👋 Away Message: So we had a little scheduling snafu here at WTF HQ, where both myself and Joe (voice of the pod) double-booked ourselves with personal and professional obligations next week. Oopsie! Not a very great job using a calendar on my part, I guess. On the other hand, it appears the government isn't going to be open for business anyway... Unless something truly WTF-y happens, I'll see you all again on Tuesday, October 10th, because Monday is a holiday (Indigenous Peoples' Day).
In the mean time, try our little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding and for being here. I'm going to miss you.
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1/ The FDA approved updated Covid-19 vaccines targeting the omicron XBB.1.5 subvariant. The new vaccines are authorized for people 12 and older and are under emergency use for children 6 months through 11 years old. The CDC is expected to sign off Tuesday on the new boosters, meaning the vaccines could become available in pharmacies, clinics, and doctor’s offices by the end of the week. (The FDA decides who can get a shot; the CDC that recommends who should get it.) Although the XBB.1.5 subvariant accounts for about 3% of new Covid cases, the new shot does protect against EG.5 – the most prevalent variant at the moment which accounts for about 22% of new cases – and similar variants, health officials said. This is the first time the federal government is not buying all the shots, though most Americans with private health insurance or coverage through Medicare or Medicaid should still be able to get the vaccine for free. The estimated 30 million people without health insurance should still be able to a booster for free at community health centers or through the CDC’s Bridge Access Program. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / CNN / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / CNBC)
2/ A federal appeals court ruled that the Biden administration most likely violated the First Amendment when it urged social media platforms to remove Covid-19 disinformation. The judges, all Republican nominees, wrote that the administration had “coerced the platforms to make their moderation decisions by way of intimidating messages and threats of adverse consequences” when it came to false or harmful content about Covid-19, the 2020 election, and other topics. The court found that Biden Administration officials had “significantly encouraged the platforms’ decisions by commandeering their decision-making processes.” (NPR / New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)
3/ Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito rejected calls for him to recuse himself from an upcoming tax case despite one of the lawyers involved in the case, David Rivkin, having interviewed him for two articles recently published in the Wall Street Journal. Alito said “there is no valid reason for my recusal in this case,” adding that the argument for him to recuse was “unsound.” Alito claimed that Rivkin was participating in the interviews “as a journalist, not an advocate.” Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin and Democrats on the panel asked that Alito recuse himself from the case, saying Alito used his interviews with Rivkin to “air his personal grievances” and now creates “an appearance of impropriety.” Durbin added that the “Court is in a crisis of its own making, and Justice Alito and the rest of the Court should be doing everything in their power to regain public trust, not the opposite.” (NPR / NBC News / Politico / CNN)
4/ A federal judge denied a request by Mark Meadows to move his Georgia election interference case to federal court, saying “the evidence before the Court overwhelmingly suggests that Meadows was not acting in his scope of executive branch duties during most of the Overt Acts alleged.” Nevertheless, Meadows filed an “emergency motion” asking the same judge to pause the order, claiming that could be “convicted and incarcerated” before his appeal can be heard. U.S. District Judge Steve Jones replied to Meadows’ request by ordering Georgia prosecutors to file a brief in response by Tuesday afternoon. At least four other co-defendants have tried to remove their cases to federal court. (NBC News / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / CNBC)
5/ The Fulton County special grand jury that investigated interference in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election recommended criminal indictments for 21 additional people who were not ultimately charged. Although Trump and 18 allies were charged in a racketeering indictment last month, the grand jury also recommended charging Lindsey Graham, David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler, Michael Flynn, Boris Epshteyn, Cleta Mitchell, and 15 others for crimes related to “the national effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, focused on efforts in Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.” Graham, who pressed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff about vote-counting procedures while they were in the middle of an ongoing recount, said “I’ll do the same thing” in the next election if he saw the need. (CNN / Politico / New York Times / CNBC / Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
6/ Trump inflated his net worth by at least $3.6 billion a year from 2011 to 2021. New York Attorney General Letitia James said that for seven years, Trump overstated his wealth from $1.9 billion to $3.6 billion per year. The filing is part of the state’s $250 million civil lawsuit against Trump, Trump Jr., Eric Trump, his business, and some of its top executives. Last month, James asked the court for partial summary judgment against Trump, asserting that a “mountain of undisputed evidence” backed up her allegations. The trial is set begin on Oct. 2, and wrap up by Dec. 22. (CNBC / Bloomberg / NBC News / CNN / ABC News)
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