10 things you need to know today: October 22, 2021
House finds Bannon in criminal contempt, the CDC signs off on Moderna and J&J boosters, and more
House finds Bannon in contempt for ignoring Jan. 6 committee subpoena
The House voted 229 to 202 on Thursday to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena issued by the select committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters. Nine Republicans joined Democrats in favor of enforcing the panel's subpoena. One of them was Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), one of two Republicans on the committee. The rest of the party backed Trump, who continued to push his false claim that the election was stolen from him, saying in a statement before the vote: "The insurrection took place on Nov. 3, Election Day. Jan. 6 was the protest!" The House's decision sends the case to the U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., to determine whether to file charges against Bannon, a longtime Trump ally and former White House strategist.
CDC approves Moderna, J&J boosters and mix-and-match vaccines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has signed off on the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson coronavirus boosters, clearing the way for eligible, fully vaccinated Americans at risk of severe COVID-19 to get the shots beginning Friday. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky also went along with the recommendation of expert advisers and the Food and Drug Administration to let people mix-and-match vaccines, so eligible people will be able to choose a booster made by a different company than the one that made their initial vaccine. Walensky said in a statement Thursday night that the vaccines had been shown to be safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, "as demonstrated by the over 400 million vaccine doses already given."
Haiti gang leader threatens to kill kidnapped missionaries
The head of Haiti's 400 Mawozo gang threatened in a video to kill the 17 American and Canadian missionaries kidnapped on Saturday if he doesn't get the ransom he his group has demanded, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. "I swear that if I don't get what I want, I prefer to kill the Americans. I'll put a bullet in each of their heads," said Wilson Joseph, suspected by Haitian officials to be the head of the notorious gang blamed for this and other brazen abductions. The Journal said it was not able to immediately verify the video's authenticity. Haitian Justice Minister Liszt Quitel said earlier this week that 400 Mawozo has demanded $1 million in ransom for each of the kidnapped missionaries from the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries. The kidnapping victims, 16 Americans and one Canadian, range in age from 8 months to 48 years.
DeSantis calls special legislative session to block Biden vaccine mandates
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Thursday stepped up his fight against the White House over COVID-19 restrictions, calling for a special legislative session so the state's Republican-dominated Legislature can block President Biden's vaccine mandates. "We have an opportunity here to take additional action, and I think we have to do it," said DeSantis, who also has vowed to challenge Biden's mandates in court. "I think we have got to stand up for people's jobs and their livelihoods." Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls said his office had not received details on the plan for a special session. Biden in September said his administration would impose vaccine mandates on federal workers and businesses with more than 100 employees, prompting criticism from Republicans who said getting vaccinated should be a personal choice.
India celebrates its billionth coronavirus vaccine dose
India administered its billionth COVID-19 vaccine dose on Thursday. The milestone marked a sign of hope in a country of nearly 1.4 billion people after a devastating coronavirus surge this year fueled by the fast-spreading Delta variant. Roughly half of India's population now has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. About 20 percent are fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data. India has stepped up the pace of its vaccinations in the second half of the year after a slow vaccine rollout due to vaccine shortages and distribution problems. India is using two-dose vaccines, so accelerating the distribution of second doses is "an important priority," said V.K. Paul, head of the country's COVID-19 task force. "Complete coverage is absolutely critical," Paul said.
Pfizer/BioNTech booster 95.6 percent effective in Stage 3 trial
The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine booster dose was 95.6 percent effective against COVID-19 in a Phase 3 trial, the companies announced Thursday. The "efficacy was consistent irrespective of age, sex, race, ethnicity, or comorbid conditions," Pfizer and BioNTech said. More than 10,000 fully vaccinated people ages 16 and up randomly got the 30-microgram booster dose or a placebo, with a median delay of 11 months after getting the second dose to complete the initial regimen. During the study, 109 people who received the placebo got COVID, compared to just five people who got the booster. "These results provide further evidence of the benefits of boosters as we aim to keep people well-protected against this disease," Albert Bourla, Pfizer's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a news release Thursday.
Ex-Minneapolis officer gets 57 months for killing 911 caller
Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor was sentenced to 57 months in prison on Thursday for fatally shooting an unarmed Australian-American woman, Justine Ruszczyk Damond, after she called 911 to report a possible rape behind her home in 2017. Noor initially was sentenced to a 12 1/2-year sentence for his initial third-degree murder conviction, which was overturned last month. Judge Kathryn Quaintance said she imposed the maximum sentence for manslaughter because Noor showed a "generalized indifference to human life" when he fired "across the nose of your partner" after Damond appeared suddenly at the driver-side window. Noor was fired after he was charged. He has served more than 29 months, and with good behavior could be released next summer.
5 veterans quit as advisers and accuse Sinema of abandoning constituents
Five veterans resigned as advisers to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Thursday, saying the moderate Democrat was "hanging your constituents out to dry" by blocking filibuster reform and parts of President Biden's multitrillion-dollar spending plan seeking to expand the social safety. "You have become one of the principal obstacles to progress, answering to big donors rather than your own people," the veterans wrote in a letter that was obtained by The New York Times and will be featured in an advertisement by the progressive veterans' activist group Common Defense. Sinema and fellow moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have veto power in the 50-50 Senate where Democrats need every vote in their caucus to muster a simple majority, and have used it to demand spending cuts.
Remains found in Florida identified as Brian Laundrie's
Dental records showed that human remains found in a Florida nature reserve were those of Brian Laundrie, who disappeared last month after returning alone from a cross-country trip with his fiancée, Gabby Petito, the FBI's Denver office confirmed on Thursday. Investigators on Wednesday said they found a backpack and notebook belonging to Laundrie near the remains. A week after Laundrie went missing, authorities in Wyoming found Petito's body in a national forest. A coroner ruled her death a homicide by strangulation by hand. Laundrie's parents were notified by local police and had no further comment, their lawyer said. A lawyer for Petito's family said her parents are "grieving the loss of their beautiful daughter" and would make a statement "when they are emotionally ready."
Cinematographer dies when Alec Baldwin's prop gun misfires
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died Thursday after she was injured by a prop gun discharged by actor Alec Baldwin on the set of a Western movie, Rust, being filmed in New Mexico. The film's director, Joel Souza, was injured. The 63-year-old Baldwin was seen in tears outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, where he was questioned about the accident. Juan Rios, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, said the shooting occurred at Bonanza Creek Ranch while a scene was being rehearsed or filmed. "We're trying to determine right now how and what type of projectile was used in the firearm," he said. A spokesperson for Baldwin said the accident occurred when a prop gun with blanks misfired.