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Some cautious, many fed up, Americans prepare to ring in the New Year By Reuters

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© Reuters. Jessica Martini, 7, holds a hat with pieces of confetti in it, as New Year’s Eve confetti is ‘flight-tested’ ahead of celebrations, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., December 29, 2021. REUTERS/Yana Paskova

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By Brad Brooks

(Reuters) -Dana Fenner’s hands were full of New Year’s Eve hats and horns as she perused an aisle at a Party City store in Texas, not hesitating for a second when asked about her hopes for 2022.

“Normalcy. I want everything to get back to normal,” Fenner said, as she shopped for the low-key, homespun festivities that she, her husband and three children planned on Friday.

Pandemic-weary Americans shared Fenner’s desire as they prepared to send off 2021 amid a sharp increase in coronavirus cases as the Omicron variant rapidly spreads https://www.reuters.com/world/us/experts-warn-omicron-blizzard-disrupt-us-next-month-2021-12-30 and pushes the U.S. to record case levels.

In some spots, including Los Angeles, the latest virus wave shattered official New Year’s Eve bash plans. But New York and several other cities say the party will go on, even if in a curtailed fashion.

New York City’s bash – the biggest and most iconic in the United States – will once again be carried out in a scaled-down way https://www.reuters.com/world/us/new-york-city-scale-down-new-years-eve-celebrations-times-square-2021-12-23, city officials said. But it will be far larger than a year ago when only a few dozen people https://www.reuters.com/world/us/after-year-like-no-other-new-yorks-times-square-empties-out-new-years-eve-2020-12-31 were invited to watch the ball drop in Times Square.

For decades, partygoers have filled the streets around Times Square on New Year’s Eve, standing for hours in the cold waiting to see a glittering crystal ball glide down a pole mounted atop a building in the year’s final seconds. When the ball reaches the bottom, the crowds erupt in hugs, kisses and good cheer.

About 15,000 people who show proof of full vaccination will be allowed inside a fenced area to witness the ball drop this year – about a fourth of a pre-pandemic year.

But it’s still a world away from where the city was a year ago, said Paul Warshaw, a co-founder of balldrop.com https://www.balldrop.com, who has spent two decades producing parties largely focused on New Year’s Eve celebrations.

After having no events last year, Warshaw said that he’s producing about 40 events catering to upward of 25,000 people on Friday in New York. That’s in line with pre-pandemic levels.

“There is a good amount of excitement, though people are proceeding with caution,” Warshaw said, stressing that all his indoor events would adhere to strict proof-of-vaccination and other safety policies.

Top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci urged people to avoid large gatherings to celebrate the arrival of 2022.

Speaking on CNN this week, Fauci told people to stay away from big parties, saying “there will be other years to do that, but not this year.”

Fauci said family gatherings of people who are vaccinated and had received the booster shot were safe.

Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said stubbornly low levels of vaccine coverage in the U.S., which stand at about 63% fully vaccinated, make this New Year’s Eve far more dangerous than it should have to be.

“It’s one of the coldest times of the year, so that means the celebrations are happening inside,” he said. “And it’s those indoor celebrations that we worry about, especially those mixing generations.”

Adding to the worry, Beyrer said, are the frustratingly inadequate levels of testing available for people who want to take one to ensure parties they host or attend are as safe as possible.

Despite a livelier atmosphere this year as compared to a year ago, the realities of the Omicron wave of cases has hit some cities and high-level names hard.

Los Angeles earlier this month reversed plans for an outdoor countdown party in Grand Park, opting to stream the celebration for the second year in a row.

Rapper LL Cool J on Wednesday said he had tested positive for COVID-19 and had to step down as a headliner on ABC’s annual ball drop show, “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest.” And TMZ reported this week that Sean “Diddy” Combs had canceled his star-studded bash in Miami, telling 500 invitees that coronavirus made it an untenable party for the second straight year.

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Teladoc Tumbled 38% After Big First-Quarter Loss. Is It Just a Pandemic Play?

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After pandemic drop, Canada’s detention of immigrants rises again By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Two closed Canadian border checkpoints are seen after it was announced that the border would close to “non-essential traffic” to combat the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the U.S.-Canada border crossing at the Thousand Isla

By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is locking up more people in immigration detention without charge after the numbers fell during the pandemic, government data obtained by Reuters shows.

Authorities cite an overall rise in foreign travelers amid easing restrictions but lawyers say their detained clients came to Canada years ago.

Canada held 206 people in immigration detention as of March 1, 2022 – a 28% increase compared with March 1 of the previous year. Immigration detainees have not been charged with crimes in Canada and 68% of detainees as of March 1 were locked up because Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) fears they are “unlikely to appear” at an immigration hearing, according to the data.

The rise puts Canada at odds with Amnesty International and other human rights groups that have urged Ottawa to end its use of indefinite immigration detention, noting CBSA has used factors such as a person’s mental illness as reason to detain them.

A CBSA spokesperson told Reuters that “when the number of entries (to Canada) goes up, an increase in detention is to be expected.” CBSA has said in the past it uses detention as a last resort.

A lawyer told Reuters her detained clients have been in Canada for years.

In the United Kingdom, too, immigration detention levels rose last year after dropping earlier in the pandemic, according to government statistics. Unlike Canada, the United States and Australia, European Union member states have limits on immigration detention and those limits cannot exceed six months.

The rise in detentions puts people at risk of contracting COVID-19 in harsh congregate settings, refugee lawyers say.

Julia Sande, Human Rights Law and Policy Campaigner with Amnesty, called the increase in detentions “disappointing but not surprising,” although she was reluctant to draw conclusions from limited data.

The number of immigration detainees in Canada dropped early in the pandemic, from a daily average of 301 in the fourth quarter (January through March) of 2019-20 to 126 in the first quarter (April through June) of 2020-21.

FEW NO-SHOWS AS DETENTIONS DROPPED

Detaining fewer people did not result in a significant increase in no-shows at immigration hearings – the most common reason for detention, according to Immigration and Refugee Board data.

The average number of no-shows as a percentage of admissibility hearings was about 5.5% in 2021, according to that data, compared to about 5.9% in 2019.

No-shows rose as high as 16% in October 2020, but a spokesperson for the Immigration and Refugee Board said this was due to people not receiving notifications when their hearings resumed after a pause in the pandemic.

Refugee lawyer Andrew Brouwer said the decline in detention earlier in the pandemic shows Canada does not need to lock up as many non-citizens.

“We didn’t see a bunch of no-shows. We didn’t see the sky fall … It for sure shows that the system can operate without throwing people in jail,” Brouwer said.

He added that detainees face harsh pandemic conditions in provincial jails – including extended lockdowns, sometimes with three people in a cell for 23 hours a day.

Refugee lawyer Swathi Sekhar said CBSA officials and the Immigration and Refugee Board members reviewing detentions took the risk of COVID-19 into account when deciding whether someone should be detained earlier in the pandemic but are doing so less now.

“Their position is that COVID is not a factor that should weigh in favor of release,” she said.

“We also see very, very perverse findings … [decision-makers] outright saying that individuals are going to be safer in jail.”

The Immigration and Refugee Board did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

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Nasdaq futures rise as market attempts comeback from April sell-off, Meta shares soar

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Stock futures rose in overnight trading as the market shook off the April sell-off and investors reacted positively to earnings from Meta Platforms.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 70 points or 0.2%. S&P 500 futures gained 0.7% and Nasdaq 100 futures jumped 1.2%.

The moves came as shares of Meta surged more than 18% after hours following a beat on earnings but a miss on revenue, a sign that investors may see signs of relief in the beaten-up tech sector. Shares were down 48% on the year heading into the results.

Meanwhile, shares of Qualcomm gained 5.6% in extended trading on the back of strong earnings while PayPal rose 5% despite issuing weak guidance for the second quarter.

“I think a lot of people want to believe that earnings are going to pull us out of this, but earnings are not what got us into this,” SoFi’s Liz Young told CNBC’s “Closing Bell: Overtime” on Wednesday. “… But the reality is there are so many macro headwinds still in front of us in the next 60 days that the market is just hard to impress.”

The after-hour activity followed a volatile regular trading session that saw the Nasdaq Composite stoop to its lowest level in 2022, as stocks looked to bounce back from a tech-led April sell-off. The index is down more than 12% since the start of April.

In Wednesday’s regular trading, the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended at 12,488.93, after rising to 1.7% at session highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 61.75 points, or 0.2%, to 33,301.93 propped up by gains from Visa and Microsoft, while the S&P 500 added 0.2% to 4,183.96.

Investors await big tech earnings on Thursday from Apple, Amazon and Twitter, along with results from Robinhood. Jobless claims are also due out Thursday.

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