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Baby at City Hall? Providence male mayor’s habit sparks debate

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — He has taken his baby to ribbon cuttings and held the child on his lap while testifying at the Statehouse. He balanced the boy at his side at news conferences and rolled him into a closed-door meeting with the governor in a stroller. He installed a bassinet and toy box in his office at City Hall.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has not been shy about bringing his baby to work, and in doing so has ignited a debate about the role of children in the workplace and cast a spotlight on the struggles of balancing a career and child care.

To some, Elorza’s workday appearances with 1-year-old Omar set an example for how to juggle jobs and parenting at a time when many people are working long hours away from their children and paying skyrocketing costs for day care. His detractors say Elorza is using the child as a prop and benefiting from a double standard that would make it impossible for a working mother to do what the mayor is doing.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza pushes his son Omar in a baby carriage as he walks to the Rhode Island Statehouse in May.Steve Klamkin / WPRO via AP

“I do think that if a female elected official was doing the same thing, the amount of push back that we would be getting would be huge,” said City Council President Sabina Matos, a fellow Democrat and mom with two school-aged children, adding: “People would say that we’re not capable of doing both jobs.”

Elorza is not the first politician to bring their child to work. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last year attended a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly with her infant daughter , who was still young enough to be breastfeeding. In Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser occasionally brings her daughter to events. Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth brought her 10-day-old baby to the Senate floor to cast a vote last year — but the chamber had to change its rules to allow it.

What’s new in Elorza’s case is that he has incorporated child care into his job in a way rarely seen in the American public sphere.

His tenure as mayor of Rhode Island’s largest city comes amid a growing movement to let parents bring their babies to work as an alternative to leaving infants at day care for long stretches while they’re still nursing. At least 250 employers have baby programs, including government offices in more than half a dozen states such as Arizona , Washington and Vermont , according to the Parenting in the Workplace Institute, which helps develop and track baby-friendly policies. California is considering a similar policy for state workers.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Elorza said bringing his child to work was a decision that he and his wife, Stephanie Gonzalez, made after assessing their busy, unpredictable schedules. He wants time with his son. And, he says, the cost of day care is too high for their budget.

Mayor Jorge Elorza holds his son as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee at the Statehouse on Jan. 29, 2019.Capitol TV via AP

He and Gonzalez, a law student, were floored by the $350 per week price tag for a day care they toured before Omar was born.

“We can’t afford that,” said the mayor, whose annual salary is $118,000. “I don’t see how most families in our city can afford that.”

Instead, they do what many parents do: Split up child care duties and lean on the baby’s grandmother to help out.

The mayor’s calendars for 2019, disclosed to the AP after a public records request, show that Elorza often spent his Wednesdays out of the office, dialing in to meetings or on Skype calls with department heads, such as the schools superintendent or public safety commissioner.

The mayor confirmed he had been home with the baby on Wednesdays but that now that his son is older and more mobile, working has become more difficult. Now, he spends one morning a week with Omar before handing him off to the boy’s grandmother.

The decision has put Elorza in the hot seat. The head of the teachers union — who is frequently at odds with the mayor — went after him on Twitter, pointing out that teachers don’t get the same opportunity.

Critics also have accused the mayor of being unprofessional and sometimes even inappropriate. It happened when Elorza testified about legislation to strengthen the right to an abortion while holding Omar in his lap. And again, when he brought Omar to a news conference about a shooting and the boy made goo goo noises and a fuss as the public safety commissioner spoke.

Elorza brushes off criticism that he can’t perform his mayoral duties and care for a child as “ridiculous.”

Mayor Elorza holds his son during a news conference about a shooting in June. Steve Klamkin / WPRO News via AP

During a meeting with the governor and other mayors on high-stakes legislation one of Elorza’s senior staffers, Director of Communications Emily Crowell, left the room for a phone call, then ended up helping care for the baby outside. Crowell told the AP it was her choice and that she has never been asked to take the baby.

Elorza acknowledged his staff sometimes cares for the child while he works. He said no one had ever lost out on professional opportunities or had to put aside work obligations to do so. He said some staffers have become “like extensions of my family.”

As workplaces around the country try to accommodate working parents without going too far, the Parenting in the Workplace Institute suggests that “babies at work” policies end at six months of age, around the time when babies start to crawl.

Brad Harrington, who leads the Boston College Center for Work and Family and studies the changing role of fathers, said co-workers like to see children in the workplace, but it starts to wear thin if it becomes an everyday event.

Harrington said fathers are often praised more than mothers for being involved parents, but studies have shown that if men do “conspicuous caregiving,” such as saying they are leaving every day at 4:30 to pick up a child, they are marginalized at work.

Harrington, whose center works with Fortune 500 companies, added that depending on co-workers to care for a child is inappropriate.

Elorza said he has tried to support working parents, both in city policy and in his own office. He has put in place a program that offers $5 per week toward summer camps for Providence kids and says he allows people in his office to bring in a child “in a pinch.”

“It’s really brought home how difficult it is to raise a child and not sacrifice your career,” he said.

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Elizabeth Warren ramps up battle with Facebook

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., ramped up her criticism of Facebook this weekend, taking aim at the company’s policy on political advertising and for having “contributed” to media job losses.

One of the leading 2020 Democratic candidates, Warren’s weekend of prodding Facebook comes amid continued scrutiny of the tech giant, which she has called to be broken up.

On Saturday, Warren tweeted that her campaign “intentionally” published a Facebook ad with false claims to “see if it’d be approved.” The ad said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had endorsed President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.

Warren posted the ad amid criticism the company has faced about its decision to allow politicians to run ads containing falsehoods.

“Facebook changed their ads policy to allow politicians to run ads with known lies — explicitly turning the platform into a disinformation-for-profit machine,” she tweeted. “This week, we decided to see just how far it goes.

“We intentionally made a Facebook ad with false claims and submitted it to Facebook’s ad platform to see if it’d be approved,” she continued. “It got approved quickly and the ad is now running on Facebook. Take a look:”

She added that Facebook “holds incredible power to affect elections and our national debate.”

“They’ve decided to let political figures lie to you — even about Facebook itself — while their executives and their investors get even richer off the ads containing these lies,” she continued. “Once again, we’re seeing Facebook throw its hands up to battling misinformation in the political discourse, because when profit comes up against protecting democracy, Facebook chooses profit.”

It’s Facebook’s policy not to subject politicians to third-part fact-checking that the company uses to root-out misinformation.

Warren’s ad came after the company was criticized for allowing Trump’s campaign to run an ad which made false claims about former Vice President Joe Biden. Other outlets have refused to air that ad, including NBCUniversal. The Biden campaign sought to have Facebook remove the ad, but Facebook refused.

Last month, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications Nick Clegg said in a speech: “It is not our role to intervene when politicians speak.”

“The Trump campaign is currently spending $1 million a *week* on ads including ones containing known lies — ads that TV stations refuse to air because they’re false,” Warren tweeted. “Facebook just takes the cash, no questions asked.”

“Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once through negligence,” she continued. “Now, they’ve changed their policy so they can profit from lies to the American people. It’s time to hold Mark Zuckerberg accountable.”

Facebook’s press team responded to Warren in a tweet, saying the Federal Communications Commission “doesn’t want broadcast companies censoring candidates’ speech.”

“We agree it’s better to let voters — not companies — decide,” Facebook continued.

Warren fired back, saying, “You’re making my point here.”

“It’s up to you whether you take money to promote lies,” she tweeted. “You can be in the disinformation-for-profit business, or you can hold yourself to some standards. In fact, those standards were in your policy. Why the change?”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

On Sunday afternoon, Warren again offered criticism of Facebook, posting a link to a story about a $40 million proposed settlement for Facebook having allegedly inflated video metrics.

“Companies shifted their resources and strategies because of Facebook’s inflated metrics, costing them money and contributing to job losses,” she wrote. “We need to do a lot more to hold Facebook accountable.”

The weekend marked the second major clash between Warren and Facebook in recent weeks. Earlier, leaked audio of a Q&A Zuckerberg held with employees revealed that he said Facebook would “go to the mat” and fight if the senator were elected president, which he said would “suck” for Facebook.

Warren hit back, saying: “”What would really ‘suck’ is if we don’t fix a corrupt system that lets giant companies like Facebook engage in illegal anticompetitive practices, stomp on consumer privacy rights, and repeatedly fumble their responsibility to protect our democracy.”

Warren has pledged to break up a series of major tech giants. Warren has said Facebook should relinquish its ownership of WhatsApp and Instagram.



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Hillary Clinton attacks 'authoritarian leader' Boris before saying she ‘fears' for Brits

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HILLARY CLINTON blasted Boris Johnson as an “authoritarian leader” in a shocking attack as she claimed she “fears” for the UK.

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‘Of course’ Trump was wrong to ask China to probe Bidens

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Sen. Ted Cruz said Sunday that it was wrong for President Donald Trump to call on China to probe former Vice President Joe Biden and his son in the Texas Republican’s most direct rebuke of the president yet.

Asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation” whether Trump’s comments were “appropriate,” Cruz said “of course not.”

“Elections in the U.S. should be decided by Americans and it’s not the business of foreign countries, any foreign countries, to be interfering in our elections,” he said.

“Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan then asked if it was improper for Trump to ask Ukraine to probe the Bidens, as he did in a July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy — a call that is now at the center of an impeachment inquiry.

“Listen, foreign countries should stay out of American elections,” Cruz said. “That’s true for Russia. That’s true for Ukraine. That’s true for China. That’s true for all of them. It should be the American people deciding elections. I don’t know what [Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has] been saying. I do know though that we should decide our elections. It should be the American people making those decisions.”

But Cruz added that it would make “sense” for Giuliani, who is at the center of the president’s campaign to have Ukraine investigate the Bidens, testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has already invited Giuliani to do so.

“I’d like to see Rudy testify,” Cruz said. “Yes.”

Cruz’s comments come as Republicans have struggled to align on their responses to Trump’s requests to have Chinese and Ukrainian officials investigate the former vice president and his son. Some Republicans defended Trump’s China remarks by saying the president wasn’t “serious” despite Trump never having indicated he was joking.

Asked Thursday about whether he was serious about calling on China to investigate the Bidens, Trump said, “China has to do whatever they want.”

“If they want to look into something, they can look into it,” the president continued. “If they don’t want to look into it, they don’t have to. Frankly, are far as I’m concerned, if China wants to look into something, I think that’s great. And if they don’t want to, I think that’s great too. That’s up to China.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he “can’t comment” on whether Trump was serious in his ask to have China investigate the Biden family.

“I can’t comment on whether he was serious or not,” Mnuchin said, adding that the topic had not been brought up in trade negotiations between the two countries. “And in the Oval Office, when the president was asked about this in front of the Vice Premier, the president made very clear, they can do what they want. So, again, people who are trying to imply that the president is asking for things or quid pro quos, I think this is ridiculous.”

The president began ramping up his push to have China probe Hunter’s business dealings this month in the face of House Democrats’ rapidly escalating impeachment probe.

“China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine,” Trump told reporters outside the White House earlier this month.

The president has repeatedly accused the former vice president’s son of using a 2013 trip on Air Force Two with his father to procure $1.5 billion from China for a private equity fund he had started. There has been no evidence of corruption on behalf of either Biden. The Washington Post found Trump’s claims false. And a spokesman for Hunter Biden said he did not acquire an equity interest in the fund until 2017, after his father had left office. Meanwhile, Hunter’s total capitalization from the fund at the time amounted to about $4.2 million, not the $1.5 billion Trump alleged.

On Sunday, Hunter announced through his attorney that he would step down from the Chinese-backed firm by the end of the month. Hunter’s attorney, George Mesires, wrote that the former vice president’s son “never anticipated the barrage of false charges against both him and his father by the president of the United States.”



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