Emirates Throws Airbus A380 a Lifeline With $16 Billion Deal

The Middle East’s largest airline, Emirates, announced Thursday it struck a deal with Airbus to purchase 20 A380 aircraft with the option to buy 16 more in a deal worth $16 billion, throwing a lifeline to the European-made double-decker jumbo jets.

 

The Dubai-based Emirates already has 101 A380s in its fleet and 41 more on order, making it the largest operator of the jumbo jet.

 

“This new order underscores Airbus’ commitment to produce the A380 at least for another ten years,” said Airbus chief salesman John Leahy.

 

“This order will provide stability to the A380 production line,” Emirates Chairman and Chief Executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said in a statement after the deal was signed in Dubai on Thursday morning.

 

Emirates, which is owned by the Dubai government in the United Arab Emirates, said the additional A380s will be delivered to the airliner from 2020 onwards and that some of the new A380s will be used as fleet replacements.

 

Airbus chief salesman John Leahy had warned only three days earlier that if the company couldn’t work out a deal with Emirates, it would have to shut down the superjumbo’s production line. Airbus has spent years and billions developing the double-decker jumbo jet, even as skeptics questioned whether it could generate enough demand to justify its cost and the bigger runways it requires.

 

An Airbus A380 has a list price of $445.6 million, but airlines and manufacturers often negotiate lower prices.

 

Airbus delivered just 15 of the planes last year, and aims to deliver 12 more this year.

 

Leahy told reporters Monday that Emirates is the only airline with the ability to commit to a minimum of six planes a year for a minimum of eight to 10 years, or what is needed to make the Airbus program viable.

 

“It’s positive news for both sides,” airline analyst John Strickland of JLS Consulting said. “The A380 is critical to Emirates’ hub-and-growth strategy and equally the airline is key to Airbus’ continuation of the program. It will be a great relief to Airbus to have secured this order, but they have to work aggressively to secure orders from other airlines too now.”

 

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said the deal reflects Emirates’ commitment to advancing “Dubai’s vision to grow further as a world-class destination and aviation hub.” Dubai’s main airport, where Emirates is based, is among the busiest in the world with more than 80 million travelers passing through in 2016.

 

Airbus tweeted news of the deal, saying it was “glad to announce” Emirates’ commitment to the A380.

 

Shares in Airbus rose on the news of the deal, gaining 2.2 percent on the day, to 91.67 euros in Paris.

 

At Dubai’s biennial Air Show in November, Airbus suffered an embarrassment when it was scheduled to announce it had a struck a deal with Emirates for its A380, only to see Boeing sit on the podium with the airline and sign a $15.1 billion deal.

 

Emirates’ fleet relies solely on the Airbus 380 and the Boeing 777 for its flights.

 

 


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Trump Considering ‘Big Fine’ Against China in Trade Dispute

President Donald Trump said Wednesday the United States was considering a big “fine” as part of a probe into China’s alleged theft of intellectual property, the clearest indication yet that his administration will take retaliatory trade action against China.

In an interview with Reuters, Trump and his economic adviser Gary Cohn said China had forced U.S. companies to transfer their intellectual property to China as a cost of doing business there.

The United States has started a trade investigation into the issue, and Cohn said the United States Trade Representative would be making recommendations about it soon.

“We have a very big intellectual property potential fine going, which is going to come out soon,” Trump said in the interview.

While Trump did not specify what he meant by a “fine” against China, the 1974 trade law that authorized an investigation into China’s alleged theft of U.S. intellectual property allows him to impose retaliatory tariffs on Chinese goods or other trade sanctions until China changes its policies.

Trump said the damages could be high, without elaborating on how the numbers were reached or how the costs would be imposed.

“We’re talking about big damages. We’re talking about numbers that you haven’t even thought about,” Trump said.

U.S. businesses say they lose hundreds of billions of dollars in technology and millions of jobs to Chinese firms, which have stolen ideas and software or forced them to turn over intellectual property as part of the price of doing business in China.

The president said he wanted the United States to have a good relationship with China, but Beijing needed to treat the United States fairly.

Trump said he would be announcing some kind of action against China over trade and said he would discuss the issue during his State of the Union address to the U.S. Congress on Jan. 30.

Asked about the potential for a trade war depending on U.S. action over steel, aluminum and solar panels, Trump said he hoped a trade war would not ensue.

“I don’t think so, I hope not. But if there is, there is,” he said.

China cites ‘market behavior’

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said there were no laws in China to force foreign investors to transfer technology, but acknowledged such things may happen as part of “market behavior” between companies working with each other.

“There is absolutely no government meddling in these actions,” Lu told a daily news briefing on Thursday. “At the same time, I want to stress that China will resolutely protect its legitimate rights,” he added, without elaborating.

Jeffrey Schott, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said the penalties under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which authorized the investigation into China’s intellectual property practices, would probably include a package of both tariffs and restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States.

“I suspect the U.S. measures will involve restrictions in areas where we don’t have WTO (World Trade Organization) obligations,” Schott said. “Trump likes to talk about tariffs so that may be part of the package too. The Chinese would have the legal right to retaliate against tariff increases.”

Trump’s threats

Throughout his 2016 election campaign, Trump routinely threatened to impose a 45 percent across-the-board tariff on Chinese goods as a way to level the playing field for American workers. At the time, he was also accusing China of manipulating its currency to gain an export advantage, a claim that his administration has since dropped.

Trump said Wednesday that China stopped meeting the criteria for currency manipulation after his election, and he said making that designation while trying to work with Beijing to rein in North Korea would be tricky.

“How do you say, ‘Hey, by the way, help me with North Korea and I’m going to call you a currency manipulator?’ It really doesn’t work,” Trump said.

The president also said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping had not discussed China’s plans with regard to purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds.

Bloomberg reported earlier this month that Chinese officials reviewing the country’s foreign exchange holdings had recommended slowing or halting purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds.

Trump said he was not concerned such a move would hurt the U.S. economy.

“We never talked about it. They have to do what they do,” he said.


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Леся Цуренко програла на Australian Open

Українська тенісистка Леся Цуренко 18 січня поступилася в другому колі відкритого чемпіонату Австралії польській суперниці, 26-й сіяній Агнешці Радванській. Поєдинок, який тривав 2 години 17 хвилин, був дуже напруженим, про що свідчить і рахунок – 6:2, 5:7, 3:6.

В основній сітці першого в сезоні змагання найпрестижнішої серії Grand Slam залишилося четверо українців, але вже в п’ятницю, 19 січня, їхня кількість точно зменшиться, оскільки між собою в третьому раунді зіграють перша ракетка України Еліна Світоліна та авторка гучних сенсацій на кортах Мельбурна, 15-річна Марта Костюк.

Ще одна українка Катерина Бондаренко позмагається з 19-ю сіяною словачкою Магдаленою Рибариковою. Єдиний представник України серед чоловіків Олександр Долгополов зустрінеться з 24-м сіяним аргентинцем Дієго Шварцманом.


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Exclusive: Trump says Terminating NAFTA Would Yield ‘Best Deal’ in Renegotiations

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that terminating the North American Free Trade Agreement would result in the “best deal” to revamp the 24-year-old trade pact with Canada and Mexico in favor of U.S. interests.

Lawmakers as well as agricultural and industrial groups have warned Trump not to quit NAFTA, but he said that may be the outcome.

“We’re renegotiating NAFTA now. We’ll see what happens. I may terminate NAFTA,” Trump said in an interview with Reuters. “A lot of people are going to be unhappy if I terminate NAFTA. A lot of people don’t realize how good it would be to terminate NAFTA because the way you’re going to make the best deal is to terminate NAFTA. But people would like to see me not do that,” he said.

Trump’s comments come less than a week before trade negotiators from the United States, Canada and Mexico meet in Montreal for the sixth of seven scheduled rounds of negotiations to update NAFTA.

The talks are viewed as pivotal for the success of the NAFTA renegotiation effort because major differences remain over aggressive U.S. demands on autos, dispute settlement and a five-year sunset clause — proposals that some business groups have labeled “fatal.”

Trump discussed NAFTA and other trade issues last weekend in Florida with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is leading the U.S. negotiating strategy.

Trump’s comments appeared to validate concerns voiced last week by Canadian government sources that the U.S. president, now a year in office, looked increasingly likely to announce a pullout from NAFTA.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland added that U.S. threats to quit NAFTA had to be taken seriously.

The Reuters interview with Trump also reversed gains on Wednesday in Mexico’s peso, which has been highly sensitive to NAFTA withdrawal talk. But Trump told the Wall Street Journal last week that he would be “a little bit flexible” on the withdrawal threat.

Farm state lawmakers have been making the case to Trump in recent weeks that a NAFTA withdrawal could cause a major tariff increase on U.S. corn and other crops sold to Mexico, hurting a major political support base for Trump in the rural United States.

On Monday, automakers from Detroit and around the world urged the Trump administration not to quit NAFTA and to back away from some of its demands in the negotiations.


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Britain Appoints Minister of Loneliness

Britain has appointed a minister of loneliness to combat social isolation experienced by one in 10 Britons. 

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch will add the job to her existing portfolio to advance the work of slain lawmaker Jo Cox, who set up the Commission on Loneliness in 2016.

“For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life,” Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday. “I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones — people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”

The British Red Cross says more than 9 million Britons describe themselves as being always or often lonely, out of a population of 65.6 million.

Most people over age 75 in Britain live alone, and about 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month, government data show.

“We know that there is a real impact of social isolation and loneliness on people, on their physical and mental well-being but also on other aspects in society, and we want to tackle this challenge,” Crouch told the BBC. 


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Science Panel Backs Lower Drunk Driving Threshold

A prestigious scientific panel is recommending that states significantly lower their drunken driving thresholds as part of a blueprint to eliminate the “entirely preventable” 10,000 alcohol-impaired driving deaths in the United States each year.

The U.S. government-commissioned, 489-page report by a panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released Wednesday throws the weight of the scientific body behind lowering the blood-alcohol concentration threshold from 0.08 to 0.05. All states have 0.08 thresholds. A Utah law passed last year that lowers the state’s threshold to 0.05 doesn’t go into effect until December 30.

The amount of alcohol required to reach 0.05 would depend on several factors, including the person’s size and whether the person has recently eaten. A 150-pound man might be over the 0.05 limit after two beers, while a 120-pound woman could exceed it after a single drink, according to the American Beverage Institute, a national restaurant group.

 

The panel also recommended that states significantly increase alcohol taxes and make alcohol less conveniently available, including reducing the hours and days alcohol is sold in stores, bars and restaurants. Research suggests a doubling of alcohol taxes could lead to an 11 percent reduction in traffic crash deaths, the report said.

 

It also calls for cracking down on sales to people under 21 or who are already intoxicated to discourage binge drinking, and putting limits on alcohol marketing while funding anti-alcohol campaigns similar to those against smoking.

 

All the proposals are likely to draw fierce opposition from the alcohol and restaurant industries. The beverage institute took out full-page newspaper ads opposing Utah’s new law that featured a fake mugshot under a large headline reading, “Utah: Come for vacation, leave on probation.”

 

The recommendation in the academies’ report for lowering the BAC threshold would “do nothing to deter” repeat offenders and high BAC drivers, who represent the “vast majority” of alcohol-impaired driving deaths, the Distilled Spirits Council said in a statement. The council said it also doesn’t support the report’s recommendations for “tax increases and advertising bans, which will have little or no impact on traffic safety.”

 

‘Deadliest and costliest danger on US roads’

The report points out that “alcohol-impaired driving remains the deadliest and costliest danger on U.S. roads,” accounting for 28 percent of traffic deaths. Each day, 29 people in the U.S. die in alcohol-related crashes and many more are injured. Forty percent of those killed are people other than the drunken driver.

 

Rural areas are disproportionately affected. In 2015, 48 percent of drunken driving fatalities occurred in rural areas.

 

The report says many strategies have been effective to prevent drunken driving, but “a coordinated multilevel approach across multiple sectors will be required to accelerate change.”

 

“The problem isn’t intractable,” the report said.

 

From the early 1980s to the early 2000s, there was significant progress as the result of an increase in the drinking age to 21, decreases in the blood-alcohol threshold, and other measures, the report said. But since then, progress has stagnated and recently has begun to reverse.

 

Action to address drunken driving can’t wait for the advent of self-driving cars immune to the lures of a cold beer or a fine wine – it will take too long for autonomous vehicles to replace all the human-driven machines on the road, said the panel’s chairman, Steven Teutsch, a senior fellow for health policy and economics at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

 

“In the meantime, we have 10,000 people a year dying and we ought to do something about it,” he said.

 

The report cites studies that show the United States lags behind other high-income countries in preventing drunken driving fatalities. More than 100 countries have adopted the 0.05 threshold lower. In Europe, the share of traffic deaths attributable to drunken driving was reduced by more than half within 10 years after the standard was dropped, the National Transportation Safety Board said in 2013. The safety board has also recommended the 0.05 threshold.

 

Alcoholic beverages have changed significantly over the past 25 years. “They are more affordable, of far greater variety, and more widely advertised and promoted than in earlier periods,” the report said. The lack of consistency in serving sizes and the combination of alcohol with caffeine and energy drinks make it harder for drinkers to estimate their level of impairment.

 

The report was commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which asked the academies to determine which strategies for reducing drunken driving have been proven effective.

 


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Group Pinpoints Riches Hidden in Europe’s Mountains of Waste

Researchers have completed the first survey of valuable materials they say are waiting to be mined from Europe’s vast landfills and scrapyards.

A group of 17 organizations on Wednesday launched an online database for “urban mining” detailing precious raw materials slumbering in discarded batteries, electronics and cars across the continent.

The project, known by the acronym ProSUM, aims to highlight where billions of euros (dollars) worth of aluminum, copper and gold could be retrieved each year.

The group, which includes the United Nations University, said vehicles are an increasingly rich source of raw materials including lithium — from electric cars — steel and magnesium.

Smartphones, meanwhile, have concentrations of gold that are more than 25 times as high as the richest underground ores and are far easier to extract.


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Government: At Least $125 Bln Needed to Fund India’s Renewables Dream

India will need at least $125 billion to fund its ambitious plan to increase the share of renewable power supply in the country’s grid by 2022, a top government official told Reuters, underlining the immense financing challenge ahead.

The South Asian nation is one of the world’s most important growth markets for renewable energy. Millions of Indians are not yet linked up to the power grid but as the country of more than a billion people prospers, it is experiencing surging demand.

To put India’s $125 billion requirement in context, global corporate funding for the solar industry – the world’s fastest-growing electricity source — was a tenth of that amount in 2017 at $12.8 billion, research firm Mercom said.

In 2015, India said investment of $100 billion in the seven years to 2022 would be needed to meet its renewable energy goals.

Installed renewable power capacity is currently about 60 gigawats (GW), and India plans to complete the bidding process by the end of 2019/20 to add a further 115 GW of installed renewable energy capacity by 2022.

To do that, Anand Kumar, secretary at the ministry of new and renewable energy, said investment of at least $125 billion would be needed.

India, which receives twice as much sunshine as European countries, wants to make solar central to its renewable expansion. It expects renewable energy to make up 40 percent of installed power capacity by 2030, compared with 18.2 percent at the end of 2017.

Kumar said that $125 billion was a “conservative estimate” and foreign capital would be central to achieving the goal.

Private equity firms, U.S. banks including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, and European utilities EDF and Engie are already investors or lenders in India’s renewable energy sector.

India will also require support from development banks, like the World Bank, Kumar said.

IREDA , a state-run financier for renewable energy, raised $300 million by selling rupee-denominated bonds, known as masala bonds, in the United Kingdom last year. The bonds were subscribed 1.7 times.

“We are also looking to raise another $500 million through IREDA through masala bonds early next financial year,” he said.

Not enough

Most of the financing for India’s renewables drive so far has come from domestic banks, industry experts say, raising doubts about the level of support that can be expected from overseas investors.

Market consultant Jasmeet Khurana said Indian banks would have to account for the lion’s share of new renewable investments in the future.

“It is an uphill task, but Indian banks can find the appetite to fund these projects,” Khurana said.

Another challenge in achieving India’s renewable targets is the government’s “Make in India” initiative.

To protect itself from cheap solar panel imports, India’s directorate general of safeguards, an arm of the finance ministry, has proposed a 70 percent duty on imports of solar equipment from some countries including China, which so far provides the vast majority of India’s solar panels.

Kumar said “a duty at this stage could hamper our growth situation,” and “a realistic view” will be taken in consultation with other stakeholders.

The government was working on developing energy storage technologies and hydrogen-fuel cells and other batteries, he said.

“Renewables are the future. The only weak link is storage, and the day you crack storage, there is no looking back for renewables.”

Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Henning Gloystein and Neil Fullick.


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Century After Pandemic, Science Takes Its Best Shot at Flu

The descriptions are haunting.

Some victims felt fine in the morning and were dead by night. Faces turned blue as patients coughed up blood. Stacked bodies outnumbered coffins.

A century after one of history’s most catastrophic disease outbreaks, scientists are rethinking how to guard against another super-flu like the 1918 influenza that killed tens of millions as it swept the globe.

There’s no way to predict what strain of the shape-shifting flu virus could trigger another pandemic or, given modern medical tools, how bad it might be.

But researchers hope they’re finally closing in on stronger flu shots, ways to boost much-needed protection against ordinary winter influenza and guard against future pandemics at the same time.

“We have to do better and by better, we mean a universal flu vaccine. A vaccine that is going to protect you against essentially all, or most, strains of flu,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.

Labs around the country are hunting for a super-shot that could eliminate the annual fall vaccination in favor of one every five years or 10 years, or maybe, eventually, a childhood immunization that could last for life.

Fauci is designating a universal flu vaccine a top priority for NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Last summer, he brought together more than 150 leading researchers to map a path. A few attempts are entering first-stage human safety testing.

Still, it’s a tall order. Despite 100 years of science, the flu virus too often beats our best defenses because it constantly mutates.

Among the new strategies: Researchers are dissecting the cloak that disguises influenza as it sneaks past the immune system, and finding some rare targets that stay the same from strain to strain, year to year.

“We’ve made some serious inroads into understanding how we can better protect ourselves. Now we have to put that into fruition,” said well-known flu biologist Ian Wilson of The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

The somber centennial highlights the need. 

Back then, there was no flu vaccine. It wouldn’t arrive for decades. Today vaccination is the best protection, and Fauci never skips his. But at best, the seasonal vaccine is 60 percent effective. Protection dropped to 19 percent a few years ago when the vaccine didn’t match an evolving virus.

If a never-before-seen flu strain erupts, it takes months to brew a new vaccine. Doses arrived too late for the last, fortunately mild, pandemic in 2009.

Lacking a better option, Fauci said the nation is “chasing” animal flu strains that might become the next human threat. Today’s top concern is a lethal bird flu that jumped from poultry to more than 1,500 people in China since 2013. Last year it mutated, meaning millions of just-in-case vaccine doses in a U.S. stockpile no longer match.

‘Mother of all pandemics’

The NIH’s Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger calls the 1918 flu the mother of all pandemics.

He should know.

While working as a pathologist for the military, he led the team that identified and reconstructed the extinct 1918 virus, using traces unearthed in autopsy samples from World War I soldiers and from a victim buried in the Alaskan permafrost.

That misnamed Spanish flu “made all the world a killing zone,” wrote John M. Barry in The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.

Historians think it started in Kansas in early 1918. By winter 1919, the virus had infected one-third of the global population and killed at least 50 million people, including 675,000 Americans. By comparison, the AIDS virus has claimed 35 million lives over four decades.

Three more flu pandemics have struck since, in 1957, 1968 and 2009, spreading widely but nowhere near as deadly. Taubenberger’s research shows the family tree, each subsequent pandemic a result of flu viruses carried by birds or pigs mixing with 1918 flu genes.

“This 100-year timeline of information about how the virus adapted to us and how we adapt to the new viruses, it teaches us that we can’t keep designing vaccines based on the past,” said Dr. Barney Graham, deputy director of NIH’s Vaccine Research Center.

Two proteins

The new vaccine quest starts with two proteins, hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, that coat flu’s surface. The “H” allows flu to latch onto respiratory cells and infect them. Afterward, the “N” helps the virus spread.

They also form the names of influenza A viruses, the most dangerous flu family. With 18 hemagglutinin varieties and 11 types of neuraminidase — most carried by birds — there are lots of potential combinations. That virulent 1918 virus was the H1N1 subtype; milder H1N1 strains still circulate. This winter H3N2, a descendent of the 1968 pandemic, is causing most of the misery.

Think of hemagglutinin as a miniature broccoli stalk. Its flower-like head attracts the immune system, which produces infection-blocking antibodies if the top is similar enough to a previous infection or that year’s vaccination.

But that head also is where mutations pile up.

A turning point toward better vaccines was a 2009 discovery that, sometimes, people make a small number of antibodies that instead target spots on the hemagglutinin stem that don’t mutate. Even better, “these antibodies were much broader than anything we’ve seen,” capable of blocking multiple subtypes of flu, said Scripps’ Wilson.

Scientists are trying different tricks to spur production of those antibodies.

In a lab at NIH’s Vaccine Research Center, “we think taking the head off will solve the problem,” Graham said. His team brews vaccine from the stems and attaches them to ball-shaped nanoparticles easily spotted by the immune system.

In New York, pioneering flu microbiologist Peter Palese at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine uses “chimeric” viruses — the hemagglutinin head comes from bird flu, the stem from common human flu viruses — to redirect the immune system.

“We have made the head so that the immune system really doesn’t recognize it,” Palese explained. GlaxoSmithKline and the Gates Foundation are funding initial safety tests.

In addition to working with Janssen Pharmaceuticals on a stem vaccine, Wilson’s team also is exploring how to turn flu-fighting antibodies into an oral drug. “Say a pandemic came along and you didn’t have time to make vaccine. You’d want something to block infection if possible,” he said.

NIH’s Taubenberger is taking a completely different approach. He’s brewing a vaccine cocktail that combines particles of four different hemagglutinins that in turn trigger protection against other related strains.

Obstacles to research

Yet lingering mysteries hamper the research.

Scientists now think people respond differently to vaccination based on their flu history. “Perhaps we recognize best the first flu we ever see,” said NIH immunologist Adrian McDermott.

The idea is that your immune system is imprinted with that first strain and may not respond as well to a vaccine against another.

“The vision of the field is that ultimately if you get the really good universal flu vaccine, it’s going to work best when you give it to a child,” Fauci said.

Still, no one knows the ultimate origin of that terrifying 1918 flu. But key to its lethality was bird-like hemagglutinin.

That Chinese H7N9 bird flu “worries me a lot,” Taubenberger said. “For a virus like influenza that is a master at adapting and mutating and evolving to meet new circumstances, it’s crucially important to understand how these processes occur in nature. How does an avian virus become adapted to a mammal?”

While scientists hunt those answers, “it’s folly to predict” what a next pandemic might bring, Fauci said. “We just need to be prepared.”


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