The first FDA-approved doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine were shipped across the U.S. via truck and air yesterday, and health care workers are expected to start receiving shots today as the national death toll nears 300,000. Some may have to wait, though: After reports that top White House officials would be among the first in line for inoculation, President Donald Trump tweeted that they should get the shots “somewhat later.” Meanwhile, the European Union still hasn’t approved a vaccine, but says it will rule on the Pfizer shot by Dec. 29, and Peru suspended a trial of China’s Sinopharm vaccine over the weekend after a “serious adverse event.”
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2. Russian Government Hacks US Agencies
The unit of Russian intelligence services known as Cozy Bear is thought to be behind a massive hack of U.S. government departments, including Commerce and the Treasury. A computer networking tool made by American firm SolarWinds has been identified as the entry point, and all federal agencies have been instructed to disconnect it. The U.S. military, the Pentagon, the NSA and 300,000 organizations globally use SolarWinds tools and the hacking campaign may have begun as early as this spring. Russia — which carried out a major cyberespionage operation in 2015 — dismissed the new allegations as “baseless,”
The Electoral College vote is normally done with little fanfare, but this year it marks the de facto end of President Trump’s unsuccessful attempt to overturn Joe Biden’s White House win. Last week, the Supreme Court rejected Texas’ attempt to block dozens of electoral votes, which are each cast by individual electors certified by their respective states — which will host gatherings today to officially elect Biden the 46th U.S. president. Meanwhile, pro-Trump rallies of the far-right extremist Proud Boys attacked historic Black churches in Washington D.C. on Saturday, burning Black Lives Matter flags and leading to dozens of arrests and four stabbings.
Many expected relations between Iran and the West to thaw in the weeks following the electoral defeat of President Trump, who opposed the 2015 Iranian nuclear accord. But Tehran’s hanging on Saturday of dissident journalist Ruhollah Zam, sentenced for allegedly inciting 2017 economic protests, has sparked outrage in Europe. France called the hanging, which followed the exiled journalist’s abduction from Iraq, “barbaric,” while Germany also issued a condemnation. Zam’s father said his son confessed believing he’d be released in a prisoner exchange. An online Iran-Europe business forum set to start today has been postponed after four European nations pulled out in protest.
Online outrage has flared over a Wall Street Journal op-ed urging future First Lady Jill Biden to not use the title "doctor" because she doesn't have a medical degree. The U.S. is planning to hold a climate summit next year and swiftly rejoin the Paris agreement. And researchers have reported 20 new species found in the Bolivian Andes by a two-week expedition there.
You Said It: We asked last week if you’re concerned about the COVID-19 vaccine’s safety. Mickey A. in Florida wrote back “Although I do have some concerns about the vaccine, I have more concerns about getting Covid,” while John W. in Massachusetts said, “There was a signup sheet in my department for those interested in getting the vaccine when it’s available and it filled and then overflowed within a couple of hours.”
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General Motors and OZY are helping to drive change, and we’re inviting others to join us on the journey. GM has ranked among the top 50 U.S. companies for diversity for five years running according to DiversityInc. It is also a proud member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable, a group of 28 companies that spend $1 billion annually in support of minority and women-owned businesses. The innovative auto and tech giant is teaming up with OZY to #ResetAmerica by advocating for social and economic justice and tackling the tough challenges and persistent inequities that Black entrepreneurs face across the U.S.
They’re not mincing words. Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services has turned to Facebook to urge people to give up the Badger State tradition of eating raw meat sandwiches during the holidays, warning that the meal could contain salmonella, E. coli or other dangerous bacteria. The sandwiches have been linked to eight bacterial outbreaks in Wisconsin since 1986, but many respondents to the health department’s plea were determined to keep eating the sandwiches, which are also known as “Tiger Meat.” The health department website also warns against the raw eggs in eggnog and unpasteurized apple cider.
They’re waging war. After the Taiwanese-owned factory near Bangalore allegedly reduced and withheld their promised wages, some 2,000 workers reportedly protested outside the facility, some smashing windows and flipping over cars. Over the last year, India has changed laws to make it more difficult for workers to unionize, as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bid to lure manufacturing business away from China. Apple says it’s launched an investigation of the factory incident and is committed to ensuring “dignity and respect” for supply chain workers, while police reportedly detained about 100 people involved in the demonstrations.
3. Can ‘Study Abroad’ Bridge America’s Red-Blue Divide?
High school and college students have long used study abroad as a way to expand their horizons. But urban and rural kids unused to making friends outside their political and social bubble could expand them without ever crossing a national border — or that’s the hope of 26-year-old educational entrepreneur David McCullough, whose American Exchange Project is already connecting teens online, OZY reports. This quickly expanding nonprofit hopes to start up two-week, in-person exchanges once the pandemic allows in a bid to help Americans understand each other better.
“We will not see his like again.” So said le Carré’s literary agent, who announced the English legend’s death from pneumonia, which he specified was unrelated to COVID-19. Born David Cornwell in Dorset, he began a British intelligence career while studying at Oxford in the 1950s but quit to write full time once his novel The Spy Who Came in From the Cold became a smash hit (and a British double agent outed his espionage work to the Soviets). In subsequent decades, le Carré’s work has been adapted into hit movies like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and acclaimed series like The Night Manager.
The team known for 105 years as the Cleveland Indians says it will change its name, which has been criticized for decades by Native American groups as racist and demeaning. Last year, the organization began phasing out its cartoonish mascot, Chief Wahoo. It’s unclear how Cleveland will choose a new moniker — though the club may follow the example of Washington’s NFL team and go without a name for a while so the public can be involved in the process. This could put further pressure on other teams like the Atlanta Braves and hockey’s Chicago Blackhawks, who’ve recently brushed off rebranding queries.