World News

As the City Explodes, Toronto Transit Feels the Financial Strain

Streetcar equipment that’s almost 100 years old. Asbestos-lined subway tunnels. Computer systems from decades ago. Before the coronavirus hit, Toronto’s public transit agency needed billions of dollars to fix and expand lines and meet the demands of the city’s explosive growth.

Now, as the pandemic shuts down large parts of Canada’s financial capital, the number of passengers has collapsed, creating a revenue sinkhole.

Transit authorities around the world are grappling with similar funding shortfalls, but Toronto is in a double bind. It has the fastest-growing population of any metropolitan area in the U.S. or Canada, according to researchers at Ryerson University. It also relies on passengers, rather than taxation or government subsidies, for most of its operating money — a model that has been a losing proposition during the pandemic.

Ridership on the Toronto Transit Commission’s network has plunged by about 80% over the past three months. Even with plans to cut staffing 7% from 2018 levels — or by about 1,000 jobs — Chief Executive Officer Rick Leary still sees a deficit of about C$400 million ($292 million) by the end of the year.

42,597 in U.S.Most new cases today

-10% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-1.​091 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-2.​3% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), May

“When you’re depending on the fare box as greatly as the TTC, that presents a problem,” said Leary, who started his his career as a train driver in Boston.

Roughly two-thirds of the TTC’s operating costs are covered by fares, one of the highest percentages anywhere in North America. New York’s Metropolitan Transport Authority, for example, relied on fares for 38% of its revenue in 2019, with tolls and dedicated taxes making up the bulk of funding.

Free Masks

It’s also not clear when riders will come back. Toronto and its suburbs trailed much of the rest of Canada in reopening offices and retail outlets because Covid-19 cases were higher. Two dozen major employers agreed in May to keep most of their downtown staff at home until at least September. The list includes banks, insurance firms, telecommunications companies and colleges whose employees represent a huge number of daily passengers.

Leary is worried some riders may never return as work-from-home habits take hold or anxious employees turn to cycling or cars to avoid potential infection -- at least until there’s a vaccine.

In the meantime, the TTC is doing what it can to make riders feel comfortable, Leary said. That means handing out 1 million free protective masks and instituting a strict sanitation regime, while getting the system back to a regular service schedule as soon as possible.

Inevitably that means costs will rise before ridership does. “Once we get 50% of our ridership back, I’m going to need 100% of my staff back,” he said.

Lobbying Government

Leary says he’s is in talks with all levels of government about ways to fill the TTC’s funding gap, but his options are limited. In New York, the MTA will be able to access the Federal Reserve’s $500 billion lending program, giving mass transit another avenue to raise cash. In Canada, where local authorities tend to operate under more stringent financing rules, the TTC has to look to politicians at senior levels of government for help.

A lobby group for Canadian municipal governments has asked for at least C$10 billion in emergency funding to deal with shortfalls in subway and bus fares, user fees and other revenue sources.

Toronto Mayor John Tory has made the case for provincial and federal financial support to help cities continue to run their transportation services.

“I am absolutely determined to get back to those investments in service,” Tory said in April. “We need to do everything we can to protect our city and our TTC so that Toronto can come back stronger than ever when the restart and recovery begins.”

Dealing with a revenue collapse and devising new sanitation procedures is a big departure from what 57-year-old Leary expected to be doing when he took the helm of TTC in 2018. Back then, he had plans to focus on a C$33.5 billion capital reinvestment program, with the goal of building Toronto a transport system commensurate with its status as one of North America’s largest cities.

Toronto overtook the Dallas-Fort Worth Arlington area to become the fastest-growing metro area in Canada and the U.S. last year, according to a report from Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research and Land Development.

While the TTC is in need of expansion of routes and subway lines, Leary has also put heavy emphasis on improving efficiency through maintenance programs and outsourcing.

Hockey Fascination

Making the trains at least run on time is in Leary’s blood. His father was a streetcar operator in Boston. The younger Leary put himself through Northeastern University driving trains for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Then he earned a degree in Administration and Management at Harvard.

It was his father who pointed out a job managing York Region Transit that brought him to Ontario. For a guy who grew up watching Canadian ice hockey superstars like Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and Derek Sanderson, moving north was a life-long dream.

“We always lost to the Canadian hockey teams. But that was OK because they were the Canadians,” said Leary, who became a Canadian citizen last August and claims his Boston drawl isn’t as strong as it used to be. “I’m the proudest Canadian I know.”

— With assistance by Kait Bolongaro, and Sandrine Rastello

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World News

Singapore’s Main Opposition Party Targets High Cost of Living

Singapore’s biggest opposition party released an election manifesto that sought to reduce costs of living and widen the safety net for residents.

The Workers’ Party main proposals include opposing the government’s plan to increase the goods-and-services tax, and reiterating calls for a national minimum wage and unemployment insurance, it said on Sunday. It sought a minimum monthly take-home wage of S$1,300 ($934) for full-time workers.

“A large number of Singaporean families have difficulty making ends meet, even though their breadwinners are working hard to provide for them,” according to the manifesto. It also called for “abolishing the retirement age and allowing Singaporeans to work for as long as they are able and willing to” and an insurance program to “ease financial pressure on workers who have been made redundant.”

Singapore unveiled four stimulus packages in about three months worth a total of S$92.9 billion, laden with cash handouts, tax waivers and wage subsidies to help residents and businesses during the pandemic. The government still plans to raise the goods-and-services tax by 2025, but won’t increase it next year, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in February.

The opposition’s manifesto contrasts with one released by the ruling party on Saturday. The People’s Action Party focused its election policy document on tiding the city-state over the crisis stemming from the global pandemic and elaborated less on its longer-term ideas for the country. Covid-19 has infected more than 40,000 people across the island of 5.7 million people.

The city-state will go to the polls on July 10, where the People’s Action Party, which has ruled since independence in 1965, is expected to remain in power. The Workers’ Party wants to call focus to the overwhelming parliamentary super-majority held by the ruling party, and the risk there may not be elected opposition officials in the legislative body following this election, the Straits Times reported, citing Secretary-General Pritam Singh.

The Workers’ Party also recommended the formation of an independent medical advisory board in the event of future outbreaks, and a revision of the pandemic preparedness plan. It called for the improvement of the living conditions for foreign workers, who made up the majority of Covid-19 infections as the virus spread rapidly in the cramped dormitories.

This outbreak, “and any future pandemics, must strengthen — not weaken — our social harmony and resilience as a people,” the Workers’ Party said. “Singaporeans must resolve to work together as a nation to defeat pandemics, not as individuals weathering the storm on their own.”

The Singapore Democratic Party, one of the oldest opposition parties, on Sunday said its manifesto released in September last year remained relevant. Its main proposals were a suspension of the GST till the end of 2021, payouts of retrenchment insurance, providing low-income retirees with income support, and saying no to any plans to increase Singapore’s population to 10 million people.

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World News

What’s So Hard About Developing A COVID-19 Vaccine? We Asked A Scientist

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread around the globe, the best hope for truly getting it under control is a vaccine that would protect people from contracting COVID-19. Scientists in the U.S., China, the U.K. and elsewhere are racing to develop a vaccine and there have been some promising signs that one of the many vaccine candidates under development may prove effective against the virus.

In the U.S., President Donald Trump has predicted a vaccine will arrive before the end of the year. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease has said it’s a question of “when and not if” a vaccine against this coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2, will be developed, and also predicted that could happen before year’s end. 

With COVID-19 taking lives and crushing economies around the world, stopping the spread would provide tremendous relief. But the progress of science is characterized more by failure than success. Researchers are working on almost 200 potential vaccines for this coronavirus, and there’s no guarantee any of them will ever work, let alone one that’s ready for wide use within months.

Creating a safe, effective vaccine that quickly would be unprecedented. In addition, no one has ever attempted to produce a new vaccine, distribute it to every corner of the world and carry out an immunization campaign on this scale and with this much speed.

To get a better understanding of the challenges facing vaccine researchers, HuffPost spoke to Vincent Racaniello, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. 

Is it realistic to expect a vaccine for the novel coronavirus by this winter?

No, I think it’s highly unrealistic to expect a vaccine by the end of 2020. We haven’t made any vaccine in that short of time. That would be a year from January, when we first saw circulation in the U.S. Eighteen months is optimistic. What would be more realistic, in my view, would be next summer. But, you know, vaccines can take five to 10 years and longer. The polio vaccine took 50 years to develop. Certainly, we’ve advanced in our technology so we can do it faster now, but I would say, no, the end of this year is completely not feasible, in my view. However, I would love to be surprised.

How would a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine work to prevent people from becoming ill?

What vaccines do is they’re introduced into you ― they can be injected, or they can be taken orally, or through any number of other routes ― and they turn on your immune system to make a response to the virus that’s in question, in this case SARS-CoV-2, without making you sick. Then you have an immune response and, most importantly, your immune response comes with a wonderful feature called “memory,” so it remembers what it’s encountered so that whenever it sees that agent again, it will respond. So that’s what a vaccine tries to do ― it tries to produce immune memory without any of the pathogenic or disease consequences of a real infection.

Is this similar to what the human immune system does itself when it fights off infections?

Absolutely. If you get influenza or a common cold virus or any other virus ― if you survive, of course ― then you have immune memory, and then whenever you encounter the virus again, you should mount a nice response and you should prevent infection entirely. You won’t even know that you’ve encountered the virus.

What are the primary challenges to developing new vaccines for any disease?

There are many, but the main one is understanding what’s needed to protect you from infection. We’ve been talking very generally about the immune response but, in fact, there are different components. There are cells and proteins involved, and so we need to know which is important for the particular virus. That’s one of the reasons that it took 50 years to make a polio vaccine, because people had to figure out what was important. Now, for this new virus, we don’t have the time to do that, so we’re making a lot of assumptions about what’s important, and we hope that they’re right. 

How do governments, pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions and scientists decide how to prioritize the development of vaccines for some diseases over others?

I hate to say, this is very sad and this is an indictment of the whole system for making vaccines, but the main priority is profit. 

The companies that make vaccines, they’re all for-profit companies and they need to see that they can make a profit off of their vaccine. So all the vaccines that we have are there because many, many people are infected with viruses like influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, shingles and polio. They infect a lot of people and the companies can make money from them.

However, there are many diseases out there that are far less prevalent but nevertheless they kill people. Companies aren’t interested in making vaccines for those diseases because there’s no profit to be made. I think that’s a fatal flaw with our vaccine system that has to be fixed and it’s why we don’t have a vaccine ready for this particular virus. We could’ve, but no company was interested. Same for antiviral medications. That’s why we’re in this situation we’re in right now.

One could think of creative ways to get around that. Governments can get involved, for sure. We’re hobbled in this country by the political paralysis of our government and its unwillingness to invest in science completely, so that’s stymied that. Now, since this SARS-CoV-2 has emerged, there are new nonprofits that have popped up saying, “We’re going to fund vaccine development.” In the end, it’s just a matter of someone raising money, and there’s plenty of money out there to do this. Think about the money we’re spending on recovery in the U.S. ― trillions. If a fraction of that money had been spent on developing a vaccine, we’d be out of this problem.

There are no vaccines available for any strains of the coronavirus, including the one that causes COVID-19. Why is that?

After SARS-1 in 2003, it went away. We were able to stop it. The virus disappeared. So most companies said, “We’re not interested in making a vaccine. There’s no market.” But a few academics went ahead and they made an experimental SARS vaccine, but it never got beyond that because there’s no financial support.

It’s not hard. In fact, it would’ve been not very hard to make a vaccine that could protect against many coronaviruses that come out of bats. But again, no financial backing for that and, even more, no research report. In the U.S., the NIH was not willing to support that kind of fundamental research because its budget is too limited.

There are many novel coronavirus vaccine candidates in development. What will determine which, if any, are used?

Unfortunately, they’re mostly not even in phase 1 in people. A handful are in phase 1 and a couple in phase 2. Those have been pushed and those are going to be the ones that finish first, so they’ll have an advantage. Now, whether they work or not is important, obviously, so if they don’t work, that’s the end of that and the others are going to have to catch up. 

The others are not even out of the laboratory. Some of those may never get out of the lab. It may turn out there are too many problems developing those. Others might, but as companies see that other companies have a head start, they might decide not to put resources in it because they’ll lose money. Many of these companies have never made vaccines before. Very few companies have, and I think that’s a factor. If you haven’t made a vaccine, you’re going to have more problems because you don’t know what you’re doing.  

All of those things are factors, and then of course production is a factor. I hope we have more than two vaccines because I don’t see how you could make 7 billion vaccine doses with just two companies. I think we need at least 10 vaccines to be able to cover the whole planet.

What are the potential downsides of deploying vaccines developed quickly during an emergency like the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic?

We could take a lesson from the polio vaccine in the 1950s. It was only about 50% effective, yet that’s what they had so they went ahead with it. And that meant that a lot of kids whose parents lined them up for shots weren’t protected. It also meant that companies had rushed production. In fact, a lot of kids got polio from that early vaccine because it wasn’t made properly. You could imagine that these early SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, because they’re rushed through, are not as optimal as they could be and they’re not going to be as effective. In most cases, the vaccine candidates are not infectious so I’m not too worried about them causing the actual disease. 

If you try to scale up vaccine production for hundreds of millions of doses, things could go wrong. Normally, we take a lot of time to do this. Everyone is being assured that we’re doing things in a safe way, but I think there’s still room for things to go wrong when you rush things.

People say, “Well, if they’re rushing it, I’m not going to take it,” and I think that’s a valid concern. What I often say is if you rush a vaccine and there’s a problem and you hurt people, then you will never get people to take it for many years. Once there’s a negative view of a vaccine because of some side effect, then people are very reluctant to take it. We have to make very sure that this is safe. We cannot make shortcuts. We have to test it in enough people ― thousands of people ― to make sure there are no side effects. 

If a novel coronavirus vaccine were developed, what would need to happen for it to be deployed widely and safely?

You need a lot of doses, first of all, because I do not want it to be distributed only to wealthy countries. That’s not the point of vaccines. The developed nations are making the vaccine, but they have to understand they have to share it with everyone, and I do hope that happens here. That’s my primary concern. 

You have to make enough of it. If we only have one vaccine that turns out to work, it’s going to be really hard to make enough doses for everyone. Another issue is these vaccines are going to have to be cold, probably frozen, and not everywhere has that capability. Finally, what about the delivery? Most of these vaccines need to be injected. That means you need at least 7 billion needles. I don’t even know if we have 7 billion needles in the world, so I hope someone’s thinking about that ahead of time. And you need people to inject them. You can’t just do it yourself. You need a trained health care worker, which isn’t available everywhere. 

Has a vaccination campaign of this scale ever been attempted?

No, never. We’ve never had to immunize everyone. We’ve always had select groups, like for childhood disease where we do mass campaigns. There is no precedent for this, for having to immunize every person on the planet.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

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World News

State pension UK: Why you may miss out on increasing payment – full list of those affected

The state pension is something which a person can receive once they reach state pension age – something which is currently rising. However, it’s down to the recipient as to whether they claim their state pension straight away, or whether they opt to delay (defer) it.


  • Universal Credit claims by over 50s soar – Boris told ‘wake up’

In doing so, provided it’s for a certain period of time, some may be able to build up extra state pension.

So, how can a person defer the state pension? How does it affect the payment?

To defer the state pension, the person doesn’t need to do anything.

Instead, it will be automatically deferred until it is claimed.

People who reach state pension age on or after April 6, 2016

Those in this situation will see their state pension increase each week they defer, provided this is for at least nine weeks.

It means the state pension increases by the equivalent of one percent for every nine weeks that it is deferred.

This equates to just under 5.8 percent for every 52 weeks.

When it comes to claiming the state pension, the extra amount is paid with the regular state pension payment.

People who reached state pension age before April 6, 2016

In this situation, usually, the person can take their extra state pension either in the form of higher weekly payments, or as a one-off lump sum.

For the former, the state pension increases every week it’s deferred, as long as this is for at least five weeks.

It rises by the equivalent of one percent for every five weeks it’s deferred – working out at 10.4 percent for every 52 weeks.

This extra amount is then paid with the regular state pension payment upon claiming it.


  • Pension savings can be accessed before age 55 under these conditions

Meanwhile, a one-off lump sum can be received if the person has deferred the state pension for at least 12 months in a row.

This payment will include interest of two percent above the Bank of England base rate.

However, those thinking about deferring their state pension need to be aware that they may miss out on building up the payment, should they receive certain other payments.

The government website says: “You cannot get extra State Pension if you get certain benefits.

“Deferring can also affect how much you can get in benefits.” states that if a person gets certain benefits or tax credits, then they can’t benefit from the increase that can come with deferring.

It states: “You cannot build up extra State Pension during any period you get:

  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (income-based)
  • Universal Credit
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Widow’s Pension
  • Widowed Parent’s Allowance
  • Unemployability Supplement.”

Additionally, a person can’t build up extra state pension during any period that their partner gets:

  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (income-related).

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World News

Germany’s Virus Infection Rate Edges Up as Number of Death Slows

Sign up here for our daily coronavirus newsletter on what you need to know, and subscribe to our Covid-19 podcast for the latest news and analysis.

Germany’s coronavirus infection rate rose after five consecutive days of declines, while the country reported the smallest increase in the number of new deaths from the pandemic since Monday.

  • The reproduction factor — or R value — rose to 0.62 on Saturday from 0.57 the previous day, according to the latest estimate by the country’s health body, the Robert Koch Institute.
  • The estimate means that out of 100 people who get infected, a further 62 are likely to contract the virus. The government is trying to keep the value below 1.0 to prevent exponential growth in infections.
  • There were 422 new cases in the 24 hours through Sunday morning, down from 665 the previous day and bringing the total to 194,458, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That compares with almost 7,000 at the peak of the pandemic in late March.
  • Fatalities increased by three to 8,968.
  • The infection rate was as high as 2.88 on Monday with local outbreaks in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia “playing a particularly important role,” according to RKI.
  • “The dynamics of the various outbreak events are also influenced in part by serial tests carried out in the scope of the detected outbreaks, which can promptly lead to the detection of further infected persons,” RKI said. “For this reason, the reproduction figures may continue to fluctuate strongly.”
  • The RKI also provides a seven-day R value, which compensates for fluctuations. That value was 0.83 on Saturday, down from 1.02 the previous day.

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Universal Credit UK: You may be able to get bonus worth hundreds paid into bank account

The number of claims for Universal Credit has risen by several million during the coronavirus pandemic. This week, Work and pensions minister Will Quince told MPs that more than 3.2 million people have made Universal Credit applications since March 16.


  • Universal Credit claims by over 50s soar – Boris told ‘wake up’

While saving money each month will likely not be the priority for those struggling to make ends meet at this moment in time, there is a way that some people are able to boost their bank balance by what could be a very significant amount.

Help to Save is a type of savings account, and it is backed by the government so all savings in the scheme are secure.

The scheme allows some on a low income to get help with saving money.

With Help to Save, certain people entitled to Working Tax Credit or receiving Universal Credit can get a bonus of 50 pence for every £1 they save over the course of four years.

Savers can save between £1 and £50 each calendar month in the account.

And, although there is an upper limit, account holders do not have to pay in the money every month.

Money can be paid into the account by a variety of ways: debit card, a standing order, or bank transfer.

And, while it’s possible to pay money in as many times as one likes, the most it can reach in each calendar month is £50.

So, if £50 has been saved in the account by October 10, the saver can only pay in more money when November rolls around.

Over the four years, the saver can earn two tax-free bonuses.

They’ll get any bonuses they’ve earned even if they withdraw money.

After the first two years, those who have been using the account to save will get the first bonus.


  • Universal Credit UK: DWP agrees to review important benefit rule

The amount they get is 50 percent of the highest balance they’ve saved.

Then, after four years, people who have continued to save will get a final bonus.

This second payment is 50 percent of the difference between two amounts:

  • The highest balance saved in the first two years (years one and two)
  • The highest balance saved in the last two years (years three and four).

If the highest balance doesn’t increase though, then the saver won’t earn the final bonus.

As the most that can be paid in each calendar month is £50, a maximum of £2,400 may be saved in the account over four years.

This means that the most a person can earn in savings in four years is a £1,200 in tax-free bonus money.

“Your bonus is paid into your bank account, not your Help to Save account,” explains.

Who is eligible for Help to Save?

Eligibility rules state a person can open a Help to Save account if they’re any of the following:

  • Receiving Working Tax Credit
  • Entitled to Working Tax Credit and receiving Child Tax Credit
  • Claiming Universal Credit and their household earned £604.56 or more from paid work in their last monthly assessment period.

Additionally, a person needs to be living in the UK.

Those who live overseas can apply for an account if they’re either a:

  • Crown servant or their spouse or civil partner
  • Member of the British armed forces or their spouse or civil partner.

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China Lawmaking Body Adds HK Security Law to Agenda, NOW TV Says

China’s top legislative body added Hong Kong’s security legislation to its latest agenda, NOW TV reported, signaling Beijing may soon hand down a still-secret measure that pro-democracy activists and business groups say could erode the city’s unique freedoms.

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee planned to discuss the legislation to punish acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces at a meeting beginning on Sunday, NOW TV said. One participant in the discussions, Maria Tam, told a Hong Kong radio station Friday that the body was “very likely” to pass the law before the three-day session’s scheduled conclusion on Tuesday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government announced plans in late May to impose the legislation on the former British colony following an unprecedented wave of protests last year. If the proposed law passes during this NPC session, it could come into effect in time for the symbolic July 1 anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Pro-democracy politicians and foreign governments including the U.S. have criticized the proposed law as a blow to the “one country, two systems” principle that keeps Hong Kong’s legal system separate from the mainland. About 56% of residents oppose the legislation, compared with 34% who support it, according to a Reuters/Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute poll released Friday.

Hong Kong officials have defended the new law as necessary to maintain social stability after last year’s protests, despite acknowledging they haven’t seen the full proposal. Details released by state media last week showed that Beijing planned to set up a local intelligence bureau, take control of some sensitive cases and remove the court’s ability to select judges on security matters.

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Back From Golfing, Trump Denies Knowing About Russian Bounties to Kill U.S. Soldiers

On Friday night the New York Times reported a blockbuster story: U.S. intelligence has found that Russian military intelligence offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants in Afghanistan to strike coalition forces, including U.S. and British military members.

President Trump has known about the bounties since March and has done nothing to retaliate. The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal have both confirmed the Times’ reporting.

According to the Times, after Trump was briefed months ago about the role that Russia’s military intelligence agency played in initiating attacks on American soldiers, the president was given a “menu of potential options” on how to respond. But the Trump administration has not acted on any to date.

Late Saturday, the White House denied that President Trump or Vice President Mike Pence had been briefed by U.S. intelligence officials regarding the payments made to militants by Russia to kill American troops.

“The United States receives thousands of intelligence reports a day, and they are subject to strict scrutiny… The CIA Director, National Security Advisor, and the Chief of Staff can all confirm that neither the President nor the Vice President were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.

In 2019, twenty Americans were killed during combat in Afghanistan, but officials do not know if any of those killed were included in the bounties.

The news comes on the heels of the administration finalizing a plan that would see more than 4,000 U.S. troops removed from Afghanistan this fall. The move would leave approximately 4,500 service members in the country.

Astonishingly, while the controversy swirled from Friday night and into the next day, the president didn’t address the story head-on aside from the White House’s statement. Instead, he used his Saturday to play golf, retweet false conspiracy theories from QAnon accounts, and share selectively edited videos of Joe Biden and the recent protests.

Russia has denied the allegations, calling the reports “fake stories” in a tweet from their U.S. embassy Twitter account.

Trump, who has often bragged about his friendly relationship with Russian President Vladimir, spoke with the Russian leader on the phone on June 1, the same day that the G-7 nations voted down a Trump-backed proposal to allow Russia back into its membership.

“I don’t feel that as a G-7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world,” Trump said.

The president told Fox News radio on June 3 that Putin’s past should have nothing to do with his reentry into the G-7.

“It’s not a question of what he’s done. It’s a question of common sense,” Trump said.

Unlike the president, other politicians and former military members have reacted to the news on Twitter.

Candidate for U.S. Senate in Arizona Mark Kelly, who is a Navy combat veteran retired NASA astronaut, said the report was “staggering.”

“This report that the administration has had no response to Russia putting a bounty on the lives of American soldiers in Afghanistan is just staggering. As a combat veteran, I can’t imagine how this could go without a response. We need answers,” Kelly said.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) wrote, “President Trump was cozying up to Putin and inviting him to the G-7 all while his Administration reportedly knew Russia was trying to kill U.S troops in Afghanistan and derail peace talks with the Taliban.”

And Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), an Iraq War vet, reacted emotionally to the report, apologizing to members of the military for having to serve under a president like Trump.

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World News

Pence’s Arizona, Florida Events Scrapped as Virus Cases Jump

Vice President Mike Pence has postponed campaign events scheduled for Arizona and Florida next week as coronavirus cases jump in those states, said a senior Trump campaign official.

Pence, the leader of the White House coronavirus task force, still plans to travel to both states, as well as to Texas on Sunday, to meet with governors and health care officials, a White House official said.

Another Trump campaign official said that Pence’s campaign events were postponed out of an abundance of caution.

All three states have been among the hardest hit as a wave of Covid-19 cases crashes across the Sun Belt, weeks after the worst of the virus subsided in states like New York, New Jersey and Illinois.

Florida had a record 8,924 new cases on Friday, Texas saw 5,706 and Arizona had 3,378, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Republican-run states were among the first to lift stay-at-home orders, which were designed to slow the virus’ spread, in their leaders’ effort to restart local economies.

“Coronavirus cases in Florida and Arizona are spiking thanks to Trump’s ineffective response to this crisis — and the fact they were trying to hold unsafe events in these states at all is just another demonstration of their incompetence and bad judgment,” Democratic National Committee spokesman David Bergstein said in a statement.

The vice president said at a coronavirus task force press briefing on Friday, its first in two months, that he was traveling to Arizona, Florida and Texas in order to get a “ground report” from officials there.

Trump’s Rally Drew People From Dozens of Virus Hot Spots

On Sunday, Pence is scheduled to meet with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and talk to media, after speaking at a “Celebrate Freedom Rally” at a Baptist church in Dallas — an event his office said will honor “America’s freedom and spiritual foundation.”

Pence was due to speak at events in Tucson, Arizona, and Sarasota, Florida, later in the week as part of the Trump campaign’s “Faith in America” tour. The administration’s public health experts have warned against holding large public gatherings, but President Donald Trump has rejected their advice, speaking at rallies in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Phoenix, Arizona, in the past week.

When asked about the decision to continue holding large events despite the health risk, Pence on Friday said that “the freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble, is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.”

“We have an election coming up this fall, and President Trump and I believe that taking proper steps — as we’ve created screening at recent events — and giving people the very best counsel that we have, we still want to give people the freedom to participate in the political process. And we respect that,” Pence said.

— With assistance by Justin Sink

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World News

Princeton Pulls Wilson Name; Order Guards Statues: Protest Wrap

Princeton will remove President Woodrow Wilson’s name from its prestigious public policy school and a residential college. “Wilson’s racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time,” Christopher L. Eisgruber, Princeton’s president, wrote Saturday.

The Republican governor of Mississippi — the last state with a flag that includes the Confederate battle emblem — said Saturday he would immediately sign any bill to remove the symbol. The state’s House later voted to replace the flag, in a measure that now moves to the state Senate.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday that he said is intended to protect monuments and statues from “anarchists and left-wing extremists.” The order also would allow the government to prosecute anyone for damaging religious property.

Unilever and Coca-Cola Co. joined a growing list of companies ramping up their responses to racial injustice by pulling ads from Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. social media platforms amid debates over their response to posts that may be misleading. JPMorgan Chase & Co. said it would cut ties with clients that direct racial abuse toward call-center employees. Inc., Microsoft Inc. and other big tech companies are on the defensive over the sale of facial-recognition software to police departments.

“The Simpsons” will no longer have White actors voicing the roles of non-White characters on the long-running Fox-TV series, part of a push by animated shows to be more sensitive to matters of race and avoid stereotypes.

Key Developments:

  • A Confederate-Flag Diehard May Fold, Bowing to Weight of History
  • Verizon Pulls Ads From Facebook, Instagram Over Hate Speech
  • For Black Brazilians, Covid-19 Is Deepening Painful Inequalities
  • Confederate-Flag Ban Is Nascar’s All-In Survival Bet
  • Country Music Reckons With Racial Stereotypes And Its Future
  • U.K. Labour Divided Again as Official Sacked Over Anti-Semitism

See more from Bloomberg QuickTake:

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Mississippi considers removing Confederate symbol from flag:

The school district in Oakland, California, votes to disband its police force:

K-pop fans are making a mark in U.S. politics:

Digital activism is changing protest:

Southern Poverty Law Center warns white supremacists are in every segment of society:

A Kentucky tattoo shop is one of many offering to cover up hate tattoos:

Data scientist on bias in algorithms:

— With assistance by Ian Fisher

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