Appeals court weighs whether Justice Department should substitute for Trump in defamation suit

E. Jean Carroll says Trump defamed her while responding to her rape allegation.

A federal appeals court on Friday peppered the Justice Department with questions over whether it’s appropriate for the department to substitute for former President Donald Trump in the defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll.

Carroll, a former Elle magazine columnist, sued Trump in November 2019 after he denied raping her in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s. Trump claimed Carroll wasn’t his type and made up the story to sell a new book.

The Justice Department is appealing the ruling of U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who in October rejected the DOJ’s bid to replace Trump as the defendant in the case.

The DOJ’s Mark Freeman conceded during arguments on Friday that “the former president made crude and offensive comments” when he responded to Carroll’s rape accusation, but that he spoke in his capacity as president, therefore allowing the U.S. government to take over as the defendant, shielding Trump from personal liability.

“Any president facing a public accusation of this kind in which the media is very interested would feel obliged to answer questions from the public, answer questions from the media,” Freeman said during oral arguments before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “It is part of the responsibility of a public official to address matters of grave interest to the public.”

One of the appellate judges, Denny Chin, suggested that the context and content matters.

“Shouldn’t we be parsing the individual comments to see whether they’re serving the country?” Chin asked. “Who is he serving when he says ‘She’s not my type?'”

Another member of the three-judge panel, Guido Calabresi, questioned what law determines whether Trump was acting within the scope of his employment.

“We don’t have any cases that tell us,” Calabresi said.

Trump’s attorney, Alina Habba, said that Trump was obligated to respond to Carroll’s accusation.

“When somebody says he did a heinous crime 20 years ago, he needs to address it,” Habba said.

Carroll’s attorney, Joshua Matz, said Trump “acted in pursuit of private motives” and that Carroll should be allowed to hold him personally accountable.

“A mere denial is not the same as ‘I didn’t rape her and she’s too unattractive for me to have done it,'” Matz said.

Blizzard warning issued for Hawaii with at least 12 inches of snow forecast

Wind gusts over 100 mph are also anticipated on the Big Island.

A blizzard warning has been issued for Hawaii, with at least 12 inches of snow forecast this weekend.

The warning is in effect for the Big Island summits from 6 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Sunday local time.

In addition to blizzard conditions, wind gusts over 100 mph are also expected, according to the alert issued by National Weather Service Honolulu.

“Travel could be very difficult to impossible,” the alert said. “Blowing snow will significantly reduce visibility at times, with periods of zero visibility.”

“The strong winds will likely cause significant drifting of snow,” it added.

A blizzard warning for tropical Hawaii may come as a surprise, but snow is not uncommon; the summits of the Big Island’s Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes reach nearly 14,000 feet in elevation.

A flood watch has been also issued for all Hawaiian islands through Monday afternoon, as a prolonged period of heavy rainfall is anticipated over the weekend.

“Flash flooding caused by excessive rainfall continues to be possible,” the alert said.

“Landslides may also occur in areas with steep terrain,” it warned.

The “very active weather” in Hawaii is due to what’s known as the kona low, a seasonal cyclone that pulls moisture from the south, according to Weather Channel meteorologist Ari Sarsalari.

“The coverage of the precipitation is going to get a little more intense into the weekend,” Sarsalari said in a video update Friday. “This is going to be a lot of rain, so be prepared for some flooding issues.”

The slow-moving kona low is expected to bring the “greatest potential for heavy rain” over Maui and the Big Island, NWS Honolulu said.

Elsewhere in the United States, a storm system is expected to sweep from the northern Rockies to northern Great Lakes, bringing a blast of snow and gusty winds later this weekend. Winter storm watches and warnings have been issued from Montana to northern Wisconsin, where more than a half a foot of snow is possible this weekend.

Strong, gusty winds will also impact parts of the northern Rockies later Saturday into Saturday night. High wind alerts are in effect from Great Falls, Montana, to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

ABC News’ Dan Peck and Max Golembo contributed to this report.

Biden signs short-term funding bill, averting government shutdown through February

Both chambers of Congress passed the bill on Thursday.

President Joe Biden has signed a short-term funding bill to keep the government open until Feb. 18, 2022, narrowly averting a shutdown that loomed for Friday, the White House said.

At the top of earlier remarks on the November jobs report Friday, Biden teased he would sign the bill before heading to Camp David for the weekend and said the action represents the “bare minimum” of what Congress should do.

“Funding the government isn’t a great achievement, it’s a bare minimum of what we need to get done,” he said.

The president also thanked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for their leadership on getting the bill passed and called for them to start working now on a full-year funding bill.

“In these times, a bipartisan cooperation is worth recognition. So I want to thank Speaker Pelosi and Schumer getting this done. And I want to urge Congress to use the time this bill provides to work toward a bipartisan agreement on a full-year funding bill that makes the needed investments in our economy and our people,” he said.

Both chambers of Congress passed the continuing resolution on Thursday that will kick the can of keeping the government open down the road until mid-February, averting a shutdown even after a small group of Senate Republicans threatened to stall the legislation in protest of Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal workers.

The small contingent of GOP senators, fronted by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, insisted that the Senate consider an amendment to the stopgap funding bill that would have effectively zeroed out funding to support the mandate.

Debate between Senate leaders about whether to allow such a vote nearly ground the upper chamber to a halt and threatened to cause time-consuming procedural delays that would have led to a temporary shutdown — but late Thursday night, a deal was reached to allow a vote on the amendment and on final passage.

“I am glad that in the end cooler heads prevailed. The government will stay open and I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink of an avoidable needless and costly shutdown,” Schumer said just before the votes were taken.

Efforts to strip funds for the mandate failed, with two Republicans absent for the vote, but the short-term spending bill passed. Nineteen Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voted with Democrats after the House approved the bill largely along party lines — other than the support of a single Republican, retiring Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.

Sometime next week, the Senate will take another vote on overturning Biden’s vaccine mandate. The effort has been backed by moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and is expected to pass the upper chamber, though it likely won’t get a vote in the Democrat-controlled House.

To avert a future shutdown, Congress will need to pass another short-term spending bill before Feb. 18 or pass a package of large appropriations bills that have been caught up in negotiation for months.

Columbia University student stabbed to death near campus on way home from soccer practice

Another victim was stabbed and injured. A suspect is in custody.

A Columbia University graduate student has been stabbed to death near the Ivy League school’s New York City campus while walking home from soccer practice.

The student, 30-year-old Davide Giri, suffered a stab wound to his abdomen just before 11 p.m. Thursday near West 123 St. and Amsterdam Ave., at the north end of Morningside Park, according to the New York Police Department.

A second victim, a 27-year-old man, suffered a stab wound to his torso. He was found nearby, at the northwest corner of Central Park, and hospitalized in stable condition, police said.

While canvassing the area, a 25-year-old man fitting the suspect’s description was taken into custody in Central Park, police said. The 25-year-old “was observed menacing” a third victim, a 29-year-old man, with a knife, police said.

The 29-year-old wasn’t hurt and the knife was recovered, police said.

Columbia said Giri was a student at the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Giri was also a member of NY International FC, an amateur soccer team. The team said Giri was walking home after practice when he was killed.

The team called Giri “the nicest and brightest person on the team” who “was a big contributor to our successes.”

Columbia University president Lee Bollinger said in a statement, “This news is both unspeakably sad and deeply shocking, as it took place only steps from our campus. The University is working closely with NYPD to learn more details of the attack.”

The scene of his death is near where Barnard College student Tessa Majors was stabbed to death in Morningside Park in December 2019, allegedly by three teenagers who were later arrested.

ABC News’ Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

Court hears arguments in Trump rape accusers lawsuit

Lawyers for former President Donald Trump appeared before a federal appeals court to argue that the U.S. government should take his place as the defendant in a defamation lawsuit filed by a writer who accused him of rape

The Republican’s attorneys told the judges he isn’t trying to dodge personal liability in the lawsuit by the columnist E. Jean Carroll. He just wants to keep future presidents from being burdened by legal claims, they said.

“This is not political. This is not about being a Democrat or a Republican. It is solely to protect the presidency as an institution,” attorney Alina Habba said.

Carroll sued Trump in 2019, saying he slandered her by denying her allegation that he raped her in a New York City department store in the 1990s. Trump said she was “totally lying” and was “not my type,” among other remarks.

In the final months of the Republican’s presidency, the Justice Department sought to replace him as defendant in the case, saying he was acting within the scope of his office in responding to Carroll’s allegations. The Justice Department has maintained its position during Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration.

Federal law makes it difficult to sue U.S. government employees individually for actions related to their jobs.

If the government prevails in taking Trump’s place, the change could lead to the dismissal of the case. Federal courts historically haven’t permitted defamation claims against federal employees for actions taken in their official capacity.

Justice Department lawyer Mark Freeman told the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of Friday he wasn’t out to “defend or justify” Trump’s comments, calling them “crude and offensive.”

“I’m here because any president facing a public accusation of this kind, with the media very interested, would feel obliged to answer questions from the public, answer questions from the media,” Freeman said.

“When somebody says he did a heinous crime 20 years ago, he needs to address it,” Habba added, saying that Carroll’s claims essentially assailed Trump’s fitness for office. Carroll’s lawyers, however, argue that Trump’s response went beyond any job obligation.

“A White House job is not a promise of an unlimited prerogative to brutalize someone who was a victim of a prior attack,” attorney Joshua Matz said.

It’s not clear how soon the appeals court will decide.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they choose to tell their stories publicly, as Carroll has done.

Police: Mother kills 6-year-old son with deer rifle

A mother in South Carolina is charged with murder after investigators say she shot her 6-year-old son in the chest with a deer rifle, saying she wanted him to go to heaven

WINNSBORO, S.C. — A South Carolina mother has been charged with murder after investigators said she shot and killed her 6-year-old son with a deer rifle, saying she wanted to send him to heaven, investigators said.

Mary Rosborough’s brother told police his sister shot the boy Thanksgiving Day after going deer hunting and was trying to reload the gun when he tackled her, according to their report.

Jase Wise died of a gunshot to the chest. Rosborough’s brother, meanwhile, held her down until deputies arrived at the Fairfield County home, investigators said.

Rosborough, 31, remains in jail without bond. It wasn’t known if she had a lawyer.

Homeowner convicted in killings of 2 teens smoking marijuana

An Ohio man has been convicted in the fatal shooting of two teens he found smoking marijuana inside a vehicle in his garage

DAYTON, Ohio — An Ohio man has been convicted in the fatal shooting of two teens he found smoking marijuana inside a vehicle in his garage.

Victor Santana, 65, of Dayton will be sentenced later this month after being convicted of murder and felonious assault on Thursday.

Santana shot the two 17-year-olds when he found them inside his detached garage late at night in August 2019, authorities said.

He wanted to use the state’s new “stand your ground” defense but a judge ruled earlier this year that it couldn’t be applied retroactively to the killings of Devin Henderson and Javier Harrison.

His attorney, Lucas Wilder, said Santana saw them go through his front gate and was afraid they were going to come into his house so he got his gun and went outside to find them.

Santana didn’t know whether they had weapons or were going to attack him, Wilder said during the trial.

“In that moment, fear hits him and he decides to shoot,” he said, according to the Dayton Daily News.

Ja’shin Gibson — who was with the teens but was not injured and hid under the car — testified that Santana opened the door and fired shots into the vehicle without warning.

Biden, allies increasingly pushing back at GOPs virus barbs

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden looked out over an audience of government scientists and framed his latest plan for fighting COVID-19 as an opportunity to at last put an end to divisiveness over the virus, calling the politicization of the issue a “sad, sad commentary.”

And then he tacked on a political dig.

Some people “on the other team,” he said Thursday, were threatening to hold up government spending and endangering the nation’s credit out of pique over vaccination requirements.

“Go figure,” he added.

It was a quick aside in a Biden speech that otherwise struck a largely bipartisan tone. But it served as fresh evidence that after taking it on the chin for months, Biden and his allies are increasingly willing to hit back, casting Republicans as the true obstacle to the nation’s recovery from the pandemic.

Biden aides in the early months of his presidency pressed him to ignore criticism from Republicans, arguing that responding would further inject politics into the vaccination campaign and harm his all-out effort to get Americans to roll up their sleeves.

But now, as public patience wears thin amid the emergence of the new omicron variant and some GOP lawmakers’ threats to shut down the government over vaccine requirements, the White House and its allies are seizing on what they see as a political opening.

“It’s clear that Republicans have decided that the fate of the Biden presidency is tied to COVID,” said Democratic communications strategist Eric Schultz, who worked in the Obama White House. “And Republicans have chosen to be on the side of the virus.”

With most Americans now vaccinated, the White House is less worried about turning people off with such political talk. Biden aides now doubt that some of the stubborn holdouts — more than 40 million adults — will get a vaccine for any reason short of their employers requiring it, minimizing the risk of backlash.

Biden did pop out a dig in August as some Republican governors moved to block mask mandates in schools.

“If you aren’t going to fight COVID-19, at least get out of the way of everyone else who is trying,” he said. “You know, we’re not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children.”

More recently, Biden aides have grown more willing to openly condemn Republican lawmakers they view as obstacles to his efforts to control the pandemic.

“These supporters of the former president are advocating for shutting the federal government down so that 20% of the public who are refusing to get vaccinated or tested can be free to infect their coworkers, our children, filling hospitals — that is what they are advocating for,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at briefing this week. “They want to shut the government down in order to advocate for people to assert that on society. So, I don’t think that should be lost on us.”

Privately, White House officials have been even more direct, accusing Republicans of advocating policies that would extend the pandemic, close schools and cost more lives.

Some Republican lawmakers, for their part, have pitched their opposition to the vaccine mandates as looking out for constituents being forced to choose between a shot and a job, although Biden’s order offers a test-out alternative for most private sector employees. The lawmakers are seeking legislation that would prevent agencies from receiving funding to enforce the mandates.

“I have heard from hundreds of Utahns, in recent days, who are concerned about losing their jobs — losing their jobs not just in general, not just in the abstract, but specifically due to these mandates,” said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

Democrats are portraying the vaccine mandates as critical to protecting the health of Americans during a pandemic, describing the Republican efforts as “anti-vaccine.”

“How do they explain to the public that they are shutting down government because they don’t want people to get vaccinated?” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday when the fate of a government spending bill was uncertain. “Why don’t you go ask them? This is so silly.”

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned that if Republicans were to block the funding bill, “It will be a Republican anti-vaccine shutdown.”

The Senate did later Thursday approve a stopgap spending bill to avoid a short-term shutdown after leaders defused the standoff over vaccine mandates.

Biden’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has long been a strong point in his public approval ratings, but it has slipped in recent months as the delta variant raged and cases and deaths increased. More than 780,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19.

An October AP-NORC poll found that 54% of Americans said they approved of Biden’s job on the pandemic, higher than his approval rating overall and much higher than approval of his handling of the economy, at 48% and 41%, respectively.

Still, as recently as July, before the delta variant struck, 66% had approved of Biden on COVID-19 and 59% approved of his job performance overall.

The White House seems increasingly intent on reclaiming the high ground on COVID.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates on Thursday took to Twitter to play up a Chamber of Commerce statement offering support for the president’s contention “that no business should have to shut down this winter because of COVID-19.”

Bates tweeted, “Tough break for Republicans: like us, business is also opposed to the pandemic, and they similarly don’t want it to kill more Americans and jobs.”


AP writers Kevin Freking and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

Facebook failing to tackle COVID-19 misinformation posted by prominent anti-vaccine group, study claims

At least until June 2021, Facebook had significant gaps in its efforts to tackle COVID-19 misinformation from one of the most prominent anti-vaccine groups in the world, according to a study from ISD Global, a U.K.-based think tank that studies polarization, extremism and misinformation.

During the first year of the pandemic, Facebook pages associated with the World Doctors Alliance — an anti-vaccine group whose members regularly post false information about COVID-19 — ballooned in popularity, according to ISD Global, despite consistent breaches of Facebook’s own COVID-19 and vaccine policies. The group’s primary page was removed from the platform in July 2021.

“The World Doctors Alliance is a collective of pseudo-science influencers … that hijacked the pandemic to build up a significant audience online in a multitude of languages in multiple continents,” Ben Decker, CEO of Memetica, a digital investigations consultancy firm, told ABC News.

On its website, the WDA lists 12 key members from seven different countries, a number of whom have become leading voices within the COVID-denier and vaccine-skeptic movements.

The ISD Global study also says that Facebook failed to implement its own policies “at a very basic level.”

For example, the report outlines some of the false claims from members of the WDA group that were allowed on Facebook, from claims that the COVID-19 virus does not exist, to others acknowledging its existence but downplaying its severity.

The report also claims that other WDA members have propagated overarching conspiracy theories that allege the entire pandemic has been a “scam” or “hoax” “perpetrated by governments, health care authorities and the media.”

Last October, documents released by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen showed that employees were concerned about how the social media giant was handling COVID-19 misinformation.

Researchers at ISD Global looked at the WDA’s presence on other social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and TikTok but primarily focused on Facebook as it’s where the group has the largest following. WDA is also an international group with members posting in multiple languages, even though the members with the largest followings come from English-speaking countries.

According to the research, Facebook is fact-checking some of the COVID-19 misinformation posted by the group but failing to take appropriate action and in many other cases failing to detect the misinformation altogether. The data also suggests that Facebook’s fact-checking in languages other than English is insufficient and almost nonexistent in some languages.

“Facebook should use the knowledge of fact-checking organizations to take action on misinformation super-spreaders”, the study author, Aoife Gallagher, told ABC News. “Our report highlights how often some of the WDA members have been featured in fact-checks, yet no decisive action seems to be taken.”

The Facebook pages of WDA members have increased their number of followers by 13,215% since the start of the pandemic, according to ISD Global. Their posts have garnered 5.7 million interactions since January 2020 and those numbers have increased by 85% in the first six months of 2021. The data also showed that the Facebook posts containing false claims and misinformation got more engagement (likes, views etc.) than others.

Dr. Scott Jensen (with 394,857 Facebook followers) and Dr. Dolores Cahill (with 128,942 Facebook followers) are responsible for the vast majority of the group’s followers, according to the study.

Jensen is a Minnesota state senator who came to prominence with anti-vaccine groups when in an interview he gave to Fox News he expressed concerns that COVID-19 fatality numbers could be exaggerated.

Subsequent studies found that the number of deaths due to COVID-19 was actually likely underestimated. Four anonymous complaints challenging his medical license based on his COVID-related comments were investigated and dismissed by state regulators last year, a CBS Minnesota news outlet reported.

Cahill is an Irish scientist who lost her job as a professor at University College Dublin earlier this year, after the college’s student union called for an investigation into her for “gross misconduct, “ according to Irish newspapers. She was also fined for breaching U.K. lockdown restrictions.

Cahill did not respond to ABC News when asked for comment on the ISD Global study and the fine.

Facebook uses third-party investigators to fact-check posts to determine whether a post containing false or misleading information needs to be either labeled or removed. However, the study states there was “minimal application of these labels across the 50 most popular posts mentioning the World Doctors Alliance or its members in English, Spanish, Arabic and German, despite these posts containing problematic claims.” Only 13% of English-language posts were labeled and even less in German (8%) and Spanish (4.5%).

Moreover, the report states that the labeled posts received even more engagement from Facebook users than the posts which were not labeled.

According to Decker, a relatively small number of independent fact-checkers can never hope to police the billions of Facebook posts on the platform. “Fact-checking has always been a Band-Aid on a broken leg to this problem because fact-checking can’t address scale,” he said.

There was also a huge disparity in fact-checking across different languages, according to the report. The study examined 189 fact-checking articles mentioning the WDA. There were 61 articles written in English, 26 in Spanish and 13 in German, but there were none at all in Romanian, Hungarian, Swedish and Italian despite there being more than 5,528 posts mentioning the WDA in those languages.

Report author, Aoife Gallagher, called on Facebook to put more human resources into its fact-checking efforts but also to improve its automated detection methods. The ISD found examples of one video in English which was labeled as containing misinformation but the exact same video translated into Spanish was not labeled and seemingly went undetected. There were other examples such as an interview Dolores Cahill did with infamous spreader of COVID-19 misinformation, Del Bigtree, which was fact-checked and labeled, yet clips of the same video that were in the form of embedded videos uploaded to Facebook, went undetected.

“It’s not about new rules, it’s about enforcing the ones they already have,” said Gallagher. “Facebook’s policies on COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation go into a lot of detail on what content is prohibited and removed, but this report shows they are failing to implement these at a very basic level,” she added.

Decker of Memetica said that Facebook should be using the same automated technology to track COVID misinformation that it uses to detect ISIS content and child pornography. “You could feed 5,000 COVID-19 conspiracy memes into a system and it would learn to go seek out those things and either prevent them getting uploaded, prevent engagement or apply a fact-check label,” said Decker. “The question is why are these resources not being made available.”

ABC News reached out to all 12 members of the WDA for comment.

Only Belgium’s Dr. Johan Denis, who had his medical license suspended earlier this year after a Belgian provincial commission found he was placing patients and the public health at risk by violating mask requirements, responded by calling the study “revolting” and incorrectly claiming that COVID-19 is a “scam.”

Facebook responded to ABC News saying that the study only looked at a narrow sample of 14 accounts. “This small sample is in no way representative of the hundreds of millions of posts that people have shared about COVID-19 vaccines in the past months on Facebook,” according to a Facebook spokesperson. However, when asked, Facebook did not provide ABC News with data to support a claim that this sample was not representative of a wider trend.

Facebook also said, “Since the pandemic began, our goal has been to promote reliable information about COVID-19, take more aggressive action against misinformation, and encourage people to get vaccinated. So far, we’ve connected over 2 billion people to authoritative information from health experts, removed 24 million pieces of COVID misinformation, and labeled more than 195 million pieces of COVID content rated by our fact-checking partners.”

The study authors told ABC News that one of the reasons they chose this group was that it was a prominent well-known spreader of misinformation which, in theory, should be easier to police than lesser-known accounts.

“I think it’s just a sliver of the pie, just a tiny part of how bad the actual problem is,” said Decker. “What about other [Facebook]-owned properties like Instagram and even worse, WhatsApp, where disinformation can spread really quickly because it’s already in these kind of baked-in trusted family and local communities,” he added.

Decker also said that after the improvements Facebook promised following the 2016 election that the pandemic was a real stress test to see if Facebook has learned anything. “My inclination is that based on what we see now that they haven’t really learned anything,” he said.

Though ISD Global has publicly released its methodology, the study has not been peer-reviewed or published in an academic journal.

Germany: 1 in 100 infected with virus, health minister says

Germany’s health minister says more than 1% of the population is currently infected with the coronavirus, and has called on citizens who haven’t done so yet to get vaccinated

The country confirmed 74,352 new daily COVID-19 cases and 390 additional deaths, figures published by the federal disease control agency showed. According to the Robert Koch Institute’s calculations, some 925,800 people in Germany are considered actively infected with the virus.

Health Minister Jens Spahn noted that the number of unvaccinated residents who are infected and seriously ill is much higher than their share of the overall population.

“If all German adults were vaccinated, we wouldn’t be in this difficult situation,” he told reporters in Berlin.

Spahn spoke a day after federal and state leaders announced tough new restrictions that largely target unvaccinated people, preventing them from entering nonessential stores, restaurants, sports and cultural venues.

The government also plans to submit a general vaccine mandate for parliament to consider. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said lawmakers could vote on the issue in early January.

Spahn, who is likely to leave office next week when Germany’s new center-left government takes office, has opposed compulsory vaccination and made clear Friday that he would vote against the measure.

About 68.8% of people in Germany are fully vaccinated, while the government has set a minimum target of 75%. For the first time since the summer, more than 1 million doses were administered on a single day Wednesday.

Authorities in Berlin have banned a protest planned Saturday by opponents of the pandemic measures. Police in the capital said past demonstrations had shown that participants failed to abide by infection prevention rules, including refusing to wear masks.

Germany’s association for intensive care medicine, DIVI, has welcomed the newly agreed restrictions. But its head, Gernot Marx, told the dpa news agency that the number of COVID-19 patients treated in ICUs would likely reach a new record high over the festive period.

“So it’s too early to read a trend reversal into this, much less to refrain from tougher measures,” he said.


Follow AP’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at

DNA inside conch shell leads to suspect in 2001 homicide

Prosecutors say DNA recovered from the interior of a conch shell thought to have been used as a weapon in the 2001 killing of a Massachusetts woman has led to the indictment on a murder charge of the victim’s half-brother

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — DNA recovered from the interior of a conch shell thought to have been used as a weapon in the 2001 killing of a Massachusetts woman has led to the indictment on a murder charge of the victim’s half-brother, prosecutors said.

David Reed, 53, formerly of Acushnet and New Bedford, was indicted last week by a grand jury in connection with the death of Rose Marie Moniz inside her New Bedford home, according to a statement Thursday from Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn III.

Reed is currently in custody pending arraignment at a date to be determined, authorities said. It could not immediately be determined if he had an attorney.

“I’m pleased to announce the indictments related to the previously unsolved cold case homicide of Rose Marie Moniz,” Quinn said in a statement. “She was a mother who was brutally murdered inside the sanctity of her own home. Thanks to the efforts of my Cold Case Unit, along with detectives from our state police unit and New Bedford Police, we were able to bring some sense of relief to the victim’s family, all of whom suffered for the past 20 years from not knowing what happened to Ms. Moniz.”

Moniz, 41, was found in a pool of blood on the bathroom floor on the morning of March 23, 2001, by her father, who had arrived to take her to a previously scheduled doctor’s appointment, prosecutors said.

Investigators determined Moniz had been beaten to death with a fireplace poker, a conch shell and a cast iron kettle. Her purse was emptied on the floor and cash had been stolen, authorities said.

After police excluded two potential suspects early on in the investigation, the case went cold. It was reopened by the cold case unit in 2019.

The unit determined that injuries to the victim’s face had been caused by the spiny exterior of the conch shell, suggesting the suspect would have had to have his fingers inside the shell to hold it.

Testing of the interior revealed a full DNA profile that was run through a national database and led to Reed, prosecutors said.

Reed has also been indicted in connection with the attempted murder and robbery of another New Bedford woman in 2003, prosecutors said.

Honda recalls SUVs and pickups because hoods can fly open

Honda is recalling nearly 725,000 SUVs and pickup trucks because the hoods can open while the vehicles are moving

DETROIT — Honda is recalling nearly 725,000 SUVs and pickup trucks because the hoods can open while the vehicles are moving.

The recall covers certain 2019 Passports, 2016 through 2019 Pilots and 2017 through 2020 Ridgeline pickups.

Honda says in documents posted Friday by U.S. safety regulators that the hood latch striker can become damaged and separate from the hood.

Dealers will either repair the striker or replace the hood if necessary at no cost to owners. Honda will notify owners by letter starting Jan. 17.

The worldwide total is 788,931, with just under 725,000 in the U.S.

Wisconsin condo building evacuated due to structural issues

A six-story condominium building has been evacuated in a Milwaukee suburb after engineers found the structure was in imminent danger of collapsing

WAUKESHA, Wis. — A six-story condominium building has been evacuated in a Milwaukee suburb after engineers found the structure was in imminent danger of collapsing.

Police and firefighters cleared the 48-unit Horizon West condominium building in Waukesha on Thursday night after an engineering report said its structural columns were compromised.

Waukesha officials said they were working with the Salvation Army of Waukesha to help families find housing. Two properties near the building were also evacuated because they are in a possible collapse zone, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Neighbor Vanessa Terrazas said the evacuation only adds to the community’s stress.

“How much more can Waukesha take right now?” she asked.

Jacqueline Gonzales, whose father lives in the building, waited nearby for him to return home from a Bible study at a church. She hadn’t been able to reach him.

“I don’t even know if he knows he isn’t going to have a home when he comes back from Bible study,” Gonzales said. “He’s got nothing right now.”

Duggar trial focusing on computer where child porn was found

Testimony is continuing in the federal trial for former reality TV star Josh Duggar, who is charged with downloading and possessing child pornography

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A desktop computer found with child pornography at former reality TV star Josh Duggar’s workplace also included an operating system that could allow a user to circumvent an accountability application that monitored internet usage, computer analysts testified.

Duggar, 33, is charged with receiving and possessing child pornography and faces up 20 years in prison on each count if convicted. His federal trial began this week in northwest Arkansas.

Duggar, who was featured on TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” show, was charged in April. Prosecutors say child pornography was downloaded to the computer at the used-car lot where Duggar worked in May 2019.

Computer analysts told the jury Thursday that a Linux operating system and partition were installed on the desktop computer that allowed it to evade a tracking program. The partition essentially split the computer’s hard drive into a public-facing side that was business-related and included the tracking program and a second side that used the Linux system, the analysts said.

James Fottrell of the Department of Justice told jurors that sexually explicit photos and videos of children were found on the Linux side of the computer, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

But defense attorneys for Duggar have argued that someone else downloaded or placed the child pornography onto the work computer, noting that no child pornography was found on Duggar’s phone or laptop.

“If you like a mystery, then this is the case for you,” Justin Gilfand, representing Duggar, told jurors in his opening statement earlier this week. “This is a classic, old fashioned whodunit.”

Testimony was to continue Friday.

TLC pulled “19 Kids and Counting” in 2015 over revelations that Duggar had molested four of his sisters and a babysitter. Duggar’s parents said he confessed to the fondling and apologized. U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks ruled earlier this week that jurors could hear details of that abuse in the child pornography trial.

“The child pornography victims in this case are approximately the same ages as the victims of defendant’s hands-on child-molestation offenses,” Brooks’ order allowing the testimony said. “Accordingly, the prior act evidence is probative of defendant’s sexual interest in underage children and his propensity for exploiting young girls.”

In 2015, Duggar publicly apologized for his pornography addiction and for cheating on his wife, calling himself “the biggest hypocrite ever.”

Parkland, Florida student arrested in school shooting threat

A South Florida teenager is accused of making a school shooting threat against Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

PARKLAND, Fla. — A South Florida teenager has been arrested after investigators learned he made a threat against Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of a mass shooting that killed 17 people on Valentine’s Day in 2018.

A caller reported seeing the threat late Wednesday night, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Officials said the 17-year-old high school junior had sent a text message to his classmates in a social media chat room just after 9 p.m. Wednesday.

“I feel like school shooting tmrw (tomorrow). When I sneeze it’s a signal go to the bathroom OK. I hope y’all aren’t snitches,” the text message said, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Investigators found the student at his home, and he was arrested early Thursday on one count of writing a threat to conduct a mass shooting, sheriff’s officials said.

The school’s principal, Michelle Kefford, notified parents about the threat Thursday morning through a robocall. Stoneman Douglas has been at the center of national debate and activism over gun violence in schools since a former student killed 17 people and wounded another 17 in 2018.

The mother of the teen told WSVN that he didn’t mean it, that to him it was a joke. She said that they had lived in another country where schools are safe at the time of the massacre in Parkland. “He’s a normal kid from a normal family and a safe environment. He doesn’t realize the world is not so safe,” she said.

“In my country, schools are very safe. Our mindset is very peaceful. He just wanted to show up among his friends,” she said. “It’s not an excuse for his behavior. It’s just an explanation for his behavior. All threats must be investigated. I understand that.”

US employers added a sluggish 210,000 jobs in November

America’s employers slowed the pace of their hiring in November, adding a still-solid 210,000 jobs, the fewest in nearly a year

WASHINGTON — America’s employers slowed the pace of their hiring in November, adding 210,000 jobs, the fewest in nearly a year.

Friday’s report from the Labor Department also showed that the unemployment rate fell sharply to 4.2% from 4.6%. That is a historically low level though still above the pre-pandemic jobless rate of 3.5%.

Overall, the November jobs figures point to an economic recovery that looks resilient though under threat from a spike in inflation, shortages of workers and supplies and the potential impact of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Little is definitively known about the variant, and widespread business shutdowns are considered unlikely. Still, omicron could discourage some Americans from traveling, shopping and eating out in the coming months and potentially slow the economy.

For now, though, Americans are spending freely, and the economy is forecast to expand at a 7% annual rate in the final three months of the year, a big rebound from the 2.1% pace in the previous quarter, when the delta variant hobbled growth.

Beneath the headline figures on hiring and unemployment, though, lurks a potentially even more consequential question: Are more people who lost jobs to the pandemic recession finally coming off the sidelines to look for work again? Many more job-seekers are needed to help companies fill their open jobs and sustain the economy’s growth.

It’s also a critical question for the Federal Reserve. If the proportion of people who either have a job or are looking for one doesn’t rise much, it would suggest that the Fed is nearing its goal of maximum employment.

With inflation at a three-decade high and far above the Fed’s 2% annual target, reaching its employment mandate would heighten pressure on Chair Jerome Powell to raise interest rates sooner rather than later. Doing so would make loans more expensive for many individuals and businesses.

Even as the jobless rate has steadily declined this year, the proportion of Americans who are working or looking for work has barely budged. A shortage of job-seekers tends to limit hiring and force companies to pay more to attract and keep employees. Higher pay can help sustain spending and growth. But it can also feed inflation if businesses raise prices to offset their higher labor costs, which they often do.

One result is that there are now 4.7 million fewer people with jobs than there were before the pandemic. Yet only about 1.7 million of them are actively looking for work and are classified as unemployed. The remaining 3 million are no longer job-hunting and so aren’t counted as unemployed. The government classifies people as unemployed only if they’re actively seeking work.

About half the 3 million who have dropped out of the workforce have retired. The other half includes parents, mostly mothers, who stayed home to care for children during closings of schools and day cares. For some of these women, child care remains unavailable or unaffordable. Some other people have become self-employed. And others continue to delay their job hunts for fear of contracting COVID-19.

Economists differ on the question of whether more people will soon resume their job hunts. Julia Pollak, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter, suggested that rising wages, a near-record level of open jobs and declining unemployment provide encouraging signals for people still on the sidelines.

Other economists are less sure. Many of them had expected more women to return to the job market as schools reopened. That didn’t happen, suggesting that some mothers might have decided to stay home permanently.

And before COVID, many older Americans came out of retirement to take jobs, often for social reasons or to keep busy. But with the coronavirus posing a particular threat to elderly people, far fewer retirees are returning to the workforce. With the emergence of the omicron variant, that hesitance could persist.

Most gauges of the U.S. economy in November have been positive. Consumer spending surged, outpacing even inflation. Home sales rose in October at the fastest pace in January. A survey of purchasing managers at factories found that new orders and production accelerated. There were even signs that supply chain snarls loosened a bit for some manufacturers.

Suspect arrested in murder of Hollywood executives wife at couples Beverly Hills home

The suspect accidentally shot himself in the foot during another burglary.

Police have arrested a suspect in the murder of the wife of famed music executive Clarence Avant at the couple’s Beverly Hills home.

Beverly Hills investigators have identified Los Angeles resident Aariel Maynor, 29, as a suspect seen in multiple surveillance videos, including city cameras, heading eastbound out of Beverly Hills shortly after 81-year-old Jacqueline Avant was shot, Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark Stainbrook told reporters during a news conference Thursday.

Maynor accidentally shot himself in the foot while in the process of another burglary, Stainbrook said.

Around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, about an hour after Jacqueline Avant was found with a gunshot wound to her head, the Los Angeles Police Department Hollywood Division responded to a report of a shooting at a residence in the 6000 block of Graciosa Drive in Hollywood. When officers arrived, they found Maynor in the backyard, Stainbrook said.

After a “thorough” investigation, investigators determined that Maynor was allegedly in the process of committing a burglary when he shot himself by mistake, Stainbrook said.

He has been in police custody after he was treated at the hospital. An assault-style rifle was also found in the backyard of the home, Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Blake Chow told reporters.

Beverly Hills Police officers responded to the 1100 block of Maytor Place just before 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, where they found that Jacqueline Avant had been shot, according to the department. She later died at the hospital.

“Somewhere in the night we had a watch commander that started to put two and two together and reached out to Beverly Hills,” Chow said.

Police believe Maynor is the only suspect, Stainbrook said.

“Our deepest gratitude to The City of Beverly Hills, the BHPD and all law enforcement for their diligence on this matter,” the Avant and Sarandos family said in a statement. “Now, let justice be served.”

Jacqueline Avant was also the mother-in-law of Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos.

It is unclear if anything was taken from the Avants’ home, but the back sliding glass door was shattered, Stainbrook said.

Clarence Avant was featured in the 2019 Netflix documentary “The Black Godfather” and in October was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The 90-year-old is popular among A-list celebrities such as Oprah, Jay-Z and former President Barack Obama.

Police read a statement from the Avant family Wednesday afternoon during a press conference, which described Jacqueline Avant as “an amazing woman, wife, mother, philanthropist, and a 55-year resident of Beverly Hills.”

ABC News’ Nicholas Kerr and Alex Stone contributed to this report.

Taliban ban forced marriages of women in Afghanistan

The Taliban have decreed that they are banning the forced marriage of women in the war-torn country, in what appears to be a move to address criteria that developed nations consider a precondition to recognize their government and restore aid

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban decreed Friday that they are banning the forced marriage of women in the war-torn country, in what appears to be a move to address criteria that developed nations consider a precondition to recognize their government and restore aid.

The move announced by Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhunzada came as poverty is surging in Afghanistan, following the religious militia’s takeover in August that pushed out U.S. and international forces and led foreign governments to halt funds that had been a mainstay of the economy.

“Both (women and men) should be equal,” said the decree, adding that “no one can force women to marry by coercion or pressure.” Women’s rights improved markedly over the past two decades of international presence in Afghanistan, but are seen as under threat with the return of the Taliban, whose earlier rule in the 1990s saw them virtually cloistered.

Forced marriages have become more commonplace in the poor, conservative country, as the internally displaced marry off their young daughters in exchange for a bride-price that can be used to pay debts and feed their families.

The announced decree did not mention a minimum age for marriage, which previously was set at 16 years old.

Women in Afghanistan for decades were treated like property — as an exchange token for blood money or ending disputes or tribal feuds. The Taliban now state they are against the practice. They also said a widow will now be allowed to re-marry 17 weeks after her husband’s death, choosing her new husband freely.

Longstanding tribal traditions have held it customary for a widow to marry one of her husband’s brothers or relatives in the event of his death.

The Taliban leadership says it has ordered Afghan courts to treat women fairly, especially widows seeking inheritance as next of kin. The group also says it has asked government ministers to spread awareness of women’s rights across the population.

Friday’s announcement comes as thousands of girls from grades seven to 12 are still not allowed to attend school, and a majority of women are banned from returning to their jobs since the Taliban takeover.

Report: IS attack on Iraqi village leaves 12 dead

Iraqi Kurdish media says an attack by Islamic State militants on a village in northern Iraq has killed at least 12 people, including a number of Kurdish forces

The attack took place late Thursday in a village in the Makhmour region, triggering a confrontation with Kurdish peshmerga forces. Among the dead were nine peshmerga and three civilians, private broadcaster Rudaw said on its website.

Masrour Barzani, prime minister of the semi-autonomous Kurdish-run region, offered condolences to the families of the dead in a statement Friday. He said IS has become “a real threat” in territories disputed between the Kurdish region and the federal government in Baghdad.

This requires “strong and firm cooperation between the Peshmerga, the Iraqi army and the (U.S.-led) international coalition as soon as possible,” to stop IS expansion and organization.

Makhmour is located across a band of disputed territory in northern Iraq where IS militants have exploited security gaps to launch attacks.

There was no claim by Islamic State militants for Thursday night’s attack and details were not immediately available.

IS was defeated on the battlefield in 2017 but attacks targeting Iraqi security forces — including Kurdish peshmerga fighters — remain common. Militants are still active through sleeper cells in many areas, especially across a band of territory in the north under dispute between federal Iraq and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.

The U.S.-led coalition to defeat IS has announced the end of its combat mission and said troops will withdraw from Iraq by the end of December. Advisers will remain to continue to train Iraqi forces.

Pakistan police: mob kills Sri Lankan over alleged blasphemy

Pakistan police say a Muslim mob has attacked a sports equipment factory in the eastern Punjab province, killing a Sri Lankan and burning his body over allegations of blasphemy

LAHORE, Pakistan — A Muslim mob attacked a sports equipment factory in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province on Friday, killing a Sri Lankan man and burning his body publicly over allegations of blasphemy, police said.

Armagan Gondal, a police chief in Sialkot district where the killing occurred said that factory workers had accused the victim of desecrating posters bearing the name of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

The Sri Lankan, Priyantha Diyawadana, was lynched by the mob inside the factory, Gondal said initial information showed. Videos circulating on social media showed a mob dragging the man’s heavily bruised body out to the street, where they burned it in the presence of hundreds of demonstrators who cheered on the killers.

However Gondal’s district superior, Omar Saeed Malik, said police were still trying to determine what exactly prompted the mob to kill the Sri Lankan, whose body was sent to a hospital for an autopsy.

A video posted on social media showed the mob dragging the heavily bruised body of the Sri Lankan outside the factory.

Mob attacks on people accused of blasphemy are common in the Islamic nation, although such attacks on foreigners are rare.

Blasphemy carries the death penalty in Pakistan. International and domestic rights groups say that accusations of blasphemy have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.

Punjab’s chief minister Usman Buzdar took to Twitter, saying he had ordered a probe into the killing of the Sri Lankan in Sialkot. The Pakistani prime minister’s special adviser on religious affairs and religious harmony, Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, condemned the killing in a statement. He promised a stern punishment for those who attacked and killed the Sri Lankan.

Friday’s latest attack comes less than a week after a Muslim mob burned a police station and four police posts in northwest Pakistan after officers refused to hand over a mentally unstable man accused of desecrating Islam’s holy book, the Quran. No officers were hurt in the attacks in Charsadda, a district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Pakistan’s government has been under pressure for the past several decades to change the country’s blasphemy laws. However, Islamists in the country have strongly resisted such demands.

A Punjab governor in Islamabad was also shot and killed by his own guard in 2011, after he defended a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy. She was acquitted after spending eight years on death row and, receiving threats, left Pakistan for Canada to join her family.


Associated Press Writer Asim Tanveer contributed from Multan, Pakistan

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