News Blitz: Dec. 22, 2020

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National News

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress has easily passed a $900 billion pandemic relief package. It promises to deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and resources to vaccinate a nation confronting a frightening surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths. Lawmakers tacked on a $1.4 trillion catchall spending bill and thousands of pages of other end-of-session business to create a massive bundle of bipartisan legislation. The bill passed both the House and Senate in rapid succession Monday night and has been sent to President Donald Trump for his signature, expected in the coming days.

Texas News

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (AP) — Authorities say two people were killed when a small plane crashed along a highway service road in North Texas shortly after taking off Monday afternoon. The Federal Aviation Administration said the single-engine Wheeler Express CT crashed about a mile west of the Grand Prairie Municipal Airport, located in the city just west of Dallas. Grand Prairie Fire Chief Robert Fite said the plane hit a pickup truck traveling on the service road, but that person was only slightly injured. Fite said the plane caught fire after coming to rest in a grassy area near a Sonic drive-in restaurant.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas is getting the COVID-19 vaccine as the number of patients hospitalized with the virus statewide is back over 10,000 for the first time since July’s peak. Abbott will receive the vaccine on live television Tuesday at a hospital in the state capital. His office says health officials had urged the 63-year-old governor to get the vaccine in order to boost public confidence that the inoculations are safe. Newly confirmed cases and hospitalizations in Texas are soaring at levels unseen since a deadly summer outbreak. Abbott reiterated last week that he will not order a new round of lockdown measures.

Arkansas News

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Country singer K.T. Oslin, who hit it big with the 1987 hit “80′s Ladies” and won three Grammy awards, has died. She was 78. Oslin’s friend Robert K. Oermann says she died in suburban Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday morning. He learned of Oslin’s death from her aunt. The cause of death has not been released. Oermann says Oslin had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and lived in an assisted-living facility since 2016. He said Oslin tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Oslin became one of Nashville’s most intriguing personalities, launching a country music career in her mid-40s and writing songs from a strong woman’s perspective.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas received more doses Monday of coronavirus vaccines as the number of virus-related deaths continued to mount in the state. Gov. Asa Hutchinson says the state reported 58 more virus deaths Monday, though about one-third of those were delayed reports. The state saw 1,457 new cases of the virus, and more than 1,000 people remained hospitalized with the virus. The governor says the state began receiving shipments of a newly approved coronavirus vaccine from Moderna, along with a second shipment of vaccines from Pfizer.

Louisiana News

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana Supreme Court has sent a legal feud between Gov. John Bel Edwards and House Republicans over coronavirus restrictions back to district court. The high court said Monday the judge ruled too quickly that the state law the GOP used to try to nullify the restrictions was unconstitutional. The justices wrote that Baton Rouge Judge William Morvant should have held a full hearing on other issues raised in the lawsuit over the Democratic governor’s mask mandate and business restrictions. The Supreme Court’s decision was a technical one that didn’t weigh in on the merits of the lawsuit. Instead, it requires Morvant to hold another hearing in the case.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana has started receiving shipments of a second coronavirus vaccine. Gov. John Bel Edwards’s office said Louisiana is expecting to receive 79,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week in addition to more than 28,000 Pfizer vaccine doses. Nearly 44,000 Moderna doses arrived Monday. Meanwhile, a new audit released by the legislative auditor’s office says the slow pace of laboratories’ reporting of coronavirus test results is hindering the health department’s ability to understand the scale of the outbreak, do adequate contact tracing and determine the rate of positive versus negative test results. Health Secretary Courtney Phillips says the department’s analysis accounts for many of the issues raised by the auditor.

Sports

NFL

CINCINNATI (AP) — Giovani Bernard scored a pair of first-half touchdowns and Ryan Finley added a 23-yard TD run as Cincinnati handed the Pittsburgh Steelers their third straight loss, 27-17. The Bengals built a 17-0 halftime lead and prevented the Steelers from clinching the AFC North. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 20 of his 38 passes for 170 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

UNDATED (AP) — Hall of Fame linebacker Kevin Greene has died at 58. The Hall of Fame and his family confirmed the news without providing cause of death. The two-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection finished his career with 160 sacks, which ranks third in league history behind only Bruce Smith and Reggie White.

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys are plus-7 in turnover margin the past two games after spending almost half the season last in the NFL in that category. It’s no coincidence that Dallas has consecutive wins for the first time in coach Mike McCarthy’s first season. A 41-33 win over San Francisco means the Cowboys are still alive in the NFC East with two games remaining. They must beat Philadelphia and the New York Giants, and Washington must lose to Carolina and the Eagles.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Saints’ first two-game skid since Week 3 doesn’t have quarterback Drew Brees panicking quite yet. Brees lists a number of reasons why he believe the Saints are “only going to get better” as they head into the playoffs. Brees says he’s still trying to ramp up and regain his rhythm in the offense after missing four games with fractured ribs and a punctured lung. Brees also notes that other key absences, like that of receiver Michael Thomas, will pay off when the club is healthier for the postseason.

College Football

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Army will play West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl, filling the spot left by Tennessee’s withdrawal because of COVID-19 test results. Army had been left without a bowl despite a 9-2 record when the Independence Bowl was called off Sunday night without an available team for the Black Knights to play. West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons says he’s happy the Mountaineers will face a deserving Army team in the bowl game in Memphis, Tennessee, on Dec. 31. Tennessee pulled out of the bowl a day after agreeing to play and ended its season at 3-7. Coach Jeremy Pruitt is among those who tested positive for COVID-19.

IOWA CITY (AP) — No. 15 Iowa says it’s pausing football activities for at least five days because of a COVID-19 outbreak but still hopes to play in next week’s Music City Bowl. Iowa is scheduled to play Missouri in the bowl game in Nashville on Dec. 30. Coach Kirk Ferentz says he met with team leaders “and they overwhelmingly want to play in the bowl game.”

UNDATED (AP) — LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini is leaving the program after one difficult season in which the Tigers allowed six opponents to gain more than 500 yards. Pelini signed a four-year contract worth more than $9 million and would still be owed nearly $7 million under his original contract. But LSU says Pelini has agreed to take a one-time payment that has not yet been disclosed. In a statement released by LSU, Pelini says he and head coach Ed Orgeron have “mutually decided it’s best” to part ways. LSU allowed five opponents to score more than 40 points this season.

CONWAY, S.C. (AP) — Camerun Peoples ran for a bowl-record 317 yards and tied a record with five rushing touchdowns as Appalachian State beat North Texas 56-28 in the Myrtle Beach Bowl. Peoples, a sophomore, surpassed the 307 yards rushing of Georgia Tech’s PJ Daniels in the 2004 Humanitarian Bowl. Peoples also became the seventh player to run for that many scores in a bowl game, a list that includes Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders and Toledo’s Kareem Hunt. The Mountaineers remained perfect in bowls since joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. North Texas had no answer for Peoples or the App State rushing game, which finished with 500 yards.

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Sonny Cumbie is returning to Texas Tech as the Red Raiders offensive coordinator. Cumbie’s hiring at his alma mater came a week after second-year Texas Tech coach Matt Wells fired offensive coordinator David Yost following a 4-6 season. Cumbie had been TCU’s co-offensive coordinator the past seven seasons. Cumbie threw for 4,742 yards and 32 touchdowns as a Red Raiders senior in 2004. He was a full-time assistant coach there from 2010-13 before going to TCU in 2014.

Paul Norton Lake Travis School

Men’s College Basketball

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Emanuel Miller had 16 points and eight rebounds, freshman Hassan Diarra added 14 points and Texas A&M beat Wofford 70-52. Diarra beat the halftime buzzer with a 3-pointer from the wing to give Texas A&M a 29-28 lead, and the Aggies led the rest of the way. Wofford was within 55-46 but Texas A&M answered with a 12-0 run — with scoring from four different players — to seal it. Miller, who has three double-doubles with at least 20 points this season, made 10 of 13 free throws. Freshman Max Klesmit scored 14 points, making four 3-pointers, for Wofford.

WACO, Texas (AP) — Freshman guard LJ Cryer scored 15 points to lead five players in double figures as No. 2 Baylor cruised to a 99-42 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The 6-0 Bears are the only Big 12 team without a loss. They have scored 80 points in six consecutive games for the first time since 1994. Shaun Doss Jr. had 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead 1-8 Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Preseason AP All-American guard Jared Butler added 14 points and seven assists for Baylor.

NEW YORK (AP) — POLL ALERT: No. 1 Gonzaga picks up 1st-place votes in Top 25; No. 3 Kansas up 2 spots, follows Baylor; Texas into top 10.

UNDATED (AP) — Gonzaga has strengthened its hold on the No. 1 spot in The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll after beating Iowa. The Zags received 61 of 64 first-place votes from a media panel and No. 2 Baylor got the remaining three. No. 3 Kansas moved up 2 spots this week, with Iowa and Villanova rounding out the top 5. No. 10 Texas cracked the top 10 for the first time since reaching No. 6 in 2014-15. No. 12 Michigan State dropped 8 spots after losing to Northwestern.

1 Gonzaga West Coast 4-0 1,597(61) _ Share
2 Baylor Big 12 5-0 1,538(3) _ Share
3 2 Kansas Big 12 7-1 1,426 _ Share
4 1 Iowa Big Ten 6-1 1,365 _ Share
5 2 Villanova Big East 7-1 1,304 _ Share
6 Houston American Athletic Conference (AAC) 5-0 1,272 _ Share
7 1 West Virginia Big 12 7-1 1,225 _ Share
8 2 Tennessee SEC 4-0 1,109 _ Share
9 3 Wisconsin Big Ten 6-1 1,051 _ Share
10 1 Texas Big 12 7-1 1,035 _ Share
11 8 Rutgers Big Ten 6-0 878 _ Share
12 8 Michigan State Big Ten 6-1 839 _ Share
13 4 Creighton Big East 6-2 773 _ Share
14 2 Missouri SEC 5-0 768 _ Share
15 1 Texas Tech Big 12 6-2 661 _ Share
16 1 Virginia ACC 3-1 510 _ Share
17 5 North Carolina ACC 5-2 492 _ Share
18 5 Illinois Big Ten 5-3 468 _ Share
19 6 Michigan Big Ten 6-0 367 _ Share
20 1 Duke ACC 3-2 352 _ Share
21 6 Florida State ACC 4-1 335 _ Share
22 Xavier Big East 8-0 249 _ Share
23 3 Ohio State Big Ten 6-1 245 _ Share
24 Virginia Tech ACC 6-1 181 _ Share
25 Oregon Pac-12 6-1 167 _ Share

Others Receiving Votes:
Others receiving votes:San Diego St. 146, Richmond 142, Saint Louis 64, Arkansas 54, Indiana 53, Clemson 28, Florida 20, Georgia 19, Colorado 13, BYU 9, Purdue 9, Louisville 8, Northwestern 7, UCF 6, Minnesota 4, UCLA 3, Oklahoma St. 3, LSU 2, Western Kentucky 2, SMU 1.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Emanuel Miller had 16 points and eight rebounds, freshman Hassan Diarra added 14 points and Texas A&M beat Wofford 70-52. Diarra beat the halftime buzzer with a 3-pointer from the wing to give Texas A&M a 29-28 lead, and the Aggies led the rest of the way. Wofford was within 55-46 but Texas A&M answered with a 12-0 run — with scoring from four different players — to seal it. Miller, who has three double-doubles with at least 20 points this season, made 10 of 13 free throws. Freshman Max Klesmit scored 14 points, making four 3-pointers, for Wofford.

Today in History

Today is Tuesday, Dec. 22, the 357th day of 2020. There are nine days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Dec. 22, 2001, Richard C. Reid, a passenger on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami, tried to ignite explosives in his shoes, but was subdued by flight attendants and fellow passengers. (Reid is serving a life sentence in federal prison.)

On this date:

In 1858, opera composer Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca, Italy.

In 1894, French army officer Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason in a court-martial that triggered worldwide charges of anti-Semitism. (Dreyfus was eventually vindicated.)

In 1940, author Nathanael West, 37, and his wife, Eileen McKenney, 27, were killed in a car crash in El Centro, Calif. while en route to the funeral of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had died the day before.

In 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrived in Washington for a wartime conference with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In 1944, during the World War II Battle of the Bulge, U.S. Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe rejected a German demand for surrender, writing “Nuts!” in his official reply.

In 1968, Julie Nixon married David Eisenhower in a private ceremony in New York.

In 1984, New York City resident Bernhard Goetz (bur-NAHRD’ gehts) shot and wounded four youths on a Manhattan subway, claiming they were about to rob him.

In 1989, Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu (chow-SHES’-koo), the last of Eastern Europe’s hard-line Communist rulers, was toppled from power in a popular uprising. Playwright Samuel Beckett died in Paris at age 83.

In 1991, the body of Marine Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, an American hostage slain by his terrorist captors, was recovered after it had been dumped along a highway in Lebanon.

In 1992, a Libyan Boeing 727 jetliner crashed after a midair collision with a MiG fighter, killing all 157 aboard the jetliner, and both crew members of the fighter jet.

In 2003, a federal judge ruled the Pentagon couldn’t enforce mandatory anthrax vaccinations for military personnel.

In 2008, five Muslim immigrants accused of scheming to massacre U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix were convicted of conspiracy in Camden, N.J. (Four were later sentenced to life in prison; one received a 33-year sentence.)

Ten years ago: President Barack Obama signed a law allowing gays for the first time in history to serve openly in America’s military, repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The Senate ratified the New START treaty with Russia capping nuclear warheads for both nations and restarting on-site weapons inspections. Auburn’s Cam Newton was named AP Player of the Year. “The Lone Ranger” announcer Fred Foy died in Woburn (WOO’-burn), Massachusetts, at age 89.

Five years ago: Migration experts said more than a million people who had been driven out of their countries by war, poverty and persecution entered Europe in 2015. Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey was named The Associated Press college football player of the year.

One year ago: Baba Ram Dass, a 1960s counterculture spiritual leader who experimented with LSD and traveled to India to find enlightenment, died at the age of 88. Afghanistan’s election commission said a preliminary vote count showed that incumbent President Ashraf Ghani had won reelection with 50.64% of the vote. (Both Ghani and rival Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory; they announced a power-sharing arrangement in May 2020 in which Ghani would remain president.)

Today’s Celebrity Birthdays: Actor Hector Elizondo is 84. Country singer Red Steagall is 82. Former World Bank Group President Paul Wolfowitz is 77. Baseball Hall of Famer Steve Carlton is 76. Former ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer is 75. Rock singer-musician Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) is 72. Rock singer-musician Michael Bacon is 72. Baseball All-Star Steve Garvey is 72. Golfer Jan Stephenson is 69. Actor BernNadette Stanis is 67. Rapper Luther “Luke” Campbell is 60. Actor Ralph Fiennes (rayf fynz) is 58. Actor Lauralee Bell is 52. Country singer Lori McKenna is 52. Actor Dina Meyer is 52. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is 50. Actor Heather Donahue is 47. Actor Chris Carmack is 40. Actor Harry Ford is 38. Actor Greg Finley is 36. Actor Logan Huffman is 31. Rhythm-and-blues singer Jordin Sparks is 31. Pop singer Meghan Trainor is 27.

Crazy News stories

WOMAN WHO ORDERED GRANDMA’S GIFT GETS COVID-19 TEST SPECIMEN

CHICAGO (AP) — Talk about a surprise gift. An Illinois woman who ordered flags for her grandmother’s garden got a little extra something in the package when it arrived. Andrea Ellis says she was wrapping presents when she opened the padded envelope from Kohl’s containing the garden flags. At the bottom of the package, there was something else: a biohazard bag containing someone else’s COVID-19 test specimen. She called police, who in turn, contacted health authorities. They say the bag appeared to hold a used nasal swab and information for a person in Virginia. Authorities are trying to check with Virginia health officials to see if the sample is still viable — and have it processed if it is. Kohl’s says it is also investigating the incident.

HUMANE SOCIETY RESCUES 250 GUINEA PIGS FROM OWNER

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — You could say that a human became, in effect, a guinea pig to see how many of the furry critters a person can properly care for. Now, the Oregon Humane Society in Portland is handling the matter. Someone in Lane County became inundated with 250 of the furry critters — and now animal control officials are trying to get them all adopted. One challenge will be how to pair-up the guinea pigs for adoption; they are best kept as pairs. The tricky part of that is that it can be hard to tell a male guinea pig from a female. And — as the former owner of the pets can attest — guinea pigs can quickly reproduce if a male and female are placed together.