Trump Says Coronavirus ‘Very Well Under Control’ in US

President Donald Trump sought Tuesday to minimize fears about coronavirus spreading rampantly throughout the U.S., saying the situation is “very well under control in our country.”
   
At the same time, the Trump administration on Monday asked Congress for an additional $2.5 billion to prepare in case of a widespread outbreak and to assist other nations.
   
“We have very few people with it,” the president said at a news conference in India near the close of a two-day visit.
   
Trump referenced a group of 14 Americans who tested positive for coronavirus and were among hundreds of U.S. citizens recently evacuated from a cruise ship off the Japanese coast and brought to U.S. facilities.
   
Trump said those individuals were placed into quarantine and “we think they’ll be in very good shape very, very soon.”
   
In earlier remarks Tuesday, Trump said he wants the additional $2.5 billion to shore up defenses “in case something should happen” and to help other countries.
   
The White House budget office said the funding would be used for vaccine development, treatment and protective equipment, but Democrats immediately slammed the request as insufficient.
   
The budget request came as coronavirus fears were credited with Monday’s 1,000-plus-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
   
The rapid spread of the virus around the world and its threat to the global economy has rocked financial markets, but Trump said China is getting the epidemic under control.
 
 “They’ve had a rough patch and … it looks like they’re getting it under control more and more,” Trump said. “They’re getting it more and more under control so I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away, but we lost almost 1,000 points yesterday on the (stock) market.”
   
The funding request released Monday evening came as key government accounts were running low. The Department of Health and Human Services had already tapped into an emergency infectious disease rapid response fund and was seeking to transfer more than $130 million from other HHS accounts to combat the virus but is pressing for more.
   
The Trump administration is requesting $1.25 billion in new funding and wants to transfer $535 million more from an Ebola preparedness account that’s been a top priority of Democrats. It anticipates shifting money from other HHS accounts and other agencies to complete the $2.5 billion response plan.
   
Democrats said Trump’s attempt to tap existing Ebola prevention funding was dead on arrival.
   
“All of the warning lights are flashing bright red. We are staring down a potential pandemic, and the administration has no plan,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who blasted a shortage of kits to test for the virus and Trump’s proposed budget cuts to health agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We have a crisis of coronavirus, and President Trump has no plan, no urgency, no understanding of the facts or how to coordinate a response.”
   
Trump said a “lot of talent” and a “lot of brainpower” was being tapped for the coronavirus response. He criticized Schumer for panning the budget request.
   
“These characters,”Trump said of Democrats. “They’re just not good for our country.’”   
Democrats in control the House wrote HHS Secretary Alex Azar earlier this month to request funds to help speed development of a coronavirus vaccine, expand laboratory capacity and beef up screening efforts at U.S. entry points. Azar was slated to testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, and the U.S. response to the outbreak is sure to be a major topic.
   
The quickly spreading virus has slammed the economy of China, where the virus originated, and caseloads are rapidly increasing in countries such as South Korea, Iran and Italy. More than 80,000 people around the world have been infected with coronavirus, with more than 2,500 deaths, mostly in China.
   
As of Tuesday, the United States had 35 of the more than 80,000 known cases. Separately, one U.S. citizen died in China.

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Dozens of HIV-Positive S. African Women Forcibly Sterilized

A scathing new report reveals that dozens of HIV-positive women were forced or coerced into sterilization after giving birth at public hospitals in South Africa.The Commission for Gender Equality’s report this week says it investigated complaints by at least 48 women of “cruel, torturous or inhumane and degrading treatment” at the hospitals. At times it occurred when women were in labor.
    
In many cases, “the hospitals’ staff had threatened not to assist them in giving birth” if they didn’t sign the consent forms for sterilization, the report says. The commission is a statutory body that operates as an independent watchdog.
    
The forced sterilizations at 15 public hospitals in South Africa between 2002 and 2005 have sparked public outrage. Some of the hospitals are in some of the country’s largest cities such as Johannesburg and Durban.
    
“When I asked the nurse what the forms were for, the nurse responded by saying: ‘You HIV people don’t ask questions when you make babies. Why are you asking questions now? You must be closed up because you HIV people like making babies and it just annoys us,'” the report quotes one complainant as saying.
    
The commission said its investigation took time because of challenges including some hospital staffers who tried to hide documents or refused to cooperate.
    
It will refer its report to the Health Professions Council of South Africa, which has a mandate to act against health care practitioners.
    
The World Health Organization says South Africa has the largest HIV epidemic in the world with more than 7 million people living with the illness. Some 19% of the people around the world with HIV live in the country, which also has 15% of new infections.
    
The commission has recommended that further research be done into how widespread the practice of forced sterilization of women living with HIV might be in South Africa.

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Democrats Thwart Senate Republicans on 2 Abortion-Related Bills

Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a pair of Republican bills that would ban most late-term abortions and threaten prison for doctors who don’t try saving the life of infants born alive during abortions.The measures have been defeated multiple times in recent years, but Senate Republicans pushed for renewed votes to allow GOP lawmakers to make an election-year appeal to conservative voters.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 25, 2020.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of bowing to “the radical demands of the far left” to “drown out common sense” and the views of millions of Americans.”It almost defies belief that an entire political party could find cause to object to this basic protection for babies,” the Kentucky Republican said.Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y. listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 25, 2020.Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer blasted McConnell for taking up the Senate’s time on what he called “fake, dishonest and extreme legislation that has nothing to do with improving the lives of ordinary Americans.”Noting that existing laws protect infants, Schumer said the GOP bills would, in effect, “criminalize” women’s reproductive care and intimidate health care providers.”Putting these already defeated bills up for a show vote is not a good faith attempt to improve the lives of … American women,” the New York Democrat said. “Every single Senate Republican knows that these bills cannot and will not pass. But they’re putting them on the floor anyway to pander to the hard right. And to cover up the fact that they won’t provide good health care for women.”The votesSenators voted 56-41 for the born-alive bill, and 53-44 for a separate measure banning most abortions after 20 weeks. Both tallies were short of the 60 votes needed to end Democratic delaying tactics and force a Senate vote.Democratic Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Doug Jones of Alabama and Joe Manchin from West Virginia were the only lawmakers to cross party lines on the born-alive bill. Jones and GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska opposed the late-term abortion ban.Three senators seeking the Democratic nomination for president — Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — did not cast votes.Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the Senate debate was not about passing laws or even health care. “It is really about Republicans’ crass political calculation that they can fire up their far-right base with an all-out war against the constitutionally protected right to safe, legal abortion,” she said.The billsSen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said the bill he sponsored was not about limiting access to abortion at all. Instead, the bill is intended to make sure that every newborn baby “has a fighting chance — whether she’s born in a labor and delivery ward or whether she’s born in an abortion clinic.”Sasse’s bill would make it a crime to deny care to a baby that’s survived an abortion. “Are we a country that protects babies that are alive, born outside the womb after having survived a botched abortion?” he asked.FILE – Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 31, 2020.Or is the United States a country “that says it’s okay to just sit back and allow that baby to die? It’s a plain and simple question and we all know what the right answer is,” Sasse said. ”This isn’t a hard call.”A separate bill sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., would essentially ban abortion after 20 weeks, the point at which many scientists say an unborn child can feel pain.Graham said he believes a majority of Americans oppose allowing abortion in the fifth month of pregnancy. The United States is currently one of seven countries in the world that permit elective abortion after 20 weeks.”The United States should not be in that club,” Graham said.The argumentsThe two votes marked the latest instance in which Republicans have tried to go on offense on the issue of abortion and put Democratic lawmakers who support abortion rights in an uncomfortable position.”It’s hard to believe that, in 21st century America, the life of a baby more than halfway through pregnancy is considered up for debate, but it’s true,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that works to elect anti-abortion candidates.Opponents, noting the rarity of such births and citing laws making it a crime to kill newborn babies, said the GOP bills were unnecessary. They called the proposals part of a push by abortion opponents to curb access to the procedure and intimidate doctors who perform it, and said late-term abortions generally occur when the infant is considered incapable of surviving after birth.Only 1% of all abortions occur after 21 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. Abortions during the final weeks are rarer still.Doctors and abortion-rights groups say it is extremely unusual for live infants to be born during attempted late-term abortions, which they say usually occur when the baby is extremely deformed or deemed unable to survive after birth. In such cases, families sometimes decide they want to induce labor so they can spend time with the infant before it dies.”Families across the country have actually faced these decisions, have spoken out to make clear politicians should have no part in them,” Murray said. ”Pressing for these awful bills year after year may be nothing more than a cynical political tactic for Republicans, but passing them would be an unconscionable exercise in cruelty.”
 

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Technology Serves Up Hot Meals for Hungry Kids in Kenya

Technology is finally able to make food appear. With help from a local NGO, hungry kids in Kenya can now get a hot lunch for a few pennies with just a tap of their wrists. It happens using short-range Wi-Fi, as VOA’s Arash Arabasadi reports.

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Democratic Presidential Candidates Say Front-Runner Sanders Can’t Beat Trump

U.S. Democratic presidential contenders targeted front-runner Bernie Sanders in a raucous debate late Tuesday, contending that the self-declared democratic socialist would lose to Republican President Donald Trump in November’s national election if he is the party’s nominee.”Bernie will lose to Donald Trump, and the House and Senate will turn [Republican],” former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the 10th Democratic presidential debate on a stage in Charleston, South Carolina, four days ahead of Saturday’s key presidential primary in the mid-Atlantic state.Sanders retorted that national surveys show that in the last 50 hypothetical matches against Trump, he had beaten him 47 times.But Bloomberg responded, looking directly at Sanders, “Can you imagine a moderate Republican voting for him?”Another candidate, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a longtime ally of Sanders, contended that, “I would make a better president than Bernie,” saying that she could advance the progressive policy goals they share and that he would not be able to.Sanders’ opponents lobbed one attack after another at the 78-year-old lawmaker, chiding him for favoring a government-run health insurance program that could cost $60 trillion over a decade and end private insurance plans that 160 million Americans use to help pay their health care bills. They also assailed Sanders for opposing bills in Congress that would have held gun manufacturers liable for gun violence in the U.S.Sanders defended his signature “Medicare for All” health plan, saying it would cut health care costs for millions of Americans. He conceded his vote on the gun legislation “was a bad vote.”From left, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on stage as they participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate at the Gaillard Center, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Charleston, S.C.Sanders, a longtime senator from Vermont in the northeastern U.S., has surged to the top of national polls of Democratic voters, but his opponents for the Democratic nomination said he is out of step with many American voters.They claimed that Sanders’ plans to sharply increase social welfare spending for health and education would be too costly. In interviews this week, Sanders’ opponents have also attacked his decades-old favorable assessments of leftist strongmen — the late Fidel Castro in Cuba and Nicaragua’s revolutionary president, Daniel Ortega — saying it would prove to be indefensible and a political disaster for U.S. Democrats in 2020.In an interview last weekend, Sanders praised Castro’s literacy program in Cuba, despite long-standing U.S. condemnation of Castro’s years of human rights abuses. Old videos of Sanders, when he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, and visiting Cuba and Nicaragua, are resurfacing, showing him praising advances in socialist countries, haunting his second bid for the U.S. presidency.Late in the debate, Sanders said he has “opposed authoritarians all over the world,” but contended that “when dictatorships do something good, you acknowledge, but you don’t exchange love letters.”
Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said such a Sanders sentiment would not help him run against Trump.“I am not looking forward to a scenario where it comes down to Donald Trump, with his nostalgia for the social order of the 1950s, and Bernie Sanders, with nostalgia for the revolutionary politics of the 1960s,” Buttigieg said. “This is not about what was happening in the 1970s or ’80s, this is about the future. This is about 2020.”Moreover, on the eve of the Nevada caucuses last week, The Washington Post revealed that U.S. intelligence officials had informed Sanders that Russian President Vladimir Putin is attempting to help Sanders win the nomination, in hopes that he would be an easier opponent for President Trump.At the top of the debate, Bloomberg took a pot shot at Sanders, saying, “Vladimir Putin thinks that Donald Trump is, should be president of the United States, and that’s why Russia is helping you get [nominated] so you’ll lose to him.”An agitated Sanders responded: “Hey, Mr. Putin, trust me, if I’m president, you’re not going to interfere in any more American elections.”The face-to-face confrontation among seven candidates also came just a week before voters head to the polls in 14 states next Tuesday, when more than a third of the delegates to the Democrats’ national nominating convention in July will be picked in a one-day marathon of voting from coast to coast.Sanders won the popular vote in the first three nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, making it imperative for at least one of Sanders’ opponents to mount a serious challenge in the next week of voting or face the prospect that Sanders could soon amass an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates to the national convention.Democratic presidential candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate at the Gaillard Center, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Charleston, S.C.Democrats apportion their pledged delegates to the national conclave based on the proportional outcome of the candidates’ vote totals throughout the 50 states and U.S. territories, not on a winner-take-all basis as is the case within the Republican Party. That gives Sanders a chance to add to his first-place standing in the count of pledged delegates as each state votes, even if he loses an individual state.Former Vice President Joe Biden is narrowly ahead of Sanders in recent polling in South Carolina, with its 54 national delegates in play. But analysts have not discounted the possibility that Sanders could also win the state three days ahead of the March 3 voting, a day dubbed as Super Tuesday. when a massive haul of 1,357 delegates is at stake.Biden, who once led national polls in the race to take on Trump, finished a distant second in last Saturday’s Nevada voting, and even further back in Iowa and New Hampshire.The South Carolina polling shows wealthy environmentalist Tom Steyer, who has spent large sums on an advertising campaign in the state, could finish third in the balloting, which could lend modest momentum to his long shot candidacy. The surveys in the state show him ahead of former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Warren and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.For the second debate in a row, Warren attacked Bloomberg’s sexist and misogynistic comments toward female workers at his eponymous business information company that he founded, an enterprise that made him the 12th-richest person in the world.In a heated exchange, Warren accused Bloomberg of suggesting to a woman who worked for him and had just announced her pregnancy to “kill it,” and have an abortion.”I never said that,” he heatedly answered, later adding emphatically, “I categorically never said it.”Bloomberg, by his choice, is not on the South Carolina ballot, and instead has focused on next Tuesday’s voting, when he is on all 14 of the Super Tuesday ballots.He appeared on the debate stage with his opponents for the first time last week, but the billionaire came under withering attack, with his challengers accusing him of trying to buy the election with his vast wealth.Bloomberg’s opponents also assailed the stop-and-frisk, anti-crime policing effort he employed as New York mayor from 2002 to 2013, a program he now says he is embarrassed by because of the effect it had in targeting young black and Latino men.After Warren assailed his refusal at last week’s debate to release women from secrecy agreements about the financial settlements they reached with Bloomberg’s company, he agreed that three women who had specifically accused him of demeaning remarks could speak publicly if they wanted to, but no one has as yet. It is not clear how many financial settlements Bloomberg reached with women who worked for his company.Warren said Tuesday Bloomberg should release women from all the settlements, not just the three he has agreed to do.”The trouble with this senator, enough is never enough,” Bloomberg said.From left, Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, shake hands on stage at the end of the Democratic presidential primary debate Feb. 25, 2020, in Charleston, S.C.Bloomberg has made no apologies for his fortune, saying he has donated vast sums to charitable ventures, as well as arts, environmental, public health, anti-smoking and gun control organizations.Now, he said, he is spending hundreds of millions of his own money trying to unseat fellow New Yorker Trump, a man he has occasionally praised over the years as a prominent real estate mogul but now assails as an unfit president.As the debate neared the end, the seven candidates were asked what they thought the public’s biggest misconception was about them.
Steyer, a multibillionaire investor and philanthropist, said “I am defined” by my business success. Klobuchar, the Minnesota senator, said, “The biggest misconception is that I’m boring, because I’m not.” Sanders said the biggest misconception was that “the ideas I’m talking about are radical, because they’re not [and] in one form or another they exist in countries around the world.” Warren’s response was “that I don’t eat very much. I eat all the time.”
Biden drew laughter when he said the biggest misconception is “I have more hair than I think I do.” Buttigieg lamented that “I think the biggest misconception is that I’m not passionate. … Some say I’m unflappable. I don’t think you would want a flappable president.”
Finally, the 5-foot-8-inch Bloomberg joked, “The biggest misconception is that I’m 6 feet tall.”“I have been training for this job for a long time, and when I get it, I will do something, and not just talk about it,” Bloomberg added.

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Super Tuesday Looms as Biggest Day in Presidential Primary Calendar 

In the Democratic presidential race, all eyes are on South Carolina this week in anticipation of Saturday’s primary.Former Vice President Joe Biden is counting on a victory, with help from the state’s large number of African American voters, to get back in the race and stem the momentum of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination.Recent polls show Sanders edging closer to Biden in the top spot after Sanders’ strong showing in the first three contests in Iowa, New Hampshire  and Nevada.The Democratic field is also looking ahead to next week’s Super Tuesday primaries, the single most important day on the primary election calendar.Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, with his wife Jane, raises his hand as he speaks during a campaign event in San Antonio, Feb. 22, 2020.What is Super Tuesday?Journalists and political experts coined the term decades ago to describe the day when more states hold presidential nominating elections — either primaries or caucuses — than any other day in the election year. Super Tuesday runs from early February to early June. This year, it falls on March 3.Why is it significant?Super Tuesday is a major political test for candidates seeking their party’s presidential nomination. A large number of states holding primaries on the same day presents huge challenges for presidential contenders, and can often make or break a campaign.  It is seen as the first truly national test for a presidential aspirant. Several larger states with numerous delegates at stake will be contested on Super Tuesday, including California and Texas, the nation’s two largest.Which states vote on Super Tuesday?This year, 14 states hold primaries. The popular-vote tallies in the various states will be used to award pledged delegates to the contenders. In total, 1,357 pledged delegates will be at stake, which is about 34% of the total number of delegates that will be allocated during the primary and caucus season.In order to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, a candidate must secure 1,991 delegates out of a total of 3,979 pledged delegates at the convention.The Democratic delegates will select the nominee at the party’s national convention in July in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  In addition to the Super Tuesday primaries, the territory of American Samoa will hold a Democratic caucus on March 3.  Registered Democrats who live overseas will vote in the Democrats Abroad primary March 3 through March 10.What is the history of Super Tuesday?  Beginning in the 1970s, a few states began to slowly cluster some of their primaries on the same date.  The effort to create a Super Tuesday of primaries gained momentum in 1988 when several southern states decided to hold their primaries on the same day in the hopes that southern candidates in the Democratic Party could improve their chances of winning the nomination.In 1992, Democratic candidate Bill Clinton won several southern primaries on his way to the party’s nomination. In 1996, Republican candidate Bob Dole’s strong showing helped him clinch the party nomination that year.During the 2000 campaign, Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush effectively secured their nominations with Super Tuesday victories.In 2016, Republican Donald Trump won seven of the 10 contested Super Tuesday states.Who is favored this year in Super Tuesday contests?The Democratic race is getting all the attention this year because Trump has only token opposition within the Republican Party.Sanders is perhaps best positioned to do well, due to his strong showings so far in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. He also has a strong fundraising base and a campaign organization that has him competitive in most of the states voting on March 3. Sanders is heavily favored in his home state of Vermont, and has been leading in polls in California and  other states.But he could get a strong challenge in several states from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and perhaps from Biden.FILE PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg holds a campaign rally in Salt Lake City, Feb. 20, 2020.  Bloomberg has spent an estimated $400 million on television ads to boost his candidacy in the Super Tuesday states after having skipped the first four contests.In addition to Sanders, Bloomberg and Biden, the Democratic contenders vying for delegates on Super Tuesday include Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren; former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar; and billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer.At the very least, Warren and Klobuchar expect to do well in their home states, both of which vote on Super Tuesday.But candidates who fail to do well may be forced to reassess their chances going forward, particularly if their fundraising begins to dwindle. That would limit their ability to compete in some of the larger states holding primaries later in March, including Florida, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio.

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