HEADLINES: February 26, 2020
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Democratic candidates running for the Presidential nomination debated one another on stage yet again on Tuesday evening, this time in Charleston, South Carolina. Joining front runner Bernie Sanders on stage was former Vice President Joe Biden, who currently enjoys a slim majority among that’s state’s voters, plus Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer. As the front runner and one of two candidates challenging the Democratic Party establishment, Sanders faced the numerous attacks from his rivals including positive statements he had made about literacy rates in Cuba, and, per usual, the cost of his Medicare-for-All plan. He was excoriated for supporting the rights of gun owners in the past as well. Meanwhile Bloomberg, who performed disastrously in the last debate, was once more challenged for allegations over sexism and his taxes. Tickets reportedly cost between $1,750 and $3,200. Charleston County Democratic Party Chair Colleen Condon told reporters that it was unclear if the general public would have been able to attend and that, “This is something that the average person doesn’t usually get to go to.” She added, “These kind of events really are set up for sponsors and things like that.”
The next primary takes place in South Carolina on Saturday where black voters make up about a third of Democrats. Mr. Biden just snagged a coveted endorsement from House Majority Whip James Clyburn who represents that state. Meanwhile a new national poll by Reuters and Ipsos showed Sanders with a slim lead over Biden among black voters. Twenty six percent of African Americans back Sanders while 23% back Biden. The poll also found that, “26% of registered Democrats and independents now see the senator from Vermont as the most electable of the party’s presidential candidates. Another 20% said it was Bloomberg and 17% said it was Biden.” And, “Among all registered voters, including Republicans, 47% said they would vote for Sanders in a hypothetical general election matchup, while 40% said they would vote for President Donald Trump.” Still, those numbers did not seem to impress Mr. Buttigieg who said during the debate that a Sanders nomination would mean Democrats losing the White House, Senate and House in the general election. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed back later saying, “I think whoever our nominee is, we will enthusiastically embrace, and we will win the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives.” Meanwhile tech giant Google published data showing that Sanders was the most-searched candidate during the Tuesday debate, and Twitter said that he was the most-tweeted about candidate as well.
The coronavirus strain known as Covid-19 continues its march across the globe with new infections reported in several countries. There have been more than 81,000 confirmed infections and 2,700 deaths worldwide. Brazil reported its first case – and the first Latin American infection from a businessman who recently returned from a trip to Italy. New cases have emerged in the Middle East as well. European nations, including Italy, are scrambling to respond as the disease spreads across the continent, albeit in still small numbers. According to the New York Times, “for the first time, more new cases were reported outside China than inside.” In South Korea where the disease has rapidly spread more than 800,000 people signed a petition for the impeachment of President Moon Jae-In over his mishandling of the situation. Here in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a dire warning on Tuesday that communities should be prepared for infections to spread including preparing for, “social distancing measures,” such as dividing classrooms into smaller sizes, employees working from home. Alex Azar, US Secretary of Health and Human Services in a hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday echoed those concerns and told lawmakers, “We cannot hermetically seal off the United States to a virus…And we need to be realistic about that.”
Meanwhile President Trump has seemingly not decided what position to take on the virus. He downplayed the spread of the disease early on Tuesday but then in a misspelled tweet that revealed his panic over the Stock Market’s volatility he blamed the media and Democrats. He said that outlets like CNN were, “doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible,” and that, “Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action.” Trump added. “USA in great shape!” The Washington Post reported that, “Privately, Trump has become furious about the stock market’s slide, according to two people familiar with the president’s thinking.” Meanwhile Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer has proposed a $8.5 billion appropriations to combat the spread of Covid-19 in the US.
Also in the Senate, Majority leader Mitch McConnell this week took a break from blocking all legislation to put forward two extremist and deceptive bills attacking women’s right to an abortion. One of the bills was premised on the idea of late-term abortions – which do not exist except to create a false impression that doctors and parents murder fully formed humans after they are born. The other bill criminalized doctors if they didn’t perform all available measures to keep fetuses viable after abortions. Senator Chuck Schumer slammed the bills saying, “After weeks of complaining that the impeachment trial of President Trump was preventing the Senate from doing the people’s business, this is what the Senate Republicans have proposed: Fake, dishonest, extreme legislation that has nothing to do with improving the lives of ordinary Americans.” Several Republicans joined Democrats in voting both bills down.
Conservative justices on the Supreme Court used their slim majority to uphold a lower court decision that the Mexican parents of a boy killed on the Mexico side of the border by the US cannot sue the Border Patrol agent who fired the fatal shots. Jesus Hernandez and Maria Guereca have been searching for justice for the death of their 15-year old son Sergio Adrián Hernández Güereca for 3 years. Justice Alito claimed that the incident was a matter of “national security” and that Congress had purview, not the courts. Meanwhile in immigration news, a federal court has sided with the Trump Administration in its bid to withhold federal funding from states that declare themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants.
In international news, the death toll in India during President Trump’s trip there has increased to 24. Another 189 were injured as Hindu supremacist mobs attacked the mostly Muslim Indians protesting newly passed laws that undermine their citizenship. Associated Press explained that, “The clashes were the worst communal riots in the Indian capital in decades.” On Wednesday Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his silence on the violence tweeting, “Peace and harmony are central to our ethos. I appeal to my sisters and brothers of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times. It is important that there is calm and normalcy is restored at the earliest.” Modi’s own party has promoted Islamophobia, the anti-Muslim laws and Hindu-backed violent reactions to it.
Finally violence in Idlib continues as Syrian ground troops backed by Russian military might entered the last rebel-stronghold after weeks of airstrikes and bombing that led to the worst civilian displacement since the start of the war. Syrian government forces attacked schools and nurseries this week in airstrikes that claimed at least 21 people. The United Nations warns that the humanitarian crisis is now at, “horrifying new level.” There are reports of refugee families braving the freezing cold temperatures in makeshift tents and babies dying in the cold.