NEW YORK — Newsmax apologized on Friday for airing false allegations that an employee for Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems manipulated machines or tallies on Election Day to the detriment of former President Donald Trump.
Eric Coomer, security director at the firm, in turn dropped Newsmax from a defamation lawsuit.
The conservative news network, in a statement published on its website and to be read on TV, said that while it aired the accusations against Coomer made by Trump’s lawyers and supporters, it found no evidence that they were true.
Newsmax, which ran Dominion’s denials of the accusations when they were made, also said it had found no evidence that Coomer had spoken to “Antifa” or any partisan organization.
“We would like to apologize for any harm that our reporting of the allegations against Dr. Coomer may have caused to Dr. Coomer and his family,” the network said. He said in his lawsuit that he had gone into hiding because of death threats.
Coomer’s lawsuit also targets the Trump campaign, lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, columnist Michelle Malkin, the website Gateway Pundit, Colorado activist Joseph Oltmann and One America News Network. Those claims are continuing, a spokeswoman said.
Neither Newsmax nor a Coomer spokeswoman would comment on whether Coomer was paid anything to drop the company from his lawsuit.
Newsmax also told its audience, many of them Trump supporters that “many of the states whose results were contested by the Trump campaign after the November 2020 election have conducted extensive recounts and audits, and each of these states certified the results as legal and final.”
WASHINGTON — The U.S. will restrict travel from India starting May 4, the White House said Friday, citing a devastating rise in COVID-19 cases in the country and the emergence of potentially dangerous variants of the coronavirus.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden’s administration made the determination on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The policy will be implemented in light of extraordinarily high COVID-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in the India,” she said.
With 386,452 new cases, India now has reported more than 18.7 million since the pandemic began, second only to the United States. The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 3,498 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 208,330. Experts believe both figures are an undercount, but it’s unclear by how much.
The U.S. action comes days after Biden spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the growing health crisis and pledged to immediately send assistance. The U.S. has already moved to send therapeutics, rapid virus tests and oxygen to India, along with some materials needed for that country to boost its domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, a CDC team of public health experts was expected to soon be on the ground in India to help health officials there move to slow the spread of the virus.
The White House waited on the CDC recommendation before moving to restrict travel, noting that the U.S. already requires negative tests and quarantines for all international travelers. Other restrictions are in place on travel from China, Iran, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Brazil and South Africa, which are or have been hotspots for the coronavirus.
There was no immediate comment on the new limits from the State Department, which on Thursday reissued a warning to Americans against traveling to India and said those already in the country should consider leaving by commercial means. That warning was accompanied by a notice that the department was telling the families of all U.S. government employees at its embassy in New Delhi and four consulates in India that they could leave the country at government expense.
U.S. diplomatic facilities in India have not been immune from the pandemic and a handful of local staff have perished from the virus. Several dozen other local and U.S. staffers have been sickened by COVID-19, according to the officials who were not authorized to discuss personal matters publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The State Department has declined to comment on the number of staff affected, citing security and privacy concerns.
But even as the U.S. boosts pandemic assistance to India and allows some of its diplomatic families to come home, other aspects of the relationship continue unhampered.
Just minutes after the White House released the new travel restrictions, the State Department said it had approved more than $2.4 billion in arms sales to the country, which the U.S. believes will be a critical counterbalance to China in the Indo-Pacific region.
The sale includes six Boeing P-8I patrol aircraft and related technology to be used for surveillance. The department said the deal “will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to strengthen the U.S.-Indian strategic relationship and to improve the security of a major defensive partner, which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region.”
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DHAKA, Bangladesh — India has tried to fight skyrocketing coronavirus infections by increasing its production of vaccines and banning their export, cutting off supplies to neighbors such as Bangladesh and Nepal as they struggle with infection surges of their own.
These nations have imposed lockdowns as residents of big cities flee to the countryside seeking safety. They are also turning to China and Russia for vaccines in a desperate effort to deal with a pandemic that is becoming bigger and deadlier across South Asia.
Although new, more transmissible variants appear to be partly behind the surge, experts say other factors are contributing, including large holiday gatherings and growing fatigue with social distancing and mask wearing.
Here is a look at the situation in parts of South Asia, a region with about one-fourth of the world’s population:
The surge in India has created huge worries for Bangladesh, which shares a land border stretching 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) with India and where infections and deaths have surged in recent weeks.
The Muslim-majority country of 160 million people is under a lockdown lasting through May 5, which authorities say could be extended.
Bangladesh officials fear that new variants circulating in India could bring devastation.
“This is a matter of serious concern for us,” said Dr. A.S.M. Alamgir, principal scientific officer of the government’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research. “That concern has prompted the government to suspend all cross-border movement of people.”
With India imposing a ban on the export of AstraZeneca vaccines made by its Serum Institute of India, Bangladesh is attempting to obtain technology from Russia and China to produce their vaccines locally.
An infection surge in Nepal has prompted the government to impose new lockdowns in major cities and towns, restricting the movement of people and vehicles and shuttering markets, offices and schools.
Hospital beds were already scarce and medical resources stretched as the country entered the new wave trying to recover from an economic hit from a nearly four-month lockdown last year.
Nepal’s latest concern has been the 1,800-kilometer (1,125-mile) open border the Himalayan nation shares with India. Tens of thousands of Nepalese migrant workers have been returning to Nepal across this border as India’s health system breaks down.
The government has ordered tests and quarantines for those arriving, but in practice many people slip through undetected and travel to their villages.
Nepal began a vaccination campaign in January with 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine donated by India, but it was suspended because of India’s refusal to allow exports as its domestic situation worsened.
Nepal has also paid for an addition 1 million doses from India, but has been waiting for the delivery since March. This shipment is needed for elderly people scheduled for a second dose in May.
The campaign was resumed with 800,000 vaccine doses donated by China, and now Nepal is negotiating with Russian authorities for supplies of Russian vaccines.
For many weeks, the number of daily COVID-19 infections in the island nation of Sri Lanka stood below 200. But last week, the figure suddenly surged and reached 1,466 on Thursday, the highest amount in a single day since the start of the pandemic.
Government and health officials say the rising numbers are party driven by celebrations and shopping surrounding the traditional New Year’s festival that fell on April 14 — and they warn the worst is yet to come.
Dr. Padma Gunarathne, president of the Sri Lanka Medical Association, said the country is at the early stages of another spike in infections and “this is a very risky situation for Sri Lanka.”
The country, with a population of nearly 22 million, has recorded 104,953 coronavirus infections and 655 deaths.
Dr. Chandima Jeewandara, director of the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine at Sri Jayewardenepura University, said a more transmissible variant circulating now is contributing to the surge.
The government reacted by imposing restrictions, including suspending schools and state functions and banning private meetings and parties. Yet media show some people ignoring social distancing and failing to wear face masks.
Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera warned that the number of patients “could go up very decisively within the next two weeks.”
The tiny nation of Bhutan is a success story in the region despite being poor and sharing land borders with China, where the virus was first detected, and India, which is facing a disaster now.
The nation of about 800,000 people has registered only one death and 1,059 infections.
Its success is based on the early adoption of lockdowns, quarantines, contact tracing and other measures, as well as a fast vaccination program this year. More than 480,000 vaccine doses were administered by April 26, according to government statistics.
Associated Press writers Binaj Gurubacharya in Kathmandu, Nepal; Bharatha Mallawarachi in Colombo, Sri Lanka; and Aniruddha Ghosal in New Delhi contributed to this report.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Robyn Boyles and her husband were restaurant cooks before the whole world changed in March 2020. First came unemployment, then pregnancy — a miracle the Boyles had been waiting for but were now terrified by — and then the diagnosis: COVID-19.
“It was horrible, I have never been so sick in my life,” she recalled. “I actually was sent to the hospital, because I couldn’t breathe. I can’t tell you how frightening that was – not knowing if I would be OK or how it would affect my unborn baby.”
She injected blood thinners into her pregnant belly and the baby was later born healthy. But debt piled up and didn’t go away when vaccines arrived and part-time work returned. Paying rent and other bills is a monthly struggle.
Beginning in July, Boyles can pay some of those with $300 monthly checks she’ll receive from the federal government. For the first time in U.S. history, the government will pay all low-income and most middle-class parents a significant monthly allowance for each child, an idea that is decades old and popular in Europe, but required a 20-year lift in Congress.
At the center of this $120 billion social safety net — which is forecast to cut child poverty nearly in half but could expire after one year — is Colorado’s senior U.S. senator, a wonky and unassuming 56-year-old millionaire who pushed this idea through during a new era of big government spending and direct checks.
“I believe we are on the cusp of an amazing moment in American history,” Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet told a group of mothers in early April, “when we can say that we improved the fortunes of millions and millions of children and their families, but also the country as a whole.”
When the federal government created the child tax credit in 1997, one year after welfare reforms agreed to by President Bill Clinton and Republicans in Congress, the goal was to compel people to work rather than stay home. As a result, the $400-per-child benefit could only be deducted from taxes owed.
“There was a view … that you ought not make it available to the poorest people in the country because somehow it would disincentivize them from working,” Bennet said in an interview.
That differentiated it from child tax allowances, a policy preferred in much of Europe and Canada, in which the government sends parents monthly checks without any strings attached. This is known in policy parlance as “refundability.”
Because America’s child tax credit was not refundable, the poorest parents did not receive it because they did not earn enough money to owe federal taxes.
Enter the Harrises, William and David, a wealthy father-son duo who began pushing the idea of a refundable credit on Capitol Hill in the 2000s. William, the father, started KidsPAC in 1981 to advocate for anti-child-poverty programs. David, the son, is a researcher at Columbia University, where he has made the academic case for anti-poverty programs.
By 2014, the Harrises were in Bennet’s office, pitching him on refundability.
“I can remember they were meeting in my chief of staff’s office and I walked in and that’s when we had the conversation,” the senator recalled.
In Bennet, the Harrises would gain a champion in the Senate. On the House side, they had Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat who has been in Congress since 1991 and has supported refundable child tax credits since 2003.
Bennet hails from a posh northeastern pedigree — St. Albans (“the smartest boarding school in America,” according to Business Insider), Wesleyan University (the alma mater of his father, grandfather and the Harrises) and Yale Law. The Washington Post once described his voice and that of his brother, a former editor at The New York Times, as “deep and slow, almost a perfect parody of a rich person, as if they speak only while swirling a martini.”
Bennet understands poverty the way an anthropologist understands ancient civilizations: with a detached but sincere interest, honed over decades of conversation and study. He doesn’t know what it’s like to miss a meal or a rent payment, but he has heard the stories, especially in the three and a half years he was superintendent of Denver Public Schools.
He stood in auditoriums and told angry parents that their child’s school was closing, sat with them in their homes and listened for hours. “What they told me,” Bennet said, “is that they were working really hard — some would say they were killing themselves — but no matter what they did they couldn’t get their kids out of poverty.”
In 2017, Bennet introduced the American Family Act to create a fully refundable and monthly child tax credit of $300 for kids under the age of six and $250 for children older than six. By 2019, 38 Democratic senators supported the bill, ranging ideologically from Bernie Sanders of Vermont to Jon Tester of Montana. But it wasn’t voted on.
Bennet, meanwhile, was formulating a presidential platform, and made a refundable child tax credit the centerpiece.
“Not many people noticed that I did run for president but when I was in rooms talking to people, this is what I would talk about,” Bennet recalled. “People would say, ‘What about this or what about that’ — Medicare for All or whatever — and I would say, ‘I don’t know, but we can cut child poverty almost in half with just one change to the tax code.’ People were interested in that, I think, but many people didn’t think it could be done or that it was real.”
Bennet’s longshot presidential hopes ended in New Hampshire on Feb. 11, 2020. A month later, the nation was staring down a pandemic and an economic cliff that would crush the lower class and leave Congress searching for solutions. DeLauro and Bennet were ready with one.
“(A)ll of a sudden it was viewed as the most elegant solution to a really serious problem we were facing,” he said.
Six main supporters
As President Joe Biden prepared to enter the White House in mid-January and introduce a massive stimulus and pandemic relief package, supporters of the child tax credit in Congress went to work lobbying the incoming administration. DeLauro calls them the CTC Six — Sens. Bennet, Sherrod Brown and Cory Booker; Reps. DeLauro, Suzan DelBene and Ritchie Torres — and they wanted their policy in the $1.9 trillion package.
According to Bennet, a former staffer who had joined the Biden administration told him the package, known as the American Rescue Plan, would include a fully refundable child tax credit but not an increase in how much money parents would get per month.
It was a partial victory and the so-called CTC Six wanted more.
“We all spent this weekend calling people in the White House and having conversations with folks about this,” Bennet recalled. He wanted refundability and an expansion, as he had proposed in his American Family Act four years before.
The senator texted Susan Rice, his friend, as well as a top Biden aide on domestic policy and the former national security advisor.
“I wrote the longest text I’ve ever sent anybody in my life. It was about the different levels of the (CTC), what it would mean to keep the whole thing intact, what the reduction in childhood poverty would look like and what the incremental cost would be of doing this,” he said. “I went to bed and I got up in the morning and discovered that the whole thing had been put in the package.”
Congress sent the package to Biden, who signed it in March, despite an absence of Republican support. It expanded the child tax credit to $3,600 per year for children under the age of six and $3,000 for older children up to age 17 — the dollar amounts Bennet introduced in 2017. Payments will begin in July but the expansion and refundability will expire after one year.
Earlier this week, the president unveiled his next massive spending bill, the American Families Plan, that would extend the refundable child tax credits until 2025. But the Democrats who’ve championed the policy fear it could be eliminated if power changes hands when 2025 rolls around.
“FDR never put an expiration date on Social Security for senior citizens,” Torres told reporters Tuesday. His south Bronx district is the nation’s poorest. “Why should President Biden put an expiration date on Social Security for families and children?”
The idea is gaining support from a few Republicans. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri introduced a refundable credit of $12,000 a year for married parents Monday. But other Republicans, such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, have criticized refundability.
“If pulling families out of poverty were as simple as handing moms and dads a check, we would have solved poverty a long time ago,” Rubio wrote in National Review earlier this year. “There is substantially more to lifting families out of poverty than government-provided income.”
Bennet has three kids and is gearing up for a third re-election race next year. He is the longest-serving senator from Colorado since Gordon Allott, who retired in 1973, and another term would make Bennet the longest-serving since Henry Teller in 1909.
Some members of the CTC Six say the policy will be their legacy. Brown, an Ohio Democrat who has worked in government since Watergate, said Tuesday it is “the highlight of my long career in government and elected office.”
When asked whether child tax credits will be his legacy, Bennet said, “There’s nothing I’ve worked on that’s going to make more of a difference to the American people or the kids that I used to work for in Denver Public Schools.”
That includes people like Whitney Phinney, of Centennial, a scientist at a diagnostics lab. She and her husband Tim have two kids and struggle financially.
The Phinneys were skeptical when they heard the government would begin sending checks.
“We were kind of like, ‘Well, that’s not really going to happen, is it?’ …” Whitney Phinney said, adding that they will benefit from the extra money. “… It helps relieve some of the pressure of the massive expenses that come with having kids.”
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