Don’t lose hope: It might be dreary outside today… and tomorrow… and Sunday. But hey! Next week, the sun will return. Kind of. Like, behind the clouds. But next Friday? That’s our day, people! A cold, cold, sunny day. Just hold on.

Happy weekend: Last night I stopped by the Guilty Pleasures Holiday Party in the little outdoor part of Chophouse Row. It reminded me how much I love *doing* stuff, even if it's just drinking an apple cider and buying a bar of soap that looks like the bear pride flag. Anyway, if you want to *do* something, EverOut has a whole list of cheap events and activities around the city. Might I suggest something outside? You know, because of the tripledemic? The South Lake Union Winter Market and the 7th Annual Parade of Boats look fun! 

Speaking of respiratory viruses: Washington public health officials sent out an advisory urging you to wear a mask indoors, please and thank you. It's not just COVID-19. In fact, the biggest problem appears to be the flu and RSV, especially among children. Be careful out there. 

Let’s check in on those COVID-19 numbers: I do not doubt the wisdom of Dr. Jeff Duchin. Just thought I’d tell you what the County dashboard says. As of Tuesday, the COVID-19 community level is “low.” However, COVID cases are trending upward since the beginning of November. For context, cases have been on the decline since May, but still, we have not reached that earlier high point.

Solidarity, baby! Yesterday, workers at Homegrown, a fancy sandwich shop, voted 59-11 to unionize. Read more about this week in labor from The Stranger's own Conor Kelley.

Big win for healthcare: The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the US Department of Treasury approved Washington’s State Innovation Waiver. That sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo, but this is genuinely HUGE. Starting in 2024, all uninsured state residents can access qualified health plans AND dental plans AND benefit from Cascade Care Savings, which lowers premium costs for people who make up to 250% of the federal poverty level. 

Looking ahead: Hey! I write about the City Council, so let me tell you what's going on next week. On Tuesday, the council's Public Safety and Human Services Committee will consider appointing the current interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz as the ACTUAL Chief of the Seattle Police Department, who, after a national search, the Mayor decided to stick with. Later that day, the full council will vote on a measure to continue exempting many affordable housing projects from the STUPID, POINTLESS, AND STINKY design review process. Sorry. One time I didn't stand up enough for that position on the radio and I'll never forgive myself. 

Admitting defeat: Council Member Lisa Herbold announced in a press release that she will not seek re-election in 2023. Herbold, in my eyes, is one of the less predictable voters on the council. Sometimes she'll join Council Members Teresa Mosqueda, Tammy Morales, and Kshama Sawant. Other times she's with middle-of-the-road Council Members Dan Strauss and Andrew Lewis. She's recognized the threats from the left (she linked my story!) and the right, and said she doesn't want to be the next Pete Holmes (who fell between an abolitionist and right-wing in the 2021 City Attorney race). I have not heard rumors of a lefty going after her seat in particular, but pop off I guess. 

West Seattle lefties rise up! She said this will make it easier for a progressive to replace her, but incumbency is the best advantage. Her departure presents an opportunity for a more progressive candidate to take over her open seat, but it also makes it easier for conservatives, and the Mayor has already courted business candidates for District 1. We'll see who else leaves and then have more complete analysis of how the balance of power could change. 

Moose alert: This is actually so shocking to me. Yesterday, Mount Rainier National recorded the first moose sighting in the mountain’s history. This is wild to me because I feel like it makes sense that a moose would be there? It looks like a nice place to be a moose?? But I guess moose are rare in Western Washington. The last recorded sighting, near Stevens Pass, was wayyyy back in 2009. According to the National Parks Service, at least 400 moose live in Washington state and almost all of them live in Spokane County, Pend Oreille County, and Steven County, in the northeast part of the state. I guess I’ve been spoiled as a Spokane girly who has enjoyed many moose sightings in my lifetime.

The crackdown on graffiti: After the Harrell administration vowed to prosecute prolific taggers, two taggers got thrown into the County jail with felony charges for “malicious mischief.” 

Bill Clinton beats Elden Ring: Last night, some random kid snuck on stage at the Game Awards. He took the microphone and said, “I think I want to thank everybody and say that… I think I want to nominate this award to my reformed Orthodox rabbi Bill Clinton, thank you, everybody.” He was ushered off stage and Elden Ring won the game of the year, not the former president. 

Feel the Bern: Sen. Bernie Sanders's longtime advisor said that if President Joe Biden doesn’t run again, Sanders will take “a hard look” at running in 2024. The advisor said Sanders realizes he’s old (he’s currently 81, but, to be fair, Biden is 80), but if the opportunity presents itself he’ll evaluate “his own vigor and his stamina,” and see if he’s got the chutzpah to run for the third time. The Hill has the whole story. 

Nick Carter lawsuit: A woman filed a lawsuit against former Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter, who she says raped her in 2001 when she was just 17. After a concert in Tacoma, WA, she alleges Carter invited her back to his tour bus, gave her a weird-tasting drink that he called “VIP juice,” and then raped her. Carter’s lawyer discredits the woman and her allegation, saying her claim is “not only legally meritless, but also entirely untrue” and that someone has “manipulated” her into making false allegations, which, he said, “have changed repeatedly and materially over time.” Even if these dudes and the Twitter stans want to write her off, ABC seems to be taking the situation seriously. The network pulled a pre-recorded Backstreet Boys performance from its holiday specials guide.

Welcome home: WNBA star Brittney Griner landed in the US today after months in a Russian prison over a very stupid charge. Interesting that the US traded her for an arms trafficker, but happy she’s home.

Sounds bad: Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin made the WILD comment that Moscow might use preemptive military strikes, so Russia would strike first rather than be on the defensive. A senior policy director for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation analyzed the veiled threat. He said, “[Putin] doesn’t quite say we’re going to launch nuclear weapons, but he wants the dialogue in the US and Europe to be, 'The longer this war goes on, the greater the threat of nuclear weapons might be used.'”

New SZA just dropped: