Thursday 5 p.m. COVID-19 update
- The Independent
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Pfizer "will review all available information on this case and all reports of any confirmed diagnosis following vaccination," the drug maker said in a statement to Reuters. "Based on our Phase 3 safety and efficacy study, the vaccine provides some protection against COVID-19 within about 10 days of the first dose and substantially boosted after the second dose, supporting the need for a 2-dose vaccination series", it said. Matthew W., 45, a nurse at two different local hospitals, said in a Facebook post on December 18 that he had received the Pfizer vaccine, telling the ABC News affiliate that his arm was sore for a day but that he had suffered no other side-effects.
Green Beret Colonel Threatened to Kill Wife in Front of Children Before Standoff with Police: Affidavit
Colonel Owen G. Ray has been suspended from his job as I Corps chief of staff pending a law enforcement probe into the case.
- Yahoo News Video
A Louisiana State Police trooper died Wednesday in an apparent suicide as his colleagues were searching his home as part of a criminal investigation, law enforcement officials told the Associated Press.
- The Week
The government has begun distributing $600 stimulus checks to millions of Americans. But actually getting access to that money may be another story.Even as record numbers of Americans spent months unemployed amid the coronavirus pandemic, Congress took months to agree to send out another round of stimulus checks and boost unemployment benefits after the last relief package expired. Millions of Americans suffered during that time, and, as The New York Times reports, often had to overdraw from their bank accounts to pay for groceries and other essentials. In return, banks charged those people overdraft fees, and have often locked people out of their accounts until those fees are paid.That means the $600 stimulus checks, which the government frequently deposits directly into bank accounts, could be out of reach for the people who need them most. That includes Morgan Banke, who told the Times she has only been able to pay either her rent or car insurance every month, and has overdrawn from her Iowa credit union to cover the rest. She asked the credit union to temporarily waive her fees so she could use the stimulus money, but because it had done so three times in the past, it turned her down.Many major banks — Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo among them — have said they'll waive accounts' overdrawn status when the checks come in. But many regional banks and credit unions haven't made the same promises, and have even closed down accounts with overdrawn balances, leaving Americans to get their checks another, slower way. Read more at The New York Times.More stories from theweek.com 5 cartoons about the end of a very, very bad year 'Irritated' Trump will skip his Mar-a-Lago New Year's Eve party Are pandemic relief checks making UBI inevitable?
- Associated Press
China accused the U.S. of staging a show of force by sailing two Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday morning. The Navy said the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS John S. McCain and USS Curtis Wilbur “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit” in accordance with international law. China’s Defense Ministry called the move a “show of force” and a provocation that “sent the wrong signal to the ‘Taiwan independence forces’ and seriously endangered peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait area.”
- The Independent
House Speaker says GOP ‘in denial’ as Americans suffer from economic pain and surging Covid-19
As Northern Ireland's unionists prepare to celebrate 100 years since the state's creation cemented their place in the United Kingdom, post-Brexit trade barriers are triggering their deepest fears: being cut off from Britain and pushed towards a united Ireland. The British-run region remains deeply divided along sectarian lines, with Catholic nationalists aspiring to unification with Ireland while Protestant unionists seek to retain the status quo. Nearly 23 years after a 1998 peace deal ended three decades of confrontation between the Irish Republican Army, pro-British "loyalist" paramilitaries and the British military, it is customs declarations and phytosanitary certifications that are now the focus of unionist angst.
- The Conversation
Warning that Islamic extremists want to impose fundamentalist religious rule in American communities, right-wing lawmakers in dozens of U.S. states have tried banning Sharia, an Arabic term often understood to mean Islamic law. These political debates – which cite terrorism and political violence in the Middle East to argue that Islam is incompatible with modern society – reinforce stereotypes that the Muslim world is uncivilized. They also reflect ignorance of Sharia, which is not a strict legal code. Sharia means “path” or “way”: It is a broad set of values and ethical principles drawn from the Quran – Islam’s holy book – and the life of the Prophet Muhammad. As such, different people and governments may interpret Sharia differently. Still, this is not the first time that the world has tried to figure out where Sharia fits into the global order. In the 1950s and 1960s, when Great Britain, France and other European powers relinquished their colonies in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, leaders of newly sovereign Muslim-majority countries faced a decision of enormous consequence: Should they build their governments on Islamic religious values or embrace the European laws inherited from colonial rule? The big debateInvariably, my historical research shows, political leaders of these young countries chose to keep their colonial justice systems rather than impose religious law. Newly independent Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Somalia, among other places, all confined the application of Sharia to marital and inheritance disputes within Muslim families, just as their colonial administrators had done. The remainder of their legal systems would continue to be based on European law. To understand why they chose this course, I researched the decision-making process in Sudan, the first sub-Saharan African country to gain independence from the British, in 1956.In the national archives and libraries of the Sudanese capital Khartoum, and in interviews with Sudanese lawyers and officials, I discovered that leading judges, politicians and intellectuals actually pushed for Sudan to become a democratic Islamic state. They envisioned a progressive legal system consistent with Islamic faith principles, one where all citizens – irrespective of religion, race or ethnicity – could practice their religious beliefs freely and openly.“The People are equal like the teeth of a comb,” wrote Sudan’s soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Hassan Muddathir in 1956, quoting the Prophet Muhammad, in an official memorandum I found archived in Khartoum’s Sudan Library. “An Arab is no better than a Persian, and the White is no better than the Black.” Sudan’s post-colonial leadership, however, rejected those calls. They chose to keep the English common law tradition as the law of the land. Why keep the laws of the oppressor?My research identifies three reasons why early Sudan sidelined Sharia: politics, pragmatism and demography.Rivalries between political parties in post-colonial Sudan led to parliamentary stalemate, which made it difficult to pass meaningful legislation. So Sudan simply maintained the colonial laws already on the books. There were practical reasons for maintaining English common law, too. Sudanese judges had been trained by British colonial officials. So they continued to apply English common law principles to the disputes they heard in their courtrooms. Sudan’s founding fathers faced urgent challenges, such as creating the economy, establishing foreign trade and ending civil war. They felt it was simply not sensible to overhaul the rather smooth-running governance system in Khartoum.The continued use of colonial law after independence also reflected Sudan’s ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity.Then, as now, Sudanese citizens spoke many languages and belonged to dozens of ethnic groups. At the time of Sudan’s independence, people practicing Sunni and Sufi traditions of Islam lived largely in northern Sudan. Christianity was an important faith in southern Sudan. Sudan’s diversity of faith communities meant that maintaining a foreign legal system – English common law – was less controversial than choosing whose version of Sharia to adopt. Why extremists triumphedMy research uncovers how today’s instability across the Middle East and North Africa is, in part, a consequence of these post-colonial decisions to reject Sharia. In maintaining colonial legal systems, Sudan and other Muslim-majority countries that followed a similar path appeased Western world powers, which were pushing their former colonies toward secularism. But they avoided resolving tough questions about religious identity and the law. That created a disconnect between the people and their governments.In the long run, that disconnect helped fuel unrest among some citizens of deep faith, leading to sectarian calls to unite religion and the state once and for all. In Iran, Saudi Arabia and parts of Somalia and Nigeria, these interpretations triumphed, imposing extremist versions of Sharia over millions of people.In other words, Muslim-majority countries stunted the democratic potential of Sharia by rejecting it as a mainstream legal concept in the 1950s and 1960s, leaving Sharia in the hands of extremists.But there is no inherent tension between Sharia, human rights and the rule of law. Like any use of religion in politics, Sharia’s application depends on who is using it – and why.Leaders of places like Saudi Arabia and Brunei have chosen to restrict women’s freedom and minority rights. But many scholars of Islam and grassroots organizations interpret Sharia as a flexible, rights-oriented and equality-minded ethical order. Religion and the law worldwideReligion is woven into the legal fabric of many post-colonial nations, with varying consequences for democracy and stability.After its 1948 founding, Israel debated the role of Jewish law in Israeli society. Ultimately, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and his allies opted for a mixed legal system that combined Jewish law with English common law. In Latin America, the Catholicism imposed by Spanish conquistadors underpins laws restricting abortion, divorce and gay rights.And throughout the 19th century, judges in the U.S. regularly invoked the legal maxim that “Christianity is part of the common law.” Legislators still routinely invoke their Christian faith when supporting or opposing a given law. Political extremism and human rights abuses that occur in those places are rarely understood as inherent flaws of these religions. When it comes to Muslim-majority countries, however, Sharia takes the blame for regressive laws – not the people who pass those policies in the name of religion.Fundamentalism and violence, in other words, are a post-colonial problem – not a religious inevitability. For the Muslim world, finding a system of government that reflects Islamic values while promoting democracy will not be easy after more than 50 years of failed secular rule. But building peace may demand it.This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. Read more: * What Sharia means: 5 questions answered * How Islamic law can take on ISIS * Trump’s travel ban is just one of many US policies that legalize discrimination against MuslimsMark Fathi Massoud has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, and the University of California. Any views expressed here are the author's responsibility.
- Associated Press
President Donald Trump delivered a year-end video message Thursday after returning early from vacation, highlighting his administration’s work to rapidly develop a vaccine against COVID-19 and rebuild the economy. As the end of his presidency neared, Trump cut short his stay at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida and got back to the White House a day ahead of schedule. Upon his return, Trump released a video message over Twitter to underscore his administration’s work on the vaccine, economic stimulus checks and America’s “grit, strength and tenacity” in the face of challenges.
- The Independent
Police have asked for the public’s help identifying the other teens involved in the attack
Countries around the world have cut off travel links to Britain to stop the spread of the new variant, which scientists have said is 40-70% more transmissible than the original virus. The variant was detected in a 23-year-old female student returning to China from Britain, who was tested in Shanghai on Dec. 14, according to the latest edition of China CDC Weekly published on Wednesday.
- CBS News
The footage shows the woman bringing Grammy-award winner Keyon Harrold's teenage son to the floor.
- The Week
He's a thousand miles away, but President Trump can't escape the election results.Every year, Trump celebrates New Year's Eve at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, walking the red carpet surrounded by club members. But Trump has spent his holiday trip to Palm Beach "single-mindedly focused on the election results and the upcoming certification process in Congress," leading him to return to the White House before the ball drops this year, CNN reports.Throughout his Mar-a-Lago visit, Trump has "has been in an irritated mood" and "fumed about everything from the election outcome to first lady Melania Trump's renovations to his private quarters," multiple people who spoke with him tell CNN. Trump has also reportedly grown concerned that Iran could retaliate for his decision to kill its top general Qassem Soleimani; Trump ordered the Jan. 3 strike on Soleimani from Mar-a-Lago. That's potentially another reason Trump wants to get back to Washington, one person told CNN.Overall, Trump has largely been fixated on Jan. 6, when Congress, led by Vice President Mike Pence, will meet to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's win, sources tell CNN. Pence has reportedly made it clear to Trump that there's nothing he can do to overturn the results, but Trump still spent his Florida trip pushing senators to oppose the certification. Even so, there is a sign Trump has realized he's not going to be in the White House much longer: He's reportedly "polling" allies to determine whether he'll go to Biden's inauguration, CNN reports.The official White House schedule for Thursday confirmed Trump and the first lady would depart Florida for the White House at 11 a.m. Read more at CNN.More stories from theweek.com 5 cartoons about the end of a very, very bad year Are pandemic relief checks making UBI inevitable? Frustration builds over slow pace of vaccine rollout
- NBC News
About 50 percent of workers in California’s Riverside County have refused to take the vaccine, along with 60 percent of nursing home staff in Ohio.
Russian scientists are poring over the well-preserved remains of a woolly rhinoceros that likely roamed the Siberian hinterland more than 12,000 years ago after it was found in the diamond-producing region of Yakutia. Similar finds in Russia's vast Siberian region have happened with increasing regularity as climate change, which is warming the Arctic at a faster pace than the rest of the world, has thawed the ground in some areas long locked in permafrost. The rhino was found at a river in August complete with all its limbs, some of its organs, its tusk - a rarity for such finds - and even its wool, Valery Plotnikov, a scientist, was quoted as saying by Yakutia 24, a local media outlet.
- The Independent
Rebecca Grossman could face up to 34 years to life in prison if convicted
- Associated Press
A winter storm moving across southwestern Texas on Wednesday could dump more than a foot (0.30 meters) of snow before moving eastward and possibly spawning tornadoes in parts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi on New Year's Eve, according to weather forecasters. Jeremy Grams, a forecaster with the National Weather Services’ Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said 12 to 18 inches (0.30 meters to 0.46 meters) of snow was possible west of the Pecos River in southwest Texas, with another 3 to 5 inches (0.13 meters) predicted for western Oklahoma by Thursday. Tornadoes are possible as the cold air moving eastward with the storm collides with moisture and warmer temperatures from the Gulf of Mexico, Grams said.
- The Week
Bernie Sanders rails against McConnell's assertion that $2000 checks are 'socialism for rich people'
After Congress agreed to send $600 stimulus checks to Americans, President Trump decided he wanted to push for $2,000 checks instead, launching Trump and some Republicans into an unlikely alliance with Democrats. But the proposal likely won't even get to the Senate floor thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who spent Thursday once again railing against the proposal with a pointed hit at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).In his Thursday floor speech, McConnell declared Democrats took Trump's proposal and "skewed it so the checks would benefit even more high-earning households," calling the whole thing "socialism for rich people." McConnell has refused to put the $2,000 checks up for a vote, lumping them in with a repeal of protections for social media companies and other unrelated legislation despite bipartisan criticism.Sanders meanwhile took a more direct approach, capping off a week of fiery floor speeches with a harsh response to McConnell on Thursday. "The majority leader helped lead this body to pass Trump's tax bill. You want to talk about socialism for the rich, Mr. Majority Leader?" Sanders exclaimed. He likewise criticized McConnell's focus on Section 230, sarcastically calling it something "that is absolutely on the minds" of struggling Americans.> Sen. Bernie Sanders: "Sen. McConnell has some other concerns, concerns about Section 230 of the 1996 Federal Telecommunications Act. I'm sure that that is absolutely on the minds of everybody in Vermont, New York, and Kentucky." pic.twitter.com/IOitS8qsPd> > — The Hill (@thehill) December 31, 2020Sanders previously tried to filibuster a vote to override President Trump's veto of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, trying to hold it up until McConnell brought up a standalone vote on the $2,000 checks. But most Republicans and even more Democrats voted to proceed with the vote anyway on Wednesday, stripping Sanders of some of his leverage.More stories from theweek.com 5 cartoons about the end of a very, very bad year 'Irritated' Trump will skip his Mar-a-Lago New Year's Eve party Are pandemic relief checks making UBI inevitable?
- The Telegraph
Covid rulebreakers have 'blood on their hands' and are to blame for increasing pressure on hospitals
Covid deniers and those who refuse to wear face masks have “blood on their hands” a leading consultant has said as the number of deaths continued to surge. Professor Hugh Montgomery, a consultant at University College Hospital in London, said people who failed to follow the rules were “killing people” without even realising it. He said he was extremely angry with some members of the public, insisting that if they wore masks and washed their hands as instructed the virus would not be as bad as it is. His comments came as the latest figures showed there had been a further 964 Covid-19 deaths. Professor Montgomery said: “We can't blame the Government, we can't blame the Tier system. This is people behaving badly. “I'm just very angry about this. If we were wearing masks, washing hands, this virus would not be as it is. Anyone who doesn't wear their mask – they have blood on their hands. “They are spreading this virus, then other people will spread it and people will die. They won't know they've killed people, but they have.”