UK Approval

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The World

The UK became the first country to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The first doses are already headed to the UK, with 800,000 due in the coming days. Hospitals had already started preparing. Conference centres and sports stadiums are being set up to support “the largest-scale vaccination campaign in our country's history,” said the National Health Service CEO. The decision will likely put pressure on the FDA to move swiftly to do the same, while in China, drug firms have yet to submit final data even though a million people have already received shots. Separately, India says it may not need to vaccinate entire population to control Covid, while the CDC is set to shorten the quarantine period to 10 days, 7 with test. (BBC News, STAT News, South China Morning Post, Reuters, Associated Press)

Grim Day in the U.S.: Covid-19 deaths and hospitalizations set records, as the CDC head warned this winter may be the “most difficult time” in U.S. public health history. In France, former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing — “Father of the Euro” — died after a Covid-19 diagnosis. (New York Times, The Guardian)

New Paycheck Protection Program data shows what many had suspected all along: The money was shared unevenly, with the biggest sums going to a sliver of the companies in need. Detailed information released by the S.B.A. showed that a mere 1% of the program’s 5.2 million borrowers — those seeking $1.4 million and above — received more than a quarter of the $523 billion disbursed. (New York Times)

The House unanimously passed legislation aimed at removing Chinese companies from U.S. stock exchanges for not complying with auditing oversight rules. It now moves to President Trump, who has not indicated whether he will sign it into law. The bill could lead to Chinese companies including Alibaba Group and Tencent being forced off U.S. exchanges if the companies fail to hand over their audits for inspection. (South China Morning Post, Wall Street Journal)

At the height of the pandemic, Britain imported more goods from China than from any other country, for the first time on record. Meanwhile, EU’s chief negotiator has been warned by France and five other EU states not to concede too much to the UK in efforts to get a Brexit deal over the line. (The Times, The Times-2)

Iran moved to stop UN inspections of its nuclear sites and step up uranium enrichment under a new law approved by its parliament. The bill would require the government to resume enriching uranium to 20% — well above the 3.67% agreed under a 2015 nuclear deal — if crippling sanctions are not eased in two months. Separately, Iran said it identified those responsible for the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. In Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu urged Defense Minister Gantz to halt continued support for a bill to dissolve the Knesset and call early elections, while refusing to commit to honoring his pledge to hand over the premiership to his coalition partner. (BBC News, Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel)

Net-zero pledges from China, Japan and South Korea and the Biden election have shifted the needle closer to achieving the targets set by the Paris climate agreement. Climate researchers say the world is on track to keep global warming below 2.1 ℃ compared with pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, and the more ambitious 1.5 ℃ target is “within striking distance.” However, the UN reports that the world’s governments are “doubling down” on fossil fuels, and production of coal, oil and gas must fall by 6% a year until 2030 to keep global heating under the 1.5C target and avoid “severe climate disruption.” But nations plan production increases of 2% a year and G20 countries are giving 50% more coronavirus recovery funding to fossil fuels than to clean energy. Japan aims to ban new combustion-engine cars from mid-2030s. (BBC News, The Guardian, Nikkei Asian Review)

The pandemic-driven jump to online learning has had little impact on children's reading growth and has only somewhat slowed gains in math. That positive news comes from the testing nonprofit NWEA and covers nearly 4.4 million U.S. students in grades three through eight. But the report also includes an important, worrying caveat: Many of the nation's most vulnerable students are missing from the data. (NPR)

The public puts Covid-19 and coverage protections at the top of the health care to-do list for Biden and Congress. (Morning Consult)


Economy

U.S. consumer views of the nation's economy became a bit less negative in November, with the Gallup Economic Confidence Index rising to -1 from -4 in October. (Gallup)

Visa is linking its 60 million-merchant-strong international payments network to the U.S. Dollar Coin (USDC), which Circle Internet Financial built. Visa will provide a credit card that allows companies to make and get payments with the digital currency via the card once Circle graduates from Visa’s Fast Track initiative. Meanwhile, Visa filed its legal response to DOJ's efforts to block its $5.3 billion purchase of fintech "connector" company Plaid. Its primary arguments are that regulators gerrymandered an industry definition and conjured competition. (Pymts.com, Forbes, Axios)

Nasdaq filed a proposal with the SEC to adopt new listing rules related to board diversity and disclosure. If approved by the SEC, the new listing rules would require all companies listed on Nasdaq’s U.S. exchange to publicly disclose consistent, transparent diversity statistics regarding their board of directors. Additionally, the rules would require most Nasdaq-listed companies to have, or explain why they do not have, at least two diverse directors, including one who self-identifies as female and one who self-identifies as either an underrepresented minority or LGBTQ+. (NASDAQ)

UPS imposed shipping restrictions on some large retailers such as Gap and Nike this week, an early sign that the pandemic-fueled online shopping season is stretching delivery networks to their limits. The delivery giant notified drivers to stop picking up packages at six retailers, including L.L. Bean, Hot Topic, Newegg, and Macy’s. “No exceptions,” the message said. (Wall Street Journal)

What the Public Wants From Its CEOs in 2020: Empathy (42%) and emotional intelligence (32%) were characteristics ascribed more to female leaders, while being profit-oriented (29%), tech savvy (23%) and fearless (23%) were more associated with male CEOs. 24% of men said their CEOs are helping parents balance child care and work “too much” during the pandemic, twice as much as the share of women who said the same (12%). (Morning Consult)


Technology

Apple released its highly anticipated annual list of the best apps and games of 2020. App Store editors selected the winners based on factors like the app’s quality, creative design, usability and use of Apple technology, among other things. The “Best of 2020” winners this year include a number of apps that helped people transition to a life spent at home. (TechCrunch, Apple)

  • Home workout app Wakeout! won iPhone App of the Year

  • Zoom won iPad App of the Year

  • Disney+ won Apple TV App of the Year

Amazon is in exclusive talks to purchase podcast startup Wondery, as the tech giant pushes further into the growing audio sector. The talks value Wondery at over $300 million. Wondery’s last funding round, in June 2019, valued the company at $100 million. (Wall Street Journal)

Many Gen-Zers loathe Amazon—but can’t quit it: Jeff Bezos’ soaring wealth. One-day shipping that spews pollution into the sky. Amazon has become a symbol of many of the political and societal concerns that matter most to young adults. But breaking the Amazon habit is another story entirely. (The Information)

Google violated US labor laws by spying on workers who were organizing employee protests, then firing two of them, according to a complaint to be filed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). (The Verge)

Changes in consumer buying patterns led to a 10% year-over-year drop in Black Friday and Cyber Monday digital game revenue in 2020. Game spending is still on track for a record-breaking 2020, but consumer anticipation for next-generation consoles and the growing popularity of subscription services diminished the importance of the holiday weekend as a main revenue driver. (SuperData Research)

Reddit said it averaged 52 million daily active users in October, up 44% from the same month a year earlier, disclosing for the first time a metric used by other social-media companies to define the size of their audiences. (Wall Street Journal)


Smart Links

AWS CEO Andy Jassy: Offices will become more like shared workspaces after the pandemic. (CNBC)

M.B.A. applicants brace for “most competitive year ever.” (Wall Street Journal)

Which schools leave parents with the most college loan debt? (Wall Street Journal)

How much should first-time borrowers borrow? (University of Exeter)

Gary Cohn holds out against Goldman Sachs clawback. (Financial Times)

Why a SPAC bubble is actually good for the economy. (Marker)

Singapore is the first country to approve the sale of lab-grown meat. (MIT Technology Review)

Vegan diet brings slew of metabolic benefits in randomized trial. (MedPage Today)

Learn More (Tonight, 7 pm ET): Behind the Book — Robert Gottlieb, a former editor-in-chief of Knopf, will talk with two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Robert A. Caro. (Library of Congress)

China's Chang'e-5 Moon mission returns color pictures. (BBC News)