Some Republican Groups Actively Working to Defeat President Trump

Several prominent Republicans have formed political action committees whose objective is to defeat Republican President Donald Trump in November’s U.S. general election. VOA’s Steve Redisch examines this rare revolt against a party’s own leader. Producer: Miguel Amaya 

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Film Highlights Need for More Female Police Officers, Less Violence

The death of African American George Floyd in May while in Minneapolis police custody has renewed conversations about whether having more women in law enforcement may lower the use of excessive force.  “Women in Blue,” a recent documentary by Deidre Fishel showcases de-escalation skills by female police officers at the Minneapolis police department. It also spotlights challenges women face in a traditionally male-dominated field. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
 

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Egypt Fact Checks Elon Musk On Who Really Built Pyramids

Egypt’s minister of international cooperation has extended an invitation to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk after a Musk post on Twitter that the pyramids were built by extraterrestrial beings.  Musk tweeted Saturday: “Aliens built the pyramids obv.” Aliens built the pyramids obv— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) A camel in front of the Pyramids at Giza, Egypt, July 13, 2013. (A. Arabasadi/VOA)Egypt Today reports on its website that famed Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass also weighed in on the topic on social media, saying that Musk’s tweet was a “complete hallucination.” Hawass added that he had “found the tombs of the pyramids builders that tell everyone that the builders of the pyramids are Egyptians and they were not slaves.”  He said ancient Egypt’s pyramid building was “a national project of the whole nation.” Musk had an apparent change of mind and eventually provided a link on his Twitter account about the building of pyramids.  He tweeted: “This BBC article provides a sensible summary of how it was done.” 

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Australia Orders Six-Week Closure of Melbourne Businesses Amid Outbreak

Australia is ordering non-essential businesses in Melbourne, its second-largest city, to close for six weeks starting Wednesday as authorities try to control an outbreak that accounts for nearly all of the country’s new coronavirus cases. Health officials reported Monday 429 new COVID-19 infections and 13 deaths in Victoria state, which includes Melbourne. In addition to closing most stores, other industries such as construction and meat production will have to limit their operations starting Friday. The Victoria government declared a COVID-19 disaster in Melbourne on Sunday, and with the new restrictions going into effect, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday that workers in Victoria who do not have paid sick leave and have to isolate themselves will be eligible to receive a payment of about $1,000. Such payments are meant to encourage people to abide by advice that they stay home if they test positive, exhibit symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus, instead of feeling financial pressure to keep working and possibly expose others. “It’s heartbreaking. This pandemic, this virus is taking a heavy toll and now’s the time, as it has been throughout this pandemic, that we continue to provide support to one another,” Morrison said. In the United States, which has about one-fourth of the world’s 18 million confirmed coronavirus cases, negotiations are continuing Monday between the White House and congressional Democrats on a new aid package that would include federal money to help the millions of people who are unemployed.   Many lost their jobs during the pandemic as lockdown restrictions and new consumer habits badly hurt the economy, and a previous round of federal aid that provided $600 a week to the unemployed expired last week.First responders receive antibody testing for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Arizona, July 10, 2020.The talks come as the United States deals with an ongoing surge in cases that began in June and pushed leaders in some states to reinstate some of the restrictions they had lifted in hopes economic activity could return without a resurgence of the virus. White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told CNN Sunday the outbreak has hit a new phase in the United States with the spread of the virus becoming “extraordinarily widespread,” reaching rural areas as much as big cities. “To everybody who lives in a rural area: You are not immune or protected from this virus,” Birx said. In the Philippines, where the total number of cases has surpassed 100,000, new lockdown restrictions go into effect in the capital, Manila, and five densely populated provinces for a period of two weeks. During that time, people will be allowed to make only essential travel and mass transit will be barred. Medical groups in the country had asked for the reimposition of restrictions in order to allow health workers under the strain of caring for coronavirus patients a chance to regroup and for the government to recalibrate its efforts in response to the pandemic. “Our health care workers are burnt out with the seemingly endless number of patients trooping to our hospitals,” the medical groups said in a letter to Duterte. 

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Fires Continue to Burn in Eastern Italian Region of Abruzzo

Italian Firefighters, civil protection volunteers, and Alpine troops are working around the clock in trying to put out the fires that have engulfed the hundreds of hectares of woodland around the city of L’Aquila in the eastern region of Abruzzo. The fires were still burning for the third day Sunday, after the area was set ablaze by an act of arson. L’Aquila’s Mayor posted a statement on his Facebook page, saying that four Canadair aircraft, three helicopters and more than 150 people were participating in an operation to put the flames under control. Firefighters have also been using drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras to locate the origin of the fires. 

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Heavy Rains and Floods Destroy Houses, Dam, Kill 5 in Sudan

Women and children slept in the open amid heavy rainfall after flooding inundated hundreds of homes in Sudan’s Blue Nile province and left five people dead across the country, authorities said Sunday. Bout, a town of 100,000 people, has been severely hit by heavy rains and floods over the past week with at least 1,200 houses destroyed, the Sudanese Red Crescent said. More than 120 houses in the nearby town of Wed Abuk were also destroyed.  Footage circulated online showed floodwaters cutting off roads and sweeping away houses and people’s belongings. Swaths of agricultural land in the area were also flooded. Most in the region are internally displaced people who live off agriculture and are vulnerable to the annual flooding, according to resident Musab Sharif.  Hundreds of families were left sleeping in the open amid rain that lasted until late Saturday, he said. The heavy rainfall also caused the collapse of the Bout Dam, local official Nusaiba Farouk Kalol, told The Associated Press over the phone. At least 600 families remained stranded amid flooding caused by both the rainfall and the collapse of the dam, she said. “The water surrounded them. There was no access to those families as the water flooded the area from three directions,” she said. Kalol warned about a massive wave of displacement in Bout, which is 180 kilometers (111 miles) from the provincial capital, al-Damazin. In the capital Khartoum, floods triggered by heavy rainfall inundated around 1,000 houses, said Interior Minister Lt. Gen. al-Tarifi Idris. Across the country, at least 2,380 houses were destroyed or damaged from the flooding, Idris said in a statement. More than two dozen schools and mosques along with 78 shops and storehouses were also damaged, he said. The floods left five people dead; four from the collapsing houses while the fifth drowned, the interior minister said. He didn’t say when or where those people died.  Last year, flooding killed a total of 78 people in 16 of Sudan’s 18 provinces, between July and August, according to the United Nations. 

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White House COVID Expert: Virus Widespread in US Rural, Urban Areas 

White House coronavirus experts said Sunday the outbreak has hit a new phase, becoming “extraordinarily widespread” in rural areas as well as big cities.
 
“To everybody who lives in a rural area: You are not immune or protected from this virus,” Dr. Deborah Birx, White House task force coordinator, said on CNN Sunday.
 
She said the virus in August is not what it looked like in March and April, when only large cities and heavily populated states were reporting cases.  
 
Birx stressed the importance of wearing masks indoors if the elderly or those with underlying health conditions are in the house.  
 
A senior official at the Department of Health and Human Services, Admiral Brett Giroir, appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press. He also talked about the importance of wearing masks and avoiding crowds.  
 
“That’s why we’re going to all the states, we’re on local radio, we give specific instructions to every governor by county, what they need to do when we start — when those counties start tipping yellow, because that’s the time when you have to stamp it down,” he said.  
 
About the same time that Birx was on CNN, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was on ABC television accusing Birx of helping President Donald Trump spread disinformation about COVID-19.
 
Pelosi was responding to a question about a Politico article where she reportedly said the Trump administration is in “horrible hands” in part because of Birx.
 
“I think the president is spreading disinformation about the virus, and she’s his appointee,” Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I don’t have confidence, no.”
 
Trump continues to insist that the reason the United States has the highest number of COVID cases in the world — 4.6 million, according to Johns Hopkins University data — is because the U.S. does more testing than anyone else.
 
He tweeted Sunday that the top U.S. infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, was wrong when he said last week that Europe’s relative success in fighting the virus is because it shut down twice as many businesses as the U.S. did.  
 
“Wrong!” Trump tweeted. “We have more cases because we have tested far more than any other country, 60,000,000. If we tested less, there would be less cases. How did Italy, France & Spain do? Now Europe sadly has flare ups. Most of our governors worked hard & smart. We will come back STRONG!” Mr. Trump wrote.Passers-by wear masks to protect against the coronavirus as they walk past an empty business location, in Boston’s Downtown Crossing neighborhood, Aug. 2, 2020.COVID elsewhereOn Sunday, Manchester, England, declared what it calls a major incident because of a jump in coronavirus cases in the city.
 
The city council said people should not be alarmed, calling the declaration “standard practice.”
 
New lockdown measures have been imposed, including banning members of two different households from mixing in pubs and restaurants.
 
British health officials also announced plans Sunday to introduce millions of COVID-19 tests that they say can detect the virus in 90 minutes.  
 
The tests will be distributed to hospitals, nursing homes and laboratories.
 
“The fact these tests can detect flu as well as COVID-19 will be hugely beneficial as we head into winter, so patients can follow the right advice to protect themselves and others,” Health Minister Matt Hancock said.  
 
Another European leader, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti, said Sunday he has COVID-19 and will spend two weeks in isolation.
 
“I don’t have symptoms expect a very mild cough,” Hoti said on his Facebook page.
Thirteen more coronavirus deaths were reported Sunday in Kosovo, bringing the total to 249 deaths and 90,000 cases.
 
In Australia, Victoria declared a “State of Disaster” Sunday after 700 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed overnight.
 
Measures include an overnight curfew starting at 8 p.m. and only one member from a household will be allowed to go shopping and only at a store within five kilometers of home.  
 
“You have to err on the side of caution and go further and harder,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said.  
 
The Philippines will impose stricter measures starting Tuesday after the number of cases there shot past the 100,000 mark.
 
Some businesses will be closed, and anyone not quarantined or having to report to a job will need a pass.  
 
President Rodrigo Duterte appeared on nationwide television Sunday after a group representing nearly 2 million doctors and nurses said they are afraid the country is losing the fight against COVID-19.  
 
“Our health care workers are burnt out with the seemingly endless number of patients trooping to our hospitals,” the medical groups said in a letter to Duterte.  
 
“I have heard you. Don’t lose hope. We are aware that you are tired,” he said.  
 
Finally, President Trump is no different from millions of American parents who want their children to have a normal school year, but he may not see his wish come true.
 
Trump’s 14-year-old son, Barron, will be among those taking at least some of his classes online this fall.
 
Barron is about to enter the ninth grade at the private St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland. The school is in Montgomery County, where health officials have ordered all schools, private and public, to remain closed at least through October 1st when the decision will be reevaluated.
 
St. Andrew’s is considering a hybrid plan that would allow students to take some classes in person and others remotely. 

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Microsoft, TikTok to Continue Talks; Trump Gives App’s Chinese Owner 45 Days to Reach Deal to Sell

Microsoft Corp said Sunday it would continue talks to acquire popular short-video app TikTok from Chinese internet giant ByteDance. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to give ByteDance 45 days to negotiate the sale, two people familiar with the matter said Sunday.
 
Microsoft, which is aiming to conclude talks by Sept. 15, released a statement following a conversation between CEO Satya Nadella and Trump. It said it would ensure that all of the private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States.
 
“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the president’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury,” Microsoft said in a statement.
 
The company added there was no certainty a deal would be reached.
 
The ByteDance-Microsoft negotiations will be overseen by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a U.S. government panel that has the right to block any agreement, the two sources added.
 
ByteDance, Microsoft and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.  
 
Earlier Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that Trump would take action soon.
 
“President Trump has said ‘enough’ and we’re going to fix it and so he will take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo said on “Sunday Morning Futures.”
 
And Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told ABC on Sunday that the Committee on Foreign Investment on the United States “agrees that TikTok cannot stay in the current format because it risks sending back information on 100 million Americans.”
 
Over the weekend several Republican senators said they backed a plan for ByteDance to divest the U.S. operations of TikTok.
 
Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said on Twitter that a divestment “and purchase by U.S. company is win-win.”
 
Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican who chairs the Commerce Committee, added that “tight security measures need to be part of any deal in order to protect consumer data and ensure no foreign access.”
 
Republican Senator Marco Rubio said on Twitter “if the company & data can be purchased & secured by a trusted U.S. company that would be a positive & acceptable outcome.”
 
On Saturday, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the “right answer” to address security concerns about TikTok would be to “have an American company like Microsoft take over TikTok. Win-win. Keeps competition alive and data out of the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.” 

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Genoa’s New Bridge Puts Spotlight on How Italy Can Manage Recovery

Just two years after part of Genoa’s Morandi bridge collapsed killing 43 people, a new structure opens in its place Monday, an achievement in stark contrast to stalled infrastructure projects elsewhere in Italy.
 
The new kilometer-long bridge, designed by star architect Renzo Piano, replaces the old motorway viaduct that broke apart in the port city Aug. 14, 2018, in one of Italy’s worst civil disasters in decades.
 
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who will attend the inauguration of the new Genova-San Giorgio viaduct said it would be a “symbol of a new Italy rising up again.”
 
The accident laid bare years of mismanagement and poor maintenance and set off an acrimonious battle between the government and Atlantia’s Autostrade per l’Italia, the private concession holder controlled by the powerful Benetton family that ran the bridge.
 
Several former and current executives of Autostrade and transport ministry officials have been placed under investigation by prosecutors and, after months of wrangling, Atlantia is set to lose control of its lucrative subsidiary.
 
For the mayor of Genoa and state-appointed commissioner for bridge reconstruction, Marco Bucci, the case is both an example of decades-long failures in Italy’s transport infrastructure and a demonstration of what the country is capable of accomplishing.
 
“There’s a feeling of both regret for what happened and pride in the work that’s been done,” he told Reuters. “We’ve worked and shown Italian excellence.”
 
For years, Italy’s economy has suffocated under a mix of poor governance made worse by corruption and a thicket of vested interests and bureaucracy that have stifled innovation and fostered the kind of neglect that led to the bridge disaster.
 
Genoa itself, surrounded by rugged hills that constrain road transport, has seen a motorway bypass project held up for decades.
 
With the coronavirus crisis still unfolding and billions of euros set to come to Italy from Europe’s newly agreed recovery fund, addressing such failures has gained a new urgency.
 
As well as the shocking human toll, the collapse of the Morandi bridge dealt a severe economic blow to Genoa, costing the city an estimated 6 million euros ($7.06 million) a day in lost revenues and additional costs, Bucci said, with freight traffic interrupted for months.
 
Under heavy pressure to address the neglect that caused the disaster, the government pushed through an emergency decree to sweep aside red tape.
 
Between demolishing the remainder of the old structure in February 2019 to opening the new bridge 18 months later, the speed of the project has been breakneck in a country with crumbling roads and tunnels and development plans gathering dust.
 
While the circumstances behind the bridge collapse were unique, much rides on repeating that momentum elsewhere.
 
Trust and clear project goals, two things that have often been lacking in big infrastructure projects, were vital, said Roberto Carpaneto, head of RINA Consulting, who worked with the construction consortium led by Italian infrastructure groups Webuild and Fincantieri.
 
“Being able to say what was going to happen, when and why allowed us to build this relation of trust,” he said.   

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RNC: Decision on Private Trump Renomination Vote Not Final

The vote to renominate President Donald Trump is set to be conducted in private later this month, without members of the press present, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Convention said Saturday, citing the coronavirus.However, a Republican National Committee official contradicted that assessment Sunday, emphasizing that no final decisions have been made and that logistics and press coverage options were still being evaluated, The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.While Trump called off the public components of the convention in Florida last month, citing spiking cases of the virus across the country, 336 delegates are scheduled to gather in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Aug. 24 to formally vote to make Trump the GOP standard-bearer once more.Nominating conventions are traditionally meant to be media bonanzas, as political parties seek to leverage the attention the events draw to spread their message to as many voters as possible. If the GOP decision stands, it will be the first party nominating convention in modern history to be closed to reporters.”Given the health restrictions and limitations in place within the state of North Carolina, we are planning for the Charlotte activities to be closed press Friday, August 21 – Monday, August 24,” a convention spokeswoman said. “We are happy to let you know if this changes, but we are working within the parameters set before us by state and local guidelines regarding the number of people who can attend events.”The decision was first reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.Privately some GOP delegations have raised logistical issues with traveling to either city, citing the increasing number of jurisdictions imposing mandatory quarantine orders on travelers returning from states experiencing surges in the virus.The subset of delegates in Charlotte will be casting proxy votes on behalf of the more than 2,500 official delegates to the convention. Alternate delegates and guests have been prohibited.
 

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Gridlock on Capitol Hill Delays COVID Stimulus Bill

More than four and a half million coronavirus infections have been confirmed in the United States, and June statistics show unemployment is at over 11%. Senate Republicans and House Democrats remain at odds over a relief bill for Americans. VOA’s Esha Sarai has more.

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2 US Astronauts Return From International Space Station

Two U.S. astronauts returned to Earth on Sunday, splashing safely into the Gulf of Mexico after a two-month mission to the International Space Station aboard the commercially developed SpaceX spacecraft Crew Dragon.Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley landed at midafternoon off the western coast of Florida, avoiding the dangers of Tropical Storm Isaias moving along the Atlantic Ocean coast of the southern state.The two men had lifted off to space from Florida in May, the first NASA astronaut launch from U.S. soil since 2011 and the first time a commercially developed spacecraft had carried humans into orbit.Hurley and Behnken, both married to astronauts, departed the International Space Station on Saturday night. They awoke to a recording of their young children urging them to “rise and shine” and “we can’t wait to see you.””Don’t worry, you can sleep in tomorrow,” said Behnken’s 6-year-old son, Theo, who was promised a puppy after the flight. “Hurry home so we can go get my dog.”The Dragon capsule slowed from an orbital speed of 28,000 kph to 560 during reentry into the atmosphere and finally to 24 kph at splashdown.More than 40 staff were on a SpaceX recovery ship, including doctors and nurses who planned to examine the two astronauts.  NASA astronauts last returned from space to water on July 24, 1975, in the Pacific, the scene of most splashdowns.Until the SpaceX launch, the U.S. had relied in recent years on Russian rockets to send its astronauts to the space station. The private company is planning its next launch near the end of September, sending four astronauts to the space station for six months. 

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As School Begins amid Virus, Parents See Few Good Options

John Barrett plans to keep his daughter home from elementary school this year in suburban Atlanta, but he wishes she was going. Molly Ball is sending her teenage sons to school in the same district on Monday, but not without feelings of regret. As the academic year begins in many places across the country this week, parents are faced with the difficult choice of whether to send their children to school or keep them home for remote learning because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many are unhappy with either option.  “I definitely think it’s healthy for a child to go back to school,” said Ball, who feels her sons, William and Henry, both at River Ridge High School in Georgia’s Cherokee County district, suffered through enough instability in the spring. “At the same time, I wish they weren’t going back to school right now. It’s very scary.” Molly Ball talks to her son Henry about plans to send him back to in-person classes this fall, as they stand outside their house in Woodstock, Ga., July 23, 2020.Offering parents choices eases some of the problems facing schools. If some students stay home, that creates more space in buildings and on buses.  But the number of families with a choice has dwindled as the virus’s spread has prompted school districts to scrap in-person classes — at least to start the academic year — in cities including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, as well as parts of the South and Midwest where school is starting this week.  Many districts that don’t begin instruction until after Labor Day are warily tracking the virus — and weighing concerns of educators  and parents — as they consider plans including hybrid approaches, with in-person learning at least a few days a week.  In Cherokee County, administrators have stuck with plans to offer in-person school five days a week despite pressure from some parents and teachers. The countywide district also rejected demands to require masks inside school buildings. The families of about 23% of Cherokee County’s 43,000 students have opted for them to learn remotely from home. Barrett said the mask decision contributed to his decision to keep Autumn, who is in a special education program, home to start third grade at Bascomb Elementary School. “At a minimum, there ought to be a mask mandate, and maybe a staggered schedule. They’re not interested in responding to the realities of the virus as it’s happening in Georgia,” Barrett said. Barrett works from home and his wife, who has an educational background, isn’t employed. He says that gives them “an ability to bridge the gap.” But he worries that Autumn will still fall behind, especially on her individualized education program, the plan written for each special education student. “She gives up a lot of the ability to make progress on her IEP,” Barrett said. “It’s a big decision, and it feels like a definite loss.” Parents are not the only ones who are struggling. Districts that offer two modes of instruction create new challenges for teachers as well, especially those in smaller districts who are being asked to educate students in person and online at the same time.  “The key is going to be the complexity, how they handle it,” said Allen Pratt, executive director of the National Rural Education Association. “Is it going to be standards-driven, what students need to move to the next grade level? Is it going to be equal to face-to-face or better than face-to-face?” Denise Dalrymple is reluctantly sending her two sons back to first and sixth grades in Cherokee County because she says it’s impossible for her to work otherwise. Like many districts, the county says it will have increased academic expectations for online learning this fall, compared to the spring. “You basically have to make the student’s education time a priority over your own job,” Dalrymple said. Others are more enthusiastic about a return.  “It was automatic because my husband and I both work, because it would have upset both of our schedules,” said Jackie Taylor, who has three school-aged children and lives in nearby Canton. She said her children have been around other kids this summer, making the transition back to school less concerning. “We use the neighborhood pool, we do the sports,” Taylor said as she watched her son practice baseball. “Obviously they’re in close proximity in the dugouts.” Siana Onanovic said her son Kelvin will be attending Woodstock High, also in the Cherokee district, in person as a freshman. That’s in part because the special science and engineering curriculum that drew her family to the school’s attendance zone isn’t available online.  But, like many, she had her reservations. “There are so many pros and cons on each side,” she said.   

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Debate Begins for Who’s First in Line for COVID-19 Vaccine

Who gets to be first in line for a COVID-19 vaccine? U.S. health authorities hope by late next month to have some draft guidance on how to ration initial doses, but it’s a vexing decision.”Not everybody’s going to like the answer,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, recently told one of the advisory groups the government asked to help decide. “There will be many people who feel that they should have been at the top of the list.”Traditionally, first in line for a scarce vaccine are health workers and the people most vulnerable to the targeted infection.But Collins tossed new ideas into the mix: Consider geography and give priority to people where an outbreak is hitting hardest.And don’t forget volunteers in the final stage of vaccine testing who get dummy shots, the comparison group needed to tell if the real shots truly work.”We owe them … some special priority,” Collins said.Huge studies this summer aim to prove which of several experimental COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. began tests last week that eventually will include 30,000 volunteers each; in the next few months, equally large calls for volunteers will go out to test shots made by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. And some vaccines made in China are in smaller late-stage studies in other countries.For all the promises of the U.S. stockpiling millions of doses, the hard truth: Even if a vaccine is declared safe and effective by year’s end, there won’t be enough for everyone who wants it right away — especially as most potential vaccines require two doses.It’s a global dilemma. The World Health Organization is grappling with the same who-goes-first question as it tries to ensure vaccines are fairly distributed to poor countries — decisions made even harder as wealthy nations corner the market for the first doses.In the U.S., the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is supposed to recommend who to vaccinate and when — advice that the government almost always follows.But a COVID-19 vaccine decision is so tricky that this time around, ethicists and vaccine experts from the National Academy of Medicine, chartered by Congress to advise the government, are being asked to weigh in, too.Setting priorities will require “creative, moral common sense,” said Bill Foege, who devised the vaccination strategy that led to global eradication of smallpox. Foege is co-leading the academy’s deliberations, calling it “both this opportunity and this burden.”With vaccine misinformation abounding and fears that politics might intrude, CDC Director Robert Redfield said the public must see vaccine allocation as “equitable, fair and transparent.”How to decide? The CDC’s opening suggestion: First vaccinate 12 million of the most critical health, national security and other essential workers. Next would be 110 million people at high risk from the coronavirus — those over 65 who live in long-term care facilities, or those of any age who are in poor health — or who also are deemed essential workers. The general population would come later.CDC’s vaccine advisers wanted to know who’s really essential. “I wouldn’t consider myself a critical health care worker,” admitted Dr. Peter Szilagyi, a pediatrician at the University of California, Los Angeles.Indeed, the risks for health workers today are far different than in the pandemic’s early days. Now, health workers in COVID-19 treatment units often are the best protected; others may be more at risk, committee members noted.Beyond the health and security fields, does “essential” mean poultry plant workers or schoolteachers? And what if the vaccine doesn’t work as well among vulnerable populations as among younger, healthier people? It’s a real worry, given that older people’s immune systems don’t rev up as well to flu vaccine.With Black, Latino and Native American populations disproportionately hit by the coronavirus, failing to address that diversity means “whatever comes out of our group will be looked at very suspiciously,” said ACIP chairman Dr. Jose Romero, Arkansas’ interim health secretary.Consider the urban poor who live in crowded conditions, have less access to health care and can’t work from home like more privileged Americans, added Dr. Sharon Frey of St. Louis University.And it may be worth vaccinating entire families rather than trying to single out just one high-risk person in a household, said Dr. Henry Bernstein of Northwell Health.Whoever gets to go first, a mass vaccination campaign while people are supposed to be keeping their distance is a tall order. During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, families waited in long lines in parking lots and at health departments when their turn came up, crowding that authorities know they must avoid this time around.Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort to speed vaccine manufacturing and distribution, is working out how to rapidly transport the right number of doses to wherever vaccinations are set to occur.Drive-through vaccinations, pop-up clinics and other innovative ideas are all on the table, said CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier.As soon as a vaccine is declared effective, “we want to be able the next day, frankly, to start these programs,” Messonnier said. “It’s a long road.” 

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Newspaper Uncovers More Than 6,000 COVID Infections on US College Campuses

A New York Times survey of 270 U.S. colleges and universities has uncovered 6,600 COVID-19 infections among students and staff and 14 coronavirus-related deaths.Hundreds of the almost 1,000 schools the newspaper contacted did not reply to the questions. The statistics do not include numbers for the fall semester that has already started at some schools.“This data, which is almost certainly an undercount, shows the risks colleges face as they prepare for a school year in the midst of a pandemic,” the newspaper said.American educators are cobbling together a hodgepodge of plans on how best to protect students and staff from the virus. Some have taken all classes online, while other have a mixture of online and in-class learning.China is sending seven Chinese health officials, the first of a 60-member team to Hong Kong Sunday to begin widespread COVID-19 testing in the territory. The global financial hub is experiencing a third wave of the coronavirus outbreak. Hong Kong’s new infections have been in the triple digits for the past 11 days.A cyclist passes a group of police and soldiers patrolling the Docklands area of Melbourne on Aug. 2, 2020, after the announcement of new restrictions to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.Australia has not been hit as hard as some countries with the coronavirus, but the state of Victoria has experienced a recent surge in cases, resulting in the imposition of new lockdown restrictions in Melbourne, the capital, effective Sunday. Victoria is Australia’s second-most-populous state.The coronavirus pandemic, declared by the World Health Organization on March 11, will be a lengthy one, the WHO said Saturday.Citing the likelihood of response fatigue, the health organization’s emergency committee anticipates the COVID-19 pandemic will be long and the global risk level of COVID-19 very high, it said in a statement.So far, worldwide, at least 17.8 million people have been infected and more than 685,000 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University data.”It’s sobering to think that six months ago,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said before entering the meeting as it began Friday, “there were less than 100 cases and no deaths outside China.”Lawmakers for the Navajo Nation, another group hit hard by the pandemic, approved nearly $651 million in spending to fight COVID-19. The funds came from more than $714 million the tribe received as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.About 175,00 people live on the reservation that spreads across parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. About one-third of the homes lack running water, and quarantining is an unfamiliar concept.As of Friday, the tribe reported more than 9,000 people infected and 456 deaths.On Saturday, Vietnam said it plans to test everyone in Danang, a city of 1.1 million people, for the coronavirus.The country had been a success story, passing 100 days without a new case of the coronavirus-caused disease, when a cluster of cases surfaced in the popular resort city.Forty new cases were reported Saturday and four more Sunday, for a total of nearly 600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three deaths.Up to 800,000 visitors to Danang have left for other parts of the country since July 1, the Health Ministry said Saturday, adding that more than 41,000 people have visited three hospitals in the city since.New coronavirus cases in other cities, including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, have links to Danang.Also Saturday, France began testing travelers for the coronavirus when they arrive at an airport or port from one of 16 countries. Travelers can skip the test if they have proof of a negative test within 72 hours.France is not allowing most travel to or from those 16 countries, which include the U.S. and Brazil.Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have increased in France recently to more than 225,000 and more than 30,200 deaths. It is now mandatory to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces. 

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Argentine Opposition Protests Against Justice Reform Plans

Opposition groups in Argentina organized a protest at the central Buenos Aires Obelisk Saturday to voice their objections to justice reform plans announced by President Alberto Fernández.Fernández announced his justice reform project Wednesday, saying his goal was a more agile judiciary, “independent of political power” and greater transparency.Opponents believe his actual intention is to protect from prosecution former president, and now vice president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who is being investigated for crimes that allegedly occurred while she was in office between 2007 and 2015.”They’re trying to protect the former president (Fernández de Kirchner), the most corrupt former president on the planet Earth,” said Marina Rios Flores, a protester. “This is the pact that they’ve made with the President Alberto Fernández that before he leaves office he would declare the pardon on her.”A female protester was holding a banner with a photo of Fernández de Kirchner reading in Spanish “Watch out Supreme Court. Imprison Cristina now!””The Peronist (ruling) party has never been republican, it will never be,” said a protester who gave him name only as Sergio. “It’s an organization formed to steal.”Fernández de Kirchner is being investigated for alleged money laundering and criminal association.She is also accused of covering up the role of Iranians alleged to be connected to a terrorist van bomb attack at a Buenos Aires Jewish center on July 18, 1994, that killed 85 people. 

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