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News Brief: N.H. Democratic Debate, Coronavirus, Whistleblower Lawsuit


Tonight, seven Democratic candidates take the debate stage in New Hampshire ahead of the first primary contest of the 2020 race.


That's right. But it's happening as their party deals with the debacle of the first caucus. All the results are finally in from Iowa, and there's no decisive winner. So what could that mean for tonight's debate?

MARTIN: We're joined by NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid, who's going to tell us all the answers, right, Asma?

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: (Laughter) You wish.

MARTIN: Right, because answers are not something that has now become, you know, a part of (laughter) this presidential contest. There was so much drama with the Iowa results. Let's start there. Just tell us what the latest is.

KHALID: So the latest, Rachel, is that we now have 100% of precinct results. So that means we have the entire results that we've been waiting for. I think what's the most astounding thing, though, to me is that the Associated Press is saying it cannot call a winner, that this is just really tight margins between the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders - in addition to the irregularities in this year's caucus process, that it just doesn't think it's possible to determine a winner at this point. So that's where we are.

MARTIN: Wow. So how are the candidates responding? I mean, we saw this kind of vacuum of information that they tried to fill initially. Now that there is this result, this tie, essentially, what's the word from the candidates?

KHALID: Well, so both Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders have essentially declared victory. You know, I got an email from Pete Buttigieg's campaign. The subject line reads, we officially won the Iowa caucuses. I also got one then from Bernie Sanders' campaign saying how they're celebrating winning the popular vote. And so that's essentially what's happening. Sanders did have a pretty clear victory when we look at the popular vote. This, of course, isn't exactly how delegates are differentiated and determined, doled out there in Iowa.

MARTIN: Right. And I've never heard of anyone delineating the popular vote in the Iowa caucuses before.

KHALID: (Laughter) Yeah. And, you know, part of this is because we didn't really always have the specific raw vote totals. This was something that the party brought about in part because of concerns from Bernie Sanders' campaign in 2016. His campaign is now saying that not using the popular vote is just kind of an outdated, arcane model. And I would argue this is probably something both the Iowa Democratic Party and the DNC is going to have to look into moving forward.

But beyond the two of them, we have Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator who has been trying to reassure her voters. She came in third place. She's been trying to pitch herself as a unity candidate who could bring the party back together. And then, perhaps, most striking, you know, Joe Biden has really flatly called Iowa a gut punch. And I was with him both in Iowa on that night and then as he flew into Manchester. And it was just, to me, remarkable with how they were originally describing Iowa as being a good night. And as we've seen results come out, it's pretty clear that it was not a good night for the former vice president.

MARTIN: So looking ahead to the New Hampshire primary, what, if anything, do the complicated Iowa results tell you about what we can expect in New Hampshire?

KHALID: So it really reveals a pretty striking divide within the Democratic Party, largely along progressive and moderate lines. You know, and many people thought that the moderate candidate in that situation would have been the former vice president Joe Biden. But a fourth-place finish for him in Iowa, to be blunt, is not where a lot of folks think a frontrunner should be. So there are certainly very high expectations for Joe Biden to do well in New Hampshire - I will say that could be tough. Bernie Sanders leads in the polls. He's from neighboring Vermont. And New Hampshire is really the state that launched him in 2016. He beat Hillary Clinton there by more than 20 points.

MARTIN: Right.

KHALID: Earlier this cycle, I talked to a lot of New Hampshire progressives. People told me they weren't sure if he should run again, but it seems like a lot of them have come around. Let's take a listen to one guy. His name is Burt Cohen (ph).

BURT COHEN: No matter who the nominee is, he is going to viciously call them, him or her, a socialist. And I was thinking, you know, if, when they hear that word, they scatter like roaches when you turn the light on, that's not going to work. Bernie will stand and go on offense.

KHALID: And so, Rachel, he's describing the fact that he feels like the Republicans, President Trump, is going to call any candidate a socialist.

MARTIN: Right.

KHALID: And as he began to think about that, he's like, really, I felt, he said, that Bernie Sanders was the only one who would be able to stand up to those sorts of attacks.

MARTIN: And tonight, Asma, I imagine we're going to see more pressure on Pete Buttigieg than we have seen before.

KHALID: I would say so.

MARTIN: Right.

KHALID: Really, he has not been in the spotlight so far so much. You know, but the question I do have is that, fundamentally...


KHALID: ...Debates this campaign cycle have not changed the trajectory.

MARTIN: OK. NPR's Asma Khalid for us. Thank you, Asma.

KHALID: Happy to do it.


MARTIN: The Wuhan doctor who tried to get the Chinese government to understand the grave threat of the coronavirus has himself died from the disease.

KING: And his death has left a lot of people in China grieving and furious about how the Chinese government tried to silence him. The virus, meanwhile, is still spreading. China's state broadcaster is reporting that two newborn babies were infected yesterday. They're the youngest cases so far. So China's trying to build more than 20 mass quarantine centers, mostly in Wuhan. And officials are asking family members to report each other for quarantine if they're showing symptoms. At this point, there are more than 31,000 confirmed cases just in China.

MARTIN: All right. We've got NPR's Emily Feng on the line from Beijing. Emily, let's start with these quarantine centers. Who's being sent there?

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: They're for people with mild symptoms of the virus. And they don't have much choice about going. Yesterday, China's vice premier said Wuhan was in a, quote, "state of war." So officials needed to go door to door and inspect people to make sure that they were reporting symptoms and would get sent to quarantine. These quarantine centers are gyms. They're stadiums that have a couple hundred beds shoved into them. And the reason why China needs them is because hospitals are just overflowing.

MARTIN: So, I mean, how are people responding? Are these measures welcome? Are they starting to volunteer themselves or family members for quarantine?

FENG: It's a mixed bag. The concern is what kind of care their family members are going to get in these wards. I talked to this woman in Wuhan named Pan Yifei early this week because she'd been trying to get three family members with the virus into hospitals unsuccessfully. So I asked her today, would she consider these quarantine wards? Here's what she said.

PAN YIFEI: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: She's saying, "I have to admit, the conditions in these wards are all right. They give you food. They take your temperature. But I would not call these quarantine wards. They are where you put people so they can die."


FENG: So local officials are pushing her to send her family members there. She has refused. Other people are so desperate, though, that they'll take any care they can get, and one of these people is Deng Bo (ph) - also from Wuhan. His sister Deng Dan (ph) has been diagnosed. She needs dialysis, though, for a pre-existing condition. And no clinic will take an infected person. So he's trying to get her into a ward, but here's what he said when I called him earlier.

DENG BO: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: He's saying, "I'm helpless. We're at the end of the road. I can't bear to watch as all my loved ones die one by one. I have to do everything I can to save them." His father, I should mention, had already died from a mysterious pneumonia disease. Right now, his local officials have stopped answering his calls. No one will tell him how to get into a ward, and that suggests there are actually not enough room in the quarantine centers now.

MARTIN: Wow. So more than 630 people have died so far. One of them was this doctor who tried to warn the government about the severity of the coronavirus. I mean, the government basically ignored him. Now he himself has died. Is that going to have any effect on how the Chinese government responds moving forward?

FENG: People have been unanimous in their tribute, but it's sparked to the next stage, which is total censorship. All tributes to him that are critical of the party of the government have been censored today online.

MARTIN: Wow. NPR's Emily Feng from Beijing. Thank you, Emily.

FENG: Thanks, Rachel.


MARTIN: All right. We want to give you just a heads up about our last story today - it contains allegations of abuse of minors, and it might be uncomfortable for some listeners. A former high-ranking official at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee says he was fired last year for raising concerns about the issue of abuse of Olympic athletes.

KING: Dr. Bill Moreau filed a whistleblower lawsuit this week. He says the organization isn't doing enough to keep athletes safe even though it's been more than three years since that sexual abuse scandal involving Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

MARTIN: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman has been following all this and joins us this morning. Hi, Tom.


MARTIN: Just give us a little background. Who is Bill Moreau?

GOLDMAN: Bill Moreau is the former vice president of sports medicine at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee - USOPC. And he served in that role for 10 years until he was fired last May. Now, in his position, he didn't treat patients. He says he got athlete patients in front of the right doctors. He also helped oversee Olympic sports medicine operations at Olympic Games, Pan Am Games, big international events like that.

MARTIN: OK, so why does he say he was fired?

GOLDMAN: Well, he says because of his whistleblowing. Over the past couple of years, at least, Moreau repeatedly spoke up about what he alleged to be wrongdoing. It was especially important in his mind because the USOPC, as you know, came under fire after the Larry Nassar scandal broke...

MARTIN: Right.

GOLDMAN: ...You know, for not doing enough to protect athletes. And Moreau says there was still bad stuff going on even after all the scrutiny and calls for change. His lawsuit, which he calls a whistleblower retaliation suit, details several instances, including a case of statutory rape involving a 15-year-old female Paralympic athlete that Moreau says the USOPC didn't initially consider a crime - an incident when a male Olympic coach was discovered naked in a sauna that was in a public space at a USOPC training center.

A Team USA, under-18 female gymnastics team was in the building at the same time. And the coach was only verbally reprimanded. Moreau said he was amazed the coach wasn't fired considering, you know, how we're in this period with Olympic sports where any hint of sexual abuse or impropriety is supposed to be treated very seriously.

MARTIN: So what does Moreau want out of this lawsuit?

GOLDMAN: A jury trial, damages. He wants the USOPC to change. He wants the USOPC to have tougher rules and exert more control over the individual national governing bodies that it oversees. So the rules trickle down to those NGBs and to the clubs below them and to the tens of millions of athletes and coaches who aren't in the spotlight but where bad things can and do happen. He also wants the lawsuit to bring light to what he tried to do. Here he is.


BILL MOREAU: If another kid is raped or another athlete takes their life and I didn't go to the mat and do everything I could to force change, that's something I'd have to live with the rest of my life.

GOLDMAN: Rachel, the USOPC so far has only released a statement about the lawsuit, saying in part, we regret that Dr. Moreau and his attorney have misrepresented the causes of his separation from the USOPC. We will honor their decision to see this matter through in the courts.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Tom Goldman for us on that story. Thank you, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Noel King is a host of Morning Edition and Up First.
Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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