National and world news at a glance
Biden signs $770B defense bill
President Joe Biden signed a nearly $770 billion defense bill Monday, $24 billion more than he had requested, a setback for anti-war liberals whose efforts to expand social spending have been blocked by Democratic moderates in the name of fiscal responsibility. Lawmakers increased spending in almost every part of the military, including new funding to counter China’s military expansion, initiatives to bolster the defense of Ukraine and billions in cash for the procurement of advanced aircraft, ships and high-tech hardware. The bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, also contains a 2.7% pay increase for most service members, a broadly popular provision.
Winter storm shuts down 81 miles interstate in the Sierra Nevada
A winter storm system continued to wreak havoc Monday in the western United States, where an 81-mile stretch of an interstate in the Sierra Nevada remained closed by blinding snow while temperatures plunged to record lows in Seattle. The lingering system rendered several highways and state roads in Northern California impassable. The closed roads included Interstate 80, which was shut down from Placer County near Sacramento to the Nevada state line, and Highway 50 in Sacramento Valley and the Lake Tahoe Basin, according to Caltrans. A winter storm warning remained in effect for most of the region, the National Weather Service said, adding that some areas could get another 2 feet of snow.
Rep. Greene rants against ‘fake religion’ Kwanzaa
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has denounced Kwanzaa as a “fake religion” just as millions of Black people start to celebrate the weeklong holiday. The far-right Georgia lawmaker berated the national College Republicans for “pandering and BS” after the GOP group tweeted a seemingly innocuous happy holiday message. Greene suggested that the College Republicans should avoid political correctness if it wants to galvanize the conservative base of the GOP. Kwanzaaa is a weeklong festival and not a religion as Greene claims. It was created in 1966 as a way to allow Black people worldwide to celebrate their common African roots.
After Typhoon Rai, destruction and death
In Ubay, in the central Philippine province of Bohol, the power of Super Typhoon Rai was fearsome. The storm made its first landfall Dec. 16, bringing torrential rains and packing winds up to 168 mph, comparable to a Category 5 hurricane. It blew away buildings, swelled rivers to overflow and forced more than 7 million people to flee their homes. It cut off power, water and communications. It damaged critical infrastructure. As of Monday morning, the storm had killed 389 people, injured 1,146 others and left 65 missing, official figures show. More than half a million people were still in evacuation centers or staying with friends and relatives.
NASA-Russia alliance in space shaken by events on planet Earth
When Russia’s military blasted an old satellite to smithereens last month with an antisatellite missile, U.S. officials reacted angrily. For two decades, the space station has been a symbol of diplomatic triumph between the U.S. and Russia, typically insulated from tensions on Earth. But now, the antisatellite test, as well as mounting tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine and other matters, are complicating the decades-old friendship between NASA and the Russian space agency. As the two agencies try to secure a pair of agreements that would sustain their relationship for years to come, they are finding that affairs in orbit cannot avoid being linked to conflict on the ground.
Israel begins studying effectiveness of 4th vaccine dose
An Israeli hospital Monday began a study to test the safety and effectiveness of a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as health officials continued to deliberate over rolling out fourth shots for vulnerable people nationwide. Officials at Sheba Medical Center, near Tel Aviv, said that their study was the first of its kind and involved administering an additional shot to 150 medical personnel who had received a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least four months ago. The moves in Israel, an early leader in COVID vaccinations, are being closely watched as governments worldwide struggle with how to confront the rapidly spreading omicron variant.