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European Central Bank officials will set policy this week against a backdrop of investors betting on a global upturn even as the euro zone remains mired in pandemic lockdowns and painfully slow vaccinations. President Christine Lagarde will need to test her institution’s current stimulus plans against the challenges presented by those contrasting situations. While some of her colleagues have signaled concern over rising global bond yields, driven partly by the faster vaccine drive and bigger stimulus plans of the U.S., others are taking it in their stride for now.

Senate approves covid relief bill

US President Joe Biden
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US President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden’s signature $1.9 trillion covid-19 relief bill passed the Senate 50-49 on Saturday following a more than 25-hour marathon of amendment votes completed after Democrats settled an intra-party dispute over unemployment aid. The measure, the American Rescue Plan Act, now heads back to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said a vote will be held Tuesday. Although some House progressives have complained about changes made by the Senate, none so far have threatened to withhold votes. Democrats aim to have it signed into law next week. The bill would provide the biggest health-care expansion since the Affordable Care Act, a temporary plan to slash the child poverty rate and send $1,400 payments soon to millions of Americans. In addition, state and local governments are set to get more than $350 billion in aid and schools would get an infusion of funding, reports Bloomberg.

Vienna witnesses anti-lockdown protest

Austria eased its latest lockdown last month and reopened schools, shops and museums
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Austria eased its latest lockdown last month and reopened schools, shops and museums

Thousands turned out Saturday for the latest protest in Vienna against coronavirus restrictions and several arrests were made for breaching public order laws and covid regulations, police said. Many of the protesters did not wear masks or observe social distancing as they made their way through the centre of the Austrian capital to a park where the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) had called a rally. Austria eased its latest lockdown last month and reopened schools, shops and museums. But the demonstrators voiced opposition to the restrictions still in place, including the closure of restaurants and cafes as well as the tests that school pupils must take to attend in-person lessons. Former interior minister Herbert Kickl accused the government of "dancing on the edge of lunacy" in a speech to the crowd. Demonstrators chanted slogans and held placards seeking the resignation of centre-right Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

Many Myanmar citizens waiting to enter India

Security forces have escalated a brutal crackdown on protesters, killing more than 50 people
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Security forces have escalated a brutal crackdown on protesters, killing more than 50 people

Scores of Myanmar nationals have gathered at the border with India waiting to join about 50 who have already crossed the frontier to flee the country's coup turmoil, Indian officials said Saturday. Myanmar authorities have meanwhile asked India to send back eight police who fled this week. Forty-eight Myanmar nationals, including the eight police, have entered India's northeastern state of Mizoram, a senior officer in the Assam Rifles paramilitary force told AFP. Anti-coup demonstrations have spread across Myanmar since a February 1 putsch ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Security forces have escalated a brutal crackdown on protesters, killing more than 50 people. Myanmar has sent a letter, seen by AFP, asking for the eight police to be quickly sent back.

Lebanon readies for crisis, chaos

Hassan Diab threatened to suspend his duties if that would increase pressure for a new Cabinet to be formed
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Hassan Diab threatened to suspend his duties if that would increase pressure for a new Cabinet to be formed

Lebanon's caretaker prime minister warned Saturday that the country was quickly headed toward chaos and appealed to politicians to put aside differences in order form a new government that can attract desperately needed foreign assistance. Hassan Diab threatened to suspend his duties if that would increase pressure for a new Cabinet to be formed. He spoke in a terse address to the nation as the currency continued its rapid collapse against the dollar, trading at one point at 10,500 Lebanese pounds on the black market for the first time in its history. Angry protesters have blocked streets and highways across the country with burning tires for days, as the pound slid to record new lows. The crash in the local currency has resulted in a sharp increase in prices as well as delays in the arrival of fuel shipments, leading to more extended power cuts around the country, reports AP.

Even the sled dog race gets a covid impact

This year’s Iditarod will be marked by pandemic precautions, a route change, no spectators, the smallest field of competitors in decades
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This year’s Iditarod will be marked by pandemic precautions, a route change, no spectators, the smallest field of competitors in decades

Traveling across the rugged, unforgiving and roadless Alaska terrain is already hard enough, but whatever comforts mushers previously had in the world’s most famous sled dog race will be cast aside this year due to the pandemic. In years past, mushers would stop in any number of 24 villages that serve as checkpoints, where they could get a hot meal, maybe a shower and sleep in a warm building before getting back to the nearly 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. But this year, they will spend the next week or so mostly camping in tents outside towns, and the only source of warmth will come from their camp cookers. This year’s Iditarod will be marked by pandemic precautions, a route change, no spectators, the smallest field of competitors in decades, the return of one former champion and the swan song of a fan favorite, all against the backdrop of pressure on the race and sponsors by an animal rights group.

Curated by Sohini Sen. Have something to share with us? Write to us at feedback@livemint or tweet to @shohinisen

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