Pfizer Pill, Haiti Explosion, and American's Shifting Religious Views Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Wednesday, Dec. 15, and we're covering another tool in the fight against COVID-19, a devastating explosion in Haiti, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

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Pfizer COVID-19 Pill

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced yesterday its COVID-19 antiviral pill retained an 89% efficacy in reducing hospitalizations and deaths in a large-scale trial. Meant to be taken shortly after an infection begins, the treatment is viewed as a potentially significant tool in battling the virus in at-risk populations and lower-income countries where vaccines are not readily available.


The news comes one day after rival Merck revealed the effectiveness of its antiviral treatment had dropped from 50% to 30% between preliminary and later-stage trials. US health regulators had previously narrowly approved emergency authorization use of the Merck pill in high-risk patients.


Separately, more data released yesterday bolstered evidence that the omicron variant spreads quicker and evades vaccine defenses more readily than other strains but causes less severe symptoms. The variant currently makes up 3% of US cases.


Roughly 60,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, up by almost 50% over the past month (see data).

Explosion in Haiti

At least 75 people were killed and dozens injured after a fuel truck exploded in the Haitian port city of Cap-Haïtien early Tuesday morning. Early reports suggest it was the result of an accident, when the truck flipped trying to avoid a motorcycle.


The tragedy is the latest to befall Haiti, which saw its president assassinated in July and suffered an earthquake that killed more than 2,200 people in August. The spiraling political crisis and resulting power vacuum have led many parts of major cities to be under gang control—including one that carried out a high-profile kidnapping of US missionaries in October (five of 17 have been released). 


Officials say the high death toll is partially due to onlookers scrambling to scoop up spilled gas; the fuel was ignited after making contact with smoldering trash. See video from the scene and aftermath here.

Thousand Talents Trial

Charles Lieber, the former chair of Harvard University's chemistry department, went on trial yesterday with federal prosecutors alleging he knowingly concealed funding from the Chinese government. The case is one of the highest-profile legal sagas in academic science in recent memory. 


The charges stem from a wide-ranging FBI probe into China's Thousand Talents program. Its public purpose is to recruit top researchers, but US officials argue it is used to appropriate foreign research by secretly paying scientists to transmit or recreate the results in Chinese shadow labs. The harshest critics say the program effectively steals state-funded technology and intellectual property for its own economic and military gain.


Lieber has maintained his innocence since being arrested almost two years ago, with his supporters arguing the case misconstrues the open and international nature of basic science. 

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In partnership with Remi



We lead high-stress lives. It comes as no surprise that stress and anxiety are linked with teeth grinding and jaw clenching—especially at night. In fact, over 40% of executives and managers grind their teeth at night, risking damage and exposure to serious dental issues.


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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with Verb

> Ex-NFL player Phillip Adams, who murdered six people and killed himself in April, had stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) at time of shooting (More) | OJ Simpson's parole ends in Nevada; sentence stemmed from a 2008 armed robbery conviction (More)


> "Return of the Jedi" and "Lord of the Rings" among 25 movies added to Library of Congress National Film Registry (More) | See complete list of 825 films on registry (More)


> Steph Curry makes five 3-pointers in Warriors victory to break Ray Allen's NBA record for most threes of all time; Curry's record now stands at 2,977 career 3-pointers (More)

From our partners: Give the gift of energy. Verb's Cinnamon Roll and Cookie Butter holiday flavors are irresistibly delicious—but better yet, they're full of green tea-powered caffeine for a jitter-free boost with just 90 calories. They might be the tastiest energy bars you've ever tried; send some to a friend or treat yourself to Verb's best deals of the year—take up to 30% off!

Science & Technology

> More than 40% of patients who test positive for COVID-19 are asymptomatic, according to an analysis of 95 different studies; the figure does not include asymptomatic cases that go untested (More)


> NASA to launch four Earth-focused science missions in 2022, collecting atmospheric data on extreme weather dynamics, atmospheric dust, and more (More)


> Research suggests cracks in Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier may cause the ice shelf to break apart within five years; the melting shelf already contributes to roughly 4% of annual sea rise (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets fall again (S&P 500 -0.8%, Dow -0.3%, Nasdaq -1.1%) ahead of today’s Federal Reserve meeting (More)


> Toyota to invest $35B by 2030 to build lineup of 30 electric vehicles (More)


> Six women employed at Tesla’s Fremont, California, factory file lawsuits alleging they were part of a culture of workplace sexual harassment (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> Washington, DC, attorney general files suit against alt-right group Proud Boys and militia group Oath Keepers for their role in the Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol (More) | House votes to hold former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in contempt; Justice Department must decide whether to pursue charges (More


> Senate raises debt limit along party-line vote; ceiling raised by $2.5T, likely to not be approached again before the 2022 midterm elections (More)


> Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered by state ethics panel to return $5M in earnings from a book written while in office during the pandemic; decision likely to be challenged in court (More)



In partnership with Remi


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Please support our sponsors!




Three in 10 Americans are religiously unaffiliated.


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Clickbait: How all politicians should settle grievances.


Historybook: US Bill of Rights ratified, becomes law (1791); Eiffel Tower builder Gustave Eiffel born (1832); Hunkpapa Lakota leader Sitting Bull killed (1890); RIP Walt Disney (1966); RIP actress Joan Fontaine (2013).


"A person should set his goals as early as he can and devote all his energy and talent to getting there."

- Walt Disney

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