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EU secures 40mn doses of bird flu vaccine as cases rise

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EU secures 40mn doses of bird flu vaccine as cases rise

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The European Commission has signed a deal for more than 40mn doses of a vaccine against bird flu for 15 countries across the continent, as member states grapple with a rise in cases of the respiratory virus.

The EU’s executive arm announced the contract on Tuesday, procuring up to 665,000 vaccine doses — which can be adapted to any bird flu strain — from Australia-based manufacturer CSL Seqirus. The deal includes a provision for a further 40mn vaccines over the next four years.

The deal comes as governments monitor an increase in bird flu cases in animals after 10 US states reported outbreaks in cattle in recent months, with three cases in humans following exposure to dairy cows.

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Last week, the World Health Organization reported that a farmworker in Mexico had died after contracting the H5N2 variant, a strain that had previously not been detected in humans but has been reported in Mexican poultry. There have been no recorded cases of human-to-human transmission of the virus.

The outbreaks have increased concerns over the safety of dairy and meat products. Strains of the virus have been detected in US milk, although pasteurisation kills the pathogen. The tissue of one dairy cow was also reported to be infected but meat from the animal did not enter food supply chains, the US agriculture department said last month.

Stella Kyriakides, European commissioner for health and food safety, said: “While the threat of avian influenza to the general population remains low, we need to protect people at higher risk, such as poultry and farm workers or certain veterinarians.”

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Monitoring by the EU reference laboratory for avian influenza shows there have been 522 outbreaks of bird flu detected in wild and captive birds in 27 countries since the start of the year.

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According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the risk of transmission from animals to humans is considered low in Europe. A commission spokesperson said on Tuesday there were “no reported active cases” in EU citizens.

The doses will go to people most exposed to the virus, including farm workers and veterinarians, with the first shipment heading to Finland. Outbreaks of bird flu in the Nordic country’s mink farms last year raised concerns of transmission to humans.

“This agreement will help in Europe’s resolve to maintain robust preparedness and rapid response capabilities for this potential threat,” said Raja Rajaram, head of global medical strategy at CSL Seqirus.

The jabs are being made in CSL Seqirus factories in the Netherlands and England using egg-based manufacturing, a traditional method for developing vaccines.

The US has a stockpile of flu vaccines from GSK, Sanofi and CSL Seqirus that can provide immunity against bird flu. It is considering funding a late-stage trial of Moderna’s mRNA-based avian flu vaccine, which could be scaled up more quickly.

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UK drugmaker GSK and German biotech CureVac are also jointly developing an mRNA-based avian flu vaccine in early trials.

The European Commission did not immediately respond when asked if it was pursuing a similar deal.

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Pro-Palestinian protesters barricade building housing president's office at Cal State LA

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Pro-Palestinian protesters barricade building housing president's office at Cal State LA

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Pro-Palestinian protesters have barricaded a building at Cal State Los Angeles, where the president of the campus is apparently stuck sheltering in place in her office, Eyewitness News has learned.

Protesters had already set up encampments on another section of campus more than a month ago. But on Wednesday a group broke off and started piling up furniture, overturned golf carts and tables to create barriers in front of the Student Services Building and surrounding plaza.

They also removed copy machines and furniture from inside the building to continue reinforcing the barricade late into the evening.

The office of Campus President Berenecea Johnson Eanes, who was appointed last year and started this January, is on the eighth floor of the building.

The college was asking employees in the Student Services Building to shelter in place, while employees elsewhere on campus were instructed to leave.

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Pro-Palestinian encampment at CSULA linked to vandalism, anti-semitic graffiti

CSULA students not involved in the protest say their classmates have the right to express themselves but the encampment is blocking campus access and linked to vandalism and graffiti.

By late afternoon much of the campus beyond the SSB appeared empty as AIR7 HD flew overhead. A campus spokesperson confirmed that less than a dozen school employees were still in the SSB as of Wednesday evening but would not confirm if Eanes was still among them.

“I can confirm that there are still a small number of administrators in the building,” campus spokesperson Erik Hollins said. “We are working through options to bring this fluid situation to the best resolution possible.”

A group of protesters, many of them covering their faces, were stationed in front of the building’s entrance. There was pro-Palestinian graffiti covering many windows on the ground floor and some on upper floors that was apparently painted from the inside.

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There did not appear to be many campus police, or any officers from outside agencies, in the area. LAPD told Eyewitness News they have not been asked to get involved.

The school referred to the group as “unauthorized protest activity.”

Some protesters were bringing in food, supplies – even diapers – to the building, signs they were prepared to stay for some time.

Copyright © 2024 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved.

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US House holds attorney-general Merrick Garland in contempt over Biden audio recordings

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US House holds attorney-general Merrick Garland in contempt over Biden audio recordings

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The Republican-led US House of Representatives has voted to hold the country’s highest law-enforcement official in contempt of Congress for defying an order to hand over audio recordings of Joe Biden’s interviews with special counsel Robert Hur.

The House on Wednesday voted 216-207, along party lines, in favour of censuring attorney-general Merrick Garland, as allies of former president Donald Trump escalated their attacks on the Department of Justice.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, said it was “up to Congress” to decide “what materials it needs to conduct its own investigations, and there are consequences for refusing to comply with lawful Congressional subpoenas”.

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He added: “This is a simple matter — we have the transcript, and we need the audio.”

Garland appointed Hur in January 2023 to investigate the president’s handling of classified information. The special counsel did not charge Biden but ignited a political firestorm in February when Hur’s report cast the president as an “elderly man” whose “memory was significantly limited” during interviews with investigators.

Last month, Biden blocked the release of audio recordings of his interviews with Hur, with the White House noting the DoJ had already released transcripts of those conversations.

Wednesday’s measure against Garland came just a day after Biden’s DoJ secured the conviction of the president’s son, Hunter, on federal firearm charges.

Republicans have repeatedly claimed, however, that the department has become part of Democratic efforts to prosecute Trump, who faces federal charges relating to his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and to his mishandling of classified documents.

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In a letter seen by the Financial Times, Carlos Uriarte, head of the DoJ’s legislative affairs unit, told House Republicans last month that the department had “a responsibility to safeguard the confidentiality of law enforcement files where disclosure would jeopardise future investigations”.

Garland pushed back against Wednesday’s House vote, saying in a statement that it was “deeply disappointing” that the chamber “has turned a serious congressional authority into a partisan weapon”. 

“Today’s vote disregards the constitutional separation of powers, the justice department’s need to protect its investigations, and the substantial amount of information we have provided to the committees,” Garland added.

The House’s censure means Garland could face prosecution, but only if the DoJ decides to begin a legal process against him. It brings to a culmination a fraught battle between the DoJ and Republican lawmakers, who have also sought to probe alleged business connections between Biden and his son Hunter.

Garland has appointed a trio of special counsels in a bid to quash accusations of bias, Hur, prosecutor Jack Smith, who has obtained two federal indictments against Trump, and David Weiss, who brought the gun charges against Hunter Biden.

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After Hunter Biden was convicted on criminal gun charges on Tuesday, Weiss thanked Garland for ensuring his office had the “independence to appropriately pursue our investigations and prosecutions”.

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Hur’s report into the president’s handling of classified documents sent shockwaves through Washington and revived questions about the 81-year-old’s age and fitness for office.

While Trump is only a few years younger — he will turn 78 later this week — Biden’s age is seen as one of the president’s biggest liabilities on the campaign trail.

In an op-ed published in The Washington Post on Tuesday, Garland said there had been an escalation of “baseless, personal and dangerous” attacks on the DoJ in recent weeks. “Using conspiracy theories, falsehoods, violence and threats of violence to affect political outcomes is not normal,” he warned.

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“The short-term political benefits of those tactics will never make up for the long-term cost to our country,” he said. “This must stop.”

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ACLU sues Biden administration over new executive action on the southern border

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ACLU sues Biden administration over new executive action on the southern border

President Biden delivers remarks on June 4 on executive actions to limit asylum.

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Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images/Getty Images North America

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday challenging the Biden administration’s new executive actions that block migrants from seeking asylum at the southern U.S. border when crossings surge.

Lee Gelernt, the lead attorney for the ACLU, told NPR that President Biden’s new measures are nearly identical “from a legal standpoint” to ones that former President Donald Trump used to try to ban migrants from seeking asylum between ports of entry.

But Gelernt said Congress has been “crystal clear” that asylum seekers can request relief “whether or not you enter at a port.”

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“We are challenging President Biden’s executive action because it’s flatly illegal and inconsistent with the asylum laws that Congress passed decades ago,” Gelernt said in an interview.

“President Trump enacted a nearly identical asylum ban, and we successfully challenged that. We have no choice but to challenge this one as well.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Texas advocacy groups: Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

The lawsuit doesn’t seek an emergency injunction for the new rules

The Biden administration announced the rules last week. Specifically, they bar migrants from seeking asylum when they cross into the country between ports of entry when border encounters rise above 2,500 per day.

The restrictions can be lifted two weeks after daily numbers dip below 1,500 people.

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Migrants walk on the U.S. side of the border wall in Jacumba Hot Springs, Calif., on June 5, after crossing from Mexico.

Migrants walk on the U.S. side of the border wall in Jacumba Hot Springs, Calif., on June 5, after crossing from Mexico.

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The lawsuit alleges the Biden rule violates legal procedures for agency rulemaking and adjudications because it did not justify “radical departures” from prior practices and because the public didn’t have the chance to comment before the rule took effect.

However, the lawsuit did not seek an emergency injunction to block the administration from applying the new rule. Gelernt said that is an option for the future once advocates find specific migrants who have been harmed by the measure.

Biden is under pressure over the border

The border has become an increasingly difficult issue for Biden, given the record number of migrants coming across the border – and because polls show most Americans don’t approve of the way he has handled the challenge.

When he announced the new measures last week, Biden said he was forced to take unilateral action after Republicans rejected a bipartisan compromise on legislation. Trump had opposed the compromise..

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The lawsuit was not unexpected. The ACLU announced its plans to sue as soon as Biden announced his measures. The Biden administration has said it is prepared to defend the new rules.

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