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  • Merkel Ally Laschet Becomes Front-Runner to Win Party Leadership

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    (Bloomberg) -- A moderate in Angela Merkel’s mold became the clear front-runner to replace her after a vocal conservative contender backed his bid to lead the Christian Democratic Union.Armin Laschet, 58, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, won the support of Health Minister Jens Spahn, 39, a move that would likely ease pressure on the German leader to step down early.By uniting centrist and conservative factions in the party, the duo threatens the ambitions of Friedrich Merz, a long-time Merkel antagonist considered the biggest risk to the chancellor.“We can and we must bring our party and our country together again,” Laschet, 58, said during a joint press conference with Spahn. “That’s why I want to run as leader of the CDU.”After having his political career eclipsed by Merkel even before she became chancellor, Merz stormed back onto the political scene in 2018 in an attempt to take control of the party, only to be thwarted in a tight race. This might be the 64-year-old’s last chance, and he plans to go for it.“As of today, we have an open competition in the CDU,” Merz said, criticizing Laschet as the candidate of continuity while saying he stands for renewal. “I am playing for the win.”The start of the eight-week contest to become party leader -- and in all likelihood the CDU’s chancellor candidate for the next election -- will determine whether Merkel can see out her final term, which is due to end in the fall of 2021. Delegates will vote on the next leader of Germany’s strongest party at a special convention on April 25.Laschet and Spahn indicated that they won’t put pressure on Merkel to leave early, but Laschet noted that while he looped in the Bavarian sister party of the alliance, the chancellor wasn’t informed of the deal in advance.“Our candidacy is not directed at Angela Merkel,” said Spahn. “It’s not about a break, and it wouldn’t succeed anyway. It’s about learning to walk after 15 years of Angela Merkel’s chancellorship.”Far-Right FalloutThe surprise alliance between two of the leading contenders reflects the turmoil sweeping through the party in the aftermath of a state chapter’s decision to break ranks and throw its lot in with the far-right Alternative for Germany. The fallout led to the resignation of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as CDU chief two weeks ago.“We, as the CDU, are in the biggest crisis of our history, a crisis of trust, solidarity and confidence,” Spahn said. “Armin Laschet and I sometimes had our differences in the past, but that’s what it’s about in a people’s party: building bridges between different positions and different generations.”For Germany the stakes are high. The CDU has to deal with the challenge from the far-right, French demands for European integration, and the twilight of an economic era which saw its manufacturers go from strength to strength.Support for Merkel’s bloc held at 26.5% in the latest Insa poll for Bild newspaper published Tuesday, with the Greens gaining 1.5 percentage points to 22% and the Social Democrats steady on 14.5%. By comparison, the CDU-led bloc secured 32.9% of the vote in the 2017 election.Kramp-Karrenbauer -- Merkel’s chosen successor -- had planned to stick around until year end, but she was forced to accelerate the process as unrest swirled around the party. A disastrous election result in Hamburg on Sunday underscored the need for urgency.Leadership ClaimWith Spahn refraining from running, the main contest pits Laschet against Merz. Norbert Roettgen, 54, who was fired by Merkel as environment minister in 2012, has also entered the race but is seen as an outsider. He announced on Twitter that he planned to bring a woman onto his ticket.Spahn criticized Merz’s decision to pursue his own candidacy and not support a unified ticket under Laschet.“We both have a great deal of respect for Friedrich Merz,” said Spahn. “But what we need right now is solidarity and unity in the party and that’s why I have decided to support Armin Laschet.”Merz fired back, likening the Laschet-Spahn alliance to a “cartel” designed to weaken competition. But he said he wasn’t backing down.“I have always worked in teams and never alone. And it was completely clear to me that I would also work in a team this time, but a team must be led and needs a leader,” said Merz. “I want to win.”(Adds comments from Laschet and Spahn throughout)To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net;Arne Delfs in Berlin at adelfs@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Chris Reiter, Iain RogersFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 05:52:21 -0500
  • Merz expects to find "understanding" with Merkel if elected CDU leader

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    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 05:24:46 -0500
  • Merkel's would-be successors announce bids for party leader

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    Political heavyweights in Germany's ruling CDU announced on Tuesday their bids for the crisis-wracked party's top job, pitting a staunch ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel against her nemesis. Merkel's centre-right Christian Democratic Union has been in turmoil after her heir apparent Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer resigned as party chief this month over her supposed failure to stop regional MPs from cooperating with the far right. Armin Laschet, premier of Germany's most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia, became the first to throw his name into the hat alongside Health Minister Jens Spahn as his potential deputy.

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 05:15:58 -0500
  • Erstwhile Merkel rival Merz joins CDU party leadership race

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    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 05:02:12 -0500
  • Landmark second world war ceremony in Moscow poses dilemma for UK and US

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    Countries question whether to attend amid questions over division in the west and Russian military actionRussian ceremonies in May to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the second world war are posing an increasingly urgent dilemma for western capitals on whether to go – and who to send.Discussions have been under way for some weeks between UK and US officials on a coordinated response. But the decision is complicated by the unpredictability of Donald Trump, and by Emmanuel Macron’s decision to accept Vladimir Putin’s invitation to the 9 May victory parade as part of his diplomatic overture to Moscow, without consulting Nato allies.For the US, UK and other western powers, failure to attend would underline western divisions and run the risk of appearing to lack respect for the shared sacrifices of defeating Nazism.On the other hand, attendance at the grandiose military parade planned in Moscow to mark the occasion could involve leaders acquiescing in continuing Russian military adventurism, and possibly witnessing the march-past of units involved in the bombardment of civilians in Syria, or the occupation of Crimea and military operations in the Donbas region.“It is not appropriate for western leaders to honour the army in uniform that still occupies part of Ukraine, and paying tribute to some of the same units who are killing people in Idlib,” an eastern European diplomat said.Western attendance could also be used by Moscow to suggest acceptance of its revisionist version of second world war history, which airbrushes away Stalin and Hitler’s 1939 neutrality agreement, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which lasted until 1941 and by which Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union carved up Poland.Poland has so far been left off Putin’s invitation list, as has Norway. Ukraine and Lithuania have already said they have no intention of going, even if they were invited. In Estonia, the defence minister has warned the president against accepting an invitation, though none has so far arrived, arguing attendance would mean “indirectly accepting Russian rhetoric”.Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel have all been asked but have yet to make a decision. Diplomats from their respective countries have been trying to coordinate a position, while privately expressing irritation with Macron for failing to consult allies before agreeing to go to Moscow.The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, repeated Putin’s invitation to Trump when he visited Washington in December.“He has expressed interest in taking part in the events if his schedule allows it,” Lavrov said.Trump will be in the midst of his campaign for re-election by May. Going to Moscow would add weight to Democratic accusations that the president is under Putin’s sway. But those allegations have not resonated with the president’s core supporters. The trip would showcase Trump as a statesman, especially if he was offered pride of place among other world leaders in Moscow, and the prospect of a diplomatic or arms control deal he could bring back to Washington.“There is a balance we need to find. On the 75th anniversary, it’s important that we mark and recognise the sacrifices that were made, and that we fought as allies, and there is a desire to do that,” a western diplomat said. “But the challenge is around concerns that Russia will choose to instrumentalise the event.”“The more that we can coordinate and maintain an allied position the better,” the diplomat said.Among the options being weighed as compromises in Washington and London are leaders’ participation in a wreath-laying in Moscow but avoiding the military parade, together with a joint statement distancing themselves from Putin’s military operations in Syria and Ukraine, and the Kremlin’s rewriting of history.Another option is to balance attendance in Moscow with participation in rival ceremonies being held in Ukraine on the previous day, 8 May.The government in Kyiv is working hard to present the Ukrainian ceremonies as a more appropriate way of commemorating the suffering of the second world war, without the risk of endorsing Russian aggression.“Ukraine is marking 8 May as a Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation along with the whole democratic world,” a Ukrainian official said. “Five years ago on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of world war two, Ukraine rejected the Soviet (now Russian) style of honoring Stalin’s victory over Nazism.“That’s why Ukraine is inviting foreign countries to attend commemorative events in Kyiv,” the official added. “Now we are working on all details; logistics and the agenda will be available sometime later. Taking into account the aforementioned, we hope that the US officials would participate in the commemorative events on 8 May in Kyiv.”Kyiv is weighing an invitation to the US defence secretary, to reflect the importance of US military aid in the face of Russian encroachment.Other countries are assessing how to balance participation in Kyiv with attendance in Moscow.“It is also important to remember that other parts of the former Soviet Union fought in the war,” a western diplomat said. “It’s not just about Russia, and that should be recognised.”

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 05:00:46 -0500
  • China’s Paranoid Party Line: America is the Enemy and Needs to ‘Butt Out’

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    The coronavirus crisis has killed more than 2,200 people, virtually all of them in China. Fears that the virus will metastasize to countries incapable of containing it, and knock the wind out of a bustling world economy in the process, have gone far in ensuring that the crisis remains the world’s Big Story this February.While Chinese social media shows widespread fear, grief, and anger at the Communist Party in Beijing for its inept handling of the crisis, and for punishing journalists and ordinary citizens for “spreading rumors,” i.e., the truth, party leader Xi Jinping has called on officials within the nation’s powerful propaganda apparatus to “strengthen the guidance of public opinion.”  The Chinese Communist Party’s firm determination to shape the narrative of important events for its own people, and for the world, is at the heart of another story with the potential to make the coronavirus crisis seem like small potatoes: the simmering rivalry between China and the United States for geopolitical dominance of Asia and the Pacific. Defense and foreign policy analysts are increasingly concerned that that a misstep by one party or the other in the seas off Taiwan, or on the South China Sea, might trigger a shooting war.Will China Invade Hong Kong? Or Taiwan Instead?They worry that the Chinese party leadership’s abidingly negative views of the United States, and its emerging strategy for dealing with the China’s rise, could lead to a military clash that neither side wants. If mutual understanding plays a role in preventing great power competition from sliding into war—and of course it does—then understanding China’s views of its strategic rival is crucially important.To say that Chinese policymakers, military officers, and academics take a dim view of America is a colossal understatement. A close examination of recent speeches and writing about the United States by such authorities reveals a clear consensus: America is not merely a strategic rival. America is an adversary. America is not to be trusted.And it’s a dangerous adversary, because it’s bent on preventing China from taking its rightful place in world affairs and preserving America’s “provocative” military dominance of Asia.Cynicism about the United States runs very deep among China’s elite, and a massive domestic propaganda campaign concerning American intentions has greatly eaten away at the generally favorable opinions most ordinary Chinese once held about the United States.As Beijing sees it, American foreign policy since World War II has been invariably self-serving and exploitative, not only toward China, but toward the entire developing world. Even America’s post-Cold War policy of engagement and openness toward Beijing, which has contributed significantly to China’s astonishing economic rise, is interpreted by Chinese political leaders and scholars as having served first and foremost the interests of Washington.America’s international support for human rights in Hong Kong and within the PRC, claims leading Chinese Communist Party member Li Quiu, is little more than a “pretext to influence and limit China’s healthy economic grown and prevent China’s wealth and power from threatening American hegemony.”Official statements intended for the outside world call attention again and again to China’s peaceful intentions and respect for order in pursuing a more assertive foreign policy. In fact, though, Chinese military and political leaders have been flagrantly violating the rules-based international order on a regular basis since 2012, intimidating and coercing neighboring powers with economic blackmail and military intimidation.In July 2016, an independent arbitration tribunal established under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) published a clear and binding ruling against China’s claims vis-à-vis the Philippines in the South China Sea. China’s response at the time was to dismiss the ruling as “nothing more than a piece of waste paper.”The current international system, according to the senior leadership of the Communist Party, is rigged in favor of the United States and her closest allies. “One of the things that fascinated me about the Chinese,” writes the former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, “is that whenever I would have a conversation about international standards or international rules of behavior, they would inevitably point out that those rules were made when they were absent from the world stage.”Now that China is indisputably back on that stage, President Xi Jinping and his senior colleagues have allocated trillions of dollars to create alternative international institutions and rules to those of the current system. The China Development Bank, not the World Bank, is now the leading financier of international development projects. China’s Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious effort to link the economies and cultures of more than 60 countries in Asia, Europe, and North Africa with fast trains, state of the art airports, fiber optics, and favorable trading terms, is already roughly 12 times the size of America’s post-World War II Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe. It’s sure to continue to grow for quite some time.Taken together, said Xi Jinping in a recent speech, these initiatives offer “a new option for other countries who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence.”Yuan Peng, a leading PRC expert on international relations, believes China must now seize the opportunity to “modify unreasonable international mechanisms… including international or regional organizations, regimes, and laws” to reflect Beijing’s increasingly influential place in world affairs.Writing in Debating China, a fascinating anthology of short essays on various aspects of the U.S.-China relationship by American and Chinese experts, Wu Xinbo asserts that the great threat to stability and prosperity in Asia is not China’s refusal to play by the rules, but America’s current effort to strengthen its alliances in the region and sell sophisticated weaponry to Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, among others. If the United States truly wants peace, writes Wu, it should stop “fanning the flames of dispute in the South China Sea.”Ironically, China’s seizure and subsequent militarization of seven small islands in that Sea has greatly alarmed many of its neighbors, causing them to seek reassurances and closer ties to the Washington.“China doesn’t like the U.S. self-proclaimed leadership [in Asia],” opines Wu Xinbo, “which compromises the aspirations of other regional members … Beijing also suspects that Washington’s intended role of balancer serves only to check a rising China, undermining its legitimate interests in the region.” America, he says, should strive to be a partner rather than the dominant military power.In July 2019, Beijing issued its first major statement on military strategy since 2015. China’s National Defense in the New Era is clearly a rejoinder to Washington’s 2017 National Security Strategy, which identifies China’s new, aggressive foreign policy and rapid military buildup as the foremost threat to American national interests and stability in Asia. The new Beijing white paper turns that critique on its head, identifying the United States as the rogue nation:The US has… provoked and intensified competition among major countries, significantly increased its defense expenditure, pushed for additional capacity in Nuclear, outer space, cyber and missile defense, and undermined global strategic stability … The US is strengthening its Asia-Pacific military alliances and reinforcing military deployment and intervention, adding complexity to regional security. The deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the Republic of Korea by the US has severely undermined the regional strategic balance and the strategic security interests of regional countries.    In a recent speech clearly meant to be heard loud and clear in Washington, Xi Jinping seemed to suggest that the United States, which has guaranteed the freedom of the seas in Asia for more than 70 years and played a key role in China’s rise, ought to pull up stakes and get out of Asian affairs all together: “In the final analysis, it is for the people of Asia to run the affairs of Asia, solve the problems of Asia, and uphold the security of Asia.”When Graham Allison, a Harvard professor who recently penned a bestselling book on the U.S.-China relationship called Destined for War, asked a Chinese colleague what China’s “essential message” for the United States was, he proffered this reply: “butt out!”What seems to gall Beijing more than any other single issue between the two great powers is the Trump administration’s refusal to “butt out” of Taiwan. The depth of the PRC’s desire to unite Taiwan with the mainland is hard to overstate. Beijing blames the United States for preserving the island’s political independence by selling large quantities of sophisticated weapons systems, and committing itself, albeit ambiguously, to defending the island in the event of any attempt by China to take it by force.Indeed, President Donald Trump has gone out of his way to express solidarity with Taiwan’s democracy of 23 million people, the vast majority of whom would rather be dead than come under Beijing’s control. George W. Bush and Barack Obama refused to sell F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan for fear of upsetting Beijing. Trump approved the sale of 66 aircraft to Taiwan’s air force.In March 2018, Trump signed into law the Taiwan Travel Act, a bill that gives the administration the legal right to shift U.S. policy toward Taiwan in a way that was guaranteed to stick in Xi Jinping’s craw. The legislation permits U.S. government officials at all levels to travel to Taiwan and to meet with their Taiwanese counterparts, while high-level Taiwanese officials are permitted to enter the United States “to meet with U.S. officials, including officials from the Departments of State and Defense.”Beijing is infuriated by American “interference” in what it sees as an entirely internal matter. The island’s continued independence, writes Jia Qingguo of Peking University in Debating China, “is an enduring symbol of China’s weakness and humiliation…  Unifying the country has become a most cherished aspiration of the Chinese people.”The July 2019 defense white paper delves deeply into the Taiwan problem, expressing great impatience with Washington about the issue, and goes on to confirm that Beijing stands ready to use force if necessary and hints that it may do so in the not-too-distant future.Which brings us back to Allison’s book, Destined for War. The professor examined no less than 14 cases in history when a rising power challenged a dominant state or states.  Alarmingly, in 10 of the 14 cases, major wars resulted, including the two most costly wars in human history, when a rising Germany was defeated by great powers twice in the 20th century, and a rising Japan was crushed by the United States in the Pacific in 1945. Historically speaking, then, strategic rivals have had a difficult time escaping “Thucydides’ Trap”—the phenomenon first identified by the Greek fifth century BC historian who wrote, “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.”The good news is that Allison joins many other leading scholars in believing the United States and China can escape the Trap. But doing so is going to take a tremendous effort on both sides. Multiple channels of communication must be opened and nurtured in order to manage what is sure to be an intense political, economic, and military competition. Particularly on the military front, the two powers must develop a wide-ranging set of procedures and protocols for operating in the same seas and managing and containing emerging crises. And they must continue to work together, as they have long done, on global problems of mutual interest like climate change, piracy, terrorism, and international commerce.Just as U.S. policymakers need to accept that China’s rise entitles it to greater influence in international affairs, so the Chinese must develop a less cynical, more realistic picture of American intentions and motivations. Preserving peace is next to impossible to maintain when you demonize your rival, and that is precisely what the current party line from Beijing has been doing for a number of years now. Each power has to accept the existence of the other, and work in good faith to avoid a potentially catastrophic war.Odd Arne Westad, a professor of Global Affairs at Yale, made an interesting suggestion in a recent article in Foreign Affairs. Perhaps the enormous challenges posed by the rise of China to the United States will unite a polarized and frustrated American body politic and give the country a badly needed sense of mission and purpose. But worse things could happen—and they will—if China doesn’t also take a more measured and realistic view of America’s intentions in the global arena.      Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 04:58:07 -0500
  • New U.S. intelligence chief Grenell's foreign PR work would normally face DOJ scrutiny, lawyers say

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    Between his seven-year stint as spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations and his confirmation as President Trump's ambassador to Germany in 2018, new acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell ran his own public relations firm, Capitol Media Partners. Now that he is temporarily in charge of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, his PR work for foreign interests — paid and, according to Grenell and his lawyer, voluntary — is under special scrutiny, The Washington Post reports."The law requires people who advocate in the United States on behalf of a foreign power to register and disclose their activities," the Post reports. "Grenell did not register, records show. Craig Engle, who said he has been Grenell's lawyer for several years, said he was not required to." Two lawyers who specialize in the relevant law, the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), told the Post that Grenell's work for a U.S. nonprofit funded almost entirely by Hungary's far-right nationalist government would, in other cases, have "drawn the attention of Justice Department investigators tasked with enforcing" FARA.Engle told Responsible Statecraft that Grenell "knew that the Hungarian government was the sponsor" of the nonprofit, the Magyar Foundation, but didn't have to file under FARA. Outside experts disagree. Engle is also the Magyar Foundation's chief counsel.Grenell also faces questions about his public advocacy for Moldova's former governing coalition and, in particular, Vladimir Plahotniuc, Moldova's richest man. In as series of 2016 op-eds, Grenell said Plahotniuc was being unfairly accused of corruption and bank fraud by a whistleblower. Plahotniuc fled Moldova in 2019 after his government fell, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced last month that Plahotniuc is barred from entering the U.S. due to his "corrupt actions." Engle said Plahotniuc didn't pay Grenell, but one of Grenell's clients was the late GOP strategist Arthur Finkelstein, and Finkelstein hired Grenell to act as a media consultant for Plahotniuc, ProPublica reports."Undisclosed work for a foreign politician would ordinarily pose a problem for anyone applying for a security clearance or a job in a U.S. intelligence agency because it could make the person susceptible to foreign influence or blackmail, according to the official policy from the office that Trump tapped Grenell to lead," writes ProPublica's Isaac Arnsdorf. Engle told the Post that Finkelstein "had dozens of clients at a time and only he knew who they were."More stories from theweek.com The coronavirus recession? The real third way in 2020 Top member of Trump's coronavirus task force asks Twitter for help accessing map of virus

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 04:56:11 -0500
  • Trump’s Post-Impeachment Staff Purge Has Folks In Ukraine Nervous

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    A former top Ukrainian official said he is concerned that President Donald Trump’s efforts to force out administration officials deemed to be disloyal from their posts would in the short term leave a hollowed out U.S. office in Kyiv and space for Russia to ratchet up its aggressive political influence operations.Oleksandr Danylyuk, the former chairman of Ukraine’s national security and defense council, said that as the White House turns its attention to its post-impeachment victory lap, there are growing fears that Russia will step up attempts to distort the relationship between Washington and Kyiv. Danylyuk, who served as a former official in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration, said that Rudy Giuliani’s partnership with Kyiv politicos closely linked to Russia was only making matters worse by worrying officials that Trump’s inner circle is forming long-lasting partnerships with rogue, corrupt individuals.“Russia is getting more ambitious. They are already taking an aggressive position. Putin knows what he wants and he does not need to seek approval for his actions inside Russia let alone outside of Russia,” Danylyuk said. “There are not enough people in the administration—in the U.S. administration—to focus on Ukraine and Russia issues. A lot of people left. It will not be easy to find several counterparts. I would expect sometime after the presidential elections the U.S. will have to compensate for that. They will have to find a very strong team to deal with this.” Danylyuk’s comments provide one of the earliest indications to date as to how Trump’s attempt to install political allies in key national security posts is stirring fears not only among domestic officials but in foreign capitals around the world. Since the impeachment investigation began last fall, at least five high-level officials focusing on Ukraine policy have left their posts, including former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, acting ambassador Bill Taylor, Tim Morrison, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Dr. Fiona Hill —all of whom testified in the House hearings this fall.It’s been two weeks and Trump shows no sign of slowing —or that he’s “learned his lesson” as some GOP lawmakers have claimed. That has Danylyuk concerned. Already, he had expressed fears that the push by the White House to convince Ukraine to investigate the former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter left Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s team “rattled”. Danylyuk said he tried to wade through the mess of those summer months by speaking directly to his counterpart in the administration, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who he said he trusted more than anyone inside Trump’s orbit. Bolton has since left and with the dust still unsettled from the impeachment proceedings, the future of U.S.-Ukraine relations has grown even less clear. “There is no alternative to the U.S.—it’s a reality,” Danylyuk said.Top Ukraine Official: I Trusted Bolton More Than AnyoneThroughout the past several months Danylyuk said that the Trump administration has tried to re-establish a working relationship with Kyiv—an effort to make amends, of sorts. Trump’s pressure on Zelensky to open investigations into Democratic rivals—which involved the withholding of military aid—followed by a long impeachment trial, cost Ukraine not only time and effort but reputation points as well. Danylyuk described a recent meeting with representatives of foreign corporations:“One of them didn’t know I represent Ukraine,” Danylyuk recounted. “And one person said that there is such as situation now that  ‘I am ready to consider investing even in Ukraine.’ And I said look, ‘why even in Ukraine?’ It was because of that perception—that Ukraine is corrupt. That’s what this whole thing did to us. It made it seem like we’re all corrupt. But things are changing in the country and there is a commitment by Zelensky to fight this. And it deserves recognition. Now is the time for Zelensky to make corrections and drive reforms.”Ukraine is currently trying to rebuild its image after the impeachment investigation in an effort to attract foreign investors particularly to its energy sector. For months the Zelensky administration, which at one point included Danylyuk, pushed for a deal whereby the U.S. would export American LNG through Poland to Ukraine. Danylyuk said he worked closely with Bolton in developing the deal. Since then, shipments of the gas have made their way to Poland, but experts say the plan is far from being commercialized on a large scale.More than anything, Danylyuk said the Ukraine saga—from the phone call between Trump and Zelensky in June, to the whistleblower complaint about that call, and the following impeaching investigation and vote— disrupted the alliance that he and others on the Zelensky team had worked for months to establish with Washington, one that they hoped would result in an in-person presidential meeting. “I hope there will be a new opportunity with the U.S. The narrative needs to be different,” Danylyuk said, adding that he hoped the image of Ukraine as a victim would change. “The world is getting tired of this image,” he said. “After five years we are stronger. We need to be positioning ourselves as a player. Otherwise I don’t think we will go far.”Dems Fear They Wasted Their Best Shot on ImpeachmentTrump allies, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), have traveled to Kyiv recently to meet with top officials to reinforce the U.S. commitment to maintaining an alliance with the country. “We clearly have bilateral support in Congress,” Danylyuk said, adding that he hoped that if the administration appointed new individuals to posts in Kyiv they would have the backing of the White House. “Sometimes you can have people who might have the knowledge on something but they don’t for some reason have the trust of the president. This is not a good situation. At the end of the day we’re hoping that the new team… that they would have the trust of the president.”Complicating matters in Kyiv is Giuliani. The former New York City mayor has had ongoing interactions with members of the Ukraine political scene who are known to associate themselves with Russia. As one of President Trump’s closest advisers, Giuliani’s presence in Ukraine and his on-air appearances with parliamentarians like Alexander Dubinksy and Andrii Derkach are concerning officials in the highest ranks in the Zelensky administration. The fear is that Russia has established a clear outlet to propagate conspiracy theories—and propaganda—not only in Ukraine media but in U.S. media as well. The problem, Danylyuk said, is that powerful oligarchs, such as Ihor Kolomoisky, who is currently under investigation in the U.S. for financial crimes, and Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Russia former politician, own large corporations and use their platforms to push out false information.  “That is a problem that makes democracy much weaker in Ukraine. Whoever controls the media, I can say controls the results of the elections broadly speaking with some exceptions,” Danylyuk said. “Zelensky… got support from 1+1—the Kolomoisky channel. So that was sufficient for him to be a strong candidate for elections.”In December, Giuliani met with Dubinksy, who used to work for 1+1, and Derkach in an effort to aid his investigation of the Bidens. At the same time, Giuliani worked with One America News and the Ukrainian officials to create a documentary series that focused on countering the congressional impeachment probe. Giuliani has recently aired his sit-down interview with Derkach on his personal video channel. “We have these corrupt individuals …. Ukrainians hate them. They don’t want these people in the government,” Danylyuk said, specifically calling out Yuriy Lutsenko, the former Ukrainian general prosecutor who worked with Giuliani to dig up dirt on the Bidens. “These corrupt people are going to try ways to get connections in the U.S. administration. But they don’t represent Ukraine.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 04:50:20 -0500
  • 'Are you still alive?' Virus fears grip South Korean city

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    Guests donning masks at a sparsely attended wedding ceremony. Fears of a soaring viral outbreak are gripping the South Korean city of Daegu and the surrounding area, with residents struggling as they try to stay away from a virus that has already sickened hundreds of people in the region, killing at least 10 of them. “We call each other here and half-jokingly ask whether they are alive and tell each other not to wander around," Choe Hee-suk, a 37-year-old office worker, said by phone.

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 04:36:57 -0500
  • Turkey says 2 Turkish soldiers killed in Libya

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    Two Turkish soldiers have been killed in fighting in Libya, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday as he also defended Ankara's move to also send Syrian opposition fighters to the North African country. Erdogan's remarks followed reports that as many as 16 Turkish soldiers may have been killed in the fighting in Libya since last April, reports that the Turkish leader did not address.

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 04:33:19 -0500
  • Three more dead in Iran coronavirus outbreak: state media

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    The novel coronavirus has claimed three more lives in Iran, state media reported, taking the country's overall death toll from the outbreak to 15 -- the highest outside China. Iran has been scrambling to contain COVID-19 since Wednesday when it announced its first two deaths in Qom, a centre for Islamic studies and pilgrims that attracts scholars from abroad. Two of the dead were elderly women in the central province of Markazi and the other was a patient in the northern province of Alborz, state news agency IRNA said.

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 03:45:07 -0500
  • Turkey, Russia to hold more talks to reduce Syria tensions

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    Turkey's president announced Tuesday that a Russian delegation would arrive the following day to resume talks aimed at easing tensions in northwestern Syria. Moscow has so far not confirmed a March 5 visit by the Russian president to Turkey.

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 03:23:59 -0500
  • Merkel’s Last Chapter Threatened by Party Takeover Battle

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    (Bloomberg) -- The race to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor is set to heat up on Tuesday when three of the front-runners outline their plans to pull her beleaguered Christian Democratic Union out of a political tailspin.The start of the eight-week contest to become party leader -- and in all likelihood the CDU’s chancellor candidate for the next election -- will determine whether Merkel can see out her final term as planned, or has to confront a conservative rival like Friedrich Merz, impatient to make his mark.Merz, 64, who narrowly lost a leadership contest in 2018, is due to meet the press at 11 a.m., shortly after a joint news conference by Armin Laschet, 58, a moderate who leads North Rhine-Westphalia, and Health Minister Jens Spahn, 39, a standard bearer from the party’s right wing.In a surprise move, Spahn won’t run for the party leadership himself but will support Laschet’s candidacy and become his deputy if the older man wins, news agency DPA reported, citing CDU sources it did not identify by name.For Germany the stakes are high, as the CDU has to deal with the challenge from the far-right, French demands for European integration, and the twilight of an economic era which saw its manufacturers go from strength to strength.Norbert Roettgen, 54, an outsider fired by Merkel as environment minister in 2012, declared his own bid last week, dashing hopes that the other three could hash out an arrangement between them and avoid an open contest.Outgoing Chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer -- Merkel’s chosen successor -- had planned to stick around until year end but she was forced to accelerate the process and called a party conference for April 25 as unrest swirled around the party.“Evidently this situation is enough of a burden for the party that I’m of the opinion that we need to establish clarity sooner,” Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters in Berlin, two weeks after she shocked the political establishment by abandoning her own ambitions for the chancellorship.If the party picks a conservative as its new leader that will create friction with Merkel, potentially bringing an early end to her 14 years in the chancellery. Kramp-Karrenbauer, who followed Merkel as party chief in 2018, ultimately found it unworkable to lead the party with Merkel still in office and announced her resignation after 14 months in the job. ​Concerns about the damage an extended power struggle might do persuaded numerous party officials to push for a faster process in recent days. A disastrous election result in Hamburg on Sunday, when the CDU posted its worst performance in the city state since World War II, drove home the need for urgency.Support for Merkel’s bloc held at 26.5% in the latest Insa poll for Bild newspaper published Tuesday, with the Greens gaining 1.5 percentage points to 22% and the Social Democrats steady on 14.5%.All four “very clearly declared that they will respect any decision of the party conference, irrespective of what it is,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said.Kramp-Karrenbauer struggled to reassure the public that the CDU factions will remain at peace throughout the process and Merkel’s junior partner, the Social Democrats, warned that it won’t support a move to push Merkel aside.“If the CDU has any ideas of somehow swapping out the chancellor, then the SPD will very clearly not go along with that,” the SPD’s general secretary, Lars Klingbeil, told Bild in an interview. The coalition accord was signed with Merkel, he said.That means the next CDU leader will likely have to win an election before he can become chancellor, rather than taking over Merkel’s coalition.(Updates with Laschet, Spahn to give news conference)To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net;Arne Delfs in Berlin at adelfs@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Iain Rogers, Chris ReiterFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 02:38:43 -0500
  • Syrian father teaches daughter to laugh when the bombs fall

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    Abdullah Mohammed would do anything for his daughter, even forcing himself to laugh with her at the sound of bombs to help her overcome her fear. It has been the subject of a ferocious military campaign and relentless bombardment by Russia-backed Syrian government troops since early December. As the advancing troops neared his hometown of Saraqeb two months ago, Mohammed fled with his wife and daughter further north to the town of Sarmada, where they are now staying in an abandoned house offered to him by a friend.

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 01:09:19 -0500
  • Germany Fears That the Center Will Not Hold

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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- It’s long been obvious that one of Germany’s formerly grand centrist parties, the left-leaning SPD, is in decline. But another and even grander centrist bloc, the Christian Democratic Union of Chancellor Angela Merkel, had hopes of avoiding that fate, by defending the hallowed middle ground in politics. Suddenly, though, Germany is having a full-bore political crisis of centrism.Since Feb. 10, when the CDU’s chairwoman, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, shocked the country by announcing that she would stand down, the party has descended into a leadership vacuum and an uncharacteristic bout of internal chaos. It now plans to clarify its succession at a party conference on April 15. Until then, the position as the CDU’s next boss and the party’s future direction are both up for grabs. So is German, and even European, politics, because the party’s new leader is also likely to be its candidate to succeed Merkel as chancellor.Germans are already punishing the CDU for the turmoil. On Feb. 23 only about 11% of voters in Hamburg plumped for the party, its lowest share in that city state since World War II. That follows setbacks in other big cities. Though still the strongest bloc nationally, the CDU is gradually becoming a redoubt of the rural and the old.More dramatically, the Christian Democrats in the eastern state of Thuringia are rebelling against their party’s national leaders, as they contemplate whether and how to collaborate with the post-communist Left Party, which the CDU officially considers a pariah. That follows the Thuringian CDU’s disastrous decision on Feb. 5  — also in defiance of party bosses — to cooperate tacitly with the extreme-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), triggering a constitutional crisis in the state.Are the CDU’s travails in Thuringia a harbinger of things to come in national politics, and perhaps in Europe as a whole? The ruckus may be another warning that centrism as such is losing its viability or even meaning.The CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, were born in the immediate post-war years as “Christian unions” in the sense that they mopped up former parties of the Weimar era that appealed narrowly either to Catholics or Protestants. That early preponderance of clergy gave the bloc its color in the spectrum of German parties: black, like the robes.From the start, the Union, as the pair are jointly known, amalgamated a range of interest groups, from cultural conservatives to Catholic quasi-socialists and free-market liberals. Unlike the “red” SPD, which appealed to blue-collar workers, “black” was always a big tent. Its pitch was never ideological purity but tight discipline among the rank and file and pragmatism in government. Tellingly, its winning slogan in 1957 was “no experiments.” Pundits dubbed it a “club for the election of chancellors” — the CDU has fielded five of post-war Germany’s eight leaders.One of the Union’s roles was to be a bulwark against extremism. Franz Josef Strauss, a grandee of the CSU, famously said that there must never be a legitimate party to the Union’s right. Nowadays, of course, there is, after the AfD entered the federal parliament in 2017. One theory is that Merkel bears part of the responsibility for its rise. As CDU leader from 2000 to 2018 and chancellor since 2005, she tried to modernize her party by nudging it further left, thus alienating conservatives and leaving the right flank open.The stated policy of the CDU and CSU has always been to shun and shame the AfD. According to a so-called “horseshoe theory” that regards far left and far right as equally dangerous, the Union also spurns the Left, which descends from the Communist Party of the former East Germany, contains radical factions, disdains NATO and coddles Russia.The problems with horseshoe shaming have become clear in Thuringia. The state is unusual in that the centrist parties are already in a minority in the local legislature, and the AfD and Left together have the majority. By simple arithmetic, as long as all centrist parties rule out any cooperation, even of the passive sort, with both the far left and right, there will be stalemate. Who can and will govern Thuringia remains unclear.Another question is whether the symmetrical treatment of far left and right still makes political sense. After a racist murder rampage by a right-winger, some of the AfD’s political rhetoric increasingly sounds like demagogic arson. By contrast, the Left may be unsavory, but in eastern Germany it’s part of the woodwork. Its Thuringian candidate, Bodo Ramelow, is pragmatic and harmless, almost bourgeois.Nonetheless, the candidates now jostling to lead the CDU fear touching anybody on left or right. “If we start voting for Mr. Ramelow as premier, then we can’t represent the center anymore,” says Norbert Roettgen, one of the runners to replace Kramp-Karrenbauer.The sentiment is understandable. And yet, German and European politics keeps fragmenting. Sooner or later this will necessitate new, strange, even awkward forms of parliamentary collaboration — not to betray but to save democracy. Otherwise centrists may find that treading the middle of an ever busier road will get them run over.To contact the author of this story: Andreas Kluth at akluth1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andreas Kluth is a member of Bloomberg's editorial board. He was previously editor in chief of Handelsblatt Global and a writer for the Economist. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 01:00:16 -0500
  • Germany Fears That the Center Will Not Hold

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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- It’s long been obvious that one of Germany’s formerly grand centrist parties, the left-leaning SPD, is in decline. But another and even grander centrist bloc, the Christian Democratic Union of Chancellor Angela Merkel, had hopes of avoiding that fate, by defending the hallowed middle ground in politics. Suddenly, though, Germany is having a full-bore political crisis of centrism.Since Feb. 10, when the CDU’s chairwoman, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, shocked the country by announcing that she would stand down, the party has descended into a leadership vacuum and an uncharacteristic bout of internal chaos. It now plans to clarify its succession at a party conference on April 15. Until then, the position as the CDU’s next boss and the party’s future direction are both up for grabs. So is German, and even European, politics, because the party’s new leader is also likely to be its candidate to succeed Merkel as chancellor.Germans are already punishing the CDU for the turmoil. On Feb. 23 only about 11% of voters in Hamburg plumped for the party, its lowest share in that city state since World War II. That follows setbacks in other big cities. Though still the strongest bloc nationally, the CDU is gradually becoming a redoubt of the rural and the old.More dramatically, the Christian Democrats in the eastern state of Thuringia are rebelling against their party’s national leaders, as they contemplate whether and how to collaborate with the post-communist Left Party, which the CDU officially considers a pariah. That follows the Thuringian CDU’s disastrous decision on Feb. 5  — also in defiance of party bosses — to cooperate tacitly with the extreme-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), triggering a constitutional crisis in the state.Are the CDU’s travails in Thuringia a harbinger of things to come in national politics, and perhaps in Europe as a whole? The ruckus may be another warning that centrism as such is losing its viability or even meaning.The CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, were born in the immediate post-war years as “Christian unions” in the sense that they mopped up former parties of the Weimar era that appealed narrowly either to Catholics or Protestants. That early preponderance of clergy gave the bloc its color in the spectrum of German parties: black, like the robes.From the start, the Union, as the pair are jointly known, amalgamated a range of interest groups, from cultural conservatives to Catholic quasi-socialists and free-market liberals. Unlike the “red” SPD, which appealed to blue-collar workers, “black” was always a big tent. Its pitch was never ideological purity but tight discipline among the rank and file and pragmatism in government. Tellingly, its winning slogan in 1957 was “no experiments.” Pundits dubbed it a “club for the election of chancellors” — the CDU has fielded five of post-war Germany’s eight leaders.One of the Union’s roles was to be a bulwark against extremism. Franz Josef Strauss, a grandee of the CSU, famously said that there must never be a legitimate party to the Union’s right. Nowadays, of course, there is, after the AfD entered the federal parliament in 2017. One theory is that Merkel bears part of the responsibility for its rise. As CDU leader from 2000 to 2018 and chancellor since 2005, she tried to modernize her party by nudging it further left, thus alienating conservatives and leaving the right flank open.The stated policy of the CDU and CSU has always been to shun and shame the AfD. According to a so-called “horseshoe theory” that regards far left and far right as equally dangerous, the Union also spurns the Left, which descends from the Communist Party of the former East Germany, contains radical factions, disdains NATO and coddles Russia.The problems with horseshoe shaming have become clear in Thuringia. The state is unusual in that the centrist parties are already in a minority in the local legislature, and the AfD and Left together have the majority. By simple arithmetic, as long as all centrist parties rule out any cooperation, even of the passive sort, with both the far left and right, there will be stalemate. Who can and will govern Thuringia remains unclear.Another question is whether the symmetrical treatment of far left and right still makes political sense. After a racist murder rampage by a right-winger, some of the AfD’s political rhetoric increasingly sounds like demagogic arson. By contrast, the Left may be unsavory, but in eastern Germany it’s part of the woodwork. Its Thuringian candidate, Bodo Ramelow, is pragmatic and harmless, almost bourgeois.Nonetheless, the candidates now jostling to lead the CDU fear touching anybody on left or right. “If we start voting for Mr. Ramelow as premier, then we can’t represent the center anymore,” says Norbert Roettgen, one of the runners to replace Kramp-Karrenbauer.The sentiment is understandable. And yet, German and European politics keeps fragmenting. Sooner or later this will necessitate new, strange, even awkward forms of parliamentary collaboration — not to betray but to save democracy. Otherwise centrists may find that treading the middle of an ever busier road will get them run over.To contact the author of this story: Andreas Kluth at akluth1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andreas Kluth is a member of Bloomberg's editorial board. He was previously editor in chief of Handelsblatt Global and a writer for the Economist. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 01:00:16 -0500
  • Democrats unload on Sanders in likely debate preview

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    Bernie Sanders is facing the greatest test of his presidential campaign as his Democratic rivals prepare to launch a series of attacks on the Vermont senator during what could be a pivotal debate on the eve of the South Carolina primary. With mounting fear among the Democratic establishment that the self-described democratic socialist is on the verge of gaining a significant lead in the delegates needed to secure the nomination, several candidates are resorting to a last ditch effort to stop him. Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, highlighted Sanders' call for a government-financed health care system as an example of his “polarization.” Former Vice President Joe Biden accused Sanders of trying to undermine President Barack Obama's 2012 reelection.

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 00:27:17 -0500
  • US and South Korea may scale back joint military exercises over coronavirus fears

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    Cancellation of joint exercises on the Korean peninsula has fanned worries by national security experts and lawmakers that U.S. forces and their South Korean allies are ill prepared to handle a crisis or conflict orchestrated by North Korea.

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 00:26:16 -0500
  • In SC, Buttigieg faces black voters wary of a gay candidate

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    South Carolina state Sen. Gerald Malloy is fine with a gay presidential candidate like Pete Buttigieg. As Buttigieg tries to sustain his early success in Iowa and New Hampshire, he has to prove that he can win over African American voters, who make up the vital core of the party base. A relatively small but nonetheless influential number of black South Carolinians may be resistant to him because of his sexuality.

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 00:24:26 -0500
  • Trump expresses optimism about eventual US-India trade deal

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    President Donald Trump said Tuesday he's optimistic about the prospects of inking a trade deal with India despite moves by both sides that created doubt about the ability to reach an agreement. Trump had made clear before the trip that hammering out a long-sought trade deal with India was unlikely during the two-day trip. “Our teams have made tremendous progress on a comprehensive trade agreement and I'm optimistic we can reach a deal that will be of great importance to both countries,” Trump told reporters on the second and final day of his whirlwind, 36-hour, first official visit to India.

    Tue, 25 Feb 2020 00:23:28 -0500
  • China, Japan Stocks Edge Lower As Coronavirus Fears Continue, South Korea Recoups

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    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 23:35:04 -0500
  • UN envoy urges Somalia's leaders to work together

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    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 23:31:19 -0500
  • Klobuchar Is in ‘Very Good Health,’ Doctor Says: Campaign Update

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    (Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar is in “very good health,” her doctor said in a medical report released Monday.“She does not have any health conditions that would impair her ability to perform the duties of the Presidency,” Jennifer M. McKeand of Women’s Health Consultants in Minneapolis said in the report.The report shows that the 59-year-old Minnesota senator has normal blood pressure and does not smoke. Klobuchar, who had a hip replacement in 2006, takes Ibuprofen for hip pain.Front-runner Bernie Sanders is the only remaining top-tier Democratic candidate who hasn’t released full medical records. After a heart attack in October, Sanders released three letters from doctors showing he is healthy. But when asked during a CNN town hall last week whether he would disclose more details, Sanders responded “I don’t think we will, no.”Sanders’s Praise of Castro Makes Him a Target (4:04 p.m.)Tuesday’s Democratic debate will be held in South Carolina, but Monday’s rhetoric on the campaign trail signaled a coming fight over Florida.Three Democratic candidates have made clear they will hit front-runner Bernie Sanders hard over his praise for former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, which has raised concerns among some Democrats about losing the Sunshine State in the general election.In a recent interview with “60 Minutes,” Sanders praised Castro’s literacy program. Joe Biden senior adviser Cristóbal Alex said in a press release that the comments were “part of a larger pattern” of Sanders embracing “autocratic leaders.”Pete Buttigieg tweeted a clip from the “60 Minutes” interview. “After four years of looking on in horror as Trump cozied up to dictators, we need a president who will be extremely clear in standing against regimes that violate human rights abroad,” Buttigieg wrote in English and Spanish. “We can’t risk nominating someone who doesn’t recognize this.”Michael Bloomberg also tweeted the video clip, saying Castro “left a dark legacy of forced labor camps, religious repression, widespread poverty, firing squads, and the murder of thousands of his own people.”(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.) -- Ryan Teague BeckwithKlobuchar Says a Woman President Would Inspire (3:07 p.m.)Amy Klobuchar says a woman president would be inspirational for young girls.“I want every little girl in America and around the world to know that anything is possible,” she said in a tweet Monday accompanied by a clip of a recent CNN town hall.Her message echoes similar ones from the other women who have been in the 2020 race.“I want every little girl to know she can do anything, too,” Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted in May. “This campaign is about lifting young girls up and showing them they can do anything,” Kamala Harris tweeted in July.And Elizabeth Warren has long shared multiple videos on social media of her doing “pinky promises” with young girls to run for office one day. “Running for president: That’s what girls do,” she said in a typical tweet from last June.Buffett Says Endorsement Might Hurt Bloomberg (11:38 a.m.)Michael Bloomberg just missed out on an endorsement from one of the richest men in the world.In an interview on CNBC, investor Warren Buffett said that he “would certainly vote” for the former New York City mayor over Bernie Sanders if he had the choice, but he wasn’t sure a public endorsement would be helpful.“I don’t think another billionaire supporting him would be the best thing to announce,” Buffett said.Sanders frequently criticizes billionaires, although he’s had a less contentious relationship with Buffett than some of his peers. In 2016, Sanders criticized Buffett for not supporting solar power at an energy utility he owns in Nevada.Nonetheless, Buffett, who backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary, said Sanders had “run a model campaign” by being forthright and focusing on a positive message.Sanders Knocked on Cuba Defense by Lawmakers (7:17 a.m.)Bernie Sanders has long sought to distinguish his brand of Scandinavian-style democratic socialism from the Latin American socialism highlighted by Republicans, but his remarks on Cuba aren’t helping.During a CBS “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday, Sanders defended the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s policies, drawing fire from lawmakers in Florida, a critical swing state with a large population of Cuban refugees.“I’m hoping that in the future, Senator Sanders will take time to speak to some of my constituents before he decides to sing the praises of a murderous tyrant like Fidel Castro,” Democratic Representative Donna Shalala tweeted.Sanders said it was “unfair” to slam everything done in Cuba by Castro, who died in 2016, having led the island nation with one-party Communist rule for decades.“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba, but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad,” Sanders said. “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio rebuked Sanders on Twitter on Monday morning. “The central promise every Marxist makes is that if we give up some of our individual freedom,the state will provide us more ‘security’ like free health care & education,” Rubio wrote. “But ultimately Marxism fails to deliver ‘security’ & you don’t have the freedom to do anything about it.”Sanders also distanced himself from President Donald Trump during the interview, saying “I do not think that Kim Jong Un is a good friend,” and “Vladimir Putin, not a great friend of mine.” -- Kathleen HunterCOMING UPSouth Carolina has a primary on Feb. 29. Fourteen states and one U.S. territory will vote on Super Tuesday, March 3.(Disclaimer: Michael Bloomberg is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. He is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)\--With assistance from Kathleen Hunter, Elizabeth Wasserman, Emma Kinery and Tyler Pager.To contact the reporters on this story: Ryan Teague Beckwith in Washington, D.C. at rbeckwith3@bloomberg.net;Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou in Washington at megkolfopoul@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, John Harney, Max BerleyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 21:59:22 -0500
  • South Korea's F-15K Slam Eagle Fighters Could Make North Korea Hurt

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    And North Korea has taken notice.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 21:30:00 -0500
  • China's Policy Flip-Flops Are Scaring Investors

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    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 20:45:54 -0500
  • China's Policy Flip-Flops Are Scaring Investors

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    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 20:45:54 -0500
  • As concern grows, China, South Korea report more virus cases

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    China and South Korea on Tuesday reported more cases of a new viral illness that has been concentrated in North Asia but is causing global worry as clusters grow in the Middle East and Europe. China reported 508 new cases and another 71 deaths, 68 of them in the central city of Wuhan, where the epidemic was first detected in December. The updates bring mainland China's totals to 77,658 cases and 2,663 deaths.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 20:09:43 -0500
  • Sanders comments on Castro could pose hurdles in Florida

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    Like many young voters in Florida, Jared Machado is concerned about rising sea levels, college tuition and landing a job when he graduates from the University of Florida in a few months. As he considers his options for president in Florida's March 17 primary, Machado was disappointed and disturbed when U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, seemed to praise former Cuba dictator Fidel Castro in a recent interview.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 18:58:06 -0500
  • US to stop aid in Yemen's Houthi areas if rebels don't budge

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    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 17:45:41 -0500
  • The coronavirus recession?

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    It was clear earlier this month that the coronavirus outbreak could severely damage the global economy.On Feb. 12, I wrote that American and Chinese demand had been sustaining the world economy for the last few years, and if China were shut down due to the virus, the ripple effect through global supply chains could drag down the rest of world with it. And sure enough, this week began with news of how the disease is throttling trade flows in and out of China.Technically called COVID-19 ("coronavirus" actually being the name for a whole family of viruses), the disease has now infected at least 77,150 people in China, with 2,592 deaths. On Monday, stock markets plunged on news that new and rapidly spreading outbreaks are now popping up in South Korea, Iran, and Italy. The Dow Jones dropped 3.5 percent — or 1,000 points — the S&P 500 fell 3.7 percent, and the Nasdaq plunged 3.7 percent.The possibility of the virus spreading across the world is certainly unnerving. And while the World Health Organization has so far avoided declaring the disease an official pandemic, the organization did say it has "pandemic potential." But we don't even need to posit a pandemic to see how the virus could tank economies around the world.An example: Reliable trade data out of China is hard to come by, but a Boston company named CargoMetrics has been trying to keep tabs. Their data covers not just shipping traffic but how full the cargo vessels are. And their index shows a 27 percent decline in Chinese imports from Feb. 7 to Feb. 17 — a massive deviation from the average trend in prior years. Dry cargo imports — things like metals, ores, grains, wood, coal, and steel products — are down 40 percent.China's imports "are totally in freefall," as CargoMetrics' CEO Scott Borgerson put it. Basically, over the last month, the country has bought way less stuff from the rest of the world than normal. And while China's exports to the rest of the world aren't suffering quite as badly, the situation is still "ugly," and down from the historical trends.At this point, it is well-known that major players like Nike, Hyundai, Apple, and General Motors are having to curtail some operations, because they rely on Chinese manufacturers for goods and parts. But smaller businesses are getting hit, too. Everyone from shoe and blue jean manufacturers, to electric bicycle makers and outdoor fireplace suppliers and 3D printed toymakers for children are feeling the pinch, as imports from China they depended on suddenly dry up — in some cases, forcing them to switch to other Asian suppliers that are now shutting down as well, in fear of the spreading disease. In a particularly unpleasant irony, there are roughly 150 prescription drugs — "antibiotics, generics, and some branded drugs without alternatives," according to Axios — that may well experience shortages because of how dependent we are on Chinese manufacturers to produce them. Even the fashion industry is not immune. And it's the same story in other countries that rely on China for their supply chains, from Australia to Japan."The second-largest economy in the world is completely shut down. People aren't totally pricing that in," Larry Benedict, CEO of The Opportunistic Trader, told CNBC. According to the New York Times, an analysis from JPMorgan concluded that "the immediate impact of a large China demand and supply shock will be substantial." China's own President Xi Jinping called the coronavirus a "crisis," as the country reneged on its earlier plans to ease travel restrictions out of the city of Wuhan, an epicenter of the outbreak.The basic problem is that the way to contain a disease is to prevent people from traveling and from interacting in large groups. Which is not limited to, but certainly includes, keeping them from working — many factory employees in China, for example, remain stuck at home and unable to commute to work. "Because the remedies are extreme, even small risks of infection and of death can have a drastic effect on economic activity," as economist Olivier Blanchard put it.And there's no way "stimulate" a country out of this situation: China has announced various efforts to prop up its economy, from a hose of new loans to keep companies afloat to a raft of new tax breaks. But no amount of money can compensate a business model when workers literally aren't allowed to go to work.The good news is that, in an already-depressed world economy, economic stimulus can increase demand throughout the world in the places that haven't been physically hit by the virus yet, and that could at least provide a cushion as supply chains transition.Beyond that, the global economy's best hope is that the virus can be contained relatively soon. The growth of new cases of COVID-19 in China actually peaked earlier this month, according to World Health Organization data. And in China itself, six provinces that were more or less shutdown have relaxed their emergency ratings, and are allowing companies to bring their workers back in. (The problem is that it's hard to know precisely what to make of this given given how untrustworthy the Chinese government has proven itself to be.) Experts also predict world economic growth will slow to a measly 1 percent this quarter, but recover soon after.Of course, all that depends on virus peaking already or soon. Given the outbreaks in Italy and elsewhere, that doesn't sound like a safe bet.There's no way to predict the future in a situation like this. But if the outbreak grows around the world while continuing to drive the Chinese economy into the ground, it's not hard to see how the world's already-limping economic growth could go negative. In which case, we've got a coronavirus recession on our hands.More stories from theweek.com The real third way in 2020 Top member of Trump's coronavirus task force asks Twitter for help accessing map of virus

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 17:00:00 -0500
  • How The Revolutionary Guards Could Reshape Iran

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    Iran’s clerical army could decide that an internal transition is the best answer, and move to remove (or at least subordinate) the country’s current clerical elite. Such a step, after all, would allow the IRGC to preserve its current, extensive grip on national power while simultaneously working to alleviate economic pressure from the U.S. and reintegrate into the international community.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 16:52:00 -0500
  • The coronavirus death toll is still rising, but US interest in the outbreak is plummeting

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    Serious outbreaks outside of China have been reported in Italy, Iran, and South Korea in the last week.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 16:39:44 -0500
  • Iran Prepares to Suffer the Wrath of the Coronavirus

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    Iran has sought to deny that the coronavirus is spreading within its borders. Now, the Middle East is facing a new type of crisis—one that could further exacerbate tension in the region.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 16:01:00 -0500
  • Kim Yo-jong: North Korea’s Second-In-Command?

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    The sister of Kim Jong-un has been rising in the leadership ranks since she was a teenager, and might be considered North Korea’s second-in-command. The Center for the National Interest's Korean Studies team presents a look into her ascent to power (part two of a two-part series).

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 15:57:00 -0500
  • FBI official: Russia wants to see US 'tear ourselves apart'

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    Russia wants to watch Americans “tear ourselves apart" as the United States heads toward elections, an FBI official warned Monday. David Porter, an assistant section chief with the FBI's Foreign Influence Task Force, accused Russia of conducting brazen operations aimed at spreading disinformation, exploiting lines of division in society and sowing doubt about the integrity of U.S. elections and the ability of its leaders to govern effectively. Porter spoke at an election security conference on Capitol Hill just days after conflicting accounts emerged of a closed-door briefing intelligence officials had given to House lawmakers on threats from Russia and other nations in the 2020 election.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 15:42:38 -0500
  • Foreign leaders restrained in gifts to Trumps in 2018

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    Foreign leaders appear to have scaled back their generosity when it comes to gifts given to President Donald Trump, his family and top officials. The list shows that Trump, his wife, Melania, his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner reported receiving $88,420 worth of gifts from foreign leaders in 2018. As in 2017, Melania Trump received the single most valuable item on the list.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 15:27:48 -0500
  • Heavy rains, flooding pummel Cairo and parts of Egypt

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    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 15:27:16 -0500
  • Generational split among SC black voters could hurt Biden

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    For James Felder, the question of which presidential candidate to support in the South Carolina primary has never been terribly complicated. The 80-year-old civil rights activist has always backed Joe Biden, appreciative of the eight years he spent as the No. 2 to the first black president. J'Kobe Kelley-Mills, a junior English major, said he was torn between Biden and Bernie Sanders, the progressive Vermont senator who is now the Democratic front-runner after strong performances in the first three primary contests.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 15:23:46 -0500
  • As Fears of a Pandemic Mount, WHO Says World Is Not Ready

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    BEIJING -- As new cases of the coronavirus spiked on two continents, the World Health Organization warned Monday that the world was not ready for a major outbreak, even as it praised China's aggressive efforts to wrest the epidemic under control.After two weeks on the ground in China, a team sent by the WHO concluded that the draconian measures China imposed a month ago may have saved hundreds of thousands of people from infection. Such measures -- sealing off cities, shutting down businesses and schools, ordering people to remain indoors -- have provoked anger in China and could be difficult to replicate in democratic countries with a greater emphasis on protecting civil liberties."There's no question that China's bold approach to the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of what was a rapidly escalating and continues to be a deadly epidemic," said Bruce Aylward, a Canadian doctor and epidemiologist who has overseen international campaigns to fight Ebola and polio and who led the WHO delegation.The epidemic has already killed more than 2,500 people in China, mostly in Hubei province, where the outbreak began in December, and infected more than 77,000 people. But the number of new infections in China has been steadily dropping, giving officials in the country confidence that the extraordinary measures have been effective in blunting the virus's spread.There are concerns, however, that as people begin returning to work in China, the virus could flare up again.At the same time, new cases are escalating outside China. In Italy, where there has been an eruption of more than 150 cases, authorities have locked down at least 10 towns, closed schools in major cities and canceled sporting events -- all moves that are echoes of China's tactics, if not quite as draconian.In Iran, the outbreak has killed at least 12 people as of Monday, the largest number of coronavirus-linked deaths outside China. South Korea on Monday reported 231 additional cases, bringing the nation's total to 833 cases and seven deaths. Aylward said responding swiftly and aggressively to contain outbreaks and treat those infected was paramount."We have all got to look at our systems because none of them work fast enough," Aylward said.The virus that has crippled China for more than a month now threatens to become a pandemic that could touch virtually every part of the globe. Stock markets in Asia, Europe and North America plunged Monday as investors worried that the economic disruption the outbreak has already caused in China is all but certain to have a wider effect.The S&P 500 dropped nearly 3% in early trading Monday, after European markets recorded their worst day since 2016, and major benchmarks in Asia closed sharply lower. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 900 points in the first hours of trading.China, which was the source of the outbreak, might also offer solutions, according to Chinese officials and the WHO's assessment, despite the confusion and obfuscation that slowed the government's initial efforts to respond to what was then a mysterious new illness appearing in hospitals in Wuhan, the epicenter, in December.Since late January, the Chinese government has put at least 760 million people -- more than half of its population -- under residential lockdowns of varying strictness, from checkpoints at building entrances to hard limits on going outdoors, according to a New York Times analysis of government announcements in provinces and major cities.While China's reporting has been at times confused -- with changes to its method of counting causing huge swings in daily tolls -- the overall trend since the middle of this month has indicated a slowing in the rate of infections.On Sunday, 24 Chinese provinces reported no new cases. Six of them lowered their emergency response measures. In Hubei province there were 398 new cases, the second consecutive day in which the number of new cases declined."The decline we are seeing is real," Aylward said.Even so, the death toll continues to rise, with 150 deaths reported Sunday, the highest in nearly three weeks. In total, 2,592 people in China have been killed by the virus.Liang Wannian, a senior official with China's National Health Commission, said China was not ready to declare victory yet."The situation is still very grim," he said at a news conference. "We haven't stopped the epidemic in Wuhan yet."Many health experts agree it is premature to celebrate given the highly contagious nature of the virus and the potential for a new surge in cases when millions of people go back to work in China or when travel restrictions are lifted.But they generally agreed with the WHO's assessment on China's measures."The containment definitely worked in China," said Leo Poon, head of the public health laboratory sciences division at the University of Hong Kong. "The question now is whether similar policies can be applied in other countries."Clarence Tam, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at the School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore, said it was difficult to interpret the case numbers from China, particularly from Hubei. That is because the total number of infections jumped when authorities expanded the methods used to diagnose them twice in two weeks."Trying to look at the case numbers is very difficult," Tam said. "We don't really know what is influencing those case numbers.''Adding to the confusion, Chinese media outlets reported Monday that Wuhan would begin easing a sweeping lockdown by allowing some people to leave. But just hours after news of the change emerged, authorities backtracked, saying the announcement had been made in error.What is unclear to many public health experts is whether a shortage of testing kits is causing a large number of cases to remain undetected. Hospitals in China remain overstretched, and many patients say they have been turned away. Health care workers are still coming down with the virus despite official pledges to protect them. Liang, the health official, said more than 3,000 health care workers have been infected.Another problem is that China does not disclose how many people are being tested. If the proportion of people being tested is really declining, it would suggest there is a downturn in the rate of transmission. "But we don't have that yet," Tam said."From my perspective, it's 'watch and wait and see,' " he said. "It looks positive, but it's difficult to interpret what those numbers mean at the moment."In a speech Sunday, China's leader, Xi Jinping, called the epidemic the country's most serious public health crisis and said it was "the most difficult to prevent and control" since the founding of the People's Republic.The epidemic has already severely disrupted life and commerce -- as well as the Communist Party's annual legislative conferences that had been scheduled to begin in Beijing in early March. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress announced Monday that it had postponed the conferences indefinitely.Xi said controlling the outbreak in Wuhan and Hubei as well as preventing the epidemic from spreading to Beijing, the capital, were the country's top two strategic goals. He pledged more pro-growth policies to help overcome the epidemic.David Heymann, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the case numbers from China suggest that there "may be a decrease in transmission."China was following its playbook from the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak of 2002-03, said Heymann, a former chief of communicable diseases at the WHO, when it was "able to stop outbreaks outside the epicenter in Guangdong province by meticulous outbreak containment and control."The real test could be yet to come. As China moves to restart its economy, the coronavirus could flare up again."There is an acute recognition here that just as we -- the Chinese -- forced the tail of this outbreak down, it could come back up again as people start to move again, the shops start to open, the restaurants open, the schools open," Aylward said. "It's a risk."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 15:11:39 -0500
  • As Trump Barricades the Border, Legal Immigration Is Beginning to Plunge

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    WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's immigration policies -- like travel bans and visa restrictions or refugee caps and asylum changes -- have begun to deliver on a long-standing goal: Legal immigration has fallen more than 11% and a steeper drop is looming.While Trump highlights the construction of a border wall to stress his war on illegal immigration, it is through policy changes, not physical barriers, that his administration has been able to seal the United States. Two more measures took effect Friday and Monday, an expansion of his travel ban and strict wealth tests on green card applicants."He's really ticking off all the boxes. It's kind of amazing," said Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group. "In an administration that's been perceived to be haphazard, on immigration they've been extremely consistent and barreling forward."The number of people who obtained lawful permanent residence, besides refugees who entered the United States in previous years, declined to 940,877 in the 2018 fiscal year from 1,063,289 in the 2016 fiscal year, according to an analysis of government data by the National Foundation for American Policy. Four years ago, legal immigration was at its highest level since 2006, when 1,266,129 people obtained lawful permanent residence in the United States.Although the data provides only a glimpse of the effect of Trump's agenda, immigration experts said they are first sign and that coming policies will amplify them. A report released Monday projected a 30% decline in legal immigration by 2021 and a 35% dip in average annual growth of the U.S. labor force.The numbers reflect the breadth of the Trump administration's restrictionism, and they come as record low unemployment has even the president's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, confiding to a gathering in Britain that "we are desperate, desperate for more people."But the doors have been blocked in multiple ways. Those fleeing violence or persecution have found asylum rules tightened and have been forced to wait in squalid camps in Mexico or sent to countries like Guatemala as their cases are adjudicated. People who have languished in displaced persons camps for years face an almost impossible refugee cap of 18,000 this year, down from the 110,000 that President Barack Obama set in 2016.Family members hoping to travel legally from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia were blocked by the president's travel ban.Increased vetting and additional in-person interviews have further winnowed foreign travelers. The number of visas issued to foreigners abroad looking to immigrate to the United States has declined by about 25%, to 462,422 in the 2019 fiscal year from 617,752 in 2016.But two more tough policies were to take effect by Monday. The expansion of Trump's travel ban to six additional countries, including Africa's most populous, Nigeria, began Friday, and the public charge rule, which effectively sets a wealth test for would-be immigrants, was to start Monday. Those will reshape immigration in the years to come, according to experts.The travel and visa bans, soon to cover 13 countries, are almost sure to be reflected in immigration numbers in the near future. Of the average of more than 537,000 people abroad granted permanent residency from 2014 to 2016, including through a diversity lottery system, nearly 28,000, or 5%, would be blocked under the administration's newly expanded travel restrictions, according to an analysis of State Department data.But the public charge rule may prove the most consequential change yet. Around two-thirds of the immigrants who obtained permanent legal status from 2012 to 2016 could be blocked from doing so under the new so-called public charge rule, which denies green cards to those who are likely to need public assistance, according to a study by the Migration Policy Institute.Before Monday, immigrants were disqualified from permanent resident status only if they failed to demonstrate a household income above 125% of the federal poverty line, a threshold set by Congress. Now, immigration officials will weigh dozens of factors, like age, health, language skills, credit score and insurance as well as whether an applicant has previously used public benefits, to determine if the applicant is likely to use them in the future. One factor that could also count against an applicant is the action the immigrant is undertaking: applying for a green card. Applying for the legal status is one of the negative factors that immigration officials could use to determine if someone will be a public charge, a Catch-22 that has been a key criticism from immigration advocates.Even before the policy went into force, it discouraged immigrants and citizens in immigrant families from seeking public assistance they qualify for, such as Medicaid, food stamps, free or reduced-price school meals or housing help, according to immigration analysts."Data suggest that millions of people, including U.S. citizens, have already pulled out of safety net programs they're legally entitled to, based on fear of the public charge rule -- even though it doesn't apply to them and never will," said Doug Rand, a founder of Boundless Immigration, a technology company in Seattle that helps immigrants obtain green cards and citizenship. "That's not a 'chilling effect' -- that's a fraud upon the American people."The State Department's enforcement of a far more limited form of the public charge rule in recent years may offer insight into how aggressively the Homeland Security Department is likely to use the new policy. In 2016, the last year of the Obama administration, 1,076 immigrants were found to be ineligible for visas under the rule. In 2018, 13,450 were, according to State Department data.As the State Department moves forward Monday with the expanded public charge rule, the wealth test will be applied to green card applicants both inside and outside the United States.Broadening the rule has been a long-sought after goal of the White House and specifically, the president's senior adviser Stephen Miller, who admonished career officials for taking too long to enforce the policy.After the Supreme Court on Friday lifted an injunction that blocked the policy in Illinois, the White House praised the plan the next day."This final rule will protect hardworking American taxpayers, safeguard welfare programs for truly needy Americans, reduce the federal deficit," it said in a statement, "and reestablish the fundamental legal principle that newcomers to our society should be financially self-reliant and not dependent on the largess of United States taxpayers."Other more subtle steps have also helped trim the number of immigrants arriving on U.S. shores, such as requiring in-person interviews for most immigration visas and a proposed 60% increase in citizenship fees for most applicants.Tara Battle, 42, a nurse in Chicago, now finds multiple policies are burdening, if not outright dividing, her family. After meeting Daberechi Amadi Godswill, a Nigerian, in 2016 while on vacation in Gambia, Battle struck up a relationship and they married in 2018.Since then, Battle, who supports a 12-year-old daughter on a $35,000 annual salary, said she and Godswill had spent around $1,000 on lawyer and processing fees, trying to bring him to the country. She believed she had taken the last step when she submitted her financial documents on his behalf this month.Then her lawyers told her Trump had banned immigration from Nigeria. She said she would wait to see if the president lifted the ban, but if he does, she is likely to be saddled with much higher processing fees."Everything is up and running, the ball is already rolling. Why is it now on hold?" Battle asked in exasperation. "They've already done the background checks. They already did everything. The money, the fees, everything's paid for."There is little sign that Trump will relent. He is already using his immigration agenda to incite supporters as the election nears. While the administration recorded 36,679 arrests at the border last month, slightly up from the 33,657 arrests in January 2016, the president has been celebrating an eight-month decline in border crossings since a surge of Central American families approached the border last year.He has built only about 120 miles of his border wall, but his administration quelled last year's surge with a less visible policy known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, which have forced roughly 60,000 migrants to wait in Mexico as their immigration cases are processed in the courts. That measure, as well as a deal with Guatemala to deport asylum-seekers to the Central American country, has virtually ended asylum along the southwestern border."They want literally millions of people to flow into our country," Trump said of Democrats at a recent tribute for members of the Border Patrol union. "And of those millions of people, tremendous numbers of them, are people you don't want in this country."Mulvaney struck a different tone to a crowd of several hundred during a question-and-answer session with the Oxford Union in Britain, a tape of which was obtained by The New York Times."We created 215,000 jobs last month," he said. "We are running out of people to fuel the economic growth."One aspect of Trump's stringent immigration policies has not happened yet: The president has not deported "millions" of immigrants, as promised this year. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested about 143,000 immigrants in the country from October 2018 to September 2019, 10% fewer than the previous fiscal year and the lowest level since Trump took office.The administration has tried to change that trend by threatening retaliation against localities that embrace the policies of so-called sanctuary cities. Tactical units from Border Patrol have been deployed to assist ICE agents. Trump took aim at those cities, including New York, in his State of the Union address, claiming they allowed "dangerous criminal aliens to prey upon the public."Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said that the president's aggressive immigration measures had actually put people in danger. The "zero tolerance" policy to prosecute parents caught illegally crossing the border, he said, led to thousands of children being separated from their parents."By any reasonable measure that's not success," he added. "That's abject failure."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 15:09:51 -0500
  • Americans Show Fresh Signs of Panic as Coronavirus Cases Jump Again

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    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Monday that the number of 2019 novel coronavirus cases in the United States rose from 34 on Friday to 53 as more passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for the disease. The virus quickly spread among 695 passengers aboard the Carnival cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan, and has since killed at least two and forced many of the rest into quarantine and isolation. The U.S. State Department eventually repatriated those Americans who wished to come home, though local officials across the United States have shown signs of resistance to housing the potentially infected in state or federal facilities. COVID-19, as the virus is officially known, has infected more than 79,000 people in two dozen countries and killed at least 2,600. Businesses across the world have responded by canceling conferences and restricting travel, especially to China. U.S. financial markets plunged Monday as the number of confirmed cases rose in South Korea, Italy, and Iran. Meanwhile, at least one man in Miami was facing a medical bill for up to thousands of dollars after a coronavirus scare. He was ultimately diagnosed with the flu, but the case showed the potential for people with high cost health plans to rack up fees as panic spreads in a country without universal health care.The Ticking Coronavirus Time Bomb: America’s UninsuredEven as the petri dish of the Diamond Princess and the surge in cases in Europe and the Middle East have captured the world’s attention, the vast majority of cases remain in China, where the virus was first documented in December.Still, the emergence of the virus has produced a range of emotional responses across American professions and demographic groups. The possibility of infection has previously caused panic among ride-share drivers, while teenagers have pretended to be infected with the virus to prompt others to share their videos. There have also been reports of bullying and discrimination against students of Asian descent.Now residents of Salt Lake City appear to be projecting their fears of the virus onto Shen Yun, a dance troupe known as much for its ubiquitous marketing as for its traditional Chinese performances. The group was slated to perform Feb. 25 and 26 in Salt Lake, and residents began calling the local and state public health departments to ask whether dancers might be contagious.Nicholas Rupp, a spokesman for the Salt Lake City health department, said his agency had received four calls since Friday from residents concerned over the risk of infection because of rumors they saw on social media. There is, he said, no basis for the rumors, as the group’s North American branch only tours in North America and therefore would not be likely to come into contact with coronavirus patients.“We’ve investigated, and we have no reason to believe that anyone associated with the troupe is ill,” he told The Daily Beast.The Utah State Department of Health has also received calls about this week’s Shen Yun performance and coronavirus, according to spokeswoman Charla Haley, though she said she did not know how many. She reiterated Rupp's point that the claims have no basis.One email to public health officials obtained by The Daily Beast describes a medical conspiracy by Shen Yun leadership, though the message offers no evidence. “A friend gave me news that this group just finished performing In Korea and a few of their members returned to the US with coronavirus symptoms but was prevented to seek medical help from their leader. They are suppressing their members to leak the news so no performing schedules will be interrupted,” the email reads. The writer’s name has been redacted. The emailer expressed doubts about the provenance of the information but decided acting on it was better than staying silent.“A group of SL local people are asking the public to call Mitt Romney, SL mayor Office and the health department to stop them from coming. I don’t know where this source is from. Too many fake news these days but if this one happens to be true I would do my share of citizen duties to call to the officials.”Staffers at Shen Yun appear to be aware of the perception, however baseless, that dancers might be infected, as well. The group published an undated press release dispelling the whispers: “Shen Yun Is Not From China, Shows In No Way Affected By Coronavirus.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 14:50:46 -0500
  • Coronavirus cases spike in South Korea and Italy, sparking new fears

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    Less than a month after world leaders told the public that the coronavirus would be contained quickly and swiftly, the virus has not only escaped mainland China but has also wreaked havoc throughout other Asian countries and claimed lives around the world.On Feb. 14, an 80-year Chinese tourist died in a hospital in Paris, the first coronavirus death outside of Asia. At the time, the man's life was the fourth claimed by the virus outside of mainland China.As of Feb. 24, the virus, officially recognized as 2019-nCoV or COVID-19, has claimed 2,622 lives across 32 countries. Some 79,407 total cases have been confirmed across 32 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). More than 77,000 of those cases have come from China, but in other countries, the numbers of cases have made shocking leaps in recent days."So how should we describe the current situation? What we see are epidemics in different parts of the world, affecting countries in different ways and requiring a tailored response," said WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a press conference on Monday. "The sudden increase in new cases is certainly very concerning." A worker wearing a protective suit sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. South Korea reported another large jump in new virus cases Monday a day after the president called for "unprecedented, powerful" steps to combat the outbreak that is increasingly confounding attempts to stop the spread. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) In less than a week, South Korea went from having 20 confirmed cases in the country to 833. Similarly, an eruption of cases in Italy drove fear throughout Europe. Italian health officials reported more than 219 cases of the virus in the country and a death toll of five.The spike prompted officials to lock down 10 towns near Milan, potentially impacting at least 50,000 people. In the region of Lombardy, more than 170 cases and at least four deaths have been recorded.While officials and experts have both hoped that warmer weather would stem the spread of the virus, recent weather around Milan and the South Korean capital of Seoul doesn't paint a clear picture of the weather's current impact. Both regions have recorded daily temperatures warmer than historical averages in recent weeks, but neither is close to reaching the 86-degree-Fahrenheit threshold that some pathologists have predicted would lead to the disease inactivating.CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE ACCUWEATHER APPIn similar measures, countries around the world are barring entry to foreign visitors who have recently visited China. On Sunday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in enacted the highest level of alert available, allowing the government to ban visitors from China. On Monday, the country reported another 231 new cases.Fears that the virus will become a global pandemic were further heightened when 50 people in Iran were killed by the virus in recent weeks. The updated death toll was reported on Monday by Iran's ILNA news agency and represented a stark rise from the 12 deaths that were reported by state TV earlier in the day.However, at Monday's press conference, Ghebreyesus refuted the pandemic claims and worked to assure the public that progress was being made. A tourist from South Korea wears protective mask while waiting for a flight back to South Korea at the Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) "For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this coronavirus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death," he said. "What we see are epidemics in different parts of the world, affecting countries in different ways and requiring a tailored response."The tally for total cases in the United States reached 53 on Monday, according to an announcement from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Two of those cases were spread person to person while 12 were travel-related. Another 36 of those cases came via the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has been docked at a port in Yokohama, Japan, for weeks.According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there have been more worldwide new recoveries than new confirmations of coronaviruses cases for six straight days. On Feb. 22, more than 4,000 cases were deemed recovered, the highest recovery day on record for the virus. Around the world, there have been over 25,000 cases of recovery since the beginning of the outbreak.For comparison, there have been an estimated 16 million cases, 160,000 hospitalizations and 9,400 deaths from the flu in the United States, according to CDC data, since Jan. 11, the date of the first reported fatality from COVID-19, as recorded by the China state media and shared by the Xinhua news agency. Bruce Aylward, an assistant director-general of the World Health Organization speaks with a chart during a press conference in Beijing on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. Aylward said in Beijing on Monday that China's actions had probably prevented tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of cases of the COVID-19 virus. (AP Photo/Sam McNeil) In Monday's press conference, assistant director-general Bruce Aylward said that recovery and prevention efforts in China are beginning to prove fruitful."Very rapidly, multiple sources of data pointed to the same thing: This is falling, and it's falling because of the actions that are being taken," said Aylward. "China was the first line of defense to prevent the international spread of this virus, because they feared and felt the responsibility to protect the world from this virus ... Other countries should think about whether they apply something, not necessarily through lockdowns, but the same rigorous approach."The worldwide fear has also dealt some economic blows. On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 1,000 points by noon, erasing all of its gains for the year, according to CNBC \-- largely due to fears about Chinese disruptions on the global supply chain. According to the S&P, the drop would represent the third-largest total point plunge in U.S. history if it holds through Monday.Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 14:49:20 -0500
  • UN reiterates support for 2-state Israel-Palestine solution

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    The U.N. Security Council on Monday reiterated its support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in its first statement following the unveiling of the U.S. plan for resolving the decades-old struggle three weeks ago. President Donald Trump ‘s plan sided with Israel on most of the conflict’s main sticking points, and the Palestinians rejected it outright. The U.N. statement, which was approved by all 15 council members including the U.S., made no mention of Trump's plan.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 14:38:45 -0500
  • Islamic Jihad renews rocket fire on Israel amid ongoing air strikes

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    Islamic Jihad resumed firing rockets at Israel from Gaza Monday night amid ongoing Israeli air strikes, damaging hopes for an end to a two-day flare-up a week before the Jewish state's election. The militant Islamist group announced Monday evening it had ceased firing rockets but backtracked about an hour later after Israel continued striking its forces in the Gaza Strip. Islamic Jihad, which is allied to Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas, has fired some 60 rockets towards Israel since the killing of one of its fighters Sunday morning, according to the United Nations.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 14:16:07 -0500
  • World must avert 'dramatic' effects of coronavirus on health, economy -U.N.'s Guterres

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    United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged countries to prevent the novel coronavirus epidemic from spiralling into a crisis with "dramatic consequences" for global health and the world economy. Guterres, speaking to reporters during a visit to the World Health Organization centre for managing emergencies, called for fully funding the WHO's appeal of $675 million to cover its overall response for three months. "All countries - and this is now a problem that is affecting many countries in the world - all countries must do everything to be prepared," Guterres said after a briefing by WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and other senior officials.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 14:02:31 -0500
  • Johnson Faces Complaints of Bad Faith Ahead of Trade Talks

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    (Bloomberg) -- The U.K. and the European Union are increasingly at odds ahead of next week’s trade talks, with each side accusing the other of backing away from past promises.Regaining political independence and freedom from the EU’s legal system will take priority over securing a trade deal by the Dec. 31 deadline, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, told reporters on Monday. And in a move that risks stirring concerns in Dublin, the U.K. is refusing to ask ports to get ready to implement new checks on goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland, he said.That position appears to defy the deal that broke the Brexit deadlock last year. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said “there can be no backsliding” on the Northern Ireland protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement, broadcaster RTE reported on Monday. Varadkar, who is acting as caretaker premier after losing this month’s election, said the withdrawal agreement is an international treaty and “we expect the British government to honor that in full.”On Monday, EU ambassadors finalized the bloc’s negotiating mandate for the talks, including a demand that EU rules should be a “reference point” for the level playing field in an apparent concession to the hard line French. Ministers from member states are due to sign it off on Tuesday, with the U.K. expected to follow with its own paper on Thursday. Those documents will set out the parameters for different areas of discussion.‘What’s Changed?’But the background noises are already bad-tempered, and Johnson -- who is ideologically committed to Brexit and has a significant majority to rely on in Parliament -- is taking a negotiating position that raises the risk that no trade agreement will be reached before the Brexit transition period expires at the end of the years.The U.K. is also pushing back against the bloc’s insistence that Britain should follow European rules on employment and manufacturing standards if it wants a trade deal. Last week Johnson’s office tweeted a picture of an EU-generated slide suggesting the different kinds of trading arrangement available to the U.K., which concluded that a free-trade deal along the lines of the one done with Canada was the only likely option. “Now they say it’s not on offer after all,” the tweet said. “What’s changed?”Over the weekend, the U.K. seized on the time it’s taking the 27 member states to agree their joint position, with Johnson’s office accusing the EU of being “hamstrung by indecision and delay due to the competing interests of different member states.” French Europe Minister Amelie de Montchalin did nothing to calm the tension, accusing the U.K. of trying to use “the pressure of blackmail or time” to push a deal through.While much of this is simply rhetoric, the Irish border issue has been one of the key problems of Brexit for the last three years. Under the Withdrawal Agreement reached by the two sides, goods moving from Northern Ireland to Britain should be largely free from checks -- but that’s not the case when goods move in the other direction. In order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit, the U.K. agreed to apply the European Union’s rules on customs and regulations in Northern Ireland.In effect, that means customs controls on goods considered at risk of moving into the EU from Great Britain through Northern Ireland, according to the Institute of Government. It also means regulatory checks on goods moving into Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K. to make sure they meet EU standards.Although the U.K. is talking tough, its language is slightly different depending on the direction of trade that it’s discussing. Slack said on Monday that goods moving from Northern Ireland to Britain would have “unfettered access.” He declined to say that same about goods moving in the opposite direction.Not About “Bespoke Agreement”“We will comply with our obligations,” he said.After leaving the EU on Jan. 31, Britain has until Dec. 31 to sign a trade deal with the EU -- or face crashing out of the bloc and trading on terms set by the World Trade Organization. Johnson has ruled out any extension of this transition period.In a statement outlining a call between Johnson and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Monday afternoon, Johnson’s office underlined that commitment.“The Prime Minister highlighted that we are not seeking a special or bespoke agreement, but rather one like those the EU has already struck with other friendly countries like Canada,” the readout said. “He emphasized that the U.K. will not extend the transition period or accept any arrangements which subordinate us to EU rules.”(Updates detail of mandate in fourth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Dara Doyle and Samuel Dodge.To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Thomas Penny, Stuart BiggsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 14:01:25 -0500
  • US appeals court upholds Trump rules involving abortions

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    In a victory for the Trump administration, a U.S. appeals court on Monday upheld rules that bar taxpayer-funded family-planning clinics from referring women for abortions. The 7-4 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned decisions issued by judges in Washington, Oregon and California. Beginning March 4, the rules will also prohibit clinics that receive federal money from sharing office space with abortion providers, which critics said would force many Title X providers to find new locations, undergo expensive remodels or shut down — further reducing access to the program.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 13:42:19 -0500
  • Airlines plunge as Italian coronavirus outbreak threatens longer crisis

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    PARIS/LONDON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - European budget airlines bore the brunt of Monday's plunge in global stock markets as the arrival of the coronavirus in Italy pointed to a longer, deeper crisis than many have banked on. EasyJet dropped 16.4% and Ryanair 13.5% as airlines were forced to reassess the fallout from the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus across Asia and beyond, with South Korea, Italy and Iran now struggling to contain outbreaks. "Concerns are growing that COVID-19 continues to spread and will impact demand to and from other European countries," Credit Suisse analysts said.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 12:55:04 -0500
  • Meghan McCain: ‘Really Hard’ to Decide if Bernie or Trump Is ‘More in the Tank for Russia’

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    Meghan McCain, The View’s resident conservative co-host, said on Monday that she had a “really hard” time deciding whether President Donald Trump or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is “more in the tank for Russia.”Discussing recent revelations that Sanders was briefed last month that Russia was attempting to aid the democratic socialist senator in his 2020 presidential bid, co-host Sunny Hostin grumbled that Sanders “wasn’t that forthright with the public.” She went on to note that Trump would likely use Russia’s meddling to contest the results of the election if Sanders were to win.“That’s a far jump into the future,” McCain responded.The conservative personality, who has been extremely critical of Sanders and his supporters recently, proceeded to take her own show to task for only devoting airtime last week to reports that Congress was briefed that Russia was looking to interfere on Trump’s behalf in 2020. “We didn’t mention that Bernie was also briefed at the same time,” she said. “That was completely omitted from reports.”“We also didn’t mention that now it’s come out that maybe people that had briefed those people, briefed the campaigns, may have overstepped it a little bit,” McCain continued. “And I just always think it’s interesting that when we’re talking about Russia, we only talk about Trump when it comes out that Bernie has just as serious a problem as Trump does. Why aren’t we talking about that? Why is that something we are omitting from our Hot Topics?!”Later in the segment, the table tied Russia seemingly preferring Sanders in the Democratic primary to Trump excitedly hyping up the Vermont senator’s “great win” in the Nevada caucuses.“He usually reserves this enthusiasm for dictators and porn stars,” liberal co-host Joy Behar exclaimed.“So Bernie is like a dictator or a porn star in the eyes of Trump?” McCain, confused, wondered aloud. “I mean, he’s super excited.”“No. The enthusiasm that he’s showing is because he thinks he can beat Bernie,” Behar replied. “He went, he went to the Ukraine to try and hurt [Joe] Biden.”McCain, meanwhile, co-opted one of Team Trump’s new lines of attack on Sanders to tie him to Russia and Vladimir Putin.“I mean, Bernie spent his honeymoon in Soviet Russia,” she declared. “I mean, I think if you’re going to go back and forth over who is more in the tank for Russia, it’s a really hard one between Bernie and Trump.”McCain’s comments resulted in a single audience member applauding her, prompting the former Fox News star to sarcastically react: “Thank you very much, sir, in the blue shirt.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 12:50:55 -0500
  • Merkel's crisis-hit CDU launches leadership race

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    Germany's centre-right CDU said Monday it would choose a new leader at a special congress on April 25, as the crisis-racked party hopes to halt a slide in the polls and end speculation about who could succeed veteran Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel's Christian Democratic Union has been in turmoil after her heir apparent, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, resigned as party leader this month over her supposed failure to stop regional MPs from cooperating with the far right. Speaking after talks with party grandees in Berlin, Kramp-Karrenbauer said they had agreed to hold an extraordinary congress to elect the next leader of the CDU, a party that has dominated politics in Germany for 70 years.

    Mon, 24 Feb 2020 12:44:15 -0500
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