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The Tokyo Olympics just ended, but can you believe the Beijing 2022 Winter Games are less than six months away? Here’s what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On With Your Day.
A medical worker rests last week at a Covid-19 ICU ward in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
The average number of new coronavirus cases in the US has increased ninefold since the beginning of July, and hospitalizations are at their highest rate since February. In some parts of the country, hospitals are at capacity, and loved ones of those battling the virus are pleading for access to life-saving equipment. As if the situation isn’t bad enough, new concerns are starting to arise: Dr. Anthony Fauci says the continued spread of the virus could allow new variants — possibly ones more resistant to vaccines — to emerge and spread if more people don’t get vaccinated. Experts are already seeing more cases of the Lambda variant, which is designated by WHO as a coronavirus “variant of interest.”
The Taliban has seized five provincial capitals in Afghanistan and let loose a string of violence as foreign forces, led by the US, complete their withdrawal from the country. Among the areas now under Taliban control is Kunduz, a strategically important provincial capital that marks the first major city to fall to the Taliban since it began its offensive in May. Afghanistan’s swift descent into violence has been alarming and follows international warnings that a foreign troop withdrawal could lead to a Taliban resurgence. Now, there is concern that even the country’s capital of Kabul could fall. In the past week, the US has increased airstrikes against Taliban positions in a bid to halt its advances.
The Senate has voted to cut off debate on the massive $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, clearing the way for a vote on the final passage of the bipartisan bill. Sixty-eight senators, including 18 Republicans, voted to invoke cloture (quickly halting the debate) to break the filibuster and push the process forward. The Senate is now expected to hold a final vote tomorrow morning. Senators are confident the bill will pass, but there’s been some recent shuffling of necessary Republican support of the bill. If it passes, it wouldn’t just be a win for President Biden’s agenda; it would also be a win for both parties, which have worked for months to come to an agreement on the bill. An affirmative Senate vote wouldn’t make it a done deal, though. The bill would still face significant challenges in the House.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just released a new report, and the message is clear: Deadly and irreversible effects of climate change are already here. Unlike previous assessments, the report also concludes it is “unequivocal” that humans have caused the climate crisis. It states the world has rapidly warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels and is now careening toward 1.5 degrees — a critical threshold that world leaders have agreed should represent the upper limit of global warming. Scientists say the only way to keep from reaching this point of no return and to prevent even more catastrophic damage is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero.