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Democrats Seek to Counter Trump’s 2020 Message

Grappling with the realities of President Donald Trump’s reign, Democrats are trying to offer a counterweight to the president’s message — without making it all about Trump.

An annual conference organized by a prominent Democratic think tank included an early glimpse Tuesday at some of the Democrats plotting a challenge to Trump in 2020. But it also laid bare some of the challenges Democrats face in opposing a president whose presence has been all-consuming and in developing an alternative agenda to reach voters who turned to Trump in 2016.

“What they want to hear about is the economy and their plans for it. They don’t want to hear about Donald Trump every single minute,” Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, said at the Center for American Progress’ Ideas Conference. “We resist, but we also insist on a better way forward.”

The lineup at the daylong conference featured appearances by several potential 2020 candidates, including Klobuchar and Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Also speaking: former Housing Secretary Julian Castro and current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats have pointed to growing activism since Trump’s election, from the women’s march after his inauguration to a student movement in support of gun control measures following the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida. And they have captured special election victories in Alabama, electing Democratic Senator Doug Jones, and in western Pennsylvania, helping Democrat Conor Lamb overcome millions in Republican expenditures in a GOP-leaning district.

Democrats are hoping for a “blue wave” in the midterms to recapture one or both chambers in Congress, which they have said would serve as a precursor to ousting Trump from office.

Grass roots ‘stood up’

“The reason why we don’t have Trumpcare today,” said New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, referring to the president’s failed attempt to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, “is because the grass roots stood up, stood tall and said, ‘No.’ ”

But the party is still dealing with tensions on how far it should move to embrace more liberal policies on the economy and health care in response to Trump.

Sanders, who battled Hillary Clinton for the party’s nomination in 2016, rattled off a litany of liberal causes, including the need for a single-payer health care system, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, reproductive rights and universal child care. But he pointed to the role of the “oligarchy in this country” as the nation’s most central challenge, a movement he said was leading to “a government of the few, by the few, and for the few.”

“It is so important that we set big goals and we not be afraid of that,” said de Blasio, who announced plans for the New York Police Department to “overhaul and reform” policies related to marijuana enforcement in the next month.

Castro, HUD secretary under President Barack Obama and a former San Antonio mayor, said the party needed a “new blueprint” that would make universal prekindergarten a reality, provide free college for at least the first two years and protect hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.

Trump’s distilled message

One of the critiques of Clinton’s 2016 Democratic presidential campaign was that it failed to present a coherent argument on what the party would stand for under her watch. Trump, meanwhile, successfully distilled his message into his slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and narrowly defeated Clinton in Midwestern states like Michigan and Wisconsin that had been safe Democratic territory.

Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, noted that Trump claimed victory in Ohio, a perennial presidential battleground, by nearly 9 percentage points in 2016, saying the president won in “communities he had no business winning.”

“I think workers in my state are looking for somebody in elected office to talk about the dignity of work, to talk about whose side are you on, to talk about why work matters,” Brown said. “I don’t hear that enough from elected officials.”

Neera Tanden, the center’s president and a longtime Clinton adviser, said that while Trump represents “an unprecedented threat to our values and our norms,” Democrats cannot simply resist the president and his policies but instead need to provide an alternative to his agenda.

The event was attended by a number of financial donors, political strategists and activists who are beginning to assess what is expected to be a massive field in 2020, spurred in part by Trump’s sluggish public approval ratings.

Robert Wolf, a major Democratic donor who attended the conference, said the party was “starting to build a narrative of things we stand for,” as opposed to simply opposing Trump at every turn.

“We have to make sure we’re the party of ‘for things,’ ” Wolf said.

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US Senate Preps for Net Neutrality Vote

Senate Democrats are mounting a last-ditch campaign to preserve so-called “net neutrality” that has prevented certain content or users from being slowed on the internet in the United States — an effort most Republicans say is misguided and counterproductive.

On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on whether to reverse the Federal Communications Commission’s December decision to repeal Obama-era rules that barred internet service providers from favoring certain users or material. All 49 Democrats and one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, back the resolution in the 100-member chamber.

“All [net neutrality] does is protect the openness of the internet to competitors across the country,” said Angus King, a Maine Independent who caucuses with Democrats. “I believe this resolution will restore us to a place where small businesses will be able to compete and blossom and prosper.”

Added Democrat Ed Markey of Massachusetts: “Net neutrality is our 21st century right, and we will fight to protect it. Eighty-three percent of Americans, in polling, say they want to protect net neutrality.”

Republicans insist they, too, believe in net neutrality, but want to safeguard it by crafting forward-looking legislation rather than re-imposing an outdated regulatory structure.

“Democrats have decided to take the issue of net neutrality and make it partisan,” Senator John Thune of South Dakota said. “Instead of working with Republicans to develop permanent net neutrality legislation, they’ve decided to try to score political points with a partisan resolution that would do nothing to permanently secure net neutrality.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Trump appointee, defended the commission’s decision at a recent telecommunications conference in Washington, saying antiquated and heavy-handed federal internet regulation slows innovation and discourages investment in cyberinfrastructure.

“If you want something to operate like a slow-moving utility [company], there is no better way to ensure that than by regulating it as such,” Pai said. “[The American people] want more access, they want competition. They want the internet to be better and faster and cheaper.”

The FCC chairman added that federal regulators retain the ability to crack down on any unfair practices regarding internet access, and that service providers are required to disclose whether they slow any content or offer paid so-called “fast lanes.”

Such assurances have not satisfied more than 20 U.S. states that sued to prevent the FCC’s decision from going into effect June 11. In Washington, Democrats say small-business owners are worried they will be at a disadvantage in reaching new customers if net neutrality disappears.

“It’s all about having equal access to the internet,” King said, pointing to Certify, a small Web-based company in Portland, Maine, as an example of what is at stake. “One hundred fifty employees. It has two million users around the globe — that’s because of the power of the internet. We don’t want that business to be choked off by a large competitor who can pay preferential rates [for internet access].”

America’s largest internet service providers have said they will not engage in “throttling” — dramatically slowing down certain content — once the new FCC rules go into effect next month.

The net neutrality resolution could pass in the Senate 50-49, given the absence of Arizona Republican John McCain. From there, it faces significant hurdles. Passage is seen as less likely in the Republican-led House of Representatives, and President Donald Trump is unlikely to sign a bill overriding a decision backed by the FCC chairman he selected.

Even so, Democrats see an opportunity to highlight an issue of concern to many Americans ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

“This vote will allow senators to show once and for all where everyone stands on #NetNeutrality,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York tweeted.

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US Senate Preps for Net Neutrality Vote

Senate Democrats are mounting a last-ditch campaign to preserve so-called “net neutrality” that has prevented certain content or users from being slowed on the internet in the United States — an effort most Republicans say is misguided and counterproductive.

On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on whether to reverse the Federal Communications Commission’s December decision to repeal Obama-era rules that barred internet service providers from favoring certain users or material. All 49 Democrats and one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, back the resolution in the 100-member chamber.

“All [net neutrality] does is protect the openness of the internet to competitors across the country,” said Angus King, a Maine Independent who caucuses with Democrats. “I believe this resolution will restore us to a place where small businesses will be able to compete and blossom and prosper.”

Added Democrat Ed Markey of Massachusetts: “Net neutrality is our 21st century right, and we will fight to protect it. Eighty-three percent of Americans, in polling, say they want to protect net neutrality.”

Republicans insist they, too, believe in net neutrality, but want to safeguard it by crafting forward-looking legislation rather than re-imposing an outdated regulatory structure.

“Democrats have decided to take the issue of net neutrality and make it partisan,” Senator John Thune of South Dakota said. “Instead of working with Republicans to develop permanent net neutrality legislation, they’ve decided to try to score political points with a partisan resolution that would do nothing to permanently secure net neutrality.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Trump appointee, defended the commission’s decision at a recent telecommunications conference in Washington, saying antiquated and heavy-handed federal internet regulation slows innovation and discourages investment in cyberinfrastructure.

“If you want something to operate like a slow-moving utility [company], there is no better way to ensure that than by regulating it as such,” Pai said. “[The American people] want more access, they want competition. They want the internet to be better and faster and cheaper.”

The FCC chairman added that federal regulators retain the ability to crack down on any unfair practices regarding internet access, and that service providers are required to disclose whether they slow any content or offer paid so-called “fast lanes.”

Such assurances have not satisfied more than 20 U.S. states that sued to prevent the FCC’s decision from going into effect June 11. In Washington, Democrats say small-business owners are worried they will be at a disadvantage in reaching new customers if net neutrality disappears.

“It’s all about having equal access to the internet,” King said, pointing to Certify, a small Web-based company in Portland, Maine, as an example of what is at stake. “One hundred fifty employees. It has two million users around the globe — that’s because of the power of the internet. We don’t want that business to be choked off by a large competitor who can pay preferential rates [for internet access].”

America’s largest internet service providers have said they will not engage in “throttling” — dramatically slowing down certain content — once the new FCC rules go into effect next month.

The net neutrality resolution could pass in the Senate 50-49, given the absence of Arizona Republican John McCain. From there, it faces significant hurdles. Passage is seen as less likely in the Republican-led House of Representatives, and President Donald Trump is unlikely to sign a bill overriding a decision backed by the FCC chairman he selected.

Even so, Democrats see an opportunity to highlight an issue of concern to many Americans ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

“This vote will allow senators to show once and for all where everyone stands on #NetNeutrality,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York tweeted.

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Twitter Changes Strategy in Battle Against Internet ‘Trolls’

Twitter Inc on Tuesday revised its strategy for fighting abusive internet trolls,” saying it would use behavioral signals to identify harassers on the social network and then limit the visibility of their tweets.

San Francisco-based Twitter, known for freewheeling discussions since it was founded in 2006, has been trying to rid itself of harassment out of concern that personal attacks were driving people away.

Twitter’s rules already prohibit abuse, and it can suspend or block offenders once someone reports them. Users can also mute people they find offensive.

Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said Twitter now would try to find problematic accounts by examining behavior such as how frequently people tweet about accounts that do not follow them or whether they have confirmed their email address.

Tweets from those accounts will appear lower in certain areas of the service, such as search results or replies to tweets, even if the tweets themselves have not been found to violate any rules.

“We want to take the burden of the work off the people receiving the abuse or the harassment,” Dorsey said in a briefing with reporters. Past efforts to fight abuse “felt like Whac-A-Mole,” he added.

Tweets will not be removed entirely based on behavioral signals, Dorsey said.

In tests the new approach resulted in a 4 percent decrease in abuse reports originating from search results and an 8 percent decrease in abuse reports from the conversations that take place as replies to tweets, according to the company.

Most abuse comes from a small number of accounts that have an outsized impact, said Del Harvey, Twitter’s vice president for trust and safety.

Social media firms including Twitter and Facebook are under pressure to remove bullies, many of whom target women and minorities. Many women cannot express themselves freely on Twitter without fear of violence, Amnesty International said in a report in March.

Reducing abuse could also help Twitter’s business. If more people sign up and spend time on the service, marketers may buy more ads on it.

Dorsey said that Twitter’s 336 million monthly active users should expect a series of other changes over the next several months as the company explores ways to encourage tweets that are more civil.

In March, Twitter sought proposals from academics and others to help gauge the “health of public conversations.” Dorsey said the company is reviewing 230 submissions it received.

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Twitter Changes Strategy in Battle Against Internet ‘Trolls’

Twitter Inc on Tuesday revised its strategy for fighting abusive internet trolls,” saying it would use behavioral signals to identify harassers on the social network and then limit the visibility of their tweets.

San Francisco-based Twitter, known for freewheeling discussions since it was founded in 2006, has been trying to rid itself of harassment out of concern that personal attacks were driving people away.

Twitter’s rules already prohibit abuse, and it can suspend or block offenders once someone reports them. Users can also mute people they find offensive.

Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said Twitter now would try to find problematic accounts by examining behavior such as how frequently people tweet about accounts that do not follow them or whether they have confirmed their email address.

Tweets from those accounts will appear lower in certain areas of the service, such as search results or replies to tweets, even if the tweets themselves have not been found to violate any rules.

“We want to take the burden of the work off the people receiving the abuse or the harassment,” Dorsey said in a briefing with reporters. Past efforts to fight abuse “felt like Whac-A-Mole,” he added.

Tweets will not be removed entirely based on behavioral signals, Dorsey said.

In tests the new approach resulted in a 4 percent decrease in abuse reports originating from search results and an 8 percent decrease in abuse reports from the conversations that take place as replies to tweets, according to the company.

Most abuse comes from a small number of accounts that have an outsized impact, said Del Harvey, Twitter’s vice president for trust and safety.

Social media firms including Twitter and Facebook are under pressure to remove bullies, many of whom target women and minorities. Many women cannot express themselves freely on Twitter without fear of violence, Amnesty International said in a report in March.

Reducing abuse could also help Twitter’s business. If more people sign up and spend time on the service, marketers may buy more ads on it.

Dorsey said that Twitter’s 336 million monthly active users should expect a series of other changes over the next several months as the company explores ways to encourage tweets that are more civil.

In March, Twitter sought proposals from academics and others to help gauge the “health of public conversations.” Dorsey said the company is reviewing 230 submissions it received.

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Kenya Steps Into Space with First Satellite Launch

Kenya took its first step into space with the launch Friday of a nano-satellite made at the University of Nairobi. Engineers involved in creating the cube-shaped space capsule described it as Kenya’s joining the space club, although much remains to be done to get the Kenya space program off the ground. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Nairobi.

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Kenya Steps Into Space with First Satellite Launch

Kenya took its first step into space with the launch Friday of a nano-satellite made at the University of Nairobi. Engineers involved in creating the cube-shaped space capsule described it as Kenya’s joining the space club, although much remains to be done to get the Kenya space program off the ground. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Nairobi.

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Hawaii Volcano Eruption Costs Tourism Industry Millions

People nixing vacations to Hawaii’s Big island has cost the tourism industry millions of dollars as the top attraction, Kilauea volcano, keeps spewing lava.

Cancellations from May through July have hit at least $5 million, said Ross Birch, executive director of the island’s tourism board.

The booking pace for hotels and other activities, such as tours for lava viewing, zip lines and glass bottom boats have fallen 50 percent. A handful of cruise ships have also decided not to come into port even in Kona on the west side of the island, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) away from the volcano.

This is the “first leak we’re seeing out of the bucket,” Birch said.

Tourism is one of Hawaii’s biggest industries and a big part of the local economy. The Big Island topped other islands in the archipelago pulling in $2.5 billion in revenue last year. 

On Monday, another fissure spewing lava and unhealthy gas opened up, and a crack in the Earth that emerged a day earlier was sending molten rock on a slow run for the ocean, officials said.

The National Weather Service has warned residents of “light ashfall” throughout the day in Kau, the island’s southernmost district, after a burst of volcanic emissions around 9 a.m. 

Nearly 20 fissures have opened since the Kilauea volcano started erupting 12 days ago, and officials warn it may soon blow its top with a massive steam eruption that would shoot boulders and ash miles into the sky. 

A fissure that opened Sunday led authorities to order 10 people to flee their homes, Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe said. Overall, nearly 2,000 people have been told to evacuate since May 3, and lava has destroyed more than two dozen homes. 

The U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said the flow from the crack that emerged Sunday was heading on a path that would take it to the ocean, about 2 miles (3 kilometers) away. No homes or roads were threatened by the flow.

Lava on Sunday spread across hundreds of yards of private land and loud explosions rocked the neighborhood not far from the Leilani Estates subdivision, where more than a dozen other active vents opened over the past week.

Nearby resident Richard Schott, 34, watched from a police checkpoint as the eruption churned just over a ridgeline and behind some trees.

“I’ve actually seen rocks fly over the tree line, and I can feel it in my body,” Schott said. “It’s like a nuclear reaction or something.”

Few fissures, ground deformation and abundant volcanic gases indicate eruptions on the eastern flank of Kilauea are likely to persist, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

“The appearance of the fissures in the past couple of days does not change the overall picture or concern,” Geological Survey scientist Steve Brantley said.

Christian and Maritza Ricks, who moved to the area from California in April, stopped at the side of the road to watch and listen to the latest eruption.

“I guess it’s just part of living on the island,” Ricks said.

He said he wasn’t really afraid of the destruction happening around him. 

“In a way, it’s kind of exciting to see what’s going on and be this close to it,” Christian Ricks said.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported a fissure opened Saturday just east of the Puna Geothermal Venture energy conversion plant, where steam and hot liquid are brought up through underground wells and the steam feeds a turbine generator to produce electricity. 

As a precaution, plant workers last week removed 50,000 gallons (189,265 liters) of a flammable liquid stored at the site.

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Hawaii Volcano Eruption Costs Tourism Industry Millions

People nixing vacations to Hawaii’s Big island has cost the tourism industry millions of dollars as the top attraction, Kilauea volcano, keeps spewing lava.

Cancellations from May through July have hit at least $5 million, said Ross Birch, executive director of the island’s tourism board.

The booking pace for hotels and other activities, such as tours for lava viewing, zip lines and glass bottom boats have fallen 50 percent. A handful of cruise ships have also decided not to come into port even in Kona on the west side of the island, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) away from the volcano.

This is the “first leak we’re seeing out of the bucket,” Birch said.

Tourism is one of Hawaii’s biggest industries and a big part of the local economy. The Big Island topped other islands in the archipelago pulling in $2.5 billion in revenue last year. 

On Monday, another fissure spewing lava and unhealthy gas opened up, and a crack in the Earth that emerged a day earlier was sending molten rock on a slow run for the ocean, officials said.

The National Weather Service has warned residents of “light ashfall” throughout the day in Kau, the island’s southernmost district, after a burst of volcanic emissions around 9 a.m. 

Nearly 20 fissures have opened since the Kilauea volcano started erupting 12 days ago, and officials warn it may soon blow its top with a massive steam eruption that would shoot boulders and ash miles into the sky. 

A fissure that opened Sunday led authorities to order 10 people to flee their homes, Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe said. Overall, nearly 2,000 people have been told to evacuate since May 3, and lava has destroyed more than two dozen homes. 

The U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said the flow from the crack that emerged Sunday was heading on a path that would take it to the ocean, about 2 miles (3 kilometers) away. No homes or roads were threatened by the flow.

Lava on Sunday spread across hundreds of yards of private land and loud explosions rocked the neighborhood not far from the Leilani Estates subdivision, where more than a dozen other active vents opened over the past week.

Nearby resident Richard Schott, 34, watched from a police checkpoint as the eruption churned just over a ridgeline and behind some trees.

“I’ve actually seen rocks fly over the tree line, and I can feel it in my body,” Schott said. “It’s like a nuclear reaction or something.”

Few fissures, ground deformation and abundant volcanic gases indicate eruptions on the eastern flank of Kilauea are likely to persist, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

“The appearance of the fissures in the past couple of days does not change the overall picture or concern,” Geological Survey scientist Steve Brantley said.

Christian and Maritza Ricks, who moved to the area from California in April, stopped at the side of the road to watch and listen to the latest eruption.

“I guess it’s just part of living on the island,” Ricks said.

He said he wasn’t really afraid of the destruction happening around him. 

“In a way, it’s kind of exciting to see what’s going on and be this close to it,” Christian Ricks said.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported a fissure opened Saturday just east of the Puna Geothermal Venture energy conversion plant, where steam and hot liquid are brought up through underground wells and the steam feeds a turbine generator to produce electricity. 

As a precaution, plant workers last week removed 50,000 gallons (189,265 liters) of a flammable liquid stored at the site.

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