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    AP Top News at 10:33 p.m. EST

    December 21, 2021 GMT

    Omicron sweeps across nation, now 73% of new US COVID cases

    NEW YORK (AP) — Omicron has raced ahead of other variants and is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the U.S., accounting for 73% of new infections last week, federal health officials said Monday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers showed nearly a six-fold increase in omicron’s share of infections in only one week. In much of the country, it’s even higher. Omicron is responsible for an estimated 90% or more of new infections in the New York area, the Southeast, the industrial Midwest and the Pacific Northwest. The national rate suggests that more than 650,000 omicron infections occurred in the U.S.

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    Virus fears widen as omicron variant takes hold across US

    BOSTON (AP) — The nation’s second-largest city called off its New Year’s Eve celebration Monday, and its smallest state re-imposed an indoor mask mandate as the omicron variant leaped ahead of other variants to become the dominant version of the coronavirus in the U.S. The moves in Los Angeles and Rhode Island reflected widening fears of a potentially devastating winter COVID-19 surge. Much of the concern is being driven by omicron, which federal health officials announced accounted for 73% of new infections last week, a nearly sixfold increase in only seven days. Omicron’s prevalence is even higher in some parts of the U.S.

    EXPLAINER: Boosters key to fight omicron, lot still to learn

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    The new omicron variant took only a few weeks to live up to dire predictions about how hugely contagious it is but scientists don’t yet know if it causes more severe disease even as the world faces exploding cases just before Christmas. “Everything is riskier now because omicron is so much more contagious,” said Dr. S. Wesley Long, who directs the testing lab at Houston Methodist Hospital — and over the past week has canceled numerous plans to avoid exposure. Omicron now is the dominant variant in the U.S., federal health officials said Monday, accounting for about three-quarters of new infections last week.

    Jan. 6 panel seeks interview, records from Rep. Scott Perry

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection requested an interview and documents from Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania on Monday, marking the first time the committee publicly sought to sit down with a sitting member of Congress. The latest request launches a new phase for the lawmakers on the committee, who have so far resisted reaching out to one of their own as they investigate the insurrection by President Donald Trump’s supporters and his efforts to overturn the election. Perry and other congressional Republicans met with Trump ahead of the attack and strategized about how they could block the results at the Jan.

    Pentagon issues rules aimed at stopping rise of extremism

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Warning that extremism in the ranks is increasing, Pentagon officials issued detailed new rules Monday prohibiting service members from actively engaging in extremist activities. The new guidelines come nearly a year after some current and former service members participated in the riot at the U.S. Capitol, triggering a broad department review. According to the Pentagon, fewer than 100 military members are known to have been involved in substantiated cases of extremist activity in the past year. But they warn that the number may grow given recent spikes in domestic violent extremism, particularly among veterans. Officials said the new policy doesn’t largely change what is prohibited but is more of an effort to make sure troops are clear on what they can and can’t do, while still protecting their First Amendment right to free speech.

    Trump sues NY attorney general, seeking to halt civil probe

    NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump sued New York Attorney General Letitia James on Monday, resorting to a familiar but seldom successful strategy as he seeks to end a yearslong civil investigation into his business practices that he alleges is purely political. In the lawsuit, filed in federal court two weeks after James requested that Trump sit for a Jan. 7 deposition, Trump contends the probe into matters including his company’s valuation of assets has violated his constitutional rights in a “thinly-veiled effort to publicly malign Trump and his associates.” The lawsuit describes James, a Democrat, as having “personal disdain” for the Republican ex-president and points to her numerous statements she’s made about him, including her boast that her office sued his administration 76 times and tweets during her 2018 campaign that she had her “eyes on Trump Tower” and that Trump was “running out of time.” “Her mission is guided solely by political animus and a desire to harass, intimidate, and retaliate against a private citizen who she views as a political opponent,” the former president’s lawyers wrote in the lawsuit, filed on behalf of Trump and his company, the Trump Organization.

    Ghislaine Maxwell jury begins deliberations after closings

    NEW YORK (AP) — A jury began deliberations Monday, tasked with considering whether Ghislaine Maxwell is a dangerous predator who recruited teens to be sexually abused by financier Jeffrey Epstein — as prosecutors put it — or the “innocent woman” a defense attorney described. The jury received the case just before 5 p.m. after two prosecutors and a defense lawyer delivered their closing arguments over a six-hour period. They deliberated less than an hour and went home after being told to return at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Maxwell, 59, had been composed, if not cheerful, as she interacted with her lawyers and family members for the first three weeks of the trial.

    No verdict yet in Kim Potter trial for Daunte Wright’s death

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The suburban Minneapolis police officer who says she meant to use her Taser instead of her gun when she shot and killed Black motorist Daunte Wright made a “blunder of epic proportions” and did not have “a license to kill,” a prosecutor told jurors on Monday shortly before they began deliberating in her manslaughter trial. Kim Potter’s attorney Earl Gray countered during closing arguments that the former Brooklyn Center officer made an honest mistake by pulling her handgun instead of her Taser and that shooting Wright wasn’t a crime. “In the walk of life, nobody’s perfect. Everybody makes mistakes,” Gray said.

    Church agency: Captive missionaries made daring escape

    Berlin, OH (AP) — Captive missionaries in Haiti found freedom last week by making a daring overnight escape, eluding their kidnappers and walking for miles over difficult, moonlit terrain with an infant and other children in tow, according to the agency they work for, officials said Monday. The group of 12 navigated by stars to reach safety after a two-month kidnapping ordeal, officials with the Christian Aid Ministries, the Ohio-based agency that the captive missionaries work for, said Monday at a press conference. The detailed accounting of their journey to safety comes after news Thursday that the missionaries were free. A total of 17 people from the missionary group — 12 adults and five minors — were abducted Oct.

    UConn out of women’s AP Top 10 for 1st time in 16 years

    UConn’s record 16-year run in the top 10 is over. The Huskies fell four spots to No. 11 in The Associated Press women’s college basketball poll Monday after losing to Louisville a day earlier. UConn had been ranked among the first 10 teams in the poll for 313 straight weeks dating back to March 7, 2005, when the team was also 11th. That’s 101 more weeks than the next-longest streak ever, held by Tennessee. No. 10 Baylor now has the longest active streak, with 136 consecutive top-10 appearances. South Carolina remained the unanimous top choice, receiving all 29 first-place votes from a national media panel.