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Trump's polling lead narrows, Zelenskyy acknowledges low morale, and the Olympic sewage clean-up: Weekend Rundown

The House passed a long-awaited aid package, but the deal comes with political risks for both Speaker Johnson and President Biden. Plus, why China's youth are waking up and smelling coffee.
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As polls narrow, RFK Jr. could hurt Trump more than Biden

The share of voters who say they have high interest in the 2024 election has hit a 20-year low at this point in a presidential race, according to the latest national NBC News poll, with majorities holding negative views of both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

But the poll indicates that the third-party vote — especially for independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — is cutting deeper into Trump’s support than Biden’s, though the movement the other candidates create is within the poll’s margin of error.

The poll was conducted April 12-16 and surveyed 1,000 registered voters nationally. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
The poll was conducted April 12-16 and surveyed 1,000 registered voters nationally. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.NBC News national poll

Trump leads Biden by 2 percentage points in a head-to-head matchup, 46% to 44%, in the new NBC News poll, but when the ballot is expanded to five named candidates, Biden is the one with a 2-point advantage: Biden 39%, Trump 37%, Kennedy 13%, Jill Stein 3% and Cornel West 2%.

Biden also bests Trump on the issues of abortion and uniting the country, while Trump is ahead on competency and dealing with inflation.

House overcomes GOP fractures to pass $95 billion aid package

The House passed a long-awaited foreign aid package in a series of votes Saturday, seeking to provide $60.8 billion in aid to Ukraine, $26 billion to Israel and $8.12 billion to Taiwan and advancing plans to ban TikTok in the U.S. unless its China-based parent company sells it off.

In a sign of fractures within the GOP, 112 Republicans voted against the Ukraine aid package, while 101 voted in favor, alongside 210 Democrats.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.Francis Chung / POLITICO via AP

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., maintained Sunday that she plans to follow through with an effort to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., if he doesn’t resign after he worked with Democrats to pass the foreign aid package.

Johnson is not the only one facing backlash. The further funding for Israel could spell problems for Biden's election prospects among Muslim Americans, with some organizers describing the aid package as the "point of no return" following simmering tensions over the Israel-Hamas war.

Meet the Press: Ukraine ‘will have a chance for victory’ thanks to new aid, Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the newly passed U.S. aid package will give his country a chance at “victory, but he acknowledged morale problems among troops ahead of a planned Russian offensive.

Asked whether the aid would help Ukraine win the war or just prolong it, Zelenskyy told "Meet the Press" moderator Kristen Welker: “It depends on when we actually get weapons on the ground. As you said it, Kristen, if we get it in half a year — well, we’ve had the process stalled for half a year and we’ve had losses in several directions. Losses in men, in equipment.

“Now we have the chance to stabilize the situation and to overtake the initiative, and that’s why we need to actually have the weapons systems,” he added.

Zelenskyy also responded to recent reporting that Trump, if elected, would pressure Ukraine to give up some territory to Russia in exchange for ending the war, saying, “Rumors and different hearsay. I don’t believe that.”

He also expressed doubt that Russian President Vladimir Putin would ever agree to and abide by such a settlement, telling Welker, “You can never trust Putin.”

Politics in brief

  • A 50-year evolution: On a personal level, Biden has not fully overcome his misgivings about abortion, but he has become the biggest defender of the right to choose.
  • Frozen assets: The foreign aid package the House passed included the REPO Act, which would allow the Biden administration to confiscate billions of dollars’ worth of Russian assets sitting in U.S. banks and transfer them to Ukraine for reconstruction.
  • Under a microscope: Trump has spent most of his life seeking the limelight. Inside a frigid courtroom, a closed-circuit camera provides arguably the brightest light he has ever experienced.
  • Rain check: Trump canceled his North Carolina rally Saturday evening, citing stormy weather. It was set to be his first rally since the start of his criminal trial in Manhattan.

Inside the Olympic effort to clean up the Seine 

With less than 100 days to go before the 2024 Paris Olympics, fears are growing that events could be postponed or canceled because of high pollution levels in the river Seine.

France has spent $1.5 billion on altering and upgrading the city’s antiquated sewage system ahead of the Games as part of a wider plan to open up the river for public swimming by 2025. 

As the starting gun approaches, Fluidion, one of the companies contracted by the city of Paris to monitor bacteria in the water, exclusively shared its findings with NBC News, showing E. coli levels 2½ times the level considered safe for swimming in parts of the city center. 

“Don’t drink the water. You can swim, but don’t drink,” a local swimmer told NBC News. “I haven’t heard of anyone dying or getting sick.”

Two imprisoned Georgia men say they were wrongly convicted and blame a single informant

An informant who helped send two men to prison for life in separate cases in Georgia is now a target of lawyers who say he made false claims in an attempt to spare himself time behind bars.

Sterling Flint, 54, was a key witness against Sonny Bharadia, who was found guilty of a 2001 sexual assault near Savannah. Flint, who has spent most of the last three decades in and out of lockups, testified against Bharadia as part of a deal with prosecutors.

In 2009, six years after Bharadia was convicted, Flint was being questioned about a load of suspected stolen goods in a car he was driving when he provided an incriminating statement against Erik Heard, who had just been arrested in the fatal shooting of a young mother. Flint later disavowed that statement at Heard’s trial, but a jury found Heard guilty. 

Lawyers at the Georgia Innocence Project are trying to get Bharadia and Heard freed, arguing both cases were deeply flawed.

“The harm that Sterling Flint has done to these two men is exactly why law enforcement should be wary of relying on a witness who has every incentive to fabricate testimony in order to help their own case,” said Olivia Vigiletti, a lawyer who volunteers with the Georgia Innocence Project.

China’s youth skip the tea and reach for coffee

Barista Wang Binqi at a coffee shop in Beijing on March 6.
Barista Wang Binqi at a coffee shop in Beijing on March 6.Fred Dufour / NBC News

For more and more people in China, coffee has become their cup of tea. Last year, China overtook the U.S. as the country with the most branded coffee shops in the world, World Coffee Portal reported. The number of outlets in China grew 58% last year, to almost 50,000, compared with about 40,000 in the U.S.

The Chinese coffee market used to be dominated by foreign brands such as Starbucks, Tim Hortons of Canada and Costa Coffee from Britain. But they face intensifying competition from Chinese coffee chains such as Luckin, Cotti and Manner, as well as local independent cafes in big cities like Beijing.

For coffee drinkers, that means more choice than ever, whether it’s a plain Americano or a latte infused with pork flavors or Chinese liquor.

Road to equal pay in the WNBA

Caitlin Clark’s joining the WNBA has put a spotlight on how underpaid women athletes are compared to their male counterparts. But if there’s going to be change, it could take several years for the business to renegotiate the way money flows.

Last year, the WNBA was projected to make $180 million to $200 million for the 2023 season, according to a Bloomberg News report. That compares with about $10 billion for the NBA in the season ending in 2022, the most recent year for which data is available.

The WNBA’s lower revenue is a key reason for the pay disparity between the leagues and why rookies, including Clark, will earn a base salary of just $76,000 this season.

‘Harold and Kumar’ helped weed out stereotypes

Photo Illustration: John Cho and Kal Penn as Harold and Kumar
Justine Goode / NBC News; Alamy / Getty

This year marks the 20th anniversary of “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” one of the only mainstream movies of its decade to star two Asian American leads, hitting theaters across the country.

As smokers across the country celebrated 4/20 on Saturday, many Asian Americans among them reflected on the stereotypes the film blitzed and the trail it blazed.

“My friends looked like Harold and Kumar. We acted like Harold and Kumar,” said Cindy Trinh, a New York City-based photographer. “That left an impression on me forever.”

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