In the News: Week of February 2nd

What happened in the world from February 2nd - 8th

Happy Sunday morning everyone! I hope you are all enjoying your weekend.

In the news this week

President Trump was acquitted of two impeachment charges in the Senate on Wednesday, nearly along party lines. Utah Senator Mitt Romney was the only one to cross party lines in the vote, voting guilty on the charge of abuse of power. This is the first time in American history that a senator has voted against a president in the same political party in impeachment proceedings. If you’ve been following Pierre Delecto, Mitt Romney’s secret Twitter account, you already knew that he wasn’t a huge fan of Trump. 

Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg virtually tied in the Iowa caucuses Monday night. Bernie Sanders won the popular vote, and was virtually tied with Buttigieg for State Delegate Equivalents (Buttigieg captured 26.2% of SDEs and Sanders got 26.1%). The full results in Iowa were delayed for several days, and the AP has said it will not declare a winner. The entire process was a mess; the results were riddled with errors and inconsistencies, and the app made to tabulate results of the caucuses failed miserably.

The company that made the app has also come under scrutiny for taking money from the Buttigieg campaign, and has direct ties to a senior strategist at the campaign. You can read more on that below in the Recommended Reading section. Next up on the electoral calendar is the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, where it looks like Bernie Sanders is hanging on to a small lead over Buttigieg. 538 projects Sanders to have about a 70% chance of winning New Hampshire.

Coronavirus has infected over 37,000 worldwide, and taken over 800 lives. China’s healthcare system has not held up well under pressure, as many who are sick struggle to get access to doctors and medicine. Chinese officials have also been going door-to-door checking citizens for signs of illness and then transporting them to quarantine facilities, sometimes against their will. A doctor from Wuhan, Li Wenliang, passed away from the illness on Friday. He was a whistleblower who initially warned about the virus in December before being silenced by Chinese police. His death was met with an outcry of grief and anger at the Chinese government. 

It’s possible that the virus will not spread as much in western countries as in China, but coronavirus could put a major dent in the Chinese economy, which in turn could put a major dent in the global economy.

Headline of the Week: Florida troopers find narcotics in bag labeled ‘Bag Full of Drugs’

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: the two men arrested must be tied for the stupidest person alive. I, on the other hand, think otherwise. If I was a police officer and I pulled somebody over with a bag labeled ‘Bag Full of Drugs,’ I would never in a million years think the bag actually contained drugs. Would I have still checked the bag? Maybe, it depends on how friendly the guys were acting. Would I be a terrible cop? Probably.

Recommended Reading: New Details Show How Deeply Iowa Caucus App Developer Was Embedded in Democratic Establishment

As I wrote in last week’s edition of In the News, the Democratic candidate who won in Iowa was likely going to get a nice boost in the polls. This boost isn’t from the amount of delegates Iowa has (it’s a small state and the delegate totals are insignificant in the grand scheme of things), but mostly from the media coverage after the caucuses. Iowa is first in the nation, and for better or for worse (usually for worse) an extraordinary amount of importance is placed upon winning Iowa.

There were an uncanny amount of problems with the Iowa caucuses this year (hopefully it will be the nail in the coffin and we can finally knock Iowa off their pedestal). Let’s start with Tara McGowan, co-founder and CEO of ACRONYM. ACRONYM acquired a company that became Shadow early last year. Shadow built the app used by the state Democratic party to tabulate votes, which ended up failing miserably. What’s the problem here? Well, conflicts of interest are everywhere you look.

Pete Buttigieg’s campaign paid Shadow $42,500 for “software rights and subscriptions.” McGowan’s husband is also a senior strategist for the Buttigieg campaign. (I’ve gotta say, getting your wife to build the app used by the Democratic party to count votes is a pretty good strategy for victory). Shadow was launched by former members of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign staff, and a person with knowledge of the company culture said top officials at Shadow regularly expressed hostility to Bernie Sanders’s supporters.

Tara McGowan, who again is the CEO of Acronym, has regularlyexpressed her fondness for Buttigieg on Twitter. She has since deleted those tweets and attempted to distance her company ACRONYM from Shadow, the creators of the app used by the Democratic party in Iowa. McGowan now says that ACRONYM was only an investor in Shadow. The two companies, which share office space, are undeniably and intimately connected. McGowan has used the word “we” to describe the work Shadow is doing, which obviously implies she’s involved enough to consider herself a part of Shadow. Acronym is also the sole investor in Shadow, and internal documents show the two companies have a close relationship.

Let’s get back to what happened in Iowa on Monday night. On the day of the Iowa caucuses, Bernie Sanders was projected to get 28% of the vote, Joe Biden was at 26%, and Pete Buttigieg was at 19%, according to 538. With 100% of the vote finally in, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders are virtually tied with each getting 26% of State Delegate Equivalents (SDEs), Warren is at 18%, and Biden is at 16%. Bernie Sanders is, however, ahead in the popular vote by 3.4% in the first alignment and by 1.5% in the second alignment. The AP announced on Thursday that it would not declare a winner, and the results were found to be riddled with errors and inconsistencies.

The big winner out of all of this, though, is Pete Buittigieg. For some (still unexplained) reason, some results were held back and not released until days after the caucuses ended. It looked like Pete Buttigieg had an insurmountable lead in SDEs, and media outlets were declaring Mayor Pete the likely winner of Iowa. 

It was not until Wednesday night (over two days after the caucuses) that a vote update was released showing very positive results for Sanders in satellite caucuses. He’s now pulled into a virtual tie in SDEs with Buttigieg, and is almost assuredly going to wind up the winner in the popular vote. Tom Perez, chairman of the DNC, called for a recanvass (similar to a full recount, but a little less involved) of the Iowa results on Thursday to “assure public confidence in the results.” The state Democratic party said it would conduct a recount if a candidate requested one.

I am not saying the results from Iowa are incorrect, but I am questioning the integrity of the election. The conflicts of interest are impossible to ignore; I’m not sure if the results were manipulated in any way, but I think it’s possible that the release of the results was manipulated or coordinated. Monday night, and almost all day Tuesday and Wednesday, Pete Buttigieg looked like the certain winner of SDEs and deemed the likely winner of Iowa in the media. If all of the results were released at once, that would not have happened.

Whether Shadow or ACRONYM or the Democratic party had nefarious intentions or not, I think it’s time to get rid of all of these conflicts of interest and buddy-buddy relationships. It seems like common sense that an app used to tabulate votes should be made by an independent company or an organization that doesn’t have ties to any specific candidate, but I guess not. 

At best, what happened in Iowa Monday night was an extremely fishy coincidence involving an organization (the Democratic party) with a history of extremely fishy coincidences. At worst, some bad actors may have been placing their thumb on the scale for a certain candidate or against a certain candidate, which would serve to further erode our faith in American democracy. If the Democratic party wants to remain competitive with the Republican party, they must do better. Accusations of corruption and collusion hurled from Democrats towards the Republican party can be just as easily tossed back at the Democrats, and in some cases it appears that it’s justified.

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