Category: Sirennet Blog

Police: Burglar gets new keys before she’s locked up

From the Associated Press

CORONADO, Calif. (AP) — A woman pretended she owned a Southern California home so a locksmith would make her new keys. Then police locked her up.

Officers arrested a 43-year-old woman on suspicion of burglary Thursday night in Coronado, a resort city across the bay from San Diego.

The brazen burglary was foiled when the real homeowner called Coronado police and said her neighbor noticed suspicious activity at the home. The homeowner was out of town, yet the neighbor saw the home’s lights being turned on and off.

Officers arrived and the neighbor — a relative of the homeowner’s — gave them a spare key. But it didn’t fit the front door’s lock, and metal shavings and pieces of an old lock were on the ground nearby.

As police walked around the home, they saw back doors open and a fireplace turned on as music played inside. After calling for a helicopter and a K-9 unit, officers saw someone moving around on the second floor in what was supposed to be an empty house with only one spare key.

Alligator crawls out of drain at Alabama apartment complex

From the Associated Press

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama apartment complex was paid a visit by an unusual guest as children were coming home from school Monday afternoon: an alligator that crawled out of a storm drain.

Kenisha Miller and her boyfriend, Anthony Patterson, told WKRG-TV that they were driving home when they stopped to do a double-take in a downtown Mobile neighborhood.

“We saw a gator coming out of the drainage hole, and I was like, ‘Is that really a gator?’” Miller said.

The couple tried to get police and wildlife officials to the scene quickly as the reptile inched toward the complex.

A school bus was dropping off kids not even 50 feet (15.2 meters) down the street. Miller and Patterson said other people were initially oblivious to the gator.

But a crowd soon formed, with some neighborhood residents trying to record the surprising scene.

“They were just as shocked as we were,” Patterson said. “Never (seen) nothing like this, in the hood anyway.”

Wildlife officials safely captured the alligator and took it away.

Majority in US concerned about climate: AP-NORC/EPIC poll

By ELLEN KNICKMEYER, EMILY SWANSON and NATHAN ELLGREN for the Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden heads to a vital U.N. climate summit at a time when a majority of Americans regard the deteriorating climate as a problem of high importance to them, an increase from just a few years ago.

About 6 out of 10 Americans also believe that the pace of global warming is speeding up, according to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

As Biden struggles to pass significant climate legislation at home ahead of next week’s U.N. climate summit, the new AP-NORC/EPIC poll also shows that 55% of Americans want Congress to pass a bill to ensure that more of the nation’s electricity comes from clean energy and less from climate-damaging coal and natural gas.

The shoreline is receding at Emerald Bay on the southwest corner of Lake Tahoe on Oct. 20, 2021 east of South Lake Tahoe, Calif. Drought fueled by climate change has dropped Lake Tahoe below its natural rim and halted flows into the Truckee River. President Joe Biden heads to a vital U.N. climate change summit at a time when a majority of Americans regard the deteriorating climate as a problem of high importance to them. That’s the finding of a new poll by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)

Only 16% of Americans oppose such a measure for electricity from cleaner energy. A similar measure initially was one of the most important parts of climate legislation that Biden has before Congress. But Biden’s proposal to reward utilities with clean energy sources and penalize those without ran into objections from a coal-state senator, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, leaving fellow Democrats scrambling to come up with other ways to slash pollution from burning fossil fuels.l

For some of the Americans watching, it’s an exasperating delay in dealing with an urgent problem.

“If you follow science, the signs are here,” said Nancy Reilly, a Democrat in Missouri who’s retired after 40 years as a retail manager, and worries for her children as the climate deteriorates. “It’s already here. And what was the first thing they start watering down to get this bill through? Climate change.”

“It’s just maddening,” Reilly said. “I understand why, I do — I get the politics of it. I’m sick of the politics of it.”

After President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, the Biden administration hoped to help negotiate major emissions cuts globally to slow the rise of temperatures. But it’s unclear whether Biden will be able to get any significant climate legislation through Congress before the U.N. summit starts Sunday.

In all, 59% of Americans said the Earth’s warming is very or extremely important to them as an issue, up from 49% in 2018. Fifty-four percent of Americans cited scientists’ voices as having a large amount of influence on their views about climate change, and nearly as many, 51%, said their views were influenced by recent extreme weather events like hurricanesdeadly heat spellswildfires and other natural disasters around the world.

Over the last 60 years, the pollution pumped out by gasoline and diesel engines, power plants and other sources has changed the climate and warmed the Earth by 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit, making the extremes of weather more extreme.

In east Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, leaf-peeper websites this year are advising fall foliage tourists that leaves are taking days longer than normal to turn from green to fiery orange and red. It’s not evidence of climate change as a one-off instance, but typical of the changes Americans are seeing as the Earth heats up.

“Normally you get the four seasons, fall, spring, and winter, and it goes in that way. But lately, it’s not been that,” said Jeremy Wilson, a 42-year-old who votes independent and works the grounds at a scenic chairlift park that runs people up to the top of the Smoky Mountains. “It’s been either way hotter, or way colder.”

Seventy-five percent of Americans believe that climate change is happening, while 10% believe that it is not, the poll found. Another 15% are unsure.

Among those who say it is happening, 54% say that it’s caused mostly or entirely by human activities compared to just 14% who think — incorrectly, scientists say — that it’s caused mainly by natural changes in the environment. Another 32% of Americans believe it’s a mix of human and natural factors.

And while Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say climate change is happening, majorities of both parties agree that it is. That breaks down to 89% of Democrats and and 57% of Republicans.

The poll also gauged Americans’ willingness to pay for the cost of cutting climate-wrecking pollution as well as mitigating its consequences.

Fifty-two percent said they would support a $1 a month carbon fee on their energy bill to fight climate change, but support dwindles as the fee increases.

“I would say, like 5, 10 dollars, as long as it’s really being used for what it should be,” said Krystal Chivington, a 46-year-old Republican in Delaware who credits her 17-year-old daughter for reviving her own passion for fighting climate change and pollution.

It’s not ordinary consumers who should bear the brunt of paying to stave off the worst scenarios of climate change, said Mark Sembach, a 59-year-old Montana Democrat who works in environmental remediation.

“I think it needs to fall a great deal on responsible corporations that’s — and unfortunately … most corporations aren’t responsible,” Sembach said. “And I think there needs to be a lot of pushback as to who ultimately pays for that.”

___

The AP-NORC poll of 5,468 adults was conducted Sept. 8-24 using a combined sample of interviews from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population, and interviews from opt-in online panels. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 1.7 percentage points. The AmeriSpeak panel is recruited randomly using address-based sampling methods, and respondents later were interviewed online or by phone.

Africa tries to end vaccine inequity by replicating its own

By LORI HINNANT, MARIA CHENG and ANDREW MELDRUM for the Associated Press

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — In a pair of Cape Town warehouses converted into a maze of airlocked sterile rooms, young scientists are assembling and calibrating the equipment needed to reverse engineer a coronavirus vaccine that has yet to reach South Africa and most of the world’s poorest people.

Scientists re-enact the calibration procedure of equipment at an Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines facility in Cape Town, South Africa, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021. In a pair of warehouses converted into a maze of airlocked sterile rooms, young scientists are assembling and calibrating the equipment needed to reverse engineer a coronavirus vaccine that has yet to reach South Africa and most of the world’s poor. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

The energy in the gleaming labs matches the urgency of their mission to narrow vaccine disparities. By working to replicate Moderna’s COVID-19 shot, the scientists are effectively making an end run around an industry that has vastly prioritized rich countries over poor in both sales and manufacturing.

And they are doing it with unusual backing from the World Health Organization, which is coordinating a vaccine research, training and production hub in South Africa along with a related supply chain for critical raw materials. It’s a last-resort effort to make doses for people going without, and the intellectual property implications are still murky.

“We are doing this for Africa at this moment, and that drives us,” said Emile Hendricks, a 22-year-old biotechnologist for Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, the company trying to reproduce the Moderna shot. “We can no longer rely on these big superpowers to come in and save us.”

Some experts see reverse engineering — recreating vaccines from fragments of publicly available information — as one of the few remaining ways to redress the power imbalances of the pandemic. Only 0.7% of vaccines have gone to low-income countries so far, while nearly half have gone to wealthy countries, according to an analysis by the People’s Vaccine Alliance.

That WHO, which relies upon the goodwill of wealthy countries and the pharmaceutical industry for its continued existence, is leading the attempt to reproduce a proprietary vaccine demonstrates the depths of the supply disparities.

The U.N.-backed effort to even out global vaccine distribution, known as COVAX, has failed to alleviate dire shortages in poor countries. Donated doses are coming in at a fraction of what is needed to fill the gap. Meanwhile, pressure for drug companies to share, including Biden administration demands on Moderna, has led nowhere.

Until now, WHO has never directly taken part in replicating a novel vaccine for current global use over the objections of the original developers. The Cape Town hub is intended to expand access to the novel messenger RNA technology that Moderna, as well as Pfizer and German partner BioNTech, used in their vaccines.

“This is the first time we’re doing it to this level, because of the urgency and also because of the novelty of this technology,” said Martin Friede, a WHO vaccine research coordinator who is helping direct the hub.

Dr. Tom Frieden, the former head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has described the world as “being held hostage” by Moderna and Pfizer, whose vaccines are considered the most effective against COVID-19. The novel mRNA process uses the genetic code for the spike protein of the coronavirus and is thought to trigger a better immune response than traditional vaccines.

Arguing that American taxpayers largely funded Moderna’s vaccine development, the Biden administration has insisted the company must expand production to help supply developing nations. The global shortfall through 2022 is estimated at 500 million and 4 billion doses, depending on how many other vaccines come on the market.

“The United States government has played a very substantial role in making Moderna the company it is,” said David Kessler, the head of Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. program to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine development.

Kessler would not say how far the administration would go in pressing the company. “They understand what we expect to happen,” he said.

Moderna has pledged to build a vaccine factory in Africa at some point in the future. But after pleading with drugmakers to share their recipes, raw materials and technological know-how, some poorer countries are done waiting.

Afrigen Managing Director Petro Terblanche said the Cape Town company is aiming to have a version of the Moderna vaccine ready for testing in people within a year and scaled up for commercial production not long after.

“We have a lot of competition coming from Big Pharma. They don’t want to see us succeed,” Terblanche said. “They are already starting to say that we don’t have the capability to do this. We are going to show them.”

If the team in South Africa succeeds in making a version of Moderna’s vaccine, the information will be publicly released for use by others, Terblanche said. Such sharing is closer to an approach U.S. President Joe Biden championed in the spring and the pharmaceutical industry strongly opposes.

Commercial production is the point at which intellectual property could become an issue. Moderna has said it would not pursue legal action against a company for infringing on its vaccine rights, but neither has it offered to help companies that have volunteered to make its mRNA shot.

Chairman Noubar Afeyan said Moderna determined it would be better to expand production itself than to share technology and plans to deliver billions of additional doses next year.

“Within the next six to nine months, the most reliable way to make high-quality vaccines and in an efficient way is going to be if we make them,” Afeyan said.

Zoltan Kis, an expert in messenger RNA vaccines at Britain’s University of Sheffield, said reproducing Moderna’s vaccine is “doable” but the task would be far easier if the company shared its expertise. Kis estimated the process involves fewer than a dozen major steps. But certain procedures are tricky, such as sealing the fragile messenger RNA in lipid nanoparticles, he said.

“It’s like a very complicated cooking recipe,” he said. “Having the recipe would be very, very helpful, and it would also help if someone could show you how to do it.”

A U.N.-backed public health organization still hopes to persuade Moderna that its approach to providing vaccines for poorer countries misses the mark. Formed in 2010, the Medicines Patent Pool initially focused on convincing pharmaceutical companies to share patents for AIDS drugs.

“It’s not about outsiders helping Africa,” Executive Director Charles Gore said of the South Africa vaccine hub. “Africa wants to be empowered, and that’s what this is about.”

It will eventually fall to Gore to try to resolve the intellectual property question. Work to recreate Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is protected as research, so a potential dispute would surround steps to sell a replicated version commercially, he said.

“It’s about persuading Moderna to work with us rather than using other methods,” Gore said.

He said the Medicines Patent Pool repeatedly tried but failed to convince Pfizer and BioNTech to even discuss sharing their formulas.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, who is among the members of Congress backing a bill that calls on the United States to invest more in making and distributing COVID-19 vaccines in low- and middle-income countries, said reverse engineering isn’t going to happen fast enough to keep the virus from mutating and spreading further.

“We need to show some hustle. We have to show a sense of urgency, and I’m not seeing that urgency,” he said. “Either we end this pandemic or we muddle our way through.”

Campaigners argue the meager amount of vaccines available to poorer countries through donations, COVAX and purchases suggests the Western-dominated pharmaceutical industry is broken.

“The enemy to these corporations is losing their potential profit down the line,” Joia Mukherjee, chief medical officer of the global health nonprofit Partners in Health, said. “The enemy isn’t the virus, the enemy isn’t suffering.”

Back in Cape Town, the promise of using mRNA technology against other diseases motivates the young scientists.

“The excitement is around learning how we harness mRNA technology to develop a COVID-19 vaccine,” Caryn Fenner, Afrigen’s technical director, said. But more important, Fenner said, “is not only using the mRNA platform for COVID, but for beyond COVID.”

___

Cheng reported from London; Hinnant reported from Paris.

Stripping military bases of Confederate names stirs passions

By ROBERT BURNS for the Associated Press

BLACKSTONE, Va. (AP) — Civil War history casts a long shadow in Virginia, the birthplace of Confederate generals, scene of their surrender and now a crossroad of controversy over renaming military bases that honor rebel leaders.

In and around Blackstone, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Richmond, that shadow can stir passions when talk turns to nearby Fort Pickett. Some are troubled by Congress requiring the Pickett name be dropped as part of a wider scrubbing of military base names that commemorate the Confederacy or honor officers who fought for it. In all, the names of at least nine Army bases in six states will be changed.

This Oct. 19, 2021, photo shows a Confederate monument in front a county courthouse in Nottoway County, Va. Voters will cast ballots in a November referendum on whether to relocate this monument to Confederate soldiers that has stood in front of the county courthouse since 1893. It is a few miles from Fort Pickett. (AP Photo/Robert Burns)

Others here say it’s high time to drop the names.

“Change them!” says Nathaniel Miller, a Black member of the town council who was stationed at Pickett after he returned from Vietnam in 1973. “It should have happened a long time ago,” he says, because the names are a reminder of slavery and a period in American history when Black people had no voice.

Fort Pickett’s namesake is Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett, best remembered for a failed Confederate assault at Gettysburg that became known as Pickett’s Charge. He was a Virginia native and a West Point graduate who resigned his U.S. Army officer commission shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.

The push to rename Fort Pickett and other bases is part of a national reckoning with centuries of racial injustice, triggered most recently by the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. For years, the military defended the naming of bases after Confederate officers; as recently as 2015 the Army argued that the names did not honor the rebel cause but were a gesture of reconciliation with the South.

Congress easily agreed last year to compel the name changes to remove what are seen by many as emblems of human bondage and Black oppression.

Reflecting a shift in the military’s thinking, Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has spoken forcefully about a legacy of Black pain reflected in Confederate names at Army bases where today at least 20% of soldiers are Black. He said those names can be reminders to Black soldiers that the rebel officers fought for an institution that may have enslaved their ancestors.

Milley told a House committee in June 2020 the Confederacy doesn’t deserve to be commemorated in this way.

“It was an act of rebellion, it was an act of treason at the time, against the Union, against the Stars and Stripes, against the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “And those officers turned their back on their oath. Now, some have a different view of that. Some think it’s heritage. Others think it’s hate.”

No one around Blackstone seems to know why the government picked the Pickett name in the first place. The 1942 dedication ceremony for what originally was called Camp Pickett, attended by the general’s descendants, was held on July 3 to coincide with the 79th anniversary of his Gettysburg charge. An Associated Press account of the ceremony quoted Virginia Gov. Colgate Darden saying the story of Pickett’s Charge “will live forever as an epic of superb courage” that made him a Virginia “immortal.”

Some folks, like Greg Eanes, an Air Force veteran who grew up in the nearby town of Crewe, see removing the Pickett name as disrespecting the rebels and their descendants.

“In my opinion, it is nothing less than cultural genocide, albeit with a velvet glove,” Eanes says, standing beside a still-visible Confederate trench on a battlefield in an adjacent county. “The South has a unique history. Many of its people have ancestors and family members who were in the Confederate armies. It would be wrong, in my opinion, to dismiss — just arbitrarily dismiss — their concerns.”

Still, stripping Fort Pickett of its Confederate connection is hardly a hot topic around here.

“There was probably a time in my life when this would have gotten me riled up,” says Billy Coleburn, 52, a Blackstone native who publishes the local newspaper and is mayor of the town of about 3,500 residents.

“The times change,” he adds.

Local innkeepers Jim and Christine Hasbrouck applaud the removal of Confederate generals’ names.

“We need to stop putting them on a pedestal,” says Jim.

Fort Pickett is used mainly by the Virginia National Guard. Situated in what is known as Southside Virginia, it is roughly halfway between Richmond, former capital of the Confederacy, and Appomattox, where Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate forces in 1865.

This is a heavily Republican area that voted for Donald Trump over Joe Biden by 57% to 42% last November and also favored Trump over Hillary Clinton four years earlier by a 55% to 42% margin. Reminders of the Civil War are not hard to find here; up the road among groves of pine, elm, maple and oak is Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park, scene of a series of battles on April 6, 1865, in which Confederate forces — including a unit commanded by Pickett — were defeated. Three days later, Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

Congress last year created a federal commission to recommend new names for at least nine Army bases named for Confederate officers, including three in Virginia. The others are in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. The law was passed over the objection of Trump, who argued that renaming disrespects those who trained at the bases.

Two active Navy ships also will be renamed. The USNS Maury, an oceanographic survey ship, was named for Matthew Fontaine Maury, a naval officer and scientist who resigned to join the Confederates. The cruiser USS Chancellorsville was named for the 1863 Confederate victory at Chancellorsville, Virginia.

Tom Wilkinson, a Blackstone resident and retired Army colonel who commanded Fort Pickett from 2008 to 2012, says he accepts the renaming decision but considers it a mistake.

“If we could look back in hindsight, I would say leave it alone,” Wilkinson says. “Because what’s next? Are you going to change the names of streets throughout the United States?”

In fact the post-George Floyd debate over racial injustice does extend beyond military base names. Pickett, for example, is a name that stirs controversy as far away as Washington state. In 2019 the Bellingham city council voted to remove the Pickett name from a bridge that troops under his command built during his establishment of a frontier post called Fort Bellingham in the 1850s.

A hotter topic here in Nottoway County is a November referendum on whether to relocate a Confederate war monument that has stood in front of the county courthouse since 1893.

Fort Pickett is among the last bases to be visited by members of the federal Naming Commission created by Congress. In their other visits, the commissioners were generally well received by communities, although some people “took the opportunity to vent a little,” according to Michelle Howard, a retired Navy admiral who heads the commission, which will visit Pickett soon.

Aside from his decision to take up arms against the federal government, Pickett’s military record is the subject of conflicting interpretation by historians. But it’s generally agreed that his performance was spotty at best.

After the decimation of his division at Gettysburg in 1863, Pickett commanded Confederate forces in North Carolina and Virginia. His defeat at Five Forks, about 20 miles east of Blackstone, in 1865 was especially humiliating because he had slipped away earlier to a fish bake, not expecting a Union attack. Days later he fled the battlefield at Sailor’s Creek after his men were overwhelmed and forced to surrender.

Whatever the details of his legacy, people who grew up near Fort Pickett say the name change won’t really matter.

“It will always be Pickett to me,” says Leigh Hart, who was born and raised in Blackstone. “It will be Pickett forever.”

China to start vaccinating children to age 3 as cases spread

By HUIZHONG WU for the Associated Press

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Children as young as 3 will start receiving COVID-19 vaccines in China, where 76% of the population has been fully vaccinated and authorities are maintaining a zero-tolerance policy toward outbreaks.

Women wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus ride scooters passing by masked residents line up to receive booster shots against COVID-19 at a vaccination site in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. A northwestern Chinese province heavily dependent on tourism closed all tourist sites Monday after finding new COVID-19 cases. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

China becomes one of the very few countries in the world to start vaccinating children that young against the virus. Cuba, for one, has begun a vaccine drive for children as young as 2. The U.S. and many European countries allow COVID-19 shots down to age 12, though the U.S. is moving quickly toward opening vaccinations to 5- to 11-year-olds.

Local city and provincial level governments in at least five Chinese provinces issued notices in recent days announcing that children ages 3 to 11 will be required to get their vaccinations.

The expansion of the vaccination campaign comes as parts of China take new clampdown measures to try to stamp out small outbreaks. Gansu, a northwestern province heavily dependent on tourism, closed all tourist sites Monday after finding new COVID-19 cases. Residents in parts of Inner Mongolia have been ordered to stay indoors because of an outbreak there.

The National Health Commission reported that 35 new cases of local transmission had been detected over the past 24 hours, four of them in Gansu. An additional 19 cases were found in the Inner Mongolia region, with others scattered around the country.

China has employed lockdowns, quarantines and compulsory testing for the virus throughout the pandemic and has largely stamped out cases of local infection while fully vaccinating 1.07 billion people out of a population of 1.4 billion.

In particular, the government is concerned about the spread of the more contagious delta variant by travelers and about having a largely vaccinated public ahead of the Beijing Olympics in February. Overseas spectators already have been banned from the Winter Games, and participants will have to stay in a bubble separating them from people outside.

China’s most widely used vaccines, from Sinopharm and Sinovac, have shown efficacy in preventing severe disease and transmission of the virus, based on public data. But the protection they offer against the delta variant has not been answered definitively, although officials say they remain protective.

Hubei, Fujian and Hainan provinces all issued provincial level notices alerting new vaccination requirements, while individual cities in Zhejiang province and Hunan province have also issued similar announcements.

China in June had approved two vaccines — Sinopharm’s from the Beijing Institute of Biological Products and Sinovac — for children ages 3 to 17, but it has only been vaccinating those 12 and older. In August, regulators approved another, Sinopharm’s from the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.

After the vaccines received domestic approval for children in China, foreign governments began giving the shots to children in their own countries. Cambodia uses both Sinovac and Sinopharm’s shots in children 6 to 11. Regulators in Chile approved Sinovac for children as young as 6. In Argentina, regulators approved the Sinopharm vaccine for children as young as age 3.

Many developing countries left out of the race to get shots from Western pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Moderna bought Chinese vaccines. China has shipped more than 1.2 billion doses as of September, according to its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Even with widespread domestic and global use, not every parent is reassured about the vaccine, citing less publicly available data on the shots.

Wang Lu, who lives in the southern city of Fuzhou in Fujian province, said she isn’t particularly rushing to get her 3-year-old son vaccinated. “I’m just not very clear on the vaccine’s safety profile, so I don’t really want to get him vaccinated, at the very least, I don’t want to be the first,” Wang said.

Sinovac started an efficacy trial with 14,000 child participants across multiple countries in September. Its approval in China was based on smaller phase 1 and phase 2 trials. Sinopharm’s Beijing shot was also approved based on smaller phase 1 and phase 2 trials. These were published later in peer-reviewed journals.

Other parents said they weren’t concerned, given that many other people had already gotten the shot.

Wu Cong, a mom of a 7-year old, said her daughter’s school in Shanghai hadn’t yet notified them of any vaccinations.

“I think this isn’t too different from the flu vaccine, there’s already been so many people vaccinated, so I don’t have too many worries,” said Wu.

___

Associated Press researcher Chen Si in Shanghai contributed to this report.

575 inmates escape in latest Nigeria jailbreak

By CHINEDU ASADU for the Associated Press

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Gunmen have attacked a prison in southwest Nigeria, freeing around 575 inmates, officials said Saturday.

The third jailbreak in Africa’s most populous country this year raises more concerns about how safe detention facilities are in the West African nation where authorities have struggled to stem rising violence. A handful of security facilities, especially police stations, have been attacked in a similar manner in the past year.

Olanrewaju Anjorin, a spokesman of the Oyo correctional center in Oyo state, told The Associated Press that the gunmen attacked the facility late Friday and an investigation into the incident which will reveal the extent of damage has begun.

Francis Enobore of the Nigerian Prisons Service also confirmed the incident and said he was on his way to the attacked facility.

Friday’s attack is the third this year in Nigeria, where jailbreaks are becoming more frequent and police only capture a fraction of those who escape. Lagos-based online newspaper TheCable reported in July this year that at least 4,307 inmates had escaped from prisons since 2017, based on compiled media reports.

In 2021 alone, more than 2,000 inmates were freed in two earlier jailbreaks: on Sept. 13 when 240 inmates were freed after gunmen attacked a detention facility in north-central Kogi state with explosives and on April 5 when at least 1,800 were freed in the southeast Imo state when another facility was also blown up.

Most of the recent jailbreaks in Nigeria seem not to be connected although the attacks are carried out in a similar manner with the use of explosives. Authorities have managed to rearrest some escaped inmates, sometimes in neighboring states, while others return willingly.

A good number of those who have escaped in such attacks are yet to be convicted and still awaiting trial. Nigerian prisons hold 70,000 inmates but only about 20,000, or 27%, have been convicted, according to government data.

Fire-scarred California braces for more storms, flash floods

From the Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Northern California residents relieved that this week’s rain helped contain stubborn wildfires and soaked dry gardens were cleaning up Friday and preparing for a massive storm this weekend that could bring flash flooding to vast areas scorched by fire.

The National Weather Service for the San Francisco Bay Area issued a high surf advisory through Friday for a portion of the coast and a flash flood watch Sunday for parts of the region, especially in areas burned by last year’s wildfires. Strong winds are also expected Sunday, with gusts of up to 60 mph (97 kph) at the windiest spots.

The weather service said elevations above 9,000 feet (2,745 meters) in the Sierra Nevada could get 18 inches of snow or more from Sunday until Monday morning and warned of possible power outages and road closures.

Mike Pierre, owner of Mission Ace Hardware and Lumber in Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, said they sold out of tarps this week and expect to do so again in advance of Sunday’s big storm.

But there is a feeling of relief that the area could escape wildfire this year, unlike last year when the Glass Fire broke out in late September and destroyed nearly 1,600 homes and other buildings. Customers had been stocking up on generators and power cords to prepare, Pierre said.

“People were bracing for that, and it never happened,” he said, “and hopefully, this rain will keep it from happening.”

But burn areas remain a concern, as land devoid of vegetation can’t soak up heavy rainfall as quickly, increasing the likelihood of mud or debris slides and flash flooding that could trap people.

Paul Lowenthal, an assistant fire marshal with the Santa Rosa Fire Department in Sonoma County, said the city is providing free sand and bags for residents who need to control rain runoff. They are also asking residents to clear gutters and on-site storm drains as the city prepares for up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain.

“Given the volume of water we’re expecting, we want it to go where it needs to go,” he said.

About 375 miles (603.50 kilometers) south of Santa Rosa, parts of western Santa Barbara County were under an evacuation warning Friday night in the area that had been burned by the Alisal Fire. The blaze charred 26.5 square miles (68.6 square kilometers) and is 97% contained. The fire erupted in the Santa Ynez Mountains during high winds on Oct. 11.

Californians rejoiced when rain started falling this week for the first time in any measurable way since spring. NWS Bay Area tweeted that San Francisco International Airport set a record rainfall for Thursday, with 0.44 inches (1.1 centimeters) of rain tallied. The old record was 0.13 inches (0.3 centimeter) on the same day in 1970.

Rain and snow will continue soaking central and Northern California before spreading into Southern California on Monday.

The storms have helped contain some of the nation’s largest wildfires this year, including one that threatened the popular Lake Tahoe resort region this summer. That wildfire is now 100% contained after snow blanketed the western side of the blaze and rain dropped on the eastern side.

But this week’s storms won’t end drought that’s plaguing California and the western United States. California’s climate is hotter and drier now and that means the rain and snow that does fall is likely to evaporate or absorb into the soil.

California’s 2021 water year, which ended Sept. 30, was the second driest on record and last year’s was the fifth driest on record. Some of the state’s most important reservoirs are at record low levels. Things are so bad in Lake Mendocino that state officials say it could be dry by next summer.

Bend police officer charged with on-duty assault

For the Associated Press

BEND, Ore. (AP) — A Bend police officer is facing criminal charges after being accused of slamming a man’s head into the ground during an attempted arrest.

Bend Police Officer Kevin Uballez was charged Friday with fourth-degree assault and harassment, The Bulletin reported.

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said in a news conference Friday that two other officers reported Uballez’s alleged conduct to supervisors.

“These officers put service to their community ahead of protection of a colleague,” Hummel said.

Uballez is a police dog handler hired by the department in 2014. It wasn’t immediately known if he has a lawyer to speak on his behalf.

The alleged incident happened around 1 a.m. June 6 after someone called 911 to report an intoxicated man running down NW Skyliners Road. Uballez reported that the man, Caleb Hamlin initially refused to comply with orders.

Hamlin, a Colville resident staying in Bend as a construction worker, eventually knelt as instructed, Hummel said.

According to Hummel, Uballez approached Hamlin to take him into custody and “grabbed him from the back and slammed his upper body forward, resulting in Hamlin’s face violently striking the pavement. The force of this blow significantly injured Hamlin’s nose.”

Hamlin was treated by paramedics.

The case was investigated by Oregon State Police. Uballez’s first court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 9.

Panel tackles issue of missing, slain Native Hawaiian women

By AUDREY McAVOY for the Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — At first, he was just a boyfriend. He gave Ashley Maha’a gifts and attention. But then he gave her drugs and became controlling and abusive. He would punish her for breaking ambiguous, undefined “rules,” only to later say he was sorry and shower her with flowers and lavish presents.

After a while, he led the Honolulu high school senior — a 17-year-old minor — into Hawaii’s commercial sex trade.

“I shouldn’t be here with everything that was going on. I should be dead. And the majority of the people who are in my situation are missing or dead,” said Maha’a, who is Native Hawaiian.

Maha’a got out of that world years ago and is now a married mother of four. But it’s on her mind as she joins a new task force studying the issue of missing and murdered Native Hawaiian women and girls. She reminds herself of her plight every day so she can fight for others similarly trapped and vulnerable.

Ashley Maha’a sits in a park in Honolulu on June 22, 2021. “I’ve met so many people on the mainland, and so, so, so many of them have told me that when they were being trafficked nationally, they would be flown here for a period of time and work here when things were slow, because the demand is so high,” Maha’a says. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

The panel, created by the state House earlier this year, aims to gather data and identify the reasons behind the problem. As of now, few figures exist, but those that do suggest Native Hawaiians are disproportionately represented among the state’s sex trafficking victims.

Its work comes amid renewed calls for people to pay more attention to missing and killed Indigenous women and girls and other people of color after the recent disappearance of Gabby Petito, a white woman, triggered widespread national media coverage and extensive searches by law enforcement. Petito’s body was later found in Wyoming.

Several states formed similar panels after a groundbreaking report by the Urban Indian Health Institute found that of more than 5,700 cases of missing and slain Indigenous girls in dozens of U.S. cities in 2016, only 116 were logged in a Justice Department database.

Wyoming’s task force determined 710 Indigenous people disappeared there between 2011 and September 2020 and that Indigenous people made up 21% of homicide victims even though they are only 3% of the population. In Minnesota, a task force led to the creation of a dedicated office to provide ongoing attention and leadership on the issue.

The Urban Indian Health Institute’s report didn’t include data on Native Hawaiians because the organization is funded by the Indian Health Service, a U.S. agency that serves Native Americans and Alaska Natives but not Native Hawaiians. The Seattle institute didn’t have the resources to extend the study to Hawaii, Director Abigail Echo-Hawk said.

It’s not the first time Native Hawaiians have been sidelined in the broader national conversation. The federal government’s efforts to tackle the problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women often focus on Native Americans and Alaska Natives — in part because it has authority over major crimes on most tribal lands, and Native Hawaiians don’t have such lands in the same sense as many other U.S. Indigenous communities. An Interior Department spokesman said it instead works to support and collaborate with state programs in the islands.

Yet Hawaii faces many of the same challenges as other states, including a lack of data on missing and murdered Indigenous women. The precise number of nationwide cases is unknown because many have gone unreported or have not been well-documented or tracked.

Public and private agencies don’t always collect statistics on race. And some data groups Native Hawaiians with other Pacific Islanders, making it impossible to identify the degree to which Hawaii’s Indigenous people are affected. About 20% of the state’s population is Native Hawaiian.

Its task force is being led by representatives from the Hawaii State Commission on the State of Women and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a semi-autonomous state agency directed by Native Hawaiians. The panel also includes members from state agencies, county police departments and private organizations.

Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of the commission and co-chairperson of the task force, suspects its work will show Hawaii’s large tourism industry and military presence fuel sex trafficking. Money to be made from these sectors gives people an incentive to take girls and women from their families, she said.

“It’s not like someone is kidnapped off the street. It’s that person is enticed and convinced to cut off their family if they’re a child, or a teenager,” Jabola-Carolus said.

Advocates for Native American and Alaska Native women and girls say sex trafficking affects them as well, particularly in areas with high populations of transitory male workers.

Maha’a said the extent of the commercial sex industry in Hawaii also is illustrated by the number of girls and women brought to the islands from other states.

“I’ve met so many people on the mainland, and so, so, so many of them have told me that when they were being trafficked nationally, they would be flown here for a period of time and work here when things were slow, because the demand is so high,” Maha’a said.

Advocates say a number of systemic issues contribute to the problem. Native Hawaiians have the highest poverty rate — 15.5% — of any of the five largest racial groups in Hawaii, which is also one of country’s the most expensive places to rent or own property.

The history of colonization has torn Native Hawaiians from their land, language and culture, similar to Indigenous communities in other states.

Rosemond Pettigrew, board president of Pouhana ’O Na Wahine, a grassroots collective of Native Hawaiian women advocating against domestic and sexual violence, said land is family, and not being connected to it severs Native Hawaiians from their past.

“When you separate yourself from what you know or what you believe, and you’re no longer on land, then you’re left where you don’t know where you come from and who you are, and your identity becomes lost,” she said.

Echo-Hawk, of the Urban Indian Health Institute, said Hawaii’s task force is “monumental” and necessary to understanding the full scope of the problem.

She suspects some of its biggest obstacles will be in getting cooperation from law enforcement agencies and not having dedicated funding. Lawmakers didn’t allocate the panel any money, so its members are relying on existing resources to do their research. The most successful state task forces had funding, Echo-Hawk said.

It will be important for the task force to recognize the problems are rooted in government policies, said Paula Julian, senior policy specialist with the Montana-based National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. The solutions for Native Hawaiians, meanwhile, must come from Native Hawaiians, she said.

Pettigrew said she’d like to see resources put into prevention. For example, Hawaii’s public schools could teach students about healthy relationships, starting as early as elementary grades. Lessons could address dating once students get to middle and high schools.

State Rep. Stacelynn Eli, a Native Hawaiian and a Democrat who sponsored the resolution creating the task force, said she has friends and classmates who were trafficked. She doesn’t want her nieces to face the same thing because no one knew enough to take action.

“We are surviving, and I would like to see our people get to a point where we are thriving. And I think we won’t get to that point until we know for sure that we are protecting our Native women and children and holding those who try to harm them accountable,” she said.

The panel is expected to produce reports for the Legislature by the end of 2022 and 2023.