President Donald Trump’s administration has reached a $1 billion deal with the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson to mass produce a potential coronavirus vaccine, the administration announced Wednesday.
J&J is one of several companies the U.S. government is working with to research potential coronavirus vaccines, and the deal would cover the production of 100 million doses of the vaccine should it prove effective, the Hill reported Wednesday. The deal comes as part of Trump’s Operation War Speed, which aims at partnering the public and private sectors to minimize the time it takes to find a vaccine.
“With the portfolio of vaccines being assembled for Operation Warp Speed, the Trump Administration is increasing the likelihood that the United States will have at least one safe, effective vaccine by 2021,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said in a statement.
The timeline for vaccine research is traditionally measured in years, but Trump and experts have said a vaccine for COVID-19 could be ready before 2021.
Other experts have pointed out that it takes a great deal of time to mass produce a vaccine once it is proven safe. Under the Trump admin’s Warp Speed deals, several companies have already begun the process of mass production before the results are in from clinical trials, according to the Hill.
“We are scaling up production in the U.S. and worldwide to deliver a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for emergency use,” said Paul Stoffels, J&J’s chief scientific officer.
Trump also released a suite of four executive orders last week aimed at forcing companies like J&J to lower their prices for prescription drugs unrelated to the coronavirus.
The first order requires community health to centers pass on to their customers the discounts they have traditionally received on purchases of insulin and EpiPens. The second order allowed the U.S. to import drugs from Canada and other countries. The third requires that pharmaceutical “middlemen” pass on their discounts from drug manufacturers to their customers. The fourth would tie U.S. drug prices to the international price index, a system many other countries already use.
Trump said at the White House that the fourth order may not ultimately go into effect if drug companies present a workable plan for lowering drug prices prior to Aug. 24 at 12:00 p.m.
If they do not, he said the fourth order will go into effect and the U.S. will start pricing drugs based on the international index, Trump said.
President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that thousands of U.S. troops would move from Germany to Poland, thanks to what Trump called Germany’s “delinquency.”
Trump made the announcement alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda during a joint press conference in the White House Rose Garden. Trump thanked Poland for fully meeting its pledge to donate 2% of its annual GDP toward NATO defense efforts, a pledge only seven other countries are currently meeting. U.S. forces in Germany will decrease from 52,000 to roughly 25,000, and Trump said some of those will be moving to Poland.
“We look forward to signing a defense cooperation agreement” with Poland, Trump said.
While Duda thanked Trump for sending troops to his country, he also admitted that he had asked Trump not to remove any military forces from Europe. Under Trump’s move, more soldiers will be present in Poland but fewer forces will be present in Europe as a whole.
Trump decried Germany as “delinquent” for paying “just over one percent” of its GDP toward NATO. Trump has long criticized NATO countries for not contributing the agreed-upon 2% of GDP since gaining office in 2017.
Duda also decried certain actions taken by George Floyd protesters in the U.S., who recently defaced a monument to Polish-born soldiers who fought in the U.S. Revolutionary War.
“I am disgusted and appalled by the acts of vandalism committed against the statue of Thaddeus Kościuszko in D.C., a hero who fought for the independence of both the US and Poland” Polish Ambassador Piotr Wilczek said June 1, before asking the U.S. to “quickly restore the statue to its original state.”
The announcement comes days after the Chinese Communist Party imposed new national security restrictions on the city. Massive protests ensued and Chinese authorities arrested hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators.
“Beijing’s disastrous decision is only the latest in a series of actions that fundamentally undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms and China’s own promises to the Hong Kong people under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a U.N.-filed international treaty,” Pompeo said in a statement.
Hong Kong has for decades been a stronghold of Western-style democracy within communist China, but Chinese Leader Xi Jinping’s regime has increasingly encroached on its autonomy.
Hong Kong protesters demonstrated in large numbers throughout 2019 after city officials nearly passed an extradition bill that would have allowed residents to be transferred to the Chinese legal system, but the CCP’s latest move has gone far beyond that.
The U.S. has traditionally afforded Hong Kong special treatment due to its unique freedoms, but Pompeo’s message to Congress may end its special status with the U.S.
It is the State Department’s responsibility to verify Hong Kong’s autonomy from China under treaties made when the British government ceded control of the city in 1997, according to Fox News. Pompeo now says the city “does not continue to warrant treatment under United States laws in the same manner as U.S. laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1997.”
Trump himself stated in a Tuesday press briefing that he didn’t see how Hong Kong could maintain its status as a global financial hub once under China’s control. His administration has expressed solidarity with the people of Hong Kong, but it has not announced any retaliatory measures.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is expected to request an $1 trillion stimulus package to curb the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. economy, Bloomberg News reported Tuesday.
Mnuchin met with Republican leaders via conference call Monday and headed to the Capitol to meet with Republican Senate leaders Tuesday, according to Bloomberg. Reports suggest the Republicans are considering combining the bill into the existing coronavirus spending bill passed by the House last week. The stimulus push comes as the coronavirus has put the stock market in freefall, entirely eliminating the gains made since President Donald Trump took office in 2017.
Mnuchin was originally expected to request $850 billion, but upped the number after his meeting with Senate Republicans.
Mnuchin’s move comes as Trump’s resident China trade hawk Peter Navarro is leading efforts to draft a “Buy American” executive order that would allow companies to file certain expenses as tax write offs if they rejoin the American supply chain.
“China has managed to dominate all aspects of the supply chain using the same unfair trade practices that it has used to dominate other sectors — cheap sweatshop labor, lax environmental regulations and massive government subsidies,” Navarro said of the order. “As President Trump has said, what we need to do is bring those jobs home so that we can protect the public health and the economic and national security of the country.”
National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow teased potential stimulus measures Monday, suggesting the White House is “going to try to help” airlines “if they get into a cash crunch.”
“We have a lot more work to do,” Mnuchin told reporters.
The top six Democratic presidential candidates met in Las Vegas for the ninth Democratic Party primary debate Wednesday. It was the first time billionaire and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg qualified to make the stage, and his competitors clearly came compared to deal with him.
The candidates were Bloomberg, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
The ninth debate, put on by NBC and MSNBC, was far more combative than past debates, with moderators allowing candidates to go back and forth freely with their arguments.
This was also the first debate since Warren and Biden’s crash in the polls. Sanders mounted the stage as the firm frontrunner for the first time, followed by Buttigieg and Bloomberg, who invested tens of millions in online ads to near-instantaneously shoot him up in the polls.
The moderators for the debate were anchor Lester Holt, NBC News political director Chuck Todd, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson, Noticias Telemundo senior correspondent Vanessa Hauc, and Jon Ralston of The Nevada Independent.
Bloomberg Is Unwelcome:
The opening moments of the debate showed just how frustrated the veteran candidates were with Bloomberg’s sudden rise. Every candidate on the debate stage devoted their first turn at the mic to attacking Bloomberg in some form or another.
Sanders took the opportunity to criticize Bloomberg’s past support for stop-and-frisk, a policing policy that has widely been derided as racist among Democrats.
Bloomberg replied by arguing that Sanders was radical and unelectable.
“I don’t think there’s any chance Sanders can win,” he said.
The moderators’ more lax rules for debate then came into play for the first time when Warren interjected to highlight that Bloomberg is alleged to have described female employees as “fat broads and horse-faced lesbians.”
Bloomberg was not given a chance to respond before Klobuchar opened up. She highlighted a message the Bloomberg campaign had sent out earlier in the day saying other candidates needed to drop out lest Sanders gain an insurmountable delegate lead.
Klobuchar implied the message was sexist, saying “I’ve been told many times to wait my turn and step aside. I’m not doing it.”
Later on in the debate, moderators forced Bloomberg to engage with accusations of sexism in his companies.
“I have no tolerance for the kind of behavior that the #MeToo movement exposed,” he replied, going on to mention that he employed many women.
Moderators then turned to Warren, and she characterized his response as Bloomberg saying “I’ve been nice to some women.”
In one of the highlights of the debate, Warren took Bloomberg to task for the various non-disclosure agreements Bloomberg’s female employees have signed after accusing the company of sexism and called for him to release them from the agreements. The crowd ate up her criticism, launching into applause at each statement she made.
Biden then joined in on the attack, doubling down on Warren’s call for Bloomberg to release the women from their NDAs.
“All the mayor has to say is ‘you are released from the non-disclosure agreements,’” Biden said to mass applause. “You think women in fact were ready to say ‘I don’t want anyone to know about what you did to me.’ That’s not how it works.”
The crowd remained heavily against Bloomberg during the exchange, booing his excuse that the NDAs were made “consensually” with the employees.
Do Democrats Support Capitalism?
Moderators questioned Sanders on his past statements that billionaires should not exist, especially in the context of Bloomberg’s presence on the stage.
Sanders argued that Bloomberg held more wealth than millions of Americans combined, and that it is “grotesque” and “immoral.”
“Have you earned too much? Did you earn that much money?” moderators asked.
Bloomberg replied that he had and that he had worked very hard for it, and the audience applauded. Bloomberg argued that throwing out capitalism was giving Trump a free ticket to a second term.
“We know what throwing out capitalism does. We tried that. Other countries tried that. It was called communism and it just didn’t work,” Bloomberg said as Sanders protested.
Sanders argued calling his program communism was “a cheap shot” and that he only supported democratic socialism.
Holt then questioned him on American voters’ distaste for socialism in polls, to which Sanders cited his solid lead in national polling among Democrats.
“The best known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses. What did I miss here?” Bloomberg replied before he and Sanders entered into a heated exchange about wealth.
Sanders was repeatedly attacked for lacking support from Nevada’s Culinary Union, which notably sent out a flyer telling its 60,000 members that Sanders’ health care plan would destroy their current coverage, which was negotiated by union leadership.
“I will never sign a bill that will reduce the health care benefits they get. We will only expand it,” Sanders argued.
Candidates then used the Culinary Union issue to transfer into a more general health care battle, with Warren targeting Buttigieg and Klobuchar.
Klobuchar went straight for the jugular of Sanders and Warren’s Medicare-for-All plans, arguing that two-thirds of Democratic senators weren’t on board with the idea.
“Don’t put your money on a plan that isn’t even on the wheel,” Klobuchar said, riffing on the Las Vegas debate location.
Biden then cut in, arguing “I’m the only one who’s got anything done on health care.”
Bloomberg was late in coming to the health care debate, but he wasn’t soft with his comments.
His policies mirrored that of Buttigieg’s Medicare-For-All-Who-Want-It plan, and when Biden attempted to interject, Bloomberg replied with a stern “bup bup, let me finish,” and Biden was immediately shut down.
“Leadership is about what you draw out of people,” Buttigieg said. “Leadership is about how you motivate other people to treat other people, and I think at some point you need to ask yourself why your supporters are bullying.”
Buttigieg then highlighted the fact that Bloomberg and Sanders are leading the polls despite being the most polarizing candidates on the stage.
“We shouldn’t have to pick between someone who thinks capitalism is the root of all evil and a man who thinks money ought to be the root of all power. Let’s put forward someone who’s actually a Democrat,” he said to wide applause and mixed booing.
When moderators turned to the topic of climate change, candidates largely mirrored their previous statements on the issue. Bloomberg, however, was given his first chance to talk about the issue on a debate stage.
Bloomberg said he would, on his first day as president, rejoin the Paris Agreement, going on to argue that the need for international cooperation is why he has been sympathetic to China.
He went on to argue that fracking was a “transition fuel” that the US would need to maintain before transferring to a totally green economy. He created a distinction between “dangerous” fracking that let methane into the air and “safer” fracking which did not.
Buttigieg’s reply implied there was no time for transitional fuels, and he argued that “the deadline is 2020” for dealing with climate change.
Democratic National Convention:
Moderators finished the night off by getting each candidate on the record saying whether the candidate with the highest number of delegates after the first round of voting at the Democratic National Convention should take the nomination, whoever it may be.
Sanders, who leads the pack, was the only candidate to answer in the affirmative. The rest replied that the party’s process should be allowed to run its course.
If no candidate obtains a majority in the first round of voting, superdelegate voters not pledged to any candidate would be allowed to weigh in. These were the voters many Sanders supporters blamed for stealing the party’s presidential nomination from him in 2016.
Moderators then gave candidates the chance to give their closing statements.
Protesters yelled over Biden’s closing statement, but the rest of the crowd shouted them down and they were escorted out.
Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden appeared to call for returning U.S. military troops to Syria in response to a question from CNN’s Anderson Cooper during Thursday night’s debate.
Cooper started off by asking Biden whether he supported President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria, abandoning the Kurds, our long-time allies in the region. Biden said he did not support the move and pivoted to an additional 1,000 troops who he said were in retreat in the middle east “under fire.” When Cooper pressed for a yes-or-no answer, Biden appeared to say he would redeploy troops.
“I would want those 1,000 troops to be protected by air cover, and make it clear they’re not going anywhere,” Biden said. “And work my way back toward what needs to be done: protecting those Kurds. They lost lives, and what [Trump] has done is shameful.”
President Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw us soldiers from the region in early October. Turkish forces invaded the region afterward and the Kurds formed and alliance with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. The move sparked criticism from both the right and left, with President Trump’s long-time ally Sen. Lindsay Graham calling it an “impulsive decision.”
Hope and expect sanctions against Turkey – if necessary – would be veto-proof.
This decision to abandon our Kurdish allies and turn Syria over to Russia, Iran, & Turkey will put every radical Islamist on steroids. Shot in the arm to the bad guys. Devastating for the good guys.
“This decision to abandon our Kurdish allies and turn Syria over to Russia, Iran, & Turkey will put every radical Islamist on steroids. Shot in the arm to the bad guys. Devastating for the good guys,” he wrote on Twitter.