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HeadlinesDecember 14, 2021

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Eight Killed by Tornado at Kentucky Factory Whose Workers Were Ordered to Remain on Site

Dec 14, 2021

The death toll from unprecedented weekend storms across the U.S. has risen to 90, with dozens still missing. In Kentucky, workers at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory who survived the storm said supervisors threatened to fire them if they left their shifts early on Friday — even as forecasters warned of approaching tornadoes and warning sirens could be heard. Some of the workers left the factory ahead of the storm despite the threat to their livelihoods. At least eight people who remained died as a tornado ripped through the building and largely flattened it. More than 100 workers were trapped. Climate scientists say the rare December tornadoes were likely a result of the climate crisis. This is meteorologist Jeff Masters.

Jeff Masters: “We’ve got a warmer climate, and that means you can get a tornado any time of year, and so you’ve got to be prepared anywhere you live in the midwest U.S., southeast U.S. You can get a tornado in December, January, February. We’ve been seeing an increasing number of these off-season storms. So, tornado season is all season long now, all year long.”

Ice Sheet Holding Back Vast Antarctic Glacier Poised to Collapse Within Five Years

Dec 14, 2021

Climate scientists are sounding the alarm over newly discovered weaknesses in the ice shelf holding back one of Antarctica’s most dangerous glaciers. The Washington Post reports the shelf appears poised to shatter within the next three to five years. Once the shelf collapses, ice from the vast Thwaites Glacier will flow more easily into the ocean, raising global sea levels. A complete collapse of the glacier could result in several feet of sea level rise, inundating coastal communities home to hundreds of millions of people around the world.

U.K. Reports First Death Linked to Fast-Spreading Omicron Coronavirus Variant

Dec 14, 2021

COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the United States, Europe and South Africa, where the fast-spreading Omicron variant was first detected. On Tuesday, South Africa’s largest private health insurer reported Omicron appears to be substantially more contagious than even the Delta variant — and reduces the effectiveness of existing vaccines, though people who are fully vaccinated are largely still protected against severe disease.

In Britain, Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned the Omicron coronavirus variant is spreading rapidly across the U.K. and appears poised to overtake Delta as the dominant variant.

Sajid Javid: “First of all, it’s spreading at a phenomenal rate. The number of infections is doubling every two or three days. There’s going to be a tidal wave of infection. The second thing that we’ve learned in the last week is that two doses of the vaccine are not enough to protect you, but three doses, a booster shot, is, will be hugely effective in protecting you against symptomatic infection.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday announced the world’s first known death linked to the Omicron variant. Last week, Johnson reversed his long-standing opposition to public health measures and ordered new restrictions, including mask mandates and proof of vaccination, while urging people to work from home.

New York City to Require Proof of Vaccination for Kids 5 and Up to Enter Public Spaces

Dec 14, 2021

Here in the United States, the number of confirmed coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic has topped 50 million. Nearly 800,000 people have died of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers, with nearly 1,300 deaths reported on Monday alone.

California has ordered a new statewide indoor mask mandate beginning Wednesday, after recording a 47% jump in COVID-19 cases since Thanksgiving.

Here in New York City, beginning today, children aged 5 to 11 will be required to have proof of vaccination to enter certain indoor places, such as restaurants. A proof-of-vaccination mandate for everyone 12 and up was already in effect. This is New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: “We want to protect everyone. We want to protect our youngest New Yorkers. We know Omicron has had a lot of impact on younger folks. We know that we need a whole family to be safe. And if the youngest kids are safe, that also helps protect our seniors.”

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block New York state’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. Petitioners had tried to claim religious exemptions. Meanwhile, the Air Force says it has discharged 27 servicemembers for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as required by the Pentagon.

Pentagon Won’t Punish Anyone over Kabul Drone Strike That Killed 10 Civilians

Dec 14, 2021

The Pentagon said Monday no enlisted soldiers or officers would be punished for a deadly drone attack in Kabul during the final days of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. The August attack killed 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children. This is Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby.

John Kirby: “What we saw here was a breakdown in process and execution in procedural — procedural events, not — not the result of negligence, not the result of misconduct, not the result of poor leadership.”

The Pentagon initially said the strike averted an imminent threat by the Islamic State, and made other false claims about the attack, before walking back the claims and offering condolence payments to the victims’ families. Click here to see our coverage of this story.

Sudanese Police Fire Tear Gas at Protesters Demanding End to Military Rule

Dec 14, 2021

In Sudan, police fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at crowds of protesters who gathered near the presidential palace Monday to demand the military hand over power to a civilian government to lead a transition to democratic rule. Dozens of protesters have been killed by Sudanese police and soldiers since the military toppled caretaker Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in an October 25 coup. Sudan’s military rulers reinstated Hamdok in late November amid popular pressure, but the military is maintaining oversight over his Cabinet.

Report: Colombian Police Killed at Least 11 People Protesting Police Brutality

Dec 14, 2021

In Colombia, an independent investigation backed by the United Nations has found Colombian police were responsible for killing at least 11 people during massive anti-police brutality protests in Bogotá in September 2020. The mobilizations were in response to the police killing of Javier Ordóñez, a father of two who died after being pinned to the ground by Colombian police officers. Ordóñez was shocked repeatedly with a stun gun for more than two minutes as he begged, “Please, no more.”

Danish Ex-Minister Gets Prison for Illegally Separating Families of Asylum Seekers

Dec 14, 2021

Denmark’s former immigration minister has been sentenced to 60 days in prison, after she was found guilty of illegally separating underage, asylum-seeking couples. Inger Støjberg was accused of violating the European Convention on Human Rights. Judges overseeing her impeachment trial said Støjberg had intentionally neglected her ministerial duties when she ordered the separation of at least 23 asylum-seeking couples in 2016. Støjberg is known for promoting anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies in Denmark.

Fox News Hosts Called White House on January 6 Urging End to Capitol Riot

Dec 14, 2021

Back in the United States, the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection has recommended former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows be found in criminal contempt of Congress. Meadows had agreed to cooperate with a subpoena from the committee but reversed course last week just ahead of his scheduled deposition. On Monday, the committee revealed Meadows played a larger role than previously known in plans to overturn the results of the 2020 election, as well as a failed effort by White House insiders to push Trump to call off the Capitol riot. The committee’s vice chair, Republican Congressmember Liz Cheney, read text messages sent by three Fox News hosts to Meadows as the insurrection played out on live TV on January 6.

Rep. Liz Cheney: “'Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home … this is hurting all of us … he is destroying his legacy,' Laura Ingraham wrote. 'Please get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished,' Brian Kilmeade texted. Quote, 'Can he make a statement? … Ask people to leave the Capitol,' Sean Hannity urged. As the violence continued, one of the president’s sons texted Mr. Meadows, quote, ’He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP.’”

Although the Fox News hosts were pushing Trump to call off the insurrection, when they were on the air they said they believed the protesters were antifa.

USA Gymnastics Will Pay $380 Million to Survivors of Larry Nassar Abuse

Dec 14, 2021

Survivors of the disgraced former USA Gymnastics doctor and serial sexual abuser Larry Nassar have reached a $380 million settlement with USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and their insurers. The settlement comes after a five-year legal battle and will cover claims brought by hundreds of women who were sexually abused by Nassar — including Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney.

Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar, said on Twitter their settlement also includes survivors abused by coaches and other officials in the sport. Denhollander tweeted, “Some survivors are Olympians and elite gymnasts, and wielded their platform powerfully. Most of the over 500 represented here, are not, but showed up over and over again. We did this together. Don’t forget their voices, what they gave, and what it took.”

In 2018, Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting and abusing more than 160 women and girl athletes.

Julian Assange Suffered “Mini-Stroke” in Prison While Fighting U.S. Extradition

Dec 14, 2021

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange suffered a “mini-stroke” in a British prison in late October as he fought to avoid extradition to the United States to face espionage charges. That’s according to Assange’s fiancée Stella Moris, who said the stroke left Assange with a drooping right eyelid, memory problems and signs of neurological damage. Moris believes the stress from captivity paired with endless legal challenges has taken a deep toll on Assange’s mental and physical well-being. On Friday, a British court ruled in favor of the Biden administration’s appeal to extradite Assange to face charges in the U.S. The ruling has been condemned by journalists around the world as a major blow to press freedom.

Ex-Cop Kim Potter Failed to Test Taser on Day She Fatally Shot Daunte Wright

Dec 14, 2021

In Minnesota, the manslaughter trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter continued Monday, with a medical examiner testifying the wound Daunte Wright received from Potter’s handgun was not survivable. Potter has said she mistakenly shot Wright with her Glock 9-millimeter pistol believing it was her Taser. Minnesota state investigator Sam McGinnis testified that Potter failed to test her Taser, as required, on the day she fatally shot Wright. He also laid out the differences between a Glock pistol and a Taser.

Sam McGinnis: “The Taser is yellow; the firearm is black. The Taser has a stocky body to it compared to the Glock handgun. The grip of the Taser is shorter and wider than the Glock.”

Meanwhile, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin signaled Monday he’s preparing to change his “not guilty” plea to “guilty” in a federal case charging he willfully violated George Floyd’s civil rights. Chauvin was convicted of Floyd’s murder and sentenced to 22-and-a-half years in prison.

350 U.S. School Shootings Have Followed the Sandy Hook Massacre 9 Years Ago

Dec 14, 2021

Today is the ninth anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The 2012 massacre claimed the lives of 20 schoolchildren and six educators. Since Sandy Hook, there have been 350 U.S. school shootings, including 28 this year. But there has still been no major change in federal gun safety policy in the United States.

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