In our news wrap Friday, a judge in Florida ruled that school districts in the state can impose mask mandates in the classroom, reversing an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis banning such mandates. The Texas House easily passed a restrictive new voting rights bill despite months of protests by state Democrats. California officials ordered more fire emergency evacuations in the Lake Tahoe area.
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In the day's other news: The Biden administration says half of American adolescents ages 12 to 17 have now gotten at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.
That comes as a judge in Florida ruled that school districts in the state can impose mask mandates in the classroom as the Delta variant surges. The decision reverses an executive order from Governor Ron DeSantis banning such mandates.
Meanwhile, President Biden said federal health authorities are weighing whether to approve giving adults COVID vaccine booster shots sooner than eight months after full vaccination. That was previously announced.
The U.S. intelligence community remains divided on the origins of the coronavirus. They released a report today that refuted the theory that the virus was created as a biological weapon, and they concluded that China didn't know about the virus before the onset of the pandemic.
Analysts believe the virus was first exposed to humans in November of 2019, but they still don't know how a human first came into contact with it.
President Biden hosted new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the White House today. The meeting was postponed from yesterday after the terror attack at the Kabul Airport. In the Oval Office, the two talked about preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
President Biden said he wanted to restart talks with Tehran, but did not give specifics.
President Joe Biden:
We also are going to discuss the threat from Iran and our commitment to ensure Iran never develops a nuclear weapon. And — but we're putting diplomacy first, and we will see where that takes us. But if diplomacy fails, we're ready to turn to other options.
The two leaders also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, among other topics.
Tropical Storm Ida, meanwhile, strengthened into a hurricane today, and is on a collision course with the U.S. Gulf Coast. The storm system moved over Western Cuba with maximum sustained winds of 80 miles an hour. It's forecast to become a major hurricane on its way toward Louisiana this weekend.
The mayor of New Orleans urged residents to get out of harm's way.
Latoya Cantrell, Mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana: All areas outside of our levee protection system definitely mandatory evacuation. If you have any medical needs or wish to voluntarily evacuate on your own, now is the time to start that.
The storm is forecast to strike New Orleans on Sunday. That would be the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
In California, authorities ordered more emergency evacuations for residents in the Lake Tahoe resort region, as the Caldor Fire threatened its shores. Firefighters fought back flames in the mountains Southwest of the Tahoe Basin, while thick layers of haze and smoke suffocated parts of Northern California. The Caldor Fire is one of more than 90 wildfires burning throughout the Western U.S.
The Texas House easily passed a restrictive new voting rights bill today, after months of protests by state Democrats. The Republican legislation would ban all-night and drive-through voting and further empower poll watchers, among other things. The bill now goes back to the state Senate to either pass the House version or reconcile their differences in a conference committee.
The man who assassinated former U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Sirhan Sirhan, has been granted parole after 53 years in a California prison. Two of Kennedy's sons argued for the 77-year-old's release, saying they believed his remorse. Sirhan killed Kennedy in 1968 at a Los Angeles hotel just after Kennedy won the California Democratic presidential primary.
It is now up to the governor to approve his release.
The Federal Reserve will begin to taper off some of its economic stimulus later this year, as the pandemic recession improves. Chairman Jerome Powell made that announcement today, but said it will only do so as long as the hiring market continues to strengthen.
Powell also said the current spike in inflation will pass, but the Fed will continue to monitor the Delta variant's economic impact.
With vaccinations rising, schools reopening, and enhanced unemployment benefits ending, some factors that may be holding back job seekers are likely fading.
While the Delta variant presents a near-term risk, the prospects are good for continued progress toward maximum employment.
The Federal Reserve plans to hold off on raising interest rates until after the economy reaches full employment.
Word of the Fed's plans pushed stocks higher on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average surged 243 points to close at 35456. The Nasdaq jumped 184 points, and the S&P 500 added 39.
And Apple will now let developers of iPhone apps e-mail users directly about cheaper ways to pay for subscriptions and content. The agreement is part of a preliminary settlement in a lawsuit over Apple's commission system. In some cases, the company charged commissions as high as 30 percent for in-app payments, which developers said stifled competition.