Second vaccine shows early success in US tests


For the second time this month, there’s promising news from a COVID-19 vaccine candidate: Moderna said Monday its shots provide strong protection, a dash of hope against the grim backdrop of coronavirus surges in the US and around the world.

Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5 per cent effective, according to preliminary data from the company’s still ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own COVID-19 vaccine appeared similarly effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the US.

In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. Moderna said on November 16, 2020, its COVID-19 shot provides strong protection against the coronavirus surging around the world. (AP)

Dr Stephen Hoge, Moderna’s president, welcomed the “really important milestone” but said having similar results from two different companies is what’s most reassuring.

“That should give us all hope that actually a vaccine is going to be able to stop this pandemic and hopefully get us back to our lives,” Hoge told The Associated Press.

“It won’t be Moderna alone that solves this problem. It’s going to require many vaccines” to meet the global demand, he added.

A vaccine can’t come fast enough, as virus cases topped 11 million in the US over the weekend — 1 million of them recorded in just the past week. The pandemic has killed more than 1.3 million people worldwide, more than 245,000 of them in the US.

Still, if the Food and Drug Administration allows emergency use of Moderna’s or Pfizer’s candidates, there will be limited, rationed supplies before the end of the year. Both require people to get two shots, several weeks apart. Moderna expects to have about 20 million doses, earmarked for the US, by the end of 2020. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech expect to have about 50 million doses globally by year’s end.

This photo provided by Pfizer shows part of a "freezer farm," a football field-sized facility for storing finished COVID-19 vaccines, under construction in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Pfizer's experimental vaccine requires ultracold storage, at about -70°C.  (Jeremy Davidson/Pfizer via AP)
This photo provided by Pfizer shows part of a “freezer farm,” a football field-sized facility for storing finished COVID-19 vaccines, under construction in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Pfizer’s experimental vaccine requires ultracold storage, at about -70°C. (Jeremy Davidson/Pfizer via AP) (AP)

Moderna’s vaccine, created with the National Institutes of Health, is being studied in 30,000 volunteers who received either the real vaccination or a dummy shot. On Sunday, an independent monitoring board broke the code to examine 95 infections that were recorded starting two weeks after volunteers’ second dose — and discovered all but five illnesses occurred in participants who got the placebo.

The study is continuing, and Moderna acknowledged the protection rate might change as more COVID-19 infections are detected and added to the calculations. Also, it’s too soon to know how long protection lasts. Both cautions apply to Pfizer’s vaccine as well.

But Moderna’s independent monitors reported some additional, promising tidbits: All 11 severe COVID-19 cases were among placebo recipients, and there were no significant safety concerns.

The main side effects were fatigue, muscle aches and injection-site pain after the vaccine’s second dose, at rates that Hoge characterised as more common than with flu shots but on par with others such as shingles vaccine.

Moderna Inc.
In this May 18, 2020, file photo, a sign marks an entrance to a Moderna, Inc., building, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (AP)

Moderna shares rocketed higher on the announcement and appeared to be headed for an all-time high Monday. The Cambridge, Massachusetts, company’s vaccine is among 11 candidates in late-stage testing around the world, four of them in huge studies in the U.S.

Both Moderna’s shots and the Pfizer-BioNTech candidate are so-called mRNA vaccines, a brand-new technology. They aren’t made with the coronavirus itself, meaning there’s no chance anyone could catch it from the shots. Instead, the vaccine contains a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognise the spiked protein on the surface of the virus.

The strong results were a surprise. Scientists have warned for months that any COVID-19 shot may be only as good as flu vaccines, which are about 50 per cent effective.

Another steep challenge: distributing doses that must be kept very cold. Both the Moderna and Pfizer shots are frozen but at different temperatures. Moderna announced Monday that once thawed, its doses can last longer in a refrigerator than initially thought, up to 30 days. Pfizer’s shots require long-term storage at ultra-cold temperatures.

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The best Black Friday phone deals: The best early deals on iPhones, flip phones (yes, flip phones), and more



These Black Friday phone savings are just a click away. (Nathana Rebouças via Unsplash/)

Communication and connection are key to survival right now, more than ever. So there’s really no better time for a brand new phone! The best Black Friday phone deals are in, and they landed weeks before November 27 this year. Major retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, and Amazon are running deals on a variety of phones, from Apple to Android, to flip phones and Jitterbugs for the simpler communicators on your gift list. We’re keeping a running list of them here.

If you don’t find your perfect gift below, bookmark this page and check back with us. We’re doing regular updates on the best Black Friday phone deals until all the sales are over.

The Best Buy Black Friday deals on electronics, appliances, and more

Shop Target’s Black Friday sale for gear, gadgets, and gifts

The best Black Friday Walmart deals

Shop Amazon holiday deals for great savings anytime

Great Black Friday deal we love

The Best Black Friday phone and accessory deals 2020

Tada! We’ve got the best Black Friday phone and accessories deals available right now. Don’t wait—some of these are going to sell out fast.

UNLOCKED MOTOROLA EDGE—SAVE $300. This 2020 Motorola Edge features a vibrant wraparound 6.7 inch OLED display, ideal for streaming or editing the pictures you take with the 64MP triple camera system. 6GB RAM and 256GB storage means you’re set for all the texts, memes and videos to come. At this price, there’s no way it’s sticking around for long.

iPhone 12—SAVE UP TO $800 with trade in. Chances are, you may have heard about the new iPhone 12. It boasts 5G speed, a full screen OLED display, and Night mode on every camera, including wide angle, so you can avoid using flash when you’re out. If you prefer your screens on the diminutive side, pick up the iPhone 12 Mini instead. At 5.4 inches, it’s snug enough to fit comfortably in your palm, no thumb stretches required.

OTTERBOX HEAVY DUTY PHONE CASE—SAVE $25. Are you as clumsy as we are? Get you an Otterbox, stat. The raised edges protect your iPhone screen even if it falls face first, and port covers keep dust from wriggling into your phone and clogging up the power jack. Matte rubber feels comfortable and won’t slip, even as you’re carrying a million things at once (but again, if it falls, you’re covered).

LIVELY FLIP PHONE FOR SENIORS—SAVE $50. Maybe your mom doesn’t need FaceTime, Instagram, Twitter or Tinder (although who’s to say?). If that’s the case, this GreatCall Lively Flip Phone, in cherry red or classic grey, might just be the buy for her. An easy-to-read interface shows the date and time at a glance, and it even connects to Amazon Alexa to get the weather. In case of emergency, the phone features a dedicated “Urgent Response” button. Some packages allow your loved one to call a caretaker or medical professional with no appointment or co-pay necessary.

SAMSUNG FAST CHARGE WIRELESS CHARGING STAND—SAVE $20. Never get caught at 10% battery with no hope of getting home before your phone goes kaputt with this Samsung wireless charging stand. Compatible with a range of Samsung Galaxy phones and even select iPhone models, it features a built-in fan to speed up charging time and keep your battery running cool. Having this on hand will show who’s the most responsible in the friend group, once and for all.

JITTERBUG PREPAID—SAVE $75. Maybe your dad wants to ditch the flip phone, but avoid the extras that come with an iPhone. This prepaid smartphone from Jitterbug comes equipped with an easy-to-read interface that is, frankly, massive, and features a front-facing speaker so your father or grandparents won’t ask you to repeat yourself 17 times on any given phone call. This one also comes equipped with an Urgent Response button with select packages.

UNLOCKED MOTO G POWER PHONE—SAVE $70. Have you ever wondered what would happen if (God forbid) you were stranded without a phone charger for three days? Well, if you had the Moto G Power on hand, you really wouldn’t have to worry. A 5,000 mAH battery means this baby can last a full three days on a single charge—and the rest of the specs aren’t too shabby, either. Dual stereo speakers and a 16 MP triple camera system are both features to boast about.

SPECK PHONE HOLDER—50 PERCENT OFF. Keep your phone from slipping out of your grasp again with the Speck Phone Holder, available in a far-out galaxy print or a cutesy floral. This is also a great gift for kids with new phones, if you want to keep those screens from face-planting.



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Melbourne’s new Suburban Rail Loop to start at Cheltenham, $2.2 billion announced for early works


Melbourne’s future Suburban Rail Loop will begin at Southland Shopping Centre, which is one of six new train station locations picked by the Andrews Government for the project.

The full project aims to eventually link every major train line between Frankston and Werribee, via Melbourne Airport.

Next week’s budget will include $2.2 billion for early works for the first 26 kilometres of the project.

No date has been set for completion, but the money announced today will allow early works to begin in 2022.

The Government has also announced the preferred site of six new underground stations for the first leg of the loop from Cheltenham to Box Hill.

Stations will be built next to Monash and Deakin universities, while a new station at Clayton will serve as interchange with V/Line services and Cranbourne-Pakenham trains.

“This is all about connecting people to where they work, where they live, less cars on the road, less trips to the city if you don’t need to make those trips,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Mr Andrews said the project would “help drive the state’s recovery” from the pandemic.

Despite the eye-watering bill for the early works, the Government has not revealed how much the total project will cost, saying a full cost analysis is still underway.

When the project was first announced at the 2018 election, the estimates for the entire loop exceeded $50 billion.

By comparison, the 9-kilometre Metro Tunnel project is budgeted to cost $11 billion, but is facing cost blowouts.

Without the project, freeway networks will not work: Andrews

Mr Andrews said revealing the full cost of the project would compromise the competitive nature of a full tender process.

“It’s not my practice to tell people who are about to begin bidding for this work, the number that would win them that tender,” he said.

He said the cost of not building the loop would be “freeway networks that just do not work, at all”.

“Pre-pandemic traffic will be nothing compared to what we will see in decades to come,” he said.

The owners and tenants of up to 300 homes and businesses have been notified that they may be impacted by the project.

The Government said because of the complexity of the project, there would be some “unavoidable disruption and land acquisition”.

Mr Andrews said the project would create 800 direct jobs and, at the peak of construction, the project would support 20,000 jobs.

“It will take many decades to finish,” he said.

“It’s started by our Government, but it will be finished in decades to come by another Government.

“It’s not about the electoral cycle, it’s about getting people where they need to go.”

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The project was allocated $300 million in last year’s budget for the design and development.

Geotechnical drilling has begun and will continue, with the money also to be used to relocate utilities.

New rolling stock will be needed for the network and the Government is working to find an appropriate stabling yard for the new trains.



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Shots fired through window of Brisbane restaurant in early hours of the morning


Gun shots have been fired into the front of Barolos Italian restaurant in the inner-Brisbane suburb of Toowong.

The incident occurred at about 2:00am today when the restaurant was closed.

Nobody was injured in the incident.

Forensic police were combing the scene this morning, with officers investigating reports that two people were seen fleeing the area shortly after the shots were fired.

It is not clear if any staff were in the restaurant at the time.

Police markers at the restaurant entrance.(ABC News: Anna Hartley)

The restaurant was formerly called Mariosarti.

In April 2017, then restaurant owner Daniel Milos was charged with cocaine trafficking after the venue was raided by Queensland police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission in the culmination of a 14-month investigation.

The Courier-Mail reported in April this year that Milos pleaded guilty to the charges.

It is not known whether this morning’s shooting has any connection to Milos.

A forensic officer in a jump suit near a bullet hole visible in a window
Police are investigating reports two people were seen running from the scene after the shooting.(ABC News: Anna Hartley)



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Tesco limits online customers as Christmas rush comes early


Tesco has apologised to its online customers unable to get on its website as the supermarket seeks to cope with high demand for Christmas bookings.

The UK’s largest retailer has had to install a queuing system online to help it to manage the demand.

Some customers complained to Tesco that they had been waiting hours to get onto the supermarket’s website.

“We’re sorry if things take a bit longer than usual,” Tesco said on its Twitter account.

“A lot of customers are using our website and app at the moment.”

Tesco said it was “using a virtual waiting room to help us manage the flow”.

Supermarkets have been overwhelmed with demand as people start to plan for Christmas, and rival Ocado has already sold out of slots after “huge” demand.

One Tesco customer said on Twitter: “We use delivery saver because we have 3 young children and both parents work full time – I’m currently stuck in your queue while trying to get the children ready for school before I have to work full time to book my usual weekly slot. I’ve been staring at that screen for an hour!”

Tesco said that by late morning the waiting room had been removed and slots should be available again.

A Tesco spokesperson said: “Demand for online slots over the festive period is high, and we have more slots this Christmas than ever before.

“We experienced high volumes of traffic to our website and groceries app this morning and temporarily limited the number of customers using it.

“We’ve now removed the waiting room and customers will be able to log straight on. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this caused and would like to reassure customers that there are still slots available for home delivery and Click+Collect over the Christmas period.”





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Three dogs die as warm weather brings snakes out early in suburban Hobart


Tasmania’s reptile catchers have reported a surge in activity, with panicked home owners finding snakes anywhere from under beds to inside cars.

In the past few weeks, statewide snake catching service Reptile Rescue has received about 40 to 50 calls a day.

“It’s unusual activity, the [snake] activity has been quite prevalent, and it’s not even anywhere near peak time,” snake catcher Justin Kneebone said.

“We’ve had our first warm spell and snakes are definitely out and about looking for food, water and mates.”

Three pet dogs died during the week after being bitten by snakes in suburban backyards in Hobart.

Lara Crawford lost her Staffordshire terrier Clyde and her great dane Jersey on Wednesday after they were bitten by a snake at their Risdon Vale home.

Lara Crawford kisses Jersey goodbye.(Supplied: Lara Crawford)

Ms Crawford said she brought the dogs inside for their evening feed when her partner noticed Clyde was completely paralysed.

Then they noticed Jersey’s back legs had gone and she was trembling.

The dogs were taken straight to the vet.

“There was nothing they could do for Clyde, they had to put Clyde down,” Ms Crawford said.

Ms Crawford also had to make the heartbreaking decision to euthanase her great dane.

A snake in backyard grass
Clyde and Jersey were bitten by a tiger snake in a Ridson Vale backyard.(Supplied)

“You can’t have a great dane on wheels, not being able to use their back legs, so we had no choice but to let her go.”

A Maltese terrier also died this week after being bitten by a tiger snake at Lutana.

‘In cars, under beds, in shoes’

Mr Kneebone said Tranmere, Acton, Cambridge and Lenah Valley were among the hotspots in Hobart and surrounds.

A man in a cap holds a snake on a wooden rod
Justin Kneebone says handlers are finding snakes in cars, under beds, in shoes and even in a lunch box.(ABC News: Tony King)

“We’re building in areas that used to be bushland so these snakes don’t know any different, so they’re just going about their normal business and going through yards that used to be bush trails,” Mr Kneebone said.

Reptile Rescue catchers had found snakes in all sorts of “weird and wonderful places” including inside cars, under beds, in shoes and even in a lunch box.

“I’ve been out on jobs at two or three o’clock in the morning where people have come home from a night out and there’s a tiger snake near the garage or at their front door,” Mr Kneebone said.

“People’s first reaction is usually panic. The first thing we try and do is to tell them to calm down, [if it’s inside] try and secure the room, shut the door and put a towel across there. That will limit our search area.”

“If it’s outside, keep an eye on the snake from a safe distance, we often get calls where we get there and they say ‘it was over there 20 minutes ago’.

“Snakes move very fast so if people keep an eye on it, it narrows down our search area so we can remove [the snake] and relocate it.”

A brown dog sits on a couch
Nothing could be done to save Clyde.(Supplied: Lara Crawford)

Snakebite signs ‘tremors, shaking, difficulty walking’

Tasmanian Animal Hospital Vet Dr Andrew Dudgeon said dogs were naturally curious when it came to snakes.

“The problem is dogs love to play with snakes and so if a snake were to enter into their yard then they would want to go and investigate it, they would want to smell it and attack that snake,” Dr Dudgeon said.

“A snake has no interest in biting dogs, it’s only a survival mechanism.

People are being advised to be mindful of where they exercise their dogs.

“Beaches are great for dogs at this time of year, bushland is not,” Dr Dudgeon said.

He said snakes were attracted to houses or built-up areas because they were looking for water.

A great dane dog sits on a couch
Jersey the great dane in happier times.(Supplied: Lara Crawford)



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Tasmania to open borders to travellers from Victoria early so long as coronavirus cases stay low


Premier Peter Gutwein has announced plans to fully ease border restrictions between Tasmania and Victoria from November 27, ahead of the previously planned date of December 1.

There will also be a partial easing of restrictions from this Friday, with people travelling into Tasmania from Victoria able to quarantine at home or a “designated residence” instead of a government-run hotel. People without an appropriate residence will still need to go into hotel quarantine.

All quarantine requirements for travellers from Victoria will be scrapped from November 27, but the change will be dependent on Victoria’s coronavirus cases remaining low.

“I think it would be fair to say that in terms of the steps that have been taken in Victoria, and without wanting to put the mocker on them, it has worked,” Mr Gutwein said.

“Victoria’s our closest neighbour and home to so many of our friends and family … it’s been very hard on many people, I understand, not being able to see them.

“Today I want to recognise the efforts of all Victorians to bring their situation with COVID-19 under control. It’s a truly outstanding effort.”

‘We will assess the whole situation’

Tasmania’s Public Health director Mark Veitch said he hoped the rules about mask wearing in Tasmania and Victoria would be the same by November 27.

Mask wearing is compulsory in Victoria.(ABC News: Simon Winter)

People in Victoria have to wear a mask in most cases when outside their homes.

“We wouldn’t be anticipating requiring masks for people coming to Tasmania if we believe it’s safe for them to [come to Tasmania],” Dr Veitch said.

He said it would be best to have a consistent approach to mask wearing, and that it was possible Victoria could relax its mask rules between now and November 27.

“We will assess the whole situation,” he said when asked whether people coming to Tasmania from Victoria would be required to wear masks in Tasmania if the Victorian requirement still applied.

Plans for international arrivals

Plane stairs Hobart Airport.
Hobart Airport is preparing to receive Tasmania’s first international charter flight of returning Australians who will quarantine in Hobart.(ABC News: Katri Uibu)

Mr Gutwein said arrangements were being made ahead of the arrival of Hobart’s first international charter flight for returning Australians.

He said the flight was expected to arrive from India with about 120 people on board “somewhere around” November 22.

Mr Gutwein said the passengers would fly direct to Hobart Airport and be met by Border Force and biosecurity officers on the tarmac before being taken by bus to a Hobart quarantine hotel.

He said “stringent” quarantine and testing arrangements would be put in place, with security managed by Tasmania Police and the Australian Defence Force.

“They will all be tested prior to travel, they will be tested in quarantine, and they must return a negative COVID-19 test on or after day 10 of their quarantine period before entering our community,” Mr Gutwein said.

Tasmania will take up to 450 returning Australians in total.

Tasmania’s borders opened to New South Wales last Friday, and to all other states and territories on October 26.

Other COVID-19 rules in Tasmania will change from this Friday.

People will be able to drink standing up in outdoor areas of venues, and hospitality venues will be required to collect patron information for potential contact tracing and keep it for 28 days.

The number of people allowed at household gatherings will increase from 20 to 40, also from Friday.



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What Went Wrong With Polling? Some Early Theories


In contrast, the 2016 polls did show the decisive and sharp shift among white voters without a degree, but underestimated its effect in many states because they underestimated the size of the group. Many state polls showed college graduates representing half of the likely electorate in 2016, compared with about 35 percent in census estimates.

The poll results among seniors are another symptom of a deeper failure in this year’s polling. Unlike in 2016, surveys consistently showed Mr. Biden winning by comfortable margins among voters 65 and over. The final NBC/WSJ poll showed Mr. Biden up 23 points among the group; the final Times/Siena poll showed him up by 10. In the final account, there will be no reason to believe any of it was real.

This is a deeper kind of error than ones from 2016. It suggests a fundamental mismeasurement of the attitudes of a large demographic group, not just an underestimate of its share of the electorate. Put differently, the underlying raw survey data got worse over the last four years, canceling out the changes that pollsters made to address what went wrong in 2016.

It helps explain why the national surveys were worse than in 2016; they did weight by education four years ago and have made few to no changes since. It also helps explain why the error is so tightly correlated with what happened in 2016: It focuses on the same demographic group, even if the underlying source of the error among the group is quite different.

Polling clearly has some serious challenges. The industry has always relied on statistical adjustments to ensure that each group, like white voters without a degree, represents its proper share of the sample. But this helps only if the respondents you reach are representative of those you don’t. In 2016, they seemed to be representative enough for many purposes. In 2020, they were not.

So how did the polls get worse over the last four years? This is mainly speculation, but consider just a few possibilities:

The president (and the polls) hurt the polls. There was no real indication of a “hidden Trump” vote in 2016. But maybe there was one in 2020. For years, the president attacked the news media and polling, among other institutions. The polls themselves lost quite a bit of credibility in 2016.

It’s hard not to wonder whether the president’s supporters became less likely to respond to surveys as their skepticism of institutions mounted, leaving the polls in a worse spot than they were four years ago.



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