Briefs: CDC tells states to be ready for vaccine in November

(Photo by James Gathany | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Associated Press

News briefs for September 3

The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I.  — The federal government has told states to prepare for a coronavirus vaccine to be ready to distribute by Nov. 1. 

The timeline raised concern among public health experts about an "October surprise" — a vaccine approval driven by political considerations ahead of a presidential election, rather than science.

In a letter to governors dated Aug. 27, Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said states "in the near future" will receive permit applications from McKesson Corp., which has contracted with CDC to distribute vaccines to places including state and local health departments and hospitals.

"CDC urgently requests your assistance in expediting applications for these distribution facilities and, if necessary, asks that you consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from becoming fully operational by November 1, 2020," Redfield wrote.

He wrote that any waivers will not compromise the safety or effectiveness of the vaccine. The Associated Press obtained the letter, which was first reported by McClatchy.

Video in Black man's suffocation shows cops put hood on him

A Black man who had run naked through the streets of a western New York city died of asphyxiation after a group of police officers put a hood over his head, then pressed his face into the pavement for two minutes, according to video and records released Wednesday by the man's family.

Daniel Prude died March 30 after he was taken off life support, seven days after the encounter with police in Rochester. His death received no public attention until Wednesday, when his family held a news conference and released police body camera video and written reports they obtained through a public records request. 

"I placed a phone call for my brother to get help. Not for my brother to get lynched," Prude's brother, Joe Prude, said at a news conference. "How did you see him and not directly say, 'The man is defenseless, buck naked on the ground. He's cuffed up already. Come on.' How many more brothers gotta die for society to understand that this needs to stop?"

The videos show Prude, who had taken off his clothes, complying when police ask him to get on the ground and put his hands behind his back. Prude is agitated and shouting as he sits on the pavement in handcuffs for a few moments as a light snow falls. "Give me your gun, I need it," he shouts.

Then, they put a white "spit hood" over his head, a device intended to protect officers from a detainee's saliva. At the time, New York was in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden: Trump ignores pandemic, stokes unrest, solves neither

WILMINGTON, Del. — Joe Biden is calling the struggle to reopen U.S. schools amid the coronavirus a "national emergency" and accusing President Donald Trump of turning his back to stoke passions instead about unrest in America's cities.

The Democratic presidential nominee's broadsides came a day ahead of his own trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Biden said he wants to help "heal" a city reeling from another police shooting of a Black man. The wounding of Jacob Blake and subsequent demonstrations have made the political battleground state a focal point for debate over police and protest violence, as well as the actions of vigilante militias.

Biden assailed Trump for his vilifying of protesters as well as his handling of the pandemic that has killed nearly 190,000 Americans and crippled the national economy, leaving millions out of work, schools straining to deal with students in classrooms or at home and parents struggling to keep up. An American president, Trump's challenger declared, should be able to lead through multiple crises at the same time.

"Where is the president? Why isn't he working on this?," Biden asked. "We need emergency support funding for our schools — and we need it now. Mr. President, that is your job. That's what you should be focused on — getting our kids back to school. Not whipping up fear and division — not inciting violence in our streets."

Trump answered almost immediately with his own event in North Carolina, where he continued casting the protests generally as "violent mobs here at home" that must be met with a strong show of force. "These people know one thing: strength," he said. If local leaders would ask for federal muscle, Trump said, "We'll have it done in one hour." 

House subpoenas embattled Postal Service leader over delays

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House Oversight Committee on Wednesday subpoenaed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for records about the widespread mail delivery delays that have pulled the Postal Service into the political spotlight as it prepares to handle an onslaught of ballots in the November election.

The subpoena, which seeks documents related to operational changes that have slowed mail and the agency's plans for the presidential election, comes after committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney said DeJoy has not sufficiently answered the panel's requests for more information. 

"It is clear that a subpoena has become necessary to further the Committee's investigation and help inform potential legislative actions," Maloney, D-N.Y., said this week. 

DeJoy, a major donor to Republicans and President Donald Trump, took over the agency in June after a career in logistics and set in motion a set of policy changes that have delayed mail and sparked concern over the agency's ability to process mail-in ballots this fall. 

He has appeared before Congress twice in recent weeks to testify about the removal of the agency's blue collection boxes and mail sorting machines, as well as changes to trucking operations and overtime hours that postal workers say are resulting in delays. Amid a public outcry, DeJoy said he halted some of the changes until after election. 

Tom Seaver, heart and mighty arm of Miracle Mets, dies at 75

NEW YORK  — Tom Seaver transformed a franchise and captivated a city, setting enduring standards as he whipped his powerful right arm overhead for the Miracle Mets and dirtied his right knee atop major league mounds for two decades.

A consummate pro and pitching icon, he finished fulfilled after a career remembered with awe long after his final strikeout.

"It is the last beautiful flower in the perfect bouquet," Seaver said on the afternoon he was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame.

Seaver, the galvanizing force who steered the New York Mets from the National League cellar to a stunning World Series title in 1969, has died. He was 75.

The Hall said Wednesday night that Seaver died Monday from complications of Lewy body dementia and COVID-19. Seaver spent his final years in Calistoga, California.

Critics: Eviction ban may only delay wave of homelessness

BOSTON — Housing advocates say the Trump administration's surprise national moratorium on evictions only delays a wave of crushing debt and homelessness, and an attorney representing landlords questions whether the measure is aimed at voters ahead of the November election.

The White House announced Tuesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would act under its broad powers to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The measure would forbid landlords from evicting anyone for failure to pay rent, providing the renter meets four criteria.

Critics call it everything from an empty stall tactic to an outright political ploy.

"My first reaction was, 'Thank God,'" said Matthew Hill, an attorney with the Public Justice Center in Baltimore. But he noted that tenants will be expected to repay their rent when the moratorium expires on Jan. 1, and without some kind of rental assistance, "we are just going to be kicking the can down the road."

Richard Vetstein, the lead attorney representing landlords who are challenging an eviction moratorium in Massachusetts, called the CDC order "convoluted" and poorly drafted.

Fact check: Attorney General warns of voter fraud

As the 2020 presidential race between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden heats up, Attorney General William Barr warned of the potential of substantial fraud in voting by mail — but he omitted necessary context, and states that rely on the process say there is little evidence of such activity.

He also suggested that China poses more of a threat to election security than Russia, even though that was not the conclusion of an official intelligence assessment last month.

Here's a look at the claims, made in a Wednesday evening interview with CNN:

BARR on fraud in the vote-by-mail process: "Elections that have been held with mail have found substantial fraud and coercion."

THE FACTS: Multiple studies have debunked the notion of pervasive voter fraud in general and in the vote-by-mail process.

The five states that relied on mail-in ballots even before the coronavirus pandemic — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah — have said they have necessary safeguards in place to ensure against fraud and to prevent hostile foreign actors from co-opting the vote. More states intend to rely more heavily on mail-in voting this fall because of the pandemic.

The attorney general cited a report from more than a decade ago from a commission led by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker that said vote-by-mail was vulnerable to fraud. But the commission pointed out in a statement in May that it had found little evidence of fraud in states like Oregon that had sufficient safeguards.

Barr also said he was basing on "logic" his concern that a hostile foreign actor could produce bogus ballots for the election. But senior U.S. officials said on a conference call with reporters last week that they had no intelligence to suggest that was happening.

BARR, on the question of whether Russia, China or Iran, has been most assertive in interfering in the election: "I believe it's China."

THE FACTS: Barr's assessment does not line up with last month's formal statement from the government's counterintelligence chief, William Evanina. 

The statement directly implicated Russia in 2020 election interference by saying it was actively working to denigrate Biden. Its characterization of China's activities was considerably more nebulous, however, saying it regards Trump as unpredictable and prefers that he not win. 

The statement said intelligence officials believed China has been expanding "its influence efforts" to shape the policy environment ahead of the November election and will continue to weigh the risks and benefits of aggressive action. But they did not specifically place China as a more serious threat or allege that Beijing was directly interfering in the election.

Barr said he had reviewed intelligence to inform his assessment on China, which lines up with recent comments from national intelligence director John Ratcliffe and is in keeping with the Trump administration's position that Beijing presents significant national security concerns for the U.S., particularly when it comes to espionage and the theft of intellectual property from American universities and businesses.

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