In Brief: June 6, 2021

GOP aims to revive Fauci attacks after email trove released

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci has been a political lightning rod since the early days of the pandemic, lionized by the left and villainized by the right.

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But with the release of a trove of Fauci’s emails this past week, Republicans’ political attacks on the nation’s top government infectious-diseases expert have gone into overdrive.

On conservative news channels, President Joe Biden’s pandemic adviser has been baselessly pilloried as a liar who misled the American people about the origins of COVID-19 to protect the Chinese government. There’s no evidence of wrongdoing, but Republican calls for his resignation have grown louder, as have demands for new investigations into the origins of the virus.

“Given what we know now, I don’t know how anyone can have confidence that he should remain in a position of public trust and authority,” said Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, a potential presidential hopeful who is calling for Fauci’s resignation and a full congressional inquiry.

The political moves by Republicans represent a new effort to find a reliable foil in the first few months of the Biden administration, as they have struggled to turn public sentiment against the new president. So far, Biden has enjoyed widespread job approval, buoyed by the public’s broad backing of his handling of the pandemic, which 71% of Americans support, according to a recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll.

Senators say US donating vaccines to Taiwan amid China row

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The U.S. will give Taiwan 750,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, part of President Joe Biden’s move to share millions of jabs globally, three senators said Sunday, after the self-ruled island complained that China is hindering its efforts to secure the injections amid an outbreak.

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illonois, who arrived in Taiwan with her two colleagues, said the trip underscores the bipartisan support for the democratic island that Beijing claims as its own renegade territory.

“We are here as friends, because we know that Taiwan is experiencing a challenging time right now, which was why it was especially important for the three of us to be here in a bipartisan way,” said Duckworth.

“It was critical to the United States that Taiwan be included in the first group to receive vaccines, because we recognize your urgent need, and we value this partnership.”

Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, a member of the Armed Services Committee, and Democratic Sen. Christopher Coons of Delaware, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, also arrived Sunday morning.

New England’s success against COVID-19 could be a model

BOSTON — For Dr. Jeremy Faust, the moment he realized the pandemic no longer dominated his workday came over Memorial Day weekend, when he didn’t see a single coronavirus case over two shifts in the emergency room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Kerry LaBarbera, an ER nurse a few miles away at Boston Medical Center, had a similar realization that same weekend, when just two patients with COVID-19 came through her unit, one of the busiest in New England.

“The past year and a half has been like going through a tornado or something terrible,” she said. “You’re holding on for dear life, and then you get past it and it’s like, ‘What just happened?’”

Massachusetts and the rest of New England — the most heavily vaccinated region in the U.S. — are giving the rest of the country a possible glimpse of the future if more Americans get their shots.

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the region have been steadily dropping as more than 60% of residents in all six states have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Global war on ransomware? Hurdles hinder the US response

RICHMOND, Va. — Foreign keyboard criminals with scant fear of repercussions have paralyzed U.S. schools and hospitals, leaked highly sensitive police files, triggered fuel shortages and, most recently, threatened global food supply chains.

The escalating havoc caused by ransomware gangs raises an obvious question: Why has the United States, believed to have the world’s greatest cyber capabilities, looked so powerless to protect its citizens from these kind of criminals operating with near impunity out of Russia and allied countries?

The answer is that there are numerous technological, legal and diplomatic hurdles to going after ransomware gangs. Until recently, it just hasn’t been a high priority for the U.S. government.

That has changed as the problem has grown well beyond an economic nuisance. President Joe Biden intends to confront Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, about Moscow’s harboring of ransomware criminals when the two men meet in Europe later this month. The Biden administration has also promised to boost defenses against attacks, improve efforts to prosecute those responsible and build diplomatic alliances to pressure countries that harbor ransomware gangs.

Calls are growing for the administration to direct U.S. intelligence agencies and the military to attack ransomware gangs’ technical infrastructure used for hacking, posting sensitive victim data on the dark web and storing digital currency payouts.

Trump to GOP: Support candidates who ‘stand for our values’

Donald Trump on Saturday pushed Republicans to support candidates who are loyal to him in next year’s midterm elections as the former president launched a new more active phase of his post presidency.

Trump, 74, teased the prospect of another presidential bid of his own in 2024, but vowed first to be an active presence on the campaign trail for those who share his values in next year’s fight for control of Congress.

“The survival of America depends on our ability to elect Republicans at every level starting with the midterms next year,” Trump charged early in a rambling speech that spanned nearly an hour and a half.

Trump’s speech to hundreds of Republican officials and activists gathered for the North Carolina GOP convention was the opening appearance in what is expected to be a new phase of rallies and public events. Out of office for more than four months and banned from his preferred social media accounts, the former president hopes to use such events to elevate his diminished voice ahead of another potential presidential run.

His advisers are already eyeing subsequent appearances in Ohio, Florida, Alabama and Georgia to help bolster midterm candidates and energize voters.

From wire sources

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In Trump’s shadow, Ga’s. Kemp draws boos from GOP faithful

JEKYLL ISLAND, Georgia — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp drew jeers and boos at his state party’s annual convention Saturday, laying bare the bitterness that remains among Republicans over his role in certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential race.

Kemp’s supporters tried to drown out the taunts and he pleaded for party harmony. Heading into his 2022 reelection campaign, the governor emphasized his accomplishments, especially an election overhaul that GOP state lawmakers pushed in reaction to Donald Trump’s false assertions that he lost in November because of voter fraud.

“We must be strong and courageous,” Kemp said. He said of Democrats: “They’ve got Hollywood. They’ve got billionaires in New York and California. … That is why we have to be united as well and move forward together.”

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Yet Kemp never mentioned the former president who has bashed him for months and who returned to the political arena later Saturday with a speech to North Carolina Republicans. Nor did Kemp ever explicitly state that the 2020 election was fraudulent or inaccurately tallied, setting him apart from a parade of other speakers who took the stage, including one of his underdog primary rivals who received a rousing response.

Kemp maintained enough strength to easily beat back a resolution condemning his handling of the election. At least 15 local party conventions out of 159 counties and two congressional district conventions out of 14 adopted such resolutions. But the state party’s resolutions committee shelved the matter, and Kemp opponents were unable Saturday to force a full convention vote.

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