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While Brazilians wait for a vaccine, Bolsonaro plays politics – CNN

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In an early Christmas gift to some, Chile and Mexico began immunizations on Thursday after granting emergency approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. But in Brazil, where the Covid-19 death toll is far higher, lifesaving inoculation could be out of reach for months — the country’s Health Ministry announced last week that vaccinations would begin in February 2021.
Carla Domingues, an epidemiologist and former coordinator of Brazil’s National Immunization Program, told CNN that she is “very disappointed” with how far behind Brazil seems to be falling in the race to herd immunity.
Because Brazil has a strong track record of nationwide vaccination, she says there was a widespread expectation that Brazilians would have a regional advantage in the battle against the pandemic.
“Brazil has always been the leader in the implementation of new vaccines. We manage to achieve high vaccine coverage, even though it is a continental country with very different regions, such as São Paulo with a high population density and Amazonas, with huge distances, (and) an indigenous population,” she said.
“People were expecting that the Brazilian vaccination program would start earlier,” she said. But “other countries of the Americas that prepared themselves are already starting the vaccination, and Brazil has been left behind.”
Every day the virus rages uncontrolled in Brazil is lethally costly. Nearly 190,000 people there have been killed by Covid-19 — the highest reported death toll worldwide after the United States. Yet President Jair Bolsonaro has publicly second-guessed the urgency of immunization, disparaging “the rush for a vaccine.”
“The pandemic is really reaching its end, the numbers have showed this, we are dealing with small rises now,” he said Saturday, according to CNN Brasil. “But the rush for the vaccine is not justified because you are playing with people’s lives.”
With more than 7.4 million people diagnosed with Covid-19 in Brazil and new variants of the virus appearing abroad, there’s little reason to think that the pandemic is tapering off — a claim that Bolsonaro repeatedly made this year, even as cases continued to mount in the country. Only the US and India have reported more coronavirus infections than Brazil.
The Brazilian President also made headlines last week with an outlandish attempt to sow doubt about potential side effects from the Pfizer vaccine. “If you become an alligator, that is your problem,” he warned. “If you become Superman, or grow a beard as a woman, or a man’s voice becomes high pitched, I have nothing to do with that … or worse interfere in people’s immune systems.”
Pfizer did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Domingues believes that Brazil’s federal government was caught unprepared to use the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, after throwing its support behind a vaccine candidate by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which have partnered with local foundation Fiocruz. According to a statement published last week by the Health Ministry, Brazil has agreed to acquire more than 100 million doses of that vaccine, which remains in development.
In 2021, Bolsonaro’s government will also receive nearly 43 million vaccine doses through the COVAX Facility, and has signed a memorandum of understanding to acquire 70 million doses from Pfizer, and another 38 million from Johnson and Johnson subsidiary Janssen. However, most doses of the latter two vaccines aren’t expected to become available until late in the year, according to the Health Ministry’s statement.
Initially, Domingues says, “the Health Ministry tried to be cautious and only agreed to acquire the vaccine with the AstraZeneca laboratory and was not prepared to receive the new vaccines that require storage at lower than 70 (degrees Celsius).” Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at ultra cold temperatures, around minus 75 degrees Celsius — which is about 50 degrees colder than any vaccine used in the United States before the pandemic.
Meanwhile fears linger over the influence of politics on the process, after a year of bitter clashes between Bolsonaro and state governors over the country’s pandemic response.
The President has made no secret of preferring the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to a vaccine developed by Chinese maker Sinovac Biotech, which is backed by the state of Sao Paulo and in development locally with Brazilian lab Butantan Institute.
Counter to assurances from Brazil’s Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello and other officials that any vaccine approved by health regulators will be welcomed by the federal government, Bolsonaro has vowed on Facebook not to purchase the Chinese-made vaccine, and his political boosters have worked to inflame xenophobia and fear around it.
No vaccine has yet been approved by Brazil’s health regulator ANVISA, which is under pressure by the country’s Supreme Court and congressional leaders to take action. Domingues says she trusts that the agency’s experts and officials “will not accept political interference” from any quarter as they evaluate the science and safety of each candidate.
Ordinary Brazilians, however, may not be as immune to influence, especially when it emanates from the highest levels of government. As in many countries, an anti-vaxxer movement has been growing in Brazil for years. And in addition to airing doubts about some vaccines and dismissing the gravity of the virus itself, Bolsonaro has offered fuel to anti-vaxxers by pledging that he will personally refuse vaccination because he’s already had Covid-19 — despite evidence that reinfection, though rare, is possible.
ANVISA and the Brazilian Health Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

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GOLDSTEIN: If politicians want decency in politics, be decent – Toronto Sun

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But that was then, this is now.

When politicians call for civility, I’m reminded of the saying, “don’t pee on our legs and tell us it’s raining.”

They sound like baseball owners complaining about overpaid baseball players.

Who do they expect to fix the problem?

If federal politicians were ever going to be moved toward simple decency, it would have happened when the late Liberal MP Arnold Chan appealed for civility in Parliament on June 12, 2017.

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Dying of nasopharyngeal cancer, which would take his life three months later at the age of 50, Chan — by all accounts a good person who entered politics for the right reasons — used his farewell speech in the Commons to make an appeal for MPs to reach for their better angels.

“We can disagree strongly — in fact we should,” he said. “This is what democracy is about … When we listen, we listen to one another despite our strong differences, that’s when democracy really happens. That’s the challenge that’s going on in the world right now. No one is listening.”

Then Green Party leader Elizabeth May spoke warmly of a note Chan had sent to her when she was wrestling with a difficult political decision.

When he died, Conservative MP O’Toole, and Liberal cabinet minister Ahmed Hussen, were among his honorary pallbearers, reaching across the political divide.

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Week In Politics: Trump Is Impeached Again – NPR

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We take a look at President Trump’s second impeachment, how congress might handle Biden administration business and look ahead to next week’s presidential inauguration.

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Ivanka’s political future comes into sharper focus – POLITICO

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When Donald Trump incited a mob riot on Capitol Hill last week, he didn’t just complicate his own political future— he scrambled the political career arcs of his kids as well.

At least three Trump family members are either considering runs for office or being urged to do so, according to well-connected GOP operatives and Trump family allies.

Top party officials say that Lara Trump, wife of the president’s son Eric, is actively contemplating a run for the Senate in North Carolina, where an open seat awaits in 2022. “It’s real and she is legitimately interested in it,” said one Trump family political adviser.

The president’s eldest son, Don Jr., is eyeing a future in politics as well, though allies say it’s unclear when or what office he’d seek after he passed on running for the Senate in Wyoming this last cycle. He and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle have also been scoping out real estate in Florida.

The newest and most-buzzed about possibility, however, surrounds the president’s daughter Ivanka. The senior White House adviser is set to decamp to Florida after her father’s presidency comes to a close. And though talk of her launching a primary challenge to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has given off the faint whiff of political fan-fick, in reality, Trump officials say, there have been machinations behind the scenes.

One person in contact with the president said that Jared Kushner is viewed as “working single-mindedly to protect and promote his wife’s ‘political career.’” And two sources, including one top GOP fundraiser, said that Trump ally and mega donor Tom Barrack had been pressing fellow Republican financiers to put together some type of operation that could lure Ivanka into entering the race.

“He’s calling people and trying to line them up saying Rubio is terrible, worthless, he’s probably going to lose, Ivanka is going to go there and we should all get together and pledge our support to her and get her to run,” the GOP fundraiser said.

Tommy Davis, a Barrack spokesman, said no chatter of challenging Rubio ever took place.

“It’s not true. He’s never made any comments like this about Marco and he’s not making these calls,” said Davis. “Maybe people are getting confused because we did as much work as we could for the Senate Leadership Fund for the Georgia race. But that was before Christmas. But, no, nothing about Ivanka and nothing about Marco.”

And one person close to Trump said that Ivanka herself had denied having interest in running for office. But the president’s advisers are openly playing up her political potency.

“Ivanka only got into politics to help her father and help his agenda but what’s now clear is that Ivanka is a political powerhouse in her own right,” said Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump.

Others in Trumpworld say the signs are evident that Ivanka is leaving the door open to elected office. In late October, Ivanka, who had been registered as a Democrat in the past, gave an interview in which she declared herself “unapologetically pro-life.” One top Florida Republican who is close to the Trumps and Rubio noted that she not only upped her appearances on the campaign trail during the 2020 cycle — both for her father and the two Republicans in the Georgia Senate runoff — but passed out food at a food distribution event in Miami before Christmas.

“We’re taking the possibility seriously,” the Republican official said. “And so is Marco. And that’s a good thing. But you never know. She’s a Trump and the Trumps move on their own timetables.”

And, perhaps most tellingly, in the last week, Steve Bannon, as he was renewing his contacts with Trump himself, began talking up Ivanka’s political resume.

“The second most fire breathing populist in the White House was Ivanka Trump,” the president’s one-time adviser said on a recent podcast of his. If, Bannon added, Rubio voted for the certification of Joe Biden’s election — and he did — then, “I strongly believe and would strongly recommend that Ivanka Trump immediately…. if she is not going to remain an assistant to the president, she should immediately file and run for the senate and primary Marco Rubio in Florida.”

American politics has seen its share of family dynasties before. And though Donald Trump’s standing may have taken a hit by his handling of his election loss — which included inciting a riot that led to violence on Capitol Hill, his ouster from major social media platforms, resignations from his Cabinet, public disgust from party leaders and his second impeachment — public polling still shows that his name remains the most dominant in Republican circles. Virtually everyone expects that to transfer to his children.

“Their brand was certainly stained and it’s a stain we’ll never be able to erase,” said one top Republican strategist. “At the same time, the name of the game is winning a primary and someone with the last name of Trump could win.”

But running in theory is different from running in practice. In Florida, Rubio’s standing has been considered largely stable up to this point. The senator was trashed by hardcore Trump supporters for his vote that certified the Electoral College results. But those close to him said he was expecting far worse. They also point to his solid support in Miami-Dade County, Florida’s most-populous, where 74 percent of the GOP voters are Hispanic and overwhelmingly Cuban-American like Rubio.

“We have nothing bad to say about Ivanka,” said a Rubio adviser. “He’s going to run his race. I’m not sure she really wants to run? She just finished working in the White House and she has three small children — and now she’s going to move to Florida and run against Marco Rubio in a Republican primary?”

For that reason, the expectation among Trump allies and even establishment Republicans is that Ivanka will take her time considering a run while Lara jumps in. One Republican operative who worked with both Lara and Ivanka Trump in 2020 noted that Ivanka was less interested in the rallies and retail politics that come with running for office.

Ivanka Trump is expected to take some time off after leaving the White House, according to one former White House official, and she is currently working on closing out her work, including mitigating the fallout of the riots on Capitol Hill. After that, her family is expected to pack up their home in Washington.

A person close to Lara Trump, meanwhile, said that she has not made any decisions on entering the race in North Carolina, although consultants have been “poking around” for her in the state.

“For [Ivanka] to take on Marco or Florida she’s gotta be ready to rock and roll,” the operative said. “Whereas with Lara, I get the vibe she is ready to go.”

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