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Volunteer at Bolton farm dies after being injured by sheep

A volunteer at Cultivate Care Farms in Bolton is dead after being injured by a sheep, according to Bolton police.

The 73-year-old woman — identified today as Kim Taylor of Wellesley — suffered serious injuries after a sheep charged and “repeatedly rammed her” on Saturday morning around 9 a.m.

Taylor went into cardiac arrest and was taken to Marlborough Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead.

Cultivate Care Farms, located at 401 Main St. in Bolton, offers “farm-based therapy” where clients can work with animals on the farm to help work through mental health challenges.

Taylor was reportedly a longtime volunteer at the farm.

“Therapy sessions involve activities that promote health and wellness for the client, the animals, and the farm,” according to Cultivate Care Farms’ website.

Police reported that animal control and farm staff are working to determine what to do with the sheep.

The farm was scheduled to host a Winter Market on Saturday morning, but wrote on Facebook it was canceled due to “unforeseen events.” The post has since been deleted.

How upstate New York became a haven for Bitcoin miners

A Bitcoin mining operation is opening northeast of Niagara Falls this month on the site of the last working coal plant in the state of New York.

Across the state, a former aluminum plant in Massena, already one of the biggest cryptocurrency sites in the United States, is expanding.

And in Owego, a metal-recycling mogul with 11.3 million Instagram followers is making a gritty startup with banks of computers in shipping containers next to a scrapyard.

Soaring Bitcoin values may be the investment talk of Wall Street, but a few hours north, in upstate New York, the buzz is about companies that are scrambling to create the digital currency by “mining” it virtually with all types and sizes of computer farms constantly whizzing through transactions.

In just a few years, a swath of northern and western New York has become one of the biggest Bitcoin producers in the country. The prospectors in this digital gold rush need lots of cheap electricity to run thousands of energy-guzzling computer rigs.

The area — with its cheap hydroelectric power and abundance of shuttered power plants and old factories — was ripe for Bitcoin mining. The abandoned infrastructure, often with existing connections to the power grid, can readily be converted for Bitcoin mining.

The companies say they are boosting local economies by bringing industry back and creating a crypto vanguard north of New York City, where Bitcoin stock, though unpredictable, hit record highs on Wall Street this year and which the incoming mayor, Eric Adams, envisions as a cryptocurrency hub.

But the surge of activity has also prompted a growing outcry over the amount of electricity and pollution involved in mining for Bitcoin. Globally, cryptocurrency mining is said to consume more electricity annually than all of Argentina. China, once home to perhaps two-thirds of all crypto mining, banned the practice this year to help achieve its carbon-reduction goals, driving some miners to New York.

As a result, environmental groups say, the Wild West-style scramble, coupled with a lack of restrictions on Bitcoin mining, is threatening the state’s own emission-reduction goals, which call for more renewable power and rapid reductions in fossil-fuel emissions.

Bitcoin mining companies often require only basic building or planning permits from local governments, many of them faded industrial towns eager for any new business-tax revenue they can generate.

In the Finger Lakes region, a former coal plant on pristine Seneca Lake has been converted into the Greenidge Generation natural gas-burning plant, which now powers Bitcoin mining on site. Near Buffalo, a Bitcoin company is seeking cheaper electricity by taking over a part-time gas-fired power plant and revving it up for round-the-clock use.

The resulting uptick in greenhouse gas emissions will hasten the impact of climate change, say environmental groups such as Earthjustice and the Sierra Club, which are monitoring the upstate New York’s many old natural-gas plants that could be readily repurposed as Bitcoin mining operations.

Plants that buy renewable energy from the grid have also drawn complaints. Since a large Bitcoin mining plant can use more electricity than most cities in the state, environmentalists warn that crypto mining will leave other areas dependent on fossil fuel power.

The abundance of hydroelectric power and other kinds of renewable energy upstate helps large mining companies that buy it in bulk promote themselves as environmentally conscious.

The plant opening northeast of Niagara Falls this month, in Somerset, New York, is part of a $550 million project by Terawulf, a Bitcoin mining company. The project also includes a proposed 150-megawatt data center at a former coal plant on Lake Cayuga in the Finger Lakes.

Terawulf CEO Paul Prager said the Somerset plant would make use of hydroelectric power salvaged from the falls that is otherwise difficult to send to other locations because of grid congestion.

And because the plant would comply with state environmental rules and not cause air pollution, he said, “we look at regulations as a really good thing.”

But despite requiring companies that engage in many aspects of Bitcoin activity, including trading the currency, to obtain a license, New York places no restrictions on mining.

Some municipalities, including Plattsburgh and Massena, two early Bitcoin-mining destinations near the Canadian border, have resorted to moratoriums on the practice.

The bans have since been lifted, but some lawmakers want to make New York one of the first states to prohibit certain types of Bitcoin mining. In June, the state Senate approved a bill that would have imposed a statewide moratorium on some fossil-fuel-powered mining; the legislation died in the Assembly.

“It has been easy for these companies to fly under the radar because the whole industry is confusing to understand, at first,” said Assemblywoman Anna Kelles, a Democrat who represents the Ithaca area and sponsored the bill. “It’s too new of an industry not to be regulated federally or statewide in respect to greenhouse gas emission and the effect on water and air.” (Kelles said she planned to revive the bill next year.)

For the same reason, some environmental activists have urged Gov. Kathy Hochul to issue an executive order to ban some crypto mining.

In 2017, the shuttered coal plant on Seneca Lake was converted into a natural gas-burning plant by Greenidge, which was owned at the time by Atlas Holdings, a private equity firm with $6 billion in holdings. Greenidge now promotes itself as the first publicly traded company with a bitcoin mine integrated as a part of a power plant. The plant has a 106-megawatt capacity, allowing it to generate enough electricity to power around 85,000 homes.

Greenidge CEO Dale Irwin said in a statement that the plant was “creating a new economic engine bringing a piece of the world’s digital future to upstate New York.”

But the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased along with its mining activity, and so has opposition from some local residents who call the plant an environmental threat to this rural stretch of vineyards, farm stands, pristine waterways and world-class gorges.

A local blogger has reported on Greenidge’s permit to draw more than 100 million gallons of water a day from Seneca Lake for cooling purposes and to then return it at warmer levels to a nearby trout stream tributary.

Irwin said the outflow posed no danger and that lake temperatures, measured daily by independent sources, had not been impacted.

And although the plant’s emissions have increased since 2019, he said, they were still well below state-permitted levels. The plant poses no environmental threat, he insisted.

Greenidge is applying to the state to renew air emissions permits, and opponents see an opportunity for the state to curb the company’s expansion.

Elected officials, including U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, both Democrats, have asked state and federal regulators to review the plant’s application closely.

With political and public pressure mounting, Basil Seggos, the state’s environmental conservation commissioner, wrote on Twitter in September that “Greenidge has not shown compliance with NY’s climate law.” He urged residents to participate in the public comment period regarding the permit renewal.

To build several structures at the plant, Greenidge obtained local planning board approval in April from the town of Torrey.

Patrick Flynn, 79, a farmer and the Torrey town supervisor, called Greenidge a boon to the area and said that renewable energy was “overrated.”

“We can’t restrict a business,” he said. “Whether they’re making Bitcoin, it’s no different than raising cattle or pigs or chickens.”

Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian, a local conservation group, accused state officials of failing the public by not requiring an environmental review before issuing permits to Greenidge, and by essentially leaving approvals to local governments.

“It can’t be a town-by-town fight,” said Taylor, a speech pathologist whose family has lived on Seneca Lake for generations. “We need the governor to step in. If she wants to be a champion on climate, she needs to adopt a moratorium on this type of energy-intensive cryptocurrency, or we’ll never achieve our climate goals.”

Greenidge’s case is not unique. Digihost, a Bitcoin company in Buffalo that is reviving a gas-fired power plant, has faced criticism that the increased gas emissions will affect areas long plagued by industrial toxins. Among them is Love Canal, the Niagara Falls neighborhood that became infamous for the toxic landfill that harmed of hundreds of residents.

But local officials approved Digihost’s plans largely because the environmental toll of the new operation seemed minimal compared with the benefits the company was expected to bring, including new jobs and up to $1 million in annual fees for municipal water to cool the plant, said Robert Pecoraro, president of the common council in North Tonawanda, where the plant is.

Digihost officials say the plant will operate within state emissions limits, begin shifting to more renewable energy sources over time, feed the grid when needed and help western New York keep up with the tech industry while creating at least 30 permanent jobs.

Pecoraro stood outside the gas plant recently and watched workers build a large shed to house the new servers. He said he did not understand the opposition to Digihost and the economic boost it would bring to the area.

“A lot of industry has left over the years” he said. “And here we are trying to bring Digihost in and people are fighting us on that.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky says omicron cases are likely to rise

Several dozen cases of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus have been identified in the United States, a number that is “likely to rise,” Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

At least 17 states have detected cases, including in some people who have no known history of recent travel abroad, which experts have said suggests community spread of the variant in the United States.

Genetic sequencing is required to determine which variant an infected patient has. In recent months the United States has greatly expanded sequencing efforts, but the process takes time. The CDC, for instance, typically takes about 10 days to yield results. According to Walensky, about 14% of all positive PCR tests in the United States are being sequenced.

The variant has a cluster of mutations that have raised alarm around the world, but at this early stage, there are still more questions about it than answers, health officials said Sunday.

“What we don’t yet know is how transmissible it will be, how well our vaccines will work, whether it will lead to more severe disease,” Walensky said.

U.S. officials are in frequent communication with experts in South Africa where the variant is widespread, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease doctor, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

How quickly omicron will spread in the United States, where the highly contagious delta variant now accounts for 99.9% of all cases, remains unknown, Fauci said. “What’s going to happen when you have those two competing with each other?” he said, adding that, “we have really got to be careful” in assessing how severe omicron might end up being.

A new report from South Africa has fueled hopes that the variant may not cause serious disease, although it remains far too early to conclude that, experts say. The report focuses primarily on 42 patients in a hospital in Gauteng province, the center of the nation’s omicron outbreak.

Omicron’s rapid spread still poses risks, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead for coronavirus response, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“Even if we have a large number of cases that are mild, some of those individuals will need hospitalizations, they will need to go into ICU, and some people will die,” she said. “And so more cases can mean more hospitalizations, and more hospitalizations could mean more deaths.”

She also urged governments to take swift action by increasing vaccination and encouraging mask wearing, distancing and ventilation to tamp down the spread of omicron and delta.

Omicron

The Biden administration recently announced plans to expand its booster campaign and increase access to rapid tests. On Monday, the United States will begin requiring all incoming air travelers to show proof of a negative test taken the day before departure, regardless of their vaccination status or citizenship.

On Sunday, officials also defended the government’s ban on travelers from eight countries in southern Africa. The ban has been criticized for being both unhelpful and overly punitive.

“That ban was done at a time when we were really in the dark,” Fauci said, noting that it was intended to buy officials time to gather more information about omicron. But now that more information is coming in from around the world, officials are frequently re-evaluating the ban, he said.

“Hopefully, we will be able to lift that ban within a quite reasonable period of time,” he said, adding that “we all feel very badly about the hardship” that it put on southern Africa.

But officials dismissed the possibility of domestic travel restrictions, noting that they would be impractical. “That would be extremely onerous for people who are trying to get around the country for things like holidays,” Dr. Francis Collins, the National Institutes of Health director, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “And I don’t know how much we’d gain by it.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Johnson & Johnson booster works well for people who had Pfizer originally, study finds

People who received Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines may get as much benefit from a Johnson & Johnson booster shot as a Pfizer one. That’s the finding of a small study released Sunday.

Researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston studied 65 people who had received two shots of the Pfizer vaccine. Six months after the second dose, the researchers gave 24 of the volunteers a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine and gave 41 the Johnson & Johnson shot. (The study was funded in part by Johnson & Johnson and has not yet been published in a scientific journal.)

omicron

Both vaccine brands boosted the number of COVID-fighting T-cells, which are important for long-lasting protection and for preventing infections from turning into severe disease. But the T-cell increase delivered by the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was twice as high as that of Pfizer’s.

The researchers also measured antibodies, which provide much of the protection immediately after vaccination. Volunteers who got a third Pfizer dose saw their antibody levels jump after two weeks, and then decline by a quarter by the fourth week. The Johnson & Johnson booster, by contrast, more than doubled antibody levels between the second and fourth weeks. At that point, Pfizer’s antibodies were still about 50% higher than Johnson & Johnson’s. For antibodies, that’s a relatively small difference. And both levels were well above the threshold scientists believe is needed for strong protection.

The results are somewhat different from earlier studies. In October, a “mix and match” clinical trial organized by the National Institutes of Health reported that all three authorized vaccines — from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — caused antibody levels to rise when used as a booster. But Johnson & Johnson’s shot provided a much smaller boost than the others did. (The NIH has not yet published how each booster affected the volunteers’ T-cells.)

The difference between the two studies might be explained by the length of delay between shots. In the NIH trial, many of the volunteers got their booster shots after three or four months, versus the new study’s wait of six months.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine seems to have benefited more from the longer wait. Unlike Pfizer and Moderna, which are made from mRNA, Johnson & Johnson’s is made from a modified cold virus. It may be important to give the immune system more time to return to a resting state before getting this type of vaccine.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Patriots hold top seed in AFC prior to Monday Night game vs. Bills

The NFL’s national nightmare continues: The Patriots officially hold the top seed in the AFC prior to their Monday Night Football showdown against the Bills.

The Ravens appeared poised to hold on to the top seed late in their game against the Steelers on Sunday evening. With just 12 seconds remaining, they scored a touchdown to draw within one of the Steelers, and they opted to go for two and the win. Ravens tight end Mark Andrews appeared to find a little room, but he and Lamar Jackson couldn’t connect, and the ball bounced off his fingers in a wild finish.

The Ravens’ loss dropped them to 8-4. They now share that record with the Patriots and Titans. The Patriots claim first based on their head-to-head victory over the Titans, as well as their 6-1 record against AFC opponents. The Ravens are 5-4 against AFC teams.

The Patriots could solidify their lead (albeit by just a half-game) with a win on Monday. A loss, however, would drop them to fifth … and would move the Bills into a tie for the AFC’s best record with the Ravens and Titans. For the Bills, a loss would drop them out of the playoff picture right before they face an old nemesis: Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.

Suffice it to say a lot rides on Monday’s game.

“I think people who love football want to get a chance to play in games like these,” Mac Jones said last week. “I know all the guys on both teams want to play in games like this. It’ll be a great experience. I know they have a bunch of great fans, and it’s football, so you’ve just got to go out there and play the game that we’ve all played since we were little kids.”

Despite natural fit, Trail Blazers reportedly have not reached out to Danny Ainge about open GM position

The Trail Blazers fired GM Neil Olshey over the weekend, and former Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge appears to be a natural candidate.

Whether or not Ainge would have interest in leading the Blazers is unclear — at the introductory press conference for Brad Stevens as president of basketball operations, Ainge seemed to suggest he had little interest in taking over another GM job. But according to longtime Portland reporter Dwight Jaynes, the Blazers have not even reached out to Ainge.

The Blazers, of course, still have plenty of time to reach out if they are interested, and the fit is a natural one. Ainge grew up in Eugene, OR, and has family ties to Utah (which isn’t close to Portland but is certainly closer than Boston). He spent two years in Portland as a player and also brought a title to the Celtics in 2008 before putting together their current core via savvy draft picks.

The Blazers have a ton of huge decisions looming — most notably, the future of franchise cornerstone Damian Lillard. Lillard has not publicly expressed a desire to be traded, but he is 31 and ring-less, and the Blazers have no viable path to contention in the near future barring a miracle. After spending his entire career with one franchise, Lillard might understandably be interested in a move to a franchise with championship aspirations.

Having an experienced GM like Ainge at the helm could help set the franchise up well for the future. Ainge has overseen several different types of teams — a title contender from 2008-10, the aging Big Three from 2011-13, the teardown, and then the winding build back through the draft, free agency, and the trade market.

Still, getting him out of retirement might not be easy.

“I don’t know what my future holds,” Ainge told reporters when he stepped down. “I don’t have any plans right now. … I’ll think about the future somewhere in the future.”

Skiing Santas back to shredding Maine slopes for charity

NEWRY, Maine (AP) — Santa is back to “sleighing” it on the ski slope.

More than 230 skiing and snowboarding Kris Kringles took to a western Maine resort on Sunday to raise money for charity.

The jolly ol’ St. Nicks took a break last year because of the global pandemic. But they returned to kick off the ski season in full holiday garb, including white beards, red hats and red outfits.

A sea of red Santa suits descended the mountain, carving wide turns as their beards fluttered in the icy wind. At least one green-costumed Grinch snuck his way into the mix, disguised in Santa’s coat and hat.

The event took place in the western Maine town of Newry, home to the Sunday River Ski Resort, the state’s busiest.

Before dashing through the snow, the Santas must all donate a minimum of $20, which helps support local education and recreation programs. The event raised several thousand dollars for the Sunday River Community Fund, a local charity.

With Omicron in Mass., ‘people need to be very careful,’ expert says

Public health experts in Massachusetts Sunday cautioned that holiday plans could be upended by the presence of the Omicron variant, as researchers race to evaluate the risk — and the effectiveness of current vaccines to combat the threat.

Both the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called Omicron a “variant of concern.” On Saturday, Massachusetts reported its first case involving Omicron, and officials urged people to protect themselves by getting vaccine shots, masking up, and following pandemic guidelines.

Governor Charlie Baker said late Sunday afternoon at a public event that the state is working to expand its capacity to administer vaccines and open more clinics in local communities for people to get shots. And he emphasized the importance of vaccinations and booster shots.

Read the full story on BostonGlobe.com.

‘We keep each other going’: Here’s how Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski made NFL history on Sunday

Few things in professional football feel as inevitable as Tom Brady, but a close second might be Brady’s connection with his good friend and former Patriots teammate Rob Gronkowski.

On Sunday, Brady and Gronkowski moved a little closer to NFL history with a pair of touchdown connections that moved them into second all-time as a duo. Brady and Gronkowski have now connected on 90 touchdowns, trailing only Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison at a staggering 114.

“It’s a lot of hard work put in,” Gronkowski said after the game. “A lot of dedication, a lot of effort, energy, no doubt about that. But we keep each other going. When I’m not feeling it, sometimes he boosts me up. The one time he’s not really feeling it, I can boost him up, but it’s a connection. We go way back. We’re just glad that we still got it and we can help out the team.”

Brady hit Gronkowski for the first touchdown midway through the second quarter, a bullet that found the burly tight end near the 20-yard line. Gronkowski carried it the rest of the way.

“He’s a great player,” Brady said. “He kind of makes it easy for any quarterback. He’s just so big, so quick, great hands, just does an amazing job. That was a great catch and run he had, and then threw him the fade for the touchdown which was really cool. He makes those pretty easy too.”

The second touchdown was a fade to the corner of the end zone late in the third quarter — a play that will likely look very familiar to Patriots fans.

“I would say that second touchdown definitely brought it back to the heyday with the fade,” Gronkowski said, smiling. “He gave me an audible, and I wasn’t supposed to have a fade, but he saw it and it just reminded me of the heyday with us.”

Later, Brady was informed that Gronkowski got nostalgic over the fade touchdown.

“Oh really? I like the heyday,” Brady said, smiling.

Do Brady and Gronkowski have a few more fades in their system?

“I think so,” Brady said. “I think so. It’s good to see him make those plays. He was out for quite a while this year, so just to see him back playing great and really enjoying it is fun for me. It’s fun seeing other guys play to their potential. He’s done an amazing job of that.”

Missing University of New Hampshire student Vincenzo Lirosi found dead

The body of Vincenzo Lirosi, a 22-year-old University of New Hampshire student reported missing on Saturday, was found Sunday afternoon, according to local police.

Lirosi was last seen drinking with friends early Saturday morning, shortly after midnight. Police believe he took a shortcut to his house through a wooded area near Woodman Road. Police reported that Lirosi did not have a phone or identification with him.

Lirosi’s body was found by a New England Search and Rescue K-9 team in a marshy area near Coe Drive in Durham, police said.

“Although this is not the outcome we had all hoped for, we are grateful that we were able to find Vincenzo and bring some closure to his family,” Durham Police Chief Rene Kelley said in a statement. “Our hearts and prayers are with them.”

The cause and manner of Lirosi’s death will be determined pending an autopsy report by the medical examiner.