Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 2, 2022

Airlines cancel almost 4,400 flights on New Year's Day, Ohio State wins the Rose Bowl, and more

1

Airlines cancel almost 4,400 flights on New Year’s Day

Ongoing staffing shortages driven by the rapid spread of Omicron led to the cancellation of over 4,400 flights worldwide on New Year's Day. More than 2,600 of those were flights into, out of, or within the United States. Thousands of travelers were stranded. Chicago, which saw over 1,000 flights into or out of its two major airports scrubbed, had to deal with winter storms in addition to the virus. Further disruptions were expected for Sunday.

2

Buckeyes win squeaker in Rose Bowl's return to Pasadena

In what sports writer Tom Fornelli called "a Rose Bowl Game that will live for the ages," the Ohio State University Buckeyes defeated the University of Utah Utes 48-45 Saturday. The Utes took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but stellar performances by OSU quarterback C.J. Stroud and wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba drove a successful comeback culminating in a game-winning field goal with 9 seconds left. Star Trek: The Next Generation and Reading Rainbow actor LeVar Burton served as grand marshal at the Rose Bowl parade. Last year's Rose Bowl game was played in Arlington, Texas, due to California Gov. Gavin Newsom's (D) ban on crowds at sporting events. The parade was canceled entirely.

3

As Omicron surges, some U.S. colleges return to remote instruction

Students at more than 70 American colleges and universities won't be resuming in-person classes after this year's winter break due to the ongoing spike in Omicron cases. Some universities — like Harvard, Syracuse University, and the University of Chicago — are delaying students' return to campus. Others, like Michigan State University and George Washington University, are allowing students back on campus but moving all classes online. Administrators at Syracuse said the first three weeks of January would likely be "the most challenging of the [Omicron] surge." Most universities that have implemented precautions say they expect to return to normal, in-person instruction by the beginning of February. K-12 schools across the country face similar decisions.

4

Fire damages South African Parliament

A massive fire broke out in Cape Town Sunday morning, spreading to South Africa's Parliament complex and causing one building's roof to collapse. The National Assembly chamber was also damaged. The blaze, which began only hours after the state funeral of anti-apartheid activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, started in a nearby office building. Government officials originally said the fire was contained, but soon after it spread to the new Parliament building. Local officials say the building's sprinkler system appears to have malfunctioned. Parliament is currently on its holiday recess, and no injuries have been reported. Firefighters continue to combat the blaze.

5

Kim Jong-un touts domestic agenda at party conference

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, marking his 10th year in power, delivered a speech at a Workers' Party of Korea conference in which, according to state media summaries released Saturday, he avoided bellicose rhetoric and focused instead on domestic, pocketbook issues. Kim broke with precedent by making only vague allusions to ongoing tensions with South Korea and the United States. He did, however, pledge to make "progress in solving the food, clothing and housing problem." North Korea, always insular, has suffered severe shortages after closing its borders entirely in January 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. State media claims North Korea has had zero cases of the virus. Most external observes doubt this assertion.

6

'Bioengineered' replaces 'GMO' on food labels

Starting Saturday, food with altered DNA sold in the U.S. that was previously labeled as "genetically engineered" (GE) or "genetically modified organisms" (GMO), will now be labeled as "bioengineered." This new directive from the U.S. Department of Agriculture aims to provide uniform language to replace the variety of state labeling policies. Packaging will also include a phone number or QR code consumers can use to access more detailed information. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, eating bioengineered foods poses no health risks.

7

Germany decommissions 3 of its 6 remaining nuke plants

Germany powered down 3 of its 6 remaining nuclear power plants Saturday, making good on a government pledge to denuclearize after the 2011 meltdown of Japan's Fukushima reactor. The other three plants will be deactivated by the end of 2022. Supporters of the shutdown see it is a necessary step in Germany's planned transition to renewable energy. Critics argue that, without nuclear, the country will burn more fossil fuels, have a less reliable power grid, and become increasingly dependent on Russian natural gas.

8

At least 7 injured and 3 still missing after Colorado fire destroys almost 1,000 homes

No deaths have been confirmed, but authorities announced Saturday that 3 people are still missing after a fire that broke out Thursday destroyed almost 1,000 homes in the Denver suburbs and damaged hundreds more. At least 7 people were injured. The blaze burned more than 9 square miles in the cities of Louisville and Superior, and many homes that escaped direct fire damage were left without power or heat. National Guard troops have arrived to aid in the recovery effort. The Red Cross and Salvation Army are on the ground distributing space heaters, bottled water, and blankets.

9

South Africa holds state funeral for Archbishop Tutu

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa hailed the late Anglican hierarch and anti-apartheid campaigner as "our moral compass and national conscience" at Archbishop Desmond Tutu's state funeral Saturday. Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, died on December 26 at the age of 90. His requiem Mass was held at St. George's Cathedral in Cape Town. After the funeral, Tutu's body was taken away to be cremated and his ashes privately interred behind the cathedral's pulpit.

10

U.K. announces mask mandate for English secondary school students

Students at secondary schools in England will be required to wear face coverings when they return from Christmas holiday, United Kingdom Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced Sunday. Teachers will not be required to wear masks. England allowed students to go unmasked from the beginning of the school year in September. The other three U.K. nations — Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland — enforced mask mandates, which will continue to remain in effect.

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