April 28, 2016

Just before midnight in Syria, several airstrikes hit a well-known hospital in a rebel-held area of Aleppo, killing at least 20 people, including three children, a dentist, and one of the last pediatricians left in the divided city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said Thursday. The aid group Doctors Without Borders said 14 patients at a hospital it backs were among the dead, and other groups in the city put the death toll from the strike higher than 20.

Opposition leaders blamed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the attack. "Whoever carries out these massacres needs a war tribunal and a court of justice to be tried for his crimes," chief Syrian opposition negotiator Mohammed Alloush told The Associated Press. "He does not need a negotiating table." Meanwhile, Staffan de Mistura, the special United Nations envoy for Syria, told the U.N. Security Council early Thursday that a Feb. 27 cease-fire is "hanging by a thread" and pleaded with the U.S. and Russia to ramp up their efforts to revive the peace process. Peter Weber

1:23 p.m.

More than nine months after the killing of George Floyd, the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is getting underway, though with a delay in jury selection.

Chauvin, the police officer who kneeled on Floyd's neck for over eight minutes while he said that he couldn't breathe, is facing charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter. Jury selection in his trial was set to begin on Monday, but was delayed until Tuesday, CNN reports.

The delay came after an appeals court ordered Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill to reconsider his dismissal of a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin, with prosecutors saying they'll file an appeal to "halt the selection process until the charges are set," NPR writes. The jury selection process was called off for the day on Monday pending a ruling on whether an appeals court will issue a stay in the case, The Washington Post reports.

After Floyd's death was captured on video and sparked nationwide protests last summer, former top prosecutor Susan Gaertner told The New York Times it's "going to be extremely difficult to pick a jury," noting that "there have been few incidents in our state that have had as much impact on the community," and it's "hard to imagine finding a juror who is enough of a blank slate to really give both sides a fair hearing."

But former chief Hennepin County public defender Mary Moriarty explained to CNN that the aim won't be to find jurors who don't know about Floyd's killing, but rather to ask, "No matter what a potential juror has seen or heard, can they set that aside and base their decision on evidence in court and the law the judge gives them?"

According to CNN, the jury selection process is expected to last around three weeks, with opening statements beginning "no earlier than March 29." Brendan Morrow

12:29 p.m.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has unveiled guidelines explaining which activities are safe for Americans who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to resume.

The CDC on Monday released interim recommendations explaining that those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can visit with others who have been fully vaccinated "indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing." A person would be fully vaccinated two weeks after they've received a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after receiving one dose of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine.

Additionally, fully vaccinated people can "visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing," the CDC said. As an example, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in a briefing that "if grandparents have been vaccinated, they can visit their daughter and her family, even if they have not been vaccinated, so long as the daughter and her family are not at risk for severe disease."

The CDC also said that those who have been fully vaccinated can refrain from quarantining and getting tested should they become exposed to COVID-19 and not have any symptoms.

However, the CDC said that fully vaccinated people should still continue to practice social distancing and wear masks in public, and they should also avoid medium or large gatherings. Plus, fully vaccinated people should still wear masks and practice social distancing around unvaccinated people at high risk for COVID-19.

Walensky called these guidelines an "important first step in our efforts to resume everyday activities," while warning there's still a "small risk" vaccinated people "could become infected with milder or asymptomatic disease and potentially even transmit the virus to others who are not vaccinated." Brendan Morrow

12:08 p.m.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) announced Monday that he won't be seeking re-election in 2022, meaning yet another Senate seat will be without an incumbent defender during next year's mid-terms.

The early sense among political analysts is that a candidate backed by former President Donald Trump will have the inside track to replace Blunt, given Trump's popularity in Missouri, a state he won by a commanding 15 percent in the 2020 presidential election. That was the highest share of the vote a Republican candidate had won in Missouri since former President Ronald Reagan in 1984. Old guard Republican senators are also stepping down in North Carolina, Ohio, Alabama, and Pennsylvania, which means the GOP could run as many as five Senate candidates from the so-called "Trump wing" of the party next year.

Democrats aren't hopeless in some of those states, but it seems likely Blunt's seat will stay within the GOP. In previous years, an open Missouri Senate seat might have suggested a more competitive inter-party contest was on the horizon, but that's probably not the case in a post-Trump world, The Appeal's Daniel Nichanian tweeted Monday. Indeed, it may be telling that Jason Kander, who gave Blunt a surprising run for his money in 2016, quickly announced he isn't looking to launch another campaign.

So, all things considered, it appears Blunt's retirement is another sign the GOP will continue to push itself closer to Trump. Tim O'Donnell

11:10 a.m.

If there was anything more shocking for Britons than Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's bombshell Oprah Winfrey interview, it might have been learning what American television is actually like.

Harry and Meghan sat down with Winfrey for an interview that aired on Sunday in primetime, drawing worldwide attention. And on Monday, Ayesha A. Siddiqi compiled a Twitter thread of British people's shocked reactions — not to what was actually said, but to the experience of watching pharmaceutical ads that ran during the special.

"Totally forgot about MEDICINE being advertised out there," one gobsmacked user wrote, while another simply asked, "How are the side effects of the medicine in American ads more lethal than the thing they're treating?" Others described these ads, which American viewers may not have given a second thought to after growing accustomed to them for years, as "surreal," "post-apocalyptic," and "unhinged."

The surprise was understandable, as Thrillist notes that "the United States is the only country, besides New Zealand, that legally permits 'direct-to-consumer' pharmaceutical advertising." And Tom Gara observed that the onslaught of pharmaceutical ads consisting essentially of "speed readings of lengthy lists of side effects" is "easily the craziest thing about American TV when you move here from abroad." Next time, perhaps these viewers should ask their doctor if watching American television is right for them. Brendan Morrow

10:44 a.m.

"If there was a smoking gun" on the origin of the novel coronavirus that sparked the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese Communist Party "buried it along with anyone who would dare speak up about it," a U.S. official told Josh Rogin in a Politico piece.

Rogin published a column in The Washington Post in April 2020 after someone leaked him cables sent in 2018 from American diplomats who visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology. They were concerned about lab safety and the fact that the lab's work on bat coronaviruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic.

Following up on the column a nearly year later for Politico, Rogin reports that U.S. officials grew increasingly convinced an accidental lab leak was a possible coronavirus origin story that at least deserved further investigation (Rogin writes that many politicians and journalists conflated this theory with the false notion that the virus was a Chinese bioweapon.) The WIV was open about their research on coronaviruses, but a senior Trump administration official told Rogin many officials in the State Department and National Security Council came to believe Chinese coronavirus researchers had been taking more risks than previously thought.

Of course, as tensions between the Trump White House and Beijing rose, the matter of the coronavirus' origins became increasingly politicized, so finger-pointing narratives should be viewed with scrutiny. But Rogin notes an under-the-radar study from a group of Beijing researchers released in July 2020 did lead U.S. officials to consider, after consultations with experts, that the Beijing lab was conducting coronavirus experiments on mice fitted with humanlike lung characteristics long before the outbreak began, suggesting similar practices may have taken place in at the WIV.

But it seems unlikely that the speculation will clarify anything. "We'll probably never be able to prove it one way or the other," the official told Rogin. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

9:08 a.m.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle left the U.K. in "large part" because of racism, the Duke of Sussex told Oprah Winfrey in a new clip from Sunday's jaw-dropping interview.

Winfrey on Monday shared more clips from her conversation with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, in which the couple opened up about their decision to step back as senior members of the royal family last year. During a portion of the interview that didn't air on Sunday, Winfrey asked Harry if he and the Duchess of Sussex left the U.K. because of racism, and he acknowledged this played a major role.

"It was a large part of it," Harry said.

Harry went on to share an anecdote about being warned by someone he spoke with at a fundraiser that the media "will destroy your life" and that "the U.K. is very bigoted." Harry said he "completely" disagreed with the notion that the U.K. as a whole is bigoted, while agreeing that "the U.K. press is bigoted, specifically the tabloids."

But Harry added, "Unfortunately, if the source of information is inherently corrupt or racist or biased, then that filters out to the rest of society."

One of the biggest bombshells in Sunday's interview came when Meghan Markle revealed there were "concerns and conversations" in the royal family about "how dark [Archie's] skin might be when he was born." Meghan wouldn't reveal who raised these concerns, saying it would be "very damaging to them." But on CBS This Morning, Winfrey said Harry "wanted to make sure that I knew" that Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip weren't a part of these conversations. Brendan Morrow

8:17 a.m.

The U.S. is now vaccinating more than 2 million adults a day against COVID-19, but "we know that vaccines are not going to reach everybody across the entire planet in the next couple of weeks," National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins told Sharyn Alfonsi on Sunday's 60 Minutes. "People are going to continue to get sick in the meantime," and "we need treatments for those people."

Specifically, Collins said, "a big need right now is for a drug that you can take by mouth that you could be offered as soon as you had a positive test and that would reduce the likelihood that that virus is going to make you very sick. And we have some very good clues there," one of them being the generic antidepressant fluvoxamine, developed 40 years ago and used most commonly to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

To explain how "a pill that costs 60 cents" became "a dark horse to treat COVID," 60 Minutes visited a race track in California, where Dr. David Seftel, working off a tip he received hours earlier, decided to offer his jockeys and other staff fluvoxamine to stem a COVID-19 growing outbreak at the track. "Sixty-five patients elected to take fluvoxamine; 49 declined," he told Alfonsi, and "12.5 percent of all those who refused fluvoxamine ended up hospitalized and one died. In the group that did take fluvoxamine, none of them were hospitalized."

Seftel had heard about fluvoxamine from Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Kirsch, who was funding a trial by Dr. Eric Lenze, a psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis, who in turn was tipped off by his colleague Dr. Angela Reiersen. In a small, methodologically sound trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in November, Lenze reported that none of the 80 of his 152 patients who took fluvoxamine after testing positive for COVID-19 deteriorated, versus 8 percent of the placebo-taking control group.

"So the results were really pretty incredible," Lenze told 60 Minutes. But "I have to be a scientist about this. We've tested it in one study. But — in my view, it needs to be confirmed in a larger study." That larger national study will report results starting next month. Collins told Alfonsi he regretted that last spring's "hydroxychloroquine debacle" sort of derailed the search for repurposed therapeutics, "but let me say, repurposing drugs is only going to work if you're kind of lucky." Peter Weber

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