Tag: pandemic

Biden Son-In-Law Advises Campaign on Pandemic Response while Investing in COVID Startups

Joe Biden’s son-in-law Howard Krein is an informal adviser to the Democratic presidential candidate on the response to the coronavirus pandemic, while simultaneously investing in health-care startups to address the pandemic, Politico reported on Tuesday.

Krein’s venture capital business, StartUp Health, announced in April that it would invest in ten medical startup companies that craft solutions to issues posed by the pandemic. At the same time, Krein was among several individuals speaking with the Biden campaign regarding its health policy.

The initiative by StartUp Health was dubbed the “Pandemic Response Health Moonshot,” language that echoes Biden’s own “Cancer Moonshot” project from his last year in the Obama administration.

Krein’s position raises questions about a possible conflict of interest for the Biden campaign. A campaign official confirmed to Politico that Krein was an informal adviser who has participated in calls with the candidate on pandemic response.

“I have little doubt that the relationship to Joe Biden, particularly if he becomes president, would attract the interest of some investors,” Avik Roy, founder of investment firm Roy Healthcare Research, told Politico. Roy is a former adviser to Senators Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Mitt Romney (R., Utah).

The news follows a series of disclosures detailing that Biden’s son Hunter pursued while his father was serving as vice president. According to a Senate Intelligence Committee report released in September, “Hunter Biden received millions of dollars from foreign sources as a result of business relationships that he built during the period when his father was vice president of the United States and after.”

In particular, Hunter Biden and his business partner Devon Archer engaged in monetary transactions with Ye Jianming, a Chinese businessman with connections in the Communist Party and People’s Liberation Army. Archer was convicted of defrauding a Native American tribe in 2018, and has a sentencing hearing scheduled for this coming January.

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Biden’s son-in-law advises campaign on pandemic while investing in Covid-19 startups

“StartUp Health is putting the full support of its platform and network behind building a post-Covid world that uses technology and entrepreneurial ingenuity to improve health outcomes,” the firm said at the time.

Krein simultaneously advising the campaign and venturing into Covid investing could pose conflict-of-interest concerns for a Biden administration, or simply create the awkward appearance of Krein profiting off his father-in-law’s policies. Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the federal government has directed tens of billions of dollars in coronavirus medical spending in areas like testing and vaccine research to private firms. It is poised to spend billions more next year and possibly beyond.

The potential conflicts are not limited to the coronavirus for Krein, 53, a Philadelphia-based head-and-neck surgeon who got into venture investing not long after he began dating Biden’s daughter, Ashley, in 2010.

Since StartUp Health’s 2011 launch, when Krein came on as its chief medical officer, it has invested in more than 300 health care businesses, according to its website, which prominently features the term “moonshot” to describe its investment goals — language that echoes that of Joe Biden’s own signature Cancer Moonshot initiative. In its early years, the firm enjoyed close ties to the Obama administration and described Krein as a White House adviser.

“I have little doubt that the relationship to Joe Biden, particularly if he becomes president, would attract the interest of some investors,” said Avik Roy, founder of Roy Healthcare Research, an investment research firm, and a former adviser to the presidential campaigns of Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

StartUpHealth did not respond to interview requests, and the Biden campaign declined to make Krein or others tied to the company available for interviews. In response to questions, a campaign official said that Krein does not have a formal role with the campaign, but acknowledged that he had participated in calls briefing Biden on coronavirus based on his experience treating patients and coordinating his hospital’s response to the outbreak.

Even informal input or the perception of access can be valuable in health care, a heavily regulated sector that is influenced by federal policy and spending priorities.

“Sometimes the perception is all you need,” said Laura Huang, a professor at Harvard Business School who studies the early-stage investment process. “Signaling is very important for startups and investors alike, and one signal is high-profile individuals who can help provide access.”

Roy said the firm’s Biden ties could also help it land stakes in hot startups that can be choosy about the investors they take money from. “Those companies will take your calls,” he said. “People who are plugged in have an advantage, and that is a common feature of a lot of heavily regulated industries.”

The influence concerns posed by the firm are compounded by its foreign ties. One StartUp Health fund raised $31 million from investors, including the Swiss drugmaker Novartis and the Chinese insurer Ping An, in 2018. The firm’s website also lists the Chinese technology conglomerate

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Government made mental health and domestic violence worse during COVID-19 pandemic

The U.S. reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected Americans more than the virus itself. It’s been well-documented that large percentages of businesses will fail, including some even in the medical profession due to the decimation caused shutdowns and essential procedure orders — but three of the most overlooked negative impacts of the shutdowns have been mental health, drug abuse and domestic violence.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during the time period of April-June, nearly 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health of substance abuse. In a study published by the CDC on Aug. 14 due to stay at home orders, 40.9% of adults reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, 30.9% reported either anxiety or depression and 26.3% reported having something called trauma- and stressor-related disorder (TDSR). And those numbers are just the tip of the iceberg.

The same CDC study showed that 13% of people surveyed by the CDC during the same time said that they started or increased their substance use and 11% seriously considered suicide. The Washington, D.C.-based ODMAP (Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program) reported that drug overdoses during COVID rose 18%. And a study released by Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in June showed calls to suicide hotlines are up 47% nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic with some crisis lines experiencing a 300% increase. 

These statistics are horrifying — but it doesn’t end there.

Not far from these numbers of increased mental health issues and substance use during COVID-19 is what the New England Journal of Medicine has labeled “A Pandemic within a Pandemic,” the rise and lack of reporting of domestic violence. With schools closed and people furloughed from work, stress levels were all-time highs in the home — and with it came higher numbers of violence. Typically, one in four women and one in 10 men experience domestic violence, but because of lockdowns, there were far less options to get away for either to report the other safely to the police. Worse is for children, who with school closures, lost teachers, guidance counselors and administrators they would once have an opportunity to report abuse to.

And how have the federal and state governments reacted? Not well. Many states are still closed, exacerbating all the issues I’ve mentioned. And similar to restaurant and small-business closures, many Americans will never recover from the damage that has been caused.

More egregious than our government not reacting is our government doing something even worse — chipping away services that could help those who find themselves in a hopeless or dangerous place. One such service at risk is the toll-free number. When I first heard about the potential to end the concept of toll-free numbers, I honestly blew it off. I, like many people that I know in my bubble, have an unlimited cellphone plan — toll-free numbers don’t come in to play for someone like me. But there are many who this would adversely affect.

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Coronavirus pandemic and election-year politics collide, eroding trust in science

The positive development immediately became entangled in election-year politics, with President Trump repeatedly making false and exaggerated claims about the new therapeutics. He called them a cure, which they’re not. He said he was about to approve them — a premature promise given that the FDA’s career scientists are charged with reviewing the applications.

This has been the 2020 pattern: Politics has thoroughly contaminated the scientific process. The result has been an epidemic of distrust, which further undermines the nation’s already chaotic and ineffective response to the coronavirus.

The White House has repeatedly meddled with decisions by career professionals at the FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other science-based agencies. Many of the nation’s leading scientists, including some of the top doctors in the administration, are deeply disturbed by the collision of politics and science and bemoan its effects on public health.

“I’ve never seen anything that closely resembles this. It’s like a pressure cooker,” Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview.

Trust has been damaged by White House intrusions and the FDA’s own mistakes. Earlier this year, the agency granted emergency authorization to hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug wrongly touted by Trump as a treatment for covid-19, then reversed course when it became clear the medication could cause dangerous complications. In August, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn drew sharp criticism for inaccurately describing the benefits of convalescent plasma, statements for which he later apologized.

Millions of Americans have embraced some version of a conspiracy theory that imagines the pandemic as a wildly exaggerated threat, or even an outright hoax, pushed by politically motivated scientists and the mainstream media to undermine the president. This is a form of science denial that leads many people to refuse to wear masks or engage in social distancing.

Scientists, meanwhile, worry that the politicization of the regulatory process could undermine the rollout of a vaccine even if it is approved by career professionals at the FDA. This is shaping up as a communications challenge for the government: Many people will want to know who, exactly, is greenlighting a vaccine.

“If the public health professionals, if Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it. Absolutely,” Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), the Democratic nominee for vice president, said in Wednesday’s debate with Vice President Pence. “But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I’m not taking it.”

Moments later Pence said it is “unconscionable” for Harris “to undermine public confidence in a vaccine.” He added, “Stop playing politics with people’s lives.”

The scolding by Pence was remarkable given that Trump has repeatedly framed the vaccine effort in terms of the November election — including just hours before Wednesday’s vice-presidential debate, when he came close to accusing his own government’s scientists of trying to delay a vaccine.

“We’re going to have a great vaccine very, very shortly. I think we

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Fear sets in that Boris Johnson’s Brexit government is ill equipped to handle a pandemic | World

However, this reliance on (and success of) his Brexit persona, as opposed to his previous incarnation as the liberal-conservative Mayor of London, means that combative, confrontational style of politics is a must in the DNA of any government he leads.

Observers fear that taking this flavor of politics from the campaign trail to government might make central government too thinly stretched and chaotic for handling the dovetailed crises of a pandemic and Brexit.

CNN reached out to Downing Street but a spokesperson declined to comment on the record.

Constant source of controversy

There is an immediate concern that the government’s single-mindedness on Brexit has in itself hampered its handling of the pandemic. “This government doesn’t want to be seen to need the EU in any sense, which, in my view, resulted in its choice not to participate in joint procurement schemes at the start of the pandemic,” says Menon. Earlier in the crisis, the UK opted not to work with the EU in its vaccine scheme or its ventilator procurement program.

Others suspect that Johnson’s personal investment in Brexit takes up crucial government resources. “On one hand, you have a pandemic which you could not plan for … on the other you have Brexit, which you campaigned (for) and won on and you need to give it attention if it’s going to end well,” says Salma Shah, a former Conservative government adviser.

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Boris Johnson’s Brexit government is ill equipped to handle a pandemic, some fear

It’s been another week of difficult headlines for Boris Johnson. Once again, serious questions are being asked of Britain’s Prime Minister and his administration’s approach to handling the Covid-19 pandemic and, more broadly, the style of government.



Boris Johnson wearing a suit and tie: LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 05: Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to a member of staff as he visits the headquarters of Octopus Energy on October 05, 2020 in London, England. The prime minister and Chancellor of Exchequer Rishi Sunak visited the British "tech unicorn" - a startup company valued at more than USD$1 billion - to promote the company's plan to create 1,000 new technology jobs across sites in London, Brighton, Warwick and Leicester, and a new tech hub in Manchester. (Photo by Leon Neal - WPA Pool /Getty Images)


© Leon Neal/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 05: Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to a member of staff as he visits the headquarters of Octopus Energy on October 05, 2020 in London, England. The prime minister and Chancellor of Exchequer Rishi Sunak visited the British “tech unicorn” – a startup company valued at more than USD$1 billion – to promote the company’s plan to create 1,000 new technology jobs across sites in London, Brighton, Warwick and Leicester, and a new tech hub in Manchester. (Photo by Leon Neal – WPA Pool /Getty Images)

Things kicked off with Johnson being criticized for sending mixed messages in a BBC interview on Sunday, in which he warned that coronavirus restrictions could last until 2021, but also that he needed to get the economy moving. Arguably sending a vague message for a public unsure of what to do as the virus spreads exponentially, he said, “What we want people to do is behave fearlessly but with common sense.”

Things got worse, as the government was forced to admit that 16,000 confirmed cases went unreported due to a technical glitch.

Cases are rising in universities just weeks after students returned to campuses: more than 1,000 students at Newcastle University tested positive for Covid-19 over an eight-day period, along with another 770 cases at the University of Northumbria, while three universities in north England have stopped face-to-face teaching.

Concerns about the rise in cases and the testing system were not helped by a cabinet minister having to admit on Wednesday that the country is experiencing supply chain issues with a pharmaceutical company that supplies tests to the UK.

And Johnson is under fire from all sides for his approach to introducing further restrictions across the country. Criticism ranges from decisions on local restrictions being taken in central government by the PM and his close team — without consulting local leaders — to curfews not being backed by scientific evidence.



a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: The contempt held by Dominic Cummings for the establishment, the media and even members of Boris Johnson's party is well known.


© Peter Summers/Getty Images
The contempt held by Dominic Cummings for the establishment, the media and even members of Boris Johnson’s party is well known.

Some in his own Conservative party admit that Johnson wouldn’t be their first pick for leader during a pandemic. “His personal skillset this doesn’t play to it. He’s not a details, manager type. He’s a leader and picture painter,” says one veteran Conservative. “A situation for which there is divided opinion scientifically, politically and changing patterns on how to manage the response is difficult for him.”

A former Conservative cabinet minister agrees “he doesn’t go into the microscopic detail.” However, they ask, “where’s the surprise in that? When Boris was elected to lead this party, we needed someone with a bit of flair who could get Brexit over the line by

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Pet adoptions increase during pandemic in Southwest Florida

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Fewer people appeared able to resist a wagging tail, twitching whiskers or even the scaly skin of a reptile as the pandemic swept the world.

While COVID-19 disrupted and closed many businesses, Southwest Florida animal rescue workers are working their tails off with an increase in adoptions and animal intake.

Karen Prohaska and her husband, Bob Von Gyurcsy, of Fort Myers, were fostering a senior dog named Gatsby, 9, for the Gulf Coast Humane Society in February. The plan was to bring him back, but with the pandemic they decided to keep him a bit longer.

Gatsby suffered from allergies that caused a rash, which required medical baths and care. Retirees, Prohaska and Von Gyurcsy didn’t mind helping Gatsby and during a time of uncertainty, they welcomed the distraction.

Gatsby helped them just as much. He gave the couple a routine and taking care of him kept their minds off the pandemic, Prohaska said.

They’d go for walks and car rides, ultimately the couple fell in love with Gatsby.

“It was such a saving grace during the pandemic to have an animal, when your anxiety is high and your fear factor we felt fortunate to have him,” she said.

Ebb and flow

The humane society, in Fort Myers, Executive Director Jennifer Galloway said the interest in adopting is a continuous cycle. One moment the shelter feels empty and the next it’s filled again.

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Alicia Fuller, the lead kennel tech at the Gulf Coast Humane Society finishes up bathing a newly acquired dog on Tuesday, October 6, 2020.  (Photo: Andrew West, The News-Press)

Compared to 2019 the agency’s dog adoption has increased by 242 and their cat adoption increased by 564, totaling 1,239 adopted dogs and 997 adopted cats so far in 2020.  

Read: Lee County Domestic Animal Services to host Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week

Read: Cape Coral’s first animal shelter opens. Adoptions start Thursday

The humane society, nearing a decade of operation, is more than just a dog and cat adoption center. It has a rehab facility where workers care for sick and injured animals, as well as a surgery facility where workers conduct spaying and neutering.

It also has a veterinary clinic where the animals are vaccinated, microchipped and have dental work done. This service is open to the public.

Once the pandemic made its way to Southwest Florida, Galloway said the agency wasn’t sure what was going to happen — and that was the hardest part.

Her board members weren’t sure if they were going to have to close, so they put out a plea for foster homes. They received more than 200 applications for fosters and about 90% of the people who fostered at the start of COVID-19 ended up adopting their foster animal.

The human society also wasn’t sure if it was going to get inundated with surrendered pets.

The newly opened Cape Coral Animal Shelter Executive Director Liz McCauley, said the  group is exceeding expectations.

They

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U.S. government simplifies forgiveness process for smallest pandemic aid loans

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. government will greatly simplify the process by which borrowers of a $525-billion-pandemic-relief fund do not have to repay some of the smallest loans, the Department of Treasury said.

In a statement issued late on Thursday, the Department of Treasury said businesses that borrowed $50,000 or less from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) can sign a one-page document attesting that the money was spent as required by the program and the loans will be forgiven, meaning taxpayers’ dollars will be used to pay for them.

Introduced in April to help companies weather the economic shutdown brought on by COVID-19, the PPP was responsible for 5.21 million loans ranging from less than $50,000 each to more than $5 million. The rules stipulated that businesses with limited financing options could seek a loan that would later be fully forgiven if at least 60 percent was spent on payroll – with the rest going to meeting expenses such as rent, interest on mortgage or utilities.

Banks and businesses have complained that the forgiveness process for PPP loans, which started this month, is too onerous.

According to a September report by the Government Accountability Office, a watchdog for the U.S. Congress, a loan forgiveness application could take some borrowers 15 hours to complete, and a complex application could take a bank 50-75 hours to review.

The Consumer Bankers Association, a trade group, welcomed the latest measure, but said there was more work to do.

“It is apparent Congressional action is needed for the true streamlined forgiveness mom-and-pop businesses need,” it said in a statement.

(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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U.S. Budget Gap Tripled in Fiscal 2020 as Government Battled Pandemic

The annual deficit reached 15.2%, the largest since 1945. The U.S. Capitol building in Washington.



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alex edelman/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON—The U.S. budget deficit tripled in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday, as the government battled a global pandemic that plunged the country into a recession.

The budget gap in the fiscal year 2020 widened to $3.1 trillion from $984 billion a year earlier, the nonpartisan CBO said. As a share of economic output, the annual deficit reached 15.2%, the largest since 1945, when the country was financing massive military operations to help end World War II.

A surge of federal spending to combat the coronavirus and cushion the U.S. economy, coupled with a drop-off in federal revenues amid widespread shutdowns and layoffs, contributed to the widening deficit this year.

Receipts totaled $3.4 trillion, a 1% decline from the previous year, with much of the drop occurring since March, when the virus began spreading across the country. Outlays hit $6.5 trillion, a 47% increase from last year, as the government ramped up spending on emergency loans for small businesses, enhanced jobless benefits and stimulus payments for American households.

U.S. federal debt is projected to exceed 100% of U.S. gross domestic product in the 2021 fiscal year. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib highlights three reasons why the U.S. is headed toward a milestone not seen since World War II. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg News (Originally published Sept. 2, 2020)

Write to Kate Davidson at kate.davidson@wsj.com

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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Civil Society Strengthening Platform Guidelines to better support women and girls victims of violence throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – Turkey

The current COVID-19 pandemic represents a great social and economic disruption to all human
beings, affecting disproportionally women and girls due to widespread pre-existing discrimination and
inequalities

. Every crisis creates inequalities and aggravates older ones, such as the inequalities
existing against women and girls. It is necessary for states to step up their efforts and increase the
measures to protect women and girls victims of violence.

Home is not always a safe place for women and their children, and they are especially at-risk during
lockdown, as they cannot escape their abusers. A grave concern is that social distancing and
confinement rules imposed by national governments have triggered additional risks of domestic
violence.

The present guidelines are to support the national government and service providers in Albania, Bosnia
and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey to better respond to the
needs of women and their children, girls’ victims of violence to the effects of the lockdown measures
in light of the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. These guidelines are to be applicable also after the
lockdown measures are lifted.

The guidelines are prepared by CSSP partners and WAVE Network, in frame of the Civil Society
Strengthening Platform project, a project ongoing in 7 countries in the Western Balkans and Turkey,
supported in frame of the European Union and UN Women programme ‘Implementing norms,
changing minds’
.

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