Briefs: Debate begins for who's first in line for COVID-19 vaccine

Nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot as the world's biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Associated Press

Microsoft confirms talks seeking to buy US arm of TikTok; parents struggle as schools reopen and more

The Associated Press

Debate begins for who's first in line for COVID-19 vaccine

Who gets to be first in line for a COVID-19 vaccine? U.S. health authorities hope by late next month to have some draft guidance on how to ration initial doses, but it's a vexing decision. 

"Not everybody's going to like the answer," Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, recently told one of the advisory groups the government asked to help decide. "There will be many people who feel that they should have been at the top of the list."

Traditionally, first in line for a scarce vaccine are health workers and the people most vulnerable to the targeted infection.

But Collins tossed new ideas into the mix: Consider geography and give priority to people where an outbreak is hitting hardest. 

And don't forget volunteers in the final stage of vaccine testing who get dummy shots, the comparison group needed to tell if the real shots truly work. 

Parents struggle as schools reopen amid coronavirus surge

Shannon Dunn has to report in person to her job this week as a cafeteria manager at at elementary school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but she has no idea what she'll do when her daughter starts kindergarten with online-only instruction.

As a new school year begins this week in some states, Dunn, like many working parents, is struggling to balance her job with her child's school work as the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause upheaval in school districts around the country.

Dunn's East Baton Rouge school district has asked school employees to begin work this week, while students are set to begin virtual classes next week. School officials have said they hope to begin in-person classes after Labor Day.

"My family works. I have no one I can take her to and say, okay, at 12 o'clock you are going to have to start working online with her for school," Dunn said. 

Parents in Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee are among those who will be the first to navigate the new academic year as schools open up in parts of those states this week.

Islamic State attack on Afghan prison, killing 21, rages on

JALALABAD, Afghanistan (AP) — An Islamic State group attack on a prison in eastern Afghanistan holding hundreds of its members raged on Monday after killing at least 21 people in fighting overnight, a local official said.

Another 43 people have been wounded in the assault that began late Sunday when an Islamic State suicide bomber slammed his explosive-laden vehicle into the Jalalabad prison's entrance. 

Militants then opened fire on security forces at the prison in the capital of Nangarhar province, some 115 kilometers (70 miles) east of Kabul. 

Three attackers have been killed so far but the battle continued Monday with sporadic gunfire still coming from the prison grounds and nearby residential compound, said Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province.

The dead included civilians, prisoners, guards and Afghan security forces, Khogyani said.

Microsoft confirms talks seeking to buy US arm of TikTok

NEW YORK (AP) — Microsoft confirmed Sunday it is in talks with Chinese company ByteDance to acquire the U.S. arm of its popular video app TikTok and has discussed with President Donald Trump his concerns about security and censorship surrounding such an acquisition.

In a statement, Microsoft said Microsoft and ByteDance have provided notice of their intent to explore a deal resulting in Microsoft owning and operating the TikTok service in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The company said it expects those talks to conclude by Sept. 15. 

Trump said on Friday that he would soon ban TikTok in the United States. Trump and CEO Satya Nadella have spoken, the company said, and Microsoft was prepared to continue exploring the purchase of TikTok's U.S. operations after their conversation.

"Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President's concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury," the Microsoft statement said.

The White House did not immediately comment on the Microsoft statement.

Idaho hearing could offer new details in missing kids' case

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Prosecutors on Monday plan to begin sketching out their evidence against a couple at the center of a bizarre case of two missing children whose bodies were later unearthed in rural Idaho, offering potential new details in an investigation with ties to doomsday beliefs and other mysterious deaths that captivated worldwide attention. 

The preliminary hearing will help a judge decide if the charges against Chad Daybell will move forward in state court. Daybell, 52, is charged with concealing evidence by destroying or hiding the bodies of 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan at his eastern Idaho home. Investigators found their remains during a search in June, months after the kids were last seen in September.

Daybell late last year married the kids' mom, Lori Vallow Daybell, who's charged with conspiring to help him keep the bodies hidden and faces the same hearing next week. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Authorities haven't yet said how the children died or who caused their deaths. Court documents suggest JJ was buried in a pet cemetery on Chad Daybell's property and that Tylee's remains were dismembered and burned. Investigators found the bodies by tracking the movements of Lori's brother, Alex Cox, using cellphone data. 

Cox is also dead, succumbing to an apparent blood clot in his lung at his Arizona home last December. Police Lt. Ron Ball in the small town of Rexburg, Idaho, wrote in court documents that Cox also was involved in the conspiracy to hide the kids' remains.

SpaceX capsule and NASA crew make 1st splashdown in 45 years

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Two NASA astronauts returned to Earth on Sunday in a dramatic, retro-style splashdown, their capsule parachuting into the Gulf of Mexico to close out an unprecedented test flight by Elon Musk's SpaceX company.

It was the first splashdown by U.S. astronauts in 45 years, with the first commercially built and operated spacecraft to carry people to and from orbit. The return clears the way for another SpaceX crew launch as early as next month and possible tourist flights next year.

Test pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken arrived back on Earth in their SpaceX Dragon capsule named Endeavour, less than a day after departing the International Space Station and two months after blasting off from Florida. The capsule parachuted into the calm gulf waters about 40 miles off the coast of Pensacola, hundreds of miles from Tropical Storm Isaias pounding Florida's Atlantic coast. 

"Welcome back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX," said Mission Control from SpaceX headquarters.

"It's a little bit overwhelming to see everybody here considering the things that have gone on the last few months since we've been off planet," Hurley said after arriving back home in Houston Sunday evening where they were greeted by a small masked-gathering of family and officials, including Musk.

Isaias strengthens slightly as it crawls up Florida coast

VERO BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Bands of heavy rain from Isaias lashed Florida's east coast Sunday, with the tropical storm strengthening slightly and forecast to be near hurricane strength by the time it reaches the Carolinas.

Officials dealing with surging cases of the coronavirus in Florida kept a close watch on the storm that was weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm Saturday afternoon, but still brought heavy rain and flooding to Florida's Atlantic coast.

The National Hurricane Center advised at 11 p.m. EDT Sunday that the storm was centered about 50 miles  east of Cape Canaveral, Florida, and about 365 miles south of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

It strengthened slightly earlier in the evening with maximum sustained winds just under a Category 1 hurricane, taking a north-northwest path, according to the center.

"Don't be fooled by the downgrade," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned at a news conference after the storm — pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs — spent hours roughing up the Bahamas.

HSBC says net profit plunged 96 percent in 2Q as pandemic took hold

LONDON — Europe's biggest bank, HSBC, said Monday that its net profit plummeted 96 percent in the second quarter of this year as lower interest rates combined with the downturn due to the coronavirus pandemic tool hold. 

The bank's net profit was $192 million in the April-June quarter, down from $4.37 billion reported in the same period a year earlier. 

Net profit in the first quarter of the year was $1.79 billion. 

London-based HSBC has most of its business in Asia, where the pandemic began, first emerging in central China. 

Near-zero interest rates meant to help businesses keep running with cheap credit are squeezing margins for lenders. The bank forecasts expected credit losses of $8 billion-$13 billion in 2020, though it said that was "subject to a high degree of uncertainty." 

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