AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST
Omicron’s New Year’s cocktail: Sorrow, fear, hope for 2022
PARIS (AP) — Sorrow for the dead and dying, fear of more infections to come and hopes for an end to the coronavirus pandemic were — again — the bittersweet cocktail with which the world said good riddance to 2021 and ushered in 2022.
New Year’s Eve, which used to be celebrated globally with a free-spirited wildness, felt instead like a case of deja vu, with the fast-spreading omicron variant again filling hospitals.
“We just need enjoyment,” said Karen Page, 53, who was among the fed-up revelers venturing out in London. “We have just been in so long.”
The mostly muted New Year’s Eve celebrations around the world ushered in the fourth calendar year framed by the global pandemic. More than 285 million people have been infected by the coronavirus worldwide since late 2019 and more than 5 million have died.
In Paris, officials canceled the fireworks amid surging infections and reintroduced mandatory mask-wearing outdoors, an obligation followed by the majority of people who milled about on the Champs-Elysées as the final hours of 2021 ticked away.
‘So many memories’: Over 500 homes feared destroyed by fire
SUPERIOR, Colo. (AP) — One couple returned home Friday to find the mailbox about the only thing left standing. Charred cars and a burned trampoline lay outside smoldering houses. On some blocks, homes reduced to smoking ruins stood next to ones practically unscathed by the flames.
Colorado residents driven from their neighborhoods by a terrifying, wind-whipped wildfire got their first, heartbreaking look at the damage the morning after, while others could only wait and wonder whether their homes were among the more than 500 feared destroyed.
At least seven people were injured, but remarkably there were no immediate reports of any deaths or anyone missing in the aftermath of the blaze outside Denver.
Cathy Glaab found that her home in the town of Superior where she lives with her husband had been turned into a pile of charred and twisted debris. It was one of seven houses in a row that burned to the ground.
“The mailbox is standing,” Glaab said, trying to crack a smile through tears. She added sadly, “So many memories.”
Betty White, TV’s Golden Girl, dies at 99
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Betty White, whose saucy, up-for-anything charm made her a television mainstay for more than 60 years, whether as a man-crazy TV hostess on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” or the loopy housemate on “The Golden Girls,” has died. She was 99.
White’s death was confirmed Friday by Jeff Witjas, her longtime agent and friend. She would have turned 100 on Jan. 17.
“I truly never thought she was going to pass away,” Witjas told The Associated Press. “She meant the world to me as a friend. She was the most positive person I’ve ever known.”
Witjas said White had been staying close to her Los Angeles home during the pandemic out of caution but had no diagnosed illness. It was unclear if she died Thursday night or Friday, he said.
Her death brought tributes from celebrities and politicians alike.
Should kids be vaccinated? Brazil turns to online survey
BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — As world leaders rely on public health specialists to inform their decisions about whether and how to vaccinate children against the coronavirus, Brazil’s government is asking the online public for guidance.
In recent weeks, President Jair Bolsonaro has staked out a position against immunizing kids aged between 5 and 11, and his administration took the unusual step of creating a platform that could validate a stance that is widely opposed by experts. Since his government on Dec. 23 unveiled its online questionnaire on the issue, the president’s supporters have been highly engaged on messaging apps trying to pressure parents to swing the results.
One widely shared post Wednesday on the Telegram group ‘Bolsonaro Army,’ which has about 37,000 members, said the vaccine is experimental and suggested that receiving shots could be more harmful than getting infected, although several studies have shown the opposite is true. It also included a link to the government’s survey, which other people were posting along with instructions to relay to friends and family.
The rally for resistance resembles online behavior observed earlier this month, which catapulted Bolsonaro to the top of the heap in TIME magazine’s readers poll for Person of the Year, David Nemer, an expert on Brazil’s far-right groups on messaging apps, told The Associated Press. Bolsonaro garnered about one-quarter of the more than 9 million votes — nearly triple that of the runner-up, former U.S. President Donald Trump. The magazine’s editors instead chose Elon Musk as 2021 Person of the Year.
This time, however, online efforts are aimed at something far more significant than bestowing an honorific on the president. The survey, which concludes Jan. 2, stands to shape vaccination policy in Latin America’s most populous nation, home to 20 million kids aged 5 to 11. Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga has said they will soon be eligible for vaccination, but survey results will help determine guidelines including whether shots could only be administered with parental consent and a doctor’s prescription.
Limited revelers return to Times Square to usher in 2022
NEW YORK (AP) — New York City readied to embrace the new year — and bid good riddance to another pandemic-marred 12 months — as it revived its annual New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, after forgoing a public event last year.
It did so as an uneasy nation tried to muster optimism that the worst days of the pandemic are now behind it — even as public health officials cautioned Friday against unbridled celebrations amid surging COVID-19 infections from the omicron variant.
The year marched across the globe, time zone by time zone, and thousands of New Year’s revelers stood shoulder to shoulder in a slight chill to await the festivities.
In Times Square, throngs stretched for blocks to soak in the scaled-back celebration, with many traveling from afar to take part. Confetti lit up by electronic billboards swirled in a light wind on a mild winter night in New York City.
Mary Gonzalez stood a few feet behind a crowd, wanting to keep her distance from anyone unwittingly carrying the virus.
US and Russia face deep differences ahead of Ukraine talks
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — After tough talk between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin over the Russian troop buildup on the Ukraine border, both sides insist they are hopeful that a pathway to easing tensions could open during diplomatic talks set for January.
But with less than two weeks to go before senior U.S. and Russian officials are to meet in Geneva, the chasm is deep and the prospect of finding an exit to the crisis faces no shortage of complications.
Biden on Friday told reporters that he advised Putin when they spoke by phone a day earlier that the upcoming talks could only work if the Russian leader “deescalated, not escalated, the situation” in the days ahead. The U.S. president said he also sought to make plain to Putin that the U.S. and allies stood ready to hit Russia with punishing sanctions if the Russians further invade Ukraine.
“I made it clear to President Putin that if he makes any more moves into Ukraine we will have severe sanctions,” Biden said. “We will increase our presence in Europe with NATO allies.”
Meanwhile, Biden’s national security team on Friday turned their attention to preparation for the Geneva talks, set for Jan. 9 and 10, to discuss the Russian massing of some 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine.
Actors, comedians and president react to Betty White’s death
Tributes from fellow actors and comedians poured in on social media Friday in reaction to the death of Betty White. “The Golden Girls” star was 99. Henry Winkler thanked White for her humor, warmth and activism. Seth Meyers says White was the only “Saturday Night Live″ host he ever saw get a standing ovation at the after party. Kathy Griffin shared a few stories in a Twitter thread and wrote that White treated her like an equal in the comedy world. Dan Rather said our world would be better if more people followed White’s example. White was a television mainstay for more than 60 years.
“It’s a shame. She was a lovely lady …. Ninety-nine years old. As my mother would say, God love her.” — President Joe Biden, to reporters Friday.
“Betty White : I is very hard to absorb you are not here anymore.. But the memories of your deLIGHT are ..Thank you for yur humor, your warmth and your activism … Rest now and say Hi to Bill.” — Henry Winkler, on Twitter
“The world looks different now. She was great at defying expectation. She managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough. We’ll miss you, Betty. Now you know the secret.” — Ryan Reynolds, on Twitter
Chief justice: Judges must better avoid financial conflicts
WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts says the federal judiciary needs to do more to ensure judges don’t participate in cases where they have financial conflicts of interest.
Roberts made the comments as part of his annual report on the federal judiciary released Friday evening.
Roberts pointed to a series of stories recently in The Wall Street Journal that found that “between 2010 and 2018, 131 federal judges participated in a total of 685 matters involving companies in which they or their families owned shares of stock.” Federal judges and Supreme Court justices are required under a federal ethics law to recuse themselves from cases where they have a personal financial interest.
“Let me be crystal clear: the Judiciary takes this matter seriously. We expect judges to adhere to the highest standards, and those judges violated an ethics rule,” Roberts wrote in the nine-page report.
Roberts is one of three justices on the nine-member Supreme Court to hold individual stocks. Those holdings sometimes result in the justices recusing themselves from a case or selling stock in order to participate. The other justices who own individual stocks are Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito. In the past those holdings have occasionally resulted in issues.
Wave of canceled flights from omicron closes out 2021
More canceled flights frustrated air travelers on the final day of 2021 and appeared all but certain to inconvenience hundreds of thousands more over the New Year’s holiday weekend.
Airlines blamed many of the cancellations on crew shortages related to the spike in COVID-19 infections, along with wintry weather in parts of the United States.
United Airlines, which suffered the most cancellations among the biggest U.S. carriers, agreed to pay pilot bonuses to fix a staffing shortage.
By early evening Friday on the East Coast, airlines had scrubbed more than 1,550 U.S. flights — about 6% of all scheduled flights — and roughly 3,500 worldwide, according to tracking service FlightAware.
That pushed the total U.S. cancellations since Christmas Eve to more than 10,000 and topped the previous single-day peak this holiday season, which was 1,520 on Dec. 26.
Run Tide! No. 1 Bama over non-P5 Cincy 27-6 in CFP semi
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Brian Robinson Jr. grew up near the Alabama campus watching the Crimson Tide win championships, and wanting to play a big part in one.
With the fifth-year senior and first-year featured back running for a career-high 204 yards and Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young throwing three touchdown passes, the Crimson Tide earned the chance to play for yet another national title with a 27-6 victory over Cincinnati on Friday in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Cotton Bowl.
It was a bitter finish for Desmond Ridder and for the Bearcats, the first non-Power Five team ever to get a taste of the CFP. They were physically overwhelmed on the big stage.
“B-Rob was huge for us all night,” Young said. “Making that first guy miss, falling forward fighting for those extra yards. He was a constant.”
“As a young kid, just always wanted to be a part of this program. Just always wanted to play for a national championship,” Robinson said. “Just being able to go out there and just lead this team in this big game on this big stage … it’s like a dream come true.”
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!