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Coronavirus live updates: U.S. deaths near 15,000 as European capitals look to extend lockdowns

1 0 09 Apr 2020

Taiwan to deliver 6 million masks around the world

Taiwan will donate 6 million medical masks around the world to help countries battle the coronavirus pandemic, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Thursday. It completed a first round of similar humanitarian assistance last week.

The masks will be sent to European Union countries, heavily-affected states in the U.S., and nations in Latin America and the Caribbean, said officials.

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted his thanks to Taiwan for the initial donation of 2 million masks, saying, “During tough times, real friends stick together.”

New Chinese data on asymptomatic coronavirus cases could help world response

China began to release data on asymptomatic coronavirus patients last week, a move experts say will help other countries respond to the pandemic and provide crucial insight into how the virus is spread.

“We have been basing a lot of our models and our predictions off the Chinese data because it was the first major outbreak,” Nadia Abuelezam, an epidemiologist at Boston College’s Connell School of Nursing, told NBC News.

With the addition of asymptomatic patients — those infected but showing no symptoms of the disease — raising the count, she said, “this changes the potential dynamics of the models.”

Read the full story here.

A store worker wearing a facemask as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus waits for customers behind a barrier in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province on April 1, 2020.Noel Celis / AFP – Getty Images

Half a billion people could be pushed into poverty by coronavirus, Oxfam warns

More than half a billion people could be pushed into poverty unless urgent action is taken to bail out countries affected by the intense economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, Oxfam warned in a report on Thursday.

The charity said the impact of shutting down economies to prevent the virus spreading risked setting back the fight against global poverty by a decade — and by 30 years in some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, north Africa and the Middle East. 

The humanitarian agency urged world leaders to agree to an “Economic Rescue Package for All” to keep poor countries afloat and support citizens through cash grants.

Sarah and Aaron Sanders celebrate a Passover Seder with their children, Noah, 19, Bella, 18 and Maya, 13, at home and different family members across the country via video conference on April 8, 2020 in San Anselmo, California.Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Inmates demonstrate over cases at Washington state prison

Inmates at a Washington state prison were involved in a destructive disturbance Wednesday night after six men at the facility tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said.

Authorities used pepper spray and “sting balls” to help quell the demonstration at the Monroe Correctional Complex that involved more than 100 inmates in a recreation yard around 6 p.m. Fire extinguishers were discharged within two housing units in the minimum-security unit, the state department of corrections said.

There were no injuries, and the situation is under control, the department said.

Read the full story here

Rio samba schools set Carnival costume aside, start sewing scrubs

RIO DE JANEIRO — Rio de Janeiro’s samba schools usually spend the year furiously sewing costumes for the city’s blowout Carnival celebration. Now, nimble fingers are working to protect lives instead, making medical outfits for hospital workers who face a surge of coronavirus patients.

Dr. Wille Baracho on Tuesday carried rolls of fabric into the Unidos de Padre Miguel samba school’s workshop in the Vila Vintem favela. Inside, seamstresses perched on plastic chairs busily transformed beige and pale yellow fabric into medical wear.

The initiative started with Baracho and one of his colleagues at a nearby hospital emergency room where they have seen a shortage of materials. Both happen to sit on Padre Miguel’s board and saw a chance to redirect labor. The city joined in, donating thousands of yards of fabric, and the seamstresses set to work Friday.

Grocery employees say they fear for their lives at work

Federal stockpile of protective equipment nearly gone, HHS says

WASHINGTON — The Strategic National Stockpile is nearly out of the N95 respirators, surgical masks, face, shields, gowns and other medical supplies desperately needed to protect front-line medical workers treating coronavirus patients.

The Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that the federal stockpile was in the process of deploying all remaining personal protective equipment in its inventory.

The HHS statement confirms federal documents released Wednesday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee showing that about 90 percent of the personal protective equipment in the stockpile has been distributed to state and local governments.

HHS spokeswoman Katie McKeogh said the remaining 10 percent will be kept in reserve to support federal response efforts.

Pompeo, Netanyahu discuss efforts to contain virus

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, Wednesday by phone about efforts to contain the global coronavirus outbreak, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

The two also talked about Iran and “the unwavering U.S. commitment to Israel’s security,” she said in a statement.

Israel had 9,404 COVID-19 cases and 71 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the World Health Organization. Netanyahu has threatened to deploy roadblocks in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities reluctant to practice social distancing.

On Friday, police surrounded the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, which has seen a relatively high rate of spread.

Philadelphia emerging as potential hot spot

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence says Philadelphia is emerging as a potential hot spot for the coronavirus and urged its residents to heed social distancing guidelines.

Pence says he spoke to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, and he says Pittsburgh is also being monitored for a possible rise in cases.

New Chinese data on asymptomatic coronavirus cases could help world response

1 0 09 Apr 2020

China began to release data on asymptomatic coronavirus patients last week, a move experts say will help other countries respond to the pandemic and provide crucial insight into how the virus is spread.

“We have been basing a lot of our models and our predictions off the Chinese data because it was the first major outbreak,” Nadia Abuelezam, an epidemiologist at Boston College’s Connell School of Nursing, told NBC News.

With the addition of asymptomatic patients — those infected but showing no symptoms of the disease — raising the count, she said, “this changes the potential dynamics of the models.”

Scientists are still trying to determine the risk posed by asymptomatic cases.

Abuelezam said while people displaying symptoms spread the virus through droplets more likely to be projected while coughing, someone who is not showing the symptoms but still has the virus could transmit the disease in the same way.

A study out of Singapore released Wednesday estimated the transmission rate by healthy-seeming individuals was significant. It found around 10 percent of new infections could be caused by asymptomatic patients.

As a result, the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance on preventing infections and warned that anyone could be a carrier.

In China, where the coronavirus originated, the total number of asymptomatic cases recorded since the outbreak began has not been released, but Wu Zunyou, the country’s chief epidemiologist, said such cases accounted for 4.4 percent of the total confirmed patients.

A total of 81,554 people in China have been infected with COVID-19 and 3,312 people have died from the disease, according to the country’s National Health Commission.

However, asymptomatic people do not appear to be major contributors to the spread of the virus, compared with people who are showing symptoms, Wu said during a State Council Information Office briefing last week.

Cautioning that more research was needed, he said: “If the investigation is not carried out carefully, it will exaggerate the transmission ability of asymptomatic infection.”

Asymptomatic patients are nonetheless required to go into mandatory 14-day quarantine as soon as they are identified, according to the National Health Commission.

On Monday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called for more efforts to trace, monitor and treat those infected with COVID-19, even when showing no symptoms, to further reduce the spread of the disease.

His comments came after it was decided at a meeting with his team managing the response to launch an investigation into asymptomatic cases in the city of Wuhan where the outbreak began and Hubei province where the city is based.

Lockdown restrictions are slowly being lifted in the city but fears of a second wave of the disease are running high.

Li’s team said they intend to publicize their findings and provide information on targeting efforts to contain the coronavirus. Experts have called on all countries to share as much data as possible.

Staff members line up at attention as they prepare to spray disinfectant at Wuhan Railway Station in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on March 24, 2020.AFP – Getty Images

“Any additional information can help us gain a better picture of what’s going on transmission-wise, what’s going on epidemiologically,” Abuelezam said.

“If it’s the case that there are many more asymptomatic people and they are transmitting it to other people, then that should motivate us to expand testing,” she added, pointing out that it could change government strategies on mitigating the spread of the disease.

Dr. Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, agreed that the more information available, the better.

“We need to broaden our scope of data and not be so arrogant to think we really understand what’s going on based on the first two common symptoms that’s coming out of China,” said Spector, who is part of a team collecting data from over 2 million people in the United Kingdom using a COVID-19 symptom tracking app that is also available in the United States.

Every discovery can influence not just how governments are reacting to the virus, but how doctors are approaching it in their clinics, Spector added.

A trend in symptoms in Britain can inform whether a doctor in another country suspects a patient has the virus if they’re presenting similar symptoms, he said.

Both Abuelezam and Spector agreed that missing data and the different ways that countries recorded data were hampering research.

Testing in many jurisdictions, including the U.S., is limited to people who are already sick and seeking care — not those who may feel fine or treating their symptoms at home, Abuelezam said.

Then, there’s political influence affecting the data, as some countries are “trying to pretend their death rates are better than other people’s,” Spector said.

“We need to move away from that,” he added. “It’s very much by being open and sharing data that we can make big progress here.”

Salina Lee, Dawn Liu, Eric Baculinao and Associated Press contributed.

Assads air force attacked Syrian civilians with sarin, chlorine, says watchdog

2 0 09 Apr 2020

WASHINGTON — The international chemical weapons watchdog said Wednesday that Syria’s air force carried out three chemical weapons attacks using sarin and chlorine in March 2017 on the town of Latamneh, including a strike on a hospital.

The findings were issued by a new investigative team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, and were based on interviews with witnesses, samples from the sites, laboratory results, and analyses of munition remnants and other information, the report said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the report, saying it represented “the latest in a large and growing body of evidence that the Assad regime uses chemical weapons attacks in Syria as part of a deliberate campaign of violence against the Syrian people.”

Fernando Arias, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), speaks during talks in Moscow on April 2, 2019.Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

“The United States shares the OPCW’s conclusions and assesses that the Syrian regime retains sufficient chemicals — specifically sarin and chlorine — and expertise from its traditional chemical weapons (CW) program to use sarin, to produce and deploy chlorine munitions, and to develop new CW,” Pompeo said in a statement.

The attacks carried out in March 2017 confirmed Syria’s continued use of chemical weapons and showed an “utter disregard for human life,” Pompeo said.

The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia and Iran in its civil war, has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons. But the detailed OPCW report said the authorities in Damascus refused to cooperate with the investigation despite repeated requests.

The 82-page report said that on March 24, 2017, a Su-22 warplane from the 50th Brigade of the 22nd Air Division of the Syrian Arab Air Force took off from Shayrat airbase and dropped a bomb loaded with sarin nerve agent on the small central town of Latamneh, which was held by rebel forces.

The bomb landed in an open field, killing livestock and birds and injuring some 16 people, it said.

Then on the afternoon of March 25, a Syrian regime helicopter dropped a cylinder with chlorine on the town’s hospital, the report said. The cylinder penetrated the hospital’s roof, “ruptured, and released chlorine, affecting at least 30 persons,” according to the report. The victims included a surgeon who was performing an operation at the time of the assault.

Two days later, an Su-22 jet dropped an M4000 aerial bomb containing sarin in southern Latamneh. At least 60 people were affected, the report said, but no one was killed in the attack.

“Military operations of such a strategic nature as these three attacks only occur pursuant to orders from the highest levels of the Syrian Arab Armed Forces,” the report stated.

In his statement, Pompeo called on the international community to hold Syria to account for employing chemical weapons.

“We urge other nations to join our efforts to promote accountability for the Syrian regime and uphold the international norm against chemical weapons use,” Pompeo said. “The unchecked use of chemical weapons by any state presents an unacceptable security threat to all states and cannot occur with impunity.”

The OPCW’s investigative team was created after Russia blocked the extension of a joint UN-OPCW investigation that was set up in 2015 and accused Syria of using chlorine in at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 and of unleashing the nerve agent sarin in an aerial attack on Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 that killed about 100 people.

The Syrian government has consistently denied using chemical weapons.

Republican, Democratic senators press Trump for more on IGs firing

2 0 09 Apr 2020

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Wednesday he’s assembled a bipartisan group of senators calling on President Donald Trump to provide a “detailed written explanation” for the removal of the inspector general who flagged the Ukraine whistleblower complaint.

Citing a loss of confidence, Trump told Congress on Friday that he was removing Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, who deemed the complaint an “urgent concern” and was then required by law to provide it to the congressional intelligence committees.

The complaint and a House inquiry ended in Trump’s impeachment. He was acquitted by the Senate in February.

In a letter sent to Trump on Wednesday, Grassley says current law requires the president to notify Congress in writing of the reasons for removal 30 days in advance, and it also notes reports that Atkinson had already been placed on administrative leave, which effectively sidestepped the requirement.

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“Congressional intent is clear that an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the statute,” the letter reads.

“This is in large part because Congress intended that inspectors general only be removed when there is clear evidence of wrongdoing or failure to perform the duties of the office, and not for reasons unrelated to their performance, to help preserve IG independence,” the letter continues.

Grassley, a co-founder and leader of the Whistleblower Protection Caucus, said senators from both parties raised concerns with the administration of President Barack Obama in 2009 after an inspector general was placed on leave.

Also signing the letter were Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sens. Gary Peters of Michigan, Mark Warner of Virginia, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Dianne Feinstein of California and Jon Tester of Montana.

The letter asks Trump to provide a “more detailed reasoning” for Atkinson’s removal by Monday. “Please also provide your views on how the appointment of an acting official prior to the end of the 30 day notice period comports with statutory requirements,” the letter reads.

Atkinson is a Trump appointee who was confirmed by the Senate in 2018. He is a career Justice Department prosecutor.

Trump said of Atkinson on Saturday that “I thought he did a terrible job, absolutely terrible,” and that “he took a fake report and brought it to Congress. … Not a big Trump fan, that I can tell you.”

Atkinson defended his handling of the complaint Sunday. He said in a statement that it was hard not to think Trump fired him because he “faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial” inspector general.

The senators wrote: “As supporters of the Inspector General community, and as advocates for government transparency and accountability, it is our responsibility to confirm that there are clear, substantial reasons for removal.”

Coronavirus: 9 ways to help doctors, nurses and hospital workers right now

3 0 09 Apr 2020

As hospital employees and care providers on the front lines battle the coronavirus pandemic, the rest of us search for ways to help provide the supplies and support they need.

“We’re in uncharted waters,” Dr. Kate Tulenko, the CEO of Corvus Health, says. “The U.S might be able to do heart transplants and other great things, but our doctors can’t get masks right now. Hospitals are completely unprepared for this pandemic and are begging for help.”

While the average person cannot provide the things hospitals in the thick of COVID-19 most desperately need, such as intensive care unit beds and ventilators, physicians on the front lines insist that there are still steps we can take to be of service.

Here are nine ways you can help hospital workers right now.

The best thing you can do is stay home

“I cannot underscore how important it is for people to stay home during this period of social distancing,” says Dr. Tamara Moise, lead physician at Big Apple Urgent Care and an ER doctor at a hospital in Brooklyn that has been hit hard by COVID-19 cases. “The best way to help medical staff is to avoid getting sick. You’ve heard it over and over again, but it bears repeating, you may not exhibit symptoms but you may still be capable of passing the virus on to someone who will get very sick. Please do not go outside if you absolutely do not have to.”

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

If you feel sick, use a self-triage tool or call your provider rather than rushing to the hospital

If you think you may have COVID-19, don’t just rush to the hospital — self-quarantine and use a self-triage tool like C19check.com.

“We designed C19check.com at Emory so that people can have an easy-to-use, evidence-based tool to better assess their symptoms and determine what actions they should take,” says Dr. Justin Schrager, an ER doctor at Emory University Hospital and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Emory University’s School of Medicine. “In order to alleviate the pressure that hospitals are currently under, we ask that people self-assess their risk before heading to the emergency room.”

Moise adds that if you do experience mild symptoms, “calling your primary care doctor, an urgent care or making a telemedicine appointment with an urgent care facility are the best ways to go.”

Make a monetary donation to a nonprofit hospital

In a time of historic financial uncertainty and mass layoffs, many of us are in budget mode with no cash to spare — but if you do have some extra money, consider donating to a nonprofit hospital.

“Some hospitals have specific COVID-19 funds, but even if you don’t donate to these, your donation to a nonprofit hospital goes to the running of the institution,” Moise says. “Your dollars can help a hospital pay for meals for medical staff, or even pay for protective gear. So please, donate where you can.”

Dr. Shruti Gohil, associate medical director, epidemiology and infection prevention, and an assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at University of California Irvine Health, seconds the call for donations. “Hospitals will know how best to allocate funds according to the local needs, which are subject to change with time as the pandemic progresses,” she says.

Donate masks, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies

“We are hearing a lot about the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals,” Moise says. “This is the gear that medical staff uses to protect themselves from getting sick and also to prevent infection from one patient to another.”

Moise suggests that if you want to donate directly, look to your local government websites for guidance, as need and coordination varies from state to state and city to city.

Gohil recommends getting a “wish list” directly from hospitals, but says in general, this is what hospitals need most right now:

  • Surgical masks
  • N95 respirators
  • Face/eye shields
  • Gloves
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Hand sanitizers
  • Viral testing swabs

In addition to the items Gohil noted, University of Chicago Medicine highlights the demand for disinfectant wipes, surgical and isolation gowns, cloth masks and other basics. Here’s the center’s list.

Call hospitals and/or physicians to ask what they need and look into local donation drives. “Here in New Jersey, the county sheriff’s office or the county executive has been running drives for [PPE] and other gear to address shortages,” Michael Avaltroni, dean of the Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, says. “If you stockpiled on N95 masks or hand sanitizer, so long as it’s unopened and in good condition, you can donate it to someone on the front lines.”

Note that if you’re in an area that has not been badly affected by COVID-19, a donation drive will still see that your unused supplies get into the hands that need it. “It could be an EMT helping someone in respiratory distress — their risk to exposure is as high as anyone else’s and they need proper equipment.”

#GetUsPPE, a new initiative run by medical workers, engineers and volunteers that is helping to organize demands for gear in hospitals is a great resource for assessing donation needs and finding drop-off points. Check out their map here and follow them on Twitter here.

Sew masks

A handmade or sewn mask does not meet PPE standards, and even N95 masks are “not one-size-fits-all and should be properly fitted on an individual basis,” Avaltroni said. “But we’re in a war zone mindset right now where anything is better than nothing.”

So, by all means, keep sewing those masks and donating them in the organized way you would other supplies.

Got free time and in-demand skills? Ask your hospital how you can volunteer

“If you have any specific skills that could be useful, let your hospital know,” Gohil says. “Examples: You’re an engineer and can generate a prototype of a face shield for 3-D printing. You are a great communicator on the phone – maybe you can offer your services to help the hospital answer patient questions. You speak another language and can help translate a sign or communications that your hospital needs to reach out to a specific community.”

Run essential errands for higher-risk people

Though COVID-19 is potentially lethal to anybody, it is far more likely to cause serious problems and fatality in older people, as well as folks who are immunocompromised. If you know someone nearby who is considered high-risk, lend them a helping hand. Do their grocery shopping or whatever else you can do to ensure they stay home. It’s a good deed that will not only make you feel useful in a time when you might be feeling helpless, but also a small step to “minimize the risk that others get sick, and that helps everyone including our hospitals,” Gohil says.

Sending food to hospitals is great — just be organized about it

Providing hospitals and urgent care centers with tasty takeout helps keep workers fed and also gives much needed support to restaurants that have been devastated by social distancing measures. But please, don’t send food without coordinating it with the hospital first.

“It’s complicated because sometimes you can bring more chaos into a high-traffic and high-intensity environment by doing these well-intentioned things like ordering food delivery,” Avaltroni says.

Check out Feeding The Frontline, a grassroots initiative connecting people with restaurants to help not only medical workers, but also vulnerable populations and families who typically depend on schools for meals. You can also make a donation to Frontline Foods, which has launched a Covid Clinician Meal Support Program. As of April 1, they’ve raised $700,000 and delivered over 7,300 meals throughout 13 cities.

Schedule blood donations and give hospitals one less thing to worry about

Along with surges of COVID-19 cases and shortages of PPE, hospitals are also dealing with relatively normal needs — such as maintaining a stable supply of blood for trauma victims, cancer patients and anyone else who requires a transfusion.

“We really need people to schedule to give blood [this month],” Anthony Tornetta, spokesperson for the American Red Cross, says noting that there’s concern over a dip in blood supply as soon as mid-April. “Donating blood doesn’t require giving any money, and blood drives, which are considered essential business, are taking extra steps to stagger appointments, enhance social distancing and make sure everyone who comes in and out stays safe and healthy. Please schedule an appointment in advance at RedCrossBlood.org and give hospitals one less thing to worry about.”

NEXT: More ways to help victims, hospitals and more

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Trump tells religious leaders: Were going to beat this plague

3 0 09 Apr 2020

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump told religious leaders on Wednesday that “we have a tremendous year coming up” and that the United States would beat coronavirus “soon,” while seeming to implore people of faith to support him in his re-election.

“We have a tremendous year coming up. We’re going to beat this plague. We’re going to beat this virus and we’re going to beat it soon,” Trump told the leaders on an off-the-record conference call. “We’re going to get our country back.”

“We have a very, very powerful year coming up because you know what lies ahead,” Trump continued. “And we have to do it. People of faith have to do it. We have to have victory. So I just want to thank everybody very much. And I’m always here.”

Trump made the remarks in a call with religious figures ahead of the Easter and Passover holidays. NBC News was not invited to participate but reviewed a recording of the call.

Vice President Mike Pence also joined the call, thanking religious leaders for their efforts to encourage the social distancing guidelines even when it means their congregants can’t gather at places of worship.

“The president says we will defeat the coronavirus, and we’ll come back stronger than ever before, and it’ll be the faith of the American people that laid the foundation for that great, great comeback,” Pence said.

After Trump and Pence spoke briefly, he introduced three religious leaders to speak about the work their groups are doing to help amid the pandemic.

Trump praised one of those leaders, evangelical leader Franklin Graham, for the work his group Samaritan Purse’s work setting up a field hospital in Central Park.

Graham has said previously that COVID-19 is happening because of sin and because mankind “turned its back on God.” On the call Wednesday, he praised Trump and Pence for their handling of the crisis.

“Mr. President, we want to thank you and the vice president for your leadership, our country would be in trouble,” Graham said. “If you were not the president, I just shudder to think where we would be.”

Mark Wilf, chair of the board of trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America, and Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, also spoke.

Trump also asked three clergy on the call to say a prayer, including Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner of Temple Emanu-El in Closter, New Jersey.

Rabbi Kirshner invoked the Passover holiday that starts tonight and was the only one on the call to pay tribute to Muslims in the U.S., noting the upcoming Ramadan holiday.

Bernie Sanders bet big on a small tent to win the Democratic nomination. Heres why it didnt work.

4 0 08 Apr 2020

WASHINGTON — Three years ago, Bernie Sanders met with a group of allies on Capitol Hill on a spring day to discuss a potential second bid for the White House.

One adviser argued that the Vermont independent senator would need to win a few more Democratic endorsements if he ran again — just enough to unravel the barbarian-at-the-gates perception — and urged Sanders to consider what a 2020 bid would look like with the backing of a political heavyweight like Rep. Jim Clyburn, the top Democrat in South Carolina.

It’s not a question Sanders wanted answered: the senator never sought the leading black lawmaker’s support and Clyburn endorsed Joe Biden just when the former vice president’s bid appeared to stall. An overwhelming win in Clyburn’s state at the end of February turned into a dominant Super Tuesday showing that allowed Biden to begin amassing the kind of delegate lead that Sanders, when he dropped out of the race for the nomination Wednesday, acknowledged he could not overcome.

The unsought endorsement underscored a campaign strategy that would eventually prove fatal. The senator and his team bet big on a small-tent strategy: one that spent little effort broadening the base or building a wider coalition, but instead leaned into Sanders’ existing supporters in the hopes that a divided presidential primary field would open up a path for him to win the nomination without having to dramatically expand his base.

“Fair or unfair, Bernie Sanders carried a lot of scars into this campaign,” Mark Longabaugh, a former top adviser who worked on the senator’s first bid, said. “Those scars made it hard for him to add on new constituencies that hadn’t been part of his constituency last time.”

Surveying the 2020 landscape, Sanders advisers accurately foresaw a crowded Democratic primary contest and counted on the field remaining fractured so his committed minority of supporters might be enough for him to form a plurality and win the day. Sanders allies had cut superdelegates out of the nominating process by pressuring the Democratic National Committee to change its rules, clearing an obstacle for someone like him to earn the nomination on the first ballot at the convention without the establishment’s support.

That strategy counted on him consistently winning 30-40 percent of Democratic voters, as Donald Trump had done with the Republicans in 2016, and it counted on the field staying divided among numerous candidates.

But his early successes in Iowa and New Hampshire revealed a fundamental problem: His support base was actually closer to a quarter of the party rather than a third of it, and that was in states that would be among the most demographically favorable to him.

“You can’t win plurality victories with 25 percent of the vote, you have to get up 40, 45 percent,” Longabaugh said.

The field also didn’t remain fractured forever: mainstream candidates dropped out and united behind Biden, making it another head-to-head race between Sanders and an establishment Democratic front-runner.

Comparisons between Sanders’ performance in 2016 to 2020 in key states like Florida showed he was underperforming the second time around, suggesting many of his votes four years ago were more about opposition to Hillary Clinton than support for him.

While many Democrats expected Sanders would devote his second presidential bid to trying to win over people who weren’t with him in 2016, or at least making skeptics feel more comfortable with the idea of him leading the party, the candidate and his supporters instead focused on highlighting the line between him and the rest of the party, dwelling on how he was right while others were wrong last time and continuing his call for a “political revolution” to overthrow the “Democratic establishment.”

“I think the weaknesses of both Sanders campaigns are reflective of the weaknesses of the progressive movement more generally,” said Jonathan Tasini, a progressive activist and former Sanders surrogate. “It isn’t always that the Democratic Party is corrupt and in the hands of the party elite. That is a factor, but also a factor is that you have run effective elections.”

“We’re not very good at assessing our own weaknesses,” Tasini added. “People (in the movement) perceive criticism as not being loyal enough, so it blinds us from having the honest conversation that would then lead to more victories.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., booed the mention of Clinton in Iowa, later apologizing publicly. Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner argued Biden had “repeatedly betrayed” black Americans, forcing Sanders to distance himself from the idea in a debate. Meanwhile, some of his endorsers with connections that stretched outside of Sanders’ wing of the party — such as former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and former NAACP President Ben Jealous — were nowhere to be seen. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who endorsed Sanders after his heart attack and helped turn his campaign around, stopped campaigning for him in part because the campaign publicized controversial podcaster Joe Rogan’s endorsement.

“He was more radicalized this time than he was last time,” Longabaugh said. “One of the ways in which he was radicalized this time is not only the tenor of his campaign, but the tenor of his surrogates that he put out there.”

Insiders say the campaign didn’t do the kind of outreach it needed to do, failing to drawmembers of Congress, union leaders and black politicians into his movement in significant numbers. One campaign ally said it left would-be staffers or endorsers at a loss of how to get involved in the campaign they supported.

“I know dozens and dozens of people who would call me, who would call others up, who would say ‘I don’t know how to get through, what is going on? Why aren’t they responding to me?’” the ally said in an interview with NBC News. “This started happening through the first couple months of the race — and we figured, oh, they have a lot going on — but then it became such a pattern.”

Several allies said they pushed Sanders to do more outreach, but he had a dim view of the importance of traditional endorsements and little patience for stroking the egos of politicians. So Sanders pushed on with just 10 endorsements from members of Congress or governors, just two more than he garnered during his last bid.

Vulnerable and moderate members of the House — those known as “frontliners” — recalled no outreach from the Sanders campaign, aside from one meeting with a centrist caucus in 2019. The senator won endorsements of some union leaders, but was met with criticism from others. Many sat the primary out.

Sanders allies also say a critical failure of the campaign was also his basic refusal to embrace the Democratic Party itself. In 2018, he ran for re-election to the Senate as an independent once more, instead of branding himself a Democrat.

Even by quitting the Democratic race early — a show of unity on paper as the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend traditional voting contests and campaigning — Sanders vowed to keep collecting delegates in hopes of using them to exert power over party priorities and rules at the Democratic National Convention.

“The struggle continues,” he told his supporters.

Linda Tripp, central figure in the Clinton impeachment, dies at 70

4 0 08 Apr 2020

Linda Tripp, the former White House employee who became a key figure in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, died at age 70.

Tripp, who was battling cancer, died Wednesday, according to her former attorney Joseph Murtha. Reports of Tripp’s condition surfaced earlier in the day after her daughter, Allison Trip Foley, wrote about her mother being gravely ill in a now-deleted Facebook post.

Tripp’s family did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

Diane Spreadbury, a close friend of Tripp, told NBC News that it was great loss and Tripp was “a fantastic friend.” Tripp’s official cause of death is unknown, but Spreadbury told NBC News it was not coronavirus related.

Tripp secretly recorded her calls with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky, tapes that paved the way for Clinton’s 1998 impeachment for obstruction of justice and perjury about his sexual relationship with Lewinsky.

The tapes were part of independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation into Clinton, producing a 453-page report that determined the grounds for impeachment. Tripp was indicted on criminal wiretapping charges in Maryland for the tapes, but the case against her was eventually dropped.

Lewinsky offered well wishes to Tripp on Wednesday after seeing reports that Tripp was ill.

“no matter the past, upon hearing that linda tripp is very seriously ill, i hope for her recovery,” Lewinsky wrote. “i can’t imagine how difficult this is for her family.”

Tripp began working in the White House as a secretary under President George H.W. Bush and stayed on after Clinton took office. She was transferred to the Pentagon in 1994, where she first met Lewinsky.

Tripp spoke publicly about her role in the presidential scandal during a National Whistleblower’s Day event at Capitol Hill in 2018. The former civil servant defended her actions and said that her decisions came from a duty to hold power accountable.

“And yet it had nothing to do with politics, which is hard for anyone to understand if they remember the story many years ago,” Tripp said. “What it was about was exposing perjury and obstruction of justice.”

Tripp is survived by her husband, Dieter Rausch, and her two children.

Sanders quitting Democratic race for president, Biden to be partys apparent nominee

6 0 08 Apr 2020

Bernie Sanders ended his presidential campaign, he announced on Wednesday, leaving former Vice President Joe Biden as the apparent Democratic presidential nominee.

“I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful, and so today I am announcing the suspension of my campaign,” Sanders told supporters in a livestream, saying he wished he could provide supporters with “better news” but “I think you know the truth.”

“We are now some 300 delegates behind Vice President Biden and the path to victory is virtually impossible,” he said. Sanders called Biden “a very decent man who I will work with to move our progressive ideas forward.”

Calling the decision “difficult and painful,” Sanders said he had to make an “honest assessment of the prospects for victory.”

He added that he understands some supporters who want him to fight on through the convention, but he could not “in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour” as the COVID-19 outbreak grips the nation.

He pledged to have significant influence over the party platform this summer, as he did during the 2016 convention. He pointed to policies like a $15 minimum wage, which has been picked up in some states and cities since he first began campaigning for it at the presidential level five years ago, as evidence that his progressive platform is winning.

In a conference call with staffers earlier Wednesday, Sanders thanked his team for its “extraordinary work.”

Biden released a lengthy statement on Medium after Sanders’ departure from the race, saying he “has put his heart and soul into not only running for president, but for the causes and issues he has been dedicated to his whole life.”

“I know how hard a decision this was for him to make — and how hard it is for the millions of his supporters — especially younger voters — who have been inspired and energized and brought into politics by the progressive agenda he has championed,” Biden said. “Bernie has done something rare in politics. He hasn’t just run a political campaign; he’s created a movement. And make no mistake about it, I believe it’s a movement that is as powerful today as it was yesterday. That’s a good thing for our nation and our future.”

Biden and Sanders spoke midday on Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the conversation. According to multiple sources involved in the process, Sanders’ team has been coordinating extensively with the Biden camp since early March, especially once the former VP took a more significant delegate lead following Michigan’s March 10 primary. Former President Barack Obama was part of those discussions, and he has spoken with both Biden and Sanders multiple times in the past month.

The Vermont independent senator’s 2020 bid started off strong. He narrowly missed first place in Iowa before picking up wins in New Hampshire and Nevada. All the while, his campaign continued to rake in millions in small-dollar donations and pack rallies full of supporters as he ascended to national front-runner status amid a crowded Democratic field.

Running as a progressive insurgent against Hillary Clinton in 2016, Sanders popularized ideas like “Medicare for All.” In 2020, however, a number of candidates backed similar policies, and he faced another prominent progressive in Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who was the first to propose canceling some student debt in April.

Sanders followed with a more far-reaching plan of his own in June. Warren surged above Sanders in the fall, right up until he suffered a heart attack in October. That — along with the high-profile endorsement by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., — revived his national polling numbers, and he remained in second place until Biden’s dismal fourth-place showing in Iowa, which propelled Sanders to front-runner status.

In his 2020 bid, the senator worked to broaden his support with Latino voters, and his coalition grew more diverse because of it. But despite years of outreach to increase his popularity among black voters, Sanders failed to earn their votes in large numbers. He also lost some of his white working-class supporters to Biden, a fracture of his coalition that cost him crucial votes in states like Michigan.

Sanders also stumbled with women voters, facing accusations of sexism in January after tensions between his and Warren’s campaigns spilled out into the open. The two progressives had largely remained allies while campaigning for the nomination, but a series of leaks to the media from aides and supporters of both senators accusing the other camp of dirty tricks and lying culminated in Warren saying in a statement that Sanders once told her he didn’t think a woman could win the presidency.

Sanders denied the claim, but he was hit with further criticism of his supporters — dubbed the “Bernie Bros” — after female union leaders in Nevada who spoke out against his candidacy said they were attacked by his fans.

His campaign officially stalled in South Carolina. Fueled by a crucial endorsement from Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., Biden won the Palmetto State decisively. The moderate wing of the party then consolidated around him — Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg both dropped out of the race and endorsed him — and Biden won 10 of 14 states on Super Tuesday.

Warren dropped out of the race after Super Tuesday, but declined to endorse any candidate.

“Thank you @BernieSanders, for fighting so relentlessly for America’s working families during this campaign,” Warren tweeted Wednesday. “Your fight for progressive ideas moved the conversation and charted a path for candidates and activists that will change the course of our country and party.”‘

President Donald Trump on Wednesday blamed Warren for Sanders’ decline, claiming without evidence that Sanders would have won Super Tuesday without her in the race.

“Bernie Sanders is OUT!” Trump wrote. “Thank you to Elizabeth Warren. If not for her, Bernie would have won almost every state on Super Tuesday! This ended just like the Democrats & the DNC wanted, same as the Crooked Hillary fiasco. The Bernie people should come to the Republican Party, TRADE!”

A week after Super Tuesday, Biden dominated in five of the six states that voted on March 10, including Michigan, one of Sanders’ biggest 2016 victories, to grow his delegate lead over the Vermont senator. Sanders’ substantial losses in Florida, Illinois and Arizona on March 17 put Biden on an insurmountable path to the Democratic nomination.

A day after those contests, and with the next voting night weeks away, Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir wrote that the candidate was “going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign. In the immediate term, however, he is focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable.”

In a message to supporters, Shakir was more pointed.

“No sugarcoating it, last night did not go the way we wanted,” he said of the March 17 losses. “And while our campaign has won the battle of ideas, we are losing the battle over electability to Joe Biden.”

Why Passover 2020 during the coronavirus quarantine is different from all other Passovers

5 0 08 Apr 2020

Every Passover seder’s haggada includes a portion called “the four questions,” a quartet of inquiries reminding Jews of the evening’s sacred uniqueness. The words are traditionally recited or chanted by the youngest child at the table, with the series’ first question roughly translating to, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

For the past month, Jews (like me) and gentiles have been forced to ask that same question: How is this evening’s self-quarantine any different from last night’s, or the night before? A fog of dread coats my monotony, my self-distanced routines only broken up by news reports detailing the increasing numbers of sick and dying. It should be easy to set aside at least one evening for reflection and celebration of our collective past, of what it means to be a Jew in an increasingly fractured, dystopian world.

For the past month, Jews (like me) and gentiles have been forced to ask that same question: How is this evening’s self-quarantine any different from last night’s?

And yet, even remembering that the smallest things can differentiate this evening “from all other nights,” why does this year’s Passover still so ring hollow to me? Perhaps it’s because, while I know what we Jews are supposed to commemorate — the Israelites’ Biblical emancipation from Egypt — there is the nagging feeling that the one plague we are now enduring is more than enough. As we are stuck in our homes, recalling another nine examples of pestilence and disease seems a bit obscene.

At the same time, tonight reminds me that my relatively comfortable quarantine exists within a society built by the enslaved. And our efforts to cure and comfort are stymied by a barely functioning government bled dry from decades of draconian cuts, and now led by a man who, much like the pharaohs, believes himself to be untouchable.

Passover is meant as a celebration of how far Jews have come from our troubled pasts, but it is also a reminder of how far all of us as a society still have to go. This year, I find it highlighting the tyranny that is late capitalism, a system forcing so many of us to brave potentially contaminated work environments for scraps of pay. It shines a brutal light on a culture in which demagogues horde their incomprehensible wealth while the rest of us tuck away what little we can — knowing it may not be enough.

This year’s retelling of the Israelite’s exodus will be a tragic comedy — Jews escaping bondage to have many of their descendants wind up living in a nation that claims to be the richest, most compassionate and freedom-loving country in the world, while it simultaneously asks its doctors to reuse medical supplies and warehouse workers to surrender their safety for minimum wage.

Passover, arguably more than any other Jewish holiday, should spur us into action. In recent years, some communities have turned traditional seders into opportunities for social justice, to help with tikkun olam — the belief in building a better future by helping heal a gravely injured world. Let this be the year to take that one step further, to not only heal the world, but to demand we never let our modern-day pharaohs degrade and dehumanize us again.

Seders traditionally conclude with its participants collectively reciting the line, “L’Shana Haba’ah,” or, “Next year in Jerusalem.” With its origins dating to at least the 15th century, the phrase was meant by diaspora Jews as a hopeful meditation on one day returning to the Holy Land. Since then, it has taken on a variety of meanings. For many, “Next year in Jerusalem” is meant literally, a prayer to eventually live in the state of Israel. For some progressive and leftist Jews — myself included— our Jerusalem is more abstract. For us, the line doesn’t represent the desire to move somewhere else, but the desire to create a spiritual Jerusalem in the here and now.

Passover, in so many ways, is a reminder for Jews — of what was, what is, and what will be. It’s important to remember that a quarantined seder does not detract from the holiday. If anything, it strengthens its messages of mindfulness, humanity and time. Even during the Holocaust, we whispered the four questions to sanctify an evening. Even in Nazi death camps, our seders ended with the hope for another year of life, of finding a long-lost spiritual home, far away from a spring evening’s chilly, unfamiliarly bitter air.