As Americans die faster than ever from COVID-19, hitting a record 3,140 daily deaths, reports emerged that the government missed a chance to obtain more vaccines from Pfizer, which offered more than the initial 100 million doses, but was rebuffed. Meanwhile, Britain administered the world’s first fully tested and approved inoculation Tuesday, and yesterday Canada approved the same vaccine, which Canadians may begin receiving next week. In Washington, Rudy Giuliani, the latest infected member of President Donald Trump’s inner circle, admitted his “celebrity” status probably secured him better treatment than other Americans, who sometimes face lotteries for scarce medication.
2. On Eve of Nobel, World Food Program Sees Grim 2021
“The international community did an amazing job of averting famine.” That’s the good news about the pandemic in the world’s most impoverished areas this year according to WFP Executive Director David Beasley. But “2021 is looking catastrophic,” says the man who’s accepting the group’s Nobel Peace Prize today via video from the U.N. agency’s headquarters in Rome. While the world’s largest humanitarian organization helped fund 2020’s efforts from its emergency reserves, Beasley says it’ll need to raise nearly twice as much money, $15 billion, to keep 138 million vulnerable people from going hungry next year.
They’re red-faced. An Axios exposé about Chinese spy Christine Fang, who helped fundraise for Rep. Eric Swalwell and had romantic or sexual relationships with two Midwestern mayors, has put Democrats on the defensive. Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has demanded Swalwell’s ouster from the House Intelligence Committee, though Swalwell, who hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing, says he cooperated with authorities. Fang left the U.S in 2015 amid an FBI investigation. Meanwhile, conservatives pounced on news that Hunter Biden, the president-elect’s son, revealed that the feds are investigating his taxes and business dealings with China.
4. Feds, States Bring Antitrust Action Against Facebook
Here’s something for your feed: The Federal Trade Commission and 48 states filed two antitrust lawsuits against the social network Wednesday, alleging anticompetitive practices. The suits charge that Facebook acquired WhatsApp and Instagram to neutralize competition, and they’re seeking a remedy that could force the tech titan’s breakup. That could really hurt CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s $690 billion firm, as Instagram is its current cash cow, while WhatsApp is key to its expansion into digital commerce. Facebook stock dropped on the news, ending the day down 2 percent after increasing more than 35 percent this year.
After meeting over dinner last night, Britain’s prime minister and the head of the European Union said “very large gaps remain” in forging a post-Brexit agreement, and talks will continue until Sunday. U.S. federal authorities plan to carry out an unprecedented number of executions during President Trump’s lame-duck period: four Black men and the first woman to be executed in 70 years. And the House of Representatives has passed a one-week extension for funding the U.S. government allowing time to work out spending bills and pandemic relief.
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As the largest bank in the U.S., JPMorgan Chase & Co. is stepping up to foster economic opportunity and inclusion for historically marginalized communities. “Systemic racism is a tragic part of America’s history,” writes Brian Lamb, global head of diversity and inclusion at JPMorgan Chase. "It’s our responsibility to do something about it, given the role of banks in the financial health of the communities we serve.” Learn more about JPMorgan Chase's $30 billion commitment to providing economic opportunities in underserved communities.
Good thing it wasn’t Mars. SpaceX’s Starship SN8 prototype made its highest test flight yet Wednesday, but crashed and exploded when it tried to land. The company hopes the fat-bodied spacecraft powered by three Raptor rocket engines will be the workhorse to hurtle astronauts to the moon and perhaps Mars someday. On the bright side, it appeared to have made it close to the 8-mile altitude goal for the test. In spite of the “high touchdown velocity” and “rapid unscheduled disassembly,” CEO Elon Musk said they got the needed data, tweeting, “Congrats SpaceX team hell yeah!!”
They’re the world’s newest billionaires. Yesterday DoorDash CEO Tony Xu and co-founders Andy Fang and Stanley Tang saw company shares skyrocket during the food delivery startup’s initial public offering. Shares under the ticker name DASH went from their initial pricing of $102 to nearly $190, raising $3.37 billion in the year’s second-biggest IPO. That means the three top bosses, even with less than 5 percent ownership each, are worth around $3 billion apiece. One company hurt by the pandemic was Airbnb, which nonetheless boosted its target price for today’s delayed IPO from $60 to $68.
Should we be worried? Public health officials sought to calm fears yesterday after two British health workers suffered severe allergic reactions to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. U.K. regulators advised those with a history of “significant” allergic reactions to avoid getting the shot, and U.S. immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested anyone prone to such reactions should be ready with an antidote like an emergency adrenaline auto injector. The issue will surely come up at today's meeting of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory board, which is expected to approve emergency use of Pfizer’s inoculation.
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4. ‘New Michelangelo’ Carves Earthly and Heavenly Delights
They “were probably drunk.” That’s what Jacopo Cardillo, an Italian sculptor commonly known as Jago, says of people who’ve compared him to Michelangelo, OZY reports. And yet, like the Renaissance artist who carved the Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica, the power-chisel-wielding millennial has been lauded by both the Holy See and the secular art world for his realistic, highly evocative sculptures of the human form. From a golden-haired baby Trump to Jago’s own version of Michelangelo’s classic Madonna and child, the Naples-based artist inspires faith, both in his talents — and in a much higher authority.
Somebody had to say it. Especially somebody who’s coached teams to five NCAA championships and three Olympic gold medals: Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski this week joined a growing chorus of people questioning the wisdom of playing amid the worst of the pandemic, saying, “I don’t think it feels right to anybody.” Trying to keep college sports going has generated some strange circumstances: In the basketball season’s two weeks, 50 games have been canceled or postponed, while in football, the Big Ten bent the rules so Ohio State, despite playing just five games, was eligible for the conference championship.