US tightens definition of service animals allowed on planes

(AP) – Say goodbye to emotional-support animals in airplane cabins.

The Transportation Department issued a final rule Wednesday covering service animals.

The rule says only dogs can qualify, and they have to be specially trained to help a person with disabilities.

For years, some travelers have been bringing untrained dogs and all kinds of other animals on board by claiming they need the animal for emotional support.

Airlines believe some passengers were avoiding pet fees by calling their pets emotional-support animals.

The new rules take effect in 30 days.

Britain OKs Pfizer vaccine and will begin shots within days

LONDON (AP) — Britain became the first country in the world to authorize a rigorously tested COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday and could be dispensing shots within days — a historic step toward eventually ending the scourge that has killed more than 1.4 million people around the globe.

In giving the go-ahead for emergency use of the vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, Britain vaulted past the United States by at least a week. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not scheduled to consider the vaccine until Dec. 10.

“This is a day to remember, frankly, in a year to forget,” British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

The announcement sets the stage for the biggest vaccination campaign in British history and came just ahead of what experts are warning will be a long, dark winter, with the coronavirus surging to epic levels in the U.S. and Europe and putting pressure on hospitals and businesses.

US panel: 1st vaccines to health care workers, nursing homes

NEW YORK (AP) — Health care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line when the first coronavirus vaccine shots become available, an influential government advisory panel said Tuesday.

The panel voted 13-1 to recommend those groups get priority in the first days of any coming vaccination program when doses are expected to be very limited.

The two groups encompass about 24 million people out of a U.S. population of about 330 million.

Later this month, the Food and Drug Administration will consider authorizing emergency use of two vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna. Current estimates project that no more than 20 million doses of each vaccine will be available by the end of 2020. And each product requires two doses. As a result, the shots will be rationed in the early stages.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet again at some point to decide who should be next in line.

Among the possibilities: teachers, police, firefighters and workers in other essential fields such as food production and transportation; the elderly; and people with underlying medical conditions.

Tuesday’s action merely designated who should get shots first if a safe and effective vaccine becomes available.

The panel did not endorse any particular vaccine. Panel members are waiting to hear FDA’s evaluation and to see more safety and efficacy data before endorsing any particular product.

Trump science adviser Scott Atlas leaving White House job

Dr. Scott Atlas, a science adviser to President Donald Trump who was skeptical of measures to control the coronavirus outbreak, is leaving his White House post.

A White House official confirmed that the Stanford University neuroradiologist, who had no formal experience in public health or infectious diseases, resigned at the end of his temporary government assignment.

Atlas confirmed the news in a Monday evening tweet.

Atlas joined the White House this summer, where he clashed with top government scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, as he resisted stronger efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 267,000 Americans.

Barr: No evidence of fraud that would change election outcome

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

His comments come despite President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the election was stolen, and his refusal to concede his loss to President-Elect Joe Biden.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Barr said U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but they’ve uncovered no evidence that would change the outcome of the election.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,” Barr told the AP.

The comments are especially direct coming from Barr, who has been one of the president’s most ardent allies.

Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voter fraud could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to the polls and instead chose to vote by mail.

Centrist lawmakers push $908B plan to break virus impasse

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bipartisan group of lawmakers is putting pressure on congressional leaders to accept a split-the-difference solution to the protracted impasse over COVID-19 relief in a last-gasp effort to ship overdue help to a hurting nation before Congress adjourns for the holidays.

The group includes Senate centrists such as Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, who hope to exert greater influence in a closely divided Congress during the incoming Biden administration.

In Wilmington, Delaware, President-elect Joe Biden called on lawmakers to approve a down payment on COVID relief, though he cautioned that “any package passed in lame-duck session is — at best — just a start.”

The proposal hit the scales at $908 billion, including $228 billion to extend and upgrade “paycheck protection” subsidies for businesses for a second round of relief to hard-hit businesses like restaurants.

It would revive a special jobless benefit, but at a reduced level of $300 per week rather than the $600 benefit enacted in March. State and local governments would receive $160 billion, and there is also money for vaccines.

Earlier, larger versions of the proposal — a framework with only limited detail — were rejected by top leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. But pressure is building as lawmakers face the prospect of heading home for Christmas and New Year’s without delivering aid to people in need.

Wisconsin Gov. signs certification of Biden’s win ahead of promised Trump lawsuit

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Joe Biden’s victory in Wisconsin has been certified following a partial recount that added slightly to his 20,600-vote margin over President Donald Trump.

Certification of the results on Monday starts a five-day window for Trump to file a lawsuit.

Trump on Saturday promised to file a lawsuit seeking to overturn the results of the election by disqualifying tens of thousands of ballots. He alleges without evidence that there was widespread fraud and illegal activity.

Trump’s legal challenges have failed in other battleground states.

Biden’s campaign has said the recount showed that Biden won Wisconsin decisively and there was no fraud.

Arizona certifies Biden victory over Trump

Arizona officials have certified Joe Biden’s narrow victory over President Donald Trump in the state.

Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey stood up for the integrity of the election even as lawyers for Trump were across town Monday arguing without evidence to nine Republican lawmakers that the election was marred by fraud.

Ducey says, “We do elections well here in Arizona. The system is strong.”

Biden won Arizona by 0.3% of the nearly 3.4 million ballots cast, a margin of just under 10,500 votes. He’s the second Democrat in 70 years to win the state.

The certification also paves the way for Democrat Mark Kelly to take his seat in the U.S. Senate, formalizing his victory in a special election to replace the late John McCain. Kelly is scheduled to be sworn in on Wednesday in Washington.

Moderna asking US, European regulators to OK its virus shots

Moderna Inc. said it would ask U.S. and European regulators Monday to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection — ramping up the race to begin limited vaccinations as the coronavirus rampage worsens.

Multiple vaccine candidates must succeed for the world to stamp out the pandemic, which has been on the upswing in the U.S. and Europe.

U.S. hospitals have been stretched to the limit as the nation has seen more than 160,000 new cases per day and more than 1,400 daily deaths. Since first emerging nearly a year ago in China, the virus has killed more than 1.4 million people worldwide.

Moderna is just behind Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech in seeking to begin vaccinations in the U.S. in December. British regulators also are assessing the Pfizer shot and another from AstraZeneca.

Moderna created its shots with the U.S. National Institutes of Health and already had a hint they were working, but said it got the final needed results over the weekend that suggest the vaccine is more than 94% effective.

Of 196 COVID-19 cases so far in its huge U.S. study, 185 were trial participants who received the placebo and 11 who got the real vaccine. The only people who got severely ill — 30 participants, including one who died — had received dummy shots, said Dr. Tal Zaks, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, company’s chief medical officer.

US appeals court rejects Trump appeal over Pennsylvania race

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A federal appeals court in Philadelphia has rejected President Donald Trump’s latest effort to challenge the election results in a case expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court if Trump appeals.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals echoed a string of other courts in finding his campaign offered no evidence of any election fraud.

Instead, the court said “the campaign’s claims have no merit.”

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani called the election process fraudulent during oral arguments in a lower court last week but offered no proof.

Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee, wrote Friday that “calling an election unfair does not make it so.”