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A new, mutated form of the coronavirus that originated in England is spreading across the globe — and it could potentially be more contagious than what we’ve seen. Aside from the United Kingdom, the variant has been detected in Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and Australia. Dr. Anthony Fauci says it’s probably already in the US. As scientists hunt for more information, here’s what we know and what we don’t. Pfizer and Moderna are now testing their vaccines to see if they work against the UK variant, though experts have said they still expect the vaccines to be effective. About 614,000 vaccines have been administered in the US so far, and 7.9 million doses from Moderna and Pfizer are expected to be distributed around the country this week.
Congress finally approved the long-awaited $900 billion Covid relief package after months of partisan gridlock. It now goes to President Donald Trump’s desk for signature. The package includes direct payments of up to $600 per adult, enhanced jobless benefits of $300 per week, roughly $284 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans, $25 billion in rental assistance, an extension of the eviction moratorium and $82 billion for schools and colleges. It also promises to speed up vaccine distribution. Though it was a bipartisan deal, both parties had to give up key demands to get it p
3. West Point
The US Military Academy at West Point is facing its worst cheating scandal in decades. Seventy-three cadets were accused of breaking the academy’s honor code by cheating on a calculus exam in May, when the elite school shifted to virtual classes because of the pandemic. Two of the cases were dropped for lack of evidence, and four other cadets resigned. The remaining 67 students await a decision on their fate. It’s not the first cheating scandal to rock West Point. The institution saw similar incidents in 1951 and in 1976, the latter of which involved 152 cadets.
Alexey Navalny, the Russian opposition leader and nemesis of President Vladimir Putin, almost died after being poisoned in August. We now know how he was poisoned: the lethal nerve agent Novichok was planted in his underwear. A Russian agent who was sent to tail Navalny accidentally revealed the information during a phone call with who he thought was an official in Russia’s National Security Council. Turns out he was speaking to Navalny himself. Navalny has long been a thorn in Putin’s side, exposing corruption in high places and campaigning against the ruling United Russia party. He’s still recovering from the poisoning at a secret location in Germany.
5. Federal architecture
President Trump wants the nation’s buildings to look prettier. He signed an executive order on Monday looking to ensure that federal buildings feature “beautiful” architecture. The order doesn’t exactly define what standards buildings must meet to be considered beautiful, though it says they should be of classical design. It applies to all federal courthouses, agency headquarters, DC public buildings and all other public buildings costing more than $50 million. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some architects are not happy about it.
Kevin Greene, NFL sack legend and Hall of Famer, has died
Greene, who had the third most sacks in NFL history, was 58.
Hawaii residents are being asked to stay indoors after the Kilauea volcano erupted
Feels like the theme of this year, really.
One of the Midwest’s most influential newspapers apologizes for decades of racist coverage
It’s a step in the right direction for the Kansas City Star.
Ho Oh No! A Santa impersonator got tangled up in some power lines
Perhaps we should leave the more magical elements of Christmas to the real jolly old man in red.
Five high school freshmen are being called heroes for saving two children from an icy pond
It should come as no surprise that all five of them are Boy Scouts.
That’s how many days that Taiwan had been coronavirus free, with the exception of imported cases. The island recently recorded its first locally transmitted case of coronavirus since April.
“We deserve to be represented by a figure who truly embodies Virginia’s values.”
Virginia Rep. Jennifer Wexton, on a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee being removed from the US Capitol. Lee’s statue will be replaced by one of the late Barbara Johns, an African American woman who played a key role in the civil rights movement.
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Time for a deep clean
As we wind down the year, it’s a good time as any to refresh our homes. Here’s some inspiration — at the very least, it’s a satisfying watch. (Click here to view.)