Wednesday morning news – December 16, 2020

Coronavirus vaccine rolls into more states » Truckloads of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine continue to roll into distribution centers across the country. 

New Jersey celebrated its first coronavirus vaccination on Tuesday. 

A nurse at Newark’s University Hospital received the first shot. 

Several major U.S. pharmacy chains say they will help in the effort to deliver shots to most Americans. But storing the Pfizer vaccine requires special sub-arctic freezers.

Walgreens VP of Pharmacy Operations, Rina Shah told Fox News…

SHAH: We’re really confident in our capabilities, and we’re working closely with every state to make sure we’re helping to manage through all of those nuances.

Later this week, the FDA will consider approving emergency use of the Moderna vaccine, which can be stored at above-freezing temperatures. 

Also on Tuesday, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn refuted a report that the White House pressed him to speed up approval of vaccines. But he did respond to President Trump’s criticism that his agency is moving like a—quote—“big, old, slow turtle.”

HAHN: No one is wasting any time at FDA. Our reviewers are mothers, fathers, daughters, brothers. They have kids, they have grandkids. Everybody’s working around the clock to get this done. 

But he said the FDA is the gold standard for medical product approval and it must complete “thorough scientific review.”

McConnell, foreign leaders congratulate Biden » After holding out for weeks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his victory Tuesday.

MCCONNELL: Many millions of us had hoped the presidential election would yield a different result. But our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on Jan. the 20th. The Electoral College had spoken. 

Electors gathered on Monday to formally elect Biden as president, reflecting the results of last month’s election. 

McConnell waited until now to give the president’s legal challenges every opportunity to play out in the courts. 

The leader also congratulated Sen. Kamala Harris on becoming the nation’s first female vice president-elect. And he thanked President Trump and Vice President Pence for their service. 

Several foreign leaders also congratulated Biden for the first time Tuesday, including Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Biden reportedly taps Buttigieg for transportation secretary » President Elect Joe Biden is reportedly tapping Pete Buttigieg for a key Cabinet position. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The former South Bend, Ind., mayor once made a formidable opponent for President-elect Joe Biden—beating him in February’s Iowa caucuses. 

Now Biden is expected to nominate Buttiegieg for Transportation secretary. 

If confirmed, he would lead the department that oversees the nation’s highway system, planes, trains, and mass transit. 

Buttigieg stood out in the primaries for frequently referencing his religious views and for being the first openly gay leading presidential candidate. He also served for seven months as a U.S. military intelligence officer in Afghanistan.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

High court sides with houses of worship on attendance caps » The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with churches and synagogues in Colorado and New Jersey in challenges to coronavirus restrictions. 

Multiple houses of worship sued, saying their respective states had capped attendance at lower levels than the limits placed on many businesses. 

In a 6-to-3 ruling, the high court told lower courts to take another look at a lawsuit filed by a church in Colorado. Lower courts previously sided with the state. 

The Supreme Court also provided an injunction to two houses of worship in New Jersey, blocking capacity limits there. 

The court’s majority stated—quote—“The restrictions at issue here … strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”

The court’s three liberal justices dissented.

Army: U.S. bases vulnerable to attack » The Pentagon is warning that adversaries will attack American bases in the continental United States and that our bases are vulnerable to attacks. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has that story.  

ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: Army leaders sounded alarms in a 16-page “Installations Strategy” report this week. It said the military is operating on the assumption that enemies will directly target stateside U.S. bases and related so-called soft targets. 

For example, a cyber attack could knock out civilian power plants that provide electricity to nearby military bases. 

The report stated that “Increasing access to cyberspace, space capabilities, and to weapons of mass effects … greatly heighten the risk to facilities within ‘the homeland.'” 

But the Army has a strategy to counter rising threats. Among the key proposals: modernize facilities, upgrade technology at bases around the world, and strengthen training and readiness.  

The Pentagon is calling on Congress to fund those changes and upgrades. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.

(AP Photo/David Goldman) A droplet falls from a syringe after a health care worker was injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, R.I, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. 

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