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Top Story:  COVID-19 relief in chaos.

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4:32 AM (9 hours ago)
to me
by Jill Hudson

Good morning. The Daily News will be on vacation on Thursday and Friday. Korva Coleman and Jill Hudson wish you a very Merry Christmas.

First Up

A marine stands outside the West Wing of the White House earlier this week. President Trump has been lobbied by advocates to use his powers to grant pardons and commutations ahead of leaving office.
Susan Walsh/AP

Here's what we're following today.

President Trump is asking Congress to amend the coronavirus relief bill by increasing cash payments to $2,000 per individual and $4,000 for couples — despite the fact that it was Republicans who stood in the way of higher payments for months. 

President Trump granted pardons or clemency to 20 people on Wednesday, including former Congressmen and people who pleaded guilty in the Russia probe. The president also pardoned four Blackwater guardswho killed more than a dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians in 2007.

France has reopened its doors to Britain, which the French government closed after a new COVID-19 strain was detected in England. The shutdown caused chaos for the crucial freight route between France and the U.K., with thousands of truck drivers stranded in the port of Dover and drivers unable to return to the continent. 

Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus response, says she will retire after the Biden transition. Birx described her experience leading the task force as "overwhelming," suggesting her family have unfairly been targeted in the attacks against her.

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The Picture Show 

People watch the alignment in Edgerton, Kan.
Charlie Riedel/AP

On Monday evening, Jupiter and Saturn appeared closer to each other than they have for hundreds of years, in what has become known as the Great Conjunction. Photographers around the world captured images of the planets appearing to shift close together — and groups of stargazers taking in the unique sight.

Today's Listens

Elizabeth Debicki and John David Washington star in director Christopher Nolan's latest time-warping film, Tenet.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Director Christopher Nolan's latest film, Tenet, is a riff on spy movies — featuring globe-trotting CIA agents, Russian arms dealers and big set pieces — but with a decidedly Nolan-esque time-travel twist.  Don't try to understand or make sense of it; just feel it. Click here to listen

Demand for bus travel has dropped sharply during the pandemic, jeopardizing an industry that ordinarily serves many lower-income travelers. Click to listen or read the story.  
 
Therrious Davis for NPR

True sneakerheads who remember waiting in line outside places like NikeTown for exclusive sneaker releases already know one thing for sure: Being a sneakerhead is completely different in a digital world, where shoes sell out in minutes and YouTubers review new kicks. NPR's Jeff Pierre gives us the breakdown on navigating it all. Listen here or read all about it

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