“U.S. health officials said Sunday that while the omicron variant of the coronavirus is rapidly spreading throughout the country, early indications suggest it may be less dangerous than delta, which continues to drive a surge of hospitalizations,” the AP reports.
Said Dr. Anthony Fauci: “Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it. But we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or it really doesn’t cause any severe illness, comparable to delta.”
“Overhyping Covid? It’s already killed 780,000 Americans and over 5 million people worldwide. So I don’t have any clue of what he’s talking about.” — Dr. Anthony Fauci, on CNN, responding to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) who accused him of “overhyping” Covid-19.
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has now been found in 17 U.S. states, the New York Times reports.
“Confirmed cases of the Omicron variant surged in Britain and Denmark on Sunday, backing up scientists’ fears that it has already spread more widely despite travel bans and adding to worries of new lockdowns before the holidays,” the New York Times reports.
“The coronavirus variant has been found in at least 45 nations worldwide, with the United States and much of Europe reporting a number of new cases in recent days.”
Washington Post: “The omicron variant is likely to have picked up genetic material from another virus that causes the common cold in humans, according to a new preliminary study, prompting one of its authors to suggest omicron could have greater transmissibility but lower virulence than other variants of the novel coronavirus.”
“Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) plan to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the required immunization schedule for students at K-12 schools has energized a wave of opposition from mostly Republican state lawmakers, who are gathering in Baton Rouge Monday for an oversight hearing where they’ll attempt to thwart the proposal,” the Baton Rouge Advocate reports.
Politico: “Every single GOP senator is supporting a Congressional Review Act resolution that would block President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates for private businesses. Nearly 98 percent of House Republicans are co-sponsoring the version of the effort in that chamber.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced a sweeping Covid vaccine mandate for all private employers in New York City on Monday morning to combat the spread of the Omicron variant, the New York Times reports.
George Packer: “Here’s one way I imagine it could happen: In 2024, disputed election results in several states lead to tangled proceedings in courtrooms and legislatures. The Republican Party’s long campaign of undermining faith in elections leaves voters on both sides deeply skeptical of any outcome they don’t like. When the next president is finally chosen by the Supreme Court or Congress, half the country explodes in rage. Protests soon turn violent, and the crowds are met with lethal force by the state, while instigators firebomb government buildings… The new president takes power in a state of siege.”
“Another, likelier scenario is widespread cynicism. Following the election crisis, protests burn out. Americans lapse into acquiescence, believing that all leaders lie, all voting is rigged, all media are bought, corruption is normal, and any appeal to higher values such as freedom and equality is either fraudulent or naive. The loss of democracy turns out not to matter all that much. The hollowed core of civic life brings a kind of relief. Citizens indulge themselves in self-care and the metaverse, where politics turns into a private game and algorithms drive Americans into ever more extreme views that have little relation to reality or relevance to those in power. There’s enough wealth to keep the population content. America’s transformation into Russia is complete.”
French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour promised a “reconquest” against decades of decline at his first political rally, as scuffles with anti-racism protesters broke out on its fringes, Reuters reports.
Said Zemmour: “If I win this election, it won’t be another rotation of power but a reconquest of the greatest country in the world.”
Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports Zemmour was grabbed by a crowd member who briefly put him in a headlock. A video showed men punching the activists and chairs being thrown, while security officials tried to break up the fight.
“A former D.C. National Guard official is accusing two senior Army leaders of lying to Congress and participating in a secret attempt to rewrite the history of the military’s response to the Capitol riot,” Politico reports.
A new AP-NORC poll finds that among Americans in Gen Z — the survey included ages 13 to 24 — 46% said the pandemic has made it harder to pursue their education or career goals, compared with 36% of Millennials and 31% in Generation X.
There was a similar gap when it came to dating and romantic relationships, with 40% of Gen Z saying it became harder.
“Since May 2021, people living in counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump during the last presidential election have been nearly three times as likely to die from COVID-19 as those who live in areas that went for now-President Biden,” NPR reports.
Also interesting: “In October, the reddest tenth of the country saw death rates that were six times higher than the bluest tenth.”
“The trend was robust, even when controlling for age, which is the primary demographic risk of COVID-19 mortality.”
“Justice Department prosecutors say they have evidence that an alleged rioter who brought a gun to the US Capitol on January 6 was targeting both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,” CNN reports.
According to a filing, Guy Reffitt, a member of the Texas Three Percenter militia, “specifically targeted at least two lawmakers — the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and then-Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell — whom he sought to physically remove or displace from the Capitol building.”
Just Security: “In the several hundred criminal cases brought against individuals involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Department of Justice and FBI have included scores of incriminating communications posted by defendants on social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Parler.”
“That makes even more conspicuous the near complete absence of any reference in the government documents to another public social media site – The Donald, where much of the Capitol attack was planned.”
Washington Post: “From the day of his first positive test until his hospitalization last year, the former president came in contact with more than 500 people in proximity to him or at crowded events.”
Former President Donald Trump called Gen. Mark Milley a “fucking idiot” during a speech at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
Mark Meadows, in his book The Chief’s Chief, writes that Donald Trump was much sicker than reported at the time and had “dangerously low” oxygen levels when he was admitted to the hospital for Covid-19.
“The Biden administration is expected to announce this week that no US government officials will attend the 2022 Beijing Olympics, implementing a diplomatic boycott of the games,“ CNN reports.
“The move would allow the US to send a message on the world stage to China without preventing US athletes from competing. The National Security Council, which has been privately discussing the boycott, declined to comment.”
“The goal for Democrats was to pass President Biden’s sweeping climate and social spending package by Christmas, but that is slipping away as the Senate bogs down in one time-consuming fight after another,” The Hill reports.
Punchbowl News: “With the threat of a government shutdown averted, the biggest issues facing Congress are the debt limit — which has to be dealt with very soon, as in this week — and the National Defense Authorization Act, another must pass bill that got hung up in the Senate last week.”
Playbook: “Congress’ holiday season theme of governing by crisis continues this week, as lawmakers return to Washington to address what could be the trickiest issue of the month: the debt ceiling.”
“Congress is racing against the clock to complete a series of must-pass pieces of legislation, with Democrats also pushing to finish their roughly $2 trillion social and climate policy legislation by the end of the year,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The scramble is coming as President Biden confronts low polling numbers and high inflation, and as Democrats are increasingly worried about their ability to retain the majority in the House in the midterms next year. Lawmakers are under pressure to pass the bills ahead of contentious campaigning that will start in earnest in coming months.”
Politico: “The White House is praying for a quiet December, aiming to avoid the usual political histrionics that come at the end of the year as they push the second piece of President Joe Biden’s landmark economic agenda.”
Associated Press: “If President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion social and environment package was a Broadway show, its seven months on Congress’ stage could qualify it as a hit. But lawmaking isn’t show business, and many Democrats worry that with the curtain falling soon on 2021, time is not their friend…”
“The longer it takes to finish the $2 trillion package, the longer it can be vulnerable to factors — predictable and unforeseen, economic and political — that might complicate Schumer’s task.”
Said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA): “You let things sit around here, particularly past a Christmas vacation and into an election year, and that is toxic.”
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) writes in the Arizona Republic in praise of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
“Rather than feeding our divisions with extreme rhetoric, all-or-nothing purity tests, and personal attacks, the 10 Senators who negotiated this jobs bill showed America something different. We shut out noise from the extremes, refused to demonize each other when we had disagreements, and focused instead on identifying creative solutions and commonsense compromises to ‘get to yes’ and get the job done…”
Barton Gellman, writing for The Atlantic: “Technically, the next attempt to overthrow a national election may not qualify as a coup. It will rely on subversion more than violence, although each will have its place. If the plot succeeds, the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024. Thousands of votes will be thrown away, or millions, to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be certified president-elect.”
“The prospect of this democratic collapse is not remote. People with the motive to make it happen are manufacturing the means. Given the opportunity, they will act. They are acting already.”
“Who or what will safeguard our constitutional order is not apparent today. It is not even apparent who will try. Democrats, big and small D, are not behaving as if they believe the threat is real. Some of them, including President Joe Biden, have taken passing rhetorical notice, but their attention wanders. They are making a grievous mistake.”
“The star anchor Chris Cuomo was fired by CNN on Saturday amid a network inquiry into his efforts to help his brother, Andrew M. Cuomo, then the governor of New York, fight off a sexual harassment scandal,” the New York Times reports.
“The announcement completed a stunning downfall for Chris Cuomo, the top-rated anchor at CNN and a veteran television journalist who had built a successful broadcast career outside of his famed political family.”
“Andrew Cuomo’s top aide pulled a downright dirty — and possibly illegal — trick to try and impugn one of the then-governor’s sexual harassment accusers,” the New York Post reports.
“Cuomo’s right-hand aide Melissa DeRosa recruited a top MTA official as a spy to secretly record a phone conversation with an ex-executive staffer identified as ‘Kaitlin’ who subsequently became one of the governor’s accusers.”
“Western negotiators trying to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal said on Friday that the new, more hard-line government in Iran is proposing unacceptable changes to the existing draft agreement, even as it is proceeding apace with its nuclear program,” the New York Times reports.
“Unless Tehran shifts its stance quickly, the diplomats from Britain, France and Germany warned after five days of meetings in Vienna, there is little possibility of a successful negotiation. The talks were suspended for consultations with governments and may resume next week.”
“The publicly traded SPAC that has announced plans to merge with former President Donald Trump’s new social media company said in a new filing Monday that the Securities and Exchange Commission and another market regulator have asked for information regarding stock trading and communications with Trump’s company before the deal was announced,” CNBC reports.
Bloomberg: Who just gave Trump $1 billion? Let’s find out.
“Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was sentenced to four years imprisonment after being found guilty on two charges, the first verdicts in a raft of criminal cases that the country’s military has brought against her since seizing power 10 months ago,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The guilty verdicts are likely to spark more unrest in the Southeast Asian nation, which was plunged into turmoil after the coup on Feb. 1. Mass protests against army rule were met with deadly force, the nation’s economy is in free fall and conflict has intensified between the army and insurgent groups.”