Democratic Voters Now See Sanders As Primary Front-Runner, Poll Finds

Democratic voters now see Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as more likely to win the party’s presidential primary than his rivals, even as uncertainty about the eventual outcome of the race remains high, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. Nearly 8 in 10, meanwhile, say they’re at least satisfied with the field of candidates currently running.

Sanders, who pulled off a victory in New Hampshire primary, has seen his numbers rise in national polls.

About a third of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters now say they think Sanders is the most likely nominee. This represents a shift from late January, when former Vice President Joe Biden was seen as the most likely eventual winner, and from the days after the Iowa caucuses, when Sanders and Biden were seen as having about equal prospects.

In the latest poll, just 15% name Biden as the most probable winner; 12% name former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and 15% say another candidate. About a fifth say they’re not sure ― a faction that has actually gotten bigger since the beginning of the year.

Just 4% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters say it’s clear which candidate will win. Another 43% say it’s down to a few candidates, and 42% say the primary is still anyone’s to win.

Early-state contests like the ones held in Iowa and New Hampshire are meaningful for the momentum and viability they offer, even if there are limited number of delegates at stake. And public perception about the results isn’t always as simple as crowning one candidate the winner and saying the rest are losers ― multiple contenders may be seen as having pulled out stronger-than-expected performances, or as having failed to meet expectations.

Two-thirds of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters say Sanders did well in New Hampshire, with 58% saying the same of former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and 48% of Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. On the flip slide, 60% see Biden as having done poorly in the state, while 38% say Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard did poorly, and 36% each that businessman Tom Steyer and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren did.

These numbers probably reflect, to some extent, voters’ own preexisting opinions about the candidates. But they also reflect a fairly broad awareness of the dynamics of the election, and the campaign narratives that have played out: After Iowa, voters gave roughly equal standing to Sanders and Buttigieg, with Warren and Biden trailing ― rankings that echoed the eventual results reported from the caucuses.

Just under two-thirds of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters say they followed the results of the New Hampshire primary at least somewhat closely, although just about one-third say they followed it very closely.

After the Iowa caucuses, Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters were divided in their levels of confidence that the results were accurately counted. That’s not the case for New Hampshire. About three-quarters are at least somewhat confident in the results from that state, and about 4 in 10 are very confident. Roughly three-quarters also say they’re at least somewhat confident that the presidential primary as a whole will be conducted fairly.

These voters are also overwhelmingly content with the state of the field. Seventy-nine percent say they’re either satisfied with or enthusiastic about the candidates running in the primary, and just 14% say they’re either dissatisfied or upset. When asked to pick which of the individual candidates they’d be enthusiastic to see as the nominee, 46% picked Warren and 43% chose Sanders, followed by Biden and Klobuchar at 34% each, Bloomberg at 31%, Steyer at 13% and Gabbard at 2%.

Forty-three percent would be upset if Gabbard were nominated, the poll finds, with about a quarter each saying they’d be upset with Bloomberg or Sanders as the nominee. About a fifth would be upset with Biden, and between 12% to 15% say they’d be upset with Warren, Klobuchar, Buttigieg or Steyer.

Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups:

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Feb. 12-15 among U.S. adults, including 322 Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

 

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‘They can’t go back’: Star casinos defy high-roller coronavirus fears

Casino group Star Entertainment has seen a surprise bump in VIP gambling turnover so far this year, defying expectations that the coronavirus and resulting China travel ban would clear its high-roller tables.

The company, which has casinos in Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast, on Thursday reported a 2.4 per cent increase in normalised revenue, including a 2 per cent bump in VIP turnover for the six months to December 31.

The Star has seen a bump in VIP turnover so far this year. Credit:Peter Rae

That is in contrast to its major competitor, James Packer's Crown Resorts, which on Wednesday said its high-roller turnover fell 34 per cent in the first half, driving a 5 per cent fall in overall revenue amid the fallout from revelations it went into business with "junket" partners with links to organised crime.

Star Entertainment chief executive Matt Bekier said the coronavirus caused a sharp drop in domestic visitors in Sydney of about 20 per cent, as people avoided going out amid uncertainty around the infection.

Sydney had stayed subdued but business had mostly recovered in Queensland. While the travel shutdown had stopped many Chinese VIP visitors coming to Australia, it had stopped others going home.

"They’re still in Australia because they can’t go back," Mr Bekier said. “So we’ve been able to keep these customers, we’ve taken them to multiple properties and we’ve done well in the first six weeks."

VIP turnover was up in the first six weeks of 2020 compared to the same period last year, however, Mr Bekier said comparisons could be difficult because of the short time-frame. Domestic revenue was flat so far this year.

Mr Bekier said the medium-term impact of the virus would depend on how quickly borders open up. While it would put pressure on the international VIP business, which represents 8 per cent of its earnings, he was confident the group could cover that by growing its domestic business.

Normalised earnings before interest in the first half of the year was $3 million ahead of market expectations at $307 million.

Macquarie analyst David Fabris said the flat domestic performance so far this year was a "good outcome", given high growth in the prior period, but he forecasts VIP volume will fall 47 per cent in the second half.

"VIP remains the moving part given the coronavirus impacts," Mr Fabris said. "[The] impact will depend on the length of the border closures and speed of market recovery."

Normalised net profit after tax – which strips out the impact of lucky or unlucky streaks on the gaming room floor – was 2.1 per cent higher at $126 million.

Statutory profit was 48.5 per cent lower at $77 million, affected by an unusually low win rate and significant items relating to The Star's proposed Ritz-Carlton Sydney development.

Star's shares were up 4 per cent  at $4.30 in afternoon trading. Like other China-exposed companies, its shares have fallen sharply amid uncertainty around the coronavirus. Even after Thursday's rally the stock is trading 9 per cent lower since January 16.

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Michael Bloomberg Hit From All Sides in Spirited Democratic Debate

Michael Bloomberg came under attack from all sides on the Democratic debate stage Wednesday as his rivals compared him to President Donald Trump for his treatment of women and minorities.

Elizabeth Warren aggressively lashed out at the former New York mayor, who’s recent rise in the polls has shaken up the Democratic presidential race, particularly over his attitudes toward women.

“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against — a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians. And no I’m not talking about Donald Trump, I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg,” Warren said, arguing that the country shouldn’t swap “one arrogant billionaire for another.”

She called on Bloomberg to release women from non-disclosure agreements signed when they settled complaints against his company citing sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.

Bloomberg said that none of the women who filed complaints against his company accused him “of doing anything other than maybe they didn’t like the joke I told.”

He reiterated that he will not revoke the non-disclosure agreements. “They signed these agreements and that’s what we’re going to live with,” Bloomberg said.

(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)

Many of the candidates assailed the former New York mayor on the stop-and-frisk policy carried out by the police department when he led the city.

Bernie Sanders, the current front-runner in the contest, called the policy an “outrageous” affront to blacks and Latinos that will alienate voters Democrats need to defeat Trump.

Joe Biden, who has lost some of his support from black voters to Bloomberg in recent polls, recalled that the Obama administration sent Justice Department monitors to New York because of the policy. He called stop-and-frisk “abhorrent” and “a violation of every right people have.”

Bloomberg, who made a public apology for the policy a week before he entered the race, said he was “worried about, embarrassed about” how the stop-and-frisk policy turned out.

Warren argued that Bloomberg’s apologies have been insufficient and too focused on how the program looks in retrospect. “This isn’t about how it turned out, this is about what it was designed to do to begin with, it targeted communities of color,” she said. “The apology has to start with the intent of the plan as it was put together and the willful ignorance day by day by day.”

Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg also joined in the attacks on Bloomberg, though Buttigieg targeted Sanders as well. He called them “the two most polarizing candidates” in the race.

Bloomberg responded that he’s the only candidate who can beat Trump in November and do an effective job as president. He was direct in his criticism of Sanders, who he views as his main competitor for the Democratic nomination.

“I don’t think there’s any chance of the senator beating President Trump,” Bloomberg said. “I know how to take on an arrogant con man like Donald Trump.”

Buttigieg and Klobuchar, who are competing as the centrist alternatives to Biden and Bloomberg, engaged in a brief but bitter exchange.

Klobuchar was asked to explain her recent stumble in an interview in which she was asked to give the name of Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and couldn’t.

Buttigieg, who correctly answered the question, said her inability to answer the question was evidence that she didn’t have the right knowledge and experience to be president. Klobuchar, who in the past has attacked Buttigieg on his inexperience, responded: “Are you trying to say I’m dumb? Are you mocking me?”

The debate is coming at a pivotal moment for all the candidates. The Nevada caucuses are on Saturday followed a week later by a primary in South Carolina. Bloomberg doesn’t appear on a ballot until 14 states and territories vote March 3 on Super Tuesday, including the big delegate prizes of California and Texas.

Many voters were seeing Bloomberg live for the first time instead of in an ad on television or on social media. Those ads, paid for with Bloomberg’s personal fortune, have fueled a rise in polls that has rattled the Democratic nomination race.

Those polling numbers — he was in a tight third place at 14% to Sanders’ 32% and Joe Biden’s 16% in a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Wednesday — qualified him to join five of his Democratic rivals for the ninth debate of the primary season, sponsored by NBC and the Nevada Independent.

Bloomberg, 78, served three terms as New York’s mayor, but he’s untested on a crowded debate stage, something that’s become routine for the other candidates.

Sanders, 78 and Buttigieg, 38, are neck-and-neck in the delegate count after the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. But Sanders is poised to pull ahead with the Nevada caucuses, as Buttigieg has yet to gain traction with minority voters, who’ll play a much bigger role there and in South Carolina the following week.

Sanders, though, will face questions about whether his progressive policies are too extreme for a general-election campaign. There’s rising concern within the party establishment that the self-described democratic socialist won’t be able to defeat Trump and could be a drag on Democratic candidates running for lower offices.

Both Biden, 77, and Warren, 70, are attempting to right struggling campaigns. Warren’s fortunes have sunk as Sanders’ rose, leaving her with a third-place finish in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire. Likewise, Biden has tumbled from his perch as front-runner as both Buttigieg and Bloomberg have made gains.

Biden has promised a first- or second-place finish in Nevada and wants to show his campaign is still viable after disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Klobuchar, 59, is looking to repeat her performance in the last debate, which served as a springboard to a third-place finish in New Hampshire. But she’s lagged in fund-raising and, as a result, the ability to build a national campaign that will be needed to be competitive in the 14-state Super Tuesday round of primaries.

The other billionaire in the race, former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, did not qualify under the new rules for the first time. He has his best chance to collect delegates in South Carolina, where recent polls show him running in third place behind Biden and Sanders.

— With assistance by Ryan Teague Beckwith

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California Governor’s State Of The State Speech Is Almost All About Homelessness

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) delivered his State of the State address on Wednesday and dedicated nearly the entire speech to one issue: homelessness. 

After kicking off his remarks to lawmakers at the state Capitol in Sacramento by celebrating several wins for the state — including an increase in jobs and providing two years of free community college — Newsom said, “No amount of progress can camouflage the most pernicious crisis in our midst, the ultimate manifestation of poverty: homelessness.”

“Let’s call it what it is, a disgrace, that the richest state in the richest nation — succeeding across so many sectors — is failing to properly house, heal and humanely treat so many of its own people,” he said.

Amid an affordable housing crisis nationwide, more than half a million people across the U.S. were homeless on a given night in 2019 — and more than a quarter of these lived in California, per a report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The number of homeless residents in California went up an alarming 16% from 2018 to 2019 alone, according to the report. 

Newsom spotlighted systemic issues contributing to the problem, such as a decades-long disinvestment in the state’s social safety net and gentrification that pushes lower-income communities of color out of neighborhoods they had lived in. One result of such factors: While Black people represent about 9% of Los Angeles County’s population, they make up an estimated 33% of its homeless residents. 

Earlier this year, Newsom signed an executive order that set up a fund to combat homelessness, made travel trailers available for emergency housing and ordered state agencies to identify land and property that can be used to provide temporary shelters.

In his Wednesday address, the governor announced that the first trailers had been sent to Los Angeles and Oakland and that more could be going to Sonoma County and other jurisdictions. He also said that 286 state properties — including vacant lots and fairgrounds — had been identified for potential use for free by local governments for the housing for homeless residents. 

Newsom also decried the “underproduction of affordable housing.” He added that while he “respect[s] local control,” it should not come “at the cost of creating a two-class California” — an apparent reference to the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) movements that have repeatedly sought to block the building of more multi-family, affordable housing in higher-income areas. 

The governor urged state lawmakers to pass legislation that wouldeliminate red tape and delays” to build more affordable housing, particularly near transit hubs. A controversial bill by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D) — SB50 — which sought to do just that failed in the Legislature earlier this year. Wiener said last week that he plans to rework and reintroduce the legislation.

Newsom also called for more support from the Trump administration, saying the federal government “has an obligation to match its rhetoric with specific, constructive and deliverable results.”

President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked California’s Democratic elected officials over the high rates of homelessness in the state’s major cities. At one point last year, he said that people living on the streets were ruining the “prestige” of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Despite such rhetoric, Trump’s 2020 budget request proposed sweeping cuts to affordable housing programs.

A February poll by the University of Southern California found that likely voters in California ranked homelessness or housing as the top issue facing the state (23%), followed by climate change or the environment (15%), immigration (9%) and “Trump” (7.5%).

An alarming 37.5% of California voters said they were afraid they or someone in their family could become homeless. 

“The state of California can no longer treat homelessness and housing insecurity as someone else’s problem,” Newsom said in his speech. “It is our responsibility. And it must be at the top of our agenda.”

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King Coal isn’t dead yet – just ask Glencore

Thermal coal has become a byword for the resource industry's climate crimes. From BlackRock down, fund managers are reluctant to touch a mineral that releases more carbon dioxide than any other energy source. Large miners, from BHP Group to Anglo American, are trying to dump it.

Coal is also – for now at least – profitable.

It's the unpalatable truth that explains why Glencore, the world's largest exporter of the black stuff, sticks with a dying fuel. Morals aside, the details suggest Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg and his team may well be right.

Coal is dirty but profitable for Glencore’s billionaire CEO Ivan Glasenberg.Credit:Chris Ratcliffe

Tuesday's full-year earnings from the trader and miner bore more than a few smudges. Lower prices for commodities like copper and cobalt took a heavy toll. Coal didn't help, with the price of benchmark Newcastle coal down by over a third in 2019. Colombia, where Glencore's reserves will run out in the next decade or so, accounted for nearly $US1 billion ($1.5 billion) of a $US2.8 billion impairment that dragged the company to its first net loss since 2015.

Those mines supply an Atlantic market where demand has all but dried up, thanks to mild weather, high European carbon prices and cheap gas.

But that doesn't mean the end is nigh.

Coal is obviously not the energy source of the future. That much is apparent even to those who agree with the International Energy Agency's "stated policy" scenario, which sees global coal demand roughly flat out to 2040. Glencore veterans like Glasenberg, who won his spurs trading the mineral, and some of his potential successors can be counted among them.

Short-term opportunities

Yet it's also clear from 2019's numbers that there will be short-term opportunities. Asian demand is holding and global supply is starting to come under pressure, as diversified miners divest and financing costs rise. Last year, global seaborne thermal coal demand was up 1.5 per cent, despite an 18 per cent drop in the market that feeds Europe. That's because in absolute terms, the European drop adds up to 30 million metric tonnes – more than covered by Asia's rise of less than 6 per cent, or 47 million tons.

Consider that over the past 20 years, Asia has accounted for some 90 per cent of all coal-fired plants built globally. That suggests demand will hold enough to support reduced supply, even if by the 2030s more than 80 per cent of the world's appetite will come from Vietnam, India and their neighbours. Plans from homegrown suppliers like Coal India will almost certainly fail to satiate domestic demand.

Granted, sticking with thermal coal isn't a good way to attract investors guided by environmental, social and governance criteria. Yet that's not, as yet, a justification to sell, either.

Glencore could snap up BHP’s Mount Arthur mine.Credit:Jonathan Carroll

Under the current investment criteria at BlackRock, for example, Glencore just needs to keep coal contributing less than a quarter of its revenue. Last year, it amounted to about 4 per cent of the top line, even if the contribution was closer to a quarter in terms of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. Thanks to depleting assets in Colombia, Glencore can even hit its target of shrinking carbon emissions produced by its supply chain, so-called Scope 3, by 30 per cent by 2035, without much effort.

Glencore's coal earnings margins fell sharply last year but remain at a decent 36 per cent, meaning the commodity is still one of its most profitable segments. The fuel effectively funds greener ventures, and keeps trading activities ticking over. That's a good enough reason not to spin off the business, which may in any event do little to help clear other valuation-hampering questions, over leadership and a pending US Department of Justice investigation into possible money-laundering and corruption.

Staying put means Glencore could also snap up some bargains, with BHP selling its huge Mount Arthur mine in the Hunter Valley, not far from its rival's assets. Glasenberg has capped coal production at 150 million metric tonnes – an expedient decision that helps support prices – but there is no reason not to swap Colombian assets for Asia-facing Australia.

The risk of meddling with a moribund commodity, even when you account for much of the world's seaborne supply, is that you can end up with worthless assets.

Unfortunately for a warming climate, that looks a distant enough prospect for the world's largest commodities trader.

Bloomberg

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Justin Beiber, Twitter's Jack Dorsey among MGM Resorts guests to have info made public by hackers

How to prevent hackers from accessing your Ring doorbell

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The personal information of millions of tourists, celebrities, CEOs and government officials — all who have stayed at MGM Resorts hotels — was posted online by hackers earlier this week, according to one report confirmed by FOX Business.

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On Wednesday, ZD Net first reported that hackers published full names, addresses, phone numbers, emails and dates of birth of more than 10.6 million guests of the hospitality company earlier this week.

HACKERS USING CORONAVIRUS TO SCAM PEOPLE, INSTALL MALWARE ON DEVICES

According to a recent report from ZDNet, millions of previous guests of MGM Resorts hotels had their information posted online by hackers.

Among the guests on the list were Justin Bieber, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and officials with the Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration, according to ZDNet.

However, some of the information that was posted was old, according to the website.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
MGM MGM RESORTS INTERNATIONAL 32.09 +0.07 +0.22%

Sources familiar with the matter confirmed to FOX Business that there was a hack of the company's system last July and that the FBI and other law enforcement officials were notified.

However, since the incident, there have been no further issues, the sources said.

AMAZON’S RING MANDATES TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION AFTER CAMERA INTRUSIONS

In a statement, an MGM Resorts spokesperson said: "Last summer, we discovered unauthorized access to a cloud server that contained a limited amount of information for certain previous guests of MGM Resorts. We are confident that no financial, payment card or password data was involved in this matter."

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The spokesperson said potentially affected guests were notified and that the company hired two cybersecurity forensics firms to investigate the incident.

"At MGM Resorts, we take our responsibility to protect guest data very seriously, and we have strengthened and enhanced the security of our network to prevent this from happening again," the spokesperson added.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ON FOX BUSINESS

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Bloomberg qualifies for his first Democratic debate

New York (CNN Business)A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for it here.

The face-off starts at 9pm ET on NBC and MSNBC. If you’re away from a TV, it will be streaming on the Peacock’s various platforms and The Nevada Independent’s website. NBC’s “Nightly Rundown” framed the moment this way: “Michael Bloomberg will face the first major test of his presidential campaign tonight when he makes his debut in the NBC News and MSNBC Democratic Debate, while the billionaire’s team exchanges attacks with the Bernie Sanders camp over the health of the two candidates…”

How will Bloomberg fare?

    Cristina Alesci reports: “Viewers watching the Democratic debate tonight will want sparks to fly between Bloomberg and everyone else, especially Bernie Sanders. And as we’ve reported, all the candidates are ready to rumble. The most unpredictable part of tonight’s main event is how Bloomberg will perform. Several sources close to Bloomberg have told me that as much as he’s rehearsed, Bloomberg could easily say something on stage they’ve never practiced. Although every candidate has some level of unpredictability (and Biden more than others), Bloomberg has a reputation for sometimes making it up as he goes along. For example, his answer to Gayle King when she asked him about stop-and-frisk was to respond that nobody had ever asked him about it until he started running for president. That answer wasn’t in the script.”
    Alesci adds: “Bloomberg also isn’t renowned for his patience or tolerance of criticism. As mayor, he earned a reputation among city hall reporters for being dismissive and snippy when asked a question he didn’t like. Can he keep his cool and be humorous when Sanders and Warren attack him for trying to buy the nomination? If he wants to win over skeptical voters, he’ll need to show them he has the minerals…”

    A nonprofit news site is co-sponsoring

    Wednesday’s debate is a big moment for the Nevada Independent, the three-year-old site founded by veteran Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston.
    Ralston will be moderating alongside NBC’s Lester Holt, Chuck Todd, Hallie Jackson, and Noticias Telemundo’s Vanessa Hauc. “I think it’s great that NBC and the DNC are giving The Indy a chance to partner on this,” Ralston told me. “Sure, it’s an honor for me, but I am so proud of what my staff has done to make this happen.” To that last point, check out Indy reporter Megan Messerly’s Twitter thread with some of the news outlet’s standout work…

    Eight and a half months pregnant!

    Some day Hallie Jackson will be able to tell her daughter about this special night. “I hadn’t expected to travel at 8-and-a-half months pregnant, but my providers gave me the all-clear so I’m thrilled to be in Nevada! It’ll likely be my last out-of-town trip before baby girl arrives,” Jackson told Rainesford Stauffer, who wrote for InStyle about women moderators.
    Last May the DNC “announced that they’d require every democratic debate to include at least one woman moderator,” Stauffer wrote. “It goes without saying that diversity matters, as it ties into the range of questions asked, and perspectives represented: Hauc is an immigrant who is representing her Latino community onstage, and Jackson, who is 8.5 months pregnant, is proving that women are just as adept as men at holding politicians accountable…”

    NBC by the numbers

    Per NBC public relations, 300+ NBC News and MSNBC staffers are on the ground in Nevada… There are “5.2 miles of cabling for the production, debate hall, work spaces, media center and broadcast locations…” and “500 square feet of LED screens throughout the debate hall and media center.”
    Inside the debate hall, the Paris Theater at Paris Las Vegas, there are 33 cameras and 1,200 audience seats. Outside the debate hall, there are enough members of the media to cover the Strip: 449 reporters from 151 outlets have been credentialed for the debate…

    The NEXT debate…

    On Wednesday CBS announced the moderators for next Tuesday’s debate in Charleston, SC. Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King will moderate, and Margaret Brennan, Major Garrett, and Bill Whitaker will join in the questioning…

    Charlotte Alter on this week’s “Reliable” podcast

    Amid all the talk about candidates’ health conditions and advanced ages, I think this podcast chat is very well timed: My guest is TIME national correspondent Charlotte Alter, the author of the brand new book “The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For: How a New Generation of Leaders Will Transform America.” She shares insights about millennial politicians like Pete Buttigieg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Listen to our conversation via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, or your preferred app…

    For the record

    — Andrew Yang will make his debut as a CNN political commentator on Wednesday evening. He is the first of the 2020 contenders to strike a TV deal… (CNN)

      — On Wednesday Fox News scheduled its eighth Dem town hall of the cycle: Amy Klobuchar will take Q’s on Thursday, February 27 in Raleigh, NC…
      — Max Tani has a point: “After 2016, people said media needs to do a better job going to real America to cover the issues Americans actually care about. So it’s interesting to see media spend so much time discussing Bernie supporters’ online behavior, an issue primarily affecting media and political pros…” (Twitter)
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      Coca-Cola boosted by stronger supermarket, cafe and convenience store sales

      Better sales at supermarkets, cafes, fast food outlets and petrol stations have lifted Coca-Cola Amatil to a full year statutory net profit of $374.4 million, with all of the company's business segments delivering revenue growth.

      The company's Australian beverages division recorded revenue growth for the first time since 2012, a point highlighted by Coca-Cola Amatil managing director Alison Watkins.

      Coca-Cola Amatil boss Alison Watkins.Credit:Louie Douvis

      Sales also rose at fast food outlets such as McDonalds and Hungry Jacks. The company also singled out "customer wins in Pizza Hut, which switched to the Coca-Cola range in 2019 for the first time in its 40-year history in Australia".

      Total revenue for the group from continuing operations came in at $5.07 billion, which was ahead of market consensus and 6.7 per cent up on the previous full year.

      "This result demonstrates encouraging progress as we mark the completion of our two-year transition period," Ms Watkins said.

      "In particular, the Australian Accelerated Growth Plan and Indonesia’s Accelerate to Transform Plan are delivering volume and route-to-market improvements in these major markets, with a return to volume and revenue growth in Australia and double-digit revenue and volume growth result in Indonesia & PNG," she said.

      "This result supports our goal of delivering mid-single digit earnings per share growth in 2020 and over the medium term," she said.

      The market reacted positively to the news with Coca-Cola Amatil shares up 2.4 per cent to $12.33 at 10.20am.

      More to come

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      Origin Energy profit drops on power plant outages, price caps

      Power giant Origin Energy's profit has been hit by outages across its coal and gas-fired power plants, new government caps on retail electricity prices and lower average customer usage in the half-year.

      The electricity and gas supplier's bottomline profit in the six months to December 31 dropped from $796 million to $599 million, according to its accounts released on Thursday. Stripping out one-off costs, its underlying profit – more closely watched by the market – fell by 11 per cent to $528 million.

      Origin Energy’s underlying profit has slumped 11 per cent.Credit:Louie Douvis

      Origin chief executive Frank Calabria said the company's retailing division had felt the impact of "price re-regulation" with the introduction of fixed basic energy prices, known as default market offers, and lower electricity usage volumes.

      The performance of its generation business was dragged down by a months-long outage following a breakdown at its Mortlake gas power plant in Victoria and outages at the Eraring coal-fired plant in New South Wales.

      "Our generation team worked against the clock to return a damaged unit to service at Mortlake power station in just six months, while output at Eraring was lower due to planned and unplanned outages," Mr Calabria said.

      "These one-off outages detracted from an otherwise strong operational performance."

      Due to the tight power supply in the east-coast energy grid, especially in Victoria, in the lead-up to summer, Mr Calabria said Origin's priority had been ensuring its generation units were available for the summer peak so homes and business could have reliable supply.

      Origin reported a strong performance from its liquefied natural gas joint venture, Australia Pacific LNG, in Queensland. Origin's distributions rose 32 per cent to $520 million.

      "We reported record production and an increase in profit in integrated gas, on the back of
      the continued operational strength of Australia Pacific LNG," Mr Calabria said.

      The company on Thursday confirmed its full-year guidance for its energy markets business between $1.4 billion and $1.5 billion in underlying earnings. Its Australia Pacific LNG is expected to make a cash distribution to Origin of between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion.

      Origin said shareholders would receive an interim dividend of 15¢ a share, up from 10¢ a year earlier.

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      Pete Buttigieg Hit With Campaign Finance Complaint From Watchdog Group

      A campaign finance watchdog has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging Pete Buttigieg’s campaign illegally coordinated advertising with a super PAC.

      VoteVets, a super PAC that supports military veterans in politics and has thrown its support behind Buttigieg, bought more than $630,000 in television advertising in Nevada — a move that came one week after Buttigieg campaign strategist Michael Halle tweeted that the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor would benefit from his military record being on the airwaves in Nevada through the caucuses, which are on Feb. 22.

      The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, which works to lessen the influence of money in politics, said in its complaint filed Tuesday that “there is reason to believe that VoteVets made, and the Buttigieg campaign accepted, over $639,000 in illegal and excessive in-kind contributions in the form of coordinated communications.”

      HuffPost reported on the tweet and the subsequent VoteVet ads, noting that Halle’s tweet did not appear to violate anti-coordination laws because he sent it in a public forum for all to see. However the Campaign Legal Center says the specificity of the tweet makes it worthy of more legal scrutiny.

      The tweet was very concise, but it was also very specific,” said Brendan Fischer, a campaign finance expert with CLC. “The campaign acknowledged VoteVets was the audience for this communication. The level of specificity for the tweet and the clear audience for the tweet requested and suggested VoteVets run these ads — and then they did.”

      CLC’s use of “requested” or “suggested” is crucial to its complaint. While federal anti-coordination law does allow exceptions “if the information material to the creation, production, or distribution of the communication was obtained from a publicly available source,” that exception does not apply if the campaign is directly suggesting or requesting specific content.

      The Buttigieg campaign declined to comment.

      On Feb. 5, Halle tweeted: “Pete’s military experience and closing message from Iowa work everywhere especially in Nevada where it’s critical they see this on the air through the caucus.” 

      The Buttigieg campaign did not deny that VoteVets was the audience for the tweet. Chris Meagher, a Buttigieg spokesman, said that “if the largest progressive veterans group wants to help spread the word about his service, we welcome it,” in a statement to Politico.

      The following week, VoteVets ran television advertising in Nevada doing just that.

      If the FEC does find the Buttigieg campaign in violation of the law, it would likely result in a fine, Fischer said. He added that the elections commission rules were written decades ago, before the widespread use of social media in presidential campaigns, which can make implementation fuzzy.

      “There’s a fair argument that the FEC coordination rules are so lax and so underenforced that this kind of coordination is legal,” Fischer said. “It’s certainly the case that the FEC has failed to enforce the coordination rules that are on the books, and that invites super PACs and parties to push the legal bounds.”

      But he noted, when it comes to “requesting or suggesting” advertising, the FEC is explicit: There’s no exception for public forums.

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