News Brief: Coronavirus, Democratic Presidential Race, Weinstein Trial | WCAI

News Brief: Coronavirus, Democratic Presidential Race, Weinstein Trial

Feb 18, 2020
Originally published on February 18, 2020 8:03 am
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

China's National Health Commission says there are currently 58,106 active cases of the coronavirus in China.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And authorities there are still struggling to contain this virus. They have been enforcing lockdowns in affected areas, covering over 760 million people. That is 760 million people unable to work, unable to shop, unable to go about their daily lives. And the economic impact of the shutdown is being felt far beyond that country's borders.

KING: NPR's correspondent Emily Feng is in Beijing. Good morning, Emily.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: So 760 million - that's a staggering number. How has the Chinese government managed to limit the movements of so many people?

FENG: Through a mixture of high- and low-tech methods. We'd spent some time looking into these methods this week. And I've actually gone through a lot of them reporting on this outbreak over the last month. On the more high-tech side, you have these apps that certain cities have put out where they suck up huge amounts of data on the whereabouts of literally millions of people. Travelers fill out their personal information, their itinerary. And then they might be targeted for self-isolation if they've passed through infected areas. China's state telecom firms also track where you use your phones. And if you want to, they can text you now with all the cities you've been in over the last two weeks in case you need to self-quarantine.

There's also really low-tech methods. So China has mobilized millions of these community officials and volunteers. It's this grassroots social control measure that has roots in Soviet history and China's imperial history. And what they do is they go door to door, and they check your temperature every day. They knock on your door to make sure that you're self-isolating if you need to. And in the hardest hit areas, they'll even deliver your groceries.

KING: Wow. OK, so based on all of that, I would imagine that there must be some concerns about privacy. But let's leave that aside a second, given how destructive this virus has been, and ask, is it working? Are these lockdowns working?

FENG: In some places, they actually might be working too well. One province, Zhejiang, actually told its local officials not to overdo the lockdown measures because they were just getting in the way of living life and economic activity. But in terms of whether these measures are stopping the spread of the virus, the numbers - they are optimistic. The new cases outside of the virus epicenter have been dropping for two weeks, which suggests the virus will soon be contained but not controlled.

At the same time, the lockdowns have had this effect of making it difficult to access medical care. And these mass quarantines in the virus epicenter have likely caused new infections. Today, we saw the death of another major doctor at a leading hospital, Liu Zhiming. He passed away after getting the virus.

KING: Wow. And then in the meantime, there are economic concerns, right? Apple became the first big company to say, we're taking a hit because of this. We got that news last night.

FENG: The impact is almost unimaginable. Economists are telling me that they're predicting 1 to 3% GDP reductions as a result of the virus outbreak, which is literally hundreds of billions of dollars. And the issue here is because many people are staying home. There's simply no workers to staff factories. I visited Apple's main suppliers in China a few days ago. And there, they just don't have enough people to supply the production lines. People who went home for the holidays can no longer return because of quarantine measures. And as a result, Apple has had to downgrade its quarterly revenue projections today.

KING: NPR's Emily Feng in Beijing. Emily, thanks so much.

FENG: Thanks, Noel.

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KING: The Democratic presidential race enters a new phase this week.

GREENE: That's right. So we went through Iowa. We went through New Hampshire. Now more racially and ethnically diverse states, Nevada and South Carolina, will hold caucuses and primaries. And Mike Bloomberg is going to appear in a debate for the first time in Nevada tomorrow night. He had to do well in enough polls to qualify, and a new poll out today got him there. It's actually a poll from NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist. The national poll also shows Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders leading the field by double digits with 31%. This is Sanders speaking to supporters in Las Vegas earlier this week.

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BERNIE SANDERS: In order to win in November, we're going to have to have strong support from the African American community, the Latino community, the Asian community and the Native American community.

KING: NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro is on the line. Good morning, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there.

KING: So Bernie Sanders is looking like a front-runner for now. Our poll certainly shows him leading. How are we explaining this?

MONTANARO: Well, I mean, one thing is the decline of Elizabeth Warren. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren had been competing for progressives, but now they're more coalesced around Sanders. Sanders gained nine points since December. That was the last time we asked about who Democrats want to vote for. But Warren has gone the other way and sort of slid. Sanders, though, predictably, leads with voters under 45, people who live in cities, people without college degrees.

But I have to say it's not just them. Sanders has started to expand his coalition, which accounts for his expanded lead. He leads with women, college graduates. He leads with suburban and rural voters, and is second only to Joe Biden, the former vice president, with black voters. And Biden, by the way, has fallen off considerably, now in third place in this poll after two disappointing showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.

KING: All right. So Sanders seems to be capturing a lot of key demographics. And then there is Michael Bloomberg. What does it mean for the race that he's now looking like a contender?

MONTANARO: Well, first of all, it means that he'll be on the stage, on the debate stage Wednesday. Bloomberg has spent more than $300 million on TV ads of his own money. And those ads are everywhere. And now that's boosted him into second place here. He's got 19% to Sanders' 31%. But you'll get to see the live version now. We'll see how he's able to hold up on the debate stage.

And he and Sanders have already been going after each other. Sanders accused Bloomberg, who's a multi-billionaire, of trying to buy the election. Bloomberg hit back on Sanders, saying that he's not a unifying candidate. He's highlighted how some of his supporters have gone after other Democrats online. And by the way, if Biden continues to fade and other moderates can't show strength with voters of color in these next upcoming contests, Bloomberg would very likely emerge as the only alternative to Sanders on Super Tuesday, March 3, and beyond.

KING: Oh, that's really interesting. And voters of color are going to be very important - right? - because we're going into contests in Nevada and South Carolina, very different than Iowa and New Hampshire.

MONTANARO: Very different. These are two states that look nothing like the electorates in Iowa and New Hampshire. Iowa and New Hampshire, two of the whitest states in the country - more than 90% of the Democratic electorate were white. Nevada and South Carolina - far more diverse. Nevada was 41% non-white in 2016. About 1 in 5 Nevada Democratic voters was Latino in the Democratic primary. In 2016, it was also about 13% black, 4% percent Asian. South Carolina - two-thirds non-white, mostly because of African Americans. In 2016, 61% of the Democratic voters who came out to vote in South Carolina were black.

KING: OK. NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thanks, Domenico.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

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KING: All right. We're going to start with a warning that this next story deals with sexual violence. Jury deliberations start today in Harvey Weinstein's trial.

GREENE: Right. So he is charged in New York with five counts of rape and assault. The prosecution made its closing arguments last Friday.

KING: NPR's Rose Friedman is in New York City. Good morning, Rose.

ROSE FRIEDMAN, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: So you've been watching this trial from the beginning. You've been in the New York City courthouse. And you've described two very different stories or narratives being told. What has the prosecution said? How has it made its case?

FRIEDMAN: The prosecution's case is that Weinstein raped one woman, Jessica Mann, in a Doubletree Hotel in New York in 2013 and forced oral sex on another woman, Miriam Haley, in his own apartment in 2006. They're also using a rape allegation by the actress Annabella Sciorra to bolster the most serious charges. And then they had three other women testify that Weinstein raped or assaulted them. That was in order to show the jury a pattern of his behavior. So the jury heard from six women, and they were these really harrowing, detailed stories. Prosecutors are definitely hoping that hearing from so many witnesses is going to make it hard for the jury to decide that these things did not happen.

Joan Illuzzi, the assistant district attorney who's the prosecutor in the case, used her closing statement Friday to frame the case as really being about power. She described especially the two women in the charges as having really little family support, not very much money. She called Weinstein a predator who thought he could get away with his alleged crimes because - and I'm quoting her - "he saw his victims as ants he could step on with no consequence."

KING: OK. In light of all of this powerful testimony, what has the defense been arguing?

FRIEDMAN: Yeah. The defense's argument is that the women are lying. They say that all of the encounters were consensual at the time and that these women are only later reframing them as forced or unwanted. So they've tried to prove that both by poking holes in the prosecution's case, you know, pointing out inconsistencies in each woman's story, timelines or details that changed over the course of the investigation.

They also have emails and other communication between Weinstein and the women to show that the relationships were friendly and, in their words, even loving before and after the alleged assaults took place. Weinstein's lawyer, Donna Rotunno, knows that this is playing out in public. She told the jury in her closing argument that it's unpopular people who need juries the most. She said to the jury, you don't have to like Mr. Weinstein. This is not a popularity contest.

KING: And so, ultimately, Rose, what will the jury have to decide?

FRIEDMAN: Well, as David said, there are five charges in the case. The most serious could carry up to a life sentence. It's a case with really very little physical evidence, since most of the allegations are about things that happened, you know, years ago in a room between two people. It's also a really unusual case in that prosecutors don't often bring charges in a situation where assaults allegedly happened in relationships that then continued afterwards. So the jury is just going to have to decide whether or not they believe these women who say that the encounters were not consensual.

KING: What do you know about the jury?

FRIEDMAN: The jury is seven men, five women. You know, they've been sitting and listening to this case for three weeks. It was sometimes really hard to sit through. There were painful moments. There were funny moments. There were boring moments. And they haven't been allowed to talk about it at all, even with each other. So today, that all changed. Judge James Burke will give them instructions. And they'll go deliberate.

KING: And I would imagine, as is often the case in situations like this, we don't know how long jury deliberations will take, right?

FRIEDMAN: That's exactly right. They could come back today. They could come back in, you know, days from now.

KING: NPR's Rose Friedman in New York City. Rose, thanks for following this for us.

FRIEDMAN: Thanks, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.