Major Hack Compromises U.S. Government Systems
This week U.S. government agencies, Microsoft and many other private companies discovered an enormous cyber attack most likely perpetrated by Russian Intelligence services according to national security experts. Although Russia denies responsibility, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the U.S. intelligence community confirmed these accusations. The attack, carried out over several months unnoticed, used a popular software called SolarWinds to infiltrate over 18,000 organizations. The highly advanced code will likely take months to completely purge, and poses an enormous risk to confidential information from the Pentagon, Department of Energy, State Department, and Treasury Department. Officials worry the hackers were able to access information about nuclear weapons, military blueprints, and COVID-19 vaccine research.
Coronavirus Relief: What’s happening?
Currently, the two parties of Congress are battling over the 900 billion dollar relief package. As the debate lengthens, more people are becoming unemployed or are still unemployed and will suffer without financial aid. Even though the previous relief actions are still in place, they will soon expire, leaving millions of struggling Americans helpless.
Back in March, the CARES Act was passed with almost 1 in 4 Americans receiving relief from the program; they have lived off those funds since. But with both unemployment and poverty rates increasing, we are hoping compromise will be made as soon as possible. Protections from the first relief package are set to expire at the end of the month, including Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and the Eviction Moratorium.
Although the federal government has not put in any new housing protection, local and state governments have enacted their own protections. The CARES Act set aside $150 billion for the state and local governments and programs to handle costs to relieve themselves from the economic downfall from the pandemic. Each state would receive approximately $1.25 billion for themselves, but this offer is on a time limit: if the funds are not allocated before December 30th, access to the funds will be revoked. Many states are fighting for an extension of the deadline so that all the funding can be used.
The federal government must come to a decision on the new relief package to prevent the United States from going into economic turmoil and to protect American citizens.
Vaccine Approval & Distribution
The Food and Drug Administration has authorized both the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 Vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine, which was approved on December 11th, is authorized for those 16 years old and over. It is a two-part vaccine that has proved to be about 90% effective. The Moderna was approved on December 18th for individuals 18 and over. Since then the United States has bought 200 million doses of this vaccine. Much like the Pfizer vaccine, it is administered in two parts. It has been estimated to be around 94% effective. The two vaccines have similar possible side effects, including but not limited to fatigue, headaches, and muscle pain. The FDA has stated that many of these symptoms do not start to show until after the second dose.
There are a few differences between these vaccines. The Moderna is easier to transport than the Pfizer as it requires a temperature of -20 degrees Celsius rather than -75 degrees Celsius. It is American made unlike the German Pfizer vaccine. The second vaccine dose for the Moderna is 28 days after the first, while for the Pfizer it is 21 days after.
While the vaccine has been touted as a long-term solution to the pandemic, many are concerned as to what is in the vaccine and the side effects. However, the vaccine will not be available to the public for some time. The first to receive the vaccine are front line workers such as nurses. President-elect Joe Biden is set to be vaccinated on the 21st.