Two F-22 stealth fighter jets intercept a pair of Russian bombers late Monday near Alaska just weeks after another incident required jets to be scrambled.

The Russian Tu-95 "Bear" bombers flew 35 miles off the coast of Alaska, but remained in international airspace, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, better known by its acronym, NORAD, said in a statement.

Last month, a pair of Russian supersonic bombers buzzed the coast of Alaska, which were also intercepted by U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jets.

In both incidents-- last month and last night-- the Russian aircraft never entered U.S. airspace. The U.S. military routinely flies bombers and reconnaissance aircraft near Russia as well.

The latest Russian flight comes as the Trump administration negotiates a potential extension of a nuclear arms control treaty with Moscow called new START, which limits the number of nuclear warheads each side can deploy.

Late last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hoped to extend the treaty for a year without conditions. His proposal was rejected by President Trump's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, who wants to put a cap on stockpiled and tactical nuclear warheads.

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U.S. and Russian forces are bound by the 2010 treaty to cap deployed nuclear warheads at 1,550. There are also limits in the treaty to the number of deployed long-range missiles, submarines and bombers which can carry them.

Jeff Bridges, the actor known for his roles as Bad Blake in "Crazy Heart" and The Dude in "The Big Lebowski," announced on Monday that he has lymphoma.

"Although it is a serious disease, I feel fortunate that I have a great team of doctors and the prognosis is good," Mr. Bridges tweeted, with a nod to The Dude. "I'm starting treatment and will keep you posted on my recovery."

He said that he was grateful for the love and support from his family and friends during this time.

"Thank you for your prayers and well wishes," he said before urging people to vote.

A representative for Mr. Bridges did not immediately return a request for comment on Tuesday.

Lymphoma, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which helps the body fight germs.

Mr. Bridges did not specify what his treatment entailed, but options vary based on the type and severity of the cancer, the clinic said. Those options can include chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation therapy.

Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are the two main subtypes of lymphoma. There will be more than 77,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2020, according to the National Cancer Institute, accounting for 4.3 percent of all new cancer cases.

Approximately 2.1 percent of people will receive a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma during their lifetime, the institute said, based on data from 2015 to 2017. In 2017 alone, more than 719,000 people were estimated to be living with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in the United States.

Mr. Bridges hails from a family of actors, including his father, Lloyd, who died in 1998, and his brother, Beau. He began his acting career in the late 1950s and has appeared in more than 90 projects, according to IMDb. He's earned seven Academy Award nominations and won the Oscar in 2010 for best performance by an actor in a leading role for "Crazy Heart."

But his role as Jeff Lebowski -- a.k.a. "the Dude" -- in "The Big Lebowski" (1998), earned him a cult following.

In a 2017 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Bridges said he wasn't sure if he related most to the Dude out of all of his characters. The different roles he plays, Mr. Bridges said, start with himself and he sees what lines up with the character.

"You might magnify those aspects of yourself that work with the character, or keep those parts of you that don't match to the curve," he said.

When asked what makes people adore the Dude, Mr. Bridges said. "He is who he is and doesn't mess around with trying to be something else. It's kind of a mystery to me."

According to IMDb, Mr. Bridges was recently filming "The Old Man," an FX series that is set to debut on Hulu next year.

"Our thoughts go out to Jeff and his family during this challenging time, and they have our love and support," FX, Touchstone Television, Hulu and FXP said in a joint statement. "We wish him a safe and full recovery. And, as Jeff always says, 'We are all in this together.' Jeff, we are all in this together with you."

Voters Prefer Biden Over Trump on Almost All Major Issues, Poll Shows

Joe Biden leads President Trump, 50 percent to 41 percent, a New York Times/Siena College poll shows, with voters favoring him by wide margins on the coronavirus and law and order.

Voters Prefer Biden Over Trump on Almost All Major Issues, Poll Shows - topline Artboard 1

THE NEW YORK TIMES /

SIENA COLLEGE POLL

Joseph R.

Biden Jr.

Donald J.

Trump

50%

41%

Based on a New York Times/Siena

College poll of 987 likely voters

from Oct. 15 to 18.

Voters Prefer Biden Over Trump on Almost All Major Issues, Poll Shows - topline Artboard 1 copy

THE NEW YORK TIMES / SIENA COLLEGE POLL

Based on a New York Times/Siena College poll of

987 likely voters from Oct. 15 to 18.

Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Donald J. Trump

41%

50%

Voters Prefer Biden Over Trump on Almost All Major Issues, Poll Shows - topline Artboard 1 copy 2

THE NEW YORK TIMES /

SIENA COLLEGE POLL

Based on a New York Times/Siena College poll

of 987 likely voters from Oct. 15 to 18.

Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Donald J. Trump

41%

50%

Oct. 20, 2020

Joseph R. Biden Jr. holds a nine-point lead over President Trump amid widespread public alarm about the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic and demand among voters for large-scale government action to right the economy, according to a national poll of likely voters conducted by The New York Times and Siena College.

With just two weeks left in the campaign, Mr. Trump does not hold an edge on any of the most pressing issues at stake in the election, leaving him with little room for a political recovery absent a calamitous misstep by Mr. Biden, the Democratic nominee, in the coming days. The president has even lost his longstanding advantage on economic matters: Voters are now evenly split on whether they have more trust in him or Mr. Biden to manage the economy.

On all other subjects tested in the poll, voters preferred Mr. Biden over Mr. Trump by modest or wide margins. Mr. Biden, the former vice president, is favored over Mr. Trump to lead on the coronavirus pandemic by 12 points, and voters trust Mr. Biden over Mr. Trump to choose Supreme Court justices and to maintain law and order by six-point margins. Americans see Mr. Biden as more capable of uniting the country by nearly 20 points.

Over all, Mr. Biden is backed by 50 percent of likely voters, the poll showed, compared with 41 percent for Mr. Trump and 3 percent divided among other candidates.

Most of all, the survey makes clear that crucial constituencies are poised to reject Mr. Trump because they cannot abide his conduct, including 56 percent of women and 53 percent of white voters with college degrees who said they had a very unfavorable impression of Mr. Trump -- an extraordinary level of antipathy toward an incumbent president.

His diminished standing on economic matters and law and order is a damaging setback for the president, who for much of the general election has staked his fortunes on persuading Americans that a Biden administration will leave them impoverished and unsafe. But that argument has not managed to move the electorate in his direction.

Nor, according to the poll, have Mr. Trump's efforts to tarnish Mr. Biden's personal image and make him unacceptable to swing voters. Fifty-three percent of voters said they viewed Mr. Biden in somewhat or very favorable terms, compared with 43 percent who said the same of Mr. Trump.

A majority of voters said they saw Mr. Trump unfavorably, with 48 percent viewing him very unfavorably.

The margin of sampling error for the poll, which was conducted from Oct. 15 to 18, was 3.4 percentage points.

Part of the shift away from Mr. Trump on the economy may stem from voters' urgent hunger for new relief spending from the federal government -- which Mr. Trump has nominally endorsed but which he has not sought actively to extract from congressional Republicans.

Seven in 10 voters, including more than half of Republicans, said they wanted to see a new multitrillion-dollar stimulus program that includes government support for citizens and emergency help for state and local governments. There is also widespread public support for a $2 trillion renewable energy and infrastructure package that Mr. Biden has proposed as a form of economic stimulus.

The New York Times /
Siena College poll

Do you support or oppose each of the following:

A new $2 trillion stimulus package
72%

21%

A public health insurance option
67%

25%

Biden's $2 trillion climate plan
66%

26%

A national mask mandate
59%

39%

The Affordable Care Act
55%

40%

Raising the coporate tax rate
46%

48%

Fracking
44%

14%

42%

A national coronavirus vaccine mandate
32%

63%

Based on a New York Times/Siena College poll of 987 likely voters in the United States from Oct. 15 to 18. Figures may not add up to 100 percent because of rounding.

Michael Zemaitis, an independent voter in Minnesota, said that he did not have complete confidence in Mr. Biden but that he saw him as a clearly superior option to Mr. Trump when it came to the pandemic and the economy.

"I guess I would say I have 70 percent confidence in him," said Mr. Zemaitis, 49, who said he believed a Democratic administration would better handle the coronavirus pandemic. "Once that is dealt with, the economy will fall back into line."

Keep up with Election 2020

Voters have also been unpersuaded by Mr. Trump's insistence, in defiance of public facts, that the coronavirus is receding as a problem. A slim majority of voters said they believed that the worst of the pandemic was yet to come, compared with 37 percent who said the worst was over.

But many voters also seem to be separating their personal well-being from their views on the state of the country. About half said that they were personally better off than they were four years ago, compared with 32 percent who said they were worse off. However, a clear majority of voters -- 55 percent -- said the country as a whole was doing worse than in 2016.

Mr. Trump retains a few important bastions of support, most notably among white voters without college degrees, who continue to favor him over Mr. Biden by 23 percentage points. But that lead is far narrower than the advantage Mr. Trump held among less-educated whites in 2016, when those voters preferred him over Hillary Clinton by 37 points.

The New York Times /
Siena College poll

Joe Biden leads Donald Trump among most groups, and Mr. Biden is notably ahead among voters age 45 and older, who typically lean Republican.

Total
(n=987)
50%
Biden
41%
Trump
+9 Biden

Gender
Men
(483)
42%

48%

+6 Trump

Women
(494)
58%

35%

+23 Biden

Age
18-29
(111)
58%

30%

+28 Biden

30-44
(169)
47%

39%

+8 Biden

45-64
(349)
49%

46%

+3 Biden

65+
(327)
51%

41%

+10 Biden

Race
White
(675)
44%

50%

+6 Trump

Nonwhite
(274)
66%

22%

+44 Biden

Party
Dem.
(350)
93%

+89 Biden

Rep.
(289)
91%

+84 Trump

Ind./Other
(311)
46%

37%

+9 Biden

Based on a New York Times/Siena College poll of likely voters in the United States from Oct. 15 to 18.

Mr. Biden is on track to win with the overwhelming support of women, people of color and whites with college degrees. If women alone voted, the election would be a landslide of epic proportions: Mr. Biden is ahead of Mr. Trump among female voters by 23 points, 58 percent to 35 percent. And unlike four years ago, the Democratic nominee is leading Mr. Trump among white women by a formidable margin, 52 percent to 43 percent.

Kathryn Jorgensen, 51, a registered Republican in Brookfield, Wis., said that she did not vote for Mr. Trump in 2016 and would not do so this year. Mr. Trump, she said, has been "so divisive" throughout his tenure as president.

"The important thing is bringing the country back together and addressing the divisions affecting people like racial equity," Ms. Jorgensen said.

A rare spot of welcome news for Republicans came on the subject of Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court: While more voters said they would like to see Mr. Biden choose future justices, rather than Mr. Trump, a plurality of voters also said that the Senate should vote on Judge Barrett's nomination before the election.

Voters were about evenly split on Ms. Barrett as a nominee, indicating that the Supreme Court fight had not given a clear electoral advantage to either party. But a sizable number of voters -- about one in seven -- gave no opinion, suggesting the court fight had not become an all-consuming issue. Forty-four percent of voters supported Judge Barrett's nomination, 42 percent opposed it, and the remainder declined to take a position.

If Mr. Bidens win the election, it remains to be seen whether he will be a compelling enough president to meld a broad array of anti-Trump constituencies into a sturdy governing alliance.

Cassandra Williams, 21, of Greenville, N.C., said she saw Mr. Biden as a flawed candidate who might nevertheless be sufficient for the moment. A college student majoring in chemistry, Ms. Williams said she hoped he would focus on the coronavirus and climate change at the outset of his presidency.

"If his opponent wasn't President Trump, he would be a subpar candidate," said Ms. Williams, who supported Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the Democratic primary race.

The poll shows that Mr. Trump is facing widespread rebuke because he has not met the great challenge of his presidency.

Voters remain deeply concerned about the virus, with 51 percent of those sampled saying they feared the worst of Covid-19 was still to come, and just 37 percent saying they believed the worst was over. Among voters over 65, a bloc that has drifted away from Mr. Trump, the difference was even starker: Fifty-six percent said they worried the worst was still to come, and only 29 percent said the opposite.

Even more striking was the disconnect between Mr. Trump's cavalier approach toward wearing a mask to guard against the virus and the broad support to mandate the practice in public.

Voters supported mandatory mask-wearing, 59 percent to 39 percent over all, and among women support for a mandate grew to 70 percent. Among voters over 65, 68 percent favored it, and even about 30 percent of Republicans said they backed a nationwide requirement.

There was also hesitation on taking an eventual vaccine for the coronavirus, with 33 percent saying they would definitely or probably not take a vaccine after it was approved by the F.D.A.

Mr. Biden, if he wins, will find consensus on some of his policy priorities. Two in three voters supported allowing people to buy a health insurance plan through the federal government, a so-called public option, and the same supermajority backed Mr. Biden's $2 trillion plan to increase the use of renewable energy and build energy-efficient infrastructure.

Even more voters, 72 percent, said they backed the sort of package House Democrats have been seeking for months to send to Mr. Trump: a $2 trillion stimulus package that would extend increased unemployment insurance, send stimulus checks to most Americans and provide financial support to state and local governments.

In a sign of how broad the support is for additional relief, and the risk congressional Republicans may be taking if they block further spending, even 56 percent of Republicans said they backed another $2 trillion package.

What may prove riskier for Mr. Biden and his party, though, is the issue that he has for weeks sought to avoid staking out a clear position on: adding more justices to the Supreme Court. The poll showed that 58 percent of voters said Democrats should not expand the court beyond nine justices, and 31 percent said they should. Opposition was even firmer among independents: Sixty-five percent of them said they were against enlarging the court.

Isabella Grullon Paz contributed reporting.

Here are the cross tabs for the poll.

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Because senator Kamala Harris is a prosecutor and I am a felon, I have been following her political rise, with the same focus that my younger son tracks Steph Curry threes. Before it was in vogue to criticize prosecutors, my friends and I were exchanging tales of being railroaded by them. Shackled in oversized green jail scrubs, I listened to a prosecutor in a Fairfax County, Va., courtroom tell a judge that in one night I'd single-handedly changed suburban shopping forever. Everything the prosecutor said I did was true -- I carried a pistol, carjacked a man, tried to rob two women. "He needs a long penitentiary sentence," the prosecutor told the judge. I faced life in prison for carjacking the man. I pleaded guilty to that, to having a gun, to an attempted robbery. I was 16 years old. The old heads in prison would call me lucky for walking away with only a nine-year sentence.

I'd been locked up for about 15 months when I entered Virginia's Southampton Correctional Center in 1998, the year I should have graduated from high school. In that prison, there were probably about a dozen other teenagers. Most of us had lengthy sentences -- 30, 40, 50 years -- all for violent felonies. Public talk of mass incarceration has centered on the war on drugs, wrongful convictions and Kafkaesque sentences for nonviolent charges, while circumventing the robberies, home invasions, murders and rape cases that brought us to prison.

The most difficult discussion to have about criminal-justice reform has always been about violence and accountability. You could release everyone from prison who currently has a drug offense and the United States would still outpace nearly every other country when it comes to incarceration. According to the Prison Policy Institute, of the nearly 1.3 million people incarcerated in state prisons, 183,000 are incarcerated for murder; 17,000 for manslaughter; 165,000 for sexual assault; 169,000 for robbery; and 136,000 for assault. That's more than half of the state prison population.

When Harris decided to run for president, I thought the country might take the opportunity to grapple with the injustice of mass incarceration in a way that didn't lose sight of what violence, and the sorrow it creates, does to families and communities. Instead, many progressives tried to turn the basic fact of Harris's profession into an indictment against her. Shorthand for her career became: "She's a cop," meaning, her allegiance was with a system that conspires, through prison and policing, to harm Black people in America.

In the past decade or so, we have certainly seen ample evidence of how corrupt the system can be: Michelle Alexander's best-selling book, "The New Jim Crow," which argues that the war on drugs marked the return of America's racist system of segregation and legal discrimination; Ava DuVernay's "When They See Us," a series about the wrongful convictions of the Central Park Five, and her documentary "13th," which delves into mass incarceration more broadly; and "Just Mercy," a book by Bryan Stevenson, a public interest lawyer, that has also been made into a film, chronicling his pursuit of justice for a man on death row, who is eventually exonerated. All of these describe the destructive force of prosecutors, giving a lot of run to the belief that anyone who works within a system responsible for such carnage warrants public shame.

My mother had an experience that gave her a different perspective on prosecutors -- though I didn't know about it until I came home from prison on March 4, 2005, when I was 24. That day, she sat me down and said, "I need to tell you something." We were in her bedroom in the townhouse in Suitland, Md., that had been my childhood home, where as a kid she'd call me to bring her a glass of water. I expected her to tell me that despite my years in prison, everything was good now. But instead she told me about something that happened nearly a decade earlier, just weeks after my arrest. She left for work before the sun rose, as she always did, heading to the federal agency that had employed her my entire life. She stood at a bus stop 100 feet from my high school, awaiting the bus that would take her to the train that would take her to a stop near her job in the nation's capital. But on that morning, a man yanked her into a secluded space, placed a gun to her head and raped her. When she could escape, she ran wildly into the 6 a.m. traffic.

My mother's words turned me into a mumbling and incoherent mess, unable to grasp how this could have happened to her. I knew she kept this secret to protect me. I turned to Google and searched the word "rape" along with my hometown and was wrecked by the violence against women that I found. My mother told me her rapist was a Black man. And I thought he should spend the rest of his years staring at the pockmarked walls of prison cells that I knew so well.

The prosecutor's job, unlike the defense attorney's or judge's, is to do justice. What does that mean when you are asked by some to dole out retribution measured in years served, but blamed by others for the damage incarceration can do? The outrage at this country's criminal-justice system is loud today, but it hasn't led us to develop better ways of confronting my mother's world from nearly a quarter-century ago: weekends visiting her son in a prison in Virginia; weekdays attending the trial of the man who sexually assaulted her.

Imageimage
Credit...Photo illustration by Joan Wong

We said goodbye to my grandmother in the same Baptist church that, in June 2019, Senator Kamala Harris, still pursuing the Democratic nomination for president, went to give a major speech about why she became a prosecutor. I hadn't been inside Brookland Baptist Church for a decade, and returning reminded me of Grandma Mary and the eight years of letters she mailed to me in prison. The occasion for Harris's speech was the annual Freedom Fund dinner of the South Carolina State Conference of the N.A.A.C.P. The evening began with the Black national anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," and at the opening chord nearly everyone in the room stood. There to write about the senator, I had been standing already and mouthed the words of the first verse before realizing I'd never sung any further.

Keep up with Election 2020

Each table in the banquet hall was filled with folks dressed in their Sunday best. Servers brought plates of food and pitchers of iced tea to the tables. Nearly everyone was Black. The room was too loud for me to do more than crouch beside guests at their tables and scribble notes about why they attended. Speakers talked about the chapter's long history in the civil rights movement. One called for the current generation of young rappers to tell a different story about sacrifice. The youngest speaker of the night said he just wanted to be safe. I didn't hear anyone mention mass incarceration. And I knew in a different decade, my grandmother might have been in that audience, taking in the same arguments about personal agency and responsibility, all the while wondering why her grandbaby was still locked away. If Harris couldn't persuade that audience that her experiences as a Black woman in America justified her decision to become a prosecutor, I knew there were few people in this country who could be moved.

Describing her upbringing in a family of civil rights activists, Harris argued that the ongoing struggle for equality needed to include both prosecuting criminal defendants who had victimized Black people and protecting the rights of Black criminal defendants. "I was cleareyed that prosecutors were largely not people who looked like me," she said. This mattered for Harris because of the "prosecutors that refused to seat Black jurors, refused to prosecute lynchings, disproportionately condemned young Black men to death row and looked the other way in the face of police brutality." When she became a prosecutor in 1990, she was one of only a handful of Black people in her office. When she was elected district attorney of San Francisco in 2003, she recalled, she was one of just three Black D.A.s nationwide. And when she was elected California attorney general in 2010, there were no other Black attorneys general in the country. At these words, the crowd around me clapped. "I knew the unilateral power that prosecutors had with the stroke of a pen to make a decision about someone else's life or death," she said.

Harris offered a pair of stories as evidence of the importance of a Black woman's doing this work. Once, ear hustling, she listened to colleagues discussing ways to prove criminal defendants were gang-affiliated. If a racial-profiling manual existed, their signals would certainly be included: baggy pants, the place of arrest and the rap music blaring from vehicles. She said that she'd told her colleagues: "So, you know that neighborhood you were talking about? Well, I got family members and friends who live in that neighborhood. You know the way you were talking about how folks were dressed? Well, that's actually stylish in my community." She continued: "You know that music you were talking about? Well, I got a tape of that music in my car right now."

The second example was about the mothers of murdered children. She told the audience about the women who had come to her office when she was San Francisco's D.A. -- women who wanted to speak with her, and her alone, about their sons. "The mothers came, I believe, because they knew I would see them," Harris said. "And I mean literally see them. See their grief. See their anguish." They complained to Harris that the police were not investigating. "My son is being treated like a statistic," they would say. Everyone in that Southern Baptist church knew that the mothers and their dead sons were Black. Harris outlined the classic dilemma of Black people in this country: being simultaneously overpoliced and underprotected. Harris told the audience that all communities deserved to be safe.

[embedded content]

Among the guests in the room that night whom I talked to, no one had an issue with her work as a prosecutor. A lot of them seemed to believe that only people doing dirt had issues with prosecutors. I thought of myself and my friends who have served long terms, knowing that in a way, Harris was talking about Black people's needing protection from us -- from the violence we perpetrated to earn those years in a series of cells.

Harris came up as a prosecutor in the 1990s, when both the political culture and popular culture were developing a story about crime and violence that made incarceration feel like a moral response. Back then, films by Black directors -- "New Jack City," "Menace II Society," "Boyz n the Hood" -- turned Black violence into a genre where murder and crack-dealing were as ever-present as Black fathers were absent. Those were the years when Representative Charlie Rangel, a Democrat, argued that "we should not allow people to distribute this poison without fear that they might be arrested" and "go to jail for the rest of their natural life." Those were the years when President Clinton signed legislation that ended federal parole for people with three violent crime convictions and encouraged states to essentially eliminate parole; made it more difficult for defendants to challenge their convictions in court; and made it nearly impossible to challenge prison conditions.

Back then, it felt like I was just one of an entire generation of young Black men learning the logic of count time and lockdown. With me were Anthony Winn and Terell Kelly and a dozen others, all lost to prison during those years. Terell was sentenced to 33 years for murdering a man when he was 17 -- a neighborhood beef turned deadly. Home from college for two weeks, a 19-year-old Anthony robbed four convenience stores -- he'd been carrying a pistol during three. After he was sentenced by four judges, he had a total of 36 years.

Most of us came into those cells with trauma, having witnessed or experienced brutality before committing our own. Prison, a factory of violence and despair, introduced us to more of the same. And though there were organizations working to get rid of the death penalty, end mandatory minimums, bring back parole and even abolish prisons, there were few ways for us to know that they existed. We suffered. And we felt alone. Because of this, sometimes I reduce my friends' stories to the cruelty of doing time. I forget that Terell and I walked prison yards as teenagers, discussing Malcolm X and searching for mentors in the men around us. I forget that Anthony and I talked about the poetry of Sonia Sanchez the way others praised DMX. He taught me the meaning of the word "patina" and introduced me to the music of Bill Withers. There were Luke and Fats; and Juvie, who could give you the sharpest edge-up in America with just a razor and comb.

When I left prison in 2005, they all had decades left. Then I went to law school and believed I owed it to them to work on their cases and help them get out. I've persuaded lawyers to represent friends pro bono. Put together parole packets -- basically job applications for freedom: letters of recommendation and support from family and friends; copies of certificates attesting to vocational training; the record of college credits. We always return to the crimes to provide explanation and context. We argue that today each one little resembles the teenager who pulled a gun. And I write a letter -- which is less from a lawyer and more from a man remembering what it means to want to go home to his mother. I write, struggling to condense decades of life in prison into a 10-page case for freedom. Then I find my way to the parole board's office in Richmond, Va., and try to persuade the members to let my friends see a sunrise for the first time.

Juvie and Luke have made parole; Fats, represented by the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia School of Law, was granted a conditional pardon by Virginia's governor, Ralph Northam. All three are home now, released just as a pandemic would come to threaten the lives of so many others still inside. Now free, they've sent me text messages with videos of themselves hugging their mothers for the first time in decades, casting fishing lines from boats drifting along rivers they didn't expect to see again, enjoying a cold beer that isn't contraband.

In February, after 25 years, Virginia passed a bill making people incarcerated for at least 20 years for crimes they committed before their 18th birthdays eligible for parole. Men who imagined they would die in prison now may see daylight. Terell will be eligible. These years later, he's the mentor we searched for, helping to organize, from the inside, community events for children, and he's spoken publicly about learning to view his crimes through the eyes of his victim's family. My man Anthony was 19 when he committed his crime. In the last few years, he's organized poetry readings, book clubs and fatherhood classes. When Gregory Fairchild, a professor at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, began an entrepreneurship program at Dillwyn Correctional Center, Anthony was among the graduates, earning all three of the certificates that it offered. He worked to have me invited as the commencement speaker, and what I remember most is watching him share a meal with his parents for the first time since his arrest. But he must pray that the governor grants him a conditional pardon, as he did for Fats.

I tell myself that my friends are unique, that I wouldn't fight so hard for just anybody. But maybe there is little particularly distinct about any of us -- beyond that we'd served enough time in prison. There was a skinny light-skinned 15-year-old kid who came into prison during the years that we were there. The rumor was that he'd broken into the house of an older woman and sexually assaulted her. We all knew he had three life sentences. Someone stole his shoes. People threatened him. He'd had to break a man's jaw with a lock in a sock to prove he'd fight if pushed. As a teenager, he was experiencing the worst of prison. And I know that had he been my cellmate, had I known him the way I know my friends, if he reached out to me today, I'd probably be arguing that he should be free.

But I know that on the other end of our prison sentences was always someone weeping. During the middle of Harris's presidential campaign, a friend referred me to a woman with a story about Senator Harris that she felt I needed to hear. Years ago, this woman's sister had been missing for days, and the police had done little. Happenstance gave this woman an audience with then-Attorney General Harris. A coordinated multicity search followed. The sister had been murdered; her body was found in a ravine. The woman told me that "Kamala understands the politics of victimization as well as anyone who has been in the system, which is that this kind of case -- a 50-year-old Black woman gone missing or found dead -- ordinarily does not get any resources put toward it." They caught the man who murdered her sister, and he was sentenced to 131 years. I think about the man who assaulted my mother, a serial rapist, because his case makes me struggle with questions of violence and vengeance and justice. And I stop thinking about it. I am inconsistent. I want my friends out, but I know there is no one who can convince me that this man shouldn't spend the rest of his life in prison.

My mother purchased her first single-family home just before I was released from prison. One version of this story is that she purchased the house so that I wouldn't spend a single night more than necessary in the childhood home I walked away from in handcuffs. A truer account is that by leaving Suitland, my mother meant to burn the place from memory.

I imagined that I had singularly introduced my mother to the pain of the courts. I was wrong. The first time she missed work to attend court proceedings was to witness the prosecution of a kid the same age as I was when I robbed a man. He was probably from Suitland, and he'd attempted to rob my mother at gunpoint. The second time, my mother attended a series of court dates involving me, dressed in her best work clothes to remind the prosecutor and judge and those in the courtroom that the child facing a life sentence had a mother who loved him. The third time, my mother took off days from work to go to court alone and witness the trial of the man who raped her and two other women. A prosecutor's subpoena forced her to testify, and her solace came from knowing that prison would prevent him from attacking others.

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After my mother told me what had happened to her, we didn't mention it to each other again for more than a decade. But then in 2018, she and I were interviewed on the podcast "Death, Sex & Money." The host asked my mother about going to court for her son's trial when he was facing life. "I was raped by gunpoint," my mother said. "It happened just before he was sentenced. So when I was going to court for Dwayne, I was also going for a court trial for myself." I hadn't forgotten what happened, but having my mother say it aloud to a stranger made it far more devastating.

On the last day of the trial of the man who raped her, my mother told me, the judge accepted his guilty plea. She remembers only that he didn't get enough time. She says her nose began to bleed. When I asked her what she would have wanted to happen to her attacker, she replied, "That I'd taken the deputy's gun and shot him."

Harris has studied crime-scene and autopsy photos of the dead. She has confronted men in court who have sexually assaulted their children, sexually assaulted the elderly, scalped their lovers. In her 2009 book, "Smart on Crime," Harris praised the work of Sunny Schwartz -- creator of the Resolve to Stop the Violence Project, the first restorative-justice program in the country to offer services to offenders and victims, which began at a jail in San Francisco. It aims to help inmates who have committed violent crimes by giving them tools to de-escalate confrontations. Harris wrote a bill with a state senator to ensure that children who witness violence can receive mental health treatment. And she argued that safety is a civil right, and that a 60-year sentence for a series of restaurant armed robberies, where some victims were bound or locked in freezers, "should tell anyone considering viciously preying on citizens and businesses that they will be caught, convicted and sent to prison -- for a very long time."

Politicians and the public acknowledge mass incarceration is a problem, but the lengthy prison sentences of men and women incarcerated during the 1990s have largely not been revisited. While the evidence of any prosecutor doing work on this front is slim, as a politician arguing for basic systemic reforms, Harris has noted the need to "unravel the decades-long effort to make sentencing guidelines excessively harsh, to the point of being inhumane"; criticized the bail system; and called for an end to private prisons and criticized the companies that charge absurd rates for phone calls and electronic-monitoring services.

In June, months into the Covid-19 pandemic, and before she was tapped as the vice-presidential nominee, I had the opportunity to interview Harris by phone. A police officer's knee on the neck of George Floyd, choking the life out of him as he called for help, had been captured on video. Each night, thousands around the world protested. During our conversation, Harris told me that as the only Black woman in the United States Senate "in the midst of the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery," countless people had asked for stories about her experiences with racism. Harris said that she was not about to start telling them "about my world for a number of reasons, including you should know about the issue that affects this country as part of the greatest stain on this country." Exhausted, she no longer answered the questions. I imagined she believes, as Toni Morrison once said, that "the very serious function of racism" is "distraction. It keeps you from doing your work."

But these days, even in the conversations that I hear my children having, race suffuses so much. I tell Harris that my 12-year-old son, Micah, told his classmates and teachers: "As you all know, my dad went to jail. Shouldn't the police who killed Floyd go to jail?" My son wanted to know why prison seemed to be reserved for Black people and wondered whose violence demanded a prison cell.

"In the criminal-justice system," Harris replied, "the irony, and, frankly, the hypocrisy is that whenever we use the words 'accountability' and 'consequence,' it's always about the individual who was arrested." Again, she began to make a case that would be familiar to any progressive about the need to make the system accountable. And while I found myself agreeing, I began to fear that the point was just to find ways to treat officers in the same brutal way that we treat everyone else. I thought about the men I'd represented in parole hearings -- and the friends I'd be representing soon. And wondered out loud to Harris: How do we get to their freedom?

"We need to reimagine what public safety looks like," the senator told me, noting that she would talk about a public health model. "Are we looking at the fact that if you focus on issues like education and preventive things, then you don't have a system that's reactive?" The list of those things becomes long: affordable housing, job-skills development, education funding, homeownership. She remembered how during the early 2000s, when she was the San Francisco district attorney and started Back on Track (a re-entry program that sought to reduce future incarceration by building the skills of the men facing drug charges), many people were critical. " 'You're a D.A. You're supposed to be putting people in jail, not letting them out,'" she said people told her.

It always returns to this for me -- who should be in prison, and for how long? I know that American prisons do little to address violence. If anything, they exacerbate it. If my friends walk out of prison changed from the boys who walked in, it will be because they've fought with the system -- with themselves and sometimes with the men around them -- to be different. Most violent crimes go unsolved, and the pain they cause is nearly always unresolved. And those who are convicted -- many, maybe all -- do far too much time in prison.

And yet, I imagine what I would do if the Maryland Parole Commission contacted my mother, informing her that the man who assaulted her is eligible for parole. I'm certain I'd write a letter explaining how one morning my mother didn't go to work because she was in a hospital; tell the board that the memory of a gun pointed at her head has never left; explain how when I came home, my mother told me the story. Some violence changes everything.

The thing that makes you suited for a conversation in America might be the very thing that precludes you from having it. Terell, Anthony, Fats, Luke and Juvie have taught me that the best indicator of whether I believe they should be free is our friendship. Learning that a Black man in the city I called home raped my mother taught me that the pain and anger for a family member can be unfathomable. It makes me wonder if parole agencies should contact me at all -- if they should ever contact victims and their families.

Perhaps if Harris becomes the vice president we can have a national conversation about our contradictory impulses around crime and punishment. For three decades, as a line prosecutor, a district attorney, an attorney general and now a senator, her work has allowed her to witness many of them. Prosecutors make a convenient target. But if the system is broken, it is because our flaws more than our virtues animate it. Confronting why so many of us believe prisons must exist may force us to admit that we have no adequate response to some violence. Still, I hope that Harris reminds the country that simply acknowledging the problem of mass incarceration does not address it -- any more than keeping my friends in prison is a solution to the violence and trauma that landed them there.

DENVER -- A television station security guard accused of fatally shooting a pro-police demonstrator following opposing rallies was charged Monday with second-degree murder, according to the Denver district court clerk's office.

The charges in the death of Lee Keltner, 49, were filed to the district court against Matthew Dolloff, 30, who was protecting a KUSA-TV producer at the time of the incident.

The next hearing is set for Wednesday morning, according to the district court clerk's office. No attorney has been listed for Dolloff yet in court records.

DENVER DA TO CHARGE SECURITY GUARD WITH SECOND-DEGREE MURDER IN FATAL SHOOTING OF 'PATRIOT MUSTER' PROTESTER

People convicted of second-degree murder face a mandatory sentence of between 16 and 48 years in prison.

William Boyle, a lawyer for Keltner's widow, said Friday that he thinks the evidence available supports a second-degree murder charge.

Matthew Dolloff faces a murder charge in the death of Lee Keltner during a Denver rally last weekend. The lawyer for Keltner's widow said the family wants answers regarding his employment as a contracted security guard for a local news station covering the rally. Courtesy Denver Police/ Twitter

Matthew Dolloff faces a murder charge in the death of Lee Keltner during a Denver rally last weekend. The lawyer for Keltner's widow said the family wants answers regarding his employment as a contracted security guard for a local news station covering the rally. Courtesy Denver Police/ Twitter

Under Colorado law, second-degree murder is defined as knowingly killing someone but without the deliberation prosecutors are required to prove in first-degree murder cases.

Boyle said he has reached out to KUSA-TV, Pinkerton and Isborn Security, the security company that said it hired Dolloff for the work as a contractor to Pinkerton, seeking more information about their actions. He said he did not immediately hear back from them and that a lawsuit against any entity involved in allowing Dolloff to work without a license was a possibility in order to "open a conversation."

FAMILY OF COLORADO MAN KILLED IN PRO-POLICE RALLY SEEKS ANSWER, LAWYER SAYS

"We are just trying to find out exactly what happened, why it happened and who is responsible for creating the situation that resulted in Mr. Keltner's death," he said.

Police say Keltner was in a verbal dispute with a 27-year-old man as the rallies broke up Saturday when Dolloff and a 25-year-old person got into an altercation with Keltner.

Keltner slapped Dolloff in the head and Dolloff pulled out a semiautomatic handgun and shot Keltner as Keltner discharged pepper spray at him, police said in an arrest affidavit.

A cellphone video taken by KUSA's producer suggests that Keltner was upset that his dispute with the first man was being recorded by cameras.

It shows Keltner in a confrontation with a man wearing a T-shirt that read, "Black Guns Matter." A bystander is trying to defuse the argument, which occurred after a "Patriot Muster" demonstration and "BLM-Antifa Soup Drive" counterprotest downtown.

The video then shows Keltner, holding a spray can, walking out of view. A man's voice -- it's unclear if it's Keltner -- is heard saying the area was no place for cameras.

"Get the cameras out of here or I'm going to f--- you up," the unidentified man says. Keltner and Dolloff are then shown scuffling before the video stops.

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The producer resumes filming after the shooting and tells arriving police that he is with the press and says of the man who was shot, "That guy was going to get me." He also says the security guard shot Keltner because Keltner used mace.

Someone out of view can also be heard saying "he's got magazines in his coat" but it is not clear who the person is talking about.

Police said they found two guns but they have not explained who they belonged to.

One Monday evening last month, Hillary Clinton and Senator Kamala Harris, and two actors who portrayed them on "Saturday Night Live," Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph, gathered for a virtual fund-raiser benefiting the Biden campaign. By all accounts, the livestream was a smashing success: about 100,000 people watched and donated. The event raised $4.4 million.

That same night, Joseph R. Biden Jr. beamed into a more intimate affair of fewer than two dozen people: a $500,000-per-ticket fund-raiser hosted by the billionaire financier Haim Saban. It raised even more: $4.5 million.

While Mr. Biden's campaign has trumpeted the small donations flooding in at record rates, the elite world of billionaires and multimillionaires has remained a critical cog in the Biden money machine. And as the size of checks has grown, the campaign has become less transparent, declining so far to disclose the names of its most influential check collectors, known as bundlers.

From Hollywood to Silicon Valley to Wall Street, Mr. Biden's campaign has aggressively courted the megadonor class. It has raised almost $200 million from donors who gave at least $100,000 to his joint operations with the Democratic Party in the last six months -- about twice as much as President Trump raised from six-figure donors in that time, according to an analysis of new federal records.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Hollywood producer, and his wife gave $1.4 million. Sean Parker, the tech entrepreneur, and his wife gave $1.2 million. Reed Hastings, the Netflix chief executive, and his wife gave $1.4 million. . And Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks executive who flirted with his own independent 2020 run, and his wife gave more than $825,000. Top executives with investment, private equity and venture capital firms like Blackstone, Bain Capital, Kleiner Perkins and Warburg Pincus all contributed handsomely.

This parade of industry giants delivered a surge in donations even as the progressive base of the Democratic Party agitates against the influence of billionaires and corporate titans. A group of progressives, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, signed a letter last week that reads like a warning shot to a potential Biden administration, urging the Senate to reject any future executive branch nominations of corporate lobbyists or corporate executives.

ImageSean Parker, the tech investor and early Facebook executive, and his wife gave $1.2 million to the Biden campaign.
Sean Parker, the tech investor and early Facebook executive, and his wife gave $1.2 million to the Biden campaign.Credit...Jean-Baptiste Lacroix/Agence France-Presse -- Getty Images

"Joe Biden says this is 'Scranton versus Park Avenue' but then he's raising hundreds of millions of dollars from the Park Avenue types," said Tyson Brody, a former research director for Senator Bernie Sanders who is supporting Mr. Biden this fall but wants to see less influence for wealthy donors.

Progressives have mostly set aside their differences with Mr. Biden to focus on the shared goal of defeating Mr. Trump, including over campaign finance. But should he win, Mr. Biden is expected to face pressure from the left on a range of issues, including climate change, expansion of the Supreme Court and elimination of the Electoral College.

"Joe Biden is running against the most corrupt and dishonest president in our history, and has done so while maintaining a standard of transparency and integrity that is far above how his opponent has conducted himself this campaign," said T.J. Ducklo, a spokesman for Mr. Biden.

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For Mr. Biden, six-figure donors have been critical in delivering him a surprise financial advantage over Mr. Trump. The Democratic challenger entered October with $180 million more in the bank than Mr. Trump combined with their political parties -- coincidentally almost the same amount that $100,000-plus contributors have given him.

Yet as Mr. Biden has vacuumed up giant checks, his campaign has quietly curtailed some of the transparency measures that he had pioneered in the primaries, when he became the first candidate to open up big-money fund-raisers to the press. To further loosen some donor wallets, the Biden campaign has been holding closed-door events with some of the candidate's top policy advisers, offering access to potential key decision-makers in a Biden administration.

And Mr. Biden has broken with the precedent of the last four Democratic presidential nominees and declined to reveal the identities of some of the most important money-raisers in the general election: those bundlers who gather checks on behalf of the campaign.

"It's troubling that the public is in the dark about these people because they are often promoted to ambassadorships, or other prominent positions in the administration or receive government contracts," said Michael Beckel, an investigator and research director for Issue One, a group that pushes for campaign-finance transparency.

After being contacted this week by The New York Times, the Biden campaign said it would disclose its bundlers by the end of the month.

Mr. Biden is still disclosing more about who is funding his campaign and how much access those donors are getting than Mr. Trump, who has kept his fund-raisers with big contributors entirely behind closed doors, including some events held at his own businesses where he simultaneously profits.

Mr. Trump began by self-funding his 2016 campaign during the primaries, vowing to be independent and decrying the influence of major contributors. Instead, he has relied entirely on the largess of others in his re-election. And he has declined to name his bundlers in 2016 and 2020.

Many campaign reformers see Mr. Biden as a stark improvement over Mr. Trump but hoped he would clear a higher bar.

"Transparency is key for accountability," Mr. Beckel said.

Mr. Biden's campaign does carefully tally what bundlers raise, and there are various tiers for Mr. Biden's bundlers to achieve; the highest level (a "Biden Victory Partner") is set at $2.5 million, according to an internal campaign document and people familiar with the process.

The other levels: $50,000 ("Protector"), $100,000 ("Unifier"), $250,000 ("Scranton Circle"), $500,000 ("Philly Founder"), and $1 million ("Delaware League"). Each level on Mr. Biden's national finance committee gets added perks, such as exclusive staff briefings and the promise of a post-election event.

Mr. Biden has disclosed his bundlers only once, burying the announcement on the Friday after Christmas 2019 during the primary season. He revealed 235 people who had raised at least $25,000. Mr. Biden has raised more than $1.2 billion since then without additional disclosure.

Four years ago, by contrast, Hillary Clinton regularly released her list of $100,000 bundlers.

Biden officials note that their candidate has actually raised more online from grass-roots supporters in recent months than from big donors, and that virtual events have reduced the level of access for six-figure checks down to a Zoom screenshot.

"As president, Vice President Biden is committed to ensuring that government always puts the public interest first," Mr. Ducklo said.

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Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, along with other progressives, signed a letter last week urging the Senate to reject any future executive branch nominations of people who have been a corporate lobbyists or corporate executives.Credit...Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

In the 2020 primary, Mr. Biden opened up all his fund-raisers to a small group of reporters, known as a press pool, who could attend and listen to his remarks. The move was partly an effort to blunt criticism from his more progressive rivals, Mr. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who declined to hold big-donor events, casting them as corruptive. Other rivals eventually followed Mr. Biden's lead.

Yet after Mr. Biden became the presumptive nominee and the donation limit skyrocketed -- from $2,800 in the primary to more than $700,000 now, including party funds -- his campaign pulled back on its transparency. Instead of allowing that press pool to watch virtual events with the biggest donors, there has often been only a call-in line provided, obscuring the ability to see who is attending.

Rufus Gifford, Mr. Biden's deputy campaign manager, called the change "a new format as we enter a new phase of the general election campaign" after it was first implemented unilaterally for a Wall Street fund-raiser in May.

The policy change received little public or political pushback. So it stayed.

Since then, Mr. Biden's campaign has also cut off press access to some of his full discussions with his biggest donors, with aides declaring the candidate would engage in a "virtual photo line" after only a couple of questions. In reality, the private conversations between Mr. Biden and his financiers can last as much as an hour longer, according to participants, including the one with Mr. Saban.

The campaign has also been offering access to Mr. Biden's policy brain trust for donors willing to pay to attend virtual events and "conversations," according to event invitations.

Among those who have been featured are Tony Blinken, Mr. Biden's former national security adviser; Jake Sullivan, a top domestic policy adviser; Stef Feldman, the campaign's policy director; Mr. Biden's chiefs of staff when he was vice president (Ron Klain, Steve Ricchetti and Bruce Reed) and Michele Flournoy, a possible pick to lead the Defense Department.

All those events are kept private; donors must pay extra for a more intimate "clutch" with the featured Biden adviser.

Some events are quite targeted, featuring a top economic adviser like Ben Harris (twice in recent days) or Mr. Reed (on "the future of energy"). The donation level to attend one clutch this month for an event advertised as "Making Government Great Again: A Virtual Conversation With Two Biden Alums on Leading and Managing the Federal Workforce" was $10,000 or $25,000.

Mr. Brody, the former Sanders aide, said the sessions allowed the wealthy "special access to the people who set the rules" and an exclusive policy preview. "Wouldn't you like a ticket to hear from your future regulator what they're going to do to your industry?" Mr. Brody asked. "That's what they're doing."

Mr. Biden does not accept money from federal lobbyists. But the Democratic National Committee does, and as Politico first reported, Mr. Biden's advisers have appeared at some virtual fund-raisers organized by lobbying firms -- including Mr. Ricchetti, his campaign chairman and a former lobbyist.

"The country is in an existential crisis," said Steve Elmendorf, a lobbyist and Democratic fund-raiser. "Anyone who wants to help get rid of Donald Trump we ought to invite on the team."

Isabella Grullon Paz and Rachel Shorey contributed reporting.

Like so many modern election sagas, it started with a tweet.

In 2019, Jena Griswold, the newly installed secretary of state in Colorado, saw a tweet falsely claiming that her state's election system had been hacked, using a picture of voting equipment as evidence.

"It wasn't equipment that we even use in the state of Colorado," Ms. Griswold, a Democrat, said. Though her office was able to contact Twitter and take the tweet down within an hour, the flare-up was yet another reminder of just how pervasive election misinformation had become since the 2016 presidential election.

To prevent deceptive tweets, doctored videos and other forms of misinformation from undermining Colorado's elections, Ms. Griswold is starting a new initiative that will run ads on social media and expand digital outreach to help voters identify foreign misinformation.

The operation in Colorado comes as Ms. Griswold and other secretaries of state are bracing for a deluge of misinformation about voting as Election Day draws closer, forced to defend a decentralized election system that has shown a particular weakness to the impact of rumors and outright lies.

In September, the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a joint statement with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, warning that foreign actors and cybercriminals are likely to "spread false information in an attempt to discredit the electoral process and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions."

Ms. Griswold's new initiative builds on an operation she set up this year within the secretary of state's office. She hired Nathan Blumenthal, a former counterterrorism official at the Department of Homeland Security, to run the three-person operation, which in turn has hired outside vendors to help identify misinformation online, whether it is going viral on social media or lurking on obscure message boards.

The office will also buy Google ads against relevant search terms whenever a piece of misinformation begins to gain attention in an effort to help slow its spread. For example, if someone were to claim Colorado's ballots were lost in a fire, the office could buy ads off searches for "Colorado ballot fire" and get the top results, with the ads providing real information. And it is kicking off a public awareness campaign using Facebook ads that will direct voters to check the secretary's website, using the tagline "Opinions are fun, facts are better."

Yet while Ms. Griswold is undertaking this new effort, and statewide election officials in states like California and Ohio operate similar programs, not all states have set up operations to combat misinformation.

ImageA ballot drop box outside the Muskingum County Board of Elections in Zanesville, Ohio.
A ballot drop box outside the Muskingum County Board of Elections in Zanesville, Ohio.Credit...Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

That is partly because state election offices are among the most overworked and underfunded public agencies in the country, especially this year. When multiple nonpartisan organizations estimated that state offices would need approximately $2 billion in funding for the 2020 election, Congress gave them just $400 million as part of its pandemic relief efforts.

Major social media platforms have taken up some of the slack with their own plans to halt the spread of misinformation. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have all cracked down on pages promoting the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, and Twitter said it was changing some basic features to slow the way information flows on its network.

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But Ms. Griswold faulted both the federal and corporate responses to misinformation.

"Absolutely not enough is being done," she said. "We have a lack of leadership in the White House and the Senate. We have good pieces of legislation just sitting in the queues that have not been moved forward."

In 2018, Alex Padilla, the secretary of state of California, created the first state-level anti-misinformation operation, the Office of Election Cybersecurity.

It established a statewide email distribution list from the secretary's office to inform voters about misinformation. It also created VoteSure, an initiative that established a reporting mechanism for misinformation and ran voter-education ads on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Since 2018, Mr. Padilla said, one of the toughest challenges has been the sheer volume of misinformation about elections.

"There is a number of persons behind it, both foreign and domestic, and the technology to amplify so quickly, it's frustrating to feel like you're constantly playing catch up," Mr. Padilla, a Democrat, said. "But we've been fairly successful in directing people toward the official reliable information."

Misinformation and security experts said that the initiatives by secretaries of state like Ms. Griswold were needed in the effort to shore up faith in elections, but that they were also indicative of how the issue had not been properly addressed at the federal level.

"It's great that state election officials have taken a proactive approach to combat disinformation," said Melissa Ryan, chief executive of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches misinformation. "But it isn't their job, and it's work done on top of their likely already strained capacity."

There is an advantage to running such operations at the state level. Local election officials are more likely to be familiar to voters in their own state, and therefore can be effective messengers against misinformation.

"I think this is exactly the sort of operation that all secretaries of state should be running," said Nina Jankowicz, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. "Local officials are often more highly trusted than their federal counterparts."

Frank LaRose, the secretary of state of Ohio, has confronted situations similar to the one Ms. Griswold faced in Colorado. In 2019, he recalled, a social media user posted deceptively edited video online, trying to show that he was able to vote multiple times in Ohio.

"Our foreign adversaries know they can't hack elections, but they can hack voters," Mr. LaRose, a Republican, said. "When it takes its ugliest form is when it encourages people to self-disenfranchise, to make people not want to vote, and that's where a lot of our efforts have been focused."

Soon after the 2019 incident, he began instructing members of his office to make misinformation the top priority in their portfolio. He also set up an email address to report misinformation, and directed the election offices in all 88 counties in Ohio to sign up for verified Twitter accounts and .gov websites to prevent spoofing. And he began reaching out to trusted community leaders, particularly in minority communities, who could help him get the facts out when misinformation began to take hold.

Ms. Griswold has been making similar connections with groups in Colorado, such as Mi Familia Vota, a national Latino voting group, and the Ministerial Alliance, a group of Black religious leaders in Colorado.

But she is also looking beyond Election Day, recognizing that the period of potential uncertainty when results are still being counted is just as vital to combating misinformation as the months leading up to it.

"This isn't going to stop when the election stops," Ms. Griswold said. "It's very important that as a nation we really stand up to push back against one of the biggest threats to our democracy and our election system."

LAKE CHARLES, La. -- That first drive through Lake Charles after Hurricane Laura had been a gut punch. Trinette Thomas felt a barrage of surprise and despair as she strained to absorb the destruction surrounding her and imagine the lengths it would take to stagger back. Then, another storm hit.

The shock subsided quickly, replaced by the tedium and exasperation that accompany the slog toward recovery. She is haggling with her insurance company, which reimbursed her for 14 of the 26 days her family stayed in a hotel. She is replacing the car tire that was sliced by metal debris on the road. And she is doing some rough math: Neither insurance money nor federal aid is enough to keep Ms. Thomas, 56, from having to dip into retirement accounts to pay for home repairs. Her plan to retire at 59 1/2 , as refinery workers often do, has been torn up along with her roof and the trees in her yard.

"We're not getting the help that we need," Ms. Thomas said of her hometown, and she is worried that the help will not come. "I want to say we're tough, but I don't know right now."

Lake Charles, a working-class city of roughly 78,000 people, has been eviscerated by a direct assault from this season's hurricanes -- Laura, one of the most powerful storms to hit Louisiana, followed six weeks later by Delta. Thousands of residents remain displaced. But as many see it, the city was also the victim of an extraordinary year of misfortune, one that has subjected the nation to a carousel of calamity -- record storm and wildfire seasons on top of a pandemic. The dire needs of Lake Charles have been all but erased.

The mayor, Nic Hunter, has struggled to shine a spotlight on his city, appearing on CNN, Fox News and NPR, where he told listeners, "I am begging, I am pleading for Americans not to forget about Lake Charles."

ImageA volunteer crew from Houston helped to clean up in Lake Charles.
A volunteer crew from Houston helped to clean up in Lake Charles.Credit...William Widmer for The New York Times

Charitable organizations said that donations have been a small fraction of what they took in after Hurricane Rita hit the region in 2005, and that they have not been able to attract enough volunteers to clear the mountains of debris crowding streets and to clean the muck out of homes flooded by Delta.

"Our story has just gotten very quickly put aside, and I really think the devastation is so huge we should remain on the front page," said Denise Durel, the president and chief executive of the United Way of Southwest Louisiana. "The magnitude of our destruction is so huge we cannot come back as a community on our own. We cannot restore our homes on our own. We need the help of the American public, if we can get it."

The circumstances have prodded a tender nerve for this part of the Gulf Coast, which has long harbored a sensitivity about being overlooked as a workaday stretch identifiable to outsiders by oil refineries, casinos and the interstate connecting Houston and New Orleans.

The region has been haunted by memories of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Rita but also an uncomfortable notion that its hardship was overshadowed by the death and destruction generated by Hurricane Katrina, the monster storm that hit Louisiana weeks earlier.

But that sense of being ignored had taken hold even before then. Some trace it as far back as the Louisiana Purchase, when the would-be state was incorporated into the United States except for the parcel including Lake Charles that was officially declared a "no man's land," drawing renegades and escaped slaves who sought a place where their captors were unlikely to chase them. "It's always been a land of refugees and outcasts," said Adley Cormier, a longtime resident who wrote a book called "Lost Lake Charles."

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"Our story has just gotten very quickly put aside, and I really think the devastation is so huge we should remain on the front page," Denise Durel said.Credit...William Widmer for The New York Times

It is a legacy that has forged a level of self-reliance, an attitude that those who were clever enough or willing to invest the sweat equity were capable of unlocking the city's promise. But the undertow of that history has been a fear that help may not come when needed -- a fear that has been realized for some as they watch their city claw its way back.

And as an onslaught of disaster, social unrest and campaign developments dominate the news, residents have been left to wonder if that torrent of headlines has eclipsed their misfortune and stymied efforts to help. "I can't say if it's got something to do with it," said Gary Hanney, a 56-year-old construction worker. "I can't say if the president has something to do with it. I just know it's not there."

Hurricane Laura made landfall on Aug. 27 in Cameron Parish, south of Lake Charles, as a Category 4 storm with 150-mile-per-hour winds. More than two dozen people died in its aftermath. Trees were shredded and houses cracked open like eggs. Entire blocks of homes sustained so much damage they will almost certainly have to be razed.

Then, this month, Hurricane Delta hit the coast not even 20 miles from where Laura made landfall, unleashing floods that besieged neighborhoods and heavy rainfall that swamped homes with already damaged roofs. It was virtually impossible to discern where the destruction from one storm ended and that of the other began.

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The storms upended Lake Charles, a working-class city of roughly 80,000 people.Credit...Octavio Jones for The New York Times
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Windows on the Capital One Tower were boarded up after Hurricane Laura hit in August.Credit...Octavio Jones for The New York Times

Many residents' homes were uninsured, and some said they had deductibles over $20,000, a sum so unaffordable their insurance policies were rendered useless.

"I want people to know that we're not OK, we're not back to normal," said Mr. Hunter, who has been mayor since 2017. "We're going to do our part. We're not just sitting on our butts with our hands out, saying, 'Come do this for me.' The extent of this catastrophe rises to a level where if it's going to fall only on locals to help locals, we're going to be in the thick of recovery much longer than we need to be."

For many residents, life is now consumed by discomfort and distress. Days are spent negotiating bureaucracies for insurance help and government aid, cleaning ravaged homes and businesses and wading through the traffic jams of displaced residents.

"This has been the eight weeks of hell," Mr. Cormier said, pausing a conversation as he noticed a fan's blades slowly turn, a long-awaited indication that his electricity had been restored. "Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!"

Making the situation even more stressful is the realization that it reflects a new reality created by climate change. Rita marked a dividing line for many on the coast between a time when a storm of such intensity seemed to hit once in a generation and a new era where such catastrophic hurricanes had an unsettling frequency.

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Frank Harrison, left, and Dave Dixon traveled from Miami to help the community after Hurricane Laura hit in August. They stayed to assist with cleanup from Hurricane Delta.Credit...William Widmer for The New York Times

Now, some estimates place the damage caused by the recent hurricanes at $12 billion or more. Federal emergency officials have already approved more than $170 million in individual aid for Hurricane Laura's victims, and members of Louisiana's congressional delegation have pushed to increase federal support. The region's economy has also been hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of the oil and gas industry, with refineries laying off dozens of workers in recent months.

Uncertainty about the city's future has stoked residents' fears about being disregarded and has underscored a distance that extends beyond the miles it sits from the state's political and cultural centers of gravity.

"It lacks the panache of New Orleans, the political power of Baton Rouge and the personality of Lafayette's Cajun and Creole culture," The Advocate newspaper of Baton Rouge said in an editorial making an impassioned plea to save a city it described as "amiable."

Still, for Priscilla Sam, Lake Charles is home. "Everything I know is here," she said. She conceded that she had been tempted to leave. Her house was so badly damaged she cannot live in it.

For weeks, she had been sleeping on an air mattress in a back room of her beauty salon, Royal Treatment, surrounded by clothes, comforters and some of the other possessions she could salvage.

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Priscilla Sam's home was so damaged that she lived in her beauty salon.Credit...Octavio Jones for The New York Times

Now, after Delta, she is facing displacement again: The second storm had damaged the roof and soaked the walls. The smell of mold filled the salon. Her customers called for appointments. "But I'm not going to subject them to this for any amount of money," she said even as a regular planted herself in the waiting area, hoping Ms. Sam would style her hair anyway.

"I started out complaining," Ms. Sam, 52, said, standing beside her unmade mattress, tears welling in her eyes. "I was never able to imagine myself in a situation like this."

Yet as she prayed for guidance, she realized she was one of the lucky ones. "They don't have anything to come back to," she said. "A lot of them aren't going to come back and they don't know where they're going."

At least 75 protesters marched toward the Portland Police Association (PPA) office on Monday night with "support vehicles" in tow, before setting fire to a nearby billboard, according to authorities.

When they arrived, at around 10:20 p.m., police warned those in the area over a loudspeaker to remain on the sidewalk, and "be courteous to your neighbors" because the nearby streets around the police union building were open to vehicular traffic.

"Do not vandalize buildings," police added.

PORTLAND GAS STATION ATTENDANT REFUSED TO SELL GAS TO BLACK MAN OVER PROTEST FIRES, LAWSUIT CLAIMS

Police said individuals stood on the sidewalks while others blocked N. Lombard Street. They added that the group also used traffic signs to block the street and some climbed onto the roofs of businesses in the area.

Around 11:15 p.m., authorities said that people in the crowd set fire to a billboard located next to the PPA office.

The billboard reportedly read, "WAKE UP AMERICA!" and "THANK YOU PORTLAND POLICE BUREAU," before it was engulfed in flames, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter, Sergio Olmos.

Portland police issued another warning to the crowd minutes later where they threatened to arrest people who engaged in criminal activity.

A Portland police officer pushes back protesters, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Portland. (AP Photo/John Locher)

A Portland police officer pushes back protesters, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Portland. (AP Photo/John Locher)

"Stay off buildings, do not light fires, and remain on the sidewalk. If you engage in criminal activity you could be arrested and subject to use of force to include crowd control agents, impact weapons, and/or tear gas," authorities said.

DEROY MURDOCK: ORWELLIAN DEMOCRATS CLAIM PORTLAND'S VIOLENCE = PEACE

The crowd began to disperse on their own by 12:15 a.m, according to police. Authorities said they did not interact with the protesters with the exception of a sound truck.

No arrests were made, police added.

The PPA building has become a frequent target during the ongoing protests in the city against racial injustice. Back in August, fires were set near the building which required officers to move in to prevent it from spreading, police said at the time.

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In September, a Portland police sergeant was sent to the hospital and at least 24 people were arrested after demonstrators gathered outside the building. The sergeant sent to the hospital was reportedly punched in the face.

Fox News' Danielle Wallace contributed to this report

David Aaro is a Reporter at Fox News Digital based in New York City.

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a ruling by Pennsylvania's highest court that allowed election officials to count some mailed ballots received up to three days after Election Day. The state is a key battleground in the presidential election.

The Supreme Court's action was the result of a deadlock. It takes five votes to grant a stay, and the Republicans who had asked the court to intervene could muster only four: Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh. On the other side of the divide were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the court's three-member liberal wing: Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Neither side gave reasons. The result suggested that Judge Amy Coney Barrett, whom President Trump nominated to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after her death last month, could play a decisive role in election disputes. Judge Barrett is expected to be confirmed next week.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the three-day extension was required by the coronavirus pandemic and delays in mail service, and it ordered the counting of ballots clearly mailed on or before Election Day and of those with missing or illegible postmarks "unless a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that it was mailed after Election Day."

The ruling is a major victory for Democrats in the state who have been pushing to expand access to voting in the pandemic, and for a party that has been requesting absentee ballots in far greater numbers than Republicans. As of Friday, Democrats in Pennsylvania had requested 1,755,940 ballots, and Republicans had requested 672,381, according to the Pennsylvania secretary of state's office.

Keep up with Election 2020

Of course, it could result in further delays in reporting results. Pennsylvania is already expected to be one of the last states to report, with a statewide law preventing election officials from beginning to process ballots until Election Day and Republicans in the state legislature indicating that they will not give them more time.

The decision also removes one more legal hurdle facing elections in Pennsylvania, where numerous voting-related lawsuits are undecided, including whether election officials will have to perform signature matching on absentee ballots.

Two Republican state lawmakers and the Republican Party of Pennsylvania asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the state court's treatment of ballots without legible postmarks. The lawmakers wrote that the state court's ruling was "an open invitation to voters to cast their ballots after Election Day, thereby injecting chaos and the potential for gamesmanship into what was an orderly and secure schedule of clear, bright-line deadlines."

"In a year where there is a very real possibility that the final presidential election result hinges on Pennsylvania, the new rules imposed by the decision of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (a body elected in partisan elections) could destroy the American public's confidence in the electoral system as a whole," the brief said.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not hesitated to block orders from federal judges that sought to alter state rules for conducting elections. In April, for instance, the justices, dividing 5 to 4, overturned a federal judge's order that had lengthened a deadline for absentee voting in Wisconsin.

"Extending the date by which ballots may be cast by voters -- not just received by the municipal clerks but cast by voters -- for an additional six days after the scheduled Election Day fundamentally alters the nature of the election," the unsigned opinion in the Wisconsin case said.

Rulings from state courts present more difficult questions, as the Supreme Court generally defers to them in cases concerning interpretations of state law and the Constitution empowers state legislatures to set the times, places and manner of congressional elections.

In a second brief, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania argued that "the Constitution reserves a special role for state legislatures in federal elections," one that cannot be overridden by state courts. The brief relied heavily on the Supreme Court's decision in the cases culminating in Bush v. Gore, the 2000 ruling that handed the presidency to George W. Bush.

"By extending the deadline by judicial fiat and establishing a presumption of timeliness that will allow voters to cast or mail ballots after Election Day," the brief said, "the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has impermissibly altered both the 'time' and 'manner' established by the General Assembly" for conducting elections.

In response, Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania's attorney general, a Democrat, said a provision of the State Constitution protecting "free and equal elections" allowed the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to extend the deadline.

He added that the state court's decision was "consistent with how Pennsylvania law handles military and overseas ballots timely cast but not received until after Election Day."

Later Monday, in Tennessee, a federal appeals court exempted first-time voters from having to appear in person at the polls on Nov. 3 if they registered online or by mail, as required by a state law, which critics said would endanger residents during the pandemic.

Nick Corasaniti and Neil Vigdor contributed reporting from New York.

Good morning and welcome to Fox News First. Here's what you need to know as you start your day ...
Computer shop docs obtained by Fox News allegedly show Hunter Biden signature for repairs
Documents obtained by Fox News appear to show Hunter Biden's signature on paperwork from the Delaware computer repair shop where the former vice president's son reportedly dropped off a laptop that included emails related to his overseas business dealings.

The document allegedly signed by Biden details repair work that was to be performed on three MacBook Pro laptops at "The Mac Shop" in Wilmington, Delaware. Aside from the signature, the paperwork notes Biden's name in the "bill to" section for a cost of $85. Fox News has not verified that the signature is indeed Biden's.

Biden's overseas business dealings have been under renewed scrutiny since last week, when the New York Post published emails purportedly exchanged between Biden and associates in China and Ukraine. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON OUR TOP STORY.

In other developments:
- House Republicans urge Barr to appoint special counsel to probe alleged Biden revelations
- Graham considers subpoenas for Twitter, Facebook execs over Hunter Biden emails
- Hunter Biden email story: Computer repair store owner describes handing over laptop to FBI
- Hunter Biden emails, texts reveal wildlife, pained soul
- House Republicans ask FBI if it had Hunter Biden's alleged laptop during Trump's impeachment
- Trump slams Biden over reports Hunter Biden introduced Burisma exec to VP dad: 'Totally corrupt'

Presidential debate commission announces rule change to mute candidates while opponent speaks
The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) will mute President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden during the two-minute response times allotted to their opponents for commenting on topics during Thursday's debate in Nashville.

The commission said in a statement it "had determined that it is appropriate to adopt measures intended to promote adherence to agreed-upon rules and inappropriate to make changes to those rules."

Also included in the debate will be an open discussion forum that won't include the mute option. Thursday's debate will consist of six 15-minute segments, totaling 90 minutes in all as in the first debate.

Trump's and Biden's initial debate was widely panned as both candidates faced backlash for their behavior. The two candidates skipped the second presidential debate after Trump was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus and declined to participate in a virtual format. CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

In other developments:
- Trump campaign sends letter to debate commission asking for more focus on foreign policy
- Sarah Sanders says Trump should 'hammer home' these 2 issues at last debate
- Trump to press Biden on Hunter Biden email stories if debate moderator doesn't, adviser says
- Sean Hannity: Biden 'noticeably missing in action' should 'alarm every American'

NJ Attorney General is suing Trump administration over affordable housing Tweet
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is suing the Trump administration over claims the president made earlier this year on social media regarding low-income housing and its connection to rises in crime.

Documents show alleged Hunter Biden signature, FBI contacts with computer store owner - grewal NEWSLETTER

Trump tweeted about the issue in July, referencing an Obama-era Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulation he'd rescinded. Secretary Ben Carson announced the change, which returned certain federal powers to the states and eliminated arduous paperwork.

"I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low-income housing built in your neighborhood," the commander-in-chief wrote. "Your housing prices will go up based on the market, and crime will go down. I have rescinded the Obama-Biden AFFH Rule. Enjoy!"

Grewal, a Democrat, tweeted about the case on Monday, saying his formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests had been ignored by the federal government, prompting him to bring the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

"Nothing," he tweeted. "That's what we got from the Trump Administration when we requested data supporting the President's claims linking affordable housing to crime. We called them out, and they came up empty. Now we're suing for answers." CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

In other developments:
- HUD revokes Obama-era rule designed to diversify the suburbs
- Trump tells voters who live in suburbs they 'will no longer be bothered' by low-income housing

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TODAY'S MUST-READS:
- Glenn Greenwald trashes media 'cone of silence' around Hunter Biden email scandal
- Cancer-stricken Rush Limbaugh says he can no longer deny he's 'under a death sentence'
- CNN's Jeffrey Toobin reportedly masturbating on Zoom call that led to New Yorker suspension
- 50 Cent says 'vote for Trump' in light of Biden's tax plan: 'IM OUT'
- Jeff Bridges reveals Lymphoma diagnosis
- Supreme Court turns away PA GOP effort to block extended period for turning in ballots
- Chiefs outlast Bills, 26-17; Cardinals blowout Cowboys in NFC matchup

THE LATEST FROM FOX BUSINESS:
- Mnuchin, Pelosi COVID-19 stimulus talks continue as Schumer fails to adjourn Senate until after 2020 election
- Biden election win could decide fate of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Biden's economic plan could crush nation's recovery from coronavirus pandemic, conservative economists say

THE LATEST FROM FOX BUSINESS:
- Mnuchin, Pelosi COVID-19 stimulus talks continue as Schumer fails to adjourn Senate until after 2020 election
- Biden election win could decide fate of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Biden's economic plan could crush nation's recovery from coronavirus pandemic, conservative economists say

#The Flashback: CLICK HERE to find out what happened on "This Day in History."

SOME PARTING WORDS

Tucker Carlson discussed the New York Post's story last week about Hunter Biden's emails from his laptop on "Tucker Carlson Tonight" Monday. Carlson said not all of the emails were significant.

"But there's one very newsworthy series of emails," he said, "and they stuck out. They showed as vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, tailored American foreign policy - our foreign policy - which Joe Biden does not own, in order to help his son's business interests."

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Fox News First was compiled by Fox News' Jack Durschlag. Thank you for making us your first choice in the morning! We'll see you in your inbox first thing Wednesday.

O.J. Simpson took a stab at making light of the Jeffrey Toobin situation.

The Juice compared Toobin to Pee-wee Herman in a short video clip posted to his Twitter just hours after the CNN analyst's masturbation scandal broke.

"Daaaaamn, Jeffrey Toobin. At least Pee-wee Herman was in an X-rated movie theater," Simpson said in the clip. "I'm just saying."

MSNBC'S MADDOW, HAYES SEEM TO LAUGH AT CNN'S JEFFREY TOOBIN

Toobin, who famously chronicled Simpson's murder trial for the New Yorker in the 1990s, was caught pleasuring himself on a Zoom call with several other top New Yorker scribes last week.

Pee-wee Herman, whose real name is Paul Reubens, was arrested in 1991 for masturbating in a public theater.

The New Yorker writer, who also serves as a legal analyst on CNN, said Monday that he made an "embarrassingly stupid mistake" after several people told Vice they saw him masturbating while on the call.

"I believed I was not visible on Zoom. I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me. I thought I had muted the Zoom video,'' Toobin told the news outlet.

Toobin was participating in an election simulation with noted New Yorker writers including Jane Mayer, Evan Osnos, Masha Gessen and Jelani Cobb, when he was spotted pleasuring himself on screen.

At some point during the simulation, there was a break for writers to strategize amongst themselves -- and a number of people on the call saw Toobin begin to masturbate.

New Yorker editor David Remnick said in an e-mail to staffers that Toobin had been suspended after the flashing incident.

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"Please be assured that we take such matters seriously and that we are looking into it. Best, David," Remnick said.

Toobin turned his coverage of the trial into a bestselling book, which later became the hugely popular "The People vs. O.J. Simpson" FX miniseries in 2016.

Toobin, a Harvard Law School grad, will also be taking a break from his legal analyst job at CNN amidst the scandal.

A Tennessee poll worker was fired on Friday after allegedly turning away voters who were wearing clothing related to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to officials.

The worker was let go after a witness at the Dave Wells Community Center in North Memphis, Tenn., reported the incident to officials, according to Suzanne Thompson, a spokesperson for the Shelby County Election Commission.

Thompson said officials were told by an operations manager that the message on the clothing was "Black Lives Matter," while State Rep. Antonio Parkinson said on his Facebook page that shirts or masks read, "I Can't Breathe," reports said.

TENNESSEE COURT RULES FIRST-TIME REGISTERED VOTERS DON'T NEED TO VOTE IN PERSON

Voters wait on line at the Pursuit of God Church, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Memphis, Tenn., on the first day of Tennessee's early voting. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian via AP)

Voters wait on line at the Pursuit of God Church, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Memphis, Tenn., on the first day of Tennessee's early voting. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian via AP)

"That was pretty bad," Thompson said. "They were not supposed to be turned away."

While Tennessee law doesn't allow voters at the polls to wear items with showcase the name of a candidate or political party, Thompson said the policy wouldn't have applied because Black Lives Matter is not political, Memphis's WREG-TV reported.

POLICE FATALLY SHOOT SUSPECT ACCUSED OF WOUNDING TENNESSEE OFFICER DURING TRAFFIC STOP

"He was given very clear instructions. He was given clear instructions the next day, and again didn't pay attention to them. So he was terminated," said Elections Administrator Linda Phillips, according to the station.

Thomas added that only a few people were told to leave.

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Early voter turnout ahead of the Nov. 3 election has been strong in Memphis and throughout Tennessee. Early voting ends Oct. 29 in the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

David Aaro is a Reporter at Fox News Digital based in New York City.

CHERITON, Va. -- Each spring, a thousand or more Mexican tomato pickers descend on Virginia's Eastern Shore to toil in the fields of Lipman Family Farms, enduring long hours stooped over to pluck the plump fruit and then hoisting it on their shoulders onto a waiting truck. An adept worker will fill a 32-pound bucket every two and a half minutes, earning 65 cents for each one.

The region is considered the toughest on the tomato circuit: Heavy rain brings the harvest to a halt for days at a time and can cut into production, a source of anxiety for people eager to maximize their earnings in the United States. The muck ruins shoes and turns moist feet into hamburger.

This year, there is a new and even more difficult working condition: To keep the coronavirus from spreading and jeopardizing the harvest, Lipman has put its crews on lockdown. With few exceptions, they have been ordered to remain either in the camps, where they are housed, or the fields, where they toil.

The restrictions have allowed Lipman's tomato operations to run smoothly, with a substantially lower caseload than many farms and processing facilities across the country that have wrestled to contain large outbreaks. But they have caused some workers to complain that their worksite has become like a prison.

In Virginia, gone are the weekly outings to Walmart to stock up on provisions; to El Ranchito, the Mexican convenience store, to buy shell-shaped concha pastries; and to the laundromat to machine wash heavily soiled garments.

"You put up with a lot already. I never expected to lose my freedom," said Martinez, 39, who is in his third year working in the tomato fields along the East Coast. He said workers spent months on end without interacting with anyone at all outside the farms, though Lipman eventually relented and organized a carefully controlled trip for groceries each week.

"You're practically a slave," said another worker, Jesus, who like others interviewed for this article asked to use only a first or last name for fear of losing his job and, with it, his permission to work in the United States.

ImageAgriculture workers, often housed in crammed trailers or barracks, are especially vulnerable to infection.
Agriculture workers, often housed in crammed trailers or barracks, are especially vulnerable to infection.Credit...Carlos Bernate for The New York Times

Lipman's battle with its workers underscores one of the signature conundrums of the coronavirus pandemic. Locking down its employees -- a drastic measure that would be intolerable to most American workers -- appears to have kept both the employees and the community safe. But at what cost?

The large tomato enterprise has been able to impose the restrictions on its workers because they are beholden to the company for their visa, housing and wages. Invited to the United States under one of the country's only remaining temporary worker programs, employees who refuse to comply could face the cancellation of their contracts and immediate expulsion from the country.

"If employers in any industry were to tell their American workers, 'You cannot leave your worksite,' there would be a societal outcry," said Jason Yarashes, lead attorney for the Legal Aid Justice Center in Virginia, who has met with concerned farmworkers. "But, for farmworkers, this level of control is deemed acceptable."

By the time they arrived on the Eastern Shore, a spit of land dangling off the Delmarva Peninsula where tomato fields stretch all the way to the horizon, the workers were already demoralized by the restrictions they had endured earlier in the harvest at Lipman farms in Florida and South Carolina.

"In years past, when we didn't work, we were free to go to the beach, visit friends," said Oscar, 36, who worked in the United States to pay his ailing wife's medical bills. "Now, they don't let us go anywhere."

Agriculture workers are especially vulnerable to infection. They are often housed in crammed trailers or barracks, sharing rooms, kitchens and bathrooms, and are transported to the fields with up to 40 people on a bus.

Once the coronavirus infects a worker, it is almost impossible to prevent it from ripping through entire crews. Major outbreaks have been reported from vegetable and fruit farms in Florida and California to meat and produce packing plants in South Dakota and Washington.

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Workers spent months not interacting with anyone outside Lipman Family Farms until it relented and organized a carefully controlled trip to the grocery store each week.Credit...Carlos Bernate for The New York Times

Purdue University researchers estimate that more than 149,500 farmworkers had contracted Covid-19 as of Oct. 16. Jayson Lusk, the agricultural economist leading the study in collaboration with Microsoft, estimated that 3,750 have died.

Many farming operations rely on undocumented immigrants for a vast majority of their labor force; like American citizens, they generally live in the country year-round and go home at night to homes and families. Lipman, by contrast, has hired field workers under the H-2A agricultural visa program, one of the few temporary worker programs still in place after President Trump suspended the others this year to protect Americans from competition for jobs.

Under the program, laborers who travel across the Mexico border by the thousands ahead of the harvest each year are transported to pick strawberries in California, apples in Washington, tobacco in North Carolina -- and tomatoes along the Eastern Seaboard.

Growers sponsored a record 258,000 workers for the temporary visas during the 2019 fiscal year. Lipman, which farms tens of thousands of acres across several states, received approval from the Labor Department for 2,658 of those positions.

The company would not disclose total coronavirus case numbers, but employees said they knew of no cases at the Virginia operation following about six infections that occurred before most of the seasonal workers arrived. Kent Shoemaker, Lipman's chief executive, said the company was proud of its record protecting both its employees and the surrounding communities.

"As of today, we do not have any confirmed Covid-19 cases on our farms or in our packing facilities," Mr. Shoemaker said in mid-October.

"And because of these practices over the last few months," he said, referring to the lockdown measures, "our positive cases among farmworkers have remained substantially below the positivity rate in each of the communities within which we operate."

Image

A thousand or more Mexican tomato pickers descend on the Eastern Shore each year to work for Lipman.Credit...Carlos Bernate for The New York Times

Through the course of the pandemic, the federal government has yet to establish enforceable safety measures to contain the spread of the virus at agricultural operations.

Only 11 states stepped in to require growers to test workers, sanitize workplaces, enforce social distancing and provide protective gear. About 20 states issued unenforceable guidance, and the rest did nothing.

At Lipman, Mr. Shoemaker said, "we acted early to put measures in place that meet or exceed the latest public health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control," which recommended isolation for people who had become infected and 14 days of quarantine for those who came in contact with them.

The Fair Food Program, a Florida-based initiative that promotes humane treatment of farmworkers, credits the grower with keeping the tomato pickers healthy by restricting them to the farms.

"By limiting workers' potential contacts with the coronavirus, the decision significantly reduced the risk of contagion in Lipman's camps and surely contributed to extremely low rates of infection," said Laura Safer Espinoza, director of Fair Food's standards council.

Image

Before the pandemic, farmworkers were allowed to walk to El Ranchito, a Mexican convenience store.Credit...Carlos Bernate for The New York Times

But Mr. Yarashes said Lipman could have offered workers protections short of locking them down, such as assigning fewer workers to a barrack, making more bus runs to the fields and allowing state health authorities to conduct widespread testing in the camps.

The Virginia Department of Health was rebuffed in early June when it contacted Lipman about performing large-scale testing of the workers who were expected in large numbers the next month.

"The response we got from Lipman was 'No, we are not interested in testing all our workers'," said Jonathan Richardson, chief operating officer for the Eastern Shore Health District.

Without health insurance or paid sick leave, many workers said they feared coming forward if they had symptoms and worried that positive tests could cost them earnings, Mr. Yarashes said. "They were worried about being quarantined for two weeks without pay."

Lipman does not provide paid sick leave for the field workers and is not legally required to.

In interviews, five workers employed at Lipman's tomato operation said they felt fortunate to have been selected for the H-2A program after being interviewed in Mexico by labor brokers representing Lipman. In the United States, they could make in a day what it took a week to earn at home. If they proved to be reliable and productive, they would be invited back year after year.

"You kill yourself on the job, but thank God I have this work," said Oscar, who was in his fourth season working for the company.

The workers remain in the country for four to 10 months, on average. In March, "the situation got complicated because of the pandemic," said Martinez, who arrived last year. "They told us we couldn't go anywhere. If they caught us leaving the camp, we would not be able to re-enter."

He and other workers said that several people had been terminated for violating the policy.

Image

Tomato fields on the Eastern Shore stretch as far as the eye can see.Credit...Carlos Bernate for The New York Times

In previous years, a company bus would take them once a week to cash their checks, send money home and shop at Walmart. On Saturday or Sunday, it would take them to the laundromat.

When it introduced its "shelter in place" order, Lipman began to provide staples, including beans, rice, milk and eggs, free of charge. It arranged for mobile check-cashing outlets and money-transfer agents to visit the camps to enable workers to send money home. Small grocers in a van brought tortilla flour, canned tuna and other items to sell.

But the workers said the prices were inflated, $4.50 for a 4.4-pound bag of tortilla flour compared with $2.88 at Walmart. And, in addition to buying food, they wanted to go out to buy T-shirts, trousers and underwear. Washing by hand was not getting their filthy clothes clean, they said.

"It's illogical. We wear masks and take the same precautions as everybody else," a farmworker called Juan said.

The workers were no longer allowed to hitch rides to the beach or convince the "busero," the crew's bus driver, to make a pizza run.

"Every human being deserves a little diversion from the grind," said a worker named Antonio, in his first year on the job.

Some workers developed rashes from rewearing garments caked with dirt, moisture and sweat until worker advocates dropped off Vaseline and diaper-rash cream.

Workers filed complaints about the lockdown, and the company in July began allowing organized shopping trips to local grocery stores and some visits to Walmart. The workers said they were taken by bus to Food Lion once a week but to Walmart only once a month, at the whim of their bosses. They were still prohibited from leaving the camp otherwise.

Several workers have quit before the end of their contract, forfeiting wages and an employer-paid flight back to Mexico. One of them, a field worker named Manuel, said he understood it was unlikely he would be asked back next year.

"Our rights are being violated," he said. "I couldn't stand it anymore."

On this day, Oct. 20 ...

2011: Muammar Qaddafi, 69, Libya's dictator for 42 years, is killed as revolutionary fighters overwhelm his hometown of Sirte and capture the last major bastion of resistance two months after his regime falls.

Also on this day:

This Day in History: Oct. 20 - SatMassacre102019

HOUSTON -- The once mighty oil and gas industry is flailing, desperately trying to survive a pandemic that has sharply reduced demand for its products.

Most companies have cut back drilling, laid off workers and written off assets. Now some are seeking out merger and acquisition targets to reduce costs. ConocoPhillips announced on Monday that it was acquiring Concho Resources for $9.7 billion, the biggest deal in the industry since oil prices collapsed in March.

The acquisition, days after the completion of Chevron's takeover of Noble Energy, would create one of the country's biggest shale drillers and signals an accelerating industry consolidation as oil prices languish around $40 a barrel, just above the levels many businesses need to break even. Just last month Devon Energy said it would buy WPX Energy for $2.6 billion.

But many investors are not sure such deal making will be enough to protect the industry from a sharp decline. The share prices of ConocoPhillips and Concho closed down by about 3 percent on Monday. The big problem is that the fortunes of oil companies are fundamentally tied to oil and natural gas prices, which remain stubbornly low. Few experts expect a full recovery of oil demand before 2022, and some analysts have gone so far as to declare that oil demand might have peaked in 2019 and could slide in the years to come as the popularity of electric cars grows.

"There's a lot more red ink than there is black gold," said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, who periodically advises the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. "Companies are trying to hunker down and weather the storm. Most people don't think the oil price will recover for a couple of years."

More than 50 North American oil and gas companies with debts totaling more than $50 billion have sought bankruptcy protection this year. Among the casualties was Chesapeake Energy, a shale pioneer based in Oklahoma City. More failures could come in the next two years as companies are required to repay tens of billions of dollars in debt.

Oil companies are facing daunting uncertainties, particularly as concerns over climate change mount and governments impose tougher regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Small companies fear a crackdown on methane leaks and tightening regulations, especially if former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. becomes president and Democrats take control of the Senate.

European oil companies have already begun pivoting away from oil and gas, plotting investments in renewable energy like wind and solar to attract new investors. While those companies have had limited success so far, American companies have for the most part stuck with their traditional businesses. They have adapted to low oil and gas prices by slashing investments by 30 percent or more. The oil and gas rig count has dropped by 569 since last fall, to only 282 operating across the country.

Oil companies are hoarding cash and renegotiating contracts with service companies that drill and complete wells. Rig rental rates are down roughly 10 percent, pressuring the companies that do the field work. More than 100,000 American oil workers have lost their jobs in recent months.

ConocoPhillips, the largest American independent oil company, has been something of an outlier, recently raising its dividend and buying back shares. Nevertheless, ConocoPhillips's stock price has dropped by roughly half so far this year.

The company is a major producer in the Bakken shale field of North Dakota and the Eagle Ford shale field in South Texas. By acquiring Concho, it will become a major player in the world's most lucrative shale field, the Permian Basin, which straddles West Texas and New Mexico.

With Concho's 550,000 acres in the Permian, ConocoPhillips will more than triple its 170,000-acre position in the basin, which became the world's most productive oil field last year.

Concho is little known outside Texas but became a major oil producer after it bought RSP Permian for $9.5 billion in 2018. Concho produced more than 300,000 barrels in the second quarter.

"Together ConocoPhillips and Concho will have unmatched scale and quality," said Ryan M. Lance, ConocoPhillips's chairman and chief executive, referring to their joint balance sheet, resource reserves and personnel.

The deal would help make ConocoPhillips one of the largest players in the Permian, putting it in the same league as companies that are much bigger than it over all.

"The combination is remarkable," said Robert Clarke, a vice president and oil analyst at Wood Mackenzie, a research and consulting firm. "Just in regards to scale, ConocoPhillips is adding enough Permian production to nip at the heels of ExxonMobil's massive program."

As the shale industry grew over the last decade or so, many smaller companies poured billions of dollars into the Permian and other parts of the country. Now, the process appears to be headed in the opposite direction as the industry retrenches and becomes smaller.

Investment in U.S. shale oil has dropped to an estimated $45 billion this year from roughly $100 billion annually in 2018 and 2019, according to the International Energy Agency. In its annual report released this month, the Paris-based organization said a shakeout was underway.

"The influence of large players is set to grow as acreage is consolidated by larger industry players, and the focus on growth is set to be supplanted over time by a focus on returns," the report said. "The exuberance and breakneck growth of the early years may be replaced by something a little steadier."

American oil production fell to 11.2 million barrels a day in September from 13 million at the beginning of the year. The Energy Department expects production to fall an additional 200,000 barrels a day by mid-2021 as companies drill fewer new wells to replace older ones.

The industry has no choice but to cut back. Americans drove 12.3 percent fewer miles inAugust than they did a year earlier, according to the Transportation Department.

Globally, daily oil consumption was down more than 6 percent in September from a year earlier, according to the Energy Department. Oil production continues to outpace demand, keeping inventory levels high and prices low.

And the pandemic is not yet under control in many parts of the world. If sustained, the recent increase in coronavirus infections in the United States, Europe and elsewhere could reduce demand for oil and gas even further in the coming months.

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a ruling by Pennsylvania's highest court that allowed election officials to count some mailed ballots received up to three days after Election Day. The state is a key battleground in the presidential election.

The Supreme Court's action was the result of a deadlock. It takes five votes to grant a stay, and the Republicans who had asked the court to intervene could muster only four: Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh. On the other side of the divide were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the court's three-member liberal wing: Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Neither side gave reasons. The result suggested that Judge Amy Coney Barrett, whom President Trump nominated to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after her death last month, could play a decisive role in election disputes. Judge Barrett is expected to be confirmed next week.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the three-day extension was required by the coronavirus pandemic and delays in mail service, and it ordered the counting of ballots clearly mailed on or before Election Day and of those with missing or illegible postmarks "unless a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that it was mailed after Election Day."

The ruling is a major victory for Democrats in the state who have been pushing to expand access to voting in the pandemic, and for a party that has been requesting absentee ballots in far greater numbers than Republicans. As of Friday, Democrats in Pennsylvania had requested 1,755,940 ballots, and Republicans had requested 672,381, according to the Pennsylvania secretary of state's office.

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Of course, it could result in further delays in reporting results. Pennsylvania is already expected to be one of the last states to report, with a statewide law preventing election officials from beginning to process ballots until Election Day and Republicans in the state legislature indicating that they will not give them more time.

The decision also removes one more legal hurdle facing elections in Pennsylvania, where numerous voting-related lawsuits are undecided, including whether election officials will have to perform signature matching on absentee ballots.

Two Republican state lawmakers and the Republican Party of Pennsylvania asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the state court's treatment of ballots without legible postmarks. The lawmakers wrote that the state court's ruling was "an open invitation to voters to cast their ballots after Election Day, thereby injecting chaos and the potential for gamesmanship into what was an orderly and secure schedule of clear, bright-line deadlines."

"In a year where there is a very real possibility that the final presidential election result hinges on Pennsylvania, the new rules imposed by the decision of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (a body elected in partisan elections) could destroy the American public's confidence in the electoral system as a whole," the brief said.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not hesitated to block orders from federal judges that sought to alter state rules for conducting elections. In April, for instance, the justices, dividing 5 to 4, overturned a federal judge's order that had lengthened a deadline for absentee voting in Wisconsin.

"Extending the date by which ballots may be cast by voters -- not just received by the municipal clerks but cast by voters -- for an additional six days after the scheduled Election Day fundamentally alters the nature of the election," the unsigned opinion in the Wisconsin case said.

Rulings from state courts present more difficult questions, as the Supreme Court generally defers to them in cases concerning interpretations of state law and the Constitution empowers state legislatures to set the times, places and manner of congressional elections.

In a second brief, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania argued that "the Constitution reserves a special role for state legislatures in federal elections," one that cannot be overridden by state courts. The brief relied heavily on the Supreme Court's decision in the cases culminating in Bush v. Gore, the 2000 ruling that handed the presidency to George W. Bush.

"By extending the deadline by judicial fiat and establishing a presumption of timeliness that will allow voters to cast or mail ballots after Election Day," the brief said, "the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has impermissibly altered both the 'time' and 'manner' established by the General Assembly" for conducting elections.

In response, Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania's attorney general, a Democrat, said a provision of the State Constitution protecting "free and equal elections" allowed the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to extend the deadline.

He added that the state court's decision was "consistent with how Pennsylvania law handles military and overseas ballots timely cast but not received until after Election Day."

Later Monday, in Tennessee, a federal appeals court exempted first-time voters from having to appear in person at the polls on Nov. 3 if they registered online or by mail, as required by a state law, which critics said would endanger residents during the pandemic.

Nick Corasaniti and Neil Vigdor contributed reporting from New York.

This time, the candidates will get the silent treatment.

The microphones of President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. will be muted during portions of the final presidential debate on Thursday, the organizers said late Monday, in an unusual effort to avoid the unruly spectacle of the candidates' first meeting in Cleveland last month.

The debate's rules remain the same: Each candidate will be allotted two minutes to initially answer the moderator's questions. But the Commission on Presidential Debates said it would turn off each candidate's audio feed while his rival had the floor.

Once each candidate has delivered his two-minute reply, Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, the Democratic nominee, will be allowed to freely engage with each other for the remainder of each 15-minute segment, with both microphones fully functional.

The incoherence of the first debate -- during which Mr. Trump's relentless interruptions of Mr. Biden and the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, derailed the proceedings -- put pressure on the nonpartisan debate commission to improve enforcement of the rules, despite its members' longstanding reluctance to change any aspects of the debates in the middle of a campaign.

The moderator of Thursday's debate in Nashville, Kristen Welker of NBC News, will not be in control of turning the candidates' microphones on and off; that task will be left to the commission's production crew. There is also the potential for a new kind of gaffe: Mr. Trump's voice may be picked up by Mr. Biden's microphone, and vice versa, meaning that an attempted interruption may still be heard, at least faintly, by viewers watching at home.

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In a statement, the commission said it had acted out of concern that the first debate had fallen short, "depriving voters of the opportunity to be informed of the candidates' positions on the issues." But it also acknowledged that the two campaigns, which were notified only shortly before the announcement, might not "be totally satisfied."

"We are comfortable that these actions strike the right balance and that they are in the interest of the American people, for whom these debates are held," the commission said.

Mr. Trump and his aides have signaled deep hostility to any outside control of his microphone at the debate, even sending a belligerent letter to the commission calling it "completely unacceptable" for "an unnamed person" to shut off a microphone.

Late Monday, Mr. Trump told reporters on Air Force One, "I just think it is very unfair," according to a pool report. He added, "It is very unfair that again we have an anchor who is totally biased."

The president's campaign manager, Bill Stepien, said Mr. Trump was "committed to debating Joe Biden regardless of last-minute rule changes." But he also accused the commission of adopting the microphone rule to aid Mr. Biden, part of a days-long effort by the Trump campaign to undermine the integrity of the commission and to paint it as biased toward the Democratic candidate.

Earlier on Monday, Mr. Stepien -- who mockingly referred to the nonpartisan commission as the "Biden Debate Commission" in a tweet -- claimed that the commission had "promised" that the debate on Thursday would be about foreign policy and asked for it to discard the six subjects announced last week by the moderator, Ms. Welker. (The topics are the coronavirus, climate change, national security, leadership, "American families" and "race in America.")

In fact, the debate organizers did not announce such a plan to focus on foreign policy, saying that the third debate would mirror the format of the first, with six subjects selected by the moderator. (It is true that in some campaign years, the third presidential debate has focused on foreign policy.)

A Biden spokesman, T.J. Ducklo, said on Monday that Mr. Stepien had sent the letter "because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous Covid response," adding: "The campaigns and the commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics."

Mr. Stepien's letter did not mention Mr. Trump's baseless accusations that Ms. Welker, a respected White House correspondent, is biased. Mr. Trump's aides, including a top adviser, Jason Miller, have previously spoken warmly about Ms. Welker, calling her "a very good choice" to oversee the debate.

The debate commission has had a tumultuous year. Its attempt to hold a virtual debate in Miami over coronavirus concerns prompted Mr. Trump to withdraw; that debate was eventually canceled, and the candidates held separate televised town hall events instead.

Alan Schroeder, an emeritus professor of journalism at Northeastern University who wrote a history of presidential debates, said on Monday that the microphone change "sounds good in theory, but I don't see it as solving the problem."

"There might be -- might be -- two uninterrupted minutes for each candidate in the opening stretches of each segment, but then what?" Mr. Schroeder asked. "Both participants must agree to a common vision of what the exercise is supposed to be. As long as one of the candidates fails to accept the basic premise of 'I listen while you talk, you listen while I talk,' the essential problem remains."

Michael Crowley contributed reporting.

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