Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 13, 2021

House approves short-term deal to extend debt limit, U.S. opens Canada and Mexico borders to vaccinated travelers, and more

1

House approves short-term deal to avert debt default

The House approved a bipartisan short-term deal to extend the debt limit to avoid a catastrophic default into December, sending it to President Biden for his signature. The Senate passed the agreement last week after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) proposed the temporary fix to give Democrats more time to raise the debt ceiling without Republican votes through a process known as budget reconciliation. Meanwhile, Democrats negotiated among themselves to trim a $3.5 trillion spending package that would expand the social safety net. Progressives are opposed to any cuts, but key moderates, led by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), are calling for the cost of the bill to be sharply reduced. Democrats can't pass the bill through reconciliation, which requires a simple majority, if they lose a single Democratic vote in the 50-50 Senate.

2

U.S. opens borders to vaccinated travelers from Canada, Mexico

The United States will lift border restrictions on travel from Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated people starting in November, Biden administration officials said Tuesday. The change will open the borders to many people who had been prevented from entering the country since the coronavirus pandemic started. Foreign travelers providing proof of vaccination will be allowed to enter the U.S. to visit family members or shop, effectively reopening the U.S. to tourists and other travelers in a significant step in the recovery from the economic fallout from pandemic restrictions in place for nearly 19 months. Unvaccinated travelers will still be prevented from crossing the borders. Truckers and students, who were never banned, also will have to start showing proof of vaccination starting in January.

3

Task force cools on taking aspirin to prevent heart attacks

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force on Tuesday released a draft statement recommending that people 60 and older should not take daily aspirin to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke, because new evidence indicates the potential harms outweigh the benefits. Adults ages 40 to 59 with elevated risk of cardiovascular disease should consult with their doctor before taking daily aspirin to prevent the ailments, the draft said. "The latest evidence is clear: starting a daily aspirin regimen in people who are 60 or older to prevent a first heart attack or stroke is not recommended," Task Force member Dr. Chien-Wen Tseng said. People already taking daily aspirin should continue unless told otherwise by their doctor.

4

Record 4.3 million quit jobs in August

A record 4.3 million people quit jobs across the United States in August, beating the previous high of 4 million set in April, according to data released by the Labor Department on Tuesday. The figure, which amounts to 2.9 percent of the U.S. workforce, reflected changing attitudes about work and home life among Americans since the coronavirus pandemic upended society last year. Many workers have expressed unwillingness to put up with low wages and difficult hours, and sought new opportunities. There were 10.4 million job openings in August, down from July's record high of 11.1 million but still historically high. Many businesses have had to raise wages to avoid being short-staffed, giving workers leverage to seek positions with better pay and conditions.

5

Immigration agents to stop mass arrests at workplaces

The Biden administration announced Tuesday that immigration agents would stop conducting mass arrests of undocumented immigrants at workplaces. Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a memo that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would prioritize targeting "unscrupulous" employers who exploit the vulnerability of undocumented workers by paying poorly, subjecting them to unsafe working conditions, and facilitating human trafficking. "Our worksite enforcement efforts can have a significant impact on the well-being of individuals and the fairness of the labor market," Mayorkas wrote. The announcement marked a shift from Trump administration policies, and was expected to meet forceful criticism from Republicans who say limits on arrests have contributed to a wave of migrant traffic at the U.S.-Mexico border.

6

FDA review finds Moderna booster increased antibodies

A Food and Drug Administration review found that Moderna's coronavirus booster dose increased protective antibodies in people who received the initial two doses at least six months earlier. FDA staff remained neutral on whether the booster was necessary. FDA scientists said Tuesday that the booster didn't meet all the agency's criteria, because protection from the initial two doses remained so strong that the benefit might not be wide enough to necessitate a third shot. The documents came out ahead of a meeting later this week in which outside experts will discuss a recommendation to the FDA on Moderna's request for authorization of its booster, a third dose half as big as the initial two. The FDA advisory panel also will consider Johnson & Johnson's request to authorize the booster it developed for people who receive its single-shot vaccine. 

7

Military archbishop says Catholic troops can refuse vaccine on religious grounds

The archbishop of the U.S. military, Timothy Broglio, said Tuesday that Catholic troops could refuse the Pentagon's COVID-19 vaccine mandate on religious grounds. Broglio said some service members had requested exemptions through the Religious Freedom Restoration Act since Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued the vaccine requirement for all service members over the summer. "No one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience," Broglio said in a statement. Broglio has expressed support for President Biden's vaccine mandate, citing guidance from the Vatican that COVID shots are morally acceptable and "not sinful." Still, he wrote, Catholics can form "a sincerely held religious belief that receiving the vaccine would violate his conscience."

8

Pamela regains hurricane strength ahead of landfall on Mexico's Pacific coast

Hurricane Pamela weakened to a tropical storm Tuesday then intensified again overnight, regaining hurricane strength as it approached Mexico. The storm had top sustained winds of 80 miles per hour early Wednesday as it headed toward an expected landfall near the port of Mazatlan. The storm passed the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula during the night and accelerated. The U.S. National Hurricane Center warned that the storm could bring life-threatening storm surges, flash floods, and dangerous winds to the area around Mazatlan. Pamela is expected to weaken after landfall as it crosses northern Mexico. It could be downgraded to a tropical depression by the time it reaches the Texas border on Thursday. Remnants of the storm could hit central Texas and southeast Oklahoma with heavy rain.

9

Coroner says Gabby Petito died by strangulation

Travel vlogger Gabby Petito, who disappeared during a cross-country trip with her fiance, died by strangulation, Teton County, Wyoming, Coroner Dr. Brent Blue said Tuesday after an autopsy. Blue, who last month ruled the 22-year-old's death a homicide, said her body had been "outside in the wilderness for three to four weeks" before it was found on Sept. 19. Blue said he couldn't comment on who strangled Petito. The news coverage of the case fueled a conversation about why many disappearances of racial minorities get far less attention. "Unfortunately this is only one of many deaths around the country of people who are involved with domestic violence, and it's unfortunate that these other deaths did not get as much coverage as this one," Blue said.

10

Nets say Kyrie Irving can't play until vaccinated

The Brooklyn Nets announced Tuesday that Kyrie Irving, who reportedly has decided not to get vaccinated against COVID-19, won't be allowed to play or practice until he can be a full member of the team under New York City's coronavirus guidelines, which require people to have at least one vaccine dose to enter indoor gyms. Brooklyn Nets General Manager Sean Marks said in a statement that Irving "has made a personal choice" about vaccination, but it "restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team." The Nets are legally unable to confirm that Irving is unvaccinated. Irving has said: "There's just a lot of questions about what's going on in the world of Kyrie, but I would like to keep that private."

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