Headlines: March 11, 2020
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This week’s mini-Super Tuesday primary races resulted in yet another big series of wins for former Vice President Joe Biden who swept to victory in Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, and even Michigan. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who was hoping to carry Michigan, won in North Dakota and is so far tied with Biden in Washington with results too close to call. Mr. Biden on Tuesday evening struck a sober tone during his victory speech thanking Mr. Sanders. Media commentators speculated that Biden’s speech was, “all aimed at convincing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders that the time had come to end his primary challenge.” Meanwhile Sanders, who is now trailing Biden by more than a hundred delegates gave a speech on Wednesday addressing the future of his historic campaign indicating he would remain in the race and lamenting the fact that while voters backed his ideas, they chose Biden for reasons of “electability.”
Exit polls from Michigan in particular suggest that those rural white voters who were won over by Sanders 4 years ago when Hillary Clinton was running, chose Biden this time. Meanwhile exit polls across the 20 states that have voted in primaries so far have shown Democratic voters overwhelmingly support a single payer health care system – a system that Biden has already confirmed earlier this week he would veto as President. High ranking Democratic lawmaker James Clyburn whose endorsement ahead of the South Carolina primary revived Biden’s campaign, has called on Sanders to suspend his run saying, “People will say things that you cannot overcome.” Clyburn is suggesting that attacks on Biden now could hurt him in the general election. But Biden may be his own worst enemy. On Tuesday got into a heated argument with a pro-Trump auto worker from Michigan who challenged him on his position on guns. Mr. Biden immediately lost his temper and told the worker, “you’re full of shit.”
In other election news, former Presidential candidate Andrew Yang endorsed Biden. In his statement of support he confirmed Sanders’s view that the choice of Biden is one around a perception of electability, saying, “The math says Joe is our prohibitive nominee.” Meanwhile fifty former employees of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign have endorsed Sanders for President, even as Warren herself has steadfastly refused to take a stand. The mass endorsement was made in a letter that read, “We, the undersigned former employees and fellows of Warren for President, are ready to get back in the fight for a just and progressive future. We know that we need a bold, ambitious policy agenda for working families, marginalized communities, and our planet.” Both Biden and Sanders have canceled election-related rallies over fears of the spread of the coronavirus. The next election debate, which will take place in Phoenix, Arizona this Sunday, will have no live audience – for the same reason.
The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the outbreak of Covid-19 a “pandemic.” As per the WHO’s definition, “a pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease.” Italy, which is under a national quarantine has now announced there are more than 10,000 infections and more than 600 deaths from the virus, making it second only to China in the impact of the disease. German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a grim prediction that 60-70% of her nation’s population could become infected with Covid-19. Here in the US, new data from Johns Hopkins University shows that there are 1,629 confirmed cases. But disturbingly fewer than 7,000 Americans have actually been tested for the disease. The Trump administration has claimed that there would be 75,000 people tested days ago. Experts argue that delays in testing have set the US back on tackling the coronavirus. The New York Times explained that, “A series of missed chances by the federal government to ensure more widespread testing came during the early days of the outbreak, when containment would have been easier.” Meanwhile President Trump has focused on a proposed bailout of the fracking industry after oil and gas stocks tanked earlier this week. And, he promoted his Mexico border wall project even though the US has far more cases of the disease than Mexico.
On Tuesday morning federal government health officials including from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified before the House Oversight and Reform Committee about the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told lawmakers, “Bottom line: it’s going to get worse.” Democratic lawmakers are planning to unveil their plans for how to tackle the virus ahead of a scheduled vote on Thursday before lawmakers take a week-long break. The Trump administration has issued a warning to hundreds of thousands of federal government workers to prepare for the possibility of working from home. The tech giant Google has already informed more than 100,000 of its workers in North America to telecommute to work. Across the nation, companies that did not previously allow workers to take paid sick leave and now doing so. Dozens of universities have suspended in-person classes in an effort to slow the spread of the disease. High schools are also considering canceling classes although some experts say that might not be necessary given that, “there’s little evidence that children are a major source of the spread.” The major music festival at Coachella, California has been postponed, adding to the growing number of such events and gatherings that have been suspended in effort to promote “social distancing.”
Harvey Weinstein has just been sentenced to 23 years in prison for his various convictions related to sexual assault and rape. The fallen Hollywood media mogul was confronted by two of his accusers in court on Wednesday during the sentencing hearing in Manhattan. He said he felt, “remorse for this situation,” but then went on to assert, “Thousands of men are losing due process. I’m worried about this country…I’m totally confused. I think men are confused about these issues.” His prison sentence is likely to face appeal but still represents a major victory for the #MeToo movement.
And finally Russian lawmakers on Wednesday approved vast changes to their nation’s constitution that would allow President Vladimir Putin to serve past his term’s end in 2024. Associated Press explained, “If Putin won and completed two more terms as president, it would make him the ruler of Russia for 36 years — longer than any other leader in its modern history.” However the legislation has not yet passed the Russian constitutional court and must be passed by voters next month in order to become law.