“Omicron” stirs COVID fears

A NEW CORONAVIRUS variant – omicron – has emerged from South Africa (Shutterstock).

Another coronavirus variant has the potential to add to the grief caused by COVID-19 over the past two years.

The Associated Press is reporting that a new strain, dubbed “omicron” by the World Health Organization, has emerged and may be more be more widely transmissible and cause more hospitalizations and deaths than, for example, the delta and

“It seems to spread rapidly,” said President Joe Biden on Friday as he announced new restrictions on travel to and from South Africa, where omicron was first discovered. “I’ve decided we’re going to be cautious.”

The U.S. will be joined by Canada, Russia and many European Union nations curbing travel from seven countries in that area.

So far, there’s no evidence that the variant will turn out to be as dangerous as initially feared, or that it’s resistant to the vaccines that are being administered. But concerns about future impacts helped drive stocks down on Friday (see below).

Iconic playwright Sondheim dead at 91

A POSTER for 1961 film West Side Story”( Wikipedia).

Stephen Sondheim whose songs are among the most admired and original in American musical theater history, died in his home Friday at 91.

According to The New York Times, Sondheim was “not known to be ill” and had a Thanksgiving dinner with friends on Thursday.

Sondheim wrote lyrics and/or music for legendary plays such as “West Side Story,” “Gypsy,” “Company,” “A Little Night Music,” “Sweeney Todd” and others.

His musicals won 11 Tony Awards as well as a Pulitzer Prize (“Sunday in the Park”). In 2015 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama.

Sports: Michigan vs. OSU is Big Ten biggie

Until the College Football Playoffs start in a few weeks, the biggest clash in the world of university football comes on Saturday, when the Michigan Wolverines (10-1, ranked fifth in the nation) host Ohio State (10-1, ranked second) at Ann Arbor.

Michigan has the advantage of being the home team, but the Buckeyes have history on their side, having won eight games in a row in this series, and 17 of the last 19 games.

At stake is not just the Big Ten conference title, but also a likely ticket to the four-team playoffs. Whichever team wins is almost certain to make the cut, while the loser just gets cut. Buckeyes are 7.5-point favorites. The game’s at noon Saturday on Fox.


  • UCLA (7-4) hosts Cal (4-6) on Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • USC (4-6) hosts BYU (9-2) on Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN.

Weather: Steady (and sunny) as it goes

SUNNY WEATHER is forecast.

If you’re not bored with “the same old weather every day,” you’ll like the forecast for the West Orange County area for the next few days.

Sunny weather is the outlook through Monday with daytime highs around 74 or 75 (overnight lows ranging from 49 to 52).

In coastal Huntington Beach, the temperature is expected to be 72 degrees each day with overnight lows of 50 to 54.

Stocks: New COVID fears slam Wall Street

Worries about the new “omicron” variant of the coronavirus drove stocks down on Friday. The S&P 500 fell 106.82 points (2.27 percent) to 4,594.62, while the Dow declined 905.04 points (2.53 percent) to 34,899.34. Nasdaq lost 353.57 points (2.23 percent) to 15,491.66. Energy stocks – especially petroleum – fell the hardest while pharmaceuticals posted big gains.

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