Nation and world news briefs

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Biotech company Moderna says White House coronavirus vaccine chief is divesting

The former pharmaceutical executive leading the White House’s coronavirus vaccine effort is divesting from vaccine developer Moderna Inc., the biotech company said Monday after early-stage test results sent its stock soaring.

Moncef Slaoui resigned from Moderna’s board of directors when the Trump administration tapped him last week to be chief adviser for its Operation Warp Speed, a push to develop and distribute a vaccine to address the COVID-19 pandemic. But he still had stock options for about 156,000 Moderna shares; based on Friday’s closing price, they were worth about $10 million.

Moderna is among the companies developing a potential vaccine for the virus, and in April the federal government agreed to award it up to $483 million to speed up that process.

As Slaoui’s new White House role involves weighing in on which companies’ efforts should receive federal backing, concern about conflicts of interest arose. Patient advocacy groups and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., called last week for Slaoui to untangle his finances from the company’s fortunes.

Then Moderna announced promising results from an early-stage trial of its vaccine. Its shares soared 20% on Monday.

Moderna told the Los Angeles Times midday that Slaoui “is divesting all of his equity interest” in the company so there would be no conflict of interest. It did not respond to a follow-up question asking about the timeline of the divestment.

Slaoui had been a member of Moderna’s board since 2017.

—Los Angeles Times


Convicted ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich officially disbarred

CHICAGO — Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was officially disbarred on Monday, more than two months after a state panel recommended he lose his law license due to his conviction in an array of brazen corruption schemes when he was in office.

The one-paragraph order from the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the decision in March by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

“Respondent Rod R. Blagojevich is disbarred,” it read.

The move puts a period at the end of a not-so storied legal career that began when Blagojevich was a young Cook County assistant state’s attorney before entering politics.

Blagojevich’s law license was suspended indefinitely after his arrest by the FBI in December 2008, but the process to officially remove him from the Illinois bar was on hold for years as he appealed his conviction and 14-year prison sentence.

In February, just days after Blagojevich’s prison term was commuted by President Donald Trump, a three-member panel for the ARDC heard evidence of Blagojevich’s worst hits as governor, including his convictions for attempting to sell a U.S. Senate seat, shaking down the CEO of a children’s hospital for campaign cash and lying to the FBI.

The panel’s four-page decision recommending disbarment noted that Blagojevich sought to “further his own interests” as governor despite his oath of office and that to this day, “he has not acknowledged that his conduct was wrongful or expressed any remorse.”

Blagojevich, 63, graduated from law school at Pepperdine University in 1983 and was admitted to the Illinois bar a year later, records show. His only legal experience came as an assistant Cook County state’s attorney, working mostly in traffic court.

—Chicago Tribune


3-year-old Michigan boy dies of self-inflicted gunshot wound, police say

DETROIT — A 3-year-old boy in Flint has died after accidentally shooting himself at his home Sunday, police say.

Officers with the Flint Police Department were called to Hurley Medical Center after the boy was brought in with a gunshot wound.

Police said the shooting happened at the boy’s home on Cadillac Street.

The boy’s wound appeared to be accidental and self-inflicted, Michigan State Police Lt. David Kaiser said. Police have not said how the child got access to the handgun.

A news release from Flint police said there were no suspects. The investigation is ongoing.

—Detroit Free Press


Bee species rediscovered after scientists thought it may no longer exist

A species of bee from Florida that scientists thought might no longer exist was rediscovered earlier this spring, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Before then, the blue calamintha bee had not been observed since 2016.

“I was open to the possibility that we may not find the bee at all so that first moment when we spotted it in the field was really exciting,” researcher Chase Kimmel said in a release published by the museum.

The “metallic navy” insects are known as solitary bees, according to the museum. They fashion their own nests rather than congregating in hives.

Before this year’s rediscovery, sightings of this type of bee had only been recorded in four different spots, all of which came within a 16-mile radius in the Lake Wales Ridge of Central Florida.

—New York Daily News