Commentary: The American Jobs Plan and the China Conundrum

President Joe Biden’s new spending plan amps up rhetoric on national competition with China, maintaining the confrontational approach established by the previous administration. But whereas the 45th president championed what he called American energy dominance as a key element of grand strategy, the 46th seems bent on eschewing America’s natural resource advantages and playing to China’s strengths.

The White House fact sheet on the American Jobs Plan refers to China five times directly, claiming that the plan will “position the United States to out-compete China,” that China’s ambitions are one of “the great challenges of our time,” that the U.S. is “falling behind countries like China” on infrastructure, that “countries like China are investing aggressively in R&D,” and that the U.S. market share of plug-in electric vehicle (EV) sales is one-third of that in China — something President Biden “believes that must change.”

The president asserts that this plan will simultaneously reduce the risks posed by climate change and by China’s rise, but the evidence suggests his approach to energy will undermine the United States’ strategic positioning, not reinforce it.

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Michigan Group Sues state Health Department over Mandatory Student-Athlete COVID-19 Testing

by Scott McClallen   An advocacy group for student-athletes sued Michigan’s health director, arguing new COVID-19 testing rules for teenage youth sports are “invalid.” The Honigman Law Firm sued state Health and Human Services Department (MDHHS) Director Elizabeth Hertel Thursday on behalf of Let Them Play Michigan and three student-athlete…

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More Than 700 Kids Currently Detained in Border Patrol Custody, Report Shows

More than 700 migrant children are currently detained in Customs and Border Patrol facilities, according to an internal government report.

At least 200 children had been held in the facilities for over 48 hours and nine had been held more than 72 hours, according to an internal Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) report dated Feb. 21, Axios reported. The CBP is not allowed to hold children more than 72 hours, according to a previous agreement.

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FDA Panel Votes to Recommend Johnson & Johnson’s Coronavirus Vaccine for Emergency Authorization

The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory panel voted Friday evening to recommend Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency approval, clearing the way for its authorization, distribution and administration nationwide.

The vote followed hours of the panel live-streaming its process of scouring over data from the pharmaceutical company in order to reaffirm that the vaccine was safe for the millions of Americans who will receive it. The FDA also released the vaccine’s clinical trial data on Wednesday showing that the vaccine was effective in fighting the virus itself.

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Vaccinations Slow After Storms Delay Shipments of 6 Million COVID-19 Doses

The extreme cold weather across much of the country has delayed 6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, slowing a vaccination rate that has been steadily rising since the Biden administration took office last month.

The backlogged doses account for roughly three days’ of delayed shipments affecting all 50 states, due to road closures, snowed-in workers and power outages, said Andy Slavitt, senior adviser on the White House’s COVID-19 response, during a news conference Friday.

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Johnson & Johnson Files for Emergency Authorization for Its Coronavirus Vaccine

Johnson & Johnson filed for emergency use authorization from the FDA on Thursday for its coronavirus vaccine.

The drug maker’s application followed its announcement that its vaccine was 72% effective in combating the virus. Although that’s slightly lower than Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines, Johnson & Johnson’s requires one dose instead of two.

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Newt Gingrich Commentary: Small Business Will Continue to Suffer Unless We Reopen Society

Small businesses have been decimated by the pandemic shutdowns. Many have struggled to survive. Many have had to lay off employees. If they haven’t closed their doors yet, the next six to nine months will be a real challenge.

There is some help on the way. The Small Business Administration has released a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — a forgivable loan program designed to assist small businesses with money to stay afloat. Part two of the PPP opened on Jan. 15.

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Michigan’s GOP Senate Refuses to Confirm Whitmer Appointees

In an attempt to send a message to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), Michigan’s Republican-led Senate is refusing to confirm her new appointees. 

“The state Senate rejected 13 of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s appointees Wednesday to ‘send a signal that [Republicans are] displeased with [the] governor’s actions and refusal to listen [or] work with [the] Legislature,'” first reported by Michigan Advance. 

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Nearly 20 Percent of American Renters Are Behind on Payments, Analysis Shows

About 18% of renters, or roughly 10 million people, in the U.S. are behind on their monthly payments as of early January, according to an Urban Institute analysis.

Researchers Jim Parrott, a fellow at the Urban Institute, and Mark Zandi, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, calculated that 18% of U.S. renters were behind on payments and warned that if lawmakers didn’t act fast, there could be a major eviction crisis. The average delinquent renter is four months behind on payments and owes $5,600, the researchers estimated using Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.

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Chinese Media: COVID Originated in U.S. Military Lab

A Chinese state broadcaster revived a conspiracy theory that the coronavirus pandemic originated in a US military lab, and told its millions of viewers  there is “something fishy” happening at Fort Detrick in Maryland.

A female anchor on China’s Central Television Station ​Thursday asked viewers: ​​”Exactly what fishy businesses were going on?​,” the Daily Mail reported.

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Michigan Health Director Resigns as Restaurants Set to Reopen

The top health official in Michigan has abruptly resigned as the state plans to reopen restaurants in the coming weeks, after months of strict lockdown orders.

“Today, I am resigning from the Whitmer Administration. It’s been an honor to serve alongside wonderful colleagues. I look forward to the next chapter,” Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon said Friday on Twitter. 

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New Jobless Claims Decrease to 900,000, Economists Expected 925,000

The number of Americans filing new unemployment claims decreased to 900,000 last week as the economy continued to suffer the effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to the Department of Labor.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) figure released Thursday represented a decrease in the number of new jobless claims compared to the week ending Jan. 16, in which there were 965,000 new jobless claims reported. Roughly 16 million Americans continue to collect unemployment benefits, according to the BLS report Thursday.

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Biden to Extend Student Loan Payment Freeze Until September 2021

President-elect Joe Biden will order the Department of Education to extend the student loan payment moratorium through September in one of his first presidential moves.

Joe Biden is set to sign the executive order on Wednesday following his inauguration, extending the current pause on student loan payments, which has been in effect since March, according to CBS News. The order is a fulfillment of Biden’s campaign promise to prioritize the U.S. student loan debt crisis.

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Commentary: Five Ways Hospitals Can Help Fix Vaccine Rollout Debacle

Hospitals have come under sharp criticism for their part in the chaotic COVID-19 vaccine rollout. That’s because in the rush to get the vaccine out quickly, many hospitals were shipped more vaccine than anticipated and fewer staff took it than anticipated. As a result, hospitals accrued a vaccine surplus and offered it to their low-risk grad students and young administrative staff working from home and are now scrambling to figure out what to do with the rest. The answer should be simple: give it to older members of your community, but a recent letter from the American Hospital Association cited a number of important barriers to effective vaccine distribution including a lack of coordination and guidance from federal, state, and local governments. 

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90 Bars and Restaurants Ask Michigan Gov. Whitmer to Reopen Indoor Dining ‘as Soon as Possible’

Representatives from approximately 90 bars, restaurants, and other Michigan establishments signed a letter asking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to safely reopen dine-in service “as soon as possible” to prevent additional permanent closures.

The Facebook post announcing the letter has been shared more than 1,000 times.

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U.S. Scientist Who Led Charge Against COVID Lab Leak Theory Admits He Was Trying to Protect Chinese Scientists

The U.S. scientist behind an effort to stymie debate surrounding the possibility that COVID-19 could have accidentally escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology admitted through a spokesman that he did so to protect Chinese scientists from online criticism.

Dr. Peter Daszak, the president of the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance, orchestrated a statement published in The Lancet medical journal in February, prior to any serious research on the origins of COVID-19, condemning “conspiracy theories” that suggest the virus doesn’t have a natural origin.

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Biden Taps Former FDA Head to Oversee Federal Vaccination Effort

President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Dr. David Kessler, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration and a member of his coronavirus advisory board, to lead the nation’s vaccination effort, the transition team announced Friday.

Kessler, who will become the chief science officer of the COVID-19 response according to a press release from Biden’s transition website, led the FDA under Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He will be responsible for ensuring that Biden’s vaccination plan — which calls for 100 million vaccinations in 100 days — is successful.

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U.K. Lockdown Could Last Nearly Three Months

Prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed that the end of lockdown may be delayed beyond mid-February and would last until the end of March, telling MPs the government will be “extremely cautious” about lifting restrictions and reopening schools.

On Monday, Prime Minister Johnson plunged England into a third national coronavirus lockdown. The lockdown includes a strict stay at home orders and the closure of all schools.  Mr Johnson resisted calls from Tory MPs to guarantee the rules will start to be eased after the first review on February 15, the prime minister made it clear that a successful roll-out of the vaccine programme  to the most vulnerable will be key to determining when the lockdown measures can be lifted. Adding on a lag for achieving immunity after vaccination and relieving “the pressure on the NHS”, he then tacked on a further two or three weeks, saying “we should remain cautious of the timetable ahead”, Breitbart reported.

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Michigan Facing Slow, but Improving COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

After months of waiting, the COVID-19 vaccine is out, but a labyrinth lies ahead to get vaccines from the federal government into the arms of Michiganders.

Many of the vaccines were created and approved in less than a year, but it’s unclear how long it will take to immunize all 10 million Michigan residents.

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Rollout Leaves More Than 70 Percent of COVID-19 Vaccines Unused

More than 70 percent of COVID-19 vaccines have gone unused, still sitting in freezers US health officials said on Monday.

In Daytona Beach, hundreds of senior citizens camped out in their vehicles in chilly overnight temperatures in the low 40s to secure a place in a vaccination line Tuesday morning, a day after seniors jammed the roads to the vaccination site,  NBC Miami reported.

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Michiganders Ages 65 and Older, Frontline Workers, and Educators Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine Starting Monday

Michigan officials announced Wednesday the state will start to vaccinate a broader group of people starting Monday.

That includes Michiganders age 65 and older, frontline workers including police officers, first responders, jail and prison staff, and PreK-12 teachers and childcare providers.

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Commentary: Three Studies That Show Lockdowns Are Ineffective at Slowing COVID-19

Across America and Europe, many government officials are resuming lockdowns and tightening restrictions in the face of rising COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

The collateral damage of lockdowns, which has been well documented, includes widespread poverty, depression, bankruptcy, and unemployment. Meanwhile, the benefits of lockdowns remain murky.

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Michigan Restaurant Owner Loses Franchise with Big Boy for Breaking Pandemic Restrictions

The owner of a restaurant in Sandusky, Michigan, says it is being “forced to terminate” its contract with the Big Boy franchise over its decision to stay open despite pandemic restrictions. 

A recent order from the state of Michigan has closed indoor restaurant dining in the state from November 18 to December 8. It also closed in-person learning for college and high schools, movie theaters, bowling alleys and arcades. The order additionally cancels group fitness classes and organized sports. 

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New Model Will Reduce Medicare Part B Drugs Costs, Save Taxpayers $85 Billion Over Seven Years

President Donald Trump and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a new drug payment model Friday that will significantly lower the cost of Medicare Part B drugs, in a move the president said was a threat to “Big Pharma.”

Beginning in early January, the Most Favored Nation Model will test an innovative way for Medicare to no longer pay high-cost, physician-administered Medicare Part B drugs than the lowest price charged in similar countries.

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Four to Six Week Nationwide Lockdown Could Curb the Pandemic and Jumpstart the Economy, Biden Covid Advisor Says

Dr. Michael Osterholm, a coronavirus advisor to President-elect Joe Biden, said that a 4-6 week lockdown that shut down businesses and compensated workers for lost wages may curb the spread of the virus and get the economy on track until a vaccine is approved and distributed.

Osterholm, the director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told Yahoo Finance Wednesday that the strategy would help decrease daily case counts and hospitalizations until an effective vaccine arrives.

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CDC Report Indicates Masks May Increase Chance of Infection with COVID or Other Respiratory Illnesses

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report last month in which the nearly 71 percent of individuals infected with COVID-19 reported “always” wearing their mask. This opposed to the 4 percent of infected individuals who “never” wore masks.
The number of individuals infected with COVID-19 positively correlated with the consistency of mask-wearing. The report didn’t address the possible correlation between face mask hygiene and COVID-19 infection, such as proper handling and disposal of masks. It also didn’t differentiate the respondents’ mask types.

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Europe, US Reel as Virus Infections Surge at Record Pace

Coronavirus cases around the world have climbed to all-time highs of more than 330,000 per day as the scourge comes storming back across Europe and spreads with renewed speed in the U.S., forcing many places to reimpose tough restrictions they had eased just a few months ago.

Well after Europe seemed to have largely tamed the virus that proved so lethal last spring, newly confirmed infections are reaching unprecedented levels in Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy and Poland, and most of the rest of the continent is seeing similar danger signs.

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Dr. Simone Gold of America’s Frontline Doctors Responds to Twitter’s Censorship of Her Account

Dr. Simone Gold, a board-certified emergency physician and the founder of America’s Frontline Doctors, has responded to Twitter’s removal of her tweet about treatments for COVID-19 and locking her out of her account.

In her response, Dr. Gold – who also graduated from Stanford Law School after completing her medical degree – called out her temporary Twitter ban, calling the action “another classic case of tech censorship against anyone who speaks out against the media narrative.”

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Ibrahm Bouaichi, Virginia Inmate Released Due to Coronavirus Pandemic, Arrested for Murdering Accuser

A Virginia inmate who was released from jail because of the Coronavirus pandemic is back in police custody for allegedly murdering his accuser.

Ibrahm Elkahlil Bouaichi, a 33-year-old man who was arrested for allegedly raping his ex-girlfriend Karla Elizabeth Dominguez Gonzalez in October 2019 and held without bond, was arrested Wednesday morning for shooting and killing Gonzalez on July 29.

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