Breaking Down 5 of the Most Recent News Stories

Olivia Giangeruso

Omicron Variant 

The Omicron Variant, an extremely contagious variant of Covid-19 was first detected in South Africa in November of 2021. Shortly after, the United States decided to ban travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. On December 1st, the first Omicron case was detected in a man from California who had recently traveled to South Africa. Since then, the United States has had a seven-day average of over 700,000 cases, recording 1,178,403 cases on January 18, 2022. The good news with this variant is that although it has created a substantial uptick in new daily cases, most of those that are fully vaccinated and boosted will likely only experience mild cold-like symptoms. During this surge, the CDC and FDA have also approved boosters for ages 12 and up and shortened the quarantine period from 10 to 5 days (followed by 5 days of mask wearing when around others) for those not experiencing any more symptoms.

Kim Potter Trial 

On December 23rd former Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis police officer was found guilty of first and second degree manslaughter. The victim, 20 year old Daunte Wright was shot dead by Potter during a traffic stop in which he was pulled over for having an air freshener hanging from his mirror, the wrong blinker on in a turn lane, and expired tabs. Once officers ran a check on his name, they found there was a warrant for his arrest based on charges of a weapons violation. The encounter, which was entirely captured on body cam video, shows Kim Potter pulling Wright out of his car and yelling “Taser! Taser!” as she pulled her gun from her holster and shot Wright. Potter’s defense of her actions was that it was an accident, and that she meant to pull her taser that was on the other side of her holster. Ultimately, during the case the prosecution argued against this defense, saying that Potter, a heavily trained officer who administered training to other officers, was neglectant in pulling her gun instead of her taser. To be convicted, the prosecution did not need to prove malicious intent but rather negligence, which they ultimately did after the jury found her guilty after 27 hours of deliberating. 

Voting Rights and the Filibuster 

Both the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act are currently circulating in the Senate. Both of the Acts are framed as ways to get rid of restricted ballot box access and make voting less restrictive across the country. Both have passed the Democrat controlled House of Representatives, but are currently at a standstill in the evenly divided Senate. The issue in the Senate?: There is currently a filibuster (requires 60 votes to get legislation passed) in place that is preventing the Democrats from passing either act. Moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona refuse to vote for the removal of the filibuster, thus creating a stalemate in the Senate, at least for now. Republicans in the Senate refuse to vote for either act because of what they would change within systems of voting, so this issue has become extremely partisan. Starting during the week of January 17th, 2022 (Martin Luther King Day) the Senate will start debating the bill, but without abolishing the filibuster or 60 votes in favor of either act, not much will change for now. 

George Floyd’s 4 year-old Niece Shot 

On New Year’s Day 4 year-old Arianna Delane, the niece of George Floyd, who was killed by convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin, was shot in her apartment. The shooting occured in Houston, Texas at 3 in the morning. Police reported that the suspect, who they currently don’t have an identity of, fired several shots into the apartment, striking Arianna in the torso. The 4 year-old suffered a punctured lung, punctured liver and three broken ribs and had to undergo surgery. Ariannia’s father Derrick said that his daughter didn’t know what was going on at the time, and was asleep when she was shot. The family said they had been going through a lot after George Floyd’s death, and that this was another life changing event that they would have to deal with. 

Texas Synagogue Hostage Situation 

On January 16th, a United Kingdom national entered the Congregation Beth Israel of Colleyville and took four hostages, including the Rabbi. The suspect, Malik Faisal Akram, who was killed during a shootout with SWAT teams and the FBI flew to New York City at the end of December. He then made his way to Texas, where he lived in homeless shelters and eventually illegally bought a gun off the street. Service was going on at the time, and those listening to the virtual livestream could hear Akram say he was taking four hostages, and that he was armed with a gun and explosives. He demanded that Aafia Siddiqui, a convicted terrorist nicknamed Lady Al-Qaeda who is currently serving an 86 year prison sentence in Texas for attempted murder, be released from jail. Ultimately, after 11 hours of negotiations between the FBI and others with Akram, SWAT teams stormed the building and rescued the remaining hostages (the two others were able to make a run from it earlier).