Harris promises to offer free tuition for low-income students at public and historically Black colleges


Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris welcomed by a marching band at Florida Memorial University, a historically Black private university, on Thursday.


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Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris promised Thursday that a Biden-Harris administration would make college tuition free at public schools and private historically Black colleges and universities for students whose families’ income is below $125,000 a year, and pledged student-loan debt forgiveness for some graduates of HBCUs.

“In relation to the history of HBCUs, [students] decide to take on a profession of service, which often does not pay as well as if they go into the private sector and do other things,” Harris said at a roundtable discussion held at Florida Memorial University, a historically Black private university. “So for those students who come out and have jobs that pay less than $125,000, student-loan debt will also be forgiven.”

Harris also promised to invest $70 billion in historically Black colleges and universities.

Additionally, she said that two-year college programs would be free for low-income Americans.

“We want to support our young people for whatever they pursue by way of education after high school,” Harris said. “For some that will be a college and university, for some it will be a two-year program, or an apprenticeship, or something of that nature, and we want to make sure that we support them in that quest.”

Harris made the remarks in response to Jaffus Hardrick, president of Florida Memorial University, who said that “we are literally working on a shoestring budget” amid the economic decline caused by the pandemic that has forced many students to reconsider attending college.

During her short-lived presidential campaign, Harris proposed making community college free.

Her remarks came in the key swing state of Florida, where 29 electoral votes are up for grabs, the most among any of the major swing states. Former President Barack Obama claimed the state by a thin margin in the 2008 and 2012 elections. President Donald Trump, however, won it in the 2016 election.

In a RealClearPolitics moving average of polls focused on top swing states that are likely to decide the election, Democrat Joe Biden had an edge of 3.9 percentage points over Trump as of Thursday, but his edge in Florida was just 1.2 points.

Before addressing the roundtable, Harris took a jab at Trump, citing the interview he had with Bob Woodward where he said “I wanted to always play it down,” referring to the threat of the looming pandemic.

“He suggested that to wear a mask is a sign of weakness as opposed to a sign of strength,” she said. “This is the president of the United States.”

Earlier in the day, Harris visited Doral, a neighborhood of Miami with a high concentration of Venezuelans.

Two days prior, Trump also visited South Florida, where he signed an order extending a moratorium on offshore drilling around Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Biden is scheduled to visit the Sunshine State on Sept. 15.



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Homeland Security whistle-blower says he was pressured to alter intelligence on Russia and white supremacists to match Trump preferences


Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf testifies during a hearing before Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.


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WASHINGTON (AP) — An official at the Department of Homeland Security said in a whistle-blower complaint released Wednesday that he was pressured by agency leaders to suppress details in his intelligence reports that President Donald Trump might find objectionable, including intelligence on Russian interference in the election and the threat posed by white supremacists.

Brian Murphy says in a whistle-blower complaint filed with the agency’s inspector general that he was demoted for refusing to alter his intelligence reports in an “illegal and improper” manner.

The former FBI agent and Marine Corps veteran had served as principal deputy under secretary in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis.

In August, he was demoted to assistant to the deputy under secretary for DHS Management.

“Mr. Murphy is, put simply, a dedicated public servant who has had a laudable career prior to the recent events that have led to the submission of this package to the OIG,” his complaint states. “Prior to his current circumstances, he had never had so much as a negative fitness report in his professional career with the U.S. Government.”

In his complaint, he alleges that former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, current acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, repeatedly pressed him to change intelligence assessments in ways that would support administration policies or avoid offending the president.

In one example, he said Nielsen and her deputies pressed him to exaggerate the number of migrants with links to terrorism who have been detained at the Southwest border. Murphy said she falsely used a higher figure in testimony to Congress.

The complaint says Wolf, who has been nominated to be secretary by Trump, directed Murphy to cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference to the U.S. because it “made the President look bad.” Murphy said he declined because it would be a violation of his duties not to do it.

He said Cuccinelli directed him to modify a section of a report on white supremacy to make the threat appear less severe, and to include information on left-wing groups to echo administration talking points around civil unrest following the protests over the killing of George Floyd.

A copy of the complaint was released Wednesday by Rep. Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff says he has asked Murphy to testify to Congress.

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press.



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NYC restaurants can reopen indoor dining on Sept. 30, Gov. Cuomo says


Just one day after referring to indoor dining in New York City as a “reckless” proposition, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that such service will return to the city at the end of the month.

As of Sept. 30, restaurants will be allowed to serve guests indoors at 25% of their usual capacity, the governor said. The reopening plan includes a series of new safety measures and restrictions. Diners will be required to wear face coverings when not seated; at least one member of each party must provide information for contact tracing; temperature checks will be given at the door; no bar seating will be permitted; and restaurants will close at midnight. Businesses will also be required to operate with enhanced air filtration systems, a requirement similar to one of the stipulations used for gym reopenings.

The positivity rate in New York state — or the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus — has remained below 1% for 33 days as of Tuesday. In New York City, that rate was 0.7%, down from a peak of more than 60% at the height of the crisis in March and April, when the city was the nation’s viral epicenter. 

Don’t miss: I went to the Met, and here’s what I saw

The governor previously cited concerns about the city’s failure to come up with a plan to enforce safety compliance for indoor dining, suggesting at one point that several thousand police officers be deployed to ensure good behavior in restaurants. It appears a mixture of improving compliance on outdoor dining rules and a promise of additional enforcement from the city cleared the way for Wednesday’s decision. 

“Because compliance is better, we can now take the next step,” Cuomo said.

The city will provide 400 enforcement personnel to monitor indoor dining in addition to compliance officers with the State Liquor Authority, Cuomo said. It wasn’t immediately clear which city agencies would be staffing that beefed-up enforcement. 

The governor also called for New Yorkers themselves to aid in enforcement at the 10,000 restaurants that are expected to require inspection. Restaurants will be required to publicly post capacity limits and phone numbers for patrons to report violations: 833-208-4160, or text ‘VIOLATION’ to 855-904-5036.

“I trust that if they have the right information, they will do the right thing,” he said, warning that if the infection rate in New York City spikes, the state can always close indoor dining again. 

If the infection rate has not increased by Nov. 1, indoor dining may be allowed to expand to 50% capacity, Cuomo said.

Also see: Welcome to New York! Don’t you dare go outside!

Pressure to reopen also came from the restaurant industry itself; in August, a group of more than 300 restaurants filed a class-action lawsuit against the state for the ongoing closure mandates, seeking more than $2 billion in damages.

James Mermigis, the attorney representing the restaurants in the suit, did not immediately respond to request for comment.

“The New York City restaurant industry has been financially devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and a safe return to indoor dining is critical to help save these vital small businesses and jobs,” NYC Hospitality Alliance executive director Andrew Rigie said in a statement emailed to MarketWatch. “We’re thankful to Gov. Cuomo for announcing a return to indoor dining with a blueprint for future expansion. Restaurants are essential to New York’s economic and social fabric, and indoor dining is a key component to the industry’s recovery.”

Read next: There are seven coronavirus vaccine candidates being tested in the U.S. — here’s where they stand



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Biden talks up his plans to boost U.S. manufacturing as he visits Michigan


Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden arrives at Detroit Metro Wayne County Airport on Wednesday.


AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden on Wednesday gave a speech in Michigan about what his campaign described as “his plan to ensure the future is Made in America by all of America’s workers,” as the Democratic presidential nominee continued an effort to counter President Donald Trump’s “America First” stance.

Biden talked up his “Made in America” tax policy that his campaign had rolled out earlier in the day, noting features such as a new offshoring tax penalty and a 10% tax credit for companies making investments to create jobs for American workers.

The Democratic challenger also promised executive actions in his first week as president that ensure the federal government isn’t shirking on pledges to “Buy American.”

“I don’t buy for one second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past,” he said. Biden also said the Republican incumbent “hasn’t stopped companies from closing plants and sending jobs overseas,” but instead has “rewarded companies that have cut jobs and failed to invest here at home with billions in tax breaks.”

Opinion: The pandemic revealed the cracks in U.S. manufacturing — here’s how to fix them

Biden has addressed boosting domestic manufacturing before, such as by making a July proposal for a $700 billion “Buy American” campaign.

As he spoke in Warren, Biden also blasted Trump in the wake of well-known journalist Bob Woodward’s new book saying that the president knew the coronavirus was “deadly stuff” but wanted to “play it down.” The Democratic challenger said that was “a life-and-death betrayal of the American people.”

The Trump campaign attacked Biden’s latest moves before the Democratic challenger’s speech.

“It’s fascinating to me that Joe Biden is suddenly trying to masquerade as an economic nationalist,” Steve Cortes, a senior adviser for Trump’s re-election campaign, told reporters during a conference call on Wednesday. “Welcome to the party, but unfortunately you have no credibility, because you’ve been acting in exactly the other direction for nearly a half century.”

The Trump team often has criticized Biden for his 1994 vote as a U.S. senator for the North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta, which now has been replaced by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

Trump is due to make his own visit on Thursday to Michigan, a key swing state, with a trip to Freeland.

Meanwhile, a United Auto Workers branch in Flint, Mich., representing General Motors
GM,
-0.60%

employees praised Biden ahead of his visit to their state, saying in a video that he “had their backs” amid the 2008 auto bailout. Unions for steelworkers and machinists also issued statements expressing support for Biden or criticizing Trump’s record on aiding U.S. manufacturing.

In a RealClearPolitics moving average of polls focused on top swing states that are likely to decide the election, Biden on Wednesday had an edge of 3.7 percentage points over Trump. Betting markets were giving the former vice president a 53.2% chance of winning vs. Trump’s 45.8%.

The S&P 500 index
SPX,
+2.41%

and the Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
+2.13%

were recently trading higher on Wednesday, rebounding after a three-day selloff led by the tech sector.



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Trump is following the playbook of other antidemocratic strongmen— here’s how to stop him


BERLIN (Project Syndicate)—With November approaching, I am becoming ever more nervous about the U.S. presidential election. While my American friends focus on Joe Biden’s lead over President Donald Trump in opinion polls, believing deeply in U.S. democracy’s capacity for self-renewal, my own perspective as a British citizen and think-tank director has me worried.

As a Briton, I can remember watching a 20-point polling lead for “Remain” become a victory for “Leave” in the Brexit referendum four years ago. And as a think-tank director, I work closely with scholars who study how authoritarian leaders manipulate democratic systems to stay in power, as has happened in Turkey, Russia, Hungary, and Poland.


Like other authoritarian leaders, Trump is deploying a new antidemocratic politics that has yet to be fully comprehended.

In fact, it often seems as though Trump has studied the tactics pioneered by other aspiring strongmen more closely than anyone. Based on recent conversations with experts on each of these countries, I have compiled the following catalogue of dirty tricks that Trump seems to borrowing.

Weaponization of history

The first is the weaponization of history. Populist leaders promote their political platforms through polarization and social division. They do not mind alienating and insulting some voters if doing so will energize their own base. By posturing as the champions of national greatness, they want to determine who counts as authentic citizens and who does not. This practice inevitably brings history to the fore.

Whether it is Russian President Vladimir Putin invoking the Soviet victory in World War II, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan harking back to the Ottoman Empire, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán fixating on the Treaty of Trianon, or British Prime Minister Boris Johnson looking back to Pax Britannica, each leader has advanced a highly partisan historical narrative.

Post-truth politics

Another, related approach is what might be called post-truth politics. These leaders prefer direct communication with voters through professional propaganda videos and social media, because this allows them to dismiss inconvenient facts offered by experts.

In this media ecosystem, fact-checking has little purchase, because the people who need to hear it are not listening, or refuse to believe anything the “liberal” media says. In many democracies, fake news is now most common at the local level, where political operatives have filled the vacuum left by the decline of traditional city and regional outlets.

Run against the Deep State

A third tactic is to run against one’s own government. The term “deep state” is said to have originated in Turkey in the 1990s, but now features prominently in the lexicon for Trump, Orbán, Erdoğan, Johnson, and Poland’s de facto ruler, Jarosław Kaczyński. By blaming nameless shadowy, faceless characters behind the curtain and shadowy cabals, all these leaders have a ready excuse for all of their own failures.


It often seems as though Trump has studied the tactics pioneered by other aspiring strongmen more closely than anyone.

A fourth element in the playbook is voter suppression. Like Erdoğan’s constant attempts to disempower Kurdish voters, Trump and the Republican Party are desperate to disenfranchise African-Americans. For an incumbent would-be strongman, the need to tip the electoral scales opens the door to all kinds of attacks on democratic processes.

Hence, before Poland’s general election in May, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party tried to limit all voting to mail-in ballots, effectively transferring control of the election from the independent National Electoral Commission to the PiS-controlled postal service. Though this plan ultimately ran into resistance, it showed that there are countless ways for authoritarians to meddle in or subvert the process.

Not surprisingly, mail-in voting and the politicization of the U.S. Postal Service have become major issues in the election, too.

Dirty tricks

Another related device is “political technology,” a term for the dirty tricks commonly associated with post-Soviet politics. Such methods include Russia’s covert backing of third-party candidates like Jill Stein in the 2016 U.S. presidential election; Kompromat, or compromising material (epitomized by the search for dirt on Biden in Ukraine); and simply declaring victory before the votes are counted.

In the case of the United States, if Trump declares victory before all postal mail-in ballots have arrived, Republican-controlled legislatures in key states could end the counting early to lock in that outcome.

An incumbent authoritarian can also engage in various forms of “lawfare,” using law enforcement or compliant courts to facilitate gerrymandering, voter suppression, coverups, and other violations of the democratic process.

Here, one of the biggest advantages is the ability to control the timing of events or the release of politically damaging information.

Many people still believe that then-FBI Director James Comey’s announcement of a new probe into Hillary Clinton just days before the 2016 election tipped the outcome in Trump’s favor. Now, the Department of Justice is run by Attorney General William Barr, a man who has shown no compunction about politicizing independent law-enforcement agencies on Trump’s behalf.

Law and order

Another common authoritarian tactic is to play the “law-and-order” card. By tarring the Black Lives Matter protests as an outpouring of violent “urban” hooliganism, Trump is reprising the racial politics used by former Republican presidents since Richard Nixon, but by Erdoğan more recently, during the Gezi Park protests in 2013.

The problem for the Democrats in the U.S., and democrats everywhere, is that all these techniques tend to become more effective the more they are called out.

Fact-checking fake news can inadvertently spread misinformation more widely. Warnings about voter suppression can become self-fulfilling prophecies if enough people conclude that the process is rigged and not worth participating in. Challenging violations through the courts creates the impression of an end run around democracy.

To avoid these effects, the project of corrupting democracy needs to be clearly identified, named, and analyzed through a new lens.

There is a world of difference between the political subterfuge outlined above and the outright falsification of election results, as happened last month in in Belarus. Nicu Popescu, a former Moldovan foreign minister who is now at the European Council on Foreign Relations, contends that autocracy is not the right term to describe the phenomenon. Rather, “it is the “degradation, corrosion, and deconsolidation of democracy.”

In any case, if Trump were Moldova’s president, one assumes that the European Union would be calling him out for his dirty tricks. Any such criticism from abroad would almost certainly be counterproductive. But it may help to put the current American experience in a wider context, so that democratic forces can see Trump more clearly.

Ultimately, the only way to defeat Trump is through politics. The task for the Democrats is to remind Americans what democracy is for—and, one hopes, to counter Trump’s tactics effectively.

Mark Leonard is director of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

This article was published with permission of Project SyndicateTrump’s Dirty Tricks.



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