Warren emerges from first Democratic debate unscathed

Democratic presidential candidates New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio (L-R), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), former housing secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) take part in the first night of the Democratic presidential debate on June 26, 2019 in Miami. (AFP)
Updated 27 June 2019

Warren emerges from first Democratic debate unscathed

  • With 10 candidates onstage clamoring for attention and each given only a minute to respond, the evening often felt like a 10-car pileup or a round of speed dating
  • Warren benefited as well from the sheer chaos of the program

MIAMI: A lot could have gone wrong for Elizabeth Warren at Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate.
It didn’t.
Warren, a US senator from Massachusetts, arrived in Miami riding a wave of momentum among the race’s more than 20 candidates. By luck of the draw, she was onstage a night before most of the other top-tier Democratic contenders, such as former Vice President Joe Biden and US Senator Bernie Sanders.
As the first night’s top-polling candidate, she did not falter. Her progressive platform — similar to Sanders’— largely went unchallenged by the moderates standing alongside her.
Most important, her status in the race to take on Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election placed her front and center for the Democratic voters watching at home, and she was given ample time at the outset to detail the populist, anti-corporate themes of her candidacy.
“When you’ve got a government, when you’ve got an economy that does great for those with money and isn’t doing great for everyone else, that is corruption, pure and simple,” Warren said in the early moments of the debate, when viewership is typically highest. “We need to call it out. We need to attack it head- on.”
Warren benefited as well from the sheer chaos of the program. With 10 candidates onstage clamoring for attention and each given only a minute to respond, the evening often felt like a 10-car pileup or a round of speed dating.
It was difficult for viewers to track the questions and responses as some candidates often changed the subject. They talked over one another in an effort to reassure the Democratic base that they all mostly shared a common set of progressive values, making it hard for lesser-known contenders to distinguish themselves.
Given the chance to take Warren on, some centrist candidates punted. Early in the debate, US Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota was asked about Warren’s plan to provide tuition-free college at public universities. Instead of criticizing Warren’s plan as being too far-reaching, Klobuchar talked about her own support of community college and Pell grants for college students.
The evening illustrated the difficulty Democrats may face next year if the US economy remains robust. Following Warren’s lead, several candidates framed the issue in terms of the economy failing to serve middle-class, working-class and minority voters.
“I live in a low-income black and brown community,” said US Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. “I see every single day that this economy is not working for average Americans.”
Booker, Castro score points
Despite Warren’s strong performance, there were signs of potential pitfalls ahead. She was one of the few candidates onstage to promote the idea of doing away with private health insurance entirely in favor of Medicare. That earned some skepticism from others such as former Congressman Beto O’Rourke.
Her pledge was quickly highlighted by the Republican National Committee, which promised to use it against her in an effort to alarm voters worried about changes to their coverage.
Beyond Warren, the candidate who likely helped himself the most on Wednesday was Booker, who spoke more than anyone else and gave passionate, engaged answers on immigration and guns.
On gun violence, Booker said it was “something that I’m tired of. And I’m tired of hearing people, all they have to offer is thoughts and prayers.”
Former US Housing Secretary Julian Castro also may have raised his stock by getting into a sharp exchange with O’Rourke over decriminalizing border crossings by migrants.
Warren’s moment in the sun likely will be short-lived. On Thursday, Biden and Sanders will take the stage along with other top-tier White House hopefuls, including South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and US Senator Kamala Harris of California.


India starts world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive

Updated 3 min 37 sec ago

India starts world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive

  • India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs
  • But there is no playbook for the enormity of the current challenge

NEW DELHI: India started inoculating health workers Saturday in what is likely the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign, joining the ranks of wealthier nations where the effort is already well underway.
India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs. But there is no playbook for the enormity of the current challenge.
Indian authorities hope to give shots to 300 million people, roughly the population of the USand several times more than its existing program that targets 26 million infants. The recipients include 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers, to be followed by 270 million people who are either over 50 years old or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to COVID-19.
For workers who have pulled India’s battered health care system through the pandemic, the shots offered confidence that life can start returning to normal. Many burst with pride.
“I am excited that I am among the first to get the vaccine,” Gita Devi, a nurse, said as she lifted her left sleeve to receive the shot.
“I am happy to get an India-made vaccine and that we do not have to depend on others for it,” said Devi, who has treated patients throughout the pandemic in a hospital in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state in India’s heartland.
The first dose was administered to a sanitation worker at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in the capital, New Delhi, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi kickstarted the campaign with a nationally televised speech.
“We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability,” Modi said. He implored citizens to keep their guard up and not to believe any “rumors about the safety of the vaccines.”
It was not clear whether Modi, 70, had received the vaccine himself like other world leaders to try to demonstrate the shot’s safety. His government has said politicians will not be considered priority groups in the first phase of the rollout.
Health officials haven’t specified what percentage of India’s nearly 1.4 billion people will be targeted by the campaign. But experts say it will almost certainly be the largest such drive globally.
The sheer scale has its obstacles and some early snags were identified. For instance, there were delays in uploading the details of health care workers receiving the shots to a digital platform that India is using to track vaccines, the Health Ministry said.
Shots were given to at least 165,714 people on Saturday, Dr. Manohar Agnani, a Health Ministry official, said at an evening briefing. The ministry had said that it was aiming to vaccinate 100 people in each of the 3,006 centers across the country.
News cameras captured the injections across hundreds of hospitals, underscoring the pent-up hopes that vaccination was the first step in getting past the pandemic that has devastated the lives of so many Indians and bruised the country’s economy.
India on Jan. 4 approved emergency use of two vaccines, one developed by Oxford University and UK-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, and another by Indian company Bharat Biotech. Cargo planes flew 16.5 million shots to different Indian cities last week.
But doubts over the effectiveness of the homegrown vaccine is creating hurdles for the ambitious plan.
Health experts worry that the regulatory shortcut taken to approve the Bharat Biotech vaccine without waiting for concrete data that would show its efficacy in preventing illness from the coronavirus could amplify vaccine hesitancy. At least one state health minister has opposed its use.
In New Delhi, doctors at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, one of the largest in the city, demanded they be administered the AstraZeneca vaccine instead of the one developed by Bharat Biotech. A doctors union at the hospital said many of its members were a “bit apprehensive about the lack of complete trial” for the homegrown vaccine.
“Right now, we don’t have the option to choose between the vaccines,” said Dr. Nirmalaya Mohapatra, vice president of the hospital’s Resident Doctors Association.
The Health Ministry has bristled at the criticism and says the vaccines are safe, but maintains that health workers will have no choice in deciding which vaccine they will get themselves.
According to Dr. S.P. Kalantri, the director of a rural hospital in Maharashtra, India’s worst-hit state, such an approach was worrying because he said the regulatory approval was hasty and not backed by science.
“In a hurry to be populist, the government (is) taking decisions that might not be in the best interest of the common man,” Kalantri said.
Against the backdrop of the rising global COVID-19 death toll — it topped 2 million on Friday — the clock is ticking to vaccinate as many people as possible. But the campaign has been uneven.
In wealthy countries including the United States, Britain, Israel, Canada and Germany, millions of citizens have already been given some measure of protection by vaccines developed with revolutionary speed and quickly authorized for use.
But elsewhere, immunization drives have barely gotten off the ground. Many experts are predicting another year of loss and hardship in places like Iran, India, Mexico and Brazil, which together account for about a quarter of the world’s COVID-19 deaths.
India is second to the US with more than 10.5 million confirmed cases, and ranks third in the number of deaths, behind the US and Brazil, with over 152,000.
More than 35 million doses of various COVID-19 vaccines have been administered around the world, according to the University of Oxford.
While the majority of the COVID-19 vaccine doses have already been snapped up by wealthy countries, COVAX, a UN-backed project to supply shots to developing parts of the world, has found itself short of vaccines, money and logistical help.
As a result, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, warned this week that it is highly unlikely that herd immunity — which would require at least 70% of the globe to be vaccinated — will be achieved this year.
“Even if it happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world,” she said.