Coronavirus latest: Outbreaks see China infections rise above 1,000 despite control efforts

Peter Wells in New York

The number of people currently hospitalised in the US with Covid-19 fell on Thursday to the lowest in 10 days even as the number of daily deaths hovered near 4,000.

Hospitalisations dropped to 128,947 from 130,391 on Wednesday, according to Covid Tracking Project data.

That is the lowest level since January 4 and compares to the record of 132,463 on January 6 (which had been revised lower by one patient).

Signs of plateaus in several states that have been hit hard in the latest surge appear to be helping.

Most notably, California, with 22,210 patients, has not set a record level of hospitalisations for a week. Texas (14,052) and Arizona (4,930) both experienced their most recent peak two days ago, while Georgia (5,968) and Virginia (3,196) stepped back from record highs on Wednesday.

North Carolina reported a record 3,990 hospitalisations. However, this marked the first time since September 17 that only one state — then West Virginia — reported a record level of patients, according to a Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.

Given hospitalisations lag coronavirus cases but precede fatalities, this may give some hope that record national death rates may start to plateau in coming weeks.
States attributed a further 3,915 deaths to coronavirus, according to Thursday figures.

That is down from 4,087 on Wednesday, which is now a record increase following revisions by Covid Tracking Project to its data.

The US reported more than 4,000 deaths in a single day for the first time on January 7.

The country has averaged 3,312 fatalities a day over the past week, down from a record 3,335 on Wednesday.

Texas (426) and Nevada (62) were the two states to report record numbers of deaths on Thursday, while California (552) reported the most.

An additional 222,944 infections were reported over the past 24 hours, up from 221,557 on Wednesday. Over the past week, the country has averaged 234,252 cases a day.

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President Trump condemns impeachment efforts

President Donald Trump walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Washington. The President is traveling to Texas. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert )

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 1:39 PM PT – Tuesday, January 12, 2020

President Trump recently spoke out against Congress’ efforts to impeach him a second time. He communicated with reporters outside the White House on Tuesday, where he called the impeachment “dangerous” and a continuation of the “witch hunt” against his administration.

His remarks come as the House of Representatives moves forward to impeach the President after accusing him of inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. President Trump warned the impeachment is causing anger, but insisted that he wants no violence.

“On the impeachment, it’s really a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics…it’s absolutely ridiculous,” he stated. “This impeachment is causing tremendous anger and you’re doing it, and its really a terrible thing that they’re doing.”

President Trump refuted these claims by noting people analyzed the speech he gave before the incident occurred and thought it was “totally appropriate.”

“But they’ve analyzed my speech and my words,” he explained. “And my final paragraph, my final sentence, and everybody to the tee thought it was totally appropriate.”

President Trump’s comments mark the first time he has spoken publicly since protesters breached the Capitol Building last week and social media platforms subsequently banned him from their sites.

Meanwhile, the FBI is reportedly monitoring online plans for armed protests across the nation and Washington, D.C. leading up to Inauguration Day. The bureau also said some online posts have vowed to use violence if President Trump is removed from office through impeachment or the 25th Amendment before the inauguration.

This comes as security for the U.S. Capitol and the Inauguration Day have increased considerably since last week’s incident on the hill.

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Republican lawmakers continue to push back on impeachment efforts

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 08: US President Donald Trump. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 7:45 PM PT – Sunday, January 10, 2021

Members of the GOP are warning against efforts to impeach President Trump ahead of Inauguration Day on January 20.

Democrats continue to push forward with their effort to impeach the President for the second time, in a bid to remove him from office when he has fewer than 10 days left. However, they face the likelihood there won’t be enough Republican support to make it happen.

On Friday, reports detailed a letter sent to Joe Biden by GOP Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), which was signed by seven lawmakers. The letter urged him to block House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment efforts.

In a tweet, Buck said, “in the spirit of healing and fidelity to our Constitution, I’m asking Biden to request Pelosi discontinue her efforts.”

The letter itself said the Constitution does not envision impeaching a president without an adequate investigation and congressional hearings. It said impeachment should not occur in the heat of the moment, but after “great deliberation.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also spoke out against the effort. He said impeaching a president with less than two weeks left in the term will only divide the country more.

McCarthy called on leaders to refocus their efforts on working directly for the American people. These calls are not only coming from the lower chamber, but upper chamber as well.

In an interview Sunday, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said he’s not interested in spending time on things that can’t happen, including impeachment.

“Is there any likelihood that he could possibly be removed between now and January 20?” Blunt questioned. “If there’s no additional ensuing event, my belief is there is no possibility of that.”

In a recent interview, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Democrat leaders need to stand down on impeachment. He also added impeachment will only l destroy the country even further.

In a recent memo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Republican colleagues Congress will not reconvene for business until January 19. In order to conduct impeachment efforts sooner, all 100 senators would have to vote unanimously on the issue, which is unlikely given the chamber’s current Republican majority.

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Availability of vaccines slowing down vaccination efforts in Finland

HOSPITAL DISTRICTS across Finland would be able to vaccinate people against the new coronavirus at a faster rate, but the availability of vaccines has thus far prevented the vaccinations from clicking into full gear, writes Helsingin Sanomat.

Finland has so far taken delivery of roughly 50,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and Biontech, with roughly 7,000 people vaccinated against the virus.

The country is set to receive five to seven million doses of the vaccine by next summer, according to YLE.

Leena Turpeinen, the director of health and substance abuse services at the City of Helsinki, on Tuesday stated in a press conference that the availability of vaccines has “understandably” been limited, but once it improves the capital will be able to vaccinate at a faster rate by temporarily re-assigning employees from, for instance, school health care and child and maternity clinics.

The Finnish capital, she said, had vaccinated about 3,000 people by the end of last week and presently hopes to start the vaccinations of elderly residents on a broader scale in late February.

Oulu University Hospital, meanwhile, completed the first phase of vaccinations in the Oulu region on Tuesday, having administered 1,600 doses to staff working in laboratories, intensive care and with coronavirus patients, revealed Terhi Nevala, the chief administrative physician at Oulu University Hospital.

“The vaccinations will now move on to the municipalities and joint municipal authorities, as well as the clients of around-the-clock nursing facilities,” she was quoted as saying by Helsingin Sanomat.

Nevala said the pace of vaccinations will depend largely on whether the vaccines are delivered on time. The current estimate is that the vaccinations of staff members and residents at nursing units will continue into February.

There is, however, considerable uncertainty given the lack of precise information about the number and schedule of doses to be distributed to hospital districts.

“That’s the reality,” said Nevala. “The plan can change on a daily basis and coordinating the situation requires constant dialogue,” she said, stressing that the vaccination effort has begun well. “There’s no shortage of readiness to take the vaccine, which is a good thing.”

The message was the same from Tampere: the vaccination campaign has begun well, but it could be sped up if only there were more vaccine doses to administer.

“The availability of vaccines isn’t good enough at the moment that we could carry out widespread vaccinations,” Juhani Sand, the chief administrative physician at Tampere University Hospital, confirmed in a press conference about the epidemiological situation in Pirkanmaa on Tuesday.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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Why Putin’s efforts to paint Alexei Navalny as western agent appear to have paid off | World News

“Putin seems to be just hysterical”.

So tweeted Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Putin‘s most prominent political opponent, in response to the decision by Russia’s investigative committee to open a case against him last week on charges of large-scale fraud.

It follows hot on the heels of a legal summons demanding he return to Moscow or face jail for failing to abide by the terms of a suspended sentence in a separate criminal case.

Alexei Navalny pictured in Berlin after being discharged from hospital. Pic: @navalny

It is clear that if Mr Navalny returns to Russia, which he has always insisted he will, he will go straight to prison.

For now, the “Berlin patient”, which is as much as Vladimir Putin can bear to call him, remains in Germany, convalescing from a nerve agent attack which almost killed him.

In the nearly five months since he was poisoned in a hotel room in the Siberian city of Tomsk, much has been revealed about the operation Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the FSB, was running to allegedly to kill him.

This is no thanks to the Russian state, which has refused to open an investigation into the case.

It says Mr Navalny was tailed for his own safety. But through forensic analysis of phone records and travel logs, a team of investigative journalists led by Bellingcat and its Russian partner, the Insider, have identified the names of the eight FSB operatives they believe to be behind the poisoning.

In a final flourish, Mr Navalny recorded and released a lengthy telephone call with one of them, Konstantin Kudryavtsev, who revealed that the poison had been administered to the groin area of Mr Navalny’s underpants.

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Police in Christmas raid on Navalny ally

“That was our main theory from the very beginning because this is very logical,” says Roman Dhokorotov, editor-in-chief of the Insider.

“If you want to poison someone, underwear is the best place because no one else touches it. And it always touches your skin so you have constant contact”.

It was Bellingcat and the Insider who identified the two operatives from Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, who were behind the poisonings of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

They also named a Russian general, who they say is involved in the downing of the Malaysian airliner MH17.

In a series of extremely thorough investigations they have exposed Russian security agencies as being far more chaotic than the Russian President would have his people – and the rest of the world – believe.

Mr Dhokorotov said: “All these arguments about Russian spies being super professional, that it’s very difficult to be caught and if they want to poison someone they will – No they don’t! You see so many mistakes.

“They want to poison Skripal, they fail; they want to shoot down military aeroplanes in Ukraine and they shoot down the wrong aeroplane.

“They wanted to hack officials and they did in so many countries but they still left so many traces. I think that after these last five years, the Russian audience already know how bad Russian security services are in hiding their traces.”

Who is Alexei Navalny?

Not so, according to the latest polls from Russia’s independent Levada pollster, which found that more Russians believed Mr Navalny’s poisoning to be either staged or a ploy by western intelligence than believed it could be an FSB plot.

That was before Mr Navalny’s phone call was released, which has garnered 21 million views so far, but is unlikely to have shifted opinion much.

That suggests that Vladimir Putin’s long-standing efforts to paint Mr Navalny as an agent of western intelligence have paid off.

Conspiracy theories have always been rife in Russia, propagated in large part by the Kremlin, where obfuscation and disinformation have been central to its information strategy since Soviet times.

Those conspiracy theories continue to find fertile ground, despite a burgeoning of investigative journalism from within Russia itself, which has managed to dig into the Kremlin’s secrets and which, until now, has been allowed to continue largely undeterred.

Vitaly Mansky, a well-known Russian documentary film-maker, said: “It seems to me that at this moment when Navalny has absolutely 100% persuasively proved the crime of the state, our passiveness makes us criminals. We prefer to keep silent and thus we give the authorities a right to commit crimes.”

Alexei Navalny walking down stairs in hospital. Pic: Alexei Navalny/Instagram
It is clear that if Mr Navalny returns to Russia, he will go straight to prison. Pic: Alexei Navalny/Instagram

Mr Mansky is disappointed that the revelations into the poisoning have not prompted wider protest. He was arrested outside the FSB’s headquarters for single-picketing in support of Navalny, which he did with a pair of underpants, to express his outrage at the actions of his country’s intelligence services.

But what use is there to protest when it will most likely lead nowhere?

Even Mr Navalny himself in recent years has stopped calling on Russians to take to the streets. His focus has been instead on a campaign of “smart voting”, trying to strip the ruling party, United Russia, of votes in regional and national elections.

That is a strategy which goes right to the heart of the Kremlin’s power and it will be put to the test again in parliamentary elections this September.

The success of smart voting as a strategy is one theory for why Mr Navalny may have been targeted in that hotel room in Tomsk.

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Mr Dhokorotov believes there is a demographic receptive to what he and Mr Navalny call a fight for the truth.

He says: “It’s like in America where there are people who either support Trump or who are against him and there is very little space for rational dialogue between the two.

“We have the same in Russia. Some people read independent information on the internet, some people watch TV and these are two separate worlds. But there is some space in the middle where people are wrestling in their minds between these two worlds”.

His response to the inevitable question – why have the authorities not gone after him?

“I think that Vladimir Putin doesn’t consider journalists to be particularly important enemies”.

The Kremlin has done its best to argue that Mr Navalny is not a particularly important enemy. Hysterical or not, the latest slew of criminal charges against him suggest otherwise.

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Clearing Efforts Continue in Albany Following Massive Storm

Efforts to clear snow from the streets of Albany, New York, continued on December 19, Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan said. According to the National Weather Service, the 22.9 inches of snow measured at Albany Airport on December 17 meant the storm was the 8th largest on record, and the 4th most snowfall during a December storm in the area. Sheehan shared this footage. She wrote, “This is what 23” of snow in #Albany looks like after it’s trucked away, 33 hours into a snow emergency.” Credit: Kathy Sheehan via Storyful

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Democrats coming after President Trump’s efforts to advance religious freedoms

President-elect Joe Biden, right, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, left, share a laugh during an event to announce several choices for positions in the Biden administration at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 8:29 AM PT – Monday, December 14, 2020

Secular Democrats are urging Joe Biden to fight what they have described as a “national security threat,” “Christian nationalism” and the “Trump administration’s actions to advance religious freedom.”

Last month, the Secular Democrats of America PAC presented Biden with a 28 page agenda of their recommendations, including eliminating the country’s officials motto of “in God we trust.” The group argues the current motto is not “inclusive” of non-religious people or a secular political ideology.

In public addresses, President Trump has claimed he does not serve political organizations, but rather the people and God.

“For the last four years the depraved swamp has tried everything to stop me because they know I don’t answer to them, I answer to you,” he stated. “Together we will defeat the corrupt establishment, we will dethrone the failed political class, and we will drain the Washington swamp and we will save the American Dream.”

Further, their agenda criticizes the Trump administration’s depiction of the U.S. as a Christian nation based on faith oriented values, which is an idea that has been central to American identity for generations. Presidents have long included God in his addresses.

The secular Democrats called for the U.S. to be re-branded as a “secularist nation based in revolutionary democratic ideas.” One of the policies recommended is the withholding of federal funds from any faith-based organization that is perceived as discriminatory on the basis of one’s religion and the repeal of non-medical exemptions on religious grounds.

Further, the group recommended Biden discourage politicians from using the words God and country while speaking, but mandate including non-religious advisors attend all faith-based gatherings at the White House.

Throughout his campaign, President Trump has warned traditional values and religious freedom would be under attack if a potential Biden administration ever stepped into the White House. The Biden campaign has not commented on the recommendations.

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More Filipinos express confidence in government’s anti-corruption efforts

MORE FILIPINOS are confident that the government is doing well in tackling corruption compared with Asian neighbors, although they also believe corruption in government remains a big problem, a survey from Transparency International showed. Read the full story.

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President Trump speaks on efforts to lower drug costs

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the press in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Donald Trump held his first press conference in over a week to make an announcement on prescription drug prices as he continues to challenge the results of the 2020 Presidential election. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 7:15 PM PT – Friday, November 20, 2020

The President held a press briefing Friday that emphasized his commitment to America’s seniors and patients affected by high medication costs.

President Trump touted his deal, which places the U.S. under the “Favored Nations” clause. Drugmakers previously charged the U.S. more for medications compared to other countries.

The President also commended his administration for lowering the cost of insulin. He cited their efforts to cap the price of the drug to $35 a month and noted his policies remove middlemen from the equation, which allows for greater discounts to go to patients.

“With the costs adding up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year per patient, today’s action ends this injustice and requires that these discounts go directly to people,” President Trump stated. “These are the people that need it. This will save patients up to 30%…Could be much higher than that. These are numbers that nobody has ever even contemplated.”

Additionally, President Trump forged legal pathways to purchase drugs at cheaper prices from other countries including Canada.

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