Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 8, 2021

Senate approves short-term deal to raise the debt limit, Biden urges companies to take the lead on vaccine mandates, and more

1

Senate passes short-term deal to prevent federal debt default

The Senate on Thursday passed a deal to extend the federal debt ceiling into December and avert a looming catastrophic and historic default. After prodding by GOP leaders, 11 Republicans joined every Democrat in voting to advance the bill, narrowly beating a GOP filibuster. The agreement raises the debt limit by $480 billion, enough to last until Dec. 3. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) hammered out the agreement with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who proposed the short-term fix on Wednesday. McConnell said the reprieve would give Democrats time to work out a long-term debt limit increase on their own using a process called budget reconciliation, which would let them bypass a GOP filibuster. The House is expected to take up the bill on Tuesday.

2

Biden urges companies to lead on vaccine mandates

President Biden on Thursday urged private companies to require coronavirus vaccinations for workers. Biden last month announced a vaccine mandate affecting 80 million workers at companies with more than 100 employees. A lengthy Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule-making process could prevent it from kicking in for weeks, but Biden said companies could take the initiative and get started now. "Businesses have more power than ever before to change the arc of this pandemic and save lives," Biden said on a trip to Illinois. Data released in September indicated that unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than vaccinated people. A growing number of big companies have said they would enforce vaccine mandates, but several Republicans have vowed to challenge the mandate.

3

Senate describes 'relentless' Trump push for DOJ to overturn election  

When Attorney General William Barr left office in late December, then-President Donald Trump and his top aides launched a "relentless" push to get interim Justice Department leaders to investigate bogus allegations of voter fraud and reverse Trump's 2020 election loss to President Biden, according to a new interim report by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The pressure included nine calls and meetings with acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue. Then-Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark told Rosen he would turn down Trump's offer to replace Rosen, provided Rosen joined forces with those pushing Trump's election fraud story. The report said the committee confirmed that Mark Meadows, who was Trump's chief of staff, pushed Rosen on "multiple occasions" to investigate alleged fraud.

4

Pfizer requests emergency approval for children's COVID vaccine

Pfizer and BioNTech said Thursday that they were asking the Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorization to offer their COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11. If the FDA signs off, the Pfizer vaccine would be the first available to children that young. Pfizer's shots already are fully approved for those 16 and older, with emergency-use authorization for children ages 12 to 15. Pfizer last month reported that its Phase 2/3 trials showed that the vaccine was safe and highly effective in younger children. The dose was just 10 micrograms, making it significantly smaller than the 30-microgram dose for those 12 and older, but it still generated a "robust" immune response, Pfizer said. The FDA has said it could analyze the data with weeks.

5

Trump lawyers say he'll assert executive privilege in Capitol riot inquiry

Former President Donald Trump plans to invoke executive privilege to prevent testimony by his onetime aides in a congressional investigation into the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters. In a letter sent to some potential witnesses subpoenaed by the House committee, Trump indicated that he would use the privileges to keep presidential communications from Congress, The Associated Press reported, citing a person who had seen the letter. The committee last month issued subpoenas to Trump's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and other high-ranking aides in Trump's White House. At a rally before the mob went to the Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump told supporters to "fight like hell" to prevent lawmakers from certifying his loss to Biden.

6

Coast Guard boards ship in California oil-spill investigation

Coast Guard investigators on Thursday boarded a cargo ship as part of an investigation into a ruptured offshore pipeline that leaked oil that has washed up on Southern California beaches. The inspection of the Rotterdam Express container ship followed speculation that a ship's anchor might have dragged and bent the pipeline, causing the 144,000-gallon leak. Data from a marine navigation service reportedly indicated that the nearly 1,000-foot, German-flagged ship made unusual movements while anchored near the pipeline. The navigation service, MarineTraffic, later said a faulty GPS system on the ship, not movement, might have caused the data shifts. "We have proof by the logbook, which is updated hourly, that the vessel did not move," said Nils Haupt, a spokesman for Hapag-Lloyd, the company that operates the Rotterdam Express.

7

2 journalists win 2021 Nobel Peace Prize

Journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia were awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said they stood out for their efforts to defend freedom of expression. "Free, independent, and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda," Reiss-Andersen said. Ressa in 2012 co-founded the news website Rappler, which the Nobel committee credited with focusing "critical attention on the (President Rodrigo) Duterte regime's controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign." The committee said the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta that Muratov co-founded in 1993 has used "fact-based journalism and professional integrity" to provide "information on censurable aspects of Russian society rarely mentioned by other media."

8

Biden to restore national monument protections Trump scrapped

President Biden on Friday plans to sign three proclamations restoring protections for Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts national monuments, Biden administration officials said Thursday. Former President Donald Trump in 2017 sharply reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in southern Utah, allowing development, mining, and ranching on formerly protected land. Last year, Trump signed an order to allow commercial fishing within Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, which former President Barack Obama designated as the Atlantic Ocean's first marine monument in 2016. The Biden administration said restoring the protections would help "to better protect, conserve, and restore the lands and waters that sustain the health of communities and power our economy."

9

Poll: Americans' trust in media drops

Americans' trust in the media to "report the news fully accurately and fairly" fell by four percentage points from last year's level in a Gallup survey released Thursday, hitting its lowest point since 2016 and its second-lowest on record. Just 36 percent of U.S. adults say they have "a great deal" or "a fair amount" of confidence in newspaper, television, and radio news reporting, just 4 points above 2016's record low of 32 percent. Following the bottoming out in 2016, trust in the media "rebounded" 13 points in two years, mostly due to "a surge among Democrats" amid former President Donald Trump's administration and the resulting media scrutiny, Gallup said. But since 2018, that number dropped by nine points, with the trust level sliding among all party groups.

10

Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah wins Nobel literature prize

Zanzibar-born novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday. Gurnah has written 10 novels. His 1994 book Paradise, about a boy pawned off by his father to settle debts to a merchant, made the shortlist for the Booker Prize. He served as a professor of English and postcolonial literature at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, until he retired. Gurnah was awarded the Nobel, which comes with more than $1 million in prize money, "for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents," the Swedish Academy announced Thursday morning. American poet Louise Glück won the 2020 Nobel literature prize.

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