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Good morning, Portland! If you’re looking for something fun to do this week, may I suggest the Mercury’s Undisputable Geniuses of Comedy show on January 13 at Rev Hall? It’s close to selling out, so don’t doddle! Now onto the news.

In local news:

• Mayor Wheeler is seemingly stripping Portland’s Office of Community and Civic Life for parts, ordering the transfer of the office’s liquor, cannabis, and noise control programs to the Bureau of Development Services Monday. Last year, the office also distributed its crime prevention and graffiti removal programs to other city bureaus. Civic Life has long been a hodgepodge of programs and offices, but gained significant attention in 2021 when its former director was accused of creating a toxic work environment.

• In December, a driver in a Free2Move car—a car sharing service—swerved in front of Portlander Rose Long, causing a crash that totaled her car. The Free2Move driver fled the scene, and a month later Free2Move has still not inspected Long’s car or paid her claim because Long was unable to identify the Free2Move car’s license plate. The incident has raised questions about the oversight of car-sharing services in the city.

• West Linn currently has its youngest mayor in history, 23-year-old Rory Bialostosky. Bialostosky joined the city council in 2020 when he was 21, and was appointed interim mayor last week after former mayor Jules Walters was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives. Bialostsky will be mayor until May, when the city will hold a special election to fill the position.

• Tina Kotek was sworn in as Oregon’s 39th governor Monday. Kotek said her first order of business Tuesday will be to declare a homelessness state of emergency and sign an executive order to increase housing construction from 20,000 houses per year to 36,000 per year. The emergency declaration would allow Kotek to allocate $130 million toward homeless shelters and other services.

In national and international news:

• California is still experiencing severe rains and flooding, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate. Some areas of the state have received tornado warnings as wind gusts reach up to 60 mph while the rain accumulates at nearly half an inch per hour. Authorities are particularly concerned about some coastal towns with a history of deadly mudslides. At least 14 people have died since the storms began last week.

• There’s a new omicron variant in town, and it’s a real doozy. Omicron variant XBB.1.5—which has been nicknamed Kraken (not a joke, that’s actually the nickname people have given it)—is the most transmissible form of omicron to date, according to the World Health Organization. We don’t yet know the severity of this variant, but we do know it’s spreading quickly. According to the CDC, the XBB.1.5 variant made up 18 percent of cases in the US on December 31, and jumped to accounting for 27.6 percent of cases by January 7.

• The British government is preparing to ban some plastic products from restaurants intended for single-use, like cups, cutlery, and food containers. The ban, led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, aims to reduce plastic pollution in landfills and waterways. England already banned plastic straws, stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs in 2020. 

• NFL Bills safety Damar Hamlin was transferred from a Cincinnati hospital to a hospital in Buffalo, New York, Monday, a week after he suffered a cardiac arrest on the field. Hamlin is now able to breathe, eat, and walk on his own following the life-threatening event. Hamlin’s doctors say it’s too early to identify the cause of his heart attack and more testing will be required.

• Insurrectionists work hard, but street vendors work harder: