Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: November 30, 2021

Biden says the Omicron variant is cause for concern but not panic, the CDC strengthens its recommendation for COVID booster shots, and more

1

Biden says Omicron variant cause for concern, not panic

President Biden addressed the spread of the newly discovered Omicron variant of the coronavirus, saying the highly contagious strain was a "cause for concern, not a cause for panic." "Sooner or later we're going to see cases of this new variant here in the United States. We'll have to face this new threat just as we face those who have come before it," Biden said at the White House. Public health officials are still trying to assess how highly transmissible the Omicron variant is, and whether it can penetrate the protections offered by vaccines. Biden said that on Thursday he would unveil a "detailed strategy outlining how we're going to fight Covid this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more."

2

CDC strengthens recommendation for COVID-19 booster shots

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday recommended that all adults get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots due to the rising risk of infection posed by the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The CDC strengthened the language of its guidance, which previously said young adults "may" get the booster, and said that all adults "should" get the additional shot. "Everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot either when they are six months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series or two months after their initial J&J vaccine," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. Early data from South Africa, where the new variant was first detected, suggest it is highly transmissible, and scientists are "urgently examining" the effectiveness of existing vaccines against it.

3

Defense secretary orders new investigation into Syria airstrike

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III on Monday ordered an investigation by a top general into a U.S. airstrike in Syria that killed dozens of women and children. Gen. Michael X. Garrett, the four-star head of the Army's Forces Command, will look into the strike as well as the handling of an earlier investigation by top military officials and the Defense Department's inspector general, the Pentagon said. The strike reportedly was conducted by a classified Special Operations unit called Task Force 9. Pentagon chief spokesperson John Kirby said Austin decided to call for the investigation after discussions with Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the commander of Central Command. Kirby added that the inquiry would determine "whether accountability measures would be appropriate."

4

Twitter announces Jack Dorsey's resignation as CEO

Twitter announced Monday that CEO Jack Dorsey is stepping down and will be replaced by the social media company's chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, effective immediately. Dorsey, 45, has been serving as chief executive of both Twitter and his digital payments company Square. He will remain on Twitter's board until his term expires at the 2022 stockholders' meeting, the company said. Salesforce President and COO Bret Taylor will replace former Google executive Patrick Pichette as chairman of the board. Dorsey didn't reveal why he was resigning, but said he had "decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders." Twitter shares fell by 2.7 percent on Monday.

5

Opposition candidate takes big lead in early Honduras presidential vote count

Early vote counts showed opposition candidate Xiomara Castro with a commanding lead in Honduras' presidential election. Initial results shortly after the Sunday balloting indicated that Castro had 53 percent of the vote, ahead of Nasry Asfura of the incumbent National Party, who had 34 percent. The National Party has refused to concede. The final result isn't expected for days. Castro defied the Central American country's electoral council's call for no candidate to declare victory, telling supporters that she would start forming a national reconciliation government on Monday. "We have turned back authoritarianism," said Castro, the wife of Manuel Zelaya, a leftist former president deposed in a 2009 coup. "Out with corruption, out with drug trafficking, out with organized crime."

6

Prosecutors ask Supreme Court to reinstate Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction

Pennsylvania prosecutors on Monday asked the Supreme Court to restore Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction, which was overturned five months ago. Cosby was convicted on charges of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, but he was released in June after the conviction was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, citing a promise made by a previous prosecutor that Cosby would never be charged when he gave damaging testimony in an accuser's civil suit in 2006. His legal team argued this should have prevented any charges from being brought against him. Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele wrote in the petition that the decision would have "far-reaching negative consequences," and he asked the U.S. Supreme Court to "right what we believe is a grievous wrong."

7

Swedish lawmakers re-elect nation's 1st female prime minister

Swedish lawmakers narrowly re-elected Magdalena Andersson to be the country's prime minister. Anderson, 54, served as Sweden's first female prime minister for seven hours before resigning last week after her Green Party coalition partner dropped out of the two-party minority government over a budget defeat in parliament. The showdown occurred when the government rejected its own spending plan in favor of one presented by the opposition, which includes the right-wing populist Sweden Democrats. Only 101 members of the 349-member Swedish parliament voted yes to Andersson, while 173 voted no and 75 abstained. Under the country's constitution, Andersson won the job because a majority did not vote against her. 

8

Barbados drops allegiance to queen and becomes world's newest republic

Barbados became the world's newest republic on Tuesday, swearing in its first president and dropping its formal allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II. Prince Charles and Rihanna were among the dignitaries who attended the overnight ceremony in Bridgetown, the Caribbean nation's capital, and fireworks lit up the sky and a steel drum orchestra played as the clock struck midnight and Barbados shed yet another layer of its colonial past. Barbados became a republic on the 55th anniversary of its independence from Britain. It will remain part of the Commonwealth, but its head of state is now Sandra Mason, governor general since 2018; the Barbados parliament elected Mason president last month, and she will now help run the island nation with Prime Minister Mia Mottley. 

9

Federal labor official calls for new union vote at Amazon warehouse

A National Labor Relations Board official, Lisa Y. Henderson, has ordered a second union vote at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, after determining that Amazon improperly pressured workers during the initial vote in the spring. Henderson, the NLRB's Atlanta region director, accused Amazon of "flagrant disregard" for making the union election free and fair, saying its placement of a U.S. Postal Service mailbox in front of the warehouse "essentially hijacked the process and gave a strong impression" the company controlled ballot counting. Amazon, which staunchly opposes unionization, noted that the factory's workers voted more than 2-to-1 against joining the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. "It's disappointing that the NLRB has now decided that those votes shouldn't count," Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said.

10

Pioneering Black golfer Lee Elder dies at 87

Lee Elder, the first Black golfer to compete in the Masters Tournament at Augusta National, has died at age 87. No cause of death was immediately announced, but Elder had been experiencing respiratory difficulties. Elder learned to play while working as a caddie in rural Dallas, and dominated the United Golf Association tour for Black players before the PGA was integrated. He earned his PGA Tour card in 1967, winning four tournaments. A group of politicians unsuccessfully urged Augusta National to invite Elder to play in the Masters, but two years later he qualified. "When I first qualified for the Tour, in 1967, I said I wanted to get that one thing that had not been accomplished out of the way," Elder once told Golfweek. "The Masters was the one tournament that hadn't been integrated."

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