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Good evening. Here’s the latest.
1. Senator Mitch McConnell said the House’s stand-alone legislation to increase stimulus checks to $2,000 had “no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate.”
That all but dooms the effort to raise direct payouts. Mr. McConnell, the majority leader, said the Senate would only consider adding to the stimulus checks as part of weighing two other demands from President Trump: investigating election security and removing some legal protections for social media platforms.
Federal health officials acknowledged that the U.S. vaccine rollout has gotten off to a slower-than-expected start, for reasons they haven’t figure out. But they promised the pace would pick up. Above, vaccinations in Boston today.
2. Colorado and California reported cases of the more contagious variant of the coronavirus first seen in Britain.
An even wider spread is likely, which would color virtually every aspect of the nation’s pandemic response: hospital treatment, community lockdowns, school closures and more.
“The overall picture is pretty grim,” said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
California’s case is in San Diego County, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who did not provide additional details.
Colorado’s two cases both involve members of the Colorado National Guard who were sent to the small town of Simla, about 80 miles southeast of Denver, to help staff the Good Samaritan nursing home, above, which recently had a severe coronavirus outbreak.
Hospitalizations nationally have hit a pandemic peak of 124,686, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Studies reveal that a significant subset of patients have to return to hospitals, sometimes repeatedly, with complications triggered by the disease or by the body’s efforts to defeat the virus.
3. The Nashville police are under fire over a Christmas suicide bombing.
Anger is boiling that the police failed to immediately share that they had gotten a tip last year from the suspect’s girlfriend that he had been making bombs in the R.V. parked at his home. Above, the R.V. belonging to Anthony Warner en route on Christmas.
A police spokesman said in a statement that officers who went to Mr. Warner’s home “saw no evidence of a crime and had no authority to enter” his property. The girlfriend’s lawyer also represented Mr. Warner, according to the police, and told officers later that he would “not allow his client to permit a visual inspection of the R.V.”
And in Kentucky, the Louisville Police Department will fire the police officer who shot and killed Breonna Taylor. A second officer who obtained a judge’s approval for the flawed raid on the home of Ms. Taylor, a Black emergency room technician, will also be dismissed.
5. The British Parliament is pushing through a complex trade agreement with the European Union in a day, a rushed conclusion to the Brexit saga, which convulsed British politics for more than four years.
China and the European Union also struck a landmark pact that would make it easier for companies to operate in each other’s territory — a significant geopolitical victory for China at a time when criticism of its human rights record and handling of the pandemic have left it increasingly isolated. Political opposition in Europe and Washington could ultimately derail the deal.
A mainland Chinese court sentenced a group of Hong Kong democracy activists who tried to flee to Taiwan by speedboat. They will variously serve between seven months and three years in mainland prisons. Their detentions and punishment embody the worst of Hong Kong activists’ fears about the future under tighter control from Beijing.
6. Argentina’s vote to legalize abortion is likely to ripple across Latin America.
The vote, which came late Wednesday after 12 hours of often dramatic debate, set off rejoicing among abortion activists Buenos Aries, above, and offers hope to reproductive-rights advocates in other socially conservative nations in the region.
Argentina’s outcome was a striking rebuke of Pope Francis, who injected himself in his homeland’s bitter political debate, and a setback for the country’s evangelical Protestant churches, which had joined forces with the Catholic Church in opposing the change.
7. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, above, doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of interest from oil companies.
The deadline is Thursday to submit bids for the 10-year leases pushed for by the Trump administration, which would establish drilling rights on tracts covering more than one million acres, but there’s no rush to extract more costly fossil fuels for a world that increasingly seeks to wean itself off them.
8. New York City’s Penn Station is almost ready to show off its $1.6 billion makeover.
In a major upgrade for the busiest — and perhaps the most miserable — train hub in North America, a new Moynihan Train Hall will open on Jan. 1 (for the time-challenged, that’s Friday).
Glass skylights and 92-foot-high ceilings give grandeur to the 255,000-square-foot hall, which will also feature permanent installations by some of the world’s most celebrated artists, including a stain-glassed triptych from Kehinde Wiley, giant photographic panels by Stan Douglas and skyscrapers up to nine feet tall created by the duo Elmgreen & Dragset that hang upside down from the ceiling like stalactites.
Caveat: The hall will be used as a waiting room for Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road passengers, leaving subway riders stuck in the miseries of the old Penn Station.
10. And finally, highlights from our series of weekly escapes.
During a year with limited travel possibilities, our Travel desk’s World Through a Lens series offered armchair visits to some of the planet’s most intriguing places — an array that included a hat maker’s workshop in Panama, a drone’s aerial view of Vermont foliage and a cluster of sea lions off the Baja Coast. We compiled the most striking images.
Have an adventurous night.
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