Of course, Democrats have the legislative tools to pass a bill without a single Republican vote. Meanwhile, the administration is continuing its rollback of Trump-era policies by moving to reverse a rule barring certain federally funded health care providers from referring patients for abortions, a step long demanded by abortion rights groups. The White House has also addressed a recent request for more AAPI inclusion, naming Erika Moritsugu to a senior-level Asian American and Pacific Islander liaison position.

3. Voter suppression

Hundreds of executives from high-profile companies like Amazon, Google and Starbucks, have signed a statement opposing discriminatory voting legislation. While it doesn’t name a specific state, the statement continues the recent wave of pushback from major corporations following the passage of a controversial voting law last month in Georgia. Officials in Fulton County, which covers most of Atlanta, passed a resolution yesterday that will allow Georgia’s most populous county to explore legal challenges to the law. Still, similar bills are rolling on in other states. Arkansas’ Republican-controlled legislature just passed a handful of bills that are similar to Georgia’s law, including a provision that would effectively criminalize handing out water or food to those waiting in line to vote.

4. Russia

The Biden administration is expected to announce sanctions targeting Russian individuals and entities in response to the SolarWinds hack and election interference. The punishments, which could be announced as soon as today, also include new financial restrictions and the expulsion of as many as a dozen Russian diplomats from the US. The sanctions have been a long time coming, in part because the White House wanted more sanctions than the State Department first proposed, a US official said. The US is trying to walk a fine line with Russia, keeping lines of diplomatic communication open while also addressing growing demonstrations of aggression. All 30 members of the NATO alliance have expressed concern about the massive buildup of Russian forces near Crimea and along Ukraine’s borders, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

5. China

The FBI opens a new investigation into China “every 10 hours,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said. In comments to the Senate Intelligence Committee, he said more than 2,000 FBI investigations tie back to the Chinese government, and no other country represented more of a threat to US economic security and democratic ideals. China and the US have clashed on several fronts recently, including over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and political crackdowns in Hong Kong. John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, landed in Shanghai this week to meet with counterparts ahead of an environmental summit this month. The meetings will test whether the US and China can work together on some issues, like climate change, while butting heads on others.


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