новини економіки та співробітництва

How  Are Vice Presidential  Candidates Vetted?

A presidential nominee usually vets several people so if troubling information is discovered about one pick, the nominee has more options to choose from.   

White House Virus Task Force Member Says ‘None of Us Lie’

A key member of the White House coronavirus task force on Tuesday rejected a suggestion by President Donald Trump that government physicians are lying about the severity of the virus to the American public.Trump retweeted a comment from former game show host Chuck Woolery, who, without evidence, claimed that “everyone is lying,” including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and “our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust.”The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most ,that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I’m sick of it.— Chuck Woolery (@chuckwoolery) FILE – President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence listen as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks about the coronavirus at the White House in Washington, April 17, 2020.Giroir painted a different picture of the soaring number of new coronavirus cases, sometimes more than 60,000 daily in recent days. State governors that had reopened their economies have now ordered bars and other public places to close again in an effort to try to curb the spread of the virus.“We are all very concerned about the outbreak,” Giroir said, with half of the new cases in four states, Florida, Texas, Arizona and California.But he also said that the number of coronavirus patients in hospitals in the U.S. has dropped from a peak of 85,000 to 63,000 and that only 10% of them are on ventilators compared to the one-time 25% figure.The death rate has slowed in the U.S., but Giroir said, “As hospitalizations go up, we would expect deaths to also go up.” More than 135,000 Americans have already died from the virus and more than 3.3 million have been infected, both figures far and away the biggest national totals across the globe.Still, Giroir said, “We are very confident we are going to beat this virus,” but not because it will simply disappear, as Trump said at the beginning of the outbreak in the U.S. in February.Giroir said the virus would only be controlled in the U.S. if Americans wear face masks and socially distance themselves at least two meters from other people.“It starts with you personally,” he said.Giroir said government doctors “are very bullish on our opportunity for vaccines.” He speculated that one might be available by the end of 2020 or early next year.Trump is pressuring officials throughout the country to reopen schools in the coming weeks for in-person instruction again after schools were mostly shut in March as the pandemic swept into the U.S.Giroir said, “We know kids need to be back in school physically, but we have to get the virus under control.”He said “there is no such thing as no danger” in reopening schools, but that “the risk to children is very, very small.”Some of the largest school systems in the country have announced, over Trump’s objections, that they will reopen with virtual learning for students at home, or offer only two or three days a week of in-the-classroom instruction. 

Trump Administration Rescinds Rule on Foreign Students

Facing eight federal lawsuits and opposition from hundreds of universities, the Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded a rule that would have required international students to transfer or leave the country if their schools held classes entirely online because of the pandemic. The decision was announced at the start of a hearing in a federal lawsuit in Boston brought by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said federal immigration authorities agreed to pull the July 6 directive and “return to the status quo.” A lawyer representing the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said only that the judge’s characterization was correct. The announcement brings relief to thousands of foreign students who had been at risk of being deported from the country, along with hundreds of universities that were scrambling to reassess their plans for the fall in light of the policy. Under the policy, international students in the U.S. would have been forbidden from taking all their courses online this fall. New visas would not have been issued to students at schools planning to provide all classes online, which includes Harvard. Students already in the U.S. would have faced deportation if they didn’t transfer schools or leave the country voluntarily. Immigration officials issued the policy last week, reversing earlier guidance from March 13 telling colleges that limits around online education would be suspended during the pandemic. University leaders believed the rule was part of President Donald Trump’s effort to pressure the nation’s schools and colleges to reopen this fall even as new virus cases rise. The policy drew sharp backlash from higher education institutions, with more than 200 signing court briefs supporting the challenge by Harvard and MIT. Colleges said the policy would put students’ safety at risk and hurt schools financially. Many schools rely on tuition from international students, and some stood to lose millions of dollars in revenue if the rule had taken hold. Harvard and MIT were the first to contest the policy, but at least seven other federal suits had been filed by universities and states opposing the rule.  Harvard and MIT argued that immigration officials violated procedural rules by issuing the guidance without justification and without allowing the public to respond. They also argued that the policy contradicted ICE’s March 13 directive telling schools that existing limits on online education would be suspended “for the duration of the emergency.” The suit noted that Trump’s national emergency declaration has not been rescinded and that virus cases are spiking in some regions. Immigration officials, however, argued that they told colleges all along that any guidance prompted by the pandemic was subject to change. They said the rule was consistent with existing law barring international students from taking classes entirely online. Federal officials said they were providing leniency by allowing students to keep their visas even if they study online from abroad. 

Masks for Kids? Schools Confront Politics of Reopening

On one side are parents saying, let kids be kids. They object to masks and social distancing in classrooms this fall — arguing both could hurt their children’s well-being — and want schools to reopen full time.  
On the other side are parents and teachers who call for safeguards that would have been unimaginable before the coronavirus pandemic: part-time school, face coverings for all or a fully online curriculum.
The impassioned tug-of-wars have put educators in the middle of an increasingly politicized debate on how best to reopen schools this fall, a daunting challenge as infections spike in the U.S.
“Don’t tell me my kid has to wear a mask,” said Kim Sherman, a mother of three in the central California city of Clovis who describes herself as very conservative and very pro-Trump. “I don’t need to be dictated to to tell me how best to raise my kids.”
With many districts still finalizing how they may reopen, President Donald Trump has ramped up pressure to get public schools back in business, threatening to withhold federal funding from those that don’t resume in-person classes. Without evidence, he’s accused Democrats of wanting schools closed because of politics, not health.
Similar mudslinging is happening at school board meetings, in neighbors’ social media clashes and in online petitions.
Some parents have threatened to pull their children — and the funding they provide — if masks are required.
Hillary Salway, a mother of three in Orange County, California, is part of a vocal minority calling for schools to fully open with “normal social interaction.” If the district requires masks for her son’s kindergarten class, she says, “I don’t know if my son will be starting his educational career in the public school system this fall.”  
She wants him to feel free to hug his teacher and friends and can’t imagine sending him to a school where he’ll get reprimanded for sharing a toy. She started a petition last month urging her district to “keep facial expressions visually available” and helped organize a protest of over 100 people outside the district office, with signs saying, “No to masks, Yes to recess,” and “Let me breathe.”  
Dozens have echoed her beliefs at Orange County Board of Education meetings, where the five-member elected body is majority Republican and is recommending a full return to school without masks or social distancing. The board makes recommendations but not policy, and its supporters argue that face coverings are ineffective, give a false sense of security and are potentially detrimental.  
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says masks may help prevent infected people from spreading the virus to others and urged students and teachers to wear them whenever feasible. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered Californians to wear them in public.  
Brooke Aston Harper, a liberal parent who attended a particularly spirited board meeting recently, said it was “horrifying” that speakers were “imposing their small worldview on all of us.”
“I’m not looking for a fight, I just want us to take precautions,” said Harper, whose children are 4 and 6.  
She also started a petition, calling on schools to follow state guidelines that include masks for teachers and students, constant social distancing on campuses and other measures.  
“For each school board, the question is going to be: What does our community want, and who is the loudest?” she said.
Many parents, educators and doctors agree that the social, educational and emotional costs to children of a long shutdown may outweigh the risk of the virus itself, even if they don’t agree on how to reopen safely. The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued guidelines supporting in-person school to avoid social isolation and depression in students. But it said science, not politics, must guide decisions where COVID-19 is spreading.
While children have proven to be less susceptible to the virus, teachers are vulnerable. And many are scared.
“I will be wearing a mask, a face shield, possibly gloves, and I’m even considering getting some type of body covering to wear,” says Stacey Pugh, a fifth-grade teacher in suburban Houston.
She hopes her Aldine district will mandate masks for students.  
“Come the fall, we’re going to be the front-line workers,” said Pugh, whose two children will do distance learning with her retired father.  
In Texas, a virus hot spot, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and education leaders say it’s safe to reopen schools in August. Districts must offer remote learning for students who opt to stay home, but the state didn’t issue safety guidelines, calling masks a local decision.  
The Texas American Federation of Teachers and other unions have demanded clear guidelines.  
“Texas AFT says a big ‘hell no’ to what looks like a return to normal in August,” president Zeph Capo said. “We won’t sacrifice our members and students for politics.”
The country’s two largest school districts, New York City and Los Angeles, say schools cannot fully reopen in the liberal cities.  
While New York City officials say schools will likely combine in-person and distance learning, the Los Angeles school district announced Monday that its students will start the term with online classes from home. Other California cities, including San Diego and Oakland, also say their campuses will stay closed.  
“A 10-year-old student might have a 30-year-old teacher a 50-year-old bus driver or live with a 70-year-old grandmother. All need to be protected,” LA Superintendent Austin Beutner said. “There is a public health imperative to keep schools from becoming a petri dish.”  
Besides masks, the CDC has recommended schools spread out desks, stagger schedules, have meals in classrooms instead of the cafeteria and add physical barriers between bathroom sinks.
Many small, rural communities argue they shouldn’t have to comply with the same rules as big cities, where infection rates are higher.  
Craig Guensler, superintendent of a small district in California’s mostly rural Yuba County, says officials will try to follow state mandates. They have spent $25,000 on what he calls “spit guards, for lack of a better term” — clear Plexiglas dividers to separate desks — at Wheatland Unified School District’s four schools.
Eighty-five percent of parents said in a survey they want their kids in school full time. Officials will space out desks as much as possible but still expect up to 28 in each classroom, Guensler said. Many parents are adamant their children not wear masks, and he suspects they will find loopholes if California requires them.
“Our expectation is we’re going to get pummeled with pediatricians writing notes, saying, ‘My child can’t wear a mask,'” he said. 

Former AG Sessions, Trump-Backed Tuberville Compete in Alabama Primary

Voters in three U.S. states cast ballots Tuesday in primary elections to finalize the candidates who will compete in some of the closely watched races as Democrats and Republicans battle for control of the Senate in the November national election. In a Republican runoff election in Alabama, voters are deciding between former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville, a former Auburn University football coach who has the endorsement of President Donald Trump. The winner will go up against Democratic Senator Doug Jones in November. Sessions held the seat for 20 years, but resigned so he could lead the Justice Department when Trump took office in 2017.  He drew Trump’s ire when he recused himself from the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election because of several meetings he held before election day with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. Trump has continued to criticize Sessions, including a Saturday tweet calling him “a disaster who has let us all down.” Sessions dismissed Trump’s comments as “juvenile insults,” and he questioned Tuberville’s credentials, saying his opponent “relies on flashy, consultant-written talking points and TV ads instead of taking questions or debating because he’s scared he might accidentally give away the game he’s playing.” In Texas, there is a Democratic primary runoff between combat veteran Mary Jennings Hegar and state senator Royce West.  The winner will go up against Republican Senator John Cornyn.U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) speaks to reporters after opening arguments concluded in the Senate impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 28, 2020.Cornyn has represented Texas for three terms and polls show him leading against either Hegar or West. In addition to the Senate primary, there are a number of House primaries contested Tuesday in Texas, including a battle between former Republican Congressman Pete Sessions and Renee Swann, an eye surgery co-owner and political newcomer who has the endorsement of retiring incumbent Congressman Bill Flores. The Texas voting was originally set to take place in May, but was postponed due to concerns about having people gather at polling places during the coronavirus pandemic. Election officials in the state of Maine said they have received a huge number of mail-in ballots for Tuesday’s primaries, which include an important three-way race for the Democratic nomination to go up against Republican Senator Susan Collins. Democrats are targeting Collins as one of their top hopes in unseating a Republican and trying to gain the three seats necessary to flip the current slim Republican majority in the Senate. State House speaker Sara Gideon has been the front-runner in the race with the largest campaign donations as she faces attorney Bre Kidman and activist Betsy Sweet. As of Monday, voters had requested more than 203,000 absentee ballots, which officials said was about five times the number requested during the 2018 primary election. Mail-in ballots have been a focus for leaders in many states trying to maintain voter participation this year while adhering to stay-at-home measures meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus. As in Alabama and Texas, Maine also has a few House primaries Tuesday. In the state’s second congressional district, Adrienne Bennett, Eric Brakey and Dale Crafts are competing for the Republican nomination to go up against incumbent Democratic Congressman Jared Golden. 

AP Fact Check: Trump Team’s False Comfort on Schools, Virus 

President Donald Trump’s aides are misrepresenting the record on kids and the coronavirus as they push for schools to reopen. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday inaccurately characterized what the chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said on the matter. A day earlier, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also was wrong in stating that the research shows there is no danger “in any way” if kids are in school. No such conclusion has been reached. Their comments came as Trump continued to spread falsehoods about a pandemic that is taking a disproportionate hit on the U.S. and is not under control. A look at recent claims and reality:Schools  McEnanty: “Just last week you heard Dr. Redfield say that children are not spreading this.” — Monday on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends”  The facts: No, Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC director, did not say that. He said officials don’t have evidence that children are “driving” infections at this point. But they have not ruled out that children spread the virus to adults. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, said last week the government doesn’t have enough data to show whether and to what degree kids can infect others. The bulk of data has been collected from adults and particularly from those who were sick, leaving questions about children still unanswered, Birx said. She said children under 10 are the least tested age group. The officials did not reach a conclusion that “children are not spreading this.” Nor does the evidence prove that they are. The government has counted tens of thousands of children who have been infected with the virus and in some cases hospitalized. Overall, public health officials believe the virus is less dangerous to children than adults. ——Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Education building, July 8, 2020, in Washington.Devos: “There’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous.” — Sunday on “Fox News Sunday.” The facts: Not so. Like McEnany, DeVos is suggesting certainty where none exists as she urged schools to provide full-time, in-person learning in the fall even with community transmission of COVID-19 rising in many parts of the U.S. It’s premature to claim that there are no risks “in any way” seen in data. How significant a risk has not been established. The CDC in April studied the pandemic’s effect on different ages in the U.S. and reviewed preliminary research in China, where the coronavirus started. It said social distancing is important for children, too, for their own safety and that of others. “Whereas most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe, serious COVID-19 illness resulting in hospitalization still occurs in this age group,” the CDC study says.  In May, the CDC also warned doctors to be on the lookout for a rare but life-threatening inflammatory reaction in some children who’ve had the coronavirus. The condition had been reported in more than 100 children in New York and in some kids in several other states and in Europe, with some deaths.  The agency’s current guidance for communities on the reopening of K-12 schools says the goal is to “help protect students, teachers, administrators, and staff and slow the spread of COVID-19.” The guidance says “full sized, in person classes” present the “highest risk” of spreading the virus and advises face masks, spreading out of desks, staggered schedules, eating meals in classrooms instead of the cafeteria and “staying home when appropriate” to help avert spikes in virus cases.   ——Virus Trump: “Deaths in the U.S. are way down.” — tweet on July 6, one of at least a half dozen heralding a drop in daily deaths from the virus. The facts: It’s true that deaths dipped as infections spiked in many parts of the country. But deaths lag sickness. And now, the widely expected upturn in U.S. deaths has begun, driven by fatalities in states in the South and West, according to data analyzed by The Associated Press. “It’s a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday. He advised Americans: “Don’t get yourself into false complacency.” The new AP analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University shows the seven-day rolling average for daily reported deaths in the U.S. increased to 664 on Friday from 578 two weeks ago, as deaths rose in more than half the states. That’s still well below the lethal numbers of April. “It’s consistently picking up,” said William Hanage, a Harvard University infectious diseases researcher. “And it’s picking up at the time you’d expect it to.” ——Trump: “For the 1/100th time, the reason we show so many Cases, compared to other countries that haven’t done nearly as well as we have, is that our TESTING is much bigger and better. We have tested 40,000,000 people. If we did 20,000,000 instead, Cases would be half, etc. NOT REPORTED!” — tweet Thursday. The facts: His notion that infections are high only because the U.S. diagnostic testing has increased is false. His own top public health officials have shot down this line of thinking. Infections are rising because people are infecting each other more than they were when most everyone was hunkered down. It’s true that increased testing also contributes to the higher numbers. When you look harder, you’re going to see more. But the testing has uncovered a worrisome trend: The percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is on the rise across nearly the entire country.  That’s a clear demonstration that sickness is spreading and that the U.S. testing system is falling short. “A high rate of positive tests indicates a government is only testing the sickest patients who seek out medical attention and is not casting a wide enough net,” says the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, a primary source of updated information on the pandemic. Americans are being confronted with long lines at testing sites, often disqualified if they are not showing symptoms and, if tested, forced to wait many days for results.  —— Trump on the coronavirus: “We have the lowest Mortality Rate in the World.” – tweet Tuesday. The facts:  This statement is wholly unsupported. An accurate death rate is impossible to know. Every country tests and counts people differently, and some are unreliable in reporting cases. Without knowing the true number of people who become infected, it cannot be determined what portion of them die. Using a count kept by Johns Hopkins University, you can compare the number of recorded deaths with the number of reported cases. That count shows the U.S. experiencing more deaths as a percentage of cases than most other countries now being hit hard with the pandemic. The statistics look better for the U.S. when the list is expanded to include European countries that were slammed early on by the virus but now appear to have it under control. Even then, the U.S. is not shown to be among the best in avoiding death. Such calculations, though, do not provide a reliable measurement of actual death rates, because of the variations in testing and reporting, and the Johns Hopkins tally is not meant to be such a measure. The only way to tell how many cases have gone uncounted, and therefore what percentage of infected people have died from the disease, is to do another kind of test comprehensively, of people’s blood, to find how many people bear immune system antibodies to the virus. Globally, that is only being done in select places. ——Economy Trump: “Job growth is biggest in history.” — tweet Wednesday. The facts: Yes, but only because it is following the greatest job losses in history, by far.  The U.S. economy shed more than 22 million jobs in March and April, wiping out nearly a decade of job growth in just two months, as the viral outbreak intensified and nearly all states shut down nonessential businesses. Since then, 7.5 million, or about one-third, of those jobs have been recovered as businesses reopened. Even after those gains, the unemployment rate is 11.1%, down from April and May but otherwise higher than at any point since the Depression.  ——Trump: “Economy and Jobs are growing MUCH faster than anyone (except me!) expected.” — tweet Wednesday. The facts: Not really. It’s true that May’s gain of 2.7 million jobs was unexpected. Economists had forecast another month of job losses. But most economists projected hiring would sharply rebound by June or at the latest July, once businesses began to reopen. The gains kicked in a month earlier than forecast. Now, though, coronavirus cases are rising in most states, imperiling the climb back. In six states representing one-third of the economy — Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, and Texas — governors are reversing their reopening plans, and the restart is on pause in 15 other states. Such reversals are keeping layoffs elevated and threatening to weaken hiring.  —— Trump team on BidenTrump campaign ad, playing out a scenario where a person needing help calls the police in a Biden presidency and gets a voice recording: “You have reached the 911 police emergency line. Due to defunding of the police department, we’re sorry but no one is here to take your call.” The ad closes with the message: “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” The facts: Biden has not joined the call of protesters who demanded “defund the police” after Floyd’s killing. He’s proposed more money for police, conditioned to improvements in their practices. “I don’t support defunding the police,” Biden said last month in a CBS interview. But he said he would support tying federal aid to police based on whether “they meet certain basic standards of decency, honorableness and, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community, everybody in the community.” Biden’s criminal justice agenda, released long before he became the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, proposes more federal money for “training that is needed to avert tragic, unjustifiable deaths” and hiring more officers to ensure that departments are racially and ethnically reflective of the populations they serve. Specifically, he calls for a $300 million infusion into existing federal community policing grant programs. That adds up to more money for police, not defunding law enforcement. Biden also wants the federal government to spend more on education, social services and struggling areas of cities and rural America, to address root causes of crime. Democrats, meanwhile, have pointed to Trump’s repeated proposals in the administration’s budget to cut community policing and mediation programs at the Justice Department. Congressional Republicans say the program can be effectively merged with other divisions, but Democrats have repeatedly blocked the effort. The program has been used to help provide federal oversight of local police departments. Despite proposed cuts, Attorney General William Barr last month said that the department would use the COPS program funding to hire over 2,700 police officers at nearly 600 departments across the country. ——Vice President Mike Pence: Biden “said that he would, quote, absolutely cut funding for law enforcement.” — remarks Thursday in Philadelphia. Republican National Committee email: “In the wake of rioting, looting, and tragic murders ripping apart communities across the country, Joe Biden said ‘Yes, absolutely’ he wants to defund the police.” — email Wednesday from Steve Guest, RNC’s rapid response director. The facts: That’s misleading, a selective use of Biden’s words on the subject. The RNC email links to an excerpted video clip of Biden’s conversation with liberal activist Ady Barkan, who endorsed Biden on Wednesday after supporting Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries. A full recording of that conversation, provided by the Biden campaign to The Associated Press, shows he again declined to support defunding police. Barkan raises the issue of police reform and asks whether Biden would funnel money into social services, mental health counseling and affordable housing to help reduce civilian interactions with police. Biden responds that he is calling for increased funding for mental health providers but “that’s not the same as getting rid of or defunding all the police” and that both approaches are needed, including more money for community police. Asked again by Barkan, “so we agree that we can redirect some of the funding,” Biden then answers “absolutely yes.” Biden then gives the caveat that he means “not just redirect” federal money potentially but “condition” it on police improvements. “If they don’t eliminate choke holds, they don’t get (federal) grants, if they don’t do the following, they don’t get any help,” Biden replied.  “The vast majority of all police departments are funded by the locality, funded by the municipality, funded by the state,” he added. “It’s only the federal government comes in on top of that, and so it says you want help, you have to do the following reforms.” ——Biden on TrumpBiden: “President Trump claimed to the American people that he was a wartime leader, but instead of taking responsibility, Trump has waved a white flag, revealing that he ordered the slowing of testing and having his administration tell Americans that they simply need to ‘live with it.” – statement Wednesday marking the rise in U.S. coronavirus infections to more than 3 million. The facts: To be clear, the government did not slow testing on the orders of the president.  Trump at first denied he was joking when he told a Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally on June 20 that he said “to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please'” because “they test and they test.” Days later he said he didn’t really mean it. In any event, a succession of his public-health officials testified to Congress that the president never asked them to slow testing and that they were doing all they could to increase it. But testing remains markedly insufficient.  

Court Refuses to Order Houston to Host Texas GOP Gathering

The Texas Supreme Court on Monday upheld Houston’s refusal to allow the state Republican convention to hold in-person events in the city due to the coronavirus pandemic.  The court dismissed an appeal of a state district judge’s denial of a temporary restraining order sought by the state Republican Party. Shortly after the ruling, GOP leaders said they would call a meeting of the party’s executive committee to “finalize our path forward.” A separate court hearing was ongoing Monday in Harris County, where Houston is located, in which a different judge was hearing the party’s arguments to allow the convention to go forward.  The state GOP convention had been scheduled to begin Thursday at Houston’s downtown convention center and was expected to draw thousands of participants. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, said last week that he had directed city lawyers to terminate the contract because he believed the event could not be held safely. He denied that the convention was cancelled due to political differences and cited the potential risk to service workers and first responders if the virus spread through the convention. The state party sued a day later, alleging the city illegally breached the contract and accusing Turner of shedding “crocodile tears.” “The Party argues it has constitutional rights to hold a convention and engage in electoral activities, and that is unquestionably true,” the Supreme Court wrote in its opinion. “But those rights do not allow it to simply commandeer use of the Center.” State District Judge Larry Weiman last week sided with Turner, citing Houston statistics that show major hospitals exceeding their base intensive-care capacity due to an influx of COVID-19 patients.  Texas has set daily records in recent days for the number of COVID-19 deaths and confirmed cases. Top officials in Houston have called for the city to lock back down as area hospitals strain to accommodate an onslaught of patients. The Texas Medical Association withdrew its sponsorship of the state GOP convention and asked organizers to cancel in-person gatherings. As the virus has surged throughout the state in June and July, Gov. Greg Abbott, the state’s top Republican, has reversed some business reopenings and broadly required the use of face masks.  State GOP chair James Dickey had insisted that organizers can hold the event safely. Prior to Turner’s move to cancel the convention, Dickey said the party had planned to institute daily temperature scans, provide masks, and install hand sanitizer stations.  

US Judge Wants Clarity on Roger Stone Prison Commutation 

A U.S. judge in Washington on Monday ordered the government to explain the scope of President Donald Trump’s commutation of the 40-month prison sentence she had imposed on his friend Roger Stone for political corruption.Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered the parties in the case to produce Trump’s executive order by Tuesday which he signed late last week to keep the 67-year-old Stone from being required to report to prison on Tuesday.Berman said she wants to see whether the commutation also covered a provision requiring Stone to report for two years of supervised probation after what would have been his term in prison.White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told reporters she did not “have the exact details” of Trump’s commutation of Stone’s sentence.But she called it “a very important moment for justice in this country” and served to correct what she called the “wrongdoing” of law enforcement officials who pursued prosecution of Stone.President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with Hispanic leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House, July 9, 2020, in Washington.The commutation Trump granted Stone, a longtime political adviser, freed him from the prison term but did not wipe out his underlying convictions on seven charges, including witness tampering and lying to federal authorities linked to the lengthy investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election won by Trump. Trump, who long has dismissed allegations that Russia helped him win as “fake news,” said he commuted Stone’s sentence because Stone had been “treated very unfairly.” The president blamed the jury forewoman and Jackson, saying Stone “should have had another trial.” Prominent U.S. political figures have condemned Trump’s commutation of Stone’s prison sentence, saying it was a perversion of American justice. House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, who oversaw impeachment proceedings against Trump late last year, said Trump’s decision “is basically saying through this commutation, ‘If you lie for me, if you cover up for me, if you have my back, then I will make sure that you get a get-out-of-jail-free card.’” “Other Americans? Different standard,” Schiff said. “Friends of the president, accomplices of the president, they get off scot-free.” FILE – Republican Senator Mitt Romney speaks with members of the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 16, 2020.Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, who lost the 2012 presidential election to former President Barack Obama, called Trump’s commutation of Stone’s sentence “unprecedented, historic corruption. An American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.” The clemency for Stone was only the 36th Trump has granted, with 180 denied. Many of those granted by Trump have been to his political supporters or suggested by people he knows, rather than being processed through normal pardon procedures overseen by the U.S. Justice Department.  At the same points in their presidencies, 3½ years after taking office, Trump’s six predecessors acted on hundreds or thousands of petitions for clemency.  

Election Costs Soar as US Prepares to Vote Amid Pandemic

The demand for mail-in ballots is surging. Election workers need training. And polling booths might have to be outfitted with protective shields during the COVID-19 pandemic.As officials prepare for the Nov. 3 election, one certainty is clear: It’s coming with a big price tag.”Election officials don’t have nearly the resources to make the preparations and changes they need to make to run an election in a pandemic,” said Wendy Weiser, head of the Brennan Center for Justice’s democracy program. “We are seeing this all over the place.”The pandemic has sent state and local officials scrambling to prepare for an election like few others, an extraordinary endeavor during a presidential contest, as virus cases rise across much of the U.S.COVID-related worries are bringing demands for steps to make sure elections just four months away are safe. But long-promised federal aid to help cash-starved states cope is stalled on Capitol Hill.The money would help pay for transforming the age-old voting process into a pandemic-ready system. Central to that is the costs for printing mail-in ballots and postage. There are also costs to ensure in-person voting is safe with personal protective equipment, or PPE, for poll workers, who tend to be older and more at risk of getting sick from the virus, and training for new workers. Pricey machines are needed to quickly count the vote.Complicating matters is President Donald Trump’s aversion to mail-in balloting. With worrisome regularity, he derides the process as rigged, even though there’s no evidence of fraud and his own reelection team is adapting to the new reality of widespread mail-in voting.  “As cases of coronavirus in this country rise, it’s vital that all voters be able to cast their ballots from home, to cast their ballots by mail,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.A COVID response bill passed by the House in May contains $3.6 billion to help states with their elections, but the Senate won’t turn to the measure until late July. Republicans fought a $400 million installment of election aid this March before agreeing to it.But key Senate Republicans seem likely to support more election funding, despite Trump’s opposition, and are even offering to lower a requirement that states put up matching funds to qualify for the federal cash.”I’m prepared not only to look at more money for the states to use as they see fit for elections this year but also to even consider whatever kind of matching requirement we have,” said Roy Blunt, R-Mo., chairman of the Senate panel with responsibility for the issue. “We can continue to work toward an election that produces a result that people have confidence in and done in a way that everybody that wants to vote, gets to vote.”The pandemic erupted this spring in the middle of state primaries, forcing many officials to delay elections by days, weeks and even months. They dealt with poll worker cancellations, polling place changes and an explosion of absentee ballots.Voting rights groups are particularly concerned with the consolidations of polling places that contributed to long lines in Milwaukee, Atlanta and Las Vegas. They fear a repeat in November.As negotiations on the next COVID-19 relief bill begin on Capitol Hill, the final figure for elections is sure to end up much less than the $3.6 billion envisioned by the House. That figure followed Brennan Center recommendations to prepare for an influx of absentee ballots while providing more early voting options and protecting neighborhood polling places.Even before the pandemic, election offices typically work under tight budgets. Iowa Secretary of State Paul D. Pate, who’s president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, said the group has been calling on the federal government to provide a steady source of funds, particularly to help address ongoing costs of protecting the nation’s election systems from cyberthreats.  For Georgia’s primary last month, election officials spent $8.1 million of the roughly $10.9 million the state has received in federal funds. The money was used to send absentee ballot applications to 6.9 million active registered voters and print absentee ballots for county election offices. Some of it also was used to purchase PPE and secure drop-off boxes for counties.Meanwhile, the state elections division has seen a $90,000 reduction for the current budget year as Georgia — like the rest of the nation — deals with a decline in revenues due to the pandemic.The state’s remaining federal funds will be used to help cover the costs of developing an online system for voters to request absentee ballots, less expensive than sending ballot applications to every voter, and exploring whether installing plexiglass dividers around voting machines could allow more voters in a polling place at one time.In Colorado, a universal vote-by-mail state, the Denver election office has had to reduce its budget by 7.5%, nearly $980,000. Jocelyn Bucaro, Denver’s elections director, said the federal funds sent this year helped with purchasing PPE and other pandemic-related supplies.  Iowa similarly spent its federal dollars on mail-in ballots and pandemic supplies, Pate said.Vote-by-mail veterans and vendors of the equipment, software, ballots and envelopes that will be needed in November say the window to buy them is quickly closing.”Right now, what I’m seeing in most places is just this kind of indecision. What are we supposed to be planning? Vote by mail or in-person or combination?” said Jeff Ellington, president of Runbeck Election Services, which prints ballots and the special envelopes used to mail them and supplies high-volume envelope sorters.  “Decisions just need to be made so people can start to put a plan into place,” he said.BlueCrest, a Pitney Bowes spinoff, sells high-volume sorting machines that handle up to 50,000 ballot envelopes per hour. That’s the kind of crunch big counties can expect to face Nov. 3 in states including Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where Rick Becerra, a vice president at the company, said he’s been talking to officials. The machines average $475,000 each.”I tell them the time is now,” he said.

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