Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.
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If you traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday, top US health officials say you should get tested for coronavirus. Hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients in the US reached a record high of 93,238 yesterday, so some vigilance could help keep those numbers from ballooning further. More vaccine progress could be on the horizon, as the US Food and Drug Administration says it will make a decision about authorizing Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine within a few weeks of a key meeting set for December 10. And CDC advisers called an emergency meeting for tomorrow to vote on who they recommend should be first to get a vaccine once one is authorized. India says it plans to buy and distribute between 300 million and 400 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by July. And in case you were leery of more safety measures, research shows infections in the UK have dropped about 30% during the second national lockdown.
2. Election 2020
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have announced an all-female White House senior communications team. Former Obama White House communications director Jen Psaki will serve as press secretary. Kate Bedingfield, who was Biden’s deputy campaign manager and campaign communications director, will be White House communications director. Biden is set to name key members of his economic team today, including Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary. If confirmed, she will be the first woman to serve in that role. Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo, president of the Obama Foundation in Chicago, could become the first Black deputy Treasury secretary. This economic team will have its work cut out for it: Biden has promised to address economic inequalities in America, but the pandemic has only worsened wealth disparities and devastated low-income workers.
The alleged assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist could set off a violent fission between the US and Iran. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, considered one of the masterminds of Iran’s controversial nuclear program, was killed in an apparent assassination when his car was ambushed Friday near Tehran. Iranian state media reports Fakhrizadeh was shot by a remote-controlled machine gun in another car. Top Iranian officials are blaming Israel and vowing revenge. Iran has provided no evidence of Israeli involvement, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has declined to comment. One Iranian official compared the incident to the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in January. This all puts the US, as Israel’s ally, in a difficult position. US-Iranian relations have deteriorated in recent years after President Trump pulled out of a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran and imposed crippling economic sanctions on the country.
Switzerland has voted against a contentious proposal that would make businesses liable for global rights abuses abroad. The Responsible Business Initiative would have rendered Swiss companies like Nestlé and mining giant Glencore liable for human rights and environmental abuses committed by foreign subsidiaries, suppliers and business partners. Proponents said the law would increase accountability. The Swiss government, as well as Swiss banks and other powerful businesses, opposed the measure, warning of dire economic consequences. While more than 50% of the Swiss population voted in favor of the measure over the weekend, it did not garner support from the majority of Swiss states. However, France and the European Union have already taken steps toward similar measures, and Switzerland will likely pursue a different corporate responsibility plan.
Five pro-democracy leaders are facing accusations of lese majeste, a unique and controversial law that prohibits criticism of Thailand’s royal family. The law hasn’t been used in two years, so its sudden resurgence could mean authorities are growing impatient with pro-democracy protests. Such protests have been going on for months in opposition to the country’s military-backed government. Earlier this month, Thailand’s parliament voted to move forward with two proposals on amending the constitution but stopped short of backing a motion that included monarchical reform. Activists have been calling for legislation to curb the power of the monarchy and the military. They’ve also called for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who seized power in a military coup in 2014.
Tones and I’s ‘Dance Monkey’ becomes most Shazamed song of all time
Aaaaaand now it’s going to be stuck in your head all day.
National forests will let you cut your own Christmas tree
The ultimate brag-worthy holiday decoration.
Actress Rebel Wilson says she’s reached her goals in her Year of Health
File this away if you need some New Year’s inspiration in a month.
40 endangered sea turtles were taken to Florida to warm up after suffering from ‘cold stunning’
What? No, you’re crying over a picture of 40 poor little turtles warming up in their own turtle hospital bins.
That strange silver monolith in Utah that drew otherworldly theories has disappeared
We really don’t need any more mysteries this year. So, wherever you are, silver monolith, we hope you’re happy.
That’s how many suicides Japan reported in October. More people died of suicide in the country in that one month than from Covid-19 in all of 2020. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and pandemic uncertainty and economic strife have only made things worse — insight for other countries of mental health crises. For help in the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide have contact information for crisis centers around the world.
“The diversity and the inclusion that we have in the Republican Party. That is our future. And if we don’t get on board with recruiting the right people — minorities, women, veterans, et. cetera, then we’re going to lose in the future.”
Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, one of a record number of Republican women who won seats in November. She said the party needs to champion women and people of diverse groups to succeed.
The cat’s out of the box!
Plain cardboard boxes or luxury cat hotels for one? You decide. (Click here to view.)