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CDC Issues Warnings on Virus; Markets Take Hit: Virus Update(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Americans to prepare for a coronavirus outbreak at home that could lead to significant disruptions of daily life, though the warnings were downplayed by the White House. Congress was told that there’s shortage of masks needed for health workers if one occurs.New cases were reported in Europe, prompting worries of a widening outbreak there. Iran reported a total of 15 deaths, the most fatalities outside China, and a top health official tested positive. Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country was confident of limiting the impact, though new cases continue to be identified elsewhere in Asia.Stocks fell and bonds rose as worries mounted in the market over the virus. Airline stocks were hit particularly hard.Key DevelopmentsChina death toll 2,663, up 71; total mainland cases at 77,658Italy cases rise to 322; Austria reports two infectionsUnited Air abandons profit goal, Mastercard cuts forecastU.S. stocks head for a fourth straight decline; bond yields fallClick VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here.Airline Stocks Fall Over Concerns on Travel Impact (4 p.m. NY)U.S. airlines posted the biggest two-day drop since 2016 on worsening fears that the spread of the coronavirus will further stymie travel.American Airlines Group Inc. led the decline, tumbling to the lowest since its 2013 merger with US Airways. President Donald Trump’s administration is considering whether to adopt more restrictions on air travel because of the outbreak, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Tuesday.Read the full story here.Kudlow Urges Calm After CDC Virus Warning (1:40 p.m. NY)White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow called for calm after U.S. health officials said that an outbreak inside the U.S. could cause significant disruptions to daily life if emergency plans were put into place.“I think people should be as calm as possible in assessing this,” Kudlow said at the White House. “Emergency plans don’t necessarily mean they’ll have to be put into place.”There have been fewer than 20 coronavirus cases diagnosed in the U.S., though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it expects the pathogen to eventually spread locally.“We have contained this, I won’t say airtight, but pretty close to airtight,” Kudlow said. He called it a human tragedy because of the toll in China, but said it was not an economic one.Cases Grow in Italy and Across Europe (1:02 p.m. NY)Italy saw its 10th casualty from the coronavirus outbreak, with 322 confirmed cases nationwide, as the infection began to appear across Europe and threatened to further disrupt tourism and business. Health ministers in Germany, France, Italy and other neighboring countries vowed to keep Europe’s borders open and to improve information-sharing about travelers to and from areas with infections.Spain’s authorities held about 1,000 guests and workers at a seaside hotel on Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, after an Italian tourist there initially tested positive for the virus. Croatia and Switzerland reported their first cases, and Austria confirmed two more. All the patients had links to Italy.CDC Warns Americans to Prepare for Outbreak (12:53 p.m. NY)The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Americans should prepare for school closings, cancellations of sporting events, concerts and business meetings if the coronavirus spreads in the U.S.“We expect we will see community spread in this country,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said on a call with reporters Tuesday. “It is not a matter of if, but a question of when, this will exactly happen.”The outbreak is “rapidly evolving and expanding,” she said. “Now is the time” for businesses, schools and hospitals to begin preparing. She said that Americans should prepare for the coronavirus epidemic on our shores and to assume it will be bad.U.S. Is Short on Masks in Case of American Outbreak (11:30 a.m. NY)The U.S. has far fewer protective masks than it would need in the case of a major outbreak of the coronavirus in the country, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Congress Tuesday.The U.S. has about 30 million stockpiled N95 masks that can help stop a person from inhaling infective particles, Azar said, but would need as much as 300 million for health workers in an outbreak. U.S. health officials have said they’re preparing for the coronavirus to eventually begin spreading locally.Gilead Drug Being Tested on Evacuees in Nebraska (11:20 a.m. NY)Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir will be tested on coronavirus patients at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, which is housing people who were evacuated from a virus-infested cruise ship in Japan, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said.Although remdesivir has been administered to some patients with the virus, “we do not have solid data to indicate it can improve clinical outcomes,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the institute, said in a statement.The first trial participant is an American who was repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that docked in Japan. So far, 11 of the 13 patients who were repatriated from the ship to the Nebraska hospital have been confirmed to have the coronavirus.Remdesivir is also being tested in trials in China and Japan, said U.S. Heath and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at a Senate hearing Tuesday.Pompeo Criticizes China, Iran Reponse (10 a.m. NY)U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo criticized China and Iran’s response to the coronavirus, saying that suppression of information about the infection may have made the outbreak worse or put other countries on the back foot.“The United States is deeply concerned that the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country,” Pompeo said at a press conference in Washington. At least 15 people in Iran are dead, authorities there have said, though there are reports of higher numbers and hundreds of potential cases.Pompeo also criticized Chinese authorities, after the government said it would expel three Wall Street Journal reporters. In the province of Hubei, where the outbreak began, some early warnings of a new virus were initially suppressed.“Expelling our journalists exposes once again the government’s issue that led to SARS, and now the coronavirus -- namely censorship. It can have deadly consequences. Had China permitted its own and foreign journalists and medical personnel to speak and investigate freely, Chinese officials and other nations would have been far better prepared to address the challenge.”Senators Say Administration May Request More Virus Funds (9:45 a.m. NY)Several U.S. senators emerging from a classified briefing on Capitol Hill Tuesday said they expected the Trump administration to ask for more money to combat a potential coronavirus outbreak, depending on how the situation plays out in the U.S.Senators were told, “Let’s see how it evolves and then we can put more dollars in,” said Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana. The administration has requested $2.5 billion -- half new money, half repurposed from other efforts -- from Congress to deal with the virus.U.S. Will Test Experimental Gilead Drug in NIH Trial (8:44 a.m. NY)The U.S. government will oversee an international trial of Gilead Sciences Inc.’s experimental drug remdesivir, which is already being tested in China as a potential treatment for the coronavirus there.The trial is being run by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, and seeks to sign up about 400 people in the U.S. and at foreign sites. It’s expected to be completed by April 1, according to information about the trial posted on the ClinicalTrials.gov registry.Drugmakers and governments are working on vaccines and therapies to use against the virus. On Tuesday, the U.S. drug developer Vir Biotechnology Inc. and Shanghai-based WuXi Biologics announced they would work together to find other potential new therapies.China Pledges Cheap Credit, Tax Cuts to Aid Small Firms (7:50 a.m. NY)The People’s Bank of China will offer $71.2 billion of relending and rediscounting funding to commercial lenders for loans to small companies and the agricultural sector, Central China Television reported.Catastrophe Bonds Signal Virus Nearing Pandemic Status (7:49 a.m. NY)The World Health Organization says the coronavirus isn’t yet a global pandemic. Bonds that insure against just such a catastrophe say that it probably is. The bonds, sold in 2017 by the World Bank to raise money for poor countries in a global pandemic, are quoted as much as 40% below their face value following coronavirus outbreaks in countries such as Iran and Italy, according to investors who own the securities.Moderna Rallies on Quick Vaccine Turnaround (7:33 a.m. NY)Moderna Inc., the biotechnology company developing an experimental coronavirus vaccine in collaboration with the U.S. government, said it shipped a first batch of the inoculation to begin human testing. The stock jumped as much as 25%.The experimental vaccine was sent to the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is to be used in an early stage study to test its safety. It will likely take months of testing to determine whether or not the vaccine can successfully stop infections, and more time to roll it out if it does work.Top Iranian Health Official Tests Positive (7:32 a.m. NY)A top Iranian health official has been diagnosed with coronavirus in another sign the disease may be spiraling out of control in the country. Iraj Harirchi, a deputy health minister who has been the face of the government’s campaign against the virus, said he tested positive for it late Monday, the day he gave a press briefing on efforts to combat the outbreak.Separately, Tehran lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi tweeted that he had tested positive. Sadeghi is a prominent reformist who was barred from participating in the latest parliamentary elections.Earlier on Tuesday, Iran reported 34 new cases, with the death toll rising to 15. Bahrain reported nine new cases, while Kuwait has an additional three and Oman another two. So far, there are about 140 confirmed cases in the Middle East, all of them linked to Iran.The U.A.E. has banned travel to all cities in Iran and has already suspended all flights to and from China, except Beijing. Kuwait, which has already stopped flights to Iran, on Monday suspended travel to South Korea, Thailand, Italy and Iraq. Separately, a Turkish Airlines flight from Tehran bound for Istanbul made an unscheduled landing in Ankara, according to Turkey’s Haberturk television.Italy Infections Rise, Austria Reports Two Cases (7:00 a.m. NY)Italy reported 283 cases, up from 229. The death toll was unchanged at seven.Separately, Austria confirmed two cases, APA said. Croatia reported its first case earlier on Tuesday -- a man who recently returned from Milan in Italy has mild symptoms and was hospitalized in Zagreb.Tenerife Hotel in Lockdown (6:25 a.m. NY)An Italian staying on the Spanish island of Tenerife tested positive for the virus and a second test to confirm the case will be carried out in Madrid, the government said. The case would be Spain’s third and the first on the island. Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, attracted more than 5.7 million tourists last year.The tourist, a doctor, had come from Lombardy, a region of northern Italy that is a focus of an outbreak of the virus, Efe news service reported. Spain’s two previously confirmed patients no longer have the infection.About 1,000 guests and hotel workers won’t be able to leave pending definitive results of the test expected later on Tuesday, a person familiar with the situation said.Luxury Sales Could Drop by $44 Billion (6:20 a.m. NY)A survey showed that industry executives expect a severe fallout from the coronavirus. The impact of the outbreak is likely to reduce industry sales by as much as 40 billion euros ($43.5 billion) in 2020, according to the survey of 28 top executives undertaken by Boston Consulting Group and Sanford C. Bernstein. China is a key market for most luxury firms, and signs that the virus has been spreading more widely are causing jitters to increase.Sino Biopharm Drug Included in China Guidelines to Treat Virus (6 a.m. NY)A drug developed by a subsidiary of Sino Biopharmaceutical was put in Chinese government guidelines as a supportive treatment for mild and common cases of coronavirus infection. The drug, Magnesium Isoglycyrrhizinate, has the brand name Tianqingganmei.Singapore to Ban Visitors from Daegu, Cheongdo (6:41 p.m. HK)Singapore will ban all short-term visitors with recent travel history to Cheongdo county and Daegu city, which are central to the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea, effective Feb. 26.Earlier, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Americans to avoid all non-essential travel to South Korea. The level 3 warning, the CDC’s highest, matches the caution it previously placed on China. The CDC previously issued lower-level alerts for Italy, Iran and Japan, telling travelers to take extra care and consider postponing non-essential travel.Beijing ‘Getting it Under Control,’ Trump Says (6:29 p.m. HK)President Donald Trump said U.S. markets “took a hit yesterday” because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus, but said Beijing was “getting it under control more and more.”Trump, said he believed things would “work out fine” in the U.S. and that his administration was “spending a tremendous amount of money” to prevent the spread of the disease and assist other countries. He noted the White House had requested $2.5 billion in supplemental funds to fight the virus.Chinese Cities Curb Travel From Other Countries (6:28 p.m. HK)Some Chinese cities have begun to restrict arrivals from overseas, as growing outbreaks elsewhere prompt the country to enact curbs similar to those facing its own travelers. The moves signal that the epidemic’s momentum has shifted outside of China.The coastal city of Weihai said all people arriving from Japan and South Korea would be required to undergo 14-day quarantines in designated hotels. The adjacent city of Yantai said those who’ve entered China for short-term business and tourism visits would be required to stay in selected hotels.China customs is closely monitoring the coronavirus epidemic in other countries.HK Leader’s Approval Rating Plunges (6:16 p.m. HK)Carrie Lam’s approval rating has sunk to a new low of just 9.1% as her government faces criticism over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak. The government has come under fire from some groups for not doing enough to ward off a public health crisis as the number of confirmed virus cases continues to climb. The virus first emerged in central China in December, piling pressure on Lam after months of often-violent demonstrations in Hong Kong.Singapore Eases Rules for Chinese Workers in More Sectors (6 p.m. HK)Singapore will loosen restrictions on Chinese work-permit holders in the country to help businesses in manufacturing and services industries that have been hit by labor disruptions during the coronavirus outbreak.For six months beginning March 2, the Ministry of Manpower will allow companies in those sectors to hire Chinese workers who are already in the country, with the agreement of their existing employers. Currently, businesses can only hire Chinese work-permit holders once they have left Singapore.Thailand’s Tourism Income Tumbled in January (5:55 p.m. HK)A slump in Thailand’s foreign tourism income underlines the damage being inflicted on its economy. Receipts tumbled 3.6% in January from a year earlier to $6 billion), dragged down by a 10% slide in outlays by Chinese visitors.HK Exports Slid Most in Decade in Jan. Ahead of Virus (5:26 p.m. HK)Hong Kong’s exports plummeted the most in more than a decade in January, as the government warned of further weakness in the coming months with the full force of disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak still ahead. Exports sank 22.7% in January from year-ago levels to HK$269.4 billion ($34.6 billion), the most since February 2009.European Corporate Bond Market in Deep Freeze (4:50 p.m. HK)Global borrowers shunned Europe’s corporate debt market for a second day as a cluster of new coronavirus cases in Italy sent yields sharply higher, bringing sales of new bonds to a near standstill.ING Groep’s downsized debt offering is the only deal priced so far this week, which had been expected to deliver more than 20 billion euros ($22 billion) of sales, according to a Bloomberg News survey. Non-financial borrowers are nowhere to be seen, with Spain the only sovereign issuer braving the market so far on Tuesday.Gilead’s Drug Leads Global Race for Treatment (3:40 p.m. H.K.)China will release results on April 27 of a clinical trial of Gilead Sciences’s remdesivir drug that the World Health Organization said may be the only effective treatment so far for the disease. The trials of the experimental medication involved 761 patients in Wuhan, the city where the virus originated.\--With assistance from Yasna Haghdoost, Daniel Flatley, Bill Faries, Nick Wadhams and Robert Langreth.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Adveith Nair in London at anair29@bloomberg.net;Drew Armstrong in New York at darmstrong17@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Stuart Wallace at swallace6@bloomberg.net, Adveith Nair, Mark SchoifetFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Church shooter Dylann Roof staged death row hunger strikeA person familiar with the matter said Roof had been on a hunger strike but was no longer on one, as of this week. The person couldn’t immediately provide specific details about the length of the hunger strike or whether medical staff needed to intervene. Roof wrote in his letter to the AP that he went on the hunger strike to protest the treatment he received from a Bureau of Prisons disciplinary hearing officer over earlier complaints that he was refused access to the law library and access to a copy machine to file legal papers.


UN sanctions regime for Yemen renewedThe UN Security Council on Tuesday renewed its sanctions regime on Yemen for another year, after tense negotiations between Britain and Russia, which threatened to veto any mention, even implicit, of Iran. Russia and China abstained.


Study begins in US to test possible coronavirus treatmentThe first clinical trial in the U.S. of a possible coronavirus treatment is underway in Nebraska and is eventually expected to include 400 patients at 50 locations around the world, officials said Tuesday. Dr. Andre Kalil, who will oversee the study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said the clinical trial was developed quickly in response to the virus outbreak that originated in China. Patients who are hospitalized with the COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, will be eligible to join the trial if they have at least moderate symptoms.


'Recipe for a Massive Viral Outbreak': Iran Emerges as a Worldwide ThreatReligious pilgrims, migrant workers, businessmen, soldiers and clerics all flow constantly across Iran's frontiers, often crossing into countries with few border controls, weak and ineffective governments and fragile health systems.Now, as it struggles to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Iran is also emerging as the second focal point after China for the spread of the disease. Cases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates -- even one in Canada -- have all been traced to Iran, sending tremors of fear rippling out from Kabul to Beirut.The Middle East is in many ways the perfect place to spawn a pandemic, experts say, with the constant circulation of both Muslim pilgrims and itinerant workers who might carry the virus. Iran's economy has been strangled by sanctions, its people have lost trust in their government and its leaders are isolated from much of the world, providing little clarity about the extent of the epidemic.Civil wars or years of unrest have shattered the health systems of several neighboring countries, like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. And most of the region is governed largely by authoritarians with poor track records at providing public transparency, accountability and health services."It is a recipe for a massive viral outbreak," said Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the former founding executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.Millions of Muslim pilgrims travel each year from around the region to visit Shiite holy sites in Iran and Iraq. In January alone, 30,000 people returned to Afghanistan from Iran, and hundreds of others continue to make the pilgrimage to Qom, the site of the outbreak, every week, Afghan officials say.Iraq closed its border with Iran on Saturday, but millions cross it every year. So scores of infected people could potentially have brought the virus to Iraq, depending on how long it has been present in Iran. And as of midday Monday in Najaf, flights to and from Iran were still taking off and landing.Governors of Iraqi provinces bordering Iran were taking the potential for contagion seriously and at least two were personally inspecting the border crossings to ensure that they were being policed and that Iranians were barred from crossing into Iraq.Qutaybah al-Jubouri, the head of the Iraqi Parliament's Health Affairs Committee, called the coronavirus "a plague" and said his committee was demanding a far more complete closure of all "land, sea and air" borders with Iran "until the disease is completely controlled."Iran's health ministry sent a letter to the governor of Qom on Thursday and asked Shiite religious leaders to limit the number of pilgrims at the Shrine to Fatima Masumeh and other religious sites in the city, but as of early Tuesday, throngs of people still gathered around the shrine, touching it and taking part in communal prayers.Iran is in many ways a case study in the risks of the disease spreading. The country reported its first case of the coronavirus less than a week ago, in Qom. On Tuesday, health officials reported that a total of 15 people had died after contracting the virus. At least 95 others had been infected in Iran, the officials said, with new cases being reported in Isfahan, Hamedan and other cities, as well as in Qom.Now the slow drip of news about the spread of the virus is compounding Tehran's already acute credibility problems, less than two months after officials were forced to admit lying about their knowledge of the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet by air defense systems. Many Iranians on Monday were openly skeptical about the official accounts of the spread of the virus.A member of Parliament representing Qom claimed on Monday that at least 50 people had already died there, including 34 in quarantine, and that the first case had been reported more than two weeks before officials acknowledged any infections."Every day 10 people are dying in Qom," the lawmaker, Ahmad Amiri Farahani, asserted in a speech to Parliament, demanding a quarantine on his city.Health Ministry officials vehemently disputed his claims. "I will resign if the numbers are even half or a quarter of this," said Ahmad Harirchi, adviser to the health minister.Adding to the public anxiety, the Iranian news media reported that Dr. Mohamad Reza Ghadir, the head of a medical university in Qom and the top official in charge of managing the outbreak there, was among those placed in quarantine.On Monday, Ghadir said on Iran's state television network that the Health Ministry had ordered city officials "not to publish any statistics" related to the outbreak in Qom. The situation there was "very dire and disease has spread across the city, " he said.Iranians, distrusting the authorities, were ignoring official urgings to stay away from hospitals for fear of spreading the disease, instead crowding into emergency rooms to get themselves tested. Imam Khomeini Hospital in Tehran put up a triage tent outside to handle the overflow.In an interview with BBC Persian from Tehran, Dr. Babak Gharaye Moghadam urged citizens to "please, please listen" to the advice of health officials and not to turn to social media feeds on their cellphones for guidance.The price of hospital masks was spiking across the region, including in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan, where some were selling for as much as 30 times the usual cost.Experts worry that few Middle Eastern countries are ready to respond effectively to the threat posed by the virus."How ready are these countries?" asked Dr. Montaser Bilbisi, an American-trained infectious disease specialist practicing in Amman, Jordan. "In all honesty, I have not seen the level of readiness that I have seen in China or elsewhere, and even some of the personal protective equipment is lacking."In Jordan, for example, he said that he had not yet seen a fully protective hazardous materials suit. "So health care workers would be at very high risk for infection."In Afghanistan, officials said the first confirmed case of the virus was a 35-year old man from the western province of Herat who had recently traveled to Qom.Health officials declared a state of emergency in Herat. The government on Sunday had already suspended all air and ground travel to and from Iran.But the border is difficult to seal. Thousands cross every week for religious pilgrimages, trade, jobs and study -- about 30,000 in January alone, the International Organization of Migration, an intergovernmental agency, reported."In the past two weeks, more than 1,000 people have visited or traveled to Qom from Herat, which means they come into closer contact with the virus," the Afghan health minister, Ferozuddin Feroz, said Monday at a news conference in Kabul.As officials offered reassurances that they were ordering more hospital masks, residents were panicking about what other precautions to take.The son of a professor at a university in Herat, who returned three days ago from Iran, called a reporter for The New York Times on Monday asking what the procedure for quarantine was."My father doesn't show any signs of corona, but he and our family are worried," the son, Mohamad Iman, said. "He's locked himself up in a room where he just reads books. He has asked us to leave him some food and water at the door, but to stay away."Saudi Arabia was the epicenter of a similar outbreak seven years ago, known as Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, that was transmitted from camels to humans.But even after seven years, Saudi Arabia, one of the richest countries in the world, has struggled to adapt state-of-the-art hygiene procedures to limit the spread of the virus within hospitals. A MERS outbreak last spring infected at least 61 people, killing eight of them."Many hospitals in Saudi Arabia have improved but some could still do better at prevention," said Dr. David L. Heymann, former chairman of Britain's Health Protection Agency.In Iraq, the country with the most extensive border with Iran, only one case has been detected so far: that of a 22-year old Iranian religious student in Najaf, Suhail Mohammad Ali.In the first comprehensive steps to combat the spread of the virus, the education department in Najaf on Monday postponed spring exams and the sacred Imam Ali Shrine was closed.The central government's Health Department recommended avoiding crowded places, kissing or shaking hands.In Beirut, a 41-year-old woman who had traveled to Qom on a religious pilgrimage landed in Beirut on Thursday night and was found Friday to have the virus. It was not until Monday, though, that the government issued an emergency plan, suggesting that travel to the affected areas be restricted and that arriving passengers be isolated at the airport if they showed symptoms.But no definite restrictions were ordered; not all passengers landing in Beirut in recent days have been screened; and another two planes from Qom were allowed to land in Beirut on Monday. Passengers on the plane carrying the infected Lebanese woman from Qom were told to quarantine themselves at home.The country's health minister, Dr. Hamad Hasan, on Monday urged the Lebanese to stay calm. But Rabih Shaer, founder of a Lebanese nonprofit that campaigns against corruption, called the government's sluggish response "irresponsible and criminal.""Already the Lebanese population lost trust that this political class can face all the problems," he said. "And now, until today, they still haven't taken the right measures. There's no transparency, there's no accountability."Dr. Nada Melhem, a virologist at the American University of Beirut who has been consulting with the Health Ministry, acknowledged that, "the level of panic in Lebanon is really high.""But with systematic follow-up, we will be able to contain it," she added. "Are we going to have some gaps? We will definitely have some, but I hope we can limit them as much as we can."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company


'Anti-Greta' teen activist to speak at biggest US conservatives conferenceNaomi Seibt, who tells YouTube followers that Thunberg and other climate activists are whipping up hysteria, to speak at CPACA German teenager dubbed the “anti-Greta” – climate sceptics’ answer to the schoolgirl activist Greta Thunberg – is set to address the biggest annual gathering of US grassroots conservatives.Naomi Seibt, 19, who styles herself as a “climate sceptic” or “climate realist”, will this week address the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) near Washington, joining speakers including Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence.Seibt is in the pay of the Heartland Institute, a thinktank closely allied with the White House that denies established science showing humans are heating the planet with dangerous consequences.CPAC will be the biggest stage yet for Seibt, a so-called “YouTube influencer” who tells her followers Thunberg and other activists are whipping up unnecessary hysteria by exaggerating the climate crisis.“Climate change alarmism at its very core is a despicably anti-human ideology,” she has said.The teenager, from Münster in western Germany, claims she is “without an agenda, without an ideology”. But she was pushed into the limelight by leading figures on the German far right and her mother, a lawyer, has represented politicians from the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party in court.Seibt had her first essay published by the “anti-Islamisation” blog Philosophia Perennis and was championed by Martin Sellner, leader of the Austrian Identitarian Movement, who has been denied entry to the UK and US because of his political activism.A Facebook post by the AfD youth wing names Seibt as a member and she spoke at a recent AfD event, though she has denied membership of the party.In May 2019 she posted her first video on YouTube, reading out verses submitted for a poetry slam competition organised by the AfD.The impact of the clip and its follow-ups put her on the radar of the Heartland Institute, which is based in Chicago. It has lobbied on behalf of the tobacco and coal industries but recently concentrated its efforts on challenging the scientific consensus on climate change.Last December, as Thunberg addressed the United Nations’ Cop25 global warming summit in Madrid, Seibt gave the keynote speech at a rival conference organised by the Heartland Institute a few miles away.In a sting operation carried out for German broadcaster ZDF and investigative outlet Correctiv, the Heartland Institute strategist James Taylor told journalists posing as potential donors his thinktank had signed up Seibt to record climate change sceptic videos for young people.Seibt has admitted that she receives “an average monthly wage” from the institute. According to official figures, the average net monthly income in Germany is just under €1,900 (£1,590, $2,066).The Heartland website features a low-budget video introducing Seibt, who speaks to the camera from what appears to be a home.“I’ve got very good news for you,” she says. “The world is not ending because of climate change. In fact, 12 years from now we will still be around, casually taking photos on our iPhone 18s“We are currently being force-fed a very dystopian agenda of climate alarmism that tells us that we as humans are destroying the planet. And that the young people, especially, have no future – that the animals are dying, that we are ruining nature.”In another film, Naomi Seibt vs Greta Thunberg: Whom Should We Trust?, Seibt says: “Science is entirely based on intellectual humility and it is important that we keep questioning the narrative that is out there instead of promoting it, and these days climate change science really isn’t science at all.”Seibt has also uploaded a video with the title Message to the Media – HOW DARE YOU – an obvious reference to a speech by Thunberg at the UN in which she rebuked world leaders: “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money, and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”Thunberg began her activism at 15 by missing school and camping outside the Swedish parliament. She has since met the pope, addressed members of Congress in Washington and heads of state at the UN and helped inspire 4 million people to join a global climate strike. Last year she became the youngest Time magazine Person of the Year, much to Trump’s chagrin.The Washington Post observed: “If imitation is the highest form of flattery, Heartland’s tactics amount to an acknowledgment that Greta has touched a nerve, especially among teens and young adults.”Since Trump’s election, CPAC has paraded hard-right figures such as the former White House officials Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka as well as numerous climate sceptics.In his speech there last year, the president mocked the Green New Deal, proposals championed by Democrats including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.“No planes,” the president said. “No energy. When the wind stops blowing, that’s the end of your electric. ‘Let’s hurry up. Darling, darling, is the wind blowing today? I’d like to watch television, darling.’”Connor Gibson, a researcher for Greenpeace USA, said: “Climate science is understood by a majority of Americans, liberal and conservative alike. Unfortunately, you won’t meet any of those people, or any climate scientists, at an event like CPAC.“The Heartland Institute is funnelling anonymous money from the US to climate denial in other countries. It relies on the media to advance false equivalence strategies to attempt to normalise fringe beliefs. Climate denial is not a victimless crime, and it’s time for the perpetrators to be held accountable.”


Pompeo accuses China and Iran of censoring information about coronavirus outbreaksAs the novel coronavirus continues to spread around the globe, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday accused the governments of China and Iran of censoring information about the outbreaks in their countries and putting the rest of the world at greater risk of its spread. The top U.S. diplomat's sharp tone towards Beijing was matched by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who told Congress on Tuesday that the world is not getting reliable data out of China on issues like mortality rates.


Coronavirus live updates: CDC warns Americans of 'significant disruption'Until now, health officials said they'd hoped to prevent community spread in the U.S. But following community transmissions in Italy, Iran and South Korea, health officials believe the virus may not be able to be contained at the border. This comes in contrast to statements from the Trump administration.


In 2006, Bloomberg said John Bolton Did ‘A Great Job’ at United NationsLong before he was President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton was, for a short time, President George W. Bush’s United Nations ambassador, a role in which he made few friends and alienated many. But as Bolton’s abbreviated tenure at Turtle Bay drew to a close in December 2006, he had one fan: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “I thought Bolton was doing a great job,” Bloomberg told New York radio host John R. Gambling, a frequent interlocutor for Bloomberg and his predecessor at Gracie Mansion, Rudy Giuliani. Congress’ opposition to Bolton was “a disgrace,” Bloomberg continued.  The “disgrace” he referred to was the Senate passing on Bolton in 2005 due to his open hostility to the U.N. and his advocacy of the Iraq war, and its refusal to reconsider.Bloomberg’s favorable assessment of an ambassador who was considered the diplomatic equivalent of a wrecking ball is the latest in an accumulating series of difficulties for the billionaire oligarch as he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination. Hizzoner told Gambling that he approved of Bolton’s performance at the U.N., defending the right of a president to put his “own people” in office. He sidestepped any discussion of Bolton’s qualifications—Bush himself said in 2008 he didn’t “consider Bolton credible” and regretted nominating him—and expressed a minimalist view of the Senate’s role in vetting presidential appointments.“Should the president or a governor or a mayor, whomever, an executive, have the right to pick their own representatives and assistants and advisers. If you want to hold them accountable, you gotta let them have their own people,” Bloomberg told WABC radio’s Gambling on Dec. 8, 2006.“First and foremost, it seems to me that the Congress couldn't be more wrong in denying Bolton the job, because this is who the president wanted, and the advice and consent that the Constitution gives the power to the Congress is, is the person qualified—education, that sort of thing, not their own personal policies,” Bloomberg said. ”Nor should it be used as a referendum on the elected officials’ policies. The public elected the president. Like him or not, he has a right to his people. ” Bloomberg proclaimed himself “a very big fan of the United Nations,” even if “they say stupid things and a lot is said that I violently disagree with.” He saw Bolton pushing the U.N. toward positions he embraced, calling them “pro-freedom loving people around the world, pro-United States, pro-Israel, against terrorism.”  “I thought Bolton was doing a great job,” Bloomberg said, “but the first and foremost reason I think this is a disgrace, other than the fact I think Bolton was doing a good job, the president has a right to have his own people.”As for the Senate, Bloomberg continued, “Congress has some say. You can work your ways up there, too. That's fine. But to micromanage, Congress couldn't be more wrong in doing this. It's a cheap political stunt done for local partisanship, and it's an outrage.”Bolton’s nomination failed in 2005 to overcome what was in effect a filibuster by minority Democrats. It arose in light of Bolton’s famous 1994 comment that if the U.N. secretariat “lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference” and accusations that Bolton, at the State Department, bureaucratically brawled with intelligence analysts who presented him with unwelcome assessments. Senate opposition ensured that Bush appointed Bolton while Congress was on recess, thereby limiting his tenure. Once at the U.N., Bolton, attempting to pivot his hostility to the U.N. in principle toward an opposition to the U.N.’s fecklessness, raised hackles for confrontationally holding up the organization’s budget until it passed management reforms to his liking. While there, Bolton defended Israel’s destruction of the Beirut airport and other Lebanese infrastructure, a reprisal for Hezbollah killing three Israeli soldiers and kidnapping another two, as an “act in self-defense.” But by and large, the U.N. waited Bolton out.Bloomberg’s 2006 praise for Bolton was consistent with his general approval of Bush’s foreign policy, which remains a subject of ire from the progressives Bloomberg now seeks to cultivate. Mere hours before the U.S. invaded Iraq, Bloomberg, an unrepentant war supporter, emerged from a meeting with Bush to say the president is “not going to be cowed or dissuaded. He's going to go out there and do what we all pray is right." Later that week, Bloomberg defended Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge’s hysterical comments about purchasing duct tape and plastic sheeting for home defense against a chemical attack, telling ABC, “I think you have to have a lot of understanding of Tom Ridge's difficult job.” The next year, with Iraq in flames, Bloomberg insisted, “Don’t forget that the war started not very many blocks from here,” even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Later that year, at the 2004 Republican convention, Bloomberg gave Bush the imprimatur of a city devastated by 9/11: “Neither America nor President Bush ever stopped believing in us.” Bloomberg had initially demurred on an endorsement of Bush at the convention. “I'm told the mayors traditionally give a welcome speech, and I would be thrilled to do that. After that, I'm not a particularly political guy” he had told WNYC in January 2004. But in his speech, he thanked Bush “for leading the Global War on Terrorism” and said, “the president deserves our support.” Bloomberg spokesperson Stu Loeser told The Daily Beast, “Though Mike disagrees with John Bolton in many areas, he was far from alone in noting a few areas of success. Months before Mike said this about Bolton, The New York Times editorial board praised him for his refusal to go along with a weakened human rights commission, saying, ‘John Bolton is right.’“And Mike stands by his broader point that Presidents should get to pick their teams. One of the most pathetic parts of the Trump years has been how Donald Trump can't recruit much of anyone to help him govern, even with a rubber-stamp Republican majority in the Senate.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


Iranian prison inmates fear transfer to ward that hosted coronavirus victimBritish-Iranian Anoosheh Ashoori is said to be worried he will be forced to movePrisoners in Iran’s Evin prison, including a British-Iranian dual national, are protesting plans for them to be transferred to a ward which they believe previously held a coronavirus victim.Sherry Ashoori, whose dual national husband Anoosheh Ashoori, 65, was jailed by the Iranian authorities for 12 years, said she has contacted the Foreign Office to warn them of the plans to transfer her husband and others to the prison’s ward 4.He has told his wife he and other prisoners in ward 12 are refusing to be moved, but know they may be forcedto do so. As many as three prisoners held in ward 4 are suspected of having contracted Covid-19.The FCO told her they were investigating, and the UK ambassador in Tehran, Robert Macaire, has been informed, but there has been no official independent confirmation of the prisoners’ claims.Richard Ratcliffe – whose wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is jailed in Evin for 5 years – also expressed his concern over a possible transfer. “We are hoping the reports are not true,” he said.“This highlights what a precarious position Nazanin and all the other prisoners are in – and the terrifying situation the whole country finds itself in due to lack of medicines, lack of management, and most of all a lack of transparency.”“The Foreign Office asked us on Friday what message we wanted them to give to the Iranian authorities – it was going to be that the complacency with ordinary lives needs to end. Perhaps now it is [time] to work together to keep people safe. Those conversations about potential humanitarian supplies suddenly feel a lot more pressing.”Sherry Ashoori said the inmates’ fears were prompted when a bus dropping off prisoners at various sites in Tehran stopped at the Taleqani hospital to leave a patient. A prison guard who had been chained to the inmate was heard protesting that he had not been told the prisoner was suspected of suffering from coronavirus.Senior reformist MPs have called for political prisoners to be released temporarily during the outbreak.The Iranian judiciary spokesman, Gholam Hossein Ismaili, has responded to growing political pressure over the risk of contagion in prisons by putting prison staff on high alert for signs of the disease.He said he was activating a range of preventative measures to prevent an outbreak, both by cutting the number of people being sent to jail and by allowing some inmates out on temporary early release.


Merkel Ally Takes Inside Track to Succeed Her as Chancellor(Bloomberg) -- A moderate in Angela Merkel’s mold became the clear front-runner to replace her after a vocal conservative contender backed his bid to lead the Christian Democratic Union, likely easing pressure on the German leader.Armin Laschet, 58, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, won the support of Health Minister Jens Spahn, 39, a move that defuses concerns over a bruising eight-week leadership race and power struggles in the run-up to the next election.By uniting centrist and conservative factions in the party, the duo threatens the ambitions of Friedrich Merz, a long-time Merkel antagonist considered the biggest risk to the chancellor.“We can and we must bring our party and our country together again,” Laschet, said during a joint news conference with Spahn on Tuesday. “That’s why I want to run as leader of the CDU.”The surprise move means that Laschet, untested on the national stage even though he governs Germany’s largest state, is in pole position to be his party’s candidate to succeed Merkel as chancellor. He said that Merkel’s government was elected through next year, a signal that he would work with the chancellor if he wins the top party job at an April 25 special conference.Balanced ApproachStill, Laschet said that as party chairman, he wouldn’t always toe the line with the German leader.“In situations of conflict, one can also say, ‘Angela, you can’t do that’,” Laschet told broadcaster ZDF late Tuesday. He added that, although the CDU has to agree on the candidacy for the chancellorship with the Bavarian CSU, he would be prepared for the job.For Germany the stakes are high. The CDU has to deal with the rise of the far right, French demands for European integration, and the twilight of an economic era that saw its manufacturers go from strength to strength.But Germany’s leading political party was caught up in a maelstrom this month. A blistering fight erupted after CDU lawmakers in the eastern state of Thuringia cast their lot in with the far right. Chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who had an unsteady 14-month tenure, shocked the party two weeks ago by abandoning her ambitions for the chancellorship. The crisis contributed to the CDU’s worst election result in Hamburg since the end of World War II on Sunday.For now, Merkel looks to be in position to see out her fourth term, which runs until the fall of 2021. Laschet and Spahn indicated that they won’t put pressure on Merkel to leave early, although Laschet noted that while he looped in the Bavarian sister party of the alliance, the chancellor wasn’t informed of the deal with Spahn in advance.“Our candidacy is not directed at Angela Merkel,” said Spahn. “It’s not about a break, and it wouldn’t succeed anyway. It’s about learning to walk after 15 years of Angela Merkel’s chancellorship.”Merz, the 64-year-old whose political career was eclipsed by Merkel even before she became chancellor in 2005, was undaunted by the challenge. He insisted that his chances had improved since 2018, when he lost an outside bid to be CDU chairman in a close contest with Kramp-Karrenbauer.“As of today, we have an open competition in the CDU,” Merz said, criticizing Laschet as the candidate of continuity while saying he stands for renewal. “I am playing for the win.”Far-Right FalloutThe surprise alliance between Laschet and Spahn -- the two have been steady rivals -- reflects the turmoil sweeping through the party in the aftermath of the Thuringia chapter’s decision to throw its lot in with the far-right Alternative for Germany on Feb. 5. The cooperation broke a political taboo and plunged the CDU into turmoil as it struggles hold on to voters.“We, as the CDU, are in the biggest crisis of our history, a crisis of trust, solidarity and confidence,” Spahn said. “Armin Laschet and I sometimes had our differences in the past, but that’s what it’s about in a people’s party: building bridges between different positions and different generations.”Support for Merkel’s bloc held at 26.5% in the latest Insa poll for Bild newspaper published Tuesday, with the Greens gaining 1.5 percentage points to 22% and the Social Democrats steady on 14.5%. By comparison, the CDU-led bloc secured 32.9% of the vote in the 2017 election.Kramp-Karrenbauer -- Merkel’s chosen successor until this month -- had planned to stick around until year end, but she was forced to accelerate the process as unrest swirled around the party. The disastrous election result in Hamburg underscored the need for urgency.Leadership ClaimWith Spahn refraining from running, the main contest pits Laschet against Merz. Norbert Roettgen, 54, who was fired by Merkel as environment minister in 2012, has also entered the race but is seen as an outsider. He announced on Twitter that he planned to bring a woman onto his ticket.Spahn criticized Merz’s decision to pursue his own candidacy and not support a unified ticket under Laschet.“We both have a great deal of respect for Friedrich Merz,” said Spahn. “But what we need right now is solidarity and unity in the party, and that’s why I have decided to support Armin Laschet.”Merz fired back, likening the Laschet-Spahn alliance to a “cartel” designed to weaken competition. But he said he wasn’t backing down.“I have always worked in teams and never alone. And it was completely clear to me that I would also work in a team this time, but a team needs a leader,” said Merz. “I want to win.”(Adds Laschet comment on contradicting Merkel, chancellor candidacy in sixth paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net;Arne Delfs in Berlin at adelfs@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Chris Reiter, Iain RogersFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


The Navy’s Decision to Stop Buying P-8 Poseidons Is a MistakeRussian and Chinese submarines along with underwater threats from North Korea and Iran are only multiplying. Why stop purchasing one proven system that can mitigate this growing threat?


Health authorities expect coronavirus spread on US soilAmerican health authorities said Tuesday they ultimately expect the novel coronavirus to spread in the United States and are urging local governments, businesses, and schools to develop plans like canceling mass gatherings or switching to teleworking. The comments mark a significant escalation in the level of threat being conveyed to the US public and come amid fears of a pandemic, as the disease has taken root in several countries outside China, including Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. There are so far 53 recorded cases in the United States.


Pompeo says Iran must 'tell the truth' on coronavirusUS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday demanded that Iran "tell the truth" about a coronavirus outbreak, voicing alarm at allegations of a cover-up. "The United States is deeply concerned by information indicating the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country," Pompeo told reporters in Washington. "All nations including Iran should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organizations," he said.


Trump says 2 justices should sit out cases, but they decideA month before the Supreme Court takes up cases over his tax returns and financial records, President Donald Trump on Tuesday made the unusual suggestion that two liberal justices should not take part in those or any other cases involving him or his administration. The remarks critical of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, New Yorkers like Trump, came during a news conference in India, where Trump was wrapping up a 36-hour visit full of praise and pageantry. Justices decide for themselves when to step aside from cases the court is considering, and it is highly unlikely either justice would sit out cases involving Trump, including two cases the court will hear on Mar. 31 over subpoenas for Trump's tax, bank and financial records.


French Total to drill exploratory well off Lebanese coastA ship that will set up the first oil and gas exploration well off the Lebanese coast has arrived in Lebanon where it will start work later this week, French oil giant Total and Lebanon's government announced Tuesday. The arrival of the drill ship comes at a time when Lebanon is going through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades and a severe liquidity shortage. Many hope oil and gas will be discovered off the Lebanese coast and in the future reduce the country's massive debt as well as create jobs in the energy field.


UN urges Libya rivals to engage as doubts hang over talksThe UN's Libya mission and world powers on Tuesday urged the country's warring parties to engage in peace efforts, as doubts hung over talks set to start the next day in Geneva. The negotiations are supposed to gather delegates from a Tripoli-based unity government and representatives of an eastern-based parliament backed by military commander Khalifa Haftar, who is leading a months-long offensive to seize the capital. The eastern-based parliament said the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) had not approved all of its representatives.


Iranian clerics keep shrines open, even as virus spreadsShiite shrines that attract tens of millions of visitors annually have come under focus in Iran as the country grapples with the spread of the coronavirus. The outbreak of the virus in Iran prompted the government to request the closure of major shrines in cities like Qom, Mashhad and Shiraz, but Iran's powerful clerics have rejected or ignored the notices.


Iran virus deaths rise to 15, deputy minister among infectedIran said Tuesday its coronavirus outbreak, the deadliest outside China, had claimed 15 lives and infected nearly 100 others -- including the country's deputy health minister. The Islamic republic's neighbours have imposed travel restrictions and strict quarantine measures after reporting their first cases in recent days, mostly in people with links to Iran. The United Arab Emirates was the latest to clamp down on Tuesday, halting all passenger and cargo flights to and from Iran, a similar move to other nearby countries including Armenia, Kuwait, Iraq and Turkey.


Klobuchar Is in ‘Very Good Health’: Campaign Update(Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar is in “very good health,” her doctor said in a medical report released Monday.“She does not have any health conditions that would impair her ability to perform the duties of the Presidency,” Jennifer M. McKeand of Women’s Health Consultants in Minneapolis said in the report.The report shows that the 59-year-old Minnesota senator has normal blood pressure and does not smoke. Klobuchar, who had a hip replacement in 2006, takes Ibuprofen for hip pain.Front-runner Bernie Sanders has not released full medical records. Nor has Michael Bloomberg or Pete Buttigieg. Joe Biden released a three-page summary and Elizabeth Warren released her full records.After a heart attack in October, Sanders released three letters from doctors indicating he is healthy. But when asked during a CNN town hall last week whether he would disclose more details, Sanders responded “I don’t think we will, no.”(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)Sanders’s Praise of Castro Makes Him a Target (4:04 p.m.)Tuesday’s Democratic debate will be held in South Carolina, but Monday’s rhetoric on the campaign trail signaled a coming fight over Florida.Three Democratic candidates have made clear they will hit front-runner Bernie Sanders hard over his praise for former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, which has raised concerns among some Democrats about losing the Sunshine State in the general election.In a recent interview with “60 Minutes,” Sanders praised Castro’s literacy program. Joe Biden senior adviser Cristóbal Alex said in a press release that the comments were “part of a larger pattern” of Sanders embracing “autocratic leaders.”Pete Buttigieg tweeted a clip from the “60 Minutes” interview. “After four years of looking on in horror as Trump cozied up to dictators, we need a president who will be extremely clear in standing against regimes that violate human rights abroad,” Buttigieg wrote in English and Spanish. “We can’t risk nominating someone who doesn’t recognize this.”Michael Bloomberg also tweeted the video clip, saying Castro “left a dark legacy of forced labor camps, religious repression, widespread poverty, firing squads, and the murder of thousands of his own people.”(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.) -- Ryan Teague BeckwithKlobuchar Says a Woman President Would Inspire (3:07 p.m.)Amy Klobuchar says a woman president would be inspirational for young girls.“I want every little girl in America and around the world to know that anything is possible,” she said in a tweet Monday accompanied by a clip of a recent CNN town hall.Her message echoes similar ones from the other women who have been in the 2020 race.“I want every little girl to know she can do anything, too,” Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted in May. “This campaign is about lifting young girls up and showing them they can do anything,” Kamala Harris tweeted in July.And Elizabeth Warren has long shared multiple videos on social media of her doing “pinky promises” with young girls to run for office one day. “Running for president: That’s what girls do,” she said in a typical tweet from last June.Buffett Says Endorsement Might Hurt Bloomberg (11:38 a.m.)Michael Bloomberg just missed out on an endorsement from one of the richest men in the world.In an interview on CNBC, investor Warren Buffett said that he “would certainly vote” for the former New York City mayor over Bernie Sanders if he had the choice, but he wasn’t sure a public endorsement would be helpful.“I don’t think another billionaire supporting him would be the best thing to announce,” Buffett said.Sanders frequently criticizes billionaires, although he’s had a less contentious relationship with Buffett than some of his peers. In 2016, Sanders criticized Buffett for not supporting solar power at an energy utility he owns in Nevada.Nonetheless, Buffett, who backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary, said Sanders had “run a model campaign” by being forthright and focusing on a positive message.Sanders Knocked on Cuba Defense by Lawmakers (7:17 a.m.)Bernie Sanders has long sought to distinguish his brand of Scandinavian-style democratic socialism from the Latin American socialism highlighted by Republicans, but his remarks on Cuba aren’t helping.During a CBS “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday, Sanders defended the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s policies, drawing fire from lawmakers in Florida, a critical swing state with a large population of Cuban refugees.“I’m hoping that in the future, Senator Sanders will take time to speak to some of my constituents before he decides to sing the praises of a murderous tyrant like Fidel Castro,” Democratic Representative Donna Shalala tweeted.Sanders said it was “unfair” to slam everything done in Cuba by Castro, who died in 2016, having led the island nation with one-party Communist rule for decades.“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba, but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad,” Sanders said. “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio rebuked Sanders on Twitter on Monday morning. “The central promise every Marxist makes is that if we give up some of our individual freedom,the state will provide us more ‘security’ like free health care & education,” Rubio wrote. “But ultimately Marxism fails to deliver ‘security’ & you don’t have the freedom to do anything about it.”Sanders also distanced himself from President Donald Trump during the interview, saying “I do not think that Kim Jong Un is a good friend,” and “Vladimir Putin, not a great friend of mine.” -- Kathleen HunterCOMING UPSouth Carolina has a primary on Feb. 29. Fourteen states and one U.S. territory will vote on Super Tuesday, March 3.(Disclaimer: Michael Bloomberg is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. He is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)(Corrects that Sanders not only top-tier candidate to not release full medical records)\--With assistance from Kathleen Hunter, Elizabeth Wasserman, Emma Kinery and Tyler Pager.To contact the reporters on this story: Ryan Teague Beckwith in Washington, D.C. at rbeckwith3@bloomberg.net;Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou in Washington at megkolfopoul@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, John Harney, Max BerleyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


AP-NORC poll: Most Americans plan to participate in censusMost Americans say they are likely to participate in the 2020 census, but some doubt that the U.S. Census Bureau will keep their personal information confidential, a new poll shows. The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds 7 in 10 Americans say it’s extremely or very likely they will participate in the census this year by filling out a questionnaire. “People respond to a survey question as they think they are expected to behave," Kenneth Prewitt, a former Census Bureau director in the Clinton administration, said in an email.


Jailed French academic Adelkhah hospitalised in Iran: lawyerFrench-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, jailed in Iran since last year, has been transferred to a prison hospital after her health deteriorated following a hunger strike, her lawyer said Tuesday. The academic ended a six-week hunger strike on February 12 as she awaits trial on charges including conspiring against national security. Adelkhah, a specialist in Shiite Islam and a research director at Sciences Po University in Paris, was arrested in June 2019 and is being held in Evin prison in Tehran.


Court closes courthouse door on slain Mexican teen's familyThe Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Tuesday to close the courthouse door on the parents of a Mexican teenager who was shot dead over the border by an American agent. The court's five conservative justices held that the parents could not use American courts to sue Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa Jr., who killed their unarmed 15-year-old son in 2010. Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court that the case is tragic, but that strong border security and international relations issues led to the ruling against the parents of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca.


Pompeo blasts China, Iran for response to virus outbreakSecretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday hit out at China and Iran for their response to the outbreak of coronavirus, accusing the two governments of censorship and of trying to cover up the severity of the spread of the deadly illness. Pompeo assailed Beijing for expelling three Wall Street Journal reporters and said a free press was needed to ensure accurate information about the virus is available to the public and medical personnel.


Landmark second world war ceremony in Moscow poses dilemma for UK and USCountries question whether to attend amid questions over division in the west and Russian military actionRussian ceremonies in May to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the second world war are posing an increasingly urgent dilemma for western capitals on whether to go – and who to send.Discussions have been under way for some weeks between UK and US officials on a coordinated response. But the decision is complicated by the unpredictability of Donald Trump, and by Emmanuel Macron’s decision to accept Vladimir Putin’s invitation to the 9 May victory parade as part of his diplomatic overture to Moscow, without consulting Nato allies.For the US, UK and other western powers, failure to attend would underline western divisions and run the risk of appearing to lack respect for the shared sacrifices of defeating Nazism.On the other hand, attendance at the grandiose military parade planned in Moscow to mark the occasion could involve leaders acquiescing in continuing Russian military adventurism, and possibly witnessing the march-past of units involved in the bombardment of civilians in Syria, or the occupation of Crimea and military operations in the Donbas region.“It is not appropriate for western leaders to honour the army in uniform that still occupies part of Ukraine, and paying tribute to some of the same units who are killing people in Idlib,” an eastern European diplomat said.Western attendance could also be used by Moscow to suggest acceptance of its revisionist version of second world war history, which airbrushes away Stalin and Hitler’s 1939 neutrality agreement, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which lasted until 1941 and by which Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union carved up Poland.According to the Russian embassy in Washington, the leaders of China, India, France, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, North Macedonia, Palestine, Serbia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela have confirmed their attendance.“There are still several heads of states who have not yet responded to our invitation,” the Russian ambassador, Anatoly Antonov, said.Poland has so far been left off Putin’s invitation list, as has Norway. Ukraine and Lithuania have already said they have no intention of going, even if they were invited. In Estonia, the defence minister has warned the president against accepting an invitation, though none has so far arrived, arguing attendance would mean “indirectly accepting Russian rhetoric”.Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel have all been asked but have yet to make a decision. Diplomats from their respective countries have been trying to coordinate a position, while privately expressing irritation with Macron for failing to consult allies before agreeing to go to Moscow.The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, repeated Putin’s invitation to Trump when he visited Washington in December.“He has expressed interest in taking part in the events if his schedule allows it,” Lavrov said.Trump will be in the midst of his campaign for re-election by May. Going to Moscow would add weight to Democratic accusations that the president is under Putin’s sway. But those allegations have not resonated with the president’s core supporters. The trip would showcase Trump as a statesman, especially if he was offered pride of place among other world leaders in Moscow, and the prospect of a diplomatic or arms control deal he could bring back to Washington.“There is a balance we need to find. On the 75th anniversary, it’s important that we mark and recognise the sacrifices that were made, and that we fought as allies, and there is a desire to do that,” a western diplomat said. “But the challenge is around concerns that Russia will choose to instrumentalise the event.“The more that we can coordinate and maintain an allied position the better,” the diplomat said.Among the options being weighed as compromises in Washington and London are leaders’ participation in a wreath-laying in Moscow but avoiding the military parade, together with a joint statement distancing themselves from Putin’s military operations in Syria and Ukraine, and the Kremlin’s rewriting of history.Another option is to balance attendance in Moscow with participation in rival ceremonies being held in Ukraine on the previous day, 8 May.The government in Kyiv is working hard to present the Ukrainian ceremonies as a more appropriate way of commemorating the suffering of the second world war, without the risk of endorsing Russian aggression.“Ukraine is marking 8 May as a Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation along with the whole democratic world,” a Ukrainian official said. “Five years ago on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of world war two, Ukraine rejected the Soviet (now Russian) style of honoring Stalin’s victory over Nazism.“That’s why Ukraine is inviting foreign countries to attend commemorative events in Kyiv,” the official added. “Now we are working on all details; logistics and the agenda will be available sometime later. Taking into account the aforementioned, we hope that the US officials would participate in the commemorative events on 8 May in Kyiv.”Kyiv is weighing an invitation to the US defence secretary, to reflect the importance of US military aid in the face of Russian encroachment.Other countries are assessing how to balance participation in Kyiv with attendance in Moscow.“It is also important to remember that other parts of the former Soviet Union fought in the war,” a western diplomat said. “It’s not just about Russia, and that should be recognised.”


California congressman's vacated seat unleashes GOP slugfestRepublican U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter's resignation from Congress last month after pleading guilty to a corruption charge unleashed a GOP slugfest over the vacancy in one of the party's few remaining House seats in California. Most of the action in the 50th District involves two Republican heavyweights: Darrell Issa, who is seeking a return to Congress after leaving his seat in a neighboring district two years ago, and Carl DeMaio, a well-known San Diego radio host and political commentator.


Merkel's would-be successors announce bids for party leaderPolitical heavyweights in Germany's ruling CDU announced on Tuesday their bids for the crisis-wracked party's top job, with a staunch ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel and her nemesis jumping into the race. Merkel's centre-right Christian Democratic Union is in turmoil after her heir apparent Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer resigned as party chief this month over her supposed failure to stop regional MPs from cooperating with the far right. Armin Laschet, premier of Germany's most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia, became the first to throw his name into the hat alongside Health Minister Jens Spahn as his potential deputy.


Saudi king names ousted oil minister to lead investment drawSaudi Arabia's monarch Tuesday appointed as the country's new minister of investment a prominent figure in the kingdom who previously served as energy minister and board chairman of Saudi oil company Aramco before before being relieved of both posts in the run-up to the company's partial public offering late last year. Khalid al-Falih at one point oversaw some 60% of the Saudi economy when he led the Energy Ministry, which at the time was also in charge of mining and industry. The announcement was published by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, which carried a number of other royal decrees issued by King Salman in line with reform efforts to diversify the economy and improve perceptions of Saudi Arabia abroad.


Trump says he wants 'no help from any country' in re-election bidThe president declined to say specifically whether he believes Russia is interfering in the election and issued no warning for Vladimir Putin not to.


Iran's deputy health minister tests positive for coronavirusIran's deputy health minister has tested positive for coronavirus, just hours after he appeared on television to insist the Iranian government had the outbreak under control. Iraj Harirchi was seen coughing and appeared to be sweating during a televised press conference last night, as he commented on a rising number of Covid-19 cases and related deaths in the Islamic republic. An Iranian parliamentarian representing Tehran, Mahmoud Sadeghi, has also revealed that he had tested positive for the virus in a post on Twitter. "My corona test is positive... I don't have a lot of hope of continuing life in this world," he wrote. The diagnoses come as Iranians were urged to stay at home as the official number of coronavirus infections rose to 95 – with at least 15 related deaths – amid fears that the full extent of the outbreak could be much higher.


Iran's deputy health minister says he has coronavirusIran's deputy health minister confirmed on Tuesday that he has tested positive for the new coronavirus, amid a major outbreak in the Islamic republic. Iraj Harirchi coughed occasionally and wiped sweat from his brow repeatedly during a news conference in Tehran on Monday with government spokesman Ali Rabiei. At the time, he denied a lawmaker's claim that 50 people had died from the virus in the Shiite shrine city of Qom, saying he would resign if the number proved accurate.


Head of Iran's coronavirus task force tests positive for the virusIran's deputy health minister, who has been in charge of the country's coronavirus task force, has now tested positive for the coronavirus.Authorities announced Iraj Harirchi's diagnosis on Tuesday, The Associated Press reports, with this coming just a day after he participated in a news conference that had sparked questions about his health. The AP notes that during that conference, Harirchi tried to minimize the virus' threat.> Deputy Health Minister of Iran Harirchi who is infected with CoronaVirus had a joint presser along with spokesman of the government Rabiei yesterday among journalists. A footage published earlier had raised suspicion that he might had been infected with the virus. pic.twitter.com/IWKsga06SC> > — Abas Aslani (@AbasAslani) February 25, 2020A ministry spokesperson says Harirchi started experiencing symptoms on Monday before holding that press conference, and later that day, he was diagnosed, The New York Times reports.Iran has become the "second focal point after China for the spread of the disease," the Times notes, with cases in countries from Iraq to the United Arab Emirates having been traced back to Iran. Iran has confirmed 15 deaths and 95 coronavirus cases.In a speech on Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani assured, "We will get through corona. We will get through the virus." More stories from theweek.com CDC warns Americans to prepare for coronavirus outbreak Harvard scientist predicts coronavirus will infect up to 70 percent of humanity Elizabeth Warren says Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand regularly check in on her


Schools, shrines shut in Iraq's Najaf over coronavirusShrines have shuttered, streets are deserted and schools closed in Iraq's holy city of Najaf, where only pharmacies draw crowds after a novel coronavirus case triggered widespread panic. Najaf is popular among Shiite Muslim pilgrims from Iran, which has recorded 15 deaths from COVID-19, the highest death toll outside China, the epidemic's epicentre. It is also where Iraq confirmed its first novel coronavirus infection in an Iranian national studying in a Shiite seminary in the city, located around 200 kilometres (124 miles) from Baghdad.


Rush Limbaugh: coronavirus a 'common cold' being 'weaponised' against Trump* Rightwing shock jock rails at ‘effort to bring down Trump’ * More than 2,700 people have died from virus worldwideThe coronavirus outbreak is being “weaponised” by the media to bring down Donald Trump when in fact it is simply a version of the “common cold”, the conservative radio host and presidential medal of freedom recipient Rush Limbaugh claimed on Monday.His comments were widely condemned: more than 80,000 people are known to have contracted the virus worldwide and 2,700 are known to have died. Authorities are struggling to cope in China, Iran, Italy and Tenerife.The World Health Organization has not yet declared the outbreak, which originated in China, a pandemic.On Tuesday, Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, an infection control expert who has advised the WHO, told the Guardian: “Part of the reason for declaring a pandemic, if they do declare one, would be to get the critical mass on board to take it seriously and not ignore symptoms, and to get the finances required to help tackle and control it.”There are more than 50 known cases in the US, subject to quarantine. In India on Tuesday, Trump downplayed stock market falls in response to the outbreak, praised China for its response, and said coronavirus was “a problem that is going to go away”. But on Monday, his administration asked Congress for $1.8bn to boost its own response.Limbaugh’s conspiracy theorist take is that the outbreak is being used by the media to discredit a president who earlier this month honoured the rightwing shock jock during the State of the Union address.“It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponised as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump,” Limbaugh said on his Monday show. “Now, I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus. I’m dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.“The drive-by media hype of this thing as a pandemic, as the Andromeda strain, as, ‘Oh, my God, if you get it, you’re dead’ … I think the survival rate is 98%. Ninety-eight per cent of people get the coronavirus survive. It’s a respiratory system virus.”Limbaugh has used his platform on talk radio to campaign to attack liberals, often causing controversy with extreme rightwing views on abortion, feminism and race.Earlier this month, he revealed that he has advanced lung cancer.According to the Guardian’s guide to the coronavirus, it “can cause pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work. Recovery depends on the strength of the immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health.”Limbaugh said: “It probably is a ChiCom laboratory experiment that is in the process of being weaponised.”That was a reference to a baseless theory spread in the US by figures including a Republican senator, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, that the coronavirus may have originated in Chinese biological weapons research.In the US, Limbaugh claimed, “the way [coronavirus] is being weaponised is by virtue of the media, and I think that it is an effort to bring down Trump, and one of the ways it’s being used to do this is to scare the investors, to scare people in business.“It’s to scare people into not buying Treasury bills at auctions. It’s to scare people into leaving, cashing out of the stock market – and sure enough, as the show began today, the stock market – the Dow Jones Industrial Average – was down about 900 points, supposedly because of the latest news about the spread of the coronavirus.”The Dow fell by 1,000 points on Monday, its worst fall in two years.The media’s response to the coronavirus story has indeed attracted criticism for sensationalism and stoking public fear.Speaking to Time magazine earlier this month, for example, Rutgers journalism professor Steven Miller said: “It’s just amazing how quickly word about this [coronavirus] has spread, the intensity of the coverage. It seems to me that the coronavirus is being covered in more sensationalistic terms than Ebola in 2018.”


Trump is still downplaying the coronavirus epidemicThere are now more than 80,000 known cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus worldwide, including at least 35 cases in the U.S., with outbreaks unexpectedly mushrooming in Iran, Italy, and South Korea. President Trump continues to downplay concerns about "the still-mysterious coronavirus — which is hard to detect, poses high risk to the elderly, and may in some cases be transmitted by people who show no symptoms," The Washington Post reports, concerned that fears about the virus could further spook the stock market, which had its worst day in two years on Monday, and harm his re-election prospects."The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA," Trump tweeted from India on Monday evening. "We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!" On Tuesday, Trump told reporters in New Delhi that the coronavirus "is very well under control" in the U.S., said researchers are "close" to a developing a vaccine (which won't be available until 2021, at least), and said he believes the the coronavirus is "a problem that's going to go away."Trump's advisers are aware of the political and economic risks the coronavirus poses, but they are also downplaying them in public. "It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump," Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show Monday. "The coronavirus is the common cold, folks." (It isn't.) Informal Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore told Politico that "the view in the White House is that this is one of those classic black swan events." That drew an exasperated response from Week contributor James Pethokoukis.> Black swan? Is this virus really a shockingly rare event that's well beyond normal expectations given H1N1, SARS, Ebola, and culture that's been fixated on virus outbreaks for a good chunk of the 21st-century? https://t.co/L3fSZDhKyB> > — James Pethokoukis (@JimPethokoukis) February 25, 2020Trump has "hollowed out the senior leadership of so many departments of the government — especially in the scientific community," University of Virginia presidential historian Russell Riley tells the Post, "If the markets continue to drop and the medical news gets very bad, then this president is singularly ill-prepared to deal with it in a rational manner."More stories from theweek.com CDC warns Americans to prepare for coronavirus outbreak Harvard scientist predicts coronavirus will infect up to 70 percent of humanity Elizabeth Warren says Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand regularly check in on her


East Africa's huge locust outbreak now spreads to CongoA small group of desert locusts has entered Congo, marking the first time the voracious insects have been seen in the Central African country since 1944, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agency said Tuesday as U.N. agencies warned of a “major hunger threat” in East Africa from the flying pests. Kenya, Somalia and Uganda have been battling the swarms in the worst locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in 70 years. The U.N. said swarms have also been sighted in Djibouti, Eritrea and Tanzania and recently reached South Sudan, a country where roughly half the population already faces hunger after years of civil war.


Iran's deputy health minister has tested positive for the coronavirus, as the country struggles with one of the worst outbreaks beyond ChinaIraj Harirchi announced Tuesday that he was infected. Iran has emerged as one of the worst coronavirus hotspots outside of Asia.


Germany Fears That the Center Will Not Hold(Bloomberg Opinion) -- It’s long been obvious that one of Germany’s formerly grand centrist parties, the left-leaning SPD, is in decline. But another and even grander centrist bloc, the Christian Democratic Union of Chancellor Angela Merkel, had hopes of avoiding that fate, by defending the hallowed middle ground in politics. Suddenly, though, Germany is having a full-bore political crisis of centrism.Since Feb. 10, when the CDU’s chairwoman, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, shocked the country by announcing that she would stand down, the party has descended into a leadership vacuum and an uncharacteristic bout of internal chaos. It now plans to clarify its succession at a party conference on April 25. Until then, the position as the CDU’s next boss and the party’s future direction are both up for grabs. So is German, and even European, politics, because the party’s new leader is also likely to be its candidate to succeed Merkel as chancellor.Germans are already punishing the CDU for the turmoil. On Feb. 23 only about 11% of voters in Hamburg plumped for the party, its lowest share in that city state since World War II. That follows setbacks in other big cities. Though still the strongest bloc nationally, the CDU is gradually becoming a redoubt of the rural and the old.More dramatically, the Christian Democrats in the eastern state of Thuringia are rebelling against their party’s national leaders, as they contemplate whether and how to collaborate with the post-communist Left Party, which the CDU officially considers a pariah. That follows the Thuringian CDU’s disastrous decision on Feb. 5  — also in defiance of party bosses — to cooperate tacitly with the extreme-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), triggering a constitutional crisis in the state.Are the CDU’s travails in Thuringia a harbinger of things to come in national politics, and perhaps in Europe as a whole? The ruckus may be another warning that centrism as such is losing its viability or even meaning.The CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, were born in the immediate post-war years as “Christian unions” in the sense that they mopped up former parties of the Weimar era that appealed narrowly either to Catholics or Protestants. That early preponderance of clergy gave the bloc its color in the spectrum of German parties: black, like the robes.From the start, the Union, as the pair are jointly known, amalgamated a range of interest groups, from cultural conservatives to Catholic quasi-socialists and free-market liberals. Unlike the “red” SPD, which appealed to blue-collar workers, “black” was always a big tent. Its pitch was never ideological purity but tight discipline among the rank and file and pragmatism in government. Tellingly, its winning slogan in 1957 was “no experiments.” Pundits dubbed it a “club for the election of chancellors” — the CDU has fielded five of post-war Germany’s eight leaders.One of the Union’s roles was to be a bulwark against extremism. Franz Josef Strauss, a grandee of the CSU, famously said that there must never be a legitimate party to the Union’s right. Nowadays, of course, there is, after the AfD entered the federal parliament in 2017. One theory is that Merkel bears part of the responsibility for its rise. As CDU leader from 2000 to 2018 and chancellor since 2005, she tried to modernize her party by nudging it further left, thus alienating conservatives and leaving the right flank open.The stated policy of the CDU and CSU has always been to shun and shame the AfD. According to a so-called “horseshoe theory” that regards far left and far right as equally dangerous, the Union also spurns the Left, which descends from the Communist Party of the former East Germany, contains radical factions, disdains NATO and coddles Russia.The problems with horseshoe shaming have become clear in Thuringia. The state is unusual in that the centrist parties are already in a minority in the local legislature, and the AfD and Left together have the majority. By simple arithmetic, as long as all centrist parties rule out any cooperation, even of the passive sort, with both the far left and right, there will be stalemate. Who can and will govern Thuringia remains unclear.Another question is whether the symmetrical treatment of far left and right still makes political sense. After a racist murder rampage by a right-winger, some of the AfD’s political rhetoric increasingly sounds like demagogic arson. By contrast, the Left may be unsavory, but in eastern Germany it’s part of the woodwork. Its Thuringian candidate, Bodo Ramelow, is pragmatic and harmless, almost bourgeois.Nonetheless, the candidates now jostling to lead the CDU fear touching anybody on left or right. “If we start voting for Mr. Ramelow as premier, then we can’t represent the center anymore,” says Norbert Roettgen, one of the runners to replace Kramp-Karrenbauer.The sentiment is understandable. And yet, German and European politics keeps fragmenting. Sooner or later this will necessitate new, strange, even awkward forms of parliamentary collaboration — not to betray but to save democracy. Otherwise centrists may find that treading the middle of an ever busier road will get them run over.(This column was updated to correct the date of the CDU conference in April.)To contact the author of this story: Andreas Kluth at akluth1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andreas Kluth is a member of Bloomberg's editorial board. He was previously editor in chief of Handelsblatt Global and a writer for the Economist. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Germany Fears That the Center Will Not Hold(Bloomberg Opinion) -- It’s long been obvious that one of Germany’s formerly grand centrist parties, the left-leaning SPD, is in decline. But another and even grander centrist bloc, the Christian Democratic Union of Chancellor Angela Merkel, had hopes of avoiding that fate, by defending the hallowed middle ground in politics. Suddenly, though, Germany is having a full-bore political crisis of centrism.Since Feb. 10, when the CDU’s chairwoman, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, shocked the country by announcing that she would stand down, the party has descended into a leadership vacuum and an uncharacteristic bout of internal chaos. It now plans to clarify its succession at a party conference on April 25. Until then, the position as the CDU’s next boss and the party’s future direction are both up for grabs. So is German, and even European, politics, because the party’s new leader is also likely to be its candidate to succeed Merkel as chancellor.Germans are already punishing the CDU for the turmoil. On Feb. 23 only about 11% of voters in Hamburg plumped for the party, its lowest share in that city state since World War II. That follows setbacks in other big cities. Though still the strongest bloc nationally, the CDU is gradually becoming a redoubt of the rural and the old.More dramatically, the Christian Democrats in the eastern state of Thuringia are rebelling against their party’s national leaders, as they contemplate whether and how to collaborate with the post-communist Left Party, which the CDU officially considers a pariah. That follows the Thuringian CDU’s disastrous decision on Feb. 5  — also in defiance of party bosses — to cooperate tacitly with the extreme-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), triggering a constitutional crisis in the state.Are the CDU’s travails in Thuringia a harbinger of things to come in national politics, and perhaps in Europe as a whole? The ruckus may be another warning that centrism as such is losing its viability or even meaning.The CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, were born in the immediate post-war years as “Christian unions” in the sense that they mopped up former parties of the Weimar era that appealed narrowly either to Catholics or Protestants. That early preponderance of clergy gave the bloc its color in the spectrum of German parties: black, like the robes.From the start, the Union, as the pair are jointly known, amalgamated a range of interest groups, from cultural conservatives to Catholic quasi-socialists and free-market liberals. Unlike the “red” SPD, which appealed to blue-collar workers, “black” was always a big tent. Its pitch was never ideological purity but tight discipline among the rank and file and pragmatism in government. Tellingly, its winning slogan in 1957 was “no experiments.” Pundits dubbed it a “club for the election of chancellors” — the CDU has fielded five of post-war Germany’s eight leaders.One of the Union’s roles was to be a bulwark against extremism. Franz Josef Strauss, a grandee of the CSU, famously said that there must never be a legitimate party to the Union’s right. Nowadays, of course, there is, after the AfD entered the federal parliament in 2017. One theory is that Merkel bears part of the responsibility for its rise. As CDU leader from 2000 to 2018 and chancellor since 2005, she tried to modernize her party by nudging it further left, thus alienating conservatives and leaving the right flank open.The stated policy of the CDU and CSU has always been to shun and shame the AfD. According to a so-called “horseshoe theory” that regards far left and far right as equally dangerous, the Union also spurns the Left, which descends from the Communist Party of the former East Germany, contains radical factions, disdains NATO and coddles Russia.The problems with horseshoe shaming have become clear in Thuringia. The state is unusual in that the centrist parties are already in a minority in the local legislature, and the AfD and Left together have the majority. By simple arithmetic, as long as all centrist parties rule out any cooperation, even of the passive sort, with both the far left and right, there will be stalemate. Who can and will govern Thuringia remains unclear.Another question is whether the symmetrical treatment of far left and right still makes political sense. After a racist murder rampage by a right-winger, some of the AfD’s political rhetoric increasingly sounds like demagogic arson. By contrast, the Left may be unsavory, but in eastern Germany it’s part of the woodwork. Its Thuringian candidate, Bodo Ramelow, is pragmatic and harmless, almost bourgeois.Nonetheless, the candidates now jostling to lead the CDU fear touching anybody on left or right. “If we start voting for Mr. Ramelow as premier, then we can’t represent the center anymore,” says Norbert Roettgen, one of the runners to replace Kramp-Karrenbauer.The sentiment is understandable. And yet, German and European politics keeps fragmenting. Sooner or later this will necessitate new, strange, even awkward forms of parliamentary collaboration — not to betray but to save democracy. Otherwise centrists may find that treading the middle of an ever busier road will get them run over.(This column was updated to correct the date of the CDU conference in April.)To contact the author of this story: Andreas Kluth at akluth1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andreas Kluth is a member of Bloomberg's editorial board. He was previously editor in chief of Handelsblatt Global and a writer for the Economist. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Coronavirus claims three more lives in IranCoronavirus claimed three more lives in Iran, taking the country's overall death toll to 15, as President Hassan Rouhani called for calm Tuesday and teams were deployed to disinfect public spaces. The Islamic republic has been hit by the deadliest coronavirus outbreak by far outside China. Its neighbours have imposed travel restrictions and strict quarantine measures after reporting their first cases in recent days -- mostly in people with links to Iran.


Losses from Libya's oil shutdown surpass $2 billionFinancial losses over a protracted blockade of Libya’s vital oil fields and ports have rapidly swelled, surpassing $2 billion on Tuesday, the country's National Oil Corporation said. Oil supplies have become a major point of conflict between rival governments in the war-torn country. Powerful tribes loyal to Libya’s eastern-based forces seized large export terminals and choked off major pipelines last month, aiming to starve the U.N.-backed government of crucial revenues.









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