Daily Archives: June 20, 2021

Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal | TheHill – The Hill

Posted: June 20, 2021 at 1:22 am

Senate Democrats in tough races next year, namely Sens. Mark KellyMark KellyCentrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Tensions grow between liberals and centrists on infrastructure MORE (Ariz.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanCentrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Tensions grow between liberals and centrists on infrastructure MORE (N.H.), say it's more important for an infrastructure spending bill to be bipartisan thanfor it to fit in all the priorities that President BidenJoe BidenObama: Ensuring democracy 'continues to work effectively' keeps me 'up at night' New Jersey landlords prohibited from asking potential tenants about criminal records Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE has outlined and his party base are clamoring for.

The implications for control of the Senate and House after 2022 are not lost on the Biden White House, and the bloc of vulnerable Democrats could carry significant influence over what direction Democrats and the White House pursue in the weeks to come.

The White House has given extensive runway to bipartisan talks over the last few months. Officials close to the administration insist there is a genuine desire to get a deal with Republicans and stress they are willing to let the process play out.

Brokering a bipartisan deal would show Biden is able to work across the aisle after he campaigned on his reputation as a creature of the Senate who could restore some sense of collegiality. White House officials are keenly aware that a bipartisan deal could shield vulnerable lawmakers from a tough vote on a partisan, multitrillion-dollar reconciliation package that Republicans in purple states could wield against them in campaign ads next year.

I dont think theyve ever given up on bipartisanship, said one Democratic strategist close to the White House. I think theyll keep trying to get something until they cant, which is likely around Labor Day. Thats when youd need to go with reconciliation.

Kelly, who narrowly won last years Arizona special election and is a top GOP target in 2022, says at the top of my list is to pass an infrastructure bill with bipartisan support.

I want to see this get done and I prefer we do this in a bipartisan way, he said.

While many of his more liberal colleagues have grand plans about fighting climate change, expanding access to child care and broadening Medicare, Kelly says simply funding traditional infrastructure needs is a top concern of Arizonans.

Ive driven every corner of Arizona over the last couple of years. Seems like every road and highway needs help, he said. The major highway between Tucson and Phoenix doesnt have feeder roads in most places. Its a public safety issue.

Kelly is one of 21 senators, including 11 Republicans, nine Democrats and an independent who caucuses with Democrats, supporting a $974 billion, five-year infrastructure spending plan.

Hassan, who also signed onto the bipartisan framework last week, said whats important is that we work together to reflect the values of our constituents.

A University of New Hampshire poll from late April found that spending on traditional infrastructure had the most support of the elements of President Bidens infrastructure agenda.

I think its always important when we can do things in a bipartisan way to reflect the way our constituents do things. They work together without regard to political party all the time and theres large bipartisan support for infrastructure, Hassan said.

The Problem Solvers Caucus released its own $1.2 trillion infrastructure framework earlier this month in a push for a bipartisan deal. The effort is backed by Democrats in purple districts such as Reps. Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiOvernight Health Care: Biden 'very confident' in Fauci amid conservative attacks | House Dems press Biden on global vaccinations | CDC director urges parents to vaccinate adolescents House Democrats call on Biden to do 'much more' to vaccinate the world Rep. Malinowski traded as much as M in medical, tech stocks with stake in COVID-19 response MORE (D-N.J.), Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Chris PappasChristopher (Chris) Charles PappasFormer Trump aide eyeing New Hampshire congressional bid House Democrats hit Republicans on mobile billboard at GOP retreat House votes to extend ban on fentanyl-like substances MORE (D-N.H.).

With Democrats holding narrow majorities in both chambers of Congress, many progressives are clamoring to cut off talks with Republicans and move forward with a reconciliation bill that looks more like the $2.2 trillion proposal Biden announced in late March with investments in roads, bridges, broadband, elder care and efforts to combat climate change.

But the realities of a 50-50 Senate and a nine-seat majority for Democrats in the House have made clear how much sway moderate members from purple states and districts have.

Kelly faces reelection in Arizona next November. He defeated former Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyMcGuire unveils Arizona Senate campaign On The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly welcome first grandchild MORE (R) in a special election last year by roughly 80,000 votes, but Biden only carried the state by 11,000 votes and the party in power has historically had headwinds during midterm years.

Hassan was last on the ballot in 2016, when she defeated incumbent Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteSununu seen as top recruit in GOP bid to reclaim Senate Lobbying world Overnight Defense: NATO expanding troops in Iraq MORE (R-N.H.) by roughly 1,000 votes in one of the most closely contested races in recent memory.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinHollywood goes all in for the For the People Act The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle MORE (D-W.Va.), one of the loudest proponents for passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill, said it didnt take much to convince Kelly and Hassan to sign onto the proposal last week.

We didnt have to go out and recruit. Theyre aggressively wanting to be part of it, which speaks volumes, he said.

This is one time in the history of our country weve never been more divided than we are right now if we cant put our country above ourselves, God help us all, he added.

Sens. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoPast criticism of Trump becomes potent weapon in GOP primaries Infighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms Top union unveils national town hall strategy to push Biden's jobs plan MORE (D-Nev.), Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockDemocrats scramble to unify before election bill brawl Joe Manchin keeps Democrats guessing on sweeping election bill Loeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run MORE (D-Ga.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump endorses Murkowski challenger Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle Senate confirms Radhika Fox to lead EPA's water office MORE (R-Alaska) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranCentrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Bipartisan infrastructure group grows to 21 senators MORE (R-Kansas) are among the other senators up for reelection in 2022 who are expected to face difficult challenges in either the primary or general election.

Murkwoski and Moran are among the Republicans who have backed the bipartisan infrastructure framework. Spokespeople for Cortez Masto and Warnock did not respond to requests for comment about whether they prefer a bipartisan approach or moving ahead on reconciliation.

I think members facing tough reelections in 2022 would rather be seen as being bipartisan, but regular people care about results more than process, said a second Democratic strategist. [Senate Minority Leader] McConnell understands that. Bringing money home and building bridges and fixing roads will help them get re-elected more than any magic compromise with Republicans.

The thing McConnell understands better than most politicians in Washington is 99% of the things we focus on, like process, don't matter to regular people, the strategist added.

Democrats hope that passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill will help inoculate their candidates from efforts by Republicans to paint the Democratic Party as being dominated by its most liberal members, such as Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA announces new clean air advisors after firing Trump appointees | Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior | Watchdog: Bureau of Land Management saw messaging failures, understaffing during pandemic MORE (I-Vt.), who caucuses with Democrats, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezHillary Clinton backs Shontel Brown in Ohio congressional race Ocasio-Cortez, Gillibrand and Moulton call for more high-speed rail funding in infrastructure package Pelosi picks Democrats for special panel tackling inequality MORE (D-N.Y.), the author of the Green New Deal.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoJudge halts Biden pause on new public lands oil leasing GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' Biden land management pick faces GOP scrutiny over decades-old tree spiking case MORE (Wyo.) says the $6 trillion reconciliationpackage that Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, floated in a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerFive takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision Senate confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar Schumer vows to only pass infrastructure package that is 'a strong, bold climate bill' MORE (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday will be a liability for Democrats in swing states next year.

Were greatly confident that the contrast between what the Democrats are doing and what the American people want is so significant that its going to help us retain the seats we have, pick up seats and win the House, he said.

Speaking of the $6 trillion reconciliation proposal, Barrasso said Sanders has told other Democrats that hes expecting the Democrats to lose either the House or the Senate in two years and this is their last opportunity to take this big socialistic step.

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Republicans dig in and prepare to sink Democrats voting rights bill – The Guardian

Posted: at 1:22 am

Senate Republicans are preparing to unanimously block Democrats marquee election reform legislation, in a move that sets the stage for a bitter showdown over the future of voting rights across America and the survival of the filibuster rule.

The Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and a dozen top lieutenants said on Thursday that they would vote down the bill known as S1, predicting that not a single Republican would cross the aisle to join Democrats.

McConnell also said Republicans would not support S1 even if a revised version, with changes amenable to Republicans, was introduced.

Equally unacceptable, totally inappropriate all Republicans, I think, will oppose that, he said.

The opposition from McConnell, who commands deep and authoritative control over Republicans in the Senate, is all but certain to ensure the failure of S1 when the bill is set to be introduced on the Senate floor next week.

Democrats are relying on S1 to expand ballot access and tighten controls on campaign spending as they attempt to roll back a wave of new Republican voter restrictions, passed in response to Donald Trumps lies about a stolen 2020 presidential election. The Republican measures are set to have a particular impact on communities of color, and are seen as likely to suppress the Democratic vote.

The bill was revised this week to include a number of Republican priorities, including voter ID requirements, after longtime Senate Democratic holdout Joe Manchin indicated he would extend his support if his party made the changes to secure bipartisan support.

But McConnells forceful denunciation, making clear that no election reform bill has a chance of passage, suggests the futility of seeking bipartisanship with a Republican party openly committed to thwarting Democrats legislative agenda.

The expected blanket opposition from Republicans came soon after the revised S1 bill gained a notable endorsement from senior Democratic figure and voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, who said on CNN she would absolutely support the proposal, and heralded it as the first step to preserving democracy.

Abrams, a former Georgia candidate for governor credited with helping deliver Joe Biden the presidency, is unpopular with Republicans and they quickly used her words of support to call the revised S1 bill unacceptable.

When Stacey Abrams immediately endorsed senator Manchins proposal, it became the Stacey Abrams substitute, not the Joe Manchin substitute, said Roy Blunt, the top Republican on the Senate Rules committee, which oversees election issues.

The resistance from McConnell and his lieutenants is likely to head off the growing push for election reform legislation, but it also threatened to reopen the simmering tensions over whether to impose new limits on the filibuster.

McConnells hard-line approach to doom S1 is backstopped by the filibuster the 60-vote supermajority rule that gives a united minority party ability to block any legislation and his knowledge that Manchin remains opposed to changing that rule, even though its existance thwarts the passing of much of Bidens ambitious domestic agenda.

But now, with Manchins own version of S1 in peril, some Democrats are suggesting that a party-line vote that confirms the legislation would have become law were it not for Republican opposition, would force the West Virginian to confront a reckoning with the filibuster.

The Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has already started making the case for imposing new limits on the filibuster by lining up votes on measures certain to be blocked and demonstrate that Republicans have turned the rule into a weapon of bad-faith politics.

Schumers idea is to show Manchin, and a handful of other Democrats opposed to curbing the filibuster, that Republicans are only interested in sinking all Democratic policies, and that he has no choice but to defuse the rule in order to pass their legislative priorities.

The pressure to change Senate rules is also growing from Democrats in the House, where the majority whip Jim Clyburn is pushing for Manchin to support carving out an exception to the filibuster for election reform bills, according to a source familiar with the matter.

It was not immediately clear on Friday how Manchin might proceed should Republicans filibuster his own version of S1.

But as Republicans sounded the death knell for the bill, Manchin, on a recent Zoom call reported by the Intercept, told the centrist group No Labels that he was considering whether to call for lowering the filibuster threshold to 55 from 60 votes.

Such a change would still not pave the way for the passage of S1, but it would significantly improve the prospects of other Democratic measures just short of 60 votes, from narrower voting rights bills to a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Capitol attack.

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Face-to-face fundraising returns, with a heavy dose of Democratic Gubernatorial campaigning – WTOP

Posted: at 1:22 am

One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the absence of large-scale political events in Maryland for a year and a half. No schmoozing. No glad-handing. No speechifying.

One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the absence of large-scale political events in Maryland for a year and a half. No schmoozing. No glad-handing. No speechifying.

But that changed dramatically and emphatically on Thursday night, when seven of the eight Democratic candidates for governor gathered together in the open air outside Olney Theater in Montgomery County and spoke, one by one, to a crowd of politicians, party activists, donors and State House lobbyists.

Officially, it was a fundraiser for House Majority Leader Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery), a consequential figure in Annapolis. But Luedtke had the presence of mind to invite all the declared and likely Democratic candidates for governor.

Much to my surprise, most of them decided to show up, Luedtke said.

And suddenly, a nice political gathering on an unusually pleasant late spring evening became a happening.

This is my first actual, real-life campaign event, marveled one of the gubernatorial candidates, Michael Rosenbaum, a Baltimore tech entrepreneur and first-time candidate.

The evening was divided into four parts: First came the preliminary schmoozing, snacking and alcohol-free sipping, mostly maskless and featuring some awkward handshakes, fist bumps and hugs along with some more emphatic greetings.

Were shaking hands now? one campaign operative asked a man who extended a hand.

Then came the more traditional fundraising program: House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) and U.S. Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) extolling Luedtkes virtues, Jones calling up every House member present, maybe 20 in all, to join her and Luedtke in front of the crowd. Then Luedtke spoke, sending praise Jones and Raskins way.

Luedtke quickly shifted gears and became the moderator of an impromptu gubernatorial forum. Of the candidates in the Democratic field, only former attorney general Douglas F. Gansler, who was attending a Democratic Attorneys General Association conference, did not appear.

Luedtke, like other party stalwarts, stressed the importance of electing a Democrat in 2022 after eight years of Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R).

Weve had a governor who in my opinion doesnt have a vision for this state and doesnt work well with others, Luedtke said. We need a governor who believes in people, in helping people.

Each candidate then made his pitch. The crowd, used to talking through speeches at political events because theyve heard all the lines before, was remarkably respectful, sizing up the candidates seriously, mindful that this was the publics first significant exposure to the Democrats who would be governor. They were dead silent when Wes Moore, the former foundation executive and best-selling author spoke.

In all, it was a useful barometer of where the candidates think they are and the messages they want to transmit to this small core of Democratic activists, the few who are actually paying attention to the contenders one year and 11 days before the primary:

I value results over rhetoric, he said. I want to restore Marylanders faith in the ability of government to deliver for them.

Franchot, who spent the better part of the Hogan administration cozying up to the governor, criticized Hogan for the delays in getting unemployment checks out to struggling Marylanders, and also laid out some aspects of his biography that voters may not know, including his work in opposition to the Vietnam War, his campaigning for presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy in 1968, his anti-nuclear activism, and his time as director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

King talked about struggling as a youth after both his parents died, but also about his faith in the redemptive powers of education. And he described his work with a new progressive advocacy group, Strong Future Maryland, that worked on race and equity issues, climate change and tenant protections during the recent General Assembly session.

I didnt just talk about problems, he said. I didnt just tweet about problems. I didnt wax poetic on cable television about problems.

Baker said his career as a legislator and as county executive and now running an institute at the University of Maryland College Park that trains incoming public officials shows that he is prepared to tackle the challenges of the future.

It is in my DNA to run toward a problem and to stay there until the problem is solved, Baker said. He also name-checked the late House Appropriations Committee chairman Howard P. Pete Rawlings (D-Baltimore City), who, he said, taught him how to influence colleagues and become a more effective leader.

I took on these systems in business and won, he said. What we need to do as a state is take on these systems and win.

Baron also pledged: I wont take a dime of money from corporations or special interests.

Perez, who presided over the DNC during the 2020 presidential election cycle, joked about the size of the Democratic gubernatorial field. Theres a lot of people thinking about running for governor. But Im here to tell you, its 18 less than were running for president.

He outlined his familys history his parents moved from the Dominican Republic to Buffalo, N.Y., because of the similarities in the weather between Buffalo and the Dominican Republic and his philosophy about governments role to help others.

My parents taught me to make sure the ladders down, Perez said, adding, If you want to get to heaven, youve got to get letters of reference from the folks in the shadows.

In the Army, the first thing we learn is, we dont leave people behind, he said. In fact, we send a battalion in to get them. We dont leave people behind. Why as a state are we OK with that?

Moore said he has dedicated his life to fighting inequality and would bring the same resolve to the governors office.

Moore, more than the other candidates, was mobbed by well-wishers as the fundraiser concluded. Maybe that was a function of him not being present for the preliminaries. Maybe it was because he was less well-known to this particular political crowd than some of the other candidates. Or maybe its because he has a dash of celebrity that the other candidates do not possess.

But if there was a winner among the candidates on the audience applause-o-meter, it was none of the gubernatorial contenders. That distinction belonged to Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City), a candidate for comptroller and the lone Democratic woman running for statewide office as of now.

Liermans quick speech, outlining the ways the comptrollers office can be a force for progressive change and exhorting the crowd to be bold and to think big, got the biggest cheer of the night.


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Face-to-face fundraising returns, with a heavy dose of Democratic Gubernatorial campaigning - WTOP

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Ted Cruz Calls Obamacare a Democratic Plot to Keep People Alive So They Can Vote – The New Yorker

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WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)Outraged by the U.S. Supreme Courts decision to preserve Barack Obamas signature legislative achievement, Senator Ted Cruz called the Affordable Care Act a thinly veiled Democratic plot to keep people alive so they can vote.

A long time ago, Democrats figured out that live people were far more likely to vote than dead ones, Cruz charged. Make no mistake: the Affordable Care Act is a calculated scheme to increase the number of live people.

He went on, Democrats will stop at nothing to get people to vote. They will get them ballots. They will get them bottled water. And, yes, if necessary, they will keep them from dying of a prexisting condition. It disgusts me.

Cruz added that, unlike Democrats, Republicans have no intention whatsoever of keeping people alive, and pointed to Texass new constitutional carry gun law as a shining example.

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The Guardian view on the Liberal Democrats: seeing and shaping politics – The Guardian

Posted: at 1:22 am

It is often hard to try to derive a national message from a single byelection. The effect on party morale usually dwarfs that felt on government policy. The election of Liberal Democrat Sarah Green as the MP for Chesham and Amersham, a commuter-belt seat north-west of London, stuns on both counts. The result will make Conservative MPs in relatively liberal and educated constituencies very jumpy. But it will also slow the progress of Boris Johnsons planning reforms. Voters in bucolic Buckinghamshire plainly feared that these would make it easier for developers to concrete over the countryside.

What the result shows is that the Liberal Democrat cause is not a hopeless one. With just 11 parliamentarians and languishing at 7% in national polls, Sir Ed Davey appeared to be taking his depleted ranks and marching them towards the sound of gunfire. Chesham and Amersham has been held by the Conservatives since its creation in 1974. Yet Ms Green overturned a 16,000-strong Tory majority to take the seat by just over 8,000 votes, a swing of 25%, and upset the odds. The energy of the Tories vaccine bounce seems dissipated. Clearly the death of Liberal England has been prematurely foretold.

But is this a successful revival or a false dawn? In 2016 a swing of 22% saw Londons Richmond Park won by the Lib Dems. Three years later the party won the Brecon and Radnorshire byelection in Wales with a swing of 14%. What was telling was that on both occasions, the Lib Dems benefited from electoral pacts that consolidated a part of the remain vote. These divisions have not been erased just because Britain has left the European Union. Chesham and Amersham voted remain, and it would appear that substantial numbers of pro-EU Labour supporters voted Lib Dem.

The Compass thinktank has identified two clear battlegrounds in England: one between Labour and the Conservatives, another between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives. There are few seats where Labour and the Lib Dems square off. It makes sense to join hands to defeat a common enemy. This thought also dovetails with a creeping political realignment in British politics.

The trend is for older, school-leaver Brexit supporters in the north switching to the Conservatives while the ruling party is losing ground among the more middle-class suburban graduates who leaned towards remain. Mr Johnsons divisive nationalism and levelling up rhetoric risks trading red wall gains, such as in Hartlepool last month, for blue wall losses. The new Tory coalition can be divided in other ways: the HS2 high-speed railway is widely welcomed in the north and the Midlands where it ends, but less so in the leafy southern constituencies, such as Chesham and Amersham, that it runs through.

To keep the momentum going will require more than the politics of protest. Sir Ed must see the possibility of a major political restructuring and shape it. He should make a virtue of positions that decentralise power, free the individual citizen and promote quality in public services. He needs policies that are not only popular but also clearly associated in the minds of voters with the Lib Dems. Being a responsible partner to the EU, rather than a troublesome neighbour, would be a good start. Liberalism is its own creed, and its adherents ought to make the case that it remains the one most capable of meeting the challenges ahead.

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O’Rourke to host Texas voting rights rally as U.S. Democrats push reforms – Reuters

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Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke speaks before a Democratic Party fundraising dinner, the Liberty and Justice Celebration, in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

June 17 (Reuters) - Former presidential candidate Beto ORourke will headline a voting rights rally in Texas on Sunday, a day before Democrats in the U.S. Senate take up a sweeping bill aimed at combating new Republican-backed voting restrictions in that state and others across the country.

Democratic lawmakers in Texas staged a dramatic, 11th-hour walkout as the legislative session was ending last month, blocking the Republican majority from passing a wide-ranging bill that would have eliminated drive-through and overnight voting, made it easier for judges to overturn election results and given partisan poll watchers more access to polling sites.

Texas is part of a national push by Republicans to tighten voting laws after former President Donald Trump's false claim that he lost last year's presidential election due to voter fraud. Republican-controlled legislatures have passed new rules in several battleground states, including Georgia, Arizona and Florida.

The reprieve in Texas is likely temporary. Republican leaders, including Governor Greg Abbott, have said they will hold a special session to take up the legislation again.

But in an interview on Thursday, O'Rourke, a former Democratic congressman who ran for president in 2020 and has not ruled out a gubernatorial campaign challenging Abbott in 2022, said he has already seen signs that the grassroots effort against the bill is working.

A handful of Republican lawmakers have backed away from some provisions in the measure, such as a prohibition on early voting on Sundays before 1 p.m. a measure widely seen as targeting Black churches' "souls to the polls" drives.

"That's a good sign that this public pressure works," said O'Rourke, who has visited 18 cities and towns in recent weeks to hold voting rights events. "This state is the epicenter of the fight for voting rights, and if this state comes together in numbers large enough, I really do think that helps advance the cause."

Organizers say they expect thousands of attendees at the weekend rally in Austin, the state capital.

The U.S. Senate is expected on Monday to begin bringing a sweeping Democratic-sponsored election reform bill up for a vote. The legislation, known as the For the People Act, would expand ballot access and outlaw partisan redistricting, among other measures. read more

The bill's prospects in the Senate, however, are dim. Democrats cannot afford to lose a single vote with Republicans universally opposed, and moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has already said he does not support the legislation.

On Wednesday, Manchin suggested a series of revisions to the bill, though any compromise would require at least 10 Republican votes under the Senate's filibuster rules.

O'Rourke said Manchin's proposal shows the bill's chances are improving.

"I think this is a very good sign, especially for everyone who was wanting us to believe the sky was falling and that this would never pass," he said.

O'Rourke said he has had conversations with members of the Biden administration, which has called on Congress to pass voting protections.

Democratic President Joe Biden has put Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of a national voting rights push; she met on Wednesday with 16 Texas Democratic legislators who participated in last month's walkout. read more

O'Rourke, who became a Democratic star when he narrowly lost a U.S. Senate race in 2018 to Republican Ted Cruz, said he is focused on voting rights at the moment, not his political future.

After that work is done, I will think about what it is I can do to further help here in Texas, he said, adding that running for office is one possibility.

Reporting by Joseph AxEditing by Colleen Jenkins and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Why You Suddenly Need To Delete Google Maps On Your iPhone – Forbes

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Forget this years punchy headlines pitching Tim Cook against Mark Zuckerbergits arguably now Google as much as Facebook thats in Apples sights. This has serious implications for 1-billion-plus iPhone users as the fight for your data and your loyalty has suddenly intensified. This is the context behind recent updates from Apple and Google. And this is why its time to start deleting appsincluding Google Maps.

While Google continues to play privacy catch-up with Apple, as seen in Android 12s likely enhancements, Android Messages and Workspace client-side encryption, and the PR-friendly privacy sandbox, the reality is that Google is the worlds largest data-driven advertising company. Apple is not. Ultimately, who do you trust?

Location data has been central to the privacy debate for years now. First iOS and then Android have given us options to deny, restrict and approximate such data from the dozens of apps that would guzzle our data should we let them. Why exactly do all those trivial games and apps require my precise location, and all that.

But even as we have clicked to deny all these apps access under Location Services in our iPhones settings, we clearly cannot do the same with mapping apps. But while many iPhone users are tied to Google Maps, the alarming privacy label comparison between it and Apples alternative should give serious reason for concern.

Apple Maps Vs Google Maps

Clearly, the issue here is that all the data Google Maps says it may collect is linked back to your personal identity. This is how Google works. Everything links together to build your profile, your timeline. And while you can fish around in Googles account settings to delete some of this data, most dont bother and why should you need to?

Why do we put up with this? Well, as my colleague Kate OFlaherty so aptly puts it in this weeks Straight Talking Cyber (the video at the top of this story), all of Googles stuff works really well; yes, you have to give up your privacy, but if you dont care about your privacy, it all just works, and it all just combines together.

Privacy Labels - Google Maps Vs Apple Maps (April 2021)

Google plays down these privacy risks, telling me that Google Maps is designed to protect your information. We provide controls to easily manage your settings and use industry-leading technologies like differential privacy to keep your data safe. We continue to make Google Maps the best and most accurate way to navigate and explore the worldproviding rich local business information, best in class search and navigation, and helpful features like the COVID layer and live busyness information.

But this is an awkward line to take, when your entire business model is built around user data and targeted ads. When pushed on privacy, Google points out that you can stop Maps harvesting data on your iPhone by selecting Incognito mode, that any data gathered per its privacy label is not associated with specific individuals or accounts.

But this more private mode has a serious impact on functionalityno commute, location history, sharing, search history or completion suggestions, restrictions to Assistant in Navigation, no offline maps or your places. On the plus side, though, Google will stop storing your personalized location history and timeline.

Incognito Mode

Google Maps has always been sticky for iPhone usersyoull likely remember the backlash when Apple made the switch to its own app back in 2012. This was part because users were hooked on Google Maps and part because Apples early Maps offering was woeful. A perfect example of a half-completed product launched too soon.

But Apple Maps is really good now, STCs Davey Winder says on this weeks video episode. I use CarPlay, and Ive been looking at Apple Maps new updates and its way better than Google Maps... Im really surprised.

That said, for many iPhone users, there just hasnt been a need to switch from Google Mapsit remains the most popular navigation download on Apples App Store. But now Apple wants those users to think again, announcing a major refresh for iOS 15.

Apple is committed to building the worlds best map, it says, and iOS 15 takes Maps even further with brand new ways to navigate and explore. Users will experience significantly enhanced details in cities for neighborhoods, commercial districts, elevation, and buildings, new road colors and labels, custom-designed landmarks, and a new night-time mode with a moonlit glow.

And so, back to that privacy strike Apple is launching at Google. Beyond mapping, weve seen Apples Private Relay quasi-VPN as a strike at Chrome, the most popular browser on the App Store; weve also seen Mail Protection as a swipe at Gmail, the most popular mail platform on the App Store. Clearly, Apples stock appsMaps, Safari and Mailare installed by default. But now Apple wants to ensure you use them.

For CarPlay users like Davey, Apples updated Maps will offer a three-dimensional city-driving experience with new road details that help users better see and understand important details like turn lanes, medians, bike lanes, and pedestrian crosswalks.Transit riders can find nearby stations more easily and pin favorite lines. Maps automatically follows along with a selected transit route, notifying users when its nearly time to disembark, and riders can even keep track on Apple Watch. With iOS 15, users can simply hold up iPhone, and Maps generates a highly accurate position to deliver detailed walking directions in augmented reality.

Apple Maps - iOS 15

Ignoring glitzy new functionality, privacy is the critical differentiatorthe idea being you can have Google-like functionality and its seamless ecosystem, without compromising your privacy or paying with your data in return. For its part, Googles business model is built on data, and so while it has earnestly embarked on a game of privacy catch-up with Apple, the motivations and likely end result are very different.

Google is now in a bind with some of its leading iOS apps. Its privacy labels are a nightmare when compared to its peers. Too much data collected, all linked to individual identities. And Apple is clearly looking to consolidate on the 2021 privacy backlash, hammering home the message. Google continues to push its own privacy messaging, and Android 12 will offer improvements for its own users, but as Ive commented before when it comes to such issuesjust follow the money.

The reality is that if you value your privacy, then you should take care over the apps you install and the services you use. And with improvements to Apple Maps, now is the time to cut off Google from the rich seam of data derived from your map searches and navigation. In the same way as you should stick to Safari and Apple Mail, or even more private alternatives like ProtonMail and DuckDuckGo.

If all of usall of youdont give that level of thought to your apps and services decisions, then we send the message that we dont mind being the product, that our data is something of a free-for-all, that were okay if little changes. And, worse, that even though weve paid a premium for a more secure and more private iPhone, we dont mind compromising that with the data we freely give away. Lets not do that.

As much as you may like Google Maps, those stark data harvesting revelations have come just as Apple Maps continues to level the playing field, making it time to consider deleting the app, shutting down at least that part of Googles data collection machine.

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EXCLUSIVE Google searches for new measure of skin tones to curb bias in products – Reuters

Posted: at 1:22 am

June 18 (Reuters) - Alphabet Incs (GOOGL.O) Google told Reuters this week it is developing an alternative to the industry standard method for classifying skin tones, which a growing chorus of technology researchers and dermatologists says is inadequate for assessing whether products are biased against people of color.

At issue is a six-color scale known as Fitzpatrick Skin Type (FST), which dermatologists have used since the 1970s. Tech companies now rely on it to categorize people and measure whether products such as facial recognition systems or smartwatch heart-rate sensors perform equally well across skin tones. read more

Critics say FST, which includes four categories for "white" skin and one apiece for "black" and "brown," disregards diversity among people of color. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, during a federal technology standards conference last October, recommended abandoning FST for evaluating facial recognition because it poorly represents color range in diverse populations.

In response to Reuters' questions about FST, Google, for the first time and ahead of peers, said that it has been quietly pursuing better measures.

"We are working on alternative, more inclusive, measures that could be useful in the development of our products, and will collaborate with scientific and medical experts, as well as groups working with communities of color," the company said, declining to offer details on the effort.

The controversy is part of a larger reckoning over racism and diversity in the tech industry, where the workforce is more white than in sectors like finance. Ensuring technology works well for all skin colors, as well different ages and genders, is assuming greater importance as new products, often powered by artificial intelligence (AI), extend into sensitive and regulated areas such as healthcare and law enforcement.

Companies know their products can be faulty for groups that are under-represented in research and testing data. The concern over FST is that its limited scale for darker skin could lead to technology that, for instance, works for golden brown skin but fails for espresso red tones.

Numerous types of products offer palettes far richer than FST. Crayola last year launched 24 skin tone crayons, and Mattel Inc's (MAT.O) Barbie Fashionistas dolls this year cover nine tones.

The issue is far from academic for Google. When the company announced in February that cameras on some Android phones could measure pulse rates via a fingertip, it said readings on average would err by 1.8% regardless of whether users had light or dark skin.

The company later gave similar warranties that skin type would not noticeably affect results of a feature for filtering backgrounds on Meet video conferences, nor of an upcoming web tool for identifying skin conditions, informally dubbed Derm Assist.

Those conclusions derived from testing with the six-tone FST.


The late Harvard University dermatologist Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick invented the scale to personalize ultraviolet radiation treatment for psoriasis, an itchy skin condition. He grouped the skin of "white" people as Roman numerals I to IV by asking how much sunburn or tan they developed after certain periods in sun.

A decade later came type V for "brown" skin and VI for "black." The scale is still part of U.S. regulations for testing sunblock products, and it remains a popular dermatology standard for assessing patients' cancer risk and more.

Some dermatologists say the scale is a poor and overused measure for care, and often conflated with race and ethnicity.

"Many people would assume I am skin type V, which rarely to never burns, but I burn," said Dr. Susan Taylor, a University of Pennsylvania dermatologist who founded Skin of Color Society in 2004 to promote research on marginalized communities. "To look at my skin hue and say I am type V does me disservice."

Technology companies, until recently, were unconcerned. Unicode, an industry association overseeing emojis, referred to FST in 2014 as its basis for adopting five skin tones beyond yellow, saying the scale was "without negative associations."

A 2018 study titled "Gender Shades," which found facial analysis systems more often misgendered people with darker skin, popularized using FST for evaluating AI. The research described FST as a "starting point," but scientists of similar studies that came later told Reuters they used the scale to stay consistent.

"As a first measure for a relatively immature market, it serves its purpose to help us identify red flags," said Inioluwa Deborah Raji, a Mozilla fellow focused on auditing AI.

In an April study testing AI for detecting deepfakes, Facebook Inc (FB.O) researchers wrote FST "clearly does not encompass the diversity within brown and black skin tones." Still, they released videos of 3,000 individuals to be used for evaluating AI systems, with FST tags attached based on the assessments of eight human raters.

The judgment of the raters is central. Facial recognition software startup AnyVision last year gave celebrity examples to raters: former baseball great Derek Jeter as a type IV, model Tyra Banks a V and rapper 50 Cent a VI.

AnyVision told Reuters it agreed with Google's decision to revisit use of FST, and Facebook said it is open to better measures.

Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and smartwatch makers Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Garmin Ltd (GRMN.O) reference FST when working on health-related sensors.

But use of FST could be fueling "false assurances" about heart rate readings from smartwatches on darker skin, University of California San Diego clinicians, inspired by the Black Lives Matter social equality movement, wrote in the journal Sleep last year.

Microsoft acknowledged FST's imperfections. Apple said it tests on humans across skin tones using various measures, FST only at times among them. Garmin said due to wide-ranging testing it believes readings are reliable.

Victor Casale, who founded makeup company Mob Beauty and helped Crayola on the new crayons, said he developed 40 shades for foundation, each different from the next by about 3%, or enough for most adults to distinguish.

Color accuracy on electronics suggest tech standards should have 12 to 18 tones, he said, adding, you cant just have six.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Google adds E2E RCS encryption to Messages, emoji mashup suggests, and more for Android – The Verge

Posted: at 1:22 am

Google has announced seven new features for Android that it says will help improve accessibility and make Assistant Shortcuts more useful, among other things. The new features announced today are:

Google announced that RCS chats sent through the Messages app will now be end-to-end encrypted. The feature was rolled out in beta last November, but it seems that Google is now releasing it for everyone who has access to RCS. When a message will be encrypted, the send button will have a lock icon on it thatll be important to keep an eye out for, as many people you text may not have RCS, or may not be using messages. Its also worth noting that, according to Google, the feature will only be available for one-on-one conversations, so your group chats wont be getting the feature at this time.

Google says its phone-based earthquake detection and alert system will be coming to Turkey, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The system, which uses Android phones to create an earthquake detection network that will warn people if theyre in a potentially affected area, originally launched in California, but it was made available in Greece and New Zealand in April.

Google says it hopes to bring the feature to more regions over the next year, but that its focusing on first making it available to countries that have a high risk of earthquakes.

If you get sent a text with important info and want to be able to quickly find it, youll be able to star it, which will place it in the starred category so you wont have to scroll back through a conversation to find it. Google says the feature will be rolling out to the Messages app over the coming weeks.

Starting this summer, Gboard will contextually suggest stickers created in Emoji Kitchen, Googles tool that lets users create mashups of two different emoji. The suggestions will show up in the Emoji menu for those writing a message in English, Spanish, or Portuguese.

Googles Assistant Shortcuts let users jump to a specific part of an app, but developers will now be able to show users information in widget form right in Assistant.

Googles Voice Access app, which allows people to navigate their phones using their voice, is getting gaze detection so it can tell whether someone is talking to their phone or talking to other people. The feature, which is in beta, will stop taking commands if it detects that youre not looking at your phone.

Voice Access is also getting improvements when it comes to entering passwords: users will be able to say words like dollar sign, and theyll be translated into the symbol, instead of being written out literally.

Android Auto users will be able to use their phone to personalize the app launcher and manually manage dark mode. Googles also adding the ability to quickly scroll to the top of a list, and the scroll bar is getting an A to Z button.

Google also says the messaging experience for apps like Messages and WhatsApp has been improved, making it easier to send and read messages.

Update June 15th, 2:05PM ET: Updated with information about Google adding end-to-end encryption for RCS chats sent through Messages.

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Honor confirms Googles apps will return to its phones with new 50 series – The Verge

Posted: at 1:22 am

The Honor 50 series will be able to ship with Googles apps and services, Honor officially announced today as it launched the Honor 50 and Honor 50 Pro in China. In a statement, Honor says its phones will go through Googles security review and that Honor devices will therefore have the option to have Google Mobile Services (GMS) preinstalled on compatible devices, in accordance with Googles licensing and governance models.

Consumers will be able to experience Honor smartphones and tablets equipped with GMS, the company said. A spokesperson confirmed that the Honor devices referred to in the statement include the newly announced Honor 50. The device will be available for preorder in China on June 25th and will come to international markets such as France, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UK at a later date at a price thats to be announced.

Honor hasnt been able to ship Googles apps and services, including the Google Play Store, on its phones since its former parent company Huawei was placed on the USs entity list, forcing Google to pull its Android license. Whats changed with the 50 series is that Huawei sold off Honor at the end of last year, allowing the company to work with Google once again. Huawei, meanwhile, is still unable to use Googles software and is positioning its own HarmonyOS as a replacement.

Reports about the return of Googles software to Honors phones emerged last month, after the companys German Twitter leaked the news in a now-deleted tweet.

Turning to the devices themselves, the most eye-catching thing about the Honor 50 and Honor 50 Pro are their rear cameras, which are arranged into a pair of circular bumps. The phones have four rear cameras in total, including a 100-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel wide-angle, a 2-megapixel macro, and a 2-megapixel depth camera. On the front, the Honor 50 Pro has a pair of selfie cameras, combining a 32-megapixel camera with a 12-megapixel ultrawide, while the Honor 50 just has a single 32-megapixel camera.

Both phones have a 120Hz display, though the Honor 50 Pros is slightly bigger at 6.72 inches compared to 6.57 for the regular Honor 50. Available colors include silver, bronze, green, and black. Internally, theyre powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G processor. The 50 Pro has a 4,000mAh battery that can be fast charged at up to 100W, while the regular 50 has a 4,300mAh battery and supports 66W fast charging.

The return of Googles software to Honors phones is unlikely to make much of a difference in China, where phones typically ship without the Play Store. But their absence has made Honor and Huaweis phones pretty hard to recommend elsewhere. When the Honor 50 eventually releases in the West, that could all change.

In China, the Honor 50 will start at 2,699 yuan (around $422), while the Honor 50 Pro will start at 3,699 yuan (around $578). Alongside the two flagship phones, Honor is also announcing the cheaper Honor 50 SE, which will start at 2,399 yuan (around $375).

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