Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: November 28, 2021

The Omicron variant spreads, Hondurans vote for a new president, and more


Omicron strain reaches U.K., Germany, Italy, and more

The new Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus, labeled a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization (WHO), has reached the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Hong Kong, and Australia. Public officials in the Czech Republic continue to await lab results. The U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Israel, and many other nations, as well as the European Union, have announced restrictions on travelers coming from southern African countries.


Hondurans vote for new president as incumbent faces extradition

Hondurans vote today for a new president. This election could remove the governing National Party from office for the first time since it took power in a 2009 military coup that removed leftist President Mel Zelaya. Xiomara Castro, Zelaya's wife, currently leads in the polls. National Party candidate Nasry Asfura is in second place, but his campaign has been marred by allegations that he embezzled millions of dollars during his two terms as mayor of Tegucigalpa, the nation's capital city. The incumbent, Juan Orlando Hernández, has been accused by U.S. prosecutors of funding his campaigns with drug money and could be extradited to the U.S. if his party loses power.


Taiwanese air force warns off Chinese incursion

Taiwan's military scrambled fighters and readied missile defenses after 27 Chinese military aircraft entered its air defense zone Sunday. The People's Liberation Army Air Force launched a wave of similar incursions in early October. This latest provocation included 18 fighters, 6 bombers, and an aerial refueling aircraft. Chinese public opinion and political rhetoric have become increasingly bellicose in recent months, with some observers fearing that the People's Republic may be laying the groundwork for an invasion of Taiwan, which the PRC government regards as a rebel province.


South Africa objects to Omicron travel bans

South Africa should not be "punished" for having the medical expertise that enabled its early detection of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, the country's Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation said in a statement Saturday. South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor expressed concerns that travel restrictions targeting South Africa and other southern African countries would negatively impact business and tourism. A World Health Organization spokesperson said Friday that "implementing travel measures is being cautioned against" and that countries should "apply a risk-based and scientific approach." The European Union has imposed travel bans aimed at slowing the spread of Omicron, as have the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, and a host of other nations.  


Swiss hold referendum on COVID restrictions

Polls close today in a Swiss referendum on the country's COVID restrictions. If a majority votes "No," a law that requires a vaccination certificate or negative test for entry into many public spaces will be repealed. Switzerland is currently experiencing record high infection rates similar to those affecting Germany and Austria. About two thirds of the population has been vaccinated. Switzerland practices a form of semi-direct democracy in which an unusually high number of legislative and constitutional changes are approved or rejected via referendum. Polls suggest that voters will opt to leave COVID restrictions in place.


Wisconsin senators issue bipartisan plea to stop politicizing Waukesha killings

Wisconsin Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D) and Ron Johnson (R) issued a joint statement Saturday asking people not to "exploit the tragedy that occurred last Sunday in Waukesha for their own political purposes." Six people are dead and more than 60 injured after a driver ploughed his SUV into a Christmas parade. Prosecutors have charged Darrell E. Brooks with homicide. The senators' statement comes after several conservative commentators accused mainstream media of painting the attack as a getaway attempt gone wrong rather than an intentional mass murder and of ignoring posts on Brooks' Facebook account that parrot Black Hebrew Israelite rhetoric and encourage violence against white people.  


Israel closes borders and reinstitutes phone tracking to slow Omicron

Israel has closed its borders to all non-citizens in an attempt to slow the spread of the new Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus. While several other nations have implemented travel bans targeting southern Africa, Israel is the first country to close its borders entirely. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says he plans to keep schools and businesses open and to continue encouraging citizens to receive booster shots. The country's internal security service will also resume tracking the cell phones of Israelis who are confirmed to be carriers of the new variant, a policy that was first implemented in March 2020 and abandoned a year later.


San Francisco security guard dies after being shot in attempted robbery

Security guard Kevin Nishita died Saturday after being shot Wednesday by man attempting to rob the San Francisco TV news crew Nishita had been assigned to protect. The shooting took place in downtown Oakland. The killer remains at large. Oakland Police are offering a reward of $32,500 for information leading to an arrest. A statement from law enforcement warned of "armed roving caravans" carrying out robberies across Oakland and often exchanging gunfire with security guards and police officers in the process.


Michigan defeats Ohio state for the first time since 2011

The University of Michigan Wolverines defeated Ohio State University Buckeyes 42-27 in Ann Arbor Saturday, celebrating their first victory over longtime football rival OSU since 2011. ESPN writer David M. Hale attributes the Wolverines' victory to their strong ground game and to their defense, which "held Ohio State to a season low in points and yardage." The Wolverines will face the University of Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big 10 Championship in Indianapolis on Dec. 4.


Hanukkah and Advent start Sunday

Hanukkah begins at sundown this Sunday. The Jewish festival, which lasts for eight days, commemorates the rededication of the Jewish Temple in 164 B.C. following its desecration by the Seleucid King Antiochus IV. One account of the holiday's origins can be found in the book of Second Maccabees. Sunday is also the beginning of Advent for Christians who use the Western calendar. Advent is a 40-day period of spiritual preparation for the Feast of the Nativity — also known as Christmas — which celebrates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.


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