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Second vaccine shows success

A second experimental COVID-19 vaccine — this one from Moderna Inc. — yielded extraordinarily strong early results Monday, another badly needed dose of hope as the pandemic enters a terrible new phase. Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from an ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own vaccine looked 90% effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the U.S. A vaccine can’t come fast enough, as virus cases topped 11 million in the U.S. over the weekend — 1 million of them recorded in just the past week — and governors and mayors are ratcheting up restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving. The outbreak has killed more than 1.3 million people worldwide, over 246,000 of them in the U.S. Stocks rallied on Wall Street and around the world on rising hopes that the global economy could start returning to normal in the coming months. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained more than 470 points, or 1.6%, to close at a record high of over 29,950. Moderna stock was up almost 10%. Both vaccines require two shots, given several weeks apart. U.S. officials said they hope to have about 20 million Moderna doses and another 20 million of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech to use in late December. If the Food and Drug Administration allows emergency use of Moderna’s or Pfizer’s candidate, there will be limited, rationed supplies before the end of the year.

Wahlberg again leaves $2,020

PLYMOUTH, Mass. — Actor Donnie Wahlberg recently left a $2,020 tip at a Massachusetts restaurant, continuing his habit of leaving generous gratuities to brighten the days of wait staff. The “Blue Bloods” actor and former member of boy band New Kids on the Block left the tip on a $35.27 lunchtime bill at Marshland 3A, a restaurant located in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on Nov. 7. A photo of the receipt posted by the restaurant on Facebook reads #2020TipChallenge, a hashtag that encourages people to tip generously. “A very special thank you to our friend @donniewahlberg!,” the restaurant wrote in its post. “When asked about it all he said was ‘who’s up next?!'” Wahlberg, a Boston native, left a $2,020 tip at an Illinois IHOP earlier this year and in 2017, left a $2,000 tip at a Waffle House in North Carolina.

Moranis suspect attacked others

NEW YORK Prosecutors say the man accused of punching actor Rick Moranis is a suspect in multiple other unprovoked attacks on people in New York City. At a Manhattan Criminal Court hearing on Sunday, prosecutors said Marquis Ventura, 35, is charged in five assaults on strangers that took place in the last six months, the New York Post reported. Ventura allegedly attacked the owner of a liquor store in Soho hours after he punched Moranis in the face on Oct. 1 in what police called a “random, unprovoked assault.” Moranis is well known for his roles in movies like “Ghostbusters,” “Spaceballs” and “Honey I Shrunk the Kids.” Judge Nicholas Moyne ordered a psychiatric examination for Ventura. An attorney for Ventura, Autumn Levine, said he has a diagnosis of schizophrenia, a serious mental illness, and has previously been in in-patient mental health treatment. She said he was not on his medication, the newspaper reported.

Sinbad recovering from stroke

NEW YORK — The family of Sinbad says the comedian-actor is recovering from a recent stroke. The Adkins family says in a statement Monday that “it is out of sincere love that we share Sinbad, our beloved husband and father, is recovering from a recent stroke. Sinbad, 64, born David Adkins, is known for his stand-up work and appearances in the sitcom “A Different World.”

Jet hits brown bear while landing

YAKUTAT, Alaska — An Alaska Airlines jetliner struck a brown bear while landing early Saturday evening, killing the animal and causing damage to the plane. None of the passengers or crew members on board the plane were injured during the accident at the Yakutat Airport in southeast Alaska, The Anchorage Daily News reported. The Boeing 737-700 killed the brown bear sow, but a cub thought to be about 2 years old was uninjured. Airport crew members had cleared the runway about 10 minutes before the flight was expected to land. The plane landed after dark and crews followed normal procedures for runway checks. The staff did not see signs of wildlife during the check, but the pilots spotted the two bears crossing the runway as the jet slowed after landing.

Iota to slam Nicaragua

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Hurricane Iota rapidly strengthened Monday into a Category 5 storm that was likely to bring catastrophic damage to the same part of Central America already battered by a powerful Hurricane Eta less than two weeks ago. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm had maximum sustained winds of 160 mph at midafternoon. It was centered about 55 miles east-southeast of the Nicaraguan city of Puerto Cabezas, also known as Bilwi, and moving westward at 9 mph. Iota was lashing the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras with torrential rains and strong winds while its eye was still several hours from making landfall in northeastern Nicaragua. Authorities warned that Iota would probably come ashore over areas where Eta’s torrential rains saturated the soil, leaving it prone to new landslides and floods, and that the storm surge could reach a shocking 15 to 20 feet above normal tides.

Ancient bust found during work

ATHENS, Greece — A bust of the ancient god Hermes, in good condition, was discovered in central Athens during sewage work, authorities said Sunday. The Greek Culture Ministry said that the head, one of many that served as street markers in ancient Athens, was found Friday and it appears to be from around 300 B.C. — that is, either from the late fourth century B.C., or the early third century. It depicts Hermes at “a mature age,” the ministry said, in contrast to his usual depictions as youthful. The head is in the style of famed Greek sculpture Alcamenes, who flourished in the second half of fifth century B.C. After serving as a street marker, the head, at some point, had been built into the wall of a drainage duct.

SpaceX closes in on space station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX’s newly launched capsule with four astronauts closed in Monday on the International Space Station, their new home until spring. The Dragon capsule was due at the orbiting lab late Monday night, following a 27-hour, completely automated flight from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Commander Mike Hopkins and his crew — Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi — will join two Russians and one American who flew to the space station last month from Kazakhstan. Glover will be the first African-American to move in for a long haul. A first-time flyer, Glover was presented his gold astronaut pin Monday. The four named their capsule Resilience to provide hope and inspiration during an especially difficult year for the whole world. They broadcast a tour of their capsule Monday, showing off the touchscreen controls and storage areas. Walker said it was a little tighter for them than for the two astronauts on the test flight. “We sort of dance around each other to stay out of each other’s way,” she said.

$73M sex abuse settlement set

LOS ANGELES — The prestigious University of California system has reached a proposed $73 million settlement with seven women who accused a former gynecologist of sexual abuse. As part of the class-action lawsuit, more than 6,600 patients of Dr. James Heaps could receive part of the settlement — even if they have not accused the former University of California, Los Angeles, gynecologist of abuse. A federal judge must approve the deal between the seven plaintiffs, representing thousands of Heaps’ patients, and the University of California regents and the doctor. The proposed agreement, which includes several mandated reforms at UCLA, was filed Monday in federal court. Patients have accused Heaps of sexual assault and sexual misconduct between 1983 and 2018, when he worked at the UCLA student health center and UCLA Medical Center. Accusations include making sexually inappropriate comments to patients, touching women sexually during exams without wearing gloves and simulating intercourse, often roughly, with an ultrasound probe. The settlement is separate from criminal charges against Heaps, 63, whose medical license has been suspended by court order as that case moves forward. He’s has pleaded not guilty to the charges involving seven women and denied wrongdoing. He is due back in state court on Dec. 7.

Ex-fencing coach charged

BOSTON — The former fencing coach at Harvard and a wealthy Maryland businessman were arrested Monday on accusations that the coach took $1.5 million in bribes in exchange for helping the businessman get his two sons into the Ivy League school as recruited fencers. Peter Brand, 67, who was fired by Harvard last year, and Jie “Jack” Zhao, 61, of Potomac, Maryland, face a charge of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery. Their arrest comes more than a year after a newspaper reported that Brand sold his home for nearly double its assessed value to Zhao. Zhao also paid for Brand’s car and helped cover Brand’s son’s college tuition, prosecutors said. “Today’s arrests show how Peter Brand’s and Jie Zhao’s plan to circumvent the college admissions process ended up backfiring on both of them. Now they are accused of exchanging more than $1.5 million in bribes for their own personal benefit,” Joseph Bonavolonta, head of the FBI Boston Division, said in an emailed statement. The case is separate from the recent college admissions scandal in which an admission consultant ran a scheme to get kids into top universities across the country with rigged test scores or fake athletic credentials.

Ex-Giant cleared of robbery

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Former New York Giants cornerback DeAndre Baker was cleared of robbery charges in Florida on Monday after his alleged victims’ attorney, William Dean, 50, was arrested on extortion charges. Baker, 23, had been charged with holding up four men at gunpoint at a May barbecue in suburban Fort Lauderdale. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar, who had originally been accused of assisting Baker, had previously been cleared for lack of evidence. The sheriff’s office says Dean told Baker’s attorney, Bradford Cohen, that the three alleged victims he represented would stop cooperating with prosecutors or change their stories if they were paid $266,000 each. Investigators say Dean said his clients would “do anything you want, so long as the money is right.” Prosecutor Paul R. Valcore said in a statement that the alleged victims’ credibility “is unalterably tarnished,” making the prosecution of Baker impossible.

Puerto Rico telescope endangered

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The giant, aging cables that support one of the world’s largest single-dish radio telescopes are slowly unraveling in this U.S. territory, pushing an observatory renowned for its key role in astronomical discoveries to the brink of collapse. The Arecibo Observatory, which is tethered above a sinkhole in Puerto Rico’s lush mountain region, boasts a 1,000-foot-wide (305-meter-wide) dish featured in the Jodie Foster film “Contact” and the James Bond movie “GoldenEye.” The dish and a dome suspended above it have been used to track asteroids headed toward Earth, conduct research that led to a Nobel Prize and helped scientists trying to determine if a planet is habitable. “As someone who depends on Arecibo for my science, I’m frightened. It’s a very worrisome situation right now. There’s a possibility of cascading, catastrophic failure,” said astronomer Scott Ransom with the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves, a collaboration of scientists in the U.S. and Canada. Last week, one of the telescope’s main steel cables that was capable of sustaining 1.2 million pounds snapped under only 624,000 pounds. That failure further mangled the reflector dish after an auxiliary cable broke in August, tearing a 100-foot hole and damaging the dome above it. It’s a blow for the telescope that more than 250 scientists around the world were using. The facility is also one of Puerto Rico’s main tourist attractions, drawing some 90,000 visitors a year. Research has been suspended since August, including a project aiding scientists in their search for nearby galaxies.

Americans embrace marijuana

HELENA, Mont. — Bill Stocker could be considered the archetype of a conservative voter: He’s a retired Marine and former police officer who voted for President Donald Trump. But he’s also among the majority of South Dakota voters who broadly legalized marijuana this month. Stocker, 61, said enforcing marijuana laws gets in the way of pursuing other drug crimes and called warnings about the ills of marijuana “a bunch of baloney” that even people in a Republican stronghold like South Dakota no longer believe. South Dakota’s values of “personal responsibility and freedom” won out, said Stocker, who lives in Sioux Falls. The 2020 election helped prove how broadly accepted marijuana has become throughout the United States, with measures to legalize recreational pot also breezing to victory in progressive New Jersey, moderate Arizona and conservative Montana. Fifteen states have now broadly legalized it, while 36 states allow medical marijuana. Voters in Mississippi overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana this month, giving the drug another foothold in the South. A Gallup Poll released Nov. 9 indicated that 68% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana — double the approval rate in 2003.

Video games for your health

LONDON — Time spent playing video games can be good for mental health, according to a new study by researchers at Oxford University. The finding comes as video game sales this year have boomed as more people are stuck at home because of the pandemic and many countries have once again imposed limits on public life. The paper released Monday is based on survey responses from people who played two games, Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. In a first, the study used data provided by the game makers, Electronic Arts and Nintendo of America, on how much time the respondents spent playing, unlike previous research that relied on imprecise estimates from the players. The researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute said they found the actual amount of time spent playing was a small but significant positive factor in people’s well-being. The paper, which hasn’t been peer reviewed, said the level of enjoyment that players get from a game could be a more important factor for their well-being than mere playing time. The results could cast doubt on long-held assumptions that gaming causes aggression or addiction, though the authors acknowledge they are only a snapshot. “Our findings show video games aren’t necessarily bad for your health; there are other psychological factors which have a significant effect on a persons’ well-being,” said Andrew Przybylski, the institute’s director of research. “In fact, play can be an activity that relates positively to people’s mental health – and regulating video games could withhold those benefits from players.” Some 2,756 players of Animal Crossing: New Horizons in the U.S., U.K. and Canada were surveyed along with 518 players of Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville. They were asked to fill out a survey on their experiences that was matched up against playing time logged by the game companies. Lack of transparency from game makers has long been an issue for scientists hoping to better understand player behaviours and the authors said previous research used to propose advice for parents and policymakers was done without a robust evidence base.

Squirrel causes SC outages

A section of South Carolina’s capital city was without power Monday after a squirrel scurrying across equipment caused damage that led to a blackout. Dominion Energy said the critter caused the outages in downtown Columbia. “The squirrel came into contact with the protective device around the transformer,” company spokesman Matt Long said Monday. “Usually, let’s say if a squirrel were to touch a wire and then touch the metallic part of a breaker on a telephone line, for instance, if they hop from one to the other, they’re good, but if they touch the metal and then touch the wire, that causes an arc and it could burn out the unit.” Long could not say whether that was exactly what happened Monday but did say the transformer itself was not damaged during the “shocking” situation, just the device surrounding it. Long confirmed the squirrel was killed.

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