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Cuomo asked Pfizer to sell its COVID-19 vaccine directly to New York, as the head of the WHO warns of mounting inequities in vaccine distribution

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 8:41pm
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked Pfizer on Monday to sell its coronavirus vaccine directly to his state.
  • On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on pharmaceutical company Pfizer to sell doses of its coronavirus vaccine directly to New York state.
  • The proposal to work directly with New York's state government would require Pfizer to bypass the federal government's Operation Warp Speed campaign to vaccinate hundreds of millions of Americans.
  • "The distribution of any doses obtained directly from Pfizer will follow the rigorous guidance the State has established, while enabling us to fill the dosage gap created this week by the outgoing federal administration," Cuomo wrote in a letter to Pfizer.
  • Pfizer told Insider in an email on Monday that before being able to sell vaccines directly to US states, the Department of Health and Human Services would have to sign off on the plan.
  • "Pfizer is open to collaborating with HHS on a distribution model that gives as many Americans as possible access to our vaccine as quickly as possible," the firm told Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on pharmaceutical company Pfizer to sell doses of its coronavirus vaccine directly to New York state, in the hopes of accelerating a process that has languished in recent weeks.

The request would require Pfizer to circumvent the federal government's Operation Warp Speed - a campaign to produce and distribute some 300 million doses to Americans in an effort to end the pandemic - and deal directly with Cuomo's state administration.

"Because you are not bound by commitments that Moderna made as part of Operation Warp Speed, I am requesting that the State of New York be permitted to directly purchase doses from you," Cuomo wrote on Monday in a letter to Albert Bourla, the chairman and CEO of Pfizer, which is headquartered in New York City.

"The distribution of any doses obtained directly from Pfizer will follow the rigorous guidance the State has established, while enabling us to fill the dosage gap created this week by the outgoing federal administration," Cuomo added. "All of this will further our goal to vaccinate 70 to 90% of New Yorkers as soon as possible and reach herd immunity."

Before being able to sell its vaccine directly to individual US states, Pfizer told Insider that the firm would first require approval from the Department of Health and Human Services

"We appreciate Governor Cuomo's kind words and the pride he expressed in his letter that Pfizer is a New York-headquartered company," the firm told Insider in an email on Monday. "Pfizer is open to collaborating with HHS on a distribution model that gives as many Americans as possible access to our vaccine as quickly as possible," the company added, but noted that it would need the green light from the HHS before such a sale could take place.

Read more: Health officials slam Walgreens and CVS for 'fiasco' vaccine rollout to nursing homes

As of Monday evening, more than 645,000 vaccines had been distributed in the state of New York, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.

That number of doses would be enough to reach 3.3% of New York's statewide population, which was determined to be nearly 19.5 million people, according to 2019 US Census Bureau data.

Last spring, New York was one of the hardest-hit states nationwide in the early stages of the pandemic

So far, the state has recorded more than 1.24 million confirmed COVID cases and nearly 41,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

In his letter on Monday, Cuomo warned that hospitalizations and deaths are once again "increasing across the country this winter," putting Americans in a "footrace with the virus."

"We will lose unless we dramatically increase the number of doses getting to New Yorkers," Cuomo wrote, noting that New Yorkers are on track to receive just 250,000 vaccine doses this week, which is down from last week's numbers.

Pfizer developed its two-dose vaccine in tandem with the pharmaceutical company BioNTech. The vaccine was first approved for use in the US by the Food and Drug Administration on December 11, as a preventive tool against COVID-19 - a disease that has thwarted US public health measures for nearly a year, and claimed the lives of nearly 400,000 Americans.

Representatives for Gov. Cuomo's office did not immediately return a request for comment from Insider on Monday evening.

The head of the World Health Organization warned of inequities in global vaccine distribution on Monday

On the same day as Cuomo's request, the director-general of the World Health Organization issued a stark warning about a burgeoning threat he sees which could impact efforts to vaccinate vulnerable people worldwide.

"It is not right that younger, healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking during a WHO executive board session.

"More than 39 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries, but just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country," Tedros said. He said that the disparity in vaccine availability in rich and poor nations had pushed the world to "the brink of catastrophic moral failure."

Read more: The world is 'on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure' by failing to get vaccines to poorer countries, the WHO warns

As roll-outs of coronavirus vaccines including those created by pharmaceuticals companies Pfizer and Moderna have languished in the US in recent weeks, Tedros hasn't been the only world leader to shine a light on the crisis.

President-elect Joe Biden warned in late December that, at the current pace, it would "take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people."

Biden said that, once in office, he'd invoke federal powers including the Defense Production Act to accelerate vaccine production in an effort to meet growing demand.

One order of business the new president will inherit when he is sworn into office Wednesday will be how to stitch together a more cohesive federal response to the pandemic. The absence of a single coordinated effort has stymied some state administrations as they have tried to get on the same page about how best to control the disease.

In New York, Cuomo seemed to express frustration toward what he called "shifting guidance" from the CDC in regard to who should receive the vaccine first in his state.

"Shifting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention drove the number of New Yorkers eligible and prioritized for the vaccine from 5 million to 7 million practically overnight," Cuomo wrote in his letter to Pfizer's Bourla. "The federal administration essentially opened up a floodgate while cutting our supply - leading to confusion, frustration, and dashed hopes."

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Trump is planning to sneak away to Florida instead of attending the Biden inauguration, FAA data reveals

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 6:05pm
President Donald Trump boarding Air Force One.
  • President Donald Trump appears to be heading south to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida instead of attending Joe Biden's inauguration. 
  • The Federal Aviation Administration issued temporary flight restrictions over the private club for January 20, indicating the president's arrival.
  • One of Trump's final tweets confirmed suspicions that he wouldn't be at the Biden inauguration. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump appears to be traveling to a warmer climate instead of attending the inauguration of Joe Biden on Wednesday.

Flight restrictions were just issued for the skies above Palm Beach, Florida by the Federal Aviation Administration for January 20, indicating the president will head south on his last day in office and skip the traditional Capitol send-off by choppering out of Washington on Marine One. 

Palm Beach is home to Trump's Mar-a-Lago private club; it's become the winter White House during his administration - and his frequent retreat spot. Trump has spent 133 days at the club, according to an NBC News tracker, and has held summits there with world leaders there including Chinese President Xi Jinping and former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Trump changed his address to Palm Beach in October 2019, the New York Times reported, and is said to be moving there permanently following his time in office

Read more: GOP kicks Trump to curb after deadly Capitol insurrection, leaving the president to fend for himself during his historic 2nd impeachment

The move is in line with one of the president's final tweets from his personal Twitter account, where he stated in no uncertain terms that he would not be attending Biden's inauguration. 

"To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th," Trump said in a now-hidden tweet. (Twitter suspended the president's personal account on January 8 after the Capitol riots.)

The White House did not immediately respond to Insider's request for confirmation of the president's travel plans.

Protecting the president while traveling

The FAA issues what it calls temporary flight restrictions whenever the president and vice president leave Washington. Pilots are typically not allowed to fly within a few miles of the president's location without authorization when the restrictions are in place. 

The new restrictions start at 10:45 a.m. on January 20, at which point pilots won't be able to fly within 10 nautical miles and 18,000 feet of Palm Beach International Airport. The restrictions will expire at noon, when the president's term ends. Mar-a-Lago sits mere feet from the approach path to the airport's easterly runways. 

A separate flight restriction was issued for the skies directly above Mar-a-Lago, but they're less stringent. From 11:30 a.m. on January 20 until 12:30 p.m. on January 21, pilots won't be able to fly within 3 nautical miles and 3,000 feet of the club.

Local flight schools near Palm Beach have been languishing under the presidential airspace restrictions as general aviation aircraft on training flights are typically prohibited from operating within the restricted airspace or departing from airports below. Flight schools lose an estimated $30,000 on weekends when President Trump visits and $50,000 on long weekends, according to the Aircraft Owner's and Pilot's Association. 

Trump's visits to Palm Beach became so frequent that the federal government began reimbursing flight schools for lost revenue. Aid in the amount of $3.5 million was included in a 2019 spending bill for general aviation operators affected by the president's travels.

Trump has rarely left the White House in January, barring a few trips to Georgia on the campaign trail for Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, and a final visit to Texas.  A rare weekend trip to Camp David was planned for just two days after the US Capitol Building riots, a White House official confirmed to Insider, but the trip was later scrubbed. 

And while the transition of power will be peaceful, the president may not be going silently aboard Air Force One into his post-political life. A departure ceremony is reportedly being planned at Andrews Air Force Base for Trump, according to USA Today, with as much pomp and circumstance as the series finale of a television show. 

A color guard and 21-gun salute are on the agenda, USA Today reported.

Vice President Mike Pence, who had sparred with Trump in the days surrounding the Electoral College certification, is said to be attending the inauguration

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The man accused of breaking the window Ashli Babbitt tried to climb through when she was shot during the Capitol insurrection has been arrested

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 5:46pm
Riots at the US Capitol Building.
  • Chad Barrett Jones, 42, of Coxs Creek, Kentucky, was arrested in Louisville on Saturday, the FBI said in a news release.
  • Jones is accused of breaking a window of the Capitol building moments before Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot during the insurrection earlier this month. 
  • He's facing multiple charges, including assault on a federal officer, destruction of government property, obstruction of justice, unlawful entry on restricted building or grounds, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A Kentucky man who is accused of breaking a window of the Capitol building moments before Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot during the insurrection earlier this month has been arrested.

Chad Barrett Jones, 42, of Coxs Creek, Kentucky, was arrested in Louisville on Saturday and charged with assault on a federal officer, destruction of government property, obstruction of justice, unlawful entry on restricted building or grounds, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, the FBI said in a news release.

According to an FBI charging affidavit, Jones broke a window near the House Speaker's Lobby that Babbitt tried to climb through as she was fatally shot.

The affidavit cites video from the Washington Post, alleging that Jones can be seen striking a door to the lobby's glass panels with what appeared to be a wooden flag pole.

The crowd around the man can be heard shouting "Break it down" and "let's f------ go!" as he struck the glass, the FBI said.

Seconds after the glass panel was broken, Babbitt, 35, was shot by a police officer as she tried to climb through it to enter the lobby.

Babbitt and four others died in the Capitol riot, which was carried out by supporters of President Donald Trump who stormed the building as Congress debated Electoral College votes from the 2020 election won by President-elect Joe Biden.

FBI Special Agent Javier Gonzalez said in the affidavit that a witness identified Jones through a tip to the FBI National Threat Operation Center.

The witness said Jones was a relative who had told him he traveled to Washington DC and had used a flag pole holding a flag supporting Trump to break the Capitol window.

Another person, who identified himself as a friend of Jones, told the FBI that Jones had called him after seeing himself on the news, and called himself an idiot, according to the affidavit.

Jones is scheduled to appear in court on January 19.

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Mobile ad tech firm Pocketmath shuts down

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 5:20pm

Hi! Welcome to the Insider Advertising daily for January 19. I'm Lauren Johnson, a senior advertising reporter at Business Insider. Subscribe here to get this newsletter in your inbox every weekday. Send me feedback or tips at LJohnson@businessinsider.com.

Today's news: Mobile ad tech firm Pocketmath shuts down, shareholders seek to pressure Omnicom and Home Depot, and how the vaccine could boost pharmacies' business.

FILE PHOTO: A man talks on his iPhone at a mobile phone store in New Delhi An adtech company has quietly shut down after facing allegations of unpaid billsClick here to read the full story. Shareholders call on big advertisers Omnicom and Home Depot to investigate whether Facebook, Google, and Twitter's ads fuel violence and hate speechClick here to read the full story. Registered nurse Nikki Galanakis, 28, is given the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, in South Los Angeles, California, December 17, 2020. How pharmacies and retailers like Walmart, Kroger, and Rite Aid could benefit from the vaccination pushClick here to read the full story.More stories we're reading:

Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow! You can reach me in the meantime at LJohnson@businessinsider.com and subscribe to this daily email here.

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LA County has suspended air-quality regulations that limit the number of cremations as it handles a 'backlog' of bodies from the pandemic

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 4:20pm
In this Jan. 12, 2020 file photo, provided by the LA County Dept. of Medical Examiner-Coroner Elizabeth "Liz" Napoles, right, works alongside with National Guardsmen who are helping to process the COVID-19 deaths to be placed into temporary storage at LA County Medical Examiner-Coroner Office in Los Angeles.
  • The South Coast Air Quality Management District said in a news release on Sunday that it as lifting air-quality regulations that limit the number of cremations that can be performed in Los Angeles County.
  • The agency said the regulation was lifted to officials could handle a "backlog" of bodies of people who have died in LA County during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The regulation has been lifted for 10 days, with the option to b extended. 
  • LA County is currently seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases and has reported 13,848 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Los Angeles County has temporarily lifted air-quality regulations that limit the number of cremations that can be performed monthly as officials handle a "backlog" of bodies of people who have died during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District said in a news release on Sunday that it was issuing an emergency order to lift the cremation limit put in place "based on potential air quality impacts" after requests from the Los Angeles County Medical-Examiner Coroner (ME-Coroner) and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

According to an order issued by South Coast AQMD, which regulates air pollution in multiple counties across Southern California, as of January 15, there were more than 2,700 bodies being stored at hospitals in LA County and at the Coroner's office and officials didn't have the resources or capability to perform cremations under current regulations.

"The current rate of death is more than double that of pre-pandemic years, leading to hospitals, funeral homes, and crematoriums exceeding capacity without the ability to process the backlog of cases," the agency said, adding that any facility planning to exceed cremation limits should file an email notice citing capacity and temperature requirements.

Los Angeles County has reported 13,848 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and more than 1 million cases overall.

Hospitals recently said they were running out of oxygen, while in December a coffin manufacturer said east LA was facing a wood shortage due to demand increase amid COVID-19 deaths.

The South Coast AQMD said the order lifting cremation regulations would last 10 days but may be extended as the county coroner "anticipates that another surge is approaching as a result of the New Year's holiday since deaths tend to occur 4-6 weeks after gatherings."

The agency said all other air-quality rule requirements would remain in effect during its lift on cremation restrictions.

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Tell us what Kamala Harris making history as vice president means to you - and the country

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 3:25pm
Kamala Harris will be sworn in as vice president on Wednesday.
  • On Wednesday, Kamala Harris will make history as she's sworn in as the nation's first female, Black, and South Asian American vice president. 
  • For millions of Americans, Jan. 20 will mark the first time they'll see themselves reflected at the highest level of government.
  • Insider wants our readers to reflect on this unprecedented moment in American history — which takes place against the backdrop of a recent, violent insurrection, and a persisting threat of pro-Trump extremists heading to Washington, DC once again.
  • Tell us how it will feel to watch Harris get inaugurated. We're gathering responses for a project about this historic day and what it means to them.
  • Scroll down to share your thoughts with Insider. We may contact you to follow up on your responses.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Inauguration Day will be a landmark moment in American history. Former California Senator Kamala Harris will become the first Black and South Asian American woman sworn in as vice president. With one oath, she will also become the highest-ranking woman in US political history. 

The symbolism of this moment could not be more profound. 

Harris takes office when America's racial inequalities have been thrust to the fore by the pandemic, 2020 election, and months-long protests against police brutality. Millions of people who have never seen such representation in this country will now see themselves reflected in one of the country's highest-ranking leaders. 

But Harris's inauguration will take place under the watch of thousands of National Guard troops and behind a quickly-erected, city-wide fortress meant to stave off a repeat of January 6, when a racist, pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol.

There's no doubt Harris's moment will be remembered by history. But how does this moment feel for Americans right now?

We want you to tell us how you'll experience her Inauguration - and how you think history should remember this moment - using the form below. 

Will you watch her inauguration with your daughters? Will you get together on Zoom with friends and family to experience this day together? Who in your life will you think of at that moment? What will Inauguration Day mean to you and the country's future?

Insider will use your responses to compile a story featuring your memories of this historic and symbolic day.

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Fox News required its settlement with the family of killed DNC staffer Seth Rich remain undisclosed until after the 2020 election

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 2:29pm
A close-up of the Fox News Channel website with a picture of President Donald Trump displayed on a smartphone.
  • In settling a lawsuit with the parents of Seth Rich, the DNC staffer murdered in 2016, Fox News stipulated the settlement remain private until after the 2020 election, The New York Times reported. 
  • The multi-million dollar settlement was announced at the end of November, more than a month after it was reached on October 12, according to the report.
  • Seth Rich was shot and killed in July 2016 in Washington, DC, and his death prompted numerous, baseless conspiracy right-wing conspiracy theories related to Wikileaks publishing of internal DNC emails.
  • His parents, Mary and Joel Rich, sued Fox News two years ago for emotional distress.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Fox News stipulated its multi-million dollar settlement with the family of murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich remain undisclosed to the public until the November 3 election had passed, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The Sunday report came from Ben Smith, The New York Times' media columnist. 

As The New York Times reported, the October 2020 settlement came not long before Fox News personalities Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs were set to testify under oath in the case. Rich's family agreed to the terms of the settlement, according to the report, including that it not be made public until after the election.

On Monday, a Fox News spokesperson declined to answer any of Insider's questions regarding The New York Times' reporting. The cable news network and its lawyer similarly declined to comment to The New York Times for its report.

Read more: Mitch McConnell is telling GOP senators their decision on a Trump impeachment trial conviction is a 'vote of conscience'

Rich was shot in killed in July 2016 in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, DC. The 27-year-old's death spawned a number of right-wing conspiracy theories, including that he had provided emails from the DNC to WikiLeaks as part of a 2016 leak. Those who propagated the unfounded theory, including Fox News on-air talent, speculated Rich's death was somehow part of a cover-up.

According to The New York Times, the settlement from Fox News to Rich's family was so extensive that it did not require the network to publicly apologize for a since-retracted May 2017 report on the network's website that aired the theory that Rich had been involved in the DNC email leak.

There is no evidence to support the theory, and DC police previously said Rich's death was likely part of a robbery gone wrong in a neighborhood that had experienced multiple armed robberies at the time, according to a previous Insider report by Jacob Shamsian.

The conspiracy theory helped President Donald Trump's allies to distract from the fact that Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC, Insider's David Choi previously reported.

News of the settlement between Rich's parents, Joel and Mary Rich, and Fox News was made public in late November last year, over a month after the October 12 settlement was reached. As Insider reported at the time, the settlement brought to an end a two-year legal battle that began when Joel and Mary Rich sued the cable news network for emotional distress.

"The settlement with Fox News closes another chapter in our efforts to mourn the murder of our beloved Seth, whom we miss every single day," Joel and Mary Rich said in a statement in November 2020.

"It allows us to move on from the litigation we initiated in response to Fox News' May 2017 article and televised statements concerning Seth's murder. We are pleased with the settlement of this matter and sincerely hope that the media will take genuine caution in the future."

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The Trump administration gave more than $850,000 in PPP loans to prominent anti-vaccine groups

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 2:26pm
An anti-vaccination fundraiser.
  • Top anti-vaccine advocacy groups received PPP funding from the Trump administration, The Washington Post reported.
  • American distrust in the safety of COVID-19 vaccinations continues to pose a threat to public health.
  • K. "Vish" Viswanath, a professor of health communication at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Insider that anti-vaccine groups are "likely to perpetuate the adverse impacts of the pandemic." 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Five top anti-vaccine advocacy organizations that have spread medical misinformation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic received funding from the Trump administration's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), The Washington Post reported Monday.

The loans from the Small Business Administration totaled more than $850,000, according to the report.

K. "Vish" Viswanath, a professor of health communication at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Insider that to call the loans ironic "doesn't do justice to my feelings." He said anti-vaccine groups are "likely to perpetuate the adverse impacts of the pandemic." 

The groups that reportedly received PPP funding were the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), Mercola Com Health Resources LLC, Informed Consent Action Network, Children's Health Defense Co., and the Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center, The Post reported, citing an exclusive report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a UK-based advocacy group that fights hate and misinformation online. 

"Lending money to these organizations so they can prosper is a sickening use of taxpayer money," Countering Digital Hate CEO Imran Ahmed told The Washington Post. "These groups are actively working to undermine the national COVID vaccination drive, which will create long-term health problems that are felt most acutely in minority communities and low-income neighborhoods." 

The largest loan - $335,000 - was given to Mercola, a website published by the anti-vaccine activist Joseph Mercola. NewsGuard, a nonprofit that tracks misinformation, reported that the site has "published false claims about standard medical practices such as vaccinations."

Mercola, a businessman and doctor of osteopathic medicine, is himself a major donor of the NVIC. The Washington Post reported in 2019 that Mercola gave the NVIC $2.9 million, making up roughly 40% of the group's funding. Mercola has millions of followers on Facebook. 

Amazon has been criticized for including the NVIC in its Amazon Smile program, contributing $40,000 in donations to the group. 

A study released last summer found that vaccines are safer than "almost any other modern medical intervention." But, as medical misinformation has continued to spread at a dangerous pace on social media amid the pandemic, public health experts have said that distrust for the US government and healthcare system poses a challenge in its rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

The Pew Research Center said in a December report that about 39% of Americans said they would definitely not, or probably not, get the vaccine. 21% of American adults surveyed said they were "pretty certain" that new information about COVID-19 vaccination would not change their minds.  

Anti-vaccine advocacy groups have played a major role in propagating that distrust, Viswanath said.

Even if these groups qualified for the loans legally - as the Small Business Administration told The Washington Post - it's a question of whether the loans are "morally" correct, Viswanath said, as they are providing the country with "additional ammunition" to question medical professionals "by exploiting the tremendous scientific achievement of developing the vaccines." 

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Fauci predicts that people will be able to go back to singing in church by mid-fall, when an 'overwhelming proportion' of the US has been vaccinated

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 2:20pm
Sen.-elect Raphael Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
  • Church services that resemble pre-coronavirus worship should resume in mid-fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted Monday. 
  • That projection is dependent on at least 70% to 85% of the population getting vaccinated. 
  • Churches have been the sites of super-spreader events, since the virus spreads easily indoors when people are speaking loudly or singing in close quarters. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts church services - with hugging, praising, and music-making - will be able to resume safely in mid-fall, if the US vaccinates people "appropriately, effectively, and efficiently."

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the projection Monday during the Choose Healthy Life Black Clergy Conclave, an online convening of more than 100 Black clergy, leading public health officials, and corporate and scientific leaders who are working to boost COVID-19 testing and other resources in the Black community. It was co-led by the Reverends Al Sharpton and Calvin Butts. 

When Fauci took the virtual stage, he answered questions from Black clergy around the country. The inquiry about church services came from the Reverend John Vaughn, who was representing Senator-elect Reverend Raphael Warnock from Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. 

"When can we expect to go back to church, when we'll be able to sing, we'll be able to do wind instruments?" he asked.

Fauci said the timeline largely depends on how quickly we can get "the overwhelming proportion of our population," or at least 70% to 85%, vaccinated.

Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Read more: What's coming next for COVID-19 vaccines? Here's the latest on 11 leading programs.

It's particularly important that people who are most vulnerable, including Black Americans, get the vaccine. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black Americans are dying at nearly 3 times the rate of white, non-Hispanic people and being hospitalized at nearly 4 times the rate.

Working to overcome a history of racial discrimination and mistreatment

But getting the vaccine first requires the Black community to trust that it's safe and effective, Fauci and other speakers said. 

Black adults have shown more hesitancy about COVID-19 vaccines than White people or Hispanic people. About 35% of Black people said they probably or definitely wouldn't get a COVID-19 shot, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, compared with about a quarter of people who identified as Hispanic or as white.

Hesitancy among Black Americans stems from a long history of racial discrimination and mistreatment by the US healthcare system, immunologist Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, president and chief executive officer of Meharry Medical College, said earlier in the event. 

As a Black scientist who's been involved in the vaccine development process, he said the coronavirus vaccine is "nothing like Tuskegee."

He was referring to the Tuskegee experiment, in which US scientists monitored about 400 Black men with syphilis and withheld treatment for the disease. The study lasted for about four decades, according to a CDC timeline, ending in 1972.

Hildreth said that "people of color must take the vaccine because otherwise, we're putting our lives and our communities at risk."  

Biden is promising to speed up the US vaccine rollout

Once the vast majority of the population is vaccinated, Fauci continued, "the level of virus in the community will be at such a low level that we will be able to really approach a degree of normality that's similar, maybe not identical, but similar to where we were before all of this." 

He said that if the US pursues its vaccination campaign "appropriately, effectively, and efficiently," then "in the mid-fall, we'll be able to get back to that type of worship which we all are longing for right now." 

So far, though, the US vaccine rollout has gone much more slowly than top Trump administration officials promised. The rollouts has been hamstrung by a lack of federal assistance and limited funding, as Insider's Hilary Brueck reported.

US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to speed up the vaccine effort, setting a goal of giving 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office. He's called for increased funding and said he'll order the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help give the immunizations.

Read more: Why America's vaccine rollout was a total disaster - and what it means for the next few months

Church services and group singing activities are super-spreader events 

In-person church services are the kind of event that presents a particularly high risk for spreading the coronavirus.

That's because people are close to others indoors for an extended period of time. The coronavirus typically spreads via droplets that can travel 6 feet between people. Singing or even loud talking could allow the virus to travel farther, some research suggests. 

In fact, singing and church services have contributed to super-spreader events, in which an infected person is able to pass the disease to far more people than the average of two. 

In March, 60 members of a choir in Washington held a rehearsal. Three weeks later, 45 members were diagnosed with COVID-19, three were hospitalized, and two died.

In December, a holiday musical event at a church in North Carolina - where many people didn't wear masks, including shoulder-to-shoulder choir singers - led to 75 people testing positive for the coronavirus.

"If you're outdoors in a place that doesn't have a lot of COVID? That's almost no risk," former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, said earlier in Monday's program. "If you're indoors for a long time with a lot of people who are shouting and singing and not wearing masks, that's the highest risk." 

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Coronavirus cases in Israel are finally beginning to decline from record highs after it vaccinated 27% of its population

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 1:13pm
A woman prepares to receive a Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine from medical personnel at a vaccination center in Jerusalem
  • Israel has vaccinated approximately 27% of its citizens — about 2.43 million people of its population of 9 million. 
  • More than 550,000 people in the country have already had COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
  • Israel is nowhere near COVID-19 free, but both the seven-day and three-day moving averages of new cases have declined.
  • While it has vaccinated more people per-capita than any country around the globe, Israel's plan has drawn criticism for its exclusion of Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Israel has vaccinated more than a quarter of its population against COVID-19, and cases of the disease are finally beginning to decline following a surge that prompted a nationwide lockdown. 

More than 2.43 million people in Israel have now received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccines. That's about 27% of the country, according to data from Our World In Data. The country reported 8,190 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, down from a record 9,997 cases on January 13, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Israel has vaccinated the highest proportion of its population of any country in the world, and has been touted as a success as other nations, especially the US, face hurdles with their rollouts. Israel benefits from having a relatively small and densely populated country, as well as from a centralized and digital-savvy national health system, as Insider's Susie Neilson reported.

As Reuters reported Monday, the Israeli government is sharing data with vaccine-manufacturer Pfizer and BioNTech in an effort to assist other nations.

"While this project is conducted in Israel, the insights gained will be applicable around the world and we anticipate will allow governments to maximize the public health impact of their vaccination campaigns," BioNTech said Monday in a statement, as Reuters reported.

Coronavirus vaccines are given as two shots, spaced three or four weeks apart. While people may get some protection after the first shot, both doses are required for the immunizations to be highly effective.

Over 550,000 people in the country have already had the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins, meaning that they're likely to have some protection from the disease as well. More than 4,000 people in Israel have died since the pandemic began early last year, according to Hopkins.

Read more: How pharmacies and retailers like Walmart, Kroger, and Rite Aid could benefit from the vaccination push

The seven-day averages of new cases of COVID-19 in Israel has declined as well, showing the country's outbreak may be waning, according to data from Worldometer. The seven-day average sits at 8,144 as of Sunday, down from 8,395 on January 13.

While Israel is leading the globe in per-capita vaccinations, its rollout has not come without criticism, as ABC News noted, because the country's vaccination plan has excluded the 5 million Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier in January that he believed Israel would be the first country to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, planning to vaccinate the country's entire population by March. Other nations like New Zealand and Australia, however, have had long-term success with their mitigation strategies, even without access to a vaccine.

Israeli officials are expected to extend the lockdown order, which is currently slated to end Thursday, The Times of Israel reported Sunday.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The Florida data scientist who accused the state of firing her for refusing to alter COVID-19 data was arrested after she said she'd turn herself in

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 1:11pm
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida at a news conference in December at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Florida.
  • Rebekah Jones, the Florida data scientist fired last year by the state's health department, has been arrested in Florida after she turned herself in.
  • Jones, who worked on the state's COVID-19 dashboard, was fired over what she alleges was a refusal to alter data related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
  • State officials say she was fired for insubordination.
  • Florida authorities in December executed a warrant on her property, seizing computers, phones, and external storage drives after she continued to publish Florida's COVID-19 data through her own dashboard.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

A data scientist who has accused Florida's health department of firing her for refusing to alter COVID-19 data turned herself into authorities after they issued a warrant for her arrest.

The warrant was issued for the woman, Rebekah Jones, last week, about a month after authorities raided her Florida home. In a statement sent Monday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed to Insider that Jones had turned herself in to the Leon County Detention Facility and had been arrested on one charge of "offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks, and electronic devices."

"Evidence retrieved from a search warrant on December 7 shows that Jones illegally accessed the system sending a message to approximately 1,750 people and downloaded confidential FDOH data and saved it to her device," a FDLE spokesperson said in a statement.

Jones had issued a thread of tweets Saturday in which she said she planned to turn herself in on Sunday, adding that a law-enforcement official told her lawyer that she could face additional charges should she speak with the media.

She took issue with the circumstances of a previous warrant, which allowed Florida law-enforcement officers to raid her home and seize computers, phones, and external storage devices on December 7. Jones sued the state after the raid, alleging civil-rights violations, and relocated from Florida to Washington, DC, according to a report from Florida Today.

Read more: People are randomly getting vaccinated at pharmacies because of extra doses that need to be used before they expire

"The raid was based on a lie," Jones said in a tweet Saturday.

Last week, a judge in Tallahassee declined to rule over whether state officials needed to return Jones' property seized during the raid until officials decided whether they planned to charge her in connection with what was obtained during the warrant on her property, as the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

"To protect my family from continued police violence, and to show that I'm ready to fight whatever they throw at me, I'm turning myself into police in Florida Sunday night," Jones wrote in another tweet. "The Governor will not win his war on science and free speech. He will not silence those who speak out."

In May, Jones, who worked on the state's COVID-19 dashboard, was fired by the Florida Department of Health. State officials said then that Jones had been fired for a "repeated course of insubordination" and for "blatant disrespect for the professionals who were working around the clock to provide the important information for the COVID-19 website."

Jones, however, said her firing was the result of her refusal to alter COVID-19 data. At the time, Jones said her managers at the health department had told her to delete data that showed Florida residents had tested positive for the novel coronavirus as early as January. She also said she declined to alter data that would've made it appear that certain counties had met the criteria to scale back restrictions when they hadn't actually yet met such criteria.

Following her firing, Jones continued to upload and release data through her own online dashboard. But in December, Florida authorities obtained the search warrant and raided her home. Jones speculated Saturday she believed a condition of her release from jail might be her limiting her access to technology, limiting her ability to share information.

"Bogus charges designed to silence and now jail me for being a scientist critical of the government," she said. "That's the textbook definition of #censorship."

This article was updated on January 18 with confirmation that Jones was arrested.

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The US Capitol complex was briefly locked down after a fire broke out at a nearby homeless encampment

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 12:22pm
Barbed wire, is seen atop security fencing, with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 in Washington, DC.
  • The US Capitol went into lockdown Monday following an "external security threat," a message sent to people inside the complex read.
  • Staffers in the building were sent an emergency message telling them "no entry or exit" into the building was permitted.
  • Some people inside a portion of the Capitol building reported on social media that they had been evacuated.
  • The alert was promoted following a fire at a nearby homeless encampment, law enforcement officials said.
  • The fire was quickly extinguished, according to DC Fire and EMS, and the Capitol was taken out of lockdown just before 11:30 a.m.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The US Capitol was briefly placed into a lockdown Monday morning following an "external security threat" that turned out to be a fire at a nearby homeless encampment, law enforcement officials said.

The lockdown was lifted just before 11:30 a.m. in Washington, Capitol Police said, according to Fox News' Chad Pergram

People who were in the West Front of the US Capitol building were evacuated, according to multiple social-media reports. People in the Capitol Complex were warned to stay away from windows and doors, and those outside were told to seek cover, multiple outlets reported.

"In an abundance of caution following an external security threat under the bridge on I-295 at First and F Streets, SE, Acting Chief Pittman ordered a shutdown of the Capitol Complex," US Capitol Police said in a statement. "There are currently no fires on or within the Capitol campus." 

DC Fire and EMS said Monday that they extinguished the fire at a homeless encampment. The occupant of the tent where the fire occurred was using propane, according to DC Fire. The occupant suffered non-life-threatening injuries and refused medical attention, DC Fire said.

A fire burns under a bridge in Washington, DC, U.S. January 18, 2021, in this picture obtained from social media.

Members of Congress and their staff were told to shelter in place while authorities investigated the situation, US Capitol Police said. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia confirmed the fire started at a homeless encampment and said people inside the Capitol were alerted due to the proximity to the complex, according to the Washington Post.

Videos of smoke not far from the Capitol complex had circulated across social media Monday morning amid reports of the lockdown.

 

The alert came as security at the complex has been increased to unprecedented levels ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday. A group of pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol on January 6 while lawmakers were inside, prompting the unprecedented security measures. 

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All 4 nurses in a Kansas county's health department refused to give out COVID-19 vaccines

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 12:13pm
Pharmacies are finding themselves with leftover coronavirus vaccines, meaning some people can score a shot early with the planning.
  • All four nurses in one Kansas county's health department refused to give patients COVID-19 vaccines.
  • The health department administrator shared debunked vaccine misinformation as part of their reasoning.
  • The county will contract with other nurses to distribute the vaccine.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

All four nurses working in the health department of Coffey County in Kansas said they wouldn't give people the COVID-19 vaccine, a sign of how misinformation about the shots is spreading even among health professionals.

In a January 4 county commission meeting, health department administrator Lindsay Payer said that they were not willing to give the COVID-19 vaccine, The Daily Beast reported.

"My staff is not comfortable with that. It's a new technology we've never seen before," Payer told the Board of Commissioners in the meeting, which is available on YouTube.

MRNA vaccines, like those being distributed now for the coronavirus, have been studied since the 1990s.

Read more: What to say to a friend who's skeptical of getting the coronavirus vaccine

Payer said that she and other nurses in the department were uncomfortable with the vaccines and unsure of their safety, citing inaccurate information about the shots. She told the board that the health department would hire outside nurses who were willing to distribute the vaccine.

Coronavirus vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna were studied in tens of thousands of people. Pfizer's late stage trial, for instance, included more than 43,000 people. The vaccines weren't rushed - countries and organizations invested heavily in all stages of the development process, saving time. Scientists were also able to build on previous work on vaccines for MERS and SARS, which are also coronaviruses.

Data on both vaccines was scrutinized by the US Food and Drug Administration before the agency issued emergency-use authorizations for the injections. FDA found that the shots were highly effective and safe for most people to take.

As of January 13, Payer and other Coffey County health department nurses had not changed their minds. She told 13 News in Topeka that it was a personal decision for each nurse, not a message for or against getting the vaccine.

Read more: As an autism researcher, I've dealt with anti-vax misinformation for years. Here's how we can combat it during the COVID vaccine rollout

County Medical Officer Dr. Jeff Sloyer refuted Payer's misinformation in the next meeting.

"Both of these vaccines were very well studied," he said, according to Topeka's 13 News

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment shared a statement with 13 News on the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

"The data demonstrate that the known and potential benefits of this vaccine outweigh the known and potential harms of becoming infected with COVID-19," the department said.

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A record $3.7 billion in Bitcoin options are set to expire on January 29 as interest in cryptocurrencies surges

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 12:06pm
The price of bitcoin has risen more than 300% in a year, driving people towards options and other products

A record $3.7 billion worth of Bitcoin options are set to expire on January 29, as speculation ramps up following the recent volatility in the cryptocurrency's price and growth in interest in its derivatives.

On Monday morning, open options contracts were worth around 245,700 Bitcoin - or roughly $9.1 billion - according to cryptocurrency data analytics website bybt.com.

Bitcoin options are contracts that give investors the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell the cryptocurrency at a specified price within a set time period. They give investors the chance to make money by betting on which way the price will go, without having to trade the digital currency itself.

Deribit - the exchange that currently facilitates the most Bitcoin options trading - began offering the products in 2018. But interest has risen sharply over the last few months as the Bitcoin price has surged towards an all-time high near  $42,000 earlier this month. It stood at around $36,960 on Monday morning.

Read more: Michael Saylor has invested over $1 billion of MicroStrategy's funds in Bitcoin. The software CEO-turned Bitcoin whale explains why he is making such a massive bet on the digital asset.

Options contracts worth around 101,000 Bitcoin - or $3.7 billion at Monday's prices - are to to expire on January 29, bybt.com's data showed, although not every option will result in a trade. That is more than the previous record of around $2.4 billion seen on 25 December, as noted by Cointelegraph.

The options show that speculators are bullish about Bitcoin. As of Monday the open interest in "calls" (which are broadly bets that prices will rise) was considerably bigger than the open interest in "puts" (bets the price will fall).

"It reflects just how volatile [Bitcoin] has become, even by its own standards, over the last couple of months," said Craig Erlam, market analyst at currency firm Oanda.

"The moves we're seeing on a daily basis now are incredible so it's natural that options are being more utilized."

Bitcoin's price has soared more than 300% over the last year and more than 60% in the last month.

Analysts say central banks and governments flooding economies with cash amid the coronavirus pandemic has been a key driver, while worries about inflation and currency devaluation are also factors.

Yet the Bitcoin price is highly volatile, regularly swinging more than 10% each day. After hitting its record-high of more than $41,000 on 8 January it fell to close to $30,000 a few days later before rising again.

Read more: GOLDMAN SACHS: Buy these 25 stocks best-positioned to juice profits in 2021 as stimulus and vaccine progress spur economic growth

Wanting a piece of the action, investors have piled into products that give them exposure to Bitcoin.

Germany's BTCetc Bitcoin Exchange Traded Crypto has seen trading volumes of more than €50 million ($60 million) per day on average so far this year according to Deutsche Boerse. Grayscale's Bitcoin Trust has also boomed.

Options have also become an increasingly popular way of speculating on Bitcoin. The market has been aided by respected institutions such as CME Group moving in.

Nicholas Pelecanos, head of trading at blockchain company NEM, said: "Due to the complexity involved with trading, options volumes give us a good indication of the number of sophisticated investors that have been trading Bitcoin."

Seamus Donoghue, vice president of sales at digital currency security firm Metaco, said: "Institutional adoption of Bitcoin should drive continued underlying growth for futures and options volumes."

Yet Erlam was more skeptical about what the rise in options trading meant. "The creation and adoption of these instruments is a step forward but doesn't take away from just how highly speculative an instrument it still is," he said.

Analysts at JPMorgan last week said Bitcoin may need to break past $40,000 mark again in the near future if the price is to rise further. If it does not pick up soon then "momentum" funds that follow trends could force the price lower, they warned.

Read more: 'Extremes are becoming ever more extreme': A Wall Street strategist who sounded the alarm before last year's 35% crash showcases the evidence that a similar meltdown is looming

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A Princeton professor warned students not to take his class while in China amid the country's tightening grip on dissent

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 11:44am
Blair Hall at Princeton University.
  • Rory Truex, an assistant professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, told students not to take his course on Chinese politics if they currently reside in China.
  • Truex told the Daily Princetonian the course covers subjects the Chinese government may consider sensitive and could endanger students.
  • American academics fear for their Chinese students in the wake of China's increasingly bold crackdown on political dissent at home and abroad.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

China's tightening grip on dissent is reaching American universities.

Rory Truex, an assistant professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, advised students enrolled in his course on Chinese politics not to take the course if they currently reside in China, the Daily Princetonian reported

"As you might expect, the course contains material that the Chinese government would find sensitive. This, coupled with the fact that we are remote, and that China's new National Security Law has some sweeping provisions, means that we need to be a little more cautious this year," Truex told students on Friday, according to the Daily Princetonian, the university's independent student newspaper.

Truex didn't respond immediately to Insider's request for comment, and a message sent to Princeton's media relations team wasn't immediately returned.

Truex's course covers subjects banned in China like the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese government has previously undertaken extensive efforts to censor discourse on both, including cracking down on social media discussions and handing out lengthy prison sentences to activists.

In August, Truex issued a warning for students in China considering his course, the Wall Street Journal reported. He wasn't the only one. Amid rising concerns regarding remote learning in China, American academics across the country flagged courses they believed may be sensitive or dangerous for students in China to take in light of Hong Kong's new National Security Law.

Those academics took steps to protect the identities of their students, including assigning students codes instead of using names, banning the recording of lectures, and editing students' faces out of school-recorded lectures.

Hong Kong's new National Security Law could have "sweeping" consequences on pro-democracy efforts and free speech in the territory. It also signers a broader shift by the ruling Communist Party towards more explicit crackdowns on political dissent across the mainland and abroad.

Truex emphasized that students who decide not to take his course while in China should take it in-person, or set up an individualized study with him. But as remote learning extends through 2021, the window of opportunity for those students to study subjects banned in China is narrowing.

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Parler website appears to be back online and promises to 'resolve any challenge before us'

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 10:45am
  • The website of controversial social media platform Parler was back online Sunday, following a nearly week-long outage after it was booted from Amazon Web Services and kicked off Apple and Google's app stores.
  • The website popped back up on Sunday with a message from CEO John Matze, asking "Hello, world. Is this thing on?"
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The website of controversial social media platform Parler was back online Sunday, following a nearly week-long outage after it was booted from Amazon Web Services and kicked off Apple and Google's app stores.

CEO John Matze has since said he's "confident" Parler will be fully operational by the end of January.

Amazon, Google and Apple cut ties with Parler for what they said was a failure to moderate content and threats of violence by some of its right-wing user base. Some of the Pro-Trump rioters who descended on the US Capitol on January 6, fueled by baseless allegations of voter fraud, had been planning the event and spreading misinformation about the presidential election on Parler.

The website popped back up on Sunday with a message from Matze, asking "Hello, world. Is this thing on?"

A statement on the site indicated it intends to be back soon.

"Now seems like the right time to remind you all - both lovers and haters - why we started this platform. We believe privacy is paramount and free speech essential, especially on social media," it said  "We will resolve any challenge before us and plan to welcome all of you back soon. We will not let civil discourse perish!"

Read more: Online misinformation about the US election fell 73% after Trump's social media ban

A WHOIS search indicates that Parler is now hosted by Epik. Parler last week registered its domain with the Washington-based hosting provider known for hosting far-right extremist content, though Epik denied in a statement that the two companies had been in touch. 

Parler has faced massive fallout in the days following the siege on the US Capitol, with various business partners cutting ties.

Apple and Google were first to remove Parler's app from their stores, also citing its alleged refusal to take down violent content. Not long afterward, many of Parler's service providers, including Twilio, Okta, and Zendesk, removed Parler from their platforms as well.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview on Fox News Sunday that Parler had been suspended and could be back in the App Store if they "get their moderation together."

Parler rose to notoriety in recent months as mainstream social media sites have faced increasing pressure to crack down on hate speech, misinformation, and calls for violence. Both Twitter and Facebook have banned President Donald Trump after the deadly Capitol riot, citing the risk of further violence. 

Parler, which has maintained that its deplatforming was intended to stamp out competition, filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Amazon last week, seeking to get its website restored. 

In a court filing, Parler disputed claims made by Amazon that it had repeatedly warned Parler that violent content on its site - and the company's lax approach to removing it - were grounds for Amazon to suspend Parler's AWS contract.

Parler claimed that Amazon, in effect, terminated its contract completely, rather than simply suspending it, and did not warn the social-media company about potential contract breaches until after the Capitol riots - and continuing to try to sell it additional services as late as December.

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The world is 'on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure' by failing to get vaccines to poorer countries, the WHO warns

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 10:42am
Bidemi Aye receives a pre-paid debt card for cash and food provided by World Food Programme (WFP) in a makeshift home in the Makoko riverine slum settlement in Lagos, Nigeria on November 27, 2020.
  • The world was on "on the brink of catastrophic moral failure,' over vaccine distribution, the head of the World Health Organization said Monday.
  • Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was not right that younger, healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries.
  • "A me-first approach leaves the world's poorest and most vulnerable people at risk, it's also self-defeating," Ghebreyesus said.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The world is "on the brink of catastrophic moral failure" by failing to give vaccines to poorer countries, the head of the World Health Organization said Monday.

"It is not right that younger, healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general at the WHO, said during an executive board session.

Governments naturally want to prioritize their own health workers and older people - but they need to come together to prioritize those most at risk of severe diseases and death around the world, he said. 

"More than 39 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries, but just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country," Tedros said. 

A "me-first approach" was "self-defeating", ultimately prolonging the pandemic, as well as the restrictions needed to contain it and both the human and economic suffering, he said.

Research from Duke University's Global Health Innovation Center predicted that it could take years to roll out vaccines in poorer countries due to vaccine cost and availability, as well as a lack of infrastructure to transport, store, and distribute the shots.

Tedros said that countries and companies had promised equitable access by signing up to COVAX, a voluntary scheme to ensure vaccine distribution worldwide launched. COVAX was launched by the WHO, Gavi vaccine alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

But certain countries and companies have gone around COVAX, he said, putting themselves first and in doing so driving up prices.

Manufacturers had also prioritized regulatory approval in rich countries where profits are highest, he added. 

He did not name any specific countries or companies.

He urged countries that had circumnavigated COVAX - and that have control of supply - to be transparent about their contracts, and share any excess vaccines.

"My challenge to all member states is to ensure that by [...] April 7, COVID-19 vaccines are being administered in every country, as a symbol of hope for overcoming both the pandemic and the inequalities that lie at the root of so many global health challenges," he said.

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Adam Schiff and James Comey are pushing for Trump to be cut off from post-presidential intel briefings after he leaves office

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 10:41am
Rep. Adam Schiff chairs the House intelligence committee.
  • Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee, thinks President Trump should not be granted access to classified information after leaving office. 
  • Former presidents usually get routine intelligence briefings, and granted access to classified information, but some argue Trump should not.
  • "There is no circumstance in which this president should get another intelligence briefing — not now, not in the future," Schiff told CBS News. 
  • Susan Gordon, the former deputy national security director, who briefed Trump, has also expressed concern about Trump continuing to access intelligence. 
  • "The guy's a lying demagogue who you can't trust," former FBI director James Comey said last week. "You want to be very, very careful about what you give him."

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said that President Donald Trump should not be given intelligence briefings when he leaves office.

In an interview with the CBS show Face The Nation on Sunday, the longstanding Trump critic said: "There is no circumstance in which this president should get another intelligence briefing - not now, not in the future."

Schiff is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and oversaw the inquiry that preceded Trump's first impeachment.

On Sunday he continued: "I don't think he can be trusted with it now, and in the future he certainly can't be trusted."

Schiff, a longtime critic of Trump, said that Trump had politicized intelligence during his time in office, and that US allies had withheld information because they did not believe he could be trusted with it. 

That situation, he said, "makes us less safe."

Traditionally, former presidents are given routine intelligence briefings and granted access to classified information after they leave office. The briefings are granted as a courtesy by presidents to their predecessors, meaning that President-elect Joe Biden could decide not to offer them to Trump.

Schiff's concern that Trump may abuse the information echoes a warning by Susan Gordon, principal deputy director of national intelligence from 2017 until 2019, in an op-ed in the Washington Post Saturday. 

Gordon, who gave intelligence briefings to Trump, wrote that the president has made clear that he intends to be further involved in national politics after he leaves office, in contrast to other ex-presidents.

She also noted that "Trump has significant business entanglements that involve foreign entities."

"It is not clear that he understands the tradecraft to which he has been exposed, the reasons the knowledge he has acquired must be protected from disclosure, or the intentions and capabilities of adversaries and competitors who will use any means to advance their interests at the expense of ours," Gordon wrote. 

Read more: Biden's inauguration is raising tens of millions of dollars but won't say how it's spending the money

Former FBI director James Comey, who was fired in 2017 by Trump for initiating the probe into his campaign's entanglements with Russia, also warned against giving him further information.

In an interview with ABC News last Friday, he said that ex-presidents are given the briefings so they can contribute to public discussions accurately, and so they know of any threats against them. 

However, he argued, "the guy's a lying demagogue who you can't trust."

"You want to be very, very careful about what you give him."

Their comments come in the wake of the House of Representatives last Wednesday voting to impeach Trump for the second time.

Trump is accused of instigating riots that saw a mob of supporters attack the Capitol to halt Biden's certification as president. 

During his term in office, Trump was accused several times of mishandling intelligence, disclosing classified information to Russian officials in a 2017 White House meeting, and tweeting out a likely classified picture of Iranian missile sites in 2019. 

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6 ways I'm coping with seasonal affective disorder while working from home during the pandemic

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 10:25am
Melissa Petro with her family in New York.
  • Melissa Petro is a freelance writer based in New York where she lives with her husband and two small children. 
  • As someone who struggles with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), Petro says she's found it especially difficult to balance her health with work and family responsibilities this winter.
  • To boost her spirits and be more productive, she wakes up earlier, created a childcare schedule with her husband, hired a professional house cleaner, and rented a small office space so she can work with minimal distractions.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Although I am not clinically depressed, each year the colder weather ushers in subtle changes to my mood, alertness, energy and appetite. It strikes hard around my birthday - which just so happens to be New Year's Eve. I feel an enormous pressure to take stock, reset my life, and become healthier and more accomplished (immediately!) even as the colder temperatures and fewer daylight hours make me want to clock out, skip my workout, and comfort eat under a cozy blanket on the couch in front of the TV.

According to Cleveland Clinic, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, affects 5% of adults in the United States, and about 75% of sufferers are women. Another 20% of Americans are met by a milder condition known as the "winter blues." 

For obvious reasons, many of us who struggle with seasonal depression may be finding this year even harder. 

Shuttered businesses, economic uncertainty, and high rates of unemployment in the US, as well as fear and worry about getting sick, have taken an unprecedented toll on our nation's mental health. Last week, a record number of Americans died from COVID as pro-Trump rioters violently stormed US Capitol. If grim statistics and political violence leave you feeling nervous, anxious, distracted, dazed, and overwhelmed, you're not alone.

Like everyone else, the past year has left me emotionally exhausted. But also like everyone else, I have responsibilities, including two young children and bills to pay.  So rather than succumbing to feelings of hopelessness, I'm controlling what I can, and staying relatively cheerful and productive as a consequence. 

In spite of *gestures widely at everything,* here's how I'm holding it together:

Sun exposure plays a role in seasonal depression, and so I wake up around sunrise.

Petro's kids painting at home.

Okay, let's be honest: Like many parents of young children, I have little choice. The kids are up every day just before dawn, demanding my immediate and undivided attention. 

Like most people who suffer from the winter blues, I'd almost always rather be sleeping, but especially so at 5 a.m. But research has long showed that people do best when they rise with light, and exposure to bright light in the morning can help people feel more alert. 

Don't tell the toddlers, but I'm sort of glad for the alarm clock. As difficult as it is to crawl out from under my covers, I know that when I wake up early, I feel calmer, less hurried, and more ready to start my day.

Read more: At 37 weeks pregnant, she launched an online coaching business that brought in over $40,000 last year on top of her full-time job. Here's how she did it.

I stick to a daily schedule.

A typical day looks like this: We wake up and spend a little time together as a family before my husband gets to work in his home office and I get to work at my unpaid job as "mom." After I put the house in order and get everybody dressed and fed, I usually try to take the kids outside or engage them both in an indoor activity. Other days, I clean the house while the kids play independently (aka destroy their bedroom). 

Mid-morning, the littlest one takes a nap while my 3-year-old indulges in a little screen time and I squeeze in a quick run. After lunch, there's more housework. Then, I try and do something relatively educational: I might read the kids a book or lead them in an art-making activity before I hand them off to dad. 

With a set schedule, the day flies by. Dad does childcare in the afternoon while I focus on my freelance work. Before I know it, it's dinner and bath time. There's no time for doom-scrolling on social media or binge watching Netflix until after the kids are in bed and by then, I'm too beat to feel blue.

I embrace the routine. 

Yes, everyday is a bit monotonous, but for me, having a routine is comforting.

According to doctors, there's a reason for this: Routines generate  a "positive level of stress" that helps us feel upbeat and  focused, rather than depressed. Experts say routines are good for kids, too; following a predictable schedule in the home gives children a sense of safety, and helps them feel like a part of a smoothly running household. 

I maintain a dedicated workspace.

With kids' crying, laundry everywhere, and toys strewn across the floor- not to mention my partner interrupting my concentration every five minutes to ask a question or share a funny meme- pandemic protocols made it impossible to focus. Because of this, at the start of the summer, my husband and I set up a pop-up office on our porch. 

When it became too cold to work outside, I wasn't ready to surrender my solitude, and so I began subletting a nearby private office space from a friend. 

Now, for a couple hundred dollars a month, I get the priceless experience of peace and quiet, a change of scenery, and minimal distractions while still adhering to physical distancing protocols. I'm sitting in my office at this very moment, finishing this article while my husband takes care of the kids so I don't have to worry,  which is absolutely magical.

Read more: I'm a mom influencer who earns up to $12,000 a month through paid sponsorships. Here's how I grew my income and following while caring for my son.

My partner and I are on the same page.

The author with her husband and children.

I've been a WFH mom since my son was born three years ago and so, when the pandemic first hit, not much changed other than the fact that my husband was there, too, dirtying dishes and disrupting my routines. Initially, I tried to carry out my typical day around him, and he helped, but both of us parenting and working at the same time was often more frustrating than helpful. Then we started alternating childcare duties, and now our family is functioning better than ever. 

We hire a house cleaner.

My husband and I work as a team - and when things get extra stressful, we take housework off our 'to do' list and pay to have the house professionally cleaned. 

In non-pandemic times, we would hire a nanny or send at least our eldest kid to daycare, but with new "super strains" of COVID on the rise we're simply too afraid. Hiring a housekeeper felt like a safer option, especially after we learned that Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, employs a house cleaner every two weeks

To be careful, our whole family fully vacates the house for the duration of our housekeeper's visit.

I fight the urge to overachieve and focus on the positive.

Under normal circumstances, I would be setting ambitious new year's resolutions, but this year's circumstances aren't normal. These days, it's an accomplishment to eat right, exercise, brush my teeth and wash my hair, and get myself and my kids dressed in the morning. 

It's also an accomplishment to stay sober and not eat a pint of ice cream by myself until the kids are asleep and it's the end of the day, when I most definitely do eat that pint of ice cream because *everything.* For now, I set aside lofty ambitions and focus on caring for myself, and tending to the health and emotional needs of my family. Before we know it, winter will be over. The new administration will be inaugurated, we'll all be closer to getting vaccinated, and it will be spring. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Putin critic Navalny sentenced to jail after being arrested at a Moscow airport on his way home after being poisoned

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 10:14am
Alexei Navalny appears in a video published by his team on January 18, 2021.
  • Alexei Navalny, the chief critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was jailed on Monday following his return to Russia after an assassination attempt.
  • Navalny was arrested at a Moscow airport after landing from Berlin, with police officers accusing him of violating the terms of a 2014 suspended prison sentence for embezzlement.
  • Navalny was poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent in August 20, and was flown to Berlin for specialist care soon after.
  • A hearing held at a police station on Monday saw Navalny remanded in custody until February 15. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Alexei Navalny, the chief critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been jailed after returning to Moscow for the first time following an attempt on his life last summer.

Navalny was poisoned with Novichok nerve agent shortly before flying from Tomsk, Siberia, to Moscow on August 20. He was evacuated to Berlin to receive specialist care, where he had remained until Sunday.

Navalny has accused Putin of approving the attack. A consortium of journalists including CNN and Bellingcat found that the attempted assassination was carried out by officers in the FSB, Russia's spy agency.

Navalny landed at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on Sunday and was immediately detained by police officers who accused him of violating terms of a 2014 suspended prison sentence for embezzlement.

On Monday afternoon, a hearing held at a Moscow police station saw Navalny remanded in custody until February 15, Navalny's lawyer Vadim Kobzev, told the state-run Interfax news agency.

Navalny called the hearing "the ultimate form of lawlessness," Interfax reported.

The hearing was held in a police station, not an official courtroom, because Navalny had not yet tested negative for COVID-19, according to Russia's Ministry of Internal Affairs.

This video posted to social media showed the moment that crowds chanted for Navaly as he led away from the police station.

—Медиазона (@mediazzzona) January 18, 2021

 

A second hearing will take place later on Monday to debate the freezing of Navalny's assets and property, tweeted Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation. Officers seen outside the police station holding Alexei Navalny in Khimki, outside Moscow, on January 18, 2021.

On Monday Kira Yarmish, Navalny's spokeswoman, shared a YouTube video recorded by Navalny some time before his sentencing.

"What are these bunker-dwellers mostly afraid of? You know what they are afraid of, they are mainly afraid of people going out on the streets," he said. 

Navalny went on to accuse the Russian state of trying to murder him.

"This band of thieves that has been robbing the country for 20 years told me, and so to everyone who refuses to keep quiet, that we were trying to murder you, but you didn't die, and as such you offended us," he said.

"That is why we will now put you in prison. And now a woman will come in black clothes who symbolizes a judge and will send me under arrest, at the same time understanding that it is absolutely and totally against the law."

Leonid Volkov, a close associate of Navalny, declared a mass protest in support of his cause would take place on January 23, The Moscow Times reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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