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(CNN)Are you losing your mind in quarantine? Because I am losing my mind in quarantine.

Those of us who are just stuck in self-isolation, and not hooked up to a respirator or the next-of-kin of someone who is, are the lucky ones. And no, what’s being asked of us is not excessive: We just need to stay home.
So why does this feel so hard?
    Around the world, people report feeling stressed, anxious and generally discombobulated by this whole mess. Parents and other caregivers for young children are particularly stretched thin. People have canceled trips, concerts, weddings; new babies are being brought up without the help of extended family or community members; big life milestones like graduations go publicly uncelebrated. We miss the friends and family we can’t see. We miss dinners out, parties in, museums, live music, theater, even the gym. I miss being able to walk through my neighborhood without the stress of staying six feet away from bikers, joggers, cooped-up children gone wild on scooters, and other pedestrians.
    It’s not just working from home. I’ve worked from home for close to a decade, in many different cities and multiple countries. But the general rules of work-from-home life no longer apply. For example: Do something social, or at least that forces you to interact with other human beings, every day, even if that’s just going to the grocery store or the gym. Or: Create a separate dedicated workspace, even if it’s only a particular cushion on your couch; reserve your bed for sleeping (and other recreational activities). Or: Get outside at least once a day.
    That’s all harder when your whole family is stuck inside on top of each other; when there are no gyms to go to; when, at least in dense cities, even going for a walk outside is a stressful (and masked) experience.
    No, we are not being asked to go to war or survive one. But what we are being asked to do is profoundly antithetical to our natures as human beings; it is profoundly destabilizing and difficult. There is little more human than the desire for connection, touch, stimulation and novelty. This is all so hard because in going without those things, it’s not hyperbole to say we have to find new ways of being — or at least feeling — human.
    Esther Perel, a psychotherapist and best-selling author, tells viewers in a brief but compelling video for The New York Times that it’s no wonder we are feeling a sense of grief and anxiety. It’s not just that we’re missing out on travel, dates, or dinners. It’s that we’re also losing the meaning behind all of those things. A date isn’t just a date; it’s the possibility of a romantic future. A trip isn’t just a trip; it’s a new and stimulating experience, a chance to understand oneself in a different context, an opportunity to see things that before you could have only observed through a screen. A dinner out isn’t just a dinner out; it’s a moment of indulgence, pleasure and connection with the person across the table. A longing to hug a friend, a loved one, a far-away child, your mom is more than just “I want a hug” — it’s a primal and fundamental longing for the way touch is so often short-hand for everything we don’t find the words to say.
    Even in the midst of catastrophe — war, natural disaster, destruction — human beings continue to forge connections; we perhaps especially forge connections in the most trying of times so we can survive. In the most dire of circumstances — in war zones and refugee camps, in towns leveled by earthquakes and communities pocked by violence — people create art, paint in bright colors, plant seeds. They play music. They feed their beloveds. They tell stories. They fall in love.

      Esther Perel on life and love under quarantine

    The isolation that this pandemic has forced upon us doesn’t prevent all of those things, but it certainly hinders them. In the days after September 11, 2001, New Yorkers defied stay-at-home suggestions to congregate in bars and restaurants; the city teemed with life and energy (and, for once, not with car horns — a little bit of softness in the aftermath of such brutality). That collective gathering was very much a collective middle finger to those who attacked us: No, we are not scared. Yes, we are still here, and guess what? We’re going to live.
    What is being asked of us now is not quite so satisfying; it does not meet our need, in a time of anxiety and grief, to come together and seek comfort. To touch each other. To even smile at a stranger — you can’t see a person’s expression behind a mask.
    Compared to illness and death, these are small things. Being alive matters more, and so of course we have to continue to live this way for as long as is necessary to keep ourselves and others safe and healthy.
    But it’s also OK to grieve the pieces of life that we’re missing, to express the feeling so many of us have that we can’t take it anymore. It’s necessary to understand that missing the fullness of life, including pleasure and connection, doesn’t make us selfish. Feeling destabilized and disoriented or pushed to a breaking point doesn’t make us flaky or weak. It makes us human.

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      And perverse as it may sound, those of us who are anxious, frustrated and disoriented can be grateful for that exact experience — in disorienting and disconnected times, this reaction is a rational one. It means we’re warm. We love. We’re curious. We seek pleasure, and we revel in it when we experience it. It means we live.
      This article has been corrected to clarify that three million people have been infected, not killed, by the coronavirus.

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      (CNN)On November 1, 1755, a series of earthquakes struck Lisbon, Portugal. Worshippers celebrating Mass on All Saints’ Day were killed when cathedrals collapsed, fires broke out throughout the city and people rushed to the waterfront, where the waters had receded. Then a 20-foot high tsunami wave rolled in. Tens of thousands died that day.

      Covid-19 is taking a brutal toll on lives, illness and jobs, causing pain that will last a long time. More than 100,000 have died around the world and more than 20,000 in the US. Still, while the mourning proceeds, many are looking for signs of hope.
      Nearly two thirds of the way through the 45 days of social distancing recommended by the White House, the disease’s spread has started to level off in parts of the US. Trillions of dollars of new spending, and back-up measures by the Federal Reserve, suggest some of the damage to the economy could be mitigated. Scientists are rapidly scaling up research into treatments for the virus and are seeking a vaccine that, within a year or two, could possibly vanquish the threat.
        Charles McNair asked: “Who doesn’t long for a miracle?” One sunny day in the 1960s, he and his three siblings joined a line in Dothan, Alabama, and filed into a building, where workers gave them each a sugar cube infused with a pink liquid. “Nothing ever tasted so sweet,” McNair recalled. “On the way back to the car, mama told us what it all meant. ‘Now,’ she said, her nose and cheeks a little sunburned. ‘Y’all are never gonna get polio.'”
        Reaching back much further in history, Louis P. Masur recalled what happened to President Abraham Lincoln on his return from delivering the Gettysburg Address in 1863. “Lincoln had taken ill with varioloid fever, a mild but highly contagious form of smallpox,” Masur wrote. Lincoln “joked that since becoming president, crowds of people had asked him to give them something and now he had something he could give everyone. He also commented, in typical self-deprecating fashion, that being ill offered the consolation that the disease, which could leave scars, ‘cannot in the least disfigure me.'”
        Masur said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Disease, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are following in the 16th President’s footsteps: “They have communicated the facts as they know them, have not shied away from telling the hard truth, have offered comfort to the grieving and have used humor, not to trivialize but to humanize these most difficult of times.”
        David Gergen and James Piltch cited another wartime leader, President Franklin D. Roosevelt as “a master of leadership in crisis” for his skill in mobilizing American workers and manufacturers to arm the US for victory in World War II. In contrast, they wrote, President Donald Trump “and his team have struggled to exercise effective, consistent leadership against an invisible enemy. On some days, Trump seems to listen to his health experts and understand the gravity of the situation. On other days, he reverts to narcissism, erratic decisions and petty fights.”

        The Queen’s message

        In 1940, a 14-year-old Princess Elizabeth, joined at Windsor Castle by her sister Princess Margaret, broadcast a message to children who had been forced to evacuate because of war. On Sunday, Queen Elizabeth cited that broadcast as she noted that today many people were experiencing a “painful sense of separation from their loved ones.” Holly Thomas praised her for “promoting a spirit of compassion” and for avoiding “the problematic habit of many world leaders who have relied on — and sometimes abused — war-like language” in describing the fight against the virus.
        Covid-19 is raising fundamental questions about who we are, wrote Frida Ghitis: “If ever we needed global leadership, it is now. There is none. Every country is looking out for itself. The role once filled by the United States is vacant, leaving humanitarians largely pleading into the abyss at a time when the magnitude of the expected need is so overwhelming, only a massive multinational response can do the job.” The crisis, Ghitis wrote, “is revealing the essence of our identity. Are we heroes, doing our part for humankind? Or are we tribal, self-preserving individualists, erecting barriers; concerned only about our closest friends and relatives?”

        A different Easter and Passover

        In a normal April, Americans would be observing the spring holidays, gathering for religious services or family events. But this Easter and Passover are different, with physical distancing canceling the vast majority of in-person events. Still the messages of the holidays resonate.
        When by chance Jay Parini encountered W.H. Auden in Oxford nearly 50 years ago, the famed poet offered him a generous bowl of vodka and some spiritual advice: “Rest in God.” That message, Parini wrote, “invites us to relax into the power of the universe that sustains us, that holds us up, embraces us — even to the point of death. This is, I think, the Easter message in a nutshell: trusting in God’s power to transform our lives into something better.”
        As Rabbi Shai Held wrote, Passover is all about gathering together, welcoming the stranger. “We are meant to open our homes to others, and in so doing, to open our hearts to them, too. And yet this year we are forced to remain apart. There is something profoundly sad about all this.” Still, he wrote, “Let’s try, in the face of real and legitimate fear and anxiety, to let our vulnerability help us to love more fully. Let’s open our hearts, even if we cannot open our doors.
        Family ties feel especially strong even though we’re apart. At 39, Jack Gray is fortunate that all four of his grandparents are alive: “Between them, they taught me how to drive, fish, dispute a restaurant check and drink wine during the day.” Gray is calling them regularly: “It is not a chore; it is a blessing. If you’re fortunate enough to have any of your grandparents still alive, give them a call. You go way back.

        Trump and the inspectors

        On Tuesday, President Trump demoted an acting inspector general who had been picked to monitor the implementation of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. The action came a day after he attacked another inspector general for her report on delays in virus testing and only a few days after he dismissed the intelligence community’s inspector general.
        Trump, Jill Filipovic wrote, “doesn’t like independent watchdogs because they’re inconvenient for him; he prefers lapdogs. And so he is exploiting the pandemic to sack anyone who might point out just how terribly he has mangled the response.”
        Trump attacked the World Health Organization for its Covid-19 response, accusing it of being “China-centric” and suggesting that the US was paying too much to the organization. Michael Bociurkiw wrote that the WHO is “badly in need of reform” but questioned Trump’s timing. “The global community still needs an authoritative body that sets standards, collates and studies all of the pieces of the Covid-19 puzzle coming in from affected countries, and leads us closer to obtaining a life-saving vaccine.
        The president underestimated the threat of Covid-19, wrote Alice Stewart, but so did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We are all in this together,” Stewart wrote. “No amount of blame is going to change that. It does nothing to cure the sick, put kids back in school, or get people back to work…In the midst of this unprecedented pandemic, six words should be taken to heart: help more, report facts, attack less.
        Trump’s enthusiasm for the drug hydroxychloroquine, which has not been proven effective against Covid-19 but is undergoing testing, was echoed by White House economist Peter Navarro. But Fauci, a physician and immunologist, has made clear that he wants to see evidence that it clearly works before endorsing it as a treatment. Navarro falls into a category that has become “a mainstay of American culture in the last few decades,” wrote Nicole Hemmer: the “well-credentialed huckster,” asserting expertise outside their chosen fields.
        For more on Covid-19:

        The impact

        The effect of Covid-19 isn’t being felt equally across America. New York was hit harder than anywhere and as of Friday had more confirmed cases than any country outside the US. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Kent Sepkowitz wrote, “the explanation is the same for New York City as for Italy, New Orleans and probably Iran: the virus exploits weaknesses in health and health care.”
        African Americans in many parts of the US were disproportionately represented among those who died.
        “When compared with non-Hispanic white citizens in the US,” Van Jones noted, “African Americans are 60% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, 20% more likely to die from heart disease, have the highest mortality rate of any racial and ethnic group for all cancers combined and for most major cancers, and represent 44% of the HIV positive population. In fact, as the virus smashes into black communities, it is actually one epidemic jumping on top of several other epidemics.
        African Americans are also more likely to be frontline workers, wrote Catherine Powell. “In short, they must leave their homes and show up for work during a pandemic,” she observed, adding that their jobs are also more likely to be eliminated during the crisis. “According to the Brookings Institution, urban areas — where substantial communities of black and brown people live — have the largest numbers of workers who are in immediate-risk industries.”
        Smokers and vapers are also at heightened risk from the pandemic. Dr. John Maa pointed out that “the FDA has advised that cigarette smoking and vaping may leave users with underlying health conditions and increase the risk of coronavirus pneumonia and increase its severity.”
        Vicky Ward wrote that the very rich had more options than most when the pandemic hit. “One hedge fund billionaire is at his ranch in Texas; another is isolating from other family members on a compound in Martha’s Vineyard; a couple is staying in a villa on Harbour Island, Bahamas; an individual rented a yacht on the Long Island Sound … while the wealthy may not be immune, their affluence makes it easier for them to insulate themselves.”

        Bernie bows out

        Ordinarily, the withdrawal of the last remaining challenger to Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination would be a huge story. But Bernie Sanders’ decision to suspend his campaign was overshadowed by the Covid-19 crisis. And the pandemic will complicate Biden’s campaign against Donald Trump.
        “Biden’s obstacles to victory remain immense,” wrote Julian Zelizer. “Without the possibility of running a ground game for at least for several months, if not more, Biden and his campaign will face the real challenge of getting his message out to the public in the most surreal of times.” Democratic governors like Andrew Cuomo are getting attention but it has been a struggle for Biden to break through “when most Americans are understandably focused on the pandemic.”
        The irony of Sanders’ exit is that the 78-year-old senator’s ideas seem more fitted for the world we live in than ever, wrote Van Jones. Citing a higher minimum wage, health care for all, paid family leave and fighting climate change, he noted, “In the age of the pandemic, Sanders’ ideas no longer seem like radical throwbacks to 1960s idealism. Today, they feel like hard-headed responses to the deadly challenges of the 21st century.”
        The last primary actively contested by Sanders took place in Wisconsin Tuesday, despite the governor’s effort to call off the voting because of the pandemic. The US Supreme Court’s conservative majority reversed a lower court ruling that would have given voters more time to send in absentee ballots. Jen Psaki argued that the court’s decision “to make it harder for people in Wisconsin to vote should be a warning sign that Trump and the conservative court he and Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell helped shape will stop at nothing to get him reelected. And we need to be ready.”
        Former Milwaukee radio host Kathleen Dunn called the in-person voting “unimaginably cruel.”
        Wearing a bandanna as a mask, social worker Jennifer Taff stood in the voting line and carried a sign: “This is ridiculous.” Thomas Lake wrote that Taff was proud of the election workers who took special precautions to protect voters and of her fellow voters who risked their health to exercise their right to vote. But “as Jennifer Taff stood there, holding her sign, participating in one of American democracy’s strangest episodes, she also kept thinking: People are going to die because of this.


        The personal demands of the pandemic are falling heavily on parents of young children. “Many parents and others taking care of children are being asked to do the impossible right now,” wrote HLN anchor Lynn Smith. “We must raise our kids in the most terrifying of times. Homeschool them amid the chaos and in many cases work from home while doing it. There is no end in sight and we are not okay. This is what parent burnout looks like in a pandemic.” She offered advice on what to do.
        Former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre is particularly concerned about the impact of social distancing on abused children. “When I was a young boy, I witnessed unrelenting verbal abuse and saw the results of the physical harm inflicted on my mother, Margaret. The perpetrator was not some stranger, but my father, a New York City cop. The emotional and physical pain she suffered scarred her life, and mine, too,” said Torre, who noted that he fortunately had the outlet of being able to “escape by getting outside, and playing baseball, a game I loved.” In our stay-at-home reality, Torre wrote, “many children will witness violence in their homes.”
        He advised, “If you know of a loved one, friend or neighbor who is living in a violent household, please check in — while following social distancing guidelines — with them as often as you can.”

        Coughing tiger

        Nadia, a 4-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo, developed a dry cough and tested positive for the virus that causes Covid-19. Jonathan Epstein, a veterinarian and disease ecologist, said it was likely passed to the animal by a human keeper. The coronavirus seems well suited to jumping from one species to another.
        Epstein was part of a team that traced another such virus, SARS, which caused an outbreak in 2003, to horseshoe bats in China. “An outbreak anywhere is a threat everywhere, as we’ve seen with Covid-19,” Epstein said. “Countries need to be able to identify known and new viruses that cause disease in livestock or people, and rapidly respond to outbreaks while they’re small and can be contained.” He added that wildlife markets and other particularly risky environments need to be modified or shut down.

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        ‘I need sports’

        Jeff Pearlman‘s dog Norma is getting walked a lot these days. The sportswriter has nothing but time on his hands, with professional and school sports suspended indefinitely. This week, he even cheered on a snail sliding along in front of his house.
        “Truly, I need sports,” he wrote. “I need to watch Mike Trout at the plate, stepping into a 98-mph Gerrit Cole heater. I need to see LeBron backing down Kawhi. I need to see Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss staring down a John Tavares slap shot.”
        Pearlman understands the need for social isolation—and canceling sports to slow the disease’s spread. “For millions of people worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic has been a nightmare of nightmares. And, in the context of life and death, sports mean nothing. I know that. You know that.”
          “But — truth be told — sports don’t mean nothing. They’re an escape pod from the grimness; an opportunity for one to momentarily depart the grayness of day-to-day blah and once again feel alive.”
          And someday, they will be back.

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          (CNN)In the absence of a powerful government, human life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” wrote British philosopher Thomas Hobbes 369 years ago.

          Think back to the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan famously said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” That sentiment animated decades of scorn for Washington DC, which arguably reached its conclusion in 2016 with the election of a president with zero government experience. But now America is looking to President Donald Trump to say, “I’m here to help” and to deliver on that.
          One of Trump’s senior advisers in the crisis is his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Frida Ghitis wrote, “When he stood at the White House podium on Thursday, what Americans heard was a spine-chilling performance from a believer in small government, delivered at a time when only big government can save the day.
            “Of all the times to have a global pandemic, did it have to happen during the reign of an administration that wants to shrink the government to a fraction of its ability? Did it have to come under a president who has no respect for crucially relevant expertise or qualifications, who has surrounded himself with people whose principal talent is their ability to pay him public homage?”
            The need is great. “Hospitals are facing severe shortages in personal protective equipment, ventilators, and ICU beds,” wrote Dr. Amy Plasencia, of the Committee of Interns and Residents, affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, “and more and more health care workers are becoming infected.”
            Governors in some states refused to order citizens to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus. Many small businesses encountered obstacles in applying for a government loan program aimed at keeping people on payrolls. And officials said it may take as long as 20 weeks to fully distribute the government checks that could be a lifeline to taxpayers. To be sure, the enormity of the crisis is far beyond anything the US government has experienced in recent memory.
            As John Avlon noted, President Trump described himself as a “cheerleader for the country” at one of his White House briefings this week. “But, with apologies to cheerleaders, Trump is confronting a crisis he can’t hype his way out of. He is standing on the sidelines, out of his depth and now we’re all paying the price.”
            “What we need in the presidency right now is a quarterback — someone who calmly calls strategic plays under intense pressure. Instead, we have Donald Trump. And his instincts are perfectly wrong for a pandemic. …This is all coming as the administration is warning to expect deaths to rise sharply in the coming weeks, with President Trump even trying to spin fatalities under 100,000 as evidence they had done ‘a very good job.’ Seriously.”
            Trump, facing criticism that he acted too slowly, tried to deflect that onto states like New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the US, suggesting that it was the state government — not the federal government — that got off to a “very late start.” Joe Lockhart wrote that blaming blue state governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo is just part of a sophisticated blame-shifting strategy designed to improve Trump’s reelection chances. “His most insidious blame game tactic came over the weekend when he implied that New York frontline responders — docs, nurses and hospital workers — who were all putting their lives on the line, might be guilty of stealing desperately needed respirators and inflating the need for ventilators so they could hoard them.”
            Blaming only the Trump administration for its response misses the full picture, wrote Marc Thiessen in the Washington Post: “Before this pandemic, we had many warning signs that our homeland was in peril: the 2002 SARS outbreak; the 2003 resurgence of H5N1 avian flu; the 2009 H1N1 swine flu outbreak; the 2012 MERS outbreak; the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Despite the warnings, we didn’t take the danger seriously enough — and were caught unprepared for Covid-19. … And there is no excuse for it.”
            What can be done now? In the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg laid out a six-step “forceful, focused campaign to eradicate Covid-19 in the United States. The aim is not to flatten the curve; the goal is to crush the curve. China did this in Wuhan. We can do it across this country in 10 weeks.”

            Paging Dr. Fauci

            The contrast between Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was stark, wrote Gil Eyal, who has studied the nature of expertise. At a few recent briefings, he noted, “It became clear that the President and the nation’s foremost public health expert were battling, however politely, over who the American people should trust. While the scales may be tipping in Fauci’s favor at the moment, the battle is far from won.”
            Michael D’Antonio noted that “somehow Fauci seems to have won President Trump’s confidence even as he has corrected him in real time. In this way the doctor has served both the President and the country while maintaining his own credibility. Neither a toady nor an attention-seeker, he has put himself in the position to tell everyone the truth, even when it’s hard to hear.
            (For more on Fauci’s background and his experiences working for six presidents, check out Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s coronavirus podcast.)
            Another US government official paid a price for telling the truth about the impact of the virus. Capt. Brett Crozier, the commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, was removed from his post Thursday after he wrote a memo urging Navy officials to take more aggressive steps to respond to an outbreak that infected more than 100 sailors. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”
            CNN analyst John Kirby, a retired Navy rear admiral, called it “an unwarranted firing, reckless in its timing and petty in appearances.” The decision “could have a chilling effect on other commanding officers in similar circumstances, making them fearful of speaking up and thereby negatively impacting the Navy’s ability to combat the deadly disease.”

            Around America

            In Los Angeles, emergency medicine resident Dr. Haig Aintablian came face-to-face with the way the disease ravages patients when an ambulance brought in a 59-year-old man with a history of smoking and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “He’s been sick for three days, first with a dry cough and fever, but now with respiratory distress. I already know where this is heading. … This man, this husband and father, is breathing with what seems like every muscle in his body. His belly bows in and out as he tries to fill his lungs while feeling like he’s drowning. He’s starting to tire out. His body is losing this fight.
            While the struggles of New York and New Orleans have gained a great deal of attention, the US should realize that another wave of the epidemic is hitting towns and cities across the country, wrote Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “It is now clear that the epidemic has found a foothold not just in coastal cities, but also in mid-sized cities and towns across the country,” he observed. Albany, a town in southwestern Georgia, “was the first to gain attention as the epidemic appeared, possibly spread by people at a funeral. To date, 462 people have been diagnosed in Dougherty County, where Albany is situated, and 18 have died.”

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            Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, this week issued a stay-at-home order, explaining Wednesday that he had just learned that the disease could be spread by people even if they weren’t experiencing any symptoms. But Fauci and other experts have been warning about that for months.
            Atlanta’s experience in 2014 may help explain the power of social distancing. Two winter storms that year, including one that stranded thousands of commuters, led to emergency declarations that kept most people at home for days. “Offices were closed, and schools were shut; the conditions were like what millions of us are experiencing right now,” wrote Drs. Sujit Sharma, Ann Chahroudi and Gregory Sysyn. The upshot? “We saw a substantial shortening of the flu season in Georgia compared to both the national trend in 2014, and the otherwise natural pattern of flu spreading throughout our large metropolitan area in other years.”
            And in Florida, wrote Errol Louis, Gov. Ron DeSantis “has been late and lackadaisical, in ways that will undoubtedly cost many Floridians their health — and, perhaps, their lives. Despite surging numbers of fatalities in New York and Washington and a rising tide of Florida editorial boards demanding action, DeSantis did not issue a statewide stay-at-home order until April 1. That made Florida the last state with more than 5,000 coronavirus cases to implement a statewide shutdown.”

            After the quarantine is over …

            Devika Koppikar is from Virginia and she’s out of quarantine. But that’s because she’s based in Wuxi, China, where she teaches AP psychology and English in a high school program. During the coronavirus lockdown there, her Facebook friends shared fantasies of milkshakes and cheeseburgers while they dreamed of returning to normal life.
            “I have now been out of quarantine for almost 40 days — and life is far from normal. Even though the virus hit China around Christmas and rose exponentially until mid-February, life as we knew it is just seeing dawn three months later. On my discharge day, before going anywhere I had to go to my apartment leasing office, where I showed the committee a chart of my daily temperature readings and a medical professional checked my temperature so I could get a certificate saying I was ‘free and clear’ from Covid-19. This qualified me for a ‘green’ scan phone code that I had to show before entering any grocery store or taking public transportation. … The security guards sitting at tables outside my apartment complex have become a little less rigorous about taking my temperature every time I come and go from my apartment complex.”
            Charles A. Kupchan, who served on the National Security Council staff in the Obama White House, noted that “Wuhan was ground zero for the virus and the Chinese government initially suppressed information about its spread and severity.
            “But Beijing has already succeeded in putting forward a different face.
            “The same week that Trump announced his travel restrictions on Europeans, the Chinese sent a planeload of medical supplies to Italy. Thousands of Chinese masks, ventilators, and test kits have been arriving across Europe, in some cases accompanied by Chinese medics. Such assistance may be part of a Chinese charm offensive, but the bottom line is that China is stepping up for Europe at a time when the United States is nowhere to be found.”
            In the New Republic, Laurie Garrett wrote, “the 2020 pandemic is, at its root, the story of two deeply flawed leaders, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, who for too long minimized the coronavirus threat—and who, because of the enormous, largely unaccountable power they wield, must share responsibility for its global scale. At key moments when their mutual transparency and collaboration might have spared the world a catastrophic pandemic, the world’s two most powerful men fought a war of words over trade policies, and charged each other with responsibility for the spread of the disease.” 
            More views on the struggle against Covid-19:

            Selena, 25 years later

            At the age of 23, the singer Selena Quintanilla-Perez was murdered, touching off mourning and an appreciation of her gifts that has lasted for a quarter century.
            Ximena Larkin wrote that the “Queen of Tejano” music was caught between two worlds, an American of Mexican descent.
            “As a result, Selena was seen as not being Mexican enough for those with whom she shared cultural ancestry –particularly because she had not started to speak Spanish until her teens. The flip side, of course, was that many people did not see her dark features and curvy body as American enough for them. She was part of two worlds where neither one completely welcomed her.
            “But instead of trying to fit into one or the other, she carved out her own space. She was never supposed to make it. For her to succeed meant that others like her could, too. … She showed people what life can look like when they keep fighting — when they have hope. The Tejano singer kicked down the door for an entire generation of Latino talent.”
            (For a Spanish-language version of Ximena Larkin’s piece, visit our sister site CNNE Opinion. You’ll also find original commentary in Spanish on the pandemic and other topics.)

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            ‘You never know what will break you …’

            It’s been a tough few weeks in the music world, with the loss of Bill Withers due to heart complications and of others — including Ellis Marsalis, Bucky Pizzarelli and Adam Schlesinger — from Covid-19, wrote Gene Seymour.
            “Of all music genres, however, it is jazz that’s been struck especially hard and deep by Covid-19,” Seymour added. “No one knows how long this coronavirus siege will last, or who else we may lose. But one can hope that the spaces left open by these musicians’ deaths will be occupied over time not only with fresh new voices, but with a wider, deeper appreciation of how jazz nurtures and nourishes many lives at once — maybe even your own, if you let it.”
            Country music, too, has been affected.
            “You never know what will break you in a time like this, with your bones feeling hollow and your heart beating fast,” wrote Thomas Lake, in his latest “The Distance” essay on Americans living together and apart.
              “It happened to me on a Sunday afternoon, when I heard Joe Diffie was dead. I never met him, but his was the first coronavirus death that felt personal to me. He was a country singer who had several big hits in the ’90s. One was about pickup trucks. One was about his childhood home. And one, well — ‘Alexa,’ I said. ‘Play John Deere Green.'”

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              (CNN)I want to tell you all about a great kindness John Prine and his wife Fiona did for my family. Prine, deemed the “Mark Twain of American songwriting” by Rolling Stone magazine, died Tuesday in Nashville due to complications of Covid-19.

              Our daughters grew up listening to me play John Prine songs around the house, and they often sang those songs along with me. Although I have command of only a handful of chords on the guitar, that still left most of the voluminous Prine songbook open to me. The simplicity and accessibility of Prine’s songs made them welcoming, while their insight, compassion, and humor made them irresistible. For many years now it has been one of our family Christmas traditions to sing Prine’s wonderful “Christmas in Prison” together.
              Like many Prine songs, this one offers the small story of an unnamed person whose life we’re invited to take a moment to consider and to empathize with. I can think of few songwriters whose work is animated by such a keen sensitivity to how other people feel, and that offers a more moving reminder of why it is important that we never stop caring about that.
                In late 2016 our daughter, Caroline, then 10 years old, doubled down on her love of John Prine. She described him as her favorite musician, she memorized his songs by the dozen, and she routinely walked around the house singing those songs — often out of tune, which I always thought Prine would have appreciated. The fact that Prine and Caroline were 60 years apart in age was immaterial. He was her guy, and she was his number one fan.
                In the fall of 2017, it was announced that John Prine would be coming to our hometown of Reno to play a show. I had seen Prine quite a few times over the past 25 years, but this would be special, because he would be playing Reno just a few days before Caroline’s eleventh birthday. We bought tickets but didn’t tell her about it, and so the plans were made for her surprise.
                In the weeks leading up to the show, I sent a couple over-the-transom emails to John Prine’s label, Oh Boy Records in Nashville. I had no contacts there, no personal email addresses, no angle to work. I was just a clueless guy with a send button — just some dad asking out of the blue if John Prine might do him a favor. To my great surprise, I received a reply from the folks at Oh Boy, who had passed my message along to John’s wife, Fiona, who generously offered to help.
                On the evening of the concert, Friday, October 6, 2017, we told Caroline that we were taking her out for her birthday, but that we couldn’t give her any details. When we parked at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts she became more curious. When we covered her eyes as we walked past the sign announcing that night’s act, the suspense intensified. Even once inside the auditorium and in our seats, Caroline had no idea what the performance would be.
                When John Prine ambled onstage her eyes opened wide and a huge smile broke across her face. In that moment I remember thinking how strange and lovely it was that I had somehow become a guy with a 10-year-old daughter whose hero was John Prine. Perhaps it was a situation as inevitable as it was unlikely.
                John Prine played and played that night. As he neared the end of the show he grabbed a new pick, stepped up to the microphone, and said “I hear Caroline Branch is about to be 11, so I just wanted to wish her a happy birthday.” Holding the pick in his cupped hand he shaded his eyes from the stage lights and scanned the crowd.
                When Caroline heard her own name come out of John Prine’s mouth it was if she were struck by what she would later describe as the best kind of lightning that anybody anytime anywhere could ever possibly imagine. In that moment of visceral surprise, Caroline was paralyzed with shock and joy. As Prine continued to scan the audience, I encouraged her to stand up.
                It is a moment I will never forget. Nearly 1,500 people sat. One stood. And then Caroline began waving her little arms over her head, crossing them back and forth with all her might the way a person on a desert island would wave at the plane that might spot them and take them home. People around us noticed this and turned to look at Caroline, and then more people turned to look at what those people were looking at, and suddenly Caroline found herself standing in a sea of smiling people, all looking at her as she stood waving.
                “Well, maybe it’s past her bedtime,” Prine said, not able to make out the wonderful scene unfolding beyond the footlights and in the shadows beneath the balcony. “But tell her I said happy birthday.”
                  John Prine was a gifted writer and vintage American troubadour who reminded us that life is as comical as it is heartbreaking, and that we should never fail to empathize with others. If you don’t think what Prine did for my kid was a great kindness, then you simply don’t remember what it is to be 10 years old.

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                  So thank you, Fiona, and the good folks at Oh Boy. And my deepest gratitude to John for showing my daughter that a small gesture of kindness can be an act of immense significance — that in a world that often feels daunting and uncertain, even a couple of chords can get you into heaven.

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                  (CNN)Not so long ago, I believed social media was my nemesis.

                  It was a bad habit that I worried would eventually erase every ounce of hope I ever held for the world outside my door.
                  Weekly, I’d challenge myself to waste fewer hours scrolling my Facebook and Instagram feeds — enough already with the selfies and toxic political rants.
                    I vowed to spend less time on Twitter, especially for anything not work-related. It had become a daily cesspool of hatred and division. I was done. Despite decades spent leaning in to every emerging technology available, I thought it was just about time to quit social media.
                    Then, the terrifying Covid-19 pandemic hit.
                    The world changed.
                    And today, it feels like social media might just save my life — indeed, save us all.
                    It has become my lifeline, the place I go to get potentially life-saving news and information about how to protect myself and others from the coronavirus — along with virtual workouts and other ways to stay healthy.
                    Right now, the cellphone and computer are my only connections to the world and my loved ones as I am — like much of the nation — living a cloistered life (sheltered-in with my sister, who has a chronic illness). Staying connected with other people has never felt more essential to my well-being and mental health.
                    But something else is afoot across social media. Suddenly it seems, a renewed sense of community is emerging.
                    Instead of griping about politics 24/7 and using our feeds as a bully pulpit, more of us are finding positive ways to connect to our shared humanity. It feels to me like there’s a cultural shift toward savoring life’s smaller joys: deejays and music artists are sharing music and streaming pop-up parties, churches and people of all religions are streaming faith-based services and friends are hosting virtual happy hour parties and other family fun events.
                    Last week, as continuous news updates told of rising US death tolls and warned of thousands more to come, my own transformative moment of social media connection happened: It was one woman, her guitar, and her beautiful voice who eased my mind and made me hopeful for better days to come — when I saw her Facebook post.

                      Watch the Backstreet Boys perform remotely from their homes

                    Her name is Courtney Dowe and she was singing a soulful, folksy rendition of the Grammy-winning, wildly popular 2019 rap song: Old Town Road (by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus).
                    “Lately, I feel a willingness to be more vulnerable as an artist,” said Dowe, a single mother from Washington, DC, who works as a paralegal intern. Dowe told me she was nervous about sharing the music video but her fears around the pandemic have made her lean more on social media for a human connection.
                    “So much of the world is feeling more vulnerable right now and it’s easy to be alone in that vulnerability because we are self-isolating now. But there’s also an urgency to connect and share. I’ve been inspired by other artists across social media who are sharing their work in ways they never have before to inspire people and let them know they are not alone,” said Dowe.
                    Turns out, Courtney’s sweet sound was just the refuge many were seeking. The Facebook video she posted, her most popular ever, has received thousands of views and comments from fans around the globe.

                      Here’s how Dolly Parton can help get your kids to sleep

                    I’ve never met Courtney, but Incredibly, this is also not the first time her music has soothed my soul.
                    Nearly 12 years ago, I was one of millions of New Yorkers commuting home from work when my train stopped at Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, where I had to wait for a connection. And there, sitting cross-legged on the platform was a black woman, wearing a colorful head wrap, playing an acoustic guitar. She was singing what sounded like a Negro spiritual and other folk songs.
                    I was mesmerized.
                    We never truly understand what draws us to other human beings. Courtney and I were strangers, just two woman at a subway stop. I haven’t seen her in person since that day. Yet, watching her sing then made me feel connected to generations of women who have used music to tell the stories of our lives, to survive immeasurable pain, and celebrate unimagined love.
                    Courtney and I never spoke as I put money in her guitar case. But I wondered about the woman with the magical voice. Did she have a family? Was she homeless? Or, was she famous? She had a voice that reminded me of acclaimed singer Tracy Chapman, but I knew it wasn’t her.
                    An hour later, and a few missed subway connections — I headed for home to fix dinner for my son and settle in to my new life as a recently-divorced, single mom.
                    Those were worrisome days for me. But I never forgot how inspired Courtney made me feel that day.
                    Years later, Facebook connected me to Dowe again. By sheer chance, I’d seen a clip of her singing on Facebook and recognized her face. I messaged her and asked if she was the woman I’d heard in the subway. She was. It was then I learned her name and a little more about her, like she had a young son, was a community activist, and sometimes performed on the DC music scene.
                    Last week, I sent Dowe a Facebook message after I saw her music video, telling her about that day in the subway.
                    “That was always the dream,” said Dowe, adding that my story made her cry. She said she grew up in foster care and was adopted at 16. She planned to be a teacher but after one year of college, she found her calling and her voice, then spent more than a decade traveling the country as a street musician.
                    “I’ve gotten so much static over the years from friends and family for being a street musician, but my dream was to give comfort to someone in need of encouragement — maybe after a hard day at work. I want my music to uplift people and give them hope,” she told me.
                      It is said that God sends you angels just when you least expect it.

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                      And last week in the midst of all the chaos, I met one of mine on Facebook.

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                      (CNN)“You can always spot a fool,” wrote Robert Harris, “for he is the man who will tell you he knows who is going to win an election.”

                      That is what happened in America this past week, as a left-for-dead candidacy not only sprang back to life, but positioned Joe Biden as the leader in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
                      No one predicted that Biden’s strong victory in South Carolina a week ago would position him to win 10 states, including Texas, Virginia, Minnesota and Massachusetts, let alone push four of his leading rivals out of the race. It was “one of the most remarkable and sudden political resurrections in recent memory,” wrote Frida Ghitis.
                        David Gergen reached further back: “Former Vice President Joe Biden’s resuscitation on Super Tuesday has already entered the history books as one of the most astonishing since Harry Truman’s election in 1948. Or, come to think of it, even since Lazarus.”
                        Now it’s essentially a two-candidate race with Super Tuesday II coming this week, and a critical debate between Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders on CNN Sunday, March 15.
                        Expect “a lot of yelling” in the race between Biden and Sanders and in the eventual contest with Trump, wrote Nicole Hemmer. Anger “helps explain how we ended up, after winnowing the most diverse primary field in American history, with three white men grasping for the presidency. They’re the only demographic whose rage is considered legitimate.
                        The presidential contest is taking shape amid growing concern about the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, prompting health fears and economic reverberations that all of the campaigns have to consider.
                        Foremost among those is President Donald Trump’s reelection bid, premised largely on the strength of the economy. “Until now President Donald Trump has been lucky,” wrote Peter Bergen. “During his first three years in office there was no major crisis on his watch of the type that has challenged every president in the half century before him … nothing comparable to the Cuban missile crisis (John Kennedy); no Vietnam War (Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon); no hostage crisis in Iran (Jimmy Carter)…”
                        Presidents can rise to the occasion of a great crisis, Bergen noted. But “there are reasons to worry about whether he can do so, as the crisis underlines eight of his key failings as a leader.” Among those: “Trump doesn’t do any homework … He always believes he knows more than the experts about any given subject … Trump trusts his own gut.”

                        At the epicenter

                        Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner heads, a nonprofit, and lives in Kirkland, Washington, which has been grappling with the virus. “As of Friday, 11 people have died in or near Kirkland and we still don’t know the full breadth of the threat or the response needed, due to the botched testing rollout and lack of resources,” she wrote.
                        “Many people I care about are sick but none know if it’s coronavirus or something more typical. I’m sad, scared and worried. Worried about my kids, worried about my family, my own health, and my community.” She’s angry, too, particularly at the suggestion Trump made at a rally that Democrats were trying to gain advantage: “‘This is their [Democrats] new hoax,’ unhelpfully politicizing a public health crisis that is endangering Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and people of all parties alike. This is no hoax. We need help.
                        This is personal also for James Phillips, an emergency medicine doctor and professor in Washington, DC. “I will likely become infected in the next few months,” he noted. “It’s just simple math that I have accepted. But I became a physician knowing the job incurred risk and that I have a duty to patients and society. Based on what we know today, my risk of getting severely ill or dying from COVID-19 is low. I am fortunate to be relatively young and healthy, but that is not the case for other medical colleagues who are likely to become infected as well. Protecting our workforce is critical.”
                        Abdul El-Sayed, the former city health director in Detroit wrote, “America’s public health workforce is among the best in the world. But … one thing is clear: Without the resources they need to do their work while operating under a culture that puts politics ahead of science, their job is much harder. And we are that much less safe for it.”
                        America’s state of preparedness for the virus’s spread is worrying, he observed. “Local health departments have been ravaged by funding cuts that took hold during the Great Recession. Thin budgets have been further stretched because of the opioid epidemic. Reaching out to former colleagues all over the country, I am hearing from them about how a lack of funding or leadership at the very top of this response to coronavirus has left them flying blind and without the resources to take preventive precautions or respond vigorously.”

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                        In the meantime, people are reconsidering travel plans. Jill Filipovic wrote, “Many organizations are facing a question: Can we still gather?” Major events like SXSW in Austin, Texas have been canceled and companies are pulling out of others.
                        “In the midst of a global outbreak, these cancellations, postponements, and venue changes seems responsible…Yet, there is much to lose by removing opportunities for in-person interaction. As magical and life-changing as the internet is, there is no true substitute for connecting with other human beings face to face.”
                        Some people can do their work remotely but others, like warehouse employees and food service workers, have no such option, Filipovic wrote. “The most significant public health threat we face? It’s not shaking hands. It’s not conferences. It’s not even this President. It’s our lack of federally mandated paid sick leave, combined with a health care system that makes seeking treatment potentially financially devastating for too many Americans.”
                        It’s likely to take at least a year before a vaccine could be developed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, wrote Jeffrey Sachs. “The vaccine would almost surely need to be rolled out systematically by governments around the world to cover large populations and vulnerable groups in a concerted manner guided by the epidemiology and transmission patterns of the disease. That, after all, is how epidemics are stopped: through concerted public policy and action.” But he decried comments by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical industry lobbyist, who suggested that the private sector would take the lead in “demand, purchased, stocking” and would set the price of the vaccine.
                        “No, Secretary Azar, it would be ludicrous to leave such operations to private industry,” wrote Sachs, recalling that a non-profit organization, the March of Dimes, was created to lead the hugely successful development of the polio vaccine.
                        America’s health care system will be under a microscope as the outbreak develops, and experts like Vanessa Kerry, a doctor and CEO of Seed Global Health, warned that the lack of comprehensive health coverage for many will be a continuing issue. Citing the case of a Miami man facing a $1,400 bill for undergoing a coronavirus check after his trip to China, she wrote, “Too many Americans are either underinsured or completely uninsured. In the global spread of COVID-19, this will prove catastrophic.”
                        US Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, who sits on President Trump’s coronavirus task force, wrote that we “should be cautious and take appropriate measures to prepare and protect ourselves, but we should not be afraid.” He advocated “washing hands frequently, staying away from sick people or staying home if sick yourself and covering your cough or sneeze … scientifically proven as some of the best and most practical ways for individuals to stay disease-free.”

                        Warren drops out

                        In the whirlwind of political news this week, the departure of Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar from the presidential race stood out for many. Swanee Hunt, former US ambassador to Austria, wrote that there were “four highly qualified women in the race” but now “the chance that a woman will win the 2020 presidential race has imploded. What happened?… Sexism was a force in this year’s Democratic primary.”
                        The last of the four dropped out after a disappointing Super Tuesday performance and a third-place showing in her home state. “She’s out of the race. And those of us who supported Sen. Elizabeth Warren for president are shell-shocked,” wrote Jeff Yang. A janitor’s daughter, Warren spoke the night before Super Tuesday about the ‘Justice for Janitors’ union organizing effort that began in 1990. “It was intended to send the message,” wrote Yang, “that she was not about to turn back from a fight without, per her most famous quote, ‘plenty of blood and teeth on the floor.’ Today, blood and teeth are everywhere, and so are tears.
                        Sunday March 8 is International Women’s Day, an occasion that prompted the prime ministers of Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Finland and Sweden to express their “grave concern over the current pushback against women’s and girls’ rights. We have witnessed a surge in regressive policies around the world, often undermining universal human rights. The Nordic countries’ success in promoting gender equality is a result of targeted government policies and strong civil societies, but it is also deeply rooted in international legal frameworks.” The five emphasized their “joint commitment to the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls, and more generally of universal human rights.”
                        This year’s IWD marks a notable 25th anniversary, wrote Melinda Gates. “When thousands of women from around the world came together in 1995 for the World Conference on Women—the one in Beijing where Hillary Clinton famously said, ‘Women’s rights are human rights’—I wasn’t there. I was, as usual, in Seattle at my desk.
                        “While I liked the idea of women working together to create an action plan for progress, it was hard for me to imagine what an event like that had to do with my own life. And I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that 25 years later, gender equality would still be so far out of reach.
                        “Now, I know better.”
                        Gates and her husband Bill are devoting a substantial portion of their philanthropic efforts to achieving gender equality. “The data is unequivocal: No matter where in the world you are born, your life will be harder if you are a girl. Even in American public life, it is still overwhelmingly men making decisions, controlling resources, and shaping policies and perspectives. What’s more, in 2018 the World Economic Forum projected that the United States won’t achieve gender equality for another 208 years. If that makes you frustrated, it should.

                        The Biden-Sanders showdown

                        The Democratic race for delegates is far from over. Despite his progress on Super Tuesday, Joe Biden has a lot to prove to skeptics who wonder if his campaign is ready for prime time, wrote Julian Zelizer. “He will need to grow and nurture a robust coalition, making sure that large numbers come out to vote, despite a checkered record during his time as a public servant — on issues such as school busing, Iraq, crime and Anita Hill.”
                        There’s no doubt the support of black voters, particularly in South Carolina and across the South, powered Biden to victory. “Black voters in the South are pragmatic above all else,” wrote Issac Bailey, a South Carolina-based journalist. “We wish we could choose a candidate who had no racial baggage. We wish we could count on our white counterparts to prioritize racial equality and vote against Trump in the fall no matter who Democrats chose in July. But we know the threat of another four years of Trump is too great of a risk to leave it to chance.
                        Biden’s chief rival, Bernie Sanders, is a deeply flawed candidate, in the eyes of former world chess champion and human rights advocate Garry Kasparov. He asked: Why, over a long career, has Sanders praised aspects of the totalitarian regimes of the Soviet Union, Cuba and Nicaragua?. “The answer is because he wanted, and wants, to promote socialism. To make a distinction often lost on Americans with their two-party system, Social Democrats want to use policy to soften the edges of the free market. Democratic Socialists — which is what Sanders calls himself — want to reshape society to eliminate the evils of capitalism. He and his followers may like to tout Denmark and Finland, but his own words also highlight the socialist dictatorships of Nicaragua, Cuba and the Soviet Union. These latter endorsements refute those who say that ‘socialism’ is just another word for higher taxes and a better social safety net. It would be easy to advocate for those things without defending aspects of police states, but Sanders chooses otherwise.”
                        It’s impossible to look at the Democratic race without noting the impact of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s candidacy, which he ended this week after Biden’s victories and his own poor showing. The multi-billionaire won only in American Samoa and drew a smattering of delegates in other states where he met the 15% threshold, despite spending half a billion dollars and building an enormous field operation.
                        Failure is not a familiar experience for Bloomberg,” wrote former Bloomberg aide Arick Wierson. “He is someone who has achieved just about every goal he put his mind to, whether it was becoming an Eagle Scout as a youth or starting a company that would bring world financial markets into the modern age, or even becoming mayor of the most populous city in America, Bloomberg’s career has been highlighted by one success after another.”

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                        When it opened in 1957, “West Side Story” had as big a role in reinvigorating American musical theater as “Hamilton” did in this century.
                        “The show itself has been among the hardiest of theatrical perennials ever since its original galvanic Broadway premiere, when as legend has it, first-night audiences were so silent when the curtain went down that, for a few seconds, the cast had thought the show had failed,” wrote Gene Seymour. “The thunderous applause that broke the silence echoed through the rest of the century and beyond in the multi-Oscar-winning 1961 film and in countless stage revivals at almost every level of theater from Broadway to small-town repertories to high school drama groups.”
                        Anyone who has enjoyed songs like “Maria,” “Something’s Coming,” “Tonight,” and “Gee, Office Krupke,” owes a debt to composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim and the performers who made them iconic.
                          This year, West Side Story is being doubly revived, with a major new production on Broadway and a film by Steven Spielberg, based on a screenplay by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner. After seeing the Broadway production, Seymour wrote, “The real world has managed to intrude so much on this the 2020 Broadway revival of ‘West Side Story’ that, however one considers its artistic merits or achievements, it is somehow emblematic of our present day, no matter how long ago its music was written or how timeless its story of thwarted romance.
                          “In other words, as a show, it may not be perfect. But as a sign of the times, it’s almost eerily in sync. It makes you wonder — and even anticipate — how the movie will feel to us when it arrives before Christmas.”

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                          (CNN)There is no question that Rush Limbaugh is a man of immense talent, wit and on-air charisma.

                          And so to some extent, we should be alarmed by President Donald Trump’s choice to use this year’s State of the Union to award Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Or, at this point, maybe we shouldn’t.
                          Established in 1963 by John F. Kennedy, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is widely considered the nation’s highest honor bestowed on civilians. Certainly, all presidents send political messages through their choice of who gets an award. For instance, it can be no accident that George H.W. Bush chose to give an award in 1989 to George F. Kennan — one of the early architects of the policy of containing Soviet expansion — the same year revolution and change began to spread across the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
                            However, for the most part, the roster of award winners reads as a who’s who of figures who embody America’s best angels — those whose contributions to the human experiment were far more moral than anything else.

                              How Rush Limbaugh in 1988 propelled Trump’s 2016 win

                            The list includes Nobel laureates like Elie Wiesel and Mother Teresa, and once-in-a generation creative minds like Maya Angelou, Georgia O’Keeffe and Walt Disney. Or civil rights figures like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. Add to that Neil Armstrong, the first human on the moon, and Jonas Salk, who saved entire swaths of the planet from certain paralysis by inventing the polio vaccine.
                            And those are just some of the people you’ve heard of; many of the others may not have been household names, but contributed immeasurably to the arts, business, music and science.
                            Regardless of whether you agree with his politics, it is undeniable that Rush Limbaugh has no place on this list.
                            Speaking of politics, it might be easy to pass off criticism of Limbaugh’s award as a function of political division; that is, to suggest that liberals disagree with the very idea of the President’s honoring a conservative. However, the problem with giving this award to Limbaugh isn’t the fact that he’s a conservative; it’s the fact that he’s a bigot.
                            For decades now, Rush Limbaugh has used his platform to push views that go far beyond left-right political discourse and squarely into the world of outright racial hostility. For instance, for years he fueled the ugly and racist claim that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States — eventually doubling down and accusing the President of falsely claiminghe was born overseas in order to sell books.
                            He resigned from his role as an ESPN analyst after repeating the now-exhausting argument that African American quarterbacks only excel because the media wants them to. He has questioned why Native Americans would dare be concerned about their ethnic cleansing because, evidently, “they all have casinos.”
                            And let’s not forget calling then-Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” because of her views on access to birth control. Or his suggestion that actor Michael J. Fox was faking the effects of his Parkinson’s disease for his own benefit. I could go on.
                            Certainly, the President’s choice to give Limbaugh an award is a window into the President’s strategy as he enters what will certainly be a contentious election season.
                            When announcing the award, Trump described Limbaugh as “the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet.” But to whom? Certainly not to anyone on the political left, or even middle, of the United States. By honoring Limbaugh, the President has sent a clear signal to his base, the small but steady portion of the electorate animated by the President’s politics of racial resentment.
                            Of course, it would be unfair to Mr. Limbaugh not to mention his recent diagnosis of Stage 4 lung cancer (indeed, the President led off with it in his remarks on Limbaugh). As humans, we should all rally for Limbaugh’s personal well-being. No one who has watched a relative confront advanced cancer would, or should, wish it on anyone. I certainly have, and certainly don’t.
                            However, two things can be true: Limbaugh can both be worthy of our sympathy and prayers as a human, and deserving of our strongest scorn for his long track record of using a global platform to dehumanize others.

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                              Certainly, the President has the right to reward the values he holds dear. However, we should all be dubious of the decision to reward Rush Limbaugh with the nation’s highest civilian honor at the moment he was seated in the same row as a Tuskegee Airman. On Rosa Parks’ birthday.
                              We should embrace and reward conservative voices in media. Not hateful ones. It is clear that the President has confused the two.

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                              (CNN)CNN Opinion contributors weigh in with political analysis on the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary results. The views expressed in this commentary are their own. View more opinion articles on CNN.

                              Having grown up north of Boston, just a few miles from the New Hampshire border, I can tell you New Hampshire voters and Massachusetts voters are dissimilar in some striking ways. But that notwithstanding, someone like Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Senator, should have done much, much better in tonight’s New Hampshire primary. With more than 85% of the vote in, she is in a distant fourth behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
                                That should sound some loud alarms for her campaign, which is already reeling from a third place finish in Iowa, some embarrassing staff defections in Nevada and looming money woes. Warren was hoping New Hampshire would give her a much-needed jolt.
                                My assessment? Warren has failed to capture a lane. Sanders came out swinging as a Democratic Socialist, out-lefting nearly everyone in the field. Klobuchar has emerged the more promising moderate than a flailing former Vice President Joe Biden. Buttigieg is the exciting newcomer, leaving Warren where, exactly? No man’s land.
                                Back in 2018, the Boston Globe editorial page told Warren not to run, that she’d missed her moment in 2016. The reason they offered was she was too divisive to take on Trump. But maybe it was that she was too inconsistent, vacillating on issues and losing steam this week. She even admitted herself that in the last debate before this primary, she “just didn’t say enough, didn’t fight hard enough.”
                                There are a number of contests where Warren could still be competitive, if she can last that long, but finishing fourth in a New England state full of white, older, female suburban voters is likely a very bad omen for her campaign.
                                SE Cupp is a CNN political commentator and the host of “SE Cupp Unfiltered.”

                                Ian Sams: Sanders’ victory underscores a new reality

                                Don’t get it twisted: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the Democratic frontrunner.
                                His New Hampshire victory, within a week of winning Iowa’s popular vote, underscores a reality in this crowded primary: you don’t need anywhere near a majority of the electorate to win. You just need a loyal base.
                                Gone is the famous “Obama coalition.” The “Bernie Bloc” is in.
                                Sanders’ base of millennials and Gen Z, very liberal voters, men, non-black minorities and working class whites may be unconventional, but it sure looks big enough to keep delivering him narrow wins.
                                It’s taken everything former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar had to come close to Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire, and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Vice President Joe Biden are still competing with them for the driver’s seat in the same lane. They’re all scrambling to build a broader base for later states. Women, college educated suburbanites, rural moderates and black voters are split. The winner: Sanders.
                                I will say: credit to Buttigieg, who showed that he is here to stay with a narrow second place New Hampshire finish.
                                His near victory proved that his Iowa win in the delegate count wasn’t a fluke, and voters in the states to come will give him another look. It’s a remarkable rise for the largely unknown former small city mayor, but now his challenge is proving that he can grow his base beyond older voters in mostly white states.
                                With the volatility to come, Sanders ought to be licking his chops. As others compete with each other for an expanded coalition within largely the same lane, in both homogeneous and diverse states the “Bernie Bloc” may be enough to win.
                                Ian Sams is a Democratic strategist with experience on seven state and federal campaigns. He was most recently national press secretary on Sen. Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

                                Errol Louis: What matters most is who lost

                                As Democrats seek a candidate to run against President Trump, the party entered New Hampshire urgently needing to trim the size of the 10-candidate field. Some candidates are bumping into hard financial and logistical facts that will spell the end of their candidacies.
                                Andrew Yang, a newcomer to politics, suspended his campaign shortly after the polls closed. His campaign had spent more than $3 million on television ads in New Hampshire and he campaigned in the state for 62 days — far more than any other candidate except Tulsi Gabbard (who rented a home near Manchester and more or less moved into the state). Senator Michael Bennet dropped out as well.
                                Former Vice President Joe Biden hasn’t dropped out, but his likely 5th-place finish was a humiliating blow, coming after his self-described “gut punch” of finishing 4th in the chaotic Iowa caucuses. Biden may finish with less than 10% of the vote in New Hampshire and likely won’t win a single delegate.
                                Any lingering sense of Biden’s inevitability or electability died in the Granite State. In advance of the results, he hastily departed to South Carolina, which he has described as a “firewall” of black supporters that will restore his electoral fortunes.
                                “The fight to end Donald Trump’s presidency is just beginning,” Biden told supporters. “It ain’t over man. We’re just getting started.”
                                Sen. Elizabeth Warren was also a big loser, finishing no higher than fourth in a state adjacent to her home of Massachusetts. Her single-digit finish likely means that she, too, leaves New Hampshire empty-handed with zero delegates.
                                In a speech to supporters, Warren warned her fellow Democrats to tone down the level of attacks between them. “We cannot afford to fall into factions,” she said. “We win when we come together.”
                                Warren’s back-to-back losses in Iowa and New Hampshire raise serious questions about how long she will stay in the race.
                                Billionaire Tom Steyer spent more than $17 million on television advertising in New Hampshire, and with over 60% of precincts reporting holds less than 4% of the vote and zero delegates. If his luck doesn’t change soon, it’s possible that the wealthy businessman will call it quits.
                                Errol Louis is the host of “Inside City Hall,” a nightly political show on NY1, a New York all-news channel. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.

                                Jen Psaki: The real test is coming up

                                After Tuesday night, a few things are clear: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the Democratic frontrunner, and he is effectively tapping into a desire for change. Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s win in Iowa was not a fluke, and his support is broad and sustained. And Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s strong debate performance and weekend surge put her in the top tier.
                                But after the Sanders, Buttigieg and Klobuchar supporters celebrate tonight, the real question will be what this means for the nomination fight moving forward.
                                For Sanders, he is running on the promise of bringing new people into the process and expanding his group of supporters. The turnout numbers in Iowa do not help him tell that story. His campaign also continues to run the race as an outsider, but he is now the frontrunner and if he wants to win the nomination, he will need to build on his support beyond his committed and loyal base.
                                For Butigieg, he is running on a message of bringing people together — effectively drawing from the support of not just former Vice President Joe Biden, but also Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Still, there are major questions about his ability to draw support from people of color. He has growing operations in Nevada and South Carolina and he has invested in both paid advertising and staff resources, but if he wants to go the distance, he will need strong performances in both of those states.
                                For Klobuchar, her rise over the final days leading up to the New Hampshire primary positions her as a real contender. But she is also playing catch up. The Nevada and South Carolina caucus and primary come quickly. Sanders, Buttegieg and even Warren and Biden have had operations in the next two states for months. As a top tier candidate, she will also be under much greater scrutiny — including for her record as a prosecutor in Minnesota.
                                No candidate is perfect in any race ever. But the test is how they capitalize on success during the primary process while also managing their individual weaknesses.
                                Jen Psaki, a CNN political commentator, was the White House communications director and State Department spokeswoman during the Obama administration. She is vice president of communications and strategy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Follow her at @jrpsaki.

                                Scott Jennings: Yang dropped out, perhaps Warren should

                                Given that I’m a Republican, you’d think I would be happy when any of the Democrats running for president fails. But that’s not true. I never met Andrew Yang, but it appeared to me that he was the only person running for president in their primary who was actually having fun.
                                He had an optimistic message built on fixing things and modernizing various pieces of the government. He was running on a platform warning about the threats of automation — one article said he “ran on a platform warning against the threats of artificial intelligence and automation”– which is a little technocratic for a presidential campaign but probably cemented him as an “ideas guy” for the Democrats for years to come.
                                And that’s a good thing. We need more people like Yang in politics (I mean, some of his ideas were nutty but fun to talk about), not only because he seems like a good man but also because his platform wasn’t built on punishing everyone liberal Democrats hate.
                                That’s the strategy that seems to animate many of the other candidates: demonize successful people, brand Republicans and Trump supporters as racists, attack the traditional values of people in rural areas. But I didn’t sense Yang was motivated by that same sort of vindictive attitude; I’m not sure it ever dawned on him to use politics for that purpose.
                                Which is the exact opposite of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who doesn’t seem to realize her campaign is over. Her speech on Tuesday night gave the impression that she intends to stay until the bitter end, which will serve no purpose other than to let her push her vindictive platform and opinions, like the time at her CNN town hall when she took a mean-spirited jab at voters who believe in traditional marriage.
                                Warren’s message is not unifying, and her ongoing trouble with the truth about her own narrative has exposed her as inauthentic (she has told some whoppers about her heritage and her kids’ private schooling, for example).
                                Bernie Sanders appears to be in the driver’s seat now, and the only question for Democrats is whether he will benefit from the same condition of protracted fragmentation within his party that helped Donald Trump win the 2016 GOP primary. With Warren’s announcement of her intention to stay in and with Mike Bloomberg lurking in the wings, it seems perhaps that he may.
                                Oh, sorry, Joe Biden. You’ve never finished higher than fourth in a presidential primary state in three national campaigns. Don’t wait until South Carolina. Bow out now and save yourself the embarrassment.
                                Scott Jennings, a CNN contributor, is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and a former campaign adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell. He is a partner at RunSwitch Public Relations in Louisville, Kentucky. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJenningsKY.

                                David Gergen: Bloomberg could be the heavyweight the Dems are waiting for

                                Some late-night reflections after the New Hampshire primary:
                                — The biggest story of the campaign so far is the near-collapse of former Vice President Joe Biden’s candidacy. One wonders whether in the controversy over Ukraine, the Trump team ultimately accomplished what it wanted — a smearing that badly weakened Biden. To be sure, there were other factors: Biden has a long, disappointing record in national campaigns. This is his third, and he has yet to win a primary. Unless he now wins Nevada and South Carolina, pressures will rise for his exit.
                                — Biden’s stumbles opened up the moderate lane for former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — and both have smartly seized their opportunity. “Mayor Pete” has the talent to go all the way but perhaps, as with Jack Kennedy in his national debut, he will need more seasoning to get there. Klobuchar grows on people as a candidate but she, too, may need more gravitas. Give her credit; she has already shown she should be at the top of any short list for Vice President.
                                — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders deserves credit, too. In his case, he has already become the most popular socialist in American history. But he may have crested in the 2016 campaign. After all, he won New Hampshire by over 20 points then against Hillary Clinton; this time, he won New Hampshire by less than 2 percentage points. And across most of the Democratic Party, strategists are worried about his chances against President Donald Trump. To them, he is the Jeremy Corbyn (leader of Britain’s Labor Party) of the American left.
                                — Biden’s troubles have also opened the door to Michael Bloomberg — and he, too, has smartly seized his opportunity. A national Quinnipiac poll last week found him rising to third place in preferences among Democrats. More importantly, in a head-to-head against Trump, he held the widest lead over the President: 9 points.
                                One danger for him is that leaders on the Democratic left will try to destroy him before voters have had a say. One can already see signs of that. As some of the savviest observers believe — see Tom Friedman in the New York Times — Bloomberg could be the most effective heavyweight the party has in slugging it out with Trump. But will the Democratic left give him a fair hearing?
                                As always these days: stay tuned!
                                David Gergen has been a White House adviser to four presidents and is a senior political analyst at CNN. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a professor of public service and the former director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School.

                                Alice Stewart: Keep your eye on moderate Pete Buttigieg

                                Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ victory in New Hampshire makes one thing clear: the Democratic Party has moved far to the left, making his socialist policies part of the party’s mainstream ideology. At least for now.
                                CNN exit polls showed the key issues for New Hampshire voters were health care, foreign policy, climate change, and income inequality. Voters in the “Live Free or Die” state clearly support Sanders’ positions for Medicare for All, ending endless wars, prioritizing the existential threat of climate change and essentially re-distributing wealth.
                                The reality is that the first four early states, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina only make up around 4% of the total delegates needed for the Democratic nomination.
                                And realists understand socialist policies will not win in a general election against President Donald Trump.
                                I have always said that former Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the candidate to keep an eye on. Coming off a win in Iowa and a close second in New Hampshire, if Buttigieg can scramble together an organization in South Carolina and peel off some disappointed former Vice President Joe Biden voters, he has a chance to give Sanders a run for his money.
                                His moderate views and new generation of leadership is a more viable pathway to a new majority for the Democratic Party.
                                Alice Stewart is a CNN political commentator, former resident fellow at Harvard University and former Communications Director for Ted Cruz for President.

                                Sery Kim: Sanders has a winning strategy — and it’s similar to Trump’s

                                As the Democrats comically fouled their Iowa caucuses and flew to New Hampshire, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden warned of the dangers posed by President Donald Trump’s reelection. This stood in stark contrast to the approach that the eventual victor in New Hampshire’s primary, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, offered — radical change with a side of fun.
                                Beyond his policy proposals, Sanders offered live music by The Strokes. He made the process of picking a presidential candidate as fun, engaging and accessible as could be. And the Sanders’ choice here is critical, because voters, many of whom are exhausted by a prolonged primary process, want to have a good time when they pick a presidential candidate. They want to feel good about themselves, about the candidate they vote for — and certainly about the direction of the country he or she will take it in.
                                And you know who knows this best? Trump. “They can’t take a joke,” the President gleefully proclaimed in New Hampshire on Monday, as the crowd laughed and cheered. And keep in mind, this crowd stood in freezing New Hampshire rain for hours because seeing Trump in person was like seeing The Strokes in concert: Trump is their rock star.
                                Moving forward, the Democrats need to lighten up and enjoy this process. Warren was never more popular than when people saw how much she loved taking selfies for hours on end. And Andrew Yang, who just exited the race, lasted longer than multiple senators and congressmen, in part, because he often looked like he was having a great time.
                                Sery Kim is an attorney, Republican strategist and former senior adviser in the Trump Administration. She currently resides in Texas where she works at the law firm Scheef & Stone, LLP.

                                Van Jones: Yang’s race may have ended, but his ideas live on

                                Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will get most of the attention Tuesday night, and they deserve it. But one of the biggest stories out of New Hampshire was businessman Andrew Yang’s decision to end his presidential campaign. A decade from now, he will appear to be a much more significant voice than we recognize right now.
                                Yang’s campaign did not ask you to hate anybody. So much of politics now is, “Who do you hate?” Liberal elites? Immigrants? Billionaires? Socialists? But you could join the #YangGang and not hate anyone. He simply wanted to make sure we re-tooled the economy for the human, environmental and technological challenges to come.
                                One year ago, Yang was an unknown technology entrepreneur with interesting ideas but limited organization. In the months that followed, he showed the power of ingenuity and authenticity. The fact that he lasted so long — on stages with senators, governors and a former vice president — is nothing short of remarkable. And he broke a color barrier as an Asian-American guy who inspired young Asian-Americans to get involved in the political process.
                                He forced candidates to talk about automation, algorithms and how we measure what is important in society. A year ago, his ideas around universal basic income seemed like a fringe idea few had heard of. Now, UBI is right in the thick of conversation across the country. Yang’s presidential campaign may have ended, but his ideas will live on.
                                Van Jones is CEO of REFORM Alliance and co-founder of #cut50, a bipartisan criminal justice initiative of the Dream Corps. He is also the author of “Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together.”

                                Sarah Isgur: We’ve got a long way to go

                                Now everything changes. Nevada and South Carolina are contests totally unlike their more famous siblings in Iowa and New Hampshire, in which retail politics traditionally help win the day. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar may be leaving New Hampshire with the wind at their backs, but everything about their campaign structures — ground game, messaging, voter targeting — are going to have to shift into new gears.
                                First, the voter demographics are completely different in the next two states. Race is the biggest factor. Iowa and New Hampshire are predominately white states. Nevada, on the other hand, is less than half white — and more than a quarter of South Carolina voters are black. These more diverse states will have different needs and priorities — and the candidates will have to speak to those.
                                Second, these candidates are moving away from states that had held their first-in-the-nation status for decades. Nevada and South Carolina have only held two early nominating contests for Democrats — in 2008 and 2016. This means there is no tried and true path to victory, and far fewer polls to guide the way. And it means there aren’t the same traditional events — like the famous wooden eggs handed out at New Hampshire’s Politics & Eggs Forum — where voters know to go to meet the candidates.
                                While there’s nothing unusual about finding an Iowa voter who has met four presidential candidates in person and asked them each a question, Nevada and South Carolina are still adjusting to their new role in the spotlight.
                                And none of these states will have mattered if this turns into a true battle over delegates. The first four states combined award less than 200 of the 1,991 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. The contests held across the country on Super Tuesday, including California and Texas this year, will award a third of the delegates needed for the nomination. So, what does all this mean for the candidates? In short: we’ve got a long way to go.
                                Sarah Isgur is a CNN political analyst. She has worked on three Republican presidential campaigns and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School.

                                Daniel Guild: More surprises lay ahead

                                Of all the oddities of the American political system, surely the hardest to explain to a non-American is the role expectations play in primary politics. The idea that the candidate who finished third could be the “winner” is, well, strange.
                                Yet that may be exactly what New Hampshire has done. Because, though, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was the victor, with former Mayor Pete Buttigieg just behind him, the real winner — at least in terms of expectations — is Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
                                A mere three weeks ago, she was an afterthought in New Hampshire, mired in the mid-single digits. But a strong close in the Iowa caucuses gave her some measure of momentum. And one supporter told me on Monday that her exchange with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during the debate over democratic socialism and health care is what energized her campaign. She made clear she was an alternative to the current Democratic frontrunner by offering a more moderate path.
                                Notably, in the CNN exit poll, Klobuchar won among those who wanted to unite the country, while Sanders won those who wanted much-needed change. These two competing goals define the divide in the Democratic Party as much as ideology does.
                                If identifying the winners was hard, the losers were easy to spot. Nothing so defined former Vice President Joe Biden’s performance in New Hampshire as his decision to leave the state for South Carolina while voting was still underway. My candidate, Elizabeth Warren, fared little better. She organized early, and she actually led in October — but struggled to maintain that momentum.
                                So, where do we go from here? In the same CNN exit poll, 50% of New Hampshire voters said they did not decide until the last few days of the primary campaign. Perhaps the final lesson from New Hampshire is more surprises are ahead.
                                Daniel Guild is lawyer, project manager and Democratic activist in New Hampshire. He writes for Bleeding Heartland, a progressive political blog.

                                Joe Lockhart: The center-left is strong

                                There are enough numbers out of New Hampshire to craft any narrative that supports your own view of the party and Democratic voters. So, let me get it out of the way right up top.
                                The Democratic party is a center-left party, not an ultra-liberal or far-left party. Exit polls in New Hampshire show that 76% of voters consider themselves somewhat liberal or moderate. Only 21% say they are very liberal. The results tonight are no surprise, with Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Biden combined polling better than Sanders and Warren combined.
                                Second, the Sanders victory is not the blowout we saw four years ago in New Hampshire from the Vermont senator when he won by almost a 2-1 margin over Hillary Clinton. There are more candidates this time around, but it is significant that youth turnout dropped from 2016 by 20%, according to a CNN exit poll. Sanders talks about bringing new voters into the party, but tonight the new voters are not showing up in growing numbers.
                                But the most interesting race, as anticipated, was for third place. Amy Klobuchar, coming off a strong debate last week, has remade her candidacy as one of the top three and viable for the first time. Joe Biden came in a distant fifth, a second gut punch that will be hard to take. But he’s in South Carolina tonight playing to his firewall, African Americans who could, emphasize could, put him back in the race. But even among African Americans, his support has dropped significantly nationally, although not as much in South Carolina.
                                That leaves Elizabeth Warren. She has to be disappointed with a distant fourth place finish. And the question is what happened and what can cushion the descent. As to what happened, I don’t think the political professional class has figured that out, since it happened so quickly.
                                She went from a favorite in the race to someone fighting for her life. My best guess was her somewhat subtle move to the middle made the far left of the party much more comfortable going with the more ideologically dependable Bernie Sanders. Less apparent is that the rise of Pete Buttigieg has also eaten into her base of highly educated middle- and upper-middle-class voters.
                                  And she has no firewall in South Carolina, where she is polling poorly among African Americans and it’s not clear where she can turn it around. That leaves Nevada. She has a good organization and it better book tickets to Vegas and get going. It may be her last stand.
                                  Joe Lockhart was White House press secretary from 1998-2000 in President Bill Clinton’s administration. He co-hosts the podcast “Words Matter.”

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                                  (CNN)In Shakespeare’s tragedy, the armored ghost of Hamlet’s father stalks the ramparts of the royal castle, with a face cast “more in sorrow than in anger.”

                                  She invoked the Declaration of Independence and complimented her colleagues “for their somber approach” to a process that Pelosi herself had long resisted.
                                  Yet the nation saw another facet of the Speaker’s character just hours later when a reporter asked, “Do you hate the President, Madam Speaker?”
                                    She shot back, “I don’t hate anybody,” citing her Catholic upbringing and warned, “Don’t mess with me.”
                                    Those words, wrote Pelosi biographer Elaine Povich, “emphasized that she is powerful and cannot be taken lightly when it comes to describing her motives — particularly where they concern the guideposts of her religion.” She added, “when she was a child, Pelosi has said, her mother thought it might be nice if she became a nun. But Pelosi laughingly suggested she would like it better if she could become a priest, since they had all the power. Exactly.”
                                    Now she does have all the power — at least in writing the next chapter of the impeachment story.
                                    “Support for removing Trump from office has increased in the last two months, thanks to Pelosi’s methodical staging of tightly-managed public hearings designed to make a public, easy-to-understand case that Trump has abused power, obstructed Congress and violated his oath of office,” noted Errol Louis.
                                    The speaker’s approach, he wrote, is driven by a shrewd sense of politics: “It’s safe to say that Pelosi does not get out of bed in the morning without considering the politics of putting on her slippers.”
                                    Julian Zelizer observed that “with a firm hand and clear vision, Speaker Pelosi has done something that no one else seemed to be able to accomplish. She has seized back the public square from the Trump White House.”
                                    But in Scott Jennings‘ view, the impeachment juggernaut is no surprise to Trump’s loyalists; it only draws them closer to him. “It’s true that Pelosi had no choice, although it’s not because of the Constitution,” he wrote. “What have Democrats wanted more than anything since Trump’s election?…The answer is obvious: to undo the 2016 election by any means necessary. It’s a political itch that had to be scratched, and Pelosi could hold off her tormented partisans no longer.” Having liberal Democrats, law professors and world leaders scorning and laughing at Trump, is just what he courted when he was elected to disrupt the elite, said Jennings.
                                    Is there enough evidence to impeach Trump? We asked two expert lawyers, Michael Zeldin and Robert Ray, to trade views.

                                    Trump’s very unhappy trip

                                    If Trump’s trip to London was scripted to divert attention away from the President’s worries back home, it was a complete failure. Even before he landed in London, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, normally a Trump ally but facing a general election Thursday, “made it clear he would rather keep the deeply unpopular Trump at arm’s length,” wrote Frida Ghitis. “Trump has become politically radioactive.”
                                    At the event marking NATO’s 70th anniversary, Trump “clashed with French President Emmanuel Macron and appeared to be mocked by Canada’s Justin Trudeau and other NATO leaders in an embarrassing video,” wrote Aaron David Miller. The upshot: Trump canceled his closing press conference and headed home.
                                    If Trump needed cheering up after the trip, he could take heart in a poll that found that 53% of Republicans think he’s a better president than the first Republican to win that office, Abraham Lincoln.

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                                    The finding is evidence of how firmly today’s Republicans identify with Trump, but not a serious historical comparison. “Though Lincoln and Trump are both nominally Republicans, the party of 1860 and the party of 2019 have nothing in common but the name,” wrote Fred Kaplan. “Lincoln was pro-immigration; he favored a balanced budget; he abhorred deal-making other than as constructive compromise; he believed that it was the job of the president to implement, not to make or to disregard, the law.”

                                    Exit Kamala Harris

                                    Sen. Kamala Harris dropped out of the Democratic presidential contest this week, spurring discussion of how a once promising contender failed to make it even to the first round of the primary voting in 2020.
                                    Why has Mayor Pete Buttigieg gained traction in the party’s center lane while Harris, with more substantial experience in public office, couldn’t, asked Rafia Zakaria. “There are many reasons that Kamala Harris could not sustain her presidential run but one central obstacle is that she made her presidential bid in a country that is unused to seeing women who look like her in power — let alone in the highest political office,” Zakaria wrote.
                                    Harris said she lacked the “financial resources” to continue the campaign. That wasn’t all of it, observed George Skelton in the Los Angeles Times: “Harris’ lack of money was just a symptom of her failed presidential bid, not the root cause of its demise … the plunging poll numbers resulted from her inability to connect with voters. And she couldn’t connect with voters because of the core weakness in her candidacy: a lack of cohesive strategy and clear personal convictions. There was no evidence of the political soul needed to guide her toward public policy she felt strongly about.”
                                    Meanwhile the frontrunner in the race, former Vice President Joe Biden, was traveling by bus on his “No Malarkey” tour of Iowa. At a campaign event in New Hampton, he called a resident who questioned his son’s work for a Ukrainian company a “damn liar.” Then he challenged him to a push-up contest. Let’s face it, wrote LZ Granderson, Biden’s statements have always been problematic. “For as much as Biden…touts himself as the man who can restore dignity to the White House, the truth is he is a behavioral and rhetorical wild card as well.”

                                    Fractured States, Part III

                                    CNN Opinion’s Fractured States of America series is concluding with a deep look at solutions to the political divide. Yaffa Fredrick described two immigrants living in North Carolina who approach issues from opposite ends of the political spectrum. “Rremida Shkoza, a progressive Democrat, did not understand how another immigrant could be a Republican,” she wrote. “Then she met Julia Song, a Brazilian immigrant to the United States, at … an intimate event designed to bring people of opposing political backgrounds together to discuss some of the most controversial issues of the day.
                                    “Song was a proud Trump supporter, who believed that several of the President’s immigration policies were necessary first steps in reforming a broken and backlogged immigration system…Shkoza was quite moved by Song’s experience — and while neither she nor Song switched political sides of the debate, they acknowledged the many layers of complexity to it. Shkoza also believed she had found a pathway forward.”
                                    Stepping outside of our blue and red bubbles is a key first step to healing the nation, Fredrick noted. Here are some pieces outlining other steps to take:

                                    Garry Kasparov: Echoes of Soviet unreality

                                    Garry Kasparov, who became the youngest world chess champion in 1985 and is now a pro-democracy activist, recalled the country of his birth, the Soviet Union.
                                    “Reality was whatever the Party put out on the nightly news, or in the official newspapers, Pravda, which means ‘Truth’, and Izvestia, which means ‘News.’ It was increasingly obvious back then, even to communist true believers, that what we were being told didn’t match the world we saw around us. As the joke went, ‘there is no news in the truth and no truth in the news.'”
                                    An exile now in the United States, Kasparov hears uncomfortable echoes today of the Soviet attitude to truth: “President Donald Trump and his Republican defenders in Congress have followed his lead in declaring war on observed reality.
                                    “Critical reports are ‘fake news,’ journalists reporting the facts are ‘enemies of the people,’ a phrase of Vladimir Lenin’s, debunked conspiracy theories are repeated, and public servants testifying under oath about documented events are dismissed as Never Trumpers. Unable to change the facts, Trump and his supporters instead try to shift the debate into an alternate universe where the truth is whatever they say it is today.”
                                    There is only one truth and there cannot be separate Republican and Democratic forms of reality, Kasparov wrote. “Trump is finally facing the music, and that must begin with everyone facing the facts.”

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                                    Superman, get woke

                                    Superman turned 80 last year and he’s feeling his age.
                                    As Noah Berlatsky wrote, “the first superhero ever created” may still be the most famous. “But he isn’t thought of as an especially relevant or timely character these days. He can outrun a speeding bullet, turn back time and come back from the dead. The one thing he can’t do, apparently, is anchor a hit film in the contemporary superhero era.”
                                    Berlatsky has a plan for that.
                                      The superhero should return to his roots. “Superman as initially conceived in the 1930s,” he wrote, “was successful in part because he spoke so directly to the social tensions and problems of his day — tensions and problems that aren’t so different from our own: gender inequality, corporate corruption and greed, racism and vulnerability to state power.”
                                      Hang in there, Man of Steel.

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                                      (CNN)America is self-segregating into separate political realities. And partisan media is driving much of this division across new platforms, polarizing for profit while amplifying extreme voices and achieving unprecedented reach — including the Oval Office.

                                      We’ve always had partisan media in America, with Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson slashing each other in the pages of competing broadsheets on the same street in Philadelphia.
                                      What we’re dealing with today is different because of the pervasive scale of partisan media and its dissemination alongside disinformation. Its proliferation has been hastened by the rise of a partisan economy amid a fragmented media market, aiming to keep a narrow but intense niche audience addicted to anger, anxiety and resentment. But this is a Faustian bargain, because it requires going to ever-increasing extremes to keep the audience engaged while constantly attacking the credibility of nonpartisan news organizations.
                                      The rise of social media has balkanized us further, amplifying the loudest voices, often manipulating perceptions of public opinion via anonymous bots and trolls, while driving many reasonable people from the public square of civic debate. These disinformation deployments often shape the tone of partisan media while exploiting the lack of trust it has helped create.

                                        Avlon: Our enemies know America is polarized

                                      The result is real: A new Pew Survey shows that 73% of Americans now believe that Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on basic facts. That’s a potential death sentence for a democracy that depends on reasoning together to solve common problems.
                                        This is also an unhealthy departure from our best traditions. We had partisan newspapers in the past that, for example, excoriated and defended the New Deal, but there was still a general baseline commitment to facts and a clear delineation between news and editorial opinion. On the broadcast side, the fairness doctrine, introduced in 1949, was a condition of leasing federal airwaves that aimed to ensure balance by requiring time for opposing political views.
                                        That doesn’t mean there were not deep disagreements and bitter debate.

                                        The Joe McCarthy test

                                        America was tested by the rise of Sen. Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, a conservative, populist anti-communist with a demagogue’s disregard for facts. While accusing Democrats of treason, McCarthy often tried to play the victim of the liberal elite media, equating The Washington Post with the communist Daily Worker — while in fact old-line Republican papers like the Chicago Tribune and New York Herald Tribune were also warning about McCarthy’s tactics.
                                        McCarthy’s rise on the back of wild accusations caused some editors to question whether the traditional approach of simply reporting what a public official said was consistent with the larger responsibility of telling the truth. But McCarthy met his match in Edward R. Murrow, the legendary CBS broadcast news pioneer, who took on McCarthy by fact-checking his public statements, closing his show in March 1954 by saying, “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. … We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason.”
                                        But Murrow vs. McCarthy was a notable exception in a post-war period. Despite the stickiness of who was determining what was fair and balanced, the fairness doctrine proved surprisingly popular among conservatives and liberals who believed it ensured a degree of “public interest” programming. When it was overturned by the Federal Communications Commission in 1987, the Senate voted 59-31 to reinstate it on bipartisan lines — but it was vetoed by former President Ronald Reagan.
                                        This is when partisan media as we know it began to proliferate.

                                        From the fairness doctrine to Fox News

                                        One study by former chief economist at the FCC Thomas Winslow Hazlett, recounted in his book “The Political Spectrum,” found that talk radio took off after the fairness doctrine was dismantled, displacing what had been the most popular radio format: music. Our country got more polarized as partisan opinion became big business, untethered from any obligation to be fair and balanced.
                                        This was the moment Roger Ailes had been waiting for. A one-time talk show producer-turned-political consultant, Ailes pushed a political strategy called “positive polarization” in Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign. While Nixon repeated “the press is the enemy” like a mantra, Ailes envisioned the creation of a conservative news network that could counteract major newspapers and the big three networks.
                                          Ailes had the opportunity to operationalize his partisan dream with the launch of Fox News in 1996. Extending the popularity of right-wing talk radio into cable news, the idea was simple and sinister: Only explicit bias could balance the implicit bias of the mainstream media. But in a breathtaking bit of cynicism, this partisan project would be sold as “fair and balanced.”
                                          Later that same year, MSNBC launched and evolved into a liberal counterweight. The partisan media arms race was on. But what is good for ratings can be bad for the country.

                                          Partisan media and the decline of trust

                                          The impact was clear: Just over a decade later, a Pew Survey on media credibility found that “virtually every news organization or program has seen its credibility marks decline.” Even C-SPAN, which offers unedited coverage of public events, experienced a steep decline in believability. In this hyper-partisan environment, people literally weren’t trusting what they see with their own eyes.
                                          Instead of creating more informed citizens, partisan media compounded tribalism through an echo chamber — a loose network of blogs, talk radio and partisan cable news that mainstreamed conspiracy theories and increasingly gave talking points to party leaders rather than vice versa.
                                          Then came social media. It promised to break down barriers, but instead of simply being a great leveler, it was quickly hijacked by operatives who realized that it was also the greatest vehicle for disinformation ever devised.

                                          The Trump effect

                                          All these dynamics contributed to the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency. He took his reality television celebrity and morphed it into political influence with weekly segments on “Fox and Friends,” where he started peddling the birther conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama was ineligible to be president.
                                          But it was his use of Twitter to hijack news cycles with outrageous statements that really boosted his presidential campaign. What Trump understood better than most is that news doesn’t have a liberal or a conservative bias as much as a conflict bias — and he supplied constant conflict in ways that fired up his base while dominating news cycles on stations and sites across the political spectrum.

                                            Stephen Miller: From white supremacist sites to the White House

                                          The Republican establishment couldn’t stop his rise, because the conservative base had become radicalized by hyper-partisan media while many on the center-right had opted out of the party.
                                            It was a joint effort. During the 2016 campaign, Trump relied on regular strategic conversations with Ailes and Sean Hannity, while bringing on the former head of Breitbart News, Steve Bannon, to run his campaign. Put simply, Trump promoted hyper-partisan media, and they promoted him in return.
                                            On the most extreme edge, we even learned that the campaign’s senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, was back-channeling with Breitbart to influence their immigration coverage with white nationalist sites. On a far more prominent and less fringe scale, The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple chronicled Hannity’s many mentions in campaign emails and called him their “chief propagandist … looped in on all their talking points, their deflections and their innumerable attacks.”
                                            During the final weeks of the campaign, when few even inside Trump’s orbit believed he could win, Trump was musing about starting his own right-wing television station — Trump TV — to be led by none other than Ailes. It would allow him to monetize the movement he’d begun while continuing its momentum based on the idea that the election had been stolen.
                                            But trolls and bots on social media — many of them connected to Russia — were engaging in an all-out final push to try to elect Trump, exploiting the environment of extremism and distrust that partisan media created, posting intentionally fake stories at an accelerated rate. In the final three months of the campaign, the top performing intentionally false stories on Facebook — designed to benefit Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton — out-performed the top news stories from actual publications, according to the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report.
                                            The top two fake news stories were Pope Francis’ (non-existent) endorsement of Trump and Wikileaks’ “confirmation” of Hillary Clinton’s weapons sales to ISIS — which reached more than 1.7 million people. One analyst explained that “it seems pretty clear that false information outperforms true information.”
                                            President-elect Trump quickly tried to twist the term “fake news” — which helped him win the election — to refer to any independent journalism that displeased him in any way. He has used the term more than 1,100 times since inauguration, according to, while autocrats around the world approvingly picked up the term.
                                            Partisan media was in the White House, and Trump’s relationship with Fox News became something unseen in American history — with the President constantly watching and tweeting out promos to friendly shows while hiring more than 20 administration aides from the extended Fox talent pool.
                                            When his staffers burnt out or were forced out, they often found jobs at Fox — while a few lonely correspondents and anchors such as Shepard Smith committed to facts found themselves under fire from viewers as well as the President.
                                              “I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Fox News president-turned-NYU journalism professor Joe Peyronnin told The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer. “It’s as if the President had his own press organization. It’s not healthy.”

                                              Partisan media takes over the White House

                                              We see that partisan media has completed its takeover of the White House — electing and bolstering an unpopular President while perpetuating a separate political reality for his supporters. But there is a cost to living in that closed environment.
                                              The fourth impeachment inquiry in American history was launched because Trump bought into discredited conspiracy theories that Ukraine — not Russia — had hacked the Democratic National Committee while pushing that country’s new President to investigate the family of his chief political rival. These ideas were allegedly spread from interested parties and fringe sites to being investigated by Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani — who fed information to The Hill’s John Solomon — whose articles created “evidence” used to justify the investigation. Solomon would in turn promote his stories on Hannity’s show on Fox News — creating a confirmation bias feedback loop built on falsehoods, or what the President’s supporters might call “alternative facts.”

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                                              The media coverage of the subsequent impeachment inquiry hearings was also polarized, with one side focused on testimony and facts, while the other side attacked the State Department and White House witnesses as “Never Trumpers,” “nerdy guys,” “radicals,” “partisan bureaucrats” and even a “self-important, very narcissistic diplomatic snowflake.” There’s an inability to agree on basic facts, and instead the politics of personal attacks seem to have aligned with the President’s talking points.

                                              Confronting an age of unreason

                                              There’s no question that partisan media has driven the polarization that’s afflicting our nation. It is driving the agenda in the White House. And proximity to power creates a gravitational pull toward normalization.
                                              But the partisan echo chamber is a route to radicalization. As Cass Sunstein explains in his book “Going to Extremes,” “A good way to create an extremist group, or a cult of any kind, is to separate members from the rest of society. The separation can occur physically or psychologically, by creating a sense of suspicion about non-members. With such separation, the information and views of those outside the group can be discredited, and hence nothing will disturb the process of polarization as group members continue to talk.”

                                              Partisan media has gone from advancing an ideological agenda to something uglier, something like a cult that is peddling special knowledge — undermining our ability to reason together as Americans, while sharpening tribal divides.
                                              Confronting this blizzard of lies is one of the defining challenges of our times. To reunite our nation, we must reassert the old wisdom that says everyone is entitled to their own opinion — but not their own facts — and report without fear or favor. As James Madison said two centuries ago, “To the press alone, checkered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression.”

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