As the pandemic’s death toll passes 1.5 million amid new worldwide surges, vaccines offer tantalizing hope that’s frustratingly out of reach. The first doses of Pfizer's shot, approved by British regulators, arrived in the U.K. from a Belgian factory Thursday, but health care workers who’d made immunization appointments have been told that the first doses will go to people over 80. In America, the worst-hit nation with record daily fatalities this week, President-elect Biden has said that vaccinations, yet to win U.S. approval, should not be mandatory and the CDC is for the first time recommending universal mask-wearing — even at home.
Conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito this week scheduled a Trump ally’s emergency challenge to Pennsylvania’s postal voting for Dec. 9. That’s one day after the “safe harbor” deadline for election dispute resolution, so electors for President-elect Joe Biden will be locked in, suggesting Alito’s colleagues aren’t inclined to deny Biden’s victory. On Friday, courts in all six states with close Biden wins ruled against such challenges, citing unconvincing evidence, with a conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court judge calling it “a dangerous path” that could damage future elections. Georgia Republicans meanwhile fretted that discrediting elections could dishearten GOP voters enough to hand Democrats control of the U.S. Senate in the state’s January double runoff.
Will it be amicable? Since Britain’s Feb. 1 exit from the European Union, the pandemic has helped distract from deciding how the two entities will interact on trade and other issues. But today U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are to talk directly in an effort to get past “significant differences” cited by lower-level negotiators who paused talks yesterday. If the two sides fail to reach a post-Brexit deal by the end of 2020, the cessation of trading and other preferential arrangements is expected to foment economic turmoil.
Toke on that, Mitch McConnell. The U.S. Senate’s Republican majority leader will do nothing of the sort, but that didn’t stop House Democrats, and even some GOP colleagues, from passing marijuana decriminalization legislation, 228-164. It’s about more than getting stoned: The law would expunge nonviolent pot-related convictions, a big reason why so many Black Americans have been incarcerated, and impose a cannabis tax. Senate leaders have mocked the bill as a distraction from a new pandemic relief bill, which appears to be less of a pipe dream than it was before last month’s elections.
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 were 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.
Take care whose country you call a “sh*thole.” In Georgia, which President Trump lost by fewer than 13,000 votes, there are as many as 40,000 voters who hail from African countries Trump infamously lumped under that name. Ethiopian native Bethlehem Fleming helped organize those voters, OZY reports, and is continuing to phone them to school them on the importance of voting again, in January’s Senate runoff. But the 45-year-old hospital administrator’s task is daunting: Georgia’s database doesn’t break out immigrants, leaving her to innovate, like using a compatriot’s “likely Ethiopian” name-finding software to target persuadable voters.
It wasn’t a terror attack. But that fear was enough to close England’s Gatwick Airport for 33 hours, cancel 1,000 flights and affect 140,000 passengers in December 2018. Authorities used police cars, helicopters and even other drones to track or at least scare away operators of the whirring interlopers, which were sighted 115 times. After an 18-month multi-agency investigation that stormed an innocent local hobbyist’s home, they still don’t know who was responsible, and with no one managing to snap a single photo, one can’t blame some for thinking it never happened.
“It was exponentially increasing. And they just squashed it.” That’s what Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina observed about Slovakia’s battle with COVID-19. The key? Widespread use of cheap and easy-to-use antigen tests, which the government compelled nearly everyone in the nation to take. Infection per capita dropped by half. The U.S. should follow that example, Mina insists, and colleges in New England have already corralled the virus with frequent antigen tests, but American producers can only make a few million daily — so a major boost will be needed for the 10 million to 20 million required to keep tabs on COVID-19 cases.
It’s the world’s largest democracy. So why is Anand Patwardhan, the country’s most prominent documentarian, holding clandestine screenings? Patwardhan, 70, has been tracking the rise of Hindu nationalism for decades. Now, his latest work, Reason, can’t be shown legally, and he’s reduced to selling CDs at quietly organized events. He hopes that his films, such as the one chronicling mobs’ destruction of the Babri mosque and the deadly unrest that came with it, will help convince Indians of the movement’s erosion of democracy. At a minimum, he wants them to be a record of the few times when a diverse, pluralistic nation flourished.
He’s a 50-year-old trucker. So how on earth could he have a shot at swimming in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics? For starters, Siphiwe Baleka was All-Ivy League at Yale and was less than a second from qualifying for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in the 100-meter freestyle. The U.S.-born athlete hopes to represent his ancestral Guinea-Bissau, and he’s on his way: In October, he won six gold medals at the International Masters Swimming Championship in Cairo. There he clocked a 50-meter freestyle time better than 27 qualifiers at the Rio Games, meaning this geezer has a realistic shot.