5 things to know for December 21: Covid-19, Walmart, Maxwell, Philippines, quake

5 things to know for December 21: Covid-19, Walmart, Maxwell, Philippines, quake
Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images

Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the official first day of winter.

Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

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1. Coronavirus

The Omicron variant is now the dominant coronavirus strain in the US, accounting for over 73% of new coronavirus cases less than three weeks after the first case was reported, according to CDC estimates. For the week ending Saturday, Omicron accounted for 73.2% of cases, with Delta making up 26.6%. Omicron is even more prevalent in certain parts of the country, making up over 95% of the circulating virus in parts of the Northwest and Southeast. President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak about the pandemic in an address today and is expected to announce new steps the White House is taking to help communities that need assistance, including plans to deploy military service members to hospitals and to distribute 500 million free at-home tests.

2. Walmart

California sued Walmart yesterday, alleging the retail giant has been disposing of hazardous waste at a rate of “more than one million items each year.” The lawsuit alleges Walmart has illegally dumped 159,600 pounds of hazardous waste a year in landfills in the state that aren’t equipped to handle the materials, including lithium batteries, pesticides and cleaning supplies. The complaint also alleges Walmart has been breaking California environmental law for the past six years. When toxic waste is in landfills, it can make its way into drinking water or into the air. Walmart said in a statement that it intends to defend itself against the lawsuit, which it called “unjustified.”

3. Maxwell

Jurors are expected to resume deliberations today at Ghislaine Maxwell’s federal trial after the prosecution and the defense presented closing arguments that focused on her relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. Prosecutors had argued that Maxwell manipulated and enticed vulnerable girls as a key accomplice in Epstein’s extensive scheme to sexually abuse underage girls. Maxwell’s defense team used its closing argument to attack the motivations of the women who testified about the abuse and to contend that Maxwell’s association with Epstein is not criminal. Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to six federal counts, including sex trafficking of minors. If convicted on all six counts, she faces up to 70 years in prison.

4. Philippines

The death toll from the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year has surpassed 300 as humanitarian agencies warned the true scale of destruction remains unknown, partly because rescue workers can’t access some disaster-hit areas. Super Typhoon Rai, known locally as Odette, has now claimed at least 375 lives since it ripped through the archipelago late last week, and more deaths are expected to be confirmed as rescue operations continue. Rai, the 15th typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, made landfall Thursday on Siargao Island, packing winds of up to 160 mph and bringing with it heavy rains.

5. Earthquake

A 6.2 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Northern California rattled a wide swath of the state shortly after noon local time yesterday, according to data from the US Geological Survey. The quake occurred just off Cape Mendocino near Humboldt County and was felt as far away as San Francisco and Chico, California. “We haven’t had a shake like this since 2010,” the county sheriff said. Officials say some minor damage to buildings, including broken glass, has been found.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

Chris Noth dropped from ‘The Equalizer’ after sexual assault allegations

Two women have accused the actor of sexual assault. Noth has denied the allegations.

New poll finds parents are stressing their children out about the holidays

I am NOT stressed! OK???

Dozens of dry shampoo sprays recalled

Procter & Gamble has recalled more than 30 products that could contain benzene, a cancer-causing agent.

Queen Elizabeth II will not travel to Sandringham for Christmas

She’ll be staying put at Windsor Castle as the new coronavirus variant surges.

CNBC’s Jim Cramer announces he tested positive for Covid-19

The “Mad Money” host said that he is triple vaccinated and that his symptoms have been mild.

HAPPENING LATER

Jury deliberations are set to resume today in the manslaughter trial of Kim Potter, the former Minnesota police officer who mistook her firearm for her Taser and fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop in April. More than 30 witnesses, including Potter herself, testified over eight days during the trial.

TODAY’S NUMBER

$11 billion

That’s what Elon Musk says his tax bill will be this year. And the filings he has made with the Securities and Exchange Commission about his recent stock trades back up that massive number. Musk, the world’s richest person, has been criticized by Sen. Elizabeth Warren for paying zero in income taxes in recent years.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“Yes, there is (a puppy).”

Michael LaRosa, Jill Biden’s press secretary, confirming the news of a new puppy named Commander at the White House

TODAY’S WEATHER

Check your local forecast here>>>

AND FINALLY

Polar surprise

Please enjoy this shameless display of animal cuteness. (Click here to view.)

The-CNN-Wire
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