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Officials: All migrants are gone from Texas border camp

Migrants gone from camp

No migrants remained Friday at the Texas border encampment where almost 15,000 people — most of them Haitians — had converged just days earlier seeking asylum, local and federal officials said.

It's a dramatic change from last Saturday, when the number peaked as migrants driven by confusion over the Biden administration’s policies and misinformation on social media converged at the border crossing connecting Del Rio, Texas, and Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.

At a news conference, Del Rio Mayor Buno Lozano called it “phenomenal news.”

Many face expulsion because they are not covered by protections recently extended by the Biden administration to the more than 100,000 Haitian migrants already in the U.S., citing security concerns and social unrest in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. The devastating 2020 earthquake forced many of them from their homeland.

The United States and Mexico appeared eager to end the increasingly politicized humanitarian situation that prompted the resignation of the U.S. special envoy to Haiti and widespread outrage after images emerged of border agents maneuvering their horses to forcibly block and move migrants.

On Friday, President Joe Biden said the way the agents used their horses was “horrible” and that “people will pay” as a result. The agents have been assigned to administrative duties while the administration investigates.

“There will be consequences,” Biden told reporters. “It’s an embarrassment, but it’s beyond an embarrassment — it’s dangerous, it’s wrong, it sends the wrong message around the world and sends the wrong message at home. It’s simply not who we are.”

Later, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas spoke cautiously about the pending investigation into the use of horses. Asked about the discrepancy, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden “was not prejudging an outcome. He was speaking from the heart.” She said he is not interfering with any investigation.

Mayorkas said about 2,000 Haitians have been rapidly expelled on 17 flights since Sunday and more could be expelled in coming days under pandemic powers that deny people the chance to seek asylum.

He said the U.S. has allowed about 12,400 to enter the country, at least temporarily, while they make claims before an immigration judge to stay in the country under the asylum laws or for some other legal reason. They could ultimately be denied and would be subject to removal.

Mayorkas said about 5,000 are in DHS custody and being processed to determine whether they will be expelled or allowed to press their claim for legal residency. Some returned to Mexico.

A U.S. official with direct knowledge of the situation said six flights were scheduled to Haiti on Friday, with seven planned Saturday and six Sunday, though that was subject to change. The official was not authorized to speak publicly.

In Mexico, just over 100 migrants, most of them single men, remained Friday morning in the riverside camp in Ciudad Acuña.

Dozens of families who had been there crossed back to Del Rio overnight after Mexican authorities left the area. With the river running higher, some Border Patrol agents helped families who were struggling to cross with children.

Some migrants also moved to small hotels or private homes in Ciudad Acuña. Authorities detained six migrants at one on Thursday afternoon.

Luxon, a 31-year-old Haitian migrant who withheld his last name out of fear, said he was leaving with his wife and son for Mexicali, about 900 miles west along Mexico's border with California.

“The option was to go to a place where there aren’t a lot of people and there request documents to be legal in Mexico,” he said.

Asked about the situation in Ciudad Acuña on Friday, Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said, “we don’t want Mexico to be a migrant camp, we want the problem to be addressed fully.”

At the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition in Del Rio, migrants stepped off a white Border Patrol van on Friday, many smiling and looking relieved to have been released into the U.S. Some carried sleeping babies. A toddler walked behind her mother wrapped in a silver heat blanket.

A man who’d driven almost 1,500 miles from Toledo, Ohio, hoping to pick up a friend and her family wore a neon yellow vest and quietly scanned the line of Haitian migrants. Dave, who didn’t want to share his last name, didn’t see them in this group.

“I feel like my friend is worth my time to come down and help,” he said, explaining that he wore the vest so his friend — a nurse whom he’d met on a humanitarian trip to Haiti over a decade ago — would be able to spot him in the crowd when she arrived with her husband and 3-year-old daughter.

“I just see it as an opportunity to serve somebody,” said Dave, who considers himself a Trump supporter but hates how politicized the immigration issue has become. “We have so much.”

Lozano, the Del Rio mayor, said the international bridge won't reopen until Sunday night at the earliest, while officials ensure nobody is hiding in the brush along the Rio Grande and to finish cleanup. Officials also want to be sure no other large groups of migrants are making their way to the Del Rio area who might decide to set up a similar camp, he said.

Lozano said there were no deaths during the time the camp was occupied and that 10 babies were born to migrant mothers, either at the camp or in Del Rio’s hospital.

“It took an urban village at this scale to help prevent any loss of life and actually welcome the births of children here,” Lozano said.

The government has no plans to stop expelling some migrants on public health grounds despite pressure from Democratic lawmakers, who say Haitian migrants are being sent back to a troubled country that some left more than a decade ago.

The Trump administration enacted the policy, called Title 42, in March 2020 to justify restrictive immigration policies in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Biden administration has used it to justify the deportation of Haitian migrants.

A federal judge late last week ruled that the rule was improper and gave the government two weeks to halt it, but the Biden administration appealed.

Officials said the U.S. State Department is in talks with Brazil and Chile to allow some Haitians who previously resided there to return, but it’s complicated because some of them no longer have legal status there.

The Biden administration's special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, submitted a letter of resignation on Thursday protesting the “inhumane” large-scale expulsions of Haitian migrants.

Foote, who was appointed in July, wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, saying he was stepping down immediately “with deep disappointment and apologies to those seeking crucial changes,” and said some of his policy recommendations had been ignored.

State Department spokesman Ned Price disputed Foote’s assertions, saying his proposals had been “fully considered in a rigorous and transparent policy process.”

The humanitarian group UNICEF also condemned the expulsions, saying Thursday that initial estimates show more than two out of three migrants expelled to Haiti are women and children, including newborns.

“Haiti is reeling from the triple tragedy of natural disasters, gang violence and the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director, who said those sent back without adequate protection “find themselves even more vulnerable to violence, poverty and displacement — factors that drove them to migrate in the first place.”

And Civil Rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton, who toured the camp on Thursday, vowed to “stand with our people and make sure asylum is treated in one way and one manner.”



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NY hospitals, schools fear staff shortage from vaccine rules

Staff shortages feared

Some of the nation's most aggressive COVID-19 vaccine mandates are scheduled to take effect Monday in New York amid continued resistance from some to the shots, leaving hospitals and nursing homes across the state and schools in New York City bracing for possible staff shortages.

Many health care workers, including support staff such as cleaners, have still not yet received a required first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine days before a Sept. 27 deadline. That's the same deadline for teachers and school workers in New York City to prove they've received at least one shot.

That left the prospect of potentially thousands of health care workers and teachers being forced off the job next week.

Despite calls from unions and administrators to delay the mandates, Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio showed no signs of backing down.

“Every single person who is in your care has the right to know that there is no chance they will be infected by the person in charge of protecting them and their health,” Hochul, a Democrat, said Thursday.

Hospitals and nursing homes were preparing contingency plans that included cutting back on elective surgeries and, at one hospital, halting maternity services. Nursing homes were limiting admissions. The state’s largest health care provider, Northwell Health, was keeping thousands of volunteers on standby.

“We would like to see some more time to be able to comply and implement the vaccine mandate, because at the end of the day it’s a situation where we’re very concerned about our ability to care for the patients,” said Tom Quatroche, CEO of the Erie County Medical Center Corporation, which operates a busy 573-bed hospital in Buffalo.

It anticipates that about 10% of its workforce, or 400 staff members, might still be unvaccinated Monday. Under a contingency plan, the hospital said it would suspend elective inpatient surgeries, temporarily stop accepting ICU transfers from other institutions and reduce hours at clinics.

New York is not the only state to require health care workers to get vaccinated. But it has been especially aggressive in pushing for wider vaccinations to help limit the spread of the virus.

The mayor and governor said workers had plenty of time to get the shots. The mandate for state health care workers was announced this summer. New York City announced in July that its teachers would need to either get vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 weekly, but it then revoked the test-out option in August.

While most school workers have been vaccinated, inducing nearly 90% of teachers as of Thursday, unions representing New York City principals and teachers warned that could still leave the 1 million student school system short of as many as 10,000 teachers, along with other staff such as cafeteria workers and school police officers.

Those who don’t provide proof of a shot by the end of Monday will not be allowed to return to classrooms Tuesday, which will leave principals scrambling overnight to make sure they have enough substitutes, educators warned.

The unions said that while they've encouraged everyone to get vaccinated, some schools could be dangerously low on staff Tuesday. They pleaded for the mayor to delay the mandate after a judge refused to halt the rule.

“We are concerned. Very, very concerned," United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said.

Mark Cannizzaro, the president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, said some schools have as many as 100 staff members not in compliance.

De Blasio insisted the city was ready.

“We’ve been planning all along. We have a lot of substitutes ready,” the Democrat said in a radio interview on Friday. “A lot is going to happen between now and Monday but beyond that, we are ready, even to the tune of, if we need thousands, we have thousands.”

The mandate for health care workers comes as hospitals are already reeling from staff shortages due in part to rising demand, workers retiring and weary employees seeking other jobs after 18 months of the pandemic.

There is one option for health care workers who don't want to get the shot, which is to apply for a religious exemption. That would buy them until at least Oct. 12, while a federal judge considers a legal challenge arguing that such exemptions are constitutionally required.

With time ticking down on the health care mandate, Northwell Health was trying to persuade thousands of holdouts to get vaccinated, including individual meetings with staffers. The system’s personnel chief, Maxine Carrington, said they're seeing a lot more appointments being scheduled.

“I’ve had personal conversations with team members, and I was asked by one: ‘Are you really going to fire us on the 27th?’ And I said, let’s put that aside for a minute and let’s talk about saving your life. Why don’t you want to get vaccinated?” Carrington said.

She said staff that refuse the inoculations will "no longer be qualified for employment.”

As of Thursday, about 90% of Northwell's 74,000 active personnel had been vaccinated. Still, the hospital system acknowledged that it did not expect full compliance and had more than 3,000 retirees, volunteers and health care students on standby, should they be needed.

The University of Rochester Medical Center, in the state’s fourth largest city, announced a two-week pause in scheduling new elective procedures at its Strong Memorial Hospital beginning Monday. It also is temporarily closing two urgent care centers.

One wild card is no one knows if a burst of health care workers will simply wait until the last minute to get a jab.

One hopeful sign: New York-Presbyterian, one of the state's largest hospital systems, had imposed an earlier vaccination deadline on its workers — midnight Wednesday — and reported fewer than 250 of its 48,000 staffers had failed to comply.

Spokesperson Alexandra Langan said in an email: “For those who chose not to comply, they will not continue to work at NYP.”

New York state has been averaging just under 5,000 new COVID-19 cases per day with around 2,300 people hospitalized. That’s far worse than in late June, when around 300 people were testing positive each day statewide.



Pope keeps German archbishop criticized over abuse scandal

Pope keeps archbishop

Pope Francis has decided to leave in office a prominent German archbishop who has faced criticism for his handling of the church's sexual abuse scandal, but the cleric has decided to take a several-month time out, his archdiocese said Friday.

The Vatican said that the pope “is counting on” the archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, the archdiocese said in a statement. However, it added that Woelki asked for a “spiritual time out” from mid-October to the beginning of March, and that the pontiff granted it. The aim is “to be able to think and to open space for confidence to grow again," the statement added.

Woelki has become a deeply divisive figure in the German church.

A report commissioned by the archbishop and issued in March found 75 cases in which eight high-ranking officials — including Woelki’s late predecessor — neglected their duties to either follow up on, report or sanction cases of alleged abuse by clergy and lay church employees, and failed to take care of the victims.

Hamburg Archbishop Stefan Hesse, previously a senior church official in Cologne, was faulted for 11 cases of neglecting his duty. Hesse offered his resignation to Francis, who eventually rejected it last week.

The report absolved Woelki himself of any neglect of his legal duty with respect to abuse victims. He subsequently said he made mistakes in past cases involving sexual abuse allegations, but made clear he had no intention of resigning.

Woelki infuriated many local Catholics by citing legal concerns to keep under wraps a first report on how local church officials reacted when priests were accused of sexual abuse. He commissioned the new report — an 800-page investigation based on church files and put together by a German law firm.

A pair of papal envoys were dispatched to Cologne in June to investigate possible mistakes by senior church officials in handling past sexual abuse cases and the “complex pastoral situation” in the church there.

During Woelki's absence, auxiliary bishop Rolf Steinhaeuser will run the archdiocese as an “apostolic administrator.”



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North Korea proposes talks if South Korea lifts 'hostility'

North Korea ready to talk

The influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Friday her country is willing to resume talks with South Korea if it doesn’t provoke the North with hostile policies and double standards.

Kim Yo Jong’s statement was a response to South Korean President Moon Jae-in's renewed calls for a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War as a way to bring back peace. Her proposal also came days after North Korea performed its first missile tests in six months and South Korea performed its first test of a submarine-launched missile.

“If (South) Korea distances itself from the past when it provoked us and criticized us at every step with its double standards and restores sincerity in its words and actions and abandons its hostility, we would then be willing to resume close communication and engage in constructive discussions about restoring and developing relations," Kim Yo Jong said.

To achieve the end-of-the war declaration, she said: “We must ensure mutual respect toward one another and abandon prejudiced views, harshly hostile policies and unfair double standards toward the other side first.”

Her comments were a contrast to a blunt statement by a senior North Korean diplomat earlier Friday that the end-of-war declaration could be used as a “smokescreen covering up the U.S. hostile policy” against the North.

Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae Song American weapons and troops deployed in South Korea and its vicinity and regular U.S. military drills in the region “all point to the U.S. hostile policy toward (North Korea) getting vicious day by day.” North Korea has also long described U.S.-led economic sanctions as proof of U.S. hostility against the North.

In a response to Ri's statement, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it’ll continue its efforts to adopt the end-of-the war declaration and strengthen cooperation with related countries. Cha Duck Chul, a deputy ministry spokesman, said declaring the war’s end would be “a very meaningful step” as it could be a starting point for peace negotiations and denuclearization on the peninsula.

The Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula in a technical state of war. North Korea has steadily wanted to sign a peace treaty with the United States to formally end the war and for subsequent improved relations. Some experts say the peace treaty could allow North Korea to demand the United States to withdraw its 28,500 troops in South Korea and ease sanctions.

Both Koreas had called for an end-of-war declaration to be made and a peace treaty to be signed during the period of diplomacy with the United States that began in 2018, and there was speculation then-President Donald Trump might announce the war’s end in early 2019 to convince North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to commit to denuclearization.

No such announcement was made as the diplomacy faded to a stalemate over easing the sanctions in return for North Korea denuclearizing. In late 2019, North Korea said the nuclear crisis won’t be resolved if the United States sought to persuade it to return to the talks with a proposal on the war-end declaration without withdrawing its hostile policy.

In recent months, Kim has warned that North Korea would bolster its nuclear arsenal and introduce more sophisticated weapons systems unless the United States drops its hostile policy. Last week, North Korea conducted its first cruise and ballistic missile tests since March, demonstrating its ability to launch attacks on South Korea and Japan, two key U.S. allies where a total of 80,000 American soldiers are stationed.



Police: 1 dead, 12 wounded in store shooting; shooter dead

Tennessee store shooting

A shooting at a Tennessee grocery store left one person dead and 12 others injured Thursday afternoon, and the shooter was subsequently found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at the store in an upscale suburb of Memphis, authorities said.

Collierville Police Chief Dale Lane said the shooting broke out at a Kroger store in his suburban community about 30 miles east of Memphis. He said 13 people in all were shot and the 12 of them were taken to hospitals, some with very serious injuries.

He said a police SWAT team and other officers went aisle to aisle in the store to find people who sought cover or were in hiding, removing them to safety. He said the shooter was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“We found people hiding in freezers, in locked offices. They were doing what they had been trained to do: run, hide, fight," the chief said without elaborating.

The identities of the shooter and the victims were not immediately released.

Lane said it was a sad day for his department as he spoke at a news conference after the shooting near the scene.

“I've been involved in this for 34 years and I’ve never seen anything like it," he told reporters.

He added investigators are working to sort out what happened and added, “It’s going to take a little bit before we know what happened.”

“Let’s get through the investigation,” Lane said at the Thursday afternoon news conference. "Remember, we’re two hours away from the most horrific event that’s occurred in Collierville history.”

Elsewhere, Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee tweeted that her office was in touch with local authorities and with agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. She added that she was “closely monitoring the situation” and offered prayers for the victims.



Louisiana state trooper charged in pummeling of Black man

State trooper charged

A former Louisiana State Police trooper has been charged with a civil rights violation for pummeling a Black motorist 18 times with a flashlight — the first criminal case to emerge from federal investigations into troopers' beatings of at least three Black men.

A grand jury on Thursday indicted Jacob Brown for the 2019 beating following a traffic stop that left Aaron Larry Bowman with a broken jaw, broken ribs and a gash to his head. Brown was charged with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, federal prosecutors said.

Brown's indictment comes as the federal prosecutors on the case are scrutinizing other troopers who punched, stunned and dragged another Black motorist, Ronald Greene, before he died in their custody on a rural roadside. The probe of Greene's 2019 death has grown to examine whether police brass obstructed justice to protect the troopers who beat the Black motorist after a high-speed chase.

Body camera video of both beatings, which took place less than three weeks and 20 miles (32 kilometers) apart, remained under wraps before the AP obtained and published them this year. They are among a dozen cases over the past decade in which an AP investigation found troopers or their bosses ignored or concealed evidence of beatings, deflected blame and impeded efforts to root out misconduct.

“The department has previously acknowledged that it has open and ongoing criminal investigations into incidents involving the Louisiana State Police that resulted in death or bodily injury to arrestees," the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement. "Those investigations remain ongoing.”

Brown’s attorney, Scott Wolleson, declined to comment. Capt. Nick Manale, a state police spokesman, said Brown “engaged in excessive and unjustifiable actions and failed to report the use of force to his supervisors.”

“Any instance of unjustifiable use of force jeopardizes public safety and is a danger to our communities,” Manale said in an email. “These actions are inexcusable and have no place in professional public safety services.”

Bowman’s attorney, Donecia Banks-Miley, called the indictment “a sigh of relief.”

“We’re just trying to remain hopeful and trust the process of justice,” she told The Associated Press. “Aaron is extremely happy and he just wants full justice.”

On the May night Bowman was pulled over for a traffic violation, Brown came upon the scene after deputies had forcibly removed Bowman from his vehicle and taken him to the ground. The trooper later told investigators he “was in the area and was trying to get involved.”

Video and police records show he beat Bowman 18 times with a flashlight in 24 seconds after deputies pulled him over for a traffic violation near his Monroe home. Brown later said Bowman had struck a deputy and the blows were “pain compliance” intended to get Bowman into handcuffs.

Bowman, 46, denied hitting anyone and is not seen on the video being violent with officers. He still faces a list of charges, including battery of a police officer, resisting an officer and the traffic violation for which he was initially stopped, improper lane usage.

Brown, 31, failed to report his use of force and mislabeled his body-camera footage in what investigators described in internal records as “an intentional attempt to hide the video.” State police didn’t investigate the attack until 536 days later, and only did so after a lawsuit from Bowman.

Jacob Brown was perhaps the Louisiana State Police's most prolifically violent trooper in recent years. Records show he tallied 23 uses of force dating to 2015 — 19 on Black people — and he faces state charges in Bowman's case and two other violent arrests of Black motorists.

Brown is the son of Bob Brown, a longtime trooper who oversaw statewide criminal investigations and, before retiring, was the agency’s chief of staff.

The Louisiana State Police's own tally shows that in recent years 67% of its uses of force were against Black people. That figure has fueled mounting calls from civil rights groups and Black leaders for the U.S. Justice Department to go beyond individual prosecutions and launch a “pattern and practice” probe into potential racial profiling by the agency.

Col. Lamar Davis, the head of the state police, said earlier this month that he would welcome such a probe if the department deems it necessary but that he wants the opportunity to correct the department's issues and is already working to do so.



House Jan. 6 panel subpoenas Trump advisers, associates

Trump advisers subpoenaed

A House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has subpoenaed four advisers and associates to former President Donald Trump who were in contact with him before and during the attack.

The panel subpoenaed former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Dan Scavino, former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., wrote to the four men that the committee is investigating “the facts, circumstances, and causes” of the attack and asked them to produce documents and appear at depositions in mid-October.

The subpoenas are a significant escalation for the panel, which is now launching the interview phase of the investigation after sorting through thousands of pages of documents the committee requested from federal agencies and social media companies. The goal is to provide a complete accounting of what went wrong when the Trump loyalists quickly overwhelmed police and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory — and to prevent anything like it from ever happening again.

Thompson says in letters to each of the witnesses that investigators believe they have relevant information about the lead-up to the insurrection. In the case of Bannon, for instance, Democrats cite his Jan. 5 prediction that ”(a)ll hell is going to break loose tomorrow” and his communications with Trump one week before the riot in which he urged the president to focus his attention on Jan. 6.

The committee also cites Meadows' work to overturn Trump's defeat in the weeks prior to the insurrection and his pressure on state officials to push the former president's false claims of widespread voter fraud.

In the letter to Meadows, Democrats say they have “credible evidence” of his involvement in events within the scope of the committee’s investigation. That includes his communication with Trump on Jan. 6 and his reported involvement in the “planning and preparation of efforts to contest the presidential election and delay the counting of electoral votes.”

Thompson also signaled that the committee is interested in Meadows’ requests to Justice Department officials for investigations into potential election fraud. Former Attorney General William Barr has said the Justice Department did not find fraud that could have affected the election’s outcome.

The panel cites reports that Patel, a Trump loyalist who had recently been placed at the Pentagon, was talking to Meadows “nonstop” the day the attack unfolded.

Scavino was with Trump on Jan. 5 during a discussion about how to persuade members of Congress not to certify the election for Joe Biden, according to reports cited by the committee. On Twitter, he promoted Trump's rally ahead of the attack and encouraged supporters to “be a part of history.” The panel said its records indicate that Scavino was “tweeting messages from the White House” on Jan. 6.



These are the top dog names in Canada and around the world

The world's top dog names

Did you give your furry best pal an eccentric title or did you stick to a classic?

Whether your dog has six middle names and a prefix or you went the Fido route, the name you chose for your four-legged companion will hold a place in your heart forever.

And while you might think your doggo has a unique name, a recent study finds that many people around the world chose similar ones. For example, the most popular female name in Canada, Bella, was chosen in 13 other areas as the top title. Bella is a Spanish word that means pretty or beautiful.

The study, compiled by Budget Direct, lists the best-loved dog names around the world. The most popular female dog name was Luna, which is Latin for "moon."

There are 20 different names for female dogs on the map. And while some are number one across multiple countries, some of the most interesting ones are ‘unique’ to just one country.

The most popular name in Brazil is Mel, but report authors note that "it’s not short for Melanie – it’s Portuguese for Honey." Likewise, the top name in Iceland is Perla – meaning Pearl.

Top Male Dog Names

The top male dog name in the Great White North is Charlie, while our neighbours south of the border choose Max most often; Max is also the most popular one worldwide. Both of these names are also considered "human names" and report authors note that male dogs are "more likely to have human names with no other common meaning."

The most popular boy dog name in Turkey is Duman, which means Smoke. Estonia choose Leedi most frequently (yes, as in Leedi and the Tramp!).

The Japanese like to call their male dogs Sora, meaning Sun. In Lithuania, Draugas is another word for friend… or Buddy.



Washington State officials find fourth Asian giant hornet nest

More murder hornets found

Another so-called murder hornets nest has been destroyed just across the border from British Columbia.

State officials indicate that a fourth nest, built by Asian giant hornets north of Seattle close to the Canadian border has been destroyed.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture tweeted out Thursday that the latest nest eradication came east of Blaine, Washington and is the fourth overall and third this year.

Officials said the queen they discovered was a slightly different color and that all the hornets were workers, which means no new nests would be created from it.



US sets the stage for COVID booster shots for millions

US sets the stage for boosters

The U.S. vaccination drive against COVID-19 stood on the verge of a major new phase as government advisers Thursday recommended booster doses of Pfizer's vaccine for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans — despite doubts the extra shots will do much to slow the pandemic.

Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said boosters should be offered to people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 who have risky underlying health problems. The extra dose would be given once they are at least six months past their last Pfizer shot.

Deciding who else might get one was far tougher. While there is little evidence that younger people are in danger of waning immunity, the panel offered the option of a booster for those ages 18 to 49 who have chronic health problems and want one.

The advisers refused to go further and open boosters to otherwise healthy front-line health care workers who aren't at risk of severe illness but want to avoid even a mild infection.

“We might as well just say give it to everyone 18 and older. We have a very effective vaccine and it’s like saying, ‘It’s not working.’ It is working," said Dr. Pablo Sanchez of Ohio State University, who helped block the broadest booster option.

Still, getting the unvaccinated their first shots remains the top priority, and the panel wrestled with whether the booster debate was distracting from that goal.

All three of the COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S. are still highly protective against severe illness, hospitalization and death, even amid the spread of the extra-contagious delta variant. But only about 182 million Americans are fully vaccinated, or just 55% of the population.

“We can give boosters to people, but that’s not really the answer to this pandemic,” said Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot of Vanderbilt University. “Hospitals are full because people are not vaccinated. We are declining care to people who deserve care because we are full of unvaccinated COVID-positive patients.”

Thursday's decision represented a dramatic scaling back of the Biden administration plan announced last month to dispense boosters to nearly everyone to shore up their protection. Late Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration, like the CDC panel, signed off on Pfizer boosters for a much narrower slice of the population than the White House envisioned.

It is up to the CDC to set final U.S. policy on who qualifies for the extra shot. A decision from the agency was expected later Thursday, but the CDC usually follows its advisers' recommendations.

The booster plan marks an important shift in the nation's vaccination drive. Britain and Israel are already giving a third round of shots over strong objections from the World Health Organization that poor countries don't have enough for their initial doses.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky opened Thursday's meeting by stressing that vaccinating the unvaccinated remains the top goal “here in America and around the world.”

Walensky acknowledged that the data on who really needs a booster right away “are not perfect.” “Yet collectively they form a picture for us,” she said, "and they are what we have in this moment to make a decision about the next stage in this pandemic.”

The CDC panel stressed that its recommendations will be changed if new evidence shows more people need a booster.

The CDC advisers expressed concern over the millions of Americans who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots early in the vaccine rollout. The government still hasn’t considered boosters for those brands and has no data on whether it is safe or effective to mix-and-match and give those people a Pfizer shot.

“I just don’t understand how later this afternoon we can say to people 65 and older, ‘You’re at risk for severe illness and death, but only half of you can protect yourselves right now,’” said Dr. Sarah Long of Drexel University.

About 26 million Americans got their last Pfizer dose at least six months ago, about half of whom are 65 or older. It's not clear how many more would meet the CDC panel's booster qualifications.

CDC data shows the vaccines still offer strong protection against serious illness for all ages, but there is a slight drop among the oldest adults. And immunity against milder infection appears to be waning months after people's initial immunization.

For most people, if you’re not in a group recommended for a booster, “it’s really because we think you’re well-protected,” said Dr. Matthew Daley of Kaiser Permanente Colorado.

Public health experts not involved in Thursday’s decision said it is unlikely people seeking third doses at a drugstore or other site will be required to prove they qualify.

Even with the introduction of boosters, someone who has gotten just the first two doses would still be considered fully vaccinated, according to the CDC's Dr. Kathleen Dooling. That is an important question to people in parts of the country where you need to show proof of vaccination to eat in a restaurant or enter other places of business.

Among people who stand to benefit from a booster, there are few risks, the CDC concluded. Serious side effects from the first two Pfizer doses are exceedingly rare, including heart inflammation that sometimes occurs in younger men. Data from Israel, which has given nearly 3 million people — mostly 60 and older — a third Pfizer dose, has uncovered no red flags.

The U.S. has already authorized third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for certain people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and transplant recipients. Other Americans, healthy or not, have managed to get boosters, in some cases simply by asking.



Tropical Storm Sam forms, expected to become hurricane

Tropical Storm Sam forms

Tropical Storm Sam has formed in the Atlantic and is expected to become a major hurricane.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the storm's maximum sustained winds Thursday were near 50 mph (85 kph) with additional strengthening expected. The storm is expected to be near major hurricane strength by the end of the weekend.

The storm was centered about 1,745 miles (2,805 kilometers) east-southeast of the northern Leeward Islands and was moving west about 16 mph (26 kph).

Sam is the 18th named storm of an active hurricane season.



Bull that escaped Long Island farm captured after 2 months

Bull on loose for 2 months

A bull that escaped from a farm on Long Island and eluded searchers for two months has been captured, authorities said Thursday.

The 1,500-pound (680-kilogram) bull, nicknamed Barney or Barnie, was corralled late Wednesday by staff from Skylands Animal Sanctuary and Rescue, Suffolk County SPCA Chief Roy Gross said in a news release.

Photos posted by the animal sanctuary on Facebook showed the bull on a bed of hay inside a trailer.

“Look who we found cruising around Long Island,” the organization said. “He is one handsome kid.”

Suffolk County police used drones and helicopters to help capture the bull, who will live out his days at the Skylands sanctuary in Wantage, New Jersey, Gross said.

Rescuers had been searching the animal ever since he broke through the fence at a Moriches farm on July 20, but he remained on the lam as residents of the area posted sightings on social media.

“We would like to thank everyone for their support and concern as well as rescue groups who also assisted during this ordeal,” Gross said. “Great job of collaboration by all who participated.”



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