Billionaire Michael Bloomberg has ended his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. The former Republican mayor of New York repeatedly teared up Wednesday as he thanked staffers in his Manhattan campaign headquarters, before throwing his support to Joe Biden.
Michael Bloomberg: “I’ve always believed that defeating Donald Trump starts with uniting behind the candidate with the best shot to do it. And after yesterday’s vote, it is clear: that candidate is my friend and a great American, Joe Biden.”
Bloomberg, with a net worth of about $64 billion, is the ninth-richest person on Earth. He spent more than $550 million in just over three months of campaigning. He’s previously committed to spending as much as $2 billion to defeat Trump, and could use some of his wealth to set up a super PAC to pay for new attack ads against Biden’s main opponent, Bernie Sanders.
Health insurance industry stocks surged Wednesday, one day after Joe Biden won 10 of the 14 states that voted on Super Tuesday. Biden opposes Senator Sanders’s Medicare for All legislation, which would replace private insurance companies with a single-payer plan to cover all Americans.
In Vermont, Senator Sanders acknowledged Wednesday his campaign needs to turn out more young voters if he’s to win the nomination. Sanders said he looks forward to debating Joe Biden on March 15.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Joe is running a campaign which is obviously heavily supported by the corporate establishment. At last count, he has received funding from at least 60 billionaires. Sixty billionaires. Our campaign has received more campaign contributions from more Americans, averaging $18.50, than any campaign in the history of our country at this point in time. So, what does it mean when you have a campaign which is funded very significantly by the wealthy and the powerful? Does anyone seriously believe that a president backed by the corporate world is going to bring about the changes in this country that working families and the middle class and lower-income people desperately need?”
The Washington Post is reporting top surrogates and allies of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are discussing ways for their two camps to unite and push a common agenda, with the expectation that Warren will drop out of the race.
The next round of primaries is set for Tuesday, March 10, when voters go to the polls in Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington. Nine percent of all pledged delegates will be up for grabs.
Judges at the International Criminal Court have authorized an investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Taliban, Afghan and U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The ruling at The Hague reverses a decision by the ICC last year not to open an inquiry. At the time, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to cut off visas to ICC staff investigating abuses committed by U.S. troops. Wednesday’s ruling came after the U.S. carried out an airstrike on Taliban fighters in Helmand province — just days after the U.S. signed a deal with the Taliban aimed at ending its 18-year war in Afghanistan. The Taliban has called for deescalation.
In Syria, aid workers say Russian-backed Syrian airstrikes killed 15 civilians in Idlib Thursday, after eight missiles hit a poultry farm. Elsewhere, Israel’s military says its warplanes bombed parts of central and southern Syria, including an alleged Hezbollah site near the city of Homs. Meanwhile, in Ankara, a fistfight broke out on the floor of the Turkish Parliament Wednesday after an opposition lawmaker accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of disrespecting Turkish soldiers who have died fighting in Syria.
In Turkey, an estimated 25,000 refugees and asylum seekers — many of them from Syria — have massed at the border with Greece, after Turkish officials ended a 2016 agreement to prevent them from entering the European Union. On Wednesday, Greek riot police fired tear gas, water cannons and “less lethal” rounds through a border fence into throngs of asylum seekers hoping to reach the European Union. Turkish officials say six asylum seekers were injured after police opened fire with live ammunition, with one of them later dying from his wounds. Other refugees detained by Greek police say they were stripped of their shoes and jackets and severely beaten. The Greek government denied the reports, calling them “fake news.”
European Union officials gathered in Brussels on Wednesday for three days of emergency talks on the humanitarian crisis at the Greece-Turkey border. In a joint statement, EU ministers accused Turkey of using “migratory pressure for political purposes,” and offered Greece more money for border policing.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the European Council to protest, holding signs reading “Refugees Welcome” and “Solidarity = Safe Passage to Europe.” This is Sarah Reader of the human rights group Action for Peace.
Sarah Reader: “We would like to see a Europe that is open to anyone who wants to come here. We’d like to see safe passage for everyone who is currently at the doors of Europe trying to get in. We’d like to see the EU stop criminalizing migrants and people trying to help migrants. I mean, it’s completely outrageous, what is happening in the Mediterranean.”
In the United States, a federal appeals court has ruled the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers can remain in effect for at least one more week — even though the court ruled last Friday the policy violates U.S. law. Wednesday’s decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to stay its decision until March 11 will give the Trump administration more time to push for a review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Some 60,000 asylum seekers have been forced to wait in Mexico in dangerous and often squalid conditions while their claims make their way through U.S. courts, which can take months or even years. If the Supreme Court decides to hear the Trump administration’s appeal, the policy could remain in effect for the foreseeable future.
In climate news, a new scientific paper finds the Congo and Amazon tropical rainforests could soon become net emitters of carbon dioxide — reversing their role as carbon sinks that mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis. The findings published in the journal Nature on Wednesday show carbon dioxide absorption by tropical rainforests peaked in the 1990s and have been falling ever since. Researchers warn that without dramatic action to stabilize the climate, the forests could become a net source of greenhouse gas emissions as early as the mid-2030s.
In Brazil, at least 29 people have died, and more than two dozen are missing, after torrential rains in the southeastern states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro sparked flash floods and landslides. The latest extreme weather came after 52 people were killed and tens of thousands forced from their homes by flooding in Minas Gerais state in January. Local officials have blamed the disasters on a combination of urban expansion and extreme weather due to climate change.
In Alabama, tens of thousands of people have written to Governor Kay Ivey, calling on her to halt tonight’s planned execution of Nathaniel Woods, a condemned prisoner who has consistently maintained his innocence. Woods was convicted of capital murder for the shooting deaths of three Birmingham police officers in 2004. Another death row prisoner convicted in the case, Kerry Spencer, said in a confession he was the sole gunman in the killings. The Death Penalty Information Center says Woods’s case was marred by police misconduct, incompetent legal counsel and an Alabama law that allows death verdicts based on nonunanimous votes by a jury. Despite that, Nathaniel Woods is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. this evening at the Holman Prison in southern Alabama. In a letter to Governor Ivey, Martin Luther King III, son of the slain civil rights leader, wrote, “Killing this African American man, whose case appears to have been strongly mishandled by the courts, could produce an irreversible injustice. Are you willing to allow a potentially innocent man to be executed?”
In Washington, D.C., Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in a pivotal abortion case involving the state of Louisiana. The case involves a statute requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled a similar law in Texas unconstitutional, but since then two Trump appointees — Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch — have tilted the court further to the right. This is Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, speaking at a pro-choice rally outside the Supreme Court Wednesday.
Nancy Northup: “The law that’s being challenged remains one which has no medical benefit, and remains one that would have a tremendous impact in blocking access to clinics and harming women in the state of Louisiana, as it did in the state of Texas. It’s an underhanded law that is designed to bar access to abortion, which the Constitution guarantees.”
Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts has issued a rare rebuke to a U.S. lawmaker. Roberts said in a statement Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer made “inappropriate” and “dangerous” remarks when he said Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh will “pay the price” if they cut back abortion rights. Schumer’s office fired back, calling Roberts’s comments unfair and saying the chief justice was siding with Republicans, and asked why he didn’t issue a similar statement when President Trump attacked justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.