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Why The Amy Coney Barrett Hearings Are Verging On The Absurd

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In her first day of questioning from senators, Supreme Court nominee Amy Comey Barrett wouldn’t say how she would rule on abortion cases. Or Obamacare cases. Or gun rights cases. Or really anything else. She wouldn’t even say how she would rule if President Trump tried to move the election to another date, as he suggested he might do earlier this year. (There is no real indication that Trump will follow through on that idea.)

Barrett’s refusal to offer her views on virtually every issue wasn’t surprising — almost all judicial nominees from both parties do that. But that approach turned Tuesday’s hearings into … OK, I’ll just say it: a farce.

Barrett is a one-time clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and describes him as a role model. She’s aligned herself with anti-abortion causes and groups. She’s been championed by the conservative Federalist Society, was part of a group of a conservative judges appointed by the Trump administration at the lower-court level and has issued a number of conservative rulings in her time as an appeals court judge. Her repeatedly implying that she is not sure how she would rule on some of these hot-button issues is misleading — even if it’s par for the course in present-day judicial confirmation processes.

Democratic senators repeatedly asking Barrett about her views on these questions was a pointless exercise, as a result. It seemed, for example, like Sen. Dianne Feinstein, of California, thought that if she asked Barrett for her views on abortion enough times that Barrett would somehow be tricked or guilted into answering. Barrett, of course, stuck with the non-committal approach.

We left the hearing, therefore, largely where we began it in terms of our picture of what kind of justice Barrett might be: She would likely vote to further dismantle Obamacare, uphold abortion limits that would make it impossible to get an abortion in some states, invalidate most regulations on guns and back corporations over individuals in most legal matters. She does not seem inclined to recuse herself from a case involving Trump’s election, even as the president has implied that he wants Barrett confirmed, in part, to rule in his favor if election-related issues reach the Supreme Court.

But, again, all of that was largely clear before the hearing. Barrett didn’t say anything on Tuesday to contradict our understanding of her ideological leanings based on her past rulings, past statements and biography. So it’s still a good bet that Barrett, if confirmed, would be to the ideological right of both Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh — making her one of the more conservative members of the six Republicans on the court.

So there wasn’t much legal news on Tuesday, and there wasn’t much electoral news either. In theory, a Supreme Court nomination process taking place three weeks before the end of the general election and with people across the country already voting might have some electoral impact. And perhaps this process overall will affect the election — polls show that a clear majority of Americans believe that the winner of the election should choose Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement. But the hearings themselves appear unlikely to have an effect, at least so far. Barrett didn’t promise to reverse Roe v. Wade or strike down Obamacare — or, less plausibly, say she would vote to keep Obamacare and/or Roe in place. She didn’t say anything to annoy Republicans or win over Democrats. And, of course, that was the point.

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Liverpool’s win over Ajax steadied Klopp’s side after a rocky week

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It wasn’t pretty, but Liverpool will care not one bit. Their 1-0 win at Ajax Amsterdam can be marked down as job done for Jurgen Klopp’s side as they navigated a tricky opening Champions League tie and took a firm step forward in a season where they will be forever reminded of the players they have injured.

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Klopp has grown increasingly exasperated this week at the narrative around Virgil van Dijk‘s potentially season-ending injury. He was tetchy in the pre-match news conference when asked about the sheer magnitude of Van Dijk’s absence; Liverpool have been, understandably, aggrieved at the manner in which it happened, but Klopp emphasised the need to focus on solutions rather than excuses.

And as the rain poured down in Amsterdam, Klopp’s Liverpool rode their luck at times and needed some heroic last-gasp defending from Fabinho but ground out a 1-0 win over Ajax that was as much about concentration and character as it was a tactical victory.

“It was not the most easy on the eye performance — both teams can play much better football,” Klopp said after the match. “We were pretty dominant. Ajax is usually a brilliant football team, but it was tricky tonight.”

With Van Dijk and Joel Matip absent — and an eyebrow raised at suggestions they should’ve or need to strengthen at the back — Klopp partnered Joe Gomez with midfielder-cum-centre back Fabinho in the middle of their defence.

“I don’t think they’ve [Gomez and Fabinho] played before together [at the back]. It was good, but even [Fabinho] can play better. They need to get used to each other — get used to the verbal demands of that position. It was a good performance, but there’s a lot to improve, that’s good! How high or low the last line in the moment — it was absolutely good,” added Klopp.

With Alisson also recovering from injury, Adrian deputised in goal and the trio stood resolute to Ajax’s trickery and attempts to pull them out of position, or exploit any space from Liverpool’s high press.

Liverpool actually sat deeper than we’re used to seeing, and Ajax’s lack of width, or use of overlapping fullbacks, meant they could largely cope with the elusive Dusan Tadic and the pace of David Neres and Quincy Promes. But fortune smiled on them. Adrian saved well from a close-range Promes effort — standing tall to block from five metres out — while Tadic managed to breach the high-press and lobbed a stranded Adrian only to see Fabinho acrobatically clear off the line.

“He’s a top player, so top players can adapt,” was James Milner‘s post-match assessment of Fabinho’s clearance.

Davy Klassen hit the inside of the post and had another effort well saved, while Ryan Gravenberch put a half-chance wide, but the clean sheet will come as a welcome fillip after Liverpool’s turbulent week. Liverpool were still publicly aggrieved at the rough justice they perceived to be subject to against Everton last Saturday whenwhen they arrived in Amsterdam. But privately you can picture Klopp ensuring his side were focused on what they could control, and not the absent personnel with six first-teamers unable to face Ajax (Alisson, Van Dijk, Matip, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita).

“We are not dumb enough to think we did not need a bit of luck for the clean sheet. We could’ve done better. We don’t hang the clean sheet too high as there were two situations [Klassan’s attempt and Fabinho’s late clearance] where we were far from perfect,” Klopp said.

Klopp gave a Champions League debut to Curtis Jones in Liverpool’s midfield, as he started alongside Milner and Georgino Wijnaldum. But the ball was largely played over or around them, rather than through them. They looked dangerous on the counter attack and Mohamed Salah had an effort well blocked by Noussair Mazraoui, while Roberto Firmino again went without a goal as he looks to get off the mark this season.

But after a weekend where Liverpool went without any good fortune, they will have gladly accepted the gift offered to them for what proved to be their winning goal. Sadio Mane neatly cut inside Perr Schuurs and then hit turf-before-ball as he scuffed his shot into Nicolas Tagliafico, who failed to shift his position and diverted the ball past his goalkeeper Andre Onana.

It was a scrappy, ugly goal but Liverpool will take that gift. And in a week where Liverpool’s depth was questioned, Klopp’s trio of substitutions on the hour mark as he took off their high profile attacking line up of Salah, Firmino and Mane — who had his leg iced after coming off — was further proof of the trust the manager has in the options at his disposal.

Liverpool will face sterner tasks this season, and will need to play better against more adventurous opposition. Ajax were disappointing. Even after a summer where they their talent pool further plundered with Donny van de Beek, Sergino Dest and Hakim Ziyech all moving on, they lined up in an uncustomary 4-4-2 formation, rather than their usual 4-3-3. It’s in Ajax’s DNA they never fear the opposition, nor adjust for them.

Perhaps Erik Ten Heg took note of how Leeds United had managed to get under Liverpool’s skin earlier in the season with a similar outlook, but they looked like a side still familiarising themselves with their new signings and going through the post-transfer window evolutionary period.

“We did a fantastic job against a very good team. The plan and implementation were excellent, only the goal was missing,” Ten Heg said after the match. “We created opportunities, but we have to pull the trigger.”

The last time Ajax played Liverpool in Amsterdam was back in 1966. Ajax won 5-1 that evening in a game that signalled the European awakening to Total Football. It was played out in thick mist; reports state that those at the wrong end of the stadium missed most of the second half. But on Wednesday night, Liverpool got some clarity, the skies lightened a little and they got an indication of what life looks like without their star centre back.

Liverpool weren’t at their best, but they ground this out. Klopp will be delighted as they got off to the solid start after a rocky week.

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Politics Podcast: How Voting Is Going So Far In 2020

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Voting laws and procedures around the country have changed to accommodate mail voting and safe in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, Americans are voting early and by mail more than ever before. The changes have also been accompanied by hundreds of lawsuits on both the state and federal level. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and Nathaniel Rakich break down how the rules have changed, how it’s affecting Americans ability to vote and what kinds of arguments are still being hashed out in court.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

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PSU’s Chambers quits after internal investigation

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Penn State head coach Pat Chambers resigned Wednesday following an investigation into inappropriate conduct that stemmed from a former player saying Chambers made a reference to a noose around the player’s neck.

Chambers said in a statement provided to ESPN that he made the decision to take “a break to re-set and chart our path forward,” but the school announced it accepted his resignation following an “internal investigation of new allegations of inappropriate conduct by Chambers.”

In July, Iowa State guard Rasir Bolton — who transferred from Penn State in the summer of 2019 — said he made the decision to leave the Nittany Lions because Chambers made a reference to a noose around Bolton’s neck.

Bolton told The Undefeated in July that he recalls Chambers saying, “I want to be a stress reliever for you. You can talk to me about anything. I need to get some of this pressure off you. I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck.”

“The new allegations surfaced shortly after The Undefeated’s article and a review was conducted jointly by Penn State’s Affirmative Action and Athletics Integrity offices,” Penn State said in its statement.

Chambers had been the head coach at Penn State since 2011, leading the Nittany Lions to a 26-win season in 2018 and was poised for an NCAA tournament appearance in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic canceled the NCAA tournament. It would have been the school’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011 and fifth since 1965.

“I am so proud of all our program has accomplished these past nine years, and I will be forever grateful to the Penn State community for its ongoing support,” Chambers said in his statement. “Anyone who has ever coached — especially at this level — knows the exceptional amount of energy and focus it takes to deliver each and every day. This has been an incredibly difficult year for me and my family, and we are in need of a break to re-set and chart our path forward. So, I’m taking a step back to prepare myself for the next 20 years.”

Assistant coach Jim Ferry will serve as Penn State’s interim head coach for the 2020-21 season.

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