Trump crows over bitter Supreme Court justice victory

US President Donald Trump is greeted by Florida Governor and Republican US Senate candidate Rick Scott as he arrives in Orlando, Florida, October 8, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 08 October 2018

Trump crows over bitter Supreme Court justice victory

  • Kavanaugh’s Saturday confirmation in one of the closest such Senate votes in history showcased Americans’ polarization ahead of November 6 congressional midterm elections
  • Boarding the Marine One helicopter at the White House, he branded the sexual assault allegations that threatened to derail Kavanaugh’s path to the top court a hoax and all made up

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump reveled Monday in arguably the biggest — and hardest fought — victory of his controversy-strewn presidency ahead of a ceremonial swearing-in for new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh’s Saturday confirmation in one of the closest such Senate votes in history showcased Americans’ polarization ahead of November 6 congressional midterm elections where Democrats hope to end Republican dominance.
But far from using the aftermath to try and heal the nation, Trump piled into even fiercer attacks.
Boarding the Marine One helicopter at the White House, he branded the sexual assault allegations that threatened to derail Kavanaugh’s path to the top court “a hoax” and “all made up, fabricated.”
Democrats, Trump said, “tortured him (Kavanaugh) and his family. I thought it was a disgrace.”
The president — whose Republicans fear losing at least the lower house of Congress in November — angrily predicted that the Kavanaugh row would backfire on Democrats.
“I think a lot of Democrats are going to vote Republican,” he said. “I think you’re going to see a lot of things happening on November 6 that wouldn’t have.”
Democrats fought tooth and nail to stop Kavanaugh’s candidacy, claiming that the accomplished, conservative-minded judge was not suited to the Supreme Court, which will now tilt decisively to a more Republican-friendly panel.
Then, just as his confirmation seemed inevitable, 11th hour allegations emerged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl while at high school and exposed himself to a female classmate at an alcohol-fueled dorm party at Yale University.
No evidence was produced to back up the searing accusations. Then an extra FBI probe — which media reports say was drastically curtailed by the White House — also found nothing new and Kavanaugh was finally voted in.
Late Monday, Trump will be able to rub salt into opponents’ wounds when he hosts a formal swearing-in ceremony.
Kavanaugh took the oath in a more hurried procedure Saturday, but the White House version will be a chance for the Trump administration to celebrate publicly.
Kavanaugh’s two-vote margin of victory in the Senate made it the closest Supreme Court confirmation vote since 1881 — and by far the most contentious since Clarence Thomas in 1991. Only one Democrat voted for Trump’s nominee.
Kavanaugh’s nomination as a replacement for retiring justice Anthony Kennedy was controversial from the start.
The initial focus of opposition was solely on the conservative views held by the married father of two. Then came bombshell testimony from university research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a party when they were in school.
Now that Kavanaugh is confirmed, the nine-justice court, which rules on constitutional questions, is expected to take a more reliably conservative approach.
Trump has repeatedly said that putting conservatives on the court — Kavanaugh is his second appointment — was among the top goals of his presidency. Since justices serve lifetime appointments, the political consequences are likely to last long beyond Trump’s administration.


Indonesia begins human trials of anti-virus vaccine

Updated 52 min 33 sec ago

Indonesia begins human trials of anti-virus vaccine

  • The third phase of the clinical trials of the vaccine — which is manufactured by China’s Sinovac Biotech in collaboration with its Indonesian pharma counterpart, Bio Farma — began on Tuesday
  • The third phase is a must before the vaccine, known as CoronaVac, goes into the production stage and is a prerequisite for all pharmaceutical products, including medicines and vaccines

JAKARTA: Indonesia is stepping up efforts to find a COVID-19 vaccine by launching human trials of a potentially effective drug amid criticism of its lacklustre handling of the pandemic and concerns about its plummeting economy.

The third phase of the clinical trials of the vaccine — which is manufactured by China’s Sinovac Biotech in collaboration with its Indonesian pharma counterpart, Bio Farma — began on Tuesday and is being conducted by the Padjadjaran University School of Medicine at six locations in Bandung, West Java province, where the university and the state-owned pharma company are based.

“The first day of the trial went well, with 20 volunteers in each of the six locations injected with the potential vaccine. We have no complaints so far, and we are preparing the second injection batch on Aug 14,” Iwan Setiawan, a spokesman for Bio Farma, told Arab News on Wednesday.

He added that the six-month trial would require the participation of 1,620 volunteers who were “in good health and had not tested positive” for the disease.

Ridwan Kamil, governor of West Java, Indonesia’s most populated province, is among the volunteers who have signed up for the trial.

The third phase is a must before the vaccine, known as CoronaVac, goes into the production stage and is a prerequisite for all pharmaceutical products, including medicines and vaccines.

“The potential vaccine had gone through three trials; the pre-clinical, the clinical trial first phase and the second phase in China,” Bio Farma CEO Honesti Basyir said in a statement.

According to Basyir, Sinovac is one of the few institutions that have progressed to the third phase of the clinical trial from among hundreds of research institutions around the world that are developing the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to Oxford Business Group’s COVID-10 Economic Impact Assessment, there are more than 150 different vaccines that international researchers are working on. However, only 26 have reached the human trial stage so far.

Once the trials are concluded, Bio Farma will register the vaccine with the Food and Drug Supervisory Agency so that it can begin mass-production of the drug.

“We have prepared a production facility for the COVID-19 vaccine with a maximum capacity of 100 million dosages, and by the end of December this year we will have an increased production capacity to produce an additional 150 million dosages,” Basyir said.

President Joko Widodo oversaw the first injections to the batch of volunteers in one of the six locations and also toured Bio Farma’s production facility. 

“We hope this clinical trial would conclude in six months and so we can start producing the vaccine in January and vaccinate our people soon,” Widodo said.

State-Owned Enterprise Minister Erick Thohir, who is also the head of the COVID-19 mitigation and national economic recovery committee, said that Bio Farma was a well-established vaccine producer whose products were halal-compliant and used in 150 countries, including in the Middle East.

The collaboration with Sinovac is one of three vaccine-development projects that Indonesia is engaging in with foreign parties as it grapples with a surge in infections. At the same time, social restrictions and economic activities were eased. The other two projects are with South Korea’s Genexine and Norway’s Coalition for Epidemic, Preparedness and Innovation.

As of Wednesday, Indonesia had reported 130,718 infections with 1,942 new cases, 85,798 recoveries and 5,903 deaths, although experts suggest that the numbers could be higher due to the country’s low testing capacity.

Cases also surged in the capital Jakarta with workplaces emerging as the new infection clusters after thousands of employees returned to work recently.