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5 things to know for October 7: Congress, coronavirus, cybersecurity, abortion, Philippines

By AJ Willingham, CNN

Walmart is looking to expand from retail into other areas like fulfillment services for merchants. So the next time you place an order from, say, Home Depot, it may be dropped off by Walmart instead.

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

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1. Congress

The debt ceiling deadline is closing in, but a solution may be coming after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly floated two potential options to avert a default. Republicans as a whole are opposed to handling the debt ceiling problem, so McConnell’s sudden willingness to find a solution is an interesting development. As of last night, McConnell said talks were underway to finish a deal to extend the debt ceiling for two months. Democratic leaders have expressed favor for this method, since it would allow them to continue to work on President Joe Biden’s costly economic agenda without risk of financial ruin.

2. Coronavirus

Two newly published studies confirm that the immune protection offered by two doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine drops off after about two months. However, protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death remains strong. Booster shots of Pfizer’s vaccine can be officially administered to some adults in the United States, but the country is now facing a strange conundrum. More people are getting booster shots than first-time vaccinations, meaning there’s still a gaping hole in the vaccination rate. Overall, Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths have decreased since last week, but persistent vaccine hesitancy and opposition to vaccine or mask mandates have created ugly scenes in local politics and health care communities, and present a major hurdle for pandemic recovery.

3. Cybersecurity

The Transportation Security Administration will impose new cybersecurity mandates on the railroad and airline industries as part of a wide effort to protect critical infrastructure from recent waves of cyberattacks. These new provisions will require high-risk railroad and rail transit entities to designate cybersecurity leaders, create contingency plans and report any breaches to the government. Earlier this year, TSA issued two similar security directives aimed at critical pipeline companies. Meanwhile, cybersecurity experts tracking a Russian hacking group behind the crippling SolarWinds hack in 2020, which affected several federal agencies, say the group recently tried to infiltrate US and European government networks.

4. Abortion

A federal judge in Texas has blocked the state’s controversial six-week abortion ban. The bill’s novel design, which deputizes citizens to bring state court litigation against any clinic that performs an abortion, made it difficult for abortion rights advocates to legally challenge it. However, US District Judge Robert Pitman said the bill keeps women from “exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution.” The block could be temporary, since Texas has indicated it would be appealing the order to the 5th US Court of Appeals. In September, the Justice Department sued Texas over the ban, which it says is in violation of longstanding Supreme Court precedent.

5. Philippines

Philippines human rights groups are protesting a new presidential bid by the son and namesake of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The younger Marcos, known as “Bongbong” or “BBM,” is attempting to return his family to power by running for president in 2022. Marcos’ father was chased from office in a people’s power revolt in 1986 and died in exile in Hawaii three years later. The Marcos family returned to the Philippines in the 1990s and became powerful politicians representing their home province of Ilocos Norte. They have long sought to rebuild their image and have repeatedly denied allegations that they plundered state wealth while in power. The Marcoses have also been closely allied with the family of current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, which could raise their profile even more in the coming elections.


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