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A federal judge on Tuesday blocked President Joe Biden’s administration from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees of federal contractors, the latest in a string of victories for Republican-led states pushing back against Biden’s pandemic policies. U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker, in Augusta, Georgia, issued a stay to bar enforcement of the mandate nationwide. The order came in response to a lawsuit from several contractors and seven states — Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia. Baker found that the states are likely to succeed in their claim that Biden exceeded authorization from Congress when he issued the requirement in September. “The Court acknowledges the tragic toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought throughout the nation and the globe,” wrote the judge, an appointee of former President Donald Trump. “However, even in times of crisis this Court must preserve the rule of law and ensure that all branches of government act within the bounds of their constitutionally granted authorities.”

This week, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization for 16- and 17-year-olds to get a third dose of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech. Hours later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted the last barrier — saying those teens should get their booster as soon as it’s time. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told The Associated Press the boosters are important considering that protection against infection wanes over time and “we’re facing a variant that has the potential to require more immunity to be protected.”

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock is leading a bipartisan group of legislators in this effort to rename the Atlanta Veterans Affairs hospital in Decatur after the late Max Cleland . Cleland, who held positions in state and the federal governments, including head of the VA, died Nov. 9“We lost a true giant of public service, a leader, difference-maker and passionate patriot with a big heart for our veterans and communities,” Warnock said in a written statement Friday. He said it’s a privilege to bring both political parties together to honor Cleland and added, “May his life, legacy and name live on forever in our hearts and in our spirits.” Fellow Georgia Democrats Sen. Jon Ossoff and Rep. Nikema Williams were among those who signed onto the bill to change the name of the hospital to the Joseph Maxwell Cleland Atlanta Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

A federal judge ruled Thursday against motions to dismiss eight pending lawsuits against Georgia’s new voting law. U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee’s orders allow the cases to move forward as they contest many provisions of the law, including stricter voter ID requirements, ballot drop boxes limitations, shorter absentee ballot request deadlines and a ban on handing out food and water to voters waiting in line. The merits of the cases will be determined after facts and evidence are presented in the case, Boulee wrote. The plaintiffs in the lawsuits celebrated the decision that keeps their cases alive against Georgia’s voting law, Senate Bill 202.

When David Perdue launched his website announcing his run for Georgia governor his campaign had a slight hiccup. The web address he tried to use was already taken, and worse, redirected clicks to the official online site for U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, the Democrat who unseated Perdue in a January runoff. One of Perdue’s first acts as a Republican candidate for Georgia Governor was to file a lawsuit Friday seeking to inspect absentee ballots in Fulton County. Purdue repeated the same unproven allegations as in a lawsuit dismissed two months ago and revives a series of failed lawsuits by supporters of former President Donald Trump searching for fraud in last year’s election. Perdue has put false claims of election fraud at the center of his campaign against incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp. 

Morris Brown College President, Kevin James, announced on Friday that the U.S. Department of Education has approved its request for students to be able to apply for federal financial aid, a major step in its ongoing effort to regain its accreditation. In 2002, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools withdrew MBC’s accreditation due to financial debt. This prevented students from applying for federal aid for two decades.

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin sent six people to space Saturday on board the New Shepard spacecraft including Laura Shepard Churchley, the daughter of Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and Michael Strahan, the former NFL football star turned TV personality. The autonomous flight reached an altitude of just over 67 miles before returning to a soft landing in the West Texas desert. Total flight time was 10 minutes and 13 seconds. The flights are relatively short, suborbital jaunts that shoot straight up into space, where the passengers get a few minutes of weightlessness and see the Earth from above.

Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was convicted Thursday on charges he staged an anti-gay, racist attack on himself and lying to Chicago police about it. The jury found the 39-year-old guilty on five counts of disorderly conduct — one count for each separate time he was charged with lying to police in the days immediately after the alleged attack. He was acquitted on a sixth count of lying to a detective. The felony charges carry a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts say Smollett would likely be placed on probation and ordered to perform community service.

Legendary Atlanta news anchor and journalist Monica Kaufman Pearson is joining CBS46 and PeachtreeTV to host two new shows. One of the programs will be an interview-themed series launching in February 2022 Pearson was the first African American and female to anchor an evening newscast in Atlanta. She retired from Channel 2 Action news in 2012 after spending nearly 40 years in the Atlanta market. During that time, Pearson received nearly three dozen regional Emmy awards.

After 18 years at Fox News, veteran new anchor Chris Wallace has left for CNN, dealing a significant blow to Fox’s news operation at a time that it has been overshadowed by the network’s opinion side. Wallace delivered the surprising news that he was leaving at the end of the “Fox News Sunday” show he moderates, and within two hours CNN announced he was joining its new streaming service as an anchor. CNN+ is expected to debut in early 2022.

Novelist Anne Rice, whose best-selling gothic tales include “Interview with a Vampire,” has died due to complications from a stroke. She was 80. Rice’s 1976 novel “Interview with the Vampire” was later adapted into the 1994 movie starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. Rice would write more than 30 books and sell more than 150 million copies worldwide. Thirteen of those were part of the “Vampire Chronicles”.

After winning the World Series, Braves players earned an extra $397,391 payday which represents a full postseason share from a record player pool of $90.47 million. The Braves split $32.57 million into 66 full shares, 14.25 partial shares, and 38 cash awards, the commissioner’s office said Friday. The amount of the winners’ share was the third highest behind $438,902 for Houston in 2017 and $416,838 for Boston in 2018. 

The Heisman Memorial Trophy for the 2021 college football season was awarded to Bryce Young Saturday night in New York City’s Lincoln Center, during the 87th annual ceremony for the sport’s most prestigious honor. The University of Alabama quarterback was the overwhelming favorite this year for the award, especially after last Saturday’s epic performance in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championship game victory over the University of Georgia, where he set a conference championship record with 461 total yards, including 421 in the air, also a record. The win propelled the team to the nation’s top seed heading into the College Football Playoff, where they will play the undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

Have a wonderful week…

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