Venezuela Judge Convicts Six American Oil Execs, Orders Prison

Six American oil executives held for three years in Venezuela were found guilty of corruption charges by a judge Thursday and immediately sentenced to prison, dashing hopes of a quick release that would send them home to their families in the United States.

Some relatives had been bracing for the disheartening outcome, which came on the evening of Thanksgiving Day.

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Penguin to Buy Simon & Schuster, Create Publishing Giant

German media giant Bertelsmann said Wednesday that its Penguin Random House division is buying rival Simon & Schuster in a megadeal that would reshape the U.S. publishing industry.

Penguin Random House, already the largest American publisher, will buy the New York-based Simon & Schuster, whose authors include Stephen King, Hillary Clinton and John Irving, from TV and film company ViacomCBS for $2.17 billion in cash.

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Champion Ken Jennings Will Be First Interim ‘Jeopardy!’ Host

“Jeopardy!” record-holder Ken Jennings will be the first in a series of interim hosts replacing Alex Trebek when the show resumes production next Monday.

Producers announced Monday that Jennings, who won 74 games in a row and claimed the show’s “Greatest of All Time” title in a competition last year, will host episodes that air in January.

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Vows Revenge Over Slain Scientist

Iran’s supreme leader on Saturday demanded the “definitive punishment” of those behind the killing of a scientist who led Tehran’s disbanded military nuclear program, as the Islamic Republic blamed Israel for a slaying that has raised fears of reignited tensions across the Middle East.

After years of being in the shadows, the image of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh suddenly was to be seen everywhere in Iranian media, as his widow spoke on state television and officials publicly demanded revenge on Israel for the scientist’s slaying.

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Iran Scientist Linked to Military Nuclear Program Killed

An Iranian scientist named by the West as the leader of the Islamic Republic’s disbanded military nuclear program was killed Friday in an ambush on the outskirts of Tehran, authorities said.

Iran’s foreign minister alleged the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh bore “serious indications” of an Israeli role, but did not elaborate. Israel, long suspected of killing several Iranian nuclear scientists a decade ago, declined to immediately comment. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once told the public to “remember that name” when talking about Fakhrizadeh.

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Walz Indicates Bipartisan COVID Relief Could Come Next Week

Gov. Tim Walz said Wednesday that a bipartisan pandemic relief package may materialize as soon as next week to provide assistance to businesses hurt by the shutdown meant to slow the spread of the virus

Walz said during a tour of a Brooklyn Park warehouse facility where he was helping to package emergency food boxes that he and lawmakers are “pretty close” to an agreement on a relief package, the Star Tribune reported. The Democratic governor and Minnesota House Republicans unveiled separate relief initiatives on Tuesday to provide economic assistance to small businesses, workers and families struggling amid the pandemic.

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Ohio Governor Sees Growing Criticism from Fellow Republicans

For months, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine steered cleared of publicly second-guessing President Donald Trump, a fellow Republican, despite their differences in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, following the governor’s move to shutdown the state over rising COVID cases and remarks urging a swift conclusion to the challenges to the 2020 election irregularities, President Trump suggested another Republican should challenge him in Ohio’s 2022 election.

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Court: Tennessee Can Enforce Down Syndrome Abortion Ban

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that Tennessee can begin outlawing abortions because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, as well as prohibit the procedure if it’s based on the race or gender of the fetus.

Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee enacted the so-called “reason bans” earlier this year as part of a sweeping anti-abortion measure. The law gained national attention because it banned abortion as early as six weeks — making it one of the strictest in the country — but it included several other anti-abortion components.

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Federal Judge Blocks New Criminal Disqualifiers to Asylum

A federal judge on Thursday blocked a Trump administration rule about to take effect that would have put up new roadblocks for asylum-seekers convicted of a variety of crimes.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco said the rule “sweeps too broadly” and was unnecessary because current federal law already includes a host of disqualifying crimes such as drug trafficking, money laundering and counterfeiting.

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Biden Adds Obama Administration Veterans to Top Staff

President-elect Joe Biden is adding four Obama-Biden administration veterans to his top ranks as he continues to build out his White House team.

Cathy Russell, who was Jill Biden’s chief of staff during the Obama administration, will serve as director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, evaluating applicants for administration roles. Louisa Terrell, who served as a legislative adviser to the president in the Obama administration and worked as deputy chief of staff for Biden in the Senate, will be director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. Terrell has already been engaged in Capitol Hill outreach as part of Biden’s transition team.

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Minnesota Man Enters Plea in Police Station Fire Amid Unrest

A Minnesota man pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of conspiracy to commit arson for helping set fire to a Minneapolis police station during civil unrest in the days following the death of George Floyd.

According to an indictment, Bryce Michael Williams, 26, of Staples, went to the Third Precinct building on May 28 where a crowd of hundreds gathered. At one point, the crowd began shouting, “Burn it down, burn it down” and a fence that surrounded the building was torn down.

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Pompeo Is First Top U.S. Diplomat to Visit an Israeli Settlement

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday became the first top American diplomat to visit an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank as the State Department in a major policy shift announced that products from the settlements can be labeled “Made in Israel.”

The two moves reflected the Trump administration’s acceptance of Israeli settlements, which the Palestinians and most of the international community view as a violation of international law and a major obstacle to peace.

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Review of TVA CEO Jeff Lyash’s Pay Will Extend into 2021

The review of a federal utility’s CEO compensation following President Donald Trump’s criticisms of the pay scale will continue into 2021, according to its board chairman.

John Ryder, Tennessee Valley Authority chairman, said at a board meeting held virtually Friday that results from an independent consultant’s review of CEO pay should be ready for the utility’s board meeting in February.

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Dustin Johnson Buries Some Major Memories, Wins the Masters

by Doug Ferguson   AUGUSTA, Georgia (AP) — In this one-of-a-kind Masters that had no fans and no roars, Dustin Johnson made sure it had no drama. And when he polished off his five-shot victory Sunday with lowest score in tournament history, he had no words. Only tears. Looking smart…

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Disney Posts 4Q Loss as Parks Business, Costs Drag Results

Walt Disney Co. reported fiscal fourth-quarter loss on Thursday thanks largely to changes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its earnings were dragged by costs from restructuring related to its streaming services and lost revenue from its California theme parks, which remain closed amid surging coronavirus cases in the U.S.

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West Coast Governors Urge COVID Quarantine After Travel

The governors of California, Oregon and Washington issued travel advisories Friday urging people entering or returning to their states to self-quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus as infections spike across the U.S.

The advisories stopped short of stricter rules imposed by other governors and instead said people should avoid non-essential out-of-state travel and quarantine for 14 days after arriving from another state or country.

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Michigan Governor Seeks Shutdown of Great Lakes Oil Pipeline

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took legal action Friday to shut down a pipeline that carries oil beneath a channel linking two of the Great Lakes.

Whitmer’s office notified Canadian company Enbridge Inc. that it was revoking an easement granted 67 years ago to extend a roughly 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) section of the pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac. The revocation takes effect in 180 days, when the flow of oil must stop.

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Officials: Blast at WWI Ceremony in Saudi Arabia Wounds Three

An explosion at a Saudi cemetery where American and European officials were commemorating the end of World War I wounded three people Wednesday, according to official statements.

The attack in the city of Jiddah follows on the heels of a stabbing last month that lightly wounded a guard at the French Consulate in the same city. It’s not clear what motivated the stabbing or Wednesday’s blast, but France has been the target of three attacks in recent weeks that authorities have attributed to Muslim extremists.

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Pope Francis Vows to End Sexual Abuse After McCarrick Report

Pope Francis pledged Wednesday to rid the Catholic Church of sexual abuse and offered prayers to victims of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a day after the Vatican released a detailed report into the decadeslong church cover-up of his sexual misconduct.

The Vatican report blamed a host of bishops, cardinals and popes for downplaying and dismissing mountains of evidence of McCarrick’s misconduct starting in the 1990s — but largely spared Francis. Instead, it laid the lion’s share of the blame on St. John Paul II, a former pope, for having appointed McCarrick archbishop of Washington in 2000, and making him a cardinal, despite having commissioned an inquiry that found he had slept with seminarians.

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Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Lawmakers to Resign En Masse

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers announced Wednesday they would resign en masse after four of them were ousted from the semiautonomous Chinese territory’s Legislature in a move one legislator said could sound the “death knell” for democracy there.

The resignation of the 15 remaining pro-democracy lawmakers will ratchet up tensions over the future of Hong Kong, a former British colony that has long been a regional financial hub and bastion of Western-style civil liberties but over which China’s government has increasingly tightened its control. A new national security law imposed by Beijing this year has alarmed the international community.

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GOP Unveils $1.4T Spending Bill Amid Post-Election Turmoil

Republicans controlling the Senate unveiled a government-wide, $1.4 trillion spending bill on Tuesday, a largely bipartisan measure that faces uncertain odds during this period of post-election tumult in Washington.

The GOP-drafted measure contains funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall and other provisions opposed by Democrats, but top leaders in both parties want to try to mount a drive to enact the unfinished spending bills — which, along with a separate COVID-19 relief effort and annual defense policy bill, represent the bulk of Capitol Hill’s unfinished business for the year.

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EU Files Antitrust Charges Against Amazon Over Use of Data

European Union regulators filed antitrust charges Tuesday against Amazon, accusing the e-commerce giant of using its access to data from companies that sell products on its platform to gain an unfair advantage over them.

The charges, filed two years after the bloc’s antitrust enforcer began looking into the company, are the latest effort by European regulators to curb the power of big technology companies. Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner in charge of competition issues, has slapped Google with antitrust fines totaling nearly $10 billion and opened twin antitrust investigations this summer into Apple. The EU’s executive Commission also opened a second investigation Tuesday into whether Amazon favors product offers and merchants that use its own logistics and delivery system.

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Trump Fires Esper, Hires Miller as Pentagon chief

by Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldor   WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — President Donald Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday, an unprecedented move by a president struggling to accept election defeat and angry at a Pentagon leader he believes wasn’t loyal enough. The decision was widely expected as…

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Weakened Eta Drenches Central America, at Least 57 Dead

The rain-heavy remnants of Hurricane Eta flooded homes from Panama to Guatemala Thursday as the death toll across Central America rose to at least 57, and aid organizations warned the flooding and mudslides were creating a slow-moving humanitarian disaster across the region.

The storm that hit Nicaragua as a mighty Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday had become more of a vast tropical rainstorm, but it was advancing so slowly and dumping so much rain that much of Central America remained on high alert. Forecasters said the now-tropical depression was expected to regather and head toward Cuba and possibly the Gulf of Mexico by early next week.

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Italy Shuts Down Four Regions as Europe Tries Lighter Lockdowns

Luxury fashion boutiques, jewelry shops and most of Milan’s flagship department stores were shuttered Friday, as the center of Italy’s vibrant financial capital fell into a gray quiet on the first day of a partial lockdown in four regions aimed at stopping the coronavirus’s resurgence.

The new restrictions — which led to closures of a patchwork of nonessential businesses — allow a great deal more freedom than Italy’s near-total 10-week lockdown that started in March, but nonetheless brought recriminations from regional governments that feel unfairly targeted. In particular, the south, which was largely spared in the spring, chafed the most, despite concerns that its weaker health care system was especially vulnerable.

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Seeking Inclusion, Grammys Change Name of a Music Category

The Grammy Awards have changed the name of their best world music album category to the best global music album, an attempt to find “a more relevant, modern and inclusive term.”

The Recording Academy said in a statement that the new name “symbolizes a departure from the connotations of colonialism, folk and ‘non-American’ that the former term embodied.”

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Trump Sues in Pennsylvania, Michigan; Asks for Wisconsin Recount

The Trump campaign said it filed lawsuits Wednesday in Pennsylvania and Michigan, laying the groundwork for contesting the outcome in undecided battleground states that could determine whether President Donald Trump gets another four years in the White House.

Suits in both states are demanding better access for campaign observers to locations where ballots are being processed and counted, the campaign said. The campaign also is seeking to intervene in a Pennsylvania case at the Supreme Court that deals with whether ballots received up to three days after the election can be counted, deputy campaign manager Justin Clark said.

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Gunman Who Killed Four in Vienna Attack Had Sought to Join IS

A man who had previously tried to join the Islamic State group rampaged in Vienna armed with an automatic rifle and a fake explosive vest, fatally shooting four people before he was killed by police, Austrian authorities said Tuesday.

Witnesses described dozens of screaming people fleeing the sounds of gunshots Monday night in a nightlife district crowded with revelers enjoying the last hours before a coronavirus lockdown.

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Minnesota Voters Sour on State of Nation

Voters in Minnesota made their pick for president while holding negative views about the country’s direction, according to an expansive AP survey of the American electorate.

The race between President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden concluded Tuesday in a deeply divided nation struggling with a once-in-a-century pandemic and a severe economic downturn. AP VoteCast found that more than 3 in 10 Minnesota voters said the U.S. is on the right track and more than 6 in 10 voters said it is headed in the wrong direction.

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President Trump Takes Bellwether Ohio Again

Republican President Donald Trump has again won Ohio, a traditional bellwether for the nation.

Democrat Joe Biden mounted a vigorous challenge to Trump for the state’s 18 electoral votes, but fell short. Meanwhile, the state’s U.S. House incumbents again swept to victory in districts drawn for their elective safety.

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Another Restaurant Chain, Friendly’s, Hits Wall in Pandemic

Friendly’s Restaurants, the 85-year-old East Coast dining chain known for its Fribble milkshakes and ice cream sundaes, is filing for bankruptcy protection.

It joins a growing list of well-established restaurant chains that are failing due to an unchecked pandemic in the United States.

George Michel, CEO of FIC Restaurants Inc., Friendly’s parent company, said COVID-19 has had a “catastrophic impact” on operations. FIC will sell essentially all of its assets to the restaurant company Amici Partners Group.

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Netflix Raising US Streaming Prices Amid Booming Growth

Netflix is raising most of its U.S. prices by 8% to 13% as its video streaming service rides a wave of rising popularity spurred by government-imposed lockdowns that corralled people at home during the fight against the pandemic.

The increases imposed Friday boost the cost of Netflix’s most popular U.S. streaming plan by $1 to $14 per month, while a premium plan that allows more people to watch the service on different screens simultaneously will now cost $2 more at $18 per month. Netflix’s basic U.S. plan remains at $9 per month. It marks Netflix’s first price changes in the U.S. since an increase rolled out early last year.

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Federal Government Defends Eviction Ban in Court Hearing

The federal government defended its national eviction ban before a judge Friday, arguing that the moratorium had helped prevent the spread of COVID-19 and did not overstep the authority provided by Congress.

The arguments are part of a federal lawsuit filed by a handful of landlords in Memphis earlier this year, which claims the eviction moratorium has unfairly strained their finances and violated their property rights.

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Judge Postpones Trump’s TikTok Ban in Suit Brought by Users

A federal judge has postponed President Donald Trump’s threatened shutdown of the popular short-form video app TikTok, siding with a Pennsylvania comedian and two other TikTok creators who say Trump’s order hampers their free speech.

U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone on Friday blocked an upcoming Commerce Department action that would have effectively banned TikTok in the U.S. by cutting it off from vital technical services.

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Never Flagged as a Danger, Nice Attacker Traveled Unimpeded

The 21-year-old Tunisian behind the attack that killed three in a Nice, France, church had small-time run-ins with the law as a teen, but nothing that alerted Tunisian authorities to possible extremist leanings.

That missing red flag meant that when he eventually was served an expulsion order from Italy, which he reached illegally by boat, he was basically free to go where he pleased. So Ibrahim Issaoui then traveled apparently unimpeded to France.

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Sean Connery, the ‘Original’ James Bond, Dies at 90

Sean Connery, the charismatic Scottish actor who rose to international superstardom as the suave secret agent James Bond and then abandoned the role to carve out an Oscar-winning career in other rugged roles, has died. He was 90.

Connery’s wife and two sons said he “died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by family” in the Bahamas, where he lived. Son Jason Connery said his father had been “unwell for some time.”

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Illinois Authorities Extradite Kyle Rittenhouse to Wisconsin

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.

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Walmart Returns Guns and Ammunition to U.S. Store Displays

Walmart has reversed course, announcing it is returning ammunition and firearms to their displays in its U.S. stores.

On Thursday the nation’s largest retailer said it had removed the items from displays due to “civil unrest” in some areas of the country. Guns and ammunition, however, had remained for sale at the stores, just not visible to shoppers.

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Final Georgia Senate Debate Canceled After Perdue Drops Out

A final debate between Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff has been canceled after Perdue dropped out, saying he would attend a campaign rally with President Donald Trump instead.

The cancellation was announced Thursday night, a day after Perdue and Ossoff met for a bitter second debate in Savannah in which Ossoff slammed Perdue as a “crook” who downplayed the coronavirus pandemic. Perdue, who is seeking a second term, denied the accusation.

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Earthquake Strikes Turkish Coast and Greek Island, Killing 14

A strong earthquake struck Friday in the Aegean Sea between the Turkish coast and the Greek island of Samos, killing at least 14 people and injuring hundreds amid collapsed buildings and flooding, officials said.

A small tsunami struck the Seferihisar district south of Izmir, the city in western Turkey that was the worst affected, said Haluk Ozener, director of the Istanbul-based Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute.

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Three Dead in Church Attack, Plunging France into Dual Emergency

A man armed with a knife attacked people inside a French church and killed three Thursday, prompting the government to raise its security alert status to the maximum level hours before a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

The attack in Mediterranean city of Nice was the third in two months in France that authorities have attributed to Muslim extremists, including the beheading of a teacher. It comes during a growing furor over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were republished in recent months by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo — renewing vociferous debate in France and the Muslim world over the depictions that Muslims consider offensive but are protected by French free speech laws.

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Hurricane Zeta Hits Louisiana with Flooding, Power Outages

Hurricane Zeta slammed into storm-weary Louisiana on Wednesday with New Orleans squarely in its path, pelting homes and businesses with rain and howling winds, knocking out power to thousands and threatening to push up to 9 feet of sea water inland in a Gulf Coast region already pounded by multiple storms this year.

Roads were flooded near the coast, where forecasters said Zeta made landfall around Terrebone Bay near Cocodrie, an unincorporated fishing village at the end of a highway with a marine laboratory but few if any full-time residents.

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Social Media CEOs Get Earful on Bias, Warning of New Limits

With next week’s election looming, the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google were scolded by Republicans at a Senate hearing Wednesday for alleged anti-conservative bias in the companies’ social media platforms and received a warning of coming restrictions from Congress.

Lawmakers of both parties are assessing the companies’ tremendous power to disseminate speech and ideas, and are looking to challenge their long-enjoyed bedrock legal protections for online speech.

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Justices Deny Fast, New Look at Pennsylvania Ballot Deadline

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would not grant a quick, pre-election review to a new Republican appeal to exclude absentee ballots received after Election Day in the presidential battleground state of Pennsylvania, although it remained unclear whether those ballots will ultimately be counted.

The court’s order left open the possibility that the justices could take up and decide after the election whether a three-day extension to receive and count absentee ballots ordered by Pennsylvania’s high court was proper.

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New Protests Loom as Europeans Tire of Virus Restrictions

Protesters set trash bins afire and police responded with hydrant sprays in downtown Rome Tuesday night, part of a day of public outpouring of anger against virus-fighting measures like evening shutdowns for restaurants and bars and the closures of gyms and theaters — a sign of growing discontent across Europe with renewed coronavirus restrictions.

Pedestrians and motorists returning home from work in Rome were taken by surprise when protesters, some of them hooded and members of an extreme-right political group, set afire to trash bins in Piazza del Popolo, overturned parked motor scooters and mopeds and hurled smoke bombs, state TV reported. Police vans unleashed torrents of water to disperse them.

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Judge: Virginia Can’t Count Some Ballots Without Postmarks

A judge ruled Wednesday that Virginia elections officials cannot count absentee ballots with missing postmarks unless they can confirm the date of mailing through a barcode, granting part of an injunction requested by a conservative legal group.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation sued the Virginia Department of Elections and members of the Virginia State Board of Elections earlier this month, challenging a regulation that instructed local election officials to count absentee ballots with missing or illegible postmarks — as long as the ballots are received by noon on the Friday after Election Day, Nov. 3.

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New Mexico Legislator Flees Home After Receiving Threats

A New Mexico state senator said he fled his house after receiving anonymous threatening telephone messages following his criticism of a protest outside the state Capitol against coronavirus restrictions.

State Sen. Jacob Candelaria said Sunday that he received the series of profanity-laced telephone telephone messages after he issued the criticism Saturday night in a TV appearance.

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Grassroots Volunteers Rally Voters in Swing State of Ohio

Something changed in Yana Duke this year. She came to the U.S. as a youth from Ukraine, had never been involved in politics before. But during the 2020 campaign season, she felt she had to do something.

“What I’m afraid is coming to this country is what I’m running away from,” she said. “I’m really worried about socialism.”

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