While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Dec 14

US vaccine campaign begins with first shipments ‘delivering hope’ to millions

The first shipments of Covid-19 vaccine left on trucks and planes early on Sunday, kicking off a historic effort to stop a surging pandemic that is claiming more than 2,400 lives a day in the United States.

Trucks carrying pallets of boxed, refrigerated vaccine began rolling away from the Kalamazoo facility, escorted by body armour-clad security officers.

US hospitals are preparing for the first shots to go into arms on Monday, but it will take months before most Americans can get a Covid-19 vaccine.

Healthcare workers and elderly residents of long-term care homes are first in line to receive the inoculations of a two-dose regimen given about three weeks apart.


US Treasury breached by hackers backed by foreign government

A sophisticated hacking group backed by a foreign government stole information from the US Treasury Department and a US agency responsible for deciding policy around the Internet and telecommunications, according to people familiar with the matter.

“The United States government is aware of these reports and we are taking all necessary steps to identify and remedy any possible issues related to this situation,” said National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot.

There is concern within the US intelligence community that the hackers who targeted the Treasury Department and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration used a similar tool to break into other government agencies, according to three people briefed on the matter.


Full $1.2 trillion Covid-19 pandemic Bill coming Monday: US Democrat

A bipartisan group of lawmakers will unveil a US$908 billion (S$1.2 trillion) coronavirus pandemic relief Bill on Monday (Dec 14), although there’s “no guarantee” Congress will pass it, one of the key negotiators said.

“We were on a call all day yesterday, we’ll get on a call again this afternoon to finish things up,” Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said on Fox News Sunday.

“We’ll have a Bill produced for the American people tomorrow, $908 billion.”


Trump revives threat to veto defence Bill, teeing up battle with lawmakers

US President Donald Trump on Sunday repeated his threat to veto a massive defence spending Bill, setting the stage for a major battle with US lawmakers at a time when they are racing to hammer out a compromise on more coronavirus relief.

The US$740 billion (S$988 billion) National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) passed both houses of Congress with more than the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto.

Passage by the Republican-controlled US Senate on Friday sent the measure to Trump, giving him 10 days – minus Sundays – to veto it, sign it or allow it become law without his signature.


UK, EU agree to push Brexit trade talks beyond Sunday deadline

London and Brussels agreed on Sunday to “go the extra mile” in coming days to try to reach an elusive trade agreement despite missing their latest deadline to avert a turbulent exit for Britain from the European Union’s orbit at the end of the month. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the president of the EU’s executive Commission, Ursula von der Leyen had given negotiators a Sunday deadline to find a way to resolve an impasse on arrangements that would guarantee Britain zero-tariff and zero-quota access to the EU’s single market. 

On Sunday they mandated negotiators to continue, although Johnson sounded a downbeat note on prospects for a breakthrough.


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