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The Mood in the Capitol Was Already Dark. Then Came Omicron. – The New York Times



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Congressional Memo
Congress, always a reflection of the country, is in a testy mood, as the latest coronavirus variant looms over the Capitol and schadenfreude is in full swing.
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WASHINGTON — Across the country, the Omicron variant has sent coronavirus infections into the stratosphere. Winter weather and empty shelves have turned moods surly. Americans have turned on each other over vaccinations, mandates and masks.
And at the U.S. Capitol, where all manner of people are thrown together in an unhappy stew, the moment was crystallized this week in a hot-mic episode. In an audible whisper, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, summed up his feelings for another physician, Senator Roger Marshall, Republican of Kansas.
“What a moron,” Dr. Fauci said on Tuesday after a testy exchange with the senator over the infectious disease expert’s financial disclosures. “Jesus Christ.”
Just when it seemed as if the atmosphere on Capitol Hill could not get worse, Omicron came to town. At least 129 House members and senators have announced a coronavirus infection since the outset of the pandemic, nearly a quarter of the lawmakers in Congress. A baker’s dozen announced infections in the last week alone. A mask mandate that has been only fitfully respected by Republicans in the House was turned up a notch to require only N95s and KN95s — and compliance is just as spotty.
Social distancing is back; when the body of Harry Reid, the former Senate majority leader, lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday, chairs were arranged several feet apart. The grand atrium of the Capitol Visitor Center, once filled with tourists, has been reconfigured with stanchions to demarcate the Covid testing line for lawmakers and staff members.
Schadenfreude is in full tilt.
Democrats cackled about what Dr. Fauci called Mr. Marshall; Republicans countered by invoking Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, who was spotted maskless and outdoors in Miami Beach late last month. Her office announced on Sunday that she had tested positive for the virus.
Of course, it is no laughing matter. Two Republicans have died after contracting Covid — Representative Ron Wright of Texas and Representative-elect Luke Letlow of Louisiana — and the refusal of some lawmakers on the right fringe to wear a mask in the hustle and bustle of House floor votes has some colleagues fearing for their health.
“I see people — members, staff — without masks,” the House sergeant-at-arms, William J. Walker, a former District of Columbia National Guard commander, said this week. “I’ll walk up to them and ask them to put the mask on. Some just walk away from me.”
On the House floor on Wednesday, Representative Brian Mast, Republican of Florida, walked through the well on two prosthetic legs, smiling broadly without his mask. In the back of the chamber, Georgia’s maskless duo, Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andrew Clyde, both Republicans, held court seemingly without a care, sure to get fined for their rule-breaking but confident their fortunes could handle it.
(Ms. Greene’s father built a significant Atlanta-area building company before selling it to his daughter and son-in-law, while Mr. Clyde’s hulking gun shop, Clyde Armory, has kept him flush. They have already absorbed more than $100,000 in fines for their mask strike.)
Speaking just outside the chamber with his mask off, Representative Lee Zeldin, Republican of New York, was nonchalant. Omicron is mild, he said, and the steep rise in cases, in his home county on Long Island and across the country, will be followed, he hoped, by an equally steep decline.
“Those who are testing positive include the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, but for those I speak to — and there are many who have tested positive in recent weeks — fortunately for them, every single person I’ve spoken to has had a much milder experience than what was experienced in past variants,” said Mr. Zeldin, who is running for governor of New York.
Democrats tend to be a little less sanguine. Signs posted throughout the House proclaim in all capital letters “USE OF FACE COVERINGS REQUIRED,” but they appear to have only made the defiant dig in.
“That kind of defiance, we see it all across the board here,” said Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democratic whip, who missed his granddaughter’s wedding last month as he battled Covid. “And these are people who I hope will be able to survive whatever comes their way.”
The procedural machinations around voting rights legislation and the hand-wringing over President Biden’s social safety net and climate change bill can seem a bit beside the point when cases are soaring, hospitalizations nationwide are up 84 percent over the past two weeks and the average number of deaths now exceeds 1,700 a day.
Behind those marquee issues, the pandemic is again rising as a political focus. House Democrats on Wednesday rushed out new legislation to provide free at-home coronavirus tests while Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, reintroduced his bill to send N95 masks to every home.
For their part, Republicans appeared to have determined that the real victims of the virus were those who refused to be vaccinated against it.
House Republican leaders forced Democrats to vote on a procedural motion to ensure that service members discharged for refusing to be vaccinated would not lose their G.I. Bill benefits. It failed.
The latest Covid data in the U.S. As the Omicron surge caused case counts to reach record highs and hospitalizations to surpass last winter’s peak, here’s what the data suggests about the variant’s potential toll. Reports of falling infection rates in parts of the U.S., meanwhile, hint that a national peak may be approaching.
The U.S. Covid response. President Biden announced that the U.S. government would deploy military personnel to help overwhelmed hospitals and buy 500 million more tests for distribution to Americans, doubling its previous purchase. Americans will be able to order free rapid tests online beginning Jan. 15.
Around the world. Some European countries have changed their approach to the virus to more closely align with how they handle the flu. Public health experts say the shift might be premature. Outbreaks in China weeks ahead of the Winter Olympics underscored the challenges of holding the Games while sticking to a “zero Covid” policy.
Staying safe. Worried about spreading Covid? Keep yourself and others safe by following some basic guidance on when to test and how to use at-home virus tests (if you can find them). Here is what to do if you test positive for the coronavirus.
Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, and 19 other House members on the party’s right flank also introduced a bill to block the District of Columbia from requiring vaccinations to enter establishments like restaurants, clubs and concert venues.
The conflict that erupted this week between Dr. Fauci and Mr. Marshall was over a serious issue, as was a clash between the infectious disease expert and Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky.
Mr. Paul, an ophthalmologist, accused Dr. Fauci and the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis S. Collins, of collaborating to smear scientists who disagreed with them. That prompted Dr. Fauci to recount the arrest of a California man who was driving across the country with an AR-15; the man was accused of planning to kill Dr. Fauci, among other public figures.
And though Dr. Fauci could easily parry Mr. Marshall’s insinuation that he was somehow hiding his financial disclosure records, few could argue with the senator’s assertion that government messages have been mixed and confusing on quarantine lengths and testing during the Omicron surge.
“The American people, my family, all of our families, are struggling as this pandemic continues to drag on with no end in sight,” Mr. Marshall said during a sparsely attended hearing, depleted of participants and observers because of Covid’s resurgence. “The words I hear every day, multiple times each day, continue to resonate and echo in my mind, words like, ‘I’m tired, confused, burned out.’”
Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, agreed on Wednesday that the mood in the Capitol reflected the mood at home.
“Obviously it’s a very difficult time,” he said. “We all thought we’d be on top of the virus now. We’re clearly not.”
He added: “We’ll get through it. The country’s seen a lot darker days than these.”
Luke Broadwater contributed reporting.


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The Rise of Online Businesses: A Comprehensive Guide to Success



In a world increasingly connected through the internet, the possibilities for starting and growing online businesses have expanded exponentially. Whether you’re looking to escape the traditional nine-to-five grind, want to tap into a global market, or are simply passionate about a niche interest, launching an online business is a promising venture. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the key steps to success in the dynamic world of online entrepreneurship.

1. Choose Your Niche

The first crucial step in starting an online business is selecting the right niche. Identify your passions, expertise, and market demand. Research the competition and look for gaps that your business can fill. A well-defined niche will help you target the right audience and stand out in the crowded online marketplace.

2. Develop a Business Plan

Just like traditional businesses, online ventures require a solid business plan. Your plan should outline your business goals, strategies, financial projections, and marketing tactics. It’s a roadmap that will keep you focused and serve as a valuable reference point as your business grows.

3. Legal Structure and Registration

Choose a legal structure for your online business, such as a sole proprietorship, LLC, or corporation. Register your business with the necessary authorities and obtain any required licenses or permits. This step is vital to ensure your business operates legally and efficiently.

4. Website Development

Your website is the heart of your online business. Create a professional, user-friendly website that reflects your brand and offers a seamless customer experience browse around this site. Ensure your site is mobile-responsive and optimized for search engines (SEO) to maximize your online visibility.

5. Branding and Identity

Build a strong brand identity that differentiates your online business. This includes designing a captivating logo, crafting a unique value proposition, and maintaining a consistent visual style and tone across all your online platforms.

6. E-Commerce and Payment Solutions

If your online business involves selling products or services, choose a reliable e-commerce platform and payment gateway. Offer various payment options to cater to your customers’ preferences and ensure secure transactions.

7. Content Creation

High-quality content is key to attracting and engaging your target audience. Develop a content strategy that includes blog posts, videos, and other relevant content that provides value to your audience. Consistent and relevant content can drive traffic and establish your authority in your niche.

8. Digital Marketing

Promote your online business through various digital marketing channels. These may include social media marketing, email marketing, pay-per-click advertising, and search engine optimization. Tailor your marketing efforts to reach your specific target audience.

9. Customer Service

Deliver excellent customer service to build trust and loyalty. Respond promptly to inquiries, resolve issues, and seek feedback to continually improve your products or services. Happy customers are more likely to become repeat buyers and refer others.

10. Data Analysis and Adaptation

Regularly monitor your online business’s performance through analytics tools. Analyze the data to make informed decisions and adapt your strategies accordingly. The online landscape evolves quickly, so staying agile and open to change is essential.

11. Legal and Tax Compliance

Stay informed about legal and tax obligations relevant to your online business. Compliance is vital to avoid legal issues and financial penalties. Consider consulting with a professional accountant or attorney to navigate the complexities of online business regulations and taxation.

12. Scale and Diversify

Once your online business is thriving, explore opportunities for growth. This might involve expanding your product or service range, reaching new markets, or diversifying your income streams. Continual innovation is key to long-term success.

In conclusion, the world of online businesses offers endless possibilities for aspiring entrepreneurs. By following these essential steps, you can increase your chances of creating a successful online venture. Remember that persistence, adaptability, and a commitment to providing value to your audience are fundamental qualities of a thriving online business owner.

The internet has revolutionized the way we do business. If you have a unique idea, a passion, or a solution to a problem, there’s never been a better time to start your online business. So, why wait? Take the plunge and embark on your journey to online business success today.

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