World End to UK virus curbs means Santa Claus really is coming to town
Germany Says Mandatory Vaccines 'Unavoidable' to Combat Rising COVID Cases in Europe
On Saturday, Germany recorded its highest daily number of infections in a single day.Several officials in Chancellor Angela Merkel's government have been making noises about making COVID vaccinations compulsory, with federal tourism commissioner Thomas Bareiss stating on Sunday that mandatory vaccines were "unavoidable.
After a "dark year", Britain's Santas are raring to meet children at live events once again this Christmas and even their reindeer are fully jabbed, a lineup of the white-bearded performers said on Tuesday.
Due to coronavirus restrictions, many traditional grottos in large stores and shopping malls and children's parties were closed last year, forcing Santas to listen to Christmas gift wish lists online.
This year, despite growing concerns over the new Omicron virus variant, imitators of the jolly festive present-giver working for a specialised London agency were upbeat and hopeful that in-person events will go ahead as planned.
Fact check: Kids can send letters to Santa, receive gifts through USPS 'Operation Santa'
Since Nov. 1, children around the country can send their Christmas letters to Santa as part of a program coordinated by the USPS.But some Americans may not be able to afford gifts this year, as was the case in 2020 when nearly one in three reported skipping gift-giving due to COVID-19.
"It's going to be the best Christmas ever, ho ho ho!" exclaimed one Santa in full costume attending a training session at Ministry of Fun, an agency that provides the festive entertainers for grottos, photo shoots and video calls.
This Christmas "will be very different, especially after the dark year we've had", said another performer, who gave his name as Santa Kev.
Last year, the Santas were hard-hit by lockdown measures, including just before Christmas as cases of the Delta variant soared.
This year will be a "world of difference", since "we're back again with more live events", said another of the entertainers, who gave his name simply as Santa.
8 Officers, Sergeant On Paid Administrative Leave After Man Hit With Stun Gun Twice Dies
While the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office's Facebook post gave details about the Nov. 18 incident, the officers who used their stun guns were not identified. Pas' autopsy is done, Sgt. Juan Valencia, a spokesperson for the sheriff, told the AP in an email. Details about the autopsy have yet to be given, though. The post did release photos of a gun that Pas allegedly had that night, and a photo of him pointing the gun into a car. Officers responded to several 911 calls talking about a man walking in the neighborhood with a gun. The first call came in at 1:19 a.m., reporting gunshots fired in the street.
At the same time, "the world has changed since last year, and we will be foolish to ignore those changes", he said.
"After all, we've only just been informed of yet another variant," he added, referring to the heavily mutated Omicron strain of coronavirus.
This year, "Christmas is well and truly on," Ministry of Fun director Matt Grist insisted.
"The demand for Christmas activities and to meet you wonderful Santas is greater than it's ever been," he told the group of performers, including seasoned Santas as well as novices, from backgrounds such as acting and teaching.
- Demand up -
Demand for Santas is up around 20 percent on 2019 pre-pandemic figures, Grist said, taking into account live appearances at grottos, photo shoots and department stores, as well as an online service set up last year.
With the spread of the Omicron variant prompting fresh restrictions in England, including compulsory mask wearing in shops and on public transport, "the worldwide challenge with Covid is not over by any means", Grist said.
Toys bring special joy to kids at the holidays. Inflation could play Grinch with donations this year.
Toy prices are up amid record inflation, leaving Toys for Tots and other charities working to make up the difference ahead of Hanukkah and Christmas.Rising toy prices, up as much as 10%, and potential shortages of popular items could challenge holiday shoppers. Charity donation drives and the people they serve may be most significantly affected, as overall economic pressures raise the number of children in need of dolls, games and puzzles while also diminishing donors' ability to give.
"We always have to be vigilant, we have to be sensible, we have to be fluid."
Santas are equipped with red masks and grottos allow for social distancing, agency staff said.
"All the reindeer are fully jabbed," one Santa said.
"And of course whenever I'm travelling on the sleigh, I'll be sure to wear a big red mask."
In a major change brought on by the pandemic, Santas have also got used to making video calls.
While the move online was forced last year, the sessions proved popular with more shy children, who "tended to be more comfortable, because they're in their own homes", Grist told AFP.
Children like to "show you all the drawings that they've made or toys that they've got or introduce you to their pets and so forth", said one Santa.
The training session reminded Santas that their "ho, ho, ho" should be "slightly gentler" when they make video calls and stressed the need for making eye contact by looking at the camera.
Oil pipeline planned even as California moves away from gas .
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A proposal to replace an oil pipeline that was shut down in 2015 after causing California's worst coastal spill in 25 years is inching though a government review, even as the state moves toward banning gas-powered vehicles and oil drilling. Consideration of the $300 million proposal by Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline is expected to enter a critical phase next year at a time when new scrutiny is being placed on the state’s oil industry after an offshore pipeline break in October near Huntington Beach.