Biden picks two former Obama officials to help lead COVID-19 response - Politico
By Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Joe Biden has selected former Obama administration official Jeff Zients to be his White House coronavirus coordinator and former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to return in that role, Politico reported on Thursday. Politico, citing two people familiar with the decision, also said Marcella Nunez-Smith, a co-chair of Biden's COVID-19 advisory board, will play a key role in the incoming administration's response to the pandemic, focusing on health disparities
By Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Joe Biden has selected former Obama administration official Jeff Zients to be his White House coronavirus coordinator and former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to return in that role, Politico reported on Thursday.
Politico, citing two people familiar with the decision, also said Marcella Nunez-Smith, a co-chair of Biden's COVID-19 advisory board, will play a key role in the incoming administration's response to the pandemic, focusing on health disparities.
Dealing with the health crisis and resultant economic fallout is one of Biden's top priorities once he takes office on Jan. 20. White House coronavirus task force member Anthony Fauci will meet with Biden's team on Thursday for his first substantive talks with the new administration about how to combat the virus that has killed some 273,000 Americans.
Fauci, the top U.S. government infectious diseases expert, told CBS News he expected to have a comprehensive discussion with members of Biden's team who are working to establish priorities in addressing the pandemic and ensure a smooth transition on Inauguration Day.
Although he has spoken with Biden's White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain several times, the discussions were not substantive, Fauci said.
"I'm going to be meeting with them today, by Zoom, virtually. So today will be the first day where there will be substantive discussions about the transition between me and the Biden team," he said. "I'm very pleased that today we're having the first discussion about a number of things, vaccinations and things like that."
Fauci told CBS he wished the transition process had begun sooner. Outgoing President Donald Trump, a Republican, is contesting the results of the Nov. 3 election and his administration only gave the go-ahead for the transition to begin on Nov. 23.
As director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, Fauci has been the most high-profile member of the White House task force since the pandemic began, often disagreeing with Trump on how to combat the virus.
U.S. deaths from the coronavirus pandemic have surged past 2,000 for two days in a row as the most dangerous season of the year approaches. Nearly 200,000 new U.S. cases were reported on Wednesday, with hospitalizations approaching 100,000 patients.
With Pfizer's vaccine already approved by regulatory authorities in Britain, hopes of a respite in the United States are resting on the start of widespread vaccinations as early as this month.
Spokesmen for Biden’s transition team confirmed the Fauci meeting.
Biden also announced Brian Deese, who helped lead then-President Barack Obama's efforts to bail out the automotive industry during the 2009 financial crisis, will head the National Economic Council.
"I'm asking Brian Deese to do this job because he's someone who looks at hard problems and finds solutions that help make life better for American families," Biden said in a video posted by his transition team. "He'll be the first who is a true expert on climate policy."
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Writing by Sonya Hepinstall; Editing by Franklin Paul and Alistair Bell)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.