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Good evening. Here’s the latest.
1. Congress should not keep Americans “waiting for reinforcements that should have arrived literally months ago,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
But Republicans and Democrats do not agree on which side caused that delay, and Mr. McConnell’s comments, delivered just before the photo above was taken, stopped short of endorsing a $908 billion compromise plan that Democrats embraced on Wednesday. Mr. McConnell’s alternative provides no funding for state and local governments, nor does it revive lapsed federal unemployment payments.
In other political news, the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to take up a Trump campaign lawsuit that aimed to invalidate more than 200,000 votes cast in two of the state’s Democratic bastions, closing off yet another legal avenue by which President Trump has tried to overturn the election.
And Facebook announced it would remove posts that contain vaccine claims that have been debunked by public health experts.
Meanwhile, cyberattackers have been targeting vaccine distribution operations.
IBM’s cybersecurity division and the Department of Homeland Security said that the attacks appear intended to steal the network credentials of people at global organizations involved in the vaccine’s refrigerated distribution, or “cold chain.”
The purpose remains unclear. The attackers might want to steal the technology for keeping the vaccines refrigerated in transit, sabotage the movements or simply lock up the system for ransom payments.
3. The Justice Department sued Facebook.
In the Trump administration’s latest action against Big Tech, the department’s civil rights division said Facebook had “refused to recruit, consider or hire qualified and available U.S. workers” for more than 2,600 positions, which instead went to immigrant visa holders. Above, Facebook’s campus in Menlo Park, Calif.
The suit adds to Facebook’s troubles in Washington: The Federal Trade Commission and dozens of states are separately preparing antitrust lawsuits against the company.
4. Arctic oil and gas leases will go on sale in January.
The Trump administration accelerated its last-ditch effort to greenlight drilling in Alaska, announcing that leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would go on sale Jan. 6.
That’s an unusually rapid timetable that potentially provides the Bureau of Land Management the opportunity to finalize the leases before President-elect Joe Biden, who opposes drilling in the refuge, is sworn in.
Such a setback in environmental policy would be a blow for Mr. Biden, who has made tackling climate change one of his top priorities. He named John Kerry as his international “climate envoy,” and we looked at the front-runners for other top posts.
One possible way the government could encourage alternative fuel would be to subsidize renewable diesel, as oil refineries increasingly find it profitable. But one executive warns that intervention could make it an inherently unstable business.
5. In South Korea, extra-grueling college tests.
Every year in the education-obsessed country, much of life pauses as high school seniors hunker down for a nine-hour marathon of college entrance exams that will determine their future.
On Thursday, banks and businesses delayed opening. Planes were grounded for half an hour. Parents lit candles and prayed. And in the face of their country’s third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, nearly half a million students took the college entrance test, including those above in Seoul.
Officials tried to ensure that the exam seatings would not become a series of national coronavirus super-spreader events. Classrooms were disinfected, temperature checks and masks were required and plastic dividers were everywhere.
6. Warner Bros. will stream all of its 2021 movies.
Every movie on the studio’s calendar next year — a total of 17 films — will be released in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service at the same time. Subscribers will get instant access to big-budget movies like “Suicide Squad 2,” “Godzilla vs. Kong,” “The Matrix 4” and “Dune,” above.
The movies will get traditional theatrical releases outside of the U.S., where HBO Max is not yet available
WarnerMedia, which is owned by AT&T, has a gloomier outlook than other major movie studies, saying it has determined that the pandemic will likely affect moviegoing in the U.S. until at least next fall, even given the expected deployment of vaccines.
7. A former kamikaze, silent no longer.
Kazuo Odachi, 93, is one of the last living members of a group never meant to survive: young Japanese men tasked to give their lives in last-ditch suicide missions near the end of World War II.
But he did survive, and for decades he kept the secret from everyone, even his wife. Now a retired Tokyo police officer, Mr. Odachi has published a memoir and hopes to memorialize the kamikaze as young men whose valor and patriotism were exploited.
“I don’t want anyone to forget that the wonderful country that Japan has become today was built on the foundation of their deaths,” he said in a recent interview at his home.
8. The latest in cruises? A ticket to nowhere.
Singapore, like several other countries, has extended the cruise business a lifeline. As ships sit idle around the world, the city-state allows multiday voyages to nowhere, complete with mandatory masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizers near the slot machines. Passengers have reported a muted experience.
“Over all,” one man said, “you don’t really get to loosen up.”
Following Singapore’s guidelines, the cruise lines upgraded their air filters, which has become an increasingly common practice in the travel industry. Many airlines have hospital-grade, high-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, filters that are said to be over 99 percent effective in capturing tiny virus particles, including the coronavirus, and hotels are following suit.
It’s called a Centaur, after the mythological part-person, part-horse creatures, because it can behave like an asteroid and a comet. Forty-three years from now, its transition will be complete, an unusually short timeline.
“To see something that’s so short-lived, that’s changing — it’s a reminder that the solar system is dynamic,” said an astronomer.
10. And finally, a little holiday music.
In our first retrospective edition of “Diary of a Song,” The Times’s Joe Coscarelli speaks to Prince’s creative and personal companions to break down the single “Sign o’ the Times.” It was released in 1987, but one critic finds “a melancholy to it that matches 2020.”
And with almost 300 consecutive years in the repertory, Handel’s “Messiah” has been augmented by winds, trombones and glockenspiels. Using audio clips, Julian Wachner, the director of music and the arts at Trinity Wall Street in New York, helps compare and contrast their relative merits.
Have a resonant evening.