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Florida Headlines

19-year-old seeks leniency in killing of Jacksonville K-9

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A 19-year-old man who fatally shot a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office K-9 named Fang two years ago faces up to 35 years in prison when a judge sentences him next week.
During a two-hour hearing on Monday, the defense attorney for Jhamel Malik Paskel asked Circuit Judge Gilbert Feltel Jr. for leniency, the Florida Times-Union reported.
Paskel offered an apology, saying he was standing before the court “as a man ready to take responsibility” for mistakes he made as a child.
“I would like to offer my apologies and condolences to Officer Herrera for not only the killing of his K-9 partner Fang, but his best friend,” Paskel said. “I want to apologize to the victims for scaring them that night. And I owe my mother the biggest apology for letting her down.”
Paskel pleaded guilty in December to killing the police dog named Fang, along with possession of a gun by a juvenile delinquent and aggravated fleeing, according to court records show. He also pleaded guilty to charges of the armed robbery and kidnapping of two women that preceded a high-speed chase and the dog’s death.
Officer Matt Herrera described a 120-mph chase down Interstate 10 and how he released the dog to stop Paskel when the young man ran away. Herrera said he heard his 3-year-old dog yelp after the first shot, before seeing Fang lifeless with head and chest wounds.
“He’s still a member of my family and it wasn’t just sad for me” or the department, the officer said. “It was my wife, kids and parents … to go back and see that empty kennel in the backyard and know that there is no dog there, and to see the bloodstains in the truck that I had to clean up after he was killed.”
Paskel’s mother told the judge about her son’s learning disabilities, drug problems and her continuing efforts to help him.
Assistant State Attorney L.E. Hutton played seven minutes of intense police radio traffic that included the shooting of Fang. Hutton said Paskel killed Fang “in cold blood.”
Paskel’s defense attorney argued for a 15-year sentence with probation to follow. But the plea agreement could give him 30 years for the robbery and kidnapping, and another five for the dog’s death. The agreement allows a court review at 20 years if Paskel has exhibited good behavior.
The judge said he will sentence Paskel on Oct. 28.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press.

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Florida Headlines

Number of COVID-19 cases ticking up in Miami-Dade schools

MIAMI (AP) — The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has risen to 90 among students and teachers in Miami-Dade County’s public schools since classrooms reopened for face-to-face learning, according to the district’s dashboard.
Some parents and teachers worry that the number is significantly higher, saying that the district has not been transparent enough about the severity of the issue as the school system enters the third week of brick-and-mortar classes, the Miami Herald reported.
“We’ve been kept in the dark,” Jennifer Desa, whose son attends Air Base K-8 Center in Homestead, told the newspaper. She said parents received robocalls from the school informing them of positive cases on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. But the school still wasn’t listed on the COVID-19 dashboard on Tuesday morning.
On Friday, the dashboard reported 29 staff members and 19 students had tested positive for the coronavirus since students returned to face-to-face learning the week of Oct. 5. By Tuesday morning the numbers had climbed to 54 employees and 36 students, according to the dashboard.
United Teachers of Dade, the districtís teachers union, tweeted its concerns on Monday, asking for answers from the school system.
“We need answers — When is the public health great enough to go back to MSO?” MSO is My School Online, the district’s online learning program.
Union president Karla Hernandez-Mats told the Herald they aren’t yet calling for schools to close, but would like for the district to be less opaque about the actual numbers. She also asked for a more cohesive plan as to what happens when schools have positive cases.
She pointed to MAST Academy, which had two cases last week and closed for a day for cleaning. Other schools with cases remained open without explanation.
“People should know what to expect, and people should know that X amount of cases means the school is closed down for deep cleaning,” Hernandez-Mats said.
The school district adds cases to the dashboard after they are confirmed by the Florida Department of Health.
In neighboring Broward County, where some students have returned over the past week to face-to-face learning, the COVID-19 dashboard is updated twice a week. The dashboard listed 9 staff and 11 students who have tested positive since Oct. 9. It also says there have been 61 cases at 46 sites over the past 30 days.
The two South Florida school districts were the last in the state to let students choose to return to classrooms.

 

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Florida Headlines

Justice Dept. files landmark antitrust case against Google

By MICHAEL BALSAMO and MARCY GORDON
Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department on Tuesday sued Google for antitrust violations, alleging that it abused its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and harm consumers.
The lawsuit marks the government’s most significant attempt to protect competition since its groundbreaking case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago. It could be an opening salvo ahead of other major government antitrust actions, given ongoing investigations of major tech companies including Apple, Amazon and Facebook at both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission.
“Google is the gateway to the internet and a search advertising behemoth,” U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen told reporters. “It has maintained its monopoly power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition.”
Antitrust cases in the technology industry have to move quickly, he said. Otherwise “we could lose the next wave of innovation.”
Lawmakers and consumer advocates have long accused Google, whose corporate parent Alphabet Inc. has a market value just over $1 trillion, of abusing its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and boost its profits. Critics contend that multibillion-dollar fines and mandated changes in Google’s practices imposed by European regulators in recent years weren’t severe enough and that structural changes are needed for Google to change its conduct.
The Justice Department isn’t seeking specific changes in Google’s structure or other remedies at this point, but isn’t ruling out seeking additional relief, officials said.
Google responded immediately via tweet: “Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.”
The case was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. It alleges that Google uses billions of dollars collected from advertisers to pay phone manufacturers to ensure Google is the default search engine on browsers. Eleven states, all with Republican attorneys general, joined the federal government in the lawsuit.
But several other states demurred. The attorneys general of New York, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee and Utah released a statement Monday saying they have not concluded their investigation into Google and would want to consolidate their case with the DOJ’s if they decided to file. “It’s a bipartisan statement,” said spokesman Fabien Levy of the New York State attorney general’s office. “There’s things that still need to be fleshed out, basically.”
President Donald Trump’s administration has long had Google in its sights. One of Trump’s top economic advisers said two years ago that the White House was considering whether Google searches should be subject to government regulation. Trump has often criticized Google, recycling unfounded claims by conservatives that the search giant is biased against conservatives and suppresses their viewpoints, interferes with U.S. elections and prefers working with the Chinese military over the Pentagon.
Rosen told reporters that allegations of anti-conservative bias are “a totally separate set of concerns” from the issue of competition.
Google controls about 90% of global web searches. The company has been bracing for the government’s action and is expected to fiercely oppose any attempt to force it to spin off its services into separate businesses.
The company, based in Mountain View, California, has long denied the claims of unfair competition. Google argues that although its businesses are large, they are useful and beneficial to consumers. It maintains that its services face ample competition and have unleashed innovations that help people manage their lives.
Most of Google’s services are offered for free in exchange for personal information that helps it sell its ads. Google insists that it holds no special power forcing people to use its free services or preventing them from going elsewhere.
A recent report from a House Judiciary subcommittee, following a year-long investigation into Big Tech’s market dominance, concluded that Google has monopoly power in the market for search. It said the company established its position in several markets through acquisition, snapping up successful technologies that other businesses had developed — buying an estimated 260 companies in 20 years.
The Democratic congressman who led that investigation called Tuesday’s action “long overdue” but said it’s important for the Justice Department to look beyond Google’s search business.
“It is critical that the Justice Department’s lawsuit focuses on Google’s monopolization of search and search advertising, while also targeting the anticompetitive business practices Google is using to leverage this monopoly into other areas, such as maps, browsers, video, and voice assistants,” Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island said in a statement.
The DOJ “filed the strongest suit they have,” said Columbia Law professor Tim Wu, who called it almost a carbon copy of the government’s 1998 lawsuit against Microsoft. He said via email that, for that reason, the DOJ has a decent chance of winning. “However, the likely remedies — i.e., knock it off, no more making Google the default — are not particularly likely to transform the broader tech ecosystem.”
Other advocates, however, said the Justice Department’s timing — it’s only two weeks to Election Day — smacked of politics. The government’s “narrow focus and alienation of the bipartisan state attorneys general is evidence of an unserious approach driven by politics and is likely to result in nothing more than a choreographed slap on the wrist for Google,” Alex Harman, a competition policy advocate at Public Citizen, said in a statement.
The argument for reining in Google has gathered force as the company stretched far beyond its 1998 roots as a search engine governed by the motto “Don’t Be Evil.” It’s since grown into a diversified goliath with online tentacles that scoop up personal data from billions of people via services ranging from search, video and maps to smartphone software. That data helps feed the advertising machine that has turned Google into a behemoth.
The company owns the leading web browser in Chrome, the world’s largest smartphone operating system in Android, the top video site in YouTube and the most popular digital mapping system. Some critics have singled out YouTube and Android as among Google businesses that should be considered for divestiture.
With only two weeks to Election Day, the Trump Justice Department is taking bold legal action against Google on an issue of rare bipartisan agreement. Republicans and Democrats have accelerated their criticism of Big Tech in recent months, although sometimes for different reasons. It’s unclear what the status of the government’s suit against Google would be if a Joe Biden administration were to take over next year.
The Justice Department sought support for its suit from states across the country that share concerns about Google’s conduct. A bipartisan coalition of 50 U.S. states and territories, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, announced a year ago they were investigating Google’s business practices, citing “potential monopolistic behavior.”
Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Texas joined the Justice Department lawsuit.
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AP Technology Writer Michael Liedtke contributed to this report from San Ramon, California.
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Follow Balsamo and Gordon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 and https://twitter.com/mgordonap.

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Florida Headlines

Officer faces discipline for wearing Trump mask in uniform

MIAMI (AP) — A Miami police officer is facing discipline after he was photographed wearing a mask promoting President Donald Trump inside an early voting site while wearing his uniform.
Miami-Dade County Democratic Chairman Steve Simeonidis tweeted Tuesday a photo of the officer, saying it was taken inside a polling place at the county government center. It shows the officer wearing a blue, white and red Trump 2020 mask containing a phrase with a curse word.
“This is city funded voter intimidation,” Simeonidis tweeted, calling for the officer’s suspension.
Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina issued a statement Tuesday saying, “This behavior is unacceptable, a violation of departmental policy, and is being addressed immediately.”
The police department declined immediate comment on what punishment the officer might face. It is unknown whether the officer was on duty.
The Miami police union did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

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Florida Headlines

Officials fired: Problems with 2nd birth at Florida jail

FORT LAUDERDALE (AP) — Two officials at a county jail in South Florida have been fired following problems surrounding a second birth at the facility in just over a year, authorities said Thursday.
The more recent Broward County jail birth took place Sept. 27, nearly three months after the state enacted the Tammy Jackson Healthy Pregnancies for Incarcerated Women law, the Sun Sentinel reported. The law puts safeguards in place preventing pregnant women being in restrictive or isolated cells during their detention. It was inspired by Jackson, who gave birth alone in a Broward County jail cell in April 2019.
Earlier last month, a 28-year-old pregnant woman was booked into the jail on a burglary charge. Nurses were able to attend to her in an infirmary cell, but Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes said the woman should have been kept in close monitoring by medical staff the entire length of her pregnancy or her incarceration.
Medical records show the woman was complaining about contractions and labor pains more than 12 hours before giving birth. While the records indicate she declined treatment, the woman told her attorneys that the jail personnel offered her prenatal vitamins and didn’t recognize the signs of labor until it was too late.
“She should have been taken to a hospital hours before she gave birth,” Weekes said. “Detention deputies didn’t call for nurses to come in until after her water broke, and by then it was too late to move her.”
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony announced the terminations of a colonel and a lieutenant colonel at the jail. The sheriff said a new acting colonel of the Department of Detention had been named.
“I conducted a review of the matter and determined that command level failures occurred,” Tony said in a statement, adding of those fired: “They grossly failed this agency and this inmate.”

 

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Florida Headlines

TV gives viewers a split-screen comparison of Trump, Biden

By DAVID BAUDER
AP Media Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Instead of the expected debate between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, television viewers were left Thursday with what ABC’s David Muir called “split-screen America.”
Biden participated in a 90-minute town hall from Philadelphia on ABC, while NBC News went ahead with its hourlong Trump session in Miami — despite protests from Hollywood stars and others who criticized the network for forcing viewers to choose because the two events were held at the same time.
Trump faced a crackling round of questioning from Savannah Guthrie of the “Today” show, who pressed him on his personal experience with COVID-19, his finances and his support of conspiracy theories.
In addition to her own sharp questioning, Guthrie would often follow up queries made by audience members to nail down a point.
She challenged Trump about some of the specific beliefs of the QAnon group, Trump supporters who believe he’s the man to save the country from “deep state” pedophiles. Trump said he didn’t know anything about them.
“I just told you,” Guthrie replied.
She also wondered why Trump would retweet a false theory by someone on the Internet that the United States didn’t really kill Osama bin Laden.
“You’re the president,” she said. “You’re not like somebody’s crazy uncle who can just retweet anything.”
That exchange led Mary Trump, the president’s niece who wrote a best-selling book this summer criticizing him, to tweet, “Actually …”
Guthrie’s performance sharply divided social media users between those who thought she was effective in confronting Trump and those who found her too combative.
“Has any media person ever challenged Biden like Savannah Guthrie is with Trump?” tweeted Fox News Channel host Laura Ingraham.
NBC News chief executive Cesar Conde said Thursday that NBC scheduled Trump out of fairness after Biden did a town hall at the same time last Thursday. That decision opened the network to sharp criticism — including a protest letter sent Thursday by more than 100 Hollywood creators and celebrities like Amy Schumer, Seth Rogen, Sterling K. Brown and Sarah Silverman.
NBC also said it reached out to ABC to ask that network to reschedule its Biden town hall so the two candidates wouldn’t compete for time, and ABC refused.
There were apparently still hard feelings, given that Muir twice mentioned a nameless “another network” holding a Trump town hall. The Biden session on ABC with George Stephanopoulos of “Good Morning America” was a more sedate affair.
“Has there ever been two more different presidential candidates than Trump or Biden?” asked The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler in a tweet.
At a rally in North Carolina on Thursday, Trump called NBC “the worst” and said he was being set up with the town hall. He has also made some preemptive strikes criticizing NBC News’ Kristen Welker, who is scheduled to moderate the second and last debate between Biden and Trump next week.
Thursday’s scheduled debate was canceled after Trump, while he was being treated for COVID-19, said he would not agree to an event where he and Biden appeared remotely.
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AP Television Writer Lynn Elber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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Florida Headlines

Avalanche of early votes is transforming the 2020 election

By NICHOLAS RICCARDI and ANGELIKI KASTANIS
Associated Press
More than 17 million Americans have already cast ballots in the 2020 election, a record-shattering avalanche of early votes driven both by Democratic enthusiasm and a pandemic that has transformed the way the nation votes.
The total represents 12% of all the votes cast in the 2016 presidential election, even as eight states are not yet reporting their totals and voters still have more than two weeks to cast ballots. Americans’ rush to vote is leading election experts to predict that a record 150 million votes may be cast and turnout rates could be higher than in any presidential election since 1908.
“It’s crazy,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist who has long tracked voting for his site ElectProject.org. McDonald’s analysis shows roughly 10 times as many people have voted compared with this point in 2016.
“We can be certain this will be a high-turnout election,” McDonald said.
So far the turnout has been lopsided, with Democrats outvoting Republicans by a 2-1 ratio in the 42 states included in The Associated Press count. Republicans have been bracing themselves for this early Democratic advantage for months, as they’ve watched President Donald Trump rail against mail-in ballots and raise unfounded worries about fraud. Polling, and now early voting, suggest the rhetoric has turned his party’s rank and file away from a method of voting that, traditionally, they dominated in the weeks before Election Day.
That gives Democrats a tactical advantage in the final stretch of the campaign. In many critical battleground states, Democrats have “banked” a chunk of their voters and can turn their time and money toward harder-to-find infrequent voters.
But it does not necessarily mean Democrats will lead in votes by the time ballots are counted. Both parties anticipate a swell of Republican votes on Election Day that could, in a matter of hours, dramatically shift the dynamic.
“The Republican numbers are going to pick up,” said John Couvillon, a GOP pollster who is tracking early voting. “The question is at what velocity, and when?”
Couvillon said Democrats can’t rest on their voting lead, but Republicans are themselves making a big gamble. A number of factors, from rising virus infections to the weather, can impact in-person turnout on Election Day. “If you’re putting all your faith into one day of voting, that’s really high risk,” Couvillon said.
That’s why, despite Trump’s rhetoric, his campaign and party are encouraging their own voters to cast ballots by mail or early and in-person. The campaign, which has been sending volunteers and staffers into the field for months despite the pandemic, touts a swell in voter registration in key swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania — a sharp reversal from the usual pattern as a presidential election looms.
But it’s had limited success in selling absentee voting. In key swing states, Republicans remain far less interested in voting by mail.
In Pennsylvania, more than three-quarters of the more than 437,000 ballots sent through the mail so far have been from Democrats. In Florida, half of all ballots sent through the mail so far have been from Democrats and less than a third of them from Republicans. Even in Colorado, a state where every voter is mailed a ballot and Republicans usually dominate the first week of voting, only 19% of ballots returned have been from Republicans.
“This is all encouraging, but three weeks is a lifetime,” Democratic data strategist Tom Bonier said of the early vote numbers. “We may be midway through the first quarter and Democrats have put a couple of points on the board.”
The massive amount of voting has occurred without any of the violent skirmishes at polling places that some activists and law enforcement officials feared. It has featured high-profile errors — 100,000 faulty mail ballots sent out in New York, 50,000 in Columbus, Ohio, and a vendor supplying that state and Pennsylvania blaming delays on sending ballots on overwhelming demand. But there’s little evidence of the mass disruption that some feared as election offices had to abruptly shift to deal with the influx of early voting.
But there have been extraordinary lines and hours-long wait times in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina as they’ve opened in-person early voting. The delays were largely a result of insufficient resources to handle the surge, something advocates contend is a form of voter suppression.
Republicans argue that these signs of enthusiasm are meaningless — Democratic early voters are people who would have voted anyway, they say. But an AP analysis of the early vote shows 8% of early voters had never cast a ballot before, and 13.8% had voted in half or fewer of previous elections for which they were eligible.
The data also show voters embracing mail voting, which health officials say is the safest way to avoid coronavirus infection while voting. Of the early voters, 82% cast ballots through the mail and 18% in person. Black voters cast 10% of the ballots cast, about the same as their share of the national electorate, according to the AP analysis of data from L2, a political data firm. That’s a sign that those voters, who have been less likely to vote by mail than white people and Latinos, have warmed to the method.
Mail ballots so far have skewed toward older voters, with half coming from voters over age 64. Traditionally, younger and minority voters send their mail ballots in closer to Election Day or vote in person.
The mail ballots already returned in several states dwarf the entire total in prior elections. In Wisconsin, more than five times as many mail ballots have been cast compared with the entire number in 2016. North Carolina has seen nearly triple the number so far.
In-person early voting began this week in several major states and also broke records, particularly in crowded, Democratic-leaning metropolitan areas. In Texas, Houston’s Harris County saw a record 125,000 ballots cast. In Georgia, hours-long lines threaded from election offices through much of the state’s urban areas.
Tunde Ezekiel, a 39-year-old lawyer and Democrat who voted early in Atlanta on Thursday, said he wanted to be certain he had a chance to oust Trump from office: “I don’t know what things are going to look like on Election Day. … And I didn’t want to take any chances.”
The obvious enthusiasm among Democrats has cheered party operatives, but they note that it’s hard to tell which way turnout will eventually fall. Republicans may be just as motivated, but saving themselves for Election Day.
“High turnout can benefit either side,” Bonier said. “It just depends.”
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Associated Press writers Kate Brumback in Atlanta and Pia Deshpande in Chicago contributed to this report.

Categories
Florida Headlines

3 men die, 1 injured at Florida motorcycle club shooting

ORLANDO (AP) — Three men died and one man was injured in an early Friday shooting sparked by a confrontation at a Florida warehouse used by a motorcycle club, officials said.
The Orange County Sheriff’s office says deputies are looking for suspects who may have fled the area in Orlando, but investigators are still not clear whether those who died or were injured fired a weapon themselves.
“There were multiple shots fired, there was possibly more than one shooter,” Orange County Sheriff John W. Mina told news reporters early Friday.
Mina said some witnesses have spoken to investigators and given some details about the confrontation that led to the shooting.
“The only thing that we have learned so far is that there was an argument, confrontation over someone’s motorcycle, maybe a disagreement about something.” Mina said.
Mina said the man who is recovering at the hospital has not been cooperating with authorities.

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Florida Headlines

After independent coronavirus test, NBC sets Trump town hall

By DAVID BAUDER
AP Media Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — NBC News agreed to put President Donald Trump before voters in a town hall event on Thursday after the president submitted to an independent coronavirus test with the results reviewed by Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The announcement Wednesday sets up dueling town halls with Democratic opponent Joe Biden on a night the two candidates were supposed to meet for their second debate. Biden is appearing on a similar town hall event in Philadelphia, televised by ABC.
It also subjected NBC News to a sharp backlash on social media, where a call to boycott the network was a trending topic on Twitter.
NBC said Trump would be at least 12 feet (3.66 meters) from moderator Savannah Guthrie and the audience.
Trump, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 2 and spent three days at the Walter Reed military hospital, took a coronavirus test Tuesday administered by the National Institutes of Health, NBC said.
Both NIH clinical director Dr. Clifford Lane and Fauci reviewed Trump’s medical records and said they had a high degree of confidence that the president is “is not shedding infectious virus.”
Trump’s ability to reach a national television audience on Thursday was in part dependent on Fauci, who had expressed anger at the Trump campaign in recent days for using one of his statements in a campaign ad. The coronavirus task force member said a quote used in the campaign ad was taken out of context.
A formal matchup between the Republican president and Biden that was scheduled for Thursday in Miami by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debate was canceled. In light of the president’s infection, the commission shifted the format to a virtual meeting, and Trump declined to participate.
Both town halls will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern, but Biden will have the last word. The ABC event, moderated by George Stephanopoulos, will last 90 minutes with an additional half hour of analysis. Trump’s town hall on NBC is scheduled for an hour.
Critics of NBC questioned why the network scheduled Trump for the same time, making viewers have to choose if they were interested in seeing both candidates react live in a similar format.
Veteran journalist Jeff Greenfield called it “indefensible” in a Twitter post.
“They rewarded Trump by giving him this time,” Greenfield said in an interview.
He questioned whether NBC acceded to a demand by the president, but the network said in a statement that “the Trump campaign did not dictate or request the time slot nor express any preference.”
NBC considered it important that Trump be given the same format, day of the week and length of time that Biden had last week — although he will have a different moderator. Lester Holt hosted the Biden event.
In addition to preventing viewers from getting a side-by-side comparison of the two men, the dueling events will likely be seen by far fewer people.
The first debate between the two men last month was watched by an estimated 73.1 million people, the Nielsen company said.
An estimated 6.7 million people saw Biden at an NBC News-sponsored town hall last week. Like the Trump event on Thursday will be, it was simulcast on MSNBC, CNBC and streamed online.
Trump’s town hall with Stephanopoulos on Sept. 15 was seen by 3.8 million people, Nielsen said.
Thursday’s Trump town hall on NBC will be held outdoors at the Perez Art Museum in Miami. Audience members will be socially distanced, required to wear a mask and submit to a temperature check before entering the venue, NBC said.

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Florida Headlines

Bloomberg gives $500,000 to spur Dem turnout in Miami-Dade

By BRIAN SLODYSKO
Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Billionaire former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg is donating $500,000 to juice Democratic turnout in Miami-Dade County, a place where the party must bank a massive number of votes if it hopes to win the pivotal swing state of Florida.
The donation, the largest ever made to the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party, could not only lift Joe Biden’s chances of winning the state, which would all but eliminate President Donald Trump’s path to a second term. The effort to increase turnout also could improve the fortunes of Daniella Levine Cava, the Democratic candidate for mayor of the county, whose victory could have statewide and national implications that transcend the local nature of the office.
Though Miami-Dade County is a Democratic stronghold, Republicans have controlled the office for 16 years, which has allowed them to exert considerable sway over the way local elections are conducted. And in a state that is typically decided on razor-thin margins, changes that make it easier for Democrats to turn out their voters could have a ripple effect on future statewide races, as well as on the presidential election in 2024.
“Having a strong mayor who is a registered Democrat for the first time in 16 years with Florida as a continuing political landscape is a big deal,” said Christian Ulvert, a Democratic consultant who is advising both Levine Cava and Biden’s Florida campaign.
This year, under the leadership of Carlos Gimenez, the county’s term-limited mayor who is now running as a pro-Trump Republican for Congress, Miami-Dade limited the number of ballot drop box locations, denied a plan by the Miami Heat basketball team to turn its arena into an early voting site and sent out mail-in ballots later than was allowed under state law. Democrats contend those efforts have suppressed turnout in the deep blue county.
Levine Cava’s campaign has courted national Democratic donors, pitching the national significance of the countywide race. She has raised over $6 million so far for her campaign and related political committee, disclosures show.
It’s a similar argument that Democrats who support legislative candidates have made as they try to convince donors to give: Though these campaigns may not have the same glimmer as a Senate or presidential race, they are cheaper and offer a considerable strategic upside.
“It is unquantifiably important to be investing in these state and local races because Republicans have for 30 or 40 years and have done so because they understand that these offices control the levers of power,” said Amanda Littman, a Democratic strategist who leads Run for Something, which supports down-ballot candidates. “Republicans understand this really, really well and have spent hundreds of millions of dollars winning them.”
Though Bloomberg is not donating directly to Levine Cava’s campaign, his $500,000 contribution to the Miami-Dade County Democratic Executive Committee will undoubtedly help. Other major contributors supporting Levine Cava include Democratic megadonor Donald Sussman, who has given over $1 million.
The money will be used to register Miami-Dade voters, knock on doors and contact voters via a phone bank.
In a statement, Bloomberg highlighted the importance of Miami-Dade County.
“As one of the most diverse counties in Florida, Miami-Dade County is a particularly important county for a Democratic victory in Florida,” he said. “I’m glad to support the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee’s work to directly reach voters and urge them to cast their ballots.”