Monday Sunrise Briefing: Trump’s third conservative US justice

The Supreme Court nomination process for Judge Amy Coney Barrett continued throughout the weekend, setting up a final confirmation vote by the full Senate on Monday. Eight days before the U.S. election, Republicans see an opportunity to install a third Trump justice on the court, locking in a conservative majority for years to come. Democrats cast the confirmation as a power grab and a threat to health care. Judge Barrett’s ascent opens up a potential new era of rulings on abortion, gay marriage, and the Affordable Care Act. A case against the Obama-era health law scheduled to be heard Nov. 10. “She’s a conservative woman who embraces her faith, she’s unabashedly pro-life but she’s not going to apply ‘the law of Amy’ to all of us,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Saturday on Fox.

2. Pandemic politics. A week before the election, President Trump embraced a portrait of America emerging from a pandemic, even as the latest evidence painted a different picture. New COVID-19 cases are hitting record levels nationwide, and several aides to Vice President Mike Pence tested positive this weekend. Mr. Pence’s office says he will continue campaigning, “in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel.”  Joe Biden and President Trump have expressed significantly different views about the pandemic. Mr. Trump says the U.S. economy needs to fully reopen and he has tried to counter Mr. Biden’s criticism that president is not doing enough to contain the health crisis. “We want normal life to resume,” Mr. Trump said Sunday. “We just want normal life.” Mr. Biden claimed Sunday that the White House has waved “the white flag of defeat, and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away.”

3. A moral victory. On Saturday, the United Nations announced that 50 countries have ratified a U.N. treaty to ban nuclear weapons, triggering its official entry into force in 90 days. “This moment has been 75 years coming since the horrific attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the founding of the U.N., which made nuclear disarmament a cornerstone,” said Beatrice Fihn, who leads the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition that helped spearhead the treaty. “The 50 countries that ratify this Treaty are showing true leadership in setting a new international norm that nuclear weapons are not just immoral but illegal,” she said. The five nuclear powers – the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France – and four other countries known or believed to possess nuclear weapons — India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel — boycotted the U.N. vote on the treaty. Separately, Russia and the US have been trying to break an impasse in long-running talks aimed at extending the New START treaty between them.

About 500 people took to the streets of London Saturday to protest police brutality in Nigeria. Police shootings of unarmed demonstrators have sparked international condemnation and unleashed violent unrest in Lagos.

Look Ahead

Monday, Oct. 26

Lunar insights. NASA plans to announce a new discovery about our Moon today at 12 p.m. E.T.  The discovery could relate to supporting NASA’s efforts to put humans on Mars. As an interim step, under the Artemis program, the agency plans to send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024. 

A conservative court. The full U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, in one of the fastest confirmation processes in U.S. history.

Tuesday, Oct. 27

The best of baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers play Game 6 of the World Series at 8:08 p.m. E.T. The Dodgers lead 3-2 in the best of seven series. 

Wednesday, Oct. 28

Democracy watch. Tanzanians go to the polls to elect a president and members of the National Assembly.

Friday, Oct. 30

Interstate justice. Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager charged with fatally shooting two people (and injuring a third) during civil unrest after the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has a hearing on his extradition to Wisconsin to face charges.  

Saturday, Oct. 31

Democracy watch. Ivory Coast voters go to the polls to choose their next president. Incumbent Alassane Ouattara hopes to take a controversial third term. In Georgia, parliamentary elections are scheduled, with former President Mikhail Saakashvili nominated by opposition groups to be their pick for prime minister if they prevail in the vote.

Generosity Watch

We sometimes define ourselves – and our communities – by our political affiliations, especially in election years. But generosity doesn’t have a political party, especially in Citrus County, Florida. 

In 2019, after her daughter died, Sandra Ingram of Homosassa, Florida, was suddenly raising two grandchildren in a tiny, rundown travel trailer. It wasn’t working for her, and it wasn’t fair to the kids. Grandma Ingram gets up early to deliver newspapers, a job she’s held for 30 years, so she turned to a reporter at the Citrus County Chronicle for help. And the help has come pouring in. 

In the past month, more than 500 people have donated nearly $73,000. The family has moved into a motel while they wait for a brand new three-bedroom, two-bathroom mobile home that has mostly been paid for by a local businessman. 

I am so grateful, and the kids are so excited … and I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to be able to get them things that they need,” Ms. Ingram told  Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy this week.

In an editorial after the initial outpouring, the Chronicle wrote that social responsibilities cut across political lines:

“The response is a reminder that folks in our community instinctively understand we do have a responsibility to help each other out during difficult times. It doesn’t take a government mandate to find all solutions, sometimes it just takes caring neighbors.

It’s what makes this place a community.”

Hidden gem 

Start your week with a recent story that inspired Monitor readers:

Richard Schultz/50 Eggs Films

Malcolm Hawkins works out on a rowing machine as teammates urge him on in Oakland, California, in a photo from the film “A Most Beautiful Thing.”

Pulling together: Lessons from first all-Black high school rowing team

Sneak preview

In tonight’s Daily Edition, watch for our story about how Palestinian refugees in Gaza reconnect with land through rooftop gardens. 

Finally, check out the Monitor’s selected stories from Friday’s subscription-only Daily Edition:

  1. White working class is shrinking. It still may decide 2020 election.
  2. Fleeing the Taliban in the night, a family’s faith in peace wavers
  3. Poll watching: Democratic safeguard or intimidation?
  4. Is Bolivia’s vote a comeback for Latin America’s left? Not so fast.
  5. Did prehistoric climate change help make us human?

You have unlimited access to all our pandemic coverage. If you value our credibly hopeful and respectful approach, please consider subscribing.

This is a beta test – an experiment with a Monday morning news update. Please give us your feedback via the link below and let us know what you think. Thank you!

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Tariff man – An assessment of Donald Trump’s record on trade | United States

“WE WILL stand up to trade cheating,” Donald Trump promised in 2016. He pledged to end “the era of economic surrender” and put America first, even if that meant kicking others down. He said he would renegotiate “horrible” trade deals bilaterally, scorning any larger agreement “that ties us up and binds us down”. International trade rules were for suckers. And if other countries refused to play along, he promised tariffs.

Mr Trump’s bite turned out to be almost as bad as his bark. On his first day in office he withdrew America from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a deal with 11 other countries around the Pacific Rim. He appointed as United States Trade Representative the hawkish Robert Lighthizer, who proceeded to scupper the World Trade Organisation’s system of settling disputes. Without independent referees, foreign governments with complaints have to negotiate directly with Uncle Sam.

The president also lived up to his claim of being a “tariff man”. Allies in Europe and Canada took offence at tariffs on their steel and aluminium, both in the name of America’s national security. He lifted average tariffs on Chinese exports from 3% at the beginning of 2018 to 19% today, at first to slam China for its theft of American companies’ intellectual property, and then in retaliation for China’s counter-tariffs. He used threats to push along some deals too, securing narrow agreements with South Korea, Japan and China, as well as the broader USMCA with Mexico and Canada.

Beneath the all-caps tweets and triumphant handshakes, what did this flurry of activity achieve? His team has not solved any of the structural problems afflicting the global trading system, including the distorting effects of China’s industrial subsidies on international markets. But neither has his team achieved nothing.

The bullying did secure concessions. Japan offered access to its agriculture market (though the TPP would have gone further), without gaining any new access to America’s car market. The Mexican government agreed to tight rules for the standards a car would have to meet to enter America tariff-free. And the “phase-one” deal with China scrapped technical barriers to American exports of pork, dairy and beef, made openings for some financial-services companies and allowed for tariffs to return quickly if the Chinese did not play along.

American companies operating in China do not seem to be particularly grateful for the help. A membership survey conducted in May and June by the US-China Business Council, a trade group, found that for 37% of respondents the cost of the tariffs outweighed the benefits of the trade agreement, and 56% said it was too soon to say. But perhaps the trade war was not entirely being fought on their behalf. If the administration was trying to reduce America’s reliance on China as a supplier, the achievements look more obvious.

These successes came at a cost. One study found that the correlation between higher trade uncertainty and depressed global growth meant that the disputes could have dragged back global GDP growth by 1%. A survey run by the Atlanta Federal Reserve found that domestic-goods manufacturers expected tariff increases and trade policy jitters to squash investment in the second half of 2019 by 8%.

The tariffs shuffled resources around: towards American producers of products shielded by the tariffs, away from the businesses and people having to pay for more expensive imports, as well as producers affected by foreign retaliation. One study found that, for manufacturing employment, the depressive effects outweighed the stimulative ones. Another found that the companies facing tariffs accounted for 84% of American exports and 65% of manufacturing employment. Taking an average cost of $900 per worker, those companies’ exports slowed as though they had faced a foreign tariff of 2%.

Although Mr Trump claimed foreigners were paying the $80bn of revenue the tariffs raised, economists found that, in fact, American importers paid it. A complicated process of applying for tariff exclusions left businesses tangled in bureaucracy. Thousands of companies have sued, claiming that some of the tariffs on China are unlawful. The policy has, at the very least, created a bonanza for trade lawyers.

Trump supporters argue that without pain there is no gain. His critics retort that bigger gains could have been achieved for less pain. What if the president had not threatened America’s allies, and instead focused energies on tackling China’s subsidies? What if he had not weakened his own team’s hand, by going back on his word? With the ink barely dry on the USMCA, he threatened Mexico with tariffs. That made other negotiating partners question the point of offering concessions. Mr Trump’s reputation as an unreliable dealmaker limited what his threats could achieve.

Dig deeper:
Read the best of our 2020 campaign coverage and explore our election forecasts, then sign up for Checks and Balance, our weekly newsletter and podcast on American politics.

This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “Tariff man”

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Did a Security Researcher Guess Trump’s Twitter Password?

This week the US alleged that Iranian hackers sent emails to voters in key states posing as the Proud Boys white supremacist group, which is to say that election interference is already upon us. We took a look at the 12 cyberthreats that officials are most concerned about—including the type of targeted misinformation that’s already playing out.

The Department of Justice also took the important step of indicting the Russian hackers allegedly behind Sandworm, the notorious group responsible for some of the most devastating attacks of the last several years, from blackouts in Ukraine to NotPetya, the most costly cyberassault in history. (You can read much, much more about Sandworm in WIRED senior writer Andy Greenberg’s book about them.) A few days later, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the Russian research institution behind Triton, dangerous malware that targets industrial control systems.

For all the concern about how deepfakes might affect the election, it turns out the most sinister use of the technology as been a porn bot that has artificially removed the clothing from photos of over 100,000 targeted women. In other privacy news, Facebook will soon file its first report to the Federal Trade Commission on how it’s holding up its end of that $5 billion settlement. WIRED spoke with the company’s two chief privacy officers, who insist both that everything’s different this time and that Facebook was built with privacy in mind in the first place.

A new report shows just how pervasive the technology is that lets police unlock smartphones. And make sure you set aside a few minutes this weekend to read the story of the Aurora Generator Test, a 2007 demonstration that showed just how dangerous hacking a grid can be.

And there’s more! Every Saturday we round up the security and privacy stories that we didn’t break or report on in depth but think you should know about. Click on the headlines to read them, and stay safe out there.

OK, well, honestly we’ve been struggling with this one. Earlier this week, Dutch security researcher Victor Gevers told De Volkskrant that he had recently accessed Donald Trump’s Twitter account simply by guessing the password: maga2020!. (With slightly different capitalization, this is also apparently the password for the Wi-Fi at Trump rallies.) Gevers says he tried to alert the Trump campaign, Twitter, and others but failed to get a response. A few days later, he says, he saw that Trump’s Twitter account had added two-factor authentication, freezing him out. The White House flatly denied any of this had happened, and Twitter said that it had “seen no evidence to corroborate this claim,” which is odd given that it would presumably be able to see if the president’s device had logged in from a new device… in Europe. Some other apparent inconsistencies soon came to light as well. But Gevers is highly respected, and it seems unlikely that he would make any of this up. So! It’s all very strange. If you take anything away from it, though, it’s to please put two-factor authentication on your own accounts.

The game of the moment is Among Us, especially after representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez streamed it on a marathon three-hour Twitch session. Its high profile, though, appears to have attracted the attention of spammers as well, who this week flooded the game’s chat feature with links to subscribe to a sus YouTube channel. Eurogamer spoke with the apparent perpetrators, who claim to have disrupted 1.5 million games as of Friday. Among Us developer Inner Sloth said it’s working on containing the problem.

The NSA this week shared a list of the 25 patchable vulnerabilities that Chinese hackers use most, in hopes that potential targets will actually, you know, patch them. A lot of the bugs provide a foothold on internal networks, useful for general espionage purposes. The vulnerabilities also aren’t exclusively used by China; they’re an entry point for all kinds of criminal activity, especially since they’re all publicly detailed. Patch your systems, friends!

Motherboard this week published a great investigative piece about Phantom Secure, a company that sold luxury encrypted phones to cartels and other criminal elements. No spoilers about what happens to the company and its founder Vince Ramos, but trust that it’s a journey worth digging into.

More Great WIRED Stories

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Lexington – Donald Trump’s effort to sow mistrust is looking like an own-goal | United States

PERHAPS IT WAS only a matter of time before the land of billion-dollar election campaigns supersized the vote itself. The great wave of early voting America has experienced over the past two weeks is nonetheless bracing. By the time Donald Trump and Joe Biden are due to hold their debate this week, around 50m ballots will have been cast—almost 40% of the total in 2016. The president, it must be said, is leaving his comeback awfully late.

A tour of polling stations in North Carolina—up and down Interstate 85, which links the battleground state’s main conurbations—illustrated this new voting season. Beginning in the sprawling suburbs of Charlotte, shortly before sunrise, Lexington witnessed voters queuing up around the block, silent or in hushed conversation with a companion, with sometimes a child or two in tow. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” marvelled the Republican commissioner of Union County, Richard Helms, outside a fire-station-site in suburban Indian Trail. His county, on the city’s outer edge, cast 103,000 votes in 2016. Mr Helms expected it to have cast 40,000 by the end of this week.

Proceeding north via Winston-Salem to preppy Durham, then to the former mill-town of Henderson, close to the Virginia border, to visit a last polling-site after sunset, there were similar scenes in each place. A telltale cluster of campaign signs outside a school, fire-station or college building; a steady trickle and often a long line of silent voters; grim head-shakes or nods to the partisan “poll-greeters” handing out their lists of names. And when the voters were asked to say what was most important about this election, a great deal more fear, anguish, and even tears than are usually evident when a mature democracy votes.

“Everything is evil,” exclaimed Claudia, a middle-aged Latina in Indian Trail, to explain why she was taking such pains to vote early. Ahead of her in the line, Beverly, a first-time early-voter and independent, pointed to her T-shirt, which read: “=>÷”. “We need new leadership,” she said—a sentiment that Rob, standing behind her with his wife and bleary-eyed toddler son, munching on Goldfish crackers, did not share. “We’re here because of Biden’s corruption and 47 years in politics without doing anything,” he said.

There is good news here. Despite covid-19, the chaos of decentralised electoral governance, and Republican efforts to exploit it for partisan gain, the election seems—at this early stage—to be going fairly well. Most states have expanded their time-frames and opened more sites for early voting. North Carolina and other states have facilitated kerbside voting, enabling high-risk voters to cast ballots in person. A feared shortage of volunteers seems not to have transpired. Several of the poll-greeters Lexington met had come forward, out of a redoubled sense of duty, for the first time.

Some of the enduring concerns about Republican efforts to suppress non-white votes, in Georgia and Texas especially, have been slightly allayed. In North Carolina, black voters’ ballots are more than twice as likely to be rejected as the average postal vote. Yet they can be resubmitted. A worst-case projection—that 0.4% of Democratic votes could be rejected in the state—should be compared with the rejection of 2% of votes during the primaries.

Worse news is that one of America’s few shared civic rituals has become as politicised as everything else. The early-vote surge has been driven by Democrats—as indicated by the fact that registered Democrats are over one-and-a-half times as likely to have voted as registered Republicans. Most are voting by post. In contrast, registered Republicans, who used to dominate mail-voting, are in most states likelier to vote early in person. This looks like a response to Mr Trump’s insistence that postal voting is “fraudulent”—and another indication that Republicans, again in response to his misinformation, are less careful about covid-19. Almost the only unmasked voters Lexington spoke with were Trumpers. They included the Republican poll-greeter in Indian Trail, a friendly retiree called Phyllis, who said she took a daily handful of vitamins and zinc pills to ward off covid but considered mask-wearing an instrument of pernicious government control “that the whole world is waking up to”.

Republicans and Democrats seem increasingly to inhabit different realities. Little wonder they lined up together in mistrustful silence. “Normally you’re talking and laughing when you come to vote,” said Alejandro, a burly Democrat in Henderson. “This year there’s so much fear and anger everybody’s just doing what they have to do.” Most voters from the city’s black majority said that they were voting in person, despite being worried about covid, because they were afraid their ballot would not count if they mailed it in. And voting was the only form of political expression one woman said she could take part in. For fear of her “violent” white pro-Trump neighbours, she had not dared to display a Democratic sign in her yard this year for the first time. “I decided I’d rather have peace than express myself,” she said, as her eyes filled with tears.

Some of these changes to the country’s electoral culture are likely to be long-lasting. Americans of different races and political hues could end up voting almost as separately as they worship. On the other hand, the immediate cause of their disunity, Mr Trump, seems increasingly likely to be on the way out.

A taste of his own medicine

The Democratic early-vote lead does not predict his defeat. It will be somewhat pegged back by his supporters on election day. Yet it is graphic evidence of Democratic enthusiasm—which is in itself likely to generate further enthusiasm. It should also insure the Democrats against late mishaps—such as the tropical storm long-range forecasters foresee in Florida on election day—to which Republicans will remain vulnerable. Moreover, as a boomeranged consequence of the president’s efforts to undercut mail-in voting, the Democratic advantage points to another important factor in Mr Trump’s struggles: his stunning ineptitude.

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Read the best of our 2020 campaign coverage and explore our election forecasts, then sign up for Checks and Balance, our weekly newsletter and podcast on American politics.

This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “The blue wave”

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‘He shot himself in the foot’: Seniors repelled by Trump’s pandemic response

“He knew everything all the way back in February and he didn’t take the precautions … he didn’t believe in science. He doesn’t believe in doctors,” Montesinos said. “He always tries to blame somebody else, like a little kid.”

Montesinos, who is from West Palm Beach, Florida, said he still plans to vote for Republicans in other races.

“It hurt me so much” to hear the president recently dismiss the pandemic by saying Americans were “pandemic-ed out,” Montesinos added. “He was going to be the best president the U.S. ever had if he had taken care of the coronavirus.”

Trump is attempting a repeat of his first stunning victory by banding together a base that’s still mostly white, largely male, less educated and older.

Underpinning Trump’s success in 2016 was, in part, an army of seniors that made up a large slice of the electorate and backed him by 7 percentage points over Hillary Clinton, according to national exit poll data. Older voters are among the most likely to vote and have sided with Republican nominees in every presidential election since 2004, reinforcing Trump four years ago and helping tilt key battleground states in his favor.

But this cycle, former Vice President Joe Biden is cutting into Trump’s coalition, making significant gains with older voters across the U.S., particularly in must-win states for Trump. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found the two men running even among likely voters 65 and older nationally — 48% to 49%.

In Florida and North Carolina, two states Trump narrowly won in 2016 and considered crucial for him to win in 2020, the president’s advantage over Biden with seniors is slightly better than his national standing but still well short of his margins over Clinton.

Trump leads Biden by 8 points in Florida and 10 points in North Carolina among likely voters over 65, according to a pair of ABC News/Washington Post polls — margins slashed by roughly half compared to 2016 when he carried this demographic by 17 points and 23 points, respectively, in the two states.

Trump campaign aides have grown weary of the president’s declining support among older Americans, a group they know is critical to his reelection chances, especially in states like Florida and North Carolina, sources told ABC News. Perhaps the most telling sign of concern in Trump circles over seniors is the president’s campaign schedule, with a rally set for Friday in The Villages, a sprawling mecca for retirees in a conservative pocket of central Florida.

“With the President at the helm,” Trump campaign spokesperson Ken Farnaso said in a statement, “seniors can rest assured their voice will be heard in Washington.”

In follow-up interviews with more than a dozen independent and Republican voters over 65 who participated in recent ABC News/Washington Post polls in Florida and North Carolina, including some who voted for Trump in 2016, most said they’re repelled by the president after four years. His fumbled response to the pandemic and derogatory rhetoric outweigh his much-touted economic gains, the voters said.

‘Trump just wants to get reelected’

“It was a really hard decision to make. From an economic perspective, I would be better served by President Trump,” said Cindy Cook, an independent voter in North Carolina. “I have trouble respecting President Trump. I find him to be offensive to many people. … He takes advantage of people — [Dr. Anthony] Fauci is one of them.”

The 68-year old from Durham, where Biden stopped last weekend for a campaign event, voted a mixed ballot, she said, but at the top of the ticket she chose Trump’s rival.

Al, a Republican living in Broward County who is now voting for Biden after backing Trump in 2016, said he took particular issue with how Trump has targeted Fauci, the country’s leading expert on infectious diseases, amid the pandemic.

“No reason for it. [Trump’s] wrong. Fauci knows what’s going on. Trump just wants to get reelected and make everything he does terrific, but he hasn’t done anything,” he said.

The president has ramped up attacks on Fauci in the final days before the election, blasting the leading member of his own coronavirus task force at rallies and as a “disaster” on a recent all-staff campaign call.

“I believe Fauci. I don’t believe anything Trump says unless somebody of substantial means can verify it. Because he just lies all the time,” said Al, who noted that while he’s supporting the Democratic nominee this election he will still be “a Republican now and a Republican after Trump.”

A path to victory for the president runs through the Sunshine state. In 2016, Trump won Florida by just over 100,000 votes, after Florida voted for Obama twice, solidifying its reputation as a swing state.

Trump’s path to victory also winds through North Carolina — a bellwether known for split-ticket voting after electing both Trump and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in 2016 — where changing demographics and polarization between urban and rural areas have helped maintain the state’s purple hue.

It’s a state that got behind Obama only once in 2008. In 2016, Trump edged out Clinton by fewer than 4 percentage points, offsetting Democrats’ strength in the cities and suburbs by running up the score in whiter, more rural stretches.

Arlie Thompson of exurban Union County, North Carolina, outside of Charlotte, told ABC News he’s voting for Biden, believing Trump’s response to the defining crisis of his first term eclipsed any progress made with an economy he inherited from Obama.

“He certainly dealt himself a blow by not dealing with the pandemic like he should have,” said Thompson, 77. “The economy is a mess now.”

Voters turned off by age-old attacks

Throughout the election, Trump and his campaign have made targeting Biden, who turns 78 shortly after Election Day and would be the oldest sitting president if elected, as mentally inept and merely a feeble puppet of the “radical left.”

Trump has relentlessly attacked Biden as mentally “shot,” mocked his memory, and used campaign gaffes to paint the former vice president to be in mental decline — efforts that have turned off some older voters.

Trump, 74, is only three years younger than Biden.

“With my age, of course I get insulted,” said Olive Norwell, 93, when asked about the president targeting Biden’s age and mental health. Norwell, an independent who’s voting for Biden from Vero Beach, Florida, a ruby red area along the eastern shore, added, “but [Trump] himself is 74 — he’s not that far behind.”

Days after testing positive for coronavirus, and with polls showing his support among older Americans slipping, Trump released a video targeting seniors that looked to reassure them the pandemic was under control. The president called seniors “my favorite people in the world,” even casting himself as one.

Just hours later, though, the president posted an edited photo mocking Biden by depicting him in what appears to be a nursing home, sitting in a wheelchair, with the “P” in the former vice president’s campaign logo crossed out to read, “Biden for Resident.”

“It’s the pot calling the kettle black,” said Rick, 76, a Biden supporter from Wake County, a Democratic stronghold in North Carolina that contains Raleigh and its suburbs, and boasts the highest population of any county between the two Carolinas.

“President Trump is the same age I am,” said Dianne Wilkes, 74, who lives in Raleigh. “Those remarks that he’s making, it’s showing discrimination. … It’s not going to help him one iota.”

“[Voters] also are going to be looking at how he’s handled and what he says about COVID-19 and the ludicrous remarks that are not scientifically-based,” she continued. “I think he shot himself in the foot.”

Wilkes, a more than 50-year independent voter who backed Clinton in 2016, said she’s voting for Biden. She’s also supporting Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, saying she changed her mind about Cal Cunningham, Tillis’ Democratic challenger and an Army veteran, after his extramarital relationship was revealed earlier this month.

Biden tests Trump’s grip on seniors

With an opportunity to peel off some of Trump’s base, the Biden campaign has made a concerted effort to court seniors, both in their advertising strategy and travel itinerary. His team has been running multiple ads in battleground states casting the former vice president as the true protector of Medicare and Social Security, and he made multiple trips to Florida in October.

The candidate’s most recent visit to Florida focused almost entirely on his pitch to seniors, hitting heavily Democratic Broward County and honing in on Trump’s declaration at a recent campaign rally that COVID-19 affects “virtually nobody,” mostly “elderly people with heart problems and other problems.”

“He was talking about seniors. He was talking about you,” Biden said, speaking at a senior center in Pembroke Pines, Florida. “You deserve respect and peace of mind, but you’re not getting it because to Donald Trump, you’re expendable. You’re forgettable.”

In Johnston County, North Carolina, which is considered Trump country having voted for the president by 30 points four years ago, one voter is still uncommitted, vacillating between Trump, who he supported before, or Biden.

“I think Joe fits the mold of a person I would most likely want to see as a leader,” Dan, 77, who declined to give his last name, said. “Trump makes a lot of smoke.”

Asked if the election were held today and he had to choose, he said, “I’d vote for Joe.”

ABC News’ John Verhovek contributed reporting.

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Biden Seizes Trump’s Populist Mantle

“It’s not about his family and my family. It’s about your family, and your family’s hurting badly,” he said. “If you’re a middle-class family, you’re getting hurt badly right now. You’re sitting at the kitchen table this morning deciding, Well, we can’t get new tires, they’re bald, because we have to wait another month or so. Or are we going to be able to pay the mortgage? Who’s going to tell her she can’t go back to community college? They’re the decisions you’re making.”

This was boilerplate Biden—he even mentioned Scranton—but it was just the start. Later in the debate, Biden criticized Trump for not passing economic-stimulus measures. The moderator, Kristen Welker (who far more ably corralled the candidates than Chris Wallace managed to do in the previous debate), asked why Biden hadn’t pressured Democrats to push a deal. The former vice president pointed out that the House passed a large bill in May, but that the GOP-led Senate has not taken it up.

“I have, and they have pushed it. They passed that back—all the way back at the beginning of the summer. This is not new. It’s been out there,” Biden said. Republicans “have not done a thing for them. And Mitch McConnell said, ‘Let them go bankrupt. Let them go bankrupt.’ Come on. What’s the matter with this guy?”

A moment later, Trump dismissed the idea of raising the minimum wage to $15, an increase that Biden and two-thirds of Americans support. Again, Biden pounced.

“No, no one should work two jobs, one job, and be below poverty,” he said. “People are making, $6, $7, $8 an hour—these first responders we all clap for as they come down the street, because they’ve allowed us to make it. What’s happening? They deserve a minimum wage of $15. Anything below that puts you below the poverty level.”

Trump wasn’t out of the woods. The next question was on the administration’s policy of separating families of migrants intercepted at the border. While a judge ordered the families reunited, the government said in a court filing this week that it cannot find the parents of 545 children. Trump cycled through a few answers, (justifiably) assailing the Obama administration’s immigration policy while (falsely) claiming that the children were brought by smugglers. Biden, in his response, seemed genuinely furious.

“Coyotes didn’t bring them over,” Biden said. “Their parents were with them. They got separated from their parents. And it makes us a laughingstock and violates every notion of who we are as a nation.”

Trump again tried to turn the conversation back to Barack Obama’s handling of migrant children, but unlike in the first debate, Biden wasn’t rattled.

“Let’s talk about what we’re talking about,” Biden replied. “What happened? Parents were—their kids were ripped from their arms and separated, and now they cannot find over 500 sets of those parents and those kids are alone. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to go. It’s criminal. It’s criminal.”

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American expats became awkward spectators of Trump’s term

The reputation of the United States has faded across the globe this year, in large part thanks to the country’s failure to contain the coronavirus, and now sits at a record low in some countries, according to a global survey by the Pew Research Center.

For Americans overseas – estimated at 5 million – that image is more than the subject of an abstract poll. It is part of their daily lives, as they see America through the lens of co-workers, curious neighbors, and complete strangers.

“My students and friends in Morocco could not believe the images of Americans waiting in lines at food banks this April were real,” says Jessi Rose, a New York City native who teaches English in Casablanca. “Right now, from media and social media, America looks violent.”

It also means spending a great deal of time trying to explain the words and deeds of President Donald Trump.

“The question that I get the most from Canadians is just like, how is this happening?” says Alyssa Johnston, who lives near Toronto. “They feel like they’re missing something or they don’t understand some part of culture or politics to explain better what’s happening.”

Toronto; Paris; and Amman, Jordan.

Sufyan Katariwala, the son of Pakistani immigrants from St. Louis, voted for Donald Trump in 2016 because he calls himself a proud American nationalist, though he had doubts almost immediately and the pandemic has sealed his regret.

Now based in Toronto, he says he is constantly trying to explain his country’s dysfunctional politics to a confused Canadian audience.

“I never felt that I would have to assume this role … answering [the question] in all these discussions: ‘Jeez, what is going on, you guys?’” he says. “I’m fairly certain that, prior to 2016, if you were an American in many parts of the world, people would have been like, ‘That’s a cool place. I want to go there.’ Now it’s just like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Like there’s pity.”

The reputation of the United States has faded across the globe this year, in large part thanks to the country’s failure to contain the coronavirus, and now sits at a record low in some countries, according to a global survey by the Pew Research Center.

For Americans overseas – estimated at 5 million – that image is more than the subject of an abstract poll. It is part of their daily lives, as they see America through the lens of co-workers, curious neighbors, and complete strangers.

“An American in Paris”

The American expat has enjoyed a storied position in culture and literature. In France, the role has been romanticized from Gene Kelly tap dancing his way through “An American in Paris” to Ernest Hemingway’s Paris-set “A Moveable Feast,” where he wrote, “There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home and in Paris.”

Numbering around 250,000, Americans in France tend to lean Democratic and enjoy elite status, says Oleg Kobtzeff, an associate professor of international and comparative politics at the American University of Paris. “So Americans in France are themselves examples of soft power.”

It’s not that they’ve been universally loved. Former President George W. Bush’s war on terror, including the Iraq War of 2003 that many allies condemned, made him as unpopular in France as President Trump is today.

But disdain has been replaced with a new, distinct sentiment that Ursuline Kairson, a Chicago-born jazz singer who has lived in Paris for over 20 years, sums up succinctly: “Now they feel sorry for us.”

Americans are now banned from visiting many countries around the globe because of the coronavirus. The U.S.-Canada border, the world’s longest undefended frontier, has been closed to nonessential travel for seven months.

That closure is symbolic of how frayed America’s relationships have become. Canadians have arguably been the strongest U.S. ally in modern times. “The Canadians were always the first to arrive for us,” says Bruce Heyman, a former United States ambassador to Canada under Barack Obama. He says that ties became strained under Mr. Trump, who imposed trade tariffs on national security grounds and called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “two-faced.” “I think Donald Trump’s done more damage to the U.S.-Canada relationship than any other single person maybe in the history of our two countries.”

When Alyssa Johnston lived in Jordan and Egypt teaching English prior to moving to Canada in 2011, she was used to hostilities towards Americans. “When I was living overseas, America, even with Obama, didn’t have a good reputation, mainly as a holdover from Bush,” she says. “In the Middle East, my American passport didn’t help me. It hindered me.”

Now in some ways even though she is much closer to home, the cultural similarities that bind Americans and Canadians needs more interpretation. “The question that I get the most from Canadians is just like, how is this happening? Can you explain this to me? They feel like they’re missing something or they don’t understand some part of culture or politics to explain better what’s happening,” she says. “When I’m kind of faced with the fact of how ridiculous it is and I have to answer those questions or be the voice of the American, of this country that they’re looking at being a dumpster fire, it does kind of create some anxiety.”

In Canada today, the favorability rating of Mr. Trump is at 20%, its lowest measured for a U.S. president. It was 83% for Mr. Obama, according to Pew data.

“I felt safer being in this part of the world”

The election of Mr. Obama was, for many around the world, a reset after damage done on the international stage under the globally unpopular Bush presidency. As the son of a Kenyan father, the American president personified the “American dream” for many around the world.

“I stand before you as a proud American. I also stand before you as the son of an African,” Mr. Obama said at a speech at the African Union in Addis Ababa in 2015. In South Africa, a country whose own history of segregation was still fresh, the moment felt especially poignant. “South Africans claimed Obama as one of their own, just like we did,” says Stella Nkomo, an American and a professor of human resources management at the University of Pretoria. “There was a fierce sense of identification with the U.S. for electing an African president.”

“It was always like America had a halo around it,” Dr. Nkomo adds.

But Mr. Trump has repeatedly demeaned Africa, using a harsh scatological obscenity about developing nations and complaining to aides that Nigerian migrants would never “go back to their huts” in Africa once they had seen America.

Dr. Nkomo stumbled as she tried to explain how the same country could have two presidents that saw the continent so differently in such swift succession. It’s telling, she says, that “as an American I felt safer being in this part of the world than I would have in the U.S. during this pandemic.”

For other Americans overseas, the disillusionment in America is just as stark, but goes back longer.

In China, when American James McGregor visited on a backpacking trip in 1985, most Chinese people he encountered were enthralled with his homeland. “The Chinese people I met believed that America was almost this heavenly place,” says Mr. McGregor, who moved to China as a newspaper correspondent in 1990 and is now chairman for the China region of APCO Worldwide, a global consulting firm.

Courtesy of James McGregor

James McGregor visits with Chinese children in a village in the vicinity of Yan’an, Shaanxi Province, in 1993, when he was a Beijing-based reporter for The Wall Street Journal. He says that he finds the Chinese much less enthralled with the U.S. today.

In the last decade though, the Communist Party’s powerful propaganda apparatus has asserted Washington’s goal is to keep China poor and weak. The trend has been amplified amid Mr. Trump’s trade war with China and blaming Beijing for the coronavirus. “The Chinese people are looking at this president and saying you can see American decline in full technicolor,” says Mr. McGregor.

As an executive today, Mr. McGregor has had to grapple with the shift in power as Chinese companies grew smarter, more advanced, and more powerful relative to their U.S. counterparts. “The Chinese know the power is on their side now, and they believe that America needs China more than China needs America.”

Loss of respect for the American people?

In the Middle East, for the better part of two decades, the U.S. has been embroiled in war and political brokering, projecting hard power that left few in doubt as to who was the global superpower. For Americans residing in the region, that meant constant questions from family or friends in the U.S., who were worried about their safety in a place depicted as unstable and rife with ancient hatreds.

Now, amid the pandemic and the presidency of Donald Trump, whose leadership has polarized the U.S., many American expats are asking themselves questions about safety – that of their family and friends back home.

“My students and friends in Morocco could not believe the images of Americans waiting in lines at food banks this April were real,” says Jessi Rose, a New York City native who has spent the past five years teaching English in Casablanca. “Right now, from media and social media, America looks violent. It looks like there is conflict all over the place.”

Cole Phillips, a World Bank consultant in Jordan, says when he first arrived in 2014, people would always ask him how to secure a visa to America.

“Now, I actually hear people say that they do not want to go to America because of what they see as xenophobic tendencies by the Trump administration and a wider hostility to migrants and people who look different,” he says.

Americans abroad are uncomfortably familiar with foreigners’ views of America’s stature in the world in a way that Americans at home are not. And Jen Natoli says she fears that disdain for American politics is starting to bleed into disdain for the American people, who had previously always been seen as distinct from their leaders.

Ms. Natoli, a union organizer originally from New York now living in New Zealand, says this trend “was highlighted by us pulling out of the Iran deal and Paris accord, but perhaps most starkly in our COVID response,” she says.

“Not only did we not contribute to the world efforts to fight the pandemic, but the Trump administration has encouraged the American people to reject science and public health measures. This means the loss of respect globally has expanded to the American people, not just the government.”

• This story included reporting from Ann Scott Tyson in Seattle; Ryan Lenora Brown in Johannesburg; and Miriam Bell in Auckland, New Zealand.

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US election debate: Joe Biden renews attack on Donald Trump’s Covid record as they meet for final time

Joe Biden renewed his attacks on Donald Trump‘s handling of the coronavirus pandemic during the final debate of the presidential election campaign.

“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America,” Democratic candidate Mr Biden told the event in Nashville, Tennessee.

The encounter represented one of the Republican president Mr Trump’s last remaining opportunities to reshape a campaign dominated by the virus.

Mr Trump defended his approach to the outbreak and claimed the worst of the pandemic was in the past.

Mr Biden took aim at the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic (REUTERS)

Cover has killed more than 221,000 people in the United States and devastated the economy.

“We’re rounding the corner,” said the president, who has played down the virus for months. “It’s going away.”

Mr Biden faulted Mr Trump for avoiding responsibility for the pandemic.

“I take full responsibility,” Mr Trump responded. “It’s not my fault that it came here, it’s China’s fault.”

Mr Trump claimed during the debate that a vaccine was close to ready, saying approval would be announced within “weeks” before acknowledging that it was not a guarantee.

Most experts, including administration officials, have said a vaccine is unlikely to be widely available until mid-2021.

The first segment of the debate was far more civil than the candidates’ first clash in September, when Mr Trump’s constant interruptions and exchanges of personal insults derailed the evening.

As a result, each candidate’s microphone on Thursday was switched off while his opponent made a two-minute introductory statement on a topic.

Even after the microphones were turned back on during discussion periods, however, the candidates largely allowed each other to speak.

Mr Biden and the president also argued over their tax returns.

Responding to unfounded allegations from Trump during Thursday night’s debate that he received funds from Russian sources, Mr Biden said:”I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life.”

Pointing his finger at Mr Trump, he asked: “What are you hiding?” and told him to “release your tax returns or stop talking about corruption.”

Mr Trump responded that he would like to release his returns “as soon as we can” but reiterated his excuse that he’s under audit, a claim he’s made since he first ran for president in 2016.

The president is not actually barred from releasing the documents while they’re under audit.

Mr Trump also responded to the news that he paid just $750 in taxes in 2017, claiming that he was told he “prepaid tens of millions of dollars,” and that the $750 was a “filing fee.”

But Mr Biden again called on the US leader to release proof. “Show us,” Mr Biden said. “Stop playing around.”

On Thursday, the commission that oversees the debate removed plexiglass barriers separating the candidates after Mr Trump provided proof he had tested negative for Covid-19, a source familiar with the matter said.

The approximately 200 attendees had their temperatures checked before entering the venue, and everyone was required to wear a medical mask at all times.

As well as coronavirus, debate topics were to include race relations, climate change and national security.

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Obama rips into Trump’s record in 2020 campaign trail debut

Former U.S. president Barack Obama returned to the campaign trail on Wednesday, launching a blistering attack on Donald Trump with less than two weeks to go before the Republican president’s election day face-off with Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Speaking at a drive-in rally in Philadelphia on behalf of Biden, his former vice-president, Obama offered his fiercest critique yet of his successor, taking aim at Trump’s divisive rhetoric and his track record in the Oval Office.

“He hasn’t shown any interest in doing the work or helping anybody but himself,” Obama said.

Obama, who governed for two terms and remains one of the most popular figures in the Democratic Party, blasted Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, noting that the president himself had fallen victim to the virus.

“Donald Trump isn’t suddenly going to protect all of us,” he said. “He can’t even take the basic steps to protect himself.”

Former U.S. president Barack Obama speaks at a drive-in rally for Democratic nominee Joseph Biden on Wednesday in Philadelphia. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Obama’s appearance filled a gap left by Biden, who has stayed at home in Delaware since Monday for meetings and preparation ahead of his Thursday debate with Trump in Nashville, Tenn.

The drive-in rally was held in the parking lot of Citizens Bank Park, the baseball stadium in Philadelphia, with the city’s skyline visible in the distance. It was the largest event of its kind that the Biden campaign has staged amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Almost 280 vehicles were spread throughout the lot, with big screens placed to allow attendees to see the former president.

With a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showing Biden with just a 4-percentage-point edge in Pennsylvania, Obama warned Democrats against complacency.

“We’ve got to turn out like never before,” he said. “We cannot leave any doubt in this election.”

Four years ago, Obama participated in a rally in Philadelphia with then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton the day before the election, only to see Trump narrowly take the state. The Biden campaign considers winning there a top priority.

Americans are voting early at a record pace this year, with 42 million ballots cast both via mail and in person ahead of the Nov. 3 election on concerns about the coronavirus and to make sure their votes are counted.

The record early vote so far represents about 30 per cent of the total ballots cast in 2016, according to the University of Florida’s U.S. Elections Project.

After Obama spoke, Trump held a rally in North Carolina, another battleground state where opinion polls show a tight race.

Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, was also in North Carolina to mobilize voters in Asheville and Charlotte.

Fundraising appearances

Even though Wednesday marked Obama’s 2020 campaign debut, his support has been essential for Biden. He has appeared at joint fundraisers with Biden and Harris, and his network of well-connected former aides has been instrumental in helping the campaign outpace Trump in bringing in donations.

The Biden campaign is hopeful that Obama will commit to more events before the election.

The last days of campaigning are taking place amid a surge in new cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations in battleground states, including North Carolina and Pennsylvania but also Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan.

Pennsylvania has averaged 1,500 new cases a day over the past week, a level it has not seen since April, according to a Reuters analysis. North Carolina is averaging 2,000 new cases a day over the past week, its highest level ever. The virus has claimed the lives of more than 221,000 people in the United States.

Polling shows a majority of voters are disappointed in the way Trump has handled the pandemic, which he has repeatedly said would disappear on its own.

Biden and Trump are scheduled to meet in their second and final debate on Thursday night, giving the Republican an opportunity to change the trajectory of a race that Biden is leading in national polls.

People listen as Obama speaks at Citizens Bank Park. (Matt Slocum/The Associated Press)

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