Senators to Biden: Waive vaccine intellectual property rules
Ten liberal senators are urging President Joe Biden to back India and South Africa’s appeal to the World Trade Organization to temporarily relax intellectual property rules so coronavirus vaccines can be manufactured by nations that are struggling to inoculate their populations.
Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Here’s what happened Feb. 17 with COVID-19 in the Chicago area
“I had bolder plans for our state budge than what I am going to present to you today. It would be a lie to suggest otherwise,” Pritzker said. “But as all our families have had to make hard choices over the last year, so too does state government. And right now, we need to pass a balanced budget that finds the right equilibrium between tightening our belts and preventing more hardships for Illinoisans already carrying a heavy load.”chicagotribune.com
Government rushes virus gene-mapping as mutations spread
The U.S. is scrambling to expand DNA mapping of coronavirus samples to identify potentially deadlier mutations starting to spread around the country. But the more significant action is on Capitol Hill, where a House bill headed for floor debate would provide $1.75 billion for genomic sequencing. The U.S. now maps only the genetic makeup of a minuscule fraction of positive virus samples, a situation some experts liken to flying blind. Baldwin says the U.S. should be analyzing at least 15% of positive virus samples. “Genomic sequencing testing is how we will spot variants early before they spread,” said White House COVID response coordinator Jeff Zients.
Democratic senators urge Facebook, Google and Twitter to crack down on vaccine misinformation
A group of Democratic senators led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., wrote to the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, Google and Google's subsidiary YouTube on Thursday asking the companies to crack down on vaccine misinformation and make their efforts more transparent. The senators added that platforms must enforce their policies to limit exposure to misinformation and should actively promote reliable information to users. The senators asked the companies to respond to a series of questions touching on both transparency and enforcement around misinformation on their platforms. A Google spokesperson pointed to a December blog post that detailed how it would surface accurate vaccine information for users. It's also invested several million dollars in fact-checking initiatives related to virus information, Google said.cnbc.com
Voters struggling with witness rules in early voting
“People are confused by this whole witness requirement,” said Barbara Beckert, an advocate for Disability Rights Wisconsin, which was part of a lawsuit that unsuccessfully challenged the witness mandate. To get it right, you have to follow a lot of very specific rules.”There are early signs that voters are struggling to follow those rules. In North Carolina, over 200,000 ballots have been returned and processed since early voting began almost three weeks ago. “This agreement is a victory for all eligible older voters in North Carolina,” said Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, whose North Carolina affiliate sued over the rules. ___AP’s Advance Voting guide brings you the facts about voting early, by mail or absentee from each state: https://interactives.ap.org/advance-voting-2020/
WHAT TO WATCH: Joe Biden's big moment at the DNC
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)LAS VEGAS Democratic Party luminaries, rising stars, former presidents and presidential contenders have been making a pitch for Joe Biden over three days of an atypical convention. Biden will speak Thursday night from Wilmington, Delaware, as he closes out the fourth night of the all-virtual Democratic National Convention, starting at 9 p.m. The 78-year-old moderate and former Republican being given a spot to help to close out the Democratic convention is striking. The convention is also available to watch on Twitch, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV. A celebrity-studded afterparty hosted by Andy Cohen is scheduled to be shown immediately after Bidens speech on the official livestream.
US hits Poland, others in Europe over Holocaust claims
In a report issued Wednesday, the State Department called out Bosnia, Belarus, Ukraine and particularly Poland for not having acted on restitution claims. Croatia, Latvia and Russia were also taken to task in the report, which is likely to draw angry responses from the governments identified. The report noted that Poland, which had the largest Jewish community in Europe before the outbreak of World War II, has not yet enacted comprehensive legislation on national property restitution or compensation covering Holocaust confiscations. Only about half of 5,500 claims for Jewish communal property have been adjudicated and half of those were rejected, it said. As the JUST Act report makes clear, Holocaust survivors and Jewish communities continue to wait for justice for property that was wrongfully taken from them, said Gideon Taylor, operations chairman of the World Jewish Restitution Organization.
Joe Biden turns focus to Wisconsin with battle-tested hires
Wisconsin, where Trump won by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016, joins newly emerging battleground Arizona as the first two states where Biden has named his campaign team. Two veterans of Sen. Tammy Baldwins successful 2018 reelection campaign will run Bidens Wisconsin operation. Shirley Ellis, a longtime adviser to U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, will join Biden team as a strategic adviser focused on Milwaukee. She will join Bidens campaign formally after the August convention, according to the campaign. The Wisconsin team, especially, is intended to show that the Biden campaigns talk of a wide map isnt at the exclusion of traditional battlegrounds.
Democrats charge OSHA isn't protecting front-line workers
Instead of an emergency standard, the agency has relied on voluntary guidance that recommends companies erect physical barriers, enforce social distancing and install more hand-sanitizing stations, among other steps. More than 80,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported among health care workers, meatpacking employees and prison staff, including at least 372 deaths, Adams said. OSHA quickly pivoted to focus intensely on giving employers and workers the guidance they need to work safely in this rapidly changing situation. A group of Senate Democrats asked the Labor Departments inspector general to investigate OSHAs inspections and citations related to COVID-19. The lawmakers, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., also want the watchdog to investigate OSHAs decision not to put in place a temporary emergency standard to deal with the virus.
Investigators to brief Wisconsin Guard leader on sex probe
Federal investigators plan to brief the Wisconsin National Guard's top commander this weekend on findings from a seven-month review of the Guard's sexual assault reporting and investigation protocols, Gov. The governor said in his letter that officials from the National Guard Bureau's Office of Complex Investigations briefed him on their findings on Nov. 25. Evers and Baldwin, both Democrats, stepped in and demanded that the National Guard Bureau conduct the review. Wisconsin National Guard spokesman Joe Trovato declined comment, saying only that no one in the Guard has seen the OCI report or been briefed on it. The Wisconsin National Guard reached an agreement with the state Justice Department under then-Attorney General Brad Schimel in 2018 that allows the Guard to ask the department to investigate sexual assault complaints.chicagotribune.com