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What two Democratic upsets in Trump country suggest about the 2018 midterms

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Republicans hoping for re-election in 2018 should study the parallels between the (presumed) victories of Congressman-elect Conor Lamb and newly elected Senator Doug Jones. Both avoided Trumpian rage, with Jones promising to worry about middle-class “kitchen table” issues and Lamb vowing to give manners a chance in Washington, D.C. And as Democratic freshmen on Capitol Hill, they will provide a model that could revive their party in time for 2018 and 2020.

Many people remember James Carville’s famous jibe that exurban Pennsylvania is Alabama, but as someone who spends half the year in each state, the remark to me sounds more clever than analytical in understanding two electorates that clearly rose above the reflexive bigotry referred to by Carville in these special off-year elections.

Both Lamb and Jones ran campaigns that underscored the complex demographics of their respective venues.

Both Lamb and Jones ran campaigns that underscored the complex demographics of their respective venues. These demographics made a 2016-style Trump attack — complete with racial blasts and soak-the-broke economics — ineffective. Neither state is as simple as it seemed when Democratic machines ruled in Pennsylvania and George Wallace-style rhetoric worked its dark magic in Alabama. For example, affluent, artistic Fairhope, Alabama and the tony Birmingham suburbs have little in common with Pennsylvania’s economically troubled, time-warped Poconos only 80 miles from Manhattan.

In both places, rage fatigue seems to have contributed to definitive defections among zealous Trump independents and disaffected Republicans of 2016. In decisive numbers, these voters peeled away to candidates who remained conspicuously composed while taking nuanced, empathetic positions on the Trump hot buttons of guns, abortion and the browning of America.

Lamb and Jones are sons, respectively, of Pittsburgh and the “Pittsburgh of the South,” Birmingham. They remind Democrats of the party’s “big tent” that sheltered the poor and privileged alike. Jones is the son of a steel worker and Lamb the son of an old-line Democratic political family. They come at Trump’s political foundation — the celebrated, 40 percent “base”— from different angles. But they both demonstrate an important fact: Trump’s core voters are not as secure as he may hope. Indeed, even in deep-red Alabama, key elements of the Trump base fell away like chips from a hammered block of stone. If the base slides into the low 30s, Trump’s fragile coalition of angry, white swing voters and habituated GOP loyalists loses its magic.

Trump’s core voters are not as secure as he may hope. Indeed, even in deep-red Alabama, key elements of the Trump base fell away like chips from a hammered block of stone.

Importantly, the events of the past few months should inform Democratic efforts between now and 2020. Marginal Trump supporters who held their noses in 2016 were offered fresh air by the Democratic newcomers. As noted, the pattern first emerged on Nov. 7, 2017 when moderate Democrat Ralph Northam defeated Ed Gillespie in the governor’s race. Gillespie, like Lamb’s opponent Rep. Rick Saccone, promised to make their camps amen corners for the Trump gospel.

Both Lamb and Jones also ran campaigns that took advantage of local, as opposed to national, Democratic root systems. Pennsylvania’s tone-deaf Saccone snubbed unions, a plan that backfired; while many labor voters have been lured away by Reaganism, plenty of Pennsylvania blue-collar families still have trace memories from generations of schooling by the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education. And this week, at least some of those legacy Democrats came home.

Meanwhile, among Alabama blacks, Jones quietly revived the church-based turnout machine that has lain neglected since the civil rights era. In contrast, Roy Moore, the accused child molester who Trump urged his Alabama followers to send to Washington, believed he’d get a monolithic white vote based on name recognition, religious zealotry and Trump’s standing as an honorary Alabama folk hero. This strategy ignored crippling defections among affluent, educated suburban Republicans and failed to notice Jones’ ground game in the re-energized black community, which improved on Barack Obama’s minority popularity in urban Alabama.

While the traditional Democratic grassroots playbook was important, it was essential for Jones and Lamb to stiff-arm Washington Democrats.

While the traditional Democratic grassroots playbook was important, it was essential for Jones and Lamb to stiff-arm Washington Democrats (with the exception of “Uncle Joe” Biden, whose appearances surely helped both campaigns). Lamb, in particular, brought home some painful but important points for the Democratic Congressional caucuses: The party’s television stars are played out and Lamb’s promise to oppose House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in future leadership races is an ominous sign for her, not to mention some of her peers in Congressional leadership.

Even without full access to exit polls, it’s probably safe to say that Team Trump also suffered in Pennsylvania, Alabama and Virginia for what might be called the role-model issue. Trump does not act like the kind of person who either Jones’ blue-collar parents or Lamb’s family of well-connected Democrats would want their sons to grow up to be. That issue, if handled deftly, has enormous potential for Democrats next year, especially if Trump keeps orating into the hurricane winds roaring around his White House.

At some point, Congressional Republicans interested in survival have to reevaluate whether the president’s strategy of permanent cultural warfare will work again. One has to think that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, among others, are beginning to wonder: If Trump’s endorsements won’t work in Alabama or Pittsburgh, where will they work?

Howell Raines was executive editor of The New York Times from 2001-2003, editorial page editor from 19903-2001, and prior to that Washington editor, national political correspondent and London bureau chief. Raines won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1993 for an article on coming of age in segregated Birmingham. He currently lives in Fairhope, Alabama in the winter and spends his summers in Henryville, Pennsylvania.

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COVID-19: President Jair Bolsonaro in trouble as Brazil’s COVID crisis inquiry becomes box office viewing | World News

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro loves meeting people; he can’t get enough of it, he travels the country looking to shake hands and kiss babies.

He likes doing interviews, he’ll talk about subjects varied and important to him.

There is just one caveat – he hates independent journalists, isn’t too keen on foreign ones, and won’t talk to anyone who doesn’t love him or agree with him on everything – “Trump of the Tropics” pretty much says it all.

President Jair Bolsonaro has been widely criticised for his handling of the pandemic
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President Bolsonaro has been widely criticised for his handling of the pandemic

Over the past year, I’ve travelled around Brazil attempting to speak to him and I have singularly failed.

His people are so determined to stop me from asking their boss a simple question – or worse – seeing him explode into a storm of foul-mouthed invective, that my slimmest chance of a breakthrough via a temporary accreditation badge has now been revoked.

We can’t get near him for now.

But in reality, we are not very important, what is important though is a parliamentary inquiry into his handling of the pandemic.

It’s important, and worse for Mr Bolsonaro, he knows he is in trouble.

The parliamentary inquiry has gained even more traction after the country recorded more than 500,000 deaths from COVID-19.

Anti-Bolsonaro protesters march in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
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Anti-Bolsonaro protesters march in Sao Paulo, Brazil

It’s become absolute box office and Senate TV is now required viewing here in Brazil.

It’s streamed all day as witness after witness allege the government failed to buy vaccines, promoted ineffective COVID cures and neglected to source adequate oxygen supplies.

The critics of the government are not just confined to opposition politicians.

Gilmar Mendes says he warned the president of the impending pandemic in March
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Gilmar Mendes says he warned the president of the impending pandemic in March last year

Here in the capital Brasilia, I spoke to one federal supreme court judge who met with Mr Bolsonaro in March last year.

Gilmar Mendes told me he warned the president about the impending pandemic and offered his help and support.

He described the president as a man in crisis.

General Elieser Girao says any inquiry into the government's handling of the crisis is politically motivated
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General Elieser Girao says any inquiry into the government’s handling of the crisis is politically motivated

“It seemed to me in that moment this was a man, I even said, a little tortured by the facts. Very emotional, very emotional,” Mr Mendes said.

“He said that the economy was doing well, and that this pandemic was now coming, and that social isolation was a poison.”

Mr Mendes said the president’s main concern was, and still is, the economy, and he prioritised it accordingly.

“So he prioritised his concerns, maybe he generated much more around the economic issue, as [this] was reflected in the organisation of the government.”

Brazil has recorded over 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 and the pending parliamentary enquiry will look at Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the enquiry
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The parliamentary inquiry will look at Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic

President Bolsonaro is a divisive figure in Brazil who plays entirely to his supporter base.

At his last event, in Sao Paulo, he turned up at the front of a motorbike rally.

He resolutely denies the dangers of COVID, fought against lockdowns and masks, and promoted drugs like hydroxychloroquine made famous by Donald Trump.

During a Facebook live last week, he made the argument for herd immunity saying it is “more effective against the disease than the vaccine”.

He openly advocated for exposure to the virus and downplayed the efficacy of the vaccines.

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‘Bolsonaro out!’ – Protesters descend on Sao Paulo.

These comments came in the week scientists in Brazil warned the country’s death toll could eclipse the United States – currently the highest in the world with more than 602,000 deaths.

In my quest to speak to the president, I went to visit one of his closest political allies, former soldier now congressman General Elieser Girao Monteiro Filho.

When we arrived he was busily planning the latest presidential visit, this time to the general’s home state, Rio Grande do Norte.

He oozed pride as he pointed out the helicopter route to two events with a laser pen on his map, and then he proudly showed me pictures of him and the president, blown up into posters adorning the walls of his small office.

Like the president, General Girao, as he is known, has had COVID-19.

Unlike the president, he has been vaccinated, wears masks, and sanitises his hands.

Still, he says any inquiry into the government’s handling of the crisis is politically motivated and says one man – Mr Bolsonaro – cannot be blamed for everything.

'Fora Bolsonaro', meaning 'Bolsonaro Out', has been a common message on the streets of Sao Paulo
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‘Fora Bolsonaro’, meaning ‘Bolsonaro Out’, has been a common message on the streets of Sao Paulo

“Unfortunately COVID in Brazil, specifically in Brazil, was transformed into a political war and this political war, unfortunately, is leading to many people not getting a prescription for the medicine that immediately treats the virus,” he told me.

There is no such medicine. I assume he is referring to the president’s hydroxychloroquine treatment plan, widely debunked around the world.

Some say Brazil is in the midst of its third wave, others argue the first wave just never ended.

Activists display a cloth covered with small coffins and the Portuguese word for genocide outside Congress in protest of the high death toll from COVID-19. Pic AP
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Activists display a cloth covered with small coffins and the Portuguese word for genocide outside Congress in protest of the high death toll from COVID-19. Pic AP

But even though Brazil’s infection rates are still high, lockdowns are still not regarded as the solution by this government.

“I believe the president acted correctly when he reacted [in opposition] to the closures. Lockdowns have not been successful anywhere in the world.”

Brasilia is a man-made city with wide boulevards and stylised buildings designed and built in the 1950s by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.

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It’s been described as a city of clean lines, rational planning and space. It feels homogenised and un-Brazilian compared to the throbbing atmospheric cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

But Brasilia is now home to one of the most important inquiries in Brazil’s recent history, and its conclusions could have consequences that change the direction of this huge country.

Next year there are elections – and the recent street protests across the country, and the latest polls showing Mr Bolsonaro’s popularity plummeting, suggest he’s in trouble.

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Saskatchewan: More than 750 unmarked graves found on site of former indigenous school in Canada | World News

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Investigators have found more than 750 unmarked graves at the site of a former indigenous school in Canada.

The discovery of the 751 graves follows the news that the remains of 215 children were found at another school nearby.

Bobby Cameron, chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous First Nations, said: “We are treating this as a crime”.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking after the 215 children's remains were found near British Colombia.
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking after the 215 children’s remains were found near British Colombia.

He warned how he expected more graves to be found on residential school grounds in Canada.

And Mr Cameron vowed not to stop “until we find all the bodies”, describing the tragedy as a “crime against humanity, an assault on First Nations.”

The 751 graves were found at the Marieval Indian Residential School, open from 1899 until 1997, where Cowessess is now located.

They were marked in the past – but the markers were removed by people operating the school, said Chief Cadmusn Delmore, of the Cowessess First Nation.

The reserve is about situated about 87 miles east of Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan, in western Canada.

The 215 children’s remains – some as young as three – were found buried on the former site of Canada’s largest indigenous school, near Kamloops, British Colombia, in May.

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UEFA abolishes away goals rule after more than half a century | UK News

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Europe’s football governing body UEFA has abolished the away goals rule for all of its club competitions from next season.

All ties that are level on aggregate at the end of the second leg will now go to extra time.

Paris Saint-Germain’s victory over Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League quarter-finals will go down in history as the last away goals result in the tournament before the rule change.

The rule, introduced in 1965, has led to some dramatic moments in recent years, including Tottenham’s stoppage-time success over Ajax in the 2019 Champions League semi-final.

UEFA said away goals would also no longer be a separating criteria when looking at matches between two or more sides level on points in the group stage of a competition.

Paris St Germain's victory over Bayern Munich in last year's Champions League will go down as the last win on away goals
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Paris Saint-Germain’s victory over Bayern Munich in last year’s Champions League will go down as the last win on away goals in the tournament

However, the number of away goals scored in all group matches could be used as an additional separating criteria if required.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said as the end of the rule was announced: “The away goals rule has been an intrinsic part of UEFA competitions since it was introduced in 1965.

“However, the question of its abolition has been debated at various UEFA meetings over the last few years. Although there was no unanimity of views, many coaches, fans and other football stakeholders have questioned its fairness and have expressed a preference for the rule to be abolished.”

Mr Ceferin added that the away goals rule had begun to go against its original purpose and was dissuading home teams from attacking.

This because the sides would fear conceding a goal at their own stadium would give their opponent a crucial advantage.

He continued: “There is also criticism of the unfairness, especially in extra-time, of obliging the home team to score twice when the away team has scored.

“It is fair to say that home advantage is nowadays no longer as significant as it once was.”

UEFA has cited statistics since the mid-1970s which showed how the gap between home and away wins had reduced.

It talked about better pitch quality, standardised pitch sizes, and even video assistance referees (VAR) as factors in the decline of home advantage.



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