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Bernie’s Campaign Is Over, but Student Organizers Like Me Are Just Getting Started

In July 2019, the Bernie Sanders campaign sent an email to thousands of students, inviting them to apply for an organizing summer school. By early August, the program launch brought fifteen hundred participants to Zoom for six-hour-long meetings, with titles like “Political Education and My Bernie Story” and “Creating Your Organizing Plan,” followed by homework assignments on campus organizing and Slack conversations about the Green New Deal.

Meetings began with one of the program leaders, Shana Gallagher or Yong Jung Cho, encouraging students to explain what brought them to the Students for Bernie Summer School and what a Bernie presidency would mean for them. Most often, it was Medicare for All, but also the other key issues tied to Sanders’s campaign: crushing student debt, and fears caused by the mounting destruction of the environment.

Students for Bernie leadership went through the logistics of key organizing skills — friend-to-friend organizing, contact mapping, canvassing — to be used within and beyond the Sanders campaign. But staff never touted a Sanders presidency as the natural end of all organizing efforts. “They were preparing us to be able to keep the movement going, whether Bernie was in it or not,” explains Ximena Ybarra, a student organizer from the University of Kansas.

The 2020 presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders ended months ago. But for alumni of the Students for Bernie program like me, the question isn’t about whether we continue organizing, but how. Sanders’s exit from the race for the Democratic nomination makes little sense as an ending point for the kind of movement that his campaign built. Through Students for Bernie, organizers learned to pinpoint key political issues and rally their communities beyond electoral campaigns. That makes Students for Bernie unique among the “student outreach” programs designed by other presidential campaigns, who gauge success by vote counts.

After the end of the campaign, many Students for Bernie organizers turned to organizing pressure campaigns at their colleges and universities. Facing financial losses during a global crisis, universities with multibillion-dollar endowments have turned toward austerity measures for workers and students. Harvard University, for example, has declared hiring and salary freezes, while the University of Connecticut refused to pay student workers through the end of the semester. Students for Bernie groups saw this as a time to put their skills into action.

Dozens of Students for Bernie organizers launched pressure campaigns beginning in March, with many of them still ongoing. These campaigns have posed demands of payment, access to sick leave, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for campus workers while American universities conduct classes online and university administrators attempt to cut costs during the financial crisis.

Their organizers see these efforts as the extension of the ideals that they fought for under the Bernie 2020 banner. CJ Cetina, a member of Texas State for Bernie, described a key demand of his group’s pressure campaign, paid sick leave for campus workers, as “something Bernie has argued for for many years,” making for a natural transition from galvanizing the student vote to lobbying a school administration for workers’ rights.

Kylee Dostie told me about an email sent by University of Connecticut administrators during the spring semester in which she was informed that “supervisors can pay students for their scheduled hours” for their jobs on campus. “The key word is ‘can’” — leaving the issue up to the whims of the supervisor. Hence the campaign #EverybodyEatsButUConn, the title designed to remind the University of Connecticut community that the student workers in their dining halls have yet to be compensated for their labor.

Watching their school shift its political will away from its obligations to student workers and toward belt-tightening for a fiscal crisis, the organizers of UConn for Bernie referenced their training from the Sanders campaign in negotiating and relational organizing. Dostie described being “thrown around to new people every week” with her fellow activists as the administration tried to disperse the pressure campaign — first the head of dining services, next the vice president of student affairs, and finally a communications chair. She brought a full assembly of twenty coworkers and co-organizers to the next Zoom office hours hosted by the university president.

While the president struggled to change the topic from student workers’ compensation, every meeting attendee that he called on directed attention back to the topic at hand, demanding to know why the school was failing its employees. The campaign’s demands have so far been unmet, but students plan to continue pressuring the university administration.

Meanwhile, although Harvard’s $40.9 billion is the largest academic endowment in the world, it has refused to tap into this endowment to protect workers and students, opting instead for university-wide salary and hiring freezes during a global crisis. While Harvard’s president enjoyed financial security and immediate access to COVID-19 testing during his recovery from the virus, on-campus workers received PPE from student donations and, upon experiencing symptoms of the virus, returned home without paid sick leave.

Students involved with the #40BillionForWhat campaign aim not only to end these inequalities, but also to link them to a larger critique of class warfare at the university. The campaign’s immediate demands include providing workers with access to paid sick leave, hazard pay, and PPE. This work and these demands are inspired by the advocacy of Harvard’s Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) and the Harvard Law’s Labor and Employment Action Project (LEAP). These two organizations mobilized the Harvard community to fight austerity against workers in March, circulating a petition that received over seven thousand signatures, and for a May Day call to action, hosting virtual phone-banking sessions and sharing email templates to push demands of sick leave and fair pay.

The central question of this project — “$40 billion for what?” — references Harvard’s immense endowment (larger than the GDP of many small countries), a resource that can more than fulfill these demands. The university has so far defended fossil fuel investments and denied its unionized workers adequate health care. It does not extend to the protection of its own workers, students, and residents in the surrounding community.

Earlier this year, #40BillionForWhat organizers hosted teach-ins on Harvard’s unjust labor practices with prospective students, lobbied the administration to fulfill the campaign’s demands, and shared testimonials from students and campus workers that outlined the need for these basic protections. Now, as the members of a newly minted Harvard Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) chapter, these students are in conversation with community labor leaders and campus activists to continue the #40BillionForWhat mission. Their next course of action is to gauge how they can use the resources and power of that campaign to back the campus workers in the battle against administrative cost-cutting.

In late March, as students across the country returned home indefinitely amid school closures, the national leadership of Students for Bernie brought the group back to Zoom for a series of trainings on how to build a pressure campaign. During these calls, they explained concepts like power mapping and targeting, and posed basic questions of strategy related to classic organizing questions: Who has the power to give you what you want? What power do you have over them?

The organizing skills gained by these campus activists are versatile. And the fiscal belt-tightening enacted by university administrations isn’t isolated — consider, for example, how these institutions connect to the fossil fuel industry and to the prison-industrial complex through their investments. Successfully challenging university leadership holds significance beyond a college environment: students who have mobilized their peers for elections and pressure campaigns can contribute to the working-class movement and the American left off campus.

Providing students across the country with grassroots organizing skills, the Students for Bernie program also prepared them to bring these skills to campaigns beyond electoral politics. Now, as their universities cut costs and ignore the needs of campus workers, Students for Bernie organizers are putting their skills to use.

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Trump Bragged to Fox News’ Chris Wallace About His ‘Very Hard’ Cognitive Test

On Sunday, Fox News aired a lengthy Donald Trump interview in which, among other things, the president dismissed some coronavirus sufferers as having “the sniffles,” and sarcastically suggested that military bases named after Confederate generals be rechristened in honor of the Rev. Al Sharpton. But one exchange with host Chris Wallace was particularly bizarre. In it, Trump insisted that Wallace would struggle with a cognitive test, while Wallace pointed out just how easy its questions were.

Trump has made bashing Joe Biden for a supposed lack of mental sharpness one of the hallmarks of his re-election campaign. But during their interview, Wallace pointed out that polling has found that Americans are more confident of Biden’s competency than they are of Trump’s.

“I’ll tell you what, let’s take a test,” Trump replied. “Let’s go down, Joe and I will take a test. Let him take the same test that I took.

During an interview with Sean Hannity last week, Trump claimed to have “aced” a cognitive exam he’d taken at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Wallace told the president that he had also taken the same exam, and said that it wasn’t all that challenging.

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“They have a picture and it says ‘What’s that?'” said Wallace, “and it’s an elephant.”

“Yes, the first few questions are easy, but I’ll bet you couldn’t even answer the last five questions,” Trump said. “I’ll bet you couldn’t. They get very hard, the last five questions.”

“Well, one of them was count back from one hundred by seven,” replied Wallace. “Ninety-three.”


That wasn’t the only strange moment from the interview. At one point, Wallace fact checked Trump mid-interview, after the president claimed that Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders had released a policy document that advocated for defunding and abolishing the police. Wallace pointed out that the document in question made no mention of defunding or abolishing police forces.

“Oh really? It says abolish,” replied the president. “Let’s go, get me the charter, please.”

In an interview with fellow Fox anchor Bill Hemmer, Wallace revealed what happened next. Trump “found a lot of things that he objected to that Biden has agreed to,” said Wallace, “but couldn’t find any indication, because there isn’t any, that Joe Biden has sought to defund and abolish the police.”

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GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy Warns This Could Be Last Republican President If Trump Is Not Reelected

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) went on Fox News’ “Hannity” this Thursday and said it’s vital for the Republicans to win in November. If not, “I don’t know if we’ll ever have an opportunity to win it again.

“They will change the rules of the game. How we vote, they will change, you know, in California they allow people who are not even citizens to vote in school board races. You know, in California, they lowered the voting age to 17. Do you know, in California, that you could turn your ballot in 17 days after the election? Those are things they’re doing right now. That’s what they’ll do across the country…they’ll expand the Supreme Court, there won’t be 50 states, there will be 52 states…”

McCarthy should know. As he mentions, California is leading the liberal states in disenfranchising Republicans and conservatives. Ballot harvesting, which he eludes to, steals elections. It cost the GOP several House seats in Southern California in 2018. Illegal immigrant voting and voting fraud are rampant in California, as no voter ID is practiced or allowed. County election offices are filled with partisan Democrats who will do everything and anything to keep and put Democrats in power. As Stalin said, “It doesn’t matter who votes. It matters who counts the votes.”

At the national level, if Democrats win in the fall the Supreme Court will be stacked with a rubber stamp far-left majority and Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia will become states, adding four Senate seats and numerous House seats to the Democrat total. McCarthy isn’t kidding or overplaying this. Almost everything is on the line.

McCarthy also spoke of the recent unrest on American streets: “We want to focus on bringing this country back. Rebuilding it, restoring it, and renewing it, and that means and law and order and justice.”

McCarthy will sponsor a bill that will strip federal funding from states and cities that do not enforce laws against vandalism of public property. The president is fully on board with this, as is a great majority of the American people.

Said the GOP Leader:

“This is to protect American statues because what we want to do is tell the history. When you watch [San Francisco’s] St. [Junipero] Serra [statue] get torn down or you watch Ulysses S. Grant’s [statue vandalized], you watch Christopher Columbus, you watch Frederick Douglass, this is a real challenge because we have local officials who have a responsibility for the rule of law…

Why don’t they have greater regard for the rule of law instead of encouraging the mob to tear it down? If they do that, if they allow that to happen then why should federal dollars flow to that city?” Hopefully McCarthy’s warning will be heeded. The Red Tsunami idiots who helped to get us so much in the present mess better wake up from their rose-colored lethargy and complacency. There is a tough fight to win, a very tough fight.”

This piece was written by David Kamioner on July 18, 2020. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

Read more at LifeZette:
Rep. Ilhan Omar in hot water: Federal Election Commission records reflect her campaign paid over $1 million to husband’s firm in 2020 cycle
Liberals want to replace ‘racist’ Star-Spangled Banner with 70s pop hit
Of all people, Whoopi Goldberg pushes back on black female veep

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New polls show Joe Biden is winning suburbanites by a historic margin

Biden’s advantage in the polls is most evident in the suburbs, where he is earning a historic amount of support for a Democrat.

Biden is up by a 52% to 43% margin among suburban voters in the ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Other polls in the last month show Biden in as good or even better position among suburban voters. The latest Fox News poll has Biden with 49% to 38% lead. Quinnipiac University poll puts Biden ahead by a 56% to 34% margin with suburbanites. The NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll has Biden beating Trump 60% to 35% among suburban voters.

Our early June CNN poll had Biden with a 14-point lead in the suburbs.

In the average of all the polls, Biden’s ahead by more than 15 points with suburban voters. This is a historic margin, if it holds.

The fact that Biden is doing so well in the suburbs shouldn’t be a surprise. The suburbs are a bellwether vote of sorts in our current political environment. That is, the suburban vote mirrors the national vote closer than the urban or rural vote.

Biden’s lead in the suburbs is reflective of him doing significantly better than Hillary Clinton. Four years ago at this time, Trump was beating Clinton by a 45% to 35% margin in the ABC/Washington Post poll among suburban voters.

In other words, we’re looking at nearly a 20-point improvement for Biden versus where Clinton was at this point in the 2016 campaign.

A look across the final polls and post-election polls from four years ago shows anything from a small Clinton advantage (e.g. 5 points in the final Fox News poll) to a small Trump advantage (e.g. 4 points in the exit poll).
If you were to go back over time, the exit poll data reveals that no Democrat has won the suburban vote by more than 5 points since at least 1972, when the first exit poll was taken in a presidential election.

(I should note that different pollsters define “suburb” differently. Some use a Zip Code definition and others just ask, for example. Still, by none of the commonly used definitions, has a Democrat done as well as Biden is currently doing in them since at least 1972.)

Winning Democratic candidates do tend to carry the suburbs, though none by as much as any of the polls currently have Biden ahead in them. Back in 2008 (the best year for Democrats this century), Obama won in the suburbs by 2 points in the exit polls. The final ABC News/Washington Post poll had him winning in the suburbs by 5 points.
Lyndon Johnson in 1964 was maybe the only Democrat in the last 70 years who probably won by double-digits in the suburbs. He won overall by 23 points that year. Although no exit poll data is available from that year, the American National Election Studies shows he did about 10 points worse in the suburbs than he did nationally.

The clear difference between the 1964 and 2020 elections is that Biden, at this point, is running ahead of his national numbers in the suburbs. Biden’s lead overall in the polls with a suburban crosstab averages out to be about 13 points.

You can see this dynamic play out in a state like Pennsylvania. In the latest Monmouth University poll, Biden leads 53% to 40% overall among registered voters. He scores a 54% to 35% margin in the swing areas from the Philadelphia suburbs to northeast Pennsylvania. Clinton won those counties by a mere point four years ago, as she lost the state by 1 point.
Indeed, the suburbs have been a problem for Trump and the Republicans during the Trump presidency. It was the suburbs that delivered the Democrats their House majority in 2018. They picked up the vast majority of their net 40-seat gain in the suburbs.

Looking at the polling right now, it would seem the suburbs may be doing Republicans in again. Unless Trump turns it around in the suburbs, he could be heading towards being a one-term president.

This story has been updated with additional polling data.

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‘I expect indictments’ from John Durham investigation

President Trump’s chief of staff said that he expects criminal indictments to result from U.S. Attorney John Durham’s wide-ranging inquiry into the origins and conduct of the Trump-Russia investigation.

Mark Meadows, who took over as chief of staff in late March after serving as a North Carolina congressman since 2013, told Maria Bartiromo of Sunday Morning Futures on Fox News that, based on what he’d seen, he believes people involved in the investigation into Russian interference and alleged collusion with the Trump campaign will end up with charges being leveled against them by Durham, the federal prosecutor handpicked by Attorney General William Barr to lead the investigation of the investigators.

The Trump chief of staff also predicted that new, damning details would be made public soon, just a couple days after Republic Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina released newly-declassified documents, which cast doubt on the veracity of British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s dossier and undercut the Russian collusion narrative pushed by some in the media.

“I think the American people expect indictments — I know I expect indictments based on the evidence I’ve seen. Lindsey Graham did a good job in getting that out. We know that they not only knew that there wasn’t a case, but they continued to investigate and spy, and yes, I use the word ‘spy,’ on Trump campaign officials and actually even doing things when this president was sworn in and after that and doing it in an inappropriate manner,” Meadows said.

“You’re going to see a couple other documents come out in the coming days that will suggest that not only was the campaign spied on, but the FBI did not act appropriately as they were investigating,” he added. “It’s all starting to unravel, and I tell you, it’s time that people go to jail and people are indicted.”

Durham was appointed by Barr last year to investigate the origins of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation and the conduct of the intelligence officials and law enforcement investigators involved in the Trump-Russia investigation. His investigation has since morphed into a criminal probe. Republicans have looked to Durham to send former Obama officials to jail for the alleged illegal targeting of Trump’s campaign and presidency, while Democrats have decried Durham’s investigation as a political stunt aimed at helping Trump.

Graham released two documents declassified with the help of Barr on Friday. The first document was a 57-page transcript of the FBI’s interviews with Steele’s primary subsource in January 2017, which contradicted numerous claims made the dossier and undercut the FBI’s case against Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

A second document showed typed notes from now-fired FBI special agent Peter Strzok harshly criticizing a New York Times report from February 2017. Strzok criticized Steele and repeatedly disputed the leaked claims in the piece alleging contacts between Trump associates and Russian intelligence.

Richard Grenell, the former acting director of national intelligence, who oversaw the country’s 17 intelligence agencies from February through May, said last week that the evidence of those early “red flags” warning about Steele’s dossier being inaccurate and possibly being compromised by Russian disinformation could and should be released in the near future.

A former senior intelligence official with knowledge of the situation told the Washington Examiner that the records made public by Graham on Friday were only some of the classified records alluded to by the former acting spy chief and said Grenell had started the declassification process for the other documents but that it wasn’t guaranteed that those other records would be made public.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s lengthy December report criticized the DOJ and the FBI for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against Page and for the bureau’s reliance on Steele’s unverified dossier. Steele put his research together at the behest of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, funded by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee through the Perkins Coie law firm.

Declassified footnotes now show that the FBI was aware that Steele’s dossier might have been compromised by Russian disinformation.

Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation concluded that Russia interfered in 2016 in a “sweeping and systematic fashion” but “did not establish” any criminal conspiracy between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said last week that while a report is not “the goal” of Durham’s criminal investigation, she expected Durham would release such a report by the end of the summer.

“It is stunning, and here’s the interesting thing: It’s not only that it wasn’t true, the problem is they knew it wasn’t true,” Meadows told Bartiromo on Sunday. “And when you know something is not true and you continue the investigation, that’s collusion, that’s the kind of thing that we must stop, and that’s where we need to hold people accountable.”

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Civil Rights Attorney Leo Terrell Announces He Will Vote Republican for the First Time Ever

Civil rights attorney Leo Terrell, a frequent Fox News guest who has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump in the past, announced on “Hannity” last week that he would be voting Republican for the first time ever in the 2020 presidential election.

The news caught the attention of the Trump campaign, which made sure to tweet out Terrell’s announcement and give him a warm welcome:

Terrell, who has been outspoken in the past against Trump, is now affectionately referred to as “Leo 2.0” by Larry Elder, a conservative radio host who often appears with Terrell on “Hannity.” In recent weeks, Terrell has sparred with left-wing activist Cornel West and argued that the Democratic Party has “been hijacked by the extremists.”

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In early July, Terrell published a commentary piece in Newsweek scorching Black Lives Matter. His transition to supporting Trump reached the tipping point Thursday, as he announced, “This will be the first time in my life, Sean Hannity viewers, that I will be voting Republican.”

When Hannity and Elder tried to take credit for Terrell’s conversion, the African-American attorney explained that “The Democratic Party left me.” Terrell elaborated further in a tweet, saying that he “did not sign up for their socialist agenda.”

Toward the end of the segment, Terrell told Hannity: “If you didn’t hear it, I’m voting for Trump.” Elder remarked that “if we can convert Leo, we can convert anybody. If we can get Leo, we can get anybody.”

Terrell is hardly the first prominent African-American to make headlines by proclaiming support for Trump. Back in April, Democratic Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones announced that he would support the president’s re-election bid.

Jones’ announcement caused him to face enormous backlash and initially caused him to resign. However, the Georgia lawmaker walked back that decision, citing a desire to hold the Democrats “accountable for how they are treating black people.”

Will President Trump receive a higher share of the African-American vote in 2020 than he did in 2016?

Terrell has received similar backlash for his criticism of current Democratic positions and the Black Lives Matter movement. In an interview Wednesday with The Daily Caller, he explained that he had been “shunned” by his erstwhile colleagues: “They don’t talk to me, they don’t text me anymore.”

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In an age where Democrats, led former Vice President Joe Biden, believe that African-Americans who dare to support Trump and the Republicans  “ain’t black,” Terrell deserves a lot of credit for standing up to the party. Hopefully, many other African-American patriots will follow his lead.

Based on the numbers, it looks like many other African-Americans may have made the decision to “walk away” from the Democratic Party. Polls taken within the past year have put the president’s approval among African-Americans at more than 30 percent.

Keep in mind that Trump only won 8 percent of the black vote in 2016. The Democrats’ rapid lurch to the left does not appear to have helped their standing with African-Americans, an important part of their electoral coalition.

As the entertainer Kanye West explained after making his late entry into the 2020 presidential race, “To say that the black vote is Democratic is a form of racism.”

For years, the Democrats have taken the African-American vote for granted.

In 2020, the decision of African-American Democrats like Leo Terrell to support Trump could signal that the Democratic Party’s lock on the black vote has finally come to an end. If that’s the case, the Democratic Party could very well experience its worst electoral nightmare.

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Trump downplays virus, disputes bad polls in testy interview with Fox’s Wallace

President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi, Blumenaur condemn ‘egregious abuses of power’ by Trump against Oregon protestors Federal agents deployed to Portland did not have training in riot control: NYT Trump administration seeking to block funding for CDC, contact tracing and testing in new relief bill: report MORE in a testy interview with Fox News’s Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceSunday shows preview: Trump, lawmakers weigh in on COVID-19, masks and school reopenings amid virus surge On The Money: Enhanced unemployment insurance likely to expire during COVID-19 aid talks | Trump says he won’t issue national mask mandate | Mnuchin: Hardest-hit businesses should be able to get second PPP payment Trump says he won’t issue national mask mandate MORE downplayed recent surges in coronavirus cases, defended his stance on Confederate-named bases and sought to attack his fall opponent, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump turns White House into backdrop for political events Democrats raise alarm about new US human rights priorities Democrats set to hold out for big police reform MORE

Trump disputed polls showing him trailing Biden, eviscerating his Democratic opponent as “not competent to be president” and controlled by the “radical” progressive wing of the party.

He also complained about his inability to hold rallies in some areas of the country due to the coronavirus, accusing “Democrat-run states” of not allowing him to do so.

Trump’s appearance on “Fox News Sunday” — his first Sunday morning show interview in more than a year — comes less than four months out from the election, as polls show the president in an uphill race against his competitor. A recent poll found 6 in 10 voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 3.7 million in the United States and taken more than 140,000 American lives, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The president described recent spikes in coronavirus cases as “burning embers” or “flames” and insisted exploding cases in Florida would be “under control.” He also attributed the recent rise in cases — the U.S. surpassed a daily record of more than 77,000 new cases on Friday — to an increase in testing, a claim that health experts have widely disputed.

“We’ll put out the flames. And we’ll put out in some cases just burning embers. We also have burning embers. We have embers and we do have flames. Florida became more flame like, but it’s going to be under control,” Trump told Wallace.

“Many of those cases are young people that would heal in a day,” Trump replied when asked about the 194 percent increase in cases in the country. “They have the sniffles and we put it down as a test. … I guess it’s like 99.7 percent, people are going to get better and in many cases they’re going to get better very quickly.”

“Cases are up — many of those cases shouldn’t even be cases. Cases are up because we have the best testing in the world and we have the most testing,” the president continued.

The appearance on “Fox News Sunday” was the president’s first on a Sunday morning show since June 2019 and his first interview on Wallace’s program since November 2018.

It was filled with contentious exchanges. At one point, Wallace challenged Trump when the president claimed that Biden had called for defunding the police, an exchange that led the president to demand his aides brandish a copy of the recommendations set forth by the “unity task force” established by Biden and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenior DHS official says agency not seeing ‘coordinated’ foreign election interference Fox host Chris Wallace fact-checks Trump claim Biden wants to defund police David Sirota discusses Senate Majority PAC backing incumbents over progressives in primaries MORE (I-Vt.), a former Democratic presidential candidate.

“Let’s go. Get me the charter, please,” Trump said, gesturing to an aid off-screen. The president later thumbed through the document, taking issue with policy proposals on immigration, but did not land on a section calling for defunding the police, which Biden has explicitly said he opposes. Wallace said the White House never produced evidence of the president’s claim.

Trump also projected optimism about his reelection prospects despite recent national and battleground state polling showing him losing to Biden. Confronted with a new Fox News poll showing him trailing Biden nationally by 8 points, Trump rejected the poll as “fake.”

“I’m not losing, because those are fake polls. They were fake in 2016 and now they’re even more fake,” the president insisted. “I have other polls that put me leading, and we have polls where I’m leading. I have a poll where we’re leading in every swing state.”

Trump went on to lambaste Biden as “not competent” to serve as commander in chief and challenged him to take a cognitive test. He argued he has outperformed Biden on the economy.

“I built the greatest economy in history, I’m now doing it again,” Trump said, expressing confidence about the economic recovery amid the coronavirus, which resulted in millions of job losses due to lockdowns meant to curb its spread.

“I think the economy is expanding and growing beautifully,” Trump said later, doubting that the state of the economy would be a problem for him come Election Day. “Now, the Democrats want to keep it closed as long as possible because they think that’s good for elections.”

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Clueless 25th Anniversary Essay – Why Travis Birkenstock Is the Real Hero of Clueless

A lot of things about Clueless hit a little different 25 years later. Actually a lot different. I remember seeing it in theaters with friends—our parents dropped us off at because we were teenagers but not yet old enough to have a license. That scene of Dionne freaking out when accidentally driving on the freeway was terrifyingly real in the way it foreshadowed what was looming just ahead of us in terms of responsibility (even while remaining hilarious).

Just the other day, after a rewatch of the movie for what was maybe the thousandth time, my friend remarked “I feel like we didn’t react strongly enough back then to the fact that Cher ends up dating her step-brother.” And it’s true, I never realized—or cared to notice—how weird the central romance ends up being. I love Clueless, I always will. Amy Heckerling took Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse and plopped her into Beverly Hills as Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), and the result is a ’90s coming of age classic. It’s a movie that’s still quoted and meme’d today. We still discuss how Paul Rudd (and Jeremy Sisto! Elton has done well for himself!) seems to get even hotter with age. One thing that stands out more than 25 years later is how Travis Birkenstock is kind of an underrated character. Breckin Meyer took what could have just been a one note stoner role and made it something far more interesting. Upon deeper reflection all these years later, I think he might even be a hero of the film.

As a teen watching Clueless my focus was mainly on Cher and Dionne (and Tai) but specifically how everything Cher said and did was gospel. She was a master schemer but it was for the good of her report card and her fellow students! Her closet was mind bogglingly full of incredible outfits that looked fantastic on her! She looked out for her father’s health and well-being even though his primary level of speaking is through angry shouting. Cher changes her mind about Travis as part of her evolution to become a better person, but her judgment of Travis as a person is short-sighted and off the mark from the get-go.

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While Cher makes clear her disdain toward Travis for a majority of the movie, if you break down all his scenes, he’s genuinely a nice guy who is trying to better himself just like Cher. And he is also ALWAYS nice to her (and everyone else he encounters!) even when she doesn’t deserve it. He praises her debate skills in class, he attempts to talk to her about schoolwork (even though it’s partly a ploy to invite Tai to a party), and offers her a joint when she’s yelling at him for accidentally spilling a drink on her shoes. When he is anointed as the person in class with the most tardies, Cher looks irritated at his delight in “accepting” the honor, solidifying her judgment of Travis as a pothead goof-off never to be taken seriously. But if you listen to the words of his speech, it doesn’t tell the story of the loadie slacker Cher and Dionne would have you believe he is. It depicts a happy-go-lucky teen who doesn’t have as much money as the rest of his Beverly Hills peers, and has to bum rides or take the city bus to get to school which tends to result in his tardiness. Ok yes, sometimes he stops for Egg McMuffins but whom among us wouldn’t be late once in awhile for the chance to grab one of those on the way to school.

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I won’t say that Travis is the most mature character in the film (hocking a loogey and catching it in his mouth disqualifies him) but he possesses some strong traits that I would have loved for the guys in my high school to have in the ’90s. He’s kind to the new girl without provocation and openly compliments Tai’s artistic skills instead of playing it cool or aloof—warm behavior that develops further at the party he invites her to in the Valley. I will also die on the hill that he tried to bring ice to help Tai after she nearly got impaled by a flying shoe. Cher is the one who actually put the ice and towel together and yet somehow Elton receives the credit for the gesture which is infuriating to me. This also proves how easy it is to overlook the person who genuinely cares about your well-being while you’re busy vying for the attention of the cool guy who doesn’t even know your last name. An argument could be made that Travis is the most responsible of all the characters, considering he casually completes a 12-Step program while still in high school, invoking the ninth step when he apologizes to Cher months after ruining her shoes at the party. During a time when many teens are usually experimenting and pushing limits of excess, he up and decides to go in the opposite direction. Also a man apologizing? With sincerity? Who knew it was possible! When Travis competes at the skateboarding competition and is grinning ecstatically at Cher and Tai after he does well, Cher not only realizes how motivated Travis is, she accepts that her initial judgment of him as a person was totally wrong. And in that moment she also makes amends for past mistakes.

So many iconic teen movies over the years expected you to root for the popular guys who upon closer examination actually exhibited really distasteful behavior. Zack (Freddie Prinze Jr.) allows Laney (Rachel Leigh Cook) to be humiliated at a party in She’s All That without stepping in to defend her. That’s similar to Blane’s (Andrew McCarthy) actions in Pretty in Pink and Henry (Dougray Scott) in Ever After. It’s almost like there’s a whole genre of dudes allowing the girls they supposedly care about be treated like garbage at public events. And yes, Travis is not the main character of the movie, but he’s also not just the throwaway stoner with a handful of funny lines that I took him for the first time I watched Clueless. Tai was immediately attracted to Travis because he was nice to her and then dissuaded of her own feelings by Cher and Dionne believing they were looking out for Tai’s best interest. Rewatching this now I can’t believe that I didn’t realize back then how common it was in high school to timidly admit you were crushing on someone just to have someone in your trusted circle scoff and say nah you can do better. And if you really think about it, it’s actually Elton who fits Cher’s description of someone who comes to class and occasionally says bonehead things, not Travis.

I can often look back at romcoms I loved from years ago and realize that the “nice” character was actually creepy or problematic (hello Can’t Hardly Wait, Love Actually, American Pie). But Travis Birkenstock’s niceness will forever abide.

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Virginia Drops Criminal Charges Against Pastor for Holding Church Service

Charges have been dropped against a Virginia minister who held a Palm Sunday service for 16 people in defiance of the state’s coronavirus lockdown orders at the time.

Accomack County dropped the charges without comment in a court filing dated July 10.

On April 5, police rushed into the 300-person-capacity Lighthouse Fellowship Church on Chincoteague Island and arrested Pastor Kevin Wilson, according to Fox News.

“It shocked me, that [the police] came in all masked all up,” Wilson later said, according to Time. “And it shocked the people. They were saying, ‘What in the world is going on here?’”

“I am pleased that the charges were dropped,” Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which is representing Wilson, told Fox News. “They should’ve never been issued in the first place.”

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The charges against Wilson carried a maximum penalty of a year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.

Wilson has filed suit against Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, claiming his church was a victim of discrimination and that his religious freedom was violated.

“It’s absolutely unbelievable that the pastor would be charged for having six people over the 10-person limit, and at the same time, Gov. Northam significantly hurt his case by encouraging mass protests and limiting this church to a 10-person limit,” Staver said.

The Department of Justice has filed a statement of interest in support of the church, according to a news release on Liberty Counsel’s website.

Should the state of Virginia be sued for interfering with religious freedom?

“[T]he United States believes that the church has set forth a strong case that the Orders, by exempting other activities permitting similar opportunities for in-person gatherings of more than ten individuals, while at the same time prohibiting churches from gathering in groups of more than ten … has impermissibly interfered with the church’s free exercise of religion.

“Unless the Commonwealth can prove that its disparate treatment of religious gatherings is justified by a compelling reason and is pursued through the least restrictive means, this disparate treatment violates the Free Exercise Clause, and the Orders may not be enforced against the church,” the statement of interest said.

“Governor Ralph Northam has clearly discriminated against Lighthouse Fellowship Church,” Staver said. “We are pleased that all of the charges have now been dropped.”

Vice President Mike Pence has spoken out on behalf of the church.

“The very idea that the Commonwealth of Virginia would sanction a church for having 16 people come to a Palm Sunday service, when I think the church actually seats 250, was just beyond the pale, and I’m truly grateful for Attorney General William Barr standing by religious liberty,” Pence said in May, according to Fox News.

“We’re going to be celebrating the faith of the American people and the freedom to practice and live out our faith every day, and that’s why I wanted to speak out in favor of the DOJ’s action and just assure every American that we are going to stand by men and women of faith of every religion in this country and protect, even in this challenging time, protect their freedom of religion,” the vice president continued.

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Virginia initially said church services could hold no more than 10 people, regardless of the size of the building in which they were held.

The order was modified in May to no more than 50 percent of the capacity of the building, according to WSLS-TV.


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Peoria, Illinois, shooting leaves 12 hurt, 2 reported in serious condition

A dozen people were shot during an incident early Sunday morning along the waterfront area in Peoria, Illinois, according to officials.

The Peoria Police Department said the incident happened around 4:42 a.m. in the area of Northeast Water Street and Hamilton Boulevard, near the city’s riverfront.

Police spokeswoman Amy Dotson told Heart of Illinois ABC that about 200 people were gathered in the area at the time when shots rang out.


Dotson told WCBU that of the 12 people shot, 2 are in serious condition, with both individuals sustaining gunshot wounds to the neck.

A dozen people were shot during an incident early Sunday morning along the waterfront area in Peoria, Illinois, according to officials. 

None of the injuries are considered to be life-threatening, WCBU reported.

Two of the victims were transported to an area hospital in ambulances, while 10 were taken in private vehicles, according to the Journal Star.

There was no information regarding suspects released by officials. The incident remains under investigation.

The shooting added to an already violent weekend in Peoria, where one person was killed and three others were injured.


Hours before the riverfront shooting, police said a man was shot in the face just before 9 p.m. on Saturday just south of downtown Peoria.

On Saturday, police said a 40-year-old man was killed when he and another man were shot around 1:30 a.m. southwest of the downtown area.

Three hours later, officials responded to a ShotSpotter alert to find a vehicle that crashed into a home. The driver of the vehicle fled on foot, according to police.

Authorities later found out a man with a gunshot wound was dropped off at an area hospital. He is listed in serious condition.


Police said they believe that the occupants of two vehicles were shooting at each other when one crashed into a porch. The other vehicle fled.

Anyone with information regarding either of those incidents is asked to contact Peoria Police at (309) 673-4521 or CrimeStoppers anonymously at (309) 673-9000.