News Wrap: Pfizer says booster offers protection against omicron variant

In our news wrap Wednesday, drug maker Pfizer says its double-dose vaccine — plus a booster — may offer significant protection against the omicron variant. Olaf Schultz has officially become Germany's chancellor — marking the end of Angela Merkel's 16-year tenure. Canada and Britain are the latest to join the U.S. diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in China.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    There is potentially encouraging news tonight on COVID-19.

    Pfizer says that its double-dose vaccine, plus a booster, may offer significant protection against the Omicron variant. The initial two doses by themselves appear much less effective. Meanwhile, the FDA authorized a new antibody drug for people with serious health problems who need more protection than a vaccine provides.

    We will turn to the issue of vaccine mandates after the news summary.

    President Biden today underscored his warnings to Russia's President Vladimir Putin not to invade Ukraine. Leaving the White House, the president said sending in American troops is not on the table, but Moscow would still pay a high price.

    Joe Biden, President of the United States: Economic consequences like none he's ever seen or ever have been seen. But the idea the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia from invading Ukraine is not on — in the cards right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The president said he is confident that Putin got the message.

    Germany officially has a new leader. Olaf Scholz became chancellor today, marking the end of Angela Merkel's 16-year tenure. Scholz took office as leader of a progressive coalition of parties. They say they will focus on modernizing Germany and combating climate change.

    Canada and Britain are the latest countries to join the U.S. diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in China. They announced today that they won't send government officials to the February Games in Beijing, but that their athletes will still compete.

    Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke in Ottawa.

  • Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister:

    We are extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government. That is why we are announcing today that we will not be sending any diplomatic representation to the Beijing Olympic or Paralympic Games this winter.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Australia is also taking part in the boycott.

    French authorities have released a man they arrested yesterday in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. They say that it was a case of mistaken identity. Khashoggi had criticized the Saudi crown prince, and was killed after entering a Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018.

    Back in this country, a Minneapolis jury heard opening statements in the manslaughter trial of a former police officer who killed Daunte Wright last April. Prosecutors said Kim Potter betrayed her mission. The defense said she mistook her gun for her Taser and that Wright should have surrendered.

    We will get details later in the program.

    A jury in Chicago has begun deliberations on charges that the actor Jussie Smollett faked a hate crime against himself to gain publicity. In closing arguments today, the defense said that two men who claim Smollett hired them to stage the attack are liars. The prosecution accused Smollett of lying.

    The CEO of Instagram called today for creating an industry body dedicated to keeping young people safe online. Adam Mosseri testified at a U.S. Senate hearing amid growing criticism of how Instagram affects the mental health of young users.

    Democrat Richard Blumenthal questioned how new standards would be policed.

  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT):

    Would the attorney general of the United States or the attorney general of a state like Connecticut, where I was attorney general, have the power to enforce those standards?

  • Adam Mosseri, CEO, Instagram:

    Senator, we believe in enforcement. Specifically, how to implement that enforcement is something that we would like to work with your office on, and other offices as well.

  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal:

    Well, that's a simple yes or no. Enforceability has to be part of your proposal.

  • Adam Mosseri:

    Senator, I agree. Enforceability is incredibly important.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mosseri would not commit to terminating plans to add a version of the platform for children under 13. That project is now on pause.

    Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is suing the congressional committee that is investigating last January's assault on the U.S. Capitol. He says that the committee's subpoenas are overly broad. The committee warned today that Meadows will be held in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify.

    On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 35 points to close at 35754. The Nasdaq rose 100 points. The S&P 500 added 14.

    And authorities in Saudi Arabia are cracking down on cosmetic enhancements and an annual camel — excuse me — beauty pageant. More than 40 camels have been disqualified after breeders used Botox injections face-lifts and other alterations to enlarge their lips and noses and boost muscles. The camel pageant is highly popular and offers $66 million in prize money.


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