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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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Tokyo Olympics: Opening ceremony was ‘respectful, hopeful but sombre night’ | World News

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Olympic opening ceremonies are something of a unique art form. Playing to a global audience but with the host nation wanting to make the night their own.

Japan chose sombre. It was a respectful, hopeful but above all sombre night. They didn’t want to show off when everyone has lived through such hardship – and while so many people continue to do so.

Their display using 1,824 flying drones combining like a swarm of giant worker bees to create a giant globe stood out.

Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the Olympic torch after lighting the Olympic cauldron
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Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the Olympic torch after lighting the cauldron

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There were no Team GB fans at the 2021 summer olympic opening ceremony in Tokyo due to COVID-19 but Japan put on a stunning visual show regardless

So too Japanese tennis superstar Naomi Osaka who was given the honour of firing up the hydrogen-fuelled Olympic cauldron.

But it was their courteous bow towards the pain of the pandemic that defined the evening.

Video montages of empty cities during lockdowns, and athletes cobbling together training regimes in their back gardens – it all made for an understated opening ceremony.

Outside, the protests in the streets continued among those still vehemently against the Games taking place while Tokyo remains in a state of COVID emergency.

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There were also people outside who just felt drawn to the Olympic stadium – to come and wave to the very select numbers of VIPs and media going inside. It was as close as they could get to the Games that they had waited almost a decade for.

While these Olympics will feel unusual there were reminders too of the magic they can create.

There was a towering Tongan taekwondo player who strode into the stadium with his bare oiled chest puffed out as he carried his island nation’s flag like a warrior on a mission.

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Protests held outside Olympic stadium

The Olympics can still produce special moments like that and there will be plenty more over the coming weeks.

There will be more COVID-19 disruption too but the Games of 2020 are finally open, just one year late.

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Business leaders have ‘obligation to speak up’, ex-Unilever boss says amid Ben & Jerry’s row | Business News

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Unilever’s ex-boss has said business leaders have an “obligation to speak up” after his former company became embroiled in a row with Israel over its Ben & Jerry’s business.

Paul Polman mounted a defence of the need to “fight for what is right” in remarks to Sky News after the ice cream brand said it would stop selling its products in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Ben & Jerry’s is owned by consumer goods giant Unilever – whose array of brands ranges from Marmite spread to Dove soap – but has an independent board to take such decisions.

Alan Jope, Unilever chief executive
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Current boss Alan Jope has spoken to Israel’s prime minister about the matter

Its announcement is one of the strongest steps taken by a well-known company over Israel’s settlements, which are widely seen as illegal by the international community.

The move drew condemnation from the Israeli government, whose new prime minister Naftali Bennett said this week that Israel would “use the tools at its disposal – including legal – on this issue” and that those taking such action “need to know that there will be a price to pay”.

Mr Polman, speaking to Sky’s Ian King Live, said it would be inappropriate to say how he would have handled the issue had he still been in charge of Unilever.

But he added: “What is very important is if we want humanity to function for the long term we need to be sure that we fight for the basic values, the basic values of dignity, respect, equity, compassion.

“If we see these values being violated anywhere in the world I think we have an obligation to speak up.

“What we’ve seen in the US in the last few years – too few people, also from the business side, spoke up against things that then bit by bit moved the boundaries and put us in a very difficult situation.

Naftali Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years
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Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett said there would be a “price to pay”

“So, fight for what is right and one of the few things we should fight for always is, these basic human rights.”

Mr Polman was speaking a day after current Unilever boss Alan Jope, in a conference call to discuss latest results, said the company remains “fully committed” to doing business in Israel but gave no indication that Unilever would press Ben & Jerry’s to reverse the decision.

Mr Jope, who has spoken to Mr Bennett on the phone to discuss the matter, said that it was a “complex and sensitive matter”.

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Tokyo Olympics 2020: Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine withdraws to avoid facing Israeli competitor Tohar Butbul | World News

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An Algerian judo competitor has withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics after learning he could have faced an Israeli opponent.

Fethi Nourine said his political support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible to compete against Tohar Butbul.

He told Algerian TV he would not “get his hands dirty” and his “decision was final”.

“We worked a lot to reach the Olympics, and the news came as a shock, a thunder”, he added.

Tohar Butbul of Israel
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Tohar Butbul of Israel

The 30-year-old was drawn against Sudan’s Mohamed Asdalrasool on Monday for his first match in the men’s 73kg class. If he had won that match, he would have faced Butbul, who has a first-round bye, in the next round.

Nourine also withdrew from the world championships in 2019 for the same reason.

At the time, his coach Amar Ben Yaklif was quoted in Algerian media saying: “We were unlucky with the draw. We got an Israeli opponent and that’s why we had to retire. We made the right decision.”

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Tensions between Israel and Palestinians flared in Jerusalem earlier this year causing the worst violence in the region since 2014.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Judo - Training Sessions - Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan - July 22, 2021. Technicians work on the mat in Nippon Budokan Arena, during training sessions. REUTERS/Sergio Perez
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Judo training sessions take place at the Tokyo Games

The conflict between the two sides has been going on for decades and has seen athletes from Iran and Egypt also previously refuse to compete against Israeli opponents.

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The opening ceremony for this year’s Olympic games took place on Friday, with fans not allowed in the national stadium for the event due to COVID-19 concerns.

Instead, around 1,000 dignitaries and members of the media were allowed the witness the spectacular event.

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