5 things to know for Dec. 17: SCOTUS, Coronavirus, Kentucky, Afghanistan, Facebook

Here is what you need to know
Originally Published: 17 DEC 21 06:40 ET
Updated: 17 DEC 21 06:44 ET

(CNN) — Economic disaster averted: Yesterday, President Joe Biden signed the debt limit increase passed by Congress earlier this week, avoiding a catastrophic default.

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Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has sent the controversial Texas abortion law to a conservative federal appeals court to determine next steps, a move that all but suspends abortion rights in the state and perpetuates concerns that the high court could gut the tenets of Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court allowed the law to stay on the books last week, and with a similar law in Mississippi on the court’s docket, abortion rights activists are preparing for the worst. As the battle heats up, access to medical abortion, administered via pills, could become a critical conversation. Yesterday, the FDA said it’s lifting a requirement that patients seeking medication abortion had to pick up the medication in-person, instead allowing the pills to be sent by mail.

2. Coronavirus

The CDC has changed its recommendations for Covid-19 vaccines to clarify that shots made by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech are preferred over Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. A CDC advisory committee endorsed the recommendation after hearing new data indicating that a rare blood clotting syndrome is more common among people who recently received the J&J vaccine than previously thought. However, the severe side effect is still very rare. Both the UK and South Africa have broken single-day Covid-19 case records recently due to the rapidly-spreading Omicron variant. Now, health experts and President Biden are warning unvaccinated Americans that Omicron will make the next few months very difficult, not just on their health, but on a health care system struggling to handle the new surges.

3. Kentucky

Workers at a candle factory in Kentucky that was struck by last week’s deadly tornadoes have filed a class-action lawsuit alleging they were told they would be fired if they left work ahead of the storms. More than 100 people were working at the Mayfield factory when a tornado swept through, killing eight. US Rep. James Comer, who represents the area, said workers had been going “24/7” to meet Christmastime candle demand. A spokesperson for the company denied that workers were threatened with termination. Yesterday, Comer joined President Biden on a tour of devastated areas in Kentucky. Biden pledged the federal government would cover 100% of the costs of emergency work for the first 30 days of recovery. At least 71 people died in the state as a result of the storms.

4. Afghanistan

House lawmakers are calling on the Biden administration to help avert a looming economic collapse in Afghanistan. Humanitarian organizations have warned that Afghanistan is on the brink of disaster as its economic and medical systems collapse and millions face starvation in the months since the Taliban takeover and US withdrawal. Billions of dollars in the country’s central bank reserves, much of which is held in the US, have been frozen since August. The group of mostly Democratic House members wants the administration to release funds to an appropriate UN agency to help pay for things like teachers’ salaries and meals for schoolchildren. They also recommend clarifying sanctions exemptions for humanitarian aid so more capital can be injected into the economy by international donors.

5. Facebook

Cybersecurity researchers have uncovered a vast international network of surveillance-for-hire firms that they claim has used hacking tools and hundreds of fake personas on Meta platforms to monitor journalists, dissidents and politicians around the world. The investigations from Meta, the parent company of Facebook, and the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab reveal more about the booming private spy business that the Biden administration has tried to crack down on out of concern for human rights. As a result of the investigation, Meta took down hundreds of Facebook and Instagram accounts tied to different identified spy organizations. Meta researchers said that while these organizations claim to only target criminals or terrorists, their research shows otherwise.


Betty White is turning 100 and we’re all invited

Long live the queen!

There’s a reason we can’t help but love holiday songs

They’re basically scientifically engineered ear worms.

Young people are ditching skinny leggings for loose, flared ones

As long as they’re comfortable, you do you!

Ancient sheep poop reveals an unknown population on Faroe Islands before Vikings

Who would have thought feces could teach us so much?

The first true millipede has been discovered in Australia. It has the most legs of any living animal

We’re running out of days to say it so … #NOSCARYBUGS2021!!!


Who was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2021?

A. Jeff Bezos

B. Elon Musk

C. Greta Thunberg

D. Dr. Anthony Fauci

Take CNN’s weekly news quiz to see if you’re correct!



That’s how many terawatt-hours in coal-generated power the world is expected to use by the end of this year. That’s a 9% increase over last year’s coal consumption, driven by a rapid economic recovery that’s pushed up demand for electricity. Experts say that demand may increase next year, despite global goals to reduce coal use.


“What I’ve been able to accomplish, I hope it inspires women, young girls, men … I would hope that they see representation. And representation matters.”

Keechant Sewell, who will soon become the first woman to lead the New York Police Department and the first Black person to lead the department in nearly 30 years.


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Shine kindly here

Let this beautiful, contemplative choral piece, “Good Night, Dear Heart,” lead you peacefully into the weekend. (Click here to view)

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