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Melinda Gates slams Trump administration's "lack of leadership" on COVID-19 response

Melinda Gates told "Axios on HBO" that the Trump administration has neutered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and continued to bungle its coronavirus response, concluding that only a "lack of leadership" explains why far more people have died in the U.S. than in other developed countries.

Why it matters: The comments mark the sharpest rebuke yet from the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has emerged as the largest funder of the World Health Organization after the U.S. yanked funding earlier this year.


Gates said she had never seen a health issue anywhere in the world be as politicized as COVID-19 has been in the U.S.

  • "We've had — terrible leadership on this issue quite frankly. And science should never be politicized. Science is about getting at the truth."

The big picture: Back in May, Gates gave the administration a "D-" grade for its coronavirus response and said there has been "no improvement" in the intervening months.

  • "We shouldn't have 50 different responses in the United States," she said. "You should have a coordinated national plan. The CDC was set up originally to give sound medical guidance to health and county commissioners. The CDC has been neutered to not be able to do its job."

Gates also said it was a "tragedy" that the U.S. pulled funding from the WHO in the middle of the pandemic. While "not perfect," Gates said the WHO was set up to handle global pandemics.

  • "You just don't pull out of WHO in the middle of a crisis," she said.

The bottom line: Gates stopped short of endorsing a candidate in the upcoming presidential election. "We're always tempted," Gates said with a laugh. "But it's important for us as private citizens to, you know, keep our votes to ourselves and for our institution to be nonpartisan."

  • Asked if she expects the November election to be a free and fair one, Gates said she is hopeful. "I think we're all kind of holding our breath and watching," she said.
  • "It's all of our jobs to make sure that we say that's what we expect and that's what we want and can have as an American people. ... There may be some updating that needs to happen to our system when this is over for sure."

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Driving the news: Europe's chief executive Ursula von der Leyen revealed in her first-ever State of the Union speech that she will bring forth a European Magnitsky Act, a sanctions framework modeled after a U.S. law that restricts malign actors' access to travel and the global financial system.

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Adapted from the National Cancer Institute; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios 

There's some good news in 2020: Cancer death rates have been falling overall, and the gap between racial and ethnic groups has been narrowing.

Yes, but: Decades of systemic racism and the structures developed under it continue to limit the ability of Americans to benefit equally from cancer advances, some medical experts tell Axios, as seen by Black Americans who've had the highest death rate from cancer for 40 years. And the pandemic is expected to exacerbate the problem further.

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President Trump said he would sign an executive order on Thursday to "promote patriotic education" through an effort called the 1776 Commission, while denouncing a New York Times' project that investigated the impacts of racial injustice for Black Americans.

The big picture: The 1619 project dug into the personal histories of Black Americans in the U.S. who have faced present-day systematic inequality in housing and farming, as well as how the legacy of slavery altered health care access for Black Americans and fueled the country's early economy.

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Podcast: Amazon exec on the company's Climate Pledge Fund

Amazon on Thursday announced the first companies to receive money from a $2 billion venture capital fund it formed to help combat climate change.

Axios Re:Cap digs into how Amazon hopes the fund will help achieve its goal of being carbon neutral by 2040, and whether the plan is more substance than spin, with Matt Peterson, Amazon's director of new initiatives and corporate development.

Air quality in American West among the worst in the world

The air quality in Portland has become the worst in the world — with Seattle, Los Angeles and Denver also ranking up there with notoriously polluted places like Delhi and Shanghai.

Why it matters: Big-city residents often consider themselves smugly immune to the physical wreckage of calamities like wildfires, floods and hurricanes. The pernicious smoke now blanketing the splendid cities of our nation's Western spine is a reminder that no one is exempt from climate change.

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Why it matters: It confirms previous previous statements from various intelligence officials about Russia's interference activities, which continue with less than 50 days until the election.

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