National News Update – Monday, 5/3 – FDA Set to Authorize Use of Pfizer Vaccine for 12 To 15 Year Olds By Next Week

News today starts with the Food and Drug Administration which is preparing to authorize use of the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15 year olds by early next week, according to a report.

Pfizer earlier announced results from its youth trials showing the vaccine is at least as effective in that age group as it is in adults.

If the grant is approved, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisory panel will likely meet the following day to review the clinical trial data and make recommendations for the vaccine’s use in adolescents.

Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech submitted a request to the European drug regulator for the approval of their coronavirus vaccine to be extended to include children 12 to 15 years old.

The two pharmaceuticals said their submission to the European Medicines Agency is based on an advanced study in more than 2,000 adolescents that showed their vaccine to be safe and effective. The children will continue to be monitored for longer-term protection and safety for another two years.

With nowhere to go, The White House and President Biden today announced it is raising the refugee admissions cap to 62,500 for the rest of this fiscal year, after facing blowback for backing away from that number amid a surge of migrants crossing the southern border illegally.

“It is important to take this action today to remove any lingering doubt in the minds of refugees around the world who have suffered so much, and who are anxiously waiting for their new lives to begin,” Mr. Biden said.

The move comes less than a month after Mr. Biden signed an executive order saying that he would keep the admissions ceiling at a record low 15,000 set by the Trump administration, sparking a political backlash from progressives, immigration advocates and religious leaders.

The April order eliminated restrictions the Trump administration had put in place concerning which types of refugees qualify to be resettled, but left the number unchanged. That decision surprised advocates, after the administration had notified Congress in early February it would raise the cap to the 62,500 figure—half the 125,000 ceiling Mr. Biden had pledged to put in place beginning next fiscal year.

The cap increase comes eight months into the government’s fiscal year, meaning it is unlikely that the full 62,500 people will enter the U.S. before Sept. 30. The U.S. has admitted just over 2,000 refugees so far this year, by far the lowest ever.

Had Mr. Biden lifted the admissions cap or the Trump administration’s restrictions sooner, the number would have been higher, as the State Department—which coordinates refugee flights—paces arrivals to the U.S. according to the overall admissions ceiling.

President Biden said to the media in his statement Monday that the increase was more symbolic than practical: “The sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year.”

Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS, one of nine nonprofit resettlement agencies that partner with the government, said the cap increase will allow the Biden administration to at least surpass the 15,000 ceiling in actual refugee admissions.

“Most importantly, it means they can turn their full attention to rebuilding the program to welcome refugees in 2021 at a level appropriate for the United States to lead by the power of our example,” he said.

Historically, the U.S. has taken in nearly half of the world’s refugees resettled by the United Nations, though under the Trump administration, it fell behind Canada. Countries around the world accepted fewer refugees in the last few years as the U.S. lowered its own cap, even as the number of refugees around the world soared to 26 million, the highest since World War II, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

The refugee system is run separately from that for asylum seekers. Refugees flee their home countries and go through security and medical vetting before they are permitted to relocate to the U.S., where they receive resettlement aid through religious and other nonprofit organizations. Asylum seekers must meet the same standard of political, religious, ethnic or other persecution, but they make their claims once they reach U.S. soil.

The Biden White House struggled to explain the reversal on refugee admissions in the days following the signing of the order in April. White House press secretary Jen Psaki denied last month that the White House had reversed course at all, noting that the order Mr. Biden signed had stated that the cap could be increased once it was reached. She said the administration ended up announcing a May 15 deadline for increasing the cap because the order wasn’t being “clearly understood.” And “no one is buying it, that works on the border patrol”, one source says.

On the east coast, a change is in the air. On May 19th, the states of New York and New Jersey are lifting most capacity limits on businesses put in place last spring to stem the spread of Covid-19 as more people get vaccinated and infections continue to decline.

Capacity limits will end on the 19th of this month for New Jersey and New York retail stores, restaurants, gyms, amusement parks, salons, barber shops, offices, museums and theaters, including Broadway, state officials said Monday. Businesses will be limited only by social-distancing measures, which require patrons and parties to be kept 6 feet apart.

Both states are keeping their indoor mask mandates. Will California be next to “follow the science” or use their heads. Stay tuned.

Tomorrow night’s (Tuesday) Mega Millions jackpot is $345 million. Wednesday’s Powerball is $142 million.

Heard this one? It’s true. The popularity of chicken — from sandwiches and tenders to nuggets and wings — is fueling such demand for fried poultry that America is starting to run short. KFC says it’s struggling to keep up with soaring demand for its new sandwich, while North Carolina-based chicken-and biscuits-chain Bojangles reported outages of tenders across its 750 locations.

… Chicken, which is the most popular meat in the U.S., is finding a new level of demand after Popeyes introduced a sandwich in 2019 that went viral and sold out in weeks. The frenzy has now caught on at other chains as well, with McDonald and KFC reporting last week that their new fried-chicken sandwiches are selling well beyond expectations.

A 240-pound sturgeon that could be more than 100 years old was caught days ago in the Detroit River by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The sturgeon was nearly 7 feet long. The Fish and Wildlife Service wrote on Facebook: “Based on its girth and size, it is assumed to be a female and that she has been roaming our waters over 100 years. She was quickly released back into the river” after being weighed and measured.

… It took about six minutes to get the fish into the boat with a net.

… The typical lifespan is 55 years for a male sturgeon and 70 to 100 years for females.

Two New Jersey brothers are raising the bar with a fundraising walk across the country — all the way to the Redwood Forest outside of San Francisco. Aiden (28) and Louis (27) Ardine, of Middletown, New Jersey, saw how hard the COVID-driven lockdowns and slow reopening hurt their colleagues in the bar and restaurant industry over the past year and came up with a plan to give something back. They’re calling their adventure “Walking America.”

… The brothers, who are avid distance runners with a fondness for hiking and camping, mapped out a 3,147-mile route that will take them through 11 states on their way across the country. They have friends and family along the way, but they told their hometown paper that they will also rely on strangers they meet on their journey. They estimate they will go about 20 miles per day, which would make the trip about five months long.

… The idea began as an offhand joke during a trip to Vermont with friends, when Aiden said he would rather hike than keep looking for scarce jobs in restaurants operating under limited capacity restrictions. He spoke with his brother, and they came up with the plan to raise money for the nonprofit Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation. Their goal is $30,000, or about $10 per mile, the cost of an average lunch.

… They prepared for the trip by speaking with others who’ve done long distance hikes. Most of the trip will be on what Aiden called “backcountry highways,” so that they’re rarely further than 50 miles away from a town.

Some things you never forget, even if you’re losing your memory — just ask an elderly Tennessee (Lebanon) couple who broke out of an assisted living facility … using Morse code. A husband and wife — each of whom reportedly suffer from either dementia/Alzheimer’s, or both — were able to successfully escape from a secure memory unit (in March) because the husband somehow was able to conjure his military experience.

… According to the Tennessean newspaper, the guy would listen in on staffers as they punched in the security key for the front doors and he managed to figure out the exact combo using his trained Morse code ear. It appears the couple hatched a plan and walked out on a Tuesday — going undetected and unaccounted for about 30 minutes or so. Somebody found them walking down the street a few blocks away and they were eventually returned to the facility in one piece.

… The facility got fined by the state. They told state regulators that they’d make sure this doesn’t happen again by checking in more frequently on their guests, and by changing the security keys early and often. They also promised to get the older gentleman out more on walks and such.

Excavators in England have unearthed a huge World War II-era U.S. landing craft from a field — 74 years after it went missing. In 1947, more than a dozen Buffalo LVT were transported to Crowland, Lincolnshire, to help the British Army build flood defenses, but five were swept away in high waters. Over the weekend a group of local military enthusiasts succeeded in their mission to unearth one of the 26-foot-long craft after a five-day dig, which they found buried 30 feet below the earth.

… The Buffalo LVT was a US-made landing craft used to transport supplies and crosses water in Europe and the Pacific region. It saw action in World War II’s greatest battles, including the Battle for Iwo Jima and D-Day. The group behind the excavation believes that this Buffalo LVT was also previously used to cross the River Rhine in Germany in March 1945.

… The craft appears to be in good condition due to the nature of the clay and peat soil that has surrounded it for 74 years .

The co-owner of the Burg Steakhouse in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, says a tourist came in for lunch, and apparently enjoyed his meal because he came back for dinner, too. He had a filet mignon and crab cakes, a Shirley Temple, and a scoop of ice cream. His bill came to $59, and he rounded it up a little with the tip: $1,000, which he asked to be spread among the entire staff. He also paid the tab at a couple of other tables. The man asked to remain anonymous, but said he was terminally ill and spending the rest of his days paying it forward.

A Wisconsin woman has sued food giant Kraft Heinz, saying the packaging of its Bagel Bites Pizza Snacks amounts to fraud. Kaitlyn Huber’s federal lawsuit says a box featuring the Real Dairy seal, and the large type announcing mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, are “false, deceptive and misleading.” The suit, which seeks class-action status on behalf of anyone who bought the bites in Wisconsin, asks the court to make Kraft Heinz correct its packaging and for unspecified damages.

… The suit states: “Wisconsin consumers want real mozzarella cheese in pizza because they value (1) its soft, moist texture, (2) its milky, yet tangy taste and (3) its high protein and relatively low calories and sodium compared to other cheeses.” The suggestion that Bagel Bites Pizza Snacks are made with tomato sauce is also bogus, according to Huber’s suit.

… Huber’s lawsuit claims Wisconsin and federal regulations require any purported mozzarella that contains added food starch — in place of milk — to be labeled as imitation mozzarella cheese. A spokesperson for Kraft Heinz said the company did not have any comment about Huber’s lawsuit.

… In a court filing in a very similar suit filed in New York earlier this year, lawyers for Heinz Kraft argued that because some mozzarella is used in the “cheese blend” cited as an ingredient in Bagel Bites, it is not “imitation” mozzarella under federal law.

It’s not everyday a pet dog encounters a lizard of similar size to themselves in their own backyard. On Sunday evening, a pitbull/boxer mix in Willis, Texas experienced that when she was let outside for a bathroom break. Owner Molly Doughtery left her dog Nola with her parents for the weekend while she attended a birthday celebration out of town. She received a call from her mother on Sunday evening as she was boarding her flight to return home, “screaming that Nola has been attacked by a very large lizard.” Nola and the lizard apparently engaged in combat at some point, as the family found bloodstains on their fence and Nola was left with wounds to “her face, head, and chest, and limping in her hind leg” because of the attack. The vet treatment added up to $3,000.

People are split on how to settle the restaurant bill after a meal with friends and family. A study of 2,000 diners revealed 34 percent believe you should split the bill straight down the middle including the tip, while 36 percent believe it should be split precisely based on who has had what. No word on what the other 30 percent believe.

… Nearly half (43 percent) of people say they feel awkward when it comes to approaching how to pay when they eat out.

A survey finds we stop worrying about what other people think of us at the age of 46. The survey of adults 55-plus also found we don’t feel comfortable in our own skin until we turn 42.

A new study is revealing there may have been an even more devastating pandemic to come out of 2020 than COVID-19 — loneliness. Since the start of the pandemic, 67 percent of Americans say they feel more alone than ever before. The poll of 2,003 Americans also finds 55 percent feel like they’ve completely lost their sense of community over the past year.

… Maintaining friendships and relationships can take a lot of energy. Since COVID-19 hit, 58 percent of respondents say they just can’t keep up with everybody anymore.

As people began feeling more and more isolated over the past year, researchers find Americans turned to the internet for a source of comfort and community.

A 43-year-old video gamer in Wales was found dead after an all-night Xbox session. Simon Shanks was discovered slumped on his sofa in front of his screen with the gaming controller in his hand.

A 7-year old boy in Tennessee learned that hard work pays off by turning his hard-earned money into one of the biggest flathead catfish catches in state history. Autry Hogan (Cumberland City) saved up his chores money to buy a new pole in preparation for a fishing trip with his dad, Joshua, grandpa Gary, and little brother Kye.

Once the Hogan family hit the water, it didn’t take long for Autry to get a fish hooked on his new piece of equipment. While the first catch on a new pole is always exciting, Autry didn’t just catch any ole little bass or bluegill. He caught an 83-pound flathead catfish.

An overwhelming majority of U.S. employees who are currently working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic don’t want to return to the office full-time. According to a survey (by people management platform Hibob), only 10 percent of employees surveyed want to go back to brick-and-mortar offices.

… 73 percent of managers polled said two or three days in the office and the rest working from home would be the preferred hybrid work model.

Pets bring companionship and humor into our lives, but it’s not always a smooth ride. In fact, a new study finds the average pet parent has 231 “mini-panics” each year. The survey of 2,000 dog and cat owners delved into these panic points, with researchers finding the average respondent has just over four panics per week. It turns out many of those panics revolve around their furry friend’s bathroom habits.

… Top mini-panics include their pet having irregular bowel movements (47%), their pet not eating a normal amount (47%), and their pet’s poop being an unusual consistency (46%). Also making the list are incidents where someone’s pet eats something they shouldn’t have (46%) or not being able to find their pet in the house (42%).

Blue Origin will soon be selling the first tickets for rides on its space tourism rocket called New Shepard. The first tickets will go on sale starting Wednesday, May 5. Blue Origin did not reveal how much tickets will cost, only saying that more details will come on May 5 to those who submit their name and email on a form on the company’s website.

… The announcement’s video features Amazon founder and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos going out to the capsule of New Shepard after the company’s test flight earlier this month. It shows him driving across the Texas desert, the remote location of the New Shepard launch facility. • VIDEO

… New Shepard is designed to carrying as many as six people at a time on a ride past the edge of space, with the capsules on previous test flights reaching an altitude of more than 340,000 feet. The capsule, which has massive windows to give passengers a view, spends as much as 10 minutes in zero gravity before returning to Earth. The rocket launches vertically, with the booster detaching and returning to land at a concrete pad nearby. The capsule’s return is slowed down by a set of parachutes, before softly landing in the desert. • LINK

A Florida woman said scratching off a $500,000 lottery prize caused her to forget her dinner. Kristina Ritchey told Florida Lottery officials she was cooking dinner when she decided to scratch off the ticket she had purchased earlier in the day. Ritchey said she was so excited to reveal a $500,000 prize that she forgot about the food. Ritchey said, “When I realized I had won, I ran to tell my fiance. We were both so excited that I completely forgot about the food and ended up burning our dinner — it was worth it though.”

One of the most famous buildings in the U.S. had its official opening this week (May 1) in 1931 — the Empire State Building in New York City. The building was constructed in just 14 months. Not long after its opening, it became a movie star, with the famous scene in King Kong when the giant gorilla climbs the building clutching actress Fay Wray while fighting off attacking fighter planes.

At 102 stories, the Empire State Building was the tallest in the world for four decades until surpassed by the first tower of the World Trade Center in 1972.

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