July 13, 2020

As the debate about reopening American schools in the fall rages on, a new study conducted by the Dresden University Hospital in Germany could shed some light on the matter.

The study, the largest of its kind in Germany, tested more than 2,000 students and teachers at 13 schools in three different districts in Saxony, the only German state to reopen schools with full class sizes in May. The results showed only 12 participants tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, five of whom had previously tested positive for the active virus, suggesting the schools did not play a major role in spreading the virus. Indeed, they may have even helped curb transmission.

"Children act more as a brake on infection," said Prof. Reinhard Berner, the head of pediatric medicine at Dresden University Hospital and leader of the study. "Not every infection that reaches them is passed on."

There are several caveats, however. For starters, Saxony has had a lower infection rate overall than other parts of Germany during the pandemic, so it's natural the rate would be lower among subgroups, as well. Still, even if areas with larger epidemics are more cautious, the study could be useful for other places with fewer cases.

Another complication is the fact that while Saxony allowed for full classrooms, parents won the right to keep their children home, so it's unclear if schools were really operating at full capacity.

Finally, a new study out of the United Kingdom suggests immunity to the novel virus wanes within months, so while that research warrants its own skepticism, it's possible more students in the German study were at one point infected but no longer produce antibodies. Read more at The Guardian and Yahoo News. Tim O'Donnell

10:26 a.m.

Bolivia couldn't find a balance between preventing coronavirus spread and keeping its children learning.

The South American country will simply cancel the rest of its school year, its president Jeanine Añez Chavez announced Sunday. While it originally planned to run digital classes through December, the fact that most children in the country don't have internet made that impossible, DW reports.

Bolivia shut down all of its schools in March, just a month after they opened for the year. It tried to operate virtual classes, but failed because high-speed internet doesn't extend beyond cities, leaving most of the country's rural population unconnected, minister of the presidency Yerko Núñez said. Public school teachers protested the virtualization efforts, saying it would only speed up the privatization of education. Private school teachers also feared they'd lose their incomes if their schools had to shut down, DW reports.

The decision comes as schools in the northern hemisphere struggle to figure out how they'll reopen in a month or less. Millions of Americans, particularly in rural areas, lack internet access, and even with it, it's hard to keep children engaged and learning remotely. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:13 a.m.

China's state media isn't happy with President Trump's — and possibly Microsoft's — plans for TikTok.

In an editorial published this week about the potential sale of TikTok in the United States, the Beijing-run China Daily newspaper slams the Trump administration while warning that China "will by no means accept the 'theft' of a Chinese technology company," per Bloomberg.

U.S. lawmakers have long raised security concerns about TikTok, the video app owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, and President Trump recently vowed to ban it in the United States. On Monday, he said he would not do so quite yet as Microsoft explores a potential purchase. Strangely, Trump also demanded that the U.S Treasury receives a "very substantial" cut of such a sale.

As those talks unfold, the editorial in the China Daily paper compares the United States' actions to an "officially sanctioned 'steal' of Chinese technology" while warning that China "has plenty of ways to respond if the administration carries out its planned smash and grab."

Meanwhile, another editorial from the state-run Global Times calls Washington "unreasonable" while asserting that "many of the U.S. practices, including banning TikTok, show the country's weakening competitiveness." CNN notes that these editorials are "are often looked upon as a barometer of sentiment among senior officials" in China.

After his threat to ban TikTok, Trump on Monday said an American company would have until Sept. 15 to purchase it before it would "close down," though with just 11 days to go until that deadline, the clock is ticking. Brendan Morrow

10:10 a.m.

President Trump's re-election chances are in trouble and at least one White House official is blaming the people around him, Politico reports.

Trump's decline in popularity began in March right around the time White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows took on the role and began building a new White House team. That timing also coincided with the coronavirus pandemic, which certainly has played a major, if not singular, role in turning the tide of public opinion, but some Trump aides believe Meadows' arrival isn't insignificant, per Politico.

"I don't think his newest team is serving him well," a White House official told Politico. "In fact, it's worse than ever. They came in thinking they know best, and they've not bothered to understand the president of the West Wing."

The official said Meadows' team consists of "Kool-Aid drinkers," who may not be giving the commander-in-chief "the whole picture," which is something the official said Trump has never wanted from his staff. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

8:09 a.m.

Twitter could be slapped with a fine of up to $250 million from the FTC.

The social media company in a new regulatory filing says that it recently received a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission over its "use of phone number and/or email address data provided for safety and security purposes for targeted advertising" from 2013 to 2019, CNN reports.

Twitter last year apologized over the fact that users' phone numbers and email addresses "may have inadvertently been used for advertising purposes" when they were provided to the company for security reasons, e.g. so that users could turn on two-factor authentication. This might have violated a 2011 privacy agreement between Twitter and the FTC, The New York Times reports.

"We're very sorry this happened and are taking steps to make sure we don't make a mistake like this again," Twitter said last year while assuring users that "no personal data was ever shared externally with our partners or any other third parties."

In the regulatory filing, Twitter says it could face an FTC fine of between $150 million and $250 million. News of the possible FTC fine comes after Twitter last month apologized to users over a huge hack that took over high-profile accounts in a Bitcoin scam.

"Last week was a really tough week for all of us at Twitter, and we feel terrible about the security incident that negatively affected the people we serve and their trust in us," Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said. Brendan Morrow

7:58 a.m.

Five states are holding primaries on Tuesday — Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, Michigan, and Washington — and the most-watched race is the Republican primary for the seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).

Eleven Republicans are vying for a shot to face likely Democratic nominee state Sen. Barbara Bollier, but the race is a dead heat between Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state who lost the 2018 gubernatorial race, and Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.). Senate Republicans are backing Marshall, warning that a Kobach victory could lead to the state's first Democratic senator in nearly 100 years. Several conservative groups are backing Kobach. A Democratic group has attacked Marshall, effectively helping Kobach. President Trump has not endorsed either candidate.

In Kansas' 2nd Congressional District, newly indicted Rep. Steve Watkins (R) faces a serious primary challenge from state Treasurer Jake LaTurner, with the winner facing Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla (D). In Michigan, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D) has a tough rematch against Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones; Tlaib beat Jones in the 2018 primary, but Jones held the seat for a few months after besting Tlaib in a concurrent special election to fill the vacant seat. Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) faces a potentially serious challenge in Missouri's 1st District from Black Lives Matter activist Cori Bush, backed by the democratic-socialist group Justice Democrats.

Both parties are targeting the Michigan seat being vacated by Rep. Justin Amash (I), with Democrat Hillary Scholten running unopposed and two Republicans — supermarket heir Peter Meijer and state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis — battling each other and three trailing candidates. In Arizona, Democrats are trying to oust Rep. David Schweikert (R), and will likely nominate former emergency room doctor Hiral Tipirneni, and Republicans are aiming to unseat Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D), in a primary pitting farmer and lawyer Tiffany Shedd against lawyer Nolan Reidhead. Peter Weber

6:25 a.m.

Eli Lilly & Co. has started a Phase 3 trial of its experimental antibody-based COVID-19 drug in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, testing whether the drug reduces the infection rate at facilities where residents or staff have recently tested positive for the new coronavirus. The study involves Eli Lilly driving specially modified RVs to newly infected nursing homes and injecting its COVID-19 drug, code-named LY-CoV555, in volunteers, The Wall Street Journal reports. The company said its drug may get government approval by the end of 2020.

Eli Lilly is already testing its antibody treatment, developed with Canadian biotech AbCellera Biologics, in hospitals on COVID-19 patents with mild and more severe cases. Researchers essentially cloned antibodies from one of the first U.S. patients to recover from COVID-19, hoping those proteins help the immune system fight the virus or prevent it from taking hold. If Eli Lilly's drug or another like it proves safe and effective, public health experts say it might serve as a bridge until a vaccine is available.

Nursing homes have been especially susceptible to deadly COVID-19 outbreaks. The new study, conducted in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, seeks to enroll 2,400 test subjects. Peter Weber

5:06 a.m.

President Trump signaled Monday that he is okay with Microsoft purchasing the U.S. part of TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media company he has threatened to ban, but it will cost ... someone. First, he told reporters at the White House that if Microsoft or another U.S. company purchases TikTok by his Sept. 15 deadline, "a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the treasury of the United States." Why? "The United States should be reimbursed or paid because without the United States they don't have anything," Trump said enigmatically.

"It's a little bit like the landlord-tenant," Trump explained. "Without a lease, the tenant has nothing. So they pay what's called key money or they pay something." Later Monday, Trump elaborated, arguing the U.S. "should get a very large percentage of that price," and "it would come from the sale — whatever the number is, it would come from the sale." This was an idea "nobody else would be thinking about but me," Trump said. "But that's the way I think."

"It was unclear under what authority the White House could demand such a payment," The Washington Post noted, and the Treasury Department and White House both declined to comment on Trump's proposal.

Any U.S. company that purchased TikTok would have to first get approval from the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment (CIFUS), an interagency group that reviews proposed takeovers involving a foreign company, and lawyers familiar with CIFUS reviews told the Post the U.S. Treasury does sometime collect fees for its work, but only up to $300,000.

Microsoft said Sunday night that it is "committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury," but that suggested the U.S. would benefit from future tax revenue. What Trump is demanding sounds more like muscling in for a cut of the deal. Luckily, everyone has lawyers. Peter Weber

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