COVID ‘may never go away’; A shift in US strategy; ISIS prison break still feared; Search warrant served on senator; And a bit more.
“This virus may never go away,” Mike Ryan, emergencies director for the World Health Organization, said in a virtual press conference from Geneva on Wednesday. “I think it is important we are realistic and I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear,” Ryan said. “I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be.”
In terms of ongoing efforts to try to make it go away, “More than 100 potential vaccines are being developed” so far, Reuters reports. And that includes “several” in clinical trials.
America could see its “darkest winter in modern history” without a testing strategy, a public information campaign about mask-wearing and hand-washing, as well as "Ramping up production of essential equipment and supplies," and "Setting up a system to fairly distribute equipment and supplies that are scarce and highly sought." That’s according to immunologist Dr. Rick Bright, who is testifying today before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Recall that Bright is now “a government whistleblower who alleges he was ousted from his job after warning the Trump administration to prepare for the pandemic,” AP reports off his prepared testimony. “Bright alleged he became a target of [White House] criticism when he urged early efforts to invest in vaccine development and stock up on supplies.”
“If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science,” he warns, "I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities.”
Is the U.S. strategy shifting from containment to harm-reduction? Writes health-policy professor Leana Wen in the Washington Post: “Unfortunately, due to a late start, inconsistent state actions and a lack of federal direction, most states have yet to see a consistent decline in cases, much less reduced them to low enough levels for this to work. No state has achieved sufficient testing and contact tracing. Reopening under these circumstances means we are giving up on containing COVID-19.” Read on, here.
POTUS45’s emerging challenge: POTUS44, AP reports separately today, as Obama’s profile rises and the White House “tries to move public attention away from the terrible human and economic devastation of the coronavirus outbreak as well as Trump's own handling of the crisis.” More on that development, here.
ICYMI: “If 80% of Americans Wore Masks, COVID-19 Infections Would Plummet,” Vanity Fair reported last week off a new study and model.
One stateside mask decontamination effort is getting help from the Wounded Warrior Project. The effort comes from Vegas-based TRAX International Corporation and involves Battelle CCDS Critical Care Decontamination Systems operated in Rio Rancho, N.M, Robstown, Texas, and Topeka, Kans.
The Chinese city of Wuhan is trying to test all 11 million of its citizens since “several new local infections emerged last weekend after more than a month in which none were reported,” AFP reports today.
Elsewhere across the country, “virus clusters have appeared in recent weeks in the northeastern provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang, which border Russia.” More here.
And in South Korea, privacy concerns (and easy deception) are thwarting coronavirus tracing, Reuters reports. One big reason for that: “While clubs and bars were required to log the names and contact phone numbers for all visitors as a condition of reopening, much of the information turned out to be incomplete or false… That has left officials combing through cellphone location data and CCTV footage to try to identify some customers, while publicly pleading for people to come forward and be tested.”
From Defense One
A ‘Mass Breakout’ of ISIS from Syrian Prisons Remains a Risk, Pentagon Watchdog Says // Katie Bo Williams: The coalition has had “little or no direct access” to the facilities since Turkey’s October invasion.
The GAO Is Wrong about the Air Force’s Next-Gen Battle-Management System // Heather Penney: The ABMS needs to evolve quickly, not conform to industrial-age requirements and schedules.
Donald Trump Has No Plan // David A. Graham, The Atlantic: Thousands are dying each week, the economy is cratering, and the president is at a total loss.
Pentagon Task Force Turns to Data to Shape COVID-19 Response / Brandi Vincent: The group aims to use models and information to judge risks to the Defense Department and its missions.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1948, Israel declared its independence with the midnight end of the British Mandate for Palestine.
The FBI served a search warrant to the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday evening, asking for Richard Burr’s phone “as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into controversial stock trades he made as the novel coronavirus first struck the U.S.,” the LA Times reported.
Why this matters: “The seizure represents a significant escalation in the investigation into whether Burr violated a law preventing members of Congress from trading on insider information they have gleaned from their official work.”
In review: “Burr sold a significant percentage of his stock portfolio in 33 different transactions on Feb. 13, just as his committee was receiving daily coronavirus briefings and a week before the stock market declined sharply. Much of the stock was invested in businesses that in subsequent weeks were hit hard by the plunging market…Burr’s sell-off — which was publicly disclosed in ranges — amounted to between $628,000 and $1.72 million. The stock trades were first reported by ProPublica.”
FWIW: “Burr has denied any wrongdoing and said he relied solely on news reports to guide decisions on stock sales,” Reuters reports, adding this detail: The FBI “also served a warrant recently to iPhone maker Apple Inc to get information from Burr’s iCloud account.”
America’s acting intelligence chief and Ambassador to Germany is chiding some Berlin lawmakers for allegedly “undermining NATO’s nuclear deterrent” after some of them called “for the withdrawal of all U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany,” Reuters reports. "The remarks are the latest twist in relations between Berlin and Washington that have often been strained during Trump’s presidency." However, "Grenell’s comments also come a day after Merkel cited 'hard evidence' that Russia was behind a 2015 hacker attack on her Bundestag office."
Tensions between China and Malaysia over potential fossil fuel deposits appear to be ebbing, USNI News reports, “as research vessels from both nations moved away from each other following stepped-up U.S. Navy presence in the last several weeks.” More, here.
U.S. sends condolences to Iran after accidental death of 19 sailors. On Monday, an Iranian warship fired an anti-ship missile that struck the vessel Konarak instead of the training target it had just left behind. AP, here.
Clean electricity eclipsing coal in U.S. NYT: “The United States is on track to produce more electricity this year from renewable power than from coal for the first time on record, new government projections show, a transformation partly driven by the coronavirus pandemic, with profound implications in the fight against climate change.” Read on, here.
And finally today: The U.S. would be toast in a war with China, the Washington Post’s David Ignatius writes off a new book from Christian Brose, former staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
How that would happen: "[U.S.] spy and communications satellites would immediately be disabled; our forward bases in Guam and Japan would be ‘inundated’ by precise missiles; our aircraft carriers would have to sail away from China to escape attack; our F-35 fighter jets couldn’t reach their targets because the refueling tankers they need would be shot down."
Why so vulnerable out there in the Pacific? In part, because of “bureaucratic inertia compounded by entrenched interests. The Pentagon is good at doing what it did yesterday, and Congress insists on precisely that. We have been so busy buffing our legacy systems that, as Brose writes, ‘the United States got ambushed by the future.’”
As for responses less likely to lead to a large loss of U.S. life, "These smart systems exist,” Ignatius writes. “The Air Force’s unmanned XQ-58A, known as the ‘Valkyrie,’ is nearly as capable as a fighter but costs about 45 times less than an F-35; the Navy’s Extra-Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicle, known as the ‘Orca,’ is 300 times less costly than a $3.2 billion Virginia-class attack submarine.”
The problem: “[T]hese robots don’t have a lobby to rival the giant defense contractors." Continue reading, here.