FDA vaccine advisers vote to harmonize Covid-19 vaccines in the United States | CNN



CNN
— 

A panel of independent experts that advises the US Food and Drug Administration on its vaccine decisions voted unanimously Thursday to update all Covid-19 vaccines so they contain the same ingredients as the two-strain shots that are now used as booster doses.

The vote means young children and others who haven’t been vaccinated may soon be eligible to receive two-strain vaccines that more closely match the circulating viruses as their primary series.

The FDA must sign off on the committee’s recommendation, which it is likely to do, before it goes into effect.

Currently, the US offers two types of Covid-19 vaccines. The first shots people get – also called the primary series – contain a single set of instructions that teach the immune system to fight off the original version of the virus, which emerged in 2019.

This index strain is no longer circulating. It was overrun months ago by an ever-evolving parade of new variants.

Last year, in consultation with its advisers, the FDA decided that it was time to update the vaccines. These two-strain, or bivalent, shots contain two sets of instructions; one set reminds the immune system about the original version of the coronavirus, and the second set teaches the immune system to recognize and fight off Omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which emerged in the US last year.

People who have had their primary series – nearly 70% of all Americans – were advised to get the new two-strain booster late last year in an effort to upgrade their protection against the latest variants.

The advisory committee heard testimony and data suggesting that the complexity of having two types of Covid-19 vaccines and schedules for different age groups may be one of the reasons for low vaccine uptake in the US.

Currently, only about two-thirds of Americans have had the full primary series of shots. Only 15% of the population has gotten an updated bivalent booster.

Data presented to the committee shows that Covid-19 hospitalizations have been rising for children under the age of 2 over the past year, as Omicron and its many subvariants have circulated. Only 5% of this age group, which is eligible for Covid-19 vaccination at 6 months of age, has been fully vaccinated. Ninety percent of children under the age of 4 are still unvaccinated.

“The most concerning data point that I saw this whole day was that extremely low vaccination coverage in 6 months to 2 years of age and also 2 years to 4 years of age,” said Dr. Amanda Cohn, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Birth Defects and Infant Disorders. “We have to do much, much better.”

Cohn says that having a single vaccine against Covid-19 in the US for both primary and booster doses would go a long way toward making the process less complicated and would help get more children vaccinated.

Others feel that convenience is important but also stressed that data supported the switch.

“This isn’t only a convenience thing, to increase the number of people who are vaccinated, which I agree with my colleagues is extremely important for all the evidence that was related, but I also think moving towards the strains that are circulating is very important, so I would also say the science supports this move,” said Dr. Hayley Gans, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Stanford University.

Many others on the committee were similarly satisfied after seeing new data on the vaccine effectiveness of the bivalent boosters, which are cutting the risk of getting sick, being hospitalized or dying from a Covid-19 infection.

“I’m totally convinced that the bivalent vaccine is beneficial as a primary series and as a booster series. Furthermore, the updated vaccine safety data are really encouraging so far,” said Dr. David Kim, director of the the US Department of Health and Human Services’ National Vaccine Program, in public discussion after the vote.

Thursday’s vote is part of a larger plan by the FDA to simplify and improve the way Covid-19 vaccines are given in the US.

The agency has proposed a plan to convene its vaccine advisers – called the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, or VRBPAC – each year in May or June to assess whether the instructions in the Covid-19 vaccines should be changed to more closely match circulating strains of the virus.

The time frame was chosen to give manufacturers about three months to redesign their shots and get new doses to pharmacies in time for fall.

“The object, of course – before anyone says anything – is not to chase variants. None of us think that’s realistic,” said Jerry Weir, director of the Division of Viral Products in the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review.

“But I think our experience so far, with the bivalent vaccines that we have, does indicate that we can continue to make improvements to the vaccine, and that would be the goal of these meetings,” Weir said.

In discussions after the vote, committee members were supportive of this plan but pointed out many of the things we still don’t understand about Covid-19 and vaccination that are likely to complicate the task of updating the vaccines.

For example, we now seem to have Covid-19 surges in the summer as well as the winter, noted Dr. Michael Nelson, an allergist and immunologist at the University of Virginia. Are the surges related? And if so, is fall the best time to being a vaccination campaign?

The CDC’s Dr. Jefferson Jones said that with only three years of experience with the virus, it’s really too early to understand its seasonality.

Other important questions related to the durability of the mRNA vaccines and whether other platforms might offer longer protection.

“We can’t keep doing what we’re doing,” said Dr. Bruce Gellin, chief of global public health strategy at the Rockefeller Foundation. “It’s been articulated in every one of these meetings despite how good these vaccines are. We need better vaccines.”

The committee also encouraged both government and industry scientists to provide a fuller picture of how vaccination and infection affect immunity.

One of the main ways researchers measure the effectiveness of the vaccines is by looking at how much they increase front-line defenders called neutralizing antibodies.

Neutralizing antibodies are like firefighters that rush to the scene of an infection to contain it and put it out. They’re great in a crisis, but they tend to diminish in numbers over time if they’re not needed. Other components of the immune system like B-cells and T-cells hang on to the memory of a virus and stand ready to respond if the body encounters it again.

Scientists don’t understand much about how well Covid-19 vaccination boosts these responses and how long that protection lasts.

Another puzzle will be how to pick the strains that are in the vaccines.

The process of selecting strains for influenza vaccines is a global effort that relies on surveillance data from other countries. This works because influenza strains tend to become dominant and sweep around the world. But Covid-19 strains haven’t worked in quite the same way. Some that have driven large waves in other countries have barely made it into the US variant mix.

“Going forward, it is still challenging. Variants don’t sweep across the world quite as uniform, like they seem to with influenza,” the FDA’s Weir said. “But our primary responsibility is what’s best for the US market, and that’s where our focus will be.”

Eventually, the FDA hopes that Americans would be able to get an updated Covid-19 shot once a year, the same way they do for the flu. People who are unlikely to have an adequate response to a single dose of the vaccine – such as the elderly or those with a weakened immune system – may need more doses, as would people who are getting Covid-19 vaccines for the first time.

At Thursday’s meeting, the advisory committee also heard more about a safety signal flagged by a government surveillance system called the Vaccine Safety Datalink.

The CDC and the FDA reported January 13 that this system, which relies on health records from a network of large hospital systems in the US, had detected a potential safety issue with Pfizer’s bivalent boosters.

In this database, people 65 and older who got a Pfizer bivalent booster were slightly more likely to have a stroke caused by a blood clot within three weeks of their vaccination than people who had gotten a bivalent booster but were 22 to 42 days after their shot.

After a thorough review of other vaccine safety data in the US and in other countries that use Pfizer bivalent boosters, the agencies concluded that the stroke risk was probably a statistical fluke and said no changes to vaccination schedules were recommended.

At Thursday’s meeting, Dr. Nicola Klein, a senior research scientist with Kaiser Permanente of Northern California, explained how they found the signal.

The researchers compared people who’d gotten a vaccine within the past three weeks against people who were 22 to 42 days away from their shots because this helps eliminate bias in the data.

When they looked to see how many people had strokes around the time of their vaccination, they found an imbalance in the data.

Of 550,000 people over 65 who’d received a Pfizer bivalent booster, 130 had a stroke caused by a blood clot within three weeks of vaccination, compared with 92 people in the group farther out from their shots.

The researchers spotted the signal the week of November 27, and it continued for about seven weeks. The signal has diminished over time, falling from an almost two-fold risk in November to a 47% risk in early January, Klein said. In the past few days, it hasn’t been showing up at all.

Klein said they didn’t see the signal in any of the other age groups or with the group that got Moderna boosters. They also didn’t see a difference when they compared Pfizer-boosted seniors with those who were eligible for a bivalent booster but hadn’t gotten one.

Further analyses have suggested that the signal might be happening not because people who are within three weeks of a Pfizer booster are having more strokes, but because people who are within 22 to 42 days of their Pfizer boosters are actually having fewer strokes.

Overall, Klein said, they were seeing fewer strokes than expected in this population over that period of time, suggesting a statistical fluke.

Another interesting thing that popped out of this data, however, was a possible association between strokes and high-dose flu vaccination. Seniors who got both shots on the same day and were within three weeks of those shots had twice the rate of stroke compared with those who were 22 to 42 days away from their shots.

What’s more, Klein said, the researchers didn’t see the same association between stroke and time since vaccination in people who didn’t get their flu vaccine on the same day.

The total number of strokes in the population of people who got flu shots and Covid-19 boosters on the same day is small, however, which makes the association a shaky one.

“I don’t think that the evidence are sufficient to conclude that there’s an association there,” said Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, director of the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office.

Nonetheless, Richard Forshee, deputy director of the FDA’s Office of Biostatistics and Pharmacovigilance, said the FDA is planning to look at these safety questions further using data collected by Medicare.

The FDA confirmed that the agency is taking a closer look.

“The purpose of the study is 1) to evaluate the preliminary ischemic stroke signal reported by CDC using an independent data set and more robust epidemiological methods; and 2) to evaluate whether there is an elevated risk of ischemic stroke with the COVID-19 bivalent vaccine if it is given on the same day as a high-dose or adjuvanted seasonal influenza vaccine,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

The FDA did not give a time frame for when these studies might have results.

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A plan for competitive, green and resilient industries

We, Renew Europe, want our Union to fulfil its promise of prosperity and opportunities for our fellow Europeans. We have championed initiatives to make our continent freer, fairer and greener, but much more remains to be done.

We are convinced that Europe has what it takes to become the global industrial leader, especially in green and digital technologies. Yet it is faced with higher energy prices and lower levels of investment, which creates a double risk of internal and external fragmentation.

The Russian aggression against Ukraine has shown us that our European way of life cannot be taken for granted. While we stand unwaveringly at the side of our Ukrainian friends and commit to the rebuilding of their homeland, we also need to protect our freedom and prosperity.

That is why Europe needs an urgent and ambitious plan for a competitive, productive and innovative industry ‘made in Europe’. Our proposals below would translate into many more jobs, a faster green transition and increased geopolitical influence.

We must improve the conditions for companies, big and small, to innovate, to grow and to thrive globally.

1. Reforms to kick start the European economy: A European Clean Tech, Competitiveness and Innovation Act

While the EU can be proud of its single market, we must improve the conditions for companies, big and small, to innovate, to grow and to thrive globally.

  • In addition to the acceleration of the deployment of sustainable energy, we call on the Commission to propose a European Clean Tech, Competitiveness and Innovation Act, which would:
  • While the EU can be proud of its single market, we must improve the conditions for companies, big and small, to innovate, to grow and to thrive globally.
  • In addition to the acceleration of the deployment of sustainable energy, we call on the Commission to propose a European Clean Tech, Competitiveness and Innovation Act, which would:
  • Cut red tape and administrative burden, focusing on delivering solutions to our companies, particularly for SMEs and startups.
  • Adapt state aid rules for companies producing clean technologies and energies.
  • Introduce fast-track permitting for clean and renewable energies and for industrial projects of general European interest.
  • Streamline the process for important Projects of Common European Interest, with adequate administrative resources.
  • Guarantee EU-wide access to affordable energy for our industries.
  • Strengthen the existing instruments for a just transition of carbon-intensive industries, as they are key to fighting climate change.
  • Facilitate private financing by completing the Capital Markets Union to allow our SMEs and startups to scale up.
  • Set the right conditions to increase Europe’s global share of research and development spending and reach our own target at 3 percent of our GDP.
  • Build up the European Innovation Council to develop breakthrough technologies.
  • Deliver a highly skilled workforce for our industry.
  • Deepen the single market by fully enforcing existing legislation and further harmonization of standards in the EU as well as with third countries.

We need to reduce more rapidly our economic dependencies from third countries, which make our companies and our economies vulnerable.

2. Investments supporting our industry to thrive: A European Sovereignty Fund and Reform Act

While the EU addresses, with unity, all the consequences of the war in Ukraine, we need to reduce more rapidly our economic dependencies from third countries, which make our companies and our economies vulnerable.

In addition to the new framework for raw materials, we call on the Commission to:

  • Create a European Sovereignty Fund, by revising the MFF and mobilizing private investments, to increase European strategic investments across the Union, such as the production on our soil of critical inputs, technologies and goods, which are key to the green and digital transitions.
  • Carry out a sovereignty test to screen European legislation and funds, both existing and upcoming, to demonstrate that they neither harm the EU’s capacity to act autonomously, nor create new dependencies.
  • Modernize the Stability and Growth Pact to incentivize structural reforms and national investments with real added value for our open strategic autonomy, in areas like infrastructure, resources and technologies.

While the EU has to resist protectionist measures, we will always want to promote an open economy with fair competition.

3. Initiatives creating a global level playing field:

A New Generation of Partnerships in the World Act

While the EU has to resist protectionist measures, we will always want to promote an open economy with fair competition.

  • In addition to all the existing reforms made during this mandate, notably on public procurement and foreign subsidies, we call on the Commission to:
  • Make full use of the EU’s economic and political power regarding current trade partners to ensure we get the most for our industry exports and imports, while promoting our values and standards, not least human rights and the Green Deal.
  • Promote new economic partnerships with democratic countries so we can face climate change and all the consequences of the Russian aggression together.
  • Ensure the diversification of supply chains to Europe, particularly regarding critical technologies and raw materials, based on a detailed assessment of current dependencies and alternative sources.
  • Use all our trade policy instruments to promote our prosperity and preserve the single market from distortions from third countries.
  • Take recourse to dispute settlement mechanisms available at WTO level whenever necessary to promote rules-based trade.
  • Adopt a plan to increase our continent’s attractiveness for business projects.
  • Create a truly European screening of the most sensitive foreign investments.
  • We, Renew Europe, believe that taken together these initiatives will foster the development of a competitive and innovative European industry fit for the 21st century. It will pave the way for a better future for Europeans that is more prosperous and more sustainable.



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LeBron James and Billie Jean King lead tributes to American journalist Grant Wahl | CNN



CNN
— 

The death of prominent journalist Grant Wahl at the World Cup in Qatar has led to an outpouring of shock and grief across the sports world, with NBA star LeBron James and tennis great Billie Jean King leading the tributes to the American.

Prominent American journalist Grant Wahl has died in Qatar after collapsing while covering the World Cup, sparking an outpouring of shock and grief across the sports world. He was 49.

King said Wahl’s death was “heartbreaking.”

“A talented journalist, Grant was an advocate for the LGBTQ community & a prominent voice for women’s soccer,” King tweeted Saturday. “He used his platform to elevate those whose stories needed telling. Prayers for his family.”

On Friday in Philadelphia, basketball star James said he had been “very fond of Grant.” While Wahl was at Sports Illustrated, he did a cover story on James when James was in high school.

“I’ve always kind of watched from a distance even when I moved up in ranks and became a professional, and he went to a different sport,” said James, speaking at a postgame press conference. “Any time his name would come up I’ll always think back to me as a teenager and having Grant in our building … It’s a tragic loss.”

Tyler Adams, the captain of the US men’s national soccer team, which was knocked out of the World Cup by the Netherlands in the last 16, sent his “deepest sympathy” to Wahl’s wife, Celine Gounder, and to those who knew him.

“As players we have a tremendous amount of respect for the work of journalists, & Grant’s was a giant voice in soccer that has tragically fallen silent,” Adams wrote on Twitter.

Qatar’s World Cup organizers said on Saturday that Wahl “fell ill” in the press area, where he received “immediate medical treatment on site.”

He was then transferred to Hamad General Hospital, said a spokesperson for the Supreme Court Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the body responsible for planning the tournament.

Wahl was treated in the stadium “for about 20-25 minutes” before he was moved to the hospital, Keir Radnedge, a columnist at World Soccer Magazine, told CNN Saturday.

“This was towards the end of extra time in the match. Suddenly, colleagues up to my left started shouting for medical assistance. Obviously, someone had collapsed. Because the chairs are freestanding, people were able to move the chairs, so it’s possible to create a little bit of space around him,” Radnedge said.

He added that the medical team were there “pretty quickly and were able to, as best they could, give treatment.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reacted to Wahl’s death on Saturday, adding that senior State Department officials were in touch with Qatari officials and Grant’s family.

“Grant Wahl was an inspiration to many. Our thoughts are with his wife Dr. Céline Gounder and all those who loved him. State Department officials are in touch with Grant’s family and with senior officials in the government of Qatar to ensure his family gets the support they need,” Jean-Pierre wrote on Twitter.

“Only some days ago, Grant was recognized by FIFA and AIPS (the International Sports Press Association) for his contribution to reporting on eight consecutive FIFA World Cups,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino in a statement.

Infantino and FIFA media director Bryan Swanson were at the hospital on Saturday to offer any kind of support needed for the family, friends, and the journalists who were also his housemates in Qatar.

The co-editors in chief of Sports Illustrated, the publication where Wahl spent the majority of his career, said in a joint statement they were “shocked and devastated at the news of Grant’s passing.”

“We were proud to call him a colleague and friend for two decades – no writer in the history of (Sports Illustrated) has been more passionate about the sport he loved and the stories he wanted to tell,” said the statement.

It added that Wahl had first joined the publication in November 1996. He had volunteered to cover the sport as a junior reporter – back before it reached the heights of global popularity it now enjoys – eventually becoming “one of the most respected soccer authorities in the world,” it said.

The statement said that Wahl also worked with other media outlets including Fox Sports. After leaving Sports Illustrated in 2020, he began publishing his podcast and newsletter.

Other current and former US soccer players, including Ali Krieger and Tony Meola, shared their condolences, as did sporting bodies such as Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League.

Wittyngham, Wahl’s podcast co-host, told CNN on Saturday the news of his death had been hard to fathom.

“For Americans, Grant Wahl is the first person you read covering soccer. He was kind of the only person for a while … Grant was the first person who really paid genuine attention to this sport in a meaningful way,” Wittyngham said.

Several journalists shared stories of reporting alongside Wahl, and having encountered him at multiple World Cups over the years.

“Before he became the best covering soccer he did hoops and was so kind to me,” wrote famed broadcaster Dick Vitale.

Timmy T. Davis, the US Ambassador to Qatar, tweeted that Wahl was “a well known and greatly respected reporter who focused on the beautiful game.”

“The entire US Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl,” US Soccer said in a statement on its official Twitter account.

“Grant made soccer his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us.”

US Soccer praised Wahl’s passion and “belief in the power of the game to advance human rights,” and shared its condolences with Wahl’s wife, Celine Gounder, and his loved ones.

Gounder also posted the US Soccer statement on Twitter.

“I am so thankful for the support of my husband Grant Wahl’s soccer family and of so many friends who’ve reached out tonight. I’m in complete shock,” wrote Gounder, a former CNN contributor who served on the Biden-Harris transition Covid-19 advisory board.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the department was in “close communication” with Wahl’s family. The World Cup organizers also said they were in touch with the US embassy “to ensure the process of repatriating the body is in accordance with the family’s wishes.”

Wahl wearing a rainbow-colored t-shirt while working at Qatar 2022.

Wahl had covered soccer for more than two decades, including 11 World Cups — six men’s, five women’s – and authored several books on the sport, according to his website.

He had just celebrated his birthday earlier this week with “a great group of media friends at the World Cup,” according to a post on his official Twitter account, which added: “Very thankful for everyone.”

In an episode of the podcast Futbol with Grant Wahl, published days before his death on December 6, he had complained of feeling unwell.

“It had gotten pretty bad in terms of like the tightness in my chest, tightness, pressure. Feeling pretty hairy, bad,” Wahl told co-host Chris Wittyngham in the episode. He added that he sought help at the medical clinic at the World Cup media center, believing he had bronchitis.

He was given cough syrup and ibuprofen, and felt better shortly afterward, he said.

Wahl also said he experienced an “involuntary capitulation by my body and mind” after the US-Netherlands game on December 3.

“This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve done eight of these on the men’s side,” he said at the time. “And so like, I’ve gotten sick to some extent at every tournament, and it’s just about trying to find a way to like get your work done.”

He further described the incident in a recent newsletter published on December 5, writing that his body had “broke down” after he had little sleep, high stress and a heavy workload. He’d had a cold for 10 days, which “turned into something more severe,” he wrote, adding that he felt better after receiving antibiotics and catching up on sleep.

Wahl had made headlines in November by reporting that he was detained and briefly refused entry to a World Cup match because he was wearing a rainbow t-shirt in support of LGBTQ rights.

He said security staff had told him to change his shirt because “it’s not allowed,” and had taken his phone. Wahl said he was released 25 minutes after being detained and received apologies from a FIFA representative and a senior member of the security team at the stadium.

Afterward, Wahl told CNN he “probably will” wear the shirt again.



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Inside Christine McVie’s and Stevie Nicks’ decades-long friendship | CNN



CNN
— 

Throughout the various personal turmoils for which the members of Fleetwood Mac are known, one relationship buoyed the band for decades: the friendship between its two frontwomen, Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks.

McVie joined the band in 1970 during one of its early lineup changes and for years was its only woman. When Nicks was added to the lineup in 1975, the two became fast friends.

Theirs was not a competitive relationship, but a sisterly one – both women were gifted songwriters responsible for crafting many of the band’s best-known tunes. Though the two grew apart in the 1980s amid Nicks’ worsening drug addiction and the band’s growing internal tension, they came back together when McVie returned to Fleetwood Mac in 2014.

At a concert in London, shortly before McVie officially rejoined the band, Nicks dedicated the song “Landslide” to her “mentor. Big sister. Best friend.” And at the show’s end, McVie was there, accompanying her bandmates for “Don’t Stop.”

“I never want her to ever go out of my life again, and that has nothing to do with music and everything to do with her and I as friends,” Nicks told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in 2015.

On Wednesday, McVie, the band’s “songbird,” died after a brief illness at age 79. Below, revisit McVie’s and Nicks’ years-long relationship as bandmates, best friends and “sisters.”

The story of Nicks joining Fleetwood Mac is legend now: Band founder and drummer Mick Fleetwood wanted to recruit guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who stipulated that he would only join if his girlfriend and musician Nicks could join, too. McVie cast the deciding vote, and the rest is history.

“It was critical that I got on with her because I’d never played with another girl,” McVie told the Guardian in 2013. “But I liked her instantly. She was funny and nice but also there was no competition. We were completely different on the stage to each other and we wrote differently too.”

Throughout the band’s many personal complications – McVie married and divorced Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie and had an affair with the band’s lighting director, while Nicks had rollercoaster romances with Buckingham and Fleetwood – they were each other’s center.

“To be in a band with another girl who was this amazing musician – (McVie) kind of instantly became my best friend,” Nicks told the New Yorker earlier this year. “Christine was a whole other ballgame. She liked hanging out with the guys. She was just more comfortable with men than I had ever been.”

The two protected each other, Nicks said, in a male-dominated industry: “We made a pact, in the very beginning, that we would never be treated with disrespect by all the male musicians in the community.

“I would say to her, ‘Together, we are a serious force of nature, and it will give us the strength to maneuver the waters that are ahead of us,’” Nicks told the New Yorker.

“Rumours” was the band’s greatest success to date when it was released in 1977. But the band’s relationships with each other were deteriorating, save for the one between McVie and Nicks. While the pair were enduring breakups with their significant others, Nicks and McVie spent their time offstage together.

The Guardian asked McVie if she was trying to offset the band’s tumult with her songs on “Rumours,” including the lighthearted “You Make Lovin’ Fun” and optimistic “Don’t Stop.” She said she likely had been.

As multiple members’ drug use intensified, the band’s dynamic grew tense. McVie distanced herself from the group in 1984 amid her bandmates’ addictions, telling the Guardian she was “just sick of it.” Nicks, meanwhile, was becoming dependent on cocaine.

After Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, Christine McVie (third from left) quit the band.

McVie told Rolling Stone that year that she’d grown apart from Nicks: “She seems to have developed her own fantasy world, somehow, which I’m not part of. We don’t socialize much.”

In 1986, Nicks checked into the Betty Ford Center to treat her addiction, though she later became addicted to Klonopin, which she said claimed years of her life. She quit the prescription drug in the 1990s.

After recording some solo works, McVie returned to Fleetwood Mac for their 1987 album “Tango in the Night,” and two of her songs on that record – “Little Lies” and “Everywhere” – became major hits. But Nicks departed the band soon after, and the band’s best-known lineup wouldn’t officially reunite until 1997 for “The Dance” tour and subsequent live album.

The reunion was short-lived: After the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, McVie officially quit Fleetwood Mac, citing a fear of flying and exhaustion of life on the road.

In the 2010s, after more than a decade of retirement, McVie toyed with returning to performing. She officially rejoined Fleetwood Mac after calling Fleetwood himself and gauging what her return would mean for the group.

“Fortunately Stevie was dying for me to come back, as were the rest of the band,” she told the Arts Desk.

In 2015, a year after she’d rejoined Fleetwood Mac, McVie hit the road with her bandmates. Touring with the group was tiring but fun, the first time they’d performed together in years.

“I’m only here for Stevie,” she told the New Yorker that year.

Christine McVie (left) and Stevie Nicks perform together at Radio City Music Hall in 2018.

Nicks concurred: “When we went on the road, I realized what an amazing friend she’d been of mine that I had lost and didn’t realize the whole consequences of it till now,” she told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in 2015.

During that tour, McVie wore a silver chain that Nicks had given her – a “metaphor,” McVie told the New Yorker, “that the chain of the band will never be broken. Not by me, anyways. Not again by me.”

McVie told the Arts Desk in 2016 that she and Nicks were “better friends now than (they) were 16 years ago.”

Touring with Buckingham and Fleetwood could quickly get tumultuous for Nicks, McVie said, due to their shared history. “But with me in there, it gave Stevie the chance to get her breath back and not have this constant thing going on with Lindsey: her sister was back,” she said.

Their mutual praise continued: In 2019, McVie said Nicks was “just unbelievable” onstage: “The more I see her perform on stage the better I think she is. She holds the fort.”

When their 2018-2019 tour ended, though – without Buckingham, who was fired – the band “kind of broke up,” McVie told Rolling Stone earlier this year. She added that she didn’t speak with Nicks as often as she did when they toured together.

As for a reunion, McVie told Rolling Stone that while it wasn’t off the table, she wasn’t feeling “physically up for it.”

“I’m getting a bit long in the teeth here,” she said. “I’m quite happy being at home. I don’t know if I ever want to tour again. It’s bloody hard work.”

News of McVie’s death rattled Nicks, who wrote that she had only found out McVie was sick days earlier. She called McVie her “best friend in the whole world since the first day of 1975.”

On her social media accounts, Nicks shared a handwritten note containing lyrics from the Haim song “Hallelujah,” some of which discusses grief and the loss of a best friend.

“See you on the other side, my love,” Nicks wrote. “Don’t forget me – Always, Stevie.”



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Commission plans EU business tax overhaul


A planned reform of EU corporate taxation would substitute national business tax rules, EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said Monday.

The “Business in Europe Framework for Income Taxation,” or BEFIT, would “replace national corporate tax systems for the companies in scope, thus reducing compliance costs and barriers to cross-border investment,” he said at an EU tax event Monday.

It would draw on a global deal on a two-legged corporate tax that was agreed between more than 130 countries in 2021, and consists of the reallocation of taxable profits (known as Pillar One) and of a minimum corporate tax base of 15 percent (known as Pillar Two), the latter of which the EU is struggling to ratify due to subsequent vetoes first by Poland and now by Hungary.

But it would “go further,” Gentiloni said. It would have “the key features of a simplified common tax base and allocation of taxable profits between member states,” thus diminishing taxation policies within the bloc whereby countries seek to attract businesses by luring them with favorable tax regimes.

The reform is currently scheduled for the second quarter of 2023, according to the Commission’s own work program. A public consultation runs until January 26.

Taxation initiatives are always tricky as they require consent of all 27 EU countries.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correct the schedule for the reform.





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It feels like dogs know just when we need them most. Well, they might, experts say | CNN



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CNN
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When a family arrived at Koch Funeral Home in State College, Pennsylvania, to identify a loved one before cremation, Monroe took note — staying back to maintain the people’s privacy but ready to offer comfort if asked.

Monroe isn’t a grief counselor or therapist. She’s an Australian Shepherd and resident therapy dog at the funeral home, said Jackie Naginey Hook, a celebrant and end-of-life doula there.

“She has this affinity toward people who might be experiencing grief,” Hook said. “She is drawn to them.”

Sure enough, when members of the family came out, they saw Monroe and asked to say hello, Hook said. Petting her opened them up to telling others about their loss.

Some research has suggested that dogs — whether trained therapy and service animals or just friends in our homes — have a positive impact on human lives, said Colleen Dell, the research chair in One Health and Wellness and professor at the University of Saskatchewan.

Just 10 minutes spent with a dog helped reduce patients’ pain, according to a March study for which Dell served as lead author.

People often don’t talk about what they’re going through when grieving, Hook said. The process of mourning is as unique to a person as a fingerprint, and many don’t know how to be there for others who are going through it, she added.

For many people, dogs can offer intuitive, unconditional and loving support in times of grief, Dell said.

“We don’t give them the credit that’s due,” Dell said of the animals that provide needed support. “We don’t understand them to the extent that we should. When you start to pull it apart, there’s just so much going on there.”

There are nuances to what people need when mourning a loved one, but generally family and friends should be present, offer hugs and listen without saying too much, Hook said.

It sounds like a perfect job for a dog.

“Healthy healing is really about giving yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling,” Hook said. “Our bodies know how to heal from a cut, and we know how to deal with this, too.”

Luckily for us, dogs don’t judge or have expectations, Dell said.

If someone has developed a strong bond and relationship with a dog, the animal is often able to intuit the emotions of those it loves, Dell said. It can mean the dog knows when to offer a gentle cuddle, she said.

“When we lose a significant other … so many people say that coming home at the end of the day, coming home to an empty house is just hard,” Hook said. “Having a dog there to greet you can make a difference.”

Or a dog can bring a little distraction with a bid for a game of fetch or a walk outside.

“Getting up and going on a walk when you are grieving is incredibly difficult,” Dell said. “They are really good at living in the moment. That takes us away from thinking in the past or even too much in the future.

“They want to go on a walk now; they want to play now.”

When grieving and considering a dog, it’s important to think about how the animal would fit into your life and vice versa, Dell said.

“The relationship we have with an animal is different than that which we have with a human,” Dell said. There are more benefits in some ways but also more drawbacks, she added.

It’s a win-win situation when a dog can provide support and the owner can give the proper amount of care and attention, Dell said. But it helps to do your homework to find the right match and be prepared to make a long-term commitment.

Having a dog can sometimes cause extra stress if it is going to be an added strain on time or financial resources to get veterinary care, a sitter for when you are away and training, Dell said.

Dedicating time to learn how to train your dog can help it get the attention it wants and help you get more insight into building a solid bond that benefits you both, she added.

If you are looking for a dog to keep you outside and active, look for a breed with a lot of energy. If you are busy but want a companion, maybe find a canine more inclined toward naps. If you travel, a carry-on size pooch is the way to go, Dell said.

Often people grieving may find their patience lower — in which case consider a dog two years or older to avoid puppy antics, she added.

Often dogs become available through foster care after the death of an owner, Dell said. “What a beautiful thing that would be,” she said about fostering an animal. “You’d really be helping each other.”

But there are still ways to get the benefits from a furry friend without taking on any responsibility, Dell said.

A pet belonging to a neighbor or family member can offer cuddles and play, she added. Or you can spend time in parks where dogs play or venues where therapy dogs might visit.

“(Grieving people) need to feel loved,” Dell said. “These dogs (are) able to provide that in ways that have no strings attached.”

Volunteering with a shelter or rescue group can also bring joy, she said. Just spending time caring for dogs or taking them on a walk can make a huge difference, Dell added.

“You’re doing those things that are normal, that you never, ever think will feel normal again,” she said. “But they do.”



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Rainn Wilson announces name change to raise climate change awareness | CNN





CNN
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Rainn Wilson has “changed” his name and is inviting others to do the same.

“The Office” actor debuted “Rainnfall Heat Wave Rising Sea Levels Wilson” on social media Thursday as a way to raise awareness about the climate control crisis.

“As a cheap little stunt to help save planet Earth, I’ve changed my name on Twitter, Instagram and even on my fancy writing paper,” he said in a video he shared on his verified social media accounts.

In the Twitter thread that included the video, Wilson added that he was unable to change his name on Twitter “… because Elon,” referencing guidelines implemented on the platform by new owner Elon Musk.

Wilson encouraged his followers to visit environmental advocacy group Arctic Basecamp’s “Arctic Name Changer” to get their own names to be used on their social media profiles in the hopes of capturing the attention of the world leaders assembling in Egypt for the COP27 international climate change conference.

“And if enough of us do this, then maybe @cop27_egypt will be where our world leaders sit up and notice Arctic risks and introduce a solution,” he tweeted. “Make Arctic Name Changer a Game Changer!”





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Heir to cricket and rugby excellence, New Zealand golfer Ryan Fox blazes his own trail | CNN




CNN
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Pursuing a career in professional sports is hard. Following in your family’s footsteps is hard.

Now imagine doing both at the same time.

For Ryan Fox, shouldering the legacy of two generations of New Zealand sporting greats was a daily reality long before he rose to become one of the world’s best golfers.

First, there was Merv Wallace. To Fox, he was grandad, but to the rest of the country, he was a renowned former national team cricketer and later, coach.

Though a prolific batting career in Auckland was disrupted at international level by the World War II, with Wallace playing only 13 Test matches, his legacy in the sport was still notable. When he died aged 91 in 2008, one obituary described him as “one of the best batsmen New Zealand has ever produced.”

Then came Wallace’s son-in-law Grant Fox, a name that needs no introduction to anyone familiar with rugby.

Winner of the inaugural World Cup in 1987, the legendary flyhalf played 56 times for the All Blacks, carving a reputation as one of the greatest goal-kickers in the game before retiring as the country’s all-time leading test points scorer.

Both Wallace and Fox were individually honored during Queen Elizabeth’s reign for services to their sports.

If that wasn’t enough family sporting heritage, Wallace’s brother and son – George and Gregory – both played first-class cricket for Auckland.

Grant Fox kicks during the All Blacks tour of Britain in 1989.

Now, there is Grant’s son, Ryan. It’s a tough family act to follow, but with a world No.26 rank and three DP World Tour wins to his name, the 35-year-old is fronting up quite nicely.

“It’s pretty cool to be the third generation of my family to represent New Zealand,” Fox told CNN’s The Jazzy Golfer. “I don’t think there’d be too many other families that could say that.

“I’m sure there’s families that have done it over the same sport, but different sports is quite cool.”

Growing up, cricket and rugby seemed natural choices to Fox, and he played both well into his school years.

He didn’t even up pick up a club until he was 10-years-old. In true family fashion, it was to play a round in Auckland among sporting royalty; dad Grant plus cricketing trio Ian Botham, Martin Crowe, and Mark Nicholas. Soon after, Wallace crafted his grandson his first clubs from wood, and Fox was hooked.

Weekends and school holidays would be consumed by golf, and when the teenager was passing up on parties to hit the fairways, he realized he was in deep.

By the time he was at Auckland University starting a law degree, golf was rapidly overtaking studies, as well as other sports.

Men’s cricket didn’t offer the same enjoyment, and as for rugby, “too many concussions.”

“Looking back on it, golf was the sport I enjoyed the most,” Fox said.

“I’d always wanted to be a professional sportsman, it just took a fair while to figure out what sport it was going to be.”

Fox lines up a putt at the 2008 New Zealand Amateur Championship.

Not playing his first tournament until 18, Fox was a late bloomer, but made up for lost time emphatically. Two years later he made the national squad, and as a 24-year-old in 2011 he clinched the New Zealand Stroke Play, with none other than Dad as his caddy. Within a year, he had turned professional.

Having started on the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Challenge Tour, by 2019, Fox was a regular face on the European Tour, floating around the world No. 100 mark. Yet after his maiden Tour win at the World Super 6 Perth in February, that rank had slid steadily to No. 211 by early 2022.

The travel implications of New Zealand’s strict response to the pandemic saw Fox’s tournament appearances drop, with the birth of his daughter in December 2020 having a similar impact on his playing mindset.

“When you add that in with all the travel restrictions and not knowing whether I could get back home to see them [family], I’d have left home not knowing when I’d see them again,” Fox said.

“I think that makes it pretty hard to play good golf on the course with all that stuff in the back of your mind.”

Grant Fox caddied for his son at various tournaments during his early career.

To say Fox has rebounded since is, even in his own words, an understatement.

Having sealed a dominant five-stroke victory at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic in February, he secured seven top-10 finishes before claiming more silverware at the renowned Alfred Dunhill Links Championship earlier this month.

His roughly €2,621,000 ($2,627,000) earnings across 22 European Tour events this season mark an almost two-fold increase on purses gained across the previous three campaigns.

Fox celebrates victory at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic in the United Arab Emirates.

Only Rory McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick sit above him on the European Tour rankings and at world No. 26, he is the sole New Zealand golfer inside the top 250. All in all, Fox believes he is comfortably playing the best golf of his career.

“When you take the off the golf course stuff out of it, it certainly makes it easier to play well and I think that’s been the biggest thing this year,” he said.

“I’ve had patches where I’ve contended in tournaments and felt like I’ve competed with the best players in the world, but it certainly hasn’t been consistent.

“I’ve felt a lot more comfortable out there, a lot more comfortable in contention and felt week in week out that the golf game’s never that far away which has certainly been a nice place to be.”

Fox poses with the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship trophy with mother Adele Fox, father Grant Fox, wife Anneke Fox and their daughter Isabel Fox on the Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews.

Given his form, a few eyebrows were raised when Fox didn’t receive a Presidents Cup call-up from International Team captain Trevor Immelman ahead of the September tournament.

The New Zealander has since spoken of his disappointment at missing out, though he is determined to use the hurt as motivation in pursuit of other goals – above all, stamping his ticket to The Masters at Augusta in April.

“I ticked off the goal to get in the top 50, but the big one would be to stay in the top 50 for the end of the year and get that Masters invite for next year. Another win would certainly help in securing that,” he said.

“Obviously there’s a lot of good players and still a lot of golf to come, but hopefully the good form from this year continues into that.”



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