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Here are the headlines you Need2Know for Monday, December 30, 2021:


Ghislaine Maxwell has been convicted of sex trafficking for facilitating the abuse of underage girls at the hands of Jeffrey Esptien. After a month-long trial, the jury delivered a guilty verdict on five of six counts. She was acquitted on the charge of enticing a minor to travel across state lines for sex. Maxwell faces up to 40 years in prison for just the most serious count. MIAMI HERALD


Places that are seeing a crush of new Covid cases are struggling to stay open and functioning as the virus whips through workforces. The Smithsonian in D.C. is temporarily closing four museums through the holiday weekend in order to relocate staff to other museums. In NYC, the MTA is adjusting to crew shortages by running fewer subways and buses, leading to longer wait times for passengers. Big banks are temporarily closing hundreds of branches across the country, and restaurants in cities from Milwaukee to Dallas are being forced to shut down during a lucrative holiday weekend. The piecemeal closures come as the U.S. shattered its daily record for cases with nearly 500,000 new infections reported on Wednesday. NY TIMES


The Pacific Northwest is set for its coldest New Year’s in a long time. Snow and frigid air have been battering cities like Seattle and Portland and the mountains of Northern California, helping to ease drought conditions while the rest of the country hasn’t seen much in the way of snowfall so far this season. Even Alaska has been shockingly warm – the city of Kodiak hit a 67 degrees on Sunday, the highest December temperature recording in the state’s history. Temps there are set to plunge, leading to worries about an “icemageddon.” AP


What’s happening between Russia and Ukraine is one of the big potential conflicts to watch in 2022. President Biden is scheduled to hold a call with Vladimir Putin today at the Russian president’s request. It will be their second conversation this month, amid ongoing tensions on Ukraine’s eastern border. That’s where Russia has been amassing troops ahead of what some believe to be an invasion planned for early next year. About 10,000 of those troops reportedly withdrew from the region last week, but tens of thousands more remain. POLITICO


This was a record year for IPOs, but many of the stocks that took off in their public debuts have since come crashing down to Earth in the waning days of 2021. Nearly two out of three companies that went public this year are now trading below their IPO prices, as investors lose appetite for high-growth stocks now that higher interest rates are on the horizon. Highly anticipated public offerings from companies like Robinhood, Oatly and Bumble are down more than 50% from their opening price. WSJ


A self-driving truck company says it has completed the first-ever fully autonomous trip of a tractor trailer on open, public roads. TuSimple announced that a semitruck powered by its self-driving technology drove an 80-mile route on an Arizona highway with no human on board. The milestone comes amid a resurgence of interest in self-driving trucks, which many experts believe are closer to becoming reality than self-driving cars – given that trucks drive in a more or less straight line and don’t have to maneuver complicated urban streets. The prolonged shortage of truck drivers has made the technology even more attractive for investment (though TuSimple’s stock has been a dud since it IPOed in April). ELECTREK


A decade after announcing they’d be splitting up, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver have finalized their divorce. The power couple split in 2011 after Schwarzenegger acknowledged that he fathered a child with the family’s housekeeper, but have remained amicable, attending events together with their grown children over the ensuing years. Terms of the divorce weren’t made public. LA TIMES


The Rock is not coming back to the Fast & Furious franchise, no matter how much Vin Diesel wants him to. Dwayne Johnson opened up in a year-end interview about his public feud with Diesel, who recently pleaded with Johnson in an Instagram post to return to the Fast fold. Johnson called that an example of Diesel’s “manipulation” and said there’s “no chance” he will make another Fast movie. The imbroglio has been going on since 2016, when Johnson accused Diesel of unprofessionalism on the set of The Fate of the Furious. THR


… Kim Jong Un, looking downright trim in new photos. North Korean media has been saying Kim is eating less “for the sake of the country”: SEE PICS

…a member of the Queen’s Guard, stepping on a young child who got in his way during a patrol at the Tower of London: WATCH


NASA reportedly hired two dozen theologians and religious experts to contemplate what would happen if humans discovered alien life in the cosmos. According to an Anglican priest in the UK who says he was part of the project several years ago, NASA wanted to understand how news of alien life would impact religious peoples’ belief systems. Rev. Andrew Davison said in an interview that he and his fellow theologians – including a rabbi, an imam and another priest – agreed that the major religions would be able to take the discovery of alien life in stride. FUTURISM

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