April 2, 2021: Matt Gaetz Under investigation
Amid pressure from Congress, the Biden administration is trying to scuttle a Russian gas pipeline through Europe before the project is finished. But Germany wants the pipeline to happen, so it’s very tricky diplomacy.
Meanwhile, European medical regulators now concede that there is a slight risk of blood clots with the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. Although the vaccine is still considered safe and effective, Britain is recommending that people under thirty take another shot, just in case.
And lastly, many lawmakers and economists are pushing for another round of stimulus checks for Americans – or even recurring payments. Is the White House listening?
THESE ARE THE STORIES YOU NEED TO KNOW:
President Joe Biden remains knee deep in sticky European pipeline politics. The White House is in talks to appoint a special envoy to lead negotiations on halting the construction of Russia-to-Germany gas pipeline Nord Stream Two, according to Politico. The Biden administration is grappling with how to stymie a nearly completed energy project that would serve as a major financial and geopolitical boon to Moscow. Amos Hochstein, who served as the coordinator for international energy affairs under President Barack Obama, was informally offered the role late last month. Hochstein, who stepped down from the supervisory board of the Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz late last year, declined to comment.
Politico reports that senators from both parties have been pushing the Biden administration to cripple the pipeline before it’s too late. Republican Senator Ted Cruz has held up speedy confirmation of Biden’s top State Department nominees as part of that effort. In a recent private meeting, Cruz pressed Victoria Nuland, Biden’s pick to lead the State Department’s political affairs office, about the possibility of appointing an envoy to handle the matter.
While it is not yet clear what the envoy’s exact mandate would be, Politico reports, the role would at least initially be focused on managing delicate negotiations over how to impede the pipeline without alienating a key US ally in Berlin. The administration wants to impede Moscow’s energy leverage but it also wants to strengthen the US relationship with Germany,
which has been lobbying Washington for the pipeline’s construction to continue unabated. But US lawmakers from both parties have argued that the pipeline would make some European countries more dependent on Russian energy, while depriving Ukraine of billions of dollars in revenue. Ah, so it’s about money. Who could’ve guessed?
Here’s the latest vaccine update. Unusual blood clots should be listed as very rare side effects of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, Europe’s main drug regulator said yesterday, according to NBC News. Emer Cooke, the executive director of the European Medicines Agency, said that the benefits of the AstraZeneca shot overall outweigh the risks of side effects. The vaccine has proved to be highly effective, she said at a news briefing, adding that it prevented severe disease and hospitalization and is saving lives. However, Cooke added that after a very in-depth analysis, the regulator had concluded that, "the reported cases of unusual blood clotting following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine."
NBC reports that because of a very small number of blood clots in younger people reported in the UK, Britain's vaccines advisory body said yesterday that it was recommending that those under the age of thirty should be offered an alternative Covid-19 vaccine to the Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccine, where one is available. In a separate statement, the EMA said that blood clots should be listed as very rare side effects of Vaxzevria, the official name of the AstraZeneca vaccine. So far, most of the cases reported have occurred in women under sixty years of age within two weeks of vaccination, the statement added. Meanwhile, Doctor Sabine Straus, the chair of the EMA's Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee, said at yesterday’s briefing that the currently available data, "did not allow us to identify a definite cause for these complications." She added that no specific risk factors could be identified. More research would be conducted, she said. Hopefully this news doesn’t deter anyone from getting vaccinated. Regardless, we’ll keep bringing you the best information we can find.
Expert opinion says the government could be doing a lot more to help people right now. The IRS has issued one hundred and fifty six million payments in the third round of direct stimulus aid, with twenty five million people this week in line to receive the $1,400 checks, CBS News reports. But some lawmakers are pushing for a fourth round of stimulus aid that would send recurring payments until the pandemic ends. So far, the federal response to the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has delivered $3,200 to each eligible adult. Despite that financial assistance, millions of Americans remain in financial distress, with about four in ten people saying their income remains below its pre-pandemic levels. Unemployment remains elevated. For many people, in short, the latest round of $1,400 checks may not last long.
Twenty-one senators – all Democrats – signed a March 30 letter to Biden in support of recurring stimulus payments, CBS reports. While the letter doesn't specify how large the payments the senators are seeking, a separate effort from Democratic lawmakers in January pushed for $2,000 monthly checks until the pandemic ends. Some top economists have called for more direct aid to Americans. More than one hundred and fifty economists, including former Obama administration economist Jason Furman, signed a letter last year that argued for recurring direct stimulus payments, lasting until the economy recovers.
The economy is expected to rebound this year thanks to rising Covid-19 vaccination rates and as states start to reopen, according to CBS. That could diminish the rationale for the government offering more direct aid, especially if the jobless rate recovers and more workers come off the sidelines. But in the meantime, people are hurting – and Biden’s big infrastructure package doesn’t include the direct aid that so many need. Give us cash!
AND NOW FOR SOME QUICKER QUICKIES:
The Virginia General Assembly agreed yesterday to make it legal for adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana on July 1, nearly three years sooner than had been approved by the legislature in February, according to the Washington Post. Indeed, why wait?
The Post reports that testimony in the trial of Derek Chauvin resumed yesterday in Minneapolis. The former officer’s defense team argued that George Floyd saying, I can’t
breathe, while police attempted to load him into the squad car was a form of resisting arrest. I honestly don’t understand how these people can look at themselves in the mirror.
The Defense Department announced Tuesday that it would retain the Trump administration’s policy and keep antipersonnel land mines in its arsenal, reserving the right to use them in war, the New York Times reports. The announcement drew swift condemnation from human rights groups. For some reason they don’t respect America’s right to defend itself by maiming children around the world.
Mike Pence has signed a multimillion-dollar, two-book deal with publisher Simon and Schuster, CNN reports. The former Indiana governor and vice president is making moves to suggest he could run for president in 2024. Yesterday Pence announced he was launching a new political advocacy group called Advancing American Freedom. Larry Kudlow is on board. Bottoms up! And, uh, praise the lord, I guess. It’s mandatory.
APRIL 8 , 2021 - AM QUICKIE
HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner
WRITER - Corey Pein
PRODUCER - Dorsey Shaw
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - Brendan Finn