5 things to know for December 2: Covid-19, pardon probe, economy, China, Brazil
Here's what you need to know to get up to speed and on with your day
The UK is now the first country to grant emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine. The vaccine will be made available across the UK starting next week, marking the first time people outside the worldwide clinical trials will get to be immunized. In the US, the first shipments of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine will be delivered on December 15. Vaccine advisers for the CDC voted yesterday to recommend that both health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities be first in line for any immunizations given emergency use authorization by the FDA. Daily coronavirus deaths in the US hit almost 2,600 yesterday — the highest number since April — and rising hospitalizations could portend even higher fatality tallies in the future.
2. Pardon investigation
The Justice Department is investigating a potential crime related to funneling money to the White House or related political committee in exchange for a presidential pardon. Newly unsealed court records show a judge reviewed a request in August from prosecutors to access documents obtained in a search as part of a bribery-for-pardon investigation. There are no names or time line in the filing, but this presents a surprising new legal twist in the final days of President Trump’s presidency. Trump has shown he’s willing to pardon or commute the sentence of allies convicted of federal charges, like Michael Flynn and Roger Stone. Other associates are allegedly making their own appeals to the President in hopes of a pardon before he leaves office, a source told CNN. The source said the list of associates broaching the subject of preemptive pardons that would seek to shield those individuals from prosecution includes Trump’s legal counsel Rudy Giuliani.
There’s movement on the coronavirus stimulus front after all. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is circulating a new relief proposal with hopes of passing it by year’s end. But it will be an uphill battle: He needs more GOP support, but a good number of his fellow Republicans favor a different approach. McConnell is also in talks with White House officials to get a better sense of what President Trump would be willing to sign into law as his term comes to an end. Democratic leaders are making their own counteroffer to jump-start talks. All in all, this renewed relief energy is yet another sign of how serious the pandemic is. Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged more than $77 billion more in additional stimulus as his country struggles to contain its own burgeoning Covid-19 wave.
Trade tensions are boiling between China and Australia after Beijing imposed stifling tariffs on Australian wine imports, effectively cutting off Australian winemakers from their most important export market and forcing businesses to scramble for alternate plans. A Chinese Foreign Ministry official inflamed rhetoric Monday when he posted an illustration of an Australian soldier threatening to slit the throat of an Afghan child. The image referred to a recent report that alleges elite Australian forces killed dozens of civilians and prisoners during the war in Afghanistan. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison demanded an apology over the illustration, but the Chinese government has refused. Relations between the countries sharply deteriorated after Australia called for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus in China, and Beijing has been lobbing tariffs its way ever since.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon surged to a 12-year high from August 2019 to July 2020, according to the country’s National Institute for Space Research. About 6,890 square miles were destroyed during that time, a 9.5% increase over the previous 12-month period. Why are things getting so bad? Environmentalists have pointed to the policies of Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has defunded the agencies responsible for preventing illegal logging, ranching and mining in the rainforest, and deforestation has soared since he took office in January 2019. He has also dismissed figures revealing the extent of the damage. Last year, 34 international investors threatened to divest from Brazilian companies unless steps were taken to tackle wildfires and destruction in the area. President-elect Joe Biden also has pledged to address the crisis.
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That’s about how much President Trump has raised since Election Day. Trump has used baseless voter fraud claims to urge supporters to donate to an “Election Defense Fund,” and the money has landed in the coffers of Trump’s joint fundraising committee.
“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
Attorney General William Barr, in an interview with the Associated Press. Barr’s comments about the Justice Department’s findings — or lack thereof — severely undercut President Trump’s continued baseless claims of voter fraud. They also earned Barr, a perennial Trump ally, scorn from right-wing media.
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