McConnell avoids White House, citing laxity on masks, COVID-19 precautions

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Putin Is Facing the Toughest Fight of His Presidency as Former USSR Goes up in Flames

Yesterday, October 7, was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 68th birthday, and, in keeping with his Soviet-style personality cult, it would normally have been an occasion for Putin to bask in public fanfare. But this year was different. Putin is holed up at his residence outside Moscow, where he has been since early April, avoiding infection from the coronavirus that is again rampant in Russia, while unrest surges in three countries of the former Soviet Union, and France and Germany are pushing for new EU economic sanctions against Russia because of the poisoning of Russian democrat Alexei Navalny.In honor of Putin’s birthday, the Russian news agency Tass released the final episode of a series entitled 20 Questions with Vladimir Putin, a special interview project to commemorate Putin’s twenty years as leader. In this episode Putin does not discuss pressing economic issues or international affairs, but rather his hobbies, family and other personal matters. Significantly, while Putin mentions that he enjoys his “sweet” grandchildren, he also confesses to his interviewer that “when you occupy this position, sometimes it feels like you cease to be a human being and become nothing more than a mere function.”Funeral for Reporter Who Set Herself on Fire Reawakens Russia’s Passion to Stand up to PutinNo wonder Putin has begun feeling like an automaton. Bad things have been happening to Putin in battalions lately. On July 9, just as the number of coronavirus cases in Russia had begun to decline and the virus seemed under control, mass protests erupted in the Siberian district of Khabarovsk over the arrest on unsubstantiated murder charges of the popular governor, Sergei Furgal.The unrest in Khabarovsk, a cause for deep concern in the Kremlin, was soon overshadowed by events in Belarus, where the largest political rally in over a decade took place in Minsk on July 30 in support of the opposition presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Opposition protests, accompanied by mass arrests, plunged Belarus into turmoil after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, in power for 26 years, reported a landslide victory in the August 9 presidential elections. Despite a severe crackdown, the protests have continued. On October 4, 100,000 people marched in Minsk demanding Lukashenko’s resignation.The events in Belarus, a neighboring country that serves as Russia’s strategic buffer to NATO states, pose a huge dilemma for Putin. The overthrow of an authoritarian leader like Lukashenko by a grassroots democratic movement would set a dangerous example that Russians might at some point follow. But if the Kremlin sends paramilitary forces into Belarus to support Lukashenko, as Putin suggested last month might be done, such a move could result in more Western sanctions against Russia, which would further damage Russia’s faltering economy.Adding to the Kremlin’s troubles, a violent conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted on September 27 over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies in Azerbaijan, but is controlled by ethnic Christian Armenians who are backed

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McConnell avoids White House because of its lax response to coronavirus

“Well, look. It won’t surprise you to know we talk frequently — on the phone,” McConnell said in response to a question about Trump’s health. “I haven’t actually been to the White House since August the 6th, because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different from mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing.”

McConnell said he thinks Trump, who returned to the White House on Monday after being hospitalized over the weekend, is “perfectly fine.”

“He seems normal,” McConnell said, “and we’ve been discussing the very issues that you all are discussing to me right now.”

McConnell made the remarks at an event at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport where he focused on Cares Act funding.

McConnell has frequently urged lawmakers and others to wear masks, although he has stopped short of implementing a mask mandate on the Senate side of the Capitol. The Senate also instituted other changes beginning in May, including meeting in larger rooms.

Trump is frequently seen without a mask and has mocked those who wear them, including Democratic rival Joe Biden.

In his remarks Thursday, McConnell also appeared to suggest that the White House is now “paying the price” for its approach to masks.

“If any of you have been around me since May the 1st, I’ve said, ‘Wear your mask. Practice social distancing,’ ” McConnell said. “It’s the only way that we know of to prevent the spread until we get a vaccine. And we practice that in the Senate. Now, you’ve heard of other places that have had a different view, and they are, you know, paying the price for it.”

Two Republican senators — Mike Lee (Utah) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) — tested positive for the novel coronavirus after attending a White House event Sept. 26 where Trump announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court. Lee and Tillis were seen maskless at events, including an indoor gathering, associated with the announcement.

A third Republican senator, Ron Johnson (Wis.), announced last week that he had contracted the disease. Johnson was not at the White House event.

In his remarks in Kentucky, McConnell also maintained that a vaccine is not likely to be available for widespread use until next year, a message that is at odds with Trump’s recent statements promising the delivery of a vaccine sooner than that.

“This is not over. We’re going to have to work through it,” McConnell said, adding that it’s necessary to “work as safely as possible until we can get our people vaccinated — and that, my friends, is clearly going to be sometime next year.”

Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

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McConnell avoids visiting White House over its handling of coronavirus

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell drew a stark contrast Thursday between his handling of coronavirus in the Senate and the approach taken by the White House, which has experienced an outbreak among senior officials and the president.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives to meet with reporters at the Capitol in Washington.

© J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives to meet with reporters at the Capitol in Washington.

During an event in northern Kentucky, McConnell said that he had not gone to the White House in more than two months because of how it has addressed the coronavirus.

“I actually haven’t been to the White House since August the 6th because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different than mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” the Kentucky Republican said.

Video: Pelosi: U.S. Needs to Know When Trump Had Last Negative Test (Bloomberg)

Pelosi: U.S. Needs to Know When Trump Had Last Negative Test



McConnell, 78, added that he continues to speak frequently with President Donald Trump by phone.

McConnell’s remarks come as the White House has become a hotbed recently for the virus. Trump was hospitalized over the weekend after he contracted the disease, and several of his top aides as well as White House staff members have been infected.

While McConnell, a polio survivor, did not rebuke the president directly, he has repeatedly called for wearing masks, both in floor speeches and at events. Meanwhile, the president for months refused to wear a face covering, and even mocked Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during the Sept. 29 debate for wearing the “biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

The Senate is currently out of session, after three senators announced they tested positive for the virus over a 24-hour period. Two of the senators — Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina — attended the White House’s Rose Garden ceremony announcing Trump’s decision to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The event has been linked to recent cases. More than 30 White House staffers and other contacts tested positive.

The Senate is taking precautions to prevent the spread of the disease. Most senators, with a few exceptions, wear masks and committee hearings have taken on a “hybrid” format, where senators can choose whether to attend remotely.

But in the wake of recent cases, several senators, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are calling for a more robust testing regime in the Senate. Both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and McConnell rejected an offer earlier this year from the White House for rapid tests and so far neither are suggesting a change of course.

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Trump hospitalized while walking avoids damaging images, official tells NYT

A masked President Donald Trump walked across the White House lawn, gave a thumbs up to onlookers, and boarded a helicopter for Walter Reed Medical Center on Friday evening.

Earlier that day, Trump and First Lady Melania Trump had announced they tested positive for the coronavirus.

The president had also developed a fever, cough, congestion, and fatigue by the time he was admitted to the hospital, aides told The New York Times.

Trump will be staying at Walter Reed for “the next few days,” the White House said in a statement, adding that the decision came “out of an abundance of caution.”

But one unnamed administration official told the Times that it was better for Trump to leave while he could still walk to avoid the president being publicly assisted out of the White House if his condition turns severe.

If Trump gets better, the hospital stay will have ultimately been “inconsequential politically,” the Times’ Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman wrote.

Trump Walter Reed.JPG

President Donald Trump disembarks from the Marine One helicopter as he arrives at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Friday, October 2, 2020.

Joshua Roberts/Reuters

“I think I’m doing very well, but we’re going to make sure that things work out,” Trump said in a brief video message shared Friday before he was hospitalized.

Hospitalization could point to worsening symptoms

Trump is a 74-yeas-old obese male — all factors that substantially increase his likelihood of severe illness and death from the coronavirus. The early hospitalization could be a sign that his condition has already begun to deteriorate, experts said.

“It might mean he’s now sleepy or confused… or, more likely, short of breath, cough and/or low oxygen level, indicating lung involvement,” Bob Watcher, Chair of the Department of Medicine at University of California San Francisco, tweeted on Friday. “Yes, the threshold to hospitalize the president is probably lower than for average person, but still – it’s not good.”

At this point, Watcher estimated the president’s risk of death to be greater than 10%.

Trump, Dr. Fauci, Birx briefing masks mask

White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, left, and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, both wearing face masks listen as President Donald J. Trump participates in a vaccine development event in the Rose Garden at the White House on Friday, May 15, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Jabin Botsford/Getty Images

At Walter Reed, Trump has received his first dose of the anti-viral drug remdesivir, White House physician Sean Conley said in a memo Friday night.

Remdesivir, developed by biotechnology giant Gilead Sciences, is given as a five-day or 10-day infusion. Studies have shown that it can help hospitalized patients with COVID-19 recover faster than they do with a placebo.

Before leaving for the hospital, Trump also received an injection of Regeneron’s experimental antibody drug, according to Conley.

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Trump avoids tax return questions as he brings yet another truck to the White House

President Trump ignored every pressing topic Monday as he welcomed one of his favorite things to the White House.

The New York Times dropped a bombshell report Sunday evening revealing Trump leveraged business losses to avoid paying taxes for years, as well as used other dubious financial strategies to lower his tax bills. Trump denied the report in a Sunday press conference, and on Monday, avoided questions about his tax returns altogether as he praised an electric pick-up truck.

The White House unexpectedly called reporters to the South Lawn on Monday, where they found Trump inspecting a Lordstown Motors 2021 electric pick-up truck. “We’ve all done a good job,” Trump said after praising the truck’s manufacturers, and then, out of nowhere, said “it’s hotter now than it was before, and that’s something really different.” But before he could get too close to acknowledge fossil fuels’ roles in warming the Earth, he pivoted to call the truck “an incredible piece of science” and implied electrification is sure to “happen with more and more trucks and cars.” He then walked away to reporters shouting “can you say anything about the tax returns?” and “when are you going to release them?”

It’s far from the first time Trump has brought trucks to the White House, though they’re usually a bit bigger than this one. And as The Washington Post has reported, it’s something his advisers will do to cheer the president up when he’s “inconsolable.”

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House passes stopgap funding bill, avoids shutdown

Sept. 22 (UPI) — The House on Tuesday passed a a bipartisan agreement to fund the government through the end of the year, averting an Oct. 1 shutdown.

The vote came shortly after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she and Republican negotiators had reached a deal on the continuing resolution, which includes $8 billion to fund nutrition assistance and and greater oversight to make sure farm assistance doesn’t go to oil companies.

“To help the millions of families struggling to keep food on the table during the pandemic, Democrats have renewed the vital, expiring lifeline of pandemic [Electronic Benefit Transfer] for a full year and enabled our fellow Americans in the territories to receive this critical nutrition assistance,” she said.

“Democrats secured urgently needed assistance for schoolchildren to receive meals despite the coronavirus’s disruption of their usual schedules, whether virtual or in-person, and expanded Pandemic EBT access for young children in child care. We also extended key flexibility for states to lower administrative requirements on [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] for families in the middle of this crisis.”

The Senate must agree to the same legislation before President Donald Trump can sign it.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who’s been negotiating the spending deal with Pelosi, didn’t comment on her announcement.

The deal funds the U.S. government through Dec. 11, avoiding a potential shutdown amid election season, a pandemic and an economic crisis. The new fiscal year is set to begin Oct. 1.

House Democrats’ original continuing resolution proposal eliminated about $30 billion supported by Trump for a bailout for farmers through the Commodity Credit Corp. Further negotiations restored at least some of the funding after Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell promised a fight from his party.

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Schizophrenic who sparked chaos at Gatwick with two kitchen knives avoids jail

Adam Russell was told he is lucky to be alive after armed police responded to his arrival

A knifeman who told a neighbour he was planning a ‘massacre’ before sparking panic at Gatwick Airport has been spared jail. 

Adam Russell, 32, turned up brandishing two huge kitchen knives having told the neighbour he was ‘going to kill them all’. Airport staff feared a terror attack and pressed a panic button, as armed police arrived within two minutes to Taser and arrest him.

Russell, who suffers with schizophrenia, was in the midst of a relapse when he boarded a bus to the London airport in the early hours of June 3, 2019, Lewes Crown Court heard, as it handed him a suspended sentence on Tuesday afternoon.

His actions caused nearly 200 people to be evacuated from the South Terminal after he headed towards the international departure lounge with the weapons. 

Russell, from Crawley, West Sussex, pleaded guilty to possessing a bladed article and affray and has apologised for his behaviour.

Prosecutor Rachel Beckett said Russell was seen by one of his neighbours about 1.30am while they both waited for a bus.

She told the court: ‘The defendant said he was going for a massacre at Gatwick. He later said he was going to kill them all.’

Russell arrived at the airport and was seen walking into the arrivals hall, carrying a knife in each hand.

Security workers pressed the panic button when he arrived at the airport

One witness said the defendant was ‘walking with purpose in his stride’ and had ‘an emotionless glazed over look in his face’.

Another said Russell looked ‘like he was on a mission’.

As onlookers realised the danger, they began shouting and running, with security staff ushering people away.

He was heard shouting ‘come on then’ as he continued to hold the knives.

Ms Beckett added: ‘(A) security officer said she was so scared when she saw the defendant she was scared he was about to start stabbing everyone.

Russell was Tasered and arrested

‘She thought “this is it, this is a terrorist attack”.’

Staff pressed the panic button at 1.54am and armed police arrived in the area at 1.55am.

Officers armed with a carbine and handguns found the defendant and shouted at him to show them his hands.

They formed the view that he was ‘aggressive and an immediate danger’ and Tasered him in the chest.

After he was arrested, he told police that he is a schizophrenic.

Russell’s mental health had been deteriorating in the lead up to the incident, the court heard

The court heard that a week before the Gatwick incident he had told ambulance staff that voices in his head were telling him to blow up the airport.

Defence barrister Fiona Clegg said: ‘What is very clear is that in the proceeding weeks to the incident that his mental health was deteriorating significantly.

‘Mr Russell now wishes me to indicate that he is now able to see – whilst he

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