News Headlines 01/05/21

TWO GEORGIA RUNOFF RACES TODAY WILL DECIDE CONTROL OF THE SENATE: The two runoff races in Georgia that will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate are being held today (January 5th), with the two Republican incumbents, Senators David Purdue and Kelly Loeffler, facing Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock, respectively. Republicans need to win just one of the two races to retain Senate control, while Democrats must win both to have a 50-50 tied Senate, in which Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be the tiebreaker. The runoffs are being held because no candidate in the two Senate races got a majority in the November election.

President Trump and President-elect Joe Biden both held rallies in Georgia yesterday ahead of the runoffs. Trump spent part of his time repeating unfounded allegations of fraud in the November election and attacking Georgia election officials, but nevertheless encouraged his supporters to vote for Purdue and Loeffler, saying, “You’ve got to swarm it tomorrow.” Biden said at his earlier rally, “The power is literally in your hands. One state can chart the course, not just for the next four years, but for the next generation.” Biden also took a swipe at Trump over his ongoing attempts to overturn the election results, something Biden has not often publicly addressed, charging the president, quote, “spends more time whining and complaining” than he does working on solving the pandemic.

MORE CONTAGIOUS MUTATED CORONAVIRUS FOUND IN FOURTH STATE, NEW YORK: The mutated version of the coronavirus that is more contagious that was first discovered in the U.K. has now been found in someone in a fourth U.S. state, with New York announcing its first known case Monday (January 4th) in a man in his 60s in upstate Saratoga Springs. Colorado, California and Florida had previously reported finding people infected with the mutated version. The mutant version has made the race to get people vaccinated, which has started slowly in the U.S., even more urgent. Some people in the U.S. who’ve already gotten their first vaccine shot began to get the second required one yesterday. Britain, which has had a soaring infection rate because of the mutated coronavirus, had a new lockdown announced yesterday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that will last until at least mid-February and will include the shutdown of nonessential stories, mostly virtual schooling, and restaurants only able to offer takeout.

IRAN SEIZES SOUTH KOREAN TANKER, BEGINS ENRICHING URANIUM TO 20 PERCENT: Iran seized a South Korean tanker near the Strait of Hormuz on Monday (January 4th), with armed Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops storming the vessel and forcing it to change course and travel to Iran. Tehran claimed it stopped the tanker for polluting the Strait and the Persian Gulf, but AP said it appeared the country was trying to increase its leverage ahead of negotiations with Seoul over billions of dollars in Iranian assets frozen in South Korean banks amid a U.S. pressure campaign against Tehran. Meanwhile, Iran also began enriching uranium yesterday to 20 percent, levels it hasn’t reached since the 2015 nuclear deal that President Trump withdrew the U.S. from in 2018.

PHARMACIST WHO RUINED CORONAVIRUS VACCINE DOSES BELIEVED THEY’D MUTATE DNA: Court documents released yesterday (January 4th) said that a Wisconsin pharmacist who ruined more than 500 doses of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine by taking them out of refrigeration overnight did so because he formed a belief that they would mutate people’s DNA. Advocate Aurora Health Steven Brandenburg was arrested last week by police in Grafton, and charges are pending. A detective wrote in the documents that Brandenburg is an admitted conspiracy theorist. Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said during a virtual hearing that the 46-year-old Brandenburg was also upset because he and his wife are divorcing, and that another Aurora employee said Brandenburg had taken a gun to work twice.