Daily Digest: Dec. 28, 2020
Welcome to the week between Christmas and New Year’s—which is usually a very quiet time on the journalism front.
I’ve worked at weekly papers before that published a “double issue” the week before Christmas. While a double issue sounds impressive, all it really means is that the issue is going to be on the stands twice as long, because most of the staff was going to take some time off. Nothing in the issue was ever actually doubled, save calendar listings (back when those were still a thing).
This is also the time of year when you’ll see lots of year-end recaps or Top 10 lists in newspapers and magazines. Why? Well, these are things that can be done in advance … because a lot of staff members want to take time off.
I bring this all up for two reasons. First, it means that the news recaps in the Daily Digests this week may be a little shorter than normal … because, well, fewer news stories are being done.
Second … this is a time to actually be more alert, news-wise, than normal, because this week is a perfect time for “news dumps”—a time when politicians or organizations may announce less-than-positive things, because fewer people are paying attention.
Of course, our country isn’t usually spending the days between Christmas and New Year’s dealing with the twin insanities of a raging pandemic and a president who lost an election but is desperate to remain in power.
So … who knows what in the world this week—2020’s last gasp—will bring? Stay tuned …
From the Independent
Enough of a ‘Wonder’: Despite Serious Flaws, ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Is an Enjoyable Treat
By Bob Grimm
December 28, 2020
Even though there are morally questionable moments, and there is some bad CGI, Wonder Woman 1984 is still a fun time.
Content Shifter: The 10 Best New Series of 2020
By Bill Frost
December 25, 2020
Our streaming-TV critic shares his thoughts on the best new shows from the year gone by.
Progressive Punk: Selexa’s Debut Single, ‘Tidal IX,’ Shows the Band Cares About Music With a Message
By Matt King
December 24, 2020
An interview with Coachella Valley band Selexa, which just released a new single, “Tidal IX.”
And Now, the News
• To nobody’s surprise, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced today that the stay-at-home orders—which have closed outdoor dining, salons and many other businesses—would likely be extended. Watch for an official announcement tomorrow. Key quote, from SFGate: “California’s seven-day test positivity rate has ticked up to 12.8%, and Newsom stated another surge in January stemming from Christmas and New Year’s holiday celebrations is ‘inevitable’ given the movement officials saw over the past week.” Sigh.
• ProPublica published an absolutely chilling article on Dec. 23 headlined “Inside Trump and Barr’s Last-Minute Killing Spree.” The lede: “In its hurry to use its final days in power to execute federal prisoners, the administration of President Donald Trump has trampled over an array of barriers, both legal and practical, according to court records that have not been previously reported. Officials gave public explanations for their choice of which prisoners should die that misstated key facts from the cases. They moved ahead with executions in the middle of the night. They left one prisoner strapped to the gurney while lawyers worked to remove a court order. They executed a second prisoner while an appeal was still pending, leaving the court to then dismiss the appeal as “moot” because the man was already dead. They bought drugs from a secret pharmacy that failed a quality test. They hired private executioners and paid them in cash.” A must-read.
• Semi-related and also scary is this piece from The Washington Post, which says the U.S. is in the “danger zone” until Joe Biden is certified as the president-elect on Jan. 6. Why? “Because potential domestic and foreign turmoil could give President Trump an excuse to cling to power. This threat, while unlikely to materialize, is concerning senior officials, including Republicans who have supported Trump in the past but believe he is now threatening to overstep the constitutional limits on his power. They described a multifaceted campaign by die-hard Trump supporters to use disruptions at home and perhaps threats abroad to advance his interests.”
• Also sort of related: “President-elect Joe Biden on Monday accused President Trump and his political appointees of obstructing the transition of power to his incoming administration, particularly on national security issues, an escalation in tone after reports of isolated difficulties in the transition process last week,” says The Washington Post.
• Frustratingly, also sort of related, CNN says: “Dr. James Phillips, an emergency room doctor at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, has been removed from his duty after publicly criticizing President Donald Trump’s drive-by around the hospital after his coronavirus diagnosis.” Sigh.
• By now, you’ve probably heard that President Trump finally signed the long-awaited federal aid bill that he harshly criticized. However, The Associated Press says that “because Trump signed the bill on Sunday, a day after the two (unemployment) programs lapsed, that could cost the unemployed a week of benefits, with payments not restarting until next week.” Lovely.
• In related news, the House today passed a bill bumping the $600 stimulus checks up to $2,000. It’s now headed to the U.S. Senate, where its fate is, to say the least, uncertain. Per CNN: “When Trump finally did sign the legislation Sunday evening, he signaled in a statement that he signed the coronavirus relief bill only after securing a commitment for the Senate to consider legislation to increase stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, did not reference that commitment in his own statement Sunday night praising the President for signing the relief bill.”
• Meanwhile, the situation at Southern California hospitals continues to be awful. The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend: “There are now so many patients that some hospitals are running dangerously low on oxygen and other supplies critical to treating those with COVID-19. Patients are waiting as many as eight hours in ambulances before they can enter the emergency room. With intensive care units at 0% available capacity, health officials are urging that people avoid emergency rooms or dialing 911 for assistance unless absolutely necessary.”
• On the bright side, more and more people are getting vaccinated—though not as rapidly as many had hoped, and not as smoothly as people had hoped—and even more vaccines may be on their way. CBS News reports that Novavax’s vaccine candidate is now the fifth to reach a large, Stage 3 trial. “In addition to Pfizer and Moderna, whose vaccines began rolling out in the U.S. in recent weeks, two other vaccine developers have Phase 3 trials under way in the United States: Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen and AstraZeneca.”
• In fact, the AP is reporting that AstraZeneca’s vaccine should receive approval in Britain by the end of the week.
• Andrew Yang centered his upstart presidential campaign around the concept of a universal basic income. Well, it seems that Yang may have President-elect Biden’s ear, to some extent. Business Insider reports: “It’s unclear if the Biden administration would support any recurring relief beyond another round of stimulus checks, but (Yang nonprofit press secretary Greg) Nasif said the new administration is a ‘group open to new ideas.'”
• SFGate takes another look at the societal similarities between this pandemic and the Spanish Flu pandemic 102 years ago: “The driving force behind the push to make masks mandatory a second time was San Francisco’s top health official. … Dr. William C. Hassler warned against complacency and continued pleading for people to wear masks, noting a new wave of the virus on the East Coast. … Not that Hassler or other San Francisco leaders were above a little hypocrisy. Five days before the city lifted its mask ordinance on Nov. 22, Hassler was caught by police not wearing his mask while ringside at a boxing match.” The more things change, the more things stay the same.
• Finally … after delighting many during the dark early days of the pandemic, John Krasinski’s Some Good News YouTube show went on hiatus (and was sold to CBS). However, in these dark later days of the pandemic, the show returned last week with a holiday episode. Enjoy.
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Stay safe, and as always, thanks for reading!