5 things to know for September 14: Covid, Afghanistan, Congress, Norway, California

5 things to know for September 14: Covid, Afghanistan, Congress, Norway, California

Hurricane Nicholas made landfall along the Texas coast this morning. It’s now a tropical storm, and the biggest worries are storm surge and heavy rain — possibly up to 18 inches in some spots.

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

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1. Coronavirus

Covid-19 cases among US children have risen almost 240% since July, American Academy of Pediatrics data shows. Kids now account for 29% of all cases reported nationwide. This substantial increase has coincided with school reopenings, and experts say vaccine mandates may be the only way to keep in-person classes viable. Children under 12 are not eligible for a vaccine yet, so advocates are urging parents to get vaccinated to protect their children. In China, authorities are rushing to contain what is being dubbed the country’s first “school centered” outbreak in the southern province of Fujian. The outbreak was traced to an elementary school and could become a huge problem if it’s not contained before the National Day holiday next month, when hundreds of millions of people are expected to travel in the country.

2. Afghanistan

Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday, becoming the first Biden administration official to publicly account to Congress for the chaotic, violent US withdrawal from Afghanistan that ended last month. Though the hearing brought few answers, it did set up what will likely become an ugly battle between Biden officials defending the hurried exit and Republican lawmakers heavily criticizing it. The painful topic could become especially contentious as we enter the midterm election season. Meanwhile, people in Afghanistan are facing spiraling poverty, possible starvation and economic collapse under Taliban rule, the UN warned. The Taliban has also mandated segregation of genders in classrooms and required women and girls to wear hijabs in academic settings.

3. Congress

Democrats return to Capitol Hill this month with a crushing set of deadlines. First up, the $3.5 trillion social safety net bill has to be finalized by the Senate, then passed through the House next week. That’s easier said than done, since it seems there are still deep divisions within the Democratic ranks about the plan’s scope. Then, the House must vote on the separate, $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill by September 27. After that, the next deadline for government funding is at the beginning of October, and then lawmakers will need to tackle the problem of raising the debt ceiling by the middle of next month — or risk serious damage to US’ financial reputation.

4. Norway

Parliamentary elections in Norway have shaken up the country’s government, giving the center-left Labor Party a chance to form a new coalition after the ruling Conservatives lost their lead. This also means the end of Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s eight-year reign. Norway’s campaign period heavily focused on the climate crisis and the future of the country’s lucrative oil industry. But a new government doesn’t necessarily mean a boon for climate-minded politicians. The anti-oil party, the Greens, failed to win enough votes to become the potential kingmaker. And even left-leaning politicians have been hesitant to go all-out on fossil fuel reduction since oil contributes significantly to the nation’s wealth.

5. California

The California gubernatorial recall election gets underway today, and even though polls suggest Gov. Gavin Newsom will emerge victorious, the issues in play probably won’t go away quietly. The conservative effort to oust the governor gained steam with discontent over Newsom’s stringent measures to fight the pandemic. However, his more recent moves, like vaccine mandates, have seen a broader swell of support. If he wins, the vote of confidence, so to speak, could embolden other leaders to adopt stiffer pandemic safety measures. However, some Republicans are already baselessly calling fraud in the election. Larry Elder, the far-right radio host-turned-politician who’s the GOP’s leading contender in the recall race, has repeatedly warned supporters of cheating and has not committed to accepting the results.


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