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Pigs fly: McConnell weighs giving Biden a bipartisan win

Something strange is happening in Washington: Mitch McConnell might go along with a central piece of Joe Biden’s agenda.

The self-appointed “Grim Reaper” of the Senate, a minority leader who said just two months ago that “100% of my focus is on standing up to this administration,” has been remarkably circumspect about the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure deal. He’s privately telling his members to separate that effort from Democrats’ party-line $ 3.5 trillion spending plan and publicly observed there’s a “decent” chance for its success.

Other than questioning its financing, McConnell has aired little criticism of the bipartisan agreement to fund roads, bridges and other physical infrastructure, even as he panned Democrats’ separate spending plans on Wednesday as “wildly out of proportion” given the nation’s inflation rate.

His cautious approach to a top Biden priority reflects the divide among Senate Republicans over whether to collaborate with Democrats on part of the president’s spending plans while fighting tooth and nail on the rest. Many Democrats predict McConnell will kill the agreement after stringing talks out for weeks, but the current infrastructure talks are particularly sensitive for the GOP leader because one of his close allies, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, is the senior Republican negotiator.

McConnell is aware of the conventional wisdom that he will ultimately knife the deal and is taking pains not to become the face of its opposition.

“He usually is the brunt of the demonization of the other side,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), another McConnell confidant. “I don’t think he is Dr. No when it comes to all legislation.”

For the moment at least, McConnell’s approach marks a shift from his past strategy of blocking Democratic priorities to portray the governing party as chaotic and inefficient. Advisers say he understands the bipartisan appeal of infrastructure and views it as less ideological than other Democratic priorities.

The Kentucky Republican is also perceptive of moments when his power is limited, evidenced by his 2013 decision to oppose — but not try to defeat — his members’ immigration compromise with Democrats. He’s also sent emissaries out in the past to engage with Democrats on health care and the deficit, efforts that eventually failed.

Even Democrats who’ve harshly criticized McConnell notice a shift in tactics in recent weeks. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said the Republican leader’s strategy “feels different” this time around.

“His problem is that many of his members like what’s in it,” Murphy said. “McConnell is going to have a hard time keeping his caucus together if he decides to oppose it.”

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who helped negotiate the bipartisan framework, was skeptical that McConnell would sink it, given that Democrats could simply then fold the failed cross-aisle deal into their larger partisan package.

“I don’t think it would be smart for him to do that, so I don’t think he will,” Tester said. “It’s better for them to pass the bipartisan bill and let the Democrats fight it out on the $ 3.5 trillion bill.”

McConnell could take a similar tactic this summer to his 2013 play on immigration, opposing the deal without whipping against it. But there’s a flip side to the squeeze he’s feeling, and it’s coming from the right. Conservatives are increasingly leaning on the Senate GOP to rip up the bipartisan deal and kill its attempt to pour $ 40 billion into increased IRS enforcement. Former President Donald Trump has trashed the deal, as well.

And many Republican senators worry they are stepping into a trap by agreeing to an infrastructure deal that will help Biden pass a larger spending bill, one designed to increase taxes on the wealthy while expanding social programs and policies to fight climate change. At a closed-door Tuesday lunch, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) bluntly asked his party what working with Democrats will get the GOP in the end, attendees said.

McConnell later responded that Republicans can’t control Democrats’ separate spending plans, urging his party to look at Portman’s effort as separate from the multi-trillion-dollar package Biden’s party plans to pass without GOP votes.

Asked afterward if that argument appeals to him, Johnson responded: “No.”

“All I see is a greater chance for much larger deficits,” Johnson said. “I’m not on board with this strategy of: Let’s do this and complicate their ability to pass reconciliation. I don’t agree with that.”

Republican proponents of the bipartisan infrastructure plan, however, argue that the GOP has nothing to lose by supporting it. Doing so, they say, lets the 50-vote minority put its stamp on a physical infrastructure proposal that doesn’t include tax hikes and later put vulnerable Democrats on the spot for supporting the $ 3.5 trillion tax-and-spend package.

Even if he ultimately sides against the deal, McConnell is cognizant that being too heavy-handed in bringing it down carries risks. Much more likely, allies say, is that a handful of Republican senators who initially endorsed the accord end up balking at Democrats’ big spending plans and the bipartisan deal’s rocky revenue sources.

McConnell’s top deputy on Wednesday winced at Democrats’ plans to marry the nearly $ 600 billion in new spending on roads and bridges with a $ 3.5 trillion, GOP-free package of spending to fight climate change and expand Medicare.

“I want to try and look at the infrastructure bill on its own. But it’s awfully hard, when they continue to link them publicly, not to view them through that lens,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). “That complicates passage of the infrastructure bill for a lot of Republicans.”

Democrats view Thune’s comment as a harbinger of McConnell’s eventual opposition. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a frequent McConnell antagonist, said “the fact that he’s quiet now means he’s not sure of the lay of the land.”

“When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And all he does is oppose, and I don’t anticipate this will be any different,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

Republican negotiators say that thus far they have not sensed resistance from McConnell. Some proponents of the deal took it as a positive signal that he advised them to evaluate the bipartisan plan separately from the Democrats’ social spending plan.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) described the GOP leader, so often opposed to all of Democrats’ big ideas, as “very open-minded.”

“He has encouraged us to proceed,” she said. “He has not committed one way or the other, which is understandable, because we don’t have a final product.”

On Thursday, the bipartisan group is hoping to finalize the framework it laid out at the end of June. It’s unlikely McConnell will weigh in, however, until they release legislative text and the Congressional Budget Office rules on whether the proposed financing mechanisms actually pay for the legislation.

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This post originally posted here Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

Windows 10 users hit by ‘nightmare’ bug that’s giving them an impossible choice to make

That’s now leaving Windows 10 users with a huge headache as it appears the only other way to fix the issue is to uninstall the vital KB5004945 update.

“We are seeing the same problems and the only solution right now is to uninstall the update,” said one user on Zebra’s forum page.

Clearly, uninstalling KB5004945, will mean users are able to print again but it will then leave their PC open to attack from hackers.

As Microsoft explains: “A remote code execution vulnerability exists when the Windows Print Spooler service improperly performs privileged file operations. An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could run arbitrary code with SYSTEM privileges. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights.”

Author: David Snelling
Read more here >>> Daily Express :: Tech

Olympics organizers keep tradition of giving athletes condoms, but only as they leave Tokyo

Tokyo Organizers were asked last month why they were giving condoms to athletes while also demanding they follow strict social distancing rules.

Editor’s note: This story is updated to include that Tokyo organizers have since said athletes would be given the condoms as they leave the country.

It’s been a tradition for more than 30 years at the Olympics. Games organizers give out hundreds of thousands of free condoms to athletes in the Olympic village with a message of promoting safe sex.

Once again at the Tokyo Olympics, organizers planned to give out roughly 150,000 condoms to athletes, according to reports. But athletes were also being told to basically stay away from each other due to COVID-19

Days after the apparent contradiction was revealed, organizers reportedly announced they are giving the condoms to athletes as they are leaving the country.

One of the rules found on page 34 of the most recent Tokyo Olympics playbook given to athletes says, “Avoid unnecessary forms of contact.” It specifically examples such as hugs, handshakes and high-fives. But presumably it also means any other forms of physical contact that aren’t part of competition.

The Guardian reported on June 18 that those in the Olympic village who do not follow social distancing rules could be disqualified, deported and face fines.

So with all that being said, how did Tokyo organizers explain giving out condoms to athletes while also telling them to, basically, not touch each other?

“The distribution of condoms is not for use at the athlete’s village, but to have athletes take them back to their home countries to raise awareness” around HIV and AIDS, organizers reportedly told Reuters on June 14. 

Six days after that statement, USA TODAY reported that organizers said the condoms would be handed out when athletes are departing Tokyo.

The tradition of giving out condoms goes back to the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, at the height of the HIV and AIDS scare. That year, the number of condoms given out was 8,500, according to USA TODAY. Five years ago in Rio, it was 450,000 — partly due to efforts to curb the spread of Zika.

A 2012 expose by ESPN highlighted how much physical activity happens between Olympic athletes away from the field of play. Former U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeeper Hope Solo estimated 70-75% of Olympians had sex at the Games.

Fans will be banned from Tokyo-area stadiums and arenas after the Japanese government put the capital under a COVID-19 state of emergency because of rising new infections and the highly contagious delta variant.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: Travis Pittman
Read more here >>> CBS8 – Sports

‘Our fault?!’ Fury as expert blames England for giving Scottish football fans Covid

The controversial post was made by Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. Thousands of Scotland fans, many without tickets, descended on London for their June 18 Euro 2020 match versus England.

Data from Public Health Scotland later linked the London visit to 1,294 coronavirus cases.

Scotland were only allocated 2,600 seats at Wembley, meaning many fans travelled without tickets.

Instead, they congregated around Leicester Square and Hyde Park.

Supporters were pictured singing and dancing in large groups, with social distancing guidelines largely being ignored.

Taking to Twitter on Friday, Dr Feigl-Ding said: “Bad news for UK and the rest of the world.

“Hospitalisations in England due to #DeltaVariant are now accelerating upward even faster than before, according to new data compiled by Covid-19 Actuary Response Group.

“Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all increasing in the UK.

“Scotland cases now at all time record high too. Israel cases and hospitalizations up too.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon blow as ex-SNP MP turns on FM

Dr Feigl-Ding was taken to task by some users, who argued it is unfair to blame England for Scottish fans contracting coronavirus.

One posted: “England responsible?

“The Scots came here, ignored social distancing, spread it between them and then returned to disperse it… How is that our fault?”

Another added: “How is England responsible exactly?

“The Scottish fans came in their droves unmasked on public transport and ignoring social distancing.

“Why is that England’s fault exactly???”

A third posted: “The Scots, who despite being told to stay home, travelled to England are responsible.”

A fourth commented: “Er, no, Tartan Army and Scot Exec [Executive] is responsible.”

Italian authorities have instructed England fans not to travel for Saturday’s match against Ukraine in Rome.

Police say any supporter who has been in the UK over the past two weeks will be denied entry to the stadium.

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Author: James Bickerton
Read more here >>> Daily Express :: UK Feed

Vodafone is giving one million customers free data, calls and texts

One million people will soon be offered free data, calls and text messages thanks to a new charitable initiative from Vodafone. Dubbed “Buy One, Give One”, the new offer will allow consumers who are struggling financially the chance to get a Vodafone SIM card that will keep them connected for a year. For every new and existing Vodafone Together household, which is connected entirely by Vodafone, the network will then provide a person in need with a SIM card.

Each SIM will come pre-loaded with 20GB of data plus free calls and texts each month for up to a year. These SIMs will be distributed through the Trussell Trust’s network of 1,300 food bank centres.

Vodafone says it has launched this offer in a bid to tackle digital exclusion with the network saying it hopes to meet its target of issuing one million SIMs to customers by the end of 2022.

Speaking at Vodafone’s Reinvent conference, Ahmed Essam, Vodafone UK CEO, added: “Over the last year, people across the UK have realised just how important connectivity is, and the major role it plays in many aspects of our lives – work, play, education, healthcare and keeping in touch with those closest to us.

“Today we are committing to helping one million more people get connected, and to developing the knowledge and confidence necessary in a society that increasingly demands a digital connection. ‘Buy One, Give One’ puts tackling digital poverty, and doing the right thing, at the heart of our business.”

READ MORE: There are 3 cheaper ways to stream Sky TV this month as NOW shakes things up

Along with this generous “Buy One, Give One” free SIM incentive, Vodafone has also revealed its new EVO plans which are aimed at giving customers more features and flexibility. EVO will launch later this month and allow users to choose how much they want to pay upfront for their phones and how long they want the contract to run for.

Like a mortgage, the more money you’ll willing to pay upfront for a smartphone, the smaller the monthly repayments will be. So, if you don’t have quite enough for a SIM-free iPhone 12 (£999) from the Apple Store, but have enough to make a dent – you won’t have to pay over the odds each month with your contract. And you won’t be roped-in for multiple years, either.

According to Vodafone, its EVO plans will include easier ways to upgrade each year and, for those who want to keep hold of their devices, Vodafone will even offer a free battery replacement so that your battery life is as good as new when you finish your contract.

Speaking about EVO, Max Taylor, Consumer Director at Vodafone UK, said: “In 2019, we shook up the market with 5G at no extra cost and Unlimited data plans. Now we’re changing the market again. With budgets squeezed for so many people, we’re launching a completely new way of buying a smartphone focused on ensuring our customers are in control and getting the best possible value.”

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Tech Feed

Amazon is giving away £10 to spend on ANYTHING on Prime Day, here's how to get it

Amazon is offering some customers a £10 credit to spend on any item in its upcoming sales event, Amazon Prime Day, later this month. If you’re thinking about splashing the cash during Amazon’s two-day sales, this is a great way to secure a healthy discount. To get your hands on the complimentary tenner from Jeff Bezos’ silk pocket, you’ll need to make an eligible purchase on Amazon between Monday June 7 and Sunday June 20. Amazon will only hand over £10 credit if you buy something from a small business selling on its vast retail site.

It’s a nice helping hand for small businesses that sell their products through Amazon. Thankfully, there’s a really clear “small business” banner that will appear on listings that will unlock the £10 credit, so you won’t be in any doubt whether the item you’re looking at will net you the bonus.

If you don’t have any items in your basket right now, but fancy the discount, Amazon has handpicked some eligible items here. There are multiple lists for popular categories, including homeware, electronics, toys and games, books, handmade items, pet supplies, and more. Amazon also lets you drill-down by region, so you can find a local seller.

Once you’ve made a purchase, Amazon will email you with a link to claim the £10 credit. It will then be ready and waiting on your Amazon account to redeem between June 21 and 22 during the annual Prime Day sales.

For those who don’t know, Amazon Prime Day is like Black Friday… but for Prime members.

The sales event, which started as a single day (hence the name) but has now expanded to a 48-hour shop-a-thon, sees thousands of deals in every department on the online superstore. It’s always a good time to bag a discount on Amazon’s own hardware, including Fire TV, Amazon Echo smart speakers, and its latest tablets and kindles. However, millions of other brands also get in on the action – with price drops to furniture, gardening, clothes, new TVs, video games, and much, much more.

Don’t worry if you’re not yet a Prime member, Amazon is offering a free 30-day trial that will cover you over the two-day sales, so you’ll be able to take advantage even if you’re not sure whether you want to sign-up to become a long-term member.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Tech Feed

'Others before our own!' VDL shamed as she brags about giving away half of EU jab stock

The EU Commission president boasted Brussels’ generosity on Twitter in a swipe at other countries outside the bloc who refused to export vaccines before ensuring their populations were protected. Ms von der Leyen bragged about agreeing to give away half of the 600 million vaccine doses produced in the EU to non-EU countries.

She wrote: “Out of 600 million doses produced in Europe, about 300 million have been exported to over 90 countries until now.

“If all the other vaccine producers had followed our example, the world today would be a different place.”

But the tweet backfired as furious French National Rally MEPs argued the Commission chief put the rest of the world before EU citizens’ health.

French MEP Jean-Lin Lacapelle said: “After the vaccine negotiation fiasco, the European Union, yet far behind in its vaccination campaign, and von der Leyen are pleased to have exported 300 of the 600 million doses produced in Europe.

“The rest always comes before our own!

“This is their credo…”

National Rally MEP Julie Lechanteux also blasted the Commission chief on Twitter.

She wrote: “The EU’s globalist credo in effect: 300 of the 600 million doses produced in Europe were exported to 90 countries and @vonderleyen is pleased…

“Common sense says these doses should go primarily to Europeans, but the European Commission has no common sense!”

Echoing their sentiment, MEP Jerome Riviere also added: “EU countries behind in their vaccination programme.

READ MORE: Sefcovic’s parting dig at Boris after Brexit talks end in deadlock

The resolution says only a fraction of the 11 billion shots needed to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population has been produced and that relying on pledges of excess doses from richer nations is not enough.

The text says that international trade policy needs to play a role in facilitating trade and revisiting global IP rules.

South Africa and India have been pressing for eight months at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for a temporary waiver of IP rights that could allow more manufacturers to produce shots.

Developed nations home to large pharmaceutical companies, including the European Union, have resisted, arguing a waiver would not boost production and could undermine future research and development on vaccines and therapeutics.

The non-binding resolution increases pressure on the European Commission to be constructive in WTO negotiations.

However, it is unlikely to change its view that the best and fastest way to increase production is to use the flexibility of existing IP rules, as it has proposed at the WTO.

The Commission, which oversees EU trade policy, said it was not convinced a waiver was the best option.

The resolution also puts lawmakers at odds with European Council president Charles Michel, who said a patent waiver was “not a silver bullet”.

The European Parliament resolution calls for support of “proactive, constructive and text-based negotiations” for the temporary waiver.

The text will be sent to the Commission, the Council, to all EU governments and parliaments, to the head of the World Trade Organization, G20 governments and other international institutions.

The resolution also says it regrets moves by Britain and the United States to create a re-sale market to sell surplus vaccines to other industrialised countries and urges both to abolish export restrictions on vaccines and their required raw materials.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: World Feed

Chelsea chief Marina Granovskaia explains reason for giving Thomas Tuchel a new contract

Speaking after the win over City in Porto last Saturday, the 47-year-old insisted the victory was just the start of something special.

“We have a strong group who can really defend and defending is a huge part of football,” Tuchel said.

“They have a huge energy together and they can deliver under pressure.

“So this sets the level for us and once the celebrations are over and we have all digested this experience, it’s the moment to grow, to evolve, and to use it to become better.

“A lot of young players had this huge success and now it’s a big challenge to stay hungry and to go for the next one.”

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Sport Feed