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Here are the headlines you Need2Know for Wednesday, December 22, 2021:


President Biden’s pledge to distribute 500 million at-home rapid tests won’t take effect until January, and the country’s current testing capabilities are already buckling under the combined weight of the demand from holiday travelers and the fast-spreading Omicron variant. CVS and Walgreens are limiting how many rapid tests customers can buy – if they can even find them on shelves. The lack of supply of the rapid tests nearly two years into the pandemic is a result of limited federal investment early on, a sluggish regulatory process to get new tests approved and a shortage of raw materials. Here’s a site that tracks where the testing kits are currently in stock online: BOOKMARK IT


The pandemic helped send U.S. population growth to its lowest rate on record. The country’s population grew by just 0.1% between July 2020 and July 2021, according to Census data. It was the first time the nation’s population grew by less than 1 million people since 1937. Net arrivals (i.e. people coming into the U.S. from abroad) also eclipsed the birth surplus (i.e. how many more people were born than people who died) for the first time ever. Population growth has been slowing for years, but the pandemic accelerated the trend more than just about anyone expected. AP


More than 4.6 million people have signed a petition urging clemency for a truck driver who was sentenced to 110 years for causing a deadly crash on a Colorado interstate in 2019. Rogel Aguilera-Mederos was driving his semi above the speed limit when the brakes failed, leading him to slam into traffic and cause a 28-car pileup that killed four people. He was not under the influence. A jury convicted Aguilera-Mederos of vehicular homicide, and the conviction triggered Colorado’s mandatory minimum laws even though the judge said he would have given a lighter sentence if he could. Truck drivers have been refusing to drive through the state in protest of the sentence. DENVER POST


A jury in Boston found a Harvard professor guilty of lying to the feds about his ties to China. Charles Lieber, a world-renowned nanoscientist who chaired Harvard’s chemistry department, was found guilty on all charges related to payments he took from the Chinese government for a talent program. The case was closely watched as a test of the Justice Dept.’s crackdown on Beijing’s attempts to infiltrate American universities in order to gain scientific expertise. WSJ


The 11-week strike at Kellogg’s is over after workers approved a multi-year contract with the cerealmaker. The union says the deal didn’t include any concessions, and employees will be granted across-the-board wage increases, cost-of-living adjustments and better benefits. Kellogg’s had been threatening to permanently replace the 1,400 striking plant workers in Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Tennessee before both parties returned to the bargaining table to hammer out the contract. NPR


SpaceX’s rocket factory outside L.A. is now home to the largest Covid workplace outbreak in the country, with at least 132 employees testing positive. Still, Elon Musk’s spaceflight company is closing out the year strong. SpaceX aced its 100th rocket landing using a Falcon reusable booster this week. The milestone came just after a SpaceX rocket sent another 52 internet satellites into orbit. SpaceX’s Starlink service now has close to 2,000 satellites in the sky beaming down internet service around the world. Musk has plans for 42,000 of the low-orbit satellites in the constellation when all is said and done. SPACE.COM


The NHL is expected to announce today that it won’t send players to the Beijing Olympics in February, a reversal made in agreement with the players’ union. The league was planning to pause its season for three weeks so players could compete in Beijing, but so many games have had to be postponed due to Covid outbreaks that the break is now needed to make up missed games and keep the rest of the season alive. ESPN


The long-awaited fourth installment in The Matrix dropped on HBO Max overnight. The Matrix Resurrections is sitting at a decent 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics split over whether it brings any added value to the original franchise but in agreement that it's at least visually stunning. The film is also the last of the 2021 Warner Bros. slate to get a simultaneous streaming and theatrical release. Warners is reverting back to an exclusively theatrical release plan next year after its day-and-date experiment was not nearly as successful as it had hoped. RT


…a waterfront mansion on Miami Beach’s exclusive Star Island, selling for $75 million and setting a new record for the city. It will likely be torn down: SEE INSIDE

…the 2-0-2-2 numbers, arriving in Times Square ahead of the New Year’s Eve ball drop. This year’s celebration may be scaled back (again) because of Covid: SEE IT

…Toys ‘R' Us, reopening (again) with a flagship store at the American Dream mall in New Jersey: SEE INSIDE


A physics professor in NYC recently discovered a box that had been sitting among his unopened office mail since November of last year. Inside: $180,000 in cash. Dr. Vinod Menon, chair of the physics department at City College, said an enclosed unsigned letter explained that the money was intended to help needy students, and that the anonymous donor just identified themselves as someone who “long ago” benefited from the education they got at the school. Dr. Menon plans to use the donation to fund two full physics scholarships every year. NY TIMES

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