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10 things you need to know today: October 27, 2021

FDA advisers recommend Pfizer's vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11, senators grill more social media companies on harmful posts, and more


FDA advisers recommend Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11

The Food and Drug Administration's advisory committee on Tuesday made a non-binding recommendation to authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. The panel said the potential benefits outweighed the risks of a rare cardiac side effect. The vote was 17 to 0, with one abstention. The pediatric vaccine's step toward approval came more than 10 months after the first U.S. adults got their COVID-19 vaccines. Approval for pediatric vaccines is seen as crucial to protecting children in school and in holiday gatherings during an ongoing pandemic that has killed more than 736,000 people in the United States, according to The Washington Post. "To me, it seems that it is a hard decision but a clear one," said Patrick S. Moore, a microbiologist at the University of Pittsburgh, noting that 94 children in the age group have died of COVID-19.


Senators grill YouTube, Snap, TikTok leaders on damaging posts

Lawmakers questioned YouTube, Snap, and TikTok on data privacy, damaging posts, and other issues on Tuesday, shifting attention briefly to other social media companies after weeks of criticism of Facebook for allegedly putting profits above user safety. A bipartisan group of senators told executives of the companies they feared the firms' software was driving young users to inappropriate posts, and companies were not doing enough to remove dangerous content. "Everything that you do is to add users, especially kids, and keep them on your apps for longer," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). The companies said they were working hard to protect child users. Several lawmakers said their staff had accessed harmful content with ease, sometimes logged in as a teenager, echoing concerns about Facebook that were raised by whistleblower Frances Haugen.


Trump's COVID response coordinator says campaign hurt pandemic response

Former White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told congressional investigators earlier this month that the 2020 election "distracted" the Trump administration from its pandemic response, and that his White House failed to "take steps that could have prevented tens of thousands of deaths," The Washington Post and The New York Times reported Tuesday. According to interview excerpts released by a House select subcommittee, Birx told lawmakers she believed that had former President Donald Trump and his administration done more to curb the spread of COVID-19 early on, including pushing harder for mask-wearing and social distancing, "we probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30 percent less to 40 percent less range," according to the Times. Birx said as Trump's re-election campaign heated up, it "took people's time away from and distracted them from the pandemic," the Post reported.


Report: Democrats want $500 billion for climate programs in spending bill

The White House has told several congressional allies that the Democrats' spending bill will include between $500 billion and $555 billion for climate change programs, Politico reported Tuesday, citing four people familiar with the matter. A senior Biden administration official declined to confirm the amount, but said the White House sees "the ball moving forward." Politico's sources said the bill will not include a proposed system of penalties intended to get power companies to increase renewable energy, a program opposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). It will be replaced with grants, tax credits, and loans to help steel, cement, and aluminum companies decarbonize. President Biden has pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels this decade. He will attend a global climate summit next week in Scotland.


Democrats consider taxes on billionaires, corporations to pay for spending plan

Senate Democrats rushed to try to finalize a deal on a major spending plan before President Biden leaves on a foreign tour this week. The Build Back Better proposal could cost $1.75 trillion over a decade, and some Democrats are pushing a tax hike that would raise more than half of its revenue from the 10 richest people in America, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The "billionaire" tax proposal would make the 700 wealthiest taxpayers the main revenue source for the spending plan, which would expand the social safety net and boost Biden's effort to fight climate change. Leading Democrats also are proposing a 15-percent minimum tax on corporations posting more than $1 billion in profits over three years, and a 3 percent "surtax" on millionaires earning more than $5 million annually.


Biden mocks Virginia Republican for refusing to campaign with Trump

President Biden campaigned with Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Alexandria, Virginia, on Tuesday night, a week before Virginia chooses its next governor. Polls show a tight race between McAuliffe and his Republican rival, former private equity executive Glenn Youngkin, and Biden pointedly asked the crowed why Youngkin is not campaigning with the head of his party, former President Donald Trump. "Is there a problem with Trump being here? Is he embarrassed?" Biden said. Biden seemed to be "trying to goad Donald Trump to weigh in" as the campaign ends, CNN's Jeff Zeleny tweeted. He also touted McAuliffe's accomplishments as governor, called Youngkin a "Trump acolyte," and hit Trump on his claims of election fraud, his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and the Jan. 6 insurrection.


Nor'easter hits East Coast as California recovers from historic rains

A powerful nor'easter hit the East Coast with torrential rain and gusty winds on Tuesday, causing flooding in some areas from Georgia to Maine. New York city got more than three inches of rain, with threats of more stormy weather throughout the Northeast. "The northeastern coast will continue to experience severe weather," the Federal Emergency Management Agency tweeted Tuesday. "Beware of thunderstorms, hail, wind & isolated tornadoes." The East Coast's troubles came as communities in California were recovering from historic rains driven in from the Pacific by a "bomb cyclone," a sudden steep drop in pressure, that caused rock and mudslides, particularly in drought-stricken areas scorched by recent wildfires.


'Dune' sequel confirmed for 2023 release

Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures have confirmed that director Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi novel Dune will get a second installment. Dune: Part Two is scheduled to hit theaters in October 2023. "I just received news from Legendary that we are officially moving forward with Dune: Part Two," Villeneuve told The Hollywood Reporter. "It was a dream of mine to adapt Frank Herbert's Dune and I have the fans, the cast, and crew, Legendary and Warner Bros. to thank for supporting this dream. This is only the beginning." Dune fans had been anxious about whether this second movie would go forward, since the new film doesn't adapt the entire book and is even referred to on screen as Dune: Part One. But the film's solid $40.1 million in domestic ticket sales in its opening weekend appeared to have helped, especially considering it was also available to stream on HBO Max.


Braves beat Astros in Game 1 of World Series

The Atlanta Braves won Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, beating the Houston Astros 6-2. The Braves took an early lead when outfielder Jorge Soler became the first player ever to lead off the top of the first inning of a World Series game with a home run. After the first four batters, the Braves were up 2-0. After 15 batters, they led 5-0. Veteran Atlanta starter Charlie Morton's right fibula was fractured when he was hit in the ankle by a 102.4-mph comebacker smacked by Yuli Gurriel. Morton retired three more batters before nearly falling to the ground and leaving the game.


Japan's Princess Mako marries commoner, loses imperial status

Japanese Princess Mako lost her royal status on Tuesday after quietly marrying a commoner, Kei Komuro. "For me, Kei-san is a priceless person. For us, our marriage was a necessary choice to live while cherishing our hearts," Mako said in a televised news conference, using the traditional honorific in speaking of her husband. The couple announced in 2017 that they planned to get married the following year, but a financial dispute involving his mother resulted in an extended delay. Some opposed the marriage. Because of the criticism, Mako declined a $1.23 million payment she was entitled to for leaving the imperial family. Mako, a niece of Emperor Naruhito, and Komuro met when they were classmates at Tokyo's International Christian University.


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