The Food and Drug Administration continues to expedite its approval time for technology that should help combat the coronavirus pandemic.
This time, the FDA cleared a coronavirus antibody test produced by Swiss diagnostics giant Roche for emergency use, the company said Sunday. The test identifies via blood samples antibodies made by the body to fight off the coronavirus. It could therefore determine whether a person had been infected with the virus in the past, even if the infection subsided.
There are questions about the accuracy of many available commercial antibody tests so far, but they're considered crucial for better understanding both the true extent of the pandemic, as well as possible length of immunity to the virus. Roche, at least, doesn't have those concerns about its product, saying its test has proven 100 percent accurate at detecting antibodies in the blood and 99.8 percent accurate at ruling out the presence of those antibodies. Thom Schinecker, who leads the company's diagnostics business, said they were able to run its test on 6,000 blood samples, which is a much higher number than its smaller competitors.
Additionally, Roche's infrastructure will allow it to increase production of the test quickly, and its kits are also designed to run on Roche automated machines, which are already installed in more than 100 labs throughout the U.S. The company is determined to dispense test kits in the "high double-digit millions" by June, and double that by the end of the year. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell
One of former President Donald Trump's last acts in office was issuing a directive extending free Secret Service protection to his four adult children and two of their spouses for the next six months, three people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post.
It's not just his adult children benefiting — Trump also directed that former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and former National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien continue to receive Secret Service protection for six months, two people familiar with the matter told the Post. This 24-hour security, funded by taxpayer money, is expected to cost millions.
Under federal law, only Trump, former first lady Melania Trump, and their 14-year-old son, Barron, are entitled to Secret Service protection now that they have left the White House; while Donald and Melania can receive protection for the rest of their lives, Barron is only entitled to it up until his 16th birthday.
The Post notes that presidents have the ability to order Secret Service protection for anyone they want, but it is extremely unusual for an outgoing president to order this type of security for their children who are well into adulthood. It is also unclear if there is precedent for ordering security for former aides. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush requested security extensions for their daughters, who were in college when their presidencies ended. Once former President Barack Obama was out of office, his daughters — one in high school, the other on a gap year from college — received a short extension of security.
During Trump's presidency, his adult children took more than 4,500 trips, including vacations and business travel for the Trump Organization, the Post reports. Taxpayers paid millions of dollars for Secret Service agents to accompany them on those jaunts. Catherine Garcia
President Biden addressed the nation during the "Celebrating America" inaugural special Wednesday night, saying that to "overcome the challenges in front of us," the country must find "the most elusive of all things in a democracy: Unity."
Speaking from the Lincoln Memorial, Biden said the United States has learned that "democracy is precious, and because of you, democracy has prevailed." Americans are "good people," Biden said, and he called on the country to unite in favor of "opportunity, liberty, dignity, and respect" and against "common foes" like "hate, violence, disease, and hopelessness."
The only way the U.S can "get through the darkness around us" is by coming together, Biden said. There are moments, like the Civil War, when "more is asked of us Americans," he added. "We are in one of those moments now. The pandemic, economic crisis, racial injustice, the climate crisis, and threats to our very democracy. The question is: Are we up for it?"
Biden said he has no doubt that people will unite, adding, "You the American people are the reason why I've never been more optimistic about America than I am this very day. There isn't anything we can't do if we do it together." Catherine Garcia
Haines is the first woman to serve as head of the intelligence community, and is also the first member of President Biden's Cabinet to receive Senate confirmation. She served as deputy national security adviser and deputy CIA director in the Obama administration.
During her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Haines said "when it comes to intelligence, there is simply no place for politics, ever." After Biden announced in November that he wanted Haines to serve as director of national intelligence, Haines declared she would "speak truth to power" and knew Biden valued "the perspective of the intelligence community." Catherine Garcia
The Biden administration held its first press briefing on Wednesday evening, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki promising that every weekday, there will be a news conference.
"There are a number of ways to combat misinformation," Psaki said. "One of them is accurate information and truth and data and sharing information, even when it is hard to hear." She added that her daily briefings will include COVID-19 updates from health officials.
Psaki said President Biden's first call with a foreign leader will be on Friday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and she expects "they will certainly discuss the important relationship with Canada as well as the decision on the Keystone pipeline that was announced today." Shortly after taking office on Wednesday, Biden signed an executive order halting construction on the pipeline, meant to transport crude oil from Canada to the Midwest.
Biden is expected to spend the next several days calling "partners and allies" of the United States, Psaki said, because "he feels that's important to rebuild those relationships and address the challenges and threats we're facing in the world."
Psaki was also asked about the letter former President Donald Trump left for Biden, which he earlier described as being "very generous." Biden said because it was "private," he will "not talk about it until I talk to him." Psaki reiterated that the letter was "generous and gracious," but she does not believe a call from Biden to Trump is imminent. Catherine Garcia
Several world leaders on Wednesday sent their congratulations to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, with some also getting in a final jab at former President Donald Trump.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Biden represented "victory of democracy over the ultra-right. Five years ago, we thought Trump was a bad joke, but five years later we realized he jeopardized nothing less than the world's most powerful democracy."
His comments were echoed by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who said he was "greatly relieved" by Biden's win. Referring to the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Steinmeier added: "Despite all the joy we feel today, we must not forget that even the most powerful democracy in the world has been seduced by populism. We must work resolutely to counter polarization, protect and strengthen the public square in our democracies, and shape our policies on the basis of reason and facts."
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that he was thrilled Biden brought the U.S. back into the Paris Agreement on climate change, stating that by working together, "we will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet." Catherine Garcia
A Delaware News Journal reporter captured a powerful, private moment on Wednesday as Joe Biden gave his first address as president of the United States. "Poignant moment," the reporter, Patricia Talorico, captioned the photo, which swiftly went viral. "While Joe Biden gave his inauguration speech, a lone man in a uniform knelt at the Delaware grave of his son Beau."
Poignant moment: While Joe Biden gave his inauguration speech, a lone man in a uniform knelt at the Delaware grave of his son Beau. pic.twitter.com/QkCuJRHzTz
As Talorico explained in a subsequent article, "Delaware is a tiny state." She described how back in 2002, when she was struggling with an assignment from her editor, Beau Biden approached her to ask if she was okay while she sat alone on a bench at an elementary school in Wilmington. "He wasn't in office at the time," she wrote. "He was just being kind. It wasn't a grand gesture, just a small one, but somehow, it made a difference that day. I never forgot that act of kindness."
On Wednesday, Beau — who died of a brain tumor in 2015 at the age of 46 — was on Talorico's mind, and she decided to drive by his grave to say "a short prayer" when she saw "a lone man in a blue uniform kneeling at Beau's grave. No one else was around … In my car, I had the radio tuned to CNN. Joe Biden was being sworn in as president and was about to begin his address."
As Talorico writes, "The journalist in me wanted to go back and find out [the man's] identity and ask why he was there. The person who once received a kind gesture from Beau when I needed it most knew it was a time to be respectful, and I drove away." Read her full story at Delaware News Journal.Jeva Lange