6 clever COVID-19 PSAs from around the world

Back in March and April, when the novel coronavirus was still new and mask-wearing and social distancing foreign, the U.S. rolled out a bunch of ads explaining best COVID-19 practices for keep yourself and others safe. Some of them, like Paul Rudd’s PSA for New York and Lego’s Batman and Star Wars ads were amusing and informative. Others haven’t aged so well.

The U.S. is now setting new records for COVID-19, including topping 200,000 new infections on Friday alone, and top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Sunday about a possible “surge upon a surge” in the weeks after Thanksgiving. A vaccine is coming, he added, and “if we can hang together as a country and do these kinds of things to blunt these surges until we get a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated, we can get through this.”

The U.S. isn’t going through this alone, of course, and some foreign governments, companies, and artists have tried different ways of communicating the severity of the virus and the need to stop the spread of the coronavirus. As COVID fatigue crashes into the holidays, here are six creative ways other countries have tried to keep up the fight.

1. Germany created an instant classic in November that lightly tugged at the patriotic impulse while highlighting both the stakes and the relatively low cost of serving the greater good.

2. Turkey’s Süleyman Hacıcaferoğlu took some animated matchsticks created in the spring by Spanish artists Juan Declan and Valentina Izaguirre, threw on the Mission: Impossible theme song, and created an arresting visual representation of how the virus spreads — and stops.

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3. South Africa drew on the ick factor to encourage mask wearing.

4. Vietnam’s health department produced an animated ad with a “Jealous Coronavirus” song that is so catchy, it became a bona fide hit in the country.

5. Singapore created its own pop hit, “Singapore Be Steady,” with actor Gurmit Singh in character as Phua Chu Kang.

6. In Croatia, Karlovacko beer got its social distancing message across in a language that is probably universal: the disapproving look of a potential parent-in-law. Watch below.

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Moderna 2nd company to seek COVID-19 vaccine emergency authorization

Moderna has announced plans to seek emergency authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine after data showed it to be 94.1 percent effective.

The company said it will apply for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. This announcement comes after Moderna earlier this month revealed that preliminary phase-three trial data showed its vaccine candidate was almost 95 percent effective.

On Monday, Moderna said an analysis of 196 cases “confirms the high efficacy observed at the first interim analysis,” and additionally, data also showed the vaccine was 100 percent effective at preventing severe COVID-19 cases.

Moderna is the second company to seek emergency authorization for a vaccine against COVID-19. Pfizer previously announced it would also be submitting a request for FDA emergency authorization for its vaccine candidate, which data showed was about 95 percent effective.

When COVID-19 vaccines begin to roll out, those at the highest risk are expected to receive them first. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told The New York Times that should the company’s vaccine receive emergency approval, the first doses could potentially be given by Dec. 21, and the company expects to produce 20 million doses in the United States by the end of the year.

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The daily business briefing: November 30, 2020

1.

Retailers are bracing for what they expect to be record Cyber Monday sales. Americans spent an estimated $9 billion online on Black Friday, smashing the previous record of $7.4 billion set in 2019. The ongoing shift to retailers’ websites quickened as shoppers snapped up deals from the safety of home to avoid the risk of coronavirus exposure, rather than going to brick-and-mortar stores that would normally be jammed on the day after Thanksgiving. It was not immediately clear whether the surge in online sales would be enough to offset declining in-person sales during the pandemic. About half as many Americans visited stores on Black Friday this year as did in 2019.
[Daily Mail, The Wall Street Journal]

2.

China on Monday reported that factory activity in the country expanded in November at the fastest monthly pace in more than three years as the world’s second largest economy continued to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. China’s official manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) jumped to 52.1 in November from 51.4 in October, the country’s National Bureau of Statistics said. The November figure exceeded the average 51.5 reading expected by analysts polled by Reuters. Anything above 50 indicates expansion. The PMI increase suggests “the recovery momentum in the industrial sector has become more certain,” said Zhang Liqun, analyst at China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing. “But the results also showed inadequate demand is still a common issue facing firms.”
[Reuters]

3.

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate a diverse team of economic advisers, including Center for American Progress CEO Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Princeton University labor economist Cecilia Rouse as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing people familiar with Biden’s decisions. Biden also reportedly plans to name Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo, who was a top international economic adviser in the Obama administration, to be a top deputy to his Treasury secretary, former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen. Biden has settled on veteran Democratic spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki as his White House press secretary. She will be one of seven women who will occupy every top spot on Biden’s communications staff.
[The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post]

4.

U.S. stock index futures fell early Monday as some investors cashed in on some of the big November gains. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down by about 0.5 percent several hours before the opening bell. Those of the S&P 500 fell by about 0.2 percent, while those of the tech-heavy Nasdaq were flat. The Dow was up by 12.9 percent for the month heading into the last day of November, its best monthly performance since January 1987. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are up this month by 11.3 percent and 11.9 percent, respectively. The gains came after several drug makers reported encouraging news about the effectiveness of their coronavirus vaccine candidates in late-phase trials.
[CNBC]

5.

Britain and the European Union are entering the “last leg of negotiations” ahead of a deadline for a post-Brexit trade agreement, the U.K.’s foreign minister, Dominic Raab, said Sunday. “I do think this is a very significant week, the last real major week,” Dominic Raab, told the BBC on Sunday. The U.K. officially ended its membership in the trading bloc in January, but agreed to stick to EU trade rules through the end of the year while the two sides hammered out a new agreement. But negotiations have been stuck on several issues, including fishing, competition policy, and governance of the new trade arrangements. A no-deal Brexit would leave exporters on both sides facing higher costs and tariffs.
[CNBC]

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The case for shortening the presidential transition

He may have been a Founding Father, but John Adams could be every bit as petty as President Trump.

Like Trump, Adams was turned out of the presidency after serving a single term; voters in the 1800 election instead selected his archrival, Thomas Jefferson. Adams skipped Jefferson’s inauguration, and his Federalist Party allies rammed a series of last-minute judicial appointments through the Senate. Jefferson was understandably unhappy with the situation, and upon taking office ordered Secretary of State James Madison not to deliver the commissions that would allow some of the new “midnight judges” to take office. One of those appointees, William Marbury, brought a lawsuit. He ultimately lost. But the case, Marbuy vs. Madison, is remembered today as a key milestone in American history — the moment when the Supreme Court asserted its power to declare a law unconstitutional.

There are two takeaways from this story. Despite the pride Americans have in the country’s unbroken streak of peaceful presidential transitions, the handover of power from one chief executive to another has been a fraught affair from the earliest days of constitutional government. And messy transitions can sometimes alter the country’s path in fateful ways.

Those lessons may be more relevant than ever in 2020. After all, we don’t really expect Trump to conduct himself with more decorum than John Adams, do we?

Sure enough, Trump administration officials are doing everything they can to make life difficult for their successors when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated in January. While Trump himself refuses to concede that Biden won the election, his allies are pushing through new environmental regulations to hobble Biden’s anti-pollution agenda, moving pandemic stimulus money out of Biden’s reach, and racing to strip civil service protections from almost 90 percent of the federal workforce.

That last item could be the most serious, as it potentially would give Trump the power to fire thousands of federal workers in the next few weeks — effectively sabotaging the new administration before it takes over.

Trump “should not be making these changes, period, and certainly not changes this dramatic on [his] way out,” Max Stier, president and chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service, told The Washington Post.

These problems were inevitable. As I wrote a few weeks ago, now that networks have declared Biden the winner of the election, Trump has little to lose by behaving badly. The country is at the mercy of an outgoing president who knows how to make trouble.

Logistics are partly to blame. The machinery of American government is huge, a multi-trillion dollar operation with millions of employees. Shifting power from one administration to the next is almost always a logistical nightmare. There are two-and-a-half months between Election Day and Inauguration Day, and new administrations typically need every minute of that time to get up-and-running. A same-day transition, as happens in the United Kingdom, may not be possible here. In the meantime, the outgoing president remains in power until January — even if, like Trump, he has been repudiated by voters.

This doesn’t have to be a problem, even when the White House is shifting from one party to the other. The seamless shift from George W. Bush to Barack Obama, for example, has been referred to as the “gold standard” of presidential transitions. But it does require the outgoing president to respect his successor, and the will of the American people. Clearly, that is not the case with Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

It might be time to take a fresh look at how America does its presidential transitions. There is some historical precedent for this: The Great Depression prompted passage of “the Lame Duck Amendment” to the Constitution, moving the new president’s inauguration from March to January. The process was refined, with an eye on national security, after the 9/11 attacks. There is room for further improvement. Even if transitions cannot be instantaneous, it is worth examining whether they can be shorter. And in the meantime, Congress might consider the possibility of banning “midnight rulemaking” by outgoing administrations after Election Day.

Any changes will come too late to help Biden, which is a shame. Transitions are difficult, even in the best of times and with the best of departing presidents. Right now, neither condition applies in America.

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Ex-U.S. cybersecurity chief Chris Krebs tells 60 Minutes how he knows the 2020 election wasn’t rigged

Christopher Krebs and his team spent years working to build the new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and help protect U.S. elections, among other critical infrastructure, before President Trump abruptly fired him over Twitter for putting out a joint statement calling the 2020 election the “most secure in American history.” Krebs explained on Sunday’s 60 Minutes why he’s so sure the election was free from hacking and foreign meddling, and why Trump and his fringy lawyers are wrong to allege otherwise.

“I’m not a public servant anymore, but I feel I still got some public service left in me,” Krebs told Scott Pelley, explaining why he’s speaking out publicly. “And if I can reinforce or confirm for one person that the vote was secure, the election was secure, then I feel like I’ve done my job.”

Krebs said his biggest priority after gaming out “countless” scenarios for foreign election interference was paper ballots. “Paper ballots give you the ability to audit, to go back and check the tape and make sure you go the count right,” he said. “And that’s really one of the keys to success for a secure 2020 election — 95 percent of the ballots cast in the 2020 election had a paper record associated with it.” You can see how that worked in the Georgia hand recount, he added.

Krebs said he found the efforts from Trump and his lawyers to “undermine confidence in the election, to confuse people, to scare people” upsetting because it’s actively “undermining democracy” but also because the some of the tens of thousands of election workers putting in 18-hour days are now “getting death threats for trying to carry out one of our core democratic institutions, an election.”

In 60 Minutes Overtime, Krebs explained why he set up the CISA “Rumor Control” site, and why he’s especially proud of his explainer on the impossibility of hacking voting results.

Krebs also said he isn’t aware of anyone at the White House asking CISA to throw doubt on the integrity of the election, and he explained that his team frequently briefed everyone from local election officials to Cabinet agencies and the White House about CISA’s efforts. “Everybody, for the most part, got it,” he said.

“I had a job to do, we did it right, I would do it over again 1,000 times,” Krebs said. “CISA did the right thing. … State and local election officials did the right thing.”

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