First Thing: Biden accuses Trump administration of blocking national security access

Good morning.

President-elect Joe Biden has accused Donald Trump of blocking his access to national security information, saying that his security team has been met with obstruction from political leaders at the Pentagon. Biden warned that he and his team “just aren’t getting all of the information that we need” in key national security areas, describing it as “nothing short of… irresponsibility”. Earlier this month, the Pentagon unexpectedly suspended briefings with the Biden transition team.

Biden says Trump aides are obstructing his transition team – video

Trump was humiliated yesterday when more than 100 Republicans joined Democrats in the House of Representatives to override his veto of a $741bn defence bill. If the Senate follows suit next week, which it is expected to do, it will be Congress’s first such rebuke of his presidency.

  • Stock markets around the world made gains after Trump signed a $900bn aid package to boost the US economy during the coronavirus pandemic, following his threats to reject it. On the first day of trading since Christmas, and after the UK’s Brexit deal 24 hours earlier, US stock indices reached intra-day peaks.

  • What does the coronavirus aid package offer? From $600 stimulus checks for individuals to funds for schools, Amanda Holpuch explains what the package has to offer.

Why has California been so badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic?

In Los Angeles, one person dies from Covid-19 every 10 minutes. Photograph: David Swanson/Reuters

Every one of California’s 35 prisons are now battling cases of coronavirus, with almost 9,500 incarcerated people having the virus across the state. In Los Angeles, businesses have come under fire for hosting New Year’s Eve events despite one out of 95 residents thought to be contagious with coronavirus. In total, California has lost more than 24,000 lives, with ICU capacity falling to 0% in southern parts of the state this month. But the Golden State was the first to go into lockdown, and managed to avoid overwhelming its hospitals in the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. From leaders’ inactivity to institutional inequalities, Maanvi Singh looks at California’s battle with Covid and asks why it appears to be losing.

As the US death toll climbs ever higher, what can we learn from countries that better handled the pandemic? Laura Spinney argues that Vietnam learned from its 2003 Sars pandemic, and Senegal from its battle with Ebola, to produce much more competent responses than the US and UK. Here, she analyses what the country did right, and where the US and UK went wrong.

  • Public health experts have warned the US to brace for another wave of coronavirus following travel over the holidays. The Transportation Security Administration said that more than 1.28 million travellers had been screened at US airports nationwide on Sunday, the highest number since mid-March.

  • The World Health Organization has warned a larger pandemic could come next, saying that while coronavirus has been “very severe”, it is “not necessarily the big one”. Officials also said that rather than be outright eliminated, coronavirus is likely to become an endemic virus that poses a constant low-level threat, managed by vaccines.

There is still no known motive for the Nashville Christmas Day bombing

Nashville explosion: police release footage of blast – video

Federal authorities are working together in an attempt to discover the motive behind the Christmas Day bombing in Nashville that damaged dozens of buildings and injured three people. Anthony Quinn Warner, 63, was named responsible for the bombing, in which he died. Officials said that hundreds of tips and leads had been submitted to law enforcement. David Rausch, the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said that while authorities hoped to get an answer as to why Warner decided to detonate the explosion, “sometimes it’s just not possible”.

  • Ghislaine Maxwell’s latest request for bail has been denied, new court filings revealed yesterday. Maxwell, a socialite who was arrested in July over allegations that she helped the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein procure sex from underage girls, has made a number of unsuccessful requests for bail.

In other news…

The actor Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, a fashion designer, leave the federal courthouse 27 August 2019 after a hearing on charges in a nationwide college admissions cheating scheme in Boston, Massachusetts. Photograph: Josh Reynolds/Reuters
  • Actor Lori Loughlin was released from prison yesterday after spending two months behind bars after she admitted to paying half a million dollars in bribes to get her two daughters into college as part of a high-profile bribery scheme.

  • The jazz trumpeter Keyon Harrold has claimed that a woman assaulted his son after falsely accusing the son of theft. In a widely viewed video posted by Harrold online, a white woman appears to become aggressive after accusing his son of stealing her phone, which Harrold claims was later returned by an Uber driver.

  • A white Ohio police officer has been fired after bodycam footage showed him fatally shooting Andre Hill, a black man who was holding a cellphone, and then refusing to help him. Adam Coy remains under criminal investigation for last week’s shooting.

Stat of the day: just 9% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled

New international rules are being introduced to reduce the global trade in plastic, in which waste is frequently dumped by wealthier nations on to poorer ones. Only 9% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled, with around 12% incinerated. The rest, an eye-watering 79%, has accumulated in landfill, dumps and the natural environment. The UN hopes the rules will lead to cleaner oceans within five years.

Don’t miss this: Newt Gingrich accuses Democrats of trying to “brainwash” the next generation

Former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich has long been accused of sowing the seeds of division that were responsible for Trump’s rise. In this interview with our Washington DC bureau chief, David Smith, he accuses the Democrats of using culture wars to brainwash people, describes the presidential election as an anomaly, and hedges his bets that Trump will be around for years to come.

Last Thing: Roman relics returned in rash of repentance

Italian museum curators have noticed a trend of tourists sending back artefacts they’ve pilfered from cultural sites in Rome years later, with heartfelt letters of confession. So many relics have been returned that a museum displaying them has been established. Angela Giuffrida looks at some of the most memorable stories.

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