Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 5, 2021

Biden calls Republicans "hypocritical" for stand on debt ceiling, Facebook apps return after hours-long outage, and more

1

Biden calls Republicans 'hypocritical' in battle over debt ceiling

President Biden on Monday increased pressure on Republicans to agree to raise the debt ceiling to pay for spending already approved by Congress, accusing them of being "hypocritical, dangerous, and disgraceful" by risking a devastating federal debt default. "Not only are Republicans refusing to do their job, but they're threatening to use their power to prevent us from doing our job — saving the economy from a catastrophic event," Biden said. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the government will run out of ways to keep paying its bills by Oct. 18. Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said Democrats should handle raising the debt ceiling themselves by using the budget reconciliation process, which would allow them to do it without Republican votes.

2

Facebook apps return after hours-long outage

Facebook and its apps, including WhatsApp and Instagram, went down worldwide on Monday, as did the internal systems used by the social media giant's employees. "This is epic," said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for network-monitoring company Kentik Inc. The services were out for hours, far longer than the last major internet outage, which occurred in June and kept the world's top internet sites offline for less than an hour. The company said its engineers found that changes to the internet infrastructure of its servers disrupted network traffic between its data centers, "bringing our services to a halt." Facebook eventually restored service by resetting server computers at a data center in Santa Clara, California. "We're sorry," the company said. "Thank you for bearing with us."

3

Biden administration reverses Trump rule against abortion referrals

The Biden administration on Monday scrapped a rule imposed by the Trump administration that barred clinics receiving federal family-planning funds from advising people about abortions. The new rule for the Title X family-planning program will authorize these health centers to continue receiving federal money regardless of whether they refer patients to facilities that offer abortions. The policy takes effect Nov. 8. Critics of the Trump administration Title X policy called it an "abortion gag rule" that limited conversations between health professionals and patients. The change came as new abortion laws, including one in Texas barring people from ending pregnancies after six weeks, are giving the Supreme Court's expanded conservative majority an opportunity to roll back abortion rights guaranteed since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

4

French report estimates 216,000 children sexually abused by clergy since 1950

A report released Tuesday found that sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in France was far more pervasive than previously believed, with an estimated 216,000 children abused by about 3,000 clergy members since 1950. Adding the victims of laypersons, the number of victims could reach 330,000, according to an estimate by the independent commission that compiled the report using demographic and archival analysis. Commission president Jean-Marc Sauvé called the numbers "damning" evidence of "systemic" failures. The President of the Conference of Bishops of France, Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, said church leaders were "appalled" at the numbers of victims. "Their voices are shaking us," he said. Addressing himself to victims, he added, "I wish on that day to ask for pardon, pardon to each of you." 

5

Southern California oil spill kills wildlife as cleanup continues

Dead fish and birds washed ashore in Southern California as cleanup crews rushed to contain an oil spill that was threatening to keep the shoreline around Huntington Beach closed for months. Officials were looking into suspicions that the leak from an offshore oil pipeline might have been caused by a ship's anchor. Environmentalists expressed outrage and called for an end to offshore drilling. An anchor hitting the pipeline is "one of the distinct possibilities," Amplify Energy CEO Martyn Willsher said during a news conference. Officials said the spill of more than 125,000 gallons of oil had already damaged wetlands and affected six miles of shoreline. Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said there had been "substantial ecological impacts" on the beach and wetlands.

6

Andrew Yang announces departure from Democratic Party

Andrew Yang, who ran unsuccessful campaigns for president and New York City mayor, announced Monday that he was leaving the Democratic Party, which he joined in the 1990s in support of then-President Bill Clinton's reelection effort. Yang said in a blog post that joining the party back then was "a no-brainer to me," but that he came to feel that the affiliation was "something of an odd fit." "I've been a Democrat my entire adult life," Yang wrote. "And yet, I'm confident that no longer being a Democrat is the right thing." Politico reported last month that Yang planned to form a third party because he believed neither Democrats nor Republicans addressed the needs of many Americans. The announcement came days ahead of the release of Yang's book, Forward: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy. The new party is expected to be called the Forward Party.

7

Supreme Court rules against appeal for D.C. House vote

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an effort to give District of Columbia residents a voting representative in Congress. The justices upheld a lower court ruling against 11 Washington residents who argued that the Constitution gives Congress the power to grant D.C. residents voting representation in the House of Representatives. "Residents of the District of Columbia are the only adult American citizens subject to federal income taxes who lack voting representation in Congress, except for felons in some states," the plaintiffs told the justices in a brief earlier this year. A three-judge panel rejected that position, citing a decision in an earlier case that found that the Constitution says House members should be chosen by "the people of the several states," which leaves out D.C. because it isn't a state.

8

Francis Collins to step down as head of NIH 

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, 71, plans to announce his resignation as the agency's leader on Tuesday, according to media reports. Collins, who has led the NIH for 12 years, will return to his lab at the National Human Genome Research Institute, which is part of NIH, The Washington Post said. A physician-geneticist, Collins led efforts to map the human genetic code. More recently he helped lead the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. A former atheist who converted to Christianity as a young adult, he has crafted some pro-vaccine messaging for religious Americans. In September, he referred to the vaccine as "what you could call an answer to a prayer," adding, "why wouldn't you say, 'Thank you, God,' and roll up your sleeve?"

9

J&J to ask FDA to authorize its COVID booster shot

Johnson & Johnson plans to ask the Food and Drug Administration this week to authorize the company's coronavirus vaccine booster shot, The New York Times reported Monday, citing officials familiar with the plans. Johnson & Johnson, which makes a one-dose vaccine, will be the last of the three federally-authorized vaccine providers to start a push for a booster. The push comes as trials show that at least older adults and people in high-risk groups could benefit significantly from more protection. Federal officials have grown concerned that the more than 15 million Americans who got Johnson & Johnson's vaccine are at too great a risk of severe COVID-19. Pfizer's booster has been authorized for some people, and regulators are considering clearing Moderna's booster.

10

NY judge says Trump must give deposition in Apprentice contestant lawsuit

A New York state judge on Monday ruled that former President Donald Trump must submit to a deposition in a defamation lawsuit filed by a former contestant on The Apprentice, the reality TV show Trump hosted before he was elected. Justice Jennifer Schecter of the New York state court in Manhattan gave Trump until Dec. 23 to undergo questioning by accuser Summer Zervos' lawyers. Zervos accused Trump of unwanted kissing and groping, and brought the case after Trump called the collected allegations of his female accusers "lies." Zervos sued Trump in January 2017. His lawyers blocked the case by arguing that a sitting president could not be sued, but that argument dissolved when Trump lost the 2020 election to President Biden. "He just cannot delay this case any longer," Zervos' lawyer Moira Penza said at the conference where Schecter made the ruling. Trump's lawyer said the former president would countersue under a state law encouraging free speech. 

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