The holiday miracle was that they evacuated the area in time. Warned by the rigged RV’s recorded announcement — “A bomb is in this vehicle and will explode.” — six police officers ushered people out of buildings in downtown Nashville early Friday morning. The blast caused damage over several blocks, including to an AT&T network hub, which disrupted 911 communications and stopped flights at the city’s airport. Authorities reported finding human remains at the scene, though it’s unclear if they’re from a bystander or someone in the RV. The FBI is investigating what officials say was an act of terror.
2. Benefits Expiring as Trump Balks at Relief Bill
As President Donald Trump spent Christmas golfing at his Florida resort, legislators in Washington struggled through the holiday to find a way to cope with his sudden refusal to sign pandemic relief legislation. With millions of Americans on the brink of losing unemployment benefits and facing eviction — and a government shutdown looming — Trump insisted that $600 relief checks should be bumped up to $2,000, something his fellow Republicans in Congress rejected but Democrats embraced. Meanwhile, 120,000 Americans were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Christmas, and in California ICUs ran out of beds for additional patients.
“We can now embark on a new, more hopeful, chapter in our history.” That’s what top Brexiteer Michael Gove wrote of the Christmas Eve agreement governing trade and other aspects of British-EU relations. Officials on both sides have until Wednesday — the day before Britain’s EU membership benefits expire — to approve 1,246 pages on everything from workers’ rights to which species can be fished in U.K. waters. But while the deal enacts a “zero tariff-zero quota” arrangement, it marks the beginning of customs checks and divergent standards, prompting business groups to plead for more time to adjust.
It all started in his garage. But Jeff Bezos’ brainchild has since made him the world’s richest man, helming a trillion-dollar enterprise. But Amazon “never really grew up,” posits The Wall Street Journal’s Dana Mattioli. That means the retail titan is acting like a scrappy startup, using every means at its disposal to get ahead — even dispatching potential rivals. But when you’re the biggest kid on the block, that makes you a bully, not to mention a ripe target for antitrust action, setting the stage for a painful coming-of-age, either for Amazon or its detractors.
In the week ahead: On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on what may be the first override of a presidential veto by President Trump — to approve the $740.5 billion defense bill he officially rejected Wednesday — while the Senate is expected to do the same Tuesday. Thursday is the first anniversary of China reporting Wuhan’s outbreak of the coronavirus. And the College Football Playoffs will take place on Friday, New Year’s Day.
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In Star Trek, sleep was the secret weapon against the Borg. Turns out snoozing generates powerful medicine against the deadly coronavirus as well. We produce melatonin when we sleep, and the hormone regulates immune responses that are often the cause of COVID-19’s most dangerous manifestations. President Trump received melatonin supplements when he contracted the disease, and there are eight trials around the world testing the efficacy of the pineal gland secretion. If scientists find that melatonin helps, it would be the cheapest treatment yet, and available at the nearest GNC or pharmacy. But don’t forget that several touted remedies have failed such trials, and may do more harm than good.
Watch out, China. A nascent group of Japanese venture capitalists have made a solid beachhead in Africa, OZY reports. Nearly 100 startups have helped bring innovation to ride-hailing, health care, microfinance and many other sectors with the help of hundreds of millions of dollars from Japanese investment outfits like Kepple and Samurai Incubate. The timing is opportune: While China’s billions seem to have the continent locked up, Africans are ready to find funding with far fewer strings attached. And for every investor willing to brave the continent’s unrest and shaky currency, there’s a startup transforming the landscape.
Vaccines won’t fix the San Joaquin Valley, where hospitals are caring for 50 percent more COVID-19 cases than their ICUs are designed for. It’s also where pandemic skepticism and lockdown resistance abound in California’s reddest region, a disheartening trend for medical professionals facing “a clinical scenario like nothing we’ve ever seen” and as many “horribly ill patients” as they’d normally see all year. It’s a dichotomy evident in varying degrees across the country, with the only bright spot being loved ones admitting pandemic realities after seeing parents and siblings struggling for breath.
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4. Vaccines: Live and in Concert
First the good news: There are immunizations against COVID-19. Now the bad news if you’re an anti-vaxxer and really miss live music: Concert organizers could require concertgoers to provide proof of inoculation before rockin’ in the virus-free world. One major airline, Qantas, has already decided to force passengers to vax up, and Ticketmaster is “exploring” the option — which many U.S. businesses have the right to impose on their employees. There are caveats, however, such as not knowing how quickly immunity might fade, or religious rights, such as the right to consider vaccinations as forbidden, that could make such policies problematic.
Never say Nevers. Just one leather-helmet-wearing old-timer had scored six rushing touchdowns in one NFL game: Ernie Nevers, back in 1929. Until yesterday, when New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara ploughed in 36 points, tying Nevers’ record and boosting the Saints over the Minnesota Vikings 52-33. Wearing mismatched red and green Christmas cleats, Kamara also became only the fourth person to notch six TDs of any kind in a game, joining Nevers, Dub Jones and Gale Sayers. The victory clinches New Orleans’ fourth straight NFC South title and a berth in the playoffs, which start Jan. 9.
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