Frank Vogel won’t be fired yet; will travel to Orlando

Head coach Frank Vogel has become the hot topic for the Los Angeles Lakers in recent days.

After an impressive win against the Utah Jazz, one of the top teams in the Western Conference, a report from The Athletic detailed how Vogel’s job as the main man is in serious jeopardy.

That report said Vogel is being evaluated on a game-by-game basis, which means any game could be Vogel’s last.

The Lakers followed that gritty win with a loss against the lowly Indiana Pacers, which had a 15-29 record at tip-off.

But it wasn’t the loss that was the main concern. It was Vogel’s standing. Shortly after the loss, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported Vogel’s job was safe for at least one more game:

Orlando has an 8-38 record, the worst in the league. If the Lakers can’t muster a win against the Magic, it’s hard seeing Vogel last a second longer. Even though Anthony Davis hasn’t played since Dec. 17, the reports say that’s not a factor in firing Vogel because the team should still play better.

If Vogel is fired, assistant coach David Fizdale is the likely candidate to get the bump in the meantime.

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Americans can get free at-home COVID-19 tests soon — but they won’t work for travel

Americans can get free at-home COVID-19 tests soon — but they won’t work for travel

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Chauncey Billups: Damian Lillard Won’t Travel With Team On Road Trip

Portland Trail Blazers star point guard Damian LIllard will rest his injured abdomen while his teammates head off on a six-game road trip on Thursday, according to Chauncey Billups.

The six-time All-Star will meet with specialists in order to address the injury, which has plagued him for at least four seasons.

The news adds further speculation to comments made by Billups last week, that the team was seriously considering shutting down Lillard for an extended period so that he can properly mend the injury.

On January 5, the team announced Lillard would miss games against the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and tonight’s game against the Sacramento Kings.

Lillard will also miss tomorrow night’s make-up game against the Brooklyn Nets and now road games against the Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, Heat, Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors.

Lillard, who recently positioned eighth in Western Conference guard in the first All-Star voting returns, is joined by fellow starters CJ McCollum (collapsed lung), Norman Powell (health and safety protocols) and Larry Nance Jr. (knee inflammation) on the sidelines tonight.

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This bus won’t get you out of Hong Kong, but it might get you to sleep

HONG KONG — Almost two years into the coronavirus pandemic, Charles and Jenny Chung long for a getaway from their home in Hong Kong. But with overseas travel stymied by the Chinese territory’s strict quarantine requirements, the couple found a different way to relax and recharge: five hours on a public bus. 

The “Bus Sleeping Tour,” organized by local company Ulu Travel, is billed as the longest bus route in Hong Kong at 83 kilometers (51 miles). Narrated by a guide in Cantonese, it includes stops at a number of Instagram-friendly spots far from the skyscrapers of downtown. But passengers can also use it to get the shut-eye that in Hong Kong can be so elusive. 

Nearly 70 percent of Hong Kong residents have trouble sleeping, according to a telephone survey conducted last year by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Wing Yun-kwok, a professor and director of the university’s Sleep Assessment Unit, said Hong Kong’s population is among the most sleep-deprived in the world. 

“Hong Kongers tend to sleep very late, mostly after 12 a.m. or 1 a.m., but wake up very early in the morning,” he said. “That’s why Hong Kongers have a relatively short sleep duration compared to people from other parts of Asia.” 

A passenger sleeping on the 51-mile bus tour.BERTHA WANG / AFP via Getty Images

The city’s achievement-oriented culture downplays the importance of sleep, Wing said, adding that light pollution and late-night dining may also contribute to local sleep deprivation. As in other cities, Hong Kong’s public transportation is often filled with dozing commuters as a result.

“Everyone in Hong Kong has done it at least once,” Charles Chung said. “I nap on the bus for 15 minutes and feel refreshed, and I probably sleep better on the bus than at home.”On a Sunday in November, the Chungs and about 40 other passengers gathered at a restaurant in Hong Kong’s New Territories, where they were first served a “food coma” lunch. As they boarded the double-decker bus — all wearing masks in line with local pandemic rules — each one was provided with earplugs and a sleep mask. The bus then set off along a highway that winds along the coast, looking out on the South China Sea.

Charles and Jenny Chung before boarding the “Bus Sleeping Tour.” Natsuki Arita

That particular highway is well known for its soporific effects, Charles Chung said: “When I drive the car through this road, all my friends fall asleep.”

The couple didn’t get as much sleep as they expected, however, since the bus stopped about once an hour: first at the Hong Kong container port, one of the busiest in the world; then at a popular vantage point near the airport, where wistful travelers can still see flights coming in and out, though much less frequently than before the pandemic. 

The bus also stopped at Butterfly Beach, Hong Kong’s closest beach to mainland China, before making a final stop at the artificial Inspiration Lake next to Hong Kong Disneyland. 

The bus tour stops at sightseeing spots around the city. Natsuki Arita

“Every time the bus makes a stop, I have to wake up again to get off,” Charles said. 

Carol Mak, 39, was unsure about the bus tour before buying tickets, which start at 129 Hong Kong dollars ($16.50), compared with more typical bus fare that rarely exceeds more than a few dollars. 

“If I wanted to nap on a bus, I can just find a relatively long bus lane and sleep,” she said. 

But her 6-year-old son, Dickson, is a budding transport enthusiast who loves to take long bus rides just for the fun of it. 

By the end of the tour, Mak said she could see why it would appeal to people like her son. 

Compared with a more traditional tour bus, she said, “the time spent at a scenic spot is shorter but the time we spend on the bus is much longer, so I think it’s great for people who like to ride the bus itself.” 

An Ulu Travel employee said he came up with the idea when a Facebook friend said he slept well on the bus after work.Bertha Wang / AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong residents love to travel — according to the U.N. World Tourism Organization, in 2019 the territory ranked 12th in the world for spending on outbound tourism, and places such as Japan, Taiwan and Thailand are a short flight away. 

But they have had to get creative during the pandemic, which prompted Hong Kong officials to close the border and impose strict quarantine requirements on residents arriving from overseas. Confined to one place, they are exploring Hong Kong’s outlying islands and crowding its hundreds of miles of hiking trails; the sleeping bus tour is sold out.

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Those local adventures are possible in part because the border closure and compulsory quarantine — up to 21 days, among the longest periods in the world — have kept Hong Kong virtually Covid-free. The city of 7 million people has recorded fewer than 13,000 cases and 213 deaths. 

But as the rest of the world accepts the coronavirus as endemic and eases restrictions, Hong Kong is following mainland China in sticking with its “zero-Covid” approach, drawing criticism from multinational companies with local offices who say it is stifling the economy. The crucial tourism sector has been hit especially hard, with visitor arrivals from January to September down more than 98 percent from the same period last year, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Frankie Chow, the founder of Ulu Travel, posing in front of one of his buses in Hong Kong on Nov. 14, 2021. Bertha Wang / AFP via Getty Images

Companies like Ulu Travel have had to innovate as a result, focusing on domestic tourism in an area less than the size of Los Angeles. Founder Frankie Chow said his local offerings include an LGBT-focused tour, a tour for meeting fellow divorcees and a dog-friendly bus tour.

“We didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing,” he said. “I wanted to do something special, so we got to discussing.” 

Kenneth Kong, one of Ulu Travel’s employees, came up with the idea when he saw a friend say on Facebook that he had insomnia at home but slept well on the bus after work.

“We had to try just once,” Kong said. “We can watch people’s reactions to see if it’s really worth it, and it was.”  

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We won’t reverse travel ban over FG’s threat – UK

• UK, others lack moral rights to allow their airlines to come to Nigeria, says aviation minister

The British High Commission on Sunday said the United Kingdom would not reverse its travel ban on Nigeria because of a threat of retaliation by the Federal Government.

The spokesman for the British High Commission, Dean Hurlock, said this in response to an inquiry by The PUNCH on Sunday over a statement by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, that the UK, Canada and Saudi Arabia would be put on Nigeria’s travel ban on Tuesday.

Hurlock stated that Britain had made it clear that travel abroad would be different this year, adding that the UK was sticking to its “standard background lines.”

In a text message to the high commission, one of our correspondents stated that the Federal Government had said it would place a travel ban on the UK as a retaliatory move.

The correspondent then asked, “Will that make the UK to rescind its travel ban?”

In his response, Hurlock stated, “The UK Government propose sticking to our standard background lines on whether ‘x’ country will put us on the red list and avoid getting into hypothetical situations.

“The UK government has been  clear that travel abroad will be different this year and countries may impose border measures at short notice in line with their own coronavirus policies.”

He added that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice was kept under constant review and asked travellers to continue to check it for entry requirements of the destination they plan to visit.

“Travellers can also sign up for e-mail alerts on GOV.UK to get the latest updates as soon as they happen. We are in regular conversations with other countries about their travel policies,” Hurlock explained.

Position stated in our press statement of last weekend still stands at present – UK high commission

In an earlier response to The PUNCH correspondent’s enquiry, he said, “The position stated in our press release  of last weekend still stands at present.”

In the press release, the UK had said Nigeria would be added to the travel red list as from 4am on December 6 following 21 cases of Omicron variant of COVID-19 reported in England, which had travel history from Nigeria.

“These are temporary measures that have been introduced to prevent further omicron cases from entering the UK and will be examined at the three-week review point on 20 December.”

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, had said Omicron cases in the UK had clear links to overseas travel from Nigeria and South Africa.

Also On Thursday, Laing, in an interview with Channels Television, insisted that the travel ban was evidence-based.

According to her 19 out of 21 passengers with Omicron variant with Nigeria’s travel history flew directly to Britain from Nigeria.

We have recommended travel ban for Canada, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, others

But the Minister of Aviation, Sirika, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos on Sunday, said the Federal Government would place travel ban on the UK, Canada, Argentina and Saudi Arabia as a retaliation for the travel restriction on Nigeria.

He disclosed the Federal Government would restrict airlines coming from Canada, the UK and Saudi Arabia into Nigeria.

According to him, the decision is to reciprocate restricted flights from Nigeria into those countries over the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron.

Sirika said the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, (retd.) would also place the UK, Canada and Saudi Arabia on a red list over the outbreak and spread of the Omicron variant.

The minister noted that if those countries placed Nigeria on a red list, they lacked a moral right to have their airlines fly into Nigeria on commercial operations.

“There is also the case of Saudi Arabia that put Nigeria on the ban list. On Sunday, I participated in a meeting with the COVID-19 task force.

“We have given our input that it is not acceptable by us and we recommended that those Canada, the UK, Saudi Arabia and Argentina also be put on the red list.

“As they did to us, if they do not allow our citizens into their countries; who are they coming, as airlines, to pick from our country?

“They are not supposed to come in. I am very sure in the next three days; Monday or Tuesday, all those countries will be put on the red list of COVID-19,’’ the minister said.

He stressed that airlines of the affected countries remained banned and the countries placed on Nigeria’s red list.

Meanwhile, the President has called for stronger partnerships among ECOWAS leaders to tackle challenges facing the region.

Buhari who was speaking on Sunday at the 60th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States,also said the political, economic, security and the current  wave of the pandemic and its new Omicron variant requires collective action.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, disclosed this in a statement titled ‘President Buhari urges stronger partnership among ECOWAS countries to tackle health, economic, security challenges’.

According to Buhari, “All of these challenges require our collective action to work in concert with each other to pragmatically address and provide our people better prospects in life.

“Today’s realities remind us of the need to continue to forge stronger solidarity to address the new challenges, including the current third wave of the pandemic and its new Omicron variant.

“I am glad that the commission of the Economic Community of West African States and the West Africa Health Organisation are continuing to work with our respective National Disease Control Centres to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on our people and sub-region,” he said.

While commending his Ghanaian counterpart, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo, who is also Chair of Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, for the purposeful leadership and commitment the exerts to resolve the challenges confronting the organization, Buhari said “Despite the enormity of these challenges, our Chair has navigated us well and continues to do so. We owe him enormous gratitude.”

He noted that challenges of COVID-19 and the catastrophic consequences hoisted on the socio-economic environment had continued, adding that the regional resilience, determination and resolution of working together, in solidarity with each other, assisted greatly to lessen the burdens of the Pandemic.

“Without doubt, the occasion for which we have gathered here today is a clear demonstration of our resolute commitment to the effective integration of our sub-region.”

In his remarks, Akufo-Addo said about 10,000 people had died from the Covid-19 pandemic in West Africa, and only two per cent of the population had been fully vaccinated, while 6 per cent got one dose.

He said the emergence of a new variant poses fresh challenges, adding that the sanctions and restrictions on travelling were unjustified.

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Thanksgiving Travel Tip: If The TSA Won’t Let You Bring Booze Into The Airport, You Can Drink Shots And Pass Around The Bottle While Waiting In Line

You…you can do that? I’m not sure what it is about airports, but I’ve always felt like it is one of the stricter places to have fun this side of church if you aren’t in a Chilis or unbranded bar that charges $18 for a pint and a half of beer. They weigh your bag down to the ounce, grill your ID by doing that look up then look down move like 10 times, and herd you onto the plane based on zones even though nobody ever listens to them.

I get why TSA security is so tight because of that fuckhead Bin Laden. I actually appreciate that we are forced to take off our shoes, empty our pockets, and go through those weird x-ray machines that shows all our bits and pieces to a total stranger because I just want to arrive at my destination safely. And if you even DREAM of bringing so much as a drop of liquid through security, you better get ready for a full cavity search conducted with some rubber gloves.

Giphy Images.

Which is why I am so surprised to see that waiting in the TSA line can become a Margaritaville if you BYOB. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate it. I LOVE it. I actually can’t believe that the Wonton Don hasn’t engaged in such hijinks in a YouTube video. Termies are cool, but TSA Bottle Parties are where the fun is really at. 

The TSA expects 20 million people to fly the friendly skies this weekend and I imagine there will be plenty of Stoolies partaking in that nightmare. So I wanted to let you guys know that you may want to bring a bottle of booze with you in case those security lines are extra long because you are apparently already cleared for take off on the Blackout Express as long as you don’t go pass the metal detectors. Yeah that was an airplane pun, we like to have some fun around here.

P.S. I would actually be OK with it if you were only allowed to get wasted on the security line if you were going to/from the cities associated with drunken tomfoolery. Like you can’t start slugging Malibu if you are headed to Des Moines. But if you are taking your talents to South Beach, Vegas, or Nawlins, you can get as fucked up as you want as long as you can stay on your feet.

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Hawaiian Cruises Won’t Happen Until at Least 2022

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Unvaccinated NBA players won’t be able to travel to Toronto to play Raptors starting in January


NBA players who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 won’t be able to travel to Toronto to play in games against the Raptors beginning on Jan. 15, as Canada’s government is set to end vaccine exemption for athletes. Minister of public safety Marco Mendicino made this announcement on Friday. Here are some details, via CBC News

Unvaccinated professional and amateur athletes will no longer be able to travel to Canada as of January 15, minister of public safety Marco Mendicino said on Friday. Currently, NBA and NHL players who have yet to receive one of Canada’s approved COVID-19 vaccines are able to enter the country under a national interest exemption. But Mendicino said that is changing due to the wide availability of vaccines.

“As of January 15th, there will no longer be an exemption in place for professional and amateur athletes,” he said… Those who remain unvaccinated will soon be unable to play games in Toronto against the Raptors or in any of the seven Canadian NHL teams’ home arenas.

It is unclear whether unvaccinated Canadian athletes who play for American teams would be able re-enter the country with their teams. However, beginning November 30, vaccination will be required for travel within and out of Canada.  

Luckily, this change shouldn’t be an issue for too many NBA players, as around 95 percent of the league’s players are reportedly vaccinated. Brooklyn Nets star guard Kyrie Irving is the most well-known player to refuse the vaccine, but he hasn’t been playing in games for the Nets this season, so the change won’t impact him anyway. 

The NBA isn’t enforcing any sort of a vaccine mandate for its players, but the league has strongly encouraged all players to get inoculated. Earlier this month, the league encouraged all players and coaches to get a booster shot in order to try to continue to curb any potential outbreaks. Several players from across the league’s landscape have had to miss time due to COVID-19 this season, but no games have been postponed due to extreme team-wide outbreaks, which is an improvement over last season. 

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Europe air travel to US won’t end, says CDC chief


An alarming rise in cases of the “delta plus” COVID-19 variant in the United Kingdom is unlikely to result in a ban on flights from Britain and Europe, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Sunday.

“We’re not anticipating that now,” Walensky said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We’re absolutely following the science very, very carefully, but we are not anticipating or looking into that right now.”

The delta plus variant, identified by British scientists last month, is considered a relative of the delta variant that fueled a deadly surge across the U.S. this summer. Because it isn’t a variant of interest or concern, it has not yet been named after a letter of the Greek alphabet. The U.N. health agency is tracking about 20 variations of the delta variant.

‘Delta plus’ is ‘not a problem’: Everything to know about the subvariant and why experts aren’t worried, yet

Walensky said the U.S. has had a “handful” of cases linked to delta plus, or the AY.4.2 sublineage of the delta variant, but that it has not “taken off” as it has in the UK. The strand has not yet been linked to increased transmissibility or to decreased effectiveness of vaccines or therapeutics, she said.

Also in the news:

► All Dartmouth employees, including those who have been approved for fully remote work, must submit proof of vaccination or be approved for a medical or religious exemption by Dec. 8, the New Hampshire school announced.

► The Navajo Nation reported 61 more COVID-19 cases Saturday, but no coronavirus-related deaths for the 17th time in the past 24 days. The nation covers about 27,000 square miles of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico in the United States

► Country musician Travis Tritt, who canceled shows at venues that required a COVID-19 vaccine or mask-wearing, sang the national anthem before Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday night.

► Unvaccinated people in Austria could face a lockdown if cases continue to climb and ICUs reach 25% of their capacity from COVID patients, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 45.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 735,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 243.2 million cases and 4.9 million deaths. More than 190,400 million Americans — 57.4% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: People with mental health disorders may qualify for booster shots, which are approved for just some groups of fully vaccinated Americans. Here’s why.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

After American Indian and Alaska Native children, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander children had the highest rate of COVID-19 cases, at 585 per 10,000, according to an analysis of cases through Aug. 31 by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Hispanic children came next on the list. Among white children, the rate of infection was about 354 per 10,000.

Researchers say health data collection on Native Hawaiians is generally poor, and the rates could be underestimates. Extreme weight gain among Native Hawaiian children has been a major pandemic concern, along with depression and anxiety.

“It’s extraordinary, and I think the fallout is – we haven’t even seen the fallout yet,” said Dr. Vija Sehgal, pediatric director at Waianae Comprehensive Health Center.

Nada Hassanein, USA TODAY

The amount of fentanyl seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection has increased by 51% in the first eight months of 2021 compared with 2020, according to data from the CBP. During the COVID-19 pandemic, more drugs have also been found contaminated with the deadly drug. Last month, 1,123 pounds of the drug were confiscated, compared with 702 pounds in August 2020. 

“The COVID travel restrictions hindered some aspects of land-border drug trafficking, as there was less traffic and more time could be spent examining travelers, which increased drug seizures,” Matthew Dyman, CBP public affairs officer, told USA TODAY in an email. “But with people staying home instead of going to work, there was an increased demand for drugs,” 

It’s not uncommon after disasters, such as the 9/11 attacks, to see a temporary increase reported in substance use. 

“We see with other major events people are feeling traumatized and under stress,” said Dr. Andrew Saxon, a member of the Council on Addiction Psychiatry at the American Psychiatric Association. “An easy and natural way to cope would be to take a substance, even though it usually makes it worse in the long run.”

-Asha C. Gilbert, USA TODAY

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order allowing parents to opt their children out of school mask mandates violates federal law and will remain blocked in Williamson County, a federal judge ruled. Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw’s ruling continues to prevent Lee’s order, which the governor extended through Nov. 5, from taking effect in Williamson County’s two public school systems. Two families of children with disabilities, one each in Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School District, sued the school districts and the state over Lee’s decision.

“Disabled students are at a significantly higher risk for severe infection and are exposed at a higher rate,” Crenshaw said in his opinion, which mirrors those by federal judges in Memphis and Knoxville. That constitutes “an irreparable harm that justifies continued injunctive relief,” he said.

-Mariah Timms, Meghan Mangrum, Duane W. Gang, The Nashville Tennessean

Contributing: The Associated Press

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Left tackle Cameron Erving won’t travel to New York

CHARLOTTE — The Panthers are going to have another change on the offensive line Sunday.

The team announced that left tackle Cameron Erving would not travel with the team, and has been downgraded to out for Sunday’s game against the Giants.

Erving was added to the injury report Thursday with a neck issue, and missed Friday’s walk-through with an illness.

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said Friday he was prepared to start rookie Brady Christensen at left tackle if Erving was unable to go.

Christensen, their third-round pick from BYU, started at right tackle against the Eagles two weeks ago.

The Panthers are also expected to start Michael Jordan at left guard, after he replaced Dennis Daley in the lineup last week.

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