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SCOTUS Hearing Suggests Conservative Majority Ready to Overturn Roe, Uphold Mississippi Ban
With Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett seemingly uninterested in the narrow decision eyed by Chief Justice Roberts, the court appears likely to overturn Roe.
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newsweek.com
The leader points out that 150 million people not vaccinated on the continent could be costly on health
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edition.cnn.com
Portugal reintroduces virus restrictions
Portugal on Wednesday re-imposed coronavirus measures to try to contain a new surge in cases. (Dec 1.)      
usatoday.com
Police looking for men who robbed mom with child
Follow-home robbers targeted a mother with a baby in a stroller after she opened the gates to her home in Los Angeles Sunday. The Los Angeles Police Department say the suspects are still at large. (Dec. 1)      
usatoday.com
Giants legend Ottis Anderson flooded with messages after football star with same name killed
Anderson, who played running back for the Giants from 1986-1992, said that his "phone is blowing up" in the wake of the tragedy, and offered prayers for the family.
nypost.com
Capitol Rioter Loses Bid to Delay Sentence to Fulfill 'Holiday Obligations' to Children
Rasha Abual-Ragheb, who pleaded guilty in the Capitol riot, has sole custody of her two school-aged children.
newsweek.com
New CDC guidelines for international travel expected amid spread of omicron variant
Unvaccinated travelers from other countries still cannot enter the U.S., while the updated recommendation will narrow the testing window for vaccinated people.
abcnews.go.com
At the Supreme Court, the bell tolls for Roe v. Wade
After oral arguments, the only question seems to be whether five or six justices will strike down women's reproductive rights.
washingtonpost.com
Leon Black can’t get ‘fair shake’ in defamation suit if Epstein ties are included: lawyer
A lawyer for Leon Black says Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial serves as a warning that her billionaire client won’t get a "fair shake" -- if his alleged ties to Jeffrey Epstein aren't thrown out of a defamation lawsuit.
nypost.com
Omicron unravels travel industry’s plans for comeback
Tourism businesses that were just finding their footing after nearly two years of devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic are being rattled again as countries throw up new barriers to travel in an effort to contain the omicron variant.
nypost.com
CDC weighs tightening COVID test requirement for international travelers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may tighten COVID-19 testing requirements for travelers coming into the U.S. with cases of the Omicron variant reported in at least 20 countries and territories. "CBS Mornings" lead national correspondent David Begnaud reports how scientists are working to understand the new strain, and Dr. Susannah Hills, a pediatric airway surgeon and assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center, joined CBSN to discuss the latest on the pandemic.
cbsnews.com
HBO Spent $30 Million on a ‘Game of Thrones’ Spinoff Pilot That Will Never Air
Those Game of Thrones episodes aren't cheap.
nypost.com
Harry Hamlin ‘glad’ daughter Amelia broke up with Scott Disick
The 20-year-old model made headlines when she broke up with Disick, 38, earlier this year after less than a year of dating.
nypost.com
The Penguin saves the day, kisses Catwoman in Danny DeVito’s new ‘Batman’ comic
In honor of supervillain Oswald “The Penguin” Cobblepot’s 80th birthday, DeVito has penned a new story for the character, who he played in Tim Burton’s 1992 film “Batman Returns.”
nypost.com
"We run the risk of going from Omicron to Omega"
Dr. Ayoade Alakija of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance explains why inequality heightens the risk of dangerous new variants, while the WHO's Dr. Helen Rees says Omicron appears very transmissible.
edition.cnn.com
58.4M Tons of Plastic Will Pollute World's Oceans Every Year By 2030: Report
The report showed that a DNA study found bacteria and viruses from humans and animals on plastic that could potentially spread disease.
newsweek.com
Recovering Travel Industry Tries to Forge Ahead as Questions Surround Omicron Variant
The travel impacts come as many questions still remain about the highly-mutated variant and how it may be compared to other strains.
newsweek.com
Alec Baldwin Says He ‘Didn’t Pull the Trigger’ in ‘Rust’ Killing
The actor said in a brief excerpt from an upcoming interview with ABC News that he had not pulled the trigger when the gun he was holding went off, killing the cinematographer.
nytimes.com
Amazon-backed group pushes for ethically raised, but pricier, chicken
Amazon is pushing for slow-growing chickens that animal-rights groups say are more ethically raised -- but they could end up costing consumers more.
nypost.com
Facing a Billion-Dollar Shutdown, Congress Can’t Even Agree How to Procrastinate
This article is part of the The DC Brief, TIME’s politics newsletter. Sign up here to get stories like this sent to your inbox every weekday. Welcome to Washington, currently home to an octogenarian staring contest that will determine whether the military will stand ready, inspectors will check the food heading to holiday tables and…
time.com
Alec Baldwin Claims He Didn't Pull Trigger On Gun That Killed Halyna Hutchins On 'Rust' Set
"There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins," Baldwin said after the incident.
newsweek.com
The Atlantic Continues Newsletter Expansion With Work in Progress, Up for Debate, and The Good Word
Today The Atlantic is inviting readers to subscribe to five new newsletters and alerts, anchored by staff writer Derek Thompson on the world’s most important mysteries, with a special emphasis on the future of work and the future of societal progress; staff writer Conor Friedersdorf on a better way to talk about the most intriguing and timely public debates; and crossword editor Caleb Madison on the wonderful words that power our puzzles.Two newsletter alerts are also now live: One Story to Read Today, which every weekday afternoon sends readers a single newly published—or newly relevant—Atlantic story that’s especially worth your time; and How to Build a Life, which notifies readers about new editions of Arthur C. Brooks’s column on happiness every Thursday.“Conor and Derek are two of our strongest, most interesting writers, and I’m very happy that they’ll be sharing their thoughts, observations, idiosyncrasies, and obsessions with our readers in a format that almost seems designed for them,” Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic’s editor in chief, said. “As for Caleb, well, he’s one of the most gifted puzzle-makers working today, and I know our readers will hugely enjoy his newsletter.”These five newsletters are available to readers regardless of a subscription, and build on The Atlantic’s exploding suite of free and subscriber newsletters. Last month, The Atlantic launched a collection of newsletters by nine new contributing writers––Jordan Calhoun, Nicole Chung, David French, Xochitl Gonzalez, Molly Jong-Fast, Tom Nichols, Imani Perry, Yair Rosenberg, and Charlie Warzel––that are an exclusive benefit of an Atlantic subscription. Subscribe to The Atlantic’s newsletters here.The new newsletters available to sign up for today are:Work in Progress, by Derek ThompsonThis is a newsletter about mysteries in the news, guided by Derek’s insatiable curiosity and what he describes as a “9 a.m mindset”––when, in the morning, he looks at the news, feels “desperately curious and unfathomably ignorant” about it, wants to get to the bottom of why things are happening the way they are happening, and what it means for the future. Work in Progress will cover economics, technology, politics, and culture, with a special focus on the future of work—how the changing nature of our jobs is shaping life, politics, and society—and the future of progress: how we solve the most important problems in America and on the rest of the planet.Up for Debate, by Conor FriedersdorfSocial-media platforms, Conor writes, have “become hostile time-sucks warped by bad actors, flawed algorithms, and perverse incentives to perform rather than engage. Let’s converse here instead.” Up for Debate will offer a welcome alternative by highlighting timely, intriguing conversations and soliciting responses from thoughtful readers. “The hope is for a growing community of curious people who are wildly diverse in most respects, but united by a belief in the value of smart, constructive conversation,” Conor writes. “If all goes well, we’ll seek truth together, laugh in the process, better understand one another’s values and perspectives, and add more light than heat to the day’s controversies.”The Good Word, by Caleb MadisonEach week, our crossword editor takes a deep dive into what makes his favorite entry in that week’s puzzles so cross-worthy. The Atlantic has long been a place for great puzzles, and Caleb’s crosswords have been a reader favorite since they launched online in 2018. With The Good Word, Caleb will take one answer from the previous week of Atlantic crossword puzzles and explain where it came from, what it means, and what it explains about our evolving lexicon.Subscribe to The Atlantic’s newsletters here.
theatlantic.com
Spend the winter reading novels of our online brains
Left, No One Is Talking About This by Patrica Lockwood. Right, Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler. | Left, Riverhead. Right, Catapult. The Vox Book Club is reading Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This and Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts. The Vox Book Club is linking to Bookshop.org to support local and independent booksellers. This winter, the Vox Book Club is going to spend some time thinking about the place where we all seem to live half our lives these days: the internet. How does living on the internet change our brains? How does it change our books? And how do we write about something so bizarre and abstract in ways that are actually interesting to read? The two books we’ll be reading in December and January propose answers to these questions, with tricky, funny, weird results. In December, we’ll tackle Lauren Oyler’s wry and cynical Fake Accounts, about a woman who finds out that her normal-seeming boyfriend has a second life as an Instagram conspiracy theorist. Then, in January, we’ll turn to Patricia Lockwood’s amusing, tender No One Is Talking About This, a sort of stream of communal consciousness novel in which the consciousness is Twitter. Oyler is a literary critic and Lockwood is a poet, so they are both highly interested in the way language and novels respond to a shifting world. These books are profoundly concerned with how social media has changed the ways we think about ourselves, the ways we imagine our identities, the very patterns of our thoughts. What’s more, they are shining examples of what the novel can look like in the era of being Extremely Online. At the end of January, we’ll meet up with both Oyler and Lockwood live on Zoom to talk about the internet, the internet novel, and what’s happening to our minds when we spend time online. You can RSVP here, and reader questions are encouraged. In the meantime, subscribe to the Vox Book Club newsletter to make sure you don’t miss anything. The full Vox Book Club schedule for December 2021 and January 2022 Friday, December 17: Discussion post on Fake Accounts published to Vox.com Friday, January 7: Discussion post on No One Is Talking About This published to Vox.com Thursday, January 20, noon ET: Virtual live event with authors Lauren Oyler and Patricia Lockwood. You can RSVP here. Reader questions are encouraged!
vox.com
It sure sounds like Roe v. Wade is doomed
Abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the US Supreme Court on December 1, as the court heard arguments in a case from Mississippi, where a 2018 law would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, well before viability. | Andrew Harnik/AP Republican presidents have said for years that they would appoint justices who will overrule Roe. They’ve probably succeeded. Midway through arguments in a case that could end with the Supreme Court abolishing the constitutional right to an abortion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked a pointed question about the Court’s future: “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception, that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? There are early signs that Sotomayor is correct that the public is turning against the Court as the Court turns against Roe v. Wade. But during Wednesday’s oral argument in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, all six of the Court’s Republican appointees appeared eager to push ahead anyway and overrule at least some key parts of the Court’s prior decisions protecting abortion. The justices were asked to consider a Mississippi law that prohibits nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a law that violates the Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey(1992) that pregnant people have a right to terminate their pregnancy up until the point when the fetus is “viable,” meaning it can live outside the womb. A majority of the Court appeared very likely to overrule this part of Casey. At least four justices seemed inclined to go even further, eliminating the right to an abortion altogether. And though Justice Amy Coney Barrett played her cards a little closer to her chest than her colleagues, it seems more likely than not that she will join them. In other words, there could be a majority for overturning Roe. And even if the Court does not explicitly overrule Roe, it could easily announce a new legal standard that renders Roe into an empty husk. A decision like that might leave Roe nominally alive, but that would also leave states free to restrict access to abortions to the point they’re nonexistent in the state, or come up with other creative ways to effectively ban them. It is still possible that the Court will surprise the myriad of legal analysts predicting the end of a constitutional right to an abortion. In 1992, when the Court heard Casey, even Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe, expected his landmark opinion to be overruled. Instead, Casey weakened, but didn’t overrule, Roe. But after today’s oral argument, no one should bet that Roe will receive another stay of execution. The two political parties are too well-sorted on questions of abortion rights, the Republican Party has grown too sophisticated in picking judges who will hew to the GOP’s policy preferences, and a majority of the sitting justices were exceedingly skeptical of Roe at Wednesday’s argument. The two issues at stake in Dobbs Casey laid out a two-part framework governing the right to an abortion. The first part is that “a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability,” which occurs around the 24th week of pregnancy. Casey also held that states may, under certain circumstances, regulate abortion. But such regulations may not impose an “undue burden” on the right to terminate a pregnancy — meaning that states cannot enact a law “if its purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.” The Court initially asked the parties in Dobbs to write briefs on only the first of these two holdings, whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional” — a clear signal that at least some members of the Court want to overrule Casey’s viability holding. Indeed, all six of the Court’s Republican appointees appeared eager to overrule that holding. That includes Chief Justice John Roberts, the most cautious member of the Court’s conservative majority. As Roberts told Julie Rikelman, one of the lawyers struggling to defend Roe from a hostile Court, “Why is 15 weeks not enough time” for someone to decide whether to terminate their pregnancy? (It’s worth noting that, while Mississippi styles its law as a 15-week ban, that clock starts to tick on “the first day of the last menstrual period of the pregnant woman.” So, in practice, the law functions more like a 13-week abortion ban.) But Mississippi wound up going much further in its brief, asking the Court to overrule Roe and Casey altogether. If the Court agrees that Roe should be overruled, it could do so explicitly, or it could reinterpret the “undue burden” standard so that it no longer imposes meaningful limits on abortion regulations. Roberts largely focused his questions on Casey’s viability line. He appeared less interested in the question whether to overrule Casey’s second holding that abortion regulations are invalid if they impose an undue burden on the right to terminate a pregnancy — at least for now. But a majority of the Court did not appear to share Roberts’s relatively incrementalist approach. At least four, and most likely five, of the Court’s remaining conservatives seemed ready to toss out Roe and Casey in their entirety. The Court’s right flank sounded quite emboldened There’s been a lot of commentary lately arguing that we have a 3-3-3 Supreme Court — meaning that there are three justices on the far right, three on the left, and three somewhere in between. That characterization of the Court is superficially accurate but also somewhat misleading. While it is true that Roberts, Barrett, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh are often more cautious than their three most conservative colleagues, the three justices in the middle are still very far to the right. The three most conservative justices — Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch — played their typical role of insisting that the Court should give conservatives everything they are asking for in Dobbs, and without any delay. Thomas, at one point, compared Roe to Lochner v. New York (1905), an infamous decision striking down pro-labor legislation, and which is widely taught in law schools as an example of how judges should never, ever behave. Similarly, Alito seemed to compare Roe to Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the equally infamous pro-segregation decision. Gorsuch, meanwhile, spent much of his question time arguing that Casey’s undue burden standard is “difficult to administer” and should be abandoned. He even tried to get Rikelman to admit that, if the Court overrules Casey’s viability line, it must also scrap the undue burden test — a result that would effectively eliminate the constitutional right to an abortion. In the past, Kavanaugh has sometimes pushed for more incremental attacks on Roe. In June Medical Services v. Gee (2019), for example, he argued in favor of placing complicated procedural barriers in the way of abortion plaintiffs that would make it difficult for them to bring their cases to federal court or to receive a meaningful remedy. But, on Wednesday, Kavanaugh seemed no less eager to overrule Roe than Thomas, Alito, or Gorsuch. At one point, Kavanaugh rattled off a long list of landmark — and largely celebrated — Supreme Court decisions, including its school integration decision in Brown v. Board of Education(1954), its first one person/one vote decision in Baker v. Carr (1962), and its marriage equality decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which all overruled previous decisions. The clear implication was that, if the Court could overrule precedent in those cases, why can’t it overrule Roe? That leaves Justice Barrett, who often implies at oral argument that she might take a more centrist approach that her most conservative colleagues, but who also votes with the Court’s right flank much more often than not. Though Barrett’s questions were less revealing than Kavanaugh’s, they left little doubt that she disagrees with essential parts Roe and Casey. Among other things, Barrett repeatedly brought up so-called “save haven” laws, which allow someone who recently gave birth to immediately give up their child for adoption (Barrett herself is the adoptive mother of two children). “Both Roe and Casey emphasized the burdens of parenting,” she noted, before asking why safe haven laws don’t “take care of that problem?” In one particularly remarkable moment, Barrett appeared to argue that being forced to carry and birth a child is no big deal. “It doesn’t seem to me to follow that pregnancy and parenthood are all part of the same burden,” she said. “It seems to me that the choice, more focused, would be between, say, the ability to get an abortion at 23 weeks or the state requiring the woman to go 15, 16 weeks more” before terminating their parental rights after giving birth. Barrett, in other words, appeared quite determined to erase Casey’s viability rule. And, while she was less explicit about whether she would eliminate Casey’s undue burden standard, the tone of her questioning was extremely dismissive of both Roe and Casey. So the right to an abortion is in deep trouble. At the least, the Court appears very likely to overrule Casey’s viability standard — and there’s a very good chance that it will go all the way to overruling Roe entirely. I will conclude by reiterating a point that I’ve made several times before, that the most important question in Dobbs is not whether the Court writes the magic words “Roe v. Wade is overruled.” Dobbs is almost certain to announce a new legal standard governing abortion rights that is far less protective of those rights than Roe or Casey. The Court might explicitly overrule Roe. It might leave some small part of the right to an abortion — such as the undue burden standard — in place for at least a little while. Or it might announce a completely new legal rule that makes it functionally impossible for abortion plaintiffs to protect their rights, even if some hollow shell of Roe remains nominally on the books. After today, it appears more likely than not that the Court will either explicitly overrule Roe or eliminate it in a more backhanded way. Either of these outcomes would mean the death of the constitutional right to an abortion.
vox.com
U.S. Detects First Case of Omicron Variant That May Evade Vaccines in California
Omicron may also be more transmissible than other coronavirus variants, and health officials warn that the world needs to take it seriously.
newsweek.com
How the faltering global vaccination effort paved the way for alarming variants
A family walks past a mural promoting Covid-19 vaccination in Duduza township, east of Johannesburg, South Africa, in June. | Themba Hadebe/AP Omicron is the latest product of a global Covid-19 response that isn’t good enough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Wednesday that omicron, the new coronavirus “variant of concern,” has been detected in the US. In many ways, it’s a moment of unpleasant déjà vu. This summer, just when it seemed the United States was on the brink of returning to normal, the delta variant hit. Spreading more easily than previous variants of the novel coronavirus, delta led to devastating, deadly waves in undervaccinated areas and an increase in cases even in highly vaccinated ones. With the emergence of the omicron variant in November, the pandemic has surprised us anew — and offered a reminder of how badly the world has stumbled in the fight against the coronavirus despite vaccines now being available for almost a year. There’s still a ton we don’t know about omicron, which the World Health Organization identified as a “variant of concern”: We don’t know whether it’s more transmissible or more dangerous than previous strains; we also don’t know how effective our vaccines are against it.Regardless of the answers to those questions, one thing is for sure: We continue to live under the conditions that allow for delta, omicron, and other variants to keep emerging. Every new Covid-19 outbreak means new patients incubating billions of copies of the virus in their bodies. Whenever the virus makes copies of itself, it accumulates mutations. Those mutations are for the most part harmless. The thing is, if you roll the dice often enough, you’ll stumble upon a mutation that can worsen the trajectory of an outbreak or pandemic. That’s what happened with delta, and that’s what we may be in for with omicron. The mediocre state of the world’s efforts to vaccinate everyone and reduce Covid’s spread makes this risk worse. To be sure, the fact that more than half the world’s population has received at least one shot of the vaccineis a triumph. Viewed on its own, it’s a staggering achievement considering the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were granted emergency approval in the US less than a year ago. But from another perspective, the vaccine effort leaves a lot to be desired. Vaccine supply is plentiful — but unevenly distributed throughout the world.In low-income countries, about 6 percent of people are vaccinated. In some cases, even where supply is plentiful, vaccine hesitancy and distributional challenges have hampered the effort to get the vaccine in arms. The result is a world that’s still prime ground for the virus to spread and mutate. As the World Health Organization put it, “The more we allow the virus to spread, the more opportunity the virus has to change.” But while omicron should be spurring us to belatedly buckle down on global vaccination efforts and on improving public health surveillance, communications, and pandemic preparedness worldwide, there are signs that its challenge is being met with inaction. The World Trade Organization responded to the new variant by canceling its next in-person meeting, at which waiving vaccine patents was to be discussed. Waiving patents isn’t even the highest-impact thing we can do to get vaccines out the door, but the meeting cancellation is a grim sign the world is so far failing to heed omicron’s warning. “It is better to err on the side of caution,” Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said of the meeting cancellation. But our ongoing failure to coordinate globally on vaccination and pandemic preparedness is the exact opposite of erring on the side of caution. Rob Pinney/Getty Images Protesters carry cardboard coffins during a rally against Covid-19 vaccine patents in October in London, England. To reiterate, it’s too early to say much about how bad omicron will be. But if it’s not omicron, it might be another variant down the line. It’s in the interests of the international community, especially rich countries, to help get vaccines out worldwide, funding not just dose purchases but also public policy measures to improve access and uptake, ranging from distribution to technical support topublic health information programs to incentives urging vaccination. A world that falls behind on vaccinations is a world where the virus will have a greater likelihood of becoming deadlier. How variants emerge To understand why vaccinating as many people as possible is essential to preventing new and deadlier variants, it helps to understand how variants come about. When a virus infects someone, it forces their cells to make billions of copies of the RNA that makes up its genetic code. For Covid-19, it’s estimated that an infected person’s body can ultimately produce between 1 billion and 100 billion copies of the coronavirus. But the copying process isn’t quite perfect, and almost all of those billions of copies will be different from their parent virus in a few small details. Most of the time, those differences will have no effect, or evenmake the virus less effective at infecting people. A metaphor might help explain why: Imagine that you have a book. Most possible random letter transpositions will make the book worse. A letter transposition that makes the book betterwould be exceptionally rare. Most possible changes to the RNA of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, are probably bad for the virus with the mutation, or simply irrelevant. Early in the pandemic, there was a lot of panic over variants that turned out to be relatively harmless ornot particularly different from the original SARS-CoV-2. Eventually, though, an unluckyturn might produce some random changes to Covid-19’s genome that could make it worse for humans — more transmissible, more virulent, or more able to evade the immune protections offered by vaccines or previous infection. “By keeping cases so high, you increase the chance that sooner or later, you’re going to hit that jackpot,” molecular epidemiologist Emma Hodcroft told my colleague Brian Resnick earlier this year. “We keep rolling the die when we keep the cases up so high.” The latest unlucky “jackpot” may be omicron. Some early evidence suggests it’s significantly more transmissible than delta, which itself is significantly more transmissible than early variants of Covid-19. And while it’s hard to tell just from DNA analysis how the immune system will handle a variant, the numerous mutations in the spike protein in the omicron variant have some scientists worrying that preexisting immunity from vaccines or past infection might nothold up against omicron as well as we’d hope. This will just keep happening unless the world acts When delta first emerged, it walloped the world. Hospitals in India were overwhelmed with patients, and it’s estimated that the death toll there may have been in the range of 3 to 5 million, though official death counts are far lower. In the US, delta sparked a new wave of infections and dashed hopes for ending the pandemic that the mass availability of vaccines had prompted. Will omicron be like that again? It is too early to venture a confident guess. But there’s definitely room for a “worse than delta” variant, and there’s some early evidence that has scientists worrying omicron might be that variant. First, the rapid surge in the share of cases in South Africa that are omicron suggests that it might be significantly more contagious than delta. Second, the mutationsin omicron suggest that it might be harder for our immune system to identify and stop. Dwayne Senior/Bloomberg via Getty Images A health worker prepares doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in the Egoli township of Cape Town, South Africa, on November 30. Those are the two key things scientists fear could go wrong, not just with omicron butwith otherfuture variants. “There is still space for it to move higher,” Wendy Barclay, a virologist at Imperial College London, told the BBC this summer. The R0 of the coronavirus — a measure of how many people a single case will infect in a population without immunity — was estimated at 2-3 for the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, and at 6-8 for delta. Omicron might be about the same as delta, or might be worse; we don’t know yet. Some early estimates of omicron’s contagiousness suggest it is outcompeting delta, which could mean a substantially higher R0 — and diseases do get up to some eye-popping infectiousness levels. Consider measles. “Measles is between 14 and 30,” Barclay noted. Measles is an extraordinary outlier among diseases in terms of infectiousness. According to the CDC, measles is so infectious that the virus can live in an airspace, infecting new people, for up to two hours after an infected person leaves. If a person is infected, up to 90 percent of their close contacts are expected to also become infected (assuming none of them are immune). And infected people can spread measles to others up to four days before symptoms appear, making contact tracing really difficult. There’s another thing that could get worse with a new variant. Existing mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna work well against variants of Covid that werespreading this summer and fall. They’re not perfect, but they seem to reduce odds of transmitting Covid-19 onward, as well as the risk of hospitalization and death. Most of their benefits have held up against every variant so far. Other vaccines like AstraZeneca and Sinopharm have held up less well, but still tolerably. (That said, immunity, especially against mild disease, does wane over time, which is why the US now encourages boosters.) Vaccination, then, is our best tool to fight the virus. But if the international community — especially rich countries with the wherewithal to fight this pandemic — dawdles too much, a variant could eventually arise that blunts that tool. To be clear, we don’t have reason yet to think that omicron makes the vaccines less effective. But the variant shows a surprising number of novel mutations in the spike protein that the vaccines target. That might mean it makes the vaccines less effective, but we’ll have to collect data to know for sure. It’s really difficult to extrapolate the workings of the immune system just from a string of RNA. If omicron, or some other future variant, does evade existing vaccines, the mRNA vaccine technology on which the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are based holds out the hope that developing targeted boosters would be doable relatively quickly. That said,testing them and rolling them out would take a long time. And for largeswaths of the world, the big worry is that a push to vaccinate everyone would fail to keep up with a deadly variant ripping through the world’s unvaccinated population. How vaccinating the world can stop future variants from emerging In high-income countries, on average, nearly 64 percent of people have been vaccinated with at least one dose. In low-income countries, about 6 percent have. The humanitarian case for vaccinating the world is very clear: Millions of people have died of this disease, and vaccinated people are much less likely to die of it. By seriously investing in getting vaccines to everyone at risk from the virus, the world could save millions of lives, both directly, by protecting people from serious cases of Covid-19, and indirectly, by making it harder for the virus to spread and mutate. But the vaccines that work best — and the ones that are easiest to tweak on the fly to address new variants — are the mRNA ones, which are more difficult to manufacture, transport, and store compared to other vaccines like AstraZeneca’s or Sinopharm’s, which are more widely available outside the US. Leo Correa/AP People wait to be vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at a stadium in Dakar, Senegal, in July. One thing that’s really needed is funding for building more mRNA vaccination capacity, massive preorders for the doses needed to vaccinate the world, and a concerted effort to ensure those doses reach everyone in the world. Building the factories to pump out vaccines on that scale will help the world with the next pandemic, too. The US has pledged to help vaccinate the world, but without serious investment in increasing capacity, those orders will take a long time to be filled. It’s not just about production, either. Around the world, countries that at long last get their hands on enough vaccines have found their problem is far from solved, with logistics and distribution problems as well as hesitance common in many countries. Access in developing countries has been slowed by “over-reliance on public sector health clinics and staff to distribute vaccines,” the Center for Global Development’s Amanda Glassman told me. Public health clinics in poor countries mostly target children and women with young children, which makes them a poor tool for reaching the older people at the highest risk from Covid-19. Meanwhile, serious policy measures to get vaccines where they’re needed and address vaccine hesitancy have been undertried, both in the US and globally — from partnerships with logistics companies to marketing to financial incentives to get vaccinated. “Development partners at least do not seem to be treating this as a time-sensitive humanitarian logistics response,” Glassman told me. “Maybe omicron will light a fire.” If saving millions of lives worldwide is insufficient motivation for rich countries to invest in changing things, maybe the case from self-interest will be stronger. Variants are bad for everyone. Already, delta has delayed the return to normalcy that Americans long for — and killed hundreds of thousands. The emergence of the omicronvariant is the latest reminder that Covid isn’t going away, that our current countermeasures are too slow and too limited to really crush a new wave as it starts, and that there’s a desperate need to be more serious about combating the disease that has roiled our world for the last two years. The enemy is adapting — are we able to adapt, too?
vox.com
Republicans Threaten Government Shutdown Over Vaccine Mandates
With federal funding set to lapse on Friday, President Biden’s vaccine-and-testing mandate for large employers has emerged as a sticking points over a stopgap spending bill.
nytimes.com
Hundreds of NYC correction officers to be suspended for failing to meet COVID-19 vaccination deadline
New York City’s troubled jail system is facing more turmoil: the suspension of hundreds of corrections officers for failing to meet a Tuesday night deadline to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
foxnews.com
Using big data to hunt down human traffickers
Neil Giles, CEO of Traffik Analysis Hub, explains how their new information resource tool can be used in various ways to stop modern-day slavery.
edition.cnn.com
Machine Gun Kelly’s nail polish line, UN/DN LAQR, is finally here
"I mean, I'm hoping aliens, at some point when they reveal themselves, are fully immersed," MGK said of his new beauty brand.
nypost.com
NHL suspends Brendan Lemieux five games for biting Brady Tkachuk
The league said its analysis was supported by medical information submitted by the Senators' training staff, as well as the referee’s report.
nypost.com
Google bans political ads ahead of elections in the Philippines
Google will ban political advertising on its platforms in the Philippines as the country prepares for elections in May.
edition.cnn.com
Our guide to ALLBLK: A rap legend's new comedy and 9 other TV shows to stream
As MC Lyte returns to TV, we offer a guide to her new show, "Partners in Rhyme" — and nine other ALLBLK series worth a look.
latimes.com
First US case of Omicron COVID variant confirmed in California
The first case of the Omicron COVID strain has been confirmed in the US, Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a press briefing Wednesday.
nypost.com
Fauci: 1st Confirmed 'Omicron Variant' Case in U.S. Found in California
Dr. Anthony Fauci announced Wednesday afternoon in the White House briefing room that the first confirmed case of the "Omicron variant" of COVID-19 had been identified in California in an individual who recently returned from South Africa.
breitbart.com
I have a six-figure salary – but I still rent my kids’ Christmas presents
A new mom with a successful career who could afford to splash out at Christmas has decided to rent her child’s presents instead this year. Mom-of-one, Patsy Sandys, 35, an investment director earning a six-figure income, was determined to live more sustainably after she gave birth in August 2020. Patsy lives in Clapham, South West...
nypost.com
Burger King to cut some menu items to speed up restaurant drive-thru lines
Burger King plans to cut some items from its menu to speed up service at its drive-thrus, Restaurant Brands International CEO Jose Cil said.      
usatoday.com
Silver Line extension takes a large step forward with completion of rail yard at Dulles airport
The rail yard was the last major hurdle for a project that has been plagued by multiple delays.
washingtonpost.com
Texans cancel practice with players not feeling well
The Houston Texans canceled practice and all other in-person activities Wednesday on the advice of their medical team because some players weren’t feeling well. Coach David Culley said they have not had any positive COVID-19 tests.
foxnews.com
Lawmakers remain divided as Roe v. Wade hangs in the balance at Supreme Court
Lawmakers on the Hill remain divided after the Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a case that questions a near 50-year precedent set under Roe v Wade.
foxnews.com
The First Omicron Case Has Been Detected in the U.S.
Much remains unknown about the new variant of the coronavirus. But with cases being detected in more countries, experts had said it was only a matter of time before the variant showed up in the United States.
nytimes.com
Turley on landmark SCOTUS abortion case: Kavanaugh delivered 'haymakers' to pro-choice side
Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley said that Kavanaugh asked hard-hitting questions about the basis of Roe v. Wade.
foxnews.com
The first U.S. case of the omicron variant has now been reported
A case in California marks omicron's arrival in the U.S. Cases have been found in more than 20 countries around the world, less than a week after the worrying new variant was first identified.
npr.org
What's next for Lakers and LeBron James after he entered health and safety protocols?
While the Lakers did not say whether he tested positive for COVID-19, Lakers teammate Anthony Davis said James told him he was asymptomatic.       
usatoday.com
What Time Is ‘Beebo Saves Christmas’ on the CW?
DC's Legends of Tomorrow breakout star Beebo is getting his own special!
nypost.com
Submit your Mets and Yankees questions for Thursday’s chat with Ken Davidoff
It’s been a busy offseason for the Mets and a curious one, so far, for the Yankees. Are the Mets spending owner Steve Cohen’s money wisely? Are the Yankees wise to wait out the free-agent market? Let’s discuss all the moves that have happened and those that have not, as well as what lies ahead...
nypost.com
How to survive your family’s upcoming holiday road trip
Don’t let family road trips make “the most wonderful time of the year” the most stressful instead.
washingtonpost.com
CDC confirms first case of Omicron variant in U.S.
An individual in California who had recently traveled to South Africa tested positive for the strain, the health agency said.
cbsnews.com