December 3, 2019

Cyber Monday purchases via smartphones hit a new record this year. They accounted for 33 percent of all sales, totaling $3 billion — the first day in history with sales through smartphones that high — a 46 percent growth, reports Adobe Analytics. Most visits to retail sites were via smartphone, at 54 percent.

Shopping via smartphone is "outpacing and very much driving overall growth of online sales," reports TechCrunch. Even so, larger purchases that require more research, such as furniture and appliances, are more frequently made on a desktop, per Adobe.

"Consumers are reimagining what it means to shop during the holidays, with smartphones having a breakout season," said Adobe Digital Insights' principal analyst Taylor Schreiner in a statement.

Throughout the holiday season, Americans will spend $14 billion more via smartphones compared to last year, says Adobe, making smartphones the driver of half of the increase in sales this season. Adobe predicts on Christmas Day, consumers will make more purchases via smartphone than desktop for the first time ever.

Overall, consumers spent $9.4 billion on Cyber Monday alone, $1.3 billion more than last year, per TechCrunch. According to Adobe, the top 5 most popular purchases in the U.S. on Cyber Monday were L.O.L. Surprise dolls, Frozen 2 toys, Nintendo Switch, VR devices, and Samsung TVs. Taylor Watson

2:22 a.m.

Two planes collided over Lake Coeur d'Alene in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on Sunday afternoon, with authorities confirming that two bodies have been recovered from the crash site.

The Kootenai County Sheriff's Office believes that as many as eight passengers and crew members were on board the single-engine planes — a Cessna TU206G and a de Havilland DHC-2. Lt. Ryan Higgins said the planes have been located by sonar at 127 feet below the lake's surface, but because Kootenai County divers do not have the right equipment to go that deep, a commercial company will likely have to come in and search the wreckage for additional victims and evidence.

The crash occurred near Powderhorn Bay, and witness Patrick Pearce told The Spokesman-Review he saw the planes coming toward each other, about 800 to 900 feet above the water. Based on the engine sounds he heard, Pearce believes the planes were traveling at a high rate of speed when they collided. Catherine Garcia

2:11 a.m.

Back in mid-March, Tomas Pueyo famously predicted that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic would be a complicated balancing act he called "the hammer and the dance" — the hammer being lockdowns followed by more localized restrictions and the dance being periods of relative freedom where the outbreak would worsen. Most of the U.S. is in some form of dance right now, but several states — or parts of states — that were probably too eager to ease up on restrictions and too quick to dance too freely are getting hammered.

Collectively, the U.S. reported its 27th straight day of record high coronavirus cases Sunday, based on a seven-day average. Florida, Texas, California, and Arizona are recording alarming numbers of new cases every day, but they aren't alone — 13 states just reported new highs, including Montana, Delaware, West Virginia, and Alaska, The Washington Post reports.

The raw numbers are bad, but they aren't the only troubling indicator. In Texas, Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D), Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D), and the top elected official in Houston's Harris County, Judge Lina Hidalgo (D), warned Sunday that hospitals in their cities are 10 days to two weeks away from crisis as ICU beds fill up and medical personnel are stretched too thin. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) required masks to be worn in public starting Friday, enforced by $250 fines.

Turner said about 25 percent of people tested in Houston tested positive, versus 10 percent a month ago. More than 20 percent of people tested in Arizona and Florida's Miami-Dade County are positive, too, officials said.

On a positive note, the seven-day average of COVID-19 death's fell to 485, from 562 a week earlier. Public health officials attribute the falling fatalities to a higher proportion of younger people getting infected, improved treatment drawn from experience, and the weeks-long lag between rising infections and rising deaths. They also warn that the disease is brutal even on many who survive it.

Hidalgo said she appreciates Abbott's mask mandate but "as long as we're doing as little as possible and hoping for the best, we're always going to be chasing this thing, we're always going to be behind, and the virus will always outrun us."

"The hardest in terms of the economy is the hammer," Pueyo explained a few weeks after his Medium post went viral. "But the hardest to pull off is the dance." Peter Weber

1:51 a.m.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium welcomed several adorable baby animals over the course of a month, with two red panda cubs, a Masai giraffe calf, two sea lion pups, and a siamang arriving between May 29 and June 30.

With the exception of the sea lion, all of the species are endangered, Doug Warmolts, vice president of animal care at the zoo, told Today. Their numbers are low for a multitude of reasons, including climate change and deforestation, and everyone at the zoo is "thrilled" and "optimistic" over the births.

The siamang, a species of gibbon, was born on May 29, and Warmolts said it has been spotted snuggling and swinging with its mother, Olga. The red panda cubs came next on June 13, and are still being nursed; they are expected to make their public debut in about four months. There are fewer than 10,000 red pandas in the wild, and Warmolts told Today the zoo worked "very hard to get pairings just right and introductions of males and females just right. They're a challenging species to breed in human care, so we're just thrilled that they were successful."

On June 25, a sea lion named Lovell welcomed her first pup — the first ever born at the Columbus Zoo — and on June 30, a sea lion named Baby also gave birth. Between those arrivals, a Masai giraffe calf was born on June 28. Warmolts said a wellness check will be conducted after the baby has time to bond with its mother, but it does appear healthy. Catherine Garcia

12:49 a.m.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a Purple Heart recipient and Iraq War veteran, has emerged as a serious contender to be former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate, three people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post.

Duckworth is a "highly decorated woman," former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told the Post, and the Biden team is taking a close look at her. Biden has promised to choose a woman as his running mate, and said he would reveal his pick by Aug. 1.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) have all been vetted, the Post reports, and many Biden allies view Harris as the favorite. Some people with knowledge of the matter told the Post that while Duckworth is a strong choice, they don't believe she'll ultimately be selected.

Duckworth is of Thai Chinese descent, and in the wake of the anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, many people are pushing Biden to choose a Black woman as his running mate. During an interview on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, Duckworth said Black female voters are "a key to the victory for Democrats" and she is certain Biden "will pick the right person to be next to him as he digs this country out of the mess that Donald Trump has put us in."

Republicans are ready to pounce on Biden's eventual running mate, the Post reports, as many believe this person will be an easier target than Biden. Dan Eberhart, an oil executive and one of President Trump's donors, told the Post the GOP is "more likely than ever to hammer the Democratic vice presidential nominee. Biden is boxed in by the progressives in the party — he has to pick a woman and someone who is relatively far to the left of himself. That's going to provide natural openings for the campaign to draw contrasts." Catherine Garcia

July 5, 2020

The Florida Department of Health has issued a warning to residents of Hillsborough County after a person there contracted Naegleria fowleri, a single-cell amoeba that infects the brain and is usually fatal.

Infections are rare — between 2009 and 2018, only 34 cases were reported in the United States, with most in the South, the BBC reports. In Florida, there have been just 37 cases reported since 1962. Typically found in warm freshwater, the amoeba enters the body through the nose. It cannot be passed from person to person.

The Department of Health did not say where the infection was contracted or the patient's condition, but did advise residents to avoid getting water from taps, lakes, rivers, ponds, and canals up their noses. Symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and a stiff neck, and officials said anyone who believes they have been infected should "seek medical attention right away, as the disease progresses rapidly."

Infections are more likely in July, August, and September, when the water is warmer, but health officials don't want people to worry too much, reminding residents that the "disease is rare and effective prevention strategies can allow for a safe and relaxing summer swim season." Catherine Garcia

July 5, 2020

Nick Cordero, the Tony-nominated actor who starred in Bullets Over Broadway, Waitress, Rock of Ages, and A Bronx Tale: The Musical, died Sunday in Los Angeles after battling the coronavirus for several months. He was 41.

Cordero's wife, Amanda Kloots, shared on Instagram that her husband died "surrounded in love by his family, singing and praying as he gently left this Earth."

Cordero was hospitalized in late March after doctors thought he had pneumonia, and Kloots kept fans updated on his condition via Instagram. While in the intensive care unit, his right leg was amputated and he was put in a medically induced coma. He also lost 65 pounds and suffered two mini-strokes. Earlier this month, Kloots told CBS This Morning that Cordero would "most likely" need a double lung transplant in order to "live the kind of life that I know my husband would want to live."

The Canadian-born Cordero made his Broadway debut in 2012 in Rock of Ages, and was nominated for a Tony in 2014 for his role as Cheech in Bullets Over Broadway. He also appeared on several television shows, including a stint on Blue Bloods as Victor Lugo. In addition to Kloots, Cordero is survived by his young son, Elvis. Catherine Garcia

July 5, 2020

More than 230 scientists from 32 countries are asking the World Health Organization to address growing evidence that the coronavirus can spread indoors via aerosols that float in the air, The New York Times reports.

The WHO has maintained that the coronavirus is primarily spread by infected people who sneeze and cough, with their large respiratory droplets falling to the ground quickly. In its most recent guidance, the WHO said airborne transmission of the virus is only possible after medical procedures that produce aerosols. The scientists disagree, writing in a soon-to-be-published open letter that smaller exhaled particles can infect people, and the WHO's recommendations should be revised.

Multiple scientists told the Times that while they appreciate the WHO's work and attempts to educate the public, the United Nations health agency is slow and risk-averse to updating recommendations. Dr. Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO's technical lead on infection control, told the Times the organization stated "several times that we consider airborne transmission as possible but certainly not supported by solid or even clear evidence. There is a strong debate on this." Read more at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

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