House Democrats File Bill to Fund US Government But Leave Out New Farm Money

The U.S. Congress this week considers legislation to fund the federal government through mid-December, but a dispute over farm aid raised questions about whether lawmakers can avoid a government shutdown amid a pandemic just weeks before the Nov. 3 elections. With government funding lapsing on Sept. 30, House Democrats announced Monday they had filed the stopgap funding legislation, but angered Republicans by leaving out new money that President Donald Trump wanted for farmers. The House will take up the bill Tuesday, a Democratic aide said. The Senate could then act later this week. The new federal fiscal year starts Oct. 1. The bill is designed to give lawmakers more time to work out federal spending for the period through September 2021, including budgets for military operations, health care, national parks, space programs, and airport and border security. FILE – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Aug. 27, 2020.The spending proposal “will avert a catastrophic shutdown in the middle of the ongoing pandemic, wildfires and hurricanes, and keep government open until December 11, when we plan to have bipartisan legislation to fund the government for this fiscal year,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. But the measure’s December end date will require Congress to return to the government funding question again during its post-election lame-duck session, either during or after what could be a bruising fight to confirm Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And the legislation does not include $21.1 billion the White House sought to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation, a program to stabilize farm incomes, because Democrats considered this a “blank check” for “political favors,” said a House Democratic aide who asked not to be named. Trump promised more farm aid during a rally in Wisconsin last week. Republicans were not happy.  FILE – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell meets with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, July 20, 2020.”House Democrats’ rough draft of a government funding bill shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need. This is no time to add insult to injury and defund help for farmers and rural America,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote on Twitter.  Republicans could seek to amend the document to add in the provision, but both chambers would ultimately need to pass the same version for the measure to go to Trump for signing into law. The bill proposes spending $14 billion to shore up a trust fund that pays for airport improvements and air traffic control operations. It also directs $13.6 billion to maintain current spending levels on highways and mass transit. 
 

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Nevada Judge Dismisses Trump Campaign Lawsuit Over Mail-in Ballots

A federal judge in Nevada has dismissed a lawsuit by President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign that sought to block the state from sending mail-in ballots to every registered voter there, a legal victory for Democrats ahead of November’s election. The order is the latest in a string of wins for Democrats in battleground states, including in Michigan and Pennsylvania, where courts this month ruled that mailed ballots that arrive within certain time periods after Nov. 3’s Election Day must still be counted. Trump’s campaign had argued that the Nevada law, which includes provisions mandating that ballots received up to three days after Nov. 3 be counted even if they lack a postmark, would lead to election fraud. Experts say election fraud is exceedingly rare in the United States, but Trump, a Republican facing off against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, has repeatedly said without evidence that an expected surge in voting by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic could lead to a rigged election. In an order dated Friday but released Monday, U.S. District Judge James Mahan dismissed the case, saying the campaign does not represent Nevada voters, and did not have legal standing to bring the complaint, which he called “impermissibly generalized.” “Plaintiffs never describe how their member voters will be harmed by vote dilution where other voters will not,” Mahan wrote, explaining in part his reasons for the dismissal. “Not only have plaintiffs failed to allege a substantial risk of voter fraud, the State of Nevada has its own mechanisms for deterring and prosecuting voter fraud,” he wrote, adding that the alleged injuries were speculative. The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Marc Elias, an elections lawyer working with Biden’s campaign, said on Twitter that the ruling was a “big victory” for Democrats. Nevada is among eight states that plan to mail every voter a ballot. Election officials in most states have encouraged at-home voting as the highly contagious nature of the novel coronavirus has made voting in person a concern.  
 

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What Fight Over TikTok Portends for Tech

The battle between China and the U.S. over the fate of video sharing app TikTok raises questions for the tech industry worldwide. What might the struggle over TikTok portend for global companies? Michelle Quinn reports.Producer: Matt Dibble 

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WHO: Since WWII, No Crisis Demonstrates Need for UN More Than COVID-19

The World Health Organization’s director-general said Monday no crisis since World War II demonstrates more clearly the need for the United Nations than the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus.Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged the 75th anniversary of the United Nations as well as the start of the U.N. General Assembly this week, as he opened his regular briefing from WHO headquarters in Geneva.Tedros said WHO, as “a proud member of the U.N. family,” had three key messages for the U.N. members.”First, the pandemic must motivate us to redouble our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, not become an excuse for missing them; Second, we must prepare for the next pandemic now. And third, we must move heaven and Earth to ensure equitable access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines,” said WHO’s director-general.Tedros said from the very beginning, the WHO has been committed to global efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and other treatments. Central to that effort, he said, was the partnership with the global vaccine alliance, GAVI, to establish the cooperative COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) facility, designed to ensure equitable access to any COVID-19 vaccine or treatments that maybe developed.According to the Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the global coronavirus pandemic, more than 31 million people are infected, and more than 961,000 people have died. The United States leads the world with more than 6.8 million infections and close to 200,000 deaths.Meanwhile, nearly half of Americans, or 49%, said they definitely or probably would not get an inoculation if a coronavirus vaccine were available today, while 51% said they would, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted earlier this month. Those who lean toward rejecting the inoculation have cited concerns about side effects.FILE – A lab technician sorts blood samples for a COVID-19 vaccination study at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, Aug.13, 2020.President Donald Trump said last month the U.S. will have a vaccination for the coronavirus “before the end of the year or maybe even sooner.” Experts say it can take decades to develop, test, and prove vaccines safe before they are administered to patients. Hope has been high, however, that a concerted international effort will produce an effective vaccine sometime next year.Tedros said almost 200 potential COVID-19 vaccines are currently in clinical and pre-clinical testing through the cooperative effort.”Our aim is to have 2 billion doses of vaccine available by the end of 2021,” he said.The director-general noted $3 billion has been invested so far, but $15 billion was needed immediately to maintain momentum and stay on track.He said investing in COVAX only makes sense, saying it “will help to bring the pandemic under control, save lives, accelerate the economic recovery and ensure that the race for vaccines is a collaboration, not a contest. This is not charity, it’s in every country’s best interest. We sink or we swim together.”The WHO announced Monday 64 of the world’s top economies have now joined COVAX, with 38 other major economies indicating they will be joining in the coming days.

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US Withdraws Advice on Airborne Coronavirus Transmission

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday withdrew its statement from three days ago on how COVID-19 can spread through aerosolized droplets, saying it was posted “in error.” On Friday, the CDC posted an update to its website saying the virus can be transmitted through tiny, aerosolized droplets that are “produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes.”  Such passage of the virus would entail a distance greater than the 2-meter space generally accepted as medically proper social distancing between people to avoid transmitting the disease. It is a view that outside health experts have been advancing. CDC Adds Breathing to Ways Coronavirus SpreadsThe CDC has updated its website to add another way to protect yourselfBut on Monday the CDC dropped any mention of airborne transmission, saying that “a draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website.” Instead, it said the possibility of recommendations on dealing with airborne transmission of the virus are under review. The agency reverted to its previous message, saying that the virus is thought to spread “between people who are in close contact with one another,” a distance of about 2 meters. An agency official said the Friday guidelines were removed because they did “not reflect our current state of knowledge.” The website mistake was the agency’s latest in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and came on the same day as the United States neared 200,000 deaths from the virus, the most of any country in the world.  The CDC recently had reversed its guidance on whether asymptomatic people should be tested for the coronavirus to now say anyone should be tested if they have come in contact with someone known to have been infected. 
 

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Turkey’s Plan to Regain Ottoman Empire Maritime Influence Irks Greece

Turkey is embarking on a major naval construction program to restore the regional maritime influence it lost after the Ottoman empire’s collapse. But the policy is already generating regional tensions – in particular – with its neighbor, Greece. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.
Camera: Berke Bas    Producer: Jon Spier

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US Challenges Injunction Against WeChat App Store Bans

The U.S. Commerce Department said Monday it is challenging a federal judge’s injunction against its order that Apple and Google remove WeChat from their U.S. app stores due to data privacy and national security concerns.The department’s original order, issued Friday, also included another Chinese-owned app, TikTok, and expressed the Trump administration’s concerns about the way the apps collect user data and the potential for that information to be shared with Chinese government agencies.China has rejected the U.S. allegations of a security threat, and on Saturday condemned what it called “bullying” that violated international trade standards.U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler responded Sunday to a request for an injunction from WeChat users by putting the Commerce Department’s order on hold, ruling that the Trump administration’s actions would restrict users’ free speech rights under the First Amendment.WeChat has about 19 million active daily users in the United States. The service, owned by Chinese tech company Tencent, is popular with Americans who use it to communicate with family and friends in China.Video-sharing service TikTok earned a short reprieve from its part of the Commerce Department order after announcing an agreement to form a new company with U.S. tech giant Oracle and retailer WalMart together holding up to a 20% share.The U.S. head office of TikTok is seen in Culver City, California, Sept. 15, 2020.Speaking to Fox News on Monday, Trump said his administration would not approve the agreement if ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese owner, has any control.“If we find that they don’t have total control, then we’re not going to approve the deal,” Trump said of Oracle and WalMart.  “We will be watching it very closely.”Those comments are in contrast to those Trump gave Saturday when he said he approved of the agreement “in concept” and had “given the deal my blessing.” The Commerce Department has delayed the app store ban for TikTok until September 27, and given the company until November 12 to resolve national security concerns before facing a wider range of restrictions. 

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US Coronavirus Death Toll Inches Toward 200,000 Deaths

The United States is approaching the milestone of 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus, say experts monitoring the outbreak.The U.S. has more than 6.8 million infections, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, with 199,513 deaths, the most of any nation in either category. Recent growth in U.S. cases in the Southwest and Midwest is being attributed to the reopening of schools and colleges.The race to produce a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine has sustained another setback. Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported Sunday that late-stage human trials of an experimental vaccine in the United States have been paused due to concerns over a possible adverse side effect.AZD1222, developed through a joint initiative by AstraZeneca and Britain’s University of Oxford, has been undergoing large-scale Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials in several nations, including the U.S., Britain, Brazil, South Africa and India.FILE – Laboratory technicians work at the mAbxience biopharmaceutical company on an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and the laboratory AstraZeneca in Garin, Argentina, Aug. 14, 2020.But the Telegraph says testing was delayed twice in Britain after two volunteer participants were subsequently diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammation of  the spinal cord.With the number of COVID-19 cases now over the 31 million mark, many places are also experiencing an increase in new infections, such as in Britain, which is nearing 400,000, including 3,899 new cases on Sunday. Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, and chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance, announced Monday during a nationally televised address that Britain is “heading in the wrong direction” and has reached “a critical response” in its response.Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday that the country could face another round of strict restrictions if the public does not observe the new “rule of six” order issued earlier this month by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which limits the number of people taking part in most social gatherings to six.The pandemic is also having an effect on the world’s refugees. A new survey released Monday by the Norwegian Refugee Council shows nearly 80% of people displaced by conflicts have lost a job or revenue since the beginning of the outbreak.In a survey of more than 1,400 respondents across 14 countries, including Afghanistan, Columbia, Iraq and Venezuela, the NRC found that some 70% of those asked said they had to cut the number of meals for their households, while 73% were less likely to send their children to school because of economic problems.FILE – People search for food at a garbage container during the closing hour at the Coche wholesale market amid COVID-19 outbreak in Caracas, Venezuela, July 31, 2020.But some countries are reporting progress in the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Monday lifted restrictions for all of the country except Auckland, after authorities posted no new cases.  New Zealand had gone over 100 days without any new COVID-19 cases until last month, when a new cluster broke out in the northern city, prompting Prime Minister Ardern to reimpose the strict nationwide restrictions first enacted back in March.People wearing face masks prepare to board a bus on the first day of New Zealand’s new coronavirus disease safety measure that mandates wearing of a mask on public transport, in Auckland, Aug. 31, 2020.Auckland will continue to remain under some restrictions for the next two weeks, but officials have increased the number of people in gatherings from 10 to 100.In Australia, Victoria state reported just 11 new cases on Monday, its smallest one-day jump since June 16. Victoria had been placed under a state of disaster last month due to a dramatic surge in new cases, especially in its capital, Melbourne, with the average number of cases topping 700 as recently as last month. Residents were placed under a strict curfew, and were restricted to their homes except for work, shopping or medical care.“This is a great day,” state Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters Monday, but he said he will not move up the timeline to begin easing the state of emergency.  Authorities have said it will lift some of the restrictions, including reopening child care facilities and resuming manufacturing and construction, on September 27, but only if the average number of cases over a two-week period is under 50.Despite more than 5.4 million COVID-19 cases, including about 100,000 new infections and more than 1,000 deaths daily, India reopened the Taj Mahal to visitors Monday.A man gets his photograph taken in front of Taj Mahal after authorities reopened the monument to visitors, amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, in Agra, India, Sept. 21, 2020.India has 1.3 billion people and some of the world’s most crowded cities, but a strict lockdown in March devastated the economy and the lives of tens of millions of people.The government has since eased restrictions, including on many train routes, domestic flights, markets and restaurants.Schools resumed Monday on a voluntary basis for students ages 14 to 17, but many Indian states have said it is too soon to have children in the classroom.India has also reported 87,882 deaths. 

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US Space Force Deploys to Vast New Frontier: Arabian Desert

The newly formed U.S. Space Force is deploying troops to a vast new frontier: the Arabian Peninsula.
Space Force now has a squadron of 20 airmen stationed at Qatar’s Al-Udeid Air Base in its first foreign deployment. The force, pushed by President Donald Trump, represents the sixth branch of the U.S. military and the first new military service since the creation of the Air Force in 1947.
It has provoked skepticism in Congress, satire on Netflix, and, with its uncannily similar logo, “Star Trek” jokes about intergalactic battles.
Future wars may be waged in outer space, but the Arabian Desert already saw what military experts dub the world’s first “space war” — the 1991 Desert Storm operation to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Today, the U.S. faces new threats in the region from Iran’s missile program and efforts to jam, hack and blind satellites.
“We’re starting to see other nations that are extremely aggressive in preparing to extend conflict into space,” Col. Todd Benson, director of Space Force troops at Al-Udeid, told The Associated Press. “We have to be able to compete and defend and protect all of our national interests.”
In a swearing-in ceremony earlier this month at Al-Udeid, 20 Air Force troops, flanked by American flags and massive satellites, entered Space Force. Soon several more will join the unit of “core space operators” who will run satellites, track enemy maneuvers and try to avert conflicts in space.
“The missions are not new and the people are not necessarily new,” Benson said.
That troubles some American lawmakers who view the branch, with its projected force of 16,000 troops and 2021 budget of $15.4 billion, as a vanity project for Trump ahead of the November presidential election.
Concerns over the weaponization of outer space are decades old. But as space becomes increasingly contested, military experts have cited the need for a space corps devoted to defending American interests.
Threats from global competitors have grown since the Persian Gulf War in 1991, when the U.S. military first relied on GPS coordinates to tell troops where they were in the desert as they pushed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait.
Benson declined to name the “aggressive” nations his airmen will monitor and potentially combat. But the decision to deploy Space Force personnel at Al-Udeid follows months of escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
Hostilities between the two countries, ignited by Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from Iran’s nuclear accord, came to a head in January when U.S. forces killed a top Iranian general. Iran responded by launching ballistic missiles at American soldiers in Iraq.
This spring, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard launched its first satellite into space, revealing what experts describe as a secret military space program. The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Iran’s space agency, accusing it of developing ballistic missiles under the cover of a civilian program to set satellites into orbit.
World powers with more advanced space programs, like Russia and China, have made more threatening progress, U.S. officials contend. Last month, Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned that Russia and China were developing weapons that could knock out U.S. satellites, potentially scattering dangerous debris across space and paralyzing cell phones and weather forecasts, as well as American drones, fighter jets, aircraft carriers and even nuclear weapon controllers.
“The military is very reliant on satellite communications, navigation and global missile warning,” said Capt. Ryan Vickers, a newly inducted Space Force member at Al-Udeid.
American troops, he added, use GPS coordinates to track ships passing through strategic Gulf passageways “to make sure they’re not running into international waters of other nations.”
The Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of the world’s oil flows, has been the scene of a series of tense encounters, with Iran seizing boats it claims had entered its waters. One disrupted signal or miscalculation could touch off a confrontation.
For years, Iran has allegedly jammed satellite and radio signals to block foreign-based Farsi media outlets from broadcasting into the Islamic Republic, where radio and television stations are state-controlled.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has warned that commercial aircraft cruising over the Persian Gulf could experience interference and communications jamming from Iran. Ships in the region have also reported “spoofed” communications from unknown entities falsely claiming to be U.S. or coalition warships, according to American authorities.
“It’s not that hard to do, but we’ve seen Iran and other countries become pretty darn efficient at doing it on a big scale,” said Brian Weeden, an Air Force veteran and director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, which promotes peaceful uses of outer space. “There’s a concern Iran could interfere with military broadband communications.”
Responding to questions from the AP, Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman at Iran’s mission to the United Nations, said “Iran will not tolerate interference in our affairs, and in accordance with international law, will respond to any attacks against our sovereignty.” He added that Iran has faced numerous cyber attacks from the U.S. and Israel.
Failing an international agreement that bars conventional arms, like ballistic missiles, from shooting down space assets, the domain will only become more militarized, said Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association. Russia and China have already created space force units and the Revolutionary Guard’s sudden interest in satellite launches has heightened U.S. concerns.
Still, American officials insist the new Space Force deployment aims to secure U.S. interests, not set off an extraterrestrial arms race.
“The U.S. military would like to see a peaceful space,” Benson, the director of Space Force troops stationed in Qatar, said. “Other folks’ behavior is kind of driving us to this point.”

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VOA Connect Episode 140, Ingenuity and COVID (no captions)

We continue to look at life during the pandemic and some creative ways people are helping their community.  

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US Retail Giant Walmart Aims for Zero Global Emissions by 2040   

U.S.-based retail giant Walmart has unveiled new initiatives to reduce its global carbon footprint while preserving the world’s natural land and sea habitats. The company announced Monday that it is aiming for zero carbon emissions by 2040 in all of its global operations by utilizing 100% renewable energy in all of its facilities, switching to an all-electric vehicle fleet, and transitioning to low-impact refrigerants for cooling and electrified equipment for heating in all of its stores and other facilities. The so-called “big box” retailer is also pledging to preserve at least 20 million hectares of land and 171 million square kilometers of ocean by 2030, including the preservation of at least one acre of natural habitat for every acre of land it develops in the United States, and adopt natural preservation techniques such as regenerative agricultural practices, sustainable fisheries management and forest protection and restoration. Doug McMillon, Walmart’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement the company aims to become one “that works to restore, renew and replenish in addition to preserving our planet, and encourages others to do the same” through its new environmental commitments. FILE – Customers shop at a Walmart store.According to the Fortune Global 500 list of 2019, Walmart is the world’s largest company by revenue.  It is also the largest private employer in the world with 2.2 million employees. 

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560 Global Corporations Urge Government Action to Protect Nature

Hundreds of the world’s biggest companies are calling on governments “to act with courage and urgency” to protect the world’s natural resources.Business for Nature is a coalition of 560 companies across all sectors with combined revenues of $4 trillion, including U.S.-based retailer Walmart, investment banker Citigroup and tech giant Microsoft. The group issued a statement Monday urging lawmakers to adopt policies that will reverse the destruction of nature.“Healthy societies, resilient economies and thriving businesses rely on nature,” the statement said.The coalition said if governments fail to act, the world will not be able to meet the targets set out in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement or “prevent a catastrophic loss of biodiversity.”The statement pointed out that natural disasters linked to ecosystem degradation and climate change coast more than $300 billion each year, while an estimated 40-60% of small businesses never reopen after such events.“It is exciting and unprecedented to see so many businesses urging for bold government action to reform nature policies” said Eva Zabey, executive director of Business for Nature.  “Many businesses are making commitments and taking action. But for us all to live well within the planet’s finite limits, we need to scale and speed up efforts now, not tomorrow.”Other companies who have joined the coalition are Dutch-Swiss furniture retailer IKEA, French-based multinational food products company Danone, and Swiss-based clothing retailer H&M.   

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At Least 8 Die in India Building Collapse

Indian authorities have confirmed that at least eight people died in a residential building collapse Monday morning in Maharashtra state.Search and rescue teams are working to find and bring to safety dozens of people who may be trapped in the rubble.At least 11 people were injured when the four-story building collapsed, the commissioner of Bhiwandi in Thane district, a suburb of India’s financial capital, Mumbai, said.Pankaj Ashiya said that the building was more than 30 years old and was due for repair and renovation, which were delayed due to the COVID-19 lockdown.During the June-September monsoon season, when heavy rains weaken the foundations of buildings that are poorly constructed or old, India experiences frequent structure collapses.  

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CDC Adds Breathing to Ways Coronavirus Spreads

As the United States nears 200,000 deaths from COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines to add breathing to the most common ways the coronavirus is spread by an infected person.The U.S. has nearly 6.8 million cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University data late Sunday.An update Friday to the CDC website says there is growing evidence that small airborne coronavirus particles are produced when someone coughs, sneezes, sings, talks or breathes and can remain in the air to be breathed in by others, allowing an infection.“These particles can be inhaled into the nose, mouth, airways, and lungs and cause infection. This is thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” the CDC website says.They can also travel farther than 6 feet, for example when someone sings or exercises.There is also updated information from the CDC about how to protect yourself. The CDC’s advice has been to stay 2 meters away from someone, wash your hands and disinfect surfaces often, and wear a face mask.Now the CDC adds that people who are sick should stay home and isolate themselves and “use air purifiers to help reduce airborne germs in indoor spaces,” according to the CDC site.Taj Mahal to reopenDespite more than 5.4 million COVID-19 cases and about 100,000 new infections and more than 1,000 deaths daily, India will reopen the Taj Mahal to visitors Monday.India has 1.3 billion people and some of the world’s most crowded cities, but a strict lockdown in March devastated the economy and the lives of tens of millions of people. With that in mind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi doesn’t want to follow some other nations in tightening restrictions on daily activity again.Instead, his government has eased restrictions, including on many train routes, domestic flights, markets, restaurants — and now, the Taj Mahal.The world-famous white marble mausoleum in the city of Agra is India’s most popular tourist attraction, drawing 7 million visitors a year.It has been closed since March. Officials say that when it reopens, strict social distancing rules will be applied and daily visitor numbers will be capped at 5,000.Schools were also to resume Monday on a voluntary basis for students ages 14 to 17, but many Indian states have said it is too soon to have children in the classroom.WorldwideWorldwide the number of cases has surpassed 30.8 million, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.The U.S. remains the country with the most infections. Recent growth in U.S. cases in the Southwest and Midwest is being attributed to the reopening of schools and colleges.A four-day motorcycle rally has Missouri and other states bracing for an outbreak. Last year, over 100,000 people attended the Bikefest Lake of the Ozarks event. The annual event in Central Missouri began Wednesday and ends Sunday. A similar event was held last month in Sturgis, South Dakota. COVID-19 cases and one death in several states were traced back to Sturgis.The U.S. has nearly 6.8 million cases, Hopkins reported late Sunday. India follows the U.S. with 5.4 million cases and Brazil comes in third with 4.5 million infections, according to Hopkins.The U.S. has also recorded the highest number of COVID-19 deaths. The U.S. has more than 199,000 of the world’s more than 957,000 coronavirus deaths. Brazil follows the U.S. in coronavirus deaths with more than 136,000 deaths. India has reported nearly 87,000 deaths. 

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Democrats, Republicans Draw New Battle Lines Over Supreme Court Ahead of Election

As the country mourns Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday, President Donald Trump has vowed to nominate a successor this week. The head of the Senate said he would move to confirm the nominee, but Democrats are pushing back. Two key Republican senators said they would argue to wait for a Supreme Court confirmation vote until after election. What’s clear is that both parties see this as a key battle just six weeks before Election Day. Michelle Quinn reports.

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Three Conservative Female Judges at Top of Trump’s Supreme Court List

U.S. President Donald Trump appointed Amy Coney Barrett, Barbara Lagoa and Allison Jones Rushing, three conservatives, to federal appellate court judgeships in recent years and now could pick one of them as his nominee for a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court.They appear to be at the top of the U.S. leader’s list of choices to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the liberal icon who served on the court for 27 years before her death Friday, a month and a half before the November 3 reelection contest between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.Any of the three women — Barrett, 48, Lagoa, 52, and Rushing, 38 — would draw immediate support from Republican lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Senate. And their decisions could ensure a string of philosophically conservative decisions for a generation to come. Any of the three would likely draw vocal opposition from Democrats, even though Lagoa won appellate court confirmation on a bipartisan 80-15 vote.Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Lagoa, currently a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, poses in a photograph from 2019 obtained Sept. 19, 2020.Most Democrats are likely to oppose the confirmation of any of the three because it would push the current 5-4 conservative edge on the court to 6-3 and could for decades affect decisions on a host of issues, including abortion, immigration, health care, religious liberty, among others.Here are brief sketches of the three judges:Amy Coney Barrett taught law at the University of Notre Dame, one of the most prominent Catholic universities in the United States, for 15 years before Trump named her to the appellate bench in 2017. In opposing her appointment then, Democrats voiced concerns about the professed role of religion in her life.U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at Notre Dame University, poses in an undated photograph obtained from Notre Dame University, Sept 19, 2020.They cited one of her comments at Notre Dame, where Barrett, a Catholic, told students that a “legal career is but a means to an end … and that end is building the Kingdom of God.”California Senator Dianne Feinstein was one of several Democrats who questioned whether Barrett’s religious beliefs made her unqualified to adjudicate specific cases, specifically ones related to abortion, which the Catholic church opposes.”Dogma and law are two different things,” Feinstein told Barrett during her appellate court confirmation hearings. “And I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different. And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.”Republicans view her as reliably conservative and a future Supreme Court vote to overturn the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion rights in the U.S., but Barrett has offered conflicting comments on how she might vote on abortion cases.During her confirmation hearing to the appeals court, Barrett said she would “follow all Supreme Court precedent without fail” and would regard decisions such as Roe v. Wade as binding precedent.“I would never impose my own personal convictions upon the law,” she said.But she also has written that judges should not be held to upholding Supreme Court precedents, such as the abortion decision.She won Senate confirmation on a 55-43 vote.Barbara Lagoa was the first Cuban American woman to serve on the Florida state Supreme Court before becoming a federal judge in 2019. She is the daughter of parents who fled from Cuba as Fidel Castro assumed power over the island in the 1959 revolution.”She’s an extraordinary person,” Trump has said. “I’ve heard at length about her. She’s Hispanic and highly respected — Miami. Highly respected.”In 2000, as a private attorney, Lagoa was part of the legal team that defended the Miami-based relatives of Elian Gonzales, the Cuban boy caught up in the dramatic custody dispute between his father in Cuba and his relatives in Miami. The boy was eventually returned to Cuba after swimming ashore into the U.S. as his mother drowned.  Lagoa was a state court judge for more than a decade before Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appointed her to the Florida Supreme Court in January 2019. At the time, he said, “She has been the essence of what a judge should be.”She signaled she would interpret laws as written.“It is the role of judges to apply, not to alter, the work of the people’s representatives,” she said at the time. Less than a year later, Trump tapped her for an appellate court opening.FILE – Allison Jones Rushing is sworn in before a Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing on her nomination to be a United States circuit judge for the Fourth Circuit, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 17, 2018.Allison Jones Rushing won her appellate court confirmation last year with party-line Republican support over Democratic opposition, on a 53-44 vote.Democrats, civil rights, and gay and lesbian groups opposed her nomination.  They cited her internship with Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based conservative, Christian legal nonprofit that defended a Colorado baker in a Supreme Court case who fought for the right not to bake a cake for a gay wedding and in another instance that allowed companies to opt out of providing insurance for contraceptives for employees because of the owners’ religious beliefs.In addition, Rushing defended the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Rushing said she supported the four conservative justices who dissented when the Supreme Court struck down the ruling in 2015.Tim Chandler, the senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, defended Rushing, saying, “The Senate confirmed not only a highly qualified lawyer, but a woman of integrity, professional competence, and judicial demeanor.

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