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Democrats hope biggest Texas midterm primary turnout in 15 years starts national wave

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WASHINGTON — Democrats hoping for a blue wave in November were buoyed, if not jubilant, Tuesday as Texas voters cast the first ballots in this year’s midterms in closely-watched primaries for Senate, House and governor.

While final turnout numbers were not as strong for Democrats as had been suggested by the heavy early voting, more than 1 million cast ballots — the first time the party has topped that figure in the primary since the 2002 midterms, according to the Associated Press.

“We are seeing some extraordinary turnout in the Democratic primary in Texas that has us feeling very hopeful about what the general election might look like,” Wendy Davis, the former Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate, told MSNBC.

President Donald Trump, she added, has Democrats “champing at the bit” to get out and vote.

But Texas Republicans also set a new benchmark for turnout in a midterm election — more than 1.5 million people voted Tuesday in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, topping the previous record of 1.48 million in 2010, the Associated Press reported.

Nonetheless, Republicans have been sounding the alarm for months, warning their voters not to take things for granted, even in a red state like Texas.

“We are going to see historic turnout from the extreme left in November, which means if conservatives stay home, we could lose both houses of Congress,” Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show Tuesday. “In Texas, if conservatives stay home, if we rest on our laurels, we could see Texas turn blue.”

That’s long been the dream of Democrats, who are hoping Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke will take big leap in that direction in November by unseating Cruz.

Both Cruz and O’Rourke easily won their party’s nomination in the Senate race Tuesday, though O’Rourke underperformed some rosier expectations, showing he still has plenty of room to grow outside liberal areas like Austin.

Still, Democrats found plenty to cheer about.

It also was a big night for female candidates — more than half of the nearly 50 women running won their primaries or advanced outright to runoffs in May, the Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, George P. Bush, the nephew of former President George W. Bush, beat back a primary challenge in his reelection campaign as Texas State Land Commissioner.

“I continue to be a partner of President Trump. We need his help in Texas,” Bush said at his victory party, where he was joined by his father, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Texas, home to one of the largest Hispanic populations in the country, is now almost guaranteed to get not just its first Latina in Congress, but its second.

Veronica Escobar cleared a crowded primary field in O’Rourke’s old House seat in El Paso and is on her way to an easy race in the deep-blue district in November. Sylvia Garcia is on a similar path in Houston.

The Democratic family feud in the Houston suburbs will go into round two after Laura Moser made it into the May 22 runoff election against Lizzie Pannill Fletcher for a House seat. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tried to push Moser out of the race, but some analysts think it backfired and actually helped Moser into the runoff.

“I guess the (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) can’t rig a primary as well as their counterparts at the DNC,” quipped Matt Gorman, communications director for the Republican National Campaign Committee, referring allegations the party rigged the 2016 presidential primary for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.

At the center of the controversy were op-eds Moser wrote expressing negative opinions about Texas and other issues. “I have recently been made aware of some hurtful language and satire that more than missed its mark. It caused real offense, and I am sorry, full stop,” Moser wrote on Facebook this week.

Progressive allies of Moser wasted no time preparing to take on Fletcher. The Working Families Party, which spent $20,000 on digital ads hitting Fletcher for a case she was involved in as a lawyer that they say enriched her while hurting immigrant women, said Tuesday night that more was on the way. “We need candidates who fight for working families, not fight against them,” said WFP spokesperson Joe Dinkin.

But Democratic turnout will likely overshadow internal party squabbling.

“Look, anybody who’s not getting ready for a real election that is a Republican is kidding themselves,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday.



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Gender gap: Ageing societies give more advantages to men than women, researchers say | World News

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Men have more advantages than women in ageing populations, an international study has found.

Researchers say the gender differences in societal ageing suggest men have better resources to cope with the challenges of getting older.

Different gender roles within society not only shape women’s and men’s life opportunities but also their experience of ageing, the research suggests.

Worldwide, the number of people aged 65 years and older is expected to more than double in the next 30 years, rising from 703 million in 2019 to 1.5 billion in 2050.

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The study, by researchers from the National University of Singapore and Columbia University in America, found men are especially advantaged when it comes to income and wealth.

They are more likely to be financially secure, have paid work and spend fewer years in ill-health than women in later life.

The first of its kind, the research investigated gender differences in the experience of people growing older in 18 countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which includes the likes of the UK and the US.

Women across the countries analysed were shown to have a three year longer average life expectancy than men, but spend more years in poor health.

They are also more likely to live alone at the end of their lives and earn less than men.

A disproportionately greater risk of disability and ill-health in women increased their likelihood of needing long-term care, the study found, as well.

Researchers used the latest data from the OECD and World Bank between 2015 and 2019 for 18 of the 35 OECD countries with sufficient data to develop a gender-specific ageing index.

The new index accounts for five categories that capture social and economic factors affecting the quality of ageing: wellbeing, productivity and engagement, equity, cohesion and security.

Using the system, researchers calculated the overall index and individual category scores that range from 0 to 100 for men and women.

A higher score suggests a successfully ageing society.

Key differences between men and women in ageing societies according to the study:

  • Men have better resources to cope with the challenges of ageing
  • Women have a three year longer average life expectancy than men
  • Men are especially advantaged when it comes to income and wealth
  • Women spend more years in poor health
  • Men are more likely to be financially secure
  • Women have a greater risk of disability and ill-health, which increases their likelihood of needing long-term care
  • Men are more likely to be engaged in paid work
  • Women are more likely to live alone at the end of their lives
  • Women earn less than men

Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands and Japan did well for both genders with an overall index score of 66 or above for men and 55 or above for women.

Countries in much of eastern and southern Europe were at the bottom of the rankings.

The UK achieved an overall index score of 57 for men and 47 for women. It also had the largest difference in wellbeing scores between the two genders, with a score of 74 assigned for men and 61 for women.

America’s overall performance score was 55 for men and 47 for women.

Both the US and the UK performed poorly in the study, indicating growing inequality in the distribution of income and wealth.

Lead author Dr Cynthia Chen, from the National University of Singapore, said: “Ageing societies reinforce the prevailing gender norms in which men continue to be allocated the majority of opportunities, resources, and social support.

“With the world’s population ageing at an unprecedented rate, and the ratio of older women to older men expected to increase, there is an urgent need to challenge the structural and policy biases that favour men.”

The authors have suggested four measures to help address gender bias and inequality in societal ageing including assessing minimum income requirements for healthy living in older people and minimum pensions.

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The mystery of the whisky bottle, the US secretary of state and the department searching for answers | US News

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The US State Department is investigating the apparent disappearance of a bottle of whisky worth nearly $6,000 (£4,320).

The Japanese government gave the bottle to Mr Pompeo in June 2019 when the then-secretary of state visited the country.

The department reported the investigation in its annual accounting of gifts given to senior US officials by foreign governments and leaders.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, sits down for a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019, during the G-20 summit. At right is the secretary's senior adviser Michael McKinley. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS
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Mike Pompeo visited Japan as secretary of state in June 2019 and it is believed he was given the bottle then

It noted that it could find no trace of the bottle’s whereabouts and that there was an “ongoing inquiry” seeking an explanation.

A spokesman for Mr Pompeo said he was unaware of the gift and the inquiry into its whereabouts.

It is thought the bottle of whisky was given to Mr Pompeo while he was attending a G20 summit in Japan, along with then-president Donald Trump.

But the state department’s Office of Protocol, which records gifts given to US officials, said that, while every other gift had been recorded, there was no record of the whisky.

If a gift is over a certain value, the recipient can give it to the National Archives or another government entity, or they can keep the gift and reimburse the Treasury Department.

Among the items given to Mr Pompeo during his time as secretary of state were two carpets worth a total of $19,400 (£14,000) from the president of Kazakhstan and the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates.

Mr Trump and his wife Melania received more than $120,000 (£86,400) worth of presents from foreign leaders in 2019, including an Ottoman Empire rifle worth $8,500 (£6,120) from the Bulgarian prime minister, a bronze sculpture of an Arabian horse from the crown prince of Bahrain worth $7,200 (£5,100), and a statue of an Arabian oryx worth $6,300 (£4,500) from the emir of Qatar.

The Office of Protocol said all of these were given to the National Archives.

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Greece wildfires: Families reflect on devastation as homes are destroyed – ‘if my mother saw this she would cry’ | World News

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I spot George Kyriakopolous sitting in his car, the door open to blackened surroundings and smouldering earth.

To his left is his house. To the right, the one owned by his 95-year-old mother and 98-year-old father. His parents’ property is burned beyond repair. His own house is badly damaged.

George is a man in shock. He cannot believe what he is seeing. Twenty four hours earlier he was watching a wildfire at what seemed like a distance. In 10 minutes, he says, the fire was upon them in the village of Varympompi, north of Athens.

George Kyriakopolous lost his home, his parents home and his dog in the fire.
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George Kyriakopolous lost his home, his parents’ home and his dog in the fire

He tells me they had to drive through the flames to get out. He is one of the few residents here who have made it back to check on their properties.

George tells me: “If my mother saw this she would cry. She would cry.”

And I think any of us would. Homes that have been lived in and cherished for years were destroyed in minutes. Land cultivated through hard work, now scorched.

The burned-out homes of residents
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The burned-out homes left behind

And this scene is repeated in street after street in this village where hundreds were forced to leave as one of the biggest wildfires in Greece this week penetrated Varympompi. Most who live here have not been allowed to return.

Residents have lost their homes and cars in the fires
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People have lost their homes and cars in the fires

The area is still regarded as extremely dangerous and most residents can only watch the skies from where planes and helicopters dump vast containers of water on the area and hope things will be okay.

Sadly for many of them that will not be the case. Coming back here will be traumatising. It certainly has been for Rula Mantis who shows us around the charred remains of the fruit vegetable store she runs with her boyfriend. So much of it is destroyed and she wonders how they will ever recover.

Rula Mantis's boyfriend owns the grocers in the village that has been ruined by the fires
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Rula Mantis’s boyfriend owns the grocers in the village that has been ruined by the fires

She’s angry the property was allowed to burn but understands fire crews faced impossible pressure.

She tells me: “It’s very hard. It’s a lot of money you have to spend to make this from the beginning. You can’t save anything. As you can see, there’s nothing left.”

The massive flames which lit up the night sky here when the fire reached its peak may have quelled now but the danger for this village isn’t over. Everywhere we drive or walk in Varympompi the ground is smouldering.

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High temperatures have caused the wildfires in Greece – with people being forced to evacuate their homes

Smoke threatens to ignite into fresh flames which on scorched earth could spread again. It is why residents are taking their fire extinguishers and buckets to douse where they can.

But they know they are up against challenging elements. Temperatures are predicted to remain high in Greece in the days to come when all villagers hope for is rain.

They also know they face the pain of seeing neighbours and friends return to a village where there will be so much pain to confront.

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