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Updated: December 20, 2021 @ 7:13 am
Bluefield, West Virginia
Manchin not backing Dems’ $2T bill, potentially dooming it
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said Sunday he cannot back his party’s signature $2 trillion social and environment bill, dealing a potentially fatal blow to President Joe Biden’s leading domestic initiative heading into an election year when Democrats’ narrow hold on Congress was already in peril.
Manchin told “Fox News Sunday” that after five-and-half months of negotiations among Democrats in which he was his party’s chief obstacle to passage, “I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there.”
Manchin’s choice of words seemed to crack the door open to continued talks with Biden and top congressional Democrats over reshaping the legislation. But the West Virginia senator all but said the bill would die unless it met his demands for a smaller, less sweeping package — something that would be hard for many Democrats in the narrowly divided Congress to accept.
The bill would provide hundreds of billions of dollars to help millions of families with children by extending a more generous child tax credit, creating free preschool and bolstering child care aid. There is more than $500 billion for tax breaks and spending aimed at curbing carbon emissions, which experts consider the largest federal expenditure ever to combat climate change.
Other provisions would limit prescription drug price increases, create hearing benefits for Medicare recipients and bolster aid for the elderly, housing and job training. Nearly all of it would be paid for with higher taxes on the wealthy and large corporations.
Omicron may sideline two leading drugs against COVID-19
WASHINGTON (AP) — As strained U.S. hospitals brace for a new surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the fast-spreading omicron variant, doctors are warning of yet another challenge: the two standard drugs they’ve used to fight infections are unlikely to work against the new strain.
For more than a year antibody drugs from Regeneron and Eli Lilly have been the go-to treatments for early COVID-19, thanks to their ability to head off severe disease and keep patients out of the hospital.
But both drugmakers recently warned that laboratory testing suggests their therapies will be much less potent against omicron, which contains dozens of mutations that make it harder for antibodies to attack the virus. And while the companies say they can quickly develop new omicron-targeting antibodies, those aren’t expected to launch for at least several months.
A third antibody from British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline appears to be the best positioned to fight omicron. But Glaxo’s drug is not widely available in the U.S., accounting for a small portion of the millions of doses purchased and distributed by the federal government. U.S. health officials are now rationing scarce drug supplies to states.
“I think there’s going to be a shortage,” said Dr. Jonathan Li, director of the Harvard/Brigham Virology Specialty Laboratory. “We’re down to one FDA-authorized monoclonal antibody” with omicron because of the reduced effectiveness of Regeneron and Lilly’s drugs.
Leftist millennial wins election as Chile’s next president
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A leftist millennial who rose to prominence during anti-government protests was elected Chile’s next president Sunday after a bruising campaign against a free-market firebrand likened to Donald Trump.
With 56% of the votes, Gabriel Boric handily defeated by more than 10 points lawmaker José Antonio Kast, who tried unsuccessfully to scare voters that his inexperienced opponent would become a puppet of his allies in Chile’s Communist Party and upend the country’s vaunted record as Latin America’s most stable, advanced economy.
In a model of democratic civility that broke from the polarizing rhetoric of the campaign, Kast immediately conceded defeat, tweeting a photo of himself on the phone congratulating his opponent on his “grand triumph.” He then later traveled personally to Boric’s campaign headquarters to meet with his rival.
Meanwhile, outgoing President Sebastian Pinera — a conservative billionaire — held a video conference with Boric to offer his government’s full support during the three month transition.
Amid a crush of supporters, Boric vaulted atop a metal barricade to reach the stage where he initiated in the indigenous Mapuche language a rousing victory speech to thousands of mostly young supporters.
Fauci says omicron variant is `just raging around the world’
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — The COVID-19 omicron variant is “just raging around the world,” the White House’s top medical adviser said Sunday as President Joe Biden prepares to issue “a stark warning of what the winter will look like” for unvaccinated Americans.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “the real problem” for the U.S. hospital system is that “we have so many people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet been vaccinated.”
The prospect of a winter chilled by a wave of coronavirus infections is a severe reversal from the optimism projected by Biden some 10 months ago, when he suggested at a CNN town hall that the country would essentially be back to normal by this Christmas. Biden has been careful not to overpromise, yet confidence in the country has been battered by an unrelenting wave of COVID-19 mutations and variations that have left many Americans emotionally exhausted, dispirited and worried about infections.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tried to defend the president’s earlier promise in a separate interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“The idea about hoping and having an aspiration to be independent of the virus after a period of time is understandable and reasonable,” Fauci said. “But the one thing that we know from, now, almost two years’ experience with this virus is that it is really very unpredictable.”
Troops find religious exemption for vaccines unattainable
WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 12,000 military service members refusing the COVID-19 vaccine are seeking religious exemptions, and so far they are having zero success.
That total lack of approvals is creating new tensions within the military, even as the vast majority of the armed forces have gotten vaccinated.
The services, urgently trying to keep the coronavirus pandemic in check by getting troops vaccinated, are now besieged with exemption requests they are unlikely to approve. Meanwhile, troops claiming religious reasons for avoiding the shots are perplexed because exemptions are theoretically available, yet seem impossible to obtain.
Caught in the middle are chaplains, who must balance the desire to offer compassionate care and guidance to personnel with the need to explain a complicated process that may well be futile. They also must assess requests from those who may be using religion as an excuse to avoid a vaccine that, while credited with preventing needless deaths, has become politically charged.
“So many of them come in thinking that I make the decision, and if they make this case, that it’s a done deal,” said Maj. A’Shellarien Lang, an Army chaplain for the National Guard. “I don’t make the decision. And so when they find that out, it’s a kind of game-changer in the sense that they know that the process has to continue.”
What’s going on with Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex abuse trial?
NEW YORK (AP) — The case for and against Ghislaine Maxwell has been made, and as soon as Monday, her fate will rest squarely in the jury’s hands.
Maxwell, a socialite, has denied allegations from four women who say they were teens when she helped the wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse them. Her lawyers say she has been wrongly targeted by prosecutors intent on holding someone — anyone — accountable after Epstein killed himself while awaiting trial on related sex-abuse charges.
The evidence phase of the trial concluded within three weeks. With just days left before a verdict is expected, it’s time to take stock of developments.
WHO ARE GHISLAINE MAXWELL’S ACCUSERS?
The prosecution, mounted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, hinges on the accusations of four women who say they were teenagers when Maxwell and Epstein sexually exploited them in the 1990s and early 2000s. Three testified under the pseudonyms Jane, Kate and Carolyn. One, Annie Farmer, decided to tell her story publicly.
Rapper Drakeo the Ruler fatally stabbed at LA music festival
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A West Coast rapper known as Drakeo the Ruler was fatally stabbed in an altercation at a Los Angeles music festival where he was scheduled to perform, leaving fans of the young musician heartbroken.
A publicist for the rapper, Scott Jawson, confirmed his death on Sunday to the New York Times and Rolling Stone. The artist’s real name was Darrell Caldwell.
Caldwell, 28, was assaulted Saturday night at the Once Upon a Time in LA concert, which was expected to feature several artists, including Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and Ice Cube. Organizers called off the festival after the stabbing.
A fight broke out behind the main stage shortly after 8:30 p.m., leaving one man severely injured by a suspect wielding an edged weapon, the California Highway Patrol said in a bare bones news release that did not name Caldwell. The victim was taken to a hospital, where he later died.
The Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Fire Department also responded.
Sens. Warren and Booker test positive for breakthrough COVID
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey say they have tested positive for COVID-19, as the country deals with another surge in cases and the emergence of the omicron variant.
In separate statements Sunday, the Democrats said they had been fully vaccinated with two doses and a booster and their symptoms were mild. They also encouraged others to get the trio of shots if eligible.
Warren tweeted: “Thankfully, I am only experiencing mild symptoms & am grateful for the protection provided against serious illness that comes from being vaccinated & boosted.”
She didn’t elaborate on where she might have contracted the virus but said she’s regularly tested and turned up negative for COVID-19 earlier this past week. Spokespersons for her office didn’t respond to an email seeking comment Sunday.
Warren was at the U.S. Capitol this week along with other senators as Democrats seek to pass President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion Build Back Better social and environment bill.
Across US, houses of worship struggle to rebuild attendance
When Westminster United Methodist Church in Houston resumed in-person services late last year, after a seven-month halt due to COVID-19, there were Sundays when only three worshippers showed up, according to the pastor, Meredith Mills.
Since then, attendance has inched back up, but it’s still only about half the pre-pandemic turnout of 160 or 170, Mills estimates.
“It’s frustrating,” she said. “People just seem to want to leave home less these days.”
Some houses of worship are faring better than Mills’ church, some worse. Polls by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows how dramatically church attendance fell during the worst of the pandemic last year, even as many say they are now returning to regular service attendance.
Among mainline Protestants, just 1% said in a May 2020 poll that they were attending in-person services at least once a week. In the new poll, 14% say they’re doing so now, compared to 16% who say they did in 2019.
NHL stops cross-border games, shuts down 6th team
NEW YORK (AP) — The NHL and its players association temporarily clamped down on teams crossing the Canadian border and shut down operations of a sixth team on Sunday in hopes of salvaging the season as COVID-19 outbreaks spread across the league.
The Detroit Red Wings were added to the list of teams told to shut down operations, joining the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators and Boston Bruins. Detroit’s home game against Colorado on Monday previously had been postponed and will not take place as scheduled, and the Red Wings’ trip to Minnesota for Thursday’s game was called off.
Canadian-based teams will not play U.S.-based teams from Monday through Thursday, with those postponed games expected be rescheduled. The league said the decision was made, in part, because of the “fluid nature of federal travel restrictions.”
“We will continue to play the 2021-22 regular season schedule,” the NHL and NHLPA said Sunday in a joint statement. “Although there has been a recent increase in positive COVID test results among players, coaches and hockey staff, there have been a low number of positive cases that have resulted in concerning symptoms or serious illness.”
All told, 27 games have been postponed through Saturday and 12 more through Thursday will be pushed to another date. Roughly 10% of the 700-plus players were in the league’s virus protocol as of Saturday.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
1 p.m., at the Memorial Funeral Directory Chapel in Princeton. Burial will follow at Roselawn Memorial Gardens in Princeton.
11 a.m., at the Sacred Heart Church in Princeton. Burial will follow at Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Bluewell.
11 a.m., at Rodriguez Funeral Home in Bluefield, Va. Interment will follow at Haw Orchard Baptist Church Cemetery in Rugby, Va.
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First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.