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Trump Says FDA Is Playing Politics With COVID-19 Vaccine – NPR

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President Trump addresses reporters during a Wednesday news conference.

Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

President Trump on Wednesday decried reported health agency efforts to issue stricter guidelines for evaluating a vaccine against COVID-19, accusing the Food and Drug Administration of playing politics.

Trump was apparently reacting to a Tuesday report in the New York Times that said the agency will soon move to tighten requirements for emergency authorization of any coronavirus vaccine to better ensure its safety and effectiveness.

“That has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it. That sounds like a political move,” Trump said during a press briefing at the White House.

“I think that was a political move more than anything else,” he said.


PBS NewsHour via
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The timing of a vaccine has been an issue of contention between the president and health experts.

Trump has directly contradicted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield on an estimate for widespread release of a vaccine, saying that such distribution of a vaccine would happen before the end of the year. Trump has also said that “every American” will have access to a vaccine by April.

Redfield has testified to Congress that a vaccine would likely not be widely available until next spring or summer.

Multiple potential vaccines are undergoing testing. Top health officials vowed in a hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday that a COVID-19 vaccine would not be approved until it met “vigorous expectations” for safety and effectiveness.

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Commons showdown highlights tension between politics and science – Humboldt Journal

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OTTAWA — Monday’s vote on a Conservative motion to launch an in-depth review of the Liberal government’s COVID-19 response highlights a key challenge of pandemic politics: how to hold a government accountable for decisions based on science, when the science itself is changing nearly every day.

The opposition wants a committee probe into everything from why regulators are taking so long to approve rapid testing to an early decision not to close the border to international travel, and what concerns the Liberals is how that probe is being framed.

article continues below

“One of the narratives that I find most distressing coming from the opposition, is that somehow because advice changed at some point that the government was hiding information or that the government was giving misinformation,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said late last week.

“And nothing could be further from the truth.”

It’s not the science itself that’s up for debate, said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.

“In a pandemic, borders, since the Middle Ages, have been part of a stop of spreading of the virus and that was a failure of elected officials to put the health of Canadians first,” O’Toole told reporters last week.

“There has been conflicting information on masks and other things. My concern is that the Trudeau government relies more on open source data from China than our own science and intelligence experts.”

The relationship between a nation’s scientists and their senior politicians is a challenging one, said Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides the scientific evidence there is, but at the end of the day, it is the politicians who make the call, he said.

A decision on whether or not to close the borders is a good example, he said.

In the early days of the pandemic, the World Health Organization cautioned against widespread border closures. Scientific research has suggested there’s little medical benefit to them and the economic impacts can be severe and wide-ranging.

But the optics of border closures, the idea that if countries can keep out a virus out they will be immune, creates political pressure to act, Culbert said .

“The tension between what is in the public’s good, as opposed to all of the varying political considerations the politicians have to take into consideration — there’s always a tension there,” Culbert said.

While heated, the interplay between Liberal government and Opposition Conservatives is a far cry from the hyper-partisanship around pandemic response in the U.S., where even the president has circulated misinformation and challenged that country’s top scientists.

Canadian researchers studying the response of political elites here in the early days of the pandemic found no evidence of MPs casting doubt on the seriousness of the pandemic, or spreading conspiracy theories about it. In fact, there was a cross partisan consensus around how seriously it needed to be taken.

“As far as we can tell, that story hasn’t changed,” said Eric Merkley, a University of Toronto political scientist who led the study.

Both he and Culbert said a review of the Liberals’ pandemic response is warranted, but a balancing act is required.

“Everyone has 20/20 hindsight and thinks that they can go, look back, and and point to points at which bad decisions were made,” Culbert said.

“But that’s with the knowledge that we have today. We didn’t have that knowledge back in March.”

The Liberals have sometimes hit back at criticism by pointing to how the previous Conservative government handled the science and health files, including budget cuts and efforts to muzzle scientists.

But critics can’t be painted as anti-science for asking questions, Merkley said.

“There’s plenty of scope for democratic debate about proper responses to the pandemic, there’s plenty of scope for disagreement,” Merkley said.

“And just because there’s that disagreement and an Opposition party holding government accountable, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, that’s a sign of a healthy democracy.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2020.

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Commons showdown highlights tension between politics and science – Yorkton This Week

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OTTAWA — Monday’s vote on a Conservative motion to launch an in-depth review of the Liberal government’s COVID-19 response highlights a key challenge of pandemic politics: how to hold a government accountable for decisions based on science, when the science itself is changing nearly every day.

The opposition wants a committee probe into everything from why regulators are taking so long to approve rapid testing to an early decision not to close the border to international travel, and what concerns the Liberals is how that probe is being framed.

article continues below

“One of the narratives that I find most distressing coming from the opposition, is that somehow because advice changed at some point that the government was hiding information or that the government was giving misinformation,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said late last week.

“And nothing could be further from the truth.”

It’s not the science itself that’s up for debate, said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.

“In a pandemic, borders, since the Middle Ages, have been part of a stop of spreading of the virus and that was a failure of elected officials to put the health of Canadians first,” O’Toole told reporters last week.

“There has been conflicting information on masks and other things. My concern is that the Trudeau government relies more on open source data from China than our own science and intelligence experts.”

The relationship between a nation’s scientists and their senior politicians is a challenging one, said Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides the scientific evidence there is, but at the end of the day, it is the politicians who make the call, he said.

A decision on whether or not to close the borders is a good example, he said.

In the early days of the pandemic, the World Health Organization cautioned against widespread border closures. Scientific research has suggested there’s little medical benefit to them and the economic impacts can be severe and wide-ranging.

But the optics of border closures, the idea that if countries can keep out a virus out they will be immune, creates political pressure to act, Culbert said .

“The tension between what is in the public’s good, as opposed to all of the varying political considerations the politicians have to take into consideration — there’s always a tension there,” Culbert said.

While heated, the interplay between Liberal government and Opposition Conservatives is a far cry from the hyper-partisanship around pandemic response in the U.S., where even the president has circulated misinformation and challenged that country’s top scientists.

Canadian researchers studying the response of political elites here in the early days of the pandemic found no evidence of MPs casting doubt on the seriousness of the pandemic, or spreading conspiracy theories about it. In fact, there was a cross partisan consensus around how seriously it needed to be taken.

“As far as we can tell, that story hasn’t changed,” said Eric Merkley, a University of Toronto political scientist who led the study.

Both he and Culbert said a review of the Liberals’ pandemic response is warranted, but a balancing act is required.

“Everyone has 20/20 hindsight and thinks that they can go, look back, and and point to points at which bad decisions were made,” Culbert said.

“But that’s with the knowledge that we have today. We didn’t have that knowledge back in March.”

The Liberals have sometimes hit back at criticism by pointing to how the previous Conservative government handled the science and health files, including budget cuts and efforts to muzzle scientists.

But critics can’t be painted as anti-science for asking questions, Merkley said.

“There’s plenty of scope for democratic debate about proper responses to the pandemic, there’s plenty of scope for disagreement,” Merkley said.

“And just because there’s that disagreement and an Opposition party holding government accountable, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, that’s a sign of a healthy democracy.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2020.

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Sport and politics | Comment | ekathimerini.com – www.ekathimerini.com

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Participating at the Olympic Games is an incredible experience for every athlete. But it is also humbling when you realize that you are part of something bigger. You are part of an event that unites the world. In the Olympic Games, we are all equal. Everyone respects the same rules, irrespective of social background, gender, race, sexual orientation, or political belief.

The first time I experienced this magic was at the Olympic Games Montreal 1976. From the moment I moved into the Olympic Village, I could feel the Olympic spirit come alive. Living together with my fellow athletes from all over the world, opened my eyes to the unifying power of sport. As athletes, we are competitors in sport, but in the Olympic Village, we all live peacefully together under one roof. Whenever Olympians meet, no matter where we are from or when we competed in the Games, this shared experience immediately becomes the topic of our conversations.

One incident clouded my first Olympic experience, however. Shortly before the Opening Ceremony, I looked outside the window of our room in the Olympic Village to see a large group of African athletes with packed bags. Many of them were in tears, others hung their heads in despair. After asking what was happening, I learned they had to leave because of a last-minute decision by their governments to boycott the Games. Their devastation of having their Olympic dream shattered at the last possible moment after so many years of hard work and anticipation still haunts me today.

This foreshadowed another defining moment four years later, when I experienced the political impotence of sport at the time of the boycott of the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980. As the chair of the West German athletes’ commission, I strongly opposed this boycott because it punished us athletes for something that we had nothing to do with – the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet army. I had to realize that the sports organizations had very little political influence, if any, while on the athlete side, we had very little say. Our voices were not heard neither by the politicians nor by our sports leaders. This was a very humiliating experience.

In the end, the National Olympic Committee of West Germany was one of many to boycott the Games. It is no consolation that we were ultimately proven right that this boycott not only punished the wrong ones, but that it also had no political effect whatsoever: the Soviet army stayed nine more years in Afghanistan. In fact, the 1980 boycott only triggered the revenge boycott of the following Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984.

These two experiences still shape my thinking today. They made it clear to me that the central mission of the Olympic Games is to bring together the world’s best athletes from 206 NOCs in a peaceful sporting competition.

The Olympic Games are not about politics. The IOC, as a civil non-governmental organization, is strictly politically neutral at all times. Neither awarding the Games, nor participating, are a political judgement regarding the host country. The Olympic Games are governed by the IOC not by governments. The IOC issues the invitation to NOCs to participate, the invitations do not come from the government of the host country. It is the NOC which then invites their political authorities to accompany their athletes to the Games. The host country’s head of state is only allowed to say one sentence, scripted by the IOC, to officially open the Games. No other politician is allowed to play any role whatsoever, not even during medal ceremonies.

The Olympic Games are not about making a profit. The IOC reinvests 90% of all its revenues in the athletes around the world, particularly in developing countries. The money goes to the organizers of Olympic Games who give the athletes the stage to shine. The Olympic Games can only unite the entire world through sport if everyone can participate. This is why solidarity benefits all athletes in the world. Not just a few countries, or a few sports. Our money benefits all the athletes from all 206 NOCs, from the IOC Refugee Olympic Team and from all Olympic sports, thereby ensuring true universality and diversity.

The Olympic Games are firstly about sport. The athletes personify the values of excellence, solidarity and peace. They express this inclusiveness and mutual respect also by being politically neutral on the field of play and during the ceremonies. At times, this focus on sport needs to be reconciled with the freedom of speech which all athletes enjoy also at the Olympic Games. This is the reason why there are rules for the field of play and the ceremonies protecting this spirit of sport. The unifying power of the Games can only unfold if everyone shows respect and solidarity for one another. Otherwise, the Games will descend into a marketplace of demonstrations of all kinds, dividing and not uniting the world.

The Olympic Games cannot prevent wars and conflicts. Nor can they address all the political and social challenges in our world. But they can set an example for a world where everyone respects the same rules and one another. They can inspire us to solve problems in friendship and solidarity. They can build bridges leading to better understanding among people. In this way, they can open the door to peace.

The Olympic Games are a reaffirmation of our shared humanity and contribute to unity in all our diversity. As I learned through personal experience, ensuring that the Olympic Games can unfold this magic and unite the entire world in peace is something worth fighting for every day.


* Thomas Bach is president of the International Olympic Committee.

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