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US Health Officials Urge More Cooperation from China on Virus

U.S. health officials are urging China to share more information on how the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan is spreading.The virus has sickened more than 4,500 people in 18 countries, mostly in China. More than 100 have died.Chinese experts have reported the virus can spread from patients who are not showing symptoms. But U.S. health officials say they are withholding judgment.”CDC has not been given the opportunity to review that data,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield at a press conference Tuesday. “The Chinese believe they have that data. This is our hope, to be able to review and be more definitive.”If patients are spreading the virus without showing symptoms, that calls for different screening procedures, added National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Anthony Fauci.Fauci said asymptomatic patients are unlikely to have much impact on the spread of the disease.”In all the history of respiratory borne viruses of any type, asymptomatic transmission has never been the driver of outbreaks,” he said. Health officials have identified five cases in the United States and no person-to-person transmission so far. Redfield said the risk to Americans currently is low, but he expects more cases are coming.Passengers wear protective face masks arrive at the high speed train station in Hong Kong, Jan. 28, 2020. Hong Kong’s leader has announced that all rail links to mainland China will be cut starting Friday.Ready, willing and ableThe United States has offered to send experts to China to assist with the outbreak, but Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Beijing has not accepted the offer.”CDC experts are standing by, ready, willing and able, to go to China either on a bilateral basis or under the auspices of the World Health Organization,” he said.Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, left, wears a protective face mask speaks during a press conference held in Hong Kong, Jan. 28, 2020.CountermeasuresThere is no approved treatment for coronavirus infection, but Fauci said several are under study, including drugs that have shown some effectiveness against Ebola and HIV.A vaccine is in the works, as well. Fauci hopes to begin initial tests within the next three months.He cautioned, however, that “going into a Phase One trial does not mean that you have a vaccine that’s ready for deployment.” It will take several months to determine whether the vaccine is safe and can proceed to further tests. He noted that by the time results came in from a Phase One SARS vaccine trial, the outbreak was already under control.Health officials are now screening travelers from China at 20 U.S. airports. 

Trump Praises Pompeo for Doing ‘Good Job on’ NPR Reporter

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his handling of a National Public Radio reporter who Pompeo shouted at, cursed, and called a liar after a contentious interview.”That reporter couldn’t have done too good a job on you yesterday,” Trump said to Pompeo, the chief U.S. diplomat, during a presentation of his Middle East peace plan, prompting laughter from the crowd of officials and dignitaries gathered at the White House.”I think you did a good job on her actually,” he added.Pompeo was interviewed on Friday by NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly, and was asked repeatedly about Ukraine and how he had supported ousted U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch to Kyiv during a testy nine-minute exchange.US State Department Bars NPR Reporter from Pompeo Trip After Testy InterviewMike Pompeo was interviewed on Friday by NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly, and was asked repeatedly about Ukraine and ousted US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch during a testy nine-minute
exchangeFollowing the interview, Kelly said that Pompeo cursed at her and repeatedly “used the F-word” and asked her: “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?”In a statement on Saturday, Pompeo said the reporter had lied in setting up the interview and in agreeing to conduct the post-interview conversation off the record. His statement did not dispute what she said about the content of the post-interview encounter. Kelly said Pompeo’s staff did not stipulate that the post-interview meeting was to be off the record.The U.S. State Department on Monday removed another NPR reporter from the press pool for Pompeo’s upcoming foreign trip, a move the State Department Correspondents’ Association (SDCA) said could only be seen as retaliation for the colleague’s interview.

US Charges Harvard, Boston University Officials over Dealings with China

The U.S. government on Tuesday charged a Harvard University department chair and a Boston University employee with failing to disclose their dealings with Chinese research agencies while receiving federal research funding.Prosecutors charged Charles Lieber, chair of Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, with lying about his participation in China’s Thousand Talents Plan.According to a court filing, Lieber made materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements to the U.S. Department of Defense about his role in the plan, and to the National Institutes of Health about that role and also his affiliation with Wuhan University of Technology in China.Lieber was charged with one count of making false statements to a U.S. government agency, according to court records. They also charged a Boston University employee with lying about working for the Chinese army, a Justice Department representative told reporters.They are the latest in a series of academics the United States has criminally charged for their dealings with China.Federal prosecutors last month accused a Chinese medical student of trying to smuggle cancer research specimens out of the country and in August charged a University of Kansas researched for failing to disclose ties to a Chinese university. 

US Beefs Up Screening of Travelers for New Virus from China

U.S. health officials are expanding their checks of international travelers for signs of a worrisome new virus from China, even as they say the risk to Americans so far is very low.For “the individual American, this should not be an impact on their day-to-day life,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters Tuesday.So far, there are five confirmed cases of this new virus in the U.S., and no sign that they have spread the respiratory illness to anyone around them.While reports from China suggest that people there may have spread the illness before showing symptoms, there is no evidence of that in the U.S., stressed Dr. Robert Redfield.And while some other viruses are known to occasionally spread before symptoms are obvious — such as the flu — health officials say that’s far less of a concern than the obviously contagious patients.The CDC already has been checking arrivals at five U.S. airports that once had direct flights from the hardest-hit section of China. While China has instituted broad travel bans, people who had been in other parts of China still may be arriving via other countries.The CDC is now beefing up screening at 15 more “quarantine stations” around the country, airports and other places where health workers regularly check arriving travelers for signs of illness.But travelers may not be sick right then, CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier said. The screenings also are an opportunity to educate travelers that if they develop symptoms — such as fever or a cough — after returning from the outbreak zone, they should contact their doctor, she said. That’s exactly what the first two U.S. patients did.

Official: Remains of 2 US Troops Recovered from Afghan Site

A U.S. defense official says the United States has recovered the remains of two American service members killed in the crash of an Air Force plane in Afghanistan.
They were the only two people aboard the Air Force E-11A electronic surveillance aircraft when it went down on Monday in Ghazni province, the official said, speaking Tuesday on the condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement of the recovery. The identities of the two have not been publicly announced, pending notification of their relatives.
The official said the American recovery team met no Taliban resistance in reaching the crash site and said there is no indication that the plane was downed by hostile action.    

Tears Shed, Joyful Times Recalled at Kobe Bryant Memorial

Fans call it The House that Kobe Built, and since Kobe Bryant’s shocking death in a helicopter crash mourners by the thousands have gathered outside the glistening steel-and-glass edifice where the Los Angeles Lakers legend made so much basketball history.The arrivals at downtown Staples Center began soon after word spread that Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people killed in Sunday’s crash. They continued unabated Monday as people took off from school or work to pay respects to a man with whom many felt a kinship.“The memories that he gave us as a family were great memories,” said Lawrence Perez or North Hollywood, who arrived with his wife, Maureen, and 15-year-old daughter, Desiree. “We could have been at home, but we wanted to be with other people who are kind of going through the same thing.”The Lakers had a game scheduled Tuesday night against the LA Clippers at Staples Center but the NBA postponed it “out of respect” for the Lakers. The next Lakers home game is Friday night against Portland.The Staples Center, home to the Lakers and Clippers, opened for the 1999-2000 season, just as a 21-year-old Bryant was blossoming. That season the team would win the first of five championships over the next 10 years.Although the mood there Monday was often somber as people hugged and wiped away tears, many couldn’t help but grin at times as they recalled joyful moments Bryant brought to their lives.“The greatest moment was when I got his autograph his rookie year,” Perez said, recalling how he told the teenage Bryant he was destined for greatness. Bryant smiled, shook his hand and said he hoped he’d just break into the team’s starting lineup sometime soon.Perez had planned to bring that ball to Bryant’s Hall of Fame induction, expected later this year, and ask him to sign it again.“But that’s not going to happen now,” he said softly as his wife hugged him and said, “He cried when he heard the news.”As people arrived at the arena they were greeted by a gigantic display of flowers, balloons, votive candles (some with Bryant’s photo on them), hats, jerseys, statuettes of angels and photos and paintings of Bryant and his daughter circling the entire area. Some showed father and daughter with angel’s wings. Others contained personal messages written in English, Spanish and Chinese, showing the international impact Bryant’s career had.“I left my shoe for him,” said Louie Guerrero of Los Angeles, who arrived at the memorial pushing a stroller with his 2-year-old daughter, Lexie, decked out in her own little Lakers uniform. He spontaneously decided to add one of his official Lakers basketball shoes to the memorial after scribbling on it, “We Love You, Kobe.”NBA’s Kobe Bryant Scores 60 Points in Farewell Game

        Kobe Bryant played the final game of his legendary 20-year career with the National Basketball Association's Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday night. The 37-year-old Bryant scored a season-high 60 points to rally the Lakers from a 15-point deficit to a 101-96 victory over the visiting Utah Jazz at Staples Center in front of thousands of fans -- including Oscar-winning actor Jack Nicholson -- who paid thousands of dollars a ticket for a chance to witness Bryant's last game wearing the Lakers's purple-and…

He walked away with only a sock on his left foot.Nearby, Michelle Rodriguez of Los Angeles wiped away a tear as she gazed at photos of Bryant with his daughter and his teammates. The 30-year-old emergency room nurse had arrived with her 12-year-old bulldog, Canelle, after working an overnight shift. Both were wearing Lakers jerseys.“I think everyone could say we loved the team as a whole, but it was different when you saw Kobe play,” she said.“And he was such an awesome man outside of basketball too,” she added. “All the work he did in the community, he’s a hero to this city.”

NTSB: Pilot of Kobe Bryant’s Helicopter Climbed to Avoid Cloud Layer

The pilot of the helicopter that crashed and killed basketball superstar Kobe Bryant apparently climbed to avoid a cloud layer just before slamming into a hillside, federal investigators say.Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board said Monday the copter was about 700 meters off the ground before it plunged more than 300 meters into the hills north of Los Angeles.Air traffic say the pilot’s message that he had to climb to avoid the clouds was the last thing they heard from the copter.Homendy says the debris field is “extensive.””A piece of the tail is down the hill, the fuselage is on the other side of that hill and the main rotor is about 91 meters beyond that,” she said, adding that everything is looked at during the investigation — the pilot, the aircraft, and the environment.Federal rules do not require helicopters to carry black boxes.People gather at a memorial for Kobe Bryant near Staples Center Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Los Angeles.Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine killed in Sunday’s crash that stunned the sports world and left fans and his fellow athletes speechless.The pilot also died along with Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli. The helicopter was heading to a youth basketball tournament in which Gianna Bryant was scheduled to play.Kobe Bryant was 41 years-old and will be remembered as one of the greatest professional basketball players ever to step onto the court. He played 20 years in the NBA, nearly all of it with the Los Angeles Lakers — wining five NBA championships and the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2008. He is the fourth all-time leading scorer. LeBron James passed him for number three on the list just one day before the crash.Some of Bryant’s accomplishments include becoming the NBA’s youngest all-star in 1998, when he was only 19 years old; an 81-point game in 2006 – the second-highest of all time; and Olympic Gold medals in 2008 and 2012.

Britain’s Decision on Huawei Tests Special Relationship with US

This week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heads to London as British officials weigh whether or not to allow Chinese telecom giant Huawei to take part in the country’s buildout of its 5G network.The British government is expected to make the decision Tuesday.  FILE – Signage is seen at the Huawei offices in Reading, Britain, May 2, 2019.A senior U.S. official said the two nations are having “very close” and “very vigorous conversations.” Another official said Britain has not told the U.S. about the final decision.  The U.S. says Huawei could provide China a “back door” for spying, a claim that Huawei rejects.  In a Friday phone call with Johnson, U.S. President Donald Trump told the British Prime Minister that giving Huawei the go-ahead would cause a major rift in transatlantic relations and jeopardize intelligence-sharing between Washington and London.U.S. officials have also voiced frustration with decisions by some European nations to grant Huawei some access in the roll-out of their 5G network.“They announced a toolkit that many of us consider to be inadequate,” a senior U.S. official said, referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “no-spy” pact from Huawei as she decided to allow the Chinese telecom company to take part in Germany’s 5G roll-out.Under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, the U.S. Defense Secretary should brief Congressional defense committees by March 15 on the implementation of a plan for fifth generation information and communications technologies, including steps to work with U.S. allies and partners to protect critical networks and supply chains. 

US Noncommittal on Keeping Troops in Africa

The United States is refusing to rule out shrinking the size of its military presence in Africa despite warnings that without Washington’s help, critical counterterror efforts could fall apart.French Defense Minister Florence Parly delivered the latest plea for continued U.S. involvement in the counterterror fight Monday during talks with top U.S. military officials at the Pentagon.But following the meeting, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Washington had to take into account other urgent priorities.”We are focused on great power competition, first with China, then Russia,” Esper told reporters. “My aim is to adjust our [military] footprint in many places. No decisions have been made.”French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speak during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, Jan. 27, 2020.France currently has about 4,500 troops in Africa, taking a lead role in countering terror groups linked to Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaida across the Sahel region.Earlier this month, in response to the death of 13 French soldiers during a combat mission in Mali late last year, France said it would send another 220 troops to the region.And France is not alone in sounding the alarm about the growth of terror groups on the Sahel.A increasing number of Western diplomats have warned that IS, in particular, is using the region to regroup following the loss of its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq.The concern has run so deep, that during an anti-IS coalition meeting hosted this past November in Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that partner nations were already looking to West Africa and the Sahel as “a preferred, initial area of focus” outside of Syria and Iraq.“We agreed at the working level that West FILE – French President Emmanuel Macron visits French troops in Africa’s Sahel region in Gao, northern Mali, May 19, 2017.”There is a lot of collaboration in terms of logistics but also in terms of intelligence,” Niagale Bagayoko, a lead researcher and chair of the African Security Sector Network, told VOA. “That is one of the reasons why the French are presently eager to see the Americans to stay involved in the continent, in particular.”French officials have also emphasized that while they understand Washington’s desire to rebalance its forces across the world to better confront adversaries like China and Russia, they are not asking for a lot.”It’s a classic case of burden sharing where a limited U.S. support leverages an immesnse effort carried out by France and Europe,” Parly said Monday.Yet despite French officials expressing hope that “good sense” would prevail and that Washington would maintain its support for the French-led counterterror operations, U.S. defense officials have increasingly signaled such help may not be forthcoming.”France has reached out to other European allies. I think it’s time for other European allies to assist, as well, in the region,” Esper told reporters Monday. “That could offset whatever changes we make as we consider next steps in Africa.”VOA’s Salem Solomon contributed to this report.

Trump Offers China ‘Any Help’ to Fight Coronavirus

U.S. President Donald Trump has offered China any help needed to combat a deadly outbreak of a coronavirus that has killed 81 people.In a Monday tweet, Trump said, “We are in very close communication with China concerning the virus,” adding, “We have offered China and President Xi (Jinping) any help that is necessary. Our experts are extraordinary!”Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited the city of Wuhan on Monday to meet with health officials and examine the response to the outbreak. Wuhan is the center of the outbreak and people there and in several other cities face strict restrictions on movement as the government tries to prevent the virus from spreading.The head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, arrived Monday in Beijing, where he is expected to meet senior Chinese officials to discuss the outbreak. The agency said there is still a chance to get ahead of the virus if there is strong cooperation.Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, wearing a mask and protective suit, speaks to medical workers as he visits the Jinyintan hospital where the patients of the new coronavirus are being treated, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, Jan. 27, 2020.Beijing authorities also reported  the capital’s first death from the virus.Separately, in an effort to stop the virus from spreading, Mongolia closed its vast border with China, while Hong Kong and Malaysia announced they would ban entry to visitors from Wuhan.Global stock markets plunged Monday as investors feared the economic impact from the coronavirus.Chinese officials took an extra step Sunday to extend the Lunar New Year holiday three extra days to cut down on group gatherings.Global spreadThe latest figures reported by Chinese health officials include more than 2,700 cases of people being sickened by the virus.Cases have also been reported in Australia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, Nepal, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam. The World Health Organization says most of those are people had a travel history in Wuhan, with several others having contact with someone who traveled there.People queue up to purchase face masks outside a shop in Hong Kong, Jan. 27, 2020.There have been no reported deaths linked to the virus outside of China.The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s respiratory disease office, Nancy Messonnier, said Sunday there were five confirmed cases in the United States, and that all five people had direct contact with others in Wuhan.The patients are isolated in hospitals as doctors and health officials try to learn more about the virus. The CDC says it is investigating about 100 suspected cases in 26 states.Chinese National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei said Sunday little is known about the virus. But doctors do know it has an incubation period that can range from one to 14 days. Ma said the virus is infectious during the incubation period, when no signs or symptoms of the disease are present.’Grave situation’President Xi Jinping said China is facing a “grave situation” and experts and other resources would be concentrated at specific hospitals to treat severe cases.The virus is believed to have emerged late last year at a Wuhan seafood market illegally selling wildlife. Chinese authorities have imposed a temporary ban on the selling of wildlife. Wuhan is the capital of China’s Hubei province.Paramilitary police wear face masks as they stand guard at Tiananmen Gate adjacent to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Jan. 27, 2020.The virus hit China just as it was beginning celebrations to mark the Lunar New Year, resulting in the canceling or the scaling back of festivities for tens of millions of Chinese.   Tourist destinations are closed and school closings have been extended in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. Public transportation has been severely restricted. Many businesses have closed or asked employees to work from home.The WHO recommends several steps to help protect people against acute respiratory infections. They include avoiding close contact with those already infected, frequent hand-washing, and avoiding unprotected contact with farm animals and wild animals.VOA’s Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.