Feb 2, 2019

Ralph Northam admits wearing blackface in 1984 to imitate Michael Jackson

Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said at a press conference Saturday that although he is "confident" he is not either of the people in the racist yearbook photo that emerged Friday, he participated in a dance contest in 1984 in which he darkened his skin with shoe polish as part of a Michael Jackson costume.

Details: Northam denied that the "shoe polish" constituted blackface. Northam said his memory of how insensitive he thought the costume was is so strong that he is confident he would have remembered if he appeared in the racist yearbook photo. The governor said he saw the photo for the first time when his staff showed it to him yesterday, and that he did not purchase the yearbook.

Go deeper: Ralph Northam's yearbook scandal grows with new blackface admission

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Public transit's death spiral

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Public transit systems across the country are experiencing a painful trifecta: Ridership has collapsed, funding streams are squeezed, and mass transit won't bounce back from the pandemic nearly as fast as other modes of transportation.

Why it matters: Transit agencies could see an annual shortfall of as much as $38 billion due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to TransitCenter. At the same time, they're more important than ever, with more than 36% of essential workers relying on public transportation to get to work.

World coronavirus updates: London mayor says U.K. nowhere near lockdown lifting

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern offered hope in the fight against the novel coronavirus, saying she believes New Zealand has "turned a corner" after two weeks of strict lockdown measures. But London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said the U.K. is "nowhere near" lifting restrictions.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed over 82,000 people and infected 1.4 million others globally as of early Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Global recoveries have surpassed 301,000. Spain has reported the most cases outside the U.S. (more than 141,000) and Italy the most deaths (over 17,000). Half the planet's population is on lockdown.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 33 mins ago - Health

Wisconsin may be the start of the 2020 election wars

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Wisconsin voters braving lines in face masks — after a last-minute Supreme Court ruling against extending the absentee deadline — could foreshadow a nationwide legal struggle over how to conduct elections during the coronavirus outbreak, election experts say.

Why it matters: "It's a harbinger of what's to come in the next skirmishes in the voting wars" from now through November, Richard Hasen, a professor and national election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, told Axios.