By Stephanie Nebehay and Umaru Fofana GENEVA/FREETOWN, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Two West African nations and a medical charity fighting the world's worst Ebola epidemic chided the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday for its slow response, saying more action was needed to save victims threatened by the disease and hunger. With the death toll over 1,000 and still climbing, the U.N. health agency is facing questions over whether it moved quickly enough to declare the months-old outbreak a "public health emergency of international concern", which it did on Aug 8. Medical charity MSF (Doctors Without Borders), which has been one of the most active groups in fighting the outbreak, said its spread had created a "wartime" situation in the worst-affected states of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Nigeria is also facing a smaller separate outbreak. Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma said his nation's only two treatment centers were "overwhelmed". In neighboring Liberia, Information Minister Lewis Brown said Ebola-affected rural areas quarantined by troops faced serious food shortages. "We need a more robust response to the nature of the disease and the way it is affecting us," Koroma said in Freetown, adding he had delivered this message to the WHO, which is coordinating international efforts to try to control the outbreak. The WHO said on Friday the death toll from this epidemic, first declared in Guinea in March, had risen to 1,145, as 76 new deaths were reported in the two days to Aug. 13 in the four nations affected so far. "If our people are dying, the response should be an extraordinary response because it is an extraordinary situation," Koroma told a news conference, saying his country needed more Ebola treatment centers and medics to staff them. "Time is of the essence," he added, saying he had seen the world respond to major humanitarian crises, such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and West Africa needed similar help. Fear of the virus, which causes fever, vomiting and, in its advanced form, severe hemorrhaging and organ failure, is curbing business in Africa and threatening to taint the continent's image as a rising economic star. In Liberia, which like neighbors Sierra Leone and Guinea has deployed troops to cordon off a tri-border zone which has the highest concentration of Ebola cases, Brown said his country also needed more health personnel and aid. "The reaction quite frankly is not where we would want it to be to give any serious level of comfort," Brown told Reuters, although he said there had been an improvement. On Thursday, the WHO said its staff had seen evidence the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimated the scale of the outbreak and said it would coordinate "a massive scaling up of the international response". MSF President Joanne Liu, speaking after a 10-day trip to West Africa, compared the current Ebola outbreak to a "wartime" situation. "It's like a front line, it's moving, it's advancing, but we have no clue as to how it is going to go around." She told reporters in Geneva that the WHO needed to "take leadership" and more experts were urgently needed on the ground. "I think the wake-up call was too late," Liu said. On April 1, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl had described the West African outbreak as "relatively small still" after MSF Director General Bruno Jochum had warned it was "unprecedented" and "exceptional". THREAT OF HUNGER "If we don't stabilize Liberia, we will never stabilize the region. Over the next six months we should get the upper hand on the epidemic; this is my gut feeling," MSF's Liu said. Brown said his country had "pockets all around the place reporting infection", including the border farming county of Lofa, where a drop in agriculture output because of the outbreak and quarantine measures had created a threat of food shortages. Liberia had requested emergency food aid from donors. "We can establish as many checkpoints as we want, but if we cannot get the food and the medical supplies into affected communities, they will leave," Brown said. "We can't ask our people to starve." International agencies are looking into emergency food deliveries to reach people in Liberia and Sierra Leone cordoned off from the outside world, a World Bank official said. The worst-affected countries are recovering from a decade of civil wars and have some of the weakest health systems in the world. Liberia has one doctor for every 70,000 people, Sierra Leone one for every 45,000, compared to one for every 360 people in Britain and one for every 410 in the United States. Alarm over the risk of the disease, which can kill up to 90 percent of those it afflicts and is spread by contact with the bodily fluids of infected persons and animals, has triggered a wave of travel warnings and restrictions, cancellations of events and flight suspensions to the region by some airlines. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Friday it was prohibiting young athletes from the Ebola-affected region of West Africa from participating in certain events at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. "EMERGENCY WITHIN EMERGENCY" MSF's Liu said the "emergency within the emergency" of the current outbreak was the heavy toll inflicted on health workers. "We found that in the four countries, in terms of healthcare workers, there were 80 deaths and 170 infected," she said, noting that the rainy season was starting in the region. "What we face today ... is that people don't have access to basic health care. So more today are dying of malaria than are dying of Ebola," Liu said. Sierra Leone has declared Ebola a national emergency as has Liberia, which is hoping that two of its doctors diagnosed with Ebola can start treatment with some of the limited supply of experimental drug ZMapp. The WHO said it also welcomed the decision by the Canadian government to donate several hundred doses of an experimental vaccine to support the outbreak response. Canada's Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp is also exploring making more of its experimental Ebola treatment, Chief Executive Officer Mark Murray said. "A fully tested and licensed vaccine is not expected before 2015," WHO said. In the United States, a Texas doctor being treated in Atlanta for Ebola after returning from Liberia has continued to improve and hopes to be released "in the near future," the Christian relief group he worked for said. Nigeria also has declared a national emergency, although it has so far escaped the levels of infection seen in the three other countries, with four dead and 10 infected. (Additional reporting by Daniel Flynn and Emma Farge in Dakar, Clair MacDougall in Monrovia; Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
- The Independent
‘There was a protocol breach when the front doors were not held open’
- National Review
Biden Admonishes Reporter for Questioning Whether Vaccine Goal Is Ambitious Enough: ‘Give Me a Break’
President Biden pushed back on a reporter at a press briefing on Thursday, who questioned whether the new administration’s coronavirus vaccine goal is ambitious enough. Biden has set a goal to vaccinate 100 million Americans during his first 100 days in office. During the press conference, Biden called the Trump administration’s distribution of coronavirus vaccines a “dismal failure so far,” warning that “things are going to continue to get worse before they get better.” However, the seven-day rolling average for coronavirus vaccine doses administered to Americans currently sits at 912,000, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker. (On Wednesday alone, 1.6 million doses were administered.) This indicates that the Biden administration is not far from its goal of vaccinating one million Americans per day. On Thursday, Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller asked Biden if the vaccination goal was “high enough,” since “that’s basically where the U.S. is right now.” “When I announced it you all said it wasn’t possible. Come on, give me a break, man,” Biden responded. “It’s a good start, a hundred million.” Internal projections from the Trump administration showed that the U.S. could administer at least 170 million doses by the end of April, two Trump administration officials told Bloomberg. During the press conference, Biden also announced that he would invoke the Defense Production Act to “accelerate the making of everything that’s needed to protect, test, and vaccinate and the care of our people.” Biden warned that the death toll from coronavirus infections would hit 500,000 in February. Over 408,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 as of Thursday.
- The Telegraph
Celebrities in Russia have joined calls for protests in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny as authorities prepare for what could be the biggest wave of anti-government demonstrations in years. Rallies are due to take place on Saturday in over 60 cities and towns despite coronavirus restrictions and without official permits to protest. The demonstrations offer the first test of support for the 44-year-old politician since he returned to Russia on Sunday following his near-fatal poisoning in August. Despite persistent warnings that police will not tolerate the unsanctioned rallies, dozens of Russian celebrities have taken to social media to back the jailed politician and urge supporters to take to the streets. Igor Denisov, a former captain of the national football team revered by the government, called for Mr Navalny’s release in a video statement. “I’ve never been interested in politics and I never will,” he said in the video posted by the Sports.ru website. “But it’s not about politics. I’d like to support Alexei Navalny and his family... He should be freed.” Soap opera star Alexandra Bortich in an emotional speech on Instagram asked her fans to join her at the protest: “It would be really cool if we all go on a walk on January 23rd - we all have to take that walk if we want to live in a country where human rights are respected and laws are in place.”
- NBC News
Attorneys for Rittenhouse did not object to the changes. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two amid protests last year.
- Associated Press Videos
Paul Chavez didn’t know where a sculpture of his father, the late Latino American civil rights and labor leader Cesar Chavez, would end up in the White House. He shipped it from California and was surprised to see it right behind Biden on Wednesday. (Jan. 21)
- Architectural Digest
800 feet up in the sky, the Dreamy 6,000 square foot space offers panoramic views from the East River to the HudsonOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday expressed his "disappointment" with President Biden's executive order to rescind permits for the Keystone XL pipeline, in a readout of the president's first official call with a foreign leader.Why it matters: The prime minister has long backed the pipeline meant to carry crude oil from Alberta to Nebraska. Biden, however, campaigned on the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.What he's saying: In a news conference earlier Friday, Trudeau said: “We have so much alignment — not just me and President Biden, but Canadians and President Biden." He added, "I’m very much looking forward to working with President Biden,” per the New York Times. * On the call, however, Trudeau "raised Canada’s disappointment with the United States’ decision on the Keystone XL pipeline," according to the readout. * "The Prime Minister underscored the important economic and energy security benefits of our bilateral energy relationship as well as his support for energy workers."The big picture: The pipeline project originally came with an $8 billion price tag and was expected to carry roughly 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily from Canada through Nebraska, per The Washington Post. * Though President Obama rejected the pipeline, President Trump gave it the green light once in office. * Lawsuits slowed construction on the project throughout Trump's administration. * Two Native American communities sued the government over the pipeline last year, charging the government did not consult with tribes on the pipeline's proposed path, which crosses tribal lands. * Its permit repeal is one of several "critical first steps to address the climate crisis, create good union jobs, and advance environmental justice, while reversing the previous administration’s harmful policies," according to the Biden administration.In their Friday call, the two leaders discussed collaborating on COVID vaccines and the flow of critical medical supplies, efforts to work with Indigenous people and plans to address climate change through cross-border clean electricity transmission and net-zero emissions. * "Both leaders have made combating climate change, defending human rights and strengthening international institutions central to their platforms," the Times writes. * "The leaders reiterated their firm commitment to multilateral institutions and alliance," per the readout.Flashback: In 2017, Trudeau touted the Keystone XL pipeline, saying: "No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there. The resource will be developed. Our job is to ensure that this is done responsibly, safely and sustainably." Go deeper: Biden talks climate in calls with foreign leadersBe smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
- The Telegraph
A Republican congresswoman is facing calls to resign over reports that she helped to spread falsehoods about the Parkland school shooting. Marjorie Taylor Greene reportedly agreed with a conspiracy theory about the 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed. Facebook screenshots showed a discussion about why a police officer had not rushed into the building, and someone claimed that the mass shooting was a "false flag planned shooting." Greene replied: “Exactly!" The social media giant later removed the posts after they were reported to them. Cameron Kasky, a former Parkland pupil who co-founded the group Never Again MSD, said: "She should resign. She can apologise. I don’t think anybody will accept it.” The congresswoman was elected in Georgia in November, backed Donald Trump's claims of election fraud, and has previously expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory. Fred Guttenberg, who's 14-year-old daughter Jaime died in the Parkland shooting, said: "Your feelings on gun laws are irrelevant to your claim that Parkland never happened. You are a fraud who must resign. Be prepared to meet me directly in person to explain your conspiracy theory, and soon." The comments by the politician were first reported by Media Matters for America. In a statement Ms Greene accused Media Matters for America of being "communists' and "fake news". Meanwhile, US Capitol Police were investigating an incident in which a Republican congressman was found carrying a concealed gun while trying to enter the floor of the House of Representatives. Andy Harris, a staunch gun-rights advocate, set off a metal detector going through security on his way to the House floor . Metal detectors were installed outside the chamber to beef up security in the aftermath of the Capitol riots on Jan 6.
America may not have won World War II and landed on the moon later if not for the contributions of a brilliant Chinese scientist named Qian Xuesen. Fearing communist presence after the war, the U.S., however, deported Qian to China, clueless that he would eventually spearhead programs that would target American troops and eventually propel China into space. Born to well-educated parents in 1911, it was evident from an early age that Qian had superior intellect.
- The Independent
Judge denies release for 26-year-old accused of taking part in the deadly Capitol attacks then returning to Washington on Inauguration Day
- NBC News
Biden's acting attorney general signed off on reassigning prosecutor who objected to family separations
The incident would have made Wilkinson aware families were being separated long before the Texas pilot program for zero tolerance was known to the public.
- The Week
Biden's team reportedly realized after inauguration that Trump really had no vaccine distribution plan
It's been more than a month since the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved for distribution, and nearly a year since it became clear the coronavirus pandemic would require a vaccine to fully end. But former President Donald Trump's administration still failed to arrange a usable plan for distributing COVID-19 vaccines to Americans, as President Biden's incoming administration reportedly just discovered.Biden's team expected to find major flaws in Trump's distribution plans when they arrived at the White House on Wednesday, sources with direct knowledge of the administration's COVID-19 work tell CNN. But "one of the biggest shocks that the Biden team had to digest during the transition period was what they saw as a complete lack of a vaccine distribution strategy," CNN reports. As one source put it, "There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch."Biden campaigned on the promise of swiftly reversing the Trump administration's hands-off approach to handling the virus. The new president did take a small step in that direction Wednesday, signing an executive order mandating people wear masks on federal property and moving to make the federal government the command center for vaccine and testing distribution and administration. But Wednesday's reported discovery reveals it's going to be a lot harder than just changing attitudes around social distancing. And as one source told CNN, the lack of a plan "is just further affirmation of complete incompetence" by the Trump administration.Jeff Zients, the Biden administration's COVID-19 czar, said as much on Wednesday, telling reporters that "what we're inheriting from the Trump administration is so much worse than we could have imagined." Still, as one official leading the COVID-19 response conceded to The Daily Beast, "At least we won't have a president that's actively fighting those rules on national television."More stories from theweek.com Biden's next executive order will let people stay on unemployment if they quit an unsafe job McConnell is already moving to strangle the Biden presidency 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit
- The Telegraph
Families who lost relatives during Wuhan's initial outbreak of coronavirus are being blocked in their legal efforts to hold the Chinese authorities responsible for the deaths, one year after lockdown first went in place at ground zero of the pandemic. Five families accuse the municipal and provincial governments for covering up the outbreak, neglecting to notify the public, and failing to act swiftly, causing infections to explode. More than two million people globally have died from coronavirus. The Telegraph has interviewed four of the five trying to bring unprecedented lawsuits, most of whom are seeking 2 million yuan (£226,000) each in reparations. They told this newspaper of a campaign of harassment and denial of justice. Chinese courts have rejected all lawsuits they have tried to file, though they continue to persist by attempting to sue at higher courts, defying government threats that have scared dozens of others into giving up. Pursuing their cases poses immense risks as they’re challenging China’s official narrative, which claims authorities acted swiftly and with transparency to contain Covid-19, glossing over missteps and the silencing of whistleblowers.
- Associated Press
The master tenant of a San Francisco Bay Area warehouse where 36 people perished when a fire ignited during a 2016 dance party pleaded guilty Friday to the deaths, avoiding a second trial after the first ended in a hung jury. Derick Almena, 50, pleaded guilty to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a 12-year sentence. Already free on bail, Almena likely won't return to jail because of the nearly three years he already spent behind bars and credit for good behavior.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the Biden administration in federal district court over its 100-day freeze on deporting unauthorized immigrants, and asking for a temporary restraining order.Between the lines: The freeze went into effect Friday, temporarily halting most immigration enforcement in the U.S. In the lawsuit, Paxton claims the move "violates the U.S. Constitution, federal immigration and administrative law, and a contractual agreement between Texas" and the Department of Homeland Security. Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America. * Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney, told Axios that the lawsuit is likely to fail at fully reinstating deportations because a judge cannot force Immigration and Customs Enforcement to remove any particular person. * The executive branch has broad authority over immigration enforcement, as was seen in both President Obama and President Trump's administrations. What they're saying: In the announcement of the moratorium on Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security said the pause on deportations would "allow DHS to ensure that its resources are dedicated to responding to the most pressing challenges that the United States faces." * In Paxton's request for a temporary restraining order, he claims, "Without emergency relief, Texas faces irreparable harm from having to provide costly educational, social, welfare, healthcare, and other services to illegal aliens who remain in Texas because Defendants have ceased removing them."The White House has not yet responded to Axios' request for comment.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- The Independent
Stainless steel Rolex worth $7,000 causes stir
- The Telegraph
The South African Covid variant could make current vaccines 50 per cent less effective, Matt Hancock has claimed. In video footage of a webinar with travel agents, the Health Secretary warned that the importation of the variant could ruin Britain's vaccination drive and send the country "back to square one" without tough travel restrictions. Mr Hancock is among a number of ministers pushing for tougher travel restrictions modelled on Australia and New Zealand, which have closed their borders to non-residents and require all returning nationals to quarantine in Government-approved hotels. Speaking ahead of a Cabinet Covid-O Cabinet meeting at which ministers will consider similar UK border closures and quarantine hotels, Mr Hancock admitted that the data showing the South African variant reduced vaccine efficacy by 50 per cent was not certain "so I wouldn’t say this in public". He added: "Nevertheless, if you vaccinate the entire population and then you get in a new variant that evaded the vaccine, then you'd be back to square one. And so tougher international restrictions are the price that, for instance, Australia has paid for stronger domestic protection, as in more life getting back to normal domestically."
- Associated Press
A Colorado geophysicist accused of dragging a police officer down steps to be beaten by an American flag outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was ordered held without bail Friday after a prosecutor said the man afterward tried to flee to Switzerland and commit suicide. U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Krause, based in White Plains, said during an electronic hearing that he found the alleged actions by Jeffrey Sabol, a 51-year-old born in Utica, New York, “beyond the pale and it is troubling to a degree that is really ... shocking." Sabol was arrested Friday morning at the Westchester Medical Center.
- The Independent
Sean Hannity denounces Biden’s first week as ‘disastrous’ before the president completed a full day of work
‘The Biden administration is off to a very rocky start,’ Fox News host says
- CBS News
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was referenced in the House's article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump.