Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.  

US sets the stage for COVID booster shots for millions

The U.S. vaccination drive against COVID-19 stood on the verge of a major new phase as government advisers Thursday recommended booster doses of Pfizer's vaccine for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans — despite doubts the extra shots will do much to slow the pandemic.

Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said boosters should be offered to people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 who have risky underlying health problems. The extra dose would be given once they are at least six months past their last Pfizer shot.

Deciding who else might get one was far tougher. While there is little evidence that younger people are in danger of waning immunity, the panel offered the option of a booster for those ages 18 to 49 who have chronic health problems and want one.

The advisers refused to go further and open boosters to otherwise healthy front-line health care workers who aren't at risk of severe illness but want to avoid even a mild infection.

“We might as well just say give it to everyone 18 and older. We have a very effective vaccine and it’s like saying, ‘It’s not working.’ It is working," said Dr. Pablo Sanchez of Ohio State University, who helped block the broadest booster option.


House Jan. 6 panel subpoenas Trump advisers, associates

WASHINGTON (AP) — A House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has issued its first subpoenas, demanding records and testimony from four of former President Donald Trump's close advisers and associates who were in contact with him before and during the attack.

In a significant escalation for the panel, Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., announced the subpoenas of former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Dan Scavino, former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. The four men are among Trump's most loyal aides.

Thompson wrote to the four that the committee is investigating “the facts, circumstances, and causes” of the attack and asked them to produce documents and appear at depositions in mid-October.

The panel, formed over the summer, is now launching the interview phase of its investigation after sorting through thousands of pages of documents it had requested in August from federal agencies and social media companies. The committee has also requested a trove of records from the White House. The goal is to provide a complete accounting of what went wrong when the Trump loyalists brutally beat police, broke through windows and doors and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory — and to prevent anything like it from ever happening again.

Thompson says in letters to each of the witnesses that investigators believe they have relevant information about the lead-up to the insurrection. In the case of Bannon, for instance, Democrats cite his Jan. 5 prediction that ”(a)ll hell is going to break loose tomorrow” and his communications with Trump one week before the riot in which he urged the president to focus his attention on Jan. 6.


Louisiana state trooper charged in pummeling of Black man

A former Louisiana State Police trooper has been charged with a civil rights violation for pummeling a Black motorist 18 times with a flashlight — the first criminal case to emerge from federal investigations into troopers' beatings of at least three Black men.

A grand jury on Thursday indicted Jacob Brown for the 2019 beating following a traffic stop that left Aaron Larry Bowman with a broken jaw, broken ribs and a gash to his head. Brown was charged with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, federal prosecutors said.

Brown's indictment comes as the federal prosecutors on the case are scrutinizing other troopers who punched, stunned and dragged another Black motorist, Ronald Greene, before he died in their custody on a rural roadside. The probe of Greene's 2019 death has grown to examine whether police brass obstructed justice to protect the troopers who beat the Black motorist after a high-speed chase.

Body camera video of both beatings, which took place less than three weeks and 20 miles (32 kilometers) apart, remained under wraps before the AP obtained and published them this year. They are among a dozen cases over the past decade in which an AP investigation found troopers or their bosses ignored or concealed evidence of beatings, deflected blame and impeded efforts to root out misconduct.

“The department has previously acknowledged that it has open and ongoing criminal investigations into incidents involving the Louisiana State Police that resulted in death or bodily injury to arrestees," the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement. "Those investigations remain ongoing.”


Tennessee grocery store attack: 'He kept on shooting'

COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A gunman attacked a grocery store in an upscale Tennessee suburb on Thursday afternoon, killing one person and wounding 12 others before he was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at the store, authorities said.

Collierville Police Chief Dale Lane said the shooting broke out at a Kroger grocery in Collierville, a suburban community 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Memphis. He said the gunman shot 13 others and himself, and that 12 of the victims were taken to hospitals, some with very serious injuries.

Kroger worker Brignetta Dickerson told WREG-TV she was working a cash register when she heard what at first she thought were balloons popping.

“And, here he comes right behind us and started shooting,” Dickerson said. “And, he kept on shooting, shooting, shooting. He shot one of my co-workers in the head and shot one of my customers in the stomach.”

Lane said police received a call about 1:30 p.m. about the shooting and arrived almost immediately, finding multiple people with gunshot wounds upon entering the building.


Ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont detained in Sardinia

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who fled Spain after a failed secession bid for the northeastern region in 2017, was detained Thursday in Sardinia, Italy, his lawyer said.

Puigdemont, who lives in Belgium and now holds a seat in the European Parliament, has been fighting extradition to Spain, which accused him and other Catalan independence leaders of sedition.

Lawyer Gonzalo Boye said Puigdemont was detained when he arrived in Sardinia, where he was due to attend an event this weekend.

The circumstances under which Puigdemont was taken into custody were not immediately clear. Boye wrote on Twitter the ex-regional president was detained under a 2019 European arrest warrant, even though it had been suspended.

Police at the airport in northern Sardinia didn’t answer phone calls Thursday night, while police in the city of Alghero said they weren’t aware of his detention.


Support our journalism. Subscribe today. →

Leaders to UN: A warmer world is a more violent one, too

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Using apocalyptic images, three presidents and seven foreign ministers warned Thursday that a warmer world is also a more violent one.

At a ministerial meeting of the Security Council, the officials urged the U.N.’s most powerful body to do more to address the security implications of climate change and make global warming a key part of all U.N. peacekeeping operations.

The leaders and ministers pushing for more U.N. action said warming is making the world less safe, pointing to Africa's conflict-plagued Sahel region and Syria and Iraq as examples..

Micheal Martin, Ireland’s president, who chaired the meeting, said climate change “is already contributing to conflict in many parts of the world." And Vietnam President Nguyen Xuan Phuc said climate change “is a war without gunfire so to speak that causes economic damage and losses in lives no less dire than actual wars.”

“The effects of climate change are particularly profound when they overlap with fragility and past or current conflicts,” said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. "And when natural resources like water become scarce because of climate change, “grievances and tensions can explode, complicating efforts to prevent conflict and sustain peace.”


Taliban official: Strict punishment, executions will return

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — One of the founders of the Taliban and the chief enforcer of its harsh interpretation of Islamic law when they last ruled Afghanistan said the hard-line movement will once again carry out executions and amputations of hands, though perhaps not in public.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Mullah Nooruddin Turabi dismissed outrage over the Taliban’s executions in the past, which sometimes took place in front of crowds at a stadium, and he warned the world against interfering with Afghanistan’s new rulers.

“Everyone criticized us for the punishments in the stadium, but we have never said anything about their laws and their punishments,” Turabi told The Associated Press, speaking in Kabul. “No one will tell us what our laws should be. We will follow Islam and we will make our laws on the Quran.”

Since the Taliban overran Kabul on Aug. 15 and seized control of the country, Afghans and the world have been watching to see whether they will re-create their harsh rule of the late 1990s. Turabi’s comments pointed to how the group’s leaders remain entrenched in a deeply conservative, hard-line worldview, even if they are embracing technological changes, like video and mobile phones.

Turabi, now in his early 60s, was justice minister and head of the so-called Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — effectively, the religious police — during the Taliban’s previous rule.


Migrant camp along Texas border shrinks as removals ramp up

DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — Haitian migrants milled around makeshift shelters held up with giant reeds, as wind blew dust through the camp littered with plastic bottles and overflowing trash bags. Some migrants sat on plastic paint cans or the ground while others hung clothes to dry on the bamboo-like carrizo cane.

All waited to learn their fate at a dramatically diminished Texas border encampment where almost 15,000 migrants had gathered just days ago under a bridge between Del Rio, Texas, and Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.

About 4,000 remained on Thursday, Department of Homeland Security officials said. The number had peaked on Saturday, as migrants driven by confusion over the Biden administration’s policies and misinformation on social media converged at the crossing.

But the United States and Mexico appeared eager to end the increasingly politicized humanitarian situation that prompted the resignation of the U.S. special envoy to Haiti and fresh condemnation from civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton and UNICEF.

DHS officials said about 1,400 migrants had been sent to Haiti on 13 flights, rapidly expelled under the pandemic public health authority known as Title 42. Another 3,200 were in U.S. custody and being processed, while several thousand have returned to Mexico, DHS officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to brief journalists about an ongoing operation.


Oldest human footprints in North America found in New Mexico

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fossilized footprints discovered in New Mexico indicate that early humans were walking across North America around 23,000 years ago, researchers reported Thursday.

The first footprints were found in a dry lake bed in White Sands National Park in 2009. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey recently analyzed seeds stuck in the footprints to determine their approximate age, ranging from around 22,800 and 21,130 years ago.

The findings may shed light on a mystery that has long intrigued scientists: When did people first arrive in the Americas, after dispersing from Africa and Asia?

Most scientists believe ancient migration came by way of a now-submerged land bridge that connected Asia to Alaska. Based on various evidence — including stone tools, fossil bones and genetic analysis — other researchers have offered a range of possible dates for human arrival in the Americas, from 13,000 to 26,000 years ago or more.

The current study provides a more solid baseline for when humans definitely were in North America, although they could have arrived even earlier, the authors say. Fossil footprints are more indisputable and direct evidence than “cultural artifacts, modified bones, or other more conventional fossils,” they wrote in the journal Science, which published the study Thursday.


Haaland: Petito case a reminder of missing Native Americans

WASHINGTON (AP) — Speaking in personal terms, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said extensive news media coverage of the disappearance and death of 22-year-old Gabby Petito while on a cross-country trip should be a reminder of hundreds of Native American girls and women who are missing or murdered in the United States.

Haaland, the first Native American Cabinet secretary, said that her heart goes out to Petito's family, but that she also grieves for “so many Indigenous women'' whose families have endured similar heartache “for the last 500 years.''

The search for Petito generated a whirlwind of news coverage, especially on cable television, as well as a frenzy of online sleuthing, with tips, possible sightings and theories shared by the hundreds of thousands on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. The Florida woman, who disappeared while on a cross-country trip with her boyfriend, was found dead at the edge of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Authorities have determined she was a homicide victim.

A report prepared for the state of Wyoming found that at least 710 Native Americans were reported missing between 2011 and late 2020. Between 2010 and 2019, the homicide rate per 100,000 for Indigenous people was 26.8, eight times higher than the homicide rate for white people, the report said.

Haaland, a member of the Pueblo Laguna tribe, said she has frequently seen Native American family members posting pictures on fences and the sides of buildings to help locate missing girls or women. When that happens, “you know I see my sisters,'' she told reporters Thursday at a news conference. “I see my mother. I see my aunties or my nieces or even my own child. So I feel that every woman and every person who is in this victimized place deserves attention and deserves to be cared about.''

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.