Monday morning news, February 24, 2020

South Korea steps up response to COVID-19 amid spike in cases » South Korean President Moon Jae-In said Sunday that his country is ramping up its response to the COVID-19 coronavirus amid a spike in new cases. 

JAE-IN (translator): The government will elevate the crisis alert to the highest level, serious, in accordance with the suggestions of the epidemic experts and greatly step up the response system. 

The virus has infected more than 600 people in the country, mostly in the last few days. Under the highest alert level, authorities can order the temporary closure of schools and even restrict public transportation and flights to and from South Korea. 

Meantime, in Italy, authorities battled to contain Europe’s first major outbreak of the virus. In the northern Lombardy region, the governor announced Sunday that the number of confirmed cases stood at 110. Italy now has more than 150 cases in total, the largest number outside Asia.

And in Iran, the health ministry raised the death toll from the virus to eight. Iran now has 43 confirmed cases.

Globally, COVID-19 has infected 78,000 people.  

Sanders rides momentum toward Super Tuesday after Nevada win » Senator Bernie Sanders is racing toward Super Tuesday with the wind at his back.

SANDERS: Let me thank the people of Nevada for their support.

He rallied in El Paso, Texas after winning the Nevada caucuses Saturday. 

SANDERS: In Nevada, we have just put together a multi-generational, multiracial coalition, which is going to not only win in Nevada. It’s going to sweep this country. 

Sanders grabbed 46 percent of the vote in Nevada—besting second-place finisher Joe Biden by 26 points. While some say the former vice president’s campaign is on the ropes, Biden told supporters in Las Vegas…

BIDEN: You know, the press is ready to declare people dead quickly, but we’re alive, and we’re coming back, and we’re going to win!

Biden and other top contenders are counting on a big showing on Super Tuesday, one week from tomorrow. That’s when roughly 40 percent of voters will head to the polls—including the delegate-rich states of California and Texas. 

White House continues push back against new Russian meddling reports » The White House is again pushing back against media reports about an intelligence warning that Russia is interfering in U.S. politics, trying to get President Trump reelected. 

The president charged that the reports are a continuation of the Democrats’ Russia hoax. And he accused House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of selectively leaking information to the press. 

TRUMP: Nobody told me about it. They leaked it, Adam Schiff and his group, they leaked it to the papers. And as usual, they ought to investigate Adam Schiff for leaking that information. He should not be leaking information out of intelligence. They ought to investigate Adam Schiff. 

Marc Short is chief of staff to the vice president. He told Fox News Sunday he doesn’t believe the reports are accurate. 

SHORT: We know that foreign governments try to interfere to sew chaos. They’ve been doing that for many years, and it’s not just limited to Russia. But there’s not intelligence that suggests that they’re trying to help Trump. 

And national security advisor Robert O’Brien said he’s spoken with the leaders of the intelligence community, and they—quote—“don’t have it,” referring to intel that Russia is helping Trump. But he did not dispute other media reports that the Kremlin is also trying to boost the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders. He said that’s no surprise. 

U.S. lawyers begin arguments in Assange extradition case » The U.S. government and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will face off today in a high-security London courthouse. 

U.S. lawyers will try to convince a judge to send Assange to the United States to face trial on espionage charges. The U.S. government says Assange participated in stealing and then publishing classified military documents. 

Supporters of Assange rallied in London over the weekend, insisting the only thing he’s guilty of is practicing journalism. Wikileaks Editor-In-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson…

HRAFNSSON: It’s a protest to wake more people up and to get more people on board, and to support Julian, and to support the future of journalism because the extradition request is an attack on journalism in general. 

The extradition hearing follows years of diplomatic dispute and legal drama. For years Assange remained out of law enforcement’s reach until the Ecuadorian Embassy in London revoked his asylum status and kicked him out last year. British authorities immediately arrested him for violating his prior probation. 

Assange has been indicted on 18 U.S. charges that carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.

(Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP) Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a campaign event on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, in Austin, Texas. 

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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