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Senate nears pivotal vote on bipartisan infrastructure deal that’s still unwritten

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will force a vote next Wednesday on advancing the bipartisan infrastructure package, a hardball tactic aimed at moving President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda forward before the August recess.

“Everyone has been having productive conversations and it’s important to keep the two-track process moving,” Schumer said in a floor speech Thursday. “All parties involved in the bipartisan infrastructure bill talks must now finalize their agreement so that the Senate can begin considering that legislation next week.”

The New York Democrat added that he is setting the same deadline for the Democratic caucus to reach a consensus on a budget resolution setting up a $ 3.5 trillion social spending plan.

The fate of Wednesday’s vote, however, remains uncertain. Although Democrats expressed optimism about the timetable, Republicans were less sure. At the moment, it’s not clear whether 10 Republicans will vote to advance the bipartisan bill.

When asked whether he was confident the bipartisan group would meet Schumer’s deadline, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the group negotiating the bipartisan framework, had a blunt response: “No.”

“We’re not done yet,” Rounds said. “I don’t think we’re going to have any artificial deadlines. I think we’re going to do our best to get done in an expeditious fashion, but if we were successful in coming to an agreement, it’d be great to have it done before” August recess.

Schumer’s timetable comes as the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure negotiators are unlikely to meet their own self-imposed Thursday deadline to resolve outstanding issues among members, according to two sources familiar with the talks. The group met again early Thursday afternoon, but members still need to resolve key disagreements over how to pay for the $ 1.2 trillion physical infrastructure deal that Biden supports. The bipartisan group met Tuesday evening and made progress, but a host of questions about spending priorities also remain unanswered.

Among the proposed funding sources that could change is a provision related to IRS enforcement, a source of controversy for Republicans. One Senate Democrat suggested that money from increased IRS enforcement could instead be used to pay for for Democrats’ $ 3.5 trillion package.

Members of the group are racing to turn the bipartisan framework they announced last month into legislative text, and Schumer’s deadline will only add pressure to wrap up the discussions. Several Senate Republicans interpreted it as an effort to sink the bipartisan talks, given the absence of legislative text and the likelihood that members will not yet have a score from the Congressional Budget Office by Wednesday.

“Why in the world would you vote for something that hasn’t been written yet,” asked Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a McConnell confidante. “I don’t know whether Sen. Schumer is just setting this all up to fail so he can then move to the budget. That may part of his Machiavellian scheme.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who attempted to negotiate a bipartisan infrastructure package but failed, interpreted Schumer’s move as an attempt “to put pressure on the group to either put up or shut up.”

Schumer will take the first steps toward moving the bipartisan physical infrastructure proposal Monday, using a House bill as a legislative vehicle that would later be amended to reflect the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure deal. Even if a deal is clinched and the Senate votes to move ahead on the bill next week, it will likely take days or even weeks to finish its work on the bipartisan legislation because of intense desire to vote on amendments to a bill likely to win Biden’s signature.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, has vowed that the House will not move forward on the bipartisan infrastructure package until the Senate passes a budget setting up the $ 3.5 trillion social spending package. Senior Democrats do not expect that calculation to change based on the Senate’s latest moves.

And with Democrats just starting to hash out the details of that party-line spending package, it could be weeks, if not months, before the House takes up the bipartisan bill.

Both the physical infrastructure and social spending bills are top priorities for Biden, who attended a Senate Democratic caucus lunch Wednesday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has withheld judgment so far on the bipartisan plan, encouraging his members to view it as a separate effort from Democrats’ $ 3.5 trillion bill. Several Republicans have expressed concerns about its financing and are waiting for an official score from the Congressional Budget Office once the bill’s text is completed.

Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.

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

Athlete, Olympic workers test positive for COVID as opening nears

A foreign athlete and five Olympic workers in Japan have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Tokyo 2020 organisers.

The cases, announced on Thursday, marked the latest infections to emerge among people involved with the Summer Games, which are due to begin next week, and have raised new concerns about the spread of coronavirus at the global sporting event.

In a statement on its website, Tokyo 2020 said the six people – which included several contractors – had tested positive for the virus on July 13 and 14. It did not disclose any further details about the athlete or the staffers.

Japan’s NHK broadcaster said the athlete was observing a 14-day period of isolation and has not yet relocated to the Athlete’s Village in Tokyo, where 11,000 athletes will stay and mingle during the games that run from July 23 till August 8.

NHK also said the case marked the “first time that a foreign athlete who is staying at or was heading to a facility managed by the organising committee has been found to have the coronavirus”.

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News of the latest cases came after Russia’s RIA news agency reported on Wednesday that a masseur with the Russian women’s rugby sevens team had been hospitalised after testing positive for COVID-19.

An official in the Russian team’s host town of Munakata, in western Japan, told the AFP news agency that the delegation, which included 16 athletes and 10 staff members, had landed at a Tokyo airport on July 10, and has had no close contact with local officials or residents.

The official said the rest of the Russian team was now quarantining in their accommodation, adding that if they tested negative on Thursday, they would be able to resume training as early as Friday.

COVID cluster at Olympic hotel

Also on Wednesday, a COVID-19 cluster was detected at a hotel hosting Brazilian Olympic team members. Eight staff at the hotel in Hamamatsu city, southwest of Tokyo, were found to have the virus during a routine screening. But a city official told AFP that the 31-strong Brazilian Olympic delegation was in a “bubble” at the hotel, separated from the other guests, and that none of the infected staff had come in contact with the athletes.

Separately, a city official in Kagoshima city said 21 members of the South African rugby team were also in isolation after they came in close contact with a positive case on their flight to Japan. The official said the team was due to stay in the city from Wednesday, but that plan has been halted until further advice from health authorities.

The spreading infections highlight the challenges ahead for organisers, although they note that only a handful of cases have been detected so far among more than 8,000 people who have entered Japan since July 1.

The sporting event is taking place even though the host city, Tokyo, remains under a coronavirus-related state of emergency that will run until after the games end. The Japanese capital is battling a surge in COVID-19 infections, spurred by the highly contagious Delta variant. On Wednesday, it reported 1,149 new COVID-19 cases, the highest figure since January.

Banners of teams from Brazil are seen on a building at the Olympic and Paralympic Village in Tokyo on July 14, 2021, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which begins on July 23 [Behrouz Mehri/AFP]
People walk by the Olympic rings installed by the Nippon Bashi bridge in Tokyo on Thursday, July 15, 2021 [Hiro Komae/AP Photo]

‘Historic games’

The rise in cases, coupled with a sluggish vaccination campaign, has resulted in a loss of public support for the Olympics in Japan, with many fearing the games could trigger a surge of infections and a rise in new variants.

In a bid to allay those fears, Tokyo 2020 organisers have banned all spectators from all Olympic events in the capital and surrounding regions, and have imposed Olympic “bubbles” to restrict contact between visitors and the wider Japanese public. But medical experts are worried that they might not be completely tight as the movement of staff servicing the games can create opportunities for infection.

Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) who is in Japan for the July 23 opening ceremony, met Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday and reiterated a pledge to implement measures to avoid bringing “any risks to the Japanese people”.

Bach also told Suga that 85 percent of the participating athletes and 100 percent of IOC members and staff were “vaccinated or immune”. He also praised the organisers and the Japanese people for staging the event amid the pandemic, telling reporters after the meeting that “these will be historic Olympic Games … for the way how the Japanese people overcame so many challenges in the last couple of years”.

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When Japan was awarded the games in 2013, they were expected to be a celebration of recovery from a deadly earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident in 2011.

Japanese leaders had also hoped the rescheduled games this year would help mark a global victory over the coronavirus, but many countries are now struggling with new surges in infections.

An Ipsos poll of 28 countries, released on Tuesday, showed muted global interest in the Tokyo Olympics due to the concerns over COVID-19 in Japan as well as withdrawals of high-profile athletes.

The poll found a global average of 46 percent interest in the games, while in Japan, 78 percent of people were against the event going ahead.

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This post originally posted here Al Jazeera – Breaking News, World News and Video from Al Jazeera

U.S. Leaves Largest Afghan Base as Full Withdrawal Nears

With little fanfare, Bagram Air Base was handed over to the Afghan government, ending nearly two decades in which the Americans waged war from there.

KABUL, Afghanistan—American troops and their Western allies have departed Bagram, Afghanistan’s largest air base, officials said on Friday, turning over to the Afghan government the sprawling outpost from which the United States waged war for nearly two decades.

With little fanfare and no public ceremony, American troops left the base on Thursday night, U.S. and Afghan officials said.

The Afghan military “will protect the base and use it to combat terrorism,” said Fawad Aman, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense.

The closure of Bagram, a symbol of America’s costly operations in Afghanistan, comes just weeks before the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops, who entered the country in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The U.S. will leave a contingent of 650 troops to protect the United States Embassy in Kabul, the capital.

The departure comes at a perilous time for Afghanistan.

Some U.S. intelligence estimates predict that the Afghan government could fall to its rivals, the Taliban, in as little as six months after the Americans complete their withdrawal. The Taliban are inching closer to Kabul after having taken about a quarter of the country’s districts in the last two months.

Hundreds if not thousands of members of the Afghan security forces have surrendered in recent weeks, while their counterattacks have taken back little territory from the Taliban. And as the Afghan forces fracture, regional militias have appeared with renewed prominence, in an echo of the 1990s civil war.

“Civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized,” the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin S. Miller, told reporters on Tuesday. Though the last 40 years of conflict in Afghanistan could be seen as civil war, a return to the fractious era of warlords and armed fiefdoms has long been feared.

With a line of snow-capped mountains as its backdrop, the Bagram airfield was built in the 1950s by the Soviet Union. It became a vital military hub during the Soviets’ 10-year occupation of Afghanistan. After the Soviets withdrew in 1989, the Taliban and what was known as the Northern Alliance fought for the base, sometimes with their trenches at either end.

By 2001, the United States had inherited rubble at the Bagram site. In January 2002, when the first American service member killed by enemy fire, Sgt. 1st Class Nathan R. Chapman, was sent home, there were no American flags to drape on his casket, so a flag patch from someone’s uniform had to suffice.

By 2011, at the height of the American war, the base had ballooned into a small city, with two runaways, tens of thousands of occupants, shops and a U.S. military prison that became notorious for its use as a C.I.A. black site.

Author: Thomas Gibbons-Neff
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

Man Utd 'agree Jadon Sancho transfer fee' with Borussia Dortmund as deal nears completion

Manchester United have finally agreed a fee with Borussia Dortmund to sign Jadon Sancho, reports in Germany now claim. The Red Devils have been locked in negotiations with the Bundesliga club for what feels like an eternity but the two parties are now ready to sign off the deal after finding common ground.

United have been working on the deal for way over a year now having tried to sign Sancho last summer and the winger has been on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s radar for nearly two years.

Back in October, United saw an offer of £90million rebuffed by Dortmund, who wanted up to £108m for the 21-year-old.

Sancho’s market value then dipped following a difficult campaign and Dortmund have been keen to demand closer to £80m since the end of last season.

Sky Germany now claim United have agreed to pay that after upping their offer.

Last week, United saw a bid in the region of £67million rejected by Dortmund but now they have agreed to pay an initial £75m with a further £5m in add-ons to follow.

However, the report states that while the clubs have agreed on a fee, they are yet to finalise the payment structure.

Dortmund have always been clear that they wanted a lump sum up front as opposed to instalments.

Manchester City are also expected to net around 15 per cent of the transfer fee after selling Sancho to Dortmund in 2017.

His potential arrival at Old Trafford could spell the end of Anthony Martial’s United career though with the club keen to move the Frenchman on.

They will invite offers for Martial this summer and would want to recoup close to £50million.

United are not expected to complete the signing of Sancho until after the European Championships.

Gareth Southgate has already made it clear that he does not want transfer sagas distracting his camp.

Despite that, it’s understood Sancho’s lack of minutes at Euro 2020 is unrelated to his future.

It’s been reported that Southgate has not been overly impressed by Sancho’s performances in training at St George’s Park.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Sport Feed

Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure deal nears its big reveal

Details on how to pay for the proposal remain elusive, though the group has identified funding mechanisms for legislation that could total more than $ 1 trillion when new spending is included with the current transportation baseline. The White House has rejected proposals to gradually increase the gas tax alongside inflation as well as charge fees for electric vehicles. And Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday questioned such heavy reliance on public-private partnerships.

Details have remained scant other than an early spending breakdown from last week, and there’s been no public disclosure of the still-evolving talks as everything remains in flux. President Joe Biden’s trip overseas last week was an additional complication. The group could make an announcement on more details this week.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who separately sought a deal with Biden, said on Monday that Biden’s increased engagement will be helpful “because he really wants the bipartisan deal.” But she also said the brushback from the White House to the bipartisan group’s proposed pay-fors “is the same pushback I got.”

“Pay-fors will be the big issue. As it was with me,” Capito said, noting the Senate is about to take a two-week recess. “We’re only here this week.”

Biden is expected to meet with negotiators this week, according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

The spending breakdown was circulated among the negotiating senators to help set up congressional committees who would begin drafting legislation, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The source said the document on Monday is a “fair representation” of where things stand but the numbers are subject to change.

The group proposes spending $ 360 billion for roads, bridges and major projects; $ 48.5 billion for public transit; $ 66 billion for rail; $ 55 billion for water infrastructure; $ 65 billion for broadband and $ 73 billion for power infrastructure. In addition, the group is proposing spending $ 47.2 billion on climate resiliency, $ 25 billion for airports, $ 10 billion on electric buses and $ 16 billion for ports.

It also outlines bringing in pieces of a large Energy Committee bill that Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is working on to deal with abandoned mines, weatherization and power and climate related provisions.

Many of the top-line numbers include a more detailed breakdown of the proposed spending. For example, of the $ 360 billion for roads and bridges, $ 258 billion is for highways, $ 40 billion is for bridges and the rest is for transportation alternatives, federal lands and tribal infrastructure. Of that money, $ 110 billion represents new spending.

The group proposed spending about $ 830 billion, according to an outline obtained by POLITICO, which includes some current spending on highway programs. Altogether, the new spending is still set to total $ 579 billion and total spending is expected to clock in around $ 1 trillion or more, depending on the timeline of how the money is parceled out.

But not all of the spending figures are finalized, and some of those details may require more work among the group’s 21 supporters. Last week, the group swept up support of 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans, though many Democrats are hesitant to sign on without more certainty about how to fulfill the party’s other priorities.

Senators still need to refine how to pay for the bill. Republicans say any agreement must be fully paid for and not raise taxes. And negotiators now must replace the gas tax and electric vehicle fees they had previously discussed.

Complicating things further, liberals are also pushing for commitments from their party leaders to pass a more sweeping spending package dealing with Democratic priorities like climate change and paid leave alongside a bipartisan deal.

Manchin, who is part of the working group, has not signaled yet whether he would commit to a package that only has Democratic support and would potentially contain trillions of spending for Democrats’ domestic priorities. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has Democrats on a “two-track” system, playing out the bipartisan negotiations while also preparing a possible party-line fallback plan under budget reconciliation.

A pair of officials from Biden’s legislative affairs team reiterated the dual-track approach in a call with senior House Democratic aides on Monday, according to several people listening.

Shuwanza Goff and Louisa Terrell said they are looking at both a bipartisan bill and reconciliation option, while assuring Democratic staffers that the White House was committed to going big.

“We’re not going to waste our time,” Terrell said on the call.

Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.

Author: Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine
This post originally appeared on Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

Man Utd have Jadon Sancho agreement with Dortmund as £81.5m transfer nears completion

Manchester United have agreed to pay Borussia Dortmund most of their £81.5million asking price for Jadon Sancho up front, according to reports. The England international is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s main aim for the summer transfer window. And a blockbuster move to Old Trafford now seems close to completion.

Manchester United have admired Sancho for a number of years.

The club first tried to sign the England international from Manchester City in 2017, only to miss out to Borussia Dortmund instead.

And, since then, it’s been a similar story.

United thought they could get Sancho two years ago but, after failing to finish in the Premier League top four, swooped for Daniel James instead.

And they also missed out 12 months ago, walking away from a deal after Borussia Dortmund’s massive £108m price tag put them off.

Now, United are hoping to succeed when it comes to Sancho.

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And the Mirror claim they’ve agreed to pay Dortmund most of their £81.5m asking price for Sancho up front, rather than in instalments.

United have used structured payments to sign players in the past but the German side would prefer to bank a large sum all in one go so it can be used on potential replacements.

At last, United’s pursuit of Sancho appears to be nearing completion.

And he’s not the only player the club are hoping to land in this summer’s transfer window, with Solskjaer also eyeing reinforcements in multiple other departments.

Up top, a return for Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t been ruled out.

The Juventus star already appears to have said goodbye to the Serie A giants, who are determined to get him off the wage bill following the return of Massimiliano Allegri as manager.


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Ronaldo previously spent six successful years at United, winning every major trophy including the Champions League crown in 2008 and three straight Premier League crowns.

And with Solskjaer keen to use Edinson Cavani carefully next term, it’s possible United will go after the 36-year-old despite him entering the twilight years of his career.

At the back, Raphael Varane is their main aim.

However, there has been speculation from Spain that United are also in the mix to sign Sergio Ramos – who will be available on a free transfer following his release from Real Madrid.

At right-back, Kieran Trippier is wanted to help Aaron Wan-Bissaka improve.

And, when it comes to the central midfield areas, United have interest in West Ham’s Declan Rice and Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish.

Speaking earlier this month, meanwhile, United owner Joel Glazer vowed to back Solskjaer on the transfer front and turn the club into a major force again.

“Our goal is to win every competition we compete in, and we will continue to invest in our Academy and in the transfer market to support the manager in an effort to meet the club’s goals,” he said.

“As a club we have devoted a lot of time and resources over the last several years updating and further developing our vast global scouting network to adapt to the modern football environment.

“This is a project that should provide a foundation for long-term success in the years to come.

“In addition, as you all know, we have also been focused on growing and developing our women’s team in line with the traditions and values of the club, and we are committed to continuing that process.”

And he then added: “It [debt and dividend payments] has never stood in the way of us pursuing players or transfers on the pitch.

“We may have walked away from transfers at times because the other side wanted an outlandish number. And while it’s easy to pay it that one time, it does have consequences.

“You do it once and the next person expects it, and then the next person expects it. And that’s not good, ultimately, for the club. So, we think that we’re able to accomplish all these things and still have.

“We’re going to keep investing on the pitch, which we did last year, and we plan on doing it meaningfully this year. So, we feel that we’re in a good spot.”

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Sport Feed

Altcoins and DeFi tokens breakout as Bitcoin price nears a key resistance

Weary cryptocurrency traders awoke to the sight of green in the markets on May 2, as bulls managed to bid the price of Bitcoin (BTC) above the crucial “line in the sand” resistance at $ 37,500, while Ether (ETH) briefly traded at $ 2,800.

The rising price of both BTC and ETH has been accompanied by double-digit gains in multiple altcoins, leading some to speculate that the market is currently experiencing an oversold bounce following the recent downturn.

Price, Twitter and trading volume data. Source: Cointelegraph Markets Pro

The leader of the pack for this most recent rally is once again Dogecoin (DOGE), which rallied 28% to an intraday high at $ 0.4446 following the June 1 announcement that the token would be listed on Coinbase Pro and renewed Twitter promotion from Elon Musk.

Data from Cointelegraph Markets Pro began to detect the bullish turn for DOGE on May 31, prior to the recent price rise and ahead of the Coinbase Pro announcement.

The VORTECS™ Score, exclusive to Cointelegraph, is an algorithmic comparison of historic and current market conditions derived from a combination of data points including market sentiment, trading volume, recent price movements and Twitter activity.

VORTECS™ Score (green) vs. DOGE price. Source: Cointelegraph Markets Pro

As seen in the chart above, the VORTECS™ Score for DOGE began to register green on May 31 and reached a high of 74 on June 1, just 14 hours before the system registered the NewsQuake™ announcement of DOGE being listed on Coinbase Pro, which was followed by a 45% rally.

DeFi projects gain traction

Cointelegraph Markets Pro data for Kyber Network’s KNC token shows that market conditions for the project have been favorable for some time.

VORTECS™ Score (green) vs. KNC price. Source: Cointelegraph Markets Pro

As seen in the chart above, the VORTECS™ Score for KNC shifted into the green zone on May 31 and stayed elevated for the next two days before reaching a high of 74 on June 1 when its price began a 75% rally.

Another DeFi-focused project that was identified by Cointelegraph Markets Pro ahead of its recent price move is Kava, which has gained 36% in the past 24 hours and currently trades at $ 4.68.

VORTECS™ Score (green) vs. KAVA price. Source: Cointelegraph Markets Pro

As seen in the chart above, conditions for KAVA have been bullish for some time, as evidenced by the sustained green VORTECS™ Score over the past week. The VORTECS™ Score for KAVA reached a high of 75 on May 31, roughly 48 hours before starting a 45% price rally.

The May 19 correction wiped out $ 1.2 trillion in value across the crypto market, and while shockwaves from the historic correction are still reverberating throughout the market, a handful of DeFi tokens and altcoins are beginning to show signs of bullish momentum. 

This suggests that cautious traders are slowly easing their way back into the market in hopes that the second leg of the 2021 bull market could be underway.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and you should conduct your own research when making a decision.