Friday morning news, January 31, 2020

WHO declares coronavirus a global health emergency » The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the new coronavirus a global health emergency.  

That comes as China has raised the death toll from the virus to 170. It has now infected more people in China than were sickened there during the SARS outbreak of 2002 and 2003.

But WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said that’s not the reason for the declaration. 

GHEBREYESUS: Our greatest concern is deportation, for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems.

The virus has now spread from person to person in several countries, including Germany, Japan, Canada, and now the United States.

The husband of an Illinois woman with the virus also contracted it. 

But Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said right now, there is still no cause for alarm. 

AZAR: While this is a potentially serious public health threat, it does not at this time pose a risk to the American public. We have to be balanced in our approach. We will take all public health measures necessary to protect the American public. 

Meantime, Russia is closing its 2,600-mile border with China. The Russian government has not confirmed any cases of the virus.

U.K. officially splits from EU tonight » It is a historic day in Britain as Brexit has finally arrived. 

The U.K. officially splits from the European Union at 11 p.m. local time. 

Brexiteers will celebrate in London tonight. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he will try to mark the occasion in a way that is respectful of everyone’s feelings. 

JOHNSON: It is a great moment for our country. It’s a moment of hope and opportunity, but it is also, I think, a moment for us to come together in a spirit of confidence. 

Johnson will address that nation live on his Facebook page at 10 p.m. local time. 

Not much will change immediately. February 1st marks the start of a transition period until the end of the year. During that time, Britain will continue to follow EU rules and pay into its coffers. Business will carry on as usual while the two sides negotiate a new relationship on trade, security, and other issues.

Senate Q&A wraps up in impeachment trial, showdown on witnesses next » Senators wrapped up a two-day question-and-answer session Thursday in President Trump’s impeachment trial. 

Senators submitted the questions in writing, but House impeachment managers and defense attorneys answered them out loud. 

Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries told senators that President Trump solicited foreign interference in a U.S. election.

JEFFRIES: It is wrong. It is corrupt. It is an abuse of power. It is impeachable, and it should lead to the removal of President Donald John Trump. 

But White House counsel Pat Cipollone said House Democrats have shown nothing to justify taking President Trump’s fate out of the hands of voters. 

CIPOLLONE: They don’t talk about the horrible consequences to our country of doing that. But they would be terrible. They would tear us apart for generations, and the American people wouldn’t accept it. 

Now comes the long anticipated showdown over whether to call additional witnesses. Democrats have to persuade four Republican senators to break rank and vote for new witnesses. If that effort fails, the GOP majority will move to vote on a final verdict. 

South Dakota House passes sex change limits » A bill that would protect minors from sex change surgeries is headed to the South Dakota Senate. The state’s House of Representatives passed the Vulnerable Child Protection Act by a vote of 46-23 on Wednesday. 

Republican Representative Fred Deutsch said the bill protects children under age 16 from “being chemically castrated, sterilized, and surgically mutilated.” The bill does make an exception for children diagnosed with medically verified genetic disorders of sexual development.

The bill is likely to pass in the state Senate, but GOP Governor Kristi Noem has not yet said whether she’ll sign it into law. 

Virginia Senate votes to lift protections for the unborn » Democratic Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax broke a tie in the state Senate this week to repeal legal protections for the unborn. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has that story.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Governor Ralph Northam, also a Democrat, is expected to sign the controversial measure into law. 

Senate Bill 733 undoes many of the state’s protections for unborn babies, including a requirement that only licensed physicians can perform abortions. 

It also allows facilities to carry out abortions without offering an ultrasound or giving mothers certain information 24 hours in advance. The House of Delegates passed a twin bill earlier this week. 

Both chambers moved from Republican to Democratic control this month.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Mississippi inmate’s death the 13th since late December » Thirteen state inmates have now died in Mississippi prisons since late December. The most recent death occurred Tuesday night. Twenty-eight-year-old Limarion Reaves collapsed at the Kemper-Neshoba Regional Correctional Facility. Reaves was taken to a local hospital, where he died.

Most of the other deaths occurred at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Many of those happened amid outbursts of violence.

Newly elected Governor Tate Reeves has vowed to shut down parts of the dilapidated prison after touring it last week. He said Monday “We will do better. We will right the wrongs of the past, and we will do everything in our power to protect the dignity of every Mississippi life.”

(AP Photo/Alastair Grant) Brexiteers celebrate in London, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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