10 things you need to know today: September 30, 2021
The Senate prepares to vote on averting a government shutdown, the IOC says only Chinese fans can attend Beijing Winter Games, and more
Senate to vote on deal aiming to avert shutdown
The Senate has reached a deal to avert a government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced late Wednesday ahead of a Thursday morning vote. The House is expected to sign off after the Senate vote. If the measure passes it will keep federal agencies from running out of money at midnight. Democrats separated proposals to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government into two bills on Wednesday, hoping to get at least the spending bill passed. Some Republicans are expected to support the government-funding bill, which also includes emergency disaster aid, but they have refused to back any Democratic attempt to raise the debt ceiling. Democrats also scrambled to work out internal differences over the $1 trillion infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion spending bill seeking to expand the social safety net.
Beijing Winter Olympics to allow domestic but not foreign spectators
The International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday that some Chinese fans will be allowed to attend the Beijing 2022 Winter Games in February, provided they follow rules imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Foreigners will be barred from the stands, as they were from the Tokyo Summer Olympics, which were held in 2021 after a one-year delay due to the pandemic. Athletes and officials will stay within a "closed-loop" system to protect them from infection. The rules are part of a list of COVID-19 protocols the Olympic Committee released as preparations for the Winter Olympics ramp up. The committee also said unvaccinated participants would face lengthy quarantines and daily testing. Team USA announced earlier this month that it will require all athletes and staff members to be fully vaccinated before leaving for Beijing.
GOP donor accuses Corey Lewandowski of unwanted sexual advances
Trashelle Odom, a Republican donor who has contributed to former President Donald Trump, accused former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski of making unwanted sexual advances toward her during a charity event in Las Vegas last weekend, Politico reported Wednesday. Odom — who is married to Idaho construction executive John Odom — told Politico in a statement that Lewandowski "repeatedly touched me inappropriately, said vile and disgusting things to me, stalked me, and made me feel violated and fearful." Four witnesses the interactions backed up Odom's allegations. Lewandowski allegedly claimed that he is "very powerful" because of his ties to Trump, and "can destroy anyone." Lewandowski did not reply to Politico's requests for comment. His attorney said he would not "dignify" the "accusations and rumors ... with a further response."
YouTube cracks down on content spreading misleading vaccine information
YouTube is banning content that spreads misleading or false information about coronavirus vaccines, the streaming video service announced in a blog post Wednesday. Under the crackdown, YouTube is taking down video channels associated with high-profile anti-vaccine activists, including Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Experts say misinformation from these channels is partly to blame for weak vaccination rates. "This is not one that should have been complicated," said Hany Farid, a computer science professor and misinformation researcher at the University of California at Berkeley. "We had 18 months to think about these issues, we knew the vaccine was coming, why was this not the policy from the very beginning?"
South Dakota lawmakers look into Noem meeting about daughter
South Dakota lawmakers from both parties on Wednesday demanded that Gov. Kristi Noem's (R) administration provide more information about a meeting she had last year with her daughter Kassidy Peters and state employees after an agency denied Peters' application to become a certified real estate appraiser. The Legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee plans to review the matter when it meets in late October, according to the committee's chair, state Sen. Kyle Schoenfish. South Dakota's top law enforcement official says he is looking into the July meeting, too. Noem has called a report by The Associated Press, which first reported on the meeting, an attack on her family. Noem's daughter was granted her certification as a residential appraiser at some point after the meeting.
Olympic champion pleads guilty in Jan. 6 riot case
Olympic gold medalist Klete Keller pleaded guilty Wednesday to obstructing an official proceeding by participating in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters seeking to block the certification of Trump's election loss. Keller's plea to the felony charge was part of a deal with prosecutors. He has agreed to cooperate and could testify as a witness at upcoming trials of other rioters. Keller was arrested in January. He was charged with seven crimes, but the other counts were dropped as part of the plea deal. Keller was the first rioter who wasn't a member of a right-wing extremist group to strike a deal to cooperate with prosecutors.
Gang war in Ecuador prison leaves at least 116 dead
A battle between rival gangs at the Litoral penitentiary in Guayaquil, Ecuador, left at least 116 inmates dead and another 80 injured, Ecuador officials said Wednesday. At least five of the inmates were decapitated. Violence in prisons has been escalating in recent years, but this was the worst penitentiary massacre in the South American country's history. The previous record is from February, when 79 inmates died at three prisons. President Guillermo Lasso announced Wednesday afternoon that he has declared a state of emergency in Ecuador's prison systems and said he will personally preside over the security committee in Guayaquil "to coordinate the necessary actions to control the emergency, guaranteeing the human rights of all those involved."
U.S. declares 23 species extinct
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday proposed removing 23 species from the endangered list because they have gone extinct. Government scientists say they have done everything they can to find any remaining trace of the 23 bird, fish, and other species. They also warned that climate change and habitat destruction could lead to more extinctions. "With climate change and natural area loss pushing more and more species to the brink, now is the time to lift up proactive, collaborative, and innovative efforts to save America's wildlife," said Deb Haaland, U.S. Secretary of the Interior. The newly extinct species include the ivory-billed woodpecker, which was known as the "Lord God Bird" and was America's largest woodpecker. The Backman's warbler, one of America's rarest songbirds, also is on the list.
Lava from volcano in Canary Islands reaches ocean
Lava from the volcano on La Palma island in Spain's Canary Islands reached the Atlantic Ocean, sending plumes of steam into the air and threatening to spread toxic gases into populated areas. Authorities warned residents outside the evacuation zone to stay indoors. The river of lava destroyed at least 656 buildings as it crept the four miles to the sea from the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge after the eruption began on Sept. 19. Initial air quality readings showed no danger in the area after the molten rock reached the water, but experts warned of the possibility of small explosions that could release gases that could damage people's lungs. No deaths or serious injuries have been reported since the start of the eruption, the island's first in 50 years.
Judge suspends Britney Spears' father as conservator
Judge Brenda Penny on Wednesday granted a petition from Britney Spears' lawyers to have her father suspended as overseer of the singer's $60 million estate. Britney Spears, 39, is pushing to have the 13-year conservatorship terminated altogether. At a hearing in June, she called the arrangement abusive and exploitative. "I am traumatized," she said. The judge said allowing Spears' father, Jamie Spears, to continue controlling her life and fortune under the current arrangement was "not tenable," and named a California accountant, John Zabel, as temporary conservator of the singer's finances. The conservatorship was set up in 2008 after the pop star's father said it was necessary due to her mental health struggles and substance abuse.