Category Archive : US

US election roundup: Presidential debate to have ‘mute’ button, Trump attacks Fauci & more

Rain or shine, democracy waits for no one: Kamala Harris

Rain or shine, democracy waits for no one, says Kamala Harris, the US Democratic Party’s vice-presidential candidate for the November 3 election, as she is seen lightly dancing in the rain addressing voters in Florida in a video which has gone viral on social media.

Harris, whose mother was from India and father from Jamaica, scripted history in August when she was picked by the Democratic Party as its vice presidential nominee. She is the first Black woman and the first Asian-American woman to be selected as the vice presidential nominee of a major political party in the US.

“Rain or shine, democracy waits for no one,” Harris, 55, said in a tweet along with a picture of herself dancing in the rain with an umbrella over her as supporters cheer her along in Jacksonville, Florida.

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US courts take center stage in most litigious elections ever

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Monday allowed election officials in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state, to count mail-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day, drawing attention to what is expected to be the most litigated election in American history.
The eight-member bench, pending confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, rejected a Republican request to stop counting on election day in Pennsylvania, after Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the three liberal justices resulting in a 4-4 tie, which meant the GOP petition to limit counting failed.
Pennsylvania, which has 20 electoral votes in the race for 270 that will decide the White House winner, is critical to both Biden and Trump.
The outcome also underscored how critical the conservative Barrett’s confirmation is to Trump’s fortunes given Republican mistrust of the conservative Chief Justice, who has sided with liberal side of the bench on several issues in recent weeks. Barrett’s elevation, amid calls to recuse herself from election-related cases, will result in a 6-3 advantage for conservatives — 5-4 even if Roberts “defects” — amid a cascade of election related lawsuits.
In a chaotic election where states and even counties have their own local election rules and even make some up as they go along, Republicans and Democrats are duking it out at various levels on issues ranging from access to voting to placement of drop-in ballot boxes to till when votes can be counted.
A politicised and ideologically divided judiciary has sown deep misgivings. In South Carolina for instance the Supreme Court agreed with Republicans and said mail-in ballots must contain a witness’s signature, overruling an appeals court ruling that said the requirement should be waived because of the coronavirus pandemic. In Texas the two sides are fighting over the Republican Governor’s effort to restrict drop-off ballot collection to one center per county (many with more than a million votes). Democrats say it is an effort to stymie voting; Republicans counter it is meant to prevent fraud and limit spread of coronavirus.
The flurry of litigation is expected to tie up results in crucial states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida, whose 16+20+29 electoral votes hold the keys to the White House, unless Biden or Trump coast to landslide win that makes litigation meaningless. Trump won Michigan by only 10,000 votes, Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes, and Florida by around 100,000 votes — all by around one per cent or less — making every vote crucial.
Polls show Biden leading in each of these battleground states amid a huge surge in early voting, including absentee and mail-in balloting.
More to follow….

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‘Running angry’: Trump attacks Dr. Fauci, press and polls

TUCSON, ARIZONA: An angry President Donald Trump has come out swinging against Dr. Anthony Fauci, the press and polls that show him trailing Democrat Joe Biden in key battleground states in a disjointed closing message two weeks before Election Day.
On the third day of a western campaign swing, Trump was facing intense pressure to turn around his campaign, hoping for the type of last-minute surge that gave him a come-from-behind victory four years ago. But his inconsistent message, another rise in coronavirus cases and his attacks on experts like Fauci could undermine his final efforts to appeal to voters outside his most loyal base.
“I’m not running scared,“ Trump told reporters on Monday before taking off for Tucson, Arizona, for his fifth rally in three days. “I think I’m running angry. I’m running happy, and I’m running very content ’cause I’ve done a great job.”
Trump’s aggressive travel comes as he plays defense in states he won four years ago, though the Republican president insisted he was confident as he executed a packed schedule despite the pandemic.
“We’re going to win,“ he told campaign staff on a morning conference call from Las Vegas. He went on to acknowledge that he “wouldn’t have told you that maybe two or three weeks ago,“ referring to the days when he was hospitalized with Covid-19. But he said he felt better now than at any point in 2016. “We’re in the best shape we’ve ever been,” he said.
Seeking to shore up the morale of his staff amid growing private concerns that he is running out of time to make up lost ground, Trump blasted his government’s own scientific experts as too negative, even as his handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 220,000 people in the United States, remains a central issue to voters.
“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,“ Trump said of the government’s top infectious disease expert. “Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb. But there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. But Fauci’s a disaster.“
At a rally in Prescott, Arizona, Trump assailed Biden for pledging to heed the advice of scientific experts, saying dismissively that his rival “wants to listen to Dr. Fauci.“
The doctor is both respected and popular, and Trump’s rejection of scientific advice on the pandemic has already drawn bipartisan condemnation.
At his rally, Trump also ramped up his attacks on the news media, singling out NBC’s Kristen Welker, the moderator of the next presidential debate, as well as CNN for aggressively covering a pandemic that is now infecting tens of thousands of Americans every day.
Fauci, in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, said he was not surprised that Trump contracted the virus after he held a series of large events with few face coverings.
“I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask,” Fauci said of the president.
Biden was off the campaign trail Monday, but his campaign praised Fauci and criticized Trump for “reckless and negligent leadership” that “threatens to put more lives at risk.”
“Trump’s closing message in the final days of the 2020 race is to publicly mock Joe Biden for trusting science and to call Dr. Fauci, the leading public health official on Covid-19, a `disaster’ and other public health officials `idiots,’“ the campaign said.
Monday’s professed confidence in victory stood in contrast to some of Trump’s other public comments in recent days reflecting on the prospect that he could lose.
“Could you imagine if I lose my whole life? What am I going to do?“ he asked a rally crowd last week in Macon, Georgia. “I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country. I don’t know.”
Biden, meanwhile, was in Delaware for several days of preparation ahead of Thursday’s final presidential debate. His running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, returned to the campaign trail after several days in Washington after a close adviser tested positive for the coronavirus.
Late Monday, the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced that Trump and Biden will each have his microphone cut off in Thursday’s debate while his rival delivers his opening two-minute answer to each of the six debate topics.
The rule changes come three weeks after a chaotic opening faceoff between the two presidential contenders that featured frequent interruptions _ most often by Trump. The open discussion portion of the debate will not feature a mute button, but interruptions by either candidate will count toward their time.
The commission has faced pressure from the Trump campaign to avoid changing the rules, while Biden’s team was hoping for a more ordered debate. In a statement, the commission said 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.”
Trump’s campaign said he would participate in the debate despite his concerns about the new rule.
“I just think it’s very unfair,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he returned from Arizona. “I will participate, but it’s very unfair that they changed the topics and it’s very unfair that, again, we have an anchor who’s totally biased.”
In addition to public polling that indicates Biden has an edge, the former vice president enjoys another considerable advantage: money.
Over the past four months, Biden has raised over $1 billion, a massive amount of money that has significantly eclipsed Trump’s once-overwhelming cash advantage.
That’s become apparent in advertising, where Biden and his Democratic allies are on pace to spend twice as much as Trump and the Republicans in the closing days of the race, according to data from the ad tracking firm Kantar/CMAG.
“We have more than sufficient air cover, almost three times as much as 2016,“ said Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who insisted Trump has the advantage with the campaign’s field staff and data targeting.
Though Trump has pulled back from advertising in Midwestern states that secured his 2016 win, he’s invested heavily elsewhere, including North Carolina, where he is on pace to slightly outspend Biden.
Concerns about a possible loss to Biden that have been spilling into the open in recent days have been percolating behind the scenes at the Trump campaign. Trump himself has alternated between disbelief and anger at the idea that he could lose to a candidate he views as washed up and incompetent, according to three campaign and White House officials not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Trump has directed anger at press coverage but also has vented about his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, whom he blames for mishandling his hospitalization for the virus and Covid-19 relief talks.
He has asked some of his closest advisers if a campaign shakeup was needed, according to the officials. The president was encouraged to hold off on any moves so close to Election Day.
Meanwhile, aides have started privately wondering whether or not Trump’s campaign rallies, which have helped define American politics for the last five years, were in their final days.
In recent weeks, meanwhile, some White House staff offices have also tried to rotate in aides who have never flown on Air Force One or have done so infrequently so they can do so before Election Day.

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Purdue University, University of Michigan and 15 others join hands in a lawsuit against H-1B wage hike

MUMBAI: Several US based universities and non-profit organisations have filed a lawsuit in a US district court against the wage hike recently introduced via an interim final rule by the US Department of Labour (DOL).
Institutions of higher learning, such as Purdue University, University of Michigan, University of Denver, Chapman University, Bard College, Arizona State University, Indiana University, non-profits such as Dentists for America, Physicians for American Healthcare Access, Information Technology Industry Council constitute the group of 17 plaintiffs. They are represented pro-bono by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and prominent immigration attorneys.
In their lawsuit-petition they point out that interim final rule, was made effective on October 8, within 48 hours of its being made public. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) waived the review of the cost-benefit analysis of the rule, without following the legal requirement for advance notice to the public, or without first providing an opportunity for the public to comment.
The obligation of DOL to consider and then respond to comments before adopting the new legislative rules was not followed. Further, a thirty-day comment period was open, but after the rule was made effective.
“The Defendants (Secretary of Labour and DOL ) were single-minded in their rush to publish the interim final rule, without regard to the costs on the economy generally, and specifically the increased costs to employers dependent on foreign national and US labor,” states their petition filed with the district court of Columbia.
For instance, the University of Michigan, points out that if the required wage for each employee is increased by $2,500 on a yearly basis, the total increase in annual salaries (excluding benefits) would conservatively be one million dollars, which is unsustainable.
The Plaintiffs add that the authorities lacked good cause to waive the requirement of issue of notice and comment period. Even if good cause existed, which it does not, the substantive changes made remain based on faulty, undocumented, and irrational economic assumptions. Under the interim final rule, plaintiffs and similarly situated employers now must pay dramatically higher wages for foreign national employees as compared to similarly situated Americans – in some instances the required wages increased 50% overnight.
The interim final rule is procedurally defective, contrary to law, and arbitrary and capricious under Administrative Procedure Act. For these and other reasons, the interim final is unlawful and should be set aside, states the lawsuit filed with the US district court of Columbia.
Case study: The University of Michigan, which is one of the plaintiffs, points out it is is among the largest employers in Michigan supporting over 52,000 regular faculty and staff, which includes research fellows, physicians, nurses. It is also among the largest academic H-1B petitioners (filing over 400 H-1B applications annually) and green card filers in the country and employs more than 750 employees in H-1B status. In the lawsuit petition it illustrates wage hikes across several occupations and adds that even if the required wage for each employee is increased by $2,500 on a yearly basis, the total increase in annual salaries (excluding benefits) would conservatively be one million dollars.
It is likely that the budgetary impact would be significantly larger, both in direct wage obligations to affected international employees as well as in indirect wage pressure. Given current budgetary constraints occasioned by the pandemic, new H1B salary levels would be unsustainable.
The inability to retain key personnel, including research, clinical practitioners, and teaching personnel, will also impact the mission to stay on the forefront of biomedical research during a pandemic and to care for and treat those afflicted.
Views of the attorneys:
Jesse Bless, AILA’s Director of Federal Litigation stated, “Standing alone, the failure of the government to provide the proper notice and opportunity for comment before making such dramatic changes, requires an immediate relief for plaintiffs. But the arguments against this rule stretch far beyond its unlawful implementation. The increase to the prevailing wages will manifestly not benefit US economic growth or any workers. Study after study has shown that H-1B visa holders create American jobs. The regulation has caused immediate and unnecessary harm in every corner of our economy, including academic institutions, non-profits, hospitals, start-ups, and small businesses.” “Frankly, the last thing we need during a pandemic and economic turmoil is a rule based on a false and incorrect understanding of the market and American workforce. This will impede our economic recovery, not enhance it,” she added
Jeff Joseph, Senior Partner of Joseph and Hall, PC, stated, “Dealing with the Department of Labour often feels like The Hunger Games. Everyone is required to play the game, but no one knows the rules and the rules are constantly changing. This is not a game. The fact that the rule was made effective without thinking about the destructive impact it would have on industries and the economy illustrates how out of touch this administration is regarding the symbiotic relationship between legal immigration and the economy.“
Charles Kuck, managing partner of Kuck Baxter Immigration LLC said, “The days when the federal government blatantly ignores the law in its rule-making are over. US universities, employers, and healthcare systems can no longer stand by and watch while the US immigration system is dismantled by a nativist administration and in contravention of federal law.”
Greg Siskind, founding partner of Siskind Susser PC noted, “Aside from the blatantly unlawful way the Department of Labour dropped this rule on the economy, its basic premise is also wholly incorrect. The workers impacted are in occupations with extraordinarily low unemployment. And as we show in the complaint, these outstanding immigrants are doing critical work benefiting everyday Americans, whether it is providing critical research to cure disease, making our country globally competitive, providing medical and dental care to rural Americans, or caring for our country’s senior citizens.”

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Hindu groups seek apology from Kamala Harris’ niece for tweeting image depicting aunt as Durga

WASHINGTON: Hindu groups in the US have sought an apology from the niece of Senator Kamala Harris for tweeting an “offensive” image, which depicted the Democratic vice presidential nominee as goddess Durga.
The tweet has now been deleted by Meena Harris, 35, who is a lawyer, a children’s book author and the founder of the Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign, an organisation that works to bring awareness to intersectional social causes.
“Your tweeting a caricature of the feminine divine, Maa Durga, with faces superimposed, deeply aggrieved many Hindus globally,” Suhag A Shukla of the Hindu American Foundation said in a tweet on Monday.

HAF, which represents the Hindu American community, has issued a guideline for commercial use of images relating to the religion.
Rishi Bhutada of the Hindu American Political Action Committee said the “offensive” picture was not created by Meena Harris herself. It had been circulating on WhatsApp prior to her tweet and the Biden campaign confirmed to him that the image was not created by it.
“Given that, I personally believe that an apology should come from Meena Harris even though she did delete the tweet, and no one else. Our religious iconography should not be used in the service of politics in America — I said the same when the Fort Bend County GOP did it in an ad in 2018, and it holds the same here,” Bhutada said.
Ajay Shah, convener of American Hindus Against Defamation, said in a statement the image has offended and outraged the religious community.
In the now deleted tweet, a screenshot of which is being retweeted by some people, Meena Harris says: “I am actually speechless, other than to say that the first day of Navaratri was LIT.”
In the image, Kamala Harris, depicted as goddess Durga, was seen killing US President Donald Trump, who was depicted as buffalo demon ‘Mahishasura’. The image also showed Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden as a lion, the ‘vahana‘ (vehicle) of the goddess.
“If you think you are going to win Hindu votes by mocking us, think again. This image is highly offensive and insulting to Hindus. Our Divinities are NOT cultural curios for you to mock and trivialise. And you delete without an apology?” noted author Shefali Vaidya said in a tweet.
Over the weekend, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had greeted Hindu community in the US on Navratri and wished for victory of good over evil once again.
“As the Hindu festival of Navratri begins, Jill and I send our best wishes to all those celebrating in the US and around the world. May good once again triumph over evil – and usher in new beginnings and opportunity for all,” Biden, 77, had tweeted.
“@DouglasEmhoff and I wish our Hindu American friends and family, and all those celebrating, a very Happy Navratri! May this holiday serve as an inspiration to all of us to lift up our communities and build a more inclusive and just America,” 55-year-old Senator Harris had tweeted.

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Eminent South Asians launch digital campaign in support of Biden-Harris ticket

WASHINGTON: A group of eminent South Asians, including Indian-origin author Deepak Chopra and actress Sakina Jaffrey, has launched a digital campaign in support of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate Senator Kamala Harris.
Other prominent members of the group include Preet Bharara, former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Meera Harris, lawyer and children’s book author; Nina Davuluri, the first Indian-American to win the Miss America Competition; and actor Aasif Mandvi.
Released by South Asians for Biden on Monday, the video series urges the South Asian community to vote for Biden and Harris.
“South Asians for Biden is thrilled to launch the digital video ad series,” said Neha Dewan, South Asians for Biden national director.
“In this election, we have seen unprecedented enthusiasm from the diverse South Asian community that is united in the desire to see an overwhelming victory for Vice President Biden and Senator Harris,” she said.
The digital ad campaign series will serve to further energise the South Asian electorate — many of whom are located in battleground states — and will serve to underscore the importance of participating in this election, Dewan added.
Kamala Harris’ niece Meena Harris, a key contributor to the video series, noted the importance of the South Asian community in the November 3 election.
“The South Asian community’s participation in this election is crucial to securing a win for the Biden-Harris ticket and establishing a more inclusive future for America — the kind of future my grandmother Shyamala, mother Maya and aunt Kamala have dedicated their lives to fighting for,” she said.
Parag Parikh, Illinois State director for South Asians for Biden, served as an executive producer for the videos along with his brother Rupak Parikh, and was instrumental in launching the series.

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Donald Trump envoy travelled to Syria for talks on missing Americans

WASHINGTON: A senior White House official made an unusual, secret visit to Syria for high-level talks aimed at securing the release of two Americans who have been missing for years amid Syria’s long civil war, Trump administration officials have said.
Kash Patel, a deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, went to Syria as part of an administration effort to secure the release of Americans overseas, including missing journalist Austin Tice, the officials said on condition of anonymity on Monday.
The trip, the first high-level visit by an American official to Syria in years, was first reported on Sunday by The Wall Street Journal. Two administration officials confirmed it to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations.
Gaining the release of Tice, a journalist from Texas who disappeared while covering the civil war in 2012, would be a significant foreign policy victory for Trump, whose administration has touted its record of freeing Americans held overseas as well as an unconventional approach to Middle East politics.
Direct talks had also been sought by the missing journalist’s parents, Marc and Debra Tice.
“For years we have pushed for engagement between the US and Syrian governments to help bring our son safely home, so we hope recent reports are accurate,” they said in a statement. “We are deeply grateful to everyone working for Austin’s safe return, and his continued absence shows there is more to be done.”
Tice, a former Marine and native of Houston, Texas, vanished in August 2012 in the Damascus suburb of Daraya as he was about to make a trip to Lebanon and was detained at a checkpoint. He had been working as a freelance journalist for CBS News and other outlets.
The Syrian government has not publicly acknowledged knowing anything about his whereabouts.
The other missing man is Majd Kamalmaz, a 62-year-old clinical psychologist from Virginia, who disappeared in 2017 and is believed to be held in a Syrian government prison.
His daughter, Maryam, said the family learned of Patel’s visit last week. “Praying for the best from it,” she said, speaking to The AP in a series of messages.
The family believes the trip occurred within the past two weeks but she had no further details.
There has not been a confirmed visit by a high-level American official to Damascus since the US shuttered its embassy in the capital and withdrew its ambassador in 2012 as the country’s civil war worsened.
However, numerous US officials, both military and civilian, have travelled to rebel-held parts of the country in the years since.
The visit would be seen as a boost by the internationally isolated government of President Bashar Assad, which faces US and European sanctions for its role in the war.
In recent months, as the fighting subsides, a number of Arab countries that had boycotted Assad have begun reopening their embassies in Damascus.
A pro-Syrian government newspaper Al-Watan also confirmed the Journal’s report, adding that Patel and Roger Carstens, special presidential envoy for hostages affairs, were in Damascus in August, where they met with the Syrian intelligence chief to discuss the Americans.
The paper, which usually conveys government positions, said Syrian officials have demanded a US troop withdrawal from eastern Syria, where they have been deployed alongside Kurdish fighters. Damascus considers the US troop presence there illegal and is at odds with the Kurdish group seeking autonomy.
The paper also said it was the third such secret visit by senior US officials in past years.
Trump has made negotiating the release of US citizens held hostage or imprisoned in foreign countries a priority.
A top Lebanese intelligence official has been in Washington since last week. Major General Abbas Ibrahim has negotiated the release of a US citizen from Syria and a Lebanese man who is also a permanent US resident from Iran.
Abbas’s departure from Washington was delayed, and a planned trip to Paris canceled, because he contracted Covid-19, according to Lebanon’s general security directorate.
Former national security adviser John Bolton wrote in his recent book that negotiations on the US role in Syria were “complicated by Trump’s constant desire to call Assad on US hostages”.
He said he and secretary of state Mike Pompeo thought it was “undesirable”. “Fortunately, Syria saved Trump from himself, refusing even to talk to Pompeo about them,” Bolton wrote.
Kamalmaz’s daughter, Maryam, said the family still has no news about her father’s health or whereabouts. “We are hoping this meeting will bring some updates and news about him.”
Tens of thousands of people are believed held in Syrian prisons since the country’s civil war broke out in 2011. Many are held incognito for years in lock-ups rife with torture and disease. In the country’s war, militant groups have also resorted to kidnapping foreigners for ransom or rivals to settle scores.

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US charges Russian intel officers in major cyberattacks

The US justice department announced indictments on Monday of six Russian military intelligence officers in connection with major hacks worldwide, including of the Winter Olympics and elections in France as well as an attack in 2017 aimed at destabilising Ukraine that spread rapidly and was blamed for billions of dollars in damage.
Prosecutors said the suspects were from the same Russian unit that conducted one of the Kremlin’s major operations to interfere in the 2016 American election, the theft of Democratic emails. They attacked the 2017 French presidential elections; targeted British authorities investigating the poisoning of a Russian former intelligence operative and the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea; and hacked the Ukrainian parliament, finance ministry and electrical grid, according to court documents.
The case marked another effort by Trump administration officials to punish Russia for its meddling in other countries’ affairs. The charges did not address 2020 election interference in the US.
“No country has weaponised its cyber capabilities as maliciously as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” said the assistant attorney general for national security, John C Demers.
Prosecutors said the suspects worked for Unit 74455 of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate, commonly referred to as the GRU. Known among cybersecurity analysts as Fancy Bear, the unit led the 2016 campaign to steal Democrats’ emails and help make them public, embarrassing Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the final stretch. One of the suspects charged in the newly unsealed indictments, Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev, was indicted two years ago over his suspected role in the 2016 election meddling. It was unclear whether the suspects will stand trial for the charges. Russia is unlikely to hand them over to be prosecuted.

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Tsunami alert for Alaska after major 7.5 magnitude quake

LOS ANGELES: A tsunami alert was issued Monday after a major 7.5-magnitude quake struck off the coast of Alaska, US agencies said.
The tsunami warning covers much of the southern coast of the remote US state, including the thinly populated Alaska Peninsula, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The at-risk zone currently extends hundreds of miles northeast to the Cook Inlet, but stops just short of the state’s largest city of Anchorage, located at the end of that gulf.
The “level of tsunami danger is being evaluated,” the agency warned.
The earthquake hit some 57 miles (92 km) from the small city of Sand Point, at a depth of 25 miles (40km), the US Geological Survey said.
There was “a low likelihood of casualties and damage” from the quake itself, the USGS added.
The major quake was followed by at least four aftershocks of 5.0-magnitude or higher.
The earthquake was felt in the nearby Alaska Peninsula community of King Cove, but everything seemed to be intact, city administrator Gary Hennigh told the Anchorage Daily News.
“Residents and cannery workers are evacuating to higher ground until we know more about the tsunami warning,” Hennigh said.
Cold Bay resident Michael Ashley said the quake was “a pretty good ride.”
“All the couches, recliners and bookcases were moving around, and I had to pretty much hold one of them up,” he told the newspaper.
There was no immediately available information on possible casualties or damage elsewhere.

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Two weeks before election, Dems more nervous than Trump despite polls showing Biden win

WASHINGTON: With two weeks to go for November 3, Election Day in America, every poll — bar one — shows Democratic nominee Joe Biden leading by margins ranging from five points (IBD-TIPP) to 18 points (PRRI) over President Donald Trump. Yet, it is the Biden camp that is sweating bricks. Reason? Democrats are still haunted by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat, when similar leads did not prevent Trump from eking out a narrow path to the White House on the basis of slim wins in three battleground states.
Consequently, the mainstream media is full of reports with headlines such as “Biden lead fuels uncomfortable sense of deja vu for Democrats” even though the challengers’ lead has remained steady over the past month and in some cases even expanded. The polling website fivethirtyeight shows Biden leading Trump by 10.7 points (52.5-41.8) in the latest presidential poll averages. More importantly, Biden leads Trump in crucial battleground states that helped the latter bear Hillary in 2016: Biden leads Trump by 7.9 per cent in Michigan, 6.7 per cent in Pennsylvania, and7.4 per cent in Wisconsin – all beyond the polling margin of error.
Recapturing just these three states, all else being the same, will result in Biden winning the White House. But it turns almost all polls show Biden is leading in several other battleground state, including North Carolina (+6), Arizona (+3), and Nevada (+3). Biden also leads Trump in Florida and Georgia, states Trump won in 2016, giving the challenge many more routes to reaching the magic figure of 270 votes needed to win the White House regardless of the popular vote, which the incumbent could lose by 5 million or more votes this time going by the 10 per cent nationwide lead Biden has.
Yet the sense of foreboding among Democrats is so great that party factotums are warning donors and the rank and file not to take anything for granted and work on the assumption that Biden does not have a double-digit lead shown in the poll of polls. “National polls tell us very little about the pathway to 270 electoral votes. We also know that even the best polling can be wrong, and that variables like turnout mean that in a number of critical states we are functionally tied.” Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon reportedly wrote in a memo to donors over the weekend.
The clue to this Democratic dread lies in the one outlier poll that shows Trump winning – and why Democrats are correct in not counting their chickens. Regardless of the national polls, the Trafalgar Group shows Trump ahead in crucial battleground states such as Florida and Michigan, having developed expertise in ferreting out what is known as the “shy Trump voter,” or what Trump himself calls a “silent majority.” According to Rober Cahaly, the group’s chief pollster, much of Trafalgar’s approach focuses on accounting for the so-called “social-desirability bias” — that’s when a respondent gives pollsters “an answer that is designed to make the person asking the question be less judgmental of the person who answers it.”
Trafalgar also believes that conservatives are generally reluctant to participate in pre-poll surveys, their one-in-five refusal rate higher than liberals who are always ready to make themselves heard. In other words, people who hate Trump are always ready to talk about it, but people who like him and favo him are a more restrained because of the social stigma attached to supporting someone like Trump.
So the group works extra hard to get a fair representation of Trump supporters and conservatives, using a mix of live calls, texts, emails etc., all the while ensuring that such voters are not intimidated or looked down upon. The result, Trafalgar got Michigan and Pennsylvania spot on in 2016 even though all other firms called it for Hillary Clinton, and it now saying Trump could win these two states and also states such as Georgia and Florida that other pollsters are saying is leaning blue.
There is another reason why no one is counting out Trump – it is visual. The US President is attracting big crowds at his campaign rallies that look large and vibrant particularly when compared to the outreach by Biden, who is not doing such crowded in-person rallies with due respect to coronavirus social distancing mandates. Although Trump’s rallies are disapproved by pandemic experts and dubbed by critics as “superspreader events,” they are nevertheless seen in some quarters as indicating the passionate, cult-following Trump attracts from voters.
Although early trends, including ballot requests and returns by registered voters, show Democrats outvoting Republicans in crucial states such as Pennsylvania that Trump won by only 44,292 votes in 2016, the Republican Party has registered 200,000 voters in the state since the last election cycle. Trump Republicans expect many of these enthusiasts to turn up in person on Election Day to overturn the lead Democrats appears to have established in early balloting by nearly 30 million voters, about 20 per cent of the expected turnout.

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