March 2020 News Reports


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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative March 2020 news and views

Note: Excerpts are from the authors' words except for subheads and occasional "Editor's notes" such as this.

 

March 31

Global Viral Overviews

U.S. FBI, Courts

World News

2020 U.S. Elections

Victim Impacts

Media News

U.S. Crime, Courts

World News

 

Global Viral Overviews

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. virus deaths exceed 700 in one day, overall toll surpasses China, Staff reports, March 31, 2020. California to covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2release 3,500 inmates to limit spread of coronavirus in state prison system. VA is preparing to treat civilians in northern New Jersey to help with overflow of patients in New York.

The coronavirus death toll in the United States for the first time exceeded 700 in one day, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. The total number of deaths nationwide on Tuesday surpassed 3,400 — more than the number of people who died in the initial Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and surpassing the number of deaths attributed to the viral outbreak in China, where it was first reported late last year.

The confirmed number of infections worldwide continues to grow, surpassing 800,000 on Tuesday. In the United States, there are more than 175,000 confirmed cases. Health officials have warned the virus could kill as many as 200,000 people in America.

washington post logoWashington Post, New CDC data shows danger of coronavirus for those with diabetes, heart or lung disease, other chronic conditions, Joel Achenbach and William Wan, March 31, 2020. The report shows that people of any age with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk if they contract the virus.

deborah birx djt white house photo cropped

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal and state officials caution that number of cases will continue to grow, Matt Zapotosky, John Wagner and Marisa Iati, March 31, 2020 (print ed.). The White House’s coronavirus coordinator on Monday warned that the pandemic could kill as many as 200,000 Americans in even a best-case scenario as state officials intensified their stay-at-home directives — further erasing any hope that the country would have a speedy recovery from the global health crisis.

As deaths across the world from covid-19 climbed above 37,000 and those in the United States rose to more than 2,900, federal and state officials offered grim warnings that the country should expect things to get worse before they get better.

Deborah Birx, the coronavirus coordinator (shown above at center), told NBC News that the United States could record 200,000 deaths even “if we do things together well, almost perfectly.” President Trump, who a day earlier announced that officials would extend their guidance to Americans to practice social distancing through the end of April, said the move was necessary to prevent catastrophe: He now expects that virus-related deaths will not peak for an additional two weeks.

The White House’s coronavirus coordinator said that the pandemic could kill as many as 200,000 Americans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Unprecedented state of emergency declared in Hungary; Japanese citizens told to avoid one-third of the world, Rick Noack, Marisa Iati, Kim Bellware, Siobhán O'Grady, Miriam Berger, Lateshia Beachum and John Wagner, March 31, 2020 (print ed.). Months into the deadly coronavirus outbreak, world leaders are pushing their pandemic responses to the brink, with an unprecedented state of emergency declared in Hungary, military hospital ships arriving in New York and Los Angeles, and Japanese citizens being told to avoid a third of the world.

In the United States, which now has the world’s highest tally of reported cases, the death toll neared 3,000, similar to the number killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. U.S. health officials have warned that the virus could kill as many as 200,000 people in America, even “if we do things . . . almost perfectly.”

Here are some significant developments:

  • Virus-stricken Spain reported 849 new deaths Tuesday, the worst 24-hour period yet in an outbreak that has killed 8,189 people there. Only Italy has reported a higher national death toll, more than 11,500.
  • The confirmed number of infections worldwide continues to grow, nearing 800,000 on Tuesday. In the United States, there are more than 160,000 confirmed cases — almost double the number announced by China, where the outbreak began late last year.
  • As daily U.S. deaths exceeded 500 for the first time, President Trump pivoted sharply on his warnings about the economic impact of the outbreak. “The economy is No. 2 on my list,” he said Monday. “First, I want to save a lot of lives.”
  • Japan, which last week announced it would delay the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, warned against travel to 73 countries, including the United States.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials are considering recommending that Americans wear face coverings in public. Current CDC guidance is that healthy people do not need masks or face coverings.
  • The easing of restrictions in China is helping its factories to rebound, data showed Tuesday, although a rocky recovery lies ahead as global consumer demand slumps.

djt march 2020 Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis, Model touted by White House assumes social distancing will stay in effect through May, James Hohmann​, March 31, 2020 (print ed.). Debbie Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said that federal scientists reviewed a dozen different models for how this pandemic might play out before constructing their own. Using techniques learned from tracking HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, she explained, “we went back to the drawing board over the last week or two and worked from the ground up.”

Simultaneously, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, led by professor Chris Murray, was doing something similar. “When we finished, the other group that was working in parallel, which we didn't know about, IHME and Chris Murray ended up at the same numbers,” Birx said in the Rose Garden on Sunday evening.

One expert working on pandemic projections said social distancing will probably need to stay in place unless mass testing, with rapid results, becomes available nationwide.

• Analysis: Trump moves goal posts, pre-spinning 100,000 deaths as ‘a very good job,’ March 30, 2020.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Autocrats, a Chance to Grab Even More Power, Selam Gebrekidan, March 31, 2020 (print ed.). Leaders around the world have passed emergency decrees and legislation expanding their reach. Will they ever rescind them?

In Hungary, the prime minister can now rule by decree. In Britain, ministers have what a critic called “eye-watering” power to detain people and close borders. Israel’s prime minister has shut down courts and begun an intrusive surveillance of citizens. Chile has sent the military to public squares once occupied by protesters. Bolivia has postponed elections.

As the coronavirus pandemic brings the world to a juddering halt and anxious citizens demand action, leaders across the globe are invoking executive powers and seizing virtually dictatorial authority with scant resistance.

Governments and rights groups agree that these extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. States need new powers to shut their borders, enforce quarantines and track infected people. Many of these actions are protected under international rules, constitutional lawyers say.

But critics say some governments are using the public health crisis as cover to seize new powers that have little to do with the outbreak, with few safeguards to ensure that their new authority will not be abused.

The laws are taking swift hold across a broad range of political systems — in authoritarian states like Jordan, faltering democracies like Hungary, and traditional democracies like Britain. And there are few sunset provisions to ensure that the powers will be rescinded once the threat passes.

As the new laws broaden state surveillance, allow governments to detain people indefinitely and infringe on freedoms of assembly and expression, they could also shape civic life, politics and economies for decades to come.

The pandemic is already redefining norms. Invasive surveillance systems in South Korea and Singapore, which would have invited censure under normal circumstances, have been praised for slowing infections. Governments that initially criticized China for putting millions of its citizens under lockdown have since followed suit.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump to Governors: I’d Like You to Do Us a Favor, Though, Michelle Goldberg, right, March 31, 2020 (print ed.). Once again, the president is using aid to extort re-election help. Last December, during a congressional hearing on impeachment, the Stanford Law michelle goldberg thumbprofessor Pamela Karlan tried to explain the gravity of Donald Trump’s Ukraine quid pro quo by making a domestic analogy.

Members of Congress, she said, should imagine living in a state “prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding.” What would they think, she asked, if their governor requested a meeting with the president to talk about disaster assistance, and he replied, “I would like you to do us a favor”?

Karlan seemed to assume that the grotesquerie of this hypothetical would be obvious. Now, with American life upended by coronavirus, her flagrantly corrupt scenario has come close to reality.

President Donald Trump officialTrue, Trump is not demanding that governors investigate Joe Biden in exchange for federal help. But he’s strongly suggested that if governors speak candidly about his monumental incompetence, he’ll penalize them and their states as they struggle to contain the coronavirus. Once again, he’s using his control of vital aid to extort assistance with his re-election.

“There are a lot of parallels between the president’s behavior now and during the whole Ukraine scandal,” Representative Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who led Trump’s impeachment prosecution, told me. “Certainly the most apparent is his demand that the governors basically pay fealty to him, praise him, or they’ll suffer consequences.”

At a news conference last week, Trump said that he had instructed Vice President Mike Pence, whom he has placed in charge of the coronavirus response, not to call the governors of some blue states where the pandemic is raging. “I say: ‘Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington. You’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan,’” he said, adding, “If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”

“The woman in Michigan,” of course, is Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whose state has one of the nation’s most brutal coronavirus outbreaks. Trump’s contempt for Whitmer isn’t surprising, given his well-documented disdain for female leaders. As he weighed a federal disaster declaration for Michigan, he told Sean Hannity, “We’ve had a big problem with the young, a woman governor from — you know who I’m talking about — from Michigan. We can’t — we don’t like to see the complaints.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Maybe Republicans will at least listen to their governors, Jennifer Rubin, right, March 31, 2020. Let’s face it, there jennifer rubin new headshotare voters who will believe whatever President Trump says, no matter how illogical, patently false or self-contradictory his pronouncements may be.

Creating a parallel reality, of course, is how he got elected. Many elected Republicans will pretend to believe Trump for fear of incurring his wrath. And politically disengaged voters may be happy to get unemployment checks and other benefits without holding the president responsible for making the virus deadlier with his ignorance and sloth in January and February.

That does not mean Trump will escape blame for the pandemic unfolding before our eyes, a pandemic that has now killed more Americans than terrorists did on 9/11 and is projected to kill more Americans than have died in multiple U.S. wars. There are powerful forces diminishing Trump’s spin: Republican governors who are doing valiant work. These Republicans are speaking truth and behaving rationally, pushing back against the White House. Republicans in those states and beyond might take the pronouncements of reality-based governors to heart over Trump’s ludicrous claims.

The Post reports that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, “called President Trump’s claim that testing is no longer a problem ‘just not true’ and said states are ‘flying blind’ without enough data to identify the true scope of the coronavirus epidemic.” Hogan is also joining the call — along with Democratic governors such as New York’s Andrew M. Cuomo — in “pushing the federal government to coordinate the purchase of scarce coronavirus supplies, otherwise states will be bidding against each other.”

New CDC data shows danger of coronavirus for those with diabetes, heart or lung disease, other chronic conditions
The report shows that people of any age with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk if they contract the virus.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bernie Sanders goes bust, Robert Harrington, March 31, 2020. There are two kinds of Bernie supporters. Those who advocated for Bernie but concede he’s lost and are ready to transfer their allegiance to Joe Biden, and the Bernie-or-nobody crowd, or even more exasperating, the Bernie-or-Trump crowd. Remarkably, neither kind acknowledges the existence of the other, despite a proliferation of both in social media.

I can’t tell from the fluttering innocent eyes of the former if they are being disingenuous or just plain stupid. I’m reminded of the two forgettable idiots (whose names I have appropriately forgotten) who, with straight faces, averred on CNN (or somewhere equivalent) that Donald Trump has never told a lie. The idea that someone really believes (or says they do) that Bernie supporters will dutifully vote for the Democratic candidate, whoever he or she may be, and would never vote for Trump, is immediately contradicted by the thousands on social media who in fact say the very opposite.

bill palmer report logo headerI don’t know what kind of stupid and selfish Bernie supporter you have to be to vote for Trump if Sanders doesn’t get the nomination, but I always find myself wondering why such people didn’t just eliminate the middle man, buy a MAGA hat and get in line with the other drooling cretins from the first. It would have been much simpler and far less exasperating.

As I have said before many times, I preferred Elizabeth Warren. Like Bernie, Warren was a progressive who wanted to enact progressive policies if elected. Unlike Bernie she had the experience, the political bona fides and the brains to pull it off. When she dropped out I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I dusted myself off and immediately attached myself to the winner, Joe Biden. In case you haven’t noticed, and whether you like it or not, Joe Biden is going to be the next Democratic candidate — and quite probably the next President of the United States.

Now, I freely acknowledge there exists a tiny minority of people who planned to stay out of the election had Bernie Sanders won. I always spoke out against them. I would have backed Bernie all the way and I would have voted for him had he become the nominee. This morning, for example, I bought two bags of apples. I would happily vote for one of those bags (I care not which) if either had become the Democratic nominee. Trump really is that bad and he really is that dangerous.

Bernie is out. Bernie has lost. His chances are as close to zero as you can get. Bernie will almost certainly not be the Democratic nominee. Now, if I know that, why doesn’t Bernie know that? And, more to the point, if you’re a Bernie supporter, why don’t you know that? The earlier we all get behind Joe Biden the greater the enthusiasm we can generate for him by November 3rd. Bernie Sanders understands the psychology involved in that calculation. Yet he will not follow the lead of everyone else of consequence who has dropped out. He refuses to quit.

I submit that those of you who insist Bernie Sanders has America’s best interest at heart may want to think very carefully about the remarkable lack of evidence in support of that proposition. Sanders is putting America’s future — and the future of the world — at risk by continuing to fight a lost battle. If I didn’t know better I might suspect he’s in it more for the sake of his ego than any supposed patriotism.

We are in our fourth year of the nightmare presidency of this child rapist president, thanks in part to Bernie Sanders. We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and we are in desperate need of sane leadership. The polls indicate that Biden can beat Trump and beat him decisively. Let’s forget our differences and help to make it so. And as ever ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A phone call with Trump can open doors for executives, celebrities and others with coronavirus asks, James Hohmann, March 31, 2020. But the president doesn’t talk to everyone.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) called President Trump over the weekend to ask a favor. Battelle, a company headquartered in his state, was struggling to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration to sterilize face masks in bulk so that they can be reused by health workers. So Trump called up FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. “And within a very short period of time,” the president said, “they got the approval.”

Trump proudly told this story during his news conference in the Rose Garden on Sunday and then he retold it again on Monday evening. He’s trying to demonstrate that he’s a hands-on leader singularly focused on combatting the novel coronavirus and eager to cut through red tape. These kinds of anecdotes have become standard fare during his daily briefings, and they illustrate his view of presidential leadership as the death toll of the pandemic exceeds 3,000 people in the United States. That is more than the number of people who died on Sept. 11, 2001, during the terrorist attacks.

The 73-year-old, who famously loves to kibitz on the phone, is known for reaching out to cable news hosts, rich friends and assorted associates at all hours to shoot the breeze. Cooped up in the White House for weeks now, except for a brief trip to Virginia on Saturday, Trump appears to be working the phones even harder than usual. Corporate executives, governors, celebrities and foreign leaders looking to get something from the U.S. government seem especially eager to secure a telephonic audience with the president.

The president has also implied that phone calls with friends in New York who have been stricken by the coronavirus helped shape his decision to extend social distancing guidelines through the end of April. Trump said on Monday that he has “some friends who are unbelievably sick who thought they were going in for a mild stay.” One friend – whom he has not named – has gone into a coma because of complications from the virus.

Trump said he spoke with Chinese leader Xi Jinping about the origins of the coronavirus for more than an hour late Thursday night and welcomed his advice on how to combat it in the United States. “It was fascinating to me,” Trump told reporters the next day. “You know, they have a whole … different form of government, to put it mildly. He's developed some incredible theories, and all of that information is coming over here. A lot of it’s already come. The data. We call it ‘data.’ And we're going to learn a lot from what the Chinese went through. Our relationship with China is very good.”

The Trump White House discontinued the longstanding bipartisan practice of releasing readouts whenever a president speaks with a foreign leader. Often this means we’re dependent on another government to disclose the call or we get Trump’s unique spin on it.

U.S. FBI, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Problems with FBI surveillance extended far beyond probe of Trump campaign, inspector general says, Devlin Barrett and Ellen Nakashima, March 31, 2020. The Justice Department inspector general has issued a new memorandum alerting officials of widespread problems in FISA applications.

Justice Department log circularThe Justice Department inspector general revealed Tuesday that his investigators found errors in every FBI application to a secret surveillance court examined as part of an ongoing review — suggesting that problems exposed in the bureau’s probe of President Trump’s 2016 campaign extend far beyond that case alone.

The memorandum issued by Inspector General Michael Horowitz stems from an audit launched last year after his office found 17 serious problems with the FBI’s surveillance applications targeting former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. These interim results seem to indicate that other sensitive counterintelligence and counterterrorism cases michael horwitz headshothave been similarly plagued by mistakes.

Trump has long decried the FBI investigation of him and his campaign’s contacts with Russians as a politically motivated “witch hunt” aimed at wrecking his candidacy and his presidency, and he and his supporters are likely to embrace the new revelations as further evidence of wrongdoing among former FBI leaders.

Tuesday’s findings suggest, however, that the bureau may be suffering instead from broad, institutional weaknesses more than political bias, as problems were found in an array of cases managed by FBI field offices around the country.

Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said the inspector general’s audit shows that “the entire process is prone to abuse” — a function of inadequate accountability and oversight.

“The irony here is that, in one sense, the memorandum suggests that the Carter Page episode was not a partisan political scandal,” Vladeck said. “The irony is it suggests it was part of a far bigger and more problematic pattern — a nonpartisan, systemic problem.”

FBI logoHorowitz’s early findings “should hopefully put to rest the assertion we hear across different administrations that we can trust the Justice Department to check itself.” age served as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign in 2016, but after he left, the FBI sought and received authorization from a surveillance court to monitor his electronic communications for about a year. He was never charged with any crime, and Horowitz issued a report last year highly critical of the FBI’s assertions to the court about Page.

A key part of the inspector general’s ongoing review has been analyzing documents — known as Woods files — assembled by the FBI to help ensure the accuracy of filings to the surveillance court, which was established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The inspector general selected a sample of 29 FISA applications to review — and found problems with all of them.

The comparison of FISA applications to corresponding Woods files “identified apparent errors or inadequately supported facts in all of the 25 applications we reviewed,” the memo said, while in four cases, no Woods files could be found. In three of those cases missing supporting documentation, it was unclear if a Woods file was ever created.

The inspector general’s staff continues to review the surveillance applications, but the memo bluntly states, “We do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy, or that the process is working as it was intended to help achieve the ‘scrupulously accurate’ standard for FISA applications.”

Each FISA application reviewed had an average of 20 “issues,” the memo said. One had only a handful; the worst had 65. The inspector general’s audit also suggests that Justice Department lawyers tasked with overseeing the FBI’s FISA work and rooting out problems often found troubling indicators but did not think they rose to the level of alerting the FISA court.

• Washington Post, 4 takeaways from the brutal new report on FBI surveillance

2020 U.S. Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump just comes out and says it: The GOP is hurt when it’s easier to vote, Aaron Blake, March 31, 2020 (print ed.).  President Trump on Monday morning became the latest in a procession of Republicans to say making it easier for more people to vote would hurt his party politically.

In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” Trump referenced proposals from Democrats in the coronavirus stimulus negotiations that would have vastly increased funding for absentee and vote-by-mail options. The final package included $400 million for the effort, which was far less than what Democrats had sought.

“The things they had in there were crazy,” Trump said. “They had things — levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Trump didn’t expand on the thought. But he clearly linked high turnout to Republicans losing elections. The most generous reading of his comment is that he was referring to large-scale voter fraud resulting from the easier vote-by-mail options; Trump has in the past baselessly speculated about millions of fraudulent votes helping Democrats in the 2016 election. The more nefarious reading would be that allowing more people to participate in the process legally would hurt his party because there are more Democratic-leaning voters in the country.

That’s apparently true, but you typically don’t see Republicans expressing the sentiment so directly. Generally, they’ll connect tighter voting rules such as Voter ID to protecting the integrity of the process.

On several occasions in recent years, though, Republicans have arguably gone further than that, as Trump just did.

djt virus trump did it Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is about to get hit with a crushing blow, Bill Palmer, March 31, 2020. We all know that Donald Trump doesn’t care how many Americans suffer or die due to the coronavirus outbreak and the resulting economic collapse. But we do know that he cares greatly about how the death and suffering will end up impacting his reelection chances. This is where it gets ugly for him.

Up to now, the coronavirus has been the worst in places like New York, California, and Washington State – places where he wasn’t going to win a single Electoral College vote anyway. In his depraved mind, who cares how many people die in these states? They’re worthless to his reelection bid anyway. But when things started flaring up in Michigan, we saw where this starts to get dicey for him.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump badly needs to win Michigan, yet he can’t figure out how to do it. If he works with the state’s Democratic Governor, he risks a scenario where she gets the credit for the response, and Michiganders end up voting for Democratic nominee Joe Biden. So he’s been trying the surreal strategy of basically telling people in Michigan they’re going to die because they elected a Democratic Governor, in the hope that this will somehow motivate them to vote Republican in November. This is obviously not much of a strategy. But it gets even worse for him.

The next coronavirus hotspot appears to be Florida, where the response is going to be a mess, because Governor Ron DeSantis is a corrupt inept idiot. Donald Trump won’t even be able to scapegoat the Governor, because DeSantis is a Republican and a close Trump ally. When the people in Florida look for someone to blame for the woeful coronavirus response, they’re going to end up blaming Trump and the GOP. That’ll make it harder for Trump to win Florida, which is always close, and which the Democrats have won in two out of the last three presidential elections.

That’s before getting further into the calendar, when the coronavirus flashpoint starts moving into rural areas. These folks are Donald Trump’s base. Even in red states, the rural residents have to turn out and vote Republican in order to outnumber the people in that state’s bigger cities, which usually vote Democrat. Trump could find himself playing defense in states that aren’t usually in play, with the coronavirus crisis hitting them the hardest this summer, which is dangerously close to the election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Joe Biden’s Serious Cash Crunch, Shane Goldmacher, March 31, 2020. Mr. Biden’s campaign and top donors are racing to reimagine the ways they raise money as worries grow that the coronavirus could choke off contributions.

joe biden 2020 button CustomJoseph R. Biden Jr. is working the phones with top donors while cloistered in his Delaware home. His digital team is searching for the right tone to ask small contributors for cash during the sharpest economic downturn in their lifetimes. And his finance operation is plotting how to keep the checks coming when catered parties for big contributors are on hold — indefinitely.

Top Biden fund-raisers and donors, as well as campaign, super PAC and Democratic Party officials, described urgent efforts to reimagine the ways they raise money during a pandemic and global economic slowdown. And in nearly two dozen interviews, they expressed deepening concern that the downturn could choke off the flow of small online donations as millions of people lose their jobs.

The coronavirus shut down much of the American economy just as the former vice president took control of the Democratic presidential race, upending his plans to consolidate support among party donors who had previously supported other candidates and diminishing his ability to replenish his cash reserves to compete with President Trump’s well-funded re-election campaign.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden face the same headwinds. But the president began March with an enormous financial advantage over the Democrats: a combined roughly $225 million in cash on hand between his re-election campaign, the Republican National Committee and their shared committees. Mr. Biden and the Democratic National Committee had only $20 million, after accounting for debts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sanders Argues He Still Has a ‘Narrow Path’ for His Candidacy, Katie Glueck, March 31, 2020. In an interview with Seth Meyers on “Late Night,” Bernie Sanders said that raising consciousness on the issues he cares about is an argument for continuing his campaign.

Senator Bernie Sanders this week offered his clearest articulation to date of his rationale for remaining in the Democratic presidential primary despite Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s commanding delegate lead, arguing that a “narrow path” remains for his candidacy and that it’s bernie sanders 2020 button croppedimportant for him to keep pushing his liberal agenda.

“Campaigns are an important way to maintain that fight and raise public consciousness on those issues,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview on NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers” that aired early Tuesday. He ticked through a list of his policy priorities including “Medicare for all,” raising the minimum wage, combating climate change and expanding paid family and medical leave. “So that’s I think one of the arguments for going forward.”

Mr. Sanders, of Vermont, has faced growing calls to exit the race from some Democrats who want to quickly unify the party against President Trump. Mr. Biden himself has generally sought to avoid pressuring Mr. Sanders, aware that he will need support from the senator’s dedicated backers should he become the nominee, though he has also flashed signs of impatience with Mr. Sanders’s hopes to continue debating.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Virus Defense Is Often an Attack, and the Target Is Often a Woman, Annie Karni, March 31, 2020 (print ed.). Now part of the long list of women the president has insulted: a governor, a reporter, the head of General Motors and, of course, the House speaker.

As he confronts a pandemic, President Trump’s attention has also been directed at a more familiar foe: those he feels are challenging him, and particularly women.

“Always a mess with Mary B.,” Mr. Trump tweeted last week, attacking the female chief executive of General Motors, Mary T. Barra, as he accused the company of dragging its feet on producing ventilators. “As usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out,” he wrote, “this” G.M. apparently referring to the one led by the first female chief executive of an American auto manufacturer.

At least he mentioned Ms. Barra by name. When it came to Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s Democratic governor, who delivered her party’s official response to his State of the Union address earlier this year and has been pushing for a national emergency declaration in her state, Mr. Trump did not acknowledge her by name.

“We’ve had a big problem with the young, a woman governor,” he said in an interview last week with Sean Hannity, the Fox News host. “You know who I’m talking about, from Michigan.” The president dismissed Ms. Whitmer, who has been pressing the federal government to provide more medical equipment to her state, noting that she was a new governor and it had “not been pleasant.”

In a tweet, he later referred to her as “Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer,” saying “she doesn’t have a clue.”

Ms. Whitmer, whom White House officials have privately criticized for showing her inexperience on the group conference calls with the president, has been relatively measured in her public criticisms of Mr. Trump.

In interviews, she said Michigan was not receiving “clear directives and guidance” from Washington, and that the federal government told her that if the state needed supplies, “we needed to go it ourselves.” On the calls, officials said, she has been corrected by Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, about what waivers she had already been granted by the federal government.

At his news conference on Friday, Mr. Trump said he had directed Vice President Mike Pence to cut off communication with Ms. Whitmer, again without using her name. He said he told Mr. Pence, “‘Don’t call the woman in Michigan,’” Mr. Trump said at his news conference. “I say, if they don’t treat you right, don’t call.”

But Tiffany Brown, Ms. Whitmer’s spokeswoman, said the governor was committed to maintaining a functional relationship with the federal government — even if that no longer included Mr. Trump. “Governor Whitmer has and will continue to have conversations with the Vice President and the head of FEMA,” Ms. Brown said in a statement.

On Monday morning, in an interview with “Fox & Friends,” he referred to Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a “sick puppy” after she had appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and said the president’s early denials about the dangers of the coronavirus carried “deadly” consequences.

“As the president fiddles, people are dying,” Ms. Pelosi said.

In an interview on Monday, she rolled her eyes at his attack. “Every knock from him is a boost for me, quite frankly, so I don’t care what he says,” she said.

Victim Impacts

ny times logoNew York Times, New York City: Nurses Die, Doctors Fall Sick and Panic Rises on Virus Front Lines, Michael Schwirtz, March 31, 2020 (print ed.). The pandemic has begun to sweep through New York City’s medical ranks, and anxiety is growing among normally dispassionate medical professionals.

A supervisor urged surgeons at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in Manhattan to volunteer for the front lines because half the intensive-care staff had already been sickened by coronavirus.

“ICU is EXPLODING,” she wrote in an email.

A doctor at Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan described the unnerving experience of walking daily past an intubated, critically ill colleague in her 30s, wondering who would be next.

Another doctor at a major New York City hospital described it as “a petri dish,” where more than 200 workers had fallen sick.

Two nurses in city hospitals have died.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 30,000 people in New York City, is beginning to take a toll on those who are most needed to combat it: the doctors, nurses and other workers at hospitals and clinics. In emergency rooms and intensive care units, typically dispassionate medical professionals are feeling panicked as increasing numbers of colleagues get sick.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Trump declared virus under control, local leaders faced confusion, chaos as cases piled up, Nicole Dungca, Jenn Abelson and John Sullivan, March 31, 2020 (print ed.). Frustrated by the federal government’s handling of the outbreak, the authorities took steps on their own to protect their communities.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hospitals are being set up on soccer fields, in state parks and converted convention centers, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Brittney Martin and Steven Mufson, March 31, 2020 (print ed.). One expert working on pandemic projections said social distancing will probably need to stay in place unless mass testing, with rapid results, becomes available nationwide.

With the need for social distancing even among the sick, securing and configuring physical spaces large enough to handle the load has become one of the biggest challenges facing state officials and hospital administrators.

Louisiana is renting cabins and trailers in state parks to isolate the ill. The county that includes Seattle is erecting a 200-bed facility on a soccer field. And New York is setting up a medical surge center inside the six-block-long Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on the west side of Manhattan — better known for hosting auto shows and Comic-Con.

As the United States enters a new stage of the pandemic wave, hospital systems are being reconfigured in radical ways to handle the growing number of sick, and over the next few weeks, hospitals appear likely to look and operate very differently than today. With the need for social distancing even among the sick, securing and configuring physical spaces large enough to handle the load has become one of the biggest challenges facing state officials and hospital administrators.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: This Land of Denial and Death, Paul Krugman, right, March 31, 2020 (print ed.). Covid-19 and the dark side of American paul krugmanexceptionalism. Death comes at you fast. Just three weeks ago the official line at the White House and Fox News was that the coronavirus was no big deal, that claims to the contrary were a politically motivated hoax perpetrated by people out to get Donald Trump. Now we have a full-blown health crisis in New York, and all indications are that many other cities will soon find themselves in the same situation.

And it will almost certainly get much worse. The United States is on the worst trajectory of any advanced country — yes, worse than Italy at the same stage of the pandemic — with confirmed cases doubling every three days.

I’m not sure that people understand, even now, what that kind of exponential growth implies. But if cases kept growing at their current rate for a month, they would increase by a factor of a thousand, and almost half of Americans would be infected.

We hope that won’t happen. Many although not all states have gone into lockdown, and both epidemiological models and some early evidence suggest that this will “flatten the curve,” that is, substantially slow the virus’s spread. But as we wait to see just how bad our national nightmare will get, it’s worth stepping back for a few minutes to ask why America has handled this crisis so badly.

Incredibly bad leadership at the top is clearly an important factor. Thousands of Americans are dying, and the president is boasting about his TV ratings.

But this isn’t just about one man. Neither the scientific denial that crippled the initial response to this pandemic, nor the tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths that now seem likely, are unique to Covid-19. Among advanced countries, the United States has long stood out as the land of denial and death. It’s just that we’re now seeing these national character flaws play out at a vastly accelerated rate.

About denial: Epidemiologists trying to get a handle on the coronavirus threat appear to have been caught off guard by the immediate politicization of their work, the claims that they were perpetrating a hoax designed to hurt Trump, or promote socialism, or something. But they should have expected that reaction, since climate scientists have faced the same accusations for years.

And while climate-change denial is a worldwide phenomenon, its epicenter is clearly here in America: Republicans are the world’s only major climate-denialist party.

Nor is climate science the only thing they reject; not one of the candidates contending for the G.O.P.’s 2016 nomination was willing to endorse the theory of evolution.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. investigates at least one lawmaker’s stock trades before virus spike in U.S., Devlin Barrett​, March 31, 2020 (print ed.). Sen. Richard Burr’s sell-off has drawn criticism, and now scrutiny from law enforcement and regulators.

Justice Department log circularrepublican elephant logoThe Justice Department is investigating stock trades made by at least one member of Congress as the United States braced for the pandemic threat of coronavirus, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The investigation is being coordinated with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and is looking at the trades of at least one lawmaker, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence richard burr o SmallCommittee.

As head of the powerful committee, Burr, left, received frequent briefings and reports on the threat of the virus. He also sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which received briefings on the pandemic.

In mid-February, Burr sold 33 stocks held by him and his spouse, estimated to be worth between $628,033 and $1.7 million, Senate financial disclosures show. It was the largest number of stocks he had sold in one day since at least 2016, records show.

Burr’s lawyer, Alice Fisher, said in a statement that the law allows any American, including a senator, to “participate in the stock market based on public information, as Senator Burr did. When this issue arose, Senator Burr immediately asked the Senate Ethics Committee to conduct a complete review, and he will cooperate with that review as well as any other appropriate inquiry. Senator Burr welcomes a thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate.”

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Hungary’s ‘coronavirus bill’ hands Orban unchecked power, Loveday Morris, March 31, 2020 (print ed.).  The emergency measure passed by the Hungarian parliament gives the country's populist prime minister, Viktor Orban, the power to govern unchallenged for as long as he sees fit.

The Hungarian parliament on Monday handed the country's populist prime minister, Viktor Orban, the power to govern unchallenged for as long as he sees fit, a move rights groups said effectively suspends democracy in the European Union member state in the name of fighting the novel coronavirus.

viktor orbán headshot CustomThe “coronavirus bill,” which allows Orban to rule by decree and bypass the national assembly, passed by 137 to 53 votes despite opposition efforts to attach an expiration date on the state of emergency. The law also punishes those who “distort” or publish “false” information on the outbreak with five years in jail.

The government has said that the emergency powers are necessary to fight the outbreak, but political analysts say they have questions about whether Orban will relinquish them when the health crisis subsides. Hungary has 447 coronavirus cases and 15 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

washington post logoWashington Post, World’s 70 million displaced people face a coronavirus disaster, report says, Karen DeYoung, March 31, 2020 (print ed.). The world health organization logo CustomIslamic republic is staggering under one of the highest rates of infection in the world, with more than 38,000 reported cases as of Sunday; mass graves have been dug for the more than 2,600 dead. Refugees International questioned the effectiveness of border closures in preventing the spread of the disease.

In a report released Monday, the independent humanitarian organization Refugees International said that while a failure to protect refugee communities will threaten societies at large, “many nations are turning inward as they seek to protect their own citizens.”

The report questioned the effectiveness of border closures in preventing the spread of the disease, which is now present in most countries, and noted that such closures threaten the humanitarian supply chain that keeps refugee populations alive.

The group’s warning coincided with similar appeals issued by the World Health Organization and other international humanitarian bodies.

elliot abrams

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. proposes transitional government for Venezuela, without Maduro or Guaidó, Anthony Faiola and Carol Morello​, March 31, 2020. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said U.S. sanctions would be lifted only after a transitional government had been established and “foreign security forces” had left Venezuela.

nicolas maduro customThe Trump administration said Tuesday it would lift tough sanctions against Venezuela if both President Nicolás Maduro, right, and his political nemesis, opposition leader Juan Guaidó, stepped aside and agreed to a transitional government guided by both the ruling socialists and opposition lawmakers.

Maduro’s government quickly rejected the U.S. offer. Maduro’s attorney general, meanwhile, issued a summons for Guaidó to appear for questioning Thursday in connection with allegations of a violent plot to overthrow Maduro.

The deal, announced as Venezuelans confront grave danger from the global coronavirus pandemic, is the first road map to relief from some of the harshest sanctions ever imposed by Washington. Described by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a news conference in Washington, it amounts to a power-sharing arrangement that would guarantee Maduro’s socialists — if not Maduro himself — a seat at venezuela flag waving customthe table of a transitional government.

U.S. officials insisted Tuesday they did not support any particular political party in Venezuela. But the move nevertheless appeared to be an attempt to set up new elections in which U.S.-backed Guaidó could run. The Justice Department indicted Maduro and several members of his inner circle last week on narcoterrorism charges, and the administration announced a $15 million reward for information leading to Maduro’s capture or conviction.

“We want Guaidó to be able to run for president,” said Elliott Abrams, shown above, the U.S. special representative to Venezuela. “And according to the polls I’ve seen, he is very likely to win.”

Washington is facing calls from U.N. Secretary General António Guterres and others to ease economic sanctions in the midst of the pandemic. Maduro’s attempts to win an emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund to fight the coronavirus have been rejected based on his contested status as Venezuela’s head of state.

Maduro has not hinted at any willingness to leave power, and the U.S. offer seems unlikely to change that, as long as his inner circle and military backing holds. Analysts have said the indictments last week of the 57-year-old authoritarian leader and several other government officials on narcoterrorism charges are likely to encourage his inner circle to close ranks around him.

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New York Times, Human Rights Group Says Two U.S. Strikes Killed Somali Civilians, Charlie Savage and Helene Cooper, March 31, 2020. A report by Amnesty International challenges the American military’s claim that the February strikes hit only terrorists and no innocent bystanders.

Two American airstrikes in Somalia in February killed two civilians and injured three more, the human rights group Amnesty International has alleged in a new report. The United States Africa Command has acknowledged those strikes happened, but said they killed only terrorists with the Qaeda-affiliated group Al Shabab.

The strikes were part of a series of American airstrikes targeting the Shabab after it carried out an assault on an air base in Manda Bay, Kenya, in January, killing three Americans and causing millions of dollars in damage.

“Nothing can excuse flouting the laws of war,” said Abdullahi Hassan, Amnesty International’s Somalia researcher. “Any U.S. or Somalia government response to Al Shabab attacks must distinguish between fighters and civilians and take all feasible precautions to avoid harm to civilians.”

Without going into specifics, Africa Command, or Africom, said it was reviewing the allegations. Military officials said the command had gone out of its way to minimize civilian casualties in its long-running fight against the Shabab.

Disputes over civilian casualties are common in Somalia, where much is murky. Africom discloses strikes but typically no details beyond their location and its assessment that it hit only terrorists and no civilians. Officials tend to rebut allegations of bystander deaths by gesturing toward intelligence reports that cannot be released because of classification.

Media News

Palmer Report, Opinion: CNN refused to start airing Donald Trump’s press conference today until he was done speaking, Bill Palmer, March 31, 2020. It looks like Donald Trump has finally pushed CNN to the point where it’s no longer willing to air him while he’s dishonestly rambling during his press conferences.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen Trump began speaking this evening, MSNBC started airing it immediately. But CNN didn’t start airing it until Trump was done babbling and Dr. Birx began speaking.

No TV network should be airing these press conferences at all. But we’ve reached a fascinating point here, where CNN is refusing to put the President of the United States on the air because of the dangerous misinformation that he likes to spew. This cnn logocan’t simply be a ratings decision, or CNN wouldn’t be airing the press briefing at all. Instead, this is specifically about keeping Trump from harming people.

This comes after Donald Trump used his last few press conferences to spread deadly false information about coronavirus drugs, to make random false accusations about hospital workers stealing medical equipment, and to give the My Pillow guy a free infomercial.

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Sale of Trump’s D.C. hotel lease on hold as commercial real estate industry reels, Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, March 31, 2020. The Trump Organization has laid off more than 550 workers at its hotels, and occupancy at the D.C. hotel was recently about 5 percent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dow caps worst first quarter of its 135-year history by sliding more than 400 points, Jacob Bogage​, March 31, 2020. Wall Street wrapped up a horrific three-month run defined by trillions in losses from an economy paralyzed by the coronavirus pandemic.

March 30

Global Viral Overviews

Victim Impacts

U.S. 2020 Elections

Trump-Inspired Threats, Lies, Grifters

U.S. Media / Propaganda

#MeToo Claim Against Biden

tara reade joe biden Custom

 

World News

U.S. Business / Environment

Music / Politics / JFK Death

 

Global Viral Overviews

djt mike pompeo brian karem

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Trump says social distancing guidelines will stay through April, Ian Duncan and Felicia Sonmez, March 30, 2020. The president backed off of his hope that the country will be “opened up and raring to go” by Easter. A top medical adviser and governors had said they could not envision easing the measures anytime soon.

  • Washington Post, Guide to the pandemic, There have been more than 720,000 confirmed cases of covid-19. The virus has killed more than 33,000, March 30, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis, Model touted by White House assumes social distancing will stay in effect through May, James Hohmann​, March 30, 2020. Debbie Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said that federal scientists reviewed a dozen different models for how this pandemic might play out before constructing their own. Using techniques learned from tracking HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, she explained, “we went back to the drawing board over the last week or two and worked from the ground up.”

Simultaneously, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, led by professor Chris Murray, was doing something similar. “When we finished, the other group that was working in parallel, which we didn't know about, IHME and Chris Murray ended up at the same numbers,” Birx said in the Rose Garden on Sunday evening.

One expert working on pandemic projections said social distancing will probably need to stay in place unless mass testing, with rapid results, becomes available nationwide.

• Analysis: Trump moves goal posts, pre-spinning 100,000 deaths as ‘a very good job,’ March 30, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, As dark reality sets in, president beats a retreat on reopening the U.S., Philip Rucker, March 30, 2020 (print ed.). The president said he was convinced by data modeling that showed that the death rate in the United States probably won’t peak for another two weeks.

For six days straight, President Trump talked about reopening the country quickly. He wanted people filing into offices again, diners returning to restaurants and shoppers gathering at malls without fear of contagion.

Trump mused about a reopening date of April 12, picking it arbitrarily because he thought it would be beautiful to see church pews packed with parishioners on Easter. Then he dug in, seeming to tune out the nearly unanimous assessment of public health experts and governors and mayors fighting to help save lives, which was that Easter would be far too soon because the worst still was yet to come. As the self-described wartime president saw things, the novel coronavirus was a “silent enemy” and America was defeating it.

What a difference a week makes.

Trump beat a hasty retreat on Sunday, announcing from the Rose Garden just before dusk that the federal government’s stringent social distancing guidelines, set to expire on Monday, would be extended through April 30.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Autocrats, a Chance to Grab Even More Power, Selam Gebrekidan, March 30, 2020. Leaders around the world have passed emergency decrees and legislation expanding their reach. Will they ever rescind them?

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, right, can now rule by decree. In Britain, ministers have what a critic called “eye-watering” power to detain people and close borders. Israel’s prime minister has shut down courts and begun an intrusive surveillance of citizens. Chile has sent the viktor orbán headshot Custommilitary to public squares once occupied by protesters. Bolivia has postponed elections.

As the coronavirus pandemic brings the world to a juddering halt and anxious citizens demand action, leaders across the globe are invoking executive powers and seizing virtually dictatorial authority with scant resistance.

Governments and rights groups agree that these extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. States need new powers to shut their borders, enforce quarantines and track infected people. Many of these actions are protected under international rules, constitutional lawyers say.

But critics say some governments are using the public health crisis as cover to seize new powers that have little to do with the outbreak, with few safeguards to ensure that their new authority will not be abused.

The laws are taking swift hold across a broad range of political systems — in authoritarian states like Jordan, faltering democracies like Hungary, and traditional democracies like Britain. And there are few sunset provisions to ensure that the powers will be rescinded once the threat passes.

As the new laws broaden state surveillance, allow governments to detain people indefinitely and infringe on freedoms of assembly and expression, they could also shape civic life, politics and economies for decades to come.

The pandemic is already redefining norms. Invasive surveillance systems in South Korea and Singapore, which would have invited censure under normal circumstances, have been praised for slowing infections. Governments that initially criticized China for putting millions of its citizens under lockdown have since followed suit.

Victim Impacts

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Slowdown in Seattle Suggests Restrictions Are Working, Mike Baker, March 30, 2020 (print ed.). Officials see evidence that containment strategies have lowered the rate of virus transmission but the gains may be precarious.

The Seattle area, home of the first known coronavirus case in the United States and the place where the virus claimed 37 of its first 50 victims, is now seeing evidence that strict containment strategies, imposed in the earliest days of the outbreak, are beginning to pay off — at least for now.

Deaths are not rising as fast as they are in other states. Dramatic declines in street traffic show that people are staying home. Hospitals have so far not been overwhelmed. And preliminary statistical models provided to public officials in Washington State suggest that the spread of the virus has slowed in the Seattle area in recent days.

While each infected person was spreading the virus to an average of 2.7 other people earlier in March, that number appears to have dropped, with one projection suggesting that it was now down to 1.4.

WTOP Radio (Washington, DC), DC joins Virginia, Maryland in issuing mandatory stay-at-home order, Jack Moore and Rick Massimo, March 30, 2020. Following moves by the governors of Maryland and Virginia, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Monday afternoon also issued a “stay at home” order directing residents to stay in their homes except for getting food and other essential household goods, obtaining medical care, traveling to perform “essential” work and a few other exceptions, including outside recreation.

washington post logoWashington Post, This tourist haven sits in a pro-Trump community — and at the nexus of a debate about our next economic steps, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., March 30, 2020 (print ed.). Local leaders in Fort Myers, Fla., want to agree with the president that America should restart business soon, but after being stunned by early covid-19 deaths, they are inching toward more restrictions.

Before New York hospitals were flooded with coronavirus cases and Florida topped 3,000 cases, this tourist haven near the Gulf of Mexico was the first city on the Eastern Seaboard to report a death from the virus, a woman who had traveled overseas and died on March 5. Hannaford’s stepfather, John Gness, was the virus’s second victim here, succumbing to a fatal combination of covid-19 and the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease he had battled for the final years of his life.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Detroit: Coronavirus Sweeps Through Detroit, Mary M. Chapman, Julie Bosman and John Eligon, March 30, 2020. Cases of the virus were being reported around the city and in the police department. “Every day I drive home, I start crying,” a nurse said.

It has seen its population plummet, houses fall to ruin, and the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation. Now another crisis has descended on Detroit: the coronavirus.

In less than two weeks, 35 people with the coronavirus have died in Detroit. The police chief has tested positive for the virus, and more than 500 police officers are in quarantine. On Sunday morning, the city’s downtown, a center of Detroit’s post-bankruptcy resurgence, was quiet and mostly deserted.

The coronavirus has landed on this city’s doorstep, its unwelcome arrival a sign of the outbreak’s growing reach across America to cities far from the coasts and not as densely populated as New York. But the virus could place a unique burden on Detroit, a city of 670,000 people where three of 10 residents live in poverty, a large number have asthma and other chronic diseases, and hospitals are already overwhelmed. It is a city that has seen more than its share of crisis, and now finds itself staring at yet another.

U.S. 2020 Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Won the Internet. Democrats Are Scrambling to Take It Back, Jim Rutenberg and Matthew Rosenberg, March 30, 2020. In the era of big data, memes and disinformation, the Democrats are trying to regain their digital edge as the president and his Democratic-Republican Campaign logosloyalists dictate the terms of debate.

The deceptively edited video that purported to show Joseph R. Biden Jr. endorsing President Trump’s re-election bounced relentlessly around the internet, falsely painting the former vice president as too confused to know what office he was running for or whom he was vying to run against.

The doctored video didn’t originate with one of the extremist sites that trade in left-bashing disinformation. It was posted on Twitter by Mr. Trump’s own social media director. From there, it collected shares, retweets and likes from the social media accounts of the president, his eldest son and the multitudinous conservative influencers and websites that carry his message to voters’ palms hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second.

facebook logoThe video, based on a speech Mr. Biden gave earlier this month, registered five million views in a day before his campaign responded — with statements to the press and cable interviews that largely focused on persuading Facebook to follow the example of Twitter, which had labeled the content “manipulated media.” A direct social media counterattack, aides said later, would have risked spreading the damage.

Yet the Biden camp would have been hard-pressed to mount a proportional response had it tried: Mr. Biden has only 4.6 million Twitter followers to Mr. Trump’s 75 million, 1.7 million Facebook fans to Mr. Trump’s 28 million, and nothing resembling the president’s robust ecosystem of amplifying accounts.

And so the video circulated unimpeded, reaching an audience that would have made it America’s No. 1 television show by the old-fashioned standards of Nielsen.

As Mr. Biden closes in on his party’s nomination, that digital mismatch underscores one of the Democrats’ biggest general-election challenges: They are up against a political figure who has marshaled all the forces of the modern web to refract reality and savage his opponents. Yet they are starting from a deficit, struggling to regain their once-formidable online edge.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Sanders says he’s staying in the race. Many Democrats fear a reprise 2016, Sean Sullivan, Michael Scherer and David Weigel, March 30, 2020. Democrats, up against a president who already is aimed at the November general election, are calling for unity, but Sen. Bernie Sanders has indicated that he’s in no hurry to move offstage. JIP Editor's Note: The Washington Post headline for this story is somewhat misleading in that the story's text infers, based on sources, that Sanders seems poised to stay in the race but there was no official announcement to that effect.

bernie sanders 2020 button croppedBehind the growing fear among many Democrats that Sen. Bernie Sanders’s continued presence in the presidential race could spell doom in November is the belief that they’ve seen it happen before — in the last campaign.

Some people close to Sanders voiced confidence that the senator would stay in the race until the July convention, though they said they had received no final word on his plans. Others close to the senator have sounded less certain of that, noting only that he continues to be a candidate at the moment.

One of the people close to Sanders — who, like the others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect internal deliberations — said Biden would have to make significant policy and personal overtures to Sanders to potentially persuade the senator to leave the race, and to win the trust of his followers.

The 2016 Democratic convention was just about to get started when Sanders (I-Vt.) addressed his delegates. It was time to support her, he told his backers. They disagreed, booing loudly. Some stuck their thumbs down as TV cameras captured the extraordinary show of dissent, which would continue on the convention floor.

To some Democrats in that campaign, it was a lesson learned the hard way about the limitations of Sanders’s promises of support and the ferocity of his unbridled backers. Four years later, with the senator from Vermont still running against former vice president Joe Biden despite almost impossible odds of victory, some party leaders are increasingly worried about a reprise of the bitter divisions that many Democrats blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump just comes out and says it: The GOP is hurt when it’s easier to vote, Aaron Blake, March 30, 2020. Democrats “had levels of voting” in their stimulus proposal, Trump said, “that if you ever agreed to it, you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

President Trump on Monday morning became the latest in a procession of Republicans to say making it easier for more people to vote would hurt his party politically.

In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” Trump referenced proposals from Democrats in the coronavirus stimulus negotiations that would have vastly increased funding for absentee and vote-by-mail options. The final package included $400 million for the effort, which was far less than what Democrats had sought.

“The things they had in there were crazy,” Trump said. “They had things — levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Trump didn’t expand on the thought. But he clearly linked high turnout to Republicans losing elections. The most generous reading of his comment is that he was referring to large-scale voter fraud resulting from the easier vote-by-mail options; Trump has in the past baselessly speculated about millions of fraudulent votes helping Democrats in the 2016 election. The more nefarious reading would be that allowing more people to participate in the process legally would hurt his party because there are more Democratic-leaning voters in the country.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This can’t possibly be Donald Trump’s 2020 strategy, Bill Palmer, March 30, 2020. Considering that Donald Trump yelled “you people” at a black woman yesterday, and brag-tweeted about how his pandemic press conferences are getting higher ratings than The Bachelor, there’s really no reason to think he’s working with any viable or coherent 2020 strategy at all.

bill palmer report logo headerThat said, if he’s settled on a campaign message, it appears to be “I’m doing great because only hundreds of thousands of Americans will die in this pandemic instead of millions of Americans.” If this is what he’s really going with, I’m so horrified from a human perspective, I want to throw up. But even from a strictly political perspective, I don’t see how he can make this work.

Yes, Presidents can see a lot of death on their watch and, under the right circumstances, come out ahead for it. Abraham Lincoln lost plenty of Americans in the Civil War. Franklin Roosevelt lost plenty of Americans in the Depression, and again in World War II. They’re both on monuments. But in both instances, the majority of people believed that A) the deaths were necessary, and B) the President did everything possible to keep them to a minimum.

When the death toll in the United States starts reaching five and six figures, are the majority of Americans really going to look back at how Donald Trump has handled this and conclude that having him as President resulted in fewer deaths than there otherwise would have been? That’s an awfully tough sell.

We’ve all seen the inaction, the incoherency, the psychopathy on display. His base may or may not stick with him, but they’re the minority to begin with. What’s always mattered is how the average American sees this. His approval rating saw a rather small crisis spike, and is already falling. Now that the death toll is rapidly reaching horrifying proportions, most Americans will look back critically at Trump’s handling of this and conclude that he screwed it up in every way possible.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Russia’s Troll Farm Is Changing Tactics Before the Fall Election, Davey Alba, March 30, 2020 (print ed.). The Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency, which interfered in the 2016 election, is using different methods to hide itself better.

Ahead of November’s election, American intelligence officials and others are on high alert for mischief from Russia’s Internet Research Agency.

Remember it?

The Kremlin-backed group was identified by American authorities as having interfered in the 2016 election. At the time, Russians working for the group stole the identities of American citizens and spread incendiary messages on Facebook and other social media platforms to stoke discord on race, religion and other issues that were aimed at influencing voters.

To avoid detection, the group has since evolved its tactics. Here are five ways its methods have shifted. Before The troll farm published posts with many spelling, grammar and syntax errors.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Andrew Cuomo comes out swinging in favor of Joe Biden, Bill Palmer, March 30, 2020. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has found himself thrust into the center of national attention, with New York City being the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis. Cuomo has shined, particularly in light of Donald Trump’s absolute failure to lead.

bill palmer report logo headerThis has led some folks to wonder if perhaps Cuomo might somehow enter the 2020 primary race and magically become the nominee.

But back in the real world, Andrew Cuomo was one of the very first public figures to endorse Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. When Cuomo appeared on his brother’s CNN show tonight, he spelled out precisely why he’s supporting Biden as strongly as ever:

Cuomo Prime Time

@CuomoPrimeTime

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he has no plans to ever run for President, has not considered it, and will never consider it. 

U.S. Media / Propaganda

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook, Google and Twitter Struggle to Prepare for Election, Kevin Roose, Sheera Frenkel and Nicole Perlroth, Updated March 30, 2020. After spending billions to avoid a repeat of 2016, the tech giants are careening from crisis to crisis as their foes change tactics.

The day after the New Hampshire primary last month, Facebook’s security team removed a network of fake accounts that originated in facebook logoIran, which had posted divisive partisan messages about the U.S. election inside private Facebook groups.

Hours later, the social network learned the campaign of Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor, had sidestepped its political ad process by directly paying Instagram meme accounts to post in support of his presidential bid.

google logo customThat same day, a pro-Trump group called the Committee to Defend the President, which had previously run misleading Facebook ads, was found to be promoting a photo that falsely claimed to show Bernie Sanders supporters holding signs with divisive slogans such as “Illegal Aliens Deserve the Same as Our Veterans.”

twitter bird CustomFacebook, Twitter, Google and other big tech companies have spent the past three years working to avoid a repeat of 2016, when their platforms were overrun by Russian trolls and used to amplify America’s partisan divide. The internet giants have since collectively spent billions of dollars hiring staff, fortifying their systems and developing new policies to prevent election meddling.

But as the events of just one day — Feb. 12 — at Facebook showed, although the companies are better equipped to deal with the types of interference they faced in 2016, they are struggling to handle the new challenges of 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gannett will furlough workers at more than 100 newspapers over next three months, Jacob Bogage, March 30, 2020.  gannett logo CustomSome employees paid more than $38,000 a year by one of the company’s newspapers, including USA Today, will be required to take one week of unpaid leave in April, May and June.

  • Washington Post, Trump berates PBS NewsHour reporter for ‘threatening’ question, hits ‘nice’ question out of park, Katie Shepherd, March 30, 2020.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Is Hurting His Own Re-Election Chances, David Leonhardt, right, david leonhardt thumbMarch 30, 2020 (print ed.). Don’t be fooled by snapshot polls. The president backed off of his hope that the country will be “opened up and raring to go” by Easter. A top medical adviser and governors had said they could not envision easing the measures anytime soon.

The strangest part of President Trump’s coronavirus response is that it’s almost certainly damaging his chances of re-election.

I realize that may sound surprising, given that his approval rating has been rising. But when you look beyond day-to-day events — which Trump often struggles to do — you see that he is creating the conditions for a miserable summer and fall, with extended virus outbreaks and a deeper recession. The summer and fall, of course, are the crux of the presidential campaign.

Trump’s virus strategy revolves around trying to make the present seem as good as possible, without much concern for the future. He spent almost two months denying that the virus was a serious problem and falsely claiming that the number of cases was falling. He has spent the last two weeks alternately taking aggressive measures and refusing to do so, often against the advice of public-health experts. Some Republican governors, following Trump’s lead, are also rejecting those experts’ pleas: There are beaches open in Florida, restaurants open in Georgia and Missouri and many people out and about in Oklahoma and Texas.

Altogether, the United States seems to have engaged in the least aggressive response of any affected country. Sure enough, it also now has the world’s largest number of confirmed cases. The American caseload was initially following a similar path as the Chinese and Italian caseloads. But the number of American infections is now rising uniquely fast, with 96,000 new cases in the last week — more than twice as many as in any seven-day period in any other country.

This surge doesn’t cause only more short-term deaths and overwhelmed hospitals. It also leads to more cases in later months, by creating a larger group of infected people who can spread the virus to others. As Tom Frieden, a former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told me, “The higher the peak, the longer it lasts.”

And the longer that the country is gripped by the virus, the deeper that the economic downturn will be. Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago professor, refers to this as the first rule of “virus economics”: The only way to resuscitate the economy is to stop the virus. Premature attempts to restart business activity will lead to further outbreaks, which will cause more fear and new shutdowns.

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Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary, No evidence of bio-warfare involved with COVID-19, Wayne Madsen (author of 18 wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallbooks, investigative reporter and former Navy Intelligence officer and NSA analyst), March 30, 2020. Contrary to ruminations from far right-wing Republicans -- including Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Marco Rubio of Florida, as well as fundamentalist crackpot Jerry Falwell, Jr. -- that COVID-19 involves either a willful or accidental biological warfare operation set in motion by China or North Korea, the facts are that the deadly virus involves no military or intelligence service.

The fact that every military and intelligence service on the planet has been negatively impacted and severely hobbled by the virus is evidence that there are no strategic military winners and only losers with respect to the pandemic. It is Donald Trump's senior Republican officials and evangelical supporters who are pushing such nonsense that COVID-19 is a biological warfare attack. It is proof of the paucity of any level of military or intelligence expertise in the Republican Party and the Trump administration.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s worst nightmare, Bill Palmer, March 30, 2020. Donald Trump, a man who fancies himself a real estate manipulator but who went bankrupt six times because he was so bad at it, is once again losing at his own game. Trump keeps holding press conferences because he sees it as an opportunity to flex his bully muscles and narcissistically dominate the day’s news cycle.

bill palmer report logo headerBut today we saw something change. Donald Trump called on his longtime nemesis Jim Acosta, with the apparent intention of taking out his frustrations on Acosta. But after Acosta threw Trump’s own words at him, Trump seemed to shrink. Then Trump called on his latest nemesis Yamiche Alcindor, and she got under his skin so badly, he ended up leaving the stage.

Donald Trump’s worst nightmare – for now, at least – is the prospect of these daily press briefings turning the tables to the point that the most fearless of reporters are beating up on him. These briefings are pretty much all he has left to feed his ego and need for attention.

If Trump ends up having to back down from holding briefings because he can’t handle getting beaten up by reporters, what will he have left? Of course if Trump loses the election, he’s facing the serious prospect of going to prison for the rest of his life, so he’ll be facing a whole different kind of worst nightmare.

Trump-Inspired Lies, Grifters

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Daily Beast, Rodney Howard-Browne, Megachurch Pastor Who Flouted Virus Rules, Arrested, Will Sommer and Tracy Connor, March 30, 2020. Rodney Howard-Browne (shown above, second from the left at a White House meeting) has been an outspoken opponent of social distancing requirements, claiming his church has machines that can stop the coronavirus.

A controversial Florida pastor who refused to stop holding packed church services, in violation of coronavirus restrictions, was arrested Monday by a local sheriff who said the preacher was putting his followers’ lives at risk.

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne was booked on misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly and violation of public health rules after flouting social distancing orders at The River at Tampa Bay church.

Howard-Browne — an ally of President Donald Trump — has been an outspoken opponent of social distancing requirements, claiming his church has machines that can stop the coronavirus and vowing to personally cure the state of Florida himself.

“His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk, and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week, in danger,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said at the press conference.

rodney howard browne mug CustomHoward-Browne (shown at right in a mug shot) did not respond to an immediate request for comment. He turned himself in to a neighboring sheriff’s office, was booked and released within 40 minutes, according to jail records.

On a Facebook broadcast on Monday night, Howard-Browne said, “I pray for the sheriff. He’s a good man,” and blamed the media for pressuring law enforcement to take action against him.

Chronister’s office had warned Howard-Browne that his busy services violated a county order against gatherings of more than 10 people. Deputies for Chronister, a Republican, set up an electronic sign outside the church on Sunday urging parishioners to stay six feet apart from each other, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

But Howard-Browne went ahead with two services, even offering to bus people to the church.

At services on March 15, Howard-Browne encouraged his parishioners to shake hands to show they weren’t afraid of contracting the coronavirus and vowed his church “will never close.”

“This has to be the safest place,” said Howard-Browne, who was in a group of evangelical leaders who laid hands on Donald Trump in a White House ceremony in 2017.

A statement on the church website from lawyer KrisAnne Hall—a radio host labeled an anti-government activist by the Southern Poverty Law Center—said the restrictions on churches are a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion.

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Fox 13 TV (Tampa, FL), Arrest warrant issued for Tampa megachurch pastor who led packed services despite safer-at-home orders, Staff report, March 30, 2020. Hillsborough County's sheriff joins State Attorney Andrew Warren and local religious leaders to announce the arrest warrant for a local pastor (shown above) who led packed services on Sunday, despite orders not to.

The pastor of a Tampa megachurch is facing charges after refusing to close its doors despite a "safer at home" order in effect in Hillsborough County, meant to stop the spread of COVID-19. The sheriff of Hillsborough County says one of two Sunday services had up to 500 people in attendance.

Sheriff Chad Chronister and State Attorney Andrew Warren on Monday announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne. He faces charges of unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency order.

The River at Tampa Bay Church held two services Sunday, Chronister said, and even offered bus transportation for those services. The chuch's livestream showed a packed crowd cheering and applauding.

"They have access to technology allowing them to livestream their services over the internet and broadcast to their 400 members from the safety of their own homes, but instead they chose to gather at church," Chronister said during a press conference.

Chronister said Howard-Browne is not in custody yet, but said he is expected to turn himself in.

PREVIOUS: Tampa megachurch crowded with worshipers despite social distancing orders

Chronister said deputies tried to speak to Howard-Browne on at least two separate occasions about the "dangerous environment" the church was creating. He said HCSO command staff went to the church to speak to the pastor, but was advised by church leaders and legal staff that Howard-Browne was refusing to see them or cancel the Sunday church services.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the pastor here is hiding behind the First Amendment," State Attorney Warren offered. "One, it’s absolutely clear that emergency orders like this are constitutional and valid. Second of all, leaders from our faith-based community across this country have embraced the importance of social distancing.”

On Sunday, Howard-Browne defended his decision to keep the church open in a video posted to his YouTube channel, claiming the building had the technology to eradicate any virus.

"We brought in 13 machines that basically kill every virus in the place," Howard-Browne said. "If they sneeze it shoots it down like at 100 miles per hour and it will neutralize it in a split second."

washington post logoej dionne w open neckWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s quarantine con should be the breaking point, E.J. Dionne Jr., March 30, 2020. If you doubted that President Trump’s approach to the coronavirus crisis is all about him — about getting a few hours or a few days of blaring headlines and then manically moving on to some other empty gesture that he can claim is “strong” — his threat on Saturday to quarantine the New York region tells you all you need to know.

The man who fleeced innocent souls through what the conservative National Review called the “massive scam” of Trump University is applying the same hucksterism to a situation where thousands of lives are at stake.

The quarantine caper ought to be the straw that breaks the hustler’s back.

There was Trump telling reporters in the early afternoon: “There is a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine, short term, two weeks, on New York, probably New Jersey, certain parts of Connecticut,” he said, expressing worry that “a lot of New Yorkers are going down” to Florida.

Media-wise, all hell broke loose.

Of course he had never spoken to the governors of the affected states beforehand. Of course this was a way of shifting blame for his own incompetence to the stricken people of three Democratic states that would never vote for him. Of course he never considered whether he even had the power to do what he claimed he might do.

And of course it was all fake.

Having milked the “possibility” for a long news cycle, he informed the world on Twitter at 8:19 p.m. Saturday: “A quarantine will not be necessary.”

There are two lessons here. The first is that the media must treat Trump the way they treat anyone else who regularly offers lies along with idle but explosive conjecture. His daily journey before the White House cameras is no different from any of his other swindles, and his “briefings” should be treated with the contempt they deserve.

The second lesson is more important for the long run. We are learning, in both good ways and bad, about the importance of competent, energetic and empathetic government. For the past week, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been offering a running seminar on this subject for all who will listen, both in a floor speech and in a phone interview from his home in Brooklyn.

In voting — unanimously in the Senate — for a $2.2 trillion economic rescue bill, Schumer told me, Republicans acknowledged what they regularly deny: that government is indispensable, especially “when there’s an emergency, when lives are at stake, and when you need quick action.” Also: when “the private sector cannot do the job.”

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, How China’s Fail-Safe System to Track Contagions Failed, Steven Lee Myers, March 30, 2020 (print ed.). After SARS, health officials built a reporting system to evade political meddling. But when the coronavirus emerged, so did fears of upsetting Beijing.

The alarm system was ready. Scarred by the SARS epidemic that erupted in 2002, China had created an infectious disease reporting system that officials said was world-class: fast, thorough and, just as important, immune from meddling.

Hospitals could input patients’ details into a computer and instantly notify government health authorities in Beijing, where officers are trained to spot and smother contagious outbreaks before they spread.

It didn’t work.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Pompeo’s pandemic performance ensures his place among the worst secretaries of state ever, Jackson mike pompeo portraitDiehl, March 30, 2020. (print ed.). Has any secretary of state been worse in an emergency? It’s impossible to think of a more feckless performance since World War II. Pompeo’s dreadful week followed a month in which he has been all but invisible on the coronavirus issue, apart from one appearance at Trump’s daily press conference-cum-reality show.

While more responsible leaders have struggled to contain the pandemic, Pompeo has pursued pet causes as if nothing else were happening. That’s especially true of the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, which he, more than any other official, has promoted.

The Islamic republic is staggering under one of the highest rates of infection in the world, with more than 38,000 reported cases as of Sunday; mass graves have been dug for the more than 2,600 dead.

ny times logoNew York Times, The virus is spreading fast in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox communities as many flout government rules, David M. Halbfinger, March 30, 2020. Failure to comply with government restrictions is causing the coronavirus to spread in ultra-Orthodox communities up to eight times faster than elsewhere in Israel.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews failing to comply with government instructions to contain the coronavirus are causing it to spread so quickly that Israeli officials are considering blockading entire communities to protect the wider population.

The virus is mushrooming in ultra-Orthodox communities as much as four to eight times faster than elsewhere in Israel.

Israel Flagn the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, where 95 percent of the residents are ultra-Orthodox, the number of confirmed cases nearly doubled in the last three days, from 267 on Friday to 508 on Monday. The total was nearly that of Jerusalem, whose population is four times bigger.

Although they make up only 12 percent of Israel’s population, the ultra-Orthodox account for 40 to 60 percent of the coronavirus patients at four major hospitals, hospital officials told Israeli news media. The true dimensions of the epidemic among the ultra-Orthodox can only be estimated because testing is rare.

Experts attribute the proliferation among the ultra-Orthodox to overcrowding and large families, deep distrust of state authority, ignorance of the health risks among religious leaders, an aversion to electronic and secular media that they believe is mandated by religious law, and a zealous devotion to a way of life centered on communal activity.

All of which add up to stiff resistance to heeding social distancing orders that require people to stay home except for vital errands and prohibit meeting in groups, including for prayer. These rules threaten fundamental activities for the ultra-Orthodox including worship, religious study and the observance of life-cycle events like funerals and weddings.

The wildfire pace of infection has inflamed tensions between the ultra-Orthodox, known in Hebrew as Haredim, or “God-fearers,” and other Israelis, as a series of gotcha videos and photos have circulated showing large groups of ultra-Orthodox dancing at weddings or shopping on busy streets, as if doing so posed no risk.

washington post logoWashington Post, Key in Trump’s deal with the Taliban: Ex-prisoners whose release in 2014 unleashed Republican furor, Missy Ryan and Haq Nawaz Khan​, March 30, 2020. As American negotiators raced to clinch last month’s landmark deal with the Taliban, several shadowy figures played a surprising but significant role: former Guantánamo Bay detainees whose release in a 2014 prisoner exchange sparked a partisan firestorm.

The so-called Taliban Five, a group of high-level militant inmates traded for an American during the Obama administration, worked behind the scenes to build support for the agreement, current and former U.S. and Taliban officials say.

Several of the men wielded their clout, as prominent figures from the Taliban’s pre-9/11 government and longtime prisoners of the United States, to push months of fractious negotiations toward a deal. One of them, a fearsome former commander accused in the deaths of religious minorities in Afghanistan, traveled at least twice to Pakistan to generate buy-in among skeptical militant commanders, the officials said.

U.S. Business / Environment

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Administration, in Biggest Environmental Rollback, to Announce Auto Pollution Rules, Coral Davenport, March 30, 2020. The automaker and its partner had spent over a week figuring out how to make thousands of devices when the White House said G.M. was “wasting time.”

epa general logoThe Trump administration is expected on Tuesday to announce its final rule to roll back Obama-era automobile fuel efficiency standards, relaxing efforts to limit climate-warming tailpipe pollution and virtually undoing the government’s biggest effort to combat climate change.

The new rule, written by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, would allow vehicles on American roads to emit nearly a billion tons more carbon dioxide over the lifetime of the cars than they would have under the Obama standards and hundreds of millions of tons more than will be emitted under standards being implemented in Europe and Asia.

Trump administration officials have raced to complete the auto rule by this spring, even as the White House is consumed with responding to the coronavirus crisis. President Trump is expected to extol the rule, which will stand as one of the most consequential regulatory rollbacks of his administration, as a needed salve for an economy crippled by the pandemic.

The lower fuel-efficiency standard “is the single most important thing that the administration can do to fulfill President Trump’s campaign promise of reforming the regulatory state, and to undo the impact that the previous administration has had on the economy,” said Thomas J. Pyle, the president of the Institute for Energy Research, an organization that supports the use of fossil fuels.

Mr. Trump’s critics say the rule shows the president’s disregard for science and could actually harm the economy over time. The administration’s own draft economic analyses of the rule showed that it could hurt consumers by forcing them to purchase more gasoline. And a February report by a panel of government-appointed scientists, many of them selected by the Trump administration, concluded that “there are significant weaknesses in the scientific analysis” of the rule.

washington post logoWashington Post, Macy’s is furloughing most of its 125,000 employees amid prolonged coronavirus shutdown, Abha Bhattarai and
Rachel Siegel, March 30, 2020. Macy’s is furloughing most of its 125,000 employees amid prolonged coronavirus shutdown Macy’s is furloughing most of its 125,000 employees because coronavirus-fueled store closures have caused its sales to all but disappear.

macy logoThe nation’s largest department store chain, which shuttered its 775 Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Blue Mercury locations on March 18, said the outbreak continues to take “a heavy toll” on its business. “We have lost the majority of our sales due to the store closures,” it said in a statement Monday.

The company said it will keep “the absolute minimum workforce” for streamlined operations, with a focus on its digital business, distribution centers and call centers. Furloughed employees will continue to receive health insurance at least through May. Macy’s said it expects to bring back employees “on a staggered basis as business resumes.”

CNBC, The US is set to lose its spot as world’s top oil producer — and it ‘doesn’t have a lot of tools’ to do anything about it, Natasha Turak, March 30 2020. A world increasingly in lockdown over the coronavirus crisis and the oil price war set off between Saudi Arabia and Russia have brought crude prices down more than 65% year-to-date.

In America’s shale country, budgets have been slashed, capital investment put on hold, and workers laid off. In the last two weeks alone, 59 rigs have been put out of service. “We see in this coming month of April what could be a 20 million barrel a day decline in oil demand. It’s unprecedented,” Dan Yergin of IHS Markit told CNBC.

The U.S. is all but guaranteed to lose its hard-earned spot as the world’s number one oil producer this year amid the recent price crash, vanishing demand and a plunge in capital investment, energy experts say.

That could mean potentially enormous implications for U.S. foreign policy, as administrations have for decades viewed energy security and national security as being inexorably tied.

Music / Politics / JFK Death

Kennedys and King, Review: The Dylan/Kennedy Sensation, James DiEugenio, March 30, 2020. Analysis of the surprising new song released by Bob Dylan about the JFK assassination, Murder Most Foul.

As everyone who reads this site must know by now, Bob Dylan’s newly released song Murder Most Foul has created nothing less than a cultural and popular mini earthquake. As of this writing, the song, his first in about 8 years, has registered 2.4 million views on You Tube. Over two million in 96 hours!

The song is themed around the murder of President Kennedy, but I hesitate to call Murder Most Foul a song. Because, as most people understand, Dylan is one of the finest lyricists in the modern history of music. At his best — in classics like Blowin’ in the Wind and Like a Rolling Stone — he does not really write song lyrics, not in the normal sense. He writes poems. And to anyone who knows anything about the Kennedy assassination, this song is really a poem. It is an intricately designed, multi-leveled, cleverly-referenced poem about both the Kennedy assassination and what happened to America after that cataclysmic event.

For people who have studied the Kennedy case, Dylan has centered the lyrics around a conspiracy to kill JFK in Dallas. Consider these three lines: “We’re gonna kill you with hatred, without any respect/We’ll mock you and shock you and we’ll put it in your face/We’ve already got someone here to take your place.”  But, then, this theme gets hammered home a few lines later.

#MeToo Claim Against Biden

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Medium, Investigative Commentary: Evidence Casts Doubt on Tara Reade’s Sexual Assault Allegations of Joe Biden, Brian Krassenstein and Eddie Krassenstein, March 30, 2020. Alexandra Tara Reade’s accusations of sexual assault against Joe Biden (both shown above) appear very questionable once the story is fully investigated.

We were able to contact a longtime friend of Reade’s who wished to remain anonymous, but they said they “do not believe her allegations,” claiming she has always been one to seek attention. Note: We reached out to Ms. Reade for comment but she refused.

Every allegation of sexual assault must be taken seriously, and the #metoo movement has certainly given the victims of sexual harassment and assault a greater shield of confidence in coming forward with less fear of being attacked themselves. With this said, however, it is the media’s responsibility to thoroughly investigate accusations before jumping into a story and allowing those allegations to potentially destroy another human being, or, in this case, a political campaign. Every woman deserves to be heard, but every media outlet still has the responsibility of investigating and then relaying to the public all of the facts at face value.

joe biden 2020 button CustomAlexandra Tara Reade came forward last week with quite disturbing allegations against former Vice President and current 2020 Presidential candidate Joe Biden. In April of 2019, Reade originally said that Joe Biden’s handsiness made her feel uncomfortable when she worked as a Senate aide in 1993. At the time, however, she said that she did not consider Biden’s actions to be sexualization, instead comparing her experience to that of being a beautiful lamp.

This story suddenly changed last week when Reade took part in an interview with podcast host Katie Halper. In the interview, Reade claimed that then-Senator Joe Biden “penetrated” her, against her will, with his finger, in an encounter that took place in ‘93.

While the allegations made by Reade are impossible to prove or disprove, examining Reade’s actions over the years and other evidence Vladimir Putin Il Corrierethat has been archived on the internet, brings her honesty and integrity into question.

Below we will cover many of the inconsistencies in her story, the endless contradictions she has made over the years, and the evidence that paints a picture of someone who went from seemingly adoring Joe Biden and disliking Vladimir Putin, right, in 2017, to someone who showed compassion and love for Vladimir Putin in 2018, to someone who accused Biden of doing horrific things to her in 2019 and 2020.

Who is Alexandra Tara Reade?

Alexandra Tara Reade has gone by many names and aliases over the years. According to our research, she was born as Tara Reade Moulton, before changing her name in her early 20s to Tara Reade, then changing it back to Tara Moulton again, and then changing it once again later in life (through marriage) to Alexandra Tara McCabe.

It appears as though sometime between 2017 and early 2018 she began calling herself Alexandra Tara Reade.

According to a website that she recently deleted, Reade is the founder of Gracie’s Pet Food Pantry, graduated from Seattle University School of Law, and was the co-host, creator and producer of a soul music radio show called “Soul Vibes” on KNRY — an AM radio station that serves the Santa Cruz and Monterey areas in California.

At one point in her life Reade worked on the domestic violence unit for the King County Prosecutor, in Seattle, WA, as a ‘Victim’s Advocate,” and on at least one occasion testified as an expert witness on domestic violence.

Reade also worked for former Congressman Leon Panetta, former Senator Joe Biden, and former California State Senator Jack O’Connell.

In 2017 Alexandra Tara Reade Praised Joe Biden for Helping End Sexual Assault.

In 2017 Alexandra Tara Reade praised Joe Biden for his action in helping stop sexual assault, not just once, but on multiple occasions.

Alexandra Tara Reade’s other Twitter account under her legal name Alexandra (Tara) McCabe.

Between September of 2016 and May of 2017, Alexander Tara Reade used a Twitter account, under the name Tara McCabe, to spread praise of Joe Biden via tweeting, retweeting and liking various Tweets.

There are multiple examples of this, as seen below:

  • In the below instance, Reade retweeted a tweet by Margaret Cho that appears to commend Joe Biden for working with Lady Gaga to end sexual assault.
  • In 2017 Joe Biden worked with Lady Gaga to help end sexual assault. In February of 2017, Tara Reade retweeted this tweet apparently commending Biden for his work in doing so.
  • Then again in April of 2017, Reade liked a tweet by the Huffington post that praised the former Vice President for helping men realize how important they are in the fight against sexual assault. The article commends Biden for the steps he has taken to encourage men to take responsibility in stopping assaults against women.

 ...

Conclusion

No, no one will be able to say with certainty whether Tara Reade’s latest allegations are legitimate or not, but the very least we can do is ensure that the public has as much information as possible to make an informed decision. That’s the purpose of this article.

With that, we leave you with two things to think about

#1) A tweet response made by Reade just weeks before coming forward with new allegations seemingly contradicting her original story, and just days before The Daily Beast reported on the Russian media becoming concerned with Joe Biden’s resurgence. As you can see, it seems as though Reade is admitting that she’s waiting for the perfect time to release her new allegations in order to hurt Joe Biden’s campaign:

And #2) A tweet response that Reade made to the parents of accused rapist Julian Assange. She called the man “a hero.”

Note: UPDATE 4/2/20: We were able to contact a longtime friend of Reade’s who wished to remain anonymous, but they said they “do not believe her allegations,” claiming she has always been one to seek attention.

We went out of our way to get Reade on the record to defend herself and also spoke to individuals close to her for years in an effort to get someone to tell us that Reade was telling the truth. Those we spoke to could not do so and in fact left us even more convinced that things don’t add up.

Background on Krassentein Brothers

brian krassenstein ed krassenstein left facebook

Heavy.com, Krassenstein Brothers: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know, Erin Laviola, Updated May 24, 2019. Ed (above at left) and Brian Krassenstein (above right in the Facebook photo), the Florida brothers who became famous on Twitter for their outspoken opposition of President Trump, have been permanently banned from the social platform.

The Krassensteins were accused of creating fake Twitter accounts and purchasing automated “bots” that could share and “like” their tweets in order to boost their own profiles. They shared the official statement that Twitter sent out on their website, the Hill Reporter:

“The Twitter Rules to apply to everyone. Operating multiple fake accounts and purchasing account interactions are strictly prohibited. Engaging in these behaviors will result in permanent suspension from the service.”

Ed and Brian Krassenstein have denied the accusations. They wrote in an op-ed on May 24, 2019 “We NEVER, and we want to make twitter bird Customthis as clear as day, ever bought or sold ANY Twitter accounts or interactions. We swear on our graves that this is 100% true.”

The Krassenstein brothers had more than 1.6 million followers between them before Twitter banned them from the site. Ed and Brian Krassenstein have been tweeting about Donald Trump and his administration since late 2016. Many of their tweets have called for his impeachment and accused him of being corrupt. They often were seen responding to the president’s tweets. They are also credited with helping to promote the hashtag “Resistance” on social media.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Ed & Brian Krassenstein Began Tweeting About Donald Trump in Late 2016; The Brothers Say They Started Posting About the President Out of Sincere Concerns About the Administration

2. The Krassenstein Brothers Deny Paying For Bots & Have Asked Twitter to Review The Suspension

3. Federal Investigators Searched Ed & Brian Krassenstein’s Homes in 2016 After They Were Accused of Helping to Promote Scams Run By a Russian Crime Organization; The Brothers Were Never Charged With a Crime

4. Ed & Brian Krassenstein Have Operated Dozens of Websites Since the Early 2000s

5. Brian & Ed Krassenstein Are Both Married Fathers & Live in the Same Neighborhood in Fort Myers, Florida

Daily Beast, Twitter Bans #Resistance-Famous Krassenstein Brothers for Allegedly Operating Fake Accounts: GONE, Will Sommer, May 23, daily beast logo2019. Ed and Brian Krassenstein are banned for life after ‘operating multiple fake accounts and purchasing account interactions,’ a Twitter spokesman said.

Twitter has permanently banned prominent anti-Trump brothers Brian and Ed Krassenstein, alleging that two of the biggest stars of #Resistance Twitter had broken the site’s rules about operating fake accounts and purchasing fake interactions with their accounts.

“The Twitter Rules apply to everyone,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. “Operating multiple fake accounts and purchasing account interactions are strictly prohibited. Engaging in these behaviors will result in permanent suspension from the service.”

The suspensions are a major loss for the Krassensteins, who had used their massive Twitter followers and ability to quickly respond to tweets from Donald Trump to make themselves internet celebrities. Ed Krassenstein had roughly 925,000 followers before he was banned, while Brian Krassenstein had more than 697,000.

twitter bird CustomThe brothers appeared to be unusually good at getting attention on Twitter. While the Twitter statement doesn’t explain what the Krassensteins allegedly did to illicitly promote their accounts, “fake interactions” could engage buying bots to retweet their posts, or buying fake followers to inflate their profiles on the site.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, the Krassensteins denied breaking Twitter rules.

“Twitter claims that we manipulated our interactions through the purchase of fake accounts and fake interactions,” the Krassenstein brothers said. “We have never once acquired anything for the purpose of increasing our Twitter presence.”

The Krassensteins say they only operated secondary accounts on Twitter to monitor death threats, as well as accounts for their businesses.

“None of those accounts were ever used for manipulative purposes as Twitter claims,” the Krassensteins said in the statement.

March 29

Global Viral Overviews

Solutions / Non-Solutions

Viral U.S. Politics

Viral U.S. Impacts

U.S. 2020 Elections

Music / Politics / JFK Death

World News

 

Global Viral Overviews

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, Desperate for medical equipment, states find a beleaguered national stockpile, Amy Goldstein, Lena H. Sun and Beth Reinhard, March 29, 2020. States seeking masks, drugs, ventilators and other items from the stockpile are encountering a system beset by years of underfunding, changing lines of authority, confusion over the allocation of supplies and a lack of transparency from the administration, said state and federal officials and public health experts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Trump Backs Off Idea of New York Quarantine, Staff reports, March 29, 2020. Hours after President Trump suggested a quarantine on the New York area, the C.D.C. instead advised residents there to refrain from non-essential travel; The lockdown in India left hundreds of thousands homeless, spurring the country’s biggest migration in recent history; A federal judge ordered the government to “make continuous efforts” to release migrant children from detention after reports of four cases. Follow updates.

The U.S. health department’s civil rights office is opening investigations to ensure that states don’t allow discrimination on the basis of disabilities, race or age when deciding who receives lifesaving care.

A U.K. surgeon fighting the pandemic dies, and Spain reports an overnight record rise in the number of fatalities.

TMZ, Florida Megachurch Packed with Worshipers During Coronavirus Pandemic; Pastor Shuns Social Distancing, Staff report, March 29, 2020 (3-hour, 34-minute video of service). Opinion: This is the clear and present danger ... people continuing to congregate -- squeezing into close quarters like sardines -- and that's exactly what happened Sunday at a Florida Church.

The River Church in Tampa was packed to the gills with worshipers who clearly were looking for hope. Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, who presides over the megachurch and has been reportedly defiant over social distancing, has claimed he'll cure coronavirus just the way he did with Zika.

He has vowed he will never close his church ... despite every doctor and scientist saying social distancing is the only thing that will prevent the disease from spreading even more.

The Pastor boasted his place was white-glove clean, saying, “We brought in 13 machines that basically kill every virus in the place, and uh, if somebody walks through the door it’s like, it kills everything on them. If they sneeze, it shoots it down at like 100 mph. It'll neutralize it in split seconds. We have the most sterile building in, I don’t know, all of America.”

Howard-Browne said on March 17, "We are not stopping anything. I've got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church will close is when the Rapture is taking place.”

The Pastor has peddled ridiculous theories in the past, but this takes the cake.

The scariest part ... all these people showed up elbow-to-elbow. If they contract the disease, they are the ones most likely to spread it, because they are clearly not practicing or understanding social distancing.

BTW ... Pastor Joel Osteen, who presides over the Lakewood Church in Houston, is doing virtual services to protect his congregation.

As for Howard-Browne ... well, faith is important, but seriously ... risking the health and safety of the people who come to worship ... really outrageous and irresponsible.

Associated Press, Hundreds at Louisiana church flout COVID-19 gatherings ban, Stacey Plaisance, March 29, 2020. Hundreds of worshippers ap logoattended services at a Louisiana church on Sunday, flouting a ban on large gatherings, angering neighbors and seemingly turning a deaf ear to their governor, who once again warned that hospitals could soon be overwhelmed with new cases of the coronavirus.

An estimated 500 people of all ages filed inside the mustard-yellow and beige Life Tabernacle church in Central, a city of nearly 29,000 outside Baton Rouge.

Assistant ministers and worshippers who stood outside the front doors and in the parking lot of Life Tabernacle told news reporters to leave, saying cameras would not be allowed on the property and they had been told not to talk to the news media. They went inside without further comment.

Across the street, Paul Quinn and other neighbors took pains to stay 6 feet (2 meters) apart from each other as they stood in a driveway and commented on their opposition to the services being held.

“Other congregations are using the internet, Skype, and other safe ways to congregate. Why can’t they? What makes them so special?" Quinn asked. "I wish state police would come out and do something. ... If they get out of church and go to the grocery store, it’s a serious health hazard. They don’t know how many people they’re affecting, and they don’t seem to care. That’s a problem.”

Briefly commenting Sunday in the church's parking lot, Timothy Spell, father of Pastor Tony Spell, said Life Tabernacle has a right to assembly, is not forcing anyone to attend services, is not breaking any laws and will continue to hold services at the church.

More than 3,500 Louisiana residents have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, and more than 150 of them have died, according to state figures released Sunday. Deaths included that of the first federal prison inmate, a man with “serious preexisting conditions” who was being held in Oakdale, Lousiana, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons said Saturday.

The virus has killed seven of more than 160 people diagnosed with the disease in East Baton Rouge Parish, where the church is located, according to state figures.

huff post logoHuffPost, Liberty University Students Showing Signs Of COVID-19 After Returning To Campus, Ja'han Jones, March 29, 2020. Nearly a dozen students at Liberty University, a private, evangelical Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia, are showing symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, after coming back to campus after spring break, according to a New York Times report.

jerry falwell jr wLiberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. is a staunch ally of President Donald Trump’s and has been one of the most outspoken opponents of social distancing guidance that has advised schools to avoid holding large, in-person gatherings.

Much like Trump, Falwell Jr.,  right, has routinely downplayed the impact of coronavirus, and made the baseless claim that North Korea and China developed the disease as a bioweapon to attack the United States.

By last week, about 1,900 students — of about 15,000 — were back on campus, a university spokesperson told Lynchburg’s News and Advance. By Sunday, Falwell Jr. told the Times, more than 800 of those students had left.

“Liberty will be notifying the community as deemed appropriate and required by law,” he said.

The head of Liberty’s student health service, Dr. Thomas W. Eppes Jr., told Falwell Jr. that the university had “lost the ability to corral this thing” before inviting potentially infected students back to campus, according to the Times. Eppes said he didn’t urge Falwell to close the school at that moment.

The day Liberty reopened its campus amid the outbreak, Lynchburg’s mayor, Treney Tweedy, issued a statement condemning Falwell and the university.

“I am concerned for the students, faculty and employees at Liberty University, and I am also very concerned for the residents of the Lynchburg community,” Tweedy said.

“Liberty University is an important part of this community,” she added. “However, I believe it was a reckless decision to bring students back on campus at this time.”

Liberty University did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, An explosion of coronavirus cases cripples a federal prison in Louisiana, Kimberly Kindy, March 29, 2020. Dozens of staff and inmates test positive for covid-19 at the Oakdale prison. One prisoner has died — the first federal inmate fatality from the coronavirus.

A federal prison in Louisiana has, within days, exploded with coronavirus cases, leading to the death of one inmate on Saturday, the admission of a guard into a hospital intensive care unit, and positive test results for another 30 inmates and staff.

Patrick Jones, 49, was the first inmate in the Federal Bureau of Prisons diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, which causes covid-19, and the first to die.

At least 60 inmates at the Oakdale prison are in quarantine and an unknown number of staff are self-quarantining at home, said Corey Trammel, a union representative for correctional officers at the 1,700-inmate facility about 110 miles northwest of Baton Rouge.

“It’s been simultaneous, just people getting sick back to back to back to back,” Trammel said. “We don’t know how to protect ourselves. Staff are working 36-hour shifts — there’s no way we can keep going on like this.”

The prison bureau is not releasing the names of other infected inmates or staff, citing medical and privacy concerns. Jones complained of john bel edwards Customa “persistent cough” on March 19, the prison bureau said, and was transported to a hospital where he was diagnosed and placed on a ventilator.

The prison bureau also said Jones had “long-term, preexisting medical conditions” that increased his risk of developing the disease. Jones was convicted in 2017 of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine within 1,000 feet of a junior college. He was serving a 27-year sentence.

Louisiana ranks 10th highest among states for reported coronavirus cases, with more than 3,300 people who have tested positive and another 137 who have died, government reports show. A week before the Oakdale prison had its first positive case, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), right, issued a stay-at-home order and closed all public schools.

Axios Sneak Peak: 1 big thing: Trump says peak deaths in 2 weeks, extends shutdown, Jonathan Swan, right, March 29, 2020. President jonathan swan twitterTrump is extending his administration's "15 days to slow the spread" shutdown guidelines for an additional month in the face of mounting coronavirus infections and deaths and pressure from public health officials and governors.

The president set April 30 as the new deadline for the social distancing guidelines in a Sunday evening briefing from the White House.

Driving the news: With the original 15-day period that was announced March 16 about to end, officials around the country had been bracing for a premature call to return to normalcy from a president who's been venting lately that the prescription for containing the virus could be worse than the impacts of the virus itself.

"We had an aspiration" of Easter, Trump said, but when he heard the numbers of potential deaths, he realized he couldn't push a reopening of the economy as soon as he previously had foreshadowed.

Trump explained his turnaround by saying his government's modeling shows the peak death rate will likely come in two weeks. He said that 2.2 million people could die if the government did nothing and the public didn't do the social distancing. "Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won," he said.

The federal guidelines include directives for older people to stay home and for all Americans to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people and to avoid bars, restaurants, shopping trips and nursing homes.

Behind the scenes: Trump has been under mounting pressure to extend the guidelines after numerous public officials pushed back against his statement last week that the economy could be back and running by Easter.

Maryland's Republican Gov. Larry Hoganlarry hogan o headshot Custom, right, told me in a blunt interview on Thursday that he was prepared to ignore President Trump if he reverted back to his "very harmful" message of reopening large sections of the economy by Easter.

"It would be very harmful, because we would obviously not listen to that. We would listen to the scientists and the doctors and make the decision we thought was necessary to save the lives and protect the health of our citizens."

"But the messaging would hurt because lots of people would listen to that and say, 'But they said it was OK. Why is the governor telling us we have to continue social distancing, why can't we go back to work? Why can't we open our business? Why can't the kids go back to school now?'

"I just wish that we would have a consistent message from the federal government," Hogan said.

Why it matters: Hogan, whose second and final term ends in 2022, is a Republican governor of a blue state. He also chairs the National Governors Association, leading the bipartisan coordination of governors' responses.

"Many of the governors on both sides of the aisle have a lot of concerns about that messaging," Hogan told me.

Solutions / Non-Solutions

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Failure to Test Blinded the U.S. to Covid-19, Michael D. Shear, Abby Goodnough, Sheila Kaplan, Sheri Fink, Katie Thomas and Noah Weiland, March 29, 2020 (print ed.). America squandered its best chance of containing the virus because of faulty test kits, red tape and lapses in leadership, interviews show.

ny times logoNew York Times, The U.S. Tried to Build a New Fleet of Ventilators. The Mission Collapsed, Nicholas Kulish, Sarah Kliff and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, March 29, 2020. As the coronavirus ravages America’s health care system, a canceled federal contract helps explain the acute shortage of medical equipment.

ny times logoezekiel emanuel CustomNew York Times, Opinion: We Can Safely Restart the Economy in June. Here’s How, Ezekiel J. Emanuel (right, vice provost of global initiatives and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania), March 29, 2020. Get tough now. Test widely to isolate those infected, and slowly revive businesses with workers and customers who have developed immunity.

washington post logoWashington Post, Experts converge on plans for how to ease restrictions safely, Laurie McGinley and William Wan, March 29, 2020. With the White House’s 15-day guidelines on social distancing expiring, experts are drafting proposals for a national strategy.

The latest proposal is a 19-page plan with a step-by-step timeline, with clear benchmarks states and regions would need to meet to safely move forward to the next step.

The plan was published Sunday by the American Enterprise Institute. Its lead author — Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner in the Trump administration — has been acting as an informal adviser to the White House. His collaborators include Mark McClellan, a former FDA commissioner from the George W. Bush Administration; Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security; and other leading policy experts and epidemiologists.

ny times logoNew York Times, Who Should Be Saved First? Experts Offer Ethical Guidance, Austin Frakt, Updated March 29, 2020. Well before rationing caused by coronavirus, protocols were established about “who lives and who dies.”

How do doctors and hospitals decide who gets potentially lifesaving treatment and who doesn’t?

A lot of thought has been given to just such a predicament, well before critical shortages from the coronavirus pandemic.

“It would be irresponsible at this point not to get ready to make tragic decisions about who lives and who dies,” said Dr. Matthew Wynia, director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado.

Facing this dilemma recently — who gets a ventilator or a hospital bed — Italian doctors sought ethical counsel and were told to consider an approach that draws on utilitarian principles.

In layman’s terms, a utilitarian approach would maximize overall health by directing care toward those most likely to benefit the most from it. If you had only one ventilator, it would go to someone more likely to survive instead of someone deemed unlikely to do so. It would not go to whichever patient was first admitted, and it would not be assigned via a lottery system. (If there are ties within classes of people, then a lottery — choosing at random — is what ethicists recommend.)

In addition, they say prioritizing the health of front-line health care workers is necessary to maximize the number of lives saved. We may face a shortage of such workers, and some have already fallen ill.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Pence to bring recommendations to Trump on when to reopen economy, Derek Hawkins, Simon Denyer, Michael Birnbaum, Brittany Shammas, Kim Bellware, Lateshia Beachum and Miriam Berger, March 29, 2020. Kenya’s coronavirus curfew begins with wave of police crackdowns

Viral U.S. Politicsanthony fauci white house

washington post logoWashington Post, The Expert Who Corrects Trump Is Now a Target of Far-Right Vitriol, Davey Alba and Sheera Frenkel, March 28, 2020. Dr. Anthony Fauci, above, the administration’s most outspoken advocate of emergency virus measures, faces a torrent of false claims that he is mobilizing to undermine the president.

At a White House briefing on the coronavirus on March 20, President Trump called the State Department the “Deep State Department.” Behind him, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, dropped his head and rubbed his forehead.

Some thought Dr. Fauci was slighting the president, leading to a vitriolic online reaction. On Twitter and Facebook, a post that falsely claimed he was part of a secret cabal who opposed Mr. Trump was soon shared thousands of times, reaching roughly 1.5 million people.

anthony fauci CustomA week later, Dr. Fauci — the administration’s most outspoken advocate of emergency measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak — has become the target of an online conspiracy theory that he is mobilizing to undermine the president.

That fanciful claim has spread across social media, fanned by a right-wing chorus of Mr. Trump’s supporters, even as Dr. Fauci has won a public following for his willingness to contradict the president and correct falsehoods and overly rosy pronouncements about containing the virus.

An analysis by The New York Times found over 70 accounts on Twitter that have promoted the hashtag #FauciFraud, with some tweeting as frequently as 795 times a day. The anti-Fauci sentiment is being reinforced by posts from Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, a conservative group; Bill Mitchell, host of the far-right online talk show “YourVoice America”; and other outspoken Trump supporters such as Shiva Ayyadurai, who has falsely claimed to be the inventor of email.

Many of the anti-Fauci posts, some of which pointed to a seven-year-old email that Dr. Fauci had sent praising Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of State, have been retweeted thousands of times. On YouTube, conspiracy-theory videos about Dr. Fauci have racked up hundreds of thousands of views in the past week. In private Facebook groups, posts disparaging him have also been shared hundreds of times and liked by thousands of people, according to the Times analysis.

Associated Press, Trump administration rules gun shops ‘essential’ amid virus, Lisa Marie Pane, March 29, 2020. The Trump administration ap logohas ruled that gun shops are considered “essential” businesses that should remain open as other businesses are closed to try to stop the spread of coronavirus. Gun control groups are balking, calling it a policy that puts profits over public health after intense lobbying by the firearms industry.

In the past several weeks, various states and municipalities have offered different interpretations of whether gun stores should be allowed to remain open as Americans stay at home to avoid spreading the virus. In Los Angeles, for example, County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has twice ordered gun shops in his territory to close, leading to legal challenges from gun rights advocates.

After days of lobbying by the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and other gun groups, the Department of Homeland Security this past weekend issued an advisory declaring that firearms dealers should be considered essential services — just like grocery stores, pharmacies and hospitals — and allowed to remain open. The agency said its ruling was not a mandate but merely guidance for cities, towns and states as they weigh how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Still, gun control groups called it a move to put profits over public health. The Brady group on Monday filed a Freedom of Information request with DHS seeking emails and documents that explain how the agency reached its decision to issue the advisory and to determine if it consulted with any public health experts.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mitch Albom destroys Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, March 29, 2020. This week Donald Trump admitted during a press bill palmerconference that he’s letting the people of Michigan and Washington die in the coronavirus crisis because he doesn’t like their governors. This was a flat out confession to mass murder, and let’s just say that it isn’t going over well in the states in question.

bill palmer report logo headerDetroit legend Mitch Albom, former sports writer and author of Tuesdays With Morrie, is ripping Donald Trump to pieces in a new column for the Detroit Free Press. “Show some respect,” Albom says to Trump, after Trump referred to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer as “the woman” instead of using her name.

Albom explains that “I have tried to shy away from too much Donald Trump criticism during this crisis” because “what good does it do?” But at this point Albom has absolutely had it. He goes on to defend Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, point by point, while asserting that Trump’s handling of things has been “horse crap.”

You can read Mitch Albom’s entire takedown here.  What continues to stand out to us is that Donald Trump needs to win Michigan in November in order to have any shot at reelection, and yet he’s alienating the state as thoroughly as possible.

gretchen whitmer o horizontal Custom

Detroit Free Press, Opinion: Hey, President Trump: Her name is Gretchen Whitmer, Mitch Albom, below right, March 29, 2020. First of all, she has a name. Gretchen Whitmer (above). She is not “the woman” or “all she does is sit there” or “you know who I’m talking about” — all phrases mitch albom facebook CustomPresident Donald Trump has used besides saying the actual name of the person Michigan voters elected to govern us.

Show some respect. At a time when Americans must adjust to a world without hugs, kisses or handshakes, the least a president of the United States can do is call our governor by her name.

And stop complaining about her “complaining.” Gretchen Whitmer hasn’t done anything that every Michigander doesn’t want her to do — ask the federal government for masks, ventilators, test kits and other aid to fight the COVID-19 virus that is infecting and killing us.

She’s not speaking for herself. She’s speaking for the people.

Trump’s response? Don’t call her back.

“I say, ‘Mike (Pence, the vice president) … don’t call the woman in Michigan,” Trump said during his news conference Friday. “You know what I say? If they don’t treat you right, don’t call.”

So let’s get this straight. The leader of our great country, when he feels that he hasn’t been treated “right,” doesn’t return the call of a governor begging for help to save the lives of her constituents?

I have tried to shy away from too much Donald Trump criticism during this crisis, to look away from his incoherent ramblings, to shake a head at his massive exaggerations, to sigh when he tells the world he’d like “all the churches full” on Easter, two weeks from today, when every scientist worth a damn says we won’t even begin to see the peak of national coronavirus infections until then — or weeks later.

I’ve tried to avoid bashing such moves because, frankly, what good does it do? Three years of insults, lies and embarrassing statements haven’t changed people’s minds about this president. Besides, COVID-19 isn’t political. It attacks the left and the right, the engaged and the apathetic, and kills with the cold indifference of an executioner.

But when political pettiness can hold up shipments that might keep our Michigan loved ones and medical personnel alive? Well. No one should be silent.

You’re familiar with the New Testament passage about, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child … but when I became a man, I put away childish things”?

Time’s up, Mr. President.

“The governor of Michigan, she’s not stepping up,” Trump complained to Fox News on Thursday night. “I don’t know if she knows what’s going on, but all she does is sit there and blame the federal government. She doesn’t get it done and we send her a lot.”

Hmm. Let’s break that down. “I don’t know if she knows what’s going on.” You can be Whitmer’s biggest critic, but you must admit she knows what’s going on. She jumped into action early on this virus, dialing down crowd sizes, closing the schools, going after gougers, then shutting the state down altogether, long before most states took similar steps.

“All she’s done is sit there and blame the federal government.” No, Whitmer has done exactly what other governors have been — and should be — doing: asking for testing kits, masks and ventilators from the feds — which is supposed to stockpile such things — same as Andrew Cuomo in New York, Gavin Newsom in California, Jay Inslee of Washington and Phil Murphy of New Jersey.

Those four states are the only ones with more COVID-19 infections than Michigan. That’s right. We are fifth in the nation, as of Saturday. That ought to put us near the top when it comes to emergency aid. On Thursday, Whitmer requested a federal major disaster declaration for Michigan.

And while some say she should have done that sooner, Whitmer said Friday vendors with whom the state had orders were being told “not to send stuff to Michigan.” She told a local radio station: “I reached out to the White House … and asked for a phone call with the president."

Of course, the president won’t call her back, because he doesn’t talk to people who don’t “treat you right.”

Thankfully, on Saturday, the situation improved, with the disaster declaration accepted (which means more funds and supplies) and a shipment of around 120,000 masks, and possibly a million more on the way, according to U.S. Sen. Gary Peters.

djt doesnt listen CustomBut while that sounds like a lot, COVID-19 cases in Michigan exploded from around 350 to over 3,000 in a single week. That’s a nearly tenfold increase — in a week! Expect that pace to continue and you see how fast we’ll go through such supplies.

And yet our calls for federal help are like dialing an airline during the holidays? Fat chance of speaking to somebody?

“What do you want the governors to do?” the president was asked Friday.

Trump spread his hands.

“All I want them to do — very simple — I want them to be appreciative.”

Good Lord.

What’s this all about? Sadly, as with so many things the last three years, it’s about Donald Trump’s perception of himself. Gov. Whitmer was critical of the initial federal response to this virus. She wishes we had a more coherent national plan.

So what? So does almost everybody who’s really examined this thing. Trump, the man in charge, went from saying COVID-19 would be temporary and was going to "disappear" to telling everyone he knew it was a pandemic “long before it was called a pandemic.”

Both statements are — how else to say it? — horse crap. As is his incredible preoccupation with how people “appreciate” him. This is why Whitmer is on his naughty list? Not enough gratitude?

strategic culture logoStrategic Culture Foundation via OpEdNews, Opinion: The Pandemic's Toll on Federalism, Wayne Madsen, below right, March 29, 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has had a deadly toll on the world's population. However, the pandemic has also seen another, collateral, victim: Various forms of federations, where a central executive should provide an equal safety and health wayne%20madsen%20reportumbrella over all of the constituent parts of the federal entity, have seen the centers shirk their responsibilities and either failed to act for the nation as a whole or played favorites with certain member constituencies.

Two of the most egregious failures of federal structures during the pandemic have been two countries led by megalomaniac far-right conspiracy-believing presidents, namely, the United States and Brazil.

It is no surprise that in the midst of the pandemic, U.S. president Donald Trump and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro were partying at mar a lago aerial CustomTrump's Mar-a-Lago billionaire's club in Palm Beach, Florida,  left. What neither they nor the staffs realized is that Mar-a-Lago was on the verge of becoming a coronavirus hot zone.

Several members of Bolsonaro's delegation, including his press secretary, were diagnosed as COVID-10 positive. The deadly virus also infected one of Trump's guests, the Republican mayor of Miami, Florida, Francis Suarez, had also tested positive. The U.S. ambassador to South Africa, Palm Beach resident and fashion executive Lana Marks, may have infected the staff of the U.S. embassy in Pretoria and a visiting U.S. naval vessel in South Africa after having had close contact with a coronavirus positive individual at Mar-a-Lago.

Bolsonaro and Trump spent most of their time together in Mar-a-Lago doubting the veracity of scientific and news reports on the contagiousness of the virus and its rapid global spread. It was this lackadaisical attitude that resulted in states in their respective federal republics deciding the leadership at the top of their respective nations was so wanting, they decided to take resolute actions on their own. States join a federation because they decide that the central government can provide for common needs like national security, foreign affairs, monetary policy, finances, and other functions, thus freeing the states to be concerned with more immediate issues like education, public health, social welfare, local government, and other areas.

Trump's casting off federal concerns for hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, both U.S. territories, in the wake of two devastating storms in 2017 should have been a wakeup call to the states that Trump's brand of libertarian cronyism would have a future negative impact on the states. Trump's ineptness became a nightmarish reality as the coronavirus swept from Asia initially into the states of Washington, California, and New York. Trump resorted to taunting the Democratic governors of the three states with childish names as they were left to deal with the virus without any clear signs of support from the Republican White House and U.S. Senate.

American FlagThe federal system of the United States began to fray at the seams as California met the virus threat by adopting its own unique policies that saw lock downs first in the San Francisco Bay area followed by the entire state. Washington's governor had previously locked down his state and, soon, New York state followed suit.

Without any clear leadership from the Trump White House, the makings of a new regional political entity coordinating its quarantine and other health policies began to take shape in the northeastern United States.

The governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, all Democrats, created their own ad hoc alliance to establish common policy on quarantines, travel, business closures, as well as shared resources in combating the coronavirus. It has been the case that in time of war and other catastrophic events, new nation-states have been born out of necessity.

andrew cuomoThusly, New York governor Andrew Cuomo, right, became the de facto leader of this new political alliance of states, which can be called "Midatlantica" for purposes of brevity. Cuomo, realizing that the White House was incapable of acting responsibly, said, "We are literally scouring the globe looking for medical supplies," a foreign policy action usually carried out by central governments. Previously, California, Oregon, and Washington had coordinated their responses to Trump policies, including environmental decisions, that the three Democratic state governors felt were harmful to their states.

On March 22, Trump lashed out at the complaining governors in a tweet: "JB Pritzker [below left], Governor of Illinois, and a very small group of certain other Governors, together with Fake News CNN and Concast MSDNC [sic] (which is Comcast MS-NBC), shouldn't be blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings." The die was cast, the federal republic of the United States was on life support, thanks to the dithering incompetence of the Trump administration. As Americans began jay pritzker Customdying in large numbers, Trump, like Roman emperor Nero with his lye as Rome burned, tweeted.

As the coronavirus began making a further impact on the United States, Hawaii announced restrictions on travel to the formerly independent Polynesian kingdom by non-residents of the island chain. Arriving visitors were ordered to quarantine in their hotels for 14 days, which effectively stemmed the flow of tourist traffic to a trickle.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, right, a pro-Trump sycophant, decided to delay taking concrete action to deal with the virus's spread. That resulted in the Florida Keys, known socio-economically as the "Conch Republic," to close off their ron desantis uncredited Customislands to non-residents, except for certain limited reasons.

As Florida hospitals began to feel the stress of COVID-19 patients in their emergency rooms and intensive care units, DeSantis decided it was the right time to present Florida Republican House Speaker Jose Oliva with a baseball bat with the currently insensitive inscription, "Slayer of the healthcare industrial complex."

On March 11, DeSantis requested the federal government to provide Florida with personal protection equipment for the state's medical workers. Trump provided all the material that was requested. Other states, including those of the emergent region of Midatlantica, Illinois, and the West Coast, received only a minute portion of requested supplies and equipment, another dagger into the heart of the U.S. federal system.

The Miami Herald reported that DeSantis's televised comments on the pandemic as a "rambling, incoherent monologue that went on for too long." The same holds true for Trump's press briefings.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Covid-19 Brings Out All the Usual Zombies, Paul Krugman, right, March 29, 2020. Why virus denial resembles paul krugmanclimate denial.

Let me summarize the Trump administration/right-wing media view on the coronavirus: It’s a hoax, or anyway no big deal. Besides, trying to do anything about it would destroy the economy. And it’s China’s fault, which is why we should call it the “Chinese virus.”

Oh, and epidemiologists who have been modeling the virus’s future spread have come under sustained attack, accused of being part of a “deep state” plot against Donald Trump, or maybe free markets.

Does all this give you a sense of déjà vu? It should. After all, it’s very similar to the Trump/right-wing line on climate change. Here’s what Trump tweeted back in 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.” It’s all there: it’s a hoax, doing anything about it will destroy the economy, and let’s blame China.

And epidemiologists startled to find their best scientific efforts denounced as politically motivated fraud should have known what was coming. After all, exactly the same thing happened to climate scientists, who have faced constant harassment for decades.

So the right-wing response to Covid-19 has been almost identical to the right-wing response to climate change, albeit on a vastly accelerated time scale. But what lies behind this kind of denialism?

Well, I recently published a book about the prevalence in our politics of “zombie ideas” — ideas that have been proved wrong by overwhelming evidence and should be dead, but somehow keep shambling along, eating people’s brains.

The most prevalent zombie in U.S. politics is the insistence that tax cuts for the rich produce economic miracles, indeed pay for themselves, but the most consequential zombie, the one that poses an existential threat, is climate change denial. And Covid-19 has brought out all the usual zombies.

Viral U.S. Impacts

ny times logoNew York Times, N.Y.C.’s 911 System Is Overwhelmed. ‘I’m Terrified,’ a Paramedic Says, Ali Watkins, March 29, 2020 (print ed.). Emergency workers are making life-or-death decisions about who goes to a hospital and who is left behind.

Even as hospitals across New York become inundated with coronavirus cases, some patients are being left behind in their homes because the health care system cannot handle them all, according to dozens of interviews with paramedics, New York Fire Department officials and union representatives, as well as city data.

In a matter of days, the city’s 911 system has been overwhelmed by calls for medical distress apparently related to the virus. Typically, the system sees about 4,000 Emergency Medical Services calls a day.

On Thursday, dispatchers took more than 7,000 calls — a volume not seen since the Sept. 11 attacks. The record for amount of calls in a day was broken three times in the last week.

washington post logoWashington Post, Urban centers gird for catastrophic outbreak, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Chelsea Janes, March 29, 2020. Still unable to do widespread testing, and fearful as the federal government fails to marshal critical supplies, officials in Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles are watching caseloads climb and trying to prepare.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Great American Migration of 2020: On the move to escape the coronavirus, Marc Fisher, Paul Schwartzman and Ben Weissenbach, March 29, 2020. Even as most people stay close to home, millions of others have been on the move, a mass migration that looks urgent and temporary but might contain the seeds of a wholesale shift in where and how Americans live. But virus fugitives often are running into fierce opposition on their routes.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Former federal prosecutor makes the case for criminal charges against Donald Trump in coronavirus crisis, Bill bill palmer report logo headerPalmer, March 29, 2020. What Donald Trump is doing right now is mass murder in the eyes of most people. Not only have his lies and incompetence gotten a whole lot of Americans killed in the coronavirus crisis, he’s now withholding aid to states whose Governors he doesn’t like, thus purposely ratcheting up the death toll. But does this meet the legal definition of a crime?

Respected former federal prosecutor and current NBC News legal analyst Glenn Kirschner spelled it out this way:

Involuntary Manslaughter = 1. Acting in a grossly negligent manner, which 2. poses a risk of serious bodily injury or death to another, thereby 3. causing the death of another (“causation” defined as an act that is a substantial factor in bringing about death). Just the facts.

— Glenn Kirschner (@glennkirschner2) March 29, 2020

“Involuntary Manslaughter” may sound a lot less severe than how the average person sees Donald Trump’s actions. But the court of law has a different threshold for criminality than the court of public opinion does. The bottom line is that with Trump now in severe danger of losing the election in November and no longer being President by January, he now has to worry about facing even more criminal charges once he’s gone. Of course he’s already facing life in prison and then some, so he may be past the point of caring.

U.S. 2020 Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, The Virus Has Transformed the 2020 Elections. Here’s How, Jonathan Martin, Reid J. Epstein and Maggie Haberman, Democratic-Republican Campaign logosMarch 29, 2020. Party conventions are in jeopardy, campaigning is on hold and local candidates are playing the role of good Samaritan instead of traditional politician.

Many Democratic leaders now doubt their national party convention will take place as planned in July, while President Trump’s determination to hold the Republican convention could collide with life-and-death realities.

dnc square logoBoth Mr. Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. are wary of holding public events too soon and may not engage in full-fledged campaigning until the summer.

And hundreds of congressional, statewide and local candidates, who are always overshadowed in presidential years, are turning to the role of good Samaritan — aiding with groceries and hiring people newly out of work in an effort to stay visible without being insensitive to the crisis.

The virus has fundamentally transformed political life in America, affecting how candidates communicate with voters, raise money from donors and confront their opponents. This is for now the country’s first virtual campaign, as the risk of disease physically separates candidates from the people they seek to represent, and pushes officeseekers from Mr. Biden on down to appeal to homebound voters and contributors through balky web videos.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A World Without Partisan Gerrymanders? Virginia Democrats Show the Way, Jesse Wegman, March 29, 2020 (print ed.). In a rare move, a group of lawmakers voted to give up their own redistricting power.

democratic donkey logoPoliticians rarely give up power voluntarily. They never give it up when they have free rein to lock it in for at least a decade, and exact long-overdue revenge against their political opponents.

But a group of Virginia Democrats did just that earlier this month, when they voted in favor of an amendment to the State Constitution stripping themselves of the power to redraw legislative district maps in 2021, after the decennial census.

washington post logoWashington Post Magazine, The demise of Bernie Sanders wasn’t only about ideology or policy. It was also about the candidate himself, Rachel Manteuffel, March 29, 2020 (print ed.). Maybe his demise was less about ideology or policy — and more about the candidate himself.

bernie sanders 2020 button croppedBernie Sanders — a notoriously grumpy Jewish socialist seeking the presidential nomination of a party he does not belong to and often disparages, whose lefty positions include politically tractionless ideas such as allowing convicted felons to vote from their prison cells, whose shlumpy posture emphatically lacks the parallel-to-the-wall bearing of the typical U.S. senator, who sounds like a sufferer of perpetual nasal congestion, who has had a child out of wedlock, who is older today than Ronald Reagan was when he left office already in some state of mental confusion — had a heart attack on Oct. 1.

And it was then that his campaign really began to take off. Not only did the heart attack not deter any of his established fans, but more people than ever before began identifying themselves as supporters, and vastly more people opened their wallets.

He surged in the polls; he won the popular vote in Iowa, triumphed in New Hampshire, romped in Nevada. But it turned out there was one last surprise: Just as quickly as Sanders had become the front-runner, he seemed to stall — overrun in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday by a revived Joe Biden, whose own campaign had looked to be finished as recently as a few weeks ago.

How could things go so right and then so wrong in such quick, dramatic succession? Assuming Sanders’s downward trajectory continues, there will be, in the weeks to come, no shortage of autopsies performed on his campaign.

Most will focus on the ideological dimension: Was Sanders too far left? Did Democratic voters turn out to be in a more centrist mood than we all thought?

Those factors undoubtedly explain a lot, but to those explanations I want to add another theory of both his rapid rise and his sudden demise. It has to do with what Americans want — and don’t want — from their politicians. And Sanders’s heart attack turns out to be the perfect place to start.

Music / Politics / JFK Death

Vanity Fair, OK Boomer: How Bob Dylan’s New JFK Song Helps Explain 2020, Michael Hogan, March 27, 2020 Listen above. “The soul of a nation’s been torn away,” he sings in his first new song in nearly a decade.

It’s about Kennedy — and a lot more. Dylan has always been a stubborn contrarian, so maybe it’s fitting that, after five decades of evading any and all responsibility as a “voice of a generation,” he is finally embracing it, kind of, at the height of the “OK Boomer” backlash. His new song, Murder Most Foul, which he says in a statement was “recorded a while back,” is an epic, 16-plus-minutes-long murder ballad about the assassination of John F. Kennedy that feels like an otherworldly hybrid of such earlier songs as Hurricane, Idiot Wind, and Not Dark Yet.

Before you object to the “OK Boomer” thing, yes, I know that Dylan, born in 1941, is technically a Silent Generation guy.

But teen and preteen baby boomers were heavily represented among the generation that felt inspired and galvanized by his politically charged folk music of the early- and mid-1960s. Even at the time, though, he couldn’t resist undercutting a rousing anthem like The Times They Are A-Changin’ with a cranky blow-off like It Ain’t Me, Babe. (“Go away from my window / Leave at your own chosen speed…”)

Irish Post, Bob Dylan releases 17-minute track about assassination of John F. Kennedy, Jack Beresford, March 29, 2020. Bob Dylan has released his first original song in eight years.

john f kennedy smilingThe new track, titled Murder Most Foul, centers on the assassination of former US President John F. Kennedy and runs an epic 17 minutes in length.

Dylan dropped the surprise new track on social media. Writing on Twitter, the music icon thanked his fans for their continued support.

He also issued a message of support for anyone affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “Greetings to my fans and followers with gratitude for all your support and loyalty across the years,” he said.

“This is an unreleased song we recorded a while back that you might find interesting. Stay safe, stay observant and may God be with you.”

A surprising release, to say the least, Murder Most Foul sees Dylan speaking in graphic terms about the 1963 assassination of JFK in Dallas.

In one line he comments how the former President was “being led to the slaughter like a sacrificial lamb.”

He then goes on to describe how “they blew off his head while he was still in the car” adding that he was “shot down like a dog in broad daylight".

Dylan later asserts how America has been in steady decline since the killing of JFK.

In a wide-ranging track, Dylan goes on to name check the Beatles, Stevie Nicks, Woodstock Festival, The Eagles and Charlie Parker. Despite the song’s unusual length, the track has won praise from critics, with The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis calling it “a dark, dense ballad for the end times.” 

Murder Most Foul is the first song Dylan has written since he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016.

Dallas Morning News, Bob Dylan releases a 17-minute song about the JFK assassination, full of dark references to Dallas, Michael Granberry, March 27, 2020. 

It is the longest song ever recorded by the musician, who blames the president’s death on a conspiracy.

Bob Dylan once wrote a landmark song about a boxer named Hurricane Carter. We got word Friday that, at 78, Dylan has delivered his own Hurricane punch by releasing a new song, which is, in a word, wild.

It is about — of all things — the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

Murder Most Foul is beyond being a one-two punch. It’s more like a one-two-three punch, because 1) any new song by Dylan is noteworthy, 2) its subject matter alone makes it a headline-grabber, and 3) it’s almost 17 minutes long.

Sixteen minutes, 56 seconds, to be precise. His longest song ever.

And here’s something else: “Murder Most Foul” overflows with references to Dallas, beginning with, “It was a dark day in Dallas, November ’63/A day that will live on in infamy.”

There are references to the grassy knoll, as in, “There’s a party going on behind the grassy knoll.” One lyric repeats the line spoken to Kennedy by a fellow passenger in the ill-fated limousine, Nellie Connally, the wife of Texas Gov. John Connally, who was critically wounded in the attack that killed the president.

Moments before shots rang out, Nellie Connally reacted to the enthusiastic crowd greeting the president by saying, “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you," which Dylan changes to: “Don’t say Dallas don’t love you, Mr. President.”

Commentary for the Justice Integrity Project from cultural anthropologist Dr. Bruce Woych of Kingston, NY, who currently works on independent research on contemporary issues. 

"It's a stream of consciousness, with mature, fatalistic remorse. The piano and violin keep it drifting as a survivalist's daydream.

It is a disturbing lament about  the turbulence of realism. Youthful defiance and insight evoke a surrender in his tone, which is consolation rather than reconciliation.

The fact that Dylan is now pointing to the JFK murder is the underlying power of the song, not the lyrics themselves. Everyone else has all but dismissed it in popular culture.

This could be a significant break giving attention to the truth and realism of the crime, here brought vividly back by the hard line graphic phrases that he uses to bring repulsion of the act back to our senses."

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Rich Europeans Flee Virus for Second Homes, Spreading Fear and Fury, Norimitsu Onishi and Constant Méheut, March 29, 2020. In France and across Europe, affluent city dwellers have been decamping epicenters of the crisis to their second homes, where proximity to the sea or the mountains lessens the discomfort of confinement and a decent internet link permits remote work.

european union logo rectangleBut they also bring fears that they will spread the virus to regions with few hospitals to handle a surge in the sick, putting at greater risk local residents who tend to be older and have limited incomes.

Perhaps more than anything else, the influx into second homes has ignited anger over what the global pandemic is laying bare every day: the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor. Nowhere is that anger rawer than in France, which has 3.4 million second homes — far more than any of its neighbors — and whose domestic politics have been roiled in recent years by debates over inequality.

washington post logoWashington Post, As coronavirus cases explode in Iran, U.S. sanctions hinder its access to drugs and medical equipment, Erin Cunningham, March 29, 2020. Sweeping U.S. sanctions are hampering Iranian efforts to import medicine and other medical supplies to confront one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in the world, health workers and sanctions experts say.

iran flag mapThe broad U.S. restrictions on Iran’s banking system and the embargo on its oil exports have limited Tehran’s ability to finance and purchase essential items from abroad, including drugs as well as the raw materials and equipment needed to manufacture medicines domestically.

The Trump administration has also reduced the number of licenses it grants to companies for certain medical exports to Iran, according to quarterly reports from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, the enforcement agency of the U.S. Treasury Department. The list of items requiring special authorization includes oxygen generators, full-face mask respirators and thermal imaging equipment, all of which are needed to treat patients and keep medical workers safe, doctors say.

March 28

Global Viral Overviews

Viral U.S. Impacts

Viral U.S. Politics

Solutions / Non-Solutions

U.S. 2020 Elections

Free Press / Propaganda

Notable U.S. Deaths

  • Tom Coburn, unyielding ‘Dr. No’ of the House and Senate, dies at 72
  • Daniel Greenberg, who brought a critical eye to science journalism, dies at 88
  • Joseph Lowery, civil rights leader and aide to Martin Luther King Jr., dies at 98
  • Richard Reeves, reporter and author who chronicled presidents, dies at 83
  • John Sears, 1940–2020: Political strategist who helped guide Nixon and Reagan campaigns dies at 79

World News

  • Washington Post, Russian oil giant pulls out of Venezuela amid U.S. squeeze on Maduro

 

Global Viral Overviews

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Live Updates: President Trump Is Weighing Quarantines for Hot Spots as U.S. Cases Cross 119,000, Staff report, PM March 28, 2020. A hospital ship heads to New York, and more than 17 states now tally over 1,000 cases. Deaths have surged in Italy and Spain, and Russia is closing all its borders, including maritime boundaries.
Illinois reports the first known U.S. death of an infant with the coronavirus.

President Trump said Saturday that he might order a quarantine of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut, a dramatic exercise of federal power that would impose restrictions on travel by millions of Americans in order to prevent them from carrying the coronavirus to other parts of the country.

Mr. Trump offered no details about how his administration would enforce a ban on the movements in or out of three northeastern states, including New York City, the country’s most populous city. However, he said the restrictions would not prevent truckers from making deliveries into the area or traveling through, and would not affect trade with the three states “in any way.”

Mr. Trump — who first broached the idea of the quarantines as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York was giving a news conference — said he had talked with Mr. Cuomo just hours earlier. Asked about Mr. Trump’s suggestion, Mr. Cuomo said they had not discussed the possibility of a quarantine.

Speaking to CNN on Saturday afternoon, Mr. Cuomo expressed confusion as to what Mr. Trump was considering. “This would be a declaration of war on states,” Mr. Cuomo said, noting that other states are also seeing surges in confirmed cases. “A federal declaration of war.”

He also questioned the logistical challenges, as well as the message, such an order would present. “If you start walling off areas all across the country it would just be totally bizarre, counterproductive, anti-American, antisocial,” he said.

Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut said that he had been in close communication with Mr. Cuomo and Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey. He wrote on Twitter that he looked forward to speaking with Mr. Trump “directly about his comments and any further enforcement actions, because confusion leads to panic.”

Mr. Trump’s public airing of his deliberations came one day after he signed a $2 trillion economic stimulus package and as cases in the tristate area continued to climb. New York reported 52,318 confirmed cases, as of Saturday morning, with 728 deaths statewide. In New Jersey, there were 8,825 cases and the death toll had risen to 108. Connecticut had nearly 1,300 cases, with 27 deaths.

Cases have also been growing elsewhere across the country, with at least 17 states reporting tallies of at least 1,000 infections and the surgeon general, Jerome Adams, signaling that Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans were emerging as hot spots. The national total stands above 119,000, and Mr. Trump has been under substantial pressure from state officials to do more to quell the crisis.

The specter of a federal quarantine followed a wave of governors who, fearful about the virus spreading further through their states, ordered people who had traveled from New York to isolate themselves for two weeks after their arrivals.

Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island said Friday that state troopers would begin stopping drivers with New York license plates so that National Guard officials could collect contact information and inform anyone coming from the state that they were subject to a mandatory, 14-day quarantine.

Texas, Florida, Maryland and South Carolina are among the other states that have ordered people arriving from New York to self-quarantine. In Texas, for instance, the authorities said Friday that Department of Public Safety agents would make surprise visits to see whether travelers were adhering to the state’s mandate, and they warned that violators could be fined $1,000 and jailed for 180 days.

washington post logoWashington Post, AM live updates: Italy surpasses China in coronavirus infections as global total reaches 600,000, Derek Hawkins, Shibani covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Mahtani, Karla Adam, Brittany Shammas, Emily Rauhala, Kim Bellware and Lateshia Beachum, March 28, 2020. Trump calls former troops to active duty for pandemic response.

After signing a sweeping $2 trillion coronavirus spending package into law, President Trump issued an order that permits the Pentagon to bring former troops back to active duty to augment forces already involved in the military’s response to the pandemic. It comes as the United States has become the epicenter of the novel coronavirus pandemic, with more than 100,000 confirmed infections and nearly 1,600 deaths.

Here are some significant developments:

  • More than 600,000 people have infected and at least 28,000 killed worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. Italy has been hit especially hard, with more than 9,000 deaths — most in the world. Italy has also surpassed China’s reported case total, with more than 86,000 infections as of Saturday.
  • South Korea marked a new milestone, as more coronavirus patients have been discharged than those currently undergoing treatment. Some 4,811 South Koreans have recovered from the virus as of Saturday; 4,500 patients still remain in isolation and are undergoing treatment.
  • Delta Air Lines announced it would fly medical workers free to parts of the United States where infections are spreading rapidly. The New York City area is the current U.S. epicenter, but the surgeon general warned that Detroit, New Orleans and Chicago are becoming “hot spots.”
  • New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said Friday night that his state has secured about half of the 30,000 ventilators it needs. Meanwhile, Trump voiced his frustration with governors who haven’t been as “appreciative” toward him and his administration over its response to the coronavirus.

washington post logoWashington Post, March 27 updates: U.S. becomes first country to report 100,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, Staff reports, March 27, 2020. Trump invokes Defense Production Act. The United States, which recorded its first confirmed case two months ago, now has more American Flagthan 100,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, as reported by states’ health departments. The nation passed 10,000 cases on March 19 and on Thursday became the country with the most confirmed cases.

Shortly after signing a sweeping $2 trillion coronavirus spending package into law, President Trump moved to curb oversight provisions in the legislation and assert presidential authority over a new inspector general’s office created to monitor the disbursement of loans. The decision could set up a momentous battle between the White House and Congress as the administration implements the new law.

Viral U.S. Impacts

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘We Have Lost It All’: The Shock Felt by Millions of Unemployed Americans, Sabrina Tavernise, Audra D. S. Burch, Sarah Mervosh and Campbell Robertson, updated March 28, 2020. Some Americans who lost their jobs said they were in shock and struggling to grasp the magnitude of the economy’s shutdown.

For the millions of Americans who found themselves without a job in recent weeks, the sharp and painful change brought a profound sense of disorientation. They were going about their lives, bartending, cleaning, managing events, waiting tables, loading luggage and teaching yoga. And then suddenly they were in free fall, grabbing at any financial help they could find, which in many states this week remained locked away behind crashing websites and overloaded phone lines.

“Everything has changed in a matter of minutes — seconds,” said Tamara Holtey, 29, an accountant for an industrial services company in the Houston area, who was on a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico, as the coronavirus outbreak intensified in the United States and was laid off on her second day back at work.

Now she spends her days applying for jobs online from her home in Alvin, Texas, while she and her wife weigh whether to delay paying their mortgage for a month or two — only to have to pay more in interest.

In 17 interviews with people in eight states across the country, Americans who lost their jobs said they were in shock and struggling to grasp the magnitude of the economy’s shutdown, an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.

Unlike the last economic earthquake, the financial crisis of 2008, this time there was no getting back out there to look for work, not when people were being told to stay inside. What is more, the layoffs affected not just them, but their spouses, their parents, their siblings and their roommates — even their bosses.

washington post logoWashington Post, Latest sign the recession is intensifying: White-collar workers now being laid off, Taylor Telford and Jena McGregor, March 28, 2020. Service sector jobs got slammed early in the coronavirus crisis, now it’s tech, legal and other professionals reporting layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs.

us labor department logoWhen he started coughing last week, Andrew Kerr figured it was just a reaction to his marathon training. To be safe, the paralegal told his boss at a small east Tennessee law firm. But that got him barred from the office for 14 days, without pay.

The lost income stung. Kerr’s fiancee, a nurse’s assistant, makes far less, and money already was tight. So they lived off credit cards while the former Marine counted the days until he could return to work. But when he called Wednesday to check on his schedule, he was laid off.

As the coronavirus pandemic overturns the U.S. economy, the shock waves are being felt in industries well beyond the hardest-hit: travel, hospitality and restaurants. White-collar workers — tech, marketing and professional employees among them — are facing layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs as their companies sharply curtail operations or suspend them altogether.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump seeks to ramp up production of medical equipment after harsh criticism of his slow response, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, March 28, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump sought to seize control of the nation’s medical supply crisis Friday after a week of failures to deliver needed equipment to hospitals overrun with coronavirus patients, even as he said he expects governors receiving federal help to express appreciation for his administration’s job performance.

Following days of sustained criticism for his administration’s slow efforts to distribute ventilators, personal protective equipment and other materials, Trump used his power under the Defense Production Act to compel a ramp-up in production.

Trump issued an order to allow his government to force General Motors to manufacture ventilators, after a breakdown in negotiations with the auto giant caused in part by what aides said was White House indecision, and announced that eight existing ventilator manufacturers, including General Electric and Phillips, had agreed to speed up their production. The president vowed that the efforts would produce a combined 100,000 ventilators over the next 100 days.

Viral U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump ties virus decisions to personal grievances, Aaron Blake, March 28, 2020. He admitted that he told Vice President Pence not to call governors who had been critical of him and that GM's closure of a plant factored into his decision to force it to make ventilators.

President Trump is a commander in chief dealing with a coronavirus outbreak in which many difficult decisions have to be made. And on Friday, he seemed to suggest some of those decisions could be made according to who has run afoul of him personally.

Appearing at the daily White House briefing, Trump disclosed that he has told Vice President Pence, who is leading the coronavirus task force, not to call the governors of Michigan and Washington state because those governors had been critical of Trump and the federal response.

“When they’re not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative to the Army Corps, they’re not appreciative to FEMA, it’s not right,” Trump said.

He then added: “I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington; you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan. It doesn’t make any difference what happens.’ You know what I say: ‘If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.’ He’s a different type of person; he’ll call quietly anyway.”

Those states are particularly important. Washington state was the first real hot spot in the United States for the coronavirus outbreak. Michigan, which has among the nation’s highest rates of the virus, is also a key swing state in the 2020 election. You wonder if Trump’s comments about not wanting to communicate with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) during a crisis might be used against him in his reelection campaign.

Asked what more he wants from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), in particular, Trump said he just wants more gratitude.

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: House Approves $2.2 Trillion Disaster Relief Bill; Trump Signs It, But Immediately Moves To Frustrate Oversight, webster tarpley podium2Host Webster G. Tarpley, right, March 28, 2020. Is Trump He Planning To Declare His Campaign A Needy Small Business?; 3.3 Million New Jobless Last Week!

House Approves $2.2 Trillion Disaster Relief Bill; Trump Signs It, But Immediately Moves To Frustrate Oversight; Is He Planning To Declare His Campaign A Needy Small Business?; 3.3 Million New Jobless Last Week!

Untold trillions of bailout money from Fed and Treasury procure only a three-day liquidity rally to tempt the suckers back in; crash resumes with 915 point dive (4%); Moscow Mitch and Gang fugitives until late April;

djt doesnt listen CustomTyrant Xi of China continues to lure poor countries with big lies and tiny aid packages which are taken seriously only because US under Don is AWOL; one million ventilators are urgent, but incompetent Defense Production Czar Navarro, signals White House indifference to pleas for ventilators from NATO allies Italy, Spain, and UK even as Trump pays lip service to solidarity;

Trump vacillates on Easter immolation of American people on altar of Wall Street starting next week; at same time, he eyes total quarantine of New York City Tri-State area; Cuomo rejects it, and Don has no legal authority to tamper with police powers of states;

Best estimates: fewer than 100k deaths if tough measures are applied; 1 million deaths from business as usual;

US must: produce comprehensive white paper on the origins of Wuhan Coronavirus to expose the infamy of the Chinese Communist Party; nationalize the supply chain for medical supplies and pharmaceuticals and declare Manhattan Project to beat out Beijing in quest for vaccine;

Lessons from Trotsky in September 1930 for Bernie Sanders: The United Front!

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mike Pence must go down for this, Bill Palmer, March 28, 2020. When Donald Trump picked the most corrupt cabinet mike pence jail bars Customhe could think of, it wasn’t just because he wanted to carry out the maximum amount of grifting possible. It was because the cabinet decides, along with the Vice President, when and if to forcibly invoke the 25th Amendment.

But even with the rogues’ gallery that Donald Trump has assembled in his cabinet, there’s no way the majority of them are still on board with what’s happening. Trump’s ineptitude, senility, and psychopathy have resulted in a country in lockdown, bodies piling up, and – most bill palmer report logo headerimportantly to the wealthy grifters in his cabinet – a collapsed economy. If Mike Pence were to ask the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment right now, there’s little doubt he’d have the votes to pull it off.

Yet Pence continues to sit by and do nothing. Trump announces at his press conference that he’s purposely letting people die in Michigan and Washington because he doesn’t like their governors, and Pence stands there and does nothing. Pence is witnessing a felony take place in front of him and he could stop it with the stroke of a pen. Yet Pence stands there, complicit, aiding and abetting mass murder.

No one wants to see Mike Pence become Acting President. But at this point it’s an absolute necessity, because while Pence is a monster in his own right, at least he wouldn’t be playing the deadly games that Trump is playing. Come to think of it, by refusing to exercise his power, Pence is criminally conspiring with Trump in this murder spree. When this is all over, Pence must stand trial for this, and he must never taste another day of freedom in his life.

ivanka eric donald trump jr

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump takes step to try to curb new inspector general’s autonomy, as battle over stimulus oversight begins, Jeff Stein, March 28, 2020. In signing statement, he signals he could restrict new watchdog’s independence. President Trump called “unreasonable” the broad investigative authority given to a new inspector general office.

djt staff nypost cover july 29 17President Trump on Friday took a step to immediately try to curb oversight provisions in Congress’ $2 trillion coronavirus spending package, seeking to assert presidential authority over a new inspector general’s office.

The move could presage a major battle between the White House and Capitol Hill as the Trump administration moves to implement the new law.

In a White House signing statement released Friday evening, Trump called “unreasonable” the law’s mandate that a new Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery notify Congress immediately if the White House doesn’t cooperate with an audit or investigation. The new inspector general is supposed to monitor how the Treasury Department extends loans and loan guarantees to businesses, among other things.

mitch mcConnell impeachment cspan Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the talks on the largest U.S. bailout: frantic negotiations, partisan tensions and a Trump tweet, Seung Min Kim, Mike DeBonis, Erica Werner and Paul Kane, March 28, 2020 (print ed.). The tone was set in a St. Patrick’s Day phone call between Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell, when the House speaker requested the top four congressional leaders to begin negotiating a package rescuing the economy from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

chuck schumer podiumMcConnell told her no — he would bargain exclusively with Senate Democrats and their leader, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), right,.

But that did not settle the issue, and when Pelosi and McConnell ultimately met face to face the following Sunday at an all-leaders meeting he had called to outline his bill, Pelosi showed up with “a laundry list” of what the Senate majority leader and other Republicans viewed as liberal demands unrelated to the crisis.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosFrom the perspective of Schumer and Pelosi, McConnell’s bill under construction offered help for corporations but not much for the average American. There were no worker protections on the corporate rescue funds. No state and local bailout fund. Not enough spending for hospitals. The two sides went their separate ways after the meeting. Senate Democrats blocked a procedural vote, angering Republicans. Pelosi declared she would write her own bill — giving Democrats something to rally around.

But with the stock market tanking and the U.S. death toll climbing, congressional leaders and Trump administration officials managed to compromise with trade-offs such as more generous unemployment insurance and restrictions on the corporate help that satisfied both parties.

ny times logoNew York Times, Some U.S. Cities Could Have Outbreaks Worse Than Wuhan’s, Nate Cohn, Josh Katz, Margot Sanger-Katz and Kevin Quealy, March 28, 2020 (print ed.). Here are four ways to measure the size of the outbreak across the country’s metro areas.

If the rate of growth in coronavirus cases in the New York metro area continues, it will suffer a more severe outbreak than those experienced in Wuhan, China, or the Lombardy region of Italy.

There is no guarantee, of course, that current trends will continue. What has happened to this point can’t be used to predict what will happen next. It is possible that social distancing will soon slow or arrest the growth of cases.

But what can be said is that the New York metro area has had less success in flattening the curve, at this point in its outbreak, than Wuhan or the Lombardy region did at the same point in theirs. And some other American metropolitan areas appear to be on a similar path.

Here are four ways to measure the size of the outbreak across the country’s metro areas.

  1. How Bad Is It Now? Cases Per 1,000 People

ny times logoNew York Times, NY Updates: New York City Considering Fines for Public Gatherings, Staff reports, March 28, 2020. The number of cases in New York City climbed above 26,000, officials said. The city’s death toll was 450.

500 N.Y.P.D. employees have the virus, and 11 percent of officers were out sick.

At least 500 New York Police Department employees have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and more than 4,000 officers — about 11 percent of the uniformed work force — were out sick on Friday, officials said.

Of the department employees who tested positive, 442 were uniformed officers and 70 were civilians, officials said. In a force of 36,000 officers, that translates to an infection rate of about one in every 80 officers, or about 1.2 percent.

Officials also reported the department’s second virus-related death: Giacomina Barr-Brown, a civilian employee and seven-year veteran who worked on patrol and administrative assignments. Ms. Barr-Brown died at her home on Thursday, the department said.

  • New York Times, President Trump and the top health expert on his coronavirus task force have both played down the immediate need for large numbers of ventilators in New York and other states.

Solutions / Non-Solutions

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: ‘States Will Need More Support,’ Say the Governors of New Jersey and Massachusetts, Phil Murphy (New Jersey) and Charlie Baker (Massachusetts), March 28, 2020 (print ed.). This crisis transcends party. Our states need support.

Foremost, we need the federal government to support states’ efforts to secure personal protective equipment and lifesaving items like ventilators. The government must boost private-sector manufacturing of these critical supplies now and get out of the way of states when we seek private-sector suppliers and release more materials from the national stockpile to meet our pressing needs.

Our current state resources have not only been stretched to their limits; with our economies currently at a standstill, there are no new revenues coming in to support their continuation. And with no idea when this emergency will end — pandemics are stubbornly ignorant of calendars — we cannot risk the collapse of the systems our residents are relying on to maintain their homes and feed their families.

Even when we are able to lift our states of emergency and direct our businesses to reopen and our people to once again move freely, it will take time for our economies to recover. We can already estimate the impact of our actions to date in billions of dollars in lost economic activity. We can’t simply make this up when the emergency ends and we begin to restart our states.

ny times logoNew York Times, More Americans Should Probably Wear Masks for Protection, Knvul Sheikh, March 28, 2020 (print ed.). Experts have started to question whether masks may offer at least some protection to healthy individuals and essential workers.

As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, experts have started to question official guidance about whether ordinary, healthy people should protect themselves with a regular surgical mask, or even a scarf.

The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to state that masks don’t necessarily protect healthy individuals from getting infected as they go about their daily lives.

The official guidance continues to recommend that masks should be reserved for people who are already sick, as well as for the health workers and caregivers who must interact with infected individuals on a regular basis. Everyone else, they say, should stick to frequent hand-washing and maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from other people to protect themselves.

But the recent surge in infections in the United States, which has put the country at the center of the epidemic, with more confirmed cases than China, Italy or any other country, means that more Americans are now at risk of getting sick. And healthy individuals, especially those with essential jobs who cannot avoid public transportation or close interaction with others, may need to start wearing masks more regularly.

“The swift increase in cases to these levels in the U.S. highlights to an even greater degree the importance of implementing and adhering to public health measures,” said Dr. Robert Atmar, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: It’s Too Late to Avoid Disaster, but There Are Still Things We Can Do, Michael T. Osterholm and Mark Olshaker, March 28, 2020 (print ed.). Our leaders need to speak some hard truths and then develop a strategy to prevent the worst.

Let’s get one thing straight: From an epidemiological perspective, the current debate, which pits human life against long-term economics, presents a false choice.

Just as a return to even a new normal is unthinkable for the foreseeable future — and well past Easter, Mr. Trump — a complete shutdown and shelter-in-place strategy cannot last for months. There are just too many essential workers in our intertwined lives beyond the health care field — sanitation workers; grocery clerks, and food handlers, preparers and deliverers; elevator mechanics; postal workers — who must be out and about if society is to continue to function.

A middle-ground approach is the only realistic one — and defining what that looks like means doing our best to keep all such workers safe. It also means leadership. Above all, it means being realistic about what is possible and what is not, and communicating that clearly to the American public.

Our leaders need to begin by stating a number of hard truths about our situation. The first is that no matter what we do at this stage, numerous hospitals in the United States will be overrun. Many people, including health care workers, will get sick and some will die. And the economy will tank. It’s too late to change any of this now.

In three to four weeks, there will be a major shortage of chemical reagents for coronavirus testing, the result of limited production capacity, compounded by the collapse of global supply chains when the epidemic closed down manufacturing in China for weeks.

The second hard truth is that at this stage, any public health response that counts on widespread testing in the United States is doomed to fail. No one planned on the whole world experiencing a health conflagration of this magnitude at once, with the need to test many millions of people at the same time. Political leaders and talking heads should stop proffering the widespread-testing option; it simply won’t be available.

Much better, instead, to immediately gear up for epidemic intelligence, based on techniques used for many decades. Among those is so-called illness surveillance, in which epidemiologists survey a sample of doctors’ offices in a given geographic region each day to learn how many patients sought care for illnesses with symptoms of fever, cough and muscle aches. The increasing or decreasing occurrence of patients with these symptoms provides a reliable estimate of influenza activity during the winter months — or now, the incidence of Covid-19.

A third hard truth is that shortages of personal protective equipment — particularly N-95 masks — for health care workers will only get worse in the United States as global need continues to rise precipitously. There is no point holding out the false hope that the Defense Production Act will save the residents of the United States. Not enough manufacturing activities can be converted to produce masks in a matter of weeks. You can’t turn engine-making machinery into an N-95 respirator assembly line just because you want to.

More than anything, what the United States needs right now is for the president to undertake an intellectual Manhattan Project: gather the best minds in public health, medicine, medical ethics, catastrophe preparedness and response; political leadership; and private-sector manufacturing and the pharmaceutical industry.

Michael T. Osterholm is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Mark Olshaker is a writer and documentary filmmaker. They are the authors of “Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs.”

U.S. 2020 Elections

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Fox News just delivered some terrible news for Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, March 28, 2020. Over the past week various polling outlets showed that Donald Trump’s approval numbers for handling the coronavirus crisis were in the fifties, while his overall approval rating numbers had inched up into the mid to high forties. This caused a lot of people to worry about what might happen in November.

bill palmer report logo headerAs these numbers kept surfacing, Palmer Report strongly advised everyone to ignore them. When a crisis is unfolding, plenty of Americans will say they support a failing President when they don’t, in the hope that giving him a vote of confidence might improve the country’s odds of surviving the crisis. In fact the approval rating bump that Trump has gotten during the coronavirus crisis is quite low compared to the crisis bumps that other modern U.S. Presidents have gotten, a reminder of how deeply unpopular Trump is to begin with.

joe biden 2020 button CustomThe number that matters is how Donald Trump is doing against Joe Biden in the polling averages. Throughout this crisis, Biden’s average lead had been ticking slightly upward, to 7.1 points. Now today a new poll from Fox News has Biden up nine points over Trump.

Fox News polling – which includes the entire voting populace and not just its own viewers – usually turns out to be surprisingly accurate, given the network’s overall lack of credibility. This new number is the latest confirmation that Donald Trump isn’t even currently in contention for November. Seven to nine points is a huge blowout lead in a presidential race. Plenty of things can and will change between now and election day. But Trump’s fluctuating approval rating numbers are to be completely ignored during this crisis.

Free Press / Propaganda

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s stooge Ron DeSantis goes off the Florida deep end, Bill Palmer, March 28, 2020. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (above) is a close ally of Donald Trump, so you already knew going into this that DeSantis was going to turn out to be dishonest, corrupt, thuggish, and wildly incompetent. Sure enough, now that the coronavirus crisis is closing in on Florida, DeSantis is going off the deep end.

DeSantis held a press conference today so he could tell a bunch of lies about how he’s handling the coronavirus crisis. Then he pulled a trick right out of Donald Trump’s bag. The Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times have been leading the way in exposing DeSantis’s negligent coronavirus response, so he banned them from today’s press conference.

bill palmer report logo headerThis comes even as Ron DeSantis tries to scapegoat New Yorkers for the coronavirus outbreak in Florida, even though it’s largely a result of his own refusal to cancel spring break and close Florida’s beaches. When this is over, DeSantis needs to face criminal charges of negligent homicide for his intentionally dishonest handing of the coronavirus crisis.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian oil giant pulls out of Venezuela amid U.S. squeeze on Maduro, Isabelle Khurshudyan and Anthony Faiola, March 28, 2020. Russia's state-controlled oil giant Rosneft announced Saturday that it had stopped operations in Venezuela and sold its assets to a company wholly owned by the Russian government, in a shake-up of a key economic lifeline for embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás ­Maduro.

Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer, had taken over an increasing share of Venezuela’s oil industry and reaped huge profits from exporting its crude, propping up the Maduro regime in the process.

But it was unclear whether the move would alter the Russian relationship with Maduro, or whether it amounted to an attempt to dodge U.S. sanctions and assuage the fears of Rosneft’s foreign investors.

March 27

Global Health Top Headlines

Victim, Relief News

Jobs, Markets, Economy

More Virus Political Commentary

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Global Health Overviews

ny times logoNew York Times, House Passes $2 Trillion Relief Package, Updates: Trump Expected to Sign Largest Stimulus in Modern History, Staff covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2reports, March 27, 2020. The measure will deliver direct payments and jobless benefits for individuals, money for states and a huge bailout fund for businesses. A new survey of mayors found dire shortages of urgently needed medical supplies.

Congress gave final approval on Friday to the largest economic stimulus package in modern American history, a $2 trillion measure designed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and deliver direct payments and jobless benefits for individuals, money for states and a huge bailout fund for businesses battered by the crisis.

U.S. House logoThe House approved the measure by voice vote, after leaders in both parties deflected an effort by Representative Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican with a penchant for using procedural maneuvers to try to block legislation, to force a recorded vote requiring lawmakers to register their positions individually. It now heads to President Trump’s desk, where he is expected to sign it.

The legislation would send direct payments of $1,200 to millions of Americans, including those earning up to $75,000, and an additional $500 per child. It would substantially expand jobless aid, providing an additional 13 weeks and a four-month enhancement of benefits, and for the first time would extend the payments to freelancers and gig workers.

The measure would also offer $377 billion in federally guaranteed loans to small businesses and establish a $500 billion government lending program for distressed companies reeling from the crisis, including allowing the administration the ability to take equity stakes in airlines that received aid to help compensate taxpayers. It would also send $100 billion to hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic.

House leaders scheduled a voice vote on the measure to reduce the number of lawmakers who would be forced to return to Washington during the pandemic. Mr. Massie sought to block that effort by calling for a recorded vote. But Republican and Democratic leaders called back members from all corners of the country to form a quorum, and they made a show of force in the House chamber, putting down Mr. Massie’s bid to slow the measure’s passage.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘White-Collar Quarantine’: Virus Puts Spotlight on Class Divide, Noam Scheiber, Nelson D. Schwartz and Tiffany Hsu, March 27, 2020. Child care options, internet access and extra living space can mean starkly different outcomes in coping with disruptions to school and work routines.

For about $80,000, an individual can purchase a six-month plan with Private Health Management, which helps people with serious medical issues navigate the health care system.

Such a plan proved to be a literal lifesaver as the coronavirus pandemic descended. The firm has helped clients arrange tests in Los Angeles for the coronavirus and obtained oxygen concentrators for high-risk patients.

In New York, well-off city dwellers have abandoned cramped apartments for spacious second homes. In Texas, the rich are shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to build safe rooms and bunkers.

And across the country, there is a creeping consciousness that despite talk of national unity, not everyone is equal in times of emergency.

“This is a white-collar quarantine,” said Howard Barbanel, a Miami-based entrepreneur who owns a wine company. “Average working people are bagging and delivering goods, driving trucks, working for local government.”

Some of those catering to the well-off stress that they are trying to be good citizens. Mr. Michelson emphasized that he had obtained coronavirus tests only for patients who met guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rather than the so-called worried well.

Still, a kind of pandemic caste system is rapidly developing: the rich holed up in vacation properties; the middle class marooned at home with restless children; the working class on the front lines of the economy, stretched to the limit by the demands of work and parenting, if there is even work to be had.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: British prime minister tests positive; U.S. has most confirmed cases, Jennifer Hassan, Alex Horton,
Marisa Iati, Katie Mettler, Siobhán O'Grady and John Wagner, March 27, 2020. House debate underway on stimulus bill as members grudgingly return to Washington; State Dept. asks the world’s health workers to apply for U.S. visas and waives interview requirement, provoking outrage.

United Kingdom flagBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for the novel coronavirus and is self-isolating with what he described as “mild symptoms.” But Johnson (shown above in a file photo) says he “will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus.”

Meanwhile, the United States is quickly becoming the new epicenter of the global outbreak and now leads the world in confirmed cases after surpassing China’s reported total. In Washington, the House is expected to vote Friday on a $2 trillion emergency relief bill, offering a measure of solace amid a sharp downturn and uncertainty over how long restrictions on movement will remain.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Italy reports 919 coronavirus deaths in one day — the largest single-day toll reported by any country.
  • The virus continues its inexorable creep through the world’s halls of power: Shortly after Johnson said he’d tested positive, British italian flag wavingHealth Secretary Matt Hancock said he, too, is infected. Other top officials around the world have also contracted the coronavirus, including members of Congress, party leaders in Spain and Italy and politicians from Iran to Australia.
  • A Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that 9 in 10 Americans are staying home “as much as possible” and practicing social distancing to lessen the risk of becoming infected.
  • President Trump discussed the crisis with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Friday amid tensions between the two sides that have accelerated as a result of the pandemic that began in China last year.
  • Anecdotal accounts from health-care providers at hospitals in New York City describe a shortage of supplies amid a surge of coronavirus patients. New York is the current U.S. epicenter, but the number of confirmed cases is beginning to surge elsewhere, including Louisiana, Michigan and Texas.

ny times logoNew York Times, NY Live Updates: 519 People Have Died in New York, Up From 385 on Thursday, Staff reports, March 27, 2020. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo rebutted comments from President Trump that New York was overstating its need for ventilators.

andrew cuomoGovernor Andrew M. Cuomo, right, on Friday said that 519 people in New York State have died of the coronavirus, a one-day increase of 134 deaths since Thursday morning. And he rebutted comments from President Trump that New York was overstating its need for ventilators and that New York already had thousands in storage.

“We’re gathering them in the stockpile so that when we need them they will be there,” Mr. Cuomo said of the ventilators in storage. “We don’t need them today because we’re not at capacity today.”

On Thursday night, Mr. Trump and the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator had both cast doubt on New York’s claim that it will need 30,000 ventilators to fight the crisis. State officials have repeatedly asked the federal government to supply them.

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Mr. Trump said on Fox News.

The response coordinator, Dr. Deborah L. Birx, said: “To say that to the American people, to make the implication when they need a hospital bed, it won’t be there, or when they need that ventilator, it won’t be there, we don’t have evidence of that right now.”

Mr. Cuomo said on Friday of the estimate that the state will need 30,000 ventilators, “Look I don’t have a crystal ball. Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. But I don’t operate here on opinion. I operate on facts, and on data and on numbers and on projections.”

The governor delivered his daily briefing at the Javits Center, a mammoth convention center in Manhattan that has been converted into an emergency hospital with military help and is slated to open next week.

“What you did in this facility in one week, creating a hospital, is just incredible,” Mr. Cuomo said, addressing members of the National Guard.

Reuters, Trump authorizes call-up of military reservists to active duty: White House, Idrees Ali and Mohammad Zargham, March 27, 2020. U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday signed an executive order authorizing the secretaries of homeland security and defense to call up military and Coast Guard reservists to active duty, the White House said.

Under the order, the two secretaries are authorized to order reservists from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard to active duty for up to two years “not to exceed 1,000,000 members on active duty at any one time.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Live Updates: Trump lashed out at a lawmaker who is threatening to delay passage of the relief bill.House Vote on $2 Trillion in Relief Faces Delay. Staff reports, March 27, 2020. Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, said on Friday that he would insist on a recorded vote on the $2 trillion stimulus package, delaying its passage. Earlier on Friday, President Trump attacked Mr. Massie for threatening to hold up passage of a $2 trillion stimulus package scheduled for a House vote at noon.

Calling Mr. Massie, a member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, a “third rate Grandstander,” Mr. Trump defended the economic stabilization bill passed unanimously in the Senate on Wednesday, and said Mr. Massie should be booted from the Republican Party.

Leaders had hoped to pass the bill without a recorded vote, so that lawmakers would not be required to return to Washington.

Technically, the House cannot legislate without the presence of a quorum, defined by the Constitution as a simple majority. (The House currently has 430 members; 216 are required for a quorum.)

If even one member asserted that the House lacked a quorum and called for a recorded vote, the House would have to cease its business until 216 lawmakers arrived.

Mr. Massie’s threats to object had stoked anger among fellow lawmakers.

After expressing doubts about the need for more ventilators, Trump pushes industry to do more.

President Trump, who has expressed reluctance in recent days to use the Defense Production Act to mobilize private industry to produce critically-needed ventilators, reversed himself Friday in a series of posts on Twitter.

Mr. Trump lashed out at General Motors on Twitter, blaming it for the failure to begin work on new production of ventilators. He said that the company “MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!!

The White House had been preparing to unveil a joint venture this week between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems that would allow for the production of as many as 80,000 ventilators, but canceled the announcement, government officials said, because they needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost — more than $1 billion — was prohibitive.

In a series of four tweets, Mr. Trump moved from claiming on Thursday that states were overstating their need for tens of thousands of ventilators to accusing the nation’s carmakers and others of dragging their feet. The carmakers note that they have not been given any contracts yet by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and that the White House had failed to make a decision about who should be supplying the ventilators, which help critically ill patients breathe.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi just did it again, Bill Palmer, March 27, 2020. Victories in politics are never achieved by magic wand. There is no scenario where anyone in politics ever gets all of what they want. Nor does politics simply come down to numbers and majorities. Political victories always have been, and always will be, determined entirely by leverage and maneuvering. The politicians who accomplish things are the ones who understand this.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen it first became clear that the United States was going to need some kind of financial relief package in light of the coronavirus crisis and lockdown, Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate cooked up a fully fraudulent “stimulus” package that would merely have shoved a bunch of unaccountable money into the hands of their wealthy cronies.

But Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats, despite not controlling the White House or the Senate, nonetheless managed to maneuver their way into landing a stimulus bill that’s slanted far more toward working class Americans than the wealthy.

The bill isn’t perfect, but again, there is literally no scenario in which any politician is ever able to have full control over what happens. Despite having to deal with a corrupt White House and a corrupt Republican Senate, Nancy Pelosi still managed to tilt this bill largely in the right direction. Politically clueless people will attack her for not using a magic wand to get everything she wanted. But in the adult world, politically knowledgeable people understand that Pelosi just pulled of what should have been impossible.

ny times logoNew York Times, Early Live  Updates: U.S. Now Leads the World in Confirmed Coronavirus Cases, Staff reports, March 27, 2020. Updates: States Plead for More Federal Help. Scientists warned that the United States would be the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. With over 81,000 people sick, that moment has arrived.

In New York, doctors scrambled as the number of hospitalized patients jumped by 40 percent in a day. The White House coronavirus response coordinator dismissed talk of equipment shortages, despite what medical workers are saying. Here’s the latest.

Here’s what you need to know:

• The U.S. now leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases.
• States plead for more federal help, but White House cancels ventilator production plan.
• American attempts at “disaster diplomacy” with Iran and North Korea haven’t gotten very far.
• Governors, seeing a sea of red ink, warn that the federal stimulus will fall short.
• What you can do to protect yourself and everyone else.

The U.S. now leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases. Scientists warned that the United States someday would become the country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. That moment arrived on Thursday.

In the United States, at least 81,321 people are known to have been infected with the coronavirus, including more than 1,000 deaths — more cases than China, Italy or any other country has seen, according to data gathered by The New York Times.

With 330 million residents, the United States is the world’s third most populous nation, meaning it provides a vast pool of people who can potentially get Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

And it is a sprawling, cacophonous democracy, where states set their own policies and President Trump has sent mixed messages about the scale of the danger and how to fight it, ensuring there was no coherent, unified response to a grave public health threat.

A series of missteps and lost opportunities dogged the nation’s response.

washington post logoWashington Post, $2 trillion bill heads for House vote as lawmakers reluctantly return to D.C., Paul Kane, Mike DeBonis and Erica nancy pelosi twitterWerner, March 27, 2020. Scores of lawmakers are begrudgingly returning to the Capitol after one GOP member threatened to raise a procedural objection. House leaders had hoped to pass the sweeping measure by a “voice vote” that would not require members to show up in person.

The House of Representatives prepared to vote Friday on a $2 trillion economic relief package to address fallout from the coronavirus, with scores of lawmakers begrudgingly returning to the Capitol after one GOP member threatened to raise a procedural objection.

With the economy reeling, House leaders had hoped to pass the sweeping measure by a “voice vote” that would not require members to show up in person. Those who wanted to could come to the Capitol to speak in favor of or against the legislation that will send $1,200 payments to many Americans and free up large loans for businesses of every size.

If they used a “voice vote,” members in quarantine or who simply did not want to travel would not have to do so. There are now roughly 86,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, and 1,300 people have died just in the past few weeks.

thomas massie video screen shotAs the House opened at 9 a.m., about two dozen lawmakers were on hand, sitting spread out across the chamber. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) -- whose possible objection forced his colleagues to return to the Capitol -- sat in the second-to-last row, a normal spot for the most conservative members. His intentions were unknown.

President Trump erupted at Massie, right, over Twitter on Friday morning, labeling him a “third rate Grandstander.”

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washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pushes to open parts of U.S. while governors in hard-hit states see more work needed, Robert Costa, Laura Vozzella, Josh Dawsey and David Nakamura, March 27, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s upbeat assessment conflicts with warnings from health experts who worry that ending restrictions too soon could be catastrophic.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Coronavirus Testing Hits Milestone but Still Falls Short, Staff report, Updated March 27, 2020 (interactive graphic). The United States still lags in tests relative to its population, despite having the world’s most reported coronavirus cases.

Victim, Relief News

ny times logoNew York Times, Unprepared for the Worst: World’s Most Vulnerable Brace for Virus, Hannah Beech and Ben Hubbard, Updated March 27, 2020. Crowded camps, depleted clinics and scarce soap and water make social distancing and hand-washing impossible for millions of refugees.

U.S. News & World Report, Louisiana Sees 40% Jump in Coronavirus Deaths in One Day, Claire Hansen, March 27, 2020. Gov. John Bel Edwards warned that state officials have ‘every reason to believe’ Louisiana is on its way to seeing an outbreak as severe on a per-capita basis as the one in New York.

Louisiana saw its coronavirus-related death toll jump more than 40% Friday, as the state quickly becomes one of the country's most hard-hit areas.

The death toll rose by 36, to 119, making the state No. 2 in the country in coronavirus deaths per capita, Gov. John Bel Edwards said during a press conference Friday. The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 441, or 19%, over Thursday, to 2,746. The state is third in the country in cases per capita, Edwards said.

Edwards warned that state officials have "every reason to believe" Louisiana is on its way to seeing an outbreak as severe on a per-capita basis as the one in New York, which is the current epicenter of the virus outbreak in the U.S.

Though the number of cases is growing statewide, the outbreak is concentrated in and around New Orleans. Under current models, hospitals in that area will run out of ventilators by April 2 or 3 without reinforcements, Edwards said.

The state recently requested 12,000 ventilators from the federal government and private companies but has only received 192, Edwards said. Officials expect another shipment of about 100 ventilators next week.

He once again implored residents to stay home and avoid contact with others to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘The Other Option Is Death’: New York Starts Sharing of Ventilators, Brian M. Rosenthal, Jennifer Pinkowski and Joseph Goldstein, Updated March 27, 2020. To keep coronavirus patients breathing, hospitals are pioneering a little-tested method.

A New York hospital system has begun treating two patients instead of one on some ventilators, a desperate measure that could help alleviate a shortage of the critical breathing machines and help hospitals around the country respond to the surge of coronavirus patients expected in the coming weeks.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, began “ventilator sharing” this week, said Dr. Laureen Hill, chief operating officer at the Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center system. Doctors have developed protocols for the maneuver and now are rapidly scaling it up while also sharing their methods with the federal and state governments and other hospitals.

Ventilator sharing has been explored in a few scientific studies and has been used twice in crisis situations — the immediate aftermath of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting and, as of several days ago, by an emergency physician, Dr. Marco Garrone, for coronavirus patients in Italy. This is believed to be the first time that it has been put forth as a longer-term strategy in the United States.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Abrupt Shift, Trump Cites Need for Ventilators and Criticizes G.M., David E. Sanger, Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni, March 27, 2020. The attack came shortly before General Motors said in a statement that it would manufacture the devices.

President Trump lashed out at General Motors on Friday, blaming it for overpromising on its ability to make new ventilators for critically ill coronavirus patients and threatening to invoke the Defense Production Act to compel the company to do so.

In a series of tweets, the president emphasized the urgent need for the ventilators, an abrupt change of tone from the night before, when he told Sean Hannity, the Fox News host, that states were inflating their needs.

Mr. Trump appeared to be reacting to reports that the White House had dragged its feet in awarding contracts to G.M. and Ventec Life Systems, to start new production lines in a converted G.M. plant in Kokomo, Ind.

ny times logoNew York Times, $1 Billion Price Tag for Ventilators Gives White House Second Thoughts, David E. Sanger, Maggie Haberman and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Updated March 27, 2020. A deal with General Motors and Ventec Life Systems to produce tens of thousands of the critical lifesaving devices seemed imminent. Then the announcement was pulled back.

The White House had been preparing to reveal on Wednesday a joint venture between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems that would allow for the production of as many as 80,000 desperately needed ventilators to respond to an escalating pandemic when word suddenly came down that the announcement was off.

The decision to cancel the announcement, government officials say, came after the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost was prohibitive. That price tag was more than $1 billion, with several hundred million dollars to be paid upfront to General Motors to retool a car parts plant in Kokomo, Ind., where the ventilators would be made with Ventec’s technology.

Government officials said that the deal might still happen but that they are examining at least a dozen other proposals. And they contend that an initial promise that the joint venture could turn out 20,000 ventilators in short order had shrunk to 7,500, with even that number in doubt. Longtime emergency managers at FEMA are working with military officials to sort through the competing offers and federal procurement rules while under pressure to give President Trump something to announce.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gouged prices and medical supply chaos: Why governors are so upset with Trump, Drew Harwell, March 27, 2020 (print ed.). Faced with a rapidly spreading virus, health authorities say they have few options but to rely on a for-profit class of largely unknown middlemen.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump keeps touting an unproven treatment. It’s now being tested on thousands in N.Y., Christopher Rowland, Jon Swaine and Josh Dawsey, March 27, 2020 (print ed.). The effort has raised concerns among health experts. But President Trump’s intervention and New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s embrace of the strategy has fueled popular excitement about the drugs.

  • New York Times, For the Class of 2020, a Job-Eating Virus Recalls the Great Recession, March 27, 2020. With interviews postponed and internships canceled, graduates seeking work fear for the future.
  • New York Times, Editorial Board, Why Is America Choosing Mass Unemployment? Editorial Board, March 27, 2020. European countries are paying to preserve jobs during the coronavirus crisis. Sadly for American workers, the United States is charting its own path.
  • New York Times, A Nurse Dies. Angry Co-Workers Blame a Lack of Protective Gear, March 27, 2020. “Don’t tell Mom and Dad. They’ll worry,” he had written to his sister. Kious Kelly, 48, may be the first nurse in New York City to die from the virus.

Virus Political Commentary

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Palmer Report, Opinion: That’s the end of House Republican Thomas Massie, Bill Palmer, March 27, 2020. Republican Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky, shown above, decided today that he would try to force an in-person House vote on the bipartisan coronavirus relief bill. In so doing, Massie wanted to force numerous House members, who were already back in their home districts, to make a dangerous trek to Washington just to vote. Why? You’d have to ask him. The bill was going to pass anyway.

bill palmer report logo headerThanks to some maneuvering by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, this stunt ended up failing, and the bill ended up passing. Donald Trump is signing it today, and the relief money will start going out soon. As for Thomas Massie, let’s just say that his career went up in flames today.

Trump tweeted that Massie should no longer be a member of the Republican Party. Former Secretary of State John Kerry, an influential Democrat, tweeted that Massie was an “asshole.” This clown’s stupidity has manage to enrage both sides at once.

Thomas Massie should probably consider himself lucky that his stunt failed, because if he’d actually managed to force an in-person vote, he’d have done more damage and faced even more pushback. Massie comes from a heavily Republican-leaning district. But even if a Democrat can’t beat him in the general election in November, he’ll surely face a GOP primary challenge. And if he does survive the election, he’ll be persona non grata within his own House GOP caucus. What an idiot.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: No more from that orange half-wit! Author: The Ruder Pundit, March 27, 2020. If anyone finds the blogger "The Rude Pundit" coarse, stop reading here, because I am making him look like a choir boy.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Donald Trump is suddenly so obsessed with Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, Bill Palmer, March 27, 2020. We know why Donald Trump couldn’t care less what happens to New York in the coronavirus crisis: most New Yorkers hate him, and he was never going to win the state in November anyway. But now Trump has developed a surreal negative obsession with Michigan Governor gretchen whitmer CustomGretchen Whitmer, and it’s raised questions about what he’s really up to.

Donald Trump derisively referred to Governor Whitmer as “the woman in Michigan” during his press conference today. Then he went on Twitter and called “Half Whitmer” because he thinks idiotic nicknames make him look cool. But why is he so focused on painting Michigan’s Governor as somehow being the chief bogey man in the coronavirus crisis?

It’s not difficult to figure out that this has something to do with the 2020 election. Michigan is a key swing state. Donald Trump shockingly and suspiciously won the state in 2016, but his numbers are down there in 2020, and he has little shot at reelection without it. But how does Trump think he’s improving his odds in Michigan by condemning its people to die in the coronavirus crisis?

bill palmer report logo headerThere are two schools of thought here. One is that perhaps Donald Trump thinks Joe Biden is going to pick Gretchen Whitmer as his running mate, and Trump is trying to get the jump on smearing her. But this would require a more sophisticated level of thinking and research than Trump usually displays, as Whitmer hasn’t even popped up on most of the Biden short lists that the media has proposed.

The second school of thought says that Donald Trump has devolved into such a deep level of psychopathy, he honestly believes he can increase his odds of winning Michigan if he starts getting people there killed, and vows to only improve things if people in the state vote for him. This kind of strategy would never work, of course. But Trump really is that far gone.

Jobs, Markets, Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, It was the worst week for the economy in decades. The pain is just beginning, Heather Long, March 27, 2020. The economy has entered a deep recession that has echoes of the Great Depression in its scope. What sets this downturn apart is how rapidly the coronavirus and the accompanying economic pain spread.

ny times logoNew York Times, I Became a Disciplined Investor Over 40 Years. The Virus Broke Me In 40 Days, James B. Stewart, March 27, 2020. l Our columnist survived — and even prospered through — four stock-market crashes. But nothing prepared him for this.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. markets sharply turn after three straight days of gains, Rachel Siegel and Thomas Heath, March 27, 2020.  U.S. markets plunged deep in the red Friday morning, interrupting a stellar three-day run and offering a stinging reminder that the government’s $2.2 trillion rescue package won’t blunt investor anxiety just yet.

Stocks soared this week as the landmark stimulus package came into sharper view. The Senate passed the sprawling bill late Wednesday. The House is now aiming to expedite its own vote on Friday, even while one GOP lawmaker could cause a delay.

But as lawmakers scramble to get the legislation to President Trump, the pandemic’s toll continues to multiply. The United States now has the most confirmed cases in the world and has surpassed 1,000 deaths. A record 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, according to the Labor Department, and economists say more than 40 million Americans could lose their jobs by mid-April.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Arrogant’ and ‘ashamed’: The coronavirus mea culpas from people who once thought it was no big deal, Meagan Flynn, March 27, 2020. Speaking to a roomful of senior citizens on March 13, the same day President Trump declared a national don youngemergency, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) said they should “go forth” with their daily activities and forget about staying inside. He called coronavirus “the beer virus” — “how do you like that?” — and said the pandemic was “blown out of proportion,” the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reported at the time.

Now, much like the celebrities and viral spring breakers who suggested the pandemic was no big deal, the 86-year-old congressman, right, has changed his tune. The impact of covid-19 is “very real, growing” and reshaping our daily lives, he said in a video message Thursday.

“Weeks ago, I did not truly grasp the severity of this crisis,” Young said, while urging everyone to stay home. “But clearly we are in the midst of an urgent public health emergency.”

Young is just one of numerous public figures who have walked back brazen comments downplaying the pandemic in recent days as the crisis becomes increasingly dire across the United States. Two weeks ago, a long time on a pandemic’s watch, about 1,600 cases of covid-19 were reported across the country. Beaches were still packed, and bars were still serving.

Now, as the United States surpasses every nation including China and Italy in coronavirus infections, with more than 85,000 cases, apologies for unpopular hot takes and bad social-distancing behavior are pouring in.

‘If I get corona, I get corona’: Some spring breakers aren’t worried about the coronavirus pandemic

Despite CDC warnings to practice social distancing, some spring breakers didn’t let covid-19 stop them from partying at the beach. (The Washington Post)

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Alabama governor won’t issue stay-at-home order because 'we are not California.’ By population, it’s worse, Philip Bump, March 27, 2020. Millions of Americans continue to live under state-issued stay-at-home orders, an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus that has infected about 90,000 people in the United States. By containing the spread, officials hope to better understand the scope of the virus’s reach and reduce the strain on hospitals from an influx of new cases.

kay iveyAlabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R), right, doesn’t seem to have a sense of urgency about implementing a similar order in her state.

“Y’all, we are not Louisiana, we are not New York state, we are not California,” she said on Thursday, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. “Right now is not the time to order people to shelter in place.”

In terms of raw case totals, that’s true. Data from Johns Hopkins University compiled through Thursday show that Alabama’s case total is in the hundreds, compared with thousands of cases in Louisiana and California and tens of thousands in New York.
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But again, the concern that shelter-in-place orders are meant to address is the spread of the virus. And on that metric, things in Alabama don’t compare quite as well.

On the graph below, lines that increase more rapidly (have a steeper slope) have seen faster spreads since the 10th recorded case in that state. It’s hard to tell, but Alabama’s line is rising faster than California’s.
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Over the past seven days, the number of confirmed cases in California has increased by an average of 22 percent each day. The number of cases in Louisiana has grown by an average of 29 percent. In New York, the rate has averaged 33 percent — slightly higher than the 32 percent average increase in Alabama.
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In other words, the virus has been spreading nearly as fast in Alabama as in New York over the past week. The number of cases in New York from March 19 through Thursday grew by more than 32,000, a 606 percent increase. In Alabama, 439 new cases were added in that period, but that was a spike of 563 percent.

Remember that New York is also more populous than Alabama. This has been a subtext to a lot of the debate over how to limit the spread of the virus, an assumption that less densely populated places have something of a defense against it. If we control for population, though, we see that Alabama is adding new cases relative to its population faster than New York did. Not as fast as Louisiana, but quickly.

 Media News

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Daily Beast, Fox Business Ditches Trish Regan After Coronavirus ‘Impeachment Scam’ Rant, Matt Wilstein, March 27, 2020. The Fox daily beast logoBusiness host was officially let go on Friday more than two weeks after she ranted against the “coronavirus impeachment scam.”

Fox Business Network announced on Friday that it has officially “parted ways” with anchor Trish Regan following her controversial rant against what she called the “coronavirus impeachment scam” earlier this month.

fox news logo Small“We thank her for her contributions to the network over the years and wish her continued success in her future endeavors,” the network said in a statement. “We will continue our reduced live primetime schedule for the foreseeable future in an effort to allocate staff resources to continuous breaking news coverage on the Coronavirus crisis.”

“I have enjoyed my time at FOX and now intend to focus on my family during these troubled times,” Regan said in her own statement.

Regan was previously placed on an indefinite hiatus after she delivered a surreal monologue on Monday, March 9th in which she accused Democrats and the media of perpetuating a coronavirus hoax.

With the words “Coronavirus Impeachment Scam” on the screen next to her, Regan told viewers, “We've reached a tipping point. The chorus of hate being leveled at the president is nearing a crescendo as Democrats blame him and only him for a virus that originated halfway around the world. This is yet another attempt to impeach the president.”

“Many in the liberal media using, and I mean using, coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the president,” she added.

Following what amounted to a suspension, Regan tried to pass off her situation as part of larger safety measures at Fox, tweeting, “FBN has taken prudent steps to limit staffing levels and is prioritizing its coverage during market hours. I fully support this decision — we all must to do our part to keep our colleagues safe.”

Since then she has mostly used her Twitter account to encourage private companies to help fight the pandemic and cheer on the stock market during its rare rallies.

Major 9/11 Report Analyzed leroy hulsey freefall graphic Custom Custom

AE911Truth "Free Fall" radio show: In the Name of Engineering, Science, and Truth: Leroy Hulsey and Roland Angle on the Final WTC 7 Report, Host Andy Steele, ae for 9 11 truth logoMarch 27, 2020 (30 mins.). On this week's episode of 9/11 Free Fall, Dr. Leroy Hulsey of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Roland Angle of AE911Truth join host Andy Steele to discuss the release of the final report on World Trade Center Building 7 and the importance of everyone helping in their own way to share it.

Andrew Steele:

So we are all collectively at the end of a very long journey, maybe not long in the span of all of humankind, but for all of us who have been eagerly awaiting the publishing of the final report on World Trade Center 7, we are here now this week. We're going to be talking about that. For people who may be new — we always want to take them into account — Roland, can you briefly describe for our audience what this report is about.

Roland Angle:

Professor Hulsey and his team at the University of Alaska Fairbanks conducted this study of the collapse of World Trade Center 7, the 47-story building that collapsed in New York City on 9/11, because there had been significant questions raised about the government-issued report on that collapse, which was authored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

And there was just a lot of research that indicated that the conclusions that NIST came to — that the building was brought down by normal office fires — was highly suspect. And so Professor Hulsey and the University of Alaska agreed at our request, to conduct a full, thorough engineering study of the collapse and determine just how valid the NIST report was. And if not, what other mechanism might have caused the collapse of the building.

So that's the purpose of the study. And I would like to say that I've worked with Professor Hulsey and other engineers as this report has been developed, and I can say that it is a very thorough and exact study of what happened that day.

Dr. Hulsey, I know you have taped presentations out there that go into a lot of detail about this. But just briefly for our audience, as we maneuver into talking about the report overall, can you tell us about some of the many years' processes that were involved in putting this report together?

Leroy Hulsey:

So if it's going to come down through some form of natural phenomenon, it's likely not to come straight down. That was looked at very carefully at the beginning. We established the methodology to look at every little detail that might impact what might have occurred to this building as it might be coming down.

And so we looked at, in detail, floors 12 and 13, as NIST did, and we examined numbers of things about that. We also, at the same time, were looking at, without consideration from NIST, what might have happened under a heated-up floor system, walls, columns, etc., etc. And we determined that the modeling was essential in determining how this building is going to respond.

What we did is put together a virtual model of the building to virtually simulate a failure and then [analyze] what kind of failures needed to happen to get what you see in the videos that actually occurred. That's kind of a snapshot overview.

Andrew Steele:

Now again, because our time is brief, can you just talk about some of the conclusions that you had reached that you talked about last September.

Leroy Hulsey:

Yeah, well the first one was that it became very clear early on that fire did not bring this building down. So that's the first thing. And when I took this on, I said, "I might not be able to come up with the reason it came down, but I could certainly tell you what didn't happen." And, well, that didn't happen.

The second thing we began to look at is how the building actually deformed if it was subjected to all this heat. And it became pretty clear pretty quickly that the exterior part of this building was not that stiff. So when you heat up something, imagine that it's going to elongate with respect to some point. And that point is where it's the stiffest. That's not on the outside of the building; it's closer to the inner core, where the elevator shafts were.

That being said, the response going around, the big controversy, which was column 79, and the bearing plates, and the A2001 girder coming into it led to a whole different set of findings than they used as an argument that brought this building down. And furthermore, when you go up and take a look at the system, the other conclusion we came to was that the system up near the top, near the penthouse, that series of columns didn't fail down below, they failed up around Floor 45 — in that neighborhood, which there was no fires up there.

So that was a further finding that led us to be sure that what we were saying is true. Anyway, that's kind of a snapshot....

Andrew Steele:

Absolutely. And I love the fact that you point that out — the fact that we have NIST telling us one thing, Dr. Hulsey and the University of Alaska Fairbanks telling us another. You have two very different outcomes of this analysis. I will step back further and say for myself that from one side, you have the input data hidden away under this guise of public safety: We have to preserve public safety by not making the input data available to the general public, even though engineers like yourselves need that input data — if you believe the official story — to make the general public more safe. Because if buildings can just collapse from random office fires, good God, we're all in danger — anybody who works in a major city.

But this is only phase one of our getting the word out. Again, the corporate media have never been the best friend of 9/11 Truth. Any progress we've made has been because of ourselves. So the next step is to be doing the work to get this out in front of as many people — especially engineering professionals —as possible.

Our volunteers are getting ready for the long fight. They're going to be doing their work. They're fighting those professors on one team. They're going to be calling those professors on another team. And we're going to be having Project Due Diligence doing the proper outreach to those people as well, to carry on those discussions, to get presentations.

This is going to be a full-on assault against the official story of Building 7. And this report is going to be the big Sherman Tank driving through the resistance. Because, again, it's very hard to challenge. I mean, common sense, when you first look at the building coming down, is a very big weapon. But when you actually have the science and everything laid out in this volume, it's very hard to get around it.

Roland, I want to hear from you though. I know what our supporters can do. I've got my own views. But as a board member, what in your view, can our supporters do to help us out in promoting the results of the study?

Roland Angle:

I think if people will look at the results of the study. It's a 115-page document, and I think it's very well laid out. It's very clearly stated. I think that most people can actually follow it. Now, I know it's asking a lot for people to look through 115-page technical report, but this is an issue that is part of a story that has defined the whole era that we're living in.

People have asked in the past, "What good does it do to go back and study this?" And I think we need to understand that the study points out the fact that the evidence that was examined and the conclusion that we came to as a result of that study, was seriously flawed. Therefore, we have been off on a deviant trip. And we need to go back to that information and restudy it and come to different conclusions about what was the cause of that event.

And that event is so important from a professional standpoint alone, for us as engineers. We cannot allow information that is not correct to circulate throughout our profession. It will undermine the foundation of our profession, and we will lose all credibility—and we should lose all credibility if we can't explain why a failure like this actually occurred.

So, what people can do is spread this information as best they can. Point to it, talk about it, research it, look at the different aspects of it, and encourage, especially their engineering friends and colleagues, to do the same.

We will reach a tipping point. And I'm convinced that, from my experience—and our experience as engineers who have been taking this information out into the engineering community—that engineers, like it or not, are playing a very central role in this whole event, because we are the experts.

The public is relying upon us to tell them what we know to be true about what happened. What I'm finding is that, wherever we go, when we present our information to the engineering community, they stand behind us 100% and agree that the NIST report is flawed and we need a new investigation.

Andrew Steele:

As a layman sitting on the outside—I mean, I work here at AE, but I'm not a scientist or engineer like you guys are—it just seems to me that so much work has been done in this report and in all of the work previous on World Trade Center Seven. Now that this report is out, what else can be done to make the case? I think I asked Richard Gage one time this on the show, but I want to hear it from you guys as the engineers here, starting with Roland, is there anything further that could be done on World Trade Center 7 to point to the fact that we're not getting the full story of what happened that day?

Roland Angle:

That's a very good question. I think the information is clear now. I'm satisfied that the information that we have produced, including this report, over the last 15 years, proves without a doubt that the buildings were brought down by controlled demolition. That information is presented to the public most often as some kind of a conspiracy theory [Emphasis added].

However, we're progressing from an engineering standpoint of, in this case, constructing a virtual model, subjecting it to the fires, looking at the observed collapse, and coming to a reasoned, scientific conclusion about what caused that collapse. So we've got to take that information now out to the universities. We're going to encourage the universities to study both reports. They have students who are routinely assigned to solve forensic problems that are presented to them in this field. And we're going to ask that the universities take up such studies.

They can come down only in three ways. They can say that the NIST report is valid and they stand behind it. They can say that the University of Alaska study is valid and they stand behind it. Or they might come up with some third hypothesis or some theory as to why the building came down.

But I think it's very important that this discussion take place in the engineering community, that the public be aware that this discussion is going on, that the public encourage the engineering community in every way possible to take up this study, and that people continue to assist us by funding us to go out to the engineering community.

So far we've made 22 presentations to chapters of professional organizations like the American Society of Civil Engineers and the National Society of Professional Engineers, and to various universities. We've gone to conferences. We're getting a great response and a lot of interest.

And that all takes money. Money is a very important aspect of this, and we have only been able to accomplish this with the support of our many supporters who have contributed the money that has been necessary for us to pay for this study and to pay for our efforts with due diligence, and our other efforts to publicize this issue.

We are a grassroots organization. We're a nonprofit. We don't get any money from any special interest. We are not endorsing any products. We are simply in it for the benefit of the reputation of the engineering community and the responsibility that we have to the general public.

So, everybody has a role to play. Wherever they fit into that model, they should play their part. We encourage everyone to take this up as a matter of great, overwhelming importance to our society.

March 26

Global Health Headlines

Victim, Responder Ordeals

2020 U.S. Elections

Trump Watch

U.S. Crime, Courts

Media News

World News


Global Health

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate approves $2.2 trillion relief bill aimed at slowing economic free fall, Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane, March 26, 2020. The unanimous vote sends the legislation to the House, which is expected to pass it Friday morning.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Facing one of the worst economic downturns in American history, one that is unsparing in its trauma, the Senate late Wednesday unanimously approved a $2 trillion emergency relief bill that attempts to arrest the financial havoc caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawmakers acted with unusual speed and cooperation to produce the largest economic rescue package in U.S. history.

The sprawling legislation, which passed 96 to 0, would send checks to more than 150 million American households, set up enormous loan programs for businesses large and small, pump billions of dollars into unemployment insurance programs, greatly boost spending on hospitals, and much more.

The Senate’s most liberal and conservative members joined together to support the mammoth spending bill, illustrating how concerned policymakers have become about the health care strains and financial pain the country now faces.

The legislation’s goal is to flood the economy with money at a time of financial near-chaos, with entire states on lockdown, many businesses closed and the numbers of infections and deaths from the coronavirus quickly on the rise.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates: Confirmed coronavirus cases approach 500,000 worldwide, Rick Noack, Jennifer Hassan, Marisa Iati, Katie Mettler, Alex Horton, Siobhán O'Grady and Adam Taylor, March 26, 2020. Much of the world’s population is now living under some sort of coronavirus-related restrictions as the total number of confirmed cases worldwide approaches 500,000. Here are some significant developments:

The death toll in coronavirus-ravaged Spain continues to surge, with more than 600 additional fatalities reported Thursday. More than 4,000 people have been killed by the novel coronavirus in Spain; only Italy has recorded more deaths during the outbreak.

More than 13,000 new cases were reported across the United States on Wednesday, and the nationwide total has pushed past 69,000. More than 900 people in the United States have died from complications of the virus, according to tracking by The Washington Post.

The relief bill passed by the Senate would deliver historic levels of emergency aid across the economy, including to households, businesses, cities and states. It would expand unemployment insurance benefits and direct more money to cash-strapped hospitals. The package now goes for consideration to the House of Representatives. President Trump has said he is eager to sign it, and after the late-Wednesday vote tweeted: “96-0 in the United States Senate. Congratulations AMERICA!”

While financial markets have recovered some footing after huge losses earlier this month, investors remain anxious about the long-term economic damage from prolonged shutdowns of the world’s productive capacity, with a recession appearing certain. Asian markets were mixed Thursday.

washington post logoWashington Post, A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits as the coronavirus slams economy, Heather Long and Alyssa Fowers, March 26, 2020. A record 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, as restaurants, hotels, barber shops, gyms and more shut down in a nationwide effort to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Laid off workers say there was such a crush of people applying for jobless benefits at once that they waited hours on the phone and the websites in several states, including New York and Oregon, crashed.

Many economists say the coronavirus recession has already commenced and what happened last week is only the beginning of a massive spike in unemployment that could result in over 40 million Americans losing their jobs by April.

Bank of America predicted 3 million people would apply for unemployment benefits last week, easily surpassing the prior record of 695,000 new jobless claims that was set in 1982 as the nation battled high inflation. But even Wall Street’s expectations were too low for how much the coronavirus is slamming the economy.

Thursday’s Labor Department report encompasses completed applications filed March 15-21. Layoffs skyrocketed on Monday, March 16 after President Trump declared that no more than 10 people should gather together at once time, effectively forcing restaurants and other public places to close.

The true number of unemployed so far from the coronavirus is likely much higher than 3.3 million because a lot of workers are not allowed to apply for this particular benefit. Self-employed workers, gig workers, students, people who did not live in the state last year or workers fewer than six months last year are typically not eligible to apply for unemployment insurance in most states.

The nation’s unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in February, a half-century low, but that has likely risen already to 5.3 percent, according to calculations by Martha Gimbel, a labor economist at Schmidt Futures.

“This morning’s jobless claims confirm that the United States is in the thralls of a catastrophic unemployment crisis, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Great Depression,” said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Century Foundation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump keeps touting an unproven coronavirus treatment. It’s now being tested on thousands in N.Y., Christopher Rowland, Jon Swaine and Josh Dawsey, March 26, 2020. The effort has raised concerns among health experts. But President Trump’s intervention and New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s embrace of the strategy has fueled popular excitement about the drugs.

Victim, Responder Ordeals

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘We’re in Disaster Mode’: Courage Inside a Brooklyn Hospital, Sheri Fink, March 26, 2020. Test kits and protective gear have been in short supply, doctors are falling sick, and every day gets more difficult. But the staff keeps showing up.

The 175-year-old hospital — where Walt Whitman brought peaches and poems to comfort the Civil War wounded and where Anthony Fauci, the White House adviser who is now American’s most famous doctor, was born — is scaling up, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has required all New York hospitals to do. The city, now the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, had reported more than 20,000 confirmed infections and 280 deaths as of late Wednesday.

Licensed to treat 464 patients, the Brooklyn medical center typically has only enough staff and beds to handle 250 to 300. It is planning to increase that number by half if needed, but it may have to double it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Job Vacancies and Inexperience Mar Federal Response to Coronavirus, Jennifer Steinhauer and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, March 26, 2020. Unfilled jobs and high turnover mean the government is ill equipped for a public health crisis, said former and current officials and disaster experts.

ny times logoNew York Times, NY Live Updates: Coronavirus Stimulus Plan Shortchanges N.Y., Officials Say, Staff reports, March 26, 2020. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the state hit hardest by the virus would not get nearly enough to cover budget gaps.

The economic slowdown, however long it may last, is projected to cost New York State between $9 billion to $15 billion in lost tax revenue, with the worst-case scenario putting the state in financial straits not seen since the Great Recession a decade ago.

State and city officials had hoped that Congress would soften the blow of the pandemic on households and government budgets with a $2 trillion stimulus package that was expected to be approved this week.

But Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called the package “terrible” for New York on Wednesday. He said that only $3.1 billion was earmarked to help the state with its budget gap, a sum his office said was disproportionately low compared what states with far fewer confirmed coronavirus cases and smaller budgets were slated to get.

Mayor Bill de Blasio went further, calling the deal “immoral.” He said New York City would be getting only $1 billion, despite having one-third of the country’s virus cases. He said he planned to appeal directly to President Trump, a native New Yorker, to “fix this situation.”

ny times logoNew York Times, She’s 10, Homeless and Eager to Learn. But She Has No Internet, Nikita Stewart, March 26, 2020. Thousands of students living in shelters and doubled up in overcrowded apartments have not received web-enabled devices for online learning.

ny times logoNew York Times, New Orleans Facing Deadly Virus Outbreak, Katy Reckdahl, Campbell Robertson and Richard Fausset, March 26, 2020. Louisiana may be experiencing the world’s fastest growth in new cases. Medical experts said Mardi Gras might have accelerated the crisis.

According to one study, Louisiana, with nearly 1,800 cases as of Thursday morning, is experiencing the fastest growth in new cases in the world; Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Tuesday that the current trajectory of case growth in Louisiana was similar to those in Spain and Italy. This week, President Trump approved the governor’s request for a major disaster declaration, which unlocks additional federal funding to combat the outbreak.

The situation in and around New Orleans is particularly acute, with the city reporting 827 confirmed cases as of Wednesday night, more than the total number of cases in all but 15 states. Hospitals are overwhelmed and critical safety gear is running low.

Orleans Parish, which shares its borders with the city of New Orleans, has suffered the highest number of deaths per capita of any county in the nation. Of the parish’s 37 deaths — nearly three times the death toll of in Los Angeles County — 11 are from a single retirement home, where dozens more residents are infected.

In a grim irony, there is a rising suspicion among medical experts that the crisis may have been accelerated by Mardi Gras, the weekslong citywide celebration that unfolds in crowded living rooms, ballrooms and city streets, which this year culminated on Feb. 25.

It is the city’s trademark expression of joy — and an epidemiologist’s nightmare.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The Postal Service was in trouble before covid-19. Now it’s fighting for its life, Joe Davidson, March 26, 2020. Because of the coronavirus crisis, the U.S. Postal Service will not survive the summer without immediate assistance, members of Congress say.

The U.S. Postal Service has been in money trouble for years. Now, covid-19, the disease the virus causes, is forcing the quasi-governmental agency into a fight for its life.

“What we’ve seen in the pandemic is the collapse of mail,” Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), chairman of the government operations subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service, said by phone. “While people are shipping packages, mail volume has collapsed.”

Unless Congress acts quickly, the decline in mail because of covid-19 could soon close the constitutionally mandated mail service, according to Connolly and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the full Committee on Oversight and Reform. They called the situation “a national emergency” as they proposed postal relief measures.

washington post logoWashington Post, As crisis in N.Y. deepens, experts split over how to contain its spread, Shayna Jacobs, Ben Guarino and Tim Craig, The White House quarantine guidance for travelers from New York City and an order from Florida’s governor have touched off a debate about the practicality of controlling Americans’ movements.

deborah birx palmer

Palmer Report, Opinion: Dr. Birx has jumped the shark, TR Kenneth, March 26, 2020. Dr. Deborah Birx, shown above, is gaslighting America. Her press conference was nothing short of a lie. The county-registering proposal, whether high or low, is absurd given the lack of tests. If you don’t test everyone, this is a completely spurious plan. In addition, without addressing the travel that is ubiquitous between counties, Deborah Birx has to know what she is saying is ridiculous.

It’s beyond irresponsible for a doctor to downplay what’s happening to our country. By emphasizing the hard-hit areas as urban, Brix is allowing the Trump followers who live in rural areas to have a false sense of security. Everyone should be in lockdown in this country. bill palmer report logo headerThis virus isn’t going to be absent in rural areas and it won’t be kind.

If anything, in rural areas, their hospitals are much more likely to be overwhelmed. They also are much less likely to have a number of ventilators. The idea that Birx assured the public that New York still had a thousand ventilators and could access more from rural areas is only putting those rural areas at risk. A thousand ventilators may be used up by today; by next week, New York could be in Do Not Resuscitate mode.

The only silver lining of this virus is that it is not targeting the young. But every statistic coming from countries that don’t lie indicates it will impact at a point higher than the influenza outbreak of 1918. Any doctor who doesn’t put this fact forward should have their medical license pulled. A doctor who spins the facts in order to please a corrupt regime willing to kill its followers because they are craven and stupid, is criminal.

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. was intentionally classified as a territory in virus-aid bill, lawmakers say, Jenna Portnoy and Fenit Nirappil, March 26, 2020. The District, which has more confirmed covid-19 cases than 18 states, will get hundreds of millions less in relief funds.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen said Thursday that the coronavirus relief package expected to pass the House of Representatives on Friday deliberately classified the District as a territory instead of a state, which means the city will get less than half of the funding it was expecting.

Van Hollen (D-Md.) said he doesn’t know how the District got lumped in with five U.S. territories — the city is almost always treated like a full-fledged state by the federal government when it comes to grants, highway funding, education dollars and food assistance. He said he would try to ensure the District receives the money it believes it was due retroactively, as well as in a future relief package.

“I was enraged by the fact that the District of Columbia was going to be shortchanged,” Van Hollen said in an interview. “I immediately talked to Senator [Charles E.] Schumer about it and was told that the Republicans had insisted on the formula the way it was in the bill.”
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Asked why the District is not treated like a state in the bill, a spokesman for Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said: “Because Washington, D.C., is not a state. One can debate whether or not it should be, but that’s a separate discussion.”

The spokesman, Michael Zona, noted that although some Democratic senators objected to the D.C. funding formula, the 600-page relief bill passed the Senate unanimously.

“No one was trying to ‘shortchange’ any particular jurisdiction,” he said in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that some voices are attempting to inject partisanship into a bipartisan desire to provide broad relief during a pandemic.”

But D.C. officials and advocates, who are accustomed to Republicans targeting the city over social issues such as guns, marijuana and abortion, said denying the District money to fight a public health crisis takes political gamesmanship to a new level.

“It was curious that in this bill they decided to treat the District of Columbia in a very discriminatory way,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a news conference Thursday morning. “It really makes no sense unless you have some other motivation.”

The bill, passed late Wednesday in the Senate, calls for the District and five U.S. territories to divide $3 billion by population, giving the District about $500 million — less than half of the minimum $1.25 billion guaranteed to each state, officials said.
Confirmed coronavirus cases in D.C., by day

As of Thursday afternoon, 235 District residents had tested positive for covid-19, which is more than the five territories combined and more than 18 states, according to data gathered by The Washington Post.

The entirely urban nature of the District also means the virus has a better chance of spreading among residents living in rowhomes and apartments than in the suburbs and rural communities of neighboring Virginia and Maryland, D.C. officials say.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) — who raised the issue on a call with President Trump and the nation’s governors Thursday, according to a person on the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the talks — said the funding slight illustrates the need for the District to achieve statehood, including full representation in Congress.

“Every state that has two senators was treated the exact same,” the mayor said in a news conference. “We don’t have two senators. And it matters not having two senators. And that’s why we have pushed so hard for statehood.”

She added, “There will be a lot of intrigue behind whose motives got us to this point.”

“It was clearly intentional,” Van Hollen said of the decision to designate the District as a territory. “I don’t know all the motivations, except we do know Republicans are opposed to giving the people of the District of Columbia voting rights in the U.S. House and Senate.”

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District’s nonvoting representative in the House, said the District has a better chance for full funding in the next round of virus-related relief if the bill starts in the House.

“Whoever over there [in the Senate] decided we should be lumped in with the territory has really defied precedent,” she said in an interview.

The District has been used as bargaining chip in previous congressional negotiations. During a budget standoff in 2011, then-President Barack Obama agreed to language prohibiting the city from using local money to give low-income women access to elective abortions after House Republicans sought restrictions on federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Despite decades of fighting for D.C. autonomy on policy matters, Bo Shuff, executive director of the statehood advocacy group DC Vote, said allies of the District never anticipated such tactics during a global pandemic.

“It’s not something we had on our radar to worry about, to be honest,” he said. “This is a new and different level than we’ve seen before.”

  •  Washington Post, Rep. Matt Gaetz questions emergency funding for Howard University

2020 U.S. Elections

Palmer Report, Commentary: Donald Trump campaign headquarters gets forcibly shut down, Bill Palmer, March 26, 2020. Donald Trump keeps talking about how he’s going to magically reopen the country for business on Easter, April 12th. If he were to do so, he’d be sentencing perhaps hundreds of thousands of Americans to death.

Fortunately, Trump doesn’t get to “reopen” the country because he’s not the one who shut anything down to begin with. Now Trump himself is getting shut down.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump’s 2020 campaign headquarters is based in Virginia. That’s one of the states that’s been shut down for safety reasons, thanks to Virginia’s responsible Democratic Governor. This means that Trump’s campaign headquarters has been forcibly shut down. CBS News says that lawyers went so far as to inform the Trump campaign that it would be committing a crime by not shutting its doors.

Notably, the Trump campaign headquarters is being shuttered until at least April 24th – a full twelve days after Donald Trump’s stated target date for his phony “reopening” of the country. This guy couldn’t be more delusional. Meanwhile back in the real world, even his own offices are going to shuttered for quite awhile.

Trump Watch

ivanka eric donald trump jr

Politico, Democrats delayed stimulus bill to tighten ban on Trump family profiting, Anita Kumar, March 26, 2020. Democrats have tried to prevent Trump from receiving taxpayer money at his businesses for three years. This week, they finally scored a small victory.

The Senate was about to approve the largest recovery bill in U.S. history on Wednesday night when Minority Leader Chuck Schumer hit pause, realizing something was missing — revised language designed to bar President Donald Trump from getting money for his own businesses.

Democrats and Republicans had already agreed to a rewritten clause, but the update had somehow not made it into the final printed legislation, according to two people familiar with the situation.

For two hours, Schumer and fellow Democrats held up the bill — written to boost a faltering economy amid the coronavirus outbreak — while the stricter language was inserted. The Senate passed the $2 trillion package just before midnight.

The change was meant to close a loophole in the original clause that barred loans to businesses that were at least 20 percent owned by presidents or their children, spouses and in-laws. The updated language extended the ban to businesses in which several family members collectively have a 20 percent stake, even if each person's individual stake is below the 20 percent threshold.

For Democrats, it was a small victory after three years of fruitless efforts to block Trump from linking his private business interests with America’s highest public office.

“Now is a time to come together as a nation to provide a desperately needed lifeline to American families," said House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y). "It is not time to bail out the private businesses of President Trump and his family or any other top policymakers."

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s stooge Mike Pompeo just made a huge mess, Bill Palmer, March 26, 2020. Donald Trump likes to make a point of using the racist term “Chinese Virus” in reference to the coronavirus. Other prominent Trump-aligned Republicans, including mike pompeo portraitHouse Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have described the virus using other xenophobic terms.

Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, a hardened criminal who is likely headed to prison after this is all over for his role in the Ukraine extortion scandal, just decided to make things even worse.

This year’s G7 summit will be held virtually, due to the worldwide coronavirus crisis. Even as the member nations work to put the event together, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is gumming up the works by insisting on referring to the bill palmer report logo headercoronavirus as the “Wuhan virus.”

The Washington Post says that the G7 was unable to release a joint statement on the matter, specifically because of Pompeo’s racist meddling.

There is absolutely no above-board reason for this. The Trump regime is simply trying to sow racial division, as a way of distracting the public from Donald Trump’s dishonest and disastrous mishandling of this crisis.

On a side note, at one point Donald Trump wanted to hold this year’s G7 summit at his own Doral resort, which has since been shut down by the coronavirus crisis.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump, struggling to breathe and sounding half dead, walks out on his own press conference again, Bill Palmer, March 26, 2020. Yesterday Donald Trump was visibly and audibly struggling to breathe at some points during his press conference, and then barely half an hour in, he abruptly walked out on it – leaving his underlings to keep it going without him. Today Trump took the stage and struggled so badly to breathe, you’d think he’d just run a marathon. Then he once again walked out while it was still going on.

What is going on here? Donald Trump has clearly been in very poor health for awhile now. He’s been showing signs of collapsing physical and bill palmer report logo headercognitive health ever since his mysterious trip to the hospital late last year. But yesterday and today, we’re seeing something different. Not only is Trump talking in incoherent circles, he can’t breathe while he’s doing it.

Are we merely watching an elderly and morbidly obese man with a poor diet succumbing to his own chronically failing health as the pressure gets to him, or is he specifically sick right now? Has he begun walking off the stage because he’s afraid the TV networks will humiliatingly cut away from him again, or does he keep walking out because of whatever is wrong with his health?

We need answers. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and not only does the President of the United States sound like he’s three-quarters senile, he sounds like he just might be trying to cover up the fact that he’s one of the people who’s infected.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Grocery store throws out $35,000 worth of food it says woman deliberately coughed on, Antonia Noori Farzan, March 26, 2020. The past few weeks have been tough for Gerrity’s Supermarket, a small family-owned chain in northeastern Pennsylvania. Like grocers nationwide, it has been deluged with orders and has struggled to keep basics such as chicken breasts and toilet paper on the shelves. Employees have been working overtime, pausing only for five-second breaks to wipe everything down with disinfectant wipes.

Then, on Wednesday afternoon, a woman came in and deliberately coughed all over the produce section, meat case and bakery department, co-owner Joe Fasula said. The store had to throw away more than $35,000 worth of food.

While the woman isn’t known to be infected with the novel coronavirus, police plan on testing her just to be sure, Fasula said. Pennsylvania has confirmed 1,260 coronavirus cases as of early Thursday. Fifteen people, including one in Hanover Township, have died from the virus.

Reuters via U.S. News & World Report, U.S. Announces Reward up to $15 Million for Venezuela's Maduro, March 26, 2020. The U.S. State nicolas maduro customDepartment on Thursday announced rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of various Venezuelan nationals, including President Nicolas Maduro, right, who Washington aims to push out of power.

"The Department is offering a reward of up to $15 million for information related to Nicolas Maduro Moros," the State Department said in a statement. The move came as the U.S. Justice Department announced charges against Maduro and others on narco-terrorism.

New York Times, Venezuelan Leader Maduro Is Charged in the U.S. With Drug Trafficking, William K. Rashbaum, Benjamin Weiser and Katie Benner, March 26, 2020. Federal prosecutors accused President Nicolás Maduro of participating in a narco-terrorism conspiracy, in a major escalation of the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure him to leave office.

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela was indicted in the United States on Thursday in a decades-long narco-terrorism and international cocaine trafficking conspiracy in which, prosecutors said, he led a violent drug cartel even as he ascended to the top of government.

The indictment of a putative head of state was highly unusual and a major escalation of the Trump administration’s campaign to pressure Mr. Maduro to leave office after his widely disputed re-election in 2018. The State Department also announced a $15 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Mr. Maduro, who has led Venezuela’s economy into shambles and prompted an exodus of millions of people.

Mr. Maduro’s government is “plagued by criminality and corruption,” Attorney General William P. Barr said in announcing the charges at a news briefing along with the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the top federal prosecutors in Miami and Manhattan, where an indictment accused Mr. Maduro, 57, of importing hundreds of tons of cocaine into the United States.

The Justice Department aimed to root out “the extensive corruption within the Venezuelan government — a system constructed and controlled to enrich those at the highest levels of the government,” Mr. Barr added.

Mr. Maduro condemned the charges, accusing the United States and its ally Colombia on Twitter of giving “the order to fill Venezuela with violence.” He declared that he would not be defeated.

The United States no longer recognizes Mr. Maduro as Venezuela’s president. Along with most of Venezuela’s neighbors, the Trump administration has instead recognized the leader of the opposition, Juan Guaidó, as president since he declared himself the country’s leader in January 2019. But Mr. Guaidó was unable to wrest power from Mr. Maduro, leaving Venezuela with both men claiming to lead.

In addition to Mr. Maduro, more than a dozen others were charged, including Venezuelan government and intelligence officials and members of the largest rebel group in Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, known as the FARC, which has long drawn its financing from the cocaine trade.

Mr. Barr declined to say whether the United States would seek to extradite Mr. Maduro, who remains in Venezuela, or any of the others charged. He also declined to say whether he had notified President Trump directly or whether the State Department had spoken with Mr. Guaidó about the charges.

Instead of pushing out Mr. Maduro, the indictments could backfire by prompting him to dig in, some analysts predicted. For instance, the Trump administration likely forfeited any chance to broker Mr. Maduro’s exit through his top allies, making a transition to a new government less likely, said Geoff Ramsey, the Venezuela director at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights advocacy organization.

“There’s now a better chance these figures will further entrench themselves than seek any kind of deal,” Mr. Ramsey said. “Any hope of a soft landing has been torpedoed.”

The indictments made clear that the Trump administration was going to try to resolve Venezuela’s problems without Mr. Maduro, Mr. Ramsey added.

The charges were announced as countries around the world grapple with the global outbreak of the coronavirus. Even before the pandemic began, Venezuela struggled to provide health care to its citizens; and as the virus spread, Mr. Maduro restricted travel and imposed a nationwide quarantine.

Mr. Barr said that the new charges underscore how badly Venezuela needs “an effective government that cares about the people.”

The accusations were detailed in three indictments — two filed in New York and one in Washington — and a criminal complaint filed in Miami. One of the indictments unsealed in federal court in Manhattan included four counts, accusing the defendants of possessing machine guns and conspiring to possess machine guns in addition to the narco-terrorism and cocaine trafficking conspiracy charges.

“The scope and magnitude of the drug trafficking alleged was made possible only because Maduro and others corrupted the institutions of Venezuela and provided political and military protection for the rampant narco-terrorism crimes,” said Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.

Mr. Maduro came to power in 2013 following the death of his predecessor Hugo Chávez. He vowed to continue Mr. Chávez’s socialist-inspired revolution, which redirected the country’s vast oil revenues toward the poor with government-sponsored housing, education and health programs.

Media News

washington post logofox news logo SmallWashington Post, Fact checker: Trump’s faux facts on Fox News, Glenn Kessler and Salvador Rizzo, March 26, 2020. The president was all over the network, but he often got his facts about the pandemic wrong. Here's a guide to his spin.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump spent 25 percent of his time at Wednesday’s briefing on self-congratulation and placing blame, Aaron Blake, March 26, 2020. He often devotes considerable time to playing up his alleged successes and the obstacles that stand in his way. That was particularly the case Wednesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Local journalism needs a coronavirus stimulus plan, too, Margaret Sullivan, right,March 26, 2020. In an margaret sullivan 2015 photoapocalyptic advertising downturn, ideas that would have been unthinkable weeks ago deserve immediate consideration.

Media readership and viewership is soaring as citizens seek life-or-death information about the coronavirus: Where to get tested? Does my hospital have enough ventilators? Is it safe to go outside?

But the accompanying economic decline is killing off advertising — for restaurants, cars, travel, entertainment — and other support that has kept many news organizations going.

For some, the events of the past few weeks have already proved too much for their fragile existence. Alternative weeklies have stopped printing. Local dailies are laying off staff at already decimated newsrooms. Many others, including digital-only newsrooms, are hanging on by a thread.

It’s happening around the world: Newspapers in Australia and Britain announced in the past few days that they were going out of business or suspending print publication.

HuffPost, Alex Jones Loses Sandy Hook Court Appeal, Must Now Pay Nearly $150,000 In Legal Fees, Sebastian Murdock, March 26, 2020. huff post logoThe Infowars host is being sued by nine people whose family members were killed in the shooting at the Connecticut elementary school.

Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist and repeated loser of court battles, was ordered Wednesday to pay more than $20,000 in attorney fees after losing another appeal in a defamation case related to the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He now owes nearly $150,000 in legal fees before he even faces a jury.

The Texas Court of Appeals sided with Sandy Hook father Neil Heslin, who for years has been attacked by conspiracy theorists who alex jones radio logofalsely claim the school shooting in which 20 children and six adults were killed never happened.

Heslin’s lawsuit accuses Jones and his website, Infowars, of defamation after Jones claimed the parents of the dead children were “crisis actors” who helped stage the shooting. Jones is now being sued by nine family members of people who died in the shooting.

Jones’ most recent appeal to dismiss Heslin’s lawsuit was found to be “frivolous,” the court ruled Wednesday. Jones was ordered to pay $22,250 in attorney fees.

alex jones mug shot CustomJones (shown in a mug shot from a DUI arrest this month) was also ordered to pay approximately $25,000 in October after a court sanctioned him. And in December, he was ordered to pay $100,000 in legal fees after a Texas judge ruled his defense team “intentionally disregarded” an earlier order to produce witnesses.

Attorney Mark Bankston, who is representing Heslin and other families suing Jones, told HuffPost in a statement that the latest victory for his client spells the end for Jones.

“It is rare to see a legal defense so incompetent and disrespectful to the rule of law that it causes a defendant to rack up $150,000 in fines during preliminary motions before even reaching trial,” Bankston said. “These fines are only the beginning. A far greater reckoning awaits Mr. Jones.”

Former allies have turned against Jones during his legal battle. Rob Jacobson, a former Infowars editor, testified in a deposition that staff laughed at him when he warned them against spreading lies about Sandy Hook.

“I told [Jones] straight to his face: ‘They’re going to come after you for Sandy Hook. This is really bad,’” Jacobson said. “He just stared at me like a deer in the headlights, he had nothing to say. And we just went on our way.”

Paul Watson, Jones’ longtime friend and a contributor to Infowars, testified in December that he also warned Jones to leave the parents alone, but was largely ignored.

Jones was most recently in the news after he was caught peddling a toothpaste he falsely claimed could kill the deadly coronavirus.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel takes step toward emergency government as Gantz is elected parliament speaker, Ruth Eglash, March 26, 2020. The surprise move signals a possible deal for a power-sharing government.

Israeli lawmakers took what could be a significant step Thursday toward forming an emergency government and ending the country's year-long political deadlock by electing opposition leader Benny Gantz as speaker of parliament.

benjamin netanyahu smileThe unexpected development looks to be part of a deal between Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a unity government as Israel battles the coronavirus pandemic. Under the deal, Netanyahu, right, could remain prime minister for now.

The sudden turn of events prompted the immediate breakup of Gantz’s Blue and White party. Two of the three factions comprising that party have consistently said they will not join a governing coalition or participate in a political scenario that allows Netanyahu to remain in office while he faces criminal indictment. Netanyahu was formally charged in November in three criminal cases involving allegations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Gantz lost the support of those factions, as well as from the wider opposition, including a group of Arab Israeli parliamentarians who had been willing to back him for prime minister. But he won the speaker’s job with the votes of lawmakers from Netanyahu’s Likud party and from members of a right-wing bloc that has repeatedly criticized Gantz over the past year.

Jason Pearlman, a communications strategist who has worked with several right-wing politicians, said, “I think this offers an American model of the legislature providing a check and balance on the executive for an emergency period, which could then become a unity government in the coming weeks and months.”

India America Today, Kabul Gurdwara Attack: Perspectives, Cautions, Reactions, Tejinder Singh, March 26, 2020. The latest terrorist attack in the heart of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, against a minority place of worship, not only drew a sharp condemnation globally but also sent shock-waves to the fragile peace negotiations between the Taliban and other stakeholders.

The Afghan Ministry of Interior said in a statement, “At least 25 people were killed and 8 others were wounded in the attack at Dharamshala, a Sikh worship place in Kabul.”

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack while the country’s main militant group, the Taliban, denied any involvement.

“As so often,” commented Justice Integrity Project’s Washington, DC-based editor Andrew Kreig, “this horrid terror attack prompts sympathy for the innocent victims as well questions about cause and prevention. It baffles understanding why terrorism’s opponents are not more effective in using high-tech to track down perpetrators and soft-power to reduce root causes.”

Noting that “for many years, Sikhs were relatively safe in Afghanistan,” C. Christine Fair, an expert on the region said, “Life is increasingly difficult for Sikhs in Afghanistan. And there are too few of them to mount meaningful political demands or even self-protection.”

Christine Fair, Associate Professor in the Security Studies Program within Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, elaborated on the slow but steady rise of these unfavorable living conditions saying, “The Taliban required them to wear identifying insignia but it didn’t use that insignia to signal them out for violence. Sikhs in Kabul have traditionally run medical supply shops and other mercantile activities. While life was not terrific–they suffered as other Afghans did–they were not targets. In recent years, this has begun to change.”

“This is also true in Pakistan where for many years Sikhs lived peacefully,” said Fair. “Part of the problem has been the introduction of the Islamic State’s ideology which is vehemently opposed to non-Muslims but also other kinds of Muslims such as Barelvis, Shias and of course Ahmedis.” Professor Fair added, “It’s t

March 25

Global Health Headlines

Major 9/11 Report Attacks Official Account

leroy hulsey report final march 25 2020 Custom 2

Virus Victim Life

Prospects for Bailout Passage

Trump Virus Critics, Watchdogs

2020 U.S. Elections

World News

U.S. Crime, Courts

U.S. Bailout, Jobs

Global Health Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Live Updates: Infections Soar in New York as Congress Reaches $2 Trillion Aid Deal, Staff reports, March 25, 2020. Relief Package Is Biggest in American History. People fleeing New York to other parts of the country were told to quarantine themselves for 14 days. President Trump said he wanted the U.S. “opened up” by Easter. The number of deaths in Spain — more than 3,400 — surpassed the toll in China. Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, has the coronavirus, the royal family said in a statement.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Here’s what you need to know:

• Trump wants U.S. ‘opened up’ by Easter as New York infections soar and Spain’s crisis deepens.
• Prince Charles tests positive for the coronavirus.
• Stocks climb as Wall Street weighs U.S. rescue deal.
• In India, Day 1 of lockdown for a fifth of humanity.
• Outbreaks emerge across the U.S., but states’ responses vary.
• Morgues in Spain run out of room for the dead as the nation pleads for help.

washington post logoWashington Post, Guide to the pandemic, Rick Noack, Lateshia Beachum, Alex Horton, Siobhán O'Grady, Adam Taylor, Marisa Iati and John Wagner​, March 25, 2020. There have been more than 430,000 confirmed cases of covid-19. The virus has killed more than cdc logo Custom19,000. Access to the following stories is free:

• Mapping the virus’s spread
• This simulation shows how to ‘flatten the curve’
• Q&A: What if I think I’m infected?
• Check and add to our list of U.S. closings and postponements

Real Clear Politics Chart

Country Deaths Deaths / 1M pop     New Deaths   Confirmed #  Fatality %

Italy        7,503    124.2                      +683                 74,386            10.09%
Spain     3,647      78.1                      +656                 49,515              7.37%
China     3,281        2.4                          -                     81,218             4.04%
Iran        2,077      25.4                      +143                  27,017             7.69%
France   1,331      19.9                      +231                  25,233             5.27%
U.S.          931       2.8                       +151                  65,652             1.42%
U. K.         465       7.0                        +43                   9,529               4.88%

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate, White House reach deal on $2 trillion stimulus package, Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane, March 25, 2020. Bill to send money directly to many Americans is largest bailout in history. The bill would aid small and large businesses hard hit by the economic downturn. The Senate plans to vote on it this afternoon.

us senate logoThe Senate plans to vote Wednesday afternoon on a $2 trillion stimulus package that is designed to flood the U.S. economy with money in an effort to stabilize households and businesses that have been floored by the coronavirus outbreak.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced the breakthrough on the Senate floor around 1:30 a.m., after a long day of talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other administration officials.

The Senate reconvenes at midday, and a vote could come shortly after that.

steven mnuchin w“This is a very important bipartisan piece of legislation that is going to be very important to help American workers, American business and people across America,” Mnuchin, right, told reporters early Wednesday morning. “We couldn’t be more pleased.”

He said he had “spoken to the president many times today; he’s very pleased with this legislation and the impact that this is going to have.”

The legislation, unprecedented in its size and scope, would send $1,200 checks to many Americans, create a $367 billion loan program for small businesses, and establish a $500 billion lending fund for industries, cities and states.

The legislation ensures that these taxpayer-backed loans cannot go to firms owned by President Trump, other White House officials or members of Congress. This would suggest that Trump-owned properties, including hotels that have been impacted, cannot seek taxpayer assistance.

Other provisions include $150 billion for state and local stimulus funds and $130 billion for hospitals.

It would significantly boost unemployment insurance benefits, expanding eligibility and offering workers an additional $600 a week for four month, on top of what state unemployment programs pay. Millions of Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past few weeks, flooding a system that isn’t designed to cope with a sudden wave of applicants.

As the bill was coming together in the final days, Democrats fought to make numerous changes. For example, the White House and Republicans agreed to allow an oversight board and create a Treasury Department special inspector general for pandemic recovery to scrutinize the lending decisions and detect abusive or fraudulent behavior.

“Every loan document will be public and made available to Congress very quickly, so we can see where the money is going, what the terms are and if it’s fair to the American people,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

After Senate passage, the next step is a little less clear. The House is out of session, so action there could take longer, depending on whether lawmakers can agree to pass the bill by “unanimous consent,” which would require agreement from all members of the chamber.

But some liberals and conservatives have already hinted they could oppose it.

"This bipartisan deal is a raw deal for the people," wrote former Tea Party Republican and now Independent congressman Justin Amash of Michigan. "It does far too little for those who need the most help, while providing hundreds of billions in corporate welfare, massively growing government, inhibiting economic adaptation, and widening the gap between the rich and the poor."

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: A Lifeline Will Help, but More May Be Needed, Jim Tankersley, March 25, 2020. The deal set to pass Congress is more than twice as big as the 2009 stimulus but will soothe the economy for only a few months.

If you want to shut down an economy to fight a pandemic without driving millions of people and businesses into bankruptcy, you need the government to cut some checks. The coronavirus response deal that congressional leaders struck early Wednesday morning will get a lot of checks in the mail, but they’ll soothe only a few months of financial pain.

President Donald Trump officialIf the outbreak and the disruptions continue through summer, lawmakers will need to spend even more.

The bill, a compromise between the Trump administration and Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, includes loans and grants for corporations and small businesses, increased unemployment benefits for workers laid off or working fewer hours amid the outbreak, and direct payments to low- and middle-income individuals and families. Negotiators estimate its cost at $2 trillion.

It is more than double the size of the roughly $800 billion stimulus package that Congress passed in 2009 to ease the Great Recession. Yet it may not actually be large enough, given the enormous economic challenge the United States faces today.

The economy, which has been shuttered to control the spread of the virus, does not need a jump-start to get moving again. The government is just trying to tide people and firms over until it is safe to start back up again.

Viewed through that particular set of circumstances, the deal announced early Wednesday isn’t economic stimulus at all. It’s a series of survival payments. And those payments will only last a few months.

President Trump said Tuesday that he hopes the economy will have “reopened” by Easter, in two and a half weeks. Public health experts and a wide range of economists say that’s both unlikely and inadvisable. The country still lacks widespread testing for the virus. Confirmed infections and deaths continue to climb rapidly.

The extraordinary measures that mayors and governors have taken to restrict economic activity, which at their most extreme include shutting down all nonessential businesses and ordering people to shelter in the homes, are unlikely to show success in “bending the curve” of the virus for at least another week. If they prove effective, and the infection rate slows dramatically, activity could be back to normal — or at least something that reasonably resembles it — within a few months for many businesses and workers.

If the measures don’t prove effective, or if they are relaxed under orders from Mr. Trump or defied en masse, experts warn the crisis could stretch much longer, under the growing cloud of a recession. That’s why it’s hard to say if the congressional deal will be enough to keep families from going hungry and businesses from going under.

Still, economists hailed the emerging agreement as a good start — one that works on multiple fronts to keep money flowing through the parts of the economy that have been suddenly rendered inactive.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: All Americans Need to Shelter in Place, Editorial Board, March 25, 2020. The worst of the pandemic is yet to come. Listen to the medical experts. It’s time for a national lockdown.

President Trump needs to call for a two-week shelter-in-place order, now, as part of a coherent national strategy for the coronavirus to protect Americans and their livelihoods.

Once he does, and governors follow his request, there will be time to debate how soon some controls might be lifted, or how soon certain people, like those under a particular age, might be free to resume something like normal life.

We are not suggesting that Mr. Trump has the authority to order a national lockdown, much less advocating that he attempt to enforce one. Instead, we are urging him to use the bully pulpit to put pressure on, and provide political cover for, governors to take the hard steps that are needed.

As the president’s own health advisers warn, the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is yet to come. The nation’s slow and spotty response has allowed the virus to spread to every state. Modeling by researchers at the Imperial College London indicates that upward of two million lives could be lost to the pandemic unless America somehow manages to “flatten the curve.”

leroy hulsey report final march 25 2020 Custom 2

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, WTC 7 Not Destroyed by Fire, Concludes Final University of Alaska Fairbanks Report, AE911 Truth, ae for 9 11 truth logoMarch 25, 2020. The destruction of the 47-story World Trade Center Building 7 in New York City late in the afternoon of September 11, 2001, was not a result of fires, according to the much-anticipated final report issued today by researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF).

The UAF team’s findings, which were the result of a four-year computer modeling study of the tower’s collapse, contradict those of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which concluded in a 2008 report that WTC 7 was the first tall building ever to collapse primarily due to fire.

“Our study found that the fires in WTC 7 could not have caused the observed collapse,” said Professor Leroy Hulsey, right, the study’s principal investigator. “The only way it could have fallen in the observed manner is by the near-simultaneous failure of every column.”
leroy hulseyIMG 2188 Small“The only way it could have fallen in the observed manner is by the near-simultaneous failure of every column.” — Professor Leroy Hulsey

The four-year study was funded by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth), a nonprofit organization representing more than 3,000 architects and engineers who have signed the organization’s petition calling for a new investigation into the destruction of the three World Trade Center towers on 9/11.

“We are proud to have supported the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Professor Leroy Hulsey in conducting a genuinely scientific study into the reasons for this building’s collapse,” said Richard Gage, president and founder of AE911Truth. “It is now incumbent upon the building community, the media, and government officials to reckon with the implications of these findings and launch a new full-scale investigation.”

AE911Truth and its allies among the 9/11 victims’ families will now use the findings in the report as part of a formal “request for correction” that the group plans to submit to NIST in the coming days. “The indisputable errors documented in our request for correction will give NIST no way out of correcting its deeply flawed report and reversing its conclusion that fires were the cause of the collapse,” said Gage.

“It is now incumbent upon the building community, the media, and government officials to reckon with the implications of these findings and launch a new full-scale investigation.” — Richard Gage, AIA

The final report, entitled A Structural Reevaluation of the Collapse of World Trade Center 7 – Final Report, includes clarifications and supplemental text based on public comments submitted in response to a draft report released by UAF and AE911Truth on September 3, 2019.

The UAF team’s final report is the result of an extensive four-year computer modeling effort that was followed by a robust peer review process. The peer review included dozens of public comments as well as external review by two independent experts, Dr. Gregory Szuladzinski of Analytical Service Company, a leading expert in structural mechanics and finite element modeling, and Dr. Robert Korol, a professor emeritus of civil engineering at McMaster University and a fellow of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering.

richard gage cspan interview“I am grateful to everyone who supported or participated in this study in any way,” said Professor Hulsey. “We hope that our findings will be carefully looked at by the building community and spur further investigation into how this building came down on that tragic day.”

The Hulsey report and supporting materials can be found on UAF’s Institute of Northern Engineering website and on the AE911Truth website.

Richard Gage (shown at left on one of the most downloaded C-SPAN program in its history) and civil engineer Roland Angle held a live virtual presentation on March 26, 2020 to outline the findings contained in the final report. Please tune in or watch the archived presentation here.

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 Virus Victim Life

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, What I Learned When My Husband Got Sick With Coronavirus, Jessica Lustig (deputy magazine editor), March 24, 2020. Our world became one of isolation, round-the-clock care, panic and uncertainty — even as society carried on around us with all too few changes.

“How are you doing, love?” I call to my husband from the living-room floor, where I now sleep each night on a roll-up foam sleeping pad that my daughter has used on camping trips, topped with a couple of thin blankets.

My husband, a tall, robust 56-year-old who regularly goes — who regularly went — on five-hour bike rides from our Brooklyn neighborhood to Jamaica Bay in Queens and back, has been lying on his back, staring at the ceiling, or curled on his side, wearing the same pajama bottoms for days because it is too hard to change out of them, too hard to stay that long on his feet, too cold outside the sheets and blankets he huddles beneath.

It has been 12 days since T woke up in the middle of the night on March 12 with chills. The next day, just as reports were growing more urgent about the coronavirus spreading in the United States, he thought he felt better, but then the chills came back, along with aches and a fever of 100.4.

  • Washington Post, Dialysis patients are at high risk during covid-19 outbreak

Prospects for Bailout Passage

washington post logoWashington Post, Hurdles remain as Senate aims to vote on $2 trillion bill, Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane, March 25, 2020. Cuomo says more aid needed in N.Y., which has most cases in U.S. The Senate bill, unprecedented in its size and scope, would send $1,200 checks to many Americans and create a $367 billion loan program for small businesses.

Trump Critics, Watchdogs

washington post logomar a lago aerial CustomWashington Post, Stimulus bill prevents Trump and his family from benefiting from loan programs, John Wagner and David A. Fahrenthold​, March 25, 2020. A provision pushed by Democrats also applies to members of Congress and other federal officials.

Businesses controlled by President Trump and his children would be prohibited from receiving loans or investments from Treasury Department programs included in a $2 trillion stimulus plan agreed to early Wednesday by White House and Senate leaders in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The provision, which was touted by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) in an early-morning letter to colleagues, would also apply to Vice President Pence, members of Congress and heads of federal departments, as well as their children, spouses and in-laws.

During a television interview Wednesday morning, Schumer stressed that the provision applies not only to Trump but to “any major figure in government.”

“That makes sense. Those of us who write the law shouldn’t benefit from the law,” Schumer said on CNN.

Salon via Raw Story, Commentary: Psychiatrist warns sociopath Trump ‘could see dead bodies’ from coronavirus ‘and step over them,’ Chauncey Devega, March 25, 2020. Dr. Justin Frank, right, literally wrote the book on Donald Trump’s mind and behavior. In Trump on the Couch, Frank tracks justin frank mdTrump’s life from childhood to adulthood and reveals a man who is mentally unfit in many ways — from his intelligence, values, emotions and temperament down to the deepest parts of the psyche — to be president of the United States of America.

In the conclusion of Frank’s book he warned that Donald Trump would represent a dire threat to the safety, security and future of America and the world. In all, the power of the presidency is too vast and the opportunities for abusing that power are too great for a personality and mind such as Donald Trump’s to resist.

On both a day-to-day basis, and in crises such as the Russia and Ukraine scandals and now the coronavirus (all of which are largely self-made and self-inflicted) Donald Trump’s poor mental health has only gotten worse. Unfortunately, the presidency, with its unique burdens and responsibilities, have not forced Trump to become a better person and to rise to the occasion. Instead, he has been caught in the undertow of a public downward spiral.

djt doesnt listen CustomTrump’s lies, delusions, greed, corruption and malignant narcissism have thrown the United States and the world into peril as this unstable president has confronted the coronavirus pandemic in increasingly erratic fashion. It’s a crisis of science and empirical reality that he cannot simply wish away or ignore, much as he has tried.

In addition to Trump on the Couch, Frank is also the author of bestsellers about the previous two presidents, Bush on the Couch and Obama on the Couch. He is a former clinical professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center and a physician with more than 40 years of experience in psychoanalysis.

In this conversation, Frank told me that Donald Trump is essentially a sociopath who has no feelings of care, concern or empathy for other human beings.

More frightening still, Frank raised the possibility that Trump is not capable of feeling guilt or remorse. Not only will Trump feel no responsibility for the thousands if not millions of Americans who may die in the coronavirus pandemic, Frank said, he is likely to blame Barack Obama and the Democrats for the carnage. Trump’s followers, Frank warned, now perceive him as an infallible deity, and will obey his commands — even at the risk of their own lives.

paula white cain facebook

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Prosperity gospel megachurches: close them down as health risks, Wayne Madsen, left, March 25, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2020. What makes the City of Destiny [Florida] more dangerous than most is that it is headed up as "oversight pastor" by a female version of Elmer Gantry named Paula White (shown above), who has Donald Trump's ear as his special adviser to the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives in the White House.

Trump, who wants to throw caution to the wind and have the United States "opened up and just raring to go by Easter," is heeding the advice of White. On her church's cable TV program White insists that her church is a "hospital to the sick" and that if people reach deep and contribute money, they will be immune to the coronavirus.

wayne madesen report logoJust as Trump, a well-known carnival barker, is using the coronavirus to make political points to his faithful, White is using the pandemic to line her own pockets.

White, Jim Bakker, and other TV gurus, swamis, and fakirs have seen the welcome mat rolled out for them by the Trump White House. Trump considers these grifters to be his emissaries to his political base and he has provided every effort to placate them, including having them "lay their hands" on Trump in the Oval Office.

Palmer Report, Donald Trump has psychotic meltdown after stimulus bill excludes his failing real estate properties, Bill Palmer, March 25, 2020. The coronavirus stimulus package hasn’t quite been passed into law yet, but it’s been agreed upon in principle by all sides. The Democrats got much of what they wanted – including a provision that prohibits any stimulus money from going to any business that’s owned by Donald Trump or his family. Suffice it to say, Trump isn’t a happy camper right now.

bill palmer report logo headerThus far today Donald Trump has used his Twitter account to attack Mitt Romney, Robert Mueller, Joe Biden, NPR, Adam Schiff, Michael Avenatti, and the New York Times. During his rampage, he retweeted white supremacist propaganda site Breitbart half a dozen times.

Donald Trump didn’t directly address the fact that none of the stimulus money is going into his own pocket, but he didn’t have to. His behavior today, which bordered on psychotic, gives away how upset he is. Considering that six out of Trump’s highest revenue generating properties are currently closed for business, and how deeply in debt his properties are to begin with, Trump has got to be on the verge of running out of cash on hand entirely. No wonder he’s going bonkers.

kelly loeffler husband jeffrey sprecher nyse chair Custom

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Georgia) and her husband, New York Stock Exchange Chairman Jeffrey Sprecher, both implicated in insider trading allegations for dumping large quantities of stock in February after she received confidential information via the senate regarding the dangers of the coronavirus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What did Trump and Congress know about the coronavirus, and when did they know it? George T. Conway george conway CustomIII, right, and Carrie Cordero, March 25, 2020. What did the president know about the coronavirus, and when did he know it? What did members of Congress know, and when did they know it?

According to a Post report, quite possibly a lot, and for quite a while: Intelligence agencies “were issuing ominous, classified warnings in January and February while President Trump and lawmakers played down the threat.”

These intelligence assessments about the global danger posed by the virus made the rounds in the executive and legislative branches, sources told The Post, but the American people weren’t told about them. Now Americans should know precisely what their government knew about an impending crisis that would jeopardize their livelihoods and lives.

These reports should be declassified, to the maximum extent feasible, and released as soon as possible, along with the identities of senior administration officials and members of Congress who learned of it. That’s especially true given how Trump repeatedly told the public that the impact of the virus on the United States would be minimal.

A small sampling. Jan. 22: “We have it totally under control.” Feb. 2: “Well, we pretty much shut it down coming in from China.” Feb. 10: “By April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” Feb. 24: “The Coronavirus very much under control in the USA. … Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

The intelligence reports raise questions about Congress as well. Every January or February for more than a decade, the House and Senate intelligence committees have held an unclassified public hearing on worldwide threats. The chiefs of the major intelligence agencies and the director of national intelligence appear under oath, and it’s one of the only opportunities for the public to hear from them directly. Accompanying that hearing comes a comprehensive, unclassified report on the most pressing national security threats facing the nation.

republican elephant logoThis year the briefing was not held, and now it likely never will be due to coronavirus. It was reportedly delayed last month because officials feared their assessments might anger the president. It turns out, though, that some private congressional briefings still took place containing dire warnings about the coronavirus.

Not only did members not publicly pass on those warnings to their constituents, but at least two senators, including the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, profited by selling stock in advance of the market chaos that was to come.

No doubt Trump will claim the reports and briefings are classified. But it’s quite likely that much of the intelligence regarding coronavirus relied heavily on open-source information, which of course doesn’t need to be kept under wraps. To be sure, some sources and methods will need to be protected — such as, perhaps, the basis for assessments of Xi — but anything that could jeopardize that could easily be removed.

George T. Conway III is a lawyer and an adviser to the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump super PAC. Carrie Cordero is the Robert M. Gates senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Both are co-founders of Checks & Balances, a network of lawyers advocating for the rule of law.

richard burr o SmallBackground, Bloomberg, The Stocks Senators Unloaded Before the Coronavirus Crash, Mathieu Benhamou, Mira Rojanasakul and Allison McCartney, ‎March‎ ‎20‎, ‎2020. Senator Richard Burr, right, has called for an ethics investigation into himself and three other senators who sold off stock after receiving classified briefings on the coronavirus threat.

Burr — a North Carolina Republican who is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee — sold up to $1.72 million in stock through Feb. 13, shortly before reassuring the public that the government had a handle on the coronavirus response. A week later, the S&P 500 Index started what would become a 30% drop, wiping out most gains made since President Donald Trump's inauguration.

In a tweet on Friday, Burr denied any wrongdoing, saying that he “relied solely on public news reports” to inform his decisions. Here’s how well those stocks performed after he sold them.  How each security performed since Senator Burr sold shares

djt easter basket march 25 2020 nydn CustomPalmer Report, Opinion: New York Daily News drops the hammer on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, March 25, 2020. New York City has never been impressed with Donald Trump, a two-bit real estate scam artist and huckster who has never understood what makes the city so great.

Now Trump is trying to screw New Yorkers by refusing to turn over most of the ventilators that FEMA is sitting on – even as Trump asserts we’ll all somehow magically be able to go outside again by Easter. Suffice it to say that the New York Daily News is less than impressed with Trump’s latest antics:

2020 U.S. Elections / Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservatives gutted the social safety net. Now, in a crisis, they’re embracing it, Tracy Jan​, March 25, 2020. The coronavirus has exposed the weaknesses of the U.S. safety net, forcing even conservative lawmakers to embrace its expansion for the duration of the crisis.

Throughout his term, President Trump has chipped away at the social safety net, proposing budgets that gutted housing assistance, food stamps and health insurance for the poorest Americans. When Congress rejected those cuts, the Trump administration enacted rules to make it harder to access federal benefits, such as requiring recipients to work.

republican elephant logoNow, with businesses shuttered, workers laid off, and scores more worrying about buying groceries, being evicted and getting sick, the swelling need for federal assistance has forced even conservative lawmakers to embrace government protections in sweeping stimulus bills.

Under the $2 trillion stimulus deal reached in the Senate early Wednesday, Republicans are proposing sending direct cash payments of $1,200 to individual Americans, an idea that, on the surface, echoes former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s universal basic income platform. They want to bolster the unemployment insurance system after many GOP-led states spent years enacting restrictive criteria and reducing benefits.

  • Washington Post, ‘I would rather die than kill the country’: The conservative chorus pushing Trump to end social distancing, Katie Shepherd, March 25, 2020.

montana green party logoBillings Gazette, State GOP spent $100k to qualify Montana Green Party for the ballot, Holly K. Michels, March 24, 2020. A mystery of the 2020 election was solved Tuesday as it became clear the Montana Republican Party paid for an effort to qualify the Montana Green Party for the ballot this election.

Earlier this year, paid petitioners appeared in Montana's larger cities gathering signatures to qualify the Greens to run candidates this cycle, even though the Montana Green Party has made clear it did not do any work to qualify for the ballot this year and had not planned to run any candidates.

At that point, it appeared only one group, the political action committee Club for Growth Action, had filed with the state Commissioner of Political Practices to spend money to qualify a minor party. But in February that group said they told their vendor to stop any signature-gathering efforts and did not plan to submit any signatures.

republican elephant logoBy March 6, however, the secretary of state qualified the Greens for the ballot because the petitioners had submitted enough signatures to do so. At that point, it was still unknown who paid for the effort. That's even with a new state law passed by the 2019 Legislature requiring anyone spending more than $500 to qualify a minor party to register with the commissioner within five days of the expenditure.

Green Party candidates can be seen as drawing votes away from Democrats, while Libertarian candidates, who are already qualified for the ballot, can draw votes from Republicans.

Minor parties are running in major statewide and federal races here this year, and both parties have played a role in big elections before. In 2018 the Greens were briefly qualified for the ballot, in a paid effort whose funder still remains unclear, before Democrats sued and succeeded in removing the party by calling into question enough of the signatures used to qualify.

And in the 2012 U.S. Senate race, featuring U.S. Sen. Tester and former U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, a Libertarian candidate benefited from $500,000 worth of advertising from a group that also supported Tester.

In a Tuesday email, Katie Wenetta, a treasurer for a political committee called Montanans for Conservation, told Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan that the Montana Republican Party contracted with a company called Advanced Micro Targeting to hire the petitioners.

On Tuesday, Chuck Denowh, a political operative who works with Republican candidates, said he helped set up the committee in January and intended to register it as a minor party qualification committee, though it was actually registered as an independent committee. That made it difficult to identify as the group that worked to qualify the Greens. Denowh, however, contends the information has been publicly available since the start of the year.

Denowh also said the Montana Republican State Central Committee's payment to Advanced Micro Targeting, who hired the petitioners, was reported to the Federal Election Commission in February. That report shows the party spent $50,000, reporting the payment to "AMT" Jan. 21.

Montanans for Conservation, Denowh said, was unable to register as a minor party qualification committee because that wasn't set up as an option in a drop-down window on the Commissioner of Political Practices office's website.

Instead, Montanans for Conservation registered as an independent committee and noted in a section of the form asking which candidates or issues it supported in the 2020 election that it would "Support conservation-minded candidates (and) serve as the minor party qualification committee to qualify the Green Party to hold primary elections in Montana … "

washington post logojoe biden oWashington Post, Live from his basement, Joe Biden pushes for visibility as Democrats worry, Matt Viser and Annie Linskey, March 25, 2020. His moves come as President Trump has dominated airwaves during the coronavirus pandemic.

Joe Biden, right, is attempting to significantly escalate his public presence, following two weeks in which he has been confined to his home, a limitation that left some Democrats worried their party had lost a prominent national voice to counter President Trump.

democratic donkey logoAfter the March 17 primaries, Biden gave an election night speech from his home, but the poorly lit backdrop and grainy footage made even some of his supporters wince and compare it to a hostage video. He tried a virtual town hall, which was riddled with technical glitches.

Democrats urged Biden’s campaign to try to wrestle a place onstage to better compete with Trump, and on Tuesday, Biden abruptly changed course.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Joe Biden reminds us: Help is on the way, Jennifer Rubin, March 25, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Insiders recount how Sanders lost the black vote — and the nomination slipped away, Sean Sullivan, March 25, 2020. Ex-staffers call out blunders by Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, saying they tried to raise the alarm. The disconnection with black voters still limits Sanders’s influence.

Bernie Sanders reached the pinnacle of his campaign inside Cowboys Dancehall in San Antonio on Feb. 22. He pumped his fist to punctuate a triumphant speech. He’d just won the Nevada caucuses and was sitting on top of the Democratic presidential race.

bernie sanders 2020 button croppedBut 1,200 miles away in South Carolina, some aides and allies felt dread that trouble was lurking just around the corner. “I knew that our campaign had not done the work it needed to do,” Donald Gilliard recalls thinking. He felt the campaign’s strategy was “geared toward white progressives,” leaving black voters behind.

Gilliard, the deputy state political director, wasn’t alone. Mal Hyman, a former congressional candidate and a Sanders surrogate in South Carolina, had a similar sense of anxiety. “We knew we were vulnerable,” he lamented.

democratic donkey logoA week later, their worst fears came true. A resurgent Joe Biden thumped Sanders by 28 points in the South Carolina primary, sending the Vermont senator into a free fall from which he has not recovered.

The loss underlined one of the fundamental failings of the Sanders campaign: He was unable to win the trust of African American voters. As the 78-year-old democratic socialist considers how long to continue his historic campaign, his disconnect from black voters threatens to sharply limit his influence in a party that is soon expected to belong to Biden.

Now some who worked on the front lines of his campaign, including black staffers and surrogates, are speaking out about what they believe was a negligent strategy that underestimated the significance of the first primary with a majority-black electorate — a blueprint they said they tried and failed to redirect, and one that ultimately put the campaign on a devastating trajectory.

washington post logogeorge f willWashington Post, Opinion: A loose brick in Republicans’ red wall, George F. Will, March 25, 2020. Petite in size but large in ambition, as chair of Arizona’s Democratic Party Felecia Rotellin travels constantly in her effort to deliver the state’s 11 electoral votes (more than Wisconsin’s 10) to Joe Biden, who currently has a lead of up to eight points over President Trump in state polls.

This is one of three states (the others are Texas and Georgia) where, for Democrats, tomorrow is always full of promise but is always a day away. In 2020, however, Arizona, which has long been emblematic of Sun Belt conservatism, might be where Democrats do unto Trump what he did unto them in 2016.

In 2018, Arizona Democrats won a 5-4 majority in the U.S. House delegation and elected a Democratic U.S. senator, Kyrsten Sinema. This year the Democratic candidate, former astronaut Mark Kelly, is favored to defeat Sen. Martha McSally. She lost to Sinema but was appointed to the Senate after the death of John McCain.

The last time Arizona had two Democratic senators was 1952, when television sets were still novelties. Democrats need to gain only two state House seats and three state Senate seats to control the legislature for the first time since 1966, when many television sets were still black-and-white. The secretary of state and superintendent of public education are Democrats.

Right Wing Watch, Josh Bernstein Wants to Cancel the 2020 Election Because Democrats ‘Don’t Deserve the Right’ to Challenge Trump, Kyle Mantyla, March 25, 2020. Radical right-wing broadcaster Josh Bernstein posted a video on his YouTube channel Monday in which he called for the 2020 election to be canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, declaring that the Democrats have no right to even challenge President Donald Trump.

“In times like this, you should be kissing the ground that President Trump walks on,” Bernstein said. “You have a true leader in the White House that is handling this thing and doing the best job possible. If this was a Democrat? Forget it. There would be hundreds, thousands of more people dead already.”

“I say we just cancel the election,” he added. “Give President Trump until 2024 to not only get the economy back roaring again, but get rid of this virus. But you know what, Democrats? You haven’t earned the right to even challenge this man. Why? Because you tried to usurp his power from the beginning with your Russian coup. Then you tried again with the Ukraine coup. Then you tried to impeach him for absolutely nothing. And now we have this.”

“You have stolen the first term away from this president, and he’s still been successful despite all your bull, and all your garbage, and all your horrible rhetoric, and all your opposition, and all the horrible things you’ve done with the deep state and everybody else,” Bernstein fumed. “You don’t deserve the right to even run in 2020. How dare you even have the audacity to run anyone against this president.”

Unfortunately for Bernstein’s plan, canceling the election does not give Trump another term in office. As Vox explained last week:

Under the 20th Amendment, “the terms of the President and the Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d [sic] day of January.” So, if no one is elected to replace these officials, Trump and Pence cease to be elected officials the minute their terms expire on January 20.

FiveThirtyEight.com, 13 Presidential Primaries Have Now Been Delayed Over The Coronavirus, Nathaniel Rakich, March 25, 2020. The coronavirus pandemic continues to grind everyday life to a halt — and in many states, that means postponing elections. A total of 12 states and Puerto Rico have now pushed back their presidential primaries, leaving a gaping hole in the primary calendar and leaving some states with precious little time to prepare for the Democratic National Convention.

Since our last update, five more in-person presidential primaries have been rescheduled due to COVID-19:

Last Thursday, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, with the support of local election officials and the secretary of state, moved Connecticut’s presidential primary from April 28 to June 2. Connecticut law allows the governor to modify and suspend statutes during public-health emergencies.

Last Friday, Indiana delayed its primaries for both president and down-ballot offices from May 5 to June 2. Gov. Eric Holcomb did so by executive order but made the announcement jointly with the secretary of state and leaders of the state Democratic and Republican parties. On Wednesday, the Indiana Election Commission also decreed that absentee voting be an option for all voters (under normal circumstances, Indiana requires an excuse to request an absentee ballot).

Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced signed a bill moving the primary from March 29 to April 26, with the option for the presidents of the Puerto Rico Democratic Party and State Elections Commission to postpone it further if the coronavirus crisis has not ended by then.

On Monday, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, at the request of the state Board of Elections, signed an executive order moving the presidential primary from April 28 to June 2. She also directed the board to devise a plan to conduct “a predominantly mail ballot primary.”

Finally, Delaware joined the exodus by moving its presidential primary from April 28 to June 2. As recently as last week, election officials were saying they had no plans to reschedule, but Gov. John Carney issued an executive order to postpone (and designate COVID-19 as a valid excuse to cast an absentee ballot) on Tuesday.

Given former Vice President Joe Biden’s extremely strong position, these changes may not affect who wins the Democratic nomination for president. But that’s not the case for every election that’s being delayed. Many still-competitive primaries are also being postponed down ballot, which means there’s more uncertainty around the outcome and less time for general-election campaigning. For example, primary runoff elections in Alabama and Texas have both been moved to July 14 (previously, Alabama’s were scheduled for March 31, and Texas’s for May 26); among others, Democratic Sen. Doug Jones and Republican Sen. John Cornyn must now wait months before knowing the identities of their November opponents as a result.

Congressional primary runoffs were also delayed to June 23 in North Carolina (from May 12) and Mississippi (from March 31).

Other states have responded to the coronavirus pandemic by leaning more heavily into voting by mail. For example, rather than reschedule the May 12 special election in California’s 25th Congressional District, the state will mail a ballot to every voter instead. And Nevada has now announced plans to conduct its June 9 down-ballot primary predominantly by mail. Most drastically, three upcoming party-run presidential primaries where mail voting was already the default option will now be 100 percent vote-by-mail. Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming will no longer offer any in-person voting on April 4, which — in order to ensure everyone still has the opportunity to vote — has effectively delayed those primaries as well:

More election changes are almost certainly coming down the pike. For example, over the weekend, Pennsylvania’s governor and legislative leaders reached a deal to delay its primary from April 28 to June 2; a bill to that effect is currently working its way through the legislature. And in Ohio, legislators are working on passing a bill that would turn the Ohio primary into a vote-by-mail election, with ballots due April 28. (Ohio had already postponed its primary, previously scheduled for March 17.) We’ll continue to provide regular updates.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Spain’s count of coronavirus deaths make it the world’s hardest-hit country behind Italy, Pamela Rolfe and Loveday Morris​, March 25, 2020. Bodies have been found abandoned in nursing homes.

The number of coronavirus deaths in Spain surpassed 3,400 on Wednesday, as health authorities struggled to cope with what has emerged as the worst outbreak in the world after Italy.

spain flag waving resizedThe overnight increase of 738 deaths, taking the total death toll to 3,434, was the biggest increase the country has reported so far. A total of 47,610 people have tested positive, according to Spain’s Health Ministry.

The rise meant Spain leapfrogged ahead of the official death tally in China, where the global pandemic began but the rate of reported new infections has tapered off. There have been 3,285 deaths in China, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Italy remains the world’s worst-hit country, with more than 6,800 dead.

The picture in Spain is grim. Soldiers have discovered dead bodies abandoned in nursing homes. The capital, Madrid, has turned an ice-skating rink into a morgue. Spanish television has broadcast images of sickened patients sleeping in hospital corridors, while staff complain that medical supplies are so low they’ve been forced to use plastic garbage bags as protection instead of gowns.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Latin America Shuts Down, Brazil and Mexico Are Holdouts, Ernesto Londoño, Manuela Andreoni, Letícia Casado and Azam Ahmed; Video by Brent McDonald and Miguel Tovar, March 25, 2020. The leaders of the region’s two largest nations — Mexico and Brazil — have largely dismissed the dangers and have resisted calls for a lockdown.

Most leaders in Latin America reacted to the arrival of the coronavirus in the region with speed and severity: Borders were shut. Flights were halted. Soldiers roamed deserted streets enforcing quarantines, and medical professionals braced for an onslaught of patients by building field hospitals.

But the presidents of Brazil and Mexico, who govern more than half of Latin America’s population — Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and, to a lesser degree, his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador — have remained strikingly dismissive. They’ve scoffed at calls to shut down business and sharply limit public transportation, calling such measures far more devastating to people’s welfare than the virus.

In a region with high poverty rates, where hundreds of millions of people live in close quarters, without access to proper sanitation or health care, experts say their approach could create an ideal breeding ground for the virus, with devastating consequences for public health, the economy and the social fabric.

washington post logoWashington Post, Brazil’s Bolsonaro, channeling Trump, dismisses coronavirus measures — it’s just ‘a little cold,’ Terrence McCoy and Heloísa Traiano, ‎March‎ ‎25‎, ‎2020. Alone before the camera, the leader of Latin America’s largest country attacked the media and indulged in talking points he’s used since the crisis began. Rather than calming panic and confusion, though, his pronouncements appear to be fueling them.

jair bolsonaro brazilHe said self-isolation was “mass confinement.” He called the novel coronavirus a “little cold.” He asked, if only people older than 60 are at risk, “why close the schools?”

This was Jair Bolsonaro, right, leader of Latin America’s largest country, calling on Brazilians to return to jobs, public spaces and commerce amid the coronavirus pandemic, contradicting not only his own health officials, but also the global consensus on how to see countries through the pandemic without a crippling loss of life.

Brazil’s densely packed favelas brace for coronavirus: ‘It will kill a lot of people.’

It was a portrait of Bolsonaro isolated and unbound: Alone before the camera, attacking the media, undermining political opponents, indulging talking points he’s used since the crisis began even as the disturbing reality overtook his sanguine predictions.

Asia Times, Investigation: Why France is hiding a cheap and tested virus cure, Pepe Escobar, March 25, 2020. The French government is arguably helping Big Pharma profit from the Covid-19 pandemic. What’s going on in the fifth largest economy in the world arguably points to a major collusion scandal in which the French government is helping Big Pharma to profit from the expansion of Covid-19. Informed French citizens are absolutely furious about it.

My initial question to a serious, unimpeachable Paris source, jurist Valerie Bugault, was about the liaisons dangereuses between Macronism and Big Pharma and especially about the mysterious “disappearance” – more likely outright theft – of all the stocks of chloroquine in possession of the French government.

Respected Professor Christian Perronne talked about the theft live in one of France’s 24/7 info channels: “The central pharmacy for the hospitals announced today that they were facing a total rupture of stocks, that they were pillaged.”

With input from another, anonymous source, it’s now possible to establish a timeline that puts in much-needed perspective the recent actions of the French government.

Let’s start with Yves Levy, who was the head of INSERM – the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research – from 2014 to 2018, when he was appointed as extraordinary state councilor for the Macron administration. Only 12 people in France have reached this status.

Levy is married to Agnes Buzy, who until recently was minister of health under Macron. Buzy was essentially presented with an “offer you can’t refuse” by Macron’s party to leave the ministry – in the middle of the coronavirus crisis – and run for Mayor of Paris, where she was mercilessly trounced in the first round on March 16.

Levy has a vicious running feud with Professor Didier Raoult – prolific and often-cited Marseille-based specialist in communicable diseases. Levy withheld the INSERM label from the world-renowned IHU (Hospital-University Institute) research center directed by Raoult.

Financial Times, Sweden bucks global trend with experimental virus strategy, Richard Milne, March 25, 2020. Fewer restrictions than other leading countries and schools remain open. Sweden has become an international outlier in its response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak by keeping schools open and adopting few other restrictions, as the Scandinavian nation embarks on what one health expert called a “huge experiment”.

Since the UK went into lockdown on Monday evening, Sweden is the largest European country with the fewest limits on where people can go and what they can do. Schools for children up to the age of 16 remain open, many people continue to go to work and packed commuter trains and buses were reported this week in the capital, Stockholm. “Clearly, Sweden stands out at the moment,” said Carl Bildt, the former prime minister.

Swedish authorities have banned public gatherings of more than 500 people, closed universities and higher education colleges, and advised workers to stay at home if possible. Authorities on Tuesday ordered restaurants and bars only to serve people at tables rather than at the bar.

Local media have been full of stories of thousands of people gathering at Swedish ski resorts, which until Saturday kept their nightlife open. The virus has previously spread easily in mountain resorts in Austria and Italy.

Johan Carlson, head of Sweden’s public health agency, last week defended Sweden’s approach, saying the country “cannot take draconian measures that have a limited impact on the epidemic but knock out the functions of society”.

But he conceded that the 90,000 figure for the number of people who die annually in Sweden would “increase significantly” if its healthcare system became overburdened.

There have been just over 2,000 reported Covid-19 cases in Sweden and 33 deaths. That compares with more than 6,000 deaths in Italy, Europe’s worst-affected country.

“The future still looks manageable,” said Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist who has become one of the public faces of the outbreak. He argued that schools needed to stay open to provide childcare for health workers, noting that young people appeared to have much lower infection rates.

But a significant number of Swedish health experts disagree. Mr Tegnell has faced a barrage of criticism after details of the country’s antivirus tactics leaked to Swedish TV at the weekend.

Swedish flagJoacim Rocklov, an epidemiologist at Umea University, said the Swedish authorities were taking huge risks with public health when so much remained unknown about coronavirus.

“I do not see why Sweden would be so different from other countries. It is a huge experiment,” he told the Financial Times. “We have no idea — it could work out. But it could also go crazily in the wrong direction.”

Swedish authorities have said they are not explicitly pursuing a strategy of “herd immunity”, where a large segment of the population contracts the virus in order for society to build up immunity. The UK’s chief scientific adviser had previously suggested that Britain adopt such an approach before the government backtracked.

Sweden is instead seeking to slow the spread of infections and ensure that its health system does not become overwhelmed. Mr Bildt said the situation on the streets of Stockholm had changed “dramatically” in recent weeks despite the absence of legal restrictions, with far fewer people going outside.

But Mr Rocklov said it was not yet known how long immunity to Covid-19 would last. “There is a big risk that Sweden would have to go into quarantine when the health system goes into crisis,” he added.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Russia, facial surveillance and threat of prison are being used to make coronavirus quarantines stick, Robyn Dixon, March 25, 2020. It took a three-day holiday in Spain to turn Irina Sannikova from a respected infectious-diseases doctor into the scandalous subject of a headline in Russian state-owned media, calling her "Dr. Death."

Sannikova, from the southern Russian city of Stavropol, failed to undergo mandatory 14-day self-isolation after returning and continued holding university lectures and meetings, before coming down last week with covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Russian FlagCharged with endangering lives, she could face five years in prison if she infected someone who later died of the viral illness.

As a result of her trip, around 1,200 people had to be tested, at least 11 of whom were found to have the virus. Russia has reported fewer than 500 cases of the novel coronavirus and just one death possibly linked to covid-19, but Moscow authorities said the death was caused by blood clots, not the virus.

Still, Russian officials are concerned that the threat of five years in prison is not harsh enough to deter possible coronavirus spreaders. On Monday, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin ordered that the government develop tougher measures against people who breach mandatory quarantines.

Russia has pulled some tools from its authoritarian toolbox to battle the disease, including the use of facial-recognition technology to track people ordered into self-isolation. The government is also developing a system using geolocation data from mobile operators to monitor individuals.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prince Charles, heir to the throne, has tested positive, Karla Adam and William Booth, March 25, 2020. British journalists wondered aloud why Charles and Camilla both were tested — as he had mild symptoms and she had none.

Prince Charles Prince Charles, right, heir to the British throne, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The prince's office said Wednesday that the prince has mild symptoms "but otherwise remains in good health."

United Kingdom flagDoctors have informed the prince that his condition is not likely to escalate into something more serious, a palace official said.

The 71-year-old son of Queen Elizabeth II is now the most high-profile patient in the realm. Several members of Parliament, sports figures and a prominent British epidemiologist have also been stricken.

“In accordance with government and medical advice, the Prince and the Duchess are now self-isolating in Scotland,” read a statement from Clarence House, the prince’s office and residence in London. Charles’s wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, tested negative.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel’s parliament speaker resigns, but gavels session closed before replacement elected, Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash, March 25, 2020. Israel's speaker of the parliament abruptly resigned Wednesday, hours before a court-imposed deadline mandated a vote on replacing him. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein averted one constitutional crisis, but may have sparked another when he immediately gaveled the Knesset out of session until next Monday, infuriating 61 lawmakers who were ready to elect a new speaker.

Edelstein’s abrupt shutdown of the session left it unclear when the Knesset would be able to convene for the election of a new speaker, which the court had ordered to occur Wednesday. The Knesset’s legal adviser said that because Edelstein’s resignation would not go into effect until Friday, he was still legally obliged to fulfill the court’s order to hold the vote.

Israel FlagThe brass-knuckles maneuvering cast Israel’s already chaotic political system into further disarray in the midst of the growing coronavirus crisis.

Edelstein had vowed to defy a ruling Sunday by the high court that he allow Knesset opponents to vote on replacing him. He had refused to allow the vote, asserting that a leadership election would destabilize ongoing attempts to form an emergency unity government. But as the deadline imposed by five Supreme Court justices approached, Edelstein bowed to pressure from democracy activists and some members of his own party not to ignore the court.

Benjamin Netanyahu smile TwitterOutside the Knesset, dozens of pro-democracy protesters — spaced at least six feet apart in accordance with rules on public gatherings, cheered and waved Israeli flags and black banners on the news of Edelstein’s resignation. Activists have accused the speaker and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, of exercising a power grab in the name of fighting the pandemic. A week ago, Netanyahu’s justice minister abruptly suspended all court activities two days before Netanyahu was scheduled to begin his own trial on corruption charges.

Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon said in the Knesset's official response to the Supreme Court that he told Edelstein he had to reconvene the Knesset on Wednesday to abide by the court's decision, because his resignation does not take effect until Friday. Edelstein responded that he would not abide by the decision.

Saudi Arabian flag

washington post logoWashington Post, Turkish prosecutors charge 20 Saudis, including senior officials, in Khashoggi killing, Kareem Fahim, March 25, 2020. Flag of TurkeyThe indictment was the latest sign Turkey would continue to highlight a killing that the kingdom has tried to move past.

Prosecutors in Istanbul said Wednesday they had indicted 20 Saudi nationals, including two senior officials, on murder charges after an Recep Tayyip Erdoganinvestigation into the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to a statement from the prosecutor's office.

The suspects are all believed to be in Saudi Arabia, where prosecutors conducted a separate, closed-door trial for Khashoggi’s killing. Saudi officials had previously refused Turkey’s request to extradite Saudi suspects in the case.

Khashoggi, 59, a veteran journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 by a team of agents dispatched to Turkey by senior Saudi officials, according to Turkish and Saudi prosecutors. After Khashoggi Mohammed Bin Salman Al-Saudwas strangled, his body was dismembered and his remains have yet to be recovered, Turkish officials said.

Before his death, Khashoggi, writing in The Post, had been critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, Saud Arabia’s day-to-day ruler.

The killing shone a light on the extraordinary crackdown on dissent carried out by Saudi authorities under Mohammed’s leadership and soured relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government first publicized details of the Saudi plot and has continued to accuse the Saudi leadership of shielding senior officials from blame.

washington post logoWashington Post, South Korea identifies suspected leader of sexual blackmail ring after uproar, Min Joo Kim​, March 25, 2020. Police paraded a 24-year-old accused of blackmailing 74 women, including 16 minors, into producing sexually degrading videos and posting them online.

South Korean police took the rare step of identifying and parading the suspected leader of a sexual blackmail ring in front of the press and protesters on Wednesday, after the case triggered a national uproar.

south korea flag SmallThe police asked prosecutors on Wednesday to indict 24-year-old Cho Joo-bin for allegedly blackmailing at least 74 women, including 16 minors, into producing sexually degrading videos of themselves, and then posting in pay-to-view chat rooms.

The allegations prompted a national outcry in South Korea over a growing spate of online postings of illegal sexual images obtained through blackmail or filmed secretly — a practice that critics say is aggravated by a lack of respect for women, weak laws and penalties.

More than 1.8 million people signed a petition asking the presidential Blue House to release the identities of members of a group-chat network where the videos had been posted. Local media said the network had 260,000 people, but police said some were double-counted and that others were not paying members.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-F.B.I. Agent Who Vanished in Iran Is Likely Dead, U.S. Concludes, Adam Goldman, March 25, 2020. The retired robert levinsonagent, Robert Levinson, right, was said to be the longest-held American hostage in history. A scandal erupted inside the C.I.A. over his disappearance.

Trump administration officials have concluded that Robert A. Levinson, the retired F.B.I. agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007 on an unauthorized mission for the C.I.A., died while in Iranian custody, his family announced on Wednesday.

fbi logoNewly revealed intelligence pointed to Mr. Levinson’s death, top national security officials told his relatives inside White House Situation Room in recent weeks, according to a person familiar with the meeting. The officials provided strong evidence that Mr. Levinson had died sometime in the past several years, the person said, but did not detail the proof.

“We recently received information from U.S. officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody,” Mr. Levinson’s family wrote in a statement on Facebook. “We don’t know when or how he died, only that it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Mr. Levinson was the longest-held hostage in American history, according to the F.B.I. His disappearance caused a major scandal inside the C.I.A. after lawmakers discovered what happened, but it was kept quiet. Three longtime analysts were forced out, others disciplined and agency rules rewritten.

cia logoBut the C.I.A. and other government officials never publicly acknowledged that Mr. Levinson was working for the agency even as friends and family confirmed it. Had they never uncovered his work, the secret might have died with Mr. Levinson.

The intelligence community’s assessment that Mr. Levinson is no longer alive puts to rest a question that has haunted his family for years. But it still remains unclear how and when Mr. Levinson died.

The Iranian government has never admitted abducting Mr. Levinson. This month, he would have turned 72.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Terrorism laws may apply if people intentionally spread coronavirus, Justice Dept. says, Matt Zapotosky​, March 25, 2020. Local authorities have brought such cases, but the guidance appears to be theoretical, so far, for federal officials.

Justice Department log circularThe guidance came in a memorandum from Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen, addressing the many crimes prosecutors might seek to explore in the wake of the global pandemic. Rosen wrote that among the wrongdoing officials might see is “the purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19.”

“Because coronavirus appears to meet the statutory definition of a ‘biological agent’ ” under federal law, Rosen wrote, “such acts potentially could implicate the Nation’s terrorism-related statutes.” He cited particular laws governing the development and possession of biological agents for use as a weapon, threats by wire and mail and false information and hoaxes regarding biological weapons.

washington post logoWashington Post, Smartphone data reveal which Americans are social distancing (and not), Geoffrey A. Fowler, March 25, 2020 (print ed.). D.C. gets an 'A' while Wyoming earns an 'F' for following coronavirus stay-at-home advice. If you have a smartphone, you’re probably contributing to a massive coronavirus surveillance system.

And it’s revealing where Americans have — and haven’t — been practicing social distancing.

On Tuesday, a company called Unacast that collects and analyzes phone GPS location data launched a “Social Distancing Scoreboard” that grades, county by county, which residents are changing behavior at the urging of health officials. It uses the reduction in the total distance we travel as a rough index for whether we’re staying put at home.

washington post logoWashington Post,Disaster waiting to happen’: Thousands of inmates released as jails and prisons face coronavirus threat, Kimberly Kindy, Emma Brown and Dalton Bennett, March 25, 2020. Amid fears that the coronavirus will carve a deadly path through prisons and jails, counties and states are releasing thousands of inmates — New Jersey alone began freeing hundreds of people this week — and the federal prison system is coming under intense pressure to take similar measures.

Public health and corrections officials have issued dire warnings that cramped and unsanitary conditions could turn prisons into a haven for the virus, endangering not just inmates but also corrections officers and prison health-care workers as well as their families and communities.

Criminal-justice reform advocates from across the political spectrum urged President Trump on Tuesday to use his clemency power to commute the sentences of inmates eligible for “compassionate release” and others who could be at risk, particularly the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

Inside a county jail in Alabama on Friday, two inmates threatened to commit suicide if newly arrived Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees they feared had been exposed to the virus were not removed. According to video live-streamed on an inmate’s Facebook page, the two detainees stood on a ledge over a common area, nooses fashioned from sheets wrapped around their necks, and threatened to jump.

“We’re not having no more people come in here with that symptom,” another inmate says in the video, which was obtained by The Washington Post. “We’re not trying to put no more lives at risk.”

U.S. Bailout, Jobs

washington post logoWashington Post, Deal carves out billions intended for Boeing, officials say. Critics say money should go to workers, Aaron Gregg, Jeff boeing logoStein and Josh Dawsey, March 25, 2020. The legislation provides funding for "businesses critical to maintaining national security," a provision largely aimed at helping Boeing, two officials said.Lawmakers have inserted a provision in the package aimed at providing billions to the aerospace giant.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon workers test positive for covid-19 at eight U.S. warehouses, Jay Greene​, March 25, 2020.  The spike in positive tests for the disease caused by the coronavirus comes as the ecommerce giant races to hire 100,000 workers to meet the massive demand from shoppers staying home to slow the outbreak's spread.

March 24

World Virus Headlines

Inside DC

Virus Victims, Protections

More World News

U.S. Virus Politics

Media News

 

World Virus Overviews

djt virus trump did it Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump wants ‘the country opened,’ but easing coronavirus restrictions now would be disastrous, experts say, William Wan, Reed Albergotti and Joel Achenbach, March 24, 2020. A growing debate pits the health of the U.S. economy against the health of its people.

With President Trump saying he wants “the country opened” by Easter to salvage the U.S. economy, a fierce debate is now raging among policymakers over the necessity of shutting down vast swaths of American society to combat the novel coronavirus.

Health experts point to overwhelming evidence from around the world that closing businesses and schools and minimizing social contact are crucial to avoid exponentially mounting infections. Ending the shutdown now in America would be disastrous, many say, because the country has barely given those restrictions time to work, and because U.S. leaders have not pursued alternative strategies used in other countries to avert the potential deaths of hundreds of thousands.

But in recent days an increasing number of political conservatives have argued that the economic cost is too high. At a town hall broadcast Tuesday, Trump suggested dire consequences if at least some economic sectors aren’t restored.

“You’re going to lose more people by putting a country into a massive recession or depression,” Trump said. “You’re going to have all sorts of things happen, you’re going to have instability. You can’t just come in and say let’s close up the United States of America, the biggest, the most successful country in the world by far."

At the event, Trump amplified a message that has been bubbling among conservative pundits in recent days. Speaking of the economy, he said, “The faster we go back, the better it’s going to be.”

The stance has many worried, including some in the president’s own party. “There will be no normally functioning economy if our hospitals are overwhelmed and thousands of Americans of all ages, including our doctors and nurses, lay dying because we have failed to do what’s necessary to stop the virus,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the House’s highest-ranking Republican woman, wrote in a Tuesday tweet.

But the greatest alarm has come from scientists, epidemiologists and health experts who have spent the past three months studying the new coronavirus and have witnessed the destructive, contagious swath it has cut through other countries.

“To be a week into these restrictions and already be talking about abandoning them is irresponsible and dangerous,” said Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Removing restrictions now would allow the virus, he said, to “spread widely, rapidly, terribly, and could kill potentially millions in the year ahead with huge social and economic impact.”

While not mentioning the president by name, Bill Gates — who co-founded Microsoft and now leads a global health foundation — rebuked Trump’s approach in a Tuesday interview with TED: “There really is no middle ground, and it’s very tough to say to people: ‘Hey, keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner. We want you to keep spending because there’s maybe a politician who thinks GDP growth is all that counts.’”

State leaders say the simplistic debate — pitting the health of America’s economy against the health of its citizens — has also laid bare the pressing need for a long-term national strategy from the federal government, which by all public indications does not yet exist.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said Monday that Trump’s framing of the situation as a choice between saving businesses or saving lives was unhelpful. “You have to walk and chew gum in life,” Cuomo said. No executive “has the luxury of being one-dimensional.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Modi Orders 3-Week Total Lockdown for All 1.3 Billion Indians, Jeffrey Gettleman and Kai Schultz, March 24, 2020. india flag mapThe challenge is staggering in a country where countless millions live in packed urban areas with poor sanitation and weak public health care.

India’s prime minister ordered all 1.3 billion people in the country to stay inside their homes for three weeks starting Wednesday — the narendra modi 2014biggest and most severe action undertaken anywhere to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“There will be a total ban of coming out of your homes,” the prime minister, Narendra Modi, left, announced on television Tuesday night, giving Indians less than four hours’ notice before the order took effect at 12:01 a.m.

“Every state, every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown,” Mr. Modi said.

The breadth and depth of such a challenge is staggering in a country where hundreds of millions of citizens are destitute and countless millions live in packed urban areas with poor sanitation and weak public health care.

Though India’s number of reported coronavirus infections remains relatively low — around 500 — the fear is that, should the virus hit as it has in the United States, Europe or China, the consequences would lead to a disaster far bigger than anywhere else.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: WHO official warns U.S. could become next virus epicenter, Rick Noack, Lateshia Beachum, Kim Bellware, Marisa Iati, Siobhán O'Grady, Adam Taylor and John Wagner, March 24, 2020. Much of America expects it will take months or more to contain the virus, poll finds.

world health organization logo CustomPresident Trump continued to play down the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic as experts warned of a worsening crisis: A World Health Organization official said Tuesday that “we are now seeing a very large acceleration” in U.S. coronavirus infections, adding that America has the potential to become the new epicenter of the global crisis.

More than 46,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the United States, although experts say the true number is much higher. On Monday, U.S. deaths surpassed 100 in a single day for the first time.

washington post logoWashington Post, Guide to the pandemic, There have been more than 383,000 confirmed cases of covid-19, Staff report, March 24, 2020. The virus has killed more than 16,500. Mapping the virus’s spread.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tokyo Olympics postponed, Adam Kilgore, Rick Maese and Simon Denyer, March 24, 2020. Japan, Olympic committee agree to hold Games by summer 2021. Several countries had earlier vowed not to send athletes if the games began in July as scheduled.

japan flagFacing heavy global pressure and rising athlete dissent, the International Olympic Committee sharply reversed course Tuesday and agreed with Japanese officials that the Olympics and Paralympics will not take place this summer in Tokyo in the wake of the growing novel coronavirus pandemic. Organizers say they now hope to stage the Games by the summer of 2021.

The Olympics are the biggest event to date that has been scuttled due to the virus, which has now claimed at least 16,767 lives and has infected more than 387,000 people on six of the seven continents, upend daily lives and olympics logo 2018 winterforcing the postponement and cancellations of sporting events, concerts and conferences across the globe.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday proposed a one-year postponement to IOC leadership, including President Thomas Bach. The IOC quickly agreed the Games would be held about one year after the previously scheduled start date, July 24.

  • Washington Post, Retropolis: This isn’t the first time Olympics in Japan has been postponed, March 24, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Italy’s coronavirus deaths are staggering. They might be a preview and not an anomaly, Chico Harlan, Stefano Pitrelli and Claudia Cavaliere, March 24, 2020. Italy has become the flash point of the coronavirus pandemic, with a death toll at 6,077 and counting — the highest in the world. More than 2,000 Italians have been killed by the virus in the past four days alone.

italian flag wavingThe staggering toll stands for now as a worst-case scenario for what happens when a country is caught unprepared. Italy’s large elderly population has exacerbated the problem.

But while some unique aspects have amplified the scale, doctors and health officials say other countries should regard Italy not as an outlier or an example of missteps, but as a harrowing preview of the hardships they might soon have at hand. Other countries could easily follow the pattern in Italy, with the number of deaths soaring weeks after an initial, drastic spike in cases.

boris johnson bbc Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Urban Brits flee to the countryside, where locals beg them to stay away, William Booth, March 24, 2020. Like refugees fleeing a coming contagion, anxious, stir-crazy Brits poured out of the cities and into the countryside over recent days, to postcard-United Kingdom flagperfect hamlets and wind-swept islands, seeking solace or safety in the mountains, lakes and shore.

They were not welcome. The emphatic message from the locals: Go away.

On Monday night, frustrated with the public’s refusal to abide by calls to practice strict social distancing measures — and fearing that a coming wave of coronavirus patients could soon overwhelm hospitals — Prime Minister Boris Johnson (shown above in a file photo) issued new edicts: People were ordered to stay at home, except to go shopping or visit the doctor or pharmacist. They will be permitted a bit of daily exercise. They were told not to travel — except to go to work, to do jobs they cannot do from home.

gabe brown walton ky

WCPO-TV, Walton's mayor urges citizens to stay home in explicit online rant, Staff report, March 24, 2020. Walton’s mayor minced no words when warning Northern Kentuckians about the deadly and contagious coronavirus in a viral Facebook post.

In his explicit online rant, Mayor Gabe Brown urged citizens to follow official orders to stay home as statewide cases of COVID-19 rise.

“Listen up, dipsh-ts and sensible people. I might not have the best bedside (manner)," a fed-up Brown wrote Monday to the Boone County Neighborhood Group. "I might not put you at ease like the Governor does, but I don’t care. You need to realize this is a serious ordeal. In fact, it’s a big f**king deal. Stay at home.”

On Tuesday, Northern Kentucky Health announced there are 12 positive cases of coronavirus in the region, including nine cases in Kenton County, two in Boone County and one in Campbell County. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear also confirmed there are 163 positive cases statewide. Earlier this week, Beshear ordered non-essential retail stores closed effective Monday night to stop the spread of the virus.

Brown said he has been on numerous daily calls with government agencies about the response to COVID-19, but he said people also need to "treat this seriously" to stop the spread. He suggested people act as if they already have the virus so as not to pass it to more vulnerable populations.

"I have no doubt that it hasn’t already been here, but testing had been limited. More cases are coming," Brown continued. "If you ignore this problem, the worst thing that could happen is that your mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles could die."

He capped off his post with a frank, simple warning: "Be responsible. If you don’t, then screw you."

Inside DC

npr logoNPR logo, 'All Of This Panic Could Have Been Prevented': Author Max Brooks On COVID-19, Host Terry Gross, March 24, 2020 (41 min. interview). Apocalyptic novelist Max Brooks is something of an expert on planning for pandemics and other disasters. The author, whose books include World War Z, Germ Warfare and the forthcoming Devolution, has toured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and has reviewed government response plans related to various emergency situations — all in the course of research.

"We have a network in place that we as taxpayers have been funding to get us ready for something just like this," Brooks says of the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, he adds, "we have been disastrously slow and disorganized from Day 1."

Brooks, below at left, says the notion that the U.S. government was blindsided by the pandemic is "an onion of layered lies."

cdc logo Custommax brooks michelle kholos penguin Custom"What could have happened when this virus exploded — even when Wuhan was locked down — is we could have put the word out," he says. "The government could have put the word out to ramp up emergency supplies to get them ready and then have an information strategy in place."

Instead, Brooks says, President Trump was slow to acknowledge the virus as a real threat. And thus far, the president has resisted using the Defense Production Act to force private companies to manufacture masks, gloves and other essential supplies in the fight against the coronavirus. Many government task forces that plan for disasters have yet to be activated in this crisis.

"One of the biggest problems we're facing now is panic. You see it in the stock market. You see it in panic buying," he says. "All of this panic could have been prevented. ... If the president had been working since January to get the organs of government ready for this, we as citizens could have been calmed down knowing that the people that we trust to protect us are doing that."

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate close to deal on stimulus bill after day of partisan fury, Erica Werner, Paul Kane, Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis, March 24, 2020. Though details remained fluid, the package would include $1,200 for many American adults, $500 for children, and roughly $850 billion in loan and assistance programs for businesses, states and cities.

Senate leaders and the Trump administration neared bipartisan agreement Monday night on a massive stimulus bill that could inject $2 us senate logotrillion into the economy to blunt the impacts of the coronavirus.

After a day of partisan rancor and posturing on Capitol Hill, the outlook grew markedly more positive later in the afternoon, when offers and counteroffers were exchanged. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) convened Democrats on a conference call and told them he was hopeful about striking a deal by the end of the day, according to a person familiar with the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal details.

Schumer was very upbeat, according to another Democrat, who listened into the call and spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe it. Some senators encouraged Schumer to announce a deal in principle Monday evening, but several issues remained unresolved.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House agrees to allow oversight of loan program as Senate deal nears, Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis, Paul Kane and Jeff Stein, March 24, 2020. The Senate is aiming to vote today on the $2 trillion rescue plan.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)The White House has agreed to allow enhanced scrutiny over a massive loan program that is a centerpiece of the Senate’s $2 trillion coronavirus economic package, two people briefed on the discussions said, taking steps to address a major Democratic concern and potentially pave the way for a vote by Tuesday night.

“I think there is real optimism that we could get something done in the next few hours,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday morning on CNBC. The stock market rose sharply in anticipation of the deal, with the Dow Jones industrial average up more than 1,200 points, or nearly 7 percent, at the open.

The Senate bill would allow the Treasury Department to extend $500 billion in loans and loan guarantees to try to blunt the novel virus’s economic impact. Of that amount, $425 billion is supposed to go to businesses, cities and states. Another $50 billion would go to passenger airlines, $8 billion more for cargo airlines, and an additional $17 billion would be directed for firms that are deemed important to national security.

  • Washington Post, Six days: Tracking Sen. Rand Paul from testing to positive diagnosis, March 24, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fauci gets frank about Trump: ‘I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down,’ Allyson Chiu, March 24, 2020 (print ed.). Amid the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, Anthony S. Fauci, right, head of the National Institute of Allergy and anthony fauci CustomInfectious Diseases, has been charged with a herculean task: trying to keep President Trump’s public statements about the novel virus rooted in fact.

Now it appears that Fauci’s frustration is showing.

When asked Sunday by Science magazine’s Jon Cohen about having to stand in front of the nation as “the representative of truth and facts” when “things are being said that aren’t true and aren’t factual,” the 79-year-old said there is only so much he can do.

“I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down,” Fauci said, referring to Trump. “Okay, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time.”

The frank comment was just one part of a remarkable Q&A published Sunday night in which Fauci shed light on his relationship with Trump, how the pair handles their differences and what happens before each coronavirus task force news conference.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Has Given Unusual Leeway to Fauci, but Aides Say He’s Losing His Patience, Maggie Haberman, Updated March 24, 2020. The president has become increasingly concerned as Dr. Anthony S. Fauci (shown above) has grown bolder in correcting his falsehoods about the spread of the coronavirus.

President Trump has praised Dr. Anthony S. Fauci as a “major television star.” He has tried to demonstrate that the administration is giving him free rein to speak. And he has deferred to Dr. Fauci’s opinion several times at the coronavirus task force’s televised briefings.

But Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, has grown bolder in correcting the president’s falsehoods and overly rosy statements about the spread of the coronavirus in the past two weeks — and he has become a hero to the president’s critics because of it. And now, Mr. Trump’s patience has started to wear thin.

So has the patience of some White House advisers, who see Dr. Fauci as taking shots at the president in some of his interviews with print reporters while offering extensive praise for Mr. Trump in television interviews with conservative hosts.

Mr. Trump knows that Dr. Fauci, who has advised every president since Ronald Reagan, is seen as credible with a large section of the public and with journalists, and so he has given the doctor more leeway to contradict him than he has other officials, according to multiple advisers to the president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: In Daily Coronavirus Briefing, Trump Tries to Redefine Himself, Annie Karni, March 24, 2020 (print ed.). It is a unique perch from which he can talk about the pandemic after initially minimizing it, and project leadership. But that’s not always what he has done.President Trump’s campaign rallies have been canceled for the foreseeable future. His noisy back-and-forths with reporters on the South Lawn, half drowned out by the whir of Marine One behind him, have also disappeared.

And with almost no meetings or foreign leaders visiting the Oval Office, Mr. Trump can no longer invite the news media to view him at work — photo ops that doubled as chances for him to engage in impromptu question-and-answer sessions with the news media that he could end on his own terms.

Instead, Mr. Trump, who has always scripted his presidency like a reality show, has found his new favorite stage: the dust-covered briefing room, unused since Sarah Huckabee Sanders, his previous press secretary, ended daily sessions with reporters.

“I’ve gotten to like this room,” Mr. Trump said, though he had virtually shut it down for months.

Now, the briefings offer him a unique perch from which he can try to rebrand himself as a “wartime president” and demonstrate his focus on a pandemic he only weeks ago dismissed.

The regular briefings by the administration’s coronavirus task force were originally run by Vice President Mike Pence with the purpose of transmitting to a scared public important health information that could help flatten the curve.

  • New York Times, Editorial: The Coronavirus Bailout Stalled. And It’s Mitch McConnell’s Fault, Editorial Board, March 24, 2020. Senate Republicans are blocking passage of an economic bailout plan that protects jobs and wages.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Fourteen Days. That’s the Most Time We Have to Defeat Coronavirus, Ezekiel J. Emanuel (vice provost of global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania), March 24, 2020 (print ed.). These decisive measures can prevent a decade of dislocation and extraordinary levels of deaths.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2America is losing the war against Covid-19 (right), but we can win it with decisive and extraordinary actions now.

Health experts have not been overreacting. Models from Imperial College London and others suggest that up to 2.2 million Americans could die within a year without sufficient efforts to “flatten the curve.”

At the same time, it is right to worry about how Covid-19 will wreck the economy. Projections already suggest that the American economy could contract by more than 15 percent in the second quarter and that the unemployment rate could surpass 20 percent.

But the economy cannot be fixed without solving the pandemic. Only after the virus is contained can we reopen restaurants, bars, gyms and stores; allow people to travel, attend conferences and visit museums; and persuade them to buy cars and houses.

The window to win this war is about seven to 14 days.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Republicans Add Insult to Illness, Paul Krugman, right, March 24, 2020 (print ed.). Greed, germs and the art of no paul krugmandeal. If you want a quick summary of the state of play over fiscal stimulus legislation, here it is: Republicans insist that we should fight a plague with trickle-down economics and crony capitalism. Democrats, for some reason, don’t agree, and think we should focus on directly helping Americans in need.

And if legislation is stalled, as it appears to be as I write this (although things change fast when we’re on Covid time), it’s because Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is holding needy Americans hostage in an attempt to blackmail Democrats into giving Donald Trump a $500 billion slush fund.

First, let’s talk about the nature of the economic crisis we face. At the worst point in the 2007-2009 recession, America was losing around 800,000 jobs per month. Right now, we’re probably losing several million jobs every week.

What’s causing these job losses? So far it’s not what usually happens in a recession, when businesses lay off workers because consumers aren’t spending enough. What we’re seeing instead are the effects of social distancing: restaurants, entertainment venues and many other establishments have been closed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

And we neither can nor should bring those jobs back until the pandemic has faded. What this tells us is that right now our highest priority isn’t job creation, it’s disaster relief: giving families and small businesses that have lost their incomes enough money to afford necessities while the shutdown lasts. Oh, and providing generous aid to hospitals, clinics and other health care providers in this time of incredible stress.

Now, while social distancing is currently driving employment destruction, there will eventually be a second, more conventional round of job losses as distressed families and businesses cut back on spending. So there is also a case for stimulus to sustain overall spending — although helping Americans in need will provide much of that stimulus, by also helping them continue to spend.

So what’s in the stimulus bill that McConnell is trying to ram through the Senate? It grudgingly provides some, but only some, of the aid Americans in distress will need. Funny, isn’t it, how helping ordinary Americans is always framed as a “Democratic demand”? And even there the legislation includes poison pills, like a provision that would deny aid to many nonprofit institutions like nursing homes and group homes for the disabled.

But it also includes a $500 billion slush fund for corporations that the Trump administration could allocate at its discretion, with essentially no oversight. This isn’t just terrible policy; it’s an insult to our intelligence.

After all, it would be hard to justify giving any administration that kind of power to reward its friends and punish those it considers enemies. It’s almost inconceivable that anyone would propose giving such authority to the Trump administration.

Virus Victims, Protections

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘If I get this stuff, it’s going to kill me’: The at-risk face a new peril, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., March 24, 2020. The elderly and those with chronic illnesses are avoiding contact, stocking up on groceries and cleaning a lot.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dip in Italy’s Cases Does Not Come Fast Enough for Swamped Hospitals, Jason Horowitz and David D. Kirkpatrick, March 24, 2020 (print ed.). Even as new coronavirus infections appear to slow, a backlog is forcing doctors to make increasingly tough choices about treatment.

The patient had won national swimming championships in his youth but now had a lot going against him. As he waited for a kidney transplant, doctors in the northern Italian town of Brescia discovered he had heart disease and had contracted the coronavirus. But what ultimately killed him this month was the decision to give his ventilator to a younger coronavirus patient who had a better shot at survival.

italian flag waving“He died the next day,” said Dr. Marco Metra, the chief of cardiology at the University and City Hospitals in Brescia. “If a patient has a low likelihood to benefit from the hospital, we have to not accept them. You send them home.” He added, “This is also what I am seeing every day.”

This is the nightmare situation for doctors throughout the northern Italian cities at the center of the global coronavirus pandemic. It is also one facing the countries lagging only days behind Italy in the progression of the pandemic, including Spain, France, Britain and the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, Unprotected and unprepared: Home health aides who care for sick, elderly brace for covid-19, Peter Jamison, March 24, 2020. Millions of poorly paid workers are being given little support and risk spreading the coronavirus, warn those in the health-care industry.

washington post logoWashington Post, As the coronavirus spreads, some in criminal justice system resist call to keep people out of jail, Rachel Weiner and Tom Jackman, March 24, 2020.  Some prosecutors and judges say spread of the novel coronavirus should not impact bond decisions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Some cancer patients face delayed surgeries and scaled-back treatments as the coronavirus advances, Laurie McGinley, March 24, 2020. Patients and doctors struggle to confront the twin threats of cancer and covid-19. While many treatments won't be changed, some surgeries can be safely postponed, say doctors who are trying to reduce patients' time in the hospital.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘It’s going to get bad’: As outbreak surges, nation faces tough start to a grim week, Brady Dennis, March 24, 2020. For the first time, the United States reported more than 100 virus-related deaths in a single day.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump is playing Russian roulette with Americans’ lives, Jennifer Rubin, right, March 24, 2020. The good news is that CNN and MSNBC did not carry live in its entirety President Trump’s rambling, dishonest and scary news conference on Monday. The bad news is that Trump’s untrue assertions risk facilitating more deaths.

His false statements about chloroquine phosphate’s efficacy in treating covid-19 seem to have already triggered a shortage for its proper uses (e.g., fighting malaria) and may have even encouraged individuals to self-medicate using hydroxychloroquine — in at least one case resulting in the death of a Phoenix man. However, Trump’s irresponsibility went to new, egregious levels that may harm many more people.

Trump now suggests Americans effectively defy stay-in-place directives from their governors despite the direct advice of Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Trump declared, “If it were up to the doctors, they’d say let’s keep it shut down, let’s shut down the entire world . . . and let’s keep it shut for a couple of years. We can’t do that.” Trump even acknowledged that Fauci objects. “No, he doesn’t not agree,” Trump said. Out of whole cloth, Trump invented a new claim: Continuing orders to stay at home would result in more suicides than the deaths caused by sending people out to infect others. There is zero evidence for this.

When I said Trump is more concerned about economic numbers than human lives, I was not exaggerating. His uninformed, perhaps self-interested declaration (six of seven of his most lucrative properties have been forced to close) runs contrary to science and common sense.

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: Here Come the Death Panels, Michelle Goldberg, March 24, 2020 (print ed.). Obamacare didn’t lead to rationing. The mismanagement of the coronavirus will.

We were told that if America passed Obamacare, it would result in death panels. This lie was invented by Sarah Palin in 2009, during the fight for what would become the Affordable Care Act. It was the hysterical version of the common conservative critique that universal health care means government rationing.

“Virtually every European government with ‘universal’ health care restricts access in one way or another to control costs, and it isn’t pretty,” said a Wall Street Journal editorial about the A.C.A. The Journal allowed that our system already rations health care according to people’s ability to pay for it, but argued that that’s how freedom works: “This is true of every good or service in a free economy and a world of finite resources but infinite wants.”

This argument was always specious, but it looks especially absurd in light of the coronavirus tearing through the world. America’s inadequate health care system, far from increasing liberty, is poised to make death panels more likely.

As waves of sick people crash onto undersupplied hospitals, doctors are preparing to make choices about who will get access to ventilators and other equipment, and who will get only palliative care. “Health workers are urging efforts to suppress the outbreak and expand medical capacity so that rationing will be unnecessary,” reported The Times. “But if forced, they ask, how do they make the least terrible decision?”

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Genocide: It's what's for lunch today at the Trump White House, Wayne Madsen, left, March 24, 2020. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallTrump is reportedly heeding the advice of a growing chorus of right-wing commentators who have convinced him that charging the economy is worth a few million seniors.

wayne madesen report logoTrump's opposition to the federal government's quarantine and social distancing policy emanated from his usual source of nonsense: Fox News. Steve Hilton, a Fox News host, recently emerged as a top critic of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Cfox news logo Smallhiming in with Hilton has been Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who also backs Trump's move to lift pandemic restrictions. Patrick, speaking on Fox News, said he is willing to see the nation's elderly sacrificed for the health of the economy. He said he is willing to exchange his life for those of his children and grandchildren.

Richmond.com / Richmond Times-Leader (VA), Thousands of Liberty students expected to return to campus amid coronavirus outbreak, Richard Chumney, March 24, 2020. As the coronavirus threatens to spread across the Lynchburg region, Liberty University officials are preparing to welcome back up to 5,000 students from spring break this week.

Defying a national trend of campus closures, President Jerry Falwell Jr. has invited students to return to residence halls and has directed faculty members to continue to report to campus even as most classes move online.

In an interview Sunday night, Falwell said somewhere between several hundred to more than 5,000 students are expected to live in campus dorms, where they will continue coursework online rather than in classrooms.

Meanwhile, hundreds of professors and instructors without a valid health exemption will come to campus to hold office hours.

“I think we have a responsibility to our students — who paid to be here, who want to be here, who love it here — to give them the ability to be with their friends, to continue their studies, enjoy the room and board they’ve already paid for and to not interrupt their college life,” Falwell said.

Falwell’s decision leaves Liberty as an outlier among the scores of colleges and universities across the country that have shut down to help limit the spread of the disease known as COVID-19.

The threat of the coronavirus became more immediate for the Lynchburg region this weekend when the Virginia Department of Health announced cases in Amherst and Bedford counties. Statewide, as of Monday evening, more than 250 people have contracted the disease and seven have died.

In response to the widening pandemic, several nearby institutions have instructed faculty to work remotely and have limited dorms to students unable to return home. At the University of Lynchburg, 19 students continue to live in dorms while at Randolph College just five remain on campus.

In contrast with other schools, Liberty’s dorms, academic buildings, library and fitness center remain open to students.

More World News

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Washington Post, Israel on brink of constitutional crisis as parliament speaker blocks vote that could replace him, Steve Hendrix, March 24, 2020. Israel, racing to contain a novel coronavirus outbreak and in the grips of a months-long Israel Flagpolitical stalemate, was on the brink of a constitutional crisis Tuesday as the speaker of the parliament vowed to defy a Supreme Court order that he must allow lawmakers to vote for his replacement.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said he would continue to block moves in the newly elected parliament to elect a new leader of the body, despite an emergency court ruling that the vote be held by Wednesday.

A narrow majority of the Knesset that was sworn in last week are from parties opposed to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, of which Edelstein is a member. Sixty-one members of the 120-seat body signed a letter calling for Edelstein to be replaced. Edelstein, citing the coronavirus crisis and the uncertain chances for Netanyahu rival Benny Gantz to build a governing coalition, had refused to convene the Knesset and allow the vote.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Afghan political crisis threatens to scuttle peace agreement, Pamela Constable and John Hudson, March 24, 2020. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed frustration after meeting with both rivals for Afghanistan’s presidency and mike pompeo portraitsaid the U.S. was prepared to cut $1 billion in aid to country.

In a sign of mounting frustration with Afghanistan's leaders, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced early Tuesday that the United States would cut $1 billion in aid to the country because of its inability to form a unity government to negotiate with the Taliban.

Pompeo said that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, had failed to set aside their differences, just hours after meeting with the two men in a quickly arranged visit to Kabul.  Pompeo's statement reflects the Trump administration's willingness to condition aid to Afghanistan in order to force the compliance of Ghani and Abdullah.

U.S. Virus Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Brings States to a Standstill, Michael Powell and John Eligon, March 24, 2020. State legislatures are facing chaos amid the coronavirus crisis, with revenue projections suddenly expected to dip and major agendas put on hold.

Palmer Report, Opinion: No, Donald Trump can’t magically do that either, Bill Palmer, March 24, 2020. Donald Trump and his henchmen have a consistent habit of loudly threatening to do truly awful things that are literally impossible, so we’ll be so busy pushing back against these impossible doomsday things, we don’t notice them quietly getting away with some other more low-key awful thing.

Each time this happens, Palmer Report tries to point out that the thing Trump is threatening to do is indeed not possible. It’s not just about calming people down; it’s about making sure everyone keeps their eye on the ball so Trump can’t use the distraction to sneak a bill palmer report logo headerfast one past us. It’s certainly happening again right now.

Yesterday evening Donald Trump held a press conference and asserted that at the end of the current fifteen-day period (no one is quite sure when it started), he might open the country up for business again and send everyone back to work. Then last night Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, a loyal Trump stooge, went on Fox News and took things further by suggesting that it’s just fine for the elderly and vulnerable to be exposed to coronavirus and die, if that’s what it takes to get the economy up and running again.

Understandably, there’s been quite fierce pushback against what Trump and Patrick have said. But it’s important to understand that Trump can’t actually do this. He can’t open the country back up, because he’s not the one who shut it down. Trump can’t force Governors to lift the lockdowns. He can’t force store chains to reopen their doors. He can’t force the sports leagues to resume playing games. That’s just not a thing, any more than Trump can force it to rain tomorrow.

Here’s what Donald Trump really is doing with all this. He’s gearing up to announce soon that we’re magically in the clear, and demand that everything should reopen. And when literally nothing happens as a result of his demand, he’ll blame everyone else for the fact that nothing happened. He’ll try to scapegoat Democratic Governors, sports leagues, and store chains for the ongoing economic troubles.

So if you’re gearing up to fight back against this scenario in which Donald Trump waves a magic wand and the country reopens for business and everyone catches the coronavirus en masse, you’re focused on an imaginary scenario. Should Trump and Dan Patrick be condemned for promoting such scenarios? Of course. But let’s be real here. The scenario you’re fighting against is the one where Trump falsely claims the coronavirus has been cured, and then tries to blame the Democrats for not reopening the country. Trump is politically crippled, and powerless to do almost anything at this point – but he’s still skilled at using disinformation as a weapon.

WhoWhatWhy, Opinion: Steve Mnuchin Wants More Power — to Save the Rich, and Screw the Rest, Larry Beinhart, March 24, 2020. Much steven mnuchin wof the 2008 bailout rescued the wealthy and the banks. This one should focus on ordinary people.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, right, has asked for a return of the powers utilized by his predecessor Hank Paulson, and Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, during the crash of 2008.

It is clear that this is a crisis moment for the economy. It is obvious that things must be done. However, before we let Mnuchin, former Goldman Sachs partner and investment banker, leap into the past to protect the future, we should take a look at what really happened in 2008.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Local News Outlets Dealt a Crippling Blow by Biggest of Stories, Tiffany Hsu and Marc Tracy, March 24, 2020 (print ed.). Weekly papers and small dailies across America are facing peril as the coronavirus cuts off ads and live events.

Alternative weeklies and daily papers in small and midsize cities across the United States were already suffering because of the recession last decade, the migration of readers from print to online and the decline of the advertising business. Since 2004, roughly one-fourth of American newspapers — more than 2,000 — have been lost to mergers or shutdowns, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina. Most were weeklies.

The arrival of the coronavirus shook the industry’s already weakened economic foundation. As ad revenue and the money generated by events sponsored by small publications started to evaporate, many papers have canceled print editions, laid off workers or asked readers for donations.

Among those affected: Metro Weekly, a magazine about gay issues in Washington, D.C.; First Touch, a soccer publication in New York; and Gaming Today, a gambling newspaper in Las Vegas.

Charleston City Paper, in South Carolina, described the outbreak as a “storm of a disease.” Pittsburgh City Paper, using a local insult, referred to the crisis as a “jagoff.” Submerge Magazine in Sacramento wrote that the coronavirus “is poised to decimate” the publication. Indy Week in Durham, N.C., likened it to an earthquake that has forced the paper to face “the prospect of weeks or months deep in the red.”

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. news publishers band together to urge China not to expel their journalists, Paul Farhi, March 24, 2020. An unusual full-page ad in The Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal called for the need of “probing, accurate, on-the-ground reporting” during the coronavirus crisis.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. combats martial law conspiracy theories as the National Guard assists in coronavirus response, Dan Lamothe, March 24, 2020. With the expected deployment of tens of thousands of National Guardsmen to help with the coronavirus outbreak, the Defense Department finds itself trying to stamp out conspiracy theories that the United States will adopt martial law.

washington post logoamazon logo smallWashington Post, Prime members first: Amazon is ranking customers and ramping up hiring to address coronavirus demand, Jay Greene, March 24, 2020. The retailer's inability to deliver household staples such as toilet paper and bleach to many customers has led the company to reduce sales of nonessential items and prioritize shipping to members of its $119 a year Prime service.

Amazon has added a new measure to try to triage its flood of orders and shortage of goods during the coronavirus pandemic: prioritizing its $119-a-year Prime members.

Now, the company is offering delayed delivery times for non-members of Prime on many nonessential items that are available — such as hair dryers, Tic Tac candies and pill pockets to help dogs take medicine.

The move follows weeks of inability to stock and ship household staples — ranging from toilet paper to hand sanitizer to bleach — at a time when shoppers are more and more reliant on Amazon while they are staying at home to prevent the spread of the virus.

Amazon has said it will hire 100,000 workers, limit shipments to its warehouses from its third-party sellers, and restrict orders of “lower-priority shipments” to customers in France and Italy, where the outbreak is particularly acute.

washington post logoWashington Post, Taylor Swift uses leaked Kanye phone call to raise money for hungry families, roiling Kim Kardashian, Meagan Flynn, March 24, 2020. How two superstars, four words and 15 seconds of TV influenced a decade of pop culture.

First came the notorious “I’mma let you finish” onstage at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, when Kanye West literally stole the microphone from the hands of emerging pop star Taylor Swift.

Then came West’s notorious song about it. “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex,” West sang in his 2016 single, “Famous,” from his album “The Life of Pablo.” “Why? I made that b---- famous.”

The song dropped like a microphone in February of 2016, dissolving any hopes that Swift and West would ever fully recover from the VMAs fracas. Swift condemned the lyrics through a publicist, calling the song “misogynistic.”

The feud intensified when Kim Kardashian West entered the picture, releasing snippets of a phone call between West and Swift that she claimed proved Swift actually “approved” of the lyrics all along. Swift adamantly denied it, calling Kardashian’s account “character assassination.”

Taylor Swift and Kanye West keep bringing their feud up in their music. But it was only on Friday that fans could finally hear the truth of that infamous phone call themselves, when footage of the entire 25-minute call mysteriously leaked on social media. Fans of both stars claimed victory, eagerly awaiting responses from Swift and Kardashian.

And on Monday night, those responses finally came, reigniting the long-running feud in the throes of a pandemic — a fact that both of them seemed uncomfortably aware of.

March 23

Shocking argument: Daily Beast, Opinion: The Party of Life Embraces Trump’s Death Cult, Matt Lewis (details below)

Global Public Health Headlines

Virus U.S. Impacts, Responses

Markets, Economy, Jobs

U.S. Congress, Justice, Military Headlines

U.S. Courts, Crime

2020 U.S. Elections

World News Headlines

Inside DC

 

Global Public Health

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he may soon push businesses to reopen, defying the advice of coronavirus experts, Philip Rucker, Jeff Stein, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker, March 23, 2020. President Trump, under growing pressure to rescue an economy in free fall, said Monday that he may soon loosen federal guidelines for social distancing and encourage shuttered businesses to reopen — defying public health experts, who have warned that doing so risks accelerating the spread of the novel coronavirus or even allowing it to rebound.

“America will again and soon be open for business — very soon,” Trump said at the daily White House news conference. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”

As he watches stock prices plummet and braces for an expected surge in unemployment, Trump has received urgent pleas from rattled business leaders, Republican lawmakers and conservative economists imploring him to remove some of the stringent social distancing guidelines that he put in place for a 15-day period ending March 30, according to several people with knowledge of the internal deliberations.

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ny times logoNew York Times, The Virus Can Be Stopped, but Only With Harsh Steps, Experts Say, Donald G. McNeil Jr. (shown above in a file photo with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow), March 23, 2020 (print ed.). Terrifying though the coronavirus may be, it can be turned back. China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan have demonstrated that, with furious efforts, the contagion can be brought to heel.

Whether they can keep it suppressed remains to be seen. But for the United States to repeat their successes will take extraordinary levels of coordination and money from the country’s leaders, and extraordinary levels of trust and cooperation from citizens. It will also require international partnerships in an interconnected world.

There is a chance to stop the coronavirus. This contagion has a weakness.

Although there are incidents of rampant spread, as happened on the cruise ship Diamond Princess, the coronavirus more often infects clusters of family members, friends and work colleagues, said Dr. David L. Heymann, who chairs an expert panel advising the World Health Organization on emergencies.

No one is certain why the virus travels in this way, but experts see an opening nonetheless. “You can contain clusters,” Dr. Heymann said. “You need to identify and stop discrete outbreaks, and then do rigorous contact tracing.”

But doing so takes intelligent, rapidly adaptive work by health officials, and near-total cooperation from the populace. Containment becomes realistic only when Americans realize that working together is the only way to protect themselves and their loved ones.

In interviews with a dozen of the world’s leading experts on fighting epidemics, there was wide agreement on the steps that must be taken immediately.

Those experts included international public health officials who have fought AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, flu and Ebola; scientists and epidemiologists; and former health officials who led major American global health programs in both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Americans must be persuaded to stay home, they said, and a system put in place to isolate the infected and care for them outside the home. Travel restrictions should be extended, they said; productions of masks and ventilators must be accelerated, and testing problems must be resolved.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Don’t Let ‘the Cure Be Worse Than the Problem,’ Trump Says, Staff report, March 23, 2020. President Trump suggested that guidelines encouraging distancing would be reassessed in 15 days as other global leaders begged their citizens to stay home.

Senate Democrats blocked a $2 trillion stimulus plan they said failed to adequately protect workers. The Fed plans to buy as much government-backed debt as needed and start aggressive programs to shore up businesses.

As public health officials and leaders around the world braced their populations for a struggle that could continue for months, President Trump signaled that measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus could have their limits.

“We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” he wrote on Twitter. “At the end of the 15 day period, we will make a decision which way we want to go!”

Early last week, the White House released guidelines — effective for 15 days — urging Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and recommending that people work from home, avoid unnecessary shopping trips and refrain from eating in restaurants.

Many states and cities have since imposed even stricter measures, with one in four people in America now under some form of restricted movement.

The point of locking down entire cities and nations has been to give health care systems time to gear up so they do not find themselves overwhelmed by a surge of patients. And as the number of known cases in the United States crossed 31,700, governors from multiple states warned that they were still not ready.

Mr. Trump said that major disaster declarations were in process for New York, California and Washington — the three states hardest hit by the virus — andrew cuomoand that they would not have to pay for deploying National Guard units.

Mr. Trump also said he had directed FEMA to supply four large federal medical stations with 1,000 beds for New York, eight stations with 2,000 beds for California, and seven stations with 1,000 beds for the state of Washington. The stations for New York, to be built in Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, were announced earlier in the day by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, right.

India extends its lockdown to cover almost the entire nation of 1.3 billion: The Indian authorities are grounding all domestic flights and putting most of the country, the world’s second most populous, in full lockdown. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in India remains relatively low — about 420 — but the government fears that there are many more hidden cases. It has steadily tightened restrictions, first ending all international flights and now grounding domestic ones, starting Wednesday at midnight.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted an urgent appeal on Twitter on Monday: “Many people are still not taking the lockdown seriously,” he said. “Please, save yourself, save your family, follow the instructions seriously.”

U.S. News and World Report, How Coronavirus Made Andrew Cuomo America’s Governor, Susan Milligan, March 23, 2020. New York’s brash leader has risen to the occasion as the nation looks for a comforting leader during the public health crisis brought on by coronavirus.

The daily morning briefings, carried live on several networks, have a common template, a routine that is in itself reassuring. He starts with an update on the coronavirus numbers, followed by a PowerPoint illustrated account of what his government is doing to address the crisis.

He moves on to new directives to control the spread of the virus and heal those infected with it. Then – appropriately seated two arms-length away from everyone else at the briefing – he gets personal, talking about how emotionally draining and frightening the coronavirus is, how it has affected his own family, and how he knows Americans will get through it together.

  • New York Times, Opinion: Feeling Powerless About Coronavirus? Join a Mutual-Aid Network, Charlie Warzel

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washington post logoWashington Post, Treasury’s power over $500 billion loan program becomes key sticking point in coronavirus aid bill, Jeff Stein, March 23, 2020 (print ed.). There’s little transparency over how money would be disbursed, and Trump won’t comment on whether his properties might receive taxpayer aid

Trump has said he wants money to go to hotels and cruise lines, but there’s little transparency into how decisions would be made.In pro-Trump West Virginia, a fight to convince residents a pandemic is coming. Congressional lawmakers are feuding over a central component of the massive economic relief package being debated by the Senate, a battle that may threaten the enormous emergency aid package while reprising one of the most bitter political fights of the last decade.

The Trump administration and Senate Republicans have called for giving the Treasury Department the authority to disburse hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency federal loans to firms hurt by the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Their initial proposals called for the fund to be worth $208 billion. But after a flurry of lobbying over the weekend, Senate Republicans’ legislation now calls for a $500 billion program that would award loans to states and cities as well as businesses, according to a copy of the most recent GOP proposal.

The provision has become one of the principal logjams in urgent congressional negotiations over emergency help for an American economy facing its worst calamity since the Great Recession, in part because the Treasury Department would have broad discretion over where the money would go. President Trump already has said he wants the money to be used to rescue the cruise ship and hotel industries, making his preferences clear, but at a press conference on Sunday refused to say whether his own hotel properties would apply for the funding.

“There’s too much money with no oversight,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told reporters Sunday.

Congressional Democrats have demanded the legislation include guardrails to prevent firms that receive the emergency aid from firing their workers or stripping them of their health care, among other asks by labor groups. They also are balking at giving Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin so much authority to determine which firms receive the assistance.

us senate logoCongressional Democrats have demanded the legislation include guardrails to prevent firms that receive the emergency aid from firing their workers or stripping them of their health care, among other asks by labor groups. They also are balking at giving Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin so much authority to determine which firms receive the assistance.

Section 4003 of the legislation accounts for $500 billion for “emergency relief and taxpayer protections.” Of that money, $50 billion would go to passenger airlines, $8 billion to cargo airlines, $17 billion for companies deemed important to national security, and $425 billion for businesses, cities and states. The bill doesn’t give much more information than that in terms of who would qualify for loans and loan guarantees, leaving much of it up to Mnuchin.

Congressional aides in both parties say they will not budge on the issue, although top party leaders huddled in emergency meetings Sunday to resolve this impasse and others, and talks remained fluid. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Senate would move to vote Monday on the legislation, calling it “pretty solidly bipartisan” despite Democratic anger over the bailout provisions and others.

Section 4003 of the legislation accounts for $500 billion for “emergency relief and taxpayer protections.” Of that money, $50 billion would go to passenger airlines, $8 billion to cargo airlines, $17 billion for companies deemed important to national security, and $425 billion for businesses, cities and states. The bill doesn’t give much more information than that in terms of who would qualify for loans and loan guarantees, leaving much of it up to Mnuchin.

Congressional aides in both parties say they will not budge on the issue, although top party leaders huddled in emergency meetings Sunday to resolve this impasse and others, and talks remained fluid. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Senate would move to vote Monday on the legislation, calling it “pretty solidly bipartisan” despite Democratic anger over the bailout provisions and others.

When Congress created the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program in 2008, they installed several levels of scrutiny to ensure the money wasn’t abused or misappropriated. For example, it created a group of regulators as well as a group of congressionally appointed experts to examine the funds. Lawmakers also created a special inspector general to investigate wrongdoing, and numerous instances of abuse eventually were uncovered.

david wessel brookings“The arguments over attaching strings to government aid to business now reflect the persistent public backlash over the rescues and bailouts of the global financial crisis,” said David Wessel, right,a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “The underlying problem here is the lack of trust, both by the public and among some members of Congress in each other and in the administration.”

Democratic lawmakers and labor groups say the GOP plan amounts to a “corporate bailout” that could reward business recklessness and hurt workers. Democratic leadership has demanded funding for corporations include protections related to workers, such as ensuring their job security and health care, pensions, and 401(k) contributions, as well as prohibitions on discharging their collective bargaining agreements.

U.S. Impacts, Responses

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washington post logoWashington Post, Governors, mayors in growing uproar over Trump’s response, Robert Costa and Aaron Gregg, March 23, 2020 (print ed.). Many officials complain that President Trump does not have a coherent or ready plan to confront a crisis that could soon push the nation’s health-care system to the brink of collapse.

President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic sparked uproar and alarm among governors and mayors on Sunday as Trump and his administration’s top advisers continued to make confusing statements about the federal government’s scramble to confront the crisis, including whether he will force private industry to mass produce needed medical items.

As deaths climbed and ahead of a potentially dire week, Trump — who has sought to cast himself as a wartime leader — reacted to criticism that his administration has blundered with a torrent of soaring boasts and searing grievances. He tweeted that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) and others “shouldn’t be blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings. We are there to back you up should you fail, and always will be!”

Trump changed his tone at an evening news conference, however, touting an “amazing” relationship with New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) and saying governors he spoke with on Sunday will be “very happy” with the upcoming federal response.

But the growing gulf between the White House and officials on the front lines of the pandemic underscored concerns in cities, states and Congress that Trump does not have a coherent or ready plan to mobilize private and public entities to confront a crisis that could soon push the nation’s health-care system to the brink of collapse.

“We’re all building the airplane as we fly it right now,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It would be nice to have a national strategy.”

Daily Beast, Opinion: The Party of Life Embraces Trump’s Death Cult, Matt Lewis, March 23, 2020. We’ve skipped over any nuanced daily beast logodiscussion of economic considerations, straight to the part where Republicans rationalize letting a million or so people die to fix the economy.

In the last twenty-four hours, it has become clear that, despite warnings from experts like Dr. Fauci, Donald Trump is willing to sacrifice lives to try and save the economy and his chances for re-election.

ron johnson o CustomThe amazing thing is that some of his prominent supporters are starting to say the silent part out loud. Consider the comments of Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, right, who, a few days ago, said, “We don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways. It’s a risk we accept so we can move about. We don’t shut down our economies because tens of thousands of people die from the common flu.”

In other words, we take inherent risks all the time. Why should a global pandemic be any different?

Johnson went on to add that “getting coronavirus is not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4 percent of our population, (and) I think probably far less.”

When I signed up to be a columnist, I was told there’d be no math. Still, I’m pretty sure Johnson just said he was comfortable with millions of Americans dying of coronavirus — so long as it doesn’t disrupt economic activity.

Even if you accept that those millions of deaths, and the burden placed on our hospitals leading up to them, wouldn’t disrupt economic activity, is this the rhetoric of a man who believes that every life is precious? Is this the rhetoric of a man who believes in the dignity of human life? It sure doesn’t sound like it to me.

Trump echoed this ends-justify-the-means logic Monday night and the ghoulish and utilitarian worldview that defines one death as a tragedy, one hundred thousand as a statistic.

This logic is spreading about Republicans. Consider the comments Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made Monday night on Fox News: “No one reached out to me and said as a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren. And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.”

He went on to add, “I feel like as the president said, the mortality rate is so low, do we have to shut down the whole country for this? I think we can get back to work.”

I’m old enough to remember when conservatives worried that Obamacare rationing would lead to “death panels” whereby older patients would be deemed too sick and expensive to help. After all, why throw good money after bad? A few short years later, and it is Republicans who are making a shockingly similar rationalization.

Patrick might be willing to be collateral damage, but I’m not sure everyone over the age of 70 will be so eager to sacrifice their lives on the altar of the stock market — nor am I sure their loved ones would approve of a government willing to sacrifice the lives of our most weak and vulnerable for (I suppose) the greater good of the fatherland.

These are, after all, our moms and dads, aunts and uncles, friends, and grandparents he’s talking about. But I guess you’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelet. Maybe the old and the weak should make room so that the young and virile can thrive?

This is a weird turn of events for the party of life.

Look, I get the need for economic activity, and It’s fair to suggest that economic considerations (which, let’s be honest, can and do impact our health), should be part of the discussion.

Unfortunately, we have skipped over that nuanced discussion and gone straight to Republicans rationalizing the idea that we can just wipe out a million or so people to fix the economy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facing eviction as millions shelter in place, Jessica Contrera and Tracy Jan, March 23, 2020 (print ed.). Renters are at risk of being forced out of their homes in the middle of the pandemic even as the federal government protects homeowners who are unable to pay their federally backed mortgages.

ny times logoNew York Times, Texas and Ohio Include Abortion as Procedures That Must Be Delayed, Sabrina Tavernise, March 23, 2020. The moves set off a new front in the fight over abortion — in the middle of the pandemic.

Texas and Ohio have included abortions among the nonessential surgeries and medical procedures that they are requiring to be delayed, setting off a new front in the fight over abortion rights in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

Both states said they are trying to preserve extremely precious protective equipment for health care workers and to make space for a potential flood of coronavirus patients.

But abortion-rights activists said that abortions should be counted as essential and that people could not wait for the procedure until the pandemic was over.

On Monday, Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas, clarified that the postponement of surgeries and medical procedures announced by the state over the weekend included “any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”

Failure to do so, he said, could result in penalties of up to $1,000 or 180 days of jail time. It was not immediately clear if that included medication abortion, which involves providers administering pills in the earlier stages of pregnancy.

The move followed a similar action by health authorities in Ohio last week and has prompted a legal scramble by abortion rights groups to preserve access. Activists accused state leaders of using the coronavirus crisis to advance an existing agenda to restrict abortions.

“Instead of trying to distract with ideology, state lawmakers should focus on prioritizing public health and safety measures,” said Tara Pohlmeyer, communications manager at Progress Texas, a group that supports abortion rights.

The states, for their part, said they were trying to protect public health and preserve critical medical equipment at a time when the country’s health infrastructure is in danger of being overwhelmed. Mr. Paxton said in his statement that routine dermatologic, ophthalmological, and dental procedures, as well as orthopedic surgeries, were also included.

washington post logoWashington Post, In pro-Trump West Virginia, a fight to convince residents a pandemic is coming, Todd C. Frankel, March 23, 2020 (print ed.). The church parking lots were full. Bob Milvet, head of the hospital, saw them as he drove to work last Sunday morning. Packed lots meant packed pews. That meant danger in a rural county with more than 60 churches, from large flocks to tiny country congregations.

The novel coronavirus would surely burn through them like coal fire.

Milvet knew he needed the churches to close. He had to sound the alarm about an infectious disease that, like so many topics in the country, was viewed across a partisan divide.

His hospital sits at the heart of a politically conservative community, even by West Virginia standards, in a county where President Trump won nearly 90 percent of the 2016 vote. For weeks, people here listened as Trump and conservative media dismissed the virus as a hoax.

Many residents accused the state’s Republican governor, Jim Justice, of overreacting when he closed the schools. “I think it’s all B.S.,” one local said. Soon the state’s restaurants and bars followed. West Virginia was the last state to report a confirmed coronavirus case, allowing the fear that gripped other parts of the nation to feel far away.

It was up to a band of local health officials to protect Grant County, even if many residents remained unconvinced they needed saving. “They know me. They know Bob is a Republican,” Milvet said, referring to himself. “And so maybe they’ll listen.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Party Zero: How a Soirée in Connecticut Became a ‘Super Spreader,’ Elizabeth Williamson and Kristin Hussey, March 23, 2020. About 50 people gathered this month for a party in the upscale suburb of Westport, then scattered across the region and the world, taking the coronavirus with them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Trump Is Worsening the Virus Now, David Leonhardt, March 23, 2020 (print ed.). Medical shortages are his responsibility. Instead of taking aggressive steps that public-health experts were urging, he has moved slowly, presumably in the hope that things would somehow work out for the best. Only when it’s clear that they aren’t working for the best has he followed the advice that experts had been offering for weeks. He has then tried to rewrite recent history and claimed that his response had been aggressive from the start.

The first example, of course, was his effort to play down the virus for almost two months, starting in late January. He falsely said that the number of cases was falling and that the virus might just go away, “like a miracle.” Even as medical experts were warning about the lack of testing, Trump did nothing to fix the situation, and the United States fell badly behind other countries.

The biggest current example of Trump’s relaxed response is his refusal to use his authority — from a 1950 law, the Defense Production Act — to order a sweeping mobilization of medical supplies. It could resemble the old overhaul of Detroit, with companies directed to produce millions of masks, ventilators, gowns, inhalers, prescription drugs, virus tests and more.

If you spend any time talking with doctors, nurses and other front-line workers, you will hear how badly they need these supplies. You will also hear them explain, sometimes in tears, that the lack of supplies will have deadly consequences. Patients will die needlessly, and so will doctors and nurses.

ny times logoNew York Times, Joe Biden Faults Trump’s Response to Virus, Thomas Kaplan, March 23, 2020. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., confronting questions over his lack of visibility during a crisis that has upended the presidential primary, on Monday pressed President Trump to step up his response to the coronavirus.

In his first appearance before the American public in six days, Mr. Biden faulted the White House’s initial actions as too slow and insufficient, declaring: “Trump keeps saying that he’s a wartime president. Well, start to act like one.”

Mr. Biden, who holds a commanding lead over Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, appeared on a live stream from his home in Wilmington, Del. He spoke from a lectern bearing a Biden sign, just as if he were on the campaign trail. In the backdrop were bookshelves along with a lamp and an assortment of framed photos.

“Let me be clear: Donald Trump is not to blame for the coronavirus, but he does bear responsibility for our response,” Mr. Biden said. “And I, along with every American, hope he steps up and starts to get this right.”

Mr. Biden has struggled to gain visibility during the crisis, a challenge made even more stark by Mr. Trump’s constant presence on television. The president has appeared daily at news briefings at the White House, events that drive television news coverage. Mr. Biden, on the other hand, did not appear on camera in front of the public for an extended stretch of time — from last Tuesday night to Monday morning — as the outbreak intensified.

Mr. Biden’s absence from public view has been the subject of taunts on Twitter, where hashtags like #WhereIsJoe were used to skewer him, including by Trump campaign officials. His low profile highlighted a real political risk for his candidacy as the crisis worsens: Mr. Trump’s message on the virus, however factually flawed or misleading, could seep in among American voters without being robustly challenged by Democrats, including by the president’s likely general election opponent.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Former Republican operative drops the hammer on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, March 23, 2020. Former Republican Party operative Steve Schmidt (shown in a file screenshot) isn’t holding back when it comes to just how badly Donald Trump is failing America:

bill palmer report logo headerTrump is incompetent, dishonest and profoundly indecent. His staggering incapacity for moral leadership in this unprecedented moment is hard to overstate. His empty boasting, dishonesty, blame gaming, lack of empathy and fragile ego are a deadly combination of traits right now

— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) March 22, 2020

Florida Politics, Ron DeSantis to require isolation post-plane travel from New York, New Jersey, Renzo Downey, March 23, 2020. Violating the order would constitute a criminal offense. Gov. Ron DeSantis will issue an executive order Monday for travelers flying in from New York and New Jersey to stop the spread of the virus from one of the nation’s coronavirus hotspots.

Anyone traveling from the two states will have to do a mandatory self-isolation, the Governor said in a televised press conference. Violating the order would constitute a criminal offense.

Over 190 direct flights still travel from the New York area to Florida daily. “You have so many people working so hard, many people have sacrificed to try to protect our friends and neighbors, and I just think it would be unacceptable to continue to allow it — just simply coming in for people who are fleeing a shelter-in-place order in those states.”

Vox, Bernie Sanders wins the Democrats Abroad primary, Cameron Peters, March 23, 2020. The Vermont senator claims a small victory as his campaign runs out of road. Sen. Bernie Sanders — whose presidential bid has fallen on hard times since a disappointing Super Tuesday earlier this month — rekindled some of his old momentum on Monday with a win over former Vice President Joe Biden in the Democrats Abroad primary.

The contest had a bit of an unusual format: The primary was conducted from March 3 through March 10, and voting took place at various locations around the world. Results, however, weren’t reported until Monday due to a high volume of mail-in ballots.

bernie sanders 2020 button croppedAccording to the Democrats Abroad group — which identifies itself as “the official Democratic Party arm” for Americans living overseas — there were voting centers in more than 40 countries, from Finland to New Zealand. The primary is a unique feature of the Democratic Party — there is no Republican equivalent. And turnout tends to be impressive: In 2016, nearly 35,000 Democratic voters living abroad voted in the primary.

The contest has just a handful of delegates on offer — only 13 (1,991 are required to clinch the Democratic nomination). Per our friends at Decision Desk and the UVA Center for Politics, Sanders will take home nine of them, while Biden notched four. Still, in a period with a substantial drought of primary news and with many races being rescheduled on account of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s a small bit of good news for the Vermont senator.

There hadn’t been any polling to speak of for the primary — it would be almost impossible, not to mention utterly impractical, to accurately poll the Democratic diaspora across the globe — but in 2016, Sanders won out over eventual nominee Hillary Clinton by a margin of 38 points.

There won’t be another primary until next month — Puerto Rico was supposed to hold its contest on March 29, but on Saturday became the eighth state or territory to postpone its election amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Markets, Economy, Jobs

ny times logoNew York Times, Stocks Fall Despite Fed Unleashing New Spending Power: Live Updates, Staff reports, March 23, 2020. The S&P 500 fell more than 2 percent in early trading.

The Federal Reserve said it would buy as much government-backed debt as it needs to keep financial markets functioning, and unrolled a series of programs meant to shore up both large and small businesses, in a staggering, whatever-it-takes-effort to cushion the economic blow of coronavirus.

“Aggressive efforts must be taken across the public and private sectors to limit the losses to jobs and incomes and to promote a swift recovery once the disruptions abate,” the central bank said in a Monday morning statement, adding that “the Federal Reserve is using its full range of authorities to provide powerful support for the flow of credit to American families and businesses.”

federal reserve system CustomThe Fed resurrected a massive bond-buying program — last used in response to the financial crisis — earlier this month, saying it would spend $700 billion on Treasury securities and $200 billion in mortgage-backed debt. But on Monday, the central bank said it won’t limit its purchases, instead buying “in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning.”

The central bank will also try to bolster the corporate bond market, which has been under pressure as companies shut down in the face of the virus. The Fed said it would unveil a program intended to help companies continue to fund themselves and enable the trading of corporate debt in the secondary market. The point, according to the release, is “to support credit to large employers.”

The U.S. needs China’s masks, as acrimony grows. American front-line medical personnel are running desperately short of masks and protective equipment as they battle the coronavirus outbreak. China, already the world’s largest producer of such gear by far, has ramped up factory output and is now signaling that it wants to help.

Reaching deals won’t be easy. Increasingly acrimonious relations between Washington and Beijing are complicating efforts to get Chinese-made masks to American clinics and hospitals. A breakdown over the last few days in the global business of moving goods by air around the world will make it costly and difficult as well.

U.S. Congress, Justice, Military

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Members of Congress are facing a potential crisis of government. They were warned, Norman J. Ornstein (resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute) and Thomas E. Mann (senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, co-author with Ornstein of "It's Even Worse Than  It Looks"), March 22, 2020.

norman ornstein coverTwo members of Congress have already tested positive for covid-19. Imagine if 250 members of the House or 55 members of the Senate contracted the disease and were hospitalized or quarantined. Or if members were to return home but were unable to make it back to the Capitol because of travel restrictions. Neither chamber would be able to meet the Constitution’s requirement for a quorum to do official business. The legislative branch of our government would cease to function at a critical moment.

Given that these are people who are disproportionately older, who reflexively shake hands and who work in close proximity to one another, a coming crisis of government is not implausible. But don’t say they weren’t warned.

There are no provisions, constitutionally, legally or within congressional rules, to enable Congress to meet remotely. This is true even though these challenges are not new; we faced them in the aftermath of 9/11 and with the subsequent anthrax threat that could have left a majority of members of the House and Senate incapacitated. Yet Congress failed to seriously address these vulnerabilities.

The first and most significant step Congress must take — and quickly before things escalate — is to enact measures enabling it to meet remotely.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump pushing the envelope toward a military correction, Wayne Madsen, March 23, 2020. A course correction is what Generals Washington, Grant, Pershing, Butler, and Marshall would have done, given similar circumstances.

U.S. Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, PG&E Will Plead Guilty to Manslaughter in Deadly Camp Fire, Peter Eavis, March 23, 2020. The California utility faced felony charges in connection with a 2018 wildfire that engulfed the town of Paradise and killed 85 people.

pacific gas election company logo CustomPacific Gas & Electric, California’s largest utility, said Monday that it had agreed to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Camp Fire, the state’s deadliest wildfire.

California regulators determined last year that PG&E’s equipment caused the fire, which in 2018 engulfed the town of Paradise and led to the deaths of 85 people.

Facing tens of billions of dollars in wildfire claims, PG&E has been in bankruptcy reorganization since early last year. The company is racing to emerge from bankruptcy by June so that it can qualify for inclusion in a new state wildfire fund that could cover the costs of future fires.

The plea agreement, struck with the district attorney in the county where the Camp Fire occurred, followed the announcement on Friday that Gov. Gavin Newsom was willing to approve PG&E’s plan to emerge from bankruptcy. Under the plan, victims of the wildfires have agreed to a payment of $13.5 billion.

The Guardian, Hotel heists: not towels and hangers but framed art, TVs, a fireplace, Rene Chun, March 23, 2020. Hotel thieves aren’t stealing toiletries – they’re putting the average shoplifter to shame by taking paintings and mattresses. How do they get away with it?

Peter Greenberg knows all about frequent-flyer hotel thieves – and we’re not talking just towels and toiletries.

The investigative journalist, better known to front desk managers as the Travel Detective, has researched and documented their sins for years. The one that gets everyone’s attention has become part of Los Angeles hotel lore. “A guest at the Beverly Wilshire stole a marble fireplace,” says Greenberg. “He cut it out of the wall with a chisel. A bellboy even helped load the pieces in a truck.”

The items swiped from $800-a-night rooms would put the average shoplifter to shame. They include: large ceramic bowls, silver platters, throw pillows, wireless speakers, small oil paintings, iPads. “There’s a sense of entitlement,” explains Greenberg. “The guest thinks: ‘I overpaid for this room, and what’s in it is mine.’ Anything that can be squeezed into a suitcase seems to be fair game.”

Some things that don’t fit in the overhead bin are up for grabs, too. That’s the takeaway from the latest Theft in Hotels survey published last year by Wellness Heaven, a German website that reviews luxury hotels and spas. The data, collected from 1,157 four- and five-star hotels, helps explain why rack rates keep rising. The first sentence of the report jumps off the page like the price of beluga on a room service menu: “Stealing soaps or pens seems harmless for many hotel guests, however, some are so bold that they carry TVs, pianos, mattresses or even [taxidermied] animals out of the hotel.”

The other shocker from this biennial survey is that the people who stay in the best places are the biggest thieves. Four-star hotel guests tend to pilfer common household staples like pens, towels, hangers and cutlery. It’s at the posh five-star places, though, where the good stuff goes missing.

A television set is nine times more likely to be stolen from a five-star than a four-star hotel. The same goes for art heists, which happen five times more often in the very best establishments. Duvets and pillows are another five-star obsession. There’s a fourfold increase in the theft of those coveted goose down accessories. The scam: bring some old bedding from home, and switch it out just before checkout.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Drives the U.S. and China Deeper Into Global Power Struggle, Staff report, March 23, 2020.  China hawks see the pandemic as a chance to spotlight what they call the sinister nature of China’s Communist Party, turn international opinion against it and combat its anti-American conspiracy theories.

2020 U.S. Elections

RealClearPolitics, Opinion: Think Biden Has a Young Voter Problem? Think Again, Bill Scher, March 23, 2020. Joe Biden has effectively secured the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, but he did so while getting trounced by Bernie Sanders among young voters. Understandably, party operatives and political analysts have concluded Biden has a weakness with young voters that needs to be addressed before the general election.

But, as Biden might say, here’s the deal: The polls show he does not have a serious weakness with young voters.

Since Super Tuesday, four general election trial heat polls have been released that break down the results by age. Biden, who beats Trump in all four surveys, is the leader among young voters in all of them, usually by blowout margins.

CNN has Biden winning the under-35 vote over Donald Trump, 64% to 33%. For Quinnipiac, it’s 59% to 30%. YouGov and Emerson published data for the under-30 vote. For YouGov, Biden was up 55% to 23%, and in Emerson, it’s 56% to 44%.

How does that compare to the last two presidential elections? Regarding Hillary Clinton’s performance, Biden does generally better. In the 2016 exit poll, she beat Trump 55% to 36% among under-30 voters, and 51% to 41% among voters in their thirties.

When you look at the CNN and Quinnipiac numbers, Biden also appears to be meeting Barack Obama’s 2012 standard—among voters under 30, he beat Mitt Romney 60% to 37%. And even if he’s a little behind Obama’s pace with young voters in the YouGov and Emerson polls, Biden is outperforming Obama with the senior citizen vote. Obama lost the 65-and-over vote by 12 percentage points, while Biden wins with seniors in every March poll except Emerson. And in that one, he only loses by four. In other words, Biden has broader generational appeal than Obama.

Why is he doing rather well with young voters in general election polling, but so poorly in primary voting? One reason is that most Democrats appear ready to accept Biden as their nominee. In the CNN poll, only 8% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said they definitely or probably would not vote for Biden in the general election. As Biden leads Trump by 10 points in the CNN poll, that’s an easily manageable loss on his left flank.

Furthermore, the pool of young voters for the general election is wider than in the Democratic primary. About 26 million people under 30 voted in the 2016 general election. That’s 2 million more than the number of people who have voted so far in the 2020 Democratic primary, of any age. In all likelihood, many of the young people who are not Democratic primary voters are also not of the “Bernie or bust” variety—after all, they couldn’t be bothered to vote for Sanders in the primary in the first place.

Does this data mean Biden need not make any sort of adjustment to connect better with younger voters? That would be a risky and oversimplistic conclusion to draw. If the 2020 primary has taught us anything, it is that polls are not static. The race could tighten by November—especially since no one has any idea how the coronavirus crisis will affect the electorate politically—potentially turning any soft elements in Biden’s coalition into major liabilities.

Bill Scher is a contributing editor to Politico Magazine, co-host of the Bloggingheads.tv

Inside DC

The Last American Vagabonds, Investigative Commentary: The Truth About the United States' "Continuity of Government" Plans & The whitney webb newer smileCoronavirus Perfect Storm, Whitney Webb, March 23, 2020. Though often discussed in relation to nuclear war or a similarly chaotic scenario, “Continuity of Government” plans can be triggered even by popular, nonviolent opposition to an unpopular war abroad. It exists solely to keep the current system in place, regardless of the cost.

Last week, Newsweek published a report entitled “Inside The Military’s Top Secret Plans If Coronavirus Cripples the Government,” which offers vague descriptions of different military plans that could be put into effect if the civilian government were to be largely incapacitated, with a focus on the potential of the current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to result in such a scenario.

The article’s author, William Arkin, largely frames these plans as new, though — buried deep within the article — he eventually mentions that such contingency plans can be traced back to the Eisenhower administration (though they were in place before) and have since been developed and updated by most subsequent administrations, largely through the issuance of executive orders. Arkin also points out that some of these “Continuity of Government”, or COG, plans include the “devolution” of leadership and Constitutional authority, which he notes “could circumvent the normal Constitutional provisions for government succession, and military commanders could be placed in control around America.”

Yet, there are key aspects of COG and its development that Arkin leaves out. For instance, in his timeline on how such plans have developed in the post-World War II era, he conveniently fails to mention any of the Reagan administration’s major changes to COG, including the Reagan-era Executive Order on which all current COG programs are based.

Indeed, many of the “extra-Constitutional” aspects of COG that Arkin mentions began during the Reagan administration, when these plans were redrafted to largely exclude members of Congress, including the Speaker of the House, from succession plans and even moved to essentially eliminate Congress in the event of COG being implemented, with near total power instead being given to the executive branch and the military. It was also during this time that the “devolution” aspect of COG was hammered out, as it created three president-cabinet “teams” to be stationed in different parts of the country outside of the nation’s capital. Arkin’s decision to not mention how COG was a major focus of the Reagan administration is striking given that that administration poured hundreds of millions of dollars annually into COG planning and development and also conducted COG drills on a regular basis.

Furthermore, the Miami Herald revealed in 1987, that the COG programs of that era were deeply connected to what the Herald termed “a virtual parallel government outside the traditional cabinet departments and agencies” that began operating “almost from the day Reagan took office” and included many of Reagan’s closest advisers, including then-CIA Director William Casey. The Herald further claimed that this “parallel government” had been responsible for the Iran-Contra scandal (i.e. “involved in arming the Nicaraguan rebels”) as well as “the drafting of martial law plans for national emergencies,” i.e. COG, as well as “the monitoring of U.S. citizens considered potential security risks.”

Other key players in those Reagan-era COG developments, such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, former CIA Director James Woosley and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, are also left unmentioned in Arkin’s article. Not mentioning Cheney and Rumsfeld are particularly glaring omissions given that they were involved in the implementation of aspects of those COG plans that went live in the wake of the September 11 attacks, when both men were serving in key posts in the George W. Bush administration.

While Arkin’s omission of the role of the Reagan administration and leading neoconservatives in the development and use of COG is significant, arguably more significant is his failure to mention one of COG’s major components, one that has gone essentially unmentioned by well-known media outlets for well over a decade – Main Core: The government’s database of “potential troublemakers”

1100 Pennsylvania, Investigation: Trump's 2018 Scottish golf outing cost taxpayers more than $1 million, Staff report, March 24, 2020. Secret Service spent $953,000 per new audit by Homeland Security inspector general; State Department already reported dropping $230,000.

secret service logoThe U.S. Secret Service spent more than $1 million supporting President Donald J. Trump’s July 2018 two-day trip to his Turnberry golf course in Scotland, according to a report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General made public Monday evening. Of that total, the U.S. government paid almost $10,000 to the president’s business for hotel rooms, golf carts, and logistical support.

The president visited his money-losing resort in between meeting Queen Elizabeth II in London and his infamous summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland.

March 22

Global Public Health Headlines

Virus U.S. Impacts, Responses

U.S. Congress and Justice Headlines

World News Headlines

#MeToo News

 

Global Public Health

washington post logoWashington Post, Italy’s death toll feeds anxiety of what lies ahead in Europe, U.S., Shane Harris, March 22, 2020. Shortages of medical equipment, hospital beds feared. Italian officials announced that 793 people had died in a single day, and with hospitals and morgues overwhelmed, that nation’s covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2struggle to keep up with the virus offered a glimpse into what U.S. health officials fear could be ahead in New York and elsewhere.

Global anxiety over the coronavirus centered on Europe on Saturday, where Italy is bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s unceasing spread. Italian officials announced that 793 people had succumbed to the virus in a single day. The staggering number brought the nation’s total dead to more than 4,800, the most for a single country.

As death tolls mount across the continent, Italy has become a symbol of the enormous challenges facing public health authorities in Europe and in the United States, who are struggling to contain the virus.

italian flag wavingEleven days into Italy’s nationwide lockdown, which includes travel restrictions and the closure of most stores apart from groceries and pharmacies, the number of confirmed cases still soared, with 6,557 new cases since Friday. Hospitals and morgues were overwhelmed. The government has reported 53,578 total cases, concentrated in the northern part of the country

Italy’s struggle to keep up with the virus offered a glimpse into what U.S. health officials fear could be ahead in New York and elsewhere: shortages of respirators, basic medical equipment and beds in intensive-care units.

Among the help coming to northern Italy is a team of 65 Cuban doctors and nurses with experience in battling Ebola outbreaks, Italian health officials said. In Bergamo, among the most devastated areas, military trucks have lined up outside a hospital to take the dead to farther-away crematoriums.

Italy now stands atop a grim list of global statistics, surpassing the death toll in China, where the virus originated. But surging rates of infection were not limited to the country.

djt march 2020 Custom

Thomson Reuters News, Investigation: U.S. axed CDC expert job in China months before virus outbreak, Marisa Taylor, March 22, 2020. Several months before the coronavirus pandemic began, the Trump administration eliminated a key American public health position in Beijing intended to help detect disease outbreaks in China, Reuters has learned.

The American disease expert, a medical epidemiologist embedded in China's disease control agency, left her post in July, according to four sources with knowledge of the issue. The first cases of the new coronavirus may have emerged as early as November, and as cases exploded, the Trump administration in February chastised China for censoring information about the outbreak and keeping U.S. experts from entering the country to help.

cdc logo Custom"It was heartbreaking to watch," said Bao-Ping Zhu, a Chinese American who served in that role, which was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2007 and 2011. "If someone had been there, public health officials and governments across the world could have moved much faster."

Zhu and the other sources said the American expert, Dr. Linda Quick, was a trainer of Chinese field epidemiologists who were deployed to the epicenter of outbreaks to help track, investigate and contain diseases. As an American CDC employee, they said, Quick was in an ideal position to be the eyes and ears on the ground for the United States and other countries on the coronavirus outbreak, and might have alerted them to the growing threat weeks earlier.

No other foreign disease experts were embedded to lead the program after Quick left in July, according to the sources. Zhu said an embedded expert can often get word of outbreaks early, after forming close relationships with Chinese counterparts.

Zhu and the other sources said Quick could have provided real-time information to U.S. and other officials around the world during the first weeks of the outbreak, when they said the Chinese government tamped down on the release of information and provided erroneous assessments.

Quick left amid a bitter U.S. trade dispute with China when she learned her federally funded post, officially known as resident adviser to the U.S. Field Epidemiology Training Program in China, would be discontinued as of September, the sources said. The U.S. CDC said it first learned of a "cluster of 27 cases of pneumonia" of unexplained origin in Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31.

Since then, the outbreak of the disease known as COVID-19 has spread rapidly worldwide, killing more than 13,600 people, infecting more than 317,000. The epidemic has overwhelmed healthcare systems some countries, including Italy, and threatens to do so in the United States and elsewhere.

In a statement to Reuters, the U.S. CDC said the elimination of the adviser position did not hinder Washington's ability to get information and "had absolutely nothing to do with CDC not learning of cases in China earlier."

djt doesnt listen

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out Donald Trump screwed up his coronavirus response way, way worse than we knew, Bill Palmer, March 22, 2020. Each day we’re all forced to watch Donald Trump find new ways to screw up his response to the coronavirus crisis. He does virtually nothing to help anyone. He spreads false information during his ludicrous press conferences. He hurls personal insults at reporters. He’s a waste of space. Now it turns out he screwed us even more than we knew.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s not just that Donald Trump eliminated the Obama-era White House pandemic office in 2018. A few months ago, Trump eliminated the specific U.S. government position in China whose job was to observe any disease outbreaks. This is according to a stunning new Thompson Reuters report. This is the person whose job was to be on the ground and gather early and accurate information about outbreaks, so the United States would have the best information possible.

So why did Donald Trump get rid of the position? It was part of the hijinks he carried out during his idiotic trade war with China in late 2019. That’s right, Trump’s idiocy didn’t just kill the economy. Now his trade war is killing Americans. Trump needs to resign and go away before he makes this any worse.

U.S. Impacts, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Clash between GOP, Democrats over stimulus bill intensifies, Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim, Rachael Bade and Jeff Stein, March 22, 2020. With Democrats opposed, procedural vote fails on’ $1.8 trillion package in Senate; Talks continue, but Pelosi indicates she’ll move forward on her own.

us senate logoSenate Democrats blocked a massive coronavirus stimulus bill from moving forward Sunday as partisan disputes raged over the legislation that’s aimed at arresting the economy’s precipitous decline.

Lawmakers had hoped to pass a massive $1.8 trillion bill by Monday but Sunday night they were scrambling to revive talks, with the stock market poised for another sharp drop and households and businesses fretting about an uncertain future.

Negotiations continued even as the initial procedural vote fell short, with 47 senators voting in favor and 47 opposed. The tally was well short of the 60 votes that were needed to move forward. The number of “aye” votes was especially low because five Republicans are quarantined over coronavirus fears.

Although senators of both parties and Trump administration officials vowed to continue negotiating -- around the clock if necessary -- the failed vote was the latest negative signal about Congress’ ability to come together around the legislation, which aims to inject close to $1.8 trillion into businesses and households. Policy makers are scrambling to address a spike in layoffs and businesses gasping for assistance as millions of Americans stay home to avoid contagion.

Ever since Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced the legislation Thursday night, senators have missed one self-imposed deadline after another to reach a deal. The vote Sunday evening was delayed three hours so talks could continue after it became clear it would fail, but no resolution was reached and it failed anyway.

At the same time, McConnell said it was time for Democrats to “take ‘yes’ for an answer” and accept a bill that he said incorporated many of their ideas. Democrats, though, alleged McConnell’s bill is tilted too far in favor of corporations and doesn’t include much oversight for $500 billion in loans and guarantees that could go to firms selected by the Treasury Department.

The Hill, Biden says he will broadcast regular coronavirus briefings, Jonathan Easley, March 22, 2020. Former Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday he will begin broadcasting regular briefings about the coronavirus pandemic from his home in Delaware, following criticism from some on the left that he’s been absent as the public health crisis has escalated.

During a telefundraiser on Sunday, a donor told Biden that he wanted to see the former vice president cut a more public profile when it comes to the government's coronavirus response.

joe biden smile palmer report 5 Custom“I would just love to see you more,” the donor told Biden, left. “Like, how do we get more of you and less of [President Trump] on our airwaves?”

Biden that his campaign team is installing a “new high-speed line” in his home and turning a recreation room into a television studio so he can broadcast from home at a time when government officials are asking people to stay indoors.

Biden said he expected to address voters from his home on Monday at 11:30 a.m. EDT.

“I'm going to speak to these issues,” Biden said.

Biden has not spoken on camera since Tuesday night, when he won resounding primary victories over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in Florida, Illinois and Arizona.

Those victories helped Biden open up what many view as a nearly insurmountable lead over Sanders in the race to be the Democratic presidential nominee.

Sanders remains in the race for now. Since Tuesday’s election, he’s held several online roundtable events to address the growing crisis around the coronavirus. In addition, Sanders has used his campaign email list to raise more than $2 million for charities that assist those hit hardest by the crisis.

Some of Sanders’s supporters have accused Biden of being absent in a time of crisis, arguing that he’s kept too low of a profile since effectively sewing up the nomination on Tuesday.

During a press call with reporters on Friday, Biden said he was “desperately” looking for innovative ways to get his message out since he’s been sidelined from the campaign trail.

washington post logoWashington Post, Half a million N95 masks are on their way to New York and Seattle, 3M says, Jeanne Whalen, March 22, 2020. The company said it will almost double production of the masks over the next year, to an annual rate of 2 billion masks worldwide.

A large manufacturer of protective N95 masks for medical workers said it is shipping half a million masks to New York and Seattle, with arrivals starting Monday.

3M said it is ready to rush additional shipments across the country and will almost double production of the masks over the next year, to an annual rate of 2 billion masks worldwide. That is a bigger increase than the 30 percent boost the company announced Friday.

3M factories in South Dakota and Nebraska are now producing 35 million N95 masks a month, 90 percent of which are designated for health-care workers after a change in law last week eliminated the threat of lawsuits from such sales.

U.S. Economy, Jobs, Stimulus

washington post logoWashington Post, Negotiators race to finalize virus rescue bill to aid reeling economy, Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian, March 22, 2020. “It’s a very large package,” said National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, who has been negotiating with Senate leaders as Congress rushes to finish. He estimated the economic impact at $2 trillion.

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus shut down Sin City, creating a potentially devastating situation for Las Vegas, Robert Klemko, March 22, 2020 (print ed.). As casino floors fell silent — many for the first time since their construction — a desert town built on tourist traffic from around the globe boiled with anxiety.

Don Gummerson and Josh “Pepper” Clarke left The Flamingo and sauntered alone down the sidewalk of the Strip, past locked casino doors and outdoor daiquiri machines shrouded in black trash bags, to the only restaurant serving food for a half mile in either direction: McDonald’s. The oil workers from Manitoba were in town for a wedding: Gummerson married Clarke’s stepmother at 11 a.m. Wednesday, the last nuptials at the tropical casino for the foreseeable future, a day after Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced a shutdown of all casinos, hotels and “nonessential” businesses in response to the rapidly moving coronavirus pandemic.

As Clarke slung a $7 bottle of Wycliff champagne from his hip to his stubbled lips, Gummerson, in a matching black tuxedo, lamented their lonely journey through an eerily quiet Sin City.

“That’s gonna be our wedding f------ supper,” he said. “McDonald’s.”

The sudden closure of all Nevada casinos was an overreaction, they insisted, drawing an expletive-laced tirade about how they didn’t think Las Vegas would throw in the towel. Clarke was especially upset because he thinks the virus is really affecting only old people: “I don’t believe that this should be happening.”

The men were among the few remaining tourists navigating the Las Vegas Strip as no one has ever seen it: nearly devoid of revelers, gamblers and street hawkers. The governor’s directive, which fell on some deaf ears around the city (including those of an 18-and-over strip club offering drive-by lap dances), became a mandate Friday afternoon. Sisolak announced that police action would be taken as a last course of action against businesses that refused to comply with measures to stem the spread of a virus in a city reliant on the opposite of social distancing.

washington post logoWashington Post, As coronavirus spreads, so do doubts about America’s ability to combat it, Toluse Olorunnipa, Griff Witte and Seung Min Kim, March 22, 2020 (print ed.). The pandemic is testing the country’s political, financial, social and moral fabric.

Bureaucratic missteps have led to a shortfall in tests needed to determine the true scope of the virus. Hospitals are pleading for more medical equipment as doctors resort to using homemade masks. Financial markets have lost a third of their value in less than a month. Reveling spring breakers have hit the beaches in defiance of a nationwide social distancing campaign.

Companies, some of which celebrated tax cuts by rewarding shareholders with record stock buybacks, are preparing to lay off millions of workers while pleading for a government bailout.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facing eviction as millions shelter in place, Jessica Contrera and Tracy Jan, March 22, 2020. The ruler’s sister said while a personal letter is nice, North Korea still expected more respect from the U.S. Renters are at risk of being forced out of their homes in the middle of the pandemic even as the federal government protects homeowners who are unable to pay their federally backed mortgages.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: There’s a reason governors’ ranks produced many presidents, Dan Balz, March 22, 2020. Top state leaders have been aggressive and decisive in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, often moving faster than the federal government.

Washington Post, Opinions:

  • Don’t torture yourself with the clown show, Jennifer Rubin
  • In Miami Beach, the palpable sensation of an unfolding tragedy, Samuel G. Freedman
  • The stimulus should focus on Americans who need the most help, E.J. Dionne Jr.

U.S. Congress and Justice Operations

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Don’t let constitutional rights be a victim of this virus, Caroline Fredrickson (right, senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Jcaroline frederickson twitterustice), March 22, 2020. Courts around the country are grappling with how to continue operations in the face of the threat posed by the covid-19 pandemic, in particular how to comply with the requirements of the Speedy Trial Act for criminal defendants.

While most of Congress’s attention is focused on how to respond to the looming financial meltdown, the Trump Justice Department is floating language to be included in one of the relief packages to address the burden on the judiciary. Some of the department’s proposal are sensible; others would be dangerous incursions on fundamental constitutional rights.

The department’s draft language, as reported by Politico, seeks modification of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to allow greater use of videoconferencing, even at times without the defendant’s agreement. With covid-19’s rapid transmission between individuals, and the danger it poses to certain groups of people, such a move might have some merit. Similarly, the Justice Department’s proposal to extend the statute of limitations in both criminal and civil cases during an emergency “and for one year following the end of the national emergency” has some merit, although an additional year is excessive. The courts too are facing a significant slowdown as staff works remotely and others are getting sick.

But the Justice Department’s request doesn’t stop there. Instead, the department has also included an idea that should be immediately rejected: letting federal court chief judges halt all court proceedings during an emergency. This provision would apply to “any statutes or rules of procedure otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures in criminal and juvenile proceedings and all civil process and proceedings.” In its draft language shared with Congress, the Justice Department argues that the new provision would ensure more consistency in the procedures adopted in different courthouses.

What is most chilling about this proposal is what it would do to habeas corpus, the constitutional guarantee that a detained person has the right to appear in court for a determination of whether his or her detention is lawful. The Justice Department language would allow a judge to order someone who had simply been arrested, but not charged or convicted, to be held until the judge determines the emergency is over.

But the Justice Department’s request doesn’t stop there. Instead, the department has also included an idea that should be immediately rejected: letting federal court chief judges halt all court proceedings during an emergency.

This provision would apply to “any statutes or rules of procedure otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures in criminal and juvenile proceedings and all civil process and proceedings.” In its draft language shared with Congress, the Justice Department argues that the new provision would ensure more consistency in the procedures adopted in different courthouses.

What is most chilling about this proposal is what it would do to habeas corpus, the constitutional guarantee that a detained person has the right to appear in court for a determination of whether his or her detention is lawful. The Justice Department language would allow a judge to order someone who had simply been arrested, but not charged or convicted, to be held until the judge determines the emergency is over.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. brings first fraud case stemming from coronavirus crisis, Matt Zapotosky, March 22, 2020. The Justice Department this weekend brought its first case of alleged fraud stemming from the coronavirus crisis, convincing a federal judge in Texas to issue a restraining order Sunday to block a website that claimed to be distributing vaccines.

In court documents, the department alleged the operator of the site, coronavirusmedicalkit.com, was facilitating a wire-fraud scheme, “intentionally making false statements” about the vaccines, which do not exist.

“The website falsely claims that the World Health Organization is giving away free vaccine kits and that individuals who visit the website can order such a kit by paying $4.95 for shipping,” the Justice Department wrote. “The World Health Organization is not offering free ‘vaccine kits’ for COVID-19. Indeed, there exists no known vaccine that is effective against COVID-19.”

Roll Call, Remote voting? Rand Paul COVID-19 diagnosis prompts more discussion, Lindsey McPherson and Katherine Tully-McManus, March 22, 2020  Trump endorses idea, while Durbin and Portman tout their resolution.

Despite congressional leaders’ position that Congress does not need to consider remote voting in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the diagnosis of Sen. Rand Paul with COVID-19 has kept the topic alive at the highest levels — including at the White House.

President Donald Trump on Sunday endorsed the idea of Congress setting up remote voting procedures “on a temporary basis” after Paul, a Kentucky Republican, tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Washington Post, Opinion: Trump’s removal of experts is deeply destructive to our nation’s safety, 9 former intelligence chiefs, March 22, 2020 (print ed.). The president is pursuing a deeply dangerous path.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rand Paul went around exposing people to coronavirus earlier today while he was awaiting his test results, Bill Palmer, March 22, 2020. For a moment there, we were inclined to feel bad for Rand Paul. The Republican Senator tested positive for the coronavirus today, and while he’s not rand paul presser 6 2 15showing any symptoms as of yet, it’s still a potentially deadly virus. Here’s the thing, though. Rand, right, is one of the most selfishly evil people alive, and it looks like he’s now found a way to top himself.

According to the Washington Post, Rand Paul hit the Senate gym and took a dip in the Senate swimming pool this morning, while he was awaiting his coronavirus test results. Earlier we learned that Rand had lunch with his GOP Senate colleagues on Friday before he was tested. If you have no reason to suspect you’re infected, then it’s not your fault if you expose people. But even after Rand bill palmer report logo headerreached the point where he felt compelled to get tested, he exposed others in the Senate while he was awaiting the test results.

Yes, he had no symptoms. But what kind of recklessly self centered jackass decides he needs to be tested for the coronavirus due to his “extensive travel” and then goes around potentially infecting others while he’s awaiting the test results?

This is unbelievable – and yet, based on everything we already know about Rand Paul, it’s not surprising. Once this is over, Rand needs to be permanently expelled from the Senate for such a recklessly awful act. Considering he may have just given the virus to some of his more vulnerable colleagues, this could get ugly fast – for him and for them.

#MeToo News

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, The Accusations Were Lies. Could We Prove It? Sarah Viren, March 22, 2020 (print ed.). When the university told my wife about the sexual-harassment complaints against her, we knew they weren’t true. We had no idea how strange the truth really was.

World News

Associated Press, Virus now in Gaza, Syria, raising fears in vulnerable areas, Fares Akram, Albert Aji and Joseph Krauss, March 22, 2020. The arrival of the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip, an impoverished enclave where the health care system has been gutted by years of conflict, and Syria, which has been devastated by nine years of civil war and sanctions, raised fears Sunday that the pandemic may soon prey on some of the most vulnerable populations in the world.

Authorities in Gaza, which has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007, confirmed its first two cases overnight, in returnees who had come from Pakistan.

An outbreak could wreak havoc on the Palestinian territory, which is home to over 2 million people, many living in cramped cities and refugee camps.

In Syria, where the civil war is grinding on through its 10th year, Health Minister Nizar Yazigi announced the first confirmed coronavirus case Sunday. The 20-year-old woman came to Syria from a country that has an outbreak of the virus, but Yazigi did not specify which country.

The conflict in Syria has left millions of people internally displaced, and led to rampant poverty and barely functioning medical facilities.

djt kim jong un official white house shealah craighead

washington post logoWashington Post, N. Korea says Trump wrote Kim Jong Un a letter offering to help out with the coronavirus, Min Joo Kim, March 22, 2020. The ruler’s sister said while a personal letter is nice, North Korea still expected more respect from the U.S.

President Trump sent a letter to Kim Jong Un (shown together in a 2018 meeting) to offer help in North Korea's battle against the coronavirus, Kim's sister said Sunday, but she warned it wasn't enough to improve relations.

The United States and North Korea are at loggerheads over the reclusive state's nuclear weapons program. Trump has attempted to restart negotiations by cultivating a personal relationship with Kim.

“We view such a personal letter of President Trump as a good example showing the special and firm personal relations with Chairman Kim Jong Un,” said Kim Yo Jong, the leader’s sister and a senior official of the ruling party. Her statement was published by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency.

Kim Yo Jong said Trump explained in the letter “his plan to propel the relations between the two countries of the DPRK and the U.S.,” a reference to the country’s formal name of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

ny times logoangela merkel flikr glyn lowe photoworksNew York Times, Merkel Self-Isolates as Germany Bans Groups of More Than 2, March 22, 2020. Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, went into isolation after learning that her doctor tested positive. The new rules are among the strictest on movement outside the home.

March 21

Global Public Health Headlines

U.S. Economy, Jobs, Stimulus Headlines

Media News

2020 U.S. Election Headlines

DC Whistleblower Death Probe

#MeToo News

 

Global Public Health

ny times logoNew York Times, With New State Decrees, 1 in 5 Americans to Be Ordered Home, Julie Bosman and Jesse McKinley, Updated March 21, 2020. U.S. Is Plunged Into Deeper Disruption and Paralysis. Stringent state directives were intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has sickened nearly 20,000 people across the country. Forty-five states have closed all their schools and the others have closed at least some. Bars, restaurants and other gathering spots have been shuttered.

America plunged into a deeper state of disruption and paralysis on Friday as New York and Illinois announced a broad series of measures aimed at keeping tens of millions of residents cloistered in their homes, following similar actions by California and a patchwork of restrictions from coast to coast.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2The new, more stringent directives, in some of the country’s most populous states, were intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus that has swept across the country, sickening more than 17,000 people and claiming at least 214 lives. By the end of the weekend, at least 1 in 5 Americans will be under orders to stay home, and more states were expected to follow suit.

Increasingly severe shutdowns and restrictions on Americans’ movement — which public experts consider essential to reduce the alarming rate of infection — have turned much of the country quiet. Forty-five states have closed all their schools and the other five have closed at least some of them. Bars, restaurants and other gathering spots have been abruptly shuttered.

New York State has become the center of the outbreak, as its confirmed coronavirus cases have jumped to more than 7,000 and health officials have flagged with urgency a looming shortage of hospital beds and equipment. With 6 percent of the U.S. population, the state now accounts for over one-third of all confirmed cases in the country.

coronavirus curves columnia university ny times

ny times logoNew York Times, Without Urgent Action, Coronavirus Could Overwhelm U.S., Estimates Say, James Glanz, Lauren Leather, Matthew Bloch, Mitch Smith, Larry Buchanan, Jin Wu and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, March 21, 2020 (print ed.). Immediate steps to limit social contact in parts of the United States where few cases have been identified are needed to slow the outbreak, a model suggests.

Three scenarios for how the outbreak could spread. Percent infected by April 1: 25% to 75%.

The coronavirus has infected far more people in the United States than testing has shown so far, and stringent measures to limit social contact in parts of the country not yet seeing many cases are needed to significantly stem the tide of illness and death in the coming months.

Those are the conclusions of Columbia University researchers who used a New York Times database of known cases and Census Bureau transportation data to model how the outbreak could evolve based on what is known about the virus. The estimates are inherently uncertain, and they could change as America adopts unprecedented measures to control the outbreak.

But they offer a stark warning: Even if the country cuts its rate of transmission in half — a tall order — some 650,000 people might become infected in the next two months.

world health organization logo CustomThe growth is driven by Americans with mild symptoms who are carrying and spreading the virus without being aware that they have it, the researchers say. The number of undetected cases — 11 times more than has been officially reported, they estimate — reflects how far behind the United States has fallen in testing for the virus.

Seattle, Boston and parts of California already have such large outbreaks that they will probably see significant growth even after taking extraordinary measures over the past week, the researchers say. New York City’s outbreak, the nation’s largest, grew to more than 4,000 known cases on Friday and is likely to increase many times over even in a favorable scenario..

Here are the highlights of Mr. Cuomo’s executive order, which takes effect Sunday at 8 p.m.:

• Healthy people under 70 should limit outdoor activity to getting groceries and medicine, but they may exercise, walk outside and participate in other noncontact physical activities if they stay six feet away from others.

• Mass transit will keep running, but people should not use it unless they absolutely must. Roads will remain open.

• Nonessential gatherings of any size for any reason are banned.

• There are stronger restrictions for people who are 70 and older, have compromised immune systems or have underlying illnesses. Those rules include wearing masks when in the company of others and not visiting households with multiple people.

• Businesses considered nonessential must keep all of their workers at home.

• Essential businesses that can stay open include: grocers and restaurants, health care providers, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, banks, hardware stores, laundromats and cleaners, child-care providers, auto repair shops, utility companies, warehouses and distributors, delivery services, plumbers and other skilled contractors, animal-care providers, transportation providers, construction companies and many kinds of manufacturers.

• Businesses that violate the order will be fined and forced to close. The state does not plan to fine people who violate the regulations, Mr. Cuomo said.

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washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. intelligence reports from January and February warned about a likely pandemic, Shane Harris, Greg Miller, Josh Dawsey and Ellen Nakashima, March 21, 2020 (print ed.). Officials reported that China appeared to be downplaying the outbreak and said swift action could be needed to contain the coronavirus.

U.S. intelligence agencies were issuing ominous, classified warnings in January and February about the global danger posed by the coronavirus while President Trump and lawmakers played down the threat and failed to take action that might have slowed the spread of the pathogen, according to cia logoU.S. officials familiar with spy agency reporting.

The intelligence reports didn’t predict when the virus might land on U.S. shores or recommend particular steps that public health officials should take, issues outside the purview of the intelligence agencies. But they did track the spread of the virus in China, and later in other countries, and warned that Chinese officials appeared to be minimizing the severity of the outbreak.

Taken together, the reports and warnings painted an early picture of a virus that showed the characteristics of a globe-encircling pandemic that could require governments to take swift actions to contain it. But despite that constant flow of reporting, Trump continued publicly and privately to play down the threat the virus posed to Americans. Lawmakers, too, did not grapple with the virus in earnest until this month, as officials scrambled to keep citizens in their homes and hospitals braced for a surge in patients suffering from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Palmer Report, Commentary: Andrew Cuomo comes out swinging, Bill Palmer, March 21, 2020. After it became clear that Donald Trump wasn’t going to do anything at bill palmer report logo headerthe federal level to help hospitals acquire emergency medical supplies, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on television and on Twitter that the state was going to acquire such equipment by whatever means necessary.

andrew cuomoSure enough, Governor Cuomo, right, has come through:

UPDATE: We are sending 1 million N95 masks to New York City.

500,000 N95 masks will go to Long Island.

We are purchasing 6,000 additional ventilators and gathering supplies from every source we can get.

— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 21, 2020

ny times logoNew York Times, The Coronavirus’s Rampage Through a Nursing Home, Jack Healy and Serge F. Kovaleski, March 21, 2020. Two-thirds of Life Care Center’s residents and 47 of its workers fell ill. Thirty-five people died. We investigated what went wrong.

As confirmed cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, now surge across the country and overturn every facet of normal life, the troubled nursing home in Kirkland looks like a frightening preview of what could lie ahead.

Since the first positive tests at Life Care came back on Feb. 28, 129 people there — including 81 residents, about two-thirds of its population — have tested positive for the virus, and 35 people have died. Dozens of its workers have received coronavirus diagnoses, suggesting that the center’s frantic efforts to sanitize the building, quarantine residents and shield staff members with gowns and visors may have come too late.

“This caught them completely off guard,” Jim Whitney, the medical services administrator for the nearby Redmond Fire Department, said. “They just were not prepared for what was happening. None of us were.”

Accounts from emergency responders, public health officials and those who had loved ones at Life Care show a cascading crisis marked by confusion and delays. A federal strike team of doctors and nurses did not arrive until more than a week after the first coronavirus cases were reported. Several crucial days ticked by before the facility was able to get tests for all its residents, making it impossible to tell which patients were already infected.

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Politico, DOJ seeks new emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic, Betsy Woodruff Swan, March 21, 2020. One of the requests to Congress would allow the department to petition a judge to indefinitely detain someone during an emergency.

Justice Department log circularThe Justice Department has quietly asked Congress for the ability to ask chief judges to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies — part of a push for new powers that comes as the coronavirus spreads through the United States.

Documents reviewed by Politico detail the department’s requests to lawmakers on a host of topics, including the statute of limitations, asylum and the way court hearings are conducted. Politico also reviewed and previously reported on documents seeking the authority to extend deadlines on merger reviews and prosecutions.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment on the documents.

The move has tapped into a broader fear among civil liberties advocates and Donald Trump’s critics — that the president will use a moment of crisis to push for controversial policy changes. Already, he has cited the pandemic as a reason for heightening border restrictions and restricting asylum claims. He has also pushed for further tax cuts as the economy withers, arguing that it would soften the financial blow to Americans. And even without policy changes, Trump has vast emergency powers that he could legally deploy right now to try and slow the coronavirus outbreak.

The DOJ requests — which are unlikely to make it through a Democratic-led House — span several stages of the legal process, from initial arrest to how cases are processed and investigated.

U.S. Economy, Stimulus, Jobs, Markets

ny times logoNew York Times, A Torrent of Job Losses Threatens to Overwhelm the U.S. Economy, Patricia Cohen, March 21, 2020 (print ed.). New filings for unemployment benefits rose 30 percent last week amid cutbacks and shutdowns.

In an early sign of the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating impact on American workers, the Labor Department on Thursday reported a 30 percent increase in unemployment claims last week, one of the largest spikes on record.

The surge — 281,000 new claims — reflects a crushing new reality: Any hopes that businesses could keep their staffs largely intact have quickly evaporated.

“I started laying people off this Monday, not knowing how bad it was,” said Barry Rosenberg, founder of Vending One, a Los Angeles company that stocks and maintains vending machines and self-serve kiosks in malls, office complexes, jails, schools and casinos. “On Tuesday, we started restricting hours. By next Monday, I don’t know that there’ll be any work.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: It’s Dangerous to Be Ruled by Fear, Brett Stephens, right,March 21, 2020 (print ed.).The reaction to the pandemic should not be bret stephensallowed to become as dangerous as the disease itself.

Donald Trump’s first instinct when it came to the coronavirus was to dismiss the threat as overblown, over there, and “totally under control.” His second was to use the pandemic as an opportunity to show off his world-historical leadership skills by treating the virus as a threat on par with World War II.

Both reactions were driven by politics, not evidence. The first was unquestionably wrong. The second needs to be questioned aggressively before we impose solutions possibly more destructive than the virus itself.

On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, left, commanded the people of his state to stay home. That’s roughly 40 million people. He anticipates that gavin newsom oabout 25 million Californians will be infected by the virus over the next eight weeks.

Where does that projection come from? The governor cites a “model” used by state planners, the accuracy of which can only be guessed. How long will it be enforced, and for how long can it be sustained? Nobody knows. The only certainty is that, in the midst of a crisis, politicians are rarely penalized for predicting the worst possible outcome. If it comes to pass, they seem prophetic. If it doesn’t, they take credit for averting catastrophe.

In the meantime, they seek to enhance their powers. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting to stay in office and out of jail, has also ordered Israelis not to leave their homes — while maneuvering to shutter the country’s Parliament. The political consequences of pandemics should not be allowed to become as dangerous as the disease itself.

Nor should the economic consequences. Can the United States afford to shut down for a week or two? Yes. What about a few months? In that event, we might face not a recession but a full-blown depression, which would be financially ruinous for hundreds of millions and have its own disastrous knock-on effects in mental, emotional, and physical health, including for the elderly and sick who already face the greatest risks from the virus.

And what if a “suppression” strategy of school closures, restaurant shutdowns, home quarantines, bans on gatherings of more than a few people, and other methods of social distancing lasts 18 months — the estimate of how long it might take to develop and distribute a safe and effective vaccine?

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)In that case, we are looking at a century-defining calamity that could bankrupt the government; wreck nearly every business in America, large or small; disrupt supply chains and create critical shortfalls of food, medicines, and other essential items; lead to dramatic increases in deaths of loneliness and despair; tempt political leaders, including the president, to disavow democratic norms in the name of public health (including by seeking to postpone elections); and create widespread, perhaps deadly, civil unrest.

This may be a nightmare scenario. But it’s one we will move swiftly toward if we continue to operate on worst-case scenario thinking and an unwillingness to countenance the balancing of risks. With all respect to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who believes in the virtues of overreaction, there are grave dangers to that, too.

Especially since we are making historically momentous policy decisions based on dangerously spotty data. “We don’t know if we are failing to capture infections by a factor of three or 300,” writes Stanford’s disease prevention expert, John P.A. Ioannidis, in a must-read piece in the authoritative science and medicine website Stat (itself a must-read). The need for better data, obtained through repeated random sampling of the entire population, could not be clearer.

What we should not do, Ioannidis warns, is impose draconian measures that seem effective on paper but whose unintended consequences are poorly thought through. School closures, for example, may backfire if children socialize in other ways and bring home the virus to elderly or sick relatives.

“Flattening the curve” is another concept that needs a closer look: “If the level of the epidemic does overwhelm the health system and extreme measures have only modest effectiveness, then flattening the curve may make things worse,” he writes. “Instead of being overwhelmed during a short, acute phase, the health system will remain overwhelmed for a more protracted period.”

Is that right? Hard to say. But his larger point is surely right: Policymaking should not be dictated, as it is now, by a combination of raw fear and lousy data, much less the vanity and political calculations of the president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial Board, How to Avoid Complete Economic Destruction, Editorial Board, March 21, 2020 (print ed.). To limit mass unemployment, the government needs to provide companies with the money they are temporarily unable to earn.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Trump deceives while lawmakers cash out. It’s the ‘story of life,’ Dana Milbank, March 21, 2020.
  • Washington Post, Opinion: Trump’s removal of experts is deeply destructive to our nation’s safety, 9 former intelligence chiefs, March 21, 2020.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Stimulus Package Spurs a Lobbying Gold Rush, Kenneth P. Vogel, Catie Edmondson and Jesse Drucker, March 21, 2020 (print ed.). Some industries are in dire need of a bailout. Others see a rare chance to win special breaks at a moment when the fiscal spigots are open.

Restaurants say they need $325 billion in federal assistance. Boeing wants $60 billion. The travel industry has requested $250 billion and manufacturers are seeking $1.4 trillion in loans to deal with the economic devastation being wrought by the coronavirus.

And that’s to say nothing of the casinos, airlines and franchise owners, all of whom have signaled that they, too, will need relief from the federal government to survive.

Then there are the industries and companies that do not immediately come to mind as front-line casualties but are nonetheless lobbying for their causes to be addressed as Congress prepares to allocate $1 trillion or more in response to the crisis.

The prospect of a bailout of a scale without precedent has set off a rush to the fiscal trough, with businesses enduring undeniable dislocation jostling with more opportunistic interests to ensure they get a share.

The sportswear company Adidas is seeking support for a long-sought provision allowing people to use pretax money to pay for gym memberships and fitness equipment — despite the mandatory closure of fitness facilities in many jurisdictions during the outbreak.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Senators Make Progress on $1 Trillion Rescue Plan, March 21, 2020. Lawmakers plan to work through the weekend on a bipartisan economic stabilization package. Stay-at-Home Orders Spread as U.S. Death Toll Passes 200. U.S.A. Track & Field joined the list of sports bodies asking for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo to be postponed.

CelticsBlog, Commentary: Marcus Smart talks to CNN about COVID-19 and the importance of quarantining, Staff report, March 21, 2020. Smart appeared on Cuomo Prime Time with Chris Cuomo. If you told me that one of the Boston Celtics players somehow had to test positive for COVID-19, I would have picked Marcus Smart.

It’s not because he’s tough; he fought off a nasty eye infection earlier in the season that could have blinded him for life. It’s because he’s honest and heartfelt and frankly, the perfect spokesperson to deliver the gravity of the situation and leader by example to get us through it.

CNN's Chris Cuomo: Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart, who tested positive for the coronavirus, is calling on young people to take the virus "seriously."

"Be alert to what's going on and take the precautions to not only protect yourself. By protecting yourself, you protect others," he says.

Smart, who publicly shared his test results Thursday evening, said he was surprised when he first learned the news. The 26-year-old noted he has self-quarantined since the Celtics returned from Milwaukee a day after the league suspended play indefinitely.

“When they told me I had [coronavirus], I was like, ‘Oh wow,'” Smart said. “It definitely really makes you alert to what’s going on and the situation at hand.”

As the Celtics indicated in their statement issued Thursday, Smart said he is taking necessary measures to keep himself safe as well as others around him. Smart does not anticipate he will develop any symptoms, something he believes is important to recognize.

“Because people that contract the virus can be asymptomatic and not show any symptoms, it’s really hard for anyone to know that they have the virus,” Smart said. “Being around a group of people, being around friends and family, and really not isolating yourself, if you’re a carrier, you [start] spreading the virus around without even knowing it.”

Smart advised people to take the precautions against coronavirus seriously, specifically calling out those in his age demographic. He urged the public to social distance and stay home.

“Be positive,” he said. “I’m OK. I’m going to be OK, but definitely be alert to what’s going on and take the precautions to not only protect yourself, but by protecting yourself, you protect others.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s clubs and hotels, including Mar-a-Lago, suffer from coronavirus fallout, David A. Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow and Jonathan O'Connell​, March 21, 2020 (print ed.). The company has laid off staff and closed properties, like others in the hospitality industry.

mar a lago aerial Custom

Town & Country Magazine, Palm Beach on Edge After Mar-a-Lago Declared a Coronavirus "Hot Zone," Steven Stolman, March 21, 2020. A little more than two weeks ago, social life in Palm Beach, Florida was rolling along like business as usual. On a balmy Friday night, on one part of town, the island's A-list gathered in their finery to attend the Preservation Foundation’s annual dinner dance, one of the season's most coveted tickets. There were hints that something was off; there were suddenly more air kisses than usual among the 300 or so guests.

Meanwhile, Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump's so-called winter White House, was hosting the first of a pair of weekend fundraisers that would gather hundreds of guests, each with a receiving line held in the club’s ornate White & Gold Ballroom. The following evening, Trump hosted Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and his entourage for dinner, while nearby, guests began gathering for a birthday blowout in honor of ex-Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend.

It's fair to say the mood in Palm Beach has darkened since then.

After several guests at the resort that weekend confirmed they tested positive for the Coronavirus, including the Congressman Matt Gaetz and members of the Brazilian delegation, the island has become one of the epicenters of the pandemic in Florida, whose Southern region claims half of the state's 131 confirmed cases.

In the eyes of some, Mar-a-Lago itself is something of a "coronavirus hot zone," to quote the New York Times.

As a result, or perhaps general anxiety around COVID-19, some residents hightailed it to their private jets waiting on the tarmac of Palm Beach International Airport in favor of other homes in less densely populated areas such as Aspen or the Hamptons, not that there was much comfort to be found there.

Other New Yorkers choose to ride out the pandemic at their Palm Beach second homes, causing some south-bound flights to arrive full while those northbound left nearly empty.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump and Mike Pence have a real problem, Bill Palmer, March 21, 2020. Donald Trump held yet another press conference today about the coronavirus, and let’s just say that it was such a disaster, the only reason it didn’t send the stock market plummeting is that the market isn’t open on the weekends. Two moments best summed up today’s mess.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump was in excuse mode, as usual, when trying to explain why he’s failed to use the power of his office to generate increased production of ventilators for coronavirus patients. Trump uttered this word salad: “You know a ventilator is a machine, it’s a very complex machine, and to think that we have to order hundreds of thousands, nobody’s ever heard of a thing like this.”

But then not long after that, Mike Pence took the microphone and said this: “These manufacturers tell us that a ventilator actually isn’t a very complicated piece of equipment.” Wait a minute, what? Is a ventilator a “complex machine” from a manufacturing standpoint, or is it not very complicated?

Media News

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Have we finally reached the breaking point? Bill Palmer, March 21, 2020. CNN host John King used his show yesterday to curse at Donald Trump for his dishonest and embarrassing performance during his latest coronavirus press briefing. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow used her show last night to call on her own network to stop airing Trump’s press briefings live, due to the harm they’re doing. Former FBI Assistant Director and frequent MSNBC contributor Frank Figliuzzi also called for an end to live airings of Trump’s briefings.

bill palmer report logo headerFor the major media outlets, there are few things more sacred than White House press briefings. They get to send people to ask the President of the United States, or the President’s representatives, direct questions on live national television. These briefings are a farce in the Trump era. But back when we had real Presidents, the briefings were an institution. Certain questions could make or break presidential administrations.

For some of the biggest faces on cable news to now be calling for their own networks to pull the plug on White House briefings, it’s a big deal. More specifically, pulling the plug on live Presidential press briefings, during a time of crisis, is nothing short of surreal.

Yet there’s a decent chance that when Donald Trump holds his next coronavirus press briefing, whether it be today or on Monday, MSNBC and CNN won’t carry it. These networks face a lot of pressure to air Presidential press briefings. Now they’re publicly facing pressure from within their own upper ranks to pull the plug. Have we finally reached the breaking point where cable news is fully saying no to broadcasting Trump live?

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Call Trump’s News Conferences What They Are: Propaganda, Jennifer Senior, March 21, 2020. Then contrast them with the leadership shown by Andrew Cuomo, Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkel.

In a time of global emergency, we need calm, directness and, above all, hard facts. Only the opposite is on offer from the Trump White House. It is therefore time to call the president’s news conferences for what they are: propaganda.

We may as well be watching newsreels approved by the Soviet Politburo. We’re witnessing the falsification of history in real time. When Donald Trump, under the guise of social distancing, told the White House press corps on Thursday that he ought to get rid of 75 to 80 percent of them — reserving the privilege only for those he liked — it may have been chilling, but it wasn’t surprising. He wants to thin out their ranks until there’s only Pravda in the room.

2020 U.S. Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Bloomberg, Abandoning Super PAC Plans, Gives $18 Million to D.N.C. Instead, Reid J. Epstein and michael bloomberg2Alexander Burns, March 21, 2020 (print ed.). Michael R. Bloomberg, right, is abandoning plans to form a new super PAC for the presidential race and pay his field organizers through November, instead opting to give $18 million to the Democratic National Committee for the party’s battleground states program.

Mr. Bloomberg’s presidential campaign had promised at its outset that it would finance a field program through the November election. Then upon his withdrawal from the race earlier this month, Bloomberg officials said the former New York mayor would continue to employ many of his campaign’s field staff through an independent campaign organization.

In the end Mr. Bloomberg, a multibillionaire, has chosen to do none of those things. He has transferred $18 million from his campaign account to the D.N.C., which intends to use the funds to hire its own organizing staff in battleground states.

“While we considered creating our own independent entity to support the nominee and hold the president accountable, this race is too important to have many competing groups with good intentions but that are not coordinated and united in strategy and execution,” the Bloomberg campaign wrote in an unsigned memo released Friday.

ny times logoNew York Times, How It All Came Apart for Bernie Sanders, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, March 21, 2020. His campaign appeared close to bernie sanders 2020 button croppeda commanding lead in the Democratic race. But fateful decisions and internal divisions have left him all but vanquished.

While Mr. Sanders has not ended his bid, he has fallen far behind Mr. Biden in the delegate count and has taken to trumpeting his success in the battle of ideas rather than arguing that he still has a path to the nomination. His efforts to regain traction have faltered in recent weeks as the coronavirus pandemic has frozen the campaign, and perhaps heightened the appeal of Mr. Biden’s safe-and-steady image.

In the view of some Sanders advisers, the candidate’s abrupt decline was a result of unforeseeable and highly unlikely events — most of all, the sudden withdrawal of two major candidates, Senator Amy Klobuchar and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who instantly threw their support to Mr. Biden and helped spur a rapid coalescing of moderate support behind his campaign.

Mr. Sanders had been “on the brink of winning,” Mr. Tulchin argued, “until the most unprecedented event in the history of presidential primaries occurred.”

But interviews with more than three dozen Sanders aides, elected officials, activists and other people who worked with his campaign revealed a more extensive picture of his reversal of political fortune. Though Mr. Sanders climbed to a position of seeming dominance by mid-February, he and his inner circle also made a series of fateful decisions that left him ill positioned to win over skeptical Democrats — and sorely vulnerable to an opponent with Mr. Biden’s strengths.

Mr. Sanders proved unable to expand his base well beyond the left or to win over African-Americans in meaningful numbers. He failed to heed warnings from traditional party leaders, and even from within his campaign, about the need to modulate his message and unify Democrats. He allowed internal arguments to fester within his campaign, an ungainly operation that fragmented into factions beneath the only two real decision makers — Mr. Sanders and his wife, Jane.

Though outwardly amiable, Mr. Sanders’s inner circle fractured between some long-serving counselors and relative newcomers, like Faiz Shakir, his campaign manager. Mr. Shakir and others regarded pleas from Mr. Tulchin and another pugilistic aide, David Sirota, to go on the attack against Mr. Biden as both futile and annoyingly predictable, while Mr. Shakir’s internal critics saw him as exceedingly territorial.

There were also serious operational mistakes: In South Carolina, the campaign effectively deputized a former Ohio state senator and loyal surrogate, Nina Turner, to direct strategy, rather than empowering a political strategist to run the pivotal early state. In private conversations, Mr. Sanders often touted his support from some younger African-Americans, seemingly missing the bigger picture.

DC Whistleblower Death Probe

Foreign Policy, Investigation: Death of a Whistleblower, Amy Mackinnon, March 20, 2020. Questions raised by a Pentagon investigator went unanswered following his workplace suicide.

It’s almost not possible to overstate how large and complicated the United States Department of Defense is. It is the largest U.S. government agency, serves as the country’s biggest employer, and wields an annual budget of $738 billion. The task of detecting and deterring malfeasance within this Department of Defense Seallabyrinth falls to the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General. Each year, the watchdog’s hotline receives some 14,000 complaints from Department of Defense employees, many of whom make grave allegations of criminality, fraud, or waste of government resources.

steven luke family photo croppedWhen credible allegations were made against senior officials, they landed on the desk of Steven Luke, shown left in a family photo, one of around 30 investigators tasked with handling probes into some of the highest-ranking officials in the Pentagon.

Having worked in the office for over a decade, Luke was well acquainted with the Washington swamp. He enjoyed his job, and he was good at it. But in January 2018, Luke was handed a case that caused him to question the integrity of his office and the motives of his supervisors, and led him to blow the whistle on the Pentagon’s own watchdog office.

At first glance, the case should have been relatively straightforward. Robert Cardillo, who was then the head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, had been accused of violating agency travel protocols. Luke had handled plenty of similar cases over the years, and travel investigations often left a paper trail.

He reviewed the evidence and felt that it was too thin to substantiate the claims. But in a series of emails obtained by Foreign Policy, Luke described how he felt under pressure from his supervisors to back up the allegations made against Cardillo.

“From the outset, everyone in my leadership chain suggested or directed that I should substantiate the primary allegation,” he wrote in an email to the office of Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican known as the “patron saint of whistleblowers.” “I felt bullied, berated, and belittled unless I acquiesced to go along with everyone else and write the ROI [Report of Investigation] as a substantiation,” Luke wrote.

The case was ultimately closed as unsubstantiated, but the experience left Luke rattled.

He felt sure that had he not stuck his neck out, the case would have been upheld, leaving an indelible stain on Cardillo’s decades-long record of government service. His wife, Amy Luke, said that it was the worst work-related stress she had ever seen him under. He was frustrated, preoccupied, and beginning to look for other jobs.

After the case was closed, Luke wrote a two-page email outlining his concerns to Charles Murphy, an investigator in Grassley’s office. They arranged to meet on Feb. 4, 2019.

But Luke never made it to the meeting.

On Jan. 8, 2019, he was found dead in the trunk of his red Volvo S60 in the parking garage of the Mark Center office building, home to the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General. An Alexandria police department investigation concluded that Luke — a father of four who had been stalked by depression throughout his adult life — had killed himself. He was 54 years old.

#MeToo News

Niagara Gazette, At New York prison, Harvey Weinstein put in isolation after contracting virus, Joe Mahoney, March 21, 2020. Oscar-winning movie producer Harvey Weinstein, now one of New York's most notorious prison inmates after being sentenced for sexual assault, has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, according to officials connected to the state prison system.

harvey weinsteinWeinstein, who turned 68 last Thursday is being isolated at Wende Correctional Facility in Western New York, officials told CNHI Sunday.

He is one of two Wende inmates who have tested positive, the officials said.

Weinstein is serving a 23-year sentence for rape and sexual assault in a prosecution that attracted world-wide attention amid the #MeToo movement.

Officials familiar with his situation said it is believed Weinstein was positive for the virus when he entered the state prison system last Wednesday from Rikers Island, a New York City jail.

Weinstein was sent to Wende, where the prison system operates an intake center for new state inmates. Inmates are typically sent to other facilities from there after medical and security concerns are assessed.

Weinstein was accepted by the prison system last week following his sentencing at a Manhattan courtroom. During his trial, he had been alternating his time between Rikers Island and a New York City hospital, where he was treated for high blood pressure and chest pains.

Cultural History

annette nancarrow by painter sandor klein via kaneff collection CustomAs a young woman, Annette Nancarrow, right, posed in New York for the painter Sandor Klein. Credit: Collection of Howard and Cherry Kaneff.

New York Times, Opinion: Lessons From My Grandma on Art, Sex and Life, Bret Stephens, March 21, 2020. She was unfailingly true to herself at a time when many doors were closed to women.

My father once asked his mother, the artist Annette Nancarrow, what she thought of Leon Trotsky. It wasn’t a political question. He just wanted her impression of the exiled Bolshevik, whom she had first met in Mexico City in the late 1930s, in the studio of her close friend (and, my father suspected, future lover) Diego Rivera.

“Well, I was surprised to see the leader of the proletariat so elegantly dressed,” she recalled, many decades after Trotsky’s murder by a Soviet agent in 1940. “His attire was impeccable, and I was particularly struck by the Parisian calf-skin gloves he took off of his beautifully manicured hands.”

The answer was vintage Annette. As a painter, she saw the part of the surface that revealed the inner man — the bourgeois fop within the fiery revolutionary. As a judge of character, she sensed why he had lost his power struggle with Joseph Stalin for control of the Soviet Union — people who take care of their fingernails don’t usually enjoy getting them bloody. And as a connoisseur of style, she appreciated good leather.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about my grandmother ever since I saw the “Vida Americana” exhibit at the Whitney Museum in New York. The exhibit showcases the work of Mexico’s greatest muralists — Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros — and their decisive influence on their American contemporaries, including Jackson Pollock, Isamu Noguchi, Ben Shahn and Thomas Hart Benton. Pollock called Orozco’s “Prometheus” mural at Pomona College “the greatest painting done in modern times.” Benton went further, describing the work of the Mexican masters as “the only great art of our time.”

My grandmother, born Annette Margolis in 1907 to a well-to-do Jewish family in New York, was one of those artists whose work was fundamentally shaped, and life radically altered, by her encounters with the Mexican masters. She was a cultural boundary-breaker in an age of fearfulness and isolationism. She was a sexually confident woman who fell in and out of love with impressive, sometimes domineering men, while never allowing herself to become dependent on any of them. Above all, she was a productive and independent artist who lived by Miles Davis’s creed that “an artist’s first duty is to himself” — or herself — come what may.

And, for the most part, she has been almost entirely forgotten — like so many other women who lived lives that were a generation or more ahead of their time.

Annette was a sexually confident woman who fell in and out of love with impressive, sometimes domineering men, while never allowing herself to become dependent on any of them.

In the early 1930s she was leading what by outward appearances was a fairly conventional if privileged life as a young bride and budding painter studying for a master’s in fine arts at Columbia University’s Teachers College. In the evenings, she would return to her Riverside Drive apartment to make supper for her husband, a successful lawyer named Sidney Pepper, whom she had married while still in her teens. At 25, she gave birth to a daughter named Cherry.

Her real life was something else entirely.

She joined the American League Against War and Fascism, an outgrowth of the Communist Party. She had her portrait painted, clothed, by Sandor Klein; and nude, by Igor Pantuhoff, who substituted a different woman’s face to preserve her anonymity. She met the Mexican muralists — Siqueiros, Orozco and Rivera, who was painting the fresco at Rockefeller Center that Nelson Rockefeller would destroy because it included a portrait of Vladimir Lenin.

She also rented an apartment on Barrow Street under an assumed name. Ostensibly, it was meant to be a studio where she could work on her painting. But, as she delightedly confessed in an interview more than 50 years later, its real purpose was to “learn certain things, sexually, so I could teach my husband” to become “a little more capable in that field.”

In 1935 she and Pepper boarded a cruise liner for Veracruz with a recommendation from a friend to look up an American businessman living in Mexico City named Louis Stephens. It was love — and lust — at first sight: Annette would later write in a letter about my grandfather that “he exceeded my wildest dreams as to his inexhaustible energy and variations on the mating theme.” Pepper, who came down with an apparent case of Montezuma’s revenge during his stay, later came to believe that my grandfather had secretly poisoned him so that he could spend more time with his beautiful wife.

Annette would return to Mexico twice more within a year. For the second trip, she took 3-year-old Cherry with her, telling her husband that she planned to spend a few weeks in Florida. He got wise to the ruse, accused Annette of kidnapping their daughter, tracked her down to a hideaway in Mexico City, and seized Cherry. Annette wouldn’t see her firstborn for years. My father was born almost exactly nine months later.

Mexico transformed my grandmother — or rather, it allowed her to become most fully herself. “She swung into the dining room with a mambo rhythm,” Anaïs Nin, my grandmother’s longtime friend, recalled in her published diaries of their first encounter at Acapulco’s Hotel Mirador in the winter of 1948. “When I met her she had become so international, so well-traveled, so multilingual, so at ease with all kinds of people, that no one could imagine her childhood, her origin.”

Her conversation was filled with recollections that weren’t so much a case of name-dropping as they were an epic of history-dropping.

There was her account of painting side-by-side with Orozco on his mural “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” up several flights of scaffolding on the ceiling of one of Mexico City’s oldest churches. There was the story of her pet spider monkey Quismalona, which she insisted my grandfather give to Rivera after having a nightmare about it strangling my father in his crib. (The little creature is almost certainly among the ones featured in Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits.) There was her marriage to Conlon Nancarrow — third of her four husbands — a veteran of the Spanish Civil War’s Abraham Lincoln Brigade who is now recognized as one of the 20th century’s seminal composers.

And there was the time she rented out her Acapulco home for $25 a week to Norman Mailer, sometime after “The Naked and the Dead” had made him a literary sensation. During his stay Mailer busted down a door in a drunken rage, assaulted his girlfriend, arranged to watch a sex act performed on a donkey and finally — this is the part that seemed to scandalize her the most — stiffed Annette on the rent and the maid on her pay.

A flavor of my grandmother’s social life in Mexico from the late 1930s survives in a letter she wrote about an evening she and my grandfather spent with Kahlo and her husband, Rivera.

She died in 1992, when I was in college. The older I got, the more I recognized her talent as an artist. She had always seemed overshadowed by the formidable company she kept. Where Rivera, Orozco and Siqueiros sought to depict Mexico through ideological, and largely idealized, lenses of class struggle and revolution, Annette tried to paint Mexicans as they really were.

This isn’t to say that Annette was a great painter. Compared to Kahlo? Not close. Some of her work is extraordinary; much of it feels competent and interesting but not compellingly original. Today, she might be accused of “cultural appropriation,” particularly on account of her fascination with pre-Colombian figurines, which she fashioned into sculptural pieces of jewelry. But having made Mexico her home for more than half a century, to her it probably felt more like cultural celebration.

Above all, she was unfailingly true to herself. That this was the case at a time when so many doors were closed to women, and so many taboos enforced upon them, makes her that much more remarkable, and inspiring. The real masterpiece she painted was her own life.

March 20

Global Public Health Headlines

U.S. Economy, Jobs, Stimulus

Scandals In DC

2020 U.S. Elections

U.S. Supreme Court

Media News

World News

 

Global Public Health

ny times logoNew York Times, With New State Decrees, 1 in 5 Americans to Be Ordered Indoors, World / U.S. Live Updates, Staff reports, March 20, 2020. Dow Drops, Erasing 3-Year ‘Trump Bump.’

A Trump administration official working in Vice President Mike Pence’s office has tested positive. And the Dow erased the “Trump bump,” ending the week below its level from the day before the president’s inauguration.

Here’s what you need to know:

• Soon more than 1 in 5 Americans will be under orders to stay mostly indoors.
• The Senate is close to a deal for a $1 trillion rescue plan.
• One of Vice President Mike Pence’s staffers has tested positive.
• Stocks fall in another day of market turmoil, erasing the “Trump Bump.”
• Here’s what happened at the White House briefing: Border closures, warnings against immigration and more.
• American passengers from the Costa Luminosa describe a chaotic evacuation from France.
• With critical supplies running low, Trump resists pressure to use a wartime law to mobilize industry.

Related news:

    • New York Times, Trump Properties Begin to Feel the Pinch, Mar-a-Lago has closed in Florida, and health restrictions have led to cutbacks at some hotels and golf courses. But other properties remain open.
    • New York Times, When Stocking Grocery Shelves Turns Dangerous, Grocery stores have been deemed essential businesses, meaning their employees are worried about being exposed to the coronavirus.
    • New York State, with 6 percent of the U.S. population, now accounts for around half of all cases in the country

ny times logoNew York Times, Connecticut Joins N.Y. in Tightening Rules Over Virus: Regional Live Updates, Staff reports, March 20, 2020. Two governors order most businesses to close and tell residents to mostly stay indoors. New Jersey was expected to follow suit.

michael bloomberg2Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the policy in New York bans all nonessential gatherings of any size for any reason. The Senate is close to a deal for a $1 trillion economic rescue plan.

New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois were preparing to follow the lead set by California and New York in telling people to stay mostly inside. The Federal Reserve moved to backstop municipal money market funds, and the U.S. was set to close borders with Mexico and Canada.

Most buses in New York City will be free starting on Monday as the M.T.A. tries to keep service going while protecting workers and riders.

Cases in New York State Top 7,800. As testing has ramped up rapidly in the state, confirmed cases have grown at a breathtaking pace.

washington post logoWashington Post, Restrictions ramp up as Calif. residents ordered to stay home, Siobhán O'Grady, Rick Noack, Marisa Iati, Alex Horton, Miriam Berger and Katie Mettler, March 20, 2020 Concerns grow over wave of imported cases in Asia; U.S.-led covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2coalition in Iraq suspends training, speeds withdraw from bases

Global restrictions are dramatically ramping up amid the growing coronavirus outbreak, with U.S. officials urging Americans abroad to return home or prepare to shelter in place and the entire state of California going into effective lockdown.

Here are some significant developments:

• The number of coronavirus deaths and confirmed cases continues to surge in Spain and Iran. In Italy, the death toll rose Thursday to 3,405 — the highest in the world. Italian morgues are now running out of space.

• California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered his state’s 40 million residents to stay home except for essential activities. It’s the most dramatic measure so far taken in the United States, where confirmed cases doubled in just two days, in part because of increased testing.

• The U.S. tax filing deadline has been pushed back from April 15 to July 15. “All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Twitter.

• More than 245,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed across the globe. The World Health Organization noted that it took more than three months to reach 100,000 cases worldwide —but only 12 days to log the next 100,000.

• For a second consecutive day, China reported no new local infections. But concerns are growing about a new wave of imported cases elsewhere in the region: Hong Kong reported its biggest daily jump in cases Friday, including many that involved recent travel.

washington post logoWashington Post, As economic tsunami grows, Senate virus plan under fire from all sides, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein​, March 20, 2020. A massive stimulus bill to fight the economic impacts is facing criticism as negotiations with Democrats begin today. The administration wants the bill to pass by early next week.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Analysis: Done in like H.G. Wells' Martians, Wayne Madsen, left, March 20, 2020. In The War of the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWorlds, a serialized novel by H.G. Wells, first published in 1897, all of mankind's industrial innovations of the time were no match against the invading Martians, with their tripods, death beams, and flora-choking red weed bio-weapon. In the end, the Martians and their technical wizardry succumbed to earthly pathogens for which they had no immunity.

Maybe the virus did originate from the Wuhan Institute of Virology's National Biosafety Laboratory; the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick, Maryland; or the melting Guliya glacier of the Tibetan Plateau. The latter is this editor's likely suspect.

washington post logoWashington Post, Market Updates: Tax filing deadline extended to July 15 as Wall Street struggles to stage a comeback, Taylor Telford, Thomas Heath and Jeff Stein​, March 20, 2020. The new deadline will give millions of taxpayers more time to fill out their tax forms as the coronavirus upends daily life.

U.S. Economy, Stimulus, Jobs, Markets

washington post logoWashington Post, Economy deteriorating faster than anticipated as 80 million Americans are staying at home, David J. Lynch and Heather Long​, March 20, 2020.  The meltdown, which is sending several million workers streaming into the unemployment line, is outpacing the federal government’s efforts to respond.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: This Is the Stimulus We Need Right Now. It’s Not $1,000 for Every American, Reed Hundt (former FCC chairman and the author of “A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama’s Defining Decisions”), March 20, 2020. The administration and Congress must act — but wisely. The place to start is the overwhelmed health care system.

The Trump administration could not have absolutely stopped the Covid-19 invasion. But it is hard to imagine any government doing a worse job to prepare for the event.

But now the administration and Congress must act — and as important, get the right order of action. First and most important, this means rapid federal funding and other executive action to expand and strengthen the health care system. Then we can see what has happened to the broader economy before deciding what to do. Don’t just guess, fearmonger or unethically throw money at the problem. This is what leadership is about — focus, coolheadedness and decisions based on evidence.

These are the obvious needs for federal funding: a billion test kits distributed everywhere to figure out what is the actual spread and possible reoccurrence of the new virus; an elevation of the United States ratio of hospital beds per person from roughly number 30 in the world, equal with Turkey, to tie with Japan for No. 1; urgent development and distribution of treatment choices for the afflicted, especially including at least a 10-times increase in the number of ventilators, as well as an effective means to send them where needed; doubling or tripling the number of health care workers, people who risk their lives to save ours.

This is the stimulus bill Congress must pass within days.

Scandals In DC

Daily Beast, Second GOP Senator Dumped Stock After Coronavirus Briefing, Lachlan Markay, William Bredderman and Sam daily beast logoBrodey, March 20, 2020. Sen. Kelly Loeffler is the second senator who has gotten rid of their holdings right as the stock market went bad.

kelly loeffler o CustomThe Senate’s newest member sold off seven figures’ worth of stock holdings in the days and weeks after a private, all-senators meeting on the novel coronavirus that subsequently hammered U.S. equities.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), right, reported the first sale of stock jointly owned by her and her husband on Jan. 24, the very day that her committee, the Senate Health Committee, hosted a private, all-senators briefing from administration officials, including the CDC director and Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on the coronavirus.

“Appreciate today’s briefing from the President’s top health officials on the novel coronavirus outbreak,” she tweeted about the briefing at the time.

us senate logoThat first transaction was a sale of stock in the company Resideo Technologies valued at between $50,001 and $100,000. The company’s stock price has fallen by more than half since then, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average overall has shed approximately 10,000 points, dropping about a third of its value.

It was the first of 29 stock transactions that Loeffler and her husband made through mid-February, all but two of which were sales. One of Loeffler’s two purchases was stock worth between $100,000 and $250,000 in Citrix, a technology company that offers teleworking software and which has seen a small bump in its stock price since Loeffler bought in as a result of coronavirus-induced market turmoil.

Late Thursday night, she did offer a statement, tweeting: “This is a ridiculous and baseless attack. I do not make investment decisions for my portfolio. Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband’s knowledge or involvement.

“As confirmed in the periodic transaction report to Senate Ethics, I was informed of these purchases and sales on February 16, 2020—three weeks after they were made.”

This is a ridiculous and baseless attack. I do not make investment decisions for my portfolio. Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband's knowledge or involvement."

— Senator Kelly Loeffler (@SenatorLoeffler) March 20, 2020

In the weeks after her spate of stock trades, Loeffler sought to downplay the public-health and financial threats posed by the coronavirus.

“Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on #Coronavirus readiness,” she tweeted on Feb. 28. “Here’s the truth: @realDonaldTrump & his administration are doing a great job working to keep Americans healthy & safe.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: They. Sold. Their. Stock, David Leonhardt, March 20, 2020. They could have made a difference, but they made a profit.

richard burr o SmallGiven the disconnect between what they knew and the public’s understanding, Burr, right, and Loeffler had an opportunity to sound the alarm. They could have broken ranks with other congressional Republicans and told the country to take the situation more seriously. They could have criticized Trump for not doing more.

Such criticism, coming from Trump’s own party, would have received major attention. It would have had the potential to alter Trump administration policy and, by extension, the course the disease took.

But Burr and Loeffler did virtually nothing to protect the health and safety of their constituents or of Americans in other states. (Burr went so far as to co-write an article for FoxNews.com bragging about the country’s readiness.) Here’s what the two senators did instead: They sold large amounts of their personal stock holdings, cashing in before the market sharply declined, as the severity of the virus became apparent to everyone.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Is Trump implicated in Richard Burr’s ‘moral crime’? Jennifer Rubin, right, March 20, 2020. The Post reports on Fox News personality Tucker Carlson’s reaction to a report that Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) dumped a jennifer rubin new headshotsignificant amount of stock before the economic meltdown caused by the coronavirus:

“Now maybe there’s an honest explanation for what he did. If there is, then he should share it with the rest of us immediately,” Carlson said on Thursday. “Otherwise, he must resign from the Senate and face prosecution for insider trading.”

Carlson, whose nightly show reportedly has significant sway on President Trump’s thinking, continued condemning the Republican senator, whose estimated $628,033 to $1.72 million in stock market sales were described by many as “stomach-churning” and “personal corruption.”

“There is no greater moral crime than betraying your country in a time of crisis, and that appears to be what happened,” he added.

Those of us who typically abhor Carlson’s blatant racism and xenophobia might be surprised to find themselves agreeing with his sentiment. (A broken clock is right twice a day.) But we should examine precisely what constitutes the “moral crime.”

There are actually two moral offenses here. The first is concealing from the public the magnitude of the crisis. The second moral offense is profiting off of it.

Palmer Report, Donald Trump panics after GOP Senators get busted for insider trading, Bill Palmer, March 20, 2020. During the course of Thursday evening it was discovered that multiple Republican Senators attended a closed door briefing last month about bill palmer report logo headerjust how ugly the coronavirus crisis was going to be, and then promptly sold off their own personal stock market holdings in the expectation of a crash. This is the definition of insider trading, and it’s specifically a violation of the Stock Act of 2012.

This is of course bad news for Donald Trump. It’s a major scandal for his Republican Party. It could help cost his party the Senate majority. It could also whet the public’s appetite for prosecuting politicians who commit financial crimes at a time when Trump is in danger of losing the election and then facing fraud charges of his own. Not surprisingly, Trump began panicking a bit on Thursday night.

donald trump twitterDonald Trump hadn’t tweeted any endorsements in the 2020 Senate elections in quite some time. But shortly after the insider trading news broke, he suddenly began tweeting endorsements of multiple Republican Senators who are up for reelection in November. He then began frantically retweeting dozens of other Republican Senators.

Notably, none of the retweets or endorsements were for the Republican Senators who now stand accused of insider trading. It appears Donald Trump has suddenly decided that he needs to align himself with with Republican Senators who are going to be left standing once the dust clears from this scandal. It’s yet another problem that Trump now has to worry about.

Bloomberg, The Stocks Senators Unloaded Before the Coronavirus Crash, Mathieu Benhamou, Mira Rojanasakul and Allison richard burr o SmallMcCartney, ‎March‎ ‎20‎, ‎2020. Senator Richard Burr has called for an ethics investigation into himself and three other senators who sold off stock after receiving classified briefings on the coronavirus threat.

Burr — a North Carolina Republican who is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee — sold up to $1.72 million in stock through Feb. 13, shortly before reassuring the public that the government had a handle on the coronavirus response. A week later, the S&P 500 Index started what would become a 30% drop, wiping out most gains made since President Donald Trump's inauguration.

In a tweet on Friday, Burr denied any wrongdoing, saying that he “relied solely on public news reports” to inform his decisions. Here’s how well those stocks performed after he sold them.  How each security performed since Senator Burr sold shares

New York Post, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Jim Inhofe made stock trades before coronavirus pandemic, Noah Manskar, March 20, 2020. Two more senators made hefty stock sales before the coronavirus pandemic tanked global markets, records revealed as two other lawmakers who dumped millions in shares faced mounting calls to resign.

dianne feinstein judiciarySens. Dianne Feinstein, right, and Jim Inhofe sold as much as $6.4 million worth of stock in the weeks before panic about the coronavirus sparked a worldwide selloff, according to disclosure filings first reported by the New York Times.

The additional revelations came amid widespread outrage toward GOP Sens. Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler, who reportedly sold shares after getting briefings on the coronavirus threat. Loeffler's husband Jeffrey Sprecher, below at right, is chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.

Feinstein, a California Democrat, sold $500,001 to $1 million worth of stock in a company called Allogene Therapeutics on Jan. 31, less than a month before panic about the virus caused markets to plunge, Senate records show. Her husband sold $1,000,001 to $5 million worth of Allogene shares on Feb. 18, according to financial disclosures.

jim imhofe o wide CustomAnd Inhofe, left, an Oklahoma Republican, dumped as much as $400,000 worth of stock on Jan. 27, records show. He sold shares in five different companies including Apple, PayPal and Brookfield Asset Management, according to a disclosure report.

jeffrey SprecherFeinstein spokesman Tom Mentzer said her husband made the transactions, not the senator herself.

“All of Senator Feinstein’s assets are in a blind trust, as they have been since she came to the Senate,” Mentzer said in an email. “She has no involvement in any of her husband’s financial decisions.”

Inhofe said he is not involved in his investment decisions. The senator asked his financial adviser in December 2018 to move his portfolio entirely out of stocks and into mutual funds in December 2018 “to avoid any appearance of controversy,” he said.

“My adviser has been doing so faithfully since that time and I am not aware of or consulted about any transactions,” Inhofe said in a statement.

2020 U.S. Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Joe Biden’s Running Mate? Party Leaders Favor Female Ex-Rivals, Reid J. Epstein and Lisa Lerer, March 20, 2020 (print ed.). Three former candidates — Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar — were the leading choices of Democratic officials, followed by Stacey Abrams.

With former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. now holding an all but insurmountable lead over Senator Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary contest, many Democrats have shifted their attention to a favorite quadrennial parlor game: the vice-presidential search.

Mr. Biden has shown his hand in a big and unusual way for a front-runner, saying he would pick a woman as a running mate. That has opened the path for Democratic officials to start picking favorites — from a socially safe distance.

In discussions with The Times since Mr. Biden’s big primary victories on Tuesday, 60 Democratic National Committee members and congressional and party leaders most frequently proposed three former rivals of Mr. Biden as his running mate — Senator Kamala Harris of California, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Next up was Stacey Abrams, a former state House leader whose defeat in 2018 Georgia governor’s race remains disputed by many in the party.

Other popular suggestions included Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Representative Val Demings of Florida. The Democrats interviewed also proposed seven other women, including Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico.

While de facto presidential nominees typically keep their list of potential running mates closely held, Mr. Biden has helped fuel speculation by eagerly rattling off names for months — nearly all of them women. Even his wife, Jill, offered her take in a private fund-raiser earlier this month, praising Ms. Klobuchar and criticizing Ms. Harris’s debate stage attack on her husband last summer.

U.S. Supreme Court

supreme court headshots 2019

SCOTUSblog, Analysis: What next for oral arguments? Tom Goldstein (SCOTUSblog founder and Supreme Court litigator), March 19, 2020. Having indefinitely postponed its March oral argument sitting, the Supreme Court will need to develop a plan for these cases and those in the April sitting too. There are 20 oral arguments in question: 11 for March and nine for April. Because there is little relevant precedent, there is no way to predict what the court will do. In this post, I lay out what seems most likely and sensible to me.

Note that the question of how to handle oral arguments is not enormously consequential to the justices. The public pays a lot of attention to the court’s public sessions—including arguments—because they are the most visible parts of the court’s work. But they are the tip of the iceberg; almost everything is going on out of sight, below the surface. The court continues to process new cases and write opinions deciding existing cases, largely uninterrupted by the virus.

With respect to oral arguments, my premise is that it will not be possible for the court to hold its April sitting — at least as traditionally conducted. The current CDC guidance is that there should not be events of 50 or more people until at least early May.

supreme court buildingI think the court will postpone ordinary public arguments for longer than that. The virus is a distinct threat to the health of the justices, because it is most dangerous for people aged 60 and older. It is extremely dangerous for those aged 80 and over who have prior medical conditions. More broadly, holding oral arguments creates risks for the court’s staff and the advocates.

For most of the March and April cases, the court does not need to take any risks. It has a strong preference for holding oral argument, and for doing so in monthly sittings from October through April. But these are not ordinary times, and no statute or rule requires it to do so.

The court could go ahead and resolve roughly one third of the March and April cases without oral arguments. In cases that appear to be unanimous and in which no justice requests argument, it could prepare opinions. If it became apparent during the drafting process that oral argument would be useful, the case could then be heard next term.

There are four cases — raising two issues — in which the court is likely to conclude that oral argument is necessary and cannot be deferred so long. Two are the presidential tax return cases. (Technically, they are three cases, Nos. 19-635, 19-715 and 19-760, scheduled for two arguments.) Those have direct implications for ongoing congressional investigations of the president and an ongoing grand jury investigation.

The other two are the so-called “faithless electors” cases (Nos. 19-465 and 19-518). (These were originally scheduled for one hour of argument, but now are set for two because of the recusal of Justice Sonia Sotomayor from No. 19-518.) Those have direct implications for the 2020 presidential election, because they involve voting in the electoral college.

These four cases will require the court to navigate serious concerns of public health, the justices’ own health and the public’s access to the court’s proceedings. Here, I think the court is likely to hold oral arguments in April or May, but under unique and stringent procedures required by the circumstances.

The arguments in all four cases could be held on a single day: one set in the morning, and another in the afternoon. The public and the bar would be excluded. The core press corps — so-called “hard pass” holders — would be seated in the public section, separated consistent with “social distancing.” The table from which counsel argue would be moved several feet farther back from the bench. The audio would be released promptly after the argument, consistent with past practice in certain high-profile cases.

By May, testing kits for the virus should certainly be available for the justices and their essential staff. Even then, some members of the court may exercise their judgment not to attend the arguments. They would review the tape or transcript of the arguments instead. This would be consistent with past practice for health-related absences — for example, while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was recently recovering from surgery.

Media News

djt march 2020 Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump somehow managed to have his worst press conference yet today, Bill Palmer, March 20, 2020. Remember all those terrible, embarrassing, disinformational, utterly pathetic press conferences that Donald Trump has put on over the past week?

We can now look back on those as the good old days. Today, Trump decided to show us how he really feels about being stuck as President of the United States during a crisis of his own making, and let’s just say that… well, we’re not even sure what to say.

bill palmer report logo headerAt one point Trump was handed an opportunity to score the easiest of points, when NBC News reporter Peter Alexander asked him what he would say to Americans who are afraid about the coronavirus crisis. All Trump had to do was say something like “You’ll be fine if you follow the precautions” or even just “Don’t be scared.” No one was expecting him to bust out an FDR-level “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

But even with the bar set so low for Donald Trump, he still couldn’t clear it. In fact he didn’t want to.

When asked what he would say to Americans who are afraid, Trump’s response was “I’d say you’re a terrible reporter.” No really, the President of the United States said that. To a reporter. During a televised press conference. In the midst of a pandemic that’s already killed hundreds of Americans.

This isn’t a guy who’s trying to win reelection. This isn’t a guy who’s even focused on trying to survive this crisis. This is a guy who doesn’t think he has any chance of a good outcome for himself, so he’s taking out his frustrations on anyone he can.

With his answer today, he didn’t just tell a respected reporter to go screw himself. He told all Americans to go screw themselves. It’s as if he now expects to lose in November, and he’s taking out his frustrations on the American people because they’re going to vote him out.

djt mike pompeo brian karem

World News

Wired Magazine, Hidden data is revealing the true scale of the coronavirus outbreak, Gian Volpicelli, March 20, 2020. Satellite images, internet speed and traffic information tell a whole new story about Covid-19.

Something was wrong with Malaysia’s internet. It was March 13, and the more Simon Angus looked at the data, the more he suspected that the country might be in the midst of a coronavirus crisis.

Angus is an academic at Monash University and the cofounder of Kaspr Datahaus, a Melbourne-based company that analyses the quality of global internet connection to glean economic and social insights. The company monitors millions of internet-connected devices to gauge internet speed across the world. For them, a sudden deterioration in a country’s internet speed means that something is putting the network under strain. In recent weeks Kaspr’s theory is that the “something” is linked to the Covid-19 epidemics – as people who are working from home, or quarantining, or staying home as a precaution start using the internet more intensely than usual.

“For people who are in lockdown, or in panic mode, or in self-isolation, the internet has become a fundamentally important part of their information source, and of their consumption of entertainment,” Angus says.

To put it bluntly, when millions more turn on Netflix, scroll through TikTok, start a Zoom call, play Fortnite, or simply scroll idly through Twitter, that has repercussions on the quality of the country’s internet. (That is why EU commissioner Thierry Breton asked Netflix to restrict high-definition streaming until the emergency is over.)

Now, Angus’s scanning had detected that Malaysia’s internet had become over five per cent slower in the March 12 to 13 timespan – worse even than in locked-down Italy. Officially, though, Malaysia had only 129 confirmed coronavirus cases – a relatively low number, although it had been inching up for a week.

What was happening, though, was that the population was cottoning on to the government’s sloppy handling of the pandemic. In late February, in what would turn out to be a monumental blunder, authorities had allowed a religious mass gathering to go ahead in Kuala Lumpur. Once Covid-19 cases linked to the event started to emerge, the government scrambled to find all the attendees, but got the numbers wrong – first saying that only 5,000 people at the gathering were Malaysia residents, then updating the figure to 10,000 and then 14,500. With the mess laid bare, many Malaysians seemed to have decided to stay at home out of sheer self-preservation.

“A number of people, apparently, were already noticing what was going on and were panicking, and were starting to change their behaviour in response. And this is the signal that we started picking up,” Angus says. “And because Malaysia isn’t known for its fantastic internet, [the network] probably was in a fragile situation already.” Malaysia enforced a lockdown on March 16; according to the World Health Organisation, its case count stands at 553 as of March 18, but recent press reports put that figure at 900.

“Our data was suggesting there was something serious going on with the Covid-19 stress on their internet backbone, and now we know that that’s actually true,” Angus says.

As the coronavirus crisis engulfs the planet, some think that using official data to make sense of the situation only helps so much. Governments might be deliberately obfuscating what is going on in the country – as China did in the early stages of the outbreak; figures on cases and deaths might be fuzzy because of poor collection practices or even regional differences in how the data is gathered, as it is likely the case in Italy; more in general, official figures struggle to capture real-time developments as they happen on the ground.

March 19

Global Public Health Headlines

Proposed Covad-19 Solutions

Insider Profiteering? Delays

Virus Impacts / Coping

Virus Accountability

2020 U.S. Election Headlines

World News

Media News

 

Global Public Health

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: As Pandemic Spreads Swiftly, China Reports Zero New Local Infections, Staff reports, March 19, 2020. White House Seeks $500 Billion in Checks for Taxpayers.

For the first time since the coronavirus crisis began, China reported no new local infections for the previous day, a milestone.
The Trump administration spelled out the first details of a $1 trillion economic package, including $500 covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2billion for direct payments to taxpayers. Britain, bracing for a surge, put 20,000 troops on standby.

The White House is seeking $500 billion in direct payments to taxpayers and President Trump invoked a wartime law to press companies to make medical supplies.

Right Now: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York warned that the state’s health care system was going to be overwhelmed. “The question is now to what extent and with what consequence?” he said.

Here’s what you need to know:

• As the virus spreads, the human toll grows.
• China reports zero local infections, a major turning point.
• Many hospitalized in the U.S. are younger adults.
• New York governor warns that panic is outpacing the virus.
• First details of Trump’s economic package includes $500 billion for taxpayers.
• Queen Elizabeth heads to country home as Britain’s restrictions expand.
• What does ‘social distancing’ actually mean?

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates: China reports no new locally transmitted cases, Siobhán O'Grady, Teo Armus, Rick Noack, Alex Horton and Marisa Iati, March 19, 2020. World News Pelosi urges Trump to immediately use powers granted by Defense Production Act.

world health organization logo CustomAs coronavirus quarantines and lockdowns force much of the United States and Europe to hunker down and millions of workers face pay disruptions, officials on both sides of the Atlantic took dramatic steps to try to reassure worried households and investors. Still, Asian markets fell sharply Thursday, and U.S. markets were poised to drop, as well.

Here are some significant developments:

  • The virus continued to spread globally, with Italy on Wednesday announcing a record number of deaths and Spain reporting a similarly alarming death-toll spike on Thursday. New numbers from Iran were also grim. But news from China may offer a glimmer of hope: The country reported no new locally transmitted cases the previous day for the first time since the outbreak began late last year.
  • As confirmed cases topped 220,000 worldwide, Australia and New Zealand closed their borders to everyone except citizens and residents. United Arab Emirates went further, stopping expatriate residents from returning to the country.
  • The European Union’s top Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, 69, said Thursday that he has tested positive for the virus. On Wednesday, U.S. Reps. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) both announced positive tests; they are the first confirmed cases in Congress.
  • The European Central Bank announced an $820 billion emergency bond-buying program as President Trump and congressional leaders planned a $1 trillion stimulus package, including special assistance for small businesses and airlines. Trump also signed into a law a bill to ensure paid leave benefits for many Americans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Shortages of masks, swabs pose challenge to testing, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Brady Dennis, Steven Mufson and Tom Hamburger, March 19, 2020 (print ed.). From coast to coast, local and state officials complain that shortages of everyday supplies are disrupting efforts to sharply ramp up testing, which is key to identifying the spread of disease.

At major hospitals in Seattle and Washington, D.C., mask shortages had already become so acute that doctors and patients were being asked to reuse the masks, not dispose of them as previous, traditional CDC protocol requires, even after contact with infected patients.

At Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, hospital staff have started using washable lab goggles instead of throwing away face shields for eye protection.

The federal government’s decision on Monday to let state governments regulate the production and use of coronavirus testing kits has jump-started efforts at a wide variety of research institutions and commercial laboratories.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: G.O.P. Aid Plan Has Corporate Tax Cuts and $1,200 Checks to Taxpayers, Staff reports, updated on March 19, 2020. State Dept. Warns Against Travel; Italy’s Death Toll Tops China’s.

As U.S. cases surged past 10,000, doctors pleaded for protective gear and the State Department warned against international travel, the death toll in Italy climbed to 3,405, surpassing China’s.

us senate logoSenate Republicans unveiled an economic rescue plan that would provide hundreds of billions of dollars worth of loans to big corporations and small businesses, large corporate tax cuts and checks of $1,200 for taxpayers, as well as limits on a paid leave program.

The economic rescue proposal from Senate Republicans would also provide hundreds of billions of dollars worth of business loans and limits on paid leave.
The State Department recommended that American citizens abroad either return home or stay in place as the pandemic grows.

Italy passed a grim milestone, announcing that deaths from the coronavirus had soared to 3,405 — more than the toll in China. Here’s the latest.

ny times logoNew York Times, Doctors Say Shortage of Protective Gear Is Dire, Andrew Jacobs, Matt Richtel and Mike Baker, March 19, 2020. The lack of proper masks, gowns and eye gear is imperiling the ability of medical workers to fight the coronavirus — and endangering their lives.

The Open Cities Community Health Center in St. Paul, Minn., is considering shutting its doors, because of a dwindling supply of face masks.

Doctors at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis have been forced to perform invasive procedures with loose fitting surgical masks rather than the tight respirator masks recommended by health agencies. At one Los Angeles emergency room, doctors examining a suspected coronavirus patient were given a box of expired masks. When they tried to secure them to their faces, the elastic bands snapped.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Of Course Trump Deserves Blame for the Coronavirus Crisis, Michelle Goldberg, right, March 19, 2020 michelle goldberg thumb(print ed.). There’s no moving forward without understanding what’s going wrong. With the world plunged into the most terrifying emergency in living memory, some people, and not just right-wing hacks, are saying that now is not the time to talk about the malfeasance of Donald Trump.

Barack Obama’s former political guru David Axelrod, commenting on a planned Democratic ad blitz hitting Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, tweeted that “now doesn’t seem the moment for negative ads.” On Wednesday I appeared on MSNBC with Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, who acknowledged that Trump made a grave mistake in initially downplaying the severity of the coronavirus. But, Hogan said, “We can’t waste a lot of time, you know, finger-pointing and talking about what mistakes the president made or anybody made in Washington. Let’s talk about what we can do right now.”

I understand this impulse. Those in the trenches fighting the pandemic can’t afford to waste time inveighing against presidential inadequacy. The rest of us are dealing with extraordinary personal upheaval and ever-present fear. In the four years that Donald Trump has dominated the national conversation, he’s gnawed away at the sanity of those of us who see him for what he is. In this new, even more dystopian era of coronavirus, it would be nice to be furloughed from having to think about him.

But while the calamity we are experiencing is not Trump’s doing, his dishonesty and incompetence have exacerbated it, and continue to do so. To point this out is not to dwell on the past but to confront the scale of our present crisis. Trump has been giving daily televised briefings in which he overpromises and spreads misinformation. He makes bad decisions and reverses himself only under the pressure of bad press. That makes frankness about his catastrophic ineptitude imperative.

Insider Profiteering? Delays

Pro Publica, Senator Dumped Up to $1.6 Million of Stock After Reassuring Public About Coronavirus Preparedness, Robert Faturechi and Derek Willis, March 19, 2020. Intelligence Chair Richard Burr’s selloff came around the time he was receiving daily briefings on the health threat.

Soon after he offered public assurances that the government was ready to battle the coronavirus, the powerful chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, right, sold off a significant percentage of his stocks, unloading between $582,029 and $1.56 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 29 separate transactions.

As the head of the intelligence committee, Burr, a North Carolina Republican, has access to the government’s most highly classified information about threats to America’s security. His committee was receiving daily coronavirus briefings around this time, according to a Reuters story.

republican elephant logoA week after Burr’s sales, the stock market began a sharp decline and has lost about 30% since.

On Thursday, Burr came under fire after NPR obtained a secret recording from Feb. 27, in which the lawmaker gave a VIP group at an exclusive social club a much more dire preview of the economic impact of the coronavirus than what he had told the public.

Are you a public health worker, medical provider, elected official, patient or other COVID-19 expert? Help make sure our journalism is responsible and focused on the right issues.

“Senator Burr filed a financial disclosure form for personal transactions made several weeks before the U.S. and financial markets showed signs of volatility due to the growing coronavirus outbreak,” his spokesperson said. “As the situation continues to evolve daily, he has been deeply concerned by the steep and sudden toll this pandemic is taking on our economy.”

us senate logoBurr is not a particularly wealthy member of the Senate: Roll Call estimated his net worth at $1.7 million in 2018, indicating that the February sales significantly shaped his financial fortunes and spared him from some of the pain that many Americans are now facing.

He was one of the authors of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, which shapes the nation’s response to public health threats like the coronavirus. Burr’s office did not respond to requests for comment about what sort of briefing materials, if any, on the coronavirus threat Burr may have seen as chair of the intelligence committee before his selling spree.

According to the NPR report, Burr told attendees of the luncheon held at the Capitol Hill Club: “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history ... It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”

He warned that companies might have to curtail their employees’ travel, that schools could close and that the military might be mobilized to compensate for overwhelmed hospitals.

The luncheon was organized by the Tar Heel Circle, a club for businesses and organizations in North Carolina that are charged up to $10,000 for membership and are promised “interaction with top leaders and staff from Congress, the administration, and the private sector.”

Burr’s public comments had been considerably less dire.

djt richard burr Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: INSIDER TRADING, Bill Palmer, March 19, 2020. Earlier today the news broke that Republican Senator Richard Burr had been caught on tape weeks ago, secretly admitting to his wealthiest constituents that the coronavirus was going to have a disastrous impact on the United States. That was duplicitous enough, considering Burr publicly remained quiet while Donald Trump was busy telling the American people that it was all a hoax. Now it’s gotten much uglier for Burr.

bill palmer report logo headerIt turns out Richard Burr personally sold off $1.5 million of his own stock market investments just before the stock market started going off a cliff, according to a new expose by ProPublica.

When you combine this with the fact that Burr was getting intel briefings about the coronavirus at the time, and Burr’s admission on tape that he knew the coronavirus was going to have a terrible economic impact, and Burr’s public statement at the time that the government was supposedly on top of all this, it adds up to two words: insider trading.

If Senator Burr had merely been guessing that the coronavirus crisis was about to send the stock market off a cliff based on publicly available information, that would have been fine. Or if he had publicly disclosed what he knew, at the time he was selling off his own shares, that would be one thing. But Burr sold off his shares based on inside knowledge about the economy that the public didn't.

 Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Trump's coronavirus Prophets of Profit, Wayne Madsen, left, March 19, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2020. To Donald Trump, the coronavirus may be the "Chinese virus" or a "foreign virus," but to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Trump's and Kushner's very own Waffen SS Kommando Obergruppenführer in the West Wing, Stephen Miller, the pandemic presents a golden opportunity to turn a handsome profit.

The Kushner family, with Miller as their enforcer, has sought to corner the market on COVID-19 test kits.

wayne madesen report logoMultiple investigations of the dark politics behind the coronavirus test kits are exposing the reasons why Trump strove to "keep the numbers down" of U.S. coronavirus sufferers.

The Kushners and Miller had not yet fully engineered their plan to corner the test kit market. That is one reason why early on in the pandemic, when there were some 500 virus cases in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta insisted on restricting coronavirus testing to its own laboratory.

washington post logojared kushner head shotWashington Post, Kushner’s own virus team adds confusion within White House, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, March 19, 2020. Jared Kushner’s coronavirus operation will focus on setting up pilot testing sites with retailers, senior administration officials say.

• CDC is sidelined by White House during pandemic

ny times logoNew York Times, Before Outbreak, a Cascade of Warnings Went Unheeded, David E. Sanger, Eric Lipton, Eileen Sullivan and Michael Crowley, March 19, 2020. Government exercises, including a pandemic simulation last year, made it clear that the U.S. was not ready for a crisis like the coronavirus.

The outbreak of the respiratory virus began in China and was quickly spread around the world by air travelers, who ran high fevers. In the United States, it was first detected in Chicago, and 47 days later, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. By then it was too late: 110 million Americans were expected to become ill, leading to 7.7 million hospitalized and 586,000 dead.

That scenario, code-named “Crimson Contagion” and imagining an influenza pandemic, was simulated by the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services in a series of exercises that ran from last January to August.

The simulation’s sobering results — contained in a draft report dated October 2019 that has not previously been reported — drove home just how underfunded, underprepared and uncoordinated the federal government would be for a life-or-death battle with a virus for which no treatment existed.

The draft report, marked “not to be disclosed,” laid out in stark detail repeated cases of “confusion” in the exercise. Federal agencies jockeyed over who was in charge. State officials and hospitals struggled to figure out what kind of equipment was stockpiled or available. Cities and states went their own ways on school closings.

Many of the potentially deadly consequences of a failure to address the shortcomings are now playing out in all-too-real fashion across the country. And it was hardly the first warning for the nation’s leaders. Three times over the past four years the U.S. government, across two administrations, had grappled in depth with what a pandemic would look like, identifying likely shortcomings and in some cases recommending specific action.

In 2016, the Obama administration produced a comprehensive report on the lessons learned by the government from battling Ebola. In January 2017, outgoing Obama administration officials ran an extensive exercise on responding to a pandemic for incoming senior officials of the Trump administration.

The full story of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus is still playing out. Government officials, health professionals, journalists and historians will spend years looking back on the muddled messages and missed opportunities of the past three months, as President Trump moved from dismissing the coronavirus as a few cases that would soon be “under control” to his revisionist announcement on Monday that he had known all along that a pandemic was on the way.

What the scenario makes clear, however, is that his own administration had already modeled a similar pandemic and understood its potential trajectory.

The White House defended its record, saying it responded to the 2019 exercise with an executive order to improve the availability and quality of flu vaccines, and that it moved early this year to increase funding for the Department of Health and Human Services’ program that focuses on global pandemic threats.

“Any suggestion that President Trump did not take the threat of COVID-19 seriously is false,” said Judd Deere, a White House spokesman.

But officials have declined to say why the administration was so slow to roll out broad testing or to move faster, as the simulations all indicated it should, to urge social distancing and school closings.

Virus Impacts / Coping

washington post logous labor department logoWashington Post, As U.S. layoffs skyrocket, unemployment safety net is underprepared, Heather Long and Abha Bhattarai, March 19, 2020. Laid-off workers seeking aid are struggling as government websites crash and phone lines have hours-long waits.

washington post logoWashington Post, Guide to the pandemic: The virus has infected more than 222,000 people and has killed more than 9,000, Rick Noack, Alex Horton, Marisa Iati, Meryl Kornfield and Miriam Berger, March 19, 2020. Access to the following stories is free:

  • Join us at 3 p.m. ET for a live Q&A about symptoms, the government’s response and more. Submit questions here.
  • This simulation shows how to ‘flatten the curve’
  • Mapping the virus’s spread
  • Q&A: What if I think I’m infected?
  • A letter from Post executive editor Martin Baron

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Dad, are you okay?’ Doctors and nurses fighting the pandemic fear infecting their families, John Woodrow Cox, Michael E. Miller and Peter Jamison, March 19, 2020. In the United States, where everyday activities have almost skidded to a halt, the virus has upended the lives of thousands of health-care workers more than anyone else.

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Ravages 7 Family Members, Killing 3, Tracey Tully, updated March 19, 2020. The matriarch of a New Jersey family died without knowing that her two oldest children had died before her.

Grace Fusco — mother of 11, grandmother of 27 — would sit in the same pew at church each Sunday, surrounded by nearly a dozen members of her sprawling Italian-American family. Sunday dinners drew an even larger crowd to her home in central New Jersey.

Now, her close-knit clan is united anew by unspeakable grief: Mrs. Fusco, 73, died on Wednesday night after contracting the coronavirus — hours after her son died from the virus and five days after her daughter’s death, a relative said. Four other children who contracted coronavirus remain hospitalized, three of them in critical condition, the relative, Roseann Paradiso Fodera, said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, five New Jersey residents had died after contracting the virus, which has infected at least 427 people statewide. Nationwide, at least 7,047 people across every state, plus Washington, D.C., and three U.S. territories, have tested positive for coronavirus, and at least 121 have died, according to a New York Times database.

washington post logoWashington Post, How to defeat the coronavirus: Heed Asia’s lessons, Shibani Mahtani and Simon Denyer, March 19, 2020. Aggressive testing and stringent quarantines helped control the outbreaks in East Asia.

Proposed Solutions

Bloomberg, Opinion: The Economic Response We Need to the Coronavirus, Michael R. Bloomberg, right, (former three-term mayor of New York City and michael bloomberg2the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News. He is the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for climate action)., March 19, 2020. A strong recovery requires immediate relief to be coupled with long-term investment. There’s no time to lose.

Never before has a public-health emergency created such widespread economic paralysis. As government officials work to slow the spread of the coronavirus, treat the afflicted, and save lives, it is essential that Congress and the president take immediate actions to stabilize a dangerously teetering economy and lay the groundwork for long-term recovery.

The relief bill spearheaded by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and signed into law by President Donald Trump Wednesday was an important first step in helping American workers hit hard by the crisis. Its main provisions — including creating temporary paid leave for many workers, extending unemployment insurance, and providing more funding for food stamps and children’s health insurance — will strengthen the nation’s social safety net.

But that must only be the start. All over the U.S., small and large businesses are closing their doors, and as they do, they are drawing down their lines of credit to pay their bills. Getting them help now is absolutely urgent — both for their survival, and to protect the financial system from the shock that is sure to come.

In 2008, Congress gave the administration and Federal Reserve authority to prevent a financial crisis from becoming an economy-wide catastrophe. Now, it must extend the same kinds of authority to prevent an economy-wide catastrophe from undermining the financial system that is essential to recovery.

Those emergency powers were wielded effectively by the Bush and Obama administrations, including using an exchange stabilization fund to guarantee money market funds, protecting millions of individual investors and ensuring that there is a market for businesses to issue commercial paper. Today, Congress must again move swiftly to give the administration the emergency powers that may prove necessary to hold the financial system and economy together.

Stabilizing the economy now and helping businesses survive must be priority number one. But providing immediate relief shouldn’t be the only strategy for achieving those goals.

In the months ahead, when the public-health emergency slows and hopefully passes, one of the fundamental obstacles to restoring economic growth will be public uncertainty. Consumers will not resume spending, businesses will not rehire workers, and investors will not leave safe havens until they are confident that we are on the road to recovery. In other words, the economic crisis that American communities will experience could far outlast the public-health emergency — unless Washington takes decisive action now to lay the foundation for recovery.

Delay will only prolong the pain. But swift action — by giving both markets and main-street businesses something positive to look forward to — can stanch some of the losses now and speed the recovery later, so that we emerge from this crisis a stronger nation.

One of the best ways to restore faith in the economy when the public-health emergency abates would be to ensure that it coincides with the largest public investment in infrastructure in generations. I know from my time as mayor of New York that public investment in infrastructure is a highly effective way to increase private-sector investment and business activity — and inspire confidence in the future.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real story behind Donald Trump’s big lie about Chloroquine drug and the coronavirus, Bill Palmer, March 19, djt i want you to die Custom2020. Donald Trump held a press conference today, with Dr. Anthony Fauci conspicuously missing, and announced that a drug named Chloroquine had been approved for treatment of the coronavirus. The trouble is, this isn’t true at all – and it’s crucial that everyone know the real truth about the drug.

bill palmer report logo headerShortly after Donald Trump’s big lie today, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn confirmed that Chloroquine – an old drug used to treat malaria – has merely been approved for a clinical trial to treat the coronavirus. This means the government doesn’t know for sure if Chloroquine is safe for coronavirus patients, and doesn’t even know for sure if it’ll be truly effective against coronavirus.

Donald Trump did fast track the drug for coronavirus testing today – which is a good thing. But by falsely announcing that the drug is now available for coronavirus treatment, Trump is giving people false hope about an imminent cure. Worse, he’s misleading people into believing that it’s safe to defy quarantine and social distancing measures because this will all somehow magically be over at any moment. Trump needs to shut his mouth and let the scientists do the speaking.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s $1 trillion stimulus is a sea change for Republicans, Robert Costa and Philip Rucker, March 19, 2020. The push for a bailout is reviving the decade-long debate over the use of public money to prop up private businesses.

Accountability

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Don’t be fooled by Trump’s shift, George T. Conway III, right, March 19, 2020 (print ed.). If you think you’ve been hearing a different President Trump this week — more accepting of the reality of the coronavirus pandemic — don’t be fooled. The new Trump is the same as george conway post half facethe old Trump. He can’t help it. He’s incapable of taking responsibility for his role in this crisis — and thus incapable of leading us out of it.

After weeks of denial and deflection, a seemingly chastened Trump on Monday conceded that the virus was, in fact, “not under control,” and was, indeed, “a very bad one.”

What caused the switch in tone? Who knows? Perhaps it was the largest one-day point drop in the Dow Jones in history on Monday. Perhaps it was a study the White House received saying that 2.2 million Americans could die. Perhaps it was that President Donald Trump officialTrump’s beloved Mar-a-Lago is getting a coronavirus-necessitated deep cleaning.

But the sudden shift can’t conceal the fact that Trump has shown himself to be wholly inept at dealing with the pandemic. It doesn’t change the fact that he puts himself first, always.

It doesn’t alter the fact that, as he once told top aides, he thinks of “each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals.” It doesn’t dissolve Trump’s compulsion to lie, even when truth would serve him best. It doesn’t diminish his incompetence, ignorance or propensity for administrative chaos.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: 3 Rules for the Trump Pandemic, Paul Krugman, right, March 19, 2020. One: Don’t trust the president.

So Donald Trump is now calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus.” Of course he is: Racism and blaming other people for his own failures are the defining features of his presidency. But if we’re going to give it a nickname, much better to refer to it as the “Trump pandemic.”

True, the virus didn’t originate here. But the U.S. response to the threat has been catastrophically slow and inadequate, and the buck stops with Trump, who minimized the threat and discouraged action until just a few days ago.

Compare, for example, America’s handling of the coronavirus with that of South Korea. Both countries reported their first case south korea flag Smallon Jan. 20. But Korea moved quickly to implement widespread testing; it has used the data from that testing to guide social distancing and other containment measures; and the disease appears to be on the wane there.

In the U.S., by contrast, testing has barely begun — we’ve tested only 60,000 people compared with South Korea’s 290,000, even though we have six times its population, and the number of cases here appears to be skyrocketing.

The details of our failure are complex, but they all flow ultimately from Trump’s minimization of the threat: He was asserting that Covid-19 was no worse than the flu just last week (although true to form, he’s now claiming to have known all along that a pandemic was coming).

Why did Trump and his team deny and delay? All the evidence suggests that he didn’t want to do or say anything that might drive down stock prices, which he seems to regard as the key measure of his success. That’s presumably why as late as Feb. 25 Larry Kudlow, the administration’s chief economist, declared that the U.S. had “contained” the coronavirus, and that the economy was “holding up nicely.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Need a Coronavirus Test? Being Rich and Famous May Help, Megan Twohey, Steve Eder and Marc Stein, March 19, 2020 (print ed.). A shortage in testing has left sick people and health care workers around the U.S. without answers. Yet the list of celebrity patients grows every day, raising questions about privileged access.

Politicians, celebrities, social media influencers and even N.B.A. teams have been tested for the new coronavirus. But as that list of rich, famous and powerful people grows by the day, so do questions about whether they are getting access to testing that is denied to other Americans.

Some of these high-profile people say they are feeling ill and had good reason to be tested. Others argue that those who were found to be infected and then isolated themselves provided a good example to the public.

But with testing still in short supply in areas of the country, leaving health care workers and many sick people unable to get diagnoses, some prominent personalities have obtained tests without exhibiting symptoms or having known contact with someone who has the virus, as required by some testing guidelines. Others have refused to specify how they were tested.

Such cases have provoked accusations of elitism and preferential treatment about a testing system that has already been plagued with delays and confusion, and now stirred a new national debate that has reached the White House — with President Trump being asked at a Wednesday news conference whether “the well-connected go to the front of the line.”

“You’d have to ask them that question,” he replied, suggesting that should not be the case. “Perhaps that’s been the story of life. That does happen on occasion, and I’ve noticed where some people have been tested fairly quickly.”

Inside the N.B.A., where eight entire teams have been tested, there are differing views. Bob Myers, the president of basketball operations for the Golden State Warriors, said his team thought it would be unfair for its players to seek special access.

“We’ve been told that the testing is in short supply,” Mr. Myers said in a conference call on Tuesday, explaining that no Warriors coach, player or staff member would test until symptomatic — and only then in accord with government guidelines. “We’re not better than anybody, not worse. Just a basketball team.”

The same day, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, in a post on Twitter, chided the Brooklyn Nets, which managed to arrange tests for its entire roster. Four were positive, with one exhibiting symptoms.

“We wish them a speedy recovery,” Mr. de Blasio wrote. “But, with all due respect, an entire NBA team should NOT get tested for COVID-19 while there are critically ill patients waiting to be tested. Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick.”

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, World Feared China Over Coronavirus. Now the Tables Are Turned, Damien Cave and Tiffany May, March 19, 2020. Asian countries that suffered through the pandemic first are working to guard against a new wave of contagion from the West.

The fear and suspicion directed at China in the devastating early days of the coronavirus outbreak have made a 180-degree turn: It is the West that now frightens Asia and the rest of the world.

Across Asia, travelers from Europe and the United States are being barred or forced into quarantine. Gyms, private clinics and restaurants in Hong Kong warn them to stay away. Even Chinese parents who proudly sent their children to study in New York or London are now mailing them masks and sanitizer or rushing them home on flights that can cost $25,000.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Wash Our Hands? Some People Can’t Wash Their Kids for a Week,’ Evan Hill and Yousur Al-Hlou, March 19, 2020. In devastated northwestern Syria, the coronavirus may already be spreading in packed displacement camps, and the international response is weeks behind.

In northwestern Syria, where a million people who have fled the civil war are sheltering in muddy tent camps and abandoned buildings, the spread of the coronavirus could wreak untold disaster on a devastated region.

Forget hand washing and social distancing, the preventive measures recommended by health authorities around the world.

The World Health Organization has not yet delivered coronavirus testing kits to the opposition-held northwest, despite making its first delivery of such kits to the Syrian government more than a month ago.

Doctors said the delay has probably allowed the virus to spread undetected for weeks in a uniquely dangerous environment.

“We currently have cases that are similar, and we’ve had people die,” said Dr. Mohamed Ghaleb Tennari, who manages the Syrian American Medical Society’s hospitals in the region. “But unfortunately because we don’t have the test, we can’t confirm that these cases are truly corona or not.”

About three million people are crowded into Idlib Province, which has been outside the control of President Bashar al-Assad’s government since 2012 and is the country’s last rebel-held pocket.

2020 U.S. Elections

Palmer Report, Joe Biden just got some good news, Bill Palmer, March 19, 2020. Joe Biden has been racking up the endorsements something fierce lately. Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Senator Amy Klobuchar. Senator Kamala Harris. Senator Cory kirsten gillibrand president buttonBooker. This morning he got a surprise endorsement from Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Now Biden has picked bill palmer report logo headerup another influential endorsement.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand ran against Joe Biden for president in the 2020 race, but now she’s endorsing him.

At this point the majority of Joe Biden’s former 2020 rivals have now endorsed him. Kirsten Gillibrand joins Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Harris, Booker, Gabbard, Mike Bloomberg, Beto O’Rourke, Andrew Yang, Tim Ryan, Seth Moulton, Deval Patrick, and John Delaney.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tulsi Gabbard Drops Out of Presidential Race, Lisa Lerer and Maggie Astor, March 19, 2020. The representative from Hawaii, below at right, who tulsi gabbard newoften defied her own party, announced the end of her campaign and said she would back Joe Biden.

Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who ran a foreign policy-focused campaign for the presidential nomination of a party she sharply criticized, announced on Thursday that she was dropping out of the race.

Ms. Gabbard, who had been one of only three candidates and the only woman remaining in the Democratic primary, said she would throw her support to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has accumulated a nearly insurmountable lead in the delegate count. Throughout the race, her campaign struggled to gain traction, never breaking double digits in state or national polls. She won only two delegates in the primary contests, both in American Samoa, where she was born.

“Our nation is facing an unprecedented global crisis that highlights the inextricable bonds of humanity, and how foreign policy and domestic policy are inseparable,” she said. “The best way I can be of service at this time is to continue to work for the health and well-being of the people of Hawaii and our country in Congress, and to stand ready to serve in uniform should the Hawaii National Guard be activated.”

Ms. Gabbard, who resigned her vice chairmanship at the Democratic National Committee in 2016 to endorse the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mr. Biden’s closest competitor this year, said she had “great appreciation” for Mr. Sanders’s work.

She also cited her relationship with Mr. Biden’s son Beau, who served in the Delaware Army National Guard and died in 2015.

“Although I may not agree with the vice president on every issue, I know that he has a good heart and is motivated by his love for our country and the American people,” she said. “I’m confident that he will lead our country guided by the spirit of aloha — respect and compassion — and thus help heal the divisiveness that has been tearing our country apart."

Ms. Gabbard, 38, announced late last year that she would not seek re-election to Congress in the fall.

tulsi gabbard announcement Custom

Axios, Analysis: Tulsi Gabbard announced Thursday that she will suspend her 2020 Democratic presidential campaign and endorsed Joe Biden, Staff report, March 18, 2020. The state of play: While she was one of the final three candidates left in the race, alongside Biden and Bernie Sanders, the Hawaii congresswoman failed to gain traction in any primary and hadn't qualified for a debate since last year. She did pick up two delegates in the caucuses in American Samoa, where she was born.

Worth noting: In February 2016, Gabbard (shown above in a promo for the announcement and at right during an October presidential debate) quit as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee in order to endorse Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton.

tulsi gabbard october debate screenshot CustomThe big picture: An Iraq War veteran and member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, she entered the race with a complicated record, especially on foreign policy, and had long been a favorite of fringe voices on the right, who often amplified her comments via social media.

She met with President Trump during his transition and joined Republicans in promoting the use of the phrase "radical Islam." A secret trip to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in January 2017 resulted in further backlash against Gabbard, who dubbed the trip a "fact-finding" mission. She later voted "present" on Trump's impeachment in December, going against the overwhelming majority in her party.

Flashback: Gabbard made waves after Hillary Clinton suggested that she was a "favorite of the Russians." Several of Gabbard's fellow 2020 competitors came to her defense, as did Trump.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Tulsi Gabbard just dropped out and endorsed Joe Biden, Bill Palmer, March 19, 2020. By dropping out and endorsing Joe Biden, Gabbard is apparently trying to make amends with a party that she’s essentially been at war with for the past five years. It’s hard to imagine that this endorsement will land her a job in a Biden administration – or at least not a high ranking one.

bill palmer report logo headerBut perhaps she’s seeking to land a job on cable news, and she wants to establish herself as an anti-Trump pundit before transitioning into that job.

Tulsi Gabbard’s endorsement of Joe Biden may or may not do much for either one of them, considering she was polling near zero, and he’s already landed numerous far more important endorsements. But the timing may be the real story here. With Gabbard having decided to go down the unity road, she surely wanted to make it happen while it still counted for anything. If she waited until after Bernie Sanders dropped out and endorsed Biden, it would be truly too late for her endorsement to matter.

Last night Palmer Report pointed out that Bernie Sanders had effectively suspended his campaign by removing the donation link from his emails to supporters; when a campaign stops bringing money in, it’s not really a campaign. Then there was last night’s Washington Post article about the Sanders and Biden campaigns having been talking about things for the past week.

Perhaps Tulsi Gabbard saw the same evidence trail that we did, and she realized her time may be short for making a move. If she asked Bernie Sanders whether he was dropping out, and he said “yes” or even “maybe,” she would have taken that as a sign that she needed to make her move right now. So Gabbard’s endorsement can potentially be taken as a sign that Sanders could drop out and endorse Biden soon. That may sound too optimistic. But yesterday it would have sounded way too optimistic to suggest that Gabbard would drop out today and endorse Biden, so who knows?

washington post logoWashington Post, Sanders signals that he may be open to ending his presidential bid, Sean Sullivan, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Jenna Johnson, March 19, 2020 (print ed.). Bernie Sanders signaled Wednesday that he was open to ending his presidential run after another round of landslide losses to Joe Biden, and new signs emerged of communication between the two camps as some Democrats hoped for a swift end to a bruising primary.

bernie sanders 2020 button croppedSanders campaign officials said the senator from Vermont planned to leave Washington and return home, where he and his wife, Jane, would talk to supporters and determine the future of his presidential run. The campaign also suspended its Facebook ads and, uncharacteristically, made no request for donations in an email to backers updating them on the situation.

Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield revealed that aides to the two candidates have been in touch regularly to discuss the public health crisis that has gripped the country, disclosing talks that could form the basis of a broader agreement on policies and might make Sanders more comfortable leaving the race.

The two campaigns “have been in regular contact at a senior level” since last week to discuss how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the campaigns, Bedingfield said in a statement to The Washington Post, “as well as to discuss both Vice President Biden’s and Senator Sanders’ ideas on policy responses to the virus.”

joe biden oShe added: “While the two campaigns obviously have their differences, they are working together to try to promote the health and safety of their teams, those who interact with the campaigns, and the American people.”

Biden campaign officials have also adopted an internal policy of no longer attacking Sanders, according to one of them, even as some surrogates for the former vice president increased public pressure on the senator to step aside.

Sanders signals that he may be open to ending his presidential bid.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign said he planned to return home to Vermont, where he and his wife, Jane, would talk to supporters and determine his future in the race.

  • Dozens of national security professionals break with tradition, endorse Biden for president

william weld campaign photo Custom

Wall Street Journal, William Weld Ends 2020 Republican Presidential Bid, Joshua Jamerson, March 19, 2020 (print ed.). Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, above, ended his long-shot challenge to President Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. In primaries a day earlier in Florida and Illinois, Mr. Trump collected the delegates needed to capture the GOP’s 2020 nomination.

New York Magazine, Analysis: Bill Weld and His One Delegate Fold Up the Tent, Ed Kilgore, March 18, 2020. Bill, we hardly knew ye. When former Massachusetts governor and 2016 Libertarian vice presidential nominee William Weld formed an exploratory committee to challenge Donald Trump’s renomination in February of 2019, I was a bit annoyed at the grave attention the proto-candidacy received in the mainstream media:

Aside from being a has-been and all (he last held public office in 1997), Weld is far, far out of step with the former party he now says he wants to lead. Even if said party was not firmly in the grip of a president whom Weld basically described as a Nazi in 2016 (“I can hear the glass crunching on Kristallnacht in the ghettos of Warsaw and Vienna when I hear [Trump’s immigration plan”]), Weld as GOP leader would make about as much sense as Joe Lieberman leaving his comfortable lobbying haunts to take charge of the Democrats.

republican elephant logoSure, there are some NeverTrump Republicans left, though they are far less numerous in the GOP electorate than in the media commentariat. But even if they still ran the Republican Party, the pro-choice, pro-gay-rights, pro-impeachment Weld would have hardly been their first, second, third or twenty-fifth choice to challenge the incumbent. So he was never the representative of any living Republican tradition that might survive the 45th president, and was thus an unserious candidate.

He persisted, though, and managed to snag a single delegate in Iowa this year, which probably irritated POTUS. Weld dropped out the day after Trump formally won a majority of the delegates for the 2020 nomination (claiming 1,330, with 1,276 needed for victory). But he outlasted fellow-challengers Mark Sanford and Joe Walsh, both of whom trailed Weld by that single delegate he won. And like them, he expects vindication by history, as the New York Times notes: "Lucy Caldwell, who served as an adviser to Mr. Walsh, said, “There’s no doubt in my mind that Bill Weld, Joe Walsh and Mark Sanford will be remembered as having been on the right side of history when so few Republicans were.”

Media News

Donald Trump speech with change from

Donald Trump speech with change from "Corona" to "Chinese (Jabin Botsford photo for Washington Post, March 19, 2020).

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump caught changing his press conference notes to make them more racist, Bill Palmer, March 19, 2020. Donald Trump didn’t start referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus” until everyone figured out that he was wrong bill palmer report logo headerabout it being a hoax, and he needed a racist stunt in order to keep his base in line. It turns out Trump is going to even greater lengths to push this racist trope than we thought.

Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford captured this remarkable photo of Donald Trump’s press conference notes today, which reveals that Trump’s handlers told him to say “Corona Virus” but he crossed out “Corona” and replaced it with “Chinese.”

Moon of Alabama, False Claims About The Novel Coronavirus And How To Debunk Them, b, March 19, 2020. Today China reported zero new domestic cases of novel coronavirus infections. It has beaten the epidemic just as we predicted early on. Other countries with still expanding epidemics will have to adopt all the measures China has taken to also win the fight.

Our extensive reporting about the novel cornonavirus has attracted many new commentators to this site. Unfortunately some of these, as well as some of the regulars, continue to spread disinformation and myths about the current pandemic and its causes.

To keep some level of quality at this site requires an aggressive countering of such comments. But our capacity to do so is limited. We do delete comments that are nonsensical or have been debunked and we do block people who insist to post or repost nonsense. But there are now many more comments per day than we can read. We therefore have to ask other commentators to counter the bad false ones.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Acting counterterrorism center head fired, according to former U.S. officials, Ellen Nakashima, March 19, 2020.  Richard Grenell, pictured, acting national intelligence director, fired Russell Travers hours after President Trump announced his intent to nominate a Pentagon official to head the center.

Washington Examiner, Trump pleads with Syria to free American journalist Austin Tice amid coronavirus pandemic, Caitlin Yilek, March 19, 2020. President austin tice CustomTrump urged Syria to release American journalist and veteran U.S. Marine Corps officer, Austin Tice, right, who is believed to be held hostage in the country.

“Syria, please work with us. We would appreciate you letting him out,” the president said at the White House coronavirus task force’s daily briefing on Thursday.

Trump later clarified that he was not confirming that Tice is still alive.

"We’re trying to find that out," he said. “If he is alive, we would like very much to get him back.”

Tice, 38, disappeared in Syria in 2012 while he was working as a freelance journalist. He illegally entered Syria to report on the civil war, which was then in its second year.

He intended to leave in August 2012 but was detained at a checkpoint. Five weeks later, a short video titled “Austin Tice still alive” was posted on a Syrian pro-government website. The video showed him blindfolded in a rocky mountainside being forced to recite a prayer Muslims say before dying. He then said in English, “Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.”

The State Department said after his capture that it believed Tice was in the custody of the Syrian government, which has not admitted to imprisoning him.

Trump also announced Lebanese-American Amer Fakhoury, who has been detained in Lebanon since September, had been released.

Fakhoury, who has stage 4 cancer, was arrested after a Hezbollah-linked publication alleged that he tortured people imprisoned by the South Lebanon Army, a majority-Christian militia group backed by Israel in its fight against Hezbollah and Palestinian militias during the 1980s and 1990s. He was charged with murder, kidnapping, and the torture of prisoners at Khiam detention center.

Fakhoury’s lawyer said the charges were bogus.

“Amer’s only crime is that he is a United States citizen, which is making the Lebanese government hold him hostage to gain leverage over the United States," Celine Atallah, Fakhoury’s lawyer said. "This is an egregious act of criminality by them.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Fakhoury will receive urgent medical treatment.

“His return comes as a relief to those who have followed the case with grave concern,” Pompeo said in a statement. “We are relieved to be able to welcome him back home.”

More World News

Asia Times via Global Research, Analysis: China Locked in Hybrid War with US, Pepe Escobar, right, March 18, 2020. Fallout from Covid-19 outbreak puts pepe escobar recentBeijing and Washington on a collision course.

Among the myriad, earth-shattering geopolitical effects of coronavirus, one is already graphically evident. China has re-positioned itself. For the first time since the start of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in 1978, Beijing openly regards the US as a threat, as stated a month ago by Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Munich Security Conference during the peak of the fight against coronavirus.

Beijing is carefully, incrementally shaping the narrative that, from the beginning of the coronovirus attack, the leadership knew it was under a hybrid war attack. Xi’s terminology is a major clue. He said, on the record, that this was war. And, as a counter-attack, a “people’s war” had to be launched.

Moreover, he described the virus as a demon or devil. Xi is a Confucianist. Unlike some other ancient Chinese thinkers, Confucius was loath to discuss supernatural forces and judgment in the afterlife. However, in a Chinese cultural context, devil means “white devils” or “foreign devils”: guailo in Mandarin, gweilo in Cantonese. This was Xi delivering a powerful statement in code.

When Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, voiced in an incandescent tweet the possibility that “it might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan” – the first blast to this effect to come from a top official – Beijing was sending up a trial balloon signaliing that the gloves were finally off. Zhao Lijian made a direct connection with the Military Games in Wuhan in October 2019, which included a delegation of 300 US military.

He directly quoted US CDC director Robert Redfield who, when asked last week whether some deaths by coronavirus had been discovered posthumously in the US, replied that “some cases have actually been diagnosed this way in the US today.”

Zhao’s explosive conclusion is that Covid-19 was already in effect in the US before being identified in Wuhan – due to the by now fully documented inability of US to test and verify differences compared with the flu.

Adding all that to the fact that coronavirus genome variations in Iran and Italy were sequenced and it was revealed they do not belong to the variety that infected Wuhan, Chinese media are now openly asking questions and drawing a connection with the shutting down in August last year of the “unsafe” military bioweapon lab at Fort Detrick, the Military Games, and the Wuhan epidemic. Some of these questions had been asked – with no response – inside the US itself.

Extra questions linger about the opaque Event 201 in New York on October 18, 2019: a rehearsal for a worldwide pandemic caused by a deadly virus – which happened to be coronavirus. This magnificent coincidence happened one month before the outbreak in Wuhan.

Event 201 was sponsored by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Economic Forum (WEF), the CIA, Bloomberg, John Hopkins Foundation and the UN. The World Military Games opened in Wuhan on the exact same day.

Irrespective of its origin, which is still not conclusively established, as much as Trump tweets about the “Chinese virus,” Covid-19 already poses immensely serious questions about biopolitics (where’s Foucault when we need him?) and bio-terror.

The working hypothesis of coronavirus as a very powerful but not Armageddon-provoking bio-weapon unveils it as a perfect vehicle for widespread social control – on a global scale.

Cuba rises as a biotech power

Just as a fully masked Xi visiting the Wuhan frontline last week was a graphic demonstration to the whole planet that China, with immense sacrifice, is winning the “people‘s war” against Covid-19, Russia, in a Sun Tzu move on Riyadh whose end result was a much cheaper barrel of oil, helped for all practical purposes to kick-start the inevitable recovery of the Chinese economy. This is how a strategic partnership works.

The chessboard is changing at breakneck speed. Once Beijing identified coronavirus as a bio-weapon attack the “people’s war” was launched with the full force of the state. Methodically. On a “whatever it takes” basis. Now we are entering a new stage, which will be used by Beijing to substantially recalibrate the interaction with the West, and under very different frameworks when it comes to the US and the EU.

Soft power is paramount. Beijing sent an Air China flight to Italy carrying 2,300 big boxes full of masks bearing the script, “We are waves from the same sea, leaves from the same tree, flowers from the same garden.” China also sent a hefty humanitarian package to Iran, significantly aboard eight flights from Mahan Air – an airline under illegal, unilateral Trump administration sanctions.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic could not have been more explicit:

“The only country that can help us is China. By now, you all understood that European solidarity does not exist. That was a fairy tale on paper.”

Under harsh sanctions and demonized since forever, Cuba is still able to perform breakthroughs – even on biotechnology. The anti-viral Heberon – or Interferon Alpha 2b – a therapeutic, not a vaccine, has been used with great success in the treatment of coronavirus. A joint venture in China is producing an inhalable version, and at least 15 nations are already interested in importing the therapeutic.

Now compare all of the above with the Trump administration offering $1 billion to poach German scientists working at biotech firm Curevac, based in Thuringia, on an experimental vaccine against Covid-19, to have it as a vaccine “only for the United States.”

Social engineering psy-op?

Sandro Mezzadra, co-author with Brett Neilson of the seminal The Politics of Operations: Excavating Contemporary Capitalism, is already trying to conceptualize where we stand now in terms of fighting Covid-19.

We are facing a choice between a Malthusian strand – inspired by social Darwinism – “led by the Johnson-Trump-Bolsonaro axis” and, on the other side, a strand pointing to the “requalification of public health as a fundamental tool,” exemplified by China, South Korea and Italy. There are key lessons to be learned from South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore.

The stark option, Mezzadra notes, is between a “natural population selection,” with thousands of dead, and “defending society” by employing “variable degrees of authoritarianism and social control.” It’s easy to imagine who stands to benefit from this social re-engineering, a 21st century remix of Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death.

Amid so much doom and gloom, count on Italy to offer us Tiepolo-style shades of light. Italy chose the Wuhan option, with immensely serious consequences for its already fragile economy. Quarantined Italians remarkably reacted by singing on their balconies: a true act of metaphysical revolt.

Not to mention the poetic justice of the actual St. Corona (“crown” in Latin) being buried in the city of Anzu since the 9th century. St. Corona was a Christian killed under Marcus Aurelius in 165 AD, and has been for centuries one of the patron saints of pandemics.

Not even trillions of dollars raining from the sky by an act of divine Fed mercy were able to cure Covid-19. G-7 “leaders” had to resort to a videoconference to realize how clueless they are – even as China’s fight against coronavirus gave the West a head start of several weeks.

Shanghai-based Dr. Zhang Wenhong, one of China’s top infectious disease experts, whose analyses have been spot on so far, now says China has emerged from the darkest days in the “people’s war” against Covid-19. But he does not think this will be over by summer. Now extrapolate what he’s saying to the Western world.

It’s not even spring yet, and we already know it takes a virus to mercilessly shatter the Goddess of the Market. Last Friday, Goldman Sachs told no fewer than 1,500 corporations that there was no systemic risk. That was false.

New York banking sources told me the truth: systemic risk became way more severe in 2020 than in 1979, 1987 or 2008 because of the hugely heightened danger that the $1.5 quadrillion derivative market would collapse.

As the sources put it, history had never before seen anything like the Fed’s intervention via its little understood elimination of commercial bank reserve requirements, unleashing a potential unlimited expansion of credit to prevent a derivative implosion stemming from a total commodity and stock market collapse of all stocks around the world.

Those bankers thought it would work, but as we know by now all the sound and fury signified nothing. The ghost of a derivative implosion – in this case not caused by the previous possibility, the shutting down of the Strait of Hormuz – remains.

We are still barely starting to understand the consequences of Covid-19 for the future of neoliberal turbo-capitalism. What’s certain is that the whole global economy has been hit by an insidious, literally invisible circuit breaker. This may be just a “coincidence.” Or this may be, as some are boldly arguing, part of a possible, massive psy-op creating the perfect geopolitlcal and social engineering environment for full-spectrum dominance.

Additionally, along the hard slog down the road, with immense, inbuilt human and economic sacrifice, with or without a reboot of the world-system, a more pressing question remains: will imperial elites still choose to keep waging full-spectrum-dominance hybrid war against China?

March 18

Global Public Health Headlines

2020 U.S. Elections

bernie sanders joe biden 2 Custom

Virus Impacts Around U.S., World

Inside DC Headlines

U.S. Crime, Courts Headlines

Media News

 

Global Public Health

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Cases top 200,000 worldwide; disruptions may last for months, Siobhán O'Grady, Rick Noack, Marisa Iati, Lateshia Beachum and Brittany Shammas, March 18, 2020. The U.S. border with Canada will be temporarily closed to 'non-essential traffic,’ Trump said on Wednesday, as the deadly coronavirus outbreak continues to spread. The closure was being done with the “mutual consent” of Canada, Trump said in cdc logo Customa tweet, adding that it would not impact trade and that more details would soon be released.

The news comes as countries around the world adopt increasingly strict quarantine measures. As the number of cases grows, experts are warning that life worldwide will be severely disrupted for many months.

washington post logoWashington Post, Experts expect U.S. death toll to rise quickly, Reis Thebault, Abigail Hauslohner and Jacqueline Dupree, March 18, 2020 (print ed.). Most deaths have occurred in people older than 60, many with underlying health conditions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Layoffs Are Just Starting in the U.S., and the Forecasts Are Bleak, Ben Casselman, Sapna Maheshwari and David Yaffe-Bellany, updated March 18, 2020. Shutdowns in the retail and hospitality businesses may be an early sign of the job losses that the outbreak will inflict on the economy.

Relatively few companies outside the hospitality industry have announced significant job cuts, with many saying they will continue to pay employees even while they are closed, though often for fewer hours of work than normal.

But that cushion seems unsustainable. Most small businesses do not have the financial buffer to pay workers for long if revenue dries up. And while larger public companies may have access to cash, they also have shareholders who want executives to watch the bottom line.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial, Give Every American $2,000, Immediately, Editorial Board, March 18, 2020. A consensus is building around the simple expedient of sending cash to every American. Politicians need to move quickly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Americans are very likely to get checks for $1,000 (or more), Heather Long, March 18, 2020 (print ed.). Americans could get a check for $1,000 or more in the coming weeks, as political leaders coalesce around a dramatic plan to try to prevent a worse recession and protect people from going bankrupt.

The idea took off Monday when Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called for every American adult to receive a $1,000 check “immediately” to help tide people over until other government aid can arrive. By Tuesday, there was bipartisan support for the idea, including from President Trump. The White House even suggested the amount could be over $1,000, an acknowledgment of how big the economic crisis is becoming.

“We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, adding that Trump wants checks to go out “in the next two weeks.”

This isn’t a new idea. The United States has done this twice before.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: This is the biggest blunder in presidential history, Jennifer Rubin, right, March 18, 2020. President Trump, as he often does jennifer rubin new headshotwhen he has made a mistake or revealed his ignorance, changed course to claim that he knew all along that we were facing a pandemic.

As a preliminary matter, this is a lie, as this video shows.

The president has consistently downplayed, denied and misled the public about the seriousness of the threat. Moreover, since the first cases appeared in China in late December, he took few steps to prepare the country for the pandemic before it inevitably reached our shores. We are to believe that he knew there was a pandemic but willfully allowed the crisis to get worse.

There are two possibilities here. The first is that he was ignorant, buying into the Fox News disinformation loop. (Disclaimer: I am an MSNBC contributor.) The second is that he was thinking of his election — which he thinks is tied to the economy — so he refused to take action that would have spooked stock markets. (It’s not logical because the pandemic would eventually hit, but it would be emblematic of Trump’s short-term thinking.)

djt arms folded epa photo CustomI am agnostic about which scenario is true. However, what is inescapable is that had the president not frittered away valuable time that could have been spent deploying tests (which could have been obtained from the World Health Organization), building up medical equipment and facilities and preparing for a series of escalating steps to promote social distancing, he might have reduced the strain on our health-care system and saved lives.

This is the biggest blunder in presidential history.

Former Department of Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem writes for the Atlantic: “With little guidance from the federal government, governors — along with mayors, CEOs, university presidents, and leaders in the sports and entertainment businesses — have taken it upon themselves to try to slow the spread of the virus before it overwhelms the medical system’s capacity to respond.” She adds that “a 50-state strategy has emerged to fill the vacuum left by an administration that is still unable to distribute enough testing kits, is still focused on closing borders, and was slow to tell the American public to just stay home.” In essence, Trump’s delinquency has turned the governors into rivals for scarce resources.

Trump did not show any real recognition of the magnitude of the problem until his administration got hold of a study from Britain. “The Imperial College London group reported that if nothing was done by governments and individuals and the pandemic remained uncontrolled, 510,000 would die in Britain and 2.2 million in the United States over the course of the outbreak,” The Post reports. Even if we now institute uniform, serious measures to mitigate the spread of the virus, we would “reduce mortality by half, to 260,000 people in the United Kingdom and 1.1 million in the United States.”

Trump shares the blame for failing to develop an infrastructure to fight pandemics (and removing structures put in place by the Obama administration). But, to borrow a phrase, “he alone” made the crisis infinitely worse by doing nothing for so long when leaders around the world were responding forcefully.

Virus Impacts Around U.S., World

washington post logoWashington Post, A chilling scientific paper helped upend U.S. and U.K. coronavirus strategies, William Booth, March 18, 2020 (print ed.). Immediately after Boris Johnson completed his Monday evening news conference, which saw a somber prime minister encourage his fellow citizens to avoid "all nonessential contact with others," his aides hustled reporters into a second, off-camera briefing.

That session presented jaw-dropping numbers from some of Britain’s top modelers of infectious disease, who predicted the deadly course of the coronavirus could quickly kill hundreds of thousands in both the United Kingdom and the United States, as surges of sick and dying patients overwhelmed hospitals and critical care units.

United Kingdom flagThe new forecasts, by Neil Ferguson and his colleagues at the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team, were quickly endorsed by Johnson’s government to design new and more extreme measures to suppress the spread of the virus.

The report is also influencing planning by the Trump administration. Deborah Birx, who serves as the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, cited the British analysis at a news conference Monday, saying her response team was especially focused on the report’s conclusion that an entire household should self-quarantine for 14 days if one of its members is stricken by the virus.A chilling scientific paper helped upend U.S. and U.K. coronavirus strategies.

Roll Call, Diaz-Balart, McAdams are first members of Congress to report positive coronavirus test, Niels Lesniewski and Katherine Tully-McManus, March 18, 2020. Both say they are under self-quarantine following diagnosis.

Two House lawmakers announced Wednesday that they had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Hours after Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart became the first member of Congress to disclose his COVID-19 diagnosis, Utah Rep. Ben McAdams followed with news of his positive test.

McAdams, a Democrat and former Salt Lake County mayor, said he developed symptoms, including a dry cough and fever, when he returned home to Utah from Washington last weekend.

Diaz-Balart, a Republican from South Florida, said in a statement that he developed symptoms last Saturday. He has remained in self-quarantine in Washington.

Both lawmakers fell ill shortly after voting in the House early Saturday morning on a coronavirus relief package, when more than 400 members gathered and mingled together in the House chamber.

Diaz-Balart explained that he did not leave Washington when the House adjourned. He decided not to fly home to Miami because his wife has a preexisting condition that could have put her at higher risk associated with the COVID-19 illness.

ny times logoNew York Times, Can California Keep 9 Million People at Home? Thomas Fuller, Jack Nicas and Kate Conger, updated March 18, 2020. On Day 1 of a vast experiment, the distinction between essential and nonessential was blurred.

The most ambitious experiment in America to stop the spread of the coronavirus — shelter-in-place orders for almost every resident — was underway for seven million people living around the San Francisco Bay on Tuesday. Another two million people were being asked to stay home under similar directives in the Sacramento and Monterey areas on Wednesday.

Seven counties on Monday ordered that people stay inside — and leave their homes only to “obtain or perform vital services.” Health officers described it as a radical but necessary step to save lives. With more than 200 confirmed infections and five deaths attributed to the coronavirus in Silicon Valley alone, officials say what has been a major hot spot for the disease is worsening quickly.

As other parts of the country contemplate similar measures, the shelter-in-place order in the Bay Area is testing the willingness of a go-it-alone society to curb personal behavior for the greater good of the community, especially older people and those vulnerable to severe disease because of medical conditions.

It is also an effort that does not come without huge costs for the tens thousands of people whose jobs in the Bay Area rely on people patronizing restaurants, taking taxis, staying in hotels or appreciating art and music.

At the heart of the order is the difference between essential and nonessential, a distinction that seemed open to interpretation

washington post logoWashington Post, Dow drops more than 1,300 points at open, Taylor Telford and Thomas Heath, March 18, 2020. A day earlier, the blue-chip index had closed up more than 1,000 points on news of the $1 trillion stimulus proposal to blunt the pandemic's economic toll.

U.S. markets nose-dived Wednesday, with the Dow plunging 1,300 points before recovering some losses as White House plans to bail out embattled industries and cut checks to Americans failed to quell investor fears about the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus.

In early trading, futures sank more than 5%, triggering the New York Stock Exchange’s “limit down” threshold which caps projections to prevent emotional and chaotic trading at open. By mid-morning, the Dow was down more than 800 points, or 3.7 percent, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index sank more than 3.4 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq declined more than 2.7 percent. All three are now well into bear market territory.

The Dow’s plunge continues a week of rampant volatility with the broad index closing up more than 1,000 points Tuesday off news of a $1 trillion stimulus proposal from the White House. Oil prices sank to an 18-year-low in early trading as the commodity was walloped by cratering demand amid widespread travel restrictions and social distancing. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, was down more than 5.7 percent to trade at $27 a barrel.

“If 2008 was the Great Financial Crisis, this is the Great Virus Crisis,” said Ed Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research. “It’s all at once a health crisis, financial crisis and economic crisis. We need to fix the health part of it before we have it solved, but we can take financial and fiscal steps to blunt its effects. We are starting to do that now.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Japan Has Spent Up to $41 Billion on the Olympics. Is It a Bad Bet? Motoko Rich and Ben Dooley, March 18, 2020. The ecosystem surrounding the world’s largest sporting event is stuck in a holding pattern.

japan flagAn increasing number of athletes, experts and ordinary people in Japan are convinced that the Games cannot be held. But the Japanese organizers and the International Olympic Committee have steadfastly maintained that the show will go on, with the committee saying on Tuesday that “there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage.”

The uncertainty has left a whole ecosystem surrounding the Games stuck in a holding pattern. Businesses as large as Coca-Cola, Toyota, Samsung and Google, which are sponsoring the event, and as small as hotels, Airbnb operators, security companies and travel agents are simultaneously preparing for the Games while bracing for their possible cancellation.

olympics logo 2018 winterJapan has huge financial incentives to delay a decision as long as possible, gambling that there will be a drastic change in the course of the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 8,000 people around the world. An outright cancellation of the Games, which are scheduled to begin in late July, could be economically disastrous for a country already on the brink of recession.

The Olympics have stood virtually alone in the sports world as major events like the Kentucky Derby and the French Open have been postponed or canceled and even the deputy chief of the Japanese Olympic Committee, Kozo Tashima, has contracted the coronavirus.

2020 U.S. Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Sweeps Primaries in Arizona, Florida and Illinois, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, updated March 18, 2020. Sanders’s Chance for a Comeback Appears Slim. Joe Biden’s now dominant lead is likely to put pressure on Bernie Sanders to end his campaign.

Joseph R. Biden Jr. easily defeated Senator Bernie Sanders in three major primaries on Tuesday, all but extinguishing Mr. Sanders’s chances for a comeback, as anxious Americans turned out to vote amid a series of cascading disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Biden, the former vice president, won by wide margins in Florida and Illinois and also carried Arizona, sweeping the night and achieving a nearly insurmountable delegate lead. The emphatic outcome could greatly intensify pressure on Mr. Sanders to end his campaign and allow Democrats to unify behind Mr. Biden as their presumptive nominee.

The routs in Florida and Illinois, two of the biggest prizes on the national map, represented both a vote of confidence in Mr. Biden from most Democrats, and a blunt rejection of Mr. Sanders’s candidacy by the kind of large, diverse states he would have needed to capture to broaden his appeal beyond the ideological left.

Mr. Sanders, of Vermont, has struggled since his first presidential campaign in 2016 to win over black voters in larger numbers and to persuade voters who do not share his ethos of democratic socialism that he can be trusted to lead the party into the general election.

In the two biggest states voting on Tuesday, Florida and Illinois, Mr. Sanders failed. Mr. Biden carried Illinois by a wide margin, keeping intact his winning streak in the large Midwestern primary states, after previously winning in Minnesota and Michigan. And the victory in Florida was a particularly sharp repudiation of Mr. Sanders; many moderate and conservative Hispanic voters in the state had recoiled from his past praise of leftist governments in Latin America, including his admiring remarks about certain achievements of Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democratic primaries live updates: Sanders to assess his campaign in wake of three decisive wins by Biden on Tuesday, John bernie sandersWagner, Colby Itkowitz and Felicia Sonmez, March 18, 2020. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will spend the next few weeks talking to supporters to “assess his campaign,” his campaign manager said Wednesday following decisive victories Tuesday by former vice president Joe Biden in Florida, Illinois and Arizona that gave him firm control of the Democratic nominating contest.

“The next primary contest is at least three weeks away,” Faiz Shakir, Sanders’s manager said in a statement. “Sen. Sanders is going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign. In the immediate term, however, he is focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable.”

With Biden widening his delegate lead, Sanders is facing growing calls to suspend his campaign. And with more states postponing their primaries due to health concerns, the candidates are facing a hiatus in voting for at least a few weeks — and possibly much longer. The final primaries now could come only weeks before the Democratic National Convention is scheduled to convene in July in Milwaukee — if it is held as planned.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Here are four takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries, Shane Goldmacher, March 18, 2020. With nearly 60 percent of the delegates allocated in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Mr. Biden holds a commanding lead of nearly 300 delegates over Mr. Sanders — a sum that makes it statistically improbable that Mr. Sanders could ever catch up.

1) Biden is winning almost everywhere — by a lot. It has been only 35 days since Mr. Biden’s low point in the 2020 primaries: a fifth-place finish in New Hampshire so embarrassing that he bolted the state before the polls closed and decamped to South Carolina for what looked like a potential last stand.

Now Mr. Biden is routing Mr. Sanders in every region of the country. In Florida, a voter survey showed Mr. Biden winning men and women, white voters and nonwhite voters, those with college degrees and those without — all with more than 60 percent of the vote. The victory was so thorough that Mr. Biden was even leading in Florida among “very liberal” Democrats, a typical Sanders base. He was similarly dominant in Illinois.

In fact, Mr. Biden was leading in every county in Florida — sometimes tripling and quadrupling the vote total of Mr. Sanders, just as the former vice president had swept every county in Michigan, Mississippi and Missouri a week ago.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Bernie Sanders Revolution Has Moved to Mom’s Couch, Emma Goldberg, March 18, 2020. For some college students who support Mr. Sanders, leaving campus means more time to phone bank, and a captive, if skeptical, audience at home.

That desperate times call for desperate measures is a view almost axiomatic to some Sanders supporters. And some feel that in upending work, school and economic routines, the coronavirus outbreak could make voters more sympathetic to Mr. Sanders’s message of remaking government and a larger social safety net. Mr. Sanders made the point himself during Sunday night’s debate, telling viewers that the pandemic exposes “dysfunctionality” in the country’s health care system.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bernie Sanders’ dead-end campaign begins to unravel from within as ugly leaks begin, Bill Palmer, right, March 18, 2020. Now that bill palmerJoe Biden has pulled insurmountably ahead with three more blowout wins on Tuesday, we’re hoping that Bernie Sanders will do the right thing by swiftly dropping out and and endorsing Biden. After all, there’s a pandemic going on, and the need to unite against Donald Trump is more crucial than ever.

bill palmer report logo headerIf Sanders doesn’t drop out soon, it looks like some of his own disenchanted campaign advisers are planning to do him in anyway. An unnamed person described as a “senior Sanders aide” is telling Yahoo News that the campaign has no idea what it’s doing, the leadership is in disarray, there’s a “lack of direction” coming from Sanders himself, and “there is no plan” for what to do next.

Ouch. That’s rough. The thing about high level leaks like this is that once they start, they usually only get worse. This same adviser says it’s “time for some hard decisions” – which means the adviser is going to push Sanders to drop out. If Sanders refuses to drop out, this clearly exasperated adviser will probably end up leaking uglier things in the name of trying to force the issue.

joe biden 2020 button CustomThere’s a reason candidates generally end their campaigns once they no longer have a chance of winning. It’s not just that the candidate, obviously, won’t get into office. It’s that once the hardest working people in the campaign realize the candidate is dragging them along on some kind of vanity exercise, it tends to turn ugly fast. If Sanders doesn’t get out of the race soon, let’s just say a leak like this one is just the tip of the iceberg.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: 4 takeaways from the primaries, Aaron Blake, March 18, 2020 (print ed.). Sen. Bernie Sanders needs a daunting 6 in 10 remaining delegates to win.

Here’s what we learned.

1. Sanders’s tough math gets a whole lot tougher. The big story of the night is Biden registering a huge rout in Florida — 62 percent to 23 percent, at last count. It wasn’t a surprise that he won, but yet again he won by even bigger margins than some polls showed and was able to rack up big-time delegates because of it. The state accounts for about half of delegates available in Tuesday’s primaries, and it wasn’t at all close.

Perhaps this math puts it into perspective. At the start of the night, Biden needed 49 percent of remaining delegates to win the nomination outright, while Sanders needed 55 percent. As of this posting, Biden needs 46 percent of the remaining delegates, while Sanders needs 61 percent.

2. And now the but …

While Biden’s delegate lead is now commanding, it’s not clear when he might be able to add to it or truly knock Sanders out of the race. That’s because we don’t know when the next states will vote.

Ohio wasn’t the only state to move its primary in recent days; so have Georgia, which was set to be the only state voting next week, and Louisiana, which moved its April 4 primary into June. Maryland and Kentucky have also moved their primaries, despite them being more than a month away.

democratic donkey logoThe only states remaining between now and April 28, as it stands, are three April 4 states with very limited delegates in Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming, and Wisconsin on April 7. Between them, they have just 137 delegates on offer. With Puerto Rico also set to move its March 29 primary, that’s the maximum number of delegates that will be available over the next 40 days — and that’s if those states actually vote, which seems increasingly unlikely.

Sanders may be down, but he’s not technically out, with about half of all the pledged delegates having been handed out. While it’s tough to campaign in this environment, it may be tempting for Sanders to stay in the race and see how things shake out in the coming weeks. Biden was threatening to build a truly insurmountable delegate lead in relatively short order, but that might not happen for weeks or months now.

3. Biden’s dominance east of the Mississippi

A big reason the delegate math is so difficult for Sanders is that he’s getting swamped in not just the South but also in the eastern half of the country. And that was the case again Tuesday.

In fact, as results stand, Biden won every county in Florida — just as he had in Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and South Carolina. He also was winning nearly every county in Illinois — just as he had in Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Inside DC

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Mother Jones, Investigation: Jared Kushner Once Controlled a Firm Now Running a Coronavirus Testing Website, David Corn, March 17, 2020. Trump’s son-in-law had a deeper role in this health tech company than previously reported.

jared kushner head shotJared Kushner, right, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a top player in the White House’s coronavirus deliberations, several years ago controlled a family business that owned a health insurance company that is now marketing a website that aims to direct consumers to coronavirus testing locations.

This firm, which is called Oscar, has often been described in media accounts as co-founded by Jared’s brother, Joshua, but New York State records reviewed by Mother Jones show that in 2013, the year the business was incorporated, Jared with his brother controlled the holding company that owned Oscar.

After Trump at a press conference last week falsely claimed that 1,700 Google engineers were developing a website that would within days be the central element of a national testing system, media reports noted that this misstep had occurred because Kushner had been talking to Verily, a Google subsidiary, about a pilot program it was developing for the San Francisco area.

The project was in its infancy, but it looked to create a website that would let people evaluate their symptoms and direct them to nearby drive-through testing. There were no websites or testing centers yet. And no national website in the works at Verily or Google. Nevertheless, at that press conference, Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the coronavirus task force, held up a poster that Kushner’s team had prepared showing how Trump’s promised website would look. “It’s going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past,” Trump inaccurately said.

That same day, Oscar, which bills itself as “a tech-driven health insurance company,” launched a website that it called “the first testing center locator for COVID-19 in the U.S.” It noted that this locator featured “more than 100 centers today.” And the company said the site was “accessible to the general public and more testing centers are being added every day.” As the Verge reported, the flow chart Kushner had developed was “eerily similar” to Oscar’s new website, and it noted that Oscar was “Kushner-linked” because “Joshua Kushner (brother to Jared) is a major investor in Oscar Health.”

An Oscar representative told the Verge that the company had no involvement in the White House effort: “We did not connect with the White House to provide input on their flow chart or tool idea before the press conference on Friday.” But there once was a direct connection between Jared Kushner and Oscar.

A 2013 examination of Oscar conducted by the New York State Department of Financial Services produced a report that detailed the firm’s corporate structure. It stated that Oscar, which was incorporated in New York, was owned by Mulberry Health Inc., a Delaware corporation, which in turn was mostly owned by Thrive Capital Partners III LP, a Delaware limited partnership, which itself was owned by Thrive Partners III GP LLC, a Delaware limited liability corporation and other unnamed parties.

And who owned Thrive Partners III GP LLC? Jared Kushner and his brother, Joshua Kushner. As the report put it, “Jared Kushner and Joshua Kushner are deemed the ultimate controlling persons in Oscar’s holding company system.”

bill palmerPalmer Report, Opinion: Key Donald Trump official abruptly quits in midst of coronavirus crisis, Bill Palmer, right, March 18, 2020. Donald Trump sure can pick them. So many of his handpicked political personnel have ended up resigning amid controversy, being fired amid scandal, or being criminally indicted, we’ve lost count. Now with the nation in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, a key Trump official has abruptly resigned at the worst possible time.

The chief of the Office of Personnel Management is one of those government positions where most Americans have no idea what it even is, because the person usually just does their job. But in the Trump White House we’ve had to learn the hard way what it is that people like the chief of the Office of Personnel Management do, because in so many instances these jobs simply aren’t getting done, and we’re all paying the price.

bill palmer report logo headerAs it turns out, Donald Trump’s chief of the Office of Personnel Management quit last night with no warning, according to the Washington Post. Apparently she thought she and her department were being squeezed out of the decision making process during the coronavirus crisis. If you’re wondering whether she might have been some career holdover from a previous administration, no, Trump hired her five months ago.

Donald Trump’s White House is such a flaming disaster, we don’t even know if this is a good or bad development. But given Donald Trump’s penchant for bypassing knowledgeable people in favor of letting a handful of idiot cronies make most of the decisions, we’re guessing this probably isn’t a good thing. Maybe Trump can find yet another one of his incompetent relatives, or a white supremacist, to fill the position.

U.S. Crime, Courts

djt knauss epstein ghislaine maxwell mar a lago getty full davidoff studios

Donald Trump, Melania Knauss [Trump], Jeffrey Epstein and Epstein's friend Ghislaine Maxwell, (left to right at Mar-A-Lago.
Davidoff Studios Photography / Getty Images

Miami Herald, Ghislaine Maxwell stakes claim to a piece of Jeffrey Epstein’s fortune, Kevin G. Hall, March 18, 2020. Maxwell, 58, has long said she had a miami herald logospecial relationship with him.

She hasn’t appeared publicly in months and her former neighbors just off posh Park Avenue say they’ve heard nothing. Yet from some mystery location, Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s longtime partner and alleged enabler in his sex trafficking network, has filed a claim against the estate of the multimillionaire financier.

perversion of justice miami herald logoThe filing occurred in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the estate of the disgraced businessman is being settled. It was filed on Friday but it appeared on the docket late Tuesday, just hours before the March 18 deadline that effectively closes the window for asking the court for a piece of Epstein’s fortune. It was first reported by the New York Times on Wednesday but had been rumored for days.

The Miami law firm Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer filed the action on behalf of Maxwell. It has an office in the Virgin Islands and has not responded to requests for comment.

Search for images of her on the Internet, and there Maxwell is on Epstein’s arm alongside Donald and Melania Trump (shown above). She appears in Prince Andrew, Virginia Roberts and Ghislaine Maxwell, 2001photos with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, British royal Prince Andrew (left) and even in one with Epstein and movie mogul and recently convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein.

Maxwell has largely been missing since Epstein’s controversial death by hanging last Aug. 10 at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. It was the culmination of Epstein’s world caving in following the Miami Herald’s Perversion of Justice series that highlighted how powerful people helped him escape punishment in 2008.

Since then she was photographed reading a book on espionage at a Southern California In-N-Out Burger, maybe spotted briefly in New England and reported without any proof to have been in southern Brazil, Israel or even in FBI custody at a safe house.

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Credit Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005 (Joe Schildhorn / Patrick McMullan,via Getty Images)

washington post logoWashington Post, Fairfax County sheriff’s deputy charged with sexually assaulting prisoner, Tom Jackman, March 18, 2020. Deputy Patrick McPartlin also was involved in the deaths of Natasha McKenna and Jovany Gomez.

A Fairfax County sheriff’s deputy who was previously involved in two high-profile deaths while on duty was arrested Tuesday after he allegedly sexually assaulted a prisoner he was transporting through Fairfax City on Monday, the city police said Tuesday evening.

The police said they believe the assault happened in a Fairfax sheriff’s vehicle, in a parking lot in the 11000 block of Fairfax Boulevard, near Jermantown Road. The victim was being transported to the Loudoun County jail and reported an assault when she arrived in Leesburg around noon Monday, Sgt. Matthew Lasowitz of the Fairfax City police said.

Media News

New York Magazine, Playboy Magazine Is Closing Down, Probably for Good, Christopher Bonanos, March 18, 2020. No more print edition. Playboy has announced that it’s closing down its flagship magazine for the rest of 2020.

It seems unlikely, given the wording of the announcement and the state of print magazine-making, that it will ever return. It’s not a surprise, exactly — its circulation and advertising drooped long ago, accelerating as the nudie pictures for which it was celebrated became available everywhere for free.

Hugh Marston Hefner, its founder/editor/latter-day reality-show star/loungewear enthusiast, died in 2017, as his faded empire contracted around him, and one got the sense that the magazine was kept going partly because nobody wanted Hef to outlive it.

Hard to imagine it now, but Playboy once felt forward-thinking and modern. Founded in 1953, it was a significant force in the loosening of anti-obscenity laws regarding the press.

By the early 1960s, it was a huge success, soon expanding to open its namesake clubs all over the world. It also moved into TV with Playboy’s Penthouse (later Playboy After Dark), a late-night talk show of sorts starring Hefner and an array of celebrity guests. The magazine peaked in the early 1970s at a circulation, breathtaking to see now, of 5.6 million copies a month. The magazine’s licensing operation since then has put the signature rabbit logo on cocktail glasses, clothes, car accessories, and far more. Plus, of course, online porn.

March 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Widens His Lead Over Bernie Sanders, Reid J. Epstein, Lisa Lerer and Jennifer Medina, March 17, 2020. In winning Florida, Mr. Biden took the biggest prize of the night. Joe Biden has won also the Illinois and Arizona primaries.

Live Primary Election Results: Florida, Illinois and Arizona.

joe biden 2020 button CustomThe Democratic primary race moved to Arizona, Florida and Illinois on Tuesday, with 441 delegates at stake for the party’s presidential nomination.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was declared the winner of the Florida primary the instant polls closed at 8 p.m. Eastern, and also won the Illinois and Arizona primaries.

Global Public Health Headlines

2020 U.S. Elections

Virus Impacts Around U.S., World

Investigationsafghan execution four corners march 16 2020

U.S. Crime, Politics

Media News

 

Global Public Health

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Backs Stimulus as Virus Spreads to 50 States, Administration Seeks $850 Billion and Plans Strict Border Controls, Staff reports, March 17, 2020. The coronavirus has now been reported in all 50 states, as the U.S. death toll crossed 100. Officials were weighing sending cash payments to Americans.

The U.S. plans to turn back asylum seekers and illegal immigrants at the southern border over concerns of an outbreak in detention centers.

The European Union said it would impose a coordinated temporary restriction on non-essential travel to its territories for 30 days. Here’s the latest.

The Trump administration plans to immediately turn back all asylum seekers and other foreigners attempting to enter the United States from Mexico illegally, saying the nation cannot risk allowing the coronavirus to spread through detention facilities and border patrol agents, four administration officials said.

The administration officials said the ports of entry would remain open to American citizens, green-card holders and foreigners with proper documentation. Some foreigners would be blocked, including Europeans currently subject to earlier travel restrictions imposed by the administration. The points of entry will also be open to commercial traffic.

But under the new rule, set to be announced in the next 48 hours, border patrol agents would immediately return anyone to Mexico — without any detainment and without any due process — who attempts to cross the southwestern border between the legal ports of entry. They would not be held for any length of time in an American facility.

Although they advised that details could change before the announcement, administration officials said the measure was needed to avert what they fear could be a systemwide outbreak of the coronavirus inside detention facilities along the border. Such an outbreak could spread quickly through the immigrant population and could infect large numbers of border patrol agents, leaving the southwestern border defenses weakened, the officials argued.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Trump to Propose $850 Billion Economic Stimulus, March 17, 2020. Big Package Focused on Tax Cuts and Airline Aid, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, is expected to make the pitch for additional fiscal firepower on Tuesday to Republican senators.

The Trump administration is preparing to ask for about $850 billion in additional stimulus to support the economy, which is facing a deep downturn as businesses close as coronavirus spreads.

us senate logoSteven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, is expected to make the pitch for additional fiscal firepower on Tuesday to Republican senators, some of whom have been hesitant to embrace the legislation that the House passed last week, according to people familiar with the plans. A centerpiece of the proposal is the payroll tax cut that President Trump has been calling for.

The Trump administration is also supportive of a request for $50 billion in economic relief for the airline industry. The industry’s lobbying group publicly made the request on Monday, asking for grants, loan guarantees and tax relief.

Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, laid out the administration’s fiscal stimulus approach on Monday and said that it would amount to about $800 billion.

Mr. Kudlow and Mr. Mnuchin are also considering an array of other proposals to help individuals and small and medium-sized businesses.

The Treasury Department is expected to outline plans for delaying tax filing and payments without penalties beyond April 15.

Related story: Washington Post, Trump administration seeks roughly $850 billion in stimulus, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein​, March 17, 2020. Request includes tax cuts, emergency aid for airline industry.

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Takes New Line After Dire Report on Death Toll, Sheri Fink, March 17, 2020. The new guidelines seemed to draw on a London report that predicted high fatalities in the U.S. without drastic action.

Sweeping new federal recommendations announced on Monday for Americans to sharply limit their activities appeared to draw on a dire scientific report warning that, without action by the government and individuals to slow the spread of coronavirus and suppress new cases, 2.2 million people in the United States could die.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)To curb the epidemic, there would need to be drastic restrictions on work, school and social gatherings for periods of time until a vaccine was available, which could take 18 months, according to the report, compiled by British researchers. They cautioned that such steps carried enormous costs that could also affect people’s health, but concluded they were “the only viable strategy at the current time.”

That is because different steps, intended to drive down transmission by isolating patients, quarantining those in contact with them and keeping the most vulnerable apart from others for three months, could only cut the predicted death toll by half, the new report said.

The White House guidelines urged Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. That is a more restrictive stance than recommendations released on Sunday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said that gatherings should be limited to 50.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Now Claims He Always Knew This Would Be a Pandemic, Katie Rogers, March 17, 2020. President Trump tried to rewrite his history with advising Americans about the coronavirus. His own words prove him wrong.

For weeks, President Trump has minimized the coronavirus, mocked concern about it and treated the risk from it cavalierly. On Tuesday he took to the White House lectern and made a remarkable assertion: He knew it was a pandemic all along.

“This is a pandemic,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”

This is what Mr. Trump has actually said over the past two months:

On Jan. 22, asked by a CNBC reporter whether there were “worries about a pandemic,” the president replied: “No, not at all. We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

On Feb. 26, at a White House news conference, commenting on the country’s first reported cases: “We’re going to be pretty soon at only five people. And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time. So we’ve had very good luck.”

On Feb. 27, at a White House meeting: “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial, How to Rally America Against Coronavirus, Editorial Board, March 17, 2020. Tackling the pandemic will require a new, collective way of thinking about public health and society as a whole.

Much of the country is facing a grave shortage of ventilators, intensive care beds, the equipment and chemicals needed for testing and all manner of medical supplies, including gloves, masks, swabs and wipes. More space is also needed to put these supplies to use healing patients. That means isolation wards for the sick and quarantine facilities for people who are exposed to the coronavirus.

American FlagA number of hospitals and state and local governments are working to secure those resources. Some cities and states have purchased hotels and turned them into quarantine facilities. Others are in bidding wars with one another for ventilators, I.C.U. beds and other essential equipment. If the current projections hold — and if countries in Europe and cities in China are any indication — neither these siloed efforts, nor the nation’s federally maintained stash of medical supplies, will be enough to face what’s coming.

Worse still, pitting states against each other for limited and essential supplies leaves poorer states at the mercy of the rich ones, and the states hit first against those that will be hard hit in the coming weeks. Yet on Monday, Mr. Trump told a group of governors desperate for equipment like ventilators, “Try getting it yourselves.”

Instead, the federal government needs to step in to dramatically ramp up production of all these goods, just as it ramped up production of munitions during World War II. That will likely necessitate the use of the Defense Production Act, a law that enables the president to mobilize domestic industries in times of crisis.

President Trump has not demonstrated the democratic instincts or administrative competence to inspire the confidence that he ought to be trusted with even more executive authority. But he’s the only president America’s got, and this crisis requires White House action. It’s not hard to imagine, with proper organization and support, American factories producing ventilators, masks, hand sanitizer, coronavirus tests and other medical equipment at a scale that would meet what the crisis demands. But it won’t happen overnight, and it certainly won’t happen without leadership.

2020 U.S. Elections

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Palmer Report, Opinion: It’s over. Bernie Sanders needs to drop out before his stubbornness starts getting people killed in this pandemic, Bill Palmer, March 17, 2020. Thus far tonight Joe Biden has won the large states of Florida and Illinois by huge margins. Florida is a particularly large blowout, with Biden getting nearly three times as many votes as Bernie Sanders. The Arizona results haven’t started coming in yet. But considering Florida and Illinois have produced results highly similar to what the polls were predicting, Arizona will also be a blowout in Biden’s favor.

This primary race is over. It’s not just essentially over, it’s over. Bernie Sanders has no path to the nomination that doesn’t involve magic wands. Looking at the rest of the calendar, you can’t find a single upcoming day where Sanders will pull off a delegate win. It’s not even clear if he’ll win another state.

bill palmer report logo headerBased on what happened in 2016, it would be absurd for Sanders to remain in the race. He risks forcing the Democratic Party and its leaders to wait three or four months before being able to formally unite behind Joe Biden in the fight against Donald Trump. Considering there’s a pandemic going on, if Sanders moves forward with what at this point is a mere vanity campaign, it’ll be unconscionable.

It was risky enough for Bernie Sanders to have remained in the race through today, thus forcing people to go out and put themselves at risk just to vote for Joe Biden, in order to make sure Sanders couldn’t pick off a state due to coronavirus-depressed turnout. But now that today’s states are blowouts in Biden’s favor as expected, Sanders will be playing life and death games if he remains in the race and continues forcing Biden’s voters to turn out just to keep him from pulling a fast one.

Bernie Sanders loves to talk about bringing health care to more Americans. If Sanders is a man of decency, he’ll concede the race right now and allow the rest of the primaries to be called off. If he doesn’t drop out tomorrow, he’ll be purposely putting Americans’ lives in danger for the sake of his own ego. Of course states are starting to postpone their primaries anyway, so Sanders is getting shut down one way or the other. Or is he just planning to use this as an excuse to make up more imaginary conspiracy theories about why he’s getting his ass kicked? Sanders has been pulling this infantile nonsense since 2015. Is he finally ready to grow up?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Joe Biden wins Arizona in a blowout, seals the deal, Bill Palmer, March 17, 2020. When Joe Biden won Florida and Illinois this evening in blowouts that were largely in line with what the polls predicted, it made two things clear. First, Biden is every bit as popular as we thought. Second, the coronavirus threat wasn’t impacting the outcome.

bill palmer report logo headerSo it’s not a surprise that, based on the vote totals coming out of Arizona thus far, Joe Biden has also won the Grand Canyon state in a blowout tonight. Arizona doesn’t allow any results to be reported until an hour after the polls close. But the votes are counted before then, meaning we just got a deluge of voting data right at 11pm eastern time. In fact MSNBC, which is sometimes slow to call states, just called Arizona for Biden.

So this seals the deal. Joe Biden won all three states today in blowouts. In terms of where the race mathematically stands now, the polling and demographics of the upcoming states, and the obvious momentum involved, there is zero question that Biden will be the 2020 Democratic nominee. In fact it’s not even going to be close.

Considering that this primary race is already over in a blowout, and we’re facing a pandemic that’s going to make it unsafe to go out and vote in the coming weeks, and the fact that upcoming primary contests are being postponed for safety reasons anyway, it’s time for Bernie Sanders to drop out.

538.com, Polling Analysis: Our Final Forecast For Arizona, Florida And Illinois Shows A Big Biden Lead, Geoffrey Skelley, March 17, 2020. In an extraordinary move, Ohio postponed its primary election at the last minute due to concerns about COVID-19, meaning just three states will vote today — Arizona, Florida and Illinois, the latter two of which are among the 10 most delegate-rich contests in the Democratic presidential primary.

joe biden oOverall, the top-line outcomes in these three states are pretty straightforward: Former Vice President Joe Biden is the heavy favorite, with a greater than 99 percent chance of winning the most votes in each state, according to our forecast. On average, Biden is projected to win anywhere from 59 percent to 67 percent of the vote, which doesn’t leave Sen. Bernie Sanders with much of a shot in any of these states.

The main thing to watch tonight will be the margins between Biden and Sanders, as these will directly affect the delegate race. Blowout wins for Biden could also push the race toward its de facto conclusion and may even prompt Sanders to drop out. Although this scenario is unlikely, we shouldn’t completely write off an election surprise, especially considering we don’t know how the COVID-19 virus may affect these elections.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Voters in three states head to polls to weigh in on Biden-Sanders contest, John Wagner and Elise Viebeck, March 17, 2020. Races to watch: Anti-abortion Democrat faces Sanders-backed challenger in Illinois primary; Campaigns increasingly turn to new digital tactics as old ways of voter contact are suspended.

democratic donkey logomike dewine o CustomVoters in three states — Arizona, Florida and Illinois — are headed to the polls Tuesday amid the coronavirus pandemic to weigh in on the Democratic presidential contest between former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), while Ohio’s governor has declared a “health emergency” to postpone scheduled voting there.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced late Monday that the polls would not open in his state despite a state judge’s ruling that the election must go on.

A total of 441 delegates to the Democratic National Convention are at stake in Arizona, Florida and Illinois. Biden is looking to build on his momentum of recent weeks and extend an advantage over Sanders in a nominating contest transformed by the coronavirus outbreak and full of uncertainty. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is also on the ballot.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Coronavirus Might Not Hit Turnout Hard in Tuesday’s Primaries, Nate Cohn, March 17, 2020. There was significant early voting in Florida and Arizona. Illinois might be more vulnerable to a decline in voters.

Turnout is a question ahead of every election. It would be an understatement to say it is a more challenging question than usual ahead of Tuesday’s primaries, as voters head to the polls in Florida, Illinois and Arizona amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Although it’s hard to forecast the impact of coronavirus on turnout, there are a few hard facts that, on balance, suggest it might have less of an effect than one might expect in Florida and Arizona. But Illinois might be somewhat more vulnerable to a decline in turnout. (On Monday, Ohio’s governor postponed the state’s primary over health concerns.)

One factor is sure to blunt the effect of the coronavirus: early voting. Already, millions of voters in these states have cast their ballots either in person or by mail. Early voters are almost always older than the overall electorate, which tends to mitigate the possibility that such voters, who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus, won’t match their typical share of the vote.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ohio Postpones Primary as Governor Declares Health Emergency, Nick Corasaniti and Stephanie Saul, March 17, 2020.  Gov. Mike DeWine ignored a court ruling and said the state’s polls were closing based on worries that the coronavirus would endanger voters.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosmike dewine o CustomOhio’s governor on Monday night said he and top state health officials would ignore a court ruling and postpone Ohio’s presidential primary by declaring a public health emergency because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The governor, Mike DeWine, left, said that the state’s health director, Dr. Amy Acton, had issued the order based on concerns that the coronavirus outbreak placed both voters and poll workers in potential danger.

His announcement came just hours after Judge Richard A. Frye of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas rejected the state’s request to push back voting to June 2.

Palmer Report, Opinion: What to really expect from today’s chaotic Democratic primaries in Florida, Arizona, Illinois, and Ohio, Bill Palmer, right, March 17, 2020. bill palmerTo give you an idea of how chaotic America has become, the boldest prediction one could have made about today’s Ohio primary is whether it was going to happen or not. The state’s Republican Governor tried to shut it down last night, with judges intervening and ordering it to happen, and the Governor illegally vowing to try to defy the court’s orders.

But let’s talk about the three states voting today whose primaries haven’t turned into a bizarre reality show. The final polling averages, and calculated by RealClearPolitics, have Joe Biden up by 39 points in Florida, 29 points in Illinois, and 18 points in Arizona.

bill palmer report logo headerWe’ll likely see lower turnout today due to the coronavirus crisis. But it’s worth keeping in mind that people who bother to vote in primary races tend to be motivated voters to begin with. There has been some suggestion that older voters could turn out in lesser numbers, as they’re statistically more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus. But in this primary race it’s younger voters who haven’t been bothering to turn out, even before the virus threat.

If in-person voting numbers are significantly down today, it’ll give a lot more statistical weight to those who voted early. Our guess is that older voters will have cast enough early votes to make up for any absence of older voters showing up today, but then again, there’s never been a modern election scenario quite like this one.

bernie sanders 2020 button croppedThe upshot is this. If any of today’s primary states were going to be close to begin with, the strange circumstances could make the results unpredictable. But with Joe Biden ahead by margins this huge, the turnout would have to be skewed massively today for him to actually lose any of these states. Our expectation is that Biden will still win every state – just don’t ask us to predict the specific margins.

But margin of victory matters when it comes to pressuring Bernie Sanders to give up the ghost of his dead-end campaign and drop out sooner rather than later. So if you’re in one of these states and you’re safely able to vote today, you should definitely do so. The primary should be over tonight, both for the sake of unity, and for the sake of not needing to hold the upcoming primaries in the coming weeks as the coronavirus threat continues to get worse.

ny times logoNew York Times, 2020 Primary Postponements and Cancellations: Updates, Nick Corasaniti and Stephanie Saul, March 17, 2020. Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland and Ohio have pushed back their primary elections. Here’s the latest on changes to the 2020 race.

In New York, officials are considering whether the presidential primary election should be delayed. Wyoming is suspending in-person caucuses and asking voters to mail or drop off ballots. Other states are weighing similar options or adding extra precautions for voters.

None of the presidential candidates currently have scheduled events in public. Sunday night’s debate was held without an on-site audience to avoid the possible spread of the virus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Here’s how to guarantee coronavirus won’t disrupt our elections, Amy Klobuchar, right, and Ron Wyden, March 17, 2020 (print ed.). The best way to ensure that this virus doesn’t keep people from the ballot box is to bring the ballot box to them. We must allow every American amy klobucher button croppedthe ability to vote by mail. And we must expand early voting so that voters who are not able to vote by mail are not exposed to the elevated infection risks of long lines and crowded polling locations.

On Monday, we will introduce the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020 to help election officials meet this pandemic head-on. Our legislation will guarantee every voter a secure mail-in paper ballot and help states cover the cost of printing, self-sealing envelopes, ballot tracking and postage. Vote-by-mail is a time-tested, reliable way for Americans to exercise their constitutional rights, and it is the right response to this crisis.

Amy Klobuchar represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate and is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee. Ron Wyden represents Oregon in the U.S. Senate and is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.

Investigations

ABC Investigations and Four Corners (Australia), Video shows Australian SAS soldier shooting and killing unarmed man at close range in Afghanistan, Mark Willacy, March 17, 2020. Extraordinary footage captured on the helmet camera of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan could result in charges of war crimes.

Key points:

  • The video shows the SAS soldier shooting the man dead at close range
  • The video is at odds with what soldiers told investigators, who ruled the killing was self-defence
  • Another SAS soldier who served in the same squadron has described it as a "straight-up execution"

Four Corners has obtained video which shows a Special Air Service (SAS) operator shooting an unarmed Afghan man three times in the head and chest while he cowers on the ground.

His death took place within three minutes of the soldiers arriving in the village. An Australian Defence Force (ADF) investigation later ruled the killing was justified because it was in self-defence. The killing was one of a series of cases uncovered by Four Corners that may constitute war crimes.

Four Corners via SouthFront, Killing Field: Footage Shows Australian Special Forces Shoot And Kill Unarmed Man In Afghanistan, Staff and wires, March 16, 2020. A video released on March 16 showed an Australian Special Air Service (SAS) shoot an unarmed Afghan man three times in the head and chest while he cowers on the ground.

australian flag wavingThe video was released by Four Corners, Australia's leading public affairs program, aired on the nation's ABC network. His death took place within three minutes of the soldiers arriving in the village.

An Australian Defence Force (ADF) investigation later ruled the killing was justified because it was in self-defence. The killing was one of a series of cases uncovered by Four Corners that may constitute war crimes.

A former member of the same SAS squadron, who was on the 2012 deployment to Afghanistan and has been shown the vision, described the killing to Four Corners as a “straight-up execution.” The video, taken by the helmet camera of the patrol’s dog handler, shows the SAS patrol disembarking from one of two Black Hawk helicopters before fanning out near the village of Deh Jawz-e Hasanzai.

The situation in the video takes place in May 2012, and 3 Squadron SAS is looking for an insurgent bombmaker. The handler, with his dog, follows the patrol scout, who Four Corners has called Soldier C, through a field towards a mud compound.

The helicopters are guiding them to a person who has been spotted in a wheat field ahead. The soldiers and the dog stumble upon a bearded man in his 20s, with red prayer beads in his hand, who the dog assaulted. The dog is called Quake.

Then a conversation takes place, after the soldier keeps the man at gunpoint for about 20 seconds, asking if he should “drop this c***.” He asks the commander if he should kill the man, and an inaudible response follows. The soldier then shoots the man three times.

The SAS soldier who shot Dad Mohammad claimed the Afghan had been shot because he had been seen with a radio. The soldier also claimed he fired from 15 to 20 meters away in self-defense.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative commentary: Sanders poor judgment on 2018 Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Wayne Madsen, March 17, 2020. The non-Democrat Bernie Sanders, who continues to disrupt the 2020 election by insisting on mounting a failed campaign to wrest the Democratic presidential nomination from clear front runner Joe Biden, has always displayed a lack of good judgment.

andrew gillum oIn 2018, Sanders single-handedly destroyed the Florida Democratic Party's chance of winning back the governor's mansion in Florida. Sanders backed Tallahassee's mayor Andrew Gillum, 40, right, once thought to be a rising star in national Democratic politics, for the gubernatorial nomination.

Gillum, who was plagued by public corruption issues as mayor of Tallahassee, went on to lose the gubernatorial election to DeSantis, a backer of far right-wing causes, including pro-Confederacy groups, by 0.39 percentage points.

Virus Impacts Around U.S., World

ny times logoNew York Times, Macron Declares France ‘at War’ With Virus, as E.U. Proposes 30-Day Travel Ban, Steven Erlanger, March 17, 2020. European leaders are taking measures never before seen in the postwar West.

Adopting martial language, President Emmanuel Macron ordered the French to stay at home for at least the next 15 days, as France put in place some of the most severe measures in Europe to try to curb the raging coronavirus.

French FlagThe aggressive move by France came as other countries in the region introduced measures that their leaders described as unprecedented in postwar Europe, and as the European Union proposed a 30-day shutdown of all nonessential travel into the bloc from other countries.

The movement of French citizens will be tightly restricted, starting from midday on Tuesday and lasting through at least the end of the month, with people expected to stay home, leaving only for essential activities like food shopping. Anyone violating the order faces punishment.

The French army will deploy to transport the sick to hospitals, and a military hospital with 30 intensive care beds will be set up in the eastern region of Alsace, where one of the largest infection clusters has erupted.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: The British government’s response to the coronavirus has been a disaster, Helen Jenkins (an infectious disease United Kingdom flagepidemiologist at Boston University School of Public Health), March 17, 2020.  It dropped a plan for “herd immunity,” but the United Kingdom is still moving way too slowly.

Unlike every other country in the world, the U.K. was apparently planning to accept a wave of infections, which would ordinarily be considered catastrophic, with the goal of generating “herd immunity.” The government was holding to this until Monday, even as the number of infections of the novel coronavirus and related deaths start to steadily increase, in a pattern already seen in other countries.

ap logoAssociated P