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Here's What's Happening 'In The Loop'

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Christian Bryant breaks down the latest on the intricacies of vaccine diplomacy, and the women-run militias fighting in Syria.

Video Transcript

CHRISTIAN BRYANT: This is In The Loop. I'm Christian Bryant. This show is filmed before a live newsroom audience-- of one. Thanks, Eric.

Here's what we got for y'all. Tonight the US is surging ahead of the global pack in vaccine rollout, but the pandemic isn't truly over until it's over worldwide. We'll explain how vaccine diplomacy is driving the global COVID fight. Then an in-depth look at the women-run militias pushing back on ISIS in Syria.

But first, here's what you need to know right now. It's really weird saying this, but we sort of know what kind of grim political routine to expect after mass shootings, right? Gun safety groups, anti-violence organizations, and politicians re-up their calls for stricter regulations on firearms, while gun rights advocates stonewall talk of any new regulations. That's what's happening now after gunmen in and around Atlanta, Georgia and Boulder, Colorado killed 18 people.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: I don't need to wait another minute, let alone an hour to take commonsense steps that will save the lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act. The House passed legislation to expand background checks two weeks ago, but some Republican Senators have already signaled that those bills ain't gonna see a lot of movement.

TED CRUZ: When you disarm law-abiding citizens you make them more likely to be victims. If you want to stop these murders, go after the murderers.

CHRISTIAN BRYANT: Now, two days from this shooting in Colorado, we're learning more about the victims, the lives they led, their interests. And we're learning more about the suspected gunman, a 21-year-old man from the Denver area. Newsy's Sasha Ingber is here to give us a quick update.

SASHA INGBER: Hey, Christian. Ahmad Alissa, 21, originally from Syria but spent most of his life in the United States. I found he had two incidences with local police in Arvada, Colorado in 2017. He was arrested for angrily assaulting a fellow student in his high school. He later told authorities that he had been bullied and called racial names. In 2018 he and his brother were suspected of damaging bedroom furniture of his brother's ex-girlfriend, but that was later let go because they found no probable cause.

CHRISTIAN BRYANT: Senior officials from the Biden Administration headed to the US-Mexico border Wednesday. The visit is one of the White House's most significant responses so far to the influx of migrants at the border, but officials have still stopped short of calling the situation a crisis.

JEN PSAKI: Children presenting at our border who are fleeing violence, who are fleeing prosecution, who are fleeing terrible situations, is not a crisis. We feel that it is our responsibility to humanely approach this circumstance and make sure they are treated with-- treated and put in conditions that are safe.

CHRISTIAN BRYANT: The administration has opened more facilities under Health and Human Services to house the influx of migrants, many of whom are children. But facilities like the convention center in Dallas are filling to their 2,300-bed limits quickly. Wednesday's visit is notably the first time the White House allowed a press camera firsthand access to a refugee resettlement center. Until now, Newsy and other outlets had to rely on images from Border Patrol itself or leaked media.

Roughly one in four Americans has now received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, and on average 2.5 million people are getting their shots each day. If this pace holds up and people actually sign up for their shots, 90% of Americans could be vaccinated by the end of July. But you don't need a shot to get out and enjoy the Spring weather-- in a socially-distanced way of course.

The numbers are in from 2020 and they show millions more Americans went exploring in the great outdoors compared to previous years. There were more than eight million hikers on trails, significantly up from 2019. And almost eight million folks tried out some kind of camping, also up from prior years. More people also went skiing, snowshoeing, golfing, and just plain old walking. For a while sky-high demand made it nearly impossible to find a bike for sale. Ask one of our producers how he knows.

And after demand for outdoor pursuits went up, it stayed up. Trade groups expect the renewed popularity of doing stuff outside could become a new normal of sorts. All that said, the pandemic has also caused some problems for the environment. One estimate found that some $1.6 billion masks ended up polluting the oceans last year. Experts advise cutting the ear loops on masks you trash to make sure they don't tangle up sea life. And when you can, you know, just recycle them to keep more plastic out of the water.

So the US is making progress in this vaccine rollout. But the World Health Organization warns that globally many countries are falling way behind, which is only going to mean longer-term pandemic concerns for everybody. Experts are now urging the US and other vaccine-rich countries to help deliver those doses beyond their own borders. Newsy's Kellan Howell has more.

KELLAN HOWELL: As the Biden administration races past its vaccination benchmarks, questions mount over if and how to use extra jabs as a form of diplomacy around the world.

ANTHONY FAUCI: We will obviously in the future have surplus vaccine, and there certainly is a consideration for making that vaccine available to countries that need it.

KELLAN HOWELL: The US has contracted millions more coronavirus vaccine doses than there are Americans. So far the US has agreed to share just 4 million vaccine doses with Canada and Mexico, and some experts say it will soon be time for the US to step up its vaccine diplomacy.

PETER MEYERS: Just on basic humanitarian grounds and as a trade off in terms of foreign policy objectives, we can and should use these vaccines to accomplish those goals.

KELLAN HOWELL: The agreement to loan vaccine doses to Mexico comes as the US is seeking help to deal with a surge of migrants at the southern border. Both the US and Mexico have denied that the vaccines were shared with any strings attached. Mexican officials told Newsy the deal was not made on a quid pro quo basis, saying the negotiations began almost two months ago, during the first conversations between President Lopez Obrador and Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, some of America's top global competitors like Russia and China have been much more generous in shipping doses outside their borders. The Biden Administration has said it wants to be a part of the global solution to the pandemic, but the White House doesn't want to make decisions about excess vaccine supply too soon.

JEN PSAKI: There are obviously a number of factors, including the fact that these variants are unpredictable. We're still at war with the virus. We don't know which one is going to work best with children.

KELLAN HOWELL: Though millions of Americans have yet to get the shot, the US has contracted 300 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine, that has yet to get US approval, making it the most likely choice to ship out to countries that have okayed the shot.

PETER MEYERS: What the Biden Administration is doing is a very good first step, but that's all it is. We're going to have so many excess doses of these coronavirus vaccines, and we should be doing more to get them out to countries that-- that need them.

Kellan Howell, Newsy, Washington.

CHRISTIAN BRYANT: Women's History Month is a good time to remember that women can do it all, including fighting on the front lines against ISIS.

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