Tensions and insults in the battle for Florida lay bare America’s divisions | World news

If you wanted a symbol for Donald Trump’s complete takeover of the Republican party, you could do little better than a nondescript shopping mall on the outskirts of Largo in west Florida.

This is a usually quiet intersection in Florida’s quintessential bellwether county, Pinellas, which has voted for the winning presidential candidate in every election since 1980 (bar the disputed 2000 race won by George W Bush).

But eight months ago Cliff Gephart, an enthusiastic Trump supporter and local entrepreneur, transformed a vacant lot – formerly a strip club – into a thriving coffee shop devoted to the president. Business at Conservative Grounds is roaring, despite the pandemic, with hundreds and, they claim, occasionally over a thousand customers, dropping by each day for a cup of coffee, a chat about politics and to purchase from a plethora of Trump themed merchandise. No-one is social distancing or wearing a facemask.


Troubled
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Ascension to lay off 223 IT workers in Michigan

Ascension Technologies, the St. Louis-based hospital giant’s information-technology services arm, will lay off more than 200 employees in Michigan.

Ascension last week notified Michigan officials that it plans to eliminate an estimated 223 network operations and service desk jobs in Troy, Mich., between Oct. 24 and Nov. 25.

The health system is outsourcing their responsibilities to an outside vendor, according to Ascension’s notification, which Michigan officials posted online this week.

“Ascension Technologies, after extended discernment and as part of its technology transformation, has made the decision to engage a third-party to perform the work currently performed by employees of the Network Operations Center and Service Desk,” reads the letter, signed by a senior director of human resources at Ascension.

Employees will be able to apply for other positions in Ascension Technologies and with the unnamed vendor, according to the letter. Ascension Technologies will provide severance and outplacement services to those

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