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Rep. Eric Swalwell calls for a nationwide mask mandate: 'You're protecting others'

Rep. Eric Swalwell on California reversing reopening plans this holiday weekend as coronavirus cases spike

California closing many beaches for Fourth of July holiday amid spike in coronavirus cases.

Democratic California Congressman Eric Swalwell said Saturday that he agrees there should likely be a nationwide mask mandate amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview on "Cavuto LIVE" with host Neil Cavuto, Swalwell noted case and hospitalization rates in his home state — like much of the South — are increasing at an alarming rate following reopening phases.

DOES WEARING A FACE MASK POSE ANY HEALTH RISKS?

"Well, you know, we are seeing about a 56 percent increase in hospitalizations in California. In my area, about 200 cases each day in Alameda County — one of the largest counties in Northern California," he stated. "And, it's not that we're increasing the testing. Of course, we're increasing the testing…The rate of people testing positive is going up, and that's what's most concerning."

Swalwell noted that while there is a marked increase in infections of America's youth, the risk is "much higher" when "you put young people with their parents or grandparents over a holiday weekend."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, May 5, 2020, in Washington. 
(AP)

According to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, there are now almost 2.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States and close to 130,000 deaths.

"The most important [thing] is to follow the science. And, [in] the calls I've been on with the governor [he says that] he's going to let the science dictate this," Swalwell explained. "And, you saw a number of counties open up in California for in-room dining, for bars, for hair salons and nail salons, and then have had to roll it back. And so, we really are evolving, Neil."

The best way to combat the spread, according to Swalwell, is masking up.

"And, if we wear a mask and then keep investing in the testing, tracing, and treatment, we can come out of this," he told Cavuto.

Last weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she believes a federal mandate on mask-wearing is "long overdue"

However, wearing a mask has become a political point of contention across the U.S.

On Wednesday, state officials in Pennsylvania announced that residents are now required to wear masks when outside their home, joining a growing list adopting universal mask mandates.

"I think we should have a nationwide mask mandate. I don't think anyone believes we should have mask, you know, police. But, I don't think you should be allowed in any public place without wearing a mask," Swalwell remarked.

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"You're not doing it for protecting yourself. You're protecting others. And, that's what, you know, being courageous is. That's what being caring and kind is. [It’s] worrying about protecting others," he pointed out.

"And look, the sooner we do this, the sooner we come out of this. But, we can be our own worst enemies if we're not going to wear masks," Swalwell concluded.

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Slain college student's family fights to improve rideshare safety

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The family of a 21-year-old college student who was kidnapped and killed last year after climbing into a car she thought was her Uber ride is working to make sure that no one else falls victim to a similar circumstance.

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The man accused of killing Samantha Josephson in South Carolina is still waiting for trial, but her parents, Seymour and Marci Josephson, have wasted no time campaigning to improve rideshare safety. They founded the #WHATSMYNAME Foundation last year in order to educate rideshare passengers, and the group announced this week that it was partnering with Lyft and Uber in order to reach more students on college campuses across the U.S.

“[Samantha] wanted to go to law school to help people,” Seymour Josephson said. “She was a person that just cared about other people and just wanted to help people.”

Samantha Josephson (#WHATSMYNAME Foundation)

Following her death, Josephson found he’d suddenly been given a platform as he spoke at vigils in South Carolina, where Samantha attended school, and New Jersey, where the family lives, and the story gained international attention.

“It just took off,” he said. “I didn’t even think about it, it was just her, and how can I help make change and not have this happen to anybody else again. That was our – Marci’s and mine – big inspiration.”

The foundation has even used Samantha’s nickname – Sami – to help make its message easy to remember: “Stop, Ask, Match, Inform.” Verifying the information available through rideshare apps, including the driver’s name and the make, model and license plate of the vehicle, with those simple steps can help rideshare users keep themselves safe.

NEW BIPARTISAN BILL WOULD EXPAND TAX BREAK FOR CHARITABLE GIVING

They have made signs and literature to remind college students on campuses in multiple states. The group is also working with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to add signs in NYC-area airports, Madison Square Garden and public transit stops, according to Josephson.

“We just found that if we can have something out there and just put it in front of people as a reminder, and use Samantha’s name … it really resonates,” he said.

Separately from the foundation, the family has been working to pass new laws that protect rideshare passengers. Several states have already backed legislation inspired by Samantha Josephson, and Seymour Josephson said their local congressman, Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, is helping them draft legislation with input from a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers.

CALIFORNIA WANTS JUDGE TO CLASSIFY UBER, LYFT DRIVERS AS EMPLOYEES

During that process, Seymour Josephson said, he met Uber and Lyft representatives to collaborate on a future bill that wouldn’t draw opposition from the industry. He used those contacts to help the foundation work with Uber on its latest project.

“Uber wanted to join forces and create safety in education, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Josephson said.

Uber said it has made efforts to improve the safety of its platform already: Last year, it rolled out an optional four-digit PIN system to ensure passengers match with their drivers.

Tracey Breeden, head of women’s safety at Uber, said in a statement that “what happened to Samantha Josephson was an unspeakable tragedy and something that no parent or family should have to go through.”

“Together working alongside colleges and cities, while leveraging education and technology, we can all help create safer communities,” Breeden said.

A driver displaying Lyft and Uber stickers on his front windshield drops off a customer in downtown Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

UBER TO REQUIRE CORONAVIRUS MASKS FOR RIDERS, DRIVERS INDEFINITELY

Lyft has also worked to improve safety, increasing the visibility of plate numbers in its app and sending push alerts to remind passengers to verify vehicle information.

Jennifer Brandenburger, Lyft’s director of public policy for community safety, said in a statement that the company is proud to team with the Josephson family and foundation to “amplify ridesharing safety education on college campuses nationwide.”

The companies are valuable partners because they already have relationships with many colleges, while Josephson said the foundation’s materials provide exactly what colleges need.

“All the colleges went into a complete panic [following Samantha’s death], because they didn’t have anything,” he said.

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The foundation helps colleges create designated rideshare safety zones near dorms and Greek life housing with the “SAMI” signs, Josephson said. While some efforts have been temporarily hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, the couple also attend conferences and make safety presentations for student groups to emphasize the steps to take before entering a stranger’s vehicle.

The partnership will help the foundation reach more than 100 additional student groups, according to Lyft.

“The last thing you want to do is get into the car and have what happened to Samantha,” Josephson said. “Because once you get in the car, it’s too late.”

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Hillary Clinton, citing ‘dark times,’ urges Americans to register to vote in Independence Day message

Hillary Clinton says COVID-19 would be ‘terrible crisis to waste’ if Dems don’t push universal health care

Former 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Saturday, cited “dark times” in an Independence Day message, and urged Americans to march and register to vote.

“In dark times, it's important to remember that America can be what we make of it,” she said on Twitter. “We have more power than we can imagine when we wield it together.“

HILLARY CLINTON THINK SHE WOULD HANDLE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC BETTER THAN TRUMP

Clinton attached a picture of her with President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea, and urged supporters to “keep raising our voices, marching, and registering to vote. “

“We’ll celebrate all we accomplish next Independence Day,” she said.

It is the latest statement by Clinton that shows she remains focused on what she hopes will be the defeat of her 2016 rival, President Trump, in November.

In an interview published Friday with The Hollywood Reporter, she claims she would have handled the coronavirus pandemic better than President Trump

"We wouldn't have been able to stop the pandemic at our borders the way that Trump claimed in the beginning, but we sure could have done a better job saving lives, modeling better, more responsible behavior,” she said.

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She went on to say that while it is not on the cards for her to run for the presidency again, she believes she would beat him in November if she was on the ballot.

“Yes,” she said. “But I think people believe that this is a referendum on him."

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Helen Raleigh: As an immigrant, I celebrate America this July 4th and goodness of the American people

This Day In History: July 4

Patriotism seems to be out of fashion for many Americans this Fourth of July. From toppling statues to banning the national anthem, it’s hard to miss all the denunciations of America's founders, founding principles, history and even America itself.

We are told this is absolutely necessary because our nation has been irredeemably racist since its birth and that this systemic racism has suppressed the wellbeing of minorities for more than two centuries.

As an immigrant, I see America differently. I was born and raised in China. I lived through strict food rationing and witnessed my parents' having little say in their lives. They didn't get to choose where to live and for whom they wanted to work because the communist government made all the decisions for them.

KENT INGLE: JULY 4TH CIVICS TEST — CAN WE MOVE FORWARD TOGETHER IF WE DON'T KNOW OUR HISTORY?

I was determined to have the freedom to live the life I wanted.

As a result, I came to the U.S. in 1996 to pursue a master’s degree at the State University of New York, College of Oneonta, with less than $100 in my pocket. I had no family members in the U.S. and very few American friends back then. I also spoke limited English with an accent.

To help pay for school, I took on three part-time jobs. But hardship never bothered me. I was so thrilled that I got to be in charge of my own destiny.

From that humble beginning, I obtained two graduate degrees, worked for several Fortune 500 companies, and now I am a business owner, author and regular contributor to a number of national media outlets. I get to freely express my thoughts every day in a way that is impossible for many people around the world.

This transformation of my own life is not a unique story. Millions of immigrants who came before me have done the same and I am confident that millions more will accomplish even more in this country.

The United States is the only nation in the world that was created on a set of principles, presented as self-evident truths. These are spelled out in the Declaration of Independence and protected by the Constitution.

The universal appeal of these founding principles means that anyone – from anywhere in the world – who pledges to these principles can become an American. In President Abraham Lincoln's words, whoever does this has "a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration."

When I made my choice to become a U.S. citizen I was joined by 60 new immigrants who represented 55 countries of origin at the citizenship ceremony. There were many shades of skin colors and many languages were spoken.

However, there was one thing we all had in common: overwhelming joy. Our journeys are one of the most powerful testaments that America is not a nation infested by systematic racism.

Saying America is not systemically racist doesn't mean there is no such thing as race-based discrimination in the United States. I'm no stranger to this – I’ve been on the receiving end of it.

I was once told that my English wasn't good so I wasn't eligible for the next promotion at work. A few people thought I was intellectually challenged because of my accent. Some people were just shocked that I spoke English at all.

Once, even though I was the first one at the counter, the salesperson chose to serve someone standing next to me first.

Another time when I returned from an overseas trip a young Customs agent asked me: "How long have you had the privilege of living in my country?" even though all paperwork showed that the United States is my country too.

When some readers didn't like something I wrote, they would tell me to go back to where I came from.

Yet, despite these experiences, I am still proud to say that I am an American by choice and I love this country. That’s because the ugly encounters I describe above are only a tiny portion of my overall experience. Those incidents represent individual fallibility rather than systemic racism.

The majority of Americans I’ve met over the years – regardless of race and social and economic background – are caring, generous and kind people.

Not long after I came to the U.S., one of my wisdom teeth caused me insufferable pain. Since I was a poor student who couldn't afford dental insurance, a lady from the church took me to see her dentist and she took care of all the expenses.

After college, I started my first job in a department where everyone else was a white man. All the guys treated me with nothing but respect. They patiently taught me how to do my job, tolerated many of my mistakes, introduced me to American TV sitcoms such as "Friends," and sent me an online slang dictionary so I would become familiar with terms Americans often use.

When I bought my first house, my co-workers came to help me move and even painted the kitchen.

I married into an Irish-American family. My father-in-law is a retired Marine who fought in the Vietnam War, where he was seriously injured. Before I met him for the first time, I was fully prepared that he wouldn't like me because of his war experience.

Yet both my husband’s parents have embraced me like their own daughter from Day One. They even took Chinese language lessons and learned how to use chopsticks – all part of their efforts to make me feel welcomed.

When I was seriously ill, neighbors quietly mowed our lawn and organized a meal train for three months. We never had so many apple pies in our lives!

When a severe windstorm split a tree open in the front yard, the same neighbors showed up to clean the debris as soon as the wind died down. Within a few hours, our yard was so clean that it looked as if nothing had happened.

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When I reflect on my own American experiences, this caring, generous and kind America is what I appreciate most. Our country does have many problems such as crumbling public schools, inner city poverty, drug abuse, overcrowded prisons and racial disparities in health care outcomes.

For example, African-American, Native American and Alaska Native women die of pregnancy-related causes at a rate about three times higher than those of white women, in spite of advances in medicine and expanded access to health care.

But toppling statues and condemning America's founders and founding principles will not make these problems go away. Solving these serious problems requires somber and honest discussions, meaningful policy changes and joint efforts from all Americans.

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On our nation's 244th birthday, it's important to remember that America’s founding principles are not empty promises but a guiding North Star. We should be proud of the progress we have achieved, learn from the mistakes we made along the way, and be keenly aware that there is still more that needs to be done.

Whether you were born in the U.S.A. or you are an immigrant like me, being an American is always a choice. On this Independence Day, let's once again choose to do as the signers of the Declaration of Independence did and "mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor" to make our nation a better place for all Americans.

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Coronavirus contact-tracing app allays privacy concerns

Should digital contact tracing take priority over one’s privacy?

New York City Councilman Stephen Levin (D) discusses the concern protesters have about giving contact tracers their personal information.

Contact tracing has proven to be a vital tool in the fight against coronavirus, but its effectiveness has been hamstrung at times by concerns over privacy. Now, a new anonymous app called “I Checked In” offers a convenient system for contact tracing while alleviating those drawbacks.

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The app is a simple way for customers and small business owners to keep track of who is coming and going and at what times in case of an outbreak.

Businesses get a pin number that customers can enter in the app when they check in. Guests remain anonymous, but in the event of an outbreak, the business can inform “I Checked In” and the app will notify anyone who was potentially exposed.

WHAT IS CONTACT TRACING?

The creator of the app, entrepreneur Avi Lugassy, is the owner of a small restaurant called Soupa Cafe Ltd. that was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

He said he developed the app to find a better way of contact tracing after noticing that people have an aversion to being tracked, the risk of which has been heightened by the pandemic.

APPLE, GOOGLE UPDATE CORONAVIRUS CONTACT-TRACING SOFTWARE PLANS

For instance, North Dakota was one of the first states to roll out its contact-tracing app, “Care-19,” in April. Users were told that location data would be kept private, but an analysis of the app by Jumbo, a consumer privacy service, found that location data was being shared with Foursquare, a third-party app that provides information to advertisers.

“Sharing what is supposed to be an anonymous code along with an Advertising Identifier (referred to as IDFA) has serious privacy risks,” Jumbo wrote.

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The American Civil Liberties Union warned in April, just weeks after the coronavirus prompted nationwide lockdowns to curb the pandemic's spread, about privacy concerns related to tracking exposure.

“In the last few weeks we have seen many proposals for technology-assisted ‘contact tracing,’” ACLU wrote. “While some of these systems may offer public health benefits, they may also cause significant risks to privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties.”

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Rep. Dusty Johnson on need to preserve US history: Dems forget how lucky they are to be in America

Rep. Dusty Johnson on the effort and need to preserve American history

South Dakota Congressman Dusty Johnson tells ‘Fox & Friends Weekend’ Dems forget about America’s greatness, how lucky they are to be here

Democrats and activists are so obsessed with America's "imperfections," they seem to forget how lucky they are to be here, Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-SD, said Saturday.

Johnson, appearing on "Fox & Friends Weekend," said the racial justice activists tearing down statues and defacing monuments, many of them honoring confederate leaders, have no desire to put the nation's imperfect history in context.

TRUMP, IN FIERY MOUNT RUSHMORE ADDRESS, DECRIES RISE OF 'FAR-LEFT FASCISM,' CALLS ON AMERICANS TO RISE UP

"They want to erase it. They want to remove it," he said.

Last week, Johnson introduced the Mount Rushmore Protection Act. The bill would prohibit the use of federal funds to alter or destroy the enormous monument in any way.

"When you look at those four great presidents on Mount Rushmore, they did as much as a person can — as anybody can — to build toward a more perfect union," he said. "Now is the time we should be rallying around those values: freedom, independence, liberty, equality. But, there are people who want to tear them down..

"My bill would make it clear that not one American nickel would go toward changing the name of Mount Rushmore or blasting off or altering those faces."

Fireworks light the sky at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Friday, July 3, 2020, near Keystone, S.D., after President Donald Trump spoke. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

All eyes were on Mount Rushmore Friday evening for President Trump's early Independence Day celebration. Standing before the monument, the president vowed it "will never be desecrated."

"These heroes will never be defaced. Their legacy will never, ever be destroyed. Their achievements will never be forgotten. And Mount Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom," Trump said to cheers.

But the monument has drawn the ire of Native Americans for decades.

Once sacred Lakota tribal territory, the site was occupied by a group of Native American protesters in the 1970s. In 1980, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that more than $100 million should be given in compensation to eight tribes.

Hours before the president arrived Friday, protesters — mostly Native Americans protesting the federal government's seizure of part of the Black Hills  – blocked a road leading to the monument.

Johnson said he believes Trump's comments tied in "incredibly well" with his bill, and decried those who "want to focus on the flaws" of the presidents chiseled into the mountainside.

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"I mean, I love this country. It’s the greatest country in the history of humankind. And I think there is an incredibly powerful story there to tell to our young people about the aspirations of this country," the congressman said. "Not about the flaws of Abraham Lincoln, but about the steps he took to become the great emancipator."

"Yes, by all means, let’s not ignore the flaws. But I’m concerned that some of my friends on the other side get so enamored talking about the imperfections of America they forget how unbelievably lucky we all are to be living in this country in this century," Johnson said.

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The $397,000 Ferrari F8 Spider is a majestic summary of everything great that the Italian carmaker can do

  • I tested a $396,994 Ferrari F8 Spider, the convertible version of Ferrari's extremely powerful F8 Tributo supercar.
  • The F8 Spider rocks a 710-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V8.
  • The engine comes from the track-oriented 488 Pista. It's the most powerful motor Ferrari has ever dropped into a mid-engine production car.
  • Despite mountain-moving power and blistering speed, I found the F8 Spider to be oddly soothing to drive. It's almost too good for it's own good.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

This wasn't my first go-round with a drop-top, mid-engine prancing horse supercar based on the stupendous Ferrari 488.

In 2018, I drove the convertible, or "Spider" version of the 488 up to Lime Rock Park in Connecticut to watch non-ragtop, racing-car versions of the car circle the famous track for an IMSA event.

Since then, Ferrari has updated the 488 and changed the name to "F8 Tributo," a reference to the potent V8 that propels the machine. I haven't yet had a crack at the hardtop, but Ferrari did let me borrow a $397,000 example of the Spider, in a dashing "Giallo Modena" paint job, for a mere day to make a run out to the eastern tip of Long Island.

I'll spoil the ending and let you know right now that the Ferrari was almost too good for its own good. Here's why:

The 2020 Ferrari F8 Spider, in all it's beachfront, bright-yellow glory! My test car started at $297,250. But options, options, and more options took the sticker to a hair under $397,000.

The F8 Spider is the convertible version of the F8 Tributo, which arrived in 2019 …

… To replace the 488 in Ferrari's lineup. The F8 Tributo sported a completely redesigned front end.

Read the review.

I borrowed the convertible version of the 488 to take a drive up to Lime Rock Park, a legendary track in the Connecticut countryside.

Read the review.

It wasn't all sand and sun for the F8 Spider on my drive, which covered about 400 miles, from the New Jersey suburbs to the Montauk, on Long Island. The F8 looked gorgeous in the golden light of an East Coast sunset.

This Ferrari has a retractable hardtop that neatly stows in a compartment behind the cockpit. It disappears in about 20 seconds.

The most prominent new feature for the F8 Spider, as with the F8 Tributo, is an "S-duct" in the front that pipes air through the hood and intensifies downward pressure on the front wheels. It amps up downforce by 15%.

The arrangement is more Ferrari Enzo than 458 — the 488 predecessor was noted for its elegant fascia. But there's no debating the engineering.

The front splitter and ducting are all intended to shape the air around the F8 for performance, but it all adds up to a beautiful industrial design, even if it errs slightly on the side of aggression.

The "SJ" shields — Scuderia Ferrari, the origin of the Italian brand, Enzo Ferrari's racing operation — on each fender are $1,856 extra. As it turns out one of the less expensive options.

Pop that hood and you'll find the F8 Spider's front trunk, or "frunk," which offered just enough stowage for an overnight bag and a large tote. Pack light!

The drive out to Montauk found me contemplating this Hiroshi Sugimoto-esque view of the Atlantic Ocean.

The following day, I took the Ferrari F8 Spider to the beach.

The rear louvers vent the engine — and evoke the Ferrari F40, an iconic late-80s-early-1990s Ferrari. Although they don't evoke it as earnestly as the Tributo.

Here's the F40, just so you know what I'm talking about.

And while the prancing horse takes up some modest real estate up front, the classic Ferrari script is rendered in chrome atop the engine compartment.

The F8's spoiler was actually pretty low-key, compared to some of the airplane lifters I've had riding behind me on some recent cars. It's a nod to the F40's signature tall wing, with a more modest spoiler wrapping around the tail lights.

A pair of titanium exhaust pipes is $2,531. The diffuser completes the airflow efforts that commence up front.

Ferrari F8 Spider

The dynamically-spoked, "Glossy Silver" forged wheels added $6,243 to the price tag …

… front and rear.

The blue brake calipers and ventilated discs, also front and rear, combined to deliver prodigious stopping power.

The vane on this duct is a carryover from the 488.

The F8's headlights are relatively straightforward, though swept-back. They're less jewel-like in the interior complexity than some of the LED rigs I've seen of late.

But they're effective!

The way they shape to the fender, forming a gentle angle, is hypnotic.

The F8 Spider is a magnificent, flowing piece of automotive design, and you can decide for yourself if the silhouette benefits or suffers from having the roof retracted. I know what my choice would be!

Let's slide inside and check out that "Blu Sterling" interior.

Even the carpeting is "Blu," by the way.

Ferrari invites you to never forget what you're sitting in.

The F8 Spider might not look that roomy, and as a two-seater, it isn't. But because the engine is amidships, the cabin has an open, airy quality, even with the top down. Those "Corsa" carbon-fiber racing seats are … $9,112.

The stripes were another $1,181. Honestly, I expected the seats to be unforgiving over a few hundred miles, but they were surprisingly easygoing.

The F8's cabin is organized around the car's steering wheel.

Carbon fiber, leather, and the prancing horse, all together, as well as turn signals and just about everything one needs to operate the car.

The famous red stop-start button, alongside the "bumpy road" button that adjusts the suspension for uneven terrain.

The manettino is totally Formula One and allows quick switches among three drive modes. You can deactivate the traction and stability control, but don't.

The yellow tachometer dominates the instrument cluster.

This small screen to the right is where infotainment happens. Shockingly, everything from Bluetooth integration to navigation to media is available, controlled using a small dashboard interface. It isn't modern, but it's refreshingly un-distracting.

Cruise control is to the left.

These long, elegant, carbon-fiber paddle shifters are so, so good.

Otherwise, the F8's instrumentation and controls are exceptionally minimal.

Gotta love the key-fob holder.

The passenger also has a digital display panel, so two can play along.

I wouldn't call the F8's interior over-the-top luxurious, but it does exude a premium, handcrafted vibe just about everywhere.

Lots of space in the glove compartment!

The JBL premium audio system sounded excellent (it was a $6,200 upgrade).

OK, the moment we've all been waiting for! Let's open the hatch and have a gander at the engine — the thrumming heart of the F8.

Here we have a 710-horsepower, twin-turbocharged, 3.9-liter V8, making 568 pound-feet of torque.

Sending the power to the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the F8 Spider blasts through the 0-60 mph run in three seconds and tops out north of 210 mph.

Fuel economy? Not good, maybe 15-16 mpg in combined highway-city driving. But while in previous Ferrari road tests I've usually had to make a stop at a gas station, this time around I drove from the Jersey 'burbs to the end of Long Island and back — and hadn't run out of gas.

So what's the verdict?

The F8 Spider, like the F8 Tributo, has taken the spectacular twin-turbo V8 from the 488 and via the 488 Pista, jacked the horsepower up to an impressive level. You might think that would make for a more beastly machine than the 488, which produced an already stunning 661 hp.

Ironically, it doesn't. If anything, driving the F8 Spider is a more … dare I say "mellow" experience than managing the 488 Spider. Mellow is the wrong word, of course. What Ferrari's engineers have done, along with intensifying the power, is to tweak the F8 so that it's aerodynamic stability encourages the driver to dig into the extra oomph. 

It's a neat trick. A reality-distortion field, even. How can the car be smoothing out and settling down, even as I compress the throttle more and more and more and watch the tach move closer to that 8,000 rpm redline? Whistling turbos, screaming exhaust, that sacred wild Ferrari sound, and yet the speed and noise induce a focused trace rather than a fearful desire to rein in the car.

To be honest, in the context of a mid-engine Ferrari, the calm is unsettling, at least initially. One can ruffle it, often considerably, simply by flicking the manettino to the "Race" setting, breaking out the foot of lead, and unleashing hell. But the metaphor of an iceberg occurred to me: I was seeing but a small piece of what the F8 had to offer. I could tell that there was much, much more.

This is the ever-present problem that manifests when 710 horsepower and Ferrari technology take to roads where the posted speed limit is something of an insult to the vehicle. Fortunately, the F8 is a pleasure to cruise in, ramping up and down the torque curve and savoring the visceral thrills of that stonking V8, the blabs and burbles of the exhaust, the whiz of the turbos, the decisive yet never technocratic nature of the transmission when paddle-shifting the gears.

The convertible makes the whole experience all the more satisfying, especially if you have a medium-warm, early summer sunsplashed day and some winding country roads to wend and wind around, finessing the F8's power and engaging the quick yet solid steering, safe in the knowledge that the superb brakes and fat sticky tires will keep you out of trouble.

A few hours of this and I found myself able to — I kid you not — meditate on the machine. "F8… F8… F8," became my mantra. I explored subtle subtexts. Delved into the magical balance of monumental horsepower and punishing torque with beauty and Italian verve. With the wind whipping through my straw hat. 

In the end, the F8 Spider was almost too good for its own good. I expect Ferrari sports cars to be more challenging. I crave it. Even if I can't tap the fully wild, I want that shivering glimpse. This time around, however, I was more soothed than intimidated. This was more a function of the F8 Spider being constrained by normality than any evasion of its nature. And I knew at any time I could throw a switch and summon mad urges.

But for hundreds of miles, in a Ferrari supercar, I was utterly at peace.

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Alveda King: Independence Day aspirations — the challenge to strive for that more perfect union

Fireworks safety for Independence Day

Phantom Fireworks’ Chris Beeler shares tips to stay safe.

On Independence Day we celebrate the birth of our nation, a nascent state determined to be something different, something better than the nations left behind by those early settlers who first made the trip to the “New World.”

We don’t celebrate the completion of that experiment or the perfection of our union. We celebrate its aspirations that its people would prosper in liberty and justice.

Admittedly, those aspirations at first and for many years did not encompass the rights of the people who were here for thousands of years before ships began arriving on our shores, or the people brought here in bondage on other ships.

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We were an imperfect union then, and we are an imperfect union still. That’s to be expected because while we are made in the image of God, we are not God. We are human beings, flawed sinners capable both of great evil and extraordinary righteousness, every one of us, from our Founding Fathers and mothers to all of us alive today at this perilous moment for our nation.

Our union, that grand experiment still unfolding, is in grave danger right now. We are challenged not only by a global pandemic that is sickening and killing more people every day and whose end we cannot predict, but also by a social upheaval the likes of which we have truly never seen.

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We have been riven before. The Civil War. The Civil Rights Movement. The Vietnam War protests. All of these have stretched the fabric of our nation but it has not torn. Those challenges made us stronger, better.

I hope and pray we can withstand our current challenges but we won’t without God’s help, and without being able to find a way to listen to each other.

Our streets are restive. For weeks, protests and rallies that occasionally sparked riots made people afraid to leave their homes or believe they had to defend those homes at gunpoint. No one is listening to anyone in these noisy and chaotic days. No one is being heard.

Similar to the way the #MeToo movement of a few years ago took down another prominent figure every few days, civil rights organizations, student groups and others now are toppling statues of prominent leaders from our nation’s past. Even some you would expect to be safe – Robert Gould Shaw, Ulysses Grant, Abraham Lincoln – have become targets. I wake up each day wondering which historical figure is next.

I am not enamored of statues, and I have made my feelings known before. My faith tells me not to worship idols, and a statue can become an idol. When a statue of my uncle, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was to be dedicated, I told my family I wasn’t sure I could be there. I loved and revered my uncle, the man, but I would not worship his statue.

We need to relearn civility, to remember when we could disagree without scorching the earth between us. 

Still, it pains me to watch these unruly people, many of them ignorant of history, tearing down statues as if that’s an answer to our problems. And it pains me to know that our First Amendment rights to free speech are being trampled by a politically motivated Twitter mob that decides what sentiments can be spoken and which must be stifled. The extremism of our newly anointed “cancel culture” is terrifying.

It’s daunting to realize that this time when we are keeping socially distant from each other is exactly the moment when we need to be coming back together. We have political differences we will never overcome but we are all Americans, whether we believe that’s something worth celebrating or not.

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We need to relearn civility, to remember when we could disagree without scorching the earth between us.

South Africa found its way back from apartheid. Rwanda found its way back from genocide. The U.S. can find its way back from this unique and disquieting moment, with the help of God and the resolve of a people – one blood, one race  (Acts 17:26) – still committed to forming that more perfect union envisioned centuries ago.

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U.S. Envoy Forges Ahead With Troubled Taliban Peace Deal

Islamabad (AP) — Washington’s envoy to Afghanistan on Saturday emphasized the economic benefits of the peace deal with the Taliban, forging ahead with an agreement that has run into new political obstacles in the U.S. and the region.

Zalmay Khalilzad was wrapping up a week-long trip that included stops in Uzbekistan, Pakistan and the Gulf state of Qatar, where Taliban negotiators are headquartered.

Accompanying Khalilzad for the first time was an economic development team led by U.S. International Development Finance Corporation Chief Executive Officer Adam Boehler.

Khalilzad offered no details about the kinds of economic projects being envisioned to jump-start an economy battered by widespread corruption and currently 75% funded by international donations. However, he did suggest joint economic projects involving Qatar and Pakistan, possibly on infrastructure and trade.

The U.S. signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February to end 19 years of war in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad has sought to stress the economic benefits of the peace deal throughout his tour. In a series of tweets early Saturday, the U.S. envoy said he met with the Qatar Investment Authority and the Taliban’s chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani, in the tiny Gulf state’s capital of Doha.

“We agreed development plans in support of peace can never start too early,” Khalilzad tweeted.

However, Washington has recently become embroiled in a controversy over intelligence reports that Russia was paying money to insurgents with links to the Taliban to kill American and NATO soldiers.

The identity of the insurgents who took the bounty money is still vague but the payments have been traced to an Afghan drug lord, Rahmatullah Azizi, who is living in Moscow, according to Afghan officials who spoke with The Associated Press.

The officials said the money was delivered through Azizi’s brother Wahidullah, who was the go-between for those facilitating the attacks on U.S. troops.

The New York Times first reported the U.S. intelligence claiming the payment of bounties as well as Azizi’s involvement.

Added to the uncertainty and delays swirling around the U.S-Taliban peace deal, the Pentagon released a report Wednesday that questioned the Taliban’s commitment to end its ties with Al-Qaida. The peace deal calls for the Taliban to fight against terrorist organizations and ensure Afghanistan would not be used again to attack U.S. interests or its allies. Critics of the deal say the militants can’t be trusted.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied contacts with Al-Qaida in the Indian subcontinent, saying the insurgents were committed to the peace deal.

Khalilzad embarked on his tour of the region last weekend, even as the rate of coronavirus infections in the United States soared and countries worldwide struggled with the dangers of re-opening.

He did not travel to Afghanistan, citing the dangers of the pandemic, and instead held videoconference calls with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his government partner, Abdullah Abdullah.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tested positive for COVID 19, just 48 after meeting with with Khalilzad. Both had been pictured wearing masks during their meeting on Wednesday in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad

Qureshi said he developed a fever on Friday and tested positive to the virus. But he promised to “carry on” his official duties from home.

Even as Khalilzad winds up his latest diplomatic mission, there was no date for crucial intra-Afghan negotiations that bring the Taliban together with the Afghan government and other local actors. Khalilzad called for a quick resolution of outstanding issues so those negotiations could begin.

The biggest hurdle has been the release of prisoners. The peace deal called for the Afghan government to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for the Taliban releasing 1,000 government personnel. So far, the government has freed 4,015 and the Taliban has freed 669, according to the Afghan government..

Ghani earlier this week suggested that his government had a problem with some of the names on the Taliban’s list of prisoners to be released and said alternative names would be given.

It seems unlikely that the Taliban will accept anyone not on the list agreed upon during negotiations with the U.S.

Suhail Shaheen, Taliban political spokesman in Doha, called the Afghan government reasons for delaying prisoner releases “phony excuses” and the reason for the delay in beginning intra-Afghan talks.

As of Saturday, Afghanistan had recorded 32,600 confirmed cases of coronavirus, but international non-governmental organizations say the rate is much higher and have warned that the country’s war-ravaged health care system risks collapsing.

Seemingly indicative of the lack of health care facilities in Afghanistan to deal with the virus, Ghani’s special envoy for economic development, Yosuf Ghaznafar, went to Turkey when he became ill with COVID-19. On Friday he died of the disease, according to a statement from the presidency. Ghaznafar is the senior most Afghan official to die of the virus.

Afghanistan has so far recorded 826 deaths from the virus.

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Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.

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Canada's biggest banks join boycott of Facebook platforms

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TORONTO - Canada’s biggest lenders confirmed on Friday they had joined a widespread boycott of Facebook Inc (FB.O) begun by U.S. civil rights groups seeking to pressure the world’s largest social media platform to take concrete steps to block hate speech.

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More than 400 brands have pulled advertising on Facebook in response to the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign, begun after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

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Canadian lenders Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO), Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO), Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO), Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO), National Bank of Canada (NA.TO) and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO) all said they will pause advertising on Facebook platforms in July.

Desjardins Group, Canada’s largest federation of credit unions, also said on its website on Thursday it will pause advertising on Facebook and Instagram for the month “barring any exceptional situations where we need to communicate with our members or clients.”

One of RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) in Toronto, Canada. RBC is a Canadian multinational financial services institution. (iStock)

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Most cited their commitments to inclusion and diversity.

Facebook has opened itself up to a civil rights audit and has banned 250 white supremacist organizations from Facebook and Instagram, a spokesman said by email. Its investments in artificial intelligence mean it finds nearly 90% of hate speech it takes action on before users report it, he added.

In this Oct. 25, 2019 photo Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the Paley Center in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

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BMO said it is continuing its “ongoing dialogue with Facebook on changes they can make to their platforms to reduce the spread of hate speech.”

RBC said one way to help clients and communities is to stand against “misinformation and hate speech, which only make systemic racism more pervasive.”

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