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1. Buffalo shooting
Stocks and oil prices fell yesterday as more cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant were reported across the globe. At least 19 countries have reported cases of the variant, and 70 countries and territories have imposed travel restrictions. The economic outlook was also darkened by Moderna’s CEO, who said vaccines may struggle with this variant. But Pfizer’s CEO said boosters, even if they’re not as effective as against Delta, should reduce Omicron’s threat dramatically. The CDC says Omicron is all the more reason for all vaccinated adults to get a booster dose because, its director said, “strong immunity will likely prevent serious illness.” In the UK, the government has authorized all adults to get a booster shot a mere three months after their last dose. In the US, Pfizer is now expected to seek authorization for booster doses for 16- and 17-year-olds.
2. Church shooting
President Biden met with the CEOs of a number of major retailers and grocers to discuss supply chain concerns during the holiday season. Biden noted that despite ongoing labor shortages, shipping snarls and new Omicron variant worries, consumer spending is up and the retail outlook is better than it was last year. However, those challenges, along with materials shortages and trouble hiring workers, are shrinking the availability of some items both online and in stores. Experts say this may be the year to return to brick-and-mortar stores to avoid supply chain problems. In-store sales are predicted to rise by 8% this year – to a 10-year high – according to a real estate research firm.
The Pentagon will focus on building up bases in Guam and Australia to better prepare the US military to counter China. The decision comes in response to the Department of Defense’s global posture review, in which Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin calls China “the pacing challenge” in the Indo-Pacific region. While the review is classified, a senior defense official outlined some of the findings. They include recommendations to bolster assets across the Pacific, seek more regional military partnerships and even reduce troops and equipment in other parts of the world to address growing challenges from China. Senior Pentagon officials have publicly expressed alarm about China’s efforts to upgrade and modernize its military. The country’s ongoing dispute over Taiwan and other points of conflict only add to the urgency.
Barbados has cut the last of its nearly 400-year-old ties with the British monarchy and is now a republic. The Caribbean nation removed Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and inaugurated its first-ever President last night. Governor-General Sandra Mason, a 73-year-old former jurist and the Queen’s own former representative, will now lead the country. Barbados declared independence from Britain 55 years ago, but the Queen remained head of state there. Prince Charles was in Barbados for the historic ceremony and spoke of the atrocities of the transatlantic slave trade that led the British to colonize parts of the region. As the republic enters a new age, it intends to remain part of the Commonwealth – a 54-member group of mostly former British territories designed to foster international cooperation and trade.
Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, the cofounder and public face of one of the biggest social media platforms in the world, is stepping down as CEO. The move is effective immediately, and Dorsey says he thinks the company is “ready to move on from its founders.” However, Dorsey will remain a member of Twitter’s board until at least next year. Twitter stock jumped briefly after the announcement. Twitter, like other social media brands, has been mired in ongoing debates over free speech and the potentially harmful social effects of its platform. Though the platform took the extraordinary step of banning a sitting US President this year, it has publicly struggled to form and enforce policies about its use.
In the coming weeks, Ghana’s parliament is set to debate a draft bill – framed in the guise of “family values” – that seeks to introduce some of the harshest anti-LGBTQ laws on the African continent. The prospect of it passing is pushing the country’s LGBTQ community into the shadows. LGBTQ Ghanaians have been left asking how things got so bad, so quickly, and Western diplomats say they have been caught by surprise. But what one Ghanaian activist calls a “homophobe’s dream bill” has deep roots in Ghana’s religious community. It also found key inspiration from a US ultra-conservative group with Russian ties.
Now, now, it’s not a competition. All the giant Jesus statues are equally impressive.
Snowflakes! Butterflies! The theme this year: “Gifts from the Heart.”
Lionel Messi and Alexia Putellas win Ballon d’Or titles
The award celebrates the individual best of the best in soccer, and if you’re keeping score, this is Messi’s seventh title.
Pub-goers snowed in for three days at UK’s highest inn
This the start of either a romantic comedy or a horror film.
‘Vaccine’ is Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year
Our word of the year would probably be something like “AAAAAAH!”
World’s first living robots can now reproduce, scientists say
That’s how many named storms there were this Atlantic hurricane season, with seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes; Grace, Ida, Larry and Sam. There are lots of other interesting stats from this season. For instance, while only one major hurricane made landfall across the US (it was Ida), four named storms left over $1 billion in damage each: Tropical Storms Elsa and Fred, and Hurricanes Ida and Nicholas.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, discussing the lack of diversity at the US State Department. Blinken just named retired Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as the department’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, will have another chance to unionize after a federal labor official called for a new vote following a recommendation from a National Labor Relations Board hearing officer that there was enough misconduct by Amazon during the election to justify a new vote.
This mind-blowing Pokémon cross-stitch just keeps going and going! Phew, the dedication. (Click here to view.)
Anyone who was in band or chorus in school remembers a moment like this. Hey, it happens! Here’s hoping the students (and their champ of a music teacher) look back years from now and laugh as hard as I did. (Click here to view.)