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CNN  — 

On the same day that three former US presidents joined in a moving tribute to civil rights hero John Lewis and just after the release of government data showing the worst quarterly plunge in economic activity ever recorded, President Donald Trump tried to seize control of the news agenda with a jaw-dropping suggestion: Consider delaying the November election.

The idea, delivered in a tweet Thursday morning, was quickly blasted by commentators – even members of Trump’s own party in Congress. But it did keep his name in the headlines.

It’s insulting to the American public to even suggest that this sacred constitutional right should be undermined by an authoritarian President tanking in the national polls to Joe Biden,” wrote historian Douglas Brinkley. “From the earliest days of the republic, regular elections and orderly transfer of power have been signatures of American democracy,” he added, noting that even in wartime voting dates have been sacred.

But the tweet had a purpose, John Avlon pointed out: to sow doubt in the election results. Trump “is terrified that he will be exposed as a loser,” and is “willing to dismantle faith in our democracy to avoid that personal pain.”

In the New Yorker, Susan Glasser warned, “this is the kind of statement that should haunt your dreams. It is wannabe-dictator talk. It is dangerous even if it is not attached to any actions. And those who think that some actions will not follow have not been paying attention. My alarm stems from having covered Russia when Vladimir Putin was dismantling the fragile, flawed democratic institutions that the country had established after the fall of the Soviet Union.”

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“The upcoming election is our biggest opportunity to check a runaway President,” noted Julian Zelizer. But with his attacks on the legitimacy of the election and on mail-in voting, Zelizer wrote, “Trump is now going after a core pillar of our democracy … will anyone do anything about it before it is too late?

George Stern administers elections in Colorado’s Jefferson County, the state’s fourth-largest. Under state law, all voters get a ballot by mail, but they also have the option to vote in person. Voting by mail increases turnout, saves money and “delivers acclaimed security,” he wrote.

Watching John Lewis’ funeral, former Ronald Reagan aide Mark Weinberg noted that it was clear that former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama “believed deeply in the goodness of America, the nobility of public service, and the promise of our future.” Trump chose not to attend the service, and he did not pay respects in person when Lewis’ body was lying in state at the Capitol. “It was not lost on anyone who watched on Thursday that the man who lives and works where Clinton, Bush, and Obama did, disrespected a national hero and shrank from the moment,” Weinberg wrote.

Biden’s big reveal

Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden has been running a low-key campaign from his Delaware home. It may be all he needs to win, since the polls show him well out in front of Trump. But he will have all eyes upon him very soon: the moment he picks his running mate. He’s promised to decide this coming week, though the choice may be announced later.

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    A possible peek at his thinking came Tuesday, when an Associated Press photographer captured Biden holding handwritten notes about Sen. Kamala Harris, including the phrases “Do not hold grudges” and “Great respect for her.”

    Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump argued that Harris is the right choice for vice president, describing her as a “change agent at every level of government – local, state, and federal – for 30 years.” After watching her “skewer witness after witness testifying at Senate hearings,” he wrote, “I know exactly who I want to see go toe-to-toe with Mike Pence.”

    Jonathan Alter made the case for former National Security Adviser Susan Rice in a Washington Monthly piece, citing her deep background in international issues and her “critically important experience in the executive branch.”

    In the Los Angeles Times in late June, George Skelton described another contender, Rep. Karen Bass, as “smart, energetic and successful at achieving goals — such as shepherding a sweeping police reform bill through the House last week and attaining major reforms in foster children programs a decade ago as speaker of the California Assembly.”

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    Trump’s beautiful suburbs

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    President Trump hammered at his message to suburban voters this week, promising via Twitter that “people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream … will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood.” It’s not an accident that he is taking this tack as the election nears. As Monica Hesse noted in the Washington Post, suburban women strongly disapprove of Trump’s job performance.

    “He assumed that this demographic would respond well to barely disguised racial fearmongering,” Hesse wrote. “His understanding of women voters is based on six reruns of ‘Happy Days’ plus a vacuum cleaner ad from 1957.”

    Outdated indeed, wrote Lawrence C. Levy, who heads the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University. “So much about the suburbs has changed, from an influx of minorities who brought their Democratic Party preferences with them, to the relative rarity of women who only stay at home with their kids instead of also holding down a job outside the home and volunteering for quality of life causes. The days of the suburbs as diversity deserts are long gone.

    Trump may be well behind in the polls, but his message is getting through to at least some voters in swing states, wrote Rich Thau, who has conducted focus groups in places like Macomb County, Michigan. Voters who went for Obama and Trump in earlier races “think a businessman is best suited to turn the country around economically. They feel Covid-19 was not Trump’s fault, and he’s doing the best he can to contain it. They conflate the Black Lives Matter protesters with the rioters attacking federal buildings and retail shops. They don’t want historic monuments torn down. And they dismiss defunding the police as ridiculous,” Thau wrote. “Pay a lot of attention to those voters who don’t pay much attention at all. They may be telling us something very important.”

    Joe Biden could still lose the election, wrote Joe Lockhart. His advice to the former vice president: “Don’t be afraid to be boring” and “Don’t take the bait” from Trump and perhaps most controversially, “Whatever you do, don’t debate Trump.”

    For more on politics:

    Frida Ghitis: Trump turns into a pussycat on all things Puti

    Steve Israel and Doug Kriner: Why don’t all cities with high rates of crime get the same Trump treatment?

    Michael D’Antonio: Americans are dying of Covid-19 and Trump is pouting about Fauci

    Jill Filipovic: Repulsive anti-Semitism – from the right and left – needs to have consequences

    Laura Coates: Barr’s falsehoods and fallacies undermine his own department

    Harder times

    To add to the gloom induced by the stunning drop in the quarterly GDP numbers, the extra $600 in weekly Covid-era unemployment benefits expired Friday and there’s little sign negotiators are close to agreement on a new stimulus bill.

    Michael Linden of the Roosevelt Institute, writing for the CNN Business Perspectives section, wrote that the conservative case against extending the $600 benefit is mistaken. Yes, some workers are getting more in benefits than they would have received in wages but that doesn’t mean they prefer to stay unemployed, Linden wrote.

    For one thing, most of the unemployed have to pay for health insurance and other benefits they no longer receive. “I’m sure few people would pass up the relative stability of a job for an unemployment insurance benefit with an uncertain future, even if that benefit is higher than normal,” he said.

    By contrast, Rachel Greszler of the Heritage Foundation wrote that businesses are right to worry that it will be harder to get workers back to work if the $600 benefit is extended. “Taking money from future taxpayers to support policies that discourage people from working and that take jobs out of the economy won’t help the recovery or individuals’ and families’ long-term wellbeing,” she wrote. “But getting Americans safely back to work will.”

    Dean Obeidallah said millions of Americans are depending on Congress to come to their aid.

    Food banks reported “50% more people being served than last July and more than 26% of Americans recently reported being unable to pay rent last month or having no confidence they can pay rent next month. Take away this $600 weekly assistance and the number of families going hungry and at risk of losing their homes whenever any extension of the eviction moratorium inevitably ends will skyrocket.”

    Barack Obama and John Lewis

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    On the day Barack Obama took the oath of office as President, he hugged Rep. John Lewis “and said his victory had been made possible only by the sacrifices Lewis made,” wrote Dorothy Brown. Obama repaid some of that debt with his eulogy saluting Lewis at his funeral. She quoted Obama saying, “Bull Connor may be gone but today we witness with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of Black Americans. George Wallace may be gone, but we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators.”

    Obama’s election in 2008 marked the start of America’s Third Reconstruction, wrote Peniel E. Joseph. But “dreams that a Black president could prove transformative to national race relations proved short-lived. … The 2016 election of Donald J. Trump revealed the depth and breadth of racial resentment and fear among those who correctly interpreted the phrase ‘Make America Great Again’ as a call for a restoration of white supremacy…”

    America faces a stark choice, according to Joseph: “a liberated future that acknowledges past racial sins in a generational effort at atonement and repair” or “willful blinders that got us in this mess, aided by rationalizations that describe incomprehensible evil as the cost of doing business.”

    Covid-19 toll

    The US pandemic death toll reached 150,000 this week, and one leading model predicts that another 80,000 people could die by November.

    “There are now more than four million confirmed cases in the US,” wrote Peter Bergen, “a quarter of the total number of known cases in the world, yet Americans make up just over 4% of the global population.”

    “How the US got here has much to do with a catastrophic failure of national leadership. The federal government abdicated its role by not issuing a national shutdown order and a mandate to wear masks … by prioritizing ‘reopening’ over public health, the nation has chosen to accept that many hundreds of thousands of Americans will die of Covid-19.

    As scientists rush to create and test vaccines, Robert Klitzman warned, we should be careful about accepting shortcuts. Some people have proposed “human challenge” trials that “would allow researchers to intentionally expose all participants to the virus to assess the experimental vaccine’s effect more quickly.” The problem? “If a controlled infection trial of a vaccine fails after all the participants have been infected, some will likely get very sick and die. While we shouldn’t automatically reject the possibility of human challenge trials, given the number of lives that could be saved with an early vaccine, we need to proceed very cautiously.”

    In the meantime, there’s one vaccine people should take starting in September even though it doesn’t prevent the coronavirus, wrote Dr. Richard Webby. “With the intersection of influenza season, the spread of Covid-19 and discussion of children returning to school, it is more imperative than at any point in our lifetimes for every American older than 6 months (with rare exceptions) to get the flu vaccine as recommended by the CDC starting in September. The flu shot is a valuable and life-saving public health tool that remains the best defense against an influenza virus that kills and sickens too many of our friends, neighbors and family members each year.”

    For more on Covid-19:

    Fiana Garza Tulip: Why I’ve been so vocal about my mom’s Covid-19 story

    Erin Bromage: Encouraging signs our immune system may be able to fight off Covid-19 reinfection

    Kent Sepkowitz: How Covid-19 death rates can be dangerously misleading

    Worrying sign for schools

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    The pandemic-shortened baseball season is off to a shaky start, with games canceled as teams discover players who have contracted Covid-19. It doesn’t bode well for school reopenings, wrote Amy Bass, especially since schools often lack the scale of resources equivalent to what major league teams have. “Baseball is now a microcosm of how to best battle our imploding failures, a grand experiment for our other institutions, perhaps especially the public schools that the man in the White House is so eager to reopen so America can get ‘back to work,’” she wrote.

    Kathi Valeii, who lives in Southwest Michigan, watches with some sadness out her living room window as her daughter, who’s in third grade, rides her bike.

    “I see her isolated childhood sliding by in slow motion; the days endless, the pandemic a long tunnel we can’t yet see out of. You’d think I’d be part of the rallying cry to open up the schools, but I’m not,” she wrote. “Considering in-person instruction as cases continue to climb is unfathomable. … People refuse to wear masks during a 30-minute shopping excursion. Is this really a battle we expect teachers and staff to engage in on buses and in narrow hallways and classrooms? These are unfair burdens to put on school staff.

    Many women are also facing an undue burden, wrote Rep. Katherine Clark, vice chair of the Democratic Caucus and Fatima Goss Graves, CEO of the National Women’s Law Center. “In five short, devastating months, the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the inequities at the heart of America’s economy and our society,” they wrote. “Entire workforces are being asked to sacrifice their own safety – and even their lives – to keep the economy running. Even those lucky enough to work from home are often simultaneously forced to serve as teacher and caregiver with little support, dwindling savings, and no certain timeline for when this will all be over.”

    Two bills before Congress would shore up essential access to child care for women who need to find new work, and will help protect child care workers, they write. “Unless Congress acts, the advances of women workers over the last 50 years will be jeopardized, blocking women from the workforce and denying our daughters a chance to reach their full potential.”

    Don’t miss:

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    Dipayan Ghosh: How Congress can expose the silent dangers of big tech

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    Michelle Slatalla: Melania Trump’s brilliant Rose Garden idea


    The message from nature

    Poppy, pictured here in August 2015, was the last living mountain gorilla made famous by Dian Fossey in "Gorillas in the Mist."

    Tara Stoinski’s scientific career has focused on protecting mountain gorillas in Rwanda – the “gorillas in the mist” who became famous due to the work of Dian Fossey, the zoologist after whom Stoinski’s nonprofit is named. Fossey was found murdered in 1985 in her cabin in Rwanda.

    “Dian thought mountain gorillas would be extinct by the year 2000, but instead, they are coming back from the brink, with their numbers slowly but steadily growing over the past three decades,” Stoinski wrote. It’s an example worth paying attention to, but it’s also dwarfed by a larger trend.

    “Human exploitation of the earth’s remaining wild places, like the Congo basin, is destroying habitats at an unprecedented rate. In 2017 alone, we lost 39 million acres of tropical rainforest – the equivalent of 40 football fields each minute. We are also decimating wildlife populations, with more than one million species now threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature,” she wrote.

    Destroying nature threatens to spread novel diseases, such as the one the world is fighting right now, Covid-19: “Ebola. Zika. West Nile. Lyme. HIV. These are all diseases that, like the novel coronavirus, existed in animal populations before they were able to successfully make the leap to humans. People-focused wildlife conservation provides one avenue to preserving wild spaces and stopping this animal-to-human disease ‘jump.’”

    Stoinski concluded, “We need to muster the political will to scale people-focused conservation to protect broader swaths of habitat worldwide. The natural world is trying to send us a message, but we need to listen.