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5 things to know for October 4: Congress, Covid-19, Facebook, Brazil, oil spill

By AJ Willingham, CNN

The Supreme Court today begins a new term that could usher in landmark decisions on big issues like gun legislation and abortion.

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

(You can also get “5 Things You Need to Know Today” delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)

1. Congress

Liberal and moderate Democrats are still at odds over crucial, high-dollar parts of Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. Remember, there are two bills at play here: an infrastructure bill and one focused on social spending and climate. The latter is causing particular concern, with a proposed price tag of $3.5 trillion. Moderate Democrats have balked at the figure and suggested a pared-down version of as little as $1.5 trillion. That’s been rejected by progressives, who are also vowing to withhold their votes on the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill if details of the other bill aren’t ironed out first. The disagreements led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to delay bringing the infrastructure bill to the floor for a vote late last week and will undoubtedly continue this week. Though Dems are facing criticism for how long it’s taking to agree on these key issues, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin assured that the party won’t let the US default on its debt on October 18.

2. Coronavirus

A new oral medicine that fights viral infection could give doctors a big leg-up in fighting Covid-19, but experts agree the best way to curb deaths and end the pandemic is still vaccination. Drug makers Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics say their pill, molnupiravir, can reduce risk of Covid-19 hospitalization and death by 50%. They will seek emergency authorization for the antiviral medication from the FDA. Meanwhile, vaccination rates are still holding at about 56% among eligible Americans. Covid-19 has taken the lives of more than 700,000 people in the US, and about 200,000 of those deaths have occurred since vaccinations became widely available. The CDC has also updated its guidance on holiday celebrations as we enter a potentially treacherous winter. It recommends getting vaccinated before gatherings, wearing masks and celebrating virtually.

3. Facebook

The Facebook whistleblower who released tens of thousands of pages of internal research and documents from the company has revealed herself as Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager who worked on civic integrity issues at the company. The documents have sparked a firestorm at the company and have even led to the Senate grilling a Facebook exec over the platform’s effect on young users. On “60 Minutes,” Haugen said the company knows its platforms are used to spread hate, violence and misinformation and has tried to hide that evidence. Facebook has aggressively pushed back against the reports, calling many of the claims “misleading.” Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, has pushed back on some related claims, saying for instance that it is “ludicrous” to assign blame to Facebook over the January 6 Capitol riot. Clegg also said the company will never be able to control all content on its site but may be open to more regulation.

4. Brazil

Protesters gathered across Brazil this weekend to call for the impeachment of President Jair Bolsonaro amid worsening economic conditions, hunger, unemployment and other persistent effects of the pandemic. This is not the first time Brazilians have organized to protest Bolsonaro, who has remained defiant in his handling of Covid-19 even as nearly a staggering 600,000 Brazilians have lost their lives to the virus. Bolsonaro’s approval rating has been on a continuous decline, and polls show more than half the country now considers his presidency to be bad or awful. This is especially important because Brazil is holding a presidential election next year, and there’s a possibility Bolsonaro could be ousted in favor of a more popular politician, like former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

5. Oil spill

A pipeline breach in the Pacific Ocean has dumped more than 3,000 barrels of oil — equal to about 126,000 gallons of post-production crude — along the Southern California coast. Dead birds and wildlife have been washing up on Huntington Beach in Orange County, and experts worry the spill could infiltrate wetlands and other vulnerable areas, creating an ecological disaster.  The National Transportation Safety Board is sending investigators to gather information and assess the source of the oil spill, which as of yesterday morning had not fully stopped. The pipeline is owned by the oil and gas company Amplify Energy, which has pledged to participate in the recovery.


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Start off the week with a little zen … and some little zen gardens, created by artist Yuki Kawae. (Click here to view.)

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