White House Urges Boosters Ahead of Third COVID-19 Winter
Happy Thursday! Everyone knows that winning the lottery can ruin your life, what with all the temptation for dumb spending and potential greed from loved ones. Maybe that’s why nobody showed up to claim $4.3 million in winnings from a lottery ticket sold at an Arizona Safeway.
Now that money will be put back in the pot to wreck someone else’s life—a lucky escape for whoever’s holding the winning ticket.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Iranian protesters clashed with police Wednesday at demonstrations marking 40 days since the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a young woman detained for violating Iran’s religious dress code. In Tehran, security forces fired teargas and pellet guns at protesters, who burned trash cans and threw rocks. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury announced more sanctions against Iran—targeting 14 individuals and three organizations U.S. officials say are responsible for violence against protesters and internet blackouts intended to keep protesters from organizing. Also Wednesday, attackers killed 15 people visiting a shrine in southern Iran—though it’s unclear whether the attack was related to the protests, and state-controlled media blamed members of a Sunni sect mostly practiced in Saudi Arabia.
- Russian forces on Wednesday conducted nuclear weapons drills simulating a response to an adversary’s nuclear attack—part of scheduled annual drills that Russia notified the United States about in advance. NATO is also conducting annual nuclear exercises through October 30 in Belgium, the United Kingdom, and over the North Sea. The exercises come amid concerns over Russia’s threats of nuclear retaliation against Western countries interfering in its war against Ukraine. “It would have sent an absolutely wrong signal if then suddenly we canceled that exercise,” NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said, insisting the simultaneous drills won’t heighten tensions.
- A 40-year-old man was found guilty of six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and countless other charges for driving his car into a crowd at a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin last November, killing six and wounding dozens more. The man had been released from jail in a domestic abuse case days prior to committing the murders, on a bail that prosecutors later conceded was “inappropriately low.” He now faces life in prison.
- Also Wednesday, a Michigan jury convicted three men of providing “material support” to a terrorist act for their role in a plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan in 2020. The men provided gun training to a leader of the scheme and were also convicted of a gun crime and membership in a gang prosecutors argued was a criminal enterprise. They’ll be sentenced in December.
- Michael Soliman, an adviser to Sen. Robert Menendez, confirmed Wednesday the New Jersey Democrat, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is under federal investigation once again but unaware of the probe’s scope. Menendez was indicted on bribery charges in 2015—prosecutors claimed he planned to trade political favors for campaign donations, travel expenses, and other benefits—but the case ended in a mistrial after a federal jury was unable to reach a verdict.
- The Department of Justice has charged Ukrainian national Mark Sokolovsky with being a “key administrator” of Raccoon Infostealer—a Windows malware that since 2019 had stolen more than 50 million banking and login credentials from 2 million people. Sokolovsky is being held in the Netherlands pending extradition to the U.S. The FBI has created a website for users to check if they’re victims of Raccoon Infostealer, but DOJ officials warned they likely don’t have all the stolen data.
- The Justice Department on Wednesday officially changed department policy to prohibit the use of subpoenas, warrants, or court orders to obtain journalists’ records or testimony as part of efforts to identify leakers—with limited exceptions. The move codifies regulations that Attorney General Merrick Garland instituted in July 2021 after news broke that the Trump-era DOJ had secretly pursued the email records of reporters at several outlets.
- The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that new-home sales fell 10.9 percent month-over-month in September—and 17.6 percent year-over-year—while the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that mortgage applications dropped 42 percent year-over-year last week. The weakening demand is driven largely by higher interest rates, as the average rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage hit 7.16 percent last week—the highest level since 2001.
- New York’s Supreme Court ordered New York City to reinstate—with back pay—sanitation workers fired in February for refusing to comply with a COVID-19 vaccination mandate. Justice Ralph Porzio called the mandate “arbitrary and capricious,” noting that the city made exceptions to a similar mandate for public-facing employees of private companies—such as athletes and performers—suggesting the mandate wasn’t solely public health-driven. The city has appealed the decision.
- A second woman has claimed that Herschel Walker—Georgia’s Republican nominee for the Senate, running on an anti-abortion platform—was involved in her abortion. Identified by attorney Gloria Allred as “Jane Doe,” the woman alleges Walker pressured her into getting an abortion in 1993, which he denies. Another woman—the mother of one of Walker’s children—previously claimed that he paid for her abortion in 2009. Walker denies that claim as well.
Suppose They Gave a Vaccine and Nobody Came?
After delivering remarks on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, President Joe Biden took off his suit coat, rolled up his sleeve, and received his fifth overall dose of a COVID-19 vaccine—the bivalent booster authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in August to target the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the Omicron variants. The act put him in rare company. “The truth is, not enough people are getting [the booster],” Biden said. “We’ve got to change that so we can all have a safe and healthy holiday season.”
Administration officials told reporters earlier this fall they anticipated uptake of the newest vaccine would increase as the weather cooled and Americans lined up for their annual flu shots. Many pharmacies have been encouraging customers to knock both jabs off their to-do list in the same visit. But several weeks later, that confidence appears to have been misplaced: Although the Biden administration purchased more than 170 million doses of the updated vaccine, just 19.4 million people—about 8.6 percent of those eligible—had received one as of October 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).