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Australia opens up more borders in domestic travel boost, eyes vaccine

By Colin Packham and Renju Jose

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia will lift more internal border restrictions in a boost for tourism as new coronavirus infections slow to a trickle, while first vaccines could be available in March, a government minister said on Tuesday.

Queensland state, a popular holiday destination, will allow visitors next week from the country’s two most populous states, New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria, after closing its borders in August.

NSW has since notched a month without any COVID-19 cases where the source is unknown and restrictions on arrivals from Sydney will be eased on Dec. 1, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

Residents of Victoria, previously the country’s coronavirus hotspot, will also be welcomed if the state has no new cases on Wednesday, which would mark 26 days without community transmission.

“Queensland is good to go,” Palaszczuk told reporters in Brisbane.

NSW and Victoria opened their border on Monday, while the South Australia-Victorian border opens fully next week, in welcome news for local airline companies, Qantas Airways and Virgin Australia.

Qantas said it will run more than 1,200 return flights from Victoria and NSW into Queensland in the run-up to Christmas.

The moves will please Prime Minister Scott Morrison who has pushed state leaders to relax some curbs to help revive the economy, which shrank 7% in the three months to end-June, the most since records began in 1959.

Looking further out, Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia – which has agreed to buy nearly 34 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine – is increasingly confident it can complete a vaccination programme after the release of preliminary trial results.

“Our vaccine timeline is beginning to strengthen. The news from overseas is that we are on track for first vaccines in March,” Hunt told reporters in Sydney.

AstraZeneca said its COVID-19 vaccine, cheaper to make, easier to distribute and faster to scale-up than its rivals, could be as much as 90% effective.

Australia has reported more than 27,800 cases of COVID-19 and 907 deaths since the pandemic began, but estimates there are fewer than 100 active COVID-19 cases remaining, mostly people in hotel quarantine.

Victoria said on Tuesday it had zero active cases for the first time in over eight months following a strict lockdown after daily infections peaked at more than 700 in early August.

Qantas, meanwhile, said it will insist in future that international travelers have a COVID-19 vaccination before they fly, describing the move as “a necessity”.

“We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say, for international travelers, that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft,” Chief Executive Alan Joyce told broadcaster Channel Nine.

Australia closed its international borders in March and currently requires returning travelers from overseas to quarantine for two weeks.

(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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Japan to suspend domestic travel campaign in two cities, minister says

The Conversation

China beat the coronavirus with science and strong public health measures, not just with authoritarianism

I live in a democracy. But as Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself longing for the type of freedom I am seeing in China. People in China are able to move around freely right now. Many Americans may believe that the Chinese are able to enjoy this freedom because of China’s authoritarian regime. As a scholar of public health in China, I think the answers go beyond that.My research suggests that the control of the virus in China is not the result of authoritarian policy, but of a national prioritization of health. China learned a tough lesson with SARS, the first coronavirus pandemic of the 21st century. How China flattened its curveBarely less than a year ago, a novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China, with 80,000 cases identified within three months, killing 3,000 people. In late January 2020, the Chinese government decided to lock down this city of 11 million people. All transportation to and from the city was stopped. Officials further locked down several other cities in Hubei Province, eventually quarantining over 50 million people.By the beginning of April, the Chinese government limited the spread of the virus to the point where they felt comfortable opening up Wuhan once again. Seven months later, China has confirmed 9,100 additional cases and recorded 1,407 more deaths due to the coronavirus. People in China travel, eat in restaurants and go into theaters, and kids go to school without much concern for their health. Juxtapose that to what we are experiencing in the U.S. To date, we have confirmed over 11 million cases, with the last 1 million recorded in just the last one week alone. In September and October, friends from China sent me pictures of food from all over the country as they traveled around to visit friends and family for the mid-autumn festival and then the seven-day National Day vacation week. I envied them then and envy them even more now as Americans prepare and wonder how we will celebrate Thanksgiving this year. What China learned from SARSWe Americans are told that the freedoms Chinese now enjoy come at the expense of being subject to a set of draconian public health policies that can be instituted only by an authoritarian government. But they also have the experience of living through a similar epidemic.SARS broke out in November of 2002 and ended in May of 2003, and China was anything but prepared for its emergence. It didn’t have the public health infrastructure in place to detect or control such a disease, and initially decided to prioritize politics and economy over health by covering up the epidemic. This didn’t work with such a virulent disease that started spreading around the world. After being forced to come to terms with SARS, China’s leaders eventually did enforce quarantine in Beijing and canceled the week-long May Day holiday of 2003. This helped to end the pandemic within a few short months, with minimal impact. SARS infected approximately 8,000 worldwide and killed about 800, 65% of which occurred in China and Hong Kong. The Chinese government learned from SARS the important role public health plays in protecting the nation. Following SARS, the government improved training of public health professionals and developed one of the most sophisticated disease surveillance systems in the world. While caught off guard for this next big coronavirus outbreak in December 2019, the country quickly mobilized its resources to bring the epidemic almost to a halt inside its borders within three months. What can the US learn from China?Knowing that there were no safe or proven treatments or an effective vaccine, China relied on proven nonpharmaceutical interventions to conquer the epidemic. First and foremost was containing the virus through controlling the sources of infection and blocking transmission. This was accomplished through early detection (testing), isolation, treatment and tracing the close contacts of any infected individual. This strategy was aided by the three field hospitals (fancang) the government built to isolate patients with mild to moderate symptoms from their families. Strict quarantine measures were also central to preventing the spread of this epidemic, as it was with the SARS epidemic in 2003. This was paired with compulsory mask-wearing, promotion of personal hygiene (hand-washing, home disinfection, ventilation), self-monitoring of body temperature, universal compulsory stay-at-home orders for all residents, and universal symptom surveys conducted by community workers and volunteers. What else could the US have done to be prepared?SARS exposed serious weaknesses in China’s public health system and prompted its government to reinvent its public health system. COVID-19 has exposed similar shortcomings in the U.S. public health system. To date, however, the current administration has taken the exact opposite approach, devastating our public health system. The Trump administration made major cuts to the budgets of the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The last budget submitted by the Trump administration in February 2020, as the pandemic was beginning, called for an additional reduction of US$693 million to the CDC budget. This affected our ability to prepare for a pandemic outbreak. In the past, this preparation included international partnerships to help detect disease before it reached our shores. For example, the CDC built up partnerships with China following the SARS epidemic, to help contain the emergence of infectious disease coming from the region. At one point the CDC had 10 American experts working on the ground in China and 40 local Chinese staff, who mostly concentrated on infectious disease. Trump started slashing these positions shortly after taking office, and by the time COVID-19 broke out, those programs were whittled down to a skeleton staff of one or two. [Research into coronavirus and other news from science Subscribe to The Conversation’s new science newsletter.]The Declaration of Alma Ata guaranteed health for all, and not just health for people governed under a specific type of bureaucratic system. The U.S. has been, and can be, just as dedicated to protecting the health of its people as China under its authoritarian government. We demonstrated this during the Ebola epidemic, with the launch of a whole government effort coordinated by Ron Klain, who has been appointed White House chief of staff under President-elect Biden.This effort, which included a coordinated response with both African nations and China, improved preparedness within the U.S. and ultimately helped to save hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. A reduction in funding for our public health infrastructure, under the Trump administration, was a divestment in the health of the American people and should not have happened. A new administration that places public health at the helm, once again, will I hope prove to us that health is not just something that can be protected under an authoritarian government, but is in fact a right for all.This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Elanah Uretsky, Brandeis University.Read more: * Poor US pandemic response will reverberate in health care politics for years, health scholars warn * Experts agree that Trump’s coronavirus response was poor, but the US was ill-prepared in the first placeElanah Uretsky does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Third person shoved onto New York City subway tracks within a week

Authorities in New York City were searching Monday for a suspect who allegedly pushed a man onto subway tracks in what police say is the third such assault in a week.

The alleged assault occurred Sunday night at the Atlantic Avenue station in Brooklyn after the suspect started yelling at the victim inside a train car, New York City Police Department Sgt. Edward Riley said.

After the subway stopped and the pair left the car, the suspect allegedly pushed the 29-year-old man onto the tracks below, Riley said. The man suffered minor injuries and climbed back onto the train platform on his own, he said.

Surveillance video released Sunday shows a man in a dark jacket and sweatshirt pushing the victim off the platform. Someone nearby grabs for the alleged assailant, who bats the person’s hand away before he walks off.

Two other incidents occurred Wednesday night at the 42nd Street/Bryant Park station and Thursday at the Union Square station, both in Manhattan.

In the first incident, a suspect allegedly pushed a UPS worker onto the tracks after he refused to give the man money. In the second, a homeless man allegedly shoved a woman onto tracks moments before a train approached.

The woman wound up inside the two rails and kept her head down while the train passed over her.

“We have got folks in this city who desperately need mental health care. The transit system is for people who are using it to travel,” New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg said.

“MTA and NYC Transit, our personnel are out there in the system, we are doing our best to make sure the commuters, New Yorkers, are safe. We have a crisis in this city with mentally ill people who need help, and it absolutely needs to be addressed, and I’m desperate for this mayor or the next mayor to take it on because we’ve got a long way to go,” she said.

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GSA chief says decision to allow transition to begin was ‘solely mine’

National Review

Judge Finds the Fatal Flaw in Trump Campaign’s Pennsylvania Case

A    federal court has thrown out the Trump campaign’s lawsuit in Pennsylvania, which challenged presumptive President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the commonwealth. In so doing, district judge Matthew Brann refused the campaign’s eleventh-hour attempt to file a new complaint that would have reinstated election fraud claims the Trump campaign had abandoned a few days earlier. (I outlined the lawsuit here, and explained the Trump campaign’s last-ditch effort to amend it here.)Judge Brann’s 37-page opinion sets forth a variety of reasons for dismissing the case. Most of them are directed toward the complaints of two individual plaintiffs — voters who claimed that their ballots had been improperly discounted. By contrast, the court found that the Trump campaign had no standing to sue, having posited no evidence that President Trump was harmed in any cognizable way by the manner in which the election was conducted in Pennsylvania.At bottom, though, the court found that the fatal flaw in the case is the one that we have repeatedly stressed: The mismatch between the harm alleged and the remedy sought.As the judge explained, even if one accepted the dubious premise that the two voters in question were improperly denied the right to vote while others similarly situated were not, the commensurate relief would be for their votes to be counted.That, however, was not the remedy they sought. Instead, supported by the Trump campaign, the two voters petitioned the court to stop Pennsylvania from certifying — on Monday as state law requires — the commonwealth’s election result, which had Biden winning by 83,000 votes. Brann countered:> Prohibiting certification of the election results would not reinstate the Individual Plaintiffs’ right to vote. It would simply deny more than 6.8 million [Pennsylvanians] their right to vote. “Standing is measured based on the theory of harm and the specific relief requested.” It is not “dispensed in gross: A plaintiff’s remedy must be tailored to redress the plaintiff’s particular injury.” Here, the answer to invalidated ballots is not to invalidate millions more. [Footnotes omitted.]As we detailed on Friday, the case was in a strange posture.In filing its original complaint on November 9, the Trump campaign claimed extensive vote fraud, relying mainly on the allegation that Republican poll-watchers had been denied a meaningful opportunity to observe the canvassing of ballots. But, as Brann notes (and we discussed here), on November 13, the federal appeals court for the Third Circuit (which has binding effect on Brann’s district court) issued its opinion in Bognet v. Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Though not directly connected to the campaign’s case, Bognet’s reasoning substantially undercut its claims.The campaign reacted by amending its complaint, reducing the case to the narrow claim that Trump voters’ equal-protection rights (and, derivatively, the campaign’s rights) had been violated by an allegedly skewed procedure: Mail-in voters in Biden-friendly counties had been permitted to cure defects in the ballots they’d submitted, while voters in Trump-friendly counties were not. Brann rejected this claim, accepting Pennsylvania’s argument that Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar had encouraged ballot curing all over the state. Thus the state government was not at fault if not all counties availed themselves of this opportunity.That is largely beside the point, though. Even if there had been a violation of the voters’ rights, the remedy would be to count their votes. Instead, as the court observed,> Plaintiffs seek to remedy the denial of their votes by invalidating the votes of millions of others. Rather than requesting that their votes be counted, they seek to discredit scores of other votes, but only for one race [i.e., the presidential race, not the other contests down-ballot]. This is simply not how the Constitution works. [Emphasis added.]Moreover:> Granting Paintiffs’ requested relief would necessarily require invalidating the ballots of every person who voted in Pennsylvania. Because this Court has no authority to take away the right to vote of even a single person, let along millions of citizens, it cannot grant Plaintiffs’ requested relief.Brann concluded that the Trump campaign had no standing to sue based, derivatively, on the harm alleged by the two voters, particularly after the Bognet ruling. He specifically rejected both of the campaign’s main equal-protection complaints: (1) that its poll-watchers were discriminatorily excluded from observing the canvass, and (2) that the opportunity for voters to cure defective ballots was deliberately done in counties the state knew to favor Biden.On the former, Brann held that this was not, as the Trump campaign maintained, an equal-protection issue. The campaign was not claiming that Trump observers were treated differently from Biden observers. On the latter, Brann concluded that the campaign was misinterpreting Bush v. Gore, and, in any event, was not claiming that Boockvar’s guidance on curing ballots differed from county to county.Most significantly, Brann denied the Trump campaign’s dilatory attempt to amend its complaint yet again late this past week, in order to reinstate claims from their original complaint, which they’d withdrawn last weekend. The court reasoned that this would “unduly delay resolution of the issues” in light of the fact that Monday, November 23, is the deadline for Pennsylvania counties to certify their election results to the state government — a necessary prelude to appointing the slate of electors who will cast the commonwealth’s Electoral College votes.In reaction to the ruling, the Trump campaign lawyers issued a statement asserting that, though they disagreed with the decision by “the Obama-appointed judge,” it was actually a boon to “our strategy to get expeditiously to the U.S. Supreme Court.”It is true that Brann was appointed by former President Barack Obama, but he is a Republican and Federalist Society member who was sponsored by the state’s Republican senator Pat Toomey — a common situation when a state’s two senators are from different parties, and an administration has to horse-trade on appointments.Trump lawyers added that the ruling denied them “the opportunity to present our evidence at a hearing.” They described that as “censorship” of “50 witnesses” who would have testified that state election officials denied the “independent review” required by Pennsylvania law. This is an apparent reference to the campaign’s claim that its poll-watchers were not given a meaningful opportunity to observe the canvass, which the lawyers say, “resulted in 682,777 ballots being cast illegally.” The campaign did not mention that it had dropped this charge from its original complaint. Nor did it allude to Brann’s conclusion that the allegation was not a cognizable equal-protection claim under federal law.The campaign says it will seek an expedited appeal to the Third Circuit — the tribunal that just decided the Bognet case, the precedent that appears to have induced the campaign to withdraw the claims it is now seeking to revive. In any event, it is anything but clear that the Supreme Court, which has thus far declined to act on Pennsylvania election-law claims relevant to the 2020 election, would agree to hear the campaign’s case — even assuming that the Third Circuit grants expedited appeal and, as even the campaign plainly expects, rules against the campaign.

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Trump campaign says it will continue legal fight after Michigan certification

The Week

Biden’s challenges abroad

President Trump pulled the U.S. back from global leadership. Can Joe Biden restore it? Here’s everything you need to know:What is Biden facing? Trump’s “America First” foreign policy was a radical departure from the multilateral approach of the Obama administration, and it has transformed the international landscape. The U.S. pulled out of the Paris climate accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, the World Health Organization, and the U.N. human rights commission, and it unilaterally withdrew from the multiparty Iran nuclear deal and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia. After four years of being berated by Trump, European allies no longer feel they can depend on the U.S. or its commitment to NATO — although they have, at Trump’s insistence, begun to spend more on defense. The U.S.-China relationship is at its most tense in decades. Both North Korea and Iran are further along in their nuclear programs than they were when Trump took office, with a jubilant Kim Jong Un recently showing off a new ICBM that can reach every city in the U.S.What will he take on first? Biden, who has decades of foreign policy experience as vice president and as chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, wants to reassert American leadership on the biggest crises facing the globe. Most pressing is the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. will rejoin the World Health Organization and seek to coordinate an international plan to distribute vaccines. Climate change is the other major challenge. Once back in the Paris climate accord, Biden wants to lead global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a $2 trillion clean energy and infrastructure plan. In his very first week in office, Biden plans to save the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty, New START, which expires in February. While Trump wanted to alter the pact, Russian President Vladimir Putin is willing to extend it without changes for five years; Biden will likely agree. But Biden will resume robust support for Ukraine, which is still battling Russia, and it’s possible he’ll further sanction Moscow for its attempts to interfere in U.S. elections.What about U.S. allies? Repairing damaged U.S. alliances is central to Biden’s plans — but many allies are wary. Some Europeans, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, say that America’s retreat from international leadership began not with Trump, but under the Obama administration, when the U.S. failed to act against Syria’s use of chemical weapons. Even if Biden is wholeheartedly committed to the defense of traditional allies, they are keenly aware the American people could well vote for another isolationist in four years. Europeans can “no longer take for granted that they can trust the U.S., even on basic things,” says former Norwegian premier Gro Harlem Brundtland. Europe itself has changed: Brexit means that the U.K., our closest ally, no longer has a voice in the EU, and London is desperate for a favorable trade deal with the U.S. that it may not get.What about the Middle East? Like Trump, Biden sees Asia, not the Middle East, as America’s foremost strategic challenge, so Biden is unlikely to recommit troops to Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Still, there will be many changes. The Trump administration has sold Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates billions of dollars’ worth of weapons, but the Biden administration is likely to cut off supplies for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has killed thousands of civilians, and punish the Saudis for human rights abuses such as the murder of journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi. The Israeli relationship will also change. Biden has always been a staunch supporter of Israel, but he doesn’t see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line policies as beneficial for Israeli or U.S. interests. He will keep the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, but will oppose continued Israeli settlement building in Palestinian territories and restore U.S. aid to the Palestinians.What about nuclear proliferation? Biden wants to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear pact, but Tehran has increased its stock of low-enriched uranium over the past four years and would have to agree to give up the progress it has made toward a nuclear weapon. Further attempts to negotiate with North Korea are unlikely; Biden’s plan there is to re-engage with South Korea, abandoning Trump’s demand for $5 billion to house U.S. troops. But to rein in Pyongyang, he must get the cooperation of its biggest backer, China.How will he do that? Like Trump, Biden wants to prevent China from establishing military hegemony in the strategic South China Sea and halt Chinese stealing of U.S. intellectual property. But Trump’s approach, a trade war, hurt the U.S. economy without denting Chinese resolve. Biden is expected to halt the tariff war and instead focus on working with Beijing — along with regional allies Japan, South Korea, and Australia — on areas of common interest. But he also says he will hold Beijing accountable for its atrocious human rights abuses in Xinjiang and its reversal of democratic freedoms in Hong Kong. Balancing those competing interests will be extremely difficult. “History cannot be erased,” said French diplomat Jean-Marie Guehenno, a former U.N. undersecretary-general. “The kind of soft power that the United States has enjoyed in the past has largely evaporated.”‘Forever wars’ in Afghanistan and Iraq “It’s long past time we end the forever wars,” Biden said in his foreign policy address during the campaign. “We should bring the vast majority of our troops home from the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East and narrowly define our mission as defeating al Qaida and the Islamic State.” But both Iraqis and Afghans are worried about the aftermath of troop withdrawals. After the Obama administration drawdown in Iraq, Iran asserted more influence there and the Islamic State overran large parts of the country. “We do not want Obama’s policies to return to our country again,” said Iraqi lawmaker Dhafer al-Ani. In Afghanistan, a Biden administration is likely to continue Trump’s planned withdrawals but make them contingent on the Taliban keeping their promises to stop attacks on Afghan forces — which so far they have not done. True peace is likely to continue to be elusive.This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.More stories from theweek.com I was wrong about Mitt Romney Biden is stealing the spotlight. Trump can’t stand it. Can an old Blob learn new tricks?

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Apple’s security chief charged with bribery

The Apple logo is displayed outside company’s Regent Street store

Apple’s head of global security has been charged with bribery.

Thomas Moyer is accused of offering bribes in the form of iPads worth $70,000 in order to obtain concealed firearms licenses.

The charges were brought by a California grand jury on Monday. Apple did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Two police officers from Santa Clara County, California, have also been charged.

County Undersheriff Rick Sung and Sheriff’s Captain James Jenson are accused of requesting bribes for concealed firearms licenses.

Mr Moyer is accused of offering bribes to get them.

Under state law, it is a crime to carry a concealed firearm without a concealed weapon license.

Santa Clara County alleges that Mr Sung held back issuing concealed weapons permits to Apple’s security team, until Mr Moyer agreed to donate $70,000 worth of iPads to the sheriff’s office.

Plan foiled

The charge sheet states that the plan was scuttled at the eleventh hour in August, 2019, when Mr Sung and Mr Moyer learned of a search warrant to seize the police’s concealed weapon license records.

The two-year investigation concludes that Mr Sung, aided by Mr Jensen in one instance, would hold back on issuing permits, refusing to release them until the applicants gave something of value.

If found guilty those charged could face prison time.

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said: “Call this quid pro quo. Call it pay-to-play. Call it give to get. It is illegal and deeply erodes public confidence in the criminal justice system,”

“When high-ranking members of a law enforcement agency are at the heart of a bribery scheme, it tarnishes the badge, the honour, the reputations and – tragically – the effectiveness of all law enforcement agencies.”

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China launches robotic spacecraft to retrieve rocks from the moon

National Review

Judge Finds the Fatal Flaw in Trump Campaign’s Pennsylvania Case

A    federal court has thrown out the Trump campaign’s lawsuit in Pennsylvania, which challenged presumptive President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the commonwealth. In so doing, district judge Matthew Brann refused the campaign’s eleventh-hour attempt to file a new complaint that would have reinstated election fraud claims the Trump campaign had abandoned a few days earlier. (I outlined the lawsuit here, and explained the Trump campaign’s last-ditch effort to amend it here.)Judge Brann’s 37-page opinion sets forth a variety of reasons for dismissing the case. Most of them are directed toward the complaints of two individual plaintiffs — voters who claimed that their ballots had been improperly discounted. By contrast, the court found that the Trump campaign had no standing to sue, having posited no evidence that President Trump was harmed in any cognizable way by the manner in which the election was conducted in Pennsylvania.At bottom, though, the court found that the fatal flaw in the case is the one that we have repeatedly stressed: The mismatch between the harm alleged and the remedy sought.As the judge explained, even if one accepted the dubious premise that the two voters in question were improperly denied the right to vote while others similarly situated were not, the commensurate relief would be for their votes to be counted.That, however, was not the remedy they sought. Instead, supported by the Trump campaign, the two voters petitioned the court to stop Pennsylvania from certifying — on Monday as state law requires — the commonwealth’s election result, which had Biden winning by 83,000 votes. Brann countered:> Prohibiting certification of the election results would not reinstate the Individual Plaintiffs’ right to vote. It would simply deny more than 6.8 million [Pennsylvanians] their right to vote. “Standing is measured based on the theory of harm and the specific relief requested.” It is not “dispensed in gross: A plaintiff’s remedy must be tailored to redress the plaintiff’s particular injury.” Here, the answer to invalidated ballots is not to invalidate millions more. [Footnotes omitted.]As we detailed on Friday, the case was in a strange posture.In filing its original complaint on November 9, the Trump campaign claimed extensive vote fraud, relying mainly on the allegation that Republican poll-watchers had been denied a meaningful opportunity to observe the canvassing of ballots. But, as Brann notes (and we discussed here), on November 13, the federal appeals court for the Third Circuit (which has binding effect on Brann’s district court) issued its opinion in Bognet v. Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Though not directly connected to the campaign’s case, Bognet’s reasoning substantially undercut its claims.The campaign reacted by amending its complaint, reducing the case to the narrow claim that Trump voters’ equal-protection rights (and, derivatively, the campaign’s rights) had been violated by an allegedly skewed procedure: Mail-in voters in Biden-friendly counties had been permitted to cure defects in the ballots they’d submitted, while voters in Trump-friendly counties were not. Brann rejected this claim, accepting Pennsylvania’s argument that Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar had encouraged ballot curing all over the state. Thus the state government was not at fault if not all counties availed themselves of this opportunity.That is largely beside the point, though. Even if there had been a violation of the voters’ rights, the remedy would be to count their votes. Instead, as the court observed,> Plaintiffs seek to remedy the denial of their votes by invalidating the votes of millions of others. Rather than requesting that their votes be counted, they seek to discredit scores of other votes, but only for one race [i.e., the presidential race, not the other contests down-ballot]. This is simply not how the Constitution works. [Emphasis added.]Moreover:> Granting Paintiffs’ requested relief would necessarily require invalidating the ballots of every person who voted in Pennsylvania. Because this Court has no authority to take away the right to vote of even a single person, let along millions of citizens, it cannot grant Plaintiffs’ requested relief.Brann concluded that the Trump campaign had no standing to sue based, derivatively, on the harm alleged by the two voters, particularly after the Bognet ruling. He specifically rejected both of the campaign’s main equal-protection complaints: (1) that its poll-watchers were discriminatorily excluded from observing the canvass, and (2) that the opportunity for voters to cure defective ballots was deliberately done in counties the state knew to favor Biden.On the former, Brann held that this was not, as the Trump campaign maintained, an equal-protection issue. The campaign was not claiming that Trump observers were treated differently from Biden observers. On the latter, Brann concluded that the campaign was misinterpreting Bush v. Gore, and, in any event, was not claiming that Boockvar’s guidance on curing ballots differed from county to county.Most significantly, Brann denied the Trump campaign’s dilatory attempt to amend its complaint yet again late this past week, in order to reinstate claims from their original complaint, which they’d withdrawn last weekend. The court reasoned that this would “unduly delay resolution of the issues” in light of the fact that Monday, November 23, is the deadline for Pennsylvania counties to certify their election results to the state government — a necessary prelude to appointing the slate of electors who will cast the commonwealth’s Electoral College votes.In reaction to the ruling, the Trump campaign lawyers issued a statement asserting that, though they disagreed with the decision by “the Obama-appointed judge,” it was actually a boon to “our strategy to get expeditiously to the U.S. Supreme Court.”It is true that Brann was appointed by former President Barack Obama, but he is a Republican and Federalist Society member who was sponsored by the state’s Republican senator Pat Toomey — a common situation when a state’s two senators are from different parties, and an administration has to horse-trade on appointments.Trump lawyers added that the ruling denied them “the opportunity to present our evidence at a hearing.” They described that as “censorship” of “50 witnesses” who would have testified that state election officials denied the “independent review” required by Pennsylvania law. This is an apparent reference to the campaign’s claim that its poll-watchers were not given a meaningful opportunity to observe the canvass, which the lawyers say, “resulted in 682,777 ballots being cast illegally.” The campaign did not mention that it had dropped this charge from its original complaint. Nor did it allude to Brann’s conclusion that the allegation was not a cognizable equal-protection claim under federal law.The campaign says it will seek an expedited appeal to the Third Circuit — the tribunal that just decided the Bognet case, the precedent that appears to have induced the campaign to withdraw the claims it is now seeking to revive. In any event, it is anything but clear that the Supreme Court, which has thus far declined to act on Pennsylvania election-law claims relevant to the 2020 election, would agree to hear the campaign’s case — even assuming that the Third Circuit grants expedited appeal and, as even the campaign plainly expects, rules against the campaign.

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Biden to name Kerry as U.S. climate czar, emphasizing diplomacy’s role in the fight

The Conversation

China beat the coronavirus with science and strong public health measures, not just with authoritarianism

I live in a democracy. But as Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself longing for the type of freedom I am seeing in China. People in China are able to move around freely right now. Many Americans may believe that the Chinese are able to enjoy this freedom because of China’s authoritarian regime. As a scholar of public health in China, I think the answers go beyond that.My research suggests that the control of the virus in China is not the result of authoritarian policy, but of a national prioritization of health. China learned a tough lesson with SARS, the first coronavirus pandemic of the 21st century. How China flattened its curveBarely less than a year ago, a novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China, with 80,000 cases identified within three months, killing 3,000 people. In late January 2020, the Chinese government decided to lock down this city of 11 million people. All transportation to and from the city was stopped. Officials further locked down several other cities in Hubei Province, eventually quarantining over 50 million people.By the beginning of April, the Chinese government limited the spread of the virus to the point where they felt comfortable opening up Wuhan once again. Seven months later, China has confirmed 9,100 additional cases and recorded 1,407 more deaths due to the coronavirus. People in China travel, eat in restaurants and go into theaters, and kids go to school without much concern for their health. Juxtapose that to what we are experiencing in the U.S. To date, we have confirmed over 11 million cases, with the last 1 million recorded in just the last one week alone. In September and October, friends from China sent me pictures of food from all over the country as they traveled around to visit friends and family for the mid-autumn festival and then the seven-day National Day vacation week. I envied them then and envy them even more now as Americans prepare and wonder how we will celebrate Thanksgiving this year. What China learned from SARSWe Americans are told that the freedoms Chinese now enjoy come at the expense of being subject to a set of draconian public health policies that can be instituted only by an authoritarian government. But they also have the experience of living through a similar epidemic.SARS broke out in November of 2002 and ended in May of 2003, and China was anything but prepared for its emergence. It didn’t have the public health infrastructure in place to detect or control such a disease, and initially decided to prioritize politics and economy over health by covering up the epidemic. This didn’t work with such a virulent disease that started spreading around the world. After being forced to come to terms with SARS, China’s leaders eventually did enforce quarantine in Beijing and canceled the week-long May Day holiday of 2003. This helped to end the pandemic within a few short months, with minimal impact. SARS infected approximately 8,000 worldwide and killed about 800, 65% of which occurred in China and Hong Kong. The Chinese government learned from SARS the important role public health plays in protecting the nation. Following SARS, the government improved training of public health professionals and developed one of the most sophisticated disease surveillance systems in the world. While caught off guard for this next big coronavirus outbreak in December 2019, the country quickly mobilized its resources to bring the epidemic almost to a halt inside its borders within three months. What can the US learn from China?Knowing that there were no safe or proven treatments or an effective vaccine, China relied on proven nonpharmaceutical interventions to conquer the epidemic. First and foremost was containing the virus through controlling the sources of infection and blocking transmission. This was accomplished through early detection (testing), isolation, treatment and tracing the close contacts of any infected individual. This strategy was aided by the three field hospitals (fancang) the government built to isolate patients with mild to moderate symptoms from their families. Strict quarantine measures were also central to preventing the spread of this epidemic, as it was with the SARS epidemic in 2003. This was paired with compulsory mask-wearing, promotion of personal hygiene (hand-washing, home disinfection, ventilation), self-monitoring of body temperature, universal compulsory stay-at-home orders for all residents, and universal symptom surveys conducted by community workers and volunteers. What else could the US have done to be prepared?SARS exposed serious weaknesses in China’s public health system and prompted its government to reinvent its public health system. COVID-19 has exposed similar shortcomings in the U.S. public health system. To date, however, the current administration has taken the exact opposite approach, devastating our public health system. The Trump administration made major cuts to the budgets of the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The last budget submitted by the Trump administration in February 2020, as the pandemic was beginning, called for an additional reduction of US$693 million to the CDC budget. This affected our ability to prepare for a pandemic outbreak. In the past, this preparation included international partnerships to help detect disease before it reached our shores. For example, the CDC built up partnerships with China following the SARS epidemic, to help contain the emergence of infectious disease coming from the region. At one point the CDC had 10 American experts working on the ground in China and 40 local Chinese staff, who mostly concentrated on infectious disease. Trump started slashing these positions shortly after taking office, and by the time COVID-19 broke out, those programs were whittled down to a skeleton staff of one or two. [Research into coronavirus and other news from science Subscribe to The Conversation’s new science newsletter.]The Declaration of Alma Ata guaranteed health for all, and not just health for people governed under a specific type of bureaucratic system. The U.S. has been, and can be, just as dedicated to protecting the health of its people as China under its authoritarian government. We demonstrated this during the Ebola epidemic, with the launch of a whole government effort coordinated by Ron Klain, who has been appointed White House chief of staff under President-elect Biden.This effort, which included a coordinated response with both African nations and China, improved preparedness within the U.S. and ultimately helped to save hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. A reduction in funding for our public health infrastructure, under the Trump administration, was a divestment in the health of the American people and should not have happened. A new administration that places public health at the helm, once again, will I hope prove to us that health is not just something that can be protected under an authoritarian government, but is in fact a right for all.This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Elanah Uretsky, Brandeis University.Read more: * Poor US pandemic response will reverberate in health care politics for years, health scholars warn * Experts agree that Trump’s coronavirus response was poor, but the US was ill-prepared in the first placeElanah Uretsky does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.