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Plans for UK ‘genomics transformation’ aim to act on lessons of Covid

Ten-year science strategy of UK Health Security Agency will use data to combat infectious diseases faster and more effectively

Health officials in the UK have drawn up plans for a “genomics transformation” that aims to detect and deal with outbreaks of infectious diseases faster and more effectively in the light of the Covid pandemic.

Information gleaned from the genetics of Covid proved crucial as the virus swept around the globe, revealing how the pathogen spread, evolved, and responded to a succession of vaccines and medicines developed to protect people.

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Ministers told to set out plan for hiring mental health nurses in England

Exclusive: Sector’s staffing crisis will have knock-on effect on whole NHS system, warns healthcare leader

UK ministers must set out how to recruit and retain thousands more mental health nurses to plug the profession’s biggest staff shortage, healthcare leaders are warning.

Mental health nurses account for nearly a third of all nursing vacancies across England, resulting in overstretched services that are struggling to deliver timely care, according to research carried out by the NHS Confederation’s mental health network.

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Man in Custody After Attacking 2 at US Congressman's Office

A man with a metal baseball bat walked into the northern Virginia office of U.S. Representative Gerry Connolly on Monday, asked for him and struck two of his workers with the bat, including an intern during her first day on the job, police and the congressman said.

The attack marked the latest in a sharp uptick in violence aimed at lawmakers or those close to them.

Fairfax City Police said officers arrived within minutes and took the man into custody without incident and that the two staff members were being treated for injuries that were not life-threatening.

Connolly, who wasn’t in the office at the time, said he knew of no motive for the attack, calling it in a Twitter post “unconscionable and devastating.”

The Democratic congressman said in an interview that the suspect was known to police in Fairfax, adding, “He’s never made threats to us, so it was unprovoked, unexpected and inexplicable.”

“I have no reason to believe that his motivation was politically motivated, but it is possible that the sort of toxic political environment we all live in, you know, set him off. And I would just hope all of us would take a little more time to be careful about what we say and how we say it.”

Connolly said the intern was struck in the side, and his outreach director was hit on the head.

“Both of them are conscious and talking. They both are in shock. Their families were with them, too,” Connolly said.

The U.S. Capitol Police and Fairfax City Police identified the suspect as Xuan Kha Tran Pham, 49, of Fairfax. He was being held without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center on charges of malicious wounding and aggravated malicious wounding.

It was not immediately clear if the man had an attorney who could speak for him.

“At this time, it is not clear what the suspect’s motivation may have been,” Capitol Police said in a news release announcing a joint investigation with the Fairfax City Police Department.

Special agents with the Capitol Police Threat Assessment Section have been sent to Fairfax.

Fairfax City Police spokesperson Sergeant Lisa Gardner said police received a call about the attack at Connolly’s district office in the Virginia suburb of the nation’s capital at about 10:50 a.m.

“You could absolutely tell that the people inside were scared. They were hiding. Someone swinging a bat around, I would be scared, as well,” Gardner said.

Police arrived in about five minutes and located the suspect in the office, quickly detaining him without further incident, Gardner said.

Police said in a news release that one police officer required treatment for a minor injury.

Last month, United States Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger testified about the heightened threat climate across the country.

“One of the biggest challenges we face today is dealing with the sheer increase in the number of threats against members of Congress — approximately 400% over the past six years,” Manger said. “Over the course of the last year, the world has continuously changed, becoming more violent and uncertain.”

Connolly, currently serving his eighth term in Congress, represents Virginia’s Fairfax County-based 11th District in the Washington suburbs. He told CNN that his office sustained damage, including broken windows.

Other elected officials from Virginia swiftly condemned the violence.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner retweeted Connolly’s statement, calling the attack an “extraordinarily disturbing development.”

“Intimidation and violence — especially against public servants — has no place in our society,” he said.

“The coward who did this should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” tweeted Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, a Republican.

Since the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, threats to lawmakers and their families have increased sharply. The U.S. Capitol Police investigated around 7,500 cases of potential threats against members of Congress in 2022. The year before, they investigated around 10,000 threats to members, more than twice the number from four years earlier.

In October, a man broke into the San Francisco home of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanding to speak with her before he smashed her husband, Paul, over the head with a hammer.

In July, a man accosted New York Representative Lee Zeldin, a Republican who was running for governor of New York, as he spoke at a campaign event. The man told Zeldin, “You’re done.” Zeldin wrestled him to the ground and escaped with only a minor scrape.

“Violence does not belong in our political system, and my prayers are with Representative Gerry Connolly’s staff for a speedy recovery,” said Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican. “We’ve seen this against our judiciary. We’ve seen this against our legislative branch, and it has no place in our Commonwealth.”

Biden, Congressional Leaders to Meet Tuesday for Talks on Raising Debt Limit

President Joe Biden said he will resume talks with congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday as a standoff over the debt limit pushes the country closer to its legal borrowing limit with no agreement in sight.

The meeting was initially supposed to be Friday but was abruptly postponed so staff-level talks could continue before Biden and the four congressional leaders huddled for a second time.

Biden, who was in Philadelphia on Monday to attend granddaughter Maisy’s graduation from the University of Pennsylvania, told reporters the meeting was on for Tuesday but did not elaborate on prospects for a deal.

Biden was returning to Washington later Monday and is scheduled to leave for the Group of Seven summit in Japan on Wednesday. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that so far, “we are still planning to leave as scheduled.”

Biden on Sunday did not detail much progress in the talks but said he remained hopeful that an agreement could be reached with Republicans to avoid what would be an unprecedented debt default, which could trigger a financial catastrophe.

“I remain optimistic because I’m a congenital optimist,” Biden told reporters while out for a bike ride in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. “But I really think there’s a desire on their part as well as ours to reach an agreement. I think we’ll be able to do it.”

Aides said talks had continued throughout the weekend. But at least publicly, there was little indication that either the White House or House Republicans had budged from their initial positions. Biden has called on lawmakers to lift the debt limit without preconditions, warning that the nation’s borrowing authority should not be used to impose deep spending cuts and other conservative policy demands.

“We’ve not reached the crunch point yet,” Biden told reporters Saturday before flying to his beach home. “There’s real discussion about some changes we all could make. We’re not there yet.”

Biden did signal over the weekend that he could be open to tougher work requirements for certain government aid programs, which Republicans are proposing as part of the ongoing discussion. He has said he will not accept anything that takes away people’s health care coverage.

“I voted for tougher aid programs that’s in the law now, but for Medicaid it’s a different story,” he said. “And so I’m waiting to hear what their exact proposal is.”

Administration officials said the talks among staff had so far been productive after Biden and the leaders — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell — ended their first meeting last Tuesday without a breakthrough.

The president described that Oval Office session as “productive,” even though McCarthy said later he “didn’t see any new movement” toward resolving the stalemate. White House and congressional aides have been in talks since Wednesday.

“The staff is very engaged. I would characterize the engagement as serious, as constructive,” Lael Brainard, head of the White House’s National Economic Council, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

McCarthy has insisted on using the threat of defaulting on the nation’s debts to wrangle spending changes, arguing that the federal government can’t continue to spend money at the pace it is now. The national debt now stands at $31.4 trillion.

An increase in the debt limit would not authorize new federal spending. It would only allow for borrowing to pay for what Congress has already approved.

The Treasury Department has said the government could exhaust the ability to pay its bills as early as June 1. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office gave a similar warning Friday, saying there was a “significant risk” of default sometime in the first two weeks of next month.

But federal estimates still remain in flux.

The CBO noted Friday that if the cash flow at the Treasury and the “extraordinary measures” that the department is now using can continue to pay for bills through June 15, the government can probably finance its operations through the end of July. That’s because the expected tax revenues that will come in mid-June and other measures will give the federal government enough cash for at least a few more weeks.

“Ultimately the stakes are, the United States has never defaulted on its debt,” Wally Adeyemo, the deputy treasury secretary, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “And we can’t.”

And Republican Representative Michael McCaul told ABC’s “This Week”: “I think defaulting is not the right path to go down. So I am an eternal optimist.”

He added, “This is always a game we play, every Congress, you know, in daring each other to jump off the cliff. It’s a dangerous game.”