Briefs: Biden says it will take six months to implement new border policies
The Associated Press
President-elect Joe Biden says he won't immediately roll back President Donald Trump's immigration policies at the border despite some advocates pushing for action as soon as he takes the oath of office in January.
Biden said Tuesday that he will work to undo his predecessor's actions and will focus on "humane" immigration policies that reunify families separated by the Trump administration at the U.S.-Mexico border but it will take time.
The Democrat said it may take six months to lift some of Trump's immigration policies.
He says his administration needs to ensure that rolling back those policies does not create any new crises and must also ensure there's enough funding for asylum judges and for policy changes.
Biden says he's working with immigrant advocates and having discussions with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Latin American leaders.
Avoid holiday gatherings
President-elect Joe Biden says that the nation has a long way to go in fighting the coronavirus pandemic and is encouraging Americans to avoid large gatherings over the Christmas holidays.
Biden says that "we all have to care enough for each other that we have to stay apart for just a little bit longer. I know it's hard."
Biden spoke Tuesday in a live year-end address from his home state of Delaware. He warned that experts are warning things are going to get worse before they get better and that tens of thousands of Americans are expected to die in the months ahead, even with vaccines.
The president-elect also says the country needs everyone to wear a mask and avoid large gatherings, particularly inside. He adds "we need to work in a bipartisan way" and applauded Congress for passing a $900 billion pandemic relief package.
Trump pardons 15, commutes 5 sentences, including GOP allies
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has pardoned 15 people, including a pair of congressional Republicans who were strong and early supporters, a 2016 campaign official ensnared in the Russia probe and former government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad.
Trump's actions in his final weeks in office show a president who is wielding his executive power to reward loyalists and others who he believes have been wronged by a legal system he sees as biased against him and his allies. On Tuesday, Trump issued the pardons — not an unusual act for an outgoing president — even as he refused to publicly acknowledge his election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, who will be sworn in on Jan. 20.
Trump is likely to issue more pardons before then. He and his allies have discussed a range of other possibilities, including members of Trump's family and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Those pardoned on Tuesday included former Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York, two of the earliest GOP lawmakers to back Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Trump also commuted the sentences of five other people, including former Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas.
Collins, the first member of Congress to endorse Trump to be president, was sentenced to two years and two months in federal prison after admitting he helped his son and others dodge $800,000 in stock market losses when he learned that a drug trial by a small pharmaceutical company had failed.
A season of fear, not cheer, as virus changes Christmas
Montserrat Parello lost her husband eight years ago, and Christmas gatherings with children and grandchildren had helped her deal with her loneliness. But this year, the 83-year-old will be alone for the holiday at her home in Barcelona, due to the risk of infection from the coronavirus.
"In these days of pandemic, I feel loneliness and anger," Parello said, expressing fears that "I will leave this life devoid of affection, of warmth."
All most people wanted for Christmas after this year of pandemic uncertainty and chaos was some cheer and togetherness. Instead many are heading into a season of isolation, grieving lost loved ones, worried about their jobs or confronting the fear of a new potentially more contagious virus variant.
Residents of London and surrounding areas can't see people outside their households. Peruvians won't be allowed to drive their cars over Christmas and New Year to discourage visits even with nearby family and friends. South Africans won't be able to go to the beach on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or New Year's Day.
The patchwork of restrictions being imposed by local and national governments across the world varies widely — but few holiday seasons will look normal this year.
Trump threatens to torpedo COVID relief with new demands
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has threatened to torpedo Congress' massive COVID-19 relief package in the midst of a raging pandemic and deep economic uncertainty, suddenly demanding changes fellow Republicans have opposed.
Trump assailed the bipartisan $900 billion package in a video he tweeted out Tuesday night and suggested he may not sign the legislation. He called on lawmakers to increase direct payments for most Americans from $600 to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples.
Railing against a range of provisions in the bill, including for foreign aid, he told lawmakers to "get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation and to send me a suitable bill."
Trump did not specifically vow to veto the bill, and there may be enough support for the legislation in Congress to override him if he does. 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 on Dec. 29.
The relief package was part of a hard-fought compromise bill that includes $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies through September and contains other end-of-session priorities such as money for cash-starved transit systems, an increase in food stamp benefits and about $4 billion to help other nations provide a COVID-19 vaccine for their people.
US close on deal with Pfizer for millions more vaccine doses
WASHINGTON — The U.S. government is close to a deal to acquire tens of millions of additional doses of Pfizer's vaccine in exchange for helping the pharmaceutical giant gain better access to manufacturing supplies.
A person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the deal is under discussion and could be finalized shortly. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to describe ongoing deliberations.
Pfizer's vaccine was the first to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration and initial shipments went to states last week. It has now been joined by a vaccine from Moderna, which was developed in closer cooperation with scientists from the National Institutes of Health.
Moderna's vaccine comes under the umbrella of the government's own effort, which is called Operation Warp Speed. That public-private endeavor was designed to have millions of vaccine doses ready and available to ship once a shot received FDA approval.
But another deal with Pfizer would move the nation closer to the goal of vaccinating all Americans.
Biden: Trump 'failed' to shore up nation's cybersecurity
WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday assailed the Trump administration for failing to fortify the nation's cyber defenses, and called on President Donald Trump to publicly identify the perpetrator of a massive breach of U.S. government agencies — a hack some of Trump's top allies have blamed on Russia.
Biden, who is being briefed on high-level intelligence in preparation for taking office next month, said planning for the hack began as early as 2019. Several federal agencies, including the Treasury Department, have said they were targeted.
"There's still so much we don't know," Biden said during a news conference in Wilmington, Delaware. "But we know this much: This attack constitutes a grave risk to our national security. It was carefully planned and carefully orchestrated."
The U.S. government has not made a formal assessment of who was behind the attack, but both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr have said all signs point to Russia. But Trump, who has long sidestepped blaming Moscow for its provocations, has not followed suit and has instead suggested — without evidence — that China may have carried out the hack.
The breach of the Treasury Department began in July, but experts believe the overall hacking operation began months earlier when malicious code was slipped into updates to popular software that monitors computer networks of businesses and governments.
California health system buckling under COVID-19 pandemic
LOS ANGELES — California's health care system is buckling under the strain of the nation's largest coronavirus outbreak and may fracture in weeks if people ignore holiday social distancing, health officials warned as the number of people needing beds and specialized care soared to previously unimagined levels.
Top executives from the state's largest hospital systems —Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health and Sutter Health, which together cover 15 million Californians — said Tuesday that increasingly exhausted staff, many pressed into service outside their normal duties, are now attending to COVID-19 patients stacked up in hallways and conference rooms.
The CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles, Dr. Elaine Batchlor, separately said patients there have spilled over into the gift shop and five tents outside the emergency department.
"We don't have space for anybody. We've been holding patients for days because we can't get them transferred, can't get beds for them," said Dr. Alexis Lenz, an emergency room physician at El Centro Regional Medical Center in Imperial County, in the southeast corner of the state. The facility has erected a 50-bed tent in its parking lot and was converting three operating rooms to virus care.
California is closing in on 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. The state on Tuesday reported nearly 32,700 newly confirmed cases. Another 653 patients were admitted to hospitals — one of the biggest one-day hospitalization jumps — for a total approaching 18,000.