August 6, 2019

Bill de Blasio has never pretended to love New York City.

Since he arrived in City Hall, the mayor and 2020 candidate has avoided both highbrow Manhattan cultural events and everyday traditions, and constantly looked for ways to get out of the city. That's probably why de Blasio is "lame-ducking himself two and a half years before his time with a vanity candidacy he couldn’t resist," The New York Times reports in a profile published Tuesday.

De Blasio grew up in Massachusetts, so he wasn't born with — and never gained — "an unbelievable love for everything that is New York City," Alicia Glen, a former deputy mayor under de Blasio, tells the Times. Instead of popping up at events and restaurants around the city, he and his wife Chirlaine McCray prefer to "watch reruns of The Wire," he said once.

But as the Times puts it, aides "have long observed that [de Blasio] seems to grow happier with each mile of distance from the city he leads." He almost addressed a Democratic dinner in Ohio just six days after his first term began in 2013, and has privately lamented that "a United States senator has got the best job on the face of the Earth. All they do is pontificate and travel." And unlike presidential candidates who try to build a fan base at home before they hit the national stage, de Blasio has had consultants building his national image from the time he took office — something that hasn't quite paid off as he fails to gain traction in the 2020 race.

Read more at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

June 6, 2020

The consensus among economists was that unemployment would rise in May, potentially coming in at around at 20 percent because of the coronavirus pandemic. So when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a slew of job gains meant unemployment actually dropped from 14.7 percent to 13.3 percent, some people were either left scratching their heads, or, as The Washington Post reports, wondering whether the Trump administration tinkered with the data to give the White House an economic win.

But many experts, including the former top economist for former President Barack Obama, jumped in to explain why that "100 percent" isn't the case. The BLS did indeed acknowledge a "misclassification error" in the report — people who should've been classified as "temporarily unemployed" were instead classified as employed but "absent" from work. Without the mix-up, May's real unemployment figure likely would've been about 3 percentage points higher. But it turns out it's the result of dealing with challenging amounts of data, rather than book cooking.

The bureau has apparently been dealing with the issue for months, which means April's unemployment was also higher than the official figures. So much so, that it makes May's improvement more dramatic.

Those with a glass half-full perspective will focus on the fact that unemployment declined in May; the half-empty crowd on the fact the numbers remain historically high. The misclassification doesn't change either stance. Tim O'Donnell

June 6, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who recently locked up enough delegates to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination, said in a statement Friday that he is "proud" the party is "united" heading into November's general election against President Trump. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Politico reports, appears to have something to do with that.

Sanders received a portion of the blame for Trump's 2016 victory within some Democratic circles because many folks didn't think he did enough to help Hillary Clinton after she defeated him in the primaries that year. But even some of his more vocal critics don't feel that way way now. Neera Tanden, president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress and a longtime Clinton aide, said Sanders "has been a tremendous force in helping unify the party," adding that she's "grateful for his work to urge his supporters to support Biden and fight Trump."

The senator has maintained throughout the election cycle that he'd support the Democratic nominee, and it sounds like his team isn't messing around when it comes to sticking by that promise. Gregory McKelvey, a Sanders supporter from Oregon who ran to be one of his delegates at the Democratic National Convention, told Politico he spoke with a Sanders aide who told him that if they find anything expressing dissent, such as posts including catch phrases "DemExit" or "Never Joe", on a person's social media feed, "then you are out" as a delegate. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

June 6, 2020

Two Buffalo police officers, Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, were both charged with one count of second-degree assault Saturday, prosecutors said, after they were seen on video Thursday shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground during a protest against police brutality. The officers have pleaded not guilty and were released without bail, The Associated Press reports.

The video sparked outrage across the country, and criticism intensified when the Buffalo Police Department said the protester, Martin Gugino, tripped and fell. Gugino, described as a longtime peace activist, was hospitalized with a head injury resulting from the fall. He is now in "serious, but stable condition" and is "progressing in his recovery."

McCabe and Torgalski were suspended without pay Friday, prompting all 57 of their colleagues on the Buffalo Police Department's emergency response team to resign from the unit — but not the police force altogether — in their defense.

The charges are the latest examples of swift action being taken against police officers in the wake of George Floyd's death. In Minneapolis, the officer who pressed his knee against Floyd's neck has been fired and charged with second-degree murder, while three other ex-officers who watched the scene unfold and did not intervene were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. And two officers in Atlanta were fired this week after footage captured them using excessive force against two African-American college students who were out after a citywide curfew. Read more at The Associated Press and NPR. Tim O'Donnell

June 6, 2020

President Trump has reportedly directed the Pentagon to permanently reduce the number of U.S. troops stationed in Germany from 34,500 to 25,000. Germany's conservatives aren't pleased with the move, while the country's left wing parties welcomed it, The Guardian reports.

"The plans show that the Trump administration is neglecting an elementary task of leadership, to bind coalition partners into decision-making processes," said Johann Wadephul, the deputy chair of the parliamentary group of the Christian Democratic Union, to which Chancellor Angela Merkel belongs.

While the Trump administration's decision reportedly isn't linked to recent disagreements between Trump and Merkel, it does reflect the president's longstanding view that Germany hasn't pulled its weight in terms of defense spending as a key member of NATO. Subsequently, Berlin is concerned the alliance is fraying, which Wadephul says benefits only Russia and China. James Townsend, a former Pentagon official for Europe and NATO, told The Wall Street Journal the plan "erodes trust" with Germany, as well as other allies, even those outside NATO. South Korea, for example, may be worried about a similar maneuver while Seoul and Washington try to sort out how much South Korea should pay to defray the cost of U.S. military deployment there, per The Journal.

But not everyone's upset. Dietmar Bartsch, the leader of the parliamentary group of Germany's democratic socialist Die Linke Party, said Berlin should be thankful for the decision and "promptly start preparing the complete withdrawal of U.S. soldiers." Poland is also pleased with the development, considering reports that at least some of the 9,500 troops scheduled to leave Germany will head there, since Warsaw is meeting NATO's military-spending goal. Polish Prime Minister Matuesz Morawiecki said bolstering NATO's eastern border "will be a security boost to all of Europe." Read more at The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

June 6, 2020

The Maryland-National Capital Park Police arrested a man who was filmed accosting a young woman and ramming a man with his bike while cycling on a trail in Bethesda, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C, earlier this week. Anthony Brennan III, 60, of nearby Kensington, Maryland, was reportedly found after the agency received hundreds of tips from people who watched the video, though social media users reportedly previously incorrectly identified two other men as suspects. Brennan has been charged with second-degree assault.

In the video, a group of three people between aged 18 and 19 can be seen putting up flyers in support of the George Floyd protests. The suspect, who apparently objected to the group's actions, then forcibly grabbed one of the flyers from one of the women before charging at the man holding the camera, knocking him to the ground.

Brennan, who turned himself in after police found evidence in his home and obtained an arrest warrant, said he is "sick with remorse for the pain and fear I caused the victims," noting that he is cooperating with authorities and is committed to "addressing, through counseling, the underlying issues that led to my abhorrent behavior." Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

June 6, 2020

The NFL has changed its tone.

The league worked its way into the spotlight this week, as several players and coaches spoke out about police brutality amid protests over George Floyd's death. Tensions rose when New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who is white, said he would never agree with anyone who "disrespected" the United States flag, an issue that has divided the league since 2016 when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick launched a movement to kneel during the national anthem before games in the hopes of bringing attention to racial injustices, including police brutality, in the U.S.

Brees, a well-respected player, faced backlash from even his own teammates, and eventually apologized. And, now, so has NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. In response to demands from players, many of whom appeared in a video featuring several of the sport's biggest stars, Goodell said Friday the league now encourages players to "speak out and peacefully protest" and that "we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier." Goodell said he is also personally protesting and wants "to be part of the change much needed change in this country."

Critics noted that Goodell's statement did not include a specific apology to or mention of Kaepernick, and it's unclear if Goodell was encouraging players to kneel during the anthem. A rule requiring players to stand remains in limbo, though it doesn't seem likely to be enforced. It's also unclear if this will pave a path for Kaepernick, who many analysts and some coaches believe could at the very least fill a backup role, to return the league. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and ESPN. Tim O'Donnell

June 6, 2020

What has long been obvious is now official.

After several states, Washington, D.C., and Guam finished tallying Democratic primary votes this week, former Vice President Joe Biden has accrued enough delegates to clinch the party's presidential nomination, The Associated Press and CNN report. Biden has been the presumptive nominee since April, when his last remaining competitor, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) dropped out of the race, but he's now set to face President Trump in November's general election.

Biden struggled in the primary's early stages, but a dominant performance in South Carolina — buoyed by the state's black voters — helped him rebound. Before Biden's win in the Palmetto State, it looked like Sanders was the favorite for the nomination. But when many of Biden's moderate competitors had dropped out and endorsed him, and after Biden won the majority of delegates on Super Tuesday, it became clear the tides had turned. Sanders stayed in the race for a while, and is still on the ballot in some states so he can amass more delegates to influence the Democratic National Convention, but he too has endorsed Biden for the presidency.

“It was an honor to compete alongside one of the most talented groups of candidates the Democratic party has ever fielded, and I am proud to say that we are going into this general election a united party,” Biden said in a statement Friday. Read more at The Associated Press and CNN. Tim O'Donnell

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