Debate night brawl: Bloomberg, Sanders attacked by rivals

By STEVE PEOPLES, ALEXANDRA JAFFE and MICHELLE L. PRICE Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) — From the opening bell, Democrats savaged New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg and raised pointed questions about Bernie Sanders’ take-no-prisoners politics during a contentious debate Wednesday night that threatened to further muddy the party’s urgent quest to defeat President Donald Trump.
Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who was once a Republican, was forced to defend his record and past comments related to race, gender and his personal wealth in an occasionally rocky debate stage debut. Sanders, meanwhile, tried to beat back pointed questions about his embrace of democratic socialism and his health following a heart attack last year.
The ninth debate of this cycle featured the most aggressive sustained period of infighting in the Democrats’ yearlong search for a presidential nominee. The tension reflected growing anxiety among candidates and party leaders that the nomination fight could yield a candidate who will struggle to build a winning coalition in November to beat Trump.
The campaign is about to quickly intensify. Nevada votes on Saturday and South Carolina follows on February 29. More than a dozen states host Super Tuesday contests in less than two weeks with about one-third of the delegates needed to win the nomination at stake.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was in a fight for survival and stood out with repeated attacks on Bloomberg. She sought to undermine him with core Democratic voters who are uncomfortable with his vast wealth, his offensive remarks about policing of minorities and demeaning comments about women, including those who worked at his company.
Warren labeled Bloomberg “a billionaire who calls people fat broads and horse-faced lesbians.”
She wasn’t alone.
Sanders lashed out at Bloomberg’s policing policies as New York City mayor that Sanders said targeted “African-American and Latinos in an outrageous way.”
And former Vice President Joe Biden charged that Bloomberg’s “stop-and-frisk” policy ended up “throwing 5 million black men up against the wall.”
Watching during his Western campaign swing, Trump joined the Bloomberg pile on. “Mini Mike Bloomberg’s debate performance tonight was perhaps the worst in the history of debates, and there have been some really bad ones,” Trump tweeted. “He was stumbling, bumbling and grossly incompetent. If this doesn’t knock him out of the race, nothing will. Not so easy to do what I did!”
After the debate, Warren told reporters: “I have no doubt that Michael Bloomberg is reaching in his pocket right now, and spending another hundred million dollars to try to erase every American’s memory about what happened on the debate stage.”
On a night that threatened to tarnish the shine of his carefully constructed TV-ad image, Bloomberg faltered when attacked on issues related to race and gender. But he was firm and unapologetic about his wealth and how he has used it to affect change important to Democrats. He took particular aim at Sanders and his self-description as a democratic socialist.
“I don’t think there’s any chance of the senator beating Donald Trump,” Bloomberg declared before noting Sanders’ rising wealth. “The best known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses!”
Sanders defended owning multiple houses, noting he has one in Washington, where he works, and two in Vermont, the state he represents in the Senate.
While Bloomberg was the shiny new object Wednesday, the debate also marked a major test for Sanders, who is emerging as the front-runner in the Democrats’ nomination fight, whether his party’s establishment likes it or not. A growing group of donors, elected officials and political operatives fear that Sanders’ uncompromising progressive politics could be a disaster in the general election against Trump, yet they’ve struggled to coalesce behind a single moderate alternative.
Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, went after both Bloomberg and Sanders, warning that one threatened to “burn down” the Democratic Party and the other was trying to buy it.
He called them “the two most polarizing figures on this stage,” with little chance of defeating Trump or helping congressional Democrats in contests with Republicans.
Bloomberg and Sanders were prime targets, but the stakes were no less dire for the other four candidates on stage.
Longtime establishment favorite Biden, a two-term vice president, desperately needed to breathe new life into his flailing campaign, which entered the night at the bottom of a moderate muddle behind Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. And after a bad finish last week in New Hampshire, Warren was fighting to resurrect her stalled White House bid.
A Warren campaign aide said on Twitter that her fiery first hour of debate was her best hour of fundraising “to date.”
The other leading progressive in the race, Sanders came under attack from Biden and Bloomberg for his embrace of democratic socialism.
Sanders, as he has repeatedly over the last year, defended the cost of his signature “Medicare for All” healthcare plan, which would eliminate the private insurance industry in favor of a government-backed healthcare system that would cover all Americans.
“When you asked Bernie how much it cost last time he said…’We’ll find out,'” Biden quipped. “It costs over $35 trillion, let’s get real.”
And ongoing animosity flared between Buttigieg and Klobuchar when the former Indiana mayor slammed the three-term Minnesota senator for failing to answer questions in a recent interview about Mexican policy and forgetting the name of the Mexican president.
Buttigieg noted that she’s on a committee that oversees trade issues in Mexico and she “was not able to speak to literally the first thing about the politics of the country.”
She shot back: “Are you trying to say I’m dumb? Are you mocking me here?”
Later in the night she lashed out at Buttigieg again: “I wish everyone else was as perfect as you, Pete.”
The debate closed with a question about the possibility that Democrats remain divided deep into the primary season with a final resolution coming during a contested national convention in July.
Asked if the candidate with the most delegates should be the nominee — even if he or she is short of a delegate majority, almost every candidate suggested that the convention process should “work its way out,” as Biden put it.
Sanders, who helped force changes to the nomination process this year and hopes to take a significant delegate lead in the coming weeks, was the only exception.
“The person who has the most votes should become the nominee,” he said.
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Peoples and Jaffe reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, California, contributed to this report.
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Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

Newman released from hospital; Chastain to race Las Vegas

By JENNA FRYER AP Auto Racing Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Ryan Newman was released from a Florida hospital Wednesday, about 42 hours after his frightening crash on the final lap of the Daytona 500.
Roush Fenway Racing released a photo of Newman leaving a Daytona Beach hospital holding the hands of his two young daughters. The announcement came just a few hours after the team said he was fully alert and walking around the hospital.
The 42-year-old Indiana native was taken by ambulance directly from the track in serious condition following the crash Monday night. Doctors said two hours after the accident that Newman’s injuries were not life-threatening, but no details have been released.
His release from the hospital was rapid. Roush Fenway said earlier Wednesday that Newman “continues to show great improvement.” The team added that “true to his jovial nature, he has also been joking around with staff, friends and family while playing with his two daughters” and included a photo of Newman standing in a hospital gown, smiling with his arms around the girls.
Two hours later, he was leaving the hospital in jeans, a T-shirt and socks, holding hands with his girls. The team released a third photo of Newman and his daughters with the staff that treated him following his crash.
“First and foremost, our focus remains with Ryan and his family as he continues to recover,” Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark said. “We also want to express our sincere gratitude to all of those who have offered support and taken the time to send their thoughts and prayers to Ryan, his family and everyone at Roush Fenway Racing.”
“The NASCAR community has long prided itself on being a close-knit family. That is never more evident than during these types of moments.”
Added team principal owner John W. Henry: “All of us at Fenway Sports Group are thankful for the wonderful news about Ryan’s progress, and his release from the hospital today. Ryan is one tough hombre and we wish him a full recovery. We look forward to seeing Ryan and his family at the track again soon.”
Roush Fenway said Ross Chastain will pilot the No. 6 Ford beginning this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and that a timetable for Newman’s return has yet to be determined.
Chastain is running for the Xfinity Series championship this year for Kaulig Racing, but drove in the Daytona 500 last weekend for Spire Motorsports in a car fielded by Chip Ganassi.
“We want to express our appreciation to everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing as well as Kaulig Racing for allowing Ross to fill in for Ryan in the No. 6 on such short notice,” Newmark said.
Chastain, an eighth-generation watermelon farmer, is gradually trying to move into NASCAR’s top Cup Series. He’s got 72 career Cup starts for small teams but has been waiting for a break in competitive equipment.
Chastain has won three times in the Truck Series and twice in the Xfinity Series, including a win at Las Vegas in 2018.
“No one could ever take the place of Ryan Newman on the track, and I can’t wait to have him back,” Chastain tweeted. “As we continue to pray for a full and speedy recovery, I’ll do my best to make him and everyone at Roush Fenway Racing proud.”
Newman was injured when he crashed while leading NASCAR’s biggest race. Contact from Ryan Blaney sent Newman spinning into the wall and his Ford went airborne, where it was then hit by Corey LaJoie in the driver side door.
The car landed on its roof, slid across Daytona International Speedway and came to a rest upside down and on fire, with gasoline pouring out of the vehicle. It took a safety team nearly 20 minutes to remove Newman from the car and he was taken directly to the hospital.
Blaney and LaJoie have stepped back from racing to process their roles in the accident. LaJoie climbed from his own burning car and dropped to his knees on the track, learning only after he was checked at the care center that Newman was injured.
Blaney seemed distraught as he paced beside his car following his second-place finish to Denny Hamlin. Fellow driver Bubba Wallace, one of Blaney’s best friends, said he spent time with Blaney on Tuesday and advised him to stay off social media for a few days.
“He’s holding up, of course devastated and bummed about the situation,” Wallace posted on Twitter. “Had to sit there and explain to him could’ve happened to him or any of us in the field. IT’S RACING. Just unfortunate to be on either end of it.”
Wallace also praised Blaney’s atttempt to push Newman to the win in a move of brand alliance for Ford. When Blaney tried to lock onto Newman’s bumper to give him a shove the cars didn’t align properly and Newman was instead hooked into a spin.
“I know Ford should be proud to have him under their banner because he was so content on pushing his Ford teammate to win the biggest race of the year,” Wallace wrote. “Which makes it worse (because) a simple selfless gesture went south in the blink of an eye.”
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More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Toxic Superfund cleanups decline to more than 30-year low

By ELLEN KNICKMEYER Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration completed the fewest cleanups of toxic Superfund sites last year than any administration since the program’s first years in the 1980s, figures released by the Environmental Protection Agency indicated Wednesday.
The federal government wrapped up cleanups at six Superfund sites around the country in the 2019 budget year, the fewest since three in 1986, EPA online records showed.
The Superfund program was born out of the 1970’s disaster at Love Canal in New York, where industrial contaminants poisoned groundwater, spurred complaints of health problems and prompted presidential emergency declarations. Congress started the Superfund program in 1980, with the mission of tackling the country’s worst contaminated sites to remove the threat to surrounding residents and the environment.
President Donald Trump campaigned on pledges to cut environmental protections he saw as unfriendly to business. In office, Trump has presided over rollbacks and proposed rollbacks of a series of protections for air, water, wildlife and other environmental and public health concerns, as well as sharp declines in many categories of enforcement against polluters.
The EPA posted the 2019 figures on its website earlier this month. The tally also shows one cleanup completed so far this budget year.
“Cleaning up Superfund Sites has been and remains a top priority of this Administration,” EPA spokeswoman Corry Schiermeyer said in response to questions from The Associated Press. “Many of the sites currently on the NPL (National Priorities List) are very large, complex and technically challenging and often require numerous construction projects to complete that are frequently phased in over many years.”
Superfund cleanups completed fell into the single digits just once before in the past 20 years, in 2014.
The AP reported in January that the administration also has built up the biggest backlog of unfunded toxic Superfund cleanup projects in at least 15 years, nearly triple the number that were stalled for lack of money in the Obama era.
The administration called Superfund cleanups part of the core mission of the EPA. But Trump’s budget proposal for next year calls for slashing money for the Superfund program by $113 million. As in previous years, the White House asked Congress to cut the EPA budget by more than 20%.
Congress largely has ignored Trump’s calls for EPA cuts, keeping the agency’s money roughly stable.
Elizabeth Southerland, a former EPA official who now is part of a network of hundreds of former EPA staffers often critical of Trump rollbacks, said the administration was failing to brief Congress on how much it really needs for the program. She called it “heartbreaking” for the people at risk around the sites.
“Communities are being forced to live for years longer than necessary waiting for cleanup to be completed,” Southerland said.
Under Trump, the EPA pointed to a different measure in declaring it was making progress on Superfund cleanups: the number of cleaned up sites officially deleted from the roster of more than 1,300 Superfund projects.
But deletions from the list typically reflect cleanup work done over decades and often completed on the ground years ago, meaning Trump frequently was taking credit for work done under President Barack Obama and other predecessors. The EPA said it deleted all or part of 27 sites from the list last year.

S. Korea reports 1st virus death; 2.5M urged to stay home

By KIM TONG-HYUNG and HYUNG-JIN KIM Associated Press
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea reported its first death from the new virus on Thursday while the mayor of a southeastern city urged its 2.5 million people to stay inside as infections linked to a church congregation spiked.
The death was the ninth confirmed from the virus outside mainland China. Other deaths have occurred in France, Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the South Korean man, believed to be about 63 years old, died at a hospital on Wednesday and posthumously tested positive for the virus. Officials said he had been hospitalized due to schizophrenia for an extended period and recently suffered pneumonia symptoms.
The center also confirmed 22 additional cases of the virus, raising the total in South Korea to 104.
Twenty-one of those new cases were in and around the city of Daegu, where the mayor urged citizens earlier Thursday to stay home and wear masks even indoors if possible.
In a televised news conference, Mayor Kwon Young-jin expressed fears that rising infections in the region will soon overwhelm the city’s health system and called for urgent help from the central government.
“National quarantine efforts that are currently focused on blocking the inflow of the virus (from China) and stemming its spread are inadequate for preventing the illness from circulating in local communities,” Kwon said.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 49 of 73 new patients confirmed in the city’s region in the past two days went to services at a Daegu church attended by a previously confirmed virus patient or contacted her elsewhere. That patient is a South Korean woman in her early 60s who has no recent record of overseas travel, according to center officials. She tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.
The center’s director, Jung Eun-kyeong, told reporters that it’s still unclear whether she was a “super spreader” of the disease or merely the first patient detected in the area. Jung said officials were screening some 1,000 people who attended services at the Shincheonji Church of Jesus with the woman on Feb. 9 and Feb. 16 and were placing them under home isolation.
The church, which claims about 200,000 followers in South Korea, said it has closed all of its 74 sanctuaries around the nation and told followers to instead watch its worship services on YouTube. It said in a statement that health officials were disinfecting its church in Daegu and were tracing the woman’s contacts. The Daegu church has about 8,000 followers.
It said church officials have advised followers since late January to stay at home if they had recently traveled overseas or were experiencing even mild cold-like symptoms. But the woman assumed she had a common cold and kept coming to the church because she hadn’t traveled overseas, church officials said.
“We think it’s deeply regrettable … for causing concerns to the local community,” the statement said.
Shincheonji, which translates as “New heaven and new Earth,” is a controversial new religious movement established in 1984 by Lee Man-hee. The church describes him as an angel of Jesus sent to testify about the fulfilled prophecies of the Book of Revelation.
The explosion of infections in Daegu and the neighboring region, as well as some new cases in the Seoul metropolitan area where the sources of infection are unclear, have raised concern that health authorities are losing track of the virus as it spreads more broadly in the country.
Kwon spoke shortly before South Korea’s government acknowledged for the first time that the country was beginning to see “community transmission” of the illness, albeit at a “limited range.”
“We are seeing infections in some areas like Seoul and Daegu where it’s difficult to confirm the cause or routes of the infections,” Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said, adding that the government would need to change its quarantine strategy that has focused on tracing contacts.
In a telephone conversation with Kwon later Thursday, President Moon Jae-in said the central government will provide all available assistance to help Daegu fight the virus, according to the presidential Blue House.

PM says Australians ‘devastated’ by domestic violence attack

SYDNEY (AP) — Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday that Australians were “shocked, saddened and devastated” by the deaths of five people including three children after a car fire in apparent domestic violence.
Hannah Baxter, 31, and her children Aaliyah, 6, Lainah, 4, and Trey, 3, died after their car was set alight on a street in suburban Brisbane on Wednesday morning.
Baxter’s estranged husband and the children’s father, Rowan Baxter, allegedly doused his family with gas before setting the car alight.
The 42-year-old, a former player with the New Zealand Warriors in Australia’s National Rugby League football competition, was found dead near the scene, reportedly after stabbing himself.
“Australians all over the country are just shocked, saddened and devastated about what has happened in a suburban street … where Hannah and her three children were so senselessly and maddeningly murdered in what has occurred in a terrible act of violence,” Morrison told reporters.
Angela Lynch, CEO of the Women’s Legal Service in Queensland state, of which Brisbane is the capital, called for an overhaul of Australia’s family court system.
“Domestic violence services are under pressure everywhere,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
She said that women were seeking assistance more than ever and “we should have the systems there, appropriate systems to be able to respond to them.”
Carolyn Robinson, from the Beyond DV (domestic violence) organization, said the domestic welfare sector had been shocked by the incident. “Everyone’s shocked, I mean in the DV sector, we all work with each other, we all support each other,” Robinson told reporters.
“I did speak with several people yesterday, we’re just all in shock. It couldn’t have been predicted. I hope it never happens again,” she said.
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This story has correct the spelling of Robinson’s given name from Caroline to Carolyn.

9 killed in suspected far-right attack in Germany

By DAVID McHUGH and FRANK JORDANS Associated Press
HANAU, Germany (AP) — A 43-year-old German man shot and killed nine people at several locations in a Frankfurt suburb in attacks that appeared to have been motivated by far-right beliefs, officials said Thursday.
The gunman first attacked a hookah bar and a neighboring cafe in central Hanau at about 10 p.m. Wednesday, killing several people, before heading about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) west and opening fire again, first on a car and then a sports bar, claiming more victims.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said that while the circumstances of the attack still needed to be fully investigated, the shootings exposed the “poison” of racism in German society. Merkel pledged to stand up against those who seek to divide the country.
“There is much to indicate that the perpetrator acted out of far-right extremist, racist motives. Out of hatred for people with other origins, other faiths or a different appearance,” the German leader said.
Hookah lounges are places where people gather to smoke flavored tobacco from Middle Eastern water pipes, and some of the victims appeared to be Turkish.
Witness Kadir Kose ran over from a cafe he runs nearby after he heard the first shots, initially assuming there was an altercation between family members.
“But when I heard the second shots I thought it was a terror attack,” Kose said.
He said he was shocked at the extent of the violence, saying that while fights or stabbing aren’t unheard of, “this is a whole other level, something we hear about from America.”
Witnesses and surveillance videos of the suspect’s getaway car led authorities quickly to his home, near the scene of the second attack, where he was found dead near the body of his 72-year-old mother, said Peter Beuth, the interior minister for the state of Hesse.
Neighbor Dieter Hog said he looked out his window and saw 25 or 30 police officers with dogs combing the area.
“They were running around looking for the fugitive who was involved,” Hog told The Associated Press, adding that even though he lived close by he did not know the suspect.
Both the suspect and his mother had gunshot wounds, and the weapon was found on the suspect, Beuth said.
At the townhouse Thursday, forensic experts came and went from the building, and police kept people away.
A website believed to be the suspect’s is being evaluated, Beuth said.
“Initial analysis of the web page of the suspect indicate a xenophobic motivation,” he said. It does not appear, however, that the suspect was known either to police or Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, he added.
He said federal prosecutors have taken over the investigation of the crime and are treating it as an act of domestic terrorism.
“This is an attack on our free and peaceful society,” he said.
Following a conference call with Germany’s state interior ministers, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said on the basis of the investigation so far, “it was a right-radical xenophobic” attack, German news agency dpa reported.
The attack was quickly and broadly condemned by many organizations, including the Central Council of Muslims, the Confederation of Kurdish Associations in Germany, and the Central Council of Jews.
Merkel pledged that “everything will be done to investigate the circumstances of these terrible murders.”
In unusually plain words, the German leader said: “Racism is a poison. Hatred is a poison.”
“This poison exists in our society and its is responsible for far too many crimes,” she added, citing the killings committed by a far-right gang known as the NSU, the fatal shooting last year of a regional politician from her party, and the attack on a synagogue in Halle in October.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the consulate in Frankfurt and the embassy in Berlin were trying to obtain obtain information about the attack, including the possibility that some of the victims were Turkish.
“According to the initial information, it was an attack with a racist motive, but we would need to wait for the (official) statement,” he told state television TRT.
German news agency dpa reported that police are examining a video the suspect may have posted online several days earlier in which he details a conspiracy theory about child abuse in the United States. The authenticity of the video couldn’t immediately be verified.
In the video, the dark-haired speaker wearing a white button-down shirt under a suit jacket, said he was delivering a “personal message to all Americans” that “your country is under control of invisible secret societies.”
In a slow and deliberate voice, in accented English, he says there are “deep underground military bases” in which “they abuse, torture and kill little children.”
He makes no reference to the far-right fringe QAnon movement in the U.S., but the missive is similar to the movement’s central, but baseless belief that U.S. President Donald Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the “deep state” and a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals.
On a website registered by someone with the same name as the man in the video, Tobias R., the owner says he was born in Hanau in 1977 and grew up in the city, later training with a bank and completing a business degree in 2007.
The attack comes amid growing concerns about far-right violence in Germany.
Merkel called off a planned visit Thursday to a university in Halle. Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said she was “being constantly kept abreast of the state of the investigations in Hanau.”
Halle was the site of a deadly anti-Semitic attack last year. A man expressing anti-Jewish views tried to shoot his way into a synagogue, failed and killed two passers-by before being arrested.
The shooting in Halle came months after the killing of Walter Luebcke, the regional politician from Merkel’s party. The suspect had a long history of neo-Nazi activity and convictions for violent crime.
“Thoughts this morning are with the people of Hanau, in whose midst this terrible crime was committed,” Seibert said on Twitter. “Deep sympathy for the affected families, who are grieving for their dead. We hope with those wounded that they will soon recover.”
In addition to those killed, Beuth said one person was seriously wounded and multiple other people suffered less serious injuries.
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted it was a day of “immense sadness” and pledged his “full support for Germany.”
“I’m at the side of Chancellor Merkel in her fight for our values and the protection of our democracies,” he said.
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Geir Moulson and David Rising in Berlin, Michael Probst and Christoph Noelting in Hanau, and Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report. Jordans reported from Berlin.

AP FACT CHECK: Dems’ debate flubs; Trump untruths at rally

By CALVIN WOODWARD and HOPE YEN Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest Democratic presidential debate was a raucous one, ripe for exaggerations and distortions as Mike Bloomberg made his debut on the debate stage and rivals went after him and each other. President Donald Trump weighed in on the feisty performance at a rally where he mischaracterized what some Democrats want to do with health care.
A look at how some of their claims Wednesday night stack up with the facts:
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MIKE BLOOMBERG, on the stop-and-frisk policing policy when he was New York mayor: “What happened, however, was it got out of control and when we discovered — I discovered — that we were doing many, many, too many stop and frisks, we cut 95% of them out.”
THE FACTS: That’s a distortion of how stop and frisk declined. That happened because of a court order, not because Bloomberg learned that it was being overused.
In Bloomberg’s first 10 years in office, the number of stop-and-frisk actions increased nearly 600% from when he took office in 2002, reaching a peak of nearly 686,000 stops in 2011. That declined to about 192,000 documented stops in 2013, his final year as mayor.
Bloomberg achieved his claim of a 95% cut by cherry-picking the quarterly high point of 203,500 stops in the first quarter of 2012 and comparing that with the 12,485 stops in the last quarter of 2013.
The former mayor defended the practice even after leaving office at the end of 2013 and only apologized for it a few weeks before declaring his candidacy for presidency.
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TRUMP, on Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for all” plan: “Think of this: 180 million Americans are going to lose health care coverage under this plan. But if you don’t mind, I’m not going to criticize it tonight. Let them keep going and I’ll start talking about it about two weeks out from the election.” — Arizona rally.
THE FACTS: That’s a thorough misrepresentation of the Sanders plan as well as similar plans by Democrats in Congress. People wouldn’t “lose” coverage. Under Sanders, they would be covered by a new and universal government plan that replaces private and job-based insurance. Democrats who stop short of proposing to replace private and job-based insurance would offer an option for people to take a Medicare-like plan, also toward the goal of ensuring universal coverage.
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BLOOMBERG, citing his philanthropy’s work with the Sierra Club: “Already we’ve closed 304 out of the 530 coal fire plants in the United States, and we’ve closed 80 out of the 200 or 300 that are in Europe.”
THE FACTS: He’s wrongly taking credit for driving the U.S. coal industry to its knees.
The U.S. coal industry’s plunge is largely due to market forces, above all drops in prices of natural gas and renewable energy that have made costlier coal-fired power plants much less competitive for electric utilities. Bloomberg has indeed contributed huge sums to efforts to close coal plants and fight climate change, but against the backdrop of an industry besieged on other fronts.
U.S. coal production peaked in 2008, but since then has fallen steadily. That’s due largely to a boom in oil and gas production from U.S. shale, begun under the Obama administration, that made natural gas far more abundant and cheaper, and falling prices for wind and solar energy, partly because of improving technology in the renewable sector.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reaffirmed in a report in December the extent to which the market has turned away from coal.
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ELIZABETH WARREN: Buttigieg’s health care plan is “a thin version of a plan.”
PETE BUTTIGIEG: His own proposal “is the plan that solves the problem.”
THE FACTS: Warren, a Massachusetts senator, is quick to dismiss a plan that would cover virtually all U.S. citizens and legal residents.
An analysis of health care overhaul plans by the Urban Institute and the Commonwealth Fund found that an approach like the one advocated by Buttigieg, a former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, would reduce the number of uninsured people from 32 million to below 7 million, mainly people without legal permission to be in the country.
The proposal from Buttigieg features a new government-sponsored “public option” plan that even people with employer-sponsored coverage could join voluntarily.
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Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Ellen Knickmeyer and Amanda Seitz contributed to this report.
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EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.
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Find AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd
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New Chinese virus cases decline, but method revised again

By KEN MORITSUGU Associated Press
BEIJING (AP) — New virus cases in China have again declined, up just 394, after authorities on Thursday again changed how they count new daily infections. They are now discounting cases that came back negative after laboratory tests.
Another 114 people reportedly died from the new illness, COVID-19, as health inspectors went door-to-door to attempt to find every infected person in the worst-hit city of Wuhan.
Japan’s health ministry said two former passengers of a virus-stricken cruise ship died, raising the number of deaths in Japan to three. The Diamond Princess has by far the most cases outside China with 621 passengers and crew testing positive.
Mainland China has reported 2,118 deaths and 74,576 total cases. While the overall spread of the virus has been slowing, the situation remains severe in Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan, where the new coronavirus was first detected in December. More than 80% of the country’s cases are in Hubei and 95% of the deaths, according to data from China’s National Health Commission.
The new daily figure is a notable drop from the 1,749 cases recorded the previous day. The commission said 279 cases were deducted from the daily report after nucleic acid tests showed negative results.
The reduction in new cases in China was partly a result of health workers ceasing to diagnose patients on the spot, and refinements in the way symptoms were classified, according to Wang Guiqiang, an infectious disease specialist at the First Hospital connected with Beijing’s elite Peking University.
Improvements in testing have allowed health workers to better assess those seeking treatment, Wang said.
Inspectors in protective suits went door-to-door Wednesday in Wuhan searching for every infected person. “This must be taken seriously,” said Wang Zhonglin, the city’s newly selected Communist Party secretary.
Cities in Hubei with a combined population of more than 60 million have been under lockdown since the Lunar New Year holiday. Authorities halted nearly all transportation and movement except for quarantine efforts, medical care, and delivery of food and basic necessities. “Wartime” measures were implemented in some places, with residents prevented from leaving their apartments.
The stringent measures have followed public fury over Hubei authorities’ handling of the outbreak when it began. The risk of human-to-human transmission was downplayed, and doctors who tried to warn the public were reprimanded by police. Wuhan residents reported overcrowding in hospitals and futile attempts to seek treatment.
Many countries have also set up border screenings and airlines have canceled flights to and from China to prevent further spread of the disease, which has been detected in about two dozen countries and has infected more than 1,000 people outside mainland China. Nine deaths have been confirmed outside the mainland — three in Japan, two in Hong Kong and one each in France, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan.
In South Korea, the mayor of the city of Daegu urged its 2.5 million people on Thursday not to go outside as cases of the virus spiked. Daegu has confirmed the illness in 13 people, 11 of whom either went to a church attended by a female patient or came into contact with her at a hospital, according to the disease control center. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency also reported the country’s first death from the virus.
Chinese scientists reported some troubling findings about how the virus spreads. Swabs were taken from 14 people who returned to Guangdong province in January after visiting Wuhan and developing the disease. High amounts of the virus were detected soon after symptoms started, more in the nose than in the throat, and the virus was also found in one of their close contacts who never showed any symptoms.
That adds to concern about potential spread of the virus by people who may not know they’re infected. The report from the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention was published by the New England Journal of Medicine.
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Associated Press journalists Marilynn Marchione in Milwaukee and Katie Tam in Hong Kong and researcher Yu Bing in Beijing contributed to this report.

Weinstein jurors focus on Sciorra as deliberations continue

NEW YORK (AP) — Jury deliberations in Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial are set to continue for a third day on Thursday.
So far, jurors have been focusing a lot of attention on actress Annabella Sciorra’s allegation that the once-heralded Hollywood mogul raped her in the mid-1990s.
Sciorra’s allegation is too old to be charged on its own because of the statute of limitations, but it’s a key component of the most serious charges that jurors are weighing in the closely watched #MeToo case.
Weinstein, 67, is charged with five counts stemming from the allegations of Sciorra and two other women — an aspiring actress who says he raped her in March 2013 and a former film and TV production assistant, Mimi Haleyi, who says he forcibly performed oral sex on her in March 2006.
Weinstein has maintained that any sexual contact was consensual.
Sciorra’s account is the basis for two counts of predatory sexual assault, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. To convict Weinstein of that charge, jurors must agree on two things: that Weinstein raped Sciorra and that he committed one of the other charged offenses.
On Tuesday, signaling their interest in Sciorra, jurors sent a note seeking clarity on why Weinstein wasn’t charged with other crimes stemming from her allegation, only to be told by the judge that they “must not speculate as to any other charges that are not before you.”
The panel of seven men and five women finished Wednesday’s round of deliberations by revisiting actress Rosie Perez’s testimony about what she says Sciorra told her soon after the alleged rape.
Perez said her friend Sciorra had told her at some point in 1993, her voice shaking on the phone, that something had happened to her: “I think it was rape.” Perez testified that months later, on a phone call from London, Sciorra said Weinstein was harassing her and she was scared.
“I said, ‘He’s the one that raped you,'” and they both began crying, Perez testified.
“Please go to the police,” Perez said she told Sciorra.
She said Sciorra responded: “I can’t — he’d destroy me.”
When jurors return Thursday, they’ll see emails that Weinstein sent about Sciorra, including ones to the private Israeli spy agency he allegedly enlisted to dig up dirt on would-be accusers as reporters closed in on him in 2017.
The Associated Press has a policy of not publishing the names of people who allege sexual assault without their consent. It is withholding the name of the rape accuser because it isn’t clear whether she wishes to be identified publicly.

Weather and protests hamper Ukraine quarantine efforts

by YURAS KARMANAU Associated Press
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s effort to evacuate more than 70 people from China over the outbreak of a new virus faced setbacks Thursday as weather conditions delayed the return of the evacuees and protests broke out near a hospital where they were to be quarantined.
Several hundred residents in Ukraine’s Poltava region protested to stop officials from quarantining the evacuees in their village because they feared becoming infected. Demonstrators put up road blocks and burned tires, while Ukrainian media reported that there were clashes with police. More than 10 people were detained.
“The situation is rather heated,” Poltava regional police spokesman Yuri Sulayev said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy weighed in, saying the protests showed “not the best side of our character.” He tried to reassure people that the quarantined evacuees wouldn’t pose any danger to residents of the village of Novi Sarzhany.
In a statement published on his Facebook page, Zelenskiy said the people evacuated from China are healthy and will live in a closed medical center run by the National Guard in the village as a precaution.
“In the next two weeks it will probably be the most guarded facility in the country,” Zelenskiy said.
In the early hours of Thursday, a plane with 45 Ukrainians and 27 other foreign nationals took off from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak that has infected more than 75,000 people worldwid e and killed over 2,100.
The plane stopped off in Kazakhstan to drop off two Kazakh passengers. Later, it sought to land in Kharkiv, a city in northeastern Ukraine, but could not due to bad weather conditions.
Instead it flew to Kyiv to refuel, and eventually arrived in Kharkiv.
Also Thursday, the Russian Embassy in Japan said that two more Russians aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan have been diagnosed with the virus, the Russian Embassy in Japan said. That raises to three the number of Russians on the ship confirmed to have the virus.
The two will be transferred to a hospital in Japan for treatment, according to the embassy.
The Diamond Princess has been docked in the Yokohama port near Tokyo since Feb. 4, when 10 people on board tested positive for the virus. So far 621 cases of the virus, which has been named COVID-19, have been confirmed among the the Diamond Princess’s original 3,711 people on board.
Russia so far has reported only two cases of the disease on its soil. Two Chinese nationals diagnosed with the virus and hospitalized in two different regions of Siberia in late January have recovered and have been released from hospitals.
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Associated Press writer Daria Litvinova contributed from Moscow. See more AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak