10 things you need to know today: December 7, 2021
The White House confirms diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics, DOJ sues Texas over its redistricting maps, and more
U.S. announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics
The Biden administration will not send diplomats or other official U.S. representatives to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in response to the Chinese government's "ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity" targeting Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in the Xinjiang region, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. "The athletes on Team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home," Psaki said. "We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games." China's Foreign Ministry vowed to take "resolute countermeasures," calling the U.S. move a "sinister" attempt to disrupt the Games. A ministry spokesperson called the boycott "pure grandstanding," because U.S. politicians were not invited.
DOJ sues Texas over redistricting maps
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Monday accusing Texas lawmakers of drawing new congressional and state House district maps designed to discriminate against Latino and Black voters by diluting their voting strength. The Biden administration joined individual voters and organizations that have already made claims that the legislative maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Texas legislature are unconstitutional and violate the Voting Rights Act, and were devised to help Republicans continue to dominate elections in the state despite a growing population of minority voters who favor Democrats. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted that the lawsuit was an "absurd" Biden administration "ploy to control Texas voters."
New York City announces vaccine mandate for private companies
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday announced a first-in-the-nation coronavirus vaccine mandate for all in-person employees at private companies in the city. De Blasio called the policy a "preemptive strike" against a potential new wave of COVID-19 cases fueled by the new Omicron coronavirus variant, and to help limit infections from holiday gatherings. "Omicron is here, and it looks like it's very transmissible," de Blasio told MSNBC. "The timing is horrible with the winter months." New York City already requires vaccinations for city workers, and customers and employees at indoor restaurants, entertainment venues, and gyms. Starting Dec. 27, workers at private companies will have to have received at least their first dose.
Biden to warn Putin of sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine
President Biden plans to tell Russian President Vladimir Putin in a Tuesday video conference that Russia will face harsh economic sanctions if it invades Ukraine, Reuters reported, citing U.S. officials. The sanctions reportedly could target Putin's inner circle, Russian energy companies, and Russia's biggest banks, potentially making it harder for Moscow to convert rubles into U.S. dollars and other currencies. The warning comes after Russia massed thousands of troops near the Ukrainian border. Russia has repeatedly denied it plans to invade, saying the troop movements were defensive, primarily to prevent Ukraine from forcefully retaking territory it lost to Russia-backed separatists. Biden on Monday consulted with European allies about potential sanctions and a joint effort to support Ukraine's sovereignty.
Nunes leaving Congress to run Trump social media startup
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a close ally of former President Donald Trump, announced Monday that he plans to resign from Congress this month to become chief executive of Trump's new social media company. "I'm writing to let you know I've decided to pursue this opportunity," the 10-term congressman wrote in a letter to constituents. Trump Media & Technology Group said Nunes would become its CEO in January. Nunes, who served as chair of the House Intelligence Committee when Republicans controlled the chamber, led GOP efforts to discredit investigations into Trump aides' contacts with Russia during Moscow's election meddling. Nunes would have faced a tougher path to re-election than usual in the midterms because California's congressional map is being redrawn and is expected to tilt his district more toward Democrats.
DOJ closes Emmett Till lynching investigation with no new charges
The Justice Department announced Monday it had closed its investigation into the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a Black teen killed by two white men in Mississippi. Till's abduction and murder helped start the civil rights movement. The Justice Department reopened the investigation after a historian wrote that key witness Carolyn Bryant Donham had recanted her claim that Till had grabbed her, whistled, and made vulgar comments to her. But federal officials, citing the statute of limitations and Donham's insistence that she never altered her account, said there was not enough evidence to charge her with perjury. Duke University historian Timothy Tyson said in his 2017 book The Blood of Emmett Till that Donham had said her original story was "not true."
3 more kidnapped missionaries released in Haiti
Three more of the 17 missionaries kidnapped by Haiti's notorious 400 Mawozo street gang have been released, Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said Monday. The newly released former hostages "are safe and seem to be in good spirits," the organization said. Two others were freed in November, so 12 of the captives remain in the gang's custody. The organization said it could not identify those released. The group, which included 16 Americans and a Canadian, was kidnapped while returning from a visit to an orphanage outside Port-au-Prince in October. 400 Mawozo has demanded $1 million in ransom for each of the captives, and the gang's leader has threatened to "put a bullet" in them if he doesn't get the money. It was not immediately clear whether anything has been paid so far.
Meadows says in new book that Trump's blood oxygen level fell dangerously low
Then-President Donald Trump's blood oxygen level fell lower than the White House admitted at the time of his bout with COVID-19 last year, hitting a dangerously low 86 percent, according to a New York Times report on former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows's new book. Meadows says in the book, The Chief's Chief, that Trump at first resisted leaving the White House to go to a hospital, but agreed to go after Meadows insisted it was necessary. "It's better that you walk out of here today under your own strength, your own power, than for me to have to carry you out on a gurney in two days," Meadows wrote in the book, which goes on sale Tuesday. Trump denied a Times report this year that he was sicker than his White House had acknowledged.
Washington Post editorial page chief Fred Hiatt dies at 66
Longtime Washington Post opinion section editor Fred Hiatt died Monday at a New York City hospital. He was 66. Hiatt's wife, Margaret Shapiro, said he had a sudden cardiac arrest on Nov. 24 while shopping for his family's Thanksgiving dinner during a visit with their daughter in Brooklyn, and did not regain consciousness. Over two decades as the Post's editorial page editor, "Hiatt was one of Washington's most authoritative and influential opinion-makers," the Post reported. "He either wrote or edited nearly every unsigned editorial published by the Post — more than 1,000 a year — and edited the opinion columns published on the paper's op-ed page and website." Before Hiatt joined the editorial page in 1996, he and Shapiro served as the Post's co-bureau chiefs in Tokyo, then in Moscow.
Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit dies after workout
This year's Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, died Monday from a heart attack during a workout at Santa Anita in Southern California, trainer Bob Baffert confirmed to The Associated Press. "My entire barn is devastated by this news," Baffert said. "Medina Spirit was a great champion." The 3-year-old racehorse won the 2021 Kentucky Derby in May, but the colt tested positive for betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory drug, leading to Baffert's suspension. An attorney for Baffert recently said that testing showed Medina Spirit tested positive due to "the horse being treated for a skin condition by way of a topical ointment." According to AP, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has not yet held a hearing that could result in Medina Spirit's disqualification.