The U.S. has reported its first case of the highly contagious new strain of COVID-19 that’s prompted lockdowns across the U.K. — but since the Colorado man in question has no recent travel history, authorities think he’s probably not the only case. Meanwhile, Britain approved the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which is far cheaper and easier to store than other approved inoculations. And if the U.S. keeps administering vaccines at its current relatively slow rate, authorities say it’ll take 10 years to get the pandemic under control.
Argentina became just the third South American nation to legalize abortion — the others are Guyana and Uruguay — late last night after a marathon debate ended in a 38-29 Senate vote. President Alberto Fernández proposed the legislation himself and has said he’ll sign the bill. The procedure will now be free and legal on request up to 14 weeks into a pregnancy, which could herald a shift in the continent’s attitudes toward abortion, despite a long history of resistance to it.
Rescue teams are still digging through the rubble after an earthquake hit central Croatia yesterday. The 6.4 magnitude temblor killed at least seven people, but Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said the real number is probably higher. He asked people to avoid the hardest-hit town of Petrinja, close to the epicenter. Its 25,000 citizens have reportedly lost both water and electricity, and the town’s mayor said, “We are here in darkness, in ruin, searching for people.”
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to swiftly approve increasing personal COVID-19 stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 — backed by both Democrats and President Donald Trump — saying he’d tie the measure to changing online speech rules and establishing a commission to study election fraud, two priorities for the president. Just five Senate Republicans have publicly backed immediately increasing the checks to $2,000, but both GOP candidates in the Georgia runoff elections that will decide its senators Jan. 5 say they’re in favor of the extra cash for Americans.
Russian officials have charged opposition leader Alexei Navalny — currently recovering in Germany from being poisoned, some believe by the Kremlin — with fraud. Spy Jonathan Pollard, who spent decades in prison for leaking U.S. government documents to Israel, has relocated to Tel Aviv after his release. And EU states have unanimously approved the last-minute Brexit trade deal.
A gift from us to you. Laugh your way into the new year in style. We’re bringing you our favorite funny people from The Carlos Watson Show and want you to tell us who had you giggling the hardest — from Lamorne Morris, the actor rewriting race "rules" in sitcom New Girl, to Aida Rodriguez, the rising stand-up star hoping to unify America through comedy. Check out our comedy extravaganza here, and let us know which you pick by following The Carlos Watson Show on Instagram and voting in our Stories.
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Many in Congress have tested positive for COVID-19, but Louisiana Republican Luke Letlow is the first elected federal official who’s died of the disease. He announced less than two weeks ago that he was isolating at home with the virus, and died Tuesday evening at the age of 41. He was to have been sworn into office on Sunday. Various state officials have also died after contracting the virus, including one North Dakota state representative who was elected posthumously.
2. Louisville PD to Fire Officers in Breonna Taylor Case
Two police officers — one who obtained the no-knock warrant for Taylor’s house and one who fired the shot that killed her — have been given notice that the department will terminate their employment, though both are entitled to a hearing first. Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it won’t be charging either of the officers involved in the 2014 killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, in which no one has ever been prosecuted.
3. Home Depot Recalls Ceiling Fans Over Blade Injuries
Hard to be a fan of this. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has put out a recall for 190,000 Hampton Bay 54-inch Mara ceiling fans sold by Home Depot across the U.S. and Canada after 47 reports of the blades flying off mid-use, sometimes hitting people. The distributor, Florida company King of Fans, has asked that people stop using the affected fans immediately and offered consumers replacements for the $150 product.
“Pierre Cardin is no more.” That’s how the French designer’s family announced his death in a Paris hospital, leading to an outpouring of grief from the fashion world, including a Twitter tribute from Jean-Paul Gaultier. Famous for his futuristic silhouettes (and the costumes he designed for Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast in 1947), Cardin launched his own fashion label in 1950. He was a pioneer of marketing his name and brand abroad, and in 1991 was the first designer to throw a fashion show in Moscow’s Red Square.
They’re benched. An NCAA investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting saw the University of Arizona charged with nine violations in October, with a particular focus on head coach Sean Miller. Along with several assistant coaches, Miller was accused during a 2017 FBI probe of paying players thousands of dollars to attend his program. Now the school says it will self-impose a one-year postseason break on the team, meaning it’ll miss the Pac-12 tournament. The NCAA will impose its own penalties on the program next year.
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