Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 22, 2021

Biden vows 'new era' of diplomacy in U.N. address, J&J says its booster significantly increases COVID protection, and more

1

Biden promises U.N. a 'new era' of diplomacy

President Biden told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that the United States was "opening a new era of relentless diplomacy," determined to work closely with other world powers to address global threats following the American military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden, in his first address to the U.N. since taking office, said his administration would dedicate its resources to ending the pandemic, fighting terrorism, and adjusting to shifting global power dynamics to better collaborate with other nations on matters of common concern, such as trade and cyber threats. "Our security, our prosperity, and our very freedoms are interconnected, in my view, as never before," Biden said. "And so, I believe we must work together as never before."

2

J&J says its booster significantly increased COVID protection

Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that a second dose of its one-shot coronavirus vaccine significantly increased protection against COVID-19 in a clinical trial. Researchers found that the booster showed 94 percent efficacy against mild to severe COVID-19 in U.S. trial participants, up from 74 percent efficacy from the first shot. The two doses were 100 percent effective at preventing severe COVID cases, although that figure came with a wide range of statistical uncertainty. Johnson & Johnson said in a news release that it had submitted the data to the Food and Drug Administration. An FDA advisory committee on Friday recommended authorizing the Pfizer-BioNTech booster to recipients of the Pfizer vaccine who are at least 65 years old or highly vulnerable to COVID.

3

House passes stopgap bill aiming to prevent shutdown

The House on Tuesday passed legislation seeking to raise the debt limit and avert a potential government shutdown by funding the government through Dec. 3. No Republicans joined the Democratic majority in the 220-211 vote. Senate Democrats need at least 10 Republican votes to beat a GOP filibuster. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said Republicans wouldn't help Democrats raise the debt ceiling. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the debt limit was a "phony issue," because it merely lets the federal government pay bills Congress has approved. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said allowing a government shutdown would be "catastrophic" for American families. House Republicans said the bill would provide a blank check for "socialist" programs. 

4

Memo suggests Trump campaign knew Dominion fraud allegations weren't true

A newly released memo suggested that former President Donald Trump's campaign aides "were aware early on" that many of their lawyers' election fraud claims against Dominion Voting Systems and election software company Smartmatic were untrue, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The court papers were filed late last week and released Monday night as part of a defamation lawsuit against Trump campaign officials being spearheaded by former Dominion employee Eric Coomer. The documents also indicate the officials were aware of the baseless allegations ahead of the "widely watched" Nov. 19 news conference, during which the campaign's legal team claimed Dominion, Smartmatic, financier George Soros, and Venezuela worked together to steal the election from Trump.

5

Watchdog: Suspend law licenses of couple who pointed guns at protesters 

Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis, Missouri, couple who pointed guns at racial-injustice protesters walking past their house, might face a suspension of their licenses to practice law. Missouri Chief Disciplinary Counsel Alan Pratzel this week asked the state Supreme Court to suspend the McCloskeys' law licenses, saying they showed "indifference to public safety" and "moral turpitude," and should be disciplined. Pratzel's office is responsible for investigating ethical complaints against lawyers in the state. The McCloskeys pleaded guilty in June to firearm charges, although they were pardoned weeks later by Gov. Mike Parson (R). The couple practice together at the McCloskey Law Center and specialize in personal injury law. 

6

Lava flow forces more evacuations in Canary Islands

Lava blasted out of a new vent that opened in a volcano on the island of La Palma in Spain's Canary Islands on Tuesday. Rivers of lava, in some areas nearly 20 feet high, rolled down hillsides toward the tourist haven's more densely populated coastal areas, burning everything along the way. The lava flows have destroyed 190 houses and forced 6,000 people to evacuate. The island is home to about 85,000 people. The lava's speed slowed to about 400 feet an hour, and was expected to reach the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday, according to the head of the Canary Island Volcanic Emergency Plan, Miguel Ángel Morcuende. When the lava, heated to more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, hits water, it could set off explosions and release toxic gas.

7

European court finds Russia responsible for killing of Kremlin critic

The European Court of Human Rights said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for killing Kremlin critic and former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London by polonium poisoning in 2006. Litvinenko died in London weeks after drinking tea later determined to have been laced with the deadly radioactive compound. In its ruling, the court said it "cannot but conclude" that two Russian intelligence agents, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, committed the assassination "acting as agents" of Russia. A 2016 British inquiry said Russian President Vladimir Putin "probably approved" the killing. Litvinenko said from his death bed he was certain Putin was responsible. The Kremlin has denied any involvement. 

8

Democrats, activists call treatment of Haitians at border 'unacceptable'

Democrats and civil rights leaders on Tuesday criticized the Biden administration for its treatment of thousands of Haitians seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said video showing Border Patrol agents on horseback trying to drive migrants out of Texas were "completely unacceptable." NAACP President Derrick Johnson said the scene repeats inhumane Trump-era policies and "disgustingly mirrors some of the darkest moments in America's history." The Homeland Security Department is investigating what happened in the footage. Vice President Kamala Harris said she was deeply troubled by the images. "Human beings should never be treated that way," she said. One group of Haitians briefly escaped as they were being transported away from the makeshift Del Rio, Texas, camp in a bus.

9

Companies say Texas abortion law threatens worker, customer health

Dozens of businesses, including ride-hailing service Lyft, cloud-storage firm Box, and online fashion retailer Stitch Fix, signed a statement released Tuesday voicing opposition to Texas' new law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The employers said that "restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health, independence, and economic stability of our workers and customers." The statement came after many companies debated for weeks how to respond to the restrictions passed by the Republican-led legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. Many companies, including Starbucks and Microsoft, declined to sign the letter. The law bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, making the procedure illegal before most women know they're pregnant.

10

Trump sues niece, NYT over tax story

Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against his niece, Mary Trump, and The New York Times over a 2018 story based on tax records and other financial documents. The article said Trump "participated in dubious tax schemes ... including instances of outright fraud." The article said tax dodging helped Trump make $413 million from his father's real estate empire. Trump's lawsuit, filed in a Dutchess County, New York, argued that his niece, the Times, and three of the newspaper's reporters "engaged in an insidious plot to obtain confidential and highly-sensitive records." The Times reporters won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for their work detailing the Trump family's tax history. Trump has declined to release his returns, unlike other major party presidential nominees.

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