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Biden accuses Trump of trying to wish away Covid ahead of Wisconsin rally – as it happened

Amid a pandemic-induced economic meltdown that has seen thousands of businesses closed and millions put out of work, one industry in California appears to be booming: gun sales.

A study by the UC Davis violence prevention research program estimates that 110,000 Californians have purchased a firearm since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. And for almost half of them – 47,000 – it was the first time they had bought a weapon.

The lead researcher of the study, assistant professor Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz, said while previous spikes in firearms sales could be linked at least partially to actual rising levels of violent crime, the coronavirus “surge” is related more to apprehension.

The UC Davis team found that respondents’ concerns about violence happening to them significantly increased during the pandemic compared with before, including robbery, assault, homicide, police violence, suicide and unintentional firearm injury. Significantly, the fears did not extend to mass shootings.

“Our findings add support to public health-oriented strategies designed to address the enduring psychological trauma associated with direct and indirect exposure to violence, as well as the underlying social and structural factors that contribute to violence-related harms,” Kravitz-Wirtz said.

“We wanted to capture individuals’ lived experiences of violence in the context of the pandemic, along with information on pandemic-induced firearm acquisition.”

Another finding was that “more than one in 10 respondents, representing an estimated four million California adults, were concerned that someone they know might physically harm themselves on purpose.”

For many, Kravitz-Wirtz noted, the concern was because the person they were worried about had suffered a major loss due to the pandemic, such as losing a loved one, their job or housing.

The California study mirrored a national study that tracked rising levels of gun crime and firearms sales through the early months of the pandemic.

Tensions are rising between Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis, a keen Donald Trump ally, and elections supervisors, two days before early in-person voting begins in the crucial swing state.

Brad McVay, general counsel for Florida’s department of state, emailed supervisors of elections in all 67 counties this week informing them of a requirement that all ballot drop-off boxes must be attended at all times by elections staff or an armed guard, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

While burdensome, McVay says the in-person measures are necessary to ensure the drop boxes are protected “from those who intend to do harm to the boxes (or the contents within them).”

He warns: “A person onsite can prevent foreign substances or small incendiary devices (like firecrackers) from being thrown into the drop box; video monitoring cannot do the same.”

But the supervisors’ representative body, the Florida Supervisors of Elections association, has effectively told them to ignore the directive, advising that no state law, statute or regulation compels them to comply.

Vote by mail ballot drop box

A vote by mail ballot drop box at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill, Florida. Photograph: Larry Marano/REX/Shutterstock

“Drop boxes that are at the main office, a branch office or early voting site are required to be secure, but I don’t see that there is any staffing requirement or hours of operation related to those drop boxes [in state law]” the association’s general counsel Ron Labasky wrote in his own memo.

“There is no definition of secure, so in my view that is within the discretion of the supervisor.”

In South Florida’s three most populous counties, the Sun-Sentinel reports, Palm Beach has four drop boxes that are monitored by 24-hour video surveillance, Broward County has two, and Miami-Dade has only daytime drop off facilities at 33 early-voting locations that will be guarded from Monday.

Florida is notorious for post-election finger pointing and lawsuits, and this latest wrangle sets the stage for another contentious and controversial voting season.

Already this year, DeSantis and the Republicans in control of the state legislature have successfully nullified a voter-approved ballot initiative from 2018 that would have restored voting rights to hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised former felons.

Almost 2.5m mail-in votes, a record for this stage of an election cycle, have already been submitted in Florida, with Democrats holding a sizable advantage. Trump needs Republican voters to turn out in person in massive numbers to capture the state and its 29 electoral college votes, which most analysts say the president must win to secure a second term.

Thousands of travelers have already taken advantage of Hawaii’s new testing program that allows visitors to bypass the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine if they test negative for Covid-19 at least 72 hours before their arrival.

On Thursday, the program’s first day, about 8,300 passengers came through the state’s local airports. Over the last few months, about 100 visitors a day arrived in the islands.

Since March, travelers looking to experience their dream Hawaiian getaway were looking at a 14-day quarantine once they touched down in the Hawaiian islands. By July, nearly 200 people were arrested for breaking quarantine, which required people to shelter-in-place as soon as they left the airport. As a result, the number of visitors crashed down from nearly 862,572 in January to 22,344 visitors in August, bringing down with it the state’s economy that relied on the $17-billion tourism industry.

Hawaii is just coming down from an influx of cases of Covid-19 that it saw in the summer. At its peak in August, the average number of new cases a day was 250. Recently, the number has climbed down to around 90 cases per day. Since the number of visitors flying into the islands was so low, community transmission played a major role in the spread of the virus.

Some have spoken out about the program leading to increased cases if travelers end up contracting the virus before they arrive in the islands and after they take a test. But local leaders are generally enthusiastic about the program, particularly its potential to get the state’s economy rolling again after a months-long halt. The state had a 12.5% unemployment rate in August, the fourth highest of any state, down from its peak of 13.9% in June.

More than 68,000 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the US on Friday, the highest number in a single day since July, further confirmation the country is in the midst of a coronavirus resurgence.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project, the last time the US saw close to 68,000 new cases in a day was 31 July, when a summer peak was starting to recede.

“You can’t enter into the cool months of the fall and the cold months of the winter with a high community infection baseline,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, on Friday, while discussing the difficulties the virus will present in the coming weeks.

Fauci has said repeatedly that the US is still in its first wave of coronavirus, pointing out that case numbers have not dipped to a low enough point to constitute an end to that first phase. On Friday, the US hit a global record of total cases, 8 million since March, with a death toll close to 220,000.

Black voters in North Carolina are disproportionately having their mail-in ballots flagged for potential rejection in the battleground state, setting off alarms about disenfranchisement.

North Carolina requires mail-in voters to get a witness for their ballots and at least 7,000 mail-in ballots have been flagged across the state because of a deficiency, according to data collected by Michael Bitzer, a professor at Catawba College who closely tracks voting data in the state. As of Wednesday, 40% of rejected ballots – 2,871 – were from Black voters, even though they comprised only 16% of the overall ballots returned. (A spokesman for the state board of elections cautioned some of the data may be outdated because local election offices have not been entering rejection data into the statewide system while legal challenges are pending.)

Postal voting will play a huge part in this year’s election

Postal voting will play a huge part in this year’s election. Photograph: Lynne Sladky/AP

The Rev Anthony Spearman, the head of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, attributed the higher rate at which Black voters’ ballots were being flagged to the fact that African Americans traditionally have not widely voted by mail in the state, instead opting for in-person voting. Many voters are getting tripped up by the state’s requirement that mail-in voters get a witness to sign their absentee ballot, he said.

“The African American community, many of them for the first time, are utilizing absentee ballots and have not been cultivated to the practices thereof. There is a level of them being not aware of the process and how it goes and so they’re not filling out their forms correctly,” he said.

Just 3% of the Black voters whose ballots were flagged for rejection voted by mail in 2016, according to data collected by Bitzer.

“Voting by mail is very different than voting in person,” Bitzer said. “Until I’m presented otherwise I have to think lack of familiarity with the vote method process is probably what is hanging up so much of these ballots.”

The North Carolina data underscores the conundrum Democrats are facing this year as they encourage supporters to cast their votes by mail amid concerns about Covid-19. A mail vote is more likely to be rejected than an in-person one and research has shown that first-time voters and minorities are all much more likely to have their ballots rejected.

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In 1994, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware stood proudly behind Bill Clinton as he signed into law a reform bill that touched nearly every aspect of the US criminal justice system.

More than 25 years later, amid national protests against racial injustice in law enforcement, the Democratic presidential nominee is grappling anew with the implications of legislation he helped author and which experts say opened the door to an era of mass incarceration that devastated African American communities.

At a town hall in Philadelphia on Thursday night, Biden was asked by a voter about the legacy of the 1994 bill, which she said included “prejudice against minorities”, and what his view of the legislation was now.

Biden sought to defend the bill as a product of a different era, while arguing that elements of it were wrongly implemented.

Pressed by the moderator, George Stephanopoulos, to say if his support for the bill had been a mistake, Biden replied: “Yes, it was.

“But here’s where the mistake came,” he said. “The mistake came in terms of what the states did locally.”

In an eight-minute response, Biden said the bill passed with the support of the Congressional Black Caucus and Black mayors around the country. He noted that it contained the landmark Violence Against Women Act and an assault weapons ban.

Conditions were different now, he said, as activists demand an overhaul of policing and incarceration policies in response to police killings of Black Americans.

“Things have changed drastically,” Biden said.

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Read the original article at The Guardian

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