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Friday morning news - October 15, 2021

WORLD Radio - Friday morning news - October 15, 2021

Biden touts pandemic progress, judge blocks United Airlines vaccine mandate, jobless claims drop, 46 die in Taiwan fire, protests in Beirut


Supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah and Amal groups chant slogans against Judge Tarek Bitar who is investigating last year's deadly seaport blast, during a protest in front of the Justice Palace, in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021 Hussein Malla/Associated Press Photo

For WORLD Radio, I'm Kent Covington. 

Biden touts progress in fight against COVID-19 » President Biden on Thursday highlighted progress in the fight against COVID-19.

BIDEN: Daily cases are down 47 percent. Hospitalizations are down 38 percent over the past 6 weeks.

He added that case rates are down in 39 states.

The CDC reports that about two-thirds of the U.S. population has now received at least one shot and 57 percent are fully vaccinated.

The president’s remarks came as an FDA advisory panel on Thursday considered whether millions of Americans who received the Moderna vaccine should get a booster shot. Regulators are also reviewing Johnson & Johnson’s request to authorize boosters. Biden said he expects a final decision within the next couple of weeks.

BIDEN: If they authorize the boosters, this will mean all three vaccines will be available for boosters.

Judge blocks United Airlines from suspending employees over vaccine » The president also called once more on the millions of Americans who remain unvaccinated to get the shot. And he praised private companies that are implementing vaccine mandates for their workers.

But a federal judge has put one such mandate on hold. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: For now, United Airlines cannot put unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave for seeking medical or religious exemptions from the mandate.

U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman in Fort Worth, Texas, granted a restraining order this week in favor of employees who are suing over the requirement.

Lawyers for the employees and the airline agreed last month that United wouldn't put the workers on unpaid leave. But the judge wrote that the agreement will expire before he can rule on the merits of the matter. He said that would leave “hundreds of workers” at risk of being put on indefinite unpaid leave … or forced to get a vaccination that violates their religious beliefs or medical restrictions.

The restraining order expires Oct. 26.

The suing employees are seeking to turn the case into a class-action lawsuit. United says about 2,000 of its 67,000 U.S. employees asked for exemptions.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.

Jobless claims fall to pandemic-low for second straight week » The number of Americans applying for jobless benefits fell to its lowest level since the pandemic began for the second straight week.

The Labor Department says new claims dropped about 11 percent to 293,000 last week.

Unemployment applications have fallen steadily since last spring as many businesses, struggling to fill jobs, have held onto their workers.

The decline in layoffs comes amid an otherwise unusual job market. Hiring has slowed in the past two months, even as employers have posted a near-record number of open jobs.

At the same time, Americans are quitting their jobs in record numbers, with about 3 percent of workers doing so in August.

At least 46 dead in Taiwan fire » At least 46 people are dead after a fire Thursday in Taiwan. WORLD’s Josh Schumacher has more.

JOSH SCHUMACHER, REPORTER: The flames began rising from a mixed use commercial and residential building in the port city of Kaohsiung.

A column of black smoke rose over the 13-story building, which was home to many poor, elderly and disabled people.

Witnesses said they heard something that sounded like an explosion at about 3 a.m. when the blaze erupted in the lower floors of the dilapidated building. The structure once housed a movie theater, restaurants, and karaoke clubs, but those lots were all abandoned.

It took firefighters several hours to extinguish the blaze. Throughout the day, first responders pored through the wreckage and recovered dozens of bodies. At least 14 people later died at the hospital.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Josh Schumacher.

Christian-Muslim violence turns deadly in Lebanon » AUDIO: [Gunfire]

Clashes between Christians and Muslims turned deadly in Beirut on Thursday.

At least six people died and 30 more were injured in a firefight.

The Muslim militant group Hezbollah organized a demonstration along with an allied group to protest the judge leading an investigation into last year’s port bombing.

A Christian political group staged counter-demonstrations, carrying large crosses through the streets.

Both Christian and Muslim groups said rooftop snipers from the other side began gunning them down. The gunfights then spread through nearby Christian neighborhoods.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland extended condolences from the United States on Thursday.

NULAND: We join the Lebanese authorities in their call for calm and deescalation of tensions.

Stray bullets struck some residents in their homes while masked men shot machine guns in the streets.

The Lebanese army deployed troops to counter the shooting and evacuate residential areas.

I’m Kent Covington. For more news, features, and analysis, visit us at wng.org. 


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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