Flight cancellations hit the thousands, we remember Desmond Tutu: 5 Things podcast

On today's episode of the 5 Things podcast: Flight cancellations hit the thousands

More are expected today as COVID-related staff shortages continue. Plus, USA TODAY Sports' Paul Myerberg talks about how this COVID surge is affecting college basketball, the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell resumes, we remember Desmond Tutu and new passports now cost more.

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Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning, I'm Taylor Wilson. And this is 5 Things You Need to Know, Monday, the 27th of December 2021. Today, flight cancellations reached the thousands. Plus, remembering Desmond Tutu and more.

Here are some of the top headlines:

  1. Russian president Vladimir Putin said yesterday he would consider new options if the West refuses certain guarantees on Ukraine. Russia continues to sit troops on Ukraine's border and is demanding that NATO denies membership to Ukraine. Both Putin and president Joe Biden have threatened vague consequences in the standoff.

  2. Islamic extremists have killed more than 40 people in an attack in Burkina Faso. Violence in the once peaceful West African nation is escalating as attacks linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic state are on the rise.

  3. And a surfer in California's central coast has died after a shark attack. The victim was pronounced dead on Christmas Eve.

More than 4000 flights were delayed or canceled in the US on Christmas day. Then, not to be outdone, more than 7000 flights were delayed or canceled yesterday. That includes 1400 cancellations on flights entering, leaving, or flying within the United States. They've especially affected Delta, United and JetBlue with the airlines blaming positive COVID cases for staff shortages. On top of that, it's much harder to get backup replacements this time of year, since employees often request time off long in advance.

Many US airlines require their employees to be fully vaccinated, but it's not yet required of most domestic passengers. International travelers entering the United States must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within a day of their departure, and non-US citizens must be fully vaccinated to enter. For more on the latest requirements head to the travel section on USATODAY.com.

As a new variant of COVID-19 continues to race across the planet, college basketball is grappling with its latest round of cancellations and postponements. And as USA TODAY Sports' Paul Myerberg tells us, it's impacting nearly every conference and some of the sport's biggest names.

Paul Myerberg:

The college basketball on the men's and women's side is feeling the sense of deja vu one year after dealing with a pre-vaccinated environment and trying to soldier through the regular season. Just on Saturday alone they've seen a hundred games canceled. You get more than 50 programs on pause because of COVID issues. So it's wreaking havoc on the entire regular season at a time when college basketball thought their season might follow the path of college football, which really had no COVID issues whatsoever until the last 10 or 14 days. So for the powers that be - coaches, administrators, conference commissioners - there's this sickening feeling that, "Oh boy, here we go again."

There has been discussion from people like Mike Krzyzewski at Duke about returning to the pre-vaccine testing policy last year, that, for the tournament, at least, and certainly, by conference, it varied, but a lot of places were testing three times a week. And for places like Duke and otherwise who have had three games canceled or had to reschedule three games in about a two or three day span, there's this thought that going back to that testing will help protect their players and their teams and protect the integrity of the regular season.

College basketball does not want to do anything that will disrupt the tournament. We saw two years ago that when that was canceled, it caused major, major financial issues for programs across the country. So they'll get through it and they'll get to the finish line. At this point, there's just a question about how ugly it'll get.

Taylor Wilson:

The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell resumes today with juror deliberations. The British socialite was arrested in the summer of 2020 on charges that she recruited and groomed underage girls for financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse from 1994 to 2004. Maxwell has stayed behind bars without bail since that arrest. Jurors had already been deliberating for two days, when they went home on Wednesday without reaching a verdict. Near the end of that day, they asked to see the transcripts of testimonies from one accuser and from former Epstein housekeeper, Juan Patricio Alessi. He worked at Epstein's Florida home from 1990 to 2002 and said he saw many female visitors, and that two accusers who were underage teenagers at the time were repeat visitors. Before they broke for the holiday US district judge Allison J. Nathan warned jurors to protect themselves against the coronavirus, amid a surge in infections around New York city, where the trial is being held.

Tributes continue to pour in for Desmond Tutu. The Nobel Peace Prize winning Archbishop fought for racial justice and helped crush South Africa's apartheid. He died yesterday in Cape Town. Tutu preached nonviolence, even as his country's Black majority was often attacked while the white government tried clinging to power. And he celebrated South Africa's diversity, calling it a rainbow nation. The country's first black president, Nelson Mandela, later named him to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a panel charged with investigating apartheid human rights abuses.

But Tutu preached forgiveness saying, "Without forgiveness, there is no future." He also fought for LGBTQ rights and same sex marriage, which became legal in South Africa in 2006, the first African country to do so and still to date the only one. He previously said, "I would not worship a God who is homophobic." Yesterday tributes were laid outside Tutu's home. Nkele Chakela was laying flowers.

Nkele Chakela:

I describe him as a humble man, as a person who knows God, because he worked hard for God. And he was a very person who can connect with any people, any type of people.

Taylor Wilson:

An Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg, Tutu's former post, Stephen Moreo said that Tutu loved humanity.

Stephen Moreo:

His main legacy is his love for all God's people.

Taylor Wilson:

Desmond Tutu was 90 years old.

If you need a new passport, it's about to cost you a little bit more. The state department announced last week that it would increase its security surcharge fees for passport books by 20 bucks beginning today. The fees vary by age. Travelers who are 16 and up applying for the first time will have to pay $165, while those renewing must pay $130. And those under 16 must pay $135. It typically takes about eight to 11 weeks to get your passport, though you can pay an extra 60 bucks to expedite it within five to seven. You can also get it within just a couple days if you have a number of emergencies that qualify you to do so.

Getting a passport has been a challenge for travelers in recent months. Non-expedited wait times over the summer even skyrocketed to 18 weeks in some cases. Though, have since dropped back down.

Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us wherever you like to find your pods, including Apple Podcasts, where we ask for a five star rating and review if you have a chance. Thanks to PJ Elliot for his great work on the show, and I'm back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID crumbles college hoops, we remember Desmond Tutu: 5 Things podcast