(TNS)

Tribune News Service

News Budget for Wednesday, October 14, 2020

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Updated at 11 p.m. EDT (0300 UTC).

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Adds CAMPAIGN-TRUMP-LOYALISTS:BLO, EPSTEIN-MAXWELL-VICTIM:NY, POSTALSERVICE-MONITOR:BLO, FLA-FELONS-VOTING:MI, CMP-CHICAGO-CORONAVIRUS:TB, THAILAND:BLO, BALTIMORE-NOKNOCK-WARRANTS:BZ, CALIF-METH-BUST:LA, PETERSON:LA, SOCIALMEDIA-CONTENT-TRUMP:BLO, TIKTOK-TRUMP:BLO

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Updates NC-ABSENTEE-BALLOTS:RA, CALIF-VOTING:LA

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Additional news stories appear on the MCT-NEWSFEATURES-BJT.

This budget is now available at TribuneNewsService.com, with direct links to stories and art. See details at the end of the budget.

^TOP STORIES<

^Democrats again hammer on health care in third day of Supreme Court nominee Barrett's hearings<

^SCOTUS-BARRETT-1ST-LEDE:CON_< Democrats zeroed in on key issues surrounding health care Wednesday on the third day of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings, as Republicans argued members of the other party have overblown their criticisms of a qualified judge.

Barrett, whom President Donald Trump nominated to her current post on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, would replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal legal icon.

1200 by Michael Macagnone and Katherine Tully-McManus in Washington. MOVED

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^<

Also moving as:

SCOTUS-BARRETT:LA _ 1150 by David G. Savage and Tracy Wilkinson in Washington. MOVED

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^Amy Coney Barrett evades answers on hot-button political issues at Supreme Court hearing<

^SCOTUS-BARRETT-ISSUES:CON_<Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee rarely strayed from their focus on what Amy Coney Barrett's appointment to the Supreme Court would mean for health care and abortion _ although it became clear they wouldn't get many illuminating answers from her anyway.

The Democrats' strategy in the hearing, mainly aimed at voters in the ongoing presidential and Senate races, meant that Barrett's views on a swath of legal issues went unexamined or unchallenged during the most widely watched part of the confirmation process.

1250 (with trims) by Todd Ruger in Washington. MOVED

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^Trump hasn't recovered from tailspin set off by raucous debate performance, poll shows<

CAMPAIGN-POLL:LA _ With three weeks left until election day, President Donald Trump has not recovered from the self-inflicted wounds of his first debate with Joe Biden and, instead, has sunk further behind his challenger, a new USC Dornsife poll shows.

The latest data show the unusual extent to which the Sept. 29 debate continues to shape the campaign's final stretch.

The encounter in Cleveland, dominated by Trump's repeated interruptions and his cryptic statement that seemingly welcomed a right-wing extremist group, appears to be the exception to the usual rule that the impact of debates fades quickly.

1600 (with trims) by David Lauter in Washington. MOVED

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^Trump in trouble? Rank-and-file Republicans are as confident as ever of victory<

CAMPAIGN-TRUMP-GOPVOTERS:WA _ President Donald Trump trails Joe Biden by 10 points in national polls. He's getting badly outspent due to a depleted war chest. And his contraction of the coronavirus has yet again turned a harsh light on his handling of a seven-month pandemic.

A good number of rank-and-file Republican voters and local party officials see no cause for concern. They're still convinced Trump is winning.

Far outside the political media centers of Washington, D.C., and New York, the Trump voters who propelled the reality TV star to a shocking victory in 2016 once again see him on a glide path to victory that will stupefy only a hostile media and out-of-touch elites.

1000 by David Catanese in Washington. MOVED

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^CORONAVIRUS<

^Melania Trump confirms president's teenage son also had coronavirus<

TRUMP-CORONAVIRUS-SON:DPA _ First lady Melania Trump says that she used the time she was ill with the new coronavirus to "reflect," while confirming that her 14-year-old son, Barron, also contracted the virus.

They have both since recovered and tested negative, Trump said in a blog post on the White House website.

200 in Washington. MOVED

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^Coronavirus relief bill talks snagged over testing, liability, other issues<

CORONAVIRUS-RELIEF:CON _ Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed doubts Wednesday about a COVID-19 aid package becoming law before the Nov. 3 elections.

After a morning phone call with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Mnuchin said the myriad disputes over funding and policy questions that have yet to be resolved make an imminent agreement on a long-stalled relief package unlikely.

650 by David Lerman in Washington. MOVED

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^2019 forum that explored effects of a pandemic now falsely being linked to conspiracy theories<

^CORONAVIRUS-PANDEMIC-FORUM:BZ_<Participants of "Event 201," co-organized by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Economic Forum, included representatives from the United Nations and other agencies as well as executives from Johnson & Johnson, UPS, Marriott and other companies.

Organizers dubbed the October 2019 exercise Event 201 because the World Health Organization responds to about 200 epidemic events each year _ but, as a YouTube video released by Hopkins states, "we need to prepare for the event that becomes a pandemic."

The name provides further justification for anonymous web users who believe the organizers influenced or even caused what happened later.

1300 by Hallie Miller in Baltimore. MOVED

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^COVID-19 test positivity rates rising across Illinois<

CORONAVIRUS-ILL:TB _ Illinois' top public health official urged residents on Wednesday to prepare for holiday celebrations differently this year as the state continues to see an uptick in newly diagnosed cases and hospitalizations of people with COVID-19-like symptoms.

To avoid having "our holidays marred by tragedy on the back end," Dr. Ngozi Ezike said people who are sick around the holidays need to avoid gatherings entirely. Her comments came as the state released guidance for holiday travel and parties that included limiting the number of guests and seating arrangements aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

750 by Jamie Munks and Dan Petrella in Chicago. MOVED

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^Minnesota reports highest 1-day COVID-19 death count since June<

CORONAVIRUS-MINN:MS _ Twenty-nine COVID-19 deaths and 1,214 confirmed infections were reported by the Minnesota Department of Health on Wednesday along with a new category of probable infections based on antigen diagnostic testing.

The COVID-19 death toll has now reached 2,180, including six deaths with probable links to COVID-19 via antigen testing. The death count on Wednesday was the highest single-day total reported by the state since June 4 and was still the highest total since June 12 even if omitting the deaths linked to COVID-19 through antigen testing.

600 by Jeremy Olson in Minneapolis. MOVED

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^More than 100 University of Chicago MBA students are in quarantine after COVID-19 outbreak<

^CMP-CHICAGO-CORONAVIRUS:TB_<The University of Chicago's Booth School of Business is temporarily shifting to online classes and more than 100 of its students are under quarantine after a COVID-19 outbreak was connected to a large, off-campus gathering where some didn't wear masks.

University of Chicago administrators shared the news in a schoolwide email Wednesday, saying Booth's downtown and Hyde Park campuses will be closed for two weeks.

350 by Elyssa Cherney in Chicago. MOVED

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^Trudeau plans to keep borders closed until COVID-19 cases drop<

^CORONAVIRUS-CANADA-BORDERS:BLO_<Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated he plans to keep Canada's borders closed as long as coronavirus cases remain elevated in the U.S.

"We have committed to keeping Canadians safe and we keep extending the border closures because the States is not in a place where we would feel comfortable reopening those borders," the prime minister said Wednesday morning in an interview with a radio station in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

200 by Kait Bolongaro. MOVED

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^Child care centers don't drive coronavirus infections, national study shows<

CORONAVIRUS-CHILDCARE-CENTERS:LA _ A large national study published Wednesday by the American Academy of Pediatrics provides some of the clearest evidence yet that child care centers don't hasten the spread of the novel coronavirus, even in communities where overall infections are high.

"This is the largest study of COVID transmission in child care programs that's been attempted in the U.S., and I think globally," said Yale professor Walter Gilliam, who led a team of researchers in the groundbreaking study.

700 by Sonja Sharp. MOVED

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^What we know and don't know about the pauses in COVID-19 trials<

CORONAVIRUS-TRIALS-EXPLAINER:SD _ Johnson & Johnson announced Monday that it has halted its massive COVID-19 vaccine trial after a participant became ill.

Less than 24 hours later, Eli Lilly paused a study of a COVID-19 antibody treatment for the same reason.

What does this all mean?

950 by Jonathan Wosen. MOVED

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^WASHINGTON<

^Texas trash talk, cameras in the court and other takeaways from Barrett's confirmation hearing<

SCOTUS-BARRETT-TAKEAWAYS:CON _ Senate Judiciary Committee members loosened up a bit on the third day of Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, trading barbs that were mostly of the good-natured sort.

Questions spanned everything from health care to the Houston Astros, and at least one lawmaker sought advice from Barrett for her own daughter.

As for the nominee herself, it was Barrett's last day before the panel _ and nevertheless, she evaded, even as her path to confirmation appeared smooth and certain.

1100 by Katherine Tully-McManus and Michael Macagnone in Washington. MOVED

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^USPS needs monitor to ensure election compliance, states say<

^POSTALSERVICE-MONITOR:BLO_<Six states that successfully sued Postmaster General Louis DeJoy over operational changes that threatened to undermine mail-in voting asked a judge to name a former U.S. Postal Service inspector general to make sure the agency complies with the court's orders.

Led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the states said in a letter Tuesday to U.S. District Judge Gerald Austin McHugh in Philadelphia that David C. Williams, inspector general from 2003 to 2016, should be an independent monitor to ensure the USPS follows through on court-ordered commitments, including lifting a ban on late deliveries and employee overtime. The Postal Service opposes the request, according to court filings.

400 by Erik Larson. MOVED

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^TikTok seeks to block second round of US restrictions<

TIKTOK-TRUMP:BLO _ TikTok Inc. asked a federal judge to block a broad set of government restrictions designed to curb use of the Chinese-owned video-sharing app in the U.S., less than three weeks after the company succeeded in halting the Trump administration's ban on new downloads.

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington blocked the download ban on Sept. 27, ruling that the U.S. likely exceeded its legal authority under the emergency powers statute it invoked to justify the prohibition.

400 by David Yaffe-Bellany in Washington. MOVED

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^Trump to award wrestling icon Dan Gable Medal of Freedom<

TRUMP-GABLE:BLO _ President Donald Trump plans to award Olympic wrestling champion Dan Gable the Medal of Freedom, honoring his storied career as an athlete, coach and motivational speaker, people familiar with the matter said.

Gable, 71, is a beloved figure in his native Iowa, where polls show the president to be neck-and-neck with Democratic nominee Joe Biden just weeks before Election Day.

400 by Jennifer Jacobs in Washington. MOVED

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^POLITICS<

^Trump presses loyal Pompeo, Barr for dirt to use against Biden<

CAMPAIGN-TRUMP-LOYALISTS:BLO _ President Donald Trump is ramping up pressure on two of his most loyal Cabinet members to produce information that could damage Joe Biden's prospects as polls show the former vice president leading ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

Trump said in an interview with the conservative outlet Newsmax that he's "not happy" with the evidence he's seen coming out of Attorney General William Barr's Justice Department and wouldn't say whether he'd keep him on in a second term.

800 by Chris Strohm, Jordan Fabian and Nick Wadhams in Washington. MOVED

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^Facebook, Twitter seek to keep Hunter Biden report from going viral amid disinformation crackdown<

^SOCIALMEDIA-CONTENT:LA_<Following heavy criticism over the way they let misinformation run wild on their platforms in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, social media companies gradually have been adopting stronger policies to stem the spread of misinformation.

For the first time, Facebook and Twitter deployed those policies Wednesday against a major news outlet to prevent a sensational political story from going viral.

Hours after the New York Post published a story about Hunter Biden's involvement with Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma, Facebook said it would reduce the article's distribution on its platform until it was verified by a third-party fact-checker.

Twitter followed suit shortly after. (Moved as a business story.)

600 by Samantha Masunaga and Suhauna Hussain. MOVED

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^At Iowa rally, Trump demands Joe Biden release documents on 'business dealings'<

SOCIALMEDIA-CONTENT-TRUMP:BLO _ President Donald Trump demanded Wednesday that former Vice President Joe Biden release emails and other documents detailing his son Hunter's international business interests in the wake of a New York Post story linking the Bidens to a Ukrainian energy company that figured in Trump's impeachment investigation.

The demand, made at an Iowa campaign rally, came even as Trump is still fighting New York investigators' efforts to get his tax filings and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation.

500 by Justin Sink in Washington. MOVED

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^Trump lawsuit targets mail-in ballots in Iowa<

IOWA-MAILBALLOTS:BLO _ President Donald Trump's reelection campaign is suing three Iowa counties to invalidate requests for absentee ballots in a fight that has come down to about 18,000 ballots in a GOP-leaning state where more than a million people are expected to vote.

The dispute, which is likely headed for the Iowa Supreme Court, centers around the legitimacy of ballot applications that were sent out with some voter information already filled in.

700 by Jeffrey Taylor. (Moved as a national story.) MOVED

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^Poll: Biden takes significant lead in Georgia for first time<

CAMPAIGN-GA-POLL:AT _ Former Vice President Joe Biden has pulled ahead of President Donald Trump in the race for president in Georgia, according to the latest poll from Quinnipiac University. With early voting already underway in the state, the poll showed Biden at 51% and Trump at 44%.

The same poll shows big jumps for the Democrats in the two races for U.S. Senate races, too, with Rev. Raphael Warnock out to a large lead in the special election against Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

350 by Patricia Murphy in Atlanta. MOVED

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^Puerto Rico's accidental governor lends Trump unexpected support<

^CAMPAIGN-TRUMP-PUERTORICO:BLO_<In October 2017, President Donald Trump blithely tossed paper towels to victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico even as the death toll was mounting. In August 2019, Trump said the U.S. commonwealth's politicians came in two categories, "incompetent or corrupt," and suggested making a swap for Greenland.

Yet in October 2020, he enters the election home stretch with the support of the island's most popular politician and its outgoing governor.

The backing from Gov. Wanda Vazquez and Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico's nonvoting member of the U.S. House of Representatives, defies conventional wisdom that the administration has treated the island so poorly that all associations with Trump are toxic. And the endorsements may be just enough to flip a few of the estimated 600,000 to 700,000 native and ethnic Puerto Rican voters in Florida _ a state famously won by the narrowest of margins.

1050 (with trims) by Jim Wyss. MOVED

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^Phone a friend: Democrats look beyond campaign volunteers to boost turnout<

CAMPAIGN-DEMOCRATS-TURNOUT-GROUP:CON _ An average voter might not listen to a campaign volunteer calling to say that this is the most important election of their lifetime. Voters have heard that line before. But that voter might be more inclined to listen to that same message, and actually vote, if they hear it from a friend who isn't usually involved in politics.

That's the theory behind Vote Tripling, an organization working to boost Democratic turnout. Robert Reynolds, a behavioral scientist, founded the group after President Donald Trump's election in 2016.

550 by Bridget Bowman. MOVED

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^Kanye West qualifies as official write-in candidate in Maryland for 2020 election<

CAMPAIGN-WEST-MD:BZ _ The Maryland State Board of Elections confirmed Wednesday that Kanye West has qualified to be an official write-in candidate for the 2020 election in Maryland, marking the latest chapter in an unconventional presidential run.

This means if somebody writes in West's name on their ballot, their vote will be tabulated, a spokesperson for the state board explained Wednesday. However, she clarified, West's name is not printed on the ballot itself.

300 by Angela Roberts in Baltimore. MOVED

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^Graham campaign sets a Senate Republican fundraising record in SC's competitive race<

SCSENATE-SPENDING:CS _ Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham brought in $28 million during the third quarter, an all time record for Senate Republicans.

The amount is still about half of the $57 million raised by Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison raised in third quarter.

Most of the money in the race has come from outside of the state.

250 by Joseph Bustos in Columbia, S.C. MOVED

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^NBC faces backlash over scheduling its Trump town hall against ABC's Biden event<

^TV-NBC-CAMPAIGN-TRUMP-TOWNHALL:LA_<NBC News is sticking with its plan to air a live televised town hall with President Trump Thursday night, competing directly against ABC's event with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The news division will have Trump answer questions from "Today" co-anchor Savannah Guthrie and a group of voters in Miami starting at 8 p.m. Eastern despite a backlash on social media, which included harsh comments from some former employees, who believe the move will disenfranchise viewers who want to watch both events. The hashtag #BoycottNBC is trending on Twitter.

550 by Stephen Battaglio. (Moved as an entertainment story.)

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^UNITED STATES<

^Dangerous network of militia members spurred by COVID has spread to 16 states, report says<

BUNDY-MILITIA-GROWTH:KC _ The leader of an armed standoff with federal authorities at an Oregon wildlife refuge and his allies have exploited COVID-19 fears to build a dangerous network of militia members and other far-right factions, according to a new report by two groups that track extremism.

Ammon Bundy, who led the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, began building the People's Rights network in March, says the report by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights and the Montana Human Rights Network. Since then, the report says, the network has rapidly grown to more than 20,000 members across the country.

950 (with trims) by Judy L. Thomas in Kansas City, Mo. MOVED

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^California Supreme Court orders reexamination of Scott Peterson's murder convictions<

PETERSON:LA _ The California Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered a trial judge to consider whether Scott Peterson's convictions for murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn son should be overturned.

The state's highest court already overturned Peterson's death sentence on appeal this year. In a separate petition, Peterson's lawyers cited an array of reasons the convictions should be overturned as well.

450 by Maura Dolan in San Francisco. MOVED

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^Amy Cooper made a second bogus 911 call about Black birdwatcher in Central Park, claiming he tried to assault her, prosecutors say<

NY-PARK-CONFRONTATION:NY _ Manhattan prosecutors want to educate a white woman who went viral in May after calling in fake 911 threats on a Black man who requested she leash her dog per park rules.

Prosecutors revealed Amy Cooper made two bogus 911 calls on May 25 regarding avid birdwatcher Christian Cooper: first stating that he was threatening her and her dog, then in a second call, claiming he tried to assault her. Though they share a last name, the two are not related.

650 by Brittany Kriegstein and Molly Crane-Newman in New York. MOVED

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^Prosecutors were denied sealed records of Jeffrey Epstein victim, source says<

EPSTEIN-MAXWELL-VICTIM:NY _ Manhattan federal prosecutors investigating Jeffrey Epstein and his alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell, were denied access last year to records in a civil lawsuit brought by accuser Sarah Ransome, a source told the New York Daily News.

The ruling by Manhattan Federal Judge John Koeltl ordering the records remain under seal was hinted at during a hearing this week before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

500 by Stephen Rex Brown in New York. MOVED

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^900,000 Florida felons won't be voting for president because of court fines, fees<

FLA-FELONS-VOTING:MI _ Florida continues to lead the nation in the number of people unable to vote because of a felony conviction, despite the passage of a landmark 2018 constitutional amendment meant to restore their access to the ballot box, according to a study released Wednesday by a national nonprofit.

Nearly 900,000 Floridians with felony convictions are unable to vote because of a law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year that required them to pay all court fees fines or restitution before voting, according to the study.

850 by Lawrence Mower in Tallahassee, Fla. MOVED

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^Feds start making good on Trump's threat to defund 'anarchist' cities<

TRUMP-CITIES-FUNDING:NY _ In an obscure Federal Transit Administration document issued a week ago, the agency appears to be making good on President Donald Trump's threat to defund cities that he tarred as "anarchist jurisdictions" because they didn't put down civil rights protests and violence quickly enough.

The document, an FTA notice of funding opportunity, appears to be the first and so far only notice in the federal government's public document database that references Trump's Sept. 2 memo threatening to cut funding to big cities.

650 by Michael Gartland and Clayton Guse in New York. MOVED

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^Gun-waving St. Louis couple plead not guilty to gun and tampering charges<

STLOUIS-PROTEST-MCCLOSKEYS:SL _ Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple indicted this month after they brandished guns at protesters outside their Portland Place mansion in June, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the charges.

The couple waived formal arraignment Wednesday in an indictment filed last week charging them with unlawful use of a weapon and evidence tampering. Charges filed in July said Mark McCloskey, 63, pointed an AR-15 rifle at protesters and Patricia McCloskey, 61, wielded a semiautomatic handgun, placing protesters in fear of injury.

300 by Joel Currier in St. Louis. MOVED

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^Federal officials announce record meth bust in Southern California<

CALIF-METH-BUST:LA _ The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced a record-breaking bust Wednesday: roughly 2,224 pounds of methamphetamine recovered in Southern California's Riverside County.

Authorities said the Oct. 2 take, which involved two locations, in Moreno Valley and Perris, represents the largest domestic seizure of the narcotic in the agency's history.

However, another federal agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, netted an even bigger amount of meth the following week.

600 by Hayley Smith and Luke Money in Los Angeles. MOVED

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^Virginia's voter registration deadline extended until Thursday night after disruption<

^VA-VOTER-REGISTRATION:VP_<A federal judge in Richmond has granted a request to extend voter registration in Virginia. It will be extended until Thursday at 11:59 p.m., according to an order granted by Judge John Gibney in U.S. District Court in Richmond.

The request was made by voter advocacy groups and supported by Herring after a fiber was cut overnight Monday and voter registration online was disrupted on the last day it was allowed.

500 by Robyn Sidersky. MOVED

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^California GOP pushes back against state election officials on unofficial ballot boxes<

CALIF-BALLOT-BOXES:LA _ California Republican Party officials on Wednesday doubled down on their efforts to use private ballot boxes to collect votes, arguing that the practice was within the bounds of state election law and vowing that they will continue to use the unofficial containers.

In a telephone conference Wednesday afternoon, GOP officials said that they were participating in ballot collection in order to be competitive, using the "same rules and laws" that Democrats use.

1400 by Sarah Parvini and Stephanie Lai in Los Angeles. MOVED

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^More than 1 million California ballots already cast, shattering records<

^CALIF-VOTING-1ST-LEDE:LA_<Election Day is more than two weeks away, but more than 1 million Californians have already returned their mail-in ballots, according to the state, an amount that marks the most ballots collected by mail at this point in any state election.

Nearly half of the mail-in ballots come from Los Angeles County, where more than 435,000 voters have already responded, according to the L.A. County registrar-recorder's office.

1100 (with trims) by Matt Stiles in Los Angeles. MOVED

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^Supreme Court rejects S. Carolina governor's bid to stop money for Planned Parenthood<

SCOTUS-SC-PLANNEDPARENTHOOD:CS _ In a blow to South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, the U.S. Supreme Court has dashed _ at least for the time being _ his yearslong legal effort to eliminate Medicaid funding for South Carolina's Planned Parenthood clinics, which provide medical services for eligible needy people.

"Petition denied," said a two-word filing Tuesday by the nation's highest court.

950 by John Monk in Columbia, S.C. MOVED

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^Immigrants punished for not cleaning detention center, court papers suggest<

IMMIGRATION-DETAINEES-COLO:CON _ Newly released documents suggest staff at a privately run immigrant detention center in Colorado punished detainees with solitary confinement for failing to obey orders to clean the facility without pay.

Critics, including plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the facility's operator, say the revelations show potential violations of government detention standards, and contradict testimony of the company's executives to Congress earlier this year.

800 by Tanvi Misra in Washington. (Moved as a national story.) MOVED

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^Deadly Zogg fire in Northern California fully contained, Cal Fire says<

CALIF-WILDFIRES-ZOGG:SA _ The Zogg fire, which killed four Shasta County residents in September, has been 100% contained less than three weeks after igniting.

Cal Fire's Shasta-Trinity unit announced the full containment at a final size of 56,338 acres (88 square miles) Tuesday evening. The wildfire destroyed 204 structures, the state fire agency says.

300 by Michael McGough in Sacramento, Calif. MOVED

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^Pa. Supreme Court will decide counties' ability to evaluate ballot signatures<

PA-BALLOTS-SIGNATURES:PG _ The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has already weighed in this election cycle on the legality of ballot drop boxes and the deadline for counting postmarked mail-in votes, will again decide on a crucial aspect of electoral administration in the swing state: whether counties are authorized or required to reject voted ballots on the basis of signature analysis.

200 by Julian Routh in Pittsburgh. MOVED

^NC absentee ballots must have witness signatures, judge rules<

NC-ABSENTEE-BALLOTS-1ST-LEDE:RA _ A federal judge ordered more changes Wednesday to absentee voting rules after hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots have been cast and as early, in-person voting gets underway Thursday.

U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen criticized the NC State Board of Elections, saying it had misconstrued or misinterpreted findings he made in August in a way that changed election rules from what had been decided by the state lawmakers who hold authority under the U.S. Constitution to do so.

650 by Danielle Battaglia in Raleigh, N.C.

^Citing death of Breonna Taylor, state's attorney wants to ban no-knock warrants in Baltimore<

BALTIMORE-NOKNOCK-WARRANTS:BZ _ Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby has directed city prosecutors not to authorize "no-knock" warrants, saying the police shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, demonstrates these warrants are too risky.

"The ends do not justify the means," Mosby wrote her staff Wednesday. "Seventeen states do not allow this tactic, and our office will also no longer sign off on this dangerous measure."

750 by Tim Prudente in Baltimore. MOVED

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^At least 5 Chicago police officers face suspension after probe of former boss Eddie Johnson's conduct<

CHICAGO-POLICE:TB _ At least five Chicago police officers _ including a commander _ face suspension after city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson's investigation into the October 2019 incident where then-police Superintendent Eddie Johnson was found asleep at the wheel of his city-issued SUV, the Chicago Tribune has learned.

Deering District Cmdr. Don Jerome, the highest-ranking officer of the five, was to receive up to a 28-day suspension for his role in the incident, according to sources familiar with the matter. Reached by telephone Tuesday afternoon, Jerome declined to comment.

900 by Jeremy Gorner, Annie Sweeney and Gregory Pratt in Chicago. MOVED

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^No decision yet on bond for 'Cheer' star Jerry Harris in child porn case, as mother of victims describes 'worst nightmare'<

CHEER-STAR-CHILDPORN:TB _ The mother of two alleged victims of "Cheer" star Jerry Harris told a federal judge in Chicago on Wednesday the past two years have been "a parent's worst nightmare" and that Harris should remain behind bars pending trial on child pornography charges.

Harris, 21, of suburban Naperville, has been in federal custody since his arrest last month on child pornography charges alleging he repeatedly coerced minor victims to send him obscene photos and videos of themselves and solicited sex from boys as young as 13 at cheerleading competitions.

700 by Jason Meisner in Chicago. MOVED

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^Undersheriff recommends firing detective who shared 'All Lives Splatter' and other social media posts mocking protesters<

DETECTIVE-OFFENSIVE-POSTS:SE _ A King County, Wash., Sheriff's Office detective who posted a series of Facebook posts this summer mocking racial justice protesters faces possible termination from the department.

Among the posts was an image reading "All Lives Splatter" that the detective posted the same day a driver hit two protesters on Interstate 5. One of the protesters, Summer Taylor, later died.

700 by Heidi Groover in Seattle.

^Another sighting of person wearing jet pack near LAX prompts new investigation<

LA-AIRPORT-JETPACK:LA _ Los Angeles International Airport officials are investigating reports of someone wearing a jet pack Wednesday in the flight path, the second such report in a month.

An air traffic controller radioed a pilot Wednesday afternoon warning of a man wearing a jet pack about 6,500 feet. The precise location was unknown.

250 by Richard Winton in Los Angeles. MOVED

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^THE WORLD<

^Thailand declares emergency in Bangkok, disperses protesters<

THAILAND:BLO _ Thai police dispersed protesters who surrounded the prime minister's office and arrested top leaders in an early morning raid following rare scenes in which demonstrators openly defied members of the royal family.

Tens of thousands of protesters broke through police lines on Wednesday in a march to Government House, the official office of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, in an escalation of demonstrations that began in early July. Some protesters gave a three-finger salute _ a symbol of the demonstrations _ to a motorcade of Queen Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana, who smiled and waved at them.

400 by Randy Thanthong-Knight in Bangkok. MOVED

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^Azerbaijan brings parts of Nagorno-Karabakh region under its control<

ARMENIA-AZERBAIJAN-1ST-LEDE:DPA _ Azerbaijan has captured multiple localities in Nagorno-Karabakh in its conflict with Armenia over the disputed region, both sides and regional authorities said Wednesday.

Azerbaijan has succeeded in shifting the front deeper into the conflict region, said Arayik Harutyunyan, regional leader of Nagorno-Karabakh, in a statement.

550 by Awet Demuryan and Ulf Mauder in Yerevan, Armenia. MOVED

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^SCIENCE, MEDICINE, ENVIRONMENT<

^Imperiled desert tortoises join California's 'endangered' list _ for now<

ENV-CALIF-DESERTTORTOISE:LA _ The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday granted temporary endangered species status to the Mojave desert tortoise when it agreed to consider the dusty, armored herbivore as a candidate for permanent listing.

The protection came with the panel's 4-0 decision to consider a petition filed by the Defenders of Wildlife, the Desert Tortoise Council and the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee.

600 by Louis Sahag n in Los Angeles. MOVED

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^NEWS BRIEFS<

^<

NEWSBRIEFS:MCT _ Nation and world news briefs.

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^TODAY'S TOP NEWSFEATURES<

^How Mexico's murky property ownership helps criminals get away with murder<

MEXICO-CRIME-LAND:SD _ When Baja California investigators unearthed a fifth decomposing body in January from the same Tijuana house where a missing Orange County, California, couple had been discovered a week prior, Baja State Attorney General Guillermo Ruiz Hern ndez labeled the property "la casa de mala" or "the house of evil."

Besides the gruesome discovery, the property was unusual in another sense: authorities were able to establish who owned the home, though only because the owners had been buried in it.

That's often not the case in Mexico. For the majority of cases where human remains are located on private properties, authorities are unable to establish ownership, according to state prosecutor Hiram S nchez.

In a country where nonstop violence is on regular and dramatic public display _ the brutality punctuated with heads left in front of schools, corpses hung from bridges, and journalists and public officials brazenly gunned down in the streets _ thousands of victims disappear in clandestine graves, some of them buried in residences that don't officially exist on any public record.

It's just one more barrier authorities face in a country where getting a conviction is rare.

1550 by Wendy Fry in Baja California, Mexico. MOVED

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^COVID-19 'long-haulers' worry about coverage, costs<

^CORONAVIRUS-LONGHAULERS:SH_<Andr a Ceresa has been through three gastroenterologists already and now is moving on to her fourth.

She's seen an infectious disease specialist, a hematologist, a cardiologist, a physiatrist, an integrative doctor and an ear, nose and throat specialist. She has an appointment coming up with a neuropsychologist and another one with a neurologist. She's had an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, a CT scan, a brain MRI and so many blood tests, she said, "I feel like a human pincushion."

Ceresa, a resident of Branchburg, New Jersey, relayed this medical litany on day 164 of her COVID-19 ordeal.

When this will end _ if it will end _ none of those doctors and specialists can tell her. Nor can anyone else, not at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization or any other major health organization.

So-called long-haulers like Ceresa pose policy questions that have yet to command much public attention, but daily become more pressing for those with lingering problems.

2150 by Michael Ollove. MOVED

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