—Iraqi government forces and Kurdish militia launched a new operation Sunday near Mosul, the Iraqi city that has been held by Islamic State militants since 2014.
—Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump vowed to take legal action against the women who have accused him of sexual assault or other similar behavior. “All of these liars will be sued once the election is over,” Trump said during a speech Saturday in Pennsylvania. He added later: “I look so forward to doing that.” More here.
—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4).
Spain's Socialist Party has agreed to allow the conservative Popular Party to form a new government, ending months of political stalemate that began late last year after an inconclusive election.
Socialist Party leaders decided Sunday not to block the election of Mariano Rajoy, the Popular Party’s leader, as prime minister. The Socialist Party, commonly known by the abbreviation PSOE, voted 139 to 96 in favor of abstaining from the parliamentary vote, which was scheduled for next weekend. The decision means Rajoy will remain in the office of prime minister, which he has held on an acting basis since December 2015. His Popular Party gained the most votes in national elections in December and June, but did not win an overall majority. PSOE came in second in both elections. Rajoy has served as acting prime minister since.
Mr. Rajoy will have to lead a minority conservative government that faces serious territorial and budgetary challenges. Spain has been threatened with a European Union fine for failing to meet deficit targets agreed with Brussels. And the separatist regional government in Catalonia has pledged to hold an independence referendum in 2017, despite fierce opposition from Madrid and Spanish courts.
PSOE’s decision allows the country to avoid a third election in less than a year. Earlier this month, PSOE forced out its leader, Pedro Sanchez, because he was opposed against a vote of abstention that would cement Rajoy's government.
At least 13 people were killed and more than 30 were injured Sunday in California when a tour bus collided with a tractor-trailer.
The accident occurred at about 5 a.m. local time on Interstate 10, near Palm Springs, police said. Most of the victims were sitting in the front of the bus, which officials say was traveling at “a significant speed” when it hit the back of the truck. Photos from the scene show the front of the bus was destroyed.
The cause of the collision is not yet known. The driver was among the fatalities.
Desert Regional Medical Center, which has the Coachella Valley’s only trauma center, received 14 adult patients, including five who were in critical condition, said public information officer Richard Ramhoff.
Eisenhower Medical Center received 11 adult patients, all with minor injuries, said public information officer Lee Rice.
John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital received five adult patients with minor injuries, including neck strain and cuts and abrasions, said nursing supervisor Stephen Williams.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident.
A worker in Qatar has died during a construction accident at a stadium being built for the country's World Cup tournament in 2022.
The worker died Saturday morning at Al Wakrah Stadium, a 40,000-capacity venue scheduled to be completed by 2018, according to the AP. Officials did not identify the worker, but said his family has been notified. Qatar has previously reported three deaths at building sites for the soccer competition, but said those were not "work-related,"
Human-rights groups have accused Qatar of abusing the labor force behind the tournament, mostly migrant workers from other countries. This spring, Amnesty International interviewed more than 200 mostly South Asian migrants and found that workers were threatened for complaining about poor working conditions and were underpaid or sometimes not paid at all. FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, has also received criticism; human-rights say the organization has ignored allegations of mistreatment of workers in Qatar.
Qatar is building and renovating eight new stadiums for the 2022 tournament, the first time the World Cup will be held in the Middle East.
Iraqi and Kurdish forces launched a new military offensive Sunday on a town near Mosul, the ISIS-held Iraqi city, the AP reports.
The groups have been battling Islamic State militants around Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, over the last week in an attempt to wrest control from the terror organization, which seized it more than two years ago. The operation involves more than 25,000 Iraqi ground forces, advised by U.S. special forces and backed by U.S.-led coalition air strikes.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived in Irbil Sunday to meet with Kurdish leaders and U.S. servicemembers, after visiting Baghdad on Saturday to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Carter praised the Kurdish forces, who are known as peshmerga, and acknowledged the casualties they’ve suffered in the fight for Mosul. More from the AP:
Peshmerga Brig. Gen. Halgord Hekmet, a spokesman for the Kurdish forces, told reporters that 25 of their troops have been killed since the battle to retake Mosul began and a "large number" had been wounded. Speaking through an interpreter, he said the peshmerga have had good coalition air support, but could use more military resources, especially armored vehicles.
He said that most of the fallen peshmerga were riding in regular cars and were more vulnerable. A second priority, he said, would be more devices to help detect roadside bombs.
The operation to retake Mosul from ISIS is expected to take weeks or months.
The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.
Three months ago, no one knew that SARS-CoV-2 existed. Now the virus has spread to almost every country, infecting at least 446,000 people whom we know about, and many more whom we do not. It has crashed economies and broken health-care systems, filled hospitals and emptied public spaces. It has separated people from their workplaces and their friends. It has disrupted modern society on a scale that most living people have never witnessed. Soon, most everyone in the United States will know someone who has been infected. Like World War II or the 9/11 attacks, this pandemic has already imprinted itself upon the nation’s psyche.
A global pandemic of this scale was inevitable. In recent years, hundreds of health experts have written books, white papers, and op-eds warning of the possibility. Bill Gates has been telling anyone who would listen, including the 18 million viewers of his TED Talk. In 2018, I wrote a story for The Atlantic arguing that America was not ready for the pandemic that would eventually come. In October, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security war-gamed what might happen if a new coronavirus swept the globe. And then one did. Hypotheticals became reality. “What if?” became “Now what?”
Across the country, social distancing is morphing from a public-health to political act. The consequences could be disastrous.
For Geoff Frost, the first sign of the coronavirus culture war came last weekend on the golf course. His country club, located in an affluent suburb of Atlanta, had recently introduced a slew of new policies to encourage social distancing. The communal water jugs were gone, the restaurant was closed, and golfers had been asked to limit themselves to one person per cart. Frost, a 43-year-old Democrat, told me the club’s mix of younger liberals and older conservatives had always gotten along just fine—but the guidelines were proving divisive.
At the driving range, while Frost and his like-minded friends slathered on hand sanitizer and kept six feet apart, the white-haired Republicans seemed to delight in breaking the new rules. They made a show of shaking hands, and complained loudly about the “stupid hoax” being propagated by virus alarmists. When their tee times were up, they piled defiantly into golf carts, shoulder to shoulder, and sped off toward the first hole.
The coronavirus outbreak may last for a year or two, but some elements of pre-pandemic life will likely be won back in the meantime.
The new coronavirus has brought American life to a near standstill, closing businesses, canceling large gatherings, and keeping people at home. All of those people must surely be wondering: When will things return to normal?
The answer is simple, if not exactly satisfying: when enough of the population—possibly 60 or 80 percent of people—is resistant to COVID-19 to stifle the disease’s spread from person to person. That is the end goal, although no one knows exactly how long it will take to get there.
There are two realistic paths to achieving this “population-level immunity.” One is the development of a vaccine. The other is for the disease to work its way through the population, surely killing many, but also leaving many others—those who contract the disease and then recover—immune. “They’re just Teflon at that point,” meaning they can’t get infected again and they won’t pass on the disease, explains Andrew Noymer, a public-health professor at the UC Irvine. Once enough people reach Teflon status—though we don’t yet know if recovering from the disease confers any immunity at all, let alone lifelong immunity—normalcy will be restored. (It may also turn out to be the case that people who are immune to the disease can still pass it on under certain circumstances.)*
China warned Italy. Italy warned us. We didn’t listen. Now the onus is on the rest of America to listen to New York.
In the emergency-department waiting room, 150 people worry about a fever. Some just want a test, others badly need medical treatment. Those not at the brink of death have to wait six, eight, 10 hours before they can see a doctor. Those admitted to the hospital might wait a full day for a bed.
I am an emergency-medicine doctor who practices in both Manhattan and Queens; at the moment, I’m in Queens. Normally, I love coming to work here, even though in the best of times, my co-residents and I take care of one of New York City’s most vulnerable, underinsured patient populations. Many have underlying illnesses and a language barrier, and lack primary care.
Trump is utterly unsuited to deal with this crisis, either intellectually or temperamentally.
For his entire adult life, and for his entire presidency, Donald Trump has created his own alternate reality, complete with his own alternate set of facts. He has shown himself to be erratic, impulsive, narcissistic, vindictive, cruel, mendacious, and devoid of empathy. None of that is new.
But we’re now entering the most dangerous phase of the Trump presidency. The pain and hardship that the United States is only beginning to experience stem from a crisis that the president is utterly unsuited to deal with, either intellectually or temperamentally. When things were going relatively well, the nation could more easily absorb the costs of Trump’s psychological and moral distortions and disfigurements. But those days are behind us. The coronavirus pandemic has created the conditions that can catalyze a destructive set of responses from an individual with Trump’s characterological defects and disordered personality.
“The thought of simply breathing in and out without coughing and reuniting with my children ... is goal enough. To—literally—live and let live will be enough.”
I can pinpoint the exact moment I started feeling off. My partner, Will, and I were on a bike ride on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 18, to escape our apartment and get some exercise. This was back when leaving a New York City apartment to get some exercise was still okay, or at least that’s what we’d read, or at least that’s what we thought? If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that what is considered dogma today might change tomorrow.
Ten minutes into our bike ride, I was overcome by an intense fatigue. “I think I have to go back,” I said.
Back home, I felt chilled. Took my temperature: 99.1. I’m normally 97.1, but still, not a huge deal. We’d been so careful about wiping down doorknobs, washing our hands, and keeping everyone except for our family out of our apartment. I’d been ambiently worried enough that my 13-year-old son could be a silent carrier of the virus that I’d yanked him out of his public middle school and off the crowded subways four days before Mayor Bill de Blasio pulled the plug– (far too belatedly, in my opinion). I was getting over a urinary-tract infection, so my fever, I thought, must be from that.
It has taken a good deal longer than it should have, but Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain.
When, in January 2016, I wrote that despite being a lifelong Republican who worked in the previous three GOP administrations, I would never vote for Donald Trump, even though his administration would align much more with my policy views than a Hillary Clinton presidency would, a lot of my Republican friends were befuddled. How could I not vote for a person who checked far more of my policy boxes than his opponent?
What I explained then, and what I have said many times since, is that Trump is fundamentally unfit—intellectually, morally, temperamentally, and psychologically—for office. For me, that is the paramount consideration in electing a president, in part because at some point it’s reasonable to expect that a president will face an unexpected crisis—and at that point, the president’s judgment and discernment, his character and leadership ability, will really matter.
How did we get to the point where ministers, the president, many Republican politicians, and a variety of media outlets are calling for people to risk death to save the economy?
The coronavirus pandemic in the United States has reignited long-standing debates about the relationship between freedom and economic and personal security. After barely a week of a partial lockdown in many parts of the country, Donald Trump and others are now complaining that overly risk-averse public-health officials are threatening to strangle the economy. Trump insists that excessive caution is counterproductive and dangerous: “THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (BY FAR) THAN THE PROBLEM,” he tweeted on March 22. During a briefing at the White House the next day he added: “Our country wasn’t built to be shut down. America will again, and soon, be open for business.”
Conservatives have supported and extended Trump’s position. Writing in TheWashington Post on March 25, the columnist Gary Abernathy claimed that both the stimulus plan passed by the Senate and the shelter-at-home proclamations had completed the nation’s march to socialism begun “incrementally decades ago.” “The delicate balance between freedom and risk was less than an afterthought as our economy was gutted in a matter of days,” Abernathy wrote:
The major dividing line in effective crisis response will not place autocracies on one side and democracies on the other.
When the coronavirus pandemic now sweeping the world was localized in China in January, many people argued that China’s authoritarian system was blocking the flow of information about the seriousness of the situation. The case of Li Wenliang, a physician punished for blowing the whistle early on and who subsequently died from the disease, was seen as emblematic of authoritarian dysfunction.
The situation now looks less rosy for democratic government. Europe now faces a larger disease burden than China, with Italy alone exceeding the number of deaths officially reported in China, despite having one-twentieth the population. It turns out that the leaders of many democracies felt similar pressures to downplay the dangers of the epidemic, whether to avoid injuring the economy or to protect their personal interests. This was true not just of Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro or Mexico’s Lopez Obrador, but also of President Donald Trump, who until mid-March kept insisting that the U.S. had the disease under control and that the epidemic would disappear shortly. This explains why the U.S. lost two months in preparing for the onslaught, creating persistent shortages of testing kits and medical supplies. China, meanwhile, is reporting a leveling off of new cases. Chinese students in Britain have reportedly been astonished at the lax approach taken by Boris Johnson’s government.
“This time of isolation could be a period of great growth or great struggle in your relationship.”
Humans have evolved with a drive to share life with a partner—just not all day long. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors on the savanna formed pair-bonds, but they parted in the morning to go about their separate tasks. So did our ancestors on the farm. For hundreds of thousands of years, even the most devoted couples have been uttering some version of that basic romantic principle: “I married you for better or for worse, but not for lunch.”
So what happens now that spouses are staying home all day, and many unmarried couples suddenly find themselves quarantined together? The peril facing relationships quickly became obvious to the pioneers of this new intimacy on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where couples were cooped up for two weeks in their cabin during the ship’s quarantine. Ellis Vincent, a retired airline executive from Australia, told a reporter that he and his wife, Kimberly, were passing the time by having long conversations during which she displayed a remarkable memory.