10 things you need to know today: December 12, 2020

·7 min read

1.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday night authorized the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech for emergency use, a potentially major step toward ending the coronavirus pandemic. The still-experimental vaccine, which was found to be more than 90 percent effective in late-stage clinical trials and does not appear to have caused severe side effects, is expected to be rolled out for health care workers and long-term care facility residents in the coming days, the first phase of what should be the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history. Immediate distribution will be limited, with about 3 million doses expected in the initial shipments, but the goal is to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of December, and another 30 million and 50 million in January and February, respectively. A second vaccine developed by Moderna, which could receive an emergency use authorization as early as next week, would theoretically contribute to that total. [The Associated Press]

2.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday tossed a Texas lawsuit that sought to nullify the 2020 presidential election results in several key states, saying the lawsuit could not challenge President-elect Joe Biden's wins in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin. "Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections," the court said in its order rejecting the case. "All other pending motions are dismissed as moot." The lawsuit, which was considered a last-ditch effort to fight President Trump's election loss, had support from the attorneys general of several other states, as well as from at least 126 Republican lawmakers. The Associated Press called support for the suit "an extraordinary display of the [Republican] party's willingness to subvert the will of voters." President Trump expressed his disappointment Friday night, tweeting that the high court "really let us down" and displayed "no wisdom, no courage." [Bloomberg, The Associated Press]

3.

The Senate on Friday passed a one week government funding extension that will prevent the federal government from shutting down amid ongoing spending bill negotiations. The stopgap bill was passed to President Trump's desk; he signed it into law hours before the midnight deadline. The bill will give lawmakers one more week to iron out details on a larger spending bill and COVID-19 relief measures. "Appropriators have agreed on a $1.4 trillion price tag for legislation to keep the government running through Sept. 30, 2021," writes CNBC. "However, they have failed to agree on where exactly the money will go." Congressional Democrats, Republicans, and the White House have debated pandemic stimulus for months with little progress; existing unemployment benefits and an eviction moratorium will expire at the end of the month without further relief. [CNBC]

4.

Moderna announced Friday that the federal government "has exercised its option to purchase an additional 100 million doses" of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, on top of the 100 million doses the Trump administration previously agreed to buy. The new doses are set to be delivered in the second quarter of 2021, the company said. "This new federal purchase can give Americans even greater confidence we will have enough supply to vaccinate all Americans who want it by the second quarter of 2021," Health and Human Services Secretary
Alex Azar said. Moderna says it expects to have 20 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine delivered in the U.S. by the end of this year, should it receive emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration. [ABC News, Moderna]

5.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen both suggested Friday it's increasingly unlikely that the two sides will reach a trade agreement before the transition period ends Dec. 31 and the U.K. breaks with the European Union. In fact, the two leaders set their own negotiating deadline for Sunday. Johnson said things could change if the bloc puts forth a "big offer," but he is "yet to see it," and von der Leyen reportedly told leaders of the 27 EU member states that the most probable end result would be a no-deal Brexit. The main sticking points remain fishing rights and business competition rules. Meanwhile, Brussels has also reportedly warned member states not to negotiate side deals with the U.K. should talks fail, and the U.K. Ministry of Defense said four Royal Navy patrol boats are ready to protect British fishing waters. [BBC, Reuters]

6.

Alfred Bourgeois, a 56-year-old Louisiana man who had spent more than 15 years on death row for the abuse and murder of his daughter, was executed by lethal injection Friday night, the United States Bureau of Prisons announced. It was the second time in as many as days that the federal government carried out an execution, and the 10th time since July, following a 17-year hiatus. An application to the Supreme Court for a stay on execution was denied earlier Friday, with Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissenting on the grounds that Bourgeois had an intellectual disability. Bourgeois used his final words to claim his innocence. [NBC News, CNN]

7.

Groups supporting President Trump's quest to overturn the results of the presidential election, including the Stop the Seal movement, are planning nationwide protests Saturday. Per Reuters, the rallies are set to take place at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as well as in swing state capitals like Atlanta, Georgia; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Lansing, Michigan; Madison, Wisconsin; Carson City, Nevada; and Phoenix, Arizona. Trump's former national security adviser, retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn, is scheduled to give a speech from the Supreme Court Building as part of the Washington demonstration. It will be his first public address since Trump granted him a presidential pardon in November. [Reuters]

8.

Three amateur code breakers — David Oranchak, a software developer in Virginia, Jarl Van Eycke, a Belgian computer programmer, and Sam Blake, an Australian mathematician — are believed to have cracked a mysterious message the so-called Zodiac killer sent to The San Francisco Chronicle in 1969. The trio used a program to sift through 650,000 variations of the message, which revealed a couple of words, and they subsequently deciphered the rest by hand. While the work was impressive, the note did not reveal any evidence as to who the Zodiac might have been. The notorious serial killer sent numerous communications to police and local media in the Bay Area in the late '60s and early '70s, but was never identified, and the case remains unsolved. The suspect claims to have killed as many as 37 people. [Australia Broadcasting Corpoartion, CNN]

9.

FKA twigs is suing Shia LaBeouf and accusing the actor of "relentless abuse." The musician, born Tahliah Debrett Barnett, reportedly filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the Transformers actor for allegedly abusing her during their relationship. Barnett reportedly accuses LaBeouf of "sexual battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress," saying the actor choked her, threw her against a car while screaming at her, and knowingly gave her a sexually transmitted disease, among other allegations. Barnett said she hoped her suit would "raise awareness on the tactics that abusers use to control you." LaBeouf said "many of these allegations are not true," but acknowledged a "history of hurting the people closest to me" and said "I'm ashamed of that history and am sorry to those I hurt." [The New York Times]

10.

Army and Navy will face each other on the gridiron for the 121st time Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on CBS. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, plans to play the Army-Navy game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia were scrapped, and it was moved to Army's Michie Stadium in West Point, New York, for the first time since 1943. Around 9,000 spectators are expected, including President Trump. The Midshipmen will look to defend their 2019 victory, but the 7-2 Black Knights are favored to win. If they do, it will be their fourth win in five years, although Navy still holds the all-time series advantage. [USA Today, ESPN]

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