AP Top News at 11:56 p.m. EST
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has stopped a major push by the Biden administration to boost the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination rate, a requirement that employees at large businesses get a vaccine or test regularly and wear a mask on the job. At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S. The court’s orders Thursday came during a spike in coronavirus cases caused by the omicron variant. The court’s conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine-or-test rule on U.S.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group, and 10 other members or associates have been charged with seditious conspiracy in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, authorities said Thursday. Despite hundreds of charges already brought in the year since pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, these were the first seditious conspiracy charges levied in connection with the attack on Jan. 6, 2021. It marked a serious escalation in the largest investigation in the Justice Department’s history – more than 700 people have been arrested and charged with federal crimes – and highlighted the work that has gone into piecing together the most complicated cases.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Two brand-new COVID-19 pills that were supposed to be an important weapon against the pandemic in the U.S. are in short supply and have played little role in the fight against the omicron wave of infections. The problem, in part, is that production is still being ramped up and the medicines can take anywhere from five to eight months to manufacture. While the supply is expected to improve dramatically in the coming months, doctors are clamoring for the pills now, not just because omicron is causing an explosion of cases but because two antibody drugs that were once the go-to treatments don’t work as well against the variant.
WASHINGTON (AP) — There was a closed-door huddle by an embattled President Joe Biden with his own party’s senators, apparently for naught. An eyebrow-raising speech on the Senate floor by a recalcitrant Democrat. And a defiant news conference by the top House Republican. Each event occurred Thursday. None was helpful for Democrats. And all were snapshots from a day that underscored the divisiveness and futility washing over a largely gridlocked Washington during this jaggedly partisan time. “I hope we get this done. The honest to God answer is I don’t know whether we can get this done,” Biden admitted to reporters after a lunchtime meeting with Senate Democrats, where he sought support for the party’s latest foundering priority: voting rights legislation.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Sirhan Sirhan, who assassinated presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, was denied parole Thursday by California’s governor, who said the killer remains a threat to the public and hasn’t taken responsibility for a crime that altered American history. Kennedy, a U.S. senator from New York, was shot moments after he claimed victory in California’s pivotal Democratic presidential primary. Five others were wounded during the shooting at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has cited RFK as his political hero, rejected a recommendation from a two-person panel of parole commissioners who said Sirhan, 77, should be freed.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A judge is set to decide Friday whether a Milwaukee man accused of plowing his SUV through a Christmas parade, killing six people and injuring dozens more, will stand trial for murder. Darrell Brooks Jr. is set to appear in Waukesha County court before Judge Michael Bohren for a preliminary hearing. Such hearings, when the judge decides whether there’s enough evidence to hold a defendant for trial, are usually a formality but can shed light on defense and prosecution strategies. According to the criminal complaint, Brooks drove his mother’s maroon Ford Escape into the parade in downtown Waukesha on Nov.
JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is known for his folksy demeanor, sprinkling his speeches with “by gollys” and the occasional PG-rated swear word. To win reelection, the 70-year-old grandfather and former teacher is trying to convince voters that he’s also a valiant defender of democracy and the lone figure ensuring their votes will still matter in 2024 and beyond. “We are that close to not having our vote count in the state of Wisconsin,” Evers warned about 50 Democrats who braved single-digit temperatures on a recent Saturday morning to see him at a party headquarters in downtown Janesville.
BEIJING (AP) — China gave strong verbal backing to Kazakhstan’s leader for his deadly crackdown to quell violent unrest, but stood aside as Russia sent in special forces troops. Resource-rich Kazakhstan, on China’s western border, has economic and strategic importance for Beijing and is an important link in its “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative to expand its global trade and political influence in rivalry with the U.S. and its allies. China’s response to the crisis underscores how it prefers to influence outcomes with verbal assurances and offers of assistance, without committing troops. “The growing closeness between Russia and China means we can expect more rhetorical support for Moscow’s overseas ventures, particularly when they go up against Western geostrategic aims,” said Rana Mitter, an Oxford University China expert.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will nominate three people for the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, including Sarah Bloom Raskin, a former Fed and Treasury official, for the top regulatory slot and Lisa Cook, who would be the first Black woman to serve on the Fed’s board. Biden will also nominate Phillip Jefferson, an economist, dean of faculty at Davidson College in North Carolina and a former Fed researcher, according to a person familiar with the decision Thursday who was not authorized to speak on the record. The three nominees, who will have to be confirmed by the Senate, would fill out the Fed’s seven-member board.
For companies that were waiting to hear from the U.S. Supreme Court before deciding whether to require vaccinations or regular coronavirus testing for workers, the next move is up to them. Many large corporations were silent on Thursday’s ruling by the high court to block a requirement that workers at businesses with at least 100 employees be fully vaccinated or else test regularly for COVID-19 and wear a mask on the job. Target’s response was typical: The big retailer said it wanted to review the decision and “how it will impact our team and business.” The Biden administration argues that nothing in federal law prevents private businesses from imposing their own vaccine requirements.