Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 1, 2021

U.S. public health officials step up search for Omicron variant, three students die in a Michigan school shooting, and more


U.S. authorities expand search for Omicron variant

U.S. public health officials are "actively looking" for the first cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the United States, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, said at a White House news conference on Tuesday. Walensky said authorities at major international airports in New York, Atlanta, Newark, and San Francisco would expand the search for the new variant. Scientists are rushing to find out more about the strain's transmissibility and severity, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, said U.S. officials believe there is "good reason" to think existing vaccines will provide "some degree of protection." A federal judge on Tuesday blocked President Biden's vaccine mandate for health care workers from taking effect next week.


3 killed in Michigan school shooting

A young attacker opened fire in Oxford High School in suburban Detroit on Tuesday, killing three people and injuring eight others, two of them critically, local authorities said. The students who died were Hana St. Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Tate Myre, 16. Officers took a suspect — a 15-year-old sophomore — into custody. The suspect was not injured. Investigators recovered a semi-automatic pistol at the scene, Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe said at a news conference. "Deputies confronted him, he had the weapon on him, and deputies took him into custody," McCabe said. "The whole thing lasted five minutes." Students were evacuated from the school and taken to a nearby store, where authorities reunited them with family members.


Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows cooperating with Jan. 6 committee

Mark Meadows, who was then-President Donald Trump's White House chief of staff during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, is cooperating with the House select committee investigating the insurrection by a mob of Trump's supporters, committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said Tuesday. Committee members previously said some Trump advisers were voluntarily cooperating with the committee, but Meadows is the first high-ranking Trump ally identified as one of the people complying with requests for information. The committee subpoenaed Meadows at the end of September. On Monday, the committee announced it would move to hold top Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark in criminal contempt for refusing to cooperate. Former Trump strategist Stephen Bannon has already been indicted for refusing to comply with a subpoena.


Japan, France become latest countries to detect Omicron variant

Japan and France reported their first cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus on Tuesday, and the Netherlands said it had detected the variant in patient samples from as early as Nov. 19. That changes what is known about the timeline and trajectory of the variant's spread, because the first Dutch cases have now been traced to the days before South African authorities sounded the alarm and told the World Health Organization about the existence of the highly mutated version of the virus. The new developments confirmed fears about the likelihood that Omicron will spread quickly like the Delta variant, which still accounts for nearly all of the COVID-19 cases in the United States.


Jury selection starts in ex-officer's trial for fatally shooting Daunte Wright

Jury selection began Tuesday in the manslaughter trial of former Minnesota police officer Kimberly Potter for the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during an April traffic stop. Potter shot Wright once in the chest after she yelled "Taser!" three times. She has said she thought she had drawn her stun gun but had pulled out her service weapon instead. When told by defense attorney Paul Engh that Potter would testify, one prospective juror added to the panel she "would evaluate [Potter's testimony] like any other witness." The woman, a retired public school teacher, said she was aware that Wright had a criminal record, but added, "I know that the victim is not on trial."


Appeals court upholds California ban on large-capacity ammunition clips

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld California's ban on large-scale ammunition magazines. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 7-4 that the state law does not significantly limit the right to self-defense. The court noted that there is no evidence that anyone has ever been unable to defend their home because they didn't have large-capacity gun clips, but they have been used in three-quarters of mass shootings resulting in 10 or more deaths over the last 50 years. The decision was considered likely to pave the way for the court to approve the state's ban on assault-style semi-automatic rifles. Judge Susan Graber, a Clinton appointee, wrote for the court that the ammunition restriction "reasonably supports California's effort to reduce the devastating damage wrought by mass shootings."


Honduras ruling party concedes defeat in presidential election

Tegucigalpa Mayor Nasry Asufra, the presidential candidate for Honduras' ruling conservative National Party, conceded defeat in Sunday's election to leftist opposition candidate Xiomara Castro on Tuesday. "I congratulate her for her victory and as president-elect, I hope that God illuminates and guides her so that her administration does the best for the benefit of all of us Hondurans," Asufra said. With 52 percent of the votes tallied, Castro leads Asufra 53 percent to 34 percent. Asufra's concession was a relief to Hondurans bracing for a repeat of 2017's marred election, in which President Juan Orlando Hernández was declared the winner amid protests that left 23 people dead. His National Party has held power since a 2009 coup deposed Castro's husband, Manuel Zelaya.


CNN suspends Chris Cuomo over help in brother's sexual harassment scandal 

CNN suspended star host Chris Cuomo "indefinitely" on Tuesday, a day after the New York Attorney General's office released text messages showing that he went further than previously acknowledged to help his brother, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, fight sexual misconduct allegations. The Washington Post reported in May that Chris Cuomo had participated in conference calls with his brother's staff. He admitted that the report was true, acknowledged he had broken company rules, and pledged not to do it again. CNN stood by him, and "understood his need to put family first," a company spokesperson said, but the documents indicated "a greater level of involvement" than the network had previously known. The spokesperson said the suspension would remain in effect "pending further evaluation."


FDA panel narrowly recommends Merck COVID treatment

A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted Tuesday to recommend authorization of Merck's antiviral pill to fight severe COVID-19. The unexpectedly narrow 13-to-10 vote reflected concerns about the drug's limited effectiveness and possible reproductive harm. The FDA is not obligated to follow the recommendations of the panel of outside experts, who backed authorizing the pill for patients at high risk of severe illness. If regulators authorize the drug's use, it could be available to patients within weeks, as public health officials rush to prepare for the spread of the newly discovered Omicron variant of the coronavirus. In coming weeks, the FDA will decide whether to authorize a similar pill developed by Pfizer that is believed to be more effective.


Dr. Oz is officially running for Senate in Pennsylvania

Celebrity TV doctor Mehmet Oz announced in the Washington Examiner on Tuesday that he is running for Senate in Pennsylvania to "help fix the problems and to help us heal." The confirmation comes after a report from the Washington Free Beacon that he was hiring staff and eying a run as a Republican, seeking the seat that will be vacated following the retirement of Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). In his announcement, Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon and host of The Dr. Oz Show, criticized government policies during the COVID-19 pandemic, slamming "the arrogant, closed-minded people in charge [who] closed our parks, shuttered our schools, shut down our businesses, and took away our freedom." Oz first rose to fame as a health expert on The Oprah Winfrey Show and has been criticized throughout his career for allegedly "promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain."


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