10 things you need to know today: April 8, 2021

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Harold Maass
·7 min read
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1.

President Biden said Wednesday that he would consider reducing the corporate tax hike he's proposing to pay for his more than $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan, but he added that doing nothing was not an option. Republicans oppose Biden's call for raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from the 21 percent established in former President Donald Trump's 2017 tax cut, and even some moderate Democrats are against raising the rate beyond 25 percent. "Debate is welcome. Compromise is inevitable. Changes are certain," Biden said, adding that he would invite Republican lawmakers to the White House to discuss the proposal. Biden's plan calls for building roads and bridges, expanding broadband internet access, caring for the elderly, building high-speed rail, and other projects over eight years. [Reuters]

2.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday that he would not consider voting to get rid of the filibuster. "There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster," Manchin wrote in a Washington Post op-ed piece. "The time has come to end these political games, and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation." Since the moderate Democrat is a key swing vote in a 50-50 Senate, his position represents a setback for Democrats hoping to help President Biden push parts of his agenda through Congress over Republican opposition. Democrats hold a majority with their 50 votes and Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote, but most legislation requires 60 votes to get past a filibuster. [The Washington Post]

3.

President Biden on Thursday plans to announce executive actions on curbing gun violence. The actions will include ordering the Justice Department to move toward requiring background checks on buyers of homemade or makeshift "ghost guns," and regulating concealed assault-style guns, according to the White House. Biden has been under pressure to address gun violence, something he had promised to do on his first day in office. More than 100 House Democrats last week urged him to address concealed assault-style firearms like the one used in a recent Colorado shooting rampage that left 10 people dead. Biden also is expected to announce he will nominate David Chipman as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Politico reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. [Politico]

4.

The European Medicines Agency concluded on Wednesday that AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine is linked to blood clots in rare instances, although the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks. "It is saving lives," said Emer Cooke, EMA executive director. Several countries previously paused or restricted their usage of the AstraZeneca vaccine after a few cases of blood clots were reported, largely among younger people. U.K. regulators said Wednesday that they would recommend that people under 30 receive other vaccines. The news came as a setback for the United Kingdom's vaccination campaign, increasing its reliance on vaccines from other countries. British officials said the conclusions should not affect the U.K.'s fast-paced inoculation program, or plans to reopen the country's economy this summer. [Stat News, The Wall Street Journal]

5.

St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones has become the first Black woman to be elected mayor in the city. Jones received about 52 percent of the Tuesday vote, defeating Alderwoman Cara Spencer, who had just under 48 percent. "Making history as the first Black woman mayor is not lost on me at this moment," Jones told The New York Times in a Wednesday interview. "I'm also looking at how little girls will look at this moment going forward and will see that they can be anything and that they have a mayor that looks like them." Jones, a Democrat, has been a vocal critic of the "arrest and incarcerate" model of criminal justice. She takes over as her city faces a high homicide rate and coronavirus pandemic challenges. [The New York Times, NBC News]

6.

The highly infectious coronavirus variant first detected in the U.K. is now the dominant version in the U.S., Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday. The announcement stoked fears of a looming fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. Public officials warned in January that the B.1.1.7 variant that surged in Britain late last year could become the dominant source of new infections in the U.S. The number of new deaths in the U.S. has continued to decline since a winter surge as more people are vaccinated, including elderly people and other vulnerable populations. But Walensky said on Wednesday that 52 of the CDC's 65 jurisdictions are reporting cases of new "variants of concern." [The New York Times]

7.

Riots continued in parts of Northern Island for the sixth straight night on Wednesday, as rising tensions over Brexit fueled clashes between unionists and nationalists. Unionists also are protesting a police decision not to prosecute leaders of the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein for alleged coronavirus-restriction violations during a former IRA figure's funeral. In Belfast, rioters set a bus on fire, and clashed along the "peace line" separating unionist and nationalist neighborhoods. Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin condemned the violence in a statement calling for "the two governments and leaders on all sides to work together to defuse tensions and restore calm." British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that the disputes should be resolved "through dialogue, not violence or criminality." [The Associated Press, CNN]

8.

The U.S. trade deficit jumped 4.8 percent to a record high of $71.1 billion in February, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a slightly smaller deficit of $70.5 billion. The increase came as the nation bounced back following the winter coronavirus surge, and part of the rising demand was met with added imports. The economy in the United States is getting stronger, with President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package expected to trigger faster growth and greater demand for imports. "The deficit could remain wide this year and next because of the fiscal stimulus and potential infrastructure package that could pass in the second half of this year," said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics. [Reuters]

9.

Ivy League schools and other highly selective colleges admitted applicants at record-low rates this year as applications soared. Harvard University's acceptance rate dropped to an unprecedented 3.4 percent this year from 4.9 percent in 2020, the school announced this week. Columbia's admit rate dropped to 3.9 percent from 6.1 percent, and Princeton's fell to 4.0 percent from 5.6 percent. New test-optional policies adopted due to the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted ACT and SAT testing plans, resulted in a surge in applications. Another factor was students already admitted who delayed starting their studies due to the pandemic. "Ten percent of the class entering this fall were admitted a year ago, and decided to take a gap year," said Christoph Guttentag, Duke University dean of undergraduate admissions. "That left fewer places than usual." [The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal]

10.

Golf star Tiger Woods was driving nearly double the 45 mile-per-hour speed limit when he crashed rounding a sharp curve in February, investigators concluded in a Los Angeles County sheriff's report released Wednesday. The accident triggered the vehicle's airbags, and the borrowed Genesis SUV's event recorder indicated his speeds before and after the initial impact were 82.02 mph and 86.99 mph. Woods hit the median, a sign, and the curb before slamming into a tree 71 feet off the road. "The impact of the vehicle when it hit the tree caused it to go airborne and do a somewhat pirouette and land on its side," said James C. Powers, captain of the Lomita sheriff's station that patrols the area. The accident left Woods seriously injured. Woods won't be charged. [Los Angeles Times, NBC News]

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