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--> A midday take on what's happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.*
*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha--breaks down crying hysterically.
TALK OF THE MORNING
Via The New York Times's Nick Cumming-Bruce, "The World Health Organization warned on Monday that global risks posed by the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus were 'very high,' as countries around the world rushed to defend against its spread with a cascade of border closures and travel restrictions that recalled the earliest days of the pandemic." https://nyti.ms/3cXK5y7
JUST NOW - PRESIDENT BIDEN GIVES AN UPDATE ON THIS NEW VARIANT:
President Biden just addressed the nation on the new omicron COVID-19 variant. Livestream of Biden's remarks: https://bit.ly/3cXnYrC
Biden's message: "This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."
Biden does expect the variant to hit the U.S.: "Sooner or later, we are going to see cases of the Omicron variant here in the US." https://bit.ly/3E89vFb
On what we know about the variant: "Biden notes Delta variant deaths have gone down and vows, 'We're going to fight and beat this new variant as well. We're learning more about this new variant every single and as we learn more we're going to share that information with the American people candidly and promptly.'" (Via Bloomberg's Jennifer Epstein) https://bit.ly/2ZA1KsJ
Biden's contingency plan: " 'We do not yet believe that additional measures will be needed,' President Biden says, but adds his team is working with Pfizer and Moderna on contingency plans if they're needed." (Via CNN's Kaitlan Collins) https://bit.ly/3D4460C
How you can protect yourself: "The best protection against this new variant or any of the variants out there, the ones we've been dealing with already, is getting fully vaccinated and getting a booster shot." (Via The Hill's Morgan Chalfant) https://bit.ly/3o042e2
Livestream of Biden's remarks: https://bit.ly/3cXnYrC
QUESTIONS RELATED TO THE NEW VARIANT:
What countries have confirmed cases of the omicron variant?: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa and the United Kingdom. The number of cases in each country, via CNN: https://cnn.it/3d4HKRS
What about the U.S.?: Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said yesterday that the variant is "almost definitely" in the U.S. already. And infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci said he "would not be surprised" if it has spread to the U.S. https://cbsn.ws/3xwcK6Y
How many cases have been confirmed?: "As of Friday, fewer than 100 cases of the strain had been confirmed, with many of them being young people in South Africa." More from CBS: https://cbsn.ws/3xwcK6Y
When was the omicron variant first detected?: On Nov. 9 in South Africa
QUESTIONS RELATED TO THE VACCINES:
The $$ question - do the COVID-19 vaccines work on the new variant?: Scientists are scrambling to find out. The variant may be more easily transmissible, but it's also possible the vaccine prevents serious illness and death. https://nyti.ms/3D4EiRV
What if the vaccine does not protect against this new variant?: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are already on the case. The companies are preparing to tweak the formula for a booster if necessary. More from The New York Times: https://nyti.ms/3D4EiRV
VOX HAS A HELPFUL EXPLAINER ON WHAT WE KNOW - AND QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT HAVE - ABOUT THE OMICRON VARIANT:
Coronavirus cases in the U.S.: 48,235,081
U.S. death toll: 776,651
Breakdown of the numbers: https://cnn.it/2UAgW3y
Total number of vaccinations administered in the U.S.: 454 million shots have been given.
Seven-day average of doses administered: An average of 1.85 doses
For context: The U.S. population is roughly 331 million.
Breakdown of the numbers: https://bloom.bg/3iVTPLH
It's Monday - welcome back! I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to email@example.com - and follow along on Twitter @CateMartel and Facebook.
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NEWS THIS MORNING
Jack is giving up his pet bird:
Via CNBC's Jessica Bursztynsky and Lauren Feiner, "Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is stepping down as chief of the social media company, effective immediately. Parag Agrawal, the company's chief technology officer, will take over the helm, the company said Monday. https://cnb.cx/2ZAzeqX
Why? - he didn't really say: " 'I've decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders,' Dorsey said in a statement, though he didn't provide any additional detail on why he decided to resign."
IN THE WHITE HOUSE
This morning, first lady Jill Biden unveiled the White House's holiday decorations for this year.
The Hill's Alex Gangitano's description of the décor - it feels like I'm there!: https://bit.ly/3E9F0Pd
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS:
Fun tidbit - Jill Biden used some photos that have never been seen publicly: Via CNN's Kate Bennett, "The Christmas trees in the State Dining Room are huge and covered with framed photos of the Biden's and former first families at the White House during holidays. [First lady Jill Biden] pulled many from her personal albums, never before seen publicly." https://bit.ly/31cEf9j
^ Including a photo of the Trumps: Here's the photo Biden included of former President Trump and former first lady Melania Trump: https://bit.ly/3D51IXe
I love the snowy trees: https://bit.ly/3o2IXj5
And the mini replica of the White House: https://bit.ly/3E4TWhD
And the table floral arrangements: https://bit.ly/3o4dWLH
Oh - and the red boxes!: https://bit.ly/3E4w2m9
Via The Hill's John Kruzel, "The justices will hear arguments Wednesday over a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade." https://bit.ly/3E6C8T9
What abortion opponents are hoping: Conservatives hope this case will finally lead to the dismantling of Roe v. Wade.
What's different now: The Supreme Court now has six conservative justices and just three more liberal justices.
What to expect: https://bit.ly/3E6C8T9
THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS
Congress is back in session this week for a chaotic legislative sprint before the end of the year.
When are they back?: The Senate is back today. The House returns tomorrow.
How long are they expected to stay in Washington?: Until Dec. 13, though I would be very surprised if they didn't delay their departure.
What is on the to-do list: Fund the government before Saturday, pass the National Defense Authorization Act this week, move the Build Back Better Act through the Senate - oh and don't forget the impending debt limit.
Breakdown of each from The Hill's Jordain Carney: https://bit.ly/3dg6bw9
'NO DEAL IN SIGHT AS CONGRESS NEARS DEBT LIMIT DEADLINE':
Via The Hill's Alexander Bolton: https://bit.ly/3cY00fJ
^ If you don't get the joke: One of the debates in the Build Back Better Act is whether to lift the cap on the state and local tax deduction - or "SALT." https://nyti.ms/3CYmyb3
The Senate is back today. The House is out. President Biden and Vice President Harris are in Washington, D.C.
10 a.m. EST: President Biden and Vice President Harris received the President's Daily Brief.
10:45 a.m. EST: President Biden and Vice President Harris received a briefing on the omicron variant.
2 p.m. EST: President Biden meets with CEOs to discuss holiday shopping and supply chain issues.
3 p.m. EST: The Senate meets.
5:30 p.m. EST: A cloture vote in the Senate. The Senate's full agenda today: https://bit.ly/3o5g5GM
WHAT TO WATCH:
1 p.m. EST: White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing. Livestream: https://bit.ly/3d1v7XO
3:45 p.m. EST: President Biden delivers remarks on the supply chain issues and elevated prices during the holiday season. Livestream: https://bit.ly/31aRRSu
IN LIGHTER NEWS:
Today is National Chocolates Day.
Via Yahoo News, "Rare 'ice pancakes' were spotted floating atop Lake Superior near Ashland, Wisconsin, footage posted on November 26 shows." https://yhoo.it/3D8rmKS
How that happened: "The phenomenon occurs when waves and cold air temperatures cause discs of ice to grow on the water's surface."
Video of the rare, funky ice: https://yhoo.it/3D8rmKS
And to brighten your Monday morning, here are a few dogs who love to wiggle: https://bit.ly/30Rn7q2