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Top UK bishops slam ‘disastrous’ bill as Brexit talks teeter

LONDON (AP) — The U.K.’s most senior Anglican bishops warned Monday that legislation breaching part of the Brexit divorce agreement the government signed with the European Union will set a “disastrous precedent” and could undermine peace in Northern Ireland.
The warning came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government told British businesses to prepare for a no-deal economic break with the EU in 10 weeks’ time, after the U.K. declared negotiations on future trade ties at an end unless the bloc makes major concessions.
In a letter published in the Financial Times, the top archbishops in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said the government’s Brexit-related Internal Market Bill would give the government power to break international law and had “enormous moral, as well as political and legal, consequences.”
“We believe this would create a disastrous precedent,” said the letter, signed by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who heads the Church of England, and four other archbishops.
“If carefully negotiated terms are not honored and laws can be ‘legally’ broken, on what foundations does our democracy stand?” they asked.
The Internal Market Bill has been approved by the House of Commons and begins its passage through the House of Lords on Monday. It is likely to face strong opposition in Parliament’s upper chamber, where the governing Conservative Party does not have a majority.
The bill has triggered a crisis of trust between Britain and the EU, who have been attempting to strike a new trade deal since the U.K. left the bloc on Jan. 31.
If passed, the bill will allow the British government to override parts of the legally binding Brexit withdrawal agreement relating to trade with Northern Ireland, the only part of the U.K. to share a border with the EU.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government says it needs the legislation as an insurance policy in case the EU behaves unreasonably after a post-Brexit transition period ends on Dec. 31 and tries to impede the flow of goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.
The bloc sees it as a flagrant breach of an international treaty that could undermine the delicate foundations of Northern Ireland’s peace settlement, created by the 1998 Good Friday accord.
The bill soured talks aimed at securing a new trade deal between Britain and the EU. Those talks ground to a halt last week, with each side calling for the other to compromise in order to secure a deal. The EU said it was happy to keep talking, but the British government declared that the talks were over unless there was a “fundamental” shift from the bloc.
Despite that hard line, Britain’s Brexit preparations minister, Michael Gove, said the door to talks was still “ajar.” The two sides’ chief negotiators, Michel Barnier for the EU and Britain’s David Frost, are expected to speak by phone Monday.
Negotiations are gridlocked on the issues of fishing — highly symbolic for maritime nations on both sides — and rules to ensure common regulatory standards and fair competition. The EU fears the U.K. will gain an unfair advantage by slashing food, workplace and environmental standards and pumping state money into businesses once it is free of the bloc’s rules.
Britain accuses the bloc of seeking to impose demands that it has not placed on other countries it has free trade deals with, such as Canada.
If there is no deal, businesses on both sides of the English Channel face tariffs and other obstacles to trade starting Jan. 1. British business groups warn that could mean border delays, soaring prices and shortages of some goods.
Even with an agreement, British firms will have to fill out customs declarations and other paperwork, because the U.K. is leaving the bloc’s vast single market.
The British government launched an ad campaign Monday telling businesses to get ready for the end of decades of seamless trade with the Continent.
But many firms say the government has not supplied the support structures they need, including tens of thousands of customs agents.
“It’s a lot of red tape, and we know that preparations have gone backwards because of the impact of COVID,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, head of the Confederation of British Industry. “So this is deeply challenging for many businesses.”

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Japan, Vietnam agree to boost defense ties, resume flights

HANOI, Vietnam. (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first overseas summit since taking office last month, agreed with his Vietnamese counterpart to step up defense and security cooperation in the face of China’s expanding influence in the region.
In talks in Hanoi on Monday, Suga and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc set a basic agreement allowing Japan to export defense equipment and technology to Vietnam. Japan has been pursuing such pacts in recent years to bolster ties with Southeast Asia and sustain its own defense industry.
Suga said his four-day trip to Vietnam and later Indonesia was key to pursuing multilateral economic and security cooperation to counter China’s growing power and protect sea lanes in disputed areas of the South China Sea.
“Vietnam is crucial to achieving our vision of ‘the Free and Open Indo-Pacific,’ and our valuable partner,'” Suga told a news conference after his meeting with Phuc. “Japan, as an Indo-Pacific nation, will continue to contribute to the peace and stability in this region.”
Suga said Vietnam, at the center of the region, was the most suitable destination for his first trip abroad as Japan’s leader.
Neither of the two leaders mentioned China by name in their news conference. Phuc said the peace and stability of the South China Sea should be protected by the rule of law, not unilaterally by force or threats.
“Vietnam appreciates that Japan, one of the world’s leading powers, is actively contributing its efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region and in the world,” Phuc said.
In a speech later Monday at Vietnam-Japan University, Suga said that Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” concept and “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific,” formulated by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2019, share values such as rule of law, openness, transparency and freedom.
Suga expressed strong support for their vision and said together Japan and ASEAN can achieve a peaceful and prosperous future.
“Unfortunately in this region, there is a move in the South China Sea that goes against the rule of law and openness stated in this ASEAN Outlook, and Japan strongly opposes any attempt that escalates tensions in the South China Sea,” Suga said in his speech, hinting at China’s growing assertiveness in the area.
Japan already has defense equipment transfer deals with the U.S., Britain and Malaysia, among other countries. Vietnam is a 12th partner, while Japan is still negotiating deals with Indonesia and Thailand. In its first actual delivery of such exports, Japan in August exported a radar surveillance system to the Philippines.
Details of possible equipment sales were not mentioned, but Suga called the agreement “a major step” for a bilateral defense cooperation, saying he expects further developments.
Japan partially lifted its ban on military equipment and technology transfer in 2014 as part of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to build Japan’s defense capabilities.
Suga and Phuc signed other agreements to cooperate in a range of economic fields and on anti-terrorism measures.
The two sides also agreed to ease entry bans and allow short-term business visits and reopen flights between Vietnam and Japan. Such travel has been very tightly restricted due to the pandemic, but both countries have managed to somewhat stabilize COVID-19 outbreaks.
Suga also promised to provide support for Vietnamese workers in Japan affected by the pandemic’s hit to the economy. Vietnamese accounts for more than half of the foreign workers Japan has accepted in recent years to make up for its declining and aging population.
Japan is one of Vietnam’s top trading partners with two-way trade of $28.6 billion so far this year. Japan is also Vietnam’s largest overseas aid donor, providing $23 billion as of 2019 and accounting for more than a quarter of Vietnam’s foreign loans.
The government has been trying to entice Japanese companies to invest in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries to lessen Japan’s dependence on manufacturing and other businesses in China.
On Monday, Japan and Vietnam agreed on the need to cooperate on diversifying supply chains — a lesson Japan learned from its dire shortages of surgical masks and protective gowns earlier this year due to heavy dependence on Chinese imports.
In August, Vietnam agreed to buy six coast guard patrol boats worth $345 million from Japan. The country is seeking to improve its maritime defenses amid China’s continuing development and militarization of artificial islands in contested waters of the South China Sea.
Progress in talks between ASEAN and China over the disputes appears to be at a standstill.
Suga’s predecessor Abe also chose Vietnam as the first country he visited after taking office. Suga is the first foreign head of a state to visit Vietnam since the country closed its borders to contain COVID-19.

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India army apprehends Chinese soldier amid military standoff

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — The Indian army said it apprehended a Chinese soldier Monday in the remote Ladakh region, where the two countries are locked in a monthslong military standoff along their disputed mountain border.
The soldier, Cpl. Wang Ya Long from China’s People’s Liberation Army, was apprehended inside Indian-controlled Ladakh’s Demchok area and was to be released soon, the army said in a statement.
It said the soldier “had strayed” across the de facto border along the eastern section of what’s known as the Line of Actual Control, a loose demarcation separating Indian- and Chinese-controlled areas.
“As per established protocols, he will be returned back to Chinese officials at the Chushul–Moldo meeting point after completion of formalities,” the statement said.
China did not immediately comment on the soldier’s apprehension.
The high-altitude standoff between the Asian giants began in early May with a fierce brawl, and exploded into hand-to-hand combat with clubs, stones and fists on June 15 that left 20 Indian soldiers dead. China is believed to also have had casualties, but has not given any details.
China detained at least 10 Indian soldiers, including four officers, following the deadly brawl. They were returned three days later after intense military and diplomatic negotiations.
The Indian army statement Monday said the Indian side had received an inquiry from China’s military “about the whereabouts of the missing soldier.”
The soldier “has been provided medical assistance including oxygen, food and warm clothes to protect him from the vagaries of extreme altitude and harsh climatic conditions,” the statement said.
India and China have each stationed tens of thousands of soldiers backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets and are bracing for a harsh winter in the cold-desert region, where temperatures can fall to minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 58 Fahrenheit).
The nuclear-armed rivals have accused each other of crossing into rival territory and of firing shots for the first time in 45 years.
The sides have held several rounds of talks by military, diplomatic and political officials, including negotiations between their foreign ministers and defense ministers in Moscow last month. Although the standoff has persisted, the talks seem to have calmed the situation along the border, with no new military aggression reported for over a month now.
The fiercely contested Line of Actual Control separates Chinese-held and Indian-held territories from Ladakh in the west to India’s eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety. It is broken in parts where the Himalayan nations of Nepal and Bhutan border China.
India claims the Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin plateau as part of the Ladakh region.
According to India, the control line is 3,488 kilometers (2,167 miles) long, while China says it is considerably shorter. The line divides the areas of physical control rather than territorial claims.
Relations between the two countries have often been strained, partly due to their undemarcated border. They fought a border war in 1962 that spilled into Ladakh and ended in an uneasy truce. Since then, troops have guarded the undefined border and occasionally brawled. They have agreed not to attack each other with firearms.
India unilaterally declared Ladakh a federal territory and separated it from disputed Kashmir in August 2019, ending Indian-administered Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status. It also vowed to take back the Aksai Chin plateau.
China was among the first countries to strongly condemn the move, raising it at international forums including the U.N. Security Council.

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Iran again breaks its single-day record for virus deaths

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran recorded its worst day of new deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with 337 confirmed dead on Monday.
The grim milestone represents a significant spike from the previous single-day death toll record of 279. The Health Ministry also announced 4,251 new infections, pushing the total count to 534,630.
Fatalities have soared in recent weeks, as authorities struggle to contain the virus’s spread months into the pandemic. Health officials say the capital, Tehran, has run out of intensive care beds.
The Islamic Republic emerged early in the pandemic as a global epicenter of the virus and has since seen the worst outbreak in the Middle East, with a death toll that topped 30,000 this week. The government has resisted a total lockdown to salvage its devastated economy, already weakened by unprecedented U.S. sanctions.
As the death toll skyrockets, eclipsing the previous highs recorded in the spring amid the worst of its outbreak, authorities have started to tighten restrictions. The government ordered shut recently reopened schools and universities, as well as museums, libraries, beauty salons and other public places in Tehran earlier this month, and imposed a mask mandate outdoors.
Underscoring authorities’ contradictory response, the current spike comes just weeks after schools nationwide welcomed back its 15 million students for in-person instruction.
The virus has also sickened senior Iranian officials, including an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and most recently the country’s atomic energy agency and its vice president in charge of budget and planning.
The timing of the pandemic has proved particularly difficult for Iran’s economy. The Trump administration re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran after its unilateral withdrawal in 2018 from Tehran’s nuclear accord with world powers. The nation’s currency plunged to its lowest-ever level last week following the U.S. administration’s decision last week to blacklist Iranian banks that had so far escaped the bulk of re-imposed American sanctions.

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Belgium fears virus ‘tsunami’ as virus cases keep soaring

BRUSSELS (AP) — Bars and restaurants across Belgium shut down for a month and a night-time curfew took effect Monday as health authorities warned of a possible “tsunami” of new virus cases in the hard-hit nation that host the European Union’s headquarters.
The new measures aim to limit social interactions to slow down the exponential growth of the pandemic in the nation of 11.5 million people. The new surge of coronavirus cases has already prompted several hospitals to delay nonessential operations to focus on treating COVID-19 cases.
“We are really very close to a tsunami,” Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told broadcaster RTL.
According to AP figures based on data collected by Johns Hopkins University, Belgium recorded an average of 73.95 daily cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days, the second-worst record in the EU behind the Czech Republic.
Yves Van Laethem, the COVID-19 crisis center spokesman, said Monday that 7,876 daily new cases were diagnosed on average over the past seven days, up 79% compared with the previous week. Van Laethem said the epidemiological situation could be even worse, given delays in the publication of test results.
To fight the spread of the disease, Belgium’s curfew will be enforced from midnight until 5 a.m., at least for a month. Alcohol sales will be banned after 8 p.m., while the number of people that residents can see socially outside their households will be reduced from three to just one all month.
People have been ordered to work from home wherever possible. Thousands of students have been affected as several universities have demanded that only one seat in five in lecture halls hosting more than 50 people can be occupied.
As of Monday, 2,485 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in Belgium, including 412 in intensive care. Authorities have warned that intensive care units will hit their capacity of 2,000 beds by mid-November if new cases continue to soar at the same pace.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the situation in Belgium now is more serious than it was in March when the country implemented a national lockdown.
“We have three times as many people in intensive care in hospitals. So the situation in the hospitals is serious. It will continue to deteriorate,” De Croo told RTL.
With the extra restrictions, many restaurant and bar owners fear they might have to pull the plug for good. The sector contains more than 57,000 businesses and employs 120,000 people in Belgium.
Henrique Martins, the chef at the Gout et Saveur restaurant in Brussels, says he will rely on state subsidies and takeout sales to survive.
“It’s pretty catastrophic, we’ll see and try to hold on,” he told The Associated Press on Monday.

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National News

COVID delay: New coronavirus relief may slip past election

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is quickly moving past the point at which it can deliver more coronavirus relief before the election, with differences between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, her Senate Republican rivals and President Donald Trump proving durable despite the glaring needs of the country.
Trump’s GOP allies are reconvening the Senate this week for a revote on a virus proposal that about one-third the size of a measure being negotiated by Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But the Senate GOP bill has failed once before, and that Trump himself now says is too puny. The debate promises to bring a hefty dose of posturing and political gamesmanship, but little more. A procedural vote on a stand-alone renewal of bipartisan Paycheck Protection Program business subsidies is slated for Tuesday.
Even the architect of the larger Senate measure, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., isn’t claiming the vote will advance the ball. Once the measure fails, he plans to turn the chamber’s full attention to cementing a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court by confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett. It is likely to be the Senate’s final act before Election Day.
In that context, this week’s action has the chief benefit of giving Republicans in tough reelection races one last opportunity to try to show voters they are prioritizing COVID relief — and to make the case to voters that Democrats are the ones standing in the way.
“It was important to indicate to the American people before the election — not after — that we were not in favor of a stalemate, that we were not in favor of doing nothing,” McConnell said in a Kentucky appearance last week.
McConnell is resurrecting a measure in the $650 billion range that would repurpose $138 billion in small business subsidies to provide a second round of paycheck relief, add $300 per week in supplemental unemployment benefits, and help schools and universities reopen. The last version of the bill left out help for states and local governments sought by Democrats and another round of $1,200 direct payments demanded by Trump.
The last coronavirus relief package, the $1.8 trillion bipartisan CARES Act, passed in March by an overwhelming margin as the economy went into lockdown amid fear and uncertainty about the virus. Since then, Trump and many of his GOP allies have focused on loosening social and economic restrictions as the key to recovery instead of more taxpayer-funded help.
Trump has been anything but consistent. He now insists that lawmakers should “go big” with a bill of up to $2 trillion or more, a total reversal after abandoning the talks earlier this month. But Trump’s political problems aren’t swaying Senate Republicans.
“He’s talking about a much larger amount than I can sell to my members,” McConnell said.
The most recent bill from House Democrats weighs in at $2.4 trillion — or more than $2.6 trillion when excluding a $246 billion tax increase on businesses that’s unlikely to gain GOP acceptance. The package is a nonstarter with Senate Republicans and McConnell, who is making the case for a more targeted approach that’s well south of $1 trillion.
The moment is challenging for Pelosi as well. For months she has been promising a COVID relief package of more than $2 trillion stuffed with Obama-era stimulus ideas. Even though the Senate and White House are both in GOP hands — and will be at least into January — she has sharply rebuffed anyone who suggests that Democrats should take a smaller deal now rather than risk going home empty-handed until next year.
“This is not the time to say, ‘Okay, let’s fold.’ This is what we have been building up to,” Pelosi told fellow Democrats on a recent teleconference. She said Sunday that she remains optimistic of reaching an agreement with the administration but that a deal would have to come within 48 hours — or Tuesday — for it to be enacted by Election Day.
Taking a smaller bill now would likely require Pelosi to give up tax cuts for the working poor and accept a far smaller aid package for states and local governments. But it would also mean that relief would flow immediately to millions of workers whose supplemental unemployment benefits were cut off this summer.
Liberal economist Jared Bernstein, who worked for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in 2009 and advises him now, says inaction would mean “a lot of completely avoidable suffering for economically vulnerable people.”
When an aid bill finally passes may depend on the outcome of the election.
If Trump loses, Congress is likely to stagger through a nonproductive lame-duck session comparable to the abbreviated session after the decisive 2008 Obama-Biden victory or the 2016 session that punted most of its leftovers to the Trump administration. That scenario would push virus aid into 2021.
Delays in coronavirus aid come as the recovery from this spring’s economic shutdown is slowing and as the massive stimulus effects of the $1.8 trillion March relief measure wear off. COVID cases are spiking again heading into a third wave of the pandemic this winter. Poverty is climbing and the virus is continuing to take a disproportionate toll on minority communities.
“If Congress doesn’t act the next administration is going to inherit a real mess,” said Harvard economist Jason Furman, a former top Obama adviser. “Economic problems tend to feed on themselves.” He is in the Democratic camp that prefers imperfect stimulus now rather than a larger package in four months or so.
Instead, if history repeats, COVID relief is likely to be the first major item out of the gate next year, but it’s not clear even then that it’ll be as big as Democrats hope.
“Pelosi decided in July that the political benefit of the next package would accrue to the president’s benefit and therefore she was going to lay out the most aggressive terms possible,” said veteran GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, who predicts that Pelosi won’t get much more next year than she could have gotten now “unless they’re willing to break the filibuster for a $3 trillion bailout for blue states.”

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‘Big pile’ of eels dumped in NYC park; impact not yet known

NEW YORK (AP) — Andrew Orkin was taking a break from his evening jog to sit by Prospect Park Lake when he turned around and was startled to see a tangle of wriggling snakes.
“And quite a big pile — fully alive,” said Orkin, a music composer who lives near the Brooklyn park.
They turned out to be eels that had escaped from one of two large plastic bags that split open as a man dragged them to the shoreline. After dumping the eels in the lake, the man walked away, explaining to bystanders that “I just want to save lives.”
The illegal release late last month became a curiosity on social media, but the dumping of exotic animals in urban parks isn’t new. In cities across the country, nonnative birds, turtles, fish and lizards have settled into, and often disturbed, local ecosystems.
New Yorkers free thousands of non-native animals every year, many of them abandoned pets that quickly die. But others can survive, reproduce and end up causing lasting harm.
“People like animals and they sometimes think they’re doing a good thing by letting them go,” said Jason Munshi-South, urban ecologist at Fordham University. “Most will die. Some will become a problem, and then there’s no going back.”
New York state and city officials say it’s too soon to know how the eels in Prospect Park might affect local species. But based on photos taken by bystanders, officials identified them as swamp eels native to Southeast Asia like those that have been found in at least eight states.
Once introduced — often after being purchased at local live fish markets, officials say — the eels eat almost anything including plants, insects, crustaceans, frogs, turtles and other fish. And they could prey upon or compete with the park’s native species for however long they survive, said Katrina Toal, deputy director of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation’s Wildlife Unit.
There are no plans to eradicate the eels. Since they’re nocturnal and spend most of their time burrowed in the sediment of lakes, rivers and marshes, spotting and removing them from the lake could be impossible.
“This kind of species is a little tricky. They’re well hidden,” Toal said. “We’ re not going to go out there and try to trap any of them.”
Without having witnessed the release, officials from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which is investigating the incident, could not specify the number of eels released last month. Bystanders described seeing more than 100 of them.
DEC officials say they will look for swamp eels during the agency’s next survey in the spring, but don’t expect them to make it through the winter.
However, said University of Toronto freshwater ecologist Nicholas Mandrak, “Even if they don’t survive, they could have negative short-term impacts.”
If some Prospect Park transplants survive for a few years, climate change could feasibly warm up city waters enough to render them hospitable for swamp eels, Mandrak said.
“We shouldn’t come to an immediate conclusion that because they’re found in Asia they couldn’t survive in New York City,” he said.
The exotic species previously has shown up in western New York state’s Hemlock and Canadice lakes in 2019 and Queens’ Meadow Lake in 2017. Elsewhere, biologists have found Asian swamp eels in waterways in Hawaii, Georgia, New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan, Florida and Pennsylvania.
New York City has a long history of people introducing exotic species into its parks.
In 1890, Shakespeare enthusiasts released a flock of about 60 European starlings in Central Park that grew into a current population of hundreds of millions nationwide that outcompete native birds, destroy crops and occasionally snarl jet engines.
For decades, pet Red-eared slider turtles have been abandoned in city ponds, creating a major nuisance that has crowded out local painted turtles and fueled green algae blooms.
Voracious, sharp-toothed Northern snakehead fish — introduced by way of pet stores, live food markets and aquarium hobbyists across the U.S. — have been spotted in New York’s Harlem Meer and Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
And descendants of escaped or released monk parakeets and Italian wall lizards are scattered across the city’s boroughs.
The eels are just the latest episode. “This is an unusual and eye-catching story,” Toal said, “but something that happens far more often is people release one unwanted pet.”

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Early in-person voting begins in key swing state of Florida

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida begins in-person early voting in much of the state Monday as the Trump campaign tries to cut into an early advantage Democrats have posted in mail-in votes in the key swing state.
With its 29 electoral votes, Florida is crucial to both candidates but especially so for President Donald Trump, who moved his official residence to his Palm Beach estate Mar-a-Lago from New York last year. A Florida loss would make it nearly impossible for Trump to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to retain the White House over former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden.
Under state law, counties can offer up to two weeks of early voting and many do, including Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and other population centers. Large counties offer multiple sites and all counties allow those who have received mail-in ballots to drop them off. The latest a county can start early voting is Saturday.
About 2.5 million mail-in ballots have already been cast, with Democrats returning 1.2 million and Republicans about 755,000 as of Sunday. Non-affiliated voters and third-party members make up the rest. The number of mail-in votes is already approaching the 2.7 million cast in 2016 when Republicans had a 70,000-vote margin on returns. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the state by about 113,000 votes. No Republican has won the presidency without winning Florida since Calvin Coolidge in 1924.
Florida Republicans have said they aren’t worried about the mail-in gap, believing any advantage Biden gets will be swamped by Trump supporters casting in-person ballots starting this week and on Election Day. They believe Democrats are “cannibalizing” their own votes — moving in-person voters to mail-in without increasing their overall support. They point to their increased voter registration, which narrowed the Democrats’ lead to 134,000, down 327,000 four years ago.
Long lines have plagued early voting sites in Georgia and other states, but Florida county elections supervisors have said they expect lines to move smoothly.
Some elections in Florida have been won on the thinnest of margins, becoming the center of intense focus during recounts of ballots — including the 2000 presidential race between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore. The recount drew a chaotic slew of court challenges that ultimately ended with U.S. Supreme Court halting further recounting, deciding the race for Bush.
Elections officials are predicting that between mail-in ballots and early voting, about 70% of the ballots expected will be cast before Election Day. The state allows those ballots to be processed, but the actual count remains secret until after the polls close Nov. 3.
Counties must end early voting by Nov. 1. Mail-in ballots, with few exceptions, must be received by 7 p.m. Nov. 3.

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Tulsa digs again for victims of 1921 race massacre

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A second excavation begins Monday at a cemetery in an effort to find and identify victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and shed light on violence that left hundreds dead and decimated an area that was once a cultural and economic mecca for African Americans.
“I realize we can tell this story the way it needs to be told, now,” said Phoebe Stubblefield, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Florida and a descendant of a survivor of the massacre who is assisting the search, told The Associated Press. “The story is no longer hidden. We’re putting the completion on this event.”
The violence happened on May 31 and June 1 in 1921, when a white mob attacked Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, killing an estimated 300 people and wounding 800 more while robbing and burning businesses, homes and churches.
“People, they were just robbed, white people coming in saying Black people had better property than they had and that that was just not right,” said Stubblefield, whose great-aunt Anna Walker Woods had her home burned and property taken. “Burning, thieving, killing wasn’t enough. They had to prevent Black people from recovering.
“Personally, professionally, spiritually I have an investment in this,” said Stubblefield, a Los Angeles native who said she is in her early 50s and learned of the massacre and her ancestor, who she doesn’t recall ever meeting, in the 1990s.
The two locations to be searched are in Oaklawn Cemetery in north Tulsa, where a search for remains of victims ended without success in July, and near the Greenwood District where the massacre took place.
The earlier excavation was done in an area identified by ground-penetrating radar scans as appearing to be a human-dug pit indicative of a mass grave. It turned out be a filled-in creek, said Mayor G.T. Bynum, who first proposed looking for victims of the violence in 2018 and later budgeted $100,000 to fund it after previous searches failed to find victims.
The massacre — which happened two years after what is known as the “Red Summer,” when hundreds of African Americans died at the hands of white mobs in violence around the U.S. —- has been depicted in recent HBO shows “Watchmen” and “Lovecraft County.”
It also received renewed attention after President Donald Trump selected Tulsa as the location for a June rally amid a national reckoning over police brutality and racial violence. Trump moved the date to avoid coinciding with a Juneteenth celebration in the Greenwood District commemorating the end of slavery.
Bynum, who is 43, said he didn’t learn of the massacre until about 20 years ago during the mayoral campaign of his uncle Bill LaFortune, and his grandparents confirmed the events.
“That’s a very common thing in Tulsa. That’s how you learned about it, not through books or the media or in school,” Bynum said. “People didn’t start talking about this event in Tulsa until about 20 years ago.”
Bodies, if discovered, will not be disturbed, Bynum said. The excavation would stop, and investigators would “do what they need to do to identify them and determine a cause of death,” Bynum said.
Efforts would also be made to find any descendants, a project that could prove difficult, according to Bynum.
“A hundred years after the fact, the descendants are scattered all around the world. Tracking down the descendants could take years,” Bynum said.
One site to be searched, known as the Original 18, is where old funeral home records indicate up to 18 Black people who were massacre victims were buried. The other site is where a man named Clyde Eddy said in the 1990s that, as a 10-year-old boy, he saw Black bodies being prepared for burial shortly after the massacre, but was told to leave the area.
Archaeologists have identified two additional possible sites, said state archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck, who is leading the investigation.
“We have multiple areas that we have identified as having merits for investigation,” based on the 2019 radar scans, Stackelbeck said. “We just have to ask for grace and patience” during the search.
The latest search is scheduled to last about a week, but could be extended, according to Stubblefield.
“I’m fully prepared to find human remains,” she said. “The questions are just whether they’re the remains we’re looking for.”

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Former Democratic power broker James A. Johnson dies at 76

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — James A. Johnson, a former Democratic campaign operative who was CEO of housing lender Fannie Mae in the 1990s and served as chairman of Walter Mondale’s presidential bid, died Sunday at his home in Washington. He was 76.
Johnson’s son, Alfred, confirmed that his father had died, telling The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal that the cause was complications from a neurological condition.
A native of Benson, Minnesota, and the son of a prominent state lawmaker, Johnson had a political, cultural and business resume that prompted Harold M. Ickes, President Bill Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, to dub him “the chairman of the universe.” Johnson chaired the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Brookings Institution think tank and Fannie Mae all at the same time.
Besides running Mondale’s failed run for the White House against Ronald Reagan in 1984, Johnson was a key player in the presidential campaigns of Eugene McCarthy, Edmund Muskie and George McGovern.
He turned his political savvy into business success. David O. Maxwell, former head of Fannie Mae, hired Johnson as vice chairman in 1990, after Johnson had helped the company hold off privatization efforts by the Reagan administration. Johnson was promoted to chairman and CEO the next year.
Johnson immediately set his sights on maintaining Fannie Mae’s lucrative government privileges and ensuring that new regulations were not overly burdensome. Johnson and his lobbyists helped fashion a 1992 law signed by President George H.W. Bush that aimed to reduce the chance of an expensive taxpayer bailout if Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had bad loans on their books.
It also opened up a new era of home ownership for families who were previously unable to get mortgage loans.
After retiring from Fannie Mae at the end of 1998, Johnson served on the boards of several companies, including UnitedHealth Group, KB Home and Target, and was vice chairman of the Washington private-equity firm Perseus. He had chaired the advisory council of the Stanford Center on Longevity since 2011.