December 21, 2020

Good afternoon and welcome to winter. Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 473 words, a 2-minute read.

🚨 More than 70 West Point cadets are accused of cheating on a remote math exam. Thus far, 58 have admitted cheating. (USA Today)

🐦 Situational awareness: 67-year-old Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin has joined Twitter.

  • Why it matters: The retired general studiously avoided the public spotlight during his four decades in the Army. (AP)

1 big thing: ✈️ 3 straight 1m-flyer days

Data: TSA; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios
Data: TSA; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Not taking it seriously: More than 1 million Americans passed through TSA checkpoints over each of the past three days, the biggest surge since the start of the pandemic.

  • Why it matters: The CDC warned against travel during the holidays, telling Americans that “postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.”
  • Even around Thanksgiving, TSA never had back-to-back days that hit 1 million passengers screened.

The big picture: Air travel is higher than this summer, when the outbreak was much less worse.

  • The seven-day rolling average of newly reported infections in the U.S. has risen from about 176,000 a day just before Thanksgiving to more than 215,000 a day, notes AP.
  • Another factor scaring public health folks: Christmas visits tend to last longer than Thanksgiving, thanks to New Year's.

The bottom line: AAA projects about 85 million people will travel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3, mostly by car, AP reports.

  • That's down only one-third from last year.

2. Pics du jour

Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

Above: President-elect Biden receives a COVID vaccine in Newark, Delaware, this afternoon. Video.

Below: Speaking in the White House driveway today, Surgeon General Jerome Adams cited the experimental antibody treatment administered to President Trump as part of the reason POTUS hasn't received the vaccine yet.

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

3. Catch up quick

Bill Barr at a news conference today. Photo: Michael Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

  1. Attorney General Bill Barr contradicted President Trump on Hunter Biden, seizing voting machines and whether Russia was behind the massive recent hack of federal agencies. Go deeper.
  2. Scoop: President-elect Biden is leaning toward nominating Miguel Cardona, education commissioner in Connecticut, to run the Education Department. Go deeper.
  3. Scoop: Renowned mixed martial arts coach Greg Jackson is considering an independent run for the U.S. House seat in New Mexico being vacated by Deb Haaland, Axios' Russell Contreras reports.
  4. 🎧 Axios Re:Cap talks with Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry on how much he expects to lose this season and that massive new deal for two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Listen here.

4. 1 smile to go: Tonight's Jupiter-Saturn alignment

Jupiter and Saturn seen together on December 13. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Tonight: Jupiter and Saturn will appear as a double planet in the night sky, the closest they've been in 400 years and the first time at night in 800, writes Axios Space author Miriam Kramer.

  • The two planets will be bright enough to be seen from most cities.

How to see them: Step outside under clear skies not long after sundown and look to the southwest.

  • Jupiter will look brighter than Saturn and will appear just above the ringed planet.
  • If you hold out your hand to the sky, the tip of your pinky will be able to cover both planets at once, according to NASA.