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1. THE PANDEMIC: Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that the US might enter a fifth COVID-19 wave as the threat of the new Omicron variant looms. He and other top health officials have also said that the Omicron variant, which was first detected in southern Africa, may already be in the US. Fauci stressed that Americans should continue to get their COVID-19 shots and booster vaccines.
Here's what we know about Omicron and what we still need to learn:
It has a "record" number of mutations: National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told "Fox News Sunday" that this fact "does make you worry, therefore, that it's a sufficiently different virus."
White House says the best step is to get vaccinated: Health officials held a call with South African scientists on Sunday to review the latest data, The Washington Post reports. Officials are expected to continue to push already-vaccinated Americans to get their booster shots.
Meanwhile, South Africa feels it has been unfairly targeted: "This latest round of travel bans is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker," South Africa's foreign ministry said in a statement over the weekend.
2. How a Confederate-history-rich town is responding to the critical race theory fight: School-board meetings are now academic battlegrounds, but in Winchester, Virginia, an Insider reporter found a town trying hard to teach about racial equity. Winchester earned the nickname "the shuttlecock of the Confederacy" because it was the most contested town during the Civil War. By contrast, the dominant theme at the meeting at John Kerr Elementary School was equity. No one there argued that schools were "indoctrinating" children. Read more about how this Virginia town is avoiding heated culture wars.
3. Congress returns to looming deadlines: Lawmakers return from their Thanksgiving break for a four-week sprint where they will need to avoid defaulting on debt and pass the yearly authorization of nearly a trillion dollars of defense programs, The Washington Post reports. The most urgent need is to avoid a government shutdown by December 3. Democratic leaders are also pushing the party to finish work on Biden's massive social spending plan, with senators expected to pass a bill far different from House Democrats' nearly $2 trillion legislation. More on Congress' frenetic year-end schedule.
4. A notorious stock-market bear warns of trouble ahead: John Hussman, who predicted the dot-com bubble, says indicators of a stock market peak are beyond the famous 2000s tech-stock plunge. "I've never observed as many historical indications of a market peak occurring simultaneously," Hussman said. Read more about the indicators that Hussman says shows the market has reached its peak.
5. Supreme Court to hear major abortion case this week: Justices will hear arguments on Wednesday about a Mississippi law that amounts to a full-frontal challenge of Roe v. Wade, the Associated Press reports. The Mississippi law "would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, well before viability," which is something previous courts have never allowed. In fact, the Supreme Court "had never before even agreed to hear a case over a pre-viability abortion ban." Here's what court watchers are looking for as justices consider a potentially monumental decision.
6. Black Friday shopping fails to reach pre-pandemic levels: Early data shows a mixed review for the traditional kick-off to the holiday shopping season. Though retailers made some gains — including in areas like in-store traffic and mobile sales — data shows the industry is still struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels. The findings also indicate a shift in consumer spending patterns, such as starting shopping earlier in the season and taking advantage of newer services like buy-now-pay-later. More on the key takeaways from Black Friday reports.
7. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene calls some Democratic lawmakers "Islamic terrorist sympathizers": Greene attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar, saying the Minnesota Democrat and some of her colleagues were undeserving of an apology because they are "Islamic terrorist sympathizers" and "communists." Greene's comments come after Rep. Lauren Boebert apologized for implying that Omar was a terrorist. Some Republicans — including Rep. Adam Kinzinger – and Democrats had called out Boebert for her remarks. More on the situation.
8. Matthew McConaughey rules out Texas gubernatorial campaign: McConaughey said he is choosing not to enter politics "at this moment" after publicly contemplating a run. The Academy Award winner added that "we got to start shining a light on our shared values, the ones that cross party lines." Read McConaughey's entire statement on his decision and what he wants to do next.
9. Fauci said Republican attacks against him are "nonsense": "I have to laugh at that. I should be prosecuted? What happened on January 6, Senator?" Fauci told CBS of Sen. Ted Cruz's previous suggestion that the infectious-diseases expert should be prosecuted for claims that he lied about gain-of-function research. Fauci added that he views attacks from the likes of Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul as nothing more than "nonsense" and "noise." More from the interview.
10. The supply chain crisis is changing how people view used goods: Executives at AptDeco and Fernish, two companies that rent or sell furniture through a circular business model, told Insider that the secondhand economy's growing popularity is really about shifting consumer attitudes toward used products. More on the trend.
Today's trivia question: Who was the first president to set up a Christmas tree inside the White House? Email your answer and a suggested question to me at email@example.com.