Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 18, 2022

Biden repeats call for Congress to pass voter protections, Texas rabbi says he threw chair at gunman to help hostages escape, and more

1

Biden renews call for Congress to pass voter protections

President Biden repeated his call for Congress to pass voting rights legislation on Monday, as the nation marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day. "On this federal holiday that honors him, it's not just enough to praise him," Biden said in recorded remarks to the National Action Network's annual breakfast honoring the slain civil rights leader. "We must commit to his unfinished work to deliver jobs and justice, to protect the sacred right to vote." Senate Democrats plan to start debate on the voting rights bills on Tuesday, although they lack the votes to overcome a Republican filibuster and call a vote. Martin Luther King III urged senators to pass the legislation. "History will be watching what happens," he said in a speech in Washington, D.C.

2

Rabbi threw chair at gunman to help hostages escape

The rabbi at a Texas synagogue where a gunman took four hostages said Monday that he threw a chair at the intruder so he and the others could escape. Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker told CBS Mornings that the decision to run came after the man, identified as British citizen Malik Faisal Akram, got increasingly angry, and told the three remaining hostages to kneel (one hostage had been released earlier in the 11-hour standoff). Cytron-Walker said he refused and threw the chair, and the captives made a dash for a nearby exit. A police team then rushed in. Akram died by gunfire. Cytron-Walker and another hostage, Jeffrey Cohen, credited active-threat training they had taken as anti-Semitic attacks rose in the United States with helping them through the ordeal.

3

Fauci: Too soon to say whether Omicron wave will be last pandemic surge

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden's top medical adviser, said Monday that it was too soon to tell whether the current COVID-19 wave caused by the fast-spreading Omicron variant would be the last surge of the coronavirus pandemic. Omicron has quickly become the dominant strain of the virus, and it has driven a record increase in new cases. It has caused less-severe cases of COVID-19, fueling hopes that it could boost natural immunity and help bring the pandemic to an end. But Fauci said via videoconference at The Davos Agenda virtual event that it was still impossible to predict whether that would happen. "It is an open question whether it will be the live virus vaccination that everyone is hoping for," Fauci said.

4

British woman died trying to rescue dogs in Tonga tsunami

A British woman, 50-year-old Angela Glover, died after being swept away by a tsunami that hit Tonga after an underwater volcano erupted over the weekend, her brother Nick Eleini said. Glover and her husband James had established the Tonga Animal Welfare Society in the South Pacific archipelago, where they rehabilitated stray dogs and found them new homes. "I understand that this terrible accident came about as they tried to rescue their dogs," Eleini said. Glover's husband managed to hold onto a tree and survived. Australian officials said no mass casualties were reported after the disaster, although communication remained limited and search and rescue crews reported extensive damages in many coastal areas.

5

Federal appellate court punts Texas abortion law to state Supreme Court

A divided U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals panel sided with Texas on Monday and sent a challenge to the state's privately enforced restrictive abortion law to the Texas Supreme Court, where it is expected to linger as the law stays in effect. The Texas abortion clinics challenging the law, which bars the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, had requested the case be sent to a federal district judge who previously blocked the law, until the conservative 5th Circuit appellate court reversed the decision less than 48 hours later. The appellate panel decided that before the federal judge gets the case again, the Texas Supreme Court needs to determine whether state law allows the clinics to sue state licensing officials, as the U.S. Supreme Court allowed.

6

China's birthrate falls to record low

China announced Monday that its birthrate fell for the fifth straight year in 2021, hitting a record low. The decline is pushing China, the world's most populous country, toward the potentially disastrous point where its population will start to shrink. Life expectancy is increasing, leaving the country with fewer people of working age relative to those too old to work. The changes could create labor shortages and slower economic growth that would make it harder to support an aging population. China's ruling Communist Party has tried to raise the birthrate by relaxing its infamous "one-child" policy, letting couples have two children starting in 2016 and up to three starting last year. "China is facing a demographic crisis," said Yi Fuxian, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

7

Investigators identify person they believe betrayed Anne Frank's family to Nazis

More than 75 years after Anne Frank's family was betrayed to the Nazis, a team of investigators say they have identified the person they think may have revealed the address of their hiding place in Amsterdam. The researchers said Arnold van den Bergh, a notary who served on the Jewish council the Nazis set up, might have provided information on Jewish individuals in hiding in exchange for protection. Van den Bergh was never sent to a concentration camp. He died in 1950. Investigators brought together by a documentary filmmaker uncovered a report from a decades-old police inquiry that said Otto Frank, Anne's father and the only family member to survive Nazi concentration camps, received an anonymous note saying it was van den Bergh who betrayed them.

8

Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley tests positive for COVID

Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tested positive for COVID-19 and "is experiencing very minor symptoms," Joint Staff spokesperson Col. Dave Butler said Monday. Butler added that Milley has been vaccinated and received a booster shot, and had tested negative on several previous days. Milley is the latest of several top Defense Department officials to be infected this month as the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant spreads quickly across the country. Butler said Milley is working remotely in isolation and performing his normal duties. Milley had contact with President Biden on Wednesday at the funeral of Army Gen. Raymond Odierno. The Marine Corps said Monday that its top general, Commandant David Berger, also had tested positive.

9

France says no exception from vaccine-pass rule for Djokovic at French Open

The French Sports Ministry said Monday that it would not grant any exemptions from a new vaccine pass law that received final approval on Sunday. The statement suggested that Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, could be frozen out of the French Open in May. Djokovic, who is ranked No. 1 in the world and is chasing a record 21st Grand Slam title, was deported from Australia on Sunday, dashing his hope of winning the Australian Open. Djokovic had hoped to compete in the tournament but lost his court appeal to have the cancellation of his visa overturned.

10

China ends Winter Olympics ticket sales due to Omicron concerns

China announced Monday that it was halting ticket sales for the Beijing Winter Olympics two days after the city's first case of the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant. China said last fall it was barring foreign spectators, but on Monday Beijing's Winter Olympics Organizing Committee said it would not let domestic fans attend, either, "to ensure the safety of all participants and spectators." The organizers said they would have an "adapted program" under which some groups of spectators will be allowed in the stands, suggesting that there will be a process to screen and quarantine people invited to watch in person. China has tried to isolate Beijing with a travel ban and other measures, partly to shield the Olympics from the pandemic.

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