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AP
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Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week following three straight increases economists blamed on the surge in cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19. The Labor Department reported Thursday that jobless claims fell by 30,000 to 260,000 last week, slightly less than the 265,000 analysts were expecting. The four-week average of claims, which compensates for weekly volatility, rose by 15,000 to 247,000. Altogether, nearly 1.7 million people were collecting jobless aid the week that ended Jan. 15, a nominal increase of 51,000 from the previous week. 

AP
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The Wisconsin Assembly was set to vote on a package of bills designed to bolster police recruiting. The measures come as officer applications have dwindled in the wake of George Floyd's death and the national debate over police brutality and racism. The bills up for a vote Tuesday would create bonuses for applicants and officers who stay on the job; require at least two technical colleges establish part-time police academies; create a marketing campaign to attract recruits; prohibit local governments from banning no-knock search warrants; and require schools teach courses on how to respect and cooperate with police. The Assembly was scheduled to vote on the bills Tuesday afternoon. Approval would send the bills to the Senate.

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U.S. health officials say COVID-19 antibody drugs from Regeneron and Eli Lilly should no longer be used because they don't work against the omicron variant. The Food and Drug Administration said Monday it is revoking emergency authorization for both drugs. If they prove effective against future variants, the FDA says it can reauthorize their use. The move was expected because both drugmakers had previously said their drugs are less effective against omicron. Still, the federal action could trigger pushback from some Republican governors who have continued promoting the drugs against the advice of health experts.

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The conservative-dominated Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the consideration of race in college admissions, adding another blockbuster case to a term with abortion, guns, religion and COVID-19 on the agenda. The court said Monday it'll take up lawsuits claiming Harvard, a private institution, and the University of North Carolina, a state school, discriminate against Asian American applicants. A decision against the schools could mean the end of affirmative action in admissions. Lower courts rejected the challenges, citing 40 years of high court rulings that allow colleges and universities to consider race in admissions decisions. But the schools must do so in a narrowly tailored way to promote diversity.

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A Republican Wisconsin state lawmaker has been recorded on video saying that Republicans need to “cheat like the Democrats" to win upcoming elections and that he'd like to punch Democratic Gov. Tony Evers over pandemic restrictions. The video of state Rep. Elijah Behnke was posted online Thursday and was first reported on Friday by the Wisconsin State Journal. In the wide-ranging 25-minute video, which appears to have been taken secretly by visitors in Behnke’s Capitol office, he disparages Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos as a “swamp creature” and supports debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. He also says that if he ever sees Evers in person, he's going to punch him.

AP
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The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose to the highest level in three months as the fast-spreading omicron variant disrupted the job market. Jobless claims rose for the third straight week — by 55,000 to 286,000, highest since mid-October, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The four-week average of claims, which smooths out weekly volatility, rose by 20,000 to 231,000, highest since late November. A surge in COVID cases has set back what had been a strong comeback from from last year’s short but devastating coronavirus recession.