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NYC voters receive absentee ballots with wrong address, names on return envelopes



Unclear how many people received the wrong envelope

Mail-in voting has gotten off to a rocky start in New York City, where election officials sent out a large number of absentee ballots with the wrong names and addresses on the return envelopes.

The faulty ballots were sent to an unknown number of voters in Brooklyn, N.Y., and could result in ballots being voided if voters sign their own name on return envelopes bearing different names. More than 140,000 ballots have already been sent out so far across the borough, and it is unclear how many people got the wrong envelopes.

The New York City Board of Elections blamed the problem on the Rochester, N.Y.-based vendor hired to print and mail the ballots for voters in Brooklyn and Queens.

The faulty ballots are limited to just “one print run” sent to Brooklyn voters, the board’s director Michael Ryan said at a Tuesday board meeting. He didn’t say how many ballots were printed in that run, but said the vendor said the error “has been caught and corrected moving forward.”

All voters potentially impacted by the error will receive new reprinted ballots and envelopes before the Nov. 3 election from the vendor — which will cover the cost, Ryan said.

He said the move will “make certain that absolutely no disenfranchisement occurs in the borough of Brooklyn.”

It’s a mess. It’s an absolute mess.– Brooklyn resident Marla Garfield

But it’s unclear exactly how the city will handle voters who had already mailed their completed ballot back in the provided envelopes.

Ryan said elections workers will reach out to voters by social media and, if available, by telephone and email addresses. And he said the board will ensure all received ballots are “appropriately processed” and tallied votes are “properly credited” to voters.

“It is essential that confidence be established on this process and that we make certain we have all the voters who potentially have a problem have a full and fair opportunity to remedy that problem,” Ryan said.

Meanwhile, the city elections board was also dealing with confusion regarding another printing anomaly on absentee ballots.

Absentee ballots in the city are sent out with a heading: Official Absentee / Military Ballot. This year, the slash between “absentee” and “military” was left out, leading some voters to believe they had mistakenly been mailed a ballot for use only by members of the military.

The board tweeted that the ballot was still good for use by any registered voter.

Not ‘smooth, stable, secure’

The city’s Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said the city’s board of elections has again failed to ensure a “smooth, stable, secure election” and called for an investigation and possibly replacement of the vendor. 

Marla Garfield, a 46-year-old editor who lives in Park Slope in Brooklyn, said she received a ballot envelope with another person’s name and a ballot labelled “Absentee Military.”

Garfield said she’s “furious” about the errors, is voting in-person instead. She said she’s worried the confusion will fuel distrust in mail-in-voting and opposition from Republicans over November election results.

“It’s a mess. It’s an absolute mess,” she said.

In Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay section, 28-year-old Victoria Edel, said her family of four was excited to open up their ballots to vote by mail. They had requested them online Aug. 22.

Then, they discovered she had received her younger brother’s ballot envelope. Her younger brother had her mother’s. Her mother had the envelope of a woman who appears to live nearby. She said she’s worried about people who don’t watch the news and perhaps are still sending back ballots in wrong envelopes.

“It feels like it’s really easy for a lot of people to be disenfranchised this way,” Edel said. She’s hopeful she’ll get her correct envelope eventually.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 400,000 New York City residents voted by absentee ballot, a figure that was 10 times the number of absentee ballots cast in the 2016 primary. 

Extension granted for counting absentee ballots 

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, a federal appeals court upheld a six-day extension on Tuesday for counting absentee ballots for the presidential election, handing Democrats a victory in their fight to deliver the key battleground state for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in November.

The decision, if stands, means that ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3 will be counted as long as they are received by Nov. 9. That could mean the winner in Wisconsin won’t be known for days after the polls close.

Republicans are likely to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The decision came just two days after the appeals court put the lower court’s ruling granting the extension on hold. The appeals court vacated that ruling, saying Republicans who sued did not have standing. The court gave Republicans one week to argue why the case should not be dismissed.

The Republican National Committee, the state Republican Party and Wisconsin Republican legislators argued against the deadline extension.

Absentee ballots are normally due in local clerks’ offices by 8 p.m. on election day to count, but the Democratic National Committee, the state Democratic Party and allied groups, including the League of Women Voters, sued to extend the deadline after the April presidential primary saw long lines, fewer polling places, a shortage of workers and thousands of ballots mailed days after the election.

U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled Sept. 21 that ballots that arrive up to six days after election day will count as long as they’re postmarked by election day.

State election officials anticipate as many as two million people will cast absentee ballots to avoid catching the coronavirus at the polls. That would be three times more absentee ballots than any other previous election and could overwhelm both election officials and the postal service, Conley wrote. 

As of Tuesday, more nearly 1.2 million absentee ballots had been required and more than 308,000 had been returned. Republicans argued on appeal that the current absentee voting rules be left in place, saying people have plenty of time to obtain and return their ballots.

Conley also extended the state’s deadline for registering by mail or electronically by seven days, from Oct. 14 to Oct. 21 and declared that poll workers can work in any county, not just where they live. Clerks have reported fears of the virus caused shortages of poll workers in both Wisconsin’s spring presidential primary and state primary in August. Loosening the residency requirements could make it easier to fill slots.


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Philippines orders evacuation as world’s strongest 2020 typhoon approaches




Typhoon Goni will bring intense rains over the capital and 14 provinces

Philippine officials on Saturday ordered evacuation of thousands of residents in the southern part of the main Luzon island as a category 5 storm that is the world’s strongest this year approaches the Southeast Asian nation.

Typhoon Goni, with 215 km/h sustained winds and gusts of up to 265 km/h, will make landfall on Sunday as the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines since Haiyan that killed more than 6,300 people in November 2013.

Pre-emptive evacuations have started in coastal and landslide-prone communities in the provinces of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur, while Albay provincial government would order residents in risky areas to leave their homes, Gremil Naz, a local disaster official, told DZBB radio station. “The strength of this typhoon is no joke.”

Typhoon Molave last week killed 22 people, mostly through drowning in provinces south of the capital Manila, which is also in the projected path of Goni, the 18th tropical storm in the country.

Authorities are facing another hurdle as social distancing needs to be imposed in evacuation centres to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The Philippines has the second highest COVID-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, next only to Indonesia.

Relief goods, heavy machinery and personal protective equipment are already positioned in key areas, Filipino Grace America, mayor of Infanta town in Quezon province, told DZBB radio. “But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our funds for calamity concerns and expenses are insufficient.”

Local officials cancelled port operations and barred fishers from setting sail.

Typhoon Goni, moving westward at 20 km/h from the Pacific Ocean, will bring intense rains over the capital and 14 provinces nearby on Saturday evening, and threats of floods and landslides.

Another typhoon, Atsani, is gaining strength just outside the Philippines. Around 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year.


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Ex-U.S. embassy worker suspected of sexually assaulting 24 women




Brian Jeffrey Raymond was arrested earlier this month in San Diego

A former U.S. embassy worker in Mexico is believed to have drugged and sexually assaulted as many as two dozen women, filming many of them while they were unconscious, according to federal prosecutors.

Brian Jeffrey Raymond was arrested earlier this month in San Diego, where he had moved after leaving his job in June. He has been charged in one case involving an alleged assault on May 31 and prosecutors say they anticipate more charges involving 23 other women.

The FBI started investigating after Mexican police responding to a call May 31 found a woman naked and screaming from the balcony of an embassy-leased apartment in Mexico City.

Investigators found more than 400 photos and videos on Raymond’s iCloud account in which he appears to be filming unconscious women, according to court documents.

Prosecutors say they now have evidence for charges involving 23 other alleged victims.

Raymond has worked for the U.S. government for 23 years in numerous countries, according to court documents. Prosecutors did not specify what position he held in Mexico other than to say he was working for a U.S. government agency at the embassy.

Roberto Velasco, director general of North America in Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Raymond was the first secretary of the United States, a mid-level diplomatic post.

Mexican authorities collaborated with U.S. officials on the investigation that led to Raymond’s arrest “in order to bring to justice a potential series of sexual abuses that occurred in both countries,” Velasco said in a statement.

The Mexican government emphasized “its categorical rejection of any form of gender violence,” Velasco said.

Photos and videos found

Raymond has not entered a plea and his defence attorney did not immediately respond to phone messages and emails from The Associated Press requesting comment. The Daily Beast first reported on the charges.

Neither embassy nor State Department officials would comment on the case.

Raymond left his job in mid-June after he was questioned about the May 31 incident and his cellphones and lap top were seized, according to court documents.

Mexican police reported finding a “naked, hysterical woman desperately screaming for help from the defendant’s balcony,” according to prosecutors. Raymond had been living there since August 2018.

The victim told investigators she had no idea that Raymond was filming her or that he had pulled down her bra, exposing her breasts.

The 23 other victims were discovered after investigators found hundreds of photos and videos, according to court documents.

If convicted, Raymond could face a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Fluent in Spanish and Mandarin, Raymond has “led an exemplary life” from all outward appearances, according to prosecutors.

“The fact that many victims in defendant’s case were unaware of his behavior until they were shown the videos and photographs made while they were unconscious is evidence of his unique ability to portray a very different public face,” prosecutors said in their court filings.

He continued to meet with women until September of this year in San Diego, according to court documents.

Raymond remains in custody in San Diego, though the case is being transferred to Washington. His preliminary hearing has been delayed until Dec. 14 because the coronavirus pandemic has impeded his new defence attorney’s ability to travel and meet with him.


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Senegal migrant shipwreck last week said to be deadliest of year, with 140 dead




A boat carrying 200 people caught fire and capsized on Oct. 24 near Mbour, Senegal

At least 140 Europe-bound migrants have drowned off the coast of Senegal in the deadliest shipwreck recorded this year, the United Nations migration agency said on Thursday.

The boat carrying 200 passengers caught fire and capsized on Saturday a few hours after leaving the fishing town of Mbour, 100 kilometres south of the capital Dakar, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

The Senegalese and Spanish navies and fishermen rescued some 60 people, but “at least 140 people have drowned,” IOM said in a statement.

The perilous sea passage from West Africa to the Canary Islands was once a major route for those seeking an escape from poverty. Attempts became scarcer when Spain stepped up patrols in the mid-2000s, but the route is seeing a surge this year.

Migrant arrivals to the Canary Islands from West Africa have more than quadrupled so far this year to around 11,000 compared with the same period in 2019, IOM said.

Fourteen boats carrying 663 migrants left Senegal for the islands in September, over a quarter of which experienced an incident or shipwreck, it said.


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Former leader of Hong Kong pro-independence group charged with secession




Tony Chung, 19, was arrested Tuesday

 A former leader of Hong Kong pro-independence group Studentlocalism was charged on Thursday with secession, money laundering and conspiracy to publish seditious material, the latest person to be targeted under a new national security law.

Tony Chung, 19, who was denied bail, was arrested on Tuesday under the contentious legislation that punishes what Beijing broadly defines as secession, sedition, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in jail.

Like other anti-government organizations, Studentlocalism disbanded before Beijing imposed the national security law on China’s most free city on June 30.

Chung had been free on bail after being initially arrested under the new legislation in July on suspicion of being involved in an organization that vowed to fight for an independent Hong Kong.

Two other activists were also arrested on Tuesday and are out on bail.

Beijing said the national security law was necessary to bring stability to the former British colony after a year of sometimes violent anti-government protests.

Critics of the legislation say it is being used to crush wide-ranging freedoms granted to the city when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.


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8 killed, 42 missing in landslides in typhoon-hit Vietnam




Rescuers dug up bodies in village where hillside collapsed on houses

Landslides set off by Typhoon Molave killed at least eight people with 42 others missing in central Vietnam, state media said Thursday.

Rescuers dug up eight bodies in Tra Van village in south central Tra Van in Quang Nam province where a hillside collapsed on houses, the official Vietnam News Agency reported.

In Tra Leng village, several kilometres from Tra Van, another landslide buried several houses occupied by about 45 people, including four who managed to survive. Rescuers have recovered three bodies and were scrambling to save others.

The initial death toll reflects the ferocity of the typhoon, which Vietnamese officials feared may be the worst to hit the country in 20 years. The typhoon slammed central Vietnam on Wednesday with destructive force while at least three provinces were still recovering from recent deadly flooding that killed more than 100 people and destroyed hundreds of houses early this month.

Authorities earlier said Molave sank two fishing boats with 26 crew members off Binh Dinh province. The navy deployed two rescue boats to search for them, according to state-run VTV network.

State media had also reported two deaths on Wednesday, a man knocked off his roof by strong winds and another pinned by a fallen tree in coastal Quang Ngai province.

At least 40,000 people were evacuated to emergency shelters and authorities shut down offices, factories and schools to prevent casualties.

The typhoon left at least nine people dead in the Philippines before blowing toward Vietnam.


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Germany, France brace for new lockdowns amid rising COVID-19 case numbers




Belgium, the Netherlands, most of Spain and the Czech Republic are also showing high rates of infection

Germany and France were bracing for new lockdowns Wednesday, as governments sought to stop the fast-rising tide of coronavirus cases beginning to fill European hospitals.

French markets opened lower on expectations that President Emmanuel Macron would announce tough measures during a televised evening address to the nation.

Doctors in France have been calling on the government to impose a new nationwide lockdown, noting more than half the country’s intensive care units are occupied by COVID-19 patients, and medical staff are under increasing strains.

On a map representing COVID-19 cases from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, most parts of France were coloured deep red, signifying more than 240 cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeks. The number of daily deaths from the virus spiked Tuesday, with 523 new deaths and another 33,417 new infections.

Belgium, the Netherlands, most of Spain and the Czech Republic were showing similarly high rates of infection.

Germany was still coloured in orange, indicating that the average number of new cases there is still under 120 per 100,000 over the last 14 days.

Still, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was pressing governors of the country’s 16 states to quickly agree a partial lockdown that could include further restrictions on public gatherings and the closure of bars and restaurants.

Hospitality industry suffering

The plan has caused anguish in Germany’s hospitality industry, with thousands of venue owners staging a protest Wednesday at Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate to demand further financial support from the government.

While Germany has fared better than many of its neighbouring European countries during the pandemic, officials warn that it, too, is beginning to lose control of the situation.

Economists said further restrictions need to be carefully calibrated to avoid dealing a second severe blow to businesses.

“A national lockdown, as we have seen in, ravages an economy and would add significant complications to the ongoing economic recovery,” said Fiona Cincotta, an analyst at online trading firm GAIN Capital.

But Thomas Gitzel, chief economist at Liechtenstein’s VP Bank Group, said a temporary lockdown could be less harmful than a prolonged slump in consumer spending as infection levels remain stubbornly high.

“One doesn’t need to be a virologist to conclude that, without further restrictions, the number of new daily infections will likely rise,” said Gitzel, adding that a short, strict lockdown could be effective. “The strict containment measures in March and April laid the ground for an economically successful summer.”

Officials in Germany have cited the failure by authorities in the neighbouring Czech Republic to maintain their springtime successes against the virus, saying they opened too widely in the summer.

Nationwide curfew in Czech Republic

The Czech Health Ministry said the country’s day-to-day case increase hit a new record high of 15,663 Tuesday — as many as Germany, which has eight times the population.

The Czech government has further tightened its regulations, imposing a nationwide curfew between 9 p.m and 6 a.m. that started Wednesday. It previously limited free movement, closed stores, schools and restaurants, made it mandatory to wear face masks indoors and outdoors and banned sport competitions, but the number of infections has continued to rise.

Several demonstrations against the virus restrictions were planned for Wednesday in the capital of Prague.

Wales has opted for that short, sharp approach, with a 17-day lockdown during which people cannot even drive out of their region to England.

Even Sweden, which avoided a national lockdown and generally imposed far lighter measures than other European countries, is now urging people to avoid shopping centres and shops and stay away from public transportation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said more than two million confirmed coronavirus cases were reported last week — the shortest time ever for such an exponential increase.

It said for the second consecutive week, the European region accounted for the biggest proportion of new cases, with more than 1.3 million cases or about 46 per cent of the worldwide total. The UN health agency said deaths were also on the rise in Europe, with about a 35 per cent spike since the previous week. Overall, Europe has seen more than 250,000 virus-related deaths, according to a tally by the Balitimore-based Johns Hopkins University.

The WHO also noted that hospitalizations and ICU occupancy due to COVID-19 increased in 21 countries across Europe.


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Decade-old death with ties to Ontario seeing renewed interest, thanks to ‘Unsolved Mysteries’




‘Credible tips’ coming in after the 2010 case was profiled on popular show

Michelle Romain believes the decade-long mystery of her mother’s death won’t go unsolved for much longer.

That’s in large part due to the case being profiled on a new episode of the long-running TV program Unsolved Mysteries, now on Netflix.

“There are some credible tips coming in,” Romain told CBC Radio’s Afternoon Drive, adding that Unsolved fans from as far away as Portugal and China have contacted her with messages of support since the episode went live on October 19.

“With all the spotlight on it at this point, I know that action will be taken.”

In January 2010, Jo Ann Matouk Romain of Gross Pointe, Michigan disappeared after attending an evening church service. Local police believe she walked into Lake St. Clair, fewer than 100 metres from the church, to commit suicide.

Her body was discovered more than two months later off Bois Bloc Island (commonly known as Boblo Island) in Amherstburg, Ontario, more than 55 kilometres from where police believe her body entered the water, which was no more than a few feet deep and had no wind current at the time, according to investigators featured in the episode.

Michelle Romain has been trying to disprove the police’s theory ever since, hiring private investigators and soliciting tips from the public through social media pages, including the Justice For JoAnn Matouk Romain Facebook page. As Romain explained to CBC, she’s convinced her mother was murdered and believes her mother would never take her own life.

“She was a happy person. She was a religious person,” Romain said. “This is something that she would have never done to herself. We know that there’s people responsible for her murder, and there is going to be consequences at the end of this.”

A trip to Boblo Island

As part of the Unsolved Mysteries episode, Michelle Romain paid her first visit to Boblo Island to see where her mother’s body was found.

“It was definitely difficult knowing that was where her lifeless body was found. It’s hard to think about,” Romain said. “But it’s something I had to do. I needed to experience that. I needed to know where her body was found. And we needed to take a look at every aspect of this case.”

According to the Detroit Free Press, Romain sued the Gross Pointe Police departments for $100 million U-S, alleging a cover-up of her mother’s murder. A federal judge dismissed the suit and a subsequent appeal, but said the case cited ‘disputed facts’ that are ‘very disturbing.’

A decade-old unexplained death with ties to southwestern Ontario is seeing renewed interest after it was profiled on Unsolved Mysteries. Michelle Romain joined Afternoon Drive to discuss whether she feels closer to finding out what happened to her mother. 8:06


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Tension grips Philadelphia for 2nd night after fatal police shooting of Black man




Governor Tom Wolf mobilizes Pennsylvania National Guard Tuesday

Tension gripped the streets of Philadelphia for a second night on Tuesday following a deadly police shooting of a Black man armed with a knife and described by relatives as suffering from a mental breakdown as he was confronted by law enforcement.

A night after violent unrest and looting in the west Philadelphia neighborhood near where 27-year-old Walter Wallace was gunned down on Monday, hundreds of demonstrators marched again demanding racial justice while police and National Guard troops braced for more disorder.

As they had on Monday, Tuesday’s rallies began peacefully but grew more confrontational as darkness fell, and police turned out in force to cordon off a section of the city’s 52nd Street commercial district lined with shops that were looted the previous night.

Police in riot gear arriving in squad cars, on bicycles and on buses used their bikes to shove jeering protesters back from barricade lines. Aerial news footage broadcast by an NBC television affiliate also showed the looting of a Walmart retail outlet.

But Tuesday’s clashes appeared for the most part smaller in scale and intensity than those on Monday, when orderly demonstrations gave way to violence that left 30 officers injured and led to more than 90 arrests.

Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, mobilized the Pennsylvania National Guard on Tuesday to assist law enforcement and city emergency management officials in maintaining order, a spokesman for the Guard said in a statement.

Monday’s upheavals erupted hours after a bystander’s video footage was posted on social media showing two officers opening fire on Wallace after he failed to heed their orders to back off and to drop the knife he was holding.

Wallace suffered from bipolar disorder, and his psychological difficulties were relayed by his wife to the officers who encountered him before the shooting, a lawyer for his family said.

The encounter transformed Philadelphia into the latest flashpoint in a months-long series of protests across the United States set off by the May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man in handcuffs, pinned by his neck to the street under the knee of a white Minneapolis policeman.

Race and police conduct campaign issues in U.S. race

The protests, and law enforcement response to them, have thrust the issues of racism and police conduct to the forefront of the White House race between Republican President Donald Trump and his Democratic Party challenger, Joe Biden.

“Our hearts are broken for the family of Walter Wallace Jr., and for all those suffering the emotional weight of learning about another Black life in America lost,” Biden and his running mate, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, said in a joint statement. “We cannot accept that in this country a mental health crisis ends in death.”

Philadelphia and its predominantly minority population ranks as the largest city in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Mayor Jim Kenney said the video of the Wallace shooting presented “difficult questions” about the actions of the officers involved.

“Last night we saw further evidence of the anguish of Black and Brown residents of our city who have struggled their entire lives under systemic racism,” he told a news briefing.

But he also expressed sympathy for the officers injured in the protests, mostly from bricks and other projectiles hurled by demonstrators, and for the business owners whose shops were damaged.

“Vandalism and looting is not an acceptable form of First Amendment expression,” Kenney said, referring to the constitutional right to free speech.

The video of Monday’s shooting showed Wallace approaching two police officers who drew their guns after warning him to put down the knife. The video shows the officers backing up before the camera cuts briefly away as gunfire erupts and Wallace collapses.

Chief Inspector Frank Vanore said the police had responded to a call about a man screaming who was armed with a knife, and that each officer fired about seven rounds. But he declined to give further details pending the outcome of an investigation.

John McNesby, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, defended the officers in a statement.

“The use of lethal force is a very difficult decision and we support our officers as they worked to resolve this incident under a great deal of stress. These officers were aggressively approached by a man wielding a knife,” he said.


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