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Many common household cleaning products can kill the coronavirus if you use them properly

54 0 18 Mar 2020

The coronavirus causing COVID-19 is a nasty bug, but like other members of the coronavirus family, it’s no match for good disinfecting products, health experts say.

“There are many bad things about the coronavirus, but there is one good thing: It is not very hardy,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, an expert on infectious diseases and a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health. “It is easily destroyed by most disinfectants.”

Experts at Consumer Reports, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations have weighed in with advice on the products that can help protect us — and our homes — against the coronavirus.

“Regular cleaning with normal cleaning supplies does a great job of removing all kinds of germs, not just coronavirus, from surfaces,” said Catherine Roberts, associate health editor at Consumer Reports. “Focus on high-touch areas — that’s faucet handles, doorknobs, stair rails and countertops — the things that you have your hands on all the time.”

Best practice is to disinfect these surfaces several times a day. Roberts suggests making a checklist of all the places you want to clean, so you don’t forget any of them. But commercial disinfecting products contain “pretty serious chemicals,” she warned. “They’re actually EPA registered pesticides, so as much as you can, try to use them when kids are not around because they can trigger asthma.”

The demand for disinfecting wipes may be outstripping supply right now, but there are many other products you can use. In fact, you may already have some of them at home.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of those that meet its criteria for use against the novel coronavirus. The CDC website also has recommendations for households with suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases.

Here’s what you need to know about what will and won’t work against the coronavirus — according to experts.

Soap and water

It’s not fancy, but soap and water work. The soap removes the viral particles that have attached themselves to surfaces — whether it’s your hands, face or countertops — and suspends them in the water, so they can be washed away.

Richard Sachleben, an organic chemist and a member of the American Chemical Society, said most of the cleaning products we call soap are actually detergents that not only remove the germs from surfaces, but also kill them.

“The virus has an outside coating, and the stuff inside — DNA or RNA — is what actually causes the disease. It’s kind of like the casing on a bomb or torpedo,” Sachleben explained. “For a virus, that coating is a protein, and the soap or detergent break up that coating, so the virus spills its guts and falls apart.”

Bleach solution

“Bleach is very effective at killing the coronavirus, as well as virtually every other germ on the face of the planet,” said Dr. Paul Pottinger, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Washington Medical Center. “The problem is, it’s stinky, it’s hard to use and it can damage what you’re trying to clean.”

To protect your skin, you should wear gloves when using bleach — and don’t mix the bleach with anything but water. Here’s the CDC formula for making a diluted bleach solution: Use 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) of bleach in one gallon of water or 4 teaspoons of bleach in one quart of water.

Keep in mind that bleach is a harsh cleaner. So if you go this route, do a little test before you clean an entire surface with your homemade bleach solution. Be careful not to let it splash onto anything else. Bleach can also damage some paint, and over time, it can corrode metal. So be cautious if you use it, Sachleben told NBC News BETTER.

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is not as strong as bleach, so it’s less likely to cause damage, but it can discolor some fabrics, Sachleben said. Don’t dilute it, use it straight. Hydrogen peroxide decomposes into water and oxygen.

Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol products that are at least 70 percent alcohol will kill the coronavirus with less potential for damage than bleach. When using rubbing alcohol, don’t dilute it. Consumer Reports says rubbing alcohol is safe for all surfaces, but can discolor some plastics.

Don’t count on distilled white vinegar or vodka

Many people clean with vinegar. It’s cheap and natural. Cleaning recommendations are easy to find online, but Consumer Reports cautions: “There is no evidence that they are effective against coronavirus.”

Despite what you may have seen on social media, vodka is not effective at sanitizing, nor are any other types of distilled spirits.

“Please, do not use vodka to clean your surfaces,” Roberts said. “The concentration of alcohol in vodka is not high enough to kill viruses.”

Tito’s Handmade Vodka tweeted a warning that its vodka is only 40 percent alcohol, and therefore, “does not meet the current recommendation of the CDC” that hand sanitizer needs to contain at least 60 percent alcohol.

NEXT: Staying in due to the coronavirus? Here’s what to stock in your fridge and pantry

Proper technique: A quick swipe isn’t good enough

“To decontaminate a surface, you can’t just swipe it, you’ve got to scrub it, really scrub it until the entire surface is wet, and then let it dry on its own,” Pottinger said. “The elbow grease and force that you put into the cleaning process can really pay dividends. You’ve got to physically wipe away the grime. The antiseptic agent is the additional measure of security that any virus left behind will be killed.”

It’s critically important to use enough of the disinfectant and give it time to work. Here’s how Clorox says to disinfect hard, nonporous surfaces with its wipes: “Use enough wipes for treated surface to remain visibly wet for 4 minutes. Let surface dry.”

There is no treatment or cure for COVID-19, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying to sell them.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission sent warning letters to seven companies for selling “fraudulent” COVID-19 products. The companies were told their products are “unapproved drugs that pose significant risks to patient health and violate federal law.”

One of those warning letters was sent to “The Jim Bakker Show.” In mid-February, the disgraced televangelist promoted a potential cure called “Silver Solution” that contained colloidal silver. The FDA had previously warned that colloidal silver “is not safe or effective for treating any disease or condition.”

Should you consider making your own hand sanitizer?

It’s easy to go online and find advice about how to make your own hand sanitizer. So, is this a good idea? Opinions vary. Consumer Reports advises against it.

“Most of the experts that we’ve talked to have said this is not the best idea,” Roberts said. “You may not get the concentrations right. And if your solution doesn’t have a high enough concentration of alcohol, it won’t be doing you any good.”

Sachleben also has concerns about DIY hand sanitizer recipes. He’s a chemist and even he said he doesn’t mix his own disinfectant products at home. “You’ll never know what you’re doing is as good as what you can buy at the store,” he said. “If you buy it, you know it’ll work.”

Swartzberg believes that doing something is ultimately better than doing nothing, but he worries that DIY hand sanitizers might give people a false sense of security. “I’m concerned people will not prepare it with the correct percentage of alcohol,” he said. “People may be fooling themselves into thinking that they’re using something that will help, when it won’t.”

Remember: Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not as effective when our hands are visibly dirty or greasy. That’s why it’s important to wash with soap and water.

Moisturize your hands

With increased handwashing and sanitizing, your hands may get dry and start to crack. Those cracks give germs a place to hide. It’s important to use a good moisturizer to prevent that from happening.

Consumer Reports recommends products that contain ceramides (oils), dimethicone (a type of silicone) and shea butter, which help provide a good seal on the skin. “The thicker the better,” they say. Greasy ointments, such as petroleum jelly, form a stronger barrier than creams and lotions.

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Working remote? These last-minute tech accessories might help

34 0 18 Mar 2020

If you got the order to start working from home this week, you’re very likely not alone. Some people have work-issued laptops they can bring back to their spaces. Others might only have an iPad or a shared computer that isn’t going to serve everyone’s telecommuting needs at once. It might become a lot to juggle. I’ve been working from home regularly for more than a decade and have picked up some lessons on what works and what doesn’t — especially in the way I invest in my home tech. If you find yourself in need of some last-minute tech to get things done — and to get by — here are a few options that won’t break the bank.

Let’s start with the obvious: A computer. There are plenty of great laptops out there right now, but if you don’t want to shell out $1000 or more for a high-end machine, I recommend checking out Chromebooks and lower-cost Windows machines to get you through the next few weeks.

You might be surprised how far a ChromeOS-based laptop will get you. HP’s Chromebook x360 gets you all the browsing, email and other tools you need with higher quality hardware than a comparably-priced Windows laptop. It isn’t the most affordable Chromebook available (you can find 11-inch models for under $200, for example) but it’s one of the most affordable I’d recommend for actually doing work.

If you absolutely need Windows for your job, Acer’s long-running Aspire 5 line has some of the best performance you can get for the money. I recommend the Ryzen 5 version with 8GB of RAM, which should serve most people well.

Alternatively, if you have an iPad at home, you can turn that into a halfway decent laptop with a few extra pieces of hardware.

A keyboard case can turn your iPad into something actually useable for work, though I generally don’t recommend Apple’s own keyboard cover. Instead, grab Logitech’s offering, which has a much better keyboard with less mushy keys (not to mention a protective case that goes all the way around your iPad). Make sure you get the version that matches your iPad, as Logitech makes them for various models — old and new.

You might not realize this, but the latest version of iPadOS allows you to use a mouse with your iPad — yes, a mouse. Technically, it’s an accessibility setting (find it under Settings > Accessibility > Touch > AssistiveTouch), and it doesn’t work quite like a real cursor, but it’s still a big improvement from reaching your hand up all the time. You’ll want a Bluetooth mouse that pairs easily with your iPad, and Logitech’s portable MX Anywhere mouse fits the bill beautifully.

Finally, if all else fails, you can grab that old computer sitting in the basement and hook it up to your TV for an impromptu work-from-the-couch setup. You just need the right cables and adapters.

If that old computer is a laptop made after 2008 or so, it’ll either have an HDMI port — in which case you can just use any old HDMI cable — or it’ll use something like Mini DisplayPort, necessitating its own cable like this AmazonBasics model. Check that old laptop and see what it supports. If it’s even older, it may require Mini-DVI or even VGA, which requires a converter box to connect to HDMI-based TVs.

If you want to really make things ergonomic, grab yourself a real desktop monitor (or two). It isn’t a top-tier display, and the price is likewise appropriate. BenQ has crammed some solid specs into this display: It’s brighter than much of the competition (so you can still see it in a well-lit room) and even has decent specs for a little gaming in between work sessions. Its stand isn’t height-adjustable but you can stack a few books under it to get it up to eye level, if need be.

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Trump the presumptive GOP nominee, NBC News projects

34 0 18 Mar 2020

President Donald Trump is the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, NBC News projects.

NBC News made the call after projecting Trump the victor in the Florida and Illinois Republican primaries.

Those projected wins put him over the threshold of delegates needed to officially become the party’s nominee. 

NBC News Primary Poll: 1 in 5 Sanders voters in Illinois can’t guarantee they’ll support Democratic nominee

One in 5 supporters of Bernie Sanders in Illinois can’t guarantee that they will vote for the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in November, regardless of who that may be, according to results from the NBC News Primary Poll.

In contrast, just 6 percent of Joe Biden’s supporters in Tuesday’s Illinois Democratic primary said the same. 

Read more on the NBC News Primary Poll. 

Sanders tackles coronavirus in primary night speech

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Tuesday outlined his coronavirus proposals in a speech from his campaign headquarters in Washington, D.C. — items that include sending households $2,000 a month for the duration of the crisis.

Sanders opened his address by saying the country was “facing an unprecedented series of crises” that he believes will require a $2 trillion stimulus to avoid “economic catastrophe.”

His lengthy list of proposals included government covering all coronavirus-related medical bills, speed up testing, invoke emergency powers to scale up production of supplies like surgical masks and ventilators, and provide substantial unemployment insurance to those who lose jobs as a result of the outbreak.

Sanders enters Tuesday’s primaries trailing frontrunner Joe Biden in the NBC News projected delegate count.

NBC News Primary Poll: Biden wins Florida with support from older, moderate and black voters

Joe Biden won Florida’s Democratic primary Tuesday night with help from his core constituency: voters age 45 and older, black voters and voters who identify as moderate or conservative. 

Biden also won 83 percent of voters who said the quality that matters most in a candidate is someone who can unite the country, according to an NBC News Primary Poll. The NBC News Decision Desk projected at 8 p.m. ET, when polls closed, that Biden would beat Bernie Sanders in the Florida primary. 

Biden was also the clear favorite among Florida voters who oppose Medicare for All, as well as those who want to return to former President Barack Obama’s policies. 

 

Read more on the NBC News Primary Poll.

Biden wins Florida, NBC News projects, but Illinois to early to call

Joe Biden wins the Florida Democratic primary, NBC News projects. 

The Illinois Democratic primary is too early to call, according to NBC News.

With 77 percent of the Florida vote counted, Biden led Sanders 61 percent to 23 percent.

In Florida, 219 pledged delegates are up for grabs, making it the biggest prize of the contests on Tuesday night.

As of 8:10 p.m., Biden had received 126 of the state’s delegates, while Sanders was awarded 17, according to NBC News.

In Illinois, 155 pledged delegates are at stake.

NBC News Primary Poll: Democratic voters want a candidate who can beat Trump

In line with other Democratic primary contest this year, a majority of voters on Tuesday across Florida, Arizona and Illinois said they would rather see the Democratic Party nominate a candidate who can beat President Donald Trump over someone who agrees with them on the issues, according to results from the NBC News Primary Poll.

In Florida, 66 percent of Democratic primary voters said they would rather someone who can beat Trump, compared to 65 percent in Arizona and 61 percent in Illinois.

Voters under 45 in those three states were more split than those over 45. Still, the majority of younger voters, too, said they preferred a candidate who can beat Trump. 

Read more on the NBC News Primary Poll.

NBC News Primary Poll: Florida voters trust Biden over Sanders to handle Social Security

A majority of Florida Democratic primary voters trust Joe Biden more than Bernie Sanders to handle Social Security, according to an NBC News Primary Poll.

Fifty-nine percent said they would trust Biden to handle Social Security, while 37 percent said they would trust Sanders.

Read more on the NBC News Primary Poll.

NBC News Primary Poll: On immigration policy, Arizona voters nearly divided on whether to trust Biden or Sanders

Just over half of Arizona Democratic primary voters said they would trust Joe Biden more than Bernie Sanders to handle immigration policy, according to an NBC News Primary Poll.

Fifty-one percent said they would trust Biden, while 43 percent said they would trust Sanders.

 Read more on the NBC News Primary Poll.

DNC urges states to stick to primary schedule, adopt vote-by-mail instead

The Democratic National Committee is urging states with upcoming presidential primaries and caucuses to not reschedule their elections and instead adopt vote-by-mail in response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

At least six states have so far have taken steps to postpone their primary contests as cities and states shut down amidst the pandemic, but the DNC instead said states should not bring “our democratic process to a halt” and allow people to vote early or by mail on the currently scheduled dates, since no one knows when the threat of the pandemic will subside.

“Eligible voters deserve certainty, safety, and accessibility,” DNC chairman Tom Perez said in a statement. 

Perez said the easiest way to allow people to vote during the crisis would be mail-in-balloting, as well as no-excuse absentee voting, where a voter can drop off their completed ballot at a central location, or expanded days and hours for in-person voting to reduce lines. 

Slightly more than half the states in the union have yet to vote in the Democratic presidential primary and all are required to select delegates to July’s Democratic National Convention by June 20, under party bylaws.

States that don’t comply with the rules can be penalized by having their slate of delegates diminished or even cut entirely. But Perez said the DNC may allow some “flexibility” in the process, given the extraordinary circumstances. 

“The DNC will continue to monitor the situation and work with state parties around their delegate selection plans, specifically allowing flexibility around how states elect their delegates to the national convention once those delegates are allocated based on their primary or caucus results,” Perez said. 

NBC News Primary Poll: Florida voters trust Biden over Sanders to handle gun policy

A majority of Florida Democratic primary voters trust Joe Biden more than Bernie Sanders when it comes to handling gun policy, according to results from an NBC News Primary Poll.

In a state that has seen multiple mass shootings in recent years, 63 percent trust Biden to handle gun policy more than they trust Sanders; 27 percent trust Sanders more.

Read more on the NBC News Primary Poll.

NBC News Primary Poll: Most Illinois voters worried about direction of economy

Most Illinois Democratic primary voters are worried about the direction of the nation’s economy in the next year, according to an NBC News Primary Poll.

Eighty-two percent said they are worried about the direction of the national economy, including 46 percent who are very worried about it. Eighteen percent said they are not worried. 

Read more on the NBC News Primary Poll.

Biden sweeps three states, doubles delegate lead over Sanders, NBC News projects

42 0 18 Mar 2020

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden doubled his delegate lead over Bernie Sanders in Tuesday’s primaries, giving him a nearly insurmountable advantage after sweeping Florida, Illinois and Arizona, according to NBC News projections.

The former vice president now has 315 more delegates than the Vermont senator — 1,132 to Sanders’ 817 — after starting the night with an edge of 154.

Biden has now passed the halfway mark and is well on his way to the 1,991 delegates needed to win a majority of all delegates and thus capture the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sanders did not address the results Tuesday night. He spoke earlier on a livestream on his campaign website and focused on the coronavirus pandemic, which has overshadowed the latest round of primary contests.

Biden, speaking via livestream from his home, made a clear appeal to Sanders’ supporters.

“Senator Sanders and his supporters have brought a remarkable passion and tenacity to all of these issues. And together they have shifted the fundamental conversation in this country,” Biden said.

Biden then spoke directly to the young voters “inspired” by Sanders.

“I hear you, I know what’s at stake, I know what we have to do. Our goal as a campaign and my goal as a candidate for president is to unify this party and then to unify the nation,” said Biden, who exit polls have shown has been running poorly with younger voters.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump on Tuesday night secured the number of delegates he needs to become the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee once again, NBC News projects.

Ohio postponed its primary, which had also been scheduled for Tuesday, until June due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Biden entered the night with an already commanding lead after overwhelming Sanders on Super Tuesday and in more recent contests, including a late-breaking victory in Washington that NBC News projected on Monday.

Florida, which has the fourth-largest number of delegates at stake of the entire year, significantly stretched Biden’s lead after he won every single county in the state. In 2016, Sanders got blown out in Florida, but was at least able to win nine counties and a third of the delegates.

While results were still coming in, Biden is on track for a similarly strong win in Illinois, where Sanders is currently winning just one county — home to the University of Illinois — and although Arizona is closer, Biden will still extract more delegates from the state.

The former vice president’s growing delegate lead makes a comeback by Sanders increasingly unlikely as the number of delegate-rich states on the calendar dwindles from this point on.

Because Democrats award delegates proportionally to each candidates’ vote share, Sanders would likely need to win upcoming states by very lopsided margins to catch up to Biden.

Meanwhile, six future contests have so far been delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak, including the next two that had been set for later this month, Georgia and Puerto Rico.

The means, after a jam-packed Democratic presidential calendar with election nights every week for almost two months, there is no vote on the books in any states until April 4, when Hawaii, Alaska and Wyoming will weigh in.

Those states are expected to be friendlier territory to Sanders, but don’t offer many delegates. The next big contest is currently scheduled to be held in Wisconsin on April 7.

Shaquille Brewster contributed.

Key takeaways from Florida, Illinois, Arizona: Biden cruising to the nomination

30 0 18 Mar 2020

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden won decisive victories in Florida, Illinois and Arizona on Tuesday as he marched closer to the Democratic presidential nomination amid coronavirus mayhem.

The former vice president was on course to expand his lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and cross the halfway mark toward the 1,991 delegates needed to clinch the nomination on the first ballot.

The primaries came as the coronavirus outbreak wreaked havoc on American life and sent the economy into a tailspin, although large numbers of votes had already been banked in the early voting period. Ohio postponed its primary at the last minute.

Below are some key takeaways.

Biden closer to becoming presumptive nominee

In Florida and Illinois, the two biggest prizes on the map Tuesday, Biden decisively won men and women, white voters and non-white voters, college graduates and non-college graduates, liberals and moderates, married and unmarried voters.

His lopsided margins suggest that many Democrats want the primary to be over. One of them is former Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

“The conversation is going to quickly turn to how and when does Bernie Sanders unite the Democratic Party,” McCaskill said on MSNBC. “I think it is time. And Bernie’s going to have plenty of delegates and power to influence the platform, because we all want to come together. So I do think the pressure is going to mount, especially at this time of crisis in this country, for the Democrats to unite behind clearly the voters’ preference.”

David Plouffe, Barack Obama’s campaign manager in 2008, was more categorical: “Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee. The general election is set.”

Biden still struggling with young voters

One positive sign for Sanders was that he continued to win voters under 45 years old by large margins in all three states Tuesday. Sanders won those by 13 points in Florida, 37 points in Illinois and 52 points in Arizona.

Sanders needed young progressives to turn out in big numbers to outvote older moderates — but voters under 30 fell slightly from 2016 levels as a share of the electorate in Illinois and Florida.

Biden acknowledged his rival’s strength with young people.

“Let me say, especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders: I hear you. I know what is at stake. And I know what we have to do,” he said. “Our goal as a campaign, and my goal as a candidate for president, is to unify our party — and to unify our nation.”

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Sanders on the brink

One way to know Sanders is in trouble? When he’s losing “very liberal” voters in major states, as he did in Florida with 44 percent to Biden’s 48 percent, according to NBC News primary polls.

He lost “liberal” voters in Illinois by 44 percent to Biden’s 51 percent. The defeat in Illinois was particularly disappointing; he came within 2 points of victory there in 2016.

Sanders’ hopes of turning things around now would hinge on his delivering massive wins in big coming states, although it’s not clear where he could do that.

The senator addressed the country on the coronavirus crisis in livestreamed remarks before polls closed. His campaign said he didn’t plan to speak about the results Tuesday night. There was no indication that he’d leave the race, as many allies want him to stay in and use his leverage to nudge Biden toward more progressive policy positions, which he has already been successful at doing.

Warren’s non-endorsement

Elizabeth Warren dropped out soon after Super Tuesday, but her non-endorsement continues to loom over the primaries. An endorsement of Sanders, whom she was ideologically aligned with, might have given him a fighting chance with college-educated white women, who were a core constituency for the senator from Massachusetts before she ended her campaign.

Sanders got routed among white women with college degrees, losing them to Biden by 39 points in Florida, by 20 points in Illinois and by 9 points in Arizona, according to NBC News primary polls.

Still, given Biden’s margins, it’s doubtful a Warren endorsement would have been enough for Sanders.

Florida turnout high despite coronavirus

Democratic turnout in Florida was projected by NBC News to top 2 million, eclipsing the 2016 total of 1.7 million, attributable in large part to early voting and mail-in ballots.

Shaquille Brewster contributed.

Why did the Justice Department drop its prosecution of 2 firms linked to a Putin associate?

52 0 18 Mar 2020

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats and former intelligence officials have expressed skepticism about the Justice Department’s decision to drop a criminal prosecution of Russian companies accused of interfering with the 2016 U.S. election, while a lawyer for the defendants says the case never should have been brought.

Citing “a risk of exposure of law enforcement’s tools and techniques,” the Justice Department on Monday moved to dismiss the prosecution — on the eve of trial — of two Russian firms linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg businessman known as “Putin’s chef.” The case by former special counsel Robert Mueller accused the firms of sponsoring a vast campaign of social manipulation designed to sow chaos and boost then-Republican candidate Donald Trump.

The indictment, based in part on declassified intelligence information, detailed the activities of an internet troll farm called the Internet Research Agency, where Russians sitting in a St. Petersburg office building impersonated Americans on social media.

The charges against 13 individual Russians named in the indictment will stand, Justice Department officials said, although none of them are in custody.

Federal prosecutors said the decision to drop the case was based in part on an undisclosed “change in the balance of the government’s proof due to a classification determination,” according to a nine-page filing bolstered by more documents that are sealed and therefore hidden from the public.

Eric Dubelier, the former federal prosecutor who represented defendant Concord Management, alleged that the government dropped the prosecution simply because it feared it would lose the case.

“The idea that it had to protect classified information simply isn’t convincing,” he told NBC News. “The government told the judge at the outset of this case that it could be prosecuted with no classified evidence whatsoever. I think the prosecutors were simply convinced at the time they filed this case that no one would show up to defend it.”

Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said Concord Management “was making a mockery of our legal system and had no intention of providing the materials the court asked for. They have sought to weaponize the discovery process.”

DOJ attorneys involved in the case, he said, reached the decision by evaluating “the risk versus the reward. Who are you going to hold accountable? They have nobody except an outside attorney. So what are you getting in return for all of this information that we’re providing that details how we conduct investigations into foreign interference?”

Raimondi also noted that the entire case was not dismissed. “Nothing has changed for the dozen individuals who were also indicted. Our intention is to see them in court somebody. Maybe one of them will travel and we’ll get them.”

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee expressed frustration over the Justice Department’s move, while some former intelligence officials and legal experts are voicing skepticism.

“It’s extremely disturbing that we have reached this point, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, ranking Democrat on the committee, told NBC News. “People, and companies that interfere in our elections should ideally be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

At the same time, Warner added, “the U.S. has to protect sources and methods and make sure that foreign defendants aren’t using our constitutional process to hurt our national security. If DOJ cannot prosecute Concord, the IRA, and Prigozhin, the administration needs to find other tools to pursue them and stop their activities.”

“I don’t buy it,” tweeted Marc Polymeropoulos, a former CIA officer who worked on the assessment of Russian election interference that was partially released to the public. “DOJ does this all the time with CIA info. There’s a process for this. Something smells…”

“This is highly irregular,” said Barbara McQuade, a former federal prosecutor. “These decisions are made before indictment.”

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, California’s Adam Schiff, said the DOJ’s decision to drop the case “is impossible to evaluate without examining what the DOJ would be forced to disclose in discovery. … If important sources and methods are truly implicated, that would be the right decision.

“At the same time, the President’s Twitter-gloating over the dismissal and Attorney General Barr’s sublimation of the Department to Trump’s narrow political interests raises the usual questions of what is really motivating this change of course.”

In their filing, prosecutors accused Concord of using the legal process to expose, for the benefit of the Russian government, how the United States combats foreign election interference. Meanwhile, they said, Concord failed to comply with subpoenas and Prigozhin himself refused to show up in court.

“There is a substantial federal interest in defending American democratic institutions, exposing those who endeavor to criminally interfere with them, and holding them accountable, which is why this prosecution was properly commenced in the first place,” prosecutors wrote. “In light of the defendant’s conduct, however, its ephemeral presence and immunity to just punishment, the risk of exposure of law enforcement’s tools and techniques, and the post-indictment change in the proof available at trial, the balance of equities has shifted. It is no longer in the best interests of justice or the country’s national security to continue this prosecution.”

Dubelier, the lawyer for the Russian defendants, said, “No matter what the government says in its court filing, the fact is they lost and we won. This case was nothing more than a political statement from the beginning.”

Dubelier said the Mueller team “grossly overstated” the amount of money that was spent by the Russian entity and the number of social media influence ads that were actually purchased.

The total amount of the ads in U.S. dollars that would have to be reported under federal rules, he said, was no more than $2500.

“The prosecution lacked evidence to prove that the defendants knew what they were doing violated complex U.S. election laws,” he said. The ads were purchased using a Russian name, a Russian Internet address, and paid for in rubles.

“Facebook knew all of that and did nothing about it,” he said. Facebook has since banned the purchase of political ads by foreigners targeting an American audience.

Dubelier rejected the notion that the Russians carried out an unusually aggressive social media campaign to influence the U.S. election. “It was nothing different than what the United States has done in every foreign election since World War II,” he said.

The U.S. intelligence community, Congressional intelligence committees and many private researchers disagree. A Senate report on Russian election interference devotes more than 45 pages to the activities of the Internet Research Agency, documenting a significant impact on the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook itself said Russian propaganda, much of it from the IRA, reached as many as 126 million people. NBC News reported on a study by researchers at the University of Tennessee showing that Trump’s gains in popularity during the 2016 campaign correlated closely with high levels of social media activity by the Russian trolls and bots of the Internet Research Agency.

“Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is likely to be seen by the Kremlin as a major success,” Eugene Rumer, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Videos showing Miami Beach arrests of black spring breakers slammed as racist by NAACP

43 0 18 Mar 2020

The Miami-Dade chapter of the NAACP is calling for the removal of the Miami Beach police chief and city manager in response to videos showing police interactions with black spring breakers last week.

In one of the viral videos, a Miami Beach police officer appears to grab a young woman by the throat after she falls onto the street following a collision with him. That video was uploaded to social media and has been viewed more than 390,000 times.

The NAACP maintains the collision was accidental but police told The Miami Herald the woman interfered on purpose.

While she is on the ground, the woman appears to kick the officer as he holds her neck down until backup arrives.

The woman was arrested for battery on an officer and resisting arrest without violence, according to the Herald.

Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements said in a statement to NBC News on Tuesday regarding the totality of the events: “If you come to Miami Beach to cause problems, we will intervene and take enforcement action.”

NBC News reached out to the city manager but did not immediately hear back.

The president of the Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police said in a statement Friday that the union fully supports the officers’ actions. The president, Kevin Millan, said that although separate videos were posted online, all were from “one chaotic incident involving a hostile crowd” on Wednesday.

“The videos, along with the police officers body camera footage, captured the hostile crowd, fights, and disorderly actions of numerous spring breakers,” Millan said. “We are confident that a fair and thorough investigation will result in all officers being cleared of any wrongdoing.”

“The officers of the Miami Beach Police Department are among the most diverse and well-trained groups in the nation,” the union statement said. “We professionally police all events in the City of Miami Beach the same and have acted as a model for other police departments across the nation.”

Ruban Roberts, president of the Miami-Dade chapter of the NAACP told NBC News in a phone interview Tuesday that the police behavior shown on the videos was “racist.”

During spring break and similar occasions such as Memorial Day weekend, Roberts said police will “up the ante” and use excessive force, particularly with black youth.

He said his cellphone was inundated after the incident last week with messages from concerned community members about the police response depicted in the viral videos. He said he obtained a copy of the video of the woman who collided with the officer and that what he observed was “a collision between two people running in the same direction.”

NBC News has not been able to verify what happened before or after the events shown on the video.

According to Roberts, who spoke to the woman in the video, she was running away from a confrontation between police and spring breakers, most of whom were black, at a park. Roberts said the woman heard what she believed were gunshots so she ran away.

Roberts said the sounds were actually from police guns that emit rubber bullets. Roberts said after the officer collided with the woman, he turned and pushed her down.

“Then he turned away from her, took two steps and then began to choke her,” Roberts said, describing what he observed in the video and what the woman told him occurred. Roberts said the officer’s choking the woman displays “an improper technique for subduing anyone.” Roberts also questioned the officer’s assertion in the arrest report that the woman, who spent a night in jail afterward, resisted arrest. The NAACP leader said it wasn’t clear from the video that she was being arrested in the first place.

Roberts who wrote an opinion piece on the incident that was published Monday by the Herald, said he spoke last week with Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements, who told him there would be an internal investigation into the police actions. Miami Beach police spokesman, Ernesto Rodriguez, confirmed Tuesday an internal affairs investigation had been launched.

“When you are viewed as human, you are treated as human,” Roberts told NBC News. “But what we have seen is the inhumanity that these young people are treated with.”

Tom Brady to join Tampa Bay Buccaneers after leaving New England Patriots, NFL says

44 0 18 Mar 2020

Tom Brady is expected to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after announcing Tuesday he would be leaving the New England Patriots, a team he has played with for two decades and helped usher to six Super Bowl victories.

Reports that Brady would join the Bucs, who haven’t won a Super Bowl since 2003, circulated through the NFL just hours after the quarterback announced his departure from the Patriots. Although Brady and the Buccaneers haven’t officially made the announcement, the NFL’s official Twitter account appeared to confirm the news by tweeting a cartoon of Brady in a Bucs jersey.

In a pair of statements posted on Twitter and Instagram earlier Tuesday, Brady thanked his former team and coaches in a tweet labeled “FOREVER A PATRIOT.”

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“To all my teammates, coaches, executives and staff, Coach Belichick, RKK and the Kraft family and the entire organization … I couldn’t be the man I am today without the relationships you have allowed me to build with you,” Brady, 42, wrote.

“Our team has always set a great standard in pro sports and I know it will continue to do just that,” he added. “Although my football journey will take place elsewhere, I appreciate everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredible TEAM accomplishments.”

In Brady’s second statement, titled “LOVE YOU PATS NATION,” he addressed his fans.

“MA has been my home for twenty years. It has truly been the happiest two decades I could have envisioned in my life and I have nothing but love and gratitude for my time in New England.,” Brady wrote.

“The support has been overwhelming – I wish every player could experience it,” Brady said. “I can’t thank you enough for the support of our team. The packed training camps and sold out stadiums are mostly the victory parades. I have been so blessed to share them with you all.”

Teams were able to start legally contacting the agents of free agents on Monday at noon ET, but NFL free agency does not begin until Wednesday at 4 p.m.

A sign of Brady’s possible departure came last August when he signed a two-year contract with the Pats that allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent in 2020.

NBC Sports reported that Brady spoke with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick earlier the month, but the two apparently could not agree on a deal.

Jarrett Stidham, 23, will be the team’s new starting quarterback.

Brady, who was the 199th selection in the 2000 NFL Draft, took over for the Patriots’ injured Drew Bledsoe in the second week of the 2001 season. He earned three league MVP Awards and and four Super Bowl MVP Awards with the team.

He didn’t perform at his best in 2019, ending with pass attempt that was a pick six to cornerback Logan Ryan during the team’s 2019 AFC Divisional Round loss to the Tennessee Titans.

But he broke topped or came close to topping a slew of league records during his career, including holding the record for the most Super Bowl wins by any player in league history and being one of only five NFL players to spend 20 years with one team.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in a statement from the team Tuesday said, “Tom was not just a player who bought into our program. He was one of its original creators. Tom lived and perpetuated our culture. On a daily basis, he was a tone setter and a bar raiser.”

Brady’s repeated championships in three of his first four years on the field and in three of his final six seasons with the team together with his competing for championships in almost every other season is “a credit to Tom’s consistency and what separates him. He didn’t just perform. He didn’t just win. He won championships over and over again.”

Team owner Robert Kraft said, “I love Tom like a son and I always will. He has brought so much happiness to me personally and to all of our fans. I had hoped this day would never come, but rather that Tom would end his remarkable career in a Patriots uniform after yet another Super Bowl championship. Unfortunately, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement to allow that dream to become a reality. While sad today, the overwhelming feeling I have is appreciation for his countless contributions to our team and community.”

Tom Brady is leaving the New England Patriots, allowing us to bask in his mortality

44 0 18 Mar 2020

If a global pandemic hadn’t already halted professional sports altogether, Tom Brady’s announcement Tuesday that he was ending his two-decade run with the iconic New England Patriots would have caused serious whiplash.

Brady has often said he would like to play until he is 45, and even if he has shown clear signs of decline — his long ball, especially, isn’t what it used to be — NFL teams are constantly on the hunt for decent quarterback play. The tantalizing possibility that Brady might recapture the magic even if he’s going to be 43 years old at the beginning of next season will drive someone to offer him a contract and the starter’s job.

Watching this happen with Brady will be particularly delicious because the New England QB has been the most irritating player of my lifetime and the Patriots the most irritating team.

If Brady puts on a new uniform after having spent his entire career in Massachusetts, as is expected, he would join a proud cohort of all-time greats who played for years with one team only to act out our collective denial of mortality by playing a slumping, wet cough of a final season trying to prove themselves, while instead serving as a living totem to the harsh truth that time is the great destroyer, robbing us of our peak facilities, grinding us into dust and eventually leaving us for dead.

The competitive mindset of great athletes simply doesn’t allow for graceful exits as a matter of course, and watching them spend a year in a weird jersey, underperforming and learning that their careers are functionally over, has its own kind of joy, in that it turns the inevitability of death into a farce. Watching this happen with Brady will be particularly delicious because the New England QB has been the most irritating player of my lifetime and the Patriots the most irritating team.

Granted, Brady has racked up three deserved NFL MVP Awards on top of his six Super Bowl titles, a whopping 74,571 passing yards and 541 passing touchdowns — second only to New Orleans’ Drew Brees for the all-time lead in both categories. The question of whether Brady is the greatest quarterback who ever lived is fraught and outside the scope of this article, but his partnership with longtime Patriots coach and all-world weirdo Bill Belichick was certainly the most productive in the history of the NFL.

It was also grating and deeply loathsome, as they devoured win after win from the trough of a permanently moribund AFC East and indulged in any opportunity to cheat that was afforded them, playing a boring, old-school offense during a time when the NFL was starting to break out of its two-dimensional tactical thinking.

And it isn’t just Brady’s playing style that’s offensive. He has courted controversy through his affinity for soft footballs, red hats and the pseudoscience surrounding football concussions. He is handsome in a way that’s annoying, and he left underrated actress Bridget Moynahan for model Gisele Bündchen, a purely unforgivable act in the eyes of all MoynaHeads everywhere.

While Brady might deserve his time in the spotlight of deterioration more than some other legends, he is hardly unique in his decision to stick around for longer than he should. Take, for instance, the sight of Michael Jordan in a Washington Wizards jersey.

Jordan was the greatest basketball player who ever lived, hands down, winning six titles and five MVPs in classic Chicago Bulls red, electrifying every basketball court he ever stepped on, turning the NBA into a global product and putting himself in a position to be worth more than $2 billion. If he had just stepped away forever after juking Bryon Russell out of his shorts and drilling a midrange jumper to take the Bulls past the Utah Jazz in the 1998 finals, he could have walked away a perfect hero, flawless all the way to the last buzzer.

But he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. The juice of being a professional athlete was too powerful, and after a year or so as the general manager of the Wizards, he laced ’em up again for his new employer, donning the team’s ugly blue uniforms and grinding out two more, subpar-for-Michael-Jordan seasons while failing to make the playoffs.

This slower, grouchier, less successful Jordan has become an avatar for the flip side of the man’s transcendent success. Sure, he could glide around the court and score on everyone, but that transcendence came at the price of sanity, turning him into a competitive furnace that burned so hot it consumed everything in its path and made him an obsessive hunter for victory, constantly seeking the rush of high stakes even when it might not be advisable.

No one needed to know this about Jordan, at least not before he gave his wild Hall of Fame speech. But the hunger that made him great in his youth betrayed him in middle age, and he was left in a strange uniform, a living, breathing reminder that if Michael Jordan can be laid low by time, transmuted into a shell of himself, you also don’t have much hope in the face of death’s silent whispers.

Similarly, in 2001, Hakeem Olajuwon, the two-time NBA Finals MVP, found himself in a Toronto Raptors jersey, guarding New York Knicks legend Patrick Ewing in an Orlando Magic jersey. New York Jets legend Joe Namath washed up with the Los Angeles Rams, hoping to kick-start his acting career. Yankees catcher supreme Yogi Berra went to the Mets, hit a paltry 2-for-9 in four games and retired on the spot, realizing it was an act of hubris and heading it off before it got worse.

Even Babe Ruth, America’s first true celebrity athlete, found himself in strange threads as his career wound to an end with the Boston Braves. Ruth, who desperately wanted to manage, was hoping the gig would lead to front-office employment, but it was soon made apparent to him that he was signed more as a sideshow attraction than anything else.

Being a great athlete requires supreme confidence, a sense that you can think, work or power through any obstacle. But for many athletes, that confidence just ends up stabbing them in the back as they huff off the mental fumes that made them larger-than-life superstars on the field while no longer having the physical tools to turn those sky-high dreams into concrete production.

Being a great athlete requires supreme confidence, a sense that you can think, work or power through any obstacle. But for many athletes, that confidence just ends up stabbing them.

The leftover pictures we have of legends in unfamiliar jerseys are a testament to the inevitability of the end. Every once in a while, there’s an exception, such as quarterback Peyton Manning’s 2013 NFL MVP Award with his new squad, the Denver Broncos. If history is any indicator, though, Brady is unlikely to equal his former rival’s achievements if he signs on for another season.

Instead, we hopefully will be spending the next year bathing in Brady schadenfreude, watching him struggle away from the Patriots’ top-flight culture, his arm getting worse and worse by the game, our screens filled with close-ups of his handsome face scowling in discontent after he gets picked off once again while wearing a hideous orange-and-black Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey.

Timeline: Trump administrations response to coronavirus

64 0 17 Mar 2020

As the virus continues to spread across the United States, the nation is reeling, with schools closed, sporting and cultural events shut down, and an economy in danger of lapsing into recession.

An examination of how the Trump administration responded to the coronavirus outbreak that was first documented in December reveals a story of missed opportunities, mismanagement and a president who resisted the advice of experts urging a more aggressive response. All the while, Trump made a series of upbeat claims, some of which were flatly false, including that the number of cases was declining in the U.S. and that “anybody who needs a test gets a test.”

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Follow our complete timeline of coronavirus events, public remarks made by the president and a selection of Trump’s tweets.