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Fauci, Azar cast doubt on Putin's virus vaccine claim
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Dr. Anthony Fauci and Health Secretary Alex Azar pointed to likely inadequate testing of the supposed Russian vaccine.
Yankees’ Mike Ford thrives in first crack at replacing Giancarlo Stanton
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Overweight Chinese man’s big belly saves him from falling down a well
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Sannikov: 'Lukashenko is scared'
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GOP primary winner calls out Pelosi: 'Kick that bi--- out of Congress'
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Black and South Asian-American women embrace Joe Biden's choice of Kamala Harris as VP pick
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'Extremely serious' train derailment in Aberdeenshire, Scotland
A train has derailed in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, according to British Transport Police.
On This Day: 12 August 2012
In 2012, the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics took place in London, with a star-studded concert. (Aug. 12)
DNA links man who killed himself last week to teen's 1996 death
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Biden VP pick Harris promoted group that put up bail for alleged violent criminals
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The futuristic yacht that's designed from the inside out
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The futuristic yacht that's designed from the inside out
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This Solar Power Lantern Brings Light to Those Who Need It
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Opinion: New Orleans Saints' 'soft' bubble could be model for 'hard' bubble if NFL makes it to playoffs
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COVID-19-related lawsuits could destroy nonprofits. Congress needs to give them immunity.
People who act in good faith to perform a public good shouldn't have to open themselves to legal action by helping others.        
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Deroy Murdock: Biden's history on race – years of troubling slurs, friendships and policies
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A revamped PPP coronavirus loan program is in the works. Will it help small businesses left out before?
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Trump adds grandiose promises to campaign pitch
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Biden reportedly mocked for using script to tap Kamala Harris as his running mate
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Teachers Respond: Should Schools Reopen?
I’m a Nurse in New York. Teachers Should Do Their Jobs, Just Like I Did.Last week, Kristen McConnell argued that schools are essential to the functioning of society, which makes teachers essential workers.“I can understand that teachers are nervous about returning to school,” she wrote. “But they should take a cue from their fellow essential workers and do their job. Even people who think there’s a fundamental difference between a nurse and a teacher in a pandemic must realize that there isn’t one between a grocery-store worker and a teacher, in terms of obligation.”I don’t know why the idea of a labor union reserving the right to strike for the safety of its members is so objectionable. In July, our governor here in Oklahoma “strongly encouraged” schools to reopen in the fall and refused to make masks mandatory statewide, even while the state experienced a record number of cases. Clearly, we cannot be confident that every state government will keep its public servants safe without outside pressure.The work that teachers do is important, but it is not worth the cost of people dying. As a young and healthy teacher, I am not overly concerned for myself. I am worried for my co-workers and the family members of students, teachers, and support staff at my school—especially those who are older and/or have preexisting conditions.I am also worried that portraying public-school teachers as ambivalent workers in need of stern encouragement only serves to further tarnish public education in America. American education underperforms in part because of the comparatively low prestige of teaching. Teachers are used to serving students in spite of mediocre pay, demanding work, and public criticism. We know what our “level [of] duty” is.Carter BraceTulsa, Okla.Kristen McConnell is absolutely correct that teachers must return to the classroom. Schools, especially in low-income and marginalized communities, cannot be kept closed indefinitely. Above all, this is an equity issue. While many middle- and high-income families will be able to afford private tutors and attend schools with more resources available for distance learning, those in low-income and marginalized communities do not have this option. I am a teacher in a low-income community, and I know that every day my students stay away from the classroom is a day they fall further behind their peers. Teachers have a duty to serve their communities, and now we must step into the breach and look beyond the immediacy of the health risks to what a future would look like if the pandemic creates even further separation between the academic tool kits of marginalized and privileged students.Michael BannonToronto, OntarioIn full disclosure, I work for a teachers’ union.Educators, children, nurses, and doctors did not stand by idly while many Americans were suffering and dying. Many of them made home visits or packets of materials for students who lacked technology at home or the internet. They helped serve food to students and families, and organized car caravans and backpack drives to ensure their most vulnerable students knew that supportive and caring adults were there for them.[Readers respond to our June 2020 issue]Some educators made masks to donate to first responders. They made their living rooms into classrooms, helped students regain a semblance of normalcy, and advocated for increased federal funding to ensure communities and families did not feel the brunt of the pandemic’s economic impact. Nevertheless, all of this seems to be ignored as the writer wants you to believe that educators should buck up and get back to work as she did.McConnell creates a false binary: If you’re a good educator, you’ll prepare your living will and get back to work. If you are a bad educator, you will protest and go on strike. How can we blame educators for wanting to protect themselves and their students?We are all struggling to make the best decisions with the information we have. Educators, like nurses and doctors, are human beings trying to do their jobs despite these extraordinary circumstances.Annelise CohonHyattsville, Md.As a public-school teacher, I couldn’t agree more that schools are essential and need to open—safely. It’s important to recognize, however, that teachers aren’t just fighting for ourselves. We’re fighting for our communities. We’re fighting to make sure that schools are reopened in a way that doesn’t lead to a second surge. In order to do that, we need real-life working conditions to follow existing health recommendations and states to shut down activity in other sectors. If we want schools to reopen, we need to close bars. Everyone in our society needs to get on board so that schools can get back to what’s really essential: feeding, sheltering, and educating our children.Amina SheikhCambridge, Mass.I am a hospital chaplain and a professor, and I think there are important distinctions between health-care workers and educators.As a health-care worker, I signed a preemployment form acknowledging my potential exposure to infectious diseases that also outlined what I was supposed to do in case of exposure. There is an entire department at my hospital that oversees potential exposures and I have access to personal protective equipment, which helps me do my job safely.[Readers respond: ‘Who does homework work for?’]As a professor, I have never been asked to sign a form that acknowledges my potential exposure to life-threatening diseases, and to my knowledge, there is not a department devoted to managing such exposures. In addition, no one has offered me PPE in order to teach more safely. The expected and actual labor conditions for health-care workers and educators differ significantly, and the politically expedient term essential worker should not be used to gloss over those differences.Rev. Kristel Clayville, Ph.D.Chicago, Ill.To demand that teachers return to in-person schooling shows a callous disregard for teachers, their families, and the communities they serve.My fiancée and I are both elementary-school teachers. Every sanitizing spray or hand soap we have ever had for our rooms was either donated by a parent or bought on our own dime. To prevent infection, we would be spending hundreds of dollars per week in each of our classrooms. Who will pay these bills? No part of the government’s response to this crisis inspires confidence that adequate safety measures will be taken. With additional spending for COVID-19 precautions, a year of teaching might end up a negative for many financially.There are also several practicalities of school that COVID-19 simply makes impossible. I have at least 22 students in my classroom at all times. There simply is not room to maintain a proper social distance. In an ideal world, every child would understand the gravity of the situation and make sure that they respect every guideline every second of the day. But anyone with experience educating children knows that simply will not happen. And even in this perfect classroom, how would students eat lunch, have recess, go to gym, or even move between classes? There is no practical way to plan an in-person class that both maintains health guidelines and meets expectations for schools.[Readers respond: ‘The deck is heavily stacked against low-income students’]I will not be one to pretend that the rollout of online learning has been perfect. There are inevitable technology glitches, language barriers, and miscommunications. There is the emptiness of not being able to talk with students face-to-face, and I know that students are missing time with their friends. Most of all, I have worried about the impact that online schooling will have on educational inequality. With less time in person, the gap between rich and poor students will only grow. However, this gap also exists in coronavirus infection rates. If a return to school creates a new wave of infections, children in poorer neighborhoods will be disproportionately impacted. There is no ideal choice, but it is hard to argue that a flawed education is a worse outcome than losing a family member or even their own life. Of a series of bad options, online schooling is the best one.Noam KosofskyNashville, Tenn.I am due back at school in late August and hope the kids will be there. I am not at all happy with the attitude of many teachers, who feel they are in a protected category. I agree we are essential workers. With appropriate measures in place, I believe we should do our duty. If I get sick, I expect a doctor, nurse, or paramedic to be there. Parents have a right to expect the same from teachers.Louise NunnSouth Deerfield, Mass.Kristen McConnell replies:I appreciate these thoughtful responses to my article and agree with much of what these readers said, including the fact that, as Carter Brace wrote, “the work that teachers do is important, but it is not worth the cost of people dying.” My article was by no means a demand for schools to reopen in person no matter what. That position would be absurd. As I stated, any city or state with spiking cases of COVID-19 should keep schools and indoor businesses closed. But parts of the country currently have case levels low enough to support a return (or a part-time return) to the classroom with safety measures, including mandated mask wearing and social distancing. Many parents are willing or eager to send their children back to school, and there are many families for whom not being able to send children to school would be devastating, because they won’t be able to work even though businesses are open. Families that lack social or financial safety nets will suffer the most if this happens.As I wrote in my article, I am a nurse and my husband is a teacher. “Essential workers” like me have learned that there is a functional middle ground between business as usual and staying home or interacting only with people you love and trust. That middle ground requires us to respect the power of the coronavirus by always wearing masks when we’re around other people, by washing our hands often and trying not to touch our faces, and by social distancing whenever possible. It also requires us to live with the chance that we’ve interacted with someone carrying the virus. Your food, your mail, your public transportation, and, if you’ve needed in-person treatment for COVID-19 or anything else in the past five months, your health care are brought to you by people who are living in that middle ground, who have learned that while it’s less comfortable, we can do it. I’m of the opinion that teachers should also be willing to work in that less comfortable middle ground, because their work is very important to the functioning of our society.The irresponsible behavior of the government and of individuals who have rejected the basic and obvious precautions of mask wearing and social distancing have prolonged this nightmare. As Amina Sheikh said, “We need real-life working conditions to follow existing health recommendations” and “everyone in our society needs to get on board so that schools can get back to what’s really essential.” She is referring to the social contract, and she’s right: If we as a society were working toward families being able to safely send their children to school in the fall, we would do things differently. I think everyone should be willing to modify their behavior for the greater good; that includes mask wearing but it also includes being willing to teach, under extraordinary circumstances, the children of families who choose to send their kids back to school this fall.
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How social justice slideshows took over Instagram
Zac Freeland/Vox PowerPoint activism is everywhere on Instagram. Why do these posts look so familiar? In 1971, to the backdrop of a funky jazz rhythm, musician and poet Gil Scott-Heron declared that “the revolution will not be televised.” In 2020, however, it’s possible that the threads of revolution would be found on Instagram — its message distributed through wide chunky typefaces and bold gradient graphics that preface a mini informative slideshow. Online activism, coupled with in-person organizing, reached a zenith in June, as daily Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the country. Instagram, once an apolitical din, reflected that change. It no longer felt appropriate — even for celebrities and influencers, who tend to exist unfazed by current events — to skip over politics and resume regular programming. The escapist days of uninterrupted brunch photos and filtered selfies have been replaced by protest photos and black squares. For a brief moment, it seemed as though people, whether they have 150 followers or 150,000, were hyper-aware of what they should or should not post. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Slow Factory (@theslowfactory) on Jun 19, 2020 at 7:04am PDT The unexpected solution to this posting ambivalence came in the form of bite-sized squares of information. The 10-image carousel, which Instagram launched in 2017, has been repurposed by activists, independent artists, advocacy groups, and well-meaning individuals as a means to educate and inform the masses, one slide at a time. Consider it something like PowerPoint activism. Over the past few months, these slides have migrated their way into my Explore page or been reposted on Stories of my friends and followers; in fact, these posts became so popular that I encountered similar designs and sentiments across multiple Stories. The most striking graphics stood out in my feeds, almost like an advertisement. Once upon a time, the carousel was predominantly used for things like relationship reveals or photo outtakes (you know, photos that look good but not that good to be the featured image). But in a time of social unrest, these text-based slideshow graphics have found new resonance and an eager audience on the platform, which has been notorious for prioritizing still images over text. If you search hard enough, there’s bound to be a post, explainer, or guide that advocates for virtually any cause you can think of and likely with tens of thousands of “likes” and engagements. Defunding the police. How to protest virtually. Mail-in voting. Lists upon lists of Black-owned businesses, community fridges, and ways you can help besides posting on Instagram. Turkey’s concerning femicide rate. The crisis that’s afflicting Lebanon. The slideshows are bold and eye-catching, and they feature colorful gradients, large serif fonts, pastel backgrounds, and playful illustrations — design choices intended to pause a user’s scroll and prompt them to read the text. How do activism slideshows go viral on Instagram? By co-opting popular design aesthetics from brands. Getting users to stop and click through is a challenge, not just on Instagram but for any carousel plugin on the Internet, said New York-based graphic designer Eric Hu. “Anyone who works in web or digital product design will tell you that the carousel is one of the least successful formats to share information, since users rarely go onto the next slide,” he told me. Hu, who previously worked as the global design director for Nike Sportswear, had spent two weeks in June collaborating with two other artists to piece together copy, art, and design for a carousel on police abolition (he purposefully included a clear indication to swipe left on the first graphic). The artists sought to subvert Instagram’s algorithmic tendency to prioritize photographs by merging images of flowers and nature with informative text. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Eric Hu (@_erichu) on Jun 25, 2020 at 9:15am PDT “Instagram is a very predictable platform,” Hu explained. “Everyone gets the same 10 squares, but how you fill it in makes the biggest difference. Instagram privileges certain content, like attractive people, vacation photos, and graphics with inspirational messages. But now, you’re seeing a lot of infographics trying to Trojan horse these tropes to trick the algorithm.” The way Hu describes it, in spite of the massive interest toward social justice slideshows, Instagram’s algorithm “actively fights against it.” Still, while he’s only created four advocacy-adjacent graphics since May, those posts have received thousands more likes than his previous content, which was mostly uploads of his professional design work and personal life. The political urgency of this current moment may have contributed to soaring levels of engagement toward posts like Hu’s, which has led to certain accounts (usually those of a progressive or educational slant) seeing unexpected and exponential growth. Jess, the New York-based creator behind the So You Want to Talk About account, which parses progressive politics, had accumulated a sizable following of about 10,000 in early June. By August, she’s reached a million followers, receiving tens of thousands of daily “likes” from organic engagement. Jess, who works as a marketing consultant for her day job, said the branding inspiration for her account — which features bright colors and bubbly fonts — came from the deluge of inspirational graphics popular among millennial women. When Jess launched @soyouwanttotalkabout in February, she gravitated toward bolder colors like mustard yellow, olive, and coral for her posts’ backgrounds, but eventually settled on a more subdued palette of creamy pinks, yellows, and blues. Her overall strategy and content packaging are similar to brands that speak to corporate-minded, girl-boss feminists. “I’m trying to appeal to the apolitical people, the ones who’d rather stay out of it and enjoy, like, mimosa pictures,” Jess added. “I’m also trying to reach women my age, millennials who aren’t participating in the conversation because they don’t know where to start.” View this post on Instagram A post shared by so you want to talk about... (@soyouwanttotalkabout) on Jul 28, 2020 at 5:01am PDT In addition to growing interest toward social justice content, there’s a unique stylistic uniformity among these activism slideshows that earn them virality — an element I struggled to put my finger on. The fonts and colors of these guides aren’t necessarily similar, but there’s an inexplicable familiarity to these posts, making them approachable and extremely shareable when they first floated across my Instagram feeds in late May. Hu noticed that successful graphics tend to be heavily over-designed, featuring whimsical, colorful, and even “grotesque” typefaces and illustrations. “From a design perspective, they’re pretty horrible, but it is that type of Instagrammable graphic that the platform favors,” he said. And what Instagram favors, coincidentally, has been used for years among many millennial-facing, direct-to-consumer brands. From a design perspective, the brands got there first: Think of advertisements and Instagram posts for products from Casper (mattresses), Buffy (bedding), Tend (dentistry), Glossier (beauty), and Kin Euphorics (booze). “A lot of this stuff, you can swap the text out for anything, and it’ll completely change the message,” Hu added. “There isn’t much of a relationship between content and aesthetics; if anything, the content is just interchangeable like an ad, for better or for worse.” He later direct-messaged me a slew of corporate made-for-Instagram advertisements, and sure enough, the parallels are shocking and potentially problematic when considering how integral design is in “selling” consumers a product, a vision, or even an ideology. “There isn’t much of a relationship between content and aesthetics” In some cases, brands — that are latching onto the movement to create a social justice message that emphasizes consumer care — are creating and re-posting these guides themselves. For example, CHNGE is a streetwear brand by entrepreneur Jacob Castaldi that promotes itself as ethical and sustainable. Its Instagram page emulates that of a progressive advocacy organization, with posts on allyship, police defunding, climate change, and international issues. And while the brand only appears to be selling social justice-adjacent, Black Lives Matter apparel for donations to the movement, it’s a telling sign of the steady corporatization of progressive politics — adopted by everyone from independent labels like CHNGE to Nike to the NBA. This branding reveals itself to be nefarious, then, when it links the anti-capitalist ideology held by activists that have led the Black Lives Matter movement to global prominence to the corporations themselves. Activist-minded creators have raised concerns about the packaging of modern political messaging. Historically, artists haven’t shied away from the political; if anything, some have sought to subvert or degrade corporate aesthetics and design choices in an attempt to disrupt and craft a new visual language for their own movements. On a platform like Instagram, however, playing against the rules might not necessarily be rewarding, even if it does make a stronger statement of one’s politics. By borrowing the stylistic elements popular within the capitalist sphere, creators are co-opting them for a greater, arguably more moral cause. Coincidental or not, creators are applying this millennialesque visual language to their work, which makes it easy for savvy brands (or anyone who can replicate that design style) to jump on and pervert the movement by using it to further their own corporate mission. Then there’s the question of whether it’s even appropriate to aestheticize these human rights-related issues. As corporations and individuals become attuned to the widespread adoption of memes and certain creative aesthetics in online spaces, they could further be used to “commodify tragedy and obfuscate revolutionary messages,” wrote the Instagram creator @disintegration.loops, later referencing how Breonna Taylor’s death has devolved into a meme. Most of these activism slideshows don’t appear to be made with malicious intent, nor are they actively harming anyone, but some are worried about the long-term neutralizing effect of making advocacy more digestible and consumable for a large audience. Slideshows usually advocate for progressive causes, but the potential for misinformation still exists In a recent Instagram post, Eve Ewing, a writer and sociologist who’s done research on racism and social inequality, used a template from the design app Canva to encourage users to be conscious of information consumed on Instagram. “Graphics like this can be a helpful teaching tool, but some of the ‘racial justice explainer’ posts that go viral grossly oversimplify complex ideas in harmful or misleading ways or flat-out misstate facts,” reads the post. “[They] are not attributed to any transparent person, people, or organization who can be held accountable for errors and draw on the work of scholars and activists who go uncredited.” View this post on Instagram A post shared by Eve L. Ewing (@eve.ewing) on Jul 24, 2020 at 6:36pm PDT Ewing’s use of the Canva app to deliver her message is smartly paradoxical and highlights how anyone — even with minimal design knowledge — can easily craft an infographic or explainer through these accessible design platforms. Information, then, can easily be shared countless times — regardless of whether it’s been fact-checked, properly sourced, or proofread — with little or no accountability. Take Canva’s peach-colored template, for example, which features the oversized serif font Ovo. The template, which has existed on Canva since March 2019, has been exported for personal use nearly 200,000 times, according to public relations manager Mitch Holmes. Over the past few months, the template has become notably popular among Instagram users seeking to craft social justice slideshows, featuring topics like “non-optical allyship,” Turkey’s femicide rates, African American Vernacular English (AAVE), and how anti-Semitism should be factored in when discussing anti-racist ideology. The success of these posts reveal how a slideshow — if it abides by certain design conventions familiar to Instagram and its users — might have a greater chance of achieving virality. To designers like Hu and people familiar with the nature of misinformation on social media, the possibility that these artsy, aesthetic slideshows could devolve into something malicious shouldn’t be discounted. In his newsletter Medialyte, media reporter Mark Stenberg described this phenomenon as the “Facebook-ification of Instagram,” drawing parallels between the frenzy of 2016 Facebook and 2020 Instagram: “Both exist in a time of political upheaval, which has spurred users into using them as a platform for spreading political messages. Both allow users to post and share just about anything,” Stenberg wrote. “Both live and breathe user engagement. And both are owned by Facebook.” i know people praise instagram for those cute info cards where people can get their social justice fix in bitesized chunks, and yes they are useful, but don't let that be the only info you consume, they should be launchpads for your own reading/fact-checking— Bolu Babalola (@BeeBabs) August 4, 2020 In March, Instagram declared that it would adjust its moderation standards in line with Facebook’s to combat the spread of fake news related to the coronavirus pandemic. This announcement, however, came months after reported claims about how the platform has failed to curb the spread of anti-vax content and other conspiracy theories. Plus, due to its visual and highly shareable nature, tracking down misinformation on Instagram can be a more difficult task than on Facebook; it’s harder to train an algorithm to discern false or misleading content in an image rather than text. The problem is, the format of the mini slideshow has become so ubiquitous that independent creators are using them as a creative outlet, a political megaphone, or a means to build their brand. “I would spend, on average, anywhere from two to six hours to do basic research and design the graphic,” Jess of @soyouwanttotalkabout told me when I asked her about maintaining a reputable feed. “I think what I did stood out in the beginning because I was including sources at the bottom of every slide. I’m glad to see more people doing that now, but I mainly try to source from .edu or .org websites, or even the actual US government.” Almost all of the posts I’ve encountered appear to exist with the intention of helping and informing, not deceiving the users who come across their content. Most didn’t anticipate the skyrocketing levels of engagement: A popular mini-guide on using trans-inclusive language with over 43,000 “likes” was created by a user with only 1,200 followers. Many creators acknowledge that posting on social media itself is an inherently performative act; yet, the scale and scope of Instagram’s reach make it irresistible, especially during a time when coalition-building and encouraging solidarity is crucial. The intent, identity of the creator, and accuracy of these guides matter a great deal, but more often than not, that nuance is lost on the average Instagram user — flattened into a quick share or repost with a hasty tag as they scroll on and on. 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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Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected from game after headbutting Wizards' Moe Wagner
Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks star and NBA MVP candidate, was ejected from the team’s win over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night.
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Family in shock after shark steals freshly caught fish
A family fishing trip in Bay de Verde, off the coast of Newfoundland, took a shocking twist when a shark decided to bite a freshly caught fish as it was being reeled in. Alexandria Batten said her father even tried to step in with a heavier rod to fight for the cod, but the shark...
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Train derails in Scotland
A train has derailed in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on Wednesday morning, British Transport Police said.
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Iowa state trooper's radar records winds topping 90 mph during derecho in Midwest
These whipping winds were well over the posted speed limit.
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Coronavirus live updates: Scientists say new nasal spray can help fight COVID; college football season in shambles; Texas passes 500K cases
Scientists in California develop say their nasal spray "AeroNabs" can help against COVID. Texas surpasses 500K cases. Latest news.       
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NFL's Los Angeles Chargers head coach reveals he had coronavirus
Anthony Lynn tells team during season premiere of "Hard Knocks: Los Angeles"; says feeling like outcast was worse than physical symptoms.
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Angelina Jolie: Why children suffer more violence amid COVID-19
By the time we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, preventable violence will have scarred the lives — and even cost the lives — of children in the U.S.
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Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard joins Hall of Famer with third 60-point game of season
Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard joined the likes of Wilt Chamberlain with a 61-point performance in a riveting win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.
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The Other Way Trump Could Destroy the Next Presidency
A brazen refusal by the president to leave office is surely a nightmare scenario. But even if President Donald Trump were to lose and accept the results on November 3 or soon thereafter, he could nevertheless wreak significant damage during the period between the election and the inauguration of Joe Biden—endangering the incoming administration, at best, and actively sabotaging it, at worst.Presidential transitions are perilous even in normal times. With each inauguration of a new president every four to eight years, the executive branch undergoes a massive overhaul; more than 4,000 new political appointees flood into federal departments and agencies, including 1,200 senior officials who require Senate confirmation. The minute a new president is sworn in, his administration assumes responsibility for everything from nuclear launch codes to pandemic response, economic policy, and counterterrorism—at the very moment when the government’s capacity is most diminished. At the Defense Department alone, the nation’s largest employer and perhaps the world’s most complex organization, the top 59 senior civilian leaders, from the secretary of defense on down, are political appointees requiring Senate confirmation. A private-sector company would be crazy to emulate this approach, yet the security, the health, and the prosperity of Americans depend on its success.Facilitating the smoothest possible transition—if one should happen in January 2021—is of paramount national importance, particularly at a time of ongoing upheaval at home and abroad. If elected, Joe Biden would face the extraordinary challenge of seizing the reins of government amid the triple crises of a global pandemic, an economic collapse, and a national reckoning over racial justice, and his effectiveness in managing these would redound to the entire nation’s benefit. Yet there is ample reason to worry that the outgoing Trump administration will disregard the laws and the norms that are supposed to govern the transition period. Without question, a stolen election or a refusal to accept electoral results is the nightmare scenario. But well short of a constitutional crisis, the Trump administration can nevertheless hobble the incoming Biden team and endanger the nation with a scuttled transition process.[David A. Graham: Trump can’t postpone the election—but he’s trying to destroy its legitimacy]Presidential transitions are both remarkable and risky. Unlike nations with parliamentary systems and wholly professionalized bureaucracies, the U.S. federal government undergoes extensive turnover whenever a new president comes into office with thousands of political appointees in tow. This turnover is important, as it injects fresh blood and ideas into a too-often-sclerotic system and ensures that the daily work of the executive branch aligns with the president’s—and, by extension, the electorate’s—will. That the U.S. has experienced 44 peaceful transitions of power, even as the anti-majoritarian Electoral College has overridden the popular vote in two elections so far this century, is a testament to the strength of the American political system and norms that date back to George Washington.Yet the process is also fraught with danger. Much can get lost in transition: Departing officials take with them crucial knowledge about ongoing policies, budgets, dialogues, and diplomacy—not to mention institutional knowledge about where to find information and how to get things done. Always complex, assuming control of the government grew into an even more Herculean task with the emergence of a enormous national-security bureaucracy after World War II and its further expansion after 9/11. Perhaps the most famous fiasco during this vulnerable moment is the April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, which failed in large part because of information lost between the departing Eisenhower administration and the incoming Kennedy administration, but there are many other examples of miscommunications and missteps in the national-security realm, such as when the outgoing Carter team failed to alert Reagan of Israel’s impending strike on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq.[Sarada Peri: Obama couldn’t fix the system. Biden must.]If Biden wins in November, he will likely face the most challenging transition in modern times. A Biden administration will confront a singularly taxing agenda, with the threefold crises of the moment layered upon the hefty portfolio any president normally inherits, including securing the nation’s nuclear weapons and managing ongoing military operations overseas. In grappling with this daunting docket, Biden will be hampered by a federal bureaucracy damaged by four years of institutional decay and, potentially, a hostile, Republican-held Senate antagonistic toward his new personnel appointments.Biden may also face an outgoing administration that hinders his efforts, whether because of incompetence or malign intent. Planning, coordination, and information-sharing across government agencies and functions is vital to a successful transition. With an administration that remains dramatically understaffed, senior Trump officials may simply lack the bandwidth to reach into their bureaucracies to collect data on personnel and policy, collate it in neat binders, and brief its contents to successors. If the president is not reelected, and especially if he behaves as a sore loser, some of his appointees may begin shirking their responsibilities as they start searching for new opportunities and lose interest in fighting for a lame-duck agenda.The risk of information loss is particularly acute for matters of national security—an area where the president’s pique toward the intelligence community and the so-called deep state might make him particularly resistant to cooperation. Ths is a concern prior to the election, when major-party candidates usually begin to receive horizon-scanning classified briefings on global events after their nominating conventions—and all the more so if Biden wins, as postelection briefings typically delve into sensitive national secrets such as planned military operations or covert actions, particular threats, and diplomatic secrets. Unlike the formal transition planning process, the content of intelligence briefings to presidential candidates and presidents-elect is discretionary, not legislatively mandated, creating considerable latitude for dangerous omissions.Imagining more extreme forms of sabotage is also possible. Even as a lame duck, President Trump will remain the commander in chief until Biden takes the oath of office on January 20, 2021. Already, the Trump team is reportedly working to lock in its foreign-policy priorities by killing the Iran nuclear deal, pushing through troop withdrawals from Germany, and levying new rounds of tariffs and tech restrictions; after the election, the president could undertake more dramatic moves, such as announcing an intent to leave NATO or ordering all combat troops to depart Afghanistan. Though improbable, Trump could defy the norm of consultation with the president-elect and lead the nation into conflict with a foreign adversary such as Iran—or decline to act when faced with an imminent domestic or global threat. Even if Biden immediately reversed or denounced such eleventh-hour maneuvers, the policy whiplash would undermine America’s already-damaged credibility as an ally and an adversary.[Peter Beinart: Biden goes big without sounding like it]Though the scale of his charge may be singular, Biden would not be the first president to assume office amid global and domestic crisis. Franklin D. Roosevelt took office at the height of the Great Depression, launching a sweeping “first 100 days” agenda that would become the gold standard for all subsequent new presidents. After FDR’s death, Harry Truman was thrust into the role of commander in chief during the Second World War. Decades later, George H. W. Bush became president in 1989 at a time of tremendous global change, as the Cold War was rapidly and unexpectedly warming. And Biden had a front-row seat as Barack Obama entered the White House in the midst of the 2008–2009 financial crisis, cooperated closely with the outgoing George W. Bush team, and acted quickly to stanch an economic meltdown.Given the daunting task of transitioning between presidents, planning starts early—usually in late summer, right around the time of both parties’ nominating conventions. Although such preparation used to remain quiet for fear of appearing presumptuous prior to electoral victory, a 2010 law brought it into the open, mandating federal support to major-party candidates before and after the November election. This legislation and the updates that followed were crucial steps toward institutionalizing best practices for presidential transitions, but they are only a framework; effectiveness lies in the commitment of a sitting president to rigorous preparation, genuine information-sharing, and an awkward embrace of cooperation alongside political rivalry.Recognizing the risk to the nation posed by a faulty handover of power, there is a strong nonpartisan norm of sitting presidents providing aid, even to their prospective replacements. This is especially crucial when it comes to matters of national security. When Mitt Romney challenged Obama in 2012, the Obama administration facilitated regular intelligence briefings beginning immediately after the Republican nominating convention, even as partisan controversy over the Benghazi attacks was mounting. In 2008, the George W. Bush administration’s team was seized by the importance of managing the first post-9/11 transition and engaged in extensive preparations with the incoming Obama team, setting the modern standard for transition planning. Of course, there have also been hijinks. In 2001, when George W. Bush’s team arrived at the White House, they found many of the W keys missing from White House keyboards—one of many goodbye pranks from the outgoing Clinton administration.[Read: A short history of awkward presidential transitions]Early indications of the Trump administration’s compliance with the legal requirements for transition planning are promising; under the leadership of Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, the administration met its deadline to establish a White House Transition Coordinating Council, among other mechanisms. Nevertheless, the success of any transition effort depends on the substance of the planning, coordination, and information-sharing itself, which is ultimately a function of the president’s priorities.Presidential transitions are the connective tissue of the American political process. Past presidents and members of Congress have recognized the importance of a smooth transition through legislation and norms established in past handovers. Outgoing President George H. W. Bush underlined this point in his valedictory note to Clinton. Despite having lost to Clinton only months before, Bush wrote: “Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.” The American people and lawmakers are right to panic at the suggestion that Trump may postpone the election, exploit inconclusive or compromised results, or resist leaving office even if he loses. But, as with much presidential gaslighting, hints of a nightmare scenario should not obscure subtler but nevertheless pernicious steps the departing administration could take to hobble its successor. Leaders of both parties must remain on guard against dangerous obstructionism, if not outright sabotage, recognizing that the American people’s safety, security, prosperity, and health are too important to be lost in the transition.
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Tennessee couple admits to raping, torturing woman, storing her in freezer: police
A Tennessee couple is accused of raping, torturing and killing a woman after offering her a place to stay sometime around the end of the year.
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Dow futures surge 250 points: August 12, 2020
Here's what's moving markets today.
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