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Pearl: Top Auburn recruit not yet declared eligible by NCAA

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) – Auburn’s top recruit, point guard Sharife Cooper, hasn’t been cleared to play by the NCAA.

Tigers coach Bruce Pearl said Monday on Auburn’s weekly radio show that the NCAA is still conducting Cooper’s initial eligibility review but didn’t give details.

“We are hopeful for a resolution as soon as possible,” Pearl said. “But really there’s not much more I can comment.”

Auburn is scheduled to open the season Thursday against Saint Joseph’s in Fort Myers, Florida. The Tigers play preseason No. 1 Gonzaga on Friday morning in the Fort Myers Tip-off.

Cooper was a five-star recruit expected to start immediately for the Tigers and be one of their best players. He was rated the nation’s No. 19 overall recruit by 247Sports.

Auburn announced on Sunday that it would self-impose a postseason ban this season, stemming from the 2017 bribery investigation into former assistant coach Chuck Person.

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U.S. is biggest cybertheft target in world as pandemic shifts people online, study finds

The United States is the largest data theft target in the world and Americans are the most likely victims, a new study has found.

The COVID-19 crisis forced more people onto unsecured Wi-Fi and exposed more data to attacks, said Nick Baker, a broadband expert at Uswitch, a price-comparison service that conducted the study.

Uswitch found more than 6 billion recorded data breaches in the U.S. since 2013, or nearly 1.88 million breaches per every 100,000 Americans. The next biggest cyber victims are South Korea and Canada with 446,129 breaches per 100,000 and 243,311 breaches per 100,000, respectively.

Mr. Baker said the U.S. tops the list because of several factors, including Americans’ high levels of internet use that means the vast majority of the population shares information online consistently. Several of the world’s largest corporations and the government, as a preeminent political power, also make the U.S. a top target for cybercriminals.

Cybersecurity experts say Americans concerned about hacks and data breaches have a multitude of options to defend themselves:

• Use high-quality antivirus software;

• Choose obscure passwords;

• Activate multi-factor authentication to log in to sensitive networks;

• Back up important information in multiple locations;

• Be mindful of what devices you choose to connect on a home network.

Still, the coronavirus pandemic made the cyberthreat environment worse.

“The sudden shift to remote and home working by companies that may not have been fully prepared to roll out said infrastructure has left many opportunities for cybercriminals to gain access to data and information,” Mr. Baker said. “Regulating employees no longer based in an office or no longer using a company intranet, for example, becomes an increasing and expensive challenge for many businesses, something which cybercriminals have looked to exploit during 2020.”

The latest high-profile victim was GoDaddy, the largest web domain registrar.

Hackers allegedly manipulated the company’s employees into handing over access of various websites to cybercriminals. GoDaddy said Monday that a “small number” of customer domains and account information had unauthorized changes.

“Our security team investigated and confirmed threat actor activity, including social engineering of a limited number of GoDaddy employees,” a GoDaddy representative said in a statement. “We immediately locked down the accounts involved in this incident, reverted any changes that took place to accounts, and assisted affected customers with regaining access to their accounts.”

The spokesperson said GoDaddy is constantly educating employees about new security measures to take against sophisticated and aggressive attacks aimed at the employees.

Among the affected users were cryptocurrency trading platforms, such as Liquid and NiceHash, which said that GoDaddy incorrectly turned over control of their domains to malicious actors this month.

Liquid CEO Mike Kayamori wrote on the company’s blog that the access GoDaddy gave a bad actor provided the actor with the ability to change domain name service records, control internal email accounts, gained access to document storage, and “partially compromise” the company’s infrastructure.

NiceHash froze all wallet activity on its platform for 24 hours after it discovered the problem and then resumed service except for withdrawals, which it said would resume after an internal audit.

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Loeffler to return to campaign after negative COVID-19 test

ATLANTA (AP) – U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler said Monday that she will return to public campaigning after she got a second straight negative coronavirus test.

The Georgia Republican is facing a Jan. 5 runoff in one of the state’s twin U.S. Senate races.

Loeffler took a rapid COVID-19 test Friday evening that came back positive, a day after she campaigned with Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who also faces a Jan. 5 runoff.

A test Saturday came back inconclusive and a test Sunday came back negative, Loeffler’s campaign said. She had isolated after the Friday test and said she was consulting with medical experts and following guidelines of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“She continues to feel great, and has no symptoms,” spokesperson Stephen Lawson said in a statement. “She looks forward to getting back out on the campaign trail.”

Perdue said before Loeffler’s negative test was announced Sunday that he would remain at home as he awaited Loeffler’s results. He returned to public campaigning on Monday, appearing with Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst in Griffin, south of Atlanta.

At that event, when questioned by a bystander, Perdue backed up his previous call for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to resign over claims by Perdue and Loeffler that Raffensperger mishandled the presidential election in the state.

“We called for the resignation of our secretary of state,” Perdue said at event at a shooting range. “We’re calling for lawsuits right now. We’re doing a lot. Every legal vote should be counted for Donald Trump. And you know what? They should be counted for me, too. Absolutely.”

Neither Perdue nor Loeffler has detailed what they think Raffensperger did wrong, although they want election officials to re-examine the signatures on envelopes of mailed-in absentee ballots, a move Raffensperger says is pointless because the ballots cannot be traced back to envelopes once separated.

Perdue and Ernst are scheduled to appear Tuesday in Cordele, Thomasville and Hahira as part of a Perdue bus tour.

Pence staffers did not indicate whether he was tested for the coronavirus after campaigning with Loeffler or whether he would isolate.

Loeffler has held several rallies in recent weeks with crowds packed into close quarters and many audience members not wearing masks.

Loeffler is facing Democrat Raphael Warnock in a Jan. 5 runoff election – one of two races that will determine which party has control of the Senate. The other race will feature Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

If the Republican wins either race, then the party will keep control of the U.S. Senate.

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Kelly meets with Ducey as he prepares to take seat in Senate

PHOENIX (AP) – Incoming Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly met with Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey Monday as he prepares to take office as soon as next week.

The discussion at Ducey’s office in Phoenix touched on distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, dealing with the economic fallout from the pandemic, infrastructure and trade with Mexico, both men said afterward.

“We’re both looking forward to vaccinating a large majority of the population,” Kelly said in a brief interview with The Associated Press. “We really need that and we’re going to probably see the first vaccinations here in the state as early as December.”

Kelly said he’s concerned about polls showing much of the country doesn’t plan to get vaccinated, which would prevent the herd immunity necessary to keep the spread of the coronavirus in check.

Ducey and Kelly agreed that Congress needs to do more to sustain families that are struggling during the pandemic, Kelly said.

Kelly echoed calls from the mayors of Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tolleson and Tucson for Ducey to institute a statewide mask mandate in public places.

“I think it’s a really strong message to have a governor say, ‘I want everybody to wear a mask and I’m going to require it and we’re going to enforce it,’” Kelly said.

Ducey said last week that he believes Arizona has achieved as much compliance with mask-wearing as it will get, adding that nearly everyone in the state lives in a jurisdiction with a local mask requirement.

Ducey’s office posted photos on Twitter showing the governor and his chief of staff, Daniel Scarpinato, meeting with Kelly and aide Tiernan Donohue. All were wearing masks when the photos were taken.

“There is no shortage of critical issues before our state and nation, and we’ll need both sides working together to really make a difference,” Ducey said in a statement.

Kelly defeated Republican Martha McSally, whom Ducey appointed to fill John McCain’s former Senate seat until the November election. Kelly will finish the last two years of McCain’s term and faces re-election in 2022. Kelly can be seated in the Senate after Arizona’s election results are formally certified on Monday.

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SEC shuffles games, pushing back Arkansas-Missouri, UT-Vandy

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – The Southeastern Conference has shuffled its schedule, including pushing back the Arkansas-Missouri and Tennessee-Vanderbilt games which had been set for Saturday.

The league announced Monday that it has postponed the Arkansas-Missouri game because of combination of positive tests, contact tracing and the resulting quarantining within the Arkansas program.

Vanderbilt and Missouri will now meet Saturday to make up a game that was postponed on Oct. 17.

The SEC is still trying to get in 10 games for all 14 teams, and last week reserved the right to revise the schedule up until 8 p.m. CT on Mondays.

No date has been set for Arkansas-Missouri or Tennessee-Vanderbilt but Dec. 19 is a possibility for teams not playing in the league championship game.

“As we continue to adapt to the current realities, it important to remain flexible as we move forward in the final weeks of the season,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “Contact tracing continues to be the biggest contributing factor to game interruptions.

“We will continue to manage the remaining weeks of the football schedule to allow for as many games to be played as possible.”

Arkansas at Missouri is the sixth game scheduled for this weekend that has been postponed because of COVID-19 issues with one of the team, including the Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State.

In Conference USA on Monday, Louisiana Tech at FIU was canceled and Western Kentucky at Charlotte was pushed back from Saturday to Dec. 1. That game will have the unusual 10:30 a.m. ET kickoff time on a Tuesday.

In the previous two weeks, 33 games involving FBS teams have been postponed or canceled, about 27 percent of the schedule.

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Purdue seeking answers for strange twists in odd season

Purdue All-American receiver Rondale Moore finally made his season debut Friday night – just as starting quarterback Aidan O’Connell sat out with an undisclosed injury.

And after asking the Big Ten for an explanation on a late offensive pass interference call that took away the Boilermakers’ go-ahead score at Minnesota, Brohm finally heard back from the league office. He just couldn’t share the response publicly.

“I’m not at liberty to speak about those conversations,” he said Monday. “I can say this – of all the people that I’ve talked to, there hasn’t been one that doesn’t totally agree with my assessment of the play.”

While an angry Brohm shouted at the officials on the sideline, he took a more delicate approach in his postgame news conference – only strongly suggesting the refs got it wrong.

But those new twists only add to the oddity an already strange season.

Purdue (2-2) won its first season opener under Brohm while he was quarantining at home following a positive COVID-19 test. Two weeks later, the Boilermakers got an unexpected bye courtesy of a virus outbreak that led to the cancellation of the Wisconsin game.

O’Connell got hurt in a loss to Northwestern in the Boilermakers next game and on Monday, Brohm broke with his customary strategy of not naming a starting quarterback until game day.

“Yes,” he said when asked if Jack Plummer would start again this week in place of O’Connell. “Aidan’s got an injury that we’re going to try to get him back as fast as we can, and we’ll see when that is. I don’t know the timetable. “

But it was Friday’s postgame events still stirring the discussion Monday.

In addition to the questionable call and subsequent game-sealing interception thrown by Plummer, Moore issued a statement in which he apologized for becoming a distraction. He said he had asked Brohm to keep his hamstring injury under wraps.

Moore appeared in his first game in nearly 14 months and was his usual electrifying self.

“I’m sure he probably had some soreness and we’ll gauge that as this week goes on,” Brohm said. “It’s the first time he’s really seen that extensive action for a while.”

Meanwhile, kicker J.D. Dellinger offered another apology to Purdue fans on his Twitter account after one field-goal attempt was blocked and another, which would have tied the score at 34, sailed wide right.

“I missed a kick I should make every time and deserve all the blame and hate coming my way,” he wrote. “Although I can’t take it back, I promise that I will do everything in my power to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Now, the Boilermakers are back to work, trying to forget about all the angst since last weekend as they focus on snapping a two-game losing streak Saturday when Rutgers visits Ross-Ade Stadium.

“If we’re not willing to put in the time and to lay it out there every week, then you’re not going to win. That’s just the bottom line,” Brohm said. “We have definitely moved on to Rutgers and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

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Texas, Louisiana can end Planned Parenthood funding, federal appeals court rules

NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Texas and Louisiana can cut off funding to Planned Parenthood clinics, reversing earlier decisions stemming from legal battles over abortion.

Opponents of legal abortion have long sought to deny federal Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood because some Planned Parenthood affiliated clinics perform abortions. Abortion rights supporters and advocates for women’s health have argued that the move also would deny needy women the right to choose their providers for a variety of vital non-abortion health services.

The decision by the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reverses an earlier ruling by a three-judge appellate panel that blocked Texas from enforcing its ban on Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood.

It also expressly reversed a ruling blocking Louisiana from banning Planned Parenthood funding. A three-judge panel had ruled against the ban and that decision stood when the full court deadlocked 7-7 in 2017, when there were only 14 active judges on the court.

This time, 16 judges – including five nominees of President Donald Trump – participated in the case and 11 were in the majority.

In dissent, two judges said the case will leave millions in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, which falls under 5th Circuit jurisdiction, “vulnerable to unlawful state interference with their choice of health care providers.”

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Utah relaxes gathering restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Monday relaxed restrictions on social gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving weekend as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to surge.

There were 545 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Utah on Monday, and referral center ICU beds reached 91.9% occupancy statewide, according to state data. The increased number of hospitalizations has prompted doctors and public health officials to advise against attending large Thanksgiving gatherings.

Herbert, a Republican, said he will not extend his previous two-week order that required people to limit social gatherings to people in their immediate household but urged caution. He recommended masks, social distancing and smaller gatherings for the holiday.

“You increase the risk when you bring people into your home,” he said during a press briefing. “That’s just the harsh reality.”

Rich Saunders, the interim director of the state health department, recommended that people in high transmission areas, which include 26 of the state’s 29 counties, limit social gatherings to 10 or fewer. The state’s mask mandate will remain in place.

Taylor Randall, dean of the the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, also urged Utah residents to wear masks to help boost the state’s “fragile” economy. He cited a new university study which found that mask mandates lower COVID-19 infections while increasing consumer mobility and spending.

In Utah, 1 in 135 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past week, and the state is ranked tenth in the country for new cases per capita, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

The state’s seven-day average of new daily cases continued to climb to 3,349 per day. In the past week, 23.6% of people tested have received a positive result. State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said the positivity rate is starting to stabilize because of a push to increase testing.

There have been over 179,000 reported virus cases in Utah and 797 known deaths related to the virus, according to state data.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some – especially older adults and people with existing health problems – it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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GOP senator, business leaders urge prompt Biden transition

WASHINGTON (AP) – Pressure is increasing on a Trump administration official to authorize a formal transition process for President-elect Joe Biden.

Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio on Monday called for the head of the General Services Administration to release money and staffing needed for the transition.

Portman, a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also said Biden should receive high-level briefings on national security and the coronavirus vaccine distribution plan.

Meanwhile, more than 160 business leaders asked GSA chief Emily Murphy to immediately acknowledge Biden as president-elect and begin the transition to a new administration. “Withholding resources and vital information from an incoming administration puts the public and economic health and security of America at risk,” the business letters said in an open letter to Murphy.

Among those signing the letter were Jon Gray, president of the Blackstone private equity firm; Robert Bakish, president and CEO of ViacomCBS Inc.; Henry Kravis, the co-chief executive of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., another private equity giant; David Solomon, CEO at Goldman Sachs; and George H. Walker, CEO of the investment firm Neuberger Berman and a second cousin to former President George W. Bush.

The renewed calls for an official transition came as Biden is building out his administration with key picks for national security and foreign policy roles. Former Secretary of State John Kerry will lead the incoming administration’s effort to combat climate change, while Alejandro Mayorkas will be nominated as Homeland Security secretary.

Biden also plans to nominate veteran diplomat Antony Blinken as his secretary of state, according to multiple people familiar with the Biden team’s planning.

House Democrats said in a letter to Murphy last week that Murphy’s refusal to begin transition activities required by law is having “grave effects.” Those effects include “undermining the orderly transfer of power, impairing the incoming administration’s ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, hampering its ability to address our nation’s dire economic crisis, and endangering our national security,” Democrats say.

Two House committees, Oversight and Appropriations, are seeking an immediate briefing with Murphy to help lawmakers decide whether to call Murphy and other officials to testify at a public hearing.

Murphy, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, has yet to certify Biden as the winner of the presidential election, stalling the process of officially launching the transition. Trump has publicly refused to accept defeat and has launched a series of court battles across the country making baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and seeking to overturn the election results.

Portman, a Trump ally, said it was “only prudent’ for GSA to begin the transition process immediately.

“Donald Trump is our president until Jan. 20, 2021, but in the likely event that Joe Biden becomes our next president, it is in the national interest that the transition is seamless and that America is ready on Day One of a new administration for the challenges we face,” Portman wrote in an op-ed calling for the transition to begin.

When Murphy ascertains that Biden won, it will free up money for the transition and clear the way for Biden’s team to begin placing transition personnel at federal agencies. Trump administration officials also say they will not give Biden the classified presidential daily briefing on intelligence matters until the GSA makes the ascertainment official.

Murphy spent most of the last 20 years honing a specialized knowledge of government procurement through a series of jobs as a Republican congressional staffer and in senior roles at the GSA and the Small Business Administration. She did shorter stints in the private sector and volunteered for Trump’s transition team in 2016.

She worked her way up through partisan politics to a position that isn’t in the spotlight, but is undeniably a powerful cog of governance.

“I am not here to garner headlines or make a name for myself,” Murphy said at her Senate confirmation hearing in October 2017, “My goal is to do my part in making the federal government more efficient, effective and responsive to the American people.”

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Massachusetts launching COVID-19 public awareness campaign

BOSTON (AP) – Massachusetts is launching a public awareness campaign in several languages aimed at encouraging residents to remain vigilant against the coronavirus as the state continues to see a surge, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday.

The television and digital ads will reinforce basic virus protections like wearing a mask, practicing good hygiene, maintaining a safe distance and getting tested.

The ads stress that the way to get back to activities that everyone is missing – attending live sporting events, throwing a child’s birthday party, going out dancing with friends – hinges on how well everyone adheres to safety protocols now.

The campaign includes social media messages and digital animated videos in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, simplified and traditional Chinese, and Vietnamese. Information posters will also be displayed in convenience stores.

Television ads in English and Spanish will run on broadcast and digital channels through February.

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NURSING HOMES

Long-term care facilities can begin using rapid 15-minute COVID-19 tests to screen people entering the facilities who are not regular staff members, including visitors, state health Secretary Marylou Sudders said Monday.

Those who test negative can enter provided they already meet existing criteria, including not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and complying with other requirements, such as wearing a mask.

The expansion of rapid testing follows an announcement last week about the use of the 15-minute tests to help screen students in K-12 schools who may be experiencing symptoms.

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COVID-19 GRANTS

The state has awarded $650,000 in grants to community and faith-based groups designed to help spread and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in communities of color in cities and towns hardest hit by the disease.

Twenty organizations that officials say have demonstrated deep engagement with their communities are receiving funding.

Strategies to reach individuals in those communities include relying on youth peer leaders, trusted community leaders, and those with shared lived experience to increase the understanding of the impact of COVID-19.

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