Another stimulus check is likely coming your way next week. A new coronavirus variant is causing concern around the globe. And more than 70 military cadets have been tied to a massive cheating scandal at West Point.
It’s Ashley with the news to know.
But first, close encounters: This year’s winter solstice brings a rare sight to our night skies. Jupiter and Saturn will appear closer to each other today than they have been since the Middle Ages.
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Most Americans will receive $600 starting next week
Starting next week, most Americans will receive a stimulus check of up to $600 from the federal government to help ease the financial burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The payments are part of a $900 billion pandemic relief package that would end a long standoff in Washington with one of the biggest rescue bills in U.S. history. But the package is not in the clear yet: For the bill to become law, both the House and Senate must pass the legislation, and President Donald Trump will need to sign it. Both chambers were expected to debate and vote on the package Monday.
Here’s what’s in the package:
- $600 direct payments: The government will begin to send out direct payments to millions of Americans next week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday.
- Unemployment: The deal includes restarting a $300 boost to the federal unemployment insurance benefit, but it’s unclear for how long.
- Extended eviction moratoriums: The bill would offer $25 billion in emergency rental assistance and provide an extension of eviction moratoriums.
- What else is in the package? It includes an extension of the small business Paycheck Protection Program, increased funding for vaccine distribution, $13 billion in increased benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and more.
New COVID-19 strain? US health officials say there’s no need for a UK flight ban
U.S. health officials say they do not yet see a need to halt flights from the United Kingdom, even as a growing number of countries ban British travelers amid the rapid spread of a new strain of coronavirus in London and elsewhere. Dozens of countries announced restrictions on U.K. travelers after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new COVID-19 variant could be 70% more transmissible. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that he would oppose new travel restrictions and that the US should “follow” the new strain “but don’t overreact.”
Other important COVID-19 developments:
President-elect Joe Biden receives his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine at ChristianaCare Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware, on Monday from nurse practitioner Tabe Mase. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster, AP)
What everyone’s talking about
West Point faces its worst academic scandal in more than 4 decades
“A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” That saying is literally etched in stone at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. More than 70 cadets at West Point have been accused of cheating on a math exam, USA TODAY has learned, the worst academic scandal since the 1970s at the Army’s premier training ground for officers. Fifty-eight cadets admitted cheating on the exam, which was administered remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of them have been enrolled in a rehabilitation program and will be on probation for the remainder of their time at the academy. Others resigned, and some face hearings that could result in their expulsion. Disciplinary reviews are underway.
It appears Attorney General Barr is over it
Departing Attorney General William Barr seems to be distancing himself from Trump. On Monday, Barr said he saw no reason to appoint special counsels to investigate Hunter Biden or allegations of election fraud. Barr, who is set to leave office Wednesday, also broke with Trump by publicly blaming Russia for a massive cyberattack that has affected more than a half-dozen government agencies and an untold number of private companies, even as the president pointed the finger at China over the weekend and sought to downplay the breach. Barr announced his resignation last week after clashes with the president over his claims of election fraud.
Attorney General William Barr will leave the Trump administration before Christmas. (Photo: GETTY)
The best of 2020: Investigations
USA TODAY editors came together to select the best stories of 2020. (Trust us, it wasn’t easy.) Every day until we ring in 2021, I’ll be rounding up some of the year’s most powerful stories:
Big things popping. Like, volcanoes. 🌋
The Kīlauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island erupted overnight. The eruption began late Sunday in the Halema’uma’u crater at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, the U.S. Geological Survey said. But that’s not all: A magnitude 4.4 earthquake hit about an hour after the volcano erupted, but significant damage to buildings or structures was not expected. Residents were warned of fallen ash from the volcano, but officials later said the eruption was easing and a “low-level steam cloud” was lingering in the area.
In this photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, lava flows within the Halema’uma’u crater of the Kilauea volcano Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. The Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island has erupted, the U.S. Geological Survey said. (Photo: U.S. Geological Survey/AP)
A break from the news
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