Bloomberg to debate, Erdoğan threatens Idlib operation and what’s up with Trump and the DOJ

The World
An image of the face of Michael Bloomberg is shown on a large video monitor in an auditorium with empty seats.

An image of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg appears on a video monitor inside the media center for Wednesday's Democratic presidential debate, in Las Vegas, Nevada, Feb. 18, 2020.

David Becker /Reuters

Top of The World  — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Democratic candidates for president of the United States will be on stage in Las Vegas, Nevada this evening — for a debate, of course.

It will be an event of several firsts. Billionaire Mike Bloomberg, whose advertisements have dominated airwaves, has finally achieved a high enough ranking in enough national polls to spar  face-to-face with other candidates — albeit in a state where he is not actually on the ballot.

And Telemundo climate correspondent Vanessa Hauc will be one of five moderators, making this the first time a climate journalist will moderate a presidential debate. For the first time, the environment rivals the economy as the top voter issue in the US, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.

More: Michael Bloomberg has to debate without a net

Erdoğan threatens operation in Idlib

The first domestic commerical flight since 2012 landed in Aleppo from Damascus Wednesday, but an onslaught continues in Syria's northwest.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told Turkey's parliament Wednesday, that "an operation in Idlib is imminent." This comes a day after the United Nations warned of a "horrific" humanitarian crisis in northwest Syria. De-escalation talks between Turkey and Russia appear to have failed, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has pledged to continue the offensive in Idlib, the last rebel stronghold. Nearly a decade into the ruinous war, the conflict has killed some 400,000 people and displaced more than half the country.  

In pictures: Newly displaced Syrian children in makeshift camps

Passengers begin departing quarantined Diamond Princess

After spending the last several weeks under quarantine aboard the Diamond Princess, docked near Tokyo, hundreds of people who have tested negative for COVID-19 began disembarking the cruise ship today. But Japanese authorities announced 79 new cases from the ship, bringing the total to more than 620. Japan has faced growing criticism over the handling of the biggest coronavirus outbreak outside China.

Also: Cruise giant Carnival works to manage deepening coronavirus crisis

Discussion: What we know and don’t know about COVID-19

Trump and his role in the Department of Justice

US President Donald Trump falsely declared himself the country's "chief law enforcement officer" Tuesday, as he embarked on a series of pardons and commutations for political allies, including former Illinois Dem. Gov. Rod Blagojevich. (Upon his release, Blagojevich told reporters that he was now a "Trumpocrat.")

The designation role of chief law enforcement officer actually goes to Attorney General William Barr. Barr has reportedly considered resigning from the post, as Trump interferes in Justice Department matters, including in the case of his associate Roger Stone. But Barr and the president agree: Trump has made the AG's job much more difficult.

Analysis: The personal parallels between Trump and the recipients of his pardons

Perspective: Trump has the constitutional power to intervene in Roger Stone’s sentencing

This Palestinian running group in Jerusalem fights for the ‘right to movement’

As a cold snap hits Jerusalem, a group of energetic Palestinians is running through the city to raise awareness about restrictions on their freedom of movement, which has for decades been curtailed around Jerusalem.

The idea for the Right to Movement running group was sparked by Palestinians in Bethlehem who wanted to organize a marathon, but found it impossible to map the 26-mile route without hitting obstacles.

Israeli authorities say restrictions are necessary for security, but impediments like a separation barrier and checkpoints “impede access to services and resources, disrupt family and social life, undermine livelihoods and compound the fragmentation of the occupied Palestinian territory,” according to the UN.  

“I crossed the barrier every single day, it consumes your life and your energy. I felt it every day, that’s one of the reasons I had to quit [my job] because it has very negative effects on our life," said Lana Idkaidek, a member of Right to Movement.

Medical marvel

Talk about multitasking — 53-year-old violinist Dagmar Turner serenaded surgeons with Gershwin and Mahler in the midst of the operation to remove a tumor from her brain. Turner played her violin during the surgery to prevent damage to her musical skills. 

In case you missed it

LISTEN: A reality check on the coronavirus outbreak


   We're due for another coronavirus reality check on what we know and how we know it. Dr. Michael Mina, an infectious disease specialist at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, speaks with The World's host Marco Werman about the latest understanding of how the virus spreads, how it incubates and how deadly COVID-19 is compared to other respiratory diseases. And, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says he’ll start handing out $10 billion worth of grants to fight climate change. Also, in Thailand, snails have long been seen as creepy pests that ravage crops. Now a beauty craze sweeping Asia — rubbing collagen-rich snail excretion on your face — has radically hiked the value of snails. 

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