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Picture of economy is worrisome

WASHINGTON — Gripped by the accelerating viral outbreak, the U.S. economy is under pressure from persistent layoffs, diminished income and nervous consumers, whose spending is needed to drive a recovery from the pandemic. A flurry of data released Wednesday suggested that the spread of the virus is intensifying the threats to an economy still struggling to recover from the deep recession that struck in early spring. The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose last week for a second straight week to 778,000, evidence that many employers are still slashing jobs more than eight months after the virus hit. Before the pandemic, weekly jobless claims typically amounted to only about 225,000. Layoffs are still historically high, with many businesses unable to fully reopen and some, especially restaurants and bars, facing tightened restrictions. Consumers increased their spending last month by just 0.5%, the weakest rise since the pandemic erupted. The tepid figure suggested that on the eve of the crucial holiday shopping season, Americans remain anxious with the virus spreading and Congress failing to enact any further aid for struggling individuals, businesses, cities and states. At the same time, the government said Wednesday that income, which provides the fuel for consumer spending, fell 0.7% in October.

President pardons Flynn

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case. “It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon,” Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!” The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution.

A taste of a tourist-free Hawaii

HONOLULU — Line-Noue Memea Kruse lives on Oahu’s famed North Shore, where marveling at sea turtles, epic waves and sunsets that paint the sky orange and purple are a must for many tourists in Hawaii. After the islands required a two-week quarantine for travelers amid the coronavirus pandemic, Kruse rejoiced in the little things as the number of tourists dramatically dropped. It took her 35 minutes to drive to Walmart, instead of spending hours stuck in traffic as tourists gawked at turtles on the beach. But tourist-reliant Hawaii has now eased the restrictions imposed in March, allowing visitors to produce a negative COVID-19 test to avoid the quarantine. “I can literally tell you the day that they opened up,” Kruse said. She was driving to Walmart on Oct. 15, when the travel restrictions eased, and “I waited for hours again.” For seven months, locals had taken back spots normally crowded with visitors. They could enjoy Waikiki’s famous beaches without the sunburned tourists and walk on sidewalks without hordes of visitors awestruck by clear blue water, white sand and the other trappings of a tropical getaway. Locals, many of whom depend on tourism jobs, have long felt ambivalence about living in an island paradise that relies heavily on visitor spending, but many saw an upshot to a health crisis that threatened their livelihoods — reclaiming favorite areas long overrun by crowds. Before the pandemic, as many as 30,000 visitors arrived a day. That dropped to several thousand after the quarantine mandate. “What the pandemic did was give us all a moment to pause, a number of months, to rethink everything,” said state Sen. J. Kalani English. “What it proves for us is that old model of tourism, which is, you know, mass bring 11 million visitors a year, didn’t work and people were tired of it.”

Stole $1M from veterans charity

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — A former Connecticut lawyer was charged by state authorities Wednesday with embezzling nearly $1 million from a charity for military veterans and their families, just two weeks after he was sentenced to more than three years in prison on a federal charge for the same crimes. The chief state’s attorney’s office said Kevin Creed, 69, of Litchfield, was charged with felony larceny and was released on a $250,000 bond. On Nov. 9, Creed was sentenced on a federal fraud charge to the prison time and ordered to pay $1.4 million restitution to Fisher House Foundation in Connecticut, a chapter of a national charity that builds homes near veterans medical centers where families can stay for free while their loved ones undergo treatment. State prosecutors said Creed stole $985,000 from the charity and used the money for his own purposes. He has not yet reported to federal prison. Creed, an Army veteran and former state trooper, gave up his right to practice law in Connecticut last year.

Major ice storm hits Russia

MOSCOW — Thousands of people in Russia’s Far East region of Primorye remained without heating or electricity on Wednesday, as local authorities and emergency services wrestled with the consequences of an unprecedented ice storm that hit the region last week. According to Russia’s Energy Ministry, 5,800 Primorye residents as of Wednesday were still cut off from power, and 3,300 people in the city of Vladivostok, the region’s capital, still had no heating, the ministry said. The region was hit by freezing rain on Nov. 18, and thousands of its residents woke up in dark, cold apartments the next day. Thick layers of ice covered trees, cars, roads and power lines, many of which broke under the weight.

Market takes pause on optimism

Stocks closed mostly lower on Wall Street Wednesday, even as gains for technology companies pushed the Nasdaq to its first record high close since September. The S&P 500 slipped 0.2%, but it’s still holding on to a gain of 11% for the month. Industrial, energy and health care stocks accounted for much of the selling. The Dow Jones Industrial Average eased below 30,000, a day after passing that milestone for the first time. Treasury yields were mixed and energy prices closed broadly higher.

Stowaway owl returns to wild

SAUGERTIES, N.Y. — Rocky the stowaway owl is back in the wild. The tiny Saw-whet owl was named Rockefeller after it was found by a worker setting up the holiday tree Nov. 16 at Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center. The owl was apparently trapped in the 75-foot-tall Norway spruce when it was cut down 170 miles north, in upstate New York on Nov. 12. The female owl, initially thought to be male, was uninjured but hadn’t eaten for at least three days when she was discovered and sent to Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in the Hudson Valley town of Saugerties. There, a rehabilitator nursed her back to health for a week with plenty of mice before Rocky was cleared to continue her migratory journey south. On Tuesday evening, rehabilitator Ellen Kalish held the winsome raptor aloft in a field against a backdrop of rounded mountains. In a video posted on Ravensbeard’s Facebook page, Rocky sits quietly on Kalish’s fingers before winging her way over to a nearby grove of pines. “She is a tough little bird and we’re happy to see her back in her natural habitat,” the center wrote on Facebook. “We are sure that Rocky will feel your love and support through her journey south.”

Iran releases two Aussies

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Australia’s prime minister said he’s “thrilled and relieved” after Iran released in a prisoner swap a 33-year-old academic who was imprisoned for more than two years on spying charges, but added it would take time for Kylie Moore-Gilbert to process her “horrible” ordeal. Iran first announced on state television that it had freed the British-Australian scholar in exchange for three Iranians held abroad. The report was scant on detail, saying only that the Iranians had been imprisoned for trying to bypass sanctions on Iran. Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Australia’s Network Nine he had confirmed Wednesday night that Moore-Gilbert was coming home, and spoke with her on Thursday. “The tone of her voice was very uplifting, particularly given what she has been through,” he said. Asked about the swap, Morrison said he “wouldn’t go into those details, confirm them one way or the other” but said he could assure Australians there had been nothing done to prejudice their safety and no prisoners were released in Australia. Moore-Gilbert was a Melbourne University lecturer on Middle Eastern studies when she was picked up at the Tehran airport as she tried to leave the country after attending an academic conference in 2018. She was sent to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, convicted of spying and sentenced to 10 years. She had vehemently denied the charges and maintained her innocence.

India braces for cyclone

NEW DELHI — Tens of thousands of people fled their homes in low-lying areas of southern India and moved to evacuation shelters on Wednesday to escape a cyclone that was barreling toward the region’s coast. Cyclone Nivar is expected to bring heavy downpours after slamming ashore near Mamallapuram and Karaikal in Tamil Nadu state, the Meteorological Department said. The storm, with sustained winds of 75 miles per hour and gusts of up to 90 mph, is likely to damage crops, trees, houses and electrical poles, it said in a statement.

Nurse dies saving paraplegic

DELHI, La. — A 64-year-old home nurse died saving her 71-year-old paraplegic patient from a fire. The homeowner told investigators Gwendolyn Theus tried several times to wheel her bed out of her room and was trying to push her out of a window Monday evening when smoke overpowered the nurse, a news release said. Firefighters pulled both women from the bedroom and administered CPR to them. The statement said the older woman was airlifted from her home in Delhi to a burn unit in Mississippi and is expected to recover. “Ms. Theus’ valiant efforts to put her patient’s life before her own are both admirable and heartbreaking,” State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning said. “Our prayers are with her loved ones and with the surviving victim for her recovery and loss of her dedicated nurse and friend.”

Drove into Merkel’s gate, again

BERLIN — A car crashed into the front gate of the building housing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s offices on Wednesday morning, causing minor damage, authorities said. The driver, who authorities say had been involved in an almost identical incident six years ago, was detained. The Volkswagen station wagon hit the gate to the German chancellery at about 10 a.m. The slogan “You damned murderers of children and old people” was scrawled in white paint on one side of the car and “stop the globalization policies” was on the other. The 54-year-old driver was detained at the scene after driving at a slow speed into the gate and was being questioned. He said police were investigating whether he might be psychologically disturbed or had other motivations. The same man had already been involved in an almost identical incident in 2014.

Depp can’t appeal libel ruling

LONDON — A judge has refused Johnny Depp permission to appeal against a British court’s ruling that he assaulted ex-wife Amber Heard. Earlier this month a High Court judge rejected Depp’s claim that a newspaper had committed libel when it called him a “wife-beater.” Judge Andrew Nicol said the article in The Sun was “substantially true.” Depp is seeking to overturn the judgment. But in a setback for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star, Nicol denied permission to appeal, saying “I do not consider that the proposed grounds of appeal have a reasonable prospect of success.” In a ruling made public on Wednesday, the judge also ordered Depp to make an initial payment of almost 630,000 pounds ($840,000) to News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, to cover its legal fees. Depp can still apply directly to the Court of Appeal, and has until Dec. 7 to do so.

Biden introduces security team

WILMINGTON, Del. — Declaring “America is back,” President-elect Joe Biden introduced his national security team, his first substantive offering of how he’ll shift from Trump-era “America First” policies by relying on experts from the Democratic establishment to be some of his most important advisers. “Together, these public servants will restore America globally, its global leadership and its moral leadership,” Biden said Tuesday from a theater in his longtime home here. The president-elect’s team includes Antony Blinken, a veteran foreign policy hand well-regarded on Capitol Hill whose ties to Biden go back some 20 years, for secretary of state; lawyer Alejandro Mayorkas to be homeland security secretary; veteran diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Obama White House alumnus Jake Sullivan as national security adviser. Avril Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, was picked to serve as director of national intelligence, the first woman to hold that post, and former Secretary of State John Kerry will make a curtain call as a special envoy on climate change. Kerry and Sullivan’s position will not require Senate confirmation. With the Senate’s balance of power hinging on two runoff races in Georgia that will be decided in January, some Senate Republicans have already expressed antipathy to Biden’s picks as little more than Obama world retreads.

$1.7M theft of armored car

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Describing it as “something out of the 1930s,” authorities say a former guard and two others stole more than $1.7 million from an armored car parked outside an Atlantic City casino earlier this month. Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner said Tuesday that Dante McCluney of Newark was charged with burglary, theft and conspiracy in connection with the Nov. 5 theft from an armored car parked outside Bally’s casino. Two others who participated in the theft have been identified but are not yet in custody, the prosecutor said. The vehicle was owned by Rapid Armored Corporation of Brooklyn, New York. Video surveillance footage from the casino revealed three men entering the vehicle and removing what appeared to be bags of cash. The suspects then got into a gray Hyundai sedan and drove away. McCluney was previously employed by Rapid Armored as an armed guard where he worked the run that serviced Bally’s and became familiar with its timing and procedures, the prosecutor said. Two employees of the armored car company identified McCluney from other video footage shot from the Boardwalk that shows him and the two others driving up in the same Hyundai, parking near the armored car and walking toward it.

Meghan reveals she miscarried

LONDON — The Duchess of Sussex has revealed that she had a miscarriage in July, giving a personal account of the traumatic experience in hope of helping others. Meghan described the miscarriage in an opinion piece in The New York Times on Wednesday, writing that “I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second.” The former Meghan Markle and husband Prince Harry have an 18-month-old son, Archie. The duchess, 39, said she was sharing her story to help break the silence around an all-too-common tragedy. Britain’s National Health Service says about one in eight pregnancies in which a woman is aware she is pregnant ends in miscarriage. “Losing a child means carrying an almost unbearable grief, experienced by many but talked about by few,” Meghan wrote. “In being invited to share our pain, together we take the first steps toward healing.” In a startlingly intimate account of her experience, the duchess described how tragedy struck on a “morning that began as ordinarily as any other day: Make breakfast. Feed the dogs. Take vitamins. Find that missing sock. Pick up the rogue crayon that rolled under the table. Throw my hair in a ponytail before getting my son from his crib. After changing his diaper, I felt a sharp cramp. I dropped to the floor with him in my arms, humming a lullaby to keep us both calm, the cheerful tune a stark contrast to my sense that something was not right.” Later, she said, she “lay in a hospital bed, holding my husband’s hand. I felt the clamminess of his palm and kissed his knuckles, wet from both our tears. Staring at the cold white walls, my eyes glazed over. I tried to imagine how we’d heal.”

Bus-truck collision leaves 40 dead

RIO DE JANEIRO — A bus carrying employees of a textile company and a truck collided on a highway in Brazil’s Sao Paulo state early Wednesday, killing 40 people, officials said. Rescuers were helping the wounded and passengers caught in the wreckage of the vehicles in the municipality of Taguai, about (217 miles from Sao Paulo.

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