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Wednesday, Oct 20th

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Official was wrongly fired over the Flint, Mich., water scandal

Liane Shekter SmithThe only Michigan official fired in the Flint water catastrophe likely was a "public scapegoat" who lost her job because of politics, an arbitrator said in ordering $191,880 in back pay and other compensation.

It's a remarkable victory for Liane Shekter Smith, who served as head of the state's drinking water office when Flint's water system was contaminated with lead. She was removed and then fired in 2016 and subsequently faced criminal charges in one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.

Shekter Smith was dismissed while engineers in her department — the "boots on the ground" in Flint — were suspended with pay before ultimately returning to work, the arbitrator said in a 22-page report obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

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The FDA authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID vaccine boosters

FDA OK's Modrna and J&J b00stersCOVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson following unanimous votes by a committee of independent advisers backing the boosters last week.

In a related decision, the FDA also authorized boosters that differ from the vaccine originally used to immunize people against COVID-19. So, for instance, a person who got a Johnson & Johnson vaccine could receive one from Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech as a booster.

The regulatory moves open the gate for boosters to be used more widely. In September, FDA authorized a booster for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

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'We're not giving up,' Harris says after Republicans block Freedom to Vote Act

AZ goes down the rabbit hole

Just when it seemed Arizona Republicans couldn’t make more of a spectacle, they found another way.

As the party hardens around its fealty to former President Donald Trump, the GOP is filling up its midterm ballot with a roster of conspiracy theorists and extremists that could threaten the party’s prospects in a state that’s drifted leftward in recent elections.

The latest of those candidates is Ron Watkins, a celebrity in the QAnon conspiracy world suspected of being Q, who announced his plans to run for Congress last week.

It isn’t just that Watkins embraces the baseless claim that the November election was stolen. It’s that an entire ticket is running on that falsehood now. The state’s congressional delegation features Rep. Paul Gosar, who spoke earlier this year at a conference organized by a white nationalist, and Rep. Andy Biggs, who falsely maintains “we don’t know” who won the presidential election in Arizona.

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‘Down the rabbit hole’: Arizona GOP goes full fringe

AZ goes down the rabbit hole

Just when it seemed Arizona Republicans couldn’t make more of a spectacle, they found another way.

As the party hardens around its fealty to former President Donald Trump, the GOP is filling up its midterm ballot with a roster of conspiracy theorists and extremists that could threaten the party’s prospects in a state that’s drifted leftward in recent elections.

The latest of those candidates is Ron Watkins, a celebrity in the QAnon conspiracy world suspected of being Q, who announced his plans to run for Congress last week.

It isn’t just that Watkins embraces the baseless claim that the November election was stolen. It’s that an entire ticket is running on that falsehood now. The state’s congressional delegation features Rep. Paul Gosar, who spoke earlier this year at a conference organized by a white nationalist, and Rep. Andy Biggs, who falsely maintains “we don’t know” who won the presidential election in Arizona.

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Cheney: Bannon's actions suggest Trump was involved in Capitol riot planning

Liz CheneyRep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said late Tuesday that former White House strategist Stephen Bannon’s refusal to cooperate with the House committee investigating the Capitol riot suggests former President Trump was "personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6th."

"Based on the committee’s investigation, it appears that Mr. Bannon had substantial advance knowledge of the plans for Jan. 6 and likely had an important role in formulating those plans. Mr. Bannon was in the war room at the Willard on Jan. 6. He also appears to have detailed knowledge regarding the president’s efforts to sell millions of Americans the fraud that the election was stolen," Cheney said as the panel voted unanimously to hold Bannon in contempt and refer him to the Justice Department for criminal charges.

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'I'm Invincible': FBI Arrests Capitol Rioter Who Was 'Not Too Worried' He'd Be Charged

FBI arrest rioter who was 'too invincible' to be charged.

On Jan. 6, Landon Mitchell bragged to a Facebook friend that he “breached the Capitol” and was “one of the very first in” when a pro-Trump mob stormed the halls of Congress. He appeared in video on the floor of the U.S. Senate, went through a senator’s desk and took to the dais, where he posed next to the so-called QAnon Shaman.

Later, when a friend feared that the FBI might arrest Mitchell, he wrote that he was “invincible” and “not too worried” because he “was masked up the whole time” he was inside the Capitol.

Mitchell was accompanied to the Capitol by Luke Wessley Bender, a former co-worker who was arrested by the FBI on July 29. Bender, the feds said, identified Mitchell during an interview after his arrest.

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Brian Laundrie's Belongings Found; Medical Examiner Called To Scene

Brian Laundrie items discovered

The Sarasota County medical examiner’s office was called Wednesday to a Florida nature preserve where police recently found items belonging to Brian Laundrie, the department confirmed.

The medical examiners are responding to Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, which is adjacent to the Carlton Reserve where Laundrie’s parents said he had left to go hiking over a month ago and never returned to their nearby home.

The office would not say whether human remains were found or what time they were called out to the site.

Local news captured images of a tent being erected in the reserve and of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office arriving on the scene.

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Trump Organization, under indictment, faces new probe by New York county -NYT

Trump Organization under investigationDonald Trump's family company, indicted in July after a Manhattan district attorney probe, is under scrutiny by another New York prosecutor for financial dealings at a golf course it owns, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

The district attorney in Westchester County, a suburb north of New York City, has subpoenaed records from the Trump Organization property in recent months under a criminal investigation, the report said.

Also subpoenaed were records from Ossining, the town that sets property taxes on the opulent Trump National Golf Club Westchester, according to the New York Times.

Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah seems to be examining whether the company misrepresented the value of the private club to reduce its taxes, but it was unclear if Trump's own conduct was under scrutiny, the report said.

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New York orders all city employees vaccinate, drawing police union ire

NYC ordered all city employees vaccinatedNew York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday ordered all city employees to show proof of inoculation against COVID-19 or be placed on unpaid leave, drawing criticism from a police union which vowed to fight the mandate in court.

The mayor set a deadline of 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 29, for employees to show proof to a supervisor. Seventy-one percent of all 160,000 New York City workers have already received at least one dose, the mayor said.

The rate among the police department, where the virus has killed more than 460 officers, was also about 71% as of Wednesday, NYPD spokesperson Sergeant Edward Riley told Reuters in an email, up from about 47% in August.

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