Court Filing Shows 11-3 Big Ten Vote to Postpone Football Season

A court filing disclosed Monday shows Big Ten Conference presidents voted 11-3 to postpone the football season, bringing some clarity to a key question raised in a lawsuit brought by a group of Nebraska football players. The vote breakdown was revealed in the Big Ten’s response to the lawsuit.  The court documents did not identify how each school voted, but a person familiar with the outcome told The Associated Press that Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State voted against postponing the fall football season. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Big Ten was not planning on making the specifics of its vote public. The Big Ten announced Aug. 11 it would move its football season from fall to spring semester because of health risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic. The Pac-12 followed suit, joining the Mid-American Conference and the Mountain West.The eight football players are seeking the reinstatement of a fall season.  FILE – Ohio State wide receiver K.J. Hill (14) holds the trophy following the team’s 34-21 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game, Dec. 8, 2019, in Indianapolis.”The Big Ten Conference continues to share the disappointment that student-athletes and families are feeling,” the conference said in a statement. “The Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force will continue to be transparent as it actively considers options to get back to competition when it is safe to play.” The lawsuit in Lancaster County District Court contends, among other things, that the players are losing a chance for development, exposure for a possible pro career and won’t be able to market themselves to eventually capitalize on name, image and likeness revenue opportunities. The Big Ten filing was a response in opposition to the players’ motion for expedited discovery. The filing said the 11-3 vote “far exceeded” the 60% threshold the Big Ten requires. The filing also said the Big Ten based its decision on multiple factors, including the medical advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee. Listed as plaintiffs are Brant and Brig Banks, Alante Brown, Noa Pola-Gates, Jackson Hannah, Garrett Nelson, Ethan Piper and Garrett Snodgrass. The players’ attorney, Mike Flood, declined immediate comment, saying he needed to read the filing. FILE – Nebraska Speaker of the Legislature Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk follows debate in the legislature, April 18, 2012.Flood, a former speaker of the Nebraska Legislature, owns five radio stations that broadcast Cornhuskers football games as part of the Husker Sports Network. The lawsuit says the Big Ten’s decision-making process was “flawed and ambiguous” and called into question whether the league’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors formally voted on the decision. The medical studies used to make the decision, the lawsuit says, were not relevant to the circumstances of college-age athletes and did not take into account school safety measures. “This decision did not occur in a vacuum,” the conference said in its filing. The decision not to play fall football has created a firestorm in Big Ten country, fanned by the fact the ACC, Big 12 and SEC are pushing ahead with plans to start their seasons in September. Commissioner Kevin Warren has faced sharp criticism for not clearly laying out how the decision was reached. He has sidestepped questions about the vote breakdown, and his explanations of the medical reasons were panned for not being detailed enough. A group of Nebraska player parents have been most vocal in demanding answers from the commissioner, and parents from other Big Ten schools joined them. The Big Ten said last week the lawsuit “has no merit and we will defend the decision to protect all student-athletes as we navigate through this global pandemic. We are actively considering options to get back to competition and look forward to doing so when it is safe to play.” Flood, in his role representing the Nebraska player parents, previously sent a letter to Warren asking for documents relating to any votes taken, how each school voted, meeting minutes and all audio and video recordings and transcripts of meetings where votes were cast. He also wanted copies of studies, scientific data and medical information or advice considered by the presidents. Flood had threatened a federal lawsuit if the materials weren’t delivered to him. The Big Ten did not respond to the letter.  

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US House to Subpoena Postmaster General Over Mail Delays

The House Oversight Committee intends to subpoena Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for documents about disruptions in mail delivery operations that are now central to questions over the ability to handle an onslaught of mail-in ballots expected for the November election. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the committee chair, sent a memo Monday saying DeJoy blew past last week’s deadline to fully respond to the committee’s request for more information. He has not provided any new materials, she said. “It is clear that a subpoena has become necessary to further the Committee’s investigation and help inform potential legislative actions,” she said. Democrats are aggressively pursuing oversight of postal operations after President Donald Trump railed against mail-in ballots. Trump suggested he wanted to starve the Postal Service of funds to make it more difficult to handle the surge expected in November.DeJoy, who was tapped to lead the agency in June, started quickly initiating changes at a time when the agency was already straining under the COVID-19 crisis. Reports of delays soon piled up.  FILE – Postmaster General Louis DeJoy removes his face mask as he arrives to testify before a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the Postal Service on Capitol Hill, August 24, 2020, in Washington.Communities across the nation complained about widespread disruptions in postal operations this summer as blue mailboxes and sorting equipment were removed and employees said changes in trucking operations and overtime hours left mail on the loading docks, undelivered.  The committee produced internal postal service data showing widespread summer service disruptions.  DeJoy, who testified before the panel earlier this month, reiterated in a letter last Friday that the changes he was initiating are now being suspended “until after the election is concluded.” The committee is seeking documents about the changes, including the removal of sorting equipment and changes to overtime rules, which could be impeding mail delivery. The panel also wants information about how DeJoy, who had no previous postal experience, was selected for the job, as well as any previously “undisclosed communication between Mr. DeJoy and the Trump campaign.” DeJoy in his Friday letter to the panel said the postal leadership team has expanded an Election Mail task force to work with local election officials in support of the November election to ensure ballots are delivered “securely and on time.”  DeJoy also said his staff was working with the committee to provide the materials being requested. FILE – Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 5, 2020.Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., chairman of the panel’s Government Operations Subcommittee, said, “Mr. DeJoy’s testimony before our committee has left us with more questions than answers. “Congress must assert itself,” Connolly said. “The public demands it. Today’s action is a necessary step in our efforts to hold the Trump administration accountable for its deliberate sabotage of the Postal Service, and to restore confidence in this revered American institution.” But the top Republican on the Oversight panel, Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, called the decision to subpoena DeJoy part of a pattern by Democrats “to promote a baseless conspiracy theory about the Postal Service.”  Comer called the subpoena “overly broad” and said Democrats should work with the Postal Service and Republicans “to address their concerns.” 

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US EPA Rolls Back Limits on Wastewater from Coal Plants

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday rolled back Obama administration rules limiting levels of toxic materials in wastewater released from coal plants, its latest effort to slash environmental regulations for the coal industry as the Trump administration’s first term winds down. The EPA finalized “effluent limitations” for two types of waste from coal plants, a savings of $140 million annually for industry. “Newer, more affordable pollution control technologies and flexibility on the regulation’s phase-in will reduce pollution and save jobs at the same time,” agency administrator Andrew Wheeler said. A senior EPA official said the final rule would reduce pollution by nearly a million pounds per year over the 2015 rule, though environmental groups said the rollback lets industry use cheaper, less effective treatment methods on polluted wastewater that puts waterways at risk. The changes apply to flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater and bottom ash transport waste. The rollback eases requirements for how they are treated before being released, offers a “flexible, phase-in approach” for implementation and pushes back compliance dates. “The Trump administration’s rollback will be responsible for hundreds of thousands of pounds of pollutants contaminating sources of drinking water, lakes, rivers and streams every year,” said Thomas Cmar, deputy managing attorney of Earthjustice, who said the group will sue the EPA over the rollback. The EPA proposed the rollback in November after initially delaying implementation of the 2015 Obama proposal, which sought to force coal-fired power plants to shut down unlined coal ash pits in 2019 and recycle 100% of their system’s water. The 2019 proposal gave coal plants more time to either retrofit or shut down unlined ash pits or ponds where plants store coal ash waste, which contain carcinogens like arsenic and neurotoxins that can seep from these into nearby waterways. The National Mining Association welcomed the final rule. “The coal industry wants to be able to compete while also safeguarding important environmental protections – this rule shows that balance is possible,” said its president, Rich Nolan.  

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Trump, Biden Spar over US Protest Violence

Nine weeks from the national U.S. election, President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, sparred Monday over blame for street violence linked to racial injustice and police treatment of minorities that erupted in recent days. Trump tweeted Monday that he plans Tuesday to visit Kenosha, Wisconsin, where protests turned violent last week in the aftermath of a police shooting of a Black man as they attempted to arrest him. A white teenage vigilante claiming to protect businesses in Kenosha was accused of fatally shooting two people and wounding a third during a street demonstration. Referring to Biden, Trump said the Wisconsin violence, and unrest in Portland, Oregon, in the U.S. northwest, forced “Slow Joe” out of his basement at his home in Delaware, where he has campaigned for the November 3 election to avoid crowds during the unabated coronavirus pandemic.  Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at campaign event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August 31, 2020.In a speech Monday in Pittsburgh, Biden blamed Trump for the violence that has erupted across the country as the United States deals with widespread and sometimes violent protests and counter-protests over police treatment of minorities and inequality in U.S. society. “This president long ago forfeited any moral leadership in this country,” Biden said. “He can’t stop the violence, because for years, he has fomented it.” “Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is re-elected?” Biden asked. Oregon Governor Urges End to ‘Cycle of Violence’ in PortlandPresident, Portland Mayor trade criticisms after clashes between Trump supporters and protestersWisconsin Governor Tony Evers urged Trump to skip his visit to the Midwestern city along the shores of Lake Michigan.  “I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing. I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together,” Evers said. Evers first ordered National Guard troops into Kenosha to quell the street violence after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back, leaving him partially paralyzed. Evers accepted more federal law enforcement assistance. But Trump took credit on Twitter. “If I didn’t INSIST on having the National Guard activate and go into Kenosha, Wisconsin, there would be no Kenosha right now. Also, there would have been great death and injury. I want to thank Law Enforcement and the National Guard. I will see you on Tuesday!” If I didn’t INSIST on having the National Guard activate and go into Kenosha, Wisconsin, there would be no Kenosha right now. Also, there would have been great death and injury. I want to thank Law Enforcement and the National Guard. I will see you on Tuesday!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) FILE – Mayor Ted Wheeler speaks to people gathered in downtown Portland, Oregon, July 22, 2020.Trump attacked Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democratic critic of the president, for the three months of sporadic violence in the city. “Portland is a mess, and it has been for many years,” Trump tweeted. “If this joke of a mayor doesn’t clean it up, we will go in and do it for them!” Portland is a mess, and it has been for many years. If this joke of a mayor doesn’t clean it up, we will go in and do it for them!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 31, 2020Trump also claimed, “The Radical Left Mayors & Governors of Cities where this crazy violence is taking place have lost control of their ‘Movement.’ It wasn’t supposed to be like this, but the Anarchists & Agitators got carried away and don’t listen anymore – even forced Slow Joe out of basement!” The Radical Left Mayors & Governors of Cities where this crazy violence is taking place have lost control of their “Movement”. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, but the Anarchists & Agitators got carried away and don’t listen anymore – even forced Slow Joe out of basement!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) FILE – Oregon Governor Kate Brown speaks at a news conference in Portland, Oregon, March 16, 2020.Oregon Governor Kate Brown said in a statement late Sunday that everyone, including elected officials, law enforcement and community leaders, needs to come together to stop the cycle of violence in Portland, and that “real change will come from the hard work to achieve racial justice.” Brown announced the Oregon State Police will be sending officers to Portland to free up local investigators to “arrest and charge those engaging in violent acts,” and will hold a public forum with Wheeler, the Portland mayor, protest organizers and community leaders. She also criticized the actions of “armed right-wing vigilantes” who have confronted protesters in various U.S. cities. “The right-wing group Patriot Prayer and self-proclaimed militia members drove into downtown Portland (Saturday) night, armed and looking for a fight,” Brown said. “Every Oregonian has the right to freely express their views without fear of deadly violence. I will not allow Patriot Prayer and armed white supremacists to bring more bloodshed to our streets.”  

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US Court Denies Ex-Trump Adviser Flynn’s Bid to Halt Criminal Case 

A U.S. appeals court on Monday denied a bid by Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, to immediately end the criminal case against him for lying to the FBI about his talks with a Russian official before Trump took office in 2017. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, rehearing an earlier decision by three of its judges, declined to issue an emergency order directing the judge hearing the case to grant the Department of Justice’s request for dismissal. The ruling allows U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to hear arguments on whether he must grant the Justice Department’s request to drop the case. The judge has said he is “not a rubber stamp” and wants to carefully scrutinize the Justice Department’s request before deciding whether to grant it. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, pleaded guilty two times to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s then-ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, concerning U.S. sanctions imposed on Moscow under President Barack Obama. Flynn was charged under former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that detailed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election to boost Trump’s candidacy. While awaiting sentencing by Sullivan, Flynn sought to withdraw his plea, switching lawyers to pursue a scorched-earth approach that accused the FBI of setting him up. Trump has said Flynn was treated unfairly in the case.   

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Scientists See Downsides to Top COVID-19 Vaccines from Russia, China 

High-profile COVID-19 vaccines developed in Russia and China share a potential shortcoming: They are based on a common cold virus that many people have been exposed to, potentially limiting their effectiveness, some experts say. CanSino Biologics’ vaccine, approved for military use in China, is a modified form of adenovirus type 5, or Ad5. The company is in talks to get emergency approval in several countries before completing large-scale trials, the Wall Street Journal reported last week. A vaccine developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, approved in Russia earlier this month despite limited testing, is based on Ad5 and a second less common adenovirus. A scientist works inside a laboratory of the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology during the testing of a coronavirus vaccine, in Moscow, Russia, Aug. 6, 2020. (Russian Direct Investment Fund/Handout via Reuters)”The Ad5 concerns me just because a lot of people have immunity,” said Anna Durbin, a vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins University. “I’m not sure what their strategy is … maybe it won’t have 70% efficacy. It might have 40% efficacy, and that’s better than nothing, until something else comes along.” Vaccines are seen as essential to ending the pandemic that has claimed over 845,000 lives worldwide. Gamaleya has said its two-virus approach will address Ad5 immunity issues. Both developers have years of experience and approved Ebola vaccines based on Ad5. Neither CanSino nor Gamaleya responded to requests for comment. Researchers have experimented with Ad5-based vaccines against a variety of infections for decades, but none are widely used. They employ harmless viruses as “vectors” to ferry genes from the target virus — in this case the novel coronavirus — into human cells, prompting an immune response to fight the actual virus. But many people already have antibodies against Ad5, which could cause the immune system to attack the vector instead of responding to the coronavirus, making these vaccines less effective. FILE – Screen grab taken from video issued by Britain’s Oxford University, showing a person being injected as part of the first human trials in the UK to test a potential coronavirus vaccine, untaken by Oxford University in England, Apr. 23, 2020.Several researchers have chosen alternative adenoviruses or delivery mechanisms. Oxford University and AstraZeneca based their COVID-19 vaccine on a chimpanzee adenovirus, avoiding the Ad5 issue. Johnson & Johnson’s candidate uses Ad26, a comparatively rare strain. Dr. Zhou Xing, from Canada’s McMaster University, worked with CanSino on its first Ad5-based vaccine, for tuberculosis, in 2011. His team is developing an inhaled Ad5 COVID-19 vaccine, theorizing it could circumvent pre-existing immunity issues. “The Oxford vaccine candidate has quite an advantage” over the injected CanSino vaccine, he said. Xing also worries that high doses of the Ad5 vector in the CanSino vaccine could induce fever, fueling vaccine skepticism. “I think they will get good immunity in people that don’t have antibodies to the vaccine, but a lot of people do,” said Dr. Hildegund Ertl, director of the Wistar Institute Vaccine Center in Philadelphia. In China and the United States, about 40% of people have high levels of antibodies from prior Ad5 exposure. In Africa, it could be has high as 80%, experts said. HIV risk  Some scientists also worry an Ad5-based vaccine could increase chances of contracting HIV. In a 2004 trial of a Merck & Co Ad5-based HIV vaccine, people with pre-existing immunity became more, not less, susceptible to the virus that causes AIDS. FILE – Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies before a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 30, 2020.Researchers, including top U.S. infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, in a 2015 paper, said the side effect was likely unique to HIV vaccines. But they cautioned that HIV incidence should be monitored during and after trials of all Ad5-based vaccines in at-risk populations. 
“I would be worried about the use of those vaccines in any country or any population that was at risk of HIV, and I put our country as one of them,” said Dr. Larry Corey, co-leader of the U.S. Coronavirus Vaccine Prevention Network, who was a lead researcher on the Merck trial. Gamaleya’s vaccine will be administered in two doses: The first based on Ad26, similar to J&J’s candidate, and the second on Ad5. Alexander Gintsburg, Gamaleya’s director, has said the two-vector approach addresses the immunity issue. Ertl said it might work well enough in individuals who have been exposed to one of the two adenoviruses. Many experts expressed skepticism about the Russian vaccine after the government declared its intention to give it to high-risk groups in October without data from large pivotal trials. “Demonstrating safety and efficacy of a vaccine is very important,” said Dr. Dan Barouch, a Harvard vaccine researcher who helped design J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine. Often, he noted, large-scale trials “do not give the result that is expected or required.”  

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