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How Covid-19 numbers are looking across the country


CNN’s John King looks at the coronavirus numbers throughout the country after the US recently topped four million Covid-19 cases.

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Kenyan police officers arrested after fatal shooting in Garissa


Anonymous uniformed Kenyan police officers hold guns

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Corbis News

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Forensics experts are to analyse the officers’ guns (file photo)

Two police officers in Kenya have been arrested in connection with a shooting in which two people were killed.

The shooting happened at Soko Ng’ombe market in eastern Garissa county on Saturday, during a protest against the arrest of a man suspected of murder.

The two victims have been named as Aden Abdi Madobe and Muhiyadin Adow Shibin.

Kenya’s police watchdog has launched an investigation into the shooting. It will include “forensic analysis” of the officers’ guns.

Garissa MP Aden Duale called the deaths “heinous” and condemned “police brutality” in a statement posted to Facebook.

Campaigners have raised concerns about policing during the pandemic.

According to Amnesty International, Kenyan officers have killed 21 people since March for failing to comply with coronavirus prevention measures such as curfews and mask-wearing.

Earlier this month police in the capital Nairobi fired tear gas and arrested several protesters taking part in the annual Saba Saba march – a protest event which started 30 years ago against the autocratic regime of then-President Daniel arap Moi.

Correspondents say this year’s event was given extra impetus by anger over police crackdowns during the Covid-19 lockdown.

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How the Republican Party opened itself up to the Trump takeover


Merely observing those realities provokes familiar complaints. President Donald Trump and his allies insist that mainstream journalists offer “fake news” reflecting “bias” against the older, rural, conservative, Christian, White, working-class adherents of the modern GOP.

But what if the accounting comes from one of the Republican Party’s most accomplished political strategists, an insider provoked by Trump to reconsider his life’s work? In fact, it has.

Consider “It Was All A Lie,” the forthcoming book by disillusioned Republican ad-maker Stuart Stevens. He casts Trump as not an aberration but rather the culmination of decades-long evolution within the GOP. Having advised four Republican presidential nominees and dozens of winning Senate and gubernatorial campaigns, Stevens blends diagnosis of the party’s ills with confession for having fostered them.

“Blame me when you look around and see a dysfunctional political system and a Republican Party that has gone insane,” Stevens writes. “Many will argue that my view of the Republican Party is distorted by my loathing of Trump. The truth is that Trump brought it all into clarity and made the pretending impossible.”

Trump’s crudeness, he argues, has stripped the veneer from familiar Republican themes concerning social order, values and even economic policy. If they once represented principled ideological arguments, they’ve now curdled into content-free bludgeons to preserve power for the dwindling ranks of white conservatives in a rapidly-diversifying America.

A gifted stylist who has written television scripts as well as seven other books, Stevens dissects several categories of deception. Though he could not have anticipated it — the book, completed last September, does not include the words “coronavirus” or “George Floyd” — events of recent days keep offering improbably-vivid evidence for his assessments.

His largest target is the politics of race; the Mississippi native, borrowing from historical allusions to the nation’s founding, calls it “the original Republican sin.” It traces to the mid-1960s when GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater opposed civil rights legislation signed into law by Democratic incumbent Lyndon Johnson.

Trump has discarded the subtlety of what became known as the “Southern strategy” to seek White votes almost exclusively. Last week, he threatened to veto legislation that would remove the names of Confederate generals from military bases — even if commanders want to rename them.

The same has happened with “family values,” which Stevens calls “never a set of morals or values that the Republican Party really desired to live by” but instead “another weapon to help portray those on the other side as being out of the mythical America mainstream.” While he enjoys near-unanimous support among White evangelical Christians, Trump this past week offered well-wishes to a friend charged by federal prosecutors with child sex-trafficking.

Stevens skewers the GOP’s “spiritual” devotion to cutting taxes; Trump sought unsuccessfully to force a payroll tax cut into corovanirus relief legislation only to be knocked back by Republican members of the Senate.

And Stevens laments his party’s rejection of science and evidence for conspiracy theories and dogma to shield special-interest allies like the National Rifle Association.

“Today the intellectual leaders of the Republican Party are the paranoids, kooks, know-nothings and bigots who once could be heard only on late-night talk shows,” Stevens writes. Trump last week called coronavirus testing “overrated,” falsely suggested schoolchildren don’t transmit the virus, and boasted of his performance on a cognitive test that screens for dementia.

Conservative media outlets that Stevens labels a “machinery of deception” encourage the Republican flight from reality — and risk backlash if they don’t. When Fox News surveys showed him trailing Democratic opponent Joe Biden last week, Trump denounced them as “fake polls.”

Taken together, Stevens concludes, these trends have made the GOP a “white grievance party.” The grievances grow as demographic, cultural and economic changes move America closer to becoming a majority-minority nation and alter the balance of societal power.

White fear has become the unalloyed rallying cry of Trump’s bid for a second term. Last week he rolled back fair housing regulations he claims would destroy suburban neighborhoods, falsely accused Biden of seeking to “defund the police,” warned mail-in voting would “rig” the election, and sent federal officers to battle Portland street protestors in the name of “law and order.”

Tom Ridge, the former Pennsylvania Republican governor who became the first Secretary of Homeland Security following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, warned against the specter of “the president’s personal militia.” Republicans in office now said little.

Polls show voters speaking emphatically. Rejecting Trump’s bluster on the pandemic and racial division alike, they’ve made Democrats mid-summer favorites to win the White House and undivided control of Congress in November.

Would repudiation make Republicans change in pursuit of a broader swath of 21st century America? It didn’t after 2012, when Stevens’ client Mitt Romney lost to President Barack Obama.

“I’m not hopeful,” the author concludes. “Better than most, I know the seductive lure of believing what you prefer to believe and ignoring the obvious truth.”

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Coronavirus: Spain says outbreaks under control after UK orders quarantine


People sit on the stairs of the National Art Museum of Barcelona

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The National Art Museum of Barcelona. Spain has seen a surge in Covid-19 cases recently

Spain has said outbreaks of new Covid-19 cases are isolated and under control after the UK abruptly ordered people coming from the country to quarantine.

Infections have risen sharply in Spain recently as restrictions were eased. Some regions have now imposed measures including making face masks mandatory.

“Spain is safe for Spaniards and for tourists,” the foreign minister said.

Contagion among young people, who have been gathering in larger numbers, appears to be a particular worry.

France and Germany have also both seen new cases rise, as nations grapple between staving off fresh outbreaks and reopening economies.

The UK’s move to require arrivals from Spain to self-isolate for 14 days came into effect on Sunday, just hours after the change was announced, angering travellers and travel operators.

The airline industry reacted with dismay, calling it a big blow. The UK’s biggest tour operator, Tui, has cancelled all mainland Spanish holidays until 9 August. British Airways is still operating flights, but said the move was “throwing thousands of Britons’ travel plans into chaos”.

However, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab defended the “swift” decision.

Spain has more than 272,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and some 28,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University research, and is one of the European countries worst-affected by the virus.

The number of cases there has tripled in two weeks, with more than 900 new infections reported on Friday.

How does Spain compare in Europe?

Its rate of cases per 100,000 people is currently at 39.4, according to the European Union’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). This compares with the UK’s rate of 14.6.

Spain is now comparable with Sweden and Portugal, but rates there are falling while Spain’s is on the rise.

Covid-19 cases per 100,000

14-day cumulative number in selected countries

Romania (59.7) and Bulgaria (44.8) are considerably higher. Luxembourg is far higher, but the number there may be skewed by its small population.

As seen in other countries reporting a spike in infections, the majority of new cases in Spain seem to be restricted to a few regions, including Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, and Aragon.

On Sunday, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said the outbreaks were “perfectly controlled” and that they had been expected once the restrictions were lifted.

“Half of those who are Covid positive in Spain are asymptomatic, which gives a very clear indication of the huge efforts that all the regions in Spain are undertaking to test for Covid in its citizens,” she said.

Ms González said the Canary and Balearic Islands, which are popular with tourists, have not recorded a resurgence in infections, insisting they were “very safe territories”. She added that the authorities would try to convince the UK government to exclude them from quarantine.

London’s decision to reintroduce quarantine restrictions on travellers from Spain is a new, devastating blow for the country’s tourism industry.

“We know what British tourism means for our country, and particularly for our region,” said the vice-president of Andalusia, Juan Marín. He described it as “very bad news” particularly for the Costa del Sol, where many British tourists tend to spend their holidays.

The numbers of British tourists who have come to Spain this summer are much lower than normal, but there are still thousands of holidaymakers here who have been surprised and frustrated by the UK’s decision.

Some tourist hubs had already been affected by the recent spike in coronavirus cases. This weekend, the Catalan government ordered the temporary closure of all nightclubs, as it attempts to stem the spread of the virus among young people, which has been a particular problem.

Are others taking measures over Spain?

French Prime Minister Jean Castex has “strongly recommended” that French citizens avoid going to Catalonia.

Norway has reimposed a 10-day quarantine on people arriving from Spain.

Belgium has banned travel to Huesca and Lleida, with recommendations against travel to a number of other areas in Spain.

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Joe Biden leads in three key states Trump won in 2016 in new CNN polls


In Florida (51% Biden to 46% for President Donald Trump) and Arizona (49% Biden to 45% Trump), registered voters break in Biden’s favor by single-digit margins, while in Michigan, Biden’s lead stands at 52% to 40%, matching the national average for the presidential race per the most recent CNN Poll of Polls.

Trump carried all three states in 2016, with his narrowest win in any state coming from Michigan, which he carried by only 10,704 votes. The poll results are among registered voters, but when looking only at those who say they are most likely to vote in this fall’s election, support for the two candidates remains about the same.

Nearly all recent high-quality polling out of Florida and Michigan has shown Biden with an edge there, while in Arizona, there has been a mix of Biden leads and results within each poll’s margin of error. The new CNN poll in Arizona shows Biden narrowly outside the poll’s error margin. Quinnipiac University’s poll in Florida, released late last week, showed Biden with a double-digit lead there, larger than most other surveys have found.

But it is worth noting that recent Florida polls have been fairly consistent about Biden’s level of support in the state (Quinnipiac pegged it at 51%, same as the new CNN poll, while CBS News landed at 48%, and Fox News placed it 49%), with greater variation in support for the President (46% in the new CNN poll, 42% in CBS News, 40% in Fox News and 38% in the Quinnipiac poll).

Across all three states, Trump’s approval ratings generally, for handling the coronavirus outbreak and for handling racial inequality in the US are underwater. There is some variation in the President’s overall approval rating, with disapproval at 57% in Michigan, 54% in Arizona and 51% in Florida.

But on coronavirus and racial inequality, two issues which have dominated the national conversation in the last few months, Trump’s disapproval stands around 60% across all three states. On the coronavirus outbreak, 60% disapprove in Arizona, 59% in Michigan and 57% in Florida. On racial inequality in the US, 59% disapprove in both Arizona and Michigan, 57% do so in Florida.

The polls show Biden is a clear favorite 100 days out from an unprecedented election

The results suggest the President could be on better ground in all three states should the country’s focus shift to the economy: In Arizona and Florida, majorities rate the President positively for his handling of the economy (52% approve in each state). Michiganders are about evenly divided (47% approve to 49% disapprove).

But there is little to suggest such a shift is in the immediate future. In Arizona and Florida, both areas where coronavirus infections have spread rapidly in recent weeks, majorities (57% in Arizona, 64% in Florida) believe the worst of the outbreak is yet to come. In both states, more than 7 in 10 voters who say the worst is ahead back Biden for president. In Michigan, a narrow majority says the worst is behind them (51%).

Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has publicly clashed with Trump over her response to the coronavirus, earns high marks from residents of her state for her handling of the virus, with 69% saying they feel she is doing everything she can to fight it. The Republican governors of Arizona and Florida are not seen that way by their constituents: 66% say Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey could be doing more to fight the outbreak, and 63% say the same about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Both Biden and Trump have made arguments that they are the better choice for Americans’ safety, with Trump’s campaign focusing on a law-and-order message and Biden’s campaign arguing that Trump has dropped the ball on coronavirus, costing Americans’ lives. Asked which candidate would “keep Americans safe from harm,” voters in Michigan choose Biden, 52% to 43%. In Arizona, they are evenly divided, 47% for each. And in Florida, they choose Trump, 51% to 46%.

Across all three states, Biden is more often seen as honest and trustworthy than is Trump, but just under 1 in 10 in each state say that description applies to neither candidate.

Biden’s advantage in all three states is largely attributable to his edge among women. He earns the support of 61% of women in Michigan, 56% in Arizona and 53% in Florida. The differences in how women vote across states are largely due to differences in support among White women. In Michigan, Biden holds 57% among White women to Trump’s 36%. In Arizona, they split more evenly, 50% for Biden to 46% for Trump. And in Florida, Trump leads among White women, 55% to Biden’s 42%. Biden holds wide leads among women of color across all three states.

That difference among White women in Michigan versus those in Arizona and Florida also emerges quite strongly on the question of which candidate would keep Americans safe. While White women are more likely than White men in all three states to say that Biden would keep them safe, in Michigan, they are 18 points more likely to do so, while that gap is five points in Florida and six points in Arizona.

With the pandemic raging, voters’ views on how they would prefer to cast a ballot in the fall are divided by party, with Democrats more likely to prefer voting by mail or early and Republicans more often in favor of in-person Election Day voting.

That means that preferences for voting by-mail rather than in-person are stronger among Biden’s supporters than Trump’s supporters. In Arizona, 78% of Biden backers say they would rather vote by mail, compared with 43% of Trump supporters. In Florida, 59% of Biden supporters would rather cast mail ballots vs.19% of Trump supporters. And in Michigan, 67% of Biden supporters say they’d rather vote by mail vs. 22% of Trump backers.

While most votes in Arizona and Florida in recent elections have been cast early or absentee, the poll suggests that in Michigan, where about a quarter of votes have typically been cast absentee in recent years, mail-in ballots could spike significantly. Almost half of voters in Michigan, 47%, say they would prefer to vote by-mail using an absentee ballot, and another 6% would like the option to vote early in-person.

The Democratic candidates hold leads in the Senate races in both Arizona and Michigan, according to the polls. In Michigan, incumbent Democrat Gary Peters tops Republican John James 54% to 38%. In Arizona, Democratic challenger Mark Kelly leads Republican Sen. Martha McSally by 50% to 43%.

These CNN Polls were conducted by SSRS by telephone from July 18 through 24 among random samples of adults living in Arizona, Florida in Michigan. In each state, results for the sample of adults have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points, it is 3.8 points for the subsets of registered voters in each state. Interviews were conducted with 1,002 adults, including 873 registered voters, in Arizona, 1,005 adults, including 880 registered voters in Florida, and 1,003 adults, including 927 registered voters, in Michigan.

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How a Chinese agent used LinkedIn to hunt for targets


Dickson Yeo

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Dickson Yeo/Facebook

Jun Wei Yeo, an ambitious and freshly enrolled Singaporean PhD student, was no doubt delighted when he was invited to give a presentation to Chinese academics in Beijing in 2015.

His doctorate research was about Chinese foreign policy and he was about to discover firsthand how Beijing seeks to attain influence.

After his presentation, Jun Wei, also known as Dickson, was, according to US court documents, approached by several people who said they worked for Chinese think tanks. They said they wanted to pay him to provide “political reports and information”. They would later specify exactly what they wanted: “scuttlebutt” – rumours and insider knowledge.

He soon realised they were Chinese intelligence agents but remained in contact with them, a sworn statement says. He was first asked to focus on countries in South East Asia but later, their interest turned to the US government.

That was how Dickson Yeo set off on a path to becoming a Chinese agent – one who would end up using the professional networking website LinkedIn, a fake consulting company and cover as a curious academic to lure in American targets.

Five years later, on Friday, amid deep tensions between the US and China and a determined crackdown from Washington on Beijing’s spies, Yeo pleaded guilty in a US court to being an “illegal agent of a foreign power”. The 39-year-old faces up to 10 years in prison.

  • Why US-China relations have reached a low
  • The spying game: China’s global network

Alumni at Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), which trains some of Asia’s top civil servants and government officials, were left shocked by the news that their former peer had confessed to being a Chinese agent.

“He was a very active student in class. I always viewed him as a very intelligent person,” said one former postgraduate student who did not wish to be named

She said he often talked about social inequality – and that his family struggled financially when he was a child. She said she found it difficult to reconcile the person she knew with his guilty plea.

A former member of staff at the institution painted a different picture, saying Yeo seemed to have “an inflated sense of his own importance”.

Yeo’s PhD supervisor had been Huang Jing, a high-profile Chinese-American professor who was expelled from Singapore in 2017 for being an “agent of influence of a foreign country” that was not identified.

Huang Jing always denied those allegations. After leaving Singapore, he first worked in Washington DC, and now Beijing.

According to the court documents released with Yeo’s guilty plea, the student met his Chinese handlers on dozens of occasions in different locations in China.

During one meeting he was asked to specifically obtain information about the US Department of Commerce, artificial intelligence and the Sino-US trade war.

Bilahari Kausikan, the former permanent secretary at Singapore’s foreign ministry, said he had “no doubt that Dickson knew he was working for the Chinese intelligence services”.

He was not, he said, “an unwitting useful fool”.

Yeo made his crucial contacts using LinkedIn, the job and careers networking site used by more than 700 million people. The platform was described only as a “professional networking website” in the court documents, but its use was confirmed to the Washington Post.

Former government and military employees and contractors are not shy about publicly posting details of their detailed work histories on the website in order to obtain lucrative jobs in the private sector.

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A screenshot of Dickson Yeo’s now-deleted LinkedIn profile

This presents a potential goldmine to foreign intelligence agencies. In 2018, US counter-intelligence chief William Evanina warned of “super aggressive” action by Beijing on the Microsoft-owned platform, which is one of few Western social media sites not blocked in China.

Kevin Mallory, a former CIA officer jailed for 20 years last May for disclosing military secrets to a Chinese agent, was first targeted on LinkedIn.

  • The churchgoing patriot who spied for China

In 2017, Germany’s intelligence agency said Chinese agents had used LinkedIn to target at least 10,000 Germans. LinkedIn has not responded to a request for comment for this story but has previously said it takes a range of measures to stop nefarious activity.

Some of the targets that Yeo found by trawling through LinkedIn were commissioned to write reports for his “consultancy”, which had the same name as an already prominent firm. These were then sent to his Chinese contacts.

One of the individuals he contacted worked on the US Air Force’s F-35 fighter jet programme and admitted he had money problems. Another was a US army officer assigned to the Pentagon, who was was paid at least $2,000 (£1,500) to write a report on how the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan would impact China.

In finding such contacts, Yeo, who was based in Washington DC for part of 2019, was aided by an invisible ally – the LinkedIn algorithm. Each time Yeo looked at someone’s profile it would suggest a new slate of contacts with similar experience that he might be interested in. Yeo described it as “relentless”.

According to the court documents, his handlers advised him to ask targets if they “were dissatisfied with work” or “were having financial troubles”.

William Nguyen, an American former student at the Lee Kuan Yew school who was arrested at a protest in Vietnam in 2018 and later deported, said in a Facebook post on Saturday that Yeo had tried to contact him “multiple times” after he was released from prison and his case made headlines around the world.

In 2018, Yeo also posted fake online job ads for his consulting company. He said he received more than 400 CVs with 90% of them coming from “US military and government personnel with security clearances”. Some were passed to his Chinese handlers.

The use of LinkedIn is brazen, but not surprising, said Matthew Brazil, the co-author of Chinese Communist Espionage: An Intelligence Primer.

“I think lots of worldwide intelligence agencies probably use it to seek out sources of information,” he said. “Because it’s in everybody’s interest who is on LinkedIn to put their whole career on there for everybody to see – it’s an unusually valuable tool in that regard.”

He said that commissioning consultant reports is a way for agents to get “a hook” into a potentially valuable source who might later be convinced to supply classified information.

“It’s a modern version of classic tradecraft, really.”

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Media captionLiu Xiaoming: China is not the enemy of the US

US Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said the case was an example of how China exploits “the openness of American society” and uses “non-Chinese nationals to target Americans who never leave the United States”.

Singapore, where ethnic Chinese make up the majority of the 5.8m population, has long enjoyed close links with the United States, which uses its air and naval bases. But it has also sought and maintained positive relations with China.

Mr Kausikan said that he did not believe the spying case – the first known to involve a Singaporean – would hurt the country’s reputation with the American government but he feared that Singaporeans could face greater suspicion in American society.

On Sunday, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs said investigations had not revealed any direct threat to the country’s security stemming from the case.

LKYSPP’s dean, Danny Quah, wrote in an email to faculty and students quoted by the Straits Times newspaper that “no faculty or other students at our school are known to be involved” with the Yeo case.

A spokesperson told the BBC that Yeo had been granted a leave of absence from his PhD in 2019 and his candidature had now been terminated.

Dickson Yeo does not appear to have got as far with his contacts as his handlers would have liked. But in November 2019, he travelled to the US with instructions to turn the army officer into a “permanent conduit of information”, his signed statement says.

He was arrested before he could ask.

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Donald Trump’s new 100-day strategy (opinion)


All of these were swept aside this week by President Donald Trump, as he began reacting to polls showing public disapproval of his handling of the coronavirus crisis, suggesting that he could lose the election that is about 100 days away.

The president who planned to gain another four years in the White House on the strength of a booming economy has watched the pandemic blow it up. The quick recovery he hoped to tout at mass rallies around the country has been jeopardized by the fast-spreading virus (and so have the rallies).

As a result, Trump has been trying out three other campaign themes: pledging “law and order” in cities that are seeing Black Lives Matter protests; warning that fair housing regulations would “destroy the beautiful suburbs” and bragging about his performance on a cognitive test that he challenged his rival Joe Biden to take.

Trump brought back the afternoon coronavirus briefings this week but without medical experts like Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx. The first briefing, on Tuesday, prompted Frida Ghitis to ask, “Who was that man speaking at the White House podium, and what did he do to President Donald Trump? I’m just kidding, of course.” Ghitis said the man we saw in the briefing room was “Candidate Trump, terrified that his approval ratings are collapsing” and fearing that he could face “a humiliating defeat in November.”

It may be too late, wrote former ABC News president Ben Sherwood. Only about a third of Americans say they have considerable trust in what Trump says, “a product of his many months of delay, denial and dissembling.” But if the President can’t provide that assurance, Sherwood wrote, the only way to get out of the coronavirus crisis is to trust in others such as Fauci.

“If citizens are going to follow public health guidelines, they’ll need to trust that government decisions are unbiased and fact-based. If we’re going to send our kids back to school, there’s a chain of people we’ll have to trust. And imagine the chain of labs and regulatory agencies and manufacturers and distributors and scientists involved in a vaccine. That will require a quantum leap of trust.”

Tough choices

Whether to reopen schools has emerged as one of the most consequential and controversial choices facing America. Dr. Lee Beers, the incoming president of the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote that “particularly for our younger learners, weeks — or months — out of school can have long-lasting implications for their education. Online classes are not an equivalent substitute for many.”

Still, she argued for greatly increased resources to make sure schools are reopened safely — and pushed back at Trump’s threat to stop funding schools that do not reopen in-person classes this fall. “When public health expertise is reframed to fit political interests, it harms those who have the most at stake and the least opportunity to advocate for themselves: children.”

On Thursday, the President canceled the Republican National Convention festivities in Jacksonville — a big blow to Trump, wrote Julian Zelizer.

“Trump has desperately wanted to make sure that Republicans can convene a grand convention on the scale of what other incumbents have enjoyed in the past. He thirsts for a celebration of his term and the public confirmation that he is as successful as he says.” But the President is discovering, like everyone else, that reverting back to pre-pandemic life just isn’t possible — not yet.
Marc Thiessen, writing in the Washington Post, saw a merchandising opportunity for Trump’s campaign. “If Trump really wants to convince his supporters to start wearing masks, the best way to do so is to start distributing MAGA masks,” he wrote. “If Trump supporters really want to show their defiance of the establishment, they shouldn’t go mask-less. Wear a MAGA mask. It will drive the left crazy.”

Trump’s cognitive test

President Trump’s boast about acing the Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test flummoxed the experts. Psychologist Peggy Drexler wrote that passing the test, “which includes such tasks as identifying animals and drawing a clock, determines nothing other than that the taker is not suffering from mild cognitive dysfunction. … It takes ten minutes and is not meant to be hard — unless, that is, you have dementia.”

She added, “it’s unlikely there’s any standardized test that will offer definitive proof that Trump is fit to serve as leader of the free world. That’s up to Trump himself to prove. By my measures and, it would seem, by those of many Americans, he’s failing — spectacularly.”
While Trump is citing the test to spread doubts about Joe Biden’s mental acuity, one viral ad from the Lincoln Project turns that kind of attack back on him, with the narrator saying, “Something’s wrong with Donald Trump” and showing him using two hands to drink from a water glass in his West Point speech. The Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump Republicans who are backing Biden, “has vaulted into the center of this presidential election through a barrage of the best campaign ads in the 2020 race,” wrote Lincoln Mitchell.
President Trump startled some observers at his Tuesday briefing when he was asked about the prosecution of an alleged accomplice of Jeffrey Epstein and wound up saying of Ghislaine Maxwell, “I just wish her well, frankly.” Legal analyst Elie Honig wrote that “heads would have exploded,” if any other President had said as much when “asked about a case brought by his own Justice Department alleging that a defendant had committed serial child molestation.”

It’s impossible to know for sure “what motivated Trump’s outlandish public display,” Honig noted. “But he has previously expressed sympathy publicly for his personal friends who ended up as criminal defendants. The key now is to pay extra attention to make sure that this case doesn’t end up short-circuited, like those before it.”

AOC’s reply

Rep. Ted Yoho’s sparring on the Capitol steps with his fellow member of Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, backfired in a big way. The Florida Republican was heard by a reporter using obscenities about the congresswoman from New York as he walked away after their exchange.

Without admitting he used those words, Yoho made an apology of sorts on the House floor. But that left AOC an opening for a devastatingly effective reply, wrote Kara Alaimo. Ocasio-Cortez “broke down Yoho’s protestations that he is a family man with a wife and two daughters by turning that well-worn defense on its head,” Alaimo noted.

Ocasio-Cortez said, “I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter too. My father, thankfully, is not alive to see how Mr. Yoho treated his daughter.”

Alaimo concluded, “by refusing to accept either the insult or Yoho’s half-hearted apology, Ocasio-Cortez issued a badly-needed defense not just of herself, but of all women who seek power.”

VP pick nears

Sometime in the next several weeks, Joe Biden will make what is likely to be the biggest decision of his campaign: his vice-presidential pick. He offered a little more information about his search this week when he said that four Black women were among those being vetted.

In 2008, David Axelrod was part of the team that chose Biden as Barack Obama’s running mate. There are many factors Biden is likely considering in making the choice, wrote Axelrod. But there is one will likely be foremost: “facing the prospect of taking office in the midst of crises even more daunting than those that confronted Obama in 2009, my guess is that Biden will be seeking a partner who can … help him not only win an election but govern in what promises to be a whirlwind.”
Often such picks don’t significantly influence voters’ decisions, but history shows that some of the choices have turned out exceptionally well — while others have bombed. Read historian Thomas Balcerski’s ranking of the three best and three worst picks.

For more on politics:

Douglas Heye: Attacks on Liz Cheney are about the GOP’s life after Trump
Dean Obeidallah: Why Trump’s 2016 playbook won’t work in 2020
Jennifer Rodgers: William Barr has a lot to explain about actions on Michael Cohen
Michael D’Antonio: Donald Trump and Woody Johnson act as if the rules don’t apply to them
Jen Psaki: The Roberts court is striking at the heart of democracy

Portland and Chicago

“The President and his administration began setting conditions for a political theater road show many weeks ago,” wrote Michael D’Antonio. “Attorney General William Barr used tear gas, horses, and batons to clear Lafayette Square, a park across from the White House where protesters had gathered.” More recently, with deployment of federal officers to US cities, Barr and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf “helped create images that matched Trump’s obvious desire to be perceived as, “Your President of law and order.”
Benjamin Haas pointed out that “videos show law enforcement officers from the Department of Homeland Security plucking protesters from the streets of Portland and stuffing them in unmarked vehicles before driving away. The agents, clad in the same camouflage pattern that I wore as an Army intelligence officer in Afghanistan, are not readily identifiable either by name or by agency…There is no war in the United States and law enforcement organizations should not be trained and equipped to act as if they are in one. Yet the Trump administration would have us believe that protesters are enemies who must be defeated in combat.”
The Trump administration is sending 150 federal agents to Chicago, where shootings are up 47% so far this year, wrote Jens Ludwig, director of the Chicago Crime Lab. He argued that the added officers will likely have little impact in a city where there are roughly 13,000 police. A far more effective move would be to crack down on gun dealers outside the city who sell weapons that wind up being used in crimes, Ludwig wrote. “Our cities do actually need help from Washington, DC, more than ever right now, but it’s got to be the right kind of help.”

Kanye West and history

A celebrity runs for president and attracts huge attention on social media with an outrageous claim. That has become a familiar pattern in the US. This week, it was Kanye West, whose rally in South Carolina a week ago, Richard J. Reddick noted, “drew our attention with his appalling misinterpretation of Harriet Tubman’s legacy when he said Tubman ‘never actually freed the slaves.'”

Some dismissed it as a “mental health crisis,” wrote Reddick, but that doesn’t go far enough. “While I and many others hope that West gets the help he needs during this time, it’s important that we don’t overlook his damaging and inaccurate claims about Harriet Tubman. His words have power during a time when many people are trying to learn more about Black history while the discussion of systemic racism is at the forefront.”

Blocked by The Bahamas

The Bahamas, a nation that thrives on tourism from the US, blocked American travelers this week, in light of the surge in Covid-19 cases. European countries have also kept their borders closed to Americans. “For the first time in my life,” wrote reporter Alice Driver. “I am witnessing how the lack of US leadership on Covid-19 is devaluing the US passport I carry.”

“The result of the staggering mishandling of the pandemic response is that the power and status that US citizens have enjoyed for decades is quickly waning,” she wrote.

“When I have interviewed migrants during Covid-19, many have told me they would prefer to seek asylum in Canada rather than the US.”

Deborah Trueman has been with her partner Marco for nearly 20 years, but today they must stay on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Americans who are married to EU citizens are allowed to enter European countries, but Trueman and her partner aren’t married. They were together for Christmas in Tuscany and then she returned to New York for medical visits. “And then the coronavirus stopped the world in its tracks,” she wrote. “My April flight back to Rome was canceled. And then my July flight as well. And there is no sign I will be allowed back in any time soon.”

“So, to my dear Italy: Please let me come back to you. I will take a Covid-19 test. I will quarantine. I know you believe in love; You practically invented it.”

A hero who was real

Nicole Austin-Hillery says a friend once warned her never to meet her heroes because she would inevitably be disappointed. The friend “never met Congressman John Lewis,” she wrote. As an aspiring civil rights lawyer who grew up in public housing, Austin-Hillery said she chose Lewis as her role model.

When they eventually met, the civil rights pioneer was more than generous with his time. “There was no question too small or obvious for him to answer… I savored every story, every parable and every lesson he shared. It was his response to my last question that stuck and continues to guide me to this day. When I asked him how young people could ascend to leadership roles when seasoned leaders are unwilling to teach and mentor, he stiffened his back and without missing a beat told me: We didn’t ask permission to move into leadership, we took it.”
Lewis, who died July 17, famously said, “Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” Nicole Stamp wrote that the Black Lives Matter protests “are good trouble, and they continue because racial injustice continues… The civil rights movement is still happening today. Participate in it: with your body. With your dollars. With your actions.”

Don’t miss

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Michael Bociurkiw: How Justin Trudeau’s latest ethics scandal could spell the end of his career
W. Kamau Bell: What every American needs to know about White supremacy
Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky: Mike Pompeo is botching his job
Patrick Gaspard: In Venezuela, US sanctions are only hurting


Feel not-so-good movies

Sara Stewart‘s diet of feel-good movies during the pandemic is turning out to be less appetizing than she had hoped.

Her “pop-cultural comfort food of choice has been romantic dramedies from simpler times, tales of adorably complicated women and the often-chiseled men who love them. Movies like these hail from an era of now-verboten pleasures, like casual hugs and bustling nightclubs and actual, not virtual, shopping.”

The problem? The characters played by Andrew McCarthy (“Pretty in Pink”), Ethan Hawke (“Reality Bites”) and Ryan Gosling (“The Notebook”).

“These romantic male leads hoodwink heroines into thinking they’re Mr. Right, despite failing to demonstrate any understanding of good relationship dynamics,” wrote Stewart. “Outside the rosy light of nostalgia, I have to be honest. This is not love. This is not cute. This is manipulation. (Even if it’s dressed up as peak Ryan Gosling.) And rom-coms have been grooming cinephiles to think otherwise for far too long.”

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Coronavirus: ‘I killed my mother with my own hands’


Covid-19 is the latest enemy faced by families in Iraq, and it’s overrunning its hospitals and cemeteries.

Grieving relatives have already sacrificed their personal safety to care for loved ones with Covid-19.

Now they are turning to an armed group fresh from the fight against IS to help them bury their dead.

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'You don't want this': Hear man's tearful message about virus


“Miracle” Larry Kelly recovered from being infected with coronavirus. He spoke to CNN’s Brianna Keilar about his experience after 128 days of hospitalization.

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Nantes cathedral fire: Church volunteer rearrested over arson


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Media captionThe blaze destroyed stained glass windows and the grand organ

A church volunteer has been rearrested in connection with a fire that devastated the cathedral in the French city of Nantes.

A prosecutor quoted by Le Monde said the suspect – a Rwandan refugee who worked as a warden at the cathedral – had admitted causing the fire.

His lawyer told another newspaper that the man “bitterly regrets” his actions.

The fire destroyed the cathedral’s 17th Century organ as well as historic stained-glass windows.

The 39-year-old volunteer, who has not been named, was initially detained for questioning after the blaze but then released without charge.

He had been in charge of locking up the Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul cathedral the day before the fire on 18 July.

  • In pictures: Fire hits ‘Gothic jewel’ of Nantes

Le Monde said the man had been been questioned again on Saturday and that prosecutors had placed him in custody.

Prosecutor Pierre Sennès said that the suspect now admitted being responsible for the fire, according to Le Monde. Officials had previously said that the fire was believed to have been arson and had been started in three different places.

The man’s lawyer, Quentin Chabert, was quoted by Ocean Presse as saying that his client regretted his actions, adding: “My client co-operated.”

About 100 firefighters managed to stop the flames from destroying the main structure at the cathedral. French Prime Minister Jean Castex praised their “professionalism, courage and self-control”.

The fire comes over a year after a blaze nearly destroyed Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.

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