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State leaders facing 2nd wave resist steps to curb virus

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Even as a new surge of coronavirus infections sweeps the U.S., officials in many hard-hit states are resisting taking stronger action to slow the spread, with pleas from health experts running up against political calculation and public fatigue.

Days before a presidential election that has spotlighted President Donald Trump's scattershot response to the pandemic, the virus continued its resurgence Friday, with total confirmed cases in the U.S. surpassing 9 million.

The number of new infections reported daily is on the rise in 47 states. They include Nebraska and South Dakota, where the number of new cases topped previous highs for each state.

The record increases in new cases have eclipsed the spikes that set off national alarms last spring and summer. During those outbreaks, first in the Northeast and then in Sun Belt states, many governors closed schools and businesses and restricted public gatherings.

But this fall's resurgence of the virus, despite being far more widespread, has brought a decidedly more limited response in many states. Most are led by Republican governors backing a president who insists, falsely, that the country is getting the virus under control.

Trump pitches 'back to normal' as Biden warns of tough days

WATERFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — President Donald Trump dangled a promise to get a weary, fearful nation “back to normal” on Friday as he looked to campaign past the political damage of the devastating pandemic. It was a tantalizingly rosy pitch in sharp contrast to Democratic rival Joe Biden, who pledged to level with America about tough days still ahead after Tuesday’s election.

In a campaign that has been dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 229,000 Americans and staggered the economy, the candidates’ clashing overtures stood as a reflection of their leadership styles and policy prescriptions for a suffering U.S.A.

Trump and Biden both spent Friday crisscrossing the Midwest, the hardest-hit part of the nation in the latest surge of virus cases. Trump was in Michigan and Biden in Iowa before they both held events in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

With four days until the election and more than 86 million votes already cast, time is running out for Trump and Biden to change the contours of a race framed largely around the incumbent’s handling of the pandemic. Biden is leading most national polls and has a narrow advantage in many of the critical battlegrounds that could decide the race.

Trump, billing himself as an optimist, says the nation has “turned the corner” from the outbreak that still kills about 1,000 Americans each day. He speaks hopefully of coming treatments and potential vaccines that have yet to receive approval. Biden dismisses Trump’s talk as a siren song that can only prolong the virus, and pledges a nationwide focus on reinstituting measures meant to slow the spread of the disease.

Who is voting? Who is winning? Early vote only offers clues

As early voting breaks records across the U.S., political analysts and campaigns are reviewing reams of data on the voters, looking for clues to key questions: Who is voting? And who is winning?

On one level, the answers can be simple. Registered Democrats are outpacing registered Republicans significantly — by 14 percentage points — in states that are reporting voters' party affiliation, according to an Associated Press analysis of the early vote.

But that doesn't tell the whole story. Many Americans’ choices don’t align with their party registration. Meanwhile, polls show Republicans have heeded President Donald Trump's baseless warnings about mail voting, and large numbers intend to vote on Election Day. That means the early Democratic surge could give way to a Republican surge on Tuesday.

The picture is further clouded by the unprecedented nature of how Americans are voting. While Democrats are hungry for signs that key parts of their coalition — young voters, Black voters, new voters — are engaged, comparisons to 2016 are difficult.

Here's a closer look at what we know — and don't know — about early voters:

Voting, virus, race are hot topics in state high court races

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court isn't the nation's only judicial battleground.

The high courts in a number of states are on the ballot Tuesday in races that will determine whether Republicans or Democrats have a majority, and the stakes are high for both sides. This year alone, state supreme courts have been thrust into the spotlight to decide politically charged cases over voting rights, race and governors' coronavirus orders.

Next year, it could be abortion, health care and redistricting.

Among the most hotly contested races are the ones for two high court seats in Michigan, where a Republican-leaning majority has undercut emergency virus restrictions by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Whitmer has been openly feuding with the justices after a 4-3 partisan vote in early October that invalidated her emergency health orders.

As Trump faces uncertain future, so do his signature rallies

LITITZ, Pennsylvania (AP) — They began to arrive more than 40 hours before President Donald Trump took the stage in this stretch of rural Pennsylvania where horse-drawn buggies remain a common sight. By 10 p.m., a small group had set up an overnight camp on lawn chairs as a cold drizzle set in.

“I am the crazy Trumper,” declared Kyle Terry, 33. He had been the first to arrive at the IMAX parking lot — at 8 p.m. Saturday for a Monday afternoon rally, his fifth of the fall. “I love it. I’ve been having the most fun of my life. And I really just don’t want this to stop."

As President Donald Trump faces an uncertain future, so too does a fixture of the American political scene over the last five years: the Trump campaign rally, a phenomenon that has spawned friendships, businesses and a way of life for Trump’s most dedicated supporters. His fans have traveled the country to be part of what they describe as a movement that could outlive his time in office.

Some have attended so many rallies they've lost count, road-tripping from arena to arena like rock groupies. They come for the energy, the validation of being surrounded by like-minded people, the feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves. Sociologists and historians see elements of a religious following.

They are people like Cynthia Reidler, 55, who has been a Trump supporter since he announced his candidacy. She has been to nearly 20 Trump events, from rallies to Fourth of July celebrations on the National Mall.

Illinois authorities extradite Kyle Rittenhouse to Wisconsin

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) — A 17-year-old from Illinois accused of killing two demonstrators in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has been extradited to stand trial on homicide charges, with sheriff’s deputies in Illinois handing him over to their counterparts in Wisconsin shortly after a judge on Friday approved the contested extradition.

In his afternoon ruling that rejected Kyle Rittenhouse’s bid to remain in Illinois, Judge Paul Novak noted that defense attorneys had characterized the Wisconsin charges as politically motivated.

“This Illinois court shall not examine any potential political impact a Wisconsin District Attorney potentially considered in his charging decision,” Novak’s six-page ruling said. He added that it is not for an Illinois judge to “reevaluate probable cause determined by a Wisconsin court.”

Immediately after Novak issued the ruling at the courthouse in Waukegan, Illinois, deputies with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office picked up Rittenhouse and drove him five miles (eight kilometers) to the Illinois-Wisconsin border, sheriff’s office spokesman Christopher Covelli told The Associated Press. Rittenhouse was then turned over to Kenosha County sheriff deputies at the state line at around 3:45 p.m., Covelli said.

The ruling and speedy transfer came several hours after a hearing Friday morning in which Judge Novak heard arguments for and against extradition.

AP: Use of slurs not 'isolated' at Louisiana State Police

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Black trooper with the Louisiana State Police was on a break when his cellphone buzzed with an unusual voice message. It was from a white colleague, unaware his Apple Watch had recorded him, blurting out the Black trooper’s name followed by a searing racial slur.

“F----- n----, what did you expect?”

That unguarded moment, sent in a pocket-dial of sorts, touched off an internal investigation at Louisiana’s premier law-enforcement agency that remained under wraps for three years before a local television station reported last month that the white trooper had not even been reprimanded for the racist recording.

“I believe this to be an isolated incident and I have great confidence in the men and women who serve in the Louisiana State Police,” the agency’s outgoing head, Col. Kevin Reeves, said in response to the controversy.

But an Associated Press review of hundreds of State Police records revealed at least a dozen more instances over a three-year period in which employees forwarded racist emails on their official accounts with subject lines like “PROUD TO BE WHITE,” or demeaned minority colleagues with names including “Hershey’s Kiss,” “Django” and “Egg Roll.”

Armenia, Azerbaijan vow to avoid targeting residential areas

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Armenia and Azerbaijan promised Friday to avoid shelling residential areas amid the fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, a pledge that follows a day of talks in Geneva even as Azerbaijani troops pushed deeper into the separatist territory.

The two sides agreed they “will not deliberately target civilian populations or non-military objects in accordance with international humanitarian law." They also promised to help recover and exchange the remains of soldiers left on the battlefield and in a week's time submit lists of prisoners of war for the purpose of “providing access and eventual exchange.”

The talks between foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan were sponsored by the so-called Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is co-chaired by Russia, the United States and France. The co-chairs said in a statement issued after the talks that Armenia and Azerbaijan also promised to offer their proposals regarding possible cease-fire verification mechanisms.

Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. The latest outburst of hostilities began Sept. 27 and left hundreds and perhaps thousands dead, marking the worst escalation of fighting since the war’s end.

A U.S.-brokered truce frayed immediately after it took effect Monday, just like two previous cease-fires negotiated by Russia. The warring sides have repeatedly blamed each other for violations.

NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn't happen this week

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:

Biden tax plan would not raise taxes on majority of Americans

CLAIM: By reversing President Donald Trump’s tax cuts, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would raise taxes on 82% of Americans.

THE FACTS: A popular but false post on Facebook claims, “By reversing the tax cuts @realDonaldTrump signed into law, Joe Biden would raise taxes on 82% of Americans.” The quote is attributed to Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, who made similar inaccurate claims at the party's convention in August. In fact, Biden says he won’t raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000, which translates to a small portion of American households. “If you’re looking only at individual income taxes and payroll taxes, we find that about 2 percent of all families would see their taxes go up directly under the Biden plan — almost all of them in the top 5 percent by income,” John Ricco, a senior tax analyst at the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Wharton Budget Model, told The Associated Press in an email. Biden has also proposed repealing part of Trump’s corporate tax break. Trump lowered that tax rate from 35% to 21%, and Biden has proposed raising it to 28%. The false social media posts about Biden raising taxes on 82% of Americans appear to misstate the Penn Wharton Budget Model's analysis of how a corporate tax increase will impact the country. Ricco said the model predicts that 82% of families will be affected long-term by an increase in corporate taxes, but not because their individual taxes would go up. “Instead of seeing their taxes go up directly, those additional families are paying the corporate tax hikes in the form of lower investment returns or lower wages over time,” Ricco wrote. For the bottom 90% of American households in terms of income, the Penn Wharton Budget Model predicts the passed down costs of the corporate tax increase in the future would average between $25 and $690, depending on income. But for those same households, the model found that tax credits proposed in Biden’s plan would more than offset those costs on average.

Sans gala or red carpet, a stylish fashion show at the Met

NEW YORK (AP) — The annual hoopla around the celebrity-studded Met Gala is so intense, it's often forgotten who the real star is: the fashion exhibit inside.

This year, it's the only star. A stylish Costume Institute show at the Metropolitan Museum has opened, six months behind schedule. But what’s six months when you’re covering 150 years of fashion?

And that’s the point, in more ways than one, of “About Time: Fashion & Duration,” which explores the concept of fashion through time. Time is a flexible concept, it argues. It is not linear, at least not where fashion is concerned. Ideas revisit themselves through the decades, even the centuries.

That was the central concept even before the exhibit, traditionally launched by the Met Gala in May, was waylaid by the pandemic — which changed everything, including our concept of time. (How many times have you heard someone ask what day or month it is?)

So the fact that “About Time” was able to open at all is cause for celebration. As the Met’s director, Max Hollein, said in opening remarks: “We could not imagine, when we chose the name for this exhibition more than a year ago, how apt the title would become.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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