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US CDC asks states to get ready for COVID-19 vaccine

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The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has asked the nation’s state governors to be ready for COVID-19 vaccine distribution by Nov. 1.

The alert is contained in an Aug. 27 letter sent to the governors by the CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield, according to local media reports.

Among other things, Redfield wants the states to “do everything in their power’’ to remove obstacles that would prevent vaccine distribution sites from opening by the proposed date.

Some observers are reading political meaning into the move as the proposed date comes just two days before President Donald Trump stands for re-election on Nov. 3.

However, an unidentified federal official “familiar with the plans’’ as saying the Nov. 1 date was for planning only, and not to influence the presidential vote.

Trump faces strong criticisms from opposition figures and even his fellow Republicans over alleged poor handling of the pandemic that has claimed no fewer than 183,000 lives in the country.

The president has been piling pressure on drug companies and regulatory authorities to develop and approve a vaccine for the country before Nov. 3.

In the letter, Redfield urged the governors to fast-track permits and licenses for new distribution sites.

He said the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services “are rapidly making preparations to implement the large-scale distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in the fall of 2020’’.

“CDC urgently requests your assistance in expediting applications for these distribution facilities, and if necessary, asks that you consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from becoming fully operational by Nov. 1, 2020.

“The requirements you may be asked to waive in order to expedite vaccine distribution will not compromise the safety or integrity of the products being distributed,” he added.

The Trump administration has already signed multi-billion dollar deals with some drug makers for doses of promising vaccine candidates.

Trump told a news briefing in Washington recently that his administration had put logistics in place for rapid distribution of vaccine as soon as it is ready.

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Eiffel Tower evacuated for two hours after bomb threat —Police

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The Eiffel Tower in Paris was evacuated for two hours Wednesday after an anonymous caller threatened to blow up the great edifice in the heart of the French capital, police said.

After an inspection, nothing suspicious was found and the Eiffel Tower was able to reopen to visitors.

“A man phoned up, shouted ‘Allah Akbar’ and said he was going to ‘blow up everything’” at the Eiffel Tower, said a police source, who asked not to be named.

A security cordon was put around the monument, traffic diverted and the Eiffel Tower evacuated at 12:15 pm (1015 GMT).

Its operator SETE said in a statement that after a thorough search nothing was found and the tower was able to reopen at 2:15 pm.

The monument had reopened on June 26 after its longest closure since World War II forced by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Eiffel Tower usually receives about seven million visitors a year, some three-quarters from abroad, although even after reopening numbers are down sharply due to travel restrictions amid the pandemic.

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Kobe Bryant’s wife sues L.A County Sheriff over leaked photos at helicopter crash site

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Wife of the late basket legend, Kobe Bryant, Vanessa, has sued the L.A. County Sheriff and his department, claiming they caused her severe emotional distress when deputies allegedly took personal cellphone photos of the bodies of her husband and daughter, Gigi, at the scene of the helicopter crash that took their lives.

According to the lawsuit, obtained by TMZ, “no fewer than eight sheriff’s deputies at the crash site, pulled out their personal cell phones and took photos of the dead children, parents and coaches. The deputies took these photos for their own personal gratification.

“The lawsuit goes onto allege the photos were the subject of conversation within the sheriff’s department with deputies showing their colleagues the pictures that had no investigative purpose.”

The lawsuit further noted how the photos were exposed when a deputy was at a bar and showed the photos to a woman he was trying to impress. The bartender overheard the conversation, blew the whistle and called the sheriff’s department.

Vanessa stated in the suit that it was at that moment Sheriff Villanueva tried to cover it all up by going to the Sheriff’s substation that responded to the crash to tell the deputies that if they deleted the photos they would not face disciplinary action.

The suit also claims the purpose of his talk was for the destruction of the evidence. The lawsuit claims Villanueva did not tell the families about the photos and they only learned of it in the media when the story broke that deputies took the photos.

The lawsuit claims that the Sheriff never gave the family straight answers and now Vanessa is in constant fear the photos will be leaked, “Ms. Bryant feels ill at the thought of strangers gawking at images of her deceased husband and child, and she lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, including punitive damages. So far, there has been no word back from the Sheriff’s Department.

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China jails tycoon Ren Zhiqiang for corruption

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China on Tuesday sentenced real estate tycoon, Ren Zhiqiang, a critic of President Xi Jinping, to 18 years in prison for corruption.

The Beijing Second Intermediate People’s Court found Ren guilty of “corruption, bribery, embezzlement of public funds and abuse of power by personnel of a state-owned firm.”

Ren, 69, a former Communist Party member and chairman of Huayuan Properties, had been friends with party elite, including Vice President Wang Qishan, China’s second-most powerful leader.

He was a former employer of Liu He, now Beijing’s top negotiator in the trade war with the U.S.

Ren was expelled from the party in July after being accused of “colluding with his children to accumulate wealth without restraint.”

Ren, his son and assistant disappeared earlier in the year, after he wrote an essay critical of Beijing’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

Although his essay didn’t name Xi directly, it talked about a power-hungry “clown” “determined to play emperor.”

He had previously criticized the party in social media posts.

His punishment suggests that the space for criticism of China’s top leadership has all but closed, as Beijing recently clamped down on academics critical of the party.

The court said Ren confessed to his crimes and accepted the sentence.

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