Is this it? New York-based Pfizer and Germany-based BioNTech say their COVID-19 vaccine works after late-stage trial participants suffered symptomatic illness 90 percent less than those who didn’t receive the inoculation. Reactions ranged from relief to disputed claims over which country deserves credit: Germany paid for the vaccine’s development, while the U.S. pledged to buy FDA-approved doses. There was also anger from President Donald Trump, who charged that Pfizer “lacked the courage” to announce its success before the election. Meanwhile, experts predict a “rough few months” of waiting for distribution amid a massive surge in infections.
2. Top US Election Investigator Quits Over Barr Move
After Attorney General William Barr yesterday authorized the Justice Department to investigate fraud claims in the presidential election — provided they’re not “fanciful” — Richard Pilger, who oversees election crime probes, announced his resignation. Noting that such investigations are normally done after results are certified, Pilger emailed colleagues saying Barr was “abrogating the forty-year-old Non-Interference Policy” intended to stop law enforcement from influencing elections. Meanwhile, Georgia’s two Republican senators, who fell short of reelection and face a January runoff, charged state election “failures” and demanded the resignation of GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who called their complaints “laughable.”
3. Armenia Signs ‘Painful’ Peace Deal With Azerbaijan
There’s little doubt about who won. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan yesterday announced he’d signed an “unspeakably painful agreement” to end the six-week war with Azerbaijan over the Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh region. In the Russian-brokered deal, which took effect early today, Armenia gave up land it had held since 1994 but recently lost to Turkish-backed Azeri forces, and also agreed to withdraw from adjacent regions. Russia pledged 2,000 peacekeeping troops to guard a corridor between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Calling the agreement a betrayal, Armenians stormed government buildings and trashed the lobby of Pashinyan’s residence.
With the prospect of a coronavirus vaccine in front of them and the presidential election (sort of) behind them, investors dove back into the long-neglected portfolios of the pandemic. Banks, oil companies and other ailing sectors lead market surges on Wall Street Monday, with the Dow rising nearly 3 percent, while the Nasdaq index, heavy with once-safe-haven tech companies, lagged, dipping 1.6 percent. And that’s after last week’s record increases that accompanied a smoother-than expected election. While investors had been anticipating a vaccine, a Barclays analyst described the 90 percent efficacy as a “significant positive surprise.”
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Will they be lovin’ it? It seems improbable that vegans who aren’t on long family car trips would seek out McDonald’s, but the hamburger chain is betting on it. In yesterday’s annual investor update, the company announced a new McPlant “platform” of offerings anchored by a vegan burger coming to test markets next year. The news couldn’t have come at a worse time for Beyond Meat, which announced unexpectedly steep quarterly losses just as McDonald’s declined to comment on who would be providing its new meatless patties. Beyond’s stock plummeted 28 percent in after-hours trading.
2. Eating With Utensils ‘Forgotten’ Amid Lockdowns
Britain’s educational standards agency has found that school closures have caused regression at the dinner table. Forgetting how to eat with a knife and fork is just one behavioral issue among children observed by the agency, which reported Monday that some potty-trained kids had reverted to diapers, while older children have fallen behind with math and literacy. Meanwhile, Collins Dictionary has named “lockdown” as its word of the year after usage soared from 4,000 instances in 2019 to 250,000 this year. It tops a pandemic-era list that includes “furlough,” “key worker” and “social distancing.”
The motive may not matter. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has launched a groundbreaking anti-corruption drive, surprisingly aimed at his own party, OZY reports. Ace Magashule, second in command of Ramaphosa’s own African National Congress, faces corruption charges — and under a new rule proposed by the president, he and any other indicted officials must step down. Longtime observers believe it’ll help eliminate rivals of the president, whose allies have their own corruption issues, but in the process, it might also go a long way to clean up the party.
They’d never heard of him. But Google said he’d won an Oscar — and while that’s correct about British director Hugh Welchman, who won with animated short Peter and the Wolf, the man who sounded like a “creepy yoga teacher” on Skype wasn’t him. At least 13 women, some of whom quickly realized their caller was an imposter, complained, but some victims were conned into exposing themselves on Skype. The real Welchman has filed police reports in Britain and America, but many victims are feeling violated and the anonymous predator is still out there.
The pandemic has caused all sorts of rejiggering of sports events, but the upcoming Nations League soccer match between England and Iceland, currently scheduled for London’s Wembley Stadium Nov. 18, may take the cake. And Danish mink infected with a mutant strain of the coronavirus appear to be responsible. If Iceland, which famously beat England in 2016’s European championships, play Denmark’s national team in Copenhagen this Sunday, they’ll be banned from entering Britain. That could mean playing England in Germany or Albania instead, if authorities decline to give the team an “elite sport” exemption from COVID-19 regulations.
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