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21 million Americans have voted early: US election live updates



  • Early voting expands across the US, almost 20 million have already voted.
  • Donald Trump is to speak to seniors in Florida before heading to Georgia today.
  • Joe Biden focuses on healthcare at campaign events in Michigan.
  • Biden’s campaign outraised Trump’s by $135m in September.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the United States elections. This is Steve Chaggaris and Jihan Abdalla.

Friday, October 16:

10:00 ET – It has been one year since Trump and Pelosi have spoken

An emblem of political polarisation in Washington: Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have not spoken directly since October 16, 2019, exactly one year ago.

On that date, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders walked out of a meeting at the White House about Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. As tensions rose, Trump called Pelosi a “third-rate politician” and shortly thereafter, the Democratic leaders left the meeting.

Pelosi this week said any negotiations she has with the White House are through Trump’s intermediaries, not with Trump himself.

09:45 ET – White House was warned Russia targeted Giuliani as misinformation messenger: Report

The Washington Post is reporting the White House was warned last year that Trump’s lawyer and adviser, Rudy Giuliani, was the target of a Russian intelligence disinformation operation.

The warnings led National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien to alert Trump that any information Giuliani brought back from his trips to Ukraine – including information about Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s business dealings – should be considered as having Russia’s fingerprints on it. Trump reportedly “shrugged his shoulders” and dismissed the concerns.

Giuliani is reportedly one of the sources of a disputed New York Post report that was published this week about Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine.

Trump reportedly was warned about info Rudy Giuliani gathered in Ukraine [File: Sarah Silbiger/Reuters]

09:30 ET – Biden significantly outraises Trump in September

Joe Biden and the Democrats have announced their record-breaking September fundraising haul: $383m, and it was suspected this would put him far ahead of Trump’s campaign. Now we know how much further ahead Biden is.

Trump’s campaign and Republicans raised $247.5m in September and ended the month with $251.4m cash on hand. Biden’s campaign announced having $432m in the bank as of September 30.

The campaigns will have one final pre-election fundraising disclosure next week which will give a snapshot of how much they have on hand as of October 14.

09:15 ET – Trump’s smile and Mister Rogers

Two moments from last night’s duelling Trump-Biden town halls touched on one unlikely subject: Smiles.

Before asking a question about immigration, a voter said to Trump: “I have to say, you have a great smile … You’re so handsome when you smile,” prompting a wide grin from the president.

Interestingly, after the town hall, the Miami New Times caught up with that voter, Paulette Dale, who told the newspaper that she is voting for Biden. “I wish he would smile more and talk less,” she said about Trump.

As for Biden, the Trump campaign senior adviser, Mercedes Schlapp, was growing frustrated with the tone of the Biden town hall and compared it with “watching an episode of” Mister Rogers Neighborhood. She was referring to Fred Rogers, the late children’s television show host who continues to bring smiles to the faces of children and adults and is lauded for his kindness and patience.

Her remarks caused Mister Rogers to trend on Twitter with many responses finding humour in Schlapp’s attempt at an insult turning into an inadvertent compliment of Biden.

09:00 ET – Twenty-one million Americans have already voted

Turnout totals for early voting – expanded across the US due to the pandemic – has shot past 21 million, far outpacing this point in previous elections.

The US Elections Project, which tracks early voting across the country, has reported that 21,231,821 people have already voted ahead of Election Day, November 3. In 2016, the total number of Americans who voted early by mail or in-person early voting was 47 million.

Early voters wait to cast their ballots at the South Regional Library polling location in Durham, North Carolina, October 15, 2020 [Gerry Broome/AP]

More Democrats than Republicans have cast their ballots so far, however, election experts caution that it is unknown exactly who those voters voted for until those votes are counted. In addition, Republicans historically have participated less in early voting and traditionally turn out in larger numbers in person on Election Day.

Read yesterday’s updates here.


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Poland’s President Andrzej Duda tests positive for COVID-19



Polish President Andrzej Duda, 48, has announced he tested positive for the new coronavirus, a diagnosis that comes as the country experiences a huge surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Duda said on Saturday in a recording published on Twitter he was experiencing no COVID-19 symptoms “but unfortunately, the test result is absolutely unambiguous”.

“I would like to apologise to all those who are exposed to quarantine procedures because of meeting me in recent days,” he said. “If I had had any symptoms, please, believe me, all meetings would have been cancelled.”

Duda on Friday visited the National Stadium in the capital, Warsaw, which is being transformed into a field hospital to treat coronavirus patients.

On the same day, he also bestowed state honours on Iga Swiatek, the 19-year-old Polish tennis player who won the French Open this month, and her father and trainer, Tomasz Swiatek.

Duda and the Swiateks wore masks and gloves but stood very close and shook hands as the president fastened honorary pins on them.

Iga Swiatek said she and others on her team have no symptoms but would go into quarantine following Duda’s positive test. She said they are tested regularly and would be tested again in three days.

The president’s key constitutional roles include guiding foreign policy and signing legislation. But many of his duties are ceremonial, and most of the responsibility for running the country lies with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s government.

Poland on Saturday reported 13,628 new confirmed cases and a record daily number of COVID-19 related deaths – 179. The daily case count was the nation’s second-highest of the pandemic after a record number set on Friday.

Poland, a country of 38 million people, saw very low infection rates in the spring.

Protests against restrictions

Along with the number of infections, social tensions have been growing in the country, too.

Police in Warsaw on Saturday used tear gas on protesters angry over new virus restrictions, a group that includes entrepreneurs, far-right politicians, football fans and opponents of vaccinations. The protesters, many wearing no protective masks, violated a limit on public gatherings.

It came as people also took to the streets of the capital and other cities for a third day to protest against a court ruling that declared the abortion of fetuses with congenital defects unconstitutional. The decision further restricted what was already one of Europe’s strictest abortion laws.

Critics accuse Poland’s right-wing governing party of using the cover of the pandemic and a court it has filled with loyalists to impede abortion access in a legally dubious manner.

They also accuse the Law and Justice party of seeking to exacerbate social conflicts to distract attention from soaring COVID-19 infection rates.

The fast spread of the virus is pushing Poland’s strained healthcare system to breaking point. Doctors say patients are dying not only from COVID-19 but from other illnesses that overwhelmed hospitals are unable to treat.

The government is preparing to open field hospitals, but it is not clear where it will find the doctors and nurses to staff them

It imposed new restrictions starting on Saturday that are just short of a lockdown in hopes of bringing the country’s outbreak under control.

Morawiecki, the prime minister, appealed to Poles to strictly observe these “serious restrictions” in order to protect lives.

The country currently has about 11,500 patients hospitalised with COVID-19 and 911 of them on respirators, according to health officials.


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Trump casts vote ahead of campaign blitz in battleground states



Donald Trump will hold rallies in three key swing states on Saturday, while Joe Biden is campaigning in Pennsylvania.

Donald Trump has joined more than 56 million people across the United States to cast their ballots early, as the US president voted on Saturday morning in Florida before beginning a day of rallies in key battleground states.

The president’s campaign blitz 10 days before November 3, reminiscent of his state-hopping in the final stretch of the 2016 election, comes just a day after the United States recorded a new single-day record of COVID-19 infections.

The president wore a mask when he voted, but took it off when speaking to reporters. Several hundred supporters gathered with flags and signs outside the library where he voted, chanting: “Four more years.”

“It was a very secure vote, much more secure than when you send in a ballot,” Trump told reporters after voting in West Palm Beach, repeating unfounded allegations that mail-in voting is more susceptible to fraud.

“I voted for a guy named Trump,” he added.

Lagging in national polls and with what analysts consider a narrow path to victory in the Electoral College, Trump has been trying to recreate the enthusiasm he harnessed in the final days of the 2016 campaign.

On Saturday, he will first hold a rally in North Carolina, before travelling to Ohio and Wisconsin, all states considered important for victory, but where COVID-19 cases have spiked and in-person rallies may be a political liability.

Biden in Pennsylvania

Trump’s Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, who has made his cautious approach to campaigning during the pandemic central to his messaging, will hold two events on Saturday, both socially distanced “drive-in rallies”.

The first event will be in Bucks County, north of Philadelphia, and the second will be in Luzerne County, near Biden’s birthplace of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and an area once considered a Democratic stronghold that Trump won in 2016.

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, faced off in the final presidential debate on Thursday [File: Jim Bourg/AP]

Polls show Biden narrowly leading Trump in the state, which is considered crucial to both candidates.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released earlier this week showed Biden with a 4-percentage-point advantage on Trump in the state, down from seven points the week before.

Biden cast his ballot weeks ago in Delaware.

On Thursday, 12 days before the election, early voting surpassed the total number of early votes cast in 2016.

As of Saturday, the number of people who had cast their ballots early – either by mail or in-person – was more than 40 percent of all the votes cast in 2016.


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Children killed in attack on Cameroonian school



Assailants storm private school in city of Kumba, Southwest Region, killing at least four students.

Attackers have opened fire on a private school in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, killing at least four children, according to officials.

The unknown assailants stormed the Mother Francisca School in the city of Kumba on Saturday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

“They attacked around noon. They found the children in a class and they opened fire on them,” Kumba sub-prefect Ali Anougou told the Reuters news agency.

At least nine other students were wounded and sent to the hospital. There were fears the death toll could rise.

The Associated Press news agency quoted Anougou as blaming separatists who have been fighting the military in parts of western Cameroon for the attack.

Cameroon’s two Anglophone regions – the Northwest and Southwest Regions – are home to a large minority of English speakers in a country where French speakers are the overwhelming majority – a situation that is the legacy of the decolonisation of western Africa by France and Britain more than 60 years ago.

In late 2016, long-standing complaints of political and economic discrimination against English speakers by the central government spilled over when lawyers, students and teachers began calling for reforms.

The government’s lethal response to the protests provoked rebels to declare in 2017 independence for a region they call “Ambazonia”, triggering a stronger crackdown by the authorities.

Both sides have since been accused of committing atrocities in a conflict that has killed some 3,000 people and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

Anglophone secessionists have imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their protest against President Paul Biya’s government.

Last year, officials blamed separatists for kidnapping dozens of schoolchildren, charges the separatists denied.


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