Myanmar’s Deposed Civilian Leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, Faces Two Years In Jail 

Myanmar’s deposed civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is currently facing two years in jail after her original sentence was halved by the country’s military this week. 

Previously, Suu Kyi was sentenced to four years in prison on charges of incitement and breaking Covid-19 rules. This marks the first verdict against the Nobel Peace Prize winner since the military seized power back in February. 

Suu Kyi, 76, was Myanmar’s state counselor and de facto leader of the country before she was ousted and detained by the military ten months ago and slammed with almost a dozen charges that when combined added up to a maximum sentence of 100 years. 

According to media reports, several of the charges involved corruption, which each carry a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, violating Covid-19 pandemic restrictions during the 2020 election campaign, incitement, illegally importing and possessing walkie talkies, and breaking the colonial-era Official Secrets Act — which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.”

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Suu Kyi has rejected all allegations and her supporters are claiming that the charges against her are political. The Zabuthiri Court in Naypyidaw initially sentences Suu Kyi to two years in prison after they found her guilty of incitement, and two years after being found guilty of violating section 25 of Disaster Management Law. The military later cut down both sentences to one year. 

Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns, Ming Yu Hah, said in a statement, “the farcical and corrupt decision is part of a devastating pattern of arbitrary punishment.”

“The harsh sentences handed down to Aung San Suu Kyi on these bogus charges are the latest example of the military’s determination to eliminate all opposition and suffocate freedoms in Myanmar.”

“There are many detainees without the profile of Aung San Suu Kyi who currently face the terrifying prospect of years behind bars simply for peacefully exercising their human rights. They must not be forgotten and left to their fate,” Yu Hah expressed. 

More than 1,300 people have been killed by Myanmar security forces since the initial coup, and more than 10,000 individuals have been arrested according to advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. 

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The United Nations Security Council called for an immediate cessation of violence across Myanmar as troops continued to increase tension and hostility towards civilian militias. Nationwide protests against the junta troops have been occurring since the coup, and all have been met with brutal crackdowns and media suppression. 

“As violence escalates, displacing tens of thousands of people and setting up a humanitarian crisis in the middle of an ongoing pandemic, the situation in Myanmar today is alarming in the extreme. Without a decisive, unified and swift international response this can and will get worse.”

The verdict came one day after security forces entered into a protest in the city of Yangon. At least five people were killed due to a vehicle plowing through anti-junta protesters. One reporter who witnessed the incident told media outlets that it was a military vehicle that rammed through demonstrators. 

According to a statement from Myanmar’s military, eleven protesters were arrested, including two men and one woman who were injured. The statement from the military did not acknowledge the reported deaths or vehicle attack. 

The UN in Myanmar condemned the incident slamming the “reported attack on a number of unarmed civilians in Kyimyindaing Township, Yangon, in which a vehicle belonging to security forces rammed into protesters who were then fired upon with live ammunition leading to deaths and injuries to numerous people.”

Americans Are Resigning From Their Jobs At Record Rates

It’s been recorded that around 4.4 million American workers have handed in their resignation during the month of September alone. Certain states are experiencing major spikes in job resignations, so much so that it’s being referred to as “The Great Resignation.” 

The increase in resignation is due to a multitude of pandemic and economic factors. Many parents are dealing with the dual demands of childcare and working full time, so many of them are opting to resign and apply for unemployment so they have enough time in the day to take care of themselves and their families. 

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Some employees are able to find better paying jobs as well, as many companies are reacting to this spike in unemployment by offering raised wages and attractive benefit packages. 

Beyond the pandemic, some states are experiencing a shortage in labor due to aging employees, low workforce participation rates, and other long-term issues that have existed long before the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“A lot of states with elevated quits are states with higher-than-average COVID cases, but a lot of it is due to labor market tightness. Idaho has an extremely aging population — a lot of the tightness in Idaho is that it’s an older workforce. They also have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, so that means it’s a very good environment if you are a worker” looking for a new job,”  said Liz Wilke, chief economist at Gusto, which provides payroll and other services to small businesses. 

New Hampshire and Indiana are seeing an increase in resignation for similar reasons. Employees are leveraging their benefits and salaries to find more lucrative jobs. Typical hourly earnings increased by 4.9% in October due to these leveraging tactics as well. 

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The top 10 states with the highest resignation rates for the month of September are Hawaii (7.1%), Montana (4.8%), Nevada (4.5%), Alaska (4.3%), Colorado (4.3%), Indiana (4.3%), Idaho (4.1%), Oregon (3.9%), Louisiana (3.8%), and New Hampshire (3.8%).

According to Oxford Economics, for every job opening created in September there were only .74 unemployed people available to take the position, marking the lowest ratio on record. Economists are still confident, however, that America’s workforce will be able to rebuild itself in 2022. 

“One reason for optimism about the labor force re-entry of prime-age workers is that nearly all workers who left the labor force during the pandemic intend to re-enter in the next 12 months, suggesting that most prime-age exiters still view their exits as temporary,” Goldman Sachs analysts noted.

“Workers have ongoing concerns about workplace safety given the ongoing pandemic. It may take some time for some people to feel comfortable returning to work,” they also noted.

Dr. Fauci Says Early Reports On Omicron Covid-19 Variant Are Encouraging 

US health officials stated this Sunday that while the omicron variant is rapidly spreading throughout the world and country, early reports suggest it may be less dangerous than the delta variant, which is continuing to impact hospitalization rates across America. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, told the media that scientists do need more information before drawing any concrete conclusions about omicron and its severity. 

South Africa, where the variant initially emerged, reported that it is becoming the dominant strain for its citizens, but also suggested that their hospitalization rates haven’t increased exponentially like they did with delta initially. 

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“Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to omicron, but we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or it really doesn’t cause any severe illness, comparable to delta.”

Fauci also explained how the Biden administration is considering lifting travel restrictions between the US and noncitizens from several African countries. Initially, the US imposed heavy restrictions once the omicron variant first appeared. 

“Hopefully we’ll be able to lift that travel ban in a quite reasonable period of time. We all feel very badly about the hardship that has been put on not only in South Africa but the other African countries,” Fauci said.

According to reports the omicron variant has been detected in about a third of the US state’s as of this past Sunday. The Northeast, South, Great Plains, and West Coast have all reported omicron cases with Wisconsin, Missouri and Louisiana being the most recent states to confirm cases. 

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Delta continues to remain the dominant variant in the US, as it’s currently driving a surge of hospitalizations in the North, and makes up about 99% of the confirmed Covid cases. The National Guard has been sent out to help overwhelmed hospitals throughout the Northeast, and many hospitals are rescheduling non-urgent surgeries to cope with the increase in Covid patients. 

A majority of these cases are among unvaccinated individuals as well, so US officials are working hard to continue to urge people to get vaccinated, receive their booster shots, and take all the necessary precautions when out in public. 

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove told the media this week that even if the omicron variant continues to be less dangerous than the delta variant, it’s existence alone is still a major issue. 

“Even if we have a large number of cases that are mild, some of those individuals will need hospitalizations. They will need to go into ICU and some people will die. … We don’t want to see that happen on top of an already difficult situation with delta circulating globally.”

We are now about two years into the pandemic, and during that time about 780,000 Americans have died, and deaths remain at a rate of 860 per day, proving we still have a long way to go before we can consider this pandemic even close to being beaten. With more than 86,000 infections being reported per day, experts are encouraging all Americans to remain safe during the upcoming holiday season, and keep all travel to a minimum. 

Astroworld Victims’ Families Reject Travis Scott’s Offer To Cover Funeral Costs 

Travis Scott’s offer to pay for the funeral costs of Astroworld victims has been rejected by half of the bereaved families. One of them is the family of nine-year-old Ezra Blount, who was the youngest of the 10 victims who lost their lives from the Texas music festival. 

Scott made the offer last week after multiple lawsuits against him, his team, livenation, and others involved in the festival were filed. A lawyer for the family of 14-year-old John Hilgert responded to the offer recently to the media: 

“The gesture is demeaning and inappropriate. Of all the things this case is about, the cost of the funeral is the least of any concern. This family is set on making change, and ensuring this never happens at a concert again.” 

On Friday November 5th, a crowd surge occurred during Scott’s set at Astroworld. There were around 50,000 people attending the festival in Houston’s NRG Park Complex. 

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Ten individuals have now lost their lives due to the surging that occurred at the event, the oldest of which was just 27-years-old. Blount died nine days after the concert after being placed in a medically induced coma due to the severity of his injuries. 

Scott’s lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli, wrote to the nine-year-old’s family the day after the funeral, offering to pay for the entire service. 

“Travis is devastated by the tragedy that occurred at the Astroworld Festival and grieves for the families whose loved ones died or were injured. Travis is committed to doing his part to help the families who have suffered and begin the long process of healing in the Houston community. Toward that end, Travis would like to pay for the funeral expenses for Mr Blount’s son,” the letter read.

The family’s lawyer, Bob Hilliard, immediately declined the offer on behalf of the Blount family with a letter:

“I have no doubt Mr. Scott feels remorse. His journey ahead will be painful. He must face and hopefully see that he bears some of the responsibility of this tragedy.” 

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Other families have called out Scott, and claimed that the rapper’s offer was simply to repair his public image, and if he actually cared about his fans, this wouldn’t have happened in the first place. 

Philip Corboy, the lawyer for the families of Jacob Jurinek and Franco Patino, 21-year-old best friends who were at the concert together, said Scott’s approach to make amends through his legal team leaves the impression “that all he’s trying to do is lessen the public outcry against him.”

“If he’s trying to impress upon the families that he’s sincere and has concern for them and realize that funerals can be expensive, what Soctt’s team did is not the way to do it,” Corboy continued.

“You don’t get a piece of paper in the mail from a lawyer in Beverly Hills who says he represents Travis Scott. These families are raw right now; that lacks any personal touch.”

Tony Buzbee, who represents the family of Axel Acosta (21), also publicly questioned Scott’s motives in choosing to make the announcement that he would pay for the funeral costs through a “press release that everyone could see.” 

“He says he feels sorry for them but he’s quick to say it wasn’t his fault. He’s no different than any defendant pointing fingers to someone else. They don’t want funeral expenses from him. Whatever we get from him we’re going to get through the court system,” Buzbee exclaimed. 

Women’s Tennis Tournaments Suspended in China Over Peng Shuai Censorship

Steve Simon, the chairman and CEO of the women’s professional tennis tour, announced Wednesday that all Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) events occuring in China would be suspended due to the ongoing concerns over the country censoring her following Peng accusing a former government official of sexual assault.

In the statement, Simon expresses his doubts over claims that Peng is free, safe, and not being “censored or coerced, or intimidated” despite knowing her location. The chairman also explained that allowing sexual assault to go unpunished, it would be setting both the organization and equality back.

“None of this is acceptable nor can it become acceptable. If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded – equality for women – would suffer an immense setback. I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players.”

“Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022,” Simon said, who called for a complete and transparent investigation into the allegations. Simon gave no indications as to how long the suspension would last.

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The decision will have some costly ramifications. As Yahoo! Sports notes, the WTA tournaments generate tens of millions of dollars annually, while Shenzhen, China’s bid for the WTA Final included a promise to double the prize money from $7 million to $14 million. In 2019, WTA tournaments accounted for $30 million total in prize money.

The 35-year-old Peng has enjoyed quite of bit of success throughout her career, winning two singles and 23 doubles at major events such as the Wimbledon Championship, US Open, and French Open. Peng, who once ranked #1 in the world, was also a member of China’s women’s tennis teams in both the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics.

Peng brought the matter to the forefront back on Nov. 2, when she made a social media posting on Weibo — a Chinese platform — about former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli. Peng claimed he forced her to have sex three years ago, despite several refusals. She also stated they had sex several years ago. The post was taken down by Chinese authorities within 30 minutes, and Peng suddenly disappeared from the public eye.

Peng would later reappear in a video and photos posted by state-run social media on Nov. 20, at a youth tennis tournament in Beijing. Despite the country’s actions to stop the bleeding, neither the Chinese government nor Zhang, 75, have commented on the allegations. An email supposedly sent by Peng to Simon was released by Chinese media, but Simon stated he doubted the authenticity and that it only raised further questions in regards to Peng’s status and safety.

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International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach held a video conference with Peng on Nov. 21, and said that while she is “safe and well,” she would “like to have her privacy respected at this time.” The IOC also held a second video conference with Peng on Thursday, and once again stated her wellbeing and safety. No transcripts or video from either conference have been presented.

Despite the IOC’s claim, many are still suspicious given the circumstances. According to The Associated Press, the European Union said it wants China to give “verifiable proof” that Peng is safe.

Beijing is set to hold the 2022 Winter Olympics in January, which has also been a source of controversy. Numerous protests have occurred, petitioning countries, sponsors, and athletes to boycott the Olympics due to China’s treatment of Uyghur and Kazakh Muslims, in addition to its “geopolitical bullying.”

U.S. Warns Russia Of “Serious Consequences” If Troops Initiate Conflict At Ukraine Border

On the Ukraine border, a storm is brewing in the form of Kremlin fighters, rifles, and tanks. Around 100,000 troops have gathered at the border, and while this is happened before — Russia gathered and eventually pulled back forces in April — many experts believe this movement is more serious, and could drag Europe and the U.S. into a military conflict.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Stockholm that if “Russia decides to pursue confrontation, there will be serious consequences.” Blinken added that diplomacy is the best way to avoid any pending conflicts, and called for Russia to pull back its troops.

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While the meeting between Blinken and Lavrov did not produce any solutions, the two have agreed to continue diplomatic conversations, according to State Department officials. Blinken also stated that the two will relay their talks to Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, and the two Presidents could “speak directly in the near future.”

Moscow has continued to deny any plans for an invasion, and accused Ukraine and its allies of making up claims in order to cover up their own aggressive actions and military build-ups. Russia also stated on Thursday that it arrested three suspected Ukrainian security service agents.

Speaking to NBC News, former U.S. ambassador and Atlantic Council senior director John Herbst explained that if the Kremlin wanted to quickly conduct an invasion, nothing would hold them back from doing just that.

“Moscow is so positioned that they can move with very little warning. They’re certainly threatening. And they’re in a position that if they want to, they can do it.”

Prior to the OSCE meeting, Blinken explained that they were deeply concerned by evidence that Russia had made plans for “significant aggressive” moves, and that they don’t know what Putin has decided in regards to an invasion.

In a speech, Lavrov claimed that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was refusing to consider proposals that would help to deescalate the situation, and warned NATO against turning countries neighboring Russia into “bridgeheads of confrontation.”

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Russia has also been accused of playing a hand in the continuing Belarus-Poland border crisis, which Euronews reports Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said is “absolutely connected” to the Kremlin’s military build-up.

These [are] all absolutely connected factors which lead to the aggression from Russia side, which lead to the using of energy [supplies] against Europe and against Ukraine’s European inspirations.”

Russia and Belarus held a week-long open Zapad (“West”) military exercise on NATO’s border in September. The exercise consisted of 200,000 troops and came after an effort to integrate the two countries while creating a “single defense space.”

Ukraine and Russia have a long history of tensions since Ukraine broke away following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2014, Russia seized control of the Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula where citizens are ethnically Russian. Russia proceeded to hold a referendum and annexed Crimea.

Putin published a paper in July, arguing that Ukraine is part of historical Russia. Putin also claimed that the two countries’ spiritual unity has been attacked, and that Russia has never been — and will never be — “anti-Ukraine.”

The Metaverse Looks To Be The Next Real Estate Market As Virtual Land Sells For $4.3 Million

Are you a real estate investor, but hate the travel and tedious upkeep? The Metaverse might have solved all your woes. On Tuesday, Republic Realm purchased a virtual plot of land for $4.3 million, making it the largest metaverse real estate acquisition to date.

This deal comes just a week after a 500-square-foot plot of virtual land was purchased by the Metaverse Group — a real estate investment trust (REIT) — for a then-record $2.43 million. The site is planned to host fashion shows and e-commerce for a number of brands.

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Metaverse Group calls themselves “the world’s first virtual real estate company,” and intends to focus on buying, selling, and developing virtual pieces of real estate in the Metaverse. Republic Realm also appears to have a similar strategy.

The real estate properties being sold in this case are known as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. NFTs can come in various forms, from images to trading cards.

The Metaverse was created by Facebook (now Meta) founder Mark Zuckerberg. Essentially, the Metaverse is a digital world filled with various realms that combines different types of technology — such as virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), as well as artificial intelligence — to allow users to work, hang with friends, go to a concert or movie, travel, essentially anything you might desire.

According to digital currency investor Grayscale, goods and services within the Metaverse have the potential to earn $1 trillion annual revenue, and that revenue could grow to $400 billion by 2025 – a $220 increase from 2020. Meanwhile, experts believe the Metaverse economy will become fully functionable within a couple of years.

However, whether or not the real estate aspect continues to boom remains to be seen. As The Independent notes, Decentraland — which is made up of five districts — is one of several VR platforms that offers Metaverse property listings. It’s also called one of the “most advanced” in the blockchain universe. Among the other realms include The Sandbox, Somnium, Cryptovoxels, and Upland.

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A number of notable virtual real estate deals in the Metaverse have occurred throughout the year. Republic Realm purchased a 16-acre plot for nearly $1 million ($913,228.20 to be exact) in June, while Axie Infinity announced one of its properties sold for $2.3 million on Nov. 27.

Over the last seven days, 530 properties in Decentraland were sold, with a trading volume of $17.5 million and an average price of $32,500. Decentraland saw a boom in purchases following Facebook’s switch to Meta – average properties bought daily before Oct. 28 ranged from five to the rare 30. Following the announcement, Oct. 29 saw 129 properties purchased, and Decentraland has had a steady daily rate since.

Early birds to the industry were well-rewarded. In January, a plot of land could go for $2,000. Now, buyers are able to resell their properties for sums over $150,000. Of course, the market is far from foolproof. As Futurism explains, there’s no guarantees that landowners make any return on investments, or even open up their land to the public. Many of the realms and cities, such as Decentraland’s Genesis City, are still closed and have no release date, despite the cash being thrown around that would suggest otherwise.

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Resigns As CTO Parag Agrawal Takes Reins

Twitter announced on Monday that CEO Jack Dorsey has stepped down from his position. Replacing him with be CTO Parag Agrawal. The company noted Dorsey will remain on the Board until his term expires at the 2022 stockholders meeting.

Dorsey commented on the exit, stating his belief that the company is set to continue on without his input while also expressing his confidence in Agrawal’s abilities to take over in his role as CEO.

“I’ve decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders. My trust in Parag as Twitter’s CEO is deep. His work over the past 10 years has been transformational. I’m deeply grateful for his skill, heart, and soul. It’s his time to lead.”

In an email he tweeted out, Dorsey discussed the idea of the importance of a company being “founder-led,” which he called as being “severely limited” and a “single point of failure.” As to why he’s not staying or becoming chair, Dorsey stated he thinks that Parag needs the space in order for him to efficiently lead.

In addition to co-founding the social media microblogging network back in 2006, the 45-year-old Dorsey also co-founded — and operates as CEO of — Square, a digital payment company. Dorsey, who has a net worth of $11.9 billion, might not be the typical image of a tech giant founder – his laid-back, hippie attitude is a unique (and criticized) presence in the industry.

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This isn’t Dorsey’s first time stepping down from a chief position – he served as CEO from 2007 to 2008 before being pushed out of the role by tech entrepreneur Evan Williams. Following the creation of Square, Dosey rejoined Twitter in 2011 before reclaiming the CEO title in 2015.

When it comes to the economic impact, Yahoo! Finance explains that Dorsey’s departure is actually good for investors. Indeed, the numbers prove this theory right – Twitter stock went up 11 percent since the management shift.

Dorsey was the center of controversy for numerous years in regards to how he handled former President Donald Trump — Trump was permanently banned from the app last year — as well as his frequent inaction on internal matters.

Dorsey’s departure also shows a growing trend, as The New York Times points out – numerous tech moguls are stepping down from leadership roles in recent years, which includes Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

There are a number of possibilities for this, one of which is that the companies are so established and profitable now that they no longer need their original founders and visionaries. Another is how the moguls are simply becoming bored with their work lives, and desire a new, exciting change or project.

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Twitter has wasted no time making significant adjustments following Dorsey’s departure. Less than a day after the news, the company announced it was changing its “private information policy,” and that users can no longer share media — such as images or videos — of “private individuals” without their permission.

Twitter explained the change is meant to “curb the misuse of media to harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of private individuals.” The change has left many confused due to several grey areas that are involved. The sudden user backlash likely isn’t what the new regime hoped to start out with.

As for Dorsey, MarketWatch reported he’s “all-in” on Square, which could help the company’s worth flourish in the foreseeable future. Dorsey has also shown a passionate interest in Bitcoin, which he told a crowd back in June 2021 he would be working on if he wasn’t at Twitter or Square. In 2019, Square created Square Crypto, a team focused on bitcoin open-source work.

Cyber Monday Sales Drop For The First Time Ever In 2021

This Cyber Monday, consumers spent upwards of $10.7 billion collectively on deals from their favorite online retailers. However, according to data from Adobe Analytics, this total marks a 1.4% decrease when compared to the lowest amount spent during Cyber Monday on record. 

Adobe Analytics initially began tracking e-commerce in 2012, and analyzes more than 1 trillion visits to retailer websites. This year’s tally for Cyber Monday marks the first time that the company has recorded a slowdown in spending on a major shopping day during the holiday season. 

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Last Cyber Monday wasn’t much different either, with consumers spending about $10.8 billion online. Last year was more predictable, however, as we were still in the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, and most people weren’t leaving their house or in a position to spend a lot of money for the holidays. 

Adobe is still expecting that throughout the rest of this year’s holiday season, online retailer’s will see a relative increase in e-commerce activity. More shoppers have been opting to spread out their orders when it comes to holiday shopping to make it easier to pay off certain gifts. 

Between November 1st and Cyber Monday consumers in the US alone have spent about $109.8 billion online, which is an 11.9% increase from last year’s numbers, and the previous year’s. The company is anticipating digital sales to reach $207 billion by the end of the year, which would represent a record hain of 10%. 

Adobe reported that the Cyber Monday sales stats aren’t exactly surprising either. As previously mentioned, more shoppers have been spreading out the days in which they spend their money, as opposed to waiting for “Cyber Week” (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday) to get all their shopping done. 

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Many larger online retailers have seen these patterns, and have even gone as far as to offer Black Friday deals all autumn and winter. Adobe reported that retailers made about $8.9 billion in online sales this Black Friday, and about $5.1 billion in online sales on Thanksgiving Day. 

According to data from Sensormatic Solutions, another retail tracker, shopper traffic on Black Friday was up 47.5% when compared to last year’s numbers, however, it was still down 28.3% when compared to 2019/pre-pandemic levels. 

“With early deals in October, consumers were not waiting around for discounts on big shopping days like Cyber Monday and Black Friday,” said Taylor Schreiner, director at Adobe Digital Insights.

Adobe predicts that online retail trends will continue to fuel the market throughout the holiday season as deals on major retail websites like Amazon, Target, and Walmart continue to push “Black Friday Deals” throughout the entire holiday season.

Experts Warn Omicron Covid Variant Is A ‘Reason To Be Worried’

The Omicron Covid-19 variant was first detected in South Africa, and has now spread to 14 countries, with some experts claiming the variant has already reached the US. Scientists are working to figure out how much more dangerous and contagious the new variant is when compared to other variants, especially as international governments race to ease travel restrictions. 

The US has been imposing travel restrictions on travelers from South Africa since Monday, as well as other countries around the region. The variant has already been confirmed in Canada, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, discussed the variant on the news recently. 

“The new variant is likely already in the United States, but the government is better positioned to detect cases of the new strain than it was a year ago.”

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As of this week, most travelers from southern Africa are barred from entering the United States, and restrictions have been renewed for all travel from southern Africa to most European countries. Within 36 hours of discovering the new strain, scientists in South Africa alerted the world and began testing current vaccines against the strain immediately. Dr. Anthony Fauci discussed the increased risk for unvaccinated Americans when it comes to any variant. 

“The US certainly has the potential to go into a fifth wave of high infections if enough people don’t come forward for vaccination and booster shots.”

South Africa’s government and president, however, are worried that the region is being unjustly blamed for the new variant, when the reality is these variants only have the opportunity to develop due to uneven distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines throughout the world. 

“We want all travel bans to be reversed, as they have no basis in science. These restrictions are completely unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country,” South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said. 

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“I think there’s good reason to be worried. I don’t think that means that we’re powerless, answers are coming. We need to collect data. We need to investigate and understand this variant,” said Professor Anne Van Gottberg of South Africa’s Institute for Communicable Diseases.

“We should be doing the things that we know work when you’re dealing with a pandemic virus. It’s not the time to panic. We should be concerned, and our concern should spur us to do the things that we know work,” Dr. Fauci said.

Fauci explained that “the concern over the new variant comes from the number and type of mutations found around the spike protein, the part of the virus molecule that allows it to attach itself to human cells. The high number of mutations and where they were found suggests that this would be more transmissible, and also suggests that it might evade some of the immune parameters that we have, such as antibody and plasma treatments, and the current vaccines.”

“It appears to be spreading very readily and has a transmission advantage. One of the key things we don’t know right now is whether the new variant causes more severe COVID-19 symptoms than previous strains.”

Omicron currently accounts for more than 2,000 new daily cases in South Africa. One expert in the nation is worried that the daily infection rate could triple within the next week alone. 

“I am expecting we will top over 10,000 cases by the end of the week per day,” Dr Salim Abdool Karim said during an online press briefing by the Health Ministry.