Good afternoon! It’s Monday, and my family baked approximately 472 cookies over the weekend, which should help me fill in for Hunter this week. Here’s what you need to know today.
Lawmakers in Washington can breathe a sigh of relief today after President Donald Trump signed a $900 billion bipartisan pandemic relief package last night to avoid a government shutdown. The bill passed Congress with a veto-proof majority, but Trump waited to sign it as he pushed for a larger stimulus check.
The Democratic-led House is expected to vote today on raising the amount of money that will be sent to many Americans from $600 to $2,000. The Republican-led Senate is expected to ignore the vote, leaving the bill as is. [AP]
You can calculate how much money you’re likely to get from the stimulus package here. [Washington Post]
Here’s a breakdown of the relief package, which includes $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies through September. Also included is an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits and rental assistance, and another round of small business loans. [NPR]
And Wall Street opened with record highs today after Trump signed the bill. [Reuters]
Meanwhile, the House is set to vote today to override Trump’s veto of the annual military spending bill. [New York Times]
Novavax Inc announced today it has begun a late-stage study of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine after two manufacturing delays. Up to 30,000 volunteers across the U.S. and Mexico will participate.
The company is already preparing to deliver 100 million doses to the U.S. by January after being awarded $1.6 billion for developing and testing. Novavax has started a late-stage study in the UK, and data from that trial are expected in early 2021. [Reuters]
And AstraZeneca said their vaccine, which is expected to be approved this week in the U.K., will be effective against a new variant of the coronavirus that’s driving a surge in Britain. [AP]
South Korea today confirmed its first case of the British variant, an indication that it’s already circling the globe. [AP]
Meanwhile, Chicago officials said today that vaccinations in long-term care and outpatient facilities would begin this week. [WBEZ]
Social worker Anjanette Young will speak privately with Mayor Lori Lightfoot about the botched police raid on her home. But Young has also requested a public forum with the police superintendent and several aldermen.
Young asked for the meeting to happen at her church on Wednesday. Lightfoot has acknowledged the request for a meeting, but has not yet responded.
“We are in touch with Attorney Saulter and are hopeful that this will happen,” the mayor’s office said. [Chicago Tribune]
Meanwhile, one of the officers from the Young raid took part in a different search at a wrong home. [Chicago Sun-Times]
There have been about 750 murders in Chicago this year, more than a 50% increase from last year.
This year is “also right on pace with the carnage in 2016 when 778 people were murdered — a historically bad year that saw a spike in gun violence so steep and shocking it birthed multiple well-funded initiatives and prompted renewed collaboration between violence prevention groups,” reports WBEZ’s Patrick Smith.
But experts said this year’s bloodshed should not be taken as a sign that anti-violence efforts aren’t working.
Instead, the many upheavals from this year — including the pandemic, skyrocketing unemployment and civil unrest — have potentially contributed to the increase, said Andrew Papachristos, professor of sociology at Northwestern University.
But Papachristos also warned that without intervention, it’s unlikely that communities will recover quickly from the increase in violence.
“When people don’t think the state is doing what they need to do, they settle disputes by themselves,” Papachristos said. “And you had a perfect storm of that in 2020.” [WBEZ]
Former alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno, 48, was charged today with drunken and reckless driving after police said he rammed and sideswept at least eight cars in Gold Coast before crashing into a tree.
Moreno was also charged with five counts of failure to notify damage to an unattended vehicle. He was taken into police custody Sunday night, then to Northwestern Hospital. He was later released.
Moreno, who lost a reelection bid to the City Council in 2019, is still fighting charges from May 2019 of insurance fraud, disorderly conduct, obstruction of justice and falsely reporting a vehicle stolen. [Block Club Chicago]
Here’s what else is happening
One of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights activists was sentenced today to nearly six years in prison. [AP]
Expect ice and snow starting tomorrow. [Chicago Tribune]
The Nashville bomber left some clues to his motive. [AP]
Here’s a look at how the pandemic has changed how and what we eat. [Chicago Tribune]
Oh, and one more thing …
If you’re like me, and took a break for the news over the Christmas holiday, then you might’ve also missed this frankly hilarious tidbit: Scientists have discovered that octopi punch fish.
Eduardo Sampaio, who is studying the cephalopods for his doctorate, was the first to video the behavior that has scientists somewhat baffled.
In a paper that came out last week in Ecology, Sampaio suggests the octopi he observed could be hunting with other marine life, and the left hook is the result of a hunting-mate getting too close. But there’s been too little research to understand what’s going on in an octopus’ brain.
“Their main drive is to eat,” Sampaio said. “So when that comes into play, the gloves come off.”
You can watch several underwater sucker punches in the link. [New York Times]
Tell me something good …
There’s been a lot of bad in 2020, but I want to know: What’s one thing that’s been great? Something that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t found yourself in the weirdest year of our lifetimes?
I’m celebrating my second wedding anniversary in a week, and I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to know my husband in a completely new way this year. I’ve gained an appreciation for quiet moments together: eating takeout on the front porch, binge-watching reruns (who knew House had so many episodes?) and perfecting a banana bread recipe.
What’s one thing that’s been good in 2020? Feel free to email or tweet me, and your responses might be shared here this week.