Exclusive: White House advances drone and missile sales to Taiwan

By Mike Stone, Patricia Zengerle and David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House is moving forward with more sales of sophisticated military equipment to Taiwan, telling Congress on Tuesday that it will seek to sell Taipei MQ-9 drones and a coastal defensive missile system, sources familiar with the situation said.

The possible sales follow three other notifications first reported by Reuters on Monday that drew China’s ire as the United States prepares for its Nov. 3 election.

One of the eight sources said that in total the sales were valued at around $5 billion. Very often figures for U.S. foreign military sales include costs for training, spares and fees making the values difficult to pinpoint.

Reuters broke the news in September that as many as seven major weapons systems were making their way through the U.S. export process as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on China.

The pre-notification to Congress for the General Atomics-made MQ-9 drones is the first after President Donald Trump’s administration moved ahead with its plan to sell more drones to more countries by reinterpreting an international arms control agreement called the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

Tuesday’s other congressional pre-notification was for land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles, made by Boeing Co, to serve as coastal defense cruise missiles. One of the sources said the approximately 100 cruise missiles that were notified to Capitol Hill would have a cost of about $2 billion.

Representatives for the U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Taiwan government source acknowledged that “Taiwan has five weapon systems that are moving through the process.”

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees have the right to review, and block, weapons sales under an informal review process before the State Department sends its formal notification to the legislative branch.

Leaders of the committees were notified that the planned weapons sales had been approved by the U.S. State Department which oversees foreign military sales, said the sources, who are familiar with the situation but declined to be identified.

Reuters reported on Monday that informal notifications had already been sent to Congress for a truck-based rocket launcher made by Lockheed Martin Corp called a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), long-range air-to-ground missiles made by Boeing called SLAM-ER, and external sensor pods for F-16 jets that allow the real-time transmission of imagery and data from the aircraft back to ground stations.

When asked about Tuesday’s tranche of congressional notifications the Chinese Embassy in Washington referred to an overnight statement from Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

Zhao said U.S. arms sales to Taiwan severely damaged China’s sovereignty and security interests. He urged Washington to clearly recognize the harm they caused and immediately cancel them, adding: “China will make a legitimate and necessary response according to how the situation develops.”

China considers Taiwan a wayward province that it has vowed to reunite with the mainland, by force if necessary, but Washington considers it

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Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett strives to show independence from White House, Republicans

WASHINGTON – Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett fought back Tuesday against caricatures that she is a committed advocate for conservative causes chosen by President Donald Trump to do his bidding on issues ranging from abortion to the Affordable Care Act.

Barrett: Noboday wants ‘Law of Amy’

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In a marathon session before the Senate Judiciary Committee just three weeks from Election Day, Barrett was put on the defensive by Democrats charging that she was picked because of her views on abortion, gun rights, same-sex marriage and particularly the health care law headed to the high court for the third time next month.

“That is their stated objective and plan. Why not take them at their word?” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said in reference to Republicans and special-interest groups backing Barrett’s nomination.

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Barrett strived to show her independence from the president and conservative forces that have joined together in hopes of a speedy confirmation, wedged tightly between Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and an election that Trump has made clear could be challenged in court.

“I certainly hope that all members of the committee have more confidence in my integrity than to think that I would allow myself to be used as a pawn to decide the election for the American people,” Barrett said.

More: Supreme Court begins 2020 term as a key election issue: Will it decide the election, too?

But several Democrats implied just that. They urged Barrett to pledge that if confirmed, she would recuse herself both from cases involving the election and from the challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

“Republicans are scrambling to confirm this nominee as fast as possible because they need one more Trump judge on the bench before Nov. 10 to win and strike down the Affordable Care Act,” Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, a committee member, said as the hearing stretched past dinner time. “This is happening.”

Time and again in response, Barrett indicated that she came to the hearing with an agenda: to assure senators she has no agenda.

“Judges cannot just wake up one day and say: ‘I have an agenda. I like guns. I hate abortion,’ and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world,” she said.

Despite efforts by Democrats to paint her as a hard-right conservative, Barrett refused to be pinned down on such hot-button issues as race and LGBTQ rights. When the subject of racial justice came up, she recounted how she wept with one of her daughters, who is Black and adopted from Haiti, over the death of George Floyd while being pinned down by police in Minneapolis.



a person standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett listens during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.


© Bonnie Cash, AP
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett listens during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

“Racism persists in our country,” she said, later condemning white supremacy and acknowledging that there is

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Covid-19 Live Updates: White House Embraces ‘Herd Immunity’ Declaration

Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

The White House has embraced a declaration by a group of scientists arguing that authorities should allow the coronavirus to spread among young healthy people while protecting the elderly and the vulnerable — an approach that would rely on arriving at “herd immunity” through infections rather than a vaccine.

Many experts say “herd immunity” — the point at which a disease stops spreading because nearly everyone in a population has contracted it — is still very far off. Leading experts have concluded, using different scientific methods, that about 85 to 90 percent of the American population is still susceptible to the coronavirus.

On a call convened Monday by the White House, two senior administration officials, both speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to give their names, cited an October 4 petition entitled The Great Barrington Declaration, which argues against lockdowns and calls for a reopening of businesses and schools.

“Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health,” the declaration states, adding, “The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.”

The declaration has more than 9,000 signatories from all over the world, its website says, though most of the names are not public. The document grew out of a meeting hosted by the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian-leaning research organization.

Its lead authors include Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, an epidemiologist and infectious disease expert at Stanford University, academic home of Dr. Scott Atlas, President Trump’s science adviser. Dr. Atlas has also espoused herd immunity.

The declaration’s architects include Sunetra Gupta and Gabriela Gomes, two scientists who have proposed that societies may achieve herd immunity when 10 to 20 percent of their populations have been infected with the virus, a position most epidemiologists disagree with.

Last month, at the request of The New York Times, three epidemiological teams calculated the percentage of the country that is infected. What they found runs strongly counter to the theory being promoted in influential circles that the United States has either already achieved herd immunity or is close to doing so, and that the pandemic is all but over. That conclusion would imply that businesses, schools and restaurants could safely reopen, and that masks and other distancing measures could be abandoned.

“The idea that herd immunity will happen at 10 or 20 percent is just nonsense,” said Dr. Christopher J.L. Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which produced the epidemic model frequently cited during White House news briefings as the epidemic hit hard in the spring.

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Justice Dept. sues to seize profits of tell-all Melania Trump book, citing White House nondisclosure pact

In a statement, Wolkoff said she fulfilled all the terms of the agreement and that its confidentiality provisions ended when the White House terminated it.

Winston Wolkoff, 50, had a 15-year friendship with Melania Trump before she was ousted in 2018 as an unpaid senior adviser to the first lady in a scandal involving President Trump’s $107 million inauguration. Winston Wolkoff has said she felt “betrayed” when news accounts focused on $26 million paid to her event-planning firm by the inauguration. Most of the money went to pay for inaugural events, and she personally retained $484,126, The Washington Post has reported.

In the book, Winston Wolkoff described what she viewed as extensive mismanagement and opaque accounting for the inauguration, after which she cooperated with law enforcement investigators.

But the former right-hand events planner to Vogue editor Anna Wintour has created a larger media storm this month by playing excerpts of phone conversations that she began secretly recording with the first lady in February 2018 without her knowledge.

Melania Trump’s chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, has lambasted Winston Wolkoff for the recordings.

“Secretly taping the first lady and willfully breaking an NDA to publish a salacious book is a clear attempt at relevance,” Grisham said in an Oct. 2 statement to CNN. “The timing of this continues to be suspect — as does this never-ending exercise in self-pity and narcissism.”

The lawsuit is likely to draw renewed attention to the tapes, which capture Melania Trump venting in profane language about her frustrations with critical media coverage, expectations about her role in planning White House Christmas decorations and defending the administration’s separation of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Who gives a f— about the Christmas stuff and decorations?” Trump said in one portion played in interviews with Winston Wolkoff by CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

On another recording, the first lady refers to porn star Stormy Daniels as “the porn hooker.” Porn actresses took to Twitter and accused her of shaming sex workers. The recording played on “Mea Culpa,” a podcast hosted by Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, who went to jail for lying to investigators about paying hush money to Daniels, who said she had an affair with Trump before he became president. President Trump has denied the affair.

According to the lawsuit, Winston Wolkoff served as an adviser to the first lady from January to August 21, 2017, helping Melania Trump assemble her staff, remodel the East Wing and communicate with the media.

Winston Wolkoff then entered a formal “Gratuitous services Agreement” that included, among other things, the handling of “nonpublic, privileged and/or confidential information,” the suit asserts. Serving as a volunteer policy and media adviser, Winston Wolkoff agreed that she was “specifically prohibited from publishing, reproducing or otherwise divulging any such information to any unauthorized person or entity in whole or in part,” the Justice Department said in court filings.

The agreement also bound Winston Wolkoff to not disclose her work with the first lady’s office to anyone without written

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Americans’ ‘needs are not addressed in the President’s proposal’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday slammed the White House’s most recent stimulus proposal as ignoring key economic issues wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, defending her decision to turn down what she described as a political stunt that would fail to help the public.



Wolf Blitzer, Nancy Pelosi are posing for a picture


© Provided by CNN


“All of my colleagues — we represent these people, I have for over 30 years represented my constituents,” Pelosi told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.” “I know what their needs are, I listen to them, and their needs are not addressed in the President’s proposal.”

When asked whether she could avoid letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, Pelosi replied, “I will not let the wrong be the enemy of the right.”

Pelosi’s comments come after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Senate Republicans will attempt to move forward on a “targeted” coronavirus relief bill when the Senate returns to session next week — a sign that prospects for broad stimulus agreement have all but faded before Election Day.

Despite the urgency expressed throughout the country, the negotiations have only appeared to get further away from a resolution in recent days — and significantly more confusing. While President Donald Trump offered a momentary boost to the prospects of an agreement last week when he called for a “big” deal and proposed a $1.8 trillion offer, Pelosi has rejected the effort as insufficient on several major fronts and the talks are once again stuck without a clear path forward.

Video: Pelosi pushes bill to give Congress a role in removing presidents (CNN)

Pelosi pushes bill to give Congress a role in removing presidents

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Pelosi dismissed Blitzer’s references to other Democrats calling for a relief bill — such as California Rep. Ro Khanna warning that people can not wait for aid until February, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang saying that there was some good in the Republicans’ offer and the Problem Solvers Caucus’ proposal.

While the two men are “lovely,” Pelosi said, “they know nothing about” the specifics of the White House’s proposals and “they are not negotiating this situation — they have no idea of the particulars, they have no idea of what the language is here.”

Members of the Problem Solvers Caucus “don’t have any earned income tax credit or child tax credit in their proposal, either,” like the White House proposal, she added.

“With all due respect to the kind of people you were referencing — and I welcome their enthusiasm, I welcome their interests, I welcome their originality of their thinking,” Pelosi said. “But the fact is we have a responsibility to meet the needs of the American people in a retroactive way so they are not at a total loss.”

“Nobody is waiting until February — I want this very much now, because people need help now,” Pelosi said. “But it’s no use giving them a false thing just because the President wants to put a check with his

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Woman and three children rescued from two-alarm Brockton house blaze

Fire at 574 Warren Ave., Brockton.
Fire at 574 Warren Ave., Brockton.Brockton FD

Brockton firefighters on Tuesday morning rescued a woman and three children from the third floor of a home that caught fire, officials said.

Via Twitter around 9:30 a.m., Brockton firefighters confirmed the two-alarm blaze at 574 Warren Ave., a three-story wood frame residence.

Minutes later, fire officials tweeted that rescues were “being made from the third floor.”

“Four people rescued over ladders, all companies working,” the department tweeted in another follow-up message.

Brockton Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Galligan said the woman and three children who were rescued were evaluated by EMS at the scene and released. One firefighter was taken to the hospital with a minor hand injury, he said.

The fire started in the basement and the woman and three children were unable to get out on their own, he said.

“The stairways and the hallways were full of smoke,” Galligan said in a telephone interview.

The woman and children were rescued from a third floor window. Firefighters used a ground ladder to take two of them out and a tower ladder to rescue the other two, he said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, Galligan said.

“Right now we believe it was accidental,” he said.


Travis Andersen can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Emily Sweeney can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi clashed with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer over why Democrats haven’t accepted the Trump administration’s $1.8 trillion stimulus offer



a close up of a person wearing a costume: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a press conference to mark the anniversary of the House passage of the 19th Amendment and women's right to vote, on Capitol Hill May 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images


© Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a press conference to mark the anniversary of the House passage of the 19th Amendment and women’s right to vote, on Capitol Hill May 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got into a heated argument with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Tuesday as the host grilled her on the ongoing negotiations on a second COVID-19 relief package.
  • A second coronavirus relief bill has been stalled in Congress as the Senate and House failed to come to a consensus on the details of the proposal.
  • “Madame Speaker, I’m asking you this because so many people are in desperate need right now,” Blitzer said and asked why Pelosi had not yet reached out to President Donald Trump personally to negotiate.
  • “What makes me amused, if it weren’t so sad, is how you all think that you know the suffering of the American people [more] than those of us who are elected by them to represent them at that table,” Pelosi responded.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi clashed with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview Tuesday over continued delays in approving another coronavirus stimulus package.

Pelosi appeared on CNN Tuesday, where Blitzer grilled the House Speaker on why Democrats haven’t accepted the Trump administration’s $1.8 trillion stimulus offer.

A coronavirus relief bill has been stalled in Congress as the Senate and House failed to come to a consensus on the details of the proposal.

Pelosi has been in talks with the White House and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to negotiate a middle ground between House Democrats and the administration, but the conversations over several weeks have so far not produced a bipartisan package.

Blitzer cited criticism from Rep. Ro Khanna and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, with whom the CNN host spoke to on Monday regarding the bill.

“The only thing that’s keeping us from passing it is politics,” Yang said in response to the relief bill delays, encouraging Pelosi to say “yes” to the negotiations.

“Honest to God, I can’t get over it, because Andrew Yang, he’s lovely; Ro Khanna, he’s lovely,” Pelosi replied. “But they have no idea of the particulars. They have no idea of what the language is here.”

“Madame Speaker, I’m asking you this because so many people are in desperate need right now,” Blitzer said and then asked why Pelosi had not yet reached out to President Donald Trump personally to negotiate and provide relief from the fallout of the pandemic sooner.

“What makes me amused, if it weren’t so sad, is how you all think that you know the suffering of the American people [more] than those of us who are elected by them to represent them at that table,” Pelosi responded to the question.

“It is unfortunate that we don’t have shared values with this White House and … that we have to fight with them

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Georgia House candidates clash over health care, COVID-19

ATLANTA (AP) — Candidates in two closely contested suburban Atlanta U.S. House districts continued to clash Tuesday over their views on health care, the pandemic response and the size of government.

Those disagreements were aired in two debates sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club. One was between 6th Congressional District incumbent Lucy McBath, a Democrat, and Republican Karen Handel, the woman McBath unseated in a narrow 2018 victory. Slightly less sharp was a debate between candidates in the neighboring 7th District, where Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux is trying to claim an open seat after falling just short of beating Republican incumbent Rob Woodall in 2018. With Woodall stepping down, Republican Rich McCormick is trying to hold the seat for his party.

Both races are among the most competitive in the nation, with Democrats gaining ground in what was once reliably Republican turf. The 6th District, Georgia’s most affluent, stretches across parts of Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties. The rapidly diversifying 7th District includes parts of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties.


McBath labeled Handel as a threat to health care access, saying it’s not a “privilege” but a “right as an American.”

“Your record on health care is absolutely dismal,” McBath told Handel. “You have supported bills that would drive up the cost of health care for people that have pre-existing conditions, not only their treatment, their care and prescription drugs.”

Handel said that portrayal was unfair, and said McBath herself could have done more in Congress to protect people from suffering insurance consequences because of earlier disease or infirmity.

Handel attacked McBath, saying it was the Democrats’ fault that Congress hadn’t been able to approve a new bill for COVID-19 relief

“There is nothing preventing Democrats like you and Speaker Pelosi from getting to the table on that COVID relief package. You don’t want to pass it because you want to pack it full of controversial proposals,” Handel said. “You could get it done if you had the will.”

McBath, though, said she was “proud that the House is still trying to work with the Senate” on additional spending.

McBath sidestepped a question from Handel asking whether McBath would favor adding more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. She instead criticized Republicans for pushing through the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

″I’m very concerned about Judge Barrett’s policy agenda, wanting to possibly dismantle the Affordable Care Act that millions of Americans are dependent on, and also her stance on choice,” McBath said, saying she wanted to protect abortion rights.

For her part, Handel said “it’s no secret I’m pro life” and backed Barrett’s confirmation. “A president is elected for four years, not three-and-a-half years or three years and nine months,” Handel said.

The attacks were somewhat less sharp in the 7th District debate, where Bourdeaux continued to argue for expanded health care and blamed Republicans for mismanaging the COVID-19 outbreak, while McCormick again argued that the district needs a low-tax, low-regulation approach.

“Politicians and regulations are not the solution to the

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The Real Reason Your House Has Spiders (and How To Get Rid of Them)

Despite the fake cobwebs and fun, sparkly spiders people love to put up every Halloween, no one seems to like the real thing. Plastic arachnids might bring a smile, but barely glimpsed, eight-legged critters scurrying across your bedsheets evoke entirely different emotions—from annoyance to existential terror.

We get it! But while many people are afraid of spiders, the creepy critters are usually a benign presence in your home, and one of the easier pests to get rid of.

We spoke to spider and pest experts to get all the details on why these insects enter our homes and how to eliminate them. Here’s everything you need to know to make your house spider-free (except for decorative purposes) this season.

Why does my house have spiders?

If you’re one of those people who have true arachnophobia, you might want to stop reading now— because you’re definitely not going to like what entomologist Nancy Troyano, of Ehrlich Pest Control, has to say.

“Only 5% of the spiders you see inside have been outside,” she says. “Most of the spiders you see around your house have probably been living there for a while.”

They also tend to come out of their hiding places in fall and spring to mate. So if you’re suddenly seeing more spiders in your home, it doesn’t mean they’ve invaded. You’re just finally becoming aware of them.

As for what keeps these unwanted housemates hanging around, it’s simple enough: food. And in the case of spiders, that means other bugs. So having them around can actually control the numbers of other insects in your home.

“Spiders will always prefer making a home in a quiet and calm environment where they can live undisturbed, and have access to food and warmth,” says Natalie Barrett of Nifty Pest Control. “They also feel safer in cluttered spaces. In homes, their most preferred areas include garages, basements, storage rooms, and attics.”

Besides cozy clutter and an ample supply of bugs, spiders are also attracted to warm and humid environments, like bathrooms.

cluttered attic
Spiders love cluttered spaces like this attic.

c_taylor/iStock

The good news about indoor spiders

There’s good news for spider haters—sort of. Despite how repellent they may look, most indoor spiders won’t actually hurt you.

“The vast majority of common house spiders rarely, if ever, bite people,” says Ed Spicer, CEO of Pest Strategies. “Out of the 40,000 spider species on Earth, about 12 can hurt you.”

In fact, in the U.S. there’s really only two types you need to worry about: the brown recluse (brown with a fat body and skinny legs) and the black widow (black with a distinctive red hourglass mark on its back).

“Black widow and brown recluse bites are rarely lethal to humans,” says Spicer, “but they could very well require medical attention.”

How to get rid of spiders

While spiders are apparently a benevolent force in your home, keeping the bug population under control, the reality is that most of us don’t want them around.

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Proposal to hasten herd immunity grabs White House attention, appalls top scientists

WASHINGTON — Maverick scientists who call for allowing the coronavirus to spread freely at “natural” rates among healthy young people while keeping most aspects of the economy up and running have found an audience inside the White House and at least one state capitol.

The scientists met last week with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who has emerged as an influential adviser to President Donald Trump on the pandemic.

When asked for comment, HHS referred a reporter to Azar’s subsequent Twitter statement about the meeting: “We heard strong reinforcement of the Trump Administration’s strategy of aggressively protecting the vulnerable while opening schools and the workplace.”

A senior administration official told reporters in a background briefing call Monday that the proposed strategy — which has been denounced by other infectious-disease experts and has been called “fringe” and “dangerous” by National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins — supports what has been Trump’s policy for months.

“We’re not endorsing a plan. The plan is endorsing what the president’s policy has been for months. The president’s policy — protect the vulnerable, prevent hospital overcrowding, and open schools and businesses — and he’s been very clear on that,” the official said.

“Everybody knows that 200,000 people died. That’s extremely serious and tragic. But on the other hand, I don’t think society has to be paralyzed, and we know the harms of confining people to their homes,” the official added.

Trump has long chafed at the economic damage from shutdowns imposed to control the pandemic, and has repeatedly pushed states to reopen, at one point threatening to withhold federal funding from states that did not open schools. After he contracted the virus and developed symptoms of COVID-19 serious enough to require hospitalization, Trump tweeted, “Don’t be afraid of COVID.”

In pushing his agenda, Trump has steadily drifted away from the counsel of his own government’s top doctors, such as White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Into that void has stepped Atlas, who has relied on the maverick scientists to bolster his in-house arguments. At a recent White House news briefing, he cited them by name.

The three scientists pushing the strategy, which they call focused protection, have distinguished academic appointments. Martin Kulldorff is an epidemiologist at Harvard University. Sunetra Gupta is an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford. Jay Bhattacharya is a physician and epidemiologist at Stanford University’s medical school.

They have codified their argument in the form of a document posted online that called itself the Great Barrington Declaration, named after the town in Massachusetts where it was unveiled on Oct. 4 in a ceremony at a libertarian think tank.

The authors say their approach would decrease the undesirable public health effects of restrictions and closures, which disproportionately affect lower-income people. The declaration does not mention wearing masks, engaging in social distancing, avoiding crowds and indoor environments, or any of the other

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