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News Wrap: Pro-Democracy activists are sentenced in Hong Kong

In our news wrap Wednesday, several opposition activists in Hong Kong were sentenced for organizing demonstrations, President Trump sparked congressional opposition with a threat to veto a sweeping defense policy bill, and Afghanistan's government and the Taliban have a breakthrough on peace talks.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Britain has now the first country to approve a rigorously tested COVID-19 vaccine.

    The creation of Pfizer and a German pharmaceutical company won emergency approval today. Inoculations in Britain could begin next week.

    Still, the World Health Organization forecast there won't be enough vaccine to stop new surges for another three to six months.

    We will return to this after the news summary.

    President-elect Biden warned today that the pandemic could kill another 250,000 people in the U.S. in the next two months. He did not offer details, but that is far more than CDC projections. Mr. Biden also addressed the economic toll and promised efforts to spark a speedy recovery.

    He pressed Congress for a down payment now on new relief.

  • President-Elect Joseph Biden:

    I believe that, with the right policies, we can fundamentally change things. And my hope is that we will be able to help in a short order. But that depends a lot on friends in Congress on the other side who are prepared to take action that has to be taken.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will talk to two U.S. senators about COVID relief and other issues later in the program.

    President Trump ran into opposition today to his veto threat against a sweeping defense bill. He demanded a provision to end liability protections for social media companies for their users' posts.

    Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, chair of the Armed Services Committee, dismissed the demand. And negotiators approved a final version without the liability language.

    Afghanistan's government and the Taliban have had a breakthrough of sorts. They announced a preliminary deal today setting the rules for peace talks. It's their first written agreement in 19 years of war.

    Ethiopia and the United Nations agreed today on opening a humanitarian corridor into the country's Tigray region. Some six million people have been trapped there during a month of fighting between the army and rebel forces. The agreement calls for allowing in food, medicine, and other critical supplies.

    Hong Kong's leaders are being criticized after three top pro-democracy activists were sentenced to jail. Agnes Chow, Joshua Wong, and Ivan Lam will serve seven to 13 months over a protest last year. Supporters demonstrated in solidarity today, some hiding their faces out of caution, as China cracks down on dissent.

  • Protester (through translator):

    Compared to other protesters who did damage on public facilities, or even people who were charged with riot, they were just participating in the protest.

    Everyone was angry at that time. They shouldn't be the only people to take the blame. It's just because they are more renowned that they receive a heavy sentencing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In Washington, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced what she called brutal sentencing of young champions of democracy.

    Back in this country, the Boeing 737 MAX made its first public flight since being grounded for 20 months after two fatal crashes. Reporters flew on a 737 MAX from Dallas to Tulsa, Oklahoma, as part of an effort by American Airlines to restore public trust. American plans to return the planes to service on December 29.

    The U.S. Transportation Department is putting a limit on emotional support animals on airliners. A rule issued today allows only service dogs that are trained to help people with physical or psychiatric disabilities. Airlines say that passengers have brought along everything from turtles to a peacock, in a bid to avoid cargo fees.

    Wall Street had a relatively quiet day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained about 60 points to close at 29883. The Nasdaq fell five points, but the S&P 500 added six for another record close.

    And American Olympic champion Rafer Johnson died today in Los Angeles. He captured the decathlon at the 1960 Rome Olympics, and ultimately set three world records. In 1968, he worked on Robert F. Kennedy's presidential campaign and helped subdue the gunman who fatally shot Kennedy.

    Rafer Johnson was 86 years old.

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