By AJ Willingham, CNN
This is it, the last 5 Things of 2021! We’re taking a little hiatus tomorrow, so have a safe and reinvigorating New Year.
Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.
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1. Ghislaine Maxwell
Ghislaine Maxwell, a longtime associate of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, has been found guilty on five of six federal charges related to her role in Epstein’s sexual abuse of minor girls between 1994 and 2004. The charges include sex trafficking of a minor, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy. She was acquitted on one charge of enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts. The case against Maxwell hinged on the powerful testimony of four women who said they were sexually abused by Epstein when they were under the age of 18, and claimed that Maxwell facilitated and sometimes participated in the abuse. Maxwell, 60, pleaded not guilty to all charges. Now that the verdict is in, Maxwell now faces up to 65 years in prison.
President Joe Biden is scheduled to hold a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin today to discuss a range of topics ahead of diplomatic meetings in January. The call was requested by Putin, and Biden accepted in the interest of what he called “direct leader-leader dialogue.” Biden reportedly plans to preview the upcoming bilateral talks between the US and Russia set for January 10, and will also discuss the NATO-Russia and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meetings slated for January 12 and 13. Things with Russia have been especially tense since the country has been making military moves near its border with Ukraine, stoking fears of a possible invasion. A Biden administration official said the US is “at a moment of crisis” with Russia, and a “high level of engagement” is needed to defuse the situation.
A new ensemble forecast from the CDC predicts more than 44,000 people could die of Covid-19 over the next four weeks as the US endures a much-feared winter surge. Cases are rising in other countries around the world, as well. In India, a sharp Covid-19 surge has been worsened by a two-week-long doctor’s strike which could lead to a frontline response shortage. In Xi’an, China, 13 million people have been locked down for a week, and case numbers in the city are still high. Covid outbreaks are also leading to critical staffing shortages. In Cincinnati, so many firefighters are out with Covid-19 that the mayor has declared a state of emergency.
4. Korean War
South Korea has “effectively” agreed with the US on a draft declaring the end of the Korean War, according to South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong. Although the war ended in 1953 with an armistice, there was never actually a peace treaty to conclude the conflict between North Korea, South Korea and their respective allies. In September, North Korean Vice Minister Ri Thae Song said South Korea’s call to declare an end to the Korean War was “premature” due to “US hostile policy” toward Pyongyang. However, a US State Department spokesperson said the US has “no hostile intent” towards North Korea, and will continue to engage with its allies on the best way to handle the reclusive nation.
Lawmakers threw punches and hurled insults in Jordan’s Parliament on Tuesday when a heated debate about women’s rights turned physical. The lawmakers were preparing to discuss a change to the constitution to address Jordanian citizens in both the feminine and masculine tense — a linguistic update that is part of a larger set of changes backed by King Abdullah II in an attempt to modernize the country. Conservative parliamentarians fear the change will override the terms of inheritance or citizenship laws, which heavily and sometimes exclusively favor men. It was this point of contention that led to Tuesday’s donnybrook, and even the speaker of Parliament had to resort to angry outbursts to manage the commotion.
A look at the new ‘Book of Boba Fett’ show on Disney+
Star Wars fans, it’s time to go back to the Sarlacc Pit.
Holiday returns will cost retailers 59% more than last year
There’s the holiday buying rush, and then there’s the holiday returning rush. And they’re equally stressful.
More than a trend, fidget toys really can help kids with extra urges to move around
A Dubai restaurant is using tech to stop seafood fraud
No more pricey catfishing! Well, unless it’s actually catfish.
More than 500 new species, including colorful beetles and a ‘hell heron,’ discovered in 2021
Let’s say it one more time for good measure: NO MORE SCARY BUGS (OR BIRDS) 2021!
Do you remember all the good things that happened in 2021?
A new Mars rover landed on the red planet this year and has been making all sorts of fascinating discoveries, including evidence of an ancient lava flow. What is the name of the beloved contraption?
This year was rough, but it wasn’t all bad! Take CNN’s uplifting year in review quiz to see if you’re correct, and look back on other positive stories!
That’s the value of the Powerball jackpot after there were no winners in Wednesday’s drawing. The next drawing is January 1, so someone may be starting off 2022 in very auspicious style.
“I’ve reached a point in my life this past year where I realized just how vital the idea and essence of time is; who and what gets my time these days. We don’t get time back, so in 2022 and beyond, the people, the projects, the energy, the everything. Life. If it gets my time and gets me out of bed, then I’ll go to sleep knowing it was worth it and it was all time wisely spent. Time is our greatest and most valuable currency.”
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, on what he wants to accomplish in the New Year.
Drop the ball!
Ever wonder why, exactly, we stare up at big shiny balls (or peaches or crabs or whatever local symbol) on New Year’s Eve? Wonder no more! (Click here to view)
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