07 30 2016
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The Wake of Vanport
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  • Russian hackers likely responsible for hacking attack on Clinton HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Giddy if exhausted, Hillary Clinton embarked on a post-convention Rust Belt bus tour just hours after becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. The celebratory mood quickly evaporated amid fresh revelations that hackers had breached a program used by her campaign and Republican nominee Donald Trump promised to sharpen his barbs. "Remember this," Trump said during a rally Friday in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "Trump is going to be no more Mr. Nice Guy." And for the first time he encouraged his supporters' anti-Clinton chants of "lock her up." "I've been saying let's just beat her on Nov. 8," Trump said, "but you know what? I'm starting to agree with you." About an hour later, Clinton aides acknowledged that a hacking attack that exposed Democratic Party emails also reached into a computer system used by her own campaign. The FBI said it was working to determine the "accuracy, nature and scope" of the cyberattacks. Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said the newly disclosed breach affected a Democratic National Committee data analytics program used by the campaign and other organizations. Outside experts found no evidence that the campaign's "internal systems have been compromised," Merrill said, but he gave no details on the program or nature of the attacks. Partnerships with modern e-commerce companies can allow sophisticated tracking, categorization and identification of website visitors and voters. President Barack Obama and cybersecurity experts have said Russia was almost certainly responsible for the DNC hack. The House Democratic campaign committee reported Friday that its information had been accessed. The developments followed the leaking of DNC emails earlier in the week that pointed to a pro-Clinton bias by party officials during her primary contest against Bernie Sanders. In the furor that followed, party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz resigned just as Democrats launched their convention. Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, will attempt to return attention to their positive economic message on Saturday, with campaign stops through economically struggling areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio. "When we take that oath of office next January, we know we can make life better. We know we can create more good jobs," she told voters gathered at an outside market in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Clinton cited an economic analysis by economist Mark Zandi, a former economic adviser to 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, that found more than 10 million jobs could be created in her first term if her economic proposals were put in place. Zandi's analysis of Trump's plans found they would cost the country 3.5 million jobs and lead to a "lengthy recession." Joined on the bus tour by her husband, Bill Clinton, Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, Clinton stopped at a toy and plastics manufacturer in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where she and Kaine cast Trump as a con artist out for his own gain. "We don't resent success in America but we do resent people who take advantage of others in order to line their own pockets," Clinton said. Trump is also focusing on Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states where he might make headway with blue-collar white men. That group of voters has eluded Clinton and may be a hard sell after a Democratic convention that heavily celebrated racial and gender diversity. Clinton is playing up economic opportunity, diversity and national security. Democrats hammered home those themes this week with an array of politicians, celebrities, gun-violence victims, law enforcement officers and activists of all races and sexual orientation. Their goal is to turn out the coalition of minority, female and young voters that twice elected Obama while offsetting expected losses among the white men drawn to Trump's message. Democrats continued contrasting their optimistic message with the more troubled vision of the state of the nation presented by Trump and others at the GOP convention a week earlier. Kaine called the "very dark and negative" event a "journey through Donald Trump's mind." "That's a very frightening place," he told thousands of supporters in Philadelphia. Clinton told voters that they faced a "stark choice," calling the coming election the most important one in her lifetime. "This is a moment of reckoning for our country. I don't recognize the country that Donald Trump describes," she said.___Lemire reported from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
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  • SEATTLE (AP) — Genetically modified wheat not approved for sale or commercial production in the United States has been found growing in a field in Washington state, agriculture officials said Friday, posing a possible risk to trade with countries concerned about engineered food. The Food and Drug Administration says genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are safe and little scientific concern exists about the safety of those on the market. But critics say not enough is known about their risks, and they want GMOs labeled so people know what's in their food. Several Asian countries temporarily banned U.S. wheat imports after genetically modified wheat was found unexpectedly in a field on an Oregon farm in 2013. It also popped up in a field at a university research center in Montana in 2014. It wasn't immediately clear how altered wheat cropped up in Washington. But the U.S. Agriculture Department said there is no evidence it has entered the market. If it did, the FDA concluded that "it is unlikely that the wheat would present any safety concerns if present in the food supply," the department said. A farmer discovered 22 plants in an unplanted field, and the wheat was developed to be resistant to the herbicide known as Roundup, created by seed giant Monsanto, the USDA said. An agency spokeswoman did not know where in the state it was found. Federal officials said they were working with the farmer to ensure that none of the modified wheat is sold. Out of caution, the agency said it is holding and testing the farmer's full wheat harvest, but so far it has not found GMOs. The plants are a type of wheat that had been evaluated in limited field trials in the Pacific Northwest from 1998 to 2001 but never commercialized, Monsanto said in a statement. It said the type found in Washington state is similar to the one discovered in Oregon three years ago; it has the same inserted DNA but in a different location. No variety of genetically engineered wheat has been approved for commercial use or production in the U.S. GMOs are plants or animals that have had genes copied from other plants or animals inserted into their DNA. Most genetically engineered crops are corn and soybeans eaten by livestock or made into popular processed food ingredients like cornstarch, soybean oil or high fructose corn syrup. Only a handful of modified fruits and vegetables are available, including Hawaiian papaya, some zucchini and squash and a small percentage of sweet corn. The FDA also has approved for consumption a genetically engineered salmon that would grow faster than traditional salmon, but it's not yet available in grocery stores. South Korea said Friday that it will inspect U.S. wheat imports for genetically modified wheat, the Yonhap News Agency reported. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it has asked the USDA for information on the unapproved wheat and inspection methods. The USDA said it has validated a test that Monsanto developed for the herbicide-resistant wheat, which would be available to trading partners. "Trading partners will get the tests. I believe that once they have those in place, they'll continue buying," said Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission, a state agency that represents wheat farmers. "We don't anticipate any major disruptions." The USDA also said it has beefed up oversight of genetically engineered field trials and now requires developers to apply for a permit for those involving GMO wheat starting this year. In 2014, genetically modified wheat plants were found at a university research center in Huntley, Montana, where it was legally tested by Monsanto in the early 2000s. The plants in eastern Oregon were found in a field that had never conducted such tests, and the USDA closed its investigation two years ago unable to determine how the wheat got there. Different strains were found in each state. The Washington Association of Wheat Growers and the Washington State Agriculture Department referred questions to federal authorities.
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  • Six current or former state employees were charged Friday with misconduct and other crimes in the Flint water crisis 
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  • Hillary Clinton cast herself as a unifier for divided times, an experienced leader steeled for a volatile world 
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Wendy DavisWendy Davis went public Thursday with some news that everyone in politics already knew: She's officially running for governor of Texas.

The state senator from Fort Worth electrified Democrats in June by slipping on a pair of pink Mizunos and a back brace to stage a dramatic 11-hour filibuster of a Republican bill that drastically scaled back abortion rights in the state. Never mind that the bill eventually passed in a special legislative session: Democrats around the country were in full swoon mode.

In an e-mail officially announcing her candidacy, she said, "As Texans, we believe that with hard work, determination, and a little old-fashioned common sense, we can build a better future for ourselves and our families.

We can make our communities safer, create jobs, and get Texas moving in the right direction."

Davis, an attractive single mom who worked her way up from a trailer park to make it through Harvard Law School, danced around the question of running for governor all summer but is now ready to make it official. For the beleaguered Democrats of Texas, she represents the best shot at capturing the governor's mansion since George W. Bush ousted Ann Richards in 1994.

But the excitement swirling around her candidacy will quickly give way to a grim reality: Texas is still deep red and socially conservative, dangerous turf for a Democrat best known for standing up for abortion rights. In 2012, Mitt Romney drubbed President Barack Obama by 16 points there.

Smart political types in Washington and Austin have already come to the same conclusion: Davis can't win. They're probably right. Time and again, ambitious Democrats have been tempted by the forbidden fruit of Texas politics -- a seemingly favorable demographic upheaval, driven by thriving urban centers and a booming Hispanic population -- only to come up woefully short.

The task becomes even more challenging in a mid-term year, when Democratic turnout tends to fall off and the white share of the vote spikes, favoring Republicans.

The likely GOP nominee, state Attorney General Greg Abbott, has a substantial war chest, powerful allies and a compelling life story. He became a paraplegic in 1984 when a tree fell on him after a storm, crushing his spine.

But in the spirit of contrarianism, here are eight glimmers of hope for Davis as she tries to pull off what would undoubtedly be one of the biggest upsets of the 2014 cycle.

1. She knows how to win

Winning a state Senate campaign is a far cry from winning a statewide election, especially for a polarizing Democrat in GOP-leaning Texas, but Davis survived two brutal campaigns in a Fort Worth-area district that, in many ways, is a microcosm of the state.

The area's Hispanic population surged over the past decade, and nonwhite voters now make up a majority of Davis's district, particularly in Fort Worth's heavily Hispanic north side.

In 2008, when she first ran for the seat, and in her tough 2012 re-election fight, Davis outworked her opponents in Tarrant County and assembled a coalition of Hispanics, African-Americans, women voters and moderate Republicans to win. Both races were squeakers: She won by less than three points each time.

Davis isn't afraid to throw a punch, either.

In 2008, her campaign nuked the Republican incumbent, Kim Brimer, with negative television ads portraying him as a crooked Austin insider (her supporters snarkily called him "Kim Shady").

Four years later, Gov. Rick Perry and an armada of Republicans pumped time and energy into the race to unseat Davis, but she still beat back her GOP challenger -- even in a district that Obama lost badly.

Davis was first elected to the Fort Worth City Council in 1999 and has not lost a race since. Abbott, who served on the Texas Supreme Court before becoming the state's attorney general in 2002, has not faced a credible opponent, Republican or Democrat, in years.

"I'm very optimistic about Wendy's for upsetting Greg Abbott," said Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, another bright light on Texas's fresh-faced roster of Democrats. "She is a very talented candidate and incredibly hard working. Greg Abbott represents what has become a very extreme wing of the Republican Party. And more independent and moderate Republicans in Texas have had enough of tea party Republicans."

2. Greg who?

In his three re-election bids, Rick Perry laid waste to a trio of Democratic challengers -- Tony Sanchez, Chris Bell and Bill White -- who dared to run statewide with a scarlet D next to their name. Perry's political talents aside, he benefited from the power of incumbency and name recognition. Despite having more than $20 million in the bank, Abbott lacks Perry's star power.

According to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released in June, more than half of voters had no opinion of Abbott, including 46% of Republicans.

A Texas Lyceum poll out this week showed Abbott leading Davis 29% to 21%, but showed a majority of voters had no preference in the race, and revealed that 45% of Republicans and almost 80% of independents didn't know enough about Abbott.

Despite her buzz in political circles, Davis is similarly unknown to most voters. But unlike the Democratic gubernatorial candidates who preceded her, she's getting started on a roughly even playing field and has an opportunity to define her opponent early.

3. Campaigns matter

Few things seem to send a thrill up the leg of polling wizards than writing off candidates before a race has even begun.

"Wendy Davis Won't Win," blared the headline of a recent New Republic piece by Nate Cohn, the magazine's resident numbers-cruncher.

Cohn's analysis was mostly accurate, but these high-and-mighty dismissals ignore one immutable fact of politics: Campaigns and candidates matter.

Just ask Missouri's Claire McCaskill and Todd Akin.

Texas offers a wonderful example. The state's last Democratic governor, Ann Richards, began her campaign in 1990 in a 27-point hole against a well-funded Republican named Clayton Williams.

But "Claytie" did himself in on the campaign trail with a series of damaging gaffes -- he once refused to shake hands with Richards at a candidate's forum, and he made a rape joke that haunted him throughout the campaign. Meanwhile, Richards leveraged her natural charisma and appeal to suburban women to eke out a three-point win that November.

4. The Texas Hispanic boom

According to the 2010 census, the Hispanic population in Texas ballooned by almost 3 million during the previous decade, and it's safe to assume that number has only expanded since then. Much as it does nationally, this demographic trend in Texas works unmistakably in the favor of the Democrats, who have capitalized on the abrasive anti-immigrant rhetoric emanating from conservative pockets of the Republican Party.

In the 2010 governor's race, for example, Democrat Bill White won Hispanic voters, who made up about 17% of the vote that year, by a nearly 2-1 margin (the flip side of the math here is that White's opponent, Perry, swamped him overall by racking up a huge margins among "Anglos," as they say in Texas).

But Davis can't take Hispanic voters for granted, argued Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri, who said he has five full-time staffers assigned to outreach efforts in Spanish-speaking communities. Munisteri said Texas Republicans understand the pressing need to expand the party's appeal beyond white voters, noting that the Texas GOP endorsed a guest-worker program into their 2012 party platform, even as conservative activists opposed the idea.

"It's not just policy and whether there is action or inaction," he said. "It's also whether the Republican Party is viewed as welcoming to Hispanic citizens or hostile to Hispanic citizens. We have to come across as sincere that we really want to include Hispanics in the party."

5. The Obama SWAT team

After re-electing the president last year, a handful of field marshals from the Obama campaign turned their eyes to Texas, with its exploding and under-registered Hispanic population, in hopes of growing the electorate and one day moving the state's cache of 38 electoral votes into the Democratic column and forever road-blocking Republican hopes of capturing the White House. They dubbed their new group "Battleground Texas."

The group's organizers have been clear-eyed and honest with reporters about the challenging and long-term nature of the project. Few expect Battleground Texas organizers to register enough Hispanic, African-American and other first-time voters to overcome entrenched GOP advantages in such a narrow time frame.

Even so, Davis will have on her side the brains and muscle behind the most sophisticated voter turnout operation in American political history. That's an unequivocal asset.

Critics have questioned how effective Battleground Texas can be without Obama, a uniquely talented and charismatic figure, at the top of the ticket rallying voters. But this is Texas, where Obama is about as popular as the Oklahoma Sooners.

Pragmatic Democrats are just fine keeping a safe distance from the president, even though Abbott and his team will do their best to make sure that doesn't happen.

6. A potential spoiler

Debra Medina, a Wharton businesswoman and conservative activist, captured nearly 20% of the vote in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary by making a strong play for the nascent tea party movement.

She's currently raising money for a possible 2014 comptroller campaign, but also leaving the door open to an independent run for governor next year, in part because of her not-so-subtle disdain for a long line of establishment-backed GOP figures in her state -- Perry and Abbott chief among them.

"You look at our ticket, and it's all rich white guys," Medina said in an interview. "There are few women and liberty-leaning candidates on the ballot. If we go through the nomination process and end up with are whole bunch of Mitt Romneys on the ticket next November, people aren't going to get excited about it."

Medina said she plans to make a decision about an independent bid for governor by early December, after she decides whether or not to file as a candidate for comptroller. If she does run for the top office, Medina's support would almost certainly draw from the tea party activist wing of the Republican coalition. That would be bad news for Abbott.

7. Suburban women

Davis is most famous for her filibuster of Senate Bill 5, which curtailed access to abortion in Texas after it passed this summer in a special legislative session.

The fight made her an archvillain in the eyes of many conservatives and anti-abortion activists, but it transformed her into a folk hero among left-leaning women's groups, who believe Davis can use the issues of women's health care to drive a wedge between Republicans and female voters.

She has an opening, according to Jim Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, and Joshua Blank, the project's pollster.

As the pair recently wrote in the Texas Tribune, suburban women have been trending away from the GOP in recent years. In late 2010, a University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll found that 50 percent of suburban women identified as Republicans. Two years later, 43 percent  called themselves Republicans. And in their most recent survey, in June of this year, the number had dropped to 38 percent . Over the same three-year span, the number of suburban women calling themselves Democrats jumped from 37 percent  for 46 percent .

In other words, women in Texas are increasingly comfortable with voting for the blue team. Davis will need their help to break the Republican chokehold on white voters.

8. Outside money

The filibuster that went viral online in June and made Davis an instant Democratic celebrity had the added benefit of growing her list of supporters -- an e-mail network that's about to double as a national donor base.

But Davis will also have reinforcements.

While Battleground Texas works the ground game, the women's groups who worked hard to recruit Davis into the race -- Planned Parenthood, EMILY's List and Texas-based Annie's List -- are expected to provide air cover, pumping money into Texas this year and next to fund radio, television and mail ads.

Even if Davis comes up short, the opportunity to help inch Texas toward Democratic hands in the makes it an appealing target for donors and outside groups, said one well-connected Austin Democrat who is close to the soon-to-be-launched campaign.

"There will be a confluence of excited and effective organizations that could have important roles to play inside and out of the campaign structure," said the Democrat, who declined to be named because the campaign was not yet official.

"Annie's List, the Texas Democratic Party, labor unions are all gearing up and appear to be working together effectively. And individual/institutional donors from across the nation saw Wendy's filibuster and have made it clear they are interested. After all, there is a long-play beyond just 2014 that is very compelling.

"The more you invest in the state, the more you accelerate demographic change in voter turnout and the quicker you put Texas in play in the electoral college map and change the politics of the nation."

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