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Today’s Headlines: On vaccines, it’s every country for itself

An Israeli nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at the Barzilai Medical Center in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.
(Tsafrir Abayov / Associated Press)

Rich countries are hoarding COVID-19 vaccines. Elsewhere, the pandemic may keep killing for years.

TOP STORIES

On Vaccines, It’s Every Country for Itself

The race to vaccinate the world against a once-in-a-century pandemic has begun in an all-too-familiar way.

Rich nations have gobbled up nearly all the global supply of the two leading COVID-19 vaccines through the end of 2021, leaving many middle-income countries to turn to unproven drugs developed by China and Russia while poorer states face long waits for their first doses.

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“Richer countries will be able to vaccinate ... their whole populations before vulnerable groups in many developing countries get covered,” said Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Center at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

As a result, the pandemic may continue to kill people across much of the world for years, delay a global economic recovery and eventually resurge even in nations that manage to control it in coming months through vaccination.

Open for Business, but ...

Los Angeles County officials have banned outdoor dining, temporarily closed playgrounds and shuttered nail and hair salons. Yet, as case numbers continue to rise unabated and hospitals warn they may soon be forced to ration care, shopping malls have continued to welcome holiday gift buyers.

The malls have been limited to 20% of maximum occupancy — and some such as the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza are virtual ghost towns — yet many have remained busy. But experts say just because you can do something in a pandemic doesn’t mean it’s safe.

“If you’re still out there shopping for your loved ones for this holiday season ... then you are missing the gravity of the situation that is affecting hospitals,” L.A. County health services director Dr. Christina Ghaly said. “Though they may seem benign, these actions are extremely high-risk.”

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Just six weeks after California hit 1 million recorded coronavirus cases, the state is on the cusp of surpassing 2 million.

— A state prison medical facility in the Central Valley has received some of the first coronavirus vaccines, which will be administered to inmates and employees.

— Why a negative COVID test doesn’t “clear” you for holiday gatherings.

California’s Incoming Senator

Alex Padilla, a Los Angeles Democrat who once developed software for satellites but later rose through local and state political office to become California secretary of state, was chosen by Gov. Gavin Newsom to serve in the U.S. Senate and fill the seat being left empty by Kamala Harris becoming vice president in January.

Padilla, a longtime Newsom ally, will become the first Latino to represent California in the Senate. While many cheered the selection of Padilla, a coalition of Black women had asked Newsom to appoint a Black woman to succeed Harris.

Just hours after announcing Padilla was his choice for the Senate, Newsom nominated Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego to become the next secretary of State. If confirmed by the California Legislature, Weber would become the first Black woman to hold that position in state history.

Trump’s Season of Giving (Pardons)

In a rush to reward allies and settle scores in the final weeks of his term, President Trump gave 15 pardons and five commutations on Tuesday, including to Duncan Hunter, the former California congressman who last year pleaded guilty in a campaign finance scandal; two other former members of Congress; two men who pleaded guilty in connection with the Russia investigation; and four former private security guards involved in one of the most notorious killings of civilians in the Iraq war.

Meanwhile, Trump released a video speech attacking the bipartisan $900-billion pandemic relief package that Congress just passed overwhelmingly, and he is suggesting that he may not sign it. The bill provides for a $600 payment to most Americans, but Trump said he is asking Congress to amend the bill and “increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple.”

But if Trump were to upend the sprawling legislation, the consequences would be severe, including no federal aid to struggling Americans and small businesses, and no additional resources to help with vaccine distribution. In addition, because lawmakers linked the pandemic relief bill to an overarching funding measure, the government would shut down Tuesday.

More Politics

President-elect Joe Biden assailed the Trump administration for failing to fortify the nation’s cyber defenses, calling on Trump to publicly identify the perpetrator behind a massive breach of U.S. government agencies — a hack some of Trump’s top allies have blamed on Russia.

— Biden has chosen Connecticut schools chief and former public school teacher Miguel Cardona as his education secretary — a consensus pick who had the backing of teachers unions and Latino activists.

— Stimulus checks, marijuana and Trump’s loss all come back to: How will it play in Georgia?

Harry Reid made Nevada a presidential battleground. Now he wants more.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

For much of Eastern Europe, the fall of Communism was a relatively peaceful one. But not Romania.

There, on Dec. 22, 1989, after the gunning down of demonstrators and some of Europe’s bloodiest fighting since World War II, the decades-long dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu was finally, violently toppled — and with it the Warsaw Pact’s “last Stalinist domino,” as Times staff writer Dan Fisher wrote in the following day’s paper.

“The end of power for the Ceausescu family came amid blood, flames and chaos,” Times staffer Charles T. Powers wrote. “In one swift, delirious and terror-filled day, the Ceausescus fled in the morning by helicopter from a presidential palace that was ablaze at nightfall.” Two days later on Christmas Day, following a summary trial, they would be executed.

Read more about life under Ceausescu’s rule, which David Lauter — then a Times staff writer and now our special Washington correspondent — described as “a land that killed dreams.”

Nicolae Ceausescu
Romania’s leader Nicolae Ceausescu waves to the crowds as he receives Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at Bucharest airport in May 1987.
(Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA

— A federal judge in Chicago said “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Jayne may not sell or spend assets she shares with her estranged husband, troubled lawyer Tom Girardi, whose assets are frozen. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, an appellate justice Jayne blasted online for allegedly having an affair with her husband accused her of criminal conduct for posting the jurist’s intimate text messages, photos and phone number.

— Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, who wrote the law allowing accusers of a UCLA gynecologist more time to sue, wants University of California regents to reject a $73-million class-action settlement, saying it will curtail many alleged victims’ rights.

— Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra’s four-year investigation of potential civil rights abuses by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office has ended with a settlement that implements modest reforms and oversight from an outside monitor.

— Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has vetoed a proposal backed by the City Council to spend money diverted from the L.A. Police Department’s budget on an array of services, including sidewalk repairs.

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NATION-WORLD

— In towns on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, pandemic closures have altered the rhythm of life.

— The Justice Department has sued Walmart, accusing it of unlawfully dispensing controlled substances through its pharmacies and helping to fuel the opioid crisis.

— The U.K. and the European Union are making a final push to settle a fight over fishing quotas in British waters — the main obstacle to a trade deal that would avoid a chaotic New Year’s Day economic divorce.

Israel’s divided government has collapsed, triggering its fourth election in two years and posing an unprecedented threat to Benjamin Netanyahu’s premiership.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— The stage is concert pianist Daniel Vnukowski‘s life. But the pandemic taught him to love the livestream.

— There was a lot of promise in “The Midnight Sky,” in which George Clooney stars as an accomplished astronomer in the midst of a global cataclysm, but the film’s sentimental telling obscures its more meaningful ideas, our reviewer writes.

— The L.A. Film Critics’ pick of “Small Axe” as 2020’s best picture, awarding the top prize to a series rather than an individual movie for the first time, has spurred debate over what makes a film a film. So why did it win? The Times’ Justin Chang and Glenn Whipp, both members, discuss.

— Alan Horn, who was named chairman of Walt Disney Studios in 2012, is turning the job over to veteran Disney executive Alan Bergman.

BUSINESS

— The housing market is red hot, in Southern California and beyond. How long can it last?

— Work is nearly finished on downtown Los Angeles on CitizenM, a hip hotel made of prefabricated rooms craned into place like Legos.

SPORTS

— On the NBA season‘s opening night, the Lakers celebrated their championship with rings, then got beat by the Clippers. As for the rest of the season, expect a new play-in tournament in each conference for the playoffs and a couple of rules changes. Here’s a closer look.

— The Rams’ running-back-by-committee plan has produced Jekyll and Hyde results.

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OPINION

— After this week’s Senate compromise on pandemic relief, Biden’s quest for bipartisan cooperation looks a little less naive, columnist Doyle McManus writes.

— The holidays can be brutal for children of alcoholics, especially amid a pandemic that traps families at home. But on a scary, snowy night decades ago, columnist Mary McNamara saw the chaos of her mother’s drinking finally give way to a real Christmas miracle.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Jeff Bezos still runs Amazon with the drive of a startup trying to survive. But some rivals and partners say its competitive zeal resembles unfair practices — and it’s becoming a liability. (The Wall Street Journal)

— How did J.K. Rowling go from beloved children’s-book author to crusading opponent of transgender people’s rights? (Vulture)

ONLY IN L.A.

When the pandemic hit and began battering mom-and-pops in his hometown, Joe Bautista went from being a social-media gourmand to an indefatigable local-business booster — or, as one restaurateur calls him, “the pied piper of La Puente.” His offer to any business is simple: Ask him to shout you out, and he will. The only payment he asks for is that the recipient of his goodwill do the same for others in La Puente.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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