Thursday morning news, February 20, 2020

Candidates take aim at Bloomberg, Sanders in Vegas debate » AUDIO: The Democratic presidential debate, live from Las Vegas, Nevada 

Six White House hopefuls once again squared off in last night’s debate, hosted by NBC News. It was easily the feistiest debate so far and the fireworks started early. 

Candidates did not roll out the welcome mat for newcomer—former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Amid his recent surge in national polls, his rivals, like Senator Elizabeth Warren, looked to turn his deep pockets into a liability…

WARREN: Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another. 

Senator Amy Klobuchar did the same. 

KLOBUCHAR: I don’t think you look at Donald Trump and say we need someone richer in the White House. 

But after Senator Bernie Sanders took another shot at his wealth, Bloomberg shot back. 

BLOOMBERG: What a wonderful country we have. The best known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses. What did I miss here?

Senator Sanders, who now leads an average of national polls, also had a target on his back … as more moderate Democrats warned against his extreme spending proposals. Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg…

BUTTIGIEG: If you add up his policies all together, they come to $50 trillion. He’s only explained $25 trillion worth of revenue, which means that the hole in there is bigger than the size of the entire economy. 

Democrats in Nevada will have their say in the Democratic caucus on Saturday. The candidates will meet again on the debate stage in South Carolina next Tuesday.

DOJ: Barr has no plans to resign » The Department of Justice is pushing back on media reports that Attorney General William Barr is thinking about quitting over President Trump’s tweets. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said on her Twitter account Wednesday—quote—“Addressing Beltway rumors: The Attorney General has no plans to resign.”

Media reports claimed Barr told people close to him that he was considering stepping down over Trump’s public interference in Justice Department matters. 

Last week, Barr said the president’s tweets make it—quote—“impossible for me to do my job.” 

President Trump says he will not stop speaking his mind about Justice Department cases. But he is also defending Barr amid calls for him to step down.

This week, some 2,000 former DOJ employees signed a letter calling on Barr to resign over his intervention in the Roger Stone case.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

500 passengers leave virus-stricken cruise ship » About 500 passengers left the cruise ship Diamond Princess on Wednesday at the end of a two-week quarantine aboard the vessel, docked in Japan. 

Japanese soldiers helped escort some passengers—including an elderly man in a wheelchair who wore a mask and held a cane. Some passengers got on buses to be transported to train stations. Others still in their cabins waved farewell from their balconies to those who had already been processed.

Japan’s government has been questioned over its decision to keep people on the ship. Some experts have called it a perfect virus incubator. Despite passengers being confined to their cabins, the COVID-19 coronavirus continued to spread aboard the ship. 

Earlier this week, some 300 Americans evacuated from the ship arrived on U.S. soil. Dr. Anthony Fauci with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told Fox Business…

FAUCI: Well, it was the right call to bring them back, because the situation on the vessel itself—there was a considerable amount of infection there. 

Authorities recently announced 79 more cases, bringing the total on the ship to 621. Results were still pending Wednesday for some other passengers and crew among the original 3,700 on board. 

COVID-19 has sickened more than 75,000 people and more than 2,000 people have died from the virus.

Ghani’s top rival disputes results of Afghan election » Ashraf Ghani won a second term as president of Afghanistan this week. But his closest opponent is refusing to recognize the results, declaring himself winner. WORLD Radio’s Leigh Jones has that story. 

LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: The country’s election commission said Ghani won just over 920,000 votes, about 51 percent—while the country’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah received roughly 40 percent. But Abdullah disputes those results. 

The Taliban also rejected Ghani’s win and that could further jeopardize peace talks. The Taliban has been expected to sign onto a U.S. peace plan next month, calling for a reduction in violence followed by a more permanent agreement. 

After the election commission released the official results, Ghani appeared among supporters in Kabul, where he emphasized the importance of peace talks. He said “Its time to make Afghanistan united” and he urged the Taliban to participate in the democratic process.

Election results were repeatedly delayed amid accusations of misconduct, fraud, and technical problems with counting ballots. The final vote tally was originally set to be announced back in November. 

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Leigh Jones. 

Utah state Senate moves to ease penalties for polygamy » The Utah state Senate has voted unanimously to ease the penalties for polygamy. The bill would treat the practice as a minor infraction—similar to a parking ticket. 

That would limit the penalty to a maximum $750 fine and community service hours. The bill now moves to Utah’s House of Representatives.

Supporters of the bill say it would permit people in plural marriages to report abuse without fear of punishment. Opponents say it would normalize the practice and won’t help underage victims. Current law considers polygamy a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File) In this Oct. 28, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump shakes hands with Attorney General William Barr.

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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