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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider

    President Donald Trump on Friday hinted that his administration may move to add even more to the $28 billion in bailout money paid to farmers over the past two years, as ongoing trade disputes continue to exact an economic drag on U.S. agriculture. In a post on Twitter, the President said if extra aid is needed, it will be paid for by increased tariffs levied by the Trump Administration. 'THAT AID WILL BE PROVIDED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT,' Mr. Trump wrote, in part. The most recent figures show the federal government is now collecting just under $7 billion a month in tariffs from U.S. import companies - up from about $3 billion a month when the President took office in 2017. An average of $7 billion a month would equal close to $100 billion in tariffs, which the President says will offset the cost of bailout payments to U.S. farmers hurt by ongoing trade disputes. Earlier this week in a stop in California, the President reminded farmers of his administration's bailout work. 'We got you $16 billion and we got you $12 billion from the year before. We took it out of the tariffs that we imposed,' the President said. 'People don’t say it. They never like to say it, the fake news.' 'I will always keep fighting for the American farmer and rancher,' Mr. Trump added. The President's promise to funnel billions in additional aid to farmers came amid reports that China may not be buying the up to $40 billion in American farm products which had been promised as part of a 'phase one' trade deal with the U.S. 'Not good. Also not surprising,' said the group Farmers for Free Trade, which has been a loud voice in the agricultural community raising concern about the impact of the President's tariffs. While the President and top administration officials predict new trade deals with China, Japan, Canada, and Mexico will open up new markets for America's farmers - Mr. Trump's use of tariffs have caused trouble for U.S. agriculture, often resulting in retaliatory tariffs by other nations. Democrats mocked the President's latest talk of extra farm bailouts. 'I SEE THAT YOU ARE, AGAIN, EMBRACING SOCIALISM,' tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA).
  • Ignoring declarations from President Donald Trump that the prosecution of his friend Roger Stone had been a 'disgrace,' a federal judge in Washington on Thursday sentenced Stone to 3 years and 4 months in prison for obstructing efforts by Congress to probe the Trump-Russia investigation. 'He was not prosecuted, as some have claimed, for standing up for the President,' said Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Stone. 'He was prosecuted for covering up for the President.'  “The truth still exists. The truth still matters,” the judge added. Stone was convicted in November of obstructing a Congressional investigation, making false statements to Congress, and engaging in witness tampering to stop testimony which would undercut his defense. Democrats in Congress praised the sentence, and warned President Trump not to pardon Stone. “He did it to cover up for Trump,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the lead House impeachment prosecutor, and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.  “It should go without saying, but to pardon Stone when his crimes were committed to protect Trump would be a breathtaking act of corruption,” Schiff tweeted. “The President should not further taint this process by using his pardon power as a Get Out of Jail Free card,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). As the sentencing hearing got underway, President Trump was out in Las Vegas - but paying attention to the story of the morning from back in Washington. “I'd love to see Roger exonerated,” the President said at a “Hope for Prisoners” event, as he complained the foreperson on the Stone jury and the prosecution in general. “This has not been a fair process,” Mr. Trump added. But the President indicated he would not make any quick decision about clemency for Stone. “I'm going to watch the process, and watch it very closely, and some point, I'm going to make a determination,” Mr. Trump said. Republicans quickly made clear they would not oppose such a move for Stone. “Under our system of justice President Trump has all the legal authority in the world to review this case, in terms of commuting the sentence or pardoning Mr. Stone for the underlying offense,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a key Trump ally. The sentencing played out days after an extraordinary twist in the case, as the Justice Department withdrew its original sentencing recommendation for Stone, as four prosecutors then resigned from the case. That recommendation urged a sentence of between seven and nine years in jail. During the court proceedings on Thursday, Judge Jackson indicated she thought that was excessive.
  • Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's first appearance on the Democratic debate stage found him under attack from all sides in Las Vegas on Wednesday night, as the five other Democrats took turns trying to knock over the candidate who threatens them with a seemingly endless supply of campaign money and television commercials in the 2020 race for the White House. “Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another,' Elizabeth Warren said of Bloomberg and the race to replace President Donald Trump. In Bloomberg's first chance to speak to voters from the debate, he opted to go after Bernie Sanders on the issue of electability. 'If he is the candidate we will have Donald Trump for another four years,' Bloomberg said. Here is a look at what the six candidates on stage were able to do: + ELIZABETH WARREN. After a lackluster debate in New Hampshire, Warren left it all on the field in Vegas. She scorched Bloomberg over his taxes, and called him an 'arrogant billionaire.' She ripped Klobuchar for a 'Post-It Note' health plan, and called Buttigieg's health plan a 'Power Point' which took up only two paragraphs. But her night on stage in Vegas will be remembered mainly for her verbal broadsides against Bloomberg, especially when she demanded that he release women from non-disclosure agreements, so people could find out how they had been harassed or discriminated against. With the moderators taking a hands off approach, Warren at one point simply asked the questions of Bloomberg herself, making his first debate night a rough one. + PETE BUTTIGIEG. While the Indiana Mayor got in some shots at Sanders and Bloomberg along the way, he took several extended jabs at Klobuchar, which would seemingly tell us that he is worried about the Minnesota Senator grabbing away some of his moderate base. 'I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete,' Klobuchar said at one point as the two tangled multiple times. Buttigieg really got under Klobuchar's skin by highlighting how she couldn't come up with the name of the Mexican leader earlier this week. 'Are you trying to say I'm dumb?' Klobuchar responded icily. Buttigieg also got his jabs in at Sanders and Bloomberg, reminding people they aren't in the party. 'Let's put forward someone who is actually a Democrat,' Buttigieg said. + JOE BIDEN. Unlike the debate in New Hampshire, Biden did not start his evening by conceding defeat, as the more aggressive version of the former Vice President was repeatedly on display. Biden dinged Bloomberg several times, he again threw elbows over the cost of programs put forward by Sanders, and repeatedly reminded others on stage that he was with President Obama on major issues like health care. But Biden reserved his biggest jabs for Bloomberg, on where he stood on the Obama health law, and how the Obama Administration sent in monitors to deal with the 'stop and frisk' policy of the Bloomberg Administration in New York. + BERNIE SANDERS. Normally, Sanders would have probably attracted the most attention in this debate, simply because he is seen in the polls as the front runner, something he reminded the NBC moderators about when they asked him about polls. But with Bloomberg on the debate stage for the first time, Sanders got a little less attention - though he still mixed it up with Bloomberg a number of times. 'You know what, Mr. Bloomberg, it wasn't you who made all that money. Maybe your workers played some role in that as well,' Sanders said. One of the few times that Sanders found himself playing defense was when a local Nevada issue came up, about the powerful Culinary workers union, and their opposition to his Medicare For All health plan - worried it will do away with the benefits they've gained in their labor efforts. + MICHAEL BLOOMBERG. While the attacks on Bloomberg will get the lion's share of attention out of this debate - as we have detailed here, the former mayor of New York also had his share of rejoinders, which were mainly deployed against Sanders. 'I don't think there's any of chance of Sanders beating President Trump,' Bloomberg said early in the debate. 'I'm a New Yorker. I know how to take on an arrogant con man,' Bloomberg said of the President. For the first 15-20 minutes, Bloomberg was doing fine in his first debate, even as the moderators tried to make him an issue. But then, Warren moved in, and Bloomberg struggled through the rest of the first segment. Bloomberg used most of his tougher lines against Sanders, clearly seeing him as his chief rival on Super Tuesday. + AMY KLOBUCHAR. Klobuchar used her last debate in New Hampshire to take a big jump forward in this campaign, but it wasn't clear she was able to repeat that on the Vegas Strip. Klobuchar started by rebuking Bloomberg's campaign for suggesting that she get out of the race. As mentioned above, the Minnesota Democrat spent a good deal of time squabbling with Buttigieg, as it seemed like Klobuchar might have grabbed Mayor Pete and broken him in two if no one else was in the room. After Bloomberg said he couldn't just 'go to Turbo Tax' to do his taxes and release them, Klobuchar called for transparency on tax issues, comparing it to President Trump. Klobuchar is probably in through Super Tuesday, but it's not an easy way forward. She will try to raise more money on Thursday in Denver.
  • As President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his move to free ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), the President also renewed his attacks on fired FBI Director James Comey over the Blagojevich matter, even though Comey was not at the Justice Department or FBI when the Illinois Democrat was convicted of trying to get money for the U.S. Senate seat of Barack Obama in 2008. 'Rod Blagojevich did not sell the Senate seat,' the President said, countering the evidence presented at trial by the feds in 2010 and 2011 'Another Comey and gang deal!' the President added in his tweet, mentioning Comey for a second straight day in relation to Blagojevich. Comey served as Deputy Attorney General in the George W. Bush Administration. He left in 2005, and did not return to the federal government until he was chosen for FBI Director eight years later in 2013. After Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison, the Justice Department noted his 'effort in 2008 to illegally trade the appointment of a United States Senator in exchange for $1.5 million in campaign contributions or other personal benefits.' It was not immediately clear why the President mentioned Comey for a second straight day, even though he was not involved in the investigation or prosecution of Blagojevich. 'It was a prosecution by the same people - Comey, Fitzpatrick - the same group,' the President told reporters on Tuesday, also naming former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who did lead the prosecution of Blagojevich. Mr. Trump has repeatedly denounced Comey since firing him in May of 2017, calling him a 'slimeball,' denouncing his handling of the Russia investigation, and Republicans have said Comey should be jailed. 'Mr. President,' Comey tweeted a week ago. 'I have never committed a crime, which is an important pre-req for jail in most countries, still including ours.
  • Three days before a crucial set of caucuses in the state of Nevada, the leading candidates for the Democratic nomination for President meet in Las Vegas on Wednesday night, as former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg will be on the debate stage for the first time, with top Democrats ready to take aim at the billionaire who has jumped up in the polls after spending millions on campaign ads nationwide. 'It's a shame Mike Bloomberg can buy his way into this debate,' said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have taken aim repeatedly at Bloomberg in recent days. The debate comes as new polling not only qualified Bloomberg for the debate stage in Las Vegas, but also next Tuesday night in Charleston, South Carolina, just a week before a crucial round of primaries in fourteen states on Super Tuesday, March 3. Six candidates qualified for this debate - notably absent is another wealthy candidate who has been at the last two debates, Tom Steyer. Iowa was just over two weeks ago - but so much has changed in the Democratic race, and in the polls. Let's look at each candidate in this debate. + Joe Biden. After a rather sketchy fourth place finish in Iowa, followed by a fifth place finish in New Hampshire, it's not panic button time as yet for Biden supporters, but it is getting close. The big firewall for the former Vice President is probably next week in South Carolina, but a lackluster showing on Saturday in the Nevada Caucuses would not be helpful for his campaign. At the final debate in New Hampshire earlier this month, Biden started off by basically saying he could not win in the Granite State - and then he went out a proved that the following Tuesday. One would expect to look for a different message from Biden, and look for him to be more aggressive tonight, just as he was in the second part of the New Hampshire debate. + Michael Bloomberg. History teaches us that in the modern primary campaign era, no one can skip Iowa and New Hampshire, and then win their party's nomination. But that's absolutely what Bloomberg is trying to accomplish. He did nothing in those two early states, where individual voter campaign work is glorified - as Bloomberg instead went for the national campaign, with ads running in Super Tuesday states and beyond. That seems to be paying off right now as the overall field is not wowing the voters, and Bloomberg's numbers are bubbling up both nationally, and in individual states which are voting on March 3 - Super Tuesday. Don't count Bloomberg out, as a string of polls released on Tuesday only seemed to have good news for him. What does Bloomberg do tonight? Maybe he raises this issue which he turned into a digital ad, and uses it to push back against what could be a torrent of criticism. + Pete Buttigieg. Most people have probably forgotten this statistic, but Buttigieg is the official leader of the Democratic Party race for President right now, as he is two delegates up on Bernie Sanders after Iowa and New Hampshire. By running neck and neck with Bernie Sanders in both of those states, Buttigieg showed that he deserves to be in the top tier of candidates. But can he translate those good finishes in the first two states into big numbers in Nevada on Saturday? That's not so clear cut of a question and answer. Remember, Buttigieg was taking flak from other Democrats in the New Hampshire debate - because he was perceived as a threat. Now, the focus of all the candidates may be on Bloomberg instead of him. + Amy Klobuchar. It was a week today that Klobuchar was the hot, new item emerging from New Hampshire, after her late closing rush which gave her a strong third place finish. But like in New Hampshire, Klobuchar really does not have much of a ground game in Nevada or South Carolina - and she may have to again use this debate to introduce herself to voters who know pretty much nothing about her. Klobuchar is already trying to see if she can push her way into other states, scheduling a visit to Colorado before the Nevada Caucuses. But the extreme disadvantage for Klobuchar on the airwaves vis a vis Bloomberg is something which cannot be ignored. + Elizabeth Warren. After her disappointing fourth place finish in New Hampshire, Warren immediately introduced a new message into her stump speech - going after Bloomberg, and the millions of dollars he was pouring into the race for President. 'Michael Bloomberg came in on the billionaire plan,' Warren said, as the crowd booed at the mention of his name. 'Just buy yourself the nomination.' One would think that Warren - who has often railed at big money in politics - will be one of the two most aggressive towards Bloomberg, along with Bernie Sanders.  But many thought Warren would be aggressive in the final New Hampshire debate - and it did not happen.  Afterwards, Warren admitted she had probably missed a chance to get more attention.  Watch tonight to see if she changes her game plan. + Bernie Sanders. Sanders teed off on Bloomberg before the votes were even cast in the New Hampshire Primary, perhaps sensing more than others - because he has more of a national campaign apparatus - that Bloomberg represents a major threat to the candidates who have picked their way through the individual early states on the calendar. But Sanders also is the strongest candidate to battle Bloomberg right now in the Democratic race, and the size of his crowds in recent days have shown that very clearly. There is still a great reluctance in official Democratic Party circles about Sanders - mainly because he still is not a member of the party. Sanders can certainly box with Bloomberg tonight on stage and feel confident that he will still be in the top tier of candidates when the night is over. The debate is on NBC from 9 pm - 11 pm ET.
  • President Donald Trump on Tuesday issued a series of surprise high profile pardons and commutations, moving to free former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who was convicted in 2011 of corruption for essentially trying to sell the official appointment to fill the U.S. Senate seat of President Barack Obama. 'He served eight years in jail - a long time,' the President told reporters, as he noted he saw Blagojevich's wife on Fox News, and knew of Blagojevich from his time on 'Celebrity Apprentice.' 'That was a tremendously powerful and ridiculous sentence,' Mr. Trump added, pointedly name-checking former FBI Director James Comey, and the special prosecutor in the case, former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Blagojevich was Governor of Illinois in 2008 when Barack Obama won the White House, thus opening his seat in the Senate. Evidence gathered by the feds showed Blagojevich quickly saw the vacant Senate seat not as a political opportunity, but one which could net the Illinois Democrat big money. 'I've got this thing and it's f#$%ing golden,' Blagojevich was heard on a secretly recorded tape. 'And I'm just not giving it up for f&#$ing nothing!'  In his indictment and trial, prosecutors described Blagojevich as angling for a quid pro quo with a possible Senate pick, where they would set up a non-profit company which would employ Blagojevich after he served as Illinois Governor, funneling big money to him as payback for the Senate appointment. Before being tried and convicted of corruption, Blagojevich was impeached by the Illinois State House, and then convicted and removed from office by the Illinois State Senate in early 2009. The vote was unanimous. Illinois GOP lawmakers in the Congress issued a joint statement two hours after the President's announcement, saying they were disappointed by Mr. Trump's move. 'Blagojevich is the face of public corruption in Illinois,' the lawmakers stated, adding 'we shouldn't let those who breached the public trust off the hook.' The President on Tuesday also issued a pardon for David Safavian, who was convicted of obstruction of justice and making false statements in connection with his involvement in the famous Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.
  • The political rumble that is the Democratic race for President in 2020 is entering a crucial next fourteen days as 16 states are on the schedule - fourteen of them on Super Tuesday, March 3. Just as the results in Iowa and New Hampshire helped to reshape the race and knock out some of the long shot contenders, the next two weeks should help determine whether the Democratic nomination is going to be sewed up quickly - or if the race will go on for some time. The big news today is that Michael Bloomberg has qualified for his first debate - Wednesday in Nevada.  Here is what to look for in a very active next two weeks: + Nevada comes first on Saturday. The third stop in this year's nominating schedule is the Silver State, as the Democratic candidates will now flood this state for the rest of this week, with caucuses set for Saturday. Just like in New Hampshire, there will be one final debate before the Nevada vote, that is set for Wednesday night on the Strip in Las Vegas. Unlike the Iowa Caucuses, there is early voting allowed in the Nevada version, as voters then indicate alternate choices if their candidate is not 'viable' in the caucus vote. So far, there has been a lot of interest among Democratic Party voters. Are Nevada Democrats ready? When early voting began last Saturday, Nevada Democrats said 56 percent of those voting were joining the caucus for the first time. + After Nevada, it's off to South Carolina. Last on the schedule this month is the Palmetto State. Nevada has caucuses on Saturday February 22. South Carolina has a primary on Saturday February 29. Just as the results of Iowa and New Hampshire helped to winnow and further shape the Democratic race, one would think the same thing happens after Nevada. There will be another debate in South Carolina on Tuesday February 25, in Charleston. So, just in the next week alone, the Democrats will have two debates - the final two before Super Tuesday. + Will Democrats look ahead to Super Tuesday? Unlike the clear full week before the Nevada Caucuses, Democrats only have a couple of days from the vote in South Carolina on February 29 until the 14 states of Super Tuesday, which vote on March 3. Think about it for a second - do you just campaign around the Palmetto State for the full week next week? Or do you also go somewhere else which might help you the following Tuesday? One state? Or 14 other states? There is no easy answer when you consider that California and Texas are two huge states on Super Tuesday. The clock is ticking toward March 3. Fast. + What about Mike Bloomberg? I don't think you can ignore Bloomberg. History tells us we should, as when you ignore Iowa and New Hampshire, usually your campaign for President goes nowhere (see Al Gore 1988, and Rudy Giuliani 2008). But right now, this seems different, mainly because Bloomberg is pouring vast sums of money into advertising for the Super Tuesday states, and the Democratic Party field doesn't seem like it's sorting out very quickly. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and others have all taken jabs at Bloomberg, who has not been on a debate stage as yet. + Voters are still making up their minds. I spoke to a voter in Virginia this weekend who didn't realize Super Tuesday was just in two weeks. The candidates have that hurdle to overcome. Like a lot of voters, this person was still undecided on who to support on the Democratic side, but indicated they were being bombarded with material from Mike Bloomberg. We haven't seen many polls from Super Tuesday states, but what is notable about this one from Monmouth is that 25 percent of voters say they could still switch. That means there is a lot of wiggle room - and uncertainty - in the next two weeks.
  • Trying to bounce back from a disappointing fourth place finish in New Hampshire, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) found energy and solace from a large turnout at a Thursday night rally in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., as Warren aimed her fire at the stalking horse of the 2020 Democratic race, billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Veering away from her usual stump speech, Warren turned her fire on Bloomberg, who has quickly turned into a threat to every Democratic candidate who survived the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary. 'Michael Bloomberg came in on the billionaire plan,' Warren said, as the crowd booed at the mention of his name. 'Just buy yourself the nomination.' “A video just came out yesterday in which Michael Bloomberg is saying in effect, that the 2008 financial crash was caused because the banks weren’t permitted to discriminate against black and brown people,” Warren said, sharpening a verbal knife for the former New York mayor.  “And anyone who thinks that should not be the leader of our party,' Warren added. The turnout for Warren's stop overwhelmed a large gymnasium at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, an area which voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in 2016, as hundreds of people were shunted to an overflow room, with hundreds more kept outside. Before starting her rally, the Massachusetts Democrat was greeted by loud cheers from the first overflow room as she vowed to press ahead in this Democratic race for the White House. 'I am in this fight with you until we win it,' a charged-up Warren said. The Senator then threw on a coat and sprinted outside where hundreds more were standing in the dark, unable to get in the schoolhouse door. Back inside before the crowd in the gym, Warren wasted little time getting down to the business of the 2020 race. 'I'm here to ask for your vote,' Warren said early in her remarks, reflecting a new sense of urgency in her stump speech.  'We've heard from two states,' Warren said, making clear she's not quitting after just Iowa and New Hampshire. In a county which voted 76-17 percent for Hillary Clinton in 2016 over Donald Trump, Warren's message was very well received - no matter the troubles she ran into in New Hampshire. 'The story is the scene outside,' one woman said unprompted to me about the hundreds and hundreds of people outside who were unable to get in to see Warren. 'It's phenomenal.' A few hours before her appearance in Virginia, it was a different kind of feel, as Warren sent a video fundraising plea to her supporters. 'I need to level with you,' Warren said from what looked like a kitchen in a house. 'Our movement needs critical funds so that I can remain competitive in this race through Super Tuesday.' Super Tuesday is in less than three weeks on March 3, meaning there is little time to campaign in person in Nevada, South Carolina - and the fourteen Super Tuesday states. 'We setting an ambitious goal of raising $7 million before the Nevada Caucuses,' Warren added in her plea for cash. Nevada takes place on February 22. The South Carolina Primary is February 29. In between, there are two Democratic debates.
  • In a bid to breathe new life into the Equal Rights Amendment, the U.S. House on Thursday voted to allow the states to proceed with ratification of the constitutional change, even though backers missed the deadline for action in 1982. The vote was 232 to 183, as five GOP lawmakers broke ranks to back the ratification extension.  'We must seize this moment to end sex discrimination,' said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). 'This is an historic day,' said Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA). 'Equality has NO deadline,' tweeted Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE). “The Constitution does not guarantee equality for women,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). 35 states ratified the ERA by the original March 1979 deadline, three short of the super-majority needed to add the measure to the U.S. Constitution. Congress then added three years, but no other states voted for ratification. Several state legislatures have ratified the ERA in recent years - including Virginia last month, which would reach the needed 38 states - but there were also five states which reversed their approval of the amendment. Republicans argued the Congress could not reach back and changed the deadline for ratification, which was originally 1979, but was extended until June 30, 1982. 'If you want to do this - start over,' said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). GOP lawmakers raised a series of concerns in opposition, arguing the ERA would endanger religious freedom for Catholics, interfere with separate college sports for men and women, and require the NFL, NBA and all men's pro sports to field teams with 50 percent women. The arguments probably won't matter, as the legislation has little chance of being taken up by the GOP-led Senate.
  • I first covered the New Hampshire Primary in 1992, and coming back every four years for this election ritual has morphed into the comforting feeling one might get when you return to a favorite family vacation spot, as you recognize the familiar sights and think of how things were years earlier. While a lot has changed since I found my way to the Dover Elks Club to hear Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas give his famous 'I'll stick with you 'til the last dog dies' speech, the feel is much the same. The schedule is packed. So are the parking lots of the rallies you are trying to attend. There always seems to be somewhere to go, someone to interview, a story that you should have filed.  An event you should have gone to see. But it's always so much fun. So, here's a quick review of my eighth New Hampshire Primary: + Trust your eyes and ears. The most important part of covering a campaign is being there in person to see what's going on.  I always mentally note which TV network big shots I see out in the field.  Sure, you can watch many of the New Hampshire campaign events on C-SPAN or on your computer while sitting in a warm hotel or restaurant. But that's no fun. Getting out to see the candidates, to watch their organizations, to see what's really going on is what the campaign trail is all about. For example, it was obvious right away that Pete Buttigieg had a lot of interest in his campaign in New Hampshire. And it was obvious starting on Saturday that Amy Klobuchar was seeing a surge, going from just some interested voters to hundreds of interested voters.  + Behind the scenes. I saw Elizabeth Warren do a campaign rally for the first time back in June in Miami, just before the first Democratic debate. Many months later, her campaign speech was pretty much the same - but it was important to watch her again on the ground in New Hampshire. After seeing her in Derry, I wrote one of my friends saying the crowd was decent, but 'they wouldn't burn down the building for her.' In other words, there wasn't any momentum in the room. And when she botched a closing line at a Sunday rally by saying, 'And now it's up to you, Massachusetts,' it was one more item which made you wonder. I went to two Warren events over the past week - in each one, the campaign internet for the press did not work. That may have been emblematic of a larger issue in the Granite State. + Debates still matter. As much as the presidential debates have become campaign cattle calls dressed up as PR events for a television network news operation, there are a lot of voters who use the late debates to make up their mind. That was really driven home by last Friday's debate in New Hampshire, where Amy Klobuchar made a good impression on the crowd, and it brought a big bump for her on primary night. It also can go the other way, as Joe Biden began the debate by basically saying he wasn't going to win in New Hampshire, and then spent the weekend trying to dig out of that hole. It didn't work. Klobuchar surged. Biden sunk. And he left town early before the results were even in on Tuesday night. + The Primary Focus.  Much of the action in New Hampshire is centered along the roads from Nashua north to Manchester and on to the state capital of Concord. There are some reporters who barely make it out of Manchester, which is the unofficial center of the universe for the Primary, especially the Doubletree Hotel on Elm Street. You can literally sit in the lobby of that hotel and find an endless supply of famous people and campaign pundits who will provide you with all of the necessary quotes to cover a campaign.  But that's not the same as getting in your car and driving somewhere, as it will reward you with something nice - like this photo of the New Hampshire State Capitol.  One staple of the campaign which does not seem to happen anymore was the candidates addressing the state legislature before the primary. That was always a fun event to cover.  + The other places I could go. The best piece of advice that I would give to any reporter covering the New Hampshire Primary is to get out of the Nashua-Manchester-Concord corridor, and go to some of the smaller towns which dot the Granite State. I checked another two off the list in this campaign, when I drove over to Keene State College to see a Buttigieg rally, and then to Franklin Pierce University in Rindge to see a Sanders rally on Monday. I don't know how many times over the years I had thought about taking the 90 minute drive through the back roads of New Hampshire to get there - but I never did. So, chalk up a few more small colleges that I've seen on my many years on the campaign trail. + Celebrity campaigning. I don't worry very much about which celebrity comes out on the campaign trail for what candidate, but I did see some famous types over the course of this past week. Actor Kevin Costner showed up at a Buttigieg rally on Monday in Exeter. Actress Cynthia Nixon - who had backed Hillary Clinton in 2016 - spoke for Bernie Sanders at a pre-primary rally. And actor Michael J. Fox showed up on Saturday to speak on behalf of Buttigieg at Keene State College. The reaction to Fox was priceless. A guy behind me in the crowd exclaimed, 'I thought he was dead!' Another guy hurriedly dialed a friend on his cell phone to relate the news. 'MICHAEL J. EFFIN' FOX IS HERE. YEAH, DUDE. MICHAEL J. FREAKING FOX!' I'm not sure any of it matters, but star power is still a big deal in politics. + The campaign music. You learn a little about each campaign from the music they play while waiting for a rally to start. As a reporter, a few years later you will hear a song on the radio and it will trigger a memory from a past campaign.  Like President Trump still using the Rolling Stones, 'You Can't Always Get What You Want,' or Hillary Clinton in 2008 using 'Suddenly I See' from Katie Tunstall. That's why my ears perked up as I sat in Exeter High School on Monday evening waiting for a Pete Buttigieg rally to begin, when a cover of the Johnny Cash song 'Ring of Fire' came on the speakers. It's probably the first time I've ever heard Social Distortion at a campaign stop. My love for covering campaigns might be more like the Social Distortion song, 'Ball and Chain.' + A first for the first-in-the-nation primary. Four years ago in Iowa, I had to take a 'transit van' because the rental car company had run out of regular cars. Then in New Hampshire, my 2016 car was a bright red car which you couldn't miss in the parking lot. This year, I dragged my luggage off the plane and to the rental car counter and was rewarded with something that I had never had for a primary week - a sports car. It wasn't really the vehicle of choice for multiple days of snow and ice, but that's what was there, and you do what you have to do.   Yes, there was a bit of fishtailing one day, but I survived just fine, even though my GPS tried to test my winter driving skills. + Big Blue is Back. On the campaign trail, you tend to run into friends who are journalists, which gives it a home town feel while you are driving pell mell across yet another state. Four years ago in Iowa, Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal Constitution joined me for a day of driving all over Iowa, as we chased down Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. When Bluestein emailed me with his coverage plans for Sunday as he drove up from the Boston airport, I advised the whippersnapper that he might need to change his plans, which involved driving all the way up to Lebanon. It was great to see him - and many others along the way. + The Press.  For the press, it's the same routine in the last week of the campaign.  You rush to get to a rally, try to claim some workspace, listen to the candidate and some voters, then grab your equipment and dash for the next event.  I have to say that it is quite something to watch all of my colleagues from various fields - whether the TV groups, other radio reporters, the print press, and the still photographers - they all have their own rhythms and routines on the campaign trail, all doing their own jobs. Thanks, New Hampshire.  It was another fun visit.  Maybe we can do it again in 2024.

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  • The death toll attributed to the 2019 novel coronavirus continues to rise, with tens of thousands of people sickened and thousands of others killed by the virus, mostly in China. The coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19 by the World Health Organization, was discovered late last year in Wuhan, China. Here are the latest updates: 142 new cases of the virus reported in South Korea  Update 9 p.m. EST Feb 21: South Korea reported a six-fold jump in viral infections in four days to 346, most of them linked to a church and a hospital in and around the fourth-largest city where schools were closed and worshipers and others told to avoid mass gatherings.  Of the 142 new cases in South Korea, 131 are from Daegu and nearby regions, which have emerged as the latest front in the widening global fight against COVID-19.  China the daily count of new virus cases there fell significantly to 397, with another 109 people dying of the disease, most in the epicenter of Hubei province.  The new figures bring the total number of cases in mainland China to 76,288 with 2,345 deaths, as strict quarantine measures and travel bans continue to contain the disease that emerged in China in December and has since spread world-wide. The daily figure is down from 889. WHO’s latest situation report The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization says that coronavirus has been found in 30 countries around the world. Read the latest situation report from the WHO below. Italy’s virus cases quadruples Update 1:20 p.m. EST Feb 21: Officials in Italy are reporting that the number of people infected by coronavirus has quadrupled. As of Friday, the country has seen 17 cases, with 14 of them new. They are being considered secondary contagion cases and are clustered in small towns around Lodi, in the Lombardy region, The Associated Press reported. It was previously reported that a 38-year-old man, who is in critical condition due to coronavirus, passed the illness to his wife and a close friend after he picked it up from a person who had been in China, but not showing any symptoms. The person who was in China is in isolation and may have antibodies to battle the illness. Three patients at the hospital where the patient who is in critical condition visited when he was being treated for flu-like symptoms have tested positive. As do five nurses and doctors at the same facility. Three people who went to the same cafe as the 38-year-old man who is sick also have tested positive. Because of the cluster, the mayor of Codogno has closed schools, public buildings,s restaurants and coffee shops. And has ordered the 14-day quarantine of anyone who came in contact with the man and the two people first diagnosed, the AP reported. 1 new coronavirus case confirmed in Singapore Update 11 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Officials with Singapore’s Ministry of Health have verified another case of coronavirus in the country, bringing the total number of people infected in Singapore to 86. Authorities said the newest case involves a 24-year-old Singaporean man who was under isolation Friday at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital. His illness was linked to one reported earlier this week involving a 57-year-old woman who had no history of recent travel to China. Officials said 47 people who have been diagnosed with coronavirus in Singapore have since recovered and been released from hospitals. Lebanon, Israel confirm 1st coronavirus cases Update 10 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Health officials in Lebanon and Israel announced Friday the first confirmed coronavirus cases in the countries. Lebanon’s health minister, Hamad Hassan, said Friday that a 45-year-old woman tested positive for coronavirus after entering the country from Iran, Reuters reported. She was being quarantined Friday at a hospital in Beirut, according to Reuters. The Jerusalem Post reported an Israeli who returned to the country Thursday after being evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship has tested positive for the virus. The coronavirus case marked the first in Israel, though health officials noted the passenger had contracted virus while in Japan. Earlier this month, thousands of people were quarantined on the Diamond Princess, docked off the coast of Japan, due to coronavirus fears. Hundreds of people on the ship ended up testing positive for the viral infection. South Korea reports 2nd coronavirus death  Update 9 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Officials in South Korea reported the country’s second death due to coronavirus Friday, The Washington Post reported. Citing the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Post reported a woman in her 50s died after testing positive for the virus Friday at Daenam Hospital. She was transferred to a bigger hospital in Busan, where she died around 6 p.m., according to the newspaper. The death marked the second related to COVID-19 in South Korea. On Wednesday, a 63-year-old patient died after suffering symptoms of pneumonia in what was suspected to be the country’s first coronavirus death, according to The New York Times. Iran confirms 18 cases, 4 deaths Update 7:50 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Iranian officials confirmed on Friday that 13 new cases of the novel coronavirus have been diagnosed and two additional patients have died. Friday’s figures bring Iran’s total number of infections to 18 and the death toll from the virus to four, CNN reported. “According to the latest laboratory reports 13 more contractions of coronavirus have been confirmed, including 7 in Qom, 4 in Tehran, and two in Gilan. Unfortunately, out of these cases two have lost their lives,' health ministry spokesman Kianoosh Jahanpour tweeted Friday. 3 novel coronavirus cases confirmed in Italy Update 7:32 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Italy confirmed its first novel coronavirus cases Friday, noting three people in a city near Milan have tested positive for the illness. According to The Washington Post, the first patient to contract the virus was a 38-year-old man in the northern region of Lombardy, who fell ill after dining with a friend who had recently returned from China. The man then passed the illness on to his wife and a close friend. All three patients have been hospitalized, the Post reported. Confirmed novel coronavirus cases, fatalities continue to increase globally Update 6:46 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Globally, more than 76,900 novel coronavirus cases have been reported, according to the latest figures released Friday morning by health officials in China. Although the majority of cases – around 75,600 – remain clustered in mainland China, more than 1,300 cases have been confirmed in 29 countries, CNN reported. Meanwhile, 118 additional deaths were confirmed in mainland China Friday, with the global death toll reaching 2,247, the network reported. Vaccine nearing clinical trials in China Update 6:44 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Xu Nanping, China’s vice minister of Science and Technology, told reporters Friday that Chinese researchers expect to submit the first COVID-19 vaccine for clinical trials around late April. The status update comes roughly one month after Chinese officials established a coronavirus scientific research group, consisting of 14 experts led by renowned pulmonologist Zhong Nanshan, The Washington Post reported. “One month is a very short time for scientific research, but a very long time for patients struggling with the disease. The scientific and technological community nationwide will put the safety of people’s lives and health first and spare no effort to continue to produce tangible and effective scientific research results,” Xu told reporters during the briefing. Protesters attack Wuhan evacuee bus in Ukraine; 9 police officers, 1 civilian injured Update 6:42 a.m. EST Feb. 21: The Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs said nine police officers and one civilian were injured Thursday when protesters attacked a bus carrying evacuees from Wuhan, China. According to CNN, protesters had blocked roads in Noviy Sanzhari, the town where the evacuees are to be monitored for two weeks at a medical facility belonging to the Ukrainian National Guard. “Those people who today threw stones at the evacuees of Ukrainians and law enforcement officers ... We will make a decision on their punishment,” said Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, confirming one officer was seriously injured in the incident instigated by “aggressive citizens,” the network reported. South Korean coronavirus infections continue to increase Update 3:46 a.m. EST Feb. 21: The number of confirmed novel coronavirus infections in South Korea increased to 204 on Friday, nearly doubling in 24 hours and almost quadrupling in three days, the South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed in a statement issued early Friday. Health officials believe the majority of the new cases are connected to a church in Daegu, a city of about two and half million people in the southeastern region of the country. Specifically, 42 of the newest cases reported Friday have been traced to the church called Shincheonji. The country also reported on Thursday what officials believe could be South Korea’s first fatality from the virus. The 63-year-old woman exhibiting symptoms of pneumonia died Wednesday at the Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, The New York Times reported. Prison outbreaks boost novel coronavirus cases in mainland China Update 3:43 a.m. EST Feb. 21: More than 500 novel coronavirus cases have been confirmed in prisons across China, including 271 cases – 51 of which had been counted in previous tallies – in Hubei province, CNN reported. Meanwhile, officials announced in a joint news conference on Friday that of the 2,077 prisoners and staff at Rencheng prison in China’s eastern Shandong province tested for the virus, 200 prisoners and seven staff members tested positive. Zhejiang province announced 34 prison cases on Friday, bringing the correctional total to 512, CNN reported. Canada records its 9th confirmed novel coronavirus case, 6th in British Columbia Update 3:41 a.m. EST Feb. 21: British Columbia’s Ministry of Health confirmed Friday a woman in her 30s has become the province’s sixth diagnosed case of novel coronavirus and the ninth for Canada. According to the statement, the woman had recently returned from Iran and is being isolated at home while public health officials identify and contact those people with whom she had contact upon returning Meanwhile, 47 of the 256 Canadian passengers aboard the beleaguered Diamond Princess cruise ship – moored off the coast of Japan – have tested positive for the virus. All 256 will be subject to a 14-day quarantine in Ontario once their evacuations are complete, CNN reported. 11 of 13 people evacuated to Omaha test positive for COVID-19  Update 11 p.m. EST Feb. 20: Federal experts confirmed that 11 of 13 people evacuated to an Omaha hospital from a cruise ship in Japan have tested positive for COVID-19, Nebraska officials announced Thursday night. The University of Nebraska Medical Center said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had verified test results completed Monday by the Nebraska Public Health Lab. Ten of those people are being cared for at the National Quarantine Unit while three are in the nearby Nebraska Biocontainment Unit. The medical center said only a few of the patients were showing symptoms of the disease. All 13 people were passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship who were evacuated to the U.S. on Feb. 17. China reports fall in new virus cases, 118 deaths  Update 10 p.m. EST Feb. 20: China reported a further fall in new virus cases to 889 as health officials expressed optimism over containment of the outbreak that has caused more than 2,200 deaths and is spreading elsewhere.  New infections in China have been falling for days, although changes in how it counts cases have caused doubts about the true trajectory of the epidemic.  China’s figures for the previous 24 hours brought the total number of cases to 75,465. The 118 newly reported deaths raised the total to 2,236. More than 1,000 cases and 11 deaths have been confirmed outside the mainland. 4 Americans who tested positive for COVID-19 sent to hospital in Spokane, Washington  Update 7:30 p.m. EST Feb. 20: Four Americans who tested positive for the new virus that caused an outbreak China are being sent to a hospital in Spokane, Washington, for treatment, officials said Thursday.  The four were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and were flown back to the U.S. over the weekend, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services. They were being transferred from Travis Air Force Base in California, hospital officials said.  Two patients arrived at the hospital Thursday in satisfactory condition with two more expected soon, said Christa Arguinchona, who manages a special isolation unit at Sacred Heart Medical Center. The hospital is one of 10 in the nation funded by Congress to treat new or highly infectious diseases.  “The risk to the community from this particular process is zero,” said Bob Lutz of the Spokane Regional Health District at a briefing Thursday at the hospital. WHO: ‘This is no time for complacency’ Update 2:25 p.m. EST Feb. 20: World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday that recent declines in the number of new coronavirus cases being reported in China were encouraging, but he warned, “this is no time for complacency.” As pf 6 a.m. Geneva time Thursday, 74,675 people in China and 1,076 people in order parts of the world had been sickened by coronavirus, according to WHO. Officials said 2,121 people in China and seven people outside of the country have died thus far of the viral infection. 'This is the time to attack the virus while it is manageable,” Tedros said, according to The Washington Post. “You will get sick of me saying that the window of opportunity remains open for us to contain this COVID-19 outbreak.” CDC warns travels to take precautions for travel to Japan, Hong Kong Update 12:20 p.m. EST Feb. 20: The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new coronavirus-related travel advisories Thursday for Americans visiting Japan or Hong Kong. The advisories warned travelers to avoid contact with sick people, avoid touching their eyes, noses or mouths with their unwashed hands and recommended using soap and water often to wash hands for at least 20 seconds. Officials said Thursday that it remained unnecessary to postpone or cancel trips to Japan or Hong Kong due to the virus. However, the CDC advisories noted “multiple instances of community spread' in both locales, meaning people “have been infected with the virus, but how or where they became infected is not known.” Officials with the CDC previously issued an advisory warning travelers to avoid non-essential travel to China. According to Japanese health officials, authorities have seen 73 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country. One person in Japan has died of the viral infection. Health official in Hong Kong have confirmed 65 cases of coronavirus. Japan reports 12 new coronavirus cases, Singapore confirms 1 more  Update 11 a.m. EST Feb. 20: Officials in Japan have reported a dozen new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, CNN reported, citing the Japanese health ministry. The new cases include two government officials who worked on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, according to CNN. Thousands of people were quarantined on the ship for two weeks as it was docked off the coast of Japan due to coronavirus fears. Hundreds of people on the ship ended up testing positive for the viral infection.  Officials with the Singapore Ministry of Health said Thursday that a new case of coronavirus had been confirmed in the country. The case, involving a 36-year-old Chinese national who was in Singapore on a work pass, is the 85th reported in Singapore.  Global death toll hits 2,126  Update 7:40 a.m. EST Feb. 20: More than 2,120 people have died globally and thousands of others have fallen ill due to the 2019 novel coronavirus, according to multiple reports.  At least 2,126 people globally have died from coronavirus, CNN reported Thursday. A majority of the deaths have been reported in China, where health officials announced 114 more deaths and 394 more confirmed cases of the illness. Overall, 75,730 coronavirus cases have been reported worldwide, including 74,576 in China, according to CNN.
  • There’s a new initiative to make hotels in Jacksonville safer. City Councilman Danny Becton has been instrumental in getting the ball rolling, and he says the Tourism Industry and Public Safety Alliance is the result of more than a year’s worth of work. “TIPSA will operate as an exclusive network that will work on the basis of if you see something say something,” Becton says. The alliance will have three components. Organizers plan to implement basic standard across all hotels. They’ll improve communication and access to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Lastly, participating hotels will join a WhatsApp thread to communication between each other and police. So far 30 hotels around Jacksonville have signed up with the number continuing to climb, and Becton says they’re also keeping an eye on the hotels that aren’t involved yet. “We’re going to put pressure on them right now to participate and not be part of the problem,” Becton says. Some of the changes are as simple as checking guest IDs and standardizing payment procedures for everyone involved.
  • On Friday, Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority gave the green light to develop the land where the old courthouse and annex used to stand. Right now, two lots on prime riverfront property are empty. One lot sits behind the Hyatt. The other lot is right on the water next to the Berkman Plaza.  The DIA signed off on the Spandrel Group’s $136 million vision called the Ford on Bay.  There would be restaurants, lofts, retail space and a lot of pedestrian space built in two phases. The first phase would happen on the property right on the water. The second phase involves the lot next door, but there’s a catch – the Hyatt has the right of first refusal to buy the land. If it doesn’t, Spandrel can get the land and start phase two.  Action News Jax’s Paige Kelton drove by the lots today and found signs that development could soon be in the works.  Fences were up around the property Friday.  Spandrel wants the city to give it the property to develop. That aspect is still being worked out.  The Jacksonville City Council must still sign off on the referendum approved by the DIA.
  • A new push is underway in St. Augustine to honor and recognize African American soldiers who fought in the Civil War. A group is spearheading a new project to put the memorial next to a Confederate statue.  Many neighbors support the idea, but not the placement.  The memorial would be in the park on the westside of the Governor’s House Cultural Center and Museum.  St. Augustine’s Historic Architectural review board is asking a University of Florida board to get input from neighbors and relatives of black soldiers.  “To me it’s like a slap in the face with that,” said business owner Nyk Smith.  Smith works at her family corner store in historic Lincolnville.  “The placement of that new statue that they’re talking about, yea sure, that’s great down there but definitely not next to the confederate monument,” said Smith.  St. Augustine’s Historic Review Board said the memorial to honor black troops who fought in the civil war will stand next to the monument of Confederate General William Loring and his ashes.  The board said the memorial will be about 8 feet tall with three granite panels.  It will list names of local men who served in what was then called the colored troops.  “They need to remove the monument and put it in the cemetery where it belongs,” said Smith.  “Hopefully something like this with them hearing what black people are thinking and feeling they would be moved to do some action,” Mclain said.  The board will now wait until April 16 to decide whether or not to move forward with the new memorial.
  • After the discovery of human remains this week at a construction site near I-295 and North Main Street as well as on a private property off of Eastport Road where soil was being transferred from, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has released a major update. According to JSO, excavation crews uncovered a marked headstone late Thursday. Police say the headstone was found to have a name and a military rank inscribed on it. After this find, JSO says the excavation operations were stopped to ensure that the remains were handled in a sensitive and appropriate manner. That includes working to track down any living family members.  JSO says the site has been confirmed as a documented cemetery according to the Work Progress Administration Veteran's Grave Registration for 1940-1941 in Duval County.  Additionally, police say there was other evidence found at the site that is consistent with grave burials, including nails, wood, metal, and handles. Police say the rest of the remains will now be handled by state officials and affiliated experts.

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