5 things to know for Dec. 7: Pandemic. Russia. Capitol riot. Congress. Immigration

Oregon, the state that produces the most Christmas trees in the US, has lost acres upon acres of seedlings due to the recent record heat. That means tighter tree supplies now and possibly for years to come — and higher prices to match. Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

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1. Coronavirus

The CDC is moving more and more countries to its highest-risk travel tier among Omicron coronavirus concerns and rising Covid-19 cases across the world. Several European countries, including France and Portugal, are the latest to be added to the CDC’s Level 4 list. A coronavirus resurgence in Europe is currently threatening the regional economy, and a drop in tourism is one of the main factors. Back in the US, a rise in cases is complicating workplace policies. Companies are delaying return-to-office plans, including Ford, which asked 30,000 workers to remain home after initially scheduling a return next month. And in New York City, all private sector employers will soon be required to implement a Covid-19 vaccine mandate.

2. Russia

President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold an urgent call today as the Western world grows increasingly alarmed at signs Russia is planning to invade Ukraine. A spokesman for the Kremlin has called the notion “hysteria,” but the US, Ukraine, and their allies are not ignoring the Russian buildup of troops along its western border. US officials in recent days have weighed whether to issue wide-reaching sanctions on Russia meant to deter Putin. This week, Putin visited New Delhi and oversaw the signing of new trade and arms deals, one of which will also see India produce more than 600,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles. India is a key US ally, and the US has expressed reservations about growing military cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi.

3. Capitol riot

Marc Short, the former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, is cooperating with the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot. This is a significant development that will give investigators insight from one of the highest-ranking Trump officials. Short is still one of Pence’s closest advisers and is a witness to many critical events at the center of the investigation, including what happened to Pence at the Capitol on January 6 and how former President Donald Trump pressured Pence not to certify the presidential election. Short’s cooperation also signals an openness among Pence’s inner circle to talk to the committee — a change from some in Trump’s inner circle who have defied House subpoenas.

4. Congress

The December 15 debt ceiling deadline is looming, and the question may not be whether Congress votes to raise it, but who will take the fall for the politically toxic vote. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnnell is reportedly working on a plan to raise the nation’s borrowing limit — which is a must if the US wants to avoid economic chaos — while forcing Democrats to be the ones to pull the trigger. However, the plan requires Republican cooperation under the rules of the Senate, and it’s not clear whether 10 of McConnell’s party colleagues will agree to it. Meanwhile, Biden’s key economic legislation, known as the Build Back Better bill, is still languishing. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is insisting the bill can still pass his chamber by Christmas despite lingering differences among Democrats.

5. Immigration

The Biden administration has relaunched a Trump-era border policy known as “Remain in Mexico.” The policy allows officials to send non-Mexican migrants back to Mexico to await their US immigration court hearings. The Biden administration pledged to end the program and begin admitting migrants who were subjected to it, but a federal judge in Texas ordered the administration to revive the policy. Still, the administration has promise to make changes that will, as White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “improve humanitarian components,” like improving access to lawyers. However, the return of the policy is still a deeply unwelcome and discouraging one for immigration advocates.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

‘Allyship’ is Dictionary.com’s Word of the Year 

2021 was a good time to expand your social justice vocabulary.

New ‘Harry Potter’ reunion trailer is here

Harry Potter and the Comfort Watch.”

Instagram will now tell users when to take a break from using the app

It could be a helpful reminder, or people could just keep scrolling anyway — just a a little guiltier afterward.

KFC is testing a new ‘Capitol City Mambo’ wing sauce in three regions

Washington, DC, friends will recognize this one. The rest of you are in for a delicious ride.

DoorDash thinks speedy grocery delivery is the future

And if you’ve ever had a sudden and intense hankering for one specific food and just can’t leave the house to get it, you’ll agree.

IN MEMORIAM

Medina Spirit, the horse who won this year’s Kentucky Derby, died yesterday during a workout at Santa Anita racetrack in Southern California. The racetrack said the 3-year-old colt died of a “probable cardiac event.”

TODAY’S NUMBER

511

That’s how many coal ash ponds are in the US, according to a CNN analysis of data compiled by Earthjustice. Coal ash, the byproduct of burning coal, is known to be toxic, and industrial facilities and utilities often store the waste in so-called “ponds,” ostensibly to keep it from endangering the surrounding environment. But experts worry that hundreds of these ponds could actually be contaminating groundwater and waterways, doing untold damage to humans and the environment.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“US diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who announced yesterday that the Biden administration will engage in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics

TODAY’S WEATHER

Check your local forecast here>>>

AND FINALLY

Crab rave!

Every October, some 40 million red crabs on Christmas Island scuttle down to the shore to do a little crab canoodling and make some babies. It is, unsurprisingly, quite a sight. (Click here to view)

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