One of President-elect Joe Biden’s first presidential acts will be to require Americans to mask up for the first 100 days in an effort to slow down the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed more than 275,000 American lives. He’s also offered Dr. Anthony Fauci the role of chief adviser on the new COVID-19 task force, with which the doctor’s already working on a vaccine rollout. In recent days, Fauci criticized the U.K.’s official vaccine approval as “rushed,” though he later apologized. Meanwhile, California imposed its strictest lockdown to date, tying whether or not stores can open to how much space local hospitals have in their ICUs.
The Badger State’s Supreme Court declined to hear President Donald Trump’s latest legal challenge to last month’s election, another blow in a string of legal losses for Trump as he seeks to reverse the results of the vote. Still, his ongoing refusal to accept the results has led to a financial bonanza for his campaign: He raised $495 million in mid-October, a record for his team, largely due to his ongoing evidence-free accusations of election fraud. Meanwhile, his administration gave the go-ahead to sell oil drilling rights in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with the sale set to begin in the final days of his White House tenure.
3. Hundreds of Politicians Pressure Amazon Over Profits
Since a campaign to get Amazon to pay both its workers and its tax obligations fairly launched on Black Friday, more than 400 lawmakers from across the world — including U.S. representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — signed an open letter to Amazon CEO and world’s richest man Jeff Bezos. Pledging to support “Make Amazon Pay,” the signatories took issue with the company’s massive carbon footprint and history of questionable labor practices, demanding that it raise worker wages. Amazon saw its profits soar 39 percent this year as many turned to shopping online during the pandemic, but a small wage increase for workers this spring was swiftly rescinded by summer.
4. US Working on Deal With Huawei Exec Over Charges
Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has been under house arrest in Canada for two years, fighting extradition to the U.S. over charges that she violated sanctions against Iran. But now the Justice Department is allegedly working on a deal that would allow Meng to return to her native China (and delay or drop some charges against her) — one that she’s so far rejected because it would require her to admit wrongdoing. Meng has long argued that the accusations were politically motivated. Still, a deal could smooth strained relations not just between China and the U.S., but between China and Canada.
The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking more information on how the U.S. government harvested data on millions of Muslims via a prayer-planning app. The FBI has unsealed an indictment against an Indonesian man who allegedly impersonated several powerful women in Hollywood to scam people for cash. And Kaavan, formerly known as the “world’s loneliest elephant,” has reportedly already made friends with one of the other pachyderms at his new home in a Cambodian sanctuary.
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GM is adding fuel to racial justice efforts by designating $10 million for organizations that support inclusion and diversity, and appointing a new Inclusion Advisory Board that aims to boost diversity from within. This comes at a crucial time: 41 percent of Black-owned U.S. businesses shuttered for good between February and April of this year owing to the pandemic, compared to 17 percent of white-owned companies, exacerbating long-running racial disparities. GM’s efforts are why OZY, with its editorial mission to help #ResetAmerica and stamp out racism, is excited to team with the auto and tech giant.
It’s a shot at financial solvency. Former Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney, now a businessman, has proposed that the U.S. spend $380 billion on $1,500 stimulus checks, to be delivered to anyone who gets inoculated for COVID-19. He says it would help Americans reach herd immunity without compromising the freedom to refuse vaccination, though critics say the wait for a vaccine could mean it’ll be months before most people receive financial relief. In the meantime, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is planning to manufacture “Vaccinated for COVID-19” buttons that people can wear to boost confidence in the vaccine.
But will they deliver us buttered popcorn? The studio upended its industry business model yesterday when it announced that all of its films slated for next year — including Dune, In the Heights, and sequels to The Matrix and Space Jam — will drop on WarnerMedia’s HBO Max platform the same day the movies are released in theaters. The initiative was put in place for customers who still aren’t comfortable viewing The Suicide Squad in a cinema ragin' with contagion. Meanwhile, shares in AMC and Cinemark plummeted as many saw the move as a death knell for already struggling movie theaters.
Well, that’s dirt cheap. NASA has contracted with four companies to mine small amounts of regolith, the stuff covering the lunar surface, for rates ranging from $15,000 to the mere $1 bid by Colorado startup Lunar Outpost. The space agency is only paying for the material — development costs fall on contractors, which can use their experience as preparation for future asteroid mining. NASA’s current focus is getting humans back to the moon for the first time in nearly five decades and establishing a permanent lunar outpost, which is likely to require mining resources to keep it going.
4. How India’s Dancers Are Fighting Caste Discrimination
They’re putting a foot out of line. Classical dance in India is traditionally only a career open to the upper castes — and the art they create has been purposefully apolitical. But now, OZY reports, dancers from outsider castes have worked their way into the art form, and many performances are calling attention to social discrimination, homophobia and religious intolerance. Still, mainstream artists (and audiences) are often threatened by their revolutionary work, making it difficult to win popular acclaim.
No need for smoke screens. During this basketball season, players in the bubble didn’t undergo the usual random testing for recreational drugs, likely to limit contact with players unless absolutely necessary. Now sources within the league say that policy will extend into next year, though players who give reason to believe they’re using could still be tested. This is widely seen as a step toward phasing out marijuana testing in the NBA altogether, especially as more and more states legalize the drug. Still, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said in the past that he’s cautious about the possible effects of a more lenient drug policy on both players and their young fans.