America Records First Death From Omicron Variant (UCN 12.21.21)

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According to the Daily Mail, America has recorded its first death caused by the COVID Omicron variant, with the victim a Texas man in his 50s who was unvaccinated and had already been infected before. The news was announced by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on Monday night, around the same time the Centers for Disease Control confirmed that Omicron is now the dominant COVID strain in the US, accounting for 73 per cent of all new cases. Hidalgo did not name the victim, who had undisclosed underlying health conditions, and who was treated with Regeneron antibody therapy in an unsuccessful attempt to save his life. Harris County health department said his death showed the importance of getting vaccinated, even if you have already been infected. “My phone was ringing, and it was the public health director telling me we just had our first Omicron-related death,” she said. “A man in his 50s, resides in Harris County Precinct 2. I know for folks in Harris County this feels like whiplash… It is so frustrating. I feel it too. I understand the impulse to just tune out the latest news and be sick and tired of all of this, but as we’ve been expecting, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has arrived in full force.” Hidalgo said that “the evidence shows that for those vaccinated and with the booster, it is much, much less likely that they are going to end up in the hospital”.

According to Christianity Today, When it rains on Sunday morning, fewer people go to church. When fewer people go to church, more people buy drugs, commit forgery, and embezzle money. A new study from Jonathan Moreno-Medina at Duke University reveals a consistent correlation between church attendance and crime in data from 1,361 US counties over a period of 36 years. His research found that an hour of Sunday morning rain reduces church attendance in America by about 17 percent. Laying historical records of precipitation on Sundays between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. next to year-over-year crime reports, Moreno-Medina was able to show that more rainy Sundays regularly resulted in more drug-related and white-collar crimes. According to his paper, “Sinning in the Rain,” the relationship is consistent across decades. Church attendance appears to have no effect, however, on violent crimes such as rape and murder. Sociologists, criminologists, and Sunday school teachers have long argued for a connection between church attendance and crime rates, but it’s hard to prove. Moreno-Medina claims to be the first to find “a credible causal link.” He admits, however, that “more research is needed to disentangle the mechanisms driving these results.”

According to Bloomberg, Mince pies. Latkes. Eggnog. Tamales. As extended families the world over plan holiday celebrations again, they’re encountering a harsh reality: Traditional foods, especially those sold for a limited time in even a normal year, are significantly costlier in 2021—if they’re even available at all. “You might be able to trade down on some things; instead of the high-priced turkeys or steaks, you might consider something less expensive on that side of the dinner table,” said Curt Covington, senior director of institution credit at AgAmerica Lending, which loans money to farmers. But there’s no escaping it: Everything on the holiday table “is just going to be more expensive.” Statistics in five counties—Brazil, China, the U.K., Romania and the U.S.—have highlighted some of the ways runaway food prices will mute year-end festivities. Households may be yearning for a return to normal, but with supply chains buckling under the weight of widespread labor shortages and the continued strain of Covid-19, feeding families this holiday season will be anything but.

According to NewsOne, A Black scholar who made history last year as one of the youngest people to receive a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston is continuing to break barriers at the institution. 18-year-old Salenah Cartier recently became the youngest person to earn a master’s degree from the Texas-based school. This fall she will graduate with a Master of Education in curriculum and instruction. For Cartier, the road to academic success has been far from an easy feat. She says she always had a passion for learning, however, was often bullied in school due to her intelligence and talent. The difficult experiences she encountered led her to be homeschooled. Through homeschooling, she was able to learn at an accelerated pace and ended up graduating from high school at the age of 14. Two years later, she graduated from Lone Star College with an associate degree in science and biology. “I was picked on for being different,” she said in a statement. “They would make fun of me for the way I talk and the way I articulate information. Eventually, I didn’t want to be smart anymore. What I wanted, so badly, was to be like everyone else. I was really sad during the bad time. Scared, too. But honestly, if that had not happened, I would not be on the path I’m on now.” She credits her family for keeping her centered and focused. Inspired by the obstacles she faced while growing up, Cartier has plans to chart a career path in educational research. She strives to lead projects that merge educational policy and psychological research and is already taking steps towards obtaining a doctoral degree.

According to ABC7, Ten days before Christmas, and Turquoise LeJeune Parker maybe the happiest elf in North Carolina. The Lakewood Elementary School teacher just pulled off her biggest foodraiser yet for her neediest students: $106,000. “Amazing, speechless. It leaves me speechless,” said Parker. “I’ve cried a little bit today. I cry a little bit every day.” They are tears of joy. Parker and her ever-growing list of donors and community partners donated over six figures for this year’s foodraiser. Parker and her small army of volunteers took the cash to the Costco on North Pointe Drive to buy non-perishable groceries for over 5,100 students from a dozen Durham public schools, whose families could go hungry over the holiday break. “Two weeks is a long time to be out of school without lunch or breakfast at school. Three meals. Children eat a lot. Food is expensive,” Parker said. Food insecurity is a major concern in Durham, especially for low-income people of color. Nearly three quarters of Black and Latino Durhamites do not have access to nearby supermarkets (within walking distance) — 25% more than white Durham residents. Of the 12 schools where students are getting bag loads of holiday groceries, 98% of them receive free or reduced lunch at school. For many, schools provide their only meals. This year’s foodraiser, with its $106,000 haul, is the biggest one yet. For the past several days, Parker and the volunteers have been bagging the groceries and sending them home two grade levels at a time. This year, there was even food to send bags home for school support staff — the bus drivers and cafeteria workers whose families could also use the help this holiday.

According to Reuters, Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai said on Sunday that she had never accused anyone of sexually assaulting her, and that a social media post she had made early last month had been misunderstood. Peng’s well-being became a matter of concern among the global tennis community and rights groups when she appeared to allege that a former Chinese vice premier, Zhang Gaoli, had sexually assaulted her in the past. After that post, she was absent from public view for nearly three weeks. “First, I need to stress one point that is extremely important, I have never said or written that anyone has sexually assaulted me, I have to clearly stress this point,” Peng said in the video posted by Lianhe Zaobao, a Singapore media outlet. Peng’s remarks on Sunday marked the first time she had addressed the matter on camera in public. She spoke on the sidelines of a cross-country skiing event in Shanghai. She said that her post on Weibo, a Twitter-like social media site, which had been quickly removed, was a “private matter”. Peng, 35, said in the video that “people have many misunderstandings” about her Weibo post. She did not elaborate. She also said she had been living at home in Beijing without supervision. In the video, she was not asked about Zhang and did not mention him. The Women’s Tennis Association, which early this month said it would suspend tournaments in China immediately due to concerns over the treatment of Peng and the safety of other players, continued to call for an investigation.

According to Reuters, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” racked up a head-spinning $253 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales over the weekend, setting a pandemic record and ranking as the third-biggest domestic debut in Hollywood history even as a new COVID-19 variant spreads. Around the globe, “No Way Home” generated an additional $334.2 million for a worldwide weekend total of $587.2 million, according to estimates from distributor Sony Corp. The blockbuster returns delivered a much-needed jolt to cinema companies such as AMC Entertainment, Cinemark and Cineworld that have struggled to draw crowds during the pandemic. The emergence of the Omicron variant has sparked new concerns. But as Broadway and New York City’s Rockettes canceled shows and the National Football League postponed games, theaters were abuzz. Fans packed auditoriums for “No Way Home,” a big-budget superhero spectacle co-produced by Sony and Walt Disney Co that is playing only in theaters. The movie stars Tom Holland as Marvel’s web-slinging superhero and Zendaya, as his girlfriend MJ, in the third film in the Spider-Man trilogy. It also brings back stars of previous “Spider-Man” films.

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In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!