Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: November 3, 2021

Youngkin beats McAuliffe in Virginia governor's race, 105 countries pledge to reverse deforestation and cut methane emissions, and more

1

Youngkin beats McAuliffe in Virginia governor's race

Republican Glenn Youngkin won Virginia's governor's race on Tuesday, beating Democratic former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a warning sign for Democrats hoping to hold onto control of Congress in next year's midterms. Youngkin became the first Republican since 2009 to win a gubernatorial election in the state, which has been trending blue for years. President Biden beat former President Donald Trump by 10 percentage points in Virginia last year. Youngkin, a wealthy former private equity executive and first-time candidate, distanced himself from Trump while appealing to the GOP base on "critical race theory," questioning election integrity, and other Trump issues. Biden's falling approval ratings and stalled agenda hurt Democrats. In another setback for the party, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) trailed Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli in a race still too close to call. 

2

105 countries pledge to reverse deforestation, cut methane emissions

At least 105 countries on Tuesday pledged to reverse deforestation under an agreement signed at COP26, the United Nations climate conference taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. The signatories include Brazil, home to the Amazon rainforest, as well as Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Together, the nations that joined the pledge control 85 percent of Earth's forests. Under the deal, the countries agreed to conserve their forests, and accelerate reforestation efforts. They also vowed to increase investments in sustainable forestry and support for Indigenous communities. Politicians praised the agreement, while some activists questioned whether it would lead to concrete improvement. More than 100 countries also pledged to cut emissions of methane, a short-lived but damaging greenhouse gas, by 30 percent this decade.

3

CDC backs Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel on Tuesday unanimously recommended granting emergency-use authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. The panel of experts reviewed the Food and Drug Administration's approval, which came last week, and discussed the potential for the rare side effect myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. Dr. Matthew Oster, a CDC scientist who presented data on the condition at the meeting, said that "getting COVID I think is much riskier to the heart than this vaccine, no matter what age or sex." CDC Director Rochelle Walensky promptly signed off on the vaccine. About 28 million children 5 to 11 will be eligible to get their first dose, which is roughly one-third the size of teen doses, within days.

4

Democrats reach deal aiming to lower prescription drug prices

Democrats in Congress have reached a deal to include a plan to lower prescription drug prices in President Biden's $1.75 trillion Build Back Better bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Tuesday. The agreement doesn't go as far as earlier proposals in the domestic spending package. Still, an agreement marks progress after prolonged infighting over the bill. The deal calls for letting Medicare negotiate some drug prices. It also would bar drug companies from raising prices faster than inflation, and limit annual out-of-pocket costs for seniors on Medicare to $2,000. Senate moderates, whose votes Democrats need to pass the bill, rejected earlier proposals, arguing they would have hurt innovation. Schumer said the deal was a "big step" even though "it's not everything we all wanted."

5

Hospital attack in Afghanistan kills at least 25 

Gunmen and a suicide bomber attacked a military hospital in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Tuesday, killing at least 25 people and wounding more than a dozen more. The 400-bed Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan military hospital was treating wounded soldiers and Taliban. A Taliban spokesman blamed the attack on the Islamic State. He said a bomber blew himself up at the hospital gate, and a car-bomb exploded outside the building. Several Taliban fighters died in a gunfight with other attackers. The dead included Mawlawi Hamdullah Rahmani, a commander of the Taliban's Kabul corps who was among the first leaders of the Islamist group to enter the presidential palace when the former government collapsed as the U.S. military withdrew at the end of August.

6

Ethiopia declares state of emergency as Tigray fighters advance

Ethiopia on Tuesday declared a six-month state of emergency as rebels in the northern Tigray region advanced, and said they would march on the capital, Addis Ababa. Two days earlier, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed urged the public to arm themselves in self-defense against members of the Tigray People's Liberation Front. Authorities in Addis Ababa on Tuesday also issued a call for citizens to register their weapons and be ready to defend their neighborhoods. "Our country is facing a grave danger to its existence, sovereignty, and unity. And we can't dispel this danger through the usual law enforcement systems and procedures," Justice Minister Gedion Timothewos said as the government announced the state of emergency.

7

Prosecutor says Kyle Rittenhouse instigated violence

A prosecutor in Kyle Rittenhouse's murder trial said Tuesday that the Illinois teen instigated the bloodshed at a racial injustice protest last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he killed two people — one with a shot to the back — and wounded another with a semiautomatic assault-style rifle. Rittenhouse was one of many outsiders who were drawn to the chaos "like moths to a flame" after protests broke out over the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer, prosecutor Thomas Binger said. But Rittenhouse, then 17 and now 18, was "the only person who killed anyone." Rittenhouse's lawyer said the teen went to Kenosha to protect private property after two nights of rioting. The defense said Rittenhouse fired in self-defense after protesters chased him.

8

Facebook to shut down facial recognition system

Facebook executives said Tuesday the social media giant plans to shut down its facial recognition system this month. Jerome Pesenti, vice president of artificial intelligence at Facebook's newly named parent company Meta, said in a blog post that the change was sparked by "many concerns about the place of facial recognition technology in society." The company plans to delete the face scan data of more than one billion users. Facebook introduced the feature in December 2010 to save users time by using software to identify people who appeared in their photos, and suggested tagging them with a simple click. But the facial recognition function fueled privacy concerns and government investigations, as well as a class-action lawsuit.

9

Minneapolis voters reject proposal to replace police department

Voters in Minneapolis on Tuesday rejected a proposal to replace the city's police department with a public safety department combining law enforcement, 911 responders, and mental health professionals. With 96 percent of precincts reporting, more than 56 percent of voters opposed the proposal. The ballot question left the community divided. Activists expressed concern that the defeat would sap momentum for police reform in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died after being forcibly restrained by police. The vote marked the second time police reform has failed in the city since Floyd's death 17 months ago. A June 2020 push by a majority of City Council members to dismantle the police department never made it onto the ballot. A proposal for national police reform has stalled in Congress. 

10

CDC says people with natural coronavirus immunity should still get vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has quietly released a report showing that both coronavirus infection-induced and vaccine-induced immunity last at least six months, but vaccines offer "higher, more robust, and more consistent" protection against COVID-19, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. The report also noted that no test authorized by the Food and Drug Administration can reliably measure a person's level of protection. The research led the CDC to conclude that, despite a measure of natural immunity, even people who have already been infected with the coronavirus should get vaccinated. More than 45 million people have had confirmed coronavirus infections in the United States. Tens of millions more are believed to have had undocumented infections.

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