By Robert A. Vella
A very intriguing mix of black voters, conservative Democrats, and anti-Trump Republicans handed former Vice President Joe Biden a huge victory in the South Carolina primary yesterday. His 28-point margin over second place finisher Bernie Sanders has turned the race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination into a two-person contest with all the other candidates pinning their fading hopes on the delegate-rich Super Tuesday primaries in just two days.
Although the GOP cancelled its primary in the state to prevent challengers to President Trump, which freed-up Republican voters to cause mischief in the Democratic election, numerous anecdotal reports suggest that many of them participated legitimately because they don’t want Trump to be reelected. I couldn’t find any direct evidence to confirm this crossover vote yet, but such analytical data will emerge if it is true to any significant degree. However, the high voter turnout of the South Carolina primary clearly indicates that something different has happened compared to four years ago.
Nearly 528,000 votes have been counted so far which represents a dramatic 42% increase in turnout from the 2016 South Carolina Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders which totaled less than 371,000 votes. If this increase was boosted by anti-Trump Republicans, then the GOP decision to cancel its primary might have been a very bad strategic move. Furthermore, if there was a substantial crossover vote, it should have helped Sanders and not Biden; but, Sanders’ percentage share of the total vote rose only slightly from 2016 (by about 4 points).
Currently, the crucial Democratic delegate count stands at 58 for Sanders, 50 for Biden, 26 for Pete Buttigieg, 8 for Elizabeth Warren, and 7 for Amy Klobuchar. Sanders is expected to win the most delegates in Tuesday’s primaries.
Here is that story, the mounting deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, and some important international news:
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Joseph R. Biden Jr. scored a decisive victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, reviving his listing campaign and establishing himself as the leading contender to slow Senator Bernie Sanders as the turbulent Democratic race turns to a slew of coast-to-coast contests on Tuesday.
Propelled by an outpouring of support from South Carolina’s African-American voters, Mr. Biden easily overcame a late effort by Mr. Sanders to stage an upset. The victory in a state long seen as his firewall will vault Mr. Biden into Super Tuesday, where polls open in just over 48 hours, as the clear alternative to Mr. Sanders for establishment-aligned Democrats.
With almost 100 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Biden, the former vice president, had won just under 50 percent of the vote, well ahead of Mr. Sanders, who had 20 percent. Tom Steyer, the California billionaire, was a distant third, followed by Pete Buttigieg and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. The victory enabled Mr. Biden to significantly narrow Mr. Sanders’s pledged delegate lead, but he did not appear poised to overtake him.
More countries reported their first coronavirus fatalities and the toll grew in places such as China, as the number of deaths from the epidemic globally nears 3,000.
Australia announced its first death from the disease known as Covid-19 on Sunday, hours after the U.S. reported its first fatality. So did Thailand, more than a month after it became the first country outside of China to report an infection. Italy added eight more deaths, with 240 new confirmed cases since Friday.
In China, health authorities said 35 patients died on Saturday, bringing the total number of deaths from the disease in the hardest-hit country to 2,870. In addition, a doctor in Wuhan died early Sunday morning after he was infected while fighting the virus, his hospital said.
A person has died in Washington state of COVID-19, state health officials said Saturday, marking the first such reported death in the United States.
State officials issued a terse news release announcing the death, gave no details and scheduled a news conference. A spokesperson for EvergreenHealth Medical Center, Kayse Dahl, said the person died in the facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, but gave no other details.
Washington state and King County health officials said “new people (have been) identified with the infection, one of whom died.” They did not say how many new cases there are.
Amy Reynolds of the Washington state health department said in a brief telephone interview: “We are dealing with an emergency evolving situation.”
(Bloomberg) — Washington State officials are investigating a potential outbreak of coronavirus at a health facility that cares for elderly, vulnerable patients, after two people at the facility were infected.
Two people at a LifeCare nursing facility in Kirkland, Washington, were diagnosed with the virus, health officials there said Saturday. One is a health-care worker in her 40s, and is in satisfactory condition at a local hospital. The other is an female resident of the facility in her 70s, and is in serious condition at the same hospital, local health authorities said.
In addition, more than 50 residents and staff at the facility have shown symptoms of a respiratory illness, according to Jeff Duchin, health officer for public health in Seattle and King County. Tests of the residents are ongoing.
From: U.S. FDA to allow some labs to use coronavirus tests prior to review [clarification by The Secular Jurist]
Feb 29 (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday said it will allow some laboratories to immediately use tests they have developed and validated to achieve more rapid testing capacity for the coronavirus in the country.
The policy cleared the way for state public health labs to immediately begin local testing and possibly get results within hours, which public health officials say will be critical to a rapid response to the fast-spreading virus that originated in China.
On Friday, New York’s public health lab became the first in the country to seek emergency authorization from the FDA to use their own testing kits after health officials said faulty tests from the federal government [i.e. the CDC] left them unable to diagnose people quickly in the nation’s most populous city.
The first wave wasn’t that bad. In the spring of 1918, a new strain of influenza hit military camps in Europe on both sides of World War I. Soldiers were affected, but not nearly as severely as they would be later.
Even so, Britain, France, Germany and other European governments kept it secret. They didn’t want to hand the other side a potential advantage.
Spain, on the other hand, was a neutral country in the war. When the disease hit there, the government and newspapers reported it accurately. Even the king got sick.
So months later, when a bigger, deadlier wave swept across the globe, it seemed like it had started in Spain, even though it hadn’t. Simply because the Spanish told the truth, the virus was dubbed the “Spanish flu.”
The rapidly-evolving emergency came after Turkey signaled it won’t stand in the way of people using its territory to escape Syria and other war-ravaged countries, as thousands of desperate asylum seekers flocked toward the Greek border and security forces deployed tear gas to hold them back.
With more expected to arrive, the prospect of a bloody showdown looms in a continent already gripped by fear and travel restrictions over the spread of the coronavirus, which is morphing into a pandemic and defies national frontiers.
The situation began to spiral when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked for European Union support after Turkey suffered its biggest single-day military casualties in decades in Syria. The EU prevaricated — it opposes Turkey’s campaign in Idlib province to support the last major rebel holdout against Syrian forces.
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Thousands of people gathered in Moscow on Saturday to mark five years since the murder of prominent Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, joining a march that organizers said was also a protest against planned changes to Russia’s constitution.
The annual march is the first major demonstration organized by Russia’s political opposition since President Vladimir Putin proposed a raft of changes to the constitution last month.
The proposals, widely seen as a means to allow Putin to extend his grip on power after leaving the presidency, will be put to a national vote on April 22.
KABUL, Afghanistan — The agreement reached by the United States and the Taliban on Saturday is clear in at least one way. The United States and the Taliban got something they both dearly wanted: a timeline for an American troop withdrawal and a countdown to whatever happens next.
But caught in the middle is an Afghan population that is on edge about what that last part might look like, after a deal that excluded their government and left many critical points ambiguous.
Across the country on Sunday, Afghans were grappling with whether the deal could actually be a first step toward lasting peace, or a plunge back into a chapter where extremists could again dominate society and governance, as happened during the Taliban’s rule in the late 1990s.