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Rep. Patrick Meehan resigns, will reimburse taxpayers for sex case settlement

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WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Patrick Meehan, who had announced in January that he wouldn’t seek re-election after it was revealed he had settled a sex harassment complaint, said Friday he will resign immediately — and that he will personally repay the money paid out in that case.

“With the knowledge I would not be standing for another term, I have decided that stepping down now is in the interest of the constituents I have been honored to serve,” the Pennsylvania lawmaker said in a statement Friday afternoon.

Meehan said in his statement Friday that he will repay the money used for the payment that was made.

“I will pay $39,000.00 to the U.S. Treasury to reimburse for the severance payment that was made from my office account. That payment will be made within 30 days of my resignation from the House of Representatives. I did not want to leave with any question of violating the trust of taxpayers,” Meehan said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said in a statement that a decision on timing of a special election will come “in short order.”

Pennsylvania law requires the governor to call a special election within 10 days of a formal vacancy occurring. That special election date must be at least 60 days after the vacancy occurs but could be any date after the 60-day minimum.

Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., recently announced that he, too, is resigning from the House instead of retiring at the end of the year.

Meehan was one of the few Republicans on Friday morning who stood with Democrats on the House floor as they demanded answers about the forced resignation of the House chaplain, Rev. Patrick Conroy.

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Labour’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism our biggest shame says top MP

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LABOUR’S failure to tackle anti-Semitism under former leader Jeremy Corbyn will be laid bare today after an 18-month probe by the equalities watchdog. London Belfast Birmingham Cardiff Glasgow Manchester Newcastle Norwich Plymouth Britain

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One battleground state, two rallies — and radically different versions of reality

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PHOENIX — Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris held rallies 30 miles apart Wednesday, six days before Election Day, in this battleground state poised to shape the outcome of the race.

But voters could be forgiven for thinking they were running in two different universes.

In Trump’s world, the coronavirus crisis is exaggerated and the biggest danger to the country is a threat of socialism or communism, while top-of-mind issues include allegations of corruption by Joe Biden’s son Hunter and a “deep state” of government officials plotting against the president.

In the Biden-Harris world, the pandemic is an overarching issue that is crushing middle-class pocketbooks, health care access is threatened by an incompetent president and the country is on a knife’s edge between a return to normalcy and a march to authoritarianism.

Symbolic of the two attitudes, Trump’s rally featured supporters packing into a section of Phoenix Goodyear Airport, many of them elbow to elbow and maskless, while Harris held a drive-in event that was sparse and heavily socially distanced, with attendees covering their faces even when nobody was near them.

Coronavirus case numbers are surging across the country, with a death toll that has topped 225,000. Scientists widely agree that the virus can be relatively contained if people wear masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Trump boasted that he has done “a great job” handling the virus. Many of his rallygoers doubted the official diagnosis figures, while others said elites were using the issue to control the population. Still others said the media was covering the pandemic to hurt Trump.

“I think it’s overblown. It’s a political ploy to keep people from voting,” said Michael Bieda, 53, of Buckeye. “It’s a power that the opposite side could control people with.”

Dee Ann Kriebs, 74, of Goodyear, who was wearing a red “MAGA” hat, said, “There is so much politicization of Covid that I find it very hard to trust numbers.” She cited the “deep state” as her top issue in the election.

“The deep state has to be eliminated in Washington,” she said.

Tammy Byler, an operations manager in Waddell, said the panic surrounding Covid-19 “feels like communism trying to take over.”

People watch a video during a rally with President Donald Trump at Phoenix Goodyear Airport in Goodyear, Ariz., on Wednesday.Brendan Smialowski / AFP – Getty Images

At her rally, Harris called the coronavirus “one of the greatest mass casualty events that we as a nation have experienced since World War II,” and Trump, she said, “covered it up.”

Rachael Clawson, a teacher in Mason, said that her husband worked in tourism and that the virus had left her in a single-income household.

“If we don’t get the pandemic under control, what does that mean for his job?” she asked, adding: “Access to health care is huge. We have three small kids and a history of chronic disease. It’s very scary to think about raising a young family without health insurance.”

‘Creating a fictional world’

Clawson said she was worried about a march to authoritarianism if Trump is re-elected.

“He thinks Article II of the Constitution allows him to do whatever he wants,” she said, fretting that if voters give Trump four more years, “what permission does that give him to do?”

Kimberly Marteau, 61, a lawyer visiting from Los Angeles, said the pandemic is “a huge concern.” She said she’s supporting Biden and Harris because they’ll “let the facts and science lead us.”

“Information and truth are our defense against someone who wants to create his own world when it’s not the reality on the ground,” she said.

The dueling rallies highlighted the extent to which Americans are voting about not just which set of policies to enact, but also which version of reality they believe to be true.

“Trump has always been about creating a fictional world that conforms to the one he’d like to be true,” said Tony Schwartz, co-author of Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal.” “What’s new is that he’s doing so now, repeatedly, in the face of unassailable facts that directly contradict what he’s claiming. Covid numbers are rising. The economy is still deeply troubled. And on and on.”

Nationally, Biden leads Trump by 7.8 percentage points in the NBC News polling average. In Arizona, Biden leads Trump by 3.5 points in the FiveThirtyEight average, buoyed by defections from college-educated white voters and independents.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris speaks at a mobile campaign event in Phoenix on Wednesday.Sahil Kapur / NBC News

The contrast in the compositions of the two crowds was stark. Trump’s crowd was predominantly white, and it included many of the sort of older voters who have helped Republicans carry the state in all but one presidential election since 1952. Harris’ crowd was younger, with a large share of Black and Hispanic voters, reflecting a rising Democratic-leaning electorate that is reshaping Arizona — and much of the rest of America.

The state is also home to a competitive race in a close fight for control of the Senate, with appointed Republican Sen. Martha McSally trailing Democrat Mark Kelly in polls.

“The biggest problem we have is if they cheat with the ballots. That’s my biggest problem,” Trump said, even though experts say that voter fraud is extremely rare in the U.S. and that it’s unlikely to influence any outcome.

To some Trump supporters, the coronavirus lockdowns were unnecessary.

Marlene Parsons, a retiree in Glendale, said it was a “travesty that we had to go through this and ruin the economy.” She said the virus isn’t “as serious as the media portrays it to be,” and she refuses to wear a mask, “because it doesn’t make me feel good.”

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But to Democrats, curtailing the virus is paramount, with many saying they wish Trump would listen more to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert.

“We can’t get back to normal until we get this virus under control,” said Steven Slugocki, the chair of the Maricopa County Democratic Party. “This is a campaign with reality and listening to the scientists ,or propaganda from Fox News that Donald Trump insists on listening to instead of Dr. Fauci.”

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Merkel faces 'catastrophe': No deal Brexit to hit Germany harder than any other EU nation

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IF the UK fails to strike a trade deal with the EU before the end of the year, it will be a “catastrophe” for Germany, which will be harder hit than any other member of the EU27, a former MEP has said.

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