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To Fight The U.S. Opioid Epidemic, Bloomberg Donates $50Mn

Bloomberg, who has been an independent, a Republican and a Democrat, declared lifetime allegiance to the Democratic Party.

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Opioid Epidemic
Former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg speaks to the media in Jackson, Miss., Nov. 29, 2018. Bloomberg’s philanthropy has announced a $50 million donation to help fight the nation’s opioid epidemic. VOA
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Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s charity has announced a $50 million donation to help fight the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Bloomberg Philanthropies said over the next three years it will help up to 10 states address the causes of opioid addiction and strengthen prevention and treatment programs. Its initiative involves a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Johns Hopkins University and Vital Strategies.

Bloomberg, who has been considering a 2020 Democratic presidential bid, was expected to discuss the funding Friday during his keynote address at The Bloomberg American Health Summit in Washington. A spokeswoman said there was “no stated link” between his political aspirations and the $50 million investment to fight opioids.

Bloomberg’s charity said CDC data shows there were more than 70,000 U.S. drug overdose deaths last year, including more than 47,000 from opioids, the highest numbers on record. It said those numbers are a leading factor in the decline of U.S. life expectancy over the past three years.

Bloomberg called the sobering numbers part of “a national crisis.”

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Cataldo Ambulance medics and other first responders revive a 32-year-old man who was found unresponsive and not breathing after an opioid overdose on a sidewalk in the Boston suburb of Everett, Massachusetts, Aug. 23, 2017. VOA

“For the first time since World War I, life expectancy in the U.S. has declined over the past three years — and opioids are a big reason why,” he said. “We cannot sit by and allow this alarming trend to continue — not when so many Americans are being killed in what should be the prime of their lives.”

He said in a statement he hoped his charity’s work in Pennsylvania, one of the states hardest hit by the opioids crisis, would lay the groundwork “for more effective action across the country.”

The partnership focuses on identifying new approaches to tackle opioids and plugging gaps in current treatment and prevention programs. Staff members from partner organizations will support state and local programs to reduce opioid-related deaths, and successful initiatives and guidelines will be replicated elsewhere, with the goal of creating a model for the rest of the nation.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said he was “deeply grateful” for the financial and technical resources his state will receive through the partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Melania Trump, epidemic
Melania Trump calls opioid epidemic ‘worst drug crisis’ in US.

“From our first responders and health care professionals to teachers and social service providers, heroes across our commonwealth are saving lives and protecting residents in our communities every day from this awful scourge,” Wolf, a Democrat, said in a statement issued by the Bloomberg charity. “We are doing everything we can to help them, and I am confident that this partnership will mark a turning point in our efforts.”

Also Read: Melania Trump Calls Opioid Epidemic The ‘Worst Drug Crisis’ in American Histroy

The Drug Enforcement Administration said this month in its National Drug Threat Assessment that heroin, fentanyl and other opioids continue to be the highest drug threat in the nation.

Bloomberg, who has been an independent, a Republican and a Democrat, declared lifetime allegiance to the Democratic Party and outlined an aggressive timeline for deciding whether to run for president in an interview with The Associated Press this month. He has regularly criticized President Donald Trump and spent a fortune to help elect Democrats in the midterm elections. (VOA)

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As Huawei CFO Gets Released On a Bail, Trump Suggests a Trade Deal With China

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang suggested Kovrig’s employer is not properly registered as a non-governmental organization in China.

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People are escorted out of the court registry by a B.C. sheriff after the B.C. Supreme Court bail hearing of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was released on a $10 million bail in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. VOA

A court in Canada has released tech giant Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on bail as she awaits possible extradition to the United States over bank fraud allegations linked to Iran sanctions.However, in a new twist to the case that has quickly mushroomed far beyond its initial scope, U.S. President Donald Trump has said that he might intervene.

“Whatever’s good for the country, I would do,” Trump told Reuters in an interview, shortly after the ruling. “If I think it’s good for what will certainly be the largest trade deal ever made, which is a very important thing. What’s good for national security, I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”

 

Huawei, China, Trump
Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.’s chief financial officer, is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters. VOA

The United States has 60 days from the day of Meng’s arrest to issue a formal extradition request and provide Canadian courts with evidence. Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was taken into custody on December 1 while transiting planes in Canada.

 

While her legal fate is worked out, Meng agreed to post $7.5 million in bail, hand over her passports and remain in British Columbia. She will also wear an ankle bracelet and be under 24-hour surveillance, barred from leaving a home she owns in Vancouver between 11 at night and six in the morning.

Huawei Technologies is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of mobile phones. The case against Meng is not only about violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran but deep suspicions about the company and its connections to Chinese authorities, allegations Huawei has both repeatedly denied.

 

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People walk past an advertisement for Huawei at a subway station in Hong Kong. VOA

 

Suspected intel links 

National security experts have raised concerns that data on Huawei devices could be made available to China’s intelligence services. The company is also a key global competitor in the ongoing race to roll out fifth generation or 5G mobile networks.

U.S. officials say Meng lied to banks about Huawei’s control of Hong Kong-based Skycom — a company that allegedly sold U.S. goods to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

If convicted in the United States, she could face up to 30 years in prison. Meng maintains she is innocent and some argue that U.S. authorities have a lot to prove in their case against Meng.

Zhao Zhanling, a researcher at the Intellectual Property Center of China University of Political Science and Law, argues that the United States cannot apply its local laws to a foreign company or one of its top executives.

And that is just one of many uncertainties in the case, Zhao said.

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U.S. President Donald Trump sits for an exclusive interview with Reuters journalists in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. VOA

“This is a case that is politically complicated, that has diplomatic elements and is linked to the U.S.-China trade war,” Zhao said. “And under those circumstances, whether the extradition is approved or whether the U.S. will press ahead with extradition remains to be seen.”

Trump intervention 

Zhao believes there’s a good chance that Washington will give up the extradition request in exchange for a better trade deal with China.

At a regular briefing Wednesday, China Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Meng’s arrest was a mistake from the “start,” but welcomed Trump’s remarks.

“Any person, especially if it is a leader of the United States or a high-level figure who is willing to make positive efforts to push this situation in the right direction, then that of course, deserves to be well received,” Lu said.

Julian Ku, a professor of law at Hofstra University in New York, said that while President Trump can instruct the attorney general to withdraw an extradition request, “it doesn’t sound like he has been fully briefed on the charges against Meng and its legal basis.”

That or the “complexities of making these comments during an extradition proceeding,” he adds.

Huawei, China, Canada, Trump
The exterior of the Alouette Correctional Center for Women, where Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was being held on an extradition warrant, is seen in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada

For now, Ku said it is his impression that Trump does not have any plans to act one way or the other, just that he didn’t want to rule anything out.

China has argued that the case against Meng is politically motivated and the president’s comments will go a long way to bolstering that view. Some analysts also worry that it sets a dangerous precedent, putting Americans at risk and undercutting rule of law.

Beijing retaliation likely 

China has already lashed out at both Canada and the United States over her arrest, warning Ottawa of severe consequences. There are already signs that both governments may be preparing to issue travel warnings to their citizens traveling to China.

And analysts have said retaliation from Beijing is likely.

Just prior to Meng’s final day in court, Canada confirmed Chinese authorities have detained Canadian Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat who is currently a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group.

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In this image made from a video taken on March 28, 2018, North East Asia senior adviser Michael Kovrig speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. VOA

The Canadian government voiced its “deep concern” but said it sees no explicit connection between Kovrig’s arrest and the Meng case.

Others disagree.

“We are doing everything possible to secure additional information on Michael’s whereabouts as well as his prompt and safe release,” the group said in an earlier statement.

Also Read: China Warns Canada Against Severe Consequences If Huawei CFO Isn’t Released

On Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang suggested Kovrig’s employer is not properly registered as a non-governmental organization in China.

“If they are not registered and their workers are in China undertaking activities, then that’s already outside of, and breaking, the law, revised just last year, on the management of overseas non-governmental organizations operating in China,” Lu said.

ICG could not be reached for further comment. (VOA)