The 2020 election cycle hits an inflection point today as voters in 14 states and a number of communities abroad cast ballots in their party's primary races. The four early voting states dominated headlines in February but allotted only 155 delegates. Democratic presidential candidates need 1,991 delegates to win on the first nomination ballot, and 1,357 delegates will be awarded today, or nearly one-third of the total available. With Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) dropping out, many believe the primary will coalesce into a two-candidate race between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Joe Biden going forward (see polls by state). While Sanders enters with leads in California (415 delegates) and Texas (228), none of the races are winner-take-all and the delegates are mostly doled out proportionally if candidates meet a voting threshold, usually 15%. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Mike Bloomberg are also expected to grab delegates in most races. Aside from the presidential primary, there are a number of interesting down-ballot races, including the return of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R).
Moderate Democrats appear to be coalescing around Biden, with Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and former candidate Beto O'Rourke issuing endorsements for the former vice president.
Virus Deaths Spike in Washington State
Officials in Washington state reported an additional four deaths from COVID-19, bringing the total number of US deaths from the new coronavirus to six. The fatality rate for the virus rises dramatically for seniors and at least four of the deaths are linked to a nursing home outbreak in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland. Researchers said the spike in illnesses and deaths means the virus has likely been circulating undetected in the region for weeks. In the science world, organizers in Colorado canceled the year's largest physics meeting less than 36 hours before it was set to begin. Overseas, officials in Iran reported an adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei succumbed to the virus - one of 66 deaths in the country - the highest known world leader to fall victim to the outbreak. The global death toll has now passed 3,050 with almost 90,000 confirmed cases (real-time map).
One spot of good news was the markets, which rebounded from their worst week since 2008 (DJIA+5.1%, S&P 500 +4.6%, Nasdaq +4.5%).
Third Time (Not) a Charm in Israel
Exit polls following Israel's third national election in under a year showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leading challenger Benny Gantz, while still falling short of a parliamentary majority. Projections had Netanyahu's conservative coalition winning 59 seats, two short of the 61 seats needed for a majority; Gantz's centrist coalition was on track to take 54 to 55 seats. If projections hold, Netanyahu would have the opportunity to form a governing bloc (despite failing in his previous two attempts). The country has been mired in political gridlock since April, when Netanyahu's coalition fell one seat short in national elections, forcing Parliament to dissolve for the first time in the country's history. The gridlock was originally catalyzed by a dispute over a military service exemption for the ultraorthodox population but has spiraled into a larger referendum on Netanyahu, who has been indicted on corruption charges and will stand trial March 17.
A constitutional crisis may be brewing, as it's unclear whether Netanyahu can legally form a government while under indictment.
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In the Know
Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> James Lipton, longtime host of “Inside the Actors Studio,” dies at 93; Lipton interviewed nearly 300 guests in his 22 seasons on the show (More)
> Chris Matthews steps down as host of “Hardball” on MSNBC, citing past inappropriate comments (More) | “Judge Judy” to end in 2021 after 25th season; Judy Sheindlin to star in upcoming series “Judy Justice” (More)
> Deborah Dugan formally fired as CEO of Recording Academy, the organizers of the Grammys; Dugan had been on administrative leave over allegations of workplace bullying (More)
Science & Technology
> Chemists discover single-molecule magnet whose magnetic properties can be controlled via laser pulses; material could enhance cloud computing speeds by 100 times or more (More)
> Study finds metals near hydrothermal vents in the ocean floor act as catalysts for the formation of energy-rich compounds that may have been the food source for early, single-celled life (More)
> Alphabet's (Google) X moonshot laboratory announces Tidal; new project will track individual fish using computer vision systems with the goal of creating sustainable fisheries (More)
Business & Markets
> Jack Welch, legendary former CEO of General Electric once named “manager of the century” by Fortune, dies at 84 (More)
> Waymo, Google’s self-driving business unit, raises $2.25B from external investors to scale autonomous vehicle technology to the masses (More)
> Sources say recording label Warner Music and footwear and accessories brand Cole Haan will abandon IPO plans amid market decline (More) | Homesharing giant Airbnb may also delay planned IPO to 2021 (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Supreme Court to hear Affordable Care Act case next term; legal challenge argues the individual mandate is unconstitutional, requiring all of Obamacare to be struck down (More)
> White House formally nominates Rep. John Ratcliffe (R, TX-4) as director of national intelligence; reports say Senate Republicans have concerns over Ratcliffe's experience (More)
> Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey issues apology after husband points gun at Black Lives Matter activists protesting at couple's home (More)
Fatherly | Lizzy Francis. Driven in part by the increasing academicization of early school grades, parents are increasingly holding their children in preschool for an extra year in hopes they will be more prepared for kindergarten. But how much evidence is there the practice actually helps? (Read)
Can YouTube Quiet its Conspiracy Theorists?
NYT | Jack Nicas. Conspiracy theories not only flourish on YouTube, but the streaming video platform's own algorithm often amplifies them via its own algorithm. A new study reveals how difficult it will be for the world's biggest tech firm to quiet the worst offenders. (Read, $$)
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Historybook: Inventor Alexander Graham Bell born (1847); The "Star-Spangled Banner" becomes the US national anthem (1931); HBD track and field great Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1962); Turkish Airlines flight crashes in Paris, killing all 346 aboard (1974); RIP Roger Bannister, first person to run a sub-four-minute mile (2018).
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