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Dec 17, 2021
Columbia University study warns that omicron is “markedly resistant” to vaccines. Seventeen missionaries kidnapped in Haiti earlier this year have been released. The FDA permanently removes a requirement for patients to pick up abortion medication in person, allowing those meds to be mailed instead. And two women accuse Sex and the City star Chris Noth of sexual assualt. All of this and more in today’s Presidential Daily Brief.
1 - Omicron Surges
Study warns that omicron is resistant to vaccines
A new study by scientists at Columbia University and the University of Hong Kong finds that the omicron variant is surprisingly resistant to vaccines. The authors raise concerns that the variant’s extensive mutations can compromise or even neutralize a vaccine’s effectiveness. As omicron continues to spread at 70 times the speed of delta, the authors call on the scientific community to anticipate the virus’s mutations and get out in front of them—before the virus becomes immune to current antibodies. The news comes on the same day that a CDC panel issued a unanimous preference for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines over Johnson & Johnson’s, saying that the latter causes rare but serious blood clots and is less effective. (Source: AP)
2 - Hostages Head Home
All 17 missionaries kidnapped in Haiti have been freed
In October, 16 Americans and one Canadian were kidnapped by one of Haiti’s powerful gangs. Yesterday, Christian Aid Ministries confirmed that all hostages are safely on their way home—without specifying whether the $1 million ransom per head was paid. Haiti’s kidnapping rate is one of the highest in the world, and it’s rising quickly with nearly 800 kidnappings reported before the end of October. The increase follows the assasination of President Jovenel Moïse in July, as rival gangs vie for power and use kidnappings to finance their activities. (Source: BBC)
3 - Contingencies Commence
As abortion rights come under fire nationwide, the FDA makes moves
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Thursday that it will permanently relax restrictions on medication used to induce abortions at a time when abortion rights hang in the balance. Before the pandemic, the drug called mifepristone could only be obtained via prescription picked up in person. Then, in the face of nationwide lockdowns, the Biden administration relaxed those requirements and allowed the pills to be mailed directly to patients instead, dramatically increasing access for those living in rural areas. Instigated by lawsuits from groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the decision by the FDA makes that change permanent. (Source: NPR)
4 - Mandate Court Date
Vaccine mandate may reach the high court
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is just about fed up, it seems. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote to the Supreme Court yesterday to ask justices to allow a vaccine mandate for certain health care workers to go into effect across the nation. This is the first time the DOJ has turned to the court for an opinion on a mandate, so all eyes are on Washington. Lower courts have blocked the mandate in about half of the U.S. If implemented, the sweeping ruling would apply to 10.3 million health care workers nationwide. (Source: CNN)
5 - Briefly
Here are some things you should know about today:
Kamala Harris says she and Biden haven’t discussed plans for the 2024 election. The VP and star Democrat said that she and the President are focused on completing their first year in office. (Source: WSJ) Meta bans seven “surveillance-for-hire” companies. The social media giant says the companies spied on around 50,000 unaware users. (Source: NPR) Nicholas Burns becomes U.S. ambassador to China. Burns, a career diplomat, takes his post at a tense time with the eastern superpower. (Source: Axios)
Watch "Charmed" Actress Alyssa Milano
As She Talks COVID Symptoms, #MeToo, and Politics
1 - Claudette Colvin Cleared
The original Rosa Parks finally has her record expunged
Nine months before Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her bus seat, Claudette Colvin did the same—at the age of 15. In March of 1955, Colvin and three of her friends sat in the section of a Montgomery bus reserved for Black patrons. Then, a young white woman moved into the same row and demanded they move into the aisles. Colvin refused. For her courage, Colvin faced three charges, of which one stayed: assaulting a police officer. Now, at 82, Colvin’s record has finally been expunged after she petitioned an Alabama judge. (Source: BBC)
2 - No More Credit for Kids
The widely popular child tax credit may soon expire
If Congress doesn’t take swift action, the child tax credit will expire at midnight on December 31st. For months during the pandemic, families have received hundreds of dollars in support thanks to the child tax credit and its expansion, passed in July. Now, the Senate sits gridlocked over the controversial Build Back Better Act, which includes a provision to extend the benefits for another year. Democrats had hoped to pass the bill before Christmas, but centrist Senator Joe Manchin is making that seem less and less likely. (Source: ABC News)
3 - Sexual Assault and the City
“Sex and the City” star Chris Noth accused of assault by two women
Noth, who plays Mr. Big in the franchise then and now, only recently returned to the public eye after the reboot of the classic TV show. Yesterday, the Hollywood Reporter revealed that two women were allegedly assaulted by Noth in 2004 and 2015. The Los Angeles Police Department is currently looking into the accusations. One of the women says Noth harassed her with constant voice messages before raping her in his apartment. The other woman says he invited her over to taste whiskey before violating her. Noth says he had consensual sex with both women, but categorically denies rape allegations. (Source: NBC News)
4 - Nightmare in the Sky
Bouncy castle disaster leaves five children dead and four injured
Five children died and four suffered serious injuries after wind lifted a bouncy castle 32 feet into the air. Nearly forty children between the ages of 11 and 12 were attending an end-of-school fun day at Hillcrest Primary School in Australia when the tragedy occured. Of the four injured survivors, three are in the hospital. An investigation is underway into what caused the accident, including the strength of the wind at the time and how the castle had been tethered to the ground. (Source: CNN)
5 - Political Maneuvering
Florida’s Republican governor continues to go after CRT
Governor Ron DeSantis has a bone to pick with a very specific kind of legal academic theory that is actually almost never included in any K-12 curriculum: critical race theory (CRT). Yesterday, DeSantis introduced a legislative proposal to let parents sue public schools if they teach CRT. He calls it the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act”. Florida state Senator Shevrin Jones, a Democrat, scoffed at the proposal, saying “Republicans would rather manufacture a crisis out of a non-issue, all in the hopes of fanning the flames of a culture war for political gain.” (Source: Axios)
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