Wednesday morning news – December 30, 2020

McConnell blocks Senate vote on stimulus payments » Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked an attempt by Democrats on Tuesday to force a vote on increased stimulus spending. 

The bill passed by the House on Monday would boost the already approved COVID-19 relief checks from $600 to $2,000. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said a majority of Americans supported the measure and requested an immediate vote. 

SCHUMER: There’s one question left today: Do Senate Republicans join with the rest of America in supporting $2,000 dollar checks?

McConnell refused but said the Senate would, quote—“begin a process” to address the issue.

But Democrats aren’t the only ones calling for the vote. Some Republicans, including Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marco Rubio of Florida, also want the chance to vote on the measure proposed by President Trump. Senator David Perdue of Georgia called it the right thing to do.

PERDUE: I’m delighted to support the president in this $2,000—it’s really a $1,400 increment over what we’ve already done. And I think with the vaccine coming, I think this is absolutely appropriate. So I fully support what the president is doing right now.

Until they can vote on the stimulus checks, Democrats are refusing to reconsider the defense spending bill President Trump vetoed last week. The House overturned the veto Monday, and the Senate is expected to do the same, possibly as soon as today.

Coronavirus variant found in Colorado » The first case of a more infectious strain of the coronavirus has been found in the United States. WORLD’s Leigh Jones has that story.

LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced the discovery on Tuesday.

The patient—a man in his 20s—has no recent travel history. Health officials are trying to figure out where he may have gotten it.

Doctors first discovered the new strain in the U.K. That prompted several countries to close their borders in an attempt to keep it out. 

But it has already spread to parts of Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Canada.

Although it’s more contagious than the original strain, researchers do not believe the variant is more deadly or resistant to the new vaccines.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leigh Jones.

Cases surge in California, Alabama » News of the new strain came just hours after President-elect Joe Biden warned Americans to prepare for more coronavirus cases in January.

BIDEN: Things are going to get worse before they get better. In September, we passed a grim milestone: 200,000 deaths. At that time, in this very room, many of you remember I warned that we’d hit 400,000 before the end of the Trump administration in January. 

The U.S. death toll topped 333,000 earlier this week.

Biden vowed to increase the speed of vaccine distribution and impose mask mandates once he takes office.

BIDEN: Our administration is going to require mask-wearing where I have the power to do so.

That includes federal employees and federal facilities, as well as interstate travel on trains and airplanes.

Meanwhile, in California, Governor Gavin Newsom extended stay-at-home orders for parts of his state on Tuesday as intensive care units ran out of beds. 

The state’s top health official said Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley still have what is considered no ICU capacity. Hospitals in Alabama and Tennessee are also nearing capacity amid a post-holiday surge in coronavirus cases.

Nationwide, ICUs are about three-quarters full.

Strong earthquake hits Croatia » AUDIO: [SHOVELING, DIGGING THROUGH RUBBLE]

Search teams are digging through rubble in Croatia, looking for survivors of a strong earthquake that shook the country on Tuesday. The magnitude 6.3 quake killed at least seven people and destroyed several villages.

After visiting the area, the country’s prime minister said most of the buildings in the hardest hit town remained too unstable to use. The army made space to house 500 people in nearby barracks and hotels.

Croatia sits along the Adriatic Sea and is prone to earthquakes. But most are not strong. The last destructive earthquake hit the country in the 1990s.

Fashion icon Pierre Cardin dies » French fashion designer Pierre Cardin has died.

Cardin was known for futuristic designs and space-age aesthetics. In 1959 he moved out of the high fashion world by releasing a mass-produced collection with a French department store. That kicked off a long line of licensing deals that made Pierre Cardin’s brand a household name.

CARDIN: [Man speaking French]

Cardin worked well into his 90s and called work his, quote “reason for living and existing.”

Pierre Cardin was 98 years old.

(AP Photo) A rescuer walks past a building damaged in an earthquake in Petrinja, Croatia, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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