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AP News in Brief at 6:04 p.m. EST | National


AP Analysis: Racial disparity seen in US vaccination drive

A racial gap has opened up in the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination drive, with Black Americans in many places lagging behind whites in receiving shots, an Associated Press analysis shows.

An early look at the 17 states and two cities that have released racial breakdowns through Jan. 25 found that Black people in all places are getting inoculated at levels below their share of the general population, in some cases significantly below.

That is true even though they constitute an oversize percentage of the nation’s health care workers, who were put at the front of the line for shots when the campaign began in mid-December.

For example, in North Carolina, Black people make up 22% of the population and 26% of the health care workforce but only 11% of the vaccine recipients so far. White people, a category in which the state includes both Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites, are 68% of the population and 82% of those vaccinated.

The gap is deeply troubling to some, given that the coronavirus has taken a disproportionate toll in severe sickness and death on Black people in the U.S., where the scourge has killed over 430,000 Americans. Black, Hispanic and Native American people are dying from COVID-19 at almost three times the rate of white people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Playing favorites? Hospital boards, donors get COVID shots

While millions of Americans wait for the COVID-19 vaccine, hospital board members, their trustees and donors around the country have gotten early access to the scarce drug or offers for vaccinations, raising complaints about favoritism tainting decisions about who gets inoculated and when.

In Rhode Island, Attorney General Peter Neronha opened an inquiry after reports that two hospital systems offered their board members vaccinations. A Seattle-area hospital system was rebuked by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee after it offered COVID-19 vaccination appointments to major donors. And in Kansas, members of a hospital board received vaccinations during the first phase of the state’s rollout, which was intended for people at greater risk for infection.

Hospitals in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia also have faced questions about distributing vaccines, including to donors, trustees and relatives of executives.

The disclosures could threaten public confidence in a national rollout already marked by vaccine shortages, appointment logjams and inconsistent standards state to state for determining who’s eligible.

“We want people vaccinated based on priority, not privilege,” Inslee spokesman Mike Faulk said. “Everyone deserves a fair opportunity to get vaccinated.”


As California virus cases fall, more people than ever dying

LOS ANGELES (AP) — As a hospice nurse, Antonio Espinoza worked to ease people’s passage into death. Just 36 years old, it seemed unlikely he soon would be on that journey.

But when the unpredictable coronavirus hit Espinoza, he spiraled from fever to chills to labored breathing that sent him to a Southern California hospital, where he died Monday, a little more than a week after being admitted.

Espinoza is among the latest to succumb in what has become California’s deadliest surge. An average of 544 people died every day in the last week, and on Saturday the state reached the grim milestone of 40,000 deaths overall, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

In barely a year since the virus was first detected in the state, 1 in 1,000 Californians have died from it.

Espinoza’s wife, Nancy, watched through a glass window in the hospital as her husband took his last breaths, then was allowed in the room to be with him. She’s now figuring out what to do next and how she’ll raise their 3-year-old son alone.


In Iowa, a GOP stalwart becomes a casualty in party war

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The flood of calls, texts and emails came swiftly and most with the same message. Dave Millage sat by the fireplace in his living room in a quiet Bettendorf neighborhood as he read them.

He had braced for some blowback ever since he’d told a local reporter what he thought about President Donald Trump’s behavior on Jan. 6. Still, one email stung.

“Traitor.”

“These were friends I had made over the years in the Republican Party,” Millage, a longtime conservative activist in eastern Iowa, said in an Associated Press interview days later. “I didn’t expect people to be mad at me. I can see being mad at my comments, or disagreeing. But it turned a little personal.”

Indeed, years of anti-abortion rights advocacy and devout party organizing didn’t shield the typically understated Iowa Republican from retribution. Within a day of declaring that Trump should be impeached for his role in the deadly Capitol riot, Millage was forced to step down as chair of the Scott County GOP.


For GameStop day traders, the moment they’ve dreamed about

WASHINGTON (AP) — They’ve endured a financial crisis. Two deep recessions. Mounds of student debt. Stagnant pay. Costly health care. Dim job prospects.

They’ve seen the uber-rich grow richer while a pandemic threw tens of millions of people out of work and left many more isolated and vulnerable at home.

Now, they feel, it’s payback time.

Nearly a decade after the Occupy protest movement left Wall Street more or less unscathed, the citadel of financial might faces a new assault.

Day traders, mobilized on a Reddit chatroom, have poured about all the money they can find into the stocks of a struggling video game retailer called GameStop and a few other beaten-down companies. Their buying has swollen those companies’ share prices beyond anyone’s imagination — and, not coincidentally, inflicted huge losses on the hedge funds of the super-rich, who had placed bets that the stocks would drop.


Russia warn Navalny supporters not to attend Sunday protests

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian police have issued a strong warning against participating in protests planned for Sunday to call for the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the Kremlin’s most prominent foe.

The warning comes amid detentions of Navalny associates and opposition journalists and a police plan to restrict movement in the center of Moscow on Sunday.

Navalny was arrested on Jan. 17 after flying back to Russia from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning. His detention sparked nationwide protests one week ago in about 100 cities; nearly 4,000 people were reported arrested.

The next demonstration in Moscow is planned for Lubyanka Square. The Federal Security Service, which Navalny claims arrange to have him poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent on behalf of the Kremlin, is headquartered in the square. The Russian government has denied a role in the 44-year-old’s poisoning.

The city police department said much of central Moscow from Red Square to Lubyanka would have pedestrian restrictions and that seven subway stations in the vicinity would be closed on Sunday. Restaurants in the area also are to be closed, and the iconic GUM department store on Red Square said it would open only in the evening.


Federal conspiracy charges for 2 Proud Boys in Capitol riot

NEW YORK (AP) — Two men identified as members of the Proud Boys have been indicted on federal conspiracy and other charges in the Capitol riot as prosecutors raise the stakes in some of the slew of cases stemming from the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Dominic Pezzola, a former Marine who authorities say was seen on video smashing a Capitol window with a stolen Capitol Police riot shield, and William Pepe, who authorities said was photographed inside the building, were arrested earlier in the month on federal charges that included illegally entering a restricted building. The two, both from New York state, have now been indicted in Washington on charges that newly include conspiracy.

“The object of the conspiracy was to obstruct, influence, impede and interfere with law enforcement officers engaged in their official duties in protecting the U.S. Capitol and its grounds,” the indictment says, accusing Pezzola, Pepe and unnamed others of leading a group of Proud Boys and others to the Capitol and moving police barricades there.

Pezzola went on to snatch an officer’s shield and use it to break the window, according to the indictment, which was filed in court Friday.

Pezzola’s lawyer Michael Scibetta said Saturday he was researching the charges but hadn’t been able yet to discuss the indictment with his client, who is being held without bail. A lawyer for Pepe, Shelli Peterson, declined to comment.


US pauses plan to give virus vaccine to Guantanamo prisoners

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is backing off for now on a plan to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to the 40 prisoners held at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby said in a tweet Saturday that the Defense Department would be “pausing” the plan to give the vaccination to those held at Guantanamo while it reviews measures to protect troops who work there.

Kirby said no prisoners had yet received the vaccination. The plan drew some criticism after The New York Times reported that the vaccination of prisoners would start in the coming days.

“We’re pausing the plan to move forward, as we review force protection protocols,” Kirby said. “We remain committed to our obligations to keep our troops safe.”

The U.S. military announced earlier this month that it planned to offer the vaccine to prisoners as it vaccinated all personnel at the detention center.


Lawmakers push mental health days for kids amid pandemic

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — When she was growing up, Sophie Corroon struggled to get through a ballet class or soccer tryout without having an anxiety attack.

The idea of going to sleepovers or being home alone left her feeling panicked. Corroon’s anxiety grew even more during high school in Salt Lake City, when the pressures of getting into college left her in tears at school or toiling for hours on assignments.

Corroon, now 20, has struggled with her mental health since fourth grade, and she’s not alone. And now, the coronavirus pandemic has multiplied the pressures on kids — many have spent almost a year doing remote learning, isolated from their friends and classmates. The portion of children’s emergency-room visits related to mental health was 44% higher in 2020, compared with the year before.

State lawmakers are increasingly seeking more support for kids. This year, legislation proposed in Utah and Arizona would add mental or behavioral health to the list of reasons students can be absent from class, similar to staying out with a physical illness. Similar laws have passed in Oregon, Maine, Colorado and Virginia in the past two years.

Offering mental health days can help children and parents communicate and prevent struggling students from falling behind in school or ending up in crisis, said Debbie Plotnick, vice president of the nonprofit advocacy group Mental Health America. Plotnick said mental health days can be even more effective when paired with mental health services in schools.


Famous private eye Jack Palladino gravely injured in robbery

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Jack Palladino, the private investigator who worked on high-profile cases ranging from the Jonestown mass suicides to celebrity and political scandals, has been placed on life support after suffering a head injury during an attempted robbery.

Palladino, 70, had just stepped outside his San Francisco home on Thursday to try out his new camera when a car pulled up and a man jumped out to grab it from him, police and the detective’s stepson Nick Chapman told the San Francisco Chronicle.

As the suspect grabbed the camera, Palladino fell and hit his head on the pavement, causing a traumatic head injury. Chapman said Palladino was not expected to survive after undergoing surgery to stop the massive bleeding.

Police said no suspects have been arrested.

Palladino was wrapping up one final case before joining his wife and work partner, Sandra Sutherland, in retirement. Since the 1980s, the two conducted investigations out of their Victorian home in the city’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, on behalf of the famous and powerful as well as the underdogs.



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