Well, we kicked off the new year. And if you thought that the promise of a new start would lead to some happier news, think again.

So far, 2024 is off to bang-up start with a new COVID wave, a brutal U.S. backed military campaign against an entrapped population, and an accelerating climate crisis.

But at least we have each other! Is it too late to say we're ready for 2025?

In any case, we're back with a new lineup of the most critical stories that you should be following. Sit back, get a tea, and prepare yourself.

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The Pandemic

Did you know we're still in a pandemic? You could easily be forgiven if you'd forgotten. The Biden administration has been trying to convince you that the crisis is over since July 2021 and the vaccines became available. If you only listened to messaging from the White House, you'd probably be surprised to know that we are currently in the second largest surge of the pandemic. And what is our government doing to address it? Sending out tests and telling you to get vaccinated–both of which are important, but neither of which are enough. We need indoor air quality standards for every workplace and school in America. We need N95 or KN95 masks sent to everyone. We need universal paid leave and healthcare.

But let's take a step back. Our first story today is one of our own, examining how public health decisions by the administration have often mirrored industry desires.

Lobbied By Impacted Industries, White House Killed COVID Travel Rule
The change highlights how, at key points, the Biden administration’s pandemic policy aligned with big business.
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Masks are returning slowly as COVID numbers continue to climb. At least the ice has thawed on the conversation about their importance, as this story from Maryland Matters shows.

Md. health department urges masks, vaccination after respiratory illness-related hospitalizations - Maryland Matters
Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Nilesh Kalyanaraman said weekly respiratory virus-associated hospitalization rate increased ‘due in large part to increasing COVID and flu infections.’
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While the U.S. seems determined to avoid a real reckoning of our pandemic failures, the UK is currently taking stock of its own COVID response. Counter Disinformation Project had an update.

Covid Inquiry: Sunetra Gupta’s witness statement
As UsForThem threaten legal action against the inquiry, the GBD author faces accusations of rewriting history, and of major omissions including a behind closed doors meeting with MPs and journalists
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The Siege of Gaza

Israel's brutal campaign against Gaza continued into the new year, as everyone expected. While the international community looks on in horror, the U.S. continues to support what is effectively a siege, the human costs of which have been catastrophic. Last week, an expert from the UN warned of mass food insecurity in Gaza. The Real News Network had the story.

80 percent of global famine is currently in Gaza, UN expert warns
“In my life, I’ve never seen anything like this in terms of severity, in terms of scale, and then in terms of speed.”
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Meanwhile, the World Health Organization is warning that disease could ravage Gaza as food insecure people are living without necessary infrastructure and huddled closely together.

The Epidemiological War on Gaza
Disease is poised to become an even deadlier second front in Israel’s assault on the besieged Strip.
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Inside the U.S., the Israel lobby has been hard at work to maintain government support for the violence. Sludge reports that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, made record contributions to lawmakers in November.

AIPAC Made Record Donations to Congress in November, New FEC Filing Shows
The pro-Israel lobby group funneled millions in donations to the campaigns of Israel’s strongest allies as Congress was voting on aid for the country’s war in Gaza.
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While most of the country supports a ceasefire, most lawmakers have proven reluctant at best to back the idea. The Biden administration has offered tepid rebukes of Israel and warnings–all while still providing military aid. One thing the White House has said is that Israel must not pursue the mass displacement of Palestinians from Gaza. The Intercept reported on the story.

State Department: Israel “Must Not” Pursue “Mass Displacement of Palestinians From Gaza”
Israeli ministers have made increasingly clear their ambition to ethnically cleanse Gaza of Palestinians.
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One of the more beligerant pro-Israel voices has been Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), who in recent weeks has been renouncing the progressive image that got him elected. Jacobin had a good rundown.

John Fetterman Keeps Defending the Indefensible in Gaza
Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman has always been staunchly pro-Israel, but the events of the last few months have shined a particularly harsh light on his indifference to Palestinians.
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The Climate Crisis

The planet is warming. There's no denying it. And we're not really doing enough to stop it, we humans. There's no denying that either. The Biden White House has sought to present itself as an administration that cares about the crisis. But its limited actions have rankled climate activists, as The New Republic covered.

Democrats and Climate Activists Are on a Collision Course in 2024
In the run-up to a presidential election with dire climate implications, can activists afford to demonize Democrats? Can they afford not to?
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Climate change is already being felt by communities across the country. Grist reported on how communities along the Mississippi River have been working to tackle the increased flooding.

As climate risks increase, Mississippi River towns look to each other for solutions
This story is a product of the Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk, an independent reporting network based at the University of Missouri in partnership with Report for America, with major funding from the Walton Family Foundation. Cities and towns across the Mississippi River basin have always n…
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While the outlook for humans isn't wonderful, fossil fuel giants are rolling in cash– and they're sharing the wealth with their shareholders.

Fossil fuel giants to lavish shareholders with record paydays as climate crisis deepens
“The global energy crisis has been a giant cash grab for fossil fuel firms,” said one campaigner. “And instead of investing their record profits in clean energy, these companies are doubling down on oil, gas, and shareholder payouts.”
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