Welcome to the first day of December — the end of 2020 is finally in sight.
🚀⏰ Ready, Set, Go: Today’s newsletter is a ~5 minute read. (1,312 words)
“To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing.”
– Eva Young
COVID-19 Vaccine Update
The Federal Aviation Authority supported the “first mass air shipment” of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to the U.S. on Friday. Meanwhile, Moderna released new data yesterday morning concluding its vaccine is 94% effective and strongly protects against severe illness.
Pfizer’s Prospects Pfizer reportedly sent an undisclosed number of doses of its COVID-19 vaccine (developed with German firm BioNTech) via United Airlines charter flights from Brussels to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, positioning them for quick distribution once regulatory approval is granted.
Pfizer’s vaccine requires a storage temperature of -94ºF. The company developed deep-freeze “suitcases” packed with dry ice that can be tightly sealed and shipped (even in non-refrigerated trucks & airplanes), though the containers pose their own set of unique challenges.
The FAA granted United special approval to carry 15k pounds of dry ice per flight – five times more than what is regularly allowed.
The company could produce up to 50M doses by the end of 2020, enough to immunize ~25M people (since two doses are required).
Moderna’s Measurements On Monday, the U.S.-based biotech company formally applied for FDA emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine after publishing final results from its 30k-participant Phase 3 trial.
Moderna said 11 people who received two doses of its vaccine developed COVID-19 symptoms after being infected with the virus compared to 185 symptomatic cases in a placebo group, making it 94.1% effective.
The vaccine also showed 100% efficacy against severe disease, with zero such cases recorded among those vaccinated (30 in the placebo group).
The company is on track to have ~20M doses ready to ship in the U.S. by the end of 2020, enough to inoculate ~10M people.
What’s Next? Independent regulators plan to meet on Dec. 10 to review Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine data and make a recommendation to the FDA. They will review Moderna’s data one week later.
So… what are people saying?
A Covid vaccine can save America — but not if we can’t convince Americans it’s safe
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🇳🇬 Deadly Attack in Nigeria
Dozens of people were killed after a group of armed men attacked farmers harvesting fields in a village in northeastern Nigeria on Saturday. A UN official said “tens of civilians” had perished in “the most violent direct attack on innocent civilians this year,” while Reuters reported upward of 70 deaths. The motivation behind the killings is currently unknown, though Jihadist terrorist organization Boko Haram and a breakaway faction (the Islamic State West Africa Province) are known to be active in the area.
More: Boko Haram has a long history of violence in Nigeria, including the 2014 kidnapping of at least 276 girls from a school in Chibok, Nigeria (with 112 still missing today).
🇫🇷 France to Rewrite Controversial Bill
French politicians yesterday announced plans to rewrite a controversial security bill that was the focus of mass protests across the country over the weekend. Known as article 24, the bill would have made it illegal to share images or videos of police officers with the intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity.”
More: The protests followed the publication of video footage last Thursday showing a Black music producer being beaten up by French police officers inside his studio. It garnered ~14M views over the weekend.
☑️ Arizona & Wisconsincertified election results on Monday, handing narrow victories to President-elect Biden (AZ by ~10k, WI by ~20k).
📣 Biden formally announced top members of his incoming White House economic team yesterday (several of whom must pass Senate confirmation), one day after naming an all-female White House communications team.
S&P Global reached an agreement on Monday to buy IHS Markit in an all-stock deal worth $44B. Should the deal survive potential antitrust scrutiny, it would represent the largest corporate acquisition of 2020.
🤫 Rumor Mill: Salesforce is expected to announce the acquisition of Slack after markets close this afternoon.
⚙️ Shifting Gears
GM and EV startup Nikola announced a non-binding agreement on Monday allowing Nikola to use GM’s “Hydrotec” fuel-cell technology in its planned electric semi-trucks. The deal represents a scaled-back version of a September partnership between the two companies that included GM receiving a $2B stake in Nikola and agreeing to build its Badger pickup truck.
More: Nikola will refund all customer deposits for the Badger since its production was “dependent on an OEM [Original Equipment Manufacturer] partnership.”
Facebook announced the acquisition of customer relationship management (CRM) software startup Kustomer on Monday. The company did not disclose the terms of the deal, but sources say it values Kustomer at just over $1B.
🛒 Shop Talk
According to Feeding America, the country’s largest hunger-relief organization, a staggering 54 million Americans may soon experience food insecurity – 17 million more than before the pandemic hit. Recognizing the need to help others in their community gain access to the food they need, a group of entrepreneurs in Decatur, GA, recently surprised shoppers at the local Kroger grocery store with an overwhelming act of generosity.
One day last week, friends Alix Burton, Marcus Barney, Neo Davis, and Jonathan Gooch spent two hours paying for everyone’s groceries at the store, spending a total of $40,000.
Many customers were left in tears of joy as the phenomenal philanthropists took over the cash registers at all 12 of the store’s checkout lines.
“We have Thanksgiving food and we got tissue. God is good today, thank you,” exclaimed one grateful patron.
🏃♂️ A Run For His Money
Thomas Panek of NYC is a marathon runner who believes that “humans are born to run.” However, a genetic disorder forced Thomas to give up the sport after going blind in his 20s – nearly 30 years ago.
Last week, the lifelong athlete became the first blind runner to complete a 5k race without the aid of a guide dog or human companion.
His secret? An app he co-developed with Google.
Project Guideline uses audio cues to guide a runner in the right direction along a painted track (video). “The safest thing for a blind man is to sit still. I ain’t sitting still,” the remarkable runner told Reuters.
🐴 Horse and Buddy
From the day she was born, 6-year-old Bella Dunseath of England has been surrounded by equines of all shapes and sizes. Coming from a family of accomplished equestrians, Bella’s horse-riding skills are evident – even at her young age – along with a deep love for each and every horse she grew up with.
None of her equine friends return this affection quite as strongly as Verity the Pony.
Ever since Bella was an infant, Verity expressed a strong affinity for the young girl. She treated her with patience as the toddler, who was barely out of diapers, pulled on the pony’s mane as she learned how to ride. Now, the pair are an inseparable duo, spending almost all of their time together as they confidently complete spectacular jumps in competition, consistently earning blue ribbons at horse shows. (Video)
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🗿 What in the World… U.S. officials said the mysterious monolith in the Utah desert disappeared without a trace sometime after Friday evening. Meanwhile, a similar metal monolith appeared in the eastern Romanian city of Piatra Neamț over the weekend.
#️⃣ Hash it Out
What is the technical term for the ‘hashtag’ (#) symbol ?
A) Pound sign B) Octothorpe C) Tiny-Tac-Toe D) Number sign
(keep scrolling for the answer)
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Scientists at Bell Laboratories modified the telephone keypad in the early 1960s and added the # symbol to send instructions to the telephone operating system. They came up with the name “octothorpe,” which originates from – well, we’re not really sure.