News briefs: Democrats hope to clarify field after tonight's vote

Associated Press

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Democrats are hoping that voters in New Hampshire will reset the party's presidential nomination fight on Tuesday and bring clarity to a young primary season that has been marred by deep dysfunction and doubt.

Since the chaotic Iowa caucuses failed to perform their traditional function of winnowing the race, it now falls to New Hampshire to begin culling the Democratic field, which still features almost a dozen candidates.

For Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the vote is an opportunity to lock in dominance of the party's left flank. A repeat of his strong showing in Iowa could severely damage progressive rival Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who faces the prospect of an embarrassing defeat on her near-home turf. 

While Sanders marches forward, moderates are struggling to unite behind a candidate. After essentially tying with Sanders for first place in Iowa, Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, begins his day as the centrist front-runner. But at least two other White House hopefuls — former Vice President Joe Biden and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — are competing for the same voters, a dynamic that could delay the nomination contest if it continues. 

More than a year after Democrats began announcing their presidential candidacies, Democrats are struggling to coalesce behind a message or a messenger in their desperate quest to defeat President Donald Trump. That's raising the stakes of the New Hampshire primary as voters weigh whether candidates are too liberal, too moderate or too inexperienced — vulnerabilities that could play to Trump's advantage in the fall.

Changing electorate could affect New Hampshire's primary

New Hampshire has been holding the first-in-the-nation presidential primary for 100 years, but a significant number of Tuesday's ballots could be cast by newcomers to that storied tradition.

New Hampshire has one of the nation's lowest percentages of native-born residents, with only a third of those age 25 and older having been born in the state. And one-fifth of the state's potential voters either resided somewhere else four years ago or were not old enough to vote, according to a recent analysis of demographic trends by the University of New Hampshire.

Those shifts challenge some of the presumptions about New Hampshire voters and could affect Tuesday's results, given that surveys suggest the newcomers and young voters are less conservative than the established residents. 

"Many people think of New Hampshire as a place where people have lived for 10 generations and their ancestors signed the Constitution or Declaration of Independence, and, in fact, I know someone like that," said Ken Johnson, senior demographer at the UNH Carsey School of Public Policy. "But New Hampshire is one of the most mobile states in the country."

From 2016 to 2020, nearly 70,000 residents turned 18 and became eligible to vote, while 46,000 older residents died. During the same period, about 160,000 voting-age adults moved into the state, and about 150,000 moved out. 

China's daily death toll from virus tops 100 for first time

BEIJING (AP) — China's daily death toll from a new virus topped 100 for the first time and pushed the total for the outbreak above 1,000, authorities said Tuesday, after leader Xi Jinping visited a health center to rally public morale amid little sign the contagion is abating.

More offices and stores in China were reopening after the extended Lunar New Year break, but many people were staying home. Public health authorities are closely monitoring whether workers returning to cities and businesses resuming will worsen the spread of the virus. 

In a bid to boost morale, Xi visited a community health center in Beijing on Monday and expressed confidence in the "war against the disease."

Xi wore a surgical mask and had his temperature taken before expressing his thanks to health workers on behalf of the ruling Communist Party and government. "We will most definitely win this people's war," he said.

Much of Xi's message was focused on calling for citizens to follow the party's dictates and aimed at minimizing the potentially massive economic impact of the outbreak.

Syrians scramble for refuge in last opposition frontier

BEIRUT (AP) — Throughout Syria's civil war, Maad al-Khalaf helped other Syrians find shelter in the opposition enclave in the northwest as they fled government military advances around the country. Now he's the one in need of refuge as a swift offensive overwhelmed his home village.

He joined hundreds of thousands in Idlib province scrambling to escape the widening, multi-front assault by President Bashar Assad's forces, squeezing into whatever structures they can find in a shrinking territory.

"There is no house of concrete or of mud or even a chicken coop that is not inhabited," the 41-year-old al-Khalaf said. "People are in dire need of any shelter. Even a tent sometimes is not available."

The son of a prominent landowning family in Qmenas, an ancient Aramaic village, al-Khalaf fled with his family of five to a nearby town as the bombs began to fall. Within three days, that was swept up in the offensive as well, so they ran farther — to a village near the Turkish border, 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the front line.

There, they now live in a tent on a piece of farmland donated by a relative. More relatives moved in as well. Winter wind sweeps through the new settlement, where 30 families huddle in 15 tents set up in the mud, sharing one toilet, one sink and a huge sense of relief that they are out of harm's way, at least for now.

Spain searches for 67 missing at sea, rescues 119 others

MADRID (AP) — Spain on Tuesday resumed the search for 67 migrants missing from a boat trying to reach European shores a day after maritime authorities rescued 119 others from cold Mediterranean waters.

A spokeswoman with Spain's Maritime Rescue agency said the search for the missing rubber boat in the stretch of sea separating Spain from Morocco restarted with a rescue vessel and a plane.

A rescue charity alerted authorities Monday about the boat's departure from Moroccan shores, saying that 49 men, 13 women and 5 children were on board, the official said. She was not authorized to be named in media reports.

Also Monday, rescuers found two rubber boats in the Alborán Sea with 60 and 59 migrants from Africa. The migrants, including 26 women and five children, disembarked in Spain's southeastern city of Málaga and were all in good health, the spokeswoman said.

Refugees fleeing violence and migrants fleeing poverty look for a new life in Europe by setting off on dangerous trips by sea from African coasts.

Philippines notifies US of intent to end major security pact

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines notified the United States on Tuesday it would end a major security pact allowing American forces to train in the country, in the most serious threat under President Rodrigo Duterte to their 69-year treaty alliancerte.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a tweet that Manila's notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement was received by the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Manila. He refused to provide other details on the drastic step "as a diplomatic courtesy."

Locsin signed the notice on the order of Duterte, who has often criticized U.S. security policies while praising those of China and Russia despite the Philippine military's close historic ties with its American counterpart.

In a Senate hearing last week, Locsin warned that abrogating the security accord with Washington would undermine Philippine security and foster aggression in the disputed South China Sea. U.S. military presence in the strategic waterway has been seen as a crucial counterweight to China, which claims virtually the entire sea.

Locsin proposed a review of the agreement to fix contentious issues instead of abrogating it. Philippine defense and military officials did not immediately issue any reaction to the government move.

Virus storytellers challenge China's official narrative

BEIJING (AP) — After nearly a week of roaming China's epidemic-struck city, filming the dead and the sickened in overwhelmed hospitals, the strain of being hounded by both the new virus and the country's dissent-quelling police started to tell.

Chen Qiushi looked haggard and disheveled in his online posts, an almost unrecognizable shadow of the energetic young man who had rolled into Wuhan on a self-assigned mission to tell its inhabitants' stories, just as authorities locked the city down almost three weeks ago.

Until he disappeared last week, the 34-year-old lawyer-turned-video blogger was one of the most visible pioneers in a small but dogged movement that is defying the ruling Communist Party's tightly policed monopoly on information.

Armed with smart phones and social media accounts, these citizen-journalists are telling their stories and those of others from Wuhan and other locked-down virus zones in Hubei province. The scale of this non-sanctioned storytelling is unprecedented in any previous major outbreak or disaster in China. It presents a challenge to the Communist Party, which wants to control the narrative of China, as it always has since taking power in 1949.

"It's very different from anything we have witnessed," said Maria Repnikova, a communications professor at Georgia State University who researches Chinese media.

Trump campaigns as 2nd Amendment warrior

WASHINGTON (AP) — After the Parkland school shooting in Florida two years ago, President Donald Trump chided Republican lawmakers for being too "scared" of the National Rifle Association to tighten gun laws — then backed away from the idea.

After back-to-back mass shootings in Ohio and Texas in 2019, Trump embraced calls for "strong background checks" — only to backpedal once again. 

Now, as he primes the pump on his 2020 reelection effort, Trump is going all-in on embracing the mantle of gun rights champion, a stark turn from earlier moments in his presidency when he toyed with the idea of pushing Congress to enact stricter gun laws.

There was no public discussion of tighter gun laws when Trump welcomed Parkland families to the White House for a private meeting on Monday, four days before the two-year anniversary of the rampage that left 17 dead. Instead, administration officials unveiled a website intended to help educators, parents and law enforcement address threats to school safety. 

In recent weeks, Trump has repeatedly warned supporters at his rallies that Democrats "will take your guns away." Last month, he labeled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam a "whack job" as gun rights advocates protested the Democratic governor's moves to tighten gun laws in the aftermath of a mass shooting in Virginia Beach.

Kobe Bryant's widow expresses grief, anger in online post

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Vanessa Bryant expressed grief and anger in an Instagram post Monday as she copes with the deaths of her husband Kobe Bryant, their daughter Gigi and seven other people in a helicopter crash last month. 

"My brain refuses to accept that both Kobe and Gigi are gone," she wrote. "It's like I'm trying to process Kobe being gone but my body refuses to accept my Gigi will never come back to me. It feels wrong. Why should I be able to wake up another day when my baby girl isn't being able to have that opportunity?! I'm so mad. She had so much life to live." 

Bryant said she realizes she has to remain strong for her three surviving daughters, Natalia, Bianka and Capri. 

"I know what I'm feeling is normal. It's part of the grieving process. I just wanted to share in case there's anyone out there that's experienced a loss like this," she wrote. "God I wish they were here and this nightmare would be over. Praying for all of the victims of this horrible tragedy. Please continue to pray for all."

The social media post included a video feature from Slam Magazine about Kobe Bryant coaching their daughter Gianna's basketball team. 

Iraqis wake up to snow for first time in over a decade

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's capital of Baghdad awoke on Tuesday to a sight not seen in over a decade — their city covered in snow. 

It was a rare moment of respite during which residents took selfies and children played in parks, lobbing snowballs before the fluffy flakes disappeared and the white cover dissolved into grey puddles. 

Iraq has grappled with months of unrest, beginning with an anti-government protest movement which engulfed the country in October, and the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general in Baghdad in early January, which brought the region close to war amid soaring U.S.-Iran tensions. 

Over 500 people have died in the protests as security forces used live rounds and tear gas to disperse crowds in Baghdad and southern Iraq. The movement is entering a critical phase, after influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who initially threw his weight behind demonstrators, withdrew it. Tensions have since seethed between protesters and al-Sadr's followers. 

In the city's central Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protest movement, protesters took a moment to observe the snowfall and dusted the flakes off their sit-in tents. 

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