Bloomberg: “Scientists in South Africa are studying a recently identified new coronavirus variant of concern, stoking fears the country may face a potentially severe fourth wave that could spread internationally.”
“The new discovery […] carries an unusually large number of mutations and is ‘clearly very different’ from previous incarnations.”
The WHO designated a new coronavirus strain as “a variant of concern” and named it Omicron.
BBC: “The latest is the most heavily mutated version discovered so far – and it has such a long list of mutations that it was described by one scientist as ‘horrific.’ while another told me it was the worst variant they’d seen.”
New York Times: “Scientists are still unclear on how effective vaccines will be against the new variant flagged by a team in South Africa, which displays mutations that might resist neutralization.”
New York Times: “A number of countries — including Britain, Israel, Italy and Singapore — were moving on Friday to restrict travel from South Africa and other countries in the region, a day after South African authorities identified a concerning new coronavirus variant with mutations that one scientist said marked a ‘big jump in evolution.’”
“The United States will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries starting on Monday,” the Washington Post reports. “The restrictions will apply to travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi. They do not apply to American citizens and lawful permanent residents.”
New York Times: “In the past, governments have taken days, weeks or months to issue travel restrictions in response to new variants. This time, however, restrictions came within hours of South Africa’s announcement.”
“Stocks, oil prices and government-bond yields slumped after South Africa raised the alarm over a fast-spreading strain of the coronavirus, triggering concern that travel restrictions and other curbs will spoil the global economy’s recovery,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
CNBC: “The downward moves came after WHO officials on Thursday warned of a new Covid-19 variant that’s been detected in South Africa. The new variant contains more mutations to the spike protein, the component of the virus that binds to cells, than the highly contagious Delta variant. Because of these mutations, scientists fear it could have increased resistance to vaccines.”
“Global health leaders are urging caution as the holiday season gets underway, pointing to a 23 percent spike in coronavirus cases across the Americas in the past week, a surge that follows spikes in Europe — which officials warn could be a ‘window into the future for the Americas,’” the Washington Post reports.
Wall Street Journal: “As Covid-19 infections and deaths in the European Union eclipse those in the U.S., the region is confronting an ugly reality: Taming the Delta variant is proving harder than a virus-weary continent had hoped.”
“Fast-rising Covid-19 contagion in parts of Europe, including Germany, is sparking fears of another winter of full hospitals. Countries are rushing to roll out booster shots as evidence accumulates that last summer’s vaccinations are losing some of their efficacy.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci told Reuters that the vast majority of Americans who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 should receive a booster shot, and that an additional dose could eventually become the country’s standard for determining who is fully vaccinated.
“All three white men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery were convicted of murder Wednesday in the fatal shooting that became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice,” the AP reports.
“Since he was acquitted of homicide and other charges last Friday, Kyle Rittenhouse has said he wanted to stay out of politics, and that he was disturbed by how his case became politicized,” CNBC reports.
“Yet Rittenhouse, who argued he was acting in self defense when he fatally shot two people during protests last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has emerged as a symbolic figure for the pro-Trump right wing as the former president considers running again and wields power by issuing endorsements in various Republican primary races.”
“Kyle Rittenhouse met with Donald Trump at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago club after the teen was acquitted of all charges in his homicide trial last week,” the New York Post reports.
Edward Luce: “The more Rittenhouse sinks in, the more unhinged today’s America seems. Leave aside the debate over race narrative. No other democratic system would let teenagers, or citizens of any age, go where they please with ultra-lethal weapons, discharge, then claim self-defense…”
“America has given up on what almost every other democracy would now be trying to do – find common ground to stop horrific things from happening.“
Associated Press: “Across much of the nation, it has become increasingly acceptable for Americans to walk the streets with firearms, either carried openly or legally concealed. In places that still forbid such behavior, prohibitions on possessing guns in public could soon change if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down a New York law.”
“On both sides of America’s abortion debate, activists are convinced that Roe v. Wade — the 1973 Supreme Court ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion — is imperiled as never before,” the AP reports. “Yet no matter how the current conservative-dominated court handles pending high-profile abortion cases — perhaps weakening Roe, perhaps gutting it completely — there will be no monolithic, nationwide change. Fractious state-by-state battles over abortion access will continue.”
“Roe’s demise would likely prompt at least 20 Republican-governed states to impose sweeping bans; perhaps 15 Democratic-governed states would reaffirm support for abortion access.”
An interesting note from Bloomberg: Part of the funding for the bipartisan infrastructure deal came from selling off some oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which President Biden announced earlier today.
“In an effort to boost revenue and protect the environment, the Biden administration on Friday laid out plans to make fossil fuel companies pay more to drill on federal lands and waters,” the Washington Post reports.
“As Congress prepares for yet another showdown over the debt ceiling, long-term solutions for addressing what has become an increasingly partisan issue are re-emerging,” NBC News reports.
“The U.S. narrowly avoided default in October after Republicans refused to vote for a debt limit increase. Democrats instead passed a short-term extension, setting up another fight for early December. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a recent letter to Congress that she has a ‘high degree of confidence’ that the Treasury will be able to finance the government through Dec. 15.”
Punchbowl News: “There are just nine days until federal agencies run out of money. There has been no real progress on a stopgap measure to prevent a government shutdown. There had been some discussion of a continuing resolution until mid-December, but the logic behind that was that the two sides could reach a deal on an omnibus spending package by then, and it doesn’t feel like there’s any movement there. We don’t believe there will be a ‘lapse in appropriations’ — the official name for a shutdown — but this is hardly a good sign.”
In addition: “21 days until the debt ceiling needs to be lifted, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, although there may be some leeway in that deadline. There’s been minimal progress on this front, as well. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have met on the issue. But there is no agreement.”
And: “37 days until the end of 2021. That’s the unofficial deadline for President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats to wrap up work on the Build Back Better Act. Democrats will be lucky to meet this deadline.”
“Russia has been moving forces to the Crimea Peninsula as part of a large military buildup on Ukraine’s border, according to defense-intelligence firm Janes and the Moscow-based Conflict Intelligence Team, which tracks Russian troop deployments,” Bloomberg reports.
New York Times: “American officials said they did not believe that Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, has yet decided whether to take military action against Ukraine.”
“Ukraine’s president has said intelligence services uncovered a plot involving a group of Russians and Ukrainians to overthrow his government next week,” The Guardian reports.
Wall Street Journal: “For seven days in a row, through Wednesday, daily airport passenger volumes exceeded two million people, a streak not seen since before the pandemic, according to the Transportation Security Administration. U.S. airports bustled with over 2.3 million people Wednesday—the most hectic day since February 2020. Sunday is expected to be even busier, TSA officials have said.”
“The holiday shopping season has arrived, and retailers are ringing it in by doing everything from cutting prices to stocking showrooms to lure back customers who stayed at home last year. What the biggest of them are not doing is the one thing the White House and many public health experts have asked them to: mandate that their workers be vaccinated,” the Washington Post reports.
“As other industries with workers in public-facing roles, like airlines and hospitals, have moved toward requiring vaccines, retailers have dug in their heels, citing concerns about a labor shortage. And a portion of one of the country’s largest work forces will remain unvaccinated, just as shoppers are expected to flock to stores.”
“As the cost of housing soars, one old idea is starting to get traction with voters: rent control,” Politico reports.
“Voters in Minneapolis and St. Paul this month approved ballot initiatives to enable the Twin Cities to cap rent increases. Santa Ana, Calif., did so in October. And Michelle Wu, Boston’s new mayor, campaigned earlier this year on restoring rent control — an idea that Massachusetts’ Republican governor has repeatedly objected to but says he’d be willing to discuss to help tackle housing woes.”
Far-right extremist Lauren Boebert (R-CO) proudly tells a Totally Real Story in a viral video about her calling Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) “the jihad squad” to her face in a Capitol elevator earlier this week.
Omar responded to the clip on Thanksgiving via Twitter saying that Boebert is 1) making the whole thing up and 2) is actually terrified of even looking at her in the halls of Congress.
Said Omar: “This buffoon looks down when she sees me at the Capitol, this whole story is made up. Sad she thinks bigotry gets her clout.”
She added: “Anti-Muslim bigotry isn’t funny and shouldn’t be normalised. Congress can’t be a place where hateful and dangerous Muslims tropes get no condemnation.”
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) challenged Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), who is paralyzed and in a wheelchair, to a “sprint,” with the winner getting Kyle Rittenhouse as an intern.
“After two months of talks, German parties announced a new governing coalition Wednesday that will pave the way for Olaf Scholz, of the center-left Social Democrats, to take over from Chancellor Angela Merkel after her 16 years in power,” the Washington Post reports.
“The Social Democratic Party, which narrowly won September elections, is allying with two other parties: the climate-conscious Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats.”
Bloomberg: “The Biden administration included Taiwan among the 110 invitees to its upcoming democracy summit, a move that’s intended to show solidarity with a key regional partner but risks angering China.”
“China’s hypersonic weapon test in July included a technological advance that enabled it to fire a missile as it approached its target travelling at least five times the speed of sound — a capability no country has previously demonstrated,” the Financial Times reports. “Pentagon scientists were caught off guard by the advance, which allowed the hypersonic glide vehicle, a manoeuvrable spacecraft that can carry a nuclear warhead, to fire a separate missile mid-flight in the atmosphere over the South China Sea.”
“Hours after being tapped as Sweden’s first female prime minister, Magdalena Andersson resigned Wednesday after suffering a budget defeat in parliament and her coalition partner the Greens left the two-party minority government,” the AP reports.
Jeff Bezos has given $100 million to the Obama Foundation, Puck reports. “The gift, the largest single donation ever made to the Foundation, has no restrictions on its use. But it is very common, and increasingly controversial, for major donors to be granted some naming honor in return for a donation of that size, be it a Sackler wing of The Louvre or a Koch theater at Lincoln Center. In this instance, though, Bezos asked for the public plaza near the center to be named the John Lewis Plaza, after the late congressman and civil rights icon — part of an intentional strategy, the foundation said, to ‘change the paradigm around naming.’”