One garden, two party billboards: How a Dunedin couple keep the political peace

Dunedin couple Peter Ashton and Adrien Dever have one rule to keep the peace in their home and marriage: don’t talk about politics.

They let the billboards on their front lawn speak for themselves.

If you take a drive down Macandrew Rd, in the suburb of Forbury, you will come across the unusual sight of Labour Party and National Party billboards sharing the Ashton/Dever garden.

Ashton is a passionate National supporter, while Dever backs Labour.

The Labour sign came first.

A neighbour who works for the Labour Party asked Ashton, while he and Dever were speaking with a friend who was visiting and also worked for the Labour Party, whether they would put a Labour billboard on their lawn.

“I’ve got all these people around me … I thought what hope in hell have I got of doing anything other than saying yes?” Ashton said.

The couple let the billboards on their front lawn speak for themselves. Photos / ODT
The couple let the billboards on their front lawn speak for themselves. Photos / ODT

Ashton was at an Otago Hockey dinner and was speaking to Mike Kernaghan, the father of the National candidate for Taieri, Liam Kernaghan.

“I made some comment about billboards … I said I’ve got some room at my place.

His wife had no grounds to challenge because the Labour one was already there, he said.

The next morning, the National sign was up, facing Macandrew Rd.

“The funny thing is … the Labour one is at about 45 degrees right at the corner [of Nelson St and Macandrew Rd], so when you come from Forbury Rd towards the harbour, you really can’t see the sign,” he said.

There was nearly another election sign in the mix. An opportunity to put an Act New Zealand billboard in the middle of the Labour and National signs presented itself, he said.

“But my wife said it would look like Steptoe and Son.”

Ashton said when the time of the election results came, there would be no “I told you so” or recrimination because “we don’t really discuss politics between us at all”.

Their political beliefs were not an issue when they first met and had not been since.

“You have your own political ideology and you grow up with it,” Ashton said.

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House Lawyer Says Trump’s Census Order Breaks With History | Political News

By MIKE SCHNEIDER, Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s directive to exclude people in the U.S. illegally from being counted when the number of congressional seats in each state is determined is an unlawful order and following it would break with almost 250 years of history, an attorney for the U.S. House of Representatives told judges Tuesday.

But attorneys for the Trump administration told a panel of three federal judges in the District of Columbia that the president has the discretion to decide who is considered an inhabitant of the U.S. for the purposes of determining how many congressional seats each state gets, a process known as apportionment.

Tuesday’s court arguments were part of the latest hearing over the legality of Trump’s July memorandum. Arguments already have made heard in federal cases in Maryland and New York, where a three-judge panel blocked the presidential order earlier this month, ruling it was unlawful.

The New York judges’ order prohibits Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose agency oversees the U.S. Census Bureau, from excluding people in the country illegally when handing in 2020 census figures used to calculate apportionment. The Trump administration has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But the New York judges didn’t rule on the constitutionality of the memorandum, merely saying it violated federal laws on the census and apportionment, leaving open the door for the judges in the nation’s capital to rule on other aspects of the president’s memorandum. Other lawsuits challenging the memorandum have been filed in California, Maryland and Massachusetts.

One of the aspects the judges indicated they may consider is whether the Census Bureau will have to use statistical sampling to determine how many people are in the country illegally since there is no citizenship question on the 2020 census that could help answer that. The Supreme Court has ruled that statistical sampling can’t be used for the apportionment count.

To help figure find out that number, Trump issued another memorandum last year, directing the Census Bureau to use federal and state administrative records to find out the citizenship status of every U.S. resident. The Census Bureau hasn’t yet made public how it will use those records to come up with a method for answering that question.

Under questioning from the federal judges, federal government attorney Sopan Joshi said the Census Bureau had no intention of using statistical sampling.

The Washington lawsuit was brought by a coalition of cities and public interest groups, who argued the president’s order was part of a strategy to enhance the political power of Republicans and non-Hispanic whites. The U.S. House of Representatives later offered its support on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The Trump administration on Tuesday asked that the lawsuit be dismissed, saying it was premature since it’s impossible to know who will be affected by the exclusion order before the head count is finished and whether the Census Bureau will come up with a method for figuring out who is a citizen.

But Gregory Diskant, an

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House Approves Bill to Combat Doping in Horse Racing | Political News

By MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House approved a bill Tuesday to create national medication and safety standards for the horse racing industry to discourage use of performance-enhancing drugs that can lead to horse injuries and deaths.

The “Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act” comes after the racing industry has been hit by a series of doping scandals and a rash of horse fatalities in recent years. More than two dozen people, including the trainer of champion Maximum Security, were charged in March in what authorities described as a widespread international scheme to drug horses to make them race faster.

Jason Servis, whose horse Maximum Security crossed the finish line first at the 2019 Kentucky Derby before being disqualified for interference, was among those charged.

The House approved the bill by voice vote, sending it to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has co-sponsored similar legislation. McConnell’s home state of Kentucky boasts some of the country’s top breeding outfits and Churchill Downs, site of the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the fabled Triple Crown. Co-sponsors include senior Democrats from California and New York, which also have top racetracks and breeding operations.

Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., co-sponsored the House bill, calling it an overdue step to help restore public trust in the sport and “put it on a path to a long and vital future.”

“Horseracing has long been woven into the fabric of American culture,” Tonko said during House debate, citing storied names such as Secretariat and Man o’ War that “stir the imagination of racing fans” across the country and the world.

Racing also serves as a major economic driver in many parts of the country, including New York, said Tonko, whose district includes the well-known Saratoga Race Course.

Even so, the sport in recent years has seen “the devastating results that can occur when these equine athletes are pushed beyond their limits,” Tonko said.

Often aided by medications that can mask underlying health issues, the same tragic story “has played out countless times across the country,” he said, citing a patchwork of medical and safety regulations that are uneven and often unenforced.

The House bill would empower an independent Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority to set uniform, national standards for medication, track safety and testing of horses for performance-enhancing drugs, or PEDs.

Tonko called the bill “a win for the industry, sports fans and equine athletes,” adding it would put horses at their rightful place as the center of racing.

The legislation is supported by a range of groups, including The Jockey Club, the New York Racing Association and the Humane Society of the United States.

“This anti-doping legislation will modernize horseracing in the U.S., put the welfare of the horses at the center of the enterprise and hold the industry to a higher standard that mirrors the rest of the world,” said Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action, an advocacy group.

Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said

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Pelosi Prepares in Case House Must Decide Presidential Race | Political News

By LISA MASCARO, AP Congressional Correspondent

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is taking extraordinary steps to prepare for the 2020 election, seeking to increase Democrats’ hold on state congressional delegations in the highly unusual scenario that the House is called on to resolve a disputed presidential contest.

“We cannot leave anything to chance,” Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues, emphasizing the importance of winning House seats for Democrats — not just to expand their majority but to prepare for the possibility that the House must settle the presidential race.

She said she made the planning public after President Donald Trump claimed recently that, if the election ends up in Congress, he has the advantage over Democrat Joe Biden, because Republicans control a few more delegations in the House.

“It’s sad we have to have to plan this way, but it’s what we must do to ensure the election is not stolen,” Pelosi said Sunday in the letter.

She said Trump has shown he “will do whatever it takes to remain in power.”

The strategy being put in place by Pelosi is one of several scenarios envisioned ahead of the election as Trump and Biden face off this week in the first presidential debate. Early voting is already underway in several states.

Tensions are high and rather than seeking calm, the president is sowing doubt about the nation’s ability to conduct a legitimate election, even though there is scant evidence of voter fraud. Trump tweeted fresh claims Monday of problems with ballots, but with no actual examples. “Many things are already going very wrong,” he said.

Meanwhile, states are bracing for a surge of mail-in ballots as voters avoid polling places due to potential health risks of gathering in crowds during the coronavirus pandemic. Tabulating the results could drag on for days, leaving the country exposed to foreign interference or other campaigns trying to influence the outcome.

Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent, has said Americans need to treat Election Day as “halftime” while awaiting the full results.

Normally, Americans cast their ballots for president and states certify the results through the Electoral College, which is made up of electors from the states. A joint session of Congress convenes Jan. 6 to tally the Electoral College votes and announce the winner. Typically, the decision has been resolved well in advance, usually on election night.

But if the Electoral College is deadlocked or unable to reach a majority outcome, the question goes to the House as a “contingent election.”

Each state’s congressional delegation, consisting of the newly elected House lawmakers, casts one vote to determine the presidential outcome, according to the House history website. The new president is to be inaugurated Jan. 20.

Democrats are not in serious danger of losing their majority in the House. But as of now, Pelosi explained, Republicans have a “razor thin” margin — 26 of the state delegations, compared with 22 for Democrats. Two states are essentially tied.

“We must achieve that majority

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Trump, White House demand FDA justify tough standards for coronavirus vaccine, raising concerns of political interference

The White House’s involvement appears to go beyond the perfunctory review that agency officials had expected, and is likely to reinforce public concerns that a vaccine may be rushed to benefit the president’s reelection campaign. Polls show that the number of people who say they’re willing to take a coronavirus vaccine if it were available today has nosedived from 72 percent in May to 50 percent as of early this month, according to Pew Research Center, largely because of concerns that politics, rather than science, is driving the process.

Trump has repeatedly said a vaccine would be available by Election Day, or possibly sooner, worrying scientists that he might attempt to intervene in the review process. Companies will begin reporting safety and effectiveness data in coming weeks and months. And in conversations with some advisers, the president has directly tied the vaccine to his reelection chances, according to a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

The White House’s decision to weigh in on the FDA plan was assailed by former FDA commissioners who had served both Republican and Democratic presidents.

“I don’t know of any precedent where the White House asked to adjudicate scientific and clinical guidances, even in past public health emergencies,” said Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s first FDA commissioner. “To build trust among patients and providers, you wanted to leave these matters to the FDA process, which has a lot of rigor and integrity.”

Robert Califf, commissioner under President Barack Obama, said White House officials lack the expertise to assess the FDA’s safety protocols. “For the president to weigh in is not good,” he said, “and it sets a precedent, which is worrisome in many regards, and makes you worry about what he’ll do about the decision itself about individual vaccines.”

The push from the White House comes during a week in which top health administration officials, including FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, vowed there would be no political interference in the vaccine approval process and sought to boost public trust in the process.

So far, the White House has not asked the FDA to withdraw or change the guidance for an emergency authorization of the vaccine — a far quicker process than a formal approval that gives the FDA the flexibility to set a lower bar for safety and effectiveness. The agency expects to use the process because of the urgency of the situation. In a Wednesday phone call, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Hahn the agency had to provide the detailed justification for the guidance, according to two people familiar with the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The FDA, which had planned to release the guidance this week, instead has been working on detailed scientific justifications for the questions raised by White House officials, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. White House officials are especially interested in the agency’s recommendation

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U.S. judge questions Bolton’s political motives as he battles White House lawsuit for book profits

“Isn’t the question whether the information is classified or not?” Lamberth prodded Bolton’s defense. “You’ve engaged in that whole political diatribe, but it really has no place in what we’re arguing today.”

The oral argument came after a lawyer for the career government official who conducted the initial review for classified information in Bolton’s manuscript contended in a letter to the court that Trump aides had “commandeered” the process, then erroneously claimed the memoir contained classified information and failed to propose edits to facilitate publication.

Lamberth refused to halt publication in a June 20 ruling, saying the government acted too late to prevent the sale of already distributed books.

At issue Thursday was Bolton’s motion to toss out the case, and the government’s motion for a summary ruled that the government can seize Bolton’s profits because the book contained classified information.

Bolton attorney Charles J. Cooper argued that the government had failed to allege he knowingly disclosed such information and asserted that the nondisclosure agreements he signed required him to obtain written authorization to release only material he knew to be classified.

If unsure, Cooper argued, he was required only to confirm from “an authorized official” — in this case, he said, Ellen Knight, the National Security Council’s senior director for records access — that the information was unclassified. Cooper claimed that this is what Knight verified by phone and email after the initial review and that Bolton knew of no other classified information remaining in the manuscript he submitted to his publisher April 27.

“The government must be able to allege that Bolton knew or had reason to believe that his manuscript contained SCI, or it contained a description of activity that derived from SCI,” the most sensitive compartmented information, Cooper argued. “They have not alleged that, and we would submit they cannot allege that.”

Arguing for the government, Deputy Associate Attorney General Jennifer B. Dickey denied that the contracts required violations to be known. Dickey said there was no dispute that Bolton gave the manuscript to his publisher without receiving formal written authorization that the pre-publication review he initiated was concluded.

The government earlier produced six samples of what it asserted was classified material, three of which were classified before April 27 and one Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency, said in a declaration “implicates” the most sensitive level of material.

“It would make no sense for the pre-publication review to attach and then say an author could opt out before written authorization that it was completed,” Dickey argued. If he objected with the process, Bolton should have sued instead of walking away.

“What is unprecedented is for the most recent national security adviser, who had been entrusted with classified information on a daily basis, who has a Yale law degree and experienced counsel, would think it’s consistent with his contractual or fiduciary duty to simply sign off to his publisher on April 27 without waiting for written authorization that it did not contain

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Ex-NSC official who reviewed Bolton book claims political intervention by WH

Washington — A former National Security Council (NSC) official who led the prepublication review of former national security adviser John Bolton’s book for classified information detailed in a new court filing “unprecedented” involvement by political appointees in the White House who “commandeered” what is supposed to be an apolitical process.

A lawyer for Ellen Knight, the former Senior Director for Records Access and Information Security Management at the National Security Council (NSC), made the revelations in a new filing with the federal district court in the District of Columbia, which is considering a legal battle filed by the Trump administration against Bolton over publication of his book, “The Room Where It Happened.” The book was published by Simon & Schuster, a division of ViacomCBS.

In a letter to Bolton’s legal team and the Justice Department, attorney Kenneth Wainstein said Knight raised concerns about the actions of White House and Justice Department lawyers after her review of Bolton’s manuscript had been completed but while the Trump administration considered litigation to block publication, contending it still contained classified information. Bolton’s attorney filed the letter in court on Wednesday.

Knight, Wainstein wrote, warned that a “designedly apolitical process had been commandeered by political appointees for a seemingly political purpose.” She also speculated to Justice Department and White House lawyers that litigation against Bolton was occurring “because the most powerful man in the world said that it needed to happen,'” an assertion some did not dispute, according to Wainstein.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec defended the White House and Justice Department in a statement.

“Ms. Knight’s letter confirms that Mr. Bolton did not receive the appropriate and required written, pre-publication approval, and it is undisputed that the process was not completed at the time Mr. Bolton’s book was released,” she said. “The publication of a memoir by a former National Security Adviser, right after his departure, is an unprecedented action, and it is not surprising that National Security Council staff would pay close attention to ensure that the book does not contain the release of classified information.” 

In the letter, Knight’s attorney detailed the chain of events that began December 30, when prepublication review of Bolton’s manuscript began, through the end of her detail with the NSC, which ended August 20. 

According to Knight, Bolton’s manuscript initially contained “voluminous amounts of classified information and that it would take a significant effort to put it into publishable shape.”

Former White House Nat'l Security Adviser John Bolton Speaks At Duke University Forum
Former national security adviser John Bolton speaks at Duke University on February 17, 2020, in Durham, North Carolina.

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After working closely and speaking extensively with Bolton and his lawyer, Charles Cooper, the prepublication review process concluded on April 27, when it was determined that “all classification concerns had been addressed and that publication of the manuscript, as heavily revised, would disclose no information that would cause harm to our national security.”

Knight told Bolton she had no more suggested changes, but said the process was still ongoing. In late April, Wainstein said Knight contacted lawyers

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White House political staff is accused of wrongly intervening to block John Bolton book

White House officials were accused on Wednesday of improperly trying to block former national security adviser John Bolton from releasing his best-selling memoir by falsely claiming it contained classified information.

The accusation was made in a letter filed with a federal court in Washington by a lawyer for former National Security Council (NSC) official Ellen Knight, a career official who oversaw the prepublication review of Bolton’s “The Room Where It Happened.”

Knight had by late April cleared the memoir for its planned June 23 publication, only to then see the process “commandeered by political appointees seemingly for a political purpose,” leading to a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit to block publication, her lawyer Kenneth Wainstein said in the letter.

Wainstein also wrote that most, if not all, of the government lawyers Knight dealt with on the matter were “not entirely comfortable” with the strategy they were directed to implement toward the Bolton book.

This allegedly included having Michael Ellis, a politically appointed NSC lawyer and former aide to U.S. Representative Devin Nunes, an ally of President Donald Trump, conduct his own prepublication review of Bolton’s book despite lacking relevant training, and declare it still contained classified information.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wednesday’s filing follows published reports that the Department of Justice had opened a criminal probe into whether Bolton illegally disclosed classified information, and that a grand jury had subpoenaed his publisher, Simon & Schuster, and his literary agent.

While the White House was unable to block the release of Bolton’s book, it is still suing to collect royalties and other payments Bolton receives from the book.

Bolton has denied wrongdoing. His lawyer Charles Cooper said in a statement he was assessing how Wainstein’s letter might affect the lawsuit.

“We did not solicit the letter in any way; it came as a complete surprise,” Cooper said.

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Blunt says vote on Trump court nominee different than 2016 because White House, Senate in ‘political agreement’

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) on Sunday defended his decision to push for a vote on President Trump’s nominee to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg less than two months ahead of Election Day, despite his conflicting position four years ago.

Roy Blunt wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: Blunt says vote on Trump court nominee different than 2016 because White House, Senate in 'political agreement'

© Bonnie Cash
Blunt says vote on Trump court nominee different than 2016 because White House, Senate in ‘political agreement’

Blunt was among GOP senators who blocked then-President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland after the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia about 10 months ahead of the 2016 election.


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But the senator told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the situation is now different than it was four years ago because the same party, Republicans, control both the Senate and the White House.

“Two things have to happen for a person to go on the Supreme Court. In the tradition of the country, when the Senate and president were in political agreement no matter what was the election situation, judges went on the court and other courts. When they weren’t in agreement, they didn’t,” Blunt said.

“And we were in a situation in 2016 where the White House was controlled by one party, the Senate by another, and the referee in that case was going to be the American people,” he continued. “In this case, both the White House and the Senate have some obligation to do what they think in the majority in the Senate is the right thing to do, and there is a Senate majority put there by voters for reasons like this.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said shortly after Ginsburg’s death was announced on Friday that he would push for a vote on Trump’s nominee.

Democrats have widely criticized McConnell’s decision, calling it hypocritical based on his decision to block Obama’s nominee in 2016 and noting that Ginsburg’s death occurred even closer to the election.

A couple of Senate Republicans have joined Democrats in saying the Senate should not vote before the election. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of the most vulnerable GOP senators facing reelection in the fall, has said the upper chamber should note vote to confirm Ginsburg’s successor before the election, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said, ahead of reports of Ginsburg’s death, that she would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee before the election.

Republicans cannot afford more than three defections to confirm Trump’s nominee if all 47 members of the Senate Democratic caucus oppose Trump’s pick.

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House GOP Unveils Tax Cuts, Police Funds in Election Agenda | Political News

By LISA MASCARO, AP Congressional Correspondent

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy rolled out Republicans’ priorities of tax breaks and police funding Tuesday, the GOP’s calling card to voters as they try to wrest back seats from Democrats in a long-shot November election bid for majority control.

Republicans campaigning alongside President Donald Trump are promising to restore the country to the way it was before the COVID-19 crisis hit, tapping into the same themes of health care and infrastructure investment that have been mainstays of the Democratic platform. They’re also taking a page from Trump’s playbook by portraying Democrats as aligned with the racial injustice protests in American cities, vowing a tougher approach.

“Republicans helped build the greatest economy in a generation and the American way of life was thriving,” said McCarthy, flanked by lawmakers on the steps of the Capitol, to present the “Commitment to America.” He said, “We will do it again.”

Republicans are bracing for a tough campaign for control of Congress in the fall, needing to flip some 19 seats to take over control of the House from Democrats. The Senate has a slim GOP majority that’s at risk.

The GOP rollout comes as House Democrats are vowing to try again to pass a new round of coronavirus relief after a Senate bill collapsed last week. Democrats said late Monday at the Capitol that leadership would consider extending the legislative session into October if a new aid bill could be approved.

House Republicans typically present their own priorities for the campaigns, dating back 30 years to then-leader Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America.” But it’s especially important this year after the broader Republican Party under Trump declined to present a GOP platform at the Republican National Convention.

“We need to double down on a commitment to God and the Constitution,” said Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif.

The House Republicans’ economic priorities include new tax breaks for businesses, forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans for companies struggling during the coronavirus shutdown, and making the 2017 GOP tax cuts for families permanent.

To fight the virus outbreak, Republicans call for tripling COVID-19 testing and investing in therapeutics for treatments. Taking a page from the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, they vow to preserve insurance coverage for those with pre-existing health conditions — even though Republicans are suing to end health care coverage under the 2010 law.

They promise more money for police departments and commitments to social issues, including abortion rights and access to firearms.

As lawmakers gathered Tuesday outside the Capitol, the No. 2 GOP leader, Rep. Steve Sclaise, R-La., the GOP Whip, said, the party will “renew and restore” the nation.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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