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Trump’s HHS alters CDC documents for political reasons, official says

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Amid tension between the administration and the CDC, former Trump campaign official turned chief HHS spokesman Michael Caputo and his team had demanded to see reports out of the CDC before they are released, a senior administration official said. Officials within HHS had defended the demand, saying that CDC fell under the agency’s umbrella and that all communications and public documents needed to be cleared at the top.
A federal official told CNN that in addition to reviewing reports, HHS political appointee Paul Alexander has regularly added his input — often interpreted by CDC officials as political in nature — to weekly scientific reports intended to track the ongoing coronavirus pandemic response. The development marks the latest example of political interference by administration appointees at the nation’s health agencies.
Politico first reported about the pressure being put on the CDC regarding these reports.
The source said some federal health officials at the CDC believe the interference to be an effort to change communications by the CDC’s scientists so as not to contradict the President. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Trump has repeatedly downplayed the significance of the virus, sometimes contradicting his own White House task force doctors.
In a statement to CNN, Caputo defended the actions and praised Alexander.
“Dr. Paul Alexander is an Oxford educated epidemiologist and a methodologist specializing in analyzing the work of other scientists. Dr. Alexander advises me on pandemic policy and he has been encouraged to share his opinions with other scientists,” the statement read. “Like all scientists, his advice is heard and taken or rejected by his peers.”
Caputo went on to criticize the CDC with conspiratorial accusations, saying, “Our intention is to make sure that evidence, science-based data drives policy through this pandemic — not ulterior deep state motives in the bowels of CDC.”
Trump loyalists and administration officials have expressed frustration at the agency that is largely made up of career not political employees, which they believe is not working in the best interest of the President.
CNN has reached out to the CDC for comment. CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield has in the past defended the agency and denied officials there are putting politics ahead of science.
The federal health official who talked to CNN added there have been efforts this summer by HHS to all together stop the release of some of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, some of which have been focused on the latest information on coronavirus.
The source could not provide specifics on what language was changed in these reports by the Trump administration.
On Saturday, Joe Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield called the move a “repugnant betrayal” and told CNN in a statement that it is “further proof that the Trump Administration has been systematically putting political optics ahead of the safety of the American people.”
This story has been updated to include comments from the Biden campaign.

Source: – CNN

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Equal Voice delegate in B.C. says gender equality in politics should be considered the norm, not a revolution – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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Maritha Louw, one of three Lower Mainland women selected as delegates for Equal Voice Daughters of the Vote , has often been told she’s too loud and that she shouldn’t share her opinions quite so much.

As a student at a Christian secondary school in Abbotsford, she was even grilled on her dreams of becoming a lawyer. “A classmate asked me how I was going to take care of the children when I had a family?” said Louw.

The consequence is that Louw, now a 20-year-old political science student at Trinity Western University, says she is even more committed to speaking her mind. “I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind because if you don’t stand up for yourself there might not be anyone to stand up for you,” said Louw.

Louw said she’s interested in the power the younger generation has to make the world a better place and that’s exactly what she hopes to do.

Although Louw doesn’t plan on pursuing a political career, she said she is hoping the online summit, which brings together gender-diverse women and youth from across Canada, will give her the opportunity to learn from others, and perhaps even “challenge some of the MPs on the Hill currently.”  Delegates who represent their ridings in the March 8 virtual mock Parliament will meet with MPs and other officials in virtual sessions to learn more about Canada’s political processes.

“It would be great to see a time where having an equal amount of women in politics wouldn’t be seen as record-breaking, or revolutionary ideal,” said Louw.

Barbara Szymczyk, 28, who will be representing Vancouver Centre, said a highlight of the process before the summit was the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with her MP, Hedy Fry.

Szymczyk doesn’t take the opportunity to be involved in the democratic process for granted. “I grew up with my mom always reinforcing how fortunate I was to live in a country with a well-established democratic system like Canada,” said Szymczyk, whose mother grew up in Poland. “I hold a deep gratitude for the right to vote.”

“It needs to be acknowledged that not all women got the right to vote 100 years ago,” Szymczyk said.  “Black, Asian and Indigenous identifying women got the right much later.”

She’s fascinated with decision-making processes, served three terms as a senator in student government at SFU, and doesn’t rule out a possible future in politics.

“Taking part in Daughters of the Vote will help me in that journey of discovering in how I can best support Canada’s democratic system,” she said.

So what, exactly, did she learn in that conversation with Fry, Canada’s longest serving female member of Parliament?

“She shared a piece of advice she got from (former prime minister Jean Chretien) about needing a thick skin: When you are in politics 15 per cent of people will support you all the time and 15 per cent of people that will have more of a negative attitude and there will be lots of people in between — your job is to serve all of them.”

Daughters of the Vote is a meeting of 338 delegates representing every federal riding in Canada, dedicated to increasing women’s participation in the political arena by connecting them to those already serving in office, and will take place online this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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Equal Voice delegate says gender equality in politics should be considered the norm, not a revolution – Vancouver Sun

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Equal Voice Daughters of the Vote hopes to increase opportunities for women in political leadership as part of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote

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Maritha Louw, one of three Lower Mainland women selected as delegates for Equal Voice Daughters of the Vote, has often been told she’s too loud and that she shouldn’t share her opinions quite so much.

As a student at a Christian secondary school in Abbotsford, she was even grilled on her dreams of becoming a lawyer. “A classmate asked me how I was going to take care of the children when I had a family?” said Louw.

The consequence is that Louw, now a 20-year-old political science student at Trinity Western University, says she is even more committed to speaking her mind. “I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind because if you don’t stand up for yourself there might not be anyone to stand up for you,” said Louw.

Louw said she’s interested in the power the younger generation has to make the world a better place and that’s exactly what she hopes to do.

Although Louw doesn’t plan on pursuing a political career, she said she is hoping the online summit, which brings together gender-diverse women and youth from across Canada, will give her the opportunity to learn from others, and perhaps even “challenge some of the MPs on the Hill currently.”  Delegates who represent their ridings in the March 8 virtual mock Parliament will meet with MPs and other officials in virtual sessions to learn more about Canada’s political processes.

Article content

Maritha Louw, one of three Lower Mainland women selected as delegates for Equal Voice Daughters of the Vote.
Maritha Louw, one of three Lower Mainland women selected as delegates for Equal Voice Daughters of the Vote. Photo by Handout /PNG

“It would be great to see a time where having an equal amount of women in politics wouldn’t be seen as record-breaking, or revolutionary ideal,” said Louw.

Barbara Szymczyk, 28, who will be representing Vancouver Centre, said a highlight of the process before the summit was the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with her MP, Hedy Fry.

Szymczyk doesn’t take the opportunity to be involved in the democratic process for granted. “I grew up with my mom always reinforcing how fortunate I was to live in a country with a well-established democratic system like Canada,” said Szymczyk, whose mother grew up in Poland. “I hold a deep gratitude for the right to vote.”

“It needs to be acknowledged that not all women got the right to vote 100 years ago,” Szymczyk said.  “Black, Asian and Indigenous identifying women got the right much later.”

She’s fascinated with decision-making processes, served three terms as a senator in student government at SFU, and doesn’t rule out a possible future in politics.

“Taking part in Daughters of the Vote will help me in that journey of discovering in how I can best support Canada’s democratic system,” she said.

So what, exactly, did she learn in that conversation with Fry, Canada’s longest serving female member of Parliament?

“She shared a piece of advice she got from (former prime minister Jean Chretien) about needing a thick skin: When you are in politics 15 per cent of people will support you all the time and 15 per cent of people that will have more of a negative attitude and there will be lots of people in between — your job is to serve all of them.”

Daughters of the Vote is a meeting of 338 delegates representing every federal riding in Canada, dedicated to increasing women’s participation in the political arena by connecting them to those already serving in office, and will take place online this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

dryan@postmedia.com

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The 2021 elections will shape politics for years – Hindustan Times

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Over the past year, the federal structure has come under strain. A BJP win in Bengal and presence in government in Tamil Nadu will strengthen the Centre’s hand — while a TMC win in Bengal and a DMK win in Tamil Nadu will strengthen the voice of states (SANTOSH KUMAR/HTPHOTO)

The 2021 elections will shape politics for years

The polls will shape the trajectory of national politics, determine the balance of power between the Centre and states, and reveal the current strength of national and regional forces
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 08:56 PM IST

Given that polls are held every year in some part of India, the upcoming polls in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry can be seen as yet another component of India’s dynamic democratic cycle.

But these elections, arguably, have much greater significance than usual. The polls are happening in the backdrop of a turbulent time in national politics where structural changes are underway; the poll results will determine the trajectory of India’s national and top regional parties; they will, therefore, also have an impact on the nature of the federal structure that underpins the constitutional order in India; and each state has gone through a challenging time, in terms of both politics and governance, and the outcome will reflect how voters perceive the performance of the state governments in dealing with these challenges.

To begin with, while there is now overwhelming evidence that state elections are fought and won on state-specific leadership and issues, they cannot be divorced from the larger national backdrop. There are three specific national-level changes, which will have an impact on state polls.

The first is, of course, Covid-19. The pandemic disrupted lives and livelihoods, changed the nature of political communication, and highlighted issues which, so far, had not been at the heart of the electoral discourse — including health care. The elections will show if Covid-19 has forced a change in the way parties reach out to voters and the way in which voters decide on their choices, or whether the pandemic has, actually, not changed older political patterns. The second is the direction of economic reforms the government has undertaken. While this remains at a preliminary stage — the Centre’s moves on privatisation, for instance, have not been operationalised yet — there is now a clear sign that the government will push through liberal economic measures, which cater to the market and private sector. It is too early to link any electoral outcome to this new direction, but the farm laws and the protests around it — which were geographically concentrated around north India, but had national reverberations — provide an early indication of the political passions around reforms.

And finally, in three of the five states going to polls — Assam, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu — domestic politics has a strong external dimension. The debate around the immigrants, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens brings Bangladesh into India’s domestic discourse, while the debate around Tamil rights in Sri Lanka, has an impact in Tamil Nadu. The outcome of the polls will have an impact on all these dimensions — how India’s political structures will adapt to a post-Covid-19 world; how India’s economic reform trajectory will proceed; and how India will navigate ties with the neighbourhood when the lines between the external and internal get blurred.

These polls also matter because they will shape the political future of a range of parties. For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ideal scenario is retaining power in Guwahati, getting to the seat of power in Kolkata (the big prize), having an ally govern in Chennai, squeezing through as a part of a ruling coalition in Puducherry, and expanding its presence in the assembly in Thiruvananthapuram. If this happens, expect a more confident Centre, which will pursue its political and ideological agenda with renewed vigour; and even if the BJP succeeds in just winning the east while making limited forays into the south, it will see this as a political vote of confidence.

For the Congress, the ideal scenario is winning back Assam from the BJP on the plank of its opposition to CAA, ensuring that the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-led alliance returns to power in Tamil Nadu, where the Congress has a respectable junior status in government, and proving a political point in Puducherry where its government was just ousted. In Bengal, the Congress wants to expand its presence, but while keeping the BJP out of power. But there is a paradox here — success for the Congress-Left Front will split the anti-BJP vote. So there is a clash between its local politics and its national ambition of weakening the BJP. But the most important state for the party is Kerala. For two years, Rahul Gandhi has claimed he is a mere Member of Parliament from Wayanad, and while recognising that polls will be fought on a range of local factors, Kerala will be seen as Gandhi’s test within the Congress.

For the regional parties, these elections hold huge significance. All eyes are on the Trinamool Congress (TMC) — and whether, after being in power for a decade and facing an aggressive BJP, which confounded pundits by winning 18 of the 42 seats in the state in 2019, Mamata Banerjee can retain power. A victory for her, in the face of the BJP onslaught, will boost the confidence of other smaller regional forces — and she can be expected to renew efforts to forge an anti-BJP national coalition.

For the DMK, out of power for 10 years in the state, and now without the guardianship of M Karunanidhi, the elections will determine the political future of MK Stalin and, determine, more significantly, whether the BJP can be kept out as a direct or indirect player in the state where there exists deep suspicion of its cultural and linguistic politics. For the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, in the absence of J Jayalalithaa and the challenge from Sasikala, who is staking claim to the political legacy of the former CM, all hopes are riding on the incumbent CM’s governance record and support from the Centre. For the Left, Kerala remains the only state where it exercises power — and whether it can beat Kerala’s electoral dynamic of voting in alternate parties to power is the big test. And then there are smaller forces in each state — including Muslim parties in Kerala, Assam and West Bengal — who aim to expand their presence, although, in some ways, their presence enables the BJP to engage in the politics of polarisation.

The election outcome will then, have an impact on the federal structure. Over the past year in particular, the federal structure has come under strain. Non-BJP forces believe that a strong Centre, run by a hegemonic force, is undermining the constitutional structure by taking over state subjects and legislating on them, altering the financial structures which would enable states to perform effectively, and accumulating power while leaving responsibilities in the hands of states. The Centre believes that these grievances are a result of political opposition, and that whenever there has been a constructive suggestion by states, it has been taken on board. It is in this backdrop that a BJP win in Bengal and presence in government, directly or indirectly, in Tamil Nadu will strengthen the Centre’s hand — while a TMC win in Bengal and a DMK win in Tamil Nadu will strengthen the voice of states.

In the final analysis though, the elections will reflect voter satisfaction — or dissatisfaction — with their respective state governments at a time of unprecedented suffering due to the pandemic and associated economic costs. Sarbananda Sonowal, Mamata Banerjee, EK Palaniswami, Pinarayi Vijayan and V Narayanasamy (who has now resigned) are on test. They will know how voters marked them on May 2.

letters@hindustantimes.com

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