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Faced with coronavirus, Republican and Democratic leaders overhaul convention plans



WASHINGTON – Now that the Republican National Committee has chosen Jacksonville, Florida, as the new backdrop for President Donald Trump’s speech accepting his party’s 2020 nomination, the stage is set for the big party that the president so badly wanted.

With balloons, confetti and an auditorium packed with MAGA hat-wearing Trump fans, the setting is meant to advance the president’s new campaign theme, “The Great American Comeback,” as he pushes for the full reopening of the nation’s economy even as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The Republican National Convention, set for Aug. 24-27, will build off the campaign rallies that Trump is holding again starting with Tulsa, Oklahoma, next week. The goal: choreograph a sharp contrast with the Democratic National Convention that’s set to take place one week earlier, Aug. 17-20, in Milwaukee.

More:Trump stirs anger with plans for Juneteenth rally in Tulsa, site of huge massacre of African Americans

Confetti and balloons fall during the celebration after Donald Trump's acceptance speech on the final day of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Although still clouded by uncertainty in the era of COVID-19, radically different conventions are coming into focus.

Democrats said they are working with Milwaukee and Wisconsin officials and intend to follow safety guidelines, as opposed to RNC officials who bolted Charlotte, North Carolina, for Trump’s speech after state and city leaders sought a scaled-back convention. The DNC’s approach matches the message of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who has chastised Trump for not listening to public health experts during the pandemic.

That gives Democrats an opportunity as well – to show they are taking the coronavirus crisis seriously and feel the pain of those struggling, while Trump carries on with business as usual. 

The Democratic National Committee intends to maintain a presence in Milwaukee, with the city’s arena, Fiserv Forum, still locked in as the convention campus. But party officials haven’t said whether that will include Biden’s acceptance speech, or how many other top Democrats and delegates will attend.

More:Democrats ponder the political pros and cons of an unprecedented shift toward a more virtual convention

Regardless, don’t expect an auditorium packed to the rafters as Democrats adhere to social distancing.

Some have speculated about a “virtual convention” – a combination of Zoom meetings and live-streamed speeches – although what that would look like isn’t clear. DNC officials are remaining tight-lipped but expect to announce some plans soon, perhaps by the end of the month.

Members of the Delaware delegation cheer wave signs for Joe Biden as he takes the stage during the third day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on July 27, 2016.

Republicans to straddle between Charlotte, Jacksonville

The RNC’s party business will remain in Charlotte, the original host of the full convention, RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said, while the “celebration” will take place in Jacksonville. Republicans are limiting the presence in Charlotte to 336 delegates, six from each state and territories. All 2,511 delegates will be able to attend the Jacksonville festivities. 

The schedule of the two-city arrangement isn’t set, but Trump would deliver his speech on the final night, a Thursday, if the convention follows tradition. 

The move shifts Trump from one battleground state where the president has a slight lead over Biden, North Carolina, to another in Florida, where polls have shown him trailing. Trump carried Florida in 2016 and desperately needs to win it again for his reelection.  

More:Jacksonville chosen to host Trump’s Republican National Convention acceptance speech

"Jacksonville is absolutely in the front-running position" for the convention at which President Donald Trump will accept his party's nomination, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel says.

In an interview on Fox News, McDaniel on Friday noted that Jacksonville is also near Georgia, another state where polling shows a tightening race.

“But what we really get to highlight is that companies are opening up, that America’s opening up and these states where businesses are allowed to thrive economically are growing and adding jobs and helping with the transition to greatness as the president is showcasing time and time again,” she said.

McDaniel couldn’t say when asked whether attendees would have to sign releases that they won’t sue the RNC, like they do for his upcoming rallies, if they contract COVID-19. “We haven’t even gotten there yet.”

More:Tickets for Trump campaign rally include liability disclaimer about possible exposure to coronavirus

Several Republican governors, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, lobbied for the convention, but Democratic mayors of cities in the hunt – including Nashville, Orlando and Phoenix – raised cost concerns, safety objections or both. An exception was Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican and former chairman of the Florida Republican Party, who aggressively pushed for the event.

“Here in the River City, we do things big and bold, and we will be ready,” Curry said in a video after the RNC announced the move.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference last week in Orlando. Friday, DeSantis signed a bill that will allow college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness.

Under Florida’s “Phase 2” reopening rules that began June 4, auditoriums, as well as bars and pubs, were allowed to open to 50% capacity. 

But Curry said he expects Trump to speak before a full arena and for the guidelines to be different by August. A spokeswoman for Curry said the mayor anticipates DeSantis to implement the guidelines for the White House’s Phase 3 of reopening, which allows full attendance at indoor arenas.

Democrats say safety is top priority

Democrats said they are striving for a “middle ground” – something in between the full-fledged celebration that Trump covets and an online virtual format. Party officials don’t foresee having satellite conventions across the country, one idea recently floated.

DNC officials hope to maintain flexibility to either scale-up if social distancing measures are relaxed or scale the convention back if needed for health concerns. The DNC’s production team is exploring a range of options, including remote broadcasts of certain speakers – think Hillary Clinton’s surprise appearance in the 2016 DNC convention the night before her acceptance speech.

DNC chairman Tom Perez confirmed this week that Democrats are still coming to Milwaukee, saying he looks forward “when we descend on Milwaukee to celebrate our party, to have a safe and effective convention where we will highlight Joe Biden and his historic choice as a running mate.”

More:DNC chair Tom Perez reaffirms Democrats are coming to Milwaukee for 2020 national convention

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez speaks to the audience ahead of the Democratic presidential primary debate at Loyola Marymount University on Dec. 19, 2019 in Los Angeles.

But he did not say how many Democrats that would include: “We don’t know the answer today because we don’t know what the public health situation on the ground will be.”

Many party insiders expect a hybrid event, where some but not all delegates will travel to Milwaukee and some but not all speakers will appear before a live audience in the city.  

Perez said: “Unlike Donald Trump, we are actually going to listen to the public health experts as we come to Milwaukee because we believe it’s really important to have a safe, exciting, inspiring convention in Milwaukee and I’m confident we can do that.”

Biden last month said he doesn’t know whether he will be coming to Milwaukee to accept the nomination.

More:Democrats ponder the political pros and cons of an unprecedented shift toward a more virtual convention

The DNC already delayed the convention, originally set for July, to provide more time to prepare during the pandemic.

Delegates of each state were recently polled by the DNC whether they would be willing to travel to Milwaukee for the convention. The DNC rules and bylaws committee approved a resolution in May to allow virtual voting among delegates, enabling them to still participate in party business if they choose to stay at home. The DNC is expected to soon formally adopt the changes.

Milwaukee recently entered Phase 3 of its reopening plan, which allows public events of no more than 250 people and 25% capacity. Indoor areas of restaurant and bars are also limited to 25% capacity.

On July 27, 2016, former Vice President Joe Biden laughs after calling Donald Trump "clueless" as he speaks during the third day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

To help steer the convention planning, the Biden campaign this month made two new hires: Addisu Demissie, a longtime Democratic strategist who managed New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s presidential campaign, and Lindsay Holst, who worked as Biden’s digital director when he was vice president.

Katie Peters, a spokeswoman for the DNCC, said Democrats are “committed to protecting public health and we’re determined to find new ways to make our event as inclusive and engaging as possible.”

Although still finalizing plans, she said Democrats “will be be ready to unite the nation around our shared values and launch our nominee on a path to victory.”

The evolution of the political convention

Both the Trump and Biden campaigns will look to the conventions to boost their polling as they enter the final months of the race, although any bump is historically offset by the other party’s convention.

Biden, especially, could face a major challenge for television viewership if the convention is scaled back.

Modern conventions have been glitzy, no-drama affairs tantamount to coronations. The four-day orchestrated events are usually held in giant sports arenas and feature up-and-coming political stars in a build-up culminating with the nominee’s prime-time acceptance speech on the final night.

Future presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton gave convention speeches that helped catapult them to the White House. 

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama at the 2004 DNC Convention in Boston.

That was different from decades ago when the conventions were more akin to smoke-filled rooms. Party brokers decided who would be on the ticket, guided by influential special interests such as labor and industry.

At the time, the gatherings could be unpredictable and raucous, as the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago proved to be. Sometimes it took multiple rounds of voting among delegates to choose the nominee. The last convention that provided any real mystery was 1976 in Kansas City where incumbent President Gerald Ford defeated Ronald Reagan for the GOP nomination.

That began to change with the 1980 conventions. By then, most of the drama played out in state primaries and caucuses in the winter and spring. The conventions were foregone conclusions, promotional events made for television.

Trump calls for new GOP platform after adopting 2016 version

These days, thousands of large donors, long-time activists and prominent politicians descend on the chosen city to celebrate and showcase the party’s strengths.

But they’re not all pomp and party. Delegates officially vote one state at a time in roll-call fashion on the presidential and vice presidential nominees. They also gather to vote on the party platform.

Donald Trump officially accepts the Republican presidential nomination on the final night of the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, Thursday, July 21, 2016.

On that end, Trump’s decision to move his nomination speech to Jacksonville created a dilemma for Republicans.

Under party rules, the executive committee of the RNC carried over the party’s 2016 party platform that takes aim at the “current president” – Obama at the time, but Trump now – when it chose Wednesday not to formally adopt a platform for 2000.

Party leaders decided it didn’t make sense to ask all delegates to pay to fly to Charlotte to vote on the platform, the New York Times reported, when they would also be going to Jacksonville for speeches of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump on Friday called for a new platform.

“The Republican Party has not yet voted on a Platform. No rush. I prefer a new and updated Platform, short form, if possible,” the president tweeted.

The president didn’t say whether that vote will take place in Charlotte or Jacksonville.

Contributing: Craig Gilbert and Bill Glauber, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Christopher Hong, the Florida Times-Union

Follow Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.


Fintech secures $90M in debt and equity to scale its digital mortgage lending platform



A lot of startups were built to help people make all-cash offers on homes with the purpose of gaining an edge against other buyers, especially in ultra-competitive markets. is a Denver-based company that is attempting to create a new category in real estate technology. To help scale its digital mortgage lending platform, the company announced today that it has secured $90 million in debt and equity – with $78 million in debt and $12 million in equity. Signal Fire led the equity portion of its financing, which also included participation from existing seed investors Y Combinator and DN Capital. describes itself as an iLender, or a “technology-enabled lender” that gives people a way to submit all-cash offers on a home upon qualifying for a mortgage.

Using its platform, a buyer gets qualified first and then can start looking for homes that fall at or under the amount he or she is approved for. They can purchase a more expensive home, but any amount above what they are approved for would have to come out of pocket. Historically, most buyers don’t know that they will have to pay out of pocket until they’ve made an offer on a specific home and an appraisal comes under the amount of the price they are paying for a home. In those cases, the buyer has to cough up the difference out of pocket. With, its execs tout, buyers know upfront how much they are approved for and can spend on a new home “so there are no surprises later.”

SignalFire Founding Partner and CTO Ilya Kirnos describes as “the first and only iLender.”

He points out that since it is a lender, doesn’t make its money by charging buyers fees like some others in the all-cash offer space.

“Unlike ‘iBuyers’ or ‘alternative iBuyers,’ fronts the cash to buy a house and then makes money off mortgage origination and title, meaning sellers, homebuyers and their agents pay no additional cost for the service,” he told TechCrunch.

IBuyers instead buy homes from sellers who signed up online, make a profit by often fixing up and selling those homes and then helping people purchase a different home with all cash. They also make money by charging transaction fees. A slew of companies operate in the space including established players such as Opendoor and Zillow and newer players such as Homelight.

Image credit: Left to right: Co-founders Adam Pollack, Nick Friedman and Ian Perrex.

Since its 2016 inception, says it has helped thousands of buyers, agents and sellers close on “hundreds of millions of dollars” in homes. The company saw ”14x” growth in 2020 and from June 2020 to June 2021, it achieved “10x” growth in terms of the size of its team and number of transactions and revenue, according to CEO and co-founder Adam Pollack. wants to use its new capital to build on that momentum and meet demand.

Pollack and Nick Friedman met while in college and started building with the goal of “turning every offer into a cash offer.” The pair essentially “failed for two years,” half-jokes Pollack.

“We basically became an encyclopedia of 1,000 ways the idea of helping people make all-cash offers wouldn’t work,” he said.

The team went through Y Combinator in the winter of 2019 and that’s when they created the iLender concept. In the iLender model, the company uses its cash to buy a house for buyers. Once the loan with is ready to close, the company sells back the house to the buyer “at no additional cost or fees.”

“Basically what we learned through those two years is that you have to vertically integrate all of your core competencies, and you can’t rely on third parties to own or manage your special sauce for you,” Pollack told TechCrunch. “We also realized that if you’re going to build a cash offer for anyone who could afford a mortgage, you’ve got to make it a full bona fide cash offer that closes in three days as opposed to a better version of what existed. And you have to own that, and take the risk that comes with it and be comfortable with that.”

The benefits of their model, the pair say, is that buyers get to be cash buyers, sellers can close in as little as 32 hours, and agents “get a guaranteed commission check.” 

“Our mission is that everyone should have an equal chance at homeownership,” Friedman said. “We not only want to level the playing field, we want to create a new standard.”

Buyers using win 6-7 times more frequently, the company claims. With its new capital, It also plans to double its team of 90 and enter new markets outside of its home base of Denver.

SignalFire Partner Chris Scoggins believes that is different from other lenders in that its focus is on “winning the home, not just servicing the loan, with a business model that’s 10x more capital-efficient than other players in the market.

The team is driven…to level the playing field for homebuyers who today lose out against all-cash offers from home-flippers and wealthy individuals,” he added. “We see an enormous opportunity for to become the backbone of the future of mortgage lending.”

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Apple’s AirPods Max fall to a new all-time low of $489 at Amazon



All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

With good looks, quality construction and great natural sound, Apple’s AirPods Max headphones tick all the right boxes, but they’re mighty expensive at $550. However, you can now pick up a pair from Amazon at $490, the lowest price we’ve seen yet. That’s still not inexpensive by any means, but it’s a substantial savings on high-end headphones that only came out seven months ago. 

Buy Apple AirPods Max (pink) at Amazon – $490 Buy Apple AirPods Max (sky blue) at Amazon – $489 Buy Apple AirPods Max (space gray) at Amazon – $489

With an Engadget review score of 84, the AirPods Max earned a spot in our list of the best headphones you can buy. They look and feel great thanks to the aluminum and metal design, breathable mesh fabric and large earcups. A rotating crown and dedicated button let you switch between ANC and and regular modes, and it’s easy to switch seamlessly between iPhones, Macs and iPads. They offer hands-free capability with Siri, and you can go for up to 20 hours between charges with both ANC and spatial sound enabled.  

AirPods Max offer a more natural sound experience than other headphones, with bass that’s not overcooked. Active noise cancellation quality is right up there, though not quite on par with Sony’s WH-1000XM4 ANC headphones. And they support Apple’s Dolby Atmos-powered spatial audio on iPhones, iPads and Macs right now, and will come to Apple TV this fall. The main drawback is that they won’t stream Apple’s new lossless audio. 

Still, they deliver in nearly every other area and are especially useful for folks with Apple devices. $60 is a substantial discount for an Apple product this new, so if you’re interested, it would be best to act soon. 

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

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SA agritech releases AI-enabled OmnioFarm to modernise African poultry farming



The founders of South African cryptocurrency investment platform Africrypt have disappeared along with $3.6 billion (R51.4 billion) worth of Bitcoin, according to a report….

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Visa to acquire open banking platform Tink for more than $2 billion



Visa has announced plans to acquire Tink for €1.8 billion, or $2.15 billion at today’s exchange rate. Tink has been a leading fintech startup in Europe focused on open banking application programming interface (API).

Today’s move comes a few months after Visa abandoned its acquisition of Plaid, another popular open banking startup. Originally, Visa planned to spend $5.3 billion to acquire the American startup. But the company had to call off the acquisition after running into a regulatory wall.

Tink offers a single API so that customers can connect to bank accounts from their own apps and services. For instance, you can leverage Tink’s API to access account statements, initiate payments, fetch banking information and refresh this data regularly.

While banks and financial institutions now all have to offer open banking interfaces due to EU’s Payment Services Directive PSD2, there’s no single standard. Tink integrates with 3,400 banks and financial institutions.

App developers can use the same API call to interact with bank accounts across various financial institutions. As you may have guessed, it greatly simplifies the adoption of open banking features.

300 banks and fintech startups use Tink’s API to access third-party bank information — clients include PayPal, BNP Paribas, American Express and Lydia. Overall, Tink covers 250 million bank customers across Europe.

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Tink operations should continue as usual after the acquisition. Visa plans to retain the brand and management team.

According to Crunchbase data, Tink has raised over $300 million from Dawn Capital, Eurazeo, HMI Capital, Insight Partners, PayPal Ventures, Creades, Heartcore Capital and others.

“For the past ten years we have worked relentlessly to build Tink into a leading open banking platform in Europe, and we are incredibly proud of what the whole team at Tink has created together,” Tink co-founder and CEO Daniel Kjellén said in a statement. “We have built something incredible and at the same time we have only scratched the surface.”

“Joining Visa, we will be able to move faster and reach further than ever before. Visa is the perfect partner for the next stage of Tink’s journey, and we are incredibly excited about what this will bring to our employees, customers and for the future of financial services.”

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