Thursday morning news, February 13, 2020

New COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases drop » The number of new cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in China dropped for a second straight day on Wednesday. That gives health officials a glimmer of hope amid the outbreak that has infected over 45,000 people and killed more than 1,100. 

So far, there are still only 12 confirmed cases in the United States. But Dr. Nancy Messionnier with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says U.S. healthcare providers must remain vigilant. 

MESSONNIER: Most of the disease is in China, however, we can and should be prepared for this new virus to gain a foothold in the U.S.

Meantime in Japan, officials confirmed 39 new cases on a cruise ship quarantined at Yokohama, bringing the total to 174 on the Diamond Princess.

Attorney General Barr to testify amid firestorm over Stone sentencing » Attorney General William Barr has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee next month. Lawmakers want to question Barr about this week’s move to seek a lighter sentence for longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. The decision caused a revolt among the prosecutors working that case. 

The move came just after President Trump blasted the original sentencing recommendation on Twitter. But the Justice Department says it made the decision to seek a lesser sentence on Monday, before Trump’s tweet. 

GOP Senator John Kennedy on Wednesday defended the move. 

KENNEDY: This is a case of miscommunication between frontline prosecutors and the management at Justice over the recommended sentence for a public figure. 

But Democrats aren’t buying it. They say President Trump has puppet strings on the Justice Department. And the president may have poured more fuel on that fire Wednesday by praising the attorney general’s decision.

TRUMP: I want to thank the Justice Department for seeing this horrible thing—and I didn’t speak to him, by the way, just so you understand. They saw the horribleness of a nine year sentence for doing nothing. You have murderers and drug addicts who don’t get nine years. 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday called for swift action. 

SCHUMER: Something egredious like this demands that the inspector general investigate, and demands that the chairman of the Judiciary Committee hold a hearing. 

Schumer said he has formally requested that the Justice Department’s inspector general look into the matter. 

Iowa Democratic Party Chairman resigns after troubled caucuses » The chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party announced Wednesday that he is stepping down after a disastrous caucus process marred by tech glitches that led to a days-long delay in reporting the results.

Chairman Troy Price said “The fact is that Democrats deserved better than what happened on caucus night. As chair of this party, I am deeply sorry for what happened and bear the responsibility for any failures on behalf of the Iowa Democratic Party.”

Price said his departure would occur as soon as the state party elects a replacement, and he called an emergency Saturday meeting to do so.

Pope addresses the Amazon’s need for priests » Pope Francis on Wednesday rejected a push to ordain married men in the Amazon region of South America to compensate for a shortage of priests. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin reports. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: In a papal document titled Beloved Amazon, the pope did not mention the recommendation from Amazonian bishops. He instead urged them to pray for more people to become priests and to send missionaries to the region.

Last year, nearly 200 bishops met with Francis at the Vatican to talk about the growth of the church in the Amazon. Many people there live in isolated communities and only see a priest once every few months or years. Since a priest must administer the sacrament of Holy Communion, Catholics in the region rarely get to participate in the religious rite. 

The pope’s stance is likely to rile progressives, who hoped he would open the door for married men to serve as priests and women to become deacons.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

Girls sue to block participation of transgender athletes » The families of three female high school runners filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday seeking to block transgender athletes in Connecticut from participating in girls sports.

Alliance Defending Freedom is representing the three students. In an online video, one of the student athletes, Selina Soule, said she first competed against transgender athletes in her freshman year. 

SOULE: And once the gun went off, the two transgender athletes took off flying and left all of us girls in the dust. I knew right then and there that some girls would be missing out on great opportunities to succeed. 

They argue that allowing athletes with male anatomy to compete has deprived them of track titles and scholarship opportunities.

The lawsuit was filed against the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the boards of education in several cities.

Attorney Christiana Holcomb said. “Forcing girls to be spectators in their own sport is completely at odds with Title IX, a federal law designed to create equal opportunities for women in education and athletics.”

(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) Pope Francis delivers his speech during a Mass for the closing of Amazon synod in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. 

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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