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FINALLY – Theresa May 'DITCHES' EU customs plan that would tie UK to Brussels indefinitely

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Biden announces new science team, elevates office to Cabinet

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WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden announced new members of his science team on Saturday as well as his plan to elevate the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to a Cabinet-level position for the first time, a move meant to highlight his commitment to science.

“We’re going to lead with science and truth,” Biden said at a speech introducing his new appointees in Delaware on Saturday. “We believe in both.”

Biden nominated Eric Lander to the position. Lander, who will require Senate confirmation, is a mathematician and geneticist who helped map the human genome and founded the Broad Institute, a biomedical research center known for their work on the gene-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9.

Lander is also a biology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School and previously served on President Barack Obama’s council of science advisers.

The decision to elevate Lander to Cabinet-level is a sharp break from President Donald Trump who spent much of his term downplaying and second-guessing health and science experts. The position Lander will fill sat vacant for nearly two years under Trump.

Biden also announced Saturday that Dr. Alondra Nelson will serve as deputy director for science and society of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and Maria Zuber and Frances Arnold will serve as co-chairs of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Dr. Francis Collins will stay on as Director of the National Institutes of Health.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, whose mother was a scientist, said that she grew up with a fundamental belief in collecting data and making decisions “based on evidence.”

“The science behind climate change is not a hoax. The science behind the virus is not partisan. The same laws apply, the same evidence holds true regardless of whether or not you accept them,” Harris said.

Biden said his science team will focus on five key areas: the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, the climate crisis, industry technology advancements and the long-term health of science and tech in the country.

Biden, who lost a son to cancer, said that ending the disease will also be a top priority for his administration and it would be a signature issue for incoming first lady Dr. Jill Biden.

“When I announced that I would not run for president in 2015, I said that I had only one regret  —  that I wouldn’t be the president who presided over the end of cancer as we know it,” Biden said. “As president, I will do everything we can to get it done.”

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Federal prisons on lockdown in run-up to Biden inauguration

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NEW YORK — All federal prisons in the United States have been placed on lockdown, with officials aiming to quell any potential violence that could arise behind bars as law enforcement prepares for potentially violent protests across the country in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

The lockdown at more than 120 federal Bureau of Prisons facilities took effect at 12 a.m. Saturday, according to an email to employees from the president of the union representing federal correctional officers.

“In light of current events occurring around the country, and out of an abundance of caution, the decision has been made to secure all institutions,” the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement.

The lockdown decision is precautionary, no specific information led to it and it is not in response to any significant events occurring inside facilities, the bureau said.

To avoid backlash from inmates, the lockdown was not announced until after they were locked in their cells Friday evening.

Shane Fausey, the president of the Council of Prison Locals, wrote in his email to staff that inmates should still be given access in small groups to showers, phones and email and can still be involved in preparing food and performing basic maintenance.

Prison officials patrol around the United States Penitentiary at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Ind., on. Jan. 15, 2021.Bryan Woolston / Reuters

Messages seeking comment were left with Fausey on Saturday.

The agency last put in place a nationwide lockdown in April to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

During a lockdown, inmates are kept in their cells most of the day and visiting is canceled. Because of coronavirus, social visits only resumed in October, but many facilities have canceled them again as infections spiked.

One reason for the new nationwide lockdown is that the bureau is moving some of its Special Operations Response Teams from prison facilities to Washington, D.C., to bolster security after President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Authorities are concerned there could be more violence, not only in the nation’s capital, but also at state capitals, before Trump leaves office Jan. 20.

A Bureau of Prisons spokesman said the agency was coordinating with officials at the Justice Department to be ready to deploy as needed. Earlier this month, about 100 officers were sent to the Justice Department’s headquarters to supplement security staff and were deputized by the U.S. Marshals Service and given special legal powers to “enforce federal criminal statutes and protect federal property and personnel,” said the spokesman, Justin Long.

The specialized units typically respond to disturbances and other emergencies at prisons, such as riots, assaults, escapes and escape attempts, and hostage situations. Their absence can leave gaps in a prison’s emergency response and put remaining staff at risk.

“The things that happen outside the walls could affect those working behind the walls,” Aaron McGlothin, a local union president at a federal prison in California.

As the pandemic continues to menace federal inmates and staff, a federal lockup in Mendota, California, is also dealing with a possible case of tuberculosis.

According to an email to staff Friday, an inmate at the medium-security facility has been placed in a negative pressure room after returning a positive skin test and an X-ray that indicated an active case of tuberculosis.

The inmate was not showing symptoms of the lung disease and is undergoing further testing to confirm a diagnosis, the email said.

As a precaution, all other inmates on the affected inmate’s unit were placed on quarantine status and given skin tests for tuberculosis.

The bacterial disease is spread similarly to Covid-19, through droplets that an infected person expels by coughing, sneezing or through other activities such as singing and talking.

Mendota also has 10 current inmate cases and six current staff cases of Covid-19.

As of Wednesday, the last day for which data was available, there were 4,718 federal inmates and 2,049 Bureau of Prisons staff members with current positive tests for Covid-19.

Since the first case was reported in March, 38,535 inmates and 3,553 staff have recovered from the virus. So far, 190 federal inmates and 3 staff members have died.

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Victory for Germany's ‘mini-Merkel’ will push more countries to quit EU, warns ex-MEP

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ANGELA Merkel’s probable replacement as Germany’s leader – sometimes referred to as ‘mini-Merkel’ in recognition of his close ties with the departing Chancellor – is likely to pursue policies which will drive more of the EU27 to consider following the UK out of the bloc, a former MEP has said.

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