Saturday News: Omicron is here

UNC-CHARLOTTE STUDENT IS NC'S FIRST OMICRON VARIANT VICTIM: North Carolina’s first confirmed positive test for the omicron variant of COVID-19 came from a student at UNC Charlotte who had gone out of state during Thanksgiving, local health officials said Friday. The CDC reported on Friday that it identified 43 cases of the highly mutated omicron variant across 22 states since Dec. 1 — not including North Carolina. Of those 43 cases, one person was hospitalized and there were no deaths. The Charlotte student was isolated and has recovered. Exposure from the student was limited to one known contact, according to the county. Officials declined to say what state the student had visited. In an email to students, the university said its on-campus sequencing lab identified a positive test from the student who had traveled out of state for Thanksgiving break. “All close contacts were notified through the university’s contact tracing protocols, and no additional positive cases have been identified,” the university wrote. Keep doing what you need to do to protect yourself and your family. Contact doesn't automatically lead to contraction, if you are following recommended procedures.

ALL REPUBLICAN EYES ARE ON TRUMP IN CONGRESSIONAL RACES: Former Fayetteville mayor Nat Robertson was one of the first to declare, along with local party activist Devan Barbour. State Rep. John Szoka
, R-Cumberland, is running, too, and former Congresswoman Renee Ellmers said this week she plans to join the race. A map, first reported by Politico and now circulating on social media, shows Bo Hines, who filed for the 7th Congressional District, running in the 4th District. That would clear the 7th District for a run by former Congressman Mark Walker, which in turn would help clear the path for 13th District Congressman Ted Budd in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate. But Walker said Thursday he's not ready to bail out of the Senate race. He plans to discuss his political future with his family over the holidays before making a decision. Former President Donald Trump reportedly gave the plan his blessing and promised endorsements at a meeting at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida early in December. As sickening as this is, just let them play out their little drama. An endorsement by Trump might help in the Primary, but I'm not so sure about the General Election next November.

PAT MCCRORY IS STILL JUST AS INCOMPREHENSIBLY STUPID AS BEFORE: A court ruling delaying North Carolina’s high-stakes GOP Senate primary has increased pressure on former President Donald Trump’s favored candidate to agree to a debate schedule and has given his opponents more space to renew attacks on him. U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, whom Trump has endorsed in the race, believes it would be “foolish” to agree to a debate schedule given fresh uncertainty created when the state Supreme Court pushed back the primary from March 8 to May 17 and suspended candidate filing, his campaign said. But his opponents, former North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and ex-Rep. Mark Walker, are renewing calls for Budd to get a debate on the books. The disagreement over the debates is one facet of intraparty drama that will now have 10 more weeks to play out. Democrats are hoping a divisive GOP primary for the seat U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is vacating will boost their party’s prospects in the general election. McCrory is upset that the court ruling extended the election season and said he would have entered the race later had he been planning for a May primary from the beginning. What? Why would that even matter? I mean, if you said, "I may not have entered the race at all," at least it would make some sort of sense. *sigh* Nevermind. Pat will be Pat.

(U.S.) SUPREME COURT ALLOWS TEXAS ABORTION BAN TO STAND, AND FACE CHALLENGES: The court’s Friday decision restarts a legal process that has seen the law remain in effect since Sept. 1, when the five most conservative members of the Supreme Court refused to step in to block it. The same group — Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — turned down the renewed request. But all except Thomas said the lawsuit could continue against a small group of Texas officials who could have a role in enforcing the law, called S.B.8. It effectively has stopped the availability of abortion in Texas after six weeks of pregnancy, before many know they are pregnant. It has no exception for rape or incest. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for himself and the court’s three liberals, said the district judge should act quickly. “Given the ongoing chilling effect of the state law, the District Court should resolve this litigation and enter appropriate relief without delay,” Roberts wrote. Amy Hagstrom Miller, who as president and chief executive of Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance is the lead plaintiff in the case, said that while Friday’s outcome offered “hope,” the legal process has been “excruciating” for patients and staff alike. Justice Roberts just sent a very important message: "I can't stop this deterioration of abortion rights from here, but state courts can." Pay attention.

JULIAN ASSANGE IS LIKELY HEADED TO A U.S. PRISON VERY SHORTLY: The High Court ruled Friday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States to face charges of violating the Espionage Act. The 50-year-old Australian will remain in London’s Belmarsh Prison, where he has been held since April 2019 after the Ecuadoran Embassy revoked his political asylum. Stella Moris, Assange’s partner, mother of his two children and his former lawyer, said they will file a final appeal to the British Supreme Court, which would hear the case only if the court believes it involves a point of law “of general public importance.” That process could take weeks or months. If the British Supreme Court court declines to hear Assange’s final appeal, he could seek a stay of extradition from the European Court of Human Rights — to whose jurisdiction Britain is still subject — a substantial legal hurdle. U.S. prosecutors allege that Assange helped hack into classified information and published thousands of pages of military records and diplomatic cables about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, thus putting the lives of allies in danger. Assange’s supporters say he was acting as an investigative journalist who uncovered a trove of damning material about American actions abroad. They say the extradition and prosecution will undermine press freedoms in the United States. Hacking is not journalism, it's a crime all on its own before even considering the sensitivity of the classified material. I know many reading this would disagree with me, but my life has been put in (severe) jeopardy by security leaks. It ain't a joke.