Russia will begin distributing a COVID vaccine that is “effective enough,” Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday, though it has completed no clinical trials nor has the outside world seen any of the science behind it. “Mr. Putin’s announcement came despite a caution last week from the World Health Organization that Russia should not stray from the usual methods of testing a vaccine for safety and effectiveness,” reports the New York Times. It’s “essentially a claim of victory in the global race for a vaccine, something Russian officials have been telegraphing for several weeks now despite the absence of published information about any late-phase testing.”
Science or propaganda? Putin’s promised “ability to restore Russia to its previous state of scientific glory,” is as much the reason for the rush as actual science, Defense One’s Technology Editor Patrick Tucker reported last month, here.
This vaccine isn’t even listed, NYT notes: “The World Health Organization maintains a comprehensive list of worldwide vaccine trials. In the latest version of the list, there is no Russian Phase III trial.”
Back at home, 537 Americans died of the coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily figure in a week, though the 7-day average is still over 1,000.
Trump is now considering banning U.S. citizens abroad from coming home, if federal officials think they have reason to believe the person has COVID-19.
It would be a new level of travel restriction, and would apply to legal resident non-citizens, as well. Comments on a draft rule are due today; it reportedly says the rule can’t be applied to entire categories of people and must uphold any Constitutional rights, etc, etc. “Under the proposal, which relies on existing legal authorities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect the country, the government could block a citizen or legal resident from crossing the border into the United States if an official “reasonably believes that the individual either may have been exposed to or is infected with the communicable disease,” the NYT writes, here.
Don’t worry, the draft says the authority to ban Americans from coming home to their own country “would apply only in the rarest of circumstances.”
American troops may have to wait for the vaccine, after all. Trump’s coronavirus czar Dr. Moncef Slaoui said last week that officials at the National Institutes of Health are discussing forming an independent “scientific summit” to decide who should get the first available vaccinations. The purpose is to take politics out of the process, but….
“I hope we will have enough doses of [safe, Food and Drug Administration-approved] vaccines in the first two months of 2021 to immunize the at-risk populations in the U.S.,” Slaoui said, on a conference call last week with American Enterprise Institute. That’s not exactly what U.S. officials have been promising, though. More from Military Times’s Richard Sisk, here.
We have a coronavirus czar? Yeah, we know. Daily Beast has this investigation into the past of the former chairman of vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline, which is not flattering. “While working for the Pharma giant, Slaoui helped misrepresent scientific research on a drug that had harmed tens of thousands of Americans.”
American GIs in South Korea can go to Seoul, for the first time since the lockdown now. The U.S. command lowered the health alert to “Bravo,” Stars and Stripes reports, at 4:00 p.m. local, Monday. On the same day, five more Americans coming into the country from the States tested positive, for a total of 144 cases. Fun fact: only 24 of those cases were contracted locally.
...but restrictions are going back up in parts of Japan. Yokosuka Naval Base went to HPCON “Charlie,” as reported cases increase there.
...that means virtual schooling is now required for American military kids at DOD schools there, starting back up on Aug. 24. Any base at HPCON Charlie must use virtual training, though most in Japan had requested in-person school. More here.
From Defense One
America’s 5G Capabilities Are About to Get a Big Boost // Patrick Tucker: The Defense Department is opening large areas of mid-band spectrum to help the United States compete with China in 5G. But is it too little, too late?
Nine Reasons Congress Should Nix the Air Force’s F-15EX Purchase // John Venable: None of the service's proffered explanations stands up to analysis.
On Rare Earths, the Pentagon Is Making the Same Mistake Twice // James Kennedy: Its investment in a California mining venture is pretty much exactly the wrong approach to securing access to vital materials.
The Defense Reforms Taiwan Needs // Michael Hunzeker and Brian Davis: Taipei must stop buying the wrong weapons, restart work on its new strategy, and overhaul its reserve force.
ICE Is Making Sure Migrant Kids Don’t Have COVID-19 — Then Expelling Them to 'Prevent Its Spread' // Dara Lind and Lomi Kriel, ProPublica: The administration has used infection risk to justify expelling thousands of children without legal protections. But it’s only expelling kids who’ve tested negative.
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Lebanon’s prime minister says he’ll resign. One day after several Lebanese cabinet ministers stepped down amid raging civil unrest, Prime Minister Hassan Diab and the rest of his cabinet followed suit. Michel Aoun, the country’s president, has asked them to stay on as caretakers until a new government can be formed.
But protests continue over the country’s corrupt elites and its shattered economy. “The government resignation is not enough,” said one protester, Ahmed el-Mohamed, 27, whose head was wrapped in gauze and bleeding from the clashes. “We have to bring down the president and the speaker of Parliament. It’s a matter of days, and we’ll do it.” The Washington Post has a good writeup about how Lebanon got here.
U.S. special operations forces have a new civilian boss — the fifth in three years. It’s Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who is performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense of special operations and low-intensity conflict, Pentagon spokesman Michael Howard told Task & Purpose’s Jeff Schogol on Monday.
Cohen-Watnick replaces Chris Miller, who performed the duties for just two months before being sworn in as director of the National Counterterrorism Center on Monday. Cohen-Watnick — who also goes by Cohen — was just three months into his own new job as deputy assistant defnse secretary for counternarcotics and global threats.
Officially vacant for 14 months. Neither Cohen nor his two immediate predecessors has received Senate confirmation to remove the “acting” and “performing the duties of” qualifiers. Indeed, the special operations community has been without a formal chief since June 2019, when Owen West stepped down.
Nor is Cohen’s appointment without controversy. The former DIA agent first came to public notice when Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, appointed him as senior director for intelligence programs on the National Security Council. After Flynn stepped down amid criminal charges, his replacement H.R. McMaster cleaned house — but was stopped from replacing Cohen, The Atlantic reported in 2017. Later, Cohen was named as one of several White House officials who revealed sensitive information to Congress. Schogol has a bit more, here.
Speaking of Flynn, he’s back in court today. Just Security: “Many readers will recall that after Flynn pleaded guilty (twice) to the federal crime of lying to investigators, the Justice Department abruptly announced that it intended to drop the charges against him. Not so fast, said the district judge presiding over the case,” and after more back and forth, his case is being reheard by all 10 members of the D.C. Circuit Court. Listen live, here.
And finally, you’re not a JEDI yet. Pentagon officials again have delayed the announcement of a winner to build the military’s massive multi-billion cloud network, reports Nextgov’s Frank Konkel. They want to talk to Microsoft and Amazon Web Services, again. The big reveal was due Aug. 17, but now is slated for 30 days later. Want to take any bets that deadline holds? The original award was supposed to happen two years ago. Come on, Pentagon, do or do not. There is no try.