Tag Archives: US Government News

UPDATE 1-WHO warns of Brazil’s COVID-19 outbreak as Bolsonaro denounces the Senate probe | Instant News


(Added information on Rio de Janeiro restrictions, the Sputnik V vaccine)

SAO PAULO, April 9 (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday denounced a Senate pending investigation into its handling of the record-breaking COVID-19 outbreak, which global health officials have compared to a “raging hell”.

Supreme Court Judge Luis Roberto Barroso ruled late Thursday that enough senators had signed up to the proposed investigation into the government’s pandemic response to launch an inquiry despite being stalled by the Senate leadership.

“This is a stitch between Barroso and the left in the Senate to weaken the government,” Bolsonaro told supporters outside his residence, accusing the judge of “politics.”

The Senate investigation represents the most severe political consequence to date for Bolsonaro’s approach to the coronavirus, which he compared to last year’s “mild flu” because he ignored health experts calling for masks and social distancing.

Bolsonaro has supported his criticism of the COVID-19 vaccine, but he has continued to attack governors who are trying to impose lockdowns and even lighter measures, accusing them of killing more with those restrictions than the virus itself.

COVID-19 has claimed more than 345,000 lives in Brazil, second only to the United States. One in four deaths from this week’s pandemic occurred in Brazil, where a brutal wave has swept through hospitals and recorded more than 4,000 deaths per day.

“What you have here is a raging epidemic,” said Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to the World Health Organization’s director general, in a public briefing.

But political exhaustion and pressure from Bolsonaro has prompted some governors to relax restrictions despite record deaths.

The state of Sao Paulo, whose governor was once a critic of the president, announced it was relaxing some restrictions next week even as its hospital struggled to handle the caseload.

Sao Paulo officials said the drop in hospitalizations had justified the decision to restart football matches without spectators, reopen shops selling building materials and resume take-out services at restaurants.

Meanwhile, the city of Rio de Janeiro, the country’s second largest city, let a series of restrictions imposed in late March expire on Friday. As a result, bars, restaurants and malls are now able to resume live services.

Brazil’s vaccination efforts, although faster than most countries in Latin America, have been slow compared to many developed countries and have so far relied heavily on one vaccine – Coronavac – developed by China Sinovac Biotech Ltd and has been frequently criticized by Bolsonaro.

On Friday afternoon, the national health agency Anvisa announced it was sending inspectors to two factories in Russia where the Sputnik V vaccine was produced to evaluate the safety of the jabs. (Reporting by Eduardo Simoes in Sao Paulo; Additional reporting by Tatiana Bautzer in Sao Paulo and Rodrigo Viga Gaier in Rio de Janeiro; Editing by Brad Haynes, Dan Grebler and David Gregorio)

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The UK variant of COVID-19 is now the most common type in the United States: CDC | Instant News


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The highly contagious variant of COVID-19 first discovered in the UK has become the most common strain of the virus in the United States as cases continue to rise, a top US health official said on Wednesday.

The strain, known as B.1.1.7, was identified in the UK last fall and has since been detected in 52 jurisdictions in the United States. Rochelle Walensky told reporters at a White House briefing.

US public health officials have urged Americans to get vaccinated as soon as possible to prevent the spread of a new variant of the new coronavirus.

The United States has also detected cases of a variant first discovered in South Africa that is thought to be resistant to several COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. The strains have been found in 36 US jurisdictions, according to federal data last updated on Tuesday.

The United States averaged about 3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine per day over the past week, up 8% from an average of the previous seven days, Walensky said.

Vaccine supply has increased significantly in the United States in recent weeks as Johnson & Johnson has begun making millions of doses of its recently administered injections. Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna have also recently increased their vaccine production capacities.

US President Joe Biden has doubled his tally for shots taken in his first 100 days in office from 100 million to 200 million and urged states to start shooting all adults in mid-April. (Open tmsnrt.rs/3tUM8ta in an external browser to view the vaccination chart)

However, the US ‘daily new coronavirus cases averaged 63,000 over the past seven days, up 2.3% from the previous seven days’ average, Walensky said.

Walensky said that the CDC has identified a number of COVID-19 outbreaks linked to youth sporting events and that communities experiencing high case numbers should avoid holding such events. Testing should also be done twice a week, he said.

White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt also told reporters that the US government is expanding its community health center program, which it set up in recent weeks to help get vaccines into underserved communities.

(Open tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi in an external browser to view a graph of global COVID cases and deaths)

Reporting by Susan Heavey, Jeff Mason and Carl O’Donnell; Edited by Lisa Shumaker

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Cooking oil or crude oil? Even the Italian restaurant owner was mistakenly targeted by US sanctions | Instant News


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – One of the Trump administration’s recent acts is almost certainly the one that most puzzled Alessandro Bazzoni, a restaurant owner in Verona, Italy.

As part of a crackdown on blacklisted Venezuelan crude, former President Donald Trump’s Treasury Department accidentally sanctioned his company on January 19 in a case of mistaken identity.

“It was a mistake,” said Bazzoni, speaking to Reuters by phone from his restaurant in Verona on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Finance reversed course and admitted its wrongdoing, removing sanctions from AMG SAS Di Alessandro Bazzoni & C., as well as sanctions against what looks like a graphic design company in Porto Torres, Italy.

A Treasury official said the department was aware the companies were owned by a different individual than Bazzoni who was blacklisted in January.

In 2019, the Trump administration sanctioned Venezuela’s state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela for seeking to force the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro, accused of corruption, human rights abuses and rigged his 2018 re-election.

The government on the last day of his term imposed sanctions on a different Alessandro Bazzoni over allegations he was linked to a network trying to evade sanctions in Venezuela’s oil sector.

The Treasury Department has also sanctioned companies said to be linked to Bazzoni, including AMG SAS Di Alessandro Bazzoni & C., whose address is the same as restaurant and pizzeria Dolce Gusto in Verona, Italy. Records show Verona-based Bazzoni owns both companies.

“They solve the problem. I shouldn’t be involved anymore, “he said. “It was a mistake … luckily everything was resolved within a few months.”

SerigraphicLab at Bazzoni Alessandro, also registered by OFAC, did not reply to a request for comment sent via email.

“At the end of the Trump administration, they were doing things very, very fast with respect to Venezuela, Iran and China,” said Tim O’Toole, a sanctions specialist at law firm Miller & Chevalier.

“When you move that fast, you tend to make mistakes,” he added.

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis, Luc Cohen and Phillip Stewart; Edited by David Gregorio

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US lawmakers announce a bill to cut toxic metals in baby food | Instant News


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of US Democratic lawmakers presented legislation Thursday that would set new maximum levels of toxic heavy metals in baby food and require manufacturers to comply with them within one year.

FILE PHOTOS: Signs visible outside Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in White Oak, Maryland, USA, August 29, 2020. REUTERS / Andrew Kelly

The bill will be formally introduced on Friday.

The Baby Food Safety Act 2021 will set the maximum levels of inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury in baby food and cereals that producers must meet within one year.

The bill requires levels to be further lowered within two years through US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, and three years through regulation. It mandates manufacturers testing the final product – not just ingredients – for toxic heavy metals and posting the results online.

Representatives for Raja Krishnamoorthi and Tony Cárdenas as well as Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tammy Duckworth will introduce him.

“For too long, the industry has been left to self-regulate baby food safety, and the results have been dire and very dangerous for our children,” said Krishnamoorthi.

Earlier this month, the FDA said it would step up baby food sampling and increase screening after the Home surveillance subcommittee of Krishnamoorthi released a report that found “dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals” in some baby foods.

The FDA, which did not comment on Thursday, had yet to commit to issuing new regulations, earlier saying it was moving forward with “a plan aimed at reducing toxic elements in food for babies and children to the lowest reasonably achievable levels. “

The FDA has declared heavy metals dangerous, especially for babies and children. The FDA in August finalized guidelines for the industry, setting an action rate of 100 parts per billion of inorganic arsenic in baby rice cereal.

The bill will limit inorganic arsenic to no more than 15 parts per billion for cereals.

The FDA says testing shows “children are not at immediate health risk from exposure to toxic elements in food” and notes toxic elements are present in the environment and can enter food supplies through soil, water or air.

Baby food companies say they are working to reduce naturally occurring metal levels in food products.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Edited by Kim Coghill and Angus MacSwan

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US Blinken warns German Maas about Nord Stream 2 sanctions | Instant News


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that he had told his German counterpart that sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline were a real possibility and had “no ambiguity” in America’s opposition to its construction.

FILE PHOTOS: A road sign directs traffic towards the entrance of the Nord Stream 2 gas line landing facility in Lubmin, Germany, 10 September 2020. REUTERS / Hannibal Hanschke

Berlin has so far bet that the new administration of US President Joe Biden will take a pragmatic approach to the project to deliver Russian gas to Europe as it is nearing completion, officials and diplomats have told Reuters.

Echoing Biden’s concerns about a pipeline from Russia to Germany, Blinken said he told German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Tuesday in a private meeting that companies involved in the project risked being hit by sanctions, especially when construction might be completed.

“I explained that companies that are involved in the risk of pipe construction are subject to US sanctions. The pipeline divides Europe, exposing Ukraine and central Europe to Russian manipulation and coercion, it goes against Europe’s own stated energy goals, ”Blinken told a news conference.

The Kremlin says Nord Stream 2, a $ 11 billion venture led by Russian state energy company Gazprom, is a commercial project, but some US administrations have opposed the project and Europe has pledged to reduce its dependence on Russian energy.

The United States and Eastern European Union countries such as Poland say Nord Stream 2 is part of Russia’s economic and political action to manipulate European countries and damage transatlantic relations.

“What I said (to Maas) is that we will continue to monitor activities to complete or certify the pipeline and if those activities take place, we will enforce sanctions,” Blinken said.

He said it was important to get the message directly to Maas, “just to clarify our position and to make sure there is no ambiguity.”

Reuters reported on February 24 that 18 companies had recently stopped working on the pipeline to avoid sanctions.

Asked about a possible compromise in which Germany’s energy grid regulators could be empowered to stop gas flow if Russia crosses the line, Blinken declined to comment.

Last month, Germany’s former ambassador to the United States floated the idea of ​​a compromise between Washington and Berlin that would have the finished pipeline used as political leverage.

The triggers for what the former envoy, Wolfgang Ischinger, calls the “emergency brake” may include violent turmoil between Ukraine and Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, or if Moscow tries to undermine Kyiv’s existing gas transit infrastructure.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Edited by Andrew Heavens and Edmund Blair

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