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House bill that would provide coronavirus sick leave, free tests in flux

Lawmakers were huddling Thursday evening to hash out the details of coronavirus legislation, in the hope of passing the relief package for families and workers later in the night.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were in talks throughout the day to update the bill to address the White House’s concerns. Pelosi expressed a sense of urgency to pass legislation to help families in need before the House leaves town for a one-week recess.

Meantime, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bashed the House’s plan as an “ideological wish list” and said the Senate will return to work next week in Washington to deal with whatever the House sends over — negating any chance for immediate action from Washington.

CORONAVIRUS IMPACT ON FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: CLOSURES, TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS AND MORE

“The speaker is still negotiating with [Secretary] Mnuchin,” fumed Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “The House hasn’t even sent a bill over and Leader McConnell sends everybody home during a crisis. That is so wrong.”

Pelosi unveiled the House Democrats’ plan late Wednesday to provide free coronavirus testing, paid sick leave, expanded food assistance and more unemployment funding.

But the White House raised serious concerns and President Trump panned the legislation of being too chalked with “goodies” that Democrats have wanted for the last 25 years.

Trump had wanted a payroll tax cut that Pelosi didn’t include. Republicans also raised concerns about the expansiveness of new paid sick leave programs and not including language to ban federal funds for abortion.

REPUBLICANS OPPOSE PELOSI’S CORONAVIRUS LEGISLATION, FLAGGING ‘MAJOR’ PROBLEMS

Determined to get something over the finish line to help workers deal with the economic hardships of the spreading pandemic, Pelosi continued to negotiate with Mnuchin to find some solutions.

Their first phone call took place at 8:24 a.m. and the two spoke for 16 minutes on language recommendations from the Trump administration, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill tweeted. Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke at least seven times Thursday, with follow-up calls at 9:12 a.m, 11:26 a.m.,  2:30 pm., 3:50 pm, 5:39 pm and 6:07 pm, Hammill said.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer advised House members to stay close as negotiations with the Trump Administration on the worker relief package was still ongoing.

“Votes are expected in the House today,” Hoyer’s office said in an email blast. “Further information regarding the exact timing of votes will be announced as soon as it becomes available.”

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The plan House Democrats introduced late Wednesday night would:

  • Ensure free coronavirus testing for everyone, including the uninsured. Requires private insurers, Medicaid, Medicare to pick up all the testing costs for their patients. 
  • Requires all employers to give workers up to 7 days of paid sick leave and provide an additional 14 days during a public health emergency. The legislation would reimburse small businesses – under 50 employees – for the costs of providing the 14-day leave for coronavirus emergencies.
  • Create a new federal emergency paid leave program through the Social Security Administration for workers absent for 14 days or more because they are infected or quarantined with the coronavirus. The monthly benefit is worth up to two-thirds of their monthly earnings up to $4,000 and would last for up to three months. Caregivers and parents home with children out of school/daycare could also qualify.
  • Provides $1 billion for emergency grants to states to administer unemployment compensation and authorizes full federal funding for extended unemployment benefits in states with unemployment that spikes past 10 percent.
  • Boosts food assistance funds to food banks, senior meal delivery programs and low-income pregnant women or mothers who are laid off due to the COVID-19 emergency.
  • Authorize emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to households with children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals who are now home for coronavirus closures.
  • Loosen qualifications for SNAP food stamp benefits, including suspending the work and work training requirements, so more food is available during the public health emergency.
  • Calls for the development of occupational standards to protect frontline health workers from contracting the virus.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

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Disneyland closing on Saturday amid virus fears

By The Associated Press

The Latest on the world’s coronavirus pandemic:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is suspending all of its worship services globally because of the spread of the new coronavirus.

The decision was made hours after Utah’s governor recommended limiting group gatherings in the state to no more than 100 people for at least two weeks.

The Utah-based faith sent a letter Thursday to members informing them of a decision that also calls on a temporary suspension of all church activities until further notice.

The move comes a day after the faith announced it would hold a major conference in early April without attendees.

It is first time since a 1957 flu epidemic that the religion has taken the step of barring church members from attending in person.

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Officials in Miami Beach have declared spring break is over as they suspended permits for concerts and an LGBTQ festival.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told reporters that venues are shutting down altogether or canceling events.

The city will not issue permits for spring break concerts and the Miami Beach Gay Pride parade, scheduled for early April. Public beaches are still open.

Gelber says that “to the extent that anyone can declare spring break is over, it is over this year.”

Many people have canceled Florida flights and hotel reservations.

The Miami Herald newspaper reported that Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive Association of property and business owners says hotels are struggling and that some are laying off workers.

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Belgium has announced new measures aimed at halting the spread of the new coronavirus, including closures of schools, cafes, restaurants and night clubs.

Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes insisted late Thursday that the country is not on lock-down and appealed to people not to hoard food, saying doing so would disrupt the system and prevent others from eating “correctly.”

She says social and cultural activities will be canceled regardless of their size. Supermarkets, pharmacies, and food stores will remain open. The measures start Friday and last until April 3.

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President Donald Trump says he’s temporarily halting his trademark rallies as his campaign bows to the coronavirus outbreak that is rapidly reshaping the political landscape.

The rallies have long been Trump’s most potent political weapon. They energize the candidate and give him a powerful platform from which to attack his adversaries while his team collects a treasure trove of voter data.

But the spread of the virus which has closed schools and shuttered professional sports leagues has also touched the 2020 presidential campaign.

Leading Democratic contenders Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders canceled their scheduled rallies earlier this week.

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The coronavirus is bringing the entertainment world almost to a standstill.

Upcoming movies have been canceled, and all Broadway performances suspended. TV networks have eliminated live audiences from shows until it’s safe to welcome crowds back.

To curb the spread of the disease, Hollywood has paused the normal hum of TV productions and the bustle of red-carpet movie premieres.

After New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned gatherings of more than 500 people, Broadway theaters announced that they would close immediately and remain dark through April 12.

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Portugal’s government has ordered that all the country’s public and private schools and universities remain closed from next Monday for almost a month to help stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

The measure announced late Thursday affects about 2 million students.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a televised address to the nation that the government will offer financial assistance to working parents who have to stay at home with their children. Businesses will get tax breaks.

Authorities will also shut night clubs and limit how many people can enter government buildings, shopping malls and restaurants.

Costa said people are “in a fight for survival” against the COVID-19 virus. Portugal has reported 78 cases but no deaths.

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Maryland officials say the state closing all public schools for two weeks in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon said schools will be closed from Monday until March 27.

And on North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper has urged that meetings of more than 100 people to be cancelled, postponed or modified starting Friday.

That includes church services and sporting events and other activities. The state’s number of identified cases has grown from eight to 15, with no deaths.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice suspended high school basketball tournaments due to concerns over the new coronavirus just hours before he was supposed to coach his girls team in a game. West Virginia is among the few U.S. states without a confirmed virus case.

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Iran’s foreign minister is demanding that the United States immediately halt what he called a “campaign of economic terrorism” and lift sanctions. The sanctions have made it virtually impossible for Iran to import medicine and medical equipment, including to identify and treat coronavirus patients.

Mohammad Javad Zarif says U.S. sanctions have also made it increasingly difficult for the country to export oil and stranded thousands of Iranians abroad.

He says it has also led to what he called “Google’s immoral censoring” of a new government app designed to help Iranians identify potential symptoms of the COVID-19 virus.

The virus has swept across Iran, with the death toll rising to 429 and confirmed cases to 10,075.

___

The National Rifle Association has announced the cancellation of its upcoming annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee because of the coronovirus outbreak.

The NRA says in a statement Thursday that it made the decision “to help ensure the safety and well-being of our NRA members, guests, and surrounding community.

The gun-rights group in 1998 scaled back its convention from three days to one after the Columbine mass shooting.

The annual meeting is used to rally the group’s faithful and to elect board members. The organization says it will announce later time how that will take place.

___

The deepening virus outbreak has prompted the cancellation of Champions League soccer for the first time.

The high-profile match between Manchester City and Real Madrid was postponed along with the Juventus game against Lyon. Both were scheduled for Tuesday.

The soccer calendar was becoming increasingly fragmented as the pandemic took its toll on leagues and cup competitions. The Spanish league was postponed for the next two round.

Dutch soccer authorities canceled all matches until the end of the month. Major League Soccer in the United States was also shutting down for a 30-day period.

___

Disneyland has announced that it’s shutting down its California theme parks on Saturday over concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

The company said in a statement Thursday that Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park will be closed through the end of the month though there have been no reported cases of the new virus.

It is closing after reviewing guidelines by California Gov. Gavin Newsom that limit gatherings of more than 250 people.

Newsom had said earlier Thursday that the guidance did not yet apply to amusement parks.

___

A top federal health official says the U.S. effort to test for the coronavirus is “a failing.”

Public health experts warn that the nation’s hobbled testing rollout has left them with little indication of how the virus is spreading.

The lack of comprehensive figures means U.S. health providers could quickly be overwhelmed by undetected cases. The effort initially endured delays in getting testing kits out to public health labs, but the stumbles have continued.

U.S. health officials, for example, promised nearly a month ago to tap into a national network of labs that monitor for flu. That system is only just getting started.

___

The Canadian province of Ontario has closed all publicly funded schools from March 14 to April 5 because of the pandemic.

Ontario is Canada’s most populous province and a statement from the province says the decision was based on advice from Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

March break for students begins next week for many schools that will closed for two weeks.

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The office of Sen. Lindsey Graham says he has decided to self-quarantine himself and work remotely because he was in Florida at an event attended by a top Brazilian government official who tested positive for the new coronavirus.

A statement from Graham’s office Thursday says Graham was tested for the virus and is waiting for the result.

The statement from Graham’s office says took the steps because of advice from his doctor.

The White House says U.S. President Trump has no plans to be tested for the new coronavirus or go into self-quarantine after attending the same events last weekend.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications director tested positive days after traveling with Bolsonaro to the meeting with Trump and senior aides in Florida. Bolsonaro is also awaiting test results.

___

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that all of the country’s schools, kindergartens and universities will be closed until further notice starting Monday, in a strategy to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Macron in a televised address Thursday called the outbreak the most serious health crisis for France in a century and that is priority is to protect the most vulnerable. He urged people over age 70 to stay home.

Macron says “non-essential” treatment in hospital is also postponed.

French General Director of Health Jérôme Salomon says there have been more than 2,800 confirmed cases of the virus in France and 61 deaths.

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Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered that all of Ohio’s public and private schools serving kindergarten through 12th grade shut down for at least three weeks to help reduce the spread of the new coronavirus.

Thursday’s order doesn’t apply to preschools or daycares.

It takes effect at the end of the day on Monday, though some districts, including Columbus, also plan to close that day.

As parents start to navigate resulting childcare issues, schools are scrambling to make or finalize plans to continue providing learning opportunities and meals for students while they’re at home.

More than 700,000 Ohio school children, or about one in every four, are eligible to receive lunch for free or reduced costs and often eat breakfast and lunch at school.

In Arkansas, state officials have told public schools in four counties to temporarily close.

And San Francisco officials announced all city schools would close for three weeks, affecting about 57,000 students.

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Major League Baseball is likely to cancel the rest of its spring training game schedule due to the coronavirus. MLB probably will also announce that the start of the season will be delayed, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no decision had been announced. They said Commissioner Rob Manfred planned a conference call with his executive council Thursday to discuss the situation and then a call with team owners.

MLB had continued to play into Thursday, when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he strongly recommended to local authorities and organizers that they limit all mass gatherings.

The major league season had been scheduled to start March 26, its earliest opening other than for international games.

— Reporting by AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum

___

A Chinese medical team and surplus ventilators, protective masks and other equipment are heading to Italy in a remarkable exchange of medical knowhow and material from the source of the coronavirus outbreak to its current epicenter.

The Italian Red Cross says a plane bringing a nine-person Chinese team of experts and nine cargo pallets of medical equipment would land late Thursday in Rome.

The team includes Chinese ICU specialists, pediatricians and nurses who helped manage the crisis in China.

Italian officials say they are eager to learn from the Chinese experience, particularly clinical data and experimental drug regimens.

With 15,113 positive cases Thursday and 1,016 dead, Italy’s fatality rate is running at 6.7%, far higher than other countries. Italy has the second oldest population in the world after Japan.

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A Chinese government spokesman has suggested that the U.S. Army could be responsible for bringing the new coronavirus to China.

Lijian Zhao offered no explanation for his allegation in a late Thursday night tweet that read in part “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe(s) us an explanation!”

Wuhan is the Chinese city where the first cases of the disease were detected in December.

China has taken offense at Trump administration officials blaming the outbreak on China.

Worldwide, 126,000 people have been infected with the new coronavirus, 68,000 have recovered and 4,600 have died.

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Italy, the center of Europe’s coronavirus pandemic, has hit the milestone of 1,000 deaths since it saw its first cases in mid-February.

Italy’s positive cases continued their upward trend Thursday, registering 15,113 confirmed cases and the death toll hit 1,016.

More than half of those who are in intensive care in Italy are located in hard-hit Lombardy provice, which on Thursday reported 605 ICU patients in a region with only 610 ICU beds.

Hospitals in Lombardy are overflowing with the dead. Lombardy’s top health care official, Giulio Gallera, said at the request of the hospitals, the region had simplified the bureaucracy needed to process death certificates and bury the dead.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield says his agency is working to make sure that uninsured Americans can get tested for coronavirus if it’s medically needed.

About 28 million Americans are uninsured. Rep. Katie Porter, a Democrat from California, pressed Redfield on their predicament Thursday at a congressional hearing. Porter says the Health and Human Services department has the legal authority to pay for health costs.

After going back and forth with the congresswoman, Redfield said he agreed. He says “those individuals who are in the shadows can get the health care that they need during the time of us responding to this crisis,” he said.

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Mountain climbing expedition operators on Mount Everest say Chinese mountaineering officials will not allow spring climbs from their side of the world’s highest mountain due to fears of coronavirus.

On the other side of the mountain in Nepal, operators say cancellations for the popular spring climbing season have been pouring in, despite the mountain being open for business.

As the virus is coming under control in China, officials there are taking steps to prevent new infections coming from abroad, including by putting overseas travelers arriving in Beijing into 14-day quarantines.

China has seen nearly 81,000 infections but some 61,000 of them have already recovered. Over 3,000 virus victims have died in China, the world’s hardest-hit nation.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is self-isolating at home after wife has exhibited flu-like symptoms.

Trudeau’s office said Sophie Grégoire Trudeau returned from a speaking engagement in the United Kingdom and began began exhibiting mild flu-like symptoms including a low fever late Wednesday night. She is being tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting results.

The statement said “Out of an abundance of caution, the prime minister is opting to self-isolate and work from home until receiving Sophie’s results.”

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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World’s Last Female White Giraffe & Her Calf Killed by Poachers

Conservationists from northeastern Kenya announced that two extremely rare, all-white giraffes that were living on the vast conservation land are dead, believed to be killed by poachers.

According to a statement from the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy, a team of rangers and community members found the carcasses of a female adult giraffe and her 7-month old calf “in a skeletal state.”

“Kenya’s only female white giraffe and her calf have been confirmed dead in Ijara, Garissa County,” the statement read.

The conservancy believes “armed poachers” are to blame.

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The mother giraffe’s bull that was born in 2017 is now thought to be the only remaining all-white giraffe in the world.

The little giraffe family rose to prominence when they were photographed in 2017 in the free-range area where they lived.

Ishaqbini stated that the giraffe trio was all-white, but not albino, instead, living with a condition known as leucism.

Leucism causes a partial lack of pigmentation and generally does not affect the animal’s dark eye color — the mother giraffe’s eyes were dark, Ishaqbini stated.

Mohammed Ahmednoor, the manager of the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy, called the deaths “a long term loss,” to the scientific community, tourists and wildlife conservationists alike.

“This is a very sad day for the community of Ijara and Kenya as a whole,” Ahmednoor said.

“We are the only community in the world who are custodians of the white giraffe.”

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“Its killing is a blow to the tremendous steps taken by the community to conserve rare and unique species, and a wake-up call for continued support to conservation efforts,” Ahmendnoor said.

Poachers likely targeted the exotic creatures for their unique hides as well as meat, killing them around four months ago based upon the skeletal remains, The Washington Post reported.

Kenya Wildlife Service said it was investigating the killings of the two giraffes, the outlet reported.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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Text Messages Falsely Claim New York City Is Shutting Down Because Of Coronavirus, Officials Say

A series of text messages attributed to sources in high places are being forwarded across group chats and causing panic for New Yorkers facing the coronavirus pandemic.

The text messages falsely claim that New York City is going to be shut down over the weekend because of the coronavirus. Some attributed this to former mayor Michael Bloomberg, others to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and others still are claiming they heard it from the NYPD. All are false.

“Lots of new information flying around at a rapid race. It’s important we all do the best we can to limit the flow of inaccurate info. For anyone who has received this message, it is NOT true,” tweeted Freddi Goldstein, the press secretary for Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The mayor himself weighed in with a tweet later Thursday.

“NO, there is NO TRUTH to rumors about Manhattan being quarantined. Whoever is spreading this misinformation, PLEASE STOP NOW!” he said.

The NYPD has also said the messages are fake on Twitter.

“Contrary to what it says, there are no plans by the NYPD to shut down roadways and subways,” the organization tweeted.

Rumors about the coronavirus have been rampant online. On Tuesday, an account impersonating the BBC falsely said Daniel Radcliffe contracted the coronavirus.

In response to a question asking whether Radcliffe had tested positive for the virus, the actor’s publicist said, “Not true.”

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America shuts down – POLITICO

“I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens and we will ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus,” President Donald Trump said Wednesday evening, announcing a 30-day ban on certain travel from Europe.

But domestically, the administration has been slow to issue specific guidance or declare a nationwide state of emergency, leaving governors, mayors and other local officials to implement a patchwork of guidelines and rulings that vary from state to state. The Trump team’s response has been the subject of steady criticism in recent weeks amid its struggles to ramp up testing and rhetorical misfires from the president, who spent weeks downplaying the economic and public health threats posed by the virus’ spread.

Futures markets immediately swooned, and trading was temporarily halted Thursday morning as investors fled to safety and stock indexes plunged. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted more than 2,000 points, or 10 percent, by the close of trading, marking its worst percentage drop since the 1987 crash.

Trump told reporters Thursday morning that he hasn’t discussed placing travel restrictions inside the U.S. in states like Washington and California — where 34 combined deaths have occurred — but that it was a possibility “if somebody gets a little bit out of control” or if “an area gets too hot.”

“You see what they’re doing in New Rochelle, which is good, frankly,” the president said, referring to the city in which New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo implemented a special “containment area” to manage the outbreak. “It’s the right thing, but it’s not enforced. It’s not very strong, but people know they’re being watched. New Rochelle, that’s a hot spot.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters that it’s “kind of shocking to see the challenges that we have and the decisions that have to be made about people coming together.”

Even the typically laconic Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, felt compelled to acknowledge the widespread sense of alarm radiating outward from Washington and New York. The Kentucky Republican canceled the upcoming weeklong recess in the upper chamber so “Congress can pass bipartisan legislation to continue combating the coronavirus and keep our economy strong.”

“This virus is challenging our nation in ways that feel unfamiliar to us,” he said in an earlier statement. “But our great country is strong, we are equipped, and we have overcome far greater challenges before.”

What began as health officials stressing the importance of washing hands and avoiding handshakes now includes government action against large crowds across the country as the nation races to mitigate the spread of the virus.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has recommended the cancellation of any gatherings of more than 250 people across the state through the end of the month, following the lead of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who announced a similar ban Wednesday in three counties. Most K-12 schools wil remain open in California, but Disneyland Resort and Disney California Adventure will close Saturday until the end of the month.

New Mexico, New York and New Jersey are temporarily barring mass gatherings, while Oregon is banning mass gatherings for organized events for the next month.

After nearly every Division I conference canceled its postseason basketball tournament, the NCAA announced the cancellation of its national men’s and women’s basketball championship tournaments in addition to its remaining winter and spring championships.

The remainder of the NBA’s regular season won’t be played, at least for the time being, after the league announced that a member of the Utah Jazz roster tested positive for coronavirus Wednesday. A second Jazz player tested positive Thursday.

The WNBA is not in season, but with its draft a month away and the start of the regular season set for May 15, the league said it will continue planning for different scenarios and release further details later this month.

Major League Soccer and the National Hockey League have suspended play, while NASCAR and the PGA Tour will continue without fans in attendance. Major League Baseball will delay its opening day by at least two weeks. And next month’s annual Boston Marathon will be postponed.

The State Department has urged Americans to reconsider their travel plans and paused its international exchange programs, while the Pentagon has shut down tours of the Defense Department. Meanwhile, the House and Senate sergeant at arms on Thursday announced the temporary closure of all public tours of the Capitol complex through the end of March.

“We are taking this temporary action out of concern for the health and safety of congressional employees as well as the public,” House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger said in a joint statement. “We appreciate the understanding of those with planned visits interrupted by this necessary, but prudent, decision.”

The shutdowns, postponements and cancellations are likely to trigger more of the same from companies, campaigns and others as top health officials warn that the coronavirus outbreak will get worse.

The House Oversight Committee resumed a hearing Thursday with Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, that was postponed Wednesday due to an “emergency” White House meeting with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

But even a member of the committee argued that it should have been canceled or postponed.

“These gentlemen should be able to go and do their work,” Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) said. “There’s a time and battle when you need your frontline men on the front line, not in the rear with the gear.”

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Disneyland closing on Saturday amid virus fears

By The Associated Press

The Latest on the world’s coronavirus pandemic:

The deepening virus outbreak has prompted the cancellation of Champions League soccer for the first time.

The high-profile match between Manchester City and Real Madrid was postponed along with the Juventus game against Lyon. Both were scheduled for Tuesday.

The soccer calendar was becoming increasingly fragmented as the pandemic took its toll on leagues and cup competitions. The Spanish league was postponed for the next two round.

Dutch soccer authorities canceled all matches until the end of the month. Major League Soccer in the United States was also shutting down for a 30-day period.

___

Disneyland has announced that it’s shutting down its California theme parks on Saturday over concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

The company said in a statement Thursday that Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park will be closed through the end of the month though there have been no reported cases of the new virus.

It is closing after reviewing guidelines by California Gov. Gavin Newsom that limit gatherings of more than 250 people.

Newsom had said earlier Thursday that the guidance did not yet apply to amusement parks.

___

A top federal health official says the U.S. effort to test for the coronavirus is “a failing.”

Public health experts warn that the nation’s hobbled testing rollout has left them with little indication of how the virus is spreading.

The lack of comprehensive figures means U.S. health providers could quickly be overwhelmed by undetected cases. The effort initially endured delays in getting testing kits out to public health labs, but the stumbles have continued.

U.S. health officials, for example, promised nearly a month ago to tap into a national network of labs that monitor for flu. That system is only just getting started.

___

The Canadian province of Ontario has closed all publicly funded schools from March 14 to April 5 because of the pandemic.

Ontario is Canada’s most populous province and a statement from the province says the decision was based on advice from Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

March break for students begins next week for many schools that will closed for two weeks.

___

The office of Sen. Lindsey Graham says he has decided to self-quarantine himself and work remotely because he was in Florida at an event attended by a top Brazilian government official who tested positive for the new coronavirus.

A statement from Graham’s office Thursday says Graham was tested for the virus and is waiting for the result.

The statement from Graham’s office says took the steps because of advice from his doctor.

The White House says U.S. President Trump has no plans to be tested for the new coronavirus or go into self-quarantine after attending the same events last weekend.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications director tested positive days after traveling with Bolsonaro to the meeting with Trump and senior aides in Florida. Bolsonaro is also awaiting test results.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez also says he was in a room with Trump and the Brazilian communications director and is feeling healthy but has decided to self-quarantine himself.

___

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that all of the country’s schools, kindergartens and universities will be closed until further notice starting Monday, in a strategy to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Macron in a televised address Thursday called the outbreak the most serious health crisis for France in a century and that is priority is to protect the most vulnerable. He urged people over age 70 to stay home.

Macron says “non-essential” treatment in hospital is also postponed.

French General Director of Health Jérôme Salomon says there have been more than 2,800 confirmed cases of the virus in France and 61 deaths.

___

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered schools closed for three weeks beginning Monday.

He acknowledged the disruptions it will mean for families but said it’s necessary to help prevent the spread of the virus. The announcement came as state Health Department Director Dr. Amy Acton issued an order banning gatherings of over 100 people.

The ban is not absolute and exempts work places, religious gatherings, weddings and funerals, and other events. Numerous cancellations preceded the announcement across the state.

In Arkansas, state officials have told public schools in four counties to temporarily close. State health officials said Thursday they had identified five more people with the coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19. The five were being isolated in their homes.

___

Major League Baseball is likely to cancel the rest of its spring training game schedule due to the coronavirus. MLB probably will also announce that the start of the season will be delayed, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no decision had been announced. They said Commissioner Rob Manfred planned a conference call with his executive council Thursday to discuss the situation and then a call with team owners.

MLB had continued to play into Thursday, when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he strongly recommended to local authorities and organizers that they limit all mass gatherings.

The major league season had been scheduled to start March 26, its earliest opening other than for international games.

— Reporting by AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum

___

The White House says U.S. President Trump has no plans to be tested for the new coronavirus or go into self-quarantine after attending events last weekend with a senior Brazilian official who tested positive.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications director tested positive just days after traveling with Bolsonaro to a meeting with Trump and senior aides in Florida.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Thursday that “exposures from the case are being assessed, which will dictate next steps.”

Grisham says Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time.”

___

A Chinese medical team and surplus ventilators, protective masks and other equipment are heading to Italy in a remarkable exchange of medical knowhow and material from the source of the coronavirus outbreak to its current epicenter.

The Italian Red Cross says a plane bringing a nine-person Chinese team of experts and nine cargo pallets of medical equipment would land late Thursday in Rome.

The team includes Chinese ICU specialists, pediatricians and nurses who helped manage the crisis in China.

Italian officials say they are eager to learn from the Chinese experience, particularly clinical data and experimental drug regimens.

With 15,113 positive cases Thursday and 1,016 dead, Italy’s fatality rate is running at 6.7%, far higher than other countries. Italy has the second oldest population in the world after Japan.

___

California Gov. Gavin Newsom says nearly 500 passengers remain aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship docked in Oakland, California. He hopes they will all be off the ship by the end of the day Thursday.

In addition to the 21 people who previously tested positive while aboard the ship, Newsom says at least two more people have tested positive after leaving.

Newsom expects the number to climb as more people are tested.

The ship was carrying about 3,500 passengers and crew when it docked earlier this week in Oakland.

___

A Chinese government spokesman has suggested that the U.S. Army could be responsible for bringing the new coronavirus to China.

Lijian Zhao offered no explanation for his allegation in a late Thursday night tweet that read in part “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe(s) us an explanation!”

Wuhan is the Chinese city where the first cases of the disease were detected in December.

China has taken offense at Trump administration officials blaming the outbreak on China.

Worldwide, 126,000 people have been infected with the new coronavirus, 68,000 have recovered and 4,600 have died.

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Italy, the center of Europe’s coronavirus pandemic, has hit the milestone of 1,000 deaths since it saw its first cases in mid-February.

Italy’s positive cases continued their upward trend Thursday, registering 15,113 confirmed cases and the death toll hit 1,016.

More than half of those who are in intensive care in Italy are located in hard-hit Lombardy provice, which on Thursday reported 605 ICU patients in a region with only 610 ICU beds.

Hospitals in Lombardy are overflowing with the dead. Lombardy’s top health care official, Giulio Gallera, said at the request of the hospitals, the region had simplified the bureaucracy needed to process death certificates and bury the dead.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City says it is closing all three of its locations in the city starting Friday as a precautionary measure in the wake of the new coronavirus outbreak.

The museum, popular with art lovers and tourists, said it would remain closed indefinitely and its buildings will undergo a deep cleaning. Met President Daniel Weiss said there were no confirmed cases tied to the museum.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield says his agency is working to make sure that uninsured Americans can get tested for coronavirus if it’s medically needed.

About 28 million Americans are uninsured. Rep. Katie Porter, a Democrat from California, pressed Redfield on their predicament Thursday at a congressional hearing. Porter says the Health and Human Services department has the legal authority to pay for health costs.

After going back and forth with the congresswoman, Redfield said he agreed. He says “those individuals who are in the shadows can get the health care that they need during the time of us responding to this crisis,” he said.

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Mountain climbing expedition operators on Mount Everest say Chinese mountaineering officials will not allow spring climbs from their side of the world’s highest mountain due to fears of coronavirus.

On the other side of the mountain in Nepal, operators say cancellations for the popular spring climbing season have been pouring in, despite the mountain being open for business.

As the virus is coming under control in China, officials there are taking steps to prevent new infections coming from abroad, including by putting overseas travelers arriving in Beijing into 14-day quarantines.

China has seen nearly 81,000 infections but some 61,000 of them have already recovered. Over 3,000 virus victims have died in China, the world’s hardest-hit nation.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is self-isolating at home after wife has exhibited flu-like symptoms.

Trudeau’s office said Sophie Grégoire Trudeau returned from a speaking engagement in the United Kingdom and began began exhibiting mild flu-like symptoms including a low fever late Wednesday night. She is being tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting results.

The statement said “Out of an abundance of caution, the prime minister is opting to self-isolate and work from home until receiving Sophie’s results.”

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Borders are re-emerging in Europe due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Czech government declared a state of emergency Thursday due to coronavirus and was renewing border checks at its borders with Austria and Germany.

People will be banned from crossing in at any other place.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis said people from 13 risk countries that include not only China, South Korea and Iran but also EU nations such as Italy, Spain, France, Austria and Germany as well Britain will not be allowed to enter the Czech Republic.

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Congress is shutting the Capitol and all House and Senate office buildings to the public until April in reaction to the spread of the new coronavirus.

The House and Senate sergeants at arms said that the closure will begin at 5 p.m. EDT Thursday. Only lawmakers, aides, journalists and official visitors will be allowed into the buildings. The statement says officials are acting “out of concern for the health and safety of congressional employees as well as the public.”

Politicians in Europe, Iran and China have contracted the virus and several U.S. lawmakers have already self-quarantined due to exposure. The virus has infected over 126,000 people worldwide and killed over 4.600 but over 68,000 victims have already recovered.

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Iran has asked for an emergency $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to combat the outbreak of the novel coronavirus there, which has killed more than 360 people and infected some 9,000 nationwide.

Iran’s economy has been battered by U.S. sanctions, which have choked Tehran’s ability to export oil widely. The virus outbreak prompted all of Iran’s neighbors to shutter their borders and nations have cut travel links with Iran, including shipping in some cases, affecting imports, as well.

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Ireland is closing all schools and cultural institutions until March 29, in a major escalation of its response to the new coronavirus.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced the measures would take effect at 6 p.m. Thursday. He said the closure applies to schools, colleges, childcare facilities and cultural institutions. All indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor events with more than 500 are also canceled.

Speaking during a trip to Washington, Varadkar said people should work from home as much as possible.

So far 43 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Ireland and one person has died.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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The Populist Right Has A Brighter Future Than The Corporate Left

As the Democratic Party consolidates to nominate Joe Biden, it destroys its chances of being the party of the American working class. Biden, who is a lifelong champion of credit card companies and trade deals that benefit multinational capital, has no claim to be the representative of working class people.

Journalist Chris Hedges has said that liberal politicians have traditionally served as a “safety valve” for the resentments of the have-nots, channeling anger and frustration into votes for Democrats who claim to feel the pain of working people. However, as the Democratic Party has become increasingly beholden to the professional managerial class, the “safety valve” of releasing working class outrage has moved in recent years toward the insurgent presidency of Donald Trump.

The Democratic Party, when it lost in 2016, has since doubled down on its moral condemnation of traditional social values coupled with an increasingly manic defense of elite politicians, outlawing any criticism of Joe Biden’s corruption involving Burisma in the Ukraine and elevating Elizabeth Warren to the status of a political martyr after coming in third in her home state. The Democratic Party plays with kid gloves. (RELATED: The Coronavirus Is Bad News For Joe Biden, Here’s Why)

Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Iowa Federation Labor Convention on August 21, 2019 in Altoona, Iowa. Candidates had 10 minutes each to address union members during the convention. The 2020 Democratic presidential Iowa caucuses will take place on Monday, February 3, 2020.(Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Even anti-establishment rebels like Bernie Sanders have apologized to Biden and bowed to the Obama-Biden legacy, admonishing his own surrogates when they rightfully criticize Biden’s record. Trump, on the other hand, treated his intra-party rivals as mortal enemies in 2016, and he not only won, but also later the party unified behind him. Meanwhile, Sanders supporters beg Elizabeth Warren for an endorsement that won’t come, respecting the elites of the party, while Trump trashed former President George W. Bush and won by becoming the “safety valve” to release anti-establishment anger.

The Republican Party, of course, is no true ally of the working class. They, too, propose to cut social security and Medicaid, and Mitch McConnell considers universal health care tantamount to Venezuelan socialism. Yet, major shifts within the party on trade policy and immigration have positioned the Republicans to effectively combat a corporatized and spiritless Democratic Party which is unwilling to overthrow its own establishment.

Right-wing figures like Tucker Carlson attack Biden on his anti-worker record, while left-wing outlets like MSNBC cater to Cold War paranoia about Russia, repackaged for the #Resist era. This election, like 2016, is about a populist economic program. The Republicans were able to win their populist uprising, and the Democrats won’t. Four years later, they are still stuck defending the corporate class. To become the “safety valve” that will release the anger and despair of the electorate, this is not enough. The pomp and pathos of Trump prevails. (RELATED: Joe Biden Starts Presidential Campaign By Praising Antifa)

Tucker Carlson speaks onstage during Politicon 2018 at Los Angeles Convention Center on October 21, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Politicon )

The election of Trump was an ideological statement against the “free market and free movement of workers” dogma characteristic of prior Republican administrations. Rather than parading the stock market around like a graph depicting human salvation, Trump won the presidency on the recognition that tight labor markets, trade deals biased toward American workers, and the active policing of corporations who plotted to offshore domestic jobs was the future of the Republican Party. It still is.

This recognition has resulted in the emergence of critical voices on the right, one of whom is The Hill’s Saagar Enjeti. Enjeti, a fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute and a former Daily Caller White House reporter, hosts a highly popular news show called “Rising” with former MSNBC contributor Krystal Ball, who abandoned the network and openly calls out its corporate bias. Enjeti, as a conservative, is in favor of a stricter border policy than Ball, but more often than not the two agree and aim their fire at the same targets, from the abject corporatism of the Biden campaign, to the rampant oligarchy of Michael Bloomberg, to the deceptive pseudo-intellectual branding of neoliberal star Pete Buttigieg, and the corporate media that seeks to prop up these astroturfed political forces. Ball and Enjeti have characterized their project as proudly horseshoe and populist, uniting conservatives and leftists in defiance of the idea that they should be ashamed to agree when they’re both right about something.

Enjeti has succeeded in demonstrating a type of conservative politics to a young audience. In contrast to the confident free market polemic employed by right-wing thought leaders such as Ben Shapiro and Rush Limbaugh, Enjeti has demonstrated that a populist right can speak to an age of decline in worker outcomes with a form of populist sentiment that rebukes multinational capital.

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson is another figure emblematic of the new populist right, and a highly influential anchor on cable news. He has aired original investigative reporting exposing the anti-worker practices of major firms like Cabela, directly calling out billionaire Paul Singer for hedge fund deals which eliminated jobs in the struggling town of Sidney, Nebraska. Carlson has also sharply debated Iraq war hawk John Bolton on his primetime show from an anti-war point of view. When President Trump was at the brink of war with Iran this January, Carlson was an influential voice dissuading Trump from pursuing further conflict.

Enjeti in new media (YouTube) and Carlson in old media (cable news) are influential figures on the right who draw a stark contrast with the Reaganite past of the Republican Party, which has traditionally been both wholly deferential to the class interests of billionaires and hawkish on war. Overturning those stances along with the dogma that free trade enriches anyone other than the corporations hawking their products, and rejecting the open immigration policies of Bush and Reagan as well, these figures on the right have made a distinct break with the Republican politics of the past.

If the new populist right can be defined by anything, it’s a rejection of libertarian philosophy. Libertarianism, which professes that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that the unrestricted movement of labor and goods around the world is the foundation of working class wealth, has been confronted by the new right which instead views that free movement as the easiest way to rip off the American worker and drive down his wages. The philosophy of the new conservative movement is clear: if an unregulated free market means that American workers get outcompeted and lose, then we reject the unregulated free market.

Political strategist Steve Bannon helped to redefine this hands-on approach to the economy when he traced the election of Donald Trump back to the 2008 financial crisis, arguing that Wall Street, the Koch brothers and the Heritage Foundation deindustrialized the country and weakened labor bargaining power through the financialization and commodification of human life. Getting the government out of our lives, elites propped up cheap migrant labor as the answer to falling rates of profit, relying on a class of servants imported from around the world and jobs sent overseas where wages were miniscule to keep the costs of labor low.

US President Donald Trump (L) congratulates Senior Counselor to the President Stephen Bannon during the swearing-in of senior staff in the East Room of the White House on January 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Bannon made the radical argument that the modern American is no better off than a medieval serf, because he will never earn anything. In order to save capitalism, Bannon argued, the banks must be broken up and the free transfer of wealth upward via relaxed trade, border and immigration policies must be stopped. Bannon credited this pro-government, anti-market sentiment emerging in the wake of the financial crisis for the election of Trump. (RELATED: Steve Bannon Says He Pushed For Alleged Whistleblower To Be Removed From National Security Council)

So far, Bannon and Trump have utterly succeeded in capturing the economic turmoil of the nation and transforming it into support for the Republican Party. Rather than destroying the conservative movement, their push toward a nationalistic hands-on approach to public policy has allowed the Republicans to rebrand as a pro-worker party. The Democrats have been incapable of responding to this change.

When the voters come to the polls holding in a primal scream, demanding a release of their fears, they will not pull the lever for Democrats any longer. And even if they don’t become Republicans, the total disenchantment of the Democratic base will ensure that the Republicans continue to win against a corporatized husk of a party that once claimed to believe in something more than merely beating the incumbent. For the liberal-left, difficult days are ahead.

Alex Blum is a freelance writer, and he has written for Quillette, Areo, Arc Digital, and Psychology Today. You can follow him on Twitter at @AlexanderBlum12.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation. Content created by the DCNF is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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“Everyone Belongs Here”

“As-salamu alaykum,” Zohran Mamdani, 28, a socialist candidate for New York State Assembly, says at almost every door. It’s an Arabic salutation meaning “Peace be upon you.” It strikes me as an extremely reassuring way to begin a conversation with a stranger, especially when you’ve just interrupted them at home. Even when people don’t want to talk with us about politics, they tend to respond pleasantly.

That particular February night, we were seeking out Muslims who were registered voters but had not registered as Democrats, as it was the last week for such voters to change their registration and be eligible to vote in New York’s Democratic primaries, whether for Bernie Sanders in April or for Mamdani in June.

While arguing to all the district’s voters that they need a zealous affordable housing advocate to represent them in the state assembly, Mamdani, who has been endorsed by the New York City Democratic Socialists of America (NYC-DSA), has also been making the case to Astoria’s Muslim and South Asian communities that they are underrepresented. It’s not a hard case to make: while close to a million Muslims live in New York City, there are hardly any in elected office. Mamdani would be the second Muslim elected to the state assembly. And New York has never had a South Asian elected official; Mamdani, if elected, will be the first.

Later over Chinese food, Mamdani explains that this pitch for representation is not at odds with a broader working-class movement but rather a congruent and necessary part: many of these under-represented Muslims are also working-class people with whom DSA’s economic message resonates deeply.

At our first door, a man listens attentively as Mamdani talks about his day job with Chhaya, a group that advocates for housing for South Asian communities, where he works as a counselor helping people get out of foreclosure. He tells the man about all the ways the finance industry works against middle- and working-class homeowners, and how easy it is for people to get into foreclosure through no fault of their own. The man says suddenly, “I was one of those people.”

He tells his story. Mamdani then explains his platform, how he plans to cut back on the power of the banks and the real estate industry and make it easier for everyone to stay in their homes, renters and owners. The man’s own foreclosure crisis was resolved long ago, but Mamdani has his vote.

He’s not the only voter on our list who lives at this address. After we wait for a long time, a sleepy, disheveled woman comes to the door. As her boyfriend hovers protectively, she listens to Mamdani talk about affordable housing for all. She agrees to change her registration. He fills out the form for her, then asks if he has her vote. Her affect is so low, it’s impossible to anticipate her answer. “Well, if you’re going to be out here walking around!” She gestures out at the rainy night and shrugs.

We walk back into the light, chilly rain, exuberant. Two new registrations on our first door, both “ones” — canvassing jargon for people who have committed to vote your way.

Arriving at a Republican household, we find it guarded by an implacable girl of about ten. As Mamdani explains the deadline to change your voter registration, and the reasons for it, she gives him a compliantly patient but bored look. (We later agree this must infuriate her teachers.) We can’t persuade her to rouse anyone of voting age.

A landlord — friendly, shirtless — opens the door and Mamdani begins talking about foreclosures. “It’s their fault,” the man interrupts, referring to the people losing their homes. He thinks there is too much regulation oppressing landlords as it is: “If a kid wants to eat lead paint it’s his problem.”

We leave the building laughing. Nothing would have convinced that guy.

We find a couple at home, a woman and a man, both Working Families Party voters, supporters of Bernie Sanders. They are thrilled that we can change their registrations for them on the spot.

“Oh wow, you can do that for us right now?” she says. “That would be very convenient.”

“I’m more progressive than he is,” the woman says of her boyfriend.

The boyfriend shrugs, “I don’t know what that means.”

After canvassing, Mamdani and I eat soup dumplings at Bund on Broadway and talk about how this campaign came to be.

Mamdani was born in Kampala, Uganda, to inspiring parents: his father is the anti-colonialist scholar Mahmood Mamdani, and his mother is the filmmaker Mira Nair (Mississippi Masala, Monsoon Wedding). But the candidate’s story begins before that.

His great-great-grandmother came to East Africa from Gujarat, India. Four or five of her children had died very young; according to family legend, a village elder told her the only solution was to “cross the ocean.” East Africa had a significant South Asian population; the British brought Indians over as indentured laborers to help build the railroads in the nineteenth century, many of whom stayed and prospered.

The family lived first in Tanzania, then Uganda, for generations. In August 1972, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin announced on the radio that every Ugandan of South Asian origin had to leave the country within ninety days. Instantly the family was rendered stateless. They weren’t even allowed to bring more than $50 out of the country. They lost everything.

Mamdani’s father’s family lived in refugee camps in Britain, facing attacks from skinheads and exclusion from British society. Zohran recalls a story his father recently told him about their time in Britain. “After they left the camp,” he says, “they moved into a more permanent residence. They would still, every Sunday go to Gatwick [airport in London] and watch the plane take off to Entebbe, Uganda’s international terminal, and would just sit and let their hearts kind of soar with the plane as it climbed in the sky and just crash as the plane disappeared. Every week they would go and they would watch.”

Eventually Idi Amin was overthrown, and the family returned to Kampala. Yet, Mamdani says, “they were never able to reclaim who they were before expulsion.” His grandfather had been a poet and auctioneer, a much-loved community leader. After the expulsion, his grandson says, “he never worked a day in his life. The only way I knew him was apparently as a shadow of himself.” Zohran Mamdani, who lived in Kampala until he was seven, when his family came to the United States, says his uncle and grandparents would always ask, “Where are we going to settle?” He reflects, “Even though they were back in Uganda, there was a sense that this place could never be permanent, could never be home.”

Mamdani identifies with his Chhaya clients who face losing their homes through foreclosure, as well as the tenants all over New York State facing eviction. What the Ugandan state did to his family “on the basis of racism,” Mamdani observes, is the same as what the state does to working-class Americans at the “behest of capital. You know? It may be motivated by a different reason, but the end result is they’re taking your home from you, they’re leaving you with nothing.” He draws a powerful connection, too, to sanctuary for immigrants: “How do we let people feel at home?”

Indeed, looking at the candidates New York City–DSA is supporting this year, Mamdani observes that they are all immigrants. “These are candidates coming from communities who are constantly being told that we’re not at home in this city, this state, in this country.” The organization is using its “organizing power, which we’ve accumulated over years, to make very clear that everyone belongs here.”

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Biden campaign requests Secret Service protection

Congressional leaders have been notified that Joe Biden’s presidential campaign has requested protection from the Secret Service, according to a congressional official familiar with the discussions.

For a candidate to get protection from the Secret Service, he or she has to first ask the Department of Homeland Security, which will then conduct a threat assessment that will be reviewed by the top leaders in Congress: Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy. These leaders, known as the “big four,” oversee the process.

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Arnon Mishkin: Joe Biden, flop to front-runner in 10 days – here’s how it happened

In the 10 days from the South Carolina primary to Michigan’s, Joe Biden went from a candidate almost incapable of uttering a coherent debate point to a prohibitive favorite to win the nomination – and arguably in stronger shape for the race against President Donald Trump in November.

How’d it happen so fast?

Heading into the primary season, Democrats were united around one theme – how to beat Donald Trump. They may have been divided over whether to fight for “Medicare-for-all.” They may have had different positions on how to address climate change. And they certainly disagreed about whether to accept the support of high-roller campaign donations or even whether billionaires had a right to exist.

LESLIE MARSHALL: AFTER BIDEN’S LATEST WINS HERE ARE 5 THINGS DEMOCRATS MUST DO NOW

But they were in touch with their anger. And they were angry about Donald Trump.

Trump had humiliated them by winning in 2016, despite everyone assuring them that Hillary Clinton couldn’t lose. And his personal “never give an inch” style kept rubbing their noses in that defeat – from his assembly line of judicial appointments to the Republican Senate majority leader’s self-proclaimed willingness to act as the “Grim Reaper” for what he called “socialist legislation” coming from the Democratic majority House of Representatives.

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After three straight wins in the presidential race, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was the clear front-runner. He brought the most supporters to the Iowa Caucuses (even if he did lose the delegate count), he won New Hampshire, and he decisively trounced all opponents in Nevada.

But the secret to Sanders’ success was ultimately the cause of his doom: his fierce support for his agenda, coupled with a very energetic persona in arguing for that agenda and an apparent unwillingness to compromise to expand support. Indeed, the day after he won Nevada,  he was “60 Minutes” defending the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, refusing to attend a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and attacking the current Israeli government as racist. Not a recipe for victory, especially in Florida.

As one of the smartest political analysts I know said to me just before South Carolina, “There’s a way this thing really does just fall into Biden’s lap.” 

In the meantime, Biden was busy demonstrating that he was “safe old Joe.” Brandishing his Obama bona-fides and the endorsement of Congressman Jim Clyburn, the former vice president decisively won the African-American vote, and the primary, in South Carolina. By Sunday, just one day after that victory, in private polls of upcoming states, we saw the initial signs of further movement toward Biden, even in the states without large African-American populations.

The word was out to the voters (if not yet to the politicians) that it was a two-person race. By Monday the slow buildup of support for Biden began to look like an avalanche. Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden, and billionaire Michael Bloomberg was clearly faltering. One could look at the data and wonder if Biden had enough time to catch up to Sanders, but the direction of the race was clear.

As one of the smartest political analysts I know said to me just before South Carolina, “There’s a way this thing really does just fall into Biden’s lap.”

A week after winning 10 of 14 “Super Tuesday” contests, Biden secured victories in the three most important contests on “Echo Tuesday.”

That left Sanders no apparent route to the nomination. The democratic socialist was on his back.

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And where is the race now?

Sanders says he’s staying in, less to contest the nomination than to ensure that the Democrats embrace his platform. While some say his continued campaign will only help Trump’s reelection, I’d argue that it’s the second-best piece of news Biden has received since the recent primaries.

Sanders will be his sparring partner, as Biden argues that he’s both best equipped to achieve many of the policy goals Democrats have while also presenting himself as a “majoritarian” alternative to either the radical policies Sanders is espousing or the policies Trump is implementing.

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A century ago, John Reed wrote “Ten Days That Shook the World,” a sympathetic account of the Russian revolution that showed how the Communists took advantage of widespread opposition to the tsars to beat the divided moderate elements and create the Soviet Union. In these last 10 days for the Democratic party, the moderates have figured out a way to consolidate that opposition and may be well placed for November.

Bottom line: the nomination does seem to have fallen into Biden’s lap. And with the coronavirus crisis forcing him to limit campaign appearances to controlled settings where he can speak off a teleprompter – arguably his best setting – I’ve got only one question: What “number” does Biden recommend playing in the lottery?

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