Republicans are going all-in on Donald Trump heading into the 2022, even though the former president remains unpopular in the polls.
"Locked out of Facebook, marooned in Mar-a-Lago and mocked for an amateurish new website, Donald J. Trump remained largely out of public sight this week. Yet the Republican Party's capitulation to the former president became clearer than ever, as did the damage to American politics he has caused with his lie that the election was stolen from him," Lisa Lerer reported for The New York Times on Saturday.
"In Washington, Republicans moved to strip Representative Liz Cheney of her House leadership position, a punishment for denouncing Mr. Trump's false claims of voter fraud as a threat to democracy. Lawmakers in Florida and Texas advanced sweeping new measures that would curtail voting, echoing the fictional narrative from Mr. Trump and his allies that the electoral system was rigged against him. And in Arizona, the state Republican Party started a bizarre re-examination of the November election results that involved searching for traces of bamboo in last year's ballots," she explained. "The churning dramas cast into sharp relief the extent to which the nation, six months after the election, is still struggling with the consequences of an assault by a losing presidential candidate on a bedrock principle of American democracy: that the nation's elections are legitimate."
"They also provided stark evidence that the former president has not only managed to squelch any dissent within his party but has persuaded most of the G.O.P. to make a gigantic bet: that the surest way to regain power is to embrace his pugilistic style, racial divisiveness and beyond-the-pale conspiracy theories rather than to court the suburban swing voters who cost the party the White House and who might be looking for substantive policies on the pandemic, the economy and other issues," she wrote. "The loyalty to the former president persists despite his role in inciting his supporters ahead of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, with his adherents either ignoring, redefining or in some cases tacitly accepting the deadly attack on Congress."
Also on Saturday, The Washington Post reported on a GOP poll showing Trump's unfavorable image in the key districts that will determine which party controls the House of Representatives.
"When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee rose to explain the party's latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump's weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump's support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired. Trump's unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one," the newspaper reported.
Amy Walter, the editor of the Cook Political Report, thinks Republicans may simply ignore any unfavorable poll data on Trump.
NRCC decision to ‘hide’ poll data about Trump reveals another challenge: the fact that many of those same polls in… https://t.co/BQCBxuNhMy— amy walter (@amy walter)1620506378.0
A Covid-19 variant spreading in India is more contagious and may be dodging vaccine protections, contributing to the country's explosive outbreak, the World Health Organization's chief scientist said Saturday.
In an interview with AFP, Soumya Swaminathan warned that "the epidemiological features that we see in India today do indicate that it's an extremely rapidly spreading variant".
India on Saturday for the first time registered more than 4,000 Covid-19 deaths in just 24 hours, and more than 400,000 new infections.
New Delhi has struggled to contain the outbreak, which has overwhelmed its healthcare system, and many experts suspect the official death and case numbers are a gross underestimate.
Swaminathan, an Indian paediatrician and clinical scientist, said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19, which was first detected in India last October, was clearly a contributing factor to the catastrophe unfolding in her homeland.
"There have been many accelerators that are fed into this," the 62-year-old said, stressing that "a more rapidly spreading virus is one of them".
The WHO recently listed B.1.617 -- which counts several sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics -- as a "variant of interest".
Resistant to antibodies?
But so far it has stopped short of adding it to its short list of "variant of concern" -- a label indicating it is more dangerous than the original version of the virus by being more transmissible, deadly or able to get past vaccine protections.
Several national health authorities, including in the United States and Britain, have meanwhile said they consider B.1.617 a variant of concern, and Swaminathan said she expected the WHO to soon follow suit.
"B 1.617 is likely to be a variant of concern because it has some mutations which increase transmission, and which also potentially could make (it) resistant to antibodies that are generated by vaccination or by natural infection," she said.
But she insisted that the variant alone could not be blamed for the dramatic surge in cases and deaths seen in India, lamenting that the country appeared to have let down its guard down, with "huge social mixing and large gatherings".
Mass election rallies held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other politicians have for instance partly been blamed for the staggering rise in infections.
But even as many in India felt the crisis was over, dropping mask-wearing and other protection measures, the virus was quietly spreading.
'Taking off vertically'
"In a large country like India, you could have transmission at low levels, which is what happened for many months," Swaminathan said.
"It was endemic (and) probably gradually increasing," she said, decrying that "those early signs were missed until it reached the point at which it was taking off vertically."
"At that point it's very hard to suppress, because it's then involving tens of thousands of people and it's multiplying at a rate at which it's very difficult to stop."
While India is now trying to scale up vaccination to rein in the outbreak, Swaminathan warned that the jabs alone would not be enough to gain control of the situation.
She pointed out that India, the world's largest vaccine-making nation, had only fully vaccinated around two percent of the 1.3 billion-plus population.
"It's going to take many months if not years to get to the point of 70 to 80 percent coverage," she said.
With that prospect, Swaminathan stressed that "for the foreseeable future, we need to depend on our tried and tested public health and social measures" to bring down transmission.
The surge in India is frightening not only due to the horrifying number of people who are sick and dying there, but also because the exploding infection numbers dramatically increase the chances of new and more dangerous variants emerging.
"The more the virus is replicating and spreading and transmitting, the more chances are that... mutations will develop and adapt," Swaminathan said.
"Variants which accumulate a lot of mutations may ultimately become resistant to the current vaccines that we have," she warned.
"That's going to be a problem for the whole world."
There is a heavy police presence in Manhattan following a shooting in Times Square.
"A mother and her 3-year-old daughter were shot Saturday evening in Times Square, police sources told The Post. The gunfire erupted just before 5 p.m. at West 44th Street and Seventh Avenue," the NY Post reports. "The mother was struck in the leg and the child was hit in the upper torso, law enforcement sources said."
The two were taken to Bellevue Hospital.
Surreal scene at the shooting in Times Square this afternoon. Both victims expected to survive. https://t.co/WDlKYDzSiF— Ethan Harp (@Ethan Harp)1620510953.0
Breaking: Times Square on Lockdown! 2 people shot and 3 people injured. Heavy police presence now between 43rd and… https://t.co/YCsdrVLgLt— RebeccaSolomonTV (@RebeccaSolomonTV)1620511089.0
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