A new set of Senate polls from Democratic-aligned firm Public Policy Polling shows close races for three closely watched Democratic-held seats.
In Colorado, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall has 44 percent support, against Republican Rep. Cory Gardner with 43 percent, within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent. The poll was conducted from July 17-20. The pollster's analysis describes the political mood in Colorado: "The Democratic incumbents aren't very popular, but their Republican challengers aren’t exactly setting the world on fire either."
In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan leads Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis, 41 percent to 34 percent, plus another 8 percent support for Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh. The survey was also conducted from July 17-20, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent. The pollster's analysis attributes Hagan's lead to the unpopularity of the state legislature: "The big question though is whether she’ll be able to sustain this bigger lead once they’ve gone home," or if the race will tighten up again.
And in Montana, Republican Rep. Steve Daines leads Democratic Sen. John Walsh — who was appointed to the seat earlier this year — at 46 percent to 39 percent. This survey was conducted July 17 and 18, with a margin of error at plus or minus 4.1 percent. In a somewhat interesting twist, the last time PPP checked in on this race was way back in November of last year — and previously had Daines leading Walsh by an even wider margin of 52 percent to 35 percent, showing that Walsh might be starting to at least close the gap a little. Eric Kleefeld
On Monday, Iraqi counterterrorism forces, backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, started to push into Islamic State–held Fallujah, capturing about 85 percent of the city's southern Nuaimiya area. At dawn on Tuesday, ISIS launched a counterattack, two officers with the special forces told The Associated Press, and Iraqi forces repelled the four-hour assault. ISIS used tunnels and snipers to attack Iraqi forces, and sent out six car bombs, the officers said, but the explosives-laden vehicles were destroyed before they reached Iraqi troops.
There are an estimated 50,000 civilians trapped in Fallujah, and on Tuesday the Norwegian Refugee Council aid group warned that "a human catastrophe is unfolding in Fallujah." Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the group, said that the "warring parties must guarantee civilians safe exit now, before it's too late and more lives are lost." Peter Weber
Previews of the J.K. Rowling play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child begin June 7 at London's Palace Theatre, but on Tuesday, Rowling's Pottermore site released the first photos of the lead characters in costume. Jamie Parker is a grown-up Harry Potter, complete with the lightning scar on his forehead, and Poppy Miller is his wife, the former Ginny Weasley. Playing their youngest son, Albus Severus Potter — the titular cursed child — is Sam Clemmett, dressed in hand-me-down Hogwarts robes.
— BBC Newsbeat (@BBCNewsbeat) May 31, 2016
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is being presented as the eighth installment of the Harry Potter saga, following the seven books. Rowling, who wrote the play with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, says she is thrilled with the casting. Parker "simply is Harry now," she said. "There's a kind of relief in watching him, he gets it so right." And Miller's Ginny is "kind and cool, exactly as I imagined her," Rowling added. The play will run in two parts, with the first performed as a matinee and the second at night. Peter Weber
"While Donald Trump is widely disliked, he is especially disliked by women," Trevor Noah said on The Daily Show last week, "as Trump is well aware." He played a video of Trump speaking at a rally in New Mexico, telling the crowd, among other things, "I want to set records with women." Noah was slightly repulsed: "It sounds like Trump is getting speech ideas from a pervert's Tinder profile."
Trump does have some female admirers, but "there's a reason the large majority of women are not Trump fans," Noah said, playing another recent clip of Trump saying he can't stand Hillary Clinton's voice. But then he dug into the Trump archive, unearthing a 1994 interview on Prime Time Live with Nancy Collins in which Trump explained why he didn't want his wife at the time, Marla Maples, to work outside the home. "Now, these clips aren't online, so pretty much nobody has seen them since they aired in 1994," Noah promised. And sure, times have changed in 22 years, but even in year two of the Bill Clinton presidency, Trump knew what he was saying would be construed as "chauvinist." And to show that some things never change, he went ahead and said what was on his mind anyway. Watch below. Peter Weber
At a Bernie Sanders campaign rally in Oakland late Monday, five animal-rights activists jumped over the barricade and ran toward the stage, prompting two agents to jump on the platform and push Sanders away from the mic. Security dragged the protesters into nearby Oakland City Hall, and Sanders, looking more annoyed than frightened, returned to the mic and said, "We are not easily intimidated." Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs said later that the interruption "was handled professionally by the Secret Service." The group, Direct Action Everywhere, said one of its protesters at the event had been "assaulted."
Why are animal-rights activists targeting Sanders? "His campaign has promoted itself based on this idea of progressivism and rejecting discrimination and inequality," member Zach Groff tells ABC News, "but when it comes to the animals in the United States and around the world, discrimination and violence is the name of the game every single day." Sanders "claims to be a progressive, but you cannot be a progressive if you oppose animal rights," Groff added. Another Direct Action Everywhere organizer, Aidan Cook, explained that "Sanders claims to oppose 'factory farming,' but what he hides is that virtually all farms in the United States, including farms he supports, are essentially factory farms." You can watch the drama below. Peter Weber
Republican strategists and vanquished presidential wannabes take heart: Not even a genius like Stephen Hawking can explain how Donald Trump became the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Granted, Hawking's expertise is theoretical physics, not politics, but he's clearly following the U.S. presidential race. When ITV's Good Morning Britain asked Hawking if he could explain Trump's popular appeal, Hawking said: "I can't. He is a demagogue, who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator." Hawking has previously cast doubt on Trump's intelligence.
In the interview, airing on British TV Tuesday morning, Hawking also made his case for Britain staying the European Union, a question that will be put to British voters in June. "Gone are the days we could stand on our own, against the world," he said. "We need to be part of a larger group of nations, both for our security, and our trade." Hawking, paralyzed due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, is bound to a wheelchair and has to speak through a voice synthesizer. Peter Weber
The British Library puts treasure trove of 20th century literature online for your browsing pleasure
If you want to read Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway or George Orwell's Animal Farm, you can head down to your local public library. If you want to read Woolf's original draft manuscript and notes, or a letter from T.S. Eliot explaining why he wouldn't publish Animal Farm, the British Library just made your day. The UK's national library just posted more than 300 treasures of 20th century English literature online for the world to peruse, plus articles exploring "the extraordinary innovation demonstrated by key writers of the 20th century," according to digital programs manager Anna Lobbenberg.
"Until now these treasures could only be viewed in the British Library Reading Rooms or on display in exhibitions," Lobbenberg said. Now, anyone with an internet connection can learn more about, and read source material from, writers like Woolf, Orwell, Eliot, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, James Joyce, Angela Carter, J G. Ballard, and other "rebels and risk-takers" who "were determined to find new forms to reflect the fast changing world around them." It's a rabbit hole that literature and culture lovers could easily get lost in for a weekend or longer, and then you can dive into the British Library's digital Discovering Literature collections on Shakespeare, the Victorian Era, and the Romantics. If that sounds too intimidating, here's a short master class on Orwell's 1949 dystopian masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four, from the British Library and John Bowen, a professor at the University of York. Peter Weber
It was a violent Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, with four people killed and at least 53 wounded in shootings across the city.
The murder victims include a 25-year-old man who was shot while sitting in a parked car in front of his mother's house; a 27-year-old man shot while sitting in a car with his fiancée (she grabbed a gun and fired warning shots in the air, and was charged with a felony); a 25-year-old man shot by a man he was arguing with inside a gas station; and Veronica Lopez, a 15-year-old who was shot and killed while riding in a car with two older men police say are known gang members. Her mother, Diana Mercado, told the Chicago Tribune she planned to move with her daughter to Florida in a year because of the violence, but "now they took my baby."
At least 60 people have been shot and killed so far this month, and shootings are up more than 50 percent this year. Police say the violence can be attributed to gangs, too many guns, and weak gun law enforcement, the Tribune reports. Although eight fewer people were killed this year compared to last Memorial Day weekend, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the department will "never say it's good until we can go an entire Memorial Day weekend without a single shot being fired." Catherine Garcia