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Omicron variant may already be in US, Fauci says

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The omicron variant, a new strain of COVID-19 triggering fears worldwide, could already be in the United States.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Saturday that while there is no indication the mutated virus has made its way over from South Africa, where it was initially detected ...Read more

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Black Friday smash-and-grab robberies put Los Angeles police on tactical alert

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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles police late Friday were on citywide tactical alert after a wave of smash-and-grab “flash mob” robberies at high-end stores.

And in Lakewood, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detectives were investigating a possible smash-and-grab robbery at a Home Depot after people stormed into the store Friday night ...Read more

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Scandals and China diplomacy loom large in Honduran election

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Hondurans are voting Sunday in presidential elections that may oust the scandal-hit ruling party and end the nation’s alliance with Taiwan.

Xiomara Castro, the wife of a former president deposed in a coup, is leading in polls as she tries to end 12 years of rule by the conservative National Party. She spooked some investors by saying that ...Read more

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The week that COVID-19 sucker punched the world

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On Monday morning, Austria’s nearly 9 million residents woke to life in lockdown. Days later, a new COVID-19 variant set off alarm bells across the world, Europe and the U.S. slapped a travel ban on countries in Southern Africa and health officials raced to get ahead of a new threat.

It was the week the coronavirus reminded the world that the...Read more

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College classmates raised concerns about Poway synagogue shooter before 2019 attack

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SAN MARCOS, Calif. — Not long before a 19-year-old North County nursing student opened fire in a Poway synagogue, a hate crime that killed a congregant and wounded three others, he espoused ideology that alarmed his classmates.

John T. Earnest shared white supremist material with at least two of his Cal State San Marcos classmates, according ...Read more

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Biden says US gas prices will drop soon but it'll take time

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WASHINGTON — Americans will see prices at the pump fall “before long,” President Joe Biden said after tapping U.S. oil reserves to ease price pressures and risk a feud with OPEC.

In a tweet Saturday while the president was in Nantucket, he said the U.S. effort to ease gasoline prices spans the globe but will soon reach stations across the...Read more

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Omicron COVID-19 variant has officially landed in the UK

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The newly identified omicron variant of the coronavirus has been identified in the United Kingdom a day after the variant was named by the World Health Organization.

At least two cases of the variant were confirmed in the U.K. on Saturday, tweeted Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

“The two cases are linked and there is a connection with travel ...Read more

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'We are scared every day': Student fights and assaults on teachers trouble Florida schools amid pandemic

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — When students returned to school this year, they brought with them pent up energy from a tough time in near isolation during the pandemic.

Now, reports of fights, criminal batteries and fear of violence are becoming an unwelcome part of students’ full return to in-person education.

While the violence isn’t ...Read more

Emily Michot/Miami Herald/TNS

UM students campaign to cut ties with Miami Seaquarium after dolphin deaths, probe

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MIAMI — Some students at the University of Miami want the school to stop sending them on research field trips to the Miami Seaquarium after a damning federal report revealed that park managers fed spoiled food to marine animals and allowed bacteria to multiply in tanks, making manatees and dolphins sick, among other violations.

A group of ...Read more

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When's the best time to get a booster shot? Doctors suggest a six-month interval

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Booster shots are rolling out across much of the world to spur protection against COVID-19, prompting questions about when exactly they should be given. While there aren’t clear-cut answers, doctors say there’s a downside to getting them too soon.

It takes time for the immune system to build up its defenses. Following vaccination or a ...Read more

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New York declares state of emergency amid variant threat

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NEW YORK — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency on Friday due to a rise in COVID-19 cases in the state and the threat of the Omicron variant.

She said the variant hasn’t yet been detected in the state but that she decided to sign an executive order to allow the health department to limit non-essential, non-urgent ...Read more

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Belarus leader vows to continue letting migrants try to enter EU

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Belarus will continue to let migrants try to enter the European Union, President Alexander Lukashenko said, defying warnings of sanctions to deter the flow of people toward the bloc’s borders.

“If you manage to get across — go,” Lukashenko told a group of migrants Friday outside a logistics hub near the Belarusian border with Poland ...Read more

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US lawmaker defies 'blunt' China demand with Taiwan trip

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TAIPEI CITY, Taiwan — A U.S. lawmaker defied what she says was a stern demand from China that she abandon a trip to Taiwan, a move that risks escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing.

“When news of our trip broke yesterday, my office received a blunt message from the Chinese Embassy, telling me to call off the trip,” Elissa ...Read more

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Prince Andrew accuser says claims not voided by Epstein release

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NEW YORK — The woman who claims Jeffrey Epstein recruited her for sex with Prince Andrew when she was a teenager says a confidential 2009 settlement she reached with the disgraced financier doesn’t shield the British royal from her lawsuit.

Virginia Giuffre sued the prince in August, claiming he sexually abused her in Epstein’s New York ...Read more

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3 people, including 10-year-old, shot at mall in Durham, North Carolina

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Three people were shot at Durham’s Southpoint mall Friday, during one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

One of those injured was a 10-year-old who was hit by a bullet ricochet, Durham Police Chief Patrice Andrews said. The child was taken to the hospital with what appeared to be non-life-threatening injuries, ...Read more

News briefs

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Flash mob smash-and-grabs continue at high-end stores in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — More smash-and-grab “flash mob” robberies at luxury stores have police and retailers struggling with how to crack down on the crimes.

A rash of such thefts continued in Los Angeles as organized groups descended on stores and grabbed expensive merchandise ...Read more

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Ukrainian president warns of possible coup, Russian intimidation

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he had information that the country’s richest man was being dragged into an alleged Russian-backed coup planned for next month, but he dismissed the idea as not credible.

The comments underscore the rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine, which accuses its neighbor of amassing military forces ...Read more

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Iowa hospital administered wrong dose of COVID-19 shots to kids

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An Iowa hospital admitted to administering the wrong dose of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 100 children.

MercyOne said in a statement that 20 micrograms of the Pfizer vaccine were administered Saturday to children under 12 at a mass vaccination event, The Des Moines Register reported Wednesday.

They were supposed to each receive 10-microgram ...Read more

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Musical theater icon Stephen Sondheim dies at 91

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Stephen Sondheim, the award-winning composer-lyricist who took the Broadway musical to a higher level of emotional complexity than his predecessors in shows such as “Company,” “Follies” and “Sweeney Todd,” has died at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut.

Sondheim, who was briefly incapacitated in early 2020 when he tore a ligament in a...Read more

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Stephen Sondheim, peerless Broadway songwriter behind 'West Side Story' and 'Sweeney Todd,' dead at 91

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NEW YORK — Stephen Sondheim, the nonpareil Broadway composer whose decades-long career delivered brilliant musical productions from “West Side Story” to “Sweeney Todd” to “Into the Woods,” died Friday. The oft-honored songwriter was 91.

His sudden death at his Roxbury, Connecticut, home, was announced by his friend and lawyer, ...Read more