Coronavirus has Trump approval ratings rising. Thats not surprising — or likely to last.

2 0 28 Mar 2020

President Donald Trump’s tardy and inconsistent reaction to the coronavirus crisis has drawn torrents of criticism. Even Trump administration officials and people close to the White House who usually defend his approach have expressed concern about his uneven performance in daily press briefings. The media coverage, not surprisingly, has been even harsher, filled with accounts of the bumbling news conferences and woe-is-me complaints, as he offers scant empathy over the growing number of fatalities.

With Americans holed up at home by the millions out of fear of a deadly pandemic as the economy craters, Trump’s approval ratings should be near the depths of modern presidential performance. On par, say, with President George W. Bush’s 25 percent approval rating in early November 2008 as the worst recession since the Great Depression engulfed the country. Or even President Richard Nixon’s 24 percent approval rating in August 1974 on the eve of his resignation over Watergate.

Battling the coronavirus is likely to be a long slog filled with accounts of death and economic destruction.

Yet Trump’s approval ratings — an important gauge of his re-election chances a bit over seven months away — are staying strong, by some counts even reaching highs for his tenure. In part, that’s a sign that no matter how much criticism Democrats lob at Trump, and whatever amount of negative media coverage he endures, his base supporters are resolute and unflinching. But the surge in support that goes beyond his base is a reflection of a familiar phenomenon whereby presidents become more popular in times of crisis, and according to history, his surge is puny — and likely to be short-lived.

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A recent ABC/Ipsos poll found a majority of Americans approve of the way Trump is managing the coronavirus crisis and 55 percent approve of the way he responded to it (43 said they disapprove). That’s a considerable bump up from Trump’s average 40 percent approval rating since he took office on Jan. 20, 2017, and it shows Americans are giving the president considerable leeway to navigate the coronavirus crisis.

Rising poll numbers for a president in a crisis, however, has happened many times before, and was already a political science trend in 1970 when John Mueller first named the “rally around the flag” effect in a paper called “Presidential Popularity From Truman to Johnson.”

Since then, we’ve seen the phenomenon at work many times. In March 1991, as President George H.W. Bush basked in the glow of the Gulf War victory, after U.S. forces successfully evicted Iraq from its occupation of Kuwait, his approval rating reached an astonishing 89 percent. That was the highest presidential job approval rating recorded since Gallup began keeping track in the 1940s.

President George W. Bush, too, saw his approval ratings skyrocket in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In the immediate aftermath, Bush’s approval ratings went even a tad higher than his father’s had a decade earlier, reaching 90 percent in a Gallup poll taken Sept. 21-22.

Presidential approval ratings have risen even in murkier crises. Forty years ago, during the start of the Iran hostage crisis, the “rally around the flag” effect also kicked in strongly for President Jimmy Carter. In a Gallup poll taken on Nov. 2-5, 1979, just as the American hostages were seized by Shia Islamic extremists at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, the percentage of people who approved of Carter’s handling of the presidency was at an abysmal 32 percent. A month later, when Carter was seen as taking a strong and resolute stand against the new revolutionary Iranian government, his approval rating shot up to 61 percent.

Yet perhaps no example better reflects how fleeting the patriotic swirl of support in a crisis can be than the denouement of the Iran hostage crisis. Once a sense of futility about resolving the embarrassing episode sunk in by late winter and spring of 1980, after a botched rescue effort, Carter’s approval ratings went into freefall. In the end, the 444-day Iran hostage crisis contributed significantly to his landslide loss to Republican challenger Ronald Reagan.

And President George H.W. Bush’s polling heights famously didn’t last either, as he lost re-election 20 months later to Democratic challenger Bill Clinton in a race largely fought over the economy and other domestic issues.

Something similar could still happen with Trump, and is in fact is likely, because battling the coronavirus is likely to be a long slog filled with accounts of death and economic destruction. American progress against the virus will also be measured against other countries such as South Korea, which has proved more effective in “flattening the curve.”

Furthermore, that poll showing 55 percent approve of Trump’s coronavirus response isn’t nearly as high as other presidents’ approval ratings in times of crisis. It isn’t an insurmountable lead either for the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden, to overcome. If anything, for Democrats, it could be worse.

Still, Democrats hoping to see Trump drop to Nixonian-levels are in for disappointment. The past five years since Trump declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination have demonstrated that his base of support is rock solid. Since his inauguration, his approval ratings have held remarkably steady. In fact, they remained virtually unchanged through the impeachment process, which concluded with his Senate acquittal on Feb. 5.

And with Trump, past precedents only go so far. He has defied political expectations since nabbing the 2016 Republican nomination and then beating Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in one of the greatest upsets in American election history. Assumptions that Trump will be hurt politically by the coronavirus need to be taken with a grain of salt. After all, Democratic impeachment efforts arguably helped Trump politically.

Trump is betting that Americans don’t want to “change horses in midstream,” another long-standing dynamic that presidents in times of trouble use to hold onto power.

There’s every reason to believe this could happen again through the coronavirus crisis, since Trump’s approval rating is the most stable since Gallup began measuring it when Harry Truman was president. Since taking office, Trump has reached a high of 49 percent on that index, but hasn’t gone lower than 35 percent. That 14-point range is a marked difference from most other presidents, who have seen wild swings up and down, often due to events outside their control. Opinions of Trump, good and bad, are set and baked in like no president before.

But like Carter and the Iran hostage crisis, the coronavirus drama could linger. Trump has alternated between describing himself as a “wartime” president, implying a long-protracted fight, and pushing to reopen businesses even as top federal health officials advise against it. At this rate, Trump could still see his support gradually erode, like Carter.

Trump is betting that Americans don’t want to “change horses in midstream,” another long-standing dynamic that presidents in times of trouble use to hold onto power. Americans have long shown their willingness to rally round the flag and support an embattled commander-in-chief. The question is for how long.


Hospitals make room for coronavirus patients by trying to treat people at home

2 0 28 Mar 2020

As rapidly filling hospitals scramble to make room for coronavirus patients, a growing number of providers are experimenting with a new approach to free up beds: sending patients to receive hospital-level monitoring and care in their own homes.

In Boston, Brigham and Women’s Hospital is launching a program next week to send some coronavirus patients home with devices that allow doctors to monitor their oxygen level and heart rate remotely — the kind of close observation that typically requires hospitalization, Dr. David Levine, a physician and a researcher at the hospital, said.

“It’s going to empty our really important beds and slow the drain on personal protective equipment,” he said.

A remote monitoring program is also underway in Washington state at Providence Regional Medical Center, which reported the first coronavirus case in the United States.

Under the programs, coronavirus patients with respiratory problems or who require intensive care will still be hospitalized. But data from China and Italy indicate that the vast majority of those hospitalized do not need intensive care, Levine said. Brigham and Women’s program will use an algorithm to help select patients, who will be able to report their condition and symptoms to providers multiple times a day, he added.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Brigham and Women’s and New York City’s Mount Sinai Health System are also expanding more intensive “hospital at home” programs, which set patients up in their residences with IV drips, oxygen tanks and sensors that send vital signs directly to clinicians, with in-person visits twice a day from nurses and daily check-ins with a doctor. All patients must live within a short distance from the hospital, in case they urgently need a visit from a nurse or a paramedic, or to be readmitted.

Unlike the remote monitoring programs, which can track hundreds of patients at a time, the more comprehensive “hospital at home” programs in Boston and New York are far smaller in scale and currently limited to non-coronavirus patients — often those with congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bacterial infections or pneumonia. But home hospitalization still opens up critical beds for the influx of patients with the virus, said Dr. Linda DeCherrie, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

“We’re trying to triple the number of beds in the New York area,” DeCherrie said. “Freeing up beds for other patients is really important.”

The shortage of beds across the U.S. has left hospitals, federal officials and local authorities scrambling to find makeshift solutions.

In New York City, the center of the crisis, all hospital beds are expected to be full by April 1, according to an internal briefing from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, obtained by NBC News. While a temporary hospital at a Manhattan convention center is expected to open by then, and a hospital ship sent by President Donald Trump is heading to the city this weekend, New York will still need far more beds, according to the latest estimate by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Home-based treatment and monitoring come with their own risks. Even with careful screening, coronavirus patients can have symptoms that worsen quickly, potentially requiring care that can only be found in a hospital. And any patient could have an accident at home requiring medical attention.

But the enormous pressure that the coronavirus is placing on hospitals and other medical facilities has led them to consider alternatives. Home hospitalization could be an option for convalescing patients who might otherwise be sent to a post-acute care center such as a skilled nursing home or an inpatient rehab facility. If patients are still infectious, they could potentially endanger other highly vulnerable patients at such facilities, prompting some leading experts to recommend home-based care when possible.

Download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

In addition to freeing up beds, providing home-based care for patients who don’t have the coronavirus could also protect them from becoming infected while in the hospital — a longstanding problem with other infections, as well, DeCherrie said. “Lots of infections are around the hospital,” she said. “Patients are often safer at home.”

Hospitals are also debating whether they can provide home hospitalization including IV drips and oxygen therapy to coronavirus patients. But acute care at home would require specially trained staff and personal protective equipment at a time in which both are in short supply, DeCherrie and Levine said. Patients could also risk infecting family members if they return home while they are still ill.

Well before the current pandemic, the explosive growth in medical costs — as well as the health risks to patients in hospital settings — had spurred more institutions to consider home-based patient care. Studies have shown that home hospitalization can produce better health outcomes, fewer hospital readmissions and a lower mortality rate, as well as significant cost savings.

Despite those savings, one of the biggest barriers has been financial: The federal government does not pay for home hospitalization through Medicare, the country’s biggest health insurer, which limits the pool of eligible patients and makes hospitals more reluctant to participate, Levine said. A federal advisory committee recommended having Medicare cover home hospitalization in early 2018.

But Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar rejected multiple proposals to do so, citing concerns including patient safety and overutilization of the program.

Some medical providers are now pushing the federal government to reconsider in light of the coronavirus’ strain on medical facilities across the U.S., said DeCherrie, who has been in discussions with federal officials about the issue.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services declined to comment on its plans, but pointed to the agency’s recent decision to expand telehealth services under Medicare, allowing more patients to see doctors remotely.

Hospitals across the U.S. are already making plans to ration care if they run out of ventilators, bed space and other critically needed resources. In Italy, doctors have been forced to choose which coronavirus patients will receive lifesaving treatments.

A group of Italian doctors from Bergamo — the area where hospitals have been hardest hit — recently published a paper urging other countries to use home-based care to “release pressure from hospitals.” The doctors recommended the use of oxygen therapy and monitors in the homes of patients with more moderate symptoms or who are recovering from the virus.

Doing so would help protect patients and health care workers, as well as reduce contagion, the authors said, warning of the risks of failing to act quickly.

“The more medicalized and centralized the society, the more widespread the virus,” the doctors wrote. “This catastrophe unfolding in wealthy Lombardy could happen anywhere.”

Sanders is still running for president. Heres why he may not quit anytime soon.

2 0 28 Mar 2020

Bernie Sanders is making it increasingly clear that his presidential bid is far from over, even as he faces long odds of winning the Democratic nomination.

Less clear, however, is whether his game plan is to pursue victory or to continue promoting his progressive agenda as nearly all aspects of American life — including the election — are upended by the coronavirus crisis.

While some former top advisers acknowledge the difficulty Sanders has in overcoming Joe Biden’s significant delegate lead, other allies of the Vermont senator note that his message and his agenda are well-suited to a moment when millions of people are filing for unemployment and losing their health care while large corporations seek billions in bail out funds.

James Zogby, a Democratic National Committee member who is on the board of “Our Revolution,” said in an interview that he saw no reason for Sanders to give up his national platform now.

“We don’t know what will befall us,” he said. “I mean, who knew two months ago that we’d be where we are with the virus. Who knows where we’ll be two months from now? Who knows what Bernie does, what Biden does, what else happens that will change the dynamics, so it would be irresponsible to leave the race, as some have suggested.”

Zogby said Sanders should not exit the race unless Biden becomes the presumptive nominee — which he could do by hitting the necessary threshold of 1,991 pledged delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination on the first ballot at the convention.

“But even then, don’t forget, Bernie Sanders is not just a candidate,” Zogby said, pointing to Sanders’ place atop the progressive movement. “He has every reason to stay in for that reason.”

The pandemic has scuttled traditional aspects of the 2020 election, forcing both Biden and Sanders to turn their operations digital. After disappointing showings in primaries that took place in early March, just as the outbreak was worsening, advisers said Sanders was assessing “a path forward” for his the campaign and larger progressive movement.

Longtime Sanders ally Larry Cohen, who chairs the board of the progressive political action organization “Our Revolution,” echoed Zogby, saying he expected Sanders would stay in the race.

“My sense is — and this is my belief – he will keep running,” Cohen said in an interview with NBC News, adding that many voters have not yet cast their ballots and the only way to know the strength of progressives within the Democratic party is to let people vote.

Sanders is a deft digital campaigner, particularly when compared to Biden’s operation, something that could boost his campaign in the coming weeks. The next major voting night, however, is likely more than a month away.

After so many states postponed their contests, June 2 is now shaping up to be a mini-Super Tuesday, with nearly 700 delegates on the line already in about a dozen rescheduled contests. Sanders’ campaign announced this week that he was preparing for the possibility of upcoming debates and staffing up in New York ahead of its primary, which the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, announced Saturday was being postponed until late June.

Biden, meanwhile, told reporters at a Wednesday news conference he thinks “we’ve had enough debates” and “I think we should get on with this.”

Pressed on whether Sanders’ refusing to cede the primary would detract from the coronavirus fight, Cohen dismissed the idea. “He would do that no matter what, and he will do that with as many allies as possible, including Vice President Biden,” Cohen said.

At his first social distancing rally, the Sanders campaign streamed highly-produced sets by Jim James from My Morning Jacket and the Free Nationals. Neil Young recorded a song on his cell phone while his dog wandered in and out of the shot. The session generated roughly 5.3 million views.

Even as some called for him to exit the race, Sanders turned his campaign into a vehicle to spread information about the outbreak and explain why he believes progressive goals like “Medicare for All” are even more urgently needed.He used his mailing list to raise $2 million for coronavirus, then circulated a petition to support Amazon warehouse workers. Earlier this week, Sanders streamed another event where he explained all the details of the more than $2 trillion Senate coronavirus stimulus package — what he liked and what he didn’t like, what he’d fought for and what Republicans had sought.

Then, Sanders went viral after a fiery speech on the Senate floor in which he criticized several Republicans who sought to amend the massive emergency coronavirus package because of a provision that may allow some unemployed workers to make more money in unemployment than what they were previously making in their jobs.

“Oh my god, the universe is collapsing!” Sanders said, arms waving. “Imagine that, somebody who’s making $12 bucks an hour now, like the rest of us, faces an unprecedented economic crisis with the $600 on top of their normal unemployment check might be making a few bucks more for four months. Oh my word! Will the universe survive! How absurd and wrong is that? What kind of value system is that?”

Zogby said that was an example of Sanders effectively using his platform to spread his message online.

“Joe Biden, on the other hand, has not been able to do that,” Zogby added. “And when he has, there’ve been times when it just hasn’t looked right, hasn’t come off well.”

Mark Longabaugh, a senior adviser to Sanders’ 2016 campaign, told NBC News that despite Sanders’ digital prowess, the fully virtual nature of the race will still make it tough for “Sanders to turn around a huge set of defeats that have put him very far behind on the delegate count.”

Sanders currently trails Biden by about 300 delegates, and he will have to run up the score in all the upcoming races just to catch up.

“And I don’t really see how he does that,” Longabaugh said. “I just don’t see how he turns the whole game around and wins 65 percent of the vote on June 2.”

Longabaugh pointed to that Senate floor speech as classic Sanders, and an example of how Sanders will use his large platform to exert influence as the crisis continues.

But he doesn’t believe Sanders’ early advantage in digital communication over Biden will be long lasting. Biden is “going to catch up very quickly,” he said.

“I hope [Sanders] decides to get behind Joe Biden earlier rather than later, unify the party earlier,” Longabaugh said. “And I think that would be the best move for him. It’s the best move for the party. And I especially think it’s the best move for his political agenda, which I know he cares deeply about.”

Wuhan residents greet loosening restrictions with caution, sigh of relief

3 0 28 Mar 2020

Residents in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the global coronavirus outbreak originated, have started to tentatively leave their homes for the first time in more than two months.

“We just feel extremely lucky today,” said Sainan Qian, 24, who visited the city’s famous cherry blossoms this week, after leaving her residential compound for the first time in 63 days. “Right now, everyone could use a bit of hope.”

Sainan Qian visits the cherry blossom in Northwest Lake park in Wuhan, China on Thursday. Sainan Qian

In recent days, people have reported a loosening of restrictions in Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged in December.

Like many Chinese cities, Wuhan is organized into compounds, often consisting of a handful of apartment blocks, outside space and perhaps a food store. They are often walled off from the street and gated; a number of these compounds make up a district.

Some residents have been able to leave their compounds in the city, the capital of Hubei province, if they have a so-called “green code” that proves they are healthy and symptom-free.

Local authorities told them last week that if their district was determined to be free of the virus, they would be able to venture out into the surrounding area in phases, grouped by their buildings. If their district is “epidemic-free” for a week, convenience stores, pharmacies and vegetable markets could reopen, although inspections and risk assessments would be implemented.

Earlier this week, authorities in Hubei said workers would be able to go directly to work and back from midnight Wednesday, provided their companies had submitted an application and the workers had fulfilled the health certification, among other requirements.

These restrictions will be lifted April 8 allowing broad-brush freedom of movement for Wuhan residents outside the city and the province for the first time in weeks. ­­­

“We’re entering a new phase in this quarantine, they’re trying to loosen restrictions and I’m assuming they’re going to see what happens,” said Doug Perez, 29, a teacher from California, who has lived in Wuhan for two years. “The best way to describe it is that it seems experimental.”

After the United States reported the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world earlier this week, authorities in China said Friday that there had been no new cases reported in Wuhan in the past 24 hours and only 55 new cases reported nationwide. Of those, 54 were so-called “imported” cases, brought into the country by foreigners, or returning Chinese nationals.

There were, however, four new deaths in Wuhan city, which has a population of 11 million.

Perez said on one recent exploration beyond the confines of his residential compound, he saw families walking, a fishmonger gutting fish at a local market and even light traffic beginning to build on the roads.

But there is a sense that these are the early days and it is unclear how fewer restrictions on daily life in this manufacturing center will play out. This has caused an initial hesitancy among many residents, with several saying they remained cautious about venturing outside.

A couple hug in Jiangtan park after its re-opening on Thursday in Wuhan.Getty Images

Others said that despite their new freedoms, they had chosen to remain indoors. The people of Wuhan have learned that life is fragile, so venturing outside at this stage might not be worth the risk, according to them.

As a result people have not poured into the streets nor did locals report witnessing mass celebratory scenes.

Some, like Perez, were also concerned the virus could make a comeback.

“With everyone going back out, it seems reasonable there could be a second wave,” he said. “The date I’m most scared of is the official date April 8, I don’t want to be anywhere near the streets.”

Others balked at the bureaucratic hurdles they had to jump through in order to be able to roam around their districts.

“It’s just too complicated,” said Liu Fangjing, 22, a college student who is able to leave the confines of her community but who chose to stay home. “Besides, none of the restaurants or cinemas are open anyway.”

Saphora Smith and Matthew Mulligan reported from London; Leou Chen from Shenzhen and Eric Baculinao from Beijing.

Eric Baculinao contributed.

Questions as British PM and Prince Charles get coronavirus tests while doctors do not

3 0 28 Mar 2020

LONDON — When it emerged this week that Britain’s prime minister, health secretary and heir to the throne had all tested positive for the coronavirus after presenting mild symptoms, mixed among the supportive messages wishing them speedy recoveries came ones that posed uncomfortable questions.

“How did you get tested when thousands can’t?” one Twitter user asked responding to news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, on Friday and was self-isolating in London.

“Where did the test kits for Prince Charles and Boris Johnson come from?” another asked, before pointing out that medical workers with Britain’s beloved National Health Service were struggling to get tested.

Two days after Charles announced that he had tested positive, Johnson confirmed Friday he was suffering from “mild symptoms,” having been tested on the advice of Britain’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.

Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock also confirmed that he had tested positive for the virus, a few hours later. He had said earlier in the week that Britain had bought 3.5 million antibody testing kits and was making sure they worked before distributing them.

It remains unclear in what order of priority they will be distributed.

Not all front-line medics are being tested, a major concern for health workers who risk infecting their patients and families. Others worry about being unduly kept at home when they could be treating the sick.

The lack of clarity on testing kits has become an increasing source of public criticism of the government’s response to the pandemic.

Asked Thursday why Charles was able to get tested when others had not, Health Minister Edward Argar told British broadcaster Sky News that the heir to the British throne’s symptoms and condition “met the criteria.”

“There is clearly more to do and we are ramping up that effort on testing … and of course key workers, front-line NHS and social care workers are front of the queue for that,” he said, using the British word for line.

Sky News and NBC News are both owned by Comcast.

The United Kingdom’s Department of Health and Social Care told NBC News by email Friday that it had tested more than 97,000 people — one of the highest numbers in Europe — and had already set out plans to increase testing capacity to 25,000 people a day.

As news broke that Johnson had contracted the virus, “#prayforboris” and “#Hestheprimeminister” were trending on Twitter in Britain, with many saying it was only reasonable that such a high-profile figure had been tested.

“Nobody with a brain has any issue with Boris or Govt. ministers getting immediately tested,” TV host Piers Morgan tweeted, adding, “but everyone should have a massive issue with NHS front-line staff still not getting tested as they risk their lives.”

It is not just in Britain that this apparent inequality in coronavirus testing is being called out.

Celebrities from actor Idris Elba to “Game of Thrones” star Kristofer Hivju have both confirmed that they have been tested. Both tested positive.

“Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted last week in response to the news that some Brooklyn Nets players who did not show symptoms were among an unknown number of team members tested for COVID-19.

Four tested positive, including three players who were asymptomatic, the team said.

Asked last week whether the well-connected should go to the front of the testing line, President Donald Trump responded: “No, I wouldn’t say so. But perhaps that’s the story of life.”

Earlier this month, Trump was also tested and found to be negative for the virus.

Womens suffrage myths and the lesser known women suffragettes

4 0 28 Mar 2020

Some women were voting decades before 1920 — if they were white

While the 19th amendment nationalized suffrage of women, allowing most American women to vote, Tetrault explains, “all across the West, women were voting by the millions before 1920.” What was then known as the Wyoming Territory granted women the right to vote in its 1869 constitution, for example, and other Western states followed suit:

  • Utah in 1870
  • Nevada in 1871
  • Colorado in 1893

But right from the start, those rights were provisional, Tetrault noted: Laws included barriers keeping non-white and Native American women from voting, for example. “If you were a woman of color, you would find that states still had some prohibitions in terms of literacy tests and poll taxes — which were disproportionately applied to women of color,” said Tetrault. “So if you were a Latinx woman living in New Mexico, you might find yourself subject to a literacy test.”

Racism ‘part of the policy’ in suffrage movement

Suffragist women leaders relied on racist rhetoric themselves in order to further their cause, explains Sally Roesch Wagner, a women’s rights historian and author. “As the movement became more conservative, racism became part of the policy,” she noted.

Renowned suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, for example, considered the 15th Amendment — which sought to prohibit discrimination based on race, color or previous servitude — an affront since white women were still barred from voting. They also “used racism to appeal to white Southern legislators toward the end of the suffrage battle,” said Wagner, calling a major part of their strategy. “They argued that racism was a way to maintain white, native-born supremacy since white women outnumbered African Americans and immigrants.”

But even as women of color were denied the democratic process, African American, Native American and Latino activists were organized their communities to fight for the right to vote. In the “The Women’s Suffrage Movement” anthology, which she edited, Wagner aimed to create a history of suffrage “that doesn’t start with white women and one that really deals with the racism of the movement,” she said. “I also wanted to see something that doesn’t just deal with the vote but all of the other issues that they were dealing with, from equal pay to reproductive justice.”

Ideological battles within the women’s suffrage movement

Equal pay and reproductive rights were deeply entrenched in the women’s suffrage movement. The discussion about women’s equal pay, for example, goes back to at least 1850. “Equal pay for equal work was a phrase they used,” Wagner explained. “Women then were making about a third of what men were making.”

  • Today, women make 80 cents for every dollar a man makes — if they’re white
  • Black women earn 63 cents on the dollar
  • Native American women earn 58 cents
  • And Hispanic women earn 54 cents

Native American culture’s influence on women suffragists

Matilda Joslyn Gage — having co-authored three volumes of ‘A History of Woman Suffrage’ with Stanton and Anthony, among other things — was considered one of the most radical American suffragists of her era, enmeshed in the movement during the 1850s and 60s, explained Wagner, who’s written extensively about Gage.

“Gage — who really got written out of history because she was far too progressive — saw a vision of a transformed world not just for equality but a world in balance and harmony,” Wagner said. Gage’s personal views included a strong belief in women’s rights over their bodies, the need for a strict separation between church and state, and the assertion that the Christian church was a patriarchal force. “She dropped out [of the suffrage movement] as the movement became more conservative.”

Through her research on Gage’s life and subsequent book, “Sisters in Spirit,” Wagner found that she and other prominent American suffragists, like Lucretia Mott, were deeply influenced by the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois) people who populated what is now upstate New York and Canada, where Gage spent years meeting with and writing about the power and influence Haudenosaunee women had in their communities.

African American rights and ‘the beginning’ of the suffrage movement

Meanwhile, African American suffragists like Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Mary Ann Shadd Cary were drawing attention to their own communities after the Civil War and during the Reconstruction era.

Harper was “an incredible civil rights and gender activist. She says we are all bound up together in our struggles,” said Tetrault, adding Harper particularly focused on the racism she experienced as a black woman living in the North during the 1850s and 60s. In Tetrault’s view, it is more accurate to view the ratification of the 19th amendment as the beginning of the suffrage movement rather than the end.

“The movement continued after 1920 for all of the women who didn’t get the right to vote then — the movement is alive and well in some ways,” she said. While many black women in the North were voting after the 19th Amendment was ratified, it would be decades until most black American women in the South obtained the right to vote.

adding it would be decades until most Black American women in the South obtained the right to vote. “It is really the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that finally eliminated lots of those obstacles for women of color.”

Similarly, historian Tammy L. Brown says 1960s civil rights activists like Fannie Lou Hamer — who worked to get African Americans the right to vote in her home state of Mississippi throughout the 1960s — are suffragists in their own right.

The best books to read about the misunderstood history of the women’s suffrage movement

If you want to learn more about the women’s suffrage movement during this Women’s History Month or branch out into the specific topics we surfaced above, here are some recommendations from the historians we spoke to and some of the key topics each one covers.

1. “African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920” by Rosalyn Terborg-Penn

The activism of Harper, Cary and others are detailed in the late historian Rosalyn Terborg-Penn’s book, which she wrote and researched as a response to Anthony and Stanton’s “History of Women’s Suffrage.” Tetrault calls it “an incredibly important book. She is trying to reassert [black suffragists] into the standard narrative” about the movement.”

2. “Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century” by Jane Rhodes

Mary Ann Shadd Cary was born into a free black family that fled to Canada in the 1850s after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. She would go on to launch a newspaper and advocate for women’s and black rights, later returning to the U.S., where she “continues to be a newspaper publisher working for the freedom of her people,” said Tetrault, adding several good biographies of Cary and Harper have been released in recent years and recommending any of them. “She will also become a voting rights activist in Washington, D.C., and organize with women of color to get the right to vote in the 1870s.”

3. “Fighting Chance: The Struggle over Woman Suffrage and Black Suffrage in Reconstruction America” by Faye E. Dudden

But while those multifaceted conversations about women’s rights were going on, Anthony and Stanton feared those issues detracted from the push for a constitutional amendment. “Anthony really wanted the vote,” Wagner explained. “She saw that as the most important thing: We get the vote and everything else will get taken care of.”

4. “Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality For All” by Martha S. Jones (pre-order, publishes Sept. 8, 2020)

Because Anthony viewed courting Southern support as critical — and often expressed her own racist views in — she also actively downplayed voices and efforts of African American activists, especially those working on non-voting issues, as detailed in the upcoming “Vanguard.” “Black delegates to the National American Woman Suffrage Association conventions were sometimes turned away,” explained Wagner. “When they asked for assistance with civil rights issues, they were told by the various Presidents (including Susan B. Anthony) that the organization only worked for the vote.”

5. “The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement” by Lisa Tetrault

Stanton and Anthony’s singular focus on voting rights influences the way Americans view women’s suffrage today, largely as a result of the mythology they created around the suffrage movement. As an example, Tetrault highlights the popular narrative surrounding the Seneca Falls convention of 1848, in which Stanton, Anthony and Mott said that they launched and led. Researching her 2015 book “The Myth of Seneca Falls,” she experienced “a gradual dawning” about what actually took place.

While the Seneca Falls convention was important, labeling it birth of the suffrage movement allowed them to anoint themselves its leaders. “People don’t tell the story of Seneca Falls until 25 to 40 years later,” said Tetrault. “It was created by Stanton and Anthony as a political tool in a post Civil War world that was very challenging.”

6. “African American Women and the Vote” by Bettye Collier-Thomas

“We must also acknowledge African-American women civil rights activists” that organized for voting rights throughout the 50s and 60s, alongside earlier African American suffragists like Sojourner Truth, Mary Church Terrell, Nannie Helen Burroughs and Ida B. Wells, argued Tammy Brown.

7. “For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer” by Chana Kai Lee

“Hamer boldly fought for the enfranchisement of Black Mississippians,” says Brown. “Hamer spoke at Black churches and met with people in their homes — encouraging them to register to vote, even in the face of state-sanctioned racial violence and intimidation.”

8. “Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol” by Nell Painter

“These women — they ended up in jail, they ended up force-fed, they ended up taking real risks to get the right to vote,” notes Wagner. “They gave us this gift, but the gift is just potential.” The fight for voting rights in the United States continues. After the Supreme Court changed the Voting Rights Act in 2013, voter suppression swept across the country.

As the United States celebrates the centennial of the 19th Amendment while also getting ready to vote in the 2020 presidential election, the historians we talked to said now is the perfect time to reflect on the current state of voting rights in the country — and the sacrifices women of all backgrounds have made through the centuries to get the vote.

Meet the congressman who tried to derail the $2 trillion coronavirus bill

3 0 28 Mar 2020

WASHINGTON — Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., incited Washington on Friday when he tried to derail the smooth passage of the emergency coronavirus relief bill, forcing dozens of lawmakers to scramble back to the nation’s capitol for the vote.

A Congress engulfed in crisis and plagued with partisan divisions found a moment of unity in elevating Massie to the most hated man in Washington, an unsurprising title for a lawmaker who has perfected the art of opposition and frequently is the sole dissenter in the House.

President Donald Trump tweeted Friday morning that Massie was a “third rate Grandstander” and called for Kentuckians to “throw Massie out of Republican Party!”

In a rare moment of bipartisanship, Trump found agreement with former Secretary of State John Kerry, who took to Twitter to fire off an expletive at the congressman.

“He must be quarantined to prevent the spread of his massive stupidity,” Kerry, who was the Democratic nominee for president in 2004, wrote on Twitter. “He’s given new meaning to the term #Masshole.”

Massie’s transgression was trying to force a roll call vote on the coronavirus bill in the House. Republican and Democratic leadership had agreed to avoid a vote — a move designed to expedite the process and prevent hundreds of lawmakers from returning to Washington. Two House members announced last week they had tested positive for coronavirus, and a third went public with a positive diagnosis on Friday.

But Massie refused to go along, arguing transparency was needed given the size and scope of the legislation.

“Is it too much to ask that the House do its job, just like the Senate did?” Massie tweeted.

Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., called Massie’s move “disgraceful” and “irresponsible.”

“Heading to Washington to vote on pandemic legislation. Because of one Member of Congress refusing to allow emergency action entire Congress must be called back to vote in House,” King wrote on Twitter. “Risk of infection and risk of legislation being delayed.”

Massie’s efforts — while succeeding in bringing lawmakers to Washington — failed to produce a roll call vote and the bill passed in an overwhelming voice vote.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Massie a “dangerous nuisance” in an interview on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” Friday night. Pelosi had talked to Massie before he raised his objection.

“I did tell him that it wasn’t going to work, that we will have a voice vote,” Pelosi said. “… That we had a plan, that we always knew we would pass this bill and we would pass it today, and that [we] would not let any nuisance stand in the way.”

“And that’s really what he was — a dangerous nuisance,” Pelosi said.

The attention isn’t new for Massie, who has a long history of being a contrarian on Capitol Hill, earning himself the nickname “Mr. No.”

In 2014, Massie objected to a voice vote to award the golfer Jack Nicklaus a Congressional Gold Medal and demanded a roll call vote. “I came to Congress because there’s a $17 trillion debt, not because a golf pro was in need of a gold medal,” Massie wrote on Facebook at the time.

He has opposed multiple bipartisan bills, including naming Israel as a U.S. strategic partner, extending sanctions against Iran, imposing sanctions on North Korea and a 2019 Hong Kong human rights bill. He recently was the only member of the House to oppose a ban on plastic guns.

That was not Massie’s first time butting heads with Kerry, either.

At a House committee hearing on the dangers of climate change last year, Massie questioned Kerry’s political science degree from Yale, calling it a “pseudoscience degree” and arguing he therefore was unqualified to discuss climate change.

“Are you serious?” Kerry fired back. “Is this really serious? This is really happening here?”

Massie was born in Huntington, West Virginia, and grew up on the Ohio River in northeastern Kentucky. He has two engineering degrees from MIT, multiple patents to his name, and was considered a “whiz kid” after he developed technology that enabled people to “interact with computers using their sense of touch.”

With the support of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Massie was elected to Congress in 2012 and quickly made a name for himself as a strong tea party voice by calling for the abolishment of governmental agencies such as the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Massie, who won re-election in 2018 with 62 percent of the vote, is facing a primary challenge from Todd McMurtry, a lawyer who represented a Covington Catholic student in a defamation lawsuit against CNN after a confrontation with a Native American activist on the National Mall went viral.

Massie and McMurtry have been trying to prove their loyalty to Trump as their primary heats up, making Massie’s move on Friday all the more politically perilous as the president had made it abundantly clear he wanted the coronavirus bill on his desk as quickly as possible.

Massie criticized both parties’ leaders, saying their refusal to allow a vote was to prevent members from losing re-election.

“Well, they’re trying to cover up their votes. They had enough people there to pass the bill but they still refused to have a recorded vote,” Massie said outside the House chamber after the vote. “They’re trying to protect the members who are there from political ramifications.”

Health, sex and coronavirus: How does sexual intimacy change during a pandemic?

4 0 28 Mar 2020

Elizabeth, 24, is a teacher living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She and her husband are currently out of work as the result of the coronavirus that has infected more than 85,000 people in the U.S. and resulted in nearly 1,300 deaths. Normally, both would be working at least 55 hours a week as educators, but now that coronavirus precautions have shutdown a reported 91,000 public and private schools, affecting an estimated 41.6 million students, caregivers and teachers, they are spending their time at home with each other, stuck in a 900-square-foot apartment.

Elizabeth and her husband have found a way to cope, though. Sex, and lots of it.

As the coronavirus has spread and calls for all Americans to engage in social distancing and self-quarantining practices have increased, how and when Americans have sex is changing.

“We’re both really embracing this as time together rather than using it to stress out,” Elizabeth tells me.(The names of some people interviewed below have been changed for privacy reasons.) “There’s fear in general, sure — there are people that I love that are at a higher risk — but sex has definitely been a distraction for us. It’s finally a moment when we’re not thinking about or talking about this virus.”

As the coronavirus has spread and calls for all Americans to engage in social distancing and self-quarantining practices have increased, how and when Americans have sex is changing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people stay at least 6 feet away from each other at all times, unless they live with a partner or family member. That amount of distance certainly curtails the possibility of physical contact with a relative stranger, meaning dating — casual or not — is indefinitely on hold for many people around the country. And since research has shown touch to be beneficial to both our physical and mental health, these necessary precautions are nothing short of frustrating for those of us who crave that level of intimacy but are being denied it in the name of the greater good.

But even for those spending more time than normal with their partners, the dynamic is more complicated. For some, it is a welcomed distraction, but for others the anxiety of the situation has banished intimacy. Are we likely to see a baby boom that tends to follow disasters, á la Hurricane Sandy? Probably. Sex can be a great stress reliever. But if you’re feeling an aversion to sex, whether it be with your partner or yourself, know that your reaction, too, is typical. There is no one “right” way to handle unprecedented moments such as these.

As a psychologist specializing in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health, I know firsthand and through the various stories my patients share with me that sex can be complicated and multifaceted. Life circumstances have a way of making their way into the bedroom, but what can occur there can also help us mitigate that stress. Numerous studies have found that more sex equals less stress, and a lack of sex can contribute to depression and a lower sense of self-worth. So it comes as no surprise to me, then, that when I polled my Instagram community of over 46,000 followers about whether the coronavirus pandemic was helping or hurting their sex lives, responses were split almost down the middle: Fifty-two percent said their sex life had improved, and 48 percent said it was stunted.

“I think being more sexually intimate has created this sense of security,” a teacher and mother of one living in Kansas City, Missouri, who asked to speak with me anonymously, said. “We’re at home, not leaving, and trying to follow guidelines from the CDC and the government and just stay inside and not see anyone, and having that emotional release and the endorphins that come from it makes you feel more secure and grateful for that relationship.”

If you are among those interested in sex, it can be a welcome release amid a near-constant news cycle saturated by the virus and the government’s response to it. Living with a loved one also doesn’t mean you can’t get lonely. As long as the person you’re engaging with is a partner you’re planning on spending your self-quarantine time with — someone who wouldn’t be able to unknowingly infect you, or who you wouldn’t unknowingly be able to infect only to have them leave and infect others — being present in your physical body during the act of sex can be a grounding experience.

“Neither one of us have been exposed to the virus as far as we know, so we don’t have an issue being intimate with each other because the fear of transmitting it to one another seems almost nonexistent,” Megan, 20, who lives in Minneapolis and is engaged to be married, said. “Since we’re both working and going to school, we don’t get to spend too much time during the day together. Now that we’re practicing social distancing, we have more time together, which sometimes means more time to engage in our sex life.”

Still, it is normal and unsurprising that this isn’t a universal experience. “This past week has been so stressful all the way around that it’s tough to put things out of my mind and really connect with my partner,” Nina, 28, who has a 2-year-old daughter and lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, tells me. “We’ve decided to delay trying for a second baby until this blows over. So in a way, there’s less ‘pressure’ on being intimate this month in terms of trying to conceive purposes.”

Forcing intimacy isn’t beneficial — it’s potentially harmful. If you want to be left alone and sit still in this moment, it’s far better to follow that impulse.

Women often feel pressured to have sex when they’re in a monogamous relationship. And now, the pressure to be busy in a time of forced quarantine has, in many ways, increased that pressure. We’re being told now is the time to write that book — after all, Shakespeare was productive during isolation — and to create color-coded schedules for our children and fill every second of our mandated seclusion being productive. But forcing intimacy isn’t beneficial — it’s potentially harmful. If you want to be left alone and sit still in this moment, it’s far better to follow that impulse then to force yourself into being physically intimate.

And the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy is also something to consider. For Elizabeth, who was in the middle of infertility treatments prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and who has been diagnosed with recurrent miscarriages, the potential for the increase in sex to result in a positive pregnancy test is something she and her husband have considered. They fear that if she miscarries again, “I wouldn’t have access to my fertility clinic or the medical care that I need,” she said. “So yeah, it’s definitely a big fear right now, and we’ve talked about using contraceptives again because there’s just so much unknown.”

We are in uncharted territory. Sex may be a comforting constant or completely uninteresting, but know they are both normal reactions in an otherwise abnormal time.

“I think we’re all craving a little bit of control throughout this,” Nina says. “We’re finding more time for bigger conversations, which I think fuels a more intimate relationship. It really puts everything into perspective, as far as what’s important to us, not only now but in the future.”

Live coronavirus updates: U.S. first to top 100,000 cases as Trump signs $2 trillion stimulus bill

7 0 28 Mar 2020

Thousands arrested for violating curfew in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka police say they have arrested thousands of people — including many who were praying in a mosque — for violating a countrywide curfew imposed as a part of stringent measures designed to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The number of positive cases has risen to 106 and the government has ordered police to strictly impose the curfew to ensure social distancing across the country.

On a tip that a group of people were praying in a mosque in the town of Horowpathana, about 124 miles north of Capital Colombo, police and health officials went to the mosque and arrested 18 while several dozens have fled.

The government has banned nonessential travel. Police have arrested 4,600 and seized 1,125 vehicles for violating curfew since March 20.

Mexican president toughens stance, tells people to stay home

Mexico’s president urged people to stay indoors to prevent an “overwhelming” spread of coronavirus, taking his strongest stance yet against the pandemic.

“We have to stay in our homes, we have to keep a healthy distance,” Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in a 14-minute video posted on YouTube on Friday. He also warned that the health system may not be able to cope with a mass outbreak of cases, although Mexico has so far registered far fewer cases than other countries.

Mexican health officials reported 717 cases of coronavirus on Friday, up from 585 a day before. The country has reported 12 deaths from the disease so far.

“If we don’t stay inside our homes the number of infection cases could shoot up, and it would saturate our hospitals,” Obrador added. “It would be overwhelming.”

Grand Canyon residents fear tourists will bring virus

Much of the United States is shut in, but neighbors of Grand Canyon National Park say tourists are still visiting, placing themselves and others in peril as coronavirus continues to spread.

“Just the other day we had a tour bus there. Why is there even a tour bus here?” Lani Strange, a resident of Grand Canyon village, told NBC affiliate KPNX of Phoenix.

While some other national parks, including California’s Joshua Tree, have all but closed and offer very limited access to visitors, Grand Canyon is still allowing daytime visitors as well as access to viewpoints along the park’s South Rim. 

“We are so susceptible,” Strange says. “We have people coming here every day from some of the most infected states.”

U.N. postpones nuclear weapons conference

UNITED NATIONS — The 191 parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty have decided to postpone a conference to review its implementation because of the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations said Friday.

The treaty is considered the cornerstone of global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and the parties hold a major conference every five years to discuss how it is working. The meeting had been scheduled for April 27-May 22 at U.N. headquarters in New York.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the review conference will be held “as soon as the circumstances permit, but no later than April 2021.”

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which reached its 50th anniversary March 5, is credited with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to dozens of nations. It has succeeded in doing this via a grand global bargain: Nations without nuclear weapons committed not to acquire them; those with them committed to move toward their elimination; and all endorsed everyone’s right to develop peaceful nuclear energy.

More than 900 deaths mark Italy’s deadliest day

Italy on Friday recorded its largest daily death toll since coronavirus began ravaging the country in February.

The nation’s Civil Protection Agency reported 919 virus-related deaths Friday and a total of 9,134 since Feb. 21. Thursday’s death toll was 8,215.

“To date, the total number of assessed cases in Italy is 86,498,” the agency said in a statement.

Previously the largest daily increase in deaths was March 21, when Italy reported 793 patients perished. On March 9, Prime Minster Guiseppe Conte put the entire nation on lockdown.

CEO of ventilator maker speaks out as Trump invokes Defense Production Act

6 0 28 Mar 2020

The chief executive of a Seattle company partnering with General Motors to produce ventilators says they were already moving forward with plans to roll out the life-saving medical equipment before President Donald Trump decided to invoke the Defense Production Act.

“We plan to be producing together over 1,000 units by the end of April and of course with GM’s talent and skill, we’ll be ramping up to 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000,” Ventec Life Systems CEO Chris Kiple said in an exclusive interview with NBC News.

Trump on Friday night invoked the rarely-used Korean War-era law to order GM to increase production of ventilators as the country grapples with escalating numbers of COVID-19 cases.

“We were just not getting there with GM,” Trump said at a news conference.

A Ventec Life Systems worker operates on a VOCSN machine, which combines the work of five respiratory medical devices into one.Ventec Life Systems

Earlier in the day, Trump attacked the Detroit automaker in a series of tweets, criticizing it for not moving quickly enough to produce ventilators and requesting “top dollar” for the contract.

“As usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out,” Trump tweeted. “They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, ‘very quickly’. Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar.”

GM and Ventec said afterward they were preparing to roll out as many as 10,000 ventilators a month, many of which would be produced on a new assembly line at a GM facility in Indiana.

“Ventec, GM and our supply base have been working around the clock for over a week to meet this urgent need,” the companies added in a Friday afternoon statement.

In the interview, Kiple responded to reports that FEMA pulled back from a deal with GM-Ventec after the companies asked for a $1.5 billion contract.

“We provided the government with a range of options, ranging from thousand units a month to 21,000 units a month and a whole host of pricing that went with that,” Kiple said. “So we gave the government a menu of options to present to and just tried to respond to their request for information to say how many can you produce and how fast.”

Ventec is one of about a dozen worldwide manufacturers of ventilators. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the med-tech company has been on the front lines even before it teamed up with GM. In its Seattle-area facility alone, the company made around 300 devices in the last 30 days.

“This is really an unprecedented activity that GM and Ventec are in to mass produce a ventilator with an auto-manufacturer,” Kiple said. “The commitment from GM has been overwhelming.”

Speaking before the president invoked the Defense Production Act, Kiple said his company was dedicated to producing ventilators regardless of whether the government purchases them.

“We are going to continue to manufacture them where the need arises,” Kiple said.

“Whether it’s the federal government, the state governments, hospitals, medical professionals on the frontline, there is a need here not just in the United States but around the world and General Motors and Ventec Life Systems will rise to meet that demand and as soon as that demand isn’t there, we’ll lessen our production.”