Consumer Confidence

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The World

Busy night: First, President Trump granted clemency to 20 people, including ex-advisers and former lawmakers. The recipients of pardons and commutations included three Republican former members of Congress, people convicted of crimes as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and contractors convicted of killing unarmed Iraqi civilians in 2007. Next, he called on Congress to approve $2,000 stimulus checks, hinting he might not sign the relief bill — which he called a “disgrace” — without changes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi immediately took him up on the deal. Finally, Trump backed a 2022 primary challenge to Sen. John Thune (R-SD), tweeting that his political career will be “over” and calling Thune a “RINO” and “Mitch’s boy,” as Republicans plunge into open battle over attempts to overturn Trump’s loss to Biden. (Washington Post, Reuters, Washington Post-2, Political Wire, Washington Post-3)

As U.S. deaths are expected to top 3 million this year for the first time, Pfizer neared a deal to provide the U.S. with at least tens of millions of additional vaccine doses under an agreement that would give it better access to manufacturing expansion supplies. Meanwhile, Florida will vaccinate seniors before essential workers. In Texas, documents show that Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the Trump administration to take back some of Harris County’s Covid-19 relief money. (Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Miami Herald, Texas Tribune)

Britain’s borders reopened after France President Macron agreed to a new testing regime to ensure that goods can flow across the Channel. Britons and citizens of other nations will be able to travel to the EU, but only after producing a negative PCR test, which can take up to 72 hours to give a result. In Scotland, families split between Scotland’s islands and mainland will not be able to spend Christmas together. The UAE rolled out free Chinese vaccines to all citizens and residents. 36 people stationed at a Chilean research base in Antarctica tested positive for Covid-19. (The Times, The Times-2, Financial Times, Axios)

The Trump administration is concerned Chinese investments in the Israeli tech industry could harm Israeli and U.S. national security. Separately, the Department of Homeland Security is set to warn U.S. businesses of data security risks associated with communications equipment and services from China-linked companies. (Axios, Axios-2)

  • Japan and South Korea scrambled fighter jets to track Russian and Chinese bombers that flew a joint patrol mission — a pair of Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers and four Chinese H-6K bombers — over the Sea of Japan and East China Sea in a show of increasingly close military ties between Moscow and Beijing. (The Guardian)

In Russia, Vladimir Putin signed legislation that will grant former presidents of Russia and their families lifetime immunity once they leave office. Meanwhile, Chinese diners who fail to finish their restaurant meal could be fined under a law being introduced to reduce food waste. The legislation comes four months after President Xi demanded decisive action to stop leftovers from being thrown away — fueling speculation that Beijing is preparing for an economic shock. (The Guardian, The Times)

Israel called its 4th election in 2 years as the Netanyahu-Gantz coalition collapsed. A new vote is set for March 23 after ‘unity’ government crumbled in just 7 months. Polls suggest tough race, with main threat from parties to Netanyahu’s right. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is offering Indonesia billions in aid for Israel normalization, while Israeli envoys arrived in Morocco to meet the king. (Times of Israel, Times of Israel-2, Reuters)

Alex Padilla will become California’s first Latino U.S. senator. The son of Mexican immigrants began his political career in the San Fernando Valley. Padilla, who replaces Kamala Harris, has served as California’s secretary of state since 2015. (Los Angeles Times)

House Democrats’ underperformance in the 2020 elections leaves Speaker Nancy Pelosi with little breathing room for the chamber’s January vote to decide whether she retains the gavel in the 117th Congress. 53% of Democrats said House Democrats should keep Pelosi as speaker, while a third said the caucus should choose someone else. Among all voters, 56% said Democrats should find a new leader. (Morning Consult)

The Washington Post picked Seoul as the home to one of its two new breaking-news hubs as part of an effort to build a global 24-hour newsroom, months after The New York Times tapped the South Korean capital for its next Asia headquarters. Meanwhile, there have been at least 117 cases of a journalist being arrested or detained on the job in the U.S. from Jan. 1 and Dec. 10 — an increase of more than 1200% compared with 2019. (Nikkei Asian Review, Press Freedom Tracker)


Economy

Consumer confidence fell in December, as the Conference Board said its index of consumer confidence dropped to 88.6 in the first two weeks of December, from a revised 92.9 in November. Meanwhile, Asian firms turned most optimistic in the fourth quarter this year, as business activity picked up and vaccines started rolling out in Western countries ahead of their Asian launch. (Wall Street Journal, Thomson Reuters/INSEAD survey)

U.S. FDA warned Amazon's Whole Foods Market for misbranding food products. Separately, the U.S. sued Walmart, accusing the retail giant of helping to fuel the nation’s opioid crisis by inadequately screening for questionable prescriptions despite repeated warnings from its own pharmacists. The SEC sued Ripple over a 7-year, $1.3B ‘ongoing’ cryptocurrency sale. (Reuters, Wall Street Journal, Coindesk)

Christmas came early for Silicon Valley and one of its leading venture investors, Bill Gurley. The SEC greenlit new rules that will allow companies to raise capital through direct listings of their stock, a change that could provide a more appealing alternative to the traditional initial public offering process. (The Information, SEC)

Amid increasing discussions of businesses leaving California, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently spoke with Airbnb's Brian Chesky and DoorDash's Tony Xu around their IPOs, and part of the conversation was about their futures in the state. (Protocol)

The global private equity market was more resilient and less volatile than public equity markets during the first half of 2020 as firms dealt with the fallout of the coronavirus crisis. Further, the economic slowdown lasted longer in the European private equity market than in other regions, with U.S. and Asian funds performing more strongly. Asian and North American markets suffered heavier losses in 1Q20, of more than 6% of value, but recovered quicker while the European market correction continued well into 2Q20. (Private Equity News)


Technology

Elon Musk says Apple refused a meeting to acquire Tesla. (The Verge)

How far has Amazon been willing to go to make its “everything store” live up to the name? The Wall Street Journal delves into Amazon’s various strategies for dealing with competitors and managing the Amazon Marketplace, its platform for third-party sellers that’s responsible for more than half of all its retail sales. (The Verge, Wall Street Journal)

The Covid-19 relief bill could change the future of game livestreaming in the U.S. It’s meant to be aimed at “commercial, for-profit streaming piracy services.” But as it’s written, this could be a substantial blow to the programming featured on Amazon’s Twitch service, YouTube, and Facebook Gaming, as well as smaller broadcasting and video services. Much of the content on modern livestreaming platforms still involves live gameplay, much of which at any given time isn’t endorsed by the owners of these games so much as it’s gently tolerated. (Geekwire)

How does adtech work — or, often, not work? This explainer on digital advertising's header bids, third-party brand safety vendors, and “evercookies,” illustrated by a ubiquitous pajama onesie ad helps. (Gizmodo)

GitHub has spent the past few weeks excising all nonessential web trackers and cookies on its site—save for a few that are critical to its operation. Now that GitHub no longer has any outside trackers or cookies on its site, it doesn't need to generate a nuisance pop-up the instant someone visits the web page. No outside services can scrutinize what people are up to on GitHub, and that ever-present consent form, ubiquitous around the web, is gone. (Fortune)

The New York Times’ crossword puzzle was released in augmented reality: Floating letters delivered straight to your space of choice. (The Verge)


Smart Links

Lyft, JPM, Anthem & United Way may offer a free ride to your Covid-19 vaccine. (Fast Company)

Affluent families ditch public schools, widening U.S. inequality. (Bloomberg)

13 new billionaires signed the Giving Pledge. (Business Insider)

Rutgers University renames iconic residence hall in honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Rutgers University)

Giant iceberg menacing South Georgia Island breaks up into smaller pieces. (Washington Post)

“Blended meat” has arrived, melding the best of the plant-based and cultured-meat substitutes. (MIT Technology Review)

America’s scallop catch expected to dip in 2021. (Washington Post)

U.S. ethics ratings rise for medical workers and teachers. (Gallup)