Trump Travels to Pennsylvania, Biden to Michigan 

With only three days of campaigning left before Election Day in the United States, President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden were focusing Saturday on battleground states, with Trump visiting Pennsylvania while the former vice president traveled to Michigan.Biden attended events alongside former President Barack Obama for the first time during the campaign season. The two were visiting the cities of Flint and Detroit on Saturday, the first of two days the campaign will spend in Michigan to garner voter support.Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks at a campaign drive-in mobilization event in Flint, Mich., Oct. 31, 2020.Musician Stevie Wonder was to join Biden and Obama in Detroit to perform at a drive-in rally. Wonder has previously performed at several Democratic events, including for Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012 as well as for Hillary Clinton in 2016.Trump planned four rallies Saturday in cities across Pennsylvania, where he narrowly won in 2016 and where recent polls showed Biden with a slight advantage.Court criticismTrump’s first rally was in Newtown, where he criticized the U.S. Supreme Court for refusing a Republican Party effort to block a three-day extension for Pennsylvania election officials to receive absentee ballots, meaning the court would not intercede in the state’s vote count.“This is a horrible thing that the United States Supreme Court has done to our country,” he said. “We have to know who won.” President Donald Trump applauds during a campaign rally at Keith House-Washington’s Headquarters in Newtown, Pa., Oct. 31, 2020.Trump told reporters Friday that he was undecided about his election night plans. The New York Times had reported that he canceled plans to appear at an event at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.“We haven’t made a determination,” Trump said in response to a reporter’s question about his whereabouts on election night. Trump said coronavirus restrictions imposed by the local government in Washington, including a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, would be a factor in the decision.“You know, Washington, D.C., is shut down. The mayor has shut it down,” he said. “So we have a hotel. I don’t know if it’s shut — if you’re allowed to use it or not — but I know the mayor has shut down Washington, D.C. And if that’s the case, we’ll probably stay here [the White House] or pick another location.”On Friday, Trump and Biden campaigned in the Midwest, with Trump traveling to Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, while Biden held events in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.Fight against virus criticizedBiden told supporters at a drive-in rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on Friday that the state had hit daily record numbers of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations this week, and he argued that Trump “has given up” on fighting the virus.National polls typically show Biden with a lead of 7 or 8 percentage points over Trump, although the margin is about half that in several key battleground states that are likely to determine the outcome in the Electoral College.According to an average of major polls compiled by the website Real Clear Politics, Biden and Trump are virtually tied in the battleground states of Florida, Arizona and North Carolina, while the president trails the former vice president in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.Americans are voting early for Tuesday’s presidential election in unprecedented numbers, a product of strong feelings for or against the two main candidates and a desire to avoid large Election Day crowds at polling stations during the pandemic.More than 90 million people had already voted as of midday Saturday, well above half the overall 2016 vote count of 138.8 million, according to the U.S. Elections Project.

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Space Station Marking 20 Years of People Living in Orbit 

FILE – Russian cosmonauts Sergei Krikalyov (Top), Yuri Gidzenko and U.S. astronaut Bill Shepherd (C) wave hands before the launch at Baikonur.Shepherd, a former Navy SEAL who served as the station commander, likened it to living on a ship at sea. The three spent most of their time coaxing equipment to work; balky systems made the place too warm. Conditions were primitive, compared with now.   Installations and repairs took hours at the new space station, versus minutes on the ground, Krikalev recalled.   “Each day seemed to have its own set of challenges,” Shepherd said during a recent NASA panel discussion with his crewmates.   The space station has since morphed into a complex that’s almost as long as a football field, with eight miles (13 kilometers) of electrical wiring, an acre of solar panels and three high-tech labs.   “It’s 500 tons of stuff zooming around in space, most of which never touched each other until it got up there and bolted up,” Shepherd told The Associated Press. “And it’s all run for 20 years with almost no big problems.”   “It’s a real testament to what can be done in these kinds of programs,” he said.   Shepherd, 71, is long retired from NASA and lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Krikalev, 62, and Gidzenko, 58, have risen in the Russian space ranks. Both were involved in the mid-October launch of the 64th crew.   The first thing the three did upon arriving at the darkened space station on Nov. 2, 2000, was turn on the lights, which Krikalev recalled as “very memorable.” Then they heated water for hot drinks and activated the lone toilet.   “Now we can live,” Gidzenko remembers Shepherd saying. “We have lights, we have hot water and we have toilet.”   The crew called their new home Alpha, but the name didn’t stick.   Although pioneering the way, the three had no close calls during their nearly five months up there, Shepherd said, and so far the station has held up relatively well.   NASA’s top concern nowadays is the growing threat from space junk. This year, the orbiting lab has had to dodge debris three times.   As for station amenities, astronauts now have near-continuous communication with flight controllers and even an internet phone for personal use. The first crew had sporadic radio contact with the ground; communication blackouts could last hours.   While the three astronauts got along fine, tension sometimes bubbled up between them and the two Mission Controls, in Houston and outside Moscow. Shepherd got so frustrated with the “conflicting marching orders” that he insisted they come up with a single plan.   “I’ve got to say, that was my happiest day in space,” he said during the panel discussion.   FILE – This image of the International Space Station with the docked Europe’s ATV /Johannes Kepler/ and Space Shuttle /Endeavour/ was taken by Expedition 27 crew member Paolo Nespoli from the Soyuz TMA-20 following its undocking on 24 May 2011.With its first piece launched in 1998, the International Space Station already has logged 22 years in orbit. NASA and its partners contend it easily has several years of usefulness left at 260 miles (400 kilometers) up.   The Mir station — home to Krikalev and Gidzenko in the late 1980s and 1990s — operated for 15 years before being guided to a fiery reentry over the Pacific in 2001. Russia’s earlier stations and America’s 1970s Skylab had much shorter life spans, as did China’s much more recent orbital outposts.   Astronauts spend most of their six-month stints these days keeping the space station running and performing science experiments. A few have even spent close to a year up there on a single flight, serving as medical guinea pigs. Shepherd and his crew, by contrast, barely had time for a handful of experiments.   The first couple weeks were so hectic — “just working and working and working,” according to Gidzenko — that they didn’t shave for days. It took a while just to find the razors.   Even back then, the crew’s favorite pastime was gazing down at Earth. It takes a mere 90 minutes for the station to circle the world, allowing astronauts to soak in a staggering 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets each day.   The current residents — one American and two Russians, just like the original crew — plan to celebrate Monday’s milestone by sharing a special dinner, enjoying the views of Earth and remembering all the crews who came before them, especially the first.   But it won’t be a day off: “Probably we’ll be celebrating this day by hard work,” Sergei Kud-Sverchkov said Friday from orbit.   One of the best outcomes of 20 years of continuous space habitation, according to Shepherd, is astronaut diversity.   In this photo released by NASA on Oct. 17, 2019, U.S. astronauts Jessica Meir, left, and Christina Koch pose for a photo in the International Space Station.While men still lead the pack, more crews include women. Two U.S. women have served as space station skipper. Commanders typically are American or Russian, but have also come from Belgium, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan. While African-Americans have made short visits to the space station, the first Black resident is due to arrive in mid-November on SpaceX’s second astronaut flight.   Massive undertakings like human Mars trips can benefit from the past two decades of international experience and cooperation, Shepherd said.   “If you look at the space station program today, it’s a blueprint on how to do it. All those questions about how this should be organized and what it’s going to look like, the big questions are already behind us,” he told the AP.   Russia, for instance, kept station crews coming and going after NASA’s Columbia disaster in 2003 and after the shuttles retired in 2011.   When Shepherd and his crewmates returned to Earth aboard shuttle Discovery after nearly five months, his main objective had been accomplished.   “Our crew showed that we can work together,” he said. 

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Trump Travels Saturday to Pennsylvania; Biden to Michigan

With only three days of campaigning left before Election Day in the United States, both top candidates travel to battleground states Saturday, with Republican President Donald Trump focusing on Pennsylvania while Democratic candidate former Vice President Joe Biden plans events in Michigan.Biden will be campaigning alongside former President Barack Obama for the first time during the campaign. The two will travel to Flint and Detroit on Saturday, part of two days of campaigning to get out the vote in Michigan.In Detroit, they will be joined by singer Stevie Wonder, who will perform at a drive-in rally. Wonder has previously performed at several Democratic events, including for Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012 as well as for Hillary Clinton in 2016.Trump plans to hold four rallies in cities across Pennsylvania on Saturday. The president narrowly won the state in 2016 and is seeking to repeat his performance there. Polls currently show Biden with a slight advantage.Trump told reporters Friday that he is undecided about his election night plans after The New York Times reported he canceled plans to appear at an event at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.“We haven’t made a determination,” Trump said in response to a reporter’s question about his whereabouts on election night. Trump said coronavirus restrictions imposed by the local government in Washington, including a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, would be a factor in the decision.“You know, Washington, D.C., is shut down. The mayor has shut it down. So we have a hotel; I don’t know if it’s shut — if you’re allowed to use it or not, but I know the mayor has shut down Washington, D.C. And if that’s the case, we’ll probably stay here or pick another location,” Trump added.On Friday, Trump and Biden both campaigned in the Midwest with Trump traveling to Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, while Biden held events in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.Michigan has 16 electoral votes, Minnesota and Wisconsin have 10 each, and Iowa has six.Biden told supporters at a drive-in rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines Friday that the state hit a daily record number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations this week and argued that Trump “has given up” on fighting the virus.Trump told supporters at an outdoor rally in Waterford Township, Michigan, that Biden has predicted a dark winter ahead because of the coronavirus pandemic.“Just what our country needs is a long dark winter and a leader who talks about it,” Trump said.The president said a safe vaccine would be delivered to Americans in a matter of weeks, adding that it will be free because “this wasn’t your fault. This wasn’t anyone’s fault. This was China’s fault.”National polls typically show Biden with a lead of 7 or 8 percentage points over Trump, although the margin is about half that in several key battleground states that are likely to determine the outcome in the Electoral College.According to an average of major polls compiled by the website Real Clear Politics, Biden and Trump are virtually tied in the battleground states of Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina, while the president trails the former vice president in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.Americans are voting early for Tuesday’s presidential election in unprecedented numbers, a product of strong feelings for or against the two main candidates and a desire to avoid large Election Day crowds at polling stations during the pandemic.More than 82 million people had already voted as of Friday, well above half of the overall 2016 vote count, which was 138.8 million.     

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Can I Post a Photo of My Ballot? 

In response to increased social media messages on how, where and when to vote in the U.S. general election, voters are posting proof that they cast their ballots.Whether it is a photo of the ballot showing who someone voted for, or a selfie of the voter, an increase in mail-in and early voting amid the pandemic means more voters are posting their ballot selfies the week ahead of the election.Whether these photos are legally allowed differs by state.According to data from Ballotpedia, as of September, 25 states and the District of Columbia allow ballot selfies — photos of a completed ballot or a picture of a voter inside the polling place.Because the popularity of ballot selfies rose in the past decade, most state laws govern whether photos can be taken inside polling places. But there are no clear rules on whether an absentee ballot can be photographed.In West Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, Delaware and Arizona, photography and/or cellphones are banned at polling places. In 2016, pop star Justin Timberlake deleted a photo of himself casting his vote in Tennessee after learning it was prohibited by a 2015 state law.In Maryland and Iowa, rules banning photography in polling places specifically state that photos of mail-in ballots are allowed.But many states argue that photography of a ballot or in a voting place violates the promise of a “secret ballot.”The secret ballot has long been perceived as an integral part of the U.S. democratic system, protecting voters from criticism or peer pressure and allowing them to fulfill their democratic privilege in private.Additionally, some states have argued that documentation of ballots could promote an uptick in voter fraud and buying votes — allowing companies or individuals to force paid voters to give confirmation that they completed their vote.In 2014, New Hampshire banned photos of ballots, citing the potential of vote-buying or influence. But the Supreme Court upheld a decision by a lower court in 2017 that the law violated free speech laws. Today, New Hampshire is one of the 25 states in which no laws govern how you document your voting process.Proponents of documenting the voting process have said it encourages fellow citizens to exercise their right to vote. In response to this, several states have encouraged alternate ways for citizens to share their voting process.The state of Georgia has promoted a “Post the Peach” campaign, encouraging citizens to post photos of their “I Voted” stickers, which in Georgia feature the state’s signature fruit. A similar #GoVoteTN initiative in Tennessee encourages voters to pose next to an “I Voted” sign.Celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Lizzo have posted videos of themselves dropping their completed ballots in a designated drop box, without revealing the ballot itself.Category: Ballot Drop Off Realness pic.twitter.com/3cYeStflOH— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) October 27, 2020

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How Bats and COVID Canceled Halloween

Bats, a symbol of Halloween, may be responsible for canceling it this year.The coronavirus that has grounded trick-or-treaters likely came from bats.These creatures of the night have evolved a spooky ability to harbor a number of viruses that can kill humans — without getting sick themselves.How they do it may hold the key to immortality — or a longer life, anyway.Guilt by associationThough there is no smoking gun showing that the coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic came from bats, the virus is closely related to several others they harbor.Bats also are known to carry rabies and the Marburg hemorrhagic fever virus, and they are lead suspects as the source of Ebola and the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.It sure seems like they carry a lot of nasty viruses.But “maybe we just have a lot of bat viruses because there’s lots of bats,” said University of Glasgow researcher Daniel Streicker.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 9 MB480p | 13 MB540p | 16 MB720p | 32 MB1080p | 66 MBOriginal | 82 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioThere are roughly 1,400 different species around the world, Streicker noted, second only to rodents, which also carry a lot of diseases.”It isn’t the bats. They figured out how to deal with their viruses,” University of Saskatchewan microbiologist Vikram Misra said.Taking offTheir virus-resisting powers may be an unexpected byproduct of evolving to fly.Flying requires a tremendous amount of energy. Generating that energy also produces toxic byproducts that can damage cells.Normally, cell damage would trigger inflammation, the immune system’s first line of defense. The same inflammatory response kicks in whether the damage comes from toxic molecules, injury or infection. As part of the response, the body mobilizes cells to the damaged area that can blast germs or infected cells.Too much inflammation can kill. Overactive inflammatory responses are what lead to lung damage, blood clots and other fatal complications in COVID-19 patients.”Maybe bats had to down-regulate their responses just not to get inflamed every time they had to fly,” said University of Rochester biology professor Vera Gorbunova.But flight “doesn’t explain everything about bats,” she said. Another reason their immune systems are different from most mammals may be because of the way they live.Bats live in colonies that can number in the millions of individuals, roosting shoulder to shoulder. Diseases could spread quickly in those close quarters.”They probably evolved defenses because they’re exposed to a lot of viruses,” Gorbunova said.Delicate balanceFor whatever reason, their adaptations appear to be so important that they evolved independently in different bat species, a new study shows.Turning down a key immune response would seem to leave bats open to infection. But evolution has turned up another line of defense that targets viruses.Bats and viruses may have reached a “wonderfully balanced relationship where viruses don’t cause diseases and bats don’t get rid of the viruses,” Misra said. He and his colleagues at the University of Saskatchewan have found that bat cells can remain infected for months.But stress — from humans encroaching on their habitat or capturing them to sell at live-animal markets — may disrupt that relationship.”If you upset this delicate balance in such a way that the viruses now have an upper hand,” Misra said, “then the viruses start to multiply and the bats now start to shed more of these viruses. We think that that may be one of the reasons why spillovers occur” and the viruses jump into another species.”We can’t say for sure that that’s the case,” he added, but he and his colleagues are testing the idea now.Live long and prosperAside from reaching a detente with viruses, bats may have reaped another unintended reward from learning to fly. They may have discovered the fountain of youth.Bats live disproportionately long and healthy lives for their size. Take North American little brown bats, which are “about the size your thumb,” Misra said.”Normally, you would expect them to live maybe two years, three years, if you compare them to animals that are of comparable size,” he said. “These bats live 30 or 40 years.”The key may be their ability to tamp down inflammation without leaving themselves exposed to viruses.”Inflammation may be the driving force of age-related diseases,” biology professor Gorbunova said. It is a factor in Alzheimer’s disease, some forms of heart disease, diabetes and many others.With more research, she added, perhaps the bats that seem to be responsible for so much suffering can someday help us live longer.

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Global COVD-19 Cases Top 45 Million

Globally, COVID-19 cases have exceeded 45 million and nearly 1.2 million people have succumbed to the virus, according to the latest data. VOA correspondent Mariama Diallo reports on countries with the highest number of cases, the US, India and Brazil, respectively.

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