Arkansas lawmakers send abortion ban bill to governor
Wednesday, Arkansas lawmakers approved a bill banning abortion in all cases and sent it to the governor for his signature. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he is hesitant to sign the bill because it does not allow for abortion in the cases of rape and incest. Hutchinson had five days, excluding Sunday, to reject the bill or it will become law. Pro-life groups in the state have supported the bill while pro-choice groups, including Planned Parenthood and Democratic legislators, plan on challenging the bill if it is passed. Arkansas is one of at least 14 states that have proposed total abortion bans this year.
New York lawmakers call for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign from office
Top lawmakers in New York called for the resignation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo Sunday following accusations of sexual harassment and falsification of COVID-19 numbers in nursing homes. Democrat Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, of New York, and Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie questioned whether Cuomo could effectively lead the state after multiple women have come forward accusing Cuomo of inappropriate behavior, and after multiple reports about a large understatement of nursing home deaths related to COVID-19 have come to light. Thirty-seven lawmakers have backed Stewart-Cousins in calling for Cuomo’s resignation, while an additional 10 call for his impeachment. Cuomo denied all reports made against him.
Senate narrowly passes coronavirus relief bill after deliberation
The Senate passed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill Saturday in a 50-49 vote following 27 hours of debate. Democrats pushed for the bill while Republicans called it too big, resulting in an all-night debate. The bill includes more $1,400 stimulus checks, continued unemployment benefits and more relief to those hit hardest by the pandemic. The bill must be sent back to the House of Representatives because of changes made to the bill during the debate, notably the proposal for a $15 minimum wage. If passed, the bill will go to President Joe Biden to sign into law, which will be Biden’s first major legislative victory.
Pope Francis visits Iraq for the first time, calls for peace
Pope Francis began a historic four-day trip to Iraq Friday despite rising coronavirus numbers, the first-ever visit from a pope to the country. He landed in Baghdad Friday and met Iraqi President Barham Salih, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and prominent Muslim clerics to seek reconciliation with other religious groups and to advocate for Iraq’s dwindling Christian population. Francis called for an end to religious violence in the Syriac Catholic Church of Our Lady of Salvation, a church that jihadists attacked in 2010, killing over 50 people. His visit was intended to give hope to the remaining Christians in the country who are threatened with death from extremist groups. Francis continued to represent Iraqi Christians Saturday and Sunday with visits to other religious leaders and a Mass in a stadium, which had over 10,000 people in attendance.
Protests continue in Myanmar amid UN call for reversal of military coup
Protests against the military coup in Myanmar continue Saturday after the United Nations formed a security envoy Friday to reverse the coup and restore peace to the country. Protests have been occurring in Myanmar for over a month after the military overthrew the newly elected democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi Feb. 1. The conflict has resulted in the deaths of over 50 protesters, including a teen with an “Everything will be OK” T-shirt, whose death went viral online. The military has arrested journalists and silenced talk of the protests online. The U.N. continues to put pressure on the military to give power back to the democratic leaders and listen to the voices of the people.
The Dalai Lama gets the first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine
The Dalai Lama, 85, received the first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine Saturday and urged others to do the same. He said that taking the vaccine could prevent serious problems and called it “very good.” He received the vaccine in the city of Dharamsala, India, where vaccinations began in mid-January for healthcare and frontline workers. As of March 1, the vaccine is available for anyone over age 60 and for those aged 45-59 who have an underlying illness. The Dalai Lama enrolled himself to be vaccinated and offered to take it normally in a clinic like any other person.