The Rundown for March 12, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… The number of reported coronavirus cases stands at 1,324,488 and the number of dead has reached 79,756, according to figures released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The White House announced yesterday that staffers wear masks while moving about the West Wing. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said she is imposing a modified self-quarantine plan in case she was exposed to the coronavirus during a visit to the White House last Wednesday or meetings in Iowa with Vice President Mike Pence on Friday. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and employees in his office announced plans to work from home after a senior staff member tested positive. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts refuses to identify nursing homes in his state where hundreds of residents and workers. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier regions could start reopening their economies this weekend after meeting criteria.

INFECTION RATES SPIKING IN PLACES… A report compiled by the White House’s pandemic task force claims coronavirus infection rates are spiking to new highs in several metropolitan areas and smaller communities across the country. The finding contradicts claims by President Trump that infections are dropping “all throughout the country.” NBC News obtained a copy of the May 7 coronavirus task force report and noted that some of the highest infection rates have been recorded in Nashville, Tennessee; Des Moines, Iowa; Amarillo, Texas; and Central City, Kentucky.

BARR FACING CALLS FOR RESIGNATION… Almost 2,000 former federal prosecutors and members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation signed their names to an open letter calling for Attorney General William P. Barr’s resignation over the Justice Department’s dropping of the Michael Flynn case in federal court. The letter’s co-signers identified themselves as members of both parties and called the decision to drop Flynn’s prosecution a case of using “the Department as a tool to further President Trump’s personal and political interests.” The letter noted that Barr earlier overruled sentencing recommendations to seek favorable treatment for President Trump’s close associate, Roger Stone.

SIOUX NATIONS DEFY SOUTH DAKOTA GOVERNOR’S ORDER… Leaders from the Cheyenne River and Oglala Sioux nations pushed back against South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s threat of legal action if they did not remove nine coronavirus checkpoints on roads leading onto reservation land. One leader accused Noem’s office of potentially provoking violence over the checkpoints. Over the weekend, 17 South Dakota lawmakers with tribal land within their districts wrote a letter to the governor protesting the order a letter and warning that a lawsuit would cost taxpayer dollars.

FEDERAL JUDGE UPHOLDS PIPELINE RULING… A federal judge in Montana yesterday upheld last month’s ruling that canceled an environmental permit for the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline and threatened other oil and natural gas pipeline projects with delays. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to convinced Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Morris to narrow his April 15 ruling that canceled a permit required for dredging work on pipelines across water bodies. Morris said that the Army Corps did not adequately consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on risks to endangered species and habitat when it renewed the permit in 2017.

JERRY STILLER DIES… Comedy veteran Jerry Stiller died yesterday of natural causes, his son Ben announced yesterday. He was 92. Stiller began his entertainment career in the 1960s as a comedy duo with his wife, Anne Meara, to whom he was married for more than 60 years. He is probably best remembered for playing Frank Costanza over six seasons in the sitcom “Seinfeld,” earning a primetime Emmy nomination in 1997. His other TV roles included Arthur Spooner in the sitcom “The King of Queens.” Stiller appeared with son Ben in several film comedies, including “Zoolander,” “Zoolander 2” and “The Heartbreak Kid.”

REALITY TV TATTOO ARTIST ARRESTED… A tattoo artist featured on the TV reality show “Ink Master” is facing a murder charge in connection with the crash of a high-end sports car that killed his 25-year-old passenger. Los Angeles police say Daniel Joseph Silva was driving a 2020 McLaren 600LT at high speed before it crashed into a stop sign and tree. An LAPD statement characterized the crash as a DUI fatal traffic collision.

BASEBALL PLANNING RE-OPENING… ESPN reported yesterday that Major League Baseball has presented a proposal for teams to return to the field as soon as July 4 weekend for an 82-game season. The proposal also includes an expansion of the playoff field from 10 teams to 14, access to home stadiums in areas that states have approved to reopen, as well as 50 players on the roster per team. Commissioner Rob Manfred reportedly got approval of the plan after presenting an outline to 30 team owners. MLB and the MLB Players Association are scheduled to meet today and negotiate the logistics of launching the season.

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