First Confirmed US Case of Omicron Coronavirus Plague Variant Detected in California

(CNN) – The United States’ first confirmed case of the Omicron coronavirus variant has been identified in California.

In a White House news briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the case was in an individual who traveled from South Africa on November 22 and tested positive for Covid-19 on November 29.

That individual, Fauci said, is self-quarantining and close contacts have tested negative for the coronavirus so far.

The person was fully vaccinated and is experiencing “mild symptoms, which are improving at this point,” Fauci said.

Asked by CNN whether that person had a booster shot, Fauci said, “To my knowledge, no.”

The California and San Francisco Departments of Public Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the case was caused by the Omicron variant through genomic sequencing conducted at the University of California at San Francisco, and confirmed with the CDC, Fauci said.

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Source: CNN

Twelve Jurors, Six Alternates to Hear Ghislaine Maxwell’s case

Was she Epstein’s puppet or accomplice? The she is Ghislaine Maxwell.

Maxwell, who once dated financier Jeffrey Epstein is accused of acting as Epstein’s chief enabler, recruiting and grooming young girls for him to abuse. The charges against her stem from the allegations of four women who say she and Epstein victimized them as teens from 1994 to 2004.

The twelve jurors and six alternates to hear Maxwell’s case, starting with opening statements, were picked from a pool of 40 to 60 potential jurors who made it through initial questioning.

Prosecutors say there’s evidence Maxwell knew that the victims, including a 14-year-old, were below the age of consent and that she arranged travel for some between Epstein’s homes, including his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, his posh Manhattan townhouse and at other residences in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and London.

Maxwell has pleaded not guilty and vehemently denies wrongdoing. The 59-year-old British socialite, jailed in Brooklyn since her arrest, has called the claims against her “absolute rubbish.” Maxwell’s lawyers and family say she was Epstein’s pawn, now paying “a blood price” to satisfy public desire to see someone held accountable for his crimes.

– BCNN1

Biden’s Chief Medical Adviser: Biden Pushes Shots and Booster

Speaking on behalf of the president, Biden’s chief medical adviser has informed the American citizens that Biden will encourage Americans to get vaccinated and take the booster as well. He will not push for more restrictions to stop the spread of the new variant beyond travel to and from South Africa and seven other countries in the region.

The new variant poses the latest test to Biden’s efforts to contain the pandemic, mitigate its impacts on the economy and return a sense of normalcy to the U.S. during the holiday season.

Other nations were also moving to close their borders or reinstate lockdowns amid a host of other severe measures to prevent the omicron variant from spreading, but Dr. Anthony Fauci indicated that the U.S. was not following suit. Fauci says the ban from travels from South Africa will give the U.S. time to learn more about the variant and to “intensify” its vaccination campaign. Fauci believes that omicron will eventually show up on the U.S. shores and could become the dominant strain since omicron “has a transmissibility advantage” over other variants.

– BCNN1

No Middle Ground in the Fight Over Abortion

Roe v. Wade is back in court. This landmark 1973 ruling that declared a nationwide right to abortion, is facing its most serious challenge in 30 years in front of a court with a 6-3 conservative majority that has been remade by three appointees of President Donald Trump.

“There are no half measures here,” said Sherif Girgis, a Notre Dame law professor who once served as a law clerk for Justice Samuel Alito.

The justices can either reaffirm the constitutional right to an abortion or wipe it away altogether.

A ruling that overturned Roe and the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey would lead to outright bans or severe restrictions on abortion in 26 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

The case being argued Wednesday comes from Mississippi, where a 2018 law would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, well before viability. The Supreme Court has never allowed states to ban abortion before the point at roughly 24 weeks when a fetus can survive outside the womb.

Lower courts blocked the Mississippi law, as they have other abortion bans that employ traditional enforcement methods by state and local officials. Mississippi is one of 12 states ready to act almost immediately if Roe is overturned.

– BCNN1

West Point Graduates Call on Rep. David Eastman to Resign Stating Betrayal of Academy Values

A total of 69 West Point Graduates have called on state representative David Eastman to resign stating he has ties to a right-wing extremist group thus betraying the values of the U.S. Military Academy that he attended.

A letter signed by 69 fellow West Point graduates was published in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman and called on Eastman to resign after his membership in the Oath Keepers became public, with another name added after publication. Eastman had previously confirmed to the Anchorage Daily News that he became a member of the organization shortly after it formed more than a decade ago.

“We give it as our fixed opinion that, as a serving member of the Alaska State Legislature who has repeatedly emphasized your status as a veteran and a graduate, you have discredited yourself and betrayed the values of West Point,” the letter said. “We call on you to do the honorable thing and resign from office.”

Can one effectively serve two masters?

Ivan Hodes, a West Point graduate living in Anchorage, authored the letter. He served in the same military police battalion at Fort Richardson in Anchorage as Eastman.

“I thought that the decent thing to do would be to offer an opportunity for resignation,” Hodes told the Anchorage Daily News.

Hodes said he reached out to other West Point graduates because he was concerned Eastman, a Republican from Wasilla, was violating his duties as a legislator.

“It’s serving two masters,” Hodes said. “You can’t be loyal to the U.S. government and the government of Alaska and at the same time belong to this militia. . . . It’s OK for him to be an Oath Keeper as a private citizen. David Eastman has a duty here: he can choose to choose Oath Keepers or he can choose state government.”

Eastman is known for making divisive statements, and as Hodes said, “The reputation of the Academy is at stake.”

– BCNN1

A Smiling Michael Cohen Leaves Manhattan Federal Court After Signing Release Documents

“I feel great today. It’s been long overdue,” a smiling Michael Cohen said to a collection of camera crews alerted to his presence by a tweet he had sent Sunday as he left Manhattan Federal Court.

Cohen was sentenced to prison in December 2018 after pleading guilty to campaign finance charges and lying to Congress, among other crimes. In all, he spent about 13 1/2 months behind prison walls and a year and a half in home confinement. His time was further reduced through good behavior.

The campaign finance charges came after he helped arrange payouts during the 2016 presidential race to keep the porn actor Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal from making public claims of extramarital affairs with Trump, affairs Trump has denied.

“I will continue to provide information, testimony, documents and my full cooperation on all ongoing investigations to ensure that others are held responsible for their dirty deeds and that no one is ever believed to be above the law,” Cohen said.

– BCNN1

Jay Allen Johnson of Alaska Pleads not Guilty to Threatening 2 U.S. Senators

Jay Allen Johnson, from the small community of Delta Junction, was indicted last week on six criminal counts, including threatening to murder a U.S. official, being a felon in possession of firearms, threatening to destroy property by fire and threatening interstate communications.

The government is also seeking to confiscate two pistols, three revolvers, a rifle and a shotgun found on Johnson’s rural Alaska property because he is a felon who is not legally allowed to possess firearms.

Johnson is accused of making threats against U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both Republicans, and of threatening to burn down properties owned by Murkowski during a series of profanity-laced voice messages left over the span of months at their offices in Washington, D.C., before his Oct. 4 arrest.

In convicted, Johnson could face a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison and up to $1.5 million in fines, assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Tansey said.

– BCNN1

First Lady Jill Biden Receives 18 1/2 -foot Fraser Fir Tree

“Look how beautiful this is,” the first lady said of the 18 1/2-foot (5.6 meter) Fraser fir that was delivered by wagon to her Pennsylvania Avenue doorstep by Clydesdale horses named Ben and Winston.

She opened the holiday season at the White House on Monday by breaking off a sprig from the official Blue Room tree and giving it — and a big smooch — to her toddler grandson.

The first lady later joined President Joe Biden for a visit to the Army’s Fort Bragg in North Carolina to celebrate “friendsgiving” with service members and military families.

The two events set off a White House holiday season that is expected to be much more festive this year, as public health officials encourage those vaccinated against COVID-19 to get together in person, instead of begging Americans to stay home, as they’ve done for holidays past.

The Fraser fir will be decorated in the coming days and displayed in the Blue Room, a tradition that dates back to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, after a chandelier is removed so it can be tethered to the ceiling for safety.

– BCNN1

White Supremacist Prison Guards Create Hostile Environment for Inmates

In June, three Florida prison guards boasting of being white supremacists beat, pepper sprayed, and used a stun gun on an inmate who kept screaming, “I can’t breathe!” at a prison near the Alabama border, according to a fellow inmate who reported it to the state.

The next day, the officers at Jackson Correctional Institution did it again to another inmate. The report was filed with the Florida Department of Corrections’ Office of Inspector General.

Both incidents occurred in view of surveillance cameras, he said. Reynolds’ neatly printed letter included the exact times and locations and named the officers and inmates. It’s the type of specific information that would have made it easier for officials to determine if the reports were legitimate. But the inspector general’s office did not investigate, corrections spokeswoman Molly Best said.

Some Florida prison guards openly tout associations with white supremacist groups to intimidate inmates and Black colleagues, a persistent practice that often goes unpunished, according to allegations in public documents and interviews with a dozen inmates and current and former employees in the nation’s third-largest prison system. Corrections officials regularly receive reports about guards’ membership in the Ku Klux Klan and criminal gangs, according to former prison inspectors, and current and former officers.

Still, few such cases are thoroughly investigated by state prison inspectors; many are downplayed by officers charged with policing their own or discarded as too complicated to pursue.

“I’ve visited more than 50 (prison) facilities and have seen that this is a pervasive problem that is not going away,” said Democratic Florida state Rep. Dianne Hart. “It’s partly due to our political climate. But, those who work in our prisons don’t seem to fear people knowing that they’re white supremacists.”

Mark Caruso, a former sergeant with Florida corrections who was twice fired and reinstated after blowing the whistle on fellow officers, described the department as a “good old boy” network.

Caruso worked at three prisons in central Florida and reported inmate beatings and officer misconduct multiple times. Being a whistleblower did not work out well for him. He was fired after reporting on a colleague at the first prison where he worked as a sergeant, he said.

He was reinstated after the officers’ union challenged the firing, and he moved to a new prison. There, he again reported an officer’s use of force and was later fired and reinstated after the union challenged it again.

In 2019, he reported for duty at another new post, the Central Florida Reception Center. He was soon greeted with signs on an employee bulletin board where his name had been crossed out and “SNITCH” scrawled instead, according to testimony at a union grievance hearing. Another officer spit on his car windshield, he said.

Despite the intimidation, Caruso continued reporting inmate abuse and other illegal activity by fellow officers.

He, along with other officers who tell have been instructed not send their findings by email, but to verbally tell their superiors or write it longhand and someone in the office will type it up, of course, choosing to phrase it in whatever way he chooses.

Officers, meantime, fear retaliation.

“Officers are saying their colleagues are members, but they can have me killed,” one former investigator said.

– BCNN1

Muslim man who masqueraded as an Orthodox Jew to marry NY Jewish woman sparks FBI probe after she finds his Lebanese passport and he tells her he’s an NSA agent

Eliyah Hawila, 23, (top with his bride and bottom) whose real name is Ali Hassan Hawila and who hails from Lebanon, was already living in College Station, Texas, when he struck up an online relationship with Sally, a Jewish woman of Syrian descent who lived in Brooklyn, New York. In what appears to be a lovestruck moment of madness, Haliwa went on to fabricate an entire backstory relating to his non-existent Jewish roots after his new bride became suspicious about his past. He says he became obsessed with the Jewish religion during his lonely teenage years in the Lebanese countryside, and that he’d tried to convert, only to be rejected by a synagogue. Hawila was in fact from the southern Lebanon town of Tyre and was born into a Shi’ite Muslim household. But none of this was mentioned as the couple’s relationship developed and deepened.

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SOURCE: Daily Mail