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North Korea's Covid-19 response has been a 'shining success,' Kim Jong Un claims
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has praised what he described as his country's "shining success" in curbing the novel coronavirus pandemic, but warned his subordinates that lifting precautionary measures too early could be devastating.
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5 things to know for July 3: Coronavirus, economy, China, Khashoggi, Epstein
Here's what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.
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These moms wore masks while giving birth. Doing everyday things while wearing one shouldn't be hard, they say
Health officials say facial coverings are one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of coronavirus. And yet, many people refuse to wear them.
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California man expresses regret over attending party day before he died of coronavirus
A Southern California man reportedly expressed his regret late last month over attending a party where he likely contracted the coronavirus in a Facebook post just one day before he died.
foxnews.com
City Hall ‘demoralized’ by de Blasio as staffers jump ship
City Hall employees have been “demoralized” by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s refusal to listen to his staff, leading to bungled administration responses to what are arguably the biggest issues of our time — the coronavirus pandemic and the George Floyd protests, sources told The Post. “A lot of the office is pretty demoralized,” a source...
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Op-Ed: What do you really know about the Fourth of July? A quiz
Annual July 4 parties are suspended this year, so stay safe and take our quiz instead.
latimes.com
Letters to the Editor: Karen Bass is caring, competent and progressive. She would make an excellent VP
A former L.A. city controller who worked with Karen Bass for two decades believes putting her on Joe Biden's ticket could win over progressives.
latimes.com
Op-Ed: Could the racist past of Mt. Rushmore's creator bring down the monument?
What should be done with an accomplishment that features problematic men carved in a problematic location by a problematic sculptor?
latimes.com
Sen. Tim Scott: Fourth of July challenges – as in times past we will unite, progress and hope, always
America was founded on the principles of liberty and justice for all, yet for too many, these have seemed like lofty ideals rather than daily realities.
foxnews.com
Boris Johnson’s ‘Global Britain’: Inspired Vision or Wishful Thinking?
Post-Brexit Britain is going it alone at a time when globalization in retreat. But a clash with China over Hong Kong has shown the limits of what it can do.
nytimes.com
Column: It's inevitable: Donald Trump's enablers will get rolled by history
Even the fiercest of the White House collaborators — Sen. Mitch McConnell, Vice President Mike Pence, Atty. Gen. William Barr — will have to let the inevitable happen: The president is indefensible.
latimes.com
Letters to the Editor: If white America wants racial progress, it must stop supporting politicians like Trump
Every time there is progress on race in America, there is a major backlash from white people. That has to stop.
latimes.com
Editorial: When will we live up to our Declaration of Independence?
For too many people, and for too many generations, the "self-evident" truth of equality has just been empty words scrawled on parchment.
latimes.com
Letters to the Editor: The Russian bounty scandal raises a terrible question: Is Trump a traitor?
With the Russian bounty scheme, the United States faces a crisis worse than anything in Watergate.
latimes.com
Op-Ed: Why abortion rights are still at risk
If Chief Justice John Roberts can find a way to maintain the court's reputation and eliminate Roe, he will.
latimes.com
Editorial: L.A. is being forced to house 3,100 people under freeways. What about everyone else?
A federal judge ordered the city and county to provide beds and services for people. But options are scarce, and warehousing them in large congregate settings is the worst option. Outdoor camping is no better.
latimes.com
Letters to the Editor: The 1st Amendment is meaningless if it doesn't protect flag burning
Anti-speech movements by people on the left and the right threaten to undermine the 1st Amendment, which knows no partisanship.
latimes.com
What’s a City Without the Office?
The ebb and flow of office workers is essential for city economies. Here’s what happens when that flow stops.
slate.com
The QAnon supporters winning congressional primaries, explained
Trump supporters displaying QAnon posters appeared at a Trump rally in Tampa, Florida, on July 31, 2018. | Thomas O’Neill/NurPhoto via Getty Images QAnon started on an obscure internet forum. Now its supporters are running for Congress. “Where we go one, we go all” is a frequent slogan of adherents to QAnon, a fringe conspiracy theory that posits the existence of a pedophilic “deep state” working against President Donald Trump. Now, it looks like at least a couple of them could be going to Washington. On Tuesday, restaurateur Lauren Boebert defeated five-term incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton for the GOP nomination in Colorado’s Third District. Boebert is a conservative gun rights activist who touts her support for Trump, as well as her belief in “personal freedom, citizen rights, and upholding the Constitution of the United States,” on her campaign website. She’s seemingly also on board with QAnon: In May, she told far-right personality and QAnon supporter Ann Vandersteel that the theory isn’t really her “thing,” but then later added, “I hope that [Q] is real, because it only means America is getting stronger and better and people are returning to conservative values.” And in the traditionally Republican Colorado Third District — Tipton won by about 8 points in 2018 — Boebert is also the favorite to win in November. If she does, odds are good she won’t be alone in her familiarity with QAnon when she gets to Congress. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, almost won her primary outright in Georgia’s 14th District, which lacks an incumbent, and she’s on track to win again in the August runoff. Greene is even more open in her support for the conspiracy theory: In a 2017 video discussing it — one of several first uncovered by Politico — she told supporters that “there’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it.” Boebert and Greene are the two QAnon-supporting candidates most likely to make it to Congress this November, but they’re not the only ones who have a shot. According to Media Matters, there are at least eight other QAnon-friendly candidates for Congress who have already won their primaries, as well as one more (in addition to Greene) who’s headed for a runoff. It’s a surprising number of people to have successfully running for office while embracing an objectively wild conspiracy theory. But maybe not that surprising — after all, one of the president’s sons posted a QAnon graphic on Instagram just last month. Candidates don’t need to explicitly endorse conspiracy theories to elevate them According to Travis View, a QAnon expert and co-host of the podcast QAnon Anonymous, part of it is just politics, albeit a particularly Faustian variety. The fanatical dedication to QAnon that characterizes many of the conspiracy’s acolytes turns out to be very effective when it comes to spreading a particular candidate’s message — or, at least, it is if they think a candidate is on their side. Of Boebert, View says, “I feel like she’s being very crafty in that she seems aware of what she needs to say in order to give enough wink and acknowledgment to the QAnon community without out-and-out endorsing it.” We can now add Lauren Boebert to the ever-growing list of QAnon supporters who are running for Congress. https://t.co/VJbFGkYKLx pic.twitter.com/m1bklAfikp— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) May 18, 2020 Boebert has continued to walk that fine line since her win on Tuesday. “I’m glad the [inspector general] and the [attorney general] are investigating deep state activities that undermine the President,” she said in a statement to Vox. “I don’t follow QAnon.” But Graham Brookie, an expert on disinformation and the director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, says that whether candidates like Boebert officially lay claim to the conspiracy theory doesn’t matter too much. “She may not identify as an adherent of QAnon conspiracy theories,” Brookie, a native of Colorado’s Third District, said in an interview with Vox, “but she has certainly amplified them provably, and the impact is the same on the audience.” I was born & raised in #CO03. This is my home. I also happen to run a nonpartisan center dedicated to identifying & explaining disinformation. So let me explain this: Lauren Boebert is an unabashed conspiracy theorist, who spreads QAnon & is unfit for elected office. https://t.co/CZX86BYSbR— Graham Brookie (@GrahamBrookie) July 1, 2020 QAnon supporters — and believers of other conspiracies — are “primed to believe in code words and secrets,” as Vox’s Jane Coaston explained: Conspiracy theories create order out of chaos, attempting to make sense of events that don’t make sense. And researchers have found that fact-based arguments against them only serve to reinforce them in the minds of believers. That’s what makes QAnon or Sandy Hook trutherism or any other conspiracy theory so difficult to combat: Because conspiracy theories aren’t based on facts, conspiracy theorists aren’t receptive to them either. Not all QAnon-friendly candidates are like Boebert, though: Some exist much closer to the Greene end of the spectrum. Specifically, View describes some QAnon supporters as “pragmatic” in their embrace of the conspiracy theory: “cynical grifters who see the QAnon community as a bunch of people who can be exploited for money or online audiences,” or even to win a Republican primary. But in other cases, he says, “you see people who are genuinely radicalized by the QAnon story.” For example, View says, Jo Rae Perkins, who won the Republican nomination for Senate in Oregon, appears to be a “true believer”; she even made explicit reference to Q in her victory speech this May. Tacit support for QAnon makes sense for some candidates in today’s GOP When it comes to the recent surge in QAnon-supporting candidates, most of their voters — and there are about 600,000 of them, according to a calculation by the Washington Post — aren’t voting for Q directly. In fact, just over three-quarters of Americans have never heard of QAnon. But while QAnon encompasses a lot of truly wild conspiracies, at its heart, View says, is “pervasive institutional distrust”: a belief that “the whole of mainstream media, the whole of the political system is entirely, irredeemably corrupt.” And in the era of Donald Trump, that kind of populist messaging plays really, really well with the Republican primary electorate. (Not only with Republicans — as the Atlantic’s David A. Graham points out, voters of all stripes can be conspiracy-prone, and our current political environment isn’t helping. But the Satanic-pedophilia stuff is basically only a thing in on the extreme fringes of the GOP.) Tipton, the Republican incumbent Boebert defeated, was endorsed by Trump — but Brookie argues that that endorsement was in name only. “From an ideological standpoint, candidates like Boebert tend to play to the kind of basest parts of Trump’s base, which his rhetoric has consistently promoted, endorsed, amplified,” Brookie said. “So a victory of a candidate like Boebert can’t be seen as anything other than an extension of Donald Trump’s influence on the Republican Party.” In other words, elements of the worldview underpinning QAnon don’t look all that different from what’s coming from the top of the ticket — which would explain the prevalence of QAnon signs at Trump rallies. just some extremely normal people at an extremely normal political rally for an extremely normal president https://t.co/0Gxa9sa81B pic.twitter.com/9Z2pDX9zCg— Andrew Kirell (@AndrewKirell) July 31, 2018 The result is a fairly widespread acceptance of — or at least an openness to — it and other conspiracy theories. For example, a Yahoo News/YouGov poll in late May found that “half of all Americans who name Fox News as their primary TV news source believe the conspiracy theory (that Bill Gates wants to use mass vaccination to implant microchips), and 44 percent of voters who cast ballots for Trump in 2016 do as well.” "Half of all Americans who name Fox News as their primary TV news source believe the conspiracy theory (that Bill Gates wants to use mass vaccination to implant microchips), and 44 percent of voters who cast ballots for Trump in 2016 do as well."https://t.co/7edbgD0wZF pic.twitter.com/dPkfg9PQYy— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) May 22, 2020 As NBC’s Ben Collins points out, that’s not a theory that Fox ever boosted. But the channel has “spent the pandemic sowing constant distrust in disease experts, leaving a gaping hole for answers that’s been filled by opportunistic, algorithm-gaming grifters online.” And it’s not too much of a jump from a conspiracy theory about Bill Gates and vaccines to QAnon. According to View, QAnon functions as “a meta-conspiracy theory that can connect with every other sort of conspiratorial narrative,” however out there it might be. Republicans also haven’t been especially proactive in condemning QAnon when it crops up in candidates. After Boebert’s win, the National Republican Congressional Committee reiterated its support for her. When asked by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee if it intended to disavow Boebert, the NRCC said in a statement shared on Twitter by Huffington Post reporter Kevin Robillard that “we’ll get back to you when Cheri Bustos and the DCCC disavow dangerous conspiracy theorists like Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff.” View says that failure to forcefully condemn the conspiracy theory means that QAnon is likely to stick around in the Republican Party: “Anything short of a clear, forceful repudiation,” he said, “they will take as acceptance.” It’s unclear how Boebert’s hardline populism and flirtations with QAnon might hold up come November, though. It worked out well for her in the primary — she becomes one of just a small handful of candidates to successfully oust an incumbent of their own party this cycle — but Anand Sokhey, a professor of political science at the University of Colorado Boulder, isn’t so sure the same will be true in the general election. “I think it’s very competitive now,” Sokhey said. “It looks like it’s certainly possible for the Democratic candidate, Diane Mitsch Bush, to run strong in that district where we normally wouldn’t have thought it would have been possible.” Support Vox’s explanatory journalism Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.
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The Pandemic Should Change the Way We Talk About Dying
I am a resident emergency physician in New York City, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to pick up the phone to inform the family of a patient with the coronavirus that their loved one was close to death. Recently, when an elderly woman arrived with what my colleagues and I identified as severe COVID-19, her prognosis was grave. I went to the ambulance bay, away from the cacophony of the emergency department, to call her relatives to tell them that even our most advanced interventions would not help her. The news was understandably difficult to absorb. The family reflexively asked us to “do everything,” rather than heeding the gentle recommendation that we focus on preserving her comfort.We placed a tube in her throat to connect her to a ventilator, inserted catheters in her veins to administer medications that would sustain her heart, and performed chest compressions to temporarily supply blood to her vital organs. Our team tried for 45 minutes to resuscitate the patient as her lungs and heart gave out.[Amitha Kalaichandran: We’re not ready for this kind of grief]The number of coronavirus cases in New York City has declined, but COVID-19 is on the rise in many other states. Doctors across the country are in the same situation I was in just a few weeks ago—overwhelmed by a large number of patients whose conditions deteriorate rapidly, and responsible for guiding relatives who must make incredibly important decisions over the phone. I wonder whether people are receiving the type of care they truly wish for in their final moments of life and what can be done to preserve a dying patient’s autonomy during this pandemic. Advance directives are one of the most important gifts people can give to their loved ones before they die. But few people actually have them in place.Discussing our own death with those we love and with health-care providers, let alone confronting it ourselves, is difficult. Yet death is a part of life, and planning for it can help those you love.My family’s confrontations with unexpected death inform the way I think about caring for critically ill patients. When I was 9, complications from a perforated intestine, sudden lung failure, and multiple strokes nearly killed my father. In the face of tremendous odds, he survived to lead a semi-independent life, before dying from a heart attack 15 years later.[Listen to Social Distance: You should have an advance directive]That experience shaped how my mother and I approached her own advancing liver disease as I entered adulthood. We took time to discuss what it meant to her to be alive: to laugh with others, share a drink or meal together, and meaningfully interact with the world. She decided that, if her condition was irreparable, she wouldn’t want to be kept alive on life support. Days before she was supposed to board a flight to New York City for specialist care, she suffered a massive stroke. A helicopter transported her to a hospital with neurosurgical capabilities as I rushed to be with her.When I arrived, she was different, not “there”—dependent on the same machine to breathe and medications that my COVID-19 patients are now on. Even so, her heart kept pumping as her breathing was maintained by the ventilator.I was an emergency medical technician at the time, able to grasp the reality of her dire condition, and yet I still doubted myself. As her only child and legal next of kin, was I to allow her to die when there was even an infinitesimal chance that things could be different? Could she survive like my dad did years before?[Steven McDonald: No one is supporting the doctors]I didn’t have to make any of these heart-wrenching decisions. My mom had prepared me for the worst day of my life. I was equipped with her advance directive, stating that after a short trial of invasive measures, she did not wish to remain on life support. She was made comfortable with medications. After the machines were disconnected and her heart stopped beating naturally, doctors did not perform chest compressions or any further interventions. For the rest of my life, I’ll live in gratitude for her last, invaluable gift—readying us both for her death before it happened.Six years later, my patients and their families are facing the sudden decline that can occur in people with COVID-19, and many are not prepared. Before the pandemic, my colleagues and I conducted end-of-life conversations or delivered bad news over the phone only in very rare circumstances. I would take a patient’s family to a quiet room, sit face-to-face with them, and offer a hand to hold. Now the comfort I can offer the family, in some cases living mere blocks away, is limited, since relatives are rarely allowed in the hospital during coronavirus surges. Such restrictions exist for everyone’s safety, but they can make end-of-life decisions that much more difficult. When family members see the physical condition of their loved one, that’s often when the gravity of an acute situation truly sinks in. Without witnessing this reality, disbelief is common. “You can’t be talking about my dad,” one family member said to me over the phone. “There’s no way you have the right person. Please tell me this is a mistake.” No one should be making decisions about end-of-life care under such stressful circumstances.In the absence of an advance directive, physicians always “do everything” to save someone’s life; it is our ethical and legal mandate. But in the final days or hours of an illness, when the body is permanently failing, disrupting the dying process without an advance directive in place can feel especially troubling. CPR is not like it is in the movies. Effective chest compressions, for instance, regularly break ribs. Invasive measures are justified when a patient has decided that they want them—and many patients choose that route. But they aren’t what everyone might wish for as they lie dying. When I know a patient’s wishes, I can work with a family to achieve them, even over the phone. In the end, I want my patients to die with dignity, whatever that means to them.End-of-life conversations are hard. Yet the coronavirus is with us, and we should use this period of collective grief and suffering to reflect and plan. A patient’s wishes, written in the form of an advance directive and made known to those who would make decisions for her in the event she’s unable to, can empower those she loves most and offer some certainty during one of the most challenging times in their life.
theatlantic.com
Pence delayed Arizona trip after Secret Service agents tested positive for coronavirus: report
Vice President Mike Pence delayed a trip to Arizona this week after several of the Secret Service agents tasked with preparing for his trip tested positive for the coronavirus or had symptoms, according to reports.
foxnews.com
The tragic allure of Alaska's 'Into the Wild' bus
Fairbanks Bus 142. Probably you've read about it, seen its replica on a movie screen, or recognize one of its headier nicknames.
edition.cnn.com
Think You’re Smarter Than Slate’s Senior Managing Producer of Podcasts? Find Out With This Week’s News Quiz.
Test your knowledge of this week’s big stories.
slate.com
Serena Williams takes to the tennis court with daughter Olympia
Sorry Venus, Serena has found a new doubles partner.
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Serena Williams takes to the tennis court with daughter Olympia
Sorry Venus, Serena has found a new doubles partner.
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Serena takes to the tennis court with daughter Olympia
Sorry Venus, Serena has found a new doubles partner.
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Hawaii Is Finally Making It Easier for Tourists to Visit. Is That Smart?
Bookings are already up.
slate.com
The tragic allure of Alaska's 'Into the Wild' bus
A 1940s-era bus parked in a remote patch of Alaskan outback gained literary and movie fame and a stream of worldwide visitors until it was recently airlifted out in the interest of public safety. What drew hikers to this unlikely pilgrimage site?
edition.cnn.com
It’s Time for Liberals to Take Back Patriotism
Around the world, right-wing authoritarians have cornered the market on themes of national greatness, with disastrous consequences.
slate.com
Netflix’s Baby-Sitters Club Is Ready to Teach a New Generation About Work
Locked-down parents will need an army of tween child-minders. Let the Baby-Sitters Club show them the way.
slate.com
20 Khashoggi murder suspects on trial in Turkey in absentia
Two former aides of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are among them. The suspects, all Saudis, fled to the kingdom and some were tried there.
cbsnews.com
French PM Edouard Philippe resigns, successor to be named
France is to name a new prime minister “in the coming hours," the country's presidency said Friday, shortly after announcing Edouard Philippe's resignation amid an expected reshuffle.
foxnews.com
Reflection On A 4th That Seems Far from Glorious
We do need a holiday just now. And not just a moment of leisure but an occasion for unity, healing and hope.
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npr.org
Oregon trooper refuses to wear mask at coffee shop, placed on leave: reports
An Oregon State Police trooper who refused to wear a mask at a Corvallis coffee shop Wednesday has been placed on leave, according to reports.
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foxnews.com
Born on the dark fringes of the internet, QAnon is now infiltrating mainstream American life and politics
Since its origins, QAnon has festered in the darker corners of the internet. Now it's followers, which call themselves "believers," have found a niche on mainstream social media and the Republican party.
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Watchdog groups look to strip Cuomo of emergency coronavirus powers
Good government watchdogs want state lawmakers to scale back Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s emergency coronavirus powers that have allowed him to sidestep, rewrite and create new laws throughout the pandemic.
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nypost.com
Revisiting Sacred Cows: Which Figures From History Do We Honor, And How?
Statues have been taken down; names scrubbed from institutions. The national reckoning over race has reenergized debates over historical figures and the scrutiny goes beyond Confederate monuments.
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npr.org
For Some Black Americans, Love Of Country Means Holding It Accountable
For many African Americans, patriotism is complicated because the promises of America aren't fulfilled equally. The Fourth of July brings a challenge: reconciling national pride with systemic racism.
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npr.org
South Dakota AG Ravnsborg: Trump attendance at Mount Rushmore fireworks is a defeat for ‘cancel culture’
President Trump will be in attendance Friday when – for the first time in 10 years – South Dakotans and Americans will once again behold fireworks bursting in midair, illuminating Mount Rushmore’s 60-foot tall busts of some of our nation’s great leaders.
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foxnews.com
Suzanne Somers and husband Alan Hamel reflect on their decadeslong marriage in Hollywood: ‘He turns me on’
Suzanne Somers and Alan Hamel have been married for over four decades, but they still feel like newlyweds.
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foxnews.com
Grilling fast facts and recipes to know for the Fourth of July
Some call it the ‘High Hamburger Holiday’ while others may simply say ‘the Fourth of July,’ no matter what you may call it, grilling will inexorably be part of the day’s festivities.
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foxnews.com
Beach Boys’ Mike Love, John Stamos and Clint Black to perform for USO’s virtual 4th of July concert special
Mike Love is sending out “Good Vibrations” this Fourth of July weekend.
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foxnews.com
On The Brink, Rural Hospitals Brace For New Surge In COVID-19 Cases
Rural "critical access" hospitals, often some of the largest employers in small towns, have been operating on razor-thin margins throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
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npr.org
Genes from 'culturally extinct' Indigenous group discovered in unsuspecting Tennessee man
The last known members of the Indigenous Beothuk people of Newfoundland were thought to have died out 200 years ago. But genes from these people have been found in a man living in Tennessee today, researchers reported.
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foxnews.com
Saying it failed minority students for decades, school district commits to racial equity
The district adopted a policy calling out the racism and inequity of the past, while committing to dismantling racial inequity in its schools.       
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usatoday.com
The Old-School Campaign to Unseat Joni Ernst
Theresa Greenfield was 24 years old and four months pregnant with her second child when a priest rang her doorbell with terrible news: Her husband, Rod, a lineman at the local power company, had been killed in an accident at work. Greenfield, a Democrat who is challenging Senator Joni Ernst in Iowa this year, tells the story at every virtual campaign event she holds, but she generally leaves out the smaller details: how, just hours before, she’d packed a Snickers bar in Rod’s lunch box as a treat. How the clergyman sat with her on the sofa and held her hands as he explained that Rod had been electrocuted. The way that the panic, in those first few days, consumed her: As a single parent with no income, how would she survive?Greenfield’s answer came in the form of Social Security survivor’s benefits, a regular check that she and her sons subsisted on for many months, along with Rod’s union benefits. Her family didn’t get rich, she is careful to note, but they survived. Greenfield went on to get a degree in urban planning, and became the president of a Des Moines-based commercial real-estate firm. The story provides the foundational message of her Senate campaign: She argues that she will protect Social Security, organized labor, and the social safety net, even as Republicans like Ernst try to tear them apart. “Social Security gave me the ability to pay the rent and put milk in the refrigerator and fall asleep at night,” Greenfield told me in a Zoom interview this week from her kitchen in Des Moines, a slight glare bouncing off her plastic-rimmed cat-eye glasses. “It gave me that second chance.”In emphasizing these core Democratic tenets, Greenfield is trying to convince Iowans—especially rural, older white ones—that her party has had their back all along. They may be starting to believe her. Just a few months ago, Ernst, the popular incumbent of “Make ’em squeal” fame, seemed like a lock for reelection. But all of a sudden, the sleepy Iowa Senate race has become one to watch: A poll taken in early June showed Greenfield three points ahead of the Republican senator, albeit within the margin of error.In a Democratic Party that is moving ever leftward—latching on to big ideas like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and defunding police—Greenfield’s focus on Social Security can seem a little retro. But if she unseats Ernst in November, her campaign may offer a lesson for the broader Democratic Party about how it can regain ground from Republicans in rural America, and transcend its reputation as the party of city dwellers.Erst and Greenfield are bizarro-world versions of each other. Both are middle-aged, self-professed “farm girls.” But the Harley-riding Ernst, with her ruck marching and her tightly fixed hair, is spirited and blunt. Greenfield, soft-spoken with an Upper Midwest lilt, comes across, somehow, as both whimsical and unexciting—like one of the more humdrum episodes of The Great British Bake Off.Greenfield also wants Iowans to view the two women as opposites on Social Security, the 84-year-old social-insurance program that’s supported by a healthy majority of Americans. Although Ernst has not directly proposed the program’s privatization—a longtime Republican goal—she has expressed openness to the idea. During her first Senate campaign, in 2014, she suggested that young workers could put some portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into personal savings accounts for retirement. In a town-hall meeting last year, Ernst submitted that lawmakers should go “behind closed doors” to negotiate changes to the New Deal program.Greenfield made those comments central to her campaign from the beginning. In her debut ad last year, she wears blue jeans and a flannel shirt, and walks like a cowpoke through a small family farm. “Joni Ernst said she’d be different,” Greenfield says. Ernst’s 2014 “Make ’em squeal” ad—in which she explains how her experience castrating hogs will inform her tough approach to D.C.—plays on the screen. “Listen, folks, she didn’t castrate anyone,” Greenfield adds.Greenfield’s approach could be a savvy one not just because of Social Security’s popularity, but also because of Iowa’s demographics. One in five Iowans received Social Security benefits as of December 2018, and one in four Iowans over the age of 65 depends on the program as their main source of income, according to the American Association of Retired Persons. These voters are the most reliable ones in Iowa: Senior citizens cast one-third of all votes there in the 2018 midterm elections.Other statewide Democratic candidates, like the former gubernatorial contender Fred Hubbell, who lost his challenge to the Republican Kim Reynolds in 2018, have failed miserably at winning over the Iowans who live in the rural and ruby-red parts of the state. But Dave Peterson, a political-science professor at Iowa State University, predicts that Greenfield’s prioritization of Social Security and other safety-net programs will likely give her a boost. “Hubbell wasn’t able to connect to rural Iowa; she’s clearly able to do that better,” Peterson told me, pointing to her farming roots. “The way she defines herself and her campaign is not geared at winning Des Moines,” by far Iowa’s biggest city, but at winning the rest of the state.[Read: The one way that Iowa looks like the Democratic Party]“I view Iowans as independent voters and independent thinkers,” Greenfield told me in our Zoom interview, when I asked how she planned on attracting voters in the state’s more conservative parts. She has reason to: You can’t swing a piglet in Iowa without hitting someone who proudly calls themselves “independent.” There are nearly the same number of active, independent voters as there are registered Democrats and Republicans. “I don’t approach anyone asking about who they voted for in the past,” Greenfield said.John Adams, an 80-year-old retired newspaperman from Arnolds Park, has voted for Republican candidates all his life, including for Ernst six years ago. But Adams watched with disgust as she and other Republicans attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017, and later as the president proposed limiting Medicare spending and cutting Social Security disability benefits, despite promising to protect both programs. In 2018, Adams changed his party registration to Democrat, and plans to vote for Greenfield in November. Ernst has become “a lackey of Donald Trump,” Adams told me. “The way the national Republican Party is acting, [this] is a darn good issue for Greenfield.”Other congressional candidates talk about defending Social Security—it’s part of basically every Democratic campaign. But few candidates have made it the centerpiece of their bid in the same way that Greenfield has, says Alex Lawson, the executive director of Social Security Works, a nonprofit focused on strengthening the program. The only one that came to mind for him is Conor Lamb, the Democrat whose 2018 campaign flipped a western Pennsylvania district that had voted for Trump two years before. “This is how you win,” Lawson told me. “He literally ran one of the best ads I’ve seen on Social Security.” (Greenfield ran for the House in Iowa the same year, but she dropped out during the Third District’s Democratic primary.)Ernst’s team strongly contests Democrats’ characterization of her goals. “Joni Ernst has never once voted to cut benefits for seniors on Social Security, and never will,” Brendan Conley, a campaign spokesperson, told me. “Her own parents count on Social Security every month. Greenfield and Washington Democrats’ false attacks are just lies meant to scare seniors.” When I asked David Kochel, a GOP strategist originally from Iowa, about whether Greenfield’s attacks are overblown, he scoffed. Ernst has “never offered any legislation” to cut benefits. “She’s concerned about being able to maintain a safety net that is viable in the long term,” he said.Bruce Braley, a former U.S. representative from the state’s First District, promised to protect Social Security in his Senate campaign against Ernst herself in 2014, and got crushed in the general election. The strategy didn’t work then, and it won’t work now, Kochel argues.But the times are different now than they were six years ago. The unusual pressures of 2020—an economic crisis triggered by a global pandemic—are heightening people’s concerns about retirement and their long-term survival, say the politics experts and strategists I spoke with for this story. The pandemic’s effects on Iowa’s farming industry, in particular, have been devastating. “When there’s so much uncertainty and insecurity,” Greenfield’s message “resonates tremendously,” Steffen Schmidt, another Iowa State political-science professor, told me.Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who has rooted his three successful campaigns in a full-throated defense of organized labor and the social safety net, told me that the pandemic has demonstrated exactly how the government should intervene to improve Americans’ daily lives. “The congressional response with the stimulus check kept people from devastation,” Brown said, citing recent studies showing that federal coronavirus aid has prevented millions of Americans from falling into poverty.[Read: Sherrod Brown on the coronavirus chaos]Brown is the only statewide elected Democratic official in Ohio, a mostly red state that, like Iowa, voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016. As Democrats try to figure out how they’re going to beat the president in these places—and in the even more crucial battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan—Brown believes that the strategy for doing so is obvious. He cited Joe Biden’s stated commitment to preserve and expand Social Security benefits, and his consolidation of support from many union leaders. “It’s things like that that will help Biden carry Ohio,” Brown said. In Iowa, Greenfield’s emphasis on Social Security could redouble to Biden’s benefit, too.So this is the new candidate meet and greet. I’m sitting on a Zoom call, in a virtual room full of virtual Democrats—tiny faces in boxes glowing yellow on the screen. Ten or 11 have people signed on; they are white and mostly older, with names like Ron and Nancy and Jan. This group, the Warren County Democrats, usually has its annual summer picnic outdoors, with hot dogs and ice-cold drinks. Instead, they’re on this video call buying time rating local pizza joints. (Fong’s, in Des Moines, offers more creative options, they say, but Ames’s Great Plains Sauce and Dough has the tastiest crust.)Fifteen minutes into the meeting, Greenfield pops up in a new square, smiling widely in front of a brick wall. I turn up the volume to hear her better. “Hi, folks,” she says cheerfully, before launching into her life story. She grew up in southern Minnesota, she says, just a few minutes north of the Iowa border (which helps explain all the “soh-rrys” and “ya knows”). Her father was a farmer and a crop duster, and she was a “scrappy farm kid,” fond of riding pigs and getting into trouble. In the 1980s farm crisis, she explains, her family was forced to sell everything, and they never farmed again. When she arrives at the story of her husband’s death, in 1988, Greenfield pauses to emphasize her main point: “I’ll tell ya,” she says, “I wouldn’t be here today in this fight without the helping hand of Social Security and union benefits.”The Warren County Democrats were an easy audience for her pitch. “The issues I deal with now are issues that are protected more by Democrats than Republicans,” Dan Corsair, a 72-year-old retired home builder from Indianola, told me after the call, adding that he currently receives Social Security benefits. He and his wife, Mary, were nodding along vigorously with Greenfield as she warned about cuts to the program. “If Republicans hold enough control in the next cycle, Social Security and Medicare are going to be gone,” Corsair said.Iowa Republicans, though, say that notion is hogwash. “The reality is, Greenfield is completely unprepared to lead and she will do anything to distract from that fact,” Conley, the Ernst campaign spokesperson, said. They’re hoping that Iowans will see Greenfield as out of touch and amateurish. New ads from the National Republican Senatorial Committee portray the Democrat as a failed and heartless businesswoman, citing her record overseeing real-estate-development projects in Des Moines. In an email responding to my requests for comment, the Ernst campaign linked a YouTube video of Greenfield stumbling over a foreign-policy question.[Read: The fight for Iowa’s white working-class soul]Democrats shouldn’t overestimate Greenfield’s standing in the race. The latest poll showing her ahead could represent a peak for her campaign. At the time the survey was conducted, she’d just won a four-way primary, and received an influx of attention and donations from Democrats and left-leaning groups nationwide. “This is probably the low point of Republican polling this campaign,” Peterson, the Iowa State professor, said.But Greenfield could be buoyed by a general-election landscape that’s looking more and more favorable to Democrats. In 2016, more than half of adults 65 and older voted for Trump, and among older white voters specifically, Trump outperformed Hillary Clinton by 20 points. Retaining the support of senior voters is absolutely crucial to the president’s reelection, but recent polls have shown his favorability among them slipping, due in part to his handling of the coronavirus crisis and his response to the nationwide protests after the killing of George Floyd. Trump is currently two points behind Biden nationally among voters 65 and over, according to new polling from The New York Times and Siena College. In Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, he is trailing the former vice president by double digits with the same group. No Democratic presidential candidate has won seniors since Al Gore’s bid in 2000.Another shift that could portend good things for Greenfield: At this point in the 2018 cycle, there were roughly 25,000 more registered Republicans in Iowa than Democrats, but in the two years since, Greenfield’s party has almost entirely closed that gap.If you look closely, you can see these trends playing out in real time. Adams, the 80-year-old former Republican, explained that he’s spent the past year “working on” other Republicans in his community—encouraging them to abandon the GOP. Arnolds Park, where he lives, situated on the shores of West Okoboji Lake in the northern part of the state, is full of conservative retirees. Already, he told me, his efforts have been successful: He’s managed to persuade three of his Republican friends to support Greenfield. “They think she’s the right person at the right time, and she really is,” Adams said. To win in November, though, Greenfield will need a whole lot more of Iowa’s “independent thinkers” to feel the same.
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