First Thing: Biden plans to get booster shots to 100m Americans

·7 min read
<span>Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP</span>
Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

President lays out plan for winter months amid Omicron arrival in US; plus George Clooney on turning down $35m for a day’s work


Good morning.

Joe Biden is planning to pull no punches when it comes to the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid in the US.

The president has announced new actions to combat the coronavirus, including a nationwide campaign encouraging vaccine boosters, an expansion of at-home tests and tighter restrictions on international travel.

Buffeted by political backlash from Republicans, the US president visited the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, yesterday and laid out a pandemic battle plan for the winter months which includes steps to ensure that the nearly 100 million eligible Americans who have not yet received their booster shot do so as soon as possible.

“My plan pulls no punches,” Biden said. “It is a plan that should unite us.”

  • There is fresh urgency to the effort after the first US case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 was identified in California on Wednesday and a second in Minnesota yesterday.

  • The emergence of Omicron has demonstrated the tenacity of the virus, which continues to drag down Biden’s political fortunes. Voters are divided on his handling of the pandemic, with 47% approving and 49% disapproving.

Alec Baldwin questions how bullet got on Rust set in emotional ABC interview

Alec Baldwin has questioned how the bullet that accidentally killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins ended up in a gun on the set of the film Rust, speaking out about the fatal shooting in a lengthy and emotional interview.

The actor said he did not pull the trigger on the gun that killed Hutchins, 42, and injured director Joel Souza, 48. The gun he was holding, which Baldwin believed to be safe, went off during rehearsals for the western, in an incident that shocked Hollywood and prompted a reckoning over production safety and the use of weapons on set.

“There’s only one question to be resolved, and that’s where did the live round come from?” Baldwin said in an ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos that aired Thursday night. The interview was first time the actor has spoken in-depth on camera about the 21 October shooting.

  • What else did he say? He said he didn’t pull the trigger. He “let go of the hammer” on the weapon, he said, and the gun went off. “I never pulled the trigger,” he repeated.

  • Will there be any criminal charges brought in the case? The district attorney in Santa Fe, New Mexico, said in October that criminal charges in the shooting have not been ruled out.

Sidney Powell filed false incorporation papers for non-profit, grand jury finds

Attorney Sidney Powell speaks during a rally
Sidney Powell is being investigated by a grand jury. Photograph: Ben Margot/AP

A federal grand jury investigating Donald Trump’s former attorney Sidney Powell has uncovered evidence that Powell filed false incorporation papers with the state of Texas for a nonprofit she heads, Defending the Republic, according to sources close to the investigation.

In the incorporation papers, Powell – who filed lawsuits across the US questioning the 2020 election result Trump lost to Joe Biden – listed two men who she said served with her on the organization’s board of directors, even though neither gave Powell permission to do so.

As a private attorney, Powell, in the service of Trump, has gained notoriety as she has increasingly embraced implausible conspiracy theories such as that the FBI had attempted to frame Trump to drive him from office, and that Biden’s election as president of the US was illegitimate. Her lawsuits to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election have all failed.

  • During one of the cases, a judge sanctioned Powell for alleged ethical misconduct and referred her to the Texas state bar for investigation.

  • There is also a broader federal criminal inquiry into Powell, which has since last fall been examining allegations of fundraising and financial fraud.

In other news …

Senator Chuck Grassley
Chuck Grassley condemned the request as ‘hostile towards lawful gun owners and lawful firearm transactions’. Photograph: Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters
  • A request on Thursday to proceed on gun control legislation in the Senate following the Michigan school shooting has been blocked by the Iowa senator Chuck Grassley, the leading Republican on the Senate judiciary committee.

  • The Biden administration’s move to revive Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy will subject thousands of people to “enormous suffering” and leave them vulnerable to kidnap and rape as they languish in dangerous Mexican border cities, migration advocates have warned.

  • Abu Zubaydah, the Guantánamo detainee, has petitioned a federal court for his release on grounds that America’s wars in Afghanistan and with al-Qaida are over. Zubaydah was tortured close to death by the CIA and has been held without charge by the US for nearly 20 years.

  • The former house manager of Jeffrey Epstein’s Palm Beach home said Ghislaine Maxwell warned him that he should “never look” his boss in the eyes, describing a work environment where he faced the grim task of cleaning up their sex toys amid stifling micromanagement.

Don’t miss this: George Clooney on paydays, politics and parenting

Actor George Clooney
George Clooney: ‘The whole country, for the last five years, has been engaged in hate and anger, and I’ve been part of it at times.’ Photograph: Dominique Charriau/WireImage

It seems safe to assume that George Clooney could, if he were a bit less cool, start every morning by diving into a pile of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck. When asked if he ever thinks he has enough money now, he leans forward, unruffled, and tells Guardian writer Hadley Freeman: “Well, yeah. I was offered $35m for one day’s work for an airline commercial, but I talked to Amal [Clooney, the human rights lawyer he married in 2014] about it and we decided it’s not worth it.” If Clooney has a brand, it is carefully cultivated classiness.

… or this: Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger says the ‘music will outlast the crazy Jim stuff’

American rock group The Doors posed in Germany in 1968. Left to right: Ray Manzarek (1939-2013), Jim Morrison (1943-1971), Robbie Krieger and John Densmore.
The Doors in Germany in 1968. Photograph: K & K Ulf Kruger OHG/Redferns

This year marks half a century since the storied singer of the Doors, Jim Morrison, met his untimely death. Or at least that’s what most reasonable people believe happened. Due to a combination of wishful thinking and conspiracy theories, however, some people believe that Morrison still lives. According to the Doors’ guitarist, Robbie Krieger, that’s just one of many outrageous misconceptions or outright lies surrounding the band. In his new memoir, he aims to tell the true, uncensored story of one of the greatest bands of all time while dispelling some long-running myths.

Climate check: British Airways looks to recycled cooking oil fuel to cut jet emissions

Plane during conventional refuelling
A British Airways plane during conventional refuelling. Photograph: Geoff Williamson Aviation Images/Alamy

British Airways has signed a deal for aircraft fuel made from recycled cooking oils and other household waste to be produced at scale in the UK and to be in use as early as 2022 to help power its flights. The airline revealed yesterday evening it had reached the agreement with a refinery in north Lincolnshire, England to purchase thousands of tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which it said would add up to the equivalent of 700 transatlantic flights on a Boeing 787 with net zero carbon emissions.

Last Thing: snowstorm in Denmark forces dozens to bed down in Ikea

An Ikea showroom in northern Denmark turned into a vast bedroom after six customers and about two dozen employees were stranded by a snowstorm and forced to spend the night in the store. Up to 30cm (12 inches) of snow fell, trapping the customers and employees when the department store in Aalborg closed on Wednesday evening. “We slept in the furniture exhibitions and our showroom on the first floor, where we have beds, mattresses and sofa beds,” store manager Peter Elmose said.

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