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Baseball’s minor leagues cancel 2020 seasons

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Baseball’s minor leagues canceled their seasons Tuesday because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the head of their governing body said more than half of the 160 teams were in danger of failing without government assistance or private equity injections.

The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the minor league governing body, made the long-expected announcement.

“We are a fans-in-the-stands business. We don’t have national TV revenues,” National Association president Pat O’Conner said during a digital news conference. “There was a conversation at one point: Well, can we play without fans? And that was one of the shortest conversations in the last six months. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

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O’Conner estimated 85-90% of revenue was related to ticket money, concessions, parking, and ballpark advertising. The minors drew 41.5 million fans last year for 176 teams in 15 leagues, averaging 4,044 fans per game.

MLB teams are planning for a 60-game regular season and most of their revenue will derive from broadcast money.

“I had a conversation with the commissioner, and we weren’t unable to find a path that allowed us to play games,” O’Conner said. “It wasn’t an acrimonious decision on our part.”

O’Conner said many minor league teams had received money through the federal Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act.

“That was a Band-Aid on a hemorrhaging industry,” he said. “Many of our clubs have gone through one, two, maybe three rounds of furloughs. In our office here, we’ve had varying levels of pay cuts between senior management, staff, and we’ve furloughed some individuals, as well, and are just about to enter in a second round of furloughs.”

He hopes for passage of H.R. 7023, which would provide $1 billion in 15-year federal loans from the Federal Reserve to businesses that had 2019 revenue of $35 million or less and “have contractual obligations for making lease, rent, or bond payments for publicly owned sports facilities, museums, and community theaters.”

In addition, the Professional Baseball Agreement between the majors and minors expires Sept.. 30, and MLB has proposed reducing the minimum affiliates from 160 to 120.

“There’s no question that what the pandemic has done is made us somewhat weaker economically,” O’Conner said. “I don’t think it’s challenged our resolve. I don’t think it’s impacted our desire to stick together and get a good deal.”

There have not been substantive talks for about six weeks.

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“There are very many teams that are not liquid, not solvent, not able to proceed under normal circumstances, and these are anything but normal circumstances given the PBA and the uncertainty of the future for some of these ballclubs,” O’Conner said. “So I think the coronavirus has really cut into many clubs’ ability to make it. And I think that we’re looking at without some government intervention, without doing something to take on equity partners, you might be looking at half of the 160 who are going to have serious problems.”

MLB already has told clubs to retain expanded 60-player pools, of which 30 players can be active during the first two weeks of the season starting in late July.

Conner said the financial impact of the pathogen might extend until 2023.

“As serious as the threat from Major League Baseball was,” O’Conner said, “this threat from the coronavirus, it transcends any list that anybody wants to make with respect to the possibility of teams not being around in the future.”

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Opinion | What Trump Wants From Roger Stone

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So why did President Trump finally act? He was certainly prompted by Mr. Stone’s impending date with prison on Tuesday, but his own re-election prospects also likely played a part. When Mr. Stone was convicted in November, Mr. Trump was facing a close race with Joe Biden among likely voters in battleground states. Today, fewer than four months until Election Day, the polls point to a possible landslide defeat for Mr. Trump.

The stakes in 2020 are far higher for Mr. Trump than they were in 2016. Back then, few expected him to win, including Mr. Stone. (We were filming him on the morning of Election Day, when he told us that he had just registered ImpeachHillary.org.) And because of the global fame Mr. Trump had amassed as the Republican nominee, any result was a win for him.

This time if he is defeated, he will suffer global humiliation.

President Trump has reportedly lashed out at his re-election team for his floundering campaign. As he seeks to right the ship, Mr. Trump would surely want to turn to Mr. Stone, whose political acumen he has trusted for nearly 40 years and who has far more experience in presidential campaigns than anyone else in the president’s inner circle.

It wouldn’t be the first time Mr. Stone rescued a Trump campaign from disaster, beyond whatever Mr. Stone’s involvement was with WikiLeaks. When Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign careered after the “Access Hollywood” tape revealed his crude remarks about women, Mr. Stone sprang into action. During the second debate between Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton, Mr. Stone helped orchestrate an indelible moment: Sitting in the front row were several women who had accused President Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct. The scene rattled Ms. Clinton and muddied the scandal.

After all they’ve been through together, it’s fitting that Mr. Stone and Mr. Trump have arrived simultaneously at a moment of great need. Mr. Trump has now rescued Mr. Stone, but can Mr. Stone return the favor?

Mr. Stone has been through a damaging legal struggle, and it’s not clear whether his arsenal of dirty tricks can work anymore. While Mr. Stone once worked his dark arts from the shadows, his adversaries are now on to him. He is superb at creating inflammatory spectacle to gin up publicity, but what good is that talent during a pandemic? He is expert at manipulating people via social media, but he’s been banned from virtually every major platform, and Facebook just exposed and deleted his clandestine network of fake accounts. He is a master of riling up the base, but Mr. Trump’s core problem is reaching out to moderates.

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US Covid-19 cases are climbing but some state and local leaders are clashing over moves to curb the spread

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In Florida, Rep. Donna Shalala said the virus is still out of control and places like Miami are edging closer to shutting down for a second time.

“It’s out of control across the state because our governor won’t even tell everybody to wear masks. At least in Miami-Dade county, everyone must wear a mask when they’re outside,” she told CNN Saturday night.

“This is an American tragedy,” she added.

In the past weeks, the state broke multiple records of single-day highs in new cases and reported another 10,360 new infections Saturday. Around 40 hospitals across the state have no ICU beds available and more than 7,000 patients are hospitalized statewide with the virus, state data showed Saturday.
But Gov. Ron DeSantis has resisted implementing a state-wide mask mandate, saying last week the state has “stabilized where we’re at.” On Saturday, he suggested Florida would not be moving on to the next reopening phase for now, saying “we want to get this positivity rate down.”
In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp slammed the Atlanta mayor’s decision to move the city’s reopening back to phase 1, saying the action was “merely guidance — both non-binding and legally unenforceable.” Phase 1 includes an order for residents to stay home except for essential trips. The mayor, who has tested positive for Covid-19, defended her decision saying the state opened recklessly and residents were “suffering the consequences.”
Expert warns the US is approaching 'one of the most unstable times in the history of our country'
“As clearly stated in my executive orders, no local action can be more or less restrictive, and that rule applies statewide,” Kemp wrote on Twitter.

The debates are part of nationwide efforts by US leaders to control a now rapid spread of coronavirus without having to force residents into a second lockdown. More than half of US states have paused or rolled back their reopening plans in hopes of slowing down new cases. But both mandates and suggestions for face masks by officials still face heavy backlash by many Americans — even as experts warn they’re the most effective way to prevent further spread of the virus.

Now deep into the coronavirus crisis, the US is reporting more than 3.2 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. That’s more than the individual population of 21 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico, according to US Census Bureau data. At least 134,814 Americans have died.

How states are trending

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, at least 33 states are recording an upward trend in new cases, compared to the previous week.

How coronavirus affects the entire body

Those states are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Fourteen states are trekking steady: Alaska, Arizona, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington state and Wyoming.

Three states are reporting a decline: Delaware, Maine and New Jersey

Americans hit the road on 4th of July

Even as cases surge in many parts of the country, a new analysis of cell phone data across 10 coronavirus hotspots suggests even more people hit the road over the July 4 holiday than during the Memorial Day weekend.

Mobility is one of the drivers of transmission of the virus, experts have said, but it could be weeks before there is — if there is — an increase in cases linked to the July holiday.

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The analysis comes from data shared with CNN by Cuebiq, one of the private companies the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses to track general movement in the US. It included data from Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Phoenix, Orlando, Tampa, Charleston, Miami and Atlanta areas.

Travelers tended to visit cities in their own state or region, but some traveled further. About 3.7% of visitors to the Miami area came from New York, and nearly 4% came from the Atlanta area. Of the people who visited Phoenix, 16.3% came from just three metro areas in Southern California — including Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego. Others came from areas around Chicago and Dallas.

The travels come despite guidance from health officials who urged Americans to skip traditional celebrations, adding residents who may be feeling well could also be carrying the virus.

The CDC now estimates 40% of people infected with coronavirus show no symptoms. The percent of asymptomatic cases in the country remains uncertain, the agency said.

The fiery debate around school openings

As the country grapples to get ahold of the crisis, the president announced last week he’s pressuring governors to reopen schools in a push to return the country to business as usual.

Pediatrician: The truth about reopening schools during Covid
Despite a surge in cases in the state and cries of protest from educators, Florida’s education department announced it will require schools to reopen in the fall. Other state leaders have stopped short of announcing any changes just yet, but some local decisions have pushed the beginning of fall semesters back. The CDC has released guidelines for parents and administrators, but the agency’s head, Dr. Robert Redfield, said the decision for the safest course ultimately lies with the districts.
But internal documents from the CDC warned fully reopening K-12 schools and universities would pose the “highest risk” for spread of the virus, according to a report by The New York Times.

The 69-page document obtained by the Times marked “For Internal Use Only” was among materials for federal public health response teams deployed to coronavirus hotspots to help local public health officials handle the outbreak, the newspaper reported.

CNN’s Rosa Flores, Jen Christensen, Randi Kaye, Melissa Alonso, Amanda Watts and Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.

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West Virginia mail carrier admits attempted election fraud

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ELKINS, W.Va. — A West Virginia postal carrier pleaded guilty Thursday to altering mail-in requests for absentee voter ballots.

Thomas Cooper entered the plea in federal court in Elkins to attempted election fraud and injury to the mail, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell said in a statement.

Cooper was charged in May after eight mail-in requests for absentee voter ballots had their party affiliations altered.

NEW REPORT ARGUES PERILS OF MAIL-IN VOTING GO BEYOND FRAUD

Cooper, 47, of Dry Fork, held a postal contract to pick up mail in the three towns in which the voters live and delivered the forms in April to the Pendleton County clerk, according to a federal affidavit.

An investigation by the secretary of state’s office found five of the ballot requests were changed from Democrat to Republican with a black ink pen, the affidavit said.

Bennie Cogar, an attorney general’s office investigator who conducted the probe on behalf of the secretary of state’s office, said in the affidavit that the Pendleton County clerk called some of the voters after receiving the requests because she knew they were not Republicans. The clerk then contacted the secretary of state’s office to report the alterations.

On the other three requests, the voters’ party was not changed. However, in addition to the “Republican” box originally checked in blue ink, the word “Republican” was later circled in black ink, the affidavit said.

Cooper admitted in an interview with Cogar and a postal inspector that he changed some of the requests he picked up from the Onega post office from Democrat to Republican.

According to the affidavit, when he was then asked about the other requests, Cooper said, “I’m not saying no,” but if the requests were picked up along his postal route, “I would take the blame.” Cooper was then asked if he was “just being silly” and he replied he did it “as a joke” and that he didn’t know those voters.

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Absentee ballots became a political flashpoint nationally in recent months, often along partisan lines. Some state governors have moved to make absentee ballots more available in this year’s elections because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. Other elected officials, including President Donald Trump, have raised concerns that expanding the practice would increase the likelihood of election fraud. Examples of mail-in ballot fraud have been minimal, and Trump himself has voted absentee in recent elections.

Absentee ballot applications were mailed to all registered voters in West Virginia in April in a bid to encourage mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic. West Virginia held its primary election on June 9.

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