Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 15, 2021

FDA advisers recommend Moderna booster for some groups, the House Jan. 6 panel sets a vote to hold Bannon in contempt, and more

1

FDA advisers recommend limited emergency use of Moderna booster 

A panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers recommended emergency-use authorization of Moderna's coronavirus booster shot for people 65 and older, and those 18 to 64 at high risk of severe COVID-19 or elevated risk due to their jobs. The panel's 19 members unanimously backed starting to give these groups the 50-microgram third dose, which is half the size of the initial two doses. Patients in the targeted groups would be eligible six months after receiving the initial two-dose regimen. Committee members said they would have liked to see more data justifying the Moderna booster, but that it made sense to approve it given that they have already cleared the Pfizer-BioNTech booster for emergency use. Regulators aren't obligated to follow the advisers' recommendations, but typically do.

2

House Jan. 6 panel sets vote to hold Bannon in contempt

The House select panel investigating the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack has scheduled a vote to hold Steve Bannon, former President Donald Trump's one-time strategist, in criminal contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena, the committee's chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said Thursday. "The Select Committee will use every tool at its disposal to get the information it seeks, and witnesses who try to stonewall the Select Committee will not succeed," Thompson said in a statement. Investigators announced Sept. 23 that they were issuing subpoenas for Bannon and three other Trump administration aides. Two of the ex-aides, former Defense Department official Kash Patel and former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, reportedly are engaging with investigators, but Bannon's lawyer has informed the committee he would not.

3

Weekly jobless claims fall below 300,000 for 1st time since pandemic hit

The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell below 300,000 last week for the first time since the pandemic began, the Labor Department reported Thursday. First-time jobless claims dropped by 36,000 to 293,000 for the week that ended Oct. 9 in what was widely interpreted as a sign that hiring was bouncing back as the summer coronavirus surge driven by the highly infectious Delta variant wanes. Continuing claims, which run behind the "headline number" by one week, also dropped to their own pandemic-era low, having fallen by 134,000 to 2.59 million. The decline came after a record 4.3 million Americans left their jobs in August, suggesting one reason for declining layoffs was that many workers are leaving voluntarily.

4

Judge orders Trump to give videotaped deposition in protesters' lawsuit

Former President Donald Trump must give a videotaped deposition next week for a lawsuit filed by a group of Mexican protesters who were assaulted during a September 2015 rally outside Trump Tower and blame Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric. Trump was a candidate at the time, and had recently said that Mexican immigrants were criminals and rapists. "Donald J. Trump shall appear for a deposition Oct. 18, 2021 at 10 a.m. ... or, in the event of illness or emergency, on another mutually agreed to date on or before Oct. 31, 2021," Judge Doris Gonzalez's order said. Trump also could have to provide a deposition later this year as part of a defamation lawsuit filed by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, Trump's old reality TV show.

5

Suspect in deadly Norway bow-and-arrow attack issued 'warning' in video

Police said Thursday that the Danish man accused of fatally shooting five people with a bow and arrow in Norway is a radicalized Muslim convert who posted a 2017 video calling himself a "messenger" delivering "a warning." "Hello. I'm a messenger. I come with a warning. Is this really what you want? And for all who want to make up for themselves, so it's time. Bear witness that I am a Muslim," the 37-year-old man, Espen Andersen Bråthen, reportedly said in English in a Facebook video flagged to law enforcement in 2017. The attack on Wednesday in the town of Kongsberg, about 40 miles southwest of Oslo, left four women and a man dead, Police Chief Ole B. Saeverud said. The victims were between the ages of 50 and 70. Several other people were wounded. The Norwegian intelligence service said it was treating the attack as an "act of terror."

6

Beirut street violence erupts during protest of port blast inquiry

Intense gunfire erupted in Beirut Thursday during a Hezbollah protest over the investigation into a huge explosion last year at the city's port. The fighting with pistols, automatic rifles, and rocket-propelled grenades left at least six people dead and dozens more wounded in the worst street violence the Lebanese capital has seen in years. The gunfire lasted for hours, forcing the evacuation of schools. Many residents fled to hide in shelters. It was not immediately clear who started the shooting, which broke out shortly after a crowd brought out by Iran-backed Hezbollah and Shiite Muslim allies from the Amal Movement started their protest against Judge Tarek Bitar, who is leading the port-blast investigation. Hezbollah accuses the judge of singling out its political allies for questioning.

7

Federal appeals court rejects latest DOJ challenge of Texas abortion ban

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that Texas can continue enforcing its ban on most abortions, rejecting the Biden administration's latest request to block the law. The 2-1 decision by a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals marked the third time the conservative-leaning appeals court has allowed the Texas restrictions to stand. The ruling moved the nation's most restrictive abortion law a step closer to the Supreme Court. The Texas law bans abortions once cardiac activity can be detected, typically after about six weeks. The 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling gave women a constitutional right to abortion in the first six months of pregnancy, when the fetus can't survive outside the womb.

8

Biden to meet with Pope Francis at Vatican

President Biden will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Oct. 29 to discuss "working together on efforts grounded in respect for fundamental human dignity, including ending the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the climate crisis, and caring for the poor," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Thursday. Biden, the United States' second Catholic president, and Francis share concerns on key issues, including climate change and economic disparities. Conservatives in the church have questioned whether Biden should be allowed to receive Communion because of his support for abortion rights. Francis recently appeared to criticize conservative bishops, repeating the church view that abortion is "murder" but saying he had never refused anyone the eucharist because the decision on granting Communion should be pastoral, not political.

9

Disgraced S.C. lawyer arrested in insurance fraud case

South Carolina authorities on Thursday arrested disgraced lawyer Alex Murdaugh, whose wife and son were murdered in June, and charged him with swindling millions of dollars from the sons of his longtime housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who died in 2018 after falling down stairs at Murdaugh's South Carolina home. Murdaugh referred Satterfield's sons to a lawyer to file a wrongful death suit, but didn't tell them that the lawyer, Cory Fleming, was his college roommate. Murdaugh and his insurers reached a $4.3 million settlement, but the housekeeper's sons, Tony Satterfield and Brian Harriott, said Murdaugh got most of the money. Murdaugh, also suspected of stealing from clients and asking a cousin to kill him so his son would get a life-insurance payout, was arrested at a Florida drug detox center.

10

Bill Clinton hospitalized with non-COVID-related infection

Former President Bill Clinton was hospitalized in Southern California on Tuesday for a non-COVID-related infection, his spokesman Angel Urena said on Thursday. In a statement, Urena said Clinton, 75, was admitted to the University of California Irvine Medical Center and is now "on the mend, in good spirits, and is incredibly thankful to the doctors, nurses, and staff providing him with excellent care." Clinton received intravenous antibiotics and fluids, and is being treated in the hospital's intensive care unit for his privacy and safety, and remained hospitalized for monitoring, according to a statement Thursday night from his doctors. Clinton underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2004, and had another heart procedure in 2010 to open a blocked artery.

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