National News Roundup: Year 5, Week 50 (December 26 — January 1)
As foretold by prophecy, I’m even more sick of the word ‘omicron’ two weeks later–unfortunate, when it’s now even more ubiquitous. But I’ll have the long and the short of the relevant news for you below, and I probably won’t even complain that much! (Where you can read it, at any rate.)
Standard standing reminders still apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a subpoena!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Cleanup in Aisle 45:
For yet another week, there are a lot of Election Rejection updates to report. Here’s what I have for you:
- Insurrection Updates. With the news picking up again, we’re back to this section being pretty wild. Three federal judges found that all capitol riot criminal charges are constitutional–not that I’m sure why we were even debating that–and the first Proud Boy pled guilty. The House panel is issuing yet more subpoenas for stuff, and more and more, the wagons are circling around the Trumps; in addition to the House panel, the New York AG issued subpoenas for Ivanka and Don Junior today (though that’s a civil suit, not criminal). And a recent poll found a full one-third of Americans now believe that violence against the government can be justified, so that’s not terrifying at all.
In comparison, things looked distressingly quiet on the Biden Rebuilding front. Here’s what has happened:
- Biden’s Omicron Abiding. After weeks of administrative resistance to increasing test accessibility, the Biden administration did say they’d expand test access as we went into the holidays. But then they swerved in almost the same breath, resisting school shutdowns despite rising cases and calling Omicron a state problem. This followed with the CDC cutting quarantine time in half for people with asymptomatic infections, sending folks back out after five days without even requiring a clean test. Then Fauci eventually had to say “maybe we’ll require tests,” presumably because people criticized the administration for putting essential workers in unsafe conditions so that they could keep businesses running. (I know I’m not That Kind of Health Professional, but nonetheless I seriously cannot overstate how much it horrifies me that they didn’t at least require a negative test to end quarantine.)
Your New Normal:
- Recent Senate Dysfunction. The Senate’s back in session and back to its nonsense this week. We’re already back to fighting about the Build Back Better Act, which Joe Manchin of course continues to spit on, and since it hasn’t yet passed we also ended the child tax credit in the middle of a new pandemic surge. Meanwhile, the Democrats are returning to their push to preserve voting rights, and Senate leaders have indicated that they will blow up the filibuster if they don’t move the voting act forward by January 17.
- State of the COVID-19. Having covered the Biden stuff above, we’re mostly down to science, medicine, and data updates for this section. Unfortunately, at first blush, the data news is not great: omicron cases have skyrocketed as many places hit all-time pandemic peaks in case numbers; test supply just cannot keep up with test demand; omicron is definitely way more contagious than other variants; and antibody treatments largely don’t work against this variant. Sadly, social news isn’t a lot better; unprecedented numbers of flights have been canceled in the past week and the CDC is now contraindicating cruises. But somehow, the science news is… largely positive? Omicron is more contagious, but research increasingly shows that infections are less severe and of shorter duration, in part because it doesn’t target the lungs, and its infection enhances neutralization for more dangerous variants. There is also good news on the medicine front; the Pfizer and Merck COVID treatment pills were both approved by the FDA, and Pfizer boosters for ages 12–15 were approved as well.
- Recent Administrative Wins. We had some promising legal changes in the past week. In my field, there was implementation of a new ban on surprise medical billing, which I’m pretty psyched about, and federal student loan payments got pushed back again to May. Moving from my professional neck of the woods to my geographic one, the Wampanoag tribe had a significant win in a Department of Interior decision this week, effectively reversing a Trump-era implementation that put many acres of their land in limbo.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I think we can agree that it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this panda cub’s first snowfall as well as a more consistently improved government. I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me KN-95 masks!