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Giuliani associate pleads guilty to campaign finance scheme

NEW YORK — A Florida businessman who helped Rudy Giuliani dig for political dirt on President Joe Biden pleaded guilty Friday to making illegal campaign contributions to American politicians on behalf of a wealthy Russian cannabis investor.

Igor Fruman — who worked with Giuliani on an eyebrow-raising quest in 2019 to find politically compromising material on Biden in Ukraine — admitted in Manhattan Federal Court that he funneled at least $25,000 from the Russian to Democrats and Republicans in hopes of acquiring marijuana distribution licenses in several states. Foreigners are banned from making political contributions under campaign finance law.

The crime Fruman, 56, admitted to does not implicate Giuliani and is unrelated to the former mayor’s Biden-bashing in Ukraine, which was carried out at the behest of former President Donald Trump.

Fruman’s plea also does not require him to cooperate with Manhattan federal prosecutors, who are still investigating Giuliani over allegations that he violated foreign lobbying laws as part of his dealings in Ukraine.

“Mr. Fruman is not cooperating with the government and has determined that this is the fairest and best way to put the past two years of his life behind him,” his attorney, Todd Blanche, said in a text message after they left the courthouse without answering reporters’ questions.

The Russian at the center of the pot investment plot has never been identified.

—New York Daily News

Larry Elder dominates GOP field in recall vote, poll finds

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Even as California voters appear to be rejecting the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom, radio talk show host Larry Elder continues to dominate the field to replace him in Tuesday's vote, a new poll found.

When asked to pick their first choice among the replacement candidates, 38% of likely voters preferred Elder — up from 18% in July, a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll released Friday shows.

Elder's outspoken conservative views have helped propel him out of the GOP pack, far outpacing other Republican candidates and giving him national exposure.

Democrat Kevin Paffrath, a social media personality who has more than 1.6 million followers for his personal finance videos on YouTube, came in a distant second with 10%.

The poll, cosponsored by the Los Angeles Times, found 60.1% of likely voters surveyed oppose recalling Newsom, compared with 38.5% in favor of ousting the governor. Fewer than 2% of likely voters remained undecided or declined to answer, suggesting the issue is largely settled in the minds of California voters.

—Los Angeles Times

2 Qatar Airways flights from Kabul take people to safety

KABUL, Afghanistan — A second passenger flight operated by Qatar Airways took off from Kabul airport in Afghanistan on Friday evening with more evacuees on board.

Among others, 19 U.S. citizens were on the flight, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council (NSC) confirmed on Friday.

It initially remained unclear how many people managed to board the flight. The U.S. was very grateful to Qatar for allowing the flight to operate and for providing security, the statement added.

Earlier on Friday, al-Jazeera reported the arrival of a flight from Qatar in Kabul, which unloaded relief supplies before it began boarding evacuees.

On Thursday, the first international passenger flight left Kabul since the end of the military evacuation operation in late August.

The NSC said that the Taliban had been cooperative in arranging the flight. The Taliban have said several times that they would allow Afghans with the correct travel documents to leave the country.

However, there have been reports of flights from the city of Mazar-i-Sharif in the north being grounded.

Separately, two Americans and 11 U.S. residents also left Afghanistan by land on Friday.


University study finds gout drug could help COVID-19 patients

ATLANTA — A team of University of Georgia researchers may have found a drug that is an effective treatment for COVID-19.

The UGA study, released Friday in Nature’s Scientific Reports, found that probenecid, a federally approved oral medication to treat gout, has broad antiviral properties that makes it a prime candidate to combat not only a SARS-CoV-2 infection, the virus that causes COVID-19, but other viruses like the flu. Probenecid has been on the market for over 40 years and has minimal side effects that include nausea, dizziness, vomiting and headaches.

“This antiviral works for all RNA respiratory viruses we tested, including SARS-CoV-2. RSV, coronavirus and flu all circulate in the same season. Bottom line is you can potentially reduce infection and disease using this one oral drug,” Ralph Tripp, the study’s lead author and longtime professor in UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said in a statement. Tripp is also chief science officer of TrippBio, a pharmaceutical company where the research is in clinical development.

The researchers are investigating what dosage of probenecid could have the biggest impact fighting viruses in people and plan to start clinical trials of the medication within the year, UGA said in a news release.

Currently, only remdesivir has received federal approval for treatment of COVID-19, and it must be administered intravenously in hospitalized patients. The search for treatments has been extensive, and potentially dangerous. Some Georgia physicians have been writing prescriptions for ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug, for patients upon request for COVID-19 against the advice of the Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association and Merck, its manufacturer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported this week.

UGA has been actively researching therapeutics that can treat COVID-19 and the flu. It’s leading a federally funded effort to develop a new, more advanced flu vaccine to protect against multiple strains of the virus in a single dose.

—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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