Here are the headlines you Need2Know for Tuesday, December 22, 2020:



President Trump is threatening to blow up the stimulus deal at the last minute unless direct cash payments to Americans are raised from $600 to $2,000. He hinted that he wouldn’t sign the bill unless that change was made, calling the legislation -- which was negotiated by his own administration -- “a disgrace.” Congressional Democrats, who had been pushing for higher payments, immediately said they’d be on board with a tweak to the bill, but it would face opposition from Republicans in both chambers. WASH POST


Deaths in the U.S. will exceed 3 million this year for the first time ever, according to preliminary mortality data. About 400,000 more people will have died in 2020 than 2019. U.S. life expectancy is also expected to decline this year by the largest amount since WWII because of the coronavirus. Public health experts say it’s probably too late to stop the mutated virus strain spreading in the UK from jumping across the Atlantic. In fact, the CDC says it’s probably already here. Pfizer is said to be close to a deal with the White House for 70 million more vaccine doses. USA TODAY


President Trump has issued a wave of pardons -- 15 in total, plus commutations for five others. Those being given clemency include two Congressional Republicans, Reps. Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins, who were convicted on corruption charges. Both were early supporters of the president. He also pardoned George Papadopolous, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI as part of the Russia investigation, and four former contractors who were convicted of massacring Iraqi civilians in 2007 in an incident that helped turn public opinion against the Iraq war. AP


President-elect Biden is expected to announce Dr. Miguel Cardona to be his secretary of education. Cardona is Connecticut’s education commissioner and will have the immediate task of assessing the damage done by the pandemic on the country’s 50 million public school students. Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom has picked Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, to fill Kamala Harris’ Senate seat. Padilla will become the first Latino senator in California’s history. With Harris in the White House and Padilla filling her seat, the Senate will now be without any Black women. AXIOS


Israel’s government has collapsed again, triggering new elections that will be held in March. It will be the fourth election in two years for that country. After failing to pass a budget, the short-lived unity government fell apart and Parliament was automatically dissolved. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will run for reelection against the backdrop of an out-of-control pandemic and his own corruption trial, which is expected to resume in February. NPR


The U.S. government has filed a major lawsuit against Walmart, alleging that the company helped fuel the opioid crisis by ignoring its own pharmacists’ warnings about how many questionable prescriptions were being doled out and pressuring them to fill scripts quickly. The suit has been expected for some time; Walmart even preemptively sued the government in October, arguing that it was being scapegoated. REUTERS


The U.S. Postal Service is buckling under the weight of an absolute deluge of mail and package volume that is causing widespread delivery delays across the country. On-time performance was 86 percent last week, and likely even lower now. Foot traffic at retail stores was down 40 percent last weekend compared to last year. Everyone is doing their shopping online, and it has created a logjam that is now peaking. FedEx and UPS have instituted limits on their networks, leaving the USPS as shipper of last resort. Best Buy is even experimenting with sending its own employees out to deliver items. As one meme going around puts it: “Stop trying to track that package. It’s in God’s hands now.” BLOOMBERG


Could the Brooklyn Nets be the most exciting team to watch this season? Kevin Durant dominated in his NBA return, putting up 22 points in 25 minutes. He was helped out by Kyrie Irving, who put up 26 points in 25 minutes as the Nets blew out the Warriors in the league’s season opener. For the first time since relocating from New Jersey to Brooklyn, the Nets look to be legitimate title contenders this year. ESPN


...Dr. Fauci, giving the thumbs-up after receiving his vaccine shot on TV: WATCH

...a paragliding Santa Claus, flying directly into a tangle of power lines outside Sacramento. The Fire Dept. had to be called to get him down: WATCH 

...Sean Penn, apparently rolling right out of bed for his appearance on MSNBC, and channeling all of us at the end of this year: SEE PIC


The first trailer for the Coming to America sequel is here. Eddie Murphy is bringing his iconic Prince Akeem character back, this time as a newly crowned king who has to return to Queens to find his long-lost son. Coming 2 America drops on Amazon Prime on March 5: WATCH


Still have some basic questions about this stimulus bill -- assuming it gets signed into law -- like whether you qualify for the new round of direct cash payments and when and how the checks will be distributed? Cheddar’s Megan Pratz has the answers: HERE

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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