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3 Texas Dems test positive for coronavirus while in D.C.

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Three Texas House Democrats who fled the state have tested positive for coronavirus while in Washington, D.C., the Texas House Democratic Caucus said in a statement on Saturday.

Over 50 House Democrats from the state left on Monday to break quorum in the chamber. In doing so, they prevented Republicans from advancing proposals to change the state’s election laws, which include empowering poll watchers in the state and proposing new criminal and civil penalties for election workers, along with other legislative items in the special session.

The Texas members have taken meetings on Capitol Hill with Democratic lawmakers and met with Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday.

“Earlier today, it was brought to our attention that two of the members at that meeting tested positive for COVID-19,” Symone Sanders, a senior adviser for Harris, said in a statement. “Based on the timeline of these positive tests, it was determined the Vice President and her staff present at the meeting were not at risk of exposure because they were not in close contact with those who tested positive and therefore do not need to be tested or quarantined.”

Sanders added that Harris and her staff are fully vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent guidance says fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask or socially distance unless required by law, or local or business guidance. Fully vaccinated individuals who are potentially exposed to the coronavirus do not need to be tested, the guidance says, unless they experience symptoms, but should monitor their health for two weeks.

The CDC guidance does, however, require mask-wearing “on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation.” Many of the Texas Democrats did not appear to wear one on their charter flights to D.C., which some Republicans pointed out even before the positive tests.

The statement from the Texas House Democrats did not identify which three members had tested positive, but said all three were fully vaccinated. The cases were first reported by the Austin American-Statesman.

“We are in touch with public health experts in Texas to provide additional guidance,” Texas House Democratic Chair Chris Turner said in the statement. “Our caucus will follow all recommendations from public health experts as we continue our work.”

State Rep. Celia Israel, who represents an Austin-area district, told POLITICO that she had tested positive.

“It just feels like I have a cold,” she said in a brief phone interview. Israel added that she was fully vaccinated, and would be isolating in her hotel room for at least the next 10 days. She said that several members of the delegation had dropped off food for her.

In an additional statement, Israel said she took a test on Friday — after being notified that another member of the caucus had tested positive — and tested negative, before subsequently testing positive on Saturday.

“Let this be a reminder that COVID-19 is still very much among us, with infection rates on the rise and more contagious variants spreading nationwide,” she said in the statement, urging unvaccinated people to get a shot. “Most importantly, I hope this instance highlights the sacrifices we’re willing to make for the cause of democracy. I would not change anything to protect the right to vote.”

House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican who has railed against the Democrats for leaving the state, wished those that tested positive good health in a tweet: “Kim and I extend our prayers for safety and health for the members of the Texas House Democratic Caucus who tested positive for COVID-19 while in Washington, D.C.”

Original Source: politico.com

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Cheney-McCarthy war of words heats up over Jan. 6 investigation

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Liz Cheney is already taking public heat from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — and dishing it back — over her Democratic appointment to the select panel investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

The relationship between McCarthy and Cheney has steadily deteriorated throughout the year, with an apparent peak coming when the California Republican helped oust Cheney from the House GOP’s No. 3 leadership spot. But tension is spiking again now that Cheney and Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger — Donald Trump’s two most vocal GOP critics in Congress — are serving on the select panel thanks to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. McCarthy dubbed Cheney and Kinzinger “Pelosi Republicans” on Monday.

Cheney, as she walked into a prep session meeting with her fellow committee members shortly after McCarthy’s remark, told reporters she found it “pretty childish.”

“We’ve got serious business here. We have important work to do,” she added.

The back-and-forth comes after a series of clashes last week following Pelosi’s veto of two of McCarthy’s GOP picks to serve on the Jan. 6 investigation: Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio, both of them avid Trump defenders. The move prompted McCarthy to withdraw all of his appointees to the select committee in protest, describing the investigation as a partisan effort designed to hurt Trump and the party ahead of next year’s midterms. Republicans, however, largely opposed a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission earlier this year.

Cheney was part of Pelosi’s initial wave of names tapped to serve on the panel that will examine the deadly events of Jan. 6, when Trump supporters breached the Capitol in an attempt to disrupt certification of the ex-president’s election loss, forcing lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence to flee.

Following the GOP boycott, Pelosi on Sunday named Kinzinger to the Jan. 6 committee, giving Democrats two House Republican members who they say boost their panel’s bipartisan credibility.

Kinzinger, wearing a tie patterned with elephants, also called McCarthy’s comments “childish” during a break in the select panel prep session.

“He can call me whatever names he wants,” Kinzinger said, adding that the bottom line is “I’m a Republican.”

Still, McCarthy’s jab signals a remarkable shift from earlier this year. Cheney once served as his leadership partner before her frequent Trump criticisms prompted her colleagues and fellow leaders to eject the Wyoming Republican from a role that is responsible for the conference’s messaging.

These days, some of Cheney and Kinzinger’s fellow Republicans are openly speculating about their future in the House GOP conference. Asked whether the duo should face sanctions from their party for accepting Pelosi’s appointment to the inquiry, McCarthy said only that “we’ll see.”

But Kinzinger shrugged off the subtle threat on Monday: “If the conference decides” to punish him and Cheney, he said, it “says more about them than it does about us.”

Kinzinger also didn’t rule out calling his fellow Republican members to testify before the select panel, saying it was “important” to hear from them if they had relevant information. Discussions are still ongoing about the scope of Republican staff for the inquiry, he added, but he lauded former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) as a model for those hires.

No matter how actively McCarthy tries to tether Cheney and Kinzinger to Pelosi, who frequently appears in GOP attack ads, they both have strong conservative voting records to counter his attacks. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer noted as much, while arguing Monday that Cheney and Kinzinger are “real Republicans.”

“If anybody looks at the voting records of Mr. Kinzinger and Ms. Cheney, they will know that they haven’t voted with Speaker Pelosi except on the most bipartisan of bills,” Hoyer said. “These are people who come from conservative Republican districts who have represented Republican values. The difference is, and this is the key, they both believe in the truth. That ought not to be a partisan issue.”

Nick Niedzwiadek contributed to this report.

Article: politico.com

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Bipartisan infrastructure talks in dire state ahead of pivotal week

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The bipartisan infrastructure negotiations entered their darkest phase in more than a month on Monday, with the parties openly feuding over policy and former President Donald Trump urging Republicans to drop the effort altogether.

Democrats and the White House on Sunday night offered a proposal to Republicans proposing a deal on highway and public transit funding, as well as several other unresolved areas. That offer was intended to address all outstanding disputes — and was immediately rejected by Republicans.

The GOP sent out a list of areas where that Democratic offer broke from previous agreements among the bipartisan senators writing the bill on Monday afternoon, the latest in a running list of bleak sign for the talks ahead of another pivotal week of negotiations in the Senate.

The comprehensive offer “we received from the White House and [Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer was discouraging since it attempts to reopen numerous issues the bipartisan group had already agreed to,” said a GOP source familiar with the negotiations. “If this is going to be successful, the White House will need to show more flexibility as Republicans have done and listen to the members of the group that produced this framework.”

Two additional sources close to the talks, one in each party, confirmed the dire state of negotiations on a signature priority of President Joe Biden. Each blamed the other side for reopening debate on items once considered settled.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said she is “confident” an agreement can be reached. But many struck a more dour tone in private. And Democrats said the frantic past few days was kicked off by Republicans rejecting an increase in IRS enforcement to pay for the bill.

“It takes a lot of chutzpah for Republicans to make accusations about keeping words when the biggest hole blown in the [financing] was made by them reneging on their agreement about enforcing the law on wealthy tax cheats,” said a Democrat familiar with the negotiations.

The talks seem in danger of collapse given the public acrimony and finger-pointing on Monday, after a fruitless weekend of discussions. The group of 10 senators leading the talks will huddle again on Monday evening, in an attempt to rescue the fragile negotiations.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers hoped to reach a final agreement by early this week after a vote to advance undrafted legislation failed last week. But that appears unlikely, with several issues outstanding. Among the biggest sticking points is transit, but broadband has also become a point of contention. The bill’s finances are also viewed as shaky.

A Democratic source familiar with the bipartisan discussions said that Democrats’ counteroffer included accepting the GOP proposal for highways in exchange for the Democratic proposal on transit. But Republicans dispute that characterization. A GOP source familiar with the negotiations said the choice isn’t binary and that the GOP offer on transit “was met with silence for three days.”

Funding for water infrastructure also remains unresolved, according to a Democratic source familiar with the talks, who accused Republicans of backing away from the original agreement. That source said that Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) had reneged on a deal and “proposed something completely unworkable.”

A spokesperson for Romney called that “laughably false” and said Schumer is seeking $15 billion more than a previous agreement.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) both raised concerns about the funding last week, with Carper suggesting he would have a hard time supporting the package unless certain funding conditions were met. The snafu illustrates the tricky challenge the group of rank-and-file senators led by Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has in navigating around committee chairs.

As bipartisan negotiators aim to finalize an agreement, Trump said that Senate Republicans “are being absolutely savaged by Democrats on the so-called ‘bipartisan’ infrastructure bill’” and urged them to wait until they take back the Senate in 2022 to “regain a strong negotiating stance.” Trump tried unsuccessfully to cut a deal with Democrats on infrastructure, sidelining negotiations once his impeachment investigation began.

Although the bipartisan group and the White House announced an agreement last month on a bipartisan framework, translating it into legislative text is proving difficult. Schumer wants to pass the bipartisan bill and begin the process for Democrats’ $3.5 trillion social spending package before the Senate leaves for the August recess.

Eleven Senate Republicans wrote Schumer last week to tell him they’d be ready to move forward as soon as Monday, provided the bill was mostly completed and its finances were in order. Neither condition was met as of midday, with senators convening late in the afternoon.

Source: politico.com

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Mortal Kombat 11 Surpasses 12 Million Copies Sold WorldwideGame Informer

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Mortal Kombat 11 is the latest entry in a renowned franchise that has spanned decades. The game features a sizable roster with (literally) bone-crushing combos, a solid single-player story mode, and a continuously burgeoning multiplayer scene. Like many of the other NetherRealm titles that have come before it, Mortal Kombat 11 has reached an impressive milestone; it’s surpassed 12 million copies sold worldwide.

According to an emailed press release, NetherRealm Studios Creative Director Ed Boon expressed heartfelt words after learning about Mortal Kombat 11’s latest achievement. “When Mortal Kombat launched nearly 30 years ago, I never dreamed it would grow into the franchise it is today with more than 73 million games sold,” Boon said. “We have some of the most passionate fans in the world, and we appreciate the support they have shown us over the years.” 

It’s not particularly surprising that Mortal Kombat 11 has found this level of incredible success. After all, the franchise is one of the industry’s biggest video game dynasties – even Mortal Kombat Mobile has over 100 million installs! – that has spawned many television shows, animated movies, and live-action films, including the latest one that Brian Shea reviewed. However, additional content updates have stopped now that NetherRealm is moving to its next project. What the next chapter in the Mortal Kombat franchise will look and play like remains to be seen, but based on how beloved the IP is to millions of fans around the globe, it’ll likely be another well-earned success story for Ed Boon and co.

Andrew Reiner enjoyed his time with Mortal Kombat 11 despite some loot problems, concluding his review by stating, “Mortal Kombat 11 may have loot issues, but the combat has never been more rewarding. You can finish the entertaining story mode in one sitting, but getting the gear for the character you want could end up being more of a time-stealing tale than the one the game tells.”

Mortal Kombat 11 is available on current- and last-gen consoles as well as Switch, Stadia, and PC. Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate is a more expanded version of the game that launched towards the end of last year; be sure to play that for the complete experience. 

What do you hope to see in Mortal Kombat 12? Or, more broadly, what do you hope to see in NetherRealm Studios’ future games?

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