Omicron casts a new shadow over economy's pandemic recovery
Just as Americans and Europeans were eagerly awaiting their most normal holiday season in a couple of years, the omicron variant has unleashed a fresh round of fear and uncertainty — for travelers, shoppers, party-goers and their economies as a whole. The Rockettes have canceled their Christmas show in New York. Some London restaurants have emptied out as commuters avoid the downtown. Broadway shows are canceling some performances. The National Hockey League suspended its games until after Christmas. Boston plans to require diners, revelers and shoppers to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, bars and stores. A heightened sense of anxiety has begun to erode the willingness of some people and some businesses to carry on as usual in the face of the extraordinarily contagious omicron variant, which has fast become the dominant version of the virus in the United States. Other people, though, are still traveling, spending and congregating with other people as they normally do, though often with a cautious wait-and-see perspective.
New reforms target US military's missing weapons problem
The Department of Defense is overhauling how it keeps track of its guns and explosives, and Congress is requiring more accountability from the Pentagon -- responses to an Associated Press investigation that showed lost or stolen military weapons were reaching America’s streets. The missing weaponry includes assault rifles, machine guns, handguns, armor-piercing grenades, artillery shells, mortars, grenade launchers and plastic explosives. The Pentagon will now have to give lawmakers an annual report on weapons loss and security under the National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress approved this month and President Joe Biden is expected to sign. As AP’s AWOL Weapons investigation showed, military officials weren’t advising Congress even as guns and explosives continued to disappear.
US population growth at lowest rate in pandemic's 1st year
U.S. population growth dipped to its lowest rate since the nation’s founding during the first year of the pandemic as the coronavirus curtailed immigration, delayed pregnancies and killed hundreds of thousands of U.S. residents, according to figures released Tuesday. The United States grew by only 0.1%, with an additional 392,665 added to the U.S. population from July 2020 to July 2021, according to population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The U.S. has been experiencing slow population growth for years but the pandemic exacerbated that trend. This past year was the first time since 1937 that the nation’s population grew by less than 1 million people.