February 19, 2020

It didn't take long for the Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) camp to respond to a report published earlier Wednesday by The Atlantic in which former President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign manager Jim Messina said Sanders considered mounting a primary challenge that year.

In the report, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was named as the person who talked Sanders out of the idea, but Sanders' deputy campaign manager Rabin-Havt said Wednesday that conversation didn't take place, and Sanders hadn't even thought about running. "Bernie Sanders never considered a primary challenge to Obama," he said.

One of Reid's aides was less clear than Rabin-Havt, opting not to comment on whether the two senators ever had a conversation about a primary challenge, but the source did say there was never anything "serious" brewing.

Reid responded to the story, as well, and similarly said he wouldn't comment on private chats, but he did suggest Sanders probably had more important things to worry about at the time. "Bernie was running for re-election in 2012," Reid said. "He would've been a fool to run against Obama and Bernie's no fool." Tim O'Donnell

5:11 a.m.

"Social distancing is working" to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, but "we know the worst is yet to come," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "Yesterday, the White House announced they project between 100,000 and 240,000 coronavirus deaths. And with these devastating projections, it seems like President Trump now understands the gravity of the situation we're all in. He held a two-hour briefing yesterday, and his tone was far more serious," mostly. But "even though the president appears to be taking this seriously, he still hasn't issued any order to shut down the whole country," he noted.

Yes, "Trump, who usually treats his daily briefings like the last scene in Scarface, came out yesterday and acted, for the first time ever, like he had also been reading the news," Trevor Noah said on his Daily Social Distancing Show. "But while the president may finally be grasping the gravity of this outbreak, he and his allies continue to make excuses for why it took him so long to respond." Noah explained why China's obfuscation, impeachment, and Barack Obama — the "one person who Trump loves to blame for everything that goes wrong in his life" — are not responsible for Trump ignoring the advisers warning him about the pandemic since mid-January. Still, he said, "I hope that he is taking it seriously, because let's be real: This is still Donald Trump, people. I wouldn't be shocked if he acted like this and then tomorrow he comes out like, 'April Fool! I'll see you losers on Easter! Did you see me? I acted sad, hahaha.'"

"Because he managed to restrain himself for an hour, after weeks of lies and serial failures that led us to this harrowing moment, some in the media were actually gullible enough — after four years! — to give Trump credit for his change of tone," Seth Meyers said at Late Night, now taped in his attic. Look, "Trump had many warnings that something like this was coming, and yet he and his aids repeatedly downplayed or dismissed the threat." He was especially exasperated at Trump trying to "memory-hole" his comparison of COVID-19 to the flu. Trump is "deeply ill-equipped" to be president during this pandemic, but he "would have been great at quarantine," Meyers said. "President Hillary Clinton would have held you up as an example of how to do social distancing." Watch below. Peter Weber

2:51 a.m.

As the world creeps toward 1 million confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus and surpasses 47,000 deaths, the U.S. hit a grim milestone on Wednesday, reporting more than 1,000 deaths tied to the coronavirus for the first time. As of Thursday morning, according to a widely cited count from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has 216,721 cases and 5,138 coronavirus deaths, including 1,374 in New York City. The number of deaths reported Wednesday, 1,040, is more than twice the previous U.S. high mark, 504 deaths, registered Tuesday, USA Today reports.

The U.S. now has the largest confirmed outbreak of COVID-19 in the world, though there are serious doubts about the numbers reported from China and other nations. Only Italy (13,155 deaths) and Spain (9,387) have higher official death counts. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence said the administration believes "Italy may be the comparable area to the United States at this point," citing models of the pandemic. In Italy, the strain on the hospitals from the spike in COVID-19 cases has blocked other ill people from getting care.

The death tolls in the U.S. and other hard-hit countries don't reflect "the untold stories of people who don't go to see overburdened doctors, delaying treatment for illnesses that turn terminal, or of those who languish as they wait for treatment at emergency rooms flooded with COVID-19 patients," Josh Kovensky writes at Talking Points Memo. "Meanwhile, the lack of testing has meant that people may have died of COVID-19 itself without ever having been diagnosed."

Some researchers predict that the U.S. death toll will top 2,200 a day by mid-April, USA Today reports. The No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., heart disease, currently kills about 1,772 Americans a day, according to CDC figures, while lung cancer kills 433 people a day, breast cancer kills about 166 people a day, and the 2017-18 flu — the worst outbreak in the last decade — killed an estimated 508 people a day. Peter Weber

1:48 a.m.

Until Wednesday night, the Internal Revenue Service said that Social Security recipients, veterans, low-income citizens, and others who don't typically have to file tax returns will have to do so this year if they want to receive the $1,200 checks Congress authorized to help get the U.S. through the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. That policy didn't last long.

After members of Congress pressed the Trump administration to find a way to get payments to seniors who already receive monthly checks from the government and don't file tax returns, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Tuesday night: "Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return need to take no action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account." The law Congress wrote encouraged the IRS, in charge of issuing the one-time checks, to get payment information from other agencies.

Now, Social Security retirement and disability recipients will likely get their check without filling out IRS forms, but the IRS still faces a huge challenge to get checks to the rest of the 18 million to 30 million eligible Americans who don't file tax returns, The Wall Street Journal reports. The IRS "has said it would create simple forms so people who have legitimate reasons for not filing returns can supply information such as bank account details for direct deposits. That information is important because people who need paper checks will need to wait much longer." The IRS is hoping to start sending out payments in about three weeks. Peter Weber

1:44 a.m.

It won't be easy, but if conservation efforts are doubled around the world, scientists believe the world's oceans could be restored by 2050.

Oceans have been hurt by centuries of overfishing and pollution, but a new scientific review published in the journal Nature found that the oceans are also resilient, and successful conservation techniques have resulted in several types of marine life rebounding. In 1968, there were just a few hundred humpback whales left, but now there are more than 40,000. There are once again thousands of sea otters off of western Canada, and globally, mangroves and seagrass meadows are rarely being disturbed. Scientists also found that slowly, fishing is becoming more sustainable worldwide.

For the oceans to make a full recovery in 30 years, climate change must be fully addressed, so coral reefs don't die and the ocean doesn't become too acidic, and there has to be a renewed focus on keeping farm pollution and plastic out of the water.

"Overfishing and climate change are tightening their grip, but there is hope in the science of restoration," Callum Roberts, a professor at the University of York and member of the review team, told The Guardian. "One of the overarching messages of the review is, if you stop killing sea life and protect it, then it does come back. We can turn the oceans around and we know it makes sense economically, for human wellbeing, and of course, for the environment." Catherine Garcia

12:43 a.m.

All 800 of Greg Dailey's customers received the same note stuffed in their newspaper: if they needed anything picked up from the grocery store, he was happy to do it for them, free of charge.

Dailey is a newspaper carrier, and delivers the Star-Ledger every morning to homes in central New Jersey. After New Jersey's governor told residents to stay at home amid the coronavirus pandemic, Dailey learned that one of his elderly customers was too afraid to even go outside to pick up the paper, and that got him thinking about others who might have difficulty navigating this new world. He typed up a note to customers offering his services, and soon the calls came flooding in.

Dailey's wife, children, and mother-in-law help him with taking orders and doing some of the shopping. When he's done delivering his papers for the day, Dailey hits the grocery store, then brings the items back to his house for disinfection before dropping them off. "This isn't something that we're just going to do for a few days — we're in this for the duration," he told The Washington Post.

Sandy Driska thought his offer was too good to be true, but because she was overcoming bronchitis and her husband has Parkinson's disease, she decided to give Dailey a chance. He did exactly as promised, delivering her much-needed groceries without asking for an extra penny. "What a godsend this man has been," she said. Catherine Garcia

12:35 a.m.

Ellis Marsalis Jr., the New Orleans jazz pianist and teacher whose sons have become jazz stars in their own rights, died Wednesday. He was 85, and the cause of death was pneumonia brought on by the new coronavirus, according to sons Branford and Ellis. "Pneumonia was the actual thing that caused his demise," Ellis III told The Associated Press. "But it was pneumonia brought on by COVID-19." The senior Ellis was tested for COVID-19 but hadn't received the results before he died, a family member told WWL-TV.

Along with Branford, a prominent jazz saxophonists, and Ellis III, a photographer and poet, Marsalis is survived by sons Wynton, the jazz trumpeter and jazz spokesman who serves as artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center; Delfeayo, a trombonist, performer, and producer; Jason, a drummer; and Mboya. Marsalis' wife, Dolores, died in 2017.

Marsalis spent most of his life in his native New Orleans, skipping out on Los Angeles after a few months backing Ornette Coleman there in 1956. He started performing jazz in high school and began teaching jazz at Xavier University and the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts in the 1970. He moved to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond in 1986, then returned home in 1989 to teach at the University of New Orleans until 2001. He performed until the end, officially retiring from his three-decade-long Friday night gig at the New Orleans club Snug Harbor in December, but continuing to sit in as a special guest.

"Ellis Marsalis was a legend" and "the prototype of what we mean when we talk about New Orleans jazz," New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Wednesday night. "He was a teacher, a father, and an icon." Tulane folklorist and public radio host Nick Spitzer called Marsalis "the coach of jazz." His students included Harry Connick Jr., trumpeters Terence Blanchard and Nicholas Payton, bassist Reginald Veal, and his own sons. Peter Weber

April 1, 2020

Stephen Colbert's Late Show knows what you — or at least some of you — have been doing while sheltering in place to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Other notable actors and comedians may try to cajole you into staying at home, but Colbert repurposed the theme song from the tippling-themed sitcom Cheers to persuade you — and if you watch to the end, one of the regulars makes a cameo to drive the point home, for better and worse. Drink responsibly, drink at home, and watch below. Peter Weber

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