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White House tours set to start again after being suspended since March

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Tours of the White House, which have been suspended since March due to deep US budget cuts known as the “sequester,” will resume soon under a limited schedule, officials said Friday.

Visits to the iconic mansion, one of Washington’s biggest tourist attractions, will begin November 5, the White House said in a statement.

A Secret Service official who spoke on background told AFP that tours would be available three days a week.

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Tours previously occurred five days a week until March 9, when the White House visitors office halted the program until further notice due to personnel reductions amid budget cuts.

About $85 billion in across-the-board cuts in domestic and defense spending went into effect in March after Republicans and Democrats failed to agree on a deal to cut the deficit.

However, under the new budget passed this week after a 16-day partial government shutdown, the Secret Service said it could begin operating tours again, albeit at the reduced level.

The White House will be open to visitors until at least January 15, 2014 when funding for the government runs out once again, according to the Secret Service official.

The White House tours, which are managed by the National Park Service, require reservations, usually at least two months in advance.

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Tours, which are self-guided, allow visitors to see some parts of the White House basement as well as ceremonial ground-floor rooms.

The second floor, which includes the president and his family’s living quarters, are off-limits, as is the West Wing, including the president’s famous Oval Office.

The White House also announced that tickets to view its gardens and grounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis this Saturday and Sunday.

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[Image via Agence France-Presse]


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Trump fears his base will turn on him if he flips and calls for nationwide mask guidelines: CNN

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On CNN Saturday, analyst Ron Brownstein outlined the key reason President Donald Trump is struggling to adapt his message to proper public health guidance on the coronavirus pandemic.

"Ron, there is a retail trade group that has asked President Trump to institute federal, nationwide mask guidelines at stores across the country as the country continues to re-open," said anchor Alex Marquardt. "Experts are saying that masks could save thousands of lives in the coming months. Do you see a scenario in which — any chance in which he would issue that?"

"I think the short answer is no, and for a revealing reason," said Brownstein. "He is in a trap of his own construction. On coronavirus, we talk all the time about how President Trump's base is bonded to him, immovably. He's also bonded to the base in the other direction, that he is very reluctant to get out crosswise with a base that includes the kind of people that showed up at the Michigan capital to protest lockdown without wearing masks and waving Confederate flags and carrying automatic weapons."

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2020 Election

Trump and the GOP have become the party of the dead

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There are few morbid topics subject to greater speculation than the religious loyalty of President Donald Trump's "base." Why an alarmingly large amount of Americans refuse even to entertain any criticism of Trump deserves scrutiny from political scientists, psychologists and perhaps horror novelists working in the school of Edgar Allan Poe.

This article first appeared in Salon.

What is abundantly clear is that no matter who votes for Trump, he and the Republican Party on the national level have no interest in governing on the behalf of living human beings — with the exception of ensuring that a tiny minority of billionaires and multimillionaires enlarge their investment portfolios. Trump evinces no concern for Americans dying of the coronavirus, racist violence or any other malady or injustice. He demonstrates no regard for health care professionals courageously trying to save their patients from dying, and appears cruelly indifferent to the struggles of millions of workers whose livelihoods have been destroyed by COVID-19. Needless to say, Trump also shows contempt for Black Lives Matter, immigrants and anyone who opposes his re-election, which at this moment (and throughout his presidency) is more than half of the American public.

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As coronavirus seizes the state, Florida hospitals are in panic mode

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As Florida experiences a surge in coronavirus cases, the residents of the state are facing obstacles like overwhelmed hospitals and a looming shortage in beds.

This article first appeared in Salon.

There are 47,663 hospital beds in the state right now with 11,782 available (meaning a remaining capacity of 19.82 percent) and a total staffed bed capacity of 59,445, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration's Hospital Bed Capacity Dashboard. The state Department of Health also reported on Friday that, out of 95,300 individuals who received coronavirus test results over the course of the previous day, 11,433 tested positive for COVID-19 (all but 90 of whom were Florida residents), meaning that more than 12 percent of the new cases had positive test results. The state also reported 93 new deaths due to COVID-19. (Salon reached out to the Florida Department of Health for comment on this story.)

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