New COVID variant emerges; stocks, oil prices tumble – National & International News – FRI 26Nov2021

A new COVID variant has emerged that may be more transmissible and more resistant to vaccine protection than delta.



New COVID variant emerges; stocks, oil prices tumble. Debt ceiling showdown looms; lawmakers seek permanent solution. Hundreds of FedEx packages dumped in Alabama ravine.




Debt ceiling showdown looms; lawmakers seek permanent solution

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that the federal debt ceiling will be reached around December 15. Congress has that long to raise the debt ceiling, or face a catastrophic federal default. The debt ceiling determines the federal governments’ ability to pay down debts it has already incurred. Such showdowns over the debt have more than once imperiled the good faith and credit of the United States.

Typically, these showdowns take place under Democratic administrations, since Democrats will generally go along with raising the debt ceiling to avoid sending the country over the fiscal cliff. Democrats and Republicans alike voted to raise the federal debt ceiling multiple times under President Trump without a scuffle.

But earlier this fall, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell not only refused to vote with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling, he invoked a filibuster when Democrats attempted to raise it with a party line vote. Ultimately, McConnell and the Republicans relented and supported a continuing resolution that bought the country some time.

This may force Democrats to carve out a further exception to the filibuster so that the ceiling can be raised through budget reconciliation. This can be done, but time is running out. Congress also has  major bills to pass before the end of the year, including a Pentagon budget and the Build Back Better plan. Democrats may choose to push them all through with one vote in an omnibus bill.

To avert the possibility of future catastrophes and political gamesmanship, some Democratic lawmakers are championing the idea of abolishing the debt ceiling altogether

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300-400 FedEx packages dumped in Alabama ravine

The sheriff of Blount County, AL, says that hundreds of FedEx packages have somehow wound up in a ravine in his county. The packages were reported to the sheriff’s office, who sent deputies to the scene. According to the sheriff’s Facebook page, FedEx also dispatched “trucks and drivers from all over the South” to work through Thanksgiving to recover and secure the huge number of packages. It’s not clear at present how the packages ended up in the ravine.

“Hopefully,” the sheriff’s office said, “we will have some answers soon”.

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New COVID variant emerges; stocks, oil prices tumble

A new variant of the coronavirus has emerged in South Africa. This variant, currently labeled as B.1.1.529, has about 30 mutations on the spike protein. According to scientists, that makes B.1.1.529 the most extensively mutated strain to emerge yet. Spike protein mutations affect the virus’ ability to evade the immune system and be more easily transmissible. All this means that the new variant may potentially be more dangerous than the delta variant, which has dominated most parts of the world since the summer.

So far, fewer than 100 samples of B.1.1.529 have been detected. Most of these are in in South Africa, but some have also emerged in Hong Kong, Israel, Botswana and Belgium. But the number of mutations has raised concerns that currently available vaccines may be much less effective in preventing infection with the B.1.1.529 variant. Nevertheless, vaccines remain the best defense against any COVID variant

Countries have rushed to put new travel restrictions and lockdowns in place to limit the spread of B.1.1.529. The resulting panic has sent stock prices tumbling and has also dealt a blow to oil prices.

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