Headlines: March 3, 2020
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At least 22 people have been killed in Tennessee in and around Nashville and in the central part of the state in a major tornado that hit multiple counties and came exactly a year after a similarly deadly tornado. According to NBC news, “At least 45 buildings collapsed in Nashville, and police said that there were multiple buildings with damage, primarily in the downtown and east precincts.” Scenes of devastation are now being shared online. Schools remain closed on Tuesday and local authorities say 50,000 people were without electricity as dozens of electric poles were knocked down by the tornado.
Even as Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee declared an emergency, his state is one of 14 voting in the Super Tuesday primary races. Lee urged people to be careful saying, “Of course we want people to exercise caution in places like downtown Nashville, but we also want people to exercise their rights and get out and vote.” More than a dozen polling places had to be relocated and many needed power generators to operate. According to the Washington Post, “Polls will still close at 7 p.m. as previously scheduled, though Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said he was ‘working with election officials around the state to ensure polls in affected counties are open for the required 10 hours today.’” Aside from Tennessee, voters are casting ballots in primary races in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Vermont — as well as the territory of American Samoa and American citizens living abroad.
In other election-related news, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar who ended her presidential bid on Monday endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden on the same day and began doing interviews as his political surrogate. On CBS’s Face the Nation on Tuesday Klobuchar pushed back against speculation that she had been promised a post in a Biden cabinet in exchange for her support. She also denied that centrist candidates like her, Pete Buttigieg, and Biden were part of the Democratic Party establishment. She said, “I just don’t think we are the face of the establishment…I think we’re fresh faces in our party.” Biden’s recent win in South Carolina and the dropping out of three centrist candidates has been viewed by media analysts as a major turning point for his flagging candidacy. Biden also won the endorsement of former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke on Monday. As a number of figures join together to surmount Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ primary wins, Klobuchar insisted during her interview that while she is “friends with Bernie,” she doesn’t, “think we should have a socialist heading up” the Democratic Party ticket in November.
In other news the spread of the dangerous new coronavirus strain continues around the world and the US as Americans stock up on food, sanitizers, bottled water and other supplies leaving store shelves empty. King County, Washington, appears to be the epicenter Covid-19 in the US, with a total of six deaths reported there alone – the only six so far in the US. President Donald Trump has maintained an optimistic demeanor and resorted to the typical lie-filled rhetoric his tenure is marked by saying on Monday, “very exciting things are happening rapidly” including the development of a “quick” vaccine. The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, quickly corrected Trump on that point saying, “Let me make sure you get the … information.” A vaccine could be ready “at the earliest [in] a year to a year-and-a-half, no matter how fast you go.” He added, “Like I’ve been telling you, Mr. President.” It appears that Trump conflated the time it takes to develop a vaccine with the time it takes to release the vaccine for public use – at least a year or more is required in testing to ensure it a new vaccine is safe for public use.
Internationally the G7 group of nations held a conference call on Tuesday to discuss an economic response to the effect of the coronavirus on markets. The call was headed by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell. The US Federal Reserve made a surprise announcement, announcing the cutting of interest rates by half a percent. In a statement the Fed said, “The coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity…In light of these risks and in support of achieving its maximum employment and price stability goals, the Federal Open Market Committee decided today to lower the target range for the federal funds rate.” The stock market fell, rose in response to the announcement, and then fell again.
Meanwhile health experts around the US are warning that the nation’s poor health infrastructure may not be able to handle such a disease. The Guardian newspaper reported that, “A survey of 1,000 California nurses from National Nurses United, the largest nurses’ union in the country, found that 47% of nurses were unsure if their hospital had a plan in place to isolate patients with possible novel coronavirus infection. Almost half were unsure if their hospitals have enough personal protective equipment, such as masks, to protect staff in the case of a rapid surge of cases.” The Washington Post reported that, “As the test for the virus becomes more widely available, health-care experts predict that some people with flu-like illnesses — or those who may have been exposed — will avoid finding out whether they have been infected because they are uninsured or have health plans that saddle them with much of the cost of their care.” Meanwhile New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered health insurance companies to cover the entire cost of the virus testing.
In other news, the day before Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey faces a tough reelection challenge, her husband was caught on camera waving a gun at protesters who rang his doorbell hoping for a meeting with Lacey. Members of Black Lives Matter LA, including a recent guest on our show Melina Abdullah, said Lacey had promised them a meeting but continued to avoid them. Later in the day Lacey apologized for her husband’s actions. Black Lives Matter LA are urging voters to choose either one of Lacey’s two challengers in Tuesday’s election. Meanwhile, elsewhere in California, a UPS worker was caught with a massive stockpile of firearms and ammunition and arrested. The 32-year old white male suspect was apparently planning a mass murder at a UPS facility in Sunnyvale.
MSNBC host Chris Matthews announced on Monday that he would be retiring from his position. Matthews had come under fire for making extremist statements around election results aimed specifically at Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. He also faced accusations of sexual harassment from women. The New York Times summarized that, “On the air on Monday, Mr. Matthews made clear that the timing of his exit was not entirely his choosing. ‘Obviously, it isn’t for a lack of interest in politics,’ he said, going on to apologize for his past insensitive comments.”
In international news Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to have a new lease on his political life after winning the latest elections – the third time within a year that Israelis have been asked to cast ballots. Netanyahu has been charged with multiple counts of bribery and corruption and after the last election failed to form a coalition government. He is the longest serving leader in Israel. It remains to be seen if his right wing Likud party is able to form a majority coalition this time around.
And finally a new United Nations investigation has released a damning new report on war crimes in Syria. The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria examined war crimes committed from last July through this January and in its report, said that, “Syrian women, children and men continue to face unprecedented levels of suffering and pain.” The report unequivocally highlights the responsibility of the Syrian government along with its ally Russia, saying, “In their declared fight against terrorism, pro-Government forces carried out aerial and ground attacks in southern Idlib that killed and injured scores of civilians and decimated civilian infrastructure, including markets, camps for displaced persons and most notably hospitals. These include indiscriminate attacks against protected objects and the use of cluster munitions.”