Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 2, 2021

The CDC confirms the first U.S. Omicron coronavirus case, conservative justices signal support for Mississippi abortion law, and more

1

1st U.S. Omicron coronavirus case confirmed in California

California officials on Wednesday confirmed the United States' first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant, which the World Health Organization has identified as a "variant of concern." "The individual was a traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov. 22," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a news release. "The individual, who was fully vaccinated and had mild symptoms that are improving, is self-quarantining and has been since testing positive." The San Francisco health department and California's state health department urged in a joint statement for people to "remain vigilant" but said the case was "not a cause for panic." Speaking at the White House, the nation's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci urged Americans to "get boosted now. We may not need a variant-specific boost."

2

Supreme Court's conservatives signal support for Mississippi abortion law

The Supreme Court's newly bolstered conservative majority showed signs of willingness to uphold Mississippi's restrictive abortion law as the high court heard arguments in the case Wednesday. The Mississippi law bars most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Upholding it would go against decades of court precedents, which have guaranteed women the right to terminate pregnancies up to the point of fetal viability at 22 to 24 weeks. Chief Justice John Roberts, widely considered the most moderate conservative in the 6-3 majority, said the Mississippi law isn't a "dramatic departure" from the viability cut-off. Liberal justices said the high court's credibility would be irreparably damaged if it tosses out decades of precedent so swiftly after conservatives gained a larger majority.

3

4th student dies after Michigan school shooting as suspect charged with murder

A fourth student shot in a Michigan high school died Wednesday. Sheriff Michael Bouchard said the 15-year-old student accused of opening fire in Oxford High School in Oakland County near Detroit "came out with the intent to kill," shooting people at close range in the head or chest. "It's chilling. It's just absolutely cold-hearted murderous," Bouchard said. The dead were identified as Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17. The suspect pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of terrorism causing death, four counts of first-degree murder, and seven counts of assault with intent to murder. Prosecutors said the suspect planned the shooting, and that his parents, who had just purchased the gun he allegedly used, also could face charges.

4

Trump calls report he tested positive for COVID before 2020 debate 'Fake News'

Then-President Donald Trump tested positive for coronavirus three days before his first 2020 debate with President Biden, The Guardian reported Wednesday, citing a forthcoming book by former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows. The Trump White House didn't reveal the result. Trump received a negative result in another test shortly afterward, and he went ahead with a campaign rally and the debate, The Washington Post reported, citing two former administration officials. Trump said in a statement on Wednesday that "the story of me having COVID before, or during, the first debate is Fake News," noting that "a test revealed that I did not have COVID before the debate." Meadows downplayed the revelation in an interview with Newsmax, focusing on the subsequent negative test.

5

Stacey Abrams enters Georgia governor's race

Stacey Abrams announced Wednesday that she is running for Georgia governor, setting up a potential rematch between the Democrat and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. Abrams, who would be the state's first Black governor and the first Black woman elected governor in U.S history, said in a video that she would campaign on a message that "opportunity and success in Georgia shouldn't be determined by your ZIP code, background, or access to power." Abrams lost to Kemp by 1.8 percentage points in 2018, the slimmest margin in a Georgia gubernatorial race in a decade. She resisted conceding defeat due to what she called an "erosion" of voting rights in the state. After her defeat, she formed a political group, Fair Fight Action, that has fought against restrictive voting laws.

6

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declines to seek re-election

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), a popular moderate Republican and critic of former President Donald Trump, announced Wednesday he will not seek re-election in 2022. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito also declined to run for re-election or for Baker's job. "After several months of discussion with our families, we have decided not to seek re-election in 2022," Baker and Polito wrote in a statement. "This was an extremely difficult decision for us. We love the work, and we especially respect and admire the people of this wonderful Commonwealth. Serving as Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts has been the most challenging and fulfilling jobs we've ever had." The news left the gubernatorial contest wide open.

7

House Jan. 6 panel backs holding former DOJ official in contempt

The House committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack voted unanimously Wednesday to hold former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena to testify. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said Clark can avoid a House vote on the contempt resolution, which would leave it to the Justice Department to decide whether to file charges, by appearing before the committee to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declining to answer the committee's questions, one by one. If prosecuted, Clark would become the second aide to former President Donald Trump, after former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, to face charges for refusing to cooperate in the inquiry into the insurrection by a mob of Trump's supporters.

8

MLB owners vote to lock out players 

Major League Baseball's 30 controlling owners voted unanimously Wednesday night to lock out players as collective bargaining talks with the players' union stalled before a midnight deadline. The move, which threatens next season's spring training and opening day, is MLB's ninth work stoppage and the first since an infamous strike that spanned the 1994 and 1995 seasons. The MLB owners and Major League Baseball Players Association met in Texas this week to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, but the talks — ongoing since the spring — did not go well. Wednesday's meeting lasted less than 10 minutes. The union demanded change following anger over such issues as a declining average salary and veterans jettisoned in favor of lower-paid young players.

9

U.S. tightens COVID testing for international travelers

The United States is tightening travel rules to slow the potential spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, Biden administration officials said Thursday. Travelers, including fully vaccinated citizens, will have to show a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of departure on a flight to the U.S. Previously, vaccinated people had to show a negative test within 72 hours of travel, while unvaccinated passengers had to show proof of a negative test in the last 24 hours. The government also is extending the requirement for passengers to wear masks on domestic flights and public transportation through March 18. The requirements are part of a broad effort to fight a potential new wave of infections as the coronavirus pandemic enters its third year.

10

4 injured when WWII bomb explodes in Munich

Four people were injured in Munich, Germany, on Wednesday when a buried World War II bomb exploded at a site being drilled to build a train tunnel. The Munich fire brigade said one of the victims sustained serious injuries. British and U.S. warplanes dropped 1.5 million tons of bombs on Germany during the war, but about 15 percent of the bombs failed to explode. Three-quarters of a century after the war, more than 2,000 tons of live bombs and other munitions are discovered every year in Germany. Some of the explosives are buried as much as 20 feet underground. Police said there was no danger at the site of the explosion outside of an area that has been cordoned off.

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