Trump Faces Credibility Test as He Plays down Virus Threat

President Donald Trump faces a critical personal challenge in grappling with the new coronavirus outbreak: asking Americans to believe him after he and some of his top advisers have contradicted federal scientists in playing down the threat.Keenly aware of the stakes not just for public health but also his credibility, Trump conducted a lengthy press conference Wednesday evening aimed at reassuring everyone that he has the crisis well in hand.Trump surrounded himself with his administration’s top health experts. And he encouraged Americans to be prepared for the virus’ potential spread.But he continued to minimize the risk, saying the outbreak “may get a little bigger; it may not get bigger at all.” And he continued to distance himself from the stated opinion of public health officials that it’s inevitable the virus will spread within the United States.As businesses, schools and people in general think about preparing, the X-factor may be an unpredictable president who has clashed repeatedly with scientists in his own administration and tends to see any crisis through the lens of his own reelection chances.“I don’t think it’s inevitable,” Trump said at the news conference, where he announced Vice President Mike Pence would lead the administration’s response to the outbreak. “I think it has a chance that it could get worse. There is a chance you can get fairly substantially worse. But nothing’s inevitable.”He also said he had recently learned that thousands die from the flu each year, contrasting that to the coronavirus.A screen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shows the closing number for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Feb. 25, 2020.After two days of the stock market tumbling, Trump took to Twitter Wednesday morning to blame the media and Democrats for causing undue alarm and harming American financial markets.He singled out MSNBC and CNN for “doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible,” and added that “incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action.”He blamed part of this week’s stock market slide on people’s reaction to Tuesday night’s Democratic debate and the possibility one of those candidates might replace him. And Trump acknowledged that the outbreak could “have an impact on GDP” but insisted that the U.S. economy is still “doing great.”The setting for Trump’s evening press conference – the White House press briefing room – was meant to offer a sense of calm and assurance by the Republican president. It was only the second time in his presidency that Trump had spoken from the podium in that room, and aides acknowledged he was trying to underscore that he has the situation under control and understands the gravity.In advance, Trump played down the mortality rate for a pathogen that has been confirmed to have killed 2,700 people globally. His top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, echoed Trump’s outlook, saying Tuesday that the U.S. had “contained” the threat of a domestic outbreak.Director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) Dr. Nancy Messonnier speaks about the public health response to the outbreak of the coronavirus, Washington, Jan. 28, 2020.Trump’s and Kudlow’s comments were at odds with warnings from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials who said American communities need to prepare now for when the disease starts spreading domestically. There have been just 60 confirmed cases in the U.S.“The messaging by the White House is unhelpful,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University. “What the White House is doing is conveying a sense of overconfidence. … Of course, we do want to maintain calm with the public, but it flies in the face of facts.”Trump’s public efforts to project calm masked a behind-the-scenes focus.During his 36-hour visit to India, Trump received briefings from staff and periodically checked the impact on Wall Street, tweeting at all hours to try to reassure Americans and the markets about the spread of the virus.Trump expressed deep concern to aides about the effect on the markets, according to White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing. Trump has tied his fortunes to Wall Street more closely than any of his recent predecessors and has made a strong economy his No. 1 argument for reelection.As the media coverage of the virus has increased, Trump has grown concerned that even fears of an outbreak would stagger Wall Street, leading him to wonder aloud if Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was the right person to lead the administration’s response, the officials said.Since the start of the crisis, Trump has been reluctant to blame China, where the virus originated, for fear of upsetting President Xi Jinping or damaging ongoing trade talks.But he is also fearful he could be accused of being unresponsive to the crisis. At the urging of a number of his internal and outside advisers, he directed the White House to adopt a more public presence, leading to a briefing by officials and emails to the press stressing the administration’s response.“Americans want to see their president taking charge and showing leadership, and that is exactly what President Trump is doing,” said Trump campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany.Privately, aides said concerns have spiked in recent days inside the Trump reelection campaign. Republicans close to the White House are keenly aware of the political implications of a pandemic scare. In 2014, the GOP aggressively criticized the Obama administration’s handling of the Ebola epidemic, which it later credited with helping the party seize back the majority in the Senate.The most pressing concern, aides said, is not the possibility of widespread outbreak in the U.S. – Trump’s aides do believe existing monitoring and restrictions are working – but the downstream effects of the virus on the global economy and public sentiment.The virus has already shut Chinese factories that are part of the U.S. supply chain. Mark Zandi, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, estimated Wednesday that U.S. growth could slow to 1.7% this year – roughly the same level as in 2016. He said the situation could become worse if a pandemic emerges.“The U.S. economy is more insulated from the impact of the virus, but it is not immune, and it too would likely suffer a downturn in this scenario,” Zandi said.Trump moved swiftly to severely curtail most travel to China a month ago, a move administration officials believe slowed the spread of the virus to the U.S., even if it drew criticism for being too extreme in the moment.Jay Butler, Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases, addresses the media about response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirusas at the Emergency Operations Center inside The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Feb. 13, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia.Until now, federal health authorities have been preparing for the coronavirus’ arrival in the U.S. with little if any White House interference. They’re following the playbook: pandemic preparedness plans that were put into place in anticipation of another flu pandemic, but will work for any respiratory-borne disease.Part of those plans call for educating the public on what to expect if the virus begins spreading in U.S. communities, such as school closures or calls for people to telework.One of the lessons learned in prior crises is not to offer false assurances when scientists have questions about the illness.As Trump plays down the threat of an outbreak, his past attacks on government scientists on everything from hurricane forecasts to climate change and his reputation for straining the truth all factor into the credibility of his message.The flap over Trump’s off-base comments about Hurricane Dorian last fall – when he went so far as to display a weather map that had been altered with a black marker to extend the hurricane’s possible path – demonstrated the pitfalls when a president veers from the message provided by government scientists and career professionals.Trump, who pilloried President Barack Obama over his response to the Ebola epidemic, now finds himself having to fend off a wave of criticism from Democratic presidential rivals who claim he’s discounted science and has inadequate response plans.At Tuesday’s presidential debate, Mike Bloomberg claimed “there’s nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing.” Sen. Amy Klobuchar criticized Trump for trying to cut back funding of the CDC and the National Institutes of Health.Trump’s budgets have proposed cuts to public health, only to be overruled by Congress, where there’s strong bipartisan support for agencies like the CDC and NIH. Instead, financing has increased.
   

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About 40% of US Adults Are Obese, Government Survey Finds

About 4 in 10 American adults are obese, and nearly 1 in 10 is severely so, government researchers said Thursday.
   
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention findings come from a 2017-18 health survey that measures height and weight. More than 5,000 U.S. adults took part.
   
The survey found that the obesity rate was 42%, higher than the 40% found in a similar 2015-16 study. The severe obesity rate was more than 9% in the new survey, up from the 8% figure in the previous one.
   
Those increases aren’t considered statistically significant: The survey numbers are small enough that there’s a mathematical chance the rates didn’t truly rise.
   
But it’s clear that adult obesity rates are trending up, said the CDC’s Cynthia Ogden, one of the report’s authors.
   
A half-century ago, about 1 in 100 American adults were severely obese. Now it’s 10 times more common.
   
The obesity rate has risen about 40% in the last two decades.
   
The findings suggest that more Americans will get diabetes, heart disease and cancer, said Dr. William Dietz, a George Washington University obesity expert.
   
It also will be increasingly difficult for doctors to care for so many severely obese people, Dietz said. He has estimated that on average, every primary care doctor treating adults has about 100 severely obese patients.
   
“How’s a provider going to do that? Severe obesity really requires very intensive therapy,” he said.
   
The CDC did not report new obesity numbers for kids and teens. That may come out later this year, Ogden said. In 2015-16, 18.5% of kids and teens were obese and just under 6% were severely obese.
   
Dietz faulted the government for not pushing for more measures to promote physical activity and better eating. Building more sidewalks and passing a national tax on sugary beverages could make a big difference, he said.
   
Obesity, which means not merely overweight, but seriously overweight,  is considered one of the nation’s leading public health problems.
   
It is measured by the body mass index, or BMI, a figure calculated from a person’s weight and height. A BMI of 25 or greater is considered overweight, a BMI of 30 and above is obese, and a BMI of 40 or above is severely obese.
   
A person who is 5-foot-4, the average height for U.S. women, is considered obese at a weight of 174 pounds and severely obese above 232 pounds. A person who is 5-foot-9, about the average height for men, is deemed obese at 203 pounds and severely obese at 270.

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US Senate Majority Leader McConnell Hopes to See Coronavirus Funding Bill Within 2 Weeks

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday that he expects Senate
appropriators to produce funding legislation within the next two weeks to fight the spread of coronavirus in the United States.
McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor, said he has faith that bipartisan discussions on the Senate Appropriations
Committee would agree on “the right sum … at this time to ensure our nation’s needs are fully funded.”
“I hope they can work expeditiously so the full Senate would be able to take up the legislation within the next two weeks,” the Kentucky Republican said.
 

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Адресу посольства Росії у Празі урочисто змінили на площу Бориса Нємцова

У столиці Чехії Празі 27 лютого площу, де розташоване посольство Росії, перейменували на честь Бориса Нємцова. Урочисте перейменування відбулося в п’яту річницю вбивства в Москві опозиційного політика Бориса Нємцова, відомого, зокрема, критикою на адресу президента Росії Володимира Путіна.

До акції приєдналася дочка загиблого політика – Жанна Нємцова, яка подякувала також і супротивникам перейменування, що прийшли на площу.

«Дозволю собі зауважити: люди, які прагнуть гуманізму і які розуміють, що відбулося – незважаючи на кон’юнктуру, яка склалася, – вітають таке рішення. І ми з вами станемо свідками того, що люди будуть приходити сюди і будуть пишатися тим, що російське посольство розташоване саме на цій площі… Нехай лунають і ці опозиційні голоси – адже демократія саме про це», – сказала Нємцова.

 

Близько кількох десятків учасників акції вшанували пам’ять Бориса Нємцова хвилиною мовчання.

До акції долучився також посол України в Чехії Євген Перебийніс.

Після урочистого відкриття таблички поблизу російського посольства відкрили також алею на честь вбитої російської журналістки Ганни Політковської в парку з іншого боку посольства Росії.

«Обидві особистості наполягали на демократії, і за це їх було ганебно вбито. Вони заслуговують на пам’ять», – написав міський голова Праги Зденек Гржіб у понеділок на своїй сторінці у твітері. Саме він виступив з ініціативою щодо перейменування площі.

Влада чеської столиці Праги перейменувала площу Pod kaštany (Під каштанами) на площу Бориса Нємцова у відповідь на 4-річні клопотання чеських активістів. Автори петиції зібрали понад 4,5 тисячі підписів.

Як повідомляли чеські ЗМІ, метою петиції було «заявити про захист прав людини і демократії у світі».

Попри офіційне запрошення на урочисте перейменування площі, російського посла на акції не було. Російське посольство перейменування площі, на якій воно розташоване, не коментувало.

Бориса Нємцова застрелили з близької відстані на мосту Великий Москворецький у центрі Москви 27 лютого 2015 року.

У червні 2017 року російський суд засудив за звинуваченням у цьому вбивстві колишнього керівника батальйону Чечні Заура Дадаєва до 20 років ув’язнення. Четверо інших чеченців були визнані винними у причетності до вбивства та засуджені до позбавлення волі від 11 до 20 років.

20 лютого Організація з безпеки та співробітництва в Європі (ОБСЄ) закликала владу Росії відновити розслідування убивства Бориса Нємцова.

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NORC Poll: Election Security, Integrity Worry Americans

Americans have widespread concerns about the security and integrity of elections, with few saying they have high confidence that votes in the 2020 presidential election will be counted accurately.
A poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds skepticism about the democratic process in the United States. While a third of Americans say they have high confidence in an accurate count, roughly another third are only moderately confident and a remaining third say they have little confidence.
“What’s to prevent old Vlad Putin from interfering in the election? I don’t know,” says Reid Gibson, an independent voter in Missouri, referring to the Russian president, who U.S. intelligence agencies say interfered in the 2016 election with a sophisticated operation to sow division and help elect Donald Trump, a Republican.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress this month that Russia is still engaged in “information warfare” heading into the 2020 election but that law enforcement has not seen efforts to target infrastructure like the voting machines.
Still, U.S. officials say one of Russia’s goals is to sow doubt about the integrity of U.S. elections, and the poll suggests that even if Russia isn’t targeting voting infrastructure it may be achieving that goal because of the lack of voter confidence following from the 2016 election.
Gibson, who says he leans Democratic, is pessimistic about the state of U.S. politics and has little confidence that votes in the 2020 presidential election will be counted accurately. He says he’s been concerned about the way elections are conducted since 2000, when voter problems in Florida delayed resolution of the presidential election and a Supreme Court decision to stop a ballot recount ultimately put George W. Bush, a Republican, in office.
In general, Americans have mixed feelings about the way the country’s political leaders are chosen, with about as many saying they are optimistic as saying they are pessimistic.
There also are widespread fears about security vulnerabilities as well as voter suppression and voter fraud. About half of Americans say they are highly concerned that the country’s voting systems might be vulnerable to hackers, and about that many also are strongly concerned about foreign governments interfering by tampering with election results or influencing American attitudes.
But concerns vary significantly by partisanship, with Democrats more likely than Republicans to express worries about the security of elections. About 6 in 10 Democrats say they are very or extremely concerned that voting systems might be vulnerable to hackers. Roughly two-thirds also are highly concerned that foreign governments will interfere in 2020 by tampering with results or influencing what Americans think about political candidates.
By contrast, fewer than half of Republicans express significant concern about hackers, and just about a quarter are highly concerned about any form of foreign interference.
U.S. intelligence agencies and special counsel Robert Mueller found that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Mueller charged 13 Russians in a covert social media campaign that prosecutors said was aimed at dividing public opinion on hot-button social issues as well as propping up Trump while denigrating Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee.
The government has said that Russian agents also searched for vulnerabilities within election systems in all 50 states during the 2016 election cycle, though there is no evidence that votes were changed.
Trump has often pushed back on the findings by his own intelligence agencies, saying frequently that investigations into interference were a “hoax.”
Voter fraud and voter suppression also elicit a wide partisan divide. Nearly 7 in 10 Republicans show concerns about voter fraud, saying people voting who are not eligible is a major problem in U.S. elections. That compares with about a quarter of Democrats.
Meanwhile, Democrats are concerned about voter suppression. Almost two-thirds say it is a major problem that people who are eligible are not allowed to vote, while only about a third of Republicans say the same.
The opposing views come as Republicans in some states have implemented laws requiring voters to show identification, arguing that it will combat voter fraud. Democrats have fought many of those laws, saying they disenfranchise some voters.
With their candidate sitting in the Oval Office, Republicans are about twice as likely as Democrats to say they are optimistic about the way political leaders are chosen. Republicans also are more likely than Democrats to be strongly confident that votes will be counted accurately.
“I think it’s about as fair is it could be,” says Richard Merritt, 53, a Republican from Maine who supports Trump. “If someone was trying to hack into a voting system, the United States would be on top of that before you and I even knew it.”
Views on election integrity and security also divide along racial lines. Roughly two-thirds of black Americans say they have little confidence that votes in 2020 will be counted accurately, compared with fewer than 4 in 10 white Americans or Hispanics saying the same. Wide shares of black Americans, more so than white Americans or Hispanics, are concerned about hackers and foreign interference.
Robert King, a 70-year-old African American man from Michigan, says he might not even vote this year “because of the tampering and all of this other stuff going on.” He says he’s concerned that his vote might not even be counted.
Nearly 8 in 10 black Americans also say it’s a major problem that people who are eligible are not allowed to vote.
Richard Hasen, author of the book “Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy,” says voter identification laws have led voters in both major political parties to believe that the other side is cheating. “There is increasingly incendiary rhetoric” on the voter fraud issue, he says.
Hasen says he believes many Americans’ concerns about the process come after they tune into major news events, such as election problems in the recent Iowa caucuses or Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference.
 
“I think there are threats to our system,” Hasen says, “but I think the question of voter confidence is separate from the reality.”
 

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Colorado to Become 22nd US State to Abolish Death Penalty

Colorado is set to become the 22nd U.S. state to abolish the death penalty.Lawmakers gave final approval to a bill to end the practice Wednesday, and the state’s governor has said he will sign it.Proponents of halting the use of the death penalty argued it is a punishment that cannot be reversed if later evidence emerges showing someone is innocent, and that it is disproportionately applied to minorities and the poor.Those who wanted to keep capital punishment as a sentencing option said the threat of the death penalty gave defendants incentive to seek agreements to plead guilty to crimes and accept lower sentences instead of going through a lengthy trial.Colorado has three people on its death row.  The new law will not affect their sentences, only new offenses starting in July.The state last executed someone in 1997.  Nationally, there have been four executions this year.Last year, the state of New Hampshire abolished the death penalty, while California Governor Gavin Newsom said last year there will be no capital punishment while he is in office.

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Косово: новий прем’єр звинувачує президента в порушенні Конституції через «секретну угоду» з НАТО

Новий прем’єр Косова Альбін Курті звинувачує президента Хашима Тачі в порушенні Конституції через «секретну угоду» з НАТО у 2013 році.

У листі до голови парламенту Вйоси Османі прем’єр заявив, що угода обмежує можливості військ Косова. Османі заявив, що направив такий лист до всіх законодавців.

Тачі наразі не коментував звинувачення з боку Курті.

За словами прем’єра, справа пов’язана з листуванням між Тачі та тодішнім генеральним секретарем НАТО Андерсом Фог Расмуссеном 19 квітня 2013 року. Курті стверджує, що угода надавала миротворчій місії НАТО в Косові право «абсолютного вето» на будь-які дії сил безпеки Косова на півночі країни, де переважно живуть серби.

У листі до Османі, копію якого надіслали до офісу Тачі та генерального прокурора Александра Лумеза, Курті закликав не вживати жодних заходів, які поставлять під загрозу співпрацю між Косовом та НАТО.

Османі заявила, що «вимоги від кожної інституції в Косові поважати Конституцію та конституційні процедури» не повинні інтерпретуватися як «напад» на НАТО, а скоріше – як «розвиток демократії й прозорості та повагу до закону та Конституції країни».

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Україна та Британія почали офіційні переговори щодо двосторонньої угоди

Україна та Велика Британія, яка нещодавно офіційно залишила Європейський союз, почали офіційні переговори щодо двосторонньої угоди. Про це повідомили у Міністерстві закордонних справ України.

«Розпочались офіційні переговори з делегацією Великобританії щодо двостронньої угоди стосовно політичного співробітництва, вільної торгівлі та партнерства. Ключові питання: стратегічне партнерство та візовий діалог», – мовиться у повідомленні.

 

Посол Сполученого королівства в Україні Мелінда Сіммонс раніше заявила, що Велика Британія не буде скасовувати візовий режим для України після виходу з Європейського союзу.

До укладення двосторонньої угоди щодо візового контролю Україна надала Сполученому королівству тимчасовий безвіз.

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Survey: Majority of Americans Satisfied With US Position in World

A new Gallup survey released Thursday shows that 53% of respondents, led by those who identified as Republicans, are satisfied with the position of the United States in the world.That figure is up 8 percentage points from last year and is the highest since 2003.Gallup reported a sharp partisan divide, but one the agency said is common in the past two decades depending on which party controls the White House.GOP satisfactionWith Republican Donald Trump in office, 85% of Republicans said they were satisfied with the U.S. position, while just 19% percent of Democrats agreed.Republicans also helped elevate the number of those who said the United States is seen favorably “in the eyes of the world.”Gallup’s poll found 16% of those surveyed rated perception of the U.S. as very favorable, while another 44% said it was somewhat favorable. And 83% of Republican respondents picked one of those two positive options.World’s respectAnd while Trump did reach his highest level in Gallup polling on the question of whether other world leaders respect him, that score was just 37% of people saying foreign leaders respect Trump, compared with 61% saying the leaders do not.Gallup said Trump’s score is similar to that of Republican President George W. Bush at the same time in his presidency, but far behind the 51% of Trump’s predecessor, Democratic President Barack Obama.
 

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США та Південна Корея перенесли спільні навчання через коронавірус

Міністерства оборони США та Південної Кореї перенесли спільні військові навчання через спалах коронавірусу, повідомляє агентство Yonhap.

Командування спільних сил не вказало, на яку дати перенесли навчання, що мали пройти у березні.

Зазначається, що в армії Південної Кореї зафіксували 21 випадок захворювання на коронавірус, на карантин відправили 9500 військових. Коронавірус підтвердили і в одного американського військового, який служить у Південній Кореї.

За даними Центру системних досліджень при Університеті Джона Гопкінса, у Південній Кореї діагностували 1595 випадків зараження коронавірусом, 13 людей померли.

Кількість випадків зараження новим коронавірусом станом на 27 лютого сягнула 82 164, майже 33 тисячі одужали. Число летальних випадків зросло до 2801.

2019-nCov (COVID-19) належить до великої групи коронавірусів. У деяких випадках перебіг хвороби – легкий, в деяких – із симптомами застуди і грипу, зокрема з високою температурою і кашлем, у більш складних випадках спостерігається задишка. Це може перерости в пневмонію, яка може бути смертельною. Більшість хворих, однак, видужують.

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