“All parts of the U.K. now have doses.” With that, Health Secretary Matt Hancock signaled that Britain is the first nation to begin protecting its population with a fully tested and approved COVID-19 vaccine. People over 80 will be the first to get the “jab” by Pfizer/BioNTech, starting with 90-year-old Margaret Keenan in Coventry this morning. Others have been injected with various vaccines worldwide, but only with immunizations that weren’t fully tested. Meanwhile, British health authorities are planning to inoculate trial volunteers in January with two vaccines, adding the as-yet-unapproved AstraZeneca/Oxford shot to Pfizer’s.
Historic, yes. President-elect Joe Biden has reportedly chosen retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as his defense secretary and the first African American in that job. But he’ll need a congressional waiver to let a recent military member run the Pentagon — traditionally a civilian role. That’s likely to prompt blowback from Democrats who criticized President Donald Trump for doing the same thing with his first defense secretary and populating his administration with “his” generals. With three other former top brass on Biden’s appointment list, critics worry he’s mixing politics with uniforms, which defense experts warn “will not help return things to normal.”
3. Whistleblowers: Wall Project Got Guards From Mexico
Some were no doubt good people. But the express purpose of building President Trump’s signature project — preventing Mexicans and other immigrants from crossing America’s southern border — was reportedly violated by a wall-building contractor, Ultimate Concrete. According to a whistleblower complaint obtained by The New York Times, a San Diego County sheriff’s deputy and an FBI agent allege that security teams contracted for construction sites not only smuggled workers across the border, but they built a road to expedite the effort. Ultimate Concrete has denied the allegations and said it was unaware of the complaint.
Profits aren’t going to drive themselves. That’s the thinking behind Uber’s sale of its autonomous vehicle-developing Advanced Technologies Group to competitor Aurora Innovation in a deal announced Monday. The ride-hailing giant will keep one hand on the wheel by investing $400 million in its Silicon Valley rival, taking a 26 percent stake in the startup, and CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will join Aurora’s board of directors. The move follows Uber’s dumping of other expensive, unprofitable efforts, like electric bikes and flying cars, as it tries to increase revenue. The company’s shares declined in after-hours trading after the announcement.
Using trigonometric and GPS measurements, China and Nepal have agreed on a new height for Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak they share, at 29,032 feet — slightly higher than Nepal’s previous disputed measurement of 29,029 feet. President Trump is again appealing to Republican state legislators, this time in Pennsylvania, to overturn election results in his favor. And a New Zealand inquiry into the 2019 Christchurch mosque massacre has concluded that the attack couldn’t have been prevented, though authorities failed to properly check the killer’s firearms licenses.
Coronavirus Update: The Trump administration, which plans an event today taking credit for vaccine development with its “Warp Speed” program, reportedly turned down an offer by Pfizer to secure doses beyond those needed to inoculate the first 50 million Americans.
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He had The Right Stuff. Yeager, immortalized as the dean of America’s pioneering test pilots in Tom Wolfe’s book and a film of the same name, died Monday night. The West Virginia native and World War II fighter ace was the first to break the sound barrier in the rocket-powered Bell X-1 in 1947, then doubled that speed in 1953. He also tested a captured Soviet jet and commanded a fighter wing in Vietnam before retiring as a general in 1975. In recent years, he developed a Twitter following, answering aviation questions and taking on trolls.
He won’t have to be scrounging his next meal. The harmonica-blowing Nobel laureate, who soundtracked the social movements of the 1960s to start a six-decade career, has sold the U.S. rights to his entire catalog to Universal Publishing Group for a reported $300 million. The “Blowin’ in the Wind” author has until now controlled most of his work, though Dylan’s songs have been covered more than 6,000 times. It’s believed that the deal for more than 600 tunes penned by arguably the world’s greatest songwriter is the biggest of its kind, and may never be duplicated.
It’s Das Kapital for the proles. Socialists are increasingly finding bitcoin to be an effective tool for breaking the grip of capitalism, OZY reports, galvanized by French philosopher Mark Alizart, author of Cryptocommunism, and left-wing Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis. Long thought to be the province of libertarians, cryptocurrency has proven useful for activism like Nigeria’s movement against police brutality. Aside from untraceable funding for dissidents, cryptocurrencies can also anchor socialist economies: For example, citizens could be allocated crypto-tokens for housing, goods and services, bypassing the traditional marketplace for basic needs.
4. ‘Christmas Star’ to Shine for First Time in 800 Years
But it's 2020, so expect clouds. Astronomers are excited that Jupiter and Saturn will appear closer together on Dec. 21 than they have since the Middle Ages. The alignment is known as the “Christmas Star” because of the star in the Bible that led the three Magi to baby Jesus. Astronomers believe a conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and the star Regulus around 2 B.C. created a bright point of light that could align science and Christian tradition. To see this year’s light show you’d better be quick: NASA warns that “both planets will set shortly after sunset.”
Breaking news: The 2024 Paris Games, seeking events that are “more gender balanced, more youthful and more urban,” will introduce breakdancing as a sport, the International Olympic Committee confirmed Monday. Inclusion of the gymnastic street dance form, which became popular a half-century ago, was cheered by dancers, but derided by some other athletes: Australian squash champion Michelle Martin called it a “mockery” that her sport lost out to breaking. Meanwhile, the IOC banned Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko from attending next year’s Tokyo Olympics over allegations that his country’s athletes were arrested and tortured.
No one could have foreseen a crisis like the pandemic. But businesses — particularly Black-owned firms that are traditionally undercapitalized — can prepare for the next one now. The road to financial health includes revisiting your spending priorities, saving money into emergency funds and mapping out expenses in a budget, says Tosh Ernest, head of Wealth at JPMorgan Chase’s Advancing Black Pathways program.