Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 23, 2021

The Supreme Court declines to block Texas abortion law, former Giuliani ally Lev Parnas convicted on campaign finance charges, and more

1

Supreme Court declines to block Texas abortion law, agrees to hear challenges

The Supreme Court on Friday said it would let Texas continue enforcing a new law that bans most abortions in the state, but hear arguments in the case on Nov. 1. The justices first will consider whether the Justice Department and abortion providers can pursue lawsuits challenging the ban in federal court. The law prohibits abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected at about six weeks, before most women know they're pregnant. The ban has resulted in an 80 percent reduction in abortions in Texas, according to women's health clinics. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the law was "enacted in open disregard of the constitutional rights of women seeking abortion care in Texas." Court precedents guarantee abortion rights until fetal viability, at about 24 weeks.

2

Lev Parnas, a former Giuliani ally, convicted on campaign finance charges

Former Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas was convicted Friday of illegally funneling money to U.S. political campaigns to gain influence and bolster a marijuana business. The Soviet-born Parnas and his co-conspirator, Andrey Kukushkin, tried to "manipulate the United States political system for their own financial gain," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said. Kukushkin also was convicted. The men directed money to American politicians during the 2018 midterms aiming to increase the marijuana business' profits, Williams said. Parnas and another associate, Igor Fruman, also collaborated with Giuliani to find information that could damage President Biden's campaign, to help former President Donald Trump. That scheme led to the first of Trump's two impeachments.

3

Film crew complained of working conditions before fatal accident

A half-dozen crew members walked off the New Mexico set of Rust hours before actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins with a prop gun, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. Hutchins reportedly had advocated for better working conditions for her team after complaints of long hours and other issues. There had been two misfires on the prop gun on Saturday and one the previous week, a person familiar with the matter told the Times. "There was a serious lack of safety meetings on this set," the person said. An assistant producer reportedly handed Baldwin the prop gun, a Colt revolver, before a scene being filmed at Bonanza Creek Ranch outside Santa Fe, and told him it was "cold," meaning it was understood to be loaded with blanks and not live rounds.

4

Astros win ALCS to advance to World Series

The Houston Astros advanced to the World Series for the third time in five seasons on Friday with a 5-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox, winning the American League Championship Series. Yordan Alvarez, who was named ALCS MVP, drove in the first run with a double, and later hit a triple and scored again. Right fielder Kyle Tucker put the game away with a three-run homer. The Astros will go after the club's second championship against either the Atlanta Braves or the Los Angeles Dodgers, with Game 1 of the World Series scheduled for Tuesday. "We feel like we deserve this, and we're together in this," second baseman Jose Altuve, whose Game 4 eighth-inning home run turned the series' momentum, said.

5

U.S. reports record migrant apprehensions at southern border

Federal authorities apprehended more than 1.7 million migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border over the 12 months that ended in September, the most ever in a single fiscal year, according to Department of Homeland Security data released Friday. The surge peaked in the summer. About 61 percent of those caught at the border were sent right back to Mexico or their home country under a pandemic-era policy designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The policy, enacted by the Trump administration in March 2020, has resulted in a higher rate of repeat border-crossing attempts, as many of those sent back simply try again. In September, 26 percent of those caught illegally crossing the border had tried before, Customs and Border Protection said.

6

FDA scientists say Pfizer vaccine's efficacy in children outweighs risks

Food and Drug Administration scientists said Friday that the likely benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds outweighed the risks, including rare cases of heart inflammation. If the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sign off on the kid-sized doses of the Pfizer vaccine, it will be the first COVID-19 vaccine available to people that young. Also on Friday, Pfizer and BioNTech said their vaccine was 90.7 percent effective against coronavirus in clinical trials of children from 5 to 11, who were given either two 10-microgram doses or a placebo. The doses were a third as large as those given to people 12 and up. Sixteen of the trial participants who received the placebo got COVID, compared to three who were vaccinated.

7

New whistleblower says Facebook put profit before safety

A second Facebook whistleblower has submitted an affidavit to the Securities and Exchange Commission with more allegations that the social media giant prioritized growth and profits over fighting hate speech and misinformation, The Washington Post reported Friday after obtaining a copy of the document. The unidentified new whistleblower, who once worked on Facebook's Integrity team, said Facebook communications official Tucker Bounds at one point shrugged off the controversy over Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. According to the whistleblower, Bounds said lawmakers would "get pissy" about misinformation spread on Facebook, then "move onto something else. Meanwhile we are printing money in the basement." Bounds said it was hard to respond to an "empty accusation" from a "faceless person."

8

Dow rises to its 1st record high since August

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at an all-time high on Friday after Wall Street's third straight week of gains. The Dow rose by 74 points or 0.2 percent to 35,677.02, its first record since Aug. 16. The S&P 500, which set a record on Thursday, edged back by 0.1 percent on Friday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell by 0.8 percent. The Dow's gains came as many investors shifted away from tech stocks and bought blue-chips like American Express, which rose by 5.4 percent after a strong earnings report. Intel and Snap fell after posting disappointing earnings, dragging down the Nasdaq. Despite some struggles among tech companies, earnings season has been strong so far.

9

Robert Durst charged with murder of wife Kathie Durst

New York police have charged millionaire real estate heir Robert Durst with second-degree murder in the death of his wife, Kathie Durst, who disappeared in 1982, authorities confirmed Friday. A state police investigator filed the complaint on Oct. 19 in Lewisboro, New York, where the Dursts lived when Kathie Durst disappeared, Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah's office said in a statement. Durst, 78, was sentenced to life in prison without parole last week for killing a friend, Susan Berman, who allegedly helped him cover up his ex-wife's murder but was preparing to confess in 2000. The case was featured in the 2015 HBO documentary The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.

10

'Bosom Buddies' and 'Newhart' star Peter Scolari dies at 66 

Emmy-winning actor Peter Scolari, best known for his roles in Bosom Buddies and Newhart, has died after a two-year battle with cancer, his manager confirmed Friday. He was 66. Scolari starred opposite Tom Hanks in the ABC sitcom Bosom Buddies, and played producer Michael Harris in the CBS sitcom Newhart, earning three Emmy nominations. Scolari won an Emmy in 2016 for his guest role as Tad Horvath, the father of Lena Dunham's character on HBO's Girls. Scolari's other credits include Happy Days, Family Ties, The Love Boat, ER, The West Wing, White Collar, Blue Bloods, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show. Recently, he was starring on the Paramount+ horror series Evil as Bishop Thomas Marx. He also had numerous roles on stage, including in Hairspray.

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