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 3

U.S. Election Headlines

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Dominates the South; Sanders Wins in Three States, Nick Corasaniti and Katie Glueck, March 3, 2020. Black voters, suburban voters and older voters flocked to Joe Biden, who won in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Bernie Sanders joe biden portrait 2secured wins in Utah, Colorado and Vermont. Some critical contests have yet to be called.

• Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., right, has swept the Southern states, winning primaries in Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee, and Senator Bernie Sanders has won primaries in his home state, Vermont, and in Colorado and Utah. Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York won the caucuses in American Samoa.

washington post logoWashington Post, Super Tuesday live updates: Sanders leading in California, Biden is projected to win eight states, including Virginia, N.C. and Arkansas, Felicia Sonmez, Reis Thebault, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Isaac Stanley-Becker, March 3, 2020. California offers the lion’s share of delegates.

Former vice president Joe Biden is showing strength in the South and has extended his reach into the Upper Midwest, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has notched a few wins and leads in the California Democratic presidential primary, according to Edison Research Super Tuesday exit polling and a survey of absentee voters.

Late deciders fueled Biden’s victories in several states Tuesday, an indication his South Carolina victory and endorsements by other candidates played a role in his success. In Oklahoma, Biden won voters who decided in the last few days by a more than 2 to 1 margin over Sanders, while voters who decided earlier split nearly evenly between the two.

Global Public Health Headlines

U.S. 2020 Election Headlines

Inside DC Headlines

World News

 

Global Public Health

washington post logoWashington Post, A lack of paid sick leave in U.S. will make outbreak worse, Christopher Ingraham, March 3, 2020. The roughly 1 in 4 U.S. workers with no paid sick time are more likely to work while ill, data show, exposing colleagues and customers, and extending the outbreak’s reach.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis, Trump’s baffling coronavirus vaccine event, Aaron Blake​, March 3, 2020. A roundtable with pharmaceutical executives didn’t exactly paint a picture of a president who is truly engaged. He didn’t seem to process the fact that producing a vaccine means conducting months of trials before it can be deployed.

As a private citizen and presidential candidate, Donald Trump was a proponent of vaccine skepticism — ignoring the scientific consensus on stuff like how vaccines don’t cause autism. As president, he is now surrounded by experts on the subject, including on Monday when he held a coronavirus roundtable with his task force and the heads of several pharmaceutical companies.

Yet despite the increasingly scary situation involving the disease and preparations having been underway for weeks, he still appears rather clueless on the subject.

At the event Monday, Trump peppered the drug companies with questions that were some variant of “How fast can you get it done?” But despite this having been a focal point in recent weeks, he still didn’t seem to process the fact that producing a vaccine means conducting months and months of trials before it can be deployed. He even at one point asked whether the flu vaccine could be used to combat coronavirus.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fed Slashes Interest Rates as Coronavirus Fears Mount, Jeanna Smialek, March 3, 2020. The central bank said it would cut interest rates by half a percentage point. Stock markets rallied after the Federal Reserve said it would cut interest rates to mitigate economic fallout from the coronavirus.

“The coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity,” the Fed said in a statement. “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 statement on the vote, which was unanimous, also pledged that the Fed “is closely monitoring developments and their implications for the economic outlook and will use its tools and act as appropriate to support the economy.”

Rates are now set in a range of 1 percent to 1.5 percent, as of the decision. Stocks in the United States rallied after the Fed said it would cut interest rates. After opening lower at the start of trading, the S&P 500 spiked more than 1 percent immediately after the cut was announced.

The move underlines what a fraught moment economic policymakers in the United States and around the world currently face. Coronavirus has torn across the globe, sickening about 90,000 people. While the vast majority of those are still in China, where the infections first surfaced, major outbreaks have also taken hold in South Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy, and cases are climbing in other countries.

The virus could exact a heavy economic toll, as it leads to quarantines, shutters factories, and hits investor and consumer confidence.
Washington Post,

ny times logoNew York Times, Recent Opinion: Only Doctors Can Save the Markets From the Coronavirus, Binyamin Appelbaum (Editorial Board member), Feb. cdc logo round Custom28, 2020. Cutting interest rates is weak medicine. The best way to limit the economic impact of coronavirus is a strong public health response.

The most important work the government can do to limit economic damage is to marshal an effective public health response. The agency with the greatest influence over short-term economic developments is not the Fed, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: Can the Fed and Friends Save the Economy? Paul Krugman, March 3, 2020. On putting too much faith in central bankers.

So what happens next? When it comes to the markets, I have no idea. But when it comes to the underlying economics, we know two things. First, the coronavirus is looking more and more like a serious blow to the economy. Second, as I’ve already pointed out, the Fed and its counterparts don’t have much room to respond.

I’ve been saying for a while that I didn’t know when the economy would next face a serious bump in the road, but I did know that our shock absorbers were pretty much shot. Well, here comes the bump. Brace yourself.

djt profile balding big head palmer

Palmer Report, Opinion: Wow is Donald Trump ever stupid, Bill Palmer, March 3, 2020. Donald Trump, ever the narcissistic sociopath, won’t shed a single tear for a single victim of the coronavirus. But because the crisis is threatening his already-weak reelection odds, he’s being forced to go through the motions. Yesterday he held a televised meeting about the coronavirus, which he and his handlers seemed to think would make him look like a solid leader.

Instead, Trump used the meeting as an opportunity to come across as being even more ignorant and stupid than usual. At one point he admitted that he had no idea anyone ever dies from the flu. Then he asked if the flu vaccine would help protect people from the coronavirus. There are plenty of people out there who have as little understanding of viruses as Trump does. The difference is that he’s been President of the United States for three years, and he still hasn’t learned any of this.

bill palmer report logo headerWe keep joking that Trump is going to try to solve the coronavirus by building a wall around it – but based on what he’s saying, we can’t be sure he won’t suggest building a wall around it. The CDC, which Trump is in charge of, says on its website that more than a hundred thousand Americans have died from complications from the flu since Trump took office. But until yesterday, Trump didn’t even know such a thing was possible.

Yes, Donald Trump often dumbs things down in the name of pandering to his most braindead and brainwashed supporters, who think ignorance is a virtue, and who crave the simplistic magical solutions he serves up. But this doesn’t feel like one of those times. Trump is fighting for what little is left of his presidency as the nation starts to fear dropping dead, and for once, he has to sound like he’s at least semi-competent. And yet this was the best he could come up with.

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus Live Updates:  U.S. reports 9th coronavirus death as the virus continues to spread, Adam Taylor, Rick Noack and Teo Armus, March 3, 2020. With the coronavirus spreading unpredictably and Americans bracing for an increasing impact at home, pressure mounted for President Donald Trump officialglobal policymakers to respond with financial crisis-style stimulus measures to ward off the threat to households and the world economy.

But finance ministers from the Group of Seven leading economies stopped short of announcing any specific actions on Tuesday, disappointing Wall Street. In response, U.S. stock futures tumbled.

world health organization logo CustomAs the U.S. death toll rose to six and sparked panic buying, President Trump in a tweet earlier Tuesday called for a “big” interest-rate cut by the Federal Reserve “to make up for China’s coronavirus situation and slowdown.”

Meanwhile, South Korean leader Moon Jae-in declared “war” on the coronavirus as government officials were placed on 24-hour alert and health tests expanded in virus-hit areas. The number of confirmed cases in the country exceeded 5,000, the most outside China. About 70 countries have reported incidences of the virus, with the number of cases in the United States topping 100 across 15 states.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dow closes down almost 800 points despite Fed rate cut, Rachel Siegel and Thomas Heath​, March 3, 2020. There are growing signs that the economic impact of the coronavirus will last much longer than initially expected, and global leaders are still searching for ways to address the health and economic challenges.

U.S. stocks plummeted Tuesday after the Federal Reserve’s emergency rate cut failed to bring calm, extending the mayhem that has defined the markets for days over growing concerns the coronavirus will blunt economic growth.

The Dow Jones industrial average sank nearly 3 percent, 786 points, and the yield on the U.S. 10-year Treasury bond — a foundation of global finance — briefly fell below 1 percent, before recovering slightly, as investors fled equities for the safety of bonds. Investors are worried that the spreading outbreak will upend the global economy and end the decade-long expansion.

washington post logoWashington Post, Major airlines, U.S. officials clash over passenger tracking tied to virus cases, Jeff Stein, Lena H. Sun and Lori Aratani, March 3, transportation dept logo2020 (print ed.). U.S. officials are pressuring airline executives to turn over the email addresses and phone numbers of international passengers as the Trump administration tries to track who may have been exposed to the coronavirus, according to five people briefed on the situation.

Government officials say they need to be able to warn local authorities about who might have been exposed to the virus, but airlines say the government should instead share information that different agencies already collect.

• Washington Post, Some airlines, Amtrak waive fees for travel changes

U.S. 2020 Elections

Vice President Joe Biden congratulates newly sworn U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermontin 2013 as Janes Sanders looks on (Senate photo). 2013 senate photo Custom

Vice President Joe Biden congratulates newly sworn U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, shown with the latter’s wife Jane Sanders looking (2013 Senate photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Dominates the South; Sanders Wins in Three States, Nick Corasaniti and Katie Glueck, March 3, 2020. Black voters, suburban voters and older voters flocked to Joe Biden, who won in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Bernie Sanders secured wins in Utah, Colorado and Vermont. Some critical contests have yet to be called.

• Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has swept the Southern states, winning primaries in Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee, and Senator Bernie Sanders has won primaries in his home state, Vermont, and in Colorado and Utah. Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York won the caucuses in American Samoa.

• Mr. Sanders focused his primary-night remarks on attacking Mr. Biden’s record and fund-raising from large donors, saying “you cannot beat Trump with the same old, same old kind of politics.” Mr. Biden hit back: “People are talking about a revolution, we started a movement,” saying his campaign better reflected the country’s diversity.

• Addressing supporters in Detroit, Senator Elizabeth Warren cast off concerns about electability. “Cast the vote that will make you proud,” she said. “And vote for the person you think would be the best president of the United States.”

• Mr. Bloomberg, speaking in West Palm Beach, Fla., indicated that he did not anticipate winning a large number of delegates tonight, but he argued that he remained a “contender for the Democratic nomination.”

• Mr. Biden’s victories so far have come on the strength of his support among black voters, older voters, and suburbanites, according to exit polls. Mr. Sanders has dominated with younger voters and Latinos.

• Remember: The number to watch is delegates — not votes. That total will not be available until votes are counted in California, which could take quite a while.

FiveThirtyEight.com, Our Final Forecast For Super Tuesday Shows Biden’s Surge — And Lots Of Uncertainty, Nathaniel Rakich and Nate Silver, March 3, 2020.  Former Vice President Joe Biden has gotten a lot of good news over the past few days.

But one thing we haven’t had a lot of since South Carolina was hard data. That changed late last night with a flurry of new polls — we now have at least two polls conducted since South Carolina in every single Super Tuesday state. So by the time we froze the FiveThirtyEight forecast at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the Super Tuesday picture was a lot clearer — and overall, things look good for Biden.

Biden is now about twice as likely as Sanders to win a plurality of pledged delegates, according to our primary model, which gives him a 65 percent chance of doing so compared with a 34 percent chance for Sanders. This represents the culmination of a trend that has been underway in the model for about a week; it started to shift toward Biden once polls showed the potential for him to win big in South Carolina — and it anticipated a polling bounce in the Super Tuesday states if he did win big there. Still, even after South Carolina, Biden’s plurality chances had risen only to 32 percent, democratic donkey logocompared with 64 percent for Sanders. That means the polling bounce from the events of the past few days has been bigger than the model anticipated.

To be clear, however, there is still a lot of uncertainty. We’ve been talking about delegate pluralities, which obscures the fact that the most likely outcome in the model is still that no one wins a majority of pledged delegates. And we should note that the lack of a majority does not necessarily imply a contested convention. For instance, if Biden enters the convention with 46 percent of delegates and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg with 10 percent, they could strike a deal where Bloomberg delegates vote for Biden on the first ballot.

Still, in the overnight polling, the numbers for Bloomberg — and to a slightly lesser extent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren — held up better than you might have expected. The model has Bloomberg projected to finish with at least 15 percent of the vote in most states, which is the threshold required to receive delegates allocated at the state and district levels — and it has Warren projected to do so in most states outside of the South. While to our eye, the model’s numbers look a little optimistic for Bloomberg, the whole point of a model is to rely on objective data. And that says Bloomberg could still accumulate plenty of delegates, even though he isn’t a favorite in any state. Keep in mind that both Bloomberg and Warren also benefit from Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropping out — it’s easier to get 15 percent in a four-way race than a six-way one.2

Overall, the model has “no majority” happening 61 percent of the time, a Biden majority 31 percent of the time and a Sanders majority 8 percent of the time. Anyone else winning a majority would require a minor miracle.

In delegate terms, Biden is projected to finish about 375 delegates ahead of Sanders in the average simulation — but keep in mind that the average obscures a huge amount of variation. Still, this provides for a helpful benchmark. Bloomberg is projected to finish with an average of 555 delegates and Warren with 283 delegates — so their combined delegate tally projects to be more than twice as large as the projected margin separating Biden and Sanders. That’s why the model tends to land on “no majority” outcomes. If Bloomberg, Warren and other candidates are keeping 15 or 20 percent of the overall pledged delegate haul for themselves, then either Sanders or Biden needs to beat the other one by quite a bit to get an overall majority.

washington post logoWashington Post, Super Tuesday Live Updates: Big-name Democrats embrace Biden as Sanders hopes for a delegate sweep, Matt Viser, March 3, 2020 (print ed.). A parade of establishment Democrats began coalescing around Joe Biden on Monday, an attempt to bolster the former vice president joe biden 2020 button Customand stall Sen. Bernie Sanders’s ascent as voters in 14 states prepared to cast ballots Tuesday, the most consequential day of the presidential nominating contest.

On a day with cascading developments that rapidly recast the presidential race, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) dropped out and rushed to join Biden at his rally in Dallas on Monday night. In a visual symbol of Biden’s attempts to consolidate the moderates in the party, former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg — who dropped out Sunday night and who had an intensely frosty relationship with Klobuchar — also scrambled to get to Texas and endorse Biden.

“We need a politics that’s about decency, a politics that brings back dignity. That’s what Joe Biden has been practicing his entire life,” Buttigieg said at a restaurant in Dallas, ahead of the rally where Klobuchar declared: “I cannot think of a better way to end my campaign than joining his.”

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: Bernie Sanders Can’t Count on New Voters, Michelle Goldberg, right, March 3, 2020 (print ed.). There’s little evidence a progressive candidate can remake the electorate.

As Bernie Sanders has taken the lead in the Democratic primary, those of us with doubts that America would elect a Jewish democratic socialist president have been able to comfort ourselves with polls showing him beating Donald Trump, often by larger margins than his competitors.

New political science research by David Broockman of the University of California, Berkeley, and Joshua Kalla of Yale erodes some of that comfort. Broockman and Kalla surveyed over 40,000 people — far more than a typical poll — about head-to-head presidential matchups. They found that when they weight their numbers to reflect the demographic makeup of the population rather than the likely electorate, as many polls do, Sanders beats Trump, often by more than other candidates.

But the demographics of people who actually vote are almost always different from the demographics of people who can vote. That’s where their analysis raises concerns about Sanders’s chances.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Bernie Sanders has an Elizabeth Warren problem, Aaron Blake, March 3, 2020. With Joe Biden getting a boost from Pete elizabeth warren 2020 button croppedButtigieg’s and Amy Klobuchar’s exits, the question now turns to Warren, whom some Sanders supporters want out.

Warren, like Buttigieg and Klobuchar, looks to be a long shot to actually win the Democratic nomination; she hasn’t finished higher than third place in any state, and she may not win any state on Super Tuesday, either. Indeed, she looks like she might even lose her home state of Massachusetts to Sanders.

But Warren doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, and that’s an increasingly big problem for Sanders. That’s because her exit would probably be an even bigger boon to Sanders than the others will be for Biden.

washington post logoWashington Post, What is Super Tuesday and why is it important? Amber Phillips, March 3, 2020. Today is Super Tuesday, one of the most consequential days in the Democratic primary. It is the single day when the most states hold primaries or caucuses, the most voters have a chance to bernie sanders 2020 button croppedgo to the polls, and the most delegates will be allotted to candidates. More than a third of all delegates for the Democratic National Convention are up for grabs on this one day.

And it comes at a particularly dramatic point in the race, as former vice president Joe Biden is surging to become the moderate candidate who can dnc square logochallenge Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Here’s what you should know about Super Tuesday and how it could continue to reshape the race.

When is Super Tuesday? It’s Tuesday, March 3. It is the first big primary day after the four early-nominating states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — held their votes.

Poll closing times vary by state: Vermont’s polls close first at 7 p.m. Eastern, and California’s last at 11 p.m. Eastern. We won’t know all the results Tuesday, because the tabulating of votes could go late into the night, especially on the West Coast. California’s results will take days, at least, as mail-in ballots must be postmarked by primary day.

Super Tuesday is a popular day to hold a primary because so many states want an early say in who gets the nomination. So they’ve clustered as early as they can without stealing any thunder from the first four states, which have deals with the Democratic National Committee to go in the order they do.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The 2020 elections are being driven by health care. That’s good for Democrats, Catherine Rampell, March 3, 2020 (print ed.).  Between coronavirus and Obamacare sabotage, the 2020 presidential race is shaping up to be yet another election driven by health care. Which might deliver another coveted victory to Democrats.

Not because Democrats have done a lot right but, rather, because Republicans keep doing everything wrong.

Ahead of the 2018 midterms, Democrats had an undeniable advantage on health care. Polls consistently showed it as a top campaign issue, and nearly half of political ads in federal races mentioned it. Republicans had just spent the previous year trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and voters had finally figured out what they stood to lose: protections for preexisting conditions, the Medicaid expansion and other popular provisions.

After eight years of playing defense on health care, Democrats were at last on offense. The public saw Democrats as protectors of Obamacare and awarded the party control of the House.

Palmer Report: Opinion: GOP Senators panic as Donald Trump destroys their 2020 prospects, James Sullivan, March 3, 2020. Donald Trump is either pretending that the coronavirus is a hoax and his rallies are perfectly safe to attend (something that should reveal what he really thinks of his supporters), or that the coronavirus isn’t a serious emergency that he had to put his vice president in charge of. But there are at least a few Republicans who think his appalling management of a pandemic is a terrible and dangerous idea, at least in the face of their own odds of being re-elected.

bill palmer report logo headerWhile Republicans like Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Martha McSally of Arizona were once adamant about repealing Obamacare, which would cut $1 billion from funding specifically set aside for public health and responding to outbreaks, now they’re saying the Center for Disease Control isn’t funded well enough. McSally is even asking for reimbursement for cities from the CDC.

They want to be able to say when election season comes that they were able to help while the crisis broke out – regardless of whatever dangerous and stupid antics Donald Trump was up to at the time.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The job is essential to U.S. security. Trump’s nominee is not qualified, Editorial Board, March 3, 2020. It took only five days for President Trump’s nomination of Rep. John Ratcliffe as director of national intelligence to implode last summer. The Republican congressman, best known for his rabid defenses of the president, was widely described as the least qualified person ever to be proposed for the powerful position overseeing 17 government agencies.

john ratcliffe headshot CustomIn an attempt to bolster his credentials, Mr. Ratcliffe, right, made false claims about his record as a prosecutor in Texas, heightening bipartisan resistance to him in the Senate. When he scrapped the appointment, Mr. Trump conceded that the congressman had not been vetted for the job.

Now Mr. Ratcliffe is back. Mr. Trump announced Friday that he was putting Mr. Ratcliffe forward again for the DNI job, offering the patently dishonest explanation that Mr. Ratcliffe’s nomination was delayed to await an inspector general’s report about the FBI’s Russia investigation. The real motivation is probably far more cynical: Mr. Trump believes he can now force the Senate to swallow his choice, because the alternative is to retain the even more objectionable acting director he appointed just under two weeks ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump wants to lift the ban on transporting liquefied natural gas on trains. Opponents say it’s a risk, Will Englund, March 3, 2020.  State and local politicians, firefighters’ organizations, safety experts, environmentalists and the National Transportation Safety Board are critical of the proposed change.

washington post logoWashington Post, Abortion case out of Louisiana a first test for Trump’s Supreme Court justices, Robert Barnes, March 3, 2020. The Supreme Court’s next big abortion challenge comes from here in Louisiana. If the state’s politicians had their way, so would the one after that. And also the one after that, until Roe v. Wade was no longer the law of the land.

Since the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling protecting a woman’s constitutional right to abortion, no state has passed more restrictions on the procedure, a new national study shows: 89 and counting.

A repopulated and more conservative Supreme Court on Wednesday will consider one of those Louisiana laws, and some politicians here wonder if it might be the breakthrough they’ve been waiting for in a decades-long effort to rid the state, and the nation, of abortion.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, With most votes counted, Netanyahu is close to securing big win in Israeli election, Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash​, March 3, 2020. The resurgent prime minister has positioned himself within two parliamentary seats of a record-breaking fifth term, but he still has to navigate an benjamin netanyahu smileupcoming corruption trial.

Over the past 11 months, many pundits had declared Benjamin Netanyahu, right, politically dead, as the longest-serving leader in Israel’s history twice failed to achieve a majority in separate elections, hemorrhaging more support each time.

On Monday, the indomitable prime minister strode, at least for now, back to center stage in Israeli politics, reversing his party’s decline and positioning himself within two parliamentary seats of a record-breaking fifth term.

But the man known as Israel’s political magician will have to pull off two final tricks to complete the comeback: finding those two seats, maybe by poaching them from opposing parties, and navigating his own upcoming corruption trial, something no sitting prime minister has ever faced.

One day after Israel’s third election in less than a year, with more than 97 percent of the vote officially tallied, Netanyahu’s Likud party held 36 parliamentary seats, erasing its previous losses and making it once again the country’s largest party. His bloc of right-wing parties commands 59 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament, placing it far closer to the majority threshold than the rival Blue and White party, which has 32 seats.

Storm Disaster: Tennessee

washington post logoWashington Post, Death toll from Tennessee tornadoes jumps to at least 22, Brandon Gee, Kim Bellware, Meryl Kornfield, Timothy Bella and Matthew Cappucci, March 3, 2020. The tornadoes struck overnight in and around Nashville, destroying buildings, knocking out power to thousands and toppling trees and vehicles.

March 2

U.S. 2020 Election Headlines

World News

Global Public Health Headlines

Inside DC

Media News

 

U.S. 2020 Election

amy klobuchar pete buttigieg Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg are coming together to put Joe Biden over the top, Bill Palmer, March 2, 2020. According to numerous major media reports, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar are both en route to Dallas today, so they can jointly endorse Joe Biden at his rally tonight. This is a big deal, for a number of reasons. First, Amy and Pete clearly don’t like each other much, so this is a reminder that they’re both responsible adults who are putting country over self. But this is really about what they’re trying to make happen here.

bill palmer report logo headerPete and Amy, along with all of us on the left who understands how politics and elections work, don’t want Bernie Sanders to be the nominee, for two reasons.

First, he’s a bumbling stooge who wouldn’t be able to accomplish any of his magical false promises while in office. Second, and far more importantly, Bernie would find a way to lose to Donald Trump. It’s also clear that Pete and Amy both believe in Joe Biden, or they wouldn’t be getting so emphatically behind him.

Even if Bernie Sanders gets the majority of delegates on Super Tuesday, it’s now clear that Biden is in the driver’s seat. Look for even more Biden endorsements this week as the “unity ticket” starts to take shape.

ny times logoNew York Times, Amy Klobuchar Drops Out of Presidential Race and Plans to Endorse Biden, Nick Corasaniti and Alexander Burns, March 2, 2020. Ms. Klobuchar made her decision hours before Super Tuesday. She shocked the primary field with a third-place finish in New Hampshire, but ultimately could not compete with better-funded rivals.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who entered the Democratic presidential race with an appeal to moderate voters and offered herself as a candidate who could win in Midwestern swing states, has decided to quit the race and endorse a rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., according to a person close to Ms. Klobuchar.

amy klobucher button croppedMs. Klobuchar will appear with Mr. Biden at his rally in Dallas Monday night. The decision comes one day after former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., departed the race, and after weeks of Democratic Party hand-wringing about a crowded field of moderate candidates splitting a finite field of centrist votes, allowing Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont to march forward unopposed among progressives and amass delegates.

Ms. Klobuchar, despite a strong third-place finish in New Hampshire, lagged her moderate rivals in every other state and was often seen as a candidate siphoning support. Though she had varying levels of support across the Super Tuesday map, polling within reach of leading candidates in some predominantly Republican states with open primaries, but it is unclear how much of a boost any of her rivals will see in the wake of Ms. Klobuchar’s exit, or where she may direct her 7 delegates.

democratic donkey logoThe senator from Minnesota shocked her rivals with a surprising third-place finish in New Hampshire, placing ahead of better-known candidates like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mr. Biden.

But aside from New Hampshire, Ms. Klobuchar struggled deeply, lagging all of her competitors in Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina. Though her campaign received a much-needed influx of cash after New Hampshire — $12 million in just over a week — it proved too little, too late for the campaign to rapidly scale up and compete with her better funded and better organized rivals.

The Klobuchar campaign was constantly rescheduling events, oftentimes releasing public advisories for an event with less than 24 hours advance notice. One “get out the caucus” rally in Nevada at Rancho High School attracted less than 100 people. Days before, Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., brought more than 1,200 to the same school.

Ms. Klobuchar was forced to cancel a rally in her own backyard Sunday night, after protesters from Black Lives Matter and other local civil rights groups took over the stage in St. Louis Park, Minn. They were calling attention to the case of Myon Burrell, a black man convicted of murder as a teenager while Ms. Klobuchar was county attorney.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden moves aggressively to capitalize on his victory in S.C., Robert Costa, March 2, 2020 (print ed.). A dramatic triumph Saturday brought endorsements and newfound confidence for the former vice president, and the Democratic competition narrowed with Pete Buttigieg’s departure.

joe biden 2020 button CustomFormer vice president Joe Biden moved aggressively Sunday to capi­tal­ize on his dramatic South Carolina victory, welcoming a round of key endorsements and insisting in television interviews that he alone can unite his anxious party and stave off the ascent of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Biden’s newfound confidence came as like-minded contenders confronted pleas to drop out and back him ahead of this week’s primary elections — and as Democratic operatives deliberated over the timing and nature of those decisions.

A significant boost for Biden came Sunday evening, when former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg — one of his rivals for moderate votes — ended his campaign with a speech that, while not an endorsement, echoed Biden’s arguments for consolidating behind him.

Several influential Democrats from Super Tuesday states also gave Biden a lift on Sunday as they announced their support, including former senator Barbara Boxer of California. In Virginia, Rep. Jennifer Wexton — who won her suburban district in 2018, turning the seat blue for the first time in 38 years — endorsed Biden, calling him a “steady, empathetic leader.”

washington post logoWashington Post, With S.C. win, Biden makes case he’s best alternative to Sanders, Dan Balz, March 2, 2020 (print ed.). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) heads toward Super Tuesday leading the delegate race. But given growing resistance to his candidacy among establishment Democrats, other candidates jockey to emerge as the principal alternative.

The Democratic presidential campaign has produced as many questions as answers in the first four contests of the year. On Tuesday, things will begin to change, as the candidates enter what could be the decisive, if not conclusive, month in the battle for their party’s nomination.

dnc square logoWhat has been a state-by-state battle over the past month will suddenly explode into a nationalized contest on Tuesday, with establishment Democrats worried about the strength of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) but not settled on the strongest alternative.

Former vice president Joe Biden, with his blowout victory Saturday in South Carolina, made a strong case that he should be that person, but Super Tuesday voters will barely have time to digest those results before they, and the candidates, are plunged into the biggest and most important day of the Democratic nominating campaign.

By the time the votes from Tuesday’s contests are counted, and all the delegates allocated, at least two things should become clearer. One is whether Sanders has emerged with an insurmountable lead in the delegate race. The other, if Sanders’s delegate lead is not so big, is whether Biden or someone else might be positioned to overtake him.

Sanders heads toward Super Tuesday’s contests in an enviable position. But given growing resistance to his candidacy among establishment Democrats, he needs a strong performance Tuesday to put a lock on becoming the delegate leader heading to the national convention in Milwaukee in July.

“Bernie is the clear front-runner, but he’s got to get a lead, and a substantial lead, to consolidate his position,” said Tad Devine, who worked for Sanders’s campaign in 2016 and who advised Andrew Yang this year.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Pete Buttigieg just turned over the democratic primary race apple cart, Bill Palmer, March 2, 2020. Joe Biden just won South Carolina by a margin three times larger than even his most optimistic fans were hoping for. Pete Buttigieg just dropped out of the race, sending his supporters scrambling to find a new candidate. And this is all happening just hours before Super Tuesday, meaning all bets are off as far as how it shakes out – or are they?

Two things are at play here. First, Biden will definitely a see nationwide bump from his South Carolina victory. He was the clear frontrunner in national polling, until Mike Bloomberg stepped in and pulled nearly half his support away. One reason Bloomberg was able to peel off so many Biden supporters is that the media was busy pretending Iowa and New Hampshire were going to tell us anything about the primary race, and because those states aren’t a strength for Biden, the media was painting his candidacy as dead. Now voters can see that Biden is very much in contention, and so a large number of his supporters should shift from Bloomberg back to him.

Then we have the roughly 11% of primary voters nationwide who were aligned behind Pete Buttigieg, and who now need a home. Based on ideology and momentum, the largest chunk of Pete’s base should shift to Biden, with some shifting to Bloomberg, Klobuchar, and Warren, and very few shifting to Sanders. Right now Biden is behind Sanders by about 11 points in the RCP national polling averages. If he picks up, say, seven points from Pete dropping out, an another five points from his South Carolina win, Biden could end up being back in the national lead within a few days.

Of course this is all happening even as we head into Super Tuesday with poll numbers that are instantly made obsolete by the events of the past forty-eight hours, and no time for new polls to be conducted in the Super Tuesday states before they vote. So we’re flying a bit blind this week. Sanders will win the majority of Super Tuesday delegates. But with the way everything has suddenly shifted, it won’t be the kind of dominant majority that he was hoping for. Nevertheless, we’re likely heading into a week where Sanders opens a large delegate lead, even as Biden pulls back into first place in nationwide polling.

ny times logocharles blow CustomNew York Times, Opinion: Warnings From South Carolina, Charles M. Blow, right, March 2, 2020 (print ed.). With Biden’s victory, minority and religious voters demand attention.

Before the South Carolina Democratic primary, many in elite political circles were writing the Joe Biden campaign’s obituary. And they were enjoying it. With Biden’s blowout victory in South Carolina, he breathed new life into his limping campaign, offering new hope not only to his campaign but also to moderate Democrats who have yet to settle on a primary champion.

But, aside from Biden’s victory, exit poll data from the state offers a number of warnings and signals for Democrats moving forward.

First, if the results in Nevada and South Carolina are harbingers for the rest of the nation, this primary season will further explode the people-of-color, intersectional interests argument. It is completely plausible that black and Hispanic voters could consistently and repeatedly pick different candidates, Biden for the former group and Bernie Sanders for the latter.

Sanders’s outreach to the Hispanic community seems to have paid more dividends than his outreach to the black community. One contributing factor is that Sanders does better in general among younger, more idealistic voters, and the Hispanic population in America is generally younger.

There are very real implications of this chasm to consider. What would it mean for the Democrats to choose a candidate who couldn’t carry the black vote in a single state? Or conversely, not win the Hispanic vote? How would that play in November?

chris matthews 2011 david shankbone CustomNBC News, Chris Matthews announces retirement, mutually parts ways with MSNBC, Jason Abbruzzese, March 2, 2020. Matthews was due to retire in the near future with the events of the past week playing a factor in the timing of the move, an MSNBC spokesperson said.

Chris Matthews, one of the longest-tenured voices at MSNBC, announced his retirement during Monday’s night’s airing of his talk show, “Hardball.”

Matthews, 74 (shown in a 2011 photo by David Shankbone), said he and MSNBC had mutually agreed to part ways. The decision followed a series of events that resulted in criticism of the host’s statements about Bernie Sanders, African-American lawmakers, and comments he had made to female journalists and coworkers.

“I’m retiring,” Matthews said. “This is the last ‘Hardball’ on MSNBC.”

Matthews was due to retire in the near future with the events of the past week playing a factor in the timing of the move, an MSNBC spokesperson said.

msnbc logo CustomAfter MSNBC aired a commercial following the announcement, Matthews did not return to the program. Steve Kornacki, a political reporter for the network, took over the rest of the hour, and seemed shocked by the news. “That was a lot to take in,” he said, saying it had been an honor to work with Matthews, and then beginning a discussion about the coronavirus response.

Matthews, a former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, has hosted “Hardball” on MSNBC since 1999 and remained a centrist voice on the cable news channel’s prime-time programming, which often features commentary that is further to the left.

NBCUniversal is the parent company of MSNBC and NBC News. Matthews said he was not retiring due to a lack of interest in politics, but nodded to changes taking place.

washington post logoWashington Post, Klobuchar cancels Minnesota rally after protesters storm event, outraged over her prosecutorial record, Allyson Chiu, March 2, 2020. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) canceled a campaign rally in her home state of Minnesota Sunday night after dozens of protesters occupied the stage for more than an hour, demanding that the Democratic presidential candidate drop out of the race over her past involvement in a controversial murder conviction of a black teenager.

amy klobucher button croppedThe rally, scheduled to take place at 8 p.m. local time in St. Louis Park, Minn., was derailed when protesters affiliated with Black Lives Matter, the Minneapolis NAACP and other civil rights organizations stormed into the event, as seen in videos uploaded to social media. Toting signs and banners, the activists chanted, “Klobuchar has got to go,” and “Free Myon,” in reference to Myon Burrell, who was sentenced to life in prison following the 2002 shooting death of an 11-year-old girl.

A campaign spokesperson told reporters that the rally was eventually canceled after the protesters, who wanted Klobuchar to acknowledge Burrell in her Sunday remarks, refused to leave the stage despite the senator offering to meet with them, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Questions over Klobuchar’s prosecutorial record, namely her handling of the Burrell case when she was the top attorney in Hennepin County, Minn., have dogged the senator since she announced her presidential bid last year. Klobuchar has also faced criticism for declining to prosecute cases involving police accused of using excessive force against black suspects, The Washington Post’s Elise Viebeck and Michelle Ye Hee Lee reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate Republicans plan first subpoena in Burisma, Biden probe, Felicia Sonmez and Paul Kane, March 2, 2020. The escalation of the GOP probe comes as former vice president Joe Biden’s fortunes are rising in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

ron johnson o CustomSen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), right, is preparing to subpoena a witness tied to Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma, in an escalation of the GOP probe of the firm that comes as former vice president Joe Biden’s fortunes are rising in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter Sunday to members of the panel informing them of his plan to force a vote on subpoenaing the witness, political consultant and former Ukrainian diplomat Andrii Telizhenko, who worked for a company called Blue Star Strategies that was a representative for Burisma in the United States.

joe biden wHunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, sat on the board of Burisma while his father was the Obama administration’s point person on Ukraine policy. President Trump and Republicans have claimed, without evidence, that there was something nefarious in the Bidens’ dealings with Ukraine.

If approved, Johnson’s move would mark the first subpoena Senate Republicans have issued in their probe into Biden, left, and Burisma.

Two other GOP senators — Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) — have also launched investigations into Hunter Biden.

In his letter to members of the panel, Johnson wrote that he is “convinced obtaining Mr. Telizhenko’s Blue Star documents and information is an important part of this investigation.”

“I sincerely hope the members of the Committee will agree and support this subpoena,” he wrote.

News of Johnson’s plans was first reported by CBS News.

Johnson sent the letter one day after Joe Biden was announced the winner of the South Carolina Democratic primary, a victory that has resurrected his campaign and shaken up the race for the 2020 nomination.

Telizhenko is a 29-year-old Ukrainian national who has fueled the widely debunked theory embraced by Trump that Ukraine assisted former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election with help from the Democratic National Committee. The DNC has denied those claims.

Telizhenko also had a meeting last year with Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who later said the two discussed U.S.-Ukraine relations.

Last Monday, Johnson sent a letter to Sen. Gary Peters (Mich.), the top Democrat on the panel, advising him of his intent to issue the subpoena. Three days later, Peters wrote back to Johnson voicing his objections to subpoenaing Telizhenko and calling for the committee to vote on the matter “given the significant national security concerns” involved, particularly on the issue of Russian disinformation efforts.

Global Public Health Headlines

washington post logoWashington Post, Virus may have spread undetected for weeks in Washington state, Joel Achenbach, Katie Mettler, Lena H. Sun and Ben Guarino, March 2, 2020 (print ed.). Officials in Seattle and King County on Sunday announced that four more people have tested positive for the coronavirus, including the second person in the state to die of the virus.

The coronavirus has been circulating undetected and has possibly infected scores of people over the past six weeks in Washington state, according to a genetic analysis of virus samples that has sobering implications for the entire country amid heightening anxiety about the likely spread of the disease.

The researchers conducted genetic sequencing of two virus samples. One is from a patient who traveled from China to Snohomish County in mid-January and was the first person diagnosed with the disease in the United States. The other came from a recently diagnosed patient in the same county, a high school student with no travel-related or other known exposure to the coronavirus.

The two samples look almost identical genetically, said Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle who announced the results of the research on Twitter late Saturday night.

“This strongly suggests that there has been cryptic transmission in Washington State for the past 6 weeks,” Bedford wrote. “I believe we’re facing an already substantial outbreak in Washington State that was not detected until now due to narrow case definition requiring direct travel to China.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How to Confront the Coronavirus at Every Level, Tom Inglesby and Anita Cicero (Dr. Inglesby is director of the Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where Ms. Cicero is deputy director), March 2, 2020 (print ed.). Tests need to be readied, protection equipment needs to be produced, medication needs to be developed. All of this will take funding.

Health care systems need plans to diagnose people rapidly, so those who are infected can be isolated before they spread Covid-19 to the hospital cdc logo Customstaff, or to other patients and family members. That will require setting up testing centers in clinics or in hospital locations well removed from crowded emergency departments and waiting rooms.

Up until this week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been doing all the lab testing for Covid-19. Technical challenges have slowed the distribution of this test, but now public health labs around the country have the authority to use it in their cities and states. Once there is enough testing capacity, testing should be done for anyone with symptoms consistent with Covid-19, and priority should be given to the sickest hospitalized patients.

The demand for clinical testing is likely to outstrip the capacity of public health labs and the C.D.C., so diagnostic companies will need to develop rapid, high-volume tests for hospitals and clinics. The federal government needs to make clear to those companies that they will be fully compensated for accelerating the development and production of such tests.

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus live updates: Foreign markets rally on hopes of stimulus as virus defies travel curbs, Adam Taylor, Teo Armus and Simon Denyer, March 2, 2020. Adviser to Iran’s supreme leader dies from coronavirus as confirmed cases reach 1,500. India reports two new cases, including first in Delhi. Italy cancels five big-ticket soccer games amid largest outbreak in Europe.

world health organization logo CustomThe novel coronavirus continued its march around the globe Monday, despite travel restrictions aimed at curtailing its spread, but hopes of a coordinated monetary response by central banks lifted world markets following last week’s heavy losses.

As the global death toll passed 3,000, South Korea said Monday it had confirmed 599 new cases, far higher than the daily tally reported in China. With 4,335 confirmed infections and at least 22 deaths, South Korea has the second-largest national caseload. However, it has tested more than 100,000 people, far more than most nations.

washington post logo Washington Post, Rumors and chaos in Alabama point to big problems as U.S. seeks to contain virus, Todd C. Frankel, March 2, 2020 (print ed.). Fear that the plan crafted to house infected patients was flawed gave new energy to already circulating rumors and wild theories about the virus.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: Paranoid Politics Goes Viral, Paul Krugman, right, March 2, 2020. When everything is a liberal media conspiracy. We still don’t know how much damage Covid-19 — the coronavirus disease — will do, but it’s reasonable to be very concerned. After all, it appears to be highly transmissible, and it is probably a lot more lethal than ordinary flu.

But not to worry, say right-wing pundits and news organizations: It’s all a hoax, a conspiracy by the liberal media to make Donald Trump look bad. Administration officials and Trump himself have echoed their claims.

These claims are, of course, crazy. Among other things, Covid-19 is a global phenomenon, with major outbreaks ranging from South Korea to Italy. Are the South Korean and Italian media also part of a conspiracy to get Trump?

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Media outlets help Trump push a dangerous, false spin on coronavirus, Margaret Sullivan, right, March 2, 2020 (print ed.). Journalists margaret sullivan 2015 photoneed a new approach for tackling the president’s claims if they don’t want to be complicit in pushing propaganda.

Among the many outlandish statements President Trump has made since taking office, one in particular stands out for me.

Speaking in Kansas City, Mo., in the summer of 2018, he urged the attendees of the VFW annual convention to ignore the journalism of the mainstream media.

“Just stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” he said. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

In other words, if you didn’t hear from me or my minions, it isn’t true.

Chico Marx memorably expressed a similar idea in the 1933 comedy “Duck Soup”: “Who ya gonna believe — me or your own eyes?”

It’s a dumbfounding notion, especially given Trump’s proven propensity for lies and falsehoods. But now as a deadly disease, the coronavirus, threatens to turn into a full-blown pandemic, it’s not simply bizarre in a way that can be easily shrugged off. It’s not just Trump being Trump.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Israeli Election Gives Edge to Netanyahu, Exit Polls Say, David M. Halbfinger and Patrick Kingsley, March 2, 2020. Prime Minister benjamin netanyahu smileBenjamin Netanyahu, right, appears to have bested his challenger, Benny Gantz, in Israel’s third election in a year, and come close to winning a majority.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel held a significant lead in his third electoral showdown with the former army chief Benny Gantz, and was on the cusp of an outright parliamentary majority, exit polls showed on Monday night.

The polls showed Mr. Netanyahu, who faces trial in two weeks on felony corruption charges, just one parliamentary seat away from forming a government, winning a record fifth term in office and breaking the political logjam that has paralyzed Israel for more than a year.

But that also would set the stage for a possible constitutional showdown between Israel’s political and judicial power centers over whether Mr. Netanyahu is able to form a government while under indictment.

Israeli exit polls have been unreliable, but all three major television networks gave Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing and religious coalition 60 seats, one shy of a majority in the 120-member Parliament. That plurality, if it holds up, would give him the first chance to assemble a majority coalition, and he would only have to peel off a single seat from another party to do so.

Mr. Netanyahu and his allies won 60 seats in the election last April, but was unable to form a government. But two elections later, Mr. Netanyahu is full of momentum, his opponents are exhausted, and analysts immediately identified at least two promising recruitment targets for him among Mr. Gantz’s allies.

benny grantz cropped flickr as israel defense forces chief of staffjpg SmallMr. Gantz, left, and his allies on the center-left, including the predominantly Arab Joint List, appeared to have won 52 or 54 seats, depending on the survey.

The Joint List appeared to have won as many as 14 or 15 seats, which would be a record for Arab representation in Parliament. It now has 13.

Since Mr. Netanyahu is facing felony prosecution, it is unclear whether the president, Reuven Rivlin, can legally invite him to form a government. The situation has no precedent and the Supreme Court, perhaps hoping a third election would render the question moot, avoided ruling on the subject in January.

But the court will almost certainly now be asked to intervene, forcing its unelected judges to choose between disqualifying an elected leader from taking power or allowing a leader who is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust to form a new government.

At a minimum, Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier, could use the electoral result to bolster his hand in negotiating a plea bargain.

“This would be a very dramatic test for Israeli democracy and the rule of law,” said Gideon Rahat, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “He’ll use his majority to say: The people supported me, and who is the court to decide otherwise?”

A new term for Mr. Netanyahu would also clear away domestic political impediments to annexing territory in the occupied West Bank, a move endorsed by the Trump administration and considered illegal by most of the world.

And it would renew the control of Mr. Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox allies over matters of religion and state, affecting emotionally charged matters like marriage and conversion that have torn at the fabric of Israeli society and driven a wedge between the country and liberal American Jews.

Mr. Gantz, who had tried to rally Israelis behind the rule of law, had argued that even a narrow advantage for Mr. Netanyahu in Parliament could lead to a dangerous slide into autocracy.

Mr. Gantz had also endorsed the West Bank annexation in principle, but with the important caveat that he would not proceed with it outside of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians or without broad international support.

The prospect of an invigorated right-wing government pushing to annex West Bank land sent shudders through the Israeli peace camp and drew plaintive reactions from the Palestinians.

“It is obvious that settlement, occupation and apartheid have won the Israeli elections,” Saeb Erekat, the veteran Palestinian negotiator, wrote on Twitter, adding that Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign was on “the wrong side of history.”

The results reflect an uptick in turnout, the strongest since 2015, despite the ugliness of the campaign’s final weeks and fears of the new coronavirus.

But voting appeared markedly heavier in the strongholds of Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party, analysts said, particularly in Israel’s so-called peripheral areas, from the desert city of Beersheba in the south to Kiryat Shemona on the Lebanese border.

By contrast, late in the day Mr. Gantz and his allies were pleading with residents of Tel Aviv, a liberal bastion, to hurry to the polls.

The left-wing Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance appeared to collapse, to 6 or 7 seats in Parliament, down from 11, exit polls showed. Some of its voters appeared to have gravitated toward the Joint List, which made a strong push for liberal Jewish support.

washington post logoWashington Post, Afghan government objects to elements of U.S.-Taliban peace deal, Susannah George and Dan Lamothe, March 2, 2020 (print ed.). The Afghan government objected Sunday to parts of the historic peace deal between the United States and the Taliban, showing the difficulties that lie ahead for the country as the 18-year conflict enters a new phase.

ashraf ghani 2018 croppedAfghan President Ashraf Ghani, right and speaking at a news conference less than 24 hours after the agreement was signed, questioned several elements of the deal, including the timeline for a controversial prisoner exchange and the conditions surrounding the start of talks between the Taliban and his government.

The U.S.-Taliban deal, the result of talks from which the Afghan government was excluded, charts a path for the full withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country it invaded after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It stipulates that talks between the Taliban and Ghani’s government must begin by March 10 — at which point the sides must have completed a prisoner exchange.

SouthFront, Russian Military Police Entered Saraqib In Eastern Idlib: Russian Military, Staff report, March 2, 2020. Russian forces will guarantee “security” and allow a peaceful passage of cars through the M5 and M4 highways.

The official deployment of Russian forces in Saraqib followed an advance of the Syrian Army supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces. The Syrians cleared Saraqib of Turkish forces and their al-Qaeda allies. The Russian military presence in the town is designed to prevent further Turkish attempts to capture it and cut off the M5 highway. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin with ISIS backdrop (Press TV image/DCMA)

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin with ISIS backdrop (Press TV image via DCMA)

Moon of Alabama, Opinion on Syria: Another Short Note on the Recent Developments, b, March 2, 2020. After the confusion caused by the sudden stand down of Russian forces in Syria and the following Turkish drone attacks everything seems to be back to normal.

Russian planes are again bombing Jihadis and Turkey has been told by Russia that none of its planes or drones will be safe within Syria’s sky.

The Pentagon announced that it will not provide air support to Turkey. It will also not send any Patriot air defense to Syria but President Trump promised to ask other NATO countries to do so. They are likely to deny the request. It seems that Pentagon has won the fight with the State Department which supported the Turkish push for protection.

The Syrian army has again regained the areas that were lost during the last week. The city of Saraqib is again liberated. Russia let it known that its military police will take care of security in the city. This means that it is off limits for another Turkish Jihadi attack. The M5 highway can now be reopened and will be secure.

There is another large supply operation from Russia underway. The resupply should silent any talk that Russia has given up on Syria.

Erdogan wants Idleb but neither Syria nor Iran nor Russia will let him have it. President Putin will meet Erdogan during the next days and will make sure that the point is understood.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Ken Cuccinelli’s appointment to top immigration job was unlawful, court rules, invalidating policy memos he signed, Nick Miroff, March 2, 2020. A federal judge ruled Sunday that President Trump’s appointment last year of Ken Cuccinelli to be head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was a violation of federal vacancy laws, and that Cuccinelli lacked the authority to issue policy directives tightening asylum rules.

ken cuccinelliU.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss, an Obama appointee, said the administration violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 when it placed Cuccinelli, a conservative activist and former attorney general of Virginia, in charge of the agency that runs the nation’s legal immigration system.

The ruling amounts to a rebuke of Trump’s stated preference for filling top administration jobs with officials serving in an “acting” capacity. The president has said he prefers having top officials in an acting role because he thinks it makes them easier to remove than those with Senate confirmation.

CNN, Justice Department releases more than 600 pages of notes from witnesses during Mueller investigation, Katelyn Polantz, Marshall Cohen, Ellie cnn logoKaufman, David Shortell and Erica Orden, March 2, 2020. The Justice Department on Monday released over 600 pages of notes from major witness interviews during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, including FBI memos called 302s from top Trump campaign advisers Jared Kushner, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort and Trump Tower meeting attendee Rob Goldstone.

This is the sixth time CNN has received from the Justice Department documents regarding the Mueller investigation, as part of a 2019 lawsuit filed in conjunction with BuzzFeed News.

The previous releases have fleshed out details that Mueller summarized in his final report regarding President Donald Trump’s and his campaign’s actions. The memos so far have revealed, for instance, how top Trump campaign officials witnessed the President and other Trump campaign officials pushing for the release of stolen Democratic emails and supported a conspiracy theory that Ukraine hacked the Democrats in 2016.

At times, the documents have given much fuller portraits about what the Russia investigations’ top cooperators said, including how former deputy director Andrew McCabe saw FBI staff crying in the hallways after Trump fired then-director James Comey, or how the investigators handled their witnesses, like when they gave the former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos a granola bar following his arrest.

The memos were typed up by agents or prosecutors after they questioned each witness.

More documents are scheduled to be released each month until this summer.

Here are highlights from the documents:

Kushner interview notes released after intel review

After two months of a delay, the Justice Department finally released on Monday the interview memo of Kushner speaking with the special counsel’s office on April 11, 2018.

Kushner spoke with the Mueller team that day about his interactions with Russians, including then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who told him at a reception, “we like what your candidate is saying” and later on as they discussed using the Russian Embassy to communicate. He also spoke to them about meeting with the Abu Dhabi crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other connections to United Arab Emirates.

They asked him about Trump’s firing of Comey and about the Trump Tower meeting with Russians in June 2016. Kushner also told the Mueller team he was given a bag of dirt by a Russian state-owned bank chairman, representing the town in Belarus where his family was from.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why the Success of The New York Times May Be Bad News for Journalism, Ben Smith, March 2, 2020 (print ed.). In his debut, our new media columnist says The Times has become like Facebook or Google — a digital behemoth crowding out the competition.

The first time I met A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, I tried to hire him.

That was back in the heady days of digital media in 2014, and I was at BuzzFeed News, one of a handful of start-ups preparing to sweep aside dying legacy outlets like The Times.

Times stock was still sputtering, and the company had sold off everything but its furniture to keep paying for journalism.

Mr. Sulzberger, then the heir apparent to lead The Times, politely declined my offer. And today, after eight years as BuzzFeed editor in chief, I find myself in his employ as the new media columnist.

March 1

U.S. 2020 Election Headlines

Global Public Health Headlines

U.S. Courts

World News

Media News

Assange Prosecution: Implications

 

U.S. 2020 ElectionsFormer Vice President Joe Biden visits Marshalltown, Iowa on July 4, 2019 (Gage Skidmore Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Former Vice President Joe Biden visits Marshalltown, Iowa on July 4, 2019 (Gage Skidmore Photo via Wikimedia Commons). Biden won 48.4 % of the vote and 35 delegates compared to Sanders (19.9 % with 13 delegates), Steyer (11.3 % (Buttigieg (8.2 %), Warren (7.1 %), Kloburchar (3.2 %) and Gabbard (1.3 %) with 100 % of the vote reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden wins in S.C., potentially reshaping Democratic race, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Michael Scherer​, March 1, 2020 (print ed.). Former vice president Joe Biden decisively won the South Carolina primary Saturday, as the first Southern primary contest reshaped the race and dealt a blow to the surging candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The win pumped new life into Biden’s struggling campaign, as he became the first candidate to score a clear-cut victory against Sanders this year, boosting his efforts to become the major alternative to the liberal senator. Still, Sanders (I-Vt.) is polling strongly in several of the Super Tuesday states that vote this week, and it could yet prove difficult for any of his competitors to catch up.

At a minimum, Democrats now face the most unsettled contest in decades, with several candidates showing a potential to win delegates after the winnowing process of the first four primary states. The Democratic race goes national Tuesday, when 14 states and one territory will vote to award 34 percent of the convention delegates.

What’s not clear is whether Biden’s triumph in a state supporters have long called his “firewall,” where African American voters had a significant say for the first time, will provide only a momentary lift, result in a two-person race between Biden and Sanders — or result in a long slog to the convention.

Still, it was a major win for a figure who has been in public life for 45 years, and his first primary victory in his three presidential runs. Cheers went up at 7 p.m. at a Biden election-night rally in Columbia when MSNBC called the race, and again at 7:04, when the channel was switched to CNN. Biden cast the win as the first of many number of dominoes that will now fall his way, noting that some were counting him out just days ago.

ny times logoNew York Times, Winning South Carolina, Biden Makes Case Against Sanders: ‘Win Big or Lose,’ Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Updated March 1, 2020. Joseph R. Biden Jr. scored a decisive victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, reviving his listing campaign and establishing himself as the leading contender to slow Senator Bernie Sanders as the turbulent Democratic race turns to a slew of coast-to-coast contests on Tuesday.

bernie sanders 2020 button croppedPropelled by an outpouring of support from South Carolina’s African-American voters, Mr. Biden easily overcame a late effort by Mr. Sanders to stage an upset. The victory in a state long seen as his firewall will vault Mr. Biden into Super Tuesday, where polls open in just over 48 hours, as the clear alternative to Mr. Sanders for establishment-aligned Democrats.

Mr. Biden, the former vice president, captured just under 50 percent of the vote, well ahead of Mr. Sanders, who had 20 percent. Tom Steyer, the California billionaire, was a distant third, followed by Pete Buttigieg and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. The victory enabled Mr. Biden to significantly narrow Mr. Sanders’s pledged delegate lead, but he did not appear poised to overtake him.

FiveThirtyEight, Analysis: What Biden’s Big South Carolina Win Might Mean For Sanders, Nate Silver, March 1, 2020. Saturday was Joe Biden’s first-ever win in a presidential primary or caucus. It was an awfully big one: Biden won South Carolina by nearly 30 percentage points over Bernie Sanders. And it made for one heck of a comeback: Biden’s lead over Sanders had fallen to as little as 2 to 3 percentage points in our South Carolina polling average in the immediate aftermath of New Hampshire.

What explains the big swing back to Biden in South Carolina? And what does it mean for the rest of the race — and in particular for Sanders, who had entered this weekend as the frontrunner?

Here are five possible explanations — ranging from the most benign for Sanders to the most troubling for his campaign.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tom Steyer Drops Out of 2020 Presidential Race, Stephanie Saul and Matt Stevens, March 1, 2020 (print ed.). Mr. Steyer, the former hedge-fund executive, exited the race after a disappointing finish in South Carolina — a state where he had spent considerable resources and pinned the hopes of his campaign.

tom steyer campaign cutton CustomTom Steyer, the billionaire former hedge-fund executive whose prolific campaign spending altered the Democratic primary and allowed him to persist in the race, withdrew following a loss Saturday night in South Carolina.

Speaking to supporters here, Mr. Steyer announced he was ending his long shot presidential bid, but promised to continue working on issues that are of great importance to him — environmental and economic injustice.

“We live in a country that is deeply unjust economically where rich people have been profiting at the expense of everybody else,” Mr. Steyer said, his voice cracking at times. “And I didn’t get in this race and start talking about things to get votes. I was in this race to talk about things that I cared the most about.”

Mr. Steyer, 62, had failed to capitalize on his investment of millions of dollars in South Carolina, where he had pinned the hopes of his campaign. Despite spending more than $191 million on advertising nationally, Mr. Steyer did not earn any national pledged delegates in Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada, making South Carolina something of a make-or-break state for his continued viability. With 80 percent of the votes counted here, Mr. Steyer had garnered less than 12 percent of the vote, although he told supporters he might pick up one or two delegates.

Mr. Steyer, who said he had always planned to end his candidacy if he did not see a path to victory, declared that, based on the South Carolina results, he did not see a path. In leaving the campaign, he did not endorse another candidate, but pledged to work with the Democratic nominee who he said would be “a million times better than Trump. Trump is a disaster.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s odds of going to prison just went way up, Bill Palmer, March 1, 2020. Thanks to his thirty point massive blowout win in South Carolina last night, Joe Biden is now in the driver’s seat in the Democratic primary race. We’re seeing supporters of the other mainstream Democratic candidates starting to shift to Biden, in the hope that Biden can take down erratic bumbler Bernie Sanders, and then take down maniacal criminal Donald Trump. As of last night, Trump’s odds of spending the rest of his life in solitary confinement just went up significantly. Bear with me here.

bill palmer report logo headerJoe Biden publicly stated a few weeks ago that he definitely wants Kamala Harris involved in his administration, but he had to talk with her about which role she’d want. There’s wide expectation that Biden will pick either Harris or Stacey Abrams as his running mate. If he picks Abrams, then Harris is probably a lock for Attorney General. And if Harris is VP, then Biden would most likely pick Adam Schiff or some other proven prosecutor as Attorney General.

Harris, Schiff, and anyone else in their league would – without any doubt – bring a federal criminal case against Donald Trump (shown in a Palmer Report graphic) and his co-conspirators. djt prison palmer reportMoreover, they’d build the kind of comprehensive case that would be sure to nail Trump on some rather complex charges. They’d also be able to employ the kind of legal savvy required to work around any attempt Trump might make at trying to pardon himself on certain charges on his way out of the White House. Putting Trump in prison would be a major task, but a solid Attorney General with a strong prosecutorial background would pull it off.

In other words, if Joe Biden becomes the nominee, he’ll probably beat Donald Trump, and if he does, Trump will almost definitely go to prison. New York will go after Trump on state charges one way or the other. But he’s broken a wider variety of federal laws, and so it’s crucial that there also be a strong federal case made against him.

Global Public Health Headlines

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Live Updates: New York State Reports First Case; 2 Health Care Workers in California Test Positive, Staff reports, March 1, 2020. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday confirmed New York State’s first case of the coronavirus, saying that a woman contracted the virus while traveling in Iran and is now in New York isolated in her home.

The announcement brings the total number of coronavirus cases in the United States to 76, including 11 announced over the weekend.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Here Comes the Coronavirus Pandemic, Editorial Board, March 1, 2020 (print ed.). Now, after many fire drills, the world may be facing a real fire.

Here we are again. In December, another new virus — SARS-CoV-2 — made the leap from animals to humans. It has now infected more than 83,000 people across more than 50 countries. Nearly 3,000 people have died, most of them in China where the outbreak began.

Global health experts are once again sounding the alarm. It’s unclear how bad things might get this time around. Covid-19, the disease caused by this new virus, appears to be between seven and 20 times more deadly than seasonal flu, which on average kills between 300,000 and 650,000 people globally each year. But that fatality rate could prove to be much lower, especially if it turns out that many milder cases have evaded detection.

In the meantime, this much is not in dispute: SARS-CoV-2 spreads easily — more easily than SARS or seasonal flu — and is tough to detect. It’s the kind of virus that would be extremely difficult to contain even in a best-case scenario, and the world is hardly in a best-case scenario now. Rising nationalism, waning trust and lingering trade wars have undermined cooperation between global superpowers. Rampant misinformation and growing skepticism of science are imperiling public understanding of the crisis and governments’ response to it.

In the United States, a coming general election has politicized what should be a clear public health priority.

Axios, Scoop: Lab for coronavirus test kits may have been contaminated, Jonathan Swan and Caitlin Owens, March 1, 2020. A top federal scientist sounded the alarm about what he feared was contamination in an Atlanta lab where the government made test kits for the coronavirus, according to sources familiar with the situation in Atlanta.

Driving the news: The Trump administration has ordered an independent investigation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab, and manufacturing of the virus test kits has been moved, the sources said.

Why it matters: At the time the administration is under scrutiny for its early preparations for the virus, the potential problems at the lab became a top internal priority for some officials. But the Trump administration did not talk publicly about the Food and Drug Administration’s specific concerns about the Atlanta lab.

Senior officials are still not saying exactly what the FDA regulator found at the Atlanta lab.
The CDC lab in Atlanta developed the testing formula for the coronavirus test — which the government says works — and was manufacturing relatively small amounts of testing kits for laboratories around the country. This is where the lab ran into problems, per sources familiar with the situation.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said, in a statement to Axios, that government agencies have already worked together to resolve the problems with the coronavirus tests.

“Upon learning about the test issue from CDC, FDA worked with CDC to determine that problems with certain test components were due to a manufacturing issue,” he said. “We worked hand in hand with CDC to resolve the issues with manufacturing. FDA has confidence in the design and current manufacturing of the test that already have and are continuing to be distributed. These tests have passed extensive quality control procedures and will provide the high-level of diagnostic accuracy we need during this coronavirus outbreak.”

The big picture: The FDA says it now has full confidence in the coronavirus diagnostic kit, but a slew of new cases announced over the weekend suggest the virus has spread throughout the country while the U.S. government tested only a narrow subset of the population for it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside Trump’s frantic attempts to minimize the coronavirus crisis, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, March 1, 2020 (print ed.). As cases mounted, the White House scrambled to gain control of a rudderless response defined by infighting, confusion and misinformation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fear of Coronavirus Leaves the Faithful Without Mass in Italy’s North, Jason Horowitz, March 1, 2020. Concerns over safety and the fear of spreading the virus have upended many rituals of life in the region, including Sunday Mass.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Coronavirus Has Put the World’s Economy in Survival Mode, Eswar S. Prasad (Cornell University professor and Brookings Institution senior fellow), March 1, 2020. There’s little hope for a global economic rebound in 2020.

The hopeful narrative about 2020 heralding a modest rebound in global growth now lies in ruins. Europe stagnated and Japan’s economy shrank in the last quarter of 2019, even as China and India were losing momentum. So this year was already off to a rocky start.

Now, the coronavirus has put the world economy in survival mode. The spread of the virus is hurting travel, trade and supply chains worldwide. The Baltic Dry Index, a forward-looking indicator of global trade, has fallen by half and oil prices are down by about a quarter so far this year. U.S. stock markets, after initially taking the epidemic’s fallout in stride, are now experiencing a major sell-off.

ny times logoNew York Times, First Coronavirus Death in the U.S. Confirmed in Seattle Area, Staff reports, March 1, 2020. The death in King County comes as unexplained new cases in Washington State, Oregon and California suggest local, person-to-person spread of the virus in the U.S. The announcement, which included elevated warnings against travel to specific regions in Italy and South Korea, comes as a person near Seattle became the first in the country to die after contracting coronavirus.

Right Now: President Trump authorized new restrictions on travelers who have been in Iran and additional screenings of those from South Korea and Italy.

U.S. Supreme Court

supreme court 2018 group photo cropped Custom

washington post logoWashington Post Magazine, Can the Supreme Court learn to speak up for itself? David Fontana and Christopher Krewson, Feb. 26, 2020. The judiciary is under attack. Maybe it’s time the justices finally figured out how to defend the rule of law in the court of public opinion.

Attention is the currency of our contemporary political life, and two of our three branches of government are constantly printing that currency. President Trump has tens of millions of Twitter followers; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other congressional Democrats have successfully projected their voices into the public debate. For politicians in both of these branches, doing their job means speaking out — and being heard.

The third branch of the federal government, headed by the Supreme Court, has always been different. The justices are constantly speaking, but in the dry and long language of the law, a language that is hard for anyone to hear in the age of social media. There has generally been little objection to this relative silence. The legal expertise that judges bring to judging was supposed to speak for itself.

  •  Washington Post, Opinion: Trump made a baseless attack on two Supreme Court justices. Here’s why, George T. Conway III

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel, ‘Start-up Nation,’ Groans Under Strains of Growth and Neglect, David M. Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner, March 1, 2020. The election on Monday might break a yearlong political deadlock. Even as Israel has matured from a small, desert nation fighting for its survival into a regional power with an enviable high-tech industry, it has neglected the transportation, education and health-care systems that experts say are vital to its prosperity.

As the country holds its third election in a year, major challenges in each of those areas have drawn precious little attention. Experts warn that without investing heavily, Israel’s ability to keep up with the rest of the advanced world faces a reckoning, and they question whether the country’s fractured political system is even capable of addressing such long-term problems.

Elijah Magnier, Erdogan: Idlib is mine, Elijah J Magnier, March 1, 2020.  A significant development took place in Syria on Friday. A Russian attack on a Turkish convoy in Idlib in north-west Syria killed 36 Turkish soldiers and officers. In retaliation, Turkey launched an unprecedented armed drone attack that lasted several hours and resulted in the killing and wounding of over 150 Syrian officers and soldiers and their allies of Hezbollah and the Fatimiy’oun. The Turkish drones destroyed dozens of tanks and rocket launchers deployed by the Syrian Army along the front line. Russia ceased air support for Syria and its allies demanded from Russia an explanation for the lack of coordination of its unilateral stoppage of air support, allowing the Turkish drones to kill so many Syrian Army and allied forces. What happened, why, and what will be the consequences?

Turkey, according to the military commanders in Syria, saw the withdrawal of jihadists and decided to move thousands of troops into Syria to lead a counter-attack against the Syrian Army and its allies. This action made it impossible for Russia to distinguish between jihadists and the Turkish Army. Moreover, Turkey refrained from informing Russia – as it had agreed to according to the deconfliction agreement between Russia and Turkey – about the position of its regular forces. This was when Russia bombed a convoy killing 36 Turkish officers along with 17 jihadists who were present together with the Turkish Army.

According to decision-maker sources in Syria, the Russian Air Force was not aware of the presence of the Turkish convoy when it was almost decimated in Idlib. The Turkish command has supplied Turkish vehicles and deployed thousands of Turkish soldiers with the jihadists. “It almost appears that Turkish President Recep Tayyeb Erdogan wanted this high number of Turkish casualties to stop the successful and rapid attack of the Syria army on Idlib front, and to curtail the fast withdrawal of jihadists.”

According to the sources, Russia was surprised by the number of Turkish soldiers killed and declared a unilateral ceasefire to calm down the front and de-escalate. Moscow ordered its military operational room in Syria to stop the military push and halt the attack on rural Idlib. Engaging in a war against Turkey is not part of President Putin’s plans in Syria. Russia thought it the right time to quieten the front and allow Erdogan to lick his wounds.

This Russian wishful thinking did not correspond to Turkish intentions and plans in Syria. Turkey moved its military command and control base on the borders with Syria to direct attacks against the Syrian Army and its allies. Turkish armed drones mounted an unprecedented organised drone attack lasting several hours, destroying the entire Syrian defence line on the M5 and M4 and undermining the effectiveness of the Syrian Army, equipped and trained by Russia.

Turkish backed jihadists and foreign fighters preparing an attack against the Syrian Army position around Idlib.

It was now clear that Russia, Iran and its allies had misunderstood President Erdogan: Turkey is in the battle of Idlib to defend what Erdogan considers Turkish territory (Idlib). That is the meaning of the Turkish message, based on the behavior and deployment of the Turkish Army along with the jihadists. Damascus and its allies consider that Russia made a mistake in not preventing the Turkish drones from attacking Syrian-controlled territory in Idlib. Moreover, Russia made another grave mistake in not warning its allies that the political leadership in Moscow had declared a one-sided ceasefire, exposing partners in the battlefield and denying them air cover.

The military command of Syria and its allies believe that Turkey could now feel encouraged to repeat such an attack by Russian hesitation to stand against it. Thus Syria, Iran and allies have decided to secure air coverage for their forces spread over Idlib and to make sure they have independent protection even if Russia were to promise – according to the source – to lead a future attack and recover total air control.

The options are limited: either Russia agrees to support the preparation of the inevitable Syrian counter-attack in the coming days and before a Putin-Erdogan summit, or the situation in Idlib will hibernate and remain static until jihadists attack Aleppo again in the next 6-7 months.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: We Represented the Whistle-Blower. The Law Needs Urgent Help, Andrew P. Bakaj and Mark S. Zaid, March 1, 2020.  Future whistle-blowers must be persuaded that while there are always risks, the system can protect them.

Whistle-blowers are needed now more than ever. They must be persuaded that while there are always risks, the system can protect them.

We served as the attorneys for the intelligence community whistle-blower, and every step of the way we sought to protect them from reprisal, threats and disclosure of their identity. The last six months have tested the boundaries of the integrity of our country’s whistle-blower protections, not just from the framework of the law but also with respect to public perception.

We were honored to represent the whistle-blower, who has smoothly transitioned to new counsel — but we will continue to work, as we have for years, to strengthen the intelligence community whistle-blower system for future whistle-blowers.

This case showed that the whistle-blower disclosure process can work, although there is much to be done to reinforce it. After the complaint was filed with the intelligence community’s inspector general in August 2019, it made its way to Congress for oversight. Though the White House and the Department of Justice sought to block its progress, pressure from the legal team, Congress and the public forced the system to work. Was this perfect? No. But it ensured the serious allegations of misconduct reached the right people.

Assange Prosecution: Implications

julian assange clean cut library screenshot 2007 Custom 2

Consortium News via Zero Hedge, Opinion: Assange Extradition: Can A French Touch Pierce A Neo-Orwellian Farce? Pepe Escobar, March 1, 2020.
 It’s quite fitting that the – imperially pre-determined – judicial fate of Julian Assange (shown above in a 2007 screenshot) is being played out in Britain, the home of George Orwell.

As chronicled by the painful, searing reports of Ambassador Craig Murray, what’s taking place in Woolwich Crown Court is a sub-Orwellian farce with Conradian overtones: the horror…the horror…, remixed for the Raging Twenties. The heart of our moral darkness is not in the Congo: it’s in a dingy courtroom attached to a prison, presided by a lowly imperial lackey.

In one of Michel Onfray’s books published last year, Theorie de la Dictature (Robert Laffont) – the top dissident, politically incorrect French philosopher starts exactly from Orwell to examine the key features of a new-look dictatorship. He tracks seven paths of destruction: to destroy freedom, impoverish language, abolish truth, suppress history, deny nature, propagate hate, and aspire to empire.

To destroy freedom, Onfray stresses, power needs to assure perpetual surveillance; ruin personal life; suppress solitude; make opinion uniform and denounce thought crimes. That sounds like the road map for the United States government’s persecution of Assange.

Other paths, as in impoverishing language, include practicing newspeak; using double language; destroying words; oralizing language; speaking a single language; and suppressing the classics. That sounds like the modus operandi of the ruling classes in the Hegemon.

To abolish truth, power must teach ideology; instrumentalize the press; propagate fake news; and produce reality. To propagate hate, power, among other instruments, must create an enemy; foment wars; and psychiatrize critical thinking.

There’s no question we are already mired deep inside this neo-Orwellian dystopia.

John Paradise Lost Milton, in 1642, could not have been more prophetic, when he wrote “Those that hurt the eyes of the people blame them for being blind.” How not to identify a direct parallel with Le Petit Roi Emmanuel Macron’s army, month after month, willfully blinding protesting Gilets Jaunes/Yellow Vests in the streets of France.

Orwell was more straightforward than Milton, saying that to talk about freedom is meaningless unless it refers to the freedom to tell people what they don’t want to hear. And he put it in context by quoting a line from Milton: “By the known rules of ancient liberty.”

No “known rules of ancient liberty” are allowed to penetrate the heart of darkness of Woolwich Crown Court.
A Spy at the Service of the People

Juan Branco is arguably the most brilliant young French intellectual – heir to a fine Sartre/Foucault/Deleuze tradition. The French establishment detests him, especially because of his best-seller Crepuscule, where he dissected Macronism – branded as a thuggish regime – from the inside, and the French president as a creature and instrument of a tiny oligarchy.

Julian Assange. (YouTube still)

He has just published Assange: L’Antisouverain (Les Editions du Cerf), an absorbing, erudite study that he defines as “a philosophy book about the figure of the Anti-Sovereign.” The Sovereign is of course the state apparatus.

Here (in French) is an excellent interview with Branco about the book. There’s nothing even remotely comparable to it in the Anglosphere, which has treated Assange essentially as an unpleasant freak, oozing pedestrian slander and piling up sub-ideology tirades disguised as facts.

The book is essentially structured as a seminary for the hyper-selective Ecole Normale Superieure, the august school in the Latin Quarter here that shapes French elites, a privileged nest of power institutions and reproduction of privileges. Branco takes the reader to the heart of this universe just to make him or her discover Assange from the point of view of one of those students.

Branco was privileged to profit from the interaction between the Ecole Normale Superieure and Yale. He met Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in January 2014, “in a state of radical confinement,” and then followed him as a juridical consultant, then lawyer, “day after day,” until meeting him again in September 2016, “getting ready to no less than change the course of the American presidential election and engineer the fall of the one who had sworn to crush him, one Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Branco is fascinated by Assange’s “scientific journalism,” and his capacity to “intervene in the political space without occupying a determined place.” Assange is painted as a contemporary oracle, a maniac for free access to information, someone who “never looked for a reward, or insertion, or juridical protection,” which is a totally different modus operandi from any media.

 

 

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