Thursday, September 16, 2021

Wake-Up Call: U-S Joins New Pacific Alliance To Counter China

President Biden announced yesterday that the U.S. is forming a new Indo-Pacific security alliance with Britain and Australia. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison joined Biden virtually by video to announce the AUKUS (AWK-us) alliance, which will allow for greater sharing of defense capabilities, and include sharing information in areas including artificial intelligence, cyber and underwater defense. The leaders said they'd be moving to develop nuclear-powered submarines for Australia. Although none of them mentioned China, Biden has sought to refocus U.S. foreign policy on the Pacific, and AP notes that Beijing is likely to see the new alliance as a provocative step. However, a senior administration official said before the announcement that it wasn't aimed at any one country.

➤FRANCE SAYS HEAD OF ISLAMIC STATE IN SAHARA KILLED: French President Emmanuel Macron announced late yesterday that the leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, had been killed. Macron called it a "major success" for the French military, tweeting that al-Sahrawi, quote, "was neutralized by French forces," but didn't give further details, including where and when he was killed. France has been fighting extremists in the region for eight years. AP said there'd been rumors of al-Sahrawi's death for weeks in Mali. Al-Sahrawi claimed responsibility for a 2017 attack in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers and four members of Niger’s military. The Islamic State in Sahara has also abducted foreigners, and is believed to still be holding an American named Jeffrey Woodke, who was abducted from his home in Niger in 2016.

➤FDA ADVISORY PANEL TO MEET FRIDAY ABOUT COVID VACCINE BOOSTER ISSUE: A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel will meet Friday to discuss whether there's enough evidence to advise that a booster shot of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective, which would be an initial step in deciding if Americans should get a booster. If the FDA, which isn't required to follow the panel's advice, does decide a booster is safe and effective, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would then have to decide who should be eligible to get it. The CDC has scheduled a meeting of its own advisers next week. Moderna also has asked FDA to allow a booster dose of its vaccine.

➤FOUR CIVILIANS LIFTED OFF ATOP OF SPACEX FALCON 9 ROCKET: Four civilians lifted off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center Wednesday night to start the first ever all-private orbital space mission.  The rocket carrying Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski cleared pad 39A's tower at 8:02:56 p.m. EDT and was off to start three days of continuously orbiting Earth some 357 miles above. The four non-professional astronauts will spend about three days together in the capsule that measures 13 feet in diameter.

➤CAPITOL POLICE ASK FOR NATIONAL GUARD ON STANDBY FOR SATURDAY RALLY: The U.S. Capitol Police said yesterday that it had asked the Pentagon to put the National Guard on standby in case it's needed for a rally this coming Saturday in support of those arrested and charged in the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Also in preparation for the rally, the fence that was put up around the Capitol after the January 6th attack and remained up for weeks began to be temporarily reinstalled last night. The "Justice for J6" rally outside the Capitol has been organized by Matt Braynard, a 2016 campaign staffer for former President Donald Trump. Braynard has said there won't be violence at the event.

Daily Mail screenshot 9/15/21

After the reported revelations Tuesday from an upcoming new book that General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called his Chinese counterpart in the final months of former President Donald Trump's term to provide reassurance that the U.S. wouldn't attack China and even said he would warn him in the event of an attack, Milley on Wednesday defended his actions. His spokesman said in a statement that Milley acted within his authority as the most senior uniformed adviser to the president and to the secretary of defense, stating, "His calls . . . were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability." In response to the book, Peril, by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, also saying Milley asked senior officers to swear an "oath" that he had to be involved if Trump gave an order to launch nuclear weapons, the spokesman said Milley conferred with the senior officers about nuclear weapons protocols, quote, "to remind uniformed leaders in the Pentagon of the long-established and robust procedures in light of media reporting on the subject." Some Republicans in Congress have charged Milley went beyond his authority in those reported actions and urged President Biden to fire him. However, Biden said yesterday when asked about the issue, "I have great confidence in General Milley."

➤CDC..NUMBER OF STATE WITH HIGH OBESITY RATE NEARLY DOUBLED IN TWO YEARS: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported yesterday (September 15th) that the number of states with an obesity rate of at least 35 percent nearly doubled in two years, from 2018 to 2020. There were 16 states last year with that high rate of obesity, up from 12 in 2019 and nine in 2018. The health policy organization Trust for America's Health noted that no state had an obesity rate of at least 35 percent as recently as 2012, and that the problem worsened during the pandemic. Every state had an obesity rate of more than 20 percent of its adult population, with the the Midwest and the South have the highest rates compared to the West and Northeast. There were also racial and ethnic disparities, with 35 states and the District of Columbia having an obesity rate of at least 35 percent for Black residents, and 22 states hit that rate for Hispanic residents.

STUDY..PLANT-RICH DIET MAY LOWER ODDS FOR SEVERE COVID-19: When was the last time you ate a vegetable? Researchers surveyed nearly 600,000 Americans, and found the quarter with the most plant-rich diets had a nine percent lower risk for developing COVID-19 than the quarter with the least-healthy diets. Still, Dr. Aaron Glatt, an infectious disease specialist says, “This doesn’t change anything. Get vaccinated.” Lead study researcher Jordi Merino agrees, saying no one should consider diet a replacement for vaccination or other measures, like wearing a mask. Instead, the findings suggest that poor diet quality may be one of the social and economic contributors to COVID-19 risk.

➤MANY MOTHERS MAY HAVE DELAYED OR ABANDONED PLANS FOR ADDITIONAL CHILDREN BECAUSE OF COVID-19: The pandemic is no joke for mothers in New York City. NYU researchers polled 1,179 mothers and found that one-third that had been thinking about becoming pregnant before the pandemic but had not yet begun trying, said they were no longer considering it. Lead study author and epidemiologist Dr. Linda Kahn says, “Our findings show that the initial COVID-19 outbreak appears to have made women think twice about expanding their families and, in some cases, reduce the number of children they ultimately intend to have.” She also adds that pregnancy becomes riskier and more difficult to achieve as women age, so the delays prompted by the pandemic may lead to increased risks for both mother and child, as well as the need for costly fertility treatments. The data also shows that fewer than half of mothers who had stopped trying to become pregnant were certain they would resume trying to become pregnant once the pandemic ended. Study senior author, Dr. Melanie Jacobson adds, “These results emphasize the toll the coronavirus has taken not only on individual parents, but perhaps on fertility rates overall.”

➤COSTCO WORKERS MAKE VIRAL TIKTOK CLAIMING CUSTOMERS CAN RETURN USED BED SHEETS, DEAD CHRISTMAS TREES:  Costco is known for having a generous return policy, but one TikTok user is claiming it’s super generous. The user, who goes by Hannah, claims she is a Costco employee, and made a video with another employee in which they address “Questions we get all the time at refunds.” They claim that customers can get refunds for old, used bed sheets, dead Christmas trees, and even a quarter of a pie. Since Hannah posted it over the weekend the clip has gotten over 2.9 million views. One commenter wrote, “Costco also has the right to refund the person’s membership if they are abusing the return policy. My husband was warned.”

➤BILES AMONG GYMNASTS TESTIFYING TO SENATE ABOUT FBI, GYMNASTICS OFFICIAL INACTION TO NASSAR SEX ABUSE: Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles was among a group of high-profile U.S. gymnasts who testified emotionally before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday about the inaction by the FBI and gymnastics official in the face of sexual abuse by then-USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar of them and hundreds of other female gymnasts. Biles, who was victimized by Nassar, said, "I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse." She also stated that a message needs to be sent: "If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough." 

McKayla Maroney, a member of the Olympic gold-medal winning team in 2012, spoke about telling an FBI agent about her abuse by Nassar, including one night when she was 15 when he'd given her a sleeping pill and she found him on top of her while she was naked. However, she said his reaction was "dead silence," did nothing with what he told her, and then lied about what she'd said. Also testifying was Aly Raisman, who won gold medals with Biles and Maroney on the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams, and gymnast Maggie Nichols.

An internal investigation by the Justice Department put out in July said the FBI made fundamental errors in the probe and didn't treat the case with the "utmost seriousness." A supervisory FBI agent who had failed to properly investigate when the claims were reported in 2015 and later lied about it was fired. FBI Director Christopher Wray said yesterday that he was, quote, "deeply and profoundly sorry” for delays in Nassar’s prosecution and the pain it caused. Nassar pled guilty in 2017 to federal child pornography offenses and sexual abuse charges in Michigan and is serving a decades-long sentence.

🏈COWBOYS LAWRENCE TO MISS SIX TO EIGHT WEEKS WITH BROKEN FOOT: Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence will be out for six to eight weeks after suffering a broken foot in practice yesterday, according to media reports. Lawrence tweeted that he, quote, "will be back & ready." The loss is a blow to the Dallas defense.

🏈JAGUARS COACH MEYER SAYS 'NO CHANCE' HE'S GOING TO USC: The Jacksonville Jaguars 37-21 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 1 was such a bad showing that when USC fired football head coach Clay Helton on Monday, there was speculation that Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer might return to college football in the position. But Meyer shot that down yesterday, saying, quote, "there's no chance" that he's taking that job, adding, "I’m here and committed to try to build an organization." Meyer has been very successful in college football, including winning two national championships with Florida and Ohio State, but this is his first job in the NFL.

➤WORLD ANTI-DOPING AGENCY TO REVIEW WHETHER MARIJUANA SHOULD REMAIN BANNED: In the wake of U.S. sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson not being able to compete in the Tokyo Olympics because she tested positive for marijuana use, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has announced that it will set up an advisory committee to review whether cannabis should remain on the list of banned substances. The panel will review whether marijuana meets WADA's criteria for being banned of meeting two of three effects: have the potential to be performance-enhancing; pose a health risk; and "[violate] the spirit of the sport." USA Today noted WADA didn't specifically cite Richardson's case as having sparked the review, but said it had gotten, quote, "requests from a number of stakeholders."

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