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Not in Trump’s ‘nature’ to do what’s right for the U.S.,’ says Panetta

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Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle “need to be realistic” that President Donald Trump will not try to discourage violent protesters in the days leading to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.  

“This President’s not going to do that,” said Panetta, who served as defense secretary from July 2011 to February 2013 under President Barack Obama. “It’s not in his nature to do something that would be important for the country. He’s thinking about himself. That will continue to consume him.”

At the Save America rally on Jan. 6, Trump told thousands of audience members on Capitol Hill that “we will never concede” and promoted a display of strength from his supporters. Minutes later, a mob of his supporters stormed the and terrorized Congress. Trump has since taken zero responsibility for the deadly riot and defended his speech.

“People thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump said to a group of reporters Tuesday. 

Trump’s comments come at a time of heightened alert for violence across the U.S. after the FBI warned of possible armed protests. In a Tuesday evening interview on “The News with Shepard Smith” Michael Chertoff, who served as the Secretary of Homeland security during the Bush Administration, said he thinks there is a “real threat” for hostility at the country’s state capitals. 

“I’m real worried about the next few weeks, Chertoff said. “I certainly think next week will be a moment when these groups feel emboldened to go and try to commit mayhem, not just attacking the Capitol, but attacking other locations as well.”

A State of Emergency was declared in Richmond, Virginia due to what authorities characterize as “credible threats” of protests leading up to Inauguration Day on January 20. The Virginia Capitol Police announced they are increasing security.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers activated his state’s National Guard to protect the state Capitol building and boarded up windows on the building’s ground-floor. Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel tweeted that, “The Michigan Capitol is not safe.” Chertoff said that he does not expect the threats to stop after Inauguration Day. 

“We could have active shooters, we could have pipe bombs, but honestly, I think this is going to continue after January 20th,” Chertoff said. “I think these groups have been revved up to believe this is their moment.”

Panetta told host Shepard Smith that Trump will have to “face punishment” for “inciting that insurrection” last Wednesday. Trump is facing the charge of inciting insurrection and House Democrats are planning to vote Tuesday to demand Vice President Mike Pence use the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Panetta said that if Pence does not implement the 25th Amendment, that there’s no other option but impeachment. 

“That’s the bottom line, we cannot ignore what happened last Wednesday, and we have to send a clear message to this president and to future presidents that that kind of behavior will never be tolerated in our country,” Panetta said.



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Streaming services help keep some blockbusters locked on movie calendar

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Still from “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

Disney

The box-office calendar is shifting once again. In the last day more than a dozen Hollywood titles have been displaced from the slate, moving to later in the year or into 2022, due to the Covid pandemic.

Cinema owners, who in December hoped to hold out until March for a slew of new blockbuster features, are watching as Sony, Disney and MGM postpone major films.

On Thursday, the latest James Bond flick, MGM’s “No Time to Die,” was pushed from April to October, Sony’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” was moved to November, and Sony’s “Morbius” and “Uncharted” exited to 2022. On Friday, Disney shifted a half-dozen films, including “The King’s Man,” later into the year or removed them from the calendar entirely.

The few films that remain in February and March are tied to streaming releases. AT&T/Warner Bros.’ “Tom and Jerry” heads to HBO Max and theaters on Feb. 26, Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon” will debut in theaters and on Disney+ for $30 on March 5, and AT&T/Warner Bros.’ “Godzilla v. Kong” hits HBO Max and cinemas on March 26.

Lions Gate‘s “Chaos Walking” is the only major film release without a day-and-date streaming plan.

“[Warner Bros.] made the right move all along,” said Jeff Bock, senior analyst at Exhibitor Relations. “They may have not cleared it through the proper channels, and may have ruffled some feathers in the process, but make no mistake, WB is the only studio other than Disney that is really bolstering itself and theaters simultaneously in a way that is safe and responsible.”

The U.S. is recording at least 187,500 new Covid-19 cases and at least 3,050 virus-related deaths each day, based on a seven-day average calculated by CNBC using Johns Hopkins University data.

While President Joe Biden has promised to expedite vaccines across the country, only around 17.5 million doses have been administered so far.

Studios are worried that continued increases in coronavirus cases will keep moviegoers away from cinemas even with new titles playing on big screens. Many of these films have large production budgets and rely on strong ticket sales to break even.

However, studios that have streaming services have a safety net, Bock said. For Warner Bros. the dual release in theaters and on HBO Max allows it to bolster subscriber sign-ups and make money from ticket sales.

It’s unclear how successful that strategy has been, as “Wonder Woman 1984” is, so far, the only Warner Bros. film to be released in this fashion. AT&T is set to report quarterly earnings next week, so analysts will likely get a better sense of how the film performed for the company then.

Disney’s release of “Raya and the Last Dragon” is also a first. Previously, the company had released “Mulan” on Disney+ for a $30 premium but did not release it in theaters at the same time. Disney has yet to comment on how “Mulan” performed for the company.

“It’s going to be tough sledding for theaters,” Bock said. “[They] will have to rely on indie distributors until at least May.”

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of Universal Studios and CNBC. Universal is releasing “No Time To Die” internationally, while MGM handles the domestic release.


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CDC changes Covid vaccine guidance to OK mixing Pfizer and Moderna shots

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Bins of syringes for the Pfizer BioNtech and Moderna Inc. Covid-19 vaccines in Tucson, Arizona, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021.

Cherry Orr | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly changed its guidance on Covid-19 vaccine shots, saying it’s now OK to mix Pfizer and Moderna‘s shots in “exceptional situations” and that it’s also fine to wait up to six weeks to get the second shot of either company’s two-dose immunization.

While Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines, which both use messenger RNA technology, were authorized to be given 21 and 28 days apart, respectively, the agency now says you can receive either shot so long as they are given least 28 days apart, according to new guidance posted on its website Thursday.

Although “every effort” should be made to ensure a patient receives the same vaccine, in rare situations “any available mRNA COVID-19 vaccine may be administered at a minimum interval of 28 days between doses” — if supplies are limited or the patient doesn’t know which vaccine they originally received, the CDC’s new guidance says.

The CDC says the two products are not interchangeable, and acknowledged that it hadn’t yet studied whether its new recommendations would change the safety or effectiveness of either vaccine.

The agency said health-care providers should give patients a vaccination record card that tells them when they received their first shot and which kind of shot it was to help ensure that patients know which shot they ought to receive the second time. The agency also recommends that providers enter the patient’s vaccination information into their medical records and the government’s immunization information system.

Both companies require two doses to achieve maximum protection from the coronavirus. While both shots should be administered according to the originally recommended guidelines, the CDC said the second dose of either companies’ vaccine could be delayed as long as six weeks if necessary.

The updated guidance comes as some cities and counties across the country are canceling vaccine appointments because they don’t have as many doses as they originally expected.

Wayne County, Michigan, for example, said last week it would prioritize making sure that people who got their first shot get their second shot on time. But the county said it had to cancel almost 1,400 appointments for people to get their first shot.

“The intent is not to suggest people do anything different, but provide clinicians with flexibility for exceptional circumstances,” Jason McDonald, a spokesman for CDC, said in an email to CNBC.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, was asked Friday about the interval at which the two shots should be administered.

“The data that we have is on a two-dose vaccine at the recommended schedule, 21 or 28 days,” she said at a virtual event hosted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and National Public Radio. “At this point we at CDC agree with what FDA has said and FDA has been very clear that we should be using the approved regimen.”

“It’s rooted solidly in the science and the available evidence, and to do something different than that would be not following the science and potentially not allowing us to really realize the full potential of these vaccines,” she added. “So for now, from the CDC perspective, we think that it has to be two doses on the recommended schedule.”


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Pfizer to supply up to 40 million Covid vaccine doses to Covax global program

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A nurse prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, at a vaccination center, in Sarcelles near Paris on January 10, 2021.

ALAIN JOCARD | AFP | Getty Images

Pfizer will supply up to 40 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine to a global alliance aiming to provide poor nations with coronavirus vaccines, the head of the World Health Organization said on Friday.

The deal will allow Covax — co-led by the WHO — to begin delivering vaccine doses to participating countries in February, WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing. Tedros added that, pending emergency authorization, the program expects 150 million doses of AstraZeneca‘s vaccine to become available for distribution in the first quarter of this year.

The Covax program aims to provide 2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to participating countries, which includes low- to-middle income nations, by the end of this year. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two shots spread weeks apart, indicating the agreement would cover just 20 million people.

Tedros said the agreement would also allow other countries with supplies of Pfizer’s vaccine to donate them to the program. The WHO chief has been critical of wealthy nations that have signed supply agreements with drugmakers for their initial doses of Covid-19 vaccines, stockpiling supplies away from poorer nations.

“This is not just significant for COVAX, it is a major step forward for equitable access to vaccines, and an essential part of the global effort to beat this pandemic. We will only be safe anywhere if we are safe everywhere,” Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in a statement.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said during the press briefing that the company will provide the doses of vaccine to Covax and the poorer nations at a cost. Pfizer was the first company to receive a global emergency use listing for its vaccine from the WHO, allowing other countries to expedite their regulatory approval processes to begin administering the vaccine.

Bourla said the company will help deliver the doses, which require ultra-cold storage and special handling, to low-income countries. UNICEF, which is helping deliver the doses, has previously warned some of the world’s poorest countries could face challenges storing and administering the shots once they arrive.

The program’s deal with Pfizer brings its supply agreements to just over 2 billion doses total, though it will continue negotiations for additional supply. The goal is to immunize health care and other frontline workers, as well as some high-risk individuals, beginning in the first quarter this year, according to Covax.

The deal comes on the heels of the United States’ decision to remain a member of the WHO under President Joe Biden. The new administration will also join the Covax program, a move that the Trump administration resisted last year.

“I just couldn’t avoid the temptation to say that I’m very glad that this press conference is happening the day that the United States is rejoining the WHO organization. I think it’s a symbolic, great day for us,” Pfizer chief Bourla said at the briefing.


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