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Here’s what it’s like to vote from inside prison

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In a country with the highest incarceration rates in the world, the voting rights of Americans with felony convictions have gained much attention in recent years. Most of the conversation has focused on states that have reestablished rights for those with felony convictions — including, most recently, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Georgia — bringing the total number of states to 15 that have reenfranchised ex-felons.

But what of the other roughly 1.5 million who are still behind bars? The issue hasn’t been in the public discourse as much. The vast majority of states do not allow incarcerated people to vote, and those that do only allow it for people with certain convictions. Though legislators in several states have tried unsuccessfully to introduce measures to restore these rights, only two states as of now allow all inmates, regardless of their conviction, to vote: Maine and Vermont, which have had the rights of inmates to vote enshrined into law since their founding.

In both states, corrections officials and volunteers can help inmates request an absentee ballot and cast their vote. Yet there are additional barriers to voting for people behind bars. Many are restricted from the internet or other ways to access news, and are not allowed to campaign or put up political posters. But most likely the biggest issue is illiteracy — an estimated 60 percent of inmates are unable to read or write. For all these reasons, experts estimate that inmate voting rates are likely low, though because they are not tracked in either Maine’s or Vermont’s prison system, the rates are still unknown.

But this year, one prisoner — a Maine resident and current inmate — is voting for the first time in a presidential election. Here’s how he’s thinking about this election and his right to vote as an incarcerated person.


Normally, I drive a truck in Maine. Now I’m incarcerated and will be released next May. But that’s not going to stop me from checking a big first off my list: At well past the age of 40, I’m going to vote in the presidential election for the first time ever, and I’m doing it from behind bars.

Before I went in two years ago, I never paid attention to politics — I was always gone, busy with my work, life, and raising my kids. But in here, I have time to read my local paper, the Bangor News, every day, watch ABC or CBS, or listen to the radio. It’s been a pretty enlightening experience to learn all that has been going on that I never really paid attention to — how the government works and the laws are made, who gets to make the decisions, who gets to veto this, that, and the other.

Before prison, I never really believed that my opinion counted for anything. But all that’s changed. Now I believe voting really does make a difference. I want to help elect somebody who looks out for the people and not for themselves. Who isn’t trying to get rich off of everybody.

I care about issues like housing and health care for veterans — that’s my No. 1 right now. We shouldn’t have the same people who fought for our country be living in a tent on the side of the road. I also know some candidates are trying to help expand Medicare, Medicaid, which I think is a good thing. My mom is in her 80s and is starting to have health problems. Thank god she had Medicare.

I really believe that trying to get an actionable national health care system going like what Canada has — even if they have to raise our taxes a little bit to do so — is a good thing. When I was a baby, I drank Drano. They replaced my esophagus with a piece of small intestine. They said, “If he lives, you pay the doctor bills. If he dies, don’t worry about it.” I know all about medical bills.

When it comes to how I will vote, we have a lady who works here as the community programs coordinator and helps us with paperwork, helps it get sent in and notarized. The facility is 100 percent behind her helping us all get set up to send in our ballots. The registration process itself is kind of complicated — I sent it in once and had the wrong address. The next time, I forgot to sign somewhere. Now I have everything filled out correctly, so it should be good to go. I’ve already successfully gotten my ballot and mailed it in.

When I signed up to vote, a couple of friends of mine said, “Oh, yeah, that’s a good idea!” And they signed up right behind me. At least 10 or 12 others in my pod will be voting, out of 32. If that’s an average across the prison, it’s about a third of the population.

To be honest, I feel pretty mixed about the fact that I can vote as an incarcerated person. On one hand, we’re in here, so I guess in the eyes of society, we should’ve lost all of our rights. I do understand that — but on the other hand, whoever’s voted in as president will be my president when I’m free next year. Maybe if I was in here 20 years, then no, I shouldn’t have anything to do with the election. But I’ll be living as a free man under the next administration that is elected. I feel I should get a say in who I want to represent me. If I can do that, I’m better off for it. And I think the country will be better off for it. Other prisoners in the facility would be better off for it, too. They are people as well.

I have to be honest, though: We don’t need someone in office who is like me — who can’t speak, who can’t think quick enough. But we also don’t need someone who is putting all his personal business on Twitter or Facebook. I care about straightforwardness. Whoever I think is just trying to shoot the other guy down is the guy I won’t be voting for.

I’m pretty excited to vote for the first time, not just when it comes to the national government but in local government. And when I get out, I should still have my rights: to take action. To be able to vote. To be able to do anything — except for crimes, of course.

This whole process has actually inspired me. In prison, you have a lot of time on your hands. I’m taking classes to try to improve myself, like a construction and carpentry trade class, the NCCER welding program, the WorkReady program. I have a job in here, too: I do the laundry for those who have minimum-security status. And now I’m casting my choice for who I think should run the country when I get out.

Now that I’m educating myself more — about politics, about how the world works — my days in here are more interesting. The day I stop learning is the day I die.

As told to Hope Reese.


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China-made Tesla electric cars to start selling in Europe

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US-based electric carmaker says it will start shipping its entry-level Model 3 from Shanghai factory to more than 10 European countries this month.

Tesla Inc. will start exporting Model 3 sedans made at its gigafactory on the outskirts of Shanghai to Europe later this month, seeking to boost sales in one of the fastest-growing electric-car markets.

The car will be shipped to more than 10 countries, including Germany, France and Switzerland, the automaker said in a statement sent via WeChat on Monday. The company’s Shanghai factory — its first outside the U.S. — opened for local deliveries at the start of this year.

“We hope to serve global customers as a global factory,” Tesla’s manufacturing director of the Shanghai site, Song Gang, said in an interview with local reporters. “The export of China-built Tesla models is a key step in the global layout.”

The Shanghai factory has helped Tesla expand in China, and the company has said it has capacity to produce 200,000 vehicles a year at the site. Monthly registrations of locally made Teslas have been in the 11,000 range for several months, falling to 10,881 in September, according to data from state-backed China Automotive Information Net.

The variant Tesla will initially export to Europe is the standard Model 3. It has a driving range of 468 kilometers (291 miles) on one charge, and it costs about $40,300 in China before local subsidies. This month, Tesla lowered the price of the model in China, a move that was enabled by it starting to use cheaper batteries from local supplier Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd., people with knowledge of the matter said.

Sales of electric vehicles in Europe are growing at such a pace that the continent looks increasingly likely to outpace China in the near future, London-based automotive research firm Jato Dynamics said this month. Tesla is in the process of setting up a factory and an engineering-and-design center near Berlin, its first in Europe.

The California-based company also said it is committed to expanding its investment in China. It plans to double its production capability, the reach of its sales and service network, charging infrastructure facilities, and employment in the country.

People familiar with the matter said last month that Tesla plans to ship cars made in Shanghai to other countries in Asia and Europe, shifting its strategy for the plant to largely focus on supplying the Chinese market. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said in 2019 that the facility would only make lower-priced versions of the Model 3 sedan and Model Y crossover for the Greater China region, and predicted there would be enough local demand to potentially necessitate several factories in the country.

China-built Model 3s for delivery outside the country likely will start mass production in the fourth quarter, the people said last month, adding that the markets targeted included Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, as well as Europe.

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Indian actor quits Sri Lanka cricket legend’s biopic after uproar

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Vijay Sethupathi withdraws from the project after cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan warns him of backlash from Tamils over Sri Lankan civil war.

A popular actor who was set to star as Sri Lanka’s legendary spinner Muttiah Muralitharan in a biopic withdrew from the project on Monday after the cricketer warned he could face a backlash from India’s Tamils.

Tamil politicians in India accuse Muralitharan, who retired from Test cricket in 2010, of betraying fellow Tamils in his country during a civil war that ended in 2009.

Vijay Sethupathi, 42, had been under pressure in his southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu to drop the role in 800 – named after the world record number of Test wickets Muralitharan took in his celebrated career.

“I don’t want one of the finest actors in Tamil Nadu to face any kind of trouble, hence I request him to drop out of the project,” Muralitharan, 48, wrote in a letter tweeted by the actor.

“There should be no obstacles for Sethupathi in the future because of this movie.”

Sethupathi wrote alongside the image of the letter: “Thank you and goodbye.”

India’s regional Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) party, which opposes the Sinhalese-led government in Sri Lanka, demanded Sethupathi reject the role, saying Muralitharan sided with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who as president defeated the separatist Tamil Tiger uprising.

Fans also slammed the actor on social media, using the hashtag #shameonVijaySethupathi.

But several Tamil actors also came out in support of Muralitharan and Sethupati.

“[Muralitharan] is a very important topic and that film is a complex idea because Murali is one of those Indian Tamils … who were marginalised,” actor Prakash Belawadi told India Today TV.

Belawadi was referring to the two kinds of Tamils in Sri Lanka: the indigenous Eelam Tamils and the “estate Tamils” who were taken there as plantation workers by the British colonisers 200 years ago. The “estate Tamils” faced discrimination even from the native Tamils.

“Murali is a great example of somebody who has emerged from this class,” Belawadi said.

What’s the uproar about?

The enmity dates back to 2013 when Muralitharan told then-British Prime Minister David Cameron that he may have been “misled” about the human rights situation by Tamil women who complained to him about disappearances during the war.

Muralitharan, who is currently working as a bowling coach with Indian Premier League side Sunrisers Hyderabad for the continuing tournament in the United Arab Emirates, had said that his remarks about Sri Lanka’s ethnic war were “misunderstood”.

Muralitharan added in the letter that he hoped a new lead would be announced soon.

“I accepted this biopic because I thought the movie will inspire and provide confidence to aspiring young cricketers,” he wrote.

A source close to Muralitharan said in Colombo: “The movie project will go on without Vijay. Producers are already discussing ways to proceed.”

The United Nations and international rights groups have accused Sri Lankan forces of killing at least 40,000 minority Tamils in the final campaign against the Tigers.

The government has denied it killed civilians.

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Archaeologists unearth ‘huge number’ of sealed Egyptian sarcophagi

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Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered another large cache of unopened sarcophagi in Saqqara, adding to the trove of almost 60 coffins recently recovered from the ancient necropolis.

Although full details are yet to be announced, authorities said in a statement that “a huge number” of wooden sarcophagi had been unearthed. The country’s Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany said on Instagram that the find amounted to “dozens” of coffins, adding that they have been “sealed since ancient times.”

The collection of sarcophagi, stored in three newly discovered burial shafts, is believed to date back more than 2,500 years. Colored and gilded statues were also found in the tombs, a government press release said.

On Monday, El-Enany and Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly visited the site alongside secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mustafa Waziri. Photos released by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities show the trio being lowered into a shaft before inspecting painted coffins and a variety of other objects.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany pictured on site.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany pictured on site. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities via AP

Vast necropolis

Monday’s announcement marks the latest in a string of discoveries at Saqqara, a necropolis about 20 miles south of Cairo. The vast burial ground once served the royal capital of Memphis, and the site is also home to Egypt’s oldest surviving pyramid.
In September, archaeologists at Saqqara discovered almost 30 closed coffins in one of three burial shafts measuring 10 to 12 meters (33 to 39 feet) deep. At a press conference earlier this month, the ministry said the discovery brought the total number found inside the tombs to 59.
The collection of sarcophagi, announced on Monday, is believed to date back more than 2,500 years.

The collection of sarcophagi, announced on Monday, is believed to date back more than 2,500 years. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Officials said they believe the coffins contain senior statesmen and priests from the 26th dynasty, which ruled Egypt from 664 B.C. to 525 B.C.

The ministry said that further details of this month’s discovery will be announced at a press conference at the site in “the next few weeks.” Its announcement also revealed that Prime Minister Madbouly had produced a video in which he thanked the ministry and “expressed his great pride in the unique Egyptian civilization.”

Egypt’s new one-billion dollar museum

Although it is not yet confirmed what will happen to the newly discovered sarcophagi, some of those found earlier this year are set to go on display at the soon-to-open Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza. Upon its opening, the 5.2-million-square-foot structure will become the world’s largest museum devoted to a single civilization.

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