Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 26, 2021

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies to U.K. Parliament, the Biden administration halts Sudan aid after coup, and more

1

Facebook whistleblower testifies to U.K. lawmakers 

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified to British lawmakers on Monday, urging them to crack down on the spread of hate speech and other harmful content on social media platforms before it is too late. "Right now, Facebook is closing the door on us being able to act. We have a slight window of time to regain people control over AI," Haugen said. Haugen repeated an allegation that she made recently to Congress, saying, "Facebook has been unwilling to accept even a little sliver of profit being sacrificed for safety." Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that was "just not true." Facebook said Monday in a statement that it had "reduced the amount of hate speech that people see by half this year."

2

Biden administration halts aid to Sudan after coup

The Biden administration plans to suspend $700 million in economic assistance to Sudan in response to a military coup in the northeast African nation, the State Department said Monday. The announcement came shortly after the military arrested Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other members of the government. The U.S. is calling for Sudan's military to respect "the aspirations of the Sudanese people to restore the country's path to democracy," State Department spokesman Ned Price said. The military declared a state of emergency as protesters took to the streets in the capital, Khartoum, calling for a return to the transition to democracy that started with the ouster of longtime dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir more than two years ago. Soldiers responding to the protest killed at least three people.

3

U.S. provides details on new rules for vaccinated foreign travelers

The Biden administration on Monday unveiled the specific changes in travel rules for foreign visitors set to take effect on Nov. 8. The new rules will let fully vaccinated adults enter the country. They have to show proof of vaccination before boarding their flight to the U.S. They must have received a vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization. They also will have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of their departure. "The airlines will verify vaccination status in the same way they have been, and will continue to do, with pre-departure negative COVID test results," a senior Biden administration official told reporters Monday. Children under 18 will be exempted from the vaccine requirement, largely because vaccines aren't yet available to children in many parts of the world, but those over 2 will have to show a negative COVID test.

4

Gunman kills 2 at Boise shopping mall

A shooting at a Boise, Idaho, shopping mall on Monday left two people dead and five others injured, including the suspect, Boise police said. A police officer who was among those injured was treated and released from a hospital. The unidentified gunman also was wounded in an exchange of gunfire with police and hospitalized in critical condition. The shootout occurred after officers responding to a report of gunfire in the mall encountered a person matching the suspect's description, Boise Police Department Chief Ryan Lee said. Police did not immediately identify the people killed or injured, and Lee said it was too early in the investigation to determine a motive. Boise Mayor Lauren McLean thanked shopkeepers who "reacted so quickly to take care of folks that were there," saying they "showed in a tough and chaotic moment, how much you care."

5

Trial showed Moderna vaccine safe, effective in children 6 to 11

Moderna said Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine was shown to be generally safe and effective in a clinical trial involving children aged 6 to 11. The company said it would submit the results to the Food and Drug Administration and its regulatory counterparts in Europe and elsewhere, seeking emergency authorization to administer the shots to children in that age group. The Moderna vaccine currently is authorized in the U.S. for people 18 and older. The company already has asked the FDA to authorize giving its vaccine to children aged 12 to 17, but a decision has been delayed as the agency assesses the risk of a rare inflammation of the heart. Pfizer and BioNTech are expected to get authorization for the use of their vaccine in children 5 to 11 within days or weeks.

6

Greenhouse gases hit record level despite drop during coronavirus lockdowns

Greenhouse gas concentrations surged to a record level last year despite a temporary decline in emissions during coronavirus lockdowns, the United Nations said Monday ahead of the organization's climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland. A new U.N. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report found that carbon dioxide levels increased by more than the average rate of the last decade in 2020, reaching 413.2 parts per million. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said that the rate of increase would push up temperatures "far in excess" of the 2015 Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. "We are way off track," he said. "We need to revisit our industrial, energy, and transport systems and whole way of life."

7

Tesla's market cap hits $1 trillion for 1st time

Tesla shares jumped by nearly 13 percent on Monday, vaulting the electric-car maker's market capitalization above $1 trillion for the first time. The spike followed car rental company Hertz's announcement that it planned to buy 100,000 Tesla cars by the end of 2022. After the purchase, electric vehicles will make up 20 percent of the Hertz fleet worldwide. Tesla shares, which bottomed out below $100 in the early days of the pandemic, settled above $1,000 for the first time, closing at $1,024.86. Tesla, the world's first trillion-dollar automaker, is now worth more than General Motors, Toyota Motor, Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, Honda, and several other automakers combined. The surge appeared to surprise Tesla CEO Elon Musk. "Strange that moved valuation," he said via Twitter, "as Tesla is very much a production ramp problem, not a demand problem."

8

White House launches program letting private citizens sponsor resettling Afghans

The Biden administration on Monday announced a new initiative allowing private citizens to sponsor resettling Afghan refugees. The program could shore up the U.S. resettlement system that proved weak as it was tested by thousands of recent arrivals, Roll Call said. Under the arrangement, groups of citizens can form what are called "sponsor circles" to help refugees with basic services and tasks traditionally handled by nonprofits — like securing housing, accessing government benefits, and providing food and clothing — during their first 90 days in the U.S. Local communities and organizations like Welcome.US, Airbnb, Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, among others, will also assist in the program, according to ABC News.

9

NYC police union challenges vaccine mandate in court

New York City's largest police union on Monday filed a lawsuit asking a judge to let unvaccinated police officers keep working despite a vaccine mandate imposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. The Police Benevolent Association of New York said the city should give police officers the option of testing regularly, arguing that a "test-or-vax" rule would protect public safety. On the day the lawsuit was filed in Staten Island, where many officers live, a crowd that included fire, police, and sanitation workers marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall, chanting, "We Will Not Comply." COVID-19 was the most common cause of officer duty-related deaths in 2020 and 2021, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

10

California gets historic rains, Northeast braces for another 'bomb cyclone'

A major storm system that slammed drought-stricken California with high winds and historic rains moved inland into other Western states early Tuesday after knocking down power lines and cutting electricity to more than 100,000 homes and businesses. Meteorologists said a "bomb cyclone" – a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure – was helping to drive an "atmospheric river" of precipitation from the Pacific Ocean onto the West Coast. "The same massive storm that is currently bringing heavy rain, snow, and strong winds to the Western states is expected to slowly move eastward across the country," AccuWeather senior meteorologist Brett Anderson said. Another bomb cyclone forming off the East Coast is expected to bring high winds and heavy rains to the Northeast, threatening flooding in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.

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