Assume the worst: White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told CBS that if you traveled for Thanksgiving, assume you were infected with coronavirus and get tested soon. People should avoid seeing grandparents, other elderly relatives or anyone with pre-existing conditions, Birx said. “We know people may have made mistakes over the Thanksgiving time period,” she said. “To every American, this is the moment to protect yourself and your family. So if your governor or your mayor isn’t doing the policies that we know are critical … you need to take it upon yourself to be restricted.” More than 13.5 million people in the United States have contracted Covid and more than 268,000 have died since the pandemic began, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker.
- Also: The White House holiday party season began Monday, Josh Dawsey writes for The Washington Post. There are more than a dozen indoor parties on the schedule, including a congressional ball on December 10, even as public health officials ask Americans not to travel or congregate in large groups.
Seeking approval: The biotechnology company Moderna has asked U.S. regulators for emergency authorization for its coronavirus vaccine, Carolyn Y. Johnson reports for The Washington Post, about a week after Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech asked the same for a similar vaccine. But even if two vaccines begin to be distributed in the next few weeks, it won’t be soon enough to blunt the anticipated holiday-fueled rise in cases. Pfizer and BioNTech also submitted their vaccine to the European Union for approval, which could come before the end of the year, according to The New York Times.
- Also: A committee at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet today to discuss who should receive the coronavirus vaccine first, although the agency will only be issuing guidance and the decision will ultimately be left up to the states, The New York Times reports.
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New stimulus plan: A bipartisan group of senators announced a $908 billion stimulus proposal today that they hope will break the logjam in D.C., The Washington Post reports. The stimulus would include $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits for up to four months, $160 billion in funding for state and local governments and a temporary moratorium on some coronavirus-related lawsuits—a mix of Democratic and Republican priorities. But congressional aides said they are skeptical that even this compromise stands a chance.
Choked up: Wildfires in California are causing irreparable harm to children, whose growing bodies are more susceptible to smoke damage, Somini Sengupta reports for The New York Times. Some 7.6 million children are exposed to wildfire smoke every year in the United States, a figure expected to grow as climate change makes wildfires more common in the hotter and drier West. But not all children are impacted equally. Fresno County, in California’s Central Valley, was at least partially blanketed by smoke for 152 days this year as of mid-November, twice as many as in Bay Area counties, and Fresno and its neighboring counties already ranked first in the country for particulate matter pollution, according to the American Lung Association. Fresno is also 55 percent Latino, and 18 percent of its population lives below the poverty line—nearly twice the rate in San Francisco. It’s harder for residents to relocate their children when the smoke rolls in, or to invest in expensive air filters for the home.
Out of control: According to a new federal report, the owners and operators of more than half a million diesel pickup trucks have disabled the emissions controls in their vehicles, allowing the trucks to spew pollution unchecked for a decade, Coral Davenport reports for The New York Times. Unlike the Volkswagen scandal of 2015, in which the car manufacturer installed a system to cheat emissions checks, no single company is to blame. Instead, individual truck owners install illegal devices made by small companies, making it hard to estimate the full scale of the problem. In September, Eli Wolfe and Alexandra Tempus reported for FairWarning on the pervasiveness of so-called “defeat devices.” The damage to the environment is considerable. “This is far more alarming and widespread than the Volkswagen scandal,” Drew Kodjak, the executive director of the International Council on Clean Transportation, the research group that first alerted the E.P.A. to the Volkswagen scandal, told The Times. “Because these are trucks, the amount of pollution is far, far higher.”
Murder most foul: To coincide with the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Nuremberg war crimes trials of Nazi leaders, the Swedish parliament has asked a group of international lawyers to draft a definition of ecocide, or the crime of destroying ecosystems, Owen Bowcroft reports for The Guardian. The project already has support from some European countries and island nations, including Vanuatu in the South Pacific, which last year asked the international criminal court to consider crimes of ecocide. “In most cases ecocide is likely to be a corporate crime,” Jojo Mehta, the chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation, told The Guardian. “It would have to involve mass, systematic or widespread destruction. We are probably talking about Amazon deforestation on a huge scale, deep sea bottom trawling or oil spills.”
Off to the races: Faster chicken processing lines. Firing squads and electrocutions. Soot standards. Shower heads and water pressure. This motley crew of subjects all have one thing in common: They’re the subject of new rulemaking by the Trump administration before President-elect Biden’s inauguration in January, Isaac Arnsdorf writes for ProPublica. Arnsdorf and his colleagues are tracking these “midnight regulations,” which could have serious consequences and be difficult for Biden to undo.
- Also: The Trump administration is rushing to give the rights to an area of sacred Apache land outside of Phoenix to a mining company a full year ahead of schedule, which critics see as an attempt to block Biden from interfering with the transfer, Ian Kumamoto reports for Vice. The administration has framed it as part of a push to rely less on China for “critical minerals,” but critics see it as a last-minute push to weaken environmental regulations.
Attack dogs: Over the past few years, at least 37 videos of police dog attacks have surfaced, raising questions about the use of K-9s in law enforcement, Kimberly Kindy and Julie Tate report for The Washington Post. Many of the victims were unarmed or had already surrendered to police. Some had been handcuffed or were bystanders, and yet they suffered brutal attacks. Earlier this year, a 36-year-old Black man in Salt Lake City was set upon by a German Shepherd after he raised his hands and knelt on the ground. The dog bit down on his left leg, causing nerve, muscle and tendon damage that required multiple surgeries to try to fix. The videos may change public opinion about the use of police dogs and the officers who handle them. “These videos are a catalyst for change,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “I believe we are at a tipping point.” The officer responsible for the dog in that incident has been charged with felony aggravated assault, and more than 100 videos from an additional 18 police dog attacks have been given to the local district attorney for possible prosecution.
FairWarning contributor Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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