Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 7, 2021

Republicans say they'll allow a vote on short-term debt limit fix, a federal judge blocks Texas' abortion ban, and more

1

McConnell says GOP will allow vote on short-term debt limit fix

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Republicans would go along with raising the debt limit to cover federal spending into December. The proposal marked an acknowledgement of the threat of a catastrophic and historic debt default in mid-October. McConnell has said Republicans would not help Democrats lift the cap, calling for them to do it on their own, without GOP votes, using the complicated process known as budget reconciliation. McConnell said his short-term solution would give Democrats more time to get that done and "moot Democrats' excuses about the time crunch they created." Senate Democrats declared victory and said a vote would be held soon. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said there was no need for a complicated process when a vote on a straightforward increase would "get this done today."

2

Federal judge blocks Texas abortion ban

A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked Texas from enforcing its near-total abortion ban, saying "this court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right." U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman of Austin said the law prevented women "from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution." Attorney General Merrick Garland called the decision "a victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law." Texas said it would appeal. Some abortion clinics planned to resume the procedure. Others expressed caution. The law lets private citizens sue anyone who "aids and abets" abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, and people can sue retroactively over abortions performed while a court blocked enforcement.

3

WHO recommends use of 1st malaria vaccine

The World Health Organization announced Wednesday that it would recommend the rollout of the first malaria vaccine. Pilot testing has shown it to be safe, and that it could be administered in remote and rural settings. "I started my career as a malaria researcher, and I longed for the day that we would have an effective vaccine against this ancient and terrible disease," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva. "Today is that day, an historic day." Tedros said the vaccine could save tens of thousands of lives. The vaccine, RTS,S, was developed by GSK. It is administered in four doses, giving it a complexity seen as a potential concern in countries with limited health-care resources. 

4

White House to buy $1 billion worth of rapid COVID tests

The White House announced Wednesday that it would buy $1 billion worth of rapid, at-home coronavirus tests, potentially quadrupling the number of tests available to the public by December. "This is a big deal," said Scott Becker, chief executive officer of the Association of Public Health Laboratories. "The White House is beginning to take testing as seriously as they've taken vaccinations." Becker said up to now, shortages of rapid tests had made it hard to track and counter a surge in coronavirus cases driven by the highly infectious Delta variant. The move came after the Food and Drug Administration on Monday decided to allow the sale an Acon Laboratories' antigen test. The Biden administration also plans to double President Biden's commitment to expand the number of pharmacies participating in the federal government's free testing program.

5

Report: Facebook delays new products pending reviews

Facebook is delaying the rollout of new products pending a review following a whistleblower's allegation that the company knew content on its platforms could be harmful to users, particularly teens, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter. More than a dozen people are conducting "reputational reviews" on new and existing Facebook products, partly to ensure that they don't harm children, the Journal reported. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post on the social network that he asked executives to review the products over the next few days. "It's very important to me that everything we build is safe and good for kids," Zuckerberg wrote. The company last week held off on launching Instagram Kids over mental-health concerns.

6

Biden approval rating drops to a new low

President Biden's approval rating dropped to 38 percent in a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. That's down from 42 percent three weeks ago, and a low point in Biden's presidency. Biden's popularity was at a high of 50 percent in mid-February, but it has fallen as he faced criticism for the tumultuous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and as his economic agenda hit trouble in Congress. "Battered on trust, doubted on leadership, and challenged on overall competency, President Biden is being hammered on all sides as his approval rating continues its downward slide to a number not seen since the tough scrutiny of the Trump administration," Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy said. Eighty percent of Democrats approved of Biden's performance, compared to 4 percent of Republicans.

7

4 injured in shooting at Texas high school

Four people were injured Wednesday in a shooting at Timberview High School in Arlington, Texas. Three of the victims were taken to a hospital for treatment. Two of the injured suffered gunshot wounds. One, a 15-year-old boy, underwent surgery and was in critical condition, according to police. The other, a 25-year-old English teacher, had a collapsed lung and broken ribs. Police said the gunfire appeared to have started after a fight. Police arrested an 18-year-old suspect, Timothy George Simpkins. Like two of the victims, he was a student. Simpkins reportedly fled the school after the incident, but turned himself in to police after getting an attorney. He was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

8

2 share Nobel Prize in chemistry for creating molecular tools

David W.C. MacMillan of Princeton University and Benjamin List of the Max Planck Institute in Germany were awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for their work creating tools for constructing molecules in a cheap, environmentally friendly way. The tools, known as organocatalysts, can be used to make new drugs, chemicals, and molecules that can capture light in solar cells. The broad range of products made from catalysis contribute an estimated 35 percent of global gross domestic product. Johan Aqvist, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said the concept was "as simple as it is ingenious." "It is already benefiting humankind greatly," said Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, a professor of chemical biology at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, during the news conference to announce the award.

9

Colorado hospital system halts transplants on unvaccinated

A Colorado hospital system said Wednesday that it wouldn't perform transplant surgery on unvaccinated patients because they face an elevated risk of fatal COVID-19. "For transplant patients who contract COVID-19, the mortality rate ranges from about 20 percent to more than 30 percent," UCHealth said in a statement to CBS Denver. "This shows the extreme risk that COVID-19 poses to transplant recipients after their surgeries." The new policy had an immediate impact. Leilani Lutali, who has stage 5 renal failure, was supposed to get a new kidney in months, but she is now looking for a new hospital because neither she nor her donor, Jaimee Fougner, are vaccinated. Fougner, who met Lutali in Bible study, said she had not been vaccinated due to religious objections.

10

5.7-magnitude Pakistan earthquake kills at least 20

A 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck the Balochistan province in Pakistan early Thursday, killing at least 20 people. The quake hit 62 miles east of Quetta, Balochistan's provincial capital, at a depth of around 12 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Officials report that hundreds of mud homes have been destroyed, and many of the victims were killed by falling walls and roofs. Harnai, a remote mountainous city, was hit hard, but rescuers had trouble getting to the area due to a lack of paved roads and electricity. Authorities estimated that at least 150 people were injured across the province. Officials warned that the death toll will likely rise as search and rescue crews reached isolated, hard-hit areas.

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