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With Daily Infections Hitting a Record-High, Critics Say the U.K. Hasn’t Learned From Its Mistakes

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LONDON — Britain bungled its response to the coronavirus the first time around. Now many scientists fear it’s about to do it again.

The virus is on the rise once more in the U.K., which has recorded almost 42,000 COVID-19 deaths, with confirmed daily infections hitting a record-high 6,634 on Thursday, though deaths remain far below their April peak.

The surge has brought new restrictions on daily life, the prospect of a grim winter of mounting deaths — and a feeling of deja vu.

“We didn’t react quick enough in March,” epidemiologist John Edmunds, a member of the government’s scientific advisory committee, told the BBC. “I think we haven’t learnt from our mistake back then and we’re, unfortunately, about to repeat it.”

The U.K. is not alone in seeing a second wave of COVID-19. European countries including France, Spain and the Netherlands are struggling to suppress rising outbreaks while limiting the economic damage.

But Britain’s pandemic response has revealed a roster of weaknesses, including unwieldy government structures, a fraying public health system, poor communication by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government and a reluctance to learn from other countries.

“We have to ask why a country with such reputed health and intelligence institutions has been so incapable of combating the COVID pandemic,” Gus O’Donnell, the former head of Britain’s civil service, said Thursday.

He said British politicians had “over-promised and under-delivered.”

Like many other countries, apart from Asian nations hit by past outbreaks of the SARS and MERS coronavirus illnesses, Britain was unprepared for the pandemic.

Britain quickly approved a test for COVID-19, but lacked the lab capacity to process those tests. That meant attempts to locate, test and isolate the contacts of every infected person soon foundered.

By the time the government ordered a nationwide lockdown on March 23, the virus was out of control. Supplies of protective equipment to hospitals and nursing homes soon ran dangerously short.

Luca Richeldi, an adviser to the Italian government on COVID-19, told a committee of British lawmakers this week that he was “shocked” at the slow U.K. response while Italy was “living a collective tragedy.”

“I had the impression that in general what was happening in Italy was not really perceived as something that could happen in the U.K.,” he said.

Critics say the government’s insistence on going its own way — epitomized and exacerbated by the U.K.’s departure from the European Union in January — has hobbled its response.

The U.K. spent months trying to develop a contact-tracing smartphone app from scratch before abandoning it and adopting an Apple- and Google-developed system already used in many other countries. The app was launched in England on Thursday — four months late.

There were some successes. Britain’s state-funded health-care system coped; its hospitals weren’t overwhelmed. But that was achieved at the high cost of postponing routine surgeries, appointments and screening for cancer and other diseases.

Like some other countries, the U.K. released elderly patients from hospitals back to nursing homes without testing them for the virus. Thousands died as a result.

Summer brought a respite as the tide of cases receded. It also brought a push to revive the battered economy. Johnson’s Conservative government urged workers to return to offices to prevent city centers becoming ghost towns and tempted people back to restaurants with discounts. It worked economically, but it may also have helped the virus to return.

Given Johnson’s back-to-normal boosterism, there was inevitable confusion when he reversed course this week and announced that people should continue to work from home after all. That came alongside new restrictions including a 10 p.m. curfew in bars and restaurants and expanded face-mask requirements.

Critics say the government was slow to advise wide use of face masks, just as it was slow to require quarantines for people arriving from abroad.

But the key failing, many believe, is in the coronavirus testing system.

Britain has rapidly expanded testing capacity, to some 250,000 a day, and set up a test-and-trace system with thousands of staff.

But when millions of U.K. children went back to school this month — and some came home with coughs and fevers — demand for tests surged to around 1 million a day. Many people found they could not book a test, or were sent hundreds of miles away.

“I don’t think anybody was expecting to see the real sizable increase in demand that we’ve seen over the last few weeks,” Dido Harding, who heads the program, told lawmakers this week — although many scientists and officials had predicted exactly that.

Headed by Harding, a former telecoms executive married to a Conservative lawmaker, the test-and-trace program is largely run by private companies including outsourcing firm Serco, using a call-center model to reach contacts and tell them to self-isolate. The system is only reaching about 60% of infected people’s contacts, and research suggests many people who are asked to self-isolate don’t comply.

“The whole thing is hopelessly inefficient,” said Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who said good contact tracing is like detective work.

“It’s as if we decided to put (fictional detectives) Miss Marple or Father Brown in a hotel room with a single telephone line and told them to solve the murder,” he told The Associated Press.

Some of Britain’s troubles aren’t unique. Dutch local health authorities are struggling to keep up with demand for contact tracing, and in some hard-hit regions infected people are being asked to inform their own contacts. In Madrid, site of one of Europe’s fastest-growing outbreaks, it can take more than a week to get test results. In France, confirmed new cases have topped 13,000 a day and the virus is resurgent in nursing homes.

An apparent exception is Italy, the first Western country hammered by the virus, where a strict 10-week lockdown largely tamed the outbreak. Even now, Italians’ compliance with mask-wearing and social distancing is strong, and cases average around 1,500 a day.

In Britain, criticism of Johnson’s leadership is growing.

Johnson is all too aware of the danger of the coronavirus — it put him in intensive care in April. But he is an instinctively laissez-faire politician who likes broad brushstrokes, simple slogans and optimistic messages.

In March, Johnson said Britain could “send the virus packing” in 12 weeks. Earlier this month, he said he hoped things would be back to normal by Christmas. This week he acknowledged that new restrictions will be in place for six months.

He said he was “deeply, spiritually reluctant to make any of these impositions” — but many scientists believe stronger measures will inevitably be needed, especially if the test-and-trace system doesn’t improve.

Meanwhile, polls suggest support for the government’s handling of the crisis is falling, and authorities worry compliance is fraying.

Unease is growing among formerly loyal allies of the prime minister.

The Spectator, a conservative newsmagazine that Johnson used to edit, summarized the past six months as “disorder, debacle, rebellion, U-turn and confusion.”

“Where’s Boris?” the magazine asked on its cover.

——

Aritz Parra in Madrid, Michael Corder in Amsterdam, Thomas Adamson in Paris and Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this story.

Britain bungled its initial response to the coronavirus. Now many scientists fear it’s about to do so again.

With Daily Infections Hitting a Record-High, Critics Say the U.K. Hasn’t Learned From Its Mistakes

Read More

LONDON — Britain bungled its response to the coronavirus the first time around. Now many scientists fear it’s about to do it again.

The virus is on the rise once more in the U.K., which has recorded almost 42,000 COVID-19 deaths, with confirmed daily infections hitting a record-high 6,634 on Thursday, though deaths remain far below their April peak.

The surge has brought new restrictions on daily life, the prospect of a grim winter of mounting deaths — and a feeling of deja vu.

“We didn’t react quick enough in March,” epidemiologist John Edmunds, a member of the government’s scientific advisory committee, told the BBC. “I think we haven’t learnt from our mistake back then and we’re, unfortunately, about to repeat it.”

The U.K. is not alone in seeing a second wave of COVID-19. European countries including France, Spain and the Netherlands are struggling to suppress rising outbreaks while limiting the economic damage.

But Britain’s pandemic response has revealed a roster of weaknesses, including unwieldy government structures, a fraying public health system, poor communication by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government and a reluctance to learn from other countries.

“We have to ask why a country with such reputed health and intelligence institutions has been so incapable of combating the COVID pandemic,” Gus O’Donnell, the former head of Britain’s civil service, said Thursday.

He said British politicians had “over-promised and under-delivered.”

Like many other countries, apart from Asian nations hit by past outbreaks of the SARS and MERS coronavirus illnesses, Britain was unprepared for the pandemic.

Britain quickly approved a test for COVID-19, but lacked the lab capacity to process those tests. That meant attempts to locate, test and isolate the contacts of every infected person soon foundered.

By the time the government ordered a nationwide lockdown on March 23, the virus was out of control. Supplies of protective equipment to hospitals and nursing homes soon ran dangerously short.

Luca Richeldi, an adviser to the Italian government on COVID-19, told a committee of British lawmakers this week that he was “shocked” at the slow U.K. response while Italy was “living a collective tragedy.”

“I had the impression that in general what was happening in Italy was not really perceived as something that could happen in the U.K.,” he said.

Critics say the government’s insistence on going its own way — epitomized and exacerbated by the U.K.’s departure from the European Union in January — has hobbled its response.

The U.K. spent months trying to develop a contact-tracing smartphone app from scratch before abandoning it and adopting an Apple- and Google-developed system already used in many other countries. The app was launched in England on Thursday — four months late.

There were some successes. Britain’s state-funded health-care system coped; its hospitals weren’t overwhelmed. But that was achieved at the high cost of postponing routine surgeries, appointments and screening for cancer and other diseases.

Like some other countries, the U.K. released elderly patients from hospitals back to nursing homes without testing them for the virus. Thousands died as a result.

Summer brought a respite as the tide of cases receded. It also brought a push to revive the battered economy. Johnson’s Conservative government urged workers to return to offices to prevent city centers becoming ghost towns and tempted people back to restaurants with discounts. It worked economically, but it may also have helped the virus to return.

Given Johnson’s back-to-normal boosterism, there was inevitable confusion when he reversed course this week and announced that people should continue to work from home after all. That came alongside new restrictions including a 10 p.m. curfew in bars and restaurants and expanded face-mask requirements.

Critics say the government was slow to advise wide use of face masks, just as it was slow to require quarantines for people arriving from abroad.

But the key failing, many believe, is in the coronavirus testing system.

Britain has rapidly expanded testing capacity, to some 250,000 a day, and set up a test-and-trace system with thousands of staff.

But when millions of U.K. children went back to school this month — and some came home with coughs and fevers — demand for tests surged to around 1 million a day. Many people found they could not book a test, or were sent hundreds of miles away.

“I don’t think anybody was expecting to see the real sizable increase in demand that we’ve seen over the last few weeks,” Dido Harding, who heads the program, told lawmakers this week — although many scientists and officials had predicted exactly that.

Headed by Harding, a former telecoms executive married to a Conservative lawmaker, the test-and-trace program is largely run by private companies including outsourcing firm Serco, using a call-center model to reach contacts and tell them to self-isolate. The system is only reaching about 60% of infected people’s contacts, and research suggests many people who are asked to self-isolate don’t comply.

“The whole thing is hopelessly inefficient,” said Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who said good contact tracing is like detective work.

“It’s as if we decided to put (fictional detectives) Miss Marple or Father Brown in a hotel room with a single telephone line and told them to solve the murder,” he told The Associated Press.

Some of Britain’s troubles aren’t unique. Dutch local health authorities are struggling to keep up with demand for contact tracing, and in some hard-hit regions infected people are being asked to inform their own contacts. In Madrid, site of one of Europe’s fastest-growing outbreaks, it can take more than a week to get test results. In France, confirmed new cases have topped 13,000 a day and the virus is resurgent in nursing homes.

An apparent exception is Italy, the first Western country hammered by the virus, where a strict 10-week lockdown largely tamed the outbreak. Even now, Italians’ compliance with mask-wearing and social distancing is strong, and cases average around 1,500 a day.

In Britain, criticism of Johnson’s leadership is growing.

Johnson is all too aware of the danger of the coronavirus — it put him in intensive care in April. But he is an instinctively laissez-faire politician who likes broad brushstrokes, simple slogans and optimistic messages.

In March, Johnson said Britain could “send the virus packing” in 12 weeks. Earlier this month, he said he hoped things would be back to normal by Christmas. This week he acknowledged that new restrictions will be in place for six months.

He said he was “deeply, spiritually reluctant to make any of these impositions” — but many scientists believe stronger measures will inevitably be needed, especially if the test-and-trace system doesn’t improve.

Meanwhile, polls suggest support for the government’s handling of the crisis is falling, and authorities worry compliance is fraying.

Unease is growing among formerly loyal allies of the prime minister.

The Spectator, a conservative newsmagazine that Johnson used to edit, summarized the past six months as “disorder, debacle, rebellion, U-turn and confusion.”

“Where’s Boris?” the magazine asked on its cover.

——

Aritz Parra in Madrid, Michael Corder in Amsterdam, Thomas Adamson in Paris and Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this story.

Britain bungled its initial response to the coronavirus. Now many scientists fear it’s about to do so again.

Trump administration advances plan to cut protections for largest national forest

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Plan to open Alaska’s Tongass national forest to logging faces backlash from environmental advocates, tribal nations and fishermen

The Trump administration has announced it will move forward with a plan to roll back regulations protecting millions of acres in America’s largest national forest from logging, sparking an outcry from environmental advocacy organizations, Alaskan tribal nations, and fishermen.

More than half of the Tongass national forest – a 16.7m-acre old-growth temperate rainforest in south-east Alaska – has been protected for the last two decades by the so-called “Roadless Area Conservation Rule”, which prohibits development in designated wild areas. The US Forest Service is expected to release a final environmental impact statement on Friday which would allow for the Tongass to be exempt from the rule, moving one step closer to ending the protections entirely.

Continue reading…Plan to open Alaska’s Tongass national forest to logging faces backlash from environmental advocates, tribal nations and fishermenThe Trump administration has announced it will move forward with a plan to roll back regulations protecting millions of acres in America’s largest national forest from logging, sparking an outcry from environmental advocacy organizations, Alaskan tribal nations, and fishermen.More than half of the Tongass national forest – a 16.7m-acre old-growth temperate rainforest in south-east Alaska – has been protected for the last two decades by the so-called “Roadless Area Conservation Rule”, which prohibits development in designated wild areas. The US Forest Service is expected to release a final environmental impact statement on Friday which would allow for the Tongass to be exempt from the rule, moving one step closer to ending the protections entirely. Continue reading…

Breonna Taylor decision: protesters take to streets for second night

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Anger over lack of direct charges for police officers spurs new demonstrations in Louisville and across US

Protesters took to the streets of Louisville and other US cities once again on Thursday, as public anger and sadness swelled in the wake of the announcement that no police officers would be charged directly with the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in March.

Tensions were running high in the Kentucky city after a day of peaceful protests turned violent on Wednesday night, when two police officers sustained injuries from gunshots fired at a protest. Local officials have urged calm as protests continue.

Continue reading…Anger over lack of direct charges for police officers spurs new demonstrations in Louisville and across USBreonna Taylor decision – live updatesProtesters took to the streets of Louisville and other US cities once again on Thursday, as public anger and sadness swelled in the wake of the announcement that no police officers would be charged directly with the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in March.Tensions were running high in the Kentucky city after a day of peaceful protests turned violent on Wednesday night, when two police officers sustained injuries from gunshots fired at a protest. Local officials have urged calm as protests continue. Continue reading…

Despite Trump’s Attacks, Both Parties Are Vowing an Orderly Election

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses drew swift blowback Thursday from both parties in Congress, and lawmakers turned to unprecedented steps to ensure he can’t ignore the vote of the people. Amid the uproar, Trump said anew he’s not sure the election will be “honest.”

Congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, rejected Trump’s assertion that he’ll “see what happens” before agreeing to any election outcome.

Many other lawmakers — including from Trump’s own Republican Party — vowed to make sure voters’ wishes are followed ahead of Inauguration Day in January. And some Democrats were taking action, including formally asking Trump’s defense secretary, homeland security adviser and attorney general to declare they’ll support the Nov. 3 results, whoever wins.

Asked as he departed the White House for a campaign rally if the election is only legitimate if he is the winner, Trump said, “We’ll see.”

The president said he wants to “make sure the election is honest, and I’m not sure that it can be.”

Trump’s attacks on the upcoming vote — almost without modern precedent in the U.S. — are hitting amid the tumult of the campaign, as partisan tensions rage and more Americans than ever are planning to vote by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s not the first time he has sowed doubts about the voting process. But his increased questioning before any result is setting off alarms ahead of an Election Day like no other. Even without signs of illegality, results could be delayed because of the pandemic, leaving the nation exposed to groups or foreign countries seeking to provoke discord.

McConnell, the GOP Senate leader, said in a tweet, “The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th.” He said, “There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”

Said Pelosi, “Calm down, Mr. President.”

“You are in the United States of America. It is a democracy,” she said, reminding Trump this is not North Korea, Russia or other countries with strongman leaders he admires. “So why don’t you just try for a moment to honor our oath of office to the Constitution of the United States.”

Trump is fanning the uncertainty as he floats theories the election may be “rigged” if he loses, echoing warnings he made ahead of the 2016 voting — even though past elections have not shown substantial evidence of fraud from mail-in voting.

During a Wednesday news conference, Trump said, “We’re going to have to see what happens,” responding to a question about committing to the results. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”

Reaction to his comment was strong from Capitol Hill — from both parties.

Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally and the GOP chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told “Fox & Friends” on Thursday: “If Republicans lose we will accept the result. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Joe Biden, I will accept that result.

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a member of the House GOP leadership, tweeted: “The peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our Constitution and fundamental to the survival of our Republic. America’s leaders swear an oath to the Constitution. We will uphold that oath.”

Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, was incredulous, “What country are we in?” he said late Wednesday of Trump’s comment. “Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say about it. But it doesn’t surprise me.”

On Capitol Hill, Trump’s possible refusal to accept the election results has been discussed privately for weeks as lawmakers consider options. One senator said recently it was the biggest topic of private discussions.

Two House Democrats, Reps. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan — both members of the Armed Services Committee — are formally asking members of Trump’s Cabinet to go on record and commit to upholding the Constitution and peaceful transition.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded in a letter to the lawmakers last month that he sees “no role” for the military to intervene in a disputed election.

But Defense Secretary Mark Esper declined to respond to the lawmakers’ questions. Similar queries have been sent to Attorney General William Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. They have yet to respond.

“The president can’t successfully refuse to accept the results of the election without a number of very senior officials aiding him,” said Slotkin, a former CIA analyst.

Sherill, a former Navy pilot, said peaceful transition “really relies a lot on the Cabinet officers turning over their departments to the next administration.” She told The Associated Press recently she wants to hear from “all of them.”

Meanwhile, Republicans are rushing to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, partly to ensure a Trump-friendly court majority to resolve any post-election lawsuits by their party or Trump himself.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is among leading Republicans pushing the importance of the court’s role. And Graham suggested on Fox that the Supreme Court could end up all but declaring the winner.

Democrats object strongly.

“He wants to be named president for life?” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., exclaimed at the Capitol. That’s how a “dictator” operates, she said. “That’s not how a democracy works.”

Earlier Thursday, the White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany sought to clarify Trump’s words, saying he “will accept the results of a free and fair election.”

But the press secretary added that Trump wants to “get rid of mass, mail-out voting.”

The president, who uses mail-in voting himself, has tried to distinguish between states that automatically send ballots to all registered voters and those, like Florida, that send only to voters who request them. Five states that routinely send mail ballots to all voters have seen no significant fraud.

Of the nine states with universal ballots this year, only Nevada is a battleground, and likely pivotal only in a total national presidential deadlock.

Before the 2016 election, much as now, Trump refused to commit to accepting the results during the summer.

“I have to see,” Trump said two months ago on “Fox News Sunday.” “No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.”

___

Madhani reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor and Laurie Kellman in Washington, Alexandra Jaffe in Wilmington, Del. and Jonathan Lemire in New York contributed to this report.

President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses has drawn swift blowback

Donald Trump’s Much-Hyped Health Care Plan Isn’t Much of a Plan at All

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President Donald Trump, who has long promised a “beautiful” and “phenomenal” health care plan, announced a series of largely meaningless actions on Thursday during a speech in North Carolina that effectively served as a campaign event.

The most tangible proposal Trump unveiled was a vow to send $200 prescription drug discount cards to 33 million Medicare beneficiaries “in the coming weeks.” However, the President said the $6.6 billion outlay needed to fund this program would have to come from savings from his “most favored nations” drug pricing proposal, which he announced on Sept. 13, and which experts say would be close to impossible to implement before the November election.

The Trump Administration recently tried and failed to convince the pharmaceutical industry to fund a similar plan, according to the New York Times. It’s unclear if the version announced Thursday will see a different fate.

Trump also announced two non-binding executive orders on Thursday, one addressing the topic of surprise out-of-network medical bills and the other addressing the topic of protecting pre-existing conditions. These are two of Americans’ biggest complaints with the country’s health care system. But neither of these orders will have any immediate effect on the problem at hand.

The first non-binding executive order is simply a promise. It declares that “it is the policy of the United States that people who suffer from pre-existing conditions will be protected,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on a press call with reporters before Trump’s speech. This does not create a policy or a law. Administration officials and the President himself said this would cover the same protections already established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—the health care law passed by former President Barack Obama, which the Trump Administration is currently trying to overturn in court.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a challenge to the ACA on Nov. 10, one week after Election Day. If the High Court overturns the law, the American health care system would be sent into chaos. (That prospect is now more likely since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died and Trump has vowed to appoint a new judge to replace her as soon as possible.) The protections for those with pre-existing conditions that Trump is touting would evaporate, tens of millions of Americans would lose health insurance coverage and the current system of insurance marketplaces would disappear. Health care and legal experts noted that it’s unlikely the White House could put in place similar protections for people with pre-existing conditions without passing a law through Congress.

Trump, though, did not seem deterred. He told the often-cheering audience on Thursday that he was glad his Administration has been able to keep the ACA’s protections for pre-existing conditions even as Republicans successfully eliminated other provisions, like the so-called individual mandate. “We were able to terminate the individual mandate, but kept the provision protecting patients with pre-existing conditions,” Trump said.

This statement likely made the Trump Administration’s own Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers squirm. In the current ACA case before the Supreme Court, DOJ lawyers are backing an argument that is at odds with the President’s words—that the Justices must find the entire ACA no longer constitutional since the individual mandate is no longer in effect.

And while Trump has often talked about protecting people with pre-existing conditions, his Administration has repeatedly taken actions that would have the opposite effect. The Administration has supported Congressional Republicans’ many attempts to repeal the ACA, which would eliminate protections for those with pre-existing conditions, and it championed cheaper, skimpier health insurance plans that allow insurers to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.

The second non-binding executive order also does not commit Trump to taking action. Rather, it directs Azar to work with Congress to ban surprise out-of-network medical bills. If Congress does not pass legislation by Jan. 1, Azar told reporters, then Trump will direct him to take other actions. (Azar said he did not have other details on what those actions would be.)

Trump’s announcements Thursday failed to match his pledge of a “full and complete” health care plan. They also failed to make good on senior officials’ claims, made on the press call just ahead of Trump’s speech Thursday, that the President would present an “historic” proposal. But none of this came as much of a surprise to those in Washington or in the health care industry. Trump’s speech, less than six weeks before an election in which he’s trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in most polls, was widely viewed as another attempt to change the national conversation.

Trump is particularly lagging behind Biden on most health care issues, and surveys show that most Americans still disapprove of the President’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. A new survey released by the Commonwealth Fund on Thursday found that the majority of likely voters in 10 battleground states said Biden is more likely to protect insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions. And a poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation this month found that the majority of voters trust Biden over Trump on a variety of health care issues, with the President only leading narrowly on prescription drug prices.

Trump’s top advisers, while striking an upbeat note before his event in North Carolina, demurred when asked for the details on how the President’s new plans would become reality. “It is what it is,” Azar said.

President Donald Trump, who has long promised a “beautiful” and “phenomenal” health care plan, announced a series of largely meaningless actions on Thursday during a speech in North Carolina that effectively served as a campaign event. The most tangible proposal Trump unveiled was a vow to send $200 prescription drug discount cards to 33 million…

Dianne Feinstein’s husband named in UC admissions scandal

Read MoreSen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband, University of California Regent Richard Blum, has been named by the state auditor’s office as one of the regents involved in an admissions scandal where UC wrongly admitted dozens of students as favors to well-connected peopleSen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband, University of California Regent Richard Blum, has been named by the state auditor’s office as one of the regents involved in an admissions scandal where UC wrongly admitted dozens of students as favors to well-connected people

American consumers are paying the price for Wall Street’s profiteering in China | Opinion

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American consumers are paying the price for Wall Street’s profiteering in China | OpinionChina was America’s whipping boy again this week. President Trump used his United Nations General Assembly speech to accuse and to threaten Beijing for its role in covering up the early stages of the pandemic. He said that the U.N. “must hold China accountable for their actions.”

China was America’s whipping boy again this week. President Trump used his United Nations General Assembly speech to accuse and to threaten Beijing for its role in covering up the early stages of the pandemic. He said that the U.N. “must hold China accountable for their actions.”

The Trial of the Chicago 7 Is as Entertaining—and Galvanizing—as Anything You’ll See This Year

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Though it’s tempting to view the courtroom sketch as a quaint relic of legal decorum, the physicality of drawing is urgent in a way that camerawork can’t always match. If you’re so inclined, you can Google a color-crayon courtroom drawing from October 29, 1969 showing Bobby Seale—cofounder of the Black Panthers and one of eight men put on trial that year for staging anti-war demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago—gagged and bound to a chair. Earlier, in a fit of justified anger, he’d verbally interrupted the proceedings; the judge responded by ordering court officers to remove him from the court and restrain him. The drawing, by Howard Brodie and preserved in the Library of Congress, shows Seale holding his strong posture to the degree it’s physically possible, as he strains to write something on a legal pad; a Stravinsky-like stanza of strokes, slashes and loops, the sketch is an urgent, evocative work of reportage. That this could happen in an American court of law was and still is unthinkable, yet not unbelievable. Brodie’s drawing challenges a nation to face its own shame. To look at it more than 50 years later is to recognize how slow we’ve been in taking that shame to heart.

Brodie’s drawing comes to life, with all its somber weight, in a key scene in writer-director Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, a movie as simultaneously entertaining and galvanizing as anything you’ll see this year. (It opens in select theaters on September 25 and will be available on Netflix beginning October 16.) Sorkin has detailed for us the half-circuslike, half-solemn drama of this intense pocket of American history, during which eight anti-war activists were tried for conspiring to incite violence at the convention. The Trial of the Chicago 7 is Sorkin at his Sorkinniest, in the good way, a work attuned to civic responsibility and small-d democratic ideals. It’s as lively as other Sorkin-scripted pictures like Moneyball (2011) and Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), and as astute as The Social Network (2010) was: we couldn’t have known at the time, though maybe we should have, that this story about the rise of opportunistic iconoclast Mark Zuckerberg was really a warning from the future.

The Trial of the Chicago 7
Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX © 2020—© 2020 Netflix, Inc.Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Fred Hampton, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale, Mark Rylance as William Kuntsler.

And although The Trial of the Chicago 7 is only the second picture Sorkin has directed—the first was Molly’s Game, from 2017—in its construction, pacing and casting, it’s the work of an old soul. Sorkin takes a rather dense, complicated court case—one peopled with figures who clung to stubborn differences even in the context of their shared ideals—and keeps it aloft every minute, as if he were following the aerodynamic principles of hang-gliding rather than moviemaking. Best of all, he brings out the best each actor in this enormous ensemble cast has to offer; every character is rendered with jewelers-loupe clarity.

Read More: ‘The Violence Was Inevitable.’ How 7 Key Players Remember the Chaos of 1968’s Democratic National Convention Protests

You need that gift of specificity to tell this story properly. These eight men were anything but a homogenous group, though that didn’t stop the nation’s conservative forces at the time from lumping them into one: Tom Hayden (here played by Eddie Redmayne) and Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp) were clean-cut, crew-neck-sweater-wearing members of the Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS, a left-wing group active since 1960. Staid dad and Boy Scout troop leader Dave Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch) was a longtime pacifist and a member of MOBE, the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), members of the Youth International Party, or Yippies, were the Abbott-and-Costello wild card, a virtual comedy team steeped in marijuana vapors and leftist ideals. John Froines and Lee Weiner (played by Danny Flaherty and Noah Robbins) were two less-notable figures who were nonetheless happy to stand up for their ideals with the rest of the group. (One of them likens the trial to the Academy Awards. “It’s an honor just to be nominated.”) The eighth defendant, Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), of the Panthers, had never even met the others: he had arrived in Chicago to give a speech and departed within just a few hours. Even so, he was tossed in handily with this group, because the authorities believed the inclusion of a Black Panther in the proceedings would prove to the American people just how menacing this assemblage of citizens who had sought to exercise their right to protest truly was.

The Trial of the Chicago 7
NICO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX © 2020—© 2020 Netflix, Inc.Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Ben Shenkman, Mark Rylance, Eddie Redmayne and Alex Sharp.

There’s a lot of talking in The Trial of the Chicago 7; it’s a courtroom drama, after all. But as fixated on words as Sorkin is, he knows they’re only part of the language of movies. The federal government’s prosecuting attorneys, Thomas Foran (J.C. MacKenzie) and Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), show up to court in dark suits so crisp they could stand up by themselves. Meanwhile, one of the two lawyers enlisted to defend the seven, William Kunstler—played with the perfect degree of low-key bull-doggishness by Mark Rylance— shambles in wearing a rumpled tweed suit, a fake-leather glasses case peeking out of the breast pocket. You know just by his rushed, shambling carriage where he’s coming from. (Kunstler did not represent Seale, who had unsuccessfully sought to delay the trial because his own lawyer was undergoing a medical procedure.) And when Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella) sweeps in, the silent rustle of his robes suggest that he thinks he’s jurisprudence royalty. The rest of the movie shows him up as a pompous, vindictive serpent, and sort of a boob to boot. Watching The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a little like reading Dickens: much of the fun lies in picking up on the signals of individual characters.

Even if you already know the basic story of the Chicago Seven—also commonly referred to as the Chicago Eight, to include Seale, although his case was severed from that of the others after a mistrial was declared on his behalf—Sorkin’s movie is so richly layered with detail that you’ll surely find something new. The Chicago DNC protests began peacefully and erupted into stunningly brutal violence, and Sorkin captures its horror here, weaving in some archival footage in the mode of Haskell Wexler’s groundbreaking 1969 fiction-nonfiction blend Medium Cool. The trial, instigated by newly installed Nixon attorney general and flunky John Mitchell, applied as gospel the assumption that the riots couldn’t possibly have been started by police; surely, law enforcement would never instigate a public disturbance. But when Sorkin shows us the young, bespectacled, somewhat fragile Rennie Davis being cracked across the back of the skull with a police baton—and the unfiltered, visceral response of his best friend, Tom Hayden—it strikes like lightning. Even the simmering distrust between certain members of the group—for example, the disdain preppy-proper Hayden shows for goofball-intellectual Abbie Hoffman—is woven firmly into the movie’s fabric. Every detail has meaning in the end.

I can hear what some of you are thinking: This movie is just two-hours-plus of men talking; who wants to watch that? I, too, dread movies about talking men, but the Trial of the Chicago 7 won me over in its first, fleet 10 minutes. In places, it’s unapologetically charming, particularly when it focuses on Hoffman and his sidekick, Jerry Rubin. As the two saunter into the courthouse, dressed in their usual hippie gear of tunics and headbands, Rubin handily catches an egg that one of the many bystanders—some supportive, but many angry—has thrown. It’s a neat trick, and Hoffman expresses his awe, before asking, “But now what do you do with it?” The small shadow of sadness that crosses Rubin’s face—what do you do with it?— is as perfect as the smooth surface of his rescued egg. Later, the two will show up in court draped in judge’s robes. When Judge Hoffman angrily demands that they remove their phoney-baloney costumes, they comply, revealing the Chicago police uniforms they’re wearing underneath.

The Trial of the Chicago 7
Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX © 2020—© 2020 Netflix, Inc.Sacha Baron Cohen and Jeremy Strong as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin.

That really happened, because just about everything in The Trial of the Chicago 7 really happened. Including the shackling of Seale. From the moment Seale is led away by officers, Sorkin is careful with this scene. He shows the beating of Seale in flashes of fast cutting; the suggestion is that the officers’ kicks and punches were calibrated so they’d leave no visible marks on Seale’s body. But the moment Seale is led back to his seat, his limbs constrained, his mouth bound by a wide lashing of white tape, the very texture of the air in the courtroom changes. Sorkin somehow conveys this invisible yet shattering atmospheric shift; it’s hard to map exactly how, even beyond the fact that Gordon-Levitt’s prosecutor Schultz—who’s shown from the start to be a semi-sympathetic foe—verbally expresses dismay at the sight of Seale’s condition, and not just because he knows it will damage his case. Sometimes a great scene induces a kind of synesthesia in a viewer; an image you see onscreen summons a metallic taste in your mouth, or some other weird, specifically physical sensation. I felt that way watching Seale being led back to his chair. The Trial of the Chicago 7 reminds us of the chant that arose from the Chicago protestors as the police descended upon them with batons and, some sources have indicated, gloved fists fortified with metal: “The whole world is watching.” At what point do you look away? The Trial of the Chicago 7 details events that happened more than 50 years ago. The time to look away is never.

Aaron Sorkin’s Netflix courtroom drama about a group of anti-war activists is richly layered and attuned to small-d democratic ideals