House GOP campaign wing reportedly withheld bad Trump polling from lawmakers at retreat

The National Republican Congressional Committee did not share internal polling data that showed former President Donald Trump has weak numbers in key battleground districts at a retreat for House Republicans in April, two people familiar with the presentation told The Washington Post. The NRCC staffers reportedly held back the information even when a member of Congress asked them directly about Trump’s support.

The Post later obtained the full polling results and reports that Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones, and nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of him than those who had a strongly favorable one. In those same districts, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were both more popular than Trump, the Post notes.

It reportedly wasn’t the first time this has happened — Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) told colleagues that Republican campaign officials had also glossed over poor Trump polling during a retreat for ranking committee chairs in March, per the Post.

Cheney, you may have heard in recent weeks, is determined to move the GOP away from Trump and she’d likely point to the polling as a reason why, but she’s faced a lot of criticism from her colleagues, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who think the party is doomed without the former president leading the charge, and there’s no indication their minds will change anytime soon. Read more about Cheney’s efforts at The Washington Post.

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CDC provides ‘crucial’ COVID-19 guidance update acknowledging airborne transmission

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday updated its public COVID-19 guidance to explicitly state that the coronavirus can be transmitted via aerosols — smaller respiratory particles that can float — inhaled at a distance greater than six feet from an infected person, particularly while indoors, bringing ventilation practices to the forefront. The new language marks a change from the federal health agency’s previous stance that transmission of the virus typically occurs through “close contact, not airborne transmission.”

Infectious disease experts have warned that the CDC and the World Health Organization (which has also updated its guidance) were overlooking evidence of airborne transmission during the pandemic, The New York Times notes, and some have stressed the need for the CDC to strengthen its recommendations for preventing exposure to aerosolized virus, especially in indoor workplaces like meatpacking plants.

Good ventilation should be one of the primary things to focus on, Dr. David Michaels, an epidemiologist at George Washington School of Public Health and the head of the Occupation and Safety Health Administration during the Obama administration, told the Times. Dr. Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech, explained that “if you’re in a poorly ventilated environment, virus is going to build up in the air, and everyone who’s in that room is going to be exposed.”

Sociologist Zeynep Tufecki, who has long been pushing for such a change, called it “one of the most crucial scientific advancements of the pandemic” that should provide a lot of clarity going forward. Read her Twitter thread on the issue here and learn more at The New York Times.

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India records 4,000 COVID-19 deaths in a day for 1st time

India recorded 4,187 new COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, the government said Saturday, marking the first time the country, which is in the midst of a record-breaking surge of infections, has tallied 4,000 fatalities in a day. India’s death toll, which has been questioned by health experts, officially sits at 238,270, the third highest in the world after the United States and Brazil.

India also added 401,078 cases on Saturday, a slight drop from the previous day, but the country’s peak is not expected until the end of May. While cases appear to be stabilizing in large cities like Mumbai and New Delhi, the coronavirus is spreading in rural areas and southern states, several of which have ordered lockdowns. Oxygen and critical care bed shortages remain a major concern. Read more at Al Jazeera and Agence France-Presse.

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10 things you need to know today: May 8, 2021

1.

The Labor Department said Friday the U.S. economy added 266,000 jobs in April, whereas economists had been expecting around 1 million jobs would be added, CNBC reports. The Labor Department had previously said that 916,000 jobs were added in March, though this number was revised down to 770,000 on Friday. The unemployment rate also increased slightly from six percent to 6.1 percent. The report was significantly below expectations, and Axios described it as “the biggest miss, relative to expectations, in the history of the payrolls report.” Economist Justin Wolfers wrote that 266,000 jobs being added “would be fabulous in normal times, but is utterly disappointing” compared to the forecasts, adding, “This is a big miss that changes how we think about the recovery.”
[CNBC, The Week]

2.

India recorded 4,187 new COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, the government said Saturday, marking the first time the country, which is in the midst of a record-breaking surge of infections, has tallied 4,000 fatalities in a day. India’s death toll, which has been questioned by health experts, officially sits at 238,270, the third highest in the world after the United States and Brazil. India also added 401,078 cases on Saturday, a slight drop from the previous day, but the country’s peak is not expected until the end of May. While cases appear to be stabilizing in large cities like Mumbai and New Delhi, the coronavirus is spreading in southern states and rural areas. Oxygen and critical care bed shortages remain a major concern.
[Al Jazeera, Agence France-Presse]

3.

Four former Minneapolis police officers, including Derek Chauvin, were indicted on civil rights charges over the death of George Floyd. The Justice Department said Friday a grand jury indictment charged Chauvin, who was convicted on murder charges after kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes during an arrest, with depriving Floyd of his constitutional right “to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer.” Former Minneapolis officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane were also charged for their roles in Floyd’s death. Prosecutors said Thao and Kueng were charged with having “willfully failed to intervene to stop Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force,” and the indictment said all four defendants “willfully failed to aid” Floyd despite seeing him in need of medical attention. Separately, Chauvin was also indicted on civil rights charges stemming from a 2017 incident, in which prosecutors said he held a Minneapolis teenager “by the throat and struck the teenager multiple times in the head with a flashlight.”
[The Associated Press, The New York Times]

4.

The Capitol Police said on Friday that there has been a 107 percent increase in reported threats against members of Congress compared to last year. “The number of threats made against Congress has increased significantly. This year alone, there has been a 107% increase in threats against Members compared to 2020,” said a U.S. Capitol Police press release. “Provided the unique threat environment we currently live in, the Department is confident the number of cases will continue to increase.” In 2020, the USCP logged about 9,000 cases of threats against lawmakers, while the Secret Service handled another 8,000. The statement did not specify the nature of the threats or specify why it believes there has been such an increase.
[CNN]

5.

More than 200 people were injured Friday night after a protest over the threat of evictions of Palestinians from their homes in east Jerusalem, Palestinian medics and Israeli police said. Tens of thousands of Palestinian worshippers had gathered at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site in Judaism (known as the Temple Mount in that faith), for the final Friday of Ramadan, and many remained for the protest, which reportedly erupted when Israeli police in riot gear deployed. The police reportedly fired rubber bullets at the crowd, while video footage shows the demonstrators throwing chairs, rocks, and shoes at the officers. The United States and other foreign governments called for calm and expressed concern about the potential evictions, but Israelis and Palestinians are bracing for more unrest in the coming days.
[Al Jazeera, The Associated Press]

6.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday updated its public COVID-19 guidance to explicitly state that the coronavirus can be transmitted via aerosols — smaller respiratory particles that can float — inhaled at a distance greater than six feet from an infected person, particularly while indoors. The new language marks a change from the federal health agency’s previous stance that transmission of the virus typically occurs through “close contact, not airborne transmission.” Infectious disease experts have warned that the CDC and the World Health Organization were overlooking evidence of airborne transmission during the pandemic, The New York Times notes, and some have stressed the need for the CDC to strengthen its recommendations for preventing exposure to aerosolized virus, especially in indoor workplaces.
[The New York Times]

7.

Multiple European leaders on Saturday criticized the United States for its support for waiving COVID-19 vaccine patents to help other countries produce and distribute shots. European Union Council President Charles Michel said during an EU summit in Portugal that “we don’t, in the short term, that [a waiver is] the magic bullet.” Michel and others, including French President Emmanuel Macron, are urging the U.S. to lift export restriction, rather intellectual property protections. U.S. Trade Representative will argue in favor of a waiver in negotiations with the World Trade Organization, but she’ll need to secure approval from all 164 member states to achieve that goal.
[The Associated Press]

8.

The Department of Justice under former President Donald Trump obtained phone records of three Washington Post journalists, the Post reports. The department also reportedly unsuccessfully tried to obtain the reporters’ email records. Three separate letters to Post reporters Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller and their former colleague Adam Entous explained the department “received toll records” associated with their phone numbers for the period between April 15, 2017 to July 31, 2017, which is around when the trio reported a story about classified U.S. intelligence intercepts indicating that in 2016 then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) had discussed the Trump campaign with Sergey Kislyak, who was then Russia’s ambassador to the United States. The Justice Department defended the decision as “part of a criminal investigation into unauthorized disclosure of classified information,” noting the reporters were not the targets of the probe.
[The Washington Post]

9.

China’s Long March 5B rocket booster, which is around 100 feet tall, weighs 22 tons, and is “tumbling out of control in orbit” following a launch into space, is expected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere on or around Saturday, U.S. Defense Department spokesman Mike Howard said. It’s not clear where the rocket will end up because it’s falling so fast that even a slight change in circumstance could significantly alter its trajectory, but the consensus appears to be that the debris does not pose a serious threat to humans, with some experts guessing it will wind up in the ocean or, as the U.S. Air Force Space Track Project predicted on Friday, a desert in Turkmenistan.
[CNN, The Week]

10.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is hosting Saturday’s episode of Saturday Night Live, and based on the chatter it’s already sparked and Musk’s reputation for moving markets with his often-unfiltered comments, investors are reportedly anticipating his appearance on the show will boost cryptocurrencies and Tesla stock. “Musk will undoubtedly have a sketch on cryptocurrencies that will probably go viral for days and further motivate his army of followers to try to send Dogecoin to the moon,” wrote Ed Moya, a senior market analyst with online trading firm Oanda. Dogecoin, which CNN Business describes as “one of Musk’s favorite market playthings,” neared its all-time high on Friday, while Tesla stock was up 1.5 percent.
[CNN Business]

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More than 200 injured after Israeli police, Palestinians clash over potential evictions

More than 200 people were injured Friday night after a protest over the threat of evictions of Palestinians from their homes in east Jerusalem, Palestinian medics and Israeli police said.

Tens of thousands of Palestinian worshippers had gathered at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site in Judaism (known as the Temple Mount in that faith), for the final Friday of Ramadan, and many remained for the protest, which reportedly erupted when Israeli police in riot gear deployed. The police reportedly fired rubber bullets at the crowd, while video footage shows the demonstrators throwing chairs, rocks, and shoes at the officers.

The United States and other foreign governments called for calm and expressed concern about the potential evictions, but Israelis and Palestinians are bracing for more unrest in the coming days. Worshippers will return to Al-Aqsa on Saturday for the most sacred night of Ramadan, while Sunday night marks Jerusalem Day, when Israel celebrates its annexation of east Jerusalem. And on Monday, an Israeli court is expected to issue a verdict on the evictions. Read more at Al Jazeera and The Associated Press.

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More than 200 injured after Palestinians clash with Israeli police over potential evictions

More than 200 people were injured Friday night after a protest over the threat of evictions of Palestinians from their homes in east Jerusalem, Palestinian medics and Israeli police said.

Tens of thousands of Palestinian worshippers had gathered at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site in Judaism (known as the Temple Mount in that faith), for the final Friday of Ramadan, and many remained for the protest, which reportedly erupted when Israeli police in riot gear deployed. The police reportedly fired rubber bullets at the crowd, while video footage shows the demonstrators throwing chairs, rocks, and shoes at the officers.

The United States and other foreign governments called for calm and expressed concern about the potential evictions, but Israelis and Palestinians are bracing for more unrest in the coming days. Worshippers will return to Al-Aqsa on Saturday for the most sacred night of Ramadan, while Sunday night marks Jerusalem Day, when Israel celebrates its annexation of east Jerusalem. And on Monday, an Israeli court is expected to issue a verdict on the evictions. Read more at Al Jazeera and The Associated Press.

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6 homes for outdoor entertaining

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. This four-bedroom home has 1,700 square feet of covered porches overlooking a patio with a heated saltwater pool and hot tub. The house includes a chef’s kitchen with three ovens, a media room, and a mahogany-paneled family room with a wet bar.

The 1.25-acre property is in a gated community near Charleston and minutes from the beach, offering golf, tennis, and a clubhouse with a restaurant, swimming pools, and a fitness center. $1,895,000. Martha Freshley, William Means/​Christie’s International Real Estate, (843) 297-7530

Shamong, New Jersey. The grounds of this six-bedroom home feature a full outdoor kitchen, firepit, heated swimming pool with waterfalls and fountains, and cabana with kitchen and bath.

The 2011 Colonial-French house has a double-height living room with fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows, gourmet kitchen, butler’s pantry, theater room, bar, and two-bedroom guest suite. The 38-acre property includes a 16-car garage with hydraulic lifts. $4,500,000. Anna De Cristofaro, Coldwell Banker Preferred/Haddonfield, (609) 707-6613

Iron Station, North Carolina. Behind this three-bedroom Pinnacle Ridge home are a summer kitchen, firepits, and a 40,000-gallon saltwater infinity pool with 12-person spa, swim-up bar, and in-pool dining.

The castle-like house features arched doors, coffered ceilings, chef’s kitchen, butler’s pantry, principle suite with double-sided fireplace, and a stone staircase down to a media room, game room, and bar. On the 3.5-acre lot are a garden, woods, and a stream. $1,675,000. Josh Tucker, HM Properties, (704) 634-8323

Weston, Florida. The grounds of this five-bedroom home in Windmill Ranch Estates include a summer kitchen, firepits, swimming pool with spa and sitting area, and guesthouse with full bath.

The Mediterranean-style main house has marble floors, wood details, and floor-to-ceiling windows; a paneled library; a chef’s kitchen; and a living room with wet bar and fireplace. The 1.4-acre property, set beside a pond, is landscaped with lawns, palms, and a circular driveway with porte cochere entry. $2,850,000. Terri Perlini, Coldwell Banker Realty, (954) 605-7653

Delaware, Ohio. The outdoor amenities of this seven-bedroom home include a large covered patio, an outdoor kitchen, a firepit, and a swimming pool with slide and pool house. The house has all en-suite bedrooms; a two-story great room with fireplace, floor-to-ceiling windows, and built-ins; a theater; a gym; a wine cellar; and a deck overlooking the pool.

The 2.8-acre wooded property features grounds laid out with brick paths, a fountain, lawns, mature trees, and garden beds. $3,500,000. Carrie Spielman, Street Sotheby’s International Realty, (614) 205-0820

Salem, Oregon. The backyard of this six-bedroom home has a barbecue area, fenced paver patio, enclosed covered deck, and lawn with garden shed.

The house comprises two residences, each with its own kitchen and sharing a large family room; the four-bedroom main floor features a wood-paneled library, a fireplace, and a sunroom, and the two-bedroom finished basement level has a bar and living room. The double lot includes a space for RV parking. $550,000. Shawn Richardson, eXp Realty, (503) 853-1784

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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Training cops to de-escalate

Can police officers be taught to defuse confrontations instead of using deadly force? Here’s everything you need to know:

What is de-escalation?
It’s a method of policing designed to reduce shootings and other uses of force by teaching cops to act slowly, ask open-ended questions, and resist the urge to draw their guns. The average recruit receives less than 10 hours of de-escalation instruction, compared with 58 hours of firearms training, and 29 states don’t require it. But de-escalation has become a top priority of police-reform advocates, who say it’s crucial for reducing the 1,000 deaths at the hands of police each year, especially the roughly 40 percent involving citizens without guns. After police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back last year, leaving him paralyzed, Gov. Tony Evers called for officers to undergo annual de-escalation training. In recent weeks police departments in New Haven, Connecticut; Providence, Rhode Island; and Tempe, Arizona; have introduced de-escalation programs. Cops have been taught that they “always have to win,” says Chuck Wexler, a consultant to police departments. Officers must learn to be “guardians,” he said, “rather than warriors.”

What does training look like?
Cops role-play in high-stakes scenarios, with actors and experienced officers playing unhinged or threatening suspects. Trainees also study footage from real-life encounters, identifying opportunities for de-escalation. In Baltimore, where more than half of residents say they’ve witnessed police using excessive force, a new 16-hour de-escalation course teaches officers how to react to citizens wielding knives or attempting “suicide by cop.” Rather than drawing their guns and barking orders, officers are taught to patiently talk with suspects and try to establish a rapport, maintain distance, use cover for protection, summon help, and use a Taser only if necessary. “When I say ‘back away,’ some police officers recoil,” Wexler says. “Police are taught you never give up. In some situations it’s OK to back off.”

Does it work?
Though there are no national studies comparing departments, cities that employ de-escalation have seen promising results: Louisville saw a 28 percent drop in use-of-force incidents in 2019 and a 26 percent decline in citizen injuries at the hands of police. Use-of-force incidents fell 32 percent in Cleveland and 24 percent in San Francisco after officers completed de-escalation training. Police in Newark, New Jersey, didn’t fire a single shot last year, which the city’s public safety director credited to a de-escalation program introduced in 2018. In Camden, New Jersey — once among the nation’s most violent cities — the police department has overhauled its use-of-force policies over the past seven years, and complaints of excessive force are down 95 percent.

How can cops avoid firing shots?
One way is to change the rules of engagement. Most departments authorize officers to shoot suspects with knives if they come within 21 feet, and some 100 knife-wielding people are killed by police each year. “There really is no scientific basis in that rule,” said Rajiv Sethi, a Barnard College professor who studies police use of deadly force. When officers are forced to subdue a suspect, they have a range of options before drawing their firearms, including batons, beanbag guns, pepper spray, and Tasers. Police are exploring new alternatives, such as BolaWrap, which allows officers to shoot Kevlar strings, at 640 feet per second, that wrap around suspects’ arms or legs and immobilize them without causing serious injury.

Why is de-escalation training controversial?
It requires officers to abandon a warrior mindset that equates citizens with enemy soldiers and crime-heavy neighborhoods with battlefields. Police training often resembles military boot camp, and police officials commonly refer to officers as “troops.” The paramilitary approach was reinforced by a Defense Department program that sent surplus equipment — including grenade launchers and mine-resistant vehicles — to local law-enforcement agencies. Jeronimo Yanez, the Minneapolis cop who killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop in 2016, had previously attended a lethal-force class called “The Bulletproof Warrior.” When the Los Angeles police chief announced a new award in 2015 for officers who resolved dangerous confrontations peacefully, the police union objected, saying the award valued the lives of suspects over officers.

Do cops want the new training?
Many still need to be persuaded that de-escalation won’t endanger their lives. The opposite is generally true, because police are safer when there are fewer violent confrontations: After Louisville instituted de-escalation training, officer injuries dropped 36 percent. “I was trained to fight the war on crime,” says former Seattle police chief Kathleen O’Toole. “We were measured by the number of arrests. Over time, I realized policing went well beyond that.” A model case of de-escalation played out in April, when San Francisco police responded to an auto burglary and found a Black suspect, Marcel King, sitting in a van with a machete in hand. Rather than rushing him with guns drawn, a crisis-negotiation team spent three hours talking King into exiting the van without his machete and surrendering. “By de-escalating the situation, we got a peaceful resolution,” Lt. Michael Nevin said. “No-news incidents are the great-news incidents.”

Responding to mental health crises
People struggling with mental illness can present intense, unpredictable situations for first responders, and 222 people with mental illness were shot to death by police in 2018. The Memphis Police Department developed “crisis-intervention teams” in the late 1980s, and nearly 3,000 departments nationwide have followed suit. Some municipalities also are creating small units of specialists to respond to 911 calls involving the mentally ill. In Denver, a mental health clinician and a paramedic were deployed last June to respond to mental health episodes, and of 748 incidents over the first six months, none required assistance from police. De-escalation trainees study a case from Burlington, North Carolina, in which Officer Thaddeus Hines responded to a “mental crisis” and found a woman in a bedroom with a 13-inch knife. “I have been on cocaine and I’m suicidal,” she screamed. “Will you let me help you?” Hines asked. “I think everybody’s life is valuable.” Five minutes later, the woman tossed the knife on the floor, and Hines took her for treatment without making an arrest.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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