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5 things to know for January 4: House, Damar Hamlin, Covid-19, Abortion, Japan

By Alexandra Meeks, CNN

Some passengers who were recently affected by Southwest Airlines’ holiday travel meltdown are receiving thousands of frequent flier miles as a “gesture of goodwill” for enduring such turbulent times. Meanwhile, lots of luggage remains in limbo — and it could be several days to weeks until some passengers are reunited with their bags again.

Here’s what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

(You can get “5 Things You Need to Know Today” delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)

1. House

The new House GOP majority is locked in a chaotic stalemate over who will serve as the next speaker after Republican Kevin McCarthy failed to secure the necessary support to win after three rounds of voting on Tuesday. The House is set to reconvene at noon today with hopes to reach a resolution. McCarthy’s allies say he’s not dropping out, despite opposition from a small but determined contingent of hardline conservatives who are intent on denying him the votes needed to secure the gavel. McCarthy’s failure to lock down the votes so far has heightened uncertainty over whether he can win, or if a viable candidate could emerge as an alternative. The last time an election for speaker went to multiple ballots was in 1923.

2. Damar Hamlin

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin remains in critical condition after suffering a cardiac arrest on the field during Monday night’s game. “His heart had went out so they had to resuscitate him twice,” his uncle Dorrian Glenn told CNN on Tuesday. “They resuscitated him on the field before they brought him to the hospital and then they resuscitated him a second time when they got him to the hospital,” he explained. Medical experts say the next step is to get Hamlin, who is still sedated and on a ventilator, to breathe on his own. As for the Buffalo Bills team, players and coaches are emotionally distraught as they anxiously await an update on Hamlin’s condition, sources say. Meanwhile, the NFL has not made any changes to this upcoming weekend’s schedule, with the Bills set to host the New England Patriots on Sunday.

3. Covid-19

A new Covid-19 variant known as XBB.1.5 has become the dominant variant in the US, causing most new coronavirus cases, data from the CDC shows. For weeks, scientists have been monitoring a rise in several Omicron subvariants, but XBB.1.5 cases have shown the greatest spike, rising from about 4% to 41% of new infections over the month of December. Scientists say the variant has features that give it the potential to drive a new surge of Covid-19 cases in the US, although it’s still unclear how large that wave will be and whether it could send more people to the hospital. Many experts in the medical community are also saying that XBB.1.5 has shifted far away from earlier Covid-19 strains, and therefore has the potential to escape the protections of vaccinations and antibodies developed from past infections.

4. Abortion

The FDA announced it will allow pharmacies to dispense the abortion medication mifepristone to patients. Mifepristone can be used along with another medication, misoprostol, to end a pregnancy. As of Tuesday, the FDA said it would no longer enforce a rule requiring people to get the first of the two drugs in person at a clinic or hospital. Certified pharmacies can instead dispense the drugs directly to someone who has a prescription. The FDA’s move comes days after a new Justice Department legal opinion declared that federal law allows the US Postal Service to deliver the abortion drugs — a move the Biden administration believes could help protect access to abortion in states that have enacted bans following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

5. Japan

Japan is offering to pay families to move out of its overcrowded capital. Starting in April, the incentive — equivalent to about $7,700 per child — will be issued to families if they move from Tokyo to less-populated countryside towns, a spokesperson from the central government said. Tokyo is the country’s most populous city, with roughly 37 million residents. For decades, people across Japan have migrated to its urban centers seeking job opportunities. With little space, prices have skyrocketed, while rural towns have been left with fewer residents — as well as millions of unoccupied homes. This is not the first time the government has tried to use financial incentives to encourage people to leave, but the new plan is more generous at three times the amount currently offered.


Robin Roberts plans to marry her longtime partner

Good news from the “Good Morning America” team: Their star co-anchor Robin Roberts is tying the knot this year!

Twitter sued for allegedly failing to pay rent

The Twitter saga continues… Billionaire Elon Musk, the company’s new owner, is contending with a lawsuit for not paying rent on some of Twitter’s office spaces.

Teenage pilot makes emergency landing with family members on board

This 18-year-old pilot said he had to “tune out” his crying grandma in order to safely land a single-engine plane near a two-lane highway.

Victoria’s Secret brand CEO abruptly resigns

Things are looking a bit blue for the company’s teenage brand Pink. CEO Amy Hauk has resigned less than a year into the job amid struggling sales.

Jeremy Renner shares first photo since snow plowing accident

“Hawkeye” star Jeremy Renner thanked well-wishers for their kind words in his first post to social media since his snow plowing accident.


Walter Cunningham, the last surviving Apollo 7 astronaut, died Tuesday, NASA said in a statement. He was 90. Cunningham was one of the earliest members of NASA’s human spaceflight program as a member of its third astronaut class, joining the space agency in 1963. He was selected to pilot Apollo 7, the first crewed mission of the program that went on to land humans on the moon for the first time.


250 feet

That’s how far a Tesla plunged off a California cliff — and all four occupants somehow escaped serious injuries. The incident occurred Monday along California’s Pacific Coast Highway at an area called Devil’s Slide, about 20 miles south of San Francisco. “Accidents on that cliff are not rare,” said Cal Fire battalion chief Brian Pottenger. “What’s rare is that we do not get a lot of survivors.” The car contained an adult male, an adult female, a 9-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl. The 41-year-old male driver was later placed under arrest on multiple charges after investigators “developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act,” the state’s highway patrol said.


“I will again challenge these violations and show that rats don’t run this city.”

— New York Mayor Eric Adams, in a statement to CNN Tuesday after receiving new fines for failing to eliminate a rat infestation at one of his properties in Brooklyn. The mayor has been a vocal rat opponent and recently began recruiting for a new “director of rodent mitigation,” aka “rat czar” to rid the city’s streets of its most notorious furry inhabitants.


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It’s National Spaghetti Day

Ciao! In honor of the unofficial holiday, watch this video to see the world’s rarest pasta recipe and its intricate shaping technique. (Click here to view)

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