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They weren’t committing a crime: they were carrying a caged tiger.

Two days earlier, the men realized a deer trap they had set 400 yards (365 meters) from their village had gone missing. They followed tracks etched in the dirt where it had been dragged to a pit — inside, they discovered a wounded tiger, the jaws of the metal snare biting into its leg.

Police sent the tiger to a Hong Kong amusement park, where it died shortly after. A policeman became the “proud possessor of the skin,” according to a later news report.

“That story makes you wonder how many tigers were being carried around by locals that we never heard about”John Saeki,
journalist

“That story makes you wonder how many tigers were being carried around by locals that we never heard about,” says John Saeki, a journalist who is researching a book about tigers in Hong Kong.

In the early 1900s, zoologists — and the public — were skeptical that wild tigers existed in Hong Kong, despite repeated incidents. Saeki has found hundreds of mentions of tiger sightings and big cat encounters in local newspapers, from the 1920s to as recently as the 1960s — although some might have been sightings of the same tiger, while others were not verified to be more than a rumor.

There was the 1911 tiger which swam out to Hong Kong’s outlying island of Lamma and feasted on cattle. The tiger in 1916 whose roar terrified commuters on the Peak Tram. And the 1937 big cat who ate a woman whole, leaving just her blood stains on the mountainside.
In 1914, after a tiger left paw prints within 10 yards of Chief Justice Sir William Rees-Davies house, in the upscale Peak neighborhood, a local newspaper wrote: “He had always been incredulous of tiger visit stories — but this morning here was nothing left to doubt.”

So how could tiger sightings be real when big cats didn’t live in Hong Kong?

Saeki explains that political turmoil in mainland China in the first half of the 20th century made food harder to find for the South China tiger.

About 20,000 of the diminutive cats, the smallest of the tiger species, roamed the mostly rural mountains of southern China during that period. Some would slink over the border to feast on farmers’ cattle and boar in Hong Kong, before slipping back over the hills to the north — occasionally feasting on a human, rather than an animal.

The South China tiger

The tiger is a potent symbol in Chinese culture. In traditional Chinese medicine, tiger-penis soup has for centuries been consumed by men to increase sexual virility. Tiger-bone wine is believed to cure rheumatism, weakness, or paralysis. And tiger whiskers were once used for toothaches, eyeballs for epilepsy — the list goes on.

The white tiger is one of the four sacred animals of the Chinese constellation. And those born in the year of the tiger are thought to be brave, strong, and sympathetic.

But on a practical level, these majestic big cats have for centuries preyed on humans in China.

More than 10,000 people were killed or injured by tigers in four provinces of South China — Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, and Guangdong — between the years 48 A.D. to 1953, according to gazetteer records in the Ancient Books Collection at Fujian Normal University, analyzed by Chris Coggins in his 2003 book “The Tiger and the Pangolin: Nature, Culture and Conservation in China.”

A Hong Kong news report from 1929 details how a tiger that was captured in the city died in captivity there.

He says that figure is conservative because 395 records did not specify the numbers of casualties — just that at least one attack had occurred. Tiger encounters featured more regularly in records than those by Asiatic black bears, wolves, red dogs, or wild boar, Coggins writes, and were predominantly South China tigers. Small numbers of Siberian and Bengal tigers still live in other pockets of China, but it was the South China tiger that encountered humans south of the Yangtze River.

In the early 20th century, when American Methodist Harry Caldwell turned up in southern China on a mission to spread Christianity, he chanced on a near-foolproof way to convert villagers into Christians — he taught them how to kill tigers. In his memoir “Blue Tiger,” Caldwell describes how, in April 1910, he shot dead a big cat that had just killed a 16-year-old Chinese boy. “The killing of that beast turned almost an entire village Christian,” he wrote. The Chinese, as he tells it, were fascinated by his American gun.

“The killing of that beast turned almost an entire village Christian.”Harry Caldwell,
20th century missionary

Methodist minister Harry Caldwell, with a tiger he killed in Fujian. He wrote of the animal: "I shot the animal with a .22-caliber high-power Savage rifle at close range, after the animal had charged me from a long distance. This is a bit of real missionary work I have greatly enjoyed, and incidentally have found most helpful in the preaching of the gospel.

Any God that made such a machine, he convinced them, was one they should worship.

In his book, Caldwell tells of villages under siege from big cats across southern China. Fuqing, a coastal community in Fujian province, was the heart of South China tiger country. In this village — which is now a city — Caldwell describes how every person bolted their gate at night, and protectively brought their precious cattle, pigs and water buffalo into the inner courtyards of their homes, petrified of nightly tiger attacks.

“Men tending their herds or walking along the trails disappeared, or were found mangled and half eaten. Crops were going untended; paralysis began to settle on the hills … People were afraid to stir from their houses,” wrote Harry’s son, John Caldwell, in a 1953 book about his father’s life.

Harry Caldwell boasted of killing nearly 50 of the South China tigers that had stalked a vast area south of the Yangtze River for centuries, as he pushed religion with his rifle.

A tiger that was hunted in Fujian, China, in 1921. The photograph was taken by William Lord Smith, a British hunter who organized the hunt and shot the tiger.

Caldwell’s tiger hunting went unchecked, as did that of British trophy hunters such as William Lord Smith, who recounted his tales in the 1920 book “The Cave Tiger of China.”

While men with guns hunted cats, the locals continued to encroach on the animals’ natural habitat, coming into conflict with them and eating their traditional prey, as political turmoil drove people farther into the countryside. As a result, the population of the South China tiger dwindled from about 20,000 in 1905 to just 4,000 by early 1950s.

When the Communist Party of China came to power in 1949, things didn’t get better, with Chairman Mao Zedong taking aim at animals deemed to be pests such as tigers, says Saeki. “There was a concerted campaign to wipe them out,” he adds.

Coggins writes that animals that attacked livestock, ate crops, or spread disease were seen as an obstacle to progress. “Large livestock predators, such as tigers (which have a colorful history of dining on people in southern China) and wolves, were attacked systematically. Animals that posed a threat to grain crops were trapped, shot, and poisoned by the thousands,” Coggins writes.

From the 1940s onwards, Saeki says, the number of tiger sightings in Hong Kong rocketed, as the big cats — which thought nothing of walking 20 miles (32 kilometers) in a day — trekked further afield to find food.

Tigers in Hong Kong

While today Hong Kong has more skyscrapers than nearly anywhere else in the world, in 1900 it was an agricultural landscape of wild mountains home to just 280,000 people.

As the city urbanized throughout the 20th century, tiger stories became a fanciful distraction from the tumult of two world wars, and then the huge influx of migrants who poured over the border from mainland China.

But two big cat tales, in particular, have lingered in the public imagination — perhaps because the stuffed bodies of both their protagonists have been displayed in the city.

The first story involves a tiger from 1915.

When Hong Kong villagers told colonial police officers they had seen a tiger on the loose in Sheung Shui, near the border with mainland China, the British dismissed the sightings, putting it down to “the Chinese propensity for exaggeration,” notes a South China Morning Post newspaper report from the time.

Then a villager died — and the police took their claims seriously.

“Animals that posed a threat to grain crops were trapped, shot, and poisoned by the thousands.”Chris Coggins,
author

Ernest Goucher, a 21-year-old police officer from Nottingham, England, was dispatched to investigate, along with his Indian colleague, Constable Ruttan Singh. The two were attacked by the huge tiger — Singh died immediately, while Groucher was taken to hospital, “terribly lacerated about the loins,” according to media reports. He died soon after.

When Assistant Superintendent of Police, Donald Burlingham, finally shot dead the animal on March 9, 1915, it measured just over 7 feet (2.2 meters) from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail, was about 3 feet (1 meter) high and its paws were 6 inches (15 centimeters) across. It weighed 288 pounds (131 kilograms).

When the dead cat was exhibited in Hong Kong City Hall the day after it had been shot, thousands of people lined up to see it. Today, its stuffed head is on display at the city’s Police Museum.

The other tale is of a big cat, whose skin hangs in the Tin Hau Temple in Stanley, on the belly of Hong Kong Island.

A view of Hong Kong in 1955, with the Tiger Balm Garden with its pagoda in the far lef.
In 1942, when the city was occupied by Japan during World War II, this tiger began terrorizing prisoners and guards outside the Stanley Internment Camp, where thousands of non-Chinese prisoners were held.

For weeks, it prowled the grounds at night, roaring at internees.

George Wright-Nooth, a prisoner at the camp, wrote in his diary: “Last night Langston and Dalziel, who were sleeping outside at the back of the bungalow, were woken up at about 5.00 a.m. by snarls and growls.”

At first the prisoners wrote the tiger off as a “preposterous tale.”

“Langston … got up to have a look. He went to the edge of the garden and looked down the slope to the wire fence. There Dalziel saw him leap in the air and fly back into the boiler room shouting ‘There’s a tiger down there.'”

Within the camp, Wright-Nooth wrote, “none of the bungalows has any doors or windows” — the open camp was largely self-governed by the foreign prisoners, and fortified by high fences and soldiers with guns to prevent their escape.

A picture of prisoners at the Stanley Internment on September 27, 1945.

Eventually, an Indian police officer shot the tiger. One of the internees, a butcher before the war, was taken out of the camp to skin the animal, which was then stuffed and displayed in the city.

“The meat was not wasted either,” Wright-Nooth wrote. “Some officials of the Hong Kong Race Club were recently given the rare treat of having a feast of tiger meat.

“The meat, which was as tender and delicious as beef, was from the tiger shot at Stanley.”

No chance today

In the post-war years, tiger sightings in Hong Kong became less frequent, with news reports in the late 1950s chronicling sightings that were never confirmed.

In 1965, a schoolgirl reported seeing a tiger on Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest peak, but with no tell-tale paw prints, mangled cattle or photograph of the big cat, its existence was never confirmed.

The dwindling number of sightings was perhaps not unsurprising — tiger numbers in mainland China were dangerously low.

“They killed a lot of South China tigers in the 50s,” says Saeki. “Then by the 70s they realized they were about to lose one of the best, great species of China. And there was a kind of a panicked attempt to bring them back but it hasn’t really happened.”

In 1977, the year after Mao’s death, the Chinese government outlawed the killing of tigers. In the following reform era, authorities hired specialists to investigate the status of the subspecies. Experts declared the South China tiger was on the verge of extinction, with just 30 to 50 of the animals believed to remain in wildly disparate pockets of their mountainous habitat — and therefore, unlikely to breed, writes Coggins.

Their efforts came too late. Today, the species is believed to be extinct outside captivity, according to the World Wildlife Fund — there have been no sightings in the wild for more than 25 years. Camera traps that have been laced across South China have failed to reveal wild tigers.
 A South China tiger cub at Guangzhou Zoo on June 22, 2017, in China. Guangzhou Zoo breeds the species.
The government has, in recent years, spoken of its desire to reintroduce South China tigers to the wild in what would be the world’s first major tiger reintroduction program.
But Coggins is skeptical a return to their natural habitat is even possible. There are about 100 South China tigers in captivity, mostly kept in Chinese zoos and breeding centers. Those at zoos in Shanghai, Luoyang and Henan province have been bred from a very small pool and have genetic deformities.

“I saw a tiger in one facility in about 2014 that had severely deformed rear leg hind legs. It couldn’t even walk normally,” says Coggins. “I talked to one of the managers, who said it’s probably a genetic defect. So that project has not really gone forward.”

Instead, Beijing is putting more attention into its conservation efforts for the Siberian tiger — of which there are fewer than 500 left in the world, and which roam across the border from Russia, into China’s far northeast.

That tiger, experts agree, is unlikely to ever find a need to wander down to Hong Kong, where tiger sightings are now limited to the stuffed and skinned animals of a bygone species.

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Israel is winning on the world stage, but losing the plot at home

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“Let us pause for a moment to appreciate this remarkable day. Let us rise above any political divide. Let us put all cynicism aside. Let us feel on this day the pulse of history,” he said last Tuesday. “For long after the pandemic is gone, the peace we make today will endure.”

The normalization deals were the latest feathers in the cap of a leader who’s been on a diplomatic winning streak lately. From the outside, Israel projects the image of a small but mighty country punching far above its weight on the global stage, an innovative “start-up nation” whose thousands of tech firms attract billions in foreign investment each year.

At home it’s a different story, however. The second wave of coronavirus infections in Israel long ago eclipsed the first, forcing the country into a second general lockdown that has shuttered schools, restaurants, entertainment venues and more. And while the coronavirus may be the most pressing challenge facing Netanyahu right now, it’s far from the only one. The 70-year-old leader is being attacked from both left and the right, not only for his handling of the public health crisis, but also for mismanagement of the economy, his response to his criminal trials, and more.

“We have a dysfunctional government, good at producing ceremonies in the White House, bad at running a country,” said opposition leader Yair Lapid. “This is the worst failure Netanyahu ever experienced and we are experiencing it with him … or because of him.”

At home, weekly protests have swelled outside the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, where thousands of people have come out and called on Israel’s longest-serving leader to resign. The angry crowd, undeterred by a steady barrage of attacks from Netanyahu’s political allies, hold signs that read “Crime Minister” and “Bibi Go Home.” This past weekend, in the first protest since Israel reimposed a general lockdown, eleven protesters were arrested, police said.

Unemployment remains near 19%, according to the Israel Unemployment Service, and an already fragile economy will suffer another blow during the current lockdown. (The Central Bureau of Statistics, which uses a different set of criteria for determining unemployment, says the current rate is between 10.4% and 11.8%.)

Restaurant owners, frustrated as they face a closure that threatens their livelihoods, smashed plates on the floor in protest. Some are more defiant, saying they plan to keep their businesses open.

“No one is caring for us, we have to​ care for ourselves,” restaurateur Yoni Salomon told Israel’s Kann News. “We won’t let anyone take our most basic rights — there is no sense in this closure and I’ll deal with the fine.”

It’s not just restaurateurs defying government lockdown orders. Israeli police handed out almost seven thousand fines​ for violating the restrictions over the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

Exemplary leadership from the top has also been noticeably lacking. Despite Netanyahu stressing the importance of wearing masks and social distancing, some of his ministers have been photographed without face coverings during cabinet meetings, and two of Netanyahu’s aides have ​been accused of violating quarantine regulations ​within the last week.

The lockdown restrictions themselves are a study in bureaucratic legalese, often adjusted and tweaked at the last second so as not to anger Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, or any other group with its own interests and goals that the Prime Minister decides he cannot afford to offend.

The current Israeli government is the largest in the country’s 72-year history, a so-called unity government bringing together — at least in theory — the two main political parties: Netanyahu’s Likud party and alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party. The bloated political Frankenstein, with 34 ministers and 8 deputy ministers, was fabricated with bits and pieces broken off from existing ministries to create additional jobs for politicians to fill, such as the position of alternate Prime Minister and the Ministry of Higher Education and Water Resources.

And yet despite the government’s size, it remains almost exclusively a one-man show. Netanyahu didn’t even notify his Foreign Minister or Defense Minister​– who happens to be Benny Gantz — about the agreement with the United Arab Emirates until it was announced publicly, claiming he was concerned they would leak the news.

This government, specifically designed to handle the coronavirus crisis, was officially sworn in on May 17. ​On that day, Israel recorded just 11 new cases of Covid-19, according to Ministry of Health data. There were 44 patients on ventilators and 3,403 active cases across the country, out of a total of 16,617 cases.

READ: Full text of the Abraham Accords and agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates/Bahrain

At the time, critics quipped that the government could put a government minister next to each patient on a ventilator.

Four months later, Israel’s unity government has abjectly failed in its self-declared primary mission. As of Wednesday morning, there were 54,322 active cases in Israel out of a total of 200,041 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Ministry of Health recorded 6,861 new cases Tuesday, with 171 patients on ventilators. Across the country’s beleaguered hospital system, 634 patients were in serious condition.

“Israelis are extremely pessimistic as a result of the corona crisis, and the perceived mismanagement of the economic and health aspects of the crisis,” said Yohanan Plesner, President of the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI). A former politician, Plesner said he’s never seen anything like the problems within this current government.

A recent survey from the IDI showed that Israelis overwhelmingly support the normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates, but that hasn’t translated into a sense of trust in government or confidence about the future of the country. Approximately two-thirds of Israelis believe the national mood is either moderately pessimistic or very pessimistic, according to the survey results, conducted by the Midgam Institute and prepared by the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research. ​

“Supposedly, this should have been a national unity government that is steering us out of the crisis, creating the necessary reforms to prepare us for the post-corona era; instead it’s a government that is in total paralysis,” Plesner said.

And yet Netanyahu displayed his brash brand of confidence last Thursday, when he tried to assure Israeli citizens that they’re in good hands. “The main thing I am telling you is that health and the economy are in our hands. This is the time for responsibility — personal responsibility and mutual guarantee. We will defeat the coronavirus but only together will we do so,” Netanyahu said.

Israel is going into a second nationwide lockdown over Covid-19

Netanyahu boasted about making peace with two Arab nations in 29 days, from August 13th to September 11th. During that same time period, approximately 62,000 thousand Israelis were diagnosed with Covid-19, while 446 citizens died of the disease. But when Netanyahu was asked last week who should shoulder the blame for the failure to contain the virus, he responded, “There are no failures, only achievements.”

The comment marked a strikingly different tone from that of President Reuven Rivlin just a few days later, when Israel’s head of state offered a forthright apology to the nation for the failure of the country’s leadership to lead.

“I know that we have not done enough as a leadership to be worthy of your attention. You trusted us and we let you down,” said Rivlin. “You, the citizens of Israel, deserve a safety net that the country gives you. Decision-makers, government ministries, policy implementers must work for you and only for you — to save lives, to reduce infection, to rescue the economy. I understand the feeling that none of these were done satisfactorily.”

If Israel’s public health policy is under fire, its economic policy-making is even more sclerotic. The last national budget was passed in 2018, and Netanyahu and Gantz were unable to reach agreement on a new one last month, so they decided instead to simply postpone for a few months in the interests of keeping their government afloat. The head of the budget division in the Ministry of Finance quit his job, joining his counterpart at the Ministry of Health’s public health division, who walked out a few months earlier. Both wrote fiery resignation letters critical of the country’s leadership or lack thereof.

And yet from the lofty position of Israel’s Prime Minister, ​none of the above counts as the number one problem. Netanyahu’s biggest issue is the fact he has been charged with bribery and fraud and breach of trust. He continues to maintain his innocence, attacking the attorney general, investigators, and the judicial system, accusing them of an attempted coup driven by the left-wing and the media.

His trial begins in earnest in January, when a panel of judges will begin hearing from witnesses. It is hard to imagine a White House ceremony big enough to draw attention away from those criminal proceedings.​​​

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Pelosi wrestles with House factions ahead of Supreme Court confirmation fight

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Both factions see their priorities as key to delivering Democrats sweeping power in the House, Senate and White House next year. Whether Pelosi can keep her sprawling caucus from splintering in the month before the election will be critical.

“Leadership has to try to tend to the many different voices in a big very tent. And I understand that,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a senior member of the House Oversight Committee.

“But I think this goes beyond an issue of politics,” Connolly added. “It’s about the future of the country. And that’s why I favor robust action that would have been considered really out there — bold — a few years ago.”

Since the death of the liberal icon on Friday, Pelosi has carefully sought to temper progressive expectations about the Supreme Court fight without dampening their enthusiasm — and risk depressing voter turnout on the left over the issue.

Liberal Democrats, both in Congress and leading grassroots groups across the country, have been incensed as they watched Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) lock down support for a vote before the election or during a lame duck that could give the court a conservative majority for decades.

Cash is flooding in, and protests have lined the streets of Washington. Activists and even some elected Democrats have begun to talk seriously about packing the courts or an end to the Senate filibuster — historic institutional changes that establishment Democrats have long rejected.

Some chatter even emerged on the left of pursuing the impeachment of a Trump appointee like Attorney General William Barr in a last-ditch attempt to slow the process, though progressives in Washington have been far more restrained in their messaging. Senior Democrats have also repeatedly privately dismissed the idea, saying it wouldn’t work anyway.

“We’ve got to talk about what’s at stake now, what’s at stake in the lives of millions and millions of people,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) when asked about liberal calls for court-packing or ending the filibuster. “Health care is on the ticket once again. … This fight touches the lives of every single person in this country.”

The most progressive voices in the party, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), have clearly articulated their support for Senate Democrats to ultimately strike back, such as eliminating the legislative filibuster and adding justices to the court.

“Frankly, I think if Vice President Biden wants to accomplish anything significant in his term, that is what is going to be necessary,” the liberal Democrat told POLITICO. “If I’m Joe Biden and I completely shut down the possibility of expanding the court, I would seriously question what you can even accomplish as president.”

But Ocasio-Cortez has also made a concerted effort to stay on message with the Democratic party leadership in the crucial final run-up to the November election.

Over the weekend, Ocasio-Cortez appeared alongside Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a New York City press conference, where both insisted that Democrats would keep their options open. And Ocasio-Cortez also said even though Biden hasn’t embraced far-left ideas like court-packing, he is at least “open” to different ideas and she thinks he is “calculating correctly.”

The demands of the far left could hardly look more different than the centrist wing of the Democratic Party, which is more worried about holding onto their seats in November. They say the party’s only response should be talking more about the threats to Americans’ health care — repeating the playbook that helped propel the party back to power in the House in 2018.

And most centrist Democrats have little interest in heeding demands of outside liberal groups and even some members, which they fear will cause lasting damage to the institution and may only backfire the next time the Republican party seizes power.

“We have to focus on right now and protecting health care today,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who leads the caucus’ messaging arm. “If we’re privileged enough to win the House, the Senate and the White House, we’ll have lots of opportunities to talk about solutions. But right now, we need to call out the president for what he is attempting to do.”

Moderate Democrats were privately furious that some of their more liberal counterparts, like Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), would float the idea of expanding the court in retaliation for Republicans ramming through a new Supreme Court justice this year.

And even publicly, some congressional Democrats argue that the vocal calls for scorched-earth tactics right now could have unintended consequences for the party.

“Why provide anybody any ammunition at all to attack us for something that is speculative?” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the Judiciary Committee. “The Republicans would love nothing more than to shift this into an academic discussion about the number of times that the Supreme Court’s size has changed.”

Pelosi refused to rule out extreme dilatory tactics like impeachment during an interview on ABC on Sunday, saying the House will use “every arrow in our quiver” to stop Republicans from confirming President Donald Trump’s third high court nominee. But Democrats privately shut down the idea of pursuing impeachment. And Pelosi has repeatedly tried to shift the focus to what the Supreme Court fight means for preserving or destroying Obamacare.

Pelosi and Schumer circulated talking points encouraging Democrats to frame the Supreme Court fight in those terms. And Pelosi has repeatedly emphasized the success of Democrats’ almost singular health care message in 2018.

Pelosi speculated that Republicans and Trump were rushing to fill the high court vacancy to strike down the Affordable Care Act, a move she predicted would backfire on the GOP like the party’s effort to dismantle the law in 2018. The Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments in the Trump administration’s challenge to Obamacare the week after the election.

“You overturn the Affordable Care Act, you overturn preexisting conditions, 2018 will be a way of life for Republicans,” Pelosi told Democrats on a private call Tuesday, according to sources on the call.

Many moderate Democrats have already made health care a top issue in their reelection campaigns this fall.

But they’ve also begun to feel the intense pressure on another issue: economic relief for tens of millions of Americans who’ve been left struggling as the U.S. economy sputtered over the last six months due to the pandemic.

“People in my district are worried about their pocketbooks and their kids,” Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), a frontliner, said in an interview Tuesday. “And while they feel very strongly about the importance of a lifetime appointment … they want to know when the next Covid emergency relief bill is gonna be here, they want to know how they can get masks and supplies to keep their businesses open, they want to know what’s happening with unemployment.”

Democrats in the most competitive races have begun vocally pressing Pelosi and her leadership team for more dramatic steps on a coronavirus relief package. More than 20 Democrats, including Slotkin, signed a bipartisan letter to Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Tuesday urging them to keep lawmakers in Washington until a relief bill can be passed — even if it means less time to campaign before November.

“This should be our number one priority in the coming days,” lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was first reported by the New York Times and obtained by POLITICO.

At least a dozen Democrats are also privately discussing joining a GOP discharge petition that would force a vote on additional aid for small business grants, known as the Paycheck Protection Program. That includes Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.) and Jared Golden (D-Maine) — all facing tough reelection battles this fall.

In one sign of hope, Pelosi told her members in a private call on Tuesday that she’s still pushing to secure a pandemic aid package with GOP leaders — regardless of the intense discussions over the court across the Capitol — with hopes of delivering relief before the election.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told members on Tuesday they should be expected to remain in town next week and he is keeping the schedule open for a potential vote.

“Getting into these beltway arguments, in this bubble, when people are hurting, small businesses are going out of business every day for good. … What are we quibbling about here?” said Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), referring to the debate over court-packing and nuking the filibuster.

“There’s still an alarming rate of Covid positive tests in this country. I just think it’s a little premature to talk about what Democrats are gonna do in the Senate in January.”



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Dido Harding Has Been Asked By MPs To Reveal The Evidence Behind Pub Closures

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Coronavirus testing chief Dido Harding is being asked by MPs to provide the evidence behind the new 10pm pub curfew and the decision to only allow table service.

Mike Wood, the chair of Westminster’s largest cross-party interest group, the all-party parliamentary group for beer, said pubs could be financially crippled by the government’s decision to shut them early.

He suggested that if there is evidence from NHS Test and Trace justifying the move, it would be fair for publicans to be able to see it.

On the idea that the disease spreads in pubs, Wood said: “We do need to see the information that they have got that shows why this is much more likely.

“The overwhelming majority of pubs are taking a lot of measures to reduce the risk and increasing cleaning.

“I’ve written to Baroness Harding on behalf of the APPG to ask for more detail on what Test and Trace has shown.”

The APPG has 22 members from across the Commons and Lords and a representative from most political parties. It aims to support the pub and brewing industry.

Wood said the new rules announced by the government would put enormous pressure on pubs, many of which are already in financial difficulty after being closed for so long.

In some small rural areas, he said rather than the reduced hours being the difficulty, it is likely to be impossible to set up table service because of the size of their premises and staffing. He said they might have no alternative to close.

The Treasury may also need to step in to help struggling pubs by extending a grant scheme for the retail and hospitality sector that was delivered through local authorities in April and May, he suggested.

“We are going to need to consider what more is needed because this is going to be lasting much longer than we hoped it would.

“Most of them are operating on a fraction of their former business, few of them are not even breaking even,” he said.

Boris Johnson said in the Commons today reducing pub opening times was a difficult decision but the evidence showed the disease has spread between people at night when more alcohol has been consumed. He said this move could drive down the R-number.

Toby Perkins MP, who chairs the separate all-party parliamentary group for pubs, is also calling on the government to release more information on how they made their decision.

The Labour MP wants ministers to explain to MPs in the Commons what Test and Trace has revealed.

“There are a lot of pubs that have gone to tremendous efforts to be socially distancing and safe places.

“I’d be interested to see the evidence for this. Has the government picked up from actual evidence that people were being careful at the start of the night but less as the drinks flowed?

“The department for health has the data in terms of track and trace and if this decision has come from that then that would be interesting but it’s really a case of them telling us on what basis the decision has been made, then we can scrutinise.”

Outside of Westminster, groups representing the pub trade were also urging government to rapidly release the basis on which the decision over pubs had been made.

Tom Stainer, CAMRA chief executive, said the government’s decision would punish thousands of responsible publicans across England who are providing safe environments for their customers.

“CAMRA is calling on the government to publish the evidence that pubs or restaurants are the source of more transmissions than other sectors across the country – if they aren’t, then why are they being singled out for nationwide restrictions?” he said.

 

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