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Have a Merry Christmas. Omicron is coming but we are here.

Katherine Eban/Vanity Fair:

The Biden Administration Rejected an October Proposal for “Free Rapid Tests for the Holidays”

With omicron cases spreading like wildfire, the White House is finally taking steps to make free antigen tests available to all. But this fall, Vanity Fair has learned, it dismissed a bold plan to ramp up rapid testing ahead of the holidays. Frustrated experts explain how confusion, distrust, and a single-minded fixation on vaccinating Americans left testing on the back burner for so long.

The antigen tests at the center of the plan can detect the virus when patients are at their most contagious. Though less sensitive than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) laboratory tests, which can detect the virus’s genetic material at any stage of infection, antigen tests provide a quick snapshot in time for those seeking assurance that they are safe to travel or won’t accidentally infect vulnerable relatives.

The plan, in effect, was a blueprint for how to avoid what is happening at this very moment—endless lines of desperate Americans clamoring for tests in order to safeguard holiday gatherings, just as COVID-19 is exploding again. Yesterday, President Biden told David Muir of ABC News, “I wish I had thought about ordering” 500 million at-home tests “two months ago.” But the proposal shared at the meeting in October, disclosed here for the first time, included a “Bold Plan for Impact” and a provision for “Every American Household to Receive Free Rapid Tests for the Holidays/New Year.”

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Maria Godoy/NPR:

With omicron, you need a mask that means business

“Cloth masks are not going to cut it with omicron,” says Linsey Marr, a researcher at Virginia Tech who studies how viruses transmit in the air.

Omicron is so much more transmissible than coronavirus variants that have come before it. It spreads at least three times faster than delta. One person is infecting at least three others at a time on average, based on data from other countries.

“It’s very contagious,” says Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “And the kind of encounter that you could have had with prior versions of the virus that would have left you uninfected, there’s now a good chance you will get infected from it.”

WSJ:

NASA’s Webb Telescope to See Deeper Than Hubble to Edge of Universe

Giant mirror and infrared sensors to reveal a more detailed view than ever seen previously

In addition to providing fresh insights into our own solar system, the new telescope—with its giant golden mirror and infrared eyes—will go beyond what Hubble can see and capture images of some of the very first stars and galaxies as they appeared more than 13.5 billion years ago, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

CNN:

House panel asks Supreme Court to say by mid-January whether it’s taking Trump’s January 6 records case

Hours after Trump’s request was filed, the House committee asked the justices to expedite their consideration of the request, with a proposed schedule that would allow the court to say by the middle of next month whether it was taking up the case.

The committee, which is charged with investigating the US Capitol attack to provide recommendations for preventing such assaults in the future, seeks the documents as it explores Trump’s role in trying to overturn the election. That includes his appearance at a January 6 rally when he directed followers to go to the Capitol where lawmakers were set to certify the election results and “fight” for their county. The documents are currently held by the National Archives.

NPR:

The clear and present danger of Trump’s enduring ‘Big Lie’

Call it an insurrection or a coup attempt, it was fueled by what’s known as the “Big Lie”: the verifiably false assertion that Trump won. Joe Biden won 306 votes in the Electoral College, while Trump received 232. In the popular vote, Biden won by more than 7 million votes.

Many are warning that over the past year, that “big lie” of a stolen election has grown more entrenched and more dangerous.

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Ron Brownstein/Atlantic:

The Republican Axis Reversing the Rights Revolution

We are witnessing a reordering of American life not seen in half a century.

This process is evident in the restrictive laws approved over the past year in many Republican-controlled states making it more difficult to vote and increasing opportunities for GOP partisans to influence the administration and counting of votes. It’s apparent as well in the moves by multiple red states to bar transgender young people from participating in school sports or receiving medical treatment for the transition process. The same impulse is powering the rapidly spreading red-state movement to constrain how students are taught about the nation’s racial history. Perhaps most explosively, five GOP-appointed Supreme Court justices recently signaled their willingness to overturn the national right to abortion established in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. That would immediately trigger laws on the books in most red states banning or severely restricting the procedure.

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