Monday Sunrise Briefing: Biden rebounds and Turkey's war in Syria

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Charles McClam cheers at a rally for Democratic candidate former Vice President Joe Biden in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. Biden won with 48% of the vote. Sen. Bernie Sanders got 19.9%.

The field of moderate Democratic presidential candidates narrowed this weekend, as former Vice President Joe Biden decisively won the South Carolina primary. Billionaire Tom Steyer dropped out of the race Saturday, and on Sunday the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, followed suit. 

“Politics at its worst is ugly,” Mr. Buttigieg said Sunday night. “But at its best, politics can lift us up. It is not just policymaking. It is moral. It is soulcraft."

The race now focuses on the 14 states from Maine to California that vote on Super Tuesday in what increasingly looks like a match-up between the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party. Based on this weekend's shifts, the delegate tallies, and the polls, the contest for the Democratic nomination looks like it could be Mr. Biden or Michael Bloomberg versus Sen. Bernie Sanders going into the July convention. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar are banking on winning their home states.

Why We Wrote This

Good morning! Welcome to your Monday, March 2, 2020, sunrise briefing.

Here are three news events from this past weekend (while you may have been watching "The Invisible Man," attending the Lovin’ Spoonful reunion concert, and enjoying an offline life). Also, what to look for in the news this week.

2. The Syrian domino effect.  Europe is now bracing for a fresh wave of war refugees. Syria’s battle with the last rebel fighters in northern Syria this week turned into a conflict between Syrian and Turkish forces. On Sunday, Turkey shot down two Syrian aircraft. And the Russia-backed Syrian offensive has led to a surge of nearly a million Syrian civilians fleeing toward Turkey's southern border.

Meanwhile, more than 13,000 migrants and refugees massed at Turkey's western border Sunday, trying to enter Greece by land and sea after Turkey said its borders were now open to anyone wanting to go to Europe. Ankara’s sudden shift in policy appears intended to pressure Europe into giving Turkey more support in dealing with the fallout from the war in Syrian. Turkey currently hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, as well as many others from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. 

3. A rocky road to peace. The U.S.-Taliban peace deal signed Saturday is seen as a historic opportunity to extricate the United States from Afghanistan after 18 years of conflict. But there’s a hitch already. The deal calls for a confidence-building step: the Afghan government was to release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners ahead of talks next week between Afghan factions in Norway. The Taliban would release up to 1,000 prisoners. But on Sunday, Afghanistan's president said that he rejects the plan to release Taliban prisoners before the Afghan power-sharing talks. 

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Spring has sprung: Fans watch a spring training baseball game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds, Sunday, March 1, 2020, in Phoenix.

Look Ahead

Monday, March 2

Quest for leadership, Part III. Once again - the third time in 11 months - Israel holds a parliamentary election. Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival, center-left Benny Gantz, have failed to form a governing coalition following prior votes. Mr. Netanyahu’s corruption trial starts two weeks later.

Tuesday, March 3

U.S. Big Bang democracy: Voters in 14 states and one U.S. territory go to the polls on Super Tuesday, the biggest single day of primary and caucus activity. More than one third of all delegates (1,357) will be allocated for the Democratic presidential candidates. To win the party nomination, a candidate needs 1,991 delegates.

Wednesday, March 4

Roe v. Wade reckoning? The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on a Louisiana law that requires doctors at abortion clinics to obtain admitting privileges from a nearby hospital. This is the first abortion case heard since Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch joined the court, forming a conservative majority.

High-wire balancing act: Nik Wallenda is scheduled to traverse 1,800 feet over the Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua on a tightrope. Adding to the drama, Masaya has an active lava lake below.

Thursday, March 5

Swing-state campaign: President Donald Trump will participate in a live Fox News Town Hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The state was key to his 2016 victory and is expected to play a similarly decisive role in 2020. Former Vice President Joe Biden was born in Scranton, and often touts his family's roots in the city. 

Saturday, March 7

A whole lotta “Mush!”: The 48th annual Iditarod dog sled race begins as some 57 teams embark on an human-canine endurance test that traverses nearly 1,000 miles of snow and ice. The race record, set in 2017,  is 8 days, 3 hours, 40 minutes, and 13 seconds. 

Generosity Watch

Hirschfeld’s Prom Shoppe via Facebook
Dozens of girls tried on free prom dresses Sunday, March. 1, 2020 at Hirschfeld’s Prom Shoppe in North Platte, Nebraska.

On Sunday, the Hirschfeld’s Prom Shoppe in North Platte, Nebraska opened for three hours and gave away free prom dresses. There were at least 100 beautiful gowns on the racks. “When you’re in high school, going to prom is a memory that stays with you for your entire life,” manager Abbie Pack told the North Platte Telegraph. “We don’t want that dress to be the hurdle that keeps girls from going to prom.”

As parents will tell you, prom isn’t cheap. Dresses often start at $100 and can go above $500 - for an outfit that typically gets worn once. A 2015 study by Visa found the average American family spent $919 on prom, including clothing, transportation, food, hair, makeup, etc. In our home, prom was a stressful time, partly because of the cost but also because of the social baggage associated with this “once in a lifetime event.”

In recent years, several organizations have formed to relieve the stress and sense of inequality often associated with this high school rite of passage. In Boston, the Belle of the Ball gave out some 950 dresses last year. One of the sponsors, Anton’s Cleaners, is currently accepting donations of dresses. In Pompano Beach, Florida, Becca’s Closet hosts an annual prom-dress give-away, and this non-profit has spawned chapters across the U.S. 

Whether it’s a small shop in Nebraska, a nonprofit, or a group of corporate sponsors, the goal is to inspire confidence, one dress at a time.

Hidden gem

Start your week with a recent story that inspired Monitor readers:

How coal mine waste could help build your next phone

Sneak preview

In tonight’s Daily Edition, watch for our story about China's global push for an authoritarian alternative to liberal democracy. It's the second in our "Navigating Uncertainty" series. 

Finally, check out the Monitor’s selected stories from Friday's subscription-only Daily Edition:

  1. Inside the Taliban: What these jihadis say about long-sought peace
  2. In Joe Biden’s last stand, a test for American centrism
  3. After early success, a historic candidacy faces a much steeper hurdle
  4. As natural hair is embraced, states adopt laws to protect it
  5. Going uphill: More skiers take the sport back to its roots

This is a beta test - an experiment with an early Monday morning news update. Please give us your feedback via the link below and let us know what you think. Thank you!

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