5 things you need to know before March 26: the right to vote, Covid-19, White House, foreign policy, China

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1. Voting rights

Republicans in Georgia have passed sweeping electoral law that proponents of voting rights say is a bald attempt to suppress voters. The new law imposes new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, allows government officials to take over local elections, limits the use of ballots, and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water. The law is seen as a victory for former President Trump and his allies, who falsely claimed widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. Trump himself pressured Georgia leaders to reverse Joe Biden’s victory in the state. President Biden has called these types of accounts “sick” and “un-American.” Other Republican-led states are considering similar voter suppression laws, prompting calls for federal legislation to establish a national baseline for voting rules.

2. Coronavirus

The US now has a total of more than 30 million infections during the pandemic. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky again warned that, despite reopenings and a growing desire to get back to normal, the US is still seeing about 1,000 deaths a day and facing the growing threat of coronavirus variants. She also said vaccination efforts are helping the situation. The Biden administration says it will allocate an additional $ 10 billion to expand access to the Covid-19 vaccine and increase confidence in vaccines. The Senate voted to extend the application deadline for the Paycheck Protection Program, the premier federal aid campaign for small businesses, to May 31. Oh, and good news for new mothers: New research shows the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are effective in pregnant and nursing women, which can pass protective antibodies to newborns.

3. White House

Biden held his first official White House press conference yesterday. During the highly anticipated lecture, he took a firm stand on his goal of reforming the Senate filibuster. The filibuster generally refers to any time senators demand a super majority to break down the debate and proceed to an actual vote. If it were to be ended, the legislation would pass by simple majority – a critical point to consider in a closely-divided Senate. When discussing immigration, Biden downplayed the growing crisis on the southern border, saying that his predecessor’s policies have made it more difficult to house and properly handle the record number of migrant children in custody. Internationally, Biden said restoring global relationships is one of his top priorities. He also identified the main foreign policy problem he currently faces: North Korea.

4. Foreign policy

The Biden government also faces other foreign policy challenges. During his press conference, Biden expressed his uncertainty about meeting the May 1 deadline for a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. A six-month extension is under consideration, and Biden said he “cannot imagine” that US troops will still be in Afghanistan next year. Meanwhile, the US will resume diplomatic ties with Palestinians that were cut under the previous administration. Trump cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, virtually bringing diplomatic contact to a halt. US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Biden team will work towards a negotiated two-state solution that ensures Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state, while upholding Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for statehood.

5. China

China has stepped up retaliation in response to international sanctions against Xinjiang. The Chinese government announced sanctions against British lawmakers, academics and entities, preventing them from entering China and freezing their assets there. The British Ambassador to China has also been summoned by Beijing. H&M, Nike and other major Western clothing brands have raised concerns in recent months about the alleged use of forced labor to produce cotton in Xinjiang, one of the types of human rights violations that China is accused of in the region. Now those retailers are facing severe criticism, including boycott threats and terminated contracts with some Chinese celebrities.


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