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Sanders Kicks Fight Against Trump into High Gear as Democrats Swarm San Francisco

The San Francisco convention became a window into the forces at work in the Democratic Party

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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during the 2019 California Democratic Party State Organizing Convention in San Francisco, June 2, 2019. VOA

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Sunday called on California Democrats to unite against Donald Trump, kicking the 2020 presidential campaign into high gear with jabs against the Republican president and a veiled swipe at Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Sanders called Trump “a racist, a sexist, a homophobe and a religious bigot” in a speech capping off a state Democratic convention that drew fourteen of the 24 candidates to make their case before 5,000 delegates, guests and press in the most populous – and most heavily Democratic – U.S. state.

“Together we are going to defeat a president who has the most corrupt administration in history,” Sanders said, “and a president who knows nothing about real American values.”

The San Francisco convention became a window into the forces at work in the Democratic Party as it seeks to recover from Trump’s populist-fueled victory in 2016.

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Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, cheer during the 2019 California Democratic Party State Organizing Convention in San Francisco, June 2, 2019. VOA

The party’s left-leaning delegates greeted Sanders and liberal U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren like rock stars.

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper drew boos when he said socialist policies would not propel the party to victory, and other moderates were booed for rejecting the idea of a universal public health care system, or Medicare for All.

Former vice president Joe Biden, who leads Sanders in polls for the Democratic nomination in California and nationwide, did not attend the convention, drawing barely veiled criticism from Sanders.

Sanders noted that the fourteen candidates who addressed the convention, as well as some who had “chosen for whatever reason not to be in this room,” offer a variety of ways to approach a campaign against Trump. But Sanders rejected the centrist approach favored by Biden and some other candidates.

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On issues like health care, pharmaceutical prices and climate change wracking the country, “there is no middle ground,” Sanders said.

Addressing concerns among some Democrats that a moderate would be more electable than a fiery progressive, Sanders said such an approach would not generate the enthusiasm needed to defeat Trump.

“We will not defeat Donald Trump unless we bring excitement and energy into the campaign and unless we give millions of working people and young people a reason to vote and a reason to believe that politics is relevant to their lives,” Sanders said.

California, which will send nearly 500 delegates to the party’s nominating convention next year, took on new heft for the 2020 campaign after moving its nominating election to March from June. Democrats hold all statewide elective offices in the state, and dominate both houses of the legislature.

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Sunday called on California Democrats to unite against Donald Trump. Pixabay

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, a native daughter who has been eclipsed in early polling in California by Biden and Sanders, made clear she was not taking her home state for granted.

On Saturday, supporters with signs bearing her name and shouting “Kamala! Kamala!” formed a gauntlet that Sanders was forced to walk through on his way into a labor union breakfast.

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“I am here to earn everyone’s support, and I’m going to fight to earn it,” Harris said at a breakfast held by the party’s women’s caucus. (VOA)

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Trump to Pursue Higher Sales Age for Vaping Devices: ‘An Age Limit of 21 or So’

Trump told reporters his administration will release its final plans for restricting e-cigarettes next week but provided few other details

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President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Nov. 8, 2019. VOA

President Donald Trump said Friday his administration will pursue raising the age to purchase electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21 in its upcoming plans to combat youth vaping.

Trump told reporters his administration will release its final plans for restricting e-cigarettes next week but provided few other details.

“We have to take care of our kids, most importantly, so we’re going to have an age limit of 21 or so,” said Trump, speaking outside the White House.

Currently the minimum age to purchase any tobacco or vaping product is 18, under federal law. But more than one-third of U.S. states have already raised their sales age to 21.

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FILE – A woman buys refills for her Juul at a smoke shop in New York, Dec. 20, 2018. VOA

A federal law raising the purchase age would require congressional action.

Administration officials were widely expected to release plans this week for removing virtually all flavored e-cigarettes from the market. Those products are blamed for soaring rates of underage use by U.S. teenagers.

However, no details have yet appeared, leading vaping critics to worry that the administration is backing away from its original plan.

Trump resisted any specifics on the scope of the restrictions.

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“We’re talking about the age, we’re talking about flavors, we’re also talking about keeping people working — there are some pretty good aspects,” Trump said.

Mint flavor

Underage vaping has reached what health officials call epidemic levels. In the latest government survey, 1 in 4 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month.

Fruit, candy, dessert and other sweet vaping flavors have been targeted because of their appeal to underage users.

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FILE – A man blows a puff of smoke as he vapes with an electronic cigarette, Oct. 18, 2019. VOA

On Thursday, Juul Labs, the nation’s largest e-cigarette maker, announced it would voluntarily pull its mint-flavored e-cigarettes from the market. That decision followed new research that Juul’s mint is the top choice for many high school students who vape.

With the removal of mint, Juul only sells two flavors: tobacco and menthol.

Vaping critics say menthol must be a part of the flavor ban to prevent teens who currently use mint from switching over.

‘Tobacco 21’ law

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Juul and other tobacco companies have lobbied in support of a federal “Tobacco 21” law to reverse teen use of both e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco products. The effort also has broad bipartisan support in Congress, including a bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The logic for hiking the purchase age for cigarettes and other products is clear: Most underage teens who use e-cigarettes or tobacco get it from older friends. Raising the minimum age to 21 is expected to limit the supply of those products in U.S. schools.

Delaying access to cigarettes is also expected to produce major downstream health benefits, with one government-funded report estimating nearly 250,000 fewer deaths due to tobacco over several decades.

Still, anti-tobacco groups have insisted that any “Tobacco 21” law must be accompanied by a ban on flavors, which they say are the primary reason young people use e-cigarettes. (VOA)