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CDC experts advise third dose of Pfizer Covid vaccine for over-65s and high risk Americans – live

CDC experts advise third dose of Pfizer Covid vaccine for over-65s and high risk Americans - live thumbnail

Politics recap

  • The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack sent subpoenas to Donald Trump’s aides including White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Testimony from the former staff could shed new light on the former president’s connection to the 6 January riot.
  • The House overwhelmingly approved a bill to provide $1bn in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. The 420-9 vote came two days after the funding was stripped out of Democrats’ stopgap government spending bill due to progressive criticism of the proposal.
  • Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said the White House and congressional Democrats had “reached agreement on a framework that will pay for any final negotiated agreement” on the reconciliation package. But neither Schumer nor House speaker Nancy Pelosi would provide many details on what the framework looks like, and moderates and progressives remain at odds over the top-line cost of the reconciliation package.
  • The US envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, resigned over the “inhumane” treatment of Haitian migrants at the US-Mexican border. Foote’s resignation comes as the Biden administration faces outrage over the footage of border agents on horseback confronting Haitians trying to enter the US in Del Rio, Texas. The White House said horses would no longer be used in the border city.
  • Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell repeated his pledge to oppose any effort to raise the debt ceiling. Attacking the Democrats’ reconciliation package, McConnell said, “The party-line authors of this reckless taxing and spending spree will be the party-line owners of raising the debt limit.” Democrats have called on Republicans to help them suspend the debt ceiling in a bipartisan fashion, as Congress did during Donald Trump’s presidency.
  • A panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for high-risk people and seniors. Yesterday, an FDA panel also approved the booster for those two groups, and for frontline workers in healthcare, education, and essential businesses – but the CDC panel voted down the latter recommendation.

Updated

House committee on Capitol attack subpoenas Trump’s ex-chief of staff and other top aides

Hugo Lowell reports:

The House select committee scrutinizing the Capitol attack on Thursday sent subpoenas to Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and a cadre of top Trump aides, demanding their testimony to shed light on the former president’s connection to the 6 January riot.

The subpoenas and demands for depositions marked the most aggressive investigative actions the select committee has taken since it made records demands and records preservation requests that formed the groundwork of the inquiry into potential White House involvement.

House select committee investigators targeted four of the closest aides to the former president: deputy White House chief of staff Dan Scavino, former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon, and the former acting defense secretary’s chief of staff Kash Patel as well as Meadows.

“The select committee has reason to believe that you have information relevant to understanding important activities that led to and informed events at the Capitol on January 6,” the chairman of the select committee, Bennie Thompson, said in the subpoena letters.

“Accordingly, the select committee seeks both documents and your deposition testimony regarding these and other matters that are within the scope of the select committee’s inquiry,” Thompson said.

Read more:

One dead in shooting at Tennessee grocery store

One person was killed and at least 12 were injured in a shooting at a Kroger grocery store in Collierville, Tennessee.

Around 1:30 pm. local time, the local police received a call about an active shooter at the supermarket.

I’ve been involved in [police work] for 34 years and I have never seen anything like [this],” said police Chief Dale Lane. The shooting is the 517th mass shooting of 2021, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

This is a developing story.

Updated

US public health workers leaving ‘in droves’ amid pandemic burnout

Abdullah Shihipar reports:

Alexandra was working in the public health emergencies unit in a major north-eastern American city when the first wave of the pandemic hit. Although her job was in public health policy research, and not treating Coovid-19 patients on the frontlines of the healthcare system, she recalls the spring of 2020 as a blur of 24-hour shifts.

Beginning last March, Alexandra estimates that she and her colleagues worked the equivalent of three full-time years in 12 months. (Her name has been changed to protect anonymity.)

“There was no overtime, there was no hazard pay,” Alexandra recalls. Throughout the public health department where she worked, symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress-related physical maladies were commonplace among staff.

This summer, despite the protestations of her superiors, Alexandra quit. She says she’s one of roughly 25 staff members who have left the department since the start of the pandemic.

Alexandra’s story is not unique. Just as the pandemic has fuelled a burnout crisis among frontline medical staff, it has been calamitous for the mental health of workers in public health – the data analysts and policy advisers whose recommendations are supposed to shape the nation’s pandemic response. Many feel stonewalled by elected officials and scapegoated for the death toll of Covid-19.

Some, like Alexandra, are opting to leave the job for good.

The results of a nationwide CDC survey of public health workers, released this July, were revealing. Of the more than 26,000 surveyed individuals working in public health departments across the United States, more than half reported recent symptoms of at least one major mental health condition. Their reported prevalence of PTSD was 10 to 20% higher than in frontline medical workers and the general public.

Read more:

CDC panel approves boosters for older Americans and those with high-risk conditions

A panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for high-risk people and seniors.

Yesterday, an FDA panel also approved the booster for those two groups, and for frontline workers in healthcare, education, and essential businesses – but the CDC panel voted down the latter recommendation.

The CDC panel unanimously approved the booster for adults over 65 and for residents of long-term care facilities. A majority of panel members also approve of their shots for people over 50 with high-risk conoditions.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky is expected to announce a final recommendation on who gets boosters soon.

Read more:

Updated

California will become the first state in the US to track the violent deaths of LGBTQ+ people, a move that advocacy groups are hailing as a “huge victory” and a critical tool in understanding disproportionate rates of violence against the LGBTQ+ community.

Governor Gavin Newsom, fresh off his victory in the recent recall election, signed a bill into law that will establish a three-year pilot program in as many as six counties to collect information about gender identity and sexual orientation in cases of violent deaths, which include suicides and homicides.

Advocates have said this kind of data-gathering is key to understanding and addressing the greater risk of violence faced by LGBTQ+ people. This year is on track to be the deadliest for trans and gender non-conforming Americans with at least 36 people killed, the majority of whom were Black and Latinx transgender women. LGBTQ+ people are nearly four times more likely than non-LGBTQ+ people to be victims of violent crime, including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated or simple assault, according to a UCLA study.

“We know that LGBTQ people are more often the victims of violent crimes. Within the LGBTQ community because of lack of acceptance, discrimination and harassment, we see higher rates of suicidal ideation,” said Samuel Garrett-Pate, the communications director for Equality California, an advocacy group that supported the bill. “We only know how best to address these important issues when we have the data.”

The bill will require counties be trained to identify and collect clinical data related to sexual orientation and gender identity. The coroner or medical examiner of that county will submit annual reports on the data to the state department of public health and county board of supervisors for three years.

“By training coroners and medical examiners how to gather mortality data with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity, researchers and policymakers can begin to learn who the most vulnerable in the LGBTQ community are, and allocate resources that will reduce the number of preventable deaths,” the bill reads.

Read more:

Updated

Experts say China’s low-level cyberwar is becoming severe threat

Dan Sabbagh

Chinese state-sponsored hacking is at record levels, western experts say, accusing Beijing of engaging in a form of low-level warfare that is escalating despite US, British and other political efforts to bring it to a halt.

There are accusations too that the clandestine activity, which has a focus on stealing intellectual property, has become more overt and more reckless, although Beijing consistently denies sponsoring hacking and accuses critics of hypocrisy.

Jamie Collier, a consultant with Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm whose work is often cited by intelligence agencies, said the level of hacking emerging from China in 2021 was “a more kind of severe threat than we previously anticipated”.

That culminated, in July, with the US, the EU, Nato, the UK and four other countries all accusing Beijing of being behind a massive exploitation of vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s widely used Exchange company server software in March. In some cases they blamed China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) for directing the activity.

It affected about 250,000 organisations worldwide, allowing hackers from a group, which Microsoft has named Hafnium, to siphon off company emails for espionage, with the help of an easy to use “web shell” tool allowing anybody with the right password to hack into a compromised Exchange server.

Once Microsoft was publicly alerted to the activity, attacks were rapidly stepped up on organisations that had not patched Exchange. Criminals, now aware of what was happening, were able to exploit the web shells, and in some cases they were booby-trapped if deleted – a brazen aspect of the hacking that surprised experts.

Read more:

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • The House overwhelmingly approved a bill to provide $1bn in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. The 420 to 9 vote came two days after the funding was stripped out of Democrats’ stopgap government spending bill due to progressive criticism of the proposal.
  • Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said the White House and congressional Democrats had “reached agreement on a framework that will pay for any final negotiated agreement” on the reconciliation package. But neither Schumer nor House speaker Nancy Pelosi would provide many details on what the framework looks like, and moderates and progressives remain at odds over the top-line cost of the reconciliation package.
  • The US envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, resigned over the “inhumane” treatment of Haitian migrants at the US-Mexican border. Foote’s resignation comes as the Biden administration faces outrage over the footage of border agents on horseback confronting Haitians trying to enter the US in Del Rio, Texas. The White House said horses would no longer be used in the border city.
  • Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell repeated his pledge to oppose any effort to raise the debt ceiling. Attacking the Democrats’ reconciliation package, McConnell said, “The party-line authors of this reckless taxing and spending spree will be the party-line owners of raising the debt limit.” Democrats have called on Republicans to help them suspend the debt ceiling in a bipartisan fashion, as Congress did during Donald Trump’s presidency.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

A Florida school district has received money from the Biden administration after suffering state funding cuts for instituting a mask requirement.

The AP reports:


Alachua County school Superintendent Carlee Simon said in a news release Thursday the district has received $148,000 through a U.S. Department of Education program.

Simon says Alachua, where Gainesville and the University of Florida are located, is the first district in the nation to receive such a grant.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and state education officials have begun cutting salaries paid to school board members in Florida who voted to require masks for students. DeSantis favors allowing parents to decide whether their children wear face coverings and is in the midst of court battles over this broader issue.

In Alachua County, the pay reductions so far for four school board members who voted for the mask mandate amounted to $27,000, Simon said.

Biden has vowed to help school districts that are negatively impacted by anti-mask policies, saying earlier this month, “Any teacher or school official whose pay is withheld for doing the right thing, we will have that pay restored by the federal government, 100%. I promise you I will have your back.”

Julian Borger

The Biden administration is making preparations to reopen a migrant detention centre at Guantánamo Bay, close to the prison camp for detainees picked up in the “war on terror” and has asked private contractors for tenders for a contract to supply guards who speak Creole and Spanish.

The Democratic congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez called the plan “utterly shameful”.

On Thursday the White House spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said the Guantánamo migrant centre was not intended for migrants detained on the southern border.

“There’s never been a plan to do that,” Psaki said. “I think there was some confusion related to a migrant operation centre, which has been used for decades to process migrants interdicted at sea for third-country resettlement.”

That centre has not been operational for four years. Psaki did not make it clear why the decision had been made to reopen it.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro sharply criticized Joe Biden for failing to speak out against the mistreatment of Haitian migrants at the US-Mexican border.

“It’s baffling and disappointing that President Biden has not spoken out about the mistreatment and continued deportation of Haitian asylum-seekers,” Castro said.

He added, “This administration’s use of Stephen Miller’s Title 42 policy is a terrible error – in more ways than one. It should end.”

Julián Castro
(@JulianCastro)

It’s baffling and disappointing that President Biden has not spoken out about the mistreatment and continued deportation of Haitian asylum-seekers.

This administration’s use of Stephen Miller’s Title 42 policy is a terrible error—in more ways than one. It should end. https://t.co/s6WIvnlqJI

September 23, 2021

Asked today why Biden had not used the bully pulpit to condemn the treatment of Haitian migrants, Jen Psaki argued the steps the president has taken to address the situation send a clear message.

“His point of view is also reflected in the actions that have been taken through the administration, including the investigation, including the change in policy,” the press secretary said.

She added, “And he certainly may still speak to it. Obviously there’s a lot of events happening here, including the UN general assembly, Covid and others.”

Updated

Sam Levin

Thousands of Afghan families who were selected for US visas are stuck in the war-torn country, as the US government’s failure to schedule their visa interviews ahead of a final deadline puts them at risk of missing their opportunity to leave.

If a US judge does not intervene by 30 September, more than 2,100 Afghans who were selected for the diversity visa program last year will become ineligible for such a visa.

The program annually awards green cards through a lottery to applicants from countries with lower immigration rates. The US state department is responsible for interviewing winners and granting visas by 30 September, the end of the fiscal year, but due to a suspension of the program and large backlogs during the pandemic, the US embassy in Kabul did not conduct interviews in the months leading up to the US withdrawal.

When the embassy shut down in August, the lottery winners were left with virtually no pathway to get their cases approved.

Some Afghan families have sued the Biden administration in hopes of extending the deadline beyond September. In the meantime, some applicants say they face grave danger as the security situation in the country has deteriorated. Others are growing increasingly desperate over what lies ahead for their families under Taliban rule.

“[It feels as if] no one cares about us, and every day [the situation] is getting worse,” said Abdul, a 34-year-old father of two, in a phone interview from Kabul. (The Guardian is withholding last names out of security concerns.)

During her press briefing today, Jen Psaki was asked about reports that the office of management and budget is planning to warn federal agencies to prepare for a possible government shutdown.

Unless Congress approves a government funding bill, a shutdown will occur next week, starting on October 1.

“We are taking every step we can to mitigate the impacts of a potential shutdown,” Psaki said during the White House briefing.

The press secretary said the OMB warning was “consistent with longstanding practice across many administrations” ahead of potential shutdowns.

“This is not formal guidance being given,” Psaki said. “It’s just a reminder we’re seven days out and we need to be prepared, of course, in any event of any contingency, so we see this as a routine step and one just to be prepared in any event of what could happen.”

The House has already approved a government funding bill to avert a shutdown, but Senate Republicans have vowed to oppose the proposal because it includes a debt ceiling increase, which they remain adamantly against.

The chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal, emphasized that Democrats need to act quickly to advance the reconciliation package.

“With the Build Back Better package, we have an opportunity to deliver investments that will change lives and save them, too,” Jayapal said on Twitter. “No more delays. We need to act with the urgency this moment requires.”

Pramila Jayapal
(@PramilaJayapal)

With the Build Back Better package, we have an opportunity to deliver investments that will change lives and save them, too.

No more delays. We need to act with the urgency this moment requires.

September 23, 2021

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said earlier today that the White House and congressional Democrats have reached an agreement on a framework for paying for the reconciliation package.

But Democratic leaders have provided no details on the framework, and members of the progressive caucus are still threatening to oppose the bipartisan infrastructure bill unless they see significant progress made on the reconciliation package.

While Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voted “present” on the Iron Dome funding bill, the rest of the progressive “Squad” opposed the proposal.

Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib all voted against the bill to provide funds for the Israeli missile defense system.

Tlaib justified her opposition in a House floor speech earlier today, saying, “I will not support an effort to enable and support war crimes, human rights abuses and violence.”

Although moderate Democrats have said the funding is justified because the system defends civilian lives, Tlaib said, “We cannot be talking only about Israelis’ need for safety at a time when Palestinians are living under a violent apartheid system.”

House passes $1bn bill for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system

The House has overwhelmingly approved a bill to provide $1bn in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

The final vote was 420 to 9. Eight Democrats and one Republican opposed the bill, and two Democratic members — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Hank Johnson — voted “present”.

House Press Gallery
(@HouseDailyPress)

The House passed H.R. 5323 – Iron Dome Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022. (2/3rd req. for passage) by a vote of 420 – 9, 2 present. https://t.co/5ipWPq4uI3

September 23, 2021

The vote came two days after progressive criticism forced Iron Dome funding out of Democrats’ government spending bill, which passed the House on Tuesday.

After the funding was stripped out of the spending bill, moderate Democrats had pushed for a separate vote on the matter, noting that the missile system is meant to protect civilian lives.

Oliver Milman

In climate news: The coastal US northeast is one of the fastest warming areas in the northern hemisphere, having heated up rapidly by 2C (3.6F) already over the past century due in part to the soaring temperature of the nearby Atlantic Ocean, new research has found.

The coastline that stretches from Maine down to Delaware hosts urban areas such as New York City and Boston and draws millions of tourists each year to beaches and other attractions. But the region is rapidly changing due to the climate crisis, having heated up by 2C on average since the start of the 20th century, driven largely by much warmer summers.

This is one of the fastest temperature increases in the northern hemisphere, researchers found, and is double the level of heating that has taken place further inland in the same region.

“It really pops out, it’s a big jump in temperature,” said Ambarish Karmalkar, a climate scientist at University of Massachusetts Amherst and lead author of the paper, published in Nature Climate Change.

Cities in the US north-east have been primarily focused on the dangers of flooding wreaked by the climate crisis – record rainfall caused severe flash flooding that killed dozens of people in New York earlier this month – but Karmalkar said that authorities would increasingly have to focus upon rising heat if current trends continue.

“The exceptional warming we’ve seen can have serious implications for heat stress and human health,” he said. “Lots of people vacation on this coast but the warming may change how people use the space. This will become an important public health issue to deal with.”

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Scuffle breaks out between police and BJP workers in Kalighat area near West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee's residence thumbnail

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