COVID toll nears 800,000 to close out year filled with death

MISSION, Kan. — Carolyn Burnett is bracing for her first Christmas without her son Chris, a beloved high school football coach whose outdoor memorial service drew a crowd of hundreds. The unvaccinated 34-year-old father of four died in September as a result of COVID-19 after nearly two weeks on a ventilator, and his loss has left a gaping hole for his mother, widow and family as the holidays approach. How, she thought, could they take a holiday photo without Chris? What would Christmas Day football be like without him offering up commentary? How could they play trivia games on Christmas Eve without him beating everyone with his movie expertise? The U.S. is on the verge of yet another depressing pandemic milestone — 800,000 deaths. It's a sad coda to a year that held so much promise with the arrival of vaccines but is ending in heartbreak for the many grieving families trying to navigate the holiday season.

Time magazine's 'Person of the Year' is Elon Musk

Calling him a “clown, genius, edgelord, visionary, industrialist, showman," Time magazine has named Tesla CEO Elon Musk as its Person of the Year for 2021. Musk, who is also the founder and CEO space exploration company SpaceX, recently passed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as the world’s wealthiest person as the rising price of Tesla pushed his net worth to around $300 billion. He owns about 17% of Tesla's stock, which sold for almost $1,000 each on Monday. Time cited the breadth of Musk's endeavors, from his founding of SpaceX in 2002, to his hand in the creation of the alternative energy company SolarCity in addition to Tesla, the most valuable car company in the world.

Miss America turns 100. Will she last another 100 years?

As Miss America turns 100, a major question remains unanswered: Is she still relevant? The glitzy competition was born from a 1921 Atlantic City beauty contest, just a year after women were given the right to vote, and maintains a complicated presence in an American culture that has since undergone multiple waves of feminism. Participation and viewership has dropped since its 1960s heyday — when the next Miss America is crowned Thursday, her coronation will only be available to stream via NBC's Peacock service, shunted from her primetime broadcast throne. Faithful Miss America organizers and enthusiasts contend the annual ritual is here to stay and will keep changing with the times. And even though they may not have indeed devised a plan for world peace, many participants say the organization — billed as one of the largest providers of scholarship assistance to young women — has been life-altering, opening doors for them professionally and personally. And they believe others should have the same opportunities.

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