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Texas GOP doubles down on voter suppression push — targeting veterans, the elderly and voters with disabilities

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Texas Republicans are pushing two new bills that critics say are aimed at suppressing voter turnout after a similar bill died days before the end of their legislative session.

On Sunday, a State Senate bill that was passed with only Republican support, which would have increased criminal penalties for voter registration-related crimes and made it harder for volunteers to help elderly and disabled voters get to the polls, effectively died after it missed a legislative deadline in the House, The Texas Observer reported.

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With the legislative session drawing to an end, Republican lawmakers have passed two more bills that critics say are intended to reduce voter turnout.

House Bill 1888 would ban mobile polling stations, which help college students, the elderly and low-income residents cast ballots, from being mobile. The bill would require these temporary branch polling places to remain in just one location for the duration of the early voting period. Mobile polling stations are currently used as a way to address demand and wait times for groups that may have difficulty getting to a polling location, like rural voters, college students and residents at long-term care facilities.

State Sen. Joan Huffman, a Houston Republican who sponsored the bill, said that the mobile polling places were being abused by “targeting desirable voting populations at the exclusion of others.” She rejected concerns from Democrats about disadvantaged groups being hurt by the move, saying that those who need to make arrangements to vote “have time to do that.”

But Charles Mario Henry, a San Antonio U.S. Army veteran with impaired mobility, said the move would also hurt vets.

“This is going to take away their ability to access these polls. … We don’t need to have voter suppression laws, especially after serving the country honorably,” Henry told The Texas Observer. “I’m sure, on both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, we can all agree that taking away those rights is not something we want to do as a state.”

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Republicans also doubled down on the state’s failed attempted voter purge. Earlier this year, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley announced that the state had identified nearly 100,000 people he claimed were illegally registered to vote. Whitley later admitted that many of the people on the list were actually naturalized citizens and a federal judge banned the state from removing anyone from the rolls without court permission, slamming Whitley for abusing “the power of government to strike fear and anxiety and to intimidate the least powerful among us.”

Republican state Sen. Bryan Hughes introduced an amendment this week that would require the secretary of state to verify voter eligibility by confirming their citizenship status on a monthly basis.

Democrats said the bill raised the same concerns as Whitley’s failed purge attempt.

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“My concern is that we’re just going to put a target on naturalized citizens and keep them from being eligible to vote,” San Antonio Democrat José Menendez told The Texas Observer.

“At the end of the day, there are still some problems with tying in the review of the voter rolls with the DPS records, especially because that process has been exposed to be faulty to begin with,” added Zenén Jaimes Pérez, communications director for the Texas Civil Rights Project. “This process will be a waste of time and money on the part of the state.”

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Michael Avenatti says he has El Chapo’s former jail cell — which the drug dealer described as ‘torture’: report

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Attorney Michael Avenatti, the colorful attorney who came to prominence representing Stormy Daniels against Donald Trump, is unhappy with his jail conditions.

On Monday, his attorney wrote to the federal judge overseeing his trial to complain about the jail conditions Avenatti is experiencing during pre-trial detention.

Scott Srebnick, Avenatti's attorney, wrote to Judge Paul Gardephe to complain about the "notorious 10-South" section of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he is being held in the Special Housing Unit.

"He is in a cell reportedly once occupied by El Chapo, on a floor that houses individuals charged with terrorism offenses," Avenatti's attorney wrote.

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It is Greta Thunberg vs Donald Trump at climate-focused Davos gathering of economic elites: report

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The starkly opposed visions of US President Donald Trump and Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg on climate change will clash in Davos on Tuesday as the World Economic Forum tries to face up to the perils of global warming on its 50th meeting.

The four-day gathering of the world's top political and business leaders in the Swiss Alps gets under way seeking to meet head-on the dangers to both the environment and economy from the heating of the planet.

Trump, who has repeatedly expressed scepticism about climate change, is set to give the first keynote address of Davos 2020 on Tuesday morning, on the same day as his impeachment trial opens at the Senate in Washington.

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‘Which Senator up this year most deserves to lose?’: Preet Bharara flooded with replies to provocative question

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Former United States Attorney Preet Bharara asked his 1.2 million Twitter followers a provocative question on the eve of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

With worries that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is presiding over a sham trial, many analysts have suggested that the Senate itself will be on trial.

"Which Senator up this year most deserves to lose?" Bharara, who was fired by Trump, asked.

There are a number of potentially vulnerable Republicans facing voters in 2020, including McConnell himself, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

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