Marijuana Law Passes.

Robert Massimi.

A COVID-19 Winter

The pandemic’s surge in the US continued over the weekend, with a record of almost 228,000 cases reported Friday. More than 2,000 people have died each day from the virus since the month began, including nearly 2,900 Thursday — the most in the country since the pandemic began. The rise cannot be attributed to increased testing, which has risen around 15% since Nov. 1 (the Thanksgiving holiday skewed testing data, see here).

In Washington, DC, President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani tested positive for the coronavirus. He checked into Georgetown University Medical Center after exhibiting symptoms yesterday, according to reports. Giuliani had been traveling to battleground states as part of the Trump campaign’s effort to challenge election results.

In California, the vast majority of the state will be under stay-at-home orders after ICU availability across the state fell below 15%, a government-imposed threshold. The degree to which the order will be enforced is unclear — sheriffs in two counties accounting for 5 million residents in total said they would not enforce the order.

On the policy side, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced Friday a pause on federal student loan collections would be extended until February.

The US has reported more than 14.7 million cases and just over 282,000 deaths, as of this morning. See rolling averages here and here.

Diplomat Attacks

A report from the National Academy of Sciences released over the weekend has concluded that pulsed, directed microwaves are the most likely explanation for a rash of mysterious illnesses that have affected American diplomats in Cuba and China. At least 40 staff and their family members have reported unexplained symptoms including nausea, blurred vision, and physical brain damage dating back to 2016.

While highlighting a number of uncertainties, scientists pointed to the Frey effect — where electromagnetic waves interact with the brain’s auditory cortex, among other regions — as the most likely culprit. The full range of the effect of directed microwave radiation on the brain is not fully understood. Alternate theories included a sonic weapon, pesticides, and a mass psychological disorder. Read the summary and full report here.

The central mystery — who is behind the attacks and how the radiation is generated — remains unsolved, though the former Soviet Union is known to have repeatedly irradiated the US embassy in Moscow during the Cold War.

Decriminalization

The US House voted 228–164 in favor of decriminalizing marijuana Friday. Though largely symbolic — the Senate is unlikely to consider the measure — it marks the first time a Congressional chamber has approved such a bill. The vote was largely along party lines though five Republicans approved the bill, including cosponsor Rep. Matt Gaetz (R, FL-1), an outspoken advocate for marijuana reform. The legislation would remove cannabis from the controlled substances list while placing a hypothetical 5% federal tax on sales (see overview, PDF).

The vote is the latest to add momentum to the push to decriminalize marijuana. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized or decriminalized its recreational use, all since 2012 — with Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota each passing measures in the recent election.

Public opinion has seen a sharp reversal on the issue, with support rising from near 20% to 67% over the past three decades.

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IN THE KNOW

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Sports Illustrated names “The Activist Athlete,” including NBA star LeBron James, US Open tennis champ Naomi Osaka, and NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes, as its 2020 Sportspersons of the Year (More)

> “Laverne & Shirley” actor David Lander dies at 73 (More) | Peter Alliss, World Golf Hall of Famer and iconic golf commentator for BBC, dies at 89 (More) | Longtime film and television character actor Warren Berlinger dies at 83 (More)

> NBA releases first half of the 2020–21 schedule; 72-game season tips off Dec. 22 and NBA will release second half of schedule at a later date (More)

Science & Technology

> Gene-editing breakthroughs demonstrate potential to cure sickle cell anemia and beta thalassemia, both heritable blood disorders (More) | How does CRISPR work? (More)

> Japan successfully retrieves capsule containing samples from the asteroid Ryugu; the six-year mission was the first to retrieve subsurface asteroid samples (More) | Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin aerospace company to become the first to take a female astronaut to the moon (More)

> Chinese research team claims to have demonstrated quantum advantage using light, performing a calculation with a quantum computer not possible with traditional computers; would be the first true demonstration of quantum advantage (More)

Business & Markets

Brought to you by The Ascent

> US economy adds 245,000 jobs in November, down from 610,000 growth in October and fifth straight monthly slowdown; unemployment rate falls from 6.9% to 6.7% (More)

> Airbnb, expected to start trading Thursday, and DoorDash, opening Wednesday, among parade of IPOs expected this week; analysts expect both companies to price shares at more than $30B valuations (More)

> The Cheesecake Factory pays $125K fine to settle SEC charges that it misled investors regarding pandemic’s effect on operations (More)

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Politics & World Affairs

> Nor’easter sweeps across the US Northeast, knocking out power to more than 200,000 customers (More)

> President Trump holds rally in Georgia ahead of Jan. 5 runoffs to determine Senate control (More) | President-elect Biden officially passes 270 electors, as California certifies results; three states left to certify (More) | Trump campaign loses five lawsuits Friday (More) | Michigan judge allows analysis of Dominion voting machines (More)

> Federal judge invalidates Department of Homeland Security guidance, says government must begin accepting new applicants to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (More)

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ETCETERA

The economics of the Christmas tree.

Visualizing the nine vaccines that could end the pandemic.

The National Zoo’s baby panda takes his first steps.

Tennessee grandmother graduates college alongside her granddaughter.

These tiny cabins will make work-from-homers jealous.

… meanwhile, Hawaii wants to be your new work-from-home destination.

All front-line healthcare workers deserve this six-foot cake.

We aren’t 100% sure about this, but it looks like a moose running on water.

Clickbait: Thirty absolutely ridiculous school photos.

Historybook: Editorial cartoonist Thomas Nast dies (1902); HBD Oscar, Emmy, and Tony Award winner Ellen Burstyn (1932); Pearl Harbor Naval Base bombed by Japan, killing 2,403 (1941); HBD basketball legend Larry Bird (1956); Apollo 17, the final Apollo moon mission, is launched (1972).

“I’ve got a theory that if you give 100% all of the time, somehow things will work out in the end.”

- Larry Bird

House Passes Marijuana Law, Larry Bird, Rudy Giuliani, Facebook, Hot Mail, Covid 19, California Lockdown, Pearl Harbor, Apollo Moon Mission.

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robert massimi

robert massimi

Drama critic for Nimbus Magazine, Metropolitan Magazine and New York Lifestyles Magazine. Producer, editor and writer.