The Wider World

300k more COVID-19 deaths?

THE OMICRON variant is creating so many new cases of coronavirus that up to 300,000 more Americans may perish, according to a computer estimate (Shutterstock).

As many as 50,000 to 300,000 more Americans may die of the coronavirus before it is expected to abate in the spring.

According to the Associated Press, a computer model indicates that because of the huge surge in new cases prompted by the Omicron variant, the health care system may be stretched to the point where more people will die, despite the fact that Omicron usually causes milder infections and fewer deaths, the sheer number of new cases suggests many more deaths.

At the greatest risk are the unvaccinated, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions. So far, over 850,000 Americans have succumbed to the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Debate opens on voting rights bills

Facing what’s considered to be a long-shot battle to pass two voting rights bills, Democrats in the U.S. Senate opened debate Tuesday on the measures.

SENATE wing of the U.S Capitol building (Wikipedia).

According to The New York Times, the Democrats have been able to use a “procedural shortcut” to bring the matter to the floor, but still face the obstacle of a filibuster that would prevent a vote.

The Senate is evenly divided at 50 votes each, and Vice President Kamala Harris could break a tie. But since all 50 Republicans are in opposition and two Democrats – Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema – support the bills but refuse to vote to change the filibuster rule, the effort is considered likely to fail.

Under current Senate rules, 60 votes are required to override a filibuster and proceed to a vote.

The bills, which have already passed the House of Representatives, are aimed at overcoming what Democrats call “voter suppression” in some states. Republicans call the bills a partisan effort to gain power at the state level.

Sports: Be careful in Beijing

The Winter Olympics scheduled for Beijing next month are prompting warnings about political protests, and not from the Chinese government.

According to The Associated Press, human rights activists are urging athletes not to take part in any demonstrations in the awards ceremonies where medals are awarded.

Olympic rules prohibit such protests and the Chinese have been in the process of cracking down on dissent. The possibility of legal action by the government against any athletes who disobey can’t be ruled out.

Weather: Chill turns to sunshine

In the West Orange County area, Wednesday will be the last day – for a while – of gloomy weather. Under partly cloudy skies, the daytime high will be 66 with an overnight low of 49, with an 8 percent chance of rain. But starting on Thursday and continuing through the weekend, skies will be sunny and daytime highs will be in the mid-70s.

Finance/Business: Interest worries hit stocks

Concerns about a possible rise in interest rates caused all three major stock indexes into retreat on Tuesday. At closing time, the Dow Jones 30 Industrials lost 543.47 points to finish at 35,368.47.  Nasdaq dropped 2.6 percent to 14, 506 and the S&P 500 declined 1.83 percent to 4,577.35. However, after-hours trading showed recovery – barely – into positive territory.

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