Here are the headlines you Need2Know for Friday, December 18, 2020:


Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine could receive emergency approval as soon as today after an independent FDA panel gave the go-ahead. That would put a second highly effective vaccine into the country’s supply within days. The Moderna shot is similar to the Pfizer shot -- it uses the same groundbreaking mRNA technology and requires two doses, a few weeks apart. But it does not require ultra-cold storage, which would make the doses easier to distribute. Vice President Pence got vaccinated this morning in an attempt to reassure vaccine skeptics. President-elect Biden will follow next week, at which point many top government officials, from the House Speaker to Supreme Court justices, will start getting inoculated. ABC NEWS


The scope of the hack of federal government computers purported to be the work of the Kremlin keeps getting worse. The hackers managed to infiltrate the systems of the Energy Dept. and the National Nuclear Security Administration, the agencies that control the nuclear stockpile. Investigators have found suspicious activity on networks belonging to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the highly secretive nuclear facility. President Trump has yet to publicly acknowledge the cyberattack, which started in March and was only recently uncovered. POLITICO


President-elect Biden has chosen Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico to be secretary of the interior. If confirmed, Haaland would be the first Native American to hold a Cabinet position. Biden has also picked Michael Regan, North Carolina’s top environmental regulator, to lead the EPA. Regan would be the first Black man to run the agency. Brenda Mallory, a former Obama official, will become the first Black chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The appointments suggest the administration will focus on environmental justice issues, like the effect that pollution has on minority communities. WASH POST


Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his annual end-of-year marathon press conference, in which he denied poisoning the opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, saying that if he wanted to kill Navalny, he’d be dead. The 68-year-old Russian leader also said he hadn’t yet received the Russian-made coronavirus vaccine because it had not been approved for people over 65, adding: ”I’m a fairly law-abiding person.” NBC NEWS


For millions of out-of-work Americans, a new stimulus deal in Washington literally cannot come soon enough. Another 885,000 people filed for jobless benefits last week. After slowing in the fall, layoffs and furloughs are accelerating again to levels not seen in past recessions. More than 20 million people are collecting some form of unemployment heading into the new year, the vast majority of whom would get extra help if and when this stimulus package is agreed on and passed. YAHOO FINANCE


Google is being sued by a group of state prosecutors, the second major antitrust lawsuit to be filed against the company this week and the third in the last two months. The most recent suit accuses Google of using its dominance in search to muscle out smaller competitors. The one before that focused on Google’s dominance in digital advertising, and the one before that -- the big suit filed by the feds -- was a broader matter accusing Google of acting as an illegal monopoly. Taken together, the lawsuits represent an existential threat to Google’s business model and show that the backlash against Big Tech is still growing in the courts. CNN


Russia’s doping ban has been cut in half, from four years to two, by a Swiss court. The country will not be allowed to field a team for the next two Olympics in 2021 and 2022, but should be cleared for Paris 2024. Individual Russian athletes can still compete before then, but they can’t use their flag or anthem. NPR


... Rep. Joe Cunningham, cracking a beer in his farewell speech to Congress. The freshman Democrat from South Carolina took one for the road “in the spirit of bipartisanship”: WATCH


Chadwick Boseman’s last movie, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, drops on Netflix today. The film is a tribute to a blues legend and stars Viola Davis as Ma Rainey, opposite Boseman. Both actors are getting rave reviews for their performances. USA TODAY


Have you ever wondered why so much Christmas music is from the 1940s and 50s? Us too! Cheddar decided to look into it, and found the reason has a lot to do with Bing Crosby: WATCH

Listen to the N2K Podcast! Looking for more context and analysis on the big stories of the day? Check out our podcast! Hosts Jill and Carlo break down the headlines, every weekday morning Listen on Apple or Spotify, or watch on YouTube, and send us your feedback!

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