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Bubonic plague: China seals off village after death in Inner Mongolia

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The death was reported to health authorities in Baotou city on Sunday and the victim was confirmed to be a bubonic plague patient on Thursday, the Baotou Municipal Health Commission said in a statement on its website.

The patient died of circulatory system failure, according to the statement. It did not mention how the patient had caught the plague.

To curb the spread of the disease, authorities sealed off Suji Xincun village, where the dead patient lived, and ordered daily disinfection of homes. All villagers have so far tested negative for the disease, the statement said.

Nine close contacts and 26 secondary contacts of the patient have been quarantined and tested negative, the commission said.

Damao Banner, the district where the village is located, has been put on Level 3 alert for plague prevention, the second lowest in a four-level system, until the end of the year.

Chinese authorities confirm case of bubonic plague in Inner Mongolia
This is the second case — and first death — of bubonic plague China has confirmed this year. The previous case was discovered in July in Bayannur, another city in Inner Mongolia, leading to the issuing of another Level 3 alert and the closure of several tourist spots.

Plague, caused by bacteria and transmitted through flea bites and infected animals, killed an estimated 50 million people in Europe during the Black Death pandemic in the Middle Ages.

Bubonic plague, which is one of plague’s three forms, causes painful, swollen lymph nodes, as well as fever, chills, and coughing.

The advent of antibiotics, which can treat most infections if they are caught early enough, has helped to contain plague outbreaks, preventing the type of rapid spread witnessed in Europe in the Middle Ages.

But it has not been eliminated it entirely — and it has made a recent comeback, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to categorize it as a re-emerging disease.

Common recurrence

Anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 people get the plague every year, according to the WHO. But that total is likely too modest an estimate, since it doesn’t account for unreported cases.

According to 2016 data, the possibility of plague exists on almost every continent, especially the western United States, parts of Brazil, scattered areas in southeast Africa and large swaths of China, India and the Middle East.

In the US, there have been anywhere from a few to a few dozen cases of plague every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2015, two people in Colorado died from the plague, and the year before there were eight reported cases in the state.
Why is bubonic plague still a thing?

In China, 31 cases of plague were reported between 2009 and 2019, including 12 deaths, according to data released by the National Health Commission.

On Thursday, Baotou authorities warned of a risk of “a human plague epidemic spreading in the city,” and urged the public to take extra precautions and seek immediate medical attention if they develop symptoms of fever or coughing.

They also urged people to reduce contact with wild animals while traveling and avoid hunting, skinning or eating animals that could cause infection.

Last month, two cases of bubonic plague were confirmed in Mongolia — brothers who had both eaten marmot meat, according to China’s state-run news agency Xinhua. In May 2019, another couple in Mongolia died from the plague after eating the raw kidney of a marmot, thought to be a folk remedy for good health.

Marmots a type of large ground squirrel that is eaten in some parts of China and the neighboring country Mongolia, and which have historically caused plague outbreaks in the region.

The marmot is believed to have caused the 1911 pneumonic plague epidemic, which killed about 63,000 people in northeast China. It was hunted for its fur, which soared in popularity among international traders. The diseased fur products were traded and transported around the country — infecting thousands along the way.



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July jobs report 2020: US economy added 1.8 million jobs in July but still down nearly 13 million jobs during the pandemic

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It was the third-straight month of improvement after the spring lockdown to stem the spread of the disease decimated the labor market. But the economy added far fewer than the 4.8 million jobs added in June.
The unemployment rate fell to 10.2%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday, but remains above the Great Recession high of 10% that is reached in October 2009.

This is a developing story. It will be updated



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Beirut explosion: Couple standing less than 600 meters from blast site survives

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The husband and wife now lay in a local hospital room, together, recovering from the glass and debris that tore through their apartment — and them.

Lina needed three hours of surgery. Imad, whom Lina says was seriously injured and had to be transported down 11 flights of stairs on the back of a door, needed six hours in surgery.

They are among the thousands across Beirut who were injured in the blast. Their apartment, which they purchased only two years ago, is now almost destroyed.

It all began with what Lina says sounded like fireworks.

The first explosion

They say the fire at the port started small. They watched it grow from their balcony on the 11th floor. Through satellite images, CNN has calculated their apartment was roughly 640 yards — or 585 meters — away from the center of the water-filled crater that was left by the explosion.

One moment, they were filming the bride in her wedding dress. Then came the explosion

At some point, they both began livestreaming video on their social media accounts.

“I told my husband there’s something wrong,” Lina told CNN on the phone from her hospital bed.

In her video, she is heard telling him to come inside; she remembers she felt like something bad was about to happen. Lina says Imad didn’t answer her and says he looked like he was in shock by what was happening in front of them.

Then, a fireball with sparks is seen in the video. It was the first explosion, which occurred at 6:07 p.m. local time.

A large smoke cloud, which was occasionally filled with small, firework-like explosions, is seen, too. Those explosions, and the size of the flames, grow significantly as Lina’s video progresses.

‘All I remember is flying up in the air’

Thirty-three seconds after the first explosion, the massive second explosion happens. That explosion was at 6:08 p.m.

A screenshot from Lina's video showing the start of the second explosion, which leveled the port and caused widespread damage.

“All I remember is flying up in the air,” Imad told CNN on the phone, from his hospital bed.

Both say they were knocked unconscious. When Lina woke up, she saw that her husband –still unconscious — had been cut by glass all over his body and was bleeding profusely.

Lina Alameh in her hospital bed.

Lina says she had been thrown through a glass door, which broke her elbow, cut a tendon and injured her back. That’s in addition to multiple cuts from the glass.

Imad was cut so severely, and in so many places, the majority of his body is bandaged. He told CNN it was easier to take a video of his injuries than to list them: he had wounds from head to feet, with severe cuts to his ankles and knees and a compound fracture of his right thigh.

Khalil transported down 10 flights on a door

When she came to, Lina says the only thing she was thinking about was whether Imad was still alive.

She remembers that when she was finally able to wake him, he told her, “I’m dying.”

Lina tried to drag him toward the door, but says she wasn’t strong enough. Despite her own wounds, she says she began to move down 10 flights of stairs.

Imad Khalil in his hospital bed.

She says she felt so weak, she thought she would faint again. So, she made that journey scooting on her rear end the entire time.

On the street, she found a policeman who is a friend. He and others climbed the stairs and were able to bring Imad down using a door as a stretcher.

Once on the ground, they were able to flag down an ambulance.

Their building is in ruins

In video taken on Wednesday by Lina’s sister, the view from their once-gleaming apartment has completely changed. The only thing left by the explosion is catastrophic destruction.

The remains of the port of Beirut, as seen from the apartment balcony.

Every window in their apartment has had the glass blown out. The kitchen and bedrooms are filled with debris and the doors have been blown off their hinges.

In their living room, debris litters the floor and a large blood stain is seen on the ground in front of their sofa.

The explosion was so powerful, that outside, the building façade of the entire port-facing side has been ripped clean off the building.



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US coronavirus: Infections among younger populations are skyrocketing, WHO says

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Early in the outbreak, health experts stressed that older adults were most at risk for the virus that has infected more than 4.8 million people in the United States, but new data from the World Health Organization shows that most cases — by far — are reported in people ages 25 to 64. The proportion of cases in teens and young adults has gone up six-fold, and in very young children and babies the proportion has increased seven-fold, WHO said.

The increase might be explained by broader testing, greater detection of milder cases and shifting demographics of hotspots, but “a rise in risky behavior after easing of public health and social measures” is also to blame, WHO said.

“This is a disease everyone should take seriously. Please watch out for each other,” Dr. Lawton Davis, the Health Director for Georgia’s Coastal Health District, said.

A resurgence of large parties and social outings have been a source of widespread infections following the loosening of restrictions, and they are most often attended by younger people, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday. They have recently become the hardest hit population in the county and continue to drive numbers up, she said.

In New Mexico, where one fifth of all cases are reported in people ages 20 to 29, the state’s Human Services secretary, Dr. David Scrase, urged people not to plan big gatherings for Labor Day.

“Just do that cookout with the people you live with,” Scrase said Thursday. “Don’t get the family together. There will be more time to do that.”

Masks could save 70,000 lives

More than 160,000 have died of coronavirus in the US so far and that number could nearly double by December, the director of a leading model said Thursday.

But consistently wearing masks could save nearly 70,000 of the 295,000 people projected to die of the virus by December 1, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) director Dr. Christopher Murray said on CNN’s Global Town Hall.

Model projects nearly 300,000 Americans could die from Covid-19 by December

“It’s rare that you see something so simple, so inexpensive, so easy for everybody to participate in can have such an extraordinary impact in the US and also all over the world,” Murray said.

At least 39 states as well as Washington, DC and Puerto Rico have implemented mask requirements of some kind. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear extended his state’s mask mandate by 30 days on Thursday, saying “It’s working.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated mask recommendations on its website, urging people not use masks with valves or vents. While the one-way valve keeps people cooler by allowing air to escape, that also means respiratory droplets that carry the virus can escape and infect others.

Balancing rush for a vaccine and ‘ethical principles’

Vaccines are being developing quickly in hopes of getting the pandemic under control, but health experts caution they will only be released to the public once they are safe.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he is looking forward to getting the vaccine when it has reached a necessary standard.

Fauci 'satisfied' with enrollment for the first week of Covid-19 vaccine trial

“When the vaccine becomes available after a 30,000-person-or-more placebo-controlled randomized trial, and it’s shown to be safe and effective, I would get it any time within the timeframe of the people who prioritize it according to ethical principles,” Fauci told the POLITICO Pulse Check podcast.

He said he is “satisfied” with the first week enrollment in Moderna’s Phase 3 clinical trial for a coronavirus vaccine, which saw 1,290 people randomly assigned to get either the vaccine or a dummy shot. Moderna plans to enroll 30,000 people in its trial.

Fauci told CNN that he expects “to get an answer” about whether the vaccine works in November or December.

President Donald Trump hopes to get an answer much sooner. He said Thursday he is “optimistic” that a vaccine could be ready by election day on November 3.

But former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Thursday that giving specific dates for when a vaccine could be available is “very dangerous.”

“We can’t sacrifice our standards because if we do, it not only hurts people, but it’s going to damage people’s faith in vaccine efforts,” Murthy said.

Experts call for a national plan

Federal officials have often been at odds with local leaders and health experts, and five former directors of the CDC said it is time for national leadership against the pandemic.

“It’s unbelievable that six months into the pandemic, it’s not clear who’s in charge, federally,” Dr. Thomas Frieden said during a roundtable hosted by ABC News Live. “There’s no plan. There’s no common data that we’re looking at to see what’s happening with the virus and what’s happening with our response.”

Hawaii reinstates inter-island travel quarantine and other restrictions as Covid-19 cases surge

The CDC being sidelined early on and contradictory messages from the Trump administration has led to partisanship, confusion and increased spread of the virus, Frieden said.

Dr. Richard Besser, who was an acting CDC chief during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009, said return to school has been complicated by the mixed messages. “If you have politicians saying that CDC guidance is a barrier to getting children back into school, instead of the roadmap for doing it safely, then whole system breaks down,” Besser said.

In the absence of national leadership, state officials have been taking measures against the virus into their own hands.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards extended bar closures Thursday and announced the state will stay in Phase Two of its reopening plan, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio extended the city’s state of emergency, which was first signed in March, for another 30 days.

CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas, Shelby Lin Erdman, Maggie Fox, Jamiel Lynch, Elizabeth Cohen, Hollie Silverman, Jen Christensen and Elizabeth Hartfield contributed to this report.



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Beirut: How judges responded to warnings about ammonium nitrate stored at the Beirut port

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The information adds to a growing body of evidence, including emails and public court documents, that officials had been notified about a shipment of thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate — described by one Russian analyst as a “floating bomb” — that is linked to Tuesday’s catastrophic explosion in the seaside capital.

After the explosion, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab said it was “unacceptable” that a shipment of an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored in a warehouse for six years. However, documents obtained by CNN show that members of the Lebanese government and judiciary were apprised of vast quantities of the dangerous material being stored there — and may have failed to safeguard it.

In 2013, a Russian-owned vessel, MV Rhosus, was detained in Beirut with a cargo of 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, which is used in industrial agriculture and mining. The cargo was said to be destined for Mozambique, but the ship stopped in Beirut due to financial difficulties.

Baroudi & Associates, who represented the Russian vessel’s crew, published a statement on Wednesday saying they sent letters in July 2014 to officials at Beirut Port and the Ministry of Transportation “warning of the dangers of the materials carried on the ship.”

They state that they also received a letter that month “from the General Director of Land and Sea Transportation informing us that he sent official letters to the Justice Ministry asking them to do what’s necessary for the ship to avoid its sinking and expose the port to the danger of its load.”

“He also told us that he sent a letter to the naval authorities to do what’s needed to repair the ship and avoid its sinking,” the statement wrote.

CNN has reached out to Lebanese Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Transportation and Beirut Port for comment but has received no response.

Despite warnings, the cargo remained at the port.

Repeated warnings

Customs authorities issued repeated notices to a judge about the dangerous cargo, according to documents seen by CNN. But the judge, who cannot be named for legal reasons, responded multiple times saying that the ship and its cargo might not be within the court’s jurisdiction, the documents show.

In four handwritten responses written in 2016 and 2017, the judge and their successor responded to letters from Lebanese customs officials saying that they needed “to discuss to what extent the jurisdiction of the court” covered this matter.

Baroudi & Associates have also said that the intended destination of the potentially explosive cargo was Mozambique and that it was being shipped “per the order of International Bank of Mozambique for Fabrica De Explosives” when it was detained in Beirut.

The International Bank of Mozambique and Fábrica de Explosivos de Moçambique — a commercial mining company in Mozambique — did not respond to a request for comment.

A Russian ship's cargo of dangerous ammonium nitrate was stranded in Beirut port for years

But the director of Beira Port in Mozambique, António Libombo, has denied knowledge of the Russian vessel, according to local Portuguese news outlet Lusa. “Usually, before we receive a ship, we are notified. In this case, we never receive any notification of a ship coming to Beira port with those characteristics and cargo,” Libombo reportedly told Lusa.

The Mozambican Ministry of Transport and Communications also reportedly told Lusa that they were not informed about the Russian vessel.

The possibility that the blast could have been prevented has already ignited accusations of government negligence, rooted in long-held frustration at Lebanon’s political class.

The blast, which killed more than 100 people and wounded thousands, came as Lebanon was already seeing rising unemployment, soaring prices and a currency in free fall. For many, the tragedy is further proof of government ineptitude and corruption.

CNN’s Tara John, Tamara Qiblawi and Helen Regan contributed to this report.



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Latest news from around the world

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Pakistan’s government has announced plans to reopen tourist hot spots, restaurants, salons and movie theaters next week due to a continued drop in coronavirus infections in the country.

The country has identified 281,863 cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 6,035 patients have died. Authorities reported Friday that 727 cases and 21 fatalities had been identified in the previous 24 hours.

However, numbers are down overall. Data from the Ministry of Health shows that coronavirus cases and fatalities have both dropped 80% since their peaks in June.

Pakistan’s Planning Minister Asad Umar announced in a briefing that “the Covid-19 pandemic had greatly been controlled due to the effective strategy of government institutions.”

What’s opening when: Movie theaters, restaurants and businesses in the hospitality industry can open Monday. Tourism activities can restart tomorrow, Umar said.

All outdoor and indoor non-contact activities will also be allowed from Monday.

Umar said all the educational institutions in the country will be opened September 15 pending a final review by the Ministry of Education on September 7.

Marriage halls will be allowed to function from September 15, and train and airline restrictions will be lifted in October, Umar said.



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India coronavirus: More than 2 million cases confirmed

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On Friday, India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare announced that it has recorded more than 2,027,000 confirmed cases, including 41,585 deaths.

The rising caseload sees India become only the third country to report more than 2 million cases, behind the United States — which has seen nearly 4.9 million cases — and Brazil, which has recorded more than 2.9 million, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
India’s infection rate has increased exponentially in recent weeks. It took almost six months for the country to record 1 million cases, another 12 days to reach 1.5 million, and only another nine days to hit 2 million.

After initially appearing to have curbed the spread of the virus, India, the world’s second most populous nation, has struggled to cope with the fast-expanding outbreak.

Across the country, critically ill virus patients have been turned away from public and private hospitals for lack of beds, staff and equipment. Earlier this month, a minister died of the virus while two Indian cabinet ministers checked into hospital after testing positive.
The virus has also hit celebrities, including Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan, one of India’s most famous actors. The 77-year-old announced Sunday that he has been discharged from hospital after a three-week stay.

But India’s health authorities have said that part of the reason for the soaring cases is an increase in testing.

Since July 29, when India’s caseload passed 1.5 million, the country has carried out an estimated 5 million tests, bringing its total number of tests to 22.7 million as of Thursday, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research. And according to health authorities, around 68% of the confirmed cases have now recovered.

In India, not all patients require a test to be considered recovered. Patients with mild and moderate symptoms are considered no longer active after 10 days of symptom onset if they meet certain conditions, and a test to confirm that they no longer have the virus is not required. However, severe cases can only be discharged after one negative coronavirus test.

Compared with other countries, India’s mortality rate remains low. According to JHU data, India has around three deaths per 100,000, compared with almost 67 deaths per 100,000 in the United Kingdom, which has the highest mortality rate of the top 20 most affected countries.

A medic wearing personal protective equipment collects a swab sample in India.

India’s outbreak

Although India now has one of the world’s largest known outbreaks, it took relatively swift steps against coronavirus during the first phases of the pandemic.

In March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a “complete” lockdown for India’s 1.3 billion people, making it the largest lockdown in the world.

While these measures have been progressively eased over the last few months, some hard-hit parts of the country are still under strict coronavirus restrictions.

The country’s move to a lockdown likely helped lessen the impact of the outbreak, experts have suggested. But the lockdown also underscored India’s inequality, especially in urban areas.

After India announced its nationwide lockdown, millions of daily-wage earners living in cities found themselves out of work. Some opted to travel thousands of miles back home to their families in other parts of the country.

And for the around 74 million people living in India’s overcrowded slums, social distancing was impossible. A study last month found that more than half of residents living in Mumbai’s crowded slums may have contracted coronavirus, meaning they were likely being infected at a much higher rate than those not living in slum areas.

CNN’s Vedika Sud contributed to this report.



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Analysis: Trump’s dreams of a vaccine as his October Surprise aren’t rooted in reality

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He predicts a vaccine breakthrough multiple times a day, assures Americans he has the military on standby to rush it out and promises 100 million, 250 million, even 500 million individual doses will be very quickly available. He hails a “tremendous” vaccine that is “very close” and will be ready “very, very early, before the end of the year, far ahead of schedule.”

Experts are very hopeful about the potential for an effective vaccine, but by implying one is almost imminent and will quickly end the pandemic, Trump is raising expectations that are unlikely to be swiftly met and would come too late to save his presidential campaign in any case.

Indeed, asked on Thursday whether a vaccine — 29 prototypes of which are currently being developed and trialed by multiple countries including the United States — would arrive in time for Election Day on November 3, Trump bumped up his personal timetable, characteristically telling anyone listening exactly what they want to hear.

“I’m optimistic that it’ll be probably around that date. I believe we’ll have the vaccine before the end of the year certainly, but around that date, yes. I think so,” the President said, agreeing that an announcement could boost his reelection bid.

“It wouldn’t hurt. It wouldn’t hurt. But … I’m doing it, not for the election. I want it fast because I want to save a lot of lives.”

His rhetoric about vaccines may also be counterproductive to the ultimate goal of ending the crisis. The President’s comments on Thursday drew a rebuke from former Surgeon Gen. Dr. Vivek Murthy, who said it was “very dangerous” to set artificial timelines and cautioned against a perception that the process was being rushed.

“We can’t sacrifice our standards because if we do, it not only hurts people, but it’s going to damage people’s faith in vaccine efforts,” Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” Thursday, at a time when polls show nearly half of Americans wouldn’t take the vaccine even if it was available.

Suspicions of political interference

Everyone would love to share Trump’s optimism. The prospect of many more months of stunted life, huge unemployment caused by the pandemic and another winter likely to bring more sickness and death is dismal.

But it’s hard to take Trump’s assessments seriously. Throughout America’s fight against the novel coronavirus, it has sometimes been difficult to tell whether the President is being deliberately deceptive or does not fully appreciate the details and the scale of the challenge ahead.

It’s the same with a vaccine. While many medical experts believe that a vaccine could be available by early next year for high-risk patients — it could be the middle of next year for it to become widely available. That might mean it could be fall 2021 before normal life really begins to return, long after Trump’s presidential destiny will be decided one way or the other.

Still, as a political device, talking about a Covid-19 vaccine may seem alluring for a President who has seen nearly 160,000 Americans die on his watch in a public health crisis he has denied, neglected and downplayed.

Talking about an imminent vaccine allows the President to be forward-looking. When talking about the vaccine, he’s not being cross-examined about his many failures in the pandemic, and the rising death toll to which he has often seemed indifferent — “It is what it is,” he told Axios in a recent interview.

It allows him to play on offense, too. Any Democrat who points out the many complications of vaccine development and who doubts Trump’s optimism can quickly be accused of rooting against the very development that might end the crisis for political reasons.

And there is, it appears, a good story to tell.

By most accounts, Operation Warp Speed, the $10 billion government-funded race for a vaccine, is going well and could produce an effective, safe vaccine that could be mass produced at record speed. If that is the case, Trump will deserve his share of the credit for a multi-agency effort in partnership with the private sector. His cheerleading for a vaccine has contrasted with his suspicion of coronavirus testing — which is now going down in 29 states, even though experts say it needs to be expanded by many multiples to effectively fight the virus. In Washington, presidential enthusiasm and attention is vital to getting action, and the relative pace of sluggish testing and tracing efforts compared to the pace of vaccine development will reflect that.

Ethical questions

The Trump’s administration’s record of bending rules for political gain and cutting legal corners and the way it cavalierly treated human life in the pandemic — demanding swift economic openings, for example — raise a flurry of ethical questions about its trustworthiness in handling the first successful vaccines.

The White House has consistently marginalized scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has tried to present a truthful narrative about the dire state of the pandemic that contradicts the consistently rosy and misleading spin preferred by the President and his aides.

On issues like Trump’s demand for all schools to open in the coming weeks, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has come under fierce pressure from the West Wing. With an election looming, regulatory agencies like the Food And Drug Administration could face similar pressure to bend to the President’s will.

Trump, meanwhile, has all but prescribed hydroxcholoroquine from his White House podium, trashing peer-reviewed studies that say it doesn’t work in favor of a disputed analysis and anecdotal soundbites on conservative media.

And given that the administration has politicized almost every aspect of the fight against the virus and has unloaded a daily torrent of lies and misinformation, it will get precious little benefit of the doubt on its handling of the vaccine.

There will also be highly sensitive and potentially life and death decisions subject to medical ethics and scientific fact that will sway which vulnerable populations and even ethnic groups receive the vaccine first.

Nothing about the President’s handling of the worst public health crisis in 100 years suggests he has so far considered those questions — or will want to be guided by moral considerations when it comes to a vaccine.

Fauci’s caution

Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist, shares Trump’s optimism about the possibility of a vaccine — but has also been tempered in his assessments about its immediate impacts.

“When the vaccine becomes available after a 30,000-person-or-more placebo-controlled randomized trial, and it’s shown to be safe and effective, I would get it any time within the timeframe of the people who prioritize it according to ethical principles,” Fauci said on a Politico Pulse Check podcast Thursday.

In an interview with Reuters Wednesday posted on YouTube, the Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, who is often rebuked by Trump, said that data not politics would dictate when a vaccine became available.

“I’m certain of what the White House would like to see, but I haven’t seen any indication of pressure at this point,” Fauci said.

“As you get into the fall, there — there’s going to be data accumulating, and people are going to be looking at the data … if the data is so bad that you should stop the trial, they say stop. If the data is … even dangerous, they say stop. If the data still needs to be accumulated, they’ll say keep the trial going. If the data looks so good, they may say timeout, approve it because it’s so good.”

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn has also said that no amount of political pressure will cause his agency to cut corners.

“I have repeatedly said that all FDA decisions have been, and will continue to be, based solely on good science and data. The public can count on that commitment,” Hahn wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.

In an administration in which science has constantly been trumped by politics, those undertakings will be carefully watched in the weeks to come.



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Saudi Crown Prince accused of assassination plot against senior exiled official

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Aljabri accuses the Kingdom’s powerful crown prince and defacto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, of dispatching the hit team to murder him just over a year after Aljabri fled from Saudi Arabia and he refused repeated efforts by the Crown Prince to lure him back home or somewhere more accessible to the Saudis. Aljabri also names numerous alleged co-conspirators, including two of the men accused of being behind the Khashoggi operation.

MBS, according to previously unreported WhatsApp text messages referenced in the complaint, demanded that Aljabri immediately return to Saudi Arabia. As he repeatedly refused, Aljabri alleges the Crown Prince escalated his threats, saying they would use “all available means” and threatened to “take measures that would be harmful to you.” The Crown Prince also barred Aljabri’s children from leaving the country.

The Saudi government in Riyadh, the embassy in Washington and the Crown Prince’s no-profit foundation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The US national security community has been tracking the Crown Prince’s vendetta against Aljabri “at the highest levels” according to a former senior US official. “Everybody knows it,” the former official said, “They know bin Salman wanted to lure Aljabri back to Saudi Arabia and failing that, that bin Salman would seek to find him outside with the intent to do him grave harm.”

Nine months before Aljabri says the Saudi team landed in Canada to kill him, his son Khalid was warned by FBI agents about threats on Aljabri and his family’s lives, according to the complaint. Khalid had arrived in Boston, and at Logan Airport, he was escorted to a meeting with two FBI agents, the complaint says, where he was purportedly told about bin Salman’s “campaign to hunt Dr. Saad and his family in the United States, and urged them to exercise caution.”

An adviser to Aljabri says the details on the Saudis who flew to Canada — but were turned around at the airport — came from western intelligence sources and private investigators.

Both the CIA and the FBI declined to comment. Officials on Capitol Hill who are aware of Aljabri’s new allegations could not corroborate the intelligence behind them.

In a royal court, where proximity to the US is paramount, MBS’s chief rival for the crown had been his older cousin Mohammed bin Nayef, similarly known as MBN. He and Aljabri, his longtime number two, had fostered close relationships with US intelligence officials over years of work together fighting terrorism, particularly against al Qaeda after 9/11. Aljabri’s commitment and depth of knowledge had impressed US intelligence offers and helped save countless lives, former officials say.

Dr. Saad Aljabri pictured in Riyadh, 2016.

In 2017, MBN was deposed and MBS was made the heir apparent to the throne of his father, King Salman. MBN was placed under house arrest and earlier this year was detained. Sensing trouble for those close to MBN, his right-hand man, Aljabri, who had already been removed from his post, fled to Turkey in mid-2017, leaving behind two of his children, Sarah and Omar.

Aljabri’s extensive knowledge would have been more beneficial to the Crown Prince than his death, argues Douglas London, a former Senior CIA Operations Officer who served extensively in the Middle East and retired in 2019. The goal of the Saudi team supposedly sent to Canada, he says, may have been to put Aljabri under observation to be able to render him back to Saudi Arabia, or kill him later.

“MBS is eager to neutralize the threat posed by Aljabri, whose intimate knowledge of the ruling family’s skeletons, and everyone else’s, and broad network, equipped him to enable any aspiring challenger to the crown,” London says. “I don’t rule out the possibility that MBS wanted to kill Aljabri, but it’s just as likely, if not more so, that were there a team deployed to Canada, MBS wanted to put Aljabri under observation, information from which might provide insight on his contacts and activities.”

MBS critic in Congress says allegations are ‘credible’

The allegations of the assassination squad are “credible,” says fervent MBS critic Rep. Tom Malinowski, a Democrat from New Jersey and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“When somebody who we already know is responsible for the kidnapping, rendition, murder and torture of other people in this category sends you a text message warning that bad things will happen to you, it’s fair to assume that he means business,” Malinowski said.

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The teenage children Aljabri left in the Kingdom were immediately barred from traveling, their father says, who pleaded with bin Salman to allow them to leave. The Crown Prince responded to the begging, Aljabri says, with WhatsApp messages saying “When I see you I will explain everything to you” and “I want you to come back tomorrow.”

A Saudi warrant was issued and a notice was filed with Interpol to limit his movements, Aljabri says, also accusing MBS of pressuring Turkey to extradite him.

In mid-March of this year, according to Aljabri, now-22 year-old Omar and 20-year-old Sarah were abducted from their home and haven’t been heard from since. The same month that the children had their travel permissions blocked, a relative of Aljabri’s was snatched off the streets of Dubai, taken back to Saudi Arabai and tortured, Aljabri says. The relative says he was told explicitly, according to the complaint, that he was being punished as a proxy for Aljabri.

Meanwhile, since President Donald Trump came into office, his administration has fostered a close working relationship with MBS. In particular, senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly developed direct correspondence with the 34-year-old ruler that continued at least through the Khashoggi ordeal.

Last month, a group of senators — including the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Marco Rubio — wrote to Trump calling on him to raise the issue of the Aljabri children with the Saudis, noting Aljabri’s ties to US intelligence and saying: “the Saudi government is believed to be using the children as leverage to try to force their father’s return to the kingdom from Canada.”

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The brutal murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul put a spotlight on the Crown Prince’s global campaign to violently stifle critics wherever they may be. Despite the US intelligence community assessing with high confidence that the execution was ordered by bin Salman, the failure by the Trump administration to condemn him has highlighted the impunity with which MBS operates. The Crown Prince denies any involvement in the operation while five members of the hit squad were sentenced to death by a Saudi court.

The assassins who killed Khashoggi were part of the Crown Prince’s so-called “Tiger Squad,” Aljabri says in his complaint, asserting that other members of the same team came after him. He claims the unit was born out of his own refusal to send counterterrorism forces under his command at the Interior Ministry to forcibly render a Saudi an insolent prince from Europe.

The Tiger Squad was formed, Aljabri says in the complaint, as a 50-strong “private death squad … with one unifying mission: loyalty to the personal whims of Defendant bin Salman.”

Aljabri alleges Saudi team arrived in Canada with ‘forensic tools’

Aljabri’s complaint says that around two weeks after Khashoggi was killed on October 2, 2018, 15 Saudi nationals arrived at Ottawa International Airport (the filing originally said Ontario but it has been corrected and is being resubmitted) with tourist visas to allegedly carry out the murder of Aljabri. Among them, he alleges, were multiple forensics specialists carrying “two bags of forensic tools” in their luggage.

According to the complaint, the team split up as they approached the customs kiosks but raised Canadian officials’ suspicions who allegedly found photographic evidence showing some of the members together. After a lawyer from the Saudi embassy was called, the brief says, the members of the team agreed to be deported back to Saudi Arabia. One continued into Canada on a diplomatic passport, Aljabri’s filing says.

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The mission, Aljabri says, was supervised back in Saudi Arabia by Saud al-Qahtani who was sanctioned by the Treasury Department for planning and executing the killing of Khashoggi. A second official named by Aljabri as an orchestrator, Ahmed al-Assiri, was also part of the Crown Prince’s inner circle and relieved of his duties after Khashoggi was murdered. Neither was given a stiffer punishment.

A Canadian cabinet minister declined to comment on the specific allegations made by Aljabri citing the legal proceedings, but said they are aware of foreign nationals having tried to monitor and threaten people in Canada.

“It is completely unacceptable and we will never tolerate foreign actors threatening Canada’s national security or the safety of our citizens and residents,” said Bill Blair, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

With the complaint, Aljabri is asking for a trial and seeking damages under the Torture Victim Protection Act and Alien Tort Statute. While the plot is said to have been attempted in Canada, a spokesman for Aljabri said the complaint is being filed in Washington because the suit alleges wrongdoing in the US.

Aljabri says the assassination attempt followed a campaign in both the US and Canada to hunt him down. He accuses MBS of using his non-profit foundation — MiSK — and the man who leads it, Bader Alasaker, of organizing agents in the US to find Aljabri.

One of them, Bijad Alharbi, a former close associate of Aljabri’s, was successful in tracking Aljabri down in Toronto after speaking with his son in Boston, according to the complaint.

Though the attempt by the assassination team to enter Canada to kill him failed, Aljabri says, he believes the mission continues. He claims MBS has now secured a fatwa — a religious ruling — that allows him to kill Aljabri. Aljabri also accuses the Crown Prince of making other attempts to get to Aljabri in Canada, including sending agents across the border with the US by land.

This story has been updated to add comment from the Canadian government and reflect a corrected court filing from Aljabri’s legal team.

CNN’s Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.



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