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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

COVID vaccine: CDC expands booster rollout, OKs mixing shots

WASHINGTON (AP) — Millions more Americans can get a COVID-19 booster and choose a different company’s vaccine for that next shot, federal health officials said Thursday.

Certain people who received Pfizer vaccinations months ago already are eligible for a booster and now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says specific Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients qualify, too. And in a bigger change, the agency is allowing the flexibility of “mixing and matching" that extra dose regardless of which type people received first.

The Food and Drug Administration had already authorized such an expansion of the nation's booster campaign on Wednesday, and it was also endorsed Thursday by a CDC advisory panel. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky had the final word on who gets the extra doses.

“These past 20 months have taught us many things, but mostly to have humility," she told the panel. "We are constantly learning about this virus, growing the evidence base and accumulating more data.”

There still are restrictions on who qualifies and when for a booster. Starting six months past their last Pfizer or Moderna vaccination, people are urged to get a booster if they're 65 or older, nursing home residents, or at least 50 and at increased risk of severe disease because of health problems. Boosters also were allowed, but not urged, for adults of any age at increased risk of infection because of health problems or their jobs or living conditions. That includes health care workers, teachers and people in jails or homeless shelters.

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White House, Dems hurriedly reworking $2 trillion Biden plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House and Democrats are hurriedly reworking key aspects of President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion domestic policy plan, trimming the social services and climate change programs and rethinking new taxes on corporations and the wealthy to pay for a scaled-back package.

The changes come as Biden more forcefully appeals to the American public, including in a televised town hall Thursday, for what he says are the middle-class values at the heart of his proposal.

Biden mentioned during the evening event the challenge he faces in wrangling the sharply divergent factions in the Democratic party to agree to the final contours of the bill. With an evenly divided Senate, he can't afford to lose a single vote, and he is navigating the competing demands of progressives, who want major investments in social services, and centrists, who want to see the price tag on the package come down.

“When you’re president of the United States, you have 50 Democrats — every one is a president. Every single one. So you gotta work things out,” he said during a CNN town hall.

Still, he expressed optimism about the process, saying “I think so” when asked if Democrats were close to a deal.

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House votes to hold Trump ally Steve Bannon in contempt

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House voted Thursday to hold Steve Bannon, a longtime ally and aide to former President Donald Trump, in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the committee investigating the violent Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

In a rare show of bipartisanship on the House floor, the committee's Democratic chairman, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, led the floor debate along with Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, one of two Republicans on the panel. Still, the vote was 229-202 with all but nine GOP lawmakers who voted saying “no."

The House vote sends the matter to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, where it will now be up to prosecutors in that office to decide whether to present the case to a grand jury for possible criminal charges. It's still uncertain whether they will pursue the case — Attorney General Merrick Garland would only say at a House hearing on Thursday that they plan to “make a decision consistent with the principles of prosecution.”

The partisan split over Bannon's subpoena — and over the committee's investigation in general — is emblematic of the raw tensions that still grip Congress nine months after the Capitol attack.

Democrats have vowed to comprehensively probe the assault in which hundreds of Trump's supporters battered their way past police, injured dozens of officers and interrupted the electoral count certifying President Joe Biden's November victory. Lawmakers on the panel say they will move swiftly and forcefully to punish anyone who won’t cooperate with the probe.

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AP FACT CHECK: Biden overstates his record on COVID vaccine

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden botched the numbers behind the COVID-19 vaccine rollout Thursday as he stretched to take all the credit for the surge of shots once he was in office.

A look at his remarks during a CNN town hall event:

BIDEN: “When I first was elected, there were only 2 million people who had COVID shots in the United States of America — and the vaccine. Now we got 190 million, because I went out and bought everything I could do and buy in sight and it worked."

THE FACTS: No, that’s not how the vaccine rollout in the U.S. happened. Biden is overstating his part.

First, it's not true that 2 million people had shots when he was elected in November. The COVID-19 vaccines were still awaiting emergency authorization then. The first shots were administered to the public in mid-December.

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Woman fatally shot by prop firearm on a New Mexico movie set

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A woman has been killed and a man injured Thursday after they were shot by a prop firearm at a movie set outside Santa Fe, authorities said.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office said a 42-year-old woman was airlifted to a hospital, where she died, while a 42-year-old man was getting emergency care at another hospital.

Authorities didn’t identify the two people, who reportedly were crew members and not actors.

Production has been halted on the Western movie “Rust,” which is being directed by Joel Souza with Alec Baldwin producing and starring in it.

A spokesperson for Baldwin said there was an accident on the set involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks.

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Desperate Haitians suffocate under growing power of gangs

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The video shows more than 30 men lined up in front of a crumbling structure in silence. Their heads are bowed as a man walks between them and swigs from a small bottle. Someone exclaims, “There will be trouble in Port-au-Prince!”

Nearby, assault weapons are lined up against a wall, and two dozen handguns are scattered on the ground. Two large buckets are filled with bullets.

The men appear to be fresh recruits for one of Haiti's most notorious street gangs, and the footage records their induction into the criminal underworld that increasingly rules the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. The video is emblazoned with the name “400 Mawozo” and “400 good for nothings,” both references to the gang police say is responsible for multiple killings and kidnappings, including the recent abduction of 17 people from a U.S.-based religious group.

The footage posted earlier this year is a gritty online brag that demonstrates the startling power of Haitian gangs as they seize control of more land and commit more crimes than ever before — all without a care. Their tightening grip on society threatens the country's social fabric and its fragile, anemic economy.

“The situation is out of control,” said James Boyard, professor of political science at Haiti State University, who, like other experts, accused some politicians and business owners of funding gangs. “They made them too powerful. Now they are terrorized. They didn’t know things would go out of control the way they did.”

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US: More threats, more desperate refugees as climate warms

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Earth's warming and resulting natural disasters are creating a more dangerous world of desperate leaders and peoples, the Biden administration said Thursday in the federal government's starkest assessments yet of security and migration challenges facing the United States as the climate worsens.

The Defense Department for years has called climate change a threat to U.S. national security. But Thursday's reports by the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, National Security Council and Director of National Intelligence provide one of the government’s deepest looks yet at the vast rippling effects on the world’s stability and resulting heightened threats to U.S. security, as well as its impact on migration.

They include the first assessment by intelligence agencies on the impact of climate change, identifying 11 countries of greatest concern from Haiti to Afghanistan.

Another report, the first by the government focusing at length on climate and migration, recommends a number of steps, including monitoring the flows of people forced to leave their homes because of natural disasters, and working with Congress on a groundbreaking plan that would add droughts, floods and wildfires and other climate-related reasons to be considered in granting refugee status.

The climate migration assessments urge the creation of a task force to coordinate U.S. management of climate change and migration across government, from climate scientists to aid and security officials.

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Virginia gives Democrats a test of Black turnout before 2022

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — As Democrat Terry McAuliffe worked the crowd at Norfolk State University’s homecoming football game, many fans at the historically Black school were ready with answers before he could even ask for their vote.

“Everybody I talked to said: ‘Don’t worry, I’ve already voted. I’ve already voted,’” McAuliffe said of his campaign stop last weekend.

But McAuliffe can't afford not to worry. Polls have consistently shown him with the overwhelming support of Black Virginians, but his victory may hinge on whether this core part of his base shows up in strong numbers to vote.

National activists worry that President Joe Biden's falling approval ratings, and a lack of action by the Democrat-controlled Congress on voting rights and issues important to African Americans, could spell trouble in a race with Republican former businessman Glenn Youngkin that already looked exceedingly tight.

“Black voters, by and large, are feeling like they’re being taken for granted,” said Wes Bellamy, co-chair of Our Black Party, which advocates for political positions that benefit African Americans.

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Nissan ex-chair Ghosn set on restoring reputation

TOKYO (AP) — Carlos Ghosn, the former auto industry superstar whose career screeched to a halt with his arrest three years ago, isn't about to settle into quiet retirement.

The former head of the Nissan-Renault alliance fled to Lebanon in late 2019, while out on bail facing financial misconduct charges in Japan. In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Ghosn was confident, energized and determined to fight to restore his reputation.

“I’m going to be there. I’m going to defend my rights as long as I have the energy to do it,” Ghosn, 67, said via Zoom from his home in Beirut. His story is “far from finished,” he said.

Ghosn fled from Japan while hiding in a big cargo box on a private jet. The French, Brazilian-born Ghosn took refuge in Lebanon, his ancestral homeland, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.

Ghosn said he is trying to get Interpol to drop its red flag, which requests police worldwide to seek out and arrest persons wanted for prosecution or to serve a sentence. He's eager to be able to travel outside of Lebanon, but the process is likely to be bureaucratic and long.

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UK palace says queen, 95, spent night in hospital for checks

LONDON (AP) — Britain's Queen Elizabeth II spent a night in a hospital for checks this week after canceling an official trip to Northern Ireland on medical advice, Buckingham Palace said Thursday.

The palace said the 95-year-old British monarch went to the private King Edward VII's Hospital in London on Wednesday for “preliminary investigations.” It said she returned to her Windsor Castle home at lunchtime on Thursday, "and remains in good spirits.”

On Wednesday, the queen canceled a scheduled trip to mark 100 years since the creation of Northern Ireland, and the palace said she had “reluctantly” accepted medical advice to rest for a few days. It did not elaborate, but the decision was understood not to be related to COVID-19. The queen has been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The palace confirmed the queen's hospital stay after The Sun newspaper reported the news.

The queen is now back at Windsor Castle, west of London, where she has spent much of her time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

News from © The Associated Press, 2021
The Associated Press

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