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Here are the headlines you Need2Know for Friday, December 17, 2021:


The national caseload is back up to around 120,000 per day, a 40% jump over the last two weeks, with places like New York City seeing test positivity double in three days. Dr. Fauci says he’s “absolutely certain” that Omicron will soon overtake Delta as the dominant Covid strain in the U.S., though there’s also some worry that both variants could circulate simultaneously. Meanwhile, the CDC is now recommending the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines over the Johnson & Johnson shot, citing mounting evidence that J&J shot can trigger a rare blood-clotting disorder. J&J will remain on the market, but vaccine providers are being discouraged from giving it. NPR


Democrats appear unlikely to pass President Biden’s Build Back Better bill before the end of the year, as Sen. Joe Manchin – whose vote is needed to pass anything – remains in opposition to signature parts of the legislation. Talks between Manchin and Biden this week have reportedly not been going well as the senator from West Virginia has expressed concerns about making the child tax credit permanent, among other aspects of the $2 trillion bill. Unless an agreement is reached to extend it, the last monthly drop of those payments to families was sent out this week. AP


The FDA will allow patients to receive abortion pills by mail, without having to see a doctor in person. The government is permanently lifting those in-person restrictions on the pill, known as mifepristone, that can be taken within 10 weeks to end a pregnancy. The decision is still subject to state laws, and 19 states require a healthcare provider to be physically present when dispensing the drug. ABC NEWS


All 17 members of a U.S. missionary group that were being held hostage in Haiti since October have been released. Five of the missionaries had already been freed, and their charity says that the other 12 are now back in the U.S. reuniting with their loved ones. The group, which included children, was comprised of 16 Americans and one Canadian. The terms of their release are unclear. CNN


HOLMES: Closing arguments are underway in the federal fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes, and the jury could get the case as soon as today. Prosecutors closed by arguing that the Theranos founder “chose fraud over business failure,” while the defense is in the process of making the final case that Holmes didn’t have any intent to defraud anyone. AP


The shipping industry is about to test a new way to move large vessels across the ocean using the power of wind. The Ville de Bordeaux cargo ship is planning to unfurl a giant 5,400-sq. ft. kite next month that – the hope is – will help cut emissions as it drags the ship across the Atlantic. The kite is called Seawing and its developer says an even bigger parafoil could reduce fuel consumption by 20% per ship. BLOOMBERG


Santa Fe police have obtained a search warrant for Alec Baldwin’s phone as part of the investigation into the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust. Baldwin’s lawyers say they requested a formal warrant for the phone before he handed it over to investigators in order to protect his privacy. DEADLINE


NOTH: Chris Noth has been accused of sexual assault by two women who allege that he raped them more than a decade apart. The unidentified women went public in the Hollywood Reporter – separately – saying his involvement on the new Sex and the City reboot made them come forward. Noth has denied the allegations, calling them consensual encounters. THR

GARLIN: Jeff Garlin has left the ABC sitcom The Goldbergs after an HR investigation that stemmed from multiple complaints about the actor’s on-set behavior, both verbal and physical. Garlin, also known for his work on Curb Your Enthusiasm, recently addressed rumors about his conduct that reportedly made staffers uncomfortable, saying he has “never physically come at anyone.” THR


...a Florida man comparing himself to Rosa Parks after he got bounced from a United Airlines flight for wearing a woman’s thong as a mask: SEE IT

…an unprecedented view of the solar corona, via video taken by a NASA probe as it flew into the outer atmosphere of the sun – complete with the Milky Way peeking out from behind: SEE IT


What city can lay claim to the saddest looking Christmas tree of 2021? This year, we’ve got two competitors – one of each side of the pond – vying for the title. In Manhattan, there’s the evergreen that sits in Tompkins Square Park that was haphazardly wired for lights in such a way that the entire bottom half of the tree was left dark. In London, the big Norway spruce that towers over Trafalgar Square – an annual gift from the Norwegian government as a token of appreciation to the Brits for their help during WWII – is so threadbare that it’s become an object of citywide scorn. See for yourself: NYC vs. LONDON

Listen to the N2K Podcast! Looking for more context and analysis on the big stories of the day? Check out our podcast! Hosts Jill and Carlo break down the headlines, every weekday morning Listen on Apple or Spotify, or watch on YouTube, and send us your feedback!

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