Nation and world news briefs

©Tribune News Service

CDC chief sees urgency to cut COVID rate to avoid flu collision

NEW YORK — The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that many regions in the U.S. need to drive the rate of COVID-19 cases sharply lower to avert a dangerous convergence of the pandemic with flu season.

CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an interview Thursday that he’s optimistic they’ll do so, because newly recorded cases have declined from their recent peak in July and most areas of the U.S. are in a “downward trajectory.”

Even so, there’s a great distance for most of the country to go to reduce the burden of COVID before flu season arrives. Redfield said states need to have less than 5% of COVID tests return positive — ideally even lower.

“We’d like to see those prevalence rates down under 3%, 2% of tests positive,” he said, noting that the U.S. never brought cases down as dramatically as Europe did.

Seasonal influenza sends hundreds of thousands of Americans to hospitals each year. Health officials fear that a bad flu season could collide with the COVID pandemic, sickening millions with similar symptoms and straining hospitals. But the country has a window in the next few months to avoid that scenario, by driving down coronavirus cases and inoculating more Americans with flu shots.

—Bloomberg News


10 US senators pledge to draft a bill of rights for college athletes

College athletes have made their voices heard with unprecedented volume this summer, asserting themselves on issues of health and safety, social justice and financial equity. Now, with the college sports landscape in a state of chaos, that movement may now have an even louder megaphone.

A group of 10 senators, led by New Jersey’s Cory Booker and Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal, announced its intention Thursday to draft a college athletes’ bill of rights, the framework of which would guarantee “fair and equitable compensation” for athletes through revenue-sharing agreements, while also embracing athletes’ rights to profit off of their name, image and likeness.

The proposed bill would also seek to develop comprehensive health and wellness standards and improve long-term health care coverage for players beyond their college years — two urgent issues raised first by the Pac-12’s #WeAreUnited player group this month.

“As a former college athlete, this issue is personal to me,” Booker, a former Stanford football player, said in a statement. “The NCAA has failed generations of young men and women even when it comes to their most basic responsibility — keeping the athletes under their charge healthy and safe. The time has come for change.”

—Los Angeles Times


DOJ finds Yale University discriminates against Asian American, white applicants

HARTFORD, Conn. — Federal investigators have concluded that Yale University discriminates against Asian American and white applicants after a two-year investigation into the school’s affirmative action policies as part of its undergraduate admissions process.

The findings are part of several attempts by the Trump administration to beat back affirmative action policies and could have far-reaching implications for diversity efforts at higher education institutions nationwide at the same time issues of equity and social justice have taken center stage in public and political life this summer.

At Yale, investigators found race is “the determinative factor” in hundreds of admissions decisions each year and leaves Asian and white applicants with only a fraction of the likelihood of admission as Black applicants with “comparable academic credentials,” the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday afternoon.

The university said it “categorically denies” the DOJ’s finding and would not change its admissions practices.

—The Hartford Courant


Ghislaine Maxwell isolated from other inmates for her own safety: feds

NEW YORK — Ghislaine Maxwell is being held separately from other inmates at a Brooklyn federal jail for her “safety, security, and the orderly functioning of the facility,” prosecutors wrote Thursday.

Earlier this week, attorneys for the British socialite requested the Bureau of Prisons transfer her to general population of the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Prosecutors responded in a new filing that Maxwell, 58, shouldn’t second-guess jail officials.

“For reasons including safety, security, and the orderly functioning of the facility, BOP has made the determination that, at present, the defendant should not be fully integrated into the dorm-style accommodations of the general population,” Assistant Manhattan U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller wrote.

“The defendant will be placed into the general population if and when BOP is assured that such placement would not pose a threat to the orderly operation of the institution.”

The prosecutor scoffed at Maxwell’s complaints that she was being treated differently than other inmates and was under 24-hour surveillance. Maxwell’s legal team said officials were going overboard to prevent her from committing suicide like her former boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein, though she is not a suicide risk.

—New York Daily News


Israeli army says it accidentally hit UN-run school in strike in Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Israeli army damaged a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees in an airstrike carried out overnight between Wednesday and Thursday.

The army had struck Hamas targets in response to incendiary balloons launched into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, and a spokeswoman told dpa that “during the operation, a school building was accidentally damaged.”

“The incident is being reviewed,” she added.

“Explosive balloons continued to be launched from Gaza into Israel today, causing fires on land across southern Israel,” the Israel Defense Forces tweeted earlier Thursday.

“In response, we just struck Hamas targets in Gaza, including a military compound, underground infrastructure & observation posts.”

Abu Hasna, the media adviser of UNRWA in Gaza, told reporters: “It seems that the UNRWA Beach Primary School got some damage by an Israeli raid last night on western Gaza.”