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US lifts funding ban on studies that enhance dangerous germs

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The U.S. government on Tuesday lifted a 2014 temporary ban on funding research involving the flu and other pathogens in which scientists deliberately make them more transmissible or more deadly.

The ban covered federal funding for any new so-called “gain-of-function” experiments that enhance pathogens such as Avian influenza, SARS and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS viruses.

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It followed a series of safety breaches at federal laboratories involving the handling of anthrax and avian flu that raised questions about lab safety at high-security national laboratories.

The concern with “gain-of-function” research is that while the work may produce useful insights about how a pathogen might naturally evolve and become more deadly, laboratory-enhanced pathogens could be used for biowarfare or bioterrorism if they fell into the wrong hands.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) said in a statement on Tuesday that such work is important to help scientists understand and develop effective countermeasures “against rapidly evolving pathogens that pose a threat to public health.”

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins said in a statement the funding ban was lifted after the Department of Health and Human Services issued a framework to guide decisions over work involving enhanced pathogens with the potential to cause a pandemic.

That framework lays out an extensive review process for federally funded research on enhanced pathogens – considering both the benefits of the research and the potential safety risks.

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Dr. Sam Stanley, president of Stony Brook University and chairman of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which provided guidance on the new policy, noted the world’s deadliest pathogens are evolving naturally. He said research is needed to understand and prevent devastating pandemics, such as the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic that killed some 50 million people.

“I believe nature is the ultimate bioterrorist and we need to do all we can to stay one step ahead,” Stanley said in an email, adding “basic research on these agents by laboratories that have shown they can do this work safely is key to global security.”

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Chris Reese)

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WATCH: Buffalo cops and firefighters cheer officers charged with assault as they leave the courthouse

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According to a report from both CNN and MSNBC, the two Buffalo police officers who were charged with second-degree assault after shoving a 75-year-old anti-police brutality protester to the ground where he sustained head injuries were greeted with applause after they were arraigned on Saturday morning.

MSNBC's Alex Witt noted that both officers were released without having to post bail.

According to ABC News, "Officers Aaron Torglaski and Robert McCabe were charged with second-degree assault during their video arraignments on Saturday and were released on their own recognizance. They both entered no guilty pleas and are expected back in court on July 20."

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Lindsey Graham leveled by Jim Clyburn for ‘out of touch’ comments on police brutalizing African-Americans

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In response to protests over the police killing of George Floyd, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had this to say: "I've come to believe that young black men rightly or wrongly perceive the police to be a threat when many times they're not, and we've got to deal with that problem."

On Saturday's edition of MSNBC's "AM Joy," Graham's fellow South Carolina lawmaker, Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn, laid into Graham for his comments. "He is from Seneca, South Carolina," said Clyburn. "I know the history of Seneca, South Carolina. Where has he been?"

"You know, I've been really interested, we had some foolishness the other day," said Clyburn. "Drew Brees has gotten himself in some difficulty with his teammates, how his grandfather and father thought about anybody kneeling would be disrespecting the flag as if these, his teammates, did not have parents and grandparents who fought for this country and came back to this country with all kinds of indignities. One of which has just been written about in a great book from South Carolina. Isaac Woodard was in his uniform, coming home from the war, when he was stopped by a sheriff, a law enforcement officer who beat him, punched his eyes out with a night stick. That's the thing that led Harry Truman to sign the executive order to integrate the armed services, because of the in indignities charged to a black man by a law enforcement officer, and that black man was in his uniform coming home from a war we had just won."

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Can it happen here? Bill Moyers says it’s happening right before our very eyes

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At 98, historian Bernard Weisberger has seen it all. Born in 1922, he grew up watching newsreels of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler as they rose to power in Europe. He vividly remembers Mussolini posturing to crowds from his balcony in Rome, chin outthrust, right arm extended. Nor has he forgotten Der Fuehrer’s raspy voice on radio, interrupted by cheers of “Heil Hitler,” full of menace even without pictures.

Fascist bullies and threats anger Bernie, and when America went to war to confront them, he interrupted his study of history to help make history by joining the army. He yearned to be an aviator but his eyesight was too poor. So he took a special course in Japanese at Columbia University and was sent as a translator to the China-Burma-India theater where Japanese warlords were out to conquer Asia. Bernie remembers them, too.

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