Drone Certification TestAP News in Brief at 9:04 p.m. EST | National

December 17, 2021by helo-10
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CDC recommends Pfizer, Moderna COVID-19 shots over J&J’s

Most Americans should be given the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines instead of the Johnson & Johnson shot that can cause rare but serious blood clots, U.S. health officials said Thursday.

The strange clotting problem has caused nine confirmed deaths after J&J vaccinations — while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines don’t come with that risk and also appear more effective, said advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The panel recommended the unusual move of giving preference to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and late Thursday the CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, accepted the panel’s advice.

Until now the U.S. has treated all three COVID-19 vaccines available to Americans as an equal choice, since large studies found they all offered strong protection and early supplies were limited. J&J’s vaccine initially was welcomed as a single-dose option that could be especially important for hard-to-reach groups like homeless people who might not get the needed second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna options.

But the CDC’s advisers said during a meeting Thursday that it was time to recognize a lot has changed since vaccines began rolling out a year ago. More than 200 million Americans are considered fully vaccinated, including about 16 million who got the J&J shot.


US regulators lift in-person restrictions on abortion pill

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday permanently removed a major obstacle for women seeking abortion pills, eliminating a long-standing requirement that they pick up the medication in person.

Millions of American women will now be able to get a prescription via an online consultation and receive the pills through the mail. FDA officials said a scientific review supported broadening access, including no longer limiting dispensing to a small number of specialty clinics and doctor’s offices.

But prescribers will still need to undergo certification and training. Additionally, the agency said dispensing pharmacies will have to be certified.

The decision is the latest shift in the polarized legal battle over medication abortion, which has only intensified amid the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is certain to spur legal challenges and more restrictions in Republican-led states.

Earlier this year the FDA stopped enforcing the in-person requirement because of the pandemic. Under Thursday’s decision, the agency permanently dropped the 20-year-old rule, which has long been opposed by medical societies, including the American Medical Association, which say the restriction offers no clear benefit to patients.


Biden acknowledges $2T bill stalled, but vows it will pass

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Thursday all but acknowledged negotiations over his sweeping domestic policy package will likely push into the new year, as he does not yet have the votes in the Senate to lift the roughly $2 trillion bill to passage.

Biden issued a statement in the evening as it became increasingly apparent the Democratic senators would not meet their Christmas deadline, in large part because of unyielding opposition from one holdout: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

The president said that in their recent discussions, the West Virginia senator has reiterated his support for the framework he, the president and other Democrats had agreed to on the flagship bill. Biden said he also briefed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier Thursday about the most recent round of talks with Manchin.

“I believe that we will bridge our differences and advance the Build Back Better plan, even in the face of fierce Republican opposition,” Biden said in the statement.

Biden said he and his team will continue to have discussions with Manchin next week. The White House and the congressional leaders plan to work “over the days and weeks ahead” to finish up the details, he said. Both he and Schumer are determined, he said, to bring the package to the Senate floor for votes as early as possible.


Pressure builds against doctors peddling false virus claims

They have decried COVID-19 as a hoax, promoted unproven treatments and pushed bogus claims about the vaccine, including that the shots magnetize the human body.

The purveyors of this misinformation are not shadowy figures operating in the dark corners of the internet. They are a small but vocal group of doctors practicing medicine in communities around the country.

Now medical boards are under increasing pressure to act. Organizations that advocate for public health have called on them to take a harder line by disciplining the doctors, including potentially revoking their licenses. The push comes as the pandemic enters a second winter and deaths in the U.S. top 800,000.

At least a dozen regulatory boards in states such as Oregon, Rhode Island, Maine and Texas recently issued sanctions against some doctors, but many of the most prolific promoters of COVID-19 falsehoods still have unblemished medical licenses.

“Just because it is physicians, it is no different than if someone called you claiming to be the IRS trying to steal your money,” said Brian Castrucci, president and chief executive officer of the de Beaumont Foundation. “It’s a scam, and we protect Americans from scams.”


Judge rejects Purdue Pharma’s sweeping opioid settlement

A judge has rejected OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy settlement of thousands of lawsuits over the opioid epidemic because of a provision that would protect members of the Sackler family from facing litigation of their own.

In a ruling Thursday, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in New York found that federal bankruptcy law does not give the bankruptcy judge who had accepted the plan the authority to grant that kind of release for people who are not declaring bankruptcy themselves.

The ruling is likely to be appealed by the company, family members and the thousands of government entities that support the plan.

A Purdue spokesperson said Thursday evening that the company was preparing a statement. Representatives of the two branches of the family who own the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, who was among a handful of state officials seeking to have the deal undone, called the ruling “a seismic victory for justice and accountability.” Tong said the ruling will “re-open the deeply flawed Purdue bankruptcy and force the Sackler family to confront the pain and devastation they have caused.”


Across services, troops face discipline for refusing vaccine

WASHINGTON (AP) — All of the U.S. military services have now begun disciplinary actions and discharges for troops who have refused to get the mandated coronavirus vaccine, officials said Thursday, with as many as 20,000 unvaccinated forces at risk of being removed from service.

On Thursday, the Marine Corps said it has discharged 103 Marines so far for refusing the vaccine, and the Army said it has reprimanded more than 2,700 soldiers and will begin discharge proceedings in January. The Air Force said earlier this week that 27 airmen had been discharged for refusing the vaccine order. And the Navy laid out its new discipline procedure this week, and has already fired one sailor from his command job for refusing to be tested while he pursues an exemption.

Military leaders have warned for months that troops would face consequences if they did not follow what is considered to be a lawful order to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But only in the last week or so have they publicly begun following through on those threats.

It’s not clear how many could end up being discharged. But according to the services, at least 30,000 service members are not yet vaccinated, but several thousand of those have gotten temporary or permanent medical or administrative exemptions approved. Of the remaining — which is likely 20,000 or more — thousands are working their way through the exemptions process or have flatly refused. That’s about 1.5% of the roughly 1.3 million active duty troops.

The figures reflect a calculated risk — that the number of troops who would be forced from service for refusing the vaccine posed less of a threat to military readiness than the prospect of the virus running rampant among unvaccinated troops.


All from US missionary group freed in Haiti, police say

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The remaining members of a U.S. missionary group who were kidnapped two months ago in Haiti have been freed, Haitian police and the church group said Thursday.

The spokesman for Haiti’s National Police, Gary Desrosiers, confirmed to The Associated Press that the hostages had been released, but did not immediately provide additional details.

“We glorify God for answered prayer — the remaining 12 hostages are FREE!” Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement. “All 17 of our loved ones are now safe.”

A convoy of at least a dozen vehicles, including U.S. Embassy SUVs and Haitian National Police, brought the missionaries to the Port-au-Prince airport late Thursday afternoon from the missionary group’s offices in Titanyen, north of the capital.

Earlier, people at the Christian Aid Ministries campus could be seen hugging each other and smiling.


Schools step up security in response to threats on TikTok

Educators announced plans to increase security in response to TikTok posts warning of shooting and bomb threats at schools around the country Friday as officials assured parents the viral posts were not considered credible.

The social media threats had many educators on edge as they circulated in the aftermath of a deadly school shooting in Michigan, which has been followed by numerous copycat threats to schools elsewhere.

School officials in states including Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, New York and Pennsylvania said Thursday there would be an increased police presence because of the threats.

The vague, anonymous posts circulating online warned that multiple schools would receive shooting and bomb threats.

“We are writing to inform you and not alarm you,” Oak Park and River Forest, Illinois, school administrators said in an email to parents. “We have been made aware of a nationwide viral TikTok trend about ‘school shooting and bomb threats for every school in the USA even elementary’ on Friday, December 17.”


Congress approves import ban targeting forced labor in China

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators gave final congressional approval Thursday to a bill barring imports from China’s Xinjiang region unless businesses can prove they were produced without forced labor, overcoming initial hesitation from the White House and what supporters said was opposition from corporations.

The measure is the latest in a series intensifying U.S. penalties over China’s alleged systemic and widespread abuse of ethnic and religious minorities in the western region, especially Xinjiang’s predominantly Muslim Uyghurs. The Biden administration also announced new sanctions Thursday targeting several Chinese biotech and surveillance companies, a leading drone manufacturer and government entities for their actions in Xinjiang.

The Senate vote sends the bill to President Joe Biden. Press secretary Jen Psaki said this week that Biden supported the measure, after months of the White House declining to take a public stand on an earlier version of the legislation.

The United States says China is committing genocide in its treatment of the Uyghurs. That includes widespread reports by rights groups and journalists of forced sterilization and large detention camps where many Uyghurs allegedly are compelled to work in factories.

China denies any abuses. It says the steps it has taken are necessary to combat terrorism and a separatist movement.


Elizabeth Holmes jurors hear different takes on her downfall

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Jurors in the case of former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes on Thursday heard starkly different interpretations of her motives and actions as her long-running criminal trial nears the finish line.

A federal prosecutor cast Holmes as a desperate con artist who brazenly lied to get rich, while her lawyer depicted her as a well-meaning entrepreneur who never stopped trying to perfect Theranos’ blood-testing technology and deliver on her pledge to improve health care.

The closing arguments are the final act in a three-month-old trial revolving around allegations that Holmes duped investors, business partners and patients into believing that Theranos had invented a more humane, quicker and cheaper way to test blood. The case could be handed over to the jury Friday.

Prosecutor Jeff Schenk opened his closing argument by painting a sordid portrait of Holmes, once a Silicon Valley billionaire — on paper — now trying to avoid conviction on fraud charges that could result in a 20-year prison sentence.

As he methodically walked the jury through the testimony of the 29 witnesses called by the government, Schenk emphasized that Holmes had a critical choice to make on several occasions during her 15-year reign running Theranos. Holmes could have acknowledged troubling flaws in Theranos’ blood-testing technology, Schenk contended, but she covered them up instead as part of her pursuit of fame and fortune.



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