Discover more from Bulletin
Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022
U of Michigan settlement, voting bill dead, Biden after one year, trial for three officers begins in Minnesota, FBI searches Cuellar's home and office and a movie flashback to 2005.
Good Thursday morning. Here’s what is happening:
Detroit Free Press: The University of Michigan has reached a $490 million settlement with over 1,000 former athletes and other students who said they had been sexually assaulted by a former school doctor.
The University of Michigan has reached a $490 million settlement with former athletes and other U-M students who sued the school saying they had been sexually assaulted by the late Dr. Robert Anderson, a former football team doctor, attorneys for the survivors and the university announced.
There are 1,050 former athletes and other U-M students suing the university in federal court. Many of the suits, including the first filed, were filed anonymously. The suits claim the university failed to act when it knew Anderson was sexually assaulting students.
"The University of Michigan has accepted responsibility financially and otherwise for harm that was caused by Anderson to so many young people that could have been avoided," attorney Jamie White said in a statement. "The university should be commended and not condemned. Most of our clients had a strong love for the university and did not want to see permanent damage, but wanted accountability. I believe we accomplished those goals yesterday," he said, referring to reaching the agreement late Tuesday.
"It is time for the Michigan legislators to look at why two of the largest scandals in the history of the country — Larry Nassar and Robert Anderson — happened at Michigan's two largest universities. Other states have addressed this issue. It is time for Michigan leadership to do the same."
Anderson, worked at U-M from 1968-2003 and died in 2008.
Of the $490 million total settlement, $460 million will be available to the approximately 1,050 claimants, and $30 million would be reserved for future claimants who choose to participate in the settlement before July 31, 2023, U-M said. The claimants and their attorneys will determine how the money is split. A U-M statement said U-M will have no role in that.
“We hope this settlement will begin the healing process for survivors,” said Jordan Acker, chairman of the university's Board of Regents. “At the same time, the work that began two years ago, when the first brave survivors came forward, will continue.”
U-M will pay the $490 million settlement with Anderson victims from be paid from university reserves and insurance proceeds, a university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said.
"This historic settlement was achieved because over a thousand brave survivors refused to be silenced and demanded accountability from their abuser and the institution which enabled him," said attorney Parker Stinar who represents hundreds of victims.
The Hill: Sens. Joe Manchin and and Kyrsten Sinema joined Republicans Wednesday night opposing changes to the filibuster, sinking passage of the voting rights bill.
Senate Democrats failed to change the legislative filibuster for a voting bill on Wednesday night, after Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voted with Republicans to oppose the rules reform, handing President Biden and the party a stinging defeat.
Senators voted 52-48 to defeat the proposal. To have been successful, Democrats would need total unity from all 50 of their members, plus Vice President Harris to break a tie.
The outcome of the vote was telegraphed, but it marks a defeat of Democrats’ months-long push to pass voting rights legislation, even if it meant changing the rules so they could do it alone.
Even as the effort appeared poised to fall short, Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) poured time and political capital into the fight.
Schumer has talked up the issue both on the Senate floor, during a blitz of TV appearances and back in New York this week for Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations. Democrats were under pressure to hold the vote, regardless of the outcome, to show that they were all-in on voting rights.
Schumer made a final plea to his own party after Republicans blocked a voting bill on Wednesday night that would have combined the Freedom to Vote Act, which overhauls elections and campaign finance laws, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would expand and strengthen the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
“The only choice to move forward on these vital issues is to change the rules in the modest way we have proposed. My colleagues, history is watching us. Let us choose in favor of our democracy,” Schumer said.
Under the rules change proposal, Democrats would have gotten rid of the 60-vote hurdle currently required for most legislation, but only for the voting rights bill. Instead, opponents could delay the election legislation by holding the floor but after that it could pass by a simple majority.
Manchin reiterated his position just hours before the failed rules change vote, and chided Democrats for trying to “break the rules to change the rules.”
“For the last year, my Democratic colleagues have taken to the Senate floor, cable news airwaves, pages of newspapers across the country, and to argue that repealing the filibuster is restoring the vision the founding fathers intended for this deliberate body. My friends, that is simply not true. It’s not true,” Manchin said.
Washington Examiner: President Joe Biden said Wednesday there was no 'cause for panic' over omicron, describing it as 'the new enemy.'
President Joe Biden directly addressed "frustration and fatigue" as the country approaches its third year of battling the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden called the omicron variant "the new enemy" but not a "cause for panic" given the tools the country has to combat the pandemic.
"All I know is that after almost two years of physical, emotional, and psychological weight of this pandemic, and the impact it's had on everyone — for many of us, it's been too much to bear," the president said during a press conference Wednesday. "We're in a very different place now. We have the tools, vaccines, boosters, mass test pills, to save lives and keep businesses and schools open."
Biden touted the progress his administration has made on vaccinations, including fully vaccinating 75% of adults and reducing the number of unvaccinated Americans to just 35 million as of Wednesday.
On testing, he conceded the federal government should have "done more testing earlier" but claimed to be "doing more now," detailing plans to ship hundreds of millions of tests across the country. Furthermore, Biden pledged not to close schools and businesses as a mitigation strategy.
"Some people may call what's happening now a new normal. I call it a job not yet finished. It will get better. We're moving toward a time when COVID-19 won't disrupt our daily lives, or COVID-19 won't be a crisis," he said.
Fox News: President Biden expressed optimism Wednesday that 'pieces' of his Build Back Better plan can still pass Congress.
POLITICO: President Joe Biden committed to VP Kamala Harris as his running mate in 2024 when he runs for reelection.
Axios: President Biden on Wednesday declined to say if the upcoming election would be fair and legitimate without voting rights reform.
President Biden on Wednesday declined to say if the upcoming election would be fair and legitimate without voting rights reform.
Biden previously called Republicans' voting restrictions as an attack on democracy and emphasized that the forces behind the Jan. 6 insurrection could rise up again if voting rights legislation remains blocked.
Asked at a news briefing if he believes the election would be fair if Congress doesn't pass voting rights legislation, Biden said "it all depends on whether or not we're able to make the case to the American people that some of this is being set up to try to alter the outcome of the election."
He noted, however, that "no matter how hard they make it for minorities to vote, I think you'll find them willing to stand in line and defy the attempt to keep them from being able to vote."
"It's going to be difficult. I make no bones about that," he added. "We've not run out of options yet. And we'll see how this moves."
Biden later said the upcoming 2022 midterms could "easily be illegitimate" when asked again about election outcomes.
"The prospect of an illegitimate [election] is in direct proportion to us being able to get these reforms passed, but I don't think ... you're gonna see the Democratic Party give up on coming back."
He also acknowledged that Black voters' discontent with his slow pace on voting rights is a "problem that is my own making, not communicating as much as I should have."
CNN: President Joe Biden predicted Wednesday that Russia 'will move in' to Ukraine, but said a 'minor incursion' may actually prompt discussion over consequences.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday predicted Russia "will move in" to Ukraine, citing existential concerns by the country's president, Vladimir Putin, even as he acknowledged disunity within NATO over how to respond to a "minor incursion."
The candid assessment laid bare the struggle Biden faces in creating meaningful consequences and deterrents for Moscow, which remains closely intertwined economically with the United States' top European partners.
The remark elicited near-immediate outcry in Kyiv, where officials have been meeting with Biden's top diplomat as Russian troops amass on the country's border. High-level attempts to clean-up the comment soon followed at the White House.
While Biden vowed withering economic consequences on Russia should Putin send his troops over the frontier, including restricting its financial transitions in US dollars, he suggested Western nations were not in sync on what to do should a lesser violation occur.
"It's one thing if it's a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do," Biden told reporters at an East Room news conference. "But if they actually do what they're capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine."
Later, asked to clarify what he meant by "minor incursion," Biden said he drew the line at "Russian forces crossing the border, killing Ukrainian fighters"
The White House sought to explain Biden's remarks by pointing out a Russian attack in cyberspace or through paramilitary forces would prompt a reciprocal response compared to a scenario where Russian troops move from their positions into Ukraine.
"President Biden has been clear with the Russian President: If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, that's a renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our Allies," press secretary Jen Psaki wrote in a statement following Biden's marathon news conference.
"President Biden also knows from long experience that the Russians have an extensive playbook of aggression short of military action, including cyberattacks and paramilitary tactics," Psaki went on. "And he affirmed today that those acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal, and united response."
A senior administration official said if Russian military forces tried to take Ukrainian territory by force and violated Ukrainian sovereignty -- whether that was a "small portion or a large portion" of land -- that would constitute an "invasion" by the Biden administration's standards and would warrant severe penalties.
New York Post: President Joe Biden said Wednesday Russia ‘will be able to prevail over time’ if it invades Ukraine.INCREASING THREAT: President Biden addressed concerns over an impending Russian invasion in Ukraine, saying Russia will face crippling economic sanctions if it proceeds. President Putin, however, appears undeterred and ready to strike.
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Yahoo News: The Supreme Court Wednesday rejected former President Donald Trump’s request to prevent January 6 investigators from obtaining records on the Capitol attack.
The 8-1 decision by the justices was the latest hurdle to Trump’s attempt to claim executive privilege over hundreds of pages of documents sought by the House select committee investigating Jan. 6. In November, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that Trump did not have the authority to overrule current President Biden, who has so far chosen to waive executive privilege over the records sought by the committee. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., then affirmed that ruling in December, prompting Trump to submit an emergency request last month asking the Supreme Court to intervene.
But nearly all of the justices ruled against Trump’s request on Wednesday, with only Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting.
By rejecting the ex-president’s executive privilege claims, the Supreme Court decision opens the door for the Jan. 6 committee to receive hundreds of pages of White House communications, emails, text messages and other documents that could offer a new and potentially significant roadmap to the activities of Trump and his key advisers as they attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The court’s decision also could effectively moot the challenges to committee subpoenas by former Trump aides, like ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, both of whom have invoked Trump’s claims of executive privilege as grounds for not turning over documents or agree to submit for questioning by the committee.
The court’s terse opinion was especially surprising since only one justice, Clarence Thomas, voted to take up the case and hear the former president’s arguments on the issue. None of Trump’s three appointees to the court — Neal Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh — sided with him, although Kavanaugh issued a limited dissent stating that he did not accept a portion of a U.S. Court of Appeals opinion stating that former presidents did not have standing to invoke executive privilege if the incumbent president doesn’t. But since the Court of Appeals ruled that Trump’s executive privilege claims would have failed even if he was still president, the limited Kavanaugh dissent didn’t matter; he concurred in the court’s opinion that the documents in question should be turned over.
POLITICO: The January 6 committee has subpoenaed Nick Fuentes and Patrick Case, leaders of the right-wing ‘America First’ movement.
The New York Times: The Times has obtained footage of the botched airstrike in Kabul that killed 10 people, including seven children.
Newly declassified surveillance footage provides additional details about the final minutes and aftermath of a botched drone strike in Kabul in August, when the American military mistakenly killed 10 innocent people — including seven children — in a tragic blunder that punctuated the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan.
The disclosure of the videos is the first time any footage from the strike has been seen publicly. They encompass about 25 minutes of silent video from two drones — a military official said both were MQ-9 Reapers — showing the minutes before, during and after the strike.
While the videos will continue to be scrutinized for any new details about how the episode unfolded, they show the dangers of making hair-trigger, life-or-death decisions based on imagery that can be fuzzy, hard to interpret in real time and prone to confirmation bias. The risk of error was further heightened by striking in a densely populated neighborhood.
In this case, the military was operating under extreme pressure to head off another attack on troops and civilians in the middle of the chaotic withdrawal. It has said it believed it was tracking an ISIS-K terrorist who might imminently detonate a bomb near the Kabul airport. Three days earlier, a suicide bombing at the airport had killed at least 182 people, including 13 American troops.
The New York Times obtained the footage of the Aug. 29 strike through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against United States Central Command, which oversaw military operations in Afghanistan. The disclosure — a rare step by the U.S. military in the case of an airstrike that causes civilian casualties — is likely to add fuel to a debate about the rules for drone warfare and protections for civilians.
The videos — one of which is in grainy imagery apparently from a camera designed to detect heat — show a car arriving at and backing into a courtyard on a residential street. Blurry figures are moving around the courtyard, and children are walking on the street outside the walls in the moments before a fireball from a Hellfire missile engulfs the interior. Neighbors can then be seen desperately dumping water onto the courtyard from rooftops.
The scenes unfolding on the video are murky in some respects, although in retrospect it is clear that what evidence they provided was misinterpreted by those who decided to fire.BIG: obtained previously classified surveillance video of the botched drone strike in Kabul: nytimes.com/2022/01/19/us/… The military *rarely* releases strike footage from civilian casualty incidents. Until now, we had only the military's own descriptions of the video...
NBC News: Ths CIA says 'Havana Syndrome' cases were not the result of a sustained campaign by a hostile power.
In a new intelligence assessment, the CIA has ruled out that the mysterious symptoms known as Havana Syndrome are the result of a sustained global campaign by a hostile power aimed at hundreds of American diplomats and spies, six people briefed on the matter tell NBC News.
In about two dozen cases, the agency can’t rule out foreign involvement, including many of the cases that originated at the U.S. embassy in Havana beginning in 2016. Another group of cases is considered unresolved. But in hundreds of other cases of possible symptoms, the agency has found plausible, alternate explanations, the sources said.
The CIA declined to comment.
The idea that widespread brain injuries symptoms have been caused by Russia or another foreign power targeting Americans around the world, either to harm them or to collect intelligence, has been deemed unfounded, the sources said.
People who have experienced possible Havana Syndrome symptoms and have been briefed on the assessment have expressed deep disappointment, the sources said. Some have pointed out that the CIA’s findings are considered an interim assessment and were not coordinated with other agencies of government, including the Department of Defense.
“CIA just kind of struck out on their own,” one person briefed on the findings said.
The Associated Press: Airlines cancelled at least 250 flights Wednesday even after AT&T and Verizon stopped the rollout of some 5G service that could interfere with aircrafts.
Some flights to and from the U.S. were canceled on Wednesday even after AT&T and Verizon scaled back the rollout of high-speed wireless service that could interfere with aircraft technology that measures altitude.
Carriers that rely heavily on the wide-body Boeing 777 canceled flights or switched to different planes following warnings from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing.
But airlines that solely or mostly fly Airbus jets, including Air France and Ireland’s Aer Lingus, seemed unaffected by the new 5G service.
By midafternoon Wednesday, airlines had canceled more than 250 flights, according to FlightAware. That was a small percentage of total U.S. flights, however, and far fewer than cancellations during the Christmas and New Year’s travel season, which peaked at more than 3,000 a day when airlines were hobbled by winter storms and large numbers of workers calling in sick because of COVID-19.
Airlines for America, a trade group, said cancellations were limited because telecom providers agreed to temporarily reduce the rollout of 5G near airports while industry and the government work out a longer-term solution.
U.S. officials had said that even with the concession, there could be some cancellations and delays because of the way 5G affected equipment on certain planes.
Similar mobile networks have been deployed in more than three dozen countries, but there are key differences in how the U.S. networks are designed that raised concern of potential problems for airlines.
Fox News: Two teenagers in the UK were released Wednesday without any criminal charges related to the hostage taking incident in Texas.
In providing an update Wednesday, Greater Manchester Police announced that the two teenagers arrested Sunday in South Manchester by officers from Counter Terrorism Policing North West had been released without charge after spending three nights in custody.
The nearly 11-hour-standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas – about 15 miles northeast of Fort Worth – ended Saturday night with the 44-year-old alleged gunman, Malik Faisal Akram, dead. While no hostages were killed, Akram was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani national in prison for trying to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan who was dubbed "Lady Al Qaeda."
Several reports say the teens taken into custody were Akram’s sons, but police have not confirmed those reports.
Terrorism police also searched an address in North Manchester as part of their investigation.
"CTP North West is continuing to assist with the investigation which is being led by US authorities. Overnight, constrictive meetings with colleagues from the United States have taken place," Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Dominic Scally said in a statement. "As part of our enquiries, we’re also working with colleagues in other forces and Lancashire Police are working with communities in the Blackburn area to put measures in place to provide reassurance."
The Associated Press: The federal trial for three police officers who were with Derek Chauvin when he killed George Floyd begins Thursday in Minnesota.
The federal trial for three former Minneapolis police officers who were with Derek Chauvin when he pinned George Floyd to the street is expected to be complex as prosecutors try to prove each officer willingly violated the Black man’s constitutional rights.
Jury selection begins Thursday in the federal case against J. Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, who also face a state trial later this year on counts of aiding and abetting both murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.
In the federal case, all three are broadly charged with depriving Floyd of his civil rights while acting under “color of law,” or government authority. Legal experts say it will be more complicated than the state trial because prosecutors have the difficult task of proving they willfully violated Floyd’s constitutional rights — unreasonably seizing him and depriving him of liberty without due process.
“In the state case, they’re charged with what they did. That they aided and abetted Chauvin in some way. In the federal case, they’re charged with what they didn’t do -- and that’s an important distinction. It’s a different kind of accountability,” said Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor and professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.
While the state would try to prove the officers helped Chauvin commit murder or manslaughter, federal prosecutors must show that they failed to intervene. As Phil Turner, another former federal prosecutor, put it, prosecutors must show the officers should have done something to stop Chauvin, rather than show they did something directly to Floyd.
Floyd, 46, died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin pinned him to the ground with his knee on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes while Floyd was facedown, handcuffed and gasping for air. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held down his legs. Thao kept bystanders from intervening.
Chauvin was convicted in April on state charges of murder and manslaughter and is serving a 22½-year sentence. In December, he pleaded guilty to a federal count of violating Floyd’s rights.
WCCO-TV: The state trial for three former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s death has been delayed until June.
KTTV-TV: Police have arrested the suspected killer of Brianna Kupfer, the 24-year-old UCLA grad student who was stabbed to death last week.
He was arrested by Pasadena police officers around 11:50 a.m. at a bus stop near the intersection of E. Colorado Boulevard and Fair Oaks Avenue, approximately 17 miles from the furniture store where Kupfer was murdered, officials said.
Los Angeles police launched a hunt for Smith, 31, after Kupfer was found stabbed to death in a random daytime attack at a luxury furniture store last week. Smith remained on the loose early Wednesday and police have said that he should be considered armed and dangerous.
A combined $250,000 reward was being offered to help Los Angeles Police track down Smith.
Fox News: Two marines were killed and at least a dozen others were injured in a Wednesday crash in North Carolina.
Two active-duty U.S. Marines were killed and more than a dozen others were injured in a military vehicle crash in North Carolina Wednesday afternoon and a driver is facing a misdemeanor charge in their deaths, Fox News has confirmed.
Sgt. Devin Rich with Highway Patrol told Fox News two people were airlifted to local hospitals and about a dozen more were treated at the scene.
The 2nd Marine Logistics Group said earlier it was aware of a vehicle rollover in Jackson, which involved service members.
State Highway Patrol said it responded to a motor vehicle collision on U.S. 17 at the intersection of Highway 210 in Onslow Couty just around 1:10 p.m.
A 7-ton military vehicle attempted to turn right onto U.S. 17 from Highway 210 when it overturned into the median of U.S. 17 ejecting 17 passengers who were at the back of the vehicle, State Highway Patrol told Fox News in a statement.
A second military vehicle behind the initial could not stop in time and struck one of the ejected passengers, State Highway Patrol said. The drivers and passengers of the vehicles are members of the U.S. Marine Corps operating out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
The Boston Globe: A Federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Whitey Bulger’s relatives alleging a prison transfer caused his death.
A federal judge has dismissed a wrongful death suit filed by the family of notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, ruling that the US Bureau of Prisons cannot be held liable for transferring him to a West Virginia penitentiary, where he was beaten to death by fellow inmates shortly after his arrival in 2018.
“The BOP must provide for the protection, safekeeping, and care of inmates, but this does not guarantee a risk-free environment,” US District Judge John Preston Bailey wrote in a Jan. 12 decision dismissing the suit filed against dozens of prison officials by William Bulger Jr., Bulger’s nephew and administrator of his estate. “Decisions about how to safeguard prisoners are generally discretionary.”
The judge ruled that prison officials are protected from suits involving decisions they make while exercising their discretion. He denied a request by Bulger’s family to force the government to turn over evidence about the circumstances of Bulger’s controversial transfer to US Penitentiary Hazelton.
Bulger’s family released a statement Wednesday saying it remains “committed to holding the government accountable for deliberately putting him in harm’s way and so will appeal this decision to dismiss.“
The family said it is pursuing the suit “in order to force transparency from the federal government” and that the judge’s order dismissing the case before any evidence was disclosed about the circumstances of Bulger’s slaying “would only allow the government to continue its obfuscation of the facts.”
Even when using its discretion, the Bureau of Prisons “may not legally hide facts surrounding acts of violence or allow mistreatment of prisoners,” the family said.
CNN: A cyberattack on a contractor used by the the International Committee of the Red Cross has compromised the personal data of more than 515,000 ‘highly vulnerable people.’
The hack has forced the Red Cross to shut down IT systems that support a program that reunites families separated by conflict, migration or disaster, the humanitarian organization said.
It's unclear who was responsible for the cyber incident, but the Red Cross said its "most pressing concern" was the potential for the compromised data to be leaked. There is no indication that has happened yet, according to the Red Cross.
"We are all appalled and perplexed that this humanitarian information would be targeted and compromised," ICRC Director-General Robert Mardini said in a statement.
The hack hit a Switzerland-based firm that the Red Cross pays to store its data, the humanitarian organization said without naming the firm. The compromised data came from at least 60 of the "national societies," or networks of volunteers and staff, around the world that the Red Cross uses as first responders to disasters.
"As a first step, we will work with most concerned ICRC delegations and Red Cross and Red Crescent societies on the ground to find ways to inform individuals and families whose data may have been compromised, what measures are being taken to protect their data and the risks they may possibly face," Red Cross spokesperson Elizabeth Shaw told CNN in an email.
Shaw said that ransomware was not involved in the incident and that the Red Cross was working with "highly specialized" cybersecurity firms to respond to the hack.
Gizmodo: The IRS will require the use of a third-party identity verification company using facial recognition for some to file taxes and make payments.
Starting this summer, users with an IRS.gov account will no longer be able to log in with a simple username and password. Instead, they will need to provide a government identification document, a selfie, and copies of their bills to Virginian-based identity verification firm ID.me to confirm their identity. That change, first noticed by Krebs on Security, marks a major shift for the IRS which previously allowed users to file their taxes without submitting personal biometric data.
In a statement to Gizmodo, an IRS spokesperson said users can still receive basic information from the IRS website without logging in, but added they would need to sign in through ID.me to make and view payments, access tax records, view or create payment plans, manage communications preference, or view tax professional authorizations.
So here’s how filing taxes will work for most people later this year. Users attempting to log in to their accounts using ID.me will have to create an account with the company by uploading either a driver’s license, passport, or passport card. Users are then told to use a cellphone camera or their computer’s webcam to take a selfie. According to ID.me’s website, the company uses a face match facial recognition system to verify the selfie matches the provided government document. If approved in ID.me’s system, users can then use these credentials to verify their identity across any of ID.me’s partners.
If ID.me’s system fails to verify a selfie or flags other issues that could be considered fraud, the user may then join a recorded video call with an ID.me representative called a “Trusted Referee.” ID.me claims it has verified more than 2.8 million people through these referees and has begun implementing some in-person identity verification options across the country.
“ID.me offers multiple relief valves or escape hatches to ensure there is always a path forward for everyone,” the company said. “We are committed to a policy of ‘No identity left behind.’”
Reuters: The U.S. will distribute 400 million non-surgical "N95" masks from its strategic national stockpile for free starting next week at Walgreen and CVS stores.
Snug-fitting N95 face masks, so-called because they filter at least 95% of particulate matter from the air, will be shipped to pharmacies and community health centers this week, the official said, and available for pickup late next week.
The U.S. government is leveraging the "federal retail pharmacy program," it used for vaccines, the White House said, as well as federally funded health clinics that serve minority groups hit hard by COVID infections and deaths.
Retail chain CVS, which has nearly 10,000 U.S. pharmacy locations including within Target stores, and Walgreens, which has over 9,000 stores, plan to distribute free masks, company spokespeople said.
The move comes after President Joe Biden and his team faced criticism for not doing enough to foster masking or bolster testing as the Omicron variant rages across the country, and hospitalizations hit a new record.
The administration also made free rapid home tests available via a website that launched officially on Wednesday.
"This is the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history," the official said about the masks, which retail for $1 to $2 online.
The White House is considering requiring migrants aged 5 and older to receive a coronavirus vaccination as a condition for crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to await court hearings, Axios has learned.
Why it matters: The Biden administration has been offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people in immigration detention centers or shelters but hasn't yet offered it to other migrants who've crossed the border — much less required it.
The new push comes as all other foreigners legally traveling to the U.S. have to provide proof of vaccination.
The same rule applies to Americans returning home from overseas travel.
BBC News: The UK's face mask rules and COVID-19 passes will end next week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Wednesday.
England's Plan B measures are to end from next Thursday, with mandatory face coverings in public places and Covid passports both dropped, Boris Johnson has announced.
The prime minister also said the government would immediately drop its advice for people to work from home.
The PM said England was reverting to "Plan A" due to boosters and how people had followed Plan B measures.
He told MPs scientists believed the Omicron wave had peaked nationally.
At a Downing Street press conference, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: "This is a moment we can all be proud of.
"It's a reminder of what this country can accomplish when we all work together."
But, he said, this should not be seen as the "finish line" because the virus and future variants cannot be eradicated - instead "we must learn to live with Covid in the same way we live with flu".
He urged people to continuing taking steps to keep the virus at bay, including hand washing, ventilating rooms and self-isolating if positive - and pressed those who were unvaccinated to come forward to get their jabs.
USA Today: NBC Sports will not send any announcing teams to Beijing for the winter olympics amid COVID-19 concerns.
“The announce teams for these Olympics, including figure skating, will be calling events from our Stamford (Conn.) facility due to COVID concerns,” Greg Hughes, senior vice president communications, NBC Sports, said in a phone interview.
"We’ll still have a large presence on the ground in Beijing and our coverage of everything will be first rate as usual, but our plans are evolving by the day as they are for most media companies covering the Olympics.”
NBC’s broadcasting teams for figure skating, Alpine skiing and snowboarding had been expected to be in Beijing, but those plans have been canceled.
The Associated Press: Starbucks is no longer requiring U.S. workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 following The Supreme Court's decision last week.
In a memo sent Tuesday to employees, the Seattle coffee giant said it was responding to last week’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 6-3 vote, the court rejected the Biden administration’s plan to require vaccines or regular COVID testing at companies with more than 100 workers.
“We respect the court’s ruling and will comply,” Starbucks Chief Operating Officer John Culver wrote in the memo.
Starbucks’ reversal is among the most high-profile corporate actions in response to the Supreme Court ruling. Many other big companies, including Target, have been mum on their plans.
The communications staff at the attorney general's office told The Texas Tribune in an unsigned statement that Paxton had tested positive.
"He remains working diligently for the people of Texas from home," the statement said.
The attorney general's office did not immediately say whether Paxton was vaccinated. It did not release further information on when Paxton tested positive or how he may have contracted it. Paxton is married to state Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney. The attorney general's office gave no information on her condition.
Paxton is the latest state official to be diagnosed with COVID-19 as the omicron variant spreads through Texas. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tested positive for COVID-19 the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. Gov. Greg Abbott tested positive in August.
KUSA-TV: Officials in Colorado say they have found bone fragments in the search for a person still missing after the massive Marshall Fire in December.
Boulder County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) said Wednesday that small bone fragments have been recovered at a property where a missing person was last known to be during the Marshall Fire last month.
BSCO said scientific testing is underway to determine if the collected fragments are human or non-human. The office added scientific testing can take weeks to months in these cases.
Investigators with BCSO and the Boulder County Coroner’s Office have been actively searching a property in Superior for the remains of 91-year-old Edna Nadine Turnbull.
The property is where Turnbull, after being notified to evacuate, entered the residence in an effort to rescue her dogs during the Marshall Fire on Dec. 30.
"We remain committed to seeking answers and closure for the Turnbull family," said BCSO in a statement.
The Monitor: FBI agents were seen taking items from the Laredo, Texas, home of Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar related to an unknown investigation.
Although FBI spokesperson Roseanne Hughes did not identify what the agency is investigating, she did issue a statement acknowledging the activity.
Asked for a statement about the FBI’s presence at Cuellar’s home, Hughes confirmed law enforcement activity in the area.
“The FBI was present in the vicinity of Windridge Drive and Estate Drive in Laredo conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity,” the statement read. “The FBI cannot provide further comment on an ongoing investigation.”
At Cuellar’s home, located in the 8200 block of Estate Drive, federal vehicles were seen with cases and other items taken from the congressman’s home as over a dozen agents filed in and out of the residence Wednesday afternoon.
In a statement Wednesday night, the congressman’s office attributed the following to Cuellar: “Congressman Cuellar will fully cooperate in any investigation. He is committed to ensuring that justice and the law are upheld.”
The New Post: Cardi B is planning to pay the funeral costs for those killed in the Bronx apartment fire.
The rapper will be partnering with NYC Mayor Eric Adams and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC to cover the burial costs of those lost in the Bronx fire, which killed 19 people.
Cardi, a Bronx native, vowed to cover the expenses of the funerals to ease any financial burden faced by the families, according to the Wednesday announcement by the mayor’s office.
“The resilience of this city reflects everyday New Yorkers who never turn their back on one another,” Mayor Adams said in a statement. “We are grateful for Cardi B, a real superstar on and off the mic, for granting some critical financial relief to families of the victims.”
“I’m extremely proud to be from the Bronx and I have lots of family and friends who live and work there still. So, when I heard about the fire and all of the victims, I knew I needed to do something to help,” said Cardi B, adding that she “cannot being to imagine the pain and anguish” the families are in.
This day in history: 15 years ago in 2007, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, the former first lady, announced she would seek the presidency, The New York Times reported.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s entry into the 2008 presidential contest this morning set off rounds of e-mail and conference calls among both her allies and opponents, some of whom were shaking their heads that a major political event was happening at 9:30 on a Saturday morning.
Advisers to some of her top 2008 rivals – Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts – replied within minutes to requests for comment, and signaled that the Clinton announcement meant that the 2008 race was truly underway.
“She’s tough enough, smart enough, and experienced enough to overcome a decidedly liberal philosophy,” said John Weaver, a senior adviser to Senator John McCain, who is preparing to seek the Republican presidential nomination.
“The Clinton, Obama, Edwards chain match will be hard to avert my eyes from, speaking as a pure spectator, of course,” he added, referring to former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. (At least four other Democrats are preparing campaigns as well.)
Clinton advisers said they chose Saturday as the target date for an announcement during a meeting in mid-December, and that Mrs. Clinton was “raring to go” on Friday, in the words of one confidant.
“I have never been afraid to stand up for what I believe in or to face down the Republican machine,” Mrs. Clinton said in announcing a presidential exploratory committee of her new “Hillary for President” Web site. “After nearly $70 million spent against my campaigns in New York and two landslide wins, I can say I know how Washington Republicans think, how they operate, and how to beat them.”
Six years after making history by winning a United States Senate seat as first lady, Mrs. Clinton has set her sights on breaking yet more political barriers in her extraordinary and controversial career.
If successful, Mrs. Clinton, 59, would be the first female presidential nominee of a major American political party, and she would become the first spouse of a former president to seek a return to the White House. President Bill Clinton left office in January 2001 after two terms marked by robust economic expansion and a series of investigations into his personal life and the Clintons’ business dealings.
The successes and shadows of those years will likely loom over Mrs. Clinton, who was both a hands-on adviser and a divisive presence in his administration.