US Domestic News Roundup: Human Rights Watch criticises Biden, others for weak defense of democracy; U.S. congressman Gaetz's ex-girlfriend testifies in sex-trafficking probe -reports and more
Omicron is now estimated to account for 98.3% of total new cases circulating in the country, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) says. First new COVID-19 tests to arrive in schools week of Jan. 24 - White House U.S. schools should receive the first additional COVID-19 rapid tests being made available by the federal government in about two weeks, a White House official said, as Washington races to keep classes open amid a record-setting Omicron surge.
Following is a summary of current US domestic news briefs.
Human Rights Watch criticises Biden, others for weak defense of democracy
Human Rights Watch on Thursday criticised U.S. President Joe Biden and other Western leaders for a weak defense of democracy and for failing to meet challenges from the climate crisis and COVID-19 pandemic to poverty, inequality and racial injustice. In contrast to what Human Rights Executive Director Kenneth Roth described as former U.S. President Donald Trump's "embrace of friendly autocrats", Biden took office in January 2021 with a pledge to put human rights at the center of his foreign policy.
U.S. congressman Gaetz's ex-girlfriend testifies in sex-trafficking probe -reports
Republican Representative Matt Gaetz's former girlfriend testified before a federal grand jury on Wednesday amid an ongoing probe into whether the lawmaker trafficked a minor for sex, U.S. media outlets reported. NBC News said the girlfriend, whose name was withheld, and her lawyer were seen entering a federal courthouse in Orlando, Florida, but that the lawyer, Tim Jansen, declined to comment.
White House will double COVID-19 tests for schools
The Biden administration on Wednesday announced a new set of measures to keep classes open, including doubling COVID-19 testing capacity in schools with 10 million more tests, as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly through the United States.
The United States reported 1.35 million new coronavirus infections on Monday, shattering the global record for daily cases in any one country. Omicron is now estimated to account for 98.3% of total new cases circulating in the country, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) says.
First new COVID-19 tests to arrive in schools week of Jan. 24 - White House
U.S. schools should receive the first additional COVID-19 rapid tests being made available by the federal government in about two weeks, a White House official said, as Washington races to keep classes open amid a record-setting Omicron surge. The new tests must be ordered through state governments, but the White House is also making available lab capacity to support five million monthly PCR tests that schools can order themselves if their states are not being helpful, the official said. Those should arrive in seven to 10 days.
U.S. states restricting voting rights would disappoint Martin Luther King, daughter says
Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter says she believes the slain civil-rights leader would have been disappointed with efforts playing out in some parts of the United States to restrict voting rights. "What's going on right now would not surprise him, it would disappoint him, " said Bernice King, who serves as chief executive of the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta.
Biden to make personal plea to Democrats to unify and pass voting rights
Biden and most fellow Democrats have ratcheted up their campaign to pass voting-rights legislation after spending much of his first year in office debating spending bills focused on COVID-19 relief, infrastructure and social safety net programs.
Exclusive-Biden weighing cuts to 2022 ethanol blending mandate proposal -sources
The Biden administration is considering lowering the 2022 ethanol blending mandate below the proposed 15 billion gallons amid backlash from the oil refining lobby and unions arguing the shrinking U.S. ethanol industry can no longer support the target, according to two sources familiar with the administration's thinking. U.S. President Joe Biden vowed to bring some normalcy back to laws requiring refiners to blend biofuels like corn-based ethanol into the nation's gasoline pool after his predecessor, Donald Trump, took unprecedented steps to relieve refiners from the requirement.
Biden judicial nominee grilled amid objections by GOP home state senators
Senate Republicans on Wednesday criticized the White House for failing to sufficiently consult two Tennessee GOP senators about President Joe Biden's nomination of a lawyer from their state to sit on a federal appellate court over their objections. Andre Mathis, a Memphis lawyer at the law firm Butler Snow, was the first Biden appellate pick to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee who lacked his home state senators' support, creating a test for the president's push to rapidly seat judges.
The U.S. congressional committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol asked House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday to voluntarily answer questions about Donald Trump's actions on the day of the riot. In a letter https://january6th.house.gov/sites/democrats.january6th.house.gov/files/2022-1-12.BGT%20Letter%20to%20McCarthy.pdf to McCarthy released publicly, the House of Representatives Select Committee requested he sit for an interview in early February.
Theranos' Holmes to be sentenced in September for fraud conviction
Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes is slated to be sentenced on Sept. 26 on her convictions for defrauding investors in the blood-testing startup, according to a court filing on Wednesday. Holmes, 37, was convicted on Jan. 3 on three counts of fraud and one count of conspiring to defraud private investors in the company. She remains free on a $500,000 bond secured by properties.
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