Large Blast Rocks Houston

A large explosion at an apparent industrial building in Houston early Friday left rubble scattered in the area, damaged homes and was felt for miles away.

One person was taken to a hospital because of the blast, the Houston Fire Department said. A fire continued to burn at the site hours after the explosion and people were told to avoid the area.

The explosion, which appeared to be centered on an industrial building, shook other buildings about 4:30 a.m., with reports on Twitter of a boom felt across the city.

VIDEO: Doorbell camera captures explosion in northwest Houston –

— KPRC 2 Houston (@KPRC2) January 24, 2020

Houston police tweeted that officers were blocking off streets in the area. Police said people should avoid the area, but no evacuation has been ordered. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said first responders were checking on residents of nearby homes.

Several people told Houston TV station KHOU that the explosion was so loud, they thought a bomb had gone off or that a vehicle had crashed into their homes. At one man’s home about 1/4 mile (0.4 kilometers) away, glass doors were shattered, ceilings were cracked, and the lid of his toilet was even torn off, the station reported.

Southeast Texas has seen a series of explosions in recent years up and down the Texas Gulf Coast, which is home to the highest concentration of oil refineries in the nation. Last July, an explosion at an ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown left more than dozen people with minor injuries and put nearby residents under a shelter-in-place advisory for three hours.

In December, two blasts in the coastal city of Port Neches shattered windows and ripped the doors from nearby homes.


Muslim Women Occupy Streets in India Against Citizenship Law

In the Indian capital’s Shaheen Bagh neighborhood, beside open sewers and dangerously dangling electricity wires, a group of Muslim women in colorful headscarves sit in resistance to a new citizenship law that has unleashed protests across the country.
For more than a month the women have taken turns maintaining an around the clock sit-in on a highway that passes through their neighborhood. They sing songs of protest and chant anti-government slogans, some cradling babies, others laying down rugs to make space for more people to sit.
The movement has slowly spread nationwide, with many women across the country staging their own sit-ins.
Through numerous police barricades, women trickle in from the winding arterial alleys of Shaheen Bagh with children in hand, as poets and singers take the makeshift stage, drawing rapturous applause.
The neighborhood rings with chants of `”nquilab Zindabad” which means “long live the revolution!”

As night draws closer, women as old as 90 huddle together under warm blankets, falling asleep on cheap mattresses.
The women, like demonstrators elsewhere in the country, have been demanding the revocation of the citizenship law approved last month. The law provides a fast-track to naturalization for persecuted religious minorities from some neighboring Islamic countries, but excludes Muslims.
Nationwide protests have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together, in part because the law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.
“Someone had to tell the government that their black laws won’t be accepted. So, as mothers, we decided to protest,” said Najma Khatoon, 62.
Khatoon and other protesters in Shaheen Bagh view the citizenship law as part of a bigger plan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government to implement a nationwide register of citizens, which they fear could lead to the deportation and detention of Muslims.
Modi and other leaders of his Bharatiya Janata Party have repeatedly said Indian citizens won’t be affected by the new law, and that if a nationwide register is ever conducted, there will be no religion column.
The gathering at Shaheen Bagh started with a handful of women appalled by the violence at a nearby Muslim university during protests against the law on Dec. 15.
A common refrain among the women at Shaheen Bagh is that they are there to ensure that the secular India plotted out by independence-era leaders remains for younger generations.
A makeshift library houses people who read about the constitution. The space is decorated with art and installations,  from a mock detention camp to a mini replica of India Gate, Delhi’s famous World War I monument, inscribed not with the names of soldiers but of those killed in the nationwide protests.
What would halt the protests, short of a revocation of the law by the Supreme Court, where it has been challenged in nearly 60 petitions, is unclear. But there is no indication the women will up and leave anytime soon.
Leaders from Modi’s party have blamed the protests on provocateurs deliberately misleading poor, uneducated people.
The women braving unusually cold winter nights seem undeterred.
“Modi’s actions have stirred our blood,” said Asma Khatoon, an octogenarian. “We don’t feel cold anymore.”

China Building a Hospital to Treat Virus, Expands Lockdowns

China is swiftly building a 1,000-bed hospital dedicated to patients infected with a new virus that has killed 26 people, sickened hundreds and prompted unprecedented lockdowns of cities during the country’s most important holiday.

On the eve of the Lunar New Year, transportation was shut down Friday in at least 10 cities with a total of about 33 million people. The cities are Wuhan, where the illness has been concentrated, and nine of its neighbors in central China’s Hubei province.

“To address the insufficiency of existing medical resources,” Wuhan authorities said in a Friday notice, the city is constructing a hospital modeled after the Xiaotangshan SARS hospital in Beijing. The facility will be a prefabricated structure on a 25,000- square-meter (270,000-square-foot) lot, slated for completion Feb. 3.

The SARS hospital was built from scratch in 2003 in just six days to treat an outbreak of a similar respiratory virus that had spread from China to more than a dozen countries and killed about 800 people. The hospital featured individual isolation units that looked like rows of tiny cabins.

Normally bustling streets, malls and other public spaces were eerily quiet in Wuhan on the second day of its lockdown. Masks were mandatory in public, and images from the city showed empty shelves as people stocked up for what could be an extended isolation. Train stations, the airport and subways were closed; police checked incoming vehicles but did not entirely close off roads.

Hospitals in Wuhan were grappling with a flood of patients and a lack of supplies. Videos circulating online showed throngs of frantic people in masks lined up for checks. Some users on Weibo said their family members had sought diagnoses but were turned away at hospitals that were at capacity.

At least eight hospitals in Wuhan issued public calls for donations of masks, googles, gowns and other protective medical gear, according to notices online. Administrators at Wuhan University People’s Hospital set up a group chat on the popular WeChat messaging app to coordinate donations.

The “Fever Control Command Center” of the city of Huanggang also put out a call for donations publicized by the state-run People’s Daily, asking for medical supplies, medicine and disinfection equipment. The notice added that at the moment they wouldn’t accept supplies from foreign countries.

Authorities were taking precautions around the country. In the capital, Beijing, major public events were canceled, including traditional temple fairs that are a staple of Lunar New Year celebrations. Beijing’s Forbidden City, Shanghai Disneyland and a slew of other tourist attractions have been closed indefinitely.

The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus has risen to 830, the National Health Commission said. Twenty-six people have died, including the first two deaths outside Hubei and the youngest recorded victim.

At least 17 people have died from a new coronavirus in China following an outbreak in the central city of Wuhan, and some 577 cases have been reported globally, most of them in China where the infection has spread faster in recent days.

The health commission in Hebei, a northern province bordering Beijing, said an 80-year-old man died there after returning from a two-month stay in Wuhan to see relatives. Heilongjiang province in the northeast confirmed a death there but did not give details.

While the majority of deaths have been older patients, a 36-year-old man in Hubei was admitted to the hospital earlier this month after suffering from fever for three days. He died following a sudden cardiac arrest on Jan. 23.

Initial symptoms of the virus can mirror those of the cold and flu, including cough, fever, chest tightening and shortness of breath, but can worsen to pneumonia.  The coronavirus family includes the common cold as well as viruses that cause more serious illnesses, such as SARS and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, or MERS, which is thought to have originated from camels. The Wuhan outbreak is suspected to have begun from wild animals sold at a food market in the city. The market is closed for investigation.

The vast majority of cases have been in and around Wuhan, but people who visited or had personal connections to infected people were among the scattered cases counted beyond the mainland. South Korea and Japan both confirmed their second cases Friday and Singapore confirmed its third. Cases have been detected in Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, the United States, Thailand and Vietnam.

Many countries are screening travelers from China and isolating anyone with symptoms.

The World Health Organization decided against declaring the outbreak a global emergency for now. The declaration can increase resources to fight a threat but its potential to cause economic damage makes the decision politically fraught.

Chinese officials have not said how long the shutdowns of the cities will last. While sweeping measures are typical of China’s Communist Party-led government, large-scale quarantines are rare around the world, even in deadly epidemics, because of concerns about infringing on people’s liberties.

Passengers wear face masks as they wait for a train at a subway station in Beijing, Jan. 24, 2020.

Recalling the government’s initial cover-up of SARS, many Chinese are suspicious of the case numbers reported by officials. Authorities in turn have been keen to pledge transparency. China’s cabinet, the State Council, announced Friday that it will be collecting information on government departments that have failed in their response to the new outbreak, including “delays, concealment and under-reporting of the epidemic.”

Across China, a slew of cancellations and closures dampened the usual liveliness of Lunar New Year.

One Beijing subway station near a transport hub conducted temperature checks at its security checkpoint Friday. Some security personnel were clad in full-body hazardous material suits.

Schools prolonged their winter break and were ordered by the Ministry of Education to not hold any mass gatherings or exams. Transport departments will also be waiving fees and providing refunds for ticket cancellations.


China Locking Down Cities With 18 Million to Stop Virus

Chinese authorities Thursday moved to lock down three cities with a combined population of more than 18 million in an unprecedented effort to contain the deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds of people and spread to other parts of the world during the busy Lunar New Year travel period.

The open-ended lockdowns are unmatched in size, embracing more people than New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago put together.

The train station and airport in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, were shut down, and ferry, subway and bus service was halted. Normally bustling streets, shopping malls, restaurants and other public spaces in the city of 11 million were eerily quiet. Police checked all incoming vehicles but did not close off the roads.

Authorities announced similar measures would take effect Friday in the nearby cities of Huanggang and Ezhou. In Huanggang, theaters, internet cafes and other entertainment centers were also ordered closed.

In the capital, Beijing, officials canceled major events indefinitely, including traditional temple fairs that are a staple of holiday celebrations, in order to “execute epidemic prevention and control.” The Forbidden City, the palace complex in Beijing that is now a museum, announced it will close indefinitely on Saturday.

Seventeen people have died in the outbreak, all of them in and around Wuhan. Close to 600 have been infected, the vast majority of them in Wuhan, and many countries have begun screening travelers from China for symptoms of the virus, which can cause fever, coughing, trouble breathing and pneumonia.

Chinese officials have not said how long the shutdowns will last. While sweeping measures are typical of China’s communist government, large-scale quarantines are rare around the world, even in deadly epidemics, because of concerns about infringing on people’s liberties. And the effectiveness of such measures is unclear.

“To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science,” Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization’s representative in China, said in an interview. “It has not been tried before as a public health measure. We cannot at this stage say it will or it will not work.”

Jonathan Ball, a professor of virology at molecular virology at the University of Nottingham in Britain, said the lockdowns appear to be justified scientifically.

“Until there’s a better understanding of what the situation is, I think it’s not an unreasonable thing to do,” he said. “Anything that limits people’s travels during an outbreak would obviously work.”

But Ball cautioned that any such quarantine should be strictly time-limited. He added: “You have to make sure you communicate effectively about why this is being done. Otherwise you will lose the goodwill of the people.”

People queue for receiving treatment at the fever outpatient department at the Wuhan Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, Jan. 22, 2020.

During the devastating West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014, Sierra Leone imposed a national three-day quarantine as health teams went door-to-door searching for hidden cases. Frustrated residents complained of food shortages amid deserted streets. Burial teams collecting Ebola corpses and people transporting the sick to Ebola centers were the only ones allowed to move freely.

In China, the illnesses from the newly identified coronavirus first appeared last month in Wuhan, an industrial and transportation hub in central China’s Hubei province. Other cases have been reported in the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Thailand. Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong reported their first cases Thursday.

Most of the illnesses outside China involve people who were from Wuhan or had recently traveled there.

Images from Wuhan showed long lines and empty shelves at supermarkets, as residents stocked up for what could be weeks of isolation. That appeared to be an over-reaction, since no restrictions were placed on trucks carrying supplies into the city, although many Chinese have strong memories of shortages in the years before the country’s recent economic boom.

Local authorities in Wuhan demanded all residents wear masks in public places. Police, SWAT teams and paramilitary troops guarded Wuhan’s train station.

Liu Haihan left Wuhan last Friday after visiting her boyfriend there. She said everything was normal then, before human-to-human transmission of the virus was confirmed. But things had changed rapidly.

Her boyfriend “didn’t sleep much yesterday. He disinfected his house and stocked up on instant noodles,”  Liu said. “He’s not really going out. If he does, he wears a mask.”

The sharp rise in illnesses comes as millions of Chinese travel for the Lunar New Year, one of the world’s largest annual migrations of people. Chinese are expected to take an estimated 3 billion trips during the 40-day spike in travel.

Analysts predicted cases will continue to multiply, although the jump in numbers is also attributable in part to increased monitoring.

“Even if (cases) are in the thousands, this would not surprise us,” the WHO’s Galea said, adding, however, that the number of those infected is not an indicator of the outbreak’s severity, so long as the mortality rate remains low.

The coronavirus family includes the common cold as well as viruses that cause more serious illnesses, such as the SARS outbreak that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-03 and killed about 800 people, and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, or MERS, which is thought to have originated from camels.

China is keen to avoid repeating mistakes with its handling of SARS. For months, even after the illness had spread around the world, China parked patients in hotels and drove them around in ambulances to conceal the true number of cases and avoid WHO experts.

In the current outbreak, China has been credited with sharing information rapidly, and President Xi Jinping has emphasized that as a priority.

“Party committees, governments and relevant departments at all levels must put people’s lives and health first,” Xi said Monday. “It is necessary to release epidemic information in a timely manner and deepen international cooperation.”

A picture released by the Central Hospital of Wuhan shows medical staff attending to patient at the The Central Hospital Of Wuhan Via Weibo in Wuhan, China on an unknown date.

Health authorities were taking extraordinary measures to prevent additional person-to-person transmissions, placing those believed infected in plastic tubes and wheeled boxes, with air passed through filters.

The first cases in the Wuhan outbreak were connected to people who worked at or visited a seafood market, which has since been closed for an investigation. Experts suspect that the virus was first transmitted from wild animals but that it may also be mutating. Mutations can make it deadlier or more contagious.

WHO convened its emergency committee of independent experts on Thursday to consider whether the outbreak should be declared a global health emergency, after the group failed to come to a consensus on Wednesday.

The U.N. health agency defines a global emergency as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.

A declaration of a global emergency typically brings greater money and resources, but may also prompt nervous governments to restrict travel to and trade with affected countries. The announcement also imposes more disease-reporting requirements on countries.

Declaring an international emergency can also be politically fraught. Countries typically resist the notion that they have a crisis within their borders and may argue strenuously for other control measures.


What are coronaviruses?

A new coronavirus virus – from the family as the deadly SARS disease – has spread beyond China’s borders, with cases emerging in the U.S., Thailand, Japan, and South Korea.  What are coronaviruses, how are they spread and where do they come from? 

Coronavirus Death Toll Rises as Health Agencies Try to Curb its Spread

As a new virus spreads within and outside of China, health officials are scrambling to contain it, but the virus is so new, not much is known about it. VOA’s Carol Pearson tells us what we do know about the coronavirus

Bringing Broadband to Rural America an Ongoing Quest

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission estimates that about 19 million Americans still don’t have access to broadband internet. Most of those people live in rural parts of the country. But little by little, individuals, companies and the government are changing that. VOA’s Calla Yu reports.

DC Claims Inaugural Committee Spending Enriched Trump Family

Donald Trump’s inaugural committee spent more than $1 million to book a ballroom at the Trump International Hotel in the nation’s capital as part of a scheme to “grossly overpay” for party space and enrich the president’s own family in the process, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

The District of Columbia’s attorney general, Karl Racine, said the committee misused nonprofit funds and coordinated with the hotel’s management and members of the Trump family to arrange the events. He said one of the event’s planners raised concerns about pricing with Trump, the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and Rick Gates, a top campaign official at the time.

“District law requires nonprofits to use their funds for their stated public purpose, not to benefit private individuals or companies,” Racine said. “In this case, we are seeking to recover the nonprofit funds that were improperly funneled directly to the Trump family business.”

It was the latest allegation that Trump and his family have used public and nonprofit funds spent at Trump-owned properties to enrich themselves — part of the peril of Trump not fully withdrawing from his businesses while he is president. Trump has maintained ownership but turned the reins over to his adult sons, who have bristled at the charge that they are profiting off their father’s presidency.

The committee has maintained that its finances were independently audited, and that all money was spent in accordance with the law. The committee raised an unprecedented $107 million to host events celebrating Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. But the committee’s spending has drawn mounting scrutiny.

The inaugural committee said Wednesday that it cooperated with the investigation and that Racine’s office hadn’t contacted its lawyers to interview any employees. A spokesman for the committee also said the group had not been contacted by the attorney general’s office since last summer and suggested the timing of the suit was politically motivated, as the Senate impeachment trial of the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress was underway.

“The facts will show that the PIC operated in compliance with the law and this suit is without merit. In fact, it reads more like a partisan press release than a legal filing,” according to a committee statement.

Prosecutors found that Gates, a former Trump campaign aide who flipped on the president during the special counsel’s Russia investigation, personally managed discussions with the hotel about using the space, including ballrooms and meeting rooms. In one instance, Gates contacted Ivanka Trump and told her that he was “a bit worried about the optics” of the committee paying such a high fee, Racine said.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to first lady Melania Trump who played a leading role organizing the inaugural parties, had also told Trump, when he was president-elect, and Ivanka Trump that she was uneasy with the offer, Racine said. Winston Wolkoff later followed up with an email to Gates and Ivanka Trump warning that the hotel’s proposal was at least twice the market rate, Racine said.

But Gates went through with it anyway, at a cost of $1.03 million, the suit says.

Prosecutors say the committee could have hosted inaugural events at other venues either for free or for reduced costs but didn’t consider those options.

Gates pleaded guilty to charges tied to his lucrative political consulting work in Ukraine and was sentenced last month to 45 days in prison, a punishment that a judge said reflected the extensive cooperation Gates had provided to the Justice Department. Racine’s office said investigators did not directly speak with Gates in as they pursued the suit.

A lawyer who represented Gates for the criminal proceedings didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment. The White House didn’t immediately return a message nor did the Trump Organization.

The suit contends that the hotel went against industry practice and refused to discount the space, and double-booked its largest ballroom with a different organization that was still affiliated with the inauguration, the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast. Both organizations were nonprofits, but the breakfast paid $5,000 for the ballroom. The committee, however, paid $175,000, the suit claims.

Prosecutors say the committee also used nonprofit funds to throw a private party on Jan. 17, 2017, the night off the inauguration, for Trump’s family — a $300,000 affair. The reception was for three of Trump’s children — Donald, Jr., Ivanka and Eric.

“There will be an after party at the OPO (Trump Hotel) following the inaugural balls on Friday. DJT is not expected to attend but was more for you, Don and Eric,” Gates wrote in an email to Ivanka Trump, according to the suit. DJT is a reference to Donald J. Trump.

Event staff within the inaugural committee recognized this would not be a proper use of committee funds and had tried to cancel this event, according to the suit, but Gates and the Trump family went ahead anyway.

Racine said his office focused on the inaugural committee and the companies that profited because investigators believe that’s the best option for them to possibly recover the funds.

Racine had been sending subpoenas for months related to the investigation. The inaugural committee was also being investigated by New York and state authorities in New Jersey, who are looking into, among other things, whether foreigners illegally contributed to the inaugural events.


Students from Wuhan Traveling Globally for Holidays

International students remaining in Wuhan, China — where the government has issued a lockdown to avoid the spread of the deadly coronavirus — report being provided surgical masks and being asked to stay indoors.

“As I write this message, the school is on lockdown as the school authorities are putting in place measures to protect the remaining foreign students on campus,” emailed an international student who identified himself as @Vince Vela Nova from Ghana who is doing a post-graduate degree program in land resource management.“

There are just a handful of Chinese students around as most of them have gone back home to celebrate the Chinese New Year,” he wrote. “This morning the international office provided the students with surgical masks and entreated every one of us to stay indoors.”

Medical students from India training in Wuhan have been advised to stay home and away from their hospital workplace, according to the Hindustan Times. While about 600-700 medical students from India study in Wuhan, most have returned home for the winter-New Year’s break from school.

A 45-year-old teacher from India working at an international school has been admitted to the hospital with flu-like symptoms, reported the Telegraph. 

The outflow of international students to points around the globe for winter break has caused rapid anxiety.

“My niece is stuck in Wuhan China, with airport closed she can’t travel to India,” tweeted @harinatha with a video showing a van blocking a roadway. “Please get Indian citizens safely back to India till this virus crisis is over? Few more Indian students, not knowing what to do! University Roads blocked, Please help!!”


My niece is stuck in wuhan China, with airport closed she can’t travel to India. Please get indian citizens safely back to India till this virus crisis is over? Few more Indian students, not knowing what to do! University Roads blocked, Please help !!

— harinatha (@harinatharasu) January 22, 2020

“There are Maldivian students in Wuhan [who] need immediate attention as the virus is spreading so fast,” tweeted @Anjumaa on Monday, Jan. 20, imploring the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Maldives to “take an action.”

Wuhan of China is in danger of outbreak of coronavirus-related pneumonia. There are Maldivian Students in Wuhan need immediate attention as the virus is spreading so fast. ⁦@MoFAmv⁩ need to take an action ⁦⁩ ⁦⁦⁦⁦@abdulla_shahid

— Anjum Dark Stone (@Anjumaa) January 20, 2020

Friends in Wuhan “are scared of how fast the virus has spread & they also fear it will mutate & affect students when they get back from the school break,” tweeted Yarella Espinoza, an English professor in Osorno, Chile.

I’ve got a friend living in Wuhan. He’ll stay at home for 10 days; he already bought groceries & supplies & many ppl are doing the same. They’re scared of how fast the virus has spread & they also fear it will mutate & affect students when they get back from the school break.

— Yarella Espinoza (@yarellacraft) January 21, 2020

Wuhan is a university center in China, with more than 30 universities, and international students from around the world. In the U.S., Chinese students comprise more than 33% of the 1,095,299 international students studying there. 

At the University of Illinois, which has more than 6,000 Chinese students among its nearly 14,000 international students, the health center has begun screening students who “come for care presenting with respiratory illness, with and without a travel history to areas with confirmed cases of coronavirus infections.”

“All appropriate students will be masked and those of particular concern will be masked and then seen in an isolation room,” according to Chanelle Thompson, the university’s chief communications officer.

Neighboring University of Indiana hosts more than 10,000 international students, according to the Institute for International Education. Amber Denney, assistant direction of strategic communications at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), said the school is following Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and WHO guidelines.

“We are evaluating the situation,” Denney said. “No students are scheduled to travel to that area but we have no clear assessment of students who have traveled and been to that region.” Health officials are at the ready, she said, to respond to anyone with flu-like respiratory symptoms.

Columbia University in New York City hosts nearly 16,000 international students — the fourth-largest population of international students in the U.S. — and issued an advisory to its community and says it is monitoring the situation. 

Jennifer Stevens, Ph.D., and interim Associate Dean for the College of Visual and Performing Arts at James Madison University, said her school has postponed an exchange program.

“We just can’t send them abroad in good faith at the moment,” she told VOA. Emails and calls to other universities with large international and Chinese student populations were not returned.

Panic over the potential spread of the virus reached suburban Washington, as residents and parents took issue with the Fairfax County Public School system’s hosting a group of Chinese middle-school students.

“Allowing 20-ish Chinese’s exchange students of Yichang, 214 miles from Wuhan-epic center or coronavirus outbreak to come to Longfellow MS this afternoon completely irresponsible! If anyone got the virus, it’ll be *on* you!” tweeted @FairfaxNova to the superintendent of schools in the county.

@FCPSSupt@fcpsnews Allowing 20ish Chinese’s exchange students of Yichang, 214 miles from Wuhan-epic center or coronavirus outbreak to come to Longfellow Ms this afternoon completely irresponsible! If anyone got the virus, it’ll be *on* you!

— FairfaxNova (@FairfaxNova) January 22, 2020

Writing on Saturday, Jan. 18, Weijia Cai (@cai_weijia) compared China’s response to the coronavirus to the outbreak of the severe-acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus there in 2003.

“Comparing with the outbreak of SARS in 2003, when I was a graduate student for medical virology program in Wuhan University, China obtained great achievements in many fields of dealing with a novel virus. I believe my hometown will defeat this outbreak. Bless Wuhan!”

The CDC started a “public health entry screening” on Friday, Jan. 17, at San Francisco (SFO), New York (JFK), and Los Angeles (LAX) airports and said it will expand that to Atlanta (ATL) and Chicago (ORD) airports. 

“This is a rapidly evolving situation,” they wrote on their website.

The CDC has reported that cases of the virus have spread to Taiwan, Thailand, Japan and South Korea.

CDC has updated information about an outbreak of novel #coronavirus in China with cases exported to Thailand and Japan. See new information for healthcare providers and laboratorians on who to test and what specimens to take to detect #2019-nCoV.

— CDC (@CDCgov) January 18, 2020


GOP Congressman Who Backed Nixon Impeachment Dead At 87

Thomas Railsback, an Illinois Republican congressman who helped draw up articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon in 1974, has died at age 87.

Railback died Monday in Mesa, Arizona, where he lived in a nursing home in recent years, former Republican congressman and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Tuesday.

“He would have been 88 today,” LaHood said, adding that because of Railsback’s age his body was beginning to break down. “It’s sad that Tom is gone. But it’s a blessing that he passed. He was suffering during the last few years.’’

Railsback represented the 19th Congressional District for 16 years and was the second ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee when it was conducting the impeachment inquiry into Nixon. The inquiry was prompted by Nixon’s actions in the wake of the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at Watergate office building.

Railsback credited Nixon with getting him elected to Congress in 1966 by campaigning for him in western Illinois.

“I feel badly about what happened to Nixon,” Railsback told the Idaho Statesman in 2012. ”On the other hand, after listening to the (White House) tapes and seeing all the evidence, it was something we had to do because the evidence was there.’’

Railsback, a graduate of Grinnell College in Iowa who earned his law degree at Northwestern University, served in the Illinois House of Representatives before defeating freshman Democrat Gale Schisler for 19th District congressional seat.

Railsback said he believes he lost his seat in the 1982 Republican primary to state Sen. Kenneth G. McMillan, described by LaHood as “very conservative,” in part due to his impeachment vote. McMillan lost to Lane Evans, who held the seat for 20 years.

LaHood worked for Railsback from 1977 to 1982, and said brought him into politics.

“He taught me the good things about politics and public service,” LaHood said Tuesday. ”The way to be a good public servant is to work for the people.’’

LaHood said Railsback talked to him about his decision to support the impeachment of Nixon, one of only a few Republicans to do so.

“He said he looked at all the evidence,” LaHood said. ”He felt an obligation to the Constitution and to do what is right.’’

According to LaHood, Railsback was saddened by the current state of affairs in Washington and the unwillingness of people to compromise. He called Railsback’s death “the end of an era in politics.”

Railsback was one of four Republicans and three conservative Democrats who drafted two of the three impeachment articles against Nixon, which were adopted by the House. Nixon resigned before a trial in the Senate.

In a 2012 New York Times op-ed, Railsback noted the Democrats won a landslide in the 1974 Congressional elections, bringing in “a group of brash” legislators he said helped create an atmosphere of “division and unease.” He said that by the time of the Clinton impeachment inquiry, the Judiciary Committee was much more partisan and the climate in Congress in 2014 “appeared even more fractured.’’

Railsback moved to Mesa from Idaho and retired after holding several jobs, including an executive with the Motion Picture Association of America. He is survived by his second wife, Joye, and four daughters.