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Trump’s COVID diagnosis followed waning precautions at the White House


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President Donald Trump said we were “rounding the turn” and that the “end of the pandemic is in sight” just before he tested positive for COVID-19.

USA TODAY

As President Donald Trump quarantined in the White House residence Friday morning after testing positive for COVID-19, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stood outside and said he wasn’t wearing a mask himself because his test was negative.

“We’re hopefully more than 6 feet away,” he said to the reporters before him, “and if there’s any concern there from a guidance standpoint, we have protocols in place.”

From the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a disconnect between the guidance of public health experts and the actions of Trump and some of his deputies. 

From holding large gatherings to resisting masks, the president, his administration and his campaign have sent conflicting messages to the American public as they sought to portray an image of strength and normality. 

Experts said Trump and his administration could have done more: Mandate masks at the White House, hold fewer large gatherings and use technology to allow staff to meet remotely. 

“This was not inevitable, but this was the likely outcome,” said Dr. Michael Mina, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

Live updates on Trump and COVID-19: President in hospital for extended stay; many infected at White House gathering

Timeline: President Trump’s travels leading up to his positive coronavirus test

Who has tested positive in Washington?: A running list of Trump officials and others who have tested positive

Trump, he said, is “as susceptible as anyone else in the world. Many of us are taking precautions that greatly exceed the cautions that he tends to take.”

Just three weeks ago, Trump ridiculed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for wearing a mask so often, saying, “If I were a psychiatrist, right, you know I’d say: ‘This guy’s got some big issues.'” 

At a presidential debate Tuesday night, two days before Trump announced his positive test, he did it again.

“I have a mask right here. I put the mask on it, you know [when] I think I need it. As an example, everybody’s had a test, and you’ve had social distancing and all of the things that you have to, but I wear a mask, when needed — when needed, I wear masks. I don’t — I don’t wear masks like him. Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen,” Trump said, mocking Joe Biden at the first presidential debate on Sept. 29. (Photo: Julio Cortez, AP)

Experts: Testing isn’t enough to stop the spread of the virus

Though public health experts recommend social distancing, masks and frequent hand-washing to guard against spreading the virus, the administration appears to have relied mostly on testing. Some of the politicians and Trump administration staffers who have announced they had contracted the coronavirus were tested before they were scheduled to appear with Trump at an event or fly with him on Air Force One. 

Frequent testing isn’t enough, said Michael Ben-Aderet, an infectious disease physician and associate director of hospital epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The White House should be “setting an example” through “good infectious control policy,” he said. 

“A lot of essential workers have been able to protect themselves, and I see the president as another essential worker,” he said.

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said May 10.

Before attending briefings in the small press room, journalists received a second round of temperature checks and were asked if they had any symptoms. They received a small colored sticker if they were cleared. Signs encouraging social distancing cropped up inside the West Wing. McEnany’s aides regularly donned face masks in the briefing room.

Many staff working at the time in the cramped West Wing wore matching black cloth masks with a small American flag, similar to the one Trump sometimes wore, said a former White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Staff were not required to wear a mask if they were at their desk and were at least six feet apart, the former official said.

“I felt safe, and I know my colleagues did as well,” the former official said.

Safeguards disappeared over the summer

The president continued to eschew mask-wearing even as more Secret Service agents tested positive. In June, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a campaign aide and the girlfriend of his son Donald Jr., came down with COVID-19.

The white tent, the routine temperature checks and other safeguards disappeared by late June, when the White House said it would scale back some of the safety measures, citing Washington, D.C., entering phase two of reopening.

By July, Trump told reporters he was being tested every two to three days. The president made those remarks hours after McEnany asserted Trump was tested “multiple times a day,” which the president flatly denied hours later.

On July 1, Trump said he would wear a mask “in a tight situation with people,” but he said he rarely found himself in such situations and noted people are tested before they get close to him. 

Even after urging the American public to wear masks — a step he took in late July — Trump was frequently seen without one.At a Red Cross event in Washington, D.C., July 31, he wore a mask for part of the visit. 

Few guests wear face masks as they watch from the White House South Lawn as President Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech for the Republican Party nomination for reelection. August 27, 2020 (Photo: SAUL LOEB, AFP via Getty Images)

After Biden and Democrats held a virtual nominating convention in August, the Trump campaign gathered more than a thousand people at the White House — sitting arm-by-arm, mostly without masks — to hear Trump’s acceptance speech.

His large, raucous campaign rallies have continued mostly unabated since: North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Michigan. Most are outside, though people often pack closely together. Defying state rules, Trump held a rally and a “Latinos for Trump” roundtable indoors in Las Vegas last month.

Campaign volunteers frequently take the temperature of audience members and distribute masks, but the vast majority of attendees do not wear them. In interviews with USA TODAY and other media, many have embraced the president’s rhetoric questioning face coverings.

Trump’s campaign: President Donald Trump’s coronavirus test result could alter his reelection campaign, undercut pandemic messaging

His campaign has been eager to draw a contrast with Biden and change the subject from the coronavirus, which has killed about 209,000 Americans. But there were questions about safety all along.

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told CNN last month he was “puzzled and rather disheartened” by the lack of face coverings at the events.

Attending the rallies — even holding them — is “is an act of defiance,” said Republican political strategist Doug Heye. “I think there’s a very reasonable question of whether lives are being put in jeopardy just to do a political event.”

Though White House policy still recommends masks, they’ve become a rare sight in the West Wing. Not only have the president’s aides declined to wear them during public events, they have rarely donned them when the cameras are off. Aides are frequently seen jammed into the warren of offices outside the Oval Office, without any face coverings in sight.

“Frankly, anyone in the White House who’s not using a mask frequently is a fool,” Mina said on a Friday call with the media. “To not do everything in their power to keep themselves healthy is just absolutely foolish.”

He added, “It really pisses me off that we have a president who has failed to do one of the most basic things a president should do, which is to keep himself safe.” 

Last weekend, about 180 people filled the White House Rose Garden to watch Trump announce his nomination of federal judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Less than a third wore masks.

From right, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie greet people after President Donald Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court, in the Rose Garden at the White House, Sept. 26, 2020, in Washington. (Photo: Alex Brandon, AP)

That included the Rev. John Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame, where Barrett is a law school professor. On Friday, the university announced Jenkins had tested positive for the coronavirus, though it attributed it to contact with a colleague on campus in Indiana.

Ben-Aderet of Cedars-Sinai said based on what we know about the virus, people tend to feel worse in their second week of infection. Trump has several high-risk factors for COVID morbidity, including obesity and his age. “We don’t know what other risk factors he has,” Ben-Aderet said.

“It’s just another reminder that COVID is still here,” he said. Despite the direction from the White House, “we’re still seeing transmission.”

Contributing: Josh Salman, Karen Weintraub, Kevin McCoy, Courtney Subramanian, David Jackson and Michael Collins.

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/10/03/trumps-covid-diagnosis-followed-waning-precautions-white-house/3594403001/





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White House officials signal coronavirus relief negotiations will cease if an agreement is not reached by Friday


White House officials told Senate Republicans on Wednesday that if a deal is not reached with Democrats on coronavirus relief by Friday, negotiations will likely stop.

“I think at this point we’re either going to get serious about negotiating and get an agreement in principle,” Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters Wednesday. “I’ve become extremely doubtful that we’ll be able to make a deal if it goes well beyond Friday.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer snapped back at Meadows’ remark, following another day of negotiations between the parties, saying that Democrats would not be the ones to leave negotiations.

“We are not walking away,” Schumer said. “We will stay here as long as it takes to get an agreement and we urge Mr. Meadows to sit down and continue to work with us and to do it as long as it takes.”

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin tried to walked back the deadline set by Meadows as he departed the Capitol following negotiations on Wednesday adding that he does not “want to describe this an an end of the week deadline,” but Meadows held firm.

He said Friday is not necessarily a “drop date” but then added, “my optimism continues to diminish the closer we get to Friday and certainly falls off the cliff exponentially after Friday.”

Meadows continued to hold out the possibility of executive actions by President Donald Trump on student loans, unemployment insurance and evictions but declined to say what the timeline for action would be.

“We’ve got those proposals before him and he’ll make decisions on those in the coming days,” Meadows said.

At a White House press conference Wednesday, Trump also highlighted some of those possibilities.

“My administration is exploring executive actions to provide protections against eviction,” he said. “As well as additional relief to those who are unemployed as a result of the virus. Very importantly, I am also looking at a term-limited suspension of the payroll tax.”

He also complained about an effort by Democrats to help state and local governments.

“The Democrats are primarily interested in a $1 trillion bailout of the poorly run states,” Trump said. “We have some states and cities — you know them all — we don’t have to go through names, but they’ve been very poorly run over the years, and we can’t go along with the bailout money. We’re not going to go along with that, especially since it’s not COVID related.”

Entering negotiations on Wednesday, Schumer was asked about the possibility of a deal being reached by Friday and said that there are still divides between the parties.

“Well, we’re working very hard but we got a lot of issues,” Schumer said. “We see the problem as bigger, bolder and requiring more action than they do.”

Multiple senators leaving the GOP conference policy lunch Wednesday said that Meadows had conveyed that Friday was a firm stopping point.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said that the negotiators relayed a similar message to the full GOP conference during their policy lunch.

“If there is not a deal by Friday, there won’t be a deal,” Blunt said. “At some point you have to set a deadline or just continue this Kabuki dance every day and nobody wants to.”

This follows Tuesday’s announcement that the negotiators had agreed to reach an agreement, if one is possible, by Friday.

But that seems to be about where agreement between Meadows, Mnuchin, Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stops.

Senators who met with administration officials said the negotiations on Wednesday seemed almost identical to days prior.

“I still basically heard the same thing,” Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., said. “There’s a wide gulf between White House negotiators and Democrats.”

The Senate is approaching what would be the start of its August recess at the end of the week.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that the Senate will delay its recess and remain in session next week, though it is not clear what sort of action would take place during that time if negotiations on a package break down.

As tensions begin to boil over, Republicans are expected to begin offering piecemeal portions of their coronavirus relief proposal, the HEALS act, on the Senate floor.

Up first will likely be an effort to extend the paycheck protection program, whose application window closes at the end of the week.

Republicans have already attempted an extension of the unemployment benefits on the Senate floor — an effort which was quashed by Democrats.

Democrats have flatly rejected the idea of a piecemeal series of bills. They’ve argued that a “big,” “bold” and “comprehensive” bill is necessary to combat the ongoing health and economic crisis.

The Democratic proposal, which has already passed the House of Representatives, costs nearly $3 trillion. The Republican proposal is around $1 trillion.

ABC News’ Libby Cathey contributed to this report.

What to know about the coronavirus:

  • How it started and how to protect yourself: Coronavirus explained
  • What to do if you have symptoms: Coronavirus symptoms
  • Tracking the spread in the U.S. and worldwide: Coronavirus map
  • Tune into ABC at 1 p.m. ET and ABC News Live at 4 p.m. ET every weekday for special coverage of the novel coronavirus with the full ABC News team, including the latest news, context and analysis.



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    Feline on fleek! Cat has an army of Instagram followers thanks to his hilarious white eyebrows


    Feline on fleek! Bombay cat’s hilarious white ‘eyebrows’ which give him a permanent look of concern have won him an army of Instagram followers

    • Cornelius Cornbread, four, from Nashville, Tennessee, is a stunning Bombay cat 
    • He has become popular on Instagram thanks to ‘eyebrow’ marks on his forehead 
    • Owner Karen Mellette says Cornelius has had ‘eyebrows’ since he was a kitten

    A cat who appears to have eyebrows has conquered thousands of followers online thanks to his sophisticated looks.

    Cornelius Cornbread, four, from Nashville, Tennessee, is a Bombay cat who has become a popular up-and-coming star on Instagram thanks to the white marks on his forehead.

    According to his owner, retired teacher Karen Mellette, Cornelius has had ‘eyebrows’ since he was a kitten because of a lack of fur in the area between his eyes and ears.

    And the cat’s permanent sassy look of concern is loved by his fans, with one admitting: ‘Humans would pay for brows like yours.’

    A cat (pictured above) who appears to have eyebrows has won thousands of followers online thanks to his sophisticated looks

    A cat (pictured above) who appears to have eyebrows has won thousands of followers online thanks to his sophisticated looks

    Cornelius Cornbread (pictured at home), four, from Nashville, Tennessee, is a Bombay cat who has become a popular up-and-coming star on Instagram thanks to the white marks on his forehead

    Cornelius Cornbread (pictured at home), four, from Nashville, Tennessee, is a Bombay cat who has become a popular up-and-coming star on Instagram thanks to the white marks on his forehead

    According to his owner, retired teacher Karen Mellette, Cornelius (seen in a cute, blue outfit) has had 'eyebrows' since he was a kitten because of a lack of fur in the area between his eyes and ears

    According to his owner, retired teacher Karen Mellette, Cornelius (seen in a cute, blue outfit) has had ‘eyebrows’ since he was a kitten because of a lack of fur in the area between his eyes and ears

    Karen explained: ‘The “eyebrows” are formed by the white skin revealed through the thinner area of black fur in his brow area.

    ‘The combination of the sparse black “brow “hair and the unique rounded shape of the white skin showing through make him appear to have well-groomed eyebrows.

    ‘His brows are most definitely on fleek,’ she joked.

    Karen began posting pictures of Cornelius online in 2018, and the cute feline now boasts more than six thousand followers. 

    And the cat's permanent sassy look of concern (above) is loved by his fans, with one admitting: 'Humans would pay for brows like yours.'

    And the cat’s permanent sassy look of concern (above) is loved by his fans, with one admitting: ‘Humans would pay for brows like yours.’

    Karen began posting pictures of Cornelius (above) online in 2018, and the cute feline now boasts more than six thousand followers

    Karen began posting pictures of Cornelius (above) online in 2018, and the cute feline now boasts more than six thousand followers 

    One user commented on a photo of sassy-looking Cornelius, saying: ‘Humans would pay for brows like yours,’ while another one said: ‘He looks like a true gentlecat.’

    According to Karen, Cornelius actually has a big personality to match his unique looks.

    Karen said: ‘Cornelius has a big personality and loves to be at the centre of the attention, but he’s also a sweet, affectionate cat. 

    According to his owner, beloved Cornelius (pictured) actually has a big personality to match his unique looks

    According to his owner, beloved Cornelius (pictured) actually has a big personality to match his unique looks

    Karen said: 'Cornelius (pictured) has a big personality and loves to be at the centre of the attention, but he's also a sweet, affectionate cat'

    Karen said: ‘Cornelius (pictured) has a big personality and loves to be at the centre of the attention, but he’s also a sweet, affectionate cat’

    ‘He loves following us around, curling up on our laps or snuggling up next to us, and unlike many cats, he enjoys being held and carried.

    ‘Bombay cats are nicknamed “velcro cats” because they are so clingy, and Cornelius is no exception,’ Karen explained.

    ‘He can be very needy, he does not like to be left alone or ignored, and gets very anxious when he thinks I’m going to leave home without him.’



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    Inside the White House during ’15 Days to Slow the Spread’


    This account of the past two weeks inside the White House is based on interviews during that period with staffers and outside advisers, as well as prior POLITICO reporting. Collectively, staffers described a time of uncertainty and reassessment as the West Wing reoriented itself around a singular mission. They witnessed historic moments from the center of power — the biggest one-day plunge ever for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and then its biggest one-day gain since 1933. They wondered what it would all mean for the 2020 elections — would there even be in-person voting in eight months? Is campaigning as we know it over?

    Meanwhile, Americans everywhere grappled with their changing realities: Will the way we celebrate, congregate and pray change forever? Will we become a more isolated society, connected by video conferences rather than in-person gatherings?

    “Should I even be here?” a White House official said squeamishly after multiple high-level staffers were exposed to the virus and forced to stay home.

    On Tuesday, the White House’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread” initiative will come to an end. The country will look to Trump to tell people how much longer daily life will be paralyzed, how much longer they’ll be out of a job.

    What he will say, though, is still unknown.

    THE BEGINNING: JAN. 2

    U.S. cases: 0

    U.S. deaths: 0

    Stock Market: 28,868.80

    As with many Americans, the magnitude of the situation didn’t initially set in at the White House.

    As early as Jan. 2, the Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contacted the National Security Council to discuss a developing situation in China regarding a respiratory illness they had yet to confirm as a novel coronavirus, according to a White House timeline reviewed by POLITICO. Ten days later, China reported its first death from the virus.

    Then, like a dry brush fire, it spread.

    The first case of the novel coronavirus in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21. Days later, the president developed a task force to address the potential spread. But publicly, the president and his advisers maintained that the situation was under control, as the president cut off most travel from China at the start of February.

    Internally, some White House officials monitoring the situation abroad felt frustrated the virus was being shrugged off by senior officials, including the president. Reducing travel from China was not enough, they argued. They pressed for Trump to take more aggressive action, citing forecasts that indicated the United States could face a trajectory of cases mirroring places like Italy, which saw a spike in mid-February.

    Trump came around in late February during an 18-hour trip back from India, where he had spent two days amid cheering throngs, miles from coronavirus concerns. On the flight, he saw the round-the-clock media coverage of the disease. According to his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, Trump didn’t sleep on the entire ride back.

    Minutes after landing on the morning of Feb. 26 in Washington, D.C., Trump tweeted that he would be holding a briefing to address the situation. He hastily tapped Vice President Mike Pence to oversee the coronavirus task force and predicted the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. would soon be “close to zero.”

    The opposite happened.

    In early March, the president and his team recognized the writing on the wall, besieged by concerns from allies across the country. There were now more than 1,000 cases in the U.S. The World Health Organization declared a pandemic. The stock market plummeted, even halting trading for 15 minutes on March 9 to avoid a market-crashing slide.

    Trump and his team scrambled to address the nation’s concerns in an Oval Office address — only the second one Trump had ever made.

    “If tonight isn’t Trump saying, ‘This is bad and could get very worse, you need to take every precaution necessary,’ then he can kiss a second term goodbye,” an administration official said at the time.

    He didn’t say that. Instead, the president, in hastily arranged remarks, said he was barring all travel from Europe and promised that health insurers had agreed to cover all coronavirus treatments. Investors panicked — would necessary cargo still be allowed to come into the U.S.? Insurers were taken aback — they had only agreed to cover coronavirus tests, not all treatment.

    The White House rushed to clarify. Stocks tumbled further.

    Morale bottomed out in the White House.

    One White House official said that was the week it all changed. In addition to the president’s prime-time remarks and the stock trading pauses, the virus unexpectedly overturned America’s collective culture. In a span of several minutes that Wednesday night, Hollywood star Tom Hanks announced he had tested positive for the virus, the NCAA canceled its national basketball tournaments, and the NBA suspended its season.

    “That week made the Democrats’ BS impeachment seem trivial,” another White House official quipped.

    Daily life was not going to be the same.

    Within a week, most of the U.S. would be shut down.

    A week later, Congress would pass the largest economic recovery bill ever assembled.

    Here’s what those two weeks felt like inside the White House.

    DAY 1: MARCH 16

    U.S. cases: 6,400

    U.S. deaths: 83

    Stock market: 20,188.52

    The president and his team decided dramatic action was needed to blunt the spread of the virus.

    They had seen horrifying new projections from the Imperial College in London that showed millions dying if more extreme measures were not taken. Chastened by the new data, the president’s demeanor changed.

    On March 16, a Monday, the president announced new recommendations that Americans should not gather in groups larger than 10 — five times as extreme as guidelines introduced by the CDC just the day before.

    It was the start of the White House’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread.”

    “With several weeks of focused action, we can turn the corner and turn it quickly,” Trump said. “Our government is prepared to do whatever it takes.”

    Dr. Deborah Birx, a global health specialist tasked with leading the coronavirus task force’s efforts, made a direct plea to the American people to heed the guidelines.

    “We really want people to be separated at this time, to be able to address this virus comprehensively that we cannot see, for which we don’t have a vaccine or a therapeutic,” she said.

    The president dispatched Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to hammer out a stimulus bill with Congress to boost the economy. Mnuchin gave a dire, but prescient, warning to Senate Republicans during a lunch on Capitol Hill: Act now or the U.S. could see double-digit unemployment numbers.

    DAY 3: MARCH 18

    U.S. cases: 13,700

    U.S. deaths: 150

    Stock market: 19,898.92

    On Wednesday, streets in major cities like San Francisco and New York began to empty.

    At the White House, the president had a new message: The country is at war.

    “To this day, nobody has seen anything like what they were able to do during World War II,” Trump said at a news conference. “And now it’s our time. We must sacrifice together because we are all in this together and we’ll come through together.”

    He invoked a wartime law — the Defense Production Act — granting him broad authority to direct manufacturers to make the equipment needed in a crisis. But he said he would only use the law in a “worst-case scenario.”

    America was facing an encroaching, lethal, “invisible enemy,” Trump said.

    At the White House, the enemy was already within.

    Members of the president’s inner circle kept getting exposed to people with coronavirus. Several top staffers, including Ivanka Trump and acting chief of staff Mulvaney, had to isolate themselves.

    Members of Congress closest to the president — including his incoming chief of staff, Mark Meadows — were forced to self-quarantine. And even as the president began to use the press briefing room day after day, his own press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, was conspicuously missing. She, like others in the White House who were exposed, were following the very same advice being dished out from the podium: stay home.





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    White Sox’ Dallas Keuchel can keep beard under one condition


    The White Sox are willing to bend team rules for their newest addition… should he bring success.

    After signing a three-year, $55.5 million contract with Chicago in December, Dallas Keuchel knew he was going to eventually have to do something about the wild beard that he has sported since 2014.

    “I didn’t even bother trimming it all winter,’’ Keuchel told USA Today on Wednesday. “I loved it.’’

    Although the White Sox don’t require players to be completely clean-shaven like the Yankees, the organization still insists that it’s trimmed and kempt. Chris Sale was forced to cut off his beard in 2014 and slugger Jose Abreu had to trim his two years ago when he first arrived at spring training.

    Keuchel, who played on a one-year deal with the Braves in 2019, arrived to camp with a shorter beard but it wasn’t up to the White Sox’s standards. After trimming it two more times, taking off nearly two inches of hair, the ace’s facial hair still didn’t align with the organization’s rules.

    So Chicago chairmen Jerry Reinsdorf asked to speak with Keuchel privately following a team meeting.

    Dallas Keuchel
    Dallas KeuchelGetty Images

    “I thought, ‘Oh, crap, I’ve got to trim this even more,’” Keuchel, 32, said. “He was like, ‘Hey, man, you’re officially violating team policy. But I hear you’re a great guy. So let’s just keep winning, and we’ll be all right.’

    “I said, ‘All right. My guy.’ Now, we’ve just to keep winning to keep this beard going.’’

    It might not be what it once was, but Keuchel is satisfied with just being able to keep it at all.

    “To me, it’s almost gone,’’ he said. “Even though there’s still a lot there. It’s taken my face shape a little differently. But I love beards. My girlfriend (Kelly) met me at the height of my beard. It’s either you love it or hate it. There’s no in-between. A lot of guys don’t know what I look like without a beard, so they’d rather have me keep the beard, so I don’t look like an alien to them.’’





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    Read The White House Response To The Senate Impeachment Trial Summons : NPR


    The White House released its formal response to the summons sent by the Senate last week, a procedural part of the impeachment process ahead of the trial that begins next Tuesday.

    “The articles of impeachment submitted by House Democrats are a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president,” the White House’s response says. “This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election.”

    The White House response is part of the legal paperwork required in the process initiated Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The House impeachment managers filed Saturday their own “trial brief” on their arguments for the two articles of impeachment. The White House has until Monday to file its brief.

    The House of Representatives voted last month to impeach President Trump for obstructing Congress and abuse of power. The process was linked to his phone call with his newly elected Ukrainian counterpart. Democrats say Trump sought an investigation into the Bidens in exchange for a release of frozen military aid and a White House visit. Trump has dismissed those allegations.

    The Senate trial, where two-thirds of the 100 senators must vote to remove the president, begins Tuesday; Trump is almost certain to be acquitted.



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    Corpse of promising footballer found being eaten by three great white sharks during hunt for another missing diver – The Sun


    THE SHARK-SAVAGED body of a promising young footballer has been discovered by emergency crews in Australia.

    Eric Birighitti’s remains were found in Western Australia by emergency crews while they were hunting for a missing scuba diver who had been attacked by a great white shark.

     Eric Birighitti, 21, from Perth, was discovered at Twilight Beach in Western Australia

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    Eric Birighitti, 21, from Perth, was discovered at Twilight Beach in Western AustraliaCredit: Instagram
     The crew found three sharks feeding on his corpse

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    The crew found three sharks feeding on his corpseCredit: Instagram

    The 21-year-old, who was from Perth, had been devoured by three sharks.

    On Tuesday the crew were searching for the body of Gary Johnson, 57, who was attacked while out scuba diving with his wife Karen Milligan.

    The crew initially thought the body was the 57-year-old but they later confirmed it was Eric.

    The young sportsman was on holiday with friends and enjoying the view when he slipped and fell into the ocean as he walked along the rocks.

    His horrified friends desperately tried to rescue him but he was swept out to sea by the currents.

    Eric’s last Instagram post had a touching message saying: “Merry Christmas everyone! As we finish off 2019, I hope everybody finds peace and is filled with love as the new year begins.

    “Shout out to all those who cannot be with us for whatever reason. Remember to love always, be appreciative and smile.”

     Shark attack locations for 2018

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    Shark attack locations for 2018

    Eric had won a scholarship to play football for Hasting Broncos at Hastings College in Nebraska and St Thomas Aquina College in New York.

    Hasting Broncos paid tribute to Eric on Facebook with a statement that says: “The Bronco family are saddened to hear about the sudden passing of Eric Birighitti.

    “Eric played for Hastings during the 2016 and 2017 season and won a national title with the team.
    “He will be truly missed and our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.”

    Emergency crews have called off the search for Mr Johnson.

    Despite days of extensive searches, including using two remotely operated vehicles to scour the ocean’s floor, only his tank, vest and flippers have been found.

    Ms Mulligan paid tribute to her husband saying he was “her rock” and “at home” in the ocean.

    She added: “We were always aware of the risks and often told each other that if we were attacked by a shark that would just be unlucky.

    “We were completely against shark culling and I still am.”

     Eric had won a scholarship to play football for Hasting Broncos at Hastings College in Nebraska and St Thomas Aquina College in New York

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    Eric had won a scholarship to play football for Hasting Broncos at Hastings College in Nebraska and St Thomas Aquina College in New YorkCredit: Instagram
     Gary Johnson was mauled to death by a shark in Western Australia

    7

    Gary Johnson was mauled to death by a shark in Western AustraliaCredit: Facebook
     His girlfriend Karen Milligan watched in horror as the shark attacked

    7

    His girlfriend Karen Milligan watched in horror as the shark attackedCredit: Facebook
     This stock photo shows a ferocious Great White shark baring its fearsome jaws

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    This stock photo shows a ferocious Great White shark baring its fearsome jawsCredit: Getty – Contributor





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    White Island volcano: New volcanic activity hampers recovery


    White Island volcanoImage copyright
    AFP

    Image caption

    Poisonous gases are believed to be coming from the volcanic vent

    New Zealand’s White Island volcano is showing increased seismic activity, putting recovery efforts on hold.

    Authorities had hoped they would be able to retrieve the bodies of those left behind on the island, all of whom are presumed dead, on Wednesday.

    The exact death toll is unclear. Police say at least six people died, two of them since leaving the island, and nine are officially missing.

    Another 22 people are in intensive care with severe burns.

    One has been moved to Australia.

    The volcano, also known as Whakaari, erupted on Monday when dozens of tourists were on the island.

    “I’ve spoken to many of those involved in the operation and they are very, very eager to get back there, they want to bring people’s loved ones home,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters.

    Image copyright
    Facebook

    Image caption

    Mother and daughter Julie and Jessica Richards, aged 47 and 20, are among the dead

    What condition are the injured in?

    White Island is a popular tourist destination with frequent day tours and scenic flights available. At least 47 visitors from around the world were on the volcano crater at the time of two explosions in quick succession.

    Police originally said that of the 30 injured, 25 were in a critical condition while the other five were classed as stable but serious.

    • In pictures: White Island eruption
    • New Zealand profile

    Mr Nash explained the injuries to the survivors were so severe that some of them were unable to identify themselves.

    “There are a number of people in hospital who cannot communicate, they have significant burns not only to skin but internal organs,” he told Radio New Zealand.

    “We wish them the best but we’re not out of the woods yet, of that there’s no doubt.”

    Dr Peter Watson, chief medical officer at New Zealand’s National Burns Unit, said an estimated 1.2m sq cm of replacement skin would be needed for the patients. An order has been placed from the US.

    Several patients would be transferred to Australia by the Australian Defence Force using an intensive-care acceptable aircraft in the next 24-48 hours, Dr Watson said.

    Where does donor skin come from?

    Analysis by James Gallagher, BBC health and science correspondent

    Donated skin is vital for helping to save the life of a major burns patient. Skin is our largest organ and its main job is keeping dangerous viruses and bacteria out.

    The damage caused by severe burns leaves patients at very high risk of infection. Donor skin is a short-term fix.

    It comes from dead organ donors – in the same way as hearts, kidneys and corneas – and can be banked for several years.

    The donor-skin aids healing, cuts the risk of infection and can reduce pain. The immune system is so weak after such an injury that rejection is not an issue.

    A single major burns patient needs a lot of donor skin. New Zealand is treating many at the same time and has needed to turn to other countries for help.

    What do we know about the victims?

    New Zealand’s chief coroner on Wednesday declared the eruption a “mass fatality incident”.

    Officials said they are working with disaster specialists and forensic experts to identify the victims so their bodies can be returned to their families.

    Image copyright
    Reuters

    Image caption

    There have been many tributes for the victims in the nearby port town

    New Zealand police have now listed nine people as officially missing – though they say this is a partial list as they have not been able to speak to all the next of kin.

    These are:

    • Hayden Inman (New Zealand)
    • Tipene Maangi (New Zealand)
    • Julie Richards (Australia)
    • Jessica Richards (Australia)
    • Gavin Dallow (Australia)
    • Zoe Hosking (Australia)
    • Richard Elzer (Australia)
    • Karla Matthews (Australia)
    • Krystal Browitt (Australia)

    At least seven people on the list are believed to be dead or presumed dead, based on relatives talking to media.

    Tour guide Hayden Inman was identified as among the dead by his brother on Facebook.

    Julie Richards and her daughter Jessica from Brisbane, Australia, were identified as victims by a family spokesperson.

    Adelaide father Gavin Dallow has been named as dead, with his stepdaughter Zoe Hosking presumed dead, according to media reports.

    Australian tourist Jason Griffiths, who was travelling with Karla Matthews and Richard Elzer, died in hospital on Wednesday. According to a statement released by their friends, both Karla and Richard are presumed dead.

    There is also a definitive list of all victims who are in hospital but police say they cannot release this for privacy reasons.

    Media playback is unsupported on your device

    Media captionParamedic Russell Clark: “Everything was blanketed in ash”

    Why is the recovery delayed?

    On Wednesday morning, geological agency GeoNet said “the level of volcanic tremor has significantly increased at the island”.

    Scientists view tremors, which result from a release of energy under the Earth’s surface, as one sign of a possible eruption.

    In a later update, the agency said volcanic tremor, known as seismic activity, was now at the highest level seen since 2016.

    “The level of volcanic tremor continues to rise and there is medium likelihood of future eruptive activity in the next 24 hours,” the agency said.

    Image copyright
    Michael Schade

    Image caption

    A clip posted on Twitter showed an ash-covered helicopter on the island as the eruption took place

    At a news conference on Wednesday, volcanologist Graham Leonard said seismic activity on White Island was escalating.

    “Yesterday there was a high risk of an eruption,” Mr Leonard said. “Today there is an even higher risk of an eruption. And the parameters are worsening at the moment.”

    Police said the latest seismology update meant recovery teams had no choice but to wait, but they were on constant standby to return to the island as soon as possible.

    Police Minister Nash said there were also poisonous gases coming from the volcanic vent and that the island was blanketed in a thick layer of acidic ash.

    With measuring equipment on the island still intact, GeoNet can give regular updates on the situation, allowing police to assess the risk of sending recovery teams.

    Reconnaissance flights have shown no signs of life on the island and officials believe there are no survivors among the missing.

    Police said a drone conducted four fly-overs of the island on Wednesday, and analysis of that footage was ongoing.


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    Nancy Pelosi, White House have tentative deal on new NAFTA, insiders say 


    The Trump administration and House Democrats have a tentative deal on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, according to people familiar with negotiations, paving the way for congressional approval as early as this month even as Democrats prepare to impeach the president.

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reviewing changes to the agreement that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his Mexican counterpart Jesus Seade have put on paper over the past week.

    The revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement is one of President Donald Trump’s top priorities, and its passage would help the White House make the case that he’s pursuing policy achievements on behalf of the country even while lawmakers debate removing him from office.

    At the same time, a deal would show that Democrats can legislate while also investigating the president’s administration.

    “I’m hearing a lot of strides have been made over the last 24 hours with unions and with others,” Trump told reporters on Monday. “I’m hearing very good things. I’m hearing from unions and others that it’s looking good, and I hope they put it up to a vote.”

    Lighthizer and Seade exchanged proposals on labor inspection rules and tougher steel provisions and finished a compromise package late Friday that they submitted to Pelosi, the people said. A demand from the U.S. regarding steel and aluminum, which people briefed on the talks said came from the United Steelworkers union, threatened to stall the negotiations last week.

    In a change of plans Monday, Seade stayed in Mexico rather than returning to Washington to meet with Lighthizer again, according to three people familiar with his plans.

    Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said earlier Monday that he expects a decision from the U.S. on the agreement very soon.

    “Now is the time to vote on it,” Lopez Obrador said Monday. “I am optimistic we can reach a deal.”

    Seeking Approval

    Seade and Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard plan to update reporters on advances in the negotiations later on Monday, the ministry said.

    While all parties are still reviewing the deal, representatives from the three countries are already discussing where to have a signing ceremony, according to one person familiar with the matter.

    U.S. labour groups and House Democrats will need to agree to the final details, in addition to the leaders of the three countries, another person said. If the AFL-CIO, the biggest labour federation in the U.S., is on board with the deal, it could make it easier for the Democratic-led House to expedite the process and vote as soon as next week, according to a different person briefed on the negotiations.

    AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke with Trump before Trumka briefed the labor group’s executive committee meeting at 2 p.m., according to two other people familiar with the matter.

    The peso extended a five-day climb after news of a potential deal, rising 0.5 per cent to become the second best-performing currency in emerging markets on the day.

    Pelosi last month cautioned that even with a deal, there might not be enough time to vote on the agreement this year, reminding her members that “in a world of instant gratification,” legislating takes time.

    There are still a number of procedural hurdles before the agreement can come to the floor for a vote, including committee hearings and review of the implementing bill in the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees. Those steps could be waived to save time, though, and people familiar with the talks said lawmakers are likely to skip some of them.

    Political Pressure

    Democrats from rural, swing districts are especially eager to get a deal done. Farmers have faced devastating economic losses this year because of the trade war with China, although the president has blamed some of that on the delay in getting the USMCA approved.

    The U.S. International Trade Commission, an independent government panel, in an April analysis said USMCA would boost the U.S. economy by 0.35 per cent and lead to 176,000 new jobs in the sixth year after implementation, a small addition to the 132 million people employed full-time in the U.S.

    Leaders of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. signed the agreement more than a year ago and the White House and Democrats have spent months locked in tense negotiations over four key areas: environment, labour commitments, drug-patent protections and enforcement mechanisms. In recent weeks, the discussions have focused on the deal’s labour enforcement.

    One of the main sticking points was a Democratic proposal to enforce labor rights by allowing products from factories accused of violations to be inspected and blocked at the U.S. border. California Representative Jimmy Gomez, a member of House Democratic negotiating team, said last week that Pelosi and Lighthizer have offered Mexico a compromise on labor enforcement that “respects Mexico’s sovereignty.”

    Republicans and the business community increased pressure on Pelosi as they grew concerned that time was running out for a vote in 2019, believing it would be difficult to hold a vote in an election year. Pelosi said she wouldn’t rule out a vote in 2020, although she said her preference would be to get it done sooner.

    The president has become increasingly frustrated that his deal has stalled and expressed pessimism about the chances Congress would ever take it up for a vote.

    “Hard to believe, but if Nancy Pelosi had put our great Trade Deal with Mexico and Canada, USMCA, up for a vote long ago, our economy would be even better,” Trump said in a tweet on Saturday. “If she doesn’t move quickly, it will collapse!”

    Labour Role

    Key to reaching a deal has been neutralizing any opposition from the largest U.S. union confederation, the AFL-CIO.

    Trump and his advisers tout USMCA as the best agreement ever negotiated for unions and Democrats, particularly the deal’s labor provisions and stricter auto-content rules that they say would boost U.S. manufacturing.

    Trumka urged Democrats in a November meeting not to rush into an agreement without strong enforcement procedures and said they should hold out for more concessions.

    The labour leader told The Washington Post on Monday that he is reviewing the deal.

    –With assistance from Justin Sink.

    Bloomberg.com



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    White Rock supporters who bought ‘planks’ thanked by Friends of Pier



    The repaired White Rock pier in December 2019.


    Geoffrey Yue / PNG

    Close to a year after a windstorm sent boats smashing into the White Rock Pier, causing it to collapse in the centre, supporters gathered to receive certificates of appreciation for their donations to help rebuild the span through a fundraiser organized by Friends of the Pier.

    Committee member Morley Myren and Jim Purcell, past-president of the Semiahmoo Rotary club, braved a blustery day to personally thank donors who gave $1,000 each to buy a plank on the pier’s rebuilt centre span.

    “There are 1,300 planks that we want to sell to raise money to continue the pier rebuild and we’ve sold over 200,” said Myren. Each plank carries a plaque with the donor’s name.

    The pier, built in 1914-15, is owned by the City of White Rock. Although insurance and funding from various levels of government covered much of the repair to the 30-metre section destroyed in the storm, the city wants to complete further enhancements, said Purcell.

    Piles were changed to steel with a concrete substructure below the timber planks, and will be strong enough to withstand storm surges and earthquakes, and support emergency vehicles.

    “The pier is iconic and represents the city,” said Purcell.

    For artist Larissa Walkiw, who creates her intricate designs in the sand just below the pier throughout the summer, making a donation to purchase a plank in the name of her artistic endeavours, Pierdoodles, was a no-brainer.

    “The pier is the perfect spot to do the artwork, and the pier itself is a major aspect of the art because people stand 30 feet up to see them,” said Walkiw.

    She remembers the day after the storm as surreal and heartbreaking.

    “This is where I come to make art, to walk and jog and think. It’s a special place,” she said.

    Photographer Geoffrey Yue said: “I grew up coming out here with my family since 1967 and it’s a real honour to contribute and see my family’s name out there.”

    White Rock Coun. Scott Kristjanson, who also bought a plank, said: “It just gives me goosebumps to see how the whole community has come together over this.”

    The pier reopened after partial repairs on the 30-m section that was destroyed were completed in August, but further enhancements to bring the remaining two-thirds of the pier up to code will cost another $12 million-13 million, said Kristjanson.

    The pier reopened to the public in August 2019, and is the longest pier in Canada. Anyone interested in buying a plank can go to friendsofthepier.com

    [email protected]



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