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Joe Biden nears final decision on running mate

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Joe Biden nears the announcement of his vice presidential choice, the top contenders and their advocates are making final appeals.

The campaign hasn’t finalized a date for naming a running mate, but three people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the plans said a public announcement likely wouldn’t happen before the week of Aug. 10. That’s one week before Democrats will hold their convention to officially nominate Biden as their presidential nominee.

Biden said in May that he hoped to name his pick around Aug. 1 and told reporters this week that he would “have a choice in the first week of August.” He notably stopped short of saying when he would announce that choice.

Running mates are often announced on the eve of a convention. As Biden prepares to make his choice, a committee established to vet running mates has provided him with briefing materials. Biden will likely soon begin one-on-one conversations with those under consideration, which could be the most consequential part of the process for a presidential candidate who values personal connections.

The leading contenders include California Sen. Kamala Harris, California Rep. Karen Bass and Obama national security adviser Susan Rice. The deliberations remain fluid, however, and the campaign has reviewed nearly a dozen possible running mates.

Representatives for Biden declined to comment.

The selection amounts to the most significant choice Biden has confronted in his nearly five-decade political career. He has pledged to select a woman and is facing calls to choose the first Black woman to compete on a presidential ticket.

On Friday, more than 60 Black clergy leaders called on Biden in an open letter to pick a Black woman as his running mate, saying the U.S. is facing a “moment of racial reckoning” that cannot be ignored.

As a decision looms, the camps are jockeying for position.

Harris’ allies mobilized this week after Politico reported that the co-chair of the vetting committee, former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, was concerned about Harris’ tough debate stage performance and that she hasn’t expressed regret.

Several California elected officials and labor leaders initiated a call with the vetting team to emphasize that Harris has strong support among labor and political leaders in her home state.

They also pushed back against the idea that Harris wouldn’t be a loyal partner, a sentiment echoed by a number of prominent donors.

“By all objective standards, Kamala Harris should be the overwhelming favorite for the job,” said Michael Kempner, a major Democratic donor based in New York.

Harris, while not directly addressing her vice presidential prospects, told a group of young Black women Friday that it’s common for Black women to face resistance when they exercise their power.

“There will be a resistance to your ambition. There will be people who say to you: ‘You are out of your lane,’” she said during the digital summit. “They are burdened by only having the capacity to see what has always been instead of what can be.”

Biden allies say his wife, Jill, and sister, Valerie Biden Owens, are likely to play a key role in the decision, as they have with many of Biden’s biggest political decisions throughout his career. Jill Biden has held online campaign events and fundraisers with virtually all the potential contenders in recent weeks, as has Biden himself, effectively offering the contenders a try-out opportunity with the presumptive Democratic nominee.

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Has Black Lives Matter Brought Us Closer To The Tipping Point On Class Inequality?

The Black Lives Matter movement, in demanding that we reconsider how Black lives have been valued, or rather de-valued, in U.S. culture, society, and political economy, essentially asks us as well to interrogate our entire system of economic and cultural values.

On what basis do we in our socio-economic system and culture assign different values to people’s lives?

Such a question really brings us to the heart of our class society that we really tend not just to take for granted but to see as absolutely justified.  Of course the CEO, the doctor, the manager, or the lawyer make more than the agricultural worker in the field, the grocery store clerk, the bus driver, or the mail carrier. 

The U.S. dominant culture doesn’t ask us to question this state of affairs, and so most people don’t. Even if we argue over the degree of income inequality, few argue for full and outright economic equality and for an end to this differential valuation. Our cultural value system tends to justify this differential valuation of work and thus by extension the differential valuation of the lives of the workers. And we know, of course, that often the work of devalued because of who is doing it. Women and people of color have historically received less pay for the same work white men are doing.

Based on their wages, people have different access to healthcare, to education, to housing—to basic means of survival.  They may have no access at all. The story we are told is that this arrangement is a meritocracy, so people get what they deserve.  In other words, some lives deserve less—and thus they matter less.

We also like to say in our culture that “we,” or “people,” aren’t making these decisions, but rather an indifferent market is determining the economic value of work—and hence the human value of workers’ lives.

But it really isn’t the market. Gains in benefits and pay and improvements in working conditions have historically been the result of the collective organizing and protest of workers, often far more violent and deadly for workers than the protests we are witnessing today.  Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker: “The Weekend: Brought to You by the Labor Movement.”  This is why we see wages and benefits are invariably lower for non-unionized workers and why the right wing continues to undermine the power of labor unions.

The market isn’t determining the value of people’s lives; people through brute political will and force are.

We see “essential workers” these days–upon whom, it should now be crystal clear, we all vitally depend for our food and survival—being effectively forced to work, and this recognition in our culture of their “essential value” has not translated into an elevation in their economic value, in the mattering of their lives as registered in the resources, the money, they have to take care of their lives.

The police murder of George Floyd, just one in a long string of murders of African Americans at the hands of police for which there had been little to no accountability, constituted a tipping point, triggering widespread protests by American finally declaring, “Enough.” What America on the whole had willfully denied—the reality of racism—it has seemed to admit, on the whole.

What will it take to reach this tipping point on the injustice of class inequality?

Millions of Americans are suffering.

Recent statistics show 26 million Americans cannot afford to pay for adequate food for their families and are going hungry.

Keep in mind that millions of Americans lost their health insurance when they lost their jobs. This July 32% of U.S. households could not make their full housing payment, making the fourth month in a row of “historically high” numbers of Americans unable to meet these payments.

This past week another 1.4 million Americans filed for unemployment.

And yet the Republican Senate is loath to extend enhanced unemployment benefits or approve another relief package for the average American wanting work.

Meanwhile, millions, nay billions, of dollars are being distributed to the wealthiest among us who are doing just fine. Nicholas Kristoff reported in The New York Times that last relief package provided $135 billion dollars in “relief” for real estate developers, offering retroactive tax breaks for periods that preceded the coronavirus outbreak.  As Jason Easley has reported for PoliticusUsa.com, businesses connected to the families of Donald Trump and Jared Kushner have also received millions, as have businesses of families connected to Mitch McConnell.

But it’s not about these individuals.  It’s about the wealthiest class in America using its power to raid the nation’s coffers we taxpayers fill, supposedly to serve us all in democratic fashion.

We see class inequality isn’t just about income inequality. It’s about the unequal power in the key political processes of decision-making.

How much is enough?

Remember Trump’s tax cuts?

These tax cuts benefited the wealthy and did not trickle down, despite Trump’s promises that companies would invest in workers and not cut jobs. Companies like AT&T, Wells Fargo, and General Motors lobbied for them, promising to re-invest their tax savings in their workers and companies to the benefit off the nation as a whole. And yet all of these companies have engaged in massive layoffs or plant closings. AT&T has eliminated over 23,000 jobs since the tax cuts went into effect, despite receiving a $21 billion windfall from the tax cuts with the prospect of cashing in an additional $3 billion annually in tax savings. In November 2018, GM announced it would be closing five plants, eliminating 14,000 jobs in communities across Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, and Ontario, Canada, while buying back $10 billion in stock and earning a net profit of $8 billion on which the company paid no federal tax. Wells Fargo did raise the minimum wage of its employees, though the tax savings for the company were 47 times larger than the cost of that pay raise to the company; and the company announced its plans in September 2018 to eliminate 26,000 jobs, at the same time that it has raised health insurance costs for its employees.

There may be no one George Floyd to push us over the edge, to bring us to the tipping point.

But there are whole classes of people suffering en masse.

When will we tip?

 

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Negotiators report progress in coronavirus relief talks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers reported progress on a huge coronavirus relief bill Saturday, as political pressure mounts to restore an expired $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit and send funding to help schools reopen.

“This was the longest meeting we’ve had and it was more productive than the other meetings,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who was part of the rare weekend session. “We’re not close yet, but it was a productive discussion — now each side knows where they’re at.”

Schumer spoke alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., after meeting for three hours with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

The Democratic leaders are eager for an expansive agreement, as are President Donald Trump and top Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. But perhaps one half of Senate Republicans, mostly conservatives and those not facing difficult races this fall, are likely to oppose any deal.

Prior talks had yielded little progress and Saturday’s cautious optimism was a break from gloomy private assessments among GOP negotiators. The administration is willing to extend the newly expired $600 jobless benefit, at least in the short term, but is balking at other Democratic demands like aid for state and local governments, food stamp increases, and assistance to renters and homeowners.

Pelosi mentioned food aid and funding for voting by mail after the negotiating session was over. She and Schumer appeared more upbeat than they have after earlier meetings.

“We have to get rid of this virus so that we can open our economy, safely open our schools, and to do so in a way that does not give a cut in benefits to American workers,” Pelosi said.

Mnuchin said restoring the $600 supplemental jobless benefit is critically important to Trump.

“We’re still a long ways apart and I don’t want to suggest that a deal is imminent because it is not,” Meadows said afterward. “There are still substantial differences, but we did make good progress.”

The additional jobless benefit officially lapsed on Friday, and Democrats have made clear that they will not extend it without securing other relief priorities. Whatever unemployment aid negotiators agree on will be made retroactive — but antiquated state systems are likely to take weeks to restore the benefits.

Republicans in the Senate had been fighting to trim back the $600 benefit, saying it must be slashed so that people don’t make more in unemployment than they would if they returned to work. But their resolve weakened as the benefit expired, and Trump abruptly undercut their position by signaling he wants to keep the full $600 for now.

On Friday, Trump used Twitter to explicitly endorse extending the $600 payment and to criticize Schumer.

Washington’s top power players agree that Congress must pass further relief in the coming days and weeks. At stake beyond the $600 per week jobless benefit is a fresh $1,200 direct payment to most Americans, and hundreds of billions of dollars in other aid to states, businesses and the poor, among other elements.

Democrats hold a strong negotiating hand — exploiting GOP divisions — and they are expected to deliver a necessary trove of votes.

The COVID package will be the fifth legislative response to the pandemic and could well be the last one before the November election. The only other must-pass legislation on the agenda is a stopgap spending measure that should advance in September.

Since May, Republicans controlling the Senate had kept the relief negotiations on “pause” in a strategy aimed at reducing its price tag. But as the pandemic surged back over the summer — and as fractures inside the GOP have eroded the party’s negotiating position — Republicans displayed some greater flexibility.

Even with signs of progress in the talks, the list of items to negotiate remains daunting.

McConnell’s must-have item is a liability shield from lawsuits for businesses, schools, and charities that reopen as the pandemic goes on. The GOP’s business allies are strong backers but the nation’s trial lawyers retain considerable clout in opposition. A compromise is probably a challenging but necessary part of a final deal.

Among the priorities for Democrats is a boost in food stamp benefits. Republicans added $20 billion for agribusinesses but no increase for food stamp benefits in their $1 trillion proposal. Meadows played a role in killing an increase in food aid during talks on the $2 trillion relief bill in March, but Pelosi appears determined. The food stamp increases, many economists say, provide an immediate injection of demand into the economy in addition to combating growing poverty.

“Traditionally we’ve had a partnership between farms and families, and they’ve consistently broken that,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

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2nd stimulus check: Where things stand on $1,200 payments as August begins

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released the GOP coronavirus aid plan this week and included a second round of stimulus checks. But there hasn’t been much movement in Washington, which means you’re no closer to receiving a new direct payment.

Members of the Trump administration are meeting with Democratic leadership on Saturday. As of Friday night, both sides appeared far from reaching a deal on a wide-ranging relief package.

Principal negotiators — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — convened again Saturday in hopes of breaking a weeklong stalemate.

“I’m hoping we’ll make progress and I think we will,” Pelosi said as she entered the Capitol.

On Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump took the issue to Twitter saying, “the Democrats are holding back the $1,200 to $3,400 (family of four) checks that were ready to be sent out!”

“(Nancy) Pelosi and (Chuck) Schumer have no interest in making a deal that is good for our Country and our People,” Trump tweeted. “All they want is a trillion dollars, and much more, for their Radical Left Governed States, most of which are doing very badly. It is called a BAILOUT for many years of bad Dem Mgmt!”

McConnell’s $1 trillion HEALS Act proposal released this week was in stark contrast to a $3 trillion package previously approved by House Democrats.  At this point, the only thing both sides can agree on is that Congress must pass further relief in coming days and weeks.

“I’m not very optimistic that we will have any kind of an agreement on a comprehensive bill in the near future,” said Mark Meadows on Thursday. He said he even doubted a deal could be struck next week.

McConnell may have seen this coming. He warned the timeline for passing an aid package might be weeks and not days during an appearance last week in Ashland, Kentucky.

“Hopefully we can come together behind some package we can agree on in the next few weeks,” McConnell said, according to The Washington Post.

Not only has the process kept many unemployed Americans exposed with COVID-related insurance expiring this week, but that means it would take that much longer for $1,200 direct payments to be distributed.

CNET estimated that if the GOP plan were to make it through Congress in the next few days, it’s possible checks would be distributed in mid- to late August. 

However, McConnell’s timeline indicating “weeks” could potentially push the payments even later.

The Senate is set for a recess after Friday, Aug. 7 that would run through Labor Day.

How far off are Republican and Democrats on a deal? Quite a bit, it seems. Speaker Pelosi isn’t happy with a GOP proposal to slash the current $600 weekly jobless benefit to $200 a week.

Republicans argue the federal unemployment aid bump is too generous on top of state benefits and is discouraging employees from returning to work. As late as Friday afternoon, the White House and some of its Republican allies in the Senate signaled they wanted to extend, at least temporarily, the expanded jobless benefit. However, both sides couldn’t reach an agreement in time to prevent the lapse of the benefit officially on Friday. Democrats have so far rejected a “one-off” extension and say the next relief bill needs to move forward as a complete package.

The sides are also at odds over a liability shield for schools and businesses that’s been deemed critical by McConnell. The Washington Post reports The White House may be willing to compromise with Democrats and dump the shield from the plan. That wouldn’t sit well with McConnell who said he wouldn’t bring the aid package for a vote without the liability shield included.

“We’re not negotiating over liability protection,” McConnell told CNBC earlier this week. “We’re not negotiating with Democrats over that.”

More money for dependents

The GOP plan calls for checks up to $1,200 for most taxpayers plus an additional $500 for any dependent. The word “any” is the change that could result in additional dollars.

According to Yahoo Finance, parents of older high schoolers and college students claimed as dependents would get the bonus. This also includes anyone taking care of elderly relatives who are also claimed as dependents.

In the first round of stimulus payments, only parents of dependents under 17 received the additional $500.

“We also include, in the additional $500 for each dependent, some people that we didn’t intend to leave out last time, but we did,” Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Monday. “So regardless of age, some of these dependents will now be helped.”

A Democratic plan approved in the House back in May proposed a similar structure for dependents but with the amount being $1,200 instead of $500.

President Trump wants larger checks?

During a visit to West Texas Wednesday, President Trump hinted that a second round of stimulus checks could exceed the $1,200 payment amount issued in the first COVID-19 stimulus package.

When asked if $1,200 was enough, Trump said, “We’re going to see it may go higher than that, actually.”

“I’d like to see it be very high because I love the people, I want the people to get it, you know, the economy is going to come back,” Trump continued. “We saved millions of lives but now we’re bringing (the economy) back … we gotta take care of the people in the meantime.”

How much money will I get?

Outside of the dependent payment, here’s how the payment up to $1,200 breaks down, according to CNBC:

  • Individuals earning a gross adjusted income of up to $75,000 per year in 2019 will receive a $1,200 payment.
  • Couples earning a gross adjusted income of up to $150,000 per year in 2019 will receive a $2,400 payment.
  • The checks will be reduced by $5 for every $100 in income, phasing out completely at $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for couples.
  • Individuals with no income and individuals who rely on benefits such as Social Security are eligible for the full $1,200 payment

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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The US ambassador to Brazil reportedly asked Brazilian officials to help Trump’s reelection

The Trump administration has been accused of attempting to pressure another foreign country into helping Trump’s reelection prospects, according to a letter from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

That letter cites Brazilian news articles that report US ambassador to Brazil Todd Chapman pressured members of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration to lower ethanol tariffs in order to support President Donald Trump’s reelection efforts.

In the letter, Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Eliot Engel demands Chapman explain an article in which the ambassador is said to have asked for the tariffs to be lowered as a “favor” from the Brazilian government to the Trump reelection campaign.

“Iowa is the largest ethanol producer in the United States…and could be a key player in Trump’s election,” an article in the Brazilian newspaper O Globo reads, according to the letter. “Hence the importance – according to Chapman – for the Bolsonaro government to do the U.S. a favor.”

Beyond the report in O Globo, the New York Times notes, another Brazilian outlet, Estadão, published a similar story based on its own reporting, with its journalists finding that Chapman had made the request, and was rebuffed by government officials.

Alceu Moreira, a Brazilian congressman, also told the Times that Chapman “had made repeated references to the electoral calendar during a recent meeting the two had about ethanol.”

Engel has called for Chapman to respond to the reports by August 4, and that he provide “any and all documents referring or related to any discussions” with Brazilian officials.

If the reports are accurate, the letter states, Chapman’s actions could be in violation of the Hatch Act, which prevents federal employees from engaging in certain political activities, such as partisan campaigning for candidates.

A State Department spokesperson said in a statement that Chapman’s efforts were part of a policy of pushing for lower tariffs in general, not narrowly focused on supporting an incumbent presidential campaign.

“Allegations suggesting that Ambassador Chapman has asked Brazilians to support a specific U.S. candidate are false,” the statement reads. “The United States has long been focused on reducing tariff barriers and will continue do so.”

Foreign interference marred the 2016 election. Requests for interference led to impeachment.

The reports are also of concern because of how closely they echo the request that led to Trump’s impeachment.

Last July, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “do us a favor” during a phone call in which he asked the leader to look into the business dealings of Hunter Biden, the son of then-candidate, now presumed Democratic-nominee Joe Biden. In that call, Trump appeared to condition military aid badly needed by Ukraine on Zelensky’s willingness to search for information that might be used to discredit Biden.

A congressional investigation into that call revealed the ways the Trump administration used traditional diplomatic channels — most notably the office of the US ambassador to the European Union — to forward that goal.

It isn’t clear whether Trump was involved in Chapman’s reported pressure campaign about ethanol, but as Vox’s Zack Beauchamp wrote during 2019’s impeachment hearings, the testimony of another of Trump’s ambassadors — former US ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland — showed a willingness on Trump’s part “to use US foreign policy as a tool to cement his own hold on power.”

And that has Trump critics concerned about the Brazilian reports, with Engel warning Chapman in his letter, “Elections in the United States are for the American people and the American people only to decide.”

In delivering that warning, the letter explicitly links Chapman’s reported campaign to the 2016 election, the outcome of which foreign governments repeatedly attempted to sway, according to the results of a Senate investigation.

“Given the events of 2016, it is all the more important for U.S. ambassadors serving our country abroad to not insert themselves into U.S. elections or encourage foreign government officials from any branch of government to do so,” the letter reads.

And this warning follows intelligence reports that find Russia has actively worked to disrupt November’s elections — as well as the Democratic presidential primary. But politicians and experts have warned that the US is not as prepared as it ought to be to combat such interference, leaving it vulnerable to meddling attempts not just by adversaries, but by also by Americans who, as Engel writes, “should know better.”

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Arizona congressman tests positive for virus; 2nd this week

By MARY CLARE JALONICK

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee said Saturday he tested positive for the coronavirus days after he sat close to another member of the panel, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, who also tested positive.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., said in a statement that he has the virus but, like Gohmert, has no symptoms. He is at least the 11th member of Congress known to have tested positive for the coronavirus.

It’s unclear where Grijalva, 72, caught the virus and whether it was from Gohmert, a Republican who has questioned the use of masks and often walked around the Capitol without one. Grijalva went into isolation after Gohmert tested positive on Wednesday, since the two had sat close to each other at a Natural Resources hearing the day before.

“While I cannot blame anyone directly for this, this week has shown that there are some members of Congress who fail to take this crisis seriously,” Grijalva said in the statement. “Numerous Republican members routinely strut around the Capitol without a mask to selfishly make a political statement at the expense of their colleagues, staff, and their families.”

Grijalva said he was informed by the Capitol’s attending physician that he had tested positive and would self-isolate in quarantine. He said he feels “fine” and hopes for a speedy recovery.

Gohmert’s diagnosis prompted concerns across the Capitol, where there is no required testing and there were few requirements for masks. That day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Capitol officials set broad new mask mandates for the House side, including on the House floor and in hallways and member offices.

In the Senate, where almost all members have worn masks and office space is more spread out, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he doesn’t see the need for new mandates.

On testing, Pelosi and McConnell have remained firm that there should be no special access for lawmakers as long as the general public doesn’t have widespread workplace testing. They have both said that equipment and tests should instead be directed to front-line workers.

The leaders in May rejected an offer from President Donald Trump to send rapid tests to the Capitol for lawmakers. The White House tests anyone who will be in close proximity to the president, which is how Gohmert found out he had the virus. The Texas Republican was scheduled to travel with Trump to his home state that day.

Gohmert also attended a hearing with Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday, and was captured on video walking closely behind Barr without a mask on as the attorney general entered the hearing room. A Justice Department spokeswoman said Barr was tested Wednesday and the test came back negative.

At least two other lawmakers have quarantined after coming into contact with Gohmert last week — Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, who sat next to Gohmert on a Sunday flight to Washington, and Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, who had dinner with Gohmert on Monday.

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Democrats are stronger favorites in tight race for Senate control

The Democrats’ chance of wresting control away from Republicans has increased over the last few months. They are clearer favorites to take back Congress’ upper chamber, though the race for Senate control is still well within the margin of error.

To gain a majority of seats, Democrats need a net pickup of between three seats (if Biden holds onto his lead over President Donald Trump, as his vice president would become the tie-breaking vote) or four seats (if Trump wins).

Democrats now have a little more than a 7-in-10 (70%) shot to win at least 3 seats and a little more than a 6-in-10 (60%) chance of winning at least 4 seats. In early May, it was 3-in-5 (60%) for at least a 3 seat gain and 1-in-2 (50%) for a 4 seat shift.

But then as now, there’s a lot of uncertainty. We still have three months to go before the election. Applying a margin of error (based on past performance), it’s possible Republicans could retain control and potentially even gain a seat or two. Democrats, meanwhile, could run the table and have a double-digit gain.
The reasons Democrats are likely to do well remain the same as it was in May. They have a lead north of 8 points on the generic congressional ballot. Additionally, Democrats only need to defend 12 of the 35 seats up for election this year, so they continue to have a wide array of choices. They have at least a 1-in-10 (10%) chance in two dozen (24) seats. They likely won’t win all of these seats, but even if they lose a bunch of them, they still have a real shot at a majority.

Democratic chances to win in a number of these races have gone up since May.

Specifically, Democrats are doing considerably better in a number of races that were either tossups or previously leaning toward the Republicans:

  • North Carolina was best described as a tossup in early May. The polling, however, has moved in Democrat Cal Cunningham’s direction. Although Republican Sen. Thom Tillis is still very much in the hunt, Cunningham now has about a 2-in-3 (67%) chance of defeating the incumbent.
  • Iowa was a race that was leaning in Republican Sen. Joni Ernst’s direction. The recent polling, however, has actually given Democrat Theresa Greenfield the smallest of edges. Given the Republican tilt of Iowa, Ernst could close. For now, the race is a tossup (1-in-2 shot for both candidates), as opposed to May, when Ernst was a 3:1 favorite.
  • Republicans now only have small advantages in both Georgia Senate races. Republican Sen. David Perdue has about a 3-in-5 shot (60%) of beating Democrat Jon Ossoff in the regularly scheduled election. That’s up considerably from May thanks to Ossoff holding close to Perdue in the polls. In the special election (with multiple candidates on both sides running in a jungle primary), the Republicans have closer to a 2-in-3 (66%) chance. The Republicans had just less than a 9-in-10 (90%) chance back in early May.

Beyond those four races, Democratic odds have not gone up greatly in any state.

Democrats, though, are now favorites to win four Republican-held seats: Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina. If they won all four, they’d be in a strong position to take control. In all of them, Democrats have at least a 2-in-3 (67%) chance. None of these are done deals by any stretch, though, and you could easily imagine Republicans winning a number of them.

Democratic chances have slightly improved in both Arizona and Colorado from about 3-in-4 (75%) in May to 4-in-5 (80%) now. In Arizona, Democrat Mark Kelly holds a 5 point or greater lead over Republican Sen. Martha McSally in most polls. There’s less high quality polling in Colorado, though Democrat John Hickenlooper holds similar advantages over Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.
Things are more dicey for Democrats in Maine. Democrat Sara Gideon remains the favorite over longtime Repubilcan Sen. Susan Collins, but Collins has generally kept the deficit at or under 5 points.
While Democrats are favored in four Republican-held seats, Republicans are favored to pick up just one Democratic held seat. Republican Tommy Tuberville leads in the polls and has a little less than a 9-in-10 (90%) chance of defeating Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in the deep red state of Alabama.

Indeed, Republicans have worse than a 1-in-10 chance (10%) in every other Democratic held seat.

Democrats, on the other hand, have multiple, even beyond the ones we’ve already listed.

The top of that list includes Montana, where Democrat Steve Bullock, the state’s governor, actually has the tiniest of edges over Republican Sen. Steve Daines in the polls. Bullock is a slight underdog at a 2-in-5 chance (40%) because Montana leans Republican on the presidential level, which is up from a little more than a 3-in-10 shot (30%) in May.

Next up is Kansas, where Democrat Barbara Bollier has about a 1-in-4 (25%) chance in a state that hasn’t elected a Democratic senator in nearly 90 years. The big question mark in this historically red state remains who her fall opponent is. If it’s arch-conservative Kris Kobach, Kansas’ former secretary of state, Bollier’s chances rise. If it’s someone else (probably Roger Marshall), they go down.

Three other traditionally states on the outer radar for Democrats are Alaska, South Carolina and Texas. Republican incumbents are favorites in all three, though Democrats have roughly between a 1-in-10 (10%) and 1-in-7 (about 15%) in all of them.

Kentucky is the only race that was above this 1-in-10 threshold for the Democrats in May that no longer is. Thanks to stronger polling, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now has a 19-in-20 (95%) chance of retaining his seat, as compared to roughly 6-in-7 (85%) in May.

Overall, though, the picture is rosier for the Democrats than it was a few months ago. The fight for the Senate leans in their direction. Republicans maintain a clear pathway to a Senate majority, but it’s narrower than it was in May.

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‘Nobody likes me,’ Trump complains, as even his allies fade

“Nobody likes me,” he said, confounded at how his administration’s health experts could be receiving accolades while he is accused of ignoring and denying the raging public health crisis.

That’s one answer.

By Friday, the President’s blunt assessment of his own popularity seemed to have manifested in a litany of other ways:

  • Even his staunchest Republican allies flatly rejected his suggestion that November’s voting be delayed, some actually laughing at what, by most accounts, was a serious (if toothless) proposal from the President to undermine the election.
  • The nation’s civic leadership, including three of Trump’s four living predecessors, gathered without him in Atlanta to honor the late Rep. John Lewis, making the sitting president’s absence conspicuous if unsurprising.
  • Stimulus talks on Capitol Hill have proceeded almost entirely without his participation, and have been notable mainly for the disarray they have exposed among Republicans, many of whom were unpleasantly surprised to learn the President’s demand for a new FBI building was included in the final proposal.
  • In a closed door hearing on Friday, intelligence officials working in Trump’s own administration discounted the possibility of foreign countries mass-producing fake ballots to interfere in the November elections — a claim Trump seemed to be making simultaneously from the Cabinet Room.
  • And the concerted push by Trump to delegitimize mail-in ballots is raising alarm bells among Republican operatives, who are worried the President’s demand for in-person voting will mainly serve to dampen turnout among his own supporters.

Trump’s attempts to regain standing have only exacerbated the divorce and led to worries he is weighing down his party’s ability to move forward. Long dismissive of the Washington establishment, Trump has shown little concern at how his moves are forcing allies into awkward positions or alienating himself from longstanding norms.

Far from a mere difference of “personality,” the examples of “nobody liking” Trump this week suggested a President actively isolating himself in his own bubble of conspiracy theories and questionable science, with fewer and fewer people willing to step inside to join him.

In an attempt to boost his mood, Trump’s advisers scrambled to assemble a scaled-down political event on a baking Florida tarmac on Friday, where Trump addressed a mostly mask-less crowd standing inches from one another. Other events in the state that Trump had scheduled for Saturday were canceled as a storm approached.

The event illustrated what White House officials describe as an ad-hoc effort to schedule appearances for Trump that allow him to bask in at least some adulation as his campaign rallies remain on hold and after an in-person convention acceptance speech was scuttled.

White House officials are still weighing their options for how Trump will formally accept the nomination, one person familiar with the planning said, including assessing sites around the country where he might deliver a prime-time address. Yet the task has proven difficult as Trump insists upon something dramatic while aides work to temper some of his expectations about the scale of the potential venues.

Aides say Trump has grown to recognize the extreme political peril he’s created for himself less than 100 days until the election. When he speaks with friends, his grievances are long and his complaints are ample but his willingness or ability to alter course seems minimal, according to people who have spoken to him.

Trump has voiced versions of “nobody likes me” for the past several months, those people said, describing an in-the-dumps president brought low by a pandemic he feels he has little ability to control.

Speaking Thursday, Trump appeared resigned to the fact that coronavirus case counts will continue spiking, and said it’s probably not anyone’s fault, least of all his.

“That’s just the way it is,” he said.

Top Republicans, many of whom have given up hope that Trump will offer anything resembling a coherent national plan to contain the virus, have long decided to promote mask-wearing and social distancing without taking a lead from Trump. One of those who didn’t, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, found out he had coronavirus from a test administrated at the White House.

Instead of avoiding the question or denying knowledge about Trump’s tweet on Thursday suggesting an election delay — a tactic they’ve fallen back on before when the President dispatches something inconvenient or embarrassing — nearly every Republican this week rejected the idea out of hand.

“I don’t think that’s a particularly good idea,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, an informal adviser to the President.

“I read it. I laughed. I thought my gosh this is going to consume a lot of people,” said GOP Sen. Kevin Cramer. “I long ago stop being surprised by the things he does that other presidents wouldn’t have done, but I also understand why he does it and why his base enjoys it so much.”

On Capitol Hill, the ill-fated election day float went over about as well as the administration’s proposal to include $1.75 billion for a new FBI building in a coronavirus relief package — a longstanding fixation for the President that his opponents decry as ethically questionable.

Republicans simply decried it as non-sensical in a bill meant to extend unemployment to the millions of newly unemployed Americans whose lives have been crushed by an out-of-control pandemic.

“There’s a number of unrelated things in there,” said Republican Sen. John Cornyn of the provision, which he said caught him by surprise.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who also appeared to be caught off guard by the item, understatedly called it “non-germane.” Absent any support, the White House eventually said the new money wouldn’t be a dealbreaker.

Yet by Wednesday, Trump’s isolation from the leaders of his own party — who are hoping to salvage what is shaping up to be a tough November — seemed cemented. Aboard Air Force One, Trump indicated to associates that he would not intervene in the Kansas Republican primary, even after hearing appeals from both his political team and senior Republicans that the seat — and control of the Senate — was at risk if conservative firebrand Kris Kobach wins.

The move appeared to some another break from a President whose interests in politics generally don’t extend beyond his own self-interest. While his absence from the Lewis funeral on Thursday was not a surprise given the animosity between the two men, it also reflected Trump’s general impatience for the rituals of politics that do not revolve around him.

Aides never expected Trump to join his three most recent predecessors — Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — at the funeral. But even some White House officials were surprised when Trump, on Monday, flatly rejected the prospect of traveling to the US Capitol where Lewis lie in state. Some had quietly been considering a quick trip to pay respects.

As it stood, all three former presidents offered remarks that could be read as oblique rebukes of how Trump has approached the job they all held.

“In the America John Lewis fought for, and the America I believe in, differences of opinion are inevitable elements and evidence of democracy in action,” said Bush, the most recent Republican president.

Denied traditional routes of affirmation, Trump has begun looking elsewhere. Frustrated that his once-favorite television channel Fox News is willing to interview Democrats, Trump has adopted the hard-right OAN as his preferred venue and spoke to the outlet’s CEO this week about hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial that he insists works to prevent coronavirus.

Even amid attempts by his aides to shift his focus back to the pandemic, Trump continues to hear from a wide range of associates who are undermining the administration’s health experts and questioning their approach to the pandemic, people familiar with the conversations say.

A group of doctors who have promoted hydroxychloroquine and cast doubt on the decision to enforce lockdowns to contain the virus were invited to the White House for a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday, even though a video of a press conference they delivered was removed from social media for violating rules against misinformation.

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A Desperate Trump Might Be Willing to Ditch Mitch McConnell’s Top Stimulus Priority

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has one, big, top priority for the next coronavirus rescue package: stopping sick people from suing their bosses.

But President Trump might throw Mitch’s cherished proposal out the window. 

Trump is willing to cut a deal with Democrats without any so-called “liability shield” in the next pandemic response bill, The Washington Post reported Friday, citing two unnamed people with knowledge of internal White House planning. 

Ditching Mitch’s top goal would be a slap in the face to the wily Senate majority leader, who protected Trump during his impeachment trial last winter. McConnell has declared his radical plan to shield companies from most legal challenges over COVID-19 to be his “red line.” He says companies need special protections to avoid getting hammered under a hailstorm of lawsuits by workers claiming they were put in risky situations. 

“We’re not negotiating over liability protection,” McConnell insisted Tuesday.

But Trump’s waffling is just the latest sign of chaos among top-level Republicans over what to do next about the pandemic. And it’s a new point of friction between Trump and GOP members of Congress as Trump’s approval ratings for handling the pandemic slip in the polls. 

Some companies have already been sued over allegations like gross negligence or wrongful death, including Walmart, Safeway and Tyson Foods. But legal experts say they suspect far more litigation might still be looming on the horizon. 

GOP senators made the “liability shield” a centerpiece of the plan they unveiled Monday, in a proposal that would make it all but impossible for employees to sue companies that recklessly expose them to the novel coronavirus. 

But Republican senators expressed concern and confusion over their own draft plan. Then they skipped town for a long weekend, at a moment when existing federal crisis programs — including $600-weekly unemployment insurance payments and a moratorium on evictions — have just expired, with no plan for a near-term fix.  

McConnell has cards left to play. He still controls the Senate floor, and he could block a vote on the bill. 

But he’d face pressure from both Democrats and, possibly, the White House, if he becomes the lone holdout blocking an agreement between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over ways to extend unemployment insurance payments and keep people who’ve lost their jobs during the pandemic from being kicked out of their homes. 

Now, the White House signaling it wants to reach a deal as soon as possible, perhaps out of concern over what might happen to Trump in the 2020 election if they don’t roll out a new plan soon. 

If McConnell’s red line gets smudged, the White House suggested on Friday, that would be McConnell’s problem. 

“That’s a question for Mitch McConnell,” spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said when asked about the liability shield during a briefing Friday morning. “That’s his priority.”

Cover: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., listens to questions during a news conference following a GOP policy meeting on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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A women’s-exclusive Air Jordan sneaker is breaking resale records on StockX — and it represents a massive shift in the previously male-dominated community

stockx.com

  • The Off-White Jordan 4 “Sail” recently became the most hyped women’s release in the history of StockX, an online resale marketplace. 

  • The sneakers, which originally went for $200 at resale, broke StockX records among women’s releases by fetching an average resale price of $1,200, or more than 500% over retail, in just 48 hours.
  • Sales of women’s sneakers have grown in the last year, outpacing the market by 70%, according to data from StockX.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Off-White Jordan 4 “Sail” sneaker that dropped on Saturday has already broken records on StockX, a leading resale marketplace.

The sneakers, which originally went for $200 at retail, were released in a women’s-exclusive drop for Nike’s female customers. In just 48 hours, the Virgil Abloh-designed pair appeared on the resale market, breaking StockX records by fetching an average resale price of $1,200, or more than 500% over retail. The pair quickly became the women’s release with the highest price premium to sell on StockX in the last 15 years and the most expensive women’s pair to sell in the platform’s history.

Over 1,300 pairs of the Off-White Jordan 4 “Sail” sold on StockX in the first 48 hours of its launch. In terms of price premium, or percent of the increase over original retail price, new sneaker trails only behind the Nike Dunk Low Splatter (W), an 18-year-old sneaker that sold on StockX for more than 1,000% over retail price.

Data also suggests the Off-White Jordan 4 “Sail” was popular among male consumers as well, with larger sizes fetching more than smaller sizes on StockX.

More women are becoming sneakerheads 

The success of the Off-White Jordan 4 “Sail” represents a general shift within the broader sneaker culture. In general, the sneaker world has been known to exclude women in a variety of capacities. For example, hyped shoes are not often released in female sizes for smaller feet, a problem many women sneakerheads often encounter as collectors in a community saturated with larger sizes.

But as more women get interested in sneakers, their buying power is being felt across the industry. And this is translating into more female-focused designs.

“We’re just now seeing a lot of collabs outside of Nike as well really gravitate towards women and realizing that there’s this whole huge lane that hasn’t been filled yet,” Aleali May, a renowned designer and stylist in the sneaker and streetwear space, told Business Insider in a previous interview about how she got her start in the industry.

Sales of women’s sneakers have grown in the last year, outpacing the market by 70%, according to data from StockX. And in general, more women are defining themselves as sneakerheads and turning to buying and reselling sneakers on StockX, a report from Cowen Equity Research showed.

women transforming sneaker industry 4x3Courtesy of LaToya Kamara Manley; Courtesy of Sophia Altholz; Courtesy of Jazerai Allen Lord; Courtesy of Kelsey Amy; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

For StockX, the market for women’s sneakers has never been bigger. One out of every 10 sneakers sold on StockX in July was a women’s exclusive release and there are currently more than 3,000 active listings for women’s sneakers on the platform.

Beyond the buying power, female creatives are pushing into the industry as well and further facilitating the connection between women and sneaker culture. Business Insider recently identified 18 outstanding women who are transforming the sneaker industry today, from creating a space for more female hypebeasts to leading the charge for diversity in the field.

Sophia Chang and Romy Samuel are just two of the many women fostering an active community for female sneakerheads. Their online platform, Common Ace, offers women a curated sneaker shopping experience that caters to their specific sizes and styles.

“The pendulum’s swinging,” the pair told Business Insider regarding the buying power of women in the industry. “And it’s time to meet that demand.”