10 things you need to know today: December 8, 2020

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1.

The U.K. on Tuesday launched its massive coronavirus vaccination campaign after facing months of allegations that it had botched the response to the pandemic. Distributing tens of millions of doses of the vaccine produced by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech will be the biggest logistical feat ever attempted by Britain's National Health Service, which recruited tens of thousands of first aid workers and other short-term workers to help administer the shots. The U.S. government expects to grant emergency-use authorization for the same vaccine later this week. The Trump administration will have enough to vaccinate just 50 million people after passing up an opportunity to buy more doses in July. President Trump plans to sign an executive order Tuesday to make sure the U.S. gets the doses it needs before any can be sent abroad. [The New York Times]

2.

Georgia on Monday recertified its presidential election results after completing a third count confirming that President-elect Joe Biden had won the state, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) said. "Today is an important day for election integrity ... Georgians can now move forward knowing that their votes, and only their legal votes, were counted accurately, fairly, and reliably," Raffensperger said. The news came after President Trump tried to get Georgia legislators to shift the state's 16 electors from Biden to him, claiming without evidence that the balloting was "rigged" in Georgia and other battleground states he lost. Over the past week, Trump reportedly twice called Bryan Cutler, the Republican speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, asking for help overturning his loss in that state. [CNN, The Washington Post]

3.

Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Monday that "without substantial mitigation" efforts the COVID-19 pandemic could "really get bad" in the middle of January. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the full effect of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings is likely to be seen in "another week, a week and a half from now." He warned there could be "a surge upon a surge" as people gather for the upcoming winter holidays. "[If] we don't mitigate well ... we could start to see things really get bad in the middle of January," he said, predicting a "really dark time for us." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously urged Americans to avoid traveling for Christmas. [ABC News]

4.

Democratic aides said Monday that the House is preparing to vote Wednesday on a stopgap spending measure to prevent a government shutdown ahead of a Friday deadline. The short-term spending bill will keep government agencies funded through Dec. 18, giving Republicans and Democrats more time to negotiate a long-term deal. House Democratic leaders had aimed to resolve differences over a broad spending package, a new round of coronavirus relief, and an annual defense bill by Friday. That would have given lawmakers time to go home and quarantine for two weeks so they could safely spend the holidays with their families. But talks on the spending bill hit several snags, including immigration policy, and the coronavirus stimulus deal has eluded lawmakers for months. [The Hill, The Washington Post]

5.

President-elect Joe Biden reportedly plans to nominate retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to be his secretary of defense. If confirmed, Austin would be the first Black Pentagon chief. Austin, a former four-star officer, was the first Black general to command an Army division in combat, and the first to run an entire theater of operations. Biden faced mounting pressure from Congressional Black Caucus members and others to nominate a Black person as defense secretary. Biden passed over Jeh Johnson, a former secretary of homeland security and former Pentagon general counsel who had been considered a frontrunner to be the first African-American to lead the Defense Department. Some people familiar with Biden's plans said Austin's lower profile appeared to be a better match for Biden's vision of the Pentagon's role in his administration, Politico reported. [Politico, The New York Times]

6.

Florida state police on Monday raided the Tallahassee home of the former Department of Health data scientist Rebekah Jones, who says she was fired for refusing to manipulate COVID-19 data. Jones, who created the state's COVID-19 dashboard and launched her own after she was ousted, posted a video showing officers entering her house, guns drawn. "They pointed a gun in my face," she said. A Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman confirmed that officers had seized computer equipment from Jones' home. The spokeswoman, Gretl Plessinger, said the FDLE was investigating after receiving a complaint of unauthorized access to a state Department of Health messaging system. The message called for state officials to "Be a hero," and, "Speak out before it's too late." [Tallahassee Democrat]

7.

The United States on Monday targeted 14 Chinese officials with a travel ban and financial sanctions over their alleged roles in China's disqualifying of elected Hong Kong legislators last month. The sanctioned officials included the vice chairs of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, the Chinese legislature's top decision-making body. "Beijing's unrelenting assault against Hong Kong's democratic processes has gutted its Legislative Council, rendering the body a rubber stamp devoid of meaningful opposition," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. The Trump administration previously imposed sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as well as the former British colony's current and former police chiefs, and other leaders. [Reuters]

8.

Former test pilot Chuck Yeager — the first to break the sound barrier and survive — died Monday night. He was 97. Numerous pilots had died trying to reach Mach 1 before Yeager did it. As described in The Right Stuff, Yeager accomplished the feat on Oct. 14, 1947, flying over California's Mojave Desert at nearly 700 miles per hour in a Bell X-1 experimental craft with a four-chamber rocket engine. Born in rural Hamlin, West Virginia, in 1923, Yeager enlisted in the Army Air Forces right after high school during World War II. He retired from the Air Force a decorated brigadier general in 1975, and President Ronald Reagan awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985. Yeager is credited with advancing U.S. military aeronautics and the U.S. space program. [NPR, The Washington Post]

9.

Bob Dylan has sold his catalog of more than 600 songs to Universal Music Publishing. "To represent the body of work of one of the greatest songwriters of all time — whose cultural importance can't be overstated — is both a privilege and a responsibility," Universal Music Publishing Group CEO Jody Gerson said in a statement Monday. The financial terms of the deal were not revealed, but The New York Times said the price for the songs Dylan wrote over six decades was estimated at more than $300 million. Dylan, 79, wrote and performed some of the iconic songs of the '60s, including "The Times They Are a-Changin'," "Like a Rolling Stone," and "Mr. Tambourine Man." He won a Pulitzer Prize special citation in 2008 and a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016. [CNN, The New York Times]

10.

Last month just beat out November 2016 to become the hottest November on record, scientists with the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service said Monday. Temperatures before November were about the same as 2016, the hottest year on record, setting 2020 up to tie or break the record for the hottest year on record. Copernicus scientists said November 2020 was about .1 degree Celsius — .2 degree Fahrenheit — warmer than November 2016 and November 2019, which were tied for the warmest months before. And when it comes to the average November temperature from 1981 to 2010, this year's November was about .8 degree Celsius, or 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer. "All policymakers who prioritize mitigating climate risks should see these records as alarm bells," Copernicus director Carlo Buontempo said. [The New York Times]

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