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July 22, 2014
CC by: DonkeyHotey

There are lots of reasons to believe the November elections should be great for the Republican Party: Midterms are generally kind to the out-of-power party, the president's party almost always loses seats in year six of an administration, the 2014 map is favorable to Republicans, and President Obama's approval ratings are pretty low. Republicans even have reasonable hopes for a really big "wave" election, like every election since 2006, minus 2012.

But if the Republicans are going to ride an anti-Democratic wave to big pickups in the House and Senate, there are scant signs of it now, says Nate Cohn at The New York Times.

The race for the Senate, at least right now, is stable. There aren't many polls asking whether voters would prefer Democrats or Republicans to control Congress, but the Democrats appear to maintain a slight edge among registered voters. Democratic incumbents in red Republican states, who would be all but doomed in a Republican wave, appear doggedly competitive in places where Mitt Romney won by as much as 24 points in 2012.... The light-blue Democratic states and purple presidential battleground states, like Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and New Hampshire, all seem to be heading toward tight races or Democratic wins, as one would expect in a fairly neutral year. [New York Times]

None of that means Republicans will have a bad year, or even that they won't win control of the Senate in a non-wave election. In fact, there weren't clear signs of a wave election in 2006, 2008, or 2010 until after this point in the election cycle, Cohn writes. "But as July turns to August, the GOP is now on the clock.... Every day that goes by without a shift toward the GOP increases the odds that there will not be a wave at all." Peter Weber

10:00 a.m. ET
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A resolution to make an official "John Wayne Day" in California has imploded as the state assembly defeated the movement on Thursday, citing the movie star's history of racist remarks and his support for the anti-communist House of Un-American Activities Committee, The Associated Press reports. Republican State Assemblyman Matthew Harper had sought to make May 26 John Wayne Day, saying later in a statement that, "Opposing the John Wayne Day resolution is like opposing apple pie, fireworks, baseball, the Free Enterprise system and the Fourth of July!"

Others don't agree, citing comments such as those Wayne made to Playboy in 1971 when he said, "I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility." The Searchers and Green Berets actor also once asserted that American Indians were "selfishly trying to keep [America] for themselves."

"He had disturbing views towards race," Assemblyman Luis Alejo protested.

Others pushed back and defended Harper's view, pointing out that California's major airport also shares a name with the movie star. Another Republican assemblyman, Donald Wagner, noted that President Franklin Roosevelt is honored across the country despite his putting Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II. "Every one of us is imperfect," Wagner said.

The resolution failed on a 35-20 vote. Jeva Lange

9:48 a.m. ET
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The Zika virus has been found in 42 countries and territories for the first time since last year, but Brazil is the hardest hit. And what doctors and researchers are finding from Brazil's outbreak is troubling. The mosquito-borne virus has been definitively linked to microcephaly, or children born with abnormally small heads, when a pregnant woman is infected, but "the scale and severity of prenatal damage by the Zika virus are far worse than past birth defects associated with microcephaly," The Wall Street Journal reports. "Scans, imaging, and autopsies show that Zika eats away at the fetal brain. It shrinks or destroys lobes that control thought, vision, and other basic functions. It prevents parts of the brain not yet formed from developing."

Public health experts have started calling the effects of the virus Congenital Zika Syndrome, to differentiate regular microcephaly — which typically affects 6 out of 10,000 infants in the U.S. — with the more severe problems being found with Zika babies. Some of the infected babies died during or soon after delivery, and nobody is sure about the prognosis for the children who survive. "We do anticipate there would be a spectrum of outcomes," epidemiologist Margaret Honein, part of the CDC Zika response team's pregnancy-and-birth-defects task force, tells The Journal. But long-term care for these children is expected to take significant time, energy, and heartache. You can read more at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber

9:19 a.m. ET
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Dole company officials were aware a salad plant was contaminated with Listeria for a year and a half before they closed the facility, and did so only after the U.S. and Canada traced a deadly outbreak back to the plant, Food Safety News reports. The Listeria outbreak hospitalized 33 people in 2015 and early 2016; four of those patients died.

According to an inspection report, Dole swab-tested its Springfield salad plant in 2014 and found positive results for Listeria, but continued to ship salads to dozens of states as well as at least five Canadian provinces. Internal tests at Dole showed Listeria contamination five more times in 2014 and three times in 2015, but the plant was only shuttered in Jan. 2016.

The plant later reopened on April 21. Company officials did not tell Food Safety News what precautions had been taken to prevent future contamination. Jeva Lange

8:54 a.m. ET

If you've ever wanted to play an actual "woman card," Hillary Clinton is now passing them out. In exchange for a donation to the Democratic presidential frontrunner's campaign, she's offering a little gift in return that takes a jab at Donald Trump, who slammed Clinton earlier this week for relying on her figurative "woman card."

"We've been hearing from supporters all over the country that they'd like a 'woman card' of their very own — to display proudly on a fridge or pull out of their wallet every time they run into someone who says women who support Hillary must not be using our brains (that's a real thing Donald Trump's senior adviser said yesterday)," Clinton's Women's Outreach Director Mini Timmaraju said in an email sent out to supporters Thursday.

The hot pink card, which somewhat resembles a New York City subway pass, congratulates women for being in the majority and bears the tagline "deal me in," from Clinton's response to Trump's attacks: "If fighting for women's health care and paid family leave and equal play is playing the 'woman card,' then deal me in!"

Though the cards don't have any actual retail value, Timmaraju says that doesn't mean it's not a good investment. "Every dollar will make sure Donald Trump never becomes president," she said. Becca Stanek

8:19 a.m. ET

Seth Meyers has explained before why "bathroom laws" that force transgender people to use the restrooms of their birth gender are a misguided solution to a nonexistent problem — a conclusion that Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace also reached, as Meyers showed on Thursday's Late Night. But other hosts and pundits on Fox News have parroted the talking point that these laws prevent grown men from dressing as women and lawfully going into the bathroom with little girls. "To be clear, that's not how gender identity works," Meyers explained. "It's not just a whim, it's a person's innermost concept of self, it's their identity, it's who they are."

But misunderstanding transgender identity isn't the only flaw with the laws in North Carolina and Mississippi. "Now, there are any number of problems with these laws," Meyers said, "and aside from the fact they're hateful and discriminatory, they're also unenforceable," as Mother Jones discovered when it actually spoke to North Carolina police departments. The laws also force people who have transitioned from one sex to the other to use the wrong restroom. "That's how absurd these anti-trans laws are," Meyers said. "A policy hasn't created this much policy confusion since hipster bars stared using animals as bathroom door signs."

But he reserved his deepest scorn for a certain presidential candidate. "Some of the ugliest comments on this issued have come from Ted Cruz, who has decided in the last week to use the bathroom bills as a political wedge against Donald Trump," Meyers said, playing a highlight reel of Cruz slamming Trump for at one point not disagreeing with the law — even, at one point, telling a crowd that Trump shouldn't be able to dress up as Hillary Clinton to use the ladies room. Meyers had had enough. "Oh sure, but if a lizard dresses up in a suit, he can run for president," he said over a particularly reptilian photo of Cruz. Watch below. Peter Weber

8:07 a.m. ET
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Donald Trump supporters have lashed back at journalist Julia Ioffe after she published a piece in GQ revealing Melania Trump has a secret half-brother living in Slovenia. The harassment has been viciously anti-Semitic: "The irony of this is that today, when I was getting all of this horrible anti-Semitic shit that I've only ever seen in Russia, I was reminded that 26 years ago today my family came to the U.S. from Russia," Ioffe told The Guardian. "We left Russia because we were fleeing anti-Semitism."

The harassment has ranged from disturbing images sent to Ioffe's inbox to threatening calls:

On Thursday, she answered a phone call from an anonymous caller who played a Hitler speech. She received another call from "Overnight Caskets." On Twitter, users posted photos of her face superimposed on a mug shot from Auschwitz. The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist site, attacked Ioffe in a blog post titled: "Empress Melania Attacked by Filthy Russian Kike Julia Ioffe in GQ!"

"It's unsettling," she said on Thursday night. "I started the day off having a sense of humor about it but by the end of the day, after a few phone calls like this, with people playing Hitler speeches, and the imagery, and people telling me my face would look good on a lampshade, it's hard to laugh." [The Guardian]

"This is not a heavily critical article. There is nothing in it that is untrue," Ioffe added. "If this is how Trump supporters swing into action what happens when the press looks into corrupt dealings, for example, or is critical of his policies?"

Donald Trump recently adopted an "America first" motto in his foreign policy speech, drawing an awkward comparison to the America First Committee that fought against U.S. involvement in World War II for anti-Semitic reasons. Critics have said Trump seems unaware of the parallel. Jeva Lange

7:42 a.m. ET
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Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) thinks former House Speaker John Boehner ought to "be ashamed of himself" for calling Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) "Lucifer in the flesh" and a "miserable son of a bitch" during a recent talk at Stanford University. "The fact that he has done this is appalling. And he should be ashamed of himself. And I demand he apologize," Lee said on Mark Levin's radio show, calling Boehner's remarks "really vile stuff" and noting that he was "livid to have him talk about my friend Ted Cruz" like that.

Lee, who has endorsed Cruz in the presidential race, says Boehner's comments are all the more reason voters frustrated with the establishment should vote for Cruz. "This is a wake-up call to people who are supporting Donald Trump, thinking that he's the guy that's going to rail against the establishment," Lee said. "He's not. He is the establishment. He's the golfing buddy, the texting buddy of John Boehner. The same guy who praises Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders." Becca Stanek

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