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5 things to know for December 3: Covid-19, transition, census, China, Iran

Published in 3 December, 2020

(CNN)This holiday shopping (and shipping) season is going to get so busy, UPS is putting shipping limits on some of its largest retailers.

Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

1. Coronavirus 

Three former US Presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — have offered to take the coronavirus vaccine on camera to promote confidence in its safety. Some people, like President Donald Trump, are getting impatient with the FDA’s vaccine approval pace, but Dr. Anthony Fauci says the administration is giving more scrutiny to Pfizer’s vaccine data than the UK did before it became the first to authorize it for emergency use. Whenever a vaccine is available in the US, the Department of Defense says immunized people will get a kit including a card to serve as a record of their vaccination. In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal public health officials have said most Canadians are not expected to be vaccinated until September or even as late as December 2021. This sluggish time line has bred exasperation and could damage Trudeau’s legacy.
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2. White House transition 

We should expect a “flurry” of pardons before President Trump leaves office, a source close to the White House says. It isn’t uncommon for presidents to grant pardons on their way out, and the source told CNN some of the President’s advisers believe it would be fine for Trump to pardon his family members and other associates preemptively, even though they haven’t been charged with crimes. Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden is being pulled in two directions with his remaining Cabinet decisions. Senate Republicans want Biden to consult with them and choose nominees who could win their support, while liberal Democrats are pushing him to name influential progressives. Trump’s ongoing denial of election results and his allies’ willingness to go along with the claims are also making it hard for Biden’s team to connect with some Republican leaders during the transition.

3. Census 

Census Bureau officials have discovered some “high complexity” data issues while tallying the 2020 census, which could delay the full count until February. Officials said it’s normal to see some problems during the decennial count, stemming from things like multiple responses from a household. Correcting these anomalies prevents the tally from skewing too low or high, but these delays mean the Trump administration (which ends January 20) wouldn’t be able to execute its plan to exclude undocumented immigrants when dividing up House seats. The Census Bureau director had mentioned the anomalies last month, but their extent wasn’t known until House Democrats got their hands on some internal Census Bureau documents.

4. China 

The House has passed a bill, already approved by the Senate, that would prevent companies that refuse to open their books to US accounting regulators from trading on US stock exchanges, a step that could result in several Chinese firms getting kicked off Wall Street. Of course, the regulations would apply to any foreign company, but the bipartisan cosponsors of the legislation specifically said their goal was to target “deceitful Chinese companies.” Beijing requires companies that are traded overseas to hold their audit papers in mainland China, where they cannot be examined by foreign agencies. Meanwhile, the US has blocked cotton imports from China’s western Xinjiang region that were reportedly produced with forced labor. US Customs and Border Protection has been trying to stop goods made with forced labor from entering the US market, and this is the sixth such order affecting the Xinjiang region.

5. Iran

The US is temporarily withdrawing some staff from the US Embassy in Baghdad as the anniversary of the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani draws near. The influential leader was killed by a US drone attack in January, hiking tensions between the US and Iran. Officials ordered the drawdown due to concerns about retaliation. Regarding a more recent high-profile assassination, a US official said Israel was behind the killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Iran has already blamed Israel for the attack, and Israel hasn’t confirmed or denied any involvement. The aftermath of the killing, plus the anniversary of the Soleimani assassination and the Trump administration’s ongoing mission to impose more sanctions on Iran, could spell difficult times ahead for the two countries. 

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