Biden’s annual health check-up reveals ‘no new concerns’

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Thursday, 29th February 2024

Biden’s annual health check-up reveals ‘no new concerns’

US President Joe Biden’s annual physical revealed ‘no new concerns’ – but it shed more light on several health conditions suffered by the 81-year-old: sleep apnea disorder linked to dementia, as well as heart and cholesterol conditions which put him at risk of strokes. White House physician Dr Kevin O’Connor said the ‘most notable’ change in the past year concerned Biden’s sleep apnea – a disorder the President has had for 16 years and which is associated with an increased risk of dementia. The doctor said that last spring Biden began using of a mask that delivers pressurised air into the nose and mouth to make sure he breathes properly when he sleeps. “We revisited the issue this past spring, and conducted a formal sleep study,” The Daily Mail quotes Dr O’Connor writing in his summary. “This study confirmed my suspicion that the President would benefit from optimising his sleep efficiency with PAP [breathing device].” It has been well documented since 2008 that the president suffers from the condition, but the notes indicate there were signs it may get worse. Last year, Biden was pictured with marks on his face, which the White House later said were from a CPAP machine being used to manage his condition.

More than 30 million Americans are diagnosed with sleep apnea, which sees sufferers snore, choke, and gasp 20 to 30 times every hour in the night. And the older a person is, the more severe the effects of the disorder may be. A 2022 study found patients with sleep apnea had a 43 per cent increased risk of developing any type of neuro-cognitive disorder, a 28 per cent increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and a 54 per cent increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. Doctors say the link with dementia was likely to be caused by the brain being starved of oxygen during sleep, which can damage blood vessels and disrupt the balance of an enzyme which helps regulate the protein which causes plaque.

However, Dr O’Connor said the White House medical team found Biden to be ‘active and robust’ and ‘fit to serve’. His 2024 physical remained largely unchanged from last year, with his White House doctor saying there are ‘no new concerns’. Dr O’Connor wrote in his medical summary that the president’s sleep apnea condition is ‘stable’ and he ‘has demonstrated excellent response to PAP and is diligently compliant with therapy’. The physician added: “He continues to be fit for duty and fully executes all of his responsibilities without any exemptions or accommodations.” Another significant health development over the last year, Dr O’Connor wrote, was a dental emergency the President suffered that caused him to undergo an urgent root canal in June. Biden’s routine physical included consultations with doctors specialising in optometry, dentistry, orthopedics, neurology, physical therapy, cardiology and dermatology. The president did not undergo any cognitive tests. However, he did undergo ‘an extremely detailed neurological exam’ that ruled out ‘stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or ascending lateral sclerosis.’

Six in 10 voters say Biden should not run for President

Six in ten voters, including nearly a third of Democrats, say Joe Biden should not run for president in 2024, according to an exclusive Partners poll. In a further alarming sign for Biden, almost half of Democrats say it is not too late for the 81-year-old to be replaced as their party’s nominee. The extensive survey showed 60 per cent think Biden should not seek re-election, with only 34 per cent saying he should, and six percent expressing no opinion. Perhaps the most troubling revelation for the White House  will be that even 29 per cent of Democrats said Biden should not run, while 64 per cent say he should. The latest set of alarming results for the Biden administration come less than 24 hours after a poll revealed Donald Trump is ahead by four points nationwide. Winning over independents will be crucial if Biden is to defeat the likely Republican nominee Donald Trump in 2024.

Trump removed from Illinois Republican primary ballots

An Illinois state judge has kicked former President Donald Trump off the Illinois’ Republican presidential primary ballot due to his role in the January 6th Capitol riots. Cook County Circuit Judge Tracie Porter ruled in favour of Illinois voters who argued Trump should be disqualified from the state’s mid-March primary ballot, as well as the November 5th general election ballot. Voters brought their case over Trump’s behaviour on January 6, 2021, when he allegedly violated the anti-insurrection clause of the 14th Amendment. Porter delayed her ruling from taking effect in light of an unexpected appeal brought by the former president’s legal team. With the Wednesday decision, Illinois becomes the third state – after Colorado and Maine – to try to kick Trump off the ballot. Both previous states’ decisions were paused pending the appeal of the Colorado case to The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

Trump rejoices over Supreme Court ruling on immunity

“Legal scholars are extremely grateful for today’s Supreme Court decision to address presidential immunity. Without immunity, a president cannot function adequately or make decisions in the best interests of the United States,” wrote Trump on his social media Truth, commenting on the decision of the highest American court to express its opinion on his immunity in the context of the case in which he is accused of wanting to subvert the 2020 elections. This is a victory for the tycoon because it delays the start of the process. The hearings in the highest US court will begin on April 22.

The US Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to take up the issue of whether Trump is immune from charges stemming from his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss. Trump’s legal team is arguing his actions leading up to and surrounding the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack are protected from criminal prosecution by presidential immunity. In the past year, Donald Trump has been indicted four different times by both the Biden Justice Department and by two Democrat district attorneys. He currently faces four felony counts in the Department of Justice’s January 6 case that alleges he was involved in a conspiracy to defraud the US and stood at the centre of a campaign to block the certification of votes on January 6. The Supreme Court’s order will keep the proceedings for the case on pause for now, handing special counsel Jack Smith a blow following his past efforts to keep the case’s timeframe on track.

Marine Le Pen preparing for fourth candidacy for the Elysée

The leader of the French Rassemblement National, Marine Le Pen, has said she was “preparing” for a new presidential candidacy in 2027. Thrice-losing candidate for the Elysée, Le Pen this time sees the polls rewarding her in a hypothetical second round, both against Gabriel Attal, should the prime minister be a candidate for the outgoing government majority, and against the leader of the left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. To journalists who questioned her on several occasions about her intentions in view of the presidential elections, Marine Le Pen replied: “I have been a presidential candidate three times and perhaps I am preparing for a fourth candidacy. I try to behave taking this into account prospect.” Le Pen also confirmed her intention to run by presenting the party president, Jordan Bardella, as prime minister: “I have made the decision, as a potential presidential candidate, to present to the French the person who would be prime minister if I were elected.” Alongside her, Bardella said: “The question is no longer whether we will come to power, but when.” At the beginning of February, a poll showed Marine Le Pen as the winner for the first time in the possible 2027 presidential run-off: with 51 per cent if the opponent were Attal, with 64 per cent if it were Mélenchon, according to the institute Ifop polls.

More funds needed to boost employment, says World Bank

World Bank President Ajay Banga has warned about the “perfect storm of intertwined challenges that is exacerbating inequality globally: declining progress in the fight against poverty, the climate crisis, food insecurity and conflict”. In a note released on the sidelines of the work of the G20 Economy Ministers underway in Sao Paulo, he stated that one of the best ways to reduce inequality is to promote employment. “However in the next 10 years, 1.1 billion young people in the Global South will become adults of working age but in the same period only 325 million jobs will be created.” In this context, Banga argues, the International Development Association (IDA) needs more funding to advance its mission of helping growth and jobs in developing countries. “So far IDA has provided $533 billion to 115 countries. “It has lifted entire communities out of poverty, protected children from disease, connected homes to electricity and guaranteed villages access to water,” he said. But that legacy will not change the situation in today’s challenges. “The truth is that we are pushing the limits of this important concessional resource and no amount of creative financial engineering will make up for the fact that we need more financing,” he concluded.

Hamas showing ‘flexibility’ in talks but also ready to fight

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Wednesday said the Islamist group was “flexible” in the ceasefire negotiations with Israel but was still prepared to continue fighting. Haniyeh made the comments during a televised address during which he called on Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank to march to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for prayers on March 10, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. “This is a call to our people in Jerusalem and the West Bank to march to Al-Aqsa on the first day of Ramadan,” Haniyeh said. The mosque is part of the Haram al-Sharif complex and is the third holiest site in Islam. The compound in the Old City of Jerusalem is also known as the Temple Mount and is the most sacred site in the Jewish faith.

Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, the area has long been a flashpoint for potential violence, especially during religious holidays. Israeli government spokesman Tal Heirich called Haniyeh’s remarks “very unfortunate” and accused Haniyeh of “trying to drag us to wars on other fronts”. The call by Haniyeh followed comments by US President Joe Biden that an agreement between Israel and Hamas could be reached as early as next week for a cease-fire during the Muslim fasting month, which this year is expected to begin on March 10. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month said it would allow Ramadan prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque during the upcoming holy month but set limits according to security needs.

‘Two more child malnutrition deaths in Gaza’

Two more children have died “of dehydration and malnutrition” in war-torn Gaza, the Hamas-ruled territory’s health ministry said yesterday, the latest reported deaths as the UN warned of “imminent” famine. The latest fatalities were at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza city, the largest hospital in the besieged territory, said health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra. “The death toll from the famine among children rose to six martyrs as a result of dehydration and malnutrition,” Qudra said.

A dire humanitarian emergency is unfolding in Gaza as Israel continues its relentless bid to eliminate Hamas in response to the Palestinian group’s October 7 attack. The surprise attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures. Nearly five months into the war, the Israeli campaign has killed at least 30,000 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry. With aid still blocked from entering northern Gaza by Israeli forces, and only entering the rest of the territory in dribs and drabs, the World Food Programme has said that “if nothing changes, a famine is imminent”. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNWRA, has reported a 50 per cent drop in trucks entering Gaza so far this month compared to January. The UN humanitarian office OCHA also cited projections indicating that “the entire population of the Gaza Strip faces crisis or worse levels of food insecurity”.

France votes to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution

France’s Senate on Wednesday voted in favour of legislation that would enshrine the right to have an abortion in the French Constitution. The Senators voted 267 in favour and 50 against, with the legislation now needing to be approved by a three-fifths majority of both houses meeting in a joint congress on March 4. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said the vote marked “huge progress” and was a “protection that we owe to all women”.

EU Parliament votes to criminalise serious envorimental damage

The European Union has become the first international body to criminalise the most serious cases of environmental damage that are “comparable to ecocide”. Ecosystem destruction, including habitat loss and illegal logging, will be punished with tougher penalties and prison sentences under the EU’s updated environmental crime directive. In a vote in the European Parliament, EU lawmakers overwhelmingly backed the move with 499 votes in favour, 100 against and 23 abstentions. Member states now have two years to enshrine it in national law. Environmental crimes include illegal fishing of bluefin tuna, agro-industrial pollution in protected areas, as well as illegal hunting practices and carbon market fraud. According to Marie Toussaint, a French lawyer and MEP for the Greens/European Free Alliance group, the EU is “adopting one of the most ambitious legislation in the world.”

US lawmakers reach deal to avert government shutdown

Top US lawmakers have reached a tentative deal to avert a partial government shutdown ahead of a tomorrow’s deadline to approve funding. Four funding Bills will now be extended to March 8 while the rest of the budget will be extended to March 22. “We are in agreement that Congress must work in a bipartisan manner to fund our government,” top US lawmakers said in a joint statement. The House is expected to vote on the stopgap measure as early as today. Republicans control the House by a slim majority, while Democrats hold the Senate by a single seat. Spending Bills to keep the US government open require buy-in from both parties in order to advance through both chambers to the president’s desk for signature. There have been 10 US government shutdowns or partial shutdowns over the past four decades.

Idaho execution suspended as executioner can’t find vein

The executioner in Idaho has, time and time again, failed to find the vein of serial killer Thomas Eugene Creech and after eight failed attempts, doctors threw in the towel and his execution by lethal injection was suspended. This is the latest in a series of aborted executions in the United States, many due to the failure to find a vein in prisoners to administer the lethal cocktail. The situation has pushed several American states to evaluate alternatives for capital punishment, such as nitrogen breathed through a suffocation mask. In Idaho, however, the use of the firing squad has recently been approved. Creech, 73, has been in prison for 50 years and was convicted of killing five people and is suspected of being the perpetrator of several other murders.

Liverpool to meet Manchester United in FA Cup tie

Manchester United and Liverpool set up a tantalising FA Cup quarter-final by winning their fifth-round ties yesterday when they were already aware of the potential prize. With the draw done before Wednesday’s games, United beat Nottingham Forest (1-0) and then Liverpool beat Southampton (3-0). Holders Manchester City have been given a home draw against Newcastle United. Chelsea beat Leeds to set up a home tie with Championship leaders Leicester, while Coventry – the lowest-ranked side left – visit Midlands rivals Wolves. The quarter-finals are scheduled to take place across the weekend of Saturday, 16 March.

Photo: REUTERS/Tom Brenner

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