Headlines: February 25, 2020
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President Donald Trump wrapped up his 2-day trip to India on Tuesday with a press conference one day after a massive joint rally in Gujarat, the home state of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While Trump was being treated to pomp and pageantry nearly a dozen people were killed in violent clashes in the capital New Delhi. Asked about the violence and the Indian government’s approach to religious freedom, Trump said this. There are photos and videos of Hindu mobs burning down and destroying mosques and beating Muslims. A troubling video of injured and bleeding men being forced by Indian police to lay down and chant a patriotic song has also emerged. Meanwhile Trump claimed he had secured a $3 billion weapons deal with the Modi government but no actual deal was made or signed. There was also no trade deal with India and while Trump heaped praised on Mr. Modi, he complained of Indian tariffs on US goods.
Meanwhile the Coronavirus strain known as Covid-19 continues to spread almost as fast as panic over the disease. South Korea has documented nearly 1,000 cases of the virus more than half of which have originated in the city of Daegu. Officials are focusing on a controversial church that has been likened to a cult. The 200,000 church members are all being tested for the disease and the city’s 2 and a half million residents have been advised to remain indoors. South Korean President Moon Jae-In visited Daegu and assured residents saying, “We can sufficiently overcome and definitely triumph over the covid-19.” Meanwhile Iran is also struggling with the spread of the disease, most notably marked by the nation’s deputy health minister being diagnosed with it. Mr. Iraj Harirchi, who has been leading Iran’s response to the coronavirus outbreak appeared on live television on Monday during which he was visibly sweating. He later announced he was infected and has self-imposed a quarantine. And, Mahmoud Sadeghi, a prominent member of the Iranian parliament has also been diagnosed with Covid-19. So far 95 people have been officially diagnosed nationwide and 15 are recorded dead.
Here in the US, the White House has announced a $2.5 billion plan to fight the virus. A spokesperson from the Office of Management and Budget said, “The Administration believes additional Federal resources are necessary to take steps to prepare for a potential worsening of the situation in the United States.” During his press conference in India Trump claimed that a vaccine to fight the spread of the virus would soon become available but experts downplayed his claim saying it would be 12-18 months before a vaccine would become available. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the $2.5 billion budget was not enough and that the White House’s request was too little, too late. She said the House would advance its own budget around combatting the coronavirus. Meanwhile, after US stocks plunged globally on Monday over fears that the virus was spreading, they rallied back up only to fall again on Tuesday. Reuters reported that, “investors turned to some consumer companies as they bet on stock-piling of products such as disinfectants and shelf-stable foods.”
In electoral news, new polls of South Carolina voters have found former Vice President Joe Biden leading, but only barely. The next primary race will take place on Saturday, the first southern state to choose a nominee for the Democratic Party. One poll released on Monday showed Biden at 36% with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at only 21%. Another poll released on the same day showed a tighter race with Biden at 27% and Sanders within the margin of error at 23%. A poll of California voters, who will cast ballots next Tuesday, found that Sanders enjoys broad support among communities of color – much more than previously thought. He dominated among younger Californians especially. And a Morning Consult Survey found that 32% of Democrats – a plurality – think that Sanders can beat Trump in November. The next Democratic Party candidate debate is on Tuesday evening where Sanders is expected to be pummeled by his rivals as he fights to retain his frontrunner status. New media focus on past statements he made are opening up a new line of attack for centrist Democrats. The Washington Post conducted a deep dive into video clips of Sanders praising some aspects of socialist and communist regimes including Cuba and Nicaragua. After facing criticism for praising former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, critics pointed out that former President Obama’s comments were quite similar. Sanders is also facing greater pressure to explain how he would pay for his ambitious social programs, and on Monday night his campaign released a detailed plan.
Just days after Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a scathing dissent accusing her conservative colleagues of capitulating to the Trump administration, the President demanded on Twitter and during his India press conference that Sotomayor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recuse themselves from any decisions in cases involving Trump. The battle over the Supreme Court’s bias intensified after a report emerged that Ginni Thomas, the wife of conservative justice Clarence Thomas, has been drawing up a list of administration officials deemed disloyal and deserving of replacement by loyalists. Justice Thomas meanwhile made news for criticizing past rulings, in particular his own 2005 decision involving the FCC.
A federal appeals court on Monday in a 7-4 ruling upheld a harsh anti-abortion rule proposed by the Trump administration. The so-called gag rule prevents Title X-funded clinics that serve low-income women from making referrals for abortions, in spite of the fact that abortion remains federal legal and the right to abortion constitutionally protected.
A new report by Physicians for Human Rights has evaluated dozens of people harmed by the Trump administration’s immigrant family-separation policy and concluded that it “constitutes cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and, in all cases evaluated by PHR experts, constitutes torture.” And, internationally, the United Nations this week in a new report for the first time published guidelines for what is considered psychological torture.
Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has just signed a law making his state the third in the nation to ban prison life sentences without the possibility of parole for youth. The bill will take effect on July 1st and could give hundreds of people the chance to win parole.
As the reactions to Harvey Weinstein’s guilty verdict continue to reverberate across the nation, the Hollywood movie mogul’s accusers are expressing gratitude. One woman Mimi Haleyi, said in an interview, “It was just a huge relief. It was a huge relief that the jury got it.” Weinstein’s lawyers say they will appeal the ruling ahead of his sentencing hearing in two weeks. Weinstein was taken to a hospital after the verdict, complaining of chest pain. President Trump was asked to comment on Weinstein’s verdict and he took the opportunity to claim that he never liked Weinstein although Democrats and especially Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton apparently liked Weinstein. Trump himself faces multiple accusations of sexual assault of a similar nature to Weinstein.
And finally Egypt’s former dictator Hosni Mubarak has just died. The 91-year old’s ouster during the powerful 2011 Arab Spring revolts reverberated around the world. He was tried in various criminal courts after he was forced to resign. Egyptian state media announced that Mubarak died in a hospital while undergoing a surgery but gave no other details.