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Argentina: Severe COVID-19 patients treated with CoviFab horse serum show 90% less ICU need

Authorities from the Argentine pharmaceutical firm Inmunova released data today showing a 90% reduction in the need for intensive care in patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms who were treated with the firm's CoviFab equine serum.

Inmunova reported that 90% of 1805 COVID-19 patients as of April 26th - including 80% who had pneumonia and required oxygen - no longer required intensive care after treatment with CoviFab.

Fewer than 10% of the treated patients required Mechanical Respiratory Assistance (MRA), and the mortality rate observed among them was 8.9%.

Findings published in The Lancet's EClinicalMedicine journal on April 12th, among 245 patients in clinical trials from August through October 2020, a 44.5% mortality decline in severe cases was seen compared to the placebo group - as well as an improvement in recovery times.

Since its approval for public use by Argentina's FDA counterpart, ANMAT, in January, CoviFab equine serum has been used for over 3,000 Argentine COVID-19 patients in 54 hospitals in 17 provinces - predominantly severe cases.

“The use of treatment has increased dramatically,” Dr. Fernando Goldbaum, founding partner and scientific director at Inmunova, noted.

“We register its administration to 100 new patients every day. Buenos Aires Province (the nation's largest) distributes them in a massive way through its public hospitals, and in Córdoba it is beginning to be used on a greater scale.”

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=es&tl=en&u=https://www.pagina12.com.ar/340700-el-exito-del-suero-equino-avanza-al-galope

Dr. Fernando Goldbaum, of the Argentine pharmaceutical firm Inmunova, studies a Petri dish with a fellow researcher in January.

Since Argentina's approval of Inmunova's CoviFab horse serum that month, over 3,000 mainly severe COVID-19 patients nationwide have received the treatment - with most showing substantial improvement.

The country is nevertheless struggling with 260,000 active cases - with around 20,000 new cases and 433 deaths daily.

Biden White House posts first tranche of White House visitor logs in break with Trump

Source: CNN

The White House on Friday released the first tranche of the complex's visitor logs after announcing it would resume releasing the records that the Trump administration withheld.

The first tranche names 400 visitors who visited the White House between noon on Inauguration Day and January 31, and includes seven individuals visiting the Oval Office. Among them are Office of the Director of National Intelligence Chief of Staff Charles Luftig and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's wife, Charlene.

Also listed among visitors to the White House are a number of as-then unconfirmed Cabinet secretaries, including now-Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

The White House said in a news release that the decision offered the public "a look into the visitors entering and exiting the White House campus for appointments, tours, and official business — making good on President Biden's commitment to restore integrity, transparency, and trust in government."

Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/07/politics/white-house-visitor-logs/index.html

President Joe Biden holds forth with visitors from the Congressional Asian Pacific-American Caucus in the Oval Office in April.

The logs will be the first published by the White House since before Donald Trump's 2017-21 tenure, "making good on President Biden's commitment to restore integrity, transparency, and trust in government."

Pope Francis backs Biden call to waive Covid vaccine patents

Pope Francis on Saturday came out in favor of a waiver on intellectual property rights for coronavirus vaccines, echoing comments made by the U.S. administration earlier this week.

World Trade Organization (WTO) leaders have recently urged member nations to come to an agreement on the potential vaccine patent waivers, hoping to remove obstacles to the ramping up of vaccine production in developing countries.

President Joe Biden's team endorsed the idea on Wednesday with Trade Representative Katherine Tai saying in a statement that it "supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines."

At: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/08/pope-francis-backs-biden-call-to-waive-covid-vaccine-patents.html

Then-Vice President Joe Biden and Pope Francis during the pope's 2015 visit to the U.S.

The Biden administration's Wednesday announcement of support for a global waiver on patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines - which might let manufacturers in poorer countries make their own - enjoys widespread support around the world.

The world's vaccination rate thus far, 13 per 100 people (excluding the U.S.), is about one sixth the U.S. total of 76 per 100 people.

Argentina: Right-wing congresswoman recorded soliciting kickbacks

Argentine politics were rocked today by audio appearing to show Congresswoman Estela Regidor - a prominent member of the opposition, right-wing "Together for Change" alliance - soliciting kickbacks in exchange for sub-rosa consulting contracts.

"Each of you will collect 40,000 pesos ($405), and I know you have families - well I have a family, and I can't save the way I used to. Other legislators don't help people out by hiring them under the table the way I do," Regidor is heard telling prospective hires at a café in a January 25th recording.

"Your pay stub will say '80,000 pesos' ($810)," she explained. "You keep 40, and the other 40 you'll deposit in my savings account."

Regidor, 51, is the ranking member on the House Senior Citizens Committee - but is perhaps best known for arguing, during a 2018 debate on legalizing abortion (which she opposed), that "when dogs get pregnant, we don't take them to the vet for an abortion."

She announced a leave of absence, though leaders of her "Together for Change" caucus have so far remained moot on forcing her to resign.

The "Change" caucus has in the past campaigned on rescinding parliamentary immunity - but Regidor would be the second member of her caucus to retain her seat despite a corruption conviction: Aída Ayala, 67, was convicted in 2018 for racketeering, and had said conviction upheld on appeals.

Ayala remains in Congress however.

The same caucus succeeded in 2017 in having then-Congressman Julio de Vido (of the rival, center-left Peronist caucus) expelled on embezzlement charges - some of which were later shown to be based on a fabrication.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=es&tl=en&u=https://www.pagina12.com.ar/340307-escandalo-denuncian-que-la-diputada-radical-estela-regidor-s

Argentine Congresswoman Estela Regidor arguing against abortion rights in 2018.

Audio released today shows her offering "consulting" contracts under the table - in exchange for half the proceeds.

Her right-wing "Together for Change" caucus has had numerous scandals over the past decade over consulting contracts - in which allies and personal associates collected varying sums (as much as $3 million) for "consulting" services which were either never rendered, or were worth far less.

Italians grapple with the convenience and cultural terror of a pizza vending machine

The Mr. Go Pizza machine is a marvel of modern engineering. After a customer selects one of its varieties, which range in price from €4.50 to €6, the good Signore Pizza kneads, seasons, tops, and cooks a fresh pizza in three minutes.

The whole process is visible through a little window. It’s great.

And yet, despite the miracle this technology represents, Reuters’ interviews with locals show that the development of an automatic pizza maker has prompted the kind of reactions that might be expected from someone suggesting a robot raise their baby.

One man says Mr. Go’s pizza “looks good but it is much smaller than in a restaurant and there [are] less topping[s].” Another customer says “it’s OK but it’s not pizza” while a woman named Gina “rejected the concept outright.”

“Terrible,” Gina said. “Pizza really needs to be eaten hot, immediately. This doesn’t work for me.”

At: https://news.avclub.com/italians-grapple-with-the-convenience-and-cultural-terr-1846844796

Ma che cazzo è questo?: Claudio Zampiga inspects the outcome at Rome's first automatic pizza vending machine - capable of kneading, seasoning and cooking a pizza in three minutes.

It remains to be seen how Italians will react to the device, in a country where customers are accustomed to watching a pizzaiolo prepare pizza in a wood-burning brick oven within sight of your table.

US should help Argentina find 'long-term solution' to IMF talks, says senior US congressman

The United States should do more to find a "long-term solution" for Argentina as it holds debt restructuring talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), according to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks.

Argentina - which received $45 billion in credit from a $57 billion IMF program signed in 2018 - is seeking to convert the 4-year Stand-By loan into an Extended Fund Facility (EFF) and to delay repayments for over four more years.

Meeks, 67, said that that the US should ensure that any agreement with the IMF will "not protract the economic challenges also facing the country" during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has cost over 66,000 lives in Argentina.

"While it is vital to maintain confidence," Meeks noted, "it is also paramount that we get all the interested parties together to find a solution and do it as quickly as we can."

Previously, Argentine President Alberto Fernández - who inherited the loan from Mauricio Macri - has said that the debt is "unpayable" under current conditions.

The country faces IMF payments of over $18 billion annually in 2022 and 2023, besides other foreign debt service of over $10 billion annually.

Two weeks ago, Martín Guzmán, Argentina's Economy Minister, said that Argentina is making "progress" in its talks with the IMF.

Guzmán's successful refinance of $66 billion in foreign debt last August (around a third of the total) trimmed the country's foreign debt service by 35% from its 2019 record of $17.4 billion.

At: https://www.lapoliticaonline.com.ar/nota/133848-us-should-help-argentina-find-long-term-solution-to-imf-talks-says-senior-us-congressman/

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks shares a Zoom meeting with Argentine House Speaker Sergio Massa, who thanked the new chairman for his support for Argentina's debt restructuring talks with the IMF.

The country owes $45 billion on a record credit line granted to former President Mauricio Macri in 2018 at the behest of then-President Donald Trump, a longtime Macri friend.

Rep. Liz Cheney: GOP is at a 'turning point'

Number 3 House Republican Liz Cheney called on members of her party to choose allegiance to the Constitution over the "cult of personality" of former President Donald Trump in a scathing editorial published online by the Washington Post on Wednesday.

"The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution," wrote the Wyoming Republican.

"In the immediate wake of the violence of Jan. 6, almost all of us knew the gravity and the cause of what had just happened — we had witnessed it firsthand."

Cheney was among only 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump in January, in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

She has since been harshly criticized by some Republicans, and is expected to lose her leadership position in the House Republican caucus soon.

At: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/05/05/liz-cheney-republican-party-turning-point/

Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY):

"Republicans need to stand for genuinely conservative principles, and steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality."

Biden backs waiving international patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines

President Joe Biden threw his support behind a World Trade Organization (WTO) proposal on Wednesday to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines.

This would clear a hurdle for other vaccine-strapped countries to manufacture their own vaccines even though the patents are privately held.

"This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures," United States trade representative Katherine Tai said in a statement.

"The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines."

The pace of vaccinating against the coronavirus in the U.S. is slowing down. In some places in the U.S., there are more vaccine doses than people who want them.

Meanwhile, India is now the epicenter of the pandemic with nearly half the world's 800,000 average new daily cases - and just 2% of its population is fully vaccinated.

At: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/05/05/993998745/biden-backs-waiving-international-patent-protections-for-covid-19-vaccines

Demonstrators held a rally on May 5th to "Free the Vaccine," calling on the U.S. to commit to a global coronavirus plan that includes sharing formulas with the world to help ensure that every nation has access to a vaccine, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The Biden administration today announced its support for a global waiver on patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines - which might let manufacturers in poorer countries make their own - and said it will negotiate the terms at the WTO.

The world's vaccination rate thus far, 13 per 100 people (excluding the U.S.), is about one sixth the U.S. total of 74 per 100 people.

Argentine Supreme Court rules in favor of Buenos Aires' refusal to suspend in-person classes

Argentina's Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Buenos Aires city government in its dispute with the national government, confirming that City Hall has the right to decide whether in-person classes at schools in the capital should continue.

Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta - whose right-wing JxC coalition staunchly opposes center-left President Alberto Fernández - challenged the in-person schooling suspension ordered by Fernández for the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area (AMBA) on April 9th.

The city lost in federal court on April 20th - a decision overturned by today's Supreme Court ruling.

Four of the five Supreme Court justices voted to limit the national government's say over educational matters; Elena Highton de Nolasco chose to abstain, on grounds that the issue was not a matter for the court.

The ruling was condemned the president, as well as by teachers' unions and the medical community.

After the 2021 Argentine school year began on March 1st (two weeks earlier for Buenos Aires), new COVID-19 cases jumped from around 7,000 daily in March, to nearly 30,000 by April 16th.

New cases have slowed to 15,920 on Monday, but daily deaths remained at 540 - over four times the March average (126). Occupancy in intensive care units reached 65% nationwide, and 82% in Buenos Aires.

Some 63% of those surveyed in a recent poll backed the president's abatement measures.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/argentina/supreme-court-rules-in-favour-of-city-hall-in-education-dispute.phtml

Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Argentine President Alberto Fernández during an April 29th press conference.

Today's Supreme Court ruling upholding the mayor's refusal to suspend in-person schooling was seen as a victory for Larreta's right-wing JxC coalition - still smarting from defeat at the polls in 2019.

But Fernández, as well as educators and the medical community, see it as a threat to public health.

“Suspending in-person schooling is an indispensable measure, and every country that's been in this situation has suspended classes,” Dr. Arnaldo Dubín, head of Intensive Care at Buenos Aires' Otamendi Hospital, noted.

“What we have here is a political use of the health crisis, which we've seen from the beginning - with the lockdown, with the vaccine, and now in this novel way.”

Argentina: Fernandez extends curfew, school closures as Covid-19 cases rise

Argentine President Alberto Fernández on Friday announced a three-week extension of restrictions to tackle the Covid-19 second wave, warning the nation that the “next few weeks may be very hard.”

Fernández confirmed that the existing 8pm-6am nighttime curfew in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA) - home to one in three Argentines - and other at-risk regions would remain in place.

The most controversial has been the cancellation of in-person classes at Buenos Aires metro-area schools.

Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta - whose right-wing JxC coalition staunchly opposes Fernández - has challenged the in-person schooling suspension. The city lost in federal court on April 20th and the case has gone to the Supreme Court.

Over 5,300 patients with Covid-19 are hospitalized in intensive care units across the country, with bed occupancy today at 69.1% nationwide and 77.9% in the AMBA region.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/argentina/fernandez-extends-curfew-school-closures-as-covid-19-cases-rise.phtml

Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta visits a classroom on the first day of the current school year, February 17th.

Since then, new Covid-19 cases have jumped from around 6,000 to 22,420 today - with average daily deaths this week tripling to 384.

President Fernández's order suspending in-person schooling in the metro area has been challenged in court by the mayor.
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