The Weekly National News Roundup | Shlomo Rudman

US Experiencing Massive Surge in Covid Cases – The omicron variant is spreading rapidly all over the country, but hospitalization and death rates remain relatively low.

The seven-day average of COVID-19 cases topped 280,000 this week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University’s tracker. It’s a record number of new cases in the country; the last time the number of cases hit a peak close to that was January.

Public health officials including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky say the new variant appears to be less severe than ones in the past but still emphasize the need to follow public health protocols like getting vaccinated and wearing a mask to curb the spread of the virus.

Data from the White House provided at a briefing Wednesday shows the seven-day average of hospitalizations is about 9,000 per day — which is a 14% increase in hospitalizations from last week. However, there was a 60% rise in cases over the same time frame. The seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths is down from last week, at about 1,100 deaths per day.

Officials say the difference is in part because omicron causes less severe symptoms for those who are vaccinated and especially for those who are boosted.

Kim Potter Found Guilty- Former police officer Kim Potter was found guilty Thursday on manslaughter charges for the killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in a Minneapolis suburb in April. The verdict came after roughly four days of jury deliberation.

Potter engaged 20-year-old Wright, a Black man, while training a younger officer during a traffic stop. Officers attempted to detain Wright after finding he had an outstanding warrant; Wright attempted to get back in the vehicle and flee. Body camera footage recorded Potter yelling “Taser” before discharging her firearm, killing Wright. She maintains she accidentally grabbed her gun instead of her Taser, something experts say is real but rare.

Harry Reid Dies – Former Sen. Harry Reid, one of the Senate’s longest-serving majority leaders and a Democrat who played a central role in enacting former President Obama’s biggest legislative accomplishments, died Tuesday at 82 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Reid served as majority leader from 2006 to 2014 before retiring from politics in 2017 as one of the most influential and powerful Democratic leaders ever to serve in Washington.

He was elected Senate Democratic whip in 1998 and Senate Democratic leader in 2004, and became majority leader when Democrats took over the House and Senate at the height of public frustration with the Iraq War.

He famously called George W. Bush, the sitting president, a “liar” and a “loser” and accused Mitt Romney, the GOP’s nominee for president in 2012, on the Senate floor of not paying his taxes.

He later apologized for calling Bush a loser but stuck by calling him a liar and never apologized for painting Romney as a tax cheat, even though PolitiFact rated the claim “Pants on Fire.”

Trump Asks Supreme Court to Block Records – Former President Trump on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to block the National Archives from turning over records from his White House to the House Jan. 6 select committee after a series of defeats in the lower courts.

Trump’s lawyers filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court ahead of a Thursday deadline to seek a review imposed by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected the former president’s suit earlier this month.

They argued that the circuit court’s decision would set a bad precedent in future disputes over access to former presidents’ confidential records and asked for a temporary order blocking the release while the Supreme Court considers whether to give the case a full hearing.

Colorado Fires Destroy Hundreds of Homes, Businesses – Hundreds of homes have been destroyed and tens of thousands of people were evacuated in Colorado after wildfires driven by high winds engulfed two towns near the state capital, Denver.

On Friday, residents who were forced out of their neighborhoods by the wildfires anxiously waited to learn what was left standing after the flames burned an estimated 580 homes, a hotel and a shopping center.

At least six people and one first responder have been injured, though officials believe there could be more casualties due to the strength of the fires that quickly swept across Boulder county. With winds gusting up to 105 miles per hour, the National Weather Agency had warned of a “life-threatening situation” in some areas.

Biden Signs Defense Bill – President Joe Biden signed the government’s defense authorization bill yesterday, allowing for roughly $768B in defense-related spending for fiscal year 2022. The final package represents a $25B bump for Pentagon spending over the administration’s initial request of $715B, with the remainder going toward related programs.

It marks the 61st consecutive year in which the annual package was passed—its consistency has made it a vehicle through which a slew of related provisions are tacked on. Among other items, the bill includes a 2.7% raise for service members, $28B for the nuclear weapons program, a reform to the reporting structure for harassment, and more.

Authorization is separate from funding, instead creating the statutory authority for programs, which are provided funding via appropriations bills.

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