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Desperate Dems Unveil Latest Attempt To Draw Viewers for the DNC

The Democratic National Convention is just around the corner and desperation is in the air.

With a belligerently-out-of-touch 2020 presidential nominee in Joe Biden and a cutthroat prosecutorial mind almost antithetical to the modern progressive movement in newly named running mate Kamala Harris, the Democratic Party certainly has its hands full when it comes to exciting idealistic young leftists to vote the ticket this November.

And willing to try just about anything in its efforts to bring increased viewership to the convention and better court a younger demographic, it would seem the party has decided to tap into a played out social motivator: the power of celebrity.

In a Friday news release, the Democratic Party proudly announced it had secured a handful of household names in the American music industry to perform sets across the four-day Milwaukee-based convention, which will feature primarily virtual addresses and a distinct lack of in-person audience as a result of COVID-19.

Among those set to perform are recently viral Grammy winners Billie Eilish and John Legend, as well as Leon Bridges, The Chicks, Common, Jennifer Hudson, Billy Porter, Maggie Rogers, Prince Royce and Stephen Stills.

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Will you be watching the DNC next week?

Their appearances, 2020 Democratic National Convention program executive Stephanie Cutter said, will make the four-day event “look and feel very different than past conventions.”

“It will truly be a convention across America, and these incredible artists will help us tell the story of where we are as a country today under Donald Trump’s failed leadership, and the promise of what we can and should be with Joe Biden as president,” Cutter said. “These artists are committed to engaging with, registering and mobilizing voters to get us over the finish line in November.”

This culture-dependent strategy, of course, has already been exhausted by the Democrats and come up short.

In 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enlisted the help of such artists as Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and her husband, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Bon Jovi, and Bruce Springsteen in order to energize younger voters down the stretch, according to The Atlantic.

Despite filling out a handful of sizable rallies, the aforementioned celebrities were entirely unable to push Clinton over the finish line, as she fell to a politically untested Donald Trump in a historic 304-227 Electoral College blowout.

RELATED: Dem Platform Honors Native American Groups Who Fought Against US in War of 1812

The reality was one that Trump would not soon allow Clinton to forget, touting it at campaign rallies for years to come.

“She’d bring in Beyoncé, and then Jay-Z would get up and he’d use language that was so bad if I used that language I’d be run out of the country,” Trump said during an August 2018 campaign rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, according to the Asbury Park Press.

“And then she brought in Bruce Springsteen and they would draw crowds that were smaller than my crowd.”

“I didn’t need Beyoncé and Jay-Z. I didn’t need little Bruce Springsteen,” Trump reiterated roughly one year later at a rally in Minneapolis, according to Variety, alleging Clinton’s already small crowds would show up for the musical performances and depart or mentally check out the moment their favorite celebrity left the stage.

I mean, who could blame them?

We may disagree on politics, but I would have been front and center at one of Clinton’s lousy “I’m With Her” rallies in 2016 if it meant a free concert from my favorite musical artists.

Of course, Clinton’s generosity in providing me that concert certainly would never have secured my vote for the former secretary of state.

And that is exactly the problem.

The Democrats in charge of planning these pageants may not recognize it, but no free concert is going to move this generation’s lazy youth to the polls if they aren’t already politically tuned in.

This is all the more true in the era of COVID-19, when excited teenyboppers and immature young adults can receive that free concert from the Democrats with the mere click of a button — no proof of electoral interest of voter registration necessary.

Mark my words, the folks pulled into watching the DNC this coming week for the musical guests are not going to be voting.

The folks watching the event out of ideological agreement, on the other hand, were already voting before these guests were announced.

Heck, they may now be watching in spite of the pedantic pop performances.

Those still interested in watching the DNC for the progressive insanity and political theater that will undoubtedly come interspersed between those socially charged pop music performances, however, will find the event televised online and across the spectrum of establishment media news networks this Monday through Thursday from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time.

But I wouldn’t suggest it.

The average viewing audience could make far better use of those eight collective hours enjoying one of the many popular television or streaming service miniseries released in recent months — or just bang their heads against the wall.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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Senate Dem Tells Mitch McConnell To End Recess Immediately And Stop Trump’s Postal Sabotage

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada), chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to end recess and return to D.C. immediately to stop Donald Trump’s plot to derail the U.S. Postal Service ahead of the November election.

“It’s unacceptable that in the United States of America, the Postal Service has to warn Americans that their ballots may not be counted if they vote by mail,” the Democratic lawmaker said.

She added, “Mitch McConnell should end recess, return to Washington, and work to … ensure the Postal Service can operate in a safe and timely manner.”

Full statement:

It’s unacceptable that in the United States of America, the Postal Service has to warn Americans that their ballots may not be counted if they vote by mail. Republicans in the Senate have failed Americans by refusing to stand up to the president’s political attacks that are putting the election at risk while also delaying the delivery of prescription drugs, Social Security checks, and other essentials. Mitch McConnell should end recess, return to Washington, and work to pass the bipartisan emergency funding needed to provide urgent economic relief, combat this pandemic, and ensure the Postal Service can operate in a safe and timely manner.

America is in crisis, and Mitch McConnell takes a vacation

More than 170,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus. Millions are out of work. And, now, with less than three months to go until the presidential election, Donald Trump is threatening to rig the contest in his favor.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a relief bill in May to tackle these crises, including $25 billion to make sure the post office is adequately funded.

Instead of immediately ending recess and returning to D.C. to pass a bill that would help millions of Americans while protecting the U.S. Post Office from Trump’s attempted rigging, Mitch McConnell is on vacation.

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Second stimulus checks: Where we stand halfway through August

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As of now, there are no plans on the table for lawmakers to act on President Donald Trump’s goal of an even larger second direct payment to Americans.

Both Republicans and Democrats agree it makes sense to send $1,200 checks to help boost the bank accounts of families, but they can’t come to a consensous on a larger coronavirus aid package. And with negotiations stalled out, that means it’s possible no additional direct payments are on the way.

As we entered the weekend, both sides continued to play the blame game rather than make any serious moves to try to break their stalemate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pressed the case for funding for the U.S. Postal Service, rental assistance, food aid and rapid testing for the virus at her weekly press event, blasting Republicans as not giving a damn and declaring flatly that “people will die” if the delay grinds into September.

“Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gave a damn,” Pelosi said when asked if she should accept a smaller COVID-19 rescue package rather than endure weeks of possible gridlock. “That isn’t the case.”

On Friday, Trump tweeted he’s directed the Treasury Department to get ready to send direct payments to all Americans but “DEMOCRATS ARE HOLDING THIS UP!”

All of the chief combatants have exited Washington after a several-day display of staying put as to not get blamed for abandoning the talks. The political risk for Trump is continued pain in U.S. households and a struggling economy — both of which promise to hurt him during campaign season. For Democrats, there is genuine disappointment at being unable to deliver a deal but apparent comfort in holding firm for a sweeping measure instead of the few pieces that Trump wants most.

Across a nearly empty Capitol, the Senate’s top Republican sought to cast the blame on Pelosi, whose ambitious demands have frustrated administration negotiators like White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

“They are still rejecting any more relief for anyone unless they get a flood of demands with no real relationship to COVID-19,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. McConnell has kept the talks at arm’s length, nursing deep divisions among Republicans on the foundering relief measure.

Among the items lost is perhaps $10 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service to help improve service as its role in the fall election takes on greater importance, given an expected surge in mail voting because of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump is against $3.4 billion demanded by Pelosi for helping states with the crush of mail-in ballots.

Trump seemed to take advantage of the stalemate to press his case against voting by mail. He said Thursday on Fox Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria” that among the sticking points were Democrats’ demand for billions of dollars to assist states in protecting the election and to help postal workers process mail-in ballots.

“They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said. “If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”

The White House and congressional leaders are far apart on the aid for shoring up households, reopening schools and launching a national strategy to contain the virus, which has infected more than 5.2 million people in the United States and has killed more than 166,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

All indications are talks will not resume in full until Congress resumes in September.

For Americans, that means the end of a $600 weekly unemployment benefit that has expired, as has a federal ban on evictions. Schools hoping for cash from the federal government to help provide safety measures are left empty-handed. States and cities staring down red ink with the shattered economy have few options.

Trump’s executive actions appeared to provide a temporary reprieve, offering $300 in jobless benefits and some other aid. But it could take weeks for those programs to ramp up, and the help is far slimmer than what Congress was considering. More than 20 million Americans risk evictions, and more are out of work.

The Democrats said they are waiting for the White House to put a new offer on the table: “We have again made clear to the Administration that we are willing to resume negotiations once they start to take this process seriously,” they said in a statement.

But Mnuchin shot back with his own statement, saying, “The Democrats have no interest in negotiating.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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President Donald Trump magnifies racist themes of his campaign by questioning Kamala Harris’ eligibility

It was not surprising that Trump would try to exploit Harris’ background for personal gain given that he is running the most racially-charged presidential campaign that America has seen since the 1968 run of former Alabama Gov. George Wallace.

After all, he elevated his own stature from the realm of a New York gadfly to the mainstream of American politics by trafficking lies about the eligibility of President Barack Obama, who was the nation’s first Black president.

But it was a sickening spectacle to watch the President of the United States use a podium at the White House to question whether the presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee — who was born in Oakland, California, and is the first Black and South Asian American woman on a major party ticket — might somehow be ineligible for the post. It was a clear attempt by Trump to stir controversy and divert attention from his inept handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the more than 168,000 American deaths.

After Trump first dangled the theory Thursday in response to a reporter’s question, during what was billed as a press briefing, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Marc Short, the chief of staff to the vice president, stirred more aspersions about Harris’ background on Friday in two different interviews.

When asked whether he believes Harris is a qualified candidate for the vice presidency, Kushner said, “I personally have no reason to believe she’s not,” but said the theory was “out there.”

The question about Harris’ eligibility was raised by Chapman University professor John Eastman in an opinion piece in Newsweek. (Eastman, a Republican, ran for California Attorney General in 2010 but was defeated in the Republican primary; Harris won the Democratic primary and ultimately won the race.)

Kushner, who is both a White House and a campaign aide to Trump, pointed out that the President said “he had no idea whether that’s right or wrong” — a technique Trump often uses when he’s trying to shirk responsibility for spreading disinformation.

“I don’t see that as promoting it. But at the end of the day, it’s something that’s out there,” Kushner said in a morning interview with CBS News.

In a different interview Friday, Short then suggested that Harris has “imported” socialist policies “from overseas.”

“I think that we can celebrate the fact that a daughter of two immigrants has had such a celebrated political career, to be elected statewide and now be the nominee for the Democratic Party,” Short said during an appearance on Fox Business. “I think what’s more concerning is some of the socialist ideas she seems to have imported from overseas as well.”

Even before Trump’s comments about Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian parents, he had centered his campaign on his efforts to create fears of “otherness” in the hearts of White Americans.

He cast peaceful demonstrators in the streets after George Floyd’s death as “THUGS” and criminals. He has repeatedly made appeals to suburban White voters, specifically women he describes as “Suburban Housewives,” warning that polices created by the Obama-Biden administration to dismantle segregation in housing will destroy their neighborhoods.

He told Wisconsin voters during a recent tele-town hall that those housing rules would bring “who knows into your suburbs.” And he has described the toppling of statues of Confederate generals and slave-owning figures from America’s history as an attack on the nation’s heritage and founding principles.

It’s a similar playbook to the one that he used as a candidate in 2016 when he tried to portray immigrants as criminals, and again in 2018 as he tried to protect the GOP’s congressional majority, claiming that dangerous caravans were headed across the US border with Mexico to terrorize Americans. (They never arrived).

The GOP responds with silence

It’s unclear why Trump and some of his allies believe that dragging Americans back into another baseless “birther” controversy about Harris will help his chances of staying in the White House.

While it’s true that many voters are firmly entrenched in their pro and anti-Trump camps, female voters in swing districts have told CNN in countless interviews over the past three years that they are exhausted by Trump’s divisive tactics — from his vilification of Latinx and Black Americans to his sexist remarks about women he does not like. (In a Fox News Poll released Thursday, Biden led Trump among women 51% to 39%).

Since Floyd’s death, growing majorities of Americans have also said they disapprove of Trump’s handling of racial issues — with two-thirds of Americans stating that Trump has increased racial tensions in a June NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Former Republican Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania told CNN’s Kate Bolduan Friday night it made “absolutely no sense” why Trump and his allies would want another smear attached to the Republican Party as they try to maintain control of the Senate and win back the House.

“This will further alienate many voters, Republicans, particularly in the suburbs, suburban women, college-educated voters and any voter who can read, because this charge is easily disproven because she was in fact born in California,” Dent said on “Erin Burnett OutFront.”

“So, I don’t understand what they’re thinking, how this helps. But it is maybe a dog whistle to the nativist element, maybe to try to drive them out.”

Harris’ Republican colleagues in the Senate mostly remained silent following Trump’s comments in the White House briefing room where he said he had “heard” that “she doesn’t meet the requirements” and then said, “I have no idea if that’s right. I would have assumed the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for vice president.”

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally whose reelection may be more competitive than expected, was the only GOP senator to tweet about the false ineligibility theory: “There is no issue as to whether or not she is an American citizen,” Graham wrote. “She was born in the United States in 1964 to parents who were legally present. Under the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent, she is unequivocally an American citizen.”

Biden campaign’s approach

So far the Biden campaign’s approach has been to call out Trump’s new “birther” comments as a distraction, a line echoed by numerous Biden campaign allies and surrogates over the past few days.

Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement that Trump “has sought to fuel racism and tear our nation apart on every single day of his presidency.”

Kamala Harris just showed why Biden chose her as his running mate

“So it’s unsurprising, but no less abhorrent, that as Trump makes a fool of himself straining to distract the American people from the horrific toll of his failed coronavirus response that his campaign and their allies would resort to wretched, demonstrably false lies in their pathetic desperation,” Bates said.

Harris did not engage during a Friday appearance in Delaware to sign ballot-related documents when she was asked what she thought of the attacks from Trump and his allies since Biden announced her as his running mate.

“I’m signing this because I am in this race to win and with that guy right there,” she replied, gesturing at Biden. “And we’re going to get it done.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, dismissed the President’s comments during a gaggle with reporters on Capitol Hill on Friday. “Why would you even talk about that? He is just taking attention away from the fact that he’s been a total failure in addressing the coronavirus challenge in our country,” she said.

“He can’t handle the fact that a woman of color has risen to this place and will soon be the vice president of the United States,” Pelosi said. “He’s intimidated by strong women, we know that. And for him to say what he said, and for you all to report it, is like the biggest waste of time.”

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Trump Ads Attack Biden Through Deceptive Editing and Hyperbole

President Trump’s re-election campaign has spent tens of millions of dollars on television ads attacking his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr. While their content varies greatly, be it the coronavirus, police funding, taxes or charter schools, the tactics used remain constant: selectively edited remarks and exaggerations.

The New York Times reviewed 22 ads from the Trump campaign that have aired since June and that have been tracked by Advertising Analytics. We found that 14 of those ads contained clearly misleading claims or videos. Here’s a review.

Throughout much of June and July, the ads have focused on activists’ calls to defund the police with hyperbolic warnings about the ramifications.

One, titled “Break-In,” begins with a voice describing “Seattle’s pledge to defund its police department by 50 percent, even including a proposal to remove 911 dispatchers from police control” as an older woman notices someone breaking into her house and dials 911.

The woman’s call is then answered by a voice recording: “You have reached 911. I’m sorry that there is no one here to answer your emergency call. Leave a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.”

Seven of Seattle’s nine council members support cutting and reprogramming 50 percent of the police department’s budget, but have yet to lay out a specific plan, while the city’s Democratic mayor and police chief oppose the goal.

Council members did express interest in a proposal from activists seeking to replace the police department’s call center with a system controlled by civilians. It would not end the use of emergency dispatchers altogether, as the voice mail message in the ad suggests.

Another spot devotes the entire 30 seconds to a more elaborate version of the emergency call voice mail, overlaid with text claiming that “violent crime has exploded” because of calls to defund the police — a claim echoed in three additional Trump campaign ads.

But that’s largely false. Compared with the same time period last year, violent crime and property crime have decreased through June in large American cities this year, though murders have increased.

Those ominous ad blitzes have run in major markets in swing states during programs with broad appeal like the “Today” show, “Good Morning America,” “Jeopardy!” and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” according to data from Advertising Analytics.

A Trump campaign ad running during shows popular with Black audiences — “Maury,” “The Steve Wilkos Show” and “The Wendy Williams Show” — is sounding a different message: “Mass incarceration has put hundreds of thousands behind bars for minor offenses. Joe Biden wrote those laws.”

But it is wrong to blame Mr. Biden, who sponsored the Senate version of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, for mass incarceration. States began passing harsher sentencing laws in the 1970s and 1980s. Though the federal crime bill encouraged the trend, it was not the genesis or principal factor.

Several Trump campaign ads falsely claim Mr. Biden supports defunding the police, heavily raising taxes on middle-class families and eliminating charter schools.

“Break-In” features the Fox News host Sean Hannity claiming, “Joe Biden said he’s absolutely on board with defunding the police” before a clip of Mr. Biden saying, “Yes, absolutely.”

The former vice president has repeatedly said that he does not support calls to defund the police entirely, but that federal grants to police departments should incentivize reform efforts and best practices while specific decisions about funding should be made at a local level.

“I don’t support defunding the police,” Mr. Biden said in June in an interview with CBS. “I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness.”

Asked during a June town hall event about Los Angeles’s decision to shift $150 million from its police department, Mr. Biden responded: “Some places, they’re short on having enough people to cover the community or others the police departments have a lot more than they need. And so it depends on the community.”

The Trump campaign ad also took Mr. Biden’s comment out of context. In a July discussion, the prominent liberal activist Ady Barkan asked Mr. Biden whether he would support redirecting “some of the funding for police into social services, mental health counseling and affordable housing.”

Mr. Biden agreed and listed his proposals to increase funding for mental health clinics, more federal oversight of police departments, and restricting military equipment sold to the police.

“But do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?” Mr. Barkan asked.

“Yes, absolutely,” Mr. Biden responded.

The published version of that conversation edited out some of Mr. Biden’s remarks that made his positions clearer. In the full version, provided to The Times by the Biden campaign, Mr. Biden emphasized that his proposals were “not the same as getting rid of or defunding all the police” and repeated that he believed federal grants to departments should be “conditioned.”

Other spots warn that Mr. Biden “supports massive taxes on working families.” A new ad titled “Takeover” misleadingly cites the Tax Policy Center to claim that he would impose “trillions in new taxes, crushing middle-class families.”

Analysis from the center does show that Mr. Biden’s tax proposals would generate an additional $4 trillion in federal revenue over the next decade, but the Trump campaign is wrong that this would come from the middle class. Rather, the wealthiest top 1 percent of taxpayers would bear about three-quarters of tax increases. In contrast, middle-class taxpayers would see an average increase of $260, totaling 2.4 percent of the total burden.

“Takeover” and a similar ad called “In His Own Words” also take a Biden quotation out of context: “If you elect me, your taxes are going to be raised, not cut.”

That remark occurred at an event in February in South Carolina, where Mr. Biden asked the audience, to laughs, “How many of you did really well with that $1.9 trillion tax cut?” When one audience member answered affirmatively, Mr. Biden addressed that person specifically. “I’m glad to see you doing well already,” he said. “But guess what, if you elect me, your taxes are going to be raised, not cut if you benefited from that.”

Mr. Biden has long criticized the 2017 tax cut as disproportionately benefiting the rich, though his criticisms have veered into exaggerations when he said only the rich received tax cuts. His comment in South Carolina was a riff on that theme.

In a Spanish-language ad, the Trump campaign exaggerated Mr. Biden’s stance on charter schools: “Democrats and Biden are too extreme. Socialism, cut police funding, take away charter schools and Biden is too weak to defend us.”

The ad cites a an education forum MSNBC hosted in December with Democratic presidential hopefuls in which Mr. Biden criticized Education Secretary Betsy Devos’s policy on sexual assaults on college campuses.

“If I’m president, Betsy DeVos’s whole notion from charter schools to this are gone,” Mr. Biden said.

That line, however, is not representative of Mr. Biden’s position on charter schools. He was referring to his opposition to Ms. DeVos’s support for voucher programs for charter schools, according to a spokesman. He supports continuing federal funding for high-performing public charter schools.

The Trump campaign has taken shots at Mr. Biden’s mental acuity through deceptively edited videos and images.

One ad and its Spanish version call Mr. Biden “clearly diminished” and include a clip of Mr. Biden saying, “Sometimes I wake up and think it’s 1920.”

While Mr. Biden has been prone to gaffes on the campaign trail, that specific comment is not an example of one. Rather, it is how Mr. Biden has occasionally expressed dismay over the current social and political atmosphere.

“Some mornings that I wake up, I wonder whether or not we are living in 2020 or 1920,” he said in January in Texas. “I hear the voices of intolerance singing the chorus of hate, intolerance.”

“As I said in your church, rev, sometimes I wake up and think it’s 1920 and not 2020,” Mr. Biden at a February event in South Carolina. “The way in which we talk to one another today, the way in which — the debasing of politics that has occurred, the way in which this president, Trump, has so demeaned individuals.”

Curious about the accuracy of a claim? Email factcheck@nytimes.com.

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COVID-19 Cannot Stop The Hum Of A Church Choir : NPR

Classical music concert with a sheet music in the foreground

Manuel Breva Colmeiro/Getty Images


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Manuel Breva Colmeiro/Getty Images

Classical music concert with a sheet music in the foreground

Manuel Breva Colmeiro/Getty Images

We got a gift from a friend this week—a true note of grace in discordant times. You may know our friend: Amy Dickinson, who writes the advice column “Ask Amy”, and is a panelist on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.”

Amy grew up singing in the choir of the Freeville United Methodist Church in Freeville, New York, where her grandmother was the organist and choir director.

Amy is still in that choir today.

But they’ve had to stop singing during the pandemic. Singing, even words of inspiration, propels aerosol droplets that can carry COVID-19 particles. It is especially incautious in close confines, including the spaces of a church.

Services have resumed at Freeville United Methodist, and Amy says the parishioners scrupulously observe guidelines from the State of New York. They sit six feet or more apart from one another. They wear masks at all times. There are no bibles, church bulletins, or hymnals in the pews, and — of course, no choir singing out — which could risk spraying out potential infection.

But one Sunday, says Amy Dickinson, the 20 or so members of her small congregation began to hum their masked and wordless performance of the hymn, “He Touched Me.”

“We are humming behind our masks,” Amy explained as she sent along the music, “and it is the most heartbreaking and beautiful thing I’ve ever heard… It feels frustrating to hum, but the softness of it means that you are sort of sinking into the quiet and the sadness of it all.”

“One day when this is over, we will tear our masks off with gusto and make a joyful noise,” Amy Dickinson told us. “But I will never forget this… Perhaps we will develop a whisper song or two to mark the time when our voices were stilled…”

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Santa Clara County installs California’s first touch-free tech at crosswalks

Crossing a street in the world of COVID-19 can get you wrapped up like a rubber band. Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman says he’s resorted to all sorts of tricks to activate a pedestrian signal without actually touching a button.

“The other day I used my elbow,” he said, recounting that he’s used pencils, pens, water bottles, his knuckle and even the corner of his shirt. “Humans can be creative when the occasion calls for it, and that’s exactly what our Roads and Airports Department has done.”

Harry Freitas, Santa Clara County Director of Roads and Airports, displays a plate for a new “touch free” pedestrian signal being installed in the county. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group) 

This week, the department installed the first touchless pedestrian crossing signals on Bascom Avenue across the street from Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. The devices, which are the first of their kind in California, are activated just by waving your hand in front of a motion sensor. And for those unable to wave something, there’s still a button you can push.

Harry Freitas, the county’s director of roads and airports, said this is the first of 25 installations on county expressways with an eventual goal of having every crosswalk in the county go touch-free.

“Traffic engineers normally are concerned with pedestrian safety related to traffic,” Freitas said. “In this case, our traffic engineers are thinking about pedestrian safety for viruses.”

And the guy who gets the big congratulations for this one is Principal Civil Engineer Ananth Prasad, who prototyped the device and got it approved by Caltrans in fast order. Freitas said normally the state would take much longer than the two months it took to get approval, but he credited Caltrans for recognizing the necessity for an expedited process in this case.

ANOTHER BUSINESS GETS TRIMMED: After 10 years making folks look better in downtown San Jose, Dan Dixon announced Thursday that he was closing his Crewners barbershop. Since the county’s shelter-in-place order went into effect March 17, Dixon was allowed to be open for just 48 hours last month before the re-openings were rolled back.

Like many others in the barber and hairstyling business, Dixon is perplexed by the rules that allow some businesses to operate but not others. “I just can’t understand why a waiter or waitress with no proper sanitation training can be allowed to serve customers who are not wearing masks while dining,” he said in an email, “but a cosmetologist or barber, who has completed 1,500-1,600 hours of state-mandated training (half of which is geared toward proper disinfection and sanitation protocols) cannot service a client wearing a mask, standing behind them.”

Dixon’s one-chair shop, with a retro-style reminiscent of the Rat Pack days of the 1960s, was one of the original tenants at San Pedro Square Market. Dixon expanded and eventually moved the shop a block away to a bigger space at 111 Market Square. He hasn’t entirely given up, though, and has hopes of opening a new barbershop whenever the conditions improve.

VIRTUES OF VIRTUAL VINO: Like many restaurants, bars and wine shops in the Bay Area, Enoteca La Storia had to scramble when Santa Clara County’s public health orders forced them to close the doors of their Los Gatos and San Jose locations for a few months. But one surprising success story out of the forced change has been their wine club virtual tastings, which really became a hit online.

Each month, Mike Guerra and Nick Dazzi spend 75-minutes zipping and sipping through a half-dozen wines, sharing stories about the vintners and other fun trivia along the way. Since the wine club members can’t be at the tasting in person, they order and pick up a kit with 4-oz. pours of each of the wines. The best part is nobody’s driving tipsy after the tasting session’s done.

The virtual tastings are open to both wine club members and non-members, and the next one is coming Thursday. You can register for the virtual and separately purchase a tasting kit at www.enotecalastoria.com by clicking on “Events” at the location of your choice.

By the way, now that the county’s order has changed, both the Los Gatos and San Jose locations are offering limited outdoor dining as well as takeout.

OUTDOOR EXHIBIT RISES UP IN LOS ALTOS: The Los Altos History Museum had plans to celebrate the centennial of the 19th amendment’s ratification this year with “Rise Up! The Fight for Women’s Suffrage,” a large exhibition in the museum’s main gallery. But when the coronavirus pandemic changed those plans, the museum didn’t give up on the exhibition.

Instead, on Thursday, the museum will open a smaller version, mounted on the wraparound porch of the J. Gilbert Smith House. Visitors can browse the panels of historic photos and text on their own while keeping a safe distance from each other. And when the museum is allowed to reopen, the outdoor exhibition will become part of the main show, which explores the history of women gaining the right to vote, both nationally and in the Bay Area. Hours and other details are available at losaltoshistory.org.

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Kamala Harris VP bid marks milestone for Indian Americans

Atlanta lawyer Amol Naik was surprised by his emotional reaction to Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate.

It’s not that Harris will be the first Black woman to be a major party’s vice presidential nominee; it’s that she will be the first Indian American.

“I have just been moved by it in a way that I didn’t expect,” said Naik, whose parents immigrated from India to North Carolina. “It’s just really a remarkable thing that this could happen. It gives you a lot of faith in the country.”

The California senator’s ascent to the top tier of American politics drew an outpouring of pride among Indian Americans, a growing force in Democratic politics. They could reward Biden and Harris with crucial votes in the handful of states that will decide the election, along with a surge of campaign donations.

“You’re going to see a lot of that being uncorked in the next few months,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a UC Riverside public policy professor.

Historic breakthroughs have been a constant in Harris’ 17 years in politics. She was the first Black woman to hold every office she has won — San Francisco district attorney, state attorney general and U.S. senator from California. With the United States in the midst of a historic reckoning with systemic racism after George Floyd died when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, her status as the first Black woman tapped as a major vice presidential nominee has generated enormous media attention.

Less remarked upon has been Harris’ distinction as the first Indian American to reach all of those positions. But Naik was one of many who saw Biden’s choice of Harris as a watershed cultural moment for the nation’s 4.5 million Indian Americans.

“It wasn’t that long ago when Indian Americans were not at all part of the American mainstream,” said Naik, who has worked in Georgia Democratic politics. “That’s now happened. We have Sanjay Gupta on CNN. We have [comedian] Aziz Ansari — people everyone knows. That was not the case in the 1990s when I was growing up.”

Television director Kabir Akhtar wrote Tuesday on Twitter that it was “incredible to see an Indian American on the ticket. a whole generation of us felt like outsiders in our country growing up. so happy for all the young women and POC in our country who can see someone who looks like them on the presidential ticket.”

Harris is the daughter of two immigrants, a key aspect of her biography as she and Biden work to unseat President Trump. A core part of Trump’s political identity is his anti-immigrant agenda.

Harris rarely speaks publicly about her father, Donald Harris, a Jamaican-born economist who taught at Stanford University.

But she often talks about her late mother, breast cancer researcher Shyamala Gopalan, who moved from India to California in the late 1950s to study at UC Berkeley.

In an interview in June on a Los Angeles Times podcast, Asian Enough, Harris said her mother was “conscious of race” when raising her and her sister, Maya, in deeply segregated Berkeley in the 1960s and ‘70s.

“She knew that in America, her daughters would be treated, for better or worse, as Black women and Black children, and she raised us with a sense of pride about who we were,” Harris said. But it was “never to the exclusion of always being very proud and very active in terms of our Indian culture as well.”

“We grew up in the Black community and learned that you could cook okra with mustard seeds — or with dried shrimp and spicy sausages,” Harris said with a laugh.

During her campaign for president in the Democratic primaries, Harris released a video with Indian American actress Mindy Kaling showing the two cooking masala dosa, a savory crepe from south India.

The Harris sisters visited their grandparents in Chennai, in southeastern India, a number of times when they were growing up. The media in India covered Biden’s selection of Harris widely on Wednesday. In a Times of India story headlined “One of Our Own,” her uncle Gopalan Balachandran was quoted saying, “She likes India, she likes Indian music, but she likes jazz.”

A Hindustan Times editorial on Wednesday said Harris “represents the political pinnacle of the Indian-American community’s meteoric rise in the United States.”

Also getting coverage in India was Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson losing his cool when a guest, Democratic lawyer Richard F. Goodstein, asked him to show Harris respect by pronouncing her first name correctly. Her name, which means “lotus” in Sanskrit, is pronounced “Comma-la,” as Harris has explained.

“So I’m disrespecting her by mispronouncing her name unintentionally,” Carlson snapped. “So it begins. You’re not allowed to criticize ka-MAH-la Harris, or KAM-ah-la Harris, or whatever.”

Republicans quickly sought to undercut Harris’ support among Indian Americans. Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco lawyer who is national co-chair of Women for Trump, told Fox News that Harris was a “shape-shifter” who “doesn’t have any true center or any true roots.”

“This is going to be a little brutal, but the reputation she has among the Indian American community is she’s Indian American at an Indian-American-thrown fundraiser, and that’s it,” said Dhillon, a Republican National Committee member for California. “She forgets her heritage in every other way.”

If there’s “money in the room,” Dhillon said later by phone, “all of a sudden it’s ‘namaste.’”

Trump has made a play for Indian American votes, placing social-media ads touting his friendship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and holding a Houston rally last year with the controversial leader that attracted tens of thousands.

But Indian Americans, who are among the nation’s most highly educated and affluent ethnic groups, lean strongly Democratic, UC Riverside’s Ramakrishnan said. Surveys have found they tend to favor universal healthcare, gun control and higher taxes on the wealthy, he said, and they are turned off by Trump’s nativist rhetoric.

“It’s the social exclusion that keeps them in the Democratic Party,” he said. “They’re very sensitive to racial discrimination.”

If the presidential election is close, Indian Americans could also be pivotal in states that will tip the election to Biden or Trump. There are roughly 87,000 eligible to vote in Florida, 61,000 in Pennsylvania, 57,000 in Georgia, 45,000 in Michigan and 36,000 in North Carolina.

Deepa Sharma, a Bay Area lawyer who did grass-roots organizing of South Asians for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and is doing the same now for Biden, said she was “overwhelmed and overjoyed” that he picked Harris.

“Now that Kamala Harris is on the ticket,” she said, “I can’t tell you how much that enthusiasm could be magnified.”

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Waiting On Justice: It’s Been Four Years

After more than four years, Department of Justice prosecutor John Durham is finally going to give us a small piece of what he’s been working on since being appointed to investigate the FBI’s now-debunked probe into President Donald Trump and Russia.

The American people vested in the story and lawmakers who have spent years investigating it are more than frustrated and they have reason to be. A duly elected president and the American people had their constitutional rights trampled on and have witnessed egregious malfeasance with agencies that have been entrusted to uphold the law.

Former senior Obama administration officials used and abused the trust of the American people. The senior officials weaponized federal law enforcement, as well as U.S. intelligence assets to spy on a political opponent. When these former senior officials couldn’t derail President Trump’s campaign or his electability, they continued to target his administration and for the last nearly four years they tried to derail his presidency.

After several years of do nothing former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several interim AGs, we still have not seen justice in one of the biggest political scandals in modern history.

If today’s decision by Durham is to issue several smaller indictments against low rung employees then we know justice will not be fully served.

The simplest indictment would be against FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who falsified the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against Carter Page. Page, who was a volunteer for the 2016 Trump campaign, is now suing multiple media outlets for falsifying information against him. The warrant allowed the FBI to spy on Page’s communications and allowed them access into the Trump campaign.

But Clinesmith was not alone in his actions. Neither were any of the other FBI agents that spied on Trump’s campaign. These actions were approved and managed by senior-level officials like FBI Director James Comey and his Deputy Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus Rep. Andy Biggs told me Friday morning that Barr’s statements to Fox News host Sean Hannity Thursday night about Durham’s announcement is concerning. He noted that Barr’s statement that the information will not be “earth shattering” is an indication that not enough is being done.

I absolutely agree with Biggs. He wasn’t the only one I spoke to this morning in Congress that is concerned about the direction of the Department of Justice and the ongoing investigation into the FBI’s probe. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

It should only be hours before we know whether or not we have a two-tiered justice system and bureaucrats so powerful they operate with impunity.

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This year could see the most joyless election campaign in generations– Meanwhile in America

Joe Biden’s official rollout on Wednesday of his vice presidential pick, Kamala Harris, could hardly have gone more smoothly: The presumptive Democratic nominee showed unusual energy as the pair debuted their ticket in his hometown in Delaware. The US senator from California delivered a moving speech that also hammered Trump’s botched handling of the pandemic — and her accomplished performance instantly made clear that Trump will struggle to make stick his racially suggestive claims she is “mad” and mean.

But the Harris-Biden appearance also exemplified the haunting emptiness of the most joyless election campaign in generations. When pro sports play before empty stadiums these days, TV channels pipe in crowd noise to viewers at home. But fake fans don’t wash in politics, so Biden and Harris walked into the deafening silence of a school gym, before a group of socially distanced reporters.

It bore no resemblance to the moment that a beaming Biden, slapping palms, bounded onstage in Springfield, Illinois, to be introduced as Barack Obama’s running mate 12 years ago. Signs in the huge crowd crammed together in the sunshine defined what now seems a quaint and distant age, when “hope and change” seemed in reach.

In many ways, Wednesday’s event was a preview of the stripped-down and online party conventions to come. And in these quiet, socially distanced weeks, Biden and Harris’ message of steady, serious leadership may have an edge over that of Trump, who feeds off the angry energy of fired-up crowds at packed rallies.

In the White House Briefing Room on Wednesday, the President seemed tired, weighed down by the office, and he trotted out a familiar stream of misinformation on the virus. To borrow his own scathing critique of 2016 Republican primary rival Jeb Bush, Trump looked “low energy.” Given his perilous position in the polls, he can’t let his hangdog act continue for long.

‘If you’re like me, you can’t wash your beautiful hair properly’

The US Department of Energy on Wednesday released a proposal to roll back water efficiency standards for showerheads — just days after Trump had complained about troubles washing his “beautiful hair properly.” The President, who frequently frets over water flow in bathrooms, revisited his pet peeve last Thursday at a Whirlpool manufacturing plant in Clyde, Ohio. “You go into a new home, you turn on the faucet; no water comes out,” Trump complained. “You turn on the shower — if you’re like me, you can’t wash your beautiful hair properly. You waste 20 minutes longer. ‘Please come out.’ The water — it drips, right?”

‘No place in Congress for these conspiracies’

The anarchic fringe is going mainstream.

QAnon, the baseless conspiracy cult fast gaining ground in Republican politics, is almost certain to land a new advocate in Congress, after Marjorie Taylor Greene won a primary for a safe GOP seat in Georgia.

Devotees of the conspiracy theory believe that dozens of politicians and celebrities are in league with governments around the world in a child sex-abuse ring and that a “deep state” is trying to down President Donald Trump. They follow an anonymous figure known as “Q” who claims to hold a high-level security clearance inside the US government, who drips out supposed wisdom in internet posts.

Q has a lousy track record — they claimed, for instance, that Hillary Clinton and a bunch of top Democrats were to be rounded up in mass arrests. And the FBI has identified QAnon adherents as a domestic terrorism threat. Nevertheless, the conspiracy theory is a rising force in conservative politics. “Q is a patriot,” Greene said in a nearly 30-minute-long video in 2017.

Trump hasn’t openly backed the movement but Q signs bearing cryptic messages have appeared at his rallies and he’s retweeted QAnon propaganda. The President, always ready to fan falsehoods that delight his base, warmly welcomed Greene’s victory in a tweet calling her “a real WINNER” on Wednesday morning. He’s not bothered that the soon-to-be rookie representative also has a long record of extreme and hateful rhetoric, including anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim slurs.

The rise of QAnon reflects the wild influences that have a home in the Republican Party in the age of Trump — the conspiracy theorist in chief — and the way many GOP lawmakers, wary of the party base, try to look the other way. One Republican representative who did speak out was Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who tweeted that QAnon is a fabrication. “Could be Russian propaganda or a basement dweller. Regardless, no place in Congress for these conspiracies.”

His thoughts earned a rebuke from Matt Wolking, director of rapid response for Trump’s 2020 campaign. “When will @RepKinzinger condemn the Steele Dossier fabrications and conspiracy theories pushed by Democrats? That actually WAS Russian propaganda,” Wolking tweeted.

1.3 million

Sen. Kamala Harris’ new role as Joe Biden’s running mate is historic not only for Black Americans, but also for many voters of South Asian descent, who see themselves reflected in the story of Harris and her mother — who emigrated from India in 1958 — at a time when their political clout is growing.
As Neil Makhija writes for CNN: “Indian Americans are one of the great mobility stories of the 20th century. Those who came to the country in the years after restrictions were eased, worked hard, sought education, and succeeded professionally. But they and their families still faced bigotry and exclusion. A Biden-Harris ticket would send a message that no door is closed to Indian Americans in public life, at a time when we’re beginning to flex our political muscle. Asian Americans, more broadly, are the fastest-growing racial or ethnic voting bloc in the country.

“Around 1.3 million Indian Americans are expected to vote in this year’s election, with nearly 200,000 in battleground states like Pennsylvania and 125,000 in Michigan, according to the research firm CRW Strategy. Indian Americans register and vote at high rates, even though we remain underrepresented in elected office. In 2016, 77% of Indian Americans voted for Hillary Clinton, according to stats by the same research firm.

“But Democrat support in 2020 is not assured — Trump has built an alliance with the populist and Hindu nationalist Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the pair have appeared together at packed rallies in both Houston, Texas and Ahmedabad, India.”

‘The ‘suburban housewife’ will be voting for me’

Trump aims to grab suburban women by the vote, and he’s going about it with ham hands: In recent weeks, the President repeatedly cast himself as the defender of America’s wealthy, wide-lawned enclaves against poor people who might want to live nearby — a concern with clear racist undertones. “The ‘suburban housewife’ will be voting for me,” Trump claimed Wednesday on Twitter, using an outmoded term for stay-at-home moms. “They want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would reinstall it, in a bigger form, with Corey (sic) Booker in charge!”