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5 things to know for January 4: Transition, coronavirus, Congress, Iran, China

A university that published its annual list of “banished” words and phrases has named the ones it’d like to see less of in 2021. Among them: “unprecedented” and “uncertain times.” Sounds about right.

Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

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1. White House transition 

It’s going to be a critical week in politics. Tomorrow is Georgia’s Senate runoff elections, which will decide which party controls the Senate. On Wednesday, Congress will meet to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, a process President Trump is still determined to influence. Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger over the weekend and, according to audio obtained by CNN, attempted to pressure the fellow Republican to “find” the votes necessary to alter the November presidential election result in the state, which Joe Biden won. The call, which has raised alarm bells among Democratic and Republican leaders alike, is the latest attempt by Trump and his allies to overturn those results. Nearly a dozen Republican senators have said they will vote against counting electoral votes this week, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy supports another plan by House Republicans to challenge the election results.

2. Coronavirus 

India has approved two coronavirus vaccines and is now setting off on one of the most ambitious immunization programs ever. The country of 1.35 billion plans to inoculate 300 million people by August. In the US, about 4.2 million vaccine doses have been administered, and health experts say things need to speed up to keep pace with vaccination goals. Over the last month in the US, more than 100,000 people have been in the hospital battling Covid-19 every single day. If infection rates get worse, one doctor said we could be looking at a “total collapse” of the health care system. It’s further proof that a vaccine doesn’t provide an immediate solution to the pandemic. In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted coronavirus restrictions may get tougher there as cases rise, even though vaccines are already being administered.

3. Congress

The 117th Congress was sworn in yesterday, and some things look a little different. For one, the chambers are historically diverse, with record-setting numbers of women, Black and Latino members and those who identify as LGBTQ. In the House, Republicans managed a net gain of 11 seats, narrowing the Democratic majority. A few members of Congress, including Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, will be leaving their posts to take up positions in the incoming Biden administration. Other things, however, stay the same: Nancy Pelosi won a fourth nonconsecutive term as speaker of the House, despite a few defections from her own party.

4. Iran

The US and Iran are ratcheting up tensions in the Persian Gulf around the anniversary of the death of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was assassinated in a US drone strike last January 3. Some Iranian military forces have ramped up their readiness levels in recent days, according to US sources, including moving short-range ballistic missiles into Iraq, where they could potentially strike at US bases. Similar attacks happened last year in the wake of Soleimani’s death. Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller has also ordered a US aircraft carrier to stay in the Persian Gulf region after it had been scheduled to move.

5. China

Wall Street is going to kick out three Chinese telecom companies in order to comply with a Trump order banning Americans from investing in firms the government suspects are either owned or controlled by the Chinese military. China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom have all been listed on the New York Stock Exchange for years, but most of their business is based in China. So, while trading volumes are low in the US, the decision could affect share values elsewhere. The Trump administration has been putting pressure on Chinese firms like these for a while. Trump recently signed new rules that could force Chinese companies to delist from American stock exchanges if they fail to meet US auditing standards.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

Larry King has been hospitalized with Covid-19

Sending love to a CNN legend. 

Ohio State will face Alabama in the College Football Playoff national championship game

Shocking. Surprising. A completely unexpected, never-before-seen matchup.

Here are some big space news stories to expect in 2021, including 3 missions preparing to explore Mars

No, you may not hitch a ride.

A family of 12 siblings now holds the Guinness World Record for highest combined age

They range in age from 75 to 97, and their combined age is 1,042 years. Those are some GOOD genes.

Otherwise normal house for sale hides nightmarish surprise: An entire abandoned jail

Whatever you’re expecting here … it’s worse.

TODAY’S NUMBER

12,638

That’s how many diamonds are on the ring that just set a new Guinness World Record for, well, diamonds on a ring. The bauble weights 5.8 oz — more than a quarter of a pound — and takes up half the wearer’s hand.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“They are good people, but they didn’t think about those who were staying at home, of the economic problems of many people who have been hit hard by the lockdown, of the sick people.”

Pope Francis, who criticized people who are reportedly going on holiday in Europe to escape the pandemic. He said he was “saddened” to hear of such behavior.

TODAY’S WEATHER

Check your local forecast here>>>

AND FINALLY

Closer than they appear 

It’s a long one, but this explanation of forced perspective at Disney theme parks is so fascinating. If you want to skip the math, examples of this optical illusion start around the 10-minute mark. (Click here to view.)

CNN

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