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3 Dead In Apparent Terrorist Knife Attack At Church In Nice, France - NPR
A man used a knife to kill a woman and two men at the church, according to local media reports. The mayor of Nice calls it an attack on Christianity.
Members of a French elite tactical police unit search the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice after a knife attack that killed three people and injured several others on Thursday. Valery Hache/AFP via Getty Images Updated at 10:45 a.m. ET A man used a knife to attack people at the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice, France, Thursday, killing three people, authorities say. Several more were injured. Police have arrested a suspect, according to Mayor Christian Estrosi. Two people were killed inside the church, and another died outside it, according to local media reports. The attack took place around 9 a.m. local time. The mayor said those who died include a woman and a man who worked at the church as its sacristan, a non-clergy member of the staff. More information about the victims has been slow to emerge, after a massive police response closed off the area to focus on securing the church and investigating the shocking crime. "I send all my support and all my compassion to the families of the victims of this barbarian," Estrosi said. French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Nice on Thursday, after speaking to Estrosi by phone earlier. The mayor called the attack on the church an attack on the Christian world. "The attacker kept repeating 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Great) even while under medication," Estrosi said in a media briefing outside the church, according to Radio France Internationale. The mayor also criticized France's laws, saying they're not sufficient to deal with what he called "Islamo-fascism." The French government has raised its Vigipirate security alert system to emergency levels across the country, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced after the attack. "We are in mourning," the church said in a statement. "My sadness is infinite as a human in front of what other beings, called humans, can commit," Monsignor André Marceau said. "At this moment, all the churches of Nice are closed until further notice, and placed under police protection." "The knife attack comes two weeks to the day of the beheading of a French school teacher in a town north of Paris," NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports from Paris. "The killer in that attack was shot dead by police. He was an 18-year-old radicalized Chechen refugee who was angry that the teacher had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in his class on freedom of speech." The attack in Nice took place on the day many Muslims celebrate the anniversary of Muhammad's birth. The caricatures were originally published by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which announced last month that it would reprint cartoons of Muhammad that are believed to have sparked a deadly attack on the magazine's offices in 2015. The re-run was timed to coincide with the start of a trial related to the attack. "We will continue, Professor," Macron said earlier this month, referring to the slain teacher, Samuel Paty. "We will defend the freedom that you taught so well and we will promote secularism, we will not renounce caricatures, drawings, even if others retreat." After Paty's killing, Macron and other French officials insisted the drawings of Muhammad should be seen, despite the view held by many Muslims that depicting the prophet in any way is a form of blasphemy. Images of the cartoons were "widely displayed at marches in solidarity with the killed teacher," France 24 reports. France's high-profile stance sparked outrage in parts of the Muslim world, setting off a diplomatic feud between France and Turkey. Turkey's government condemned the attack, with smail Hakk Musa, Turkey's ambassador to France, calling it an odious act of terrorism committed through cowardice. Tensions in France also include a debate over BarakaCity, a Muslim association that the government ordered dissolved on Wednesday. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said the group "incited hatred," maintained ties to the radical Islamist movement, and justified terrorist acts. After Thursday's attack, BarakaCity issued a statement saying it is "horrified" by the violence, expressing its support for the victims. This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.
Germany Sees Generational Conflict Over Pandemic As Virus Spreads - NPR
Germany is heading into a partial lockdown. Berlin already imposed closing hours to its nightlife for the first time in decades, as Germany's leader asked youth to think of their grandparents.
People wearing face masks walk past an outdoor restaurant Wednesday in Frankfurt, Germany. To slow the spread of the coronavirus, restaurants will be closed from next Monday. Michael Probst/AP German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced a limited lockdown in a bid to stop the exponential growth in coronavirus cases, currently doubling every seven days. Following long negotiations with Germany's 16 state governors, Merkel, who's been urging the public to dial down socializing for weeks, persuaded the governors that closing bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, swimming pools, theaters, cinemas and concert venues is their best option. "We only need infection numbers to double another four times and the health system is finished," she warned Wednesday. The lockdown will come into effect on Monday and is set to last until the end of November. Merkel is adamant that schools and day care facilities should remain open as long as possible, a clear signal that education comes before entertainment. She also announced that businesses forced to close will receive subsidies from the government that will partially cover their losses. Despite the offer of financial aid, the lockdown will hit the economy hard. Germany's restaurant industry protested earlier restrictions that were put in place in October. Yet with the infection rate particularly high among 20 to 40 year-olds, epidemiologists are worried about the infection spreading to Germany's sizeable elderly population. That's why politicians have been telling partygoers to stay home, and to avoid bars, clubs and restaurants. This has not gone down well in Berlin, where nightlife has long been synonymous with hedonism and liberty from the coke-fueled cabarets of the 1920s to the massive techno parties in abandoned buildings of the early '90s. Bars and clubs are open round the clock and "nights out" can easily last 48 hours. But with Berlin an official coronavirus hot spot, its mayor says "now is not the time to party" and introduced closing hours last month for the first time in more than 70 years. Now, with less than a week before bars will be forced to shutdown completely, drinkers are making the most of the freedom this city usually provides. One of them is Nora Graf, who sits with a friend outside a well-known establishment in the Kreuzberg area, nursing a whiskey to keep warm in the cool, evening air. She says she doesn't feel it's safe to sit inside. "You only have to look around this neighborhood to see that a lot of bar-hoppers don't seem to have noticed that the virus is back with a vengeance," Graf says. "They should be adapting their behavior." Graf, a 38-year-old architect, says she's not looking forward to the lockdown but says restricting bars' opening hours makes sense. For her, it doesn't make much of a difference; late nights are a distant memory. "Night life only until 11 p.m. I'd say that's pretty family-friendly!" she says. But it's not business-friendly. Roberto Manteuffel, a barkeeper and founder of Berlin's bar lobby, says "our business hours are the nighttime, as bar owners. This is a nightmare for all of us." Manteuffel says being forced to close will damage the city's tax base, but it won't do anything to stem infections because revelers will simply take their parties back home. He says bar owners can at least keep a record of who's present, making contact tracing easier than at private parties. "Politicians can't say: young people stop being young!" Manteuffel argues. "Of course, we all need to live with the virus but at the same time we can't stop being humans, whatever age we are." For Angela Merkel, being human is precisely what this is all about. She's repeatedly appealed to partygoers to think of others. Just last month, Merkel said "Take a minute to think about what's most important. Isn't it the health of your family, your grandparents?" In an attempt to close the generational divide, Merkel added that "going out and partying will still be there post Corona. Right now, it's being considerate and showing solidarity that counts." Merkel's tone was polite compared with a recent poster campaign here which featured a mask-wearing grandma giving the middle finger to rule-breakers and partygoers. The posters were removed following complaints. But both messages echo the German saying "Ich werde nicht alt" which, in a party-going context, means 'I can't stay out late.' Literally, though, it means 'I won't grow old' and that's the scenario Merkel and Germany's state governors are trying to prevent.
13 Races Will Determine Senate Control - NPR
These are the 13 races that will determine control of the Senate in the next Congress. To win control, Democrats would need to net-gain four seats, or three seats plus control of the White House.
President Trump campaigned with Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., in Prescott, Ariz., this month. McSally is a top target of Senate Democrats, who are hoping to flip her seat blue on Election Day. Alex Brandon/AP Republicans hold the Senate 53-47. (There are two independents Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont but they caucus with Democrats and therefore should be counted that way in the math for Senate control.) To flip the Senate, Democrats would need to net-gain four seats outright or three seats and control of the White House, because in a 50-50 Senate which is possible this year the vice president breaks the tie. Republicans can lose up to three seats and hold the majority, as long as President Trump wins reelection. Democrats are forecast to gain two to six seats. Control of the Senate remains a jump ball days out from Election Day. These are the races that will decide it: Democratic-held seats (Republicans favored to gain one seat) Alabama: Sen. Doug Jones is the only Democratic incumbent in a tough race this year. He is expected to lose to former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, the Republican challenger. President Trump remains wildly popular in Alabama, and it would be very difficult for Jones to overcome that advantage in a nationalized political climate. A Republican pickup here would mean Democrats would need to pick up four GOP-held seats and win the White House for Senate control. Republican-held seats (Democrats favored to gain two to six seats) Arizona: GOPSen. Martha McSallyis running against Democrat Mark Kelly, the popular and well-known former astronaut turned gun control advocate after the 2011 Tucson shooting of his wife, then-Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz. Kelly has led in all but one public poll in 2020. Kelly has also significantly outraised McSally. Colorado: RepublicanSen. Cory Gardneris running against former Gov. John Hickenlooper, a former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. Hickenlooper initially indicated he was not interested in a Senate run but jumped in after his presidential campaign faded. He has run a lackluster campaign, but the overall Democratic pull of the state is probably enough to carry Hickenlooper to victory. Iowa: First-term GOP Sen. Joni Ernstis running against real estate developer Theresa Greenfield. This race has gotten increasingly competitive in the closing months of the campaign. Ernst had been the early favorite for reelection, but the race has become a toss-up in the close. Maine: RepublicanSen. Susan Collinsis running against Democrat Sara Gideon, the state's House speaker. Few others have seen their political stock fall as fast as Collins has. Once one of the most popular senators in the U.S., she now ranks at the bottom. The polarization of the Trump era has done no favors for centrist moderates. Collins is a savvy campaigner and knows her state and how to win, but Gideon has been able to capitalize on Collins' sinking political clout and anti-Trump sentiment. Montana: RepublicanSen. Steve Daines is running against term-limited Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, arguably the only Democrat who could make Montana competitive for the party. Bullock is well-known and has generally been given decent marks by voters for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Montana is a red state that wants to stay that way, and that helps Daines. A Bullock victory would be a telling sign of a broader Democratic wave. North Carolina: RepublicanSen. Thom Tillis is running against attorney Cal Cunningham, a former state senator. This is widely viewed as the tipping-point race whoever wins here will likely represent the party in control of the Senate. Cunningham had all the advantages, but late-breaking reports of marital infidelity will test whether old-school political scandals still register with voters. Potential election night surprises Alaska: GOPSen. Dan Sullivan is running against orthopedic surgeon Al Gross, who is technically an independent but will appear on the ballot as a Democrat. Trump won Alaska by 16 points in 2016, and Sullivan should be able to pull out a win. But Gross has run a surprisingly strong campaign aided by waves of grassroots Democratic fundraising, including after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There isn't regular or reliable polling in this race. Georgia 1: Republican Sen. David Perdue is running against Democrat Jon Ossoff, best known for running and losing a high-profile 2017 special election for a U.S. House seat. Perdue has been a Trump loyalist in a state that is increasingly more purple than red. Republicans are bullish that Perdue can win reelection, but the risk of a Jan. 5 runoff is real unless a candidate wins at least 50%. A third-party candidate, Libertarian Shane Hazel, is complicating that path. Georgia special election: Appointed GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler is running to serve out the term of former Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired early for health reasons. Loeffler is a wealthy businesswoman. If no candidate gets at least 50% which is unlikely the top two vote-getters go to a Jan. 5 runoff. Loeffler has to fend off both a Republican challenge from Rep. Doug Collins and the top expected Democratic vote-getter, Raphael Warnock. Warnock is a civil rights leader and pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the same church where Martin Luther King Jr. served. If control of the Senate comes down to Georgia, it might not be known until January 2021. Kansas: This is an open-seat race because Republican Sen. Pat Roberts is retiring. Republican Rep. Roger Marshall is running against doctor and state Sen. Barbara Bollier. Marshall is the GOP establishment's pick and is favored to win. Bollier is a Republican turned Democrat who has focused on her medical background during the pandemic. South Carolina: RepublicanSen. Lindsey Graham is running against former Democratic congressional aide Jaime Harrison. Trump won South Carolina by 14 points in 2016, and Graham has transformed from Trump critic to Trump champion since then. Harrison has been able to turn a long-shot bid into a well-funded campaign that is polling competitively. The conservative roots of the state keep Graham as favored to win. A loss could be an indication of a massive Democratic-wave election. Texas: Republican Sen. John Cornyn is favored against Democratic challenger MJ Hegar and has consistently led in public polling. A Democratic victory here would be a major upset and would likely be contingent on a surprise Joe Biden win in the state. Texas is also seeing a surge in voter turnout across the state, fueling Democratic hopes that the polls are wrong and 2020 is the year Texas goes blue.
U.S. Hospitals Targeted In Rising Wave Of Ransomware Attacks, Federal Agencies Say - NPR
An alert warns hospitals and health care providers that there is "credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat."
U.S. federal agencies sent an alert Wednesday night that there is "credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat" to hospitals and healthcare providers. Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images Some U.S. hospitals have been hit by coordinated ransomware attacks designed to infect systems for financial gain, federal agencies and a private-sector cybersecurity company warned on Wednesday. A joint advisory by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services and the FBI says there is "credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat" to U.S. hospitals and health care providers. They are urging institutions to take necessary precautions to protect their networks. The agencies said hackers are using Ryuk ransomware malicious software used to encrypt data and keep it locked up and the Trickbot network of infected computers to steal data, disrupt health care services and extort money from health care facilities. Such data hijacking often cripples online systems, forcing many to pay up to millions of dollars to restore their services. The agencies warned health care providers to step up protections of their networks, including regularly updating software, backing up data and monitoring who is accessing their systems. Beyond health care facilities, the FBI says ransomware attacks have been on the rise for several years against hospitals, school districts, state and local governments and even law enforcement. Officials do not recommend paying ransoms, as it does not guarantee data will be recovered and could "embolden" hackers to carry out further attacks. CNN reports that an unnamed Trump administration official said several hospitals have been targeted in the attacks over the past two days. The official said the incidents may be connected and that the federal government is investigating the attacks. Experts at the cybersecurity firm FireEye's Mandiant division said the latest spate of attacks were carried out by cyberattackers in Eastern Europe seeking financial gain. "We are experiencing the most significant cybersecurity threat we've ever seen in the United States," said Charles Carmakal, Mandiant's chief technology officer, describing the group as "one of most brazen, heartless and disruptive threat actors I've observed over my career." A FireEye Mandiant report on Wednesday said the same group has this year "actively targeted hospitals, retirement communities, and medical centers, even in the midst of a global health crisis, demonstrating a clear disregard for human life." The company said the attacks typically start as emails masquerading as corporate communications containing Google Docs and PDFs with malicious links.
Melbourne, Australia, Ends Its Lockdown After 111 Days - NPR
The city recorded zero new coronavirus cases on Monday, for the first time since June. "Now is the time to congratulate every single Victorian for staying the course," said the state's top official.
People enjoy eating outdoors on Wednesday in Melbourne, Australia. Lockdown restrictions in the city were lifted after 111 days, allowing people to leave their home for any reason. Darrian Traynor/Getty Images Melbourne, the second-most populous city in Australia, ended its 111-day lockdown on Wednesday. The state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located, eased restrictions after recording zero new coronavirus cases on Monday for the first time since June. "Now is the time to open up," Daniel Andrews, the state's top official, said during a media briefing. "Now is the time to congratulate every single Victorian for staying the course." The city of 5 million people will still limit residents to traveling within 25 kilometers (about 16 miles) of their homes. A border between regional Victoria and Melbourne will also remain. But Melbourne residents can now leave their homes without permission. Shops, cafes, salons, restaurants, bars and places of worship can reopen affecting 180,000 jobs, according to the state government. The city plans to continue shedding restrictions in the coming weeks. While most of Australia has seen relatively low coronavirus numbers, cases began spiking in July and August. Over the last five weeks, Australia has reported a weekly average of about 123 new cases. The continent reported 907 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began, 819 of which were in Victoria. "None of this has been easy," Andrews said. "But Victorians have shown what they're made of." Reese Oxner is an intern on NPR's News Desk.
Philadelphia Issues Curfew Amid Protests Over Police Shooting Of Walter Wallace - NPR
Mayor Jim Kenney ordered the curfew amid unrest after the fatal police shooting of the 27-year-old Black man. The city's police commissioner says bodycam footage will be released "in the near future."
Protesters confront police during a march Tuesday in Philadelphia following this week's fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man. Matt Slocum/AP Philadelphia officials issued a citywide curfew on Wednesday after consecutive nights of protests which at times turned violent following the fatal police shooting of a 27-year-old Black man, Walter Wallace Jr. He was holding a knife when police shot him. The curfew goes into effect at 9 p.m. Wednesday and lasts until 6 a.m. Thursday, Mayor Jim Kenney said. Kenney also lamented the looting and property destruction that's taken place during nighttime protests. "By looting, people are not only hurting retail businesses that have struggled in the midst of the pandemic, but they're doing a great disservice to the many others who want to exercise their First Amendment rights by protesting," Kenney said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. Grocery stores, restaurants and pharmacies may operate in a delivery-only capacity once the curfew is in effect. City officials said 81 people had been arrested overnight, including 53 for burglary, seven for disorderly conduct and eight accused of assaulting police. Police will soon release 911 tapes, body camera footage Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Wednesday her department would be releasing 911 tapes and officer-worn body camera footage "in the near future." "Before that happens, however, we'll be meeting with members of Wallace's family to ensure they get an opportunity to view the materials first," Outlaw said. City officials urged residents in certain districts to remain indoors Tuesday night due to "widespread demonstrations that have turned violent with looting." Several hundred troops from the Pennsylvania National Guard will be deployed to Philadelphia at the county's request as soon as Wednesday evening. Community members gather in West Philly A racially diverse crowd came together Tuesday evening at Malcolm X Park, not far from the West Philadelphia neighborhood where Wallace was killed. The gathering featured speeches and preceded a march, Philadelphia member station WHYY reported, adding that one speaker noted there were "far too many comfortable white people here tonight." Wallace's father, Walter Wallace Sr., urged protesters not to turn violent. "Stop this looting and stop and stop burning our city down," the elder Wallace told CNN. "It's not going to solve anything," he said. "I don't want to leave a bad scar on my son and my family with this looting and chaos stuff." Wallace's killing was captured on cellphone video and posted to social media, where it went viral. The video sparked fresh outrage and a series of yet-to-be answered questions about why officers used deadly force during the encounter with Wallace. Police said the officers have been placed on desk duty pending an investigation. Family reportedly called for an ambulance, not police Wallace was experiencing a psychological episode on Monday, an attorney for the family says. His mother tried to calm him but was unsuccessful and called for an ambulance, WHYY's Peter Crimmins reported. But police arrived first. According to Shaka Johnson, an attorney for the family, Wallace's wife told the officers when they arrived that her husband had bipolar disorder and urged the officers to stand down. A police spokesperson said Monday that officers were responding to a report of a man with a knife. They ordered Wallace to drop the weapon, saying that he "advanced towards officers." Both officers fired their guns at Wallace. He was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Ex-Homeland Security Official Outs Himself As 'Anonymous' Anti-Trump Author - NPR
Miles Taylor defended his decision to criticize the president anonymously, saying it forced Trump to address the merits of the claims "rather than creating distractions through petty insults."
Former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff Miles Taylor, pictured in March 2018, announced he is behind the scathing anti-Trump op-ed and book published under the pen name "Anonymous." Tim Godbee/Department of Homeland Security via AP Miles Taylor, the former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, has revealed himself to be "Anonymous," the author of a New York Times op-ed and book critical of the Trump presidency. "To be clear, writing those works was not about eminence (they were published without attribution), not about money (I declined a hefty monetary advance and pledged to donate the bulk of the proceeds), and not about crafting a score-settling 'tell all' (my focus was on the President himself and his character, not denigrating former colleagues)," Taylor wrote in a Medium post. "Nevertheless, I made clear I wasn't afraid to criticize the President under my name." Taylor, in media interviews as recently as August, denied being "Anonymous." Throughout his post, Taylor was explicit about his commitment to the Republican Party and asserted he "wanted this President to succeed" when he joined the administration alongside John Kelly, Trump's first Homeland Security secretary who later became the White House chief of staff. But Taylor went on to say, "Too often in times of crisis, I saw Donald Trump prove he is a man without character, and his personal defects have resulted in leadership failures so significant that they can be measured in lost American lives. I witnessed Trump's inability to do his job over the course of two-and-a-half years." He said the president's flaws were evident to "everyone" but that most were "were hesitant to speak up for fear of reprisals." Taylor has appeared in ads for Republican Voters Against Trump, a group that is supporting Joe Biden in the presidential contest. He also wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in August detailing what he said were actions by the president that made the country "less secure." But it was his anonymous op-ed in The New York Times in September 2018 in which he declared he was "part of the resistance inside the Trump administration" that delighted the president's critics and added to fears within the administration of a "deep state" that was acting against Trump's orders. He parlayed that into a book, A Warning, a year later. In his Medium post, Taylor defended his works under the cover of anonymity, explaining that he "wrestled" with the decision and that ultimately it helped hold Trump's feet to the fire. "Issuing my critiques without attribution forced the President to answer them directly on their merits or not at all, rather than creating distractions through petty insults and name-calling," Taylor wrote. The White House responded to the revelation in a statement by spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany. "This low-level, disgruntled former staffer is a liar and a coward who chose anonymity over action and leaking over leading. He was ineffective and incompetent during his time as DHS Chief of Staff which is why he was promptly fired after only serving in this role for a matter of weeks," McEnany said. "It is appalling a low-ranking official would be granted anonymity and it is clear The New York Times is doing the bidding of Never-Trumpers and Democrats." Minutes later the Trump campaign released a statement, also unleashing a litany of insults at Taylor. "He's just another standard-issue arrogant, Washington, DC swamp bro who loved President Trump until he figured out he could try to make money by attacking him," officials wrote. Watch Miles Taylor lie twice in 22 seconds. Are you aware of who "Anonymous" is? > "I'm not." You're not "Anonymous"? > "No." pic.twitter.com/6q603PGmTY — Trump War Room - Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) October 28, 2020 The campaign also noted that Taylor denied being "Anonymous" in a CNN interview with Anderson Cooper. During the interview, Cooper asks about Anonymous and says, "Are you aware of who that is?" "I am not . ... I've got my own thoughts of who that might be," Taylor replies. Cooper later asks more pointedly, "Are you Anonymous?" Taylor replies, "I only wear a mask for two things Anderson: Halloweens and pandemics. So no." Taylor served at DHS from 2017 to 2019 and was chief of staff to Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen as well as Chad Wolf, now the acting DHS chief.
Election Officials Urge Alternatives To Mailing Back Ballots - NPR
Election experts say there is no longer enough time to ensure ballots sent through the mail will be delivered in time. They're encouraging voters to deliver their ballots by hand or vote in person.
An election worker takes ballots from voters dropping them off at an official ballot drop box at the Miami-Dade County Board of Elections. Lynne Sladky/AP Election officials in many states say it is now too late for voters to return absentee ballots by mail and are encouraging them to instead deliver their ballots by hand or vote in person. State rules differ about how late ballots can be received and still count. Absentee ballots must be received on Election Day in more than two dozen states, including a handful of key swing states like Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, some states approved new rules this year that would allow ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted, so long as they are received within a specified time window after Nov. 3. Other states already had more generous deadlines on the books. But with the end of voting now less than a week away, election experts and many state officials say there is no longer enough time to ensure ballots sent through the mail will be delivered in time, especially given service delays with the U.S. Postal Service. "Voters who have not mailed the ballot as of this date should not mail their ballots and should find another means to vote," says David Fineman, chair of the nonpartisan Fair Elections Center and a former chair of the USPS board of governors. Action in the courts is also adding new urgency. The Supreme Court could take up challenges to deadline extensions in both Pennsylvania and North Carolina, states whereballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrive within three and nine days, respectively. On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected Wisconsin's plan to count mail ballots received six days after Election Day if the envelopes were postmarked by Nov. 3. The ballots must now be in the hands of election clerks by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. or they will not count. According to an NPR analysis this summer, thousands of ballotswere rejected during the Wisconsin primary because they arrived too late. As of Tuesday, more than 300,000 absentee ballots in Wisconsin had not yet been returned. President Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes. Warnings from state officials In states with stringent return deadlines, officials are encouraging voters to come up with alternative voting plans, such as submitting their ballots at official ballot drop boxes available in many states. "We are too close to Election Day, and the right to vote is too important, to rely on the Postal Service to deliver absentee ballots on time," Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson wrote in a statement on Tuesday. "Citizens who already have an absentee ballot should sign the back of the envelope and hand-deliver it to their city or township clerk's office or ballot drop box as soon as possible." In Arizona, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs tweeted on Tuesday, "Today is the last recommended day to mail back your ballot. After today, return your ballot to any election drop box or voting location in your county." Other state election offices amplified similar messages on Tuesday, which they deemed the last day to mail a ballot with confidence it will arrive on time. A surge in mail volume The USPS recommends mailing ballots at least seven days before the state's deadline. The agency has been plagued by service delays after Postmaster Louis DeJoy began implementing new cost-cutting measures. Though courts have ordered some of the changes reversed, postal customers have continued to experience slowdowns. DeJoy has pledged to prioritize election mail and supply additional resources to process it, including expedited handling, extra deliveries and special pickups. "With a record number of people across the country voting by mail, the U.S. Postal Service's number one priority between now and the November election is the secure, timely delivery of the nation's Election Mail," USPS spokesperson Martha Johnson told NPR in a statement. Total mail surpassed 3.1 billion pieces the week of Oct. 10, an increase of 23% compared to the average volume in September. USPS says 523 million pieces of election mail, including ballots and campaign literature, have been processed, an increase of 162% over the 2016 general election. The week of Oct. 16, 96.7% of ballots were delivered on time, according to figures filed in federal court and obtained by The Washington Post. But some worry that not all ballots get properly identified as election mail flagged for priority processing. "It's a number that seems OK, but it leaves out a lot," says J. Remy Green, an attorney who is representing a group of voters in a lawsuit against the USPS. The USPS defines on-time as delivery within one to three days. The on-time delivery rate for first-class mail generally remains below 90% nationally. According to a report published by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, slowdowns persist in many postal districts. In Detroit, the on-time delivery rate for first-class mail was 71.6% the week of Oct. 10. In the Philadelphia metro area, it was 76.9%. As part of a court order this week, the USPS has agreed to release daily performance data, though the postal service has cautioned about the accuracy of the daily figures. The data for Tuesday showed national on-time performance dropping below 70%. Options for voters For voters who have requested an absentee ballot, but haven't returned it yet, experts say the best option is to deliver a completed absentee ballot to their local election clerk or an official drop box, if available. If voters decide they want to vote in person, experts say they should bring their blank absentee ballot with them, as they may be able to submit their completed absentee ballot at the polls. Voters may also be able to turn over the blank absentee ballot and then cast their vote in a traditional voting booth. In some states, voters who requested an absentee ballot, but now want to vote in person, will be required to cast a provisional ballot at their polling place. Those ballots will be counted once clerks can verify the voter did not also return their absentee ballot. In the past, there have been problems with precincts not having enough provisional ballots on hand. If voters cannot cast their ballot by other means, attorney Green says sending a ballot in the mail at this point is still better than giving up on voting entirely. "It is so profoundly better to take a chance that your vote is counted than not vote at all," Green says. According to the U.S. Elections Project, more than 70 million people have already voted in the 2020 election, including almost 50 million by mail.
Walter Wallace Shooting Death Sees Both Candidates Denounce Looting - NPR
The shooting death of Walter Wallace by Philadelphia police and the subsequent demonstrations against police brutality saw both major party candidates condemn looting and violent protests.
A demonstrator confronts police officers during a protest against the shooting of 27-year-old Walter Wallace. Mark Makela/Getty Images Updated at 5:02 p.m. ET When police fatally shot 27-year-old Walter Wallace in Philadelphia on Monday afternoon, the issue of police violence and how it disproportionately affects Black Americans was once again thrust into the spotlight. Protests began nearly immediately after the news broke, with some instances of rioting as well as violence between demonstrators and the police. In the final days of the presidential election, the two leading candidates in the race, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, have both focused most heavily on condemning any violence and looting as part of demonstrations against police brutality. Speaking at an event in Paradise, Nev., on Wednesday, Trump, a Republican, downplayed his moral opinion on the shooting itself, instead focusing his attention on the protests, which he said were the result of soft leadership from Democrats on the city and state level. "It's a terrible thing. What I'm witnessing is terrible. And, frankly, that the mayor, or whoever it is, that's allowing people to riot and loot and not stop them is also just a horrible thing," he said. "I saw the event everybody did, it was on television it was a terrible event. I guess that's being looked at very strongly. We have federal the federal government is looking at it also. But the rioting in Philadelphia, you have to stop it. They have to stop it. It's a local thing, as you know," Trump said, adding that he would readily send in federal law enforcement to suppress any violent uprisings. "You got to have law and order. You've got to have respect for our police," he said, trotting out his long-favored talking point of a police system crippled by Democrat inaction. Biden, the Democratic nominee, on Wednesday said that he would set up a commission to better deal with how police interact with people dealing with mental health issues, but he forcefully condemned any violence and looting during the protests. "There is no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence. None whatsoever. I think to be able to protest is totally legitimate. It's totally reasonable. But I think that the looting is just as the victim's father said, 'Do not do this. ... You're not helping. You're hurting. You're not helping my son,' " Biden, who has been accused by Republicans as being soft on crime, said to reporters after he cast his early ballot near his home in Wilmington, Del. "There are certain things we're going to have to do as we move along. ... And that is how we deal with how you diminish the prospect of lethal shooting in circumstances like the one we saw. That's going to be part of the commission I set up to determine how we deal with these. ... But there's no excuse for the looting," he said. Wallace's death comes following a summer pockmarked by police shootings and nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality. Both Trump and Biden have carved out stances on the matter, with Trump focusing his appeals to law enforcement and maintaining "law and order," while Biden has acknowledged systemic racism in the United States and vowed if elected to more closely examine how to repair relationships between police and minority communities. Speaking at a campaign event in Bullhead City, Ariz., on Wednesday afternoon, Trump further sharpened his attack against the protests and connected the uprisings to Democrats. "Joe Biden has surrendered his party to the rage-filled socialists, Marxists and left-wing extremists. And that's what you're going to have, and you can't let it happen. The Democrats have spent the entire year inciting violence, and hatred, and hatred against our police our police. Without our police, we have very little," Trump said, adopting a familiar dark, less nuanced tone with his supporters. "Last night, the city of Philadelphia was ransacked by violent mobs and Biden-supported people. These were all Biden-supported people. And he wouldn't even call them out. This morning, they said 'please call them out.' He doesn't want to get involved because he doesn't want to lose the radical left," he continued. "Biden and [Kamala] Harris stand up, and they stand with the rioters and the vandals. I stand with the heroes of law enforcement. It took generations to build the America we know and love, but if the radical left gains power, it will take them only a short period of time to destroy it."
Days Before Election, Tech CEOs Defend Themselves From GOP Claims Of Censorship - NPR
The chief executives of Facebook, Twitter and Google face skepticism from a Senate committee over their decisions about what content to allow and what to take down from their platforms.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testifies over video during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday about reforming Section 230, a key legal shield for tech companies. Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images The CEOs of some of the biggest tech platforms defended the way they handle online speech to an audience of skeptical senators, many of whom seemed more interested in scoring political points than engaging with thorny debate over content moderation policies and algorithms. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter's Jack Dorsey and Google's Sundar Pichai appeared virtually Wednesday at a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee that was supposed to focus on a decades-old legal shield insulating tech companies from liability over what users post. But many Republicans on the committee used the opportunity to berate the executives over suspicions that their companies and employees are biased against conservatives a frequent complaint on the right for which there is no systematic evidence. Several members pressed Dorsey about Twitter's decision later reversed to block links to a controversial New York Post story about Hunter Biden, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's son. "Mr. Dorsey, who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear?" Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas bellowed at Twitter's chief executive in one of the hearing's most theatrical moments. Dorsey, a yoga devotee who says he tries to meditate every day, quietly responded that users agree to Twitter's terms of service when they sign up, and said Twitter did not have the ability to influence elections. Democrats mainly focused their questions on what steps the platforms are taking to protect from election interference and crack down on hate speech and radicalization, as well as how the tech companies have contributed to the downfall of local news media by sapping advertising spending. Several Democratic members called foul on the timing of the hearing, just six days before the election. "We have to call this hearing what it is, it's a sham," said Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii. "I'm not going to use my time to ask any questions because this is nonsense." Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut accused his Republican colleagues of wanting to "bully and browbeat these platforms" into favoring President Trump. Bipartisan agreement that Section 230 should change but not about why or how All of the companies have changed their policies this year about what posts are allowed about voting and the election. Facebook and Twitter in particular have taken increasingly aggressive action against posts that make false claims about voting or undermine confidence in the electoral process including putting warning labels on some of the president's most inflammatory attacks on voting by mail. The law in question, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, is under attack from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, but for very different reasons. Republicans say it gives cover for tech platforms to unfairly censor conservatives, including President Trump, while Democrats say the companies should have to take more responsibility for the hate speech, false claims and other harmful content that proliferate on their platforms. "The reality is that people have very different ideas and views about where the lines should be. Democrats often say that we don't remove enough content, and Republicans often say that we remove too much," Zuckerberg told senators. Trump says the law should be revoked, and his Justice Department has asked Congress to pass legislation holding platforms more accountable for what their users post. Biden has also said the law should be revoked. House Democrats have introduced their own bill that would hold tech companies liable if their algorithms amplify or recommend "harmful, radicalizing content that leads to offline violence." Tech executives say legal shield is essential to promote online speech On Wednesday, the CEOs told the committee they agreed that the law should be updated to reflect the current state of the world, 24 years after it was first written. But they defended its legal protections and warned that removing it entirely would result in their companies taking a heavier hand with user content. They noted that Section 230 not only makes them largely immune from liability of what users post, but also empowers them to make decisions about what content to remove and what to allow. Dorsey and Zuckerberg said there should be more "transparency" about the decisions that online platforms make when determining what content can stay up and what they take down. Dorsey said he agreed with critics that the companies' policies can feel "like a black box" to outsiders. "Section 230 is the most important law protecting Internet speech, and removing Section 230 will remove speech from the Internet," he said. Editor's note: Facebook and Google are among NPR's financial supporters.