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BBC's Katya Adler exposes how Angela Merkel's Brexit wish was instantly shut down by Boris

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BBC’s Europe Editor Katya Adler has explained how Boris Johnson’s dramatic no deal warning on Friday shut down German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Brexit plan.

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State legislative races take on added importance in 2020 as redistricting looms

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s decision Tuesday to allow the Trump administration to stop the census count, coupled with the high court’s announcement Friday that it would hear arguments in a case that could leave undocumented immigrants out of the final count, have raised the already-high stakes for November’s state legislative elections that will play a large role in shaping the nation’s political battleground for the next decade.

A focus of intense efforts from both parties — aided by names like former President Barack Obama and former House Speaker Paul Ryan — the drive to win these local races has taken on even more importance as states brace for losing or gaining U.S. House seats and the fallout that comes from that.

The census findings are used to divide federal funding among states, reapportion seats in the House of Representatives and redraw congressional boundaries — a process handled by state legislatures in a majority of states and one that “reverberates for the next 10 years,” according to Tim Storey, executive director of the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures.

Critics of the court’s decision argue that ending census data collection amid challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic could lead to an undercount in populations and have long-term effects on their representation — and the makeup of Congress.

State legislators can use the count to draw congressional district lines for their partisan advantage, a practice known as gerrymandering. In 34 states, the party that controls the state House, state Senate and governorship can craft congressional districts that boost its chances of winning the most U.S. House seats for the next decade. The Supreme Court declined to outlaw partisan gerrymandering last year.

“In some states, the fight for legislative control could mean the difference between a party having unfettered ability to draw the boundaries to their own advantage for the next decade or the other party having a check on their ability,” said David Wasserman, House editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, and an NBC News contributor.

“In one-party states, the risk of obliteration for the minority party is quite real,” he added.

In the 2010 cycle, the last census year, Democrats lost nearly 700 state legislative seats and 20 state chambers, allowing Republicans to redraw more than four times as many congressional districts in 2011 and win more U.S. House seats than their share of the major-party vote in 2012, 2014 and 2016 — “the most lopsided redistricting process in modern history,” Wasserman said.

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee is looking to shift that balance this time. Led by former Attorney General Eric Holder and backed by Obama, the group has endorsed 200-plus state candidates and invested about $2 million into the contests.

“We need to be and are much better prepared for the redistricting process than we were 10 years ago,” Patrick Rodenbush, the group’s communications director, said.

On the other side, the National Republican Redistricting Trust is coordinating the GOP’s redistricting strategy with former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s support.

Republicans aim to maintain and grow their 59 state legislative chamber majorities while Democrats want to build on their 39, with both parties pumping in financial resources. Democratic super PAC Forward Majority is investing $15 million into the most competitive districts that “have a dramatic impact” on national politics, co-founder Vicky Hausman said.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has pledged to spend $50 million this cycle (five times its 2010 expenditure), while the Republican State Leadership Committee has touted record-breaking fundraising, including a $23 million haul in the last quarter (triple that of 2016).

Democrats’ top targets include Texas, Florida and North Carolina, which are all expected to gain one or more U.S. House seats after reapportionment and where one-party control over congressional redistricting is at risk. Texas and Florida are both GOP trifectas, while North Carolina has a GOP legislature with no gubernatorial veto power over redistricting. A state court scrapped Republicans’ congressional maps there in 2019, deeming them invalid partisan gerrymanders.

“It’s critical that we invest the money now into these state legislative races in these target states if Republicans want to have power in Washington in the House of Representatives at any point in the next decade,” RSLC President Austin Chambers said. As few as 42 legislative seats could swing as many as 136 seats in Congress, he stressed, an estimate shared by Storey, of the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures.

Both parties are also spending in states that don’t rely on legislatures for congressional redistricting. Arizona and Michigan use independent commissions, and even though the 2020 contests will not significantly alter the states’ maps, the outcomes still matter.

“Redistricting isn’t just about creating a lever of Democratic power in a Republican state,” DLCC President Jessica Post said. “It’s also about creating Democratic trifectas of state governments and making sure that existing redistricting processes in nonpartisan-commission states are upheld by securing levers of power in the legislature.”

Republicans are spending to protect their majorities but are on offense elsewhere in the country with party bigwigs like former Speakers of the House Paul Ryan, John Boehner and Newt Gingrich bolstering them. The RSLC is investing in Nebraska and Ohio to strengthen the party’s dominance there and in New York to install more conservatives in the legislature.

National politics are expected to trickle down-ticket this year with state candidates appearing on the same ballot as President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who is regularly ahead in most polls.

Democrats have reclaimed 10 chambers since Trump was elected and believe the political backdrop surrounding the presidential election will benefit them.

“I think Republicans in the states have really tied their fates to President Trump,” the DLCC’s Post said. “The environment provides a big advantage for us because of just the absolute lack of action on Covid-19 from the Republican Party.”

The RSLC argues Trump’s momentum is on Republicans’ side and believes they can flip the 115-plus target seats held by Democrats where the president won in 2016. National Republican Redistricting Trust Executive Director Adam Kincaid said he is “actually encouraged by his ability to carry Republicans across the line” in state legislatures.



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Ramped-up ICE arrests amid Covid outbreaks show ‘irresponsible disregard,’ Hispanic Caucus says

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The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is demanding answers from the Trump administration over ramped-up ICE arrests in at least nine states at a time when several detention facilities are battling ongoing coronavirus outbreaks.

In a letter to Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf on Friday, 22 members of the caucus, including its leaders, raised concerns over the arrests by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) of more than 200 immigrants in California, North Carolina, and Illinois over the last few weeks.

They also criticized the apprehension of more than 170 immigrants this month in Philadelphia, Denver, Seattle, New York, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, which are all sanctuary cities that tend to limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agencies.

Joaquin Castro, chairman of Congressional Hispanic Caucus, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 12, 2019.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

“This shows an irresponsible disregard for the health and safety of both ICE agents and immigrant communities,” lawmakers said in the letter. “Throughout this health crisis, ICE has consistently mismanaged health protocols at its detention facilities … Instead of providing appropriate medical care and ensuring that ICE facilities are not overcrowded and unsanitary.”

Emails to DHS requesting comment did not receive an immediate response Saturday. ICE declined to comment.

The two agencies have announced hundreds of new arrests although at least 6,623 detainees, approximately 34 percent of all of those in custody, have tested positive for the coronavirus since February, according to ICE data.

As of Thursday, 728 detainees in ICE facilities were reported to be infected with the virus. The largest outbreak was reported in the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in Los Angeles which has at least 178 cases.

Hispanic Caucus Chairman Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said President Donald Trump and his administration are “weaponizing the power of the state to inflict cruelty on immigrants and their families to whip up racial resentment.”

“This will be a losing political strategy. Latinos and immigrants have always been his go-to scapegoats, but now President Trump has a clear record of failure, abdicating his fundamental responsibility to protect the American people from a pandemic that has killed over 218,000 Americans,” Castro told NBC News in a statement. “Folks are not afraid of their neighbors, they’re worried about contracting the coronavirus and lacking access to the same health care as the President.”

Castro said he has conducted multiple oversight visits to ICE detention centers and that the Trump administration’s immigration policies are “risking the lives of people detained.”

The arrests in Denver, Seattle, New York, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia, occurred between Oct. 3 through Oct. 9 — the same week that ICE launched a billboard campaign in Pennsylvania, a crucial 2020 battleground state, showing the faces of six immigrants who had been recently arrested and released by local authorities in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

In the letter, lawmakers said the billboard campaign was an act of “deploying government resources to target sanctuary cities” instead of “focusing on public safety and national security.”

ICE said in a news release that the six immigrants depicted in the campaign were not in the country legally. Five of the six men had been charged, but not convicted, for crimes such as public intoxication, disorderly conduct, robbery and aggravated assault, among others.

The International Rescue Committee, a nongovernmental humanitarian aid organization, has estimated that “ICE is dramatically under-reporting Covid-19 cases by a factor of fifteen on average.”

Olga Byrne, director of immigration at the committee, said in a statement in August that she received reports from clients released by ICE saying “they were detained in crowded rooms and unsanitary conditions, not being tested at all and being isolated according to the whims of ICE agents rather than any clear public health prerogatives.”

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