President Trump, Sasha Ron, NPR discussed on Weekend Edition Saturday

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Scott Simon is off today. I'm Sasha Pfeiffer. We're learning more about the Christmas Day explosion in Nashville and we'll have the latest in a few minutes. Also the new strain of the Corona virus and the continuing vaccine roll out first. Though more chaos from a chaotic president, President Trump is throwing into doubt badly needed pandemic aid, and he's flirting with a government shutdown. He's also raining clemency down on his associates, whether they're remorseful or not. For more on that. Let's turn to Ron Elving, NPR senior Washington editor and correspondent. Morning, Ron. Good to be with you, Sasha Ron. Let's start with that curveball that the president through into the code relief package. We know why. He said. He has done it. Do you think there are additional motivations? It's called a combination of political impulses and personal grievances. The president seems especially obsessed with those personal grievances in his last weeks in office, he probably does want the bill to give people more money upfront. He's eager to be associated with that payout. Remember when the first stimulus was passed last spring, and he got his name on every check that went out. But on top of that, there's his bitter resentment that more Republicans, they're not joining his campaign to overturn the election results. He's going after his party's leaders almost every day on Twitter, and he sees the whole situation is disrespectful of him as leader of the party and the things that some things he says he's upset within this bill Money for believes for the Kennedy Center for the Smithsonian, they mainly involved budget request from his own administration. But do you think Ron that his main argument, which is that Americans need more aid than Congress is providing Actually resonates with the general public. And if it does, why does Congress seemingly going so small? You make a good point about those side issues the lesser budget items, some of them are actually smaller amounts than his own budget, had asked for back last February and March. But on the $2000, of course, people would rather have 2000 and 600. And for some Americans, the difference is critical. Millions of Americans are seeing their unemployment benefits expire today. December 26th in the midst of this pandemic winner. So you saw the Democrats in Congress. Glad to embrace that $2000 number Last week, They held an immediate vote in the House. But that boat was blocked by Republicans. And it's no secret that many Republicans in both house and Senate don't think we need another relief bill at all. Or at least that we don't need any stimulus checks to individuals. So the $600 was a compromise. Sasha, it was go small or no checks it all wrong on the clemency that Donald Trump is giving out. There's no question he has the power to grant pardons to people convicted of federal crimes or to commute sentences, but give us a sense of whether Trump's clemency decisions stand out. They stand out because so many other people benefiting have personal or political ties directly to the president. There. Typically people who got in trouble working for Trump either as president or as a candidate in 2016. And then more broadly, Ron, What do your thoughts on whether presidents should have this kind of clemency power? This has been called the single most absolute power that the framers of the Constitution permitted the president, they were adopting what was seen as a benevolent aspect of the king's power in the English monarchy. Means for the king to show mercy or solve disputes or less intentions in the country, and not as a deck of get out of free get out of jail free cards for the president's palace. It seems out of date in our time. Precisely because it violates the idea of checks and balances. It's just an absolute power. And that is just an invitation for abuse. That's NPR's senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron. Thank you. Thank you so much. Starting Monday. People flying to the United States from the United Kingdom will have to prove they are not infected with the coronavirus before they can board their flight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instituted this requirement because a new and potentially more infectious strain of the virus is now circulating widely in the UK. CDC hopes this move will keep the strain out of the U. S. Joining us now to talk about this development is NPR's science correspondent Joe Parka. And Joe Would you tell us whether screening airline passengers is likely to keep the new virus strain out of the U. S? Well, I mean, that's the hope it's a way of stopping the virus from coming into the country of But there is a chance it's already here, in which case this is closing the barn door after the horse has left, so it's a step they can take its. There's not a lot of other steps that are available, Angela. Very basic science question. Remind us why new strains of the virus show up. Well, viruses are changing all the time. I mean, every time a virus replicates inside of you, it has to pass on his genetic material. And every time it does that errors crop up and most of the time these errors don't make any difference in the way the virus acts when it gets inside you, But sometimes there are changes in peace of the virus that could actually make a difference. And that seems to be what happened here. There's a change in a part of the virus that codes for the spike protein, which is the protein that allows the virus toe enter cells. And so that's why it's concerning The scientists know yet how big of a problem this new strain is likely to pose. No, I mean, it appears to be more infectious. It doesn't appear to be more dangerous in the sense that doesn't seem to be making people sicker. But if this parent infectiousness holds up, it's going to reinforce the message of mask wearing hand washing and keeping distance because those are the only things we have in. In addition to the Vaccine that will prevent people from getting it. But meanwhile, the covert 19 vaccine is being administered. People are getting shots. So will the vaccines being rolled out now? Protect people from this new strain? Well again. It's unclear. I've seen people from by on techs say yes, it'll protect, but they also say In order to say for sure We're going to need to do some testing, so I think it's ah fingers crossed at the moment. I mean, the good news is that vaccines like the one Moderna and Fizer have made are relatively easy to Week, and so if it turns out to be necessary, they could actually change the vaccine, so it works better against the new strain. In terms of where we are on the vaccine landscape, which ones are further so long in development, and when might they become available that the ones that are still being researched and working on it lives?.

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