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Science and politics tied up in global race for a vaccine

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“To be the first one out of the block with a coronavirus vaccine would be a real — pardon the pun — shot in the arm for the Kremlin,” said Timothy Frye, a political science professor at Columbia University who specializes in post-Soviet politics.

Russia is not alone in viewing a vaccine in this light. China, where the virus first emerged, has also raced to make progress on a vaccine. A state-owned Chinese company is boasting that its employees, including top executives, received experimental shots even before the government approved testing in people.

President Donald Trump, whose handling of the coronavirus pandemic has put his political fate in grave jeopardy, is hoping to get credit for his administration’s aggressive push for a vaccine, ideally one that arrives before Election Day in November.

It’s far from clear at this point whether Putin has beaten Trump to this medical milestone.

Putin said the Health Ministry gave its approval after the vaccine, named “Sputnik V,” underwent the necessary tests. He said one of his two adult daughters had been inoculated. “We should be grateful to those who have taken this first step, which is very important for our country and the whole world,” he said.

No proof was offered and scientists in Russia warned that more testing would be necessary to establish it is safe and effective. Nonetheless, officials said vaccination of doctors could start as early as this month and mass vaccination may begin as early as October.

Scientists around the world have been cautioning that even if vaccine candidates are proven to work, it will take even more time to tell how long the protection will last.

“It’s a too early stage to truly assess whether it’s going to be effective, whether it’s going to work or not,” said Dr. Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton.

It was also too soon to dismiss the Russian claim out of hand.

The country, though economically dependent on the export of natural resources, does have a history of achievement in science, medicine and aerospace — including becoming the first to put a person into space, in 1961.

“It is possible that they concentrated and could do this,” said Daniel Fried, a retired senior U.S. diplomat. “I’m not scoffing at it, but it doesn’t mean that the Russian economy is advanced.”

A vaccine would be the kind of significant achievement that would elevate Putin at home and in the international community.

“They would love to be able to claim credit because the first country to develop the vaccine will gain enormous prestige,” said Fried, a former assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs who is now a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council.

It’s also possible Russia had help. The U.S., Britain and Canada l ast month accused hackers working for Russian intelligence of trying to steal information about a coronavirus vaccine from academic and pharmaceutical research institutions.

In any case, the public is eager for a vaccine as global deaths from the virus surpass 730,000. Some say they would even welcome one from Russia, provided it passes muster with the Food and Drug Administration, which approves vaccines used in the U.S., and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends who should receive them.

“I can’t take it anymore. I’m getting crazy,” said Fernanda Henderson, as she strapped her infant into a car seat at a park in the Maryland suburbs of Washington for a break from quarantining at home. “I don’t think the CDC or the FDA would approve something that is not going to work.”

But to Vesna Jezic, a 79-year-old native of Croatia and immunologist who was taking her grandchildren to the same park, the suspiciously fast progress on the vaccine announced by Putin was reason to be doubtful. “You can imagine we don’t trust anything that comes from Russia,” she said.

The Russian president may face similar doubts at home. Frye noted a 2018 Gallup Poll that showed the former Soviet countries have some of the highest rates of anti-vaccination sentiment in the world.

“If it turns out not to work, it would be a real black eye,” he said.

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McKenna School of Philosophy, Politics and Economics announced at Mount Allison University – SaltWire Network

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SACKVILLE, NB — Mount Allison University’s philosophy, politics, and economics programs have received a significant boost from one of New Brunswick’s most accomplished political and business leaders.

Former premier Frank McKenna and the university jointly announced the establishment of the Frank McKenna School of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics on Friday. It is expected to be officially launched in 2021.

“The world we live in today needs collaborative solutions. Our society needs more world-class ‘generalists,’ people who have some background in economics, a philosophical base, and an understanding of politics at large,” McKenna said in announcing a $1 million leadership gift in support of the initiative. “This program brings all of that together, along with exceptional teaching and experiential learning opportunities for students. My family and I are delighted to support this new initiative at Mount Allison University and look forward to seeing the paths students from the school will lead.”

To date, $5 million has been raised to support the Mount Allison school concept from a number of donors across Canada including McKenna and his family, which is inspiring others to give.

University president and vice-chancellor Jean-Paul Boudreau said the announcement represents a tremendous opportunity for Mount Allison students.

“The McKenna School of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Mount Allison represents a fantastic opportunity to help lift our students from the launchpad of New Brunswick onto the global stage, offering an exceptional academic experience partnered with experiential and work-integrated learning opportunities in these key fields,” Boudreau said. “

The Frank McKenna School of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Mount Allison will advance the university’s capacity for new scholarly activity and supports for students in the program.

Honouring one of New Brunswick’s most accomplished individuals, Boudreau said the investment will enable new international and work-integrated learning opportunities and global internships for philosophy, politics, and economics students.

The gift will also fund the new McKenna Scholars program, providing scholarships and bursaries for students throughout their degree.

McKenna is currently the deputy chair, wholesale, TD Bank Group. He is a former Canadian ambassador to the United States and a former premier of New Brunswick — a position he held for 10 years.

Under his leadership, he brought thousands of jobs to the province and nurtured the growth of business and industry, universities and youth.

He is also a Mount Allison honorary degree recipient. McKenna double-majored in politics and economics in his undergraduate degree and also completed courses in philosophy.
The philosophy, politics and economics program was established at Mount Allison in 2013 and is the only PPE program in Canada east of Ontario, and only one of three in Canada.

It offers students the opportunity of a multidisciplinary immersion in these three academic areas, helping to prepare them for myriad of career paths. Courses in the PPE program are drawn from established courses in all three disciplines, with special topics courses offered in upper years.

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McKenna School of Philosophy, Politics and Economics announced at Mount Allison University – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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SACKVILLE, NB — Mount Allison University’s philosophy, politics, and economics programs have received a significant boost from one of New Brunswick’s most accomplished political and business leaders.

Former premier Frank McKenna and the university jointly announced the establishment of the Frank McKenna School of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics on Friday. It is expected to be officially launched in 2021.

“The world we live in today needs collaborative solutions. Our society needs more world-class ‘generalists,’ people who have some background in economics, a philosophical base, and an understanding of politics at large,” McKenna said in announcing a $1 million leadership gift in support of the initiative. “This program brings all of that together, along with exceptional teaching and experiential learning opportunities for students. My family and I are delighted to support this new initiative at Mount Allison University and look forward to seeing the paths students from the school will lead.”

To date, $5 million has been raised to support the Mount Allison school concept from a number of donors across Canada including McKenna and his family, which is inspiring others to give.

University president and vice-chancellor Jean-Paul Boudreau said the announcement represents a tremendous opportunity for Mount Allison students.

“The McKenna School of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Mount Allison represents a fantastic opportunity to help lift our students from the launchpad of New Brunswick onto the global stage, offering an exceptional academic experience partnered with experiential and work-integrated learning opportunities in these key fields,” Boudreau said. “

The Frank McKenna School of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Mount Allison will advance the university’s capacity for new scholarly activity and supports for students in the program.

Honouring one of New Brunswick’s most accomplished individuals, Boudreau said the investment will enable new international and work-integrated learning opportunities and global internships for philosophy, politics, and economics students.

The gift will also fund the new McKenna Scholars program, providing scholarships and bursaries for students throughout their degree.

McKenna is currently the deputy chair, wholesale, TD Bank Group. He is a former Canadian ambassador to the United States and a former premier of New Brunswick — a position he held for 10 years.

Under his leadership, he brought thousands of jobs to the province and nurtured the growth of business and industry, universities and youth.

He is also a Mount Allison honorary degree recipient. McKenna double-majored in politics and economics in his undergraduate degree and also completed courses in philosophy.
The philosophy, politics and economics program was established at Mount Allison in 2013 and is the only PPE program in Canada east of Ontario, and only one of three in Canada.

It offers students the opportunity of a multidisciplinary immersion in these three academic areas, helping to prepare them for myriad of career paths. Courses in the PPE program are drawn from established courses in all three disciplines, with special topics courses offered in upper years.

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Republican duo reshapes Montana politics in Trump’s style – 570 News

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BOZEMAN, Mont. — Steve Daines is the affable one, the smiler, a consummate salesman who parlayed his corporate success into a meteoric rise through Montana politics and a seat in the U.S. Senate.

His former boss, Greg Gianforte, is more brusque, sometimes even harsh, a self-made technology mogul whose political career has proved rockier and included a stinging defeat for governor and unwanted notoriety when he assaulted a reporter during a successful run for U.S. House.

Together they form a powerful political alliance on the cusp of dominating Montana politics for years to come, pushing the state’s Republican Party away from a Western brand of centrism and toward the hard-line partisan agenda of President Donald Trump.

Daines, 58, is seeking a second six-year term while Gianforte, 59, is pouring millions of dollars from his private fortune into another run at the governor’s mansion.

Dual victories would mark the latest achievement for men who first bonded on family camping trips in Montana’s Beartooth Mountains more than two decades ago. They worked in tandem to attain huge riches in the corporate world before leveraging that success into a political juggernaut that has reshaped the state’s Republican Party.

It’s a shift Montana Democrats argue is out of step with the state’s independent-minded electorate. Democrats have their own power duo hoping to hold the line in November: Gov. Steve Bullock, challenging Daines, is one of the Democrats’ best hopes to tilt the balance of power in the closely divided Senate. His lieutenant governor for the past five years, Mike Cooney, faces Gianforte.

But Democrats are handicapped by Gianforte’s willingness to spend his own money on the race — $3.5 million so far, after spending more than $6 million in 2016 — and a strong push for both by Trump, who carried Montana by 20 percentage points in 2016.

Daines has long benefited from his ties to Gianforte, who hired Daines into his Bozeman-based software firm, RightNow Technologies, that was later sold to Oracle for almost $2 billion.

Years later, when Daines was in the U.S. Senate, he would use Gianforte’s private plane, including to shuttle back and forth to Washington for key votes — at least 11 trips since 2017, according to financial disclosure reports.

Gianforte, one of the wealthiest members of the U.S. House, has been boosted in his run for Montana governor by Daines’ clout. A strong turnout for Gianforte could now help Daines fend off the challenge from Bullock, a two-term governor whose handling of the coronavirus has put him in the limelight.

The similarities between the two Republicans were on display during a recent joint interview after they toured a high tech manufacturing facility under construction in their hometown of Bozeman.

Stitting across from each other at a picnic table near the same office park that houses Oracle, Daines and Gianforte played off one another’s jokes and finished each other’s stories. Both men linked their political careers to their Christian faith. Daines is Presbyterian. Gianforte belongs to the fundamentalist Grace Bible Church.

“We’re here to serve and not be served,” Daines said.

“Service above expectations,” Gianforte added. “It’s the same theme.”

They cast the upcoming election as a stark choice pitting “socialist” policies of Democrats against the free enterprise system that Daines and Gianforte say propelled the economy and their own careers, creating several hundreds jobs in Montana along the way.

“This system we have in this country has lifted more people out of poverty than any system in the history of the world,” Gianforte said.

Asked if they had any political disagreements, they looked stumped. Daines finally shriveled his face and said Gianforte likes to eat the meat from black bears that he shoots.

“I’ll still take a good piece of beef,” Daines said with a laugh.

Democrats paint a more nefarious picture of the friendship, contending Daines and Gianforte rose to riches on the backs of American workers and that their claim to be job creators belies RightNow Technologies’ role helping companies outsource jobs overseas.

Corporate interests still dominate their agenda, said Montana Democratic Party spokeswoman Christina Wilkes, who described Daines and Gianforte as being in lockstep on corporate tax cuts and repealing provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

“They’re mega-wealthy, and they are out for people like themselves,” Wilkes said.

One area where the two Republicans differ is personality, said Amy Wiening, who worked for Daines and Gianforte on the sales team at RightNow.

Both were supportive of each other and their workers, she said. But where Daines was easygoing and always made time to talk about family or matters outside work, Gianforte was more driven and could be harsh in his delivery, she said.

“He reminds me of a doctor you would totally want to be your doctor because he would know what to do. But he would not want to console you if it’s bad news,” Wiening said.

Daines was first to enter politics, running for lieutenant governor in 2008 while still at RightNow. He lost, then left the company in 2012 for a successful campaign for the state’s sole U.S. House seat. He ran for Senate two years later, cruising to victory after the recently-installed Democratic incumbent, John Walsh, a former lieutenant governor under Bullock, quit amid plagiarism allegations.

Daines had been encouraging Gianforte to join him in politics. In 2016 Gianforte ran for governor, losing to Bullock in a tight race. He won the House seat once held by Daines in a special election months later.

To say the pair now represent the face of the Montana Republican Party would ignore the role of Trump, who has loomed at least as large on the state’s political scene and demands loyalty from Republicans.

Gianforte and Daines were initially lukewarm to Trump. When Trump headlined a rally in Billings as he neared victory in the 2016 primary, Gianforte skipped the event and issued a press release welcoming “another visit by a 2016 presidential candidate” without mentioning Trump. Daines told a Montana newspaper in the primary that Trump was “not my first choice, or even my second for president.”

They have since become ardent Trump loyalists. Gianforte caught the president’s attention when he body-slammed a reporter for The Guardian on the eve of his election to the House. “My kind of guy,” Trump said about Gianforte, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanour assault after initially misleading investigators about what happened.

The fruits of the pair’s loyalty to Trump are now on display: The President tweeted his support for Gianforte on Wednesday and Vice-President Mike Pence headlined a rally last week near Bozeman where Gianforte and Daines spoke back-to-back and then enjoyed a lengthy shout-out from Pence.

Democrats as recently as 2014 held both Montana U.S. Senate seats, the governor’s mansion and a bevy of other statewide offices. The GOP has been in ascendance as the state has trended more conservative. The party now controls both chambers of the Legislature and every statewide post except governor and Democrat Jon Tester’s seat in the U.S. Senate.

Daines and Gianforte “fit the party like a glove right now,” University of Montana political analyst Rob Saldin said. If they sweep the November election, “that’s a real vindication of going in this much sharper, Trump-y direction for the party,” he said.

___

Follow Matthew Brown on twitter: @MatthewBrownAP

Matthew Brown, The Associated Press

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