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Top Dems demand probe into ICE after nurse's allegations of mistreatment at detention center

Top House Democrats including Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) requested Tuesday an emergency investigation into allegations of mistreatment at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center.

Why it matters: The investigation comes after a nurse at the ICE Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia alleged in a whistleblower complaint filed Monday there had been "jarring medical neglect" and "red flags regarding the rate at which hysterectomies are performed on immigrant women" by a doctor at the facility.


What they're saying: "Unfortunately, this is not the first time that serious concerns have been raised about this facility," the Democrats said in a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General Joseph Cuffari.

  • "As you know, our Committee staff conducted a site visit at this facility in September 2019, during which they observed alarmingly urgent health and safety issues. In fact, Committee staff were so disturbed that they raised concerns directly with the ICDC warden during the visit."

The nurse stated the doctor has "even taken out the wrong ovary on a young lady."

  • “I’ve had several inmates tell me that they’ve been to see the doctor and they’ve had hysterectomies and they don’t know why they went or why they’re going.”
  • “These immigrant women, I don’t think they really, totally, all the way understand this is what’s going to happen depending on who explains it to them.”
  • “Ms. Wooten stated that the sick call nurse tries to communicate with the detained immigrants and speak Spanish to detained immigrants by simply googling Spanish or by asking another detained immigrant to help interpret rather than using the language line as medical staff are supposed to.”

Worth noting: ICE has previously been sued for failing to provide detainees with basic health care in August 2019.

  • The suit, filed against ICE and Trump administration officials in the U.S District Court for the Central District of California, alleged that the defendants are "fully aware of the deplorable conditions" inside the facilities, but they're "deliberately indifferent" to a series of systemic failures inside the centers.
  • ICE did not immediately return Axios' request for comment.

Read the letter, via DocumentCloud:

U.K. clears Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

The United Kingdom became on Wednesday the first Western country in the world to license the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use.

What they're saying: "Today’s emergency use authorisation in the UK marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19," said Albert Bourla, the chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer, per the Guardian.

  • "This authorisation is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the UK."

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Biden tells NYT he won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.

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Trump threatens to veto Defense spending bill over social media shield

President Trump tweeted Tuesday a threat to veto a must-pass end-of-year $740 billion bill defense-spending authorization bill unless Conress repeals a federal law that protects social media sites from legal liability.

Why it matters: Trump's attempt to get Congress to end the tech industry protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the latest escalation in his war on tech giants over what he and some other Republicans perceive as bias against conservatives.

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The walls close in on Trump

With Bill Barr's "Et tu, Brute!" interview with AP, President Trump is watching the walls close in on his claims of fraud, hoaxes and conspiracies.

Why it matters: Trump and his legal team continue to claim election fraud. But the Republican governors of Arizona and Georgia have certified their elections, a loyalist like Barr has weighed in, and lower-ranking officials have taken potshots.

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Congress plots COVID pandemic-era office upgrades

The House plans to renovate members' suites even though staff are worried about an influx of contractors and D.C. is tightening restrictions on large gatherings, some staffers told Axios.

Why it matters: The Capitol has been closed to public tours since March. Work over the holiday season comes as U.S. coronavirus cases spike, Americans beg for more pandemic assistance and food lines grow.

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Trump applies extreme pressure on Bill Barr to release so-called Durham Report

President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr's designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Speculation over Barr's fate grew on Tuesday, with just 49 days remaining in Trump's presidency, after Barr gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

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CDC to cut guidance on quarantine period for coronavirus exposure

The CDC will soon shorten its guidance for quarantine periods following exposure to COVID-19, AP reported Tuesday and Axios can confirm.

Why it matters: Quarantine helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which can occur before a person knows they're sick or if they're infected without feeling any symptoms. The current recommended period to stay home if exposed to the virus is 14 days. The CDC plans to amend this to 10 days or seven with a negative test, an official told Axios.

  • The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CDC panel: COVID vaccines should go to health workers, long-term care residents first

Health-care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line to get coronavirus vaccines in the United States once they’re cleared and available for public use, an independent CDC panel recommended in a 13-1 emergency vote on Tuesday, per CNBC.

Why it matters: Recent developments in COVID-19 vaccines have accelerated the timeline for distribution as vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna undergo the federal approval process. States are preparing to begin distributing as soon as two weeks from now.

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