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Top eight today

Top eight stories for today including a judge blocked the requirement for federal employees to get inoculated against Covid-19; American and Russian officials met for urgent talks to seek a diplomatic path over the Ukrainian conflict; California’s jobless rate ticked down to 6.5% as employers added over 50,000 jobs, and more.

National

Maskgate supreme: a test case of idealist chickens coming home to roost

As the justices try to dispel reports of internal discord over Covid-19 precautions, a bigger divide on First Street lurks behind the mask.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden meet with Judge Sonia Sotomayor prior to a May 26, 2009, announcement on her nomination to replace the retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. (Image via Executive Office of the President via Courthouse News)

Judge blocks Biden vaccine mandate for federal workers

A Trump-appointed federal judge issued a nationwide injunction Friday blocking the requirement for federal employees to get inoculated against Covid-19.

A medical staff member prepares the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at Tudor Ranch in Mecca, California, on Jan. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

New CDC studies show strength of boosters in protecting against omicron

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention touted a trio of new studies Friday for offering new insight into the protection that vaccines, and booster shots in particular, provide against the omicron variant.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky speaks during a Covid-19 response press briefing about new CDC studies on the effectiveness of booster shots against the omicron variant on Jan. 21, 2022. (Screenshot via Courthouse News)

Public defenders rarely make it on the federal bench. Not anymore

Part of President Biden's push to overhaul the makeup of the federal courts includes a focus on nominating former public defenders, attorneys who are historically under-represented on the federal bench.

Charles Esque Fleming, nominated for a judgeship on the Northern District of Ohio, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during on Nov. 17, 2021. (Image via Courthouse News)

Regional

California adds 50,000 jobs, unemployment dips to 6.5%

Accounting for a quarter of all new hirings in the nation in December, California’s jobless rate ticked down to 6.5% as employers added over 50,000 jobs.

The California Employment Development Department. (Nick Cahill/Courthouse News)

‘It’s time to kill’: Texas man accused of threatening Georgia election officials

A Texas man was arrested in the Austin area on Friday by the FBI on charges that he posted threatening messages directed at Georgia government officials last year.

Elections workers in Atlanta process absentee ballots for a Senate runoff election in January 2021. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)

International

US, Russia leave door open for dialogue over Ukraine

A second week of high-stakes talks ended on Friday with still no signs of breakthroughs between the West and Moscow over NATO's expansion onto Russia's doorstep nor success at defusing a simmering armed conflict in Ukraine, though both superpowers appeared eager to let the door for diplomacy remain open.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

Tories accused of blackmail as Johnson government crumbles

Conservative whips in the United Kingdom’s House of Commons have come under intense scrutiny in their handling of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ongoing leadership crisis, after several members of parliament accused them of blackmail.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons in London on Jan. 19, 2022. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP)

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