Rivals question front-runner Sanders’ electability at rowdy Democratic debate

Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders has taken command of the race after strong showings in the first three nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. (AFP)
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Updated 26 February 2020

Rivals question front-runner Sanders’ electability at rowdy Democratic debate

  • ‘Bernie will lose to Donald Trump, and Donald Trump and the House and the Senate and some of the statehouses will all go red’
  • ‘I can tell you exactly how it all adds up. It adds up to four more years of Donald Trump’

CHARLESTON, South Carolina: Surging Democratic presidential front-runner Bernie Sanders came under withering fire in a boisterous debate in South Carolina on Tuesday, as rivals attacked the high cost of his ambitious economic agenda and warned he would cost the party the White House and control of Congress.

In a debate that featured candidates repeatedly shouting over one another and ignoring their time limits, Sanders’ opponents united in attacking the independent senator and self-avowed democratic socialist as a risky choice to lead Democrats against Republican President Donald Trump in November.

“Bernie will lose to Donald Trump, and Donald Trump and the House and the Senate and some of the statehouses will all go red,” billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, adding that would be “a catastrophe.”

Pete Buttigieg, the moderate former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, criticized Sanders for the shifting estimates on the costs of his proposals such as government-run health care and questioned how he could get his agenda passed.

“I can tell you exactly how it all adds up. It adds up to four more years of Donald Trump,” Buttigieg said, adding that a Sanders race against Trump would be devastating to the country.

“If you think the last four years has been chaotic, divisive, toxic, exhausting, imagine spending the better part of 2020 with Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump,” Buttigieg said.

Sanders defended his ability to pay for costly programs such as Medicare for All, which would replace private health insurance with a government-run program, and said he was raising issues supported by the American people.

“My favorability nationally, I believe, is the highest up here,” Sanders said in a reference to opinion polls, adding he beat Trump in most national surveys.

“If you want to beat Trump, what you’re going to need is an unprecedented grassroots movement of black and white and Latino, Native American and Asian, people who are standing up and fighting for justice. That’s what our movement is about,” Sanders said.

Sanders has taken command of the race after strong showings in the first three nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, and the debate was the last chance for his opponents to try to stop his momentum before Saturday’s South Carolina primary and next week’s 14 vital Super Tuesday contests.

Even Elizabeth Warren, a senator from Massachusetts and progressive ally of Sanders who is trying to revive a struggling campaign, took a swing at her old friend.

“I think I would make a better president than Bernie. And the reason for that is that getting a progressive agenda enacted is going to be really hard,” she said. “I dug in, I did the work, and then Bernie’s team trashed me.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar said neither Sanders nor Warren had shown the leadership in the Senate to accomplish much.

“It matters if you can actually get things done,” she said.


Africa’s biggest city Lagos locks down to defend against coronavirus

Updated 2 min 5 sec ago

Africa’s biggest city Lagos locks down to defend against coronavirus

LAGOS: Lagos, Africa’s largest city of at least 20 million people, ground to a halt on Tuesday as it and the Nigerian capital Abuja entered a two-week lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Lagos’ usual unending cacophony and interminable “go slows” or traffic jams were gone. Streets were virtually empty but for ambulances and police vehicles. Security forces manned frequent checkpoints where cars crawled through one by one.
Africa’s confirmed cases had climbed to at least 5,300 by Tuesday morning, with more than 170 recorded deaths, according to a Reuters tally.
In the little more than 24 hours since Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari had announced the lockdown, coronavirus had transformed one of the world’s biggest megacities, where many live in slums and eke out a living at the best of times.
However, the terms of the lockdown have created confusion. While Nigeria’s president said food retailers and health facilities could remain open, he did not say whether people could leave their homes to buy necessities or seek care.
On Awolowo road, a normally busy street in the upmarket Ikoyi district, Andy Bankong, a bank security guard, had accepted his fate of a long trek home. No public transport meant walking more than 4 miles. Soldiers told him he could not return to the bank.
“If I lose the job, I can’t support my family. And it isn’t easy to find work now in Lagos,” said the father of two, who sends money to his wife in the southern state of Cross River to feed their children and pay for school fees.
Few were on the streets. Even health staff struggled to get to work.
“I am medical personnel,” said Onolapo Adebayo, speaking shortly before 9 a.m. at a bus stop. “They are calling me to start coming to the office but there is no vehicle.”
People who could not afford to stockpile for the 14-day lockdown were left dependent on government relief packages.
The Lagos state government has said it will distribute food to those in need to last the 14 days, targeting 200,000 households, or 1.2 million people, on Tuesday.
On Monday, the federal government in Abuja said it had begun cash transfers to Nigeria’s poorest households to sustain them through the crisis.
Across the continent, other countries have introduced their own relief programs for people, including South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi on Tuesday declared a State of Emergency following three confirmed coronavirus cases. The southern African country will enter a 28-day lockdown from midnight Thursday.
“This decision was by no means taken lightly,” said Masisi. “I am convinced that I make it in the best interest of our nation.”
South Africa, where a lockdown began on Friday, will be the continent’s first country to conduct large-scale screening, said President Cyril Ramaphosa, announcing the move late on Monday.
“Around 10,000 field workers will be visiting homes in villages, towns and cities to screen residents for COVID-19 symptoms,” Ramaphosa said.
But in some countries, new restrictions on movement sparked new fears.
In Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, rights groups have frequently accused police of using excessive force, with complaints about brutality, corruption and extrajudicial executions.
Already, allegations have been made against security forces, empowered by movement bans to carry out abuses. Videos of South African police beating people in public with sticks circulated on social media.
South African police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo said the videos need to be verified, but have been noted with “serious concern,” adding: “such alleged behavior by security forces is unacceptable, which can be neither tolerated nor condoned.”
In Kenya, the director of public prosecutions ordered an investigation into the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy in the slum of Mathare, the prosecutor’s office said on Twitter.
Media reports quoted a Nairobi official as saying the boy was hit by a stray bullet.