The Omicron coronavirus variant has been identified in at least 20 countries as more governments move to impose travel bans and other restrictions to curb its spread. This comes as new evidence shows the highly mutated variant was present in the Netherlands at least several days before it was first detected and reported to the world by South Africa. Two flights on Dutch airline KLM may have been superspreader events for the Omicron variant.
In other coronavirus news, an FDA panel voted by a narrow margin to endorse the use of Merck’s antiviral COVID-19 pill. The oral treatment, which was shown in trials to reduce severe illness and death, could be approved for patient use within days and available within weeks.
In legal news, a federal judge has blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for health workers. The requirement was scheduled to take effect next week.
In Michigan, a 15-year-old student opened fire at Oxford High School near Detroit, killing three students and injuring another eight. The three students who were fatally shot were aged 14, 16 and 17. The suspect is now in custody, but no motives for the rampage have been released. It was the 651st mass shooting in the U.S. this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. In Washington, D.C., Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy blasted his Republican colleagues on the Senate floor for blocking gun control legislation.
Sen. Chris Murphy: “At the very moment that moms and dads in Michigan were being told that their kids weren’t coming home because they were shot at school, due to a country that has accepted gun violence due to Republicans’ fealty to the gun lobby. Do not lecture us about the sanctity, the importance of life, when 100 people every single day are losing their lives to guns, when kids go to school fearful that they won’t return home because a classmate will turn a gun on them, when it is in our control whether this happens.”
The father of the shooter had bought the gun he used several days before. In other gun control news, a federal court in California upheld the state’s ban on high-capacity magazines Tuesday. Further challenges to the California law could see the case brought before the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection questioned Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who then-President Trump called in January, asking him to “find” some 11,000 votes that would put him ahead of Biden in Georgia’s election tally. Raffensperger refused to help Trump overturn the results.
The committee is expected to move forward today with criminal contempt proceedings against former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark for refusing to comply with a committee subpoena. The full House would then have to vote in favor of sending the matter to the Justice Department for prosecution.
Meanwhile, Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff under Trump, has handed over documents to the House committee and will testify before the panel. In related news, Meadows has revealed in his new memoir that Trump tested positive for COVID-19 three days before his first debate with Joe Biden in September 2020 but went on to the debate, and other public events, without publicly revealing his positive test.
The U.S. government has revoked its designation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, as a foreign terrorist organization. It’s been five years since the FARC and the Colombian government signed a peace accord after five decades of conflict. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said removing the terrorist designation would facilitate U.S. support in implementing the accord.
A new report published by Human Rights Watch says Taliban forces have executed or forcibly disappeared some 100 former Afghan security forces since taking over the country in August. The report documents the killings of at least 47 former members of the Afghan National Security Forces who had surrendered or were apprehended by the Taliban between August and October in four provinces. At least another 53 former security force members were also killed. In a statement, Human Rights Watch said, “The Taliban leadership’s promised amnesty has not stopped local commanders from summarily executing or disappearing former Afghan security force members. The burden is on the Taliban to prevent further killings, hold those responsible to account, and compensate the victims’ families.”
In Germany, a Frankfurt court has convicted a former member of the Islamic State of committing genocide against Iraq’s minority Yazidi community. Taha al-Jumailly was found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes and sentenced to life in prison. The case involved the killing of a 5-year-old girl whom al-Jumailly bought as a slave, along with her mother, in 2015 in Syria. They were then taken to the Iraqi city of Fallujah. The girl died after being chained and left in the hot sun without water. The mother survived captivity and testified at the trial. The landmark trial is the first time a person has been convicted for their role in the brutal persecution carried out by the Islamic State against the Yazidi religious minority, a Kurdish-speaking group, which the U.N. denounced as genocide.
French President Emmanuel Macron inducted American-born pioneering performer and civil rights icon Josephine Baker into the Panthéon Tuesday, considered France’s highest tribute. She is the first Black woman and first American to receive the honor.
This came on the same day that far-right, xenophobic writer and pundit Éric Zemmour announced he would run for president. Zemmour has repeatedly attacked Islam, immigrants and the left. He relied on his usual racist talking points in a video announcing his candidacy.
Éric Zemmour: “You haven’t moved out, and yet you feel like you’re no longer at home. You haven’t left your country, but it is as if your country has left you. You feel like you’re a foreigner in your own country. You are exiled from within.”
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments today in a pivotal case that could overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling and the constitutionally protected right to have an abortion. The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is a challenge to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. Reproductive rights defenders are demonstrating in front of the Supreme Court today.
CNN has indefinitely suspended star anchor Chris Cuomo for advising his brother, disgraced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, on his response to mounting accusations of sexual harassment. In a statement, CNN said documents released Monday by New York Attorney General Letitia James revealed Chris Cuomo had “a greater level of involvement […] than we previously knew.” The CNN anchor repeatedly offered advice and assistance, including using his contacts to check on the status of upcoming articles about then-Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In Minnesota, jury selection began Tuesday in the manslaughter trial of white former police officer Kimberly Potter, who in April fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man and father, in Brooklyn Center. Potter can be heard in bodycam video shouting “Taser” multiple times before she killed Wright. The police officers initially pulled Daunte Wright over for minor traffic violations, including an air freshener hanging from the car’s rearview mirror.
In California, a new report estimates at least 1,500 unhoused people died on Los Angeles streets from the start of the pandemic to July 2021. The most common cause of death was accidental overdose.
In related news, in New York, city officials announced the opening of at least two supervised drug injection sites in Manhattan. The locations offer clean needles; administer naloxone, an opioid reversal medication; and provide medical care and drug dependency treatment options. Advocates have long fought for better and safer resources for people with addiction. The government-approved facilities are the first of their kind in the country and are aimed at fighting a rise in overdose deaths. U.S. overdose fatalities topped 100,000 over a 12-month period ending in April, a record number.
Phil Saviano has died. The survivor of clergy sex abuse and whistleblower was central in bringing to light decades of sexual assaults by Catholic priests. The scandal led to the resignation of Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law in 2002 and the church settling with hundreds of survivors. Saviano’s story was featured in the 2015 Oscar-winning film “Spotlight” about the Boston Globe investigative team that helped expose scores of cases of priests sexually assaulting children. Phil Saviano was 69 years old.