10 things you need to know today: September 28, 2021
Senate Republicans block bill needed to prevent government shutdown, a judge grants John Hinckley unconditional release, and more
Senate Republicans block bill needed to avert shutdown
Senate Republicans on Monday blocked a measure to avert a government shutdown and possible default on federal debt, pushing the country closer to a fiscal crisis. The vote was 48-50, with 60 votes needed to advance the legislation. No Republicans joined Democrats in support of the bill. Congress has through Thursday to pass a government funding package to prevent a partial government shutdown on Friday. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned Congress might have to act as soon as next month to prevent a first-ever federal debt default. Democrats also are trying to resolve infighting so they can pass a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion spending package. Both bills are crucial for President Biden's economic agenda.
Judge grants John Hinckley unconditional release
A federal judge on Monday granted an unconditional release to John Hinckley Jr., who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman in Washington said Hinckley could remain free as long as he remains mentally stable and follows a set of rules imposed when he left a Washington, D.C., hospital in 2016. Hinckley was 25 years old when he shot and wounded Reagan outside a Washington hotel. He also shot three others, including then-Press Secretary James Brady, who was paralyzed and died in 2014. A jury in 1982 found Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity, but he was committed to a mental health facility for three decades. "At this point the ball is in Mr. Hinckley's hands," assistant U.S. attorney Kacie Weston said at a hearing Monday.
Hospitals brace for staff shortages as vaccine mandates kick in
Hospitals and nursing homes braced for staff shortages on Monday as deadlines arrived for health-care workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in several states, including New York and California. Some administrators fear some employees will quit or face dismissal or suspension rather than get the shots. "How this is going to play out, we don't know," said Jan Emerson-Shea, a spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, which supports the vaccine requirement. "We are concerned about how it will exacerbate an already quite serious staffing problem." New York health-care employees had until the end of the day Monday to get their first dose, but some hospitals started during the day to suspend holdouts.
U.S. killings jump by nearly 30 percent
Killings surged by nearly 30 percent in the United States last year, according to data the FBI released Monday. The jump was the largest in a single year since the 1960s, when the federal government started compiling the national figures on murder and manslaughter. The overall violent crime rate rose by 5.6 percent in 2020. Property crimes dropped by 7.8 percent. Criminologists and police officials have been looking into whether the sudden rise in killings could be linked to societal changes brought by the coronavirus pandemic. So far in 2021, homicides have risen, but less sharply than last year.
Biden gets COVID-19 booster shot
President Biden got a COVID-19 booster shot on Monday as his administration expands its campaign to urge more people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. "Now, I know it doesn't look like it, but I am over 65. And that's why I am getting my booster shot today," said Biden, 78. The president's third shot followed last week's approval by federal health regulators of the Pfizer-BioNTech booster for older people who received their first and second Pfizer shots at least six months ago. Adults with certain underlying health conditions, people living in long-term care facilities, and high-risk workers also are eligible for the Pfizer booster. A majority of vaccinated Americans got Pfizer shots. Neither the Moderna nor Johnson & Johnson boosters have received federal approval yet.
New Kabul University chancellor bans women from campus
Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat, the new Taliban-appointed chancellor of Kabul University, tweeted on Monday that women are now prohibited from studying or teaching at the school. "I give you my words as chancellor of Kabul University, as long as a real Islamic environment is not provided for all, women will not be allowed to come to universities or work," he said. "Islam first." The move marks a reversal from earlier in the month, when the Taliban said Afghan women could stay enrolled at universities, as long as they wore burqas and were segregated from male students. However, it is in line with how the Taliban ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when women and girls were barred from going to school and working and had to be accompanied by a male relative while out in public.
Newsom signs law making universal mail-in voting permanent
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a law requiring that election officials send a mail-in ballot to every registered voter. The move made California the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent. The policies spread during the pandemic to help people vote in the 2020 election without risk of coronavirus infection. California had already been taking steps for two decades to give voters more options for casting ballots. "Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote," Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), the bill's author, said in a July Senate committee hearing.
Dallas and Boston Fed presidents resign amid stock-trade scrutiny
The Federal Reserve banks of Dallas and Boston said Monday that their presidents are stepping down after their stock trading during the coronavirus pandemic triggered a review of the central bank's ethics rules. Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said he decided to retire because "unfortunately, the recent focus on my financial disclosure risks becoming a distraction to the Federal Reserve's execution of that vital work." Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said earlier Monday he was stepping down nine months early for health reasons. Kaplan and Rosengren are both 64, and most regional Fed leaders have to retire at 65. Both regional Fed presidents decided to resign separately and were not forced to resign by Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Biden administration proposes rule to firm up protections for DREAMers
The Biden administration on Monday proposed a rule seeking to restore a program providing protection against deportation for hundreds of thousands of so-called DREAMers, immigrants who arrived in the United States without documentation when they were children. A federal judge in Houston ruled in July that the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was illegal, largely because of procedural shortcuts taken by the Obama administration. The Biden administration's rule recreates the 2012 policy but goes through the federal regulatory process to shore up its legality. The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who led a DACA challenge with eight other states, did not immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment.
Jury finds R. Kelly guilty in sex-trafficking trial
A federal jury in New York on Monday found R&B singer R. Kelly guilty of racketeering conspiracy and sex trafficking charges. Prosecutors said Kelly used agents, bodyguards, and others to lure and trap girls and young women he then sexually abused. Kelly also was convicted of violating the Mann Act, which bars travel over state lines for illegal sex. Kelly will be sentenced in May, and faces from 10 years to life in prison. Kelly's lawyer, Deveraux Cannick, said the defense was "disappointed with the verdict" and was considering an appeal. Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis said the jury "delivered a powerful message to men like R. Kelly" that they will be held accountable.