10 things you need to know today: February 25, 2021
Biden nominates a postal board slate that could oust DeJoy, the FDA confirms Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is safe, and more
Biden nominates 3 to USPS board as Postmaster General DeJoy vows to stay
President Biden has picked two Democrats and a voting-rights advocate to join the Postal Service's governing board, filling three of four open spots, the White House confirmed to The Washington Post on Wednesday. The appointments could help Biden reassert control over the Postal Service as a defiant Republican postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, vows to stay and continue his efforts to raise USPS prices and slow the mail. The nominees, who must get Senate confirmation, reportedly are recently retired deputy postmaster general Ron Stroman, National Vote at Home Institute CEO Amber McReynolds, and Anton Hajjar, the former general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union. If confirmed, they will give the board, which has the power to fire DeJoy, an even number of Democrats and Republicans, with McReynolds the only independent.
FDA confirms Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe and effective
The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that its review found that Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective. The determination signaled that the FDA could authorize the vaccine for emergency use by this weekend. The FDA review showed the vaccine in a large clinical trial was 66 percent effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, and 85 percent effective at preventing severe illness. The vaccine in the clinical trial completely protected against COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths 28 days after vaccination. A committee is set to meet Friday to consider whether the FDA should give the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which can be stored for three months in a refrigerator, emergency approval.
Biden reverses Trump orders on visas, funding to big cities
President Biden on Wednesday reversed several actions by former President Donald Trump, lifting some visa bans and revoking a memo that potentially limited federal funding to cities that saw major protests last summer. Biden revoked a Trump freeze on many types of visas due to the coronavirus pandemic, reopening the country to people seeking green cards. Biden said Trump's order "harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here." The Trump order of funding reviews for "lawless zones" had threatened funding cuts for Seattle, Portland, New York City, and Washington, D.C., because of demonstrations in those cities against racial injustice. Biden also lifted a Trump order titled "Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture."
Republican leaders split over future Trump role in GOP
A news conference held by House Republican leaders ended abruptly on Wednesday after Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) contradicted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) over whether former President Donald Trump should play a role in the party's future. McCarthy, who will be speaking this weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference, said Trump had the right to appear there, as he is scheduled to do. Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican and one of the few who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol, was then asked whether Trump should be addressing the conference. "That's up to CPAC," she said, adding: "I don't believe that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country." McCarthy then said, "On that high note, thank y'all very much."
WHO's COVAX program delivers first vaccine doses
The World Health Organization's COVAX program on Wednesday delivered 600,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. It was the first batch of COVAX's campaign to equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries. COVAX plans to deliver 2 billion doses for 92 countries by the end of 2021. UNICEF and the WHO jointly described the delivery as a "momentous occasion" in the global fight against COVID-19. Ghana, a West African nation of 30 million people, said Tuesday that it had recorded 81,245 COVID-19 cases and 584 deaths. The actual number is believed to be higher. The country will start its vaccination campaign on March 2.
Moderna to start trials of booster shot for COVID-19 variant
Moderna announced last week it will begin testing a new version of its COVID-19 vaccine designed to target the coronavirus variant first reported in South Africa. The pharmaceutical company said it has sent doses of the booster shot to the U.S. National Institutes of Health for clinical trials. In a statement, CEO Stéphane Bancel said Moderna is "committed to making as many updates to our vaccine as necessary until the pandemic is under control." Moderna previously revealed that preliminary studies showed the vaccine still made neutralizing antibodies above protective levels for the South African variant, but because it was a reduced level, it prompted the company to begin tweaking the vaccine against the strain, as well as variants that first spread in the United Kingdom and Brazil.
Manchin to support Haaland for interior secretary
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), head of the Senate Energy Committee, said Wednesday that he would support the confirmation of Deb Haaland to be interior secretary, significantly increasing her chances of joining President Biden's Cabinet. The centrist senator is a swing vote in potential nomination battles. His opposition to Biden budget-chief nominee Neera Tanden on Friday threw her confirmation into doubt. But Manchin said Haaland's bipartisan credentials won him over. "While we do not agree on every issue, she reaffirmed her strong commitment to bipartisanship," Manchin said, adding that Haaland had "reiterated the position of the Biden administration that our country will continue to use fossil fuels for years to come, even as we transition to a cleaner energy future." With all 50 votes from the Democratic caucus, Haaland could be confirmed with no Republican votes.
Former Cuomo aide details alleged sexual harassment
A former aide accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment in an essay posted online Wednesday. The aide, Lindsey Boylan, described numerous uncomfortable interactions with the third-term Democrat over several years, including an unwanted kiss on the lips. Boylan, who worked for the state's economic development agency, said Cuomo once invited her to play strip poker while they were on a government airplane. Cuomo's administration, which already was contending with a backlash over its handling of coronavirus data from nursing homes, denied Boylan's allegations. "Ms. Boylan's claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false," said Caitlin Girouard, Cuomo's press secretary.
Dow hits record in surge after Powell reassurances
U.S. stocks surged on Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell reaffirmed the central bank's commitment to continuing policies to boost the economy, including keeping interest rates near zero. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped by nearly 1.4 percent to close at a record high of 31,961.86. It was the blue-chip index's 10th closing high of 2021. The S&P 500 rose by 1.1 percent, snapping a five-day losing streak. The Nasdaq gained about 1 percent. For the second straight day, Wall Street opened lower only to rebound after Powell's testimony to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. U.S. stock index futures were mixed early Thursday, with Dow futures edging higher and those of the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq falling slightly several hours before the opening bell.
L.A. sheriff says Tiger Woods crash 'purely an accident'
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Wednesday that Tiger Woods' rollover crash, which sent the legendary golfer to the hospital and jeopardized his career, was "purely an accident," and no criminal charges would be filed against him. The "black box" from Woods' SUV was expected to make the investigation go quickly, Villanueva said. Speed "was maybe a factor in this accident," which occurred on a steep downhill curve in Southern California on Tuesday morning, Villanueva said. There "was no evidence" to suggest that Woods was impaired in any way, the sheriff added. Investigators are checking Woods' cellphone records and other potential evidence to see whether he might have been distracted, although that would be a traffic infraction and not a crime, law enforcement officials said. Woods underwent extensive surgery on his right leg, foot, and ankle.