Thursday, December 2, 2021

Wake-Up Call: First Omicron Case Confirmed In U-S

The first confirmed case of the omicron Covid-19 variant was found yesterday in a Californian who'd returned home after traveling to South Africa, Dr. Anthony Fauci announced at the White House. The person, who is fully vaccinated but not yet far enough from getting his Moderna shots to be eligible for a booster, had returned from South Africa on November 22nd and later developed mild symptoms before testing positive on Monday. The individual is now improving, and California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the fact that their symptoms were mild, quote, "is a testimony to the importance of the vaccinations." All of the traveler's close contacts have so far tested negative. Experts have said it will still be a few weeks before we know more about omicron, including if it spreads more quickly, if it can evade vaccine immunity, and it if causes more serious illness. Fauci said yesterday, "Any declaration of what will or will not happen with this variant, I think it is too early to say."

➤SUPREMES' COMMENTS SUGGEST SET TO APPROVE NEW ABORTION RESTRICTIONS, POSSIBLY OVERTURN ROE: Comments and questions by the Supreme Court justices during arguments before them yesterday over a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks suggests a majority are ready to approve new restrictions on the right to abortion or potentially even overturn Roe v. Wade, their nearly 50-year-old decision granting the right to an abortion nationwide. All six of the conservative justices, who now hold a wide majority on the high court, indicated they'd uphold Mississippi's 15-week restriction, which would move away from their longstanding position against abortion bans before fetal viability, which is about 24 weeks. But there was also suggestions of support among some of the conservatives for overturning Roe altogether. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, for one, said, "Why should this court be the arbiter rather than Congress, the state legislatures, state supreme courts, the people being able to resolve this?" But the court's three liberals warned that reversing Roe and the 1992 Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision that reaffirmed it would significantly damage the court's legitimacy, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioning, "Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?"

Daily Mail graphic 12/2/21

➤15-YEAR-OLD CHARGED IN MICHIGAN SCHOOL SHOOTING AS DEATH TOLL RISES TO FOUR: A 15-year-old boy was charged as an adult with charges including murder, attempted murder and terrorism yesterday (December 1st) for a shooting at his Oakland County, Michigan, high school a day earlier, that left four students dead and others injured, some critically. He pled not guilty. The death toll also rose by one yesterday with news that a fourth Oxford High School student, 17-year-old Justin Shilling, had died. Officials still don't have a motive, as suspect Ethan Crumbley is still not talking to police. However, prosecutor Karen McDonald said the shooting was premeditated, with Crumbley having reportedly recorded a video the night before in which he talked about killing students. Sheriff Mike Bouchard told reporters Crumbley's parents had been called to the school hours before the shooting because of, quote, "behavior in the classroom that was concerning." He didn't reveal the school's cause of concern. Crumbley's father had bought the gun his son allegedly used four days before the shooting, and McDonald said charges were being considered against Crumbley’s parents. She said, "Owning a gun means securing it properly and locking it and keeping the ammunition separate." She also said when asked about the terrorism charge, "What about all the children who ran, screaming, hiding under desks? . . . Those are victims, too, and so are their families and so is the community."

➤SUSPECT IN DEADLY PARADE CRASH TALKS TO FOX NEWS: The man facing murder charges after he allegedly drove through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, last month, killing six people and injuring 62 others, spoke to Fox News yesterday from jail. Darrell Brooks Jr. said, "I just feel like I'm being monster -- demonized," and also said he feels like he's being "dehumanized." However, the 39-year-old didn't give any insight into what happened that day. Meanwhile, his mother released a statement in which she offered condolences to the victims and their families and said Brooks had a history of mental health issues from a young age and that he hadn't gotten the help he'd needed. She wrote, "Institutions that are equipped and have trained staff is what was needed as well as resources in the communities where people who suffer with mental illness live." But, she continued, "instead of offering help and resources to combat the problem a jail cell was given. Over and over again."

➤JAN. 6 COMMITTEE VOTES TO HOLD FORMER JUSTICE DEPT. OFFICIAL IN CONTEMPT: The House committee investigating the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol voted unanimously yesterday (December 1st) to hold Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Depatment lawyer during the Trump administration, in contempt for refusing to answer their questions. Clark, who aligned with then-President Donald Trump in his efforts to overturn the presidential election results, appeared for a deposition last month, but refused to be interviewed, citing Trump's legal fight against the committee's subpoenas. The committee chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, said yesterday it had received a last-minute notification from Clark’s lawyer that he now wants to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He said the attorney hadn't provided a basis for the assertion and, quote, "no facts that would allow the committee to consider it," but they will give Clark a second chance at a deposition on Saturday.

➤POLL..YOUNG AMERICAN ADULTS WORRIED ABOUT FUTURE:  A new poll out yesterday found that American young adults are worried about the future of the U.S. and its democracy, saying 55 percent to 44 percent that they're more fearful than hopeful about the future of the country. That was a change from earlier this year in the survey of those younger than age 30 by the Harvard Kennedy School's Institute of Politics, when most said they were hopeful. Only about one-third now say the U.S. is a healthy or even "somewhat functioning" democracy, while 52 percent said it's a "democracy in trouble" of that it's a failed democracy. Young Republicans were more pessimistic, with 70 percent saying U.S. democracy is in trouble or failed, compared with 45 percent of young Democrats. But despite those concerns, just one-third of these young adults described themselves as "politically engaged or politically active," although that was up from 24 percent in 2009, and fewer than 40 percent said they'll definitely vote in next year's midterm elections.

➤TWITTER TO REMOVE PHOTOS, VIDEOS OF PEOPLE WITHOUT CONSENT: Twitter will now remove photos or videos of people that have been posted without their consent, announcing the change to its privacy policy in a blog post Tuesday. The change, which went into effect immediately, adds images to its current ban on people's private information being posted, including addresses, phone numbers, identity documents and medical records. Twitter said the policy update was being made because the sharing of such images could be used to, quote, "harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of individuals," and that it can have a "disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities." Twitter noted the policy doesn't apply in an emergency situation or when there is a public interest at stake, clarifying later in response to some criticism of the change that images from public events including mass protests and sports events would mostly not violate the policy. It explained, "Our existing private information policy includes many exceptions in order to enable robust reporting on newsworthy events and conversations that are in the public interest."

🚗CHRISTMAS 2021..122 MILLION PEOPLE WILL TRAVEL FOR HOLIDAYS: Are you traveling for Christmas this year? A holiday travel survey released by The Vacationer reveals some 122 million American adults will take a trip to celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. Though it is of note that the survey was administered on October 17th—before the World Health Organization identified and named the Omicron variant of COVID-19. The survey results show a 13.54 percent increase in the number of Americans who say they intend to travel to a “vacation destination or gathering” compared to last year. Most say they plan to travel by car (60.7%), more than a third (37.15%) say they plan to travel between one and 99 miles, and many (40%) say they expect to spend $500 or less on gas, flights, hotels, tickets and other festive events.

📦210 MILLION PACKAGES WERE STOLEN FROM AMERICANS IN 2021:  As long as online shopping is the norm, there will be porch pirates. According to a survey from SafeWise and Cove Home Security, an estimated 210 million packages were stolen over the last 12 months in the US. The survey shows 64 percent of respondents say they have had at least one package stolen from their porch in the last year, and nearly 54 percent say they’ve had multiple packages swiped. In addition, respondents said that more than half of the stolen packages cost between $50 and $200. Dr. Ben Stickle, a package theft expert, says, “Package theft is a crime of opportunity. The more packages left for longer periods of time on a porch, the more likely they are to be stolen. As the Christmas gift season gets into full swing, there will be a significant increase in packages on [the] porch.” If someone steals a package from you, you should file a police report, include any security footage you might have, and contact the sender in case you can get a free replacement. You can also file claims with the carrier who delivered the package.

⚾MLB LOCKS OUT PLAYERS IN FIRST WORK STOPPAGE IN 26 YEARS: MLB locked out players after the collective bargaining agreement expired just before midnight last night, in baseball's first work stoppage in more than 26 years. The team owners voted unanimously for the lockout, with the two sides far apart on dozens of financial issues. Spring training and opening day are potentially threatened if agreement can't be reached. Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a letter to fans that the hope if that the lockout will "jumpstart" negotiations, stating, "This defensive lockout was necessary because the players’ association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive." Players' union head Tony Clark said in a statement, "This drastic and unnecessary measure will not affect the players’ resolve to reach a fair contract."

🏈NOTRE DAME'S FREEMAN REPORTEDLY LEADING FOOTBALL HEAD COACH CANDIDATE: Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman is the leading candidate to be the new head football coach, according to media reports yesterday. He'd be replacing Brian Kelly, who made the stunning announcement earlier this week that he was leaving to become head coach at LSU. Freeman met with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick yesterday, as did offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, ESPN cited sources as saying.

🏒MAPLE LEAFS' MATTHEWS HAS HAT TRICK IN 8-3 WIN OVER AVALANCHE: Toronto center Auston Matthews scored three goals for his fourth career hat trick last night as the Maple Leafs beat the Colorado Avalanche 8-3. Toronto has now won five straight games and have a 15-2-0 record over their last 17 games.

⚾RED SOX TRADE RENFROE FOR BRADLEY: The Boston Red Sox traded outfielder Hunter Renfroe to the Milwaukee Brewers yesterday for centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and prospects David Hamilton and Alex Binelas. It's a return for Bradley to where he spent his first eight season, before he left Boston for Milwaukee this past season.

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