Monthly Archives: June 2020

    (Reuters) – Top business executives in the United States are calling on the U.S. Congress to pass bipartisan policing reform before its August recess, in the wake of protests against police brutality and racial bias in the criminal justice system.

    “Congress cannot afford to let this moment pass,” Joshua Bolten, the president and chief executive of The Business Roundtable group, said in a statement on Wednesday.

    “There is room for bipartisan agreement on many critical issues of policing reform, but the issues will be resolved only in negotiations between the House and Senate,” the statement added.

    The development comes amid demonstrations against police brutality following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man killed after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while detaining him in Minneapolis.

    The group urged Congress to bring about more transparency and accountability in the reforms including establishing a ‘National Police Misconduct Registry’ to maintain disciplinary records of police officers.

    It also called for federal minimum standards for policing, including on use of lethal and non-lethal force, adding that training programs for the police should be made more robust.

     

      Stocks climbed broadly higher on Wall Street Monday, as the market clawed back more than a third of its losses from last week.

      The S&P 500 was up 1% in afternoon trading after a much healthier-than-expected report on the housing market shook the market from its wobbly start. European stocks had similar fluctuations before pushing higher. Treasury yields were mixed. Oil prices rose.

      The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 475 points, or 1.9%, to 25,490, while the Nasdaq composite was up 0.7%.

      Gains for Boeing and Apple in particular helped to lift Wall Street indexes. Boeing jumped 12.4% as its troubled 737 Max jet looks set to begin test flights soon, while Apple added 1.7% as customers keep buying its products regardless of whether they’re quarantined.

      Stocks of smaller companies also jumped more than the rest of the market, which often happens when investors are feeling more optimistic about the economy. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks was up 2.5% to recover nearly all of its loss from last week.

      They’re the latest choppy moves for markets around the world, which have been swinging back and forth in recent weeks. A rise in infections of the new coronavirus, including in the U.S. South and West, has dented the optimism that earlier sent the S&P 500 screaming nearly all the way back to the record it reached in February

      The worry is that the worsening levels could choke off the budding improvements the economy has shown recently as states and other governments ease up on lockdown orders, even with the Federal Reserve and other central banks pumping unprecedented amounts of aid into the economy.

      Florida and Texas put new restrictions on bars to slow the spread of the virus, for example, which helped drive the S&P 500 to a loss of 2.9% last week. Other government around the world are likewise backtracking on efforts to reopen their economies following widespread lockdowns that sent the global economy into a sudden, severe recession.

      To see how sharply the economy is swinging, consider Monday’s report on the housing market. It showed that the number of Americans signing contracts to buy homes rose a record 44.3% in May from a month earlier. That was more than double the 17% rise that economists were expecting. It was also a whiplash reversal from the record-breaking plunge of nearly 22% that came in April as the pandemic froze the housing market.

      The encouraging housing report is likely a sign of pent up demand, considering that spring is the key season for home sales and it was delayed mostly until summer, said Mark Litzerman, head of global portfolio management at Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

      “It is good to see that people are out there buying again,” he said. “The biggest thing is how quickly the consumer comes back and how do they come back.”

      The S&P 500 had been flipping between small gains and losses in the first hour of trading, down 0.3% at one point, before charging higher following the release of the housing report.

      The market’s gains were widespread, with industrial companies and raw-material producers jumping the highest. Homebuilders also helped lift the market. Hovnanian Enterprises surged 12.2%.

      Simon Property Group, an owner of shopping malls, has seen its shares rise and fall for months with expectations of whether people will be able to get closer to “normal” activity. It was up 8% for one of the largest gains in the S&P 500.

      Stocks of airlines, whose profits are also excruciatingly tied to a reopening economy, were also strong. Southwest Airlines gained 8.9%, American Airlines Group climbed 6.5% and Alaska Air Group added 6.3%.

      Facebook rose 1.2% after shaking off a loss earlier in the morning. It’s facing a defection of advertisers tired of the racist and violent posts spreading through the social network. Starbucks on Sunday joined the list of big companies saying it will pause its advertising on social media.

      Given all the uncertainty about the path for the economy and corporate profits, many professional investors say the only sure thing for markets is that upcoming movements will likely be volatile. The second quarter of the year is set to close out Tuesday, and the S&P 500 is on pace for a gain of more than 17%, which would be its best since late 1998. Of course, that follows the U.S. stock market’s loss of nearly 20% in the first quarter, which was its worst since the bottom of the 2008 financial crisis.

      The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.64% from 0.63% late Friday. It tends to move with investors’ expectations for the economy and inflation.

      Oil prices rose. Benchmark U.S. crude oil for August delivery was up 3.1% to $39.70 a barrel. Brent crude oil for August delivery rose 1.7% to $41.71 a barrel.

      In Europe, the French CAC 40 was up 0.7% after recovering from an earlier dip. Germany’s DAX returned 1.2%, and the FTSE 100 in London was up 1.1%. Many Asian markets finished with losses.

      ___

      AP Business Writer Elaine Kurtenbach contributed.

      LOS ANGELES (AP) — Colin Kaepernick is joining with Emmy-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay on a Netflix drama series about the teenage roots of the former NFL player’s activism.

      “Colin in Black & White” will examine Kaepernick’s high school years to illuminate the experiences that shaped his advocacy, Netflix said Monday.

      “Too often we see race and Black stories portrayed through a white lens,” Kaepernick said in a statement. “We seek to give new perspective to the differing realities that Black people face. We explore the racial conflicts I faced as an adopted Black man in a white community, during my high school years.

      Kaepernick, born to a white mother and Black father, was adopted in Wisconsin by a white couple who moved to California when he was a child.

      In 2016, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality, drawing both support and criticism, with his detractors including President Donald Trump. Kaepernick became a free agent in 2017 but went unsigned.

      Writing on the six-episode series was completed in May, the streaming service said. DuVernay, writer Michael Starrbury and Kaepernick are the executive producers. Kaepernick will appear as himself as the limited series’ narrator, Netflix said.

      Further casting details and a release date were not immediately announced.

      Kaepernick called it an honor to collaborate with DuVernay, whose credits include the award-winning “When They See Us,” which dramatized the Central Park Five case, and the Oscar-nominated documentary “13th.”

      “With his act of protest, Colin Kaepernick ignited a national conversation about race and justice with far-reaching consequences for football, culture and for him, personally,” DuVernay said in a statement. “Colin’s story has much to say about identity, sports and the enduring spirit of protest and resilience.”

      Kaepernick, who led the 49ers to the Super Bowl following the 2012 season, filed a grievance against the league in 2017, contending teams colluded to keep him out. The sides reached an undisclosed settlement in 2019.

      The 32-year-old Kaepernick still wants an opportunity to play. A workout in Atlanta last November that was organized by the NFL turned chaotic and resulted in no job offers.

      In the aftermath of nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized to players for not listening to them earlier and encouraged them to protest peacefully. Goodell says he’s encouraged teams to sign Kaepernick.

      “This young man is talented enough to play in the National Football League,” league executive Troy Vincent said recently.

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      More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

       

        HOUSTON (AP) — Health departments around the U.S. that are using contact tracers to contain coronavirus outbreaks are scrambling to bolster their ranks amid a surge of cases and resistance to cooperation from those infected or exposed.

        With too few trained contact tracers to handle soaring caseloads, one hard-hit Arizona county is relying on National Guard members to pitch in. In Louisiana, people who have tested positive typically wait more than two days to respond to health officials — giving the disease crucial time to spread. Many tracers are finding it hard to break through suspicion and apathy to convince people that compliance is crucial

        Contact tracing — tracking people who test positive and anyone they’ve come in contact with — was challenging even when stay-at-home orders were in place. Tracers say it’s exponentially more difficult now that many restaurants, bars and gyms are full, and people are gathering with family and friends.

        “People are probably letting their guard down a little … they think there is no longer a threat,” said Grand Traverse County, Michigan, Health Officer Wendy Hirschenberger, who was alerted by health officials in another part of the state that infected tourists had visited vineyards and bars in her area.

        Her health department was then able to urge local residents who had visited those businesses to self-quarantine.

        Hirschenberger was lucky she received that information — only made possible because the tourists had cooperated with contact tracers. But that’s often not the case.

        Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Friday that contact tracing simply isn’t working in the U.S.

        Some who test positive don’t cooperate because they don’t feel sick. Others refuse testing even after being exposed. Some never call back contact tracers. And still others simply object to sharing any information.

        Another new challenge: More young people are getting infected, and they’re less likely to feel sick or believe that they’re a danger to others.

        While older adults were more likely to be diagnosed with the virus early in the pandemic, figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the picture flipped almost as soon as states began reopening. Now, people 18 to 49 years old are most likely to be diagnosed.

        On Monday, the United States reported 38,800 newly confirmed infections, with the total surpassing 2.5 million, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. For a few days now, daily reported cases in the U.S. have broken the record set in April. That partially reflects increased testing.

        Some states were caught off guard by the surge and are trying to quickly bolster the number of contact tracers.

        “Right now we have an insufficient capacity to do the job we need to,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said recently, announcing he wanted to use federal coronavirus relief funds to increase the number of contact tracers to 900.

        Arkansas already has 200 doing the job, but infections have risen more than 230% and hospitalizations nearly 170% since Memorial Day. Businesses that had closed because of the virus were allowed to reopen in early May, and the state further eased its restrictions this month.

        In addition to needing more staff to handle rising case numbers, contact-tracing teams also must build trust with people who might be uneasy or scared, said Dr. Umair Shah, executive director for Harris County Public Health in Houston, where an outbreak threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

        That’s difficult to do if infected people don’t return calls.

        In Louisiana, only 59% of those who have tested positive since mid-May have responded to phone calls from contact tracers, according to the latest data from the state health department. Just one-third answered within the crucial first 24 hours after the test results. Tracers there get an answered phone call, on average, more than two days after receiving information about the positive test.

        Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, said COVID-19 spreads so fast that contact tracers need to get in touch with 75% of the potentially exposed people within 24 hours of their exposure to successfully combat the spread.

        “Is it as good as we would like? Well, obviously not,” said Dr. Jimmy Guidry, Louisiana’s state health officer. “It’s better than not having it.”

        Contact tracers around Utah’s capital of Salt Lake City have seen caseloads double and cooperation wane since the economy reopened, said health investigator Mackenzie Bray. One person who wasn’t answering calls told Bray they didn’t want to waste her time because they and their contacts weren’t high-risk — a dangerous assessment because the person might not know the health history of their contacts, Bray said.

        Getting people to act on tracers’ advice also is a challenge. In the Seattle area, only 21% of infected people say they went into isolation on the day they developed symptoms. People, on average, are going three days from the time they develop symptoms until they test, said Dr. Matt Golden, a University of Washington doctor who is leading case investigations for King County Public Health Department.

        Since people are infectious for two days before symptoms, that means many are spreading the virus for five days, he said.

        In hard-hit Maricopa County, Arizona, officials hired 82 people to bolster contact tracing, allowing them to reach 600 people a day, said Marcy Flanagan, executive director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

        But the daily average of confirmed infections has soared, to 1,800 a day from 200 in May, county figures show. That means the county must leave the rest of the cases to be handled by colleges, health agencies and the Arizona National Guard, Flanagan said.

        All of them must triage: Each infected person is asked in an automated text to fill out a survey to assess their risk level, and tracers only contact by phone those who appear to be high risk or work in settings that could trigger a dangerous outbreak, such as an assisted living facility.

        Contact tracing is key to avoiding worst-case outcomes, said Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and current president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, a nonprofit that works to prevent epidemics. But the explosion of U.S. cases has made it nearly impossible for even the most well-staffed health departments to keep up, he said.

        Contact tracing is “a tried and true public health function,” Frieden said. “If the health department calls, pick up the phone.”

        ___

        Webber reported from Fenton, Michigan, and McCombs from Salt Lake City. Associated Press journalists Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas; Carla K. Johnson in Seattle; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Terry Chea in San Francisco contributed.

         

          WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided Supreme Court on Monday struck down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics, reasserting a commitment to abortion rights over fierce opposition from dissenting conservative justices in the first big abortion case of the Trump era.

          Chief Justice John Roberts and his four more liberal colleagues ruled that the law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals violates abortion rights the court first announced in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

          The outcome is not the last word on the decades-long fight over abortion with dozens of state-imposed restrictions winding their way through the courts. But the decision was a surprising defeat for abortion opponents, who thought that a new conservative majority with two of President Donald Trump’s appointees on board would start chipping away at abortion access.

          The key vote belonged to Roberts, who had always voted against abortion rights before, including in a 2016 case in which the court struck down a Texas law that was virtually identical to the one in Louisiana.

          The chief justice explained that he continues to think the Texas case was wrongly decided, but believes it’s important for the court to stand by its prior decisions.

          “The result in this case is controlled by our decision four years ago invalidating a nearly identical Texas law,” Roberts wrote. He did not join the opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer for the other liberals in Monday’s decision, and his position left abortion-rights supporters more relieved than elated.

          The case was the third in two weeks in which Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee, joined the court’s liberals in the majority. One of the earlier decisions preserved the legal protections and work authorization for 650,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. The other extended federal employment-discrimination protections to LGBT Americans, a decision that Justice Neil Gorsuch also joined and wrote.

          In dissent on Monday, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “Today a majority of the Court perpetuates its ill-founded abortion jurisprudence by enjoining a perfectly legitimate state law and doing so without jurisdiction.”

          President Trump’s two appointees, Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were in dissent, along with Samuel Alito. The presence of the new justices is what fueled hopes among abortion opponents, and fears on the other side, that the Supreme Court would be more likely to uphold restrictions.

          The Trump administration had sided with Louisiana in urging the court to uphold the law. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany criticized the decision. “In an unfortunate ruling today, the Supreme Court devalued both the health of mothers and the lives of unborn children by gutting Louisiana’s policy that required all abortion procedures be performed by individuals with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital,” McEnany said.

          Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said Monday’s decision by no means ends the struggle over abortion rights in legislatures and the courts.

          “We’re relieved that the Louisiana law has been blocked today but we’re concerned about tomorrow. With this win, the clinics in Louisiana can stay open to serve the one million women of reproductive age in the state. But the Court’s decision could embolden states to pass even more restrictive laws when clarity is needed if abortion rights are to be protected,” Northup said.

          Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, said, “Today’s ruling is a bitter disappointment. It demonstrates once again the failure of the Supreme Court to allow the American people to protect the well-being of women from the tentacles of a brutal and profit-seeking abortion industry.

          A trial judge had said the law would not provide health benefits to women and would leave only one clinic open in Louisiana, in New Orleans. That would make it too hard for women to get abortions, in violation of the Constitution, the judge ruled.

          But the appeals court in New Orleans rejected the judge’s findings and upheld the law in 2018, doubting that any clinics would have to close and saying that doctors had not tried hard enough to establish relationships with local hospitals.

          The clinics filed an emergency appeal at the Supreme Court, asking that the law be blocked while the justices evaluated the case.

          Early last year, Roberts joined with the four liberal members of the court to grant that request and keep the law on hold.

          Roberts’ vote was a bit of a surprise because he voted in the Texas case to uphold the clinic restrictions. It may have reflected his new role since Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement as the court’s swing justice, his concern about the court being perceived as a partisan institution and his respect for a prior decision of the court, even one he disagreed with. Roberts didn’t write anything explaining his position at the time of the Texas case.

          The regulations at issue in Louisiana are distinct from other state laws making their way through court challenges that would ban abortions early in a pregnancy. Those include bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as 6 weeks, and the almost total ban passed in Alabama.

           

           

          By Dale Anderson

          Pedro “Pete” Salas, a retired counselor for the State Division for Youth who helped found an American Legion post, died June 16 in his home in Riverview, Fla., near Tampa, after a period of declining health. He was 71.

          Born in Moca, in northwestern Puerto Rico, he came to Buffalo’s West Side in the early 1950s with his parents, who operated a grocery store on Niagara Street opposite the Shoreline Apartments. He was a 1968 graduate of Grover Cleveland High School.

          He earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish in 1972 from the University at Buffalo, where he was a member of PODER, the Latino student organization, and had a scholarship to study in Spain.

          He met his wife, Ana Lopez, at a summer orientation session at UB. They were married in 1970.

          Mr. Salas was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War, served as a specialist in Germany and returned to continue working as an academic counselor in the Equal Opportunity Program at UB.

          He went on to be a supervisor at the Chevrolet plant on East Delavan Avenue and a die caster at Westinghouse before taking his position with the State Division for Youth. He retired in the late 1990s due to health problems and moved to Florida in 2002.

          Also known as Pello, Mr. Salas was one of several Latino veterans who founded the Gabriel A. Rodriguez Post 1928, American Legion, and served as its first commander. He also was active as a longtime member of the Francis A. Lombardo Post 1031, American Legion.

          An avid sports fan, he played in local Puerto Rican softball leagues and never missed a Buffalo Bills game.

          In addition to his wife, a former legislative assistant for the Buffalo Common Council and Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority staffer, survivors include a daughter, Mariana “Mimi”; two sons, Pedro Jose “P.J.” and Michael; a brother, Arturo, a retired Buffalo police captain; and three grandchildren.

           

          BANGKOK (AP) — Governments and businesses are ramping up precautions as coronavirus case numbers rise to dire new levels in parts of the U.S. and around the world, potentially wiping out two months of progress.

          Indonesia was expected to pass the 50,000 mark for confirmed infections on Thursday. In Melbourne, health workers planned to go door-to-door to test more than 100,000 residents in a coronavirus hot spot that threatens to undo the nation’s success in battling the virus.

          In the Indian capital of New Delhi, which has reported more than 70,000 cases, authorities said they would conduct house-to-house screening over the coming two weeks. With the city’s hospitals overwhelmed, military personnel were providing care at makeshift medical wards fashioned from railroad coaches

          India reported a record high 16,922 cases on Thursday, taking the national total to 473,105, with nearly 15,000 deaths.

          The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the continent’s cases have surged to more than 336,000, up by 10,000 from a day earlier. The Africa CDC chief said the pandemic on the 54-nation continent “is picking up speed very quickly” while shortages of testing materials and medical equipment remain severe in many countries.

          The actual numbers of cases everywhere, are thought to be far higher due to a number of reasons including limited testing.

          World financial markets were rattled by the setbacks in fighting the pandemic, which cloud prospects for recoveries of economies mired in their worst downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

          Asian shares fell Thursday after the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost over 700 points overnight for a drop of 2.7% and the broader S&P 500 fell 2.6%.

          In China, where the virus first appeared late last year, an outbreak in Beijing appeared to have been brought under control. China reporting 19 newly confirmed cases nationwide amid mass testing in the capital. Case numbers both nationally and in Beijing were up by only single digits from Wednesday.

          South Korea was still struggling to quell an outbreak there, reporting 28 new cases on Thursday, mostly associated with nightlife, churches, a huge e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door sales. But the numbers have not reached the hundreds of new cases every day in late February and early March.

          While some governments are considering more aggressive action to stem fresh outbreaks, in other places such precautions are being unwound.

          Skyscraper-studded Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, ended a monthslong nightly curfew, with the city-state’s media office saying in a tweet that there would be “free move all day & night” as long as people wore masks and maintained social distancing.

          European nations appeared on track to reopen their shared borders by July 1, and their EU representatives debated criteria for lifting restrictions on visitors from outside Europe. In Greece, aviation officials were visiting airports regional opens due to open to direct international flights on July 1.

          Americans are unlikely to be allowed into EU nations, given how the pandemic is flaring in the U.S. and President Donald Trump’s ban on Europeans entering the United States.

          American hospital administrators and health experts warned Wednesday that politicians and a public tired of being cooped up are letting a disaster unfold. The 34,700 COVID-19 cases reported Tuesday returned the U.S. to near its late April peak of 36,400 new cases in one day, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

          New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced their states, which were devastated by early outbreaks that appear to be under control, will require travelers from certain states to quarantine for 24 days upon arrival.

          The quarantine applies to people coming from states with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average, or with a 10% or higher positive rate over seven days.

          Several states have set single-day case records this week. They include Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma. Some also broke hospitalization records, as did North Carolina and South Carolina.

          The virus has been blamed for over 120,000 U.S. deaths — the highest toll in the world — and more than 2.3 million confirmed infections nationwide. On Wednesday, the widely cited University of Washington computer model of the outbreak projected nearly 180,000 deaths by Oct. 1.

          “People got complacent,” said Dr. Marc Boom, CEO of the Houston Methodist hospital system. “And it’s coming back and biting us, quite frankly.”

          Alarmed, some states are moving to ensure more consistent use of face masks and other anti-virus measures.

          North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, ordered people to wear masks in public as the daily count of hospitalizations and new cases hovered near records. In Florida, several counties and cities recently enacted mask requirements.

          Nevada’s governor announced the state will require use of face-coverings in public places to stem rising infections after casinos, restaurants and other businesses started reopening.

          Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious-disease expert at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, said he worries that states will squander what time they have to head off a much larger crisis.

          “We’re still talking about subtlety, still arguing whether or not we should wear masks, and still not understanding that a vaccine is not going to rescue us,” he said.

          Worldwide, over 9.4 million people have been confirmed infected, and nearly 500,000 have died, by Johns Hopkins’ count.

          Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief, said when countries will hit their peak numbers of infections hinges entirely on what people do.

          “There are no magic answers. There are no spells here. You can’t divine this away,” Ryan told reporters in Geneva. “We have to act at every level.”

          ___

          Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

           

          Safeguards are being put in place to check mail-in ballots

          BUFFALO, N.Y. — The pandemic has changed so much in our lives, and of course there is an impact as well on Tuesday’s primary election here in Western New York. There are some key points to keep in mind if you still plan to vote in person.

          Erie County Election Commissioner (D) Jeremy Zellner phrases it this way, “This is something like we’ve never seen before.” While his GOP counterpart Commissioner Ralph Mohr says, “This is the most difficult election we’ve ever had.”

          The two men preparing and overseeing Erie County’s primary election on Tuesday say they’ve tried to think of and plan for all the challenges of this very unusual round of balloting. They realize that most people have probably already chosen their candidate because of early voting and especially absentee, mail-in ballots.

          Over 200,000 absentee ballots were sent out to people who requested them online or with a mailed application. That option was opened by the state because many voters may not want to go to a polling place in person with COVID-19 concerns.

          The board of elections already received about half of those absentee ballots and more could come in Tuesday or later. Some were just mailed out by the board last week according to Zellner, “If anyone gets their ballot today (Monday) or if they get their ballot in the mail tomorrow…they’ve gotta postmark it by tomorrow ( Tuesday).”

          The next issue is making sure all those votes are only properly count once.

          “Open up the outer envelopes, make sure that the ballots and security envelopes are assigned to an individual and they’re also alphabetized,” Mohr said. “They all have to be checked to make sure that the person who cast that mail-in ballot also didn’t show up for early voting or also didn’t show up to vote at the polls tomorrow.”

          A duplicate ballot will of course be thrown out. So how confident are they there won’t be vote fraud with all the voting options?

          “We put additional safeguards in place throughout the entire process of the application and the receipt of the ballot,” Mohr said. “We haven’t seen any evidence of voter fraud. We continue to keep those same safeguards in check.

          “If you do vote in person on Tuesday it’s best to wear a mask. You can vote without one but you may have to wait for social distancing. Also take your own pen for safety sake. And it is a good idea to check the Erie County Board of Elections website before you go to check the information.

           

            WASHINGTON (Reuters) – New York state holds primary elections on Tuesday to determine the fate of progressive Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other U.S. House members, testing the strength of the Democratic Party’s left wing after moderate Joe Biden became the presumptive presidential nominee

            Ocasio-Cortez, the 30-year-old progressive firebrand better known as AOC, faces a challenge in her New York City district from former CNBC television anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, 44, backed by the conservative-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

            In Buffalo, former City Councilman and National United Way spokesman, Robert Quintana looks to make a comeback into politics as he challenges two others for a seat  in the State Assembly.

            Tuesday’s nominating contests in New York, Kentucky and four other states also feature progressives challenging older, establishment Democrats at a time of a national reckoning with racial injustice following the May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, while in Minneapolis police custody.

            In a congressional district neighboring Ocasio-Cortez’s, Jamaal Bowman, 44, a former teacher, is mounting a strong challenge to Representative Eliot Engel, a 31-year House veteran who chairs the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee.

            Progressive Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as well as Ocasio-Cortez have endorsed Bowman, while Democratic Party stalwarts, such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the party’s 2016 presidential nominee, have rallied around Engel.

            The progressive movement suffered setbacks at the national level earlier this year when former Vice President Joe Biden won the party’s race to take on President Donald Trump in November’s election, with dominant wins over Warren and Sanders in the state-by-state nominating contests.

            The left wing of the Democratic Party is now taking its battle to down-ballot primary races with new energy and purpose, bolstered by growing calls for ending racial injustice and inequality in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.

            House Democrats – progressives and moderates – are expected to band together later this week when they vote to pass sweeping legislation on police practices. But there appeared to be little support in Congress for calls to “defund” police departments, as some on the left sought.

            SPIRITED KENTUCKY CONTEST

            In Kentucky’s primaries, progressive Charles Booker, an African-American state legislator, is waging an unexpectedly spirited challenge to Amy McGrath, an ex-fighter pilot, in the race to become the Democratic candidate to face Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Nov. 3.

            Like Engel, McGrath is backed by the party establishment. But the recent Black Lives Matter protests have elevated the candidacy of Booker.

            Nowhere was that more apparent than when Warren, who supported McGrath in her failed bid for a U.S. House of Representatives seat in 2018 and initially in her Senate candidacy, switched allegiance to Booker.

            “Things are changing quickly here,” said Dewey Clayton, political scientist at the University of Louisville.

            In New York, the moderate-progressive competition is showcased in yet another primary race, where Representative Carolyn Maloney aims for a 15th two-year term in the House.

            The 74-year-old Maloney faces a challenge from the left by 36-year-old Suraj Patel, who worked in commercial real estate and as a campaign aide to former President Barack Obama.

            Patel failed in 2018 to unseat Maloney and is again running for Congress telling voters he is “trying to help change the world” with progressive vows such as “debt-free college.”

            Both New York and Kentucky have encouraged mail-in balloting as a safe alternative to in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic, prompting record numbers of absentee ballot requests.

            Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by John Whitesides; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Peter Cooney

             

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