Last night the U.S. Supreme Court rejected what seemed like a final brazen attempt — by Texas, which the court said had no standing — to judicially overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory. That will be locked in Monday, when 306 Biden-designated electors of 538 cast their ballots in their respective states. Normally a formality, it’s significant in a year when the sitting president is raging without cause against his loss. Then there’s one final hurdle: On Jan. 6, a joint session of Congress should normally certify results. House Trump devotees will likely try to force a time-consuming challenge, but at least one senator must join them, and none have yet volunteered.
Offering hope amid a pandemic that’s killed 290,000 Americans, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration yesterday approved emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine. After hearing from expert advisors who concluded that its potential benefits outweigh risks, the agency approved Pfizer and BioNTech’s inoculation — already allowed by Britain and Canada — for people 16 and older. That clears the first shots for the most vulnerable, like the elderly and health workers, which could commence as early as today. But many Americans worry that the process cut corners, evidenced by reports that the White House threatened to fire the FDA’s director if the decision waited another day.
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3. Brexit Talks Devolve to Saber-Rattling
It’s come to gunboat diplomacy. Britain says it will deploy four Navy patrol ships to protect its fishing rights, anticipating the failure of this weekend's talks with the European Union. Negotiators are making little progress attempting to forge the ex-bloc member U.K.’s future trade and security relationship with the EU, such that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought discussions with French and German leaders, but was rebuffed as the bloc maintained a united front. The British pound took a tumble as talks looked increasingly grim, setting up an economically damaging cessation of the U.K.’s EU membership benefits as 2020 ends.
Among its allocations are slings and arrows. Or at least that’s how President Trump is likely to take both houses of Congress passing a $740 billion defense bill he’ll have nothing to say about. Except that he has said some things, like he’d veto it over its failure to include the “security” measure depriving social media of liability protections, or its insistence that troops not be withdrawn from Germany, and the Pentagon be allowed to strip Confederate generals' names from military bases. Following the House’s overwhelming approval, the Senate passed the package 84-13 Friday. If Trump follows up on his veto threat, the legislation will return to Capitol Hill for override votes.
Iran has executed journalist Ruhollah Zam, accused of fomenting 2017 economic protests, after he mysteriously reappeared in the country despite living in exile. Hundreds of people marched through Columbus, Ohio, last night, demanding justice in the death of a young Black man shot Dec. 4 by a sheriff’s deputy. And federal authorities yesterday executed Alfred Bourgeois, 56, convicted of killing his 2-year-old daughter, in the second of a series of lethal injections scheduled before the new U.S. president takes office Jan. 20.
In the Week Ahead: The annual Army-Navy college football game is set for today, with the president in attendance. On Thursday, an FDA advisory panel is scheduled to consider recommending approval of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna, for which the U.S. government just doubled its initial order to 200 million doses. And Friday is the next deadline for Congress and the White House to agree on funding the federal government or trigger a partial shutdown, thanks to a one-week stopgap funding bill signed by President Trump last night.
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Carlos is joined by famed Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, known for his brightly colored clip art flowers. Murakami opens up about his partnerships from Louis Vuitton to Kanye, and how he blends consumerism and hip hop. Despite being one of Japan’s most recognized artists, Murakami reveals that his compatriots abhor his inability to keep a secret … and proceeds to spill the beans on his country's wild sex tradition. Don’t miss one of the most unique episodes to date.
General Motors is driving change with a goal to become the most inclusive company in the world. A third — and growing — of GM’s top management jobs are held by women (compared to roughly a fifth of C-suite positions held by women nationally), and the automotive giant plans to achieve high levels of multicultural representation across all staffing levels. Similarly, OZY is dedicated to helping #ResetAmerica and fight for racial equality, which is why we are thrilled to team up with GM as it works to foster a work environment that celebrates diversity and inclusion.
“I pray you don’t have to see your sister struggle to breathe and then hold her hand as her heart stops.” That’s but one of many poignant lines written by Ohioan Keith Malinowski, who watched his father, mother and sister hospitalized with COVID-19 in October and November. By publishing updates for his relatives in his local newspaper, the avid deer hunter and railroad construction worker hopes others will understand that, in spite of the skepticism, “this virus is real” as America’s hospitals fill past capacity and more families suffer the “cheap shots” the virus throws at them.
2. The Young Traders Who Made Millions on Free Oil
“It didn’t occur to us” that oil prices could go negative, a trader in China confessed. But that’s exactly what happened during one frenzied April trading session for West Texas Intermediate crude contracts. Some of the market’s biggest players bled cash as traders had to pay people as much as $37.50 a barrel to take the stuff. But eight neophyte traders in the English countryside and their alleged mentor named “Cuddles” saw an opportunity, and made $660 million both buying and selling at the right moment, leading some to wonder whether their trades helped get the market to its historic low.
3. Preservationists Fight Back Against Climate Threats
Climate change isn’t on the side of history. Protecting the world’s heritage from the ravages of time is already daunting, but planetary upheaval means storms bring flooding that erode foundations of indigenous sites from South Dakota to Australia, while rising sea levels threaten iconic attractions like Venice, Italy, OZY reports. But those who’ve built their careers on preservation are rising to the challenge, looking at not just walling off these sites but also finding sustainable ways of mitigating water and fire damage, what one expert calls transformative continuity. But resources are limited, so communities must decide what to save, while accepting unavoidable losses.
Toeing the line doesn’t always work. That may be why a dancer with Berlin’s Staatsballett is losing her job. The company says it isn’t, but it has nonetheless apologized and disciplined the ballet mistress who required Chloé Lopes Gomes, who is Black, to whiten her face, as white dancers traditionally do, to appear in Swan Lake. Lopes Gomes’ dispute has called attention to inclusivity issues at other European companies, such as the Paris Opera Ballet, whose new director has commissioned a racial diversity inquiry. Many companies are now moving away from forcing dancers to whiten their skin or wear pink tights and shoes.
They were America’s team. But these days, especially after Thursday’s drubbing by the LA Rams, the New England Patriots don’t even dominate the colder parts of their division. The Buffalo Bills claim that honor, now that Bill Belichick’s Pats can’t even rely on their shrewdly acquired starting quarterback, formerly COVID-19-afflicted Cam Newton, who’s throwing twice as many interceptions as touchdown passes. And we may have an answer to the question: Was it Belichick or his former QB Tom Brady who made New England an NFL power for 12 years? Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an 85 percent chance of making the playoffs. His old team? Just 4.