Start your day here: How a 'billionaire tax' would work; nor'easter slams the Northeast; FDA backs the Pfizer vaccine for kids

Published October 27, 2021 at 7:56 AM EDT
A group of men and women, some wearing face masks, stand around a microphone outside of the White House.
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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) speaks to reporters about a corporate minimum tax plan at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.

Good morning,

Here's what we're following today:

Billionaire tax: Democrats say their new plan to partially fund a much-discussed spending bill would apply to about 700 people and 200 corporations and could raise hundreds of billions of dollars.

"Snowless" Nor'easter: Day 2 of a lingering storm slams the Northeast with heavy rain, high winds and power outages.

Vaccines for kids 5-11: The Food and Drug Administration says the Pfizer shot is safe and effective for younger children, meaning vaccinations could begin within days.

🎧 Also, on Up First, our daily podcast, why some who were charged in the Capitol riot will act as their own attorneys.

— The Morning Edition live blog team

(Carol Ritchie, Rachel Treisman, Nell Clark, Joe Hernandez and Chris Hopkins)

Must Listen

Neffy's Tiny Desk Concert drops at noon. Here's why it's a big deal

Posted October 27, 2021 at 11:39 AM EDT

The video of Neffy's Tiny Desk Concert releases in less than an hour and this one is personal: Not just because Neffy is the multi-talented winner of NPR's 2021 Tiny Desk Contest, but also because her video will bring it home to the iconic clutter of NPR's own original Tiny Desk space.

Arlington-based Neffy's performance will bring her stellar skills to the series and will be the first Tiny Desk Concertrecorded at NPR's Tiny Desk in over a year due to the pandemic.

When the pandemic forced many places to shut down, NPR's office followed suit. That means the eclectic (some might call messy) bookshelves seen behind Tiny Desk Concert artists for years disappeared for a while. (Because yes, the concerts really do take place in Bob Boilen and the NPR Music team's workspace.) NPR Music's Tiny Desk Home series jumped in to make sure the performances went on anyway, just not at the original Tiny Desk.

Speaking of precautions, the NPR Music team made sure to follow state and NPR-specific guidelines for COVID safety during the recording, which didn't have an audience. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the concert from Tiny Desk Audio Engineer Josh Rogosin:

Neffy was declared the winner of the 2021 Tiny Desk Contest in September, beating out thousands of other artists because her "tender work and singular voice captured our judges' ears from her entry's opening lines," Bob Boilen notes.

You can watch Neffy's performance on NPR Music's YouTube today at 12 p.m. ET / 9 a.m. PT.

Neffy's concert's location will be singular for the time being as Tiny Desk concerts will continue to be filmed from remote locations due to the pandemic.


Fox anchor Neil Cavuto urged viewers to get vaccinated. Then came the death threats

Posted October 27, 2021 at 11:25 AM EDT
A man wearing glasses, dark suit and purple tie sits in front of a blue-lit background holding an iPad.
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Neil Cavuto, pictured on the Fox Business Network in March 2017. The Fox News Channel anchor urged viewers to get vaccinated after announcing his own breakthrough COVID-19 diagnosis.

Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto has battled multiple health challenges over the years, including Stage 4 cancer, open-heart surgery, multiple sclerosis and, currently, COVID-19. Now some of his viewers are sending him death threats — because he encouraged them to get vaccinated for their own safety.

The host of "Your World with Neil Cavuto" announced last week that he had tested positive for COVID-19, despite being fully vaccinated. In recent days, he has both credited the vaccine with likely saving his life and used his platform to encourage others to roll up their sleeves.

In a "MediaBuzz" interview on Sunday — his first since announcing his diagnosis — Cavuto acknowledged that vaccine mandates have become highly politicized, but urged viewers to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their communities, especially immunocompromised people like himself.

"This is not about left or right, this is not about who's conservative or liberal; last time I checked, everyone regardless of their political persuasion is coming down with this," Cavuto said. "Take the political speaking points and toss them for now, I'm begging you. Toss them and think of what's good, not only for yourself but for those around you."

Some of his Fox colleagues have expressed similar views, though the network has been a steady source of criticism about vaccine and mask requirements (despite its own company policies).

Cavuto noted that even while cases are down from their delta-fueled surge, the U.S. is still losing some 3,000 people a day. The virus has killed more than 5 million people globally and nearly 800,000 in the U.S., he added.

The numbers prove that fully vaccinated people have better odds of surviving the virus, he added, and that countries with the lowest vaccination rates have the highest number of new cases.

Cavuto, who said his wife tested positive soon after he did, stressed that vaccination is not a question of politics but of safety. He implored people to think about "the bigger picture" and consider the well-being of their more vulnerable neighbors and relatives, like an older woman triple-masking at the grocery store or an immunocompromised coworker.

"Whatever your views on mandates — and I get that, no one likes to be ordered to — but in the end, if you can get vaccinated and think of someone else and think of what that could mean to them and their survivability from something like this, we'll all be better off," he said.

Cavuto predicted that his plea would get him "in trouble," saying he anticipated some nasty viewer emails as a result. He was right.

He brought some of those messages with him when he returned to the airwaves on Tuesday.

Cavuto broadcast remotely from home as he continued his recovery, telling Fox Business that he was still experiencing breathing issues, concentration issues and a loss of taste and smell. But he shifted the attention to reader emails and tweets, which he had a production assistant read on-air.

Some thanked and defended him for making his position clear, while others were less appreciative.

"I admire your remarkable strength through so much adversity, but let me give you some advice," read one. "Shut up and enjoy the fact you're not dead. For now."

Later, on his own show, Cavuto reviewed more viewer messages with the help of actor Dion Baia. On the more negative end of the spectrum, one instructed him to "pound sand" and mind his own business.

"It's clear you've lost some weight with all this stuff. Good for you," wrote one viewer. "But I’m not happy with less of you. I want 'none' of you. I want you gone. Dead. Caput. Fini. Get it? Now, take your two-bit advice, deep-six it and you!”

Cavuto took the comments in stride, and reiterated that he just wants more unvaccinated people to get the jab to help bring the pandemic to an end.


Merck will allow drug makers in other countries to make its anti-COVID pill

Posted October 27, 2021 at 10:12 AM EDT
Signage outside Merck & Co. headquarters in Kenilworth, N.J.
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Signage outside Merck & Co. headquarters in Kenilworth, N.J.

U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant Merck said it will license drug makers worldwide to produce its potentially life-saving antiviral pill for treatment of COVID-19 in adults.

The drug, known as molnupiravir, has shown promise in treating the disease and the agreement to license its production could help millions of people in the developing world gain access to it.

United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool said Wednesday that it had reached an agreement with Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. Under the pact, the U.S. drugmakers will allow MPP to license the manufacture of molnupiravir to qualified pharmaceutical companies across the globe.

"This agreement will help create broad access for molnupiravir use in 105 low- and middle-income countries following appropriate regulatory approvals," Merck and the patent pool said in a news release.

MPP Executive Director Charles Gore said in a statement. that the interim results for molnupiravir "are compelling and we see this oral treatment candidate as a potentially important tool to help address the current health crisis.

"This transparent, public health-driven agreement is MPP's first voluntary license for a COVID-19 medical technology, and we hope that Merck's agreement with MPP will be a strong encouragement to others," Gore added.

Under the agreement, Merck and Ridgeback will receive no royalties as long as COVID-19 is considered a global emergency by the World Health Organization.

Vaccine makers have yet to make similar agreements, despite pressure from governments and the WHO.

Molnupiravir is still awaiting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


3 things to know about Atlanta’s win over Houston in Game 1 of the World Series

Posted October 27, 2021 at 10:01 AM EDT

A broken leg, a new record and a bat man: those are three of the interesting stories that emerged from the Atlanta Braves’ 6-2 victory over the Houston Astros in the first game of the World Series. The Braves now lead the series 1-0 after seizing the road win.

Houston will try to forget this game, which they trailed from the start. For the Braves, it was their first win in a World Series game since 1996. Game 2 of the best-of-seven series will start shortly after 8 p.m. ET Wednesday.

Charlie Morton pitched on a broken leg and still got people out

Braves ace Charlie Morton set a new standard for toughness, as he continued to pitch well after taking a hard-hit ball off his right shin in the Astros’ first at-bat in the second inning.

The ball came off Yuli Gurriel‘s bat at 102.4 mph, according to MLB. X-rays taken at Minute Maid Park later revealed Morton had suffered a fracture to the fibula on his right leg — the leg the right-hander uses to push off the mound.

Morton was pulled from the game — but not before he recorded three more outs, including a strikeout on a sharp curveball to the Astros’ dangerous leadoff man, José Altuve, in the third inning. Morton bent over in pain after that last pitch, using his hands to brace himself against the pitcher’s mound. He then signaled to the Braves’ dugout before walking gingerly off the field.

After the game, when players stopped by his locker to commiserate over his exit, Morton repeatedly replied, “I'm sorry,”according to ESPN. It was a sad end to the World Series for Morton, who was on the mound when Houston won the 2017 championship.

There was a ‘bat man’ in the dugout

Bat boys and girls are a common sight at big-league parks, and many of them are youngsters who scamper around to collect players’ bats and carry out other duties. But TV viewers’ interest was piqued when the FOX broadcast showed a rather unusual bat boy in the Braves’ dugout.

The bat boy looked to be not only a full-grown man, but a rather muscled one, with long hair and a full beard. On Twitter, many commenters remarked on his size, particularly as the bat boy was seen sitting next to Adam Duvall, who hit a homerun in the game.

“Is it just me or does the Braves bat boy look like he should be playing for the Brewers?” one viewer asked on Twitter.

We should note that MLB teams don’t normally bring their own bat boys on road trips. Instead, the home team supplies bat boys for both the home and visitors’ dugouts — the visitors’ bat boy simply gets a loaner uniform for each game. And the Astros have been known to employ older bat boys. In 2016, another "bat man" (also with a beard) even gave signs to a Houston batter at the plate.

Game 1’s leadoff home run set a record

Atlanta’s Jorge Soler hit a homerun in the top of the first inning, becoming the first player in major league history to hit a homer in the very first at-bat of a World Series game.

Soler crushed the third pitch from Houston’s Framber Valdez over the left-field wall, setting the tone for his team as he returned to the starting lineup. He played only sparingly after going on the injured list in the division series.

“To be honest, I didn't know that was a thing until I was told a little later on in the game,” Soler said, according to MLB. “For me, I wasn't thinking about anything like that.”

Other players have homered in their team’s first trip to the plate in the World Series, MLB says — but all of those hits came in the bottom of the first, not the top.


Dr. Fauci answers our questions on COVID-19 vaccines for kids

Posted October 27, 2021 at 9:47 AM EDT
A side profile of Dr. Anthony Fauci.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies at a Senate committee hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on July 20, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, spoke with Morning Edition's Noel King about the latest developments on COVID-19 vaccines for kids.

He noted that while kids are less likely to have a severe outcome if they get sick, they are not completely exempt from risk.

"We certainly want to get as many children vaccinated within this age group as we possibly can," he said. "This is not a benign situation."

Listen to the full conversation or read excerpts below.

On whether children who get the mRNA vaccine are at risk for myocarditis, heart inflammation that has been seen in rare cases

“Certainly they are at risk, but a very, very, very rare risk. I mean, the myocarditis that has been seen as a rare adverse event is ... predominantly in young men, not generally as young as 5 to 11. But there certainly could be some overlap there. So it's something that you pay attention to. But when the FDA looks at the data and they do a risk benefit analysis — which is what is the risk of an individual within that age group, getting COVID-19 and getting a serious outcome versus the risk of getting the adverse event from the vaccine — they determined very clearly that they weigh very heavily towards the benefit, as opposed to the risk.”

If parents or doctors are concerned, Fauci says, they could keep an eye out for things like chest discomfort, shortness of breath and fever after vaccination.

On whether he agrees with some FDA panel members that schools should not make the vaccine mandatory for young kids

I am always very much in favor of having parents make a decision and to do things voluntarily. There is a history of mandating vaccines to allow children to go in school. I know my children, who went to school here in the District, had to be vaccinated with measles, mumps, rubella and others. You'd like to have a voluntary decision about that. But let's just wait and see where it goes.

On when kids might be able to take their masks off in school

It's really going to depend on what the level of dynamics of viral spread is in the community. As you know, right now, even though we're doing better and the numbers are coming down, we still have a weekly average of a daily 70,000 cases per day. And when you have that type of viral dynamic, even when you have kids vaccinated, you certainly — when you are an indoor setting — you want to make sure you go the extra step to protect them. So I can't give you an exact number of what that would be in the dynamics of virus in the community, but hopefully we will get there within a reasonable period of time. You know, masks are for now, as we say, they're not forever. And hopefully we'll get to a point where we can remove the masks in schools and in other places, but I don't believe that that time is right now.

On whether kids who have already had COVID-19 should get vaccinated

We want to make sure that we get as much optimal protection as possible. And there's some very good studies in adults — albeit, not in children, but in adults — that if you get infected and recover from the infection, and then get vaccinated, the level of your protection is dramatically enhanced, much more so than just vaccination alone.

On whether there will be enough kids' vaccine doses to meet demand and infrastructure to deliver it to pharmacies and pediatricians' offices

We've been prepared for some time now to get these doses in enough quantity to be able to accommodate anyone who wants it, and getting it to places that are convenient for parents to get their children vaccinated. That's offices of pediatricians, pediatric hospitals and other areas, we’ll make it quite easy for them. Pharmacies, et cetera. So that was what the preparation was in anticipation of a favorable decision from the FDA and the CDC. So the answer to your question is yes, there is enough doses and they will be distributed in places for maximum convenience for the parents.


Texas' new law restricts transgender athletes' participation on school sports teams

Posted October 27, 2021 at 9:31 AM EDT
A large group of people wearing masks and holding signs fill the staircase of a marble lobby.
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LGBTQ rights advocates protested efforts to pass legislation restricting the participation of trans student athletes on Sept. 20 at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas.

Texas is the latest state to prohibit transgender youth from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 25 into law on Monday. It requires public school students compete in interscholastic athlete competitions based solely on their assigned sex at birth, and takes effect on Jan. 18.

The law says that K-12 students who participate in interscholastic competition can only play on teams in accordance with the sex listed on their official birth certificate — which is defined as the one issued at or near the time of their birth and may not correspond with their gender identity.

It applies to all teams "sponsored or authorized" by a school district or open-enrollment charter school, and charges the University Interscholastic League — which governs athletic contests in the state's public primary and secondary schools — with implementing the same rules.

It goes further than existing UIL rules, which require students participating in high school sports to do so in accordance with the sex listed on their birth certificates but accepts amended birth certificates. (Critics of that policy, which was implemented in 2016, say it forces students to go through the time-intensive and potentially costly process of changing their birth certificates in order to play.)

The text of the bill says that it aims to "further the governmental interest of ensuring that sufficient interscholastic athletic opportunities remain available for girls to remedy past discrimination on the basis of sex."

Lawmakers have debated several versions of the measure since January, and it polls well with the highly conservative voters that Abbott is courting ahead of his 2022 reelection campaign.

Supporters of the bill say they believe it will prevent trans athletes — and specifically trans girls — from having an unfair advantage when they compete against cisgender students, as Texas Public Radio reports.

That's not based in science, as one researcher told NPR this spring.

"We know that men have, on average, an advantage in performance in athletics of about 10% to 12% over women, which the sports authorities have attributed to differences in levels of a male hormone called testosterone," said geneticist and pediatrician Dr. Eric Vilain.

"But the question is whether there is in real life, during actual competitions, an advantage of performance linked to this male hormone and whether trans athletes are systematically winning all competitions. The answer to this latter question, are trans athletes winning everything, is simple — that's not the case."

Opponents are slamming the bill for targeting trans athletes and limiting their opportunities.

"This law will further harm the very kids who need support from their peers and teachers," LGBTQ organization GLAAD tweeted. "It's unnecessary and shameful to target children who just want to grow up in peace and be themselves, like any other kid."

Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project, said on Twitter that the nonprofit organization is available for 24/7 support and will keep working with its partners to challenge the law.

In a statement, the Trevor Project criticizedthe law as an attack on trans and nonbinary youth, who are already at higher risk for mental health challenges and suicidal ideation compared to their peers.

It noted that the bill also comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 "anti-LGBTQ bills," including more than 40 bills targeting transgender and nonbinary youth — the most of any state.

In recent years, dozens of state legislators across the country have introduced bills that would limit or prohibit transgender women from competing in women's athletics. ESPN has this list of where various states stand.

The NCAA Board of Governors, which oversees the main governing body for college sports, said in an April statementthat it "firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports," and will only hold NCAA championships in locations that can provide a respectful and welcoming environment.


Josh Cavallo becomes one of the few professional men's footballers to come out as gay

Posted October 27, 2021 at 9:26 AM EDT
Josh Cavallo of Adelaide, left, and Daniel Stynes of the Glory contest for the ball during the A-League match between Perth Glory and Adelaide United at HBF Park, on May 19, 2021, in Perth, Australia.
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Josh Cavallo of Adelaide, left, and Daniel Stynes of the Glory contest for the ball during the A-League match between Perth Glory and Adelaide United at HBF Park, on May 19, 2021, in Perth, Australia.

Australian footballer Josh Cavallo has come out as gay, becoming one of the few professional men's soccer players in the world to do so.

The Adelaide United midfielder announced that he was gay in a video posted to the team’s Twitter account Tuesday night.

“I’m a footballer, and I’m gay,” said an emotional Cavallo.

“Growing up, I always felt the need to hide myself, because I was ashamed. Ashamed I would never be able to do what I love and be gay, hiding who I really am to pursue a dream I always wished for as a kid. All I want to do is play football and be treated equally,” he said.

Cavallo, 21, said he feared people would think differently of him when he came out, but that he’s received an overwhelming amount of support from his loved ones, coaches and fellow teammates.

“I want to inspire and show people that it’s OK to be yourself and play football. It’s OK to be gay and to play football,” he said. “Be yourself. You were meant to be yourself, not someone else.”

Cavallo received messages of support on social media from other top-tier football clubs, including FC Barcelona and Juventus.

Collin Martin, a current U.S. soccer player for the San Diego Loyal, has also come out publicly as gay. This year has seen several U.S. male professional athletes come out as the first openly gay players currently participating in their respective sports, including NHL hockey player Luke Prokop and NFL defensive end Carl Nassib.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said that Josh Cavallo was the first active male player for a top-flight soccer squad to come out publicly as gay. Cavallo is one of the few professional soccer players to announce they are gay.


COVID vaccine for younger kids takes a step towards authorization

Posted October 27, 2021 at 8:53 AM EDT
A parent in a red sweatshirt and a face mask adjusts their child's face mask. The two children wear blue polos, plaid skirts, face masks and braided hair.
A mother adjusts the facemask of her child as she enters the St. Lawrence Catholic School on the first day of school after summer vacation in north of Miami, on August 18, 2021.

Advisors to the Food and Drug Administration voted yesterday in favor of authorizing a kid-sized dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use in children 5-11. They looked at data finding the vaccine was about 91% effective against symptomatic infection for children in this age group.

Their support means they think the benefits of vaccinating children with a kid-sized dose outweigh the risks of any rare, potentially serious side effects. Nearly 100 children aged 5-11 have died from COVID-19.

Next up the FDA will weigh in on authorization, which could come at any time. The FDA typically follows the advice of its advisory committee. CDC advisors will meet next week to give their recommendations as well.

NPR's Allison Aubrey joined Morning Edition with the latest news; listen here.

What about side effects?

One thread advisors to the FDA looked at carefully was the prevalence and severity of side effects among kids in the trial. Overall, the common side effects seen in the kid's trial were mild and the same sorts that are common with adult COVID vaccine: sore arms, headaches, aches and chills.

Doctors are keeping their eyes on reports of a rare condition called myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart. The risk is very rare and no children in Pfizer's 5-11 trial developed the condition, although some older children have after receiving the vaccine.

The CDC is very clear that parents who are worried about myocarditis should still have their children 12 and older get the vaccine.

"The known risks of COVID-19 illness and its related, possibly severe complications, such as long-term health problems, hospitalization, and even death, far outweigh the potential risks of having a rare adverse reaction to vaccination, including the possible risk of myocarditis or pericarditis," the agency says on its website.

What about vaccine hesitancy among parents?

Aubrey reports adults who have had the COVID vaccine themselves are more likely to say they'll vaccinate their young children, according to a recent poll from the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project. The poll also found two-thirds of parents of 5- to 11-year-olds say they're likely to vaccinate their children. Many parents say full approval, not emergency authorization, from the FDA or vaccine mandates for in-person schooling might prompt them to change their minds.

For more on the authorization process, click here.

South America

Brazil's Senate recommends charges against Bolsonaro for mishandling pandemic

Posted October 27, 2021 at 8:20 AM EDT
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is seen during a press conference last week in Brasilia
Evaristo Sa/AFP via Getty Images
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is seen during a press conference last week in Brasilia

Brazil’s Senate has voted to recommend charging President Jair Bolsonaro with “crimes against humanity” over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 600,000 people across the country.

That charge and several others were backed by lawmakers and forwarded for possible indictment. They come at the conclusion of a six-month investigation of the government’s handling of the pandemic.

The president has insisted that he is innocent and it is unclear if the country’s prosecutor-general, Augusto Aras — a Bolsonaro appointee — will take up the recommendation.

"The chaos of Jair Bolsonaro's government will enter history as the lowest level of human destitution," Sen. Renan Calheiros, a rapporteur of the report, said, according to Reuters.
Brazil, with a population of about 213 million, has recorded more than 606,000 deaths from COVID-19 — second only to the U.S.

As the toll has risen, Bolsonaro’s popularity has waned. His management of the crisis has frequently appeared cavalier and dismissive, with repeated comparisons of the deadly virus to the flu and an insistence that claims of its danger are “exaggerated.” The president has also derided governors and mayors as “criminals” for imposing lockdowns and restrictions to control the spread of the virus.

Like former U.S. President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro contracted COVID-19, but subsequently recovered. Also like Trump, he touted an unproven remedy, hydroxychloroquine, as a prophylactic and treatment for the virus.

Among the charges the Senate panel has recommended against the president is “charlatanism” for his promotion of the dubious drug, according to The Associated Press.


A nor’easter bearing down on the Northeast hits New England with high winds, rain

Posted October 27, 2021 at 7:58 AM EDT
A person wearing a rain poncho struggles with their umbrella during an autumn Nor'easter on October 26, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
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A person wearing a rain poncho struggles with their umbrella during an autumn Nor'easter on Tuesday in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

A powerful nor’easter that began earlier this week continues to pummel the Northeast with heavy rain and gusty winds.

On Wednesday morning, the center of the storm was located off Cape Cod, where the National Weather Service reported a “dangerous” situation with winds “gusting over Hurricane Force” and numerous downed trees. The NWS advised against traveling.

As of 7 a.m. there were more than 425,000 customers without power in Massachusetts.

Parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island were also under high wind warnings.

Delivery drivers rain-proof their bikes during an autumn Nor'easter on October 26, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
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Delivery drivers rain-proof their bikes during an autumn Nor'easter on October 26, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

In New York and New Jersey, which bore the brunt of the storm on Tuesday, winds remained high into Wednesday morning as the storm moved north. Parts of the New York area set daily rainfall records on Tuesday.

The winds and rain produced by the storm are expected to calm down later Wednesday as the storm moves out into the Atlantic Ocean, the NWS reported.

Ferocious as it is, the nor'easter doesn’t appear to be as destructive as Hurricane Ida was in early September. Ida cut a path up most of the East Coast and killed at least 49 people across several states.


What you need to know about the proposed billionaire income tax

Posted October 27, 2021 at 7:56 AM EDT
A woman with short hair wearing a red blazer, a man wearing a navy suit and orange tie and a white-haired man wearing a black suit and blue tie sit side-by-side in leather chairs, mid-conversation. A gold-framed mirror above them reflects a crowd of journalists wearing face masks and holding up their phones.
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(L-R) Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Angus King (I-ME) speak to reporters about a corporate minimum tax plan at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday in Washington, DC.

Senate Democrats have unveiled a new plan to help pay for President Biden's agenda.

After months of negotiations over how exactly to scale back a $3.5 trillion spending package, they announced last night that they plan to fund a portion of it through new taxes on a small number of large corporations and very wealthy individuals.

Lawmakers are scrambling to finalize the legislation this week, though this is just one aspect of it.

NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell explains how the proposed billionaire tax would work. Click to listen here or read more.

What we know about the plan

Democrats say the new rules would apply to about 700 people (out of a population of about 300 million) who either earn more than $100 million annually or have more than $1 billion in assets over three years.

They'd have to report how much their assets gained or lost each year, then would be taxed on those gains or could write off those losses. Non-tradeable assets like real estate or business interests would only be taxed once, when the asset is sold, and would include an additional fee similar to an interest payment.

The corporate tax would not change the top corporate tax rate — as Biden had initially proposed — but would target companies that have until now avoided paying taxes altogether.

It would levy a 15% minimum tax on the roughly 200 companies that consistently earn more than $1 billion each year.

What we don't yet know

Democrats say this plan would raise hundreds of billions of dollars, but don't have the exact figures yet. They're still waiting on an official estimate.

Those details will be key when it comes to selling the plan to skeptical members of their party, of which there are at least a few. Some Democrats, especially in the House, have concerns about how exactly it will be administered.

It's not the only area in which Democrats have yet to reach an agreement. As of last night, they're still negotiating over paid leave, dental and vision benefits and Medicare, details on climate change, Medicaid and a few other tax provisions.