May 23, 2020

As Spain emerges from the coronavirus lockdown, the country is setting its sights on salvaging as much of its tourism industry as possible.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Saturday the country will reopen to overseas visitors starting July 2. He encouraged people to begin planning their summer vacations — foreign and domestic — though he said safety measures will be in place to protect both tourists and Spanish residents from infection. "Spain needs tourism, and tourism needs safety in both origin and destination," he said. "We will guarantee that tourists will not run any risks, nor will they bring any risk to our country."

Sánchez didn't divulge much information on the actual plans, but he did say Madrid and Spain's regional governments have been working together to bring tourism back for weeks.

The prime minister also gave Spain's top professional soccer league, known as La Liga, permission to return June 8. There have been 234,824 confirmed coronavirus cases and 28,628 COVID-19 deaths in Spain, but the daily infection and fatality rates have steadily declined since the country went into a strict lockdown in March. Read more at The Guardian and ESPN. Tim O'Donnell

3:41 a.m.

Former White House physician Ronny Jackson won Tuesday's Republican primary in Texas' deep-red 13th Congressional District, beating agricultural lobbyist Josh Winegarner and almost certainly punching his ticket to Congress. Winegarner was endorsed by outgoing Rep. Mac Thornberry (R), but President Trump had thrown his support behind Jackson, who served as the White House physician from 2006 to 2018.

Trump had nominated Jackson to be head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, but he withdrew his name and left the White House amid allegations of professional misconduct, including being drunk on the job, overprescribing medication, and creating a hostile work environment.

Former Rep. Pete Sessions (R), who represented the 32nd District in the Dallas area from 1996 until his loss in 2018, won his primary race against Renee Swann in the Waco-based 17th District, 100 miles south. He is also expected to win in November.

In Austin, lawyer Mike Siegel won the Democratic primary to face off against Rep. Michael McCaul (R) in the 10th District, setting up a repeat of 2018's close election. The district, which stretches from Austin to Houston, was gerrymandered for Republicans but the area is trending more liberal. In the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs, Candace Valenzuela won the Democratic primary to fight Republican former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne for the open 24th District seat.

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls won the Republican primary in the Houston-area 2nd District and will face former foreign service officer Sri Kulkarni, who lost to outgoing Rep. Pete Olson (R) in 2018. The Republican primary in the 23rd District, reprinted by retiring Rep. Will Hurd (R), is too close to call between Tony Gonzales, backed by Trump, and Raul Reyes, supported by Sen. Ted Cruz (R). The winner will face Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, who almost unseated Hurd in 2018. Peter Weber

2:27 a.m.

Mary "MJ" Hegar, an Air Force veteran, beat longtime Texas state Sen. Royce West (D) in Tuesday's Texas Democratic Senate primary runoff, and she'll face Sen. John Cornyn (R) in November. Hegar, who narrowly lost Rep. John Carter (R) in 2018, was long considered the likely winner of the primary, but West, who is Black, gained momentum in the final weeks as racial justice gained prominence as an issue.

"As a working mom who's lived many of the challenges facing working families across the state, I'm so proud to lead the effort to take back our state from politicians like John Cornyn who are more D.C. than Texas," Hegar said in a victory statement. Cornyn, evidently considering Hegar the riskier opponent, "launched a late advertisement designed to look like he was attacking West's liberal positions," The Washington Post reports. "Instead, the ad aimed to boost West." The Cook Political Report rates the race Likely Republican.

President Trump won Texas by 9 percentage points, and Republicans feel safer about Cornyn's chances than those of Sen. Ted Cruz (R) when he narrowly won re-election in 2018. But Trump and Democrat Joe Biden are neck-and-neck in Texas polls this year, and Biden even started airing a Texas-specific ad in the state on Tuesday.

"Trump's campaign on Tuesday laughed off the small new investment, and even some Democrats were skeptical of Biden's chances in Texas," The Associated Press notes. "Yet Biden's modest step into a state that hasn't backed a Democrat for president in 44 years reflected the extent to which the pandemic threatens to scramble the electoral map this fall." Peter Weber

1:34 a.m.

In neighborhoods across Los Angeles, community refrigerators are starting to appear, filled with food that is free for anyone who needs it, any time of day.

Since the LA Community Fridges project launched around two weeks ago, six refrigerators have been set up across the city, with another in nearby Long Beach. Refrigerators are installed at businesses, which supply the electricity, and filled with food donated by local residents, restaurants, and food delivery services. Volunteers make sure the refrigerators stay clean and stocked with a variety of items, like cheese, eggs, tortillas, and assorted vegetables.

Joshua Mock is the owner of Little Amsterdam Coffee, and sponsors a refrigerator. "The best thing you can do is lend a hand," he told NBC Los Angeles, adding, "People need food. There's people that want to give, and I mean why not? Why not help?"

Paloma Vergara of Reach for the Top, the organization coordinating the effort, said LA Community Fridges is modeled after a similar program in New York, and helps people in all stages of life. "Food insecurity is a broad spectrum," she told NBC Los Angeles. "It can be anybody." Catherine Garcia

1:29 a.m.

"In theory, President Trump summoned television cameras to the heat-baked Rose Garden early Tuesday evening to announce new measures against China to punish it for its oppression of Hong Kong," Peter Baker writes at The New York Times. "What followed instead was an hour of presidential stream of consciousness. ... Even for a president who rarely sticks to the script and wanders from thought to thought, it was one of the most rambling performances of his presidency."

Trump "began his rambling 54-minute opening statement" with his China announcement but "pivoted swiftly to his attacks on [Joe] Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee," The Washington Post adds. He meandered through a "false or misleading" summary of Biden's policy proposals, claiming at one point, for example, that Biden would "abolish the suburbs."

Trump's "disjointed monologue" touched on "China and the coronavirus and the Paris climate change accord and crumbling highways," Baker recaps. "And the economy and energy taxes and trade with Europe and illegal immigration and his friendship with Mexico's president. And the coronavirus again and then immigration again and crime in Chicago and the death penalty. ... 'We could go on for days,' he said at one point, and it sounded plausible."

By tradition if not law, presidents don't overtly campaign for re-election from the White House, as Fox News anchor Bret Baier noted after Trump's speech.

But Trump's political advisers have spent weeks urging him to transform the race from "a referendum on the divisive president" to a contrast between competing visions, The Associated Press reports. Trump also called the impromptu "press conference" because Biden had "received extensive television coverage earlier in the day for his $2 trillion climate plan," the Times reports, citing a senior official.

The event was essentially a "substitute" for the campaign rally Trump "was scheduled to give last weekend in New Hampshire only to cancel amid concerns about flagging attendance, citing a possible storm at the site," Baker reports. "Instead of a raucous crowd," AP adds, "Trump spent more than an hour speaking in front of reporters." Peter Weber

12:35 a.m.

At the direction of the Trump administration, hospitals have been told that starting Wednesday, they must stop sending coronavirus patient information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, instead having it go directly to a Health and Human Services database that is not open to the public, The New York Times reports.

The reports are sent daily, and include information on how many COVID-19 patients are being treated at each hospital and the number of available beds and ventilators. Dr. Janis Orlowski, the chief health care officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges, told the Times the change was made after Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, decided hospitals were not doing a good enough job fully reporting their data. This new plan was conceived by a working group of hospital and government officials.

Administration officials say this will make it easier to know what supplies are needed in different areas, but health experts are worried this could lead to data becoming politicized or hidden from the researchers, modelers, and other people who rely on it. Jen Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told the Times she has several questions, including, "How will the data be protected? Will there be transparency, will there be access, and what is the role of the CDC in understanding the data?"

Health and Human Services spokesman Michael Caputo told the Times this "new, faster, and complete data system is what our nation needs to defeat the coronavirus," and while the CDC will "no longer control" the data, the institute will continue to make it public. Read more at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

July 14, 2020

Sara Gideon won Maine's Democratic Senate primary on Tuesday, and will face off against Republican Sen. Susan Collins in November.

Gideon is speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, and defeated two progressive candidates: lobbyist Betsy Sweet and lawyer Bre Kidman. She has the support of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and has raised $23 million in her quest to win Collins' seat.

A moderate, Collins faced backlash in 2017 when she backed the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package and in 2018 after voting to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She is the only New England Republican in Congress. Catherine Garcia

July 14, 2020

Tommy Tuberville won Alabama's Republican Senate primary runoff on Tuesday, defeating former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Tuberville has 61.1 percent of the vote, compared to Sessions with 38.9 percent.

Tuberville, a former football coach at Auburn University, is a first-time candidate. Sessions once represented Alabama in the Senate, leaving his seat when President Trump picked him to be his attorney general. Their relationship soured after Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and he was forced out as attorney general in 2018. Trump has been a vocal critic of Sessions, and endorsed Tuberville in the primary.

Tuberville will face off against Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in November. After Sessions left the Senate to become attorney general, Jones won a 2017 special election to replace him, and his seat is considered vulnerable. Catherine Garcia

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