12.9.2021

Booster Shots, Jussie Smollett, and Camel Beauty Pageants Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.
 

Good morning. It's Thursday, Dec. 9, and we're covering the efficacy of booster shots against the omicron variant, deliberations in the Jussie Smollett case in Chicago, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

NEED TO KNOW

 

Booster Shots and Omicron

Officials from biopharmaceutical giant Pfizer said booster shots of its COVID-19 vaccine appear to offer a significant increase in protection against the newly discovered omicron variant. The small study noted a 25-fold rise in neutralizing antibodies in those who've received a booster compared to those who've received just two doses. 

 

The company also noted 80% of the spike proteins recognized by CD8+ T cells—immune system machinery that kills infected cells—are unchanged in the omicron variant. This suggests those with two shots, or a sufficient immune response from acute natural infection, may retain protection against severe disease. See more on T cells and the coronavirus here

 

Researchers are still working to understand the variant. It appears to spread at least twice as fast as the delta variant, and may evade immune defenses more effectively. However, early results suggest it may lead to less severe symptoms than previous strains, an anecdotal observation from South African hospitals still under study.

 

See current US COVID-19 stats here.

Smollett Deliberations

Jury deliberations began yesterday in the high-profile trial of actor Jussie Smollett. The former “Empire” actor is accused of falsely reporting a fake hate crime to the Chicago Police in January 2019. He faces six counts of felony disorderly conduct.

 

Smollett has claimed he was attacked while walking outside late at night by two men who assaulted him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs while invoking references to then-President Donald Trump. Police identified the attackers as two acquaintances of Smollett's, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, who said the actor paid them $3,500 to carry out a false attack. Smollett, 39, denies the claims and alleges the Osundairo brothers have attempted to extort him, demanding $1M apiece to change their story. See a timeline of the case here.

 

He faces up to three years in jail but would likely face probation and community service if found guilty. Smollett still faces a civil suit from the city of Chicago to recover the cost of the investigation.

Labor Churn Continues

An estimated 4.2 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs in the month of October, according to government data released yesterday. The quits rate, the percentage of resignations relative to total employment, stood at 2.8% for the month. 

 

The figure is a slight decrease from a record 4.4 million quits in September, with the total number of workers leaving positions topping 39 million so far in 2021, on pace to set a yearly record. Economists say the departure rate reflects one of the most competitive labor markets in decades—job openings rose to 11 million in October, the second-highest number on record, and average wages rose 4.8% for the 12-month period ending in November. 

 

Referred to as the Great Resignation, experts have cited better opportunities, pandemic burnout, a shift in worker priorities, and more as reasons for the trend.

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IN THE KNOW

 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> "Jeopardy!" taps Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings as hosts into 2022; the duo were named temporary hosts after scandal-ridden Mike Richards resigned (More)

 

> Tiger Woods to play in PNC Championship with his son less than a year after being hospitalized in single-car crash (More)

 

> Jury in reality show star Josh Duggar's child pornography trial wraps first day of deliberations (More)

Science & Technology

> NASA set to launch the first space-based telescope dedicated to measuring the polarization of incoming X-rays; will allow mapping of magnetic fields surrounding neutron stars, black holes, and more (More)

 

> Weight gain after stopping smoking linked to compounds released by gut bacteria as the microbiome readjusts; effect had been observed regardless of whether former smokers began to consume more food (More)

 

> Meta (Facebook), Nike, IBM, and others join Data & Trust Alliance, a corporate-backed effort to analyze and address bias in algorithm-based hiring (More) | Biden administration reveals plans to make government carbon neutral by 2050 (More)

Business & Markets

In partnership with The Ascent

> US stock markets up slightly (S&P 500 +0.3%, Dow +0.1%, Nasdaq +0.6%) as investors continue to weigh omicron variant economic risk (More)

 

> Cryptocurrency executives appeared before the House Committee on Financial Services to discuss the industry and potential regulations (More)

 

> Shares of “meme stock” video game retailer GameStop fall in after-hours trading after losses widened in the third quarter (More)

From our partners: It's time to make 2022 the year of the one-card wallet. This card offers up to 5% cash back at places you already shop and 0% APR until 2023 on purchases and balance transfers. All with no annual fee. Making this card the only one you need.

Politics & World Affairs

> Senate to begin consideration of maneuver that would eventually allow the debt ceiling to be raised by a simple majority ahead of mid-December deadline; at least 10 GOP senators must vote to allow the process to proceed (More) | See 1440's primer on how the federal budget works (More)

 

> Jan. 6 committee to vote on recommending contempt charges against Mark Meadows after the former Trump chief of staff halted cooperation (More) | Meadows sues to have subpoenas nullified (More)

 

> India's top military leader, 11 other passengers killed in helicopter crash in southern state of Tamil Nadu; crash being investigated as an accident (More)

IN-DEPTH

 

What Happened in Paris?

NYT | Tariq Panja. When French soccer star Kheira Hamraoui was dragged from a car in November and beaten with metal bars, the attack drew parallels to the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding saga. Weeks later, new details have raised more questions than answers. (Read, paywall)

A Feast for Lost Souls

Atavist | Annelise Jolley. Roughly 25,000 people have disappeared in Mexico over the past three years, most falling victim to gang and cartel violence. Groups of relatives—wives, mothers, and daughters—have banded together, searching for remains and bonding over shared grief. (Read)

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Please support our sponsors!

ETCETERA

 

What the world was searching for in 2021.

 

... and recapping 2021 on Reddit.

 

The pandemic's impact on downtown metro areas.

 

Why thieves keep stealing catalytic converters (in comic form).

 

The year's most ridiculous pet photos.

 

Teenager with a metal detector finds a Bronze Age ax.

 

"Toxic" substitute teacher sent home for in-class karaoke.

 

Meet Midas, the four-eared cat.

 

Clickbait: There's a scandal in the world of camel beauty pageants.

 

Historybook: Actor Kirk Douglas born (1916); HBD actress Dame Judi Dench (1934); “A Charlie Brown Christmas” debuts (1965); RIP diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche (1971); Smallpox declared eradicated (1979).

 

"Hearts are the strongest when they beat in response to noble ideals."

- Ralph Bunche

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