Trump has lost his senior advantage. And that could cost him in November.

23 0 30 Jun 2020

WASHINGTON — Jay Copan was part of the coalition that made Donald Trump president in 2016. Now he’s had enough and plans to send Trump into retirement.

Copan, 68, who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, considers himself fiscally and socially conservative. A white male and registered independent in a swing state, he has voted Republican in each of the last nine presidential elections. He supports Trump’s tax cuts, energy policy and judges. He’s precisely the type of voter that Republicans should be able to win — and cannot afford to lose.

But Copan says he’ll vote for Joe Biden this fall.

“At the end of the day I want this to be a better country for my grandkids growing up. And having a president who’s a pathological liar, a sociopath, a narcissist, a misogynist and a bully is not the way I want to leave this country,” Copan said. “In spite of my views on the issues, I don’t see any way I could support him to be president for another four years because of how he’s behaved.”

Copan represents a group of voters that Trump, who is 74, should worry about: Americans over 65 who are defecting to Biden. Seniors have voted for the Republican candidate in every presidential election since 2004, according to exit polls. They favored Trump by 8 points in 2016, according to NBC News exit polls.

But most surveys this month show Trump trailing Biden among this group, down by 2 points in a New York Times/Siena poll, 4 points in a CNN poll, 8 points in a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 8 points in a Quinnipiac poll.

Trump’s sliding support among this key demographic has contributed to him trailing Biden by 9.4 points in the FiveThirtyEight average of surveys as of Monday.

With voters under 45 increasingly preferring Democrats, losing senior citizens could choke off Trump’s path to re-election. Some allies worry that he’s antagonizing elderly voters with his mockery of 77-year-old Biden’s placid temperament and verbal stumbles with the nickname “sleepy Joe” and persistent insinuations that his rival is losing his mental faculties.

“The hot air slipping out of President Trump’s campaign balloon among seniors is certainly a cause for concern,” Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor and Trump supporter, said in an email. “His angry rhetoric and constant poking at Biden’s age and ailments could be a sizable part of the problem here. This is a group of people used to being catered to and respected.”

The shifting views of senior citizens were on display when a pro-Trump parade was protested in The Villages, a GOP-leaning retirement community in Florida. A video of the clashes went viral after the president tweeted (and then deleted) a clip that included a supporter with Trump gear shouting “white power” at someone who called him racist. (His spokesman later said he didn’t see that part.)

Trump campaign spokeswoman Courtney Parella told NBC News that “as long as President Trump is in the White House, America’s seniors can rely on him to act in their best interest as he delivers the Great American Comeback.”

“America’s seniors are the backbone of this nation, and President Trump is dedicated to protecting their livelihoods,” Parella said in a statement. “While Joe Biden serves as a puppet of the far left, bending to radical ideas that threaten our economy and our health care system, President Trump is looking out for our seniors on Medicare.”

Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster who helps conduct the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, said Biden’s advantage with older voters shows that “there’s an awful lot of wind at his back.”

“Those things that most frighten seniors, health care being among them — he can talk to them stylistically but he can’t talk to them substantively,” he said.

But Hart cautioned that there’s plenty of time left before Election Day and seniors’ attitudes can change: “I like to warn people: Don’t over-emphasize the June surveys. Because it can be misleading.”

Two weeks ago, the president held a White House roundtable called Fighting For America’s Seniors in which he proclaimed his “unwavering devotion to our senior citizens.”

He touted his administration’s work launching the National Elder Fraud Hotline and charging scores of defendants for allegedly defrauding seniors, his efforts to cap the cost of insulin, and his promise to keep “defending Medicare and Social Security.”

But Trump’s other actions and rhetoric may be hurting him with older voters.

He has encouraged states to reopen their economies amid the coronavirus pandemic, which is disproportionately fatal among elderly people. He recently suggested without any evidence that a 75-year-old Buffalo man who was pushed by police and injured was a plant by the far-left antifa movement. He has launched blistering attacks on universal vote-by-mail, an option that many senior citizens prefer.

Reached for comment, Biden campaign spokesman TJ Ducklo said the former vice president’s plans for re-opening the economy includes measures to protect seniors from COVID-19 and noted that he plans to preserve the Affordable Care Act, which Trump is fighting in court to overturn.

Trump won older voters in 2016 by promising economic prosperity and hitting nostalgic notes of an era before free trade and globalization took a toll on America’s once-vibrant manufacturing sector. He benefited from the high unpopularity of his opponent at the time, Hillary Clinton, winning decisive votes from Americans who were skeptical of both candidates.

One of them was Copan.

“I absolutely could not vote for Hillary — had enough of the Clintons,” he said. “I literally held my nose and voted for Trump. I thought it was the lesser of two evils; I just didn’t realize how evil he could be.”

Bounties or not, Russia has worked to expand its clout in Afghanistan as the U.S. eyes an exit

25 0 30 Jun 2020

WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence reports suggesting Russia offered bounty payments to the Taliban to kill American troops have sparked outrage in Washington and questions about how the White House handled the information. But former U.S. officials say that whether or not bounties were paid, Moscow has been a thorn in America’s side for years in Afghanistan — and elsewhere in the world, working to sabotage and embarrass the U.S. at every opportunity.

The U.S. military has complained openly about active Russian support for the Taliban, with commanders accusing Moscow of providing weapons and political backing to the insurgents.

“We’re going to have to confront Russia,” then-Defense Secretary James Mattis said in 2017, referring to Moscow’s record in Afghanistan.

Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan from 2016 to 2018, accused Russia of “arming belligerents” in 2017 and in 2018 said, “Clearly, they are acting to undermine our interests.”

Although Russia has professed support for planned peace negotiations brokered by the Trump administration, Moscow also cultivated ties and provided aid to the Afghan Taliban, according to former U.S. officials.

Douglas London, a former CIA official who worked on Afghanistan matters before he retired in late 2018, said U.S. officials closely tracked Russian support to the Taliban. While unable to comment on classified intelligence, London told NBC News the idea that the Russians were paying the Taliban to “incentivize” American deaths is “not inconsistent with our understanding of Moscow’s efforts to be a disruptive force and inflict harm on our people and interests.”

Whether the intelligence reports prove accurate, “there should be no illusion that Russia is a ‘partner for peace’ in Afghanistan,'” said James Cunningham of the Atlantic Council think tank, a former U.S. ambassador to Kabul.

For Moscow, a planned U.S. troop withdrawal and years of stalemate in Afghanistan are seen as a strategic gain, according to Cunningham, who served as ambassador from 2012 to 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “hopes to see the United States discredited and dispirited as it withdraws, further undermining the United States, NATO, and the West,” Cunningham wrote.

Russia’s stance changes

Nearly 20 years ago, when the U.S. launched military action against the Taliban regime after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks for offering refuge to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, Russia played a supportive role — backing Washington’s “war on terrorism.”

The U.S. quickly toppled the Taliban and Russia backed the new Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai. Over time, however, Russia became wary of America’s open-ended military presence, fearing permanent U.S. bases in what considers its backyard, former officials said.

As relations deteriorated between Moscow and Washington over Ukraine, Syria and other issues, Russia chose to re-enter the arena in Afghanistan, in keeping with its self-image as a global power.

Russia reopened a cultural center in Kabul in 2014, and provided Kalashnikov rifles and ammunition to the Afghan government. Moscow took advantage of its contacts in Kabul, which include officials who were educated or trained in the Soviet Union, renewed its long-established ties with ethnic power brokers in the north, and quietly courted the Taliban.

“Russia did not seem confident that Afghanistan would be stable after the Americans eventually withdrew, and therefore the Russians would need a variety of Afghan partners,” said Johnny Walsh of the U.S. Institute for Peace, a former U.S. diplomat who worked in Afghanistan.

The Russians worry about Islamist extremism spreading from Afghanistan to Russia’s southern flank, and they see the Taliban as useful for taking the fight to ISIS, Walsh said.

But the Russians have appeared to calibrate their recent support for the Taliban, stopping short of a full-blown alliance, he said.

“I would say it often appeared that Russia was not willing to go as far as the Taliban wanted them to in terms of lethal assistance,” Walsh said.

For Russia, “it’s not even a marriage of convenience with the Taliban, it’s a liaison of convenience,” said Carter Malkasian, who served as an adviser to the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, and as a State Department political officer in Afghanistan.

Just because the Russians have friendly ties with the Taliban, and share an interest in seeing the Americans leave, “that doesn’t mean Russia wants to see the Taliban take over the government,” said Malkasian.

For the Taliban, ties with Russia offered a way to gain a degree of legitimacy on the world stage, according to Malkasian.

Russia has defended its outreach to the Taliban, saying it was aimed at persuading the insurgents to enter into peace talks.

“We maintain these contacts primarily for the sake of the security of Russian nationals in Afghanistan, Russian agencies there, and also to convince the Taliban to renounce armed conflict and join the national dialogue with the government,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in 2018.

Russia denies it has armed the Taliban, and vehemently rejected U.S. intelligence reports about a bounty operation targeting American troops in Afghanistan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told NBC News the reports of such a program were “ridiculous.”

“It’s a little bit rude, but this is 100 percent bulls—,” Peskov said. “It’s as simple as that.”

The Taliban also has denied it agreed to a bounty operation backed by Russia.

‘I don’t think it’s been decisive’

The precise scale and scope of Russia’s support for the Taliban has been subject to debate in recent years. But even taking into account the latest intelligence reports about a possible bounty program, Moscow does not appear to have had a major impact on the battlefield, several former officials and two foreign diplomats told NBC News.

“I don’t think it’s been decisive in the military equation,” one former senior U.S. official said.

The Taliban, which steadily gained ground against Afghan security forces in recent years, has no shortage of money or recruits, and continue to reap profits from the opium trade, said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies’ Long War Journal.

“The Taliban doesn’t need bounties from Russia,” Joscelyn said. “It’s not like the money is going to sway the motivations or behavior of the Taliban.”

Russia is not the only regional power trying to shape events in Afghanistan, nor the most powerful.

Pakistan is the longtime patron of the Taliban and has allowed it to operate from sanctuaries on its territory for years, according to the U.S. and other Western governments. Pakistan’s support of the Taliban, reinforced by cultural and linguistic ties, is on a whole other level from Russia’s, said Laurel Miller of the International Crisis Group.

“Pakistan, for sure, is number one in influence in Afghanistan,” said Miller, who was deputy and then acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the State Department from 2013 to mid-2017. When the Trump administration opted to pursue talks with the Taliban, Khalilzad turned to Pakistan to secure the release of key Taliban figures so they could attend the negotiations.

Iran, which like Pakistan shares a border with Afghanistan, exerts considerable political and economic clout in the country’s west. The Iranians have chosen to overlook a history of tension with the Taliban to ensure they maintain influence and keep up the pressure on the U.S. to pull out, Malkasian said.

“They, like Russia, are willing to explore some relationships with the Taliban in order to improve their position,” he said.

Russia’s moves in Afghanistan are part of a wider global contest with the U.S. to assert Moscow’s military or political might where it sees openings with relatively low risk, including in Syria, according to Walsh. Moscow is “trying to assert itself in a wide range of conflicts across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, often to counter U.S. interests or to step into vacuums where the United States is not playing,” he said.

Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov gestures while speaking during an interview to the Associated Press in Moscow, on Feb. 13, 2019.Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP file

Russia organized several Afghan peace conferences in Moscow in 2018 and 2019, inviting Taliban leaders in a move that sometimes irritated the Afghan government. But Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s influential envoy to Kabul, touted Russia’s more prominent profile and said last year the U.S. “has completely failed” in Afghanistan.

Russia has its own dismal history in Afghanistan. The former Soviet Union’s 1979-1989 war, in support of an allied communist government, left an estimated one million Afghans dead and ended in a humiliating withdrawal for the Soviets. The Islamist guerrilla force that defeated the Soviets had been armed covertly by the U.S. and Pakistan.

Now the Taliban, who portray themselves as carrying on the legacy of the Afghans who fought against the Soviets, have warmly accepted Russia’s diplomatic overtures.

Despite the Pentagon’s concerns about Russia’s double-game in Afghanistan, President Donald Trump’s envoy for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, has looked to Russia to boost the fragile peace effort, frequently holding talks with his Russian counterpart.

Khalilzad traveled to Pakistan and Doha this week in his latest bid to get long-delayed peace talks started between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The peace talks were supposed to begin in March, following a deal between the Taliban and the U.S.

Under the U.S.-Taliban accord signed in February, the U.S. promised to withdraw all of its troops in return for the Taliban promising not to allow Afghanistan to be a staging ground for terrorist attacks and agreeing to enter into direct talks with its foes in the Afghan government.

Fauci: COVID-19 cases could swell to 100,000 a day if U.S. doesnt control virus

26 0 30 Jun 2020

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s leading health officials, suggested Tuesday the number of COVID-19 cases diagnosed each day could rise dramatically unless the nation can control the spread of the coronavirus.

“I’m very concerned about what’s going on right now, particularly in the four states that are accounting for about 50 percent of the new infections,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

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Those states — Arizona, California, Florida and Texas — are experiencing surges in COVID-19 cases. And at least 12 states are reporting increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“We are now having [40,000+] new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around,” Fauci said. “Clearly we are not in total control.” He declined to make a prediction on the number of COVID-19-related deaths the U.S. could experience. More than 126,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“I’m very concerned, because it could get very bad,” he said.

The testimony came during a hearing intended to address how the nation’s schools can safely reopen, even as many cities and states are pausing or reversing plans to open up the economy.

Many new COVID-19 infections are among young adults, and are largely linked to large gatherings.

The coronavirus spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, talking and singing.

Health officials continue to urge everyone to do their part to control the spread, by washing hands, maintaining physical distance and wearing masks.

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“It is critical that we all take the personal responsibility to slow the transmission of COVID-19, and embrace the universal use of face coverings,” Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during his testimony Tuesday.

“Specifically, I’m addressing the younger members of our society, the millennials and Generation Zs,” Redfield said.

Fauci said elected and community leaders should be modeling good public health behavior by wearing masks, a behavior that has become a symbol of political division. President Donald Trump has generally refused to wear a mask in public settings.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., made a point to encourage the president to wear a face covering. “The stakes are too high for the political debate about pro-Trump, anti-Trump masks to continue,” he said at the hearing.

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Trump is stronger, and Congress is weaker, after Supreme Courts CFPB decision

21 0 30 Jun 2020

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, will live to fight another day. Monday, a divided Supreme Court upheld the legality of the CFPB itself but struck down a key provision of the law that protected the independence of the agency. This ruling not only will affect the work of the CFPB, but more importantly, it also threatens to undermine Congress’ ability to fashion executive agencies free of presidential influence.

Depending on what happens next, the court’s ruling could be one of the most consequential of this Supreme Court term.

Depending on what happens next, the court’s ruling could be one of the most consequential of this Supreme Court term, as it could lead to the dismantling of the administrative state, which refers to executive agencies and the power they have to enact and enforce their own rules.

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Congress created the CFPB in 2010, in the wake of the 2008 recession. The CFPB is designed to protect consumers from companies that engage in illegal, misleading or unfair behavior. The agency can do this by, among other things, conducting investigations, writing rules and filing civil actions in federal court to enforce consumer financial laws. The CFPB has one director who is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate and can serve a five-year term.

Congress acknowledged that the CFPB should have some independence from presidential influence. Congress and Elizabeth Warren, who spearheaded the creation of the agency before she was elected to the Senate, recognized that a president unhappy with the activities of the agency might want to fire its director. (Indeed, we happen to have a president with a habit of trying to protect friends and family members.) For this reason, Congress decided that the president should be allowed to remove the director of the CFPB only for “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.” Hence a president has to be able to show that the director of the CFPB is somehow failing to perform her job, not that the president just simply doesn’t like whoever the director is.

The Supreme Court eliminated much of that independence by instead saying the president must be able to fire the director of the CFPB “at will.” But here is the important part. This is a blow not just to the important work that the CFPB does to protect consumers from companies behaving badly, but also to congressional power and the administrative state more generally. The court hobbled Congress’ power to create executive agencies that are relatively independent, meaning free of presidential influence.

Let’s take a moment to think about the other independent executive agencies whose directors can be fired only for cause. They include the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission. Although those agencies are not identical to the CFPB, under the court’s decision, many will argue that the Constitution requires that the president be able to fire their directors at will.

In the end the public loses when Congress lacks the power to create watchdog agencies that are independent of presidential influence. Remember, the CFPB is an agency created to protect the public from predatory behavior by businesses.

In the end the public loses when Congress lacks the power to create watchdog agencies that are independent of presidential influence.

So how does Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a thin majority opinion, decide to undermine the independence of executive agencies? Four words: the separation of powers. Roberts concludes that because the president has the duty to ensure that “laws are faithfully executed,” the president must have the authority to fire the director of the CFPB at will.

In a dissent, Justice Elena Kagan reminds us that the words “separations of power” appear nowhere in the Constitution. In a made-for-social-media passage, she writes: “What does the Constitution say about the separation of powers — and particularly about the President’s removal authority? (Spoiler alert: about the latter, nothing at all.)”

In the short term, liberals may have some cause for celebration. If, and this is a big if, former Vice President Joe Biden wins the presidential election, he will be able to fire President Donald Trump’s chosen head of the CFPB come January. But this is a thin silver lining. The bigger picture is cloudy, at best.


Koalas may be extinct in Australias New South Wales by 2050

29 0 30 Jun 2020

Koalas in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) could become extinct by 2050 unless the government immediately intervenes to protect them and their habitat, a parliamentary inquiry determined after a year-long inquiry.

Land clearing for agriculture, urban development, mining and forestry had been the biggest factor in the fragmentation and loss of habitat for the animals in NSW, the country’s most populous state, over several decades.

A prolonged, drought-fuelled bushfire season that ended early this year was also devastating for the animals, destroying about a quarter of their habitat across the state, and in some parts up to 81%.

“The evidence could not be more stark,” the inquiry’s 311-page final report said on Tuesday.

“The only way our children’s grandchildren will see a koala in the wild in NSW will be if the government acts upon the committee’s recommendations.”

The report, commissioned by a multi-party parliamentary committee, makes 42 recommendations, including an urgent census, prioritizing the protection of the animal in the planning of urban development, and increasing conservation funding.

But it stopped short of unanimously recommending a moratorium on logging in public native forests, it said.

Stuart Blanch, manager of land clearing and restoration at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Australia, called on the government to heed the recommendations and strengthen protections for the animals’ habitat.

“WWF calls on the NSW Premier to rewrite weak land clearing laws to protect koala habitat, greatly increase funding for farmers who actively conserve trees where koalas live, and a transition out of logging koala forests and into plantations.” Blanch said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Gladys Berejiklian, the state premier, said the government would consider the report and respond “in due course”, adding it had already committed A$44 million ($30.14 million) on a strategy to protect the animals.

McGrath defeats Booker in Kentucky Senate Democratic primary, NBC News projects

20 0 30 Jun 2020

Amy McGrath has won Kentucky’s U.S. Senate Democratic primary, NBC News projects, edging out progressive Charles Booker in a tougher-than-expected race for the right to face Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November.

McGrath, a ret. Marine Lt. Col. who was backed by several establishment Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., had initially had been a heavy favorite in the race and held an enormous fundraising edge over Booker, a state Representative whose candidacy received the support of progressive lawmakers and groups.

But Booker ended up mounting a far tougher challenge than expected, fueled by momentum from his vocal support for protests against the shooting death by police of a Louisville woman.

On Tuesday, a week after the election, McGrath led Booker 45.1 percent to 42.9 percent, a margin of about 11,600 votes, with 95 percent of the state’s precincts reporting, according to NBC News. The tally had been delayed because of the large number of mail-in votes that needed to be counted of election day.

The Kentucky secretary of state said that 161,238 people voted in-person last Tuesday, but there were more than a half million mail-in ballots.

McGrath raised $2.5 million in her first 24 hours. The early Democratic fervor for her candidacy cooled, however, when she said in an interview with The Courier-Journal of Louisville that “I probably would have voted” to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who’s widely loathed by Democrats. She later tweeted that “upon further reflection and further understanding of his record, I would have voted no.”

McGrath continued her fundraising prowess, and as of June 3 she had raised over $41 million, according to the most recent filings. But she had to dip into that money for ads to fight off a late surge from Booker, who entered the race only in January.

Booker, who supports “Medicare for All,” the Green New Deal and universal basic income and campaigned against inequality and racial injustice, joined protests over the police killing of Breonna Taylor, a Louisville woman who was shot dead in her apartment on March 13 by police executing a “no-knock” warrant. He netted endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., among others.

Booker also made an issue of McGrath’s failure to join the protests against Taylor’s death — leading her to air an ad decrying the death of George Floyd. Booker noted that she didn’t mention Taylor in the ad.

Comedy legend Carl Reiner, of The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Jerk, dies at 98

18 0 30 Jun 2020

American comedy legend Carl Reiner, who over a decades-long career made his mark on Broadway, TV and film, has died.

He was 98.

Reiner was inducted into the Emmy Hall of Fame in 1999, and before that had taken home multiple Emmys, primarily for his work on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “Caesar’s Hour.”

His last win was in 1995 for outstanding guest actor in a comedy, on NBC’s “Mad About You.”

“Last night my dad passed away,” his son and fellow comedy giant Rob Reiner said in a statement Tuesday. “As I write this my heart is hurting. He was my guiding light.”

Carl Reiner was a star of early television with material that will likely still be funny 2,000 years from now. His bestselling album, “2,000 Year Old Man,”, was based on his comedy routine with Mel Brooks.

Comedian Carl Reiner in 1955.Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images file

In that famous 1975 album, Reiner plays an interviewer asking questions of a 2,000-year-old Brooks. The straight man Reiner quizzes Brooks on all sorts of topics in life, with improvisational answers that went down in comedy history.

Even in his final days, Reiner still managed to stay socially relevant. To celebrate Brooks’ 94th birthday, the pair donned Black Lives Matter T-shirts in a photo with Reiner’s daughter, Annie.

That picture may have been on the mind of actress Rosanna Arquette when on Tuesday she tweeted a clenched fist and the message: “Rest in Peace and power Carl Reiner.” Arquette expressed “gratitude for all the laughter you have given us through the years.”

“Two and a Half Men” star Jon Cryer called Reiner a “brilliant and hilarious” role model and recalled the time he took the veteran’s place as host of the “Directors Guild of America Awards” in 2009. Cryer posted a picture of a hilarious letter Reiner sent him after the latter couldn’t make the gig due to health issues.

“I thank you for filling in for me tonight,” Reiner typed. “I wish with all my heart that you fail, or if you don’t, that you are no more than adequate. I don’t want to have to compete with you for this non-paying job.”

Reiner’s wit boldly took American comedy where no man had gone before: “Condolences to the family of Carl Reiner,” “Star Trek” icon William Shatner wrote Tuesday. ”From the writers room of Sid Caesar to recreating those times for the Dick Van Dyke show, Carl was a master at his craft.”

Not only was Reiner one of the latter 20th century’s great comedic minds, he helped other comics.

Reiner directed the 1979 comedy “The Jerk,” which sent standup comedian Steve Martin to new heights of fame.

“Carl Reiner came into the mix and gave it heart and gave it shape and we became very very close friends,” Martin told an American Film Institute audience in 2009, celebrating the movie’s 30th birthday.

“He was like a father to me — although I wouldn’t let him bathe me like he wanted to.”

This is a developing story; check back for updates.

Generations of Americans are unemployed in the COVID-19 economy. Hear their stories.

21 0 30 Jun 2020

“Unlike most recessions where the policy goal is just, as quick as possible, get people back into a job, this was different. We actually wanted to give people the economic space to not work for a while because we wanted to reduce the spread.”

That extra cushion, which has stopped the fall of consumption spending in response to the sudden shock of job losses, has kept many Americans’ lives afloat. But the country is currently poised to leap off a fiscal cliff without an extension of those benefits, Bivens said. 

That could be dire economically for the country and for individuals, especially as outbreaks of the virus are growing in Texas, Arizona and across the Southeast. 

“If we have another similarly sized shutdown and we don’t have the extra $600, I mean, people will literally go hungry,” Bivens said. “We already saw the lines at food banks and things like that in the past three months, it will get exponentially worse if nothing changes.”

But it’s not just the possible loss of the assistance that worries Americans who remain out of work. Many states suspended rent and mortgage payments as the pandemic spread across the country, but those freezes are beginning to expire. 

That’s another level of relief lost for the record number of people who are now unemployed, many of whom also lost their job-provided health insurance.

But people like Marty Petersen, 57, don’t have much hope that Congress or the Trump administration will do much to help. Petersen, who worked as a stagehand at a theater in Schenectady, New York, for 31 years until he was laid off because of the pandemic, said that it appears both political parties seem more concerned about political wins than addressing the economic woes of Americans across the country.

“They’re deciding not to work together and we’re all getting caught up and neglected,” Petersen said, noting that he’s had to pull from his retirement savings to help pay for health insurance coverage for his family of four and is considering selling his car to make ends meet if he loses the CARES Act benefits. “We’re the pile of sawdust that they’re creating.” 

Democrats have proposed extending the CARES Act unemployment benefits until the end of the year, but the extension has yet to find much bipartisan support. 

Many said they feel as if they’re in limbo, already unable to make any plans for their future — financial and otherwise — because of COVID-19, and they worry about losing the one lifeline they feel they have left. 

Nevertheless, President Donald Trump has insisted that the economy will quickly bounce back once states come out of lockdowns. But as the number of unemployment claims continues to grow and with a number of states having to reverse reopening plans, it appears as if Trump’s confidence could be misguided.

It’s not convincing to Nicole Anerud, 37, who lost her job in the oil and gas industry three weeks after returning from maternity leave. Anerud, who had dreams of becoming a history professor until the Great Recession forced her to pivot into her most recent role as an oil and gas planner, said that she doesn’t have much hope for finding work again in her current field, especially as Texas faces a growing rate of infection. Now she’s forced to once again rethink her career goals. 

“It’s getting harder,” she said from her home in Katy, Texas. “I don’t know what the ramifications are going to be from COVID-19 or how bad it’s going to get, but I’ve got a double-edged worry of trying to find a job while balancing that with my son.”

While no two unemployment stories are the same, the common threads are a sense of dreams deferred and a need to take temporary work in the strange new world the United States has become amid the pandemic. 

Emily Nygard, 23, of Tacoma, Washington, thought she had found her dream job at the intersection of law and health when she took a position as a medical reports coordinator right after graduating from college. Seven months after she started, her company laid her off. Her unemployment claim allowed her to pay a mounting number of bills as she applied for dozens of jobs each day.

“I was sitting at home for six weeks just going, ‘you know, the world’s been taken. I’m doing nothing, and I just so desperately want to help,’” said Nygard, who said that she cried when she had to apply for unemployment. 

She eventually found another position, as a COVID-19 screener at the hospital near her home, but the job is temporary, adding another variable to an already murky future.

“It’s been a little bit of cognitive dissonance of like, ‘what’s my work worth? And what’s my degree worth? And what’s my health worth?’” Nygard said. “Because a lot of the money that I make right now is, ‘Thanks for putting your life on the line.’”

Design and development: Robin Muccari / NBC News

Art Director: Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

European Union bars travelers from U.S. citing coronavirus concerns

24 0 30 Jun 2020

LONDON ⁠— Most travelers from the United States will be barred from entering the European Union after it reopens its borders Wednesday because the coronavirus is still far too prevalent in the U.S., European officials announced Tuesday.

The E.U.’s 27 members have been drawing up a list of countries whose virus levels are deemed low enough to allow people from those places to travel into the bloc, which has been mostly sealed off since March.

That list of safe countries was officially unveiled by European officials on Tuesday. The U.S. — which has the most coronavirus cases and deaths in the world — was not on it.

The 15 countries that did make the list are: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

China will also be included on the list if it allows entry to E.U. travelers in return.

The move is a sign of how the U.S. is seen by Europe and elsewhere as a global coronavirus hotbed.

The E.U. and U.S. experienced infection spikes in late March and early April. But while strict lockdown measures have seen those numbers decline across Europe, in the U.S. there have been recent flare-ups in states such as Florida and Texas while President Donald Trump has encouraged society to reopen.

More than 125,000 people in the U.S. have died from the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to an NBC News tally.

Back in March, when Europe was the world’s coronavirus center, Trump announced sweeping travel restrictions — without telling any of his E.U. counterparts first.

But the E.U. says its selective travel list was not about political grudges and instead is based on epidemiological criteria.

A European briefing last week noted that the U.S. had seen 107 cases per 100,000 people in the previous 14 days, whereas the average across the E.U. was 16 cases per 100,000 people.

For any country not on the list, the E.U. restrictions on non-essential travel imposed in March still apply.

These restrictions do not apply to E.U. citizens abroad, health workers, people involved in the freight and haulage industries, diplomats and military personnel, and “passengers traveling for imperative family reasons.”

21 best Fourth of July sales and deals to shop in 2020

27 0 30 Jun 2020

Fireworks, barbeques and epic sales: It’s a recipe for an ideal Fourth of July. While we may be missing out on gatherings and parades due to coronavirus this Independence Day, you can still count on retailers and brands slashing prices on products across the board, from summer clothing to furniture. While some retailers are offering discounts in-store, you’ll also find plenty of savings online, so you can take advantage of deals regardless of how comfortable you feel about shopping in-person or what has re-opened in your neighborhood. If you do opt to head somewhere in-person, be sure to equip yourself with the best face mask.

IN THIS ARTICLE What to shop for during July 4th sales | Best Fourth of July sales | 7 deals to shop right now

The sheer number of Independence Day sales can be difficult to sort through, so we consulted Michael Bonebright, a consumer analyst from He pointed out the best items to shop for during Independence Day and highlighted retailers that are offering big savings. Notably, Bonebright said Fourth of July sales only last for a day or two after the holiday: If there is something you’ve had your eye on, be sure to purchase it sooner than later.

What to shop for during July 4th sales

While many July 4th sales launched significantly earlier than usual this year — June 11 rather than the more typical June 22 — Bonebright said shoppers should not expect deals to linger. He believes sales will end by Monday, July 6, and said the best savings will be offered during the holiday weekend. Bonebright thinks it’s best to make purchases on or by Saturday, July 4, as inventory will begin to dwindle when Sunday approaches.

So what are the best things to buy this year? Bonebright said Independence Day sales are a great time to purchase hiking and camping gear. However, sales on items like tents and boots will only increase throughout the month, so he suggests watching prices before purchasing — if you’re not in a rush. You can also save on outdoor essentials that will deck out your backyard like grills, portable smokers and lawn toys. Clothing will also be deeply discounted since retailers want to get rid of their spring and summer stock. Bonebright has seen up to 80 percent off apparel, including apparel for warm weather. He recommends browsing through large department stores in the coming week. To help guide your initial scrolling, here are some of the largest sales from major brands and retailers this week.

Best Fourth of July sales

  1. Aerosoles is offering 50 percent off summer sandals from July 2 to July 9.
  2. American Eagle is offering up to 60 percent off sitewide for a limited time.
  3. Best Buy is offering up to 40 percent off appliances like ovens and dishwashers.
  4. Brooklyn Bedding is offering 25 percent off sitewide through July 7.
  5. Burrow is offering up to $500 off sofas and other discounts on furniture like coffee tables, rugs and wall shelves with code USA through July 12.
  6. Crane & Canopy is offering up to 70 percent off bedding, sheets, rugs and home décor from July 2 to July 6.
  7. Enso Rings is offering up to 40 percent off select rings and bracelets through July
  8. Greenpan is offering 40 percent off sitewide from July 2 to July 6.
  9. HP is offering up to 60 percent off select products (like this HP Stream 11 Pro Notebook PC).
  10. Idle Sleep is offering 30 percent off sitewide with code 4JULY3 through July 8. Use code 4JULYADJUST to get a free adjustable base with any mattress purchase
  11. Kate Spade is offering an extra 40 percent off sale items with code EXTRA40 through July 5.
  12. MacKenzie-Childs is offering 50 percent off products like home decor and kitchenware through July 4.
  13. Nest Bedding is offering 20 percent off purchases of $150 or more with code FIREWORKS through July 12.
  14. Old Navy is offering up to 60 percent off storewide on items like clothing, shoes and accessories.
  15. Osprey is offering 25 percent off select outdoor gear and up to 40 percent off last season’s products through July 6.
  16. REI is offering up to 50 percent off select clothing, shoes and outdoor gear through July 6.
  17. is offering 25 percent off sitewide through July 7.
  18. SimpliSafe is offering 30 percent off any new system, plus a free SimpliCam security camera on any package purchased.
  19. Toms is offering up to 65 percent off summer styles for women, men and children.
  20. ULTA is offering up to 50 percent off select products.
  21. Walmart is offering deals on products across departments, like 50 percent off apparel and hundreds of dollars off patio dining sets.

7 deals to shop right now

1. Molekule Air Purifier

While air purifiers cannot protect you from contracting the coronavirus, they are beneficial in other ways. Named one of the best air purifiers, the Molekule Air is designed for large spaces, up to 600 sq. ft. It can be controlled through an app in addition to its touchscreen display. The Molekule Air is portable so you can take it on vacation or simply transport it between rooms. Molekule’s sale lasts through July 6.

2. Layla Sleep Hybrid Mattress

The Layla Sleep Hybrid Mattress combines a mix of memory foam and coil springs to provide maximum support and comfort. It has two sides, one that has a soft, plush feel and one that is more firm. The foam that makes up this mattress is copper-infused, which transfers heat away from your body and allows for a cooler sleeping experience. The Layla Sleep Hybrid Mattress comes in six sizes, all of which are on sale during the company’s July 4th sale — if you purchase through July 5, the mattress comes with two free pillows, too.

3. REI Big Haul Rolling Duffel

Whether you’re planning on escaping for a few weeks or are packing up to go camping, REI’s Big Haul Rolling Duffel will fit everything you need. This 30-inch bag has oversized wheels designed to travel over uneven surfaces and a protective outer shell, as well as multiple handles and piggyback clips, which you can use to connect other luggage.

4. OstrichPillow Go

The OstrichPillow Go puts an end to that kink in your neck you dread feeling while traveling. Its ergonomic design and memory foam core supports your head while you use your devices, sleep or read during long plane or car rides. This neck pillow compresses into 60 percent of its size when placed in the included travel bag, so you can conveniently store it in a purse or backpack while on the go. The OstrichPillow Go is on sale fromJuly 1 to July 10.

5. Traeger Pro Series Wood Pellet Grill

Despite some restaurants across the country now open for limited dine-in service, there is nothing quite like a home cooked meal. Prepare dinner outside during the summer months with this grill that’s fueled by pure hardwood pellets. It’s controlled digitally, which allows users to switch between cooking on low heat and high heat while getting consistently cooked burgers or hot dogs. The grill comes with a Hopper Clean Out System so you can change hardwood pellet flavors quickly, in addition to a thermometer, tool kit, drip tray, warming rack and meat probe.

6. Google Nest Learning Thermostat

You can control this thermostat from your phone, tablet or laptop so you don’t have to get up every time you want to change the temperature in your living room. The Google Nest Learning Thermostat learns your habits, such as times you like it hot and times you like it cold, and adjusts automatically. It also has features that may help you save money on your energy bill, such as Home/Away Assist, which automatically adjusts the temperature when you leave so you don’t heat or cool an empty home. The thermostat comes in seven colors, ranging from Mirror Black to Copper, and is built with smart learning capabilities and humidity sensors.

7. BioLite CampStove 2 Bundle

This portable wood cooking system sets you up to boil pasta, grill chicken and even make s’mores while camping. When put together, the bundle allows you to cook an assortment of food as well as charge your devices. You can also create a smokeless flame using items like sticks and pinecones. It’s lightweight and folds into a flat package, so you can hike to your camping spot with it in your backpack.

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