AP MORNING WIRE
Good morning. In today's AP Morning Wire:
- US plans to greenlight 2nd vaccine; Who's next in line for shots?
- Hack against US 'grave' threat; Trump silent, reprisals may fall to Biden.
Nigeria says more than 300 abducted schoolboys have been freed.
Debunked COVID-19 myths survive stubbornly online, despite facts.
There will be no Morning Wire on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, but look out for it the rest of the holiday period. Thank you for reading in 2020 — it was a year like no other in living memory. All the best for the holidays and wishing you a healthy and safe 2021.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR – GLOBAL NEWS COORDINATION, LONDON
AP PHOTO/DAVID GOLDMAN
US plans to greenlight 2nd COVID-19 vaccine; US experts debate: Who should be next in line for vaccine? California hot spot has more than 1,000 deaths in last 5 days
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it is moving quickly to authorize a second COVID-19 vaccine to battle the raging pandemic after a key advisory panel endorsed the vaccine from Moderna, paving the way for it to be added to the nationwide campaign.
The vaccination effort kicked off this week with a vaccine from Pfizer and and BioNTech.
But a second vaccine is urgently needed as coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. climb to alarming new record highs ahead of the holidays, Lauran Neergaard and Matthew Perrone report.
Shots for now are being earmarked for health care workers and nursing home residents.
Who's Next in Line? U.S. experts are debating who should be next in line for COVID-19 vaccines when more doses become available. So far, the limited number of doses are mostly going into the arms of health-care workers and nursing home residents. But 80 million more people should be able to start receiving vaccinations in the first three months of 2021. A federal advisory panel is expected to take up a proposal this weekend to place essential workers next in line. Others say seniors should get the next spot. State-to-state variations are likely to increase as more doses become available, Mike Stobbe reports.
Trump on Sidelines: Although the Trump administration helped bring about vaccinations earlier than even some of his own officials had hoped, the president has been largely absent from the effort to sell the American public on what aides hope will be a key part of his legacy. Five days into the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history, Trump has held no public events about the rollout. He hasn’t been inoculated himself. And he's tweeted only twice about the shot. Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, has taken center stage, touring a vaccine production facility this week. He is set to receive a dose himself on live television this morning. Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin report.
States Vaccine: Several states say they have been told to expect far fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in its second week of distribution. That's leading to worries about potential delays in shots for health care workers and long-term care residents. But senior Trump administration officials have downplayed the risk of delays.
California Crisis: The nation’s most populous state emerges as the latest epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. Health authorities in the state have reported a one-day record of 379 virus deaths and more than 52,000 new confirmed cases. The staggering new figures mean California has seen more than 1,000 deaths in the past five days and nearly 106,000 cases in just two days. Many of the state's hospitals are now running out of capacity to treat the severest cases. California’s pandemic death toll now stands at 21,860. The state has also seen the most cases in the nation with more than 1.7 million confirmed, John Antczak and Amy Taxin report.
Hospitals across California have all but run out of intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients, ambulances are backing up outside emergency rooms, and tents for triaging the sick are going up.
Wisconsin Nuns: Eight nuns living at a retirement home for sisters in suburban Milwaukee have died of the virus in the past week, according to the School Sisters of Notre Dame Central Pacific Province. The congregation says there are other confirmed cases of the coronavirus among roughly 100 sisters living there.
France Macron: President Emmanuel Macron is riding out the virus in a presidential retreat at Versailles. Meanwhile French doctors have warned families ahead of the holidays to remain cautious because of a rise in infections, especially at the dinner table. While Macron routinely wears a mask and adheres to social distancing rules, he hosted or took part in multiple group meals in the days before testing positive. Critics say that’s a bad example for compatriots advised to keep their gatherings to six people. Macron is suffering from fever, cough and fatigue, but officials say he is continuing to work.
South Korea Spike: The country has reported 1,062 new cases of the virus, its third straight day of over 1,000, as authorities in Seoul warn that hospital beds are in short supply. The city says an explosive growth in patients this month has resulted in an overload in administrative and medical systems.
Germany Homeless: Berlin's biggest restaurant, forced to close due to the pandemic, has opened its doors to homeless people. Starting this week, the Hofbraeu Berlin offers free meals, a place to warm up and counseling for up to 150 homeless people per day. Several thousand homeless people live in the German capital and they are struggling even more now. There are fewer places in shelters because of distancing and hygiene measures, and less money to be made panhandling or collecting bottles for recycling because there are simply fewer people outside, Kirsten Grieshaber reports from Berlin.
PHOTOS: ICU nurse couple in Italy bring family love to ward. Juggling work in the pandemic and family life is tricky but parents Maurizio Di Giacobbe and Glenda Grossi will celebrate Christmas together — this year they both managed to get Dec. 25 off work. But they won’t have the grandparents, aunts and uncles around their holiday table. They want to protect them. Alessandra Tarantino and Maria Grazia Murru report from Rome.
AP PHOTO/PATRICK SEMANSKY
Hack against US is 'grave' threat, cybersecurity agency says; With Trump silent, reprisals for hacks may fall to Biden
Federal authorities expressed increased alarm about a long-undetected intrusion into U.S. and other computer systems around the globe that officials suspect was carried out by Russian hackers.
The hack creates a fresh foreign policy problem for President Donald Trump in his final days in office. President-elect Joe Biden says his new administration “will make dealing with this breach a top priority from the moment we take office.”
Hacking Consequences: All fingers are pointing to Russia as the source of a punishing hack. But Trump, long wary of blaming Moscow for cyberattacks, has so far been silent. The lack of any statement seeking to hold Russia responsible casts doubt on the likelihood of a swift response to the attacks and suggests any retaliation will be left in the hands of President-elect Joe Biden's incoming administration.
The new administration could have a full menu of choices in responding. They include criminal charges, sanctions or retaliations in cyberspace. Exposing Kremlin corruption, including how Russian President Vladimir Putin accrues and hides his wealth, may amount to even more formidable retaliation. Eric Tucker, Frank Bajak and Matthew Lee report.
AP PHOTO/SUNDAY ALAMBA
Nigeria says more than 300 abducted schoolboys have been freed; Boy tells of his his kidnap and escape from Boko Haram
More than 300 schoolboys abducted last week by gunmen in northwest Nigeria have been released.
The Katsina State Governor Aminu Bello Masari said the 344 boarding school students were turned over to security officials and were being brought to the state capital, where they will get physical examinations before being reunited with their families, Carley Petesch and Lekan Oyekanmi report.
News of the release came shortly after a video was released by the jihadist rebels of Boko Haram that purportedly showed the abducted boys. The group claimed responsibility for the kidnappings. It was not disclosed whether the government paid any ransom.
One of the students who escaped before the release told the AP the story of how he got away from his kidnappers.
It was late Friday night when 17-year-old Usama Aminu heard gunshots, at first thinking they had come from the nearby town. As soon as he and the other students at the school realized there was a raid on the school, they scrambled out of their dormitory and scaled the school's fence in the pandemonium.
He said his captors wore military uniforms and that he also saw gun-toting teens, some younger than him, aiding the attackers. Aminu escaped at night. He was able to return home after being found by a resident in a mosque who gave him a change of clothes and money.
The attack has been claimed by Boko Haram, Nigeria's jihadist rebels, who released a video purportedly showing some of the abducted boys.
The mass abduction of the schoolboys had prompted an outcry in the West African nation against the government for not doing enough to stop attacks on schools.
A deluge of false information about COVID-19 followed the virus as it circled the globe over the past year.
Public health officials, fact checkers and doctors tried to quash hundreds of rumors, including speculation that the virus was created in a lab and hoax cures.
But with the U.S., Britain and Canada now administering vaccines to millions of people, many falsehoods are seeing a resurgence online, Amanda Seitz and Beatrice Dupuy report.
Among the debunked myths that still float around online: masks don't protect you from the virus, the virus was man-made and COVID-19 death tolls are exaggerated by officials.
All false, but experts fear this misinformation could contribute to hesitancy over taking the vaccine.
A survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conducted earlier this month showed that only half of Americans said they were willing to get the vaccine. And there are doubts among sectors of the population in other countries as well.
Other Top Stories
Iran has begun construction at its underground nuclear facility at Fordo amid tensions with the U.S. over its atomic program. That's according to satellite images obtained by the AP. Those images from Maxar Technologies show Iran has cleared and dug out a site potentially for a building at Fordo's northwest corner. That's where analysts previously identified a cluster of buildings as providing support and research and development there. Iran has not publicly acknowledged the construction.
Joe Biden has picked New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland as interior secretary. The historic pick would make Haaland the first Native American to lead the powerful federal agency, which has wielded influence over the nation's tribes for generations. If confirmed by the Senate, the first-term congresswoman would also be the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history. Tribal leaders and activists around the country, along with many Democratic figures, have urged Biden for weeks to choose Haaland to lead the Department of Interior. Haaland promised to “be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.”
Russia will not be able to use its name, flag or anthem at the next two Olympics or at any world championships for the next two years. The Court of Arbitration for Sport halved the four-year ban proposed last year by the World Anti-Doping Agency in a landmark case that accused Russia of state-ordered tampering of a testing laboratory database in Moscow. The ruling also blocked Russia from bidding to host major sporting events for two years. Russian athletes and teams will still be allowed to compete at next year’s Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing if they are not implicated in doping.
The northeastern U.S. is digging out after a whopper of a storm buried some areas under more than 3 feet of snow. The storm broke records and left plow drivers struggling to clear the roads as snow fell fast. Suburban Albany, New York, got 30 inches. Binghamton, New York, got a record 42 inches of snow. Boston's 9 inches broke the previous record for the date. Much of Pennsylvania saw accumulations in the double digits. And New York City got more from this storm than it did all last winter.