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GOP lawmakers tear into John Roberts over DACA ruling

“John Roberts again postures as a Solomon who will save our institutions from political controversy and accountability,” Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said in a blistering statement following the ruling.

“If the Chief Justice believes his political judgment is so exquisite, I invite him to resign, travel to Iowa, and get elected. I suspect voters will find his strange views no more compelling than do the principled justices on the Court.”

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, similarly attacked Roberts, criticizing him for once again siding with the liberal justices.

“First, Obamacare. Now, DACA. What’s next? Our second amendment gun rights?” Jordan wrote in a tweet, referring to Roberts’ decision to side with the court’s liberal members in 2012 to uphold the Affordable Care Act in a decision he also penned.

Jordan said in a statement later Thursday that Roberts was “convoluting the law to appease the DC establishment.”

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas called Roberts’ decision “lawless” and “contrary to the judicial oath that each of the nine justices has taken.”

The three Republican lawmakers are among the more conservative members of Congress who often follow President Donald Trump’s lead, and the comments suggest a deep displeasure among members of the party with the decision, which comes as a blow to Trump just months before the November election. Though Trump did not publicly criticize Roberts or any other justices by name following the ruling, he blasted the majority opinion in a series of tweets Thursday morning as “politically charged” and said that it “tell(s) you only one thing, we need NEW JUSTICES of the Supreme Court.”

But the decision from the court wasn’t met with harsh criticism from all Republican members of Congress — some simply called for a “legislative solution” to immigration in the wake of the opinion.

“I believe the Supreme Court has thrust upon us a unique moment and opportunity,” Sen. John Cornyn said. “We need to take action and pass legislation that will unequivocally allow these young men and women to stay in the only home, in the only country, they’ve known,” the Texas Republican said.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, echoed the sentiment, calling on Congress to “achieve a permanent result both for DACA recipients and border security” that both Congress and the President will agree on.
Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona, who faces a tough reelection fight in November against astronaut Mark Kelly, also called the ruling an “opportunity to do what is right and solve this issue with thoughtful legislation.”

And Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska avoided criticizing Roberts directly, instead telling reporters that she’s “not going to say that Judge Roberts is less of a conservative because of his opinion on this.”

CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.

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House Dems weigh new push for Bolton testimony

“We’ll make a judgment,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during a Capitol press conference Thursday. “I’ll be meeting with the chairs to make a judgment.”

Pelosi slammed Bolton’s refusal to testify previously, saving his most damaging evidence for his book, as “a con.” But she said the allegations nevertheless dovetail with the House’s impeachment charges that Trump was unfit for office. “We’ll be discussing how the American people are best served by oversight,” Pelosi said. “The public has a right to know.”

Pelosi’s comments followed Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 House Democrat, who told CNN Thursday morning that the House “ought to consider” subpoenaing Bolton to hear his allegations under oath.

“I really believe that we may need to get to the bottom of this. Not so much for impeachment. I don’t care about impeachment,” Clyburn said. “It’s for preserving this electoral process that we have, because this president is doing everything he can to undermine fair and unfettered elections in this country. And so I believe John Bolton can do a great service if he were to come now and let the American people know that this election this year is under threat of being invaded once again by a foreign power.”

Clyburn’s comments came as House Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel (D.N.Y.) and House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) indicated there are revived discussions about “next steps” related to Bolton, now that his book, which the Justice Department is attempting to block from publication, is scheduled to hit the shelves within days.

“We will continue to hold Trump accountable, and work to expose his abuses and corruption. In the coming days, we will be consulting with the speaker and other chairs on next steps,” Schiff said of the Bolton revelations.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans were quick to downplay suggestions that Bolton should be called to testify about his allegations, even those indicating Trump is seeking foreign assistance in his reelection.

“He’s trying to sell a book, and we’ve got so many things that are more important to do that that would not be my priority,” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told reporters. Cornyn said Trump denied the suggestion he sought China’s help. “With everything else we have to do, whether it’s police reform or Covid-19, I just think those are more important.”

On CNBC, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said Oval Office conversations should “remain confidential” so they’re able to be “open and candid.”

“So I have concerns about … the way in which this is unfolding,” Portman said.

Democrats had largely resigned themselves to ignoring Bolton after he blew off their requests for his testimony during impeachment. Bolton, reportedly, will needle the House in his book for failing to expand the scope of its impeachment probe beyond allegations that Trump abused his power to pressure Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rivals. Though Bolton’s book is expected to affirm the Democrats’ case, he also indicates other potential foreign policy transgressions that could have been part of the impeachment case.

Democrats never subpoenaed Bolton during the impeachment process, but they did briefly subpoena his former deputy, Charles Kupperman, who shares an attorney with Bolton. But Kupperman fought the subpoena in court, suggesting he was torn between the obligation to speak to Congress and an order from Trump not to testify.

His attorney, Chuck Cooper, made clear that Bolton shared the same view and would similarly fight a subpoena. Ultimately, the House dropped its effort as its case proceeded to impeachment and trial. Other members of Bolton’s National Security Council testified willingly under subpoena, a fact that House Democrats repeatedly pointed out amid Bolton’s resistance.

After the House’s impeachment, Bolton reversed himself and promised to testify during the Senate trial if subpoenaed. Ultimately, Senate Republicans refused to subpoena him, with only Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) joining all Democrats in favor.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that even though Bolton blew off calls to testify during impeachment, his allegations — particularly those about Trump’s effort to get Xi to purchase American agricultural products — are credible.

“It fits. Right after Trump signed the deal I was critical of him and … said it seems that he sold out for a bunch of soy beans which our farmers will never see purchased,” Schumer said. “Bolton indicates that that was true, that Trump turned his back on American workers, on American strength, all to help his reelection. And the farmers aren’t even getting helped. Xi played him like a fool.”

After Trump’s acquittal, Democrats mulled calling Bolton again, but within weeks, the coronavirus pandemic overtook the congressional agenda, and matters related to investigating Trump appeared to move to the back burner.

The House’s interest may extend beyond Bolton himself and to the White House’s role in trying to suppress his book. Top Trump-appointed intelligence officials intervened in the process and accused Bolton of rushing to print his book without removing highly sensitive classified information. But their intervention came after the official tasked with reviewing his book, Ellen Knight, concluded that it had been scrubbed of classified details.

In a late Wednesday court filing, the Justice Department sought a restraining order to enjoin the book from being printed, even though copies have been distributed and many of its revelations had been obtained and printed by reporters. The court filing included affidavits from Trump’s top intelligence and national security officials asserting that Bolton’s book was still replete with sensitive intelligence and would harm national security if printed.

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Everybody in Washington hates John Bolton

Barrasso also accused Bolton of becoming “the darling of the liberal left.” But that’s not exactly true, either. Despite producing several new vivid anecdotes that could launch new congressional investigations targeting the Trump administration, Bolton has few friends in the opposition party.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Bolton “cares more about his book than he did public service.” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said Bolton is “obviously interested in making money, not saving the republic.”

On the House side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday criticized Bolton for not testifying during the impeachment trial and said she’ll meet with committee chairs to discuss whether to haul him in to speak to lawmakers.

And it’s not just Capitol Hill Democrats who once tried to subpoena Bolton and Republicans who feel like he’s turned on the party to juice his book sales. The Trump administration is suing him in an attempt to block publication of the book even as it’s set to be released in the coming days.

Asked about the timing of Bolton’s book and his credibility, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) declared: “Nothing about that smells right. The House is frustrated by it, we are frustrated about it.”

In his forthcoming memoir, “The Room Where It Happened,” Bolton makes a series of explosive claims and argues that House Democrats focused their impeachment investigation too narrowly on the president’s posture toward Ukraine and suggests Trump may have committed multiple impeachable offenses.

Bolton alleges that Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to buy American agricultural products to help him win reelection, and that the president encouraged Xi to continue building concentration camps for the Muslim Uighurs, a religious minority in the country’s Xinjiang region.

Several senior Republicans indicated they had no interest in discussing Bolton’s bombshell claims, questioning both his credibility and his motivations. It’s a somewhat painful moment for the hawkish Republican Party, which once found itself in lockstep with Bolton on many issues.

“I don’t have anything to say about it, because he’s selling books,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. He also downplayed any suggestion that Bolton should testify.

“I have no ill feeling towards John Bolton. Do you want to ask me about any policy questions?” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

In January, Bolton said he would be willing to testify as part of the Senate impeachment trial under subpoena; but just two Republicans — Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine — joined Democrats in the failed effort to hear from additional witnesses. Several Republicans said they didn’t need to hear from Bolton in order to conclude that Trump did, in fact, solicit Ukraine’s help in the 2020 presidential election, even as they determined that it was not impeachable.

“The question for me was, did I need to hear more evidence to prove that the president did what the Democrats accused him of doing. And I said no because I’m convinced he did it,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who was essentially the deciding vote on the witness question.

Still, Bolton resisted efforts to testify before House impeachment investigators — even threatening to challenge a subpoena in court if Democrats issued one to him, citing directives from the White House.

“He did it to maximize book sales. He felt like if he gave away information before, it would hurt his book sales,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said. “And so he held back even when it would be valuable to the nation.”

Democrats also took issue with Bolton’s criticisms of the impeachment inquiry, arguing that he should have testified if he felt that he had relevant information to share.

“Bolton himself says if the Democrats just asked the right questions the impeachment might have turned differently,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). “Mr. Bolton, why didn’t you come forward and testify to this effect while we were conducting an impeachment trial?”

Members of Bolton’s staff, however, testified voluntarily during the impeachment inquiry, something Democrats regularly pointed out as they decried Bolton’s “unpatriotic” refusal, as House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) put it in statements filled with criticism.

“For the first time in my 14-year political career I agree with Adam Schiff,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). He said of Bolton’s book: “I got a long reading list ahead of me, and it’s not going to go to the top of the stack.”

But Democrats may find Bolton’s book more enticing. And they were quick not to dismiss Bolton’s claims outright, saying that many of them fit into a pattern for Trump. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said they found Bolton credible, while Brown said Bolton likely had documents to back up his assertions.

“I understand that given his motivations, people might question what he’s written. That’s a logical skepticism,” Murphy said. “But what he’s written seems consistent with everything we’ve watched Trump do publicly for the past three years.”

Senate Democrats are pushing for additional information on many of Bolton’s assertions, most notably his allegations involving Trump’s conversations with Xi.

“Regardless of whether you believe it or not, it needs to be tested because some of the issues presented in the book, if true, in my view undermine the interests of the United States,” said New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.

The GOP-controlled Senate, though, is unlikely to pursue Bolton’s account of working at the White House.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the interim chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, demurred on whether he was interested in bringing Bolton before the panel to question him about the classified aspects of his memoir. Rubio declined to take sides in the battle between Bolton and Trump, who has repeatedly accused Bolton of lying.

Bolton doesn’t seem to have many friends left within the Trump administration, either. Hours after explosive details from the manuscript emerged, the Justice Department asked a federal judge for an emergency order to block publication of Bolton’s book, which is slated for public release on Tuesday and has already been shipped to some sellers.

The Justice Department argued that Bolton’s book contains classified information — an apparent acknowledgment that many of the details in the book are true. Yet Trump and his allies have dubbed Bolton a liar, saying he fabricated the anecdotes included in the book.

“Bolton’s book, which is getting terrible reviews, is a compilation of lies and made up stories, all intended to make me look bad,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “Many of the ridiculous statements he attributes to me were never made, pure fiction. Just trying to get even for firing him like the sick puppy he is!”

Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

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John Roberts defies Trump and conservatives with another legacy decision

The conspicuous moves by a generally reliable conservative reveal a chief justice trying to defuse disputes that bring the nation’s high court into tension with the US president.

They also reflect a pattern distinct to Roberts, who has shown in some rulings a pragmatic and political understanding of polarized America.

Roberts, who presided over Trump’s impeachment trial and acquittal earlier this year, has long demonstrated an interest in shielding the integrity of the judiciary and his own reputation. Throughout Thursday’s decision in the highly charged immigration dispute, his cool, lawyerly language focused on procedural matters belied the emotional stakes for nearly 700,000 people.

The chief justice wants officials, especially those in this Trump administration, to play by the rules.

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote, trying to stress the limits of the court’s ruling. “The wisdom of those decisions is none of our concern. We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.”

Since his appointment 15 years ago by President George W. Bush, Roberts has staked out consistent conservative positions in most areas of the law. He curtailed the reach of the Voting Rights Act, making it harder to prevent arguably discriminatory election procedures before they took effect.

He also joined the bare five-justice majorities that produced the 2010 Citizens United decision lifting limits on corporate and union money in elections, and the 2008 ruling that broke ground on the Second Amendment and declared an individual right to bear arms.

“Yet John Roberts again postures as a Solomon who will save our institutions from political controversy and accountability,” said Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton. “If the Chief Justice believes his political judgment is so exquisite, I invite him to resign, travel to Iowa, and get elected.”

Trump says the rulings means it’s time for new blood on the bench.

“The recent Supreme Court decisions, not only on DACA, Sanctuary Cities, Census, and others, tell you only one thing, we need NEW JUSTICES of the Supreme Court. If the Radical Left Democrats assume power, your Second Amendment, Right to Life, Secure Borders, and…

Another bad day for Trump at the Supreme Court
“…Religious Liberty, among many other things, are OVER and GONE!” the President tweeted.

For his part, Roberts is always aware of his own place in history and has famously played the long game.

“You wonder if you’re going to be John Marshall or you’re going to be Roger Taney,” Roberts once said, referring to the chief justice known as the forefather of judicial review and to the chief who wrote the Dred Scott decision that said slaves were not citizens, respectively.

“The answer is, of course, you are certainly not going to be John Marshall,” Roberts said. “But you want to avoid the danger of being Roger Taney.”

Shattering one pattern; reinforcing another

Until Thursday, the Roberts court had mostly backed the Trump White House on immigration.

Since 2017, the high court majority has endorsed Trump efforts to deter immigrants and refugees to the US, most notably in the 2018 decision upholding the third iteration of Trump’s travel ban affecting certain majority-Muslim countries.

Earlier this session, the five-justice bloc on the right wing, including Roberts, allowed the administration to institute a policy disadvantaging green card applicants who applied, even in limited instances, for food stamps and other public benefits.

Still, Thursday’s new decision favoring immigrants adheres to a personal Roberts’ blueprint.

The Trump presidency is at its absolute lowest point right now
He has portrayed the bench as above politics, despite the many cases that split 5-4, Republican appointees versus Democratic appointees. Roberts said as a reproach to Trump in 2018: “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”

Roberts’ votes with the left in high-profile cases, especially two involving President Barack Obama signature initiatives, make both their points to a certain extent.

To be sure, Roberts has voted many times against liberal policies, involving the environment, reproductive rights, racial remedies, and the separation of church and state. And there are no signs Roberts, whose began his Washington legal career in the Reagan administration, has abandoned his fundamental conservative attitudes.

He never lunges left, rather his moves to align with the four liberals on the bench nearly always come with limits or caveats.

In 2012, Roberts saved the Affordable Care Act by construing it is as part of Congress’ taxing power but as he also reined in Congress’ authority to regulate interstate commerce. And as he upheld the individual insurance requirement at the heart of the law, he voted to scale back the Medicaid expansion to help poor people.

In last year’s census dispute, he declared the Commerce secretary had full authority to add the citizenship question that challengers believed would reduce the responses of Hispanics and new immigrants. But Roberts, joined by the four liberal justices, found that in that situation that Secretary Wilbur Ross had fabricated a rationale he asserted for the citizenship question. Given the deadline to distribute the census, the practical result was to kill the idea of a citizenship question.
Why Dreamers are relieved -- but also worried about what could happen next

With DACA, the pattern continues.

With a decision focused on the intricacies of federal procedure, Roberts has allowed the administration to try again to rescind DACA. Yet such an effort would likely take months and be accompanied by further protracted litigation. That means no real change is likely to occur until after the presidential election.

The conservative response

At every turn, Trump has failed to see the federal judiciary — especially judges installed before he became President — as independent.

“Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country,” the President retorted to Roberts in 2018.

Despite Trump’s complaints, this Supreme Court, however, has sided with conservatives on a multitude of issues, including religion, gun regulation and reproductive rights. This bench is still dominated by right-wing interests.

Thursday, dissenting Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that Roberts’ modest-seeming move was actually otherwise.

“Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” Thomas, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, said.

Two conservative justices joined decision expanding LGBTQ rights

“The Court could have made clear that the solution (the challengers) seek must come from the Legislative Branch. … In doing so, it has given the green light for future political battles to be fought in this Court rather than where they rightfully belong—the political branches. Such timidity forsakes the Court’s duty to apply the law according to neutral principles, and the ripple effects of the majority’s error will be felt throughout our system of self-government.”

The four justices who protested Roberts’ 2012 Obamacare decision, including Thomas, similarly maintained that Roberts was shrouding a major decision in small-bore legalese.

“The Court regards its strained statutory interpretation as judicial modesty,” said the dissenting opinion led by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. “It is not.”

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Covid-19 Worldwide: Live Updates on Cases and Deaths

Key data of the day

The outbreak is growing: Two of the highest daily tallies in new global cases were reported this week.

The number of coronavirus cases continues to grow globally, with two of the highest tallies in the history of the pandemic recorded this week, driven by outbreaks in Latin America, Africa, South Asia and the United States, which still posts some of the highest counts of new cases.

More than 140,000 cases were reported on Tuesday, and another 166,000 on Wednesday. While Wednesday’s total was inflated by a backlog of more than 30,000 mishandled and unreported cases that Chile added to its tally, the rising daily numbers reflect the pandemic’s stubborn grip on the world. Seventy-seven nations have seen a growth in new cases over the past two weeks, while only 43 have seen declines.

Brazil reported more than 32,000 new cases on Wednesday, the most in the world. The United States reported the second-most: more than 25,000. The leaders of both nations have been criticized for their handling of the outbreak.

But the virus is also taking off in other parts of the world.

If the outbreak was defined early on by a series of shifting epicenters — including Wuhan, China; Iran; northern Italy; Spain; Europe, and New York — it is now notable for how widespread it is. And more risks lie ahead as nations around the world are beginning to reopen their economies even though the virus has yet to be vanquished.

The virus is spreading rapidly in South Asia, including in India, which reported a record number of new cases Wednesday. India, which initially adopted some of the strictest measures in the world to curb the spread, — placing all 1.3 billion of its citizens under a lockdown — moved to reopen even with its strained public health system near the breaking point. And the outbreak is spreading rapidly in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

It took Africa nearly 100 days to reach 100,000 cases, the World Health Organization noted, but only 19 days to reach 200,000 cases. South Africa now averages a thousand more new cases each day than it did two weeks ago.

And some countries that had seemed to be improving — including Israel, Sweden, Costa Rica and others — have seen cases rise again.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cited the rising rate of infections earlier this month when he moved to slow the rate of reopening. On Thursday, he said that the nation was “done with reopening the economy” at a going-away party for a health ministry official.

But the nation is not really done: Rail service is set to be restored Monday.

California, seeing record increases in cases, orders people to wear masks in many settings.

As cases continue to mount in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered people to wear face masks in most indoor — and some outdoor — public settings.

He issued the order as California reported more than 4,000 new cases on Wednesday, a new one-day record. The new guidance states that “people in California must wear face coverings” in indoor public spaces from offices to Ubers to apartment hallways, and outdoors if it is not possible to stay six feet away from people in other households.

“Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered, putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease,” Mr. Newsom said. “California’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if people act safely and follow health recommendations. That means wearing a face covering, washing your hands and practicing physical distancing.”

The updated guidance comes amid national tension over masks, which have become a political flash point between those who prioritize safety and those who have come to associate them with political correctness. Mr. Trump has eschewed masks in public. This week Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, which is also seeing record numbers of new daily cases this week, gave mayors the power to require wearing masks.

In California, face mask requirements have varied from county to county, and at least seven county health officers have recently resigned amid controversy over those and other preventive measures. Earlier this week, Santa Clara County revealed that its public health officer had been threatened.

The Newsom administration noted that a growing body of scientific research showed that “people with no or few symptoms of Covid-19 can still spread the disease and that the use of face coverings, combined with physical distancing and frequent hand washing, will reduce the spread of Covid-19.”

The state’s orders make exceptions for toddlers, people with disabilities that prevent them from wearing face coverings, restaurant customers while eating and people who are incarcerated.

As cases rise in 20 states around the United States, pockets of student-athletes returning to campus have tested positive, underscoring the difficulty colleges and professional sports leagues face as they prepare for the possibility of a fall sports season.

The University of Texas, where football players began voluntary workouts this week, said Thursday that 13 players had tested positive, and another 10 were self-quarantining after officials carried out contact tracing. Last week, the University of Houston suspended voluntary workouts for its athletes after six of them tested positive. And at Southern Methodist University, officials said this week that five of 75 athletes tested were positive.

At least eight Kansas State University athletes tested positive for the virus since returning to campus, officials said this week. The university’s athletic director said that they had anticipated a “small number” of positive tests. University officials said athletes were being asked to quarantine for seven days after arriving on campus and were not being allowed to practice until they tested negative. Many of the athletes who tested positive were asymptomatic, according to their universities.

“Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Thursday on CNN. “If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”

At least four Division I games have already been canceled.

In professional sports, no leagues have regular-season games on any public schedules. Because of precautions, there are few solid plans to include fans. And the N.F.L. slate could be in some jeopardy as teams are unsure about the start of training camps in July.

Major League Baseball may not happen, either. For weeks, team owners and players have not been able to agree on how to stage a shortened season, creating the possibility of no baseball season for the first time in 150 years.

The N.B.A. wants to quarantine teams in Florida to finish its season in August and perform a two-month postseason beyond that, though some players are balking at such confinement. The N.H.L. has similar ideas, but nothing is truly scheduled.

There are some glints of optimism. Professional golf, NASCAR and combat sports have returned — and tennis is expected to resume in August — though more as made-for-TV events than as anything resembling a collective experience. NASCAR will hold a race in Alabama this weekend, but attendance will be limited to 5,000 fans.

Texas schools to reopen in the fall for in-person classes.

Texas, which has reported large increases in new cases in recent days, plans to reopen its schools in the fall with both in-person classes and options for remote instruction, the governor’s office said Thursday.

After Gov. Greg Abbott announced the plans in a conference call with lawmakers, one of the state’s major teachers’ organizations quickly raised concerns about restarting classes during the pandemic and demanded that teachers be directly involved in any planning for reopening schools.

“We don’t think right now that it’s safe to be talking about reopening school buildings,” said Clay Robison, a spokesman for the 65,000-member Texas State Teachers Association.

Texas in recent weeks has seen a sharp increase in cases, and on Tuesday and Wednesday it reported the highest daily totals of new cases since the pandemic began.

John Wittman, a spokesman for the governor, said that the Texas education commissioner, Mike Morath, “will be announcing a plan next week laying out guidelines and health protocols for students to safely return to school in the fall.”

In a statement to the news media, Mr. Morath said the plan would allow for students, teachers and staff to return to school campuses for class, but he said that there will also be “flexibility” for students to be taught remotely if their families have health concerns.

Governor Abbott is moving forward with a plan to reopen the Texas economy and social activity even as the nation’s second-largest state faces a spike in cases and hospitalization rates.

A doctor in a small city in Canada tested positive. Then the police opened a criminal investigation into the matter.

The crime? He had driven from the province of New Brunswick into Quebec, and returned without self-isolating, violating an emergency rule. The authorities accused him of bringing back the virus and sparking an outbreak, which he disputes. He believes he contracted the virus at his hospital job.

The story of the doctor, Jean Robert Ngola Monzinga, captures the fear and uncertainty the pandemic has unleashed. While it has brought some communities together, it has turned others against one another. In some places, doctors and nurses have been physically attacked and ostracized as perceived vectors of the disease.

Dr. Ngola made the trip to pick up his 4-year-old daughter, and stopped for a job interview along the way. Two weeks later, he and his daughter tested positive. The same day, he was denounced online and by the provincial government, and suspended from his job without pay.

Some say Dr. Ngola’s example shows the calamitous effect a single person’s carelessness can have; others say it highlights the danger of scapegoating individuals for suffering unleashed by a virus that will be with us for the foreseeable future.

Weeks after he was diagnosed, Dr. Ngola remains hidden in his home, not even leaving for groceries for fear he will be targeted. He is an easy mark — a rare black man and immigrant in the shrinking mill city of Campbellton. He believes that racism played a role in his public denunciation and shaming.

“I have been treated like a criminal,” Dr. Ngola said. “I am a destroyed person.”

Wall Street faced another day of unsteady trading on Thursday, with stocks drifting between negative and positive territory as investors considered new data on unemployment claims and the latest reports on fresh outbreaks.

In the end, the S&P 500 ended essentially unchanged.

Another 1.5 million U.S. workers applied for state unemployment benefits last week, a report released Thursday by the Labor Department showed. Not all the unemployment claims necessarily reflect new layoffs. Some states are still working through backlogs of claims filed earlier in the crisis; in other cases, people filing under multiple programs may be counted twice.

But three months into the crisis, there is little doubt that layoffs remain elevated. Economists warn that job losses could worsen if government support that has helped prop up the economy is allowed to lapse too soon.

Hoping to goose job growth, House Democrats said Thursday they would bring up a $1.5 trillion package of infrastructure improvements by month’s end. The 10-year plan is about twice as large as the bill they introduced in January to rebuild the nation’s highways, airports and other infrastructure, a size that Speaker Nancy Pelosi said reflects the toll of the pandemic.

“With the coronavirus, so many needs have been magnified,” Ms. Pelosi said.

The plan includes an additional $100 billion for schools, $100 billion for affordable housing and more money for clean energy projects.

There is little doubt that it will pass the Democratic-led House, but infrastructure plans have so far faced indifference in the Senate.

Antibodies to the new virus may last only two to three months in the body, especially in people who never showed symptoms while they were infected, according to a study published on Thursday.

The new study, published in Nature Medicine, looked at only 37 people who did not show symptoms when infected, but it is the first to offer a characterization of the immune response in such people.

It suggests that asymptomatic people mount a weaker response to the virus than people who develop symptoms. And within weeks, antibody levels fall to undetectable levels in 40 percent of asymptomatic people and 13 percent of symptomatic people.

“That is a concern, but I’d point out that these are pretty small group sizes,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York who was not involved in the work. She also noted that immune cells would continue to offer protection even in the absence of antibodies.

“Most people are generally not aware of T cell immunity and so much of the conversation has focused on antibody levels,” she said.

Still, the results offer a strong note of caution against the idea of “immunity certificates” for people who have recovered from the illness. If levels of immunity decrease so soon after illness, the authors suggest, people who have had the infection once might fall ill a second time.

Antibodies to other coronaviruses, including those that cause SARS and MERS, are thought to last about a year. Scientists had hoped that antibodies to the new virus might last at least as long.

Nearly 500 Russian medical workers have died after contracting the virus, more than four times the number announced previously, the head of a health watchdog agency said Thursday.

But soon after the official, Alla Samoilova, spoke, her agency, Roszdravnadzor, appeared to backtrack, issuing a statement that the figure of 489 dead doctors and nurses cited by Ms. Samoilova was not an official count, but merely one from the internet.

With President Vladimir V. Putin pushing ahead with plans for nationwide military parades next week and a referendum that would allow him to stay in office until 2036, Russian officials have come under pressure to declare the fight against the pandemic won and to avoid downbeat assessments.

But Ms. Samoilova’s assessment was: During a video conference on Thursday, she warned that “the epidemic has not ended, more than half a million people in Russia have been really sick.”

She said the high fatality rate among doctors was due in part to “shortcomings” in providing proper protective clothing in the early stages of the pandemic, a problem she said was now solved.

Russia, with more than 561,000 cases reported, is the third-hardest-hit country. But, boasting of a “Russian miracle,” officials have reported a death toll of 7,660, compared with more than 118,000 in the United States.

If nearly 500 medical workers have died — nearly as many as the 600 estimated to have died in the United States — Russia’s overall death rate may also be considerably higher than reported.

Other news from around the world:

  • Amid a partial lockdown in Beijing, the government said Thursday that the number of cases in the recent outbreak had risen to 158, after an additional 21 cases were reported. Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the city had brought the outbreak under control.

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia called the economic blow from lockdowns devastating,” as data showed that the country’s unemployment rate had surged to a 19-year high.

  • New Zealand recorded its third new case of the week, days after declaring itself among the first countries to be free of the virus.

  • In Germany, schools and day care centers in the northwestern district of Gütersloh remained closed on Thursday after more than 650 workers in a meatpacking plant tested positive. Separately, a chicken processing plant in Wales was shut down for two weeks after several employees tested positive for the virus.

Britain didn’t want Silicon Valley’s help on a tracing app, but now it does.

For months, British authorities went their own way, pursuing an app they promised would help ease the country out of lockdown, even as criticism grew that it posed privacy risks and would not work well.

On Thursday, they abruptly reversed course.

Now, Britain plans to join other countries and design a new contact-tracing app based on software provided by Apple and Google.

It was an embarrassing turnaround, and just one of a string of pandemic missteps by the government. At one point, the government said the contact-tracing technology would be available to the public in May. Now the aim is to have it ready by winter.

British officials had counted on the app, which is intended to alert anyone who may have come near an infected person, such as on a bus or subway, to help prevent a new wave of infections.

Leaders stuck to a plan of building an app in-house even as other countries changed course. Germany and Italy, which both agreed to use Apple and Google’s technology more than a month ago, debuted contact-tracing apps this week.

British public health officials wanted to avoid using the software provided by Apple and Google because it limits the amount of data that can be centrally collected and analyzed — information they felt was critical in tracking the disease. But the British team struggled to build an app that worked properly without support from the Silicon Valley giants.

Apple and Google, whose operating systems run on nearly every smartphone on the planet, prevented outside apps that did not use their code from taking full advantage of a device’s ability to measure proximity. The companies took this approach in the interests of privacy.

The switch comes as big tech zeroes in on the virus-testing market. As businesses across the United States grapple with how to safely reopen during the pandemic, numerous tech giants and start-ups are pushing out a glut of new virus risk-reduction products.

Verily Life Sciences, a sister company of Google, is introducing a health screening and analytics service for businesses. Microsoft and the large insurer UnitedHealth Group recently collaborated on a free symptom-checking app that helps pinpoint workers at obvious risk for the virus and direct them to testing resources. On Tuesday, Fitbit introduced a program that includes a daily symptom-checking app for employees and a work force health-monitoring dashboard for employers.

Each year, thousands of migrant workers make their way from southern Florida up the East Coast and into the Midwest, following the ripening of fruits and vegetables. This year, many will undoubtedly bring the virus with them.

Florida’s agricultural communities have become cradles of infection, fueling a disturbing spike in the state’s daily toll of new infections, which hit another record on Thursday, when more than 3,200 cases were reported. The implications go far beyond Florida: As case numbers in places there are swelling, many farmworkers are migrating north.

As in other agricultural communities around the country, Florida’s farming regions have a high degree of built-in risk. Fruit and vegetable pickers toil close to each other in fields, ride buses shoulder-to-shoulder and sleep in cramped apartments or in trailers with other laborers or several generations of their families.

While many of them are guest workers on temporary visas, others are undocumented, with little access to routine health care and an ingrained fear of the authorities.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has called the contagion in agricultural communities Florida’s “No. 1 outbreak.”

Farmworkers tend to be younger and fitter than the rest of the population and may not suffer as severely from the virus. Some of them joke, in gallows humor, that if the tomato fertilizer has not killed them yet, maybe the virus will not.

Other news from around the United States:

  • The governors of at least six states — Michigan, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina and Vermont — have recently extended their state of emergency orders, even as cases in some of the states have been declining. Along with control over travel restrictions and business closures, the emergency declarations provide a direct line to federal funding for disaster relief.

  • Cases have spiked in Arizona, where a sheriff who was scheduled to meet with Mr. Trump tested positive ahead of his trip to the White House. Sheriff Mark Lamb of Pinal County, who had called enforcement of the state’s stay-at-home order unconstitutional, said that he did not have symptoms and would self-isolate. Across the country, there had been a bubbling backlash to stay-at-home orders. Some protesters, businesses and church leaders defied the measures.

  • New Jersey malls, as iconic in the state as the shore and the boardwalk, can reopen on June 29, the governor said. Stores will be limited to 50 percent, employees and customers must wear masks, and food courts stay closed, though restaurants can serve takeout.

Mr. Trump derided the importance of virus testing and raised doubts about the value of face masks in an interview with The Wall Street Journal published on Thursday.

“I personally think testing is overrated, even though I created the greatest testing machine in history,” Mr. Trump said. He added that because more tests lead to a higher number of confirmed cases, at least in the short term, “in many ways, it makes us look bad.”

Mr. Trump questioned the use of masks as a means of slowing the virus’s spread, and said some people wear them to signal political opposition to him. Most experts say that risk does not outweigh the benefits of widespread use of face masks.

“They put their finger on the mask, and they take them off, and then they start touching their eyes and touching their nose and their mouth,” Mr. Trump said. “And then they don’t know how they caught it?”

Mr. Trump shrugged off concerns that attendees at his scheduled indoor rally in Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday will be at risk of infection. The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said on Wednesday that attendees would be given face masks, but using them will be optional.

‘We can’t stay inside forever’: New Yorkers stretch the rules as the city looks to the next phase.

As New York City began reopening earlier this month, a kind of informal outdoor dining took place, with large groups eating and drinking on streets outside businesses.

The center of the U.S. outbreak in its earliest weeks, the city is being observed as a barometer of recovery, its slow-and-steady approach helping bring the number of daily deaths to just 29 reported on Thursday from highs around 800 in April.

On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed that the city will ease more restrictions on Monday, which the governor said the day before could go forward. As many as 300,000 workers are expected to get back to work as outdoor dining, in-store shopping and office work resumes with limits, the mayor said at his daily briefing.

Not long afterward, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that while the state would not make its final decision on easing restrictions until Friday, he was still advising businesses to prepare.

Restaurants, many which have been open for takeout but do not have available outdoor space, would be able to place seating in curbside parking areas and on sidewalks adjacent to their restaurants, the mayor said. In July, the city would allow restaurant seating on 43 miles of streets closed to vehicle traffic. The mayor predicted that the expanded outdoor dining plan would save 5,000 of the city’s restaurants and 45,000 jobs.

The governor said he is also signing executive orders that allow the state to immediately suspend the liquor license of a business or shut it down if they’re not complying with reopening guidelines, as well to give bars the responsibility to limit the number of people gathered outside.

In Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Heather Sumner, 32, repeated a phrase commonly heard these days: “We can’t stay inside forever.”

Here’s what else is going on in New York:

  • The mayor again repeated concerns that the virus might have spread during massive protests over systemic racism and police brutality. Still, he said that city and state officials had been encouraged by “the trend line” of test results and hospitalizations, which have stayed flat in recent weeks, and decided to allow the reopening to go forward.

  • The mayor said that the city’s playgrounds, which have been shut since March, would also reopen on Monday. But team sports, like basketball, soccer and softball, will not be permitted in city parks.

  • Mr. Cuomo said that he was considering requiring travelers coming into New York from Florida to quarantine for 14 days — a move similar to one Florida imposed on New Yorkers in March. “I have experts who have advised me to do that,” he said. “I’m considering it now.”

  • Carnegie Hall, New York City Ballet and Lincoln Center all canceled their fall seasons, following similar announcements from the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. It will be City Ballet’s first year without “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” since its premiere in 1954 — disrupting a holiday tradition beloved by thousands, and leaving a big hole in the company’s budget.

‘In Harm’s Way’: The Times is collecting stories from health care workers fighting the pandemic.

Since the killing of George Floyd, some of these health care workers have joined the fight against another crisis: racism. While acknowledging the risk of infection posed by protests, they say this movement is too important to sit out.

Check out these tips for wearing a mask while exercising.

Gyms are slowly reopening, outdoor fitness classes are starting up, and many people are hoping to get back to their typical workout routines. But wearing a mask while working out can be challenging. Here are some ways to make it more tolerable.

Reporting was contributed by Alan Blinder, Jane Bradley, John Branch, Chris Buckley, Ben Casselman, Damien Cave, Michael Cooper, Maria Cramer, Michael Crowley, Melissa Eddy, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Michael Gold, Matthew Haag, Amy Haimerl, David M. Halbfinger, Andrew Higgins, Tiffany Hsu, Josh Keller, Apoorva Mandavilli, Patricia Mazzei, Sarah Mervosh, Raphael Minder, Benjamin Mueller, Elian Peltier, Catherine Porter, Amy Qin, David E. Sanger, Adam Satariano, Natasha Singer, Mitch Smith, Matt Stevens, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Noah Weiland, Michael Wilson, Billy Witz, Will Wright, Mihir Zaveri and Karen Zraick.

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New York’s Samelys López Has a Radical Proposal: Poverty Shouldn’t Be a Death Sentence

López, a left-wing insurgent running for Congress, discusses disaster capitalism, defunding police and how she’s taking on the Democratic establishment.

“This district needs representation that’s going to unapologetically be on the side of workers.”

In New York’s 15th District, which covers the West and South Bronx, progressive Samelys López is running in a crowded field to succeed incumbent Democratic Rep. José Serrano.

López—who was born in Puerto Rico and raised in the South Bronx—has navigated many worlds within New York City, from living in the city’s shelter system after her Afro-Dominican mother endured domestic violence, to working as a staffer at Serrano’s office, receiving a Master’s degree in Urban Planning at New York University, volunteering for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign and later co-founding the grassroots group Bronx Progressives.

With civil unrest growing in the wake of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of the police, along with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it’s a tumultuous time for Americans all over the country, but perhaps even more so in New York’s 15th Congressional District, which is the poorest in the country and whose constituents are almost entirely people of color.

To combat the inequities facing the district, López is running on a broad left-wing platform, including Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, expansive labor rights and a Homes Guarantee to vastly increase affordable and public housing. And she’s been endorsed by a string of progressive heavyweights including Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Working Families Party and the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. She faces a wide field of opponents in the June 23 primary.

I spoke to López as protests over Floyd’s killing were still taking place in New York City. With sirens echoing on the call, we talked about disaster capitalism, defunding police and her challenge to the Democratic Party establishment. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

In what ways has Covid-19 changed what we think is politically possible?

Right now people understand more than ever before that the current system that we have needs to change because it is definitely not working for us. The voters that we speak to understand that, and a lot of them want single-payer healthcare. They understand that healthcare should not be tied to whether you have a job or not. And this moment offers a perfect explanation for fighting for these things. Because people are dying.

People are being saddled with debt because they don’t have proper access to healthcare. And when they go to the hospital, it’s a death sentence in a way, because if you’re poor and don’t have access to healthcare and you go to the hospital, you’re probably going to be paying that bill for a long time. And that’s going to impact your food on the table, your ability to pay the rent. So people understand intrinsically that the system that we have now is not working for them—and that it puts profit over people’s pain. So now is a good time to fight for transformative change.

Can you talk a bit about the issues facing your district?

The 15th is known to be the poorest urban congressional district in the entire country. It’s [primarily] black and brown people that live here. There’s a very big immigrant population. Right here in the district, we’re at the center of the coronavirus epidemic. I happen to live near a hospital, and I hear sirens every other day.

There are a lot of people here without jobs, and coronavirus has accelerated a loss of jobs. There have been issues in this community for a long time, there have been dire economic challenges that we’ve experienced historically. There has been environmental racism and injustice here going on for decades. That stems back from the time of Robert Moses, who was an urban planner from the 1950s and 60s that basically cut up the Bronx. And as a result of that, a lot of our black and brown communities in the Bronx live by highways, and that’s why we have some of the highest levels of asthma and respiratory illnesses in the country. So it’s a whole host of issues that are going on in this district, and that’s just a sliver.

Even though this congressional district is the poorest, it’s the one most heavily dominated by Tammany Hall machine-style politics that stems back over 100 years ago. The establishment comes in with more resources and more money because they’re not thinking about rejecting real estate contributions or PAC money. A lot of people feel that’s not democratic.

This district needs representation that’s going to unapologetically be on the side of workers. And a way I plan to ensure that is by continuing to reject real estate developer funding, corporate PAC funding and pharmaceutical funding. I can fight for our collective goods and spaces in the form of them being universal human rights in the community and in the country. When you look at our opponents and you look at how they’re raising money, they don’t necessarily represent transformative change.

How do these issues relate to New York City’s criminal justice system?

You have corporate Democrats running in this race promoting jails in our community. There are some people in their role in the City Council, for instance, who voted for $11 billion for jail building [as part of the city’s plan to close Rikers Island, which had been reduced to about $9 billion] when that money could have been reinvested in reparations for black communities, education, housing, parks and our collective goods and spaces.

I feel like a lot of the people running in this race, especially corporate Democrats, do not have the moral authority to represent this district, especially in light of what’s happening all over the country with the unrest that we’re seeing over our racist and inept criminal justice system. A lot of [those candidates] promoted more cops being on the street and aren’t taking firm positions on the importance of defunding police departments across the country, defunding the NYPD in particular, and demilitarizing the police. All of those things can create savings that we can use to reinvest in our communities and prevent people from ending up in [police encounters] to begin with.

I think that as a movement, we need to redefine what progressivism means. Because right now, that term has been whitewashed, and it’s been co-opted by capitalistic forces that are pushing our working-class communities away from our neighborhoods.

You have mentioned some challenges that would typically hinder a woman of color from entering a political race. What encouraged you to run anyway?

It was really people in the grassroots space that reached out and they’re like ‘listen, you have been fighting alongside the trenches with us. You’ve been with us when we all took on the Independent Democratic Conference [a conservative Democratic coalition that formed in the NY State Senate].’ Or they’d mention my organizing for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when she was first running for Congress and getting signatures and knocking on doors in the face of the entire political establishment being against her at that time. We were also able to organize for pro-tenant legislation that hadn’t been seen in New York State for decades.

So I think that in terms of organizing and electoral politics, it’s really important to have both—to have the movement that’s pushing for the demands and steering us morally and also having the right political conditions where you have leaders in politics that are going to be receptive to the demands of the movement.

You mentioned the grassroots organizing that encouraged you to get involved in politics. It’s often the other way around, where there’s some sort of designated leadership that assigns people, and they pick and choose who should run and where. But yours is a more ground-up approach.

Oh yeah, definitely. And we’ve been educating people about the structure of the Bronx Democratic Party, and we’ve been trying to democratize the local political process. These things have historically been kept hidden. Like, how do you get on the ballot? What is a county committee? What is a district leader? What is the structure? How can you plug yourself in if you want to express yourself politically in your local party?

Given your urban planning background, what are some ways the built environment is exposing New York City’s systemic racism, especially in light of the coronavirus?

There’s a lot of disaster capitalism that’s happening all over. As it relates to education, housing, and all these storefronts being closed. It’s creating conditions of blight to justify the privatization of our housing stock, to justify buying up all these properties, and to eventually kick us out and bring in big box retailers.

We can fight for things like universal housing as a human right to make sure that it’s built with people in mind, and that we target speculative land practices that artificially increase the cost of rent, and have a national tenant Bill of Rights to give tenants more of a sense of ownership and agency, whether they’re renters or small property owners struggling to get by.

Right now, we need to fight to make sure that we organize our economy in a way that centers people and not lobbyists and corporate interests, because disaster capitalism always rears its ugly head in moments of crisis. And we’ve seen this cycle before. But we still have a shot to reverse it.


Malaika Jabali is a public policy attorney, writer and activist. Her
writing on politics, culture and race has appeared in Essence, Jacobin, The Intercept, Glamour and Current Affairs.

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Copyright ©2020 by the INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, reader-funded publication, IN THESE TIMES does not oppose or endorse candidates for political office. (EIN: 94-2889692)

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On Drew Brees, NFL Quarterback, and Maria Ressa, Filipina Journalist

Filipina journalist Maria Ressa is escorted by police after posting bail in Pasig City, the Philippines, on March 29, 2019. (Eloisa Lopez / Reuters)

In my Impromptus today, I begin with Drew Brees and end with Maria Ressa. In between I have North Korea, Russia, the U.S. Congress, impeachment, John Greenleaf Whittier (a statue of whom has just been vandalized), and more. Find something that interests you.

Drew Brees, as you know, is an NFL star, the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints. He made a statement about the American flag and the national anthem that got him into a heap of trouble. Not just criticism — we have a right to raucous debate in this country — but death threats.

Would you like to know what he said? And apologized for, in the most abject terms? (His wife issued a similar apology, which began, “WE ARE THE PROBLEM.”) I quote it in my column, and would like to quote it again here.

Well, I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America, or our country. Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States.

I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corps. Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place.

So every time I stand with my hand over my heart looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that’s what I think about. And in many cases, it brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed.

Not just those in the military, but, for that matter, those throughout the civil-rights movements of the ’60s, and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point.

And is everything right with our country right now? No, it’s not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better, and that we are all part of the solution.

I rubbed my eyes when I read this statement. I did some more rubbing when I listened to it — when I watched Brees in the relevant interview on video: here.

Whatever you think of “kneeling” — the practice of kneeling during the national anthem — Brees made such a sincere and thoughtful statement. Even a touching one. How could it incur such wrath? How could it incur death threats?

Also, they chanted his name in the streets — protesters did. In the streets of New Orleans, where the QB has been a hero. “F*** Drew Brees,” they said.

A statement such as the one he made? How can it require an apology? More than one apology? How can it be a possible career-ender?

Because America is cracked, I say in my column. Yes, cracked.

Okay — and who is Maria Ressa? She is a journalist in the Philippines, and an exceptionally brave woman. You have to be brave to practice journalism — real journalism — there. Ressa co-founded a news site called “Rappler.” She, and it, have been a thorn in the side of the Filipino strongman, Duterte.

Duterte accuses her of “fake news.” Strongmen and dictators all over the world have adopted this phrase, to hurl at journalists: “fake news.” Putin, for example, wields it. Of course, he is one of the world’s leading practitioners of “fake news.”

At the end of 2018, Time magazine named a group of journalists “Person of the Year,” collectively. Maria Ressa was among them.

She was arrested in February 2019 on the charge of “cyber-libel,” and has now been convicted. A sentence has yet to be handed down. The more noise made in Ressa’s behalf, the better.

In 2017, President Trump sat next to Duterte, and reporters tried to ask Duterte about human rights. Duterte shut them down, calling them “spies.” Trump laughed.

Earlier in the year, Trump had sat next to Putin. When reporters tried to ask questions, Putin pointed at them and said to Trump, “Are these the ones who insulted you?” The two then laughed together.

Allow me to repeat what I wrote, those three years ago:

Obviously, democratic leaders have to engage in diplomacy, holding their noses, doing the necessary. If Mao asks you to play ping-pong with him, maybe you do. But democratic leaders, especially the American president, stand for something abroad.

Putin is not just anti–press freedom. He is a killer of journalists. Duterte is not just anti–press freedom. He is a killer of journalists. Recall his famous sentence: “Just because you’re a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch.”

To dictators, a “son of a bitch” is anyone who might inconvenience them.

I think we who spend so much of our day media-bashing have an obligation to remember: Press freedom is a key part of overall freedom. It is key to democracy. It is what we on the right, among others, take advantage of every day.

When the president of the United States is sitting next to the killers of journalists, he should not laugh along with them when it comes to the press. If he cannot defend a free press — the right of people to question and report on their leaders — he should at least refrain from laughing.

Again, my Impromptus today is here. It’s a grab-bag, and see if you can grab something you like.

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DACA: Supreme Court rules to preserve protections for DREAMers

The US Supreme Court ruled on Thursday to keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program alive for now, delivering a hard-won victory to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who have been living in limbo since President Donald Trump tried to dismantle the program.

The decision marks the culmination of a years-long legal battle over Trump’s decision to terminate DACA back in September 2017. It will give a sense of security to thousands of young immigrants who have been allowed to live and work in the US under the program since it was created by then-President Barack Obama in 2012.

Since the program has been allowed to stand for now, Congress could further postpone debate over creating a path to citizenship for these DREAMers, as they are known, until after the presidential election while maintaining the status quo. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has pledged to send a related bill to Congress if he wins the presidency this fall.

Lower courts kept the program alive while legal challenges were ongoing, shielding almost 670,000 unauthorized immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation. During that time, no new applications for DACA were accepted. It’s not yet clear whether the Trump administration will resume accepting new applicants now that the Supreme Court has ruled, but tens of thousands of immigrants would be eligible for the program and have been waiting for their chance to apply.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case, which consolidates three separate legal challenges, in November. Ever since, DREAMers have lived in limbo, not knowing whether they will be allowed to remain in the place they call home. Now, they have assurance.

Here’s what you need to know.

1) Obama created DACA by executive action

In 2012, President Obama created DACA via executive action. The program allowed young, unauthorized immigrants who came to the US before age 16 to obtain legal status and work authorization if they pursued education or service in the armed forces or Coast Guard and passed a background check.

Obama had previously voiced misgivings about unilaterally suspending deportations on multiple occasions. When asked about his goals for immigration reform in a 2010 interview with Univision, Obama said he needed Congress’s support: “I am president, I am not king.” The following year, Obama said it was “just not the case” that he could suspend deportations through executive order.

Advocates subsequently dubbed him the “deporter in chief” for deporting more immigrants than any other president — more than 3 million between 2009 and 2016 and peaking at 409,849 in fiscal year 2012.

When he announced the DACA program in 2012, Obama conceded that the program was only intended to be a “temporary stopgap measure” and “not an amnesty.”

“This is not a path to citizenship. It is not a permanent fix,” he said.

Eight years later, the program has become more permanent than Obama intended.

2) DACA recipients are working in essential jobs

Most DACA recipients are participating in the workforce, paying taxes totaling at least $2.5 million in 79 metropolitan areas across the US. Tens of thousands of them work in essential fields, ranging from education to health care.

Some 16,000 work in education or administer training in some capacity, helping to fill a critical gap in the nation’s supply of credentialed teachers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the shortage is expected to reach 200,000 by 2025, with schools in high-poverty areas suffering the most.

About 66,000 DACA recipients work in food preparation, ensuring that food gets from farm to fork. Given the disruptions to the food supply chain throughout the Covid-19 pandemic — from plant closures to farmers who couldn’t find buyers for their produce — their work has become essential to keeping grocery store shelves stocked and mitigating food shortages.

Another 27,000 DREAMers are health care practitioners or medical support staff who have been treating patients on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, at times risking their health or that of their family to do so. They pitched in as hospitals in coronavirus hot spots became stretched thin and as the nation braces for nationwide shortages of doctors and nurses in the coming years.

3) Trump has argued that DACA is illegal

The Trump administration has pointed to a pair of memos, including a one-page September 2017 memo authored by then-US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which lay out the argument that DACA is unconstitutional and that the administration should therefore end the program or else risk lawsuits challenging it on that basis.

At oral arguments at the Supreme Court, the justices fixated on whether these memos provided an adequate explanation for ending the DACA. As my colleague Ian Millhiser writes, “Broadly speaking, when the government wants to end a policy that many people have relied upon, it must provide an explanation of why this policy shift is justified despite the fact that those people have come to depend upon it.”

Lower courts, however, found that the administration’s decision to end the program was “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act — the federal law that governs policymaking procedures — siding with immigrant advocates leading the legal challenges.

4) Trump won’t be able to deport DACA recipients

Trump administration officials have repeatedly stated publicly that they planned to deport DACA recipients if the Supreme Court ruled in their favor, but that hasn’t come to pass.

Acting US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ken Cuccinelli told reporters in October that DACA recipients would “join the ranks of millions of people” living in the US without authorization if the Supreme Court struck down the program. And Matthew Albence, acting director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, similarly said in January that the agency would carry out outstanding deportation orders against DACA recipients if the justices sided with Trump.

DACA recipients were therefore concerned that immigration authorities could use their personal information, which they registered in a federal database when applying for the program, to track them down. That data, which is housed in USCIS, includes their home addresses, passport photos, educational history, and fingerprints. ProPublica’s Dara Lind reported in April that ICE agents can access DACA recipients’ personal information, despite both the Obama and Trump administration’s assurances to the contrary.

But now that DACA remains intact, the Trump administration will not be able to carry out deportations of DREAMers as planned.

5) Congress has repeatedly failed to pass legislation protecting DREAMers

The fate of unauthorized immigrants brought to the US as children has been a subject of contentious legislative debate for years.

The primary legislative proposal to attempt to tackle the problem was the DREAM Act, first introduced in 2001, which would have offered unauthorized immigrant students the opportunity to apply for provisional protection from deportation and then a green card. The act has been introduced in Congress numerous times over the years but has never mustered enough support to pass.

Congress still appears unable to pass legislation giving the DACA population permanent protections despite support from some Republicans and the broader public. As polls have repeatedly shown, an overwhelming majority of voters support permanent protections for DREAMers.

In 2018, Democrats and Republicans failed to reach a compromise on DACA legislation during open debate on the Senate floor. There were hopes that the fact a vote in the Republican-controlled chamber was happening at all signaled political will for a solution. A compromise bill that would have paired border security funding with protections for DREAMers seemed the most likely to pass, but support fizzled after Trump threatened to veto it.

In June 2019, the House — controlled by Democrats passed a bill, known as the “Dream and Promise Act,” to protect DACA recipients. It offered a pathway to citizenship for about 2.5 million DREAMers and other immigrants with temporary legal status (the original DREAM Act was narrower, covering about 1.5 million people). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he is unlikely to allow a vote in the Republican-controlled chamber.

6) Democrats have recently renewed pressure on Congress to take action

Democratic leaders have recently revived their push for legislation offering permanent protections for DREAMers.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sens. Dick Durbin and Bob Menendez renewed their calls in April for Republicans in the Senate to bring the Dream and Promise Act to a vote, saying that the pandemic has made it all the more urgent. They also called on the Trump administration to automatically extend work authorization for DACA recipients.

Biden has also vowed on the campaign trail to prioritize working with Congress to pass legislation offering a path to citizenship for DREAMers if he becomes president. He says he would make sure DREAMers can access federal student loans and debt-free community college and explore all legal options to prevent them from being separated from their families in the US.

“We should never endanger or throw into question their ability to contribute to our nation,” Biden said in March.


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Live Rayshard Brooks News: Some Atlanta Officers Stay Home

After prosecutors filed a murder charge in the shooting of Rayshard Brooks, many Atlanta police officers stay home.

An unusually high number of police officers in Atlanta did not show up to work their shifts on Wednesday evening after a former officer was charged with murder and aggravated assault in the killing last week of a black man outside a fast-food restaurant.

There were suggestions that the protest by officers could continue on Thursday, and a union official described morale as “terrible.”

The former officer, Garrett Rolfe, faces a total of 11 charges in connection with the death of the man, Rayshard Brooks. The killing, which was captured on a widely circulated video, has prompted the resignation of Atlanta’s police chief and further inflamed the tensions over race and policing that are roiling the nation.

In announcing the charges on Wednesday, prosecutors revealed new details of the late-night encounter, including that Mr. Rolfe kicked the dying man after shooting him twice in the back.

Officials from the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, the union representing Atlanta Police Department officers, denounced the charges. A spokesman for the Police Department said on Wednesday that more officers than usual had called out and not come into work their evening shifts, but he said the department still had enough resources to function.

Vince Champion, the regional director for the union, said in a telephone interview Thursday morning that officers had been calling the union to say that they were angry and would not show up to work.

“I have been getting phone calls since the district attorney had his press conference that officers were walking off the job, were not answering calls, and I have been hearing officers were calling in all night last night that they were not coming in to work today,” Mr. Champion said.

“As a union, we do not support or start the ‘blue flu,’” he said, referring to officers calling in sick. “This was not organized.”

Mr. Champion said he had received calls from officers across the department who said they would stay at home in protest. “The morale is terrible,” he said.

At a news conference on Wednesday to announce the charges, prosecutors said that Mr. Rolfe declared, “I got him,” after firing the fatal shots at Mr. Brooks. Mr. Rolfe kicked the victim, prosecutors said, while his partner stood on the fatally wounded man’s shoulder.

Mr. Rolfe and his partner, Devin Brosnan, both of whom are white, then failed to render aid for more than two minutes, said Paul L. Howard Jr., the Fulton County district attorney.

Officer Brosnan, who remains on the police force on administrative duty, was charged with three counts, including aggravated assault and violations of oath, Mr. Howard said, adding that Officer Brosnan is cooperating with prosecutors in the investigation.

The killing took place on Friday night, after the police were called to a Wendy’s restaurant where Mr. Brooks, 27, had fallen asleep in his car in the drive-through line, the authorities said.

Within 24 hours of the shooting, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta said that she did not believe it was justified, and Mr. Rolfe had been fired. The city’s police chief, Erika Shields, also resigned.

The police in Portland, Ore., said on Thursday morning that they had successfully cleared out a small area of the city that protesters had occupied overnight in the hope of carving out an “autonomous zone” under their control, similar to the one in Seattle.

Several hundred protesters had gathered Wednesday evening outside Mayor Ted Wheeler’s condominium in the Pearl District, an affluent neighborhood known for art galleries and restaurants. They barricaded several streets with dumpsters, wooden pallets, trash cans and other material, and declared the area the “Patrick Kimmons Autonomous Zone,” after a black man who was killed by police officers in 2018.

A group called the Pacific Northwest Youth Liberation Front said it was demanding that the case surrounding Mr. Kimmons’s death be reopened, as well as the abolition of the Portland police. They referred to the city as “the stolen land we call Portland.”

By morning, though, the group had dwindled to about 50 people, according to the police. At 5:30 a.m., the police declared the occupation an unlawful assembly and instructed anyone who did not live in the area to leave or face arrest. The remaining protesters, who by that time were outnumbered by the authorities, left peacefully, the police said.

Appearing on Fox News on Wednesday, President Trump defended Garrett Rolfe, the former Atlanta police officer who has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks.

“You can’t resist a police officer, and if you have a disagreement, you have to take it up after the fact,” Mr. Trump told the Fox host Sean Hannity. “It was out of control — the whole situation was out of control,” the president added.

Mr. Trump said that police officers in America are under siege and that Mr. Rolfe’s fate is now in the hands of the courts.

“It’s up to justice right now,” he said. “It’s going to be up to justice. I hope he gets a fair shake. Because police have not been treated fairly in our country. But again, you can’t resist a police officer like that.”

Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Trump said in an interview with the Sinclair Broadcast Group that the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has not played since 2016 after kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality, should get a chance at another job in the N.F.L.

“I would love to see him get another shot, but obviously he has to be able to play well,” Mr. Trump said.

The president has repeatedly criticized Mr. Kaepernick and other players for kneeling, urging N. F. L owners in 2017 to fire any players who protested during the national anthem.

Clarice Middleton shook with fear as she stood on the sidewalk outside a Wells Fargo branch in Atlanta one December morning in 2018. Moments earlier, she had tried to cash a $200 check, only to be accused of fraud by three branch employees, who then called 911.

Ms. Middleton, who is black, remembers thinking: “I don’t want to die.”

For many black Americans, going to the bank can be a fraught experience. Something as simple as trying to cash a check or open a bank account can lead to suspicious employees summoning the police, causing anxiety and fear — and sometimes even physical danger — for the accused customers.

There is no data on how frequently the police are called on customers who are making legitimate everyday transactions. The phenomenon has its own social media hashtag: #BankingWhileBlack.

Most people who experience an episode of racial profiling don’t report it, lawyers say. Some find it easier to engage in private settlement negotiations. The few who sue — as Ms. Middleton did — are unlikely to win in court because of loopholes in the law.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 lists specific businesses that may not treat black customers differently: movie theaters, hotels, restaurants and performance and sports venues. Federal courts have held that because the law identifies the kinds of businesses to which it applies, those not on the list, such as banks, cannot be held to it.

A labor group has voted to oust the Seattle police guild.

A Seattle-area labor coalition voted on Wednesday night to oust the city’s police union from its ranks, as pressure continued to build around the country to reform or defund police departments and stop the misconduct of some officers.

The coalition, the King County Labor Council, had warned the union, the Seattle Police Officers Guild, in recent weeks that it could face expulsion if it did not address systemic racism in its ranks. The police guild had responded with a vow to discuss the issue, but members of the council voted to move forward with removal.

Police unions have become the focus of ire in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis. Police labor leaders have long led efforts to defend their members and resist proposed reforms.

Amid the anti-racism demonstrations that have rolled across the nation for weeks, Seattle activists have kept up pressure on city officials and the Police Department, with protesters establishing a zone over several city blocks as a home base for gatherings. On Wednesday night, some of those protesters once again shut down Interstate 5.

Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Emily Cochrane, Michael Crowley, Richard Fausset, Emily Flitter, Christine Hauser, Rick Rojas, Kate Taylor and Will Wright.

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Supreme court blocks Trump from cancelling Daca immigration program – follow live | US news










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There are more than 652,800 people, including doctors fighting the coronavirus, who could be affected by the decision about the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (commonly known by its acronym, Daca).

Daca allowed young people who were raised without legal immigration status in the US to get renewable, two-year authorizations to live and work in the country. It did not provide a path to citizenship.

Barack Obama enacted Daca in 2012. The policy landed in the court system after the Trump administration rescinded it in September 2017. Trump has repeatedly said he supports the people Daca shielded from deportation, but for nearly three years their futures have been uncertain as the policy wound through the legal system.

As of September 2019, 652,880 people had Daca, including roughly 27,000 healthcare practitioners and nearly 9,000 teachers. About 80% of the people who have it are from Mexico and nearly half live in California and Texas.

Daca is a popular policy. A month before a November supreme court hearing in the case, 53% of voters said they would oppose a decision by the supreme court to end Daca, in a Marquette University law school poll.










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Supreme Court blocks Trump from canceling Daca

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Schiff signals openness to calling Bolton to testify

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