COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Chinese journalist who documented Wuhan coronavirus outbreak jailed for 4 years
Chinese journalist Zhang Zhan, 37, who reported from Wuhan at the height of the initial coronavirus outbreak, has been jailed for four years by a Shanghai court. She was found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” according to one of her defense lawyers Zhang Keke on Monday. The offense is commonly used by the Chinese government to target dissidents and human rights activists.

While Zhang is one of a number of independent reporters who have been detained or disappeared in China since the beginning of the pandemic, she is the first citizen journalist known to have been sentenced for her role in reporting on the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump chooses chaos with delayed signature of Covid relief bill
Over the Christmas weekend, he was the only man with the power to forestall a government shutdown on Tuesday, restore jobless benefits to millions of laid-off Americans and prevent further economic calamity in the days ahead.

Trump appeared interested in doing none of that until Sunday, when days after receiving it, he reluctantly signed a Covid relief and government funding bill his own administration helped negotiate and that his own aides claimed he'd approved days ago.

But his Sunday night signature was too late to prevent unemployment aid from lapsing.

... All weekend, instead of explaining himself, Trump played coy, focused mostly on dead-end efforts to challenge his election loss rather than taking a step that would ease the nation's hardships.

He remained out of public view in Florida, traveling back and forth to his namesake golf course without revealing his intentions. His top lieutenants, who might have wrung some clarity out of their truculent boss, were on their own holiday getaways: Vice President Mike Pence at the ski slopes in Vail and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin near the beaches of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Even in the lead-up to signing the bill, Trump seemed focused more on creating suspense than on appeasing Americans' worries.

... As he departs office, Trump is intent on wielding — or, in this case, withholding — his executive authority in ways that punish his rivals, distract from his loss and ensure he remains the center of attention even as a lame duck.

... After Trump signed the bill, a senior White House official voiced frustration that Trump relented on signing the deal over his demand for higher stimulus checks.

"What's particularly hilarious is watching Trump quit on his coronavirus relief push while complaining about everyone quitting on his reelection. Why should any supporter fight for him when he quit on trying to get them more than a measly $600?" the senior official told CNN.

... At other points in Trump's presidency, shambolic staff work and breakdowns in communication have led to avoidable embarrassment. At its worst, government incompetence contributed to unnecessary sickness and death in a pandemic that has now killed 1 in every 1,000 Americans.

But never has the shoddy inner-workings of the administration failed in ways that risk the entire government shutting down and millions of Americans being denied jobless benefits that, only days earlier, they seemed guaranteed to continue receiving.

Biden will invoke the Defense Production Act to boost America's vaccine supply, top advisor says
  • President-elect Joe Biden will invoke a wartime production law, the Defense Production Act, to boost the production of vaccines after he's sworn-in.
  • "You will see him invoking the Defense Production Act," Dr. Celine Gounder, who's on Biden's COVID-19 advisory board, told CNBC on Monday.
  • The DPA gives the president broad authority to pressure US industries to produce supplies in the interest of national defense.
"You will see him invoking the Defense Production Act," Dr. Celine Gounder, who's on Biden's COVID-19 advisory board, told CNBC on Monday. "The idea there is to make sure the personal protective equipment, the test capacity and the raw materials for the vaccines are produced in adequate supply."

The DPA is a Korean War-era law that gives the president broad authority to compel US industries to produce supplies in the interest of national defense.