By Emma Farge DAKAR (Reuters) - Health officials botched more than 20 Ebola blood tests in January and February which led to the release of at least four positive patients, two of whom later died, Guinea's anti-Ebola coordinator and other health officials told Reuters. Five health officials and experts familiar with the incidents said the mistakes occurred at two different treatment centres and resulted in as many as 52 botched tests, exposing many others to the virus and revealing weaknesses in Guinea's response to the crisis. Dr. Sakoba Keita, Guinea's anti-Ebola coordinator, confirmed the mistake had occurred but gave lower figures. He said in an emailed response to questions that 23 patients were affected, of whom four tested positive when they were retested and two died. "This error was detected and the order was immediately given to withdraw the tubes and to find the sick in order to test them again," Keita said. Health officials, some of whom asked not to be named because they were worried about embarrassing the Guinean government, said the mistakes took place in Coyah, where Cuban medics are supporting a government-run centre, and in Conakry, where medical charity Medicins Sans Frontieres runs a centre at the Donka hospital complex, when staff placed blood samples in the wrong test tubes, damaging specimens. Patients were discharged from the centres in western Guinea, one of the biggest remaining Ebola hot spots in the region, after the test results came back negative from the laboratory at Donka, the health officials said. At least six patients were later found to be Ebola-positive when further tests were carried out, and two of them died, the officials said. "There were deficiencies from the moment the samples were taken right through to the test results," said one health official in Guinea, who requested anonymity. The incident involved many actors in the Ebola response in Guinea, where the current outbreak was first confirmed a year ago and officials are scrambling to meet a regional deadline to reduce the number of cases to zero within six weeks. The worst Ebola outbreak on record has killed nearly 10,000 people across West Africa. Guinea has recorded 2,091 deaths - fewer than in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the other worst-hit nations - and cases have fallen sharply in the past month. Several officials said the blood test incident pointed to gaps in the country's response. "It's not that their staff didn't receive training. It's just a question of being rigid and organised and that seems to be hard for Guinea," said a Western health expert who spent months in the country. TEST TUBE MIX-UP MSF said it discovered on Feb. 6 that blood samples from 43 patients taken from its Donka centre had been placed in tubes containing the blood-thinning drug heparin. Heparin typically takes the form of an invisible coating inside a tube whereas Ebola tubes are either empty or contain a blood preservative called EDTA. It should have been easy to identify the correct tubes since the set containing heparin have green lids and the ones used for Ebola are red or purple. The World Health Organization (WHO) said staff taking samples had run out of the correct tubes and instead used the heparin tubes, without reporting it. "MSF took the incident very seriously and immediately replaced the tubes and opened an investigation," said Rosa Crestani, MSF's emergency programme coordinator. Three of those tested were later discovered to be Ebola positive and recovered, she said. No one who came in contact with the trio contracted the disease. At the Coyah centre, Guinea's busiest Ebola facility, which is also supported by staff from the African Union, the samples of nine people were accidentally placed in tubes also containing heparin, said another health official. The official said that after initially being found to be negative, three of the nine later tested positive, of whom two died. No further cases among contacts of the Ebola patients released from Coyah have been identified, he said. President Alpha Conde hopes to get to zero cases by mid-April as he seeks to lure back mining investment ahead of a presidential vote due later this year. But Guinea is still battling often violent resistance to its Ebola health campaign. One of the sources said that a similar mix-up had occurred in late 2014. The government did not respond to a question about whether it had happened before. Guinea has received less financial aid than other Ebola countries, with $266 million in commitments - about half that for Sierra Leone and a third of Liberia's total, according to the U.N. financial tracking service. France is providing technical support to its former colony, but it has not launched a military operation like Britain did for Sierra Leone and the United States did in Liberia. The WHO said the mistake was not detected in the Donka laboratory, which tested both sets of samples, where technicians had received a "huge amount of samples". The laboratory is run by Guinea and supported by the Institut Pasteur de Dakar – a foundation created in 2009 by a statute signed between Senegal and France's Institut Pasteur. Dr. Andre Spiegel, director of the Institut Pasteur Dakar, declined to comment, saying the information was sensitive and confidential. Guinea's Keita said the WHO had sent a supervisor to assist the laboratory. Another Western official in Guinea said partners in a Guinea anti-Ebola drug test were now nervous about extending it to other centres in Guinea such as Coyah. Dr. Dan Kelly, founder of the Wellbody Alliance providing healthcare in Sierra Leone, said it was not unusual for centres to run out of test tubes, but procedures existed. "Stock outs happen. What you are supposed to do is wait for the right coloured tubes to arrive," he said.
- NBC News
Election experts have uniformly declared that the 2020 election was conducted fairly.
- National Review
A Honduran migrant worker claimed that a migrant caravan was headed to the U.S. because incoming president Joe Biden would give migrants “100 days” to arrive at the country, in an interview with CNN. Biden may seek to enact a 100-day moratorium on deportations, however transition team officials have cautioned that the president-elect will not be able to overhaul immigration policy immediately upon taking office. Even so, a group of about 3,000 migrants from Honduras clashed with Guatemalan security forces on Sunday during their trek north to the U.S.-Mexico border. One migrant claimed the caravan was heading north because Biden had promised to help them, in a CNN interview later reposted by The Hill. Honduran migrant: President-elect Biden is "going to help all of us." pic.twitter.com/LkrVCsXcSb — The Hill (@thehill) January 18, 2021 “I just want patience and prayers that we can get to the U.S. because they [will] have a new president, Biden,” the migrant said. “He’s going to help all of us, he’s giving us 100 days to get to the U.S. and give us [legal] papers, so we can get a better life for our kids, and for our families.” Meanwhile, Guatemala deemed the attempted crossing illegal. “Guatemala’s message is loud and clear: These types of illegal mass movements will not be accepted, that’s why we are working together with the neighboring nations to address this as a regional issue,” the office of Guatemala’s president said in a statement on Sunday.
- The Week
Feds arrest Capitol rioter who allegedly broke into Pelosi's office, stole laptop, wanted to sell it to Russia
A woman who participated in the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol surrendered to authorities in Pennsylvania on Monday night, the Justice Department said. Riley Williams, 22, was charged with illegally entering the Capitol, violent entry, and disorderly conduct, but the FBI said it is also investigating a tip from the suspect's former "romantic partner" that Williams broke into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office during the siege, stole a laptop, and "intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service."The transfer of the laptop to Russian intelligence "fell through for unknown reasons," the former partner, identified only as Witness 1, told the FBI, "and Williams still has the computer device or destroyed it." Williams was captured on video urging fellow rioters to go upstairs in the Capitol, toward Pelosi's office, the FBI said. Pelosi's deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, confirmed after the siege that "a laptop from a conference room was stolen," but said "it was a laptop that was only used for presentations."Williams lived with her mother, who identified her as the woman in an ITV video of the Capitol raid, the FBI said. The mother also told authorities that her daughter had taken a sudden interest in President Trump's politics and "far-right message boards." Williams had traveled to the pre-riot protest with her father, but he said they were separated before the Capitol siege, the FBI said, and after they returned to Pennsylvania, Williams deleted her social media accounts, changed her phone number, and fled.More stories from theweek.com Trump's White House staff and alumni are reportedly using the same excuse to skip his big sendoff The most alarming thing about the Trump presidency 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment
- Associated Press
The Kremlin on Tuesday brushed aside calls from the West to release opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was arrested upon his return to Russia from Germany following treatment for poisoning with a nerve agent. Moscow called his case “an absolutely internal matter.” Navalny blames his poisoning on President Vladimir Putin's government, which has denied it.
A boy who was killed in an alleged murder-suicide by his father has been identified as 9-year-old Pierce O’Loughlin. Family tragedy: The boy and his father, Stephen O'Loughlin, 49, were both found dead at their home on Scott Street, Marina District in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, SF Chronicle reports. The boy’s mother, Lesley Hu, asked authorities to check on her son after learning that he did not show up for school that day.
The National Guard Bureau is taking extra precautions on Inauguration Day. As security is being vetted for the ceremony, two members of the Army National Guard were discovered to have ties with far-right extremist groups. The FBI is screening about 25,000 National Guard service members that are being sent to Washington, D.C. for the Inauguration.
- The Telegraph
Joe Biden’s daughter Ashley has said she will not have a job in her father's administration, unlike Ivanka Trump, in her first interview since the election. The only child of President-elect Biden and wife Jill, Ashley, a 39-year-old social worker in Delaware, said she instead wanted to use her new platform to ”advocate for social justice and mental health.” “I will not have a job in the administration,” she told NBC's Today Show, in what could be seen as a jibe at the current First Daughter, who, along with husband Jared Kushner, had adviser roles in the White House. “I do hope to bring awareness and education to some topics, subjects that are, you know, really important.” Ms Biden, who is married to plastic surgeon Howard Krein, was active in her father's presidential campaign, speaking at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, and hosting an event for women in Wisconsin.
- National Review
Dozens were arrested Monday night in New York City when Black Lives Matter protesters clashed with police outside City Hall during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march. Hundreds of demonstrators marched peacefully from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to City Hall in Manhattan, where they were met with a heavy police presence. The demonstration turned violent around 8:30 p.m. in City Hall Park, and police began making arrests after demonstrators started throwing projectiles, blocking traffic, and vandalizing property. Videos posted on social media show police urging the crowd to disperse before starting to make arrests. At least 29 people were arrested near Chambers and Centre streets and eleven officers were injured, including a captain who was hit in the head with a glass bottle. None of the officers are in serious condition. It is unclear how many protesters were injured during the clashes. In another video, police can be seen shoving several protesters as well as wrestling one person to the ground. Protesters can be heard shouting obscenities at officers. Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the New York Police Department over the “excessive enforcement” used against protesters calling for racial justice over the summer, including using pepper spray and batons on protesters and “kettling” or trapping demonstrators. James is calling for federal oversight of the NYPD. The federal government is already monitoring the NYPD to ensure that it retires its stop-and-frisk policy, which was found in 2013 to have been used in an unconstitutional manner. Last summer, riots broke out in New York City following the police custody death of George Floyd in May. About 450 businesses across the city were damaged and in many cases looted over May and June, according to the city’s Department of Small Business Services. More than 2,000 people were arrested at those demonstrations over the same period.
The United States on Tuesday sanctioned a network of oil trading firms, individuals and vessels that have helped Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA sell crude mainly to Asia despite Washington's sanctions on the South American nation. The measure targets a network that the U.S. Treasury Department says helped the administration of President Nicolas Maduro, whose 2018 re-election Washington called a sham, broker the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars in Venezuelan oil.
- Yahoo News Video
President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health, leaving her poised to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
- The Independent
Nancy Pelosi called pro-Trump rioters ‘Putin puppets’ and the Capitol siege a ‘gift’ to the Russian president
- The Telegraph
A valuable 16th century copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Saviour of the World has been recovered by Italian police in a cupboard in a flat in Naples. The museum from which it was stolen had no idea it was missing. The copy of Salvator Mundi, which depicts Christ with one hand raised in a blessing and the other holding a crystal orb, is believed to have been painted by a pupil of Leonardo. It was stolen some time in the last few months from a collection of art works inside the Basilica di San Domenico Maggiore in Naples. The painting was of “inestimable value”, Italian police said in a statement. It was found “hidden in a bedroom” in an apartment in Naples. The owner of the flat, a 36-year-old man, was arrested not far from the property on charges of receiving stolen goods, police said. The oil painting, which dates to the early 1500s, is believed to be by artist Giacomo Alibrandi, a member of the artistic school of Leonardo. The museum had not noticed its theft because it had been closed for three months as a result of Italy’s coronavirus lockdown measures. Police are trying to ascertain how it was stolen, said Giovanni Melillo, a Naples prosecutor. “It is plausible that it was a theft commissioned by an organisation working in the international art trade," he said.
- Architectural Digest
Mercedes-Benz’s Hyperscreen, General Motors’ Bright Drop, and Jeep’s Electric Wrangler were among the unveils that turned headsOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- National Review
President-elect Joe Biden is set to propose an extensive immigration reform bill on day one of his administration, which includes an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally. The bill, which is expected to fill hundreds of pages, would offer one of the quickest pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrants in recent years: those living in the U.S. illegally as of January 1 would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, contingent upon a background check, paying taxes, and other basic requirements, according to the Associated Press. What follows, should eligible immigrants decide to pursue citizenship, is a three-year path to naturalization. Meanwhile, “Dreamers” — young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — as well as agricultural workers and those under temporary protective status could receive green cards even sooner if they are working, in school or fulfill other requirements. However, the measure does not include Republican-supported enhanced border security, only calls for coming up with strategies and for the use of technology, which could prove a hurdle to its passage in Congress as Biden would need to earn support from some GOP senators to pass the proposal into law. The legislation also aims to address the causes of migration from Central America to the U.S. and offers grants for workforce development and English language learning. On Inauguration Day, Biden is expected to issue a series of executive orders to reverse other Trump immigration actions, including the outgoing administration’s travel “ban” on predominantly Muslim countries. On the campaign trail, Biden repeatedly promised that immigration reform would come on day one of his administration. “[W]e made a mistake. It took too long to get it right,” Biden said of the Obama Administration’s record on immigration, during the October 23 presidential debate.
The company's comments come after California's top epidemiologist on Sunday issued a statement recommending providers pause vaccination from lot no. 41L20A due to possible allergic reactions that are under investigation. The vaccine maker said it was unaware of comparable cases of adverse events from other vaccination centers which may have administered vaccines from the same lot or from other lots of its vaccine.
- The Independent
Trump ends term with ‘patriotic education’ report which makes excuses for slavery and calls anti-abortion movement ‘great reform’
White House website says report is “rebuttal of reckless 're-education' attempts that seek to reframe American history around idea that United States is not an exceptional country but an evil one”
When asked if he thinks Capitol stormer Guy Reffitt is dangerous, his son replied, ‘I don’t really know him anymore.’ A Texas man allegedly threatened to shoot his own children if they turned him in for his participation in the deadly insurrection in the U.S. Capitol Building. Guy Reffitt, 48, told his family he participated in storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, but upon learning he was wanted by the FBI, he warned them against turning him in.
- The Conversation
Militia members associated with the Three Percenters movement conducting a military drill in Flovilla, Ga., in 2016, days after Trump's election. After his 2020 defeat, Three Percenters were involved in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImageThousands of police and soldiers – people professionally trained in the use of violence and familiar with military protocols – are part of an extremist effort to undermine the U.S. government and subvert the democratic process. According to an investigative report published in the Atlantic in November into a leaked database kept by the Oath Keepers – one of several far-right and white supremacist militias that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 – 10% of Oath Keepers are current police officers or military members. Another significant portion of the group’s membership is retired military and law enforcement personnel. The hate group – founded by a former Army paratrooper after Barack Obama’s 2008 election – claimed “an improbable 30,000 members who were said to be mostly current and former military, law enforcement and emergency first responders” in 2016, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Three Percenters, another militia present at the Capitol on Jan. 6, also draws a substantial portion of its members from law enforcement, both military and civilian. Larry Brock, a pro-Trump rioter arrested with zip-tie handcuffs, allegedly for taking hostages, is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who posted content from the Three Percenters online. The militia movement is a militarized stream of the American far-right. Its members promote an ideology that undermines the authority and legitimacy of the federal government and stockpile weapons. When militia members have a professional background with the military or police, it enhances the ability of these groups to execute sophisticated and successful operations. It also helps them convey a patriotic image that obscures the security threat they present. A member of the Oath Keepers at a rally to overturn the 2020 election results at the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 5, 2021. Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images Longstanding ties The day before the Biden inauguration, two National Guardsmen deployed to Washington, D.C. were removed from that duty after an investigation found ties to right-wing militias. Far-right elements have always had some presence in U.S. security forces. Throughout the 20th century, many local police departments were heavily populated with Ku Klux Klan members. The connections between terror groups and law enforcement enabled discrimination and violence against African Americans, Jews and other minorities. In 1923, all the Black residents of Blandford, Indiana were forced out of town to an unknown location following accusations that an African American man assaulted a young girl. The unlawful “deportation” was conducted and organized by the local sheriff, a Klansman, with the assistance of local Klan chapters. Wade Michael Page, the U.S. Army veteran who killed six Sikh worshipers in 2014. FBI via Getty Images Many U.S. military bases have also had cells of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups throughout the 20th century. In 1995, three paratroopers from Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, were arrested and charged in the killing of a Black couple in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Two were sentenced to life in prison for the murders. The Army initiated an investigation at the base, which was known for being a hub of the National Alliance, then the country’s most influential American neo-Nazi group. The Army identified and discharged 19 paratroopers for participating in hate activities. One went on to kill six worshipers in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in August 2012. He died in a police shootout. Growing convergence Concerns about the penetration of far-right elements into the military and law enforcement have become acute in the last decade with the emergence of militias like the Oath Keepers, which was founded on the principle of recruiting police and military. Oath Keepers pledge to disobey orders on the job which they deem contradict the Constitution. The militias’ success secretly infiltrating police departments contributed to the emergence of new far-right associations that openly recruit law enforcement, like the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers of America. Founded in 2011 by former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack, the group promotes the notion – contrary to the Constitution – that the federal government authorities should be subordinated to local law enforcement. It has more than 500 sheriffs nationwide. Just over half are currently in office. The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers of America has pushed its members not to enforce gun control laws and pandemic-related mask regulations that they believe infringe on civil liberties. Skilled insurrectionists When members of far-right groups are also professionals sworn to protect the nation or their communities, it makes those groups seem more legitimate. Authorities may be less likely to treat them as domestic security threats, a categorization that would limit their access to firearms and sensitive locations. Yet military and police members actually make American militias more effective, according to my research on the violent practices of the American far-right. A Texas Militia member at the pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2021. Selcuk Acar/NurPhoto via Getty Images A data set I manage with my team at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and used for my recent book on right-wing terror shows that militia attacks are more lethal than those of other far-right groups. The perpetrators are experienced with weapons and ammunition, and have at least some military training. Attacks by other far-right groups are, in large measure, initiated by people with limited operational experience, who act spontaneously. Militias are also more likely to attack secured, high-value targets like government facilities. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, is a prime example. He was a Gulf War veteran associated with the Michigan Militia whose bomb killed 168 people at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995. The penetration of far-right militants into the ranks of police and the military seems to be driving an increase in direct attacks on police and military targets. Between 1990 and 2000, 13% of U.S. of militia attacks and plots were aimed at military or police installations or personnel, our data set shows. The proportion jumped to 40% by 2017. And with their training in surveillance, intelligence collection and public safety, the dangerous activities of militias are generally harder for federal agencies to monitor and counter. When militias recruit professionals, they are better at waging their radical crusade. [Get our most insightful politics and election stories. Sign up for The Conversation’s Politics Weekly.]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Arie Perliger, University of Massachusetts Lowell. Read more:Plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor grew from the militia movement’s toxic mix of constitutional falsehoods and half-truthsMilitias evaluate beliefs, action as president threatens soldiers in the streets Arie Perliger receives funding from the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Defense.
- National Review
President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health, setting her up to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate. Levine, a pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general, will serve as the top deputy to Health and Human Services Secretary-designee Xavier Becerra. “Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a press release. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.” Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said that Levine is “a remarkable public servant with the knowledge and experience to help us contain this pandemic, and protect and improve the health and well-being of the American people.” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, appointed Levine to her current position in 2017. She was confirmed by the Republican-majority Pennsylvania Senate for her roles as health secretary and physician general. Levine, a graduate of Harvard University and Tulane University School of Medicine, has become the public face of the state’s coronavirus pandemic response. She faced calls to resign from her post last spring after reports that she had removed her 95-year-old mother from her personal care home after ordering all nursing homes and long-term facilities in the state to accept coronavirus patients from hospitals, despite concerns about older people’s vulnerability to the virus. She defended the decision, saying her mother who is “more than competent to make her own decisions” had requested the move.
- The Telegraph
Israeli Covid czar says first Pfizer jab not as effective as hoped and blames spike in cases on British strain
Israel’s coronavirus czar has warned that the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine offers less protection than expected, as he blamed the country’s surge in Covid cases partly on the new British variant. Nachman Ash said many Israelis had caught Covid in between their first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine, suggesting that the first jab is “less effective than we thought,” according to Army Radio. His remarks underline the importance of receiving a second vaccine dose, which according to recent studies is more than 90 per cent effective in protecting against coronavirus. Israel has already given the first of two jabs to nearly 30 per cent of the population and on Tuesday announced it would extend eligibility to those aged 40 and over. But Mr Ash is said to have warned at a cabinet meeting that a new strain of Covid originating in Britain was hampering efforts to tackle the pandemic, as it was responsible for nearly 40 per cent of new cases. It comes after two studies by Israeli healthcare providers found that the first dose of the vaccine reduced the risk of infection by between 30 and 60 per cent. And according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, a survey by the health ministry found that around six per cent of 189,000 citizens who had received the first jab tested positive for Covid within two weeks. It also stated that 69 people from the sample had tested positive for coronavirus after receiving their second dose of the vaccine. Another study of a hundred people in Israel found that 98 per cent were protected from the disease once the second dose was administered. That research, carried out by the Sheba Medical Center, also said that a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine significantly refused the risk of spreading the virus to others. In Britain, there is a gap of up to 12 weeks between receiving the first and second dose, whereas the WHO recommends the second dose of Pfizer is administered within 21-28 days. Israeli health experts have stressed that it is too early to draw any concrete conclusions from the data.