Betting on the booster – USA TODAY

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As omicron emerges as the dominant COVID-19 variant in the United States, data suggests vaccine boosters are effective in fighting it. Congressional Democrats are pushing forward with the president’s social spending bill. And glaciers in the Himalayas are melting at an “exceptional” rate.
👋 It’s Laura! I’m back from vacation! It’s Monday, and here’s all the news you need to know.
But first, why do we smooch under the mistletoe? 🎄  It’s literally a parasite, but that’s what makes it special. Here’s a breakdown of the age-old tradition. 
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Omicron has raced ahead of other variants and is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the U.S., accounting for 73% of new infections last week, federal health officials said Monday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers showed nearly a six-fold increase in omicron’s share of infections in only one week. In much of the country, omicron’s prevalence is even higher. It’s responsible for an estimated 90% of new infections in the New York area, the Southeast, the industrial Midwest and the Pacific Northwest. Much about the omicron variant remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe illness. Early studies suggest the vaccinated will need a booster shot for the best chance at preventing omicron infection but even without the extra dose, vaccination still should offer strong protection against severe illness and death.
Jurors heard closing arguments and began deliberating Monday in the manslaughter trial of former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter, who fatally shot Daunte Wright while yelling “Taser” this year. Prosecutor Erin Eldridge described Potter as a 26-year veteran police officer who knew the risks of drawing and firing her weapon when she shot the 20-year-old Black motorist in April in a traffic stop-turned-arrest in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb. Potter, 49, is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter. Prosecutors say she recklessly handled her firearm and caused Wright’s death through her “culpable negligence” – a conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk. Defense attorneys say Potter confused her firearm for a Taser but was justified in using deadly force to prevent Wright from injuring another officer.
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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote in a letter to colleagues Monday that the Senate would consider legislation addressing voting rights and the Build Back Better bill at the start of the new year. Though Schumer touted Congress’ milestones this session, he acknowledged “this session has also led to moments of deep discontent and frustration.” One of those moments came Sunday, when Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he wouldn’t vote for the Build Back Better Act, which includes national prekindergarten and actions to address climate change. Biden and Democratic leaders had negotiated with Manchin for months in hopes of passing the measure. Without Manchin’s vote, it is unlikely Biden’s domestic policy package will pass in an evenly divided Senate. 
As the omicron variant spreads, COVID-19 has once again disrupted the sports world, shutting down teams and postponing games. That is no more evident than in the NFL, where an extra game will be played Monday night, as well as two more Tuesday after COVID-19 postponements. In the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Montreal Canadiens have been shut down through the league’s holiday break because of a number of cases on each team. The NBA adjusted its rules, allowing teams to sign one replacement player for each player that tests positive for the virus until Jan. 19. 
Glaciers in the Himalayas are melting at an “exceptional” rate because of global warming, a study published Monday said. Ice is being lost from Himalayan glaciers “at a rate that is at least 10 times higher than the average rate over past centuries,” said the study’s lead author, Jonathan Carrivick. The glaciers are a critical source of water for about 250 million people in the mountains and an additional 1.65 billion who live in the river valleys below, according to a report in 2019. The Himalayan mountain range is home to the world’s third-largest amount of glacier ice.
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