Here in the United States, the Senate has voted to reverse President Biden’s vaccine mandate for larger businesses. Two Democrats — Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — sided with all 50 Republican senators to pass the measure. The bill faces an uphill path in the House. If approved, the measure would reverse Biden’s order that all businesses with at least 100 employees require their workers to get vaccinated or undergo regular testing by January 4.
This comes as the number of U.S. residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19 topped 200 million. That’s just over 60% of the population.
Longtime German Chancellor Angela Merkel officially handed over the reins to Olaf Scholz Wednesday. Scholz, of the center-left Social Democrats, formed a three-way coalition with the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats after September’s election. Scholz vowed continuity with the popular leadership of Merkel.
Canada, Britain and Australia have joined the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, citing human rights concerns. This follows confirmation from the White House Monday it would not send any U.S. officials to the games, though athletes will still participate. The Beijing Olympics kick off on February 4.
President Biden ordered federal vehicles and buildings to start transitioning to renewable energy, with a goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. The executive order affects 300,000 buildings and 600,000 cars and trucks.
On Capitol Hill, senators grilled Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri Wednesday amid damning reports the social app causes widespread mental harm to children and teenagers. Mosseri said Congress should create a body to regulate social media, placing the responsibility for its dangers on the industry at large. Instagram recently halted plans for an app geared toward children, but, under questioning, Mosseri would not commit to never developing such an app, saying instead, if created, it would require parental consent. This is Senator Amy Klobuchar.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar: “I think that we are in diametrically opposed goals: the goals of parents out there and the goals of your company. Our kids aren’t cash cows, and that is exactly what’s been going on, because when you look at the marketing budget and you look at what your company has done, it’s to try to get more and more of them on board.”
Instagram is owned by Facebook’s recently-renamed parent company, Meta.
The former chief of staff for President Trump on Wednesday asked a federal judge to block subpoenas from the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Mark Meadows’s lawsuit came just hours after he refused to appear for a scheduled deposition. Just last week, Meadows had pledged to cooperate with the congressional probe. Committee members said in response they’re preparing criminal contempt charges.
Meanwhile, a key organizer of the January 6 rally that preceded the assault on the Capitol has agreed to cooperate with congressional investigators. Ali Alexander pledged to deliver a trove of documents about the so-called Stop the Steal rallies when he’s deposed by the January 6 committee today. Lawmakers are especially interested in Alexander’s communications with members of Trump’s White House and Republican lawmakers.
In Minnesota, opening arguments got underway Wednesday in the manslaughter trial of former police officer Kim Potter, who says she mistakenly drew her gun instead of her Taser when she fatally shot Black motorist Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in April. During opening remarks, prosecutor Erin Eldridge said Potter betrayed her badge, failed Daunte Wright and failed in her role as the ranking officer at the scene.
Erin Eldridge: “Officer Luckey was her trainee, and she was the FTO, so she was the one who determined how the stop would go. She was the 26-year veteran. She was the officer in charge. And it was her job to show officer Luckey how it’s done. And what did she show him? She showed him how to kill someone.”
Daunte Wright’s killing in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center last April came during the murder trial of George Floyd’s killer, Derek Chauvin, and set off a fresh wave of protests against police brutality.
California’s attorney general said Wednesday he will investigate the Torrance Police Department, after the Los Angeles Times obtained a trove of racist and homophobic text messages exchanged by more than a dozen current and former police officers and recruits. One message contained a caption reading “hanging with the homies,” under a picture showing several Black men who had been lynched. Another message joked about breaking the tail lights on the car of a Black motorist so police could pull him over and shoot him. The L.A. Times reports the officers exchanged racist messages for years, a revelation that could affect hundreds of criminal cases in which the officers either testified or made arrests.
Three Starbucks locations in Buffalo, New York, could soon be the company’s first unionized U.S. shops as votes are counted today in a highly anticipated election. Three other Starbucks stores in Buffalo and one in Mesa, Arizona, have also filed petitions for their own union elections.
Meanwhile, Kellogg’s workers remain on strike after rejecting a tentative agreement that included a 3% raise. Kellogg’s said it will start replacing striking workers with permanent hires.
In more labor news, members of the United Auto Workers recently voted in favor of the “one member, one vote” system, which will allow workers to directly elect their president and other leadership. The election reform came after a federal corruption probe which found UAW leaders were using union funds to make luxury purchases and support lavish lifestyles.