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The World

As Congress passed the stimulus deal, 70% of Americans describe the $600 stimulus checks as “too little.” Meanwhile, the bill includes: $166B in direct checks; $120 billion in extra unemployment help; $325B small business boost; $45B in transportation aid; an extension for state spending; food and farmer assistance; billions for vaccines, testing and tracing; $2B for funeral expenses; $25B in rental aid and an eviction ban; $54B for public K-12 schools; $23B for a higher education fund; $10B for the child care sector; major anti-busing action; pay boost for troops; cash for another Virginia-class submarine; restricting access to e-cigarettes; $7B in broadband funding with $1.9B to remove Huawei and ZTE equipment; and a handful of controversial copyright measures, including the CASE Act, the Trademark Modernization Act, and a felony streaming proposal; and more. American Airlines and United Airlines said they would recall some 32,000 workers furloughed in October with fresh aid from Congress. (YouGov, Axios, Politico, The Verge, Axios-2)

As the Moderna vaccine began arriving at hospitals, more than 1 million people have passed through U.S. airport security checkpoints in each of the last two days in a sign that public health pleas to avoid holiday travel are being ignored. Meanwhile, millions of Christmas presents may arrive late because of Postal Service delays, as unprecedented package volume has paralyzed the agency. (Los Angeles Times, Washington Post)

  • There are no intensive care beds available in densely populated Southern California or the state’s agricultural San Joaquin Valley, together home to nearly 30 million people, amid a deadly surge. (Reuters)

  • 75% of Americans support President-elect Biden’s mandating a mask; two-thirds of Americans think he should ban gatherings involving more than 10 people. Just under 60% — said the administration should temporarily close nonessential businesses such as restaurants and gyms, and mandate vaccination. However, while Democrats were overwhelmingly in favor of each of those mandates, a majority of Republicans registered their support only for mandatory mask wearing and testing. (STAT News)

More areas of England must be placed under the toughest restrictions to “get ahead” of a rapidly spreading wave of infections, according to the government’s chief scientific adviser. Meanwhile, Royal Mail has suspended deliveries of packages and letters to mainland Europe, Canada and Turkey, while Deutsche Post temporarily halted services to Great Britain and Ireland. (The Times, The Guardian)

  • Foreigners will not be able to enter Israel beginning tomorrow. Any Israeli returning from abroad will be required to be isolated in a coronavirus hotel for between 10 and 14 days. (Jerusalem Post)

The Russian hackers who penetrated U.S. government agencies broke into the email system used by the Treasury Department’s most senior leadership, the first detail of how deeply Moscow burrowed into the Trump administration’s networks. Meanwhile, 24+ organizations installed SolarWinds code, including Cisco, Intel, Nvidia, VMware, Belkin, a CA hospital, and Kent State university. (New York Times, Wall Street Journal)

The U.S. announced new visa restrictions on Chinese officials that broaden the scope of those believed responsible for human rights abuses. Meanwhile, Hong Kong activist and former opposition lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung applied for political asylum in Britain, six months after he went into self-imposed exile. A new investigation finds that China is using stolen data to expose CIA operatives in Africa and Europe. (South China Morning Post, South China Morning Post, Foreign Policy)

The EU and UK are edging towards a Brexit compromise on fisheries, though the Bloc’s rights in British waters remains the outstanding issue as UK Prime Minster Boris Johnson eyes a December 30 parliamentary approval. In Jerusalem, an election prevention bill failed, and Israel is now headed to elections on March 23. (Financial Times, Jerusalem Post)

Nepal’s president dissolved Parliament after the prime minister recommended the move amid an escalating feud within his Communist Party that is likely to push the Himalayan nation into a political crisis. (Los Angeles Times)

The public's overall mood has soured since November. Specifically, satisfaction with the direction of the country and views of economic conditions in the U.S. have worsened significantly. So, too, has Congress' job approval rating, which, at 15%, is the lowest of the 116th Congress. President Trump's job approval rating has fallen to 39% -- down seven percentage points from before the election. In contrast, nearly two-thirds of Americans approve of the way Joe Biden is handling his presidential transition. (Gallup)

The Kansas City Star ran a a six-part package, the result of a team of reporters who dug deeply into the archives of The Star and what was once its sister paper, The Kansas City Times: “Today we are telling the story of a powerful local business that has done wrong. For 140 years, it has been one of the most influential forces in shaping Kansas City and the region. And yet for much of its early history — through sins of both commission and omission — it disenfranchised, ignored and scorned generations of Black Kansas Citians. It reinforced Jim Crow laws and redlining. Decade after early decade it robbed an entire community of opportunity, dignity, justice and recognition. That business is The Kansas City Star.” (Kansas City Star)


Economy

The pound endured its worst day in more than three months as nations shut their borders to British arrivals and negotiators failed to end the Brexit deadlock in Brussels. Economists are raising the prospect of a double-dip recession. Tesla fell 6.5% in its S&P debut, while U.S. credit card applications tumble. (The Times, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal)

Small businesses are being starved of credit, as banks lend less to small companies today than they did before the financial crisis. Loans to big businesses, meanwhile, have multiplied. (Wall Street Journal)

Global venture funding to female-founded companies fell significantly in 2020. $4.9 billion went to more than 800 female-founded startups globally so far this year, down 27% from the year-ago period. Meanwhile, Italy’s gender employment gap is now the widest in Europe. (Crunchbase, Wall Street Journal)

Global banks are boosting their Singapore hiring to mitigate Hong Kong risk, looking to trim headcount in the Chinese territory after Beijing’s crackdown. (Financial Times)

The holiday party is very different in 2020. A LinkedIn poll showed folks were split: 41% said no way they'd attend an online office party, while 44% said yes absolutely. A different LinkedIn poll showed that 34% of employees just want the time to themselves, and most people would prefer a bonus to a party. Companies also seem to be listening: Only 23% of companies are planning a year-end celebration, according to one study, down from 76% last year. (Source Code)

Eaton Partners released its December 2020 LP survey: (Eaton Partners)


Technology

Apple is moving forward with self-driving car technology and is targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology that could “radically” reduce the cost of batteries and increase the vehicle’s range. Meanwhile, two companies that make lidar sensors — a core component for self-driving cars that allows their computers to take a 3D image of the world around them — saw their stocks soar. Separately, Apple’s supply chain in Asia has been hit by worker unrest after staff at the iPhone maker’s contractors in India and China protested over unpaid wages and bonuses. (Reuters, CNBC, Financial Times)

Google has come up with a new perk for Silicon Valley’s famously pampered workforce: Free, weekly, at-home Covid-19 testing. The search giant rolled out the new benefit for all of its 90,000 U.S. employees. The initiative guarantees all of them a weekly, at-home nasal swab and a lab analysis—whether they are reporting for duty in-person, or not. (Wall Street Journal)

Inside Big Tech's stealth push to influence the Biden administration: Executives and employees at tech companies such as Alphabet Inc-owned Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft are pushing to place candidates in senior roles at government agencies. The agencies many of these executives are aiming for include the U.S. Commerce Department, the Office of the USTR, the Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs - a key agency under the White House Office of Management & Budget which drafts policies impacting the tech industry, the State Department and the Department of Defense. (Reuters)

Peloton, whose shares have rallied 400% this year on demand for its at-home workout machines, said it would buy fitness equipment maker Precor in a deal worth $420 million. Peloton said the deal will help get its machines to U.S. customers faster. (The Information)

RealPage, a company that develops cloud-based software and data analytics for the real estate sector, is set to be acquired in an all-cash deal worth $10.2 billion. Meanwhile, Apartment List, a rental platform, raised $50 million in a funding round that roughly doubled its prior valuation to more than $600 million. (VentureBeat, Bloomberg)


Smart Links

Harvard applications up 57%. (Forbes)

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny dupes spy into revealing how he was poisoned. (CNN)

The 2020 Just Security holiday reading list. (Just Security)

GoDaddy's new CEO on leadership now: 'Change is a tiger.' (Reuters)

How Covid-19 upended the design of fast food restaurants. (CNN)

Early humans may have survived the harsh winters by hibernating. (The Guardian, L’Anthropologie)

Studies reveal verified social media users are fueling COVID-19 fake news. (VentureBeat)

Secrets of 10 of the world’s most productive people. (Fast Company)